Saturday, November 19, 2011

Further to the kinderlach chronicles

So Deb was just here last week and we had a lovely time, and I need to blog about that, but first, some kid blogging catch-up:

1. Avtalyon is being insanely cute lately. With Barak and Iyyar, three and a half was a Very Difficult Age. With Avtalyon for whatever reason it is an Incredibly Delightful Age. Favorite story of the week:

Avtalyon has grown extremely fond of the Steggie sweater made for him by the fabulous Tanta Cecilia. He puts it on and puts up the hood and gets this hilarious look on his face that's part "Look at me, I'm so cool" and part shyness about how totally cool he is. When he puts it on I pretend to be very scared that he is in fact transforming into a terrifying dinosaur. He grins and reassures me, "But it's really yarn, right Imma?"

The other day he came into my room when I was still asleep, hysterically wailing about something I didn't immediately get (being, as I just said, asleep). I finally got it out of him that Iyyar had been scaring him. Ah.

"Avtalyon! I know! I know what you can do!"

[Hysterical wailing]

"Go get your dinosaur sweater! Then put it on and you'll be so scary, you won't be scared of ANYTHING."

[Hysterical wailing instantly stops. Avtalyon gets that awesome look 3 yos get when every cog and wheel in their head is turning madly.]

Hiccup. Hiccup. "'Kay."

Two minutes later, he is back, naked except for pullup and dinosaur sweater, which he wants me to zip up. He puts up the hood and grins, a little self-consciously. "Now I'm very scary. Right Imma?"


2. Marika has lately taken to calling roll. She wakes up in the morning, or from her nap, and wants to know where everyone is. Barak, so far as she is concerned, is either home or on the bus, since she sees him leave for the bus in the morning and return on the bus in the afternoon. "Barak bus?" she inquires, standing in her crib in footie pajamas, hair in full sheepdog mode. "Right, Barak's on the bus," I agree. "Abba dabbis?" which means--actually I have no idea what it means. Abba Shabbos? Sometimes she asks, "Abba dowdide?" which is "Abba outside?" Then she asks after Iyyar and Avtalyon, or hears them, at which point she crows their names. Then, of course, she wants to get dressed, which requires pigtails ("Kuku! Kuku yeah?") and of course shoes ("Whoojh!")

3. A few weeks ago, on Succot, we went at night to see the succahs on Yaffo Street. We were on the bus just as it started to get dark, and I entertained Avtalyon by telling him to watch the lights "pop on." The streetlights are on light sensors so they go on when it gets dark and don't necessarily all go on at once, so it's fun, if you are three, to see this happen. Now Iyyar has associated lights popping on with night, and last week, at about 3 am, while I was working, he suddenly burst out of bed. I saw him walk past my door and came out to see what he was doing. He looked at me with those huge bottomless dark eyes of his and said, with a lot of expressive hand gestures and talking very fast,

"Imma I just needa look out the windows to see if the lights are on outside and if it's night."

"Okay, go ahead."

Two minutes later, with even more expressive hand-waving:

"Yes they are so it's definitely the night. Also! The moon! Kay Imma?"

"'Kay. Can you go back to bed now?"

Vigorous nodding. "Yeah."

Thirty seconds later:

"Imma, c'you tuck me in please?"

I could. And did. Of course.

4. Barak is really seriously reading now. Last night I started reading Charlotte's Web to the boys, after I put Marika to bed. I got up to chapter four before bedtime. Barak asked if he could take it to bed with him and I said yes. He was still busy reading when I wanted to go to sleep so I said he could keep reading, but please to go to sleep when he felt tired.


Next morning, he was in bed with Iyyar, and inspection of the brand-new paperback made me very suspicious that he had read the entire thing. Suspicion was strengthened when he didn't wake up till 10 am, and then only because his brothers were in the room being loud.

"Barak, did you read the whole book last night?"

"No. I didn't read the last chapter."

"How far did you read? What happened."

"Charlotte died." Pause. "I was crying and so I went to bed."


"Did you read the last page?"

"Yeah. All her children and grandchildren were Wilbur's friends after that. But Charlotte died."

"Why don't you read the last chapter now?"


He went off and read it.

He's seven and a half and he read almost all of Charlotte's Web in an evening. I'm impressed.

5. Hebrew reading, however, doesn't seem to be going as well. He's got 5 hours a week of tutoring, and his teacher is not terribly positive. She says things like, "He's a sweet boy who wants to learn" and "He needs a lot of help." Which, unfortunately, I can't really give him, because a lot of his homework is over my head. Anything that's regular second-grade--math, reading, workbook stuff--I can do. But half his day is religious studies, and do you know what he gets for Chumash (Bible) homework? A page with the pasuk (verse), name and number, and a list of eight or ten questions to be answered in full sentences. So he's supposed to look it up, read it, and answer them all. He can't do it and I can't either. So what happens is he goes up to the bais medrash with Mr. Bigfoot for night seder and usually they manage to get through half of it, but it's really hard. I need to get Barak into reading in Hebrew the way he's into reading in English, but don't know how. Eitan the Great is really not available enough; comic books are good but he mostly just looks at the picture. I think he'll get there eventually, but in the meantime don't want him falling even further behind.

6. Iyyar. Iyyar is... well.

Iyyar is doing much better than he was doing six months ago. That's where I should start. He is behaving better, he likes school, he tells me he loves his gan. The episodes of "nobody home" are fewer, but they are still there; the listening is there more often than not, but "not" is still pretty often. I talked to his teacher yesterday and she agreed with my feeling that he is not going to be able to deal with a regular first-grade classroom. She doesn't know what the problem is any more than I do, but we both feel it's a combination of attention and emotional issues that feed off each other. We, meaning Mr. Bigfoot and I, had our first meeting with the hitpaychut ha'yeled (child development) psychologist last week; the second appointment, with me and Iyyar, is next Wednesday, as in a week and a half from now. The psychologist was sure just from what we had told her that he would need OT but told us it could takes weeks to months to get it started; I told this to his ganenet on Friday and she had the same reaction I did. "No! No! Not okay! He needs help NOW." Which I agree with but I don't know how we can hurry anything along. I'm going to call them this week and ask the psychologist to call the ganenet, which she had already said she would do (but hasn't done yet). I'm not sure she'll do it, but at least I can get her full name and phone number for the ganenet to call her.

The ganenet (whose name is Michal--I might as well give her a name at this point) was very upbeat and said "You know, by Purim he could be a different kid, you never know..." but was saying the same things I was--I just don't know what's going on with him, I don't know what the problem is and I don't know how to help. She said, and this was really good to hear, that he is OK with the other kids. It's just with adults that he gets this deer-in-the-headlights look. And I really do think that a lot of that was from last year, from feeling that he was in trouble or doing something wrong all the time, and developing these really problematic coping mechanisms--the making faces, the dancing around and yelling, the impulsive behavior, the throwing things. He does it less now but he still does it, even at home. And it takes so little to set him off, especially if he's tired or stressed to begin with. It's almost like flipping a switch. You can see it happening--the switch from "Iyyar is here" to "nobody is home." And once it happens, it's almost impossible to talk to him.

So there is a lot to be done here, and it's kind of frustrating that it is all happening so slowly when he needs help NOW. Also, not knowing what kind of an environment he will need next year throws a major monkey wrench into our attempts at planning. If he needs a "kita katana," which is what seems the most likely, then that really limits the number of places we can go--although the community that was on the top of our list to begin with does have one, which could be really perfect if it works out. I'm going out there next week to visit and talk with the principal, who I'm told has excellent English so that will be a big help.

In the meantime, he is in a good place. Michal is amazing. She likes him a lot and she wants to help; she has a ton of patience and she communicates with me. Whenever Mr. Bigfoot or I pick him up, we at least make eye contact with a "How did today go?" Usually she indicates that it was a good day, and if not, she'll stop and give details. But he can have several good days and then a day that is Not Good at All, and it takes so, so little to set him off and it is so, so hard to bring him back out. I told Michal on Friday what I'm most worried about--that he'd get into a regular class with a regular teacher like Barak had last year, act up somehow, and get publicly told off in the way that was standard in Barak's class--for example, being made to sit in the corner. That, I told Michal, would just be the end for Iyyar, and she agreed and said exactly what I was going to say next, "He'd never learn again in that room." Right.

I just want to fix things for him. I know it's not that easy. I just wish I had some better idea of what to do.

7. OK, can't end on that note. So how about a picture? Of some yarn? Because I now have... a wheel!