Feb 1, 2015: The Big Day Is Looming!

The big day is almost here—can you believe it? My baby boy turns three this week!! How is that even possible? I just brought him home from the hospital, like, yesterday!

In honor of the big boy’s upcoming birthday (sniff!), we spent today (Saturday) at Train Town in Sonoma. Sam loves all things that go, but lately trains are his absolute favorite. So it seemed a fitting thing to do in celebration of his birthday. His actual birthday, of course, is Wednesday, but since there’s not much we can do in the middle of the week, we decided to celebrate it informally today.

We don’t always do parties for the boys (Theo’s had two, and Sam hasn’t had any yet), but we always try to do something we think they’ll like to make the day special. So on Wednesday we’ll do cake and presents, but we did the event today. And although the guest of honor was a little worn out, given that we arrived there right at his naptime, he still had a good time running around and wreaking havoc. 🙂 We took a train ride, Theo rode a couple of rides, and we just generally had a lazy ol’ time there, which the boys were perfectly happy with. Theo’s actually getting a little old for Train Town, but he was a good sport!

Speaking of trains, I’m trying to do a train scene for Sam’s cake on Wednesday, so I had thought to buy a couple of toy trains to put on a “track” that I create on top of the cake. And holy moly, I learned just how pricey train stuff is! On to Plan B: I hit up our local “treasures” board and am waiting to see if anyone has a couple of old toy train pieces they want to unload for a few bucks. I refuse to spend $35 on cake toppers!

Don’t ask me why I’m even making a cake, given that His Highness undoubtedly will refuse to eat it. But somehow it just seems that a birthday boy needs a cake, whether he eats it or not, so a cake he shall have! Besides, Theo never met a cake he didn’t like, so I’m sure he’ll eat it.

I’m also doing cupcakes for Sam’s class. He graduates from his EI program on his birthday (WAHHHHHH!!!!), and they do a little celebration for the kids. I will be bawling; I can tell you that right now. But at least there will be cupcakes to console me. 😉

Speaking of Sam, we finally had his dreaded IEP meeting this week. I wrote a separate blog post about it; you can read it by clicking here. It wasn’t terribly eventful, but we’re headed into legal action, as I knew we would be. Ah well.

Speaking of schooling…Theo had a day off on Monday! It was a teacher in-service day or some such thing, so he had the day off. Sam didn’t, which meant Theo and I got to have a little mommy-son date! I thought he’d have big plans for it, but he just wanted to go to the park in our town and then get lunch. This suited me just fine, as I didn’t particularly feel like driving anywhere anyway. So off to the park we went…but it was deserted. That’s a little dull, so I convinced him to take a walk along a paved nature trail we hadn’t yet explored. It was a gorgeous morning, and we had a lovely, leisurely stroll. We walked for about ¾ of a mile, then turned around and headed back. And on our way back, guess what we saw? A coyote! Just lazing in the sun, minding his own business. We watched him for a while, and he eventually got up and trotted away down the creek when a boy walking a large dog came along.

That’s one thing I love about where we live: the wildlife. Even though we’re in the suburbs, it’s a pretty rural suburb by California standards, so we get a lot of wildlife. Wild turkeys are all over our neighborhood at certain times of the year, and they are hilarious! They’re rather self-righteous, pompous-acting birds—it cracks me up! They get offended if you want them to move. We get quails, too, which I love. We have bobcats, though I rarely see them. I saw one when I had Theo at the park when we first moved here, but they usually stay hidden. We have coyotes (obviously!). Raccoons. Tons of squirrels. Lots of birds. Mice… It’s really very cool. I could do without the tarantulas and the rattlesnakes, but so far I’ve only come across one tarantula (a baby…in our garage…EEEEEK!!!) and no rattlesnakes, so that’s reassuring. I know they’re out there, but they stay pretty well hidden. Though if you hike on Mt. Diablo during certain times of the year, there are so many tarantulas migrating that supposedly it looks like the field are moving. Given that this is pretty much my idea of a horror show, I stay off the mountain during that month. 🙂

Anyway, after our walk Theo decided he wanted to go to Subway for lunch. It’s one of his favorite restaurants. I don’t think it’s all that exciting, but it’s relatively cheap and reasonably healthy, so I was game for it. I got a sandwich and Theo had his usual spinach salad with pickles (don’t ask me—he loves pickles on salad!), bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I insisted that he add some protein to it, so he picked salami. As it happened, one of the Odyssey of the Mind moms came in right then and was marveling over Theo’s healthy lunch choice, but I couldn’t possibly be smug about it because she knows full well that my other son has been known to survive on bacon and potato chips. 🙂 Such a contrast, those two—Theo would happily be a bacon-eating vegetarian (he does love his bacon…), and Sam prefers to exist on fat and salt. Sigh…

Theo also had his spell-a-thon this week (thanks for supporting him, Grandma Diane and Grandma Kathy and Papa!). He brought home the notice about it a couple of weeks ago, and Chris said to me privately, “I don’t think spelling is going to be his thing—he’s a sight reader.” I then reminded Chris that I, too, am/was a sight reader—and I also happened to be a spelling-bee champ back in the day! So I was pretty sure Theo would do just fine. As it happened, we then forgot to have him study his spelling words. Completely forgot…until the night before. Because we’re awesome, well-prepared parents like that. 😉 Anyway, I tested Theo the night before, and he got 49 out of 50 words right. So I guess our little sight-reader does okay on spelling, just like his mama. 🙂

The thing is, I don’t know if this is true of all sight-readers, but I actually see the word in my mind, and then I just “read” the letters out loud as I see them. So if you asked me to spell “cat,” the word “cat” would appear before my eyes, as black text (an Arial-type sans serif font, specifically) on a white background, and I would simply read to you c-a-t. So for me, spelling is easy if I’ve seen the word once, because from that point forward it is always in my brain, printed in black text on a white card. (Unless it’s the word vacuum, which for some reason I always have to look up!) My downfall in the sixth-grade county spelling bee was the word “laureate” because it wasn’t on the list and I had never seen it written before. Because I hadn’t ever seen it, I had to go with phonics and my knowledge of similar-sounding words and try to spell it, and I spelled it “loriette.” And so ended my spelling-bee career….

I don’t know whether this picturing the word in front of my eyes is a sight-reader thing or a visual-learner thing, but that’s how I do it. It’s why tests were pretty easy for me, too—I could picture the page on which an answer was written and simply “read” the page in my mind to find it. I consider myself very lucky to have been born with that skill, because it certainly made school life much easier. I thought everyone thought this way, but then somewhere along the way my mom said, “Are you nuts? Not everyone thinks in pictures!” I was pretty surprised…but Chris confirmed it and said he does not, either. So I’m curious to see whether Theo does. He has, on occasion, told me that he “watches movies behind his eyes,” so I think he might…but when I’ve tried to ask him more about it, he pulls a Theo and changes the subject. 🙂 Anyway, who knows—perhaps he, too, saw the words for his spell-a-thon in his head.

Speaking of which, in case you might wonder where Theo comes by his autisticky-ness from, that might be me. 🙂 You’ve probably heard of Temple Grandin—probably the most famous person with autism currently living. HBO made a movie about her life sometime back. I haven’t watched it, but I keep meaning to. Anyway, she has a book called Thinking in Pictures (which someday I will get around to reading), and it starts like this:

I THINK IN PICTURES. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, visual thinking is a tremendous advantage.

I totally get that. It’s exactly how I think. I wonder if it’s how Theo thinks, too. Who knows? My mom told me once that she thought it sounded like an exhausting way to live, but honestly, because I’ve never known any different, it is completely natural to me. And it’s a really neat way to live, because my mind is full of pictures all the time! Of course, it can be problematic if there’s something troubling in your life—there are certain things you don’t want to see. But in general, I have to say that I like thinking in pictures. It hasn’t done me wrong….

Speaking of autism, by the way, I wrote a short piece about that, too. Click here to read it. Theo’s reassessment is coming up in a little over a week, so it’s been on my mind….

I’m going to sign off for the week! Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, and I’ll be on my own with the boys and thus will have no blogging time, so I’m posting this on Saturday. Chris will be going down to watch the game with his family, and I will be purposely avoiding the game because there’s very little I detest more than televised football games. I think the boys and I will shop for cake-makings and then have a nice, quiet afternoon at the park instead.

But as an added bonus this week, you get two fun little Sam videos! In one he debuts his newest spoken word. The other is just a short clip of him that cracked me up when I was writing this blog. He was sitting on my lap while I was working on this week’s pictures, and I had part of the screen devoted to Signing Time video clips on YouTube, which he adores. Every time one would end, he’d say “Leah! Leah!” and sign “Leah” (one of the stars of Signing Time). And then he would get his groove on. 🙂

Stay tuned next weekend for stories of Sam’s graduation, birthday, and adventures at his new school! Plus, Theo’s Pinewood Derby for the Cub Scouts. 🙂

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