Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Gift from My Teen

Yesterday was my writing group and with my hubby out of town I wasn't sure I could go. Then I decided to take Queen Teen with me, loading up coloring books and crayons and telling her "it will be fun."

She scowled at me but got her shoes on and then said, "Maybe it will be fun."

Maybe is as good as a yes in Queen Teen talk.

We met the other's at the restaurant where Queen Teen smiled and responded to questions about school, then colored in her new Mermaid book until the food came. I talked to my friends and discussed writing and books for two hours while helping Queen Teen find a color, turn a page, hold her lemonade, and eat her meal. Rather than declaring she was bored after twenty minutes as I expected, Queen Teen remained cheerful and friendly. "This is fun," she said while twirling the little paper umbrellas that came with her lemonade.

Simply by sitting beside me in a restaurant with my writing-friends and coloring, she gave me a present: time to be creative. Her actions showed me she understands how much writing means to me. Often when I pick her up from school my lap top will be in the car and she'll see it and say, "You must have been working." Working equals writing.

It's funny... sometimes Queen Teen can be obstinate and moody, making me want to kick the wall in frustration. Just as often though, she can be compassionate and kind. We have fun together, laughing at jokes we make up or discussing why our dog Bourre snores. Her sense of humor is quick, and so is her temper.

There was a time not so long ago when she would've fought me about leaving the house for dinner at a restaurant because she didn't like having her routine disturbed. Now she's eager to try new things and see new places. Her world is opening up, little by little, and she's starting to understand she actually isn't the center of it.

Thank you Queen Teen for letting me be your Mommy AND a writer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day Number Four of Jr. High

Today is Thursday, day number four of Jr. High, and so far, so... interesting.

First, WHY does school start at 7:30 am! Come on! Hasn't anyone read the study that showed Teenagers are sleep deprived and any classes before 10:00 am are a complete waste of time? Plus, I am NOT a morning person, so dragging myself out of bed before 6:00 am and slapping a pleasant smile on my face while getting my daughter ready for school is against my religion!

Second, Queen Teen loves her new teacher, Gayle, but isn't too pleased that she's supposed to go from class to class for different subjects with different teachers. To her, it is a stupid idea and a waste of her time. She wants her equipment (Intellikeys, CCTV, and computer) in ONE room, all set up at HER station, the way she WANTS, without all this moving around. I have to say I kind of agree with her, especially since I believe the way Jr High is run in the USA is diametrically opposed to the way children should be educated (don't get me started!). However, this is the way Jr High IS and we want Queen Teen to learn how to live in the world and cope with change. Therefore, she is required to spend three periods in other classrooms with the remaining four in the Resource room with her beloved Gayle. In time I believe Queen Teen will get the hang of it. If not, we'll adjust as needed.

Third, Queen Teen has decided there's no way in hell she's wearing her hearing aids, she don't care how much they're supposed to help her or what kind of bribes we offer, forget it, we ain't getting those things in her ears EVER AGAIN. This could be a problem.

Fourth, lucky for her, the hearing aids broke and are now on their way back to the audiologist for repair.

Fifth, at the last minute her school found a full-time aid for her, thank goodness! I really didn't want to have to start that battle.

Sixth, Queen Teen has to use her wheelchair more than she would like because the ground of her new school is so bumpy and uneven it isn't safe for her to use her walker much. This makes her very angry.

Seventh, she has a huge smile on her face when I pick her up from school and she tells me she loves it. Whew!

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of Jr. High

This morning I drove my daughter to Jr. High for her very first day, and although there was a part of me that felt sad and nervous, I also had to restrain myself from peeling out of the parking lot while laughing hysterically, shouting "See ya!" Yahoo, another summer licked! And yes I know how precious the time I spend with Queen Teen is and how every summer down is just one more bit of childhood gone, but by the end of August she and I are both so tired of each other we can hardly hide it anymore. Not one more game of Uno, please! Time for other people to entertain the Queen.

For the first time in her life, this transition didn't seem to frighten her. I was expecting tears and sleepless nights, but instead she talked about school like it was the greatest place on Earth and she couldn't wait to go. We picked out her clothes the night before and she washed her walker, wheels to handles, chatting happily about what school will be like. She had a good sleep, got up on time, ate a good breakfast, got dressed and cheerfully got into the van for me to drive her to school.

Once there she walked to class using her walker and I followed with her wheelchair. She knew exactly where to go, thanks to Laura. Laura met us at the classroom and we all went in together to greet her new teacher, whom Queen Teen had met before. Queen Teen had a grin on her face the whole time, so I gave her a quick hug and left, feeling a tiny tug on my heart as I walked away. I looked around at the other students as they sleepily sauntered to their first class, seeing how grown up and tall they are. My daughter looks so tiny in comparison, but she's just as grown up and ready for school as they.

The next few weeks will be bumpy, I'm sure. Queen Teen has to learn how to navigate quickly from one class to the next in different buildings across uneven ground on the campus. Half of her classes are in the Resource room where she will work on Science, Math, Sign Language and other skills, with Language Arts, PE, and Social Studies in other classrooms. It's a good balance of inclusion and support, I think, and we can adjust her schedule as need be.

As for me, I have the next two weeks to get organized and catch up on Medusa's Muse work before I start Graduate School. This is going to a very busy Fall!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When Hearing-Aids hurt

In preparation for school beginning next week, I cleaned up my daughter's hearing-aids, checked to make sure the batteries were strong, then brought them to where my daughter was sitting with her dad eating a Popsicle.

"Time to wear your hearing-aids." I said. "You need to get used to them again for school."

She'd had most of the summer off from wearing her hearing-aids because she'd outgrown her ear-molds and then it took time to get new ones made and a follow up appointment to have the hearing-aids adjusted. We'd switched to Stanford Audiology for her hearing needs, which has an excellent pediatric program. The audiologist is very skilled at working with children and picking up on their subtle clues to determine what the child can and cannot hear. Queen Teen warmed up to her immediately on the first visit. We picked up Queen Teen's new aids on the third visit. The doctor adjusted the volume after discovering Queen Teen could tolerate a higher threshold of sound than anyone thought. The moment the doctor put the new aids into Queen Teen's ears, before even turning them on, Queen Teen burst into tears.

"I don't understand what I even have to wear them! It doesn't make any sense."

The tears kept falling while the doctor worked to set the aids properly, visibly shaken by Queen Teen's tears. I kept wiping Queen Teen's nose and eyes while holding her close and encouraged the doctor to just keep going. I know my daughter; she won't stop crying until the hearing aids are out.

Back home, I put the aids away, thinking I would give her a bit of a break to get used to the idea again. But every time we talked about it, she'd just start crying again.

And then my husband had surgery, and the dog got mauled, and then Queen Teen had dental surgery, all within one week of each other, so the hearing aids were ignored as I dealt with the immediate crisis my family was in.

One week before school, I put the hearing aids into Queen Teen's ears, telling her she would wear them for an hour to "get used to them again." She wrapped her arms around herself and burst into tears. I decided to ignore the tears, believing if I was tough she'd stop being hysterical and put up with the aids for one hour. Thirty minutes later, she was still weeping. I tried consoling her, talking to her, joking with her. I tried putting in a movie to distract her, but that only seemed to make things worse.

"They don't sound right," she said between sobs. The she started crying so hard she couldn't breath.

I took out her hearing-aids. She kept crying. She said the aids didn't help her and she didn't understand why she had to wear them. Nothing I said, not reasoning, begging, pleading, or logic helped her understand WHY she had to wear her hearing aids. I explained she wasn't the only child in the world who wore hearing aids but she said she didn't believe me.

When she calmed down after I left the room, I overheard her talking to herself. "I don't know why. I just don't know why. They don't help me. So why do I have to wear them."

This was more than being stubborn about wearing her hearing-aids. She cried like her heart was broken, like she was the ONLY person in the ENTIRE WORLD who had ataxia and couldn't see very well and had to wear hearing aids. She kept repeating over and over that she didn't understand and I realized it wasn't just about the hearing-aids, it was about everything. Thirteen is hard enough without trying to cope with multiple disabilities.

After talking with her elementary school teacher, I decided to let school work on the hearing aids issue. Since she wears them at school, perhaps it will make more sense to her to wear them then. Home is her retreat, her respit from braille and sign language and PT. Plus, children always cry harder when their mom's are in the room, as if they're saying, "See, Mom. My heart broke. Can you fix it?"

No, my darling girl, I can't. But maybe your teacher can.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"She's 13"

Yesterday I took Queen Teen to Mervyn's for a little back-to-school shopping. At first she was cheerful and silly, giggling at the stuffed puppies and feeling proud of herself every time she navigated around an obstacle in the aisles. And then, without warning or provocation, her face set in a determined frown and her eyes focused downward. Nothing I did or said made any difference.

"Look at this cute shirt! It's even red, your favorite. Do you like it?"

"I don't know," Queen Teen responded without looking at the shirt.

I held it under her nose. "It feels soft. Would you like to wear it to school?"

"I don't know."

"Maybe I should just buy you uniforms again. You looked cute in your school uniform."

"I don't know."

"Really? You don't know. Then I SHOULD buy a uniform because then you won't have to decide what to wear at all. Yep, I think a blue uniform would be good."

She scowled at me. Well, at least she made eye contact for a moment.

We managed to buy a pair of pants and two shirts, then went to the register to pay. Queen Teen barely cracked a smile when one of her friends from elementary school stopped to say hi. They're both going to the same Jr High this year and she was shopping for school clothes with her mom too.

"Did you have fun this summer?" Queen Teen's friend asked.

Queen Teen looked at her for a moment then stared at her feet again. She shrugged.

I said, "She's just getting over a cold, so she may be feeling tired."

"I had a cold too. No fun," her friend replied. Then she dashed off to catch up with her mom. My daughter didn't notice she was gone.

Great! She has maybe two real friends and she ignores them when they say hello. Wonderful! She'll be sitting by herself every lunch for sure!

The woman at the register asked me, "Is she feeling okay?"

I shrugged. "Who knows. She's 13."

"Ah.... I see." The woman gave me a knowing smiled and nodded. "I know all about 13."

Every time I tell someone that I get the same response; that completely understanding, 13 is rough you poor thing hang in there it will get better in a few years I'm so glad it's not me, smile. Even people who don't have children give me that look because we ALL know what 13 is like: morose, temperamental, and bitter. Saying "she's 13" is like saying "she has a head ache," or "she has a tummy ache." Of course, we all say, nodding with a sympathetic smile. She'll get over it in maybe... three or five years. Poor dear.

When I told my hubby what happened he asked, "What set her off?"

"She's just 13."

He sighed. "How long does that go on?"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summertime is Not for Wimps

Ah yes... it's that wonderful time of year again. Summer. When all the little children are home with their parents spending quality time with each other while trying not to drive one another crazy. Or maybe the children ARE trying to drive their parents nuts? I know mine is. Being 13, bored, and stuck in the house because you can't stand the heat means you feel entitled to WHINE non-stop all day long. "I'm bored." "There's nothing to do." "I don't like that movie!" "I don't know what to do." "I hate that game!" On and on it goes while I try hard to focus on the positive (we're spending more time together. That must be good, right?) and think of new, creative tasks to keep her busy.

To be fair, this summer has been especially difficult. Not as bad as last year when she had surgery, but definitely hard.

First, her step-dad had bariatric surgery and is now home recovering. Things are going well and he's getting stronger by the minute, but it meant he and I were away for several days while she stayed home with her grandparents. She was happy to see her grandparents, who she adores, but not so happy with both parents disappearing to San Francisco for four days. Then, when we got home, her dad went to bed and I rushed around trying to get everything set up for him. Queen Teen and I took a long walk to our local cafe the following day, which helped. However, I've been so busy taking care of Rick she's had to play by herself a lot. She tries, but when you're 13 and don't know if you still like your doll house or not, playing by yourself becomes a challenge.

At the same time, I've been taking care of the family dog who was attacked at the kennel by another dog. One of those weird, completely unprovoked accidents. Our dog, Bourre, was seriously injured and had to be rushed to the vet for surgery on both front legs and paws. She then spent four days recovering there. I brought Bourre home on tuesday and happily she's doing great. What a relief. Queen Teen was very worried about both the dog and her dad. She kept a thoughtful distance from both, waiting to see if they were alright. Now that Rick can get up and is moving around more, she smiles and hugs him and they joke and tease each other in the morning again. As for Bourre, Queen Teen talks to her with a gentle voice and tries very hard not to bump the dog with her walker.

Then yesterday Queen Teen had dental surgery. Finally! She broke her front tooth back in February and it took this long to get into the surgeon. Plus, her adult teeth were coming in around her baby teeth rather than pushing the baby teeth out, so seven baby teeth had to be pulled. The dental surgery center is in Windsor and is FANTASTIC. These people are truly dedicated to helping children and providing dental care, despite Medi-Cal cuts and other insurance problems. If I ever win the lottery, I'm writing them a big, fat check.

The surgery went well and she recovered quickly, but woke up this morning with a bad cold. Sigh. Luckily she isn't in pain, so today she's lounging in bed watching movies while blowing her nose every ten minutes.

Two-and-a-half more weeks of summer, and then she and I start school on the same day; she Jr. High and me San Francisco State Graduate School. Anyone have any good ideas to keep a teen-ager busy?