Thursday, May 30, 2013

Life With Sydney: Never a Dull Moment

Never a dull moment probably should be my motto. A house full of kids kept me busy for a lot of years. Providing educational and social activities for Tate as he is growing up with autism has kept me busy, especially when he was receiving early intervention. Sydney is what keeps me the busiest now and I’m not sure anything else I have done or seen has compared to her activity level and the demands she (and her disability) place on me sometimes. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. 

Every day is an adventure to Sydney and every activity has the potential to be very memorable. I suppose it is a combination of her ADHD and her Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and her personality. She is a go-getter, always ready to move and move quickly. She wakes in the morning and within seconds is up and running. I’ve watched kids wake many times over the years. They usually stretch, yawn, rub their eyes, roll over and occasionally go back to sleep. Sometimes they wake grumpy and sometimes they wake happy. With Sydney it is the same every morning. She wakes, HOLLERS for me, and jumps out of bed, to race out of her room. 

Sydney's kite
A couple of days ago, about the time I should have been starting dinner, Sydney came in from playing outside and noted how windy it was. She suggested we fly a kite. I have had a kite on a shelf in my closet for years and it has seldom been flown. She pestered me and begged me and nagged me off and on for an hour. I’d given her several excuses because I really didn’t want to run around a field in the wind. When I had run out of excuses and she had worn me down, I got the kite. We went outside and got that kite right into the air. It wouldn’t stay up long and kept nose-diving to the ground. I remembered from my childhood that a kite sometimes needs a heavier tail so I sent her in for an old bandanna. That was just what that kite needed. It flew really well and stayed up for long periods of time. Listening to Sydney laugh was contagious. She couldn’t stop. I didn’t mind anymore that dinner was going to be way later than usual. She was having the time of her life! Sydney was going to have a memory of flying a kite with her mama and I so enjoy hearing my kids laugh hard when they are having fun. One of my older kids once asked me why I liked going to the amusement park with them since I didn’t like to ride the rides anymore. I don’t know if it is the same for all parents; but for me, watching my kids have fun is one of the “funnest” things there is to do.    

Shawn got home about the time Sydney and I were winding up the kite string to head back inside. Sydney told Shawn all about the kite and showed him a few pictures I had taken on my phone. When Sydney has a really cool experience, Shawn often says to me quietly, “I’ll bet none of those other kids from that orphanage in Russia did that today.” It makes us so happy for Sydney but so sad for all the ones that didn’t go home with anyone. Can you imagine how their days are spent? I suppose, not knowing what they are missing, might mean they aren’t sad about not having it. I don’t know. I do know I am so thankful my God answered our prayers for Sydney, and that she is in our home. She teaches me constantly.

Sydney and Grandpa at the Sale Barn
Sydney sees so many ordinary things as extraordinary. Revolving doors, escalators, and automatic car washes, are as good as any amusement park ride. She loves it when we drive under an overpass because she says she feels like we are in a tunnel. Sydney sees beauty where few others would. Sydney loves animals; and a cow is, by far, her favorite animal. We are planning another trip to the sale barn soon so she can watch cows on the auction block again all afternoon. She would rather do that than anything else we could think of to do. We never pass a field of cows that she doesn’t call out to them. She says things like, “You are beautiful! Eat that grass and stay healthy! I love your color!” Then she exclaims to me over and over about how sweet cows are.  

Sydney thinks her grandparents’ home is a wonderland. There is a cat that will play with Sydney’s hair if she lays on the floor, a tire swing, and her grandma’s walker to push around. A ride out to the pasture to see grandpa’s cows is the high point of any day. Tuesday, Sydney saw chicks at the feed store in town. She was absolutely giddy. Yesterday, we went to Kansas City for her quarterly doctor appointment. As we drove off an exit ramp, she hollered, “Red!  I love red!” She was referring to the van in front of us. She just had to holler about the color red. The doctor allowed Sydney to pick a toy out of a box of prizes. She chose a plastic wolf and played with it all day like it was a very expensive prize.   

Today, we went to Kansas City again to take my dad to a doctor appointment. We had to park in a parking garage and Sydney was absolutely enthralled. She kept exclaiming, “COOL!” She got a huge kick out of the paper towel dispenser in the ladies’ room because it was motion sensitive and kept giving her towels without her having to touch anything. She’s seen all these kinds of things before. We don’t keep her from technology. It’s just that, Sydney doesn’t take things for granted like so many of us do. When we got home from that doctor appointment it sprinkled on us a little. She asked for an umbrella and went outside and marched around in the rain for quite some time.  

Sydney's Herd
Her favorite foods are vegetables and when we order from a menu at a restaurant, she always wants me to ask the waitress if she can just order a plate of vegetables. Her favorite toys are very simple. She loves workbooks, hula-hoops, baby dolls, plastic farm animals, and her remote-control car. I bought a 99 cent spray bottle this week to spray my plants with. She has latched on to that like it is an expensive toy. Watering the plants and squeezing that spray trigger has become a new favorite pastime. It reminded me of something I used to keep her busy with. Her tea party dishes have always been a favorite, but letting her pull a chair up to the sink and WASH those dishes with a few bubbles gave her more pleasure than most of us would find in a day at the zoo or another favorite activity. Sydney loves water and if she doesn’t get to take a bath at the end of the day, she feels like she is being punished. It just doesn't take much to make this kid happy.

I know you might be saying, “all kids like escalators, revolving doors, umbrellas, and car washes,” and maybe they do. All mine have; but it is different with Sydney. She seems to experience things with an intensity that my others did not. Maybe it’s the ADHD. Maybe it’s the FAS. Maybe it is from the neglect she had the first year of her life. Maybe it is just Sydney. Whatever it is, its amazing.  

If you liked this post then you might also enjoy this one: It's a mad mad world.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation: It begins in roughly one hundred hours for my two youngest.  How do I know how many hours there are until our summer officially begins?  I look forward to it.  I long for it.  I begin counting the days as soon as the fall semester begins.  I know every teacher work day and every school holiday and anticipate them coming with glee.  I hate handing my kids over to the public school system each fall.  As much as I love my kids’ teachers, and I DO love their teachers, no one can do the things for my kids that I can.  No one cherishes them the way I do and no one enjoys them like I do.  That being said, I cannot provide them with ALL the things they need academically, so I must rely on the school system to help me educate them.  The two youngest especially need a multitude of services and providers to give them an appropriate education. 

I used to be na├»ve enough to think all moms loved summers so they could be with their kids.  I know now that not all moms look forward to breaks from school.  I can understand how hard it must be for the parents that are employed fulltime, year round.  The school is not only providing an education but is also a way of keeping kids safe while parents work.  The moms I do not understand are the ones who are home in the summer but dread the break and complain all summer long about their kids’ fighting and their boredom.  Sure, my kids fight sometimes.  I make them stop.  I’m in charge around here, not them.  Once in a while I even hear, “I am bored.”  I can’t believe it when I hear it because of all the entertaining things there are to choose from around here.  When I hear those three little words I usually offer a kid three or four suggestions as to how they can spend some time.  If they cannot choose then I choose for them and they get “unbored” pretty quick.  There are always plenty of chores that need doing around here.  A child that complains of boredom is a child that needs a few chores.  Keeping a kid with ADHD and FAS busy and out of trouble is challenging but I can rise to that challenge.  She is mine and I love her enough to do it.

As I said in my post entitled “Don’t Blink,” if you didn’t want kids, then why did you have them?  You had to have known you would be the one spending a lot of time with them.  You surely knew kids sometimes fight.  You had to have known there would be summer breaks from school.  You probably even knew that a parent is a child’s most important teacher.  Stop complaining, especially, in front of them.  Savor the time you have with them.  Be the kind of parent your kids wish you were.  PLAY with them!  READ to them!  WORK with them!  TEACH them!  DISCIPLINE them!  ENJOY them!  Be PATIENT with them!  APPRECIATE them!  LOVE them!

I have three that have flown from our nest and another will leave in the fall.  Do I miss them? Sure.  Do I dread them leaving home?  No.  You might wonder, since I dread giving them to the public school in the fall, how I manage to send them off to college in a far-away place?  It is a very different thing for me.  An 18 year old going away to college is a goal I have worked toward with them their whole lives.  My husband and I told them from their birth where they would go to college.  It is a place we feel really good about, a place that teaches the same things religiously that we do at home.  I celebrate when my kids leave home as young adults.  They are ready.  They are the people they are, partly because I savored their summer vacations.  They watched me count down the days of that last nine weeks of school and treasure their summer break, wishing it would never end.  Their self-esteem did not suffer because their mom, the person who loves them more than anyone else in the world, did not dread summer breaks.  Dreading the summer home alone with your children?  Shame on you.