I’ve got Bowie rattling around in my head this morning…oh heck, all the past week.  It’s an odd new year of change for me/us round here.

One of the big huge changes for me/us in the coffeehouse: I brought my baby Gabey (who is NO baby…ahem) home to learn yesterday.  By which I mean, to  homeschool.  It was a tough decision, we all LOVE his teacher!  But, I’ve been stewing over this one a lot, haven’t been able to let the idea of it go.  Up til now, January, he’s LOVED every bit of school.  He’s asked “Is it a school day?” with eagerness and anticipation in his voice.  When he got his little kindergarden worksheet packet on Monday’s, he’d insist on drilling through the entire thing in one setting (to my amazement and glee, for a change, a kid who likes homework!).  He wasn’t jealous of his big bro being home for school with me, it was all “See ya later, let’s go!”  I’m not sure what changed.  I think, developmentally, we are in one of the downswings of that attachment cycle: you know, stable/secure/confident then swinging down to insecure/shame/clingy-fussy-angry.  Well, no learning can take place while a kid is fearful or angry.  Combine that with the reports from his teacher, corroborating what I saw here and worried about, that he is shutting down in class. Skills that he zipped through before the break, are now being woven together and he’s hit his readiness limit.  Seeing that it’s not clicking, he shuts down; an unhappy boy, waiting for them to move on.  He comes home angry and begs, clinging, to stay with me.  When he does stay here, he’s his loud lively cheery self, but with added hugs and snuggles for me.

So, the decision which seemed so tough for a month or so…is not so tough after all.  And it’s done.  He’s home for now.  Where he can work through this uptick of those deep worries on security and his value and place in his family.  He can do this deep work on his own time, in his own way and through play.  He’s home where he can move at his own natural pace to be ready to really read and have the time and space to sing loudly all day (his current mode) and to think whatever thoughts he wants or need to think.  Big brother is pretty happy about this new shift, mostly, there will be some spikes of jealousy here and there, and also more chances for them to work out the skills of taking turns and negotiating and patience.

Little Man is back to himself in the most literal way.  He is off any and all adhd meds and that has brought his sweetness back.  Annnd, it has brought his hyper energy and impulses back like a Tasmanian Devil…whirling and leaping all through the house, most all the time.  He has the attention span of a squirrel, fascinated by any and all things that flit through his peripheral vision or notice.  But he is a happy wild, rather than an angry wild.  So, it’s a huge wonderful shift for us, even as I have to totally rethink  my approach to him and his learning.

As for me, it all is part of this tide of change.  I’m adjusting to my “new ears.” I’m liking them a lot! Heck, just to cut down the number of hours a day I hear that infernal ringing/tinnitis…these things are a godsend!  I am switching to contacts, and might have found some that work with the  new mulitfocal technology (science can be so cool!); because the space behind my ears for glasses AND aids is just too dang small.  Wearing both at the same time hurts.  Contacts are kind of wonderful, liberating.  And I feel like myself from years ago in a way, even though I keep trying to push my glasses up on my nose when they aren’t there.

This  year is beginning with a bang.  For me to know that I need, and in a way, want, to bring my little boys home to learn? Whoa, that’s a sea change.  And, truthfully, not without me dragging my heels.  My selfishness knows no bounds and I am sort of wincing at the extra work and doing and lack of privacy/my time and such.  It’s why Gabe didn’t get pulled out a few weeks ago. Why yes, I AM that selfish, indeed.  Took me a bit to kowtow to the need of it.  Shocked? Well, see, I had considered myself to be done, Done, DONE with homeschool.  But, never say never, even when you’re old, eh?  I’ve got some other big changes that I’m pondering for the blog too…but that’s another post, closer to Lent, I think….

So, for now, here we are.  My little boys are home.  I have to approach this a whole new way because they are totally different kinds of kids than the big kids, when I home-schooled them.  I’m hoping for a more relaxed approach, a trust in their ability and desire to learn. They certainly have that whole CURIOUS, investigative, always into something, part down.   So, I think we will be alright.  The trick is for me to roll with it: the changes, the new mode, the mess, the noise, the mess, the ACTIVE-ity.    But I’ve got new eyes to see and new ears to hear.  Literally.  Ha!  So, I”m all in.  Me and my boys…..

rainy sunday

Eyes Open: Marking the Reading Good

So, I have done a few posts on “marking the good.” I call these posts “Eyes Open” because too often I run around with my hair on fire and I forget to open my eyes to see the goodness abounding or the small flickering glimmer.  So, now and then I luck out and it runs smack into me.  

The other day (I would’ve put this up sooner, but again, hair on fire, crazy busy w/ the freight train slow savor of summer) this bit of good literally barreled into me as I stood, per usual, folding clothes.  Marta rushed over to me from her room, carrying a book I had handed her just the day before.

This book was one where had she rolled her eyes at me.  I had been on a jag of pulling books and old homeschool materials out of the bookshelves, working up a lather on getting the kids to ‘get busy’ during summer.  The freaky slow simmering fire drill of many kids loafing around the house, bored or soon to be bored, or not nearly  bored enough because they were finding ways to maim themselves was already on my nerves.  So I had started a minor rampage through the house.  When she protested against that idea, stating firmly that there was no homework for her over the summer I just grinned a big grin and said “Oh yeah!”  And when she said her teacher only said “Read” during the summer months I said, “Okay!” and loaded her up with a few books to take.  Like, five small ones.  If I had dumped all of the books I might have in mind on her small self she would just shut down.  I got a glare and a sigh and a big eye roll.  Then she disappeared and the books with her.

I forgot all about it, went about my day or two putting out fires, folding laundry, cooking, swapping laundry, cooking, picking up towels, folding laundry and cooking.  But, as I was, um, folding laundry and thinking about what to cook for dinner, Marta came darting over to me, holding out a book with a grin and jabbering.  I had to slow her down, take the book and examine it and then grin at her.  I asked her to tell me about the book.  She did. I asked her if she read it.

She said, “Yes! Very good book! Black girl, very sad, last {page of} book very nice, so nice very happy.  Black people white people girls very friends.  Very good book!”  I dropped my laundry, I hugged her tight and told her how cool that was!!!

Now, I don’t want to make too much of this….ok, forget that, this is big.  Huge.  I know that she read more of the key words and skipped a few others. I  know that she looked at the pictures to help decode the story.  But, um, I believe that way back when I was a “Miss” that was still called ‘reading!’  That is the whole process: decoding, using cues, figuring out  meaning through context, bringing it all together to  make sense.  And, that, that is exactly what she did.  My Marta, read a book and followed a story arc.  I don’t think she was or has read this book before.  Not by me.  (Adrienne? {-her teacher} Let me know if you see this…).  So, you could quibble and say, she didn’t read every word and understand every single word.  But here’s the deal: Marta read the book, she understood the story.  She got excited about it.  She totally related to that scared little girl, which is a whole ‘nother post, I know.  Still.  Let me say that again: She got excited about it.  I mean, LIT up.  Which lit me up.  We knuckle bumped, we high fived, we hugged and grinned stupidly at each other.  And I was simply thrilled; as much as she was.  Seriously.

So, I am proud of her.  I want to go on record and mark that good. It’s SO good.  Reading is power.  No  matter who or what, thats the bottom line.  Reading opens up your world.  It empowers, excites, helps.  It’s huge.

So what’s next? I don’t know. {Yes, I do: more laundry and cooking and reading!}  But I do know I promptly got on Amazon and ordered all the copies (used, this is an old series) of the Scholastic First Biographies I could find.  I’m excited. I’m marking the good with a big shout out.  It’s an” Eyes Open to Read!”

Across the Pond

My girl is flying away today….for three weeks.

She is heading across the pond on a student exchange program.  Officially, she is a Loughlin Scholar.   She goes to Britain for three weeks, paired with a girl student buddy from the partner school, living with the family of the student buddy.

St Edwards School. Whoa.

Later, the same buddy comes here to stay with us for three weeks, same deal but reversed.  This is a great program, her brother Jon did it before her and it was a great experience all around. But even so, it’s her first time away from the family for more than one night.  Which means of course that she is chomping at the bit to go and we are excited for her but dreading having her gone.  And while she has spent time with celebrities and such…

….this living with a completely different family, strangers, is a whole new gig.  Can she do it? Sure, she’s got the social skills when she feels like it – typically much more in evidence when she’s not skulking around our own house on her regular loop: bedroom, kitchen, piano room, sunroom.

I fear she will be homesick, but know it’s good for her in it’s own way.  We will be daughter-sick, missing her terribly.

Anyhow, today she flies with her school group.  I would appreciate any prayers you might throw her way.  I pray for her to be happy, healthy, safe and sound – to have fun and be comfortable with her own self in this new group of Brits.  Because, she’s my girl, I think I miss her already.

Summer school brainstorming: special needs

All-righty then, it’s been a crashing busy week and I have so many posts and thoughts tumbling through my brain, but truly no time to sit and type them out.  But, fair warning, they are stewing….

So…in the meantime, I want to cast out a line and see what can be reeled in.I need some brainstorming help, because summer is upon us. Summer means swimming, sleeping in, boating, naps, wet beach towels, sunlight past seven, popsicles, books, movies, tomatoes, caprese salad, sleeping on the lake, cicadas, chores, afternoon booming downpours for ten minutes then done, t shirts, shorts, flip flops every day.

But summer also means I need to create multiple schedule and routine templates so my kids don’t drift into that mean-spirited snappy boredom of “not enough to do.”  Now, I’m already working on a few camps (only half day though) and we’ve plans for swimming daily if possible and I’m working up heftier chore/responsibilities etc.  But what has got me stumped a bit is the summer school work.  For most of my kids, they will have specific summer assignments sent home to prep for next fall’s classes; reading, maybe a paper.  And this isn’t the place where I want to debate all that practice, I could do a whole ‘nother post on it (but if  you must know, I used to hate all that summer work and now I think it’s great and good for them). 

But here is where I need help:  Marta.  She needs, must have, some summer school work.  Or she will lose ground. She has special needs and still her english level and vocabulary comprehension is very low.  Her reading is improving, which is great, maybe around first grade almost…though the comprehension of the english vocabulary she is reading isn’t there.  This all makes it a bit jumbly to figure out what will be a good, gentle, encouraging way to have her be able to some independent work this summer and also be challenged enough to make progress, overall and/or in her english.   Almost all of her homework from school had to be done with me sitting next to her, helping her through the phonics worksheets and such, she did better with the math.  I would hope to be able to have a combo of helping and also independent.  She is not a big reader, despite having a nook color to excite her and many many books, of all types, around the house.  The problem is finding books that are at her level that are not too “babyish.”  But the upshot is she must have schoolwork, daily, or she will lose ground.

I know, I was a homeschooler forever.  But I wasn’t a homeschooler of kids with cognitive disability and thus am a newbie in the resources area for that.  So, any of you teachers or mom’s with kids who learn differently or have different abilities /cognition….any ideas? Resources? What’s worked for you? I will be heading to Parent Teacher Store probably today, but I need a plan.  Marta {no, all of them, it’s true} function(s) happiest with a routine in place and so I need to get that summer work routine happening and figured out, now, so we can have some structure to the days.  It helps make the whole house happier, for all the kids and mom. So….

  • Resources for summer school work?
  • What’s worked great for you during summer?
  • What did you love for your kids who are working behind their age level?
  • What did you NOT love?
  • What do you think she might love or I might?
  • Where did you get it, make it, find it?
  • Any other tips?

It’s summer! I want to focus on relaxing some, reading, swimming, eating fresh berries and tomatoes from the farm stand or garden, some personal projects (painting, quilt?), hanging with my kids without the bored squabbling.  Is that too much to hope for? I think it should not be…, this is my fast friday beating of the bushes, virtually.  Little help?

>New Monday: Pre-K


My Gabey went to Pre-K today.
I can hardly believe it.
No, really….
I hadn’t planned, last summer, to send him yet.
And I’ve never been a huge “gotta go” kinda gal with pre-k programs.
And last August, when school began, he wasn’t ready for anything other than time home, with me.
So that is what we did.
It was great.

But lately, that time has morphed into a strange “at loose ends” time with him.
Not for me. I rarely have time with loose ends….or, more precisely, I’m busy sweeping up and tying up those loose ends all day every day.
No, what I’m talking about is my Gabey.  He ended up….at loose ends.
He went from being content with me, following me around, helping me, hanging out with me, learning colors with me…to spending the bulk of his day wishing for something he couldn’t get.  Asking for it.
As soon as we dropped off the kids at school, he began: “Can I watch tv?” No. “Is it lunch?” No. “Can I have a cookie?” No. and, the most frequent question of all…asked countless times a day, “Is it time to go pick up the kids?”  Um, no, sorry honey.

Now before I get flamed, I did all the enrichment stuff. We worked on colors and shapes and went for walks and talked about birds and looked at acorns and read books.
I can do the mom thing, I can.  I did.
But my other “mom thing” also means dragging him along on many many doc appointments for the other six kiddos who are still at home {dentist, orthodontist, therapists, dermos….and so on, just do the count, it adds up and keeps me driving…}.  Not exactly enriching stuff.  So – he’s been restless.  My gut told me, it’s time.  That and his electric radar for any other kids around when we are out and about on errands; his racing them in the vet’s waiting room, waving at every kid in the market, striking up kiddie convo’s at the orthodontist.  It started to be clear that he was ready for a wider social life than me.

So, last week we visited our school’s pre-k program.  It’s excellent; the best in our county, with an wonderful teacher I’ve long admired.  (No, she doesn’t read the blog, I can’t score points here, shame on you…however, she IS the best pre-k teacher in our area, hands down, fantastic! No way is that a shameless plug….really…).
He was a little nervous to start his visit day.  It helped that his big brother and best friend on the planet was across the hall (like…close: you could shoot a rubber band over if you were inclined…not that my boys would think of that, ahem, because that would get a yellow card…).

 He was paired with a nice little boy buddy to show him the pre-k ropes for that visit day.  I was nervous. I hung out in the library, being mostly useless during the quiet morning of book fair.  After his day was done, he pitched a huge out-of-character fit in the office.  I was sure he was tired, overwhelmed.  But as we got in the car to head home, I learned otherwise: he was bent, just ticked off.  He wanted to stay.  He wanted to stay in school and not go home yet.  Oh!  He calmed and told me again and again about the class, the kids, the rug, the reading, the parade (lining up), the tools (toy tools), the girl (curly hair, quite the talker).  He asked to go tomorrow.  That has been his new question, usurping the others: “Am I going to school now?” Meaning, whenever we get in the car, regardless of time of day.  He asked me, relentlessly, “Can I go to school” after his visit.

So, yes, my Gabey, you can go to school.

And so today he did.
And, yes, I had to blink back the tears when I kissed him goodbye and told him I’d be back later.

It’s my first time in the house, alone on a school day, for over eight years.  Read that again: eight years…gosh maybe longer, I’d have to really sit down and chart it out to know precisely.  I hardly know what to do with myself.  So, I’m procrastinating a bit.  I’m gonna start by cleaning…..And, on a make me smile and breath easy note, the school JUST called and said “He is having an awesome day and smiling and happy.” I love this school.  For just this reason, they call the kinda nervous moms to let them know their littles are doing great.  Nice.

Eight years, and it’s a new Monday.
It’s good. It’s weird.  But it’s good.

>First day: high school sister edition


Hannah and Marta began high school today!
It was an exciting day, much anticipated and it went swell!
Marta’s awesome wonderful Hand in Hand teacher met us in the hallway and made the drop off easy and happy and exciting for her,

Hannah let me give her a hug and just was sort of…instantly absorbed into the school.

Perfect fit….
For both of them in their own way.
A happy exhausting day.
Sounds like high school to me!

>Anthropol….oh gee!


Recently, I had the task privilege of chaperoning a school field trip for my Little Man. 
Happpily for us all, a little mini-anthropological study evolved out of that sunny day at the zoo. 
Who knew?  They call anthropological studies “fieldwork,” this is “fieldtrip work.” Read on…

It was a kindergarten class field trip, and in a fit of guilty zeal I signed up as a parent chaperone.  Now, I know better.  I do. I’m an old hand at the mom world. But I was struck with guilt as I have been swamped with special needs issues and such all year, so I signed up and watched the calendar with dread anticipation. 

Upon arrival at the school for the trip, after tanking up with gas for my car and a redeye (Espresso, c’mon people!) for me, we were handed car seats and names of our charges. Anthony’s teacher, “the saint” (otherwise known as Ms. Thompson), assigned me “the good ones,” by which I mean, my Anthony and two of his buddies who are nice little boys.  Lucky me!  So with a renewed bounce in my step, I strapped them all into the my big ol’ car and followed the chaperone caravan to the zoo. 

And so it began.
The day’s renewed primer on six year old boys. 
It’s easy to brush off the behavior of one energetic, ok, kinda wild, six year old boy as just a high spirited lad. When you have three of them in your car, giddy with the anticipation of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), then you realize, they are something of a species in and of themselves. 

I had forgotten just how fixated six year old boys are on “pee” and “poop” and how just the very words can make a boy fall right out of his seat guffawing, belt and all.  Or how it’s fun to experiment with how many variants you can find for bodily functions.  Or how those bodily functions can be turned into countless jokes, simply by appending them to passing sights.  “Look, the clouds are peeing!”  Insert maniacal laughter here.  Six  year old boys don’t need music, or polite chat, they only need a forum for relentless scatological jokes. A moving car with a captive parent and a participatory audience is ideal.   Best to make a note of that, moms.  Happily, however, the variety and creativity with which they apply this focus speaks well for their imagination and breadth of alert cognitive engagement.  Right?  Right.

On a cautionary note, I will point out that any field trip mom’s worst nightmare is when one of the assigned children (who you do not know well, or at all) clutches his pants about halfway through a 45 minute freeway only drive to the destination, and says, loudly, with some urgency, “Gee I wish I wasn’t having diarrhea.”  Not what a driving mom wants to hear.  Happily, with some encouragement, the boy made it to the park, successfully, and was able to make use of their facilities….often.  But that is why they have them and thus we field trip moms are happy those facilities are in place.  {Note to Nashville Zoo: more facilities in the upper and lower sections of the park would be most helpful rather than the center main facilities.  Your main patrons are children.  These are little kids we are talking about, their bladders are the size of peanuts.}  

 But I digress.  Taking a small group of boys to the zoo is an opportunity to watch a drag race, up close and personal, but instead of flashy loud cars you have flashy loud boys.  And oh, these six year old boys are fast!  As soon as we lined up to enter the zoo, they were revving their engines, through the turnstile and they were off! 
Zoom, “We wanna see the alligators!” “Ooh, look, cool look at their mouth!
Zoom! “We wanna see the monkeys!” “I see them up there, what’s  next?!
Zoom! “Let’s go find the tigers!!” “WOW, look at him, what’s next!?”  and so on. 
By the time the chaperone, myself, caught up with the boys (And really, I have a very fast walking pace, so this was impressive) they were burning rubber of their tennies, racing to the next animal.  I think I had time to say a whole sentence one time, “Oh, wow, look at that tiger, how beautiful!” before I was coughing on the clouds of dust kicked up by their run.  Thus, we saw the entire zoo in a zippy loud 45 minutes, thus allowing for ample time on the amazing playground and many trips to the restrooms.  We even got to see parts all over again, for good measure, after lunch and before our second trip to hang at the playground. 

This rapid mode of sightseeing at the zoo may be frowned upon by some.  However, it has a certain charm of efficiency and leaves no room for boredom, thus matching the attention spans of most six year old boys.  It can be summed up by the term: expedient.  Six year old boys are nothing if not expedient.  Watching meerkats for more than 30 seconds is not expedient.  Waiting for lorikeets to drink out of your cup of liquid gold, also known as sugar syrup, is not expedient.  They snooze, they loose, those birds must find another source…. perhaps the middle school girls who just received three sugar syrup cups shoved into her hands as the boys exit, off to race to the next thing. 

Finally, it can be surmised from observation that a six year old boy is most content, or rather, utterly overjoyed to spend the bulk of his time at the zoo playing on the large playground.  Running, racing, jumping, climbing, laughing, shouting, hooting, growling and roaring in the playground is the fullest expression of the nature of a six year old boy.  

One  might even decide that the giant zoo playground is the well crafted exhibit and ideal habitat for the underrated species more commonly known as “six year old boy.”

>Tom’s Home….and Chris is headed off to adventure.


Tom and Cindy, the invaluable nurse on the team, flying home; 
thanks to the generous Haitian pilot Jorge Paulhiac who let them  hitch a ride.

Tom, Coffeedoc, is home! It was a long haul home, but he made it safe and sound. Chris, Buddybug, is gone….off to Rome to study for the semester.

In less than 24 hours we’ve had incoming and outgoing bags and packs and airport runs in both directions.  A revolving door to this house this week.
The good part is that Tom is back and we are all so very glad!  And we were all glad to have had one last family dinner together last night, and for Tom to be able to see Chris a bit more before he left.
Was it hectic?
You betcha!
Was it worth it?
But of course!

So, to follow this new adventure in Buddybug’s life, go here.
He’s gonna post from Rome, often enough to keep us all happy.  Or so we can live vicariously, or virtually, and follow the fun, frustrations, faith, liturgy, beauty, silliness, art, food and adventures of a semester in Rome.
That’s the plan at any rate. 

As for Tom….I think he has some decompressing to do.  I think it was a great trip, seems like it was a good team to work with and much good work was done.  And I know for him it’s very satisfying and rewarding to be able to go and do all this. He loves doing it…on so many levels.

There were many folks to help unfortunately, due to the quake. But happily enough, many docs and teams working hard throughout the country.  Tom enjoyed working with other docs from all over, and was glad to be able to!  Docs and teams might pop in, lend a hand and move on.  Other areas would send patients over to Cayes Jacmel, knowing Tom and their team would fix them up.  It was a nonpolitical effort of focusing on what needed to be done by all; the Canadian military did an outstanding job securing the area, getting runway lights (by the time Tom left) and opening the road back up to Port au Prince.  So it was a good trip.

But, it’s never easy either.
I forgot…when he comes back from Haiti, there is always some re-entry decompressing and sorting out to do for him.  For anyone I expect.  It is exhausting as well as exhilarating, on all levels.

Evening at the Hands and Feet Children’s Village project.

That’s the nature of this sort of thing.  It happens whenever you (ok, I) travel outside of your sheltered, carefully crafted and whittled world – you/I have to recalibrate, take in all the sights sensations sounds smells, the spears that pierce your heart.  And then you/I have to sort of heal it up. For yourself/myself.  That is not to say that you make it all disappear.  It can’t.

But… this trip is his story to tell.  I’m just observing from the sidelines.  But I see it, that jaggety little edge. And I want him to feel welcomed home, and have time to settle back in and refresh, recoup, re-enter life here too.  

It’s the juxtaposition: the beauty and the hard.

 On all levels.

Just like when we’ve gone to Ethiopia and elsewhere….you get a little bit torn, a bit of you is sheared off.  And you have to learn to live around that scar once you are back home.

It takes a bit of time.
And even with all this, it’s so worth it.
I am proud of him, and also so glad he’s back.
And for Tom?  Well, he’s a little tired, but happy too, quiet.
He said it’s wonderful to be  home.

We think so too.

>Ordinary Heroes?

>They are all around us.  Unexpected, surprising…heroes.  
You hope for them, you pray for them.  And then, there they are and you kind of stand there with your mouth open in amazement.  I do, anyhow. 

Two young girls.  My girls.  These are their heroes, mine, ours.  
I’m talking about the teachers, the school principals, the aides, the special ed teams.
I’m finding these folks who are willing to go the extra mile, think outside the box…and they amaze me.
My gratitude for them is kind of unspeakable.
And some of them I’ve known, or thought I did, for a while, years even.
Some of them are new to me; but I’m so glad to meet them and start working with them. 

And the most important part is that these folks, the reason they are heroes??
It’s that they defy the stereotypes.
I’m talking about those horror stories that are hyped in the media and played out in stupid sophomoric movies: the public school ones, the Catholic school ones.  You’ve all seen them, I have too.  We’ve been soaked in them.

And it’s all too easy to buy into them, just a little bit.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did.  I was kind of worried about what the public schools would be like as I approached them about my girls.  What sort of things and folks would I find in searching out resources for the special needs that we have?  Would I be able to get the Catholic school, the Sisters and teachers, to step outside their comfort zone of a small private school? The kind of school with strict historic ways and boundaries?  Could those boundaries be pushed?
I didn’t know.

But I can now say, that I have been delightfully surprised, thrilled with the amazing people I’ve been meeting and getting to know.  These are the folks who are working with my two girls, so far, who are helping us all break down some barriers and think outside the box for some great kids who don’t fit the ‘standard mold,” if there is one.  These folks, are helping my girls get into school, get BACK into school….and to succeed.

I’ve homeschooled a long time. I love homeschool and always will be a proponent of it, but it’s a per kid per year per circumstance decision. But homeschool isn’t working for these two, now.  So, it’s been hard to find the right fit.  And there will be adjusting to be done, to be sure.

But these folks, and their willingness to be open to working with my girls, with us….they are breaking stereotypes, they defy them.  They are ordinary, or actually, extraordinary, heroes.
We are so grateful, for them all:

Nora.  Right there.  Saints among us. 
Sister Peter Marie, Ms. Freeman, Sister Peter Verona, Mr. Linville, Ms. Rosenblatt, Ms. Wehby, Ms. Christy, Coach, Father Gideon at SJV….and of course, Miss Deb.

Mr. Turner, Ms. DeVore, Mr. Verner, Ms. Blair, Ms. Oglesby at RSM

 And Mrs. Swafford, Ms. Ingham, Ms. Ashley, Ms Thomas, Ms. Apple at Howard.  

You are all heroes.  Extra-ordinary folks doing an amazing job.  Breaking stereotypes, opening eyes.  Quiet ones, maybe.  But heroes in my/our eyes!
My girls are back in school again, a new start for them.

A start offered, “whatever it takes;” one done with extraordinary kindness and willingness to help.
Outside the box. 
These folks have brought huge grins and, literally, claps of happiness from my girls.
To be back in school, ‘regular’ school.
It means everything. 

>Break Out


I’ve been stewing about some things lately. You know what that means: a jumbly rambling possibly ranting post. Fair warning.

It’s just that I’m getting tired. Not physically tired, psychically tired.  Emotionally and intellectually tired.   I’m just dipping my toes into a new pool of sorts. And while we’ve lived with some of this for, oh, seven years or so….the more formal social and educational aspect of this is hitting closer to home now.

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, I want to say it out loud. But this term, this subject, is loaded. It is rife with taboos and thorns and unwritten rules, as well as rules written at length and all but incomprehensible. And even more, all too often, with ignorance from folks on the outside looking in (And hey, I’ll admit, that used to be me).  Yes, I’m talking about “special needs.”

Special Needs.

Yeah, such a simple little set of words.
But OH MY GOODNESS, so very loaded.
Now, I could do a post and be like the “Church Lady” and point out what we all already know:

Dana Carvey, the Church Lady

Each and every one of us is “special needs” in the sense that we are all SPECIAL, and have our own quirks and strengths and so on.
And I do believe that.

But this post is about another aspect of “special needs.”
And it’s that I am tired of the taboos.
I am tired of not being able to say things out loud, for fear of stigma.
I am tired of when I do say it, somehow voices drop to a whisper, or I get an “Oh….ahh” and a quick look away kind of response.
Or worse, a well meaning defense of my kid saying “No way, that can’t be right.”

This is all making me want to strap on my mom armor and go to battle.
I have two, possibly three, kids who have special needs. Yeah, I could say, “different needs” or something like that. But I am tired and too old to be tiptoeing through the ever shifting sands of pc (or, more accurately: ‘sc’, socially correct) verbage.  I mean they have needs that are, big or small, outside the standard box.

Disclaimer ahead: So, to be clear, in this post, I am talking about kids who don’t fit the mold of standard track education or behaviors or medical issues. Special needs comes in all different forms and levels and severity, so I cannot speak to those needs that are not ours and would not try to. I can speak to what we are working with, in our home, with my kids. Disclaimer over.

What I want to throw out there (And maybe it’s naive, and I hope the special ed/needs community doesn’t flame me): Why the taboo?
Why do we have to whisper about this stuff?
Why is there such stigma?
Why does it have to be?
Why do well meaning folks instantly say, “No, that can’t be right?” as if, if it IS accurate, then somehow that child is less than they were perceived prior to the new knowledge?
Nothing changes with this knowledge.
The child, my child, is not a different person if we know more about them and how their mind works.

Their “worth” is in no way based on how they learn or if they have glitches or if they cannot.

It’s fine tuning.

Special needs information is not an appraisal of value or rank, it’s information gathering; it is problem solving. It’s fine tuning; academic approaches, behavioral needs, medical stuff….it’s figuring out what works best for them and why.  Period.

And I want to start talking out loud about some of the issues we are working through.
And I fear I cannot online due to the possibility of hurting my child somehow, somewhere, someday.
I want to try to open up to other families who might be dealing with some of these issues to share tips and ideas.
Even here, even now, I have to hedge a bit, worry about protecting them.
But the beauty of this blog world is the connection. I have been repeatedly amazed and grateful for the prayers and the help and the advice and the simple feeling of not being alone…due to this blog community. And I suspect there might be other families that have children who have medical, educational, behavior issues that are out there.

Heck there is an alphabet jungle out there of issues, we have a small forest of them in my house. Is it wrong to want to use resources, to connect to help my kids? To help me? I don’t think so.

I hope that maybe other moms might be tired of not being able to talk about this part of their family life. I hope that other moms might be tired of their kids being slotted into a stereotype due to a possible “label” or some small bit of information. That small bit of information, that acronym, or term, is a tiny (or, sometimes, large) facet of who they really are – the wholeness of their person.

Are there any moms out there who are tired of pushing against the tide of perception?
I am.

I want to break out.
I want to talk about my kids.
I want to talk about all my kids.
I want to have conversations about special needs – without the stigma.
I want to shout: having a different approach or way of learning or brain wiring doesn’t make you less.
It’s different. Less common maybe.
It takes some brainstorming, a lot sometimes.
Don’t slot my kid, don’t presume.
They may really have that issue, and it’s a little scary.
They may not, but then they probably have another one to work on.
But that very thing (the one that’s not ‘pc’ to talk about outright), might just be one of their strengths as well, depending on how you look at it.

But, let’s break the taboo.
Let’s start saying these things out loud.

If you can’t speak of it, name it, it has so much more power, but the wrong kind.
And that breaks my heart.
But it also makes me angry because it’s wrong.
We have to advocate and be strong for these kids especially.
So I guess I’m talking. Armor on.
Because they deserve it.
Because they are beautiful.
And I’m their mom.

>First Day!

>Today was Little Man’s first day of Kindergarten. Wow. Already.
He was SO excited, of course. I was too. I knew he’d love it and he is just so ready.
At one point, just before we took the picture above, he was standing in the kitchen, ready to go. Excited, impatient. Then, his eyes kind of widened and his smile faded briefly…..”I’m a little nervous,” he said. I laughed and smiled and told him, “You’re gonna do great!”

And he did.

He got into the car telling me of the important things he did today: met two new friends, the name he could remember was “Sam.” The teacher told the kids to use their “inside voice.” He played on the big playground: freeze tag, transformers, red rover, regular tag…the good stuff. Then we met Buddybug for a celebratory lunch out. Little Man ordered a cheeseburger and before taking even one bite, fell asleep in my lap in the booth.

A perfect first day at school.

>Back to School

Big changes are afoot in our house, due to our big changes this summer.
As you can see by the cute little kick-foot, above, this is an exciting new thing. Or, really, an exciting old thing.

Yup. The girls are going back to our parish elementary school! Fifth and eighth grade. And today is the first day of school! (Little Man begins Kindergarden on Monday, wow!).

So these girls are actually excited to begin a new school year, back at their old school, with old friends and new fun, nice teachers. We have been and still are homeschoolers too. Golly, at this point we have college, high school, elementary, homeschool and toddlers in the equation. I think this effectively covers all bases, no? But this is my take on school, for what it’s worth: School is a per year, per kid, per situation decision. Period. This year, with one daughter and her ongoing special needs and one very new daughter with her own language/adjustment/learning needs….this mom needs to be able to focus and this is the best decision for us, for now. So, this mom is pretty darn happy too, as I know these three will thrive and it clears the way for me to work closely with the two who’s needs are so much more intense.

A win-win, all the way around!
Ah, I love uniforms!
Happy back to school days!

>School Bells


Well, school started this week. We’ve all been getting ready.
Booboo is a junior now, and while he’s happy to see his friends again…
It’s still school. And it starts early!
The girls started homeschool again too. I figure if one kid is whining, um, discussing the merits of school…then we might as listen to them all at the same time, eh?!
One of the perks of starting school early, however, is the after school fun time.
The water feels fine after a day of hitting the books.
No matter what age you are!