Nov 16, 2014: And So It Begins…

And so it begins…cold and flu season! Blah! I spent the last half of this week sick. Fever and sore throat and aches and chills and all that good stuff on Thursday…and then the lingering effects over the weekend. I even had no voice for part of Sunday, which left poor Chris in charge of all the parenting. 🙂 But actually, I’m mostly just relieved that the boys don’t seem to have gotten it (not yet, anyway!), and even my bout wasn’t too bad. I’m so desperate to avoid another year like last year, when Sam and I were endlessly sick with a variety of viruses and the flu, that I’ve taken to using essential oils and elderberry syrup to ward off germs. My sister has gotten very involved in essential oils and hooked me up with some immunity blends and such, so I’ve been diffusing that in the house for all of us, and then applying a very diluted amount to the soles of Sam’s feet every morning. I have to say, Sam and Chris are the only two in the house who haven’t been sick yet this year, so there may be something to be said for it. Perhaps I should start applying the oils to Theo’s and my feet, too. (I just did Sam’s because Sam is the one who tends to get sick the most often. Chris rarely gets sick, and other than last year I rarely do either. And Theo is generally pretty healthy, too. So I’ve been focusing a lot on keeping Sam healthier this year. But maybe I should start using the oils on Theo’s and my feet, too!)

I’ve heard a lot of people say a daily teaspoon of elderberry syrup will help immunity and will make colds shorter/less severe, so I’ve been doing that with the boys. Theo is great about taking it (he likes the gummy version), and Sam is not such a fan. But he takes it grudgingly, so hopefully that will help him, too.

Anyway, in my feverish state on Thursday, I had to review that difficult editing test I had taken for a second interview on Friday. I was afraid I’d blow the interview because I wasn’t sure I had really gotten much out of my Thursday review of the material—I was feeling so lousy that it was hard to concentrate. But I think it went fine. I was upfront with the publisher about having been sick while reviewing it, so perhaps he cut me a little slack. 🙂 Anyway, we had a nice half-hour chat, and while he didn’t say “you’re hired,” he seemed pleased and told me the next person I’d hear from would be Maureen Such-and-Such. Given that he’s the publisher and thus probably doesn’t have a boss I’d need to interview with, I’m assuming this Maureen may be an HR person or something?? Anyway, cross your fingers. If I did indeed get the work, it should fill in nicely the giant, gaping hole in income left by Cengage. I’m a little nervous because it’s not an easy job (the material is very technical), but I think maybe I’m my own worst critic, too. Even though the work sounds quite challenging, it would certainly take a financial load off of our minds, and we could continue paying down the debts we’ve been working on. (Three down, three to go!! We’re on a roll!!)

In other news, I visited a potential preschool for Sam. On paper, it sounds great—flexible schedule that I can adjust to fit his therapy/nap schedule nicely; Montessori curriculum, but with a little more teacher direction than some Montessori schools, which I think would benefit Sam; measured progress, which would appease the district; and a reasonably convenient location. Plus, they already have a child with Down syndrome in their program, and one of their teachers is fluent in sign language (and the other two teachers know some signing as well). But for some reason, I just didn’t get a warm feeling about it for Sam. I think because it was very calm and controlled—to the point that I wasn’t seeing any kid joy. The kids didn’t seem unhappy in any way—just quiet and orderly. And not that I think there’s anything wrong with quiet and orderly, but they’re three- and four-year-olds, and I’m used to kids of that age being fairly enthusiastic. And Sam positively radiates joy and enthusiasm, so I don’t necessarily like to think of him in an environment where he’d be expected to be quiet and serious most of the time, if that makes sense. He’s really not a serious kid by nature—he loves to laugh and is bubbly and energetic, and I don’t want to snuff that out of him. So I haven’t ruled out that Montessori, but I definitely liked the home-based preschool in Clayton I saw better. The kids there seemed to be having more fun. They were all playing nicely together and doing a variety of things, but it wasn’t a sort of creepy-quiet—it was good kid fun.

Anyway, I have another school to visit on Wednesday. It is highly recommended and sounds great, but it’s already full. However, if I really like it, I can always try to enroll him for fall. I’m not quite sure what we’d do from February (when he ages out of EI) to September, but it’s an option. I’m also going to visit the state-run preschool and see what I think of that. It’s on the same campus as his EI, so one advantage would be that he knows and loves a lot of people there already.

I have a list of other schools to call, too. But I got discouraged after calling one, so I put off calling any more. I had talked to people at four preschools, and all were willing to consider having Sam as a student if it seemed like a good fit. And remember how I said it was going to be hard for me to hear the polite refusal that I knew would come at some point? Well, it came…and it was hard to hear. The hard part about it was that they didn’t even ask me anything about Sam—anything about what he can do, what sort of program we think would be a good fit for him, whether he could do the things they expect from incoming kids, or anything. The minute the woman heard “Down syndrome,” she just immediately told me no. She was polite but said no. And so what hurt was that she didn’t even give him a chance—she just made a decision based on a diagnosis, knowing nothing else about him. Frustrating! He’s a child, not a diagnosis! And then she told me, somewhat patronizingly, “I know he is capable of learning, but…” Um, capable indeed, lady. You have no idea.

It’s not that I expect every school to jump at the chance to have him. (Though if they met him, they’d see that they should, as he’s pretty awesome!) It’s just that I expect them to at least give him a chance—meet him, or ask me more about him. Don’t just judge him based on a diagnosis! That’s the frustrating part.

What surprised me perhaps most was that of the five preschools I contacted, the only one to do this was…the only church-based preschool I called! I was iffy on trying a church-based preschool because Chris and I don’t practice organized religion. We have a belief system that is basically Christian, but neither of us is comfortable with organized religion, so we haven’t joined a church or anything like that. But, some church-based programs are more dogmatic than others, and if it wasn’t a program with an extremely heavy focus on religion, then we were willing to consider it. So, I decided to call them. But oddly enough, that church-based preschool was the one that showed themselves to be completely closed off to a child different from the norm. And to me, that’s not very Christian-like at all. I was surprised and disappointed by that.

But really, I shouldn’t paint with a broad brush and assume that just because someone is part of a church, they’ll be welcoming and tolerant. I honestly think one thing has very little to do with the other: I have met wonderful people who belong to churches and have strong faiths, and I have met equally wonderful people who don’t go to church and/or are atheists. Similarly, some churchgoers truly don’t live the lifestyle they preach of love and acceptance, and some non-churchgoers are equally intolerant. So I think it really has more to do with the person themselves than whether they are part of a church, and thus I shouldn’t have been so surprised to have the church-based school slam the door in our face without even giving Sam any consideration.

Anyway, I just found it rather ironic that supposedly church is where all are welcomed…yet the church-based school was the one that would not welcome my son. Harrumph. Their loss…

Speaking of Sam, he has a movie audition next weekend! Sort of… Honestly, I’m not sure he even can do it, given his modeling contract. But if it gets to that point, I’ll talk to his agency and see. I was actually thinking of canceling his contract anyway, as it has only yielded one job, and we pay $9/month to keep his portfolio in their database. If he landed another job it would more than pay the portfolio fees…but nothing has come up in the past 18 months, so it seems a little silly to keep paying it.

Anyway, back to the movie. It seems that three people who work at Pixar are making an independent short film. Pixar isn’t producing the film, but they apparently encourage their employees to do outside independent projects, too. So these three folks who work at Pixar are making a short film about a boy with Down syndrome who is placed in an institution in the 1960s. I’ve read the script, and it’s heartbreaking…even though I know the story has a reasonably happy ending. It’s heartbreaking because even though that’s what was done back then by many, many parents, it’s still something that’s hard for me to fathom. I recognize that it’s historically accurate, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.

But the truth is, although the short film covers only the family’s road trip to take the little boy to the state hospital in Napa, the screenwriter filled me in on the real-life story it was based on. It’s a man named Bruce who is now in his 50s and has lived in hospitals or group homes virtually all of his life. He doesn’t communicate verbally very much, but he’s extremely expressive, and his “mother” from the home where he’s been living for a very long time helps him communicate. Apparently he recently decided to get married to himself, and so the screenwriter went to meet him with the idea of doing a documentary. But when she learned his whole story, she realized that what she really wanted to think about was the early part of his life—the family who gave him up even though it broke their hearts to do so. And so, she wrote a short film about it. And the script really is beautifully done. It ties in the mustard blooms in early spring in Napa, and the way the three characters (mother, father, and older sister) show their grief and confusion is really eloquent. I think it’s an important story and will likely be a beautiful short film, though it certainly isn’t a happy story.

Anyway, a friend of ours (her son is about the same age as Sam) met with them a couple of weeks ago, and they are strongly considering her daughter for the part of the sister. But her son is a little more exuberant than the boy they pictured for the part, so they’re trying to find one a little more mellow. Ideally, they want a kid who shows both joy and calmness. In theory, Sam can do that—when he’s getting tired, he’s calm and snuggly and quiet. And when he’s playing, he is very much joyful. But we’ll see what they think. To be honest, I think they’re going to have trouble finding exactly what they’re looking for. The child is supposed to be four years old but pretty limited in his abilities. That was probably common for a kid with DS in the 1960s, but nowadays kids with DS get so much more input in terms of early intervention and just input from their parents and siblings, who now know that they’re capable of so much more than people thought…so I really don’t see many four-year-olds with Down syndrome who are particularly limited in their abilities. And honestly, Sam doesn’t look anything like a four-year-old. But they saw a couple pictures and a video of him and loved him, so maybe they’re thinking they’ll adjust the part to be for a younger kid. I don’t know…. Anyway, they seem like nice people, and I really liked the script, so we’ll go meet them at the park next weekend and see what comes of it, if anything.

Speaking of abilities…Sam is ever more showing what he can do! He’s trying so very hard to talk, which is awesome, but he’s also demonstrating that his receptive language is very strong! Last night I handed him a shoe and said, “Can you go put this in Mommy’s closet?” and he toddled right in and put it away. And today, I handed him an empty squeeze pack and said, “Can you go put this in the garbage?” and he did! What surprises me isn’t so much that he understands and can follow the directions; it’s that he understands them on the first try and follows them almost immediately. I’ve been told by many to slow down and account for a slower processing speed in kids with DS, and I do make a conscious effort to do that. (I tend to do things very quickly myself, so I need to remind myself to slow down.) But Sam doesn’t seem to process things particularly slowly. I don’t have to wait for a count of 10, as some people have said—maybe a count of three or four. So his processing of language actually seems to be pretty strong! And the fact that he can follow simple directions bodes well for our case for putting him in a general ed preschool, too. 🙂 And when we went to pick up Theo one day this week, Sam (who is usually in a stroller but that day was walking) charged into the classroom, yelled “Buh-lalala!” (what he calls Theo), ran up and patted Theo’s back, and then trotted over to the wall of backpacks and correctly identified Theo’s backpack out of the half-dozen there and took it down. I had no idea he could identify which backpack was Theo’s, as we’ve never had any reason to ask him to do so, but apparently he’s been watching and knows exactly which one Theo’s nondescript black backpack is. Smart boy!

Switching over to the elder boy, Theo had a fun play date with his pal Gavin on Veterans Day. We tried out a newly renovated park in the area, and wow, is it ever cool! Theo’s favorite part was the sliding hill, where you could bring cardboard and “sled” down it. And Sam loved everything. My only complaint was that it was insanely crowded—and it’s a big playground. I definitely wouldn’t take both boys there on my own, as there’s no way I could watch them both there. Thankfully, Theo and Gavin mostly stuck together, and Gavin’s mom kept an eye on them while I followed Sam around. It was insane!

Theo was also Star of the Week at school, so he got to do some fun stuff! We made an All About Me poster, he got to share his favorites with the class, he got to bring in a favorite book one day for the teacher to read, and he got to bring in a collection of items to share one day. I thought he’d pick coins for his collections, but no—he actually wanted to bring his maps that my Uncle David has sent him! So he picked out seven of his favorite maps and brought them to share with the class. He says he has “about fifty thousand hundred” maps, but really it’s probably about fifty. Anyway, narrowing down the favorites to seven was a bit of a challenge, but he managed. 🙂

I think his favorite part of being Star of the Week, though, was bringing Benny Bear home over the weekend. The kids get to bring home Benny for the weekend and then write in Benny’s journal about his weekend adventures. It’s a really cute idea, and Theo was very protective of Benny and made sure he had a good time!

Speaking of the weekend, Saturday was a guys’ day, for the most part. I had to go to an all-day coach training for Odyssey of the Mind, so Chris took the boys (and Benny) out to breakfast, then to the grocery store (are we surprised that this is his idea of an adventure?!), and then home for Sam to nap. While Sam napped, Chris and Theo started cleaning out the garage. It was a nice surprise to come home to a half-cleaned garage, and I hung out with the boys while Chris finished up.

The Odyssey of the Mind training was great, and I’m feeling ever more enthusiastic about it! I got more details about our project, and I think it’s going to be really fun! We have our second meeting on Friday, so I’m looking forward to that (and hopefully Theo is, too!).

By the way, I can see how easy it is to get overscheduled. Theo is doing Odyssey of the Mind, which requires one meeting a week for a couple of months after the holidays. And Chris has signed him up for Tiger Cubs (the early part of Boy Scouts), so he’ll be starting that, too. It’s not much of a time commitment, but really, just the two things are enough for us to say, “That’s it for now!” We had wanted to restart him on piano lessons, but I think we’ll postpone those until after OotM is over. (Besides, then we’ll know better whether it’s in the budget.) With full days of school, it just seems like two commitments is plenty!

We had waffled on whether to do Boy Scouts. Many of you may not know that Chris is actually an Eagle Scout. He keeps that rather quiet, though—he’s a bit embarrassed to admit it, as apparently Eagle Scouts were somewhat considered nerds in school. 🙂 So he had always thought he’d enroll any sons in Scouts…but then it’s become apparent in the past couple of years that the Scouts have some values that don’t align with ours. (In short, we’re for marriage equality. They’re not.) And we weren’t sure we wanted to endorse a group whose values are at odds with ours. But in the end, we decided that you certainly can’t make change from the outside, and since a lot of what the Scouts do does align with our values (community service and such), we’d go ahead and let him join, and if/when we get a say in the Scouts’ position on marriage equality, we’d be better poised to support it from inside the organization than if we just watched from the outside. And honestly, we think Theo would really enjoy it, since he loves being outside, working with his hands, etc.

Amusing story about Chris as an Eagle Scout, which I must share. For our third date, Chris invited me over to his apartment for dinner. I didn’t know him that well yet, so I was incredibly nervous—dating was not my thing, and I was super shy with men. And Chris was super shy with women…so it was two painfully shy people attempting to have a nice, romantic date. 🙂 Anyway, one of the first things I noticed in Chris’s sparsely decorated apartment was his Eagle Scout plaque above the fireplace. “Oh, you’re an Eagle Scout!” I said. He blushed and said yes. A bit later, he said he was going to light a fire for us. He went over to the fireplace, where a Duraflame log was waiting, and proceed to tell me, “The great thing about Duraflame logs is that they’re so easy to light. Anyone can do it, really!” And then he tried about six different times to light the damn thing, which wouldn’t catch fire!

So I, being the kind, supportive, understanding woman that I am, started laughing and said, “And you call yourself an Eagle Scout! Don’t you have to be able to make fires for that? And with a Duraflame log, no less?!” Thankfully, Chris has a good sense of humor and started laughing. It was a nice way to lighten up the evening (even if the unlit Duraflame log produced no light—ha!).

Anyway, back to the weekend. We wrapped it up with a trip to the Lakeshore Learning Outlet, where I wanted to get some flashcards for Sam that a friend recommended to me. We also picked up a couple of Christmas presents for the boys. (Lakeshore has lots of stuff out for kids to play with, so they were occupied while I grabbed the items and hid them in my basket.) And then we came home so Theo and I could play a game while Chris got some work done. The funny part of this is that we don’t play games often with Theo because he really has trouble with a lot of them, and he gets frustrated. (His attention span and visual-spatial processing don’t lend themselves particularly well to most board games.) But he wanted to play a game, so I agreed to play Chutes and Ladders. That was a complete flop—Theo can’t play that game to save his soul. (In his defense, the board is very cluttered now—it’s not simple like it was when we were kids—and he has a lot of difficulty figuring out which way to go and counting the spaces.) So he kept nagging me to play Monopoly, and I thought (but didn’t say), “Dear lord, if Chutes and Ladders is this hard, Monopoly is going to be a nightmare!” Um, no. I stand corrected. The kid is a whiz at Monopoly! We played Pugopoly, which is the pug version of the game but has the same rules about buying property (though in this case it’s pugs) and collecting rent (I guess you pay rent for a pug?!). So the rules are the same as in the regular Monopoly game, but it’s just all about pugs. Anyway, he’s a total whiz at it! He successfully counted the money on many occasions, did great at proceeding around the board in the correct way, counted out the spaces without much help from me, was able to read many of the cards on his own, and basically did terrific! He even heckled me at appropriate times when I was losing! (I did, in fact, lose the game to him.)

I shouldn’t be surprised, though. Theo’s always been more adult than child in some ways, and he’s very money-driven lately. So it should come as no surprise to me that Chutes and Ladders isn’t his game, but Monopoly is!

Before I close, I’ll share a link from a post I wrote a few days ago: click here. It’s something I’ve meant to write for almost three years, but somehow I just finally sat down and did it.

Enjoy the last full workweek before Thanksgiving break! I have a book on Valium due in 2 ½ weeks and haven’t even started writing it. Eeeeek! Wish me luck!

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