Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cool Party Trick

As I was drying Petunia's hair tonight, she stopped to consider for a moment and then announced out of the blue that the hum of the hair dryer was a D.  As in the musical note.  (According to the piano teacher, all three of my children have perfect pitch.)  Amused and curious, I walked down the hall into Thing Two's room, where he was lying quietly and obliviously on his bed reading, and sang the same note to him.  "D," came the instant reply.

I once asked Thing One if he's consciously aware of all the musical tones played around him on a daily basis (the 'ding' of elevators, the jangles of doorbells or wind chimes, the humming of mechanical equipment, etc) and he said no, something has to draw his attention to them, although once he does stop to pay attention he always just somehow knows what the notes are.  It's like he has an internal reference standard in his head.

Incidentally, not one of the three of them really 'gets' that the vast majority of people can't do this.  When they answer me, there's always a baffled element of "Why can't you tell? Isn't it obvious??" lurking in the background.  The brain is a truly fascinating place.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hypocrisy Or To Each Their Own??

Hell itself will freeze over before I let either of my boys play football, at least any variety more serious than the touch version played by the menfolk in the side yard at family gatherings.  They both play soccer, which is bad enough from a concussion least in soccer it's not the explicit goal of the defense to flatten the opposing player who has the ball on every play, although sometimes it happens anyway.  They play basketball, too, and anyone who thinks basketball is a non-contact sport has clearly never played the game.  I speak from experience in this.  It isn't that I don't want them playing contact sports, and I know that a freak accident can happen while doing pretty much anything, but the news out of football is just relentlessly bleak.  Think about Duerson and Seau.  Then take the latest, the story of Tyler Sash, the former NY Giants safety who died last fall at 27.  Yesterday's media was full of reports describing the advanced CTE discovered in his brain.  27 years old.  He was closer in age to Thing One than to me when he died.  

I'm no fan of the Giants in particular or really of any pro football team, but as you all know, I'm a proud alumna of Notre Dame and I've religiously (ha) watched pretty much every game we've played since I started college lo these many MANY years ago now.  (Before that I'd never seen a live game, Hong Kong Brits and Chinese not being much for playing American football...if my high school had fielded a team, there would have been nobody to play against, so we had a rugby team instead.  Yes, I digress, although if you want to see a REALLY violent sport check rugby out sometime. )  My point is that I cheerfully and regularly watch a group of young men playing a sport that I won't permit my own sons to play.  Wondering if that makes me a hypocrite or if this is just an extension of something I tell my own kids all the time (usually when they are complaining about something not being fair), that every set of parents makes their own decisions for their own kids based on what they think is best.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

License Plate

Stopped at a red light today behind a Dodge Ram 1500 and laughed out loud when I saw the rear plate: EIEI00.  Clearly a farmer with a good sense of humor!!

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Every three years, as mandated by law, we have a discussion with the Child Study Team at school regarding the necessity of testing for Thing Two.  The idea behind the law is that classified children must be assessed periodically to determine their current performance levels and need for services to make sure that the services they receive are appropriate.  It's entirely possible for the group to collectively decide that there's no need for testing at that time, but the subject must be raised.  Since we have him comprehensively evaluated by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician every year anyway on our own, we have a pretty good idea of where he stands, but the laws governing public schools are what they are and we go with the flow.

Anyway, six years ago, he was tested and failed just about everything.  As expected, given that at the age of 4, he had very little functional language.  While not exactly *happy* test results, they unquestionably qualified him for a great deal of help, which the school district has been very cooperatively providing ever since.  (Really: in several cases they've voluntarily gone beyond what they are obligated to provide for him.)  Three years ago, when he was in first grade, we looked at the situation again and decided that we had a pretty good handle on where he was and that he was getting what he needed--crucially, with the full agreement of the neurodev doctor, who has been seeing him since he was a preschooler--so we left things status quo without testing.   He was doing a lot better by then, but was still not within a city block of being a 'normal' first grader from either an academic or social standpoint.  

A few weeks ago, I got a call from the lovely woman who does the scheduling for the Child Study Team, reminding me that it was that time again: we needed to schedule a let's-discuss-testing meeting.  I have to admit that this time my heart sank to my knees.  He's in fourth grade now, and the change from first grade is dramatic (and thankfully so.)  He actually has friends, and courtesy of years of OT his personal space issues have gotten a lot better.  He functions in class with very little support, and if you only looked at him on paper--his report card or standardized test scores--you might not realize that the kid has issues.  Of course, you *talk* to him for more than 10 seconds and you can still easily see them, but he's progressed so far in the past six years (and is so damned smart under the crossed language-related wires in his brain) that he's advanced himself right into a gray area.  Given that Special Education services are ridiculously expensive to provide, a fact of which I'm well aware in my Board of Ed capacity since I see all the budget numbers, my fear was that they were going to try to push him out on the basis of the progress he's made.  Don't get me wrong, I'll be the happiest mother on Earth if the day comes that the kid legitimately doesn't need to be classified anymore, but he's not there yet.  I don't want to usurp a single solitary resource that the kid doesn't no-joke need, but I also don't want him shoved out the door prematurely just to cut costs.

At the beginning of the meeting, the case manager asked me for my thoughts, and I explained that I really wanted to know what tests they were planning to run, since his performance on any kind of language-based test depends entirely on what *exactly* they are testing.  For example, if they look at his ability to decode or spell words, he tests at high school level.  If they look at critical thinking skills or short term memory, he's years behind.  I needed to be sure that they were going to be looking at the whole picture.  The discussion that ensued (between the case manager, his school speech therapist, and his homeroom teacher) clarified for me that the initial tests would be general and that the follow-up tests would aim specifically at weaker areas (helpfully identified by the homeroom teacher as we sat there) which is a huge relief.  It has been my sense for years that this group of women has Thing Two's best interests at heart, and they all but said outright (which they couldn't really do) that they want the test results to reflect that he still needs help.  The next meeting (at which we discuss test results and make plans for next year) is in March, so fingers will be crossed until then, but I am hopeful.


Friday, January 22, 2016

The Kind Of Teacher You Want

Interestingly, he wasn't even hired as a teacher.  He's the newish IT guy for our school district.  His predecessor left big shoes to fill, but Jack hit the ground running.  He's maybe 35, a compact dynamo of a man who gave up wearing dress shoes to work early on in his time with us and now wears sneakers every day, the better to facilitate his high-speed movement around the school buildings.  Everyone likes him and he's really great with all the varying technology stuff his job requires him to coordinate.  

In the packet for our last Board of Ed meeting, there was an odd agenda item: the administration wanted us to approve Jack to work directly with students.  Turns out that in addition to all his IT qualifications, Jack actually holds a teaching certificate, but since he wasn't hired to work with kids here the BOE needed to formally permit him to do so.  Since the recommendation was coming through my committee, I asked why the IT guy needed clearance to work with students, and was told that he wanted to establish a tech-related group for the Friday afternoon period in which the middle school kids can choose their activity.  He also needed the clearance to host lunch bunches, which is the term the school uses for when teachers permit kids who are having difficulty in the cafeteria for whatever reason to have lunch with a few friends in their classrooms instead.  

My BOE committee met this morning, and Jack was there to discuss the technology plan.  As he was leaving, I asked how his work with students was going.  He commented that most of the kids who are into technology aren't the social or popular kids, and that having a group of them congregating and learning together is working really well for their confidence.  The part that really choked me up was when he went on to mention that he'd tagged up with the Child Study Team (the group who coordinates IEPs for classified students, i.e. Thing Two and his peers) and was soliciting their recommendations for kids who would be a good fit for his group since he wanted to be inclusive.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Good Thing My Mama Raised Me Right

Another day of the usual insanity around here.  Today it took the form of three rec basketball games, the first two of which overlapped timewise but were nowhere near each other.  Divide and conquer for me and Himself to get everyone where they needed to be, just for something new.  Between games 2 and 3 I had about half an hour to get Thing One fed, and he knew he was on the clock.  We were sitting in a restaurant and he was going to town on his plate of food, unquestionably with somewhat less than perfect manners but neatly and quietly for all that.  There was an elderly couple at the next table, she facing us, him with his back to us, and I heard her say something snide to him about the kid at the next table "shoveling in his mac and cheese."  Set my teeth right on edge.  I mentioned to him what I'd overheard and that he might want to take slightly smaller bites in future.  I couldn't resist adding (in a tone similar to hers) that perhaps she has a hearing problem since she made her disparaging comment so loudly, although I admit freely that it was petty of me.  :)

I *really* wanted to stop by her table on the way out and say, "He does pretty well with manners for a 12 year old. What's YOUR excuse, you crabby old bat??" but that at least went unsaid. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Without Question, The Weirdest Text I've Ever Sent

Copied verbatim:

"One question: do the $1 million bill and the chicken enter into the solution or are those just red herrings?"

In context, it actually made perfect sense--I was asking a friend about the solution to a geocaching puzzle--but it made me laugh out loud when I looked back at the text string. Never a dull moment. :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Heaven Help Us, Now There Are Two Of Them

Thing One got a phone for Christmas last year.  He legitimately needed one (being involved in activities that had him outside a constant chain of custody of adults) and in general, it's gone well.  When we gave him the phone, we told him that one condition of him having it was that we reserved the right to monitor anything he does on it at any time, and we do.  His Instagram is on his father's phone, and his emails and texts come to my phone as well as his.  So far he seems have used the phone responsibly.  His nose is constantly buried in the thing, which comes with its own set of issues, but we make him leave it downstairs at night and don't allow it at the table and so far, we are managing to pry it out of his hands when necessary and appropriate.  And just the threat of taking it away??  Talk about an effective disciplinary tool.  

This Christmas, he voluntarily gave his old iPod Touch (what he used before he got the phone) to Thing Two, who has been begging for the chance to message with his friends.  We didn't have a chance to set it up for him before we left for the post-Christmas break, but we did that as soon as we got back.  He came home from school on Monday with a list of email addresses and is now in two or three different group chats!  Between the iPod and Thing One's phone, the chorus of beeps and bings never ends.

Last fall, I went on a field trip with Petunia's class.  One of the special Ed aides who accompanied the group has worked extensively with Thing Two in the past (thank all that is holy, he doesn't need nearly as much help in class anymore) and we got to talking about his progress as we walked around the woods with the third graders.  This woman has a son who is high school aged and severely autistic, so she has more perspective than I do about how classified kids move through the academic system here and what additional social challenges they face.  Thing Two isn't autistic, but early on we thought he was for sure, and his social aptitude is still behind that of a quote unquote "normal" kid of his age even though he's made tremendous strides.  One thing this woman said to me hit home very strongly: she told me to do everything I could to reinforce and maintain the friendships he makes in elementary school, since middle school and high school will be the point at which they start to drift away from him if he's not really ingrained in the group.  Since our kids go from a very small elementary/middle school to a very large high school that also takes kids from three other sending districts, she doesn't want him to get lost in the social shuffle in high school.  

Since he's currently a fourth grader, both middle school and high school are a long way away, but her point is well taken.  He needs a close posse of boys to hang with, and I could only be so lucky as to have him find one like Thing One's crowd.  Granted, those are currently a bunch of twelve and thirteen year-old dingbats, but they are bright, well-spoken dingbats with their heads on straight and have each other's backs come hell or high water, which is very reassuring.  It seems odd to me that a bunch of ten year-olds are communicating extensively via iMessage, but they are (clearly I'm just old), and per the aide's advice I don't want Thing Two to be left out of that, hence the iPod. Obviously we will be monitoring his e-communications as well, and also encouraging in-person play as a separate effort, but whatever we can do to help him socially, we will.  Even if it does result in my kitchen sounding like a pachinko parlor!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

I Guess His Aim Is Just Better At School

Thing One had basketball practice last night. I showed up fifteen or so minutes early to pick him up and watched the end of the scrimmage they were playing.  He's come a long way, actually: he looked pretty good and even got a few compliments from the coach, most notably for a pull-up jump shot from close to three-point territory.  He hit three or four baskets while I was watching.  

We get home, I send him upstairs to shower and go to bed.  When I go upstairs myself, I notice that only about half the clothes he was wearing to practice made it into the laundry hamper in the hall...the others are right around it on the floor!  Maybe I need to put a basketball hoop on the top of the laundry hamper.  :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

No, I Have Not Been Eaten By A Dragon

Or fallen off a cliff, or anything else hazardous to bodily well-being: our family went to Oregon for the week after Christmas to visit my parents and I took a break from blogging.  Other than getting unexpectedly stuck overnight in Seattle on the way there because of a problem with the door of the plane, it was a wonderful week and at least we had smooth sailing on the return trip!  I really do love babies, but there's nothing like extended periods of travel to make me grateful that all three of my children are well past the age at which naps, special food, multiple extra changes of clothing, strollers and diapers are required.  Been there, done with that.

Home a couple of days now and back in the regular routine of sports and school, now also trying to remember to write 2016 on my checks and cache logs.  That's going to take a while. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you and yours!!

School Logic

Yes, I’m still alive. All is pretty well,’s just been crazy, and now it’s been so long since I posted that it seems like whatever ...