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Break-Out Life

MondayI think I will be working on this post all week long, in between class assignments, working on my linguistics project, starting my British Lit research paper, working, grocery shopping, taking the girls to therapy, and my normal household stuff – cooking, laundry, etc.

Two weeks until these classes are done – TWO WEEKS! I’m doing fantastic in them (thankfully) but they are killing me. I sure hope Stress Management and Grammar won’t be as difficult. Those are the next two I take. I’ll be in those right up til a week before Christmas.

Tomorrow I am the librarian the kids’ school, I found out today. Hmmm – I’ve never done that before. Today I worked a half day in the Level 3 classroom, which I think I’ve decided is my favorite room. But it is hard work. I have to do toileting duties for teenage boys and for that level of care, I think the associates are really underpaid. Today we took the kids to Walmart and then to a park designed for special needs kids. I thought that was so wonderful – I would have given anything for a park more accessible to Ben’s needs when he was a little guy. I ended up riding with Ben’s former teacher as we took the kids out and he found out that I am in school, planning to sub when I get my license. He was telling me that the school is in such desperate need of teacher subs that they might be willing to let me go ahead and sub once I have my degree next Aug. and not worry about waiting until I can get into the sub classes. I’ll have to check into that. Financially, that would be best. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait, otherwise, to get into the sub class. I don’t know. God will work it all out!

A week ago I was in the same classroom. This was the day after all the NFL kneeling protests (which I am plenty opinionated about). One student likes to watch sporting events when he gets i-pad time. So, he was doing that. Suddenly, another student came rushing up to me, grabbing my arm excitedly. He slapped his right hand over his heart and motioned for me to do the same. I then realized that “The Star Spangled Banner” was playing from the other student’s i-pad as he watched the beginning of a sporting event. I was just amazed. This other young man is 19 years old. He is completely non-verbal. He is not potty trained and he cannot tie his shoes. When I work with him we work on basic concepts like colors and where is “up” and “down.” But he knows what you’re supposed to do when the National Anthem is played – he knows a whole lot more than a bunch of over-paid athletes! So we stood in that classroom together, hands on heart, while the rest of the anthem played.

Being the librarian went surprisingly well today. I had a lot of free time, which was awesome. I just sat behind the desk in the nice quiet library and read. I did have five different classes come in during the day. I think the most stressful were the 5th graders. For all these classes I was all alone with the kids, which was different and a bit scary. But it was good practice for when I am a substitute teacher next year. With the older kids I found that I had to use a deeper, more strident voice and be pretty strict. But they responded pretty well, thankfully. I wouldn’t mind taking that kind of assignment again sometime!

The kids had to sing for Patch choir a few weeks ago. Normally, on Sunday nights I let the kids wear jeans with nicer tops (Paul would have never gone for that, but I’m feeling accomplished just to get to church!). But since they were going to be singing, I told the girls I wanted them to wear their dresses from that morning. Lizzie asked if she could wear something else and I suggested that she could wear a long, denim skirt that is in her closet. “Oh, goody!” she exclaimed, “I’ll look like a homeschooler!” Whatever…

I’ve started the kids on their piano lessons. So far, they are all eager lessons. I’m really impressed with this program I bought. It seems very thorough and very explanatory. I sit with each of the kids through the lesson and then help them practice the music until they have it. So that gets a little time consuming. But so far, so good.

Sam made the comment that, “I’ve been thinking about piano lessons and how useful they could be to my future”! That sounds like him.
A couple of weeks ago Sam was playing with his bb gun in the back yard. He wanted to go hunt down a raccoon that’s been coming around but I persuaded him otherwise. So, he just shot cans into the fire pit. Later, unbeknownst to me, Lizzie was using Will’s old gun. I really don’t think she’s ready for a bb gun. Apparently, she is not because Sam came into the house complaining that she was pointing the gun at him. I told him, “Well, obviously Lizzie is not mature enough yet to handle firearms” (is a bb gun a firearm?). Sam then said seriously, “Well, what if she doesn’t mature and can never handle guns? How is she going to protect herself, someday?!” He’s been spending a lot of time with his big brother, I see…

I’m worn out. That’s what happens when you don’t get to bed until after midnight. And THAT’S what happens when you have to take apart the bathroom sink at 11 at night with your son because your favorite necklace slipped down the drain. At least the night before I got plenty of sleep. Tuesday night I started seeing flashes out the left corner of my left eye – scared me to death. They were so bad I was having difficulty seeing. My first concern was that another stroke was happening. But it didn’t. My face didn’t even go numb. Then I figured I must be going to have a migraine (although I rarely have the lights and when I do, they are on the right side of my right eye). But that never happened either. I was very tired, however. So I put myself to bed at 10 pm. And I woke up feeling so energized yesterday!

Which was really good because it was my shopping day and I had a lot of places to go. I dropped Ben off at Genesis at 8:45, went straight up to Des Moines from there and did not get home until 6:30. Ben and I carried in all the purchases and I put them all away and then I had to turn around and go pick up the Littles from church. Long day. And then I dropped my necklace down the drain.

At least I didn’t get called in to work today. I have a TON of work for school to get done this weekend, so I am thankful to have today off. Plus, my house was an absolute mess, so I spent 2 hours picking that up this morning and I now I can function better.

A 25 year old mom of 3 was arrested Tuesday in Des Moines for child neglect. It was all over the news. She left her children (all ages 4 and under) home alone so she could take her dog to the vet. It was quite cold that morning and one of the kids was found outside naked, covered in dog feces. The police were called and when they came they found that the home contained 7 dogs and there were piles of dog poop all over the house. The kids are in custody of DHS, the ARL took the dogs, and the mom bonded out of jail yesterday.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. I suppose she’ll get them back, if she (literally) cleans up her act and takes parenting classes. Really, that’s better for the kids, long-run, if they can stay with her. But, still…I cannot fathom the kind of thinking that leads to that kind of lifestyle and dismal parenting choices. I just can’t.

The other night Ellie very seriously asked me if I was born with glasses. David was sitting nearby and quipped, “Yep – she had glasses on her face, a book in her hand, and was complaining about having to quit reading to get born!” Does this kid know me or what?!

When the boys were little, there was a radio host that Paul and I liked to listen to at night. Her name was Delilah and she billed herself, “The queen of sappy love songs.” People would call into her program and request songs and advice and make dedications. For a long time I assumed she was a local, Omaha, DJ until once when we were traveling, we happened to find her on the radio. So then, I realized that her program was syndicated. She has a lot of kids. She adopted out of foster care and internationally. She has bio kids, too. I believe she ended up with 13 altogether – and she’s a single mom. She was married at the time I got to “know” her but has been divorced for some time now. She was always so “real” on her radio show. Both Paul and I really liked her. In time, the Omaha station dropped her program. We moved out here and for awhile, the Des Moines station carried her, but then they stopped, too. So, I mostly follow her on FB these days. Anyway, years ago, we were pregnant at the same time. This was in ’99 when I was expecting David. So I could commiserate with her as she moaned about the pains of being pg. She had her son, Zack, a month before David was born. She used to entertain her audience with stories of her wild toddler – called him her, “Zack Attack.” I remember empathizing when she told us that he had been dx with what later turned out to be high functioning autism.

Anyway, last week she posted on her FB page that at age 18, Zack had killed himself. Oh, man…I found David and gave him a big hug. So much pain…
I wrote a letter to the Chinese government today. I don’t know if I have mentioned that Paul and Jenn (who adopted the girls’ brother) are adopting a precious little girl from China with Downs Syndrome. The whole story just has God’s fingerprints all over it. It gives you goosebumps! Well, they asked me if I would write a referral for them, so I finally got to it today. It was an absolute honor. I cannot wait to meet this little girl!
Last week Lizzie came home reporting that a little girl at school had become angry at her at recess and sneered, “You’re adopted!” to Lizzie. At first, I tried to downplay the incident to Lizzie, pointing out how dumb it was. It would be like trying to insult someone by crying, “You’re beautiful!” or “You’re wealthy!” But I knew she would not have told me if it didn't bother her. So I wrote an email to both the principal and her teacher. They immediately emailed me back, letting me know how horrified they were and how wonderful Lizzie is and how they would deal with the perpetrator. Fine. The principal emailed me later that day, stating that he had talked to the girl and she was “very sorry.” Funny – she was never “sorry” enough to actually apologize to Lizzie. I get the feeling that the principal was mollifying me. Sigh…

Lizzie didn’t even want me to write the email. She hates that kind of attention and, I assume, figured this would put her in the direct line of fire from this girl again. So I really waffled on what to do. I finally posed the question to an adoption support group I’m in and and they all said, “Tell.” I do think it was the right thing to do. Lizzie needs to know I’m in her corner and I’m going to stand up for her. Someday, she’ll be big enough and strong enough to do it herself. But she needs me now. The other day I was subbing and I asked Lizzie to point out this awful child to me. Suspicious, Lizzie immediately growled, “Why?” I had to promise her I was not going to say anything to the girl, I just wanted to know who she was!
Will told me the other day he’s got the rest of his college figured out. He’ll be student teaching two years from this fall and will be done in Dec, with graduation the following May. He is going to graduate with a double major in teaching and History. He’ll be qualified to teach high school history, social studies, special education, and I think he may have also said, English.

So why does this make me proud? Would I not be as proud of him if he were a garbage collector? I had a nice conversation last week with one of the teachers at the high school. We were talking about how, when we graduated in the 1980s, college was a natural assumption and expectation. But now she's starting to re-think that, mostly because her own son ended up dropping out of college for a "blue collar" job - and is wildly happy. She had not realized the pressure he was under until he finally admitted it to his parents and they immediately gave him their blessing to quit school. Sure, a college degree can open doors for a person, but we need to be changing our viewpoint on this. Kids are graduating with staggering amounts of student loan debt. Some employers are preferring to hire young people without degrees because the ones with them demand a higher salary - mostly so they can pay off the loans. It's not uncommon for college graduates to move back home after graduation because they are unable to afford the debt load and a place of their own. Meanwhile, the news (at least on W"HO radio that I listen to) is talking more and more about the shortage of skilled workers.

I was talking to Will about this later and he said he's already thought about how he'll counsel his eventual high school students. He's going to tell them that if there is something they desire to do that requires a college degree - then go for it. But if they're not sure, he's going to encourage them to consider community college or trade school while they get an idea of what they might like to do. We need to get away from this mindset that a person's worth is determined by the letters after their name.

But, just the same, I'm awfully proud of Will. But I'm also proud of Ben - who works at a grocery store. They are both working to the best of their ability. And maybe that's where the focus needs to be - helping students figure out what that "best" will look like for them, personally, and not try to shape them into what we think Best ought to look like.
And then, last week Ben came to me and said, “Mom – I’ve been thinking. Life is so short.” And he went on to talk about how, because of its brevity, we need to focus on doing only the things that are most important in life. And also, that a lot of things that we tend to think are important – really are not. And then he turned around and walked away. Meanwhile, my brain was bouncing all over like a game of Atari Breakout (showing my age, I know…). Did that just happen? Holy cow…And he’s the one with an intellectual disability?
Well, that’s all I know for now. Tomorrow morning the girls have therapy. Meanwhile, David will take Ben to his bowling competition. Then, I’ll run the girls to school and David will take Ben to work (his boss emailed me last week and asked if Ben could work Friday because of a big sale). And then David and Will are going gun shopping. And then I’m going home to work on my Ebonics project that is due Sunday, along with my two Brit. Lit assignments. And somewhere in there I should probably pick a subject and start researching for my Brit. Lit paper due in another week. And I need to finish up Ebonics paper and take my Linguistics test. And David is going to get some of his senior pics taken Sunday so I need to make sure he has everything together for that. Other than all that…just a quiet weekend. I had wanted to take the kids to either the Covered Bridge festival in Winterset or to a pumpkin patch Saturday, but I'm glad I didn’t say anything to them because there is just no way I could spare the time this weekend. Next year – I will be free! And we’ll have fun. Besides, its’ supposed to rain Saturday, anyway.

When I write again I will be free of those two classes that have been so hard and time consuming. One more week. I can do this!


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