Saturday, December 29, 2012

End of Year Wrap Up

It's been a busy couple of weeks (as usual). So lots of bits and pieces to report.

Josef's Bar Mitzvah

Today was my dear friend C's younger son's Bar Mitzvah. Instead of celebrating at their synagogue, they rented the Ashland High School auditorium, cafeteria and gymnasium. We had a lovely lovely Shabbat service in the auditorium. Our friend D, who is the Ritual Director at a large shul in Newton, helped the Bar Mitzvah boy lead the service. Micah and I read the first two Torah readings - Micah was first up, and he was terrific! Everyone was so impressed at this little guy (whom many remember as a baby). I was so proud of him.

Sofia, of course, kept us busy during the whole service. She spent a lot of time combing her doll's hair and putting "makeup" on me (mostly lip gloss), and then sat with her brothers and E (daughter of the guy leading the service; she is also a friend of Sam's from camp). E has beautiful long, straight hair, so Sofia had a great time with her!

Lunch was fun and yummy (C is a great cook, and she made all the food!), and then the kids all went into the gymnasium for games. Sofia of course was right in the crowd.

Near the end, the parents started gathering in the doorway to watch: the kids (led by a professional gym teacher-type guy) were playing some sort of dodge-ball/tag game. Sofia meandered through the gym, and occasionally tackled someone. Usually the shorter boys, occasionally the tallest (C's nephew, over 6' tall). The two shortest boys are my friends' sons. One was rather confused as to what was going on, but eventually she got off him. The younger kid....well, it was just hysterical. We were standing with the kid's parents. We watched as Sofia just totally tackled the boy, twisting his arms and putting him in a head lock. We watched as his brothers practically peed in their pants laughing, and as Sofia's brothers...did nothing. And we watched as another friend's sons came over and got her off of B.

My delicate flower.


Russian Adoptions

I'm heartbroken about this. It's bad enough that the thousands of "healthy" children in Russian orphanages will no longer be eligible for U.S. adoption. The really terrifying tragedy is for the kids with Special Needs.

In Russia (heck, in most of the world), kids with Special Needs are given up at birth. They may live in a Baby Center for their first year. But then they are transfered to the worst-of-the-worst orphanages. And when a child with Down syndrome reaches the age of 4 years old without being adopted, that child is then placed in a regular old mental institution...for the rest of their lives. (which, of course, are incredibly short, since they receive almost zero health care).

I can't describe it better than this lady, who actually did adopt Kirill after a long struggle.

But now, Putin as signed into law a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

I am heartsick about this. And I do not know what we can do. I just do not know.

So if you DO know something, please post!


Christmas Weekend

Last Saturday was my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Truly a miracle (a miracle that they have not killed each other!). David was still flying back from Ireland, so he missed the "party", but we (the kids and I, my sister and her family, and my parents) had a private room at a nice Italian restaurant in Hartford. It was a nice evening.

David met us at my folks' house, where we were to stay for the next few days (although the boys actually stayed at my sister's house two out of the three nights).

Sunday was spent with David's family - met his folks at the store, but then we all went out for Chinese buffet.

Monday, however, David and my mother had a horrible argument, so that made the next 36 hours less than perfect. Very tense. We took our kids and my sister's twins, and met Laura and Lilie, to go bowling/laser tag. In the evening, we left Sofia with my parents and met my sister and her family to see The Hobbit.

We went to my aunt & uncle's house for Christmas day. My aunt J is Catholic, as are my cousins. Uncle P is my dad's youngest brother. Such a nice day. I thank Facebook for improving my relationship with my uncle; I think he finally realizes that I am NOT a clone of my mother ;)

Sofia LOVED the Christmas tree (she's been begging for a tree all month), and spent a long time re-arranging the ornaments. She also had a blast helping hand out gifts. She's not that into her own possessions. She just enjoys giving (and unwrapping). She hummed her way through all the gifts; so excited.


Handing out Candy

Speaking of Sofia's penchant for giving...

At today's bar mitzvah, as well as at the bat mitzvah on the 16th, Sofia did something special. It's traditional around here to throw soft candy at the bar/bat mitzvah child, for a sweet celebration. Then the little kids run up and collect the candy.

Usually kids keep the candy.

But Sofia is different. She collects a big armful of candy, and then makes her way back to our seats (we usually sit in back), handing out pieces of candy to people! She did it today, too. She comes back to our seat with just ONE piece of candy, but she is SO happy to hand candy to others (sometimes she has to use a little force to get them to accept it).


Newtown, CT

Another "no words" topic.  But I had five kids here all that afternoon (my own three and two others), and there was no way I could stay hovering over the news.

I certainly do not think that there should be armed guards in every school. We can't pay enough teachers and librarians. How the heck are we supposed to pay guards?

I worry when my boys get too "into" a violent video game. And I have long talks with them about that kind of violence.  And I generally do not let them play that kind of game, although sometimes it slips in.

They are good about it. And gentle and caring. And loved. And supported.

I hope that is sufficient to keep them safe.



I love it!

I've been going since the week before Thanksgiving. It's a more Western setting than when I went a few years ago, big on relaxation as well as treatment. But it's working. I have not had a migraine since I started (even after eating my uncle's delicious-but-usually-migraine-inducing fried eggplant). I can feel a difference in the fybromialgia pain. And my massage lady was amazed at how many muscles she could get to!



I'm trying not to think about this over vacation, but once school starts up again, I have to design a family-friendly Shabbat service for the day school Shabbaton on January 26.   A service that will both satisfy the prayer needs of the handful of more ritually observant, and that will not alienate those who want a shorter service. A service that will involve the students and engage the parents. A service that will be everything to everyone.

I know. Not possible.

And it's a special Shabbat (Shabbat Shira, when we read about crossing through the Red Sea) as well as Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees holiday.

No pressure.

So if you have any ideas or suggestions, please please please share!


Snowboards and Sleds

Sofia has spent every day this week asking to go Sledding. Back in November, I bought her a new, pink sled (for $5 at Target).

So yesterday I made Micah and his buddy take her sledding on our front hill. Which had barely a dusting of snow on it.

But at least she went.

Meanwhile, my parents bought Sam a snowboard (and boots, bindings and helmet) for his bar mitzvah, so yesterday David took him up to southern NH to go boarding (David skis). They had a good time, but Sam was so sore this morning from trying to do turns.

Micah and I prefer to be indoors.


Another Sleep Study coming our way

We took Sofia to the Sleep Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital on Wednesday. (Actually, we also took the boys and two other kids with us!).

I had made the appointment a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed that her apnea-like symptoms were particularly bad. She did have a stuffy nose, but her sleep was so very uneven. And she continues to wake and come in every night, and moves constantly.

So off we went. They could not find any record of the sleep study from two years ago, which I thought had been bull&^%$ anyway (the technician kept yelling at me to keep her flat on her back, which is definitely NOT how she sleeps).

So we are scheduled for another study, this time in Boston (last one was Waltham) next week. Should be interesting. Meanwhile, I have to track what time she goes to sleep and what time she wakes up. And they suggested we make her bedtime a bit later; apparently, kids with DS don't "need" as much sleep as typicals sometimes (certainly Micah is not a big sleeper, too).


Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year. May 2013 bring peace and joy to all of you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Daughter is a Party Animal

The kids and I celebrated my friends' daughter's bat mitzvah today. They had the service today, a Sunday, for several reasons:

1. The mom has a lot of family who are Orthodox and would not have been able to stay near enough to the synagogue (there are no hotels near that shul).

2. It was still Hanukah, so there was still a Torah reading even though it was Suday.

3. They had about a gazillion people, and the sanctuary there is small, so this way there was just about enough room (with extra chairs).

Anyway, the kids and I (David is in Ireland) got there a little late, and the service had already started. The place was packed. I was hanging up coats, the the boys were distracted talking to their friends, who had walked in with us. So we managed to lose track of Sofia just long enough...

I came out of the coat room, and started asking where she went. I followed the trail of nodding heads...until I spotted my daughter. Front and center. On the floor in front of the center steps leading up to the bimah (the "stage" where the Rabbi and Cantor stand). The Cantor (who is a friend) was hovering nearby, trying to block her way and/or argue with her. He should have known better. As I got near, she very purposefully started marching right up the steps.

I smoothly raced up and grabbed her. People commented later that I looked as if I'd practiced that move a lot (YUP!).

We found a seat, and she mostly settled in. The Cantor kindly came down to tell me that his office was unlocked and there were toys in there she could play with; we did spend the last 20 miutes of the service in his office. Much thanks!

The best was when we threw the candy at the bat mitzvah girl (we throw candy to shower the child with sweets, to celebrate the sweetness of the occasion). The younger kids are invited to come up and gather the candy after it is thrown. Sofia of course was the first one up there, and got a big handful of the candies. Micah went up after her, but couldn't find her. Then I spotted aisle again, this time handing out candy to people sitting in seats!

After the service, we all got into the cars and headed over to the Elks Lodge in Natick for the party. It was a tight squeeze, but the party was lovely. Sofia took one look, shucked off her coat, threw it at me, shouted "Here, Mom, hold this" and ran to the dance floor. And stayed there just about the entire time.

I had to grab her during the "Coke & Pepsi" game so she wouldn't get trampled, and I had to hold her in my lap (on the floor, of course) during the candle-lighting ceremony so she wouldn't be in every picture. But otherwise, that child did not stop dancing.

And she flat-out refused to dance with ME, but had no problem asking all sorts of other adults to dance with her. Friends, strangers, she didn't care. As long as it wasn't Mama.

I did have to drag her out of there eventually, but she had SO much fun!

The boys had  fun too, although granted not as much as their sister. Sam had a headache most of the time, but he sat with his friends. Micah also had friends to hang out with.

I drove two other kids home; one is still here 5 hours later (hopefully his father doesn't completely forget about him; but I guess I can just bring him to school tomorrow...).

Pictures soon...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IEP Meetings and other crazy slices of life

We had Sam's IEP meeting (ok, Part 1) today. So many different things to report.

I've hired an Educational Consultant to join us for this set of meetings, since we are talking about transitioning from his tiny Jewish Day School environment into a considerably larger high school next year. I don't feel like we needed an Advocate, as that usually indicates an antagonistic relationship. I think the Public School team and the Day School team have all been FANTASTIC advocates for Sam over the years. I just wanted a Consultant's-eye-view of things, so we don't miss any important details. So I had a great initial meeting with the Consultant the other day, and she raised wonderful and thought-provoking questions.

Today's meeting had our typical cast of thousands:
- me
- David
- Sofia (who had an Early Release day; I was armed with her video player and her Mobigo game)
- the Consultant
- the Learning Specialist from MWJDS
- Sam's English and History teacher from MWJDS
- the Team Liason
- the Ashland Adjustment Counselor, whom he meets with every 6 days
- the Ashland Reading teacher who teaches him every 6 days
- the Speech/Language specialist and the OT, both of whom are on Sam's team as the Technology advisors.

It was bittersweet for me: the OT has been on his team since first grade, and is also on Sofia's team, and she's leaving the district in a few weeks after 19 years. I feel like I'm losing a great friend and a champion for my children. And she proved even more what a champion she is with her comments to me about Sofia after Sam's meeting (more below).

So as usual, we only got about a third of the way through the actual IEP document, but we made some terrific progress.

One slight monkey-wrench that was thrown in last week was that a representative from Gann Academy, the Jewish high school, came to talk to Sam's class, and now OF COURSE Sam wants to go to Gann. Which would be lovely if
  1. We had another 0 after David's salary
  2. We lived about 30 minutes closer, and
  3. Sam didn't have such the learning and emotional issues he does have.
I'm willing to go look, and to discuss it with the school, but I honestly think the pressure at Gann would be way too much for him. Mr. Perfectionist is still freaking out because he got an 80 on a math exam. He's an all-or-nothing kind of kid; no grey area for him. In his mind, 80 = fail.


Anyway, we'll continue the discussion next week, and start making some visits to the guidance counselor at the public high school (who also phoned in to the meeting for a few minutes). All in all, a good start.

On the way out, the OT pulled me aside. With one foot out the door already, she could tell me as a friend that we really should start re-evaluating Sofia's supports and placement. Her current Inclusion Class has well over 20 kids in it, and without a 1:1 aide, Sofia is not getting nearly enough attention and help. She said the other staff all agree (including the wonderful classroom teacher), but since the ideal class setting for her somehow does not exist this year, no one is able to speak up. As she is on her way out, she can say it, and knowing the Kind of Mother I am, she knows I'll be able to actually do something about it.

Which means that now I have to figure out WHAT to do about it.

So I'll be trolling my DS and Special Needs chat boards for ideas. Please comment or email me if you have a suggestion! (I don't want to jump on the chat boards right now. The DS community lost another child today: parents rushed child to ER for what they thought was a stomach bug, and she ended up coding. A team of 17 docs worked on her, but she lost the battle this afternoon. Terrifying and so very sad.)

Meanwhile, middle child informed me the other day that "I don't like Maturity." Ok. I'vebeen doing a lot of considering of him. I sometimes call him "Peter Pan" because he so very desparately does not want to grow up. I also call him Oedipus! The other day I sang him Tom Lehrer's "Oedipus Rex" on the way to school. When he got out of the car, he said, "Bye. Love you - but not too much!" That kid cracks me up!!!