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Friday, April 27, 2012

Misleading Knowledge

Last Saturday, we stepped outside to simply blow bubbles in the driveway. Then, one thing led to another, and soon Bubs 1 and I were washing cars. I should say that I was doing most of the washing. Bubs 1 was mostly playing with the hose and in a puddle. I helped him with the latter. I obliged by adding more water to it via a down stream of water, from the hose. "Yeah, good job daddy. A creek! That's a creek! Good job," said Bubs 1 as he pointed to the stream of water.

I tried to focus on the bubs' "car washing" escapades, but my mind kept replaying a response that I received from the Bubs' preschool's assistant director. A couple days prior, during a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting, I asked the school administrator how Bubs 1 can get extra services added to his IEP. More specifically, I asked for a one-on-one aide work alongside Bubs 1.

As I asked this question, I quietly heard other members at the PPT table make subtle acknowledgements. "Mmmmmm" was one that I recall (translated: "good question"). It turned out to be a question that costs lots of money. Students, in special education programs, apparently cost more money than an "average" student.

"Parent advocacy," was the response I was given, from the school administrator (translated: "The school may not openly suggest all available services for your child's learning disability"). This translation may sound negative towards the school, but that is not my intention. It just means that no one knows your child better than you and the school may not see the whole child from simply two hours per day. Advocating for your child is simply telling school admin/teachers how your child operates best. I don't have a problem "speaking up," so I look forward to these meetings. In fact, I tend to go overboard when it comes to social justice (just ask my Facebook friends). I learned more special education language, i.e. PPT, SDI, IEP etc., because this terminology can become language barriers, if you don't understand the code. Code switching occurs when special education is discussed. I'm even going to advocate for the term "learning abled" instead of "learning disabled," because the latter is socially misleading and educationally inaccurate.

I trust all the teachers and social workers, when it comes to listening to them on what they think Bubs 1 needs. It's the administration team that I focus on. They are the gate keepers of the school's budget. They will, by federal mandate, grant you your services. However, if it is an expensive service and the state is cutting school budgets (which is happening in most states nowadays), there will likely be some subtle push back. This is when the hidden power becomes deceptively visible. Part of their job is to maintain a school budget while your job is to get the services for your child.

It can be a cold-war, power struggle at the table. Big, little-understood words may be used as weapons - not to hurt - but to subtly sidestep costly services.

Parent advocacy is understanding that more power (federal law) is on their side, although the negotiations for your child's IEP occur under intimidating environments, i.e. in a school conference room (their turf) with directors, social workers and a district lawyer.

I disagree when it's said that it costs more to educate a student in a special education program. What costs more is this misleading knowledge, which perpetuates the idea that these students are a burden.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The At-Home Dad Uniform

Wake up early and feed Bubs 1 breakfast. Check. Change his diaper and assist in brushing his teeth. Check. Encourage him to pick out some clothes and help him dress. Check.

Shower for dad? Mmm... depends on the day. I stay home all day. Who do I need to shower for?

If you've seen Mr Mom, then you're likely familiar with the scene when Michael Keaton's character beings hallucinating and projecting his own demise. Among other indicators of losing track of purpose as an at-home dad, he wears a flannel shirt for over two weeks straight, doesn't shave and likely has forgotten to shower.

I can relate. I've written a blog about being confused in attempting to organize which shoes are my "in house" shoes, which pair were my shoes for the basement and which shoes for for wearing only in the garage? Why was I trying to organize such goofiness? Well, this is my job and when I started it, over two years ago, I was not provided a training guide. I was simply trying to figure out the job duties. I found myself creating too much "office policy" and soon started micromanaging my own clothing. To make a long story short, I finally figured out which shoes are worn where. I have to focus on the product here.

My kids are the product of this job - not me. The shoes shoes shouldn't have gotten in the way, but they nearly drove me nuts. I should just wear an employee uniform, complete with a name tag that says, "Dad." That's it.

The pictures I share on this blog show my "uniform" for the past three days (and nights) - straight. That's right, I said "straight." No washing, no mercy. Complete with scruff. It's about the kids now, not me.

Soon, both bubs will be old enough to recognize my behavior. I'll be a role model and this will require me to practice better hygiene.

Consequently, there are pajama jeans on the market that (mostly women) are buying. Here's a pair. I was made aware of these pj jeans while reading a friend's discussion on Facebook recently. She was posing the question on whether she should invest in a pair. She is an at-home mom with three kids and also works from the home. It was this post that I realized I lost out on a potential money maker. Pajamas that look like jeans? One can wear them to bed and all day long? Dammit! I've been doing this for a couple of years already. This should have been my entrepreneurial idea. I responded to her post.

I wrote something to the effect of, "I'm doing this every day, but with real jeans." Basically implying that she should not feel embarrassed and to purchase a pair. What a loss! I could have made a potential bundle! I'll keep an eye out for the next big thing. A lesson learned.

Maybe an at-home dad uniform isn't a bad idea after all? Complete with the necessary pockets to hold tissues, binkys and one to collect all the choking hazzards, i.e. safety clips and rubber bands, that tend to exist all around the house. I like it. It's sounding like a great idea.

Good thing this blog is time-stamped.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bubs 2, Sleeping Patterns and Self Soothing

Bubs 2 shows his neck strength
Bubs 2 is about one week away from his four-month benchmark. This kid gave me a run-for-my-money (horse racing reference) when he was first born. I thought I was the expert baby whisperer, due to my vast experience with one child (sarcasm). I believe there is a past blog on here somewhere that described a couple nights where I sat on the couch and hoped to nap for ten-minute intervals while the Bubs 2 rested between his protests.

He's sort of mellowed in his old age. I stress "sort of." We still wrap him in the Miracle Blanket and play static on the radio to knock him out during naps and nights. He sleeps through the night unless he's got a bad case of teething. He smiles all of the time during his waking hours. This is the good part.

I talk with him and we get into some serious discussions. He matches me sound for sound and Bubs 2 will even growl (most times) if I do first. He also loves to chat with his older bro, Bubs 1. Bubs 1 imitates Bubs 2's chatter and also updates him on the adventures of Lightening McQueen and Holly Shiftwell.

Bubs 2 gets a closer look
However, not all the talk is fun. The magic of parenting isn't all bliss. Sometimes Bubs 1, his mom and I all get frustrated when Bubs 2 cries.

Bubs 1 makes positive attempts, but typically ends up losing it when consoling his brother. It'll always being with a pleasant, "Don't cry (Bubs 2), it's ok," but always ends up with him yelling, "It's ok (Bubs 2)! Stop crying! Eaaaa!" Sometimes I have the two of them crying (in the car) in stereo and this makes me crazy. If I can quiet Bubs1, it will still not quiet Bubs2. But, if I can quiet Bubs 2, then it will quiet Bubs 1. The problem is that I can't quiet a baby as easily as a toddler. Confusing? Only to the non-parent.

Although, it is getting better. Bubs 1 has learned to take deep breaths when his little brother is crying uncontrollably (thanks to his mom teaching him). This works most times, but not all. But like I said, things are getting better. For example, Bubs 2 has patterns developing.

Some of the patterns that seem to guarantee (almost guarantee) a way to sooth Bubs 2 (in addition to the blanket wrap and static), include: Loading him into the Ergo baby carrier, which I wear and offers the unwritten guarantee of putting him to sleep. What else? Oh, I can also place him in the baby swing, wrapped up with the static playing. So many choices. That latter is good for anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes of peace and quiet.  Of course, there's always the car ride that'll put Bubs 2 into a long sleep.
Mom and Bubs 2 today

However, there has been times (especially recent times) when Bubs 2 has just refused to follow his patterns of falling to sleep at night. Lately, he's been showing signs of more protesting. Just last night, he kept crying and crying. His mom and I picked him up a couple of times, but then realized that we were to stick to our understanding that Bubs 2 is at the point when he needs to learn how to sooth himself. So we keep to his bedtime routine so that he recognizes what is to follow - sleep. This takes a dimly lit room and a closed door and at least 20 yards of "buffer zone" between him and his mom and me.

A little bit of experience helps and we have Bubs 1 to thank for that.

Bubs 2 does his Houdini "escape" trick
Bubs 1 had us sleeping out in the living room, back in our Los Angeles apartment. Bubs 1 had our room all to himself. I think mom and I are smarter this time around. Bubs 2 isn't getting our bedroom all to himself. We gave him mom's office - with static.

Maybe he can field some of her emails while he's down there.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Crack in the Track

 While Bubs 1 and I walked on campus today, I noticed that he decided to walk along the curb and balance himself. I thought that this was a good idea and I followed him (with the camera). We both came upon something in our path that he recognized. "Daddy, look. A crack in the track!" he shouted.  The Bubs discovered a crack in the curb. He made a connection to Thomas the Tank Engine story, "A Crack in the Track."

We examined the crack in the curb. It was big. Bubs 1 kicked it and bent over to get a closer look at it. All together, we spent about 5 minutes of our walk analyzing this crack-in-the-curb. The time really wasn't a factor, since we still had an hour to burn before getting Bubs 2 back to mom for a feeding. However, I was concerned that Bubs 2 would wake. I had him out cold in the Ergo baby carrier, which I was wearing. I had to keep moving. I wanted to tell the Bubs 1 this, but I knew that he would not grasp the concept of the time thing.

So I walked in circles while Bubs 1 continued his inspection of the crack. I didn't mind the extra time, because I knew that Bubs 1 was constructing new knowledge. He already had knowledge of the Thomas book prior to discovering the crack in the curb. My guess is that he was building upon his understanding of how a "crack" in one's path can become an obstacle, just like it did when Thomas came upon a crack-in-his-track. However, the crack-in-the-curb didn't stop us. This is where, in my opinion, Bubs 1 was making new meaning. Perhaps he wouldn't have even stopped at this crack-in-the-curb if he hadn't known the story of the crack-in-the-track?

Just think that some weathered piece of cement helped created all this new knowledge.
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