A little over a week ago Sam turned eight years old. Old Man Sam!
Sam’s birthday falls right on the cusp of changes: his birthday heralds in the beginning of Kid Summertm and our annual changeover from one grade to the next. Now, Kid Summertm doesn’t really mean much in this household — we keep trucking through school — the biggest difference is the occasional 10:00 a.m. doorbell ring when one of Lydia’s neighborhood friends is looking for her. Both kids go up a grade at the beginning of June, so right after Sam turned seven last year he began 2nd grade, and he polished that off just a few weeks ago at the end of May. We have a third grader, folks!
Second grade was filled with some trials and tribulations. Focusing and general concentration is not one of Sam’s strong suits so we began some medication to combat some of his ADHD symptoms. Lydia had great success early on when we began to treat her ADHD, but Sam gave us yet another lesson in Every Kid Is Different. Some medicine that helped his ADHD symptoms gave him horrible side effects in the anxiety department, and other medicines that did not cause anxiety also did not alleviate the ADHD issues. Trying out all these different meds was a slow-growing process: many of them have to be started (and stopped) ever so slowly, giving me PTSD flashbacks of titration labs from college chemistry. All the while we were titrating on or off a medication, Sam’s schoolwork suffered.
By March, Sam’s doctor and I figured we were perhaps putting the cart before the horse by treating the ADHD first, anxiety second. So we switched tactics by treating the anxiety with a low dose of Zoloft. This also took time and tweaking. At first he was taking it at bedtime, and in the morning he was a right ol’ crab.
Once we backed up the dose time to dinner, the mornings got better, and Sam’s general anxiety lessened. Ever so slowly, we added in a low dose of another medication to combat the ADHD . . . and it’s working. It’s not perfect, some days are still tough, but Sam, his doctor, and I are all content with the level we’re currently operating at.
Most importantly, these changes have helped Sam’s schoolwork.
Perhaps I’m oversharing and you don’t really want to know the ins and outs of Sam’s medication exploits, especially on a yearly update. They’re supposed to be fun and nostalgic and celebratory, right? Perhaps you even judge me, tut-tutting me putting my young son on all these meds . . . drugs . . . CHEMICALS! That’s okay. I judge me, too. Every day I re-evaluate these decisions and my motivation for making them. Every day I doubt.
Then I see Sam, who is so dang happy he figured out that math problem IN HIS HEAD that he gives me a high-five so hard I can still feel it 30 minutes later. Oww oww oww.
Maybe it’s more than anyone really needs to know about the steps we take to help regulate Sam’s mental state, but it’s a part of him and a part of his year. It’s hard, he struggles, he overcomes. It’s important.
In Sam’s seven-year update I remarked on how well he was doing in OT and even mentioned he might be doing well enough to qualify out soon. I am happy to report that he did continue to improve with OT and in September he had his last appointment with “Miss Donna.” As part of her thank-you-for-everything gift, Sam hand-wrote her a note. He gave her that along with a Godzilla. It was sweet; we all cried.
In August, we traveled up to Tennessee with Grandma, Papa, Kevin, and Stephanie to witness the Solar Eclipse of 2017. I had been looking forward to August 21, 2017 for many years — that upcoming date has been listed in the Almanac since I was a kid. For the day of the eclipse, we camped out in a park in Gallatin, Tennessee with quite a few thousand other people. The City of Gallatin did a great job with the organization of their event, so there were ample food trucks, port-a-potties, and little cardboard church fans emblazoned with the date.
Us adults sweated in the shade while the kids played on a nearby playground.
As the time of the eclipse drew nearer, subtle changes began to happen: the sun, while still incredibly bright, began to feel less intense; the filtered shadows cast on the ground by trees began to look crescent-shaped; and us humans began to almost buzz with excitement as the minutes crept nearer. Then suddenly . . .
Darkness, in the middle of day. A swell of hooping and hollering rose over the park as thousands applauded the moon. Crickets began to chirp and bats, thinking it was dusk, began to fly around. It was surreal. Then a few minutes later, the sun was back, and that was that. The kids loved the experience, and we are all looking forward to 2024.
Here is a video of Sam and Lydia talking about their experience:
The next month was September and we took our annual beach trip. This year we did things a bit differently: I had a class to teach down at the beach, so we turned that work engagement into our vacation. Instead of our usual condo stay, we were in a hotel room. This worked out fine for us, but after many years of condo beaching, it’s weird to eat out every night instead of cooking for ourselves.
The weather was not our friend either. Every day was extremely windy. When we were out on the beach, it was akin to being sandblasted. The kids were not deterred, however, and were able to have some good beach time.
After we were back from the beach, Sam next began to anticipate Halloween. He even talked me into putting up the Halloween decorations the second week in September. Since Halloween leads into Thanksgiving, and then into Christmas, that means for a third of 2017 we were in holiday mode in the house.
Once Halloween finally arrived, Sam decided to be Godzilla again . . . but with sais.
Throughout the entire year, Sam continued taking drum lessons with Mr. Wes. He continues to improve and he loves drums more and more. Every once in a while, he lets me come in the room and make a video of what he is working on:
Do you notice how he’s all like, “Hey guys, and welcome to another video!”? This past year, Sam (and Lydia, too, for that matter) has gotten into the whole YouTuber scene. He loves to watch these nutty videos of people on YouTube doing crazy stuff. There’s one husband and wife duo Sam loves, and all they do is play Minecraft together. Then there’s Dr. Squish, who messes with slime, putty, and opens up squishy toys to see what’s inside. There’s also some guy named Rich who plays with dinosaur toys. They are all overly animated in their speech and are constantly telling you to SLAM THAT SUBSCRIBE BUTTON!
Many times I hear Sam talking to himself while he’s playing, and when I listen to what he’s actually saying, I can tell he’s pretending to record his own video. “Hey guys, welcome back to another video with Saaaaaaaam! Today . . . we are going to be looking at THIS. COOL. GODZILLA!”
And as inane as a lot of this stuff on YouTube is, Sam has also become fixated on some videos that has taught him more about space than I ever knew. Sam can tell you about all the planets, and I mean ALL ABOUT the planets, from how many moons they have, to the moons’ names, how long they take to rotate, what kind of volcanoes they have, and on and on and on. He can tell you about the dwarf planets and where they are in the solar system. The biggest stars ever discovered? He knows. How black holes work? He can tell you! Ever heard about the theoretical Planet Nine? I have — from Sam.
Suffice to say, space and the universe has become one of Sam’s Things.
And now we’re back to June. Sam’s birthday fell on a Saturday this year, so we went out on our special day with him on Friday the 1st. This year we took him to Alabama Splash Adventure, a water park in Bessemer that began life as the ill-fated Visionland. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the place: clean, fun, free drinks, and multiple attentive lifeguards.
In years past, going out for your special birthday day meant it was just us parents and the birthday kid — the other, non-birthday kid got to spend the day with Grandma (which is always a day well-spent). But Sam is a sweet soul, and he told us he wouldn’t have as much fun at a water park if Lydia wasn’t there to experience it with him. So, for his special birthday day Lydia came along, too.
Lydia is more pragmatic and isn’t planning on returning the favor a few weeks from now.
The next day was his birthday party on his Actual Birthday. And the theme?
Do you even have to ask?
A Godzilla birthday for a Godzilla Sam. All the Godzillas (and some people) came to celebrate!
So what’s next for Godzilla Sam? Well, I’m sure he plans to get more Godzillas to add to his collection (because 30-something just isn’t enough):
He will stay in the pool as long as he can (and make the biggest waves ever):
He will expect another six inches of snow right before Christmas (and be very upset when it doesn’t happen):
And through it all, Sam will ask his most important question: “Yeah, but is it the biggest/best/tallest/most awesomest EVER??”