Dec 29, 2013: Booger Fest 2013!

I suppose I should have some festive holiday-themed title for this week’s blog, but in truth, it’s been one giant booger-fest around here this week! Of course we’ve had good times and merry-making too, but we’ve also had a lot of boogers. So…many…boogers! How does one tiny little nose produce so much snot?? It truly boggles the mind.

The booger king in question would be Mr. Sam. You may recall that both Theo and I had relatively minor colds/fevers a couple of weeks ago. Sam got it, too, but his lingered on…and on…and on…. He only had a fever maybe the first day or two, and it wasn’t even a high fever. But the runny nose just wouldn’t go away, and he was so congested at night that he had trouble sleeping and even nursing some nights. However, standard medical advice is to just wait it out if it’s a cold, and since he had no fever, that’s what we did. For nine days. When, on the ninth day, he wasn’t any better, and in fact seemed to be getting worse, we decided to take him in. The doctor said it looked like the initial mild virus had turned into a sinus infection—despite the fact that he had no fever. So, he’s now on a short course of antibiotics to clear up the infection, and as of today (the fourth day on them), he is much improved. He has his appetite back and isn’t super-fussy like he was, and the continuous fountain of snot is slowly but surely drying up. Thus I believe Booger Fest 2013 is about to come to an end—finally!

Now that I’ve waxed poetic about snot for two paragraphs, let’s talk about the more fun parts of the week! As I think I mentioned last week, both Chris and I are off work for two weeks—Chris because Genentech is closed and he tacked on a couple of vacation days, and me on a self-imposed break. And it has been lovely! Some days we’ve had more to do than others, but it’s all just been household tasks, errands, and fun things—no appointments and such! (Well, one chiropractor appointment, but that was short and sweet.)

On Monday, we took BART into San Francisco with Theo’s best friend, Gavin, and his parents. We wanted Theo to see the huge Christmas tree in Union Square (it’s about six or seven stories tall!), and we had thought to go ice skating, also in Union Square. As usually happens when we go to San Francisco, though, we ended up having to alter our plans. The ice skating was sold out for most of the afternoon, so we thought to take a cable car ride, since the boys haven’t ever done that (nor have I, for that matter!). But the cable cars were full, too. So we ended up just going to a playground, but the boys had fun, so it was all good. And actually, one thing did go according to plan: We had a delicious lunch at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar, which is one of my favorite restaurants! I’ve only been there twice—the first time was about a week or two before Sam was born. I met my friend Amber there for lunch, and I had the most divine Nutella milkshake! I’ve wanted to take Chris there ever since, but we haven’t gone. Until now! Naturally, I ordered the Nutella shake again, and I gave Chris a sip. (He can’t have more than a sip or two of a milkshake or his dairy allergy kicks in. I’m really not just a greedy piglet who wouldn’t share her shake!) And Chris loved the delicious burger, too! We definitely need to go back sometime when a certain child is behaving better, so we can actually read the extensive menu and order accordingly, instead of just saying, “Um, I don’t know—just give me a bacon cheeseburger!” Not that the bacon cheeseburger wasn’t delicious, but there were many, many other options, too. (I had white-truffle mayo on mine—mmmmm!)

Honestly, BART, San Francisco, and the crowded restaurant was a lot of stimulation for Theo, who has trouble holding it together in such situations. So we really should’ve known better than to try. But we did, and it’s fine—if we don’t try, we’ll never know, right? And he wasn’t horrid—I don’t think any of the other patrons even knew anything was amiss. But it was hard work to manage his behavior in there, and Chris ended up taking him out of the restaurant twice to calm down, while I stayed with fussy, fussy Sam, so…a restful meal it was not! But delicious, if not restful.

I’ve decided that Christmas is a time for children to turn into psychos. The five days before Christmas were really rather challenging! As much as Theo doesn’t like parts of going to school, I think he needs that predictability and routine. Once he was off school, he went a bit wacky, and there were a lot of early bedtimes to preserve our sanity and his well-being! Luckily, once the excitement of Christmas was over, he settled back down considerably. So we shall let the little tyrant keep his happy home! But wow, it got to a point where I was thinking, “Okay, can Christmas just be over already, so I can get my nice, normal child back?!”

Speaking of nice, though—and so I’m not just ragging on Theo—I have to share a little story. Theo’s teacher recently told me that he has become friendly with a little boy named Devon in his class. She was really happy to see him forming a friendship, as was I. I know Devon from volunteering, and he’s a very nice little boy, but I hadn’t really met his mom—until the retirement-home field trip. While on the field trip, we talked a bit, and she told me she was happy that Devon and Theo were becoming friends. She mentioned that one day, some other kindergartners (from another class on the campus—there are a total of five kindergarten classes on his campus, I believe) were being mean to Devon, and he came home very sad. She said she told him, “Well, but there are really nice kids in your class! Who’s the nicest one in your class?” Evidently he told her, “Theo is! And he’s the funniest, too!” That made me so happy—the nice part, not the funny part, although that doesn’t surprise me in the least, because he is very funny! But I already knew he was funny and nice at home—it was good to hear that he is evidently very nice at school as well! And actually, his teacher had cited that as one of his strengths during our conference—her note on his progress report said, “Theo is always entertaining, kind, and a good friend to all.”

If you know me and Chris at all, you know that kindness is pretty much the most important character trait to us. Above smarts, above wit, above physical characteristics, pretty much above everything, we value kindness. So to hear that our boy is kind—well, that just makes our year! In other words, our boy may be a stinker sometimes, but he’s a nice stinker. So I think we’ll keep him. 😉

On Christmas Eve, I decided to take the nice little stinker to the movies to see Frozen, which I had heard was great. And indeed it was! If you haven’t seen it and if you’ve been interested, I highly recommend it! The plot is good, the characters are fun, the music is lively and entertaining—it’s a great Disney movie. It even held Theo’s interest the whole time, which is quite a feat—most movies only hold his interest for about 40 minutes, tops. After the movie, we stopped for lunch, and then we met Chris and Sam (who had stayed home for a much-needed nap) to play at the park. It was a lovely, low-key Christmas Eve.

We spent Christmas Day at Grandma Kathy and Papa’s house—well, Christmas afternoon/evening, anyway. We spent the morning at our own house, opening presents and playing, and then we headed down there around lunch time. Poor Sam wasn’t feeling well. He held it together, but he was tired and clingy and whiny most of the day. Theo, however, had an excellent day. His favorite gifts appear to be his elevator shirt and his elevator panel—no surprise there! In fact, here’s a little video of him playing with this elevator panel, shortly after receiving it. Theo isn’t the type to show a lot of excitement, so there was no whooping and hollering and screaming when he opened the gift. Instead, he completely tuned out me and Chris for like 10 minutes as he pushed buttons and enacted various scenes with his elevator panel—a true sign that he likes it! He even let Sam touch his beloved panel, which I was surprised about. He’s a generous soul, that one….

Christmas dinner was delicious—Theo ate four helpings of sweet potatoes, which were fantastic. And the turkey was perhaps the best I’ve eaten—must get Papa’s recipe for that! Chris made sautéed kale as a side dish, and that was my other favorite part. I made the same fudge pie I made for Thanksgiving, and that was mighty tasty too.

Wondering what I got for gifts? Chris got me a Living Locket that I designed—which wasn’t a surprise but was something I had really wanted. Living Lockets are relatively new things—they’re necklaces where you get to pick the charms that go inside the glass locket. I picked charms that are all meaningful to me: two birthstones for my boys, a tiny wedding ring to symbolize my marriage, a little charm that says “mom” because obviously I’m a mom, a little paw to symbolize my pugs, an Eiffel Tower to represent my love of travel and one of my favorite places in the world, and a camera to represent my love of photography. I also added a little plate behind the charms that says “Blessed” and a little tag that says “Life is a blessing”—which has become ever more true to me since I’ve had Sam. It turned out lovely, and I’m so pleased with it!

Theo picked out a cupcake ornament for me because I love cupcakes, as well as some slipper-socks with dogs on them. And Chris got me a couple of meaningful pieces of wall art—one says “Think outside the box,” because he knows how fiercely I protect Theo’s quirkiness by emphasizing that it’s not a bad thing to think outside the box. The other says “Write your life story,” because finally, after all this time, I’m a writer—and I do believe that we can write our own destinies to a large extent. And finally, he got me a little print of a pug looking at a cupcake. What’s notable about this? The artist is from Buffalo, NY, and the print is from a larger picture she created for the Buffalo Pug Rescue association! He ordered it off Etsy (a website where artists and creative people sell things they create) because he knows I like to support small businesses whenever I can, and it just so happened that the Buffalo connection was pure coincidence. But I like that, because much of my family is from there!

I wasn’t as creative for Chris as he was for me, I’m afraid. I got him some nice slippers and a few clothing items, and Theo picked out a DVD for them to watch together—Despicable Me, which I’ve heard is very cute.

And Sam got a number of puzzles and trucks/trains/cars. Vehicles are his favorite thing, so that was the theme! His favorite gift, though, I think, is a little “reading chair” toy that he can sit in and listen to songs and rhymes. He loves it!

Speaking of Sam and cars, by the way, he cracks me up! He is signing a lot now, but he doesn’t say many words. He does, however, say “car.” Or rather, “AAAARRRRR!” He sounds just like a pirate when he says it, because he can’t make the /c/ sound, so she just says the last two letters—but loudly and with gusto. So when he sees a car, he’ll blurt out “AAAAARRRRRRRR!” and make the sign for “car.” So the other day, we were lecturing Theo about car safety—he’s being a bit of a stinker about his car seat, and I was putting the fear of god into him by telling him that if he so much as unbuckled his car seat while we were driving, he would lose all TV, iPad, music, and toys for an entire week. (And yes, that would be the longest week of my life, but I don’t care. Safety first—I’m not messing around here!) So as I finished up my spiel with, “You need to be safe in the car!” Sam piped up from the back seat, “AAAAAAARRRRRRR!” It made me laugh out loud—like having a little echo right there, lecturing Theo right along with me!

But anyway, back to our week. Since Christmas, we’ve just been puttering around town, running errands as we please and relaxing as we please. The boys got some Christmas money from Great-Grandma Norma, so we took them to the Lakeshore Learning outlet to pick out some stuff. Theo chose a spin-art machine, which he loves! He’s created some really fun little bits of art with it. I think he likes it because it’s not difficult for him fine-motor-wise, but yet he can create neat, fun pictures with it. Plus, what kid doesn’t like splattering paint around?!

Today, we took some lunch to a park I’ve been wanting to visit—it’s just a little playground next to the control tower at Buchanan Field (the Concord airport). Buchanan is a small airport—mostly little Cessnas and single-engine private planes fly out of there. But occasionally you get a little corporate Lear jet coming or going, which is pretty cool. The park is next to the control tower, and they have a speaker so you can listen to the air-traffic controller and the planes communicating, and the runway is right next to the park as well, so you can watch the planes take off and land. My dad would’ve loved it!! And we had a great time. Sam crawled around exploring, and Theo found two other little boys to play tag with. And we all enjoyed watching the planes—especially the little Lear jet that took off while we were there!

Last but not least, I had an interesting date on Friday. I’ll spare you the long story, but I became acquainted online with two women who live in the area and have special-needs kids. One has a seven-year-old who is on the autism spectrum, and one has a nine-year-old with Down syndrome. (Together they run a little cupcake business, but that’s beside the point—except that cupcakes are awesome!) We had talked a bit about school districts and special needs, and they invited me to come over for coffee so we could talk in more depth. So I did that Friday morning, while Chris took the boys for a little drive.

On the plus side, the women (Shannon and Bernadette) were super nice and gave me so much good information! And probably the highlight for me was meeting Bernadette’s daughter, Lily, who has DS. What a neat girl! She was friendly and charming and fun, but with a nice little bit of attitude sprinkled in. In other words, very much like any nine-year-old girl! Liam, Shannon’s son (who goes to school with Lily), apparently loves Lily, despite her being two years old, because, as he says, “She’s bad—she gets into trouble!” Evidently Ms. Lily has a mischievous streak and likes to stir the pot at school, despite being overall a very nice, friendly girl. Sound like anyone I know well—a certain blond five-year-old?! They must never meet, or they might try to take over the world—ha! (Actually, they did meet at the end, but no world-domination plot emerged.)

On the minus side, the women have not had good experiences with our school district, and they highly recommended that we try to get into the Lafayette district, as it is much, much better for kids with special needs.

So a bit of background here. We’re in the Mt. Diablo district. It’s supposedly an excellent district overall, but it’s huge. And it has good schools and not-so-good schools. And their special-needs programs—well, not so great. Lafayette is a very tiny, very wealthy district. Plus, they have a nonprofit agency in Lafayette that supplements the special-needs program in the Lafayette district, so that money is used for a lot more inclusion efforts and such.

So, we’re renting right now—why not move to Lafayette? Simple: money. The median home price in Clayton, where we live, is $580,000. The median home price in Lafayette is over $1,000,000. I looked up rentals, just out of curiosity, and whereas we pay more than $2,700/month for rent (I know—you’re choking. We choke too. It’s phenomenally expensive here—and we live in the cheap area!), in Lafayette the rents seem to start around $3,600/month and go up. Ouch. I don’t see that happening.

Bernadette was in the Mt. Diablo district when Lily was younger, and she said, “It was okay, but not great.” Evidently, at that time (and I hope this has changed, but somehow I doubt it), Down syndrome was an automatic pass into the “severely handicapped” special-ed class. And there was no option to have your child placed elsewhere. So Lily, who is a very capable young girl, was put into a class with children who couldn’t speak, who couldn’t even lift their heads up in some cases—and who certainly weren’t more-advanced peers to encourage her to work to her fullest potential. (I don’t say this to be cruel or callous, but my understanding, in my relatively recent journey into this world of special needs, is that children with DS do best when placed in a regular classroom—or at the very least when placed with high-functioning children. Because they are capable of quite a bit—their cognitive delays are delays, not inabilities. If they have strong models around, they work to keep up and emulate those models.) And Bernadette fought and fought to get her placed in a high-functioning special-day class (which is what Theo was in—and it’s a place I’d likely feel comfortable putting Sam in), but she was refused at every turn. She finally gave up and moved to Lafayette, where the special-ed classrooms are designed to have mixed abilities, and each child is considered as an individual case when they’re deciding on placement—a child isn’t simply tossed into the “severe” class because she happens to have an extra chromosome.

Bernadette is the second parent of a child with DS I’ve met who’s had a significant problem with the Mt. Diablo district. I met another man a few months ago who actually hired a lawyer to try to argue his case with the district, and he got stonewalled at every turn and finally just gave up and put his son in private school.

So this is disheartening. Because I know a great teacher in Mt. Diablo (Theo’s former teacher, Amanda), and I’d likely be very comfortable having Sam in her class when he turns three (depending on the classroom makeup at that time—but she typically works with the kids who are considered “high functioning”). And so I had thought, “Great—I’ll just lobby for Sam to be put in her class when his care turns over to the district when he turns three.” But now I’m hearing this may not be possible. I hope it is, but I’m nervous…very nervous. When I had talked to Amanda a while back about the possibility of Sam being in her class someday, she had hesitated and said, “In theory it’s possible…” At the time, I thought maybe she just wasn’t entirely comfortable because she doesn’t have a lot of experience with DS. But now I’m wondering if it’s more that she knows how the district works and is questioning whether I can make it happen. Because she loves Sam, so I know it’s not an issue of Sam.

Ugh. I suppose the bright side, possibly, to all of this is that our lease is up two months after Sam starts in the district, so if the district is completely unreasonable about Sam’s placement, perhaps we can try to find a tiny, cheaper place to rent in Lafayette. It would shorten Chris’s commute, which would be great, but wow—it could be a real financial hardship. Yuck.

Bernadette also couldn’t speak highly enough of We Care—the site-based services facility that I mentioned we’ll likely start Sam in sometime soon…when I can loosen the apron strings and let my baby boy go for a few hours a day. (Sob!) She said Lily had a wonderful experience there, and she doesn’t think Lily would be anywhere near where she’s at today if she hadn’t gone there. But she acknowledged that the decision to put her in was very tough—she sat in the parking lot for the first several days after dropping Lily off and cried and cried. She, too, was a stay-at-home mom, and she put it well: “I just never expected it to be this way. My baby girl was supposed to be with me, not in school at age 18 months!” Exactly. That’s it exactly. Plenty of kids are in daycare or whatnot because that’s what their parents planned—and that’s fine. But if you planned to stay home with your child, it’s very hard to let go and give up on your idea of having those first several years with your child at home with you all the time, learning from you and growing in front of your eyes. Hard, hard, hard. But you know, there are certainly harder things in life, so I’ll suck it up and do it. Soon. And I’ll cry a lot. And you’ll get to hear me cry on here. 🙂

Anyway, I suppose I’ve rambled long enough, so I’ll wish you all a Happy New Year, and we’ll be back next weekend with tales from our second week of pure freedom and bliss!

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