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!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


For whatever reason, 45 feels like a "big deal" birthday.

My first thought is of people I have met along the way who never saw this particular birthday.  With that thought, I am filled with gratitude that I am healthy and, well, around.

My next thought is how vividly I recall turning 40, and how it does not feel like it was 5 years ago.  I was not exercising, packed on some serious pounds thanks to depression meds, and was needing a bit of a change before all that got out of hand.  And change I did.  Exercise has been a consistent part of my life since then.  Zumba, Werq, Strong, RIPPED, walking, and running have been in and out of my days as needed.  I keep somewhat regular doctor appointments and take most precautions offered.

In theory and if I am so blessed, this is mid-life.  Some inventory of what I have done with the precious gifts I have been given is in order.  These are NOT in priority order, and some of these far outweigh others.

-Graduating with honors from high school, college, and two graduate school experiences
-Receiving National Board certification...twice
-Maintaining a thoughtful teaching career for twenty-three years spanning a wide range of experiences
-Granddaughter, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, great aunt, cousin to some pretty amazing people
-Successful (surfing the ups, downs, and in-betweens) marriage for twenty-two years
-Supporting an active and intentional life of faith, with the guidance of the Catholic church, including fervent, sincere, and frequent prayer
-Mothering two extraordinary boys for seventeen years in a world that may or may not accept their differences
-Accepting leadership roles since grade school and the responsibilities a leader has
-Fighting for what I believe is right--even when I see the eyes roll, even when I know I need to shut up, even when I realize the fight might be a waste of energy, even when the fight is for others and not for me--telling it like it is
-Building wonderful friendships that allow me to walk a tightrope knowing that their net is always there for me
-Conquering the stormy sea of grief, OCD, and anxiety, holding in the the boat for dear life and praying that it won't capsize, bailing out the waters of depression

If this is halfway, I'll take it with very little complaints.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

100 Happy Days, Days 46-69

Day 46: Watching my school kids let loose and be silly

Day 47: I made this money you didn't.  Right, Ted?  We outta here.

Day 48: Finished Ig's NYC album!

Day 49: Truth

Day 50: Two-handed Bud Light at Schooners with my co-workers

Day 51: Scott wins the MSC raffle for the day!

Day 52: Veggies popping up

Day 53: This never gets old

Day 54: A gift from a former student

Day 55: Ellis Island simulation day: My little German immigrant

Day 56: Eggo Thick 'N Fluffy Waffles...mmmmmm

Day 57: Making cards, right down to the envelope, makes me happy

Day 57, Part 2: Chicago at night from a plane...amazingly large

Day 58: Clint and Emily's beautiful wedding

Day 59: Angry Orchard at the Harrisburg Airport

Day 60: Who cares what the school calendar says?  Fairview after school.

Day 61: Pictures like this remind me of how far we have come.

Day 62: A beautiful corsage and thank you note from one of my students

Day 63: Awww yeah.  Anderson opening day!

Day 64: Coming in to 602 on a Sunday at the end of the school year and being far from the only one here

Day 65: The "Warm Weather Wipe Out" selfie

Day 66: Year 23.  Done.

Day 67: Having stuff on the calendar for Mrs. Plato's Summer School ensures less arguing...and soothes my OCD

Day 68: A garage sale find.  Who latches onto it? And what's his first song? "Reindeer are better than people.  Oh Sven, don't you think I'm riiiight?"

Day 69: Summer is here!  Kids Run for Fun!

WHEW!  Finally caught up!