Views from Inside

Everyone knows there’s a pandemic going around. It’s everywhere- news, internet memes, etc.

I’m not sick. Neither are the kids or Matthew.

This is good.

Quite a few people have not been so lucky.

The Kentucky Perspective

Kentucky hit the governor lottery when Andy Beshear got elected. He hasn’t been in office a full year, but here he is smashing the handling of a global pandemic like a rock star.

He let the state know that he was not here for people not taking this seriously. There’s a daily update on the news at 5 p.m., including weekends. I’m either at work (more on that later) or starting dinner so I am kinda able to watch most nights.

There is a group solely based on Beshear memes on Facebook, which I am in and love. The memes are fantastic.

School is closed for the rest of the year. This was decided yesterday but nobody is surprised. I probably wouldn’t send the kids if they did go back because I am considered higher risk.

Thanks a lot, rheumatoid arthritis.

The state is pretty much closed. Courts, non-essential stores, daycares, all of that. It’s a weird time to live in, for sure.

A New Man to Meet

My best friend, Ashley, had her first baby on 4/8/20. I am so happy for her, but was also sad that I couldn’t be there as planned. She and her husband, Patrick, kept me updated. She sends pictures everyday. Trenton is adorable.

I need the social distancing thing to be over… I have a tiny baby to meet.

Mom’s Side of the Story

I’m working part-time at a sober living house in Indiana. I’m a behavioral health technician. It’s super easy and I really like it. Plus, it pays great.

Clearly, if I’m not working I’m at home with the kids.

The school system that my kids attend is the largest in the state. There’s around 101,000 kids enrolled. They didn’t do much for two weeks while the website was created and work was developed. They will be doing non-traditional instruction until the end of May.

It’s been an adventure, to say the least.

Lily was devastated to find out that they will not be going back to school. She cried because she misses her friends and teachers. I gave her a hug and let her talk.

Julian and Cameron aren’t really upset. Julian will be finishing the 8th grade without a ceremony – his school is mailing him a t-shirt and his certificate.

As he put it, “I can’t miss what I’m not there to do.”

My deep thinker.

Cameron wanted to complete his time in machine tool class, but he can make the time up next year. He’s pretty thrilled about not having to get up early.

A Bit Scattered

It’s been a bit of a change to be at home all the time. I’ve been coloring and doing crafty things. I’ve also watched a lot of Hulu and Netflix shows, like many others.

The kids read, draw, play uno, and lots of video games for the boys. They also watch a lot of tik tok videos.

We also talk more and have gotten things cleaned and organized around the house.

Julian, Lily and I have done appointments via telehealth. That’s gone pretty well.

We’re trying to make the best of the situation.

How are you handling life during a pandemic??

Surviving the Dumpster Fire

I have lost count of the days we have been staying “healthy at home” as Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear, has asked.

Mid-March, probably?

Very accurate.

At this point there’s only so much we can do as parents to contain our kids.

My kids just started NTI (Non-Traditional Instruction) yesterday. I was mentally prepared for a disaster but nobody had issues. Yayyyy!

I’m pretty easy going these days because it helps my stress and anxiety levels, which helps prevent migraines and to some extent, RA flares.

Speaking of which, I have a phone appointment with my rheumatologist in an hour or so. I have great news to tell her- the medication she gave me in January is working. More yayyyy!

Kids are going through a lot right now- they don’t know when they will see their friends again. They can call, text or Facetime but that only goes so far. Some kids going to middle or high school may not see some of their friends before they separate for different schools. They’re anxious- what happens next? Is someone I know going to get the coronavirus? When can we go out and do fun things again?

I’ve been trying to explain things as well as I can to my kids. I’m glad they are old enough to understand most things. We do fun stuff at home.

The boys have been pretty chill- Julian said since they aren’t at school he can’t really miss the events that the 8th grade won’t get to do.

Lily has been a bit sad because she misses her friends and teachers. She and Bella (my friend Sara’s daughter) face-timed yesterday and she says she feels much better.

It’s the least I can do. I don’t like seeing her so sad.

There’s a load of laundry sitting on my bed waiting to be folded. I’ll get to it.

Probably.

Some things never change.

Meme courtesy of Facebook

Ten Tips for Becoming an Advocate for Your Child With Special Needs

When you are the parent of a child with special needs, there are many things to learn about- the diagnosis, medical equipment (if needed) or adaptive equipment, diets, etc. One of the best things you can learn is how to become an advocate for your child. I can’t stress the importance of this enough.

It can be super scary to speak up sometimes, but your child needs you to say what they sometimes can not- there are many factors that can keep a child from speaking up from their needs- speech and/or language delays, slow processing speed, anxiety, and so on. Being an advocate for your child can make you a stronger parent.

Parent and child

Julian’s Path to Awesomeness

Julian had a 504 plan almost immediately after starting kindergarten. His diagnosis came a couple of months later- severe ADHD, combined and autism.

It was a LOT. There is a post dedicated to finding out about the diagnosis, Looking at the Bright Side

The 504 plan worked- it took until 4th grade to get him an IEP. Why? Somehow, Julian’s issues didn’t really affect his work, but it did socially.

The IEP finally got put into place when he started 5th grade. His 4th-grade teacher (who has since become a friend and neighbor) submitted a ton of data to help the process.

Julian is in 8th grade and working on the transition to high school. According to Kentucky guidelines, he can attend meetings when he’s 14, which will be in July, or in 8th grade. My heart broke a little during the transition part of the meeting.

He makes good grades but still struggles with anxiety- you couldn’t pay him to present in front of a class. At the meeting earlier this year, I asked for accommodations for this. I don’t want that to affect his grades.

Meeting

Ten Tips for Helping

My number one tip for advocating?

I can’t say this enough but know your kid. Knowing what Julian does and doesn’t need has helped so much.

The other tips are:

2. Keep and organize paperwork. I have a binder full of Julian’s paperwork- report cards, the 504 plans, IEPs, everything he’s ever gotten from school. It helps when asking for a new plan if you’re forgetful (like me) or just so you can stay up to date.

3. Create relationships with teachers and staff.

My kids went to a great elementary school. The counselors were super helpful, and almost all of his teachers were great with him. My personal favorite was the teacher mentioned earlier. We love Allison. She’s a wonderful teacher and as an added bonus, she was a special education teacher for some time.

4. Ask ALL the questions.

If you don’t know what something means, ask. That’s what the staff is there for. When you’re starting out, there’s plenty of questions to ask, even the ones you think maybe stupid.

5. Know your child’s rights.

Each state has a different way of doing things in this area. Research the IDEA. The reading can get a bit hard but it’s well worth it.

6. Talk to your child. This is the best way to know if the IEP accommodations are actually being used- for example, Julian gets extra time on testing and this is super important during state testing. Teachers have to go by a student’s IEP/504 Plan.

Your child can learn to self-advocate as they advance through school.

7. Communicate with teachers. Try to stay as pleasant as possible. If things don’t go well, speak to an assistant principal. Remember that the main goal is to get the best plan possible for your child.

8. Remember that you are not alone. Millions of other parents are going down the same road.

9. Research, research, and research.

There’s new information coming out all the time about learning disabilities, assorted medical issues and so on. Knowing the newest information can help you feel more confident when advocating for your child.

10. Plan for the future. I try to plan for one school year at a time, but once Julian hit middle school, it hit me that he will be in high school then an adult soon.

Yikes.

I started looking at high school programs last year and we picked a program to apply for. The next meeting to finish his transition plan is later this year.

Getting kids through school is a challenge in itself. Why make it harder?

Information courtesy of

Very Well Family

A Back to School Check-In

I am more than happy to report that my kids are back in school. August 14 was a magical day in the Sanders house.. at least for me.

After a little more than two months of summer break, I was more than ready to send them back to school.

First day of school

Wake-Up is Mom’s Payback

Wake-up time now starts at 5:30 am for Cameron, 5:45 am for Lily because she’s a bit of a sloth in the mornings and Julian wakes up at 6.

I could swear a small part of my heart broke when Cameron got on the bus on the first morning to go to high school. My big kid is now a freshman. This fact hurts my heart. I am not sure where the last 14 years have gone, but here we are. I gave him a pep talk in the car while we were waiting for the bus and he was like, “I’ll be fine, Mom.”

He jumped out and that was it. I was sad before sunrise.

Cameron hasn’t had homework yet, has only gotten two textbooks, but I don’t think he’s prepared for what’s coming. I’ve warned him about high school workload, but he thinks I’m kidding.

I’ll be able to help him with some things, but I can forget helping him with physics and engineering. Those aren’t even in my scope, but since his grandfather is a machinist, I’ll leave that to him.

He wanted to join the cross-country team, but I was not about to let him run in the extreme late summer heat.

For example, today’s temperature was 97 degrees (practice was canceled) and while he wasn’t happy, he understood that I wasn’t willing to risk his heart for this. Heat is one of his biggest triggers for an SVT episode, even if he stays well hydrated.

The Middle School Edition

I wasn’t sad about sending Julian off to the eighth grade, but sending my baby to middle school?

Ugh. I won’t lie. There was almost a tear.

Julian is not amused by this school year, it seems to be more of the same so far. Julian thrives on routine so I think he is doing well. He gets up, dressed, and so on. I encourage him to eat breakfast- sometimes he will, but usually not.

Lily takes forever to get moving and I almost drug her out of bed this morning.

I’m not kidding.

She has to pick out a headband, earrings, and socks to match her uniform. This might take a while, even though I have told her it may be easier if she does this the night before.

But what do I know? I’m just Mom.

I know nothing. Or so they think. I actually know plenty, but they don’t realize this yet.

Homework has finally entered the house- Julian got science homework today (this post was written after everyone came home from school).

So far, Lily seems to be doing okay with middle school. She has some friends with her from elementary school and joined a class that does service-based projects around the school.

I think this will be good for her. She likes helping others and the class does creative things that will allow her to have fun with her creativity. She’s also talked about joining the visual arts society.

I have tried to get Julian to join something at school with no success. Maybe in high school?

Mom’s Spare Time

Mom’s WHAT?

Mom has no spare time.

Mom got a job.

I have a part-time job as an instructional assistant at a preschool for visually impaired children. I work while the kids are in school and I’m home before they are. It’s literally the perfect schedule. I work with three-year-olds, hence the picture of the small yellow chair.

The students start on the 28th, so the adventure begins with them soon. My class has 9 kids in it. There’s a lead teacher and another assistant with me. I have basically zero experience with visually impaired kids, but I have a lot of experience with kids that have other disabilities and those that are non-verbal.

Watch my Facebook and Instagram for updates!

How is the new school year going for you? Were you happy or sad to send your kids?

The Path to Middle and High School: Is Your Child Prepared?

As of the date of this post, August 1, there are 13 days left before my kids go back to school.

I could not be more thrilled.

No, really. I am. I love these kids, but they’ve got to GO.

We have had a lot of fun over the summer and it’s probably my last as a stay at home mom because our family schedule finally allows me to go back to work. This is good.

Are my kids prepared to go to middle and high school?

Let’s discuss.

Cameron is going into his freshman year of high school. We will skip the fact that he is attending the same high school that Matthew and I attended, met and graduated from in 2001 (do the math, it hurts my brain to do it for you). Julian is going into the 8th grade, which means he can start going to his IEP meetings if he is so inclined. Lily is starting 6th grade.

That’s a lot.

Step

Lots of Changes for a Kid Brain

Middle and high school are a bit different from when we were there, depending on where and how old you are while reading this. Even if you are in your early 30’s, it’s still a different planet. The boys and I discussed drugs over the summer, and for some reason, I was not entirely shocked to know that Cameron could find marijuana if he was in search of it. (He isn’t, but if he were, it’s not hard to find.) Maybe it’s because of my previous work, the fact we do live in the suburbs of a large city, or possibly both. I’m not sure.

Let’s just say we had another chat about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and in Cameron’s case, energy drinks. Thanks to his heart condition, he can’t drink those and/or much of anything with caffeine in it. None of us are in the mood for him to end up in the ER.

Both boys are on medications that don’t interact well with these substances, so it wasn’t a hard chat. Thanks to my past issues with drinking, I don’t think they’re a fan. I’m not really sure if I should be happy about that or not. Combine this with my past work as an addiction counselor and I’m basically a walking, talking DARE teacher.

Does anyone remember the DARE program? If you don’t, find an older sibling, friend or cousin and I’m sure they can tell you about it.

Cameron was a bit of a slacker during his middle school years- it irritated me because he is a very bright kid. All of my kids are. I told him multiple times that in high school, there’s less room for that because colleges (if he goes that route) will be looking at those grades for admission and scholarships will be hard to get if he just coasts through the next four years.

“Calm down, Mom.”

His classic line that will probably cause my first heart attack or second stroke.

Lily, on the other hand, may surprise me. I’m a little concerned because she emotionally functions a bit behind her peers, probably at like a 9-10 year old level. She tends to hang out with kids that are a little younger than her.

I have no issues with this, but I worry that she may get bullied. She has friends coming into the same school with her, but there are mean girls in every school, starting on the first day.

She’s super bubbly, helpful and a really sweet kid. I think that she will be fine- she made better grades than her brothers did, so I have no worries there. Once she finds a few clubs to join and finds her place, she will be fine. I may be worried about nothing. We have talked about bullying, school work, and other topics, so I’m hoping things go well.

Eighth grade is basically a no-brainer for Julian. He is not worried at all about going back to school. His IEP is ready to go. His thoughts on going to school with Lily? “I don’t know her.” They won’t see each other except on the bus and that’s fine with him.

Classroom

Is Your Child Ready?

Starting a new phase of school can be scary. It can also be fun. This depends on your child’s personality.

A few tips for discussion with your child:

  • What are you looking forward to the most?
  • What worries you the most?
  • What can I do to help?
  • Do you know anyone going to your school?
  • Do you think this school year will be hard, easy, etc?
  • How do you feel about any changes at your school?
  • How do you feel about your sibling going to school with you? (something they can’t change, but it’s nice to let them talk about it)

Most middle and high schools offer orientation for incoming students. Mine are going to theirs. I think it helps ease the anxiety of some fears about the first day- knowing where to go, lockers, etc. Registration is usually afterward, which makes things easier on parents.

We can’t make things magically better for our kids all the time, but we can help them feel a bit more confident as they go into a new stage in their lives.

On the first day, it can help a lot if you give them an encouraging note, chat or even pat on the shoulder/hug if they will let you. That can create a great memory.

The path to middle and/or high school can be a rough one for kids and parents. The first day is the toughest, the second starts to get a little better.

Parents who have sent a child to middle and/or high school before, how was the first day? Feel free to leave a comment!

For further reading:

My Kids and College

Pics courtesy of Unsplash