Monday, November 25, 2013

The Rules of Friendship

About a month ago, I was watching Hamslice after school as he was playing with some of his classmates. It was a little uncomfortable to watch him because he didn't entirely seem to understand the purpose or nature of play, and it seemed that it was more of an exercise in self-aggrandizement.

That afternoon, we sat down and talked about friendship and "How to Do Friendship" and we made a list of Friendship Rules, which I will list below.

I told my Dad about it, and he helpfully reminded me that this was more like the blind leading the blind, because historically I haven't been very good at friendship either. So if you have suggestions for additions to the list, please let me know. Leave a comment maybe.

Friendship "DOs"Friendship "DON'TS"
Give friends fair choices Brag
Listen Interrupt
Let friends finish talking Grab
Go slow Argue
Take turns winning
with new friends
Work together to decide
the rules of the game
Claim you won if there is no game
Make sure you know the rules
(and agree with them)
before you start playing
Try friends' ideas

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Construction Safety Tip #27 - Using the Man Lift

Here is one more safety tip by Marci, as learned on the job at the new house; How to use the Man Lift

When using a man lift, always keep the engine running. It might initially seem like a good idea to save fuel by turning off the engine when you feel like you'll be in the same spot for a while, but it is actually not a good idea.

Here's why:  While the man lift may start up again reliably several times in a row, there will be the one or two times when you can't start it up again from the controls that you have in the bucket waaaay up in the sky.

And, while the man lift DOES have an emergency horn, it turns out that nobody on a busy job site will actually come to your aid. In addition to honking the horn, some other unsuccessful methods for getting help include:
  • waving your coat around 
  • hollering HEY
  • saying YOOOO HOOOO in a loud, but cloying voice
  • letting your hair down 
  • jumping up and down 
  • rocking the lift back and forth violently
Other unpopular moves in the man lift include driving it axle-deep in the mud.  Apparently the only way to get it out of that kind of mud is to push it out with an excavator.

Just FYI.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

SPD in the Lunchroom

This school year has been a 100% turnaround from last year in terms of Hamslice's academic progress. He is now reading fluently, and is a little math rockstar.

Even so, we were alerted three weeks ago that he had "two out of three strikes" and was about to be suspended. Oh here we go again, it seemed. So I dug deeper, and asked Hamslice what was going on. Apparently he was having trouble during lunchtime with controlling his behavior and emotions.

Hambone and I were determined to keep his record clean and developed a plan. I started the ball rolling by "just showing up" for one lunch, and I saw kids running in circles around the tables, slapping each other and stealing lunch items. And it was SO LOUD! It was as loud as a nightclub at midnight.

I looked over at Hamslice with his hyper responsive hearing and visual perception and he was obviously miserable. Indeed, even I had a tension headache after just being in there for a few minutes. I sat with him during that entire lunch period and we read the dinosaur book that AB gave him for his birthday. Some of the other kids came over to see it too.

Then we stared a schedule: Hambone would go during lunch on Tues/Thurs and I go on M/W/F to manage lunch. Taking a page from AB's playbook, I bring about 15 books with me, and have established our table as the quiet table where people who are finished with their lunch can read. The books I bring have lots of flaps and holes and fuzzy sections so they are more like toys than books.

More kids are coming to the quiet table these days. Not all of them, but enough that the room is a little more manageable. Hamslice still hates lunch, but he's not getting in trouble anymore. This will be a long haul, but still less intense than last year. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The new house has had a 130 year old ecosystem within its walls that we discovered as we went through the demolition process.

It started with the bees (which we found first) and the honey from the bees drew mice into the house. There were several dozen mouse nests in the walls, and we found one live mouse in the kitchen -- I had he exquisite pleasure of pulling down a piece of plaster with a mouse behind it.

As we moved down the house (from top to bottom) we found many, many snake skins. They were wrapped around the roof joists, the electrical wires, and many times the water pipes. Some were over three feet long. Eeeewwwww

But, now that we have displaced the snakes, the toads have moved in. Hambone just sent me a picture of the newest plague.

Let's see... in the bible there were 10 plagues.... we're on #4...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Understanding SPD by Being There

As we journey with Hamslice through Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) together there are a lot of times we can forget about it, and there are some times where it comes right up to the surface and can't be ignored.

Yesterday was Hamslice's class field trip to a farm just outside White Marsh. I was surprised to see that Hamslice wasn't looking forward to it AT ALL, and wondered what an excursion like this meant to him.

At the Very Last Minute (there's that stellar Mom side of me coming to the surface...) I volunteered to chaperone the field trip and was gratefully accepted onto the bus that had no shock absorbers. After an hour of very loud and bumpy bus travel, we wound up at the farm.

Apparently, when traveling with 20 first graders and very few moms, there winds up being a lot of down time while lining up and counting the children. Hamslice did OK until the field trip started to break down because there were too many kids on the farm, which meant we were relegated to the corn field, where a very nice lady tried to teach the kids some songs about corn.

After the third song, he really started to lose it. Big time. I pulled him aside and asked what was the  matter, and he said that all he could hear were the other kids shouting. He couldn't hear his own voice to know whether or not he was on pitch, and it was super frustrating. Furthermore, he said, "You promised me this would be fun and so far it is not at all fun."  This, my friends is tell-tale SPD behavior. The blaring of sound in his head, the frustration  in processing it, and the blaming/anger.

So we agreed to stand on the perimeter of the class where he would be able to hear himself singing, and hear less of the others. That worked OK for him. We also splintered off of the group for a little while to do more in-depth discussion about sunflowers and caterpillars. Some of the other kids went with us to learn about which birds eat sunflower seeds, and to talk about whether or not bugs eat sunflower seeds.

By the end of the trip, both Hamslice and I were exhausted, but I think he really had too big of a day. On the bus ride home, he curled up in my lap and snuggled almost the whole way. And after school he fell asleep for an impromptu (and unheard of!) two hour nap.

We are still learning our way through what it means to be Hamslice, but I am happy that I am able to be with him to develop strategies and coping mechanisms for these situations. Event by event, one at a time we will get there.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Behavior Modification that You can Do At Home!

So all the professionals can look on in awe -- I've created a behavior modification program right in my kitchen that works like a charm! It's the CHART Game (pictured below)


When to use it: If your kid is having a hard time understanding when they have been bad, or understanding why it is more important to be good instead of bad, it's time for the CHART Game

Here's how it works: Your kid picks a reward that they would absolutely do ANYTHING to get. In our case, Hamslice wanted to download a video game onto the iPad.

We set the YAY (see the big bubble at the end of the green squares) to "Download one video game" and the BOO (see the end of the red square side) to "Delete one video game"

Every time a good behavior happens, they get to color in a green square. Every time a bad behavior happens, they have to color in their own red square. (It is important to have them fill in their squares)

Mom labels both the good and bad behaviors so that they can be reviewed in the future by either mom and child, or read aloud by Dad when Dad gets home from work. The labeling also helps you catch them if they break rule #3 below.

Each time Mom redraws the chart after a reward or punishment (the red squares meet the red bubble or the green squares meet the green bubble) the chart gets longer. I started with 7 squares on each side, and now we are up to 55 squares on each side. The goal is to have the squares become the reward instead of the physical rewards of video games or cookies or whatever.

1) Only one square per episode. If there is a major outburst, it still only earns one square.
2) Lying automatically earns a red square (so if they lie about how well they behaved at school, for example... one red square)
3) Coloring additional green squares without permission automatically earns one red square.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Hamslice Update

Many of you have been asking "How's Hamslice doing? What happened when school started again this year?"

So I have an update for you, and the good news is that so far it's pretty good stuff.

We wound up enrolling Hamslice in the local public school, right here in Federal Hill. And believe me I did so with incredible trepidation. When I went there to sign him up, there were some large scale mothers from Sharp Leadenhall there, yelling about stuff and blocking up the counter. but I carried through and after four attempts (on different days) was able to enroll him for fall.

My thinking was this: "It's a practice school. He can go here and learn to do school, and then we will see what's next." The flip side was this "If he can't handle even this school (where some pretty tough cases come through) then we know it's time for special ed or homeschool."

On our first day, I walked him to school and held his hand while things got started for the morning. He was the blonde in a sea of corn rows and little shaved heads. The moms mostly knew each other and were belly laughing and carrying on, meanwhile I was so nervous -- watching Hamslice to see if his nerves were under control. He, however, was a little champ. He did just fine.

Three days later, I get a frantic call from the office -- your son has flipped his lid. So I ran to school and found him in the nurse's office speaking in a high squeaky voice and hiding under the bed. Here we go, I thought.

But I took the words of AB to heart (from her visit this summer), and told him that we needed to eat some food and then get back to class. No more days off for freaking out, Mister. And POOF -- that was the end of any further episodes. To date, nothing even close to a tantrum. All better.

Now that school is actually about school, he is doing very well at math, his reading has exploded and we are all happy to see him mastering concepts one after another. He is very excited now about being the "good kid" and that means something to him now that there are others who are a little worse behaved than he is in school.

This week we bid our last therapist good bye, and we are flying solo. I haven't removed them from speed dial, but we are ready to try this ourselves. Here goes nothin!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Beware of the Bees!

This week the demolition began on our new house. All of the plaster needs to come down in all rooms so we can replace lead pipes, add HVAC, replace knob & tube wiring, and add insulation.

We hired Mr. Jim to do the demo because, man, that guy knows how to tear stuff up.  Two hours after he began swinging his sledge hammer, he was swarmed by something like 300 angry bees. Maybe more

Hambone got an urgent call from Mr. Jim, requesting three full cans of bee/wasp spray. He could hear the bees buzzing in the background of the phone call.

After the dust cleared, it all made sense. Just look at how many hives had been built between the roof and the plaster on the 3rd floor. Yikes!

Bee hives all over the interior walls of the house

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Buried Treasure

So it turns out that the previous owner of the new house was a bit of a hoarder. Well, more than a bit. We didn't notice how bad it was during the home inspections because the house is so big that it looked like "some piles of stuff all over the place."

However, as we cleaned out the rooms, we filled three dumpsters with garbage. And to help you really get the scale of the mess, let me tell you that these aren't trash cans, or even the kind of dumpsters you'd see behind a restaurant or school. These are full-on semi trailer sized dumpsters.

And we filled three. So far.

But before you get to feeling too sorry for us, in all of the trash we found a bit of treasure. Here are just some of our big scores:
  • Life Magazine in mint condition that describes the Andrea Doria crash for the first time
  • 1930's porn (eeew)
  • 1 full bottle of DDT
  • 1 full bottle of something that smelled even scarier than the DDT
  • Harper's Bazaar describing the Titanic disaster for the first time
  • Several stock/bond certificates from the early 1900s that we could perhaps try to cash in, but they look so cool we may save them as art
  • Confederate money -- several $1, $5 and even $100 bills
  • An old quackery medical device from Raytheon that actually microwaves your skin
  • Blueprints from the 1980 restoration of the Statue of Liberty
  • Contestant photo from the 1954 Miss America Pageant
  • A handwritten letter describing a suspected murder
  • Divorce papers from the 1950s
  • Land deeds and titles from 1850 - 1918
 So all in all, a pretty cool treasure hunt.

In other news, the poison ivy has now spread to all family members -- including the dog. And we found out that hemorrhoid cream is the  most effective treatment for the itchy bumps. It's all good.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Exploring Poison Ivy

The new house seems to have been built on some sort of poison ivy super site. We suspect that this property is the breeding ground for all other poison ivy in the United States.

We discovered it this weekend. I was out in the yard cleaning up old tires and cinder blocks when I noticed all these vines running across the lawn and up the trees. Without a second thought, I reached down and pulled up as many as I could. And of course since they were vines, they draped down my arms and legs. Some of them smacked me in the face.

Hambone comes walking up to me holding out his phone with a picture of poison ivy on the screen. He looked at me and just kind of cleared his throat. I dropped the ivy.

After a minute to think about it, and possibly descend into the deepest depths of madness, I declared "Well so what. Poison ivy doesn't even make me itch. Watch." And I cleaned out the whole yard with a determination previously un-witnessed.

Fast forward to Wednesday, after all the poison ivy has seeped into my skin and I can hardly manage to stop clawing at my skin long enough to write this. Ung. This morning I was so desperate for relief that I spread myself all over with baking powder paste.

Do Not touch. This is poison ivy.
 The good news is that it's all gone from the yard.... for now. I saw more on a tree yesterday as we drove off the property. We will have to figure out a better way to deal with it. Maybe next time I'll wear pants and a long sleeved shirt.

Friday, August 16, 2013

You Can Take Ham Out of the City but...

While it's true that you can take hard core city folk and physically transplant them into the country, but it takes a while to catch onto country living.

We closed on the house Wednesday, and on Thursday (last night) to clean up and organize the house for the renovation. Upon arriving, we noticed an abandoned van on the lot next door. We thought "That's weird."  Then we saw that one of the french doors on the front of the house was standing open, with broken wood all around it.


Inside, many of the antiques we had purchased at the auction were gone. They left the paper and clothing, but they took our urns, old surveyor's gear, some wooden pulleys -- only stuff that a hard core antique hunter would be after. We thought that we had been "hit" by some people who were frustrated by the auction. Or maybe by some night-flying stars of Trash in the Attic.

So we called the cops just to get a report. Because the house is not insured, we couldn't file for any kind of help there, but we wanted the police to be around to understand what's happening.

While the police were there, Hamslice started screaming BLOODY MURDER behind the house. We all three took off running. (for the record, Hambone was the fastest, then me, then the cop) Hamslice had been bitten pretty badly by the neighbor's dog. And the cop was like "I can't leave here without doing a dog report." So now there are two reports being done on in one evening.

 I said "Heck, while you're at it, come look at this van" and we did -- the van had no license plates on it, and when the cop ran the VIN, it came up as "never ever owned by anyone. No record."

So... less than a stellar beginning here, but it does feel like home. Or, at least what we're used to.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hamslice Fugitive

This weekend we were in Michigan for a nice family visit with Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie Bet, and K&M. It was also the weekend of M.Borto's wedding reception. So as you can see it was pretty action packed.

Hambone opted (wisely) to stay home and get some work done.

So this means Hamslice and I had a lot of time together and he had some time with relatives. He had his first "on his own" sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa and had a great afternoon throwing apples and walnuts with K&M. And don't forget his afternoon/evening with Parker & Pals at m.borto's event.

On the way home, Hamslice and I had a little spat and he stormed off to an airport bench to sulk. I came up behind him and asked what's up, and in a most sincere voice he said, "I just don't think I can live with you anymore."

So I offered to bring him rolls of quarters every Monday so he can live off of vending machine food in the airport. He didn't like that idea very much, so we picked up our suitcases and went home.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Hamslice Hillbilly

We close on our new house on Wednesday, and we are already having an adventure about this place. It turns out that a house like this (super old) is a real challenge to buy. The assessed value has come in from different vendors (Mortgage/insurance) in such a range that Hambone and I just started laughing. One estimate came in 30% higher than what we are paying, and the other came in 3 1/2 TIMES higher than our price.

However, the house nets out as un-mortgageable and uninsurable through traditional venues because nobody can really get a handle on the value of the property. When I broke the news to Hambone, he looked at me like I was a toddler trying to drive a car. "Let me handle it" he says. He thinks it's hilarious when I try to work on a rehab property.

And for all of you who have been jonesing for pics of our new house, here's a bunch of them.

The photo above is of the house when it was new -- 130 years ago. Note the lack of trees!
This photo shows the house with the old carriage cover across the front. We're planning to rebuild that.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Blessed, Golden Silence

I have excellent news to report: we are now going on FOUR WEEKS without a single phone call or incident report sent home from camp about Hamslice. I feel like we may be getting a peek of sunshine over here, and I am encouraged to think that we may be able to pull off this parenting thing afterall.

Well. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

At any rate, he has made it through two weeks of Club Scientific (which he looooved) and he is now in Camp Puh'tok which is more of a general "fun summer camp" which he finds a bit dull.

Here are my tips for success:
1) Per AB's advice -- every morning I let Hamslice know that I have meetings "all day" so he can't pitch a fit and have me pick him up. This is key. Thank you AB.

2) We are keeping a closer eye on Hamslice. It is getting pretty clear when he's worn out from too much camp, and every few weeks we give him a day off. These days off help him reset and tackle some more time with "the mortals."

We have also come to the end of our intensive therapy over the summer, so now things will be a little more normal. It is nice to have my home office back to myself again to actually get some work done!

Silence. Blessed, golden silence.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Deposing Woody Allen

During the course of Hamslice's treatment and further assessments, we're learning that his giant brain is causing the following combination of adverse sensory issues:
  • Visual Hyperstimulation
  • Auditory Hyperstimulation
  • Vestibular Hyperstimulation
  • Proprioceptive Hypostimulation
In an nutshell, this means that everything he sees, feels and hears drives him slightly crazy. He also has no idea where his body is most of the time, so that makes him very nervous about movements such as leaning, balancing, floating on his back and so on.

So basically, without treatment, he would turn into Woody Allen. (Thanks to Nina for connecting the dots here.)

We also found it ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING that the treatment for this exact set of symptoms is to get him outside doing things like mowing the lawn, vacuuming, weeding, and walking the dog. And I am completely not sh*tting you about this.

I started laughing when the Occupational Therapist described the kinds of activities that would help him -- she said it in all clinical terms, but then demonstrated the movements, and I was like ... Oh. I recognize those.

And immediately, Hambone and I felt like Hamslice needed a BIG dose of therapy, so we bought a house in the country (Sparks, to be exact) with a huge lawn to mow, and lots of painting and repairs to do. Oh yes, we'll fix that boy up in a jiffy. 

So, we leave the city behind us. We're projecting a move date in about 12 months, and are full committed to rushing the project to get in there sooner. Onto a healthier life for us all. Exurbia, here we come!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hamslice - The results are in.

As many of you know, Hamslice had a rather disappointing K1 year in school. We took him home in April full time after his school determined he was Autistic.

Since then we have been going to multiple specialists, trying to get a handle on the truth. Hambone and I were pretty certain the Autism suspicion was not the actual issue but we were really confused at Hamslice's behavior and effect on adults.

The school referred us to one of the top autism specialists in Maryland, who tested him extensively and concluded that no, he is not autistic. We also had his IQ and cognitive function tested to see if there was indeed a screw loose somewhere.

 His tests came back like this: IQ score puts him in the 95th percentile for intelligence in general, with 'Very superior' ability in Verbal (99th percentile) and some gaps in processing speed and performance IQ. This means he has a little trouble getting his thoughts into writing and processing them into communication for the rest of us.

However, Hamslice was tested under the assumption that he had already had a kindergarten curriculum, and he had not. We suspect his scores would be a little higher had he been tested under the correct educational level. He was also diagnosed with a touch of ADHD combination type with impulsive behaviors.

 So... good news right? It's definitely better news than we were expecting. The Autism spectrum disorders did sound a little like our guy so we had been concerned.

 However, we still have a little guy who has a hard time behaving himself. He is smart enough to know how to get out of tasks through throwing tantrums, and he is stubborn enough to stick with it to the bitter end. For example, I have been teaching him to play the piano, which addresses a lot of his coding and processing gaps. When he has to learn a new song (decode notes, encode into fingerings, get reward through sound) he simply refuses to do it. And the longer I make him sit, the more he amps up his resistance with creative tantrums. So far we have one chair through the wall, one wall decorated with finger scrapes, and one ivory torn off the piano. The harder the task, the worse the tantrum.

 If he goes somewhere that includes an activity he doesn't find stimulating, he does the damnedest things. One time he drooled on a kid, the next time he walked over and felt the boobs of the instructor, once he just started saying "beep" so loud we got kicked out.

What do we do with this genius.

 We are absolutely at a loss about where to send him to school. We wound up opting for the local public school because at least then it won't be a hassle to pick him up every day. And it will probably be EVERY DAY.

Some friends of ours said we need to get in touch with the special ed teacher to build an enhanced curriculum for him. And I have to smile a bit because ... really? We will try it, but if he starts beeping and drooling in the regular class, he'll never make it to the enhanced curriculum part.

We have been doing some reading of our own, and the best book so far is "Children: The Challenge" by Rudolf Dreikurs. This at least trained Hambone and me how to manage the tantrums and to encourage Hamslice in a way that focuses on what he does well so he doesn't worry so much about performing in his gaps. It has been really helpful.

 But probably the biggest turnaround for us since leaving school is what happened when we started making Hambone TRY things. He would have a tantrum, but we stuck with it and made him try things. Finish things. And for him to learn about the pride of accomplishment and the joy of achieving what he thought was not possible has helped him understand that maybe tantrums aren't the answer.

So... one day at a time. At least today it isn't Autism. Maybe tomorrow we will make it through a full day of cooperation and happiness.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Testing into CAMO White Belt

It has been a very big week for Hamslice. This weekend he learned to ride a big boy bike, and last night he earned his first belt in Kung Fu! We are so proud of our little guy. He's learning to face challenges and use courage. We are rooting for you little guy!

Sunday, June 09, 2013


We had an exciting weekend -- Grandma and Grandpa came to town, cousin D moved in, and Hamslice learned to ride a bike!

We are so proud of Hamslice-- look at this video!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Hamslice Homebody

So we wound up pulling Hamslice out of school in the beginning of April. There were too many things that didn't add up regarding his in-school behavior, and it seemed like time for Mom and Dad to take a turn with him to see what's what.

We have been having a marvelous time getting to know each other better, and learning how to be good partners to each other. I've read eight parenting books, which has been helpful, and Hamslice has been in an atmosphere where he knows he is surrounded by people who love him, which has also been helpful.

Our grand adventure started in the mountains of West Virginia on a camping trip with friends. It was chilly but had a lot of fun.


At home, we've started Hamslice on some routines to help him work independently and learn how to have fun with others. He is now taking piano lessons with me (which completes my transformation INTO MY MOTHER) and he has learned all the rules of Chess. Chess is now his favorite pass time, and he has been consistently beating me even when I don't help him. 

He is also reading and writing for at least an hour a day, which he is becoming very proud of after a bit of initial resistance. His alphabet looks good, and he just finished a letter to Auntie Bet.

We're very proud of him, and hopeful that his next school year will go a little better.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Homebound Hamslice

We pulled Hamslice out of school. The day after my last post (that would be April 19, 2013) we had a meeting with the teachers, Principal and school therapist again. The "action plan" that the school developed for Hamslice was to hire a baby sitter to sit with him all day long.

Hambone and I said "Hell to the No" and pulled him out immediately. This means he hasn't been in school since April 12.

Since then Hamslice has blossomed into a new kid. His play style is now nurturing and friendly, he has been learning how to stick with projects and do tasks that he initially thinks are too difficult, and for the first time in a long time he's proud of himself. He is learning to play the piano, and he is playing chess like a master.

He is also talking for the first time about what happened at the school. He told me yesterday how the teachers would lock him in the cubby room (which is a fancy word for closet) for long stretches of time without giving him an opportunity to earn his release by calming down or by performing a proper behavior. They also put him in there without explaining to him how long he would be in there, so he was terrified. Isolated. Singled out.

He said that other kids in the class would throw tantrums like he did, but nobody else was put in the closet. I am horrified. mortified. terrified about putting him back in any school.

How could the teachers generate such an adult dislike for our son?  Man... he's 5 years old.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hambone's Birthday

Monday was Hambone's birthday. We went out for dinner at Little Havana, like we do every Monday with the Ps. We're sad that the Ps are leaving for Malaysia in July, but we are enjoying them for now.

When they heard it was Hambone's birthday, they ordered cake and took some celebration pics for us. =)

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Hamslice Sleepover

Last weekend Hamslice had one of his best friends come over for a sleep over. This was the first sleepover event for both of them, and it was a blast.

They started out mellow with some iPad time, showing each other their favorite games and coaching each other on technique. 

After dinner Mom thought it would be fun to roast marshmallows over the fire pit in the back yard, but of course I didn't have any in the house. The boys settled in with a move (Monster House) with Dad while I scoured all of Federal Hill for a bag of properly sized marshmallows. There were none in the entire area, but I did find some peeps that were left over from Easter in the CVS. It turns out they are delicious when roasted over a fire. =)

 In the morning, these two best buds went for a scooter ride down by the harbor. They were both full of stunts and energy, and Elwood the dog was ready to keep up with the action!
 And then they settled in for a little more iPad time while we his friend's grandparents were en route to pick him up. What a terrific weekend, and what a great experience for Hamslice and his friend.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hamslice Math Marathon and the DV Estate

Last weekend Hambone, Hamslice and I piled into the truck and headed for Michigan to help Dad close out his estate. We had a huge garage sale that included selling 4 boats and most of Dad's stuff that was left over from raising the kids, working on the house in Saugatuck and being married to my Mom.

The fringe benefit of the sale was that uncle C and I could comb through and nab little tidbits of our "old" family to keep for posterity. My favorite DV collectibles are the family photos. There were probably no greater nerds on earth than we were, and the pictures are in and of themselves, hilarious.
Mom made these outfits by hand. BY HAND! Think of the hours of meticulous work she put in on our behalves.

Hamslice did not find the weekend as hilarious and interesting as I did, however, so he spent the majority of the trip counting to one hundred (frontward and backward) and then counting by twos. He happily sing a song over and over in the back seat that went "one plus one is two, two plus two is four, four plus four is eight, eight plus eight is sixteen, sixteen plus sixteen is thirty two, thirty two plus thirty two is sixty four, sixty four plus sixty four is one hundred twenty eight, one hundred twenty eight plus one hundred twenty eight is two hundred fifty six, two hundred fifty six plus two hundred fifty six is five hundred twelve, five hundred twelve plus five hundred twelve is one thousand twenty four...."  Hambone had to help with most of the numbers after 32, but we got there.

Suddenly I the memory scheme of computers and bit speed of modems started making sense to me as I listened to the song. LOL

Hambone has no comment on the trip. Except to say that he gets to plan the next one.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hamslice Swimming Lessons

We've started sending Hamslice to swimming lessons because, well, it's a good idea to know how to swim. He loooooooooves his swim teacher, and he does more swimming with her than he's ever done with me or Hambone.

We're just glad he's learning. It should make trips to the pool and beach much more fun.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Really Challenging Days.

So I believe I'll keep this note as a draft until everything is resolved, but I need to put these thoughts somewhere, so let's go with a "Draft only" post.

I am so freaked out by the problems Hamslice is having at school. Here's what happened:

After we went off to counseling at the school's recommendation, things seemed to be getting better. There were only positive notes home, no more phone calls, and all seemed well. The counselor said that we were doing great and we were all done. I asked her to make a final phone call to the school and explain our progress and decision, and see if there was more to do. I didn't hear back, so I thought we were fine.

We went in for Hamslice's Show and Tell day (called Museum Day at his school) and the teacher asked when he was going back for another appointment. I smiled and said we were all done and that everyone was doing great.

The next day, (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT WAS THE NEXT DAY!!) I get  a phone call from the principal saying that Jake had been very bad for the past several weeks and that we need to come in for a special parent teacher meeting with the principal. I also got a call from Hamslice's therapist saying that the school had called her to let her know he had been acting up in school for the past several weeks and that he needs to come in for more counseling. The next day I get a call from his teacher. I was like "Let me guess, he's been acting up the past few weeks?" But by this time I was pretty mad. I told his teacher that I refused to believe an aggregate phone call like this, and that if we have to be in counseling, I need to know what is happening on the day it happens and what the behaviors are that need to stop. She said "I'm sorry you feel that way."

That was last Friday. I spent most of the weekend crying in frustration.

Monday we went in for our emergency counseling meeting, and the therapist was well-armed with "things the school need from Hamslice that are different than what he's doing right now."

But I had been talking with Hamslice as well, because he had been having vivid and terrifying nightmares for the past week and a half. He is so stressed out that he has a 'bad feeling' when he goes to the bathroom -- he feels like everyone can see him doing his business in the bathroom and he's super embarrassed all the time. He feels like the teachers don't listen to him and don't believe what he says. And he's so close to the end of his rope that any little thing sets him off.

It is an emergency.

So as luck would have it, Hamslice had a little cough this week and a little bit of laryngitis. I used that as an excuse to keep him home for the whole week. During this time I have seen him relax and stop having nightmares. The tantrums are slowing down and getting a little more rational. We have had many in-depth discussions about what people expect of us when we go out of our house, and what we can do with our anger instead of flipping out.

He feels better but this isn't over. I'm reluctant to send him back to school -- just today the teachers sent a video of his classmates all saying that they miss him. Hamslice asked that I only play half of the video because he was afraid the bad feeling would come back. And so now I'm crying again.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Hamslice Update

For all of you who have written in about my post regarding Hamslice's evaluation request from school, let me thank you for all of your support. It makes me grateful every day to have such good friends online and offline.

Here's an update: After a rigorous behavioral evaluation it turns out there is no syndrome and nothing really "wrong" with Hamslice. This means we've ruled out learning disabilities, Turret's, Aspergers' and whatnot. The next step is an intellectual evaluation to see if the real problem is boredom, as Hambone and I have suspected all along.

The results so far are very encouraging, and we're hoping this all wraps up fairly soon so we can talk with the school about next year and how we can make the experience more interesting for our [healthy,  normal] son.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mitochondria and MicroTubules

On Saturday afternoon, Hamslice got his wish to go back to the MD Science Center. We bypassed the physics and geology stuff this time, as well as the dinosaur exhibit (his usual favorites) and went straight to the Human Body exhibit.

Here we saw a video about how the lungs work -- we even saw blood cells in the alveola. We also saw how heart valves work. Hamslice watched these videos several times (you can rewind the video by pressing the button on the display).

Then we did a walking tour of a human cell. The display was actually pretty cool because you could walk between the Golgi bodies and see the endoplasmic reticulum and other organelles all working together. We saw a hilarious video about micro tubules 'walking' through cells. That one we watched three or four times.

On the way home, Hamslice started running and said "I'm breaking apart my Mitochondria to make energy!" and that's been a running joke ever since. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Excessive Indoor Farming

This weekend we had eggs for breakfast, finishing up a carton of eggs. I said to Hambone and Hamslice "Oh good --  now we can plant some seeds for spring." I was, of course, envisioning 12 nice little plants that we could install in our yard in a few weeks when it gets warm.

Hambone went to Lowe's to "get some supplies" for this project, which I should have recognized as a sign of trouble. Four hours later, this is our seed project. If these all sprout, we will have about 150 plants.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Evaluating Hamslice

As you may have noticed over the last few months, Hamslice has been the source of many a fracas at his new school. However, unlike his Montessori school (or possibly because Hamslice is now too old to have a meltdown overlooked) his new school has taken notice.

They broached the topic with us slowly: first a phone call or two, then some additional emails. His parent teacher conference was a mixed review. Then came extra meetings and daily phone calls. Sometimes two phone calls. Then requests to pick him up from school.

Yesterday we had a meeting with Hamslice's two teachers, the student counselor, the student liaison/success counselor (I can't really remember her title, just her name) and the principal. They recommended (and we agree) that it's time to have a professional evaluation of our little guy. Actually two professional evaluations.

So I have set appointments for his testing, including the WISC  using recommended professionals from the school. Hambone and I see this as a positive move, getting to the bottom of what's going on with Hamslice. The outcomes could be very positive in that he could be assessed as gifted, or the outcome could be more mixed, such as high intellect, low physical abilities or maybe a blend of a behavioral issue with physical.

We are optimistic and we believe in our son. We know there's a good guy in there.

But it's time for everyone to get on the same page. We are all ready to just know.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Hamslice Valentine

Yesterday Hamslice and I walked through the Cross Street Market on the way home from the bus stop. All the vendors were decked out in hearts and all the Valentine kerfluffery that comes with this time of the year.

Hamslice liked all the hearts and thought they looked nice. Then he asked me in a very serious voice, "Why are the all red, instead of one half red and one half blue?"

I asked him to explain his question because he asked it like an adult -- and I could tell there was more to the question than aesthetic preference. He said "When the blood comes back from the body, it doesn't have any oxygen, so it's blue. That makes half of the heart blue. The other half is red because the blood is ready to go back into the body."

I said that this was definitely true, and that the hearts he saw in the market were "Marketing Hearts" that are just supposed to make people happy, and that biology hearts (the real hearts in our body) are half red and half blue.

Thinking back, Hamslice just made a heart-shaped thank you card for his grandparents, and I believe he colored it half red and half blue. I didn't think about it at the time.

I don't know exactly where he learned this, but I suspect it was part of our marathon Science Center day during Christmas Break.

But I have to rock back on my heels in amazement, just for a minute. Wow.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Little Bit High... Little Bit Low

There have been lots of ups and downs with Hamslice these days. His behavior issues at school have been both completely resolved and completely out of control, depending on who you talk to and on what day.

For instance, this week he had three FANTASTIC days in a row where he was cooperative and sweet (Yes we celebrate a three day streak. Shoot, we celebrate ONE good day.) and his teachers were happy with his demeanor and performance.

Fast forward to Thursday, and I get a call from the counselor's office that he is out of the classroom because he was punching his teacher and having a world class temper tantrum.

Then Friday was great again.

Today we took Hamslice to a kid's fitness class for something to do. His teachers have observed some issues with coordination and muscle control, so we also wanted to observe him in a more physical setting.

I'm not sure how long it will take to forget the slow-motion horror of realizing that the kid who spit on the most adorable little girl in the class was, indeed, Hamslice. And it wasn't a little pitooie spit, it was a full mouthful of drool that he poured into her lap.

After a frosty car ride home (we decided not to yell at him, instead we waited until he was ready to talk about his little drool trick) he revealed that he had spit on the girl because he felt she was sitting too close, and also he had noticed that the class looked like it was about to get really boring and he knew that making a scene was a sure-fire way to be removed from the class.

*Sigh* I guess it's time to talk about making good choices... again...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Small Talk with Mom and a Letter from AB

Yesterday Hambone threw a tailgate party for his workers, and Hamslice and I were invited share in the cedar-smoked hams and turkeys. Big Dave brought the big smoker grill and prepared the meats right in the parking lot in real tailgate fashion.

So good.

After the meal, the guys all went outside for the grand finale -- Big Dave threw all the extra wood on the grill and blasted flames high into the air. Hamslice wasn't interested in that, because he wanted to play games on my phone.  I said that I would stay with him if he promised to talk to me. And he agreed.

After a minute or so of silence, he said "So what's your favorite color?" and then after we established our favorite colors, he asked "What's your second favorite color?" And then I had to smile because I realized he was making small talk with me. Apparently, this is what five year olds chat about in the absence of actual activity. I felt like a peer. =)

We also received a letter from AB this week -- here's his video response, along with an interesting description of Martin Luther King.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Are the Holidays Over So Soon?

We're back from our extensive Midwest tour -- The trip consisted of 35 hours of driving through the wilds of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa in a seven-day sweep!

We were able to see relatives in Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. All of them, in fact. I don't think we left anyone out this time. And it was super to see everyone again and spend some time in the Midwestern Native Environment. I'll miss all the smiles and "how do you do" attitude as we reinstate ourselves in the polite-but-extra-competitive landscape of Maryland.

Hamslice had a great time seeing his cousins. He was also excited to open his presents before we disembarked. Here's his favorite zombie book:

And here's Hamslice during the three "hanger on" days after our trip, when he and I worked hard to fill the days. On Thursday we spent 3 hours in the science museum learning all about dinosaurs, earthquakes, and of course the digestive track. (eeeewww)

In this particular photo, he's supposed to be learning about how weight displacement works, but really he's just up there because the nice lady offered to hold his hand.