Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Climbing Up Again

The interesting journey of my family's life seems to be climbing uphill again, thankfully.  Safety Guy did well at school with his behavior and homework the first two days of the week.  I was so worried when I sent him off to school Monday morning.  All day long, while I was subbing a couple hallways away from him, I was praying for him, and hoping that he would have an uneventful day.  My husband and I were so intensely relieved to find out at the end of the school day that he'd been okay. 

Today the kids had dental appointments.  I have to say, I LOVE the dental practice we take them to!  We've had mixed experiences with Safety Guy and dentists.  His intense gag reflex and anxiety have made it very difficult over the years for him to get even routine cleanings.  Thank goodness he has his father's rock-solid teeth, and has never had a cavity!  Upper jaw mouthpiece and braces were torture, and in the middle of that process his orthodontist retired, and the new doctor who bought the practice clearly didn't get along with Safety Guy.  He had no patience for Safety Guy's anxiety or sensory issues, and appeared to think that our son was just a poorly-behaved child.  Our regular dentist was much better with SG, and his hygienist was amazing, but when we moved we had to start over again.  Our new dentist was very good and very kind, but Safety Guy was clearly not comfortable with him or his office staff.  They gave us a referral to a pediatric dentist/orthodontist for our daughter, and after seeing how great they were with her and with kids and adults with special needs (which they specialize in), we switched SG to their practice.   I don't regret it at all, and today was his best dental appointment EVER.  Not only did he get a cleaning, but he let them seal his adult molars to prevent future problems.  Unbelievable!

(The sticker shock at the cost of the dental adventure for the day wasn't so pleasant, since we have to pay up front and get reimbursed by our insurance.  But it was totally worth it to catch SG on a good day and get the whole cleaning and sealing procedure done in one shot.)

And so we're climbing again.

Here's a little taste of summer - I'm getting antsy for color in my garden:

One of my daylily seedlings, blooming for the first time in 2010. 
It's actually a little more lavender than this photo shows.  
I've been calling it 'Oye Como Va,' for the Santana song.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thud.

Hear that?  That was the sound of my spirits hitting bottom earlier today.  Safety Guy ended his week with yet another run-in with his teacher over refusing to work, being insubordinate, and disrupting his class.  I'm heartsick over his choices, frustrated with his attitude, and just plain exhausted from dealing with everything going on in my life lately.

I'm trying to step back and keep my perspective, but that's really, really been hard.  Too many what-ifs, too many distractions, too many worries, too much stress.  I'm hoping and praying we can make it to Safety Guy's appointment with the psychiatrist in a couple weeks without another serious issue at school, but the odds aren't good.  He had three meltdowns there this week alone.

So I'm praying, and talking with family and friends who will also pray for us, and doing my best to help SG work through some of his anger.  I really think (and I'm not alone in thinking this, after talking with family today) that Safety Guy is entering full-on depression, and it's manifesting as anger.  Depression and Aspergers often occur together, and his age group is especially prone to it (i.e. TEENS).  Given that there are depression issues in our family, this is no surprise at all.  I hope we can get him the help he needs in a timely fashion.

I'm debating the wisdom of keeping him out of school for a day or two over the next couple weeks, to defuse some of his pent-up tension.  He has excellent attendance - that's not an issue.  But, I don't ever want him to think he can use his anger/anxiety issues as an excuse to get out of school, so I hesitate to suggest that he stay home for those reasons.  Give him an inch, and he'll take a light-year.  But if there's a day soon where he's not feeling well, and I'm not committed to work, I may just keep him home because he's "under the weather."  We'll see what the next couple weeks bring.  To put it bluntly, I'm afraid to send him to school each day now, not knowing what will happen during the day, and how he'll handle the consequences, because when he gets in trouble at school, there are consequences at home as well.  And this is not a good situation at all, for any of us.

Lord, help us.  Heavenly Father, please calm Safety Guy's troubled spirit, place your hand between him and the insults and annoyances of his classmates to shield him, and help him to understand the consequences of his actions before he goes too far, or even takes the first step over the line.  Give his teachers skill and patience, give his friends kindness and understanding, and give us as his parents the wisdom and strength to hold on and follow through with what's best for him.  Please give me peace, Jesus, because I'm afraid and sad and stressed.  Hold my family, Lord, and bring us healing.  Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Waiting to Fail

Something is dreadfully wrong with a school bureaucracy that does not proactively try to keep students from making damaging choices, academically or socially.  Unfortunately, that's how many schools  function:  their bureaucracy (and lawyers) want a paper trail of documented negative incidents before they'll seriously consider providing extra services for a student who's at risk of hurting himself or others.  They react, instead of anticipate and guide.  While I understand that the schools want reasonable justification before they commit valuable and limited services, it's also maddening to have to wait for a student to crash and burn before they get the help they obviously needed long before that crisis point.  This so-called "wait to fail" policy makes no sense at all to me, but it's entrenched in many, many schools, including my local school district.  Parents and teachers, administrators and students find themselves in an uphill battle to get help before a student has gone so far down a negative spiral that they will have a much harder time succeeding in school and in life.

Why the rant?  I spent half an hour on the phone with Safety Guy's primary counselor at school this morning.  She's awesome, but we both know that her hands (and teachers' hands) are tied regarding how students are disciplined, and regarding what services she can offer to help students who are struggling.  Safety Guy has been teetering on the edge of making all sorts of bad choices for the past couple months, and waiting for him to crash and burn before he receives help is just NOT an acceptable option for my husband and I.  Safety Guy is ASKING for the help; he KNOWS he needs it, and he WANTS to succeed, but he's stuck in a downward spiral.  I am not going to sit around and wait for him to "fail" before the school steps up and does what they should have done months ago.

Academically, Safety Guy continues to need help with his math skills.  There's money for our school district to help students who need tutoring, but the catch is that it's designated specifically for the middle school.  Safety Guy is one grade up from the middle school now, so he's not eligible for that assistance (and in any case, there are income eligibility requirements that would disqualify us).  Our district also cut summer school for the junior high last year, and will not be offering it this summer either.  So, no math help for Safety Guy through the school over the summer.  We'll have to look into tutoring or some kind of online or software practice program to keep him going, or he'll lose a lot of ground over the summer. 

Socially, Safety Guy is constantly on the brink of losing his temper at the students who have bullied him all year.  He has, in fact, yelled at several of them already, using highly inappropriate language at times.   He has worked so hard to do what his counselor and teachers have told him to avoid or defuse situations where someone is picking on him or annoying him, and he feels like nothing he's done has actually worked to his benefit.  He feels like he's still the target, and he's fed up.  Adding to this feeling of persecution, he has great difficulty leaving things alone, and he tends to hold on to things and get mad about them again later.  He's the "rules police" and gets bent out of shape when other kids won't follow those rules.  Consequently he's always on edge, and ready to tell the rule-breakers and bullies what they should do.  It's that "third parent" syndrome we've run into before, so common in kids with Aspergers:  they see no reason why they shouldn't have equal authority with the adults in their lives, and they don't understand why others won't listen to them when they're obviously "right."

In spite of his best efforts, there are a number of kids in SG's classes that just won't leave him alone, or who are equally unable to let go of a verbal exchange and feel that they too must have the last word.  These other students have been reprimanded many times by teachers, but they keep doing things to set Safety Guy off on purpose.  (Although to be fair, sometimes SG is primed and ready to jump verbally on anyone who gets on his nerves, whether he's their primary target or not, and he's been guilty of going off on kids who didn't need to be reprimanded, and certainly not by him.)  Safety Guy is discouraged, frustrated and angry, and neither his counselor, his teachers, nor I can blame him.  "Why should I bother letting the teachers handle it?  They don't do anything, and those kids just get away with it and do it to me again!"  He doesn't see that the teachers' hands are tied and limited in the discipline they can hand out, and that many of the kids do not have any kind of strong parental role models or discipline, and thus no real incentive to change their ways. 

I'm at the end of my rope, doing my best to help him understand the consequences of his actions and words, but feeling like I'm yelling down a well.  All I get are echoes, but no tangible results.   Heaven help us, there's another 12 weeks of school to come.  Am I waiting for him to fail?  Absolutely not.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another Slow Motion Day

I'm not off to any kind of fast start today, although I got up in a good mood with some zip in my step.  I've still got some things weighing on me, and that along with seasonal allergies are messing with my sleep patterns.  When Princess Yakyak got up this morning, she threw up right after breakfast, so it's a good thing I didn't get called to substitute.  After getting SG and Tech Guy out the door, we both went back to bed for a while.  She's feeling better now, and I'm trying to build up a little momentum all over again.  (Admittedly that's hard to do with my cat Sophia draped around my shoulders at the moment.  I'd much rather snuggle her while I sit at the computer than tackle the last of the laundry monster left over from yesterday.)

So this day has turned out to be kind of random:  a bit of rest, a bit of housework, a bit of yard stuff eventually, some pet care stuff (a bath for PYY's guinea pig Cookie), taking some photos in the garden, more cleaning, time on the computer catching up with news and Facebook.  Safety Guy will be back from school in a little while, and we'll see how his day went.  When the school called earlier, I had a moment of, "Oh no, what's going on with Safety Guy?!"  But, it turned out that they really need a sub for tomorrow, which I unfortunately cannot help them with - I've got another commitment.  But it pointed out to me just  how on edge I've been about SG at school lately.

 Cookie's bath - he's a good boy about the whole thing, 
and he's fluffy and smells nice now.

While it will be a light paycheck for this week (only two full days total), I'll count my blessings that I can be here for PYY, help my sister-in-law tomorrow, and get my house shaken back into some sort of order before we have friends over for dinner Friday night.  The continued gorgeous weather helps.

Blessings to all of you - I hope you have a lovely day.

A violet crocus in my front yard today.  
The only bad thing about the early warm weather is that
my crocuses are going by far too quickly.
They just can't handle the heat, and fade fast.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heat Wave, and Kind Words

 Buds on our neighbor's poplar tree.

Goodness, it felt like summer today.  It was around 80F, sunny and clear.  It's almost bedtime, and Safety Guy just went out back to look at the stars.  He likes to do that on warm nights - sit on the swing and get some space, look at the sky and enjoy the night sounds.  I think I might go out myself in a few minutes and enjoy the evening.  It's a good night to sleep with the windows cracked open, listening to the frogs and the breeze.  I haven't been sleeping well; I could use a solid night's rest.

Safety Guy has had a good week so far (all two school days of it).  I hope this trend continues for a while.  One of my least favorite aspects of raising a child with special needs is the anticipation of negative news from school.  Obviously that wasn't an issue when we home schooled - I was teacher, principal, nurse, cafeteria lady, and phys. ed. instructor all in one, and getting news (good or not so good) wasn't a problem.  Now, though, I find handing over my son's day to day education has come with the unwelcome side effect of feeling like I'm always waiting for bad news, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always waiting for the "BUT" statement that will mitigate his progress.  That's very depressing and uncomfortable for me to deal with.

Safety Guy has had some rough episodes at school lately, times where he's lost his temper, made poor choices, fallen out with friends, been rude to his teachers and classmates, and struggled academically.  He has a good teacher, a VERY good teacher, but she's not one to praise him to me.   She's a very no-nonsense, cut to the chase kind of person, which she probably HAS to be with a class full of 7th graders with educational, social, and behavioral needs to work with.   I think the fact that I work in the school means that it's easy for her to catch me when there is an issue, which is both good and bad for both of us.  It's good for her to keep me on top of everything with him when he's having trouble; it's bad because I don't anticipate hearing good news from her (and I'm sure she doesn't like being the bearer of bad tidings any more than I like hearing them).  Instead, I'm hesitant to interact with her unless I need to ask her a question or give her information now.  We've had a number of quick conversations in the school hallways that have started with her saying something like, "Hi, about your son. . . ."  And I hate that.  It's never GOOD news when a conversation starts that way.  I would love to hear her say, "Safety Guy did the coolest thing today!"  Or, "Safety Guy had a great interaction with his friend so-and-so."  Or even, "Safety Guy worked really hard to get ready for that test, and he did really well."  Or just, "Hi, Safety Guy is having a great day, and I hope you are too." 

A tidbit of encouragement would go a long way for me.  It doesn't take much to make me happy.  I really, really appreciate it when an adult who interacts with our son takes the time to build him up and praise him, and then tell us about his successes.  One teacher I love at our son's school is his study hall teacher.  (She's also the Home and Careers teacher, and hopefully SG will have room for her class in his schedule next year - she's WONDERFUL.)  She went out of her way to get to know me when I subbed for her early in the school year, and she told me about how she has tried to help Safety Guy get along in the study hall.  We've talked several times since then, and she still has positive things to say about him even when he's having a rough time, and she obviously has his back.  She watches out for his interactions with kids who may pick on him, redirects him when he gets flustered or upset, encourages him to use his time well, and incidentally gives this often tired, sometimes discouraged Mom a ray of sunshine with her gracious words.  Thanks, Mrs. B.!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring!

Spring has arrived extra early here in the Northeast.  We're about two weeks ahead of what I would consider a "normal" spring by every measure I can think of, and the temperatures have been well above normal for us all winter.  I'm not complaining, although I have a suspicion that this summer could be very long and brutally hot.  But for this weekend I'm enjoying the sunshine, the warmth, and the chance to be busy in the yard.

Today I did bunch of busy-work:  bundling old branches from shrubs that had been pruned, putting my nice new compost bin in its permanent home (thanks, Tech Guy! - nothing says love like a new compost bin), pulling grass and weeds out of the strawberry bed and the daylily seedling bed, cleaning out some other small flower beds, and mulching the first four mini backyard beds, the rhubarb and the locust tree.  It felt good to be outside and busy.  Not only were the spring frogs in full chorus all day long, but I also saw and heard my first bluebird of the year, and the first red-winged blackbirds as well.  I've got lots of lovely little crocuses out front, and my first daffodils ought to bloom next week.  It's supposed to be in the 70s for the next handful of days, which will make it hard for teachers and students to focus in school.  If I sub, I'm sure we'll all have "spring fever."

Tomorrow will be just as nice as today, but I'll have less time to play in the yard since it's Tech Guy's birthday.  I'm taking Safety Guy to pick out dessert for us from Big Mama's Cheesecakes after church, a rare treat.  And I'm making lasagna for Tech Guy's special meal, at his request.  But I'm sure I'll find some time to get outside and continue puttering and tidying.

Safety Guy spent most of today playing outside with our neighbors' kids, who are much younger than he is.  But as a special surprise, some friends of his from our old home school co-op were over there visiting, and Safety Guy got to renew their acquaintance as they all hung out together.  He played hard, and he ought to sleep like a rock tonight.  My funny image of the day:  Safety Guy letting our neighbors' three year old daughter Miss G. draw his outline in chalk on the driveway.  SG is probably 2 1/2 times as tall as she is, and weighs 6x as much as she does, and she adores him and follows him everywhere when he visits.  He said he drew the line at playing Barbies with her, though.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coping

'Pickwick' crocuses from my old garden, 
beside the tiny rosettes of new sedum foliage.

Darn these allergies! I'm loving the early spring weather, and seeing my garden coming to life again brings me no end of joy, but my allergies are in overdrive. Maple pollen is at an all-time high for our area, but I didn't need The Weather Channel to tell me that. My itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and other assorted icky side effects told me so. Thank goodness for benedryl.

I decided not to work today. Instead I got some extra sleep, and did some shopping. Groceries, take-out for dinner (Wegmans subs!), and new sandals made the day look brighter. I had a heck of a time getting going this morning, though. It felt like I was moving through molasses for half the day. I just couldn't focus. Oh well, maybe I'll be more awake tomorrow.

Safety Guy said he had a decent day at school today, and I'm very relieved. Lately I send him to school, then spend the day wondering if I'm going to get a phone call, or (if I'm subbing) if I'll run into his teacher in the hallway and have one of those conversations that starts with, "About your son . . . ." (I'm starting to want to avoid his teacher when I see her at school. And she's a great teacher! I've just felt like I can't get away from our son's issues anywhere.)

On a funny note, Safety Guy had wrestling practice tonight, and when I picked him up and asked him how it went, he said, "It wasn't one of my better days. I got my butt handed to me." But he wasn't upset - just like, oh well, some days are like that. And that's a HUGE improvement over, "I hate this, I stink at this, and my life stinks!" - which is the response he's been more likely to give me lately when things don't go his way. I asked him if his butt came served with tartar sauce, and we had a good laugh. Sometimes progress is measured in the silliest ways.

Princess Yakyak has her friend C. sleeping over tonight. Both girls fell asleep while watching VeggieTales. It's very quiet out there in the family room. I guess the girls wore each other out. They always get along so well together; it's a real pleasure for PYY to have a friend like C. (and a pleasure for us, too!).

So I'm going to go to bed, and hope I don't have strange dreams tonight like I've been having all week. (One night involved dreaming about trying to round up stray guinea pigs and hamsters and keep them in an assortment of defective cages that they kept escaping from. What the heck? Is that how I really feel about my life?)

Sweet dreams, friends. Spring flowers, soft rain, green leaves, blue skies, and warm sun to you all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Looking for Hope

The past month has been increasingly stressful around our house.   Everyone seems to be fraying around the edges, and I can feel myself starting to crack under the pressure to keep the peace and routine going.

Safety Guy is in a tough place regarding bullying and dealing with everyday annoyances at school and at home.  He's made great progress over the years, but we're in a big time short term slump.  He's frustrated, and acting out verbally at everyone who gets on his nerves, which includes just about everyone around him.  He's had some trouble at school, yelling and swearing at other kids who get in his face and his space (on purpose or by accident, makes little difference to him).  He's grounded for the third time in a month.

Princess Yakyak is in the throes of puberty.  Oh, the drama!  Oh, the attitude!  Oh, the mouth!  She's been grounded a couple times this month as well, for talking back and doing mean things when she's upset.  She's also having some trouble with math in school, which totally frustrates her as she's never had difficulty academically before.  Couple that with her current tendency to blame everything that happens to her on everyone else, even when some things are patently her fault, and it hasn't been very pleasant to be around her at times.

Tech Guy is having his own struggles right now.  We're not in anywhere near as bad a place as we were almost a year and a half ago, before getting marriage counseling, but there are disturbing echoes going on.  Both of us are working hard to maintain our marriage and help our children, not to mention earn a living and keep the house from falling apart or be buried in a landslide of laundry and clutter, but we're both overtired, overstressed, and maxed out.  Something has to give.

I'm - what am I?  Too many things to count, sometimes.  At any given moment I'm tired, stressed, worried, anxious, fearful, frustrated, and angry, over all sorts of things going off-track in our lives.  I can't keep everyone else "together" and not lose pieces of myself in the process.  It's time to reprioritize and get things back in balance.  I'm taking a couple days off work this week to regroup.  I need the mental space more than I need the subbing paycheck (which, when you get down to it, isn't great pay at all for the amount of stress it sometimes involves).  I've had a run of very difficult subbing experiences recently, and I need a break from that.  Yesterday was very good at school, and I'll sub tomorrow if they call and it's a class that won't make me crazy, but I'm not going to be masochistic about this subbing thing.  It's not my sole income; I can say no occasionally.

This week has had some hopeful things occur, mostly in the way of spring arriving early.  My crocuses are in bloom.  My daffodils and tulips are sprouting.  I've been able to start edging the small garden beds in the back yard and cleaning out the strawberry patch.  The robins and birds of spring are back, and last night I heard the first spring peepers of the season earlier than I've ever heard them before.  (One downer:  the mosquitoes are back too.)  I got to go for a bike ride with the kids yesterday, and there was a gorgeous bright coral pink and smoky purple sunset.  I finished my winter sowing a couple days ago, and I've already got sprouts in two containers sown in January (oriental poppies are usually my first sprouts, and this year they're the early birds again).   It's been warm, more like April than March, so I've had the house windows open as much as possible.

 Dogwood blossoms, from our old house, 2008.

Today my parents are coming up for a visit.  I can hardly wait to see them!  The only concern I have is that I'm sure my mother's mom-radar will pick up that I'm down.  That's not necessarily bad, but just discussing what's bothering me will bring me down, so I hope we don't spend much time talking about it.  I'd like to just enjoy the time with them on a sunny, beautiful spring day.

Time to go do a quick tidy before Mom and Dad get here, but before then, I want to share one of my favorite hymns, which perfectly expresses the ultimate foundation of my hope and my reason for pressing on:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Down in the Lowlands

It's been one of those weeks, and it's only Tuesday.


Down In The Lowlands

The water is up to my neck; I'm sinking in the deep,
There is no foothold to be found anywhere,
I'm very worn out from calling for help,
My throat is hoarse, and dry as a bone,
My eyes, they fail me from looking for you,
Are you looking for me?

Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout,
Save me, save me.
Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout,
Save me, save me.

Could this be it?
Could I be drowning?
Have I failed to be heard by the only one who can save me? (save me, save me)
Show me some mercy, and touch me again,
Please lift me up above where I am.

My eyes, they fail me from looking for you,
My eyes, they fail me from looking for you,
Are you looking for me?

'Cause I'm down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout,
Save me, save me,
Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout?
Save me, save me,
Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Won't you hear my cry and hear my shout?
Save me, save me.

My eyes, they fail me from looking for you,
My eyes, they fail me from looking for you,
Are you looking for me?

Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout,
Save me, save me,
Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout,
Save me, save me,
Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Won't you hear my cry, and hear my shout,
Save me, save me,
Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
Hear my cry, hear my shout,
Save me, save me.

Show me mercy, Lord, (save me)
Touch me where I am,
Show me mercy, Lord, (save me)
Touch me where I am,
Oh won't you show me mercy?
Show me mercy, Lord,
Lift me up, and lift me out from where I stand.

(c) Charlie Peacock
Performed by Russ Taff, from the album "Russ Taff," 1987

Based on Psalm 69

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Girls' Night Out

Yesterday was another tough day for subbing, but I don't want to dwell on the rocky end to a difficult week. It's over, thank God. Today I'd like to focus on something fun that I did last night: Princess Yakyak and I had a night out together.

 Princess Yakyak and Cookie, 
relaxing on a Saturday morning.

We didn't have any big plans, just shopping and dinner, but we really enjoyed ourselves. We dropped Safety Guy off at Tech Guy's workplace, and they went out for some guy time (pizza and a trip to Guitar Center). PYY and I were much more ambitious.

First we went to a specialty athletic shoe store called Fleet Feet, to see if I could find some good quality cross trainers for my poor unhappy feet.  My husband gets his running shoes there.  The young salesman who helped me was quite nice, and I found a pair of New Balance shoes that I really liked, except they were a smidge too small. I need the extra half size, so they ordered them for me with no obligation to buy - I can try them on when they come in.  I'm pretty sure they'll be just right, and I can hardly wait to have them for my fitness class. I'll get another decent pair of walking sneakers for everyday use somewhere else (i.e. cheaper). I figure if I'm going to commit to the boot camp class, I should treat my feet right.



After that we hopped across the street to browse through Pier 1 Imports. I love Pier 1, but I hardly ever go there because it's out of the way. The shoe store was the perfect excuse to stop in. I could spend a fortune there if I had a fortune to spend. As it happened, I bought nothing, but we really enjoyed looking around.

Next stop, Barnes & Noble! This was Princess Yakyak's request. She's been saving her money for a while, and she wants to buy a Nook Color. I wanted her to take some time and play with their demonstration models, to make sure it's what she really wants to get. We also indulged in a snack and a drink. I had my favorite coffee, a decaf cafe mocha, and a cranberry orange scone.  PYY had a triple chocolate brownie and milk.  Ah, bliss!

Moving on, we went to the mall nearby. Princess Yakyak had to return a birthday gift (great minds think alike: my Mom and I bought PYY identical hoodies from Sears for her birthday), so she used the store credit to buy a bright turquoise T-shirt that says, "I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas." Oh, so true! Then we ambled over to Bath & Body Works so I could use a coupon that amounted to a buy one get one deal. I splurged on some eucalyptus spearmint massage oil, and a bottle of coconut lime body lotion. After a quick glance through GameStop for PYY, we decided it was time to go find dinner.

Last stop, Wegmans! For those of you not from the northeast, Wegmans is a grocery store chain. They're a bit more high end than most groceries, even though they often have good deals on basics. They're well known for their fresh prepared foods, cafe and bakery. We had dinner from their hot food bar - Chinese for me (tofu in black bean sauce with red peppers over brown rice, with sauteed garlic ginger snap peas on the side, and unsweetened jasmine green tea), and odds and ends for PYY (tempura chicken, grapes, and an onion ring, with grape juice to drink). Then I picked up a few items that I like to buy there that I can't get anywhere else, and we headed home.

On the way home we had a wonderful conversation about modesty, brought about by looking at the clothing for girls and young women in Sears, and then walking by Victoria's Secret and seeing the hyper-perfect air-brushed lingerie models on huge posters. Princess Yakyak had seen some really nice shorts she liked in Sears - denim, and coming down to mid-thigh with cute detailing on the pockets. I complimented her on choosing something modest, and said we'd get her some in April. That and the posters led to a whole discussion of what modesty is, and why it's important. I reiterated to her that there are certain items of clothing that we will not buy for her or allow her to wear while she lives with us (bikinis, crop tops, and Daisy Duke shorts, for starters), and she agreed with our reasoning. Thankfully, right now she seems to have a very good understanding of why we have the boundaries we do. I know there will probably be future battles over this with her, but for now I think we've got a good foundation.

It was a very pleasant evening, and a good antidote to the long, stressful week.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Discouraged

Some days I really enjoy subbing.  Other days, it's a really tough job to do.  Some days it's downright demoralizing.  Today was an odd combination of all of these:  an "easy" day of subbing that left me totally discouraged. 

I had been called in to supervise classes while teachers attended CSE (Committee on Special Education) meetings.  This morning I arrived to find that a couple of the meetings had been canceled, and the two remaining ones assigned to me were at 8AM and 2PM.  To justify a full day's pay, the school office had me assist in supervising 8th to 12th grade study halls - all day long. 

What an eye-opener.  And boy, do I really respect the staff whose job it is to mind study halls all day, every day.  They have to keep track of everyone assigned to their study hall.  They have to know who is present, who is absent, who has signed out to go someplace else in the school during that period, and who is skipping.  Some study halls are small (a dozen students or so), while some are huge (one has over 125 students). 

There are always many students who use a study hall wisely, to catch up on work or get ahead on homework, and to study.  Often they make equally appropriate use of it for pleasant down time with friends, and the conversations vary wildly between quiet and private, and loud and obnoxious.  There are also always a handful or two of students who use study hall to pick on others and horse around, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior and see what they can get away with.  I saw plenty of all of this today.

How utterly depressing.  The amount of foul language among the students in everyday conversation is staggering.  The F-bomb, other swearing and explicit sexual references and insults are rife.  The students who are trying to study or mind their own business separate themselves as much as possible from the rest of the group.  It only takes a handful of disruptive students to turn a chatty study period into an exercise in crowd control for the staff.  I can hardly believe the number of students who think it's okay to just walk out of study hall and do what they want.  And the only thing the staff can do is call the office and let them know that so-and-so is AWOL or disrespectful or disruptive, and write them up for a detention, which the students often skip too.  Where are the consequences?  Where are the parents?

One thing is perfectly clear to me now:  I will resist any attempt to have Safety Guy placed in a large-group study hall at any point in his high school years.  It's just NOT a good place for a young man with sensory issues related to noise, social issues related to Aspergers, and difficulty minding his own business and staying out of other peoples' conversations.  Nothing but trouble could come of him being put in such a situation every day.

Some of the behavioral issues I saw today are definitely related to our American culture, the "do what you want" mantra so prevalent in the media and the "child rights" movement.  (Yes, I know I'm not being PC here - but since when did the rights of children trump the rights of society to expect reasonable, respectful behavior from minors to adults?)  Some of the issues are certainly related to parenting (or the lack thereof).  And some of the issues are related to a distressing tolerance of disrespect I've seen in the middle and upper grades of this school district, which has to be tracked back to the administration and school leadership not exercising stricter discipline from the middle grades on up.

I don't tolerate the disrespect when I'm teaching.  There are limits, and kids I work with find that out right away if they push the boundaries.  I've said to them, "Give respect, and you'll get respect.  I'm not unreasonable, but you do have to work with me and mind your manners."  I've got a reputation now for being a fairly strict substitute - not a pushover, but not nasty and dictatorial either.  And there are many very good and strict but fair teachers in this district.  But we can't teach effectively if there are no real, attention-getting consequences for inappropriate, disrespectful student behavior.  It's not fair to us as professionals to be unsupported and disrespected, and it's not fair to the majority of students who ARE respectful and show reasonable behavior who can't learn as much because some of their classmates are acting like entitled spoiled brats.  And it certainly does no favors to the students themselves who spend the first 18 years of their lives thinking they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, with no need to listen to authority figures and with no serious consequences.

I'd love to have an educational Nanny McPhee come visit our school.  Until then, I'm praying that I can talk to those students who will listen, and guide those students who are making poor choices, help where I can, and teach those those students who are willing to learn, wherever I'm subbing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Random Week

This past week went by in a blur of subbing, fitness, wrestling, family, moving, meltdowns, attitudes, weather, blessings, fun, and cleaning.  Here are a few things that stand out:

Subbing is fun - you never know what you'll be doing.  This week included high school history (watching the movie "Social Network"), seventh grade math (one period was the class from heck), high school biology (dissecting fetal pigs), high school digital art, architecture, and photography (fun!), and seventh grade English (reading "Where The Red Fern Grows" - good classes).

I heard back from Safety Guy's psychiatrist, and he'll get a new evaluation later this spring since it's been almost two years since his last one.  We also will be seeking a referral to a counselor who specializes in working with teens with Aspergers, since Safety Guy has asked us for help with his impulse control and anger issues.  I need to say that again:  Safety Guy ASKED US FOR HELP.  If you know anything about Aspergers, this kind of self-awareness and reaching out is remarkable.  Hopefully we can get him some help to deal with these issues.  He's had some trouble in school with his temper (expressed in verbal outbursts and swearing), and we don't want to wait for a crisis to seek professional help.  We'll also be seeing his pediatrician next week, so he's up to speed with what's been going on.

I've started drawing again.  Just little things, ACEOs, but it's something.  I just haven't clicked into the right frame of mind to do a large project.  But at least the creative logjam seems to be breaking up a bit.

The weather has been really schizo.  Cool and rainy to cold and snowy and back to freezing rain and treacherous roads over the course of a couple days earlier this week, sandwiched between clearing, warmer weather with stiff winds.  By Wednesday this week it's supposed to be clear, sunny, and almost 60F.  My sinuses haven't been happy with the roller coaster weather.

I'm still going to my fitness class.  I've had some issues with my achilles tendons, but they seem to be improving.  I'm starting to see some real gains in my endurance and flexibility, and my ability to do exercises more easily now that I really struggled with two months ago.  Hooray for progress!

 Safety Guy's guinea pig Flash, loafing in her pigloo.
Which was what I wanted to do after we helped my sister move
last weekend - loaf around and do nothing.
But that didn't happen. . . .

We helped my sister Debbie move last weekend.  I think my fitness class prepped me for the move, because I was able to do a lot without getting wiped out, although by the end of the day I was still pretty tired.  Moving across town meant loading the truck in the AM, and unloading it in the PM.  And of course I ached  the next day.  But it was all good - helping my sister and my parents plus getting a full day of stiff exercise was a win all around.  Well, it didn't hurt that my sister gave us two homemade apple pies as a thank-you!

But that was only the first half of the weekend.  

You've gotta love schools.  They passed out "free" tickets to a traveling zoo/fun fair thing to all the kids.  That zoo thing happened to be scheduled for the day after helping my sister move.  The tickets were for the kids, who were free with an adult ticket purchase.  Of course PYY was all excited to go see the animals, and it was her birthday weekend, and we'd had to postpone her horseback riding for better weather.  So, against my better judgment, I took Princess Yakyak to this zoo/fair thing Sunday afternoon.  The adult ticket was $13 (ack!), and $8 for parking (yikes!).  The fun fair itself was a mixed bag of exotic creatures and domestic farm animals, all in a convention center, with the animals in pens and cages side by side with small fairground rides, midway games, and snack stalls - all WAY overpriced, loud, and with flashing lights.  We enjoyed seeing the critters (who, to be fair, looked to be mostly in good health, except for the capybara with a skin condition that was billed as the "Giant 100 Pound Rat!"), but we skipped the rest of the overpriced schlock except for a bag of cotton candy.

Princess Yakyak was most offended at this glaring "false advertising,"
since she's a nature girl and immediately 
identified the capybara for what it really was. 
And the poor capybara obviously had a skin condition 
that left it partially hairless on its body.

Finally, Safety Guy wants to learn how to cook.  He unearthed a cookbook from the basement last week and pored over it for a couple days before announcing that he wanted to make Lemon Chicken.  So, he did.  But that's tomorrow's post - stay tuned!