Dec 14, 2014: Surviving the Storm

So did you think this week’s blog title was something all deep, like surviving the storms of life or something? No, no, no, I’m afraid not. Rather, it refers to STORMAGGEDDON, which hit this week. I put that in all caps to emphasize the ridiculousness of it, because the media sure blew it out of proportion, in my humble opinion.

So here’s the story: As you undoubtedly know, we’ve been in a drought for several years, and last year was particularly dry. Having lived in California for most of the last 36 years, I can attest to the fact that it’s a common cycle here: We have several dry years, and then we get a rainy year. It’s not ideal, but it just seems to be the way of things. But nowadays, with the media ever-present, it becomes a Really Big Deal. As in, the news needs to cover it to death, and they need to make up fun terms like “Stormaggeddon” and “Stormpocalypse.” And every thirty seconds, they have to remind us that, “It’s a lot of rain, but it still doesn’t put a dent in the drought!” (Which gets a little tiresome because if you live in California, you pretty much know that we’re always in a state of needing to conserve water. It’s just a fact of life.)

But honestly, the way the media played up the approaching storm, you’d think we’d never had rain in our lives. Several school districts around here even cancelled school! What?! I spent my entire K-12 school career in the Bay Area, and we never had a school cancellation for weather! (We did get a day off after the huge earthquake in 1989, but that’s it.) Really, I think we’re kind of the laughingstocks of the country, cancelling school for rain. I know my relatives in Buffalo got a good chuckle out of it. 🙂

So what really happened is this: We got a lot of rain in a 48-hour period. I think it was about three inches where we live, which is a lot in one rainstorm. (Our season normal is something like 14 inches, so we got almost a quarter of the season’s worth in one storm.) And this being California, things aren’t really built to withstand lots of rain—streets tend to flood and such. But really, I’ve seen heavier rain when I was growing up in the Bay Area. So it was a lot…but not the worst I’ve seen here. I’m not sure why everyone was in such a panic!

I do have to say that some areas got hit rather hard. In the North Bay, some areas got anywhere from six to nine inches, which is a ton for one storm. There was flooding, and obviously that’s a problem. Pacifica (not terribly far from where Chris works) had a fair bit of flooding. And a grocery store roof partially collapsed in San Jose. But that’s about the extent of it. Overall, it wasn’t that bad, and we got a nice bit of rain (BUT NOT ENOUGH TO END THE DROUGHT!! DON’T FORGET THAT!!). I just have to shake my head at how the media can take something that really isn’t so uncommon (this happens every few years out here, as I’ve said) and turn it into something horrendous. You would’ve thought this storm was along the lines of Hurricane Katrina, based on news reports, and it certainly was not. And this is why I largely avoid the news now—everything must be hyped to death…sigh….

Anyway, I’m happy for all that water, though it did put a cramp in walking Theo to and from school! Ah well, can’t have everything.

Sam had a full week of assessments by the school-district team. I wasn’t present for them (parents typically aren’t), but I spoke to the speech therapist on the phone one night, and she said, “I just have to tell you, he is doing amazing!! I mean, I wouldn’t say he doesn’t need any therapy, because he certainly does, but he is just doing fantastic at imitating sounds and trying to verbalize!” Indeed he is—we’re very proud of that little guy! His favorite and clearest word of late is still “No!” accompanied by a wagging finger. Adorable, I must say! He’s also appropriately answering questions sometimes, which is very cool! “Sam, it’s time for a nap.” “No!” “Sam, who gave you that toast?” “Dada!”

And speaking of Sam, I heard back from our lawyer, and she confirmed that the preschool we’ve chosen for him is fine, even though it’s licensed as a “large family daycare.” She won a similar case in a neighboring district, and she said the judge’s only concern was that the child was learning and progressing both socially and academically—and it didn’t matter what the facility was technically licensed as. So woohoo—unless the space at that particular preschool/daycare fills up before we’re ready to start him in February, that’s where he’ll be going! I am still mourning the fact that he’ll have to leave Early Intervention (and his teachers and OT are seriously mopey about it every time I talk to them), but I’m glad we’ve found a preschool where we think he’ll flourish.

Speaking of which, Chris sent me an interesting article on special ed (click here if you want to read it), and the most interesting part to me was this line: “There’s disagreements between families and school districts, and less than 1 percent of families request a due process hearing, and only 3 percent of them actually go to the hearing.” Wow. That puts us in the definite minority. I’m not surprised, though. I would be willing to bet that many people assume they can’t afford an attorney to help them with this. I have to admit, that was my first thought, too. I was stunned to learn that our attorney would cost us nothing. I don’t know if other geographical areas have such attorneys practicing in them, and if not, I can see how it would be impossible for many families to afford representation. I know it would be for us, and I’m feeling very grateful that we just happen to live in an area where such representation is available.

Speaking of children, we had Theo’s parent-teacher conference on Monday, and overall it went well. He’s doing fine in school (he’s a bit ahead on reading, which made me happy because I hope he’ll learn to love reading as he gains skill at it!), and his teacher said, “Theo always wants to do the right thing,” which I was very glad to hear. He’s struggling a bit socially, which breaks my heart a little bit, but his teacher thinks he’s “finding his way.” Evidently some of his classmates haven’t been very nice in refusing when he asks them to play. I am resisting the urge to go down there and kick some first-grade booty.

I think the problem is, because he had to learn social skills (that is, they didn’t particularly come naturally to him, so his teachers and therapists worked with him on that), his social skills tend to be very formal, and kids his age don’t really know what to do with that. I’ve seen it many times—he speaks very formally to other kids, and they give him a “dude, what’s with you??” look. Honestly, it makes me feel terrible, but I stay out of it because I don’t think having a “helicopter” mother who butts into his socializing is going to do him any favors either. (He’s either going to be the “weird formal kid” or the “weird formal kid with the annoying mom,” you know?) I mentioned this to his teacher, and she smiled and said, “Yes, he is extremely polite! Maybe you should work on teaching him some ‘street talk’!” Well, first of all, I’m very glad he’s polite. That’s really important to Chris and me, and we were very happy to hear that. And second, we wouldn’t know current “street talk” if it hit us in the face! We’re nerds and way too removed from school. We’d probably tell him something asinine like, “Theo, go tell that little boy you think his shirt is groovy!” Okay, no, maybe we’re not that bad, but seriously…I have no idea what first-grade street talk sounds like. And actually, I’m not sure I’d want him learning it anyway. I kind of like that my kid doesn’t say “dude” every other word. 😉 I actually find his “professor speak” quite charming—I just wish it didn’t make it a bit difficult for him to socialize with his peers. Ah well, it’s always something, right?

We had a fun Saturday this week! We wanted to take the boys to this farm out in the Central Valley that has a big snow-tubing mountain (man-made, but still lots of fun!), so we decided to do that on Saturday. We knew it was going to be muddy from the storm, but it’s going to rain a lot next week, too (OH NO!! BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES!!!), so we figured we’d just embrace the mess and go with it. 🙂

It was indeed muddy—much muddier than we expected, actually. There were a number of flooded areas where they had to temporarily move an attraction elsewhere due to the standing water. And it was chilly! But we bundled up and had a great time anyway! Theo and I did the snow-tubing while Chris walked around with Sam strapped to his back. (The original plan had been to let Sam toddle around, but there were so many deep puddles where he would’ve just gotten utterly drenched and cold that we decided to just toss him in the Ergo on Chris’s back instead.) And then Theo played for quite a while in the man-made snow, making snowballs and throwing them, while I let Sam toddle around in an area that had rocks and thus much less standing water. Sam kept running back over to the snow-tubing mountain, as he loved watching the sledders come flying down the mountain! He would wave his arms and squeal and applaud wildly, and he was so upset when they closed it for half an hour to let the ice firm back up before the next round of sledders started.

Theo’s BFF, Gavin, was also there with his little buddy Valentina, and Theo had a good time playing on the giant tire climbing structure with Val and Gavin. The three kids really enjoyed the petting zoo, too. It is actually a really nice petting area. The goats are a bit aggressive about taking the food, as goats often are, but they were  pretty gentle, and all of the other animals were gentle, too. There were chickens, a couple of very small cows, sheep, baby lambs, baby goats, small horses (I think Shetland ponies, though they looked slightly different), and a weird zebra-donkey hybrid.

We ended up skipping the lights at the farm because it was cold and they aren’t overly impressive, so instead we stopped at two big light displays we’d heard about in Livermore on our way home. One is a house that is all decked out with lights and fountains and is synced to the music from Disney’s Frozen. That was pretty neat, but my favorite was the other one. I don’t even know how to explain it except to say that I’ve never seen so many lights in my life! Chris was amazed and said he’d never seen anything like it, either. Apparently the guy who owns the house is a deacon, and his house sits on half an acre (that’s big by California standards!), much of which is gardens. He’s been doing an amazing Christmas display for 32 years. We didn’t see it in the daylight, so I can’t speak for what the gardens look like, but we did see it with the lights, and…just wow. I can’t even do it justice in words, so just click here if you want to see it. 🙂 Stunning…

Last but not least, I got a job! Sort of. Another “assignment,” really, but one I’m very excited about. Click here to read about my new assignment as person in charge of medical outreach for the Down Syndrome Connection!

Sorry there aren’t many exciting pictures this week. I didn’t want to take my good camera to the farm, as I knew it was going to be chaotic and crazy there. And Sunday was just an errands day, so nothing exciting to photograph there. This coming week, the boys wrap up school for the year, and I wrap up two work projects. Then all four of us will be taking December 20–January 2nd off! We had originally thought to take a short trip somewhere (maybe to the snow), but my job situation put the kibosh on that, so instead we’ll just be doing a little “staycation” of fun things around here. And taking a welcome break from school and work! It’s a really nice plus that Chris works for a company that completely shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s. Such a nice break!

Happy December, all!

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