Aug 28, 2016: School Days

Here we are, back to school already! I’d say it’s been a mostly positive experience overall. One of our two kids has a pattern of holding together beautifully at school and then falling apart at home, and based on the last eighteen hours, I’d say that child is staying true to form. But I haven’t handed him off to a band of traveling gypsies yet, and it’s entirely possible we’ll make it through the weekend. 😉

Our other child seems to be enjoying his class but would much prefer it if Mama stayed with him. So that’s led to some drop-off angst, but it’s getting better each day.

For both kids, I’m pleased with the teachers thus far. I haven’t talked to Sam’s teacher as much, but she’s been very cheerful and positive every day when I pick Sam up and she tells me what he’s done throughout the day. I had kind of a laugh the first day. We’ve been working on potty-training with Sam for more than two years…and basically getting nowhere. But the first day at his new school, his teacher told me that when she announced to the kids in the morning, “Okay, let’s all go potty now,” Sam marched into the bathroom, pulled down his pants and pull-up, went pee in the potty, and then attempted to pull his pants and pull-up back up. (He has a bit of trouble with that last part.) She said she thought, “Oh, well, they must’ve put him in a pull-up just to be safe, because he’s obviously potty-trained.” But then later that day, he had a wet pull-up and she realized he is not potty-trained. But I had to laugh because two years of trying at home has yielded almost zero successful attempts…and on his first day at school, he just goes right ahead and does it! He did it two of the three other days, too, so perhaps we’re making some progress! He’s at least starting to connect that pee goes in the potty…even if he doesn’t yet realize that it does not go in a pull-up, too.

Theo’s teacher…well, based on first impressions, I think I am going to absolutely love her! She sent me a nice email about Theo on the second day of school, and then on the fourth day of school we had Back-to-School Night, so I got to talk to her more, plus hear her whole spiel. Chris got to come along with me, too, while Grandma Diane hung out with the boys for an hour. We were both very impressed by his teacher, and we both feel like they couldn’t have found a better fit for him! She came highly recommended by a few other moms I know, and I can see why. She really does seem excellent!

Among the fun/interesting/positive things we learned at Back-to-School Night:

  • She really doesn’t believe in homework. She believes in lots and lots of reading, so she asks for at least 20 to 30 minutes of reading at home each afternoon/evening, in age-appropriate books (along with all the reading they do in class). There may occasionally be a little bit of math homework, but it’s actually done on a computer and has a very short time limit set so that the kids don’t spend much time on it. She said she’d far rather have them go outside and climb a tree, play sports, read a book…anything other than sitting and doing homework. She agrees with the current research that students don’t benefit from doing homework outside of class hours. (Can we get a big YAHOO for that?!?!?!)
  • She also doesn’t believe in a negative discipline system. Whereas most teachers use some sort of color-coded card system these days, she says in her ten years of teaching she’s never used it and the behavior problems she’s had in class have been few and far between. The reason is, she believes kids misbehave because they’re not engaged, and she said she engages them 100 percent of the time. As she said, wide-eyed and practically bouncing at the front of the classroom, “I have a LOT of energy, and I don’t just stand up here and talk. I’m engaging them constantly. I’m walking around all the time, working with small groups, working with individual kids, making sure everyone is involved and actively learning. They don’t misbehave because I keep them interested.” A few parents looked skeptical, but I am actually interested to see how this works for Theo, because she is absolutely right where he is concerned: He misbehaves when he’s bored. If she can really keep him engaged, he will undoubtedly be a very good student. I think that’s part of why last year was so successful for him. His teacher was very dynamic and kept the class on their toes with her witty humor, and that kept him interested and engaged. He very rarely ever had to “turn a card” in her class…which is a good thing, because that card system completely stresses him out.
  • She believes in the basics but also new technology. Reading, for example, is her class foundation, it seems. The more they read, the better they get at reading and comprehension, and the more they enjoy it and want to keep doing it and learning. She works with each student to help them find grade-level reading material that they will enjoy, rather than just picking what she enjoysBut to engage the students even more, she brings technology into it. For every book she reads to them as a class, they contact the author via Twitter or other social media, and often they get responses, which gets the kids so excited because they realize they can actually talk to the people who created these books they’re enjoying! And they learn basic things like cursive, but they also learned keyboarding, and some of their assignments are typed out and submitted via Google Docs…because that’s how communication is going these days. Her philosophy seems to be a great mix of old and new, which I like.
  • She’s the faculty coordinator for the school garden, so the class will spend time one day each week working in the garden and doing related science, art, or writing assignments. The school garden, by the way, is amazing! Parents and a couple of staff members got together and planned it at the end of last year, and I can’t believe how incredible it looks now! The sunflowers are at least six feet tall, and there are tons of pumpkins growing, among other things! Each year gets a big planter box; the third-graders’ box appears to have various types of squash growing in it.
  • Her goal is to make the children want to come to school. As she said, “I want them to say, ‘I’d be willing to pay to come to Room 22 and learn!’” The funny thing is, she told us this on Thursday…but on Monday, she had sent home a form to fill out telling her a bit more about your child and your family. One of the questions was “What are your academic goals for your child this year?” I wrote “Honestly, my biggest goal is that he continue to enjoy learning. Right now he really likes school and loves to learn, and I want to see that continue. That’s far more important to me than specific academic goals.” And she wrote me an email Tuesday and said, “I really appreciated you saying that about your academic goals. This is actually something I’m very passionate about—I think it’s too easy to get caught up in academics and forget about the love of learning. I plan to talk about this more on Thursday at Back-to-School Night.” So it seems that, without even realizing it, our educational philosophies are similar.

Anyway, there’s much more, but those are the highlights. I can see why parents have spoken very highly of her—she really does seem like a wonderful teacher! Theo loves her so far, and I suspect that will continue.

It’s interesting to hear people’s thoughts as the school year starts—whether it’s public school, private school, homeschool, college, or whatever. I have realized that as much as the administration end of public schooling bothers me—and by that, I’m not referring to the people, I’m referring to the policies—I actually adore the teachers. Of course, there are bad apples sometimes, but we’ve been so very lucky. Theo has had about thirteen teachers so far (that sounds like a lot, but it’s because in preschool there have been multiple teachers for a single class), and I have liked all but one. I have some favorites, of course, but even among the ones who weren’t my favorites, I liked them and respected them as teachers (all except the one evil teacher—she was a pill). And the ones I love…well, I really love them and have felt lucky that Theo gets to have them. And Sam has had seven teachers so far (again, multiple teachers for one class on two occasions), and I have again liked all but one.

Which is to say, when I complain about the school system on this blog, don’t ever think I’m knocking the teachers. If I want to knock a teacher, I’ll specifically talk about a teacher. But basically, I think we have a school system that could use some retooling…but it’s staffed by a lot of amazing educators and staff.

Really, school has been the bulk of our week. We had planned to go do something fun today, but that didn’t end up happening. One member of our crew had issues. Actually, the story probably deserves to be told, because it’s one of those “laugh or cry” things.

Friday, I had a miserable day. I hit a weight milestone that I never wanted to hit again, and I felt incredibly depressed about it—mostly because as of this week, I have been incredibly disciplined about working out and eating well for an entire year, and instead of losing a single pound, I gained four pounds. Dammit. Actually, I said a lot more colorful things than that, but we’ll leave it at dammit. Then Sam spent much of the day whining and yelling “NO!” about everything, which was rather exhausting. Then Theo had a rough evening. And then I found out that a fourth Rockin’ Kid passed away (that makes four in less than three weeks), which made everything else seem minor in comparison but was also the icing on the “This Day Sucks” cake.

I really don’t drink much—maybe a glass of wine once a month or so—but some friends had given us a bottle of wine, and it was a shitty day, so I had a glass. And I poured Chris a glass, but he took so long reading Harry Potter to the boys that I finished my glass and drank his, too. Because I drink so rarely, two small glasses of wine is enough to make me quite tipsy. Formal apologies to Auntie Jeanette for the tipsy text messages I sent her! But no harm done, right? The boys were asleep, and Chris was there to drive on the very remote chance that we’d suddenly need to take the boys to the hospital or something. So one night of tipsy is no biggie, right?

Except that I climbed into bed at 11pm…and just as I was about to close my eyes, Theo marched in and announced, “Sam is yelling! Come get him out of my room!!”

The easier answer was to send Theo down to the den to sleep in the guest bed, since we didn’t know why Sam was yelling, and we only have a crib in the boys’ room. (Sam doesn’t sleep in a regular bed yet ‘cause no sleep would happen if he did!) So Chris escorted Theo downstairs, and I went to check on Sam. The tipsiness had worn off by then, but I was tired. I thought he was cold, so I picked him up to change him into a warmer pair of PJs…and he promptly vomited all over me. My pajama top, my pajama pants, my back, my hair…oh, it was so gooey and gross in my hair!

And of course, since the last time Sam puked he ended up in the hospital and we all got sick, my immediate thoughts were along the lines of “Oh, shit! Shit, shit, shit!”

As it turns out, shit was literally the answer. At least, I think it was. Sam threw up five times but had no other symptoms, and he really just wanted to go to sleep. So we got him all cleaned up and back into bed, and I slept in Theo’s bed for the night, since he was downstairs. (By “sleep,” I mean “tossed restlessly in between peeing a dozen times because I drank wine and getting woken up by Sam every time he fussed in his sleep.”) Sam didn’t throw up any more after midnight, but he was fussy in his sleep. Earlier that day I had told Chris I hadn’t changed a poopy diaper in about four days and I was a little worried about constipation. There was a chance the school had changed one, of course, but they hadn’t mentioned it to me, so I had a feeling he just hadn’t pooped in a few days.

Right now, a certain blog reader of mine who fears bowel obstruction is panicking, so let me say this: Constipation is not at all uncommon in Down syndrome, and the general rule of thumb is they only need to go to the doctor if it’s been a full week without a poop or if they show certain other symptoms of impaction (none of which Sam had).

Sure enough, Sam woke up this morning and struggled mightily for a while, and finally produced a dreadful BM that reduced him to tears. I’ve never been so happy to see poop, though! I have a feeling that’s not the end of it, so we’ve given him some Pedia-Lax to try to help out. He is generally cheerful and active, though, so I don’t think he’s in too much discomfort at the moment. Though it’s hard to tell, since he seems to have a very high pain tolerance (also not uncommon in DS). I think most of us would be mighty uncomfortable after not pooping for several days, but Sam was pretty much his normal self until he threw up. He wasn’t eating much, but that’s not out of the ordinary for him—he’s so picky that he often doesn’t eat. He showed no signs of straining or being in any sort of discomfort until he threw up. He was a little grumpy, but he’s also a four-year-old, and any parent of a four-year-old will tell you that they can be little grumps! 

By the way, this is where Rockin’ Moms are invaluable! In the wee hours of the morning, you can post in your Rockin’ Mom group “Is it normal for our kids to puke when they’re constipated?” and four other Rockin’ Moms will come back with, “Unfortunately, yes. Happens to mine often. Here’s what you can do to avoid it next time.” And then you feel better immediately, rather than waiting hours for the doctor’s office to open to answer your question.

So the moral of the story here is, the one time in years that you have a wee bit too much to drink, your child will puke on you and ensure that you get very little sleep!

On that delightful note, I shall sign off. I’m posting this on Saturday because we have a Cub Scout event on Sunday (sailboat regatta picnic!). I’ll be gone next weekend (to Virginia with Theo), so next weekend’s blog post will be a bit delayed…. In the meantime, happy bowel thoughts for you all! We’re certainly celebrating poop around here! Here are the weekly pictures and a video for you:

We still have no stove/oven/BBQ (supposedly the stove/oven will be fixed Monday), so I’ve done more camp cooking! Like this Saigon tofu and rice-noodle/pickled veggies salad, which was delicious!

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And these turkey tacos with queso fresco and cucumber salsa, which I didn’t eat because I got a bone chip, which totally grosses me out. Back to all vegetarian meals:

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And this white-bean stew over cheesy polenta, which was quite tasty:

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And this sautéed mushroom penne with fresh tomatoes and cream, which was also quite tasty:

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And this Korean-crusted mahi-mahi over spinach and red-pepper salad, which was good but too small…especially when you need to soak up the two glasses of wine you stupidly drank!

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I can’t say the stove never gets used, though…

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On the subject of food, I think I have deduced what our citrus tree is. Navel orange! That’s my guess, based on the “butt” on the ripening fruits:

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Here’s the rest of the garden, by the way. We really need bigger cages for the tomatoes:

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First day of school for these handsome lads!

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Look at the last line on Theo’s homework the first day of school. I swear this was completely unprompted…and my heart melted!

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A bus was backing in as we got to school. This was definitely worth watching!

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I don’t know how that’s comfortable:

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Friday was apparently National Dog Day…so, hi Zoe!

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A lil’ video. This was Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market…after his miserable night of puke and poop. You can see it didn’t slow him down any! He was dancing to the music. He also walked all the way home (instead of riding in the stroller). It’s only about a quarter mile, but that’s a long way for his tiny legs! He usually poops out long before that.

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