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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Distance Learning Diary, Day 1

We called in sick.

Distance Learning Diary: The first day of school ... at home

I failed to write about the first day of school this year. But then an even more auspicious event occurred - the first day of distance "learning," which rapidly descended upon us just 16 days after the start of the school year. 
The second week of "real" school

When you get to third grade, your "first day" is much less monumental than when you enter nursery, first grade or high school. But your first day of home school can never be underestimated or brushed aside. For that is the day that - unless you've chosen by your own free will that monumental task of being a home-schooling parent - that your parents lose whatever shred of sanity had remained in their meager souls.

And it was all so sudden.

We were happily floating along in smaller classrooms and masks and all when suddenly, the government decided to shut down the country. Then even more suddenly, as we sat in our classrooms learning one day, they decided to move up the shuttering of schools to ... the next day!! Suddenly it was our last day for three weeks (or who knows) and we had to pack for the apocalypse. 

Then our first day of "remote learning" commenced - with 150 messages on WhatsApp across three different groups (one per child) to begin the day, and no available or charged devices ...

As they were gearing up to tackle distance "learning" head on, mommy fired off a letter to the teachers warning them of our inevitable lack of cooperation and why: 

"Thank you for your understanding. We completely understand that you as teachers have to create consistency for the students and if you didn’t, many of the other parents would complain. I feel bad for those of you who have children at home and are going through this as well. Good luck! I blame the government for this situation, not the school. 

"We had a very stressful time last lockdown (in March, April) and we learned: 
1. All of our kids are on different levels of learning 
2. None of our kids can open a computer and connect to Zoom on their own 
3. None of our kids can read their instructions for their homework 
4. Neither Hebrew nor Arabic are either of the parents’ mother tongue which makes everything take a lot longer
5. We have a child with special needs who needs a sayat in school AND at home in order to learn 
6. We both work and we need our phones and computers for work, so the kids cannot use our devices
7. None of our kids are independent learners and need lots of prodding to do any of their assignments.  

"Because of this, their home schooling requires 100% of our time - and yet we both work full time. 

"We want our kids to progress but it cannot come at the expense of our health and us yelling at them all day. Of course letting them do nothing is also a problem. We do not know what the answer is. We have no solutions and no idea how to make this better other than hire a full time tutor/babysitter/cook at home."

Mommy was secretly hoping that this would result in the offer of a tutor/babysitter/cook, but that was not to be. Mommy and daddy would be tackling this alone. 

And, as I take full credit for #5, I also offer very few solutions. But let's see how this all unfolds in a fun, almost-live blog type coverage of events that have galvanized the nation! 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Practicing birthday inclusion; inspiring world peace

Happy peace day to the world!
Here are my worlds colliding...

It’s not that I try to be inclusive, it’s just who I am. So when it came to the auspicious occasion of my 10th birthday, the celebration inadvertently became the party of all birthday parties.

Let’s be real, Thursday was a historic day, bringing together unlikely sides to sign a groundbreaking peace agreement. But that was coming on the heels of my pwn party where my worlds collided with aplomb …and fun. A true enactment of “the table of brotherhood.” 

Speaking of brotherhood, Lucas is always
hard-pressed to not be the center of attention

And it all started with me celebrating my first in-country birthday since I was 1. We decided to coincide the timing and location of the party with a farewell to my group leaders at Shalva. Thanks to coronavirus, Shalva was suddenly shut down two weeks ago and we never had a proper group goodbye.

My guest list expanded from the Shalva girls, who fearlessly led our group this disjointed year, to include other volunteers from Shalva, some of my friends in our group and then expanded exponentially with an invitation to my second grade (going on third) at school.

We pulled this off in less than 24 hours. Mommy and Daddy worried about things like kosher and gluten-free food. We threw some picnic blankets on the grass at Shalva’s inclusive park (in keeping with the theme of my party). 

We broke bread together. Or cake.

No I'm not smoking a peace pipe

Bringing together people from different backgrounds shouldn’t be that hard. Here we were —kids with and without extra chromosomes; Jews, Muslims, Christians and even atheists — singing Happy Birthday in Hebrew and Arabic to a Christian and an Orthodox Jew respectively.

My Shalva leaders cried buckets of tears watching me interact with the neuro-typical friends from school while the parents gazed in amazement at these teenagers who have dedicated years of their lives to volunteer with kids like me. It was a mutual admiration society.

And then, minutes later, clearly taking a queue from my playbook, Pres. Donald Trump announced a historic peace treaty, the first between Israel and a Muslim state in a quarter of a decade!

I am so proud and elated that my friends and I were the inspiration for world peace! 

Leaders of the world, next time you’re looking for a peace treaty, you might want to call us.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Guest blog: Mom embarrasses me with open letter on my 10th birthday

Celebrating my successful completion
of one decade!

I have allowed my mom to embarrass me with an open letter to Yours Truly on my 10th birthday. Sigh.

Dear Daniel,

For your tenth birthday I would love to give you the gift of speech. I have no power to do this, of course, but I wish it so hard. Speech, speaking, communicating in a language that we understand … that would be my first and foremost gift for you.

I am fully aware of my own frustration that you cannot speak. That you cannot offer information or answer much more than yes-or-no questions. That I don’t know your favorite color or what you want for your birthday. When you are feeling sick or what foods you are craving.

What I am less aware of is the depth of your frustration. Because you cannot express that. I can only imagine that your angst far surpasses mine. It must be so aggravating that supposedly intelligent adults have no idea what you are saying. That we fail to grasp your basic needs and requests. And that we frequently guess wrong.

I’ve never heard you utter the words, “Can I invite so-and-so over for a playdate?” “I’m hungry.” “I want … I love… I hate…” I do hear those statements ad infinitum from your siblings, plus their constant squabbling and their millions of thoughts that spill out in a childlike stream of consciousness.

The Three... take your pick

We are supportive of each other ...
when we are not arguing

One of those moments when my parents wish I could
have told them how I felt, since I looked pretty mad!

The truth is we do feel you. We know your moods and can sense when a meltdown is coming on. We know you in a different way than we know your siblings.

Speaking would probably be more a gift for me than for you. If you spoke, life would be much easier for me, your father, sibling, grandparents, teachers. We would be aware of what you know, whether you don’t understand and what you flat out ignore because you couldn’t care less.

Every year, all week leading up to your birthday, I don’t rejoice — I panic. I panic because you are another year older and yet you still do not speak. The therapists always assured us, “It will come!” “Give it time.” One set of experts decried learning sign language when you were young saying it would encourage you to be “lazy” and not talk. Another set of experts wanted to focus on picture cards and communication boards, which you hated.

If I had trusted that tried and true, nagging maternal instinct, I would have pressed the issue. But who was I to argue with professionals who were nonplussed by your lack of speech at age 3, then 4, 5 and 6? Anyway, we had enough to worry about, from open heart surgeries to advocating for inclusion at school. I rested content that “speech would come.” Yet as you grew to understand two languages fluently, you could barely imitate their sounds and construct words.

The experts eventually became concerned and added a diagnosis: Apraxia. Then the speech people argued about whether it was apraxia or dyspraxia. They said It would take work, repetition and everything we had ever done, times the thousands that we would never be eligible for, with the time we would never have enough of in a given week.

Thanks to the “experts,” I never considered that perhaps you would never actually be able to speak — and how we would deal with that as a family. Lately, I’ve started to consider that prospect.

So this year, as I was partaking in my annual pleadings before your birthday (please let him speak, please let him speak), I stopped myself.

For your tenth birthday, instead of wishing that you will speak — which I cannot make happen anyway — I wish really hard that I will find new ways to listen. I need to find new ways to hear you without speech. New avenues of communication.

My eyes must watch for subtle cues, rather than depend on hearing the raw exhaustion in a voice that indicates an oncoming meltdown. My mind must decipher between the various yelps of joy, fury, aggravation, surprise — all of which sounds the same.

My heart must listen louder than my ears.

Listening with one’s heart, for a still small voice, rather than an earthquake, takes fine tuning, patience, more attention and discipline. I’ve spent 10 years failing at this.

Do I want you to speak? Hell yes. Will it change my life? Certainly, and yours as well. Can I be content if you never speak? Honestly, I have little choice but to cope with that, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be “content.”

What I should do is make a conscious effort to listen to your current communication and adapt to it, rather than always try to fix it.

And perhaps (a big maybe!!), if I rest from trying to always fix things, I’ll be quiet enough to learn something new.

I doubt I will rest entirely, because mothers (parents) never do. But here’s to a new decade and a new direction in life. Happy birthday, Daniel!

We find plenty of ways to communicate

Even without words, I get my message across!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Corona Statistics you don't see on the News!

One of several daily Zoom calls for schooling and contact with long-lost friends

Daily average statistics of our home quarantine 

Hours parsing WhatsApps groups to figure out daily school assignments: 3
Daily homeschooling assignments completed: .4 out of 12 (with luck)
Pencils gone missing or broken: 10 (yes, per day)
Zoom calls (for children): 4
Sheets of paper lost to doodling, drawing and "art" work: 36
Meals consumed by three children: 65
Food micro-particles swept off the floor: 1.57 million
Hours spent dish washing: 2
Furniture items damaged to varying degrees: 1
Hours spent putting toys away again: 4
Minutes spent in fresh air outside: 19
Sibling fights broken up: 85
Cases of coronavirus at home: 0
Cases of high blood pressure: 2

During time out in our 100-meter perimeter.
The forced labor includes Lucas reading to his non-attentive audience
and the rest of us decorating the forlorn path less traveled these days.

Corona Fallout: 'Home Sheltering' and Remote 'Learning'

Me outside during yard time
In the irony of what has come to be known as "home sheltering," the home itself has found itself in a situation that is the exact opposite of shelter since everything inside it - from food to furniture - has become an endangered species.

As we hunker down for the interminable and indefinite future within the confines of our apartment, we fear all of our magic markers will run dry, that the entire stuffing will come out of that shiny new rip in our sofa, that the coils in daddy and mommy's bed will lose their spring due to our jumping and that our academic progress will be stunted beyond repair thanks to our new teachers (our parents, bless their hearts). My glasses, which I broke in a dazzling act right before the corona-shutdown, remain unfixed and unused. Our school shirts have been retired. And we drift casually from nighttime to daytime pajamas at some point in a 24-hour period.

If everything else fails in homeschooling... least we will be able to use our heads for something! 
Homeschool sports - on Zoom
Homeschool showoff 
Perhaps our fears are misplaced and we should be more concerned about the coronavirus seeping through our four walls. But for now we are too busy to add fear to our checklist. Hence, fewer blogs. On a positive note, maybe we can learn how to use the damaged wooden furniture to make paper. Now that would be what I call homeschooling.

When parks just won't do... because they are off limits! Boredom is the new mother of invention.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronapalooza: "Remote Learning" Day 5

It has come to this.
"Remote Learning" is going well. As you can see from this photo.

What you may not know is that the floor onto which we are leaping is covered with blankets, stuffed animals, pajamas and pillows from our beds. And from the sofa.

This is only symbolic of how mommy and daddy are feeling as they consider the balcony.

Utter disaster.


Fauda! (which means chaos in Arabic and is a great series to watch in times of high anxiety!)

But never mind, most of the pressure is essentially off as this is the LAST DAY of remote learning! I'm not really sure what happened but the announcement came in last night that we no longer get our live stream of teachers who tackled various subjects to keep us somewhat up to date on our academic skills.

I'm not sure how much regression we can expect in the next five weeks. Or what we will do if the internet goes down or iPads stop working.

But never mind academics. We are being rather creative and helpful even in times of crisis and quarantine. Lucas will help the children of the world improve their judo skills, one Lego doll at a time: