May 17, 2015: Happy Birthday, Chris!

Okay, it’s not Chris’s birthday yet, but we kind of celebrated already. His real birthday is Monday, but we both have to work, the boys have school, and there’s just not much time for merrymaking. So we have mostly done our celebrating this weekend, although he’ll still get his presents on Monday (and have some sort of yummy dessert, if I’m feeling ambitious).

We celebrated two days, actually. On Friday night, Sam’s school was doing a fundraiser where you could bring your kids for four hours of babysitting for a reasonable cost. Babysitting, you say?! Yes, please!! We jumped at the chance. The boys had a blast, too, and were still going strong when we picked them up at 9:45pm. I’m told they had pizza for dinner and baked cookies for dessert, and they made popcorn later in the evening. They did crafts and played freeze tag outside, which Theo thought was really fun. The teachers there are wonderful with Theo (he’s often with me when I pick up Sam), so he enjoys going. There was a six-year-old there, too, so he wasn’t the only “big kid.” Actually, the six-year-old apparently goes to Theo’s school, and Theo informed us, very deadpan, that this kid “was not being a very good listener.” Oops! 🙂

Speaking of Theo and deadpan, I must share a little story because it makes me laugh every time I think of it. If you’ve met Theo, you know that he sometimes has a very deadpan delivery of things, which is part of what makes him so darn funny. On this particular occasion, Sam was being a real pill and throwing fits about eating. So I muttered under my breath to Chris, “He’s being a shit!” (Okay, don’t judge. I realize he looks like an angel, but he really can be a shit when he wants to be! Don’t be fooled by the innocent face!) I hadn’t thought Theo could hear me, but he announced, in a total deadpan voice, “Shit’s not a nice word, Mommy. But you know who is a shit? My friend Richard.” Chris and I burst out laughing—Theo was just so matter-of-fact about it! And for the record, I have no idea who Richard is…but apparently he’s a shit. 😉

Anyway, back to Friday night… After dropping the boys off for babysitting, we headed to a local seafood restaurant that had been highly recommended. Oh my goodness, was it ever tasty! We ordered a lot of food because we rarely get to go out to “nice” restaurants, so it was a real treat! We each started with an appetizer—I had oysters on the half shell that were absolutely perfect, and Chris had fish tacos (also very tasty). Then we each had a cup of clam chowder, which we both agreed was probably the best chowder we’ve ever had. So smooth and creamy and delicious! Then Chris had king salmon with a side of some sort of beet dish (which ended up being one of his favorite parts of the meal—the beets were delicious!), and I had steamed mussels and clams in a lemon, butter, garlic, and wine broth. Then they brought Chris a crème brulee for his birthday, and we also split a warm fudge brownie with peanut butter ice cream, chocolate sauce, and chopped peanuts. So good! Oh, and I had a mai tai that really packed a wallop! I’m kind of a lightweight, though, so one drink of almost anything packs a wallop for me. (Which is odd, because I’m certainly not physically a lightweight!)

It was a fantastic dinner, and we had a wonderful time, except that I got sick right as we left the restaurant. It wasn’t the food—it was a gluten attack. I just haven’t had one in a while, so it was surprising to get one. I usually take a dietary supplement when I’m going to eat gluten, and that is enough to allow me to digest it without getting sick. And I did take the supplement, but for some reason I got a gluten attack anyway. So I spent the rest of the evening lying down in a great deal of pain. But hey—before that happened, it was a wonderful date. 🙂

On Saturday, I made Chris decide what we’d do, since we were celebrating his birthday. He decided he wanted to take Theo on a tour of the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier docked in Oakland. I had been on the tour years ago, but it was fun to go again. I actually expected to end up waiting in the parking lot with Sam, who is at an age where he’s difficult to take places, but he was actually reasonably content to ride on my back in the Ergo, and he even fell asleep around his naptime on my back, so I got to enjoy seeing the ship, too. Theo really seemed to enjoy it. We didn’t do a docent-led tour because we weren’t sure how long the boys would last, so we just poked around the ship on our own.

Afterward, Chris wanted frozen custard (which I never turn down), so we went to Rita’s and had yummy little sundaes. Mmmmm! We always get Theo an Italian ice there, since dairy is questionable for him (he seems to be outgrowing his allergy, but some things still give him a little trouble), and so I got Sam an Italian ice, too. I got Sam coconut because I figured he wouldn’t eat it, and I like coconut…but the little monkey ended up eating almost the whole thing! I find it funny that one of my sons (Theo) will eat almost anything except coconut, which he despises, and my other son (Sam) will eat almost nothing…but he likes coconut! Go figure…

Speaking of food…we have a new stove! I can’t remember whether I mentioned that Grandma Diane’s housewarming present to us was a new stove/oven. This house had a functional 22-year-old stove/oven, but it was electric, and my mom knows we like cooking with gas. So she offered to buy us a gas stove…but we had no gas line to the kitchen. We looked into having one run, but it was going to be $900, and they weren’t even sure they could do it. (There’s a big support beam that runs under our house in that area and makes it very hard to do any work under there. We found that out when we needed to have some plumbing work done before we moved in.) So my mom suggested that we look into induction to see what we thought of it. Neither of us knew much of anything about it, but we were intrigued. We read about it online and then went to a local appliance store, where the salesman said, “I would go with induction over gas any day. Here’s why…” Then he went on to show us why he loves induction, which apparently he’s had himself for six years…and we were sold.

If you’re not familiar with induction stoves, basically the pan heats up, not the burner (sounds weird, I know—has something to do with magnets, I think). And it heats up incredibly fast—I’m not joking when I say you can boil a cup of water in 45 seconds. It’s incredible! Chris boiled an entire pot of pasta water the other night in about four minutes. But because the pan heats up and not the burner, here’s the other cool thing—the minute you remove the pan from the burner, the burner cools down. Within a few seconds, you can put your hand on it, and it will only be mildly warm to the touch. Within a minute or two, it’s completely cool. This was very appealing to us now that Sam is tall enough to put his hands on the stove—and he’s a very grabby three-year-old!

Because of the way induction heats, it’s also supposed to be more energy-efficient than regular electric or even gas. And it’s much cleaner to cook with than gas—we loved our gas stove in our rental house, but scrubbing off the burners was kind of a pain. This just wipes perfectly clean.

Also because of the way it heats, it’s very easy to control the level of heat—as with gas, you can turn down the burner and immediately start cooling your food. It’s not like regular electric, where it takes a while for the burner to cool down, so your food continues cooking at a high temperature.

Really, the only downside to the induction stove is that you need to use special pans to cook on it. Stainless steel works best, and you can use cast iron if you’re careful with it. But aluminum doesn’t work, and much of the nonstick cookware on the market doesn’t work. Chris didn’t mind buying a new set of Calphalon to cook with, though. We found a set at a reasonable price on Amazon, so all is well.

Chris is in looooove with this stove. He’s cooked on it for several nights now, and he’s positively gleeful about it. He actually likes it better than the gas stove (and far better than the electric) because it cooks just as well as a gas stove, but it’s easier to clean. And his cooking time is much less because of how quickly it heats. The induction stove is to Chris what Roomba is to me—his new best friend. 🙂

Anyway, now that the stove is in, you’ll see some pictures of the kitchen in this week’s gallery. Someday, we’d love to replace the stained-grout countertop with a solid surface, and we’d love to paint or reface the cabinets to white or cream or something, but that’s a future project.

I’ve also included a few pictures of the backyard. I’ve found a new therapy: pulling ivy! We’ve done much of the trimming that we can for the moment—we need the tree guy to come do the bigger stuff before we can do much more. He’s coming on Friday, and in the meantime we’ve set to work yanking out ivy. Such good therapy! You grab onto a piece and pull out a huge strand…it’s incredibly satisfying! I suspect we’ll be fighting the return of ivy for many years, but it certainly is therapeutic to pull it out now. We’re also forever raking the years of leaves in the backyard, and every time we pull out some ivy, there are more leaves to be raked. Under the leaves I keep finding old, decayed tree branches that must’ve fallen long ago and then been covered by a few years of leaves. It’s like a treasure hunt!

I know very little about gardening (and my aunt can correct me if I’m wrong here!), but I’m hopeful that when we finish clearing the yard, we’ll actually have some nice, nutrient-rich soil to work with. It certainly has had its own layer of “mulch” for some years, and I’m hoping that sort of natural “circle of life” has resulted in some soil that will grow things nicely. It certainly has managed to grow weeds and trees and ivy well!

We’re debating what to do with the yard. We originally wanted to revive the lawn, but California is in a serious drought right now, and I’m pretty sure we’d be shot on sight if anyone saw us putting in a lawn. 😉 We definitely want a veggie garden, but it remains to be seen whether we’ll put in any grass seed or whether we’ll do something else with the rest of the space. Hmmm…

Switching gears, our one big event of the week was Theo’s IEP meeting. I hadn’t realized it, but this was his triennial meeting, which means he got the full battery of assessments again. Usually they just get reports from his teacher and OT, and they set up goals based on that. But since it had been three years since his original assessment, it was time for a new one.

It was a good meeting. Honestly, there weren’t many surprises…and the surprises there were were just more interesting than anything else. Overall, he’s doing well. His handwriting with his OT is excellent. His handwriting in class…not so much. It’s definitely improved over the year, but it’s still not nearly as good as when he’s with his OT. His teacher and the OT think this is mostly because he’s distracted in class. He remains highly distractible, which is no surprise to us. Focus is definitely something he struggles with unless it’s a topic of his choosing. If it’s something he doesn’t really want to do…well, he’s easily distracted. Aren’t we all?!

His behavior in class is apparently pretty decent. His teacher was very calm and said, “Well, you know, he makes loud, distracting noises, but he can’t help that. It’s almost like an involuntary tic. So we just keep reminding him to be quiet, and he never argues about it—he quiets down as soon as I tell him.” This was no surprise to us—it’s what we refer to as his “verbal stimming,” and some days it’s more pronounced than others. (On the bad days, I go to bed with my brain rattling…) I was just glad that his teacher seemed pretty calm about the whole thing and didn’t see it as a problem. I hope his second-grade teacher will be similarly tolerant. And I really hope that someday he outgrows it…but for the moment, all we can do is keep reminding him to be quiet when he starts whooping and hooting and making weird sounds.

Theo scored average almost across the board on everything on his assessments—even things that have to do with intelligence. I have realized that he’s not a particularly good test-taker. He is so darn smart—and honestly, I don’t just say that because I’m his mother. Pretty much every adult who meets him comments on the fact that he’s extremely smart. And yet he scores just average on tests. So I think he’s the classic bright student who doesn’t test well. And that’s fine—some kids test better than others, and I don’t think tests are a particularly accurate measure of intelligence or potential. But as usual, he scored “Superior” on language. It’s kind of funny—he’s actually on the low end of average on many, many things they test for…but then he’s nearly off the charts in language. Maybe this is why he’s so effective at arguing. 😉

The interesting thing about the assessments was where he scored low. There were a couple of areas that were no surprise to us—areas having to do with visual-spatial things like puzzles and mazes. He has always struggled in that area, and he still does. But there was a new area where he scored extremely low—he was actually only in the second percentile, meaning 98 percent of students his age are better skilled in this particular area. Curious what it is? Filling in missing sounds. Apparently they gave him a bunch of spoken words that were missing sounds, and he was supposed to figure out the word. For example, they’d say “dirty,” but they’d leave out the “R” sound. And he was supposed to tell them what word they were trying to say. He couldn’t do it. (And actually, he apparently announced, “This makes no sense at all.” That’s my Theo! Never one to sugarcoat the truth…) So apparently what this result suggests is that if he’s not fully listening to the teacher when she explains something, his brain likely doesn’t fill in the missing information. His teacher agreed that this does seem to be the case in class, and she has worked around it by going up to him individually after instruction has been given and asking him if he understands what he’s supposed to do. Apparently she frequently gives him the instructions a second time, so he understands.

So as with all of these tests, it really doesn’t mean much of anything—but it’s useful information to have for when his teachers or us are trying to direct him about something. He may only be catching part of what we say, so we may need to fill in the gaps a little better.

The other amusement came when they told us that during the math assessment, Theo got bored and decided to just answer 8 for every question. That cracked me up! I can just imagine him thinking, “I like the number 8. This is boring. I’m just going to write 8.” Oh, he is so my son in some ways!

Anyway, it’s all good. We’re in the home stretch this year, and his IEP has been updated to include a couple of more minor things that they hope will help him as he moves through second grade and into third. (They keep telling me that third grade is when it gets rough. That doesn’t exactly make me look forward to third grade, I must say.) And Theo managed to make it until May before proclaiming that he hates school. Last year, he only made it until January. This is progress! 😉

Oh, and we learned that Casanova apparently is the apple of a few girls’ eyes. The assessors were amused by the attention a few of the girls pay him. Clearly, he gets his suave ways with the ladies from Chris. 😉

Okay, in case you’re wondering why the blog is up on Saturday when I usually post on Sunday, it’s because I have plans on Sunday! A friend of mine and her boyfriend are coming up during the day to chat about the house. Her boyfriend has renovated several houses and loves talking shop, so they’re coming up to visit with us and so we can pick his brain about our renovations. And then I’m heading out in the evening to go see Where Hope Grows, which happens to star a man with Down syndrome. I’m so excited to have a few local friends who wanted to go see it with me!

So, that’s our week! Hope you all are well! And before I leave you with the image gallery, here’s a cute video of Sam saying his new word: Mommeeeeeee! (Sorry for the Al Bundy hand down his pants—he had a loaded diaper I needed to change!)

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