It didn’t warm up this week. Well, not during the week, anyway—the weekend was decent. But during the week, it topped out at 30 degrees when Sam and I would walk Theo to school. I’m definitely ready to be done with these frigid temps! One day, when I was driving Theo to school, one of the main roads was covered in a thick layer of ice for a large patch. Having lived almost all of my driving life in California or Arizona, I’ve not driven on ice…pretty much ever. (I may have a time or two during my brief stint in Reno, but I’m by no means an experienced ice driver.) I hit the patch of ice and thought, “Um…ice. Hmmm. I think I’m supposed to not brake when I hit a patch of ice. Okay, I won’t brake.” Luckily, I didn’t have to, and all went well. But still, I’d prefer to avoid driving on ice for the rest of our school drop-offs, thankyouverymuch!
Speaking of school, we’ve got one more week of it before Christmas break. Theo was very irritated to hear that Christmas break is not the end of school. He thought that was it, and then he’d have a long break before starting first grade next fall! He was not thrilled when I told him he had to go back in January…and February, March, April, May, and part of June! Poor guy…learning the valuable but less-than-fun lesson that life isn’t always filled with what you want to do, but rather is also made up of things you have to do!
We actually had Theo’s first parent-teacher conference this week, too. I was a bit nervous—I felt like everything was going well, but I’ve been blindsided in the past, so…you know…that sort of thing sticks with you. Nothing like having a newborn baby (with special needs that you’re trying to figure out) and being told, “Um, your older son can’t come to our school anymore. This isn’t working.” That was rather traumatic. More so than Sam’s diagnosis, actually—it was kind of adding insult to injury! So I think I forever live in fear that even when I think things are going well, they might not be.
But, I’m pleased to say that I was right this time—things are going well. Very well, in fact! Theo’s teacher, Mrs. Jacobson, was super positive about how Theo’s doing, and his progress report reflected that. Let’s see if I can quickly sum it up for you. Basically, he has already met nearly all of the end-of-kindergarten academic standards that have been introduced. Meaning, anything that has been introduced and taught, he has mastered. Certain things haven’t been taught yet, as it’s still early in the year, so he wasn’t evaluated on those. But for anything that has been taught, he has mastered it. There are two exceptions: He’s very good with sight-reading but doesn’t yet have 100% accuracy. That isn’t a problem—it’s something they work on throughout the year, so he isn’t expected to have 100% accuracy yet. And actually, of the 30 sight words tested, he correctly read 25 of them…but he can sight-read far more words than that, which haven’t been tested. I know that to be true, but his teacher mentioned it, too—that he can read a lot more words, but of the ones tested, he got 25 out of 30 correct. So he’s doing great.
The second exception is handwriting. He’s below grade-level on that, and it’s an “area of concern.” This was absolutely no surprise to us. Theo’s teacher and I have discussed it, and he’s been working with his OTs on it. And I see his classwork (and that of his peers), so I’m very aware that his handwriting isn’t up to what it should be for a kindergartner. In fact, when I volunteer in Theo’s class, I can always pick his work out from the other children’s without even looking at the names, because his handwriting is pretty much the hardest to read in the class. (It’s undecipherable at times.) But this, as I said, comes as no surprise. We’ve known for more than 18 months that he struggles with drawing/writing/fine motor, and we’ve been working on it since. It’s just a slow process. It’s hard for him, and so he doesn’t like to do it. So we do brief periods at a time—every day when I have him do his homework, for example, I have him do a tracing activity that one of his OTs sent home. And when Chris watches him and Sam while I work at night, he usually has Theo do some sort of short drawing or writing activity. And he works on writing and/or drawing every day at school, and he gets three OT sessions a week—one at school, then 45 minutes with our Kaiser-approved OT, and 30 minutes with the private OT we use (Nan).
But here’s the thing: It’s all practice, practice, practice. He needs to build up the muscles in his hands and wrists. He needs to slow down instead of racing through it. He needs to focus on the task at hand (no pun intended!). He needs to focus his eyes on the paper, instead of letting them wander all over the place when he writes. And all of this takes practice. But he’s a five-year-old boy, and there’s more to life than practicing fine-motor skills. They are important, but so is life. So is having fun. So is exploring other areas. Chris and I are in complete agreement that we’re not going to turn his life into one giant OT exercise, just to get him writing better. He will write better someday—he’s not going to go to college writing like a two-year-old. And we’ll keep working on it. But in the meantime, we’ll also let him be a little boy. Three OT sessions a week is plenty. Classwork is plenty. Working with him for short stints at home every day is plenty. If it turns into OT/fine-motor overkill, he’ll resent it, and he’ll learn to hate writing. He already doesn’t enjoy it, and I’m not going to make that worse. So…we wait patiently, and we practice in short bursts. And it will come.
The great thing is, his teacher is so wonderfully flexible. During our conference, she suggested to me that we try to talk to the school district about getting Theo an assistive device for first grade—something along the lines of a laptop or iPad-type device—so he can express his ideas in that format. First grade comes with a lot of writing, but the most important part of it isn’t the fine-motor skill, but the communicating of ideas. If he can’t write well with a pencil, he can’t communicate his ideas…and that just becomes frustrating and unproductive. So she is most interested in helping him communicate his ideas, even if that means using some sort of assistive device to do so while he continues to work on fine motor. And I love that. Because Theo has so many great ideas! When we do homework, I almost always pick the ones that involve him telling me something (“Tell a story about your family’s Thanksgiving” or “If you could buy one gift for every child in the world, what would you buy?” or things along those lines), because I love hearing what he has to say! And I certainly don’t want all those wonderful ideas stifled because he struggles with a damn pencil, you know?
In addition to academics, Theo got an “excellent” in the areas of respecting others, actively engaging in classroom activities, working cooperatively with others, and putting forth his best effort. He got a “needs improvement” in participating orally at appropriate times—because he tends to blurt things out in the middle of instruction. No surprise there, eh? 😉
Seriously, though, we could not be prouder of him! Our hopes for our boys are that they work hard in whatever they do, and that they are kind, respectful people. Theo is achieving just that, and we are so proud! The academics are all fine and dandy, but what’s really important is his character, and he’s showing that to be excellent. We are super, super happy! And that fine-motor issue? It’ll resolve eventually. We are confident about that.
As long as we’re speaking about schooling, I’ll share a bit of information about Sam. Around here, services for special needs like Sam’s work like this: The Regional Center provides services until the child turns three. On the child’s third birthday, his services transfer to the school system. So literally the day Sam turns three, he will be put into a district special-ed preschool—or so that’s how it supposedly goes, though I’m not sure we’ll choose to follow that route. (Long story that I will save for another blog. It involves lots of talk about what’s best for Sam, what our options are, what sort of bureaucracy we’ll have to deal with, etc. etc. etc.) But before Sam turns three, when his services are still being provided by Regional Center, we have two options: home-based services or site-based services. If you choose home-based services, the therapists come to your home—every week we have a visit from an OT, a PT, and an ST. If you choose site-based services, your child receives some or all services in a care center, which is sort of like a preschool for very young kids.
Most people do home-based services at first, and then they transfer into site-based services at some point. Why? Because at a site-based program, they spend several hours a day working with the child on specific areas related to self-care and social development—potty training, self-feeding, learning to sit for a short circle time, etc. It’s basically like preschool, but with OT, PT, and ST thrown in (in theory) and targeted for children who take longer than typically developing children to learn self-care types of skills.
It so happens that our closest site for this type of service is very close—about a mile up the road. And it’s very well regarded—I know a number of people who’ve had their children there, and they’ve been very happy. In fact, Sam’s OT works there, too, so we already know someone there. We also know the PT who works there once a month (though because Sam is eligible for weekly PT through Kaiser, he’d still get that service at home from our beloved PT, Michelle)—and she’s fantastic.
People seem to start moving their kids into site-based services around 18 months or so. Sam is now 22 months. It could be time…if I wanted it to be. And I’m starting to hear that I’m doing him a bit of a disservice by keeping him home, as at the site-based service he’d get a lot of chance to practice things like self-care and such. It would help with preschool readiness, too.
So I should put him in there, right? Here’s the problem: There is no part of me that wants to put him in there. I know he would do well. I think he would enjoy it. I know it would benefit him. But do I want him gone for a few hours a day? No, I don’t. He’s my baby…my buddy…my little smiley friend who goes everywhere with me. We play every morning. I love that one-on-one time I have with him while Theo’s at school. I love our routines. I love having him home. And it sorta kills me to change that. I cry when I think about it, even though I know it would probably be a good thing for him.
I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time with it. Or maybe I do… By the time Theo went to preschool, he was a little boy. He had met all of major toddler milestones, and he was really a little boy. So it was reasonably easy to say, “It’s time. He’ll do great. Let’s do this.” But Sam is still such a baby to me. He looks like a baby, size-wise and face-wise. He acts like a baby because of his developmental delay. And he has so many milestones still to meet—milestones that he’s going to meet at some care facility and not with me there to cheer him on. It kills me. I want to be there to see every one of those milestones, just like I was with Theo. Every time Sam does something new, he immediately looks at me, breaks into a huge smile, and crawls over to launch himself at me for a big hug. And I love that—I don’t want to miss it! I don’t want a team of teachers and therapists, no matter how much I like them, to get to share those moments with my boy. I shared them with Theo, and I want to share them with Sam. But if I do…am I letting him down by not giving him a chance to thrive in a different setting?
And on a different level, I’m able to enjoy Sam’s babyhood more than I was Theo’s. I don’t say this to take anything away from Theo, but he was a hard baby. Colic and near-constant crying for the first several months, then a lot of fussiness for many months after. And he wasn’t a cuddly baby. He’s cuddly now, but he wasn’t as a baby. So with Theo, I was in a constant state of trying to figure out what was troubling him and how I could help—and I didn’t really get the positive feedback of baby snuggles. With Sam, I have a reasonably cheery (albeit feisty!) baby who loves to cuddle, so I get to have those cuddly times that I missed with Theo. And I love that. So do I want to keep Sam at home so I can continue to enjoy that? Well yeah, I do…
The truth is, putting Sam in a site-based service would be logistically easier for us. I could work while he and Theo were at “school,” which would mean no longer working nights and working like crazy during naps. I might actually be able to cook dinner now and then, sparing Chris cooking after a long workday. (Okay, not sure that’s actually a plus—Chris is a better cook than I am!) Honestly, the logistics are easier. But the emotional side isn’t.
So, we’ll see what I decide. I’m sure I’ll ultimately decide that it’s best for Sam to try out the site-based service. But I’m equally sure I’ll cry a lot when I make that decision—and when he starts. Because give me a purely selfish choice, and it would be to keep my sweet little guy home with me. 🙂
Anyway, moving on… Chris and I had a rare date on Saturday! My sister has been wanting to take the boys to her church to meet her friends. When Sam was younger, I wasn’t comfortable with him going to the nursery if he fussed during the service, because he wasn’t really moving around that much, and I worried about him getting trampled by bigger kids. But he’s crawling super-fast now and is very able at this age—pretty much doing everything but walking—so I decided I was comfortable with it now. And so we went to Elk Grove on Saturday, visited Grandma Diane in the earlier part of the day, and then headed over to Auntie Lynnie’s house. They went to dinner and church while Chris and I went to dinner (sushi—yum!!) and Christmas shopping.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about Sam in the nursery—he slept on Uncle Charles’s shoulder during the sermon, so he stayed with them the whole time! And my sister gave Theo the choice of staying in church or going to the childcare room, and he chose the childcare room. They made a craft—a little finger-painting picture, more or less. I looked at it and said, “Oh, a gingerbread house!” and my sister told me it was actually the baby Jesus in a manger. 🙂 But Theo actually thought it was a mouse, so at least I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t figure it out!
Theo really enjoyed going to the kids’ area and wants to go back sometime. Hmmm, free babysitting for an evening?! I think we can do that! Funny story, though. Theo has been curious about Jesus and God, and Chris and I have tried to explain a bit, but it’s tough because we don’t go to church, and our beliefs are sort of vague. We both believe in a greater being of sorts—God, if you will—but we don’t follow any particular teaching, so there’s no particular story or explanation for who God and Jesus are that we’re particularly comfortable telling Theo. So anyway, at this childcare area, I think they had a little lesson on God or Jesus—or maybe one of the workers just told Theo something about it. And today, he announced in the car, “I am Theo Jesus God.” I’m not sure why he said that, but it just cracked me up because I thought, “Hmmm, why am I not surprised that Theo is declaring himself God now?!”
Sunday was a quiet day for us—Chris and Theo cleaned the garage, which was much-needed, while Sam napped and I worked on some Christmas stuff. And then after Sam’s nap, we dropped a bunch of toys off at Salvation Army, recycled some cardboard (my, we live an exciting life!), and went to the park for a bit. Both boys were rather cranky and out-of-sorts, so the park trip was short and then we headed home.
And here I sit, on Sunday night, hoping for warmer weather this week. Because otherwise, I might freeze. Stay warm, friends!