Thursday, September 6, 2012

Swimmin' in Lake Superior

Alex and I have gotten in a delightful routine of swimming at the beach on Lake Superior.  There is an access trail from the old fire hall, about half way down Park Point.  The sand is golden and endless, and the sand dunes to the beach are tufted with beach grass that may have been there for thousands of years.  The walk up and over the dunes is calm and beautiful.  And then the lake.

Lake Superior.  The name says it all.   The view from the beach looks North East, 240 miles to Canada, bounded by gentle hills on either side, opening up from 14 miles wide at the beach.  The beach at the fire hall access is very shallow, and warms up nicely.  Warm being an awesome 65 degrees yesterday.  That is quite the warmup when you realize the average Lake Superior temp is 42 degrees, year round.

We show up, we drop our gear on the barely populated beach, and we hit the water with boogie boards in tow.  Usually there are not waves, but sometimes we get lucky.  Alex is always the first one under water, I generally follow with a holler or two.  Once in, it is quite pleasant.  Alex is an underwater fish, I like to float about, often on both boards.  We cruise out to deeper water, it takes about 20 feet to get to chin deep for the little guy.  Then we are under, and up, across, and down.  He has started climbing on the boards so I can tow him while he balances.  He becomes a shark and chases me.  He says, "Under water, now!" and down we go to sit for a bit.  He is not a deep water swimmer yet, doesn't like being in over his head, but he can swim underwater and down beach for a long ways without touching.  He loves it, and it is a joy to be with him out there.  I have never been in the lake just swimming so much in my life, and it is good.

Swim season is likely ending.  The nights are getting awfully darn cool.  But when a North East wind blows that warmed up water from the 70-80 degree daytime temps, there is still a window of opportunity.  Every time we have swam in last week, I think it is the last.  And then the lake surprises me again.  Kevin has gotten in on quite a few swims as well, and we've all gone together a time or two.  The beach is our recent go-to activity, and is sure is a good one.  Especially last evening, when Alex insisted we go after supper because the web said the lake was 65 degrees.  Warmer than ever!  The air temp was a bit down, but the setting sun made it all worth it.  Especially watching Alex dive under with his little butt in the air, working it hard to get under that clear, clear water.  His technique is far from perfect, but it works, and is oh-so-cute.  The grins when he pops back up are priceless.  Yes, the season may be about over,  but it as been stellar while it lasted.

We are now truly addicted to the Fire Hall beach.  22nd street, to anyone living in the area.  Lake Superior, thank you for a lovely end to a great summer.  When the swim season is finally over and hypothermia water moves in, we will have no regrets for this year. 

Close enough to be considered a picture of "our" trail and beach.  Park Point sunrise, Lake Superior.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The First Day of School

Alex awoke for the first day of school in a chipper mood.  He did not make breakfast and deliver it to his parents, like yesterday, but he did pop out of bed and go about his business.  Today is the first day of big changes, and I had anticipated some resistance or anxiety.  He will be riding the bus again, after having a whole year off.  He will have a new routine at school, no more breakfast, or staff watching out for him getting to class.  He is on his own, independent with back up as needed, and a focus on staying with his class at almost all times.  I am nervous as hell, and he is taking it all in stride.

So, there we were on the sidewalk, Mom, Dad, and Alex, playing Simon Says and waiting for the bus.  Watching the birds eat berries off the Mountain Ash tree.  Taking pictures.  Running back in the house to grab this and that.  Normal.  Ridiculously normal.  Alex got the tiniest bit worried as the bus pulled up, and wanted me to get on too.  So I did, since I know the driver, used to drive bus myself, and used to get on every day when he was littler and needed me to guide him to his seat.  I stayed about half a second.  Long enough to say hi to all aboard, and watch him bounce into the seat up front.  Then he's yelling bye, I'm hopping off, and away they go.

I don't know how all the big changes will shake out, but I am cautiously optimistic.  Simon Says is a very good sign.  His copy cat skills may be close to fully functional.  We have been coaching him at home on who to copy at school this year.  He has a wonderful seat mate.  Her name is Maria, she is serious and kind, and has been friendly with Alex since Kindergarten.  She is the number one he is to copy.  Lucas is number two, his best friend from last year and this summer, as long as they aren't trying to play Star Wars in class.  He is also well coached on going to friends for questions, as typical kids do, then asking the teacher.  His last line of defense this year is to be the Paraprofessionals in the room.  Joe or Rebecca will be in the class, and hopefully will be doing guidance from far in the background.

He is used to having lots of special treatment, and we are betting on his increased skills with peers allowing for him to slot in happily to regular treatment.  His attention span has increased to near normal when activities are engaging.  His motor skills have improved to near typical level for gross motor and fun stuff, like games, balls, running, hopping, skipping, and rock climbing.  Fine motor is yet to be conquered, his writing still sucks, and his drawing is at a pre-school level, but I got him to play with playdough yesterday.  I take that as another good sign.  He was averse to many fine motor activities before, and now he is open but behind.  He even did some spontaneous gluing last week.  Next I will work those pesky scissors.  We will get there.  Perhaps with his increased copying skills and decreased learned helplessness he will get inspired to tackle some of those difficult activities in the regular school day.

Don't know.  I don't know.  School doesn't know.   Alex doesn't even know.  But I have great hope. Hope that we will continue to go beyond limits.  Hope that his strengths will get stronger, such as his enthusiasm, kindness, and courage, and that his deficits will continue to diminish.  Not to zero.  That will never happen.  But that doesn't happen for anyone.  A wise teacher once told me that no one gets ahead by focusing on their weaknesses, but rather by developing strengths.   Alex certainly has his limits, at this time, and I am sure they will come out as the new year progresses, but his new skills and strengths are so exciting that I know we will find a way.  What way, I don't know, but a way there will be.  With a kiddo this chipper, and excited, and switched on there has to be.  School is always a challenge, but so much potential to for joy too. If we are very fortunate, all the big changes will add up to another big step towards just being another regular, spectacular, kid.