Sept 7, 2014: Another Week Down!

Another week down, people—two successful weeks of first grade in a new school! Oh yes, we are rolling!

I’m happy to report that Week 2 went much more smoothly than Week 1. I didn’t arrive at school to find Catatonic Theo, the unresponsive child who I picked up the first week of school. Instead, he was quiet but responsive on our walks home. And when we got home, although we still had some instances of lots and lots of stimmy noises, it wasn’t nearly as much as the week before. I think he is settling in, thank goodness!

A couple of things have surprised me. One is his handwriting. As I’ve mentioned many times, handwriting is the toughest part of class for Theo—he really struggles with it. And over the summer, we took a 100% break from handwriting. I felt kind of guilty about not working with him at least a little over the summer, but the poor kid was so darn burned out by the end of kindergarten that I just decided to give him a break. So I didn’t expect to see handwriting improvement in first grade…but somehow, his handwriting is a bit better. His schoolwork is actually legible in many cases, whereas we used to have to play “Translate What the Heck Theo Wrote” when we’d get his classwork back. His writing still isn’t nearly as clear as a lot of first-graders, but it’s much better than the hieroglyphics we got from him in kindergarten. And it’s no thanks to me, since I didn’t work with him over the summer. My only guess is that the activities he did in day camp over the summer (lots of building with Legos) strengthened his finger and hand muscles a bit and worked on his coordination and fine-motor dexterity. Score one for day camp!

The other thing that surprises me is that so far (and I say this knowing it could change at any point!), he’s buying into the discipline system, where he didn’t in kindergarten. Both schools had systems based on positive reinforcement, and at both schools, you started every day on “green,” meaning you were having a good day. This new school uses a slightly simplified system of reinforcements and penalties, and for whatever reason Theo has decided to embrace it. He’s quite sure he’s going to earn “50 pats on the back” so he can go to lunch with the principal. They had a similar reward at his old school, and he never showed any interest in working toward it. Not sure what the difference is, except perhaps some added maturity from the end of last school year to the beginning of this one. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he’s buying into it. Let’s hope it lasts! His teacher sends home a little “daily news” page each day, telling what they did in class, and it also includes what color your child was on that day. So far, Theo has stayed on green every day, so good for him!

One thing that makes me a bit sad is that he seems to have no interest in making any friends. He says he prefers to just “do his own thing” and be alone at recess. I hope that will change. I’m not going to push it, but I have told him that he’d probably like the other kids if he went to play with him!

One thing we’re really enjoying is the daily walks to and from school. Part of me is hoping for a rainy winter because the drought this year was so bad, but part of me is hoping we don’t get too much rain, because it’s so, so pleasant to walk to school instead of driving! We still leave the house at 7:15, just as we did for his old school, but instead of sitting in traffic and feeling frazzled, we’re ambling along at an easy pace. And even if we are running late at some point, we’re just a five-minute drive away, so it’s not a big deal—we can always do the car if we need to. (Much of the walk is on a dirt path, so walking in the rain isn’t a great option—I imagine it turns into a bunch of mud, and part of it is a steep hike up a dirt path that would likely be rather slippery if it becomes mud. It’s already slippery—one mother apparently broke her ankle on it last week. Yikes!)

The weather has been hot, hot, hot, but we still walked home every day. Luckily, most of the walk is shaded, so it hasn’t been intolerable. And Theo has remarked repeatedly how much he enjoys walking to and from school. That makes two of us! Well, three, really, since Sam enjoys a walk much more than he enjoys his car seat.

We had play dates this week, too! On Friday, Theo’s friend from his old school, Ella, came over with her brothers, and the five kids played together for a couple of hours. It was definitely loud, but a lot of fun! They pretended to fight fires out in the backyard, which was pretty amusing because given that we’re in a drought, I filled a bucket with only a small amount of water and deemed that their only firefighting water supply. So they were taking small cupfuls of water and hurling them at the “fire,” and apparently that was very effective, despite the small amount of water. 😉

On Sunday, Theo’s BFF Gavin came over with his parents. We all went swimming and then barbecued burgers and corn on the cob. Lots of fun! The boys play so well together—they fought fires, played hotel, went on a safari, and heaven knows what else! They’re old enough now that we no longer have to have them play in the same room with us, so they were roaming the house and backyard in their adventures. The funny thing is, when it would get quiet (usually a sign of mischief with kids!), we would go check on them, and inevitably they were examining coins or the U.S. map. (Theo’s obsessed with coins and Gavin is obsessed with maps and atlases.) I got a good laugh about our nerdy little boys, diligently studying the map when we thought they were up to no good! 🙂

Speaking of Theo’s obsession, Gavin’s mom asked him what he wants to be for Halloween (a question I hadn’t yet posed), and he said, “A coin.” That’ll be an interesting costume to make! Though actually, I think it might be a good joint costume idea for both of our boys, because it wouldn’t require anything on the head. Sam refuses to wear hats or anything on his head, and all the toddler costumes I’ve seen have headpieces or hoods that go with them. I was wondering what I was going to do about that, but I think Theo may have solved my problem for me! Perhaps Sam can be a penny and Theo can be a quarter or something. Now I just need to figure out how to construct them. Theo’s should be easy (I’m thinking circles of cardboard…), but I’m not sure whether that would work on a tiny Sam scale. Hmmm…

On Saturday, we headed down to the South Bay to visit Chris’s grandma, whose health is declining pretty rapidly. It was good to see her, but also sad. Unfortunately, she isn’t doing very well. I was proud of Theo, though. He’s very curious about death and has asked many questions about it for the past few months, trying to make sense of it. So when Grandma Norma got sick, one of the first things he asked was, “Will she die?” Well, the answer is yes—she has terminal cancer. And we don’t lie to Theo. We do sometimes tell him he’s too young to discuss something, but in this case, it seemed best to just tell him the truth. Unfortunately, Grandma Norma doesn’t have a lot of time left, so we’d be having this discussion in a matter of months anyway. So we were honest with Theo and said yes, unfortunately she wasn’t going to be able to get better from this. And naturally, he’s been very curious. But Grandma Norma isn’t aware that she’s dying (which is probably a blessing, really), and I was worried he might innocently say something to her about it. So right before we got there, I explained to him that he shouldn’t say anything to his great-grandma about dying, because it would make her sad.  He said he wouldn’t, and lo and behold, he was true to his word. I was so proud of my big boy. He really is maturing!

I’m afraid I don’t have many pictures this week, as I didn’t have my camera with me. Just a few iPhone snaps to share! More next week, I promise. 🙂

I do, however, have a second blog post this week—a blog hop post about our desire to have Sam in a full-inclusion program at a mainstream preschool. Click here to read it.

And before I wrap up, I need to send a shout out to four people, because apparently it’s Grandparents’ Day! (I didn’t even realize it until this morning, which makes me a pretty lousy daughter and daughter-in-law. Sorry ‘bout that! No cute cards from my kiddos, I’m afraid….) So, to Grandma Diane, happy Grandparents’ Day! Thank you for loving the boys so wholeheartedly and unabashedly, and for always making them laugh with your silliness! Theo asked to hear the story you wrote for him tonight before bed, instead of his beloved Boxcar Children series. I believe you have truly made an impression when you trump the Boxcar Children! (And thank you for trumping them. That is a truly tedious series. And there are more than a hundred books in it. God help us….)

And to Grandma Kathy and Papa, thank you, too, for wholeheartedly and unabashedly loving the boys! Thanks for FaceTiming with them, which they both love, and for taking the time to ask Theo about his school and to encourage Sam in his recent attempts to talk! Happy Grandparents’ Day to you both!

And finally, to Grandpa Steve, who never met my boys but who deserves a shout out. I think of you every single time Sam’s face lights up when he hears an airplane and squeals with joy “EEEEEEE!!!!” I think he would be your little flight buddy. And I think of how you would probably secretly laugh about the headstrong little stinker who is Theo. And he is, by the way, your grandson—logical to a fault!

So, grandparents, sorry I suck and forgot to send a card. But happy Grandparents’ Day!

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