The Sonia Show

Writer. Mocker. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.


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Beach Talk

Yeah, so, we are back from our annual family trip to Santa Cruz.

In the past there was a big group of us, but this year it was just the three of us – just us MansTracys. The truth is we always end up doing our own thing anyway. My mighty, mighty good boy Calvin usually has his own autistic agenda, and it involves finding all the ceiling fans in the area. It definitely doesn’t involve going on roller coasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is fine by me. I don’t want to ride that stuff, either.

We started our trip with a stop at the Roaring Camp Railroads to ride the steam train. If you have a kid who loves trains, this is a must-do. The steam train winds its way through a redwood forest and stops by Bear Mountain, where everyone can get out and do some exploring.

Come on, ride the train.

Two bumps on a log.

When in Santa Cruz we like to stay at the Dream Inn, because we’re so fuckin’ fancy. Actually, I’m pretty sure we’re the opposite of fancy, but we do love staying there. It’s right on the beach, and it’s got a heated swimming pool. Every morning we order room service for breakfast and eat on the balcony.

Meh.

After breakfast, we usually walk the wharf, stopping into every shop and restaurant that has a ceiling fan. We usually tell the hostess, cashier, etc., what we’re doing and why. “He’s autistic, and he loves ceiling fans.” I realize that we don’t have to tell them, but I think it’s a good idea. This way, if another autistic person comes in, they will recognize it. Maybe it’s a silly thing to do, but I think it helps raise awareness.

We walked the wharf a few times a day, so all the employees in the shops and restaurants started to recognize us, and they always had a smile for Calvin. He’s really into naming shapes right now, so we walked the wharf and listed shapes: “square, circle, oval, rectangle, parallelogram, rhombus, star, arrow, heart.”

After we walked the wharf, we would go to the beach. We had a great time just playing in the waves and walking along the beach. During one trip to the beach, Calvin and I held hands and walked along the water until we ran out of beach. I got a little teary. The two of us have faced a lot of challenges in the past few years. Calvin received his autism diagnosis about the same time I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. But here we were, walking on the beach together – healthy and happy.

Beach boy.

After the beach, we would head to the pool. Calvin loves to be in the water, and he’s getting braver and braver. He’s been working on his dog paddle, which he calls “dog piddle.” The Dream Inn has a nice pool. It’s packed with families, and there’s a bar (beer!) and a taco stand.

Pool boys.

One afternoon, we were in the pool, and employees came around and told us that we needed to get out because they had to clean the pool. It turned out someone dropped a turd off at the pool.

“Hmm, maybe setting up a taco stand next to the swimming pool wasn’t the Dream Inn’s smartest decision,” I told David.

“Mr. Hanky decided to go for a swim, too,” David replied. “Howdy ho!

Some folks nearby overheard David, and they started cracking up and talking about Mr. Hanky. It wasn’t long until we could hear the Mr. Hanky impressions going around the pool.

So, yeah, that was pretty gross. And I was so, so, SO thankful our kid wasn’t responsible.

We did walk through the Beach Boardwalk one day, but Calvin didn’t like it. He thought it was too loud, which was a change from last year. He loved walking through the boardwalk last summer, looking at the lights and watching (but never riding) the rides.

This year, he was more interested in watching the boardwalk from the comfort of our room. He referred to the boardwalk as “hockey island.” “Hockey Island is too loud.” “Oh, Hockey Island is closed.” Pretty impressive “Inside Out” reference.

We also hit a few Santa Cruz breweries, including Seabright Brewery, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Humble Sea Brewing Company.  We got the Easy Money IPA and Blur IPA from Seabright. Very drinkable and perfect for the beach. I had the Devout Stout, because I’ve been drinking a lot of IPA lately, and I was ready for something dark. It was delicious, but the real winner was David’s Dread Brown Ale. We got a couple of growler-cans to go. On our way out of Santa Cruz, we stopped at Humble Sea. I got a stout based on Girl Scout thin mint cookies, and David got a northeast-style IPA, and both were pretty good. I was really impressed with all three places. They were terrific, comfortable spaces that were all dog and kid friendly. I’m always surprised by how kid-friendly other restaurants and breweries are outside of San Francisco. Other cities recognize that human beings have children, and that’s a part of life. San Francisco would prefer you get a sitter. Personally, I think some of the breweries in San Francisco could learn something from the ones in the East Bay and beyond. Children are a part of life. Get with the program.

So anyway, we had an awesome time on our trip, but it was nice to come home. We missed our animals. Toby spent the week with my mom. She told me that he really missed me, and he spent a lot of time staring longingly out the window. Our neighbor took care of Kubo for us. She said she’s not really a cat person, but Kubo has won her over. Kubo did the same thing with David. I think it’s her super power.

One of the smart things we planned with this vacation is we got back on Thursday, so we have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to recover. Most of the time, after a vacation, we feel like we need another vacation to recover from our vacation.

I’m so glad my double chin decided to photobomb our nice family pic.


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The Graduate

Yeah, so, Calvin is graduating from preschool.

I know, right?

His last day is Friday. He’s been there for three and a half years. He has grown so much since he first started. He was about 2 1/2 years old, and he could barely talk. He wasn’t even diagnosed with autism. Transitioning from a nanny-share situation was tough at first. His first day didn’t go super awesome. And for months, he cried when dropped him off.

Look at that little guy!

But the preschool and the teachers were/are awesome. Kaiser, the Golden Gate Regional Center and the preschool all worked together to get Calvin diagnosed and get him the services he needs. And as his communication improved, his enjoyment level improved. Now, he loves preschool. He loves the teachers, and the other kids are really sweet to him. He is clearly different than the other children in his class, but he’s very popular. He also has specialists from Easter Seals working with him almost every day at the school, and the school has been very patient and accommodating.

It’s going to be really difficult to leave. It’s going to be sad for Calvin, sad for the teachers and sad for us. The teachers adore Calvin. He is a really good kid.

We might be in for a tough transition. We’ve been trying to prepare Calvin, telling him that his last day of preschool is coming and then he will start at a new school. There’s an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” about going to a new school, and we’ve been watching it a lot.

The preschool had a graduation party on Saturday. Calvin is never a fan of the preschool events, because it’s strange for him to have his parents at the school. We probably embarrass him, right?

Oh, and there’s a lot of people and commotion, and that’s not really Calvin’s favorite. Plus, there were bouncy houses, and Calvin thinks bouncy houses are bullshit. I know he would love ’em, if he would just try it, but he won’t even get in ’em for a second.

We knew that we may not get to stay very long at the party, and we knew that he may not wear the graduation robe or participate in the ceremony, but we always try, because you never know.

We were able to stay for a bit. When it came time for him to put on his graduation robe and walk with the other kids … Well, that didn’t work out. David waited with all the other parents for the photo op, and I went to the room to try to get Calvin into his graduation robe. I asked a few times, and the answer was always “No, thank you.”

I could tell he was getting agitated, so I just put it on myself. We stood in line with the other kids and did the graduation walk together.

I wanted to get our money’s worth from the graduation robe.

So, this week is going to be a little emotional for us in the MansTracy household. Leaving the teachers who have done so much for Calvin these past three and a half years is going to be a tough one. BUT, in an attempt to make the transition a little easier for Calvin he is taking a few weeks off before starting kindergarten. He’s going to spend four or five days with my parents. Then, we’re going on a family vacation to Santa Cruz, which will make us all happy.

 


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What’s Calvin Watching

Yeah, so, my mighty, mighty good boy Calvin caught a nasty cold.

The cold got progressively worse as the week went on, so by Thursday and Friday he had to stay home from school. He’s in good spirits, but I feel bad for him. He’s feeling cooped up, and in between playing and lining up his cars and buses, he’s been watching some uninspiring movies and TV shows.

Every once in a while Google Play offers a free movie. Earlier this year it was a movie called “Bunyan & Babe,” an animated movie about Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox. It’s not very good. It’s boring with very video-gamey animation.

“Bunyan & Babe” is one of those kids movies where the bad guy wants to destroy a farm or a town to pave the way for some big project that will make him a lot of money. I suspect most kids cannot relate to that and don’t give a shit. Although I bet Trump’s kids would watch it and think the property developer is the good guy who’s just misunderstood.

So anyway, now Google Play has kicked us “A Stork’s Journey,” which is about a sparrow raised by storks. It’s also got a gay parakeet that sings “I’m Coming Out” over and over, and a goth owl voiced by Jane Lynch.

The animation looks better than “Bunyan & Babe,” but it’s not a very good movie either. A stork family adopts this orphaned sparrow, but then ditches him, and he spends the entire movie trying to find them. WTF?! The storks are terrible people.

Oh, and in order to be accepted by the father stork who raised him the sparrow has to save another stork’s life. It’s kinda like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It’s not about people acknowledging how prejudice their way of thinking is and making it right. It’s more about the outcast proving to be useful in some way, so he/she is worthy of being accepted.

I’m pretty sure I know why these movies are free from Google Play.

Calvin has also been watching a TV show on Netflix titled “Tayo the Little Bus,” which is basically a South Korean “Chuggington,” but with buses instead of trains. Of course, “Chugginton” is just a ripoff of “Thomas the Tank Engine.” It’s the same shit. Here’s the plot of every episode: Bus or train character doesn’t listen to instructions, which results in confusion and delay. Oh sorry. Spoiler alert!

I really love it when Calvin watches “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” because I like watching it, too.

In other news, we have ditched overpriced Xfinity-Comcast and got a Roku. We love it so far. We can watch our local baseball teams through Sony Vue. Plus, we got the FilmStruck app, which has a TON of old movies and the Criterion Collection, so we’re stoked.

And speaking of old movies, we have a new episode of Old Movies, New Beer up for your listening pleasure. Inspired by “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise, we decided to watch the originals from 1932 and 1959.

We’re drinking Bravo, an aged imperial brown ale with a really high alcohol content, so you can listening to me get drunk and bash the Tom Cruise movie when I should be talking about the old movies.


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Miss You Much

Yeah, so, working in a new office with new people is a big change for me. But I kinda forgot that this is a big change for my mighty, mighty good kid Calvin, too.

For five years I’ve been driving him to nannyshare or preschool and picking him up, because I’m the one that drives to work. Mighty, mighty good man David takes him to school and picks him up sometimes, too — once a week, at least. But, it’s mainly been me.

Well, last week I was taking BART to work, so David did the dropping off and the picking up. On Thursday, David picked up Calvin, and he seemed a little sad. When they got home, Calvin saw I wasn’t there and started crying. And when I came through the door, he ran to me and we hugged, and he cried and cried.

He missed me.

All week long I was feeling like I was getting less time with Calvin because I wasn’t driving him. We have a nice, little routine. We listen to songs on his playlist that I made for him, and we talk about all the buses, police cars and trucks we see. I was missing that time, too, but I’m such a clueless dope that it didn’t occur to me that maybe – just maybe – my son was missing me, too.

What a dum-dum I am.

So anyway, one of my mom’s best friends, Jeanne (they’ve been best friends since kindergarten), lives just a few minutes from us, and guess what? She got goats! GOATS, you guys! GOATS! Look!

They are so goddamn cute. They are totally sweet and friendly. I want a goat so bad. But until that day, I will be visiting Jeanne more often.

 

 


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I Know You Are But What Am I

Yeah, so, the other night I decided to introduce my mighty, mighty good boy Calvin to “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” because I want to raise him right.

I remember my niece Lorelei loving this movie when she was Calvin’s age. Plus, I love it, so I figured I’d give it a shot. It beats watching “Bob The Builder,” which he has been asking for more often lately.

The trick with introducing a new movie or TV show to Calvin is to start the movie or TV show when he’s not paying attention. If he asks to watch “Curious George,” and I respond with “Let’s watching something new,” well, he’s not going to go for that.

This time, he was playing with his buses in the living room, and I started the movie without any fanfare. It wasn’t long before he did a double take. The beginning of the movie is so clever and colorful with really fun music. He was instantly hooked.

By the time, Pee Wee starts dancing to “Tequila” on a table, Calvin was fully invested.

And, just like me, he thinks the pet store scene is hilarious. He asked me to rewind it a few times to he could watch it over and over.

Since he liked the movie, I think he’s ready for “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” so we will be trying that soon.


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Spaceball

Yeah, so, my mighty, mighty good man David and I love to watch baseball. We want to go to more games together, and we want to bring our my mighty, mighty good boy Calvin.

He hasn’t been to a baseball game since he was a baby.

Gaaah! Was he ever that small?

A crowded and loud baseball game isn’t necessarily Calvin’s favorite place to be, but we want to try. Unfortunately, San Francisco Giants tickets are kinda expensive. We’re not sure we want to spend $50+ on a ticket for Calvin, if he demands we leave after 10 minutes.

Luckily, we’re a two-team household, so we can go to Oakland A’s games, which are waaaay more affordable.

Just a few days after talking about it with David, I got an email from Easter Seals Bay Area, offering us free tickets to the A’s game. They were hosting a “A Home Run For Autism” event at the game: free tickets, free sodas and free food. We had to buy our own beer, because duh – we’re not going to drink soda at a baseball game.

This turned out to be the perfect opportunity to reintroduce Calvin to baseball. We had an awesome time. He got a giant bag of popcorn, and he was as happy as can be. Plus, there were a lot of airplanes and helicopters flying overhead, and he loved that. He got a little nervous with the giant head mascots showed up, but that had more to do with all the people running over to get photos than with the mascots themselves.

We made it until the ninth inning, and then Calvin was kinda ready to go. Unfortunately, the A’s lost the game, but we still felt like winners because we got spend a beautiful day in the ballpark with our boy. We asked him if he liked going to the baseball game and he said, “Yes. I like spaceball.”


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You Drive Me Crazy

Yeah, so, I was driving to work and thinking about all the things I need to do once I get there.

“I need to send that email. I need to work on the video script. I need to fix our Google Plus page.” You know, a bunch of silly to-do list things.

Right as I was getting on the freeway, I noticed I was listening to the “Cars” soundtrack.

“Why am I listening to this crap?” I thought. “OH SHIT!”

And sitting the back seat was Calvin.

I forgot to drop him off at school! I was completely on autopilot and was driving to work without even thinking.

“I’m not going to school,” he said.

“You’re going to school. I went the wrong way,” I told him.

Every morning I drop Calvin off at preschool and then drive to work. Why today I skipped the preschool I have no idea. I’m so glad I didn’t get all the way to the office with him.

Actual footage of me driving.

Have you ever drive somewhere on autopilot? I’d love to read your stories in the comments.


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My Boo

Yeah, so, on Friday night, we dropped mighty, mighty good boy Calvin off at the Peek-A-Boo Factory in West Portal for their monthly date night.

Actual footage of David and I after we drop off Calvin at Peek-A-Boo Factory for date night.

Basically, we pay $35, drop Calvin off, and he runs around on their play structure for three hours. They serve pizza that he won’t eat, and they do crafts that he doesn’t really care about. He just wants to go down the long, red slide for three hours.

Anyway, we dropped him off as usual and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. After dinner, we went to a bar across the street from Peek-A-Boo to grab a drink. We ran into another set of parents from Calvin’s preschool. They dropped their son off at Peek-A-Boo as well, and they were a little nervous because they had never done it before.

“Calvin loves it,” we told them. “It’s awesome.”

We chatted for a bit, and then they left because they wanted to pick their son up a little early, since it was his first time. I laughed and said, “Well, we’re going to wait until the very last second to pick up Calvin.”

And right then, mighty, mighty good man David noticed that Peek-A-Boo had called. Calvin was crying and upset, and they didn’t know why. D’oh!

We went across the street, and we could see him through the locked glass doors. He was crying. When they let us in, he ran into my arms sobbing. One of the employees, who always gives Calvin special attention at these date nights, had no idea what was wrong.

“He’s always so happy,” she told us.

While we were heading home, Calvin said, “I got locked in the trailer,” which is something that happened at my parents’ house the week before. My dad has a trailer on the side of the house, and Calvin was playing in it, and he accidentally locked himself in it for about a minute.

I thought maybe he got locked in the restroom at Peek-A-Boo, and this is his way of telling us.

“Did you get locked in the bathroom at the red slide, Calvin,” I asked. “Red slide” is what he calls Peek-A-Boo Factory.

“No,” he replied. “I got locked in the trailer at Grandma’s.”

“I know,” I said. “That’s scary.”

“There’s a ghost in the trailer,” he said.

WTF?!?!?

“There’s a ghost in the trailer?” I repeated.

“Yes.”

 

I texted my mom. “Your trailer is haunted. FYI.”

My dad loves to kill things, so I’m not sure how he will deal with something that is already dead living in his trailer, but I’m sure he’ll figure it out.

It turned out that Calvin wasn’t feeling very well. He had a fever by the time we got home, and he was off and on feverish all day Saturday. Poor little guy.


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Too Cool For School

Yeah, so, the San Francisco public school system is notoriously difficult to navigate.

In San Francisco, your kid doesn’t just go to your neighborhood school, even though that’s what most parents in San Francisco seem to want. There is a very involved school assignment process, which ratchets up parental anxiety. You are required to rank your school choices and submit them by the deadline, and you may or may not get any of your choices. A lot of families leave San Francisco when their children are getting ready to start school rather than deal with the enrollment process.

We have been touring schools and researching schools since November, and by “we” I mean my mighty, mighty good man David. He did most of the leg work on this, and I did stuff like drop off the forms at the school district and get laughed by a school district employee, which is a real thing that happened.

We submitted a list of about 35 schools, but it turned out none of those schools were going to work out for Calvin.

Photo by my mighty, mighty good man David.

Since Calvin is autistic, he needs an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) with the school district. He already had one, but it was a little out of date, so we had to get him reassessed by the district. However, we couldn’t make it happen until after the enrollment deadline. So, we just did our best guess what would be right for Calvin. We assumed that Calvin would be in a “regular” classroom, and then pulled out for special services, such as speech or occupational therapy.

The school district team visited Calvin at his preschool, and we brought him into their offices for more observation. Their recommendations were unexpected. They recommended Calvin attend a mild/moderate special day class. He would receive a lot of support and services with the hope of transitioning him to the “regular” class. We were kinda surprised, but the truth is, this is the best option for Calvin. It’s better to start with a lot of services and scale back then to start with less and ask for more services.

So, there are 11 elementary schools out of 85 elementary schools in the SF Unified School District that offer mild/moderate special day classes, and — of course — none of those schools were on our original list. We had to submit another list, and it was just a few weeks before the school assignment letters were going out.

Sigh.

The school district employees were so kind to us. They handed us a list of the schools, and David did some quick research. One of the schools on the list was Clarendon Elementary, which is really difficult to get into. We’ve read the stories about how it’s more difficult to get into than Harvard blah blah blah. David spoke with a school district employee on the phone, and she suggested we put it as our first choice, so we did, but with no expectation that Calvin would be assigned to that school.

Narrator’s voice: They were wrong. He was assigned to that school.

We couldn’t believe our dumb luck. Calvin was assigned to what many people believe is one of the best schools in the district, and it’s less than 3 miles from our house. Finally! The MansTracy Family catches a break.

When I got the school assignment from the school district, I seriously couldn’t believe it. I called David immediately, and when I told him he replied, “Holy shit!” David never swears. It’s always “Jiminy Christmas” this and “Good grief” that.

So yeah, now that the school search is over we can focus on the important shit like the fact that our little boy is starting kindergarten in the fall.


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Naive Parenting Lesson #368

Yeah, so, my mighty, mighty good boy Calvin is such a good kid that sometimes I forget he’s a kid, and that kids gonna kid.

Last night we were eating dinner together. He was having chicken, and I was eating a big salad. I know, I know. I’m such a fuckin’ top chef. Anyway, Calvin wanted a cupcake for dinner, because he’s smart. But, being a somewhat responsible parent, I told him that if he ate all of his chicken he could have a cupcake.

I left the room to put my plate in the sink, and when I came back Calvin pointed out that his chicken was gone.

“Can I have a cupcake, please?” he asked, while holding up his empty plate.

“Oh! Yes! Of course. Good job eating all your chicken,” I told him.

I brought him a cupcake, and he happily ate it – as you can see.

After he was finished, I was wiping off the table, and I picked up his water glass. Guess what was in it? Yep. The chicken. The boy hid his chicken in a glass of water, and I totally didn’t notice. He 100% fooled me into giving him a cupcake.

“Calvin, what’s in your glass?” I asked.

“Oh no! The chicken is all wet! The chicken is in the water.” he replied.

“How did it get in there?” I asked.

He just shook his head and ran off. Sneaky little bastard.

I couldn’t even be mad. He tricked me, the same way that kids have been tricking their parents about eating food for years. I’m kinda proud of him.