Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Me and Mini-Me

(I have purposefully left Charlotte out of this blog but not because I don't want all of this for her it; is just that she is a more private person than James and I respect that... well most of the time!)
I think as parents we always hope that our kids will learn from our shortcomings.  I do. I hope that my kids see that they are the captains of their destiny no matter where that will take them.  I hope that they have the courage to believe in their inner beauty and not listen to the swarms of people lining up to tell them they are not pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough... ENOUGH!! Please listen to one of my favorite GLEE (yes I am a GLEEK!) smashups... I will wait... I Feel Pretty/ Unpretty mashup
I am a product of what other people think of me.  My parents and family love me unconditionally but the world is much crueler!  It has taken me a LOOOOOOOONG time to stop listening to them and start listening to the inner me.  It wasn't until I heard Shane Koyczan do his To This Day poem that it really hit me... I need to define my own beauty, not follow what others believe about beauty.  I want this more than anything for my children.  I want them to ignore everything that society is telling them about BEAUTY and just to BE BEAUTIFUL, whatever that means to them.  When someone says to James, "You look just like your mum," I don't want him to be clouded by other people's perception of my physical appearance but his understanding of who I am in his world.  Following his own understanding of what that means.
Shane Koyczan talks, in his wonderful poem, about a girl who grows up feeling "ugly" because kids teased her constantly in school. "...to this day despite a loving husband she doesn't think she’s beautiful because of a birthmark that takes up a little less than half of her face kids used to say she looks like a wrong answer that someone tried to erase but couldn't quite get the job done and they’ll never understand that she’s raising two kids whose definition of beauty begins with the word mom..." >>the full poem here<<  
So to Jamesie I say, "I love you and you are my very special "mini-me."  Just be true to yourself and you will go far!!  Don't listen to those who want to say mean things to tear you down.  You are a HUGE part of my definition of BEAUTY!! Just remember to take me with you so I don't have to miss any part of your amazing and beautiful journey."
Me and James at approximately the same age.  Freaky isn't it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

...I Have Just Found 10,000 Ways That Didn't Work... (Thomas Edison)

Failure isn't a 4 letter word.  It isn't something that should be feared.  Failure is often the best avenue to success.  Sounds oxymoronic, doesn't it?  Failing... I don't even like how the word sounds.  Now, when I am talking about failure, I am not talking about kids who don't study for a test and fail the test.  That isn't failure, it is just plain lazy and disrespectful of the teacher's time.  I am talking about learners who take educational risks and miss the mark.
I believe in this country failure is something that is viewed as a bad thing.  It, in fact, can be a very beneficial experience.  >>click here<<  But are we progressive enough to allow our kids to bring home a failing grade on a test or worse yet... a report card?  I would like to think that I would be okay with this.  I would like to believe that I would embrace the "failure is often the best avenue to success" mentality. I don't really know at this point.  I do know that I would like to know what the teachers are willing to do when the kids in the class work hard but miss the mark.
One of the things I have learned with my two kids is that failure looks very different for them.  For Charlotte it can be a 99% on a test because she failed perfection by one point.  For James, well... his biggest "failure" this year has been on the Accelerated Reading tests he does on the computer.  The scores come straight to my email and I know in an instant if it is a book he has read or one he just likes the title of.  You decide which is which!

One of the best teaching techniques I have ever seen used for kids who miss the mark, but are trying, was actually this year.  Charlotte is taking IB Physics, and it is tough!! On one exceptionally difficult test where practically the whole class failed, her teacher decided that the kids could correct the problems that were wrong and receive 1/2 credit.  BAM from failure --> to 85% --> to success, and we will take that!! I want this written into James's IEP for next year when they start getting letter grades.  Anything that he gets lower than a C on, I want him to have the opportunity to correct and be retested on, or just pass the corrections in and receive partial credit on.  He learns very well with positive reinforcement, and he has already told me that he only wants A's and B's next year because they are cool.   He is capable of greatness in the classroom, it is just a matter of finding the correct formula.  I hope it happens because, if it is on the IEP, then I will not feel like a failure!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apparently You CAN Teach and Old Dog New Tricks!

It is a given... if you have a kid, especially a kid with special needs... everything that you want them to do has to have a BIG purpose.  Every step they take has to be towards a HUGE goal, even if the goal is minute.  I am the same.  I am a thoroughly seasoned Autism parent, I get that our kids makes strides and loses ground at unpredictable times.  But with everything I plan for James to do to help him reach goals, I want a big return on my investment.  It is just who I am and I know that James is capable of amazing things.
I am all about giving James rich experiences, whether he wants them or not.  These experiences are interests he has, but, often the experience is tricky to complete because of his anxiety or need for sameness all the time.  Our latest endeavor is fencing.  James LOVES fencing but getting him to want to do it is often a horrible experience.  His coach really wants him to WANT to fence.  Ah... after living with James for his whole life I can tell the coach that James NEVER independently wants to do anything other than his 3DS or Wii games.  We have to force him to want to do most things.  For him to experience anything it is a battle of wills.  Luckily, James's sister has her fencing class right before his private lesson every Saturday, so we are already there.
Yesterday was like every Saturday.  "I don't want to fence!  I don't want to wear the "armor!" (it is a boy thing) "I don't want to...." the list goes on and on.  We got him ready, one of his coaches helped him get "suited up."  He chose an épée.  He chose his favorite helmet.  He got hooked up on the line for scoring. He got the instructions from his coach about what they were working on for the lesson (keeping his arm straight during multiple consecutive attack episodes). He saluted his coach, put on his helmet, and got into position.  He fenced well, and his coach allowed James to have "James moments" as well as "coach moments."  "James moments" usually are silly and playful, like hitting the coach's mask with his épée to see what will happen.  What happened was his coach returned the hit to James's mask.  They both giggled and got back to "coach moments."  See... respect!!
It was wonderful to see James and his coach connect on this level.  Very few people allow James to be James during a structured activity.  James learns very well when he is respected for the individual he is.  His coach gets this and is highly respectful of James.  It is the way of fencing.  It is probably the most respectful of all of competitive sports.  It is likely this way because it is a "gentleman's" sport. I don't know the reasons, but it works for James.
After James's lesson, Brian and I were talking to the coach and thanking him for working so well with James.  And then it happened.  Some of the most insightful words I have ever heard came out of his mouth.  He told us that he sees some great potential in James as a young fencer and if it turns into something beautiful that is great.  If not... well he at least has had the experience.  WAIT... GO BACK... REWIND PLEASE... No big, life altering, goal driven destination!  Just let him have the experience and see what comes from it?  YEAHBUT....Ah... Okay... This old Autism mum just got schooled on James.  Cool!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

After Many Hours of Searching... BAM I Found IT!!

I ate a LOT of these guys trying to fuel my search!! Thanks
Sometimes I can find things very quickly through my amazing ninja like search moves.  I have always told my kids that if it exists on the internet, I can find it!  Today, after HOURS of searching, I found an amazing gem!! I have been searching for a list of possible classroom modifications and accommodations for James.  I could have come up with one myself BUT I don't like to reinvent the wheel if I don't need to.  Anyway, here it is >>It is GORGEOUS!!!<<  I looked all over the web with a variety of search words and I found this one right in my backyard! Well kind of.  I hope it will help others as much as it will help me on April 12th!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Learning Through History

8th grade Civil War Era Cotillion
This experience constituted the final
grade for history
I have spent countless hours over the past few days trying to prepare for James's IEP meeting that is coming up in a few weeks.  Fight for an aide or allow him to go it alone.  Work on getting modifications and accommodations in the classroom to cater more to James's learning style.  James is doing okay in a mainstreamed classroom without an aide but I don't know his potential if his curriculum were modified or if he had support in the classroom.  It is grueling and I am utterly exhausted!
James preparing to present
his speech on his favorite
famous person George
Washington (2nd grade)
James preparing for his trip
to the pioneer school this coming
We have found wonderful pockets of educational experiences for our kids that are so worth the exhaustion.  Both of the kids have had wonderful, living history, experiences that have taught them way more than a textbook possibly could.  Some of the most memorable have been:
California Gold Rush Charlotte
(4th grade)

5th grade Age of Sail (1906) Balclutha on
the SF Bay (Charlotte LOVED
this experience!!)    


Sunday, March 17, 2013

What is Fair?

If you have more than one kid, you have heard something like this... "Mom, she got the...!  IT ISN'T FAIR!!" Fairness is something that we learn about at a very early age.  As a mum, I certainly remember giving my little ones bite sized pieces of whatever and having them grab for the bigger hunk.  Fairness is important.  James complains everyday that Charlotte has a phone and he doesn't.  We have told him he will get his when he is twelve, like his sister did, see FAIR, but that's apparently not good enough.
Is it fair that I modify all of James' homework (with his teachers' permission) so that he has less to do than his classmates?  YUP
Is it fair that James is allowed to type some assignments when his friends have to write it out? YUP
Is it fair that James is allowed to sit where he wants at lunch instead of where the rest of his class sits because the peanut free table has less kids? YUP
Is it fair that James gets breaks when he needs them in the classroom during particularly stressful times in the day? YUP
Is it fair that James has a team of people behind him who have a vested interest in keeping him successful in school? YUP
It is called an IEP!! 
Is it fair that everything James does takes conscious thought and intense preparation on his part and years of intensive training because nothing came naturally?  Is it fair? NOPE!!
Is it fair that I am going to subject you to an animal study experiment?   I hope you understand that I don't like animal experimentation, but this is really impressive.  Enjoy

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Can't Decide ... Maybe Write About Both

I have been on a kind of writing strike partly due to cataract surgery and partly because I have become literary lazy!  Today there are two things that sparked my interest and I decided to write.  It is debatable whether or not it is a good idea because the first one scares me to death and the second one will likely offend some people but thought it may be good to write about.
So first, I received an email form my daughter around 2:20 saying that the school had been evacuated and no one knew why.  I quickly wrote back wondering if I should get her NO they will not be released until 3.    I made my way to get her and found the street blocked off so I called to find out where to get her.  Across the street at the park, so I made my way there.  When I got her I could tell she was rattled.  Apparently there had been a bomb threat and the police were clearing the building.
As of 7:37 PM we received the all clear from the police department and school district, so classes will resume in the morning.  I am not sure how she feels going back into the school that she has always felt comfortable in now that it has been "tainted".  I guess we will see what the morning brings.
Affection piggy wants LOVE!!
An now on a lighter, yet maybe more controversial note.  Our female cat, Astra, is an affection hog!  She moves in on anyone and demands love!  James noticed this today and stated that she was different from human girls because she loves boys, girls, really anyone.  She hops from one victim, I mean willing participant, to another draining the love out of their bodies until she gets pushed off.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand ~ sexual preference.  James is too young to understand about complexities of intimate human relationships and I am not ready to introduce him to it yet but there are a lot of possibilities.  Heterosexual (male loves female or female loves male) Gay (male loves male) Lesbian (female loves female) Bisexual (can love either gender) Those are the big four but there is also Pan sexual, Asexual and Demisexual,  James has a lot to learn about the world but there is time.  For now, he needs to know that we love and respect people as people and don't make judgements on their life choices.  I think it is time for him to start painting with colors other than black and white!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gullible Isn't in the Dictionary

I am a very trusting person.  I truly believe that people are going to do the honest thing.  I am always surprised when I am proven wrong time after time.  I understand that sometimes people do things for what they consider to be the right reasons even if it is dishonest.  I get it... BELIEVE ME, I GET IT.  It is sometimes tempting to take advantage of someone because of their innocence, age, ability to understand... It is hard to fight the dark side all the time when opportunities (and cookies) are constantly there.  This isn't a religious concept, it is a human one.  It goes back to the golden rule we all learned way back when we were little.  It is simple and covers a huge amount of moral ground.
Let it be said, James understands the concept of money.  He knows the monetary denominations and what combinations can be added together to make others.  He understands about change and that the change should make up the difference between what he gave and the cost of what he purchased.  What he hasn't figured out is having to check on the person giving the change back to him.  This is a parental error since we haven't taught him that you need to count your change because sometimes it will not be the correct amount.  Whether, on this particular day, it was in human error or intentionally taking advantage of his youth and enthusiastic desire to be ordering his food independently, we will never know.
How do we know what is going on in the heads of others?  James received his change and went to walk away.  My husband, who always remains in very close proximity, went over to James at this point to help him with the tray of food and money.  He must have felt that something was wrong because he at that point counted the change.  James had been shortchanged $5.  James said that the person put the money in her pocket.  Brian not seeing this interaction did the best he could.  He showed the cashier the change James had received and pointed out that he should have received $5 more dollars.  The cashier gave him the rest of the change and the interaction was done. James was at the table enjoying his pizza and plain spaghetti.
How do we teach our kids, without making them suspicious of everyone, that they always need to make sure the person is being honest?  How do we replace the innocence lost?  How do we help our kids to trust certain people unilaterally, others with caution and others never until they prove themselves worthy of trust?  How do I justify dragging James out of his Autism world into one where people can't always be trusted?  How??????????????????

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Yin and Yang of Sunday

There is always a balance, I find, with how the days go here.  We always hope the good outweighs the bad by the end of the day.  It is my way, the way of the Libra.  Always trying to keep the world on an even keel.  Some days good triumphs, but sometimes it gets squashed!  So today, I would like to blog on random happenings to see where we are at this moment in time.  Here we go.

very rare picture of me with my
favorite little man!!
  1. woke up happy (GOOD), got angry at my family for not coming to Sunday morning breakfast when I was hungry (BAD)
  2. went to Walmart with my husband and James (GOOD), by the end of our trip, I couldn't even hear myself think! (BAD) however, James made me smile (GOOD)  I told my husband that I had lost my ability to think and he said "you may be suffering from younger child verbal overload" James chimed in and said," Actually, I'm feeling just fine Thank you!" (AWESOME!!!) 
  3. the family went to our local mall, which is walking distance for us.  Charlotte wanted to drive, so James decided to walk up with me (GOOD and very nervous about it because he has never done it before)  HE WAS AWESOME ON THE WALK!!!!)(EXCELLENT!!) 
  4. the mall was fun (GOOD) and we didn't lose James (REALLY GOOD) and now we are home and the kids are both upstairs and Brian is mowing the grass (EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD!!) and I have some time to myself (no words can express this one!)
The way I see it, GOOD and it's spectacular cousins have certainly won today!  PEACE

Friday, March 1, 2013

It is Just Nice to be Nominated!

Allergies have really hit my family hard this year!! James has been affected the most and for the longest time.  He HATES the taste of the allergy medication so he refuses to take it.  He has been complaining of headaches and stuffy noses for a while but he has been sleeping well and moving like crazy during the day.  I know he doesn't feel well.  I know that he doesn't want to go to school. I know that I am likely the front runner for the Worst Mother of the Year award! So I am sorry, lovely secretary at James's school. I am sorry that you need to look into the eyes of my beautiful son and tell him that Mom wants him to stay at school.  I am sorry that his classroom teacher will have to deal with upset James because his mom is so mean that she wants him to stay in school when he wants to go home.  I am sorry that I have to think of how James will use the experience to his benefit, if I allow him to come home because he has a snuffly nose.   I am sorry that James will likely hate me tonight because I didn't come to his rescue when he wanted to leave school.  I am sorry... but I am being the best mom I can possibly be!

Addendum:  My loving husband told me that I should include the trouble I had with James this morning during drop off.  James was playing on his 3DS and trying to find some very hard to find Pokemon.  I told him when I pulled into the school driveway, he would need to get out of the car.  "YUP mom!" So I pulled in, put the car in park and rolled down the window like I always do.  James refused to get out of the car.  The drivers behind me started to get upset so I moved up a little so they could get around me.  James still refused to get out.  It was getting closer to the time that the school gates would be locked and so I drove to the front of the building while I called the office to get someone outside because I needed help getting James out of the car.  As I got closer, James decided that he was finally going to get out independently.  His 3DS is now mine for the weekend and will not be allowed in the car next week.  My guess is he wants to come home under the sympathy umbrella for not feeling well and I will give in on my 3DS prohibition.  No way baby, I hope it was worth the extra time this morning.  He kept telling the cars ahead of us, "Thank you for giving me extra time!"