Category Archives: School

In Urgent Need of Decaf In School Supply Hell

I am fully capable of helping my children muddle their way through middle school drama. I can comfortably engage in spirited conversation on a variety of important and trivial issues. I have a reasonably high IQ score.

Why is it that hunting and gathering school supplies is so far outside my comfort zone?

I know how to make a list. The stores I frequent even try to simplify things for me by setting up gigantic, idiot-proof Back-to-School Zones containing everything each of my three children might possibly need in support of their return to their schools’ freshly buffed hallways and dust-free chalkboards.

But I H.A.T.E. this chore. I have had the grade-specific, administrator-approved, itemized lists all summer long. And yet I put it off as long as I possibly could because “MIssion School Supplies” gives me a headache and makes me whiny.

Why? I’ll tell you why. In fact, I have a list.

1.) Because in each of my years as a Parent Who Is Required By Law to deliver her children back to school with specific sets of items designed to optimize their learning potential, such as antibacterial wipes and #2 pencils (no mechanical pencils, please) I have never once managed to find everything on the list in one store. Always at least two. Last year, it was four.

2.) Even though I feel certain that there must be an efficient way to accomplish this chore, I always end up aisle-jumping in order to cross things off “The List” in order, for fear of missing something, only to return to each aisle no fewer than four times in search of whatever might be the next thing on the list.

3.) Since I have three children in three different grades, multiply the steps in item #2, above, by three. Do NOT suggest to me that I try to fulfill the needs of each child all at once while in each aisle, because that’s even worse. The order of the items in each list is not at all logical or consistent, and with three lists going at once… dammit, I’m starting to twitch.

4.) Some far more organized and less manic parent has always arrived at the store earlier in the week and exhausted the supply of, say, 1-subject wide-ruled spiral notebooks, of which I must purchase seven. Sure, there are plenty of notebooks, and I suppose if I were smarter I would just grab a handful, count to seven, and be done with it. But I feel obligated to figure out which notebooks are on sale so that I’m paying $0.99 each instead of $3.99. After digging through the mess for a while, usually as soon as I start feeling like I’m conquering the beast, I realize that five of the seven notebooks in my cart are not wide-ruled, but college-ruled. I sigh heavily as I throw back the rejects, only to discover that the vast majority of the wide-ruled notebooks remaining on the shelves are of the three-subject variety.

5.) Target doesn’t allow shoppers to drink vodka while perusing the school supply section.

6.) By the time I’m finished, my very roomy cart is full to the brim:

fullcart

7.) My total school supplies bill for three kids, including tax, is $163.87. My kids are very grumpy about the loot that they see hauled into the house, because I never return with the cool, multi-colored binders or Phineas & Ferb folders. I go for the boring stuff. Store brand pencils. Plain notebooks. Sorry kids, Mom is cheap.

8.) Ah, number eight. To any readers who may also be teachers or administrators, let me ask you a favor. Please tell me the truth. I’ll keep it to myself.

Folders. Some are paper and some are plastic. Some come with prongs, others have pockets.

The item on the list that says, “4 three-prong plastic folders with pockets in solid colors; avoid black.”

Level with me. This is a joke, right? I mean, I actually admire the hell out of you if it is, because it’s brilliant in its evil purity. But, honestly. I can find paper folders with prongs and pockets. I can find plastic folders with prongs or pockets. But in Store #1, there are no three-pronged plastic folders with pockets. In Store #2, I thought I found them! But they only come in… yep. Black. Finally, sweet success in Store #3. I almost wept. Different colors and everything. But. Seriously?

9.) Finally, I return home. I sort through every last eraser and sharpener, highlighter and red pen. But I know it’s not over yet. It really was a good idea, in theory, for the district to limit itself to one list per grade so as not to add to the August confusion, but we all know that there will be a second list, to be fulfilled after Back-to-School Night, when each teacher tells us what they really want their kids to bring to class.

I have heard tales of some stores that sell bundled packages of all the necessary supplies by school and by grade, and of other energetic districts where sharp-minded parent volunteers band together and offer supply kits for sale at Back to School Night.

Oh, I love this idea.

If anyone wants to help me figure that out for next year, please come find me. I’ll be at Target, buying more glue sticks.

schsupp

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Old Favorites, Part V: I’m Not Kidding, I’m Asking Him for Lottery Numbers

autism-awareness
In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, I’m reposting one of my favorite stories about my son, Sam. While there is nothing about this post that is specifically about autism, it’s still an autism post as his diagnosis is a big part of what makes Sam… Sam. There is far more to him than his neurological profile, but there’s no denying that autism is an integral part of his big, beautiful, quirky, brilliant personality. This was originally published December 12, 2007. Since then, Sam has won a Harry Potter toy train (Train Show Raffle in our former hometown,) a $10 Target Gift Certificate (drawing at school in which three students out of 500 won a prize) and a sweet Lionel Starter Model Train Layout (Raffle Prize at a Train Expo two weeks ago.)

Read more Sam posts by clicking the word “Autism” under the “Categories” tab on the right.

Some of you who read here regularly may remember that my son, Sam, has excellent luck. Unbelievable, really. He wins things.

I have never, in any of my 42 years, won anything. Not that I’m bitter.

IMPORTANT BACKGROUND ITEM #1: Last year, while begrudgingly attending a performance of his sister’s play, Sam won seventy bucks in a raffle, during intermission. Then when he entered another raffle, a mere two days after the first, amidst concerned, maternal warnings that most buyers of raffle tickets do not actually win anything, especially not twice, he won the coveted half-hour massage gift certificate.

I worried about the lesson in all this. Gambling = getting stuff. Argh. Then again, it’s hard to argue with a two-for-two winner.

IMPORTANT BACKGROUND ITEM #2: Sam also enjoys lying convincing me of things. For example, when I say, “Sam, I need you to come over here so we can get your homework going!” he likes to point to a spot just behind me and say something exclamatory, such as, “MOM!! LOOK!! FLYING MONKEYS!!” When I look, he runs away. If he wants, say, a cell phone to call his own, he says that he won one and tells me where to pick it up.

So when he tells me things that seem to be a tad, shall we say, unlikely? I’m a little skeptical.

Yesterday, he came home from school and flopped himself on the couch.

Me: How was school, bud?

Sam: Oh, fine, I guess.

Me: Did anything interesting happen at Chess Club?

Sam: Oh. Well, no, but during lunch I won a bike.

Me (laughing, as I playfully punch him in the arm): Har! That’s funny, Sam.

Sam (with smirky, I-really-hope-she-buys-this smile): No, really. And Chess Club was good, too. I won my match.

Then, we went on to discuss the cold, rainy weather, what I was making for dinner (spaghetti), and the fact that it was quiet since the girls weren’t home yet. Sam got up to go get a snack, and I went looking for his backpack, to see what we had in store for homework.

Yeah, right. He won a bike. Har! How funny.

Then, I opened his binder and found a note penned in big, red, teacher handwriting. The note said, “WOW! SAM WON A BIKE!”

Um. Whut?

Unbeknownst to me, Sam’s school participates in a program in which kids earn points for making healthy lunch choices. Choose healthy items over junkier ones; earn tickets. Prize drawings are held throughout the year, for CD’s and books and pencils. Yesterday, they held the Big Grand Prize Drawing during lunch.

And now he’s the proud owner of the biggest, baddest, sweetest set of red wheels I’ve ever seen.

sambikesm.jpg

The Boy rejoices.

Old Favorites Part I: Sam’s Secrets Revealed

Brought to you by reader demand… this is the first in a series of favorites. This entry was originally published on May 4, 2006.

That subject line is not so much mine as it is Sam’s title to the poem he made up last night.

Sam is my 10 year-old son. He has high-functioning autism. I struggle daily to find the balance between talking openly with him about his diagnosis, and letting him just be a kid.

Every parent who travels this road knows that slapping a label on your child can be social homicide. But I think Sam needs to understand why his brain works the way it does; how it makes him exceptionally gifted in certain areas like visual processing, math, and rote memorization of spoken language, to name a few.

It is also the reason that he has a 1:1 aide during his school day, struggles to sit still in a classroom, and has trouble understanding how to start or maintain a conversation.

I think he needs to know why he has these challenges in order to conquer them. He also needs to feel proud of the inestimable gifts that go along with his neurological configuration, which is different than most.

I try to be honest and open about it, so that in his mind, it is simply a piece of the fabric of his personality. But I don’t dwell on it. This diagnosis does not define him.

Sam is echolalic, which means he has an extraordinary ability to memorize large chunks of language that he hears from other people, computer games, TV shows. (We received one of our first “this kid is different” red flags when he began reciting the entire text of the children’s book “The Polar Express” — verbatim — at age three.) When speaking spontaneously, he avoids eye contact, his delivery is monotone, and he struggles to find words. But when he repeats something that he has heard, he has all the punch and inflection of a seasoned Shakespearean actor performing a soliloquy.

Sam has a school open house coming up next week. Some of the kids are memorizing poems, to be recited solo in front of a large group of parents and students. A few afternoons ago, he ran inside right after the bus dropped him off, and proceeded to recite — from memory — not one, but all five poems that some of his classmates are learning. He has a wonderful teacher this year who plays to his strengths, and Sam will be delivering one of the recitations next Thursday.

Last night, just before bed, he was running around his room, laughing because he had put on a new pair of underwear over the ones he was already wearing. He was literally bouncing off all four walls and the floor. We have a trampoline and some occupational therapy-approved swings in our yard, and Sam gets sensory integration OT sessions at school every day to help him settle into his body, so that he can sit still. While I understand that his “wall bouncing” is neurologically-based behavior, I still get annoyed when it happens at bedtime when we’re all fried and just want to shut down the parenting engines for the night.

So, while I failed at my efforts to maintain my patience, and chased him around the house with his jammies in my hand, he announced, “Mom! I have a poem!”

Exasperated, I said, “Sam, that’s great, but right now I don’t want to hear it. You need to go to bed.”

He went ahead anyway, smiling and trying not to laugh.

He is often hard to reach. When I see a twinkle of presence in his eyes, I can’t deny him. So I listened.

He smiled and said, “This is a poem about me!” and improvised the following:

Sam’s Secrets Revealed

I’m a great builder.
I am an artist.
I have autism.
I have two overdue library books!
Baseball is my favorite sport.
I hit so many grand slams.
And I’m wearing two pairs of underwear right now!

He could have pulled the actual rug out from under me and I wouldn’t have noticed. In that one brief recitation, Sam revealed to me that he knows he has autism, and that he sees it as just one item in the middle of a list of many things that describe him.

I was elated.

And I’m wearing two pairs of underwear right now.

Why I Love Hannah’s 4th Grade Teacher

I knew I liked Hannah’s teacher when she came home singing the following song:

“Brown Squirrel”
(First and second verse, as taught to Hannah and her classmates:)

Brown squirrel, brown squirrel,
Shake your bushy tail
Brown squirrel, brown squirrel,
Shake your bushy tail

Crinkle up your little nose
Put a nut between your toes
Brown squirrel, brown squirrel,
Shake your bushy tail

Cute, right?

And now, original verses three and four, as taught to nineteen 4th graders:

(I swear I am not making this up.)

“Dead Squirrel”

Dead squirrel, dead squirrel
Touched the power line
Dead squirrel, dead squirrel
Touched the power line

Why he did it, no one knows,
Barbecued his little toes.
Dead squirrel, dead squirrel
Touched the power line

I think we’re going to have an excellent school year.

Regarding that Inevitable Beginning of the School Year Fire Drill

Hannah: Oh, by the way, I had a firedrill today.

Sam: You did?? Hannah, did you freak out?

Hannah: No, but I threw my library book up in the air.

Sam: Last time I heard a fire alarm, you know what it felt like? Intense pressure in my lower intestine, a fast beating heart, and my brain felt like it was on fire.

Okay, So Let’s Just Pretend That Summer-Length Musical Interlude Never Happened

I can’t stand the idea that August 2008 could go by completely and be left off of my Archives list over there ==>, so we’re just not going to let that happen, mm-kay?

The kids go back to school in exactly one day, 11 hours, and 34 minutes (WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!) so I’ll try to get myself back into a groove and report back to blog-duty. I hope some of you will be kind enough to forgive me and pretend my long radio silence was all just a scary dream.

That’s working for me, so let’s just go with it, shall we?

I’m Going to Mars!

No, really!

marslogo.gif

Abby’s class is going on a very cool field trip soon, and I found out today that I get to go along as a chaperone. This is, of course, a very serious responsibility, in that 1) Abby and her classmates will instruct me as to my space program duties, and 2) I’ll behave in such a way that scars Abby for life embarrasses her deeply makes my daughter proud.

Truth is, I heard about this 5th grade field trip way back when Sam was in kindergarten, and I hoped I’d have the opportunity to get in on it with one of the kids. The Challenger Center isn’t open to the public — only to school groups. Last year, Sam’s class went without me (cue the violins, please) but today, Mr. O’C pulled my name from the class hat.

I wonder if they’ll serve refreshments?