Nov 23, 2014: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving a few days early! We’ll be sort of celebrating all week around here, since Theo has the week off school for Thanksgiving Recess. We didn’t get a week off school when I was young, but I have to admit it’s a nice, much-needed break. Theo will probably go to his after-care program for a few hours Monday morning while Sam is at Early Intervention, so I can get some finals graded for my students, but that’s it. And Tuesday will be a big, exciting day because Grandma Kathy and Papa are coming to watch the boys overnight so Chris and I can go see Fleetwood Mac in concert! We saw them a year or so ago (Fleetwood Mac, not Grandma and Papa—we saw them a few weeks ago!), and they were awesome, but Christine McVie wasn’t on that tour. This time, all five of the members from their heyday are playing, and I’ve heard from someone I know who saw them in Oregon last night that it’s awesome! We can’t wait! (Plus, Chris and I haven’t had a night away from the boys in almost a year, and as much as we love them, let’s be honest…a night away sometimes is a lovely, lovely thing.)

We had a semi-busy week around here. Chris’s big project is in full swing now, so he’s been quite busy at work. I finally got started on the Valium book and am about halfway finished. But now I have 40 finals to grade and virtually no work time this coming week, so…yeah. Busy. 🙂

I did take some breaks from work this week, though. Sam’s Early Intervention class had a Cultural Feast on Thursday, so I went (and brought pumpkin muffins) to that. It was such fun! I arrived when the kids were still out at recess, so I got to see Sam in action on the playground. A grandmother named Evelyn who volunteers there (I think!) was there, and evidently Sam adores her and has her wrapped around his finger. So in between playing, he would run up to me for a hug, then climb down and run over to Evelyn for a hug. His teacher, Merci, asked him for a hug, but he wasn’t interested—she said whenever Evelyn comes around, he forgets everyone else and is obsessed with Evelyn! Fickle little flirt…

Sam also managed to charm the people from Pixar whom we met with about the short film. Honestly, I don’t think they’ll choose him for it, just because I don’t think he’s exactly what they’re looking for. (I think his skills are a bit more advanced than they’re looking for, to be honest. Though I suppose they could always tweak things a bit if they really liked him. I actually think they’ll have a bit of a hard time finding a kid with Down syndrome with the skill level they’re envisioning, but who knows.) But he and Theo had a grand time playing with them at the “audition.” We were supposed to meet at a park, but it was raining so we just met in the conference room at the screenwriter’s condo complex. But of course, the boys can make even a dull conference room fun. 🙂 The screenwriter commented that she thinks Sam has the best smile she’s ever seen, and although I realize I am 100% biased, I do have to agree—he has a smile that really lights up a room! And Theo amused them to no end, because he was his usual old-man-in-a-child’s-body inquisitive self.

Speaking of which, Theo’s best argument of the week still makes me snicker when I think of it. He had brushed his teeth, then insisted he was hungry before bed. So Chris let him have a snack and then told him to go brush his teeth a second time before bed. Theo was incensed and snapped, “Oh my god, Dad, I can’t believe you’re asking me to brush my teeth again! Don’t you know we’re in a severe drought?!” Okay, the snappy tone wasn’t amusing, but I have to admit that his reasoning made us laugh. He’s right, we are in a severe drought, but I love how he conveniently forgets that when he wants to play with the hose, but he brings it up when asked to brush his teeth or flush the toilet. 🙂

Anyway, we’ll see what happens with the movie, and if nothing else we had an enjoyable morning and a yummy Indian food lunch. We also tried yet another ice cream place we hadn’t tried, and it was delicious! It’s a Mexican ice cream place, which doesn’t seem any different from any other ice cream place except they have some unusual flavors. I got one scoop of Nutella ice cream and one of a traditional Mexican flavor that I forget the name of, but it was basically like a Mexican sweet-cheese ice cream. It was delicious! I’m normally all about the chocolate, but it was rich and creamy and wonderful. Next time I may have to sample the tequila ice cream. 🙂

On Sunday we went to Ardenwood Farm, which is a regional park that is actually a farm. They do a lot of special events there for kids—lots of things like blacksmithing, grinding corn, harvesting veggies, spinning and weaving, etc. We’ve wanted to go but have never been. But on this particular day, there was nothing special going on so it was very quiet—which suited us just fine! We strolled the paths, looked at the historic mansion (which wasn’t open), saw the cows and the new baby calf, saw the rabbits, chickens, turkeys, goats, and sheep. (Sam yelled “BAAAAAA!” and charged toward them when he saw sheep.) We rode the little train and looked at the old farm machinery. But the best part was a big plowed dirt field that is likely being readied for planting at some point. At the moment, it’s just rows of dirt, and Theo was in heaven poking around—all the more so when I spied a critter digging out of a tunnel! I think it was a mole, though don’t hold me to that—I’m not a rodent expert. Anyway, Theo and Sam were entranced and sat there forever watching the little guy poke his head out of burrows and grab weeds to eat. It was so cute! And I couldn’t believe how patient the boys were, just sitting there watching the little guy. Sam especially…he’s so young that I wouldn’t have expected him to sit there watching, but he did—and even when the mole (?) didn’t show himself for a few minutes, Sam just sat there waiting expectantly for him to come back, and then cheered when he did! It was a neat place, and I’m quite sure we’ll be back.

Theo also had an Odyssey of the Mind meeting on Friday, which was a lot of fun. Our team is great—the kids seem to work well together, and I really like the moms. One of the girls now says Theo’s her “best friend.” We haven’t started our main project yet—I think we’ll start it next time. This time, I just had another activity designed for them where they did a few spontaneous verbal problems and then did a hands-on activity where they created “wacky animals” for our “wacky zoo.” (Our main project is “Wacky Weather,” so I was trying to get them in the mindset of thinking outside the ordinary.) Some kids finished earlier than others and asked if they could go up to Theo’s room to play. The two girls promptly announced that his room was “a gigantic mess” and asked me if they could clean it. I laughed and said, “Be my guest!” and when I went to check on them a few minutes later, one was making the bed while the other one folded laundry. I said, “Wow, you guys are amazing!” and the one who says Theo is her new best friend confidently replied, “Yeah, don’t worry—you don’t have to pay us.” Cracked me up. 🙂

After Odyssey of the Mind, I left Chris and the boys to their own devices (which meant they went to Rubios for a cheap Mexican food dinner) and went to book club! I hadn’t had a chance to read the book, so I just went to enjoy the company. 🙂 As always, it was great fun! So nice to have a night out….

I also ventured to the Down Syndrome Connection this week because they had a Baby Steps class with the discussion topic of preschools and IEPs. Given that we’re in the thick of that right now, I figured I ought not miss it. And I’m glad I went. I knew a lot of the information they shared, but there was definitely information I didn’t know. I think the best part for me, though, was listening to a mother whose daughter is four years old. Her daughter started in special ed and was there for six months before moving to a full-inclusion classroom. I asked how her daughter was doing, and her face lit up as she said, “Wonderful! So good! She sits in the front row and is so eager to go to school and do what the other kids are doing. She just loves it!” She went on to say that her daughter did “horrible” in the special ed class—she said she regressed on her skills, and it was not a good placement. But when she got her in the full-inclusion class, she really blossomed. That was good for me to hear—good reinforcement for our plan to push for full inclusion for Sam. I don’t think our special ed class is “horrible” by any means—as I’ve said, Theo was in it and had a very good experience. But it was good to hear how well her daughter is doing in full inclusion. And she’s far from the first parent I’ve heard say that their child actually regressed a bit in special ed.

I also found out some interesting information I hadn’t thought of. I visited another preschool this week (the morning of the DS Connection meeting, actually), and I really liked it. Not quite as much as the expensive, small, in-home program I saw several weeks ago, but I liked it a lot. It was a close second. And it checked most of the boxes for what we’re looking for. However, it’s full until at least September. So I had thought of having Sam’s IEP written such that he would do special ed from February to September, and in September would start in the full-inclusion preschool. However, when I brought that up to the woman leading the meeting, she said, “No. Don’t do that.” And then she explained why, and it made perfect sense. If we start Sam in special ed and the district can prove that he makes progress in it, we can lose ground in our argument that he should be in a general ed class to succeed. They can essentially say, “He’s making progress in special ed, so this is indeed the correct placement.” And as Jennifer (the woman leading the meeting) said, “Our kids are likely to make progress in any setting. They’re good at learning. But they’ll make better progress if they’re in a placement with typically developing peers.” So from a legal standpoint, it is better for us not to give the district ammunition by letting them measure his progress during six months in a special ed class.

She also said something else that really touched me. Her son is 18 and a senior at the local high school—he’s been fully included since Day 1, even though he wasn’t walking when he started preschool and didn’t walk until age four. He started at a Montessori preschool and then went into the public school in first grade. I asked her what made her choose Montessori, thinking she might say something about the curriculum, and she smiled and said, “They wanted him. Fifteen years ago, trying to get him a placement with typical kids, no one wanted him. I had doors slammed in my face all over town. The Montessori school wanted him—not only that, they went out of their way to make it work. They bent rules they had to enable him to be a part of their class. He went, and he did terrific.”

That really struck a chord with me and made me think yet again about that private, in-home preschool that I first visited and liked. I could tell that the teacher/director wanted Sam. She wasn’t in the least bit pushy, but she warmed up to him very quickly and was very positive about him being part of the class if we chose to send him to her school. Somehow, I have a feeling that’s where he’ll end up, though there’s another place where he is wanted, too, and I still need to do a tour (next week): the state preschool at his Early Intervention campus. The teachers in there know Sam, and his EI teachers have mentioned to me a couple of times that they’re “dying to have him” in their class. And it meets a lot of what we’re looking for, too, so I’ll definitely check it out. Hopefully between that one and the private, in-home one, we can find a good placement.

By the way, it’s too bad the meeting at the Down Syndrome Connection wasn’t one day later, as Sam’s bike was delivered there the next day! I think I may have forgotten to mention this, but I entered a contest for Strider bikes (they’re balance bikes—Theo has one and has learned to ride really well on it) for special-needs kids, and I won! I won a bike for Sam and six bikes for the special-needs association we’re affiliated with, which is, of course, Down Syndrome Connection. And as it turns out, they are thrilled to get them because they have three Strider bikes they’ve been loaning out to families who want to try them, and they have a waiting list. Plus, they’re hosting a “learn to ride” clinic in the spring and were in need of more Strider bikes for it. So, perfect!! Sam is too small for his yet, but he’ll grow into it. I suspect he’ll be a natural with it—the kid is amazingly coordinated, especially considering he is descended from two decidedly uncoordinated parents. 🙂

So…that’s the news from here! I hope you all have an excellent Thanksgiving week! Gobble gobble!

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