I must acknowledge at this point that this blog has been sorely neglected for the past 6 months. I had wonderful intentions to write about all the fun we had with our niece, Duong, last summer, but I failed to follow through and was not particularly inspired to write in the fall because I felt that my adventures were adequately documented through regular emails to my brother in Korea. I have now, however, finished up a lovely week of Christmas vacation with my family and am facing a new year of opportunity and feeling inspired to look back at the last year and make predictions for the year ahead.
Unfortunately, I have no 2017 predictions to review because I was in Vietnam and unable to write a blog post on New Year’s Day a year ago. Instead of reviewing my 2017 predictions, I will have to backtrack and review the 2016 predictions…
- Honestly, I think I’m due for a job change this year. I hope to become a drug safety specialist at my current company because the pay is a bit better than my current role and because then I would actually be using some of my pharmacy knowledge. My manager, however, would obviously prefer to keep me in the lab logistics group. He indicated that a lab coordinator position would be a reasonable next step for me, but honestly, I don’t think our group needs another lab coordinator anytime soon… we just increased the number of coordinators from 2 to 4 last summer. I was pretty spot on here. My promotion to lab logistics coordinator was approved in October 2016, at the same time that I was offered and accepted a position as a drug safety associate. Although hired at the associate level, I was soon given specialist level responsibilities, and my manager was a strong advocate for my promotion in 2017.
- No job change for Son. Turnover is not quite as fast at his company/position. Correct. Son is still with JM.
- Alina will be walking by March. A few weeks ago, I thought she would be walking by today, but she seems more inclined to ask to be carried than to walk on her own at this point. Yup. Alina started walking in February 2016 at 10, almost 11, months. She walked joyfully around Mystic Aquarium when we visited for her first birthday.
- Peter will weigh 39 lbs and measure 43 inches tall at his 6-year physical. Despite the recommendations to not transition to a booster seat before 40 pounds, I will get him booster seats because Alina will need his convertible seats. Yes, at his 6-year physical in October, he measured 43 inches tall and weighed 38 lbs. He was up to 45 inches and 43 lbs at his 7-year physical.
- What to predict for Peter? I think he will be capable of reading from the “middle readers” section of the library a year from now, but I doubt he will want to. With the exception of Ricky Ricotta, he’s just not that excited about fiction. I don’t see him improving in reading or math that quickly nowadays because they are still working at a very basic level in kindergarten. To our amusement, he tells people that he’s in fourth grade because he wants to be in fourth grade. I think someone told him that fourth graders learn U.S. geography. Perhaps Peter should start studying for the National Geographic Bee in fourth grade?
Yeah, he was reading Bad Kitty-type books a year ago. He start reading some longer books by the end of first grade, but his interest in fiction is still not strong enough to keep him perusing the chapter books in the library. We have had success with other Dav Pilkey series, i.e., Captain Undrepants and Dog Man. We did have fun reviewing GeoBee Challenge questions for the first few months of 2016.
- As for Alina, it’s exciting to think that she could be recognizing colors, shapes, and animals a year from now. She’s already playing with Peter’s toy cars by pushing them along the ground, so I think she will like things that go, too. Oh, gee… I’m not sure when the color and shape recognition took off for Alina. Maybe around the time she turned 2? Animals were recognized earlier; Alina is an animal lover at heart.
- Alina will weigh 21 lbs and measure 32 inches long at her 18-month check up. She measured 23 lbs and 32 inches at 18 months. She’s a very “normal” size. At her 2-year check-up, she measured 26 lbs, 3 oz (61 %ile) and 34.25 in (65 %ile). Her head was a bit on the big side at 19.25 in (89 %ile), but that’s nothing compared to her top-heavy brother.
- Peter will start an extracurricular activity in first grade. I will (fingers crossed!) work from home after 3 p.m. so that he doesn’t have to go to Kathie’s and so that I can take him to / pick him up from his extracurriculars. I’m hesitant to guess which extracurriculars he will take on, though. Boy scouts? Soccer? Gymnastics? Music? Maybe he will start a geography club….
Yes! I have worked from home after 3 p.m. since fall 2016, and Peter started gymnastics that October. We tried a Boy Scouts meet, and it was a failure… too much chaos, many restless young boys. Peter was unable to stay on-task with multiple activities going on simultaneously, and he expressed no desire to continue with Boy Scouts. Peter did soccer in fall 2017 and has been taking karate since September 2017. The unexpected thing was that Alina demanded to take gymnastics starting in spring 2017. I was previously opposed to enrolling kids under 5 in extracurricular activities, but Alina won that battle. She is strong, flexible, competitive, tenacious, and good at following instructions, so I have a feeling that she will be a very good gymnast one day.
- I won’t be pumping at work a year from now, but I feel like Alina will still be nursing at bedtime. I’m hoping that she’s sleeping through the night by the end of 2016.
Goodness! She is still nursing at bedtime, naptime, and meltdown time two years later.
- Alina will make her first trip to Vietnam. Peter will take more interest in learning Vietnamese.
Yes, we left for Vietnam on Christmas Day, 2016. Sadly, though, Peter has not taken much interest in learning Vietnamese, and none of the native Vietnamese speakers in his life have put very much effort into teaching him the language. On the other hand, Son has done a good job working with Peter on supplemental academic work to help increase his focus and speed.
2017 brought me a bit of stress via Peter’s academics; in January, his school’s Student Intervention Team recommended that he undergo a full IEP evaluation. In February, his teacher completed the Light’s Retention Scale for Peter. In March, most of the IEP testing was completed, and at the end of April, we had the IEP meeting to assess the results, determine whether Peter qualified for an IEP, and set the framework for his IEP goals and interventions. I did a lot of reading on child psychology and parenting and twice exceptional students and attention and executive functioning issues and the challenges of being a young boy in a modern school setting. At this point, I am sufficiently removed from the IEP process to provide an executive summary:
- Peter’s mother would not and will allow him to undergo grade retention unless the grade retention coincided with switching schools. Peter’s first grade teacher did not see the Light’s Retention Scale results as clear-cut, but they were pretty clear to me. You can’t coax a bright kid whose academic achievement is at grade level to become more engaged in school by having him repeat a grade.
- Peter has slow processing speed and below average working memory. This literally slows him down in tasks which demand more complex executive functioning (e.g., writing) and in tests of (math) fluency. (Reading fluency is less of an issue because he is so advanced in his decoding skills.)
- Peter has poor manual coordination.
- Visual spatial cognition, fluid reasoning, and visual motor integration are areas where Peter excels. Surprisingly, Peter has above average fine motor skills; it appears that his strong visual motor skills bolster his inherently weak manual coordination.
- Peter is a very good reader and speller.
- Peter’s teacher really wanted him to qualify for an IEP because he requires too much prompting to stay on-task in school. As a result, he qualified for an IEP under the “developmental delay” disability category, a hedge category that can be used to justify special education services through age 9.
- A special ed teacher is in Peter’s class in the mornings, he attends PT twice per week, and he works on social skills at a “lunch bunch” program with the speech therapist.
- At last fall’s parent-teacher conferences, Peter’s second grade teacher was, like his first grade teacher, concerned by Peter’s difficulty “keeping up” with the pace of second grade. Some days are better than others. At the moment, I still don’t really think Peter fits the picture of a child with ADHD, but like children with ADHD, the biggest difficulty is keeping him on task to complete the required volume of classwork. Circling around to the top of my bullet list, it seems to be primarily an issue of processing speed.
Peter is an interesting kid. Very sweet and conciliatory and good at geography, so he might do well in the State Department. Or working as a computer programmer. He has been spending a lot of time playing and modifying games on Scratch, and he received a few coding-inspired games and toys for Christmas (e.g., an Ozobot and Laser maze).
Alina, as I’ve said before, is my firecracker, my crazy monkey. She won’t be a precocious reader, but she will do well when she starts school because she is an independent, exacting, executive skills ninja with great fine motor skills to boot.
My mom, dad, and sister visited over Christmas. The holiday vacation had a nearly catastrophic start when a large branch from our neighbor’s tree fell on the power lines across the street and thereby ripped the wires and goose neck cleanly off our house. Happily, the town electrical service was quick to send out an electrician when Son called 911 and informed the dispatcher that we had live wires and a large tree branch blocking the road. Sadly, the municipal electrician declined to repair the electrical line from the gable of our garage to the meter in the corner of our garage and living room extension, so we had to pay $1000 to have that repaired. Thankfully, the repairs were done, and power was restored at 11:20 p.m., an hour before my mom and sister landed at Logan airport the morning of Christmas Eve. Heat, lighting, and a working stove top are nice things to have when you plan to host Christmas dinner.
Christmas Eve was quiet, in part because everyone slept in after the excitement the night before. We made a trip to a local winery, returned home to oversee the repair of our internet service, made/ate gingerbread houses/trains, and generally ate and drank well. Presents were opened, reindeer were fed, and Christmas morning was very white, with a fresh 4.5-inch blanket of snow. Alina received ponies, a pony movie, apparel (including pony-themed apparel), and more ponies. Peter, as previously mentioned, received some pretty cool toys but still spent a lot of time playing on electronic devices. I received a cozy sweater, some shiny baking sheets, and a “pharmacy” pen. (You will have to trust me that the “pharmacy” pen is much cooler than it sounds.) Son received some metal chopsticks and very nice, hardcover works of fiction. There were also some generous gift cards and monetary gifts going around.
I had to work the day after Christmas, so unfortunately, I look back on it as an under-utilized day from the perspective of someone who wants to ensure her visitors are well-entertained. Wednesday was a bit of an adventure, though; we saw the holiday attractions at Jordan’s Furniture (yes, at a furniture store). Alina made delighted 2-year-old comments while watching the laser light show, and Peter pinpointed the Polar Express 4D show as the highlight of his day, topping even the ice cream and bunk beds at Ikea. Thursday brought us to the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, and Friday brought us to the JFK Library before we dropping my family off at the airport. Son kept us busy over the weekend with Vietnamese friends, and on New Year’s Day, I thought it would be good to get some exercise in spite of the sub-zero temperature outside, so we went to a trampoline park. I had fun, and I think the kids did, too.
Now for my 2018 predictions. Height/weight predictions are not as interesting as they used to be; Peter grows slowly and Alina grows typically, so I’ll skip those this year.
- I’m not expecting any great changes with my work this year. Could I switch employers for the purpose of exacting higher wages? Probably. Do I want to switch employers? Probably not. My current work schedule is pretty cushy, and my commute isn’t horrible.
- Although I’m not looking for a new employer this year, I’m still full of dreams and ambition. I’d like to be a pharmacovigilance scientist when I grow up, someone who goes beyond individual case processing to detect, evaluate and manage drug safety risks. Towards this goal, I’m toying with a few mini research project ideas pertaining to pharmacovigilance and signal detection methodology. Based on my past track record, the odds of me following through on these ideas are not high, so this is more of a naive New Year’s Resolution than a true prediction.
- Son, on the other hand, recently coauthored two full papers, positioning himself well to apply for new positions after he hits 3 years with JM in April. (His employer’s matched retirement contributions will be vested at that point.) I can’t claim full knowledge of Son’s career goals, but I would not be surprised if he took a new position this year or next year, given the high rate of turnover at his company.
- Admittedly, if I’m going to think about Son taking a new job, I also have to think about moving to a location more proximate to his future job, i.e., closer to Boston. Odds are that the next job offer Son gets will be inside I-95, perhaps smack in the middle of Cambridge. I’d like to hold off on buying a new house until my student loans are paid off, i.e., in about 2 years, but Son and I agree that neither of us can take a job in Boston/Cambridge unless we move much closer to the cities; the commute from Worcester-ish is too long. I have difficulty imagining moving in 2018, but if a new job for Son is possible, moving is, too.
- I do not foresee any astounding cognitive leaps for Alina in the next year, but watch out for that girl on the gymnastics mat. She makes up for Peter’s lack of competitiveness or physical prowess. We could carry on with fun and games at our neighborhood Little Gym, but part of me is inclined to let her try classes at a more competitive gym with better instruction at a cheaper hourly rate. (I can tolerate the gymnastics instruction at The Little Gym because I am not a gymnastics connoisseur, but the dance instruction makes me cringe to watch.)
- Peter, Peter, Peter. If we don’t lose him to online gaming, he will do good things with his life. Probably not great things; he is not driven enough to move mountains. But he will make people happy and contribute to society in creative ways. For the short term, I foresee a Pac-Man or Super Mario-themed birthday party in our future. I am sad that we probably won’t have any more geography-themed parties, but on the other hand, Peter can probably relate to his peers better through Minecraft/Mario/Pac-Man/Pokemon than though capitals of the Canadian provinces.
- Now that Alina is becoming less demanding, the thought has crossed my mind that we could try getting a cat once again. Alina loves animals, and Peter would love to have a cat, too. Would it make a good birthday present?
- My parents are planning to visit this summer before embarking of a cruise of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Our vacation plans are still up in the air, but we should take at least a week off this summer while our new day care provider is closed for vacation. Maybe we’ll visit Canada? Maybe Hershey, PA? Maybe North Dakota? Maybe Washington, D.C.?
- My sister’s great triumph of 2017 was landing a nice job as an assistant for the college partnership program at the community college she once attended. It was wonderful to see her get a position that actually capitalized her past experiences and degree in human resource development. I’m predicting that she will continue to live (and work) happily ever after in her new position and apartment through 2018 and beyond.
- My brother’s future is less certain, though I do see teaching, a teaching credential, and scuba diving in it. Will he stay in Korea? Will he teach English in a different country? Or will he do something totally unexpected, like join the Peace Corps? I’ll take a wild guess and say that he will get a job teaching in Japan before 2018 closes.
Indeed, who knows what 2018 may bring? Because you are alive, everything is possible.