Posts Tagged ‘special needs children’

New stories on the Water Cooler

September 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Make sure to entertain yourself (at my expense) by occasionally clicking on the Water Cooler tab.

Monday Minute: How Time Flies (especially when talking to James)

James struggles with telling time, whether it be by the hour and minute or in deciding if something will happen in the afternoon or evening. Even more abstract to him is the concept of how much time has passed, or how far into the future something is. A day, week and year are all fair game when discussing a “recent” event.

This weakness results in all kinds of disjointed, seemingly-random-but-connected-in-James’s-head sentences, that when put together thoroughly confuse anyone who doesn’t know James well. Really, really well. In fact, I might be the only person on the planet who could follow his streams of consciousness. I can almost see the synapses in James’s brain misfiring when we have conversations like this, but in reality these situations are probably some of the most clear demonstrations as to why James struggles to communicate clearly with others.  Because even though they seem random, his thoughts are usually sparked by actual recent events. They make sense to him…

To help you better decipher and understand the world of James, I have included some helpful footnotes so that you can trace the route from the inspiration to the conversation.

This particular chat took place on the way to the playground today – in August.

James is in italics, my responses are in bold.

We’re going to your favorite playground today with the tunnels and tall slides – remember it? We haven’t been there in a while.

Cool! Hey do you remember last week how we light the candles for Christmas?


You know, we light one candle every year for Christmas?

James, you’ve totally lost me – I need some point of reference here.

On the advent wreath – the candles we light? (1)

Do you mean from last year?

Yeah we light one each year.

We light one each week before Christmas.

Right, last week for each year.


So where will my room be?

Your room?

In the new house? (2)

On the second floor, just like I showed you.

That’s cool, and where will your room be? The first floor? (3)

The third floor – you and your brothers and sister will all be on the second floor. We’re going to move there as soon as you get back from Albany (James is going to visit relatives this week while I finish packing).

You know, all the explosions in that movie were cool.


You know, Battleship? (4)

Oh yeah? Would you rather go see Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Avengers movie this time?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And probably bowling too. (5)



(1) Our advent wreath is sitting in a box on James’s dresser while I’m packing his room up, so he saw it this morning before we left.

(2) The wreath reminded him that we’re packing to move and that he will (gasp) have a new room.

(3) A new room reminds James that his parents will now be one whole floor away in the new house. He has double checked which floor at least 10 times this week. He’s a little nervous, I think.

(4) James has a bunch of relatives in Albany – one of them took him to Battleship at some point. My mention of Albany triggered James getting to go see a movie there again.

(5) Speaking of movies, they also take him to do lots of other fun things like mini golf, swimming, and – you guessed it – bowling.

Starting to get the feel for this?

Monday Minute: Our “special needs” laundry service

One of the perks of living in NYC is door-to-door laundry service, which I have been gratefully utilizing since baby #3 was born. Our laundry is picked up in big bags and returned clean, folded and sorted. The delivery guy is usually the same and over time we’ve become friendly acquaintances, which means he’s definitely seen and heard more than he bargained for.

I’m incredibly grateful that he’s taken on my children with such good humor – over the last two years he has responded politely, even pleasantly, to horrifying comments such as “There’s poop in that bag because James had an accident today!,” “My brother barfed all over that laundry today – ewwww!” and “Will you get the poop and sand out of my swimsuit?”

When I sent James to answer the door I didn’t think there was too much to discuss regarding this week’s load, but leave it to James to find a way. Here is the most recent exchange between him and our laundry man (James is italics, I’m in bold italics, and the laundry man is in bold):


Hey there.

My mom is getting the laundry for you.

Oh, ok.

Here are your dollars (holds out some crumpled dollars as a tip).

Thank you.

So, there’s no poop or barf in the laundry today. Pretty good, right?

(chuckles a little) Yep.

How do you feel?

Good, how about you?

How do you feel about no poop or barf in the laundry? Pretty happy, right?

You bet.

At this point I am able to mercifully bring this conversation to a halt as I reach the front door with two giant laundry bags.

Sorry about that.

It’s no trouble – I’ll see you tomorrow?

Yes, thanks. After 2pm, please.

No problem – have a nice evening!


He’s so darn polite that I pretend not to notice how quickly he is able to exit our building with 30 pounds of laundry in tow.


Monday Minutes: Guns, Security, Flotation Devices and Snacks, aka Air Travel With James

Our wonderful (and rare) visit with family includes air travel since we are not willing to brave the 8+ hours on a train or in a car with the little ones yet, who are true New Yorkers and ask to be unbuckled within 30 minutes of every trip. Ironically, James would probably be easier to take in the car than trying to get through airport security (and onto the actual plane). Over the years, he’s overcome quite a bit of anxiety regarding take off and landing, and now even allows our window to be “open” to see outside on the plane. However, there are always those unexpected snags.

Like when we were passing through the (ridiculously slow and long) security line for Delta and James randomly blurts out, “Good thing we didn’t pack any guns!” “Shhhh! What are you talking about?!!” I admonished, horrified. But by then I was already being escorted out of line, wearing the baby, where my hands were swabbed for gun residue. Thanks, James.

On the plane ride home, my 20-month old rode as “Infant in Lap,” a designation we will milk until the day he turns two. Apparently there was an issue with how many oxygen masks and flotation devices were available at my assigned seat because as we taxied down the runway the flight attendants came over and told me I had to move. Though this was certainly unusual, Ryan and I switched seats without issue. A few minutes after take off, the flight attendant came back with an infant flotation device sealed in a plastic bag and spoke quietly to Ryan for a few minutes, presumably about how to use it in case of emergency. Again, a first for us but nothing we felt particularly alarmed about.

James, who is pleasant enough but still a little nervous about flying, obviously didn’t understand the whole discretion thing that was happening- as the attendant walked away, James asked anxiously (and loudly):

So that’s for when the plane goes into the water?

It’s just in case.

Like if the plane crashes?

Shhhh – the plane isn’t going to crash.

Two minutes later.

So when does the plane go into the water?

It’s not – please be quiet.

But the lady said.

She gave us that in case, James. In case. 

—we crash into the water.

Yes, but we won’t. Lower your voice, please.

(whispering) Look, here comes the snack cart! Can I get Sprite?

Monday Minute: James Sees Pablo Escobar

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder (or more embarrassing) James manages to top himself. It’s like he knows I’m looking for material on Mondays or something.


James is in italics, my responses are in bold italics.

(riding the crowded bus home from Harlem with all 3 kids earlier today)

Mom, Pablo Escobar is inappropriate.


You know that guy, Pablo Escobar.

(cautiously) Who is Pablo Escobar?

You know, that bad man with the guns.

What? Where?

He’s only for adults, but he’s not appropriate for kids.

What are you talking about?

That brownish man – he has a lot of guns and was looking at me.

Not so loud! How do you know his name?

His name was on his gun.

Where did you see his gun?

He’s coming here in 2012. But us kids can’t see him because he’s not good.

James…he’s dead.


5 minutes later

(excitedly) There he is – Mom, look – it’s Pablo Escobar!

At this point half the bus looks out the window, just in time to see a Pablo Escobar movie poster advertising the 2012 release date, and yes, there is a gun-laden man featured dead center.


We were definitely the crazy people on the bus today.

Top Ten: Phobias James Has Conquered

July 12, 2012 1 comment

Along with the heat wave, this summer has also brought with it a wave of fears for James that I thought we had made a ton of progress on last year, which has been as surprising as it is frustrating. Ocean waves, the birthday song, the track and field gun (which doesn’t even happen until the meet in August) and boy-oh-boy, the balloons or anything that makes a sound remotely like popping (including doors slamming too hard or a piece of construction paper that folds closed too loudly) are all issues again. And it’s only the first week of July.

So it’s a good time to remind myself (and others) of all the phobias that James has conquered in the past. Looking back gives me hope that James will not only enjoy dipping his feet into the ocean someday, but that he also won’t spontaneously start weeping at dinner when the waiter brings a birthday cake to another table.


Top Ten: Phobias James Has Conquered

1. Coughing: Even as an infant and toddler James was very sensitive to loud, sudden noises. My husband is probably the loudest sneezer I have ever met, so I am particularly grateful that James has gotten over this fear!

2. Movie theaters: I think it was the combination of dim lights, loud volume and anticipation of the simulated rollercoaster that rolls through popcorn and oversized soft drinks that used to do James in, until as recently as a few years ago. Now James only cries when the movie is over.

3. Toilets: James wasn’t potty trained until he was 4 1/2 years old, mainly because he was terrified of sitting on the toilet (another fear I’m so thankful he got past).

4. Thunderstorms: Until a year or two ago, James used to get very upset with every storm. We definitely had some fun jogs down Broadway, me with the stroller and umbrella and James screaming bloody murder every time there was a clap of thunder or bolt of lightning (though traumatic I still chuckle envisioning the faces of startled passerby). I remember the day when the kids came out after school and told me that “James didn’t cry during the thunderstorm,” looking like proud parents.

5. Vacuums: Many children are scared of loud vacuum cleaners – but not usually when they are 8 or 9. It’s funny, I don’t remember when this fear faded away, kind of like I don’t remember the last time I vacuumed (thanks, hardwood floors)!

6. Lawn Mowers: I’m pretty sure this one is gone though I haven’t mowed a lawn in 4 years. I do distinctly remember James standing at the front door screaming for me to “get away from the lawn mower” nearly every time I mowed the lawn up until our move to the city, though.

7. Subways: James fooled us more times than I care to admit that he “had to go to the bathroom really bad” once we had paid our subway fare and were waiting on the platform, when he was really just avoiding the subway’s arrival (it sometimes took us 3-4 attempts to get on the train at first until we got wise). Thankfully, he’s down to  just occasionally plugging his ears when a particularly loud train rumbles past.

8. Swings: I kid you not, this was one of the worst phobias ever. At some point it was so bad that we would pull into the parking lot of a neighborhood library with a playground on site and James would see the swings 50 yards away and freak out. As recently as a few years ago he was still falling off the swings at nearby playgrounds and was going on them for bribes (kind of like the ferris wheel). For those of you who have only known him more recently I bet you don’t even believe this one, since the swings are James’s #1 favorite thing to do at any given playground – he’s even willing to stand in line with other kids to get on one of them.

9. Clapping/Applause: In my past life I was a music performance major, which didn’t go well with a child who would loudly sob in between symphony movements because he thought someone might clap. He still isn’t a fan of loud cheering but has recently made it through the performance and applause of Mary Poppins without breaking down – I call that progress.

10. Fire Alarms: On James’s very first day of school in NYC I was called to come pick him up early because he was inconsolable. I found him waiting outside with a para who explained that the fire alarm was malfunctioning and going off multiple times over the course of the day. For the next 2 years a para brought James outside a few minutes before any scheduled drill. As of last year James is able to file out with his class – without crying.


For all of you who had the opportunity to witness one breakdown or another this past week, I am still confident that James will one day willingly (and even happily) participate in birthday dinner dates and seaside swims without fear of offkey singing or “violent” waves. As for balloons, I’m 50/50.

Monday Minute: A Cloudy Day (aka The Dark Side Of The Foorce)

It’s good that May is over so I can stop acting like I deserve a “mother of the year” pin and go back to my whiny, rotten self. My rant this evening has to do with the end of James’s school year. That being said, I want to make sure that nobody reads this as a complaint about James’s specific school when I say that the end of year school schedule (or lack of one) is ruining the last two months of fifth grade for us.

Let me give you some examples: this week, Monday was field day (except it rained so it wasn’t), tomorrow is a half day, Wednesday is now field day make up (unless they bump it to next Tuesday), Thursday is a day off and Friday is “Friday Fun Day,” as have been the last several Fridays of fifth grade. Next week includes field day makeups (maybe), another half day and the 5th grade class trip. Until recently, James had only lost his ipod privileges on 3 mornings since Christmas. Over the last month he has earned it 1-2 times per week at the most.

I feel like schools have become so centered around standardized testing (which James is exempt from) that once the tests are over it’s almost like, okay, what now? In the case of James’s school, what now = parties, field trips, field days, fun days, concerts, ice cream socials, class trips, graduation parties, award ceremonies, half days and days off. Really? We couldn’t just call it a year 4 weeks early?

Like I said, I know that this is not specific to James’s school (where we have had many positive experiences over the last 4 years), but it is so frustrating to watch James, who is absolutely at his best with a (somewhat) predictable, calm schedule, deteriorating before my eyes. Spacey, tired, moody, emotional, defiant, and did I mention spacey? Like a rocket ship? He desperately wants to do everything everyone else in his class does (except for the loud stuff) but as you can tell from last week’s accident, keeping up is not going well for him. Every Friday “fun day,” I come to the school yard to observe James standing off to the side of a kickball game by himself (with his para), or even worse, by himself and looking upset because the music is “too loud” or because some of the kids brought “snaps” to school (man, I used to love snaps).

99% of you who know James would classify him as mild-mannered, well-mannered, and generally an obedient, sweet child. Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret – that well behaved child is the result of very carefully orchestrated efforts by this entire family (fine, mostly me). I think with the craziness of school over the past weeks, the throng of family members (whom James loved seeing) in town this weekend for the Central Park challenge was the proverbial straw in a camel’s back of a week. And it’s only Monday.

But I digress – here’s an insider’s glimpse at the dark side of the foorce (come on, it was just glaring me in the face). This is one minute of James’s record 7 time outs this afternoon – and remember, he got home at 3:30 and went to bed at 7:30.


James is in italics, my responses are in bold (they should be in flames tonight)

Margaret, what are you reading?

M: Harold and the purple crayon.

Do you want me to read this truck book to you? Say yes.

M: No thanks.

Say yes.

James, what did I ask you to do?


What are you supposed to be doing right now?

I don’t want to.

Go get your pajamas on right now, it’s getting late.

(James groans loudly in frustration, turns around and throws the truck book across the room)

You’re mean!

And you’re in time out.


Yes, go right now. Go to time out and don’t come out until you are in pajamas and ready to apologize for throwing that book.

No. I don’t want to.

Then just go to time out – right now!

(James sits on the couch defiantly)

James do not make me come get you off the couch.

You’re the problem! You’re a bully! It’s not time for pajamas yet!

(I stand up. James storms into his room and slams the door. Three times.)

James stop it right now, you’re going to pinch someone’s fingers in the door!

(Door stays closed, instead James screams at the top of his lungs and items start hitting the door – I open the door a crack)

James, we are going to start our family movie – you may not come out until you are in pajamas and have apologized. You will miss the movie if your behavior doesn’t change. Right. Now. And you have to pick up all of these books that you just threw. 

10 minutes later:

Margaret I’m sorry for screaming. Adam I’m sorry for slamming the door. Can I please sit down?

How about, Mom, I’m sorry for talking back and not following instructions all evening?

Sooorrrrrry. (face crumples) I’m really tired and it’s hard to follow instructions.

You still have to do it. You may join us if you can be peaceful and quiet.


Which he was, until 20 minutes later when I announced it was time to pause the movie until tomorrow and get ready for bed.

I think I’d better hang on tight – it’s going to be a bumpy ride until June 27th.

Do You Say I Love You Enough To Your Children?

“May Is For Mothers” is minutes from being over and I want to make sure I get one last post in.

I had 2 precious hours alone on Mother’s Day this year,which is no small feat. When I mentioned this to a friend her response was, “Oh, I’d feel bad if I left my kids on a day I was supposed to be celebrating motherhood.” Hmm. Who said Mother’s Day was supposed to be about guilt – don’t we have enough of that day-to-day? With two toddlers and a special needs child time alone is something incredibly rare (seriously, think a couple of hours every few months), and being pregnant, alone time is only going to become more scarce. I like to think of my hours away as “time to recharge so I can be a happy mom again,” rather than “escaping my kids on Mother’s Day.”

Then this past week a mom confessed to me that she didn’t feel she said “I love you” enough to her kids because she was often too stressed out dealing with the “everyday crap” to think about “being nice.” I thought about that long after we parted ways, and if I had been a little quicker on my feet I would’ve said this to her:

As the mother of a special needs child who says “I love you” no less than 50 times per day (no exaggeration) I sometimes feel guilty for not saying it back every time, or worse yet telling him “okay, that’s enough, let’s talk about something different.”  And there are definitely days where the only time I say “I love you” to my other kids is when I’m tucking them in at bedtime. I know there are people who say I love you every time they hang up the phone or leave a room but I was not brought up in one of those families. That’s not to say I didn’t feel loved or know my parents loved me. But love is demonstrated in many ways, and often the exhibit of love is just as powerful, if not more so, than words can be.

So Mother’s Day has come and gone, but instead of worrying about all of the ways we fall short in expressing our joy with being mothers or our love for our children, let’s resolve to spend the next 11 months (or at least the next few moments) counting the many ways in which our love for our children is evident, if less obvious. Have I missed opportunities to say the words “I love you” to my children? Perhaps. But when they look back they will see that my love has surrounded them constantly from the moment they were born. And it may not be until they have children of their own that they realize I have said “I love you so much” to each of them at least a thousand times per day for their whole lives long.


To my children, I love you. I love you so much that I always give you the better piece of fruit.

I love you so much that I lay awake at night worrying about how I’m going to fill your prescription to have enough meds to get us through our vacation.

I love you so much that I once read “Where The Wild Things Are” every night for 3 months straight, and have done the same for each of you with countless stories.

I love you so much that I let you help me put the laundry away, even though it means I’m going to have to put it away all over again when you’re done.

I love you so much that I have practically torn your arm (and mine) out of the socket trying to keep you from getting hit by a car.

I love you so much that “ten more pushes” on the swing is really a rough estimate before you have to get off.

I love you so much that you always have second helpings before I do.

I love you so much that I toured 13 schools before finding one that is “good enough.”

I love you so much that I let you play in the sprinklers and sandbox right after you took a bath (there’s never a good time for a bath).

I love you so much that I screamed at you for getting lost because I didn’t think you were scared enough not to get lost again.

I love you so much that I’m always the last one to bed and first one up, just to make sure you have everything you need for a good day.

I love you so much that I drop everything and get back on the subway with the babies to bring another change of clothes to school only to find out it was a false alarm (that was a good one).

I love you so much that you think “I don’t work like dad does,” and I don’t correct you.

I love you so much that I know who likes extra peanut butter, who likes no crusts and who would rather have “just jelly.”

I love you so much that I will sing “Wheels On The Bus” on a loop until we get to the front of the line, just to make sure you’re not bored.

I love you so much that I count to ten (most of the time) instead of yelling back at you when you wake up every morning shouting “bully!” at me.

I love you so much that our “go to” pandora station is Sesame Street instead of, I don’t know, anything else.

I love you so much that I have embarrassed myself, lost my temper or cried my eyes out on your behalf in front of more teachers, doctors, bullies, parents and complete strangers than I care to recall.

I love you so much that I stand there and eat a peach and watch you guys lick out the brownie bowl (now that is love).

I love you so much that I host playdates with little brats because I want you to have a “friend” over once in a while, even if they require a hawk’s eye the entire visit.

I love you so much that I gave up a career I loved because the people I loved more needed me more.

I love you so much that I sat in the hospital every agonizing minute of every agonizing surgery, even though I wanted to run out of that place screaming.

I love you so much that I trade my soft, fresh turkey sandwich for your peanut butter and jelly crusts.

I love you so much that I stop cleaning up dinner to play “roll the baseball across the table, enthusiastically” with you, even though it’s really not my favorite game.

I love you so much that I let you read “Hop On Pop” to me at bedtime (after I read it to you) even though it takes 15 times longer.

I love you so much that I don’t even mind you probably won’t remember any of these things I did for you, just as long as you never feel like you have been anything less than loved with all that I have and I am.


How do you say I love you to your children? I’d love to see this list continued in the comments section!

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