Archive for the ‘Sibling relationships’ Category

Expectation, crying, and a call from the school

At 7:30 AM,  my son’s learning support teacher called. My son, P,  was very upset and crying.  She was concerned, as this was the second time she had seen him cry in three years.  He said he would feel better if he could talk to me.

The issue: his older brother M did not wear a coat to school.  (Also, another kid reported that M and another student hitting P while on the school bus. So she was going to report my older son and this other kid for bullying on the school bus.  But P. was mainly upset about the coat issue.)


As my husband listened in, I consoled my boy. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.:

Me: Hi, sweetie, what’s wrong? You were crying?

P: Yes.  M. did not wear a coat to school! And Dad told him to.  He needs to listen.

Me: He didn’t wear his coat?  And that upset you? Well, he does that sometimes.  It’s his decision.  It’s weird, but it happens.

P: Yeah.

Me: I’ll have Dad talk to him about it, ok?

P: Ok.

Me: Was M hitting you on the bus, sweetie?

P: Yes.

Me: And who else?

P: “Jake.” (name changed)

Me: We’ll take care of that too.

P: Ok.

Me: Is there anything else? Do you feel better?

P: I feel better now.

Me: Ok, sweetie. You have a good day.  You can start your day over right now, ok?  I love you.

P: I love you too, mom.  Bye.

My husband and I looked at each other and took a deep breath and sighed. My husband said, “Oh, boy.”  I shook my head.  We were  upset by the bullying and that P. didn’t report it himself.  P. was upset by the coat.  So there’s two life lessons that P. needs to learn: letting people make their own decisions and standing up for himself.

I am so grateful that other students were looking out for P.  I’m grateful for an understanding teacher.  I’m most of all grateful for a son who knows that he can call me if he has a problem and for teachable moments.  And this gives me hope.


Me and my girl

My daughter and I have been in my home state of OOOOOOOOOOk…..lahoma for the past week visiting my grandmas, aunts, and cousins on my mom’s side.

Meg and I have had a great time being here. Grandma C., my mom, Meg, and I went to get mani/pedis.  It was really cool to have 4 generations of awesome women (and woman to be) sitting in a line of 4 pedicure chairs.  My mom’s sisters live in the same area, and we’ve had lots of get-togethers and dinners (I’ll definitely be going on that diet again when I get home), and on this, our last day, we are going to have one of those fabulous family game nights that even people outside of our family want to attend.  (This started after I moved away… I can’t wait!)  We got to spend time with my Grandma V. and our cousin J., who we hadn’t seen in years.  What a great guy he is.

I treasure the time with my girl and seeing her connect with the extended family. She has been spoiled and loved on and put in time out for fighting with her cousins. 🙂  She has soaked in the love, too.  She seems relaxed, content, and secure.

 We went to a movie, just the two of us, last night.  I drove my dad’s quad cab pick up truck, and she rode right beside me up front.  She wore her fancy cowgirl outfit (her grandpa bought her these fab pink boots and a real “George Straight” hat, and I got her the shirt, jeans, and awesome belt), and we listened to country music (hey, we had to act the part, didn’t we???) on our way there and back.   On our way home we stopped at Braum’s for ice cream.  YUM.

Going back home tomorrow will be bittersweet.  Now I’m looking forward to seeing my boys and my sweetie.  I’m prepping myself to get back in to full-speed-ahead-Mom-mode as I prepare to leave this “village” of family and re-enter the world of extended school year, chauffering, and figuring out what to do with our summer days.  I’m keeping a mental list of things that Meg and I can do together, so that we try to ward off those “sibling woes”. 

What are you all out there doing this summer?



I haven’t posted in a while because we’ve been on vacation! Woo hoo!

We went to Branson, MO.  We had a great time vacationing with my parents and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.  My parents have a time share in Branson and have been wanting my family and my brother’s family to meet up there and spend a week together. We finally managed to make it work, and this vacation was our gift to my parents.

We swam everyday, saw several shows, went “go karting” for the first, second, and third times, and slept in.  We used the jacuzzi tubs in the condo and really really enjoyed that for the first time we didn’t have to pack our own gfcf food! (Ice cream and bbq, anyone?)  My hubby and I were able to “spoil” our 3 year old nephew (who later complained that Aunt Elizabeth got him in trouble too many times– I’m an equal opportunity time-out-giver). 

I used to consider time shares to be too extravagant and a waste of money.  However, now I, along with my hubby, am reconsidering.  We enjoyed have free activities at the resort for the whole family to do.  Having unrestricted access to  a washer / dryer and full kitchen actually saved time and money for us.  The extra space– much more than one motel / hotel room– was great for the quiet time that the boys needed. 

The road trip itself went really well.  I was very proud of my kiddos.  We drove about 6 hours each day, and stopped to do fun things along the way– a children’s museum, the St. Louis Arch, and picnics. 

The guys have gone home now, and my daughter and I are taking an extra week of “girls only” vacation time.  We’re visiting my grandmother and my aunts.  I’m looking forward to this time with her, and hope it will ease those “sibling woes.”

I plan to reflect and process our experience in order to pass along to all you parents out there what worked for us.  Three days on the road was easier than expected.  I can’t wait to hear about my husband’s drive home with the boys.  Should be interesting.   More later!

Sibling woes

We insisted that my daughter go to my son’s 5th grad graduation. After all, her brother went to her Girl Scout ceremony.  That’s what we do.  We support each other by going to each other’s events and celebrating milestones.

She was not happy to be at the school after being there all day and all week.  She was done with a capital D.  She sat on the floor and sucked her thumb.  (Wish she’d give that up!)  She said loudly that the singers were stupid and that the music was lousy.  She didn’t care that her brother got an award, and even ripped his name out of our program.  She asked for a piece of paper and a pen to draw.  She wrote me a note that said, “I hate you.”

I don’t know if she was hot and tired (the school has no ac in the record heat!), or jealous of her brother’s attention, or dealing with the busy-ness that the end of the school year was bringing, or all of the above.  In any case, she was miserable and we were, too.

Finally we let her go hang out in the lobby but she got a consequence of missing her favorite Saturday morning cartoons for not being respectful and polite.

The next day she had to clean up her room and skip tv.  I had a job interview, so Dad was in charge.  When I got home after lunch, she was still in her room.

At least she listened.

She asked if she could come out of her room, and I told her that Dad and I would have to discuss it and decide.  In order for her  punishment to end, she had to apologize to us and to her brother.

To us: “I was wrong to be mean to you and say I hate you and not listen.  Next time I will listen.  I’m sorry.”

To her brother: “I was wrong to disrupt your graduation and I’m sorry.”

We forgave her.

But on the lighter side, she did draw some awesome pictures saying that the loved her family and on good days she claims that her brother is her best friend. I guess we must be doing something right.I wonder sometimes if we do the right thing in making our kids attend each others’ stuff, or if we do pay too much attention to the boys and our girl gets left out. Balancing is difficult!

How do you know when you are doing the right thing?

Summer plans

I am thinking about the summer.

Whatever happened to, “Summer time… and the livings easy…”?

Summer is always a mixed bag for me.  I like the lighter schedule. I like to be spontaneous!

I also hate the lighter schedule.  The lack of structure is hard for the boys.  They become video zombies.  If I’m not careful they can end up playing video / computer games for hours on end, and melting down later.

I’m caught in this tug of war between my rebellion against structure and schedules and my kids’ need for it.

Summer and me:   a love / hate relationship.

There are differences this year, though.  My oldest has a job, so he’ll be out of the house more.  Whew!

Pardon me, but I really need to vent. When my oldest has unstructured time he is very annoying.  Seriously.  It is “entertain me all the time,” and has been since he moved in when he was 9 years old.  (Once he asked a babysitter: “What are you going to do to entertain me now?”)  It is really hard for him to be on his own and do things independently.  One of my nicknames for him is “hover-round,” like the mobility device.  He hovers until he gets my attention. For example, I used to take a step backward and run into him, he was that close behind me! He’s gotten better, but he still stands around and stares at me until he gets my attention, no matter what else I may be doing. And if I don’t drop everything and make him the priority, he will do things like use his dad’s power tools without permission, cut his sister’s hair, start fights, or renovate his bedroom.  (That’s another post.)  I’m hoping that this job has a positive impact on his ability to be independent and work with others! So at least that’s hopefully going to be better this summer.  Okay, end of vent.

My younger son is much more verbal now and willing to try new things. His increased communication makes our days easier. For example, I am the video game tyrant, and he seems to understand this.  He has to play a game with me, do a chore, practice his piano, etc. before he can have anything electronic.

My youngest is much more independent now, and likes to do more “grown up” things with me now– crafty stuff, gardening, etc.  So I think we’ll be good there.

Could this be the summer of fun?

I remind myself that it won’t be all unstructured time. My younger son is going to extended school year (ESY) this summer, which will meet three mornings per week for 4 weeks.  I wondered whether or not to send him, but then remembered that he had a really good time at ESY last year.  The teacher ran it like a camp, and her staff even made a dvd of their adventures together.  He really liked it.  I also enrolled him in a reading camp, which I’ve heard is fun for the kids, to help strengthen his skill as he enters middle school. He loves stories and reading.

But there will be a lot of unstructured time.  I’m dreading it. So, readers, how do you handle summer down time?  I’d love to hear about it!  (In other words, “HELP!”)

Sibling ear cleaner at your service

My daughter adores her brothers.  She draws pictures of them, gets them to coordinate outifts so they can be “triplets,” and plays with them.

The other day she taught Philip how to play a game called Hiss.  We really like that game.  I joined in the fun, and we had a great time.

But I noticed that I had to keep telling her not to arrange his cards for him or tell him where to play.  It’s almost like she’s becoming the older sibling.

Today I turned around to see her using a wadded up napkin to clean out her brother’s ear. She was really into it– sitting really close and concentrating.  “Boy, your ear is really dirty!” she exclaimed.  She was really twisting it, too… there was a lot of wax build up.

(He tolerated this because he was playing a game on the computer.  That computer is magic! He can tolerate almost anything while mesmerized by electronics!)

My response (after stifling a laugh): “Hey!  That’s not your job!”

“Well, it’s dirty!”

“Yes, but not your job!”

“Okay, okay.” (Eye roll.)

I am catching her doing a lot of things that aren’t her job lately, mainly things that her brothers need to do themselves.  On the one hand, sometimes I think it’s really funny, like the ear-cleaning incident.  On the other hand, I am concerned that she is taking on a caregiver role too early.  I am hoping that she won’t really have to be a caregiver for either of her brothers.

So, for you parents out there, do you deal with these types of issues?  How do you handle it?

Spring fever

It’s been a weird week, and I think my spring fever has affected my brain.

My routine is off. The kids were off school Monday for Spring  Break (the more “pc” term for Easter holiday), then there was a two hour delay later in the week due to bad weather.

My spring fever is making me try new things– I applied for a teaching job at a local college.  I’ve worked on my talk that I’m giving in a couple of weeks.

The spring fever has led me to “nest.” I’ve been reusing / recycling things around my house to make my living room / office a better place to work.

By the way, I think I’ll really like the chocolate brown + robin’s egg blue, and I’m going to throw some orange accents around.  I read somewhere that deep brown is relaxing, the blue promotes serenity, and the orange will energize me.

Lord knows that I need all three desperately right now. At times during this past week, I’ve felt that I could fall asleep standing up.

My concentration hasn’t been all that great. Today I used a drop spreader to spread some granules on my front lawn.  (For you who are lawn and garden challenged, like me: a drop spreader is a push cart thingy that holds granules of lawn food, etc.  When the wheels turn, it “drops” the granules evenly on the grass.)  This time I used weed and feed,  killing the bad stuff (“weed…”) and fertilizing the good stuff (“… and feed”).  Our dandelions are out of this world, and I finally remembered to take care of this amidst all of the other stuff happening.

Somehow I missed the part about putting 5 feet between passes.  Instead, I spread the weed and feed like I was mowing the yard.  Not 5 feet, but 0 feet between passes. I used the whole bag, which was supposed to cover 5000 square feet of lawn, in half of my front yard.

My husband says we’ll have to mow twice as often this summer.  Since we pay Josh to mow, we could be in debt… all because of a $10 bag of weed and feed.

And  in between all of this, my kids have been very unusual.  No, seriously, more unusual than usual.

Philip got “star of the week” in music at school, and played a song while the school chorus sang it.  This is unusual, but it is pretty cool!

Josh worked again, and is loving his job.  Since he’s started his job, he has also been calmer.  He’s also been sleeping more. A good unusual.

And my daughter has started being more of a girly girl and less of a tomboy.  She’s growing her hair so she can have a pony tail.  Perhaps this isn’t unusual– maybe it’s a new usual.

Spring fever has hit. Everyone is growing, along with the grass (and hopefully NOT the dandelions).   And I don’t know if my brain will keep up.  Where’s that personal assistant?

Time out

This is one of those times I’m going to take a break from talking about autism.  This time it’s about my dear daughter.

My daughter was in a grumpy mood this morning.  There was a 2-hour delay for teacher in-service, and she really wanted to stay home all day, I think.  Plus, she wanted me to make her breakfast (a peanut butter and jelly on toast), she wanted to eat her sandwich in front of the tv, and she wanted me to pamper her, all while she laid on the couch under her soft blankie.

I informed her otherwise. She had to make her own sandwich (working on stepping up the self sufficiency), no eating messy sandwiches in front of the tv, and no pampering… not this morning, anyway.

She proceeded to be very angry with me and yell, stomp, tell me that she’s tired of dealing with me, I never do what she wants me to do. (She sounded like a mini version of her 15 year old brother.)  I managed to keep my frustration under control and calmly sent her up to her room for a  time out.

As her time out was coming to an end, I started to go upstairs to her room, where she was hopefully simmering down.  I heard her bedroom door slam shut.  As I approached her door, I had to stifle a laugh. On her door, which we had previously painted with dry erase paint, she had drawn a picture:

Photo by Elizabeth Givler

It’s an angry stick figure with the words “I am not happy” written above.  I refrained from laughing loud and went to my room to laugh quietly by myself.  Then went back to take a picture :-).  Here’s a close up view:

Photo by Elizabeth Givler

I knocked on the door, she let me in, and we talked.   I explained that since she’s 7, she can make her own sandwich.  Sometimes responsibilities mean that we have to give up something we want to do for a little while in order to do what really needs to be done.  She thought about that, and then we hugged.  She changed the picture:

Photo by Elizabeth Givler

She erased the word “not”, and added a pink smiley face.  After all, pink is her favorite color!

I realize this post isn’t about celebrating the differences.  It is about family life.  I do want to point out that I think she got this idea from our feeling chart on the fridge.  We used to use something similar to help the boys understand feelings.  Meg now likes to gauge her own feelings on the feeling chart.  And she let me know in no uncertain terms how she felt by drawing a demo.

I wonder if this could go along with “inclusion.”  Sometimes, or dare I say most of the time, the things we use to help those who have “disabilities” are beneficial for all people.

How are you feeling?

Family un-togetherness

Stock.xchng/Photo by Mei Teng

Recently, my sons joined the Easter Seals of Central PA for weekly  bowling night.  It so happened that their first games were on the night of my daughter’s birthday.  We dropped the boys off at the bowling alley, then took my daughter out for dinner and shopping.

Again, fun was had by all!

It was so great for my husband and I to have “alone time” with my daughter.  Going to to a restaurant was both cheaper and quieter.  Meg had our undivided attention.  She and I got to giggle, ooh, and ahh as she tried on and modeled clothes in the Target dressing room, and I marveled at her early bargain-hunting prowess. She and her Dad got to cuddle in the restaurant booth.  We are looking forward to these bowling nights.

Also, going bowling without the parents will do wonders for my sons’ self-esteems, especially that of my 11-year-old’s.  We are wanting him to have social interactions without the parents hovering present. We also want him to be independent and not “need” us so much.  That means our letting go and letting him, as well as his brother, be free.

When we arrived home later, Philip remarked, “I’m just a boy who loves bowling.”  Meg answered, “And I’m just a girl who loves shopping.”

I am excited to see all of my children mature and become independent, claiming their own identities, learning what they like.  I am hopeful that these coming Wednesday evenings will be a piece of the puzzle (no pun intended) of their becoming independent adults.


Sibling love changes lives

Parent-teacher conferences were last week.

Yeah, I know.

I went to my daughter’s conference first.   Meg’s grades were good, although in the classroom, gym, and art she scored and “n” for “needs improvement” on demonstrating responsible behavior.  She’s like her mom– loves to talk and socialize! Meg is a very good reader (I’m already finding her hiding with books, deeply engrossed), a deep thinker, and a good math student.  Meg notices things that other kids in her reading skills group don’t notice yet.  She is a delight, her teacher said.  Yes!

Yet, that’s not what made me the proud mama.

Meg has struck up a friendship with “Floyd,” who is on the spectrum.  I know he’s on the spectrum  from observing him in the classroom while carrying out my room-parent duties.

Meg and Floyd have things in common. Rather than sit in a group with the other kids, they sit on their own.  Their desks are separate, but near one another.  Meg actually requested to be separated from the other kids– on her own– at the beginning of the school year, because she couldn’t control her talking in a group.  Wow!  My experience with autism tells me that Floyd benefits from having his own desk, too.

Meg and Floyd do “stations” together sometimes, and play together at inside recess. Meg’s teacher said that she looked up to see Meg and Floyd playing with alphabet letters, making them talk to one another.  She commented that Floyd has a friend, and we both got teary.  She went on to say that Meg doesn’t see the behaviors, doesn’t “fight back,” isn’t offended.   I commented that I think it’s because of having two older brothers with autism, and she agreed.

My family life can be hectic and crazy and stressful.  However, through it all,  my daughter is growing into an amazing person.

She doesn’t see the differences, she sees Floyd, her friend.

Floyd has a friend.

That gives me hope.