June 22, 2014: Viral…and a Wee Blog Format Change

Well, surprisingly, the title of this week’s blog post doesn’t refer to the kind of virus you might think, given how many times our family was sick this past winter. Rather, it refers to a blog post I wrote a week or so ago that unexpectedly ended up all over the Internet. We had a rough week in the Down syndrome community, with three babies tragically passing away, and I decided to write about it because I found myself repeatedly breaking down and crying over them. I guess it struck a chord with people, because the post got shared all over the place. Which is a bit of an odd feeling since this has always been just a very small family/friends blog…but I guess it’s a nice feeling to know that I wrote something that meant something to people. (If you haven’t read the piece and want to, click here. If you want to read the follow-up to it, click here.)

But this unexpected surge in blog interest has led me to decide to make a slight format change. I’ll still be posting weekly updates of the happenings in our family, as I always do, and those entries will still have each Sunday’s date at the beginning. But when I write something that I feel may be read by a wider audience, I won’t tag it with a date at the beginning—and I’ll post on whatever day I write it, not just on Sundays, as I do our weekly updates.

Truthfully, I suspect most of the people who read the piece about Fiona, Ryder, and Annie are probably one-time readers, but I suppose there are some who may loop back around now and then. And it occurred to me that I am coming up on a big event with Sam that could potentially interest people outside of our close group of family and friends: the beginning of his IEP process and transition into the school system. Because we’re going against our district’s usual plan and intend to insist on full inclusion (which I’m told will be quite a fight), I have a feeling I may have things to share as we go through that process. I know that I’ve certainly learned a lot about that process from other parents who’ve gone through it (and written about it), so maybe I can “pay it forward” by detailing some of what happens in our process on the blog.

Also, I’m planning to participate in a summer “blog hop” on subjects related to disability, just for fun and to stretch my writing muscles. (Now that I’m actually getting hired to write books, I’m having fun experimenting with different types of writing! If you want to read the first Blog Hop post, click here.)

So anyway, if you’re a loyal weekly reader, this just means there will likely be extra posts some weeks—without dates on them. And if you’re a person who just drops by now and then to see whether there’s anything of interest, you can look for the entries without dates to find entries targeting a specific topic (rather than just a summary of our weekly activities, along with cute pictures of my boys!).

Anyway! Back to our regularly scheduled program… It’s been 10 days or so since I provided an update, since our last one was our super-long vacation wrap-up, so I have lots to share! First and foremost…a drum roll, please! Mr. Theo has officially completed kindergarten and is on to first grade in late August!! Did you wonder if it would happen? Ha! Nah, we knew he’d graduate, despite his best efforts to “get fired” from kindergarten.

We actually got back from our vacation when he had only three days of kindergarten left, and those three days were full of fun, end-of-the-year activities. His teacher let him bring some pictures from our trip in to share with the class, and she sent me an email after his presentation saying she was extremely impressed by how much information he remembered about the trip! Another parent who was volunteering when he did his presentation said it was really interesting and informative—apparently he told them all about muskets and swords and cannons and Colonial times and all that good stuff. I wish I could’ve been there to hear it!

Now Theo is on to day camp. He goes every day—I drop him off after I drop Sam at Early Intervention, and then I pick him up after Sam wakes up from his nap. Which actually gives me a lot of work time during the day, and has led to a wonderful shift in the dynamic of the Small household!

You see, for six years, Chris and I have been playing an elaborate game of Childcare Tradeoff. Chris has largely worked a regular workday, and I’ve worked in the early mornings, before the boys wake up, and when Sam naps (which has led to Theo getting way more screen time than I would like, because it’s the only way to keep him quiet and occupied while Sam sleeps and I work). And then, Chris would walk in the door after being gone for 11 1/2 hours, and I would promptly hand over the boys and head upstairs to work until 9 p.m. At that point, Chris and I would collapse in our chairs to watch 45 minutes or so of television before falling asleep.

I wouldn’t say it was an entirely bad system, because it enabled both of us to be really hands-on with the boys, and at least one of us has been there for every milestone and exciting development the boys have made. Plus, it’s saved us a fortune on outside childcare. However, it was a tiring system, and during the week Chris and I barely saw each other or spent any time together at all. And we spent no time together as a family of four during the week. Not the most desirable setup ever….

So now, with me able to work for several hours in the morning and while Sam naps, in theory I no longer have to work when Chris gets home! From 5:30 to 7, we can hang out as a family of four, and then the boys can go to bed and Chris and I can have some time together. Bliss!

I do say “in theory” about this because we were hit with $4,000 worth of unexpected car costs this week (joy), and we have to pay for those somehow, so…there may be some night work for me for a few more months after all. But at least the end is in sight! It will be nice to have a more normal schedule, whenever it happens.

And Theo is really enjoying day camp. Some of the kids there are a little…aggressive, I suppose. But he seems to be handling it well, and the teachers all seem very attentive and on-the-ball. I think it just comes with the large mixed age group. The camp only has about 60 kids, but they range in age from five to about ten or twelve, so Theo is definitely among the youngest. But there are a lot of kids close to his age, and his BFF, Gavin, will be attending with him starting in another 10 days or so.

The other bonus to day camp is that it gives him something to do during the day that is not watching TV. We’re not anti-TV around here, but he was getting more screen time than we wanted, given the need for him to be quiet during Sam’s nap. Now, he’s at camp during Sam’s nap. They do play some video games sometimes at camp, so it’s not a screen-free environment, but I’m fine with that. Everything in moderation… I just didn’t want him spending all summer bugging me about watching TV because he was bored or whatnot. At camp, they have enough other activities that he keeps pretty busy making bracelets (I have three already!), making other crafts, playing outside, doing water activities, going on field trips, etc.

We were actually wanting to cut down on TV because of some attitude issues. I’m not going to go into detail, because I feel like Theo’s getting to the age where he probably needs a little more privacy about things that are challenging for him, but a lot of the shows he was interested in seemed to be encouraging him to adopt a rather snotty attitude that we didn’t like. So we’re hoping this summer at day camp will get him out of that routine/attitude.

In other Theo news, he’s also doing swim lessons. I was very excited to see that the little fish can still swim this year! As you know if you’re a longtime blog reader, swimming doesn’t exactly come naturally to Theo. He loves to play in the water, but he’s so high-strung that he wasn’t relaxing enough to be able to swim effectively. But by the end of last summer, he was swimming the breaststroke reasonably well for a five-year-old. I thought we might be starting at zero this summer, but no—he actually remembers it and is doing very well. Next week, in fact, we start his second stroke: freestyle! I’m going to try to post a quick video of him swimming a short distance, but YouTube is being finicky, so it may not work. Anyway, here goes:

Let’s see, what else? We’ve had two weekends since I updated the blog (other than the two non-update posts I mentioned), and I honestly can’t remember everything we did last weekend. I do remember that for Father’s Day, Chris chose to take the boys to the Lawrence Hall of Science, which is always fun. Sam really has a lot of fun anywhere that he can toddle around, and Theo is old enough to be quite interested in the experiments. We also had Indian food for lunch and then went to a new ice-cream place that makes your ice cream on the spot, freezing it with liquid nitrogen. (It didn’t turn out to be all that exciting. The ice cream was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Still, it was fun to try a new place.)

Chris and I also celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary! (Hey, aren’t I supposed to be getting an itch about now?!) We went to Thai food for lunch, since both boys were at camp/Early Intervention, and that was a nice treat. It’s fairly rare that we get to have a date!

But as it turns out, we had two dates this week. Yesterday was the annual Genentech Gives Back charity concert, and we were lucky enough to score a babysitter for the boys! (Shhhh, Theo will kill us if he finds out we left him out of that one!) Grandma Kathy and Papa were originally going to watch the boys, but Great-Grandma Norma had a health setback this week, so they weren’t able to. Luckily, Superwoman Auntie Jeanette stepped in and saved the day, cheerfully coming over with her son, Justin, to watch the boys. I’m told Theo and Justin played like crazy people all day, and Sam took a nice, long nap in the middle of it. And Theo, of course, treated Auntie Jeanette to an AC/DC concert, much to her delight! So now we pretty much owe Auntie Jeanette our next-born child. Except given that she has a very active two-year-old right now, I’m thinking she’d be just as happy to pass on that. 😉

Anyway, the concert was so much fun! Theo would’ve loved to go, but he only stays interested for a couple of hours, and it’s an all-day event, so we were glad to go on our own and have a date. Genentech’s slogan for this event (or maybe for their entire company—I’m not sure) is “Work Hard. Play Hard. Give Back.” And boy, do they ever. When Chris has a deadline, he’s working like crazy! But when things are slow, the company is awesome about encouraging employees to relax and take a breather. And the “Give Back” concert is a party like no other! I always sort of expect a corporate event to be a bit stodgy, but it’s pretty much the furthest thing from stodgy. They rent out AT&T Park (where the San Francisco Giants play) for the day, and you get all the free food you want (we had Italian sausages and garlic fries—yum!), and all the free beer and wine you want (ha ha, Theo would’ve loved that!). There were huge bouncy houses and slides for the kids, plus they brought in a Ferris wheel for the day! (We both hate Ferris wheels, so I can’t say we took advantage of that, but it’s still a cool idea.) The highlight of the event is the concert—each year they have three or four mystery performers, and you don’t find out who they are until they come onstage (well, usually—more on that in a moment). And the performers are pretty big names—in the past they’ve had Elton John, Bob Dylan, the Eagles, etc.

So this year, Chris and I spent days speculating about who it might be. And of all the performers we named…it was none of them! The first was Colbie Caillat, who is a fairly well-known adult-contemporary singer/songwriter. She’s perhaps best known as the daughter of the man who produced Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album. Given that Chris is a huge Fleetwood fan, he finds this very cool. 🙂 But she’s a good singer in her own right, and we enjoyed her show.

The second performer was Foo Fighters. In case you’re not familiar with grunge rock, they’re a popular grunge band that formed 20 years ago after the lead singer of Nirvana (Kurt Cobain) committed suicide. I actually do like some grunge rock, so I was excited to see them perform—their show was really good, and Theo would’ve loved it because it was, as he would put it, “very rock-and-roll.” I had to laugh, though, because at one point the drummer made some joking reference to “our other band, the Holy Shits,” and the lead singer quickly said, “Dude! This is a family event!” at which point the guy said, “Oh, I meant the Holy Poops! Sorry about that!” Made me laugh—it’s pretty much the last thing I expect to hear at a corporate event.

Alas, the Foo Fighters gave away the third performer. Two songs into their set, the lead singer (Dave Grohl) was talking about being invited to perform for the event, and he commented, “We said yes because we wanted to play with Usher!”

So there ya go…Usher was the third performer. We didn’t stay to see him because we didn’t want to strand Auntie Jeanette for too long with the boys, and neither of us is an R&B fan, but I’ve heard that Usher is a pretty awesome performer, so I’m sure he was a hit with the crowd.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to it again next year! What a party…

We wrapped up the weekend by going to a meetup with some friends from the Down Syndrome Connection. There’s an informal playgroup that meets one day a month at various parks in the region, and today they met at a park up in the Oakland hills, among the redwoods. It was wonderful—much cooler than Clayton, and Sam had fun going down the slides and trotting around the playground while Theo and Chris took a little hike in the cool redwood forest. On the way home, we stopped for some lunch and delicious ice cream at Lottie’s. Mmmmm! Now that is good ice cream! They make it with all local ingredients, and it is really outstanding. Today, I had a scoop of chocolate with candied kumquat and a scoop of oatmeal cookie. Chris had a scoop of apricot crumble and a scoop of vanilla salted almond toffee. And Theo had strawberry lemonade sorbet. Sam mooched bites from Chris and me. 🙂

So that brings you up to speed! Apologies that almost all of this week’s pictures are of Sam—I had the camera on the playground while Chris and Theo were off hiking, so I didn’t get many of Theo. Next week…

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