Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School!!!

Kids go to school. Okay, there are many homeschool people out there. But my kids go to school.

It's what they do.
It's their "job," we tell them.
It's normal in our lives.

I sometimes find myself saying the weirdest things.
"I'm glad this happened over the summer," I said the other day.
(I'm glad!? Seriously!? But yes.)
I didn't have to think about school as we began - I had a few months to consider and see how it would all work out. A grace period.

So here we are. In between rounds 2 & 3 - with school starting. So I had a few meetings, I had to deal with it!

We have the most incredible school.
I know people love their schools -- but ours is truly amazing.
Sam is part of a Dual-Language program; he learns Spanish and English together. That's not why the school is incredible (although it adds to the awesomeness). Our principal has created an environment that is welcoming, honoring, and truly special. Kids and families are treated with value and respect. I knew that my school would embrace and help our family - and I was not wrong.

I had a few moments of thinking to myself, "Well, maybe we don't want to make a big deal of this. Maybe it's too hard to explain to his classmates and we should just be quiet about it."

And then our principal set me straight. Mrs. Anderson said to me, "if your kid was in class with another student who had leukemia (or any other serious issue), wouldn't you want to have your kid learn how to be a part of their life? And wouldn't you value that lesson for your family?"

See what I mean? She is so wise.

So we set in motion a project that I found online. It's called Monkey in My Chair, and it is a not-for-profit that provides a full social-emotional curriculum to use with the classmates of a student with cancer that requires them to be away from the classroom for extended periods of time. Oh, and it revolves around a stuffed monkey. What could be bad?

On Wednesday, Sam met with his teacher and the school psychologist (along the principal and the nurse and a few extra staff members who waved as they walked by). Sam was so excited to bring his big monkey (named George, he said) to sit in his chair in the classroom and eventually hang in his locker, since he would attend on the first day. He played a math game and got to explore his classroom a little on his own.

Can you see the monkey in his chair in the background? That's Sam's seat.
Sam has always been a great storyteller and speaker, but his maturity has really grown in the last few weeks. All that time spent with adults, I think, has had a real impact on him. He spoke eloquently and interestingly to the staff members.

Showing off the monkey in his locker...
Finally, the first day of school arrived today.
Full disclosure - I love the first day of school. I get emotional no matter what is going on in our lives. I love the potential, the newness, the unknown delights that are yet to be learned in the classroom. I love the new backpacks and the sharpened pencils. I love the ritual of reuniting with friends, making new ones, and meeting the teachers.

So you can imagine that I was a little overwrought today.

Not so for Sam, who was totally a cool cucumber about it. David, too.
Don't we have fine footwear in the Sommer family?
The psychologist, teacher, and school nurse began in the classroom while Sam and I hovered outside. They discussed why a monkey would be in their classroom, and they dressed it in a school t-shirt. I watched as the kids all wiped their hands with antibacterial wipes (yay) and then Sam and I came into the classroom and read the Monkey in My Chair book to the class. Then....first grade began!

Then Sam looked at me and said, "Bye, Mom."


So I left...well, I stayed around the building just in case. And to help when Yael arrived for her afternoon shift. (Which was in the morning on this half-day of school. Don't ask.)
Not to be outdone, Yael began afternoon kindergarten (which is why she isn't in the above pics) with equally awesome footwear.
And just like that...we have school.

So now I have to work out whatever logistics come with lengthy absences. But I'm not worried. My most concern was that Sam feel a connection and not feel too left out. I think that the monkey business (ha ha) will help him a lot. And we have some Skype dates to be planned with teachers who are incredibly receptive and loving and warm and caring and awesome.

A few other nods to "normalcy" at home:
Sam had a piano lesson from the amazing Miss Tina.
And yes, I know this blog is about Sam, but a first piano lesson EVER is worthy of a mention here!
Some monkey business at the park
An early morning park picnic
Medical Update:
We did NOT have a biopsy on Tuesday, instead it was postponed to tomorrow - Friday.
The monkey will be in his chair.
Sam is having an EKG and an echocardiogram (chemo can be bad for your heart so they monitor it) as well as bone biopsy and lumbar puncture tomorrow at the hospital.
Then it's home for the weekend, back to school on Monday (monkey to the locker!) and then probably admitted for Round 3 of Chemo Camp on Tuesday. Stay tuned for details.


  1. I love the monkey! I think there were a lot of kids I was in classes with whose monkey looked an awful lot like the kid...oh wait...hard to tell which was which?! And hey, look at Superman taking a piano lesson! I hope Superman Sam doesn't try to bang on the piano too hard - his superstrength might break a key!!I love first days too. Here's to a new....everything!

  2. Awesome post! Breana told me about everything today and I let her look at Sam's pics. She didn't want to stop talking about him. Is is too late for the Superhero pics? Praying for a great day tomorrow followed by a great weekend.

    1. It's not too late! I will have the new room number when we are re-admitted and he loves getting mail! I will keep you posted :) I'm glad she is in his class again!!!

    2. Awesome...she is excited about participating. She loves superheroes (dad is a fanatic)! I am too...Sam is such a sweet boy. I enjoyed our conversations in class last year...very mature spirit. Take care!

      By the way, I've read all your posts since them! Keep sharing and inspiring!

  3. Crocs AND Black socks....ohhh the humanity!!!

  4. Can I put this up on the Oak Terrace Facebook Page? If not totally understand but oh my, it does make me love our school even more -

  5. Hooray for school! We just got our Monkey in a Chair to use for Clio when the school year starts. She most likely won't be there at all until April (knock on wood), but her twin sister will be in the class and is excited to be in charge of the Monkey (who has been named Jeffrey -- no idea why). It seems like a really great program -- hope it works out well for Sam!

  6. We are an Oak Terrace family. I am so glad I had the chance to read this blog! I love the Monkey in a Chair idea. And Sam is such a brave guy (you all are brave!) Thank you for sharing your story!

  7. This native San Diegan tries to go barefoot as much as possible, must to the chagrin of anyone walking near me.

    Shoes have just never been my thing.

    But your family outdoes itself! It almost makes me want to go out and but a pair of fun shoes...almost.


    רפואה שלימה ולכולכם אך ורק שמחה!