Thursday, January 15, 2015

If you haven't been in a public school lately - please just don't say anything about them.  If you haven't spent more than a day in a public school lately - you don't know what you are talking about.  Having a child attend one might give you a little credit, but until you have worked or volunteered for a couple of weeks, you really have no idea what is going on in our schools today.

Prior to a recent levy vote I was informed that the school is not allowed to tell voters exactly why they need money.  That might sway their voted.  Well duh!  So the voters were never told that without the levy money the school was going to loose 10 teachers.  That is one teacher per grade level.  So where are those kids going to go?  Into the other teachers classes of course!  That is 30 kids that will now be divided into 3 other classes of 30 - which puts each class at or near 40 kids!  With those same cuts there is no room for any aids to assist those teachers either.  But we can't tell the voters this. 

On top of this lack of funding, there is the current public opinion on schools and teachers.  Things like, 'our schools already waste tax dollars,' and 'teachers are paid plenty considering all the time off they get!'  'Teachers need to quit complaining and asking for more money, they have no idea what it's like to work a regular schedule.'

Well, here are some thoughts from a mom turned special education assistant who has spent the last 12 years as an active parent in multiple schools and an employee for the last 5.  To start with, my plan was to return to school and get my own teaching certificate once my youngest was in school.  About three years ago I realized you couldn't pay me enough to become a teacher!

Today's teachers start each year off with 25-30 new faces.  They are given limited information about each of them and charged with finding out where they sit academically, and which ones need help because of their home life.  At least one child in each class will qualify as special needs and need to have their schedule altered so that they can get the necessary help from special ed.  At least one or two other kids will be medicated for anything from depression to ADHD.  There is likely a homeless child (or several depending on where the school is), a child who isn't getting enough to eat and may not have the supplies they need, and another one or two who's parents the teacher will never be able to reach.  In a typical kindergarten class there will be kids who don't know what a letter is and kids reading at a 2nd grade level or higher.  Every single child will have to be evaluated within the first month of school to see where they sit academically.  This is to be done during the school day and by the classroom teacher - not a volunteer, and will take roughly 1/2 a day per child.  While the teacher is testing each child the rest of the class is left to fend for themselves.  So if there were 28 kids in a class that would be 14 days in the first month of school that the teacher is not able to give quality instruction!  Once all of the evaluation is finished, a plan has to be made to get each child to where they need to be in order to pass state tests in the spring.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dang this is going to be hard!

Yesterday was our 5th Family Day. We don't make a big deal of it around here but I did take the kids out for some frozen yogurt and we watched the video I made. At bedtime though, I was hit with a ton of bricks. Paige looked up at me and asked, "Mommy, when will I get to meet my birth parents?" I was so caught off guard and so used to her asking questions but not really listening for the answer that I just answered without thinking. "Oh, Honey you probably won't ever meet your birth parents because we don't know who they are. But we will try to meet your foster parents when we go to China in a few years." There. That was upbeat, simple, and straight forward enough. Typically she would have rolled over and asked if she could have candy after lunch the next day or some other completely obscure thing. Not this time. This time she burst into tears and questioned "Why? Why can't I meet them Mommy? I thought I was going to get to meet them when we went to China." All I could think was, "Oh crap! What did I just do?!" So I held her and tried to explain [i]carefully[/i] why we don't know who they are. She sobbed those gut-wtenching sobs that we never heard five years ago. It had suddenly hit her and there was nothing I could do to fx it. I'm not beating myself up over it because it was going to happen sooner or later, but I did feel awful for her. Her little heart was broken and all I could do was hold her and keep my mouth shut. I couldn't say, "it will be all right," "it's over now, so let's let it go," or, "you're ok now because we adopted you!" HA! What a crock of crap all of that is. The reality is, she was abandoned by or taken from her birth family 5 and a half years ago and nothing I will ever say or do can change that for her. She knows she is loved now but I know that this is only the beginning of a very long road for her. A road of discovery and deciding who she is. She asked, after she calmed down again, if someday she could go to China to live and see if she liked it there. I smiled and told her she could do what ever she chose to do!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Magic of a Diagnosis

Almost ten years. I've struggled, pressed, and insisted for some help. About a year ago now I finally reached a point of no return and flat out asked for medication. If there was to be no diagnosis let there at least be a means of peace in our home. You read and hear how over medicated our kids are today so it isn't a decision made lightly. There was almost nothing that I read that indicated medication was a good thing. And yet. There comes a point where you have to ignore what "everyone" is saying and trust your instinct. So after nearly a year of trial and error with four different medications we have finally settled on one that appears to be helping. In April I reached my lowest point when the new doctor we'd had recommended couldn't get us in for over three months. I literally fell apart. This was to be at least the sixth doctor we had consulted in nine years and I was beyond desperate. I knew though that a wait that long must indicate a popular and therefore, hopefully, very good doctor.

Then July finally arrived. I had my guard way up before the first appointment. There were about three or four things I wanted him to say or I wouldn't even consider taking Caden. Imagine my relief when we not only liked the doctor but he hit on all of our concerns before we ever had a chance to mention them! The following week was Caden's turn and it couldn't have gone any better. Caden walked out with a huge grin on his face and proclaimed he couldn't wait to go back! How many kids can't wait for their counseling appointments?! To top it off, we were finally given a diagnosis. Just having that weight lifted, being told by a professional and seeing it on paper was such a relief. As I've said before, I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew something was not right. And I knew that if I kept pushing I'd eventually get answers. We got them from a wonderful doctor who is on staff at local universities as well as a highly regarded children's hospital. His credentials are amazing. More importantly though, he is just a really nice guy who makes you feel like he really cares. Caden loves him. So, we now have names for the struggles we've had for years. We now know what is causing what and have goals to be working toward. We have medication to help. The absolute best part though is that for the first time ever, we have a really happy little boy! I can't even begin to tell you how it feels as a mom to know that your child is finally able to have a carefree childhood. To know that he isn't angry, hurting or struggling but just living the life a child should live.

So, today, life is good. We've had a good couple of months in fact! I just pray that this is the beginning of a whole new life for one great kid!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

When God tugs at your heart

There are times in your life when you know God is tugging. Times when you feel like maybe your imagining it and times when you have no doubt. But, what about those times you hear His call but have no idea how to answer it? What if someone else must be in agreement for it to happen - and they aren't. Or if there are other seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Then what? I just don't know.
What I don't understand is why? Why is that same little face still there? Why am I so drawn to it? I wish I knew God's plan. For him. For us.

Life can be such torture sometimes

Just when I thought we had it all figured out! So, maybe he is gifted. He definitely sees things a bit differently! Unfortunately the new school wasn't the answer I dreamt of. So, a few weeks ago we made the big jump to medication. I think the doctor was a little surprised at how quickly I jumped at the idea; but after 9 years I am completely out of ideas. And maybe hope. The medication was an absolute miracle for the first few days and ever since the dosage just isn't right. It is such torture to feel so close then have the rug yanked out from beneath you. Someday. Oh someday, I pray we have an answer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Answers? Answers! Answers?

I knew I wasn't crazy. I really knew it. Somewhere deep, really deep, inside I knew I wasn't crazy. There had to be an answer. All my years of experience had to have amounted to something. Not to mention a mother's intuition. I've learned to trust that intuition over the years and I don't think it has failed me yet. But what happens when you can't get anyone else to trust it? What happens when the doctors tell you you're parenting wrong, the therapists say they "just don't see it", and the teachers declare, "he's an angel"? What happens then? The feeling of being alone was persistent. There was hardly a day that went by when I didn't try to analyze and figure out what I might be missing. I probed the internet, the library and everyone I could get to talk to me! As we trudged from appointment to appointment year after year I prayed fervently that this would be the answer we were seeking. Perhaps this would be the beginning of the end. Therapy, surgery and books could not alleviate my fears though. They could not "fix" my child. Did he need fixing? Or did I? Why couldn't I find the answer? It had to be out there, but where? So I talked and I read and I researched and I talked some more. To anyone who would listen. Then one day, I talked to the right person.

It was certainly not an encounter that I expected much from. I was never even introduced to the woman but I knew who she was. As our hurried conversation wrapped up she rattled off a couple of web sites she thought I should look up. I was able to remember only one of them but I was immediately struck by the name of it alone. The name suggested the complete opposite of everything we'd ever thought about this kid. And yet, as I mulled it over there were some signs over the years too. Seemingly isolated events that when looked at together made me wonder - could she be right? What had I said that led her to that conclusion so quickly?

As soon as I was able to I searched the web site. Maybe I should say I devoured the web site - absorbing every detail I could. I was very skeptical that this would "fit" let alone be so simple. What I read did not tell me how to fix things or make my child easy-going. Nothing I read suggested he ever would be either. And yet I was comforted. Comforted by the fact that I was not alone. By the fact that maybe we had an answer! My own pre-conceived ideas had to be corrected considerably though as I realized this was not something as wonderful as most people think it is. So many assumptions are made regarding these kids and that isn't something likely to change. I could not expect understanding from those who hadn't walked this path. In fact, it would be best if I didn't even mention it to others - at least not to suggest it as a problem in any way. I don't have a problem with keeping it quiet though. After all these years it doesn't matter anymore - just having an answer is all that matters to me. (Which is why this will be the only post you'll probably ever see directly addressing this.)

Unknowingly this child had been given a test that would help us to know if this indeed was what we were dealing with. We only had to wait about a month to find out. After eight years, another month didn't seem to matter - especially since there is no "cure." Well about two weeks ago our answer arrived in the mail. I saw the envelope in the stack of mail and quickly opened it first. Scanning the first paragraph, I found what I was looking for but hadn't fully decided if I wanted to see. "The team recommends that your child be placed in the Aspire Program." There it was, simple as that. There was no hundred pound weight lifted from my shoulders, no immediate gratification. I simply sat there with butterflies in my stomach wondering how this could be and not letting myself get my hopes up too high even yet.

I've spent the last two weeks wondering how we could have missed this and simultaneously reading and learning how. I'm not alone. I'm not crazy. And maybe most importantly - neither is my child. Each step we take now will be carefully measured. The school will have a much bigger responsibility as will I in making sure they are doing all that they can for him. If he is able to attend the recommended class in the Fall it will not be an easy transition for him. And yet as Rick and I sat in a room packed with the parents of other kids who were recommended to this program and listened to the descriptions of these kids - we knew we wouldn't be alone.

Gifted. Seriously. Our child is gifted and we have a lot to learn.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The "Good" Mom

"You're such a good mom."

Really? Hm. Thanks.

What is a good mom? What makes other people say that? Is it something that is said just to be nice or does it really mean something? What about if it is said about you when you aren't around? Or if it is said by multiple people?

I'll be honest, I don't think I'm a good mom. Pretty good, maybe, but "good"? I just don't know. As I've watched other people parent over the years though I've come to think there are really very few truly "good" moms out there. Sad but true. Volunteering in my kids classrooms has driven that home more than anything else ever has. There are kids who's parents never take the papers out of their backpacks/notebooks and moms who don't ever show up for their kids events (or send a substitute). Apparently taking our kids to neat places is unusual. You know, OMSI, camping, the coastal lighthouses or old Army forts, and even just down to a creek to throw rocks. There are parents who don't do those things with their kids! So what do they do? I'm not sure. Most of our outings are simply out of desperation. I can't handle the arguing or just sitting around the house so we head out to do something. So, because we do it to alleviate my own sense of desperation I don't think of it as a "good" mom thing to do. Doesn't a "good" mom do those things because she loves spending time with her kids? Doesn't a "good" mom just plain love doing those things? I don't like playing with my kids much either. Oooo - that probably wasn't a very smart thing to say. But really, I just don't have a clue how to play Army guys or race cars. I can occasionally handle playdough. I usually spend any time playing with my kids thinking of all the things I could be getting done. It's boring, ok, there, I've said it. Now I probably qualify as a "bad" mom.

Don't get me wrong, I do love being with and doing things with my kids. But I don't live for it and there are certainly other things I enjoy doing.

I guess what it comes down to, in my oh-so-humble opinion, is how much you are willing to give up for your kids. Having kids is a choice and to me making that choice is also making the choice to forgo your own interests until they are grown. I don't just mean once in a while or most of the time. It is all the time. I don't care if you feel like it, you don't get that option anymore. If money is tight and everyone needs a haircut - the kids get it and your hair just keeps growing. The same pair of tennis shoes for three years? Yep, and the kids get new ones every three to six months. Too tired to drag kids to the grocery store? Too bad, take a deep breath, suck it up and find a way to get through it! It's an everyday, all the time thing. There are a few dinners that I LOVE but haven't had in years because my kids won't eat it. That doesn't mean I cook only for them either though! It is just less important for me to get what I want now.

I know there are those who will argue that you can't give up yourself for your kids. It's not healthy, the kids need to see you working and going out. They shouldn't always come first and you should still have a life. Honestly - that's a bunch of crap. All I hear in that is selfishness. "I need to work to maintain my sanity, or keep up my license, or interact with other adults." "They love to go to daycare and play with all their friends." "We go out every week and the kids love their babysitter." I just don't think so. That's all crap. Your kids should know that nothing else comes before them (other than God or your spouse). You are setting the example for how they will parent your grandchildren! If you need to work so badly then you shouldn't have had children. Seriously.

So what makes a good mom? Feeding them healthy food? Having them on a schedule? Putting them to bed by 8:00. Reading to them? Oh, the list could go on and on. Maybe you have to have a certain number of those things before you qualify? Of course it is all a bit subjective too. There are those who will argue that feeding your children organic foods is the only responsible thing to do or that co-sleeping is best. I'm really not sure though. When people tell you you are a "good" mom, to what are they referring? In what way? I just feel like I could be so much better. There is more I could give up and more I should be doing. My computer time or t.v. time would be much better spent fixing healthier meals, drilling kids with flashcards or playing. Loving your kids isn't enough to make you a good mom. Let's face it, there are plenty of women who love their kids but are terrible moms.

I guess I'd like to know what exactly it is that I do that might make someone say that I am a good mom. Do they wish they could parent more like I do? Do they just think I'm a really nice mom (boy they wouldn't have seen me at my finest then!). Or is there something in particular I do that makes them say that? I don't suppose I'll ever know. One thing I do know though is that I've only ever met a couple of truly "good" moms myself.

And don't even get me started on being a good wife!