Sept 14, 2014: Indian Summer

Okay, all you people in the east who are pulling out your sweaters and boots. I know I’ll be having a laugh in the winter, when you’re snowed in and it’s decent weather here, but right now I’m insanely jealous of you! It’s been close to 100 degrees here for several days, and I am so over it! It’s too hot to walk to pick up Theo from school, and it’s just downright unpleasant to be out in it. Ugh… I keep waiting for the heat to break, but no luck yet.

Chris says it’s not as bad as I think—he claims my hormones are messing with me. That’s entirely possible—hot flashes are a part of life now (along with shedding incredible amounts of hair, having to take daily medication to fend off persistent migraines, and all sorts of other fun side effects of menopause). I haven’t been to the doctor to know for sure, but I would be shocked if they said I wasn’t in menopause, because I have all sorts of fun symptoms. Joy. In a way I don’t mind, because it’s sure a lot better than the alternative, when I was wondering whether my tests were going to come back showing multiple sclerosis. But I can’t say I’m overly charmed by it. Anyway, the end result is that I’m surly about the heat. Just ask Chris. I’m quite sure he’ll verify this. 🙂

So annoyed was I about missing my walk to pick up Theo (due to the darn heat!) that I decided I’d walk to Back to School Night on Thursday. It was at 7pm, so I’d get my exercise when it was only 92 degrees instead of 98 degrees! A grand idea, except that I didn’t realize it is pitch dark by 8:00 now. I got to walk home in pitch dark on a wooded trail. I’m not usually nervous about such things, but we have mountain lions around here (along with bobcats and coyotes, plus it’s tarantula mating season, so they’re out in droves at night), so I wasn’t overly thrilled to be picking my way through the pitch-dark on a deserted wooded path. That’s a mistake I won’t make again. 🙂

But Back to School Night was fun. Well, if you consider cramming your giant self into a first-grade-size desk fun, anyway! But aside from the cramped quarters, I enjoyed it. Theo’s teacher seems very nice. She’s a lot different from his kindergarten teacher, but I don’t think that’s good or bad—just different. Theo’s kindergarten teacher was pretty no-nonsense and outgoing, and his first-grade teacher seems a more quiet, soothing type. I’ll be interested to see how Theo responds to the difference in personalities. So far he really likes his first-grade teacher, and he also really liked his kindergarten teacher. So I think we may have gotten lucky two years in a row—just with two different types of teachers!

I won’t bore you with the details of Back to School Night, which is mostly just a chance for the teacher to explain what will be covered over the year—it’s all pretty standard first-grade stuff. But I will tell you that when I spoke to his teacher briefly, she said he’s doing really well overall—some trouble with transitions, but that’s no surprise. Other than that, he’s doing well. His paperwork must’ve caught up with him, because she is now aware that he is on the autism spectrum, but she said she was surprised by how very social he is, given that. (I wasn’t trying to hide anything from her by not telling her upfront that he is supposedly on the spectrum, but his transfer into her class was so last-minute, and I thought, “Well, what the heck? There’s no time to talk to her before school starts anyway, so I might as well just let her form her own opinion about him until his paperwork catches up with him.”)

The funny thing is, Theo kept telling me that he wasn’t playing with anyone at school and that he “would rather just do [his] own thing.” And I was kind of sorry to hear that, though not really worried because I figured it was a big transition to a new school, etc. And I hadn’t made a big deal out of it—just asked him every day to tell me one thing he had done in school. And when he’d tell me, it was usually something about recess or free-choice time, and I’d say, “Oh, did you play that with anyone else?” And the answer was always, “No, I just like to be by myself.” So I’d say something like, “Okay, well, you know you might find you like some of the other kids if you ever feel like playing with them.”

So no big deal, right? Well, it turns out that he wasn’t telling me the truth—according to his teacher, he is very social in school. Apparently she’s going to need to switch the desks around a bit because he and the boy next to him are talking too much! So I’m kind of laughing, thinking, “Well, he was sure playing me, with this ‘I’m just a loner’ act.” But I can’t figure out why he was playing me, since I wasn’t making a big deal out of it or giving him a lot of attention over it. Go figure. Anyway, I’m glad to hear he’s socializing with the other kids. His teacher said she was really impressed with his socializing skills, given that he’s on the spectrum.

She also told me that the coloring and writing that’s coming home is actually all his doing. It’s enough better than his kindergarten work that I had wondered whether he was getting assistance. Nope! She said the only assistance she gives him is a lot of reminders to stay focused on his work, because he’s very easily distracted. (True, true.) But the work itself is all his, she said. Wow! What a difference three months makes. His handwriting isn’t great, but it’s definitely legible now, which is a big improvement! And he’s actually coloring with some sort of purpose, rather than just scribbling wildly on the page.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I had listened to the one OT who suggested that I hold Theo back and start him in kindergarten at age 6. She thought he was academically ready but not ready maturity-wise. Hindsight is 20/20, but I now think she was right. Theo at age 6 is way more ready for school than Theo at age 5 was. And really, I don’t think that’s terribly uncommon for boys. When I used to volunteer in Theo’s kindergarten class, he was definitely not the only boy who seemed like he would benefit from a year more of maturity before starting formal schooling. Ah well, as I said…hindsight. It’s definitely something we will keep in mind for Sam, though, as he is likely to mature more slowly than Theo anyway. If we can work it out with the district when the time comes, we may put Sam in transitional kindergarten at age 5 and start regular kindergarten at age 6. It’d put him a year behind his peers age-wise, but developmentally I have a sneaking suspicion it would be very appropriate. But we’ll see where Sam’s at when that time comes.

Speaking of Sam and development, I spent several evenings this week doing paperwork—my favorite thing! (Note the sarcasm there…) But it was paperwork by choice. I enrolled him in a study for the MIND Institute. If you’re from Northern California, you probably already know what the MIND Institute is. But if you’re not, I’ll give you the brief explanation that it’s a research institute through UC Davis Medical Group, and it’s pretty highly regarded as being the place to go if your kid is on the autism spectrum. I actually wanted to get Theo’s new assessment done there, as it’s supposed to be very comprehensive, but we don’t have $5,000 laying around, so… 🙂

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, no, we do not think Sam has autism. Quite the contrary: We will be absolutely stunned if they suggest he does. But the MIND Institute is doing a huge study right now of environmental factors that may contribute autism and other developmental delays, and they sent me a letter inviting us to participate because Sam is on record with the Regional Center as having a developmental delay. When I looked into the study, I decided to enroll him because (a) I’m all for autism research and would love to help them learn more about what might trigger it in certain individuals; and (b) I get a free comprehensive assessment of Sam’s abilities, which I figure I may be able to use to my advantage when working on his upcoming IEP. And okay, there’s a tiny stipend, too, but I don’t even think it covers the time spent on all the darn paperwork. But hey, who am I to turn down a Target gift card?!

So anyway, filling out the forms was surreal. For one thing, I had to keep reminding myself that they wanted to know about Sam, not Theo. I’m so used to answering those questions about Theo that I had to get myself in Sam mindset. But also, when I fill out those sorts of things for Theo, it always leaves a lump in my throat. There are sections where I can confidently mark the “Does Not Apply” box for nearly everything. No, he’s not aggressive! No, he’s not violent! No, he doesn’t steal things! I can happily check No, No, No. But then I get to sections where I find myself having to check Yes, Often, Frequently, All the Time, Strongly Agree, and things like that. And it makes me sad. Not because I want to change Theo or because I regret who he is, but because no one wants their kid to struggle. When I go through sections of those forms asking me about things I know he struggles with, and I’m having to answer Yes, Yes, Yes, it just hurts. I hate having to answer Yes; I hate that some things are so challenging for him.

But the surreal-in-a-good-way part about filling out those forms for Sam was that I sat there happily checking No for virtually everything! And the things I did have to check Yes on were very typical things. For example, does your child ever whine and have tantrums? Why, yes—because he’s two. Every two-year-old does. I don’t mind checking Yes for that. But I was all too happy to also check No for all the questions about sensory sensitivity, stimming, lack of focus, lack of physical contact, and on and on. Because Sam already has one diagnosis; that’s plenty. Kiddo doesn’t need to add anything else on top of that, so it’s a relief to fill out those forms and realize that he is decidedly not autistic.

But you know, autistic behaviors aren’t all bad. Let’s take extreme focus on areas of interest. That one can be kind of fun! Theo’s latest area of hyper-focus is coin collecting, so this weekend Chris took Theo to a coin show. Theo was so excited—I’ve never seen him get dressed so quickly and with absolutely no complaints or dawdling before. Sam and I tagged along, but we hung out in the lobby and walked to the park (in the sweltering heat—argh!) while Chris and Theo attended the show. It was held at the Elks’ Lodge, and it was kind of hilarious because Theo was the only kid there who wasn’t working the event (as a Boy Scout or as a grandchild of one of the Elks members or whatnot). So it was Theo and a bunch of seventy-year-olds. He was happy as a clam with the elders, and Chris tells me they got a kick out of him. They even let him do the raffle drawing, since he was the only kid there! Cool folks, those elderly coin collectors.

Chris gave Theo some money to spend, and he bought a few proof sets and then some loose nickels and a couple of rolls of wheatback pennies to go through. They spent about an hour there and had a great time (while I sweated with Sam).

After the coin show, we headed to the Off the Grid food-truck event that goes on every weekend in Pleasanton. I’ve been stalking a frozen custard truck that goes to local events, and I knew they’d be there this weekend. So we went and got lunch (falafels and hummus for Theo, Indian and Korean tacos for me, Mexican tacos for Chris, and goldfish crackers for the least adventurous eater in our family), and then we had custard. Oh…my…goodness! So good! We have now tried all of the frozen custard establishments in the Bay Area, and this was our second favorite. The prize goes to Rita’s, the East Coast soft-serve custard chain that happens to have an outpost in Castro Valley. But the Frozen Kushterd truck, despite their horrible name-spelling and the fact that their product is hard-scooped, gets second place. So rich! So creamy! So utterly delicious! I will surely be stalking that truck again!

Afterward, we stopped at Office Max and got Theo a desk to do his homework, and he is pretty excited about that. Let’s hope it makes him willing to do homework. 😉 It’s very difficult to do homework with Sam around, so my current plan is to go up to Theo’s room and do it at his desk while Sam watches a Baby Babble DVD downstairs. Go ahead and shoot me for plopping the toddler in front of the TV, but I say it’s a win-win. Sam gets 20 minutes of speech therapy (that DVD is amazing, despite being really bizarre), and Theo gets quiet to do his homework. I’d send him up to his room to do it on his own, but at this age and with Theo’s attention span, I will definitely need to be present for it. Plus, a fair bit of it is reading to an adult, so I need to be there and focused on him for that.

We also stayed pretty local on Saturday, meeting up with an old friend for lunch. I worked with Jonna years ago at Prima Publishing, and she happened to be the winning donor last week for Sam’s walk. When I asked her if she wanted a fabulous prize, she said, “Well, could that be meeting Sam?” But of course!! She was headed down here for a baseball game anyway, so we met her for lunch before she headed into the city.

Speaking of Sam’s walk, we’ve exceeded our goal—woohoo! And quite a few winners have asked that the “fabulous prize” be a matching donation from us, so we’ll be making a sizable lump donation near the end…which Chris’s company will then match. Yay! Down Syndrome Connection is running rather short of their goal this year, so we’re happy to be able to help. I anticipate relying on them a lot when I’m working out Sam’s IEP, so this year in particular I’m really motivated to help them fundraise. By the way, if you’re interested in donating, here’s a link to Sam’s page. I’ve been posting this on Facebook, so if you’re my Facebook friend you have undoubtedly seen it several times. But in case you’re not—here ‘tis.

The only other excitement this week was taking the boys to the dentist. And I wouldn’t call that “excitement” in a good way by any means. One of the two was a rockstar. No cavities, and he was a superstar about his cleaning. The other one…well, let’s just say the one that is traditionally thought of as the easier child is not the easier child when it comes to the dentist. Rather, he is the cranky child who refuses to cooperate and clamps his mouth shut while whining nonstop. And then when he finally did open his mouth, the dentist read me the riot act for the goldfish crackers on his teeth and told me I shouldn’t be letting him eat so many crackers. Well, let’s see—if I take crackers out of his diet, he will be eating about 1 cup of yogurt per day, plus maybe two squeeze packs. And maybe 8 oz of almond or soy milk mixed with a little more yogurt. That’s pretty much it, if you take out the crackers. So I think we’re going to leave the crackers in, and the dentist be damned. Priority #1: Getting the child to eat enough that he maintains his weight. Priority #2 (a very distant second on the feeding priority list): Expanding his food repertoire. And anyway, I dutifully brush his teeth twice a day—I’d like some kudos for that, dentist! Argh…

Before I end this, I would also like to mention that Chris’s beloved grandma passed away this week. But she deserves a post of her own, not just a mention in a weekly update, so click here to read my slightly irreverent memory of Grandma Norma. When Chris feels like writing, I suspect he’ll write something much more lovely for me to post. But for now, you get my silly favorite memory of her.

I’ll wrap up by saying that you should enjoy the series of blooper pictures of the boys this week. A certain someone has a birthday coming up, and I was hoping to get a good picture of the boys together to use as a present. I shot 81 pictures today, and not a single usable one of both boys. So that certain someone should not expect a picture for her birthday. 🙂 Also, this is proof of why once a year, I pay a professional to take pictures of my boys. I can take cute pictures of them separately, but it’s nearly impossible for me to get a good shot of them together!

Also, here’s a short video of Sam working on his ABC’s. Probably not of interest to anyone other than the grandparents, but here ya go!

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