Thursday, May 12, 2016

Peanut-free or Not Peanut-free, Part 3 (One Year Later)

Just about this time last year, Pink had a close-encounter with a peanut butter sandwich on the bus on her way home from school (link). Based on the response I got to a letter I sent to the principal, I wrote a second letter to the superintendent (link). In both I argued that while I understood the district's reasons for not claiming to be peanut free, I also though they should be pushing for a safer environment for all children. In particular, I argued that the sack lunches the school provided for field trips should NOT include peanut butter sandwiches. Given the fact that kids like Pink had to choose between not going on the trip or living in fear because they were at heightened risk of allergic reaction given the sheer number of kids eating peanut butter together, I figured that my request was not an unreasonable one.

Following my message to the superintendent, I found myself in a lengthy exchange with her about our hopes and expectations and her very real limitations (apparently it's hard to police 800+ lunches to make sure no one sneaks in a little contraband). In the end, we agreed that the district would revisit their field trip sack lunch policy. The superintendent asked me for suggestions for peanut butter alternatives (to which I gave her a list about a mile long), and I didn't hear anything about it again.

Then, a month or so ago, Pink brought this home:

"The sack lunch includes: strawberry GoGurt, string cheese, 4 oz. applesauce cup, baby carrots, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, Curious George fruit snack, and choice of beverage..."
Sure, this isn't really a "lunch." And, Pink still can't eat it, but, at least there is no peanut butter. Pink couldn't believe it when she saw the sack lunch menu. "Now I don't have to worry anymore!" she said with such a sense of relief that it that would break your heart.

*****

Yesterday, Pink's class visited a 19th-century living museum with her classmates. Despite the overcast weather, she had a great time exploring with her friends. She touched animal furs, tried her hand at being a blacksmith, and had a lesson in a one-room school house. 

Pink and her friends at the print shop.
The best part of all, though, is that on this field trip, she didn't have to worry about what everyone else was eating for lunch. Sometimes change can take a long time, and it isn't always perfect. Still, I'm reminded to never give up!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Life with Stow, 2016 Version, Part 2 (How to Survive a Little Brother)

As a kid with sensory and social issues, Sky has always found it a little hard to manage life with two younger siblings. It's worse when you have a kid brother like Stow who just seems to like to stir things up for fun. The stress level can get pretty high at home, especially as the amount of homework Sky manages on a daily basis seems to increase exponentially every year.

While Sky is perfectly capable of doing his homework assignments, he is NOT good at doing them without completely stressing out in the process. For reasons I haven't quite figured out, yet, Sky obsesses whenever he has a writing assignment due, and the assignment becomes infinitely more difficult because of Sky's anxiety. Of course, matters are complicated when the assignment is vague or the deadline not chiseled in a stone tablet he can bring home with him.

The most recent assignment asked Sky to write a personal news story. It took him awhile to understand what his teacher meant by this, so the first step in the process was an excruciatingly drawn-out game of something akin to "telephone." The teacher would tell the students what to do, and Sky would come home and share it with me, hoping I could clear things up. Since I had no idea what the heck he was talking about, I'd ask a question that he invariably couldn't answer, triggering his anxiety, and then forcing him to wait until school the next day when he might or might not remember to ask his teacher to clear things up for him. This went on for days. Sky has an assignment book. He also gets rubrics to help with all of his longer assignments, but he still struggles to make sense of what he has to do.

It was in this perpetual anxiety-fueled struggle to understand the news article assignment while also dealing with little siblings who get into his stuff and make it hard for him to think, that we spent the entire last week of our lives. A typical conversation (who am I kidding, these were monologues) went something like this:

Sky: Ohhh nooo, the article is due in XX days, and I still don't know what to write about but I can't help it because I can't find my YYY that Stow just stole. I know it was on my desk and now it's gone. Why did you have to have another kid, Mom? Stow needs to learn he can't keep bugging me. Why don't you do anything about it. Ohhh, I have to write my article and I don't understand what I am supposed to dooooo.

Sky has valid point. Stow needs to leave him alone. Problem is that Stow finds the very fact that he should be leaving Sky alone to be the biggest possible motivation for just about everything he does in life. You think I exaggerate. I do not.

Then Sunday afternoon, mere hours before the deadline, it hit me. The only way to make this assignment work was to embrace Sky's anxieties. I suggested he write an article about the recent spate of robberies he's experienced. He came up with this:

Robbery in the MOE Household 
On May 3, 2016, 11 year-old Sky MOE reported his camera missing. When MOE left for school, the camera was on the top shelf of his bookshelf. He remembers locking his door to keep unwanted visitors out. “When I came home, the door to my room was open, but I don’t remember opening it. Then, after dinner, I went to get my camera, and it was gone,” MOE explains.

Sky looked everywhere for the small silver Sony Cyber-Shot camera. In his desk, under his bed, under his brother’s bed, on his brother’s desk, in the living room, anywhere that it could possibly be. 
At the time of the disappearance, Stow M., age 4, one of the suspects, was at home while Sky was at school. Stow’s daily routine is to stay at home until lunch time, and then ride the preschool bus to school. In the past, Stow has stolen Sky’s things and sometimes taken them apart, so Stow is a prime suspect to the crime. He will do anything to achieve his goal of stealing Sky’s things. It’s easy to imagine him climbing the 7-foot tall desk because he has used a chair to get to the top of the closet, and sometimes he even locks the door behind him when he leaves. When he was asked if he touched it, Stow said, “I don’t know where it is. I touched it but did not move it. Actually, I put it on top of your desk. No, I put it on your laundry. Just kidding! I didn’t touch it.”

Pink M., age 8, the other suspect, was at school as well but is known for stealing Sky’s things after school. When he asked her, she said, “I really didn’t touch it. I really didn’t Sky. It’s not a lie.” 
We still do not know who stole his camera. 
“If I find out that I put it somewhere and forgot it, I will freak out.” says Sky.

The investigation is ongoing. If you happen to find a silver Sony Cyber-Shot camera lying around please bring it back to Sky MOE.
I don't know what kind of grade he'll get or whether he even actually did what the assignment intended for him to do. I do know, though, that he finally quit worrying about it and wrote the darn thing, so I think I'll call that a victory.