Aug 20, 2017: Summer’s End

Our summer is coming to an end—and much too fast! It really feels like it flew by this year. Not sure why. We were busy, for sure…but we’re always busy. This summer just seemed to go much more quickly than usual.

On Tuesday, Theo will start fourth grade (!!!) and Sam will start kindergarten (!!!). They’ll both be at the same school—walking distance from our house, though I’ll have to drive Sam since his tiny legs probably wouldn’t make it up the hill, and I can’t carry him. They start at different times, though. Theo’s day starts at 7:40 (ewwwww), while Sam’s starts at 9:45. So my plan is to walk Theo to school while pulling Sam in the wagon, and then walk home. Sam and I will hang out, finish his breakfast if he hasn’t already, and then I’ll drive him to school. Then I’ll cram as much work into three hours as possible before picking Sam up at 1:20. We’ll drive home and eat lunch…and then at 2:10, we’ll walk over (Sam in the wagon again) to pick up Theo at 2:20. Four days a week, we’ll have appointments for Sam (occupational therapy, speech therapy, peer development class, and tutoring) that we have to go to in the afternoons. Whew—the days will be busy!

Theo’s excited to start fourth grade. He’s been incredibly bored this week, which I think is rather motivating for school, eh?! At some point, tired of the constant complaints of boredom, I said, “Aren’t you lucky you got to go to camp for seven weeks of summer and then had a vacation? When I was little, this is all we did all summer—hang out at home.” (I had friends in the neighborhood I played with, but nothing elaborate. A couple of summers I did a week or two of camp, which was a lot of fun. And I did sometimes spend a few days at the beach with our next-door neighbors, which I loved. But summer was largely the summer of a child in the 1970s/1980s…a lot of down time, just hanging out at home.) Theo was aghast and realized that indeed, he is very lucky to get to go to camp for most of the summer—and now keeps repeating that. So at least there’s a little gratitude mixed in with the “I’m boooooored” refrain!

I’m not sure Sam really knows he’s starting kindergarten, but I guess he’ll find out Tuesday. His big adjustment will be waking up earlier—lately he’s been sleeping in until almost 8. Those days are soon to end, little buddy! (Though on the days Chris works at home, Sam can sleep in and skip the early-morning walk to school for Theo…)

I had my first kindergarten anxiety dream last night. I admit I’m a little nervous about it. Not about Sam—I know he’s going to rock it! But more about how I am going to feel, knowing that of the twenty-three other families in the class, at least some are likely to not be thrilled that a student with disabilities is in the class. Most people are pretty cool and accepting of inclusion, but there are some people who think that having a developmentally disabled student in a class will negatively impact their child’s learning. Studies show that it doesn’t—classrooms that have students with disabilities included actually have higher overall reading scores, for example! But still, in some people’s minds, it’s a detriment to their child’s learning to have my child in the class. I’m trying to toughen up my emotional skin to prepare for that. Hopefully no one will actually say anything to my face or behind my back, but you never know…

On the bright side, Sam was assigned the kindergarten teacher that Theo was hoping he would get—Theo says she’s “super nice.” So that’s cool. As for Theo’s teacher, I don’t know her, but we’ve never had a bad one at this school, so I’m pretty comfortable in assuming that I’ll probably be happy with her!

We spent the week attending to doctor’s appointments, among other things. Just some bits we needed to attend to that are easier done before school starts. And I finally got Sam’s ear surgery scheduled (sedated hearing test, ear cleaning, and insertion of tubes)—for October.

We also spent the week taking care of miscellaneous odds and ends around the house. Lots of little cleaning projects, lots of paperwork (oh, how I adore paperwork—not!), and a sizable outdoor project (removing all the mulch from the backyard in preparation for sod and rock to be laid). Chris and Theo also had a Cub Scout event on Thursday night—a stargazing gathering.

On Saturday, we took a little break and went to a park and got pizza-by-the-slice for lunch. And on Sunday morning, Sam and I went to coffee (well, water for Sam!) with Grandma Diane while Chris and Theo did a Cub Scout hike. They were the only two present for the hike—our pack isn’t overly active in the summer. But I’m pleased to report that Theo earned a Summertime Activities badge. (That may not be the exact title, but it’s some badge for participating in a certain number of scouting events over the summer.) Sam and I didn’t join on the hike because Sam can’t usually walk that far, and I can’t carry him that far. Someday he’ll be able to join more of those… Anyway, here are some pictures Chris sent me from the hike.

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A friend asked if Theo could come over for a play date on Sunday afternoon, so we were down one kid for several hours! I’m told their plans included visiting a small car show, eating Mexican food, and going swimming, though I cannot confirm since Theo isn’t home yet! The friend, however, did post some pictures of the day’s events:

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Chris, Sam, and I spent the day attending to more household tasks like PURGING THE TOY ROOM and grabbing a little lunch. Behold, our formal dining room, which no longer looks like toys vomited in it:

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There used to be a big ol’ train table in the middle of it, but the boys haven’t used it for months, and it had sort of become a catchall shelf for storing crap and cats. Thus, it’s now outta there! We also got rid of a bunch of toys the boys hadn’t played with in quite a while and rearranged what was left. I think it looks much better!

Our fundraising for Sam’s Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk is off to a good start! We drew this week’s winner, and it is…drum roll, please…Emily! My former student and Chris’s current coworker. We’ll be matching her donation, and Genentech will be matching ours, as will Quest Foundation (50% match). So her generous donation of $100 has now turned into $450! Whee!!!

Oh, our other big event for this weekend was sketching out our Epic Road Trip of 2018. We had actually done that a while back, but we made some significant tweaks—mostly in terms of taking out big cities, for the most part. I wrote a blog post last week about traveling with kids with disabilities (click here if you haven’t read it), and I realized two things: 1) that much of the advice holds true for traveling with any kid; and 2) that we really ought to keep our destinations fairly low-key, as both of our kids do better in places that aren’t overly crowded/hectic/noisy. So we’re not avoiding all cities by any means, but we took out Chicago and NYC. I still want to see NYC someday, but we’ll wait until the boys are older for that. And Chicago…well, I’m going there in 2 ½ weeks for my retreat, so at least I’ll get to see it!

So what’s that you say? You want to see the latest itinerary for our journey of eight weeks and one day? Of course you do! So here it is…still somewhat subject to change, but largely in its entirety:

  • Lake Tahoe (1 night)
  • Salt Lake City, UT (2 nights)
  • Denver/Boulder/Rocky Mtns (4 nights)
  • Wichita, KS (1 night…because we needed a place to stop, and I used to live there and want to see my old house!)
  • Springfield, MO (1 night)
  • Nashville, TN (3 nights)
  • Knoxville/Smoky Mtns/Dollywood, TN (2 nights)
  • Massanutten, VA (resort area; 7 nights)
  • Lexington, VA (2 nights…visiting my aunt!)
  • Philadelphia (5 nights…visiting Chris’s various relatives and sightseeing)
  • Plymouth, MA (6 nights…visiting Plymouth Plantation, Boston, and Cape Cod)
  • Buffalo (4 nights…visiting my various family members and probably Niagara Falls)
  • Mackinac Island, MI (3 nights…I’ve always wanted to see this quaint island where no cars are allowed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—much biking to be done!)
  • Minneapolis, MN (3 nights…visiting a number of friends and just generally relaxing before a couple of LONG drives)
  • Teddy Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota (2 nights…I hear this is a not-to-be-missed National Park!)
  • Mt. Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota (1 night)
  • Casper, WY (2 nights…visiting various dinosaur-fossil beds and hopefully a nearby National Park)
  • Jackson, WY/Yellowstone NP/Grand Teton NP (3 nights…visiting National Parks!)
  • Whitefish, MT (2 nights…visiting Glacier National Park, which was on Theo’s must-see list)
  • Spokane, WA (2 nights…hopefully visiting a friend and also bumming around Spokane and Couer d’Alene, Idaho)
  • Sunriver, OR (3 nights at the place where we just spent a lovely several days at the tail end of this year’s vacation…and a good spot to rest up before the final eight-hour drive home!)

Those are the overnight stops, anyway! If our route takes us near other National Parks, state parks, historic monuments, and other sites of interest, we will undoubtedly stop. I…can’t…wait! Anticipating this trip may make the next nine months bearable…and honestly, the next nine months are daunting. We’ll be returning to the six years we did where I watched the kids when Chris was at work and then he would come home and immediately watch the kids until bedtime while I worked…and Chris and I had about an hour a day together during the week after the kids went to bed, and our only time as a family of four was really on the weekends. It is going to suck, no doubt about it. But we can survive anything for nine months, so we’ll just put our noses to the grindstone and make it happen…all while anticipating next year’s epic vacation!

Anyway, stay tuned next week for stories of how the boys’ first weeks went!

Theo picked this outfit himself…on a 90+-degree day. It didn’t seem the wisest choice, but he was insistent.

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Darn it, cat!

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A little biking in the cul-de-sac:

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Look who finally agreed to wear a helmet so he could try his Strider bike! (He hates being filmed.)

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Black bean spaghetti (it’s tastier than it sounds) with all kinds of summer veggies. Yum!

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Someone also taught himself to pedal! (And dispelled the myth that people with Down syndrome are always happy.)

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We found an abandoned bird nest in the street:

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He’s actually pretty good at dribbling. I should probably enroll him in soccer:

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Actress Patricia Heaton spoke out against a rather negative report by CBS that more or less celebrated the fact that Iceland has “nearly eliminated” Down syndrome and led the general public to question whether the lives of people with DS were worth living. (Note: Iceland hasn’t eliminated Down syndrome; they just have a hugely high termination rate of pregnancies where the baby has DS.) I tweeted her a thank you, and she retweeted this picture of Sam!

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Seriously, cat? Again??

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Veggie fried rice!

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Veggie ramen!

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Also in response to the Iceland report on CBS, the DS community began posting pictures with the hashtag #LIFEisbetterwithyou, to show our support for our beloved family members and friends with DS. I made two of Sam:

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Our yard, prepped for sod and rocks. That weedy part is where the sod is going. We need to pull out the weeds before the sod goes in, but I told our handyman to let me know the day before. If I pull them now, they’ll just grow back in a few days!

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I finally ate poke! Soooo yummy. I had this poke rice bowl at book club!

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