I have decided that I am really looking forward to summer and having the Wise Old Owl out of school for awhile. It has been completely exhausting and I reached the panic stage this weekend. While I would love for Herbie to be in school all year to give me a chance to rest for at least part of the day (just talked to his resource room teacher about ESY, thank goodness for that), I cannot say the same about the Owl. It feels like every other week there is some sort of food activity planned at preschool. Fruit loop necklaces, projects made out of pasta, gingerbread houses, rice krispy treat snowballs, etc. If the regular classroom teacher remembers to tell me about it, I can bring in an alternative food and my son will sit at a separate table and do his project.

My son's IEP clearly states his issues with social interactions. The SLP comes into the room to encourage him to talk to other kids and coach him to say one or two words. He does not talk for most of the day, and never says anything unless the SLP is right next to him. So here they are, encouraging him to interact with kids one minute, then clearing him away from all of the other kids to keep him safe during the activity. What kind of message is that sending him?????

I recently realized that the healthy snack initiative--the one that was preached to parents at the beginning of the year and stated unequivocally that nobody should bring cookies or cupcakes--was a joke. I overheard a parent explaining to the teacher about the two flavors of cupcakes she had brought for her son's birthday, and sadly realized that my son only had crackers and cereal in his safe snack box. I thought maybe she was an exception breaking the rule, but then a few days later, a mom asked me if there were any safe birthday treats that she could buy for her son's upcoming birthday. Apparently the teacher had told her she should bring in cookies or cupcakes. She ultimately decided on store-bought cupcakes, of which there are none that are safe, but at least I had a heads-up, so I could make cupcakes and send one to school for the Wise Old Owl. Now he has a box of his favorite cookies in the safe snack stash.

Late last week, the classroom teacher sent out an email asking parents to bring in empty food containers (milk jugs, butter containers, egg cartons, etc.) for their grocery store, which would be set up for the entire month of March. I asked our allergist what I should do and was told that he could not play with such containers. He either had to skip school, not participate in that activity, or all of the containers needed to be safe. Wow. I passed along the info by email to the teacher, and over the weekend I went into panic mode, trying to empty out all of the containers I could find thinking that I could single-handedly supply the entire grocery store. There have been worse things to prepare for at school (like making homemade gingerbread, frosting, and buying enough candy decorations), but I think it has just been building up so this latest alert put me over the edge. This morning, the teacher said that it would be easier to cancel the activity and do something else. I was so glad for that, but somehow, the tension that built up over the last few days has not gone away. (Too much caffeine maybe?!) She said it to me very kindly, but I still wonder how she felt. Is she irritated with me? Does that ever spill over into how she treats my son? Do the other parents know that he is the cause in the change of plans? And why do I need to worry about this so much???

This morning, when we were heading to school, the Wise Old Owl asked me which room he would be going to. I told him it was Tuesday, so the regular classroom today. (Wednesdays are spent in the special ed room with a smaller group.) He expressed some disappointment and said he wanted to go to the Wednesday room because he loves the play-dough. Every week, one of the paras makes fresh play-dough that is safe for him so he can participate with all of the kids. They make him feel safe and part of the group in that room, and he loves it. Isn't that how it should be everywhere?
 
 
Watching my children put together puzzles is an exercise in self-restraint. I thought that everyone started by finding the 4 corners, separating the edges and the middles, building the frame, and filling in the middle. Simple, right? Not my kids.
They like to look for pieces that they can match up right away, a section with words or a brightly colored spot. Once they find the pieces to put together that section of the picture, they build it out from there. Herbie does not mind my suggestions of building the frame; or if he finds a piece that does not fit in the area that he is working, it is OK to put it approximately where it looks like it will go, as a place holder. But his preference is to build from a starting point and go outwards.
The Wise Old Owl, on the other hand, gets a little upset at me for putting on pieces not right where he wants to work. He will in fact remove a piece that is too far from the central area where he is working. So I have to step back and watch. He usually builds from a corner and goes outward, completing the puzzle relatively quickly, but saving the last piece. He will push it firmly into the last spot, slightly turned so that it does not fit, declare that it does not fit, and hand it to me. Then he laughs as I put the last piece into place.
We do puzzles every day--maps, outer space, Curious George, cars and trucks. One day with the PCA, they set up 20 puzzles around the kitchen and hallway, wanting to leave them all together to admire their work. She laughed at how hard it was to not build the frame, letting them do the puzzles their way.
I wonder why it irks me that they do a puzzle differently. Their methods make total sense in their little minds and yet I feel like I have to correct them. Could it be that their different way of thinking is really an asset, a gift? When they are trying to solve puzzles in life, will their different perspective actually give them an advantage? While I insist on building the frame so I have a guide to build the picture, they can start with a small bit and create the picture without a frame. They do not need the framework that I need.
In life, I like to have a frame, a road map of sorts. What is the big picture? How does everything go together? I am troubled because I really do not know. My kids take it one piece at a time and build a beautiful picture. They live in the moment. What a lesson for me.