Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life is So Hard

Crushed by here we wander
Crushed, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Really. You get invited by Grammy to the club pool. But the kiddie pool just doesn't cut it anymore.

You want to go on the slide in the family pool. Over and over and OVER again. For hours at a time, without a single break. Never mind that the adults swimming out there to catch you and help give you a push back to the ladder might be a little tired.

You leave the family pool kicking and screaming and crying and falling down on the ground in protest. All the way back to the kiddie pool.

And then you think you want to go off the diving board in the dive pool, but that jump gets bigger the closer you get to the end of the board. So you bounce on the board a little, but stay back from the edge. The lifeguard blows his whistle and tells you to jump or get back down (so the other kids can jump). We go through the process a few times, but you eventually opt out. It's just too high, and you're swimming is still more of a dog paddle on a good day, so you're not quite ready. Not today.

You leave the dive pool kicking and screaming and crying and falling down in protest. All the way back to the kiddie pool.

And to add insult to injury, Mommy will not feed you every single minute you are at the club pool. We did JUST eat lunch before we drove over. You did already have a large package of fruit snacks, some applesauce and a large container of grapes. Grammy had already given you an icee from the concessions. You SHOULD NOT still be hungry.

But you are. You want more snacks. And more drinks. And you want to slide. Or jump. Or be anywhere except inside or around the kiddie pool.

Life is so hard sometimes ...

Summer Time ...

Still Snorkeling by here we wander
Still Snorkeling, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
... and the livin' is easy.

For the most part, anyway. The last few weeks have seen really warm weather in our part of the world, which means the backyard pool is finally open for business (the cold nights kept the water cold the first few weeks of summer break).

The last few weeks our schedule has been pretty typical. We spend the mornings inside, me attempting to work on my freelance project or taking care of things around the house and the boys playing with toys or watching a movie in the play room. We usually have a late lunch, then make our way outside around 3 o'clock or so, when the back yard starts to shade.

And that's where we stay. We usually finish out the day in our back yard. Snacks and drinks under the patio umbrella. Boys splashing in the pool or swinging on the playset or bouncing on the trampoline. And, if the yard is clean, the boys playing in the yard. Connor and Xander do pretty well with a few simple games. Sawyer cannot be convinced to leave the pool. Ever.

Now that baseball has ended, the back yard is our new routine. We probably should be doing a little more work. But it is summer time, after all, and the livin' should be easy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

And the Season Ends ...

Good Game by here we wander
Good Game, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
It was a good one. Connor had a great group of boys on his team and was led by a great group of coaches (one head coach, and four other dads who were there at every single practice and game). The boys all learned a lot, and they came a long way from the beginning of the season.

The city tournament started last Monday. The boys won their first round game (the one in the photo above). They had Tuesday off, but played again on Wednesday. The first game at five, and if they won, again at eight for the city tournament championship.

At five they played one of the top three teams from their own league, the team, in fact, that they had defeated in their own league championship just a week or so ago. It was the only time all season that the boys had managed to defeat that particular team.

And it remained that way. The other team won by a single run. They scored their full five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take the lead by a single run, and even with the top of our lineup, we couldn't match it. The other team didn't even need their last at bat.

It was a tough loss for the boys, but they handled it well. We were without one of our starting infielders for this tournament (summer vacations are often planned before tournament times are announced). But the boys played hard and played well, and should be proud of a really amazing season.

And let's be honest. If you had to chose, winning your own league tournament (and getting a cool trophy at the closing ceremonies) was a little more fun than winning the city tournament (and only getting a t-shirt in front of a bunch of teams you didn't really know anyway).

That's how we're choosing to look at it. You win some, you lose some. We'll enjoy the ones we won, and not worry too much about the ones we didn't.

As for the last game of the season, I am not going to think about the score. I am going to remember a single moment that will always stand out.

With one of the teammates missing, we just had enough players to field a team. No one had to sit out during any of the innings. Every boy played every single inning.

And that meant Connor rotated between his two usual positions, right field and catcher. He infinitely prefers catcher, because there's much more action involved. He's a part of every single play.

I couldn't even tell you what inning it was, to be honest. It was somewhere in the middle of the game. We had two outs on the other team when a batter nicked the ball down the first base line, holding it fair.

Normally, this play does not end well for the team in the field at this level of play.

Connor ran out after the ball. He picked it up and hurled it to first base. It was a perfect throw, the first baseman easily caught it just a few seconds before the batter stepped onto the bag. Connor made a good play to end the inning.

Now for some of our other catchers, this might not have been a big deal. But this is the first year Connor has ever played the position. He does pretty well catching throws from the opposing coaches and throwing them back, but he's just now learning to flip the mask off and make a play after the ball is hit. He is slowly learning to take off the mask and search for pop-up fouls behind him, or to watch the ball as it moves around the infield to see if it he will need to make a play on a runner coming home.

It was an impressive moment for Connor. One of his coaches even carried him off the field in excitement, and for Connor that was probably the highlight of the game. That same coach who carried him off the field also shared that of all the players they had this year, he felt like Connor had improved the most from beginning to end.

Yes, it's been a good season. Win or lose, that play is what I'm going to take away from the end of it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dear Kindergarten Teacher

Pool by here we wander
Pool, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
You missed out. You had the chance to get to know an amazing little boy who would have changed your world. But you didn't. And it's your loss.

Of all our boys, Sawyer had the toughest year at his new school. He was placed in a classroom, with a teacher, that neither understood nor appreciated him.

The warning signs started early. On our first initial visit to the school, just about everyone we met started asking us questions about the boys, about how to reach them and how to include them, and more than that, they took notes as we talked.

One teacher didn't ask a single question. Or take a single note. She hardly acknowledged our presence in her classroom.

As the year went on, things didn't really improve. Sawyer didn't spend a whole lot of time in his regular classroom, and quite frankly, we didn't want him to.

Outside of a few brief words during the IEP meetings, we hadn't had any correspondence from his regular classroom teacher at all. There were no phone calls, no emails or invitations for teacher conferences, things that were present for our other two boys.

Every action or inaction by this particular teacher reinforced our belief that he was in better hands with his amazing resource team. The team who talked to us every single day, who called and emailed, who wrote in his daily journal, who walked our boy outside and spent countless hours every single day talking to us about his day, knowing that Sawyer could not tell us himself.

Valentine's Day was the breaking point (see here). There were lots of little things that just added insult to injury, items that came home from school with two boys but not with Sawyer. We didn't even start getting the classroom newsletter or weekly classroom log until after Valentine's Day. Even then, they were just papers stuck in a folder, without a single personal communication about Sawyer.

A few weeks before school ended, the annual school survey came out. As I started to fill it out, I realized our experience was never going to fit into the rating scale answers. So I got in touch with the school principal. I wanted to talk to her about our school year, about all of the amazing people who had supported our boys, but also about the one part of our school year that had been so incredibly disappointing.

It should have happened sooner.

But I thought it would get better. I knew he was in good hands with his resource team. I was afraid of being that parent, of being too demanding and not appreciative enough. I was still learning my way through the very different world of special education in elementary school versus Early Start.

It will not happen again. I will speak up the first moment I think any one of my boys is not getting what they need and what they deserve.

The principal and I had a nice conversation, and I felt like she understood my concerns and was proactive about approaching next school year. And that was my goal, to focus on having a better school year for Sawyer next year.

A few weeks later, and just two days before the end of the school year, Sawyer's kindergarten teacher sent an email asking if I wanted to come in for a conference.

I almost declined. Because really, what was the point? It had been a bad year, she was probably only offering because the principal had talked to her after our meeting. And there was nothing she could say or do that could change the school year that had just passed.

But I accepted. I accepted because there were things she needed to hear and things I needed to say. Not only for Sawyer, but for every other child like him, who might end up in her care.

As I walked around her classroom, looking at bulletin boards and displays, I kept thinking how unfamiliar it all was to me. I didn't know the names of his classmates. I didn't see anything with his name on the walls. It was as though he was never a part of the classroom at all.

And then I came to the birthday wall. All of the classmates were listed by name in each month of the year. All of the classmates except Sawyer.

He wasn't there at all. And that spoke volumes.

So, I will say it again. Dear Kindergarten Teacher, it is YOUR loss. You missed out. Sawyer is an incredibly amazing little boy who every single day works incredibly hard to overcome significant challenges. But he does, and he does it with an easy smile and an infectious laugh.

Sawyer has come an incredibly long way on his journey. We are incredibly proud of who he is and how hard he works and how far he has come.

And we are incredibly grateful for all of the amazing, wonderful teachers and therapists and staff members who have worked so incredibly hard to help him. So many, many people have taken the time and effort to get to know him, to overcome his challenges and reach him. They have made a huge difference in his life and in our life. We will always be grateful.

Your name is not on that list.

And, I repeat, it is your loss.

A Big, Big Year

Saying Thanks by here we wander
Saying Thanks, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
This year was a big one, full of changes and transitions. It was the first year that all three boys were at the same school. Two in kindergarten, and one in first grade.

All in all, the year was a really good one. The twins managed the transition very well. A lot of wonderful teachers and people made that possible. Our team from Early Start who followed up on them, who stopped in to visit them, and checked in throughout the year. Our new team who picked up the phone, sent messages or emails, and who were in constant communication throughout the year. Connor is pretty adaptable, and he did well transferring from his old school to the new one.

And that meant we had a lot of people to thank at the end of the school year. Because each one of them made the year possible and successful. Some people got photo mugs. One got a photo book. There were Orange Leaf gift cards. And there were cookies. Lots and lots of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

For Xander, his entire team was amazing. Mrs. B, his wonderful homeroom teacher who made sure from the first time we met her that she asked lots of questions and made him feel completely included in her classroom. Another Mrs. B, his resource teacher, who was never afraid to call or email with a question to figure out the best way to not only reach Xander, but to push him even further. Mrs. A, his speech therapist, who pushed and cheered him on. Mrs. D, his occupational therapist, who helps us with those sensory issues that sometimes disrupt the school day. Another Mrs. B, who kept him company and made him feel included with the class during lunch every day. Mrs. S, the assistant teacher in his classroom, who always made him feel included and welcome. And the amazing Mrs. G, his aide who every single day went above and beyond to reach him, to teach him, to push him and to celebrate his unique abilities.

For Sawyer, there were several. Mrs. K, his absolutely wonderful and amazing resource teacher who will keep him all they way through elementary school, made him feel incredibly welcome and pushed him in so many ways this year. Several aides worked with him in different ways, but Mrs. T and Mrs. J and Mrs. P spent quite a bit of time helping him through his school day. Mrs. A began the year as his speech therapist, and Mrs. J finished the year. Both of them worked hard to draw him out and help him work on those beginning sounds and words. Mrs. D worked hard on his sensory needs, and helped get a swing into his classroom and find a pencil grip that he would accept.

And Connor had a wonderful first grade year. His teacher Ms. M was good at encouraging him to do well while also keeping him in line.

Three boys. Fifteen amazing people (plus a front office staff and a special education coordinator we love). Overall, a really good first year.

We Are the Champions!

Baseball is slowly coming to a close. It's been an amazing season with a great group of kids and a wonderful group of coaches.

The boys finished second in their division (third overall in the league), and they were undefeated in the tournament to take the Rookie League Championship.

The city-wide tournament starts on Monday and concludes on Wednesday, at which point our season will be officially over.

You know, until fall ball starts back in August. Shh, don't tell Sawyer and Xander.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Where We Live

Two Down by here we wander
Two Down, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
If you're wondering where we've been these last few weeks, I will give you a hint. It starts with "base" and ends with "ball."

We've been at the ball field four or five nights every single week since April. It's been a busy couple of months.

The good news is that it's tournament time, so the end is near. The less good news, especially if you ask Sawyer and Xander who frequently have to tag along, is that Connor's team was so good this season that they're not only doing well in their league tournament, but they're also seeded to play in the city-wide tournament that follows.

Today we spent most of the day at the ball field. We arrived at 9:30, an hour before Connor's first game, and it was a good one. Connor, in particular, was a big fan. With two outs, in the bottom of the sixth, and on his last pitch, he got a base hit that scored the game winning run from third. He was rewarded with another coveted game ball, his second of the season.

We had an hour break to grab some lunch before we had to be back for practice before the next game. It was just as tough. Neither team scored until the fifth inning, but Connor's team had two big innings to close out the game and get the second win of the day.

Our next game is tomorrow. If Connor's team wins, they will play for the championship on Monday. If they lose, they will play another game tomorrow evening to try to make it back to the championship game. Either way, the league season ends on Monday.

The twins would cheer at this point, but let's not forget about the city-wide tournament. It begins next Monday, and we have four practices between now and then. And an end-of-the-season pool party thrown in, too.

There are lots of other things to talk about. The end of the school year. Daddy's busy schedule and changes that are going to make it even busier. The GFCF diet. The backyard pool. The twins starting private OT.

At some point I will get to all of those things. But right now, we're living at the baseball field. Connor and his team are having a great season, and Connor is having the time of his life.

We'll try to remember that these last few weeks, especially the twins, who are not going to be happy to see the baseball field again tomorrow after our long day there today. And we won't even talk about maybe having to go back on Monday, too.