Monday, November 11, 2013

This and That

It's difficult to make blog posts while driving, which is when I think of them. So here's just a few little vignettes from the past few days...

David is in Israel, and sick with a Crohne's attack. I had to go to school today (it was parent/teacher conferences, and the new networking consultant and I spent most of the day ripping out the network and starting from scratch). I spoke to David while we were eating lunch, and the consultant listened to our conversation and asked "How old is he?" ... thinking I was talking to one of the kids.

David's father is also sick, in the hospital with either cellulitis, or rheumatoid arthritis, or a Crohne's attack, or maybe alien intervention... I'm not at all impressed with the doctors he is seeing.

I took the kids and A and two of Micah's soccer pals to see "Thor" this afternoon when I was done working. Cool movie, a little confusing because I never saw the first one and Thor's not my favorite Marvel hero (although I do like Loki!). Sofia enjoyed it.

This past weekend was busy. Friday night I took the kids to see "13", a play put on by the Performing Arts Center of Framingham. Three of their friends were in it. At one point, S. had a big soliloquy, and asked a rhetorical question. There was silence, and then Sofia shouted "YES!" The whole audience cracked up.

Saturday Micah had his last soccer game in the morning, and then we had a Bar Mitzvah at Chabad Lexington.  So we showed up at the field all dressed up, which was funny.

The Bar Mitzvah was lovely. EJ was just so adorable, looking like a miniature of his father (EJ's parents are good friends of ours). He did a great job. The shul is really nice; much larger than Natick Chabad. The Rabbi spoke well. And on the way home, Sam said, "You know, I think I'll start going to Chabad instead of Temple Israel..." So in the evening, I introduced him to the Rabbi and Rebbitzin from Natick.

Another funny Sofia moment happened at the end of the Bar Mitzvah evening. Sofia and another little girl had a lot of fun hanging out in the preschool classroom playing with toys most of the evening. When it was time to go home, I told her to go in and give hugs to the bar mitzvah family. Well, Sofia started giving hugs... to EVERYONE. She just went around each table and gave hugs, or grabbed people as they were standing, often with an "Excuse Me" to catch their attention. Even the black-hatted gents were very amused by her. And every once in a while, she dissed someone...

Micah had a great weekend. After the Bar Mitzvah (where EJ seemed to have his arm around Micah's shoulders all evening, very sweet), I dropped him at B's house for the soccer sleep over. Was supposed to pick up at 10 am, but he called at 9 asking if he could stay until 2. Then he wanted to stay even longer, but I was actually taking him over to a family friend's house to help with a much-anticipated oil change. So he went there, and passed out fairly early Sunday night. Today, I brought him back to B's house, and another teammate with them too. The three of them (aside from being somewhat identical) had a blast.

Sam just got home from his second Ultimate Frisbee game with Ashland High. He loves it. I took him last week, but thankfully he got a ride tonight. I had never seen him play before (he plays at camp); it looks like football for skinny people. But he's very excited by it.

It will be a big challenge next month, when he has his Frisbee matches on Monday evenings, and Micah plays indoor futsal (soccer) on Monday evenings, and I have a bat mitzvah student on Monday evenings... and Sofia has gymnastics on Monday afternoons...

Got this year's school photos back for my public school students; Micah will have his taken in a few weeks.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Buddy Walk was great. It seems like people get there earlier every year, as we realize that there is so much fun before the walk too. We all arrived around 11:20 - Laura and N parked behind us, and my parents of course parked somewhere else. Met up, got our t-shirts and put on our bandanas. Then it was time to wander the festivities and say hi to friends.

I took Sofia to watch the show: Rachel Coleman from Signing Time was the special guest. Sofia had a blast watching and signing along:

 The walk itself was fine. We did bring the wheelchair (Sofia scream "Yeah! Purple Chair!" when I took it out of the garage), so she rode most of the time. Travis pulled the wagon along, but Lilie actually walked a lot. The wagon was mostly used for lugging the backpacks and snacks.

My parents kind of kept to themselves, but we had a nice time. We missed having the Burg family with us; hopefully they will be back again next year (they had other commitments this time).

After the walk, we relaxed and had our picnic and listened to the Ayla Brown concert. We were sitting near the snack table, and David knew one of the organizers, from the Learning Program (Sofia's "reading school"). So when it was time to clean up, somehow we managed to walk away with 3 boxes of 50 snack packs of potato chips and 2 boxes of popcorn! (Boy, the wagon was REALLY useful for that!).

I fell asleep in the car on the way home, and then back to sleep until 7pm! David said he tried to wake me and couldn't.

So it was a late evening, but productive. David and I booked our December vacation!

We're going to Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George NY for 3 nights. Then down to my uncle's house for Christmas day, and then into New York city for a few days.

We had thought that Sam would be going to Israel with Prozdor, but when I told him about the trip, he said he'd rather come with us! As long as he wants to travel with us, I want him with us.

Monday was Columbus Day, and the public schools were closed, but MWJDS not only had school, but had "Bring a Friend To School Day" and Open House. It was really successful, even with very little advance planning. We had 7 families come look at the school.

Micah had to go to school in the morning. Sam was supposed to volunteer all day in the kindergarten class, earning some of his Community Service hours for high school. Of course, he decided to sleep late, so he went in with me and Sofia at 1:00.

Work has been busy but good. I have so many different roles I play at school: I'm the WebMaster, technologist, office support, Torah reading teacher, Tefillah helper. It's fun. We're working hard to get ready for the Gala in December. We're also upgrading our main database; I had a couple of conference calls about it this week. It's gonna be really cool. (I'm such a geek). And we've had some problems with the internet connectivity in many of the classrooms, so I've been trying to work on that, too.

Monday after school, Micah was supposed to have a soccer game. Unfortunately, he had his finger in a metal brace (because it was injured on Friday), and the ref wouldn't let him play. The metal was apparently a possible danger. Poor kid was bummed, but too afraid of getting the finger hurt to take off the brace.

Tuesday I took Micah for an x-ray at lunchtime. Fortunately, the finger does not appear to be broken. But he still couldn't play baseball on Tuesday afternoon. Which, for me, was lovely and relaxing, but was a bummer for him.

Wednesday was a long day. Work, I was supposed to have Mazal Tots (the preschool program I run), but no kids showed up. Oh well ;) After school, Sofia had swimming. Micah couldn't do gymnastics, so at least he got to soccer practice a little earlier (usually he's late on Wednesdays). I found him a ride home, and took Sofia home for Sam to feed her dinner and put her to bed.

Then I raced to Sam's high school for Open House. Whew! That was wild. I was a little late, so I missed the introduction, and instead went directly to the Learning Center. His LC teacher printed me a schedule, and then I had to go to each of his classes, in order. They even rang the bell between "periods".

His history teacher is great, apparently one of the best in the school, super nice and glad to have him in class. Sam loves history, and has a 98 average. Then I went to Math. Not thrilled. And Sam is not managing to advocate well for himself yet. He's struggling, and needs help. We're working on it.

Then I had the most lovely conversation with his science teacher. Older gentleman, totally overwhelmed with his workload. He said he's only got about 75 students, but at least 50 of them are on IEPs. And as much as he likes Sam, he thinks Sam should move up to a different class. Sam has a 92 average, and that's with missing two assignments (which he still has the option of making up).  So we're in discussion with the science teacher, the guidance counselor, and the Learning Center teacher, trying to find the best class to move him to.

English was good, too. The students were supposed to write a 4 paragraph paper; Sam instead wrote 3 pages! Both English and History think Sam will not need the supported classes next year. Whew!

Anyway, when I left the Open House, then I headed over to the Gala meeting (which fortunately was at a lovely Mexican restaurant that served margaritas).

Thursday was cool. Micah gets picked up at 6:15 on Thursdays to go to Minyan, but I still had to srive three other girls to school. Acupuncture, then work. And since Micah did not have baseball, I had my new babysitter come pick up Sofia from MWJDS and take her to swimming, and Micah and I went home early! My student came early, too, so he was done by the time Micah's guitar teacher arrived, which was good. I think I should probably make that time change permanent. The whole evening felt so much more relaxed!

Friday, I drove Micah to school, ran some errands, and went to the gym. Shower and then got some decent time in recording Torah and Haftarah tracks for my students. Then the cleaning ladies arrived.

I went upstairs to tell them something about about the bathroom... and slipped.

I landed on the bathroom floor. Fortunately, nothing cracked, but I landed kind of with my underarm and back on the edge of the tub. Ouch.

I'm SO sore now. I think I bruised a rib.

Friday afternoon, babysitter took Sofia to ballet and I took Micah to his soccer game. This time we wrapped his finger with tape, so he could play. Then home for Shabbat and quiet night at home. The boys fell asleep before Sofia!

Today, Reading School for Sofia. Then in the afternoon, Micah had another soccer game. I LOVE his coaches, who are willing to drive him home! Which meant I had an hour to myself. I went to the Natick Open Studios and wandered around the art studios.

Unfortunately, my whole body aches so badly. Ugh.

I got home at the same time as Micah. And now he's out again. His coach took him (along with coach's son and another teammate) to the NE Revolutions game at Gillette Stadium. (He just called and asked if he could sleep over his friend's house!) So I'm home with Sam and Sofia, watchin an Adam Sandler movie... oh joy...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Buddy Walk bandanas for tomorrow

A Week From Hell, and Looking Down the Tunnel

Wow, this was some week.

Last Friday, I had to take Sam into Newton, to drop him at the bus at Hebrew College. He was headed up to Camp Yavneh in NH for the Prozdor 9th grade Shabbaton.

So my neighbor picked up Sofia from school, and our new babysitter, R, took her to ballet class. I got home around the same time they did, and Sofia just about collapsed in my lap. She and Micah spent 20 minutes fighting over the real estate of my lap (really, kids, there's plenty of room for both of you!).

And then Sofia popped a fever.

So I missed my synagogue choir concert, for which I had been practicing for a few weeks. Kinda bummed, although it was nice to be home with my two little ones (David was still away, and now Sam was, too.).

I got Micah a ride to soccer - I thought his game was at 9am, but it was really at 2:30 - and Sofia and I just relaxed at home. She did not get a fever again; in fact, she was quite bubbly and bouncy. So when Micah left for his game, I took her over to the mall (I had to pick up my laptop, which was at Apple being repaired), to get her makeup done.

Sofia LOVES getting her makeup done. And Mama, being a total non-makeup person, is not much help. So she dressed up in her fancy outfit (purple leggings, purple dress that is too short to be a dress, silver sparkly shoes, purple headband, and puppy-dog pocketbook) and off we went. When we go to the mall, she marches over to the makeup ladies, who go totally gaga over Miss Cutie. We started at Nordstroms, and then went over to the MAC store (not the Apple store; it's makeup!).

And the MAC lady notices that one of Sofia's eyes is all goopy.

Ugh. Her nose had been stuffy all day, but now her tear ducts are clogged, which means allergic conjunctivitis.

The lady made up lips, cheeks, and one eye. I debated getting Sofia an emergency eye appointment, but really, I already knew what we needed to do, and already had the drops ready at home.

So we go home, and I wrestle her to get the drops into her eyes. NOT fun. We settle in for a quiet evening; Micah is exhausted from his game, too.

And then I get a call - from Camp Yavneh. Sam has had an Allergic Reaction to ... something. We have no idea what it was. Closest guess is something on the grass (they were rolling around on the field). His eye is all puffed up , and he has hives all over his body.

They gave him Benadryl, and asked that I pick him up at 9:30 am at Hebrew College the next morning, but when I spoke to him, he really wasn't feeling well.

So off I went to New Hampshire.

Got up there in about 2 hours. He was feeling a little better, but still looked horrible. We stayed for Havdalah and a quick bite of dinner, and then raced home. Stopped in Haverhill to get another EpiPen, since I had forgotten to bring Micah's and was sufficiently nervous without it.

Sunday morning, took Sam to pediatrician, who said to stay on the Benadryl for 48 hours. Which he did. Lots of sleeping; missed school on Monday. But by Monday evening he was fine. Whew.

Tuesday was normal (except that by now, I also had to use my eye drops, since she's shared the conjunctivitis with me.). Wednesday started out fine...

...until Sofia's school called to tell me her eyes were all goopy and watery and she was very "droopy". So I left work and picked her up. Assured the nurses that she had been on the eye drops since Saturday, but she really did look droopy. So we came home. She got right into pajamas (and tried to get me into pjs; I had to put them on over my dress). I gave her Benadryl, which helped. I napped, and Sam napped when he got home. Sofia never napped, but she relaxed.

I had a party that I was co-hosting that night (my dear friend V left MWJDS a few weeks ago to work in the real world again, and this was her going away party), so I left the boys in charge. They did fine.

Thursday, back to normal.

Friday...I have a day off from work, so I relax a bit in the morning (having gotten Micah a ride to school), and then go off to the gym. And when I get out of the gym, there is a message from Sofia's school nurse...

Sofia has eaten berries from a bush by the playground.


I rush to school. The custodian has brought in a sprig, and Mrs. B and I go online to figure out what Sofia has decided to snack on.


Which can be poisonous in sufficient quantity.

Which fortunately she did NOT eat. She only had one or two berries before Mr. C., the principal, caught up to her (he had been chasing her; I taught him "Red Light", too!).

Nurse and I spoke to Poison Control, who confirmed what we were reading online. Gave Sofia a glass of milk, and they kept having her drink water the rest of the day. She had a little tummy ache, but otherwise was fine.


The boys came home from school, and I went back to get Sofia. When I got home, Micah had injured his finger while they were playing football. At this point (Saturday) we think it's a sprain, but it does hurt a lot.

And while I was taking care of Micah's finger, I also had to help Sam, who had an infected finger that needed lancing.



Looking Down the Tunnel

I've been mulling over this part of the post for a few days. Bringing Sofia back to her classroom on Friday helped contribute to the post, too.

At the public school, Sofia is mostly in the "sub-separate" class. What this means is that she is assigned to the Inclusion Class for second grade, and goes with them for Music and Art and PE and lunch. But all her Learning is done in the SubSep room, in individual or small group work.

When we first considered putting her in SubSep, I was scared. There was a little boy, D, with Autism, and he has a hard time making eye contact. His behaviors are different from normal.

I was assured by our wonderful SpEd team that they worked hard with all the kids on not picking up each others' less appropriate behaviors. And so far, it's been fabulous. Sofia continues to be her own person - which is pretty significant already, so who needs to copy someone else's behaviors.

But what I am noticing now is about me.

Now, when I go into the public school, most of the kids fade into the background. They are a large herd, a mass of brightly colored clothing and bland personalities.

What I see, very clearly and sharply, are the handful of kids from SubSep. I see them as they walk down the center hallway together. Some can walk independently - Sofia and her buddy H like to skip. One girl is in a wheelchair, and it might take her a while to respond to a "hi" or "bye". D still needs to have one of the aides hold onto his arm, or he tends to wander quickly away. Sofia has speech with N, and the speech teacher (who is my friend) says the two of them use so much sign language together, she is fearful of what they might be plotting against her.

But I see these beautiful children so crisply compared to the rest of the school. They each have their own personalities, their own behaviors. They smile in their own way and in their own time.

I see them coming down the hall, individually with an aide or in a small group. Most of them get dismissed from the front of the school, rather than from "walkers" dismissal, since they are likely not to stay put without watching. It works for me (especially because I have to grab Sofia and race to get Micah twice a week).

I feel that Small Group learning is best, not just for students with special learning needs, but for ALL students. On Friday, when Sofia and I finished in the nurses' office, I took her back to class. She wanted to go to her Inclusion classroom, so we popped our heads in.

There had to be more than 20 kids, all sitting at desks in straight lines, all learning in the ONE way the teacher was teaching.

That's not true learning. That's parroting.

When I took Sofia into the SubSep room, they were playing Simon Says. They each have their own way of ... being. RL, the girl in the wheelchair, was standing, but needed to be supported by the teacher. H was bouncing around next to them. The boys were all rolling on the floor - Sofia joined them. They were all having fun, and all responding to the other teacher's "Simon Says" commands in their own ways. They each got their own commands, too; a customized version of the game.

It was just so much more appealing than the regular classroom.

So I am grateful for the ability to have my children in smaller classes. Sofia in SubSep. Micah at the day school (so far; he wants to go to a bigger school next year because he wants to be with more friends. That's a whole different post...). Sam is in the supported classes at the High School, and doing great. He has a 98 average in History, and nearly as high in English; the two topics he needed the most support for last year! And he's in the Learning Center, which means that even when he is in the bigger class for Honors Geometry, there is still someone looking out specifically for him. He still gets his testing accommodations, which make all the difference in the world for him.

I am just so glad it's going well, and I wish all children could have the opportunities my own kids have.

Ok, Buddy Walk tomorrow. Gotta get some rest.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Just So Busy

Ok, first the update on the Math saga.

Right after I posted on the blog, I went to the high school to have a meeting with the Learning Center teacher and the Guidance Counselor. The LC teacher is terrific, and has totally fallen for Sam's great work habits and sweet demeanor. She wishes she could bottle him and apply his style to all the other LC students.

Anyway, since the math teacher totally ignored Sam's testing accommodations, we went through the list and the LC teacher had a nice long to do list for take-away.

On the next test, Sam got a 90.

And then three days later, I got a letter from the Team Liaison, requesting they re-evaluate Sam to see if he really needs special education services!

I'm thinking the 43 and the 90 is pretty clear empirical evidence. So, no, no testing at this time.

He's doing great in everything now. He has a 98 average in History (which my mother think means that the class is too easy for him). He is very proud of how hard he is working. And he is enjoying school.

Micah, however, is having trouble, especially with the new Hebrew teacher. They are just not connecting well, and Micah...can be... difficult... I'm dealing with the lead teacher and the director of education now, to try to make things work. Micah's standard fallback is "I have a bad memory." Well, either he does or he doesn't. The Director of Education happens to also be a Neuropsychologist. So we will figure it out.

Sofia is doing great. We watched Iron Man 3 last week, and my blood-thirsty little princess is now also a Monster. She wears black pants and a black shirt (with a pink cupcake on it). As long as she stops saying "I hold guns; people all bloody" everything is fine.

I think we are nearing an agreement on my work hours. Looks like I will be working 20 hours a week! Some of that is flexible hours, which covers the tremendous amount of time I spend nights and weekends doing work for school. It's exciting, though. I really like the new Director of Institutional Advancement (aka my new boss for 90% of the job). We work well together.

My b'nai mitzvah tutoring has started for the year, too. I have one student Monday evening and one Thursday evening. Plus I'm reading Torah for an upcoming bar mitzvah, same parasha as Micah's bar mitzvah will be next year. Oh, and at some point we have to get Micah started, too.

David has been away for the past 3 weeks. He went to Costa Rica, then Berlin Germany, then Poland, and now he is in Auckland NZ. Coming home Sunday, but then leaving Tuesday for a few days. Just crazy schedule.

Our after-school schedule is nuts, too, but my new Mother's Helper is suppose to start on Thursday. I already have most things worked out, but it will be great to have help.

Mondays: I work 1:00 -  4:00. Sofia comes into the office to play on the computer when school gets out at 3:15. Micah goes to his friend's house. At 4, I take Sofia to gymnastics, then have a little time to run an errand, then pick up Micah, then pick up Sofia, drop Micah at soccer, and come home. He gets a ride home from soccer, so I can teacher at 7 at the house.

Tuesday is our free day so far, although starting next week for 4 weeks, Micah will have baseball games. I work 8-1.

Wednesday, I work 8-1 again. Just enough time to go to the gym before I pick up Sofia and then go back and pick up Micah. Sofia has 4:30 swimming and Micah has 4:30 gymnastics, fortunately both in the same building. Sofia and I only have to wait about 15 minutes for Micah once we are done changing from swimming. Race to soccer (he's 20 minutes late), then bring her home, then back to soccer field to pick him up.

Thursdays, back to MWJDS 1-3:50. Take Micah over to baseball training; the mother's helper will pick him up. Quick errand or ice cream with Sofia, and then more swimming. We can then go right home (rather than having to go back to get Micah, which we were doing). Quick eat and another student at the house. Sam will be home to cook!

Fridays, Sofia has ballet at 4:10. Which usually will be fine. This week, however, I have to take Sam into Newton to get him to the Prozdor bus so he can go for the 9th grade Shabbaton at Yavneh.

Whew. Oh, and seemingly endless soccer games on Sunday, although I know it's only another 6-8 weeks. And monthly DS reading school for Sofia.

My brain is starting to jangle around in my skull...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Parenting Ring of Hell

Introverts vs. Extroverts

I'm an Extrovert. CLEARLY. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that I'm an extrovert. I'm loud, I'm proud, I'm not afraid to speak up...ever... (well, maybe around my mother...).

David is an extrovert. Not as extreme as me, surely, but definitely an extrovert.

We got Sofia. Whew. Clearly another extrovert. Or she just doesn't give two hoots what anyone else thinks, she's gonna do what she wants to do.

Then there are the boys. Sam is an extreme introvert. Quiet. Shy. Withdrawn. Softspoken. Anxious. (Not that extroverts can't be anxious - we have plenty of that - but the way Sam deals with it is so different from how I deal with it).

And Micah, while not as introverted as Sam, is clearly on the more reticent side. And he's an emerging teen.

Suddenly, my little boy who loved me, the little boy who watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as his big brother approached the teen years, saying "I'm not going to be like that, am I?", is becoming a teen.

An ornery teen.

A teen with attitude.

A teen with opinions.

An introverted teen with an extroverted mother.

This is not going well.

In the grocery store, I call the clerks by name. They have their names written in 3" tall letters on their name tags. And I like to think of them as people, not machines.

Micah was not thrilled. "Mom, can you just not do that? Can you just say 'Hey You'?"

He's making me listen to "music" in the car. His kind of music - top 40, but only the pieces he likes. I still have not pinned down his musical taste (although he'll always stop for AC/DC).

So if I'm listening to music, even bad music, if it's got a decent beat, I want to dance. Even if I'm driving.

Not good. "Stop That!"

This is going to be an interesting few years.

Just Stop Arguing

And while Micah approaches teenager-ness, he's also perfecting his already considerable Arguing Skills.

EVERYTHING is an argument with this kid.I'm just so tired already, and he hasn't even turned 12 yet.

Last night he had to do homework for his Judaics class. This weekend is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This week is a time to reflect on our mistakes and problems and think about ways to do better next year.

One question on the homework was for him to think about two things he could do to be a better son.

     Stop Arguing.
     Don't Argue.

That's what we came up with after 15 minutes of arguing about the question.


Math Woes

And because we would'nt want to have a smooth transition to anything....

Last night I got a call from Sam's Geometry teacher.

Back story: When Sam took the math placement test back in March, his class had not made every much progress in math. There were starts and stops. But in late January they got a new teacher, and the time they returned from February vacation, they were back on track. They managed to finish the entire Algebra 1 book before the end of school, at a very rigorous rate. Sam aced the class - he really had a talent for math.

So in August, we get his schedule from the high school, and take a look at the teacher websites. And he realizes he's been placed in Algebra 1, the regular freshman mid-level math course, and it's the exact same book he completed in 8th grade.

Frantic contact with the Guidance Counselor. Not a lot of time in between our vacation and the beginning of high school, especially since Sam was at my parents' home for a few days and then had USY Encampment for 4 days.

Guidance says we can do a Parent Override to get him into the Honors math class, although Guidance does not recommend Parent Overrides. The paperwork has a really negative statement about "we don't think this is what is best for your child but if you do, that's your choice." (I'm paraphrasing).

Sam returns from my parents' on Wednesday afternoon, in time to go to Orientation at the high school. My mom sees the override form, and notices that it is for Honors Algebra 1. Still Algebra 1.

So we go to Orientation, and of course, the guidance counselors are not there to see the parents. But after the parent session, I grab the head of Guidance. He says, "no problem, the next class is Honors Geometry, his guidance counselor just filled it out wrong. Let her know that it should be Geometry."

Sam and I do manage to track down his Guidance Counselor, Mrs. C., and we talk about Honors Geometry. And clearly she is not going to be a good match for Sam, because she starts pushing back.

"Oh, no, it's too hard, I don't think he can do it, it would be better if he took a harder science class, I don't think he should move. He'll have to take all the placements again now."

Which is NOT the way to convince Sam not to take a class!

By the time we get home, his body is so tense, I can see every tendon in his hands and arms. He is determined to sit down and take 10 placement exams that night, despite being exhausted (from a weekend at Grandma's) and stressed (because he's leaving the next morning at 8am for camp) and upset (from being told he isn't capable of doing the work).

He takes the first test, but we realize that one of the figures did not load properly, and if you reload the page, you get a whole new test, so the 5 questions he had already answered went away. Too frustrating.

So we decide that he really needs to pack that night, get a good night's sleep, and do some math review before he takes the test. I had grabbed the math book from school (since I was in for staff days).

While he was at camp, I contacted the Geometry teacher, who was really nice, along with the Learning Center teacher. Sam is placed in Learning Center to support both the dyslexia and the emotional issues. Thank Heavens we got that placement - it is going to be VERY important for him!

So the Geometry teacher is more laid back about everything, but she still does want him to take the tests. Sam gets home from camp Sunday night. Monday morning, while I go to Staff Meetings, he sits down and starts taking the tests.

At 11:30, he has gotten through 4 tests. We enter the grades and Submit. He gets 72%, 86%, 78% and 88%. You need at least 80% on at least 10 tests. Sam starts stressing and sobbing that he's going to do all these tests but get the last two wrong and have done all that work for nothing.

He's sobbing. I'm sobbing. I'm emailing back and forth with the teacher, who, bless her heart, tells us to just STOP. They will work it out.

He goes to school the next day. No math on his rotation the first day. Second day he goes to the Honors Algebra 1 class that he has been moved into, but later in the day we make the switch, and the next rotation for math, he goes to Honors Geometry.

Great. All is well. He is in the supported level classes for English, History and Science, and Honors Geometry. He has Learning Center twice a day, so plenty of time to do his work and get help.

He does great on all the homework. Misses maybe one problem each time.

And then he gets a 43% on the first test.

So the Geometry Teacher (not the lady I had been dealing with before school; the other section's teacher) calls me last night, worried that perhaps this is not the class for Sam.

Among other questions I have for her, paramount is "How much of his IEP testing accommodations were followed?" Not all accommodations were followed, which clearly had an impact.

So she and I agree that I'll have Sam take some of the practice tests again, and we will all discuss more in the morning (today).

When I start talking to him about this, he gets very upset.

"All I am hearing is that you think I'm stupid."

My heart is crying.

But he does two of the test and gets 88% on each - only two wrong on each test.

The third test we only get half way through, and at 10pm call it quits. The poor kid wakes up at 6 to catch the bus, and he was exhausted.

So I"m heading in to the high school this morning to meet with the Guidance Counselor and the Learning Center teacher. LC Teacher said she will pull Sam out of his History class so he can participate in the conversation, too.


Meanwhile, in Sofia's World

All is cheery and bright in Sofia's world. School is great. She is talking up a storm. She's got gymnastics once a week, swimming twice a week, and next week she'll start ballet, too. She likes to go to parties at shul, so the High Holidays have been fun, and she's got three birthday parties on her calendar for this month.

We totally lucked out with her MWJDS schedule. Still Monday and Thursday afternoons, 1:000 - 3:15. She has Judaic Music and then Wellness/PE on Monday, and Judaics and Art on Thursdays. Perfect enrichment!

She is "growing long hair" like Rapunzel. Now it's usually in her face, and she refuses to keep a ponytail or clip in for very long. We just keep lots of extra hair bands around in the car, the backpack, the bathroom, the swim bag, the ballet bag....

Monday, August 12, 2013

End of Vacation

Yesterday was not really worth writing about. We got up, got packed out of the hotel. Stopped at Starbucks to pick up breakfast, and headed to the ferry. Long waiting time, since we had to clear customs there.

Ferry was ok. Sam was still in a bad mood about Micah. I pulled out the “big guns” by reminding him that David lost his own little brother when he was about Sam’s age. Complaing calmed after that.

Then a looooong drive down along the side of Olympic National Park. Granted, I slept most of the time, being absolutely exhausted, but David was SO frustrated by the slow progress of the drive. We stopped in the middle of nowhere at a Subway for late lunch (Micah’s favorite restaurant these days). Finally made it to Great Wolf Lodge, outside Olympia, around 4pm.

Great Wolf Lodge is a ginormous Water Park and hotel fun zone for kids. We are rather anti-commercial family, so we managed to avoid buying any junk. Just spend lots of time in the water park.

The kids had a BLAST. Sofia was afraid the first time she went on each slide, but before she hit the bottom she was asking “More! More!” I spent the first several hours running back and forth between the water park and the guest laundry (way on the far end of the hotel, very long walk) while David handled Sofia and the boys. I finally pulled Sofia out at 8:45 for a shower, and the boys were there until closing time at 9.

The elevators were all broken to get back to the room on the 7th floor. Sofia made it, though, which was amazing. We got showered, and then back down stairs to try to get food.
The restaurants closed at 10, and it was about 9:40, so we were pushing it. The boys just wanted pizza, so I ordered for them (pay was attached to the wrist bands) and they took their pizza up to the room. David, Sofia and I made it into the restaurant. Whew. At least they had good “Vanilla Cola” drinks (rum and coke).

Everyone slept VERY late today. We got out of the room a little after 10, packed the car, and went to breakfast (which closed at 11). Then it was off to the water park again.
We stayed until about 2pm. I got a bit dizzy this time. Possibly too little sleep and it was wamr in there today.

Eventually we showered and left. Two hour drive to Portland. We’re staying near the airport. Heading to a nice fish restaurant on the water shortly. Home tomorrow!!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Saturday on Vancouver Island

Well, we did not make it to shul. I woke up at 8:00, and David said he had not fallen asleep until 4am. And the kids were still out cold. So we let them sleep. Sofia woke up around 8:30, Micah shortly after that, but Sam and David slept until 10. I guess they needed it.

So we dressed and headed to Starbucks (which, by 11am, was the BEST thing I ever saw!). Breakfast, and then into downtown.

Sofia and I dropped David and the boys off at the bicycle rental place. They spent the next three hours hard at work on the trail. Meanwhile, we had a Girls Day in Victoria. Lovely time.

Found cheap parking, and walked to Fisherman’s Wharf, which was much smaller than elsewhere. But Sofia had fun running on the planks. Then she played on the playground for a while, making friends with a young German boy (we ran into him again later).

Then she got in her chair and I gave her my pink umbrella to hold for shade. She was stylin’. We strolled along the Waterfront Walk, looking at boats, and buildings, and flowers, and people.

She had some ice cream from the Lemon Truck when we got to the center, and then we walked up to the Fairmont Hotel. Tried to check out Afternoon Tea, but it was $60 for adults, and $30 for a child if they wanted their own serving (rather than eating off the adult’s plate). Never mind.

Walked around the Fairmont. In the atrium leading to the Convention Center, there was a piano, and Sofia played a bit. Not bad, for someone who does not play piano.

 We walked up a few blocks and then started looking for lunch. I tried to get us an outdoor seating place, but the one I wanted, with the best food choices, was actually bar and was strictly no children anywhere. So we went for sushi.

Yummy Sushi Pizza - seaweed base, rice “cake” tempura, topped with spicy tuna and roe. MMMM. Sofia had a salmon & avocado roll, and had fun playing drums with her chopsticks. We started off sitting by the window, but they moved us to a booth when the sun got too hot.

We were nearly finished when David and the boys found us! Just in time, since the kitchen was about to close. They ordered, and Sofia and I left to go pick up the car (they were exhausted from biking). Then we drove back to pick them up.

Drove up, found a small market to get food for dinner, and then off to Butchart Gardens. Gorgeous! Way bigger than I had imagined. Really stunning gardens, and so many people, but it did not feel as crowded as in Victoria.

David and the boys were a little ... intense... David thought he was perfectly calm, but he was having a hard time with Sofia, who was not listening well. So we split up again. I can calm her down, but not if she is distracted by them. She had a great time bonding with a bronze pony - it was quite the love affair.

We meandered over to the Sunken Garden, and Sofia started taking photos... of people! She would go up to someone and say “Excuse Me. I take picture?” So adorable. Everyone was very happy to pose for her.

David and the boys came back to us so they could give me the wheelchair (which they had take), because I knew I’d need it soon. Sofia was busy taking lots and lots of close up photos of flowers, and photos of people. Eventually she got tired and sat.

David and the boys went off again so that we could go at Sofia’s pace (which is slow). But when the boys started fighting with each other, he called and we hooked back up. Found a place on the fireworks lawn and had a picnic.

I left them all there, and went to see the rest of the gardens by myself. Lovely. Then I went back to join them. There was a band playing at the concert shell, so we could hear the music (and while walking, Sofia and I had done some dancing). We had a few hours to wait for the fireworks.

I took Micah and Sofia to the Carousel. She loves Carousels, but absolutely refuses to ride ON the horses (or whatever animals are represented). She sits on a bench, and gets a little scared about the movement, but loves to ride. She and I went twice, Micah only once (his choice).

The fireworks were spectacular. Really unusual, with a lot of close-to-the-ground stuff. Totally worth the wait.

Poor Sofia of course had not needed the potty until about 2 minutes before the fireworks began, and I was not about to miss it. So all during the show she complained that her tushy hurt. But she made it. The moment the show was over, I raced her off, leaving David and the boys to clean up and bring everything.

It took forever to get several thousand people from the fireworks field to the parking lot. Longer if you were walking with a small girl who was really excited about all the Yellow and Green and Red she could see (the fireworks made an impression!). The guys were at the car for a long time before we got there.

Sam’s in a horrible mood, very angry at Micah and very moody in general. Ah, teenagers. UGH.

They are all fast asleep now (well, it’s 12:30 am). Tomorrow we have the 10:30 ferry back to Washington, and off to Great Wolf Lodge.

Funny story from yesterday: after dinner, we were walking back to the car. It was about 10pm. A car drove by, and one of the guys in it let out a really loud scream as they passed us. Just big kids being obnoxious. So I said a gentle “Thank You”. And the guys in the car sheepishly said “Sorry.” Only in Canada.

 Why do tourist stores leave toys at the door? Oh, yeah...
 Whew! Lunch.
 Look who found us. Zombies.

 Love that shadow!

 She was soooo happy.

 Waiting for fireworks

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Friday, off to Victoria

Up and dressed early, in fact Micah woke me up about 45 minutes before my alarm went off. I was moving faster than David, so we did not get out until 8:15, but that got us to the ferry just before 9, which was perfect for our 10:00 reservation. Walked around the ferry marketplace, bought some cool candle-holders, and Sofia had some playground time. Then we got on the ferry for our ride to Victoria.

I did a little work on the laptop for the early part of the ride. I have to finish the curriculum for the course I will be teaching at Hebrew College, Jewish Views on Disability, this semester. Should be fun. I have co-taught it before, but this is my first solo.

Anyway, we had a good spot on the sun deck, inside the front window covering, so it wasn’t too cold or windy but we had a nice view. Which didn’t matter much, since Sofia watched a movie on Sam’s iPad, the boys played a game on the iPod, and I was buried in my laptop.

At the half-way mark, I actually thought we were coming into the terminal, so I shut down, and took Sofia for a walk. There was a park ranger telling interesting facts about the flora and fauna of Vancouver Island. Sofia had a BLAST helping her out. Sofia has a natural affinity for The Person In Charge, especially if that person is speaking to a group. She just wanted to stand next to the lady (whose name was Hannah). Hannah was great about it. She had Sofia hold things for her during her demo, and after the presentation, she sat and showed Sofia pictures in the wildlife photo journal. Sofia was so over-stimulated, she couldn’t even speak. She would sign the names of animals or plants, but could not form the words. It was really interesting to see how the noise and wind and excitement had such an effect on her.

We got into port, and started driving south. But David was hungry, and getting kind of fussy. We finally found a decent Greek restaurant about half-way to our hotel. Not to bad, but not great.

Anyway, then we went to check in at the hotel. Definitely the lowest-rent building of our whole trip. A Red Lion Inn (and Suites), although we don’t have a suite, just 2 double-beds in a very small room. The three kids are squished in together, but I’m sure Sofia will come find me at some point.

This is the only hotel on our stay that does not include breakfast. At least I have Sofia’s instant Grits with us! But David just noted, “Why would you ever leave this place? It’s got a hotel, a pool, a Chinese Restaurant, a Liquor Store, and a Strip Club!” (Yes, that’s all in the same building. Oh joy.)

Anyway, we got in, and I made David take a nap while I took the kids to the outdoor pool. This was the first pool with a decent deep-end, so the boys could jump in more. Sofia and Micah had a blast jumping in. She was actually in the “deep” side, although she mostly stayed by the ladder after she jumped in over and over.

Around 4:00, we came back, got dressed, got David up and went off to town. First stop was Craigdarroch Castle, this really cool old mansion. I had to hold onto Sofia, because all the rooms had alarms and you weren’t supposed to touch the walls, so I did not really get to read much of the info sheets, but I did take a lot of photos. David enjoyed reading everything. Micah was not impressed.

Had a little time with Sof in the gift shop, and bought her a little tea set. She was so happy! It’s still in the box, but she clutched it the whole way home tonight.

After the castle, we parked in downtown Victoria near the waterfront and just meandered around. There was some sort of military parade and memorial going on, so that was cool to see, and there were lots of vendors along the boardwalk. The boys and I got henna tattoos. I’m not so sure how they will look tomorrow. Right now the “goop” is coming off mine and the tattoo does not look that dark.

We were getting hungry, and that’s a big problem with this family. Unfortunately, Sofia and I would be happy with just about any kind of food, David has a slightly less tolerant tummy, and the boys (especially Micah) are incredibly picky! Add to that the food allergies and the need to be vegetarian or fish or dairy... it’s limiting.

And when we are in a place we don’t know, it’s tough to pick something. So eventually we ended up at The Old Spaghetti Factory again, the same chain we ate at two nights ago in Vancouver. In fact, we mostly had the same meals (although this time Micah got the kid’s cheese pizza, which was really just a half order of the flat bread appetizer). But it was good, and the drink of the day was a frozen Bellini, so I felt better.

We didn’t leave the restaurant until after 10, so we got back to the hotel late. Sofia was just about asleep in the car, but revived enough to be annoying until she passed out. Now the kids are all asleep and I’m just gonna finish this, sort the photos, and post.

Tomorrow we are going to Shabbat services at the Conservative shul (we already scoped out the location, and I was emailing with the office this week). Then we might hit a museum or activity in the afternoon, and then Butchart Gardens. We will bring a picnic dinner, and stay for the evening concert and then the fireworks. (At least that’s the plan!)

Today's Photos:
On the ferry

 Craigdarroch Castle

 Practicing her ballet: Tondu, Coupe, Pah-de-Bourre

 In the Gift Shop: