Thursday, October 21, 2010

Teacher conference and bad news rock throw

I still feel that back to school rush in the fall. No, I'm not going to school myself; in fact it was a near miss but I did buy a whole bunch of folders, pencils, paper, binders, lunch boxes, protractors (!) recently for my two students. I still get that back to school rush.

Shea seems tall and fast all of a sudden, leaping, running and being a dare devil on the monkey bars. He has taken on 1st grade with an enthusiasm and intensity that is mildly surprising yet isn't.

The teacher is working really, really well so far. Quite simply, she is an "old pro" who has many years plus special ed and Resource room background. We are blessed with only 16 kids in the class. 11 boys but she runs a tight ship.

Shea is reading and writing and sitting at his desk and listening. At the beginning, he was having the old "keeping his hands to himself" issue as usual.

But his teacher is engaging him in thinking about his behavior with a new little game that has resonated. Each day he gets to "earn" 4 smiley or frowny faces. He was proud to consistently come home with 3s and 4s. Then we told him he could earn some place ground time after school if he got 4s. That worked really well!

He brags out it in his first writing piece at school. "I got 4 smiles!" he wrote with a picture of smiling stick people. So darn cute.

But regression does happen. And, this week was a tough one. The principal called and left a message that said that Shea threw a rock on the playground and hit a little girl in the head. :-(

The message said "the child has since recovered...but it was quite serious....losing recess the next day...grounds for suspension...having a hard time getting Shea to understand the situation..."

I won't go too far into the scene that night but it resulted in him sitting down and writing a letter to the little girl to read to her the next day, losing Wii for a couple of days and many, many, many words about how wrong it is to hurt someone like that.

The whole thing hit me hard on a tough day and I was pretty teary myself and I think I saw something click behind Shea's eyes when he realized how upset I was. How shocked and horrified we all were by what he did. There is something about parent tears. Let's hope he gets it.

Jake took him to school the next day and they found the little girl and Shea read his letter and was forgiven. Jake said it was pretty adorable and she was wonderful about it.

Thankfully we happened to be having Teacher conferences this week too so Shea's teacher reminded me that regression happens. Learning to handle your impulses is big stuff and lessons happen in different way but that he will get there. I admitted my worry about his social skills and making friends and she reassured me that he was connecting with other kids in the classroom.

But the play ground is always such a different story, isn't it?

Shea said there was another boy involved with the whole rock throwing episode. Something about this other kid telling him to do it. Now, obviously that is no excuse but it makes we wonder about the dynamic on the play ground.

This same boy's name also popped up in a conversation about the word "mean" and Shea wanted to know what to do if someone was mean. I said you stay away from someone being mean and then he asked, "What if they follow you around being mean and won't stop?" (!)

I was sort of beginning to freak out by this point because Shea doesn't ask stuff like this very often. Certainly a very unusual conversation to be having and a huge warning light going off in my head!

I said, "Very firmly, you tell them to stop and if they don't you go tell the playground duty or the teacher or me."

It is hard to tell if he got much of that in this first part of a bigger conversation. Obviously, some interesting dynamics are happening at school and we'll need to revisit this topic again.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gluten Free Zucchini Choclate Chip Bread

I just have to share this amazing Zucchini bread recipe!

I was daunted by the epic Zucchinis in the garden and how Shea NEVER eats veggies. I tweaked and experimented and deviously thought that if I could make a yummy loaf maybe he would bite.

Result? Hook, line and sinker. Perhaps putting chocolate chips in it was all it took but, hey, the kid ate zucchini! That in itself is cause for celebration!

3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup cane sugar
3 cups rice flour
3 eggs or egg replacement
1/2 cup butter (melted) or organic coconut oil
1 cup apple sauce
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 Tbls. baking cocoa
2 tsp Zanthan Gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg

Combine sugar, eggs and butter together then add zucchini. Mix well and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients. Add the Zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients. Make sure it is well blended then add chocolate chips.

Spray or grease 2 loaf pans well. Half the batch in each loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let sit in loaf pans for 10 - 15 minutes then run a knife around the inside edge of pan. Gently turn over and giggle until loaf comes out on clean surface. Let cool a bit more before cutting.

Makes 2 nice big loafs. Just watch it disappear!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer camp; very affordable therapy time

Since the school district dumped Shea's summer school or ESY (Extended School Year), we decided to try something new.

Vashon Youth and Family Services do Chautauqua Kids program at the elementary school cafeteria. It is a nice big open space with an air hockey table, games, art projects, bike riding club and a different field trip each week. Off island even!

The program directors and teen mentors take the kids swimming 2 times a week and stick to a loose but structured day. Lots of variety, lots of supervision but not much hovering.


This was about self sufficiency and independence and doing for yourself. Sure there was help near by but Shea just got into the habit of taking care of stuff himself. A huge step for us.

This is mainly for kids whose parents work and the times are from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM. For $180 a week, it could be perhaps the most affordable day care set up around.

And, I am so glad we tried it! I considered it intensive social and behavior therapy and WOW! did it work.

We were tentative at first but Shea zoomed and soared with the structured fluidity, friend making, playing with the big kids and generally just having a great time.

The program directors were extremely sensitive to Shea's allergies and his speech issues. I just feel like I struck gold. So much so that I signed him up for several more weeks and ended the summer fully in love with the program.

When school got out in June, I was nervous about 1st grade. I thought it could go either way and was poised to worry. But now, after all the growth and talking and socializing and resolving issues this summer, I feel that Shea is really ready to go for 1st grade and give it his darndest!

Thanks VYFS and Chautauqua Kids! You made our summer!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Going comfortably gray and interviewing at 46

Initially as an austerity measure I stopped coloring my hair. Plus the reality of all those chemicals grew nightmarish. Why was I paying big buck for organic produce when I was smearing god knows what toxins on my head!?

Not that I am saying no one should. I loved my hot red head hair-do for years and faithfully dumped hundreds of dollars on it every 6 weeks or so. But those red hot days are far behind and for me it just seemed "been there, done that".

So I quit cold turkey, ignored the ghastly roots for a good year then got a happening short hair cut and decided I liked the gray. Right now it is, how they say, salt & pepper and sometimes it shimmers like threads of silver and I think, "Not bad. Gray hair doesn't have to equal geezer."

But as I go out into the job market after 10 years, I briefly wondered if I should try and do a bit of "youth-ercising". Does that mean covering up the gray?

I just don't want to go there again. I did buy new interview duds and even briefly toyed with the idea of a little makeup (gasp) but the hair-do is staying gray. I have decided it is a badge of honor and proof of all those lessons learned.

At 46, I feel I am squeaking right in there before full blown age discrimination sets in (or perhaps I show my naivety).

I tentatively begin the "informational interview" circuit and generally people are really amazingly generous with their time and contacts. All you have to do is ask nicely and perhaps buy them a coffee. I humbly try to impress, thank them profusely as I optimistically think about the seeds sown.

I scour job listings, brush up and re-write my resume, try and bang out a stand out cover letter and start sending them out.

Much to my surprise! I got a bite!

Thankfully I manage to not be as nervous at the interview as I have been in the past. Maybe it is the acquired life skills or just being able to read people better or the fact that I have nudged up against much bigger issues over the years but somehow it puts an 1/2 hour sit and chit into a more appropriate perspective.

As I look across the conference table at what would be my new supervisor, I see a sweet young gal a good 15+ years my junior. She looks at me with warmth and interest, not yet "chewed up and spit out", not having acquired that crusty veneer of cynicism.

I really like that about youth and I realize that I would like to work with this girl. So I did my darndest to "connect" and ended up getting called back for a 2nd interview which was more relaxed and friendly and informal.

It sort of feels right but I don't want to jinx it and only wait to see if I get the final nod.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Allergies and all the attached woes

This has been a particularly weird year for allergies. Those of you in the NW will know what I mean. Summer didn't even start here until well into July.

Yes, that's right. July! Summer in the NW never was kookier.

The good news was we did not have our normal horrible allergy June because it was so wet and cool. The bad news is that now that it is behaving like summer, our grass and pollen allergies are now kicking our butts and winning big time.

The only one who doesn't seem affected is Molly. Go figure! Jake, Shea and I are mucus factories and I fantasize about inventing a tissue box harness so that I can carry a whole box around with me as I try to conduct my daily life. Jake one ups me and decides it needs an i-pod holder with detachable "used" kleenex annex discreetly attached.

I tell him to start sketching, that we may have something here!

Because I have gone through allergy hell for a few years now, I am beginning to notice interesting little things. Like if it rains, our symptoms go away. I guess the moisture knocks the pollen count down or something but it is nice to look outside and be somewhat relieved by clouds and mist in the summer months.

Also, I have eagle eyes peeled on our #1 allergy boy, Shea. Because he is so behaviorally sensitive to his food allergies, I guess I should not have been surprised to find that the environmental allergies have a huge effect on him too. Not just your normal runny nose, scratchy eyes misery but full blown behavior changes.

For example: more clingy, more whiny, less focused, fewer words with a few steps back in his verbal development. I notice that I need to remind him to "Use his words" and that he is reverting back a bit to the crooning and meowing and head butting that he used to do.

Is this all allegy related? I have not the foggiest but it is interesting that it seems to be occurring now.

We are trying something new this year; Claritin and frankly symptoms do seem to dissipate. I feel bad nuking my kid with the stuff but I try to tell myself that the allergies are worse than the cure. If he was a highly verbal little guy, he might be able to articulate whether he feels better or not. But, he is not that fellow.

When asked how he feels he routinely says, "Fine, mom. Good!" Sweet little parrot, spunky positive attitude boy ~ you get my "Put the best face on it" award. But, that is Shea and his life and discomforts are his "normal", miserable with allergies or not.

Unfortunately, our beloved OT takes the summer off and he could be just really missing her and the excellent therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder he usually gets weekly during the school year. Or perhaps his allergies exacerbate the problem? Again, who knows for sure.

So much of parenting is a guessing game. A very humbling, guessing game. I find that I second guess myself all the time, trying for the perfect cocktail of love, work, therapy and play for my kids.

Is it perfect? No. It never is and never will be. It is what it is, as they say.

Wouldn't it be great if we could one day find out if what we did was the right thing to do? Or maybe that would suck! Parents make decisions about raising their children for all different reasons, emotions and situational dynamics. If we found out for sure what did work, we would have to find out what did not work and frankly I am not sure I could handle that sort of reality slap.

So, we skate blind using only intuition, faith, fear, joy and love for road signs. With a bulging box of kleenex in tow. Whatever it takes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mid-life crisis? Probably.

I feel there is a very large omnipresent someone with a giant foam hammer smacking me on the head repeatedly just trying to get my attention.

Smack, bang! "Hey, what's that?" I notice something but then the phone rings and then I notice the laundry needs folding and I guess I should run to the bank, gas station and the grocery story and figure out what to feed the family for dinner because the kids will be home any minute and pretty soon the attention that the large someone had won is lost...yet again.

This has been happening all day, every day for about...I don't know...15 years?!

But, NOW the big omnipresent person is dangling a flashing neon sign in front of my face so that my attention can stay on it for more than the traditional 5 seconds even if I am driving or e-mailing or blogging or washing little accidents out of little boys underwear.

It is flashing in bright, bold, RED letters saying, "FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO FOR A LIVING, YOU IDIOT!!!!"

The same message has been expressed for quite a while but it seems like the letters are getting bigger and there are more exclamation points being added each time I take notice.

It has gotten so overt to ignore and has driven me to peruse the Craigslist job section extensively and fantasize about going back to school to get my masters degree.

"Is this a mid-life crisis?" my mom asks, hitting the nail on the head.

Yes. Without a doubt. This is indeed a mid-life crisis and it is as full of questions with very few answers as I had heard about.

No, I am not going to go out and buy a sports car and have an affair. In fact I am not even tempted but I did loose 20 pounds and continue to wonder what the hell I am going to be when I grow up. Which is more than a little bit pathetic for a 45 year old mom, dontcha think?

Enough with the self-loathing but I guess the universe has been trying to tell me something for quite a while. Who am I not to listen to the universe? It is not polite to ignore the universe and I think I am suffering from some very uncomfortable angst because I have been trying to.

So, blog friends, things are about to change. Perhaps drastically. How do I feel? Scared shitless!

I remember when I was working at an advertising agency doing broadcast production and my boss, the producer, sat at her desk spacing out at her view. She said, "There has to be an easier way to make a living." And, then she sighed. A big one. She was about my age then, mid 40's, and she had quit within the year.

Of course, they never hired another producer and had me do all her work and my own without giving me any more money because if there is anything that the Ad industry is good for it is exploitation. But that is a completely different blog post.

I guess my point is that it is never too late to make a change. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Calm can arise from chaos and the end of the story doesn't have to be obvious from the middle of the book.

Listen to the universe! Dammit! And, stop being such a weenie!

That is all...for now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zero, 6, 12...

I have always been fascinated by math. I am no mathematician but intuitively numbers make such perfect sense to me; the balance, the nice tight little packages, the process to get the correct answer.

You know your are slightly nuts if you find equations beautiful. But, I sort of do.

I also love the slightly mystical aspect of what different important numbers mean. Like your birthday divided by how many kids you have means....who knows but it sure is interesting.

I guess the reason why I have been pondering this lately is because Shea is 6 and Molly is 12.

I look at them and think, "When Shea was tiny, Molly was 6 the same as Shea is now. Now she is 12. Wow!" I know, I know, this doesn't seem like a cloud parting piece of info but it keeps on smacking me in the forehead.

She was 6, now she is 12 before I know it she will be 18!

He is 6 and will be 12 when Molly is 18! Interestingly, I can't even venture to think of Shea older than 12 perhaps because he is still my baby.

I guess the real point is: OMG! My kids are growing up so fast! Duh!

Shea is 6 and turning into a big boy in front of my very eyes. Just over the weekend, he swam by himself without the swimmy vest. He is completely potty trained with very few accidents. He is reading as he goes into 1st grade this fall. If someone could have predicted this for me when he was 3 and not talking, I would have sobbed with relief.

He is confident and independent and gets out there and competes with bigger older kids. In fact, as I watch him he is right in there with the rough and tumble crowd. I am poised to intervene when it gets too much and to remind him to use his words instead of his hands. But I am delighted that he is as confident as he is and isn't shy about jumping into the fray. A trait that will serve his well down the road, I believe.

On another note, I am loving age 12! 11 was so-so but 12 rocks. I was trying to describe it to my excellent mommy posse today. It's like there were all these threads of maturity flailing around and by 12 they are getting tied up nicely into sweet little bows.

Can I be more specific? I will try.

Last summer Molly did not want to do any camps. She wanted down time so I let her. I knew she was bored and she sure got cranky with all that unstructured time. So, I decided I wasn't going to let that happen again this year.

I got turned onto a program through the UW's Robinson Center for Young Scholars. It is called Summer Challenge and they offer a math course. It is 3 weeks long during the summer from 9:00 - 2:30 everyday. I know, epic!

Her math scores were good enough to get in and they also required a teacher recommendation. So, I broached the subject with her. The conversations were at times rocky.

She said, "Mom, that sure sounds like school. If you were my age, would you want to go to school for 3 weeks during the summer?"

I refused to buckle. I finally boiled it down to this and stood firm.

"My job as your mother is to present doors of opportunity for you. I would not be doing my job if I did not. For you, school is easy. Perhaps a little TOO easy and you need to be challenged. You have a gift for math and you need to be challenged to reach your full potential. I think this math camp will be a great experience."

Amazingly, she went for it. There was some typical 11 year old whining but I stood firm. The money was already paid, can't get out of it now, etc.

Oh sure, these was some bribery but basically that new 12 year old was emerging and maybe she dug it that she was accepting into a prestigious program. In fact one of only 5 girls accepted to the program out of 20 kids!

We live on a wonderful little island with great people but it is a small town. And, I want my kids to see that there is a nice, big, exciting world out there with lots of fascinating people. The world does not end at our shores.

So, now it is upon us as I hang out in the University District while she is at her math camp and how is she taking it? With the new calm and confidence of 12. Bless her heart!

12 seems to bring a new sense of contentment, confidence and self discovery; awareness of strengths and attributes are explored and realized; excitement begins to bubble about a bright future; big kid joy, pre-teen wonder and a new more grown up sense of humor.

For example: Monty Python is really, really funny!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

@#$%&*!!!!!

This is what an oil soaked wave looks like.

A teacher's good bye or the best perspective in the world

I just received this e-mail from Molly's favorite teacher of her 6th grade year. Read it and you will probably guess why he was the favorite. It has been nothing less then thrilling to watch the students go from early man all the way to Rome with many stops in between this year. Somehow this one teacher was able to capture attention and interest and inspire.

Thank goes to our own amazing Mr. D but deep gratitude and sincere thanks goes out to all the teacher out there that help our kids along the way! We could not do it without you.

**********************************************

Well, the year's all but over and I'm sitting knee-deep in the debris of another year gone. Maybe my age is catching up with me, but I'm feeling a little contemplative today, waxing a bit poetic or philosophic...and I wanted to send one last message to you all.

Your kids might have mentioned that my name in the Greek simulation is Sisyphus. He was a Corinthian king who temporarily cheated death and was punished with the task of pushing a stone up a mountain for eternity, only to have it roll back down after each push. I chose that name for a reason. Just as I told the kids when we did our literary analysis work, the finest authors do not use names lightly. So, today I stand, looking proudly into the valley, chest heaving, legs trembling from the long climb beside my life's work. Completion of that task once more.

But, I can already hear the grains of sand crunching beneath this year's stone. (Or is it the sound of gravel beneath bus tires?) The rock is already beginning to roll back down the mountain.

Nevermind.

In two short months, the dust will have settled and I will find myself, once again, at the base of that mountain, leaning into a rock, and pushing it, once again, against the pull of fate and gravity.

I wouldn't have it any other way. I like to think that Sisyphus got what he wanted and was happy to pay his eternal price. I know I am. It has been a privilege and honor to work with your children this year-to push and cajole them, to encourage them to stretch themselves, to give them the opportunities to reach and grow. To have gained the top of the mountain is as much their victory as it is mine or yours (you were there for the whole trip, too, afterall). Thank you for all your support along the way (you kids will thank you someday, too, I think).

So, before I begin the long march back down the mountain to meet my rock, I wanted to tell you all, the view from up here is beautiful. The sun is shining brightly beneath an azure sky, birds wheel through clean air and I feel great hope for the future. Your children's future.

Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mom? Can I ask you a question?

When this phrase tumbled out of Shea's mouth last week, I realized that I had never heard him say it before. Hard to imagine, I know.

Most kids ask questions and chatter non-stop...unless, of course, they have verbal communication difficulties then questions come for their eyes and hands and word approximations. Parents intuitively learn a whole new alternate language so we know how to communicate with our kids. But what about the big old impatient world?

This week, I was one of 24 field trip parents for Shea's Kindergarten visit to the Pt. Defiance Zoo. 40+ kids, 2 teachers and many, many very involved parents made the trip together on a big school bus. We were blessed with a wonderfully brief bus trip, but as we bounced along three to a seat, I heard all around me Shea's peers talking, telling jokes, sentences just rolling of their tongues, all of them taking speech very much for granted.

I wish that those usually easy to roll off the tongue sentences and phrases didn't get stuck, stilted, dropped. For Shea, sentences don't just naturally flow; each word is a labor and putting them together is a juggling act with a seemingly long drop that takes great patience for him and the listener.

Honestly, it is hard to hang in there with him to the end. I holler at Molly when she finishes his sentences because he needs to just bang through it, to practice. But I do it too. Usually in my head but sometime out loud when I can tell he is loosing the thought and getting frustrated.

The other day he said, "Remember when that was ice?" pointing to a tarp in the back yard with icky mosquito water in it. Yes, indeed, there was ice in there last winter and that he mentioned this sort of floored me.

I don't think he has ever said "Remember when..." before and I am thrilled that he is beginning to do it now. How wonder how he see his own struggles with speech?

Sometimes I say, "Shea, you are such a good talky-talky now. Do you remember when it was hard?" Wish he would answer me but he doesn't. I wonder if he will look back and think, "Talking was hard for me when I was a kid." Or will it be much more present, "Talking is hard for me and has been that way since I was a kid."

In the early days, I used to have bittersweet dreams about Shea where he was talking and saying words. Just being able to hear his sweet little voice felt like a gift.

Now, I dream about having a real conversation with Shea where he tells me what he is thinking or dreaming of or imagining or hoping to do. A conversation that is not Wii or Fudge pop related.

I hope that happens some day.

Life is not fair. They say it and I say it because it true. It isn't fair that for some kids talking is excruciatingly hard or that for some kids walking, focusing, socializing, breathing, listening is excruciatingly hard. A magic wand would be nice but all we have is our individual ways of coping.

So, no, life is not fair but I remind myself yet again, there is room in the world for Shea and all the other kids who have to work so hard to do the things that are so much easier for their peers. There is room for of them and they will be stronger, more patient, more adaptable people because of it.

I sure hope so.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hey Dude! Where your teeth?

Oh yeah.

That is a mighty fine stretch of empty space where your teeth used to be there, buster!

I didn't know that a kid could loose both front teeth in one weekend! One, sometime during Friday night while Shea slept. Ahem...we never found that one and believe it may be "processing".

The second one happened Sunday morning at breakfast. I heard a loud crunch and Shea got a freaked look on his face. Sure enough, 2nd front tooth fished out of the soggy Gorilla Munch. Tasty.

Tooth fairie was able to pay up for that one! Still a buck per tooth. Inflation has not hit the TF yet.

The adorableness factor is pretty high around here and, man, are those big boy teeth blasted through fast.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Question

What takes 60 hours...
plus another 30 to prepare...
a family striving to be quiet for 2 months so mom can study...
a long drive in the rain in Tacoma...
2 1/2 hours parked in front of a generic Dell laptop...
ear plugs to block the noise of nervous teeth grinding...
and, of course, the commitment and decision to "Just do it"?

Yes, that's right, The Washington Real Estate Salesperson exam.

And, I passed! Sure glad that is done!

Was it hard? Not really, it is no rocket science but it can be crushingly dull at time. By the end of all that I sure feel like I know it backwards and forwards though.

For what it is worth, I can check that off my list.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

God, how depressing...an e-mail I received this week

Mass e-mail from a Vashon School Board member:

The Budget Crisis: What’s At Stake for Our Vashon Schools?

Do we give up the educational program we have now; a program that balances academics, arts, and athletics and that gets students who want to go to college into fine schools? Are we willing to settle for a bare-bones program, that isn't sufficient preparation for most colleges? Can we give up classes in physics, chemistry, foreign language, math, creative writing, and much, much more?

If we let the quality of our schools go downhill, the entire island community will suffer. Who will buy homes here and who will patronize our island businesses if families cannot get a good education for their children here? Will we lose the vitality that comes from our present mix of talented people when families move away?

The state of Washington has broken its promise to provide a free, adequate public education. Our state ranks 45th in the nation, behind Mississippi, in state funding per pupil for K-12 schools. But islanders are good at taking charge of things we care about. If we care about maintaining the quality of our schools, then we have to raise the funds ourselves.

Other island communities such as San Juan and Bainbridge have formed schools foundations to sustain excellence in education in their communities. The future of our schools is at stake and we must do the same.

Our immediate fundraising goal is $500,000 – that’s what is necessary to sustain current programs and avoid devastating cuts. It’s the beginning of a commitment to develop an independent schools foundation to ensure adequate funding for our future.

Please donate what you can to help us reach our $500,000 goal.

We are looking for at least 10 families to donate $10,000 or more each.

We are looking for at least 100 families to donate $1,000 or more each.

If you cannot donate that much, please consider a donation of $500 or whatever you can.

You can donate at our website, http://www.vashonsd.org, using PayPal in monthly installments
or a single lump sum. PayPal charges us 3%, so if you want all of your donation to
benefit the schools, please drop off a check at the District Office, located on the lower floor
of Chautauqua, or mail it to: P.O. Box 547, Vashon, WA 98070.

Wow, that is so depressing. We are still trying to figure out how much to cough up this time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kindergarten concert; this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

Just taking a quick look at the really long buffet table was all the information that was needed.

It must be the end of year Kindergarten concert where a fleet of overachieving parents of 1st children (?) brought enough food for the entire school. Food is a loose description because most of it was sugary, trans-fat, preservative laden crap which looked so damn delicious it was near torture to be around it.

But first the actual concert.

Two different classrooms of Kindergartners were on stage and started off the show with a bang with "This little light of mine" which sort of seemed gospel-y and somewhat religious but I decided I just wasn't going to go there.

They took turns to sing a ditty or do a little dance. Of course, it was supremely adorable and my hat went off to the music teacher who managed all those kids and kept it fun.

How did Shea do? Well, considering most of the show had to do with singing, he didn't really participate much. Although he did clap with enthusiasm and scan the audience for us. Once he spotted us, he beamed and waved, a little intrigued by all this being up in front of everyone thing.

When he was up there next to verbally precocious kids, I loose all sense of proportion. He seems so darn behind. But, Jake says, "He is right in there in the middle; not the top, not the bottom."

The highlight was the little dance number. Starting out slow, they got into circle groups, put out their hand and made a little merry-go-round then when the chorus started they were supposed to find a wacky pose and freeze. Shea was a bit dazzled and distracted by all the antics but finally got into the swing.

They all took big bows and seemed genuinely thrilled at all the applause as I was misting up from cuteness overload.

Now, back to the table full of trashy food. I guess I am sensitive. It just seems completely counterproductive to bring sugar, sugar and more sugar to these things. Not to mention everything has wheat so Shea just gets tormented. I try and scurry and get him a plate of non-contraband; like the Rice crackers and cheese slices that I brought. But who wants that when all you see is cookies, cupcakes and brownies.

We wonder why we have an obesity problem in this country. Who wants grapes when a brownie is sitting right next to it? Ok, sure, me but not most kids.

Wish it wasn't that way. I remember a teacher putting her foot down and saying no sugary stuff for the kid's parties. Hurrah! Much grumbling from parents who think 3 desserts a day a well adjusted child makes.

NOT.

Anyway, the food storm passed and the kids whirled out of the room for recess. Taking the opportunity to twit a little bit, I was chatting with Shea's para-educator. "Will Shea be ok for 1st grade next year? I am just feeling so scared for him and am now having buyers remorse about going ahead with 1st grade."

She nodded and said, "It will be different but he is ready and it would be a real disservice to him to not let him try it because his academics are there."

Ok then, 3 more weeks of school to go then off with the old and on with the new.

Privacy? What privacy?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Learning how to put disappointment in perspective

We just got back from the "Math is Cool" state championships held in lovely Moses Lake, WA.

Hundred of kids from dozens of school come from all over the state to participate with parents, siblings and math coaches in tow.

Most participants arrive on Friday, stay at a nearby hotel and arrive bright and bushy tailed on Saturday morning ready to "math is up".

That is certainly what we did. I had the added pleasure of having the math coach with me this year, a totally terrific fellow who was an absolute pleasure to have along.

All the Vashon 6th grade families that were participating had coordinated to stay at the same hotel and meet for dinner together. Amazingly we managed to find a very nice restaurant, a serious cut above SubWay which is my usual worry about trips like these.

We hit the sack early and a certain middle schooler (who shall remain nameless) managed to sleep like a brick from 10:00 pm to 8:00 am while I tossed and turned all night having bizarre anxiety dreams.

Morning dawned sunny and warm, moods were high and enthusiastic and breakfast was predictable. We all headed off to the big show down with springy steps and palpable desires for math glory.

So, how did it all go? Well, a little bit underwhelming.

Don't get me wrong. The kids did great! They really did. 2 of the team of 4 placed in the top 8 and got trophies! But, as a team they did not place in the top 4 in their division therefore did not get ribbons.

The mood was grim but rebounded a bit when they realized that they were actually 6th. Not good enough for ribbons but certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Plenty of pats on the back followed and appropriately adult comments like, "It doesn't really matter about the winning because it is such an honor to even be here."

Which is all true. And, such a typically adult way of couching disappointment with good perspective.

Then it started me thinking. Maybe the real lesson isn't about who can do statistically probability in their heads the fastest but the ability to put all these competitions in the appropriate perspective.

Maybe the real role of these things is a lesson in handling disappointment well, in a healthy way, in a way that doesn't de-rail egos and mangle self-esteem.

I sure hope so.

I guess if I knew that was indeed true, I wouldn't be so nervous about my daughter being swept along on this ride. I mean, how damn competitive does math have to be!?

I guess the answer is in the reaction.

Does she want to do it again next year? You bet. She even said that she might prepare a bit more next year. Considering she prepared exactly ZERO this year, I think an important lesson was learned.

And, about handling the disappointment? She promptly came home and made 6th place ribbons for everyone on the team plus her coach because, after all, it was an honor to even be there.

Lesson learned.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vanity rules or confessions of a big fat loser

Middle age; perhaps the bane of our extended life span or maybe I should say the expanding waist band.

We all know it sneaks up on us. A pound here and a pound there. Slower metabolism is the culprit. The habit of finishing your kid's food because you don't want to waste it! Treating ourselves because, dammit, we deserve it. You know, just getting soft.

Goodies, lunches out, several delicious fortified beverages on occasion because well...we do indeed deserve it. It is pretty easy to just wear comfy-er pants, maybe just bump it up to achieve a roomy-er fit. Over the years though, it sure does catch up and you find you are going slower and slower because of it.

Did I deserve the extra 20 that was sitting uncomfortably around my middle? Well, I myself put it there over time so, yes, I did. But in all honesty it was taking a serious toll. Vanity? You Betcha! Health? Yikes! Sluggishness compounded by lack of tone compounded by, "OMG! I am 45! If I don't do something now, I may never be able to pull it together!"

Everywhere you turn there is inspiration AKA exasperation.

Take a look at Michelle Obama. No waif of a woman but healthy, strong and firm. I would pay big bucks to have toned arms like her. As she talks about childhood obesity and bringing important focus to this grave epidemic, us adults just get fat and fatter. Why would our kids stay fit and watch their weight when as they see their parents chomp on chips and buttered popcorn in front of the TV every night?

Well, all this guilt and the sharp unforgiving corners of brutal reality started me thinking. I guess just taking walks with my beloved GGFs was not enough. Obviously. So when a pal started hitting the gym in the morning instead of walking, I was intrigued.

Ok, honestly, I was annoyed. But she begged me to join her just to try it out. Nothing stressful. Layered in forgivingly stretchy and hiding clothes, I tentatively dipped my toe into a work out routine, 3 days a week.

My friend encouraged me to start out slow. Maybe warm up with a little treadmill, perhaps jump on the Elliptical machine to burn some fat, she enthused. There is a full weight room downstairs, might as well work my arms and do some crunches. If there is time, maybe take a dip in the pool, hot tub, sauna! Shower up and off to the normal gyrations of the day.

Wow. Hey! It wasn't so bad. In fact, it felt sort of wonderful to feel that trickle of sweat run down my back. Delicious, in fact. Even better than that bag of chips!

It didn't take long to feel completely different. Notice I say, "Feel" vs. "Look". I immediately felt kind of empty and purged and deliciously tired...in a good way.

I learned to stoke up my i-pod with pop tunes that my tween help me pick out. And, when I crank up the Lady Gaga tunes, close my eyes and sweat, I am the happiest camper on the block. This is my mommy time and I defend and protect it aggressively!

So, the lbs. were trickling away but DAMMIT! I started wanting some big impact. I started to want to feel transformed. So, I started taking a good hard look at my intake. Portion control and those -o-so-delicious-fortified beverages that I love so much.

Would I be willing to forgo micro brews for less flab? Well, yes. So I cut back then I just plain old quit. Cold turkey.

I can hear the collective sharp intake of breath from all those who know me and, perhaps, from those who don't. Quitting drinking was the big one for me. I began by not drinking on weeknights and for the first couple of weeks it was hard. 5:00 hit and my hand just felt empty without a brewski. So, I said to myself, "Only weekends." And, then, later, only if I wanted to.

I know, I know, hard to believe because I love to drink. I like the taste and the kooky buzz but let's admit it folks, a lot of time drinking can be self medication. And, I just decided that the medicine wasn't worth my spare tire.

So, I toss off one habit and took up another. A healthier habit. One that is literally putting years on my life. The amazing thing about habits is that it gets easier, you slip into auto pilot mode and you miss it if you stop.

To make a short story longer; I have lost 20 lbs. I went from a roomy size 14 to a satisfyingly snug size 8. I sleep like a brick. I don't feel like a lumbering lummux anymore. I am a good role model for my family who is coming along in my footsteps.

Do I work out everyday? Pretty much. On weekends? Uh...yes. I am sort of embarrassed to say it but "Hell yes, it is really mellow at the gym on weekends!" I guess I am obsessed.

So all in all, I feel like a new person, transformed, energized like I have my mo-jo back. How long did it take. Honestly, only about 3 months which doesn't seem like a very long time to transform your life.

Will I get bored and go back to my slovenly way? I am not sure. I hope not. The habit is ingrained now and I have successfully incorporated it into my schedule. I miss it if I skip a day. And, would certainly miss my new self.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drill, baby drill? More like "Spill, baby spill!"

Heartbreaking!

They say this one will be worse than the Exxon Valdez. How did that turn out?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Special mommy lunch; sanity over tomato soup

I have said it so many time that I am a broken record. But since I have your attention, I will say it again. Connecting with other parents of kids with special needs makes all the difference. Not all THE difference. ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

It has taken awhile but I have finally pulled together my special mommy posse and we had lunch together yesterday at a local restaurant.

You know how it goes, its that table over there that will not turn over, been there all afternoon not having desert, talking, talking, talking and getting their glasses filled and refilled with water.

Sounds annoying perhaps but it was so nice and so needed. I recommend it to everyone!

I feel lucky to have found them and spending the afternoon listening to the play by play of each of their stories about their child's IEP meeting reminded me that no matter how isolated we feel, there are others out there feeling the same way.

The trick is finding them.

It took a while. Our kids do not really know each other, being years, grades and genders apart. But we speak the same language. I always learn so much and am fortified and reinforced by them, the stories, the passion and the pain.

We are devoted cheering squads for the good news and, yes, there is always good news. And, we are the dedicated backup fighters quick to take sides strongly with our posse member against all comers. The school district. Teachers that don't get or are too tired/lazy/indifferent to practice inclusion. Parents that shun. Kids that exclude.

All of the above got our well deserved wrath yesterday. Happily, joyously we had the special - perspective and I could probably eat it every single day if it was possible.

Thank you ladies. My feeble words could never completely explain how important that was to me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

IEP Meeting de-brief

Done for another year. What did I learn? That I am getting better at these meetings? Yes, I am. Although I still dread them and spend weeks prepping and stressing out.

How did it go? Pretty darn good really. I have to say, the people on Shea's team do seem to know him and they do listen to us. Which is always good.

Any surprises? Yes, no ESY which got me raising my eyebrows but I let it pass. The ESY last summer was minimal and so lame that I ended up saying, "Why bother?"

See! I don't fight every single battle. I pick and choose. In all honesty, I believe it is a budget decision and there are going to be cuts everywhere. So, I am going to let that one go. Thank god, Shea is doing well enough that I feel like I can.

Also, no special transportation. Really? Bye-bye special bus? I asked, "Is this because Shea isn't "special enough"?" And, they sort of agreed, yes. Ok. I don't really have a problem with this since we live close enough to the school. I let that one go too.

The battle I will go to the mat for is placement for next year. And, they seemed to have heard me or at least pretended. Of course, they do not even know who will be teaching 1st grade next year. They always say that and I feel for them but I am still plugging for multi-age and I will write an epic placement document to submit to make sure they are all double-triple aware.

They listened to me about the harm of too much rigidity and what that would do for Shea's progress. They agreed that too much structure might make him recoil and back away. I was emphatic about how hard we have all worked to get him to the place that he is at and that I am scared to death that if we push too hard it will backfire. I also reasserted the fact that Shea likes to make strong connections with people and that if he likes a teacher, he will want to please them. Strong connections are key but it takes him a little while and 3 years with the same teacher would be beneficial for him. All my reasoning in support of multi-age.

They heard me, I think.

I know I am a squeaky wheel. I know that I get extra grease because of it. Am I proud of it? No. In fact, I am sort of pissed that it is the way it is. Yes, I am a strong advocate, articulate and confident but why should my kid get better "stuff" because of that?

It isn't fair. I know, I know, life is rarely fair.

I sometimes try to imagine if there is a big red flag on my kids files.

Warning: handle with care! Mommy bites and won't let go! Use tranquilizer gun!

Yes, there probably is. I am a product of the system. I am as pushy as I have to be to get what my boy needs. But what about the other parents? What if it isn't in their nature to fight and push? What if they don't have the time, education, articulation or even command of the English language?

Who suffers? That's right. The kids. The whole system sucks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Shea!

My baby turned 6 today. That's right. 6 years ago today is when I got to meet me boy face to face for the first time.

He was sleepy and they had me wake him to eat. Could he be annoyed that we had to take him a week early? His temp was not rising at first and I had to hold him skin to skin to get him warm. He had trouble latching on and I had to pump and feed him with a syringe. When I think back now it seems like a movie, someone else's story.

He is getting to be a big boy now. He lost his first tooth a week or so ago. He is reading better and better everyday and will be moving on to 1st grade next fall.

When I look at my kids, both of them, I feel like they are the best thing I have done with my life. The incredible joy they bring is only outweighed by the heavy responsibility I feel to help them develop into the wonderful people that I know they are.

Happy birthday, baby boy! Because of you, I am a much better person than I ever was before.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I feel it coming...

Like a big dark cloud. Like a herd of stampeding Wildebeasts. Like a chilly fog that has wrapped itself around everything this week despite the beautiful spring like weather.

Depression? Angst? Annoyance? Mid-life crisis?

No, IEP meeting barreling down on us at the end of the week.

I feel it coming, everyone is going to sit there and nod and look at us with compassion and then explain why Shea can't be in the multi-age class for 1st grade. Even though his specialists think it would be the right spot for him. Even though we have 3 years experience with multi-age and feel it would be the right spot for him. And, even though when pressed some of his IEP team think it might be the right place for him.

The reason?

Because it is just so darn popular and everyone wants multi-age. For those of you who may be confused, the mulit-age program here is 3 classes of 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders with one teacher each. The student stays with the same teacher for the 3 years and moves through different levels of being helped and then helping. I saw it in action. The mentoring that happens is quite wonderful and happens organically. The kids just find it natural to protect and help the younger kids and, of course, the younger kids don't need to be told to emulate the older kids.

The format is more fluid, less "sit at your desk and shut up", more more variety.

The IEP team is going to point out Shea's distract-ability and how he needs extra help with direction taking. I am going to point out that he is an enthusiastic learning when motivated. They are going to point out how multi-age kids need to be self-motivated and self directed and that Shea needs more structure. And, I am going to want him in that program anyway.

Yes, I am biased. Jake says he just wants Shea to be comfortable where ever he ends up.

In all honesty, when they say he needs structure, I am afraid they are going to try and shove him with this one teacher who is so structures and cold that I think it will backfire. She makes the kids sit the entire AM doing workbooks at their desks by themselves and punishes them if they do not finish by not letting them go outside for recess.

Some say she is old school. Some call it structure but my sensibilities are horrified. So horrified that I am going to break the cardinal rule of parents when talking to the school.

Insist that my kid does not get this one teacher.

This oppositional behavior from Shea is coming out more and more. If you want him to do something, heaven help you if you just ask him to do it, he won't. One must be creative and motivate him in others ways. Just laying down the law does not work. Is that what they are calling structured teaching?

Our wonderful IEP case manager is pulling together a list of characteristics for kids in multi-age. And, pulling together a list of what all the Kindergarten teachers see as beneficial traits for multi-age.

See? Do you feel it coming too?

I guess a parent has to pick their battles with the school too. I guess the question is: how much of a full on onslaught do we want to provoke? How much of a pain in the ass do we want to be?

If multi-age is so darn popular, maybe they should expand the program!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Much hilarity ensued...

I am sure everyone is just dying to hear how the big fundraiser went! Well, it was a rockin' success. We raised $1000 in 3 hours mainly by stuffing cash into any one dozens of gloriously decorated boots! Way to go Vashon! You really know how to party!

As you can see from this picture, I was in rare form and certainly willing and quite able to make a fool out of myself for a good cause.

Ah...good old small town living.

So, did I sing? As the evening stretched out it was becoming more and more obvious that there was no way I was going to get out of doing a tune.

Hence, "Tainted Love" and the accolades are still rolling in!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Assessments, feedback and placement: oh my!

We had the big "Feedback" meeting yesterday. Because Shea is turning 6, the school puts him through all the assessments again to determine what services he will qualify for. The feedback meeting it to share the good, bad and the ugly with the parents and the team.

Jake and I went and Molly babysat Shea and his little buddy Honon during the meeting.

Shea will qualify for speech but does not qualify for adaptive/cognitive anymore. His description is changed from DD Developmental Delay to CD Communication Disorder.

Apparently, he falls within age appropriate range for all adaptive and cognitive testing and I am taking that as very good news indeed.

He will get extra accommodation for following directions but basically the consensus was that he is academically ready for 1st grade.

Social will still be a piece for him but that is coming along.

Basically, the meeting was night and day from the 3 year old meeting which I sobbed through. We have sincerely come along way.

It was encouraging to hear his teachers talk about and show us the progression on his work. He came into Kindergarten barely able to spell his own name and now is banging out legible sentences. Marveling the teacher with his reading and sounding out unfamiliar words phonetically.

Now, we just have to do battle on placement.

The formal IEP meeting will be in 2 weeks and I need to do some homework on what teacher or classroom I feel would be best. My inclination is to go for the multi-age program because that is what I am familiar with and Molly had such a wonderful 1st/2nd/3rd grade experience. But, Shea is not Molly and it may not be the right fit.

Some serious thinking to do now but basically our boy is coming along.

I would say he is the successful product of early intervention. For those of you who may not remember, Shea didn't even say his first word until well past 3 years old.

We have really come a long way! But we are not done. He will still need much more speech to work on articulation and he may need tutoring in school as he gets older but the worry that he can't mainstream is pretty much dead.

Sincere thanks to all his teachers and therapists who have made these last 3 years so productive for him. I will never, ever forget any of you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trend spotting: high fashion rubber art boots

In true Vashon style, they came out of their houses, left their gardens, stumbled to town and showed up at our "Bling the Boots" art party.

Some people jumped right in. Others were sort of confused and needed some urging. But, boy! Did they deliver!

We tried to keep the hot glue gun burns to a minimum as it was an all ages event.

We took over the big excellent craft table at Books by the Way. Jenni was kind enough to host the event and get us set up.

I had been gathering bling for weeks.

Many trips to grannies for wacky little crafty do-dads to glue onto boots; lace, electrical tape, fringe, beads, buttons.

Mission accomplished.

I gathered bags of bugs and gems and frogs and flowers all just looking for a new home on the art boots islanders created for the much anticipated Rubber Boot Fashion Show April 9th at The Red Bicycle, 8:00 - 11:00.

Ok, people! There is still plenty of time to create your own masterpiece and support BARC all in one fell swoop!

We had so much fun, plus there were a few people who couldn't make it so we're going to do another one, April 6th, 12-2 at Books by the Way.

This has been such a fun and motivating event to work on. The buzz is happening and people are jumping on the bandwagon!

How about you!?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vashon Idol & Rubber Boot Fashion Show - April 9th

When I moved to Vashon 10 years ago, I noticed something right away:

1.) Us islanders sure have a lot in common; mainly a high tolerance for pretty much anything - as long as we can live here. And, 2.) We are all a bunch of notorious hams and talented show offs!

Therefore, I am sure you will not want to miss this much-anticipated all ages event: The Vashon Idol Talent Contest & Rubber Boot Fashion Show at The Red Bicycle on April 9th, 8:00 – 11:00 pm.

Join us for a fun and entertaining evening! Show off your high-fashion wellies on the “cat walk” plus see all the one-of-a-kind art boots created by island artists. Three discerning judges will pick the winning art boots with audience participation. The winning pair will be auctioned off to support BARC which is making its next big push on the next phase of the master plan.

All proceeds will go toward a $5,000 challenge grant for BARC (Burton Athletic Recreation Center) secured by freelance grant writer, Allison Shirk who has been working tirelessly for the Vashon Parks District with excellent results.

We are also thrilled to announce a mystery “Fashion-ista” to hostess the evening! Who is she? Nobody knows! You will just have to show up to find out!

How about you songbirds! Who will get the title of – Vashon Idol for the evening? A professional karaoke machine with 4,000 songs assures that all will be able to belt it out with the best of them.

Knowing Vashon, the competition may be fierce but don’t let that stop you! Come on out and ham it up with the best (or worst) our island has to offer! Or just be part of the highly amused and entertained audience! Either way, this is the party for you!

Kids will need to scram by 11:00 but adults older than 21 will be allowed to continue until the Red Bicycle sends them packing.

So warm up those pipes and dust off these boots and mark your calendar for this fun and frolicsome community event!

To enter either contest or for more info contact Shelley at 206-463-3256 or freshground@comcast.net

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bubble goes to kindergarten

Our beloved SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) has been threatening to make a school visit for some time.

Logistics made it difficult until lately because Bubble now lives on Vashon! She spends long weekends out here and sees Shea every Saturday or Sunday depending on what is going on.

I blubber my thanks and more thanks every once in a while because I don't have to drive Shea to the big city every week anymore and we still get to see our beloved, Bubble. I feel so dang lucky!

With all the shake up with placement for next year, she offered to go in an see how he was doing and give me her opinion of whether moving onto 1st grade would be a good idea.

She visited yesterday and then called immediately and gave me a long, detailed report.

Shea listens in class! He pays attention! He converses with his classmates! And, he raises his hand to answer questions!

Bubble says he gets along well with his typically developing classmates and they seem to like him. I mean, who wouldn't, right? But she says he smiles all the times and greets other enthusiastically, is in good humor and he draws others to him.

To say that I literally gasped with relief and joy is an understatement. For a long time I have wanted to be a fly on the wall, to see him objectively, but my presence is just too big and encumbering when I am there. Shea is way too aware of me and my being there effects how he acts.

Bubble is leaning more and more toward 1st grade for our sweet boy. And, unless some of the standardized assessments paint a wildly different picture, I think we will go for it.

Part of it is: raising the bar high. Last year, when I was sure Shea wasn't ready for Kindergarten but the school thought he should give it a try, I was joyously amazed at his progress and how far he has come. I am thinking that the tendency to coddle and protect, although understandable, might hold him back.

If his very familiar specialists feel he is ready to blaze a new trail, who am I to contradict? I am the worry wart. I am the frettful mommy always with the "What if?" rolling around in my head.

Maybe that is what happens, after a while you learn to listen. Is that age? Is that wisdom? Is that fatigue and relief that someone else is making decisions?

I have decided it doesn't matter.

A dear friend had a little dinner party the other night at her place on the beach with all my favorite people. There were tons of kids and Shea was down there doing all that they were doing; canoeing, throwing rocks in the water, helping to build a beach fire.

I was watching from the deck and thought, "Shea is 6 and Molly is almost 12." In 6 more years she will be 18." There is something about these numbers. I know I will never stop being a mother but I feel like 2/3 of my heavy lifting is done with Molly and 1/3 with Shea.

And, then that soft, sticky, cloud of doubt descends again. I know that Molly will be well prepared for life at 18. Oh, don't worry, I will still be checking in on her no matter what. But Shea? What will he be like at 18?

If this, raising the bar high strategy is any indicator, he will be just fine. Maybe not quite as independent as his sister but who knows.

There is a secure and happy place in this world for Shea. A place for us all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Bling the Boots" free art party @ Books by the Way in Vashon March 27th

Sometimes a really wonderful fund raising event comes along and everything just falls into place.

The ideas roll off your tongue and plop happy and fully formed in your collaborators midst, decisions get made matter of factly, nobody has power struggle problems and the goal always stays in site.

Because I am a steward for the Skate Park or BARC (Burton Adventure Recreative Center) I got pulled in to help with the event. And, I am glad to do it because the Vashon Parks department secured a $5000 challenge grant for the next phase of the project which will offer multiple upgrades plus a large outdoor skating area.

The event is...drum roll please....

The Vashon Idol & Rubber Boot Fashion Show! :-)

I did not come up with this idea but it is so perfect I am giddy.

It will be held at a local bar and eatery, The Red Bicycle on Friday night, April 9th, 8:00 - 11:00. It will be all ages until 11:00 then all the under-agers have to scram.

So, I started thinking, "Hmmmm....we better have some good entries for the fashion show." and a plan started swirling and formulating in my brain. Why not have a party and decorate a bunch of boots? We could auction some off!

Their eyes goggled when I brought it up to Molly and her friends and suddenly the party outgrew my kitchen.

So, we are having the party at the charming bookstore on Vashon called Books by the Way where the lovely and talented owner has a huge craft table all set up. We have multiple hot glue guns at the ready and will supply literally pounds of plastic gems and all sorts of bugs, frogs, fish and butterfies plus ribbon, paints, lace and anything else we can think you would need to "bling up" boots.

This it the creative art process in action, people! Join us if you can!

**************************************************************************************

We need creative people to gather and “bling” some rubber boots. Join us at Books by the Way on March 27th, 12:00 – 2:00 and help us transform a whole bunch of ordinary recycled Granny’s rubber boots of all sizes into fabulous fashion “wellies” worthy of the catwalk.

Show your support for BARC and utilize Book by the Way’s excellent craft zone where free art supplies, plenty of artistic doodads, multiple hot glue guns and tons of inspiration with be on hand. Feel free to bring your own boots and “blings” if so desired.

All boots will be displayed at Books by the Way until the upcoming “Rubber Boot Fashion Show” where they will be “modeled” by islanders, judged and the winners auctioned off.

All proceeds will go toward a $5,000 challenge grant for the BARC (Burton Adventure Recreation Center) as they make a big push toward the next phase of building.

For more information call Jennie at Books by the Way 206-463-2696 or Shelley Dillon at 206-463-3256.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rep. Bunning says "Tough shit..."

When confronted with the reality of stopping the Unemployment Bill that would extend unemployment benefits and COBRA to millions of Americans, Rep. Jim Bunning of Kentucky says, "Tough shit!"

Wow. I wonder if he has drowned any kittens lately too. Heartless bastard.

What is a diagnosis?

I am probably thinking about this because Shea is coming up on his big "6th" birthday and he will be crunched through a whole battery of new testing to define his needs for his new Elementary school IEP.

I was thinking about a diagnosis and what if they decide to change Shea's. Wondering if it will change how I see his needs. Wondering if it will change our plans. Wondering if it will piss me off again.

I have been nervous about this for a while. Typically, I hate standardized testing and the attempt to pigeon hole a child with some test that someone made up and charged the school big bucks for. In reality, these tests are just a brief little window into how the child is doing that day, at that minute. And, may not even be a very accurate one either. But, it is all we have.

It is understandable that the school needs to put the child is some sort of measurable framework. I get all that. But it still rubs the wrong way.

Although, it is sort of frightening how a person gets used to it over time. Now, I am anxiously looking forward to these tests to just see where Shea lands in with his peers. Looking for some clues on how we should proceed with placement for next year. Hoping for a "good news" that mainstreaming will be the obvious choice yet they will not try to deny him speech services. All of the above.

How things have changed. When Shea went through this at 3, I resented every single standardized test. I resented the pigeon-holing. I resented everything. Obviously, I was in a pretty bad place at the time or I might not have literally cried through that 3 year old IEP meeting.

I felt the tests were superseding what I knew instinctively. I felt the test were given more weight than what I saw and felt. I wondered how a non-verbal child could take a predominantly verbal test. And, yes, I was pissed! Pissed at the world. Pissed that we had to do this. Pissed that my kid was being pigeon-holed and slapped with a pre-determined future. Pissed at myself because surely I must have done something wrong. Pissed at the whole damn show.

So, now looking back. Did I cry through the whole IEP meeting because I was pissed? Probably. But, unfortunately, not as simple to define as that.

Parents who have gone through this know. They know that it is a sometimes toxic emotional stew that we fester in as we get used to the idea that our child has special needs and what the hell that will mean for the future.

Literally; a stew. Anger, fear, guilt, indignation, skepticism, disbelieve, annoyance, anxiety, shame.

I remember sitting there needing a constant supply of kleenex. I could not keep the tears in check. I am not a person who cries often. Sure, I will tear up at movies and books and be overwhelmed with emotion at time but I have never NOT been able to stop crying. I took tissue after tissue and shoved them wadded up, snotty and drenched in my pocket.

Over heated, over-stimulated, hyper-emotional, near panicked with fear; that is why I could not stop crying. So, saying I was pissed is a gross over simplification although not completely untrue.

I won't be like that this time, I know. I have learned so much. I am not sitting in the role as a passive person anymore. Advocacy changes all that. Connecting with other parents and organizations change all that. Seeing that life lessons teach us even when it is sometimes sad, changes all that.

But it hasn't been easy, it never is.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The earth is a shakin'!

After Haiti, I thought about it. After Chili, I really started thinking about it.

Living on the Pacific Rim in an earthquake zone, the likely potential of an earth shake up never quite leaves your worry sheet.

Oh sure, the Pacific NW is beautiful and mild and we all those cute ferries and Orcas and stuff. But we also happened to have built this beautiful city right on top of the most active fault line on the planet.

Not very good planning. But we are humans after all, what does that have to do with long term planning? During those early rough and tumble Seattle days, they were way to busy selling camping and mining gear to the gold feverish at an obscene profit to think about long term. In fact, if there is anything about the NW that I can pin point is that they didn't do much thinking about long term at all. Like the I-5 double decker viaduct built on marshland for example. Oh, and the monorail.

Hense back to imminent big one.

I sometime have nightmares about earthquakes. That I am somewhere and the earth starts flopping around like someone is jumping on the bed. It is terrifying. Normal everyday objects become missiles and I wake up with that sick feeling in my stomach.

I haven't had one in a while. But reality is filling in the blank space for me nicely.

I was certainly around for the last good sized one here in Seattle, I guess it was 2000. I had just gone through the Battery Street tunnel, yet another place you wouldn't want to be during a quake, and was heading up to Greenwood. I watched people sidewalk surfing. That is exactly how it looked. I watched telephone poles swaying. I looked around at the other people in the cars and, yes, they were terrified too.

There really isn't much you can do. Strap your house to the foundation. Know which wall in your house is a bearing wall.

Pray if you're the praying type.

I am not.

But I do get the idea sometimes that the earth is mighty pissed off at us. Couldn't blame her really with all the shallow regard we have been heaping on it for say... a very long time.

My thoughts are with my human neighbors is Haiti and Chile. It might just be use someday.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

We say "Weeeeee!" for Wii

Being late adopters, it takes us a while to jump on the bandwagon. But for Christmas, I buckled and got a Wii for the family.

First, I barely knew what I was buying and if it wasn't for my tech savvy 11 year old I would have given up with annoyance.

But the contraption has arrived and has become a much bigger presence in our house than the little box implied.

Secondly, who likes the Wii? Oh, I tried it out, did some bowling, even through my back out a bit from being to vigorous (the first Wii injury in the house?) but the blush is off now and I couldn't care less.

Shea is the undisputed Wii king with Molly popping in every once in a when her Facebook chat is not as stimulating as usual. Although, it seems to devolve into argument which was definitely NOT the idea.

But Jake is the surprise. I was hoping he would like the tennis or baseball but WOW! does he like tennis and baseball! Nightly Jake and Shea battle it out on the courts. Shea has always been amazingly athletic with good reflexes and excellent hand/eye coordination but I didn't really think it would roll over to the Wii. I mean it is just a blasted computer game right?

I guess not.

Jake says it is really fun to play with Shea because he is so good. In fact too good to bowl against as he bowls a consistent 200. Is that even possible?

So, out of a box and magically plugged into the TV, my boys connect nightly with wicked overhead slams and amazing cross court volleys.

Psychologically, I think it helps Jake's winter blehs. And, I know it is some excellent bonding glue for Shea who admittedly is a bit of a mommy's boy.

While Shea and Jake tear up the courts from the comfort of our TV room, Molly sends me abbreviated comments on Facebook chat.

"Hi!" and "How r u?" she types from the other room. I always drop what I am doing and answer back although I can't get the hang of the jargon.

In a fit of worry, I asked her, "Will you always be honest with me if I ask who you are chatting with?" She hedges as graphic fears reach up my gullet, coupled with visions of the creepiest creepster somehow getting access to my beautiful daughter.

Annoyed, she changes the subject, thinking that I am being nosy about what boy she likes or what so and so said in the hall and then "OMG! She said what?". It prompts yet another talk about creeps and keeping yourself safe and not chatting with people you don't know. She nods, grave, a bit scared at my seriousness.

And, when she is at school sometimes, I check to see what she has been up to.

I am a spy...for love.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The brainy math girl posse

I was trying to describe my middle schoolers group of friends recently. Trying to define where she fit in, if she does at all. All I could come up with was that she hangs with the smart, kooky brainy kids. Kooky in the way that she is shamelessly ok with being clowny and possibly obnoxious at times but definitely unique and an individual. She has found some similarly kooky and irreverent kids and seems to have a solid thing going.

Perhaps we could call it the "odd duck" posse but what a posse to have.

I know there is mean girl stuff happening. Even in our bucolic little small town. Most of these kids have known each other since they were teenie. I know that the odd duck posse is very easy to point and laugh at although I think they are a little afraid to bug them too much. Who knows what they are capable of? Somthing horrendously embarrassing, no doubt.

But the odd duck posse seems to hang together for the joy and fun of it, not for preservation or protection. Thank god! But it is early daze yet.

Today the 6th grade math kids go off to the Math is Cool competition. This will be the 3rd year that my middle schooler has participated. The amazing lack of nerves and bold, raw confidence shows what it feels like to have a couple of these under your belt. She is "fired up and ready to go".

This year there are 2 full classes of advanced placement math. That is like 45 kids out of 110. What is that? Around 40%? When the try outs came down for the competition, my brainy math girl got the highest score in her one class shocking more than a few of the other kids and maybe the teacher too.

Needless to say she got her place on the team. They assemble 4 teams of 4 with 2 alternates. 16 kids out of the 45. I am sure there was disappointment out there. Wish it didn't have to be that way. Frightening how we hone these kids to be so competitive, putting them through the paces. Scary really. For some of them, competition is all there really is. We try to keep it a bit more balanced around here but it is hard.

So, 2 girls and 2 boys on each team. Thankfully, at least, they make sure there is gender equality for this thing! The other girl on my brainy math girls team is a kid she has known forever, a very competitive kid and not really a friend. Could she be considered one of the mean or popular kids? Probably, although I don't know. My kid's exuberance and joie de vive probably just bugs the hell out of her. Can't say I blame her. And, she is from a much more conservative family; politically, socially, everything.

Initially there was some dismay, so I tried to turn it on its head, "Because you guys are on the same team, all that competitiveness can be directed out! You guys will be a very strong team partly because she is so driven. She won't be competing against you but with you."

"Good point." she says and hasn't brought it up since. Hope that is how the other kid sees it too.

Because, you see, I am going to have to go strictly by hearsay. Again, I will not be going to help out. I wanted to, don't get me wrong. I wanted to real bad but my kid said no. But I went for the 4th grade one so I can pretty much imagine it.

So, I will hoover up the details, the gory and the glory, and send positive math thoughts and happy equation wishes to her all day! And, of course, faithfully report back.

Good luck brainy math kids! Life is so much more than winning a contest but, hey, winning feels pretty good! Go get 'em!

Update:

Just got the word; 1st place 3 years in a row!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Camelia. Camelia? Camelia!!!

Here in the NW we are skipping through the warmest late winter in our history. Or since anyone decided to keep track. A real honest to goodness El Nina year.

Unfortunately for our dear friends to the north in Canada, they have been forced to truck and helicopter in snow to Whistler for the Olympics. Can you smell the bacon burning on that one? So much for reducing our carbon footprint.

Oh well. I guess that will be the last time anyone tries to put on any Winter Olympics in a maritime climate zone.

So, all you folks out there still slogging through snow, I feel for you. It probably doesn't make it better but it makes me feel less guilty.

Instead of tossing out pointless platitudes, I am going to share my Camelia which does usually bloom in late winter or very early Spring around here but never so gloriously until now.

You know, some things take patience and this Camelia is one of them. I have had this baby for years, forgotten how many, perhaps 5. Bought it in a 1 gallon pot with 1 bloom on it that was so heavy it bent the whole thing down Charlie Brown Christmas Tree style.

But look at it now! I have planted it up against a south facing wall of the house that is somewhat protected. And, because I have loved it and actively NOT killed it, it is rewarding me with the boldest, pinkiest display of its life. Count them! Hard to. Lots of blossoms.

So, I have now decided I don't really mind getting older if I can see slow to medium growing stuff mature and bestow their gifts. And, its a damn good thing too. There is always another birthday around the corner!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

That time of year. Spring? No IEP meetings.

Shea is almost 6. This post is not about his birthday although we will be thinking of that quite soon.

6 is when the public schools crunch each kid with an IEP through all the developmental tests again plus reading, writing and math. They did the whole gambit of testing when he was three and now they will do it again for 6. Boy. Have we learned a thing or two since then.

Every year there is a mandatory IEP meeting near your child's birthday. Incidentally, a parent can request an IEP meeting whenever they want. Anytime you feel you need to share something important with your child's team, you can request a meeting.

But this year it is different. He is 6!

This morning we had the 1st of 3 meetings that will all happen within the next 6 weeks. It was the "intake" meeting asking us what we wanted to focus on, etc. General impressions, comments.

The 2nd will be after all the battery of tests are done and they will go over all the results. That was the one 3 years ago, where they pointed to a chart to show that Shea landed "less than average intelligence" for one of the test. Ugh.

The 3rd will be the IEP meeting that formally puts into writing everything we've decided.

Whew... Epic. No wonder they only do it every 3 years.

It was a lively meeting and several thoughts popped into my brain to share.

Like scheduling. They keep on suggesting 8:00 AM for these meetings! But Shea doesn't go to school until 9:00. So, how are both parents supposed to go to the meeting? The theory being that for teachers to be involved it has to be before school.

I think we all remember the main lesson I got out of doing this whole thing when Shea was 3. Never go to the meetings alone!

So, I gently insisted that 8:00 AM meeting isn't going to work. I suggested maybe it wasn't that important to have the teacher in the room with us at the same time as long as his case worker was there.

Sure enough. We worked around it. The teachers met early and then Shea's case worker and the psychologist met both Jake and I at 9:00.

But now they want to do the 2nd meeting at 8:00 again! Sorry, same answer. How many times do I have to explain this? I guess I don't blame them for asking but "hello?".

I did offer to do it after school and have Molly watch Shea. They probably won't like that but I don't really care! They can figure it out.

Another weird thing, sort of good I guess, that came up is the Kindergarten teacher thinks Shea may be ready for 1st grade next year.

Just as a reminder: the plan was to do another round of full day Kindergarten next year. This year was just a try-out and I was relieved to know that he was going to get another year to work on expressive language and social stuff, etc.

But now they say that there may not be full day Kindergarten next year. So they are sort of encouraging us to think about that but I have mixed feelings.

On one hand I am happy that Shea appears to be at grade level for academics and that the teacher sees him that way. Although all this upcoming testing will really help determine if he really is.

Yet his social skills and some behavioral stuff continue to come into play regularly. I am nervous about sending him off where so much more is going to be expected of him. Worried that he won't be able to succeed, that he will get lost in the shuffle

And, there lies my other concern, maybe I am the one that is holding him back. Maybe we need to push him a bit more, set the bar higher. I mean, so far it has worked out well this year.

Earlier than expected he could be part of the multi-age 1, 2, 3rd program that Molly went through. I know all the teachers. I love the program; it is very flexible and creative. Simply wonderful, in fact. I know the exact teacher. He would be hanging with the big kids and emulating up.

So, we are chewing on big things tonight and for the next few weeks. But I don't have to make it alone. I immediately sent off the news to his OT, SLP for comment with good observations and excellent points coming in as I write.

Oh, and another thing; the teachers say he raises his hand repeatedly in class to answer questions!
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