Saturday, November 28, 2015

First Break

Ig's first break has come and gone.  He is en route to the train station as I type.  In less than three weeks, he will be back.  

My metaphor: At the birth of a child, God puts a piece of duct tape on the parents.   As years go by, He ever so slowly lifts parts of the tape.  Then comes college and---RRRIIPPP--- off it goes.  And then it gets stuck on again when you see each other and ---RRRIIPP--- again when he leaves.  I am hoping that the adhesive dulls over time.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 9. Again.

People recognize anniversaries of all sorts of things.  Birthdays.  Weddings.  First dates. Passings of loved ones. Major national events.

What is November 9 for me?  Tomorrow will be 9 years since the ugly specter of depression has been a diagnosed part of my life.  Nine years since the day which started with the high-pitched, unending screaming of a toddler who could not tell us what he needed.  Nine years since I could not step foot in my sixth grade classroom because I could not pull myself together after 16 years of teaching middle level, mainly because I had no patience left by 7:45 AM.  Nine years since this metaphor rang true: You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can assist your children.  Nine years ago, I thought for sure my sane life was over.

What has happened over the last nine years?  A grade-level change that I viewed as temporary, but God keeps reminding me is actually the best thing for me. Going back to school with the hopes of surviving year after year, when, in fact, I thrive.  Expanding my circle of friends and colleagues.  Relying on God more than ever before.  Realizing that anything can be lived through.  An exceptionally wonderful son raised to age 18, who completed high school and is commencing through college.  Losing 40 pounds, gaining 40 pounds back, a result of going on and off meds.  Saying my earthly goodbye to my grandmother, as well as some friends.  Going through the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders with both of my sons.  Getting an equally wonderful son into school and making sure his needs are met every year.  Moving closer to some friends, and farther away from others, like the ebb and flow of the sea.  In and out of therapy.  Creating my own therapy of scrapbooking and cardmaking.  Attaining Master's degree number 2 in Educational Leadership.  Moving in and out of people's good graces in my work life because I insist that things be said and not ignored.

As I type, I am trying to wean off of my second SSID.  I am not sure this weaning is a good idea after today and the motivation suck it has been, but it HAD been going well.  But this weekend involved embracing the death of another loved one and its grenade-like shock on my soul.  Death is always a catalyst for depression in me.  But I am fighting like hell to smack it down this time.  We shall see.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Here. Now.

Quiet.  Unbelievably quiet. His dad watches the hugs with tears filling his eyes.  Quiet knowing glances.  Last pats with the dog. Sitting.  Slow tears (mine). Texts.  Calls.

Max is, of course, the matter-of-fact one. "We'll see you in October, and then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and then summer break." Indeed, we will.

I find that others warn you of this day, much like the day he entered this world. The baby who failed part of the APGAR because they needed to make him cry. No one can fully describe the moment they launch as adults.  Its similarity to Kindergarten is shocking.  He's ready.  It's time. We've given him wings, a map, and a net.  And our hearts.

Milestone experienced.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Just one of those simple, overpriced pictures they take at Six Flags when you walk in.  They are hoping that you will buy their merchandise.  I did, indeed, purchase this after a trip to Six Flags in Gurnee with Ignatius.  I believe he was nine at the time.  Maybe 10.  

Tonight, I looked in it only to see he and I as both younger people.  So much had not happened in our lives at that point.  It was just Mom and Ig enjoying a day together.  

As of late, I have been thinking about the reality of what is to come.  He will really be going to Virginia, and I will really be staying here.  It's the end goal.  It's what I was working for 18 years to have happen.  Right?  So why does the mind play its tricks? Why is there sadness involved?  It should feel only like success.  Instead: ambivalence.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Explaining Autism

If you follow this blog (apologies for my looooong absence), you know that we have had many blessings, coupled with several challenges, in this life of ours.  One of the challenges is helping our sons navigate the world as they deal with social communications disorders.

We have been upfront about Asperger's, what it means, how it manifests itself, and that my elder son deals with it on a daily basis.  Since he was diagnosed around age 10, we have been openly discussing and naming the disorder.  

My younger son was a different case.  He was only two when diagnosed, and he is a totally different kid with completely different needs.  He was diagnosed with autism disorder (they would both now be considered persons with autism spectrum disorders). We struggled to get him speaking and acclimated to advocating for his needs.  He learns very differently from his brother, and he struggles with the minutiae of the academic world.  It was difficult to determine when we should name why he had the need for sensory, why he struggles with math and reading comprehension, why sometimes kids do not want to play with him, why he repeats, shouts, and the like.  I always felt I would know when to have the conversation.  It never seemed right because he was constantly flipping out if anything about him seemed atypical.  Well, the opportunity did, indeed, present itself.  Now, my son has a name to answer many of his questions.  Autism.

In 2007, I created a scrapbook called "Speak to Me."  The scrapbook was dedicated to Max's journey through the communication struggles he was having.  Max has loved this scrapbook--honestly, he loves all scrapbooks--because it was solely about him.  He also loves that it has buttons to push and a variety of audio recordings from that time.  So, after introducing him to the word "autism," we grabbed the scrapbook (which I made before his diagnosis) and read through what was happening with him at the time.  I cannot tell you how valuable that scrapbook was to this process.  God knew.  He gave it to me as an outlet, then as a guide.
Does he "fully" understand the breadth of his ASD?  No.  None of us does.  It's a developmental mystery that is different for each child who is on the spectrum.  However, he almost seemed relieved to have a name for the things about him that he knows are different from the norm.  We will move onward with building his confidence in the many ways he is unique, special, and in some ways, completely typical of any 10 year old boy.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

About Today

It started off as a typical Friday.  I had to present at an 8:15 faculty meeting, I was off to an early start, but forgot some ice cream sandwiches I promised my students.  I met Scott halfway from home, and then went on my way, thinking that would be the biggest setback of the day.

Pulling in to the school parking lot, I notice that familiar vibration of a text on my cell.  It's from Ignatius. Was I coming to the Assembly at 9:00?  This morning.  Not just an assembly, the Assembly.

Here's what I have not known by being tethered to a classroom for the four years of high school: the Assembly on the Friday of Homecoming is a pretty big deal.

Ignorant of the full breadth of the situation, I receive an almost simultaneous call from my husband.  Neither one of us was able to make a 9:00 Assembly.  I call and explain this to Ignatius, who understands.  He thought I knew about the Assembly through the strings of communication coming from the school.  None really addressed the important nature of this.  I figured that all the hoopla would be taking place at tonight's football game.

I then text my buddy and CCHS teacher, Ann, while basically wallowing in self-deprecation.  Meanwhile, I am getting ready to present, (badly) holding back tears that come from that deep place in the psyche of every teacher-mom.  Work interferes.  Again.  For the millionth time in his seventeen years of life.

Ann texts me and lets me know that the Assembly starts at 10.  My principal insists that I leave my class in the capable hands of my aide, a retired teacher who is more than capable and willing to take the helm.  Good thing, as my next text was going to be to ask Ann to stand in for me!

I present my information to my colleagues, we finish the meeting, and I scurry off to change out of my Irving spirit wear and into my Assembly clothes.  I make it to CCHS with plenty of time to spare.

Upon arrival, I realize that the Assembly includes every senior in an activity in the fall being called to the front of the school-filled auditorium to present his/her mother with a rather large mum.  One by one.  So that my absence would have been brutally obvious, as it was for a few moms that could not make it.

The Assembly comes to a close after a motivating alumnus conveys a message of students being concerned with "who" they are rather than being defined by "what" they are.  I return to my classroom to see the students working quietly on a math assessment, and Gigi, my colleague, happily relaying to me how nice it was to "teach" again.

The calmer end of my day allows me to reflect on the many parts of today that grew from chaos into grateful serendipity: the kind guidance of colleagues who reminded me of where my head, heart, and body needed to be; the easy-going son who was willing to go with whatever reality he was handed, knowing that the communication breakdown could have been avoided; the placement of a wonderful friend in my son's school, his guardian angel for 4 years; the opportunity to rely on someone else, not knowing that my need was, in turn, fulfilling her need.  There is, indeed, a reason and time for every purpose under heaven.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What's new?

When school hits, the world stops in this house apparently.  Poor little blog.

A new year started for everyone.  

Ignatius begins year 13 of his schooling.  A senior.  

Max started year 5 of his schooling.  A fourth grader.

I started year 24 of teaching.  Currently, I spend my day with fourth graders for the seventh year in a row (I think that's a record for me).

Scott smiles and endures the start of another school year.  He's a trooper and has chilled out a lot about how much he dislikes September.

Ignatius' time is spent with school work (AP Calc and AP English Lit keep him on his toes), McDonalds (lots of good hours), and college applications.  Scott and I continue to marvel at his essays.  He plans to go solo to Homecoming this weekend as he learned that going with a date is quite a lot of work.

Max amazes me day-by-day.  He works so hard in school at things that come quite easily to other children.  We see growth for sure.  He is starting to dig in to chapter books, though not on his own.  Math continues to be a challenge, but we are actually seeing him retain facts with some automaticity.  Step-by-step.

I have 27 little bodies in my classroom each day.  Each has his own need.  As those who know me can attest, that is exhausting, as I want to solve their problems and help them grow, but there is 1 of me and 24 hours in a day.  Luckily, I work with some pretty funny and supportive people.  We are in a contract negotiation year in my district, and it does not always feel like we are supported (and I am not talking financially, but realistically), so my comrades help me continue in the profession.

So there you have it.  Onward to October!  Max has yet to decide on a Halloween outfit.  That's always fun!