Thursday, January 19, 2017

Social Skills

At last year's closing parent-teacher conference, when asked what our expectations were for the coming academic term, I expressed the hope that more interaction between the typical and challenged children at school could be fostered.

Little A's second grade class had three typical, two high functioning, and two moderately challenged children in attendance, and the last period of each school day was "free play". I usually arrived early enough to catch part of this session, and observed that what ended up happening was that the typical and high functioning kids tended to play together while the other two were generally left out. They would be asked to join, but if no interested was shown, there was no further encouragement to integrate the less socially adept child into the fold of the rest.

While I appreciate that the teachers at this point in the day wanted to let the students work on their own group dynamic,  they did also know that children like Little A needed more of a "push" to join the bigger group.

Thankfully, my suggestion was heeded, and this year the period at the end of each schoolday  is a social skills lesson. Instead of choosing their own activities, an integrated play group activity is instigated, and all the children in the class are required to participate until the closing bell sounds.

At this year's first parent-teacher conference, I was told that social skills is the class Little A enjoys the most in each day, and looks forward to. This brought about mixed emotions. While glad my son is starting to socialise appropriately, I longed for more opportunities to do this outside of the classroom. The biggest challenge for a child like mine is making friends, and play dates are hard to arrange when most kids have schedules packed with after-school sports and activities.

Still, I am sure we will find a way, and since Little A has been spending most afternoons after school at the pool again, even if the weather is still decidedly chilly, the children in the building are also around, and there are more chances to practice these new skills. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Orca Training

Ever since he came across a video about Sea World, Little A has been avidly watching numerous clips of killer whale shows, stories, deaths, and similar.

He has been writing about orca training, and lately recreating his own version of it in our swimming pool, with all the plastic figurines he could find in his  collection.

We hope to get him (and the Au Pair) visas to visit the United States this year. I've heard from friends that the children are usually interviewed as to what they would like to do or see on a trip to the so-called Land of Milk and Honey, so I am hoping my child communicates when it is his turn to face the consular officer, that he would like to see "killer whales up close".

In the meantime, watching them on the small screen and playing with the toy versions are as close as he is going to get. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Present

Every December, we make a trip to the mountains to visit Little A's favourite city of Pines. We drive up, go straight to the horseback riding area, put him on the back of one, check in to the club next door, then pick him up for dinner.

Evenings mean boots and a rain jacket, and a short walk to the Christmas Village, which features half-hourly generous sprinklings of bubbly suds that do actually resemble snow. There are also song and dance numbers or a Nativity play on the stage, and Little A happily watches these and applauds enthusiastically.

Finally, there is the farm portion of the club, where this year, for the first time, we were able to harvest some strawberries! Uninterested at first, Little A soon got into the task, leaving myself and the Au Pair to do the actual picking, while he examined and took a bite of each strawberry we put in the basket.

This trip seemed to go very quickly, but Big A has made the bookings for 2017, and in a few months, we will be back again. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Meeting the Orchestra

For many years now, perhaps from the time he was in the womb, Little A has had a great love for classical music.

Most recently, he has learnt the sections of the orchestra and all the instruments that comprise it, and has been watching videos of concerts.

Despite all this, he does not feel ready to sit in a proper, dark theatre, and remain in his seat quietly throughout the duration of a show.

Luckily, these days culture can be everywhere. If we lived in a city where buskers abounded (my boy would love Covent Garden and could probably sit there all afternoon) no doubt all of his pocket money would go into their instrument cases. Instead, we search for open rehearsals and sit through sound checks at shopping centers.

Just before Christmas, one of the malls where we have a shop held a series of shows for their 25th anniversary. These musical interludes were open to the public, free of charge.

Little A was thrilled to see the (albeit incomplete) orchestra onstage, and alternately sat and jumped for joy through nearly two hours of music. While the playlist was disappointing, with not a single piece of classical music apart from the opening of Pachelbel's Canon in D which quickly segued into some horrible pop number, he had a grand time.

The holidays will soon be upon us, and he will have three weeks off school, so we will traipse through the city during that time (when I am not drowning in work, that is) in search of more live music. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First Holy Communion

In a practicing Catholic's life, there are few things more important than receiving the Sacraments. While we have not been regular churchgoers of late, Little A and I say prayers every night, and he likes visiting the chapels at the shopping malls for a bit of quiet.

Despite his challenges, I always hoped my son would be raised in the faith that both my family and Big A's practiced all our lives, so when a few conversations with the school administrator led to the formation of an after-school Catechism class, I was the first parent to sign up.

Throughout the summer and for the entire first semester of this academic year, Little A and about half a dozen of his schoolmates learnt the tenets of the Catholic faith that were needed to attain the next two major Sacraments (after Baptism).

After two lesson days spent at the church preparing for the big event, and plenty of on-the-side training in what I knew would be Little A's biggest challenge - the actual consumption of the Host - it was First Communion Day.

Little A donned his formal wear with minimal fuss, and we were off to the church.

Both sets of grandparents were in proud attendance, and an hour or so later, Little A was a bona fide First Communicant. We couldn't have been prouder, and in his own way, I am sure he too felt the sense of accomplishment.

Since then, he has wanted to go to church (and attend Mass) daily. I take him as often as we are able, and we definitely go on Sundays. While there are always challenges, spending that little bit of time in quiet contemplation, regardless of what one might believe, always makes things seem much less insurmountable. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hawaiian Halloween

Because it seems he cannot resist an airline seat sale, Big A booked another trip for us - to visit his brother in Hawaii.

Since they do not yet have visas, nor do we feel he can manage a 10 hour flight and massive time difference, Little A and the Au Pair are spending the time we are away at my parents' place. Halloween is big in their area, and Little A has enjoyed trick or treating the past two years.

Hawaii seems to have become the Halloween capital of the USA, if not the world, and we were properly warned, so we came prepared. Apart from our costumes, my main goal was to acquire a suntan, which was achieved over the course of the week, with much careful application of skin protection and tan enhancing products.

An unexpected and wonderful surprise was that one of my all-time favourite musicians, Sting, would be playing a one-night concert at the Oahu Arena. We got tickets online, and one more item has been ticked off my bucket list, making my 40th year all the more memorable.

We have, again, traveled much this year. While next year only has two trips on the cards, we are truly grateful for these opportunities to experience these amazing places.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dog Days

My son is very particular about the dogs he chooses to befriend. I am glad for this, as it keeps us from worrying that he will just approach a possibly aggressive animal.

His breeds of choice are labradors and golden retrievers, which happen to be the most child-friendly types, and my favourites as well. I dream of one day getting him a service dog, but that will be a long time coming yet, as we need a house and the enlarged shoebox we currently live in.

Since Big A is allergic, Little A's only interactions with canines are the neighbours' pets and the occasional work dog. My sister and her family have golden retrievers, but in all his years of existence, Little A has never been to their house to play with them.

Then last Sunday, at birthday lunch for my mum, my sister's family turned up with two of their three dogs.

The adults sat at the table while the cousins alternated between eating and spending time outside with the pooches. Other children came up as well, and played with the very friendly animals.

Little A hopes for more dog visits, so this upcoming half-term I have asked my nephew and niece to bring the dogs over again, when Little A spends time at his grandparents'.