Teachers

Excited for their respective field trips, both kids had no trouble getting out of bed.

“Where’s my class shirt?!” One hollered from the closet.

“Hanging right there,” I hollered back. “Right where you hung it up last night so you wouldn’t forget it….” I continued, mumbling the last part to myself as I grabbed the freshly brewed pot and poured myself the delicious, and necessary, first cup of coffee.

Her trip was to the local art museum to engage in some performance, dance and music fun. With ease, two talented performers from the museum wrangled a play out of three 2nd grade classes! It was a feat of epic proportions!

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What these pictures don’t show you is that while the kids are engaged in activity, their teachers are watching, monitoring and helping. For one child, the noise is too overwhelming. Instead of shushing him or telling him to sit down for the 100th time, she creates a space for him to calm himself. For another, the urge to fidget is too great. Not only do I see these educators focus on reading and writing and math everyday, but they are seeing the whole child. They are soothers. They comfort. They wrap their arms around the child that for the first time is requesting to be hugged. It’s a joy and a privilege to witness.

I’d been asked to chaperone his class field trip to the aquarium and happily accepted. This is, after all, why I chose to not work outside the home; so I could do all the mom things and help out when needed. Having field trips on the same day, in the same part of town allowed me to hop from one to the other with out missing much of either. I looked forward to having a bit of one on one time with each of them. After this year of single parenting, there’s been but a time or two that they’ve been apart, much less had me to themselves. I think they look forward to their dad’s return not only because they miss him, but equally because they need some space from each other and some undivided attention.

The day was lovely and perfect for an outing. The aquarium is one of Jake’s favorite destinations, loving all things ocean-related.

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YES! A real live octopus!

The exhibits went smoothly, the aquarium staff delightful and engaging. Sitting in front of the dolphins, questions and answers flew fast and furious.

“What grade are these kids in?” asked a man in a wheelchair behind me, having heard a few of their questions.

“Third,” I whispered quietly, smiling holding up 3 fingers.

“Wow,” he replied. “I taught fifth grade. They are really smart.”

Nodding in agreement, I turned back to the playful dolphins twirling behind the plexiglass. The really are incredibly smart I mused, simply enjoying the moment, and the opportunity to be a part of it.At the last exhibit during a group exercise, Jake was frustrated having not heard the instructions, then realizing he wouldn’t have any input in his group’s presentation as they worked. The tears started. (The other kids were not being overtly mean, but sometimes it’s easier to ignore people than to actively include them.)

It’s these moments that are hard. Autism or not, kids (as well as adults) have to learn how to deal with emotions, deal with disappointment and handle frustration with others and themselves. Group participation isn’t always easy, but it’s part of life. Physically, I was too far away and couldn’t get to him, and it was hard to hear over the chatter of the kids, engaged in their task to create an imaginary creature.

His teacher noticed the situation and swiftly grabbed an additional folder so he would be able to participate. img_5798She got down on the floor and engaged him. She didn’t have to. It would have been easier not to. She helped him help himself. She didn’t scold, embarrass or patronize. He didn’t have to have mom intervene. She was subtle and quiet.

She cared.

I smiled and mouthed a grateful ‘thank you’ as she got up to assist other students. I was humbled and as my eyes started sweating, I sternly told myself to save it. Lord knows my kid didn’t need a blubbery mess of a mom sobbing about gratitude in the middle of a field trip.

But I was, and am, very grateful.

How supremely lucky we are to have teachers that care so much.

 

 

 

 

WordPress Daily Prompt: Story

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Make My Tummy Go Gooey! (Aka the post with 1000 pictures)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fear of heights. I remember climbing along rooftops with my father as he was building houses when I was really young, but since about 4 or 5 years old, heights and I do not get along. As a kid, we went to carnivals when they came to town and have been on roller coasters at Disneyland and never had a problem as long as we didn’t go on anything that went upside down. Upon having minions, however, I get the gooey-tummy syndrome whenever they get up on something too high. In our house, the kiddos love to climb on some crazy playground structure, find me, then holler, “Hey mom! Is your tummy gooey when I do this?!” Meanwhile they are balancing on one leg, faking they are falling, or otherwise tempting fate and trying to plummet to their demise! My shudder and having to look away makes everyone just roll with laughter.

Before the tummy gooey fun, we had a preschool field trip to the sea lab at Fort Casey:

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“Pirate” Keith showing the kids the random sea creatures….this was a sea cucumber that “spits out of it’s bum”. When he described this, the kids roared with laughter. Gotta love anything toilet humor related.
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Hannah touches a sea star. She was a little more hesitant the bigger the creatures got!
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I can’t remember what this thing was called, but the longer he held it, the 50+ legs kept clinging tighter and tighter to his hand! Yikes!
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The sea urchin wasn’t quite as pokey as she thought it would be!
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Jake was not touching ANY of it! Ha! I don’t blame him! This particular creature was a spiny crab…and let’s face it, crabs are just spiders of the sea. Just say no to spiders; sea or otherwise!

After the preschool adventure, the kids decide they want to return to the beach and do some more exploring. So after a quick lunch at home – we head back to Ft. Casey!

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By the big gun. Hannah kept wondering if it was going to shoot bullets.
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Running all over the fort
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Here’s where the gooey tummy starts….It’s about an 8 foot drop. To my stomach, it might as well have been a 50 ft. drop! I must have said, “Back up from the ledge” in a strained voice about 100 times!
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Ooh look Mom! A place where I can plummet to my death! Shall I jump?
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Follow Jake the leader. He’s never been here before, but he’s showing us the ropes!
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This place is just cool. Had to take some randoms
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Please mom! Let me fall down and break my face!
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OOH! Let’s explore these dark and cavernous spaces! I bet they have spiders to creep mom out! Yay!


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Is it just me or is it a mom thing? All I can picture is him falling off the side of those dang stairs?!
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I really don’t need to ever buy these kids toys. They were so content for HOURS out here just climbing and exploring.
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King of the world!
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Squeamy tummy continues….at least this time she’s holding a hand rail!
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Yeah, you can get down now. Really. Now.

I don’t want to pass my fears on to my kiddos. I don’t tell them what I’m really thinking and feeling (My hands get clammy, I start to sweat, feel the need to pee, all combined with a deep gut-churning nausea.) What I do say is, “Watch your step!” “Ooh, that is cool!” and “Where to next?!” praying that they are ready to climb down.

Eventually we made our way to the beach. Ahhh, sea level. That’s my kind of “height”!

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The BEACH!

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I’m sure it’s true for many people, but it’s astonishing to me the effect the ocean has on my kids. The minute we get near the ocean, they just get calm. They mellow. They don’t fight. We all just relax….
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Checking out the seagulls….taking it all in.
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Drawing in the sand.
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There’s always room for everyone at the beach!
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This was one of my favorite pictures of the day. She’s mellow, exploring, and completely enamored by the rocks and waves.
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Back up the hill to the lighthouse!

The lighthouse….here’s where my worst fears come alive!

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There it is! But we must climb rocks first!
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Every. Single. Rock.
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The lighthouse! Oooh! Stairs. I bet these will make her tummy flip flop!
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The last portion is more of a ladder and less of a staircase. Wearing flip-flops, she fell right after I snapped this shot. I dropped everything and caught her. I thought I was going to die.

(While reviewing all these pictures, they just don’t do the reality justice. Not only did the ocean seem more vibrant, the sky bluer, the water sparkled, etc. than the photos show, the heights were definitely higher.)

Basically I think that when we give birth, they must install some kind of protective-freak-out-device that OVER-reacts when any possibility of danger arises. Even the slightest chance that someone may stub a toe and a little warning bell goes off. Ladders in lighthouses make me feel like a national emergency alert system is going off in my body!

Despite the heights and my physical reactions of their impending doom, the day was simply magnificent. The weather was perfect, they were great, and we were all up for an adventure. I consider myself lucky that as antsy as the hubs and I are, these two crazies love exploring the world with us!

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Field Trip

My kids’ first field trip was yesterday, and I volunteered to drive and chaperone! Yay Super Mom!

Normally for such a first, I would have gotten out of bed a touch earlier, had a hearty breakfast with the kids – similar to this:

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Instead of the turkey, perhaps a bowl of oats and bananas or something uber healthy! I would have also left myself some time to clean out the car knowing others may be riding with me.

What actually happened: woke up late, had coffee, scrambled for breakfast, no time for a shower so hair went automatically up into a mom-pony. Crap! Laundry wasn’t done (it needed a second tour of the washing machine. Again.) So, I did what every self-respecting person does and surveyed the dirty hamper for the least dirty pair of yoga pants. And put them on.

More like this:

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Running a bit late due to a teeth-brushing fiasco, kids get in and buckled, our favorite song is selected and started, I realize I haven’t cleaned out the car and there really isn’t time to do so. I am a pretty organized person most of the time. I will confess that since I have had kids, I have become a car slob. My daughter never has less than 2 pair of shoes on the floor under her seat with at least 3 pairs of socks. My poor Hawaiian baby’s little tush hits her seat and the socks and shoes are immediately dumped!

I sigh, “Oh, well.” under my breath as we head off to school. Getting the kids to class, there are booster seats with lists of who will drive with whom. I scan the lists and find my name. And directly under it are my kids and one other student.

And the teacher. (Cue doom music here.)

Of all the mornings to wake up late and not clean out the car! Ugh! So I quickly drop the kids in their room and race to the car to clean out the apple core, the banana peel and random papers that have collected from the door pockets that we call “car garbages”. (Side note: the banana peel and apple core were from that morning, not rotting from weeks of sitting in the car. I’m not that gross!)

Luckily I had just enough time to toss the garbage and get the seats in and ready to transport minions and a teacher to our destination: the library! We pile in the car and off we go. Are other people intimidated by their kids’ teachers? Maybe it’s just me. As parents it’s natural to want teachers to like our kids. I want her to know I’m a good parent. (Until the minions throw me under the bus with comments like “Hey mom! I tooted!”) Yes, that happened. Oh, and I almost ran over a cyclist in a cross walk. I was charming and we laughed it off though, “Oh sure, have the teacher in the car on the first preschool field trip and run someone over!” I really do like our kids’ teacher, and not just because she laughed at my jokes. It did earn her bonus points, though.

The kids were all adorable, and remarkably well-behaved. It was a blast (despite my near wreck and bomb of a car) and I’m so glad I have the opportunity to do these kinds of things with our kids. I know not everyone chooses this path and there is no judgment here, but I loved being able to stand back and watch the kiddos in their environment and have no agenda. All I had to do was stand back, watch and enjoy.

So I did.