Saturday, June 30, 2012


I didn't sleep worth a darn last night (I had enough bizarre dreams to keep a psychiatrist busy with me for a year), but I woke up to the wonderful surprise that Sophia, our fluffy old lady cat, is feeling much better.  She's back to her old self, chatty and affectionate.  I am so relieved - I was afraid that I'd wake up to sorrow, or to a vet trip that would end in sadness.  Instead, Sophia greeted me with a meow and a purr, snuggled into my shoulder, and tried to nibble my fingers as I petted her (a sign of her affection - love nibbles).  Now I'm grateful for not-so-small mercies - thank you, Lord!

Today we're going to do something unusual - my whole family is going to a huge garden center.  That is, a garden center that covers as much square footage as a big box store, plus greenhouses.  And you know whose idea it was?  My husband's!  What a sweet guy.  And I'm still wondering how I missed a garden center this size after living in this area for three years now.  (In my defense, it's not nearby, and it's where I never have to go for normal shopping or appointments.)  So we're taking a family trip to go look at plants and garden supplies.  This place is so big it even has a cafe, so we'll eat lunch there.  I hope the kids are good sports about this - normally I get eye-rolling and sighs and whining from them when I even suggest that I want to stop somewhere to look at plants.  "Oh, Moooomm!  Can you drop us off at home first?"

Maybe they'll have a koi pond.  I could sit for hours and watch a koi pond.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Good Times, Sad Times

This week has been lovely - gorgeous summer weather, starting out cooler and then going for broke on the heat and humidity.  It's supposed to be into the 90s tomorrow, 80s for almost a week after that, and dry as a bone, aside from a brief downpour overnight last night.  We've spent hours at the public pool, sweated through our workouts at the fitness center, gone for bike rides, taken photos of a drop dead gorgeous sunset tonight, had a camp fire or two, cooked out several times, and counted lots of lightning bugs.

Safety Guy has been all over the map with his moods.  This week has been a roller coaster, but tonight he did something remarkable:  he apologized to me for his recent behavior, contritely and without excuses, and without prompting.  He was so sweet about it, and it was good to hear him own his choices like a young man.

I've been drawing - a LOT.  That's been good for me, to just get back into the habit of drawing.  I've been fighting being down, and the drawing helps me feel like I'm doing something positive.

Something sad weighing on my mind is the health of our middle cat, Sophia.  She's 15 1/2 and has been very frail/thin for quite a while now.  Thin, but spry and friendly (and always vocal).  Today she's been lethargic and quiet, and hasn't been eating.  We may have to take her to the vet tomorrow morning if she doesn't improve overnight.  This may not have a happy outcome (although we said that about our oldest cat, B.C., four years ago, and he recovered and is still perking right along at 17).  We've talked to the kids about Sophia, and they understand that this may end in sadness, but we can still hope for her recovery.  It's a sad part of life, letting go.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.  For now, we'll just love her up.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Drama Central

Whoa, who took my usually pleasant kids and replaced them with this pair of overreacting, short-tempered drama queens?  Oy, what a week.  I've had more than a few, "Did you just listen to what I said, and am I speaking English?" moments.  It's like they're listening and reacting to the first half of every sentence without waiting to hear what the end of the sentence even IS.  It's enough to make me seriously crazy.  It may be symptomatic of my frame of mind that I bought Safety Guy a couple items of clothing for back to school yesterday, even though school doesn't begin again for us until after Labor Day.  Two more months of lots of time with my children - Lord help me, it's going to be a long summer. . . .

On the other hand, we've been having a run of nice weather, and we've spent hours and hours at the public pool.  I'm sure we'll go again later today.  The pool is a good place for the kids to get away from each other.  (Although I've had to point out a few times that if they have the whole pool to enjoy, they don't need to gravitate to each other and argue.  It's like there's some space/time anomaly that pulls them into each others' sphere of influence within five minutes no matter where they are or what other distractions may be there.  How is it possible that they can get into an argument in the water when they've got dozens of other people and all that space to spread out in?  )  

The pool gives Safety Guy a number of things that are good for him:  the sense of pressure from the water, the ability to duck under the water and listen to the muted sounds - which are both interesting and soothing to him - and some good exercise.  He hasn't wanted to go off the diving board, although he's perfectly capable.  I think if he were ALONE in the pool he might give it a try.  Doing it in front of other people just doesn't feel comfortable to him.  Princess Yakyak, on the other hand, loves the diving boards, and just last week she started going off the high diving board.  She's very proud of herself.  We'll be leaving for the pool again soon - more good clean fun in the sun.  I'll take my camp chair and my drawing supplies.  I did several ACEOs during their last stint at the pool.  We'll see what I come up with today.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Drawing Again

I finally seem to be getting back in the habit of drawing.  I did a lot of drawing during free periods while I subbed, and after a few weeks of steady work I had about 20 ACEOs (art trading cards) finished.  I just listed 10 of them in my shop, with more to come soon.  I also did one larger drawing, which seems to have primed the pump, so to speak, for me to want to do more.  I have no reliable way to do ceramics right now, so that's on the back burner indefinitely.  Painting and drawing will have to be my artistic outlets for now, as well as the little teddy bears and my garden.

Here's some of what I've been drawing lately:

I'd like to spend some time on my art this summer.  I often draw while I'm at the public pool, watching the kids swim.  I do swim sometimes (I enjoy exercising in the water), but I also like the alone time off in a shady corner of the pool facility.  It's amazing how much I can get done while the kids swim.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Firsts and Lasts

Since I last posted on June 8th, we've had a busy time.  We've had a handful of firsts and lasts to occupy us, in good ways.  Here are the highlights:

FIRST fire pit!  Yes, I finally got my long-awaited reward for teaching all year.  It's not huge or fancy, but it's perfect because when it gets beat up and rusty I can sand it and repaint it with black grill paint and give it a new lease on life.  Simple is good!

Safety Guy is delighted to practice his Boy Scout fire lighting skills.  
He's taken it as his own personal mission to do it safely and well.
Princess Yakyak's mission is to roast the perfect marshmallow.

FIRST athlete fitness class of the summer for Safety Guy!  I signed him up for an 8 week, four day per week youth fitness class at the same gym where he did wrestling in the winter and spring.  He had a serious case of "I can't do this!" right before the class started this week, and it was touch and go to even get him to go into the gym, but once there the three instructors and the 8 other students made him feel like he really could do this.  He tried it and liked it.  Today he's a bit achy from yesterday's class, so we'll see how this afternoon's session goes.  He did say that he's glad to have the regular activity for the summer, since the lack of a schedule after school let out was bugging him all last week.  (On a funny note, he's doing many of the same exercises I do in my boot camp class.  After his first day, he commented to his instructor that he would never tease me during my class again!)

FIRST time Safety Guy has gone to the pool with a friend, on their bikes, without a parent along!  That's a big step, believe me.  His friend M. and he spent the afternoon out, going to the mini mart for soda and swimming at the pool.  Of course, being a Mom, I made him take everything but the kitchen sink (sun screen, trac phone, wallet with ID card, bike lock and key, house key. . . ).  They had a great time.  I worried about that, because it's not unusual to see kids at the pool who have bullied SG in the past.  But he knows that if someone is bugging him, he should go over to a life guard.  They have a very strict zero tolerance policy on bullying at the pool, and several kids were banned after doing that last summer.  Thankfully there were no issues that day.

LAST days of school for both SG (last week) and PYY (today)!  Big excitement from both of them.  SG celebrated by sleeping in every day after that, and PYY has a friend over today, with a trip to the pool later.  Which also means:

LAST day of subbing for me, two weeks ago.  I only had one call to sub last week, and it was for a lower grade I knew I really wasn't interested in working with, so I declined.  Too much stress for too little money, so I spent the day with SG instead.  The up side:  now that PYY is done, *I* can sleep in a little later.  (HOORAY!!)  The down side:  only one more paycheck to come, then no more until I sub again in September.  (Boo. . . )

And soon, we'll have our FIRST family vacation in three years.  At least, it will be the first family vacation in three years that doesn't involve traveling to visit family, and does involve staying in a hotel and sightseeing someplace we haven't been before.  It's not a long one, but it's special:  New York City over the 4th of July, staying in a hotel with a rooftop view of the fireworks over the Hudson River.  We've wanted to take the kids to NYC for a while, so this will be fun.  Not long (hotel rates in NYC are exorbitant), but fun.  We'll take a trip to North Carolina this fall, to visit my youngest sister and some other friends that live near her.  That will be a treat, too - North Carolina in the fall. . . .

Friday, June 8, 2012

Not Enough Space

Well, the school day today ended with a thud - from my own kids.  The kids wanted to ride home with me, so we could stop at the grocery store on the way and they could have a say in what I bought for the week, and incidentally have a chance of getting some kind of treat along the way.  I gave Safety Guy my keys while I stopped at the high school office, knowing that the Princess would be waiting at the car already, since she gets out a few minutes earlier than he does.  No big deal, I thought.

Silly me.

I leave the building after signing out in the office, and I find my kids inside the car, arguing.  Yelling.  Finger pointing, gesturing, shouting.  Then they both have to explain to me (at high volume, at the SAME TIME, with more gesturing and finger pointing) why the other one is at fault for starting/continuing this argument.

Oh.  My.  Goodness.

It was a "just kill me now" moment.  In the middle of the high school parking lot, with other teachers, parents, and students walking by, my kids are having a complete meltdown.  I'm trying to be reasonable but firm, as calm as I can under the circumstances.  (At one point I asked another teacher, getting into her car next to mine, if she wanted a couple kids.  She declined.  She doesn't have kids of her own yet, and we may just have ensured that she never procreates.)  By the end of the "conversation" I had two defiantly quiet, thoroughly grounded kids.

And I still had to stop at the grocery store.

So I dragged SG into the store with me, and left PYY reading in the car.  We grabbed an armful of items and went home.  (Because it was an Aldi store, and I didn't have a quarter to unlock a shopping cart, and I didn't want to go back to the car to scrounge for change because that would bring the kids close together again, so I didn't do the full shopping trip I'd originally intended.)

So.  Two grounded kids.  No cookout tonight (because I don't want to reward their atrocious behavior with a treat).  They're in their rooms until dinner, with no electronic devices that play games or connect to the internet (radio/MP3 is okay).  When my loving husband called to see how my day had gone, I informed him that I would be doing the rest of the grocery shopping tomorrow afternoon - ALONE.

Sheesh.  I can leave the two kids in the house for upwards of an hour and a half for my exercise class and they're fine, but they cannot seem to coexist in a car without parental supervision.

What a pain.

Oh, and I did eventually get to the bottom of the argument:  Safety Guy didn't want to ride home with PYY, and he told her that she had to ride the bus because he had the keys and wouldn't let her in the car.


Postscript, 8 hours later:  The kids calmed down after some cooling off time in their rooms.  They've been determinedly polite to me, and they even apologized to each other after dinner without me having to prompt them.   Spontaneous apologies and requests for forgiveness?  Wow, I'm thrilled, and amazed.   They did need a prompt to apologize to me, though.   Oh well, small steps.  Now if we can just make it through the weekend, and I'll count my blessings that the meltdown didn't happen IN the school.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Around the Garden

It's been a while since I've given a garden update.  I've done a lot over the past month - weeding, mulching, edging, planting, transplanting, mowing, sowing, fencing, trellising.  Also sweating, hydrating, and even swearing occasionally (mostly at the voles eating Princess Yakyak's strawberries).  Here's a photo tour of what things look like right now.

My peonies bloomed well this year.  This is my favorite, an older variety called 'Mahogany.'  It's a true, intense blood red.  The blooms only last for a week, but there's nothing else like them.

This winter was hard on my irises, and I lost quite a few of them.  I don't think we had enough snow cover, and the ground barely froze late and thawed early, and so it stayed too soggy.  I'm hoping the rhizomes that survived will rebound and bloom well next year.  The exceptions that did well were in the front yard, near shrubs that caught the little snow we had and helped protect the iris rhizomes.  I don't remember what this one is called, but it bloomed very well.  It's a little bluer than this picture shows; I had a hard time capturing its true colors.

It was also a hard winter for winter sowing, since the early warmth then hard freezes did in the things that sprouted early, including all of my zinnias but one lonely late sprout.  These are the hardy survivors of the weather roller coaster, now all planted out in the garden.  The successes were tomatoes (three varieties), several varieties each of annual phlox, sunflowers, and poppies, as well as leeks, daylilies, celosia, ambrosia (chenopodium), sweet annie (artemisia annua), rudbeckia, and finally malva sylvestris and malva moscheuta. 

These are the long raised beds my husband and I worked on last year and the year before.  To the right is the drainage swale that runs down between the houses on our block.  We catch a lot of runoff from uphill, and all four of our uphill neighbors use lawn services to spray weed/feed chemicals.  That runoff has made it problematic for me to garden along the back of our yard, hence the raised beds.  (We rarely use any lawn chemicals, only a bare minimum out front, and none out back because of all the edibles.  I was able to garden 100% organically at our old property, which was much smaller and with much less lawn.  We've had to compromise a little here with all the wide open grass to maintain.)  I've planted water-loving perennials in the first uphill bed, closest to the locust tree, to try to absorb or filter some of the runoff before it gets to the veggies.  The rest of the beds are planted with four kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, cantaloupe, gold zucchini, bush butternut squash, pumpkins (sprouted from the remains of last year's jack-o-lantern), cucumbers, two kinds of pole beans, bush beans, leeks, and peas.  (I've realized that the peas do NOT like the runoff - they're definitely sensitive to the chemicals.)

Looking toward the house, you can see the smaller beds, planted variously with sunflowers, eggplant, bush beans, more cantaloupe, two plots of daylilies, assorted perennials in my daughter's garden patch, and strawberries.  The kids are on the porch, toasting marshmallows over the new fire pit I bought to reward myself for subbing all year.

This is one of my favorite flowers every summer - oriental poppy 'Brilliant.'  It glows in the sunset light, and stands out from any distance at the front of the house.

Gaillardia 'Amber Wheels,' which I'm seriously in love with.  I ordered it last year from Bluestone Perennials, but this is its first mature year to bloom, and it's drop-dead gorgeous.

These are fun - an unnamed variety of poppy, very frilly and intensely violet in color.  The plants are young, and not very vigorous.  We'll see how they do next year before I decide if they're worth keeping.

The shady north side of the house, filling in very nicely after looking rather scraggly for a couple years.  It's planted with golden barberry, assorted hosta, ostrich ferns, astilbe, lady's mantle (alchemilla mollis), variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'), ligularia 'Desdemona' (a.k.a. "The Slug Magnet"), and lily of the valley.

Some of the phlox I planted, showing the tightly spiraled buds.  This one is from a mix called 'Coral Reef.'  These phlox are wonderful for winter sowing, and for childrens garden projects.

One of the few roses I grow:  'Tropicana.'  It's supposed to be highly fragrant, but I'm underwhelmed with it so far.  Still, the flowers are gorgeous, more coral than orange.

This is the big weigela on the property line between us and our neighbors behind us.  They planted it before we moved here.  This year it bloomed magnificently, and it glows in the sunset light.

This is a milkweed leaf, backlit by the setting sun.  The "no man's land" bed that sits on/in the drainage swale between our houses has some regular garden plants, and some wild volunteers.  The milkweed is statuesque and attractive in its own right, and doesn't mind the location, so it's earned the right to stay.

And finally, a pretty annual, a zinnia from the 'Zahara' mix, purchased locally as a small  plant since the frost killed all but one of the zinnias I winter sowed.  Such a pretty little bicolor, I might save seed from it and see what I get next year.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Duck Season, Wabbit Season, CSE Season

It's been a busy few weeks, and I posted very little in the midst of the craziness.  Subbing, house stuff, family visits, a prolonged cold, appointments - the usual merry-go-round of life.  Last week was Safety Guy's annual CSE meeting.  I thought I'd be pretty blase about it, but I actually found myself to be quite tense when that morning arrived.

Our school district has done well by Safety Guy, and I have few issues with his teachers, yet I was not looking forward to this annual review of his progress and planning for  the next school year. Somehow, as a parent, it's hard not to think of the CSE as a commentary on my own parenting skills, as well as a review of our son's progress.  It didn't help that twice in the two weeks leading up to this meeting that I'd subbed multiple days for very difficult classes in junior high, so my margins were already very thin.

There weren't any surprises at the meeting.  We already knew that SG would be discontinuing speech therapy (which addressed pragmatic language use and also social situations) - not because he doesn't need help with social stuff, but because the small group counseling he receives at school also focuses heavily on social/behavioral stuff, and that effort no longer needs to be duplicated from the speech end of things.  Yay Safety Guy!  He's always been very good with verbal skills, so this was no surprise.  His pragmatic language use is now very good.  OT will continue (focused on posture and handwriting), as will counseling.  He'll still receive resource support, and have his math class in a 15:1 modified setting.

A few weeks ago I read a book called Perfect Targets:  Aspergers Syndrome and Bullying, by Brenda Smith Myles.  It really clarifies the roles of all individuals involved in bullying and in addressing how to stop it:  victims, aggressors, bystanders, parents, teachers, and other adults.  I marked up the book with my own highlights and comments, then passed it on to Safety Guy's guidance counselor.  She copied some of the information from the book to use with him and with other students, particularly a concise list of different strategies SG can use to escape, defuse, or end a bullying situation.  I also asked her if we needed a goal on his IEP to specifically address the reporting of bullying (something SG is inconsistent about), and we decided that that would place too much emphasis on him reporting and not enough on the use of his coping strategies.  Instead there will be a goal addressing the use of his strategies in a consistent manner.  We'll see how that works, and revise if needed.

He will have a new counselor next fall for 8th grade, so we want to make sure as much information as possible is passed on from this year to next for his new counselor to work with.  Hopefully he'll "take" to her and form a good relationship with her.

We also have decided that he will take advantage of an option to extend his high school years from 4 to 5, to take advantage of vocational classes and spread out his NY State Regents classes, to give him the most time to do his best.  Some of the vocational classes will include college credit, so it will give him a leg up when he goes on for further education.  Safety Guy is okay with the idea, so hopefully it will work to his advantage in the long run.

Seven class days left for him before summer vacation!  A handful of tests, some fun and games on the last day, and he's free for the summer.  I'm hoping he can make it through these last days without any meltdowns, since the stress of the end of school is always tricky, and the kids all act flaky.  Seven more days, seven more days. . . . 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Heck On Wheels

For whatever reason, Safety Guy's seventh grade class has a large number of very difficult students.  His class has an unusually large number of students with behavioral issues that are disruptive and distracting or hurtful to classmates and disrespectful of all authority.  My husband and I are very concerned that our son has spent (and will continue to spend) so much time with many of these students.  Some of them have bullied him.  Some distract him on purpose, just to get him to react.  Some are just plain mean and obnoxious to everyone around them.  Many are extremely disrespectful of authority figures.  It's hard for Safety Guy to keep his cool and make good choices in such an unpredictable, provocative, anxiety-ridden atmosphere.  Our son's seventh grade class has a reputation in the school, and it's not a good one.

This school district has a discipline gap:  what the administration says it expects and what many of the students actually do are very different things.  Sometimes I think this school district doesn't have enough authority and control over the kids, but then I wonder how it is in other districts as well.  We can't be alone in having this trouble, and I've heard from parents all over the country that we're not alone.

It pains me to say that our hands are often tied as teaching professionals.  We can't administer any discipline more serious than having a kid lose a special privilege, sit in the corner or in the hallway, send them to the office, assign detention(s), and/or talk with the parents.  Suspension (in and out of school) is assigned by the principals for repeated or serious offenses, but many students treat detention and suspension as a joke, a vacation, even a warped badge of honor.  Many students skip detentions and in school suspension without any consequences from home.  Many parents don't appear to care what their children are doing at school.  If the teacher has the personality and presence to consistently enforce the rules, their classes are manageable, but even very good teachers are struggling with this current group of students.

As a teacher, it makes me crazy-frustrated.  As a parent, it makes me angry.  As a citizen, it makes me worried for the future.  If the district rules are not enforced consistently and firmly from class to class and school to school, then the unruly students take advantage of the inconsistency and manipulate the teachers, ignore the rules, and terrorize the other students, or the better-behaved students get frustrated with school, discouraged with learning or become anxious or afraid to come to school at all.  If the students don't respect authority at school (or, apparently, at home), they certainly won't respect an employer or civil authority when they grow up.

And I know this is a GOOD school district.  It has a GOOD reputation for its special education programs and generally for its regular academics.  There are many fantastic teachers at all grade levels and across all subject matters here.  As a sub I have been in most of the classrooms above sixth grade now, and of course I have my private opinions about individual teachers.  Some are great; some are not.  But overall, this is a GOOD school system.  It pains me to see these struggling students and frustrated teachers.  And it makes me anxious for our children, since Princess Yakyak is not immune to these problems either.

I can't and don't lay all the blame for this difficult crop of students on the schools.  WHERE THE HECK ARE THE PARENTS OF THESE DISRESPECTFUL, UNRULY STUDENTS?  We may not have a large or wealthy community, but that's no excuse for the amount of blatant rude, disrespectful, inappropriate and hateful behavior I've seen while subbing.  I'm gobsmacked at the things I've heard students say to each other, and the things they've said directly to me (both while teaching and just out in the community).  It's truly sad.

So I try to make a difference where I can.  Each day, one student at a time, one conversation at a time, one lesson at a time.  I love teaching, and someday I may return to doing it full time.  But this climate of disrespect makes me wonder at times, "Do I really want to do this?  Is it worth it do deal with this stress day after day?  Is there hope for these kids?  Why bother with the ones who don't care?"  But I come back to my conviction that all people are valuable, put on the earth for a purpose, created in God's image, and, therefore, worth respecting and loving with Christ's love - and worth teaching.

Now I just need to remind myself of that the next time I'm asked to sub for Safety Guy's grade. . . .

Friday, June 1, 2012

Junior High Stinks

I remember junior high school.  It was a very difficult time for me, awkward and painful in many ways.  Now our son is going through junior high school, and it's just as awkward and painful for him.  So much to aspire to, so much to learn, so much to  figure out, so many, many ways to fall short socially.  Safety Guy is in the throes of early teen angst and anxiety, and it's been a long haul through 7th grade.  Just two weeks to go, and Safety Guy is fraying at the edges, and trying not to fall apart.

Junior high sucks.  Who's popular, who's a freak, who's a geek, who's cool, who's who is a never-ending social obstacle course.  For a young man with Aspergers it's a daily minefield.  Some days there are no explosions.  Some days nothing goes right and he gets hurt.  Most days are a mixed bag.  No wonder he sometimes loses his temper and wants to vent or lash out when he gets home.  No wonder he sometimes shoots off his mouth at school or acts out and gets the consequences.

I'm honored and humbled that Safety Guy will talk with me about his emotional life.  I know he can't see it, but he's come so very far over the past few years.  He's too close to the situation - I was at that age too.  We all were.  In the middle of the trees you can't see the forest.  There's no perspective.  I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to help him see the bigger picture.  Frankly, I'm amazed at how well he can verbalize his emotions and talk about what's bothering him.  For a young man with AS, that's pretty unusual, I gather.

Safety Guy's favorite time to talk is in the evening, after his sister is in bed.  He'll come downstairs and we'll talk.  Some nights it's just a running monologue about his current obsession, sometimes it's about a current event that's caught his interest, and often the talk winds around to school and relationships.  Lately I've fielded questions ranging from, "What car do you think I'll have for my first car?" to "What do girls like in a guy?"  (My answer to that was, "They like a guy who's clean and kind, smart and funny, nice and interesting."  Can you tell that hygiene is an ongoing issue with my typical-in-this-respect young teen boy?)  Tonight eventually blew up when he asked me, "Why am I such a FREAK?!"

Oh boy.

What do you say to that?  I did my best.  I told him that he's NOT a freak - he's just another young man trying to find his place in school, and make choices for his future.  Seventh grade isn't the whole world - it's just a time and place that will not be repeated.  He won't be with these same people forever.  He will be able to choose who to associate with much more as he gets older.  Everyone at this age feels awkward and strange, and very few really are secure in themselves and feel okay all the time.  Sure, he's different with his AS.  But everyone is different, and those who put him down are just as insecure as he is, just as weirded out by their changing bodies, just as frustrated by being stuck with everyone else with few options to get away from the people who bother them.

We talked more.  I encouraged him, and tried to help him see that his future is hopeful and that life will get better as he continues to do his best and make good choices.  He seemed to be on an even keel when he finally went to bed.

Now I'm exhausted.

Just two more weeks in 7th grade, and I'm praying he doesn't have a big meltdown at school before the last day.  Grades are important, but I'm more concerned about his emotional well-being at the moment.  He isn't depressed, but I can see the spectre of that issue on the horizon, and we'll keep a close eye on him as he goes through these teen years.  And pray.  A lot.