Friday, September 25, 2009

The Update (Ta Dum)

I'm not going to try to make this cute or sweet or funny. I'll just give you as many of the facts as I can before I pass out from a combination of exhaustion, stress, 98 degree heat at 7 pm, and cuddling with my boy while his father and sister are out seeing Fame.

The 411:

1. I did NOT get what I went in to the principal to ask for, which was a class change; she said they're at the legal limit in the only other third-grade class (small school size has its ups and downs), and so she'd have to switch him with another student.

2. On the other hand, the principal gets it. She was saying things that were exactly what I've been saying, and without me feeding them to her. Most notably, she said that N "shouldn't be punished for things he can't control." She likes him a lot; she's worked with him in small groups in the past as part of a reading intervention program, and she's so excited that he can and will now talk to her and tell her what the problem is. It helps that he is not in any way, shape, or form a behavior problem. His biggest problem is that he tries to become--and often succeeds in becoming--invisible in a classroom.

3. She was clearly disturbed by some of the things I brought up, and says she will be taking much of the responsibility for getting things back on track. She promised to talk to his now-teacher, his last year's teacher (to find out what strategies she used that helped her be so successful with N), his Occupational Therapist (to ask her to come and talk to/train his now-teacher and give her some other ideas of classroom strategies to use with N), and his speech therapist (who is his IEP leader, and who was responsible for getting the IEP to his teacher in the first place; since she's N's biggest fan and advocate, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt on this one and wait for her to call, which the principal said she'd ask her to do early next week).

4. She encouraged me to ask for a reevaluation--a full-scale, soup-to-nuts set of tests and potential diagnoses. As she explained it to me (and this may not be entirely accurate...either in what she said or in my intepretation thereof), the basis of the problem is that his IEP is not really a special ed IEP; N's considered to be a speech student in general ed. WE all know that he's in speech as a way to get him into clinical OT, but he's being TREATED as 'just' a speech student. (I don't know about the rest of the country, but for some bizarro-world reason, social skills deficits that require OT intervention--even if they have huge academic impact, as N's do--do not qualify you for services. You have to have some other 'qualifying' disability, and for him it was speech. Once speech said there was a problem, they could THEN add on OT as a secondary service. Except, in N's case, it's really the primary service he needs.)

So what does it mean that he's 'just' a speech student? Apparently, IEPs that come through speech get looked at differently than IEPs that come through special ed. His classroom teacher wouldn't normally really need to see his IEP; she'd just need to know what days to send him up to speech therapy. That doesn't explain why she didn't aggressively pursue getting a copy of his IEP once I'd implied that it was relevant and needed discussion, but it might explain why she seemed so bewildered that I made such a big deal about it in the first place.

What the principal wants to see--through this re-eval and through my seeking an outside developmental pediatrician's evaluation at her urging--is if we can't get him into special ed SOMEHOW, whether that's through an ASD or other diagnosis or through a learning disability diagnosis. (She thinks that MAYBE the IQ test will provide insight this time, since N no longer actively resists testing the way he used to. She also vehemently agrees that his previous low IQ test score is malarky.)

5. There's another reason she wants me to push for a quick, early redo of his IEP: She thinks we need to significantly rewrite his accommodations. She wants to add specific accommodations about how to deal with him when he's expected to speak or read aloud, what to do when there are group or partner activities in class (he's apparently absolutely refusing to look at or work with any other child), even what kind of discipline methods (positive only) are to be used.

6. As I told Baroy, I didn't get what I wanted, but I got stuff I wasn't expecting--like HER pushing ME on getting him evaluated again. I felt like I was heard. And I made it very clear as I left that all bets are off if the teacher couldn't be brought into line.

7. As an aside, this conference included yet another discussion with a long-time professional in either the teaching or medical profession about how N is like no other kid they've seen before; that he fits into no box, doesn't fall into line with any obvious label. She understands that his needs are both unique and difficult to figure out...but agrees that they're real and significant. There's something simultaneously gratifying and disheartening about this; we all like to think our kids are special, right? But at the same time, knowing that there's no obvious signpost, no "he has this, so try this therapy first and this other one next," leaves me so often at a loss. What do I do for him? I have this fierce and unwavering belief that he's going to be OK as an adult, but for that to come true, we have to get him to adulthood in something resembling good shape. That's the challenge.

So, I'm not happy, but I'm not miserable. It helps that N's still relatively OK with everything, overall and relatively speaking. I stopped in the schoolyard on my way back to work after my meeting, and he was chattering away about how they made masks today, and it was fun, blahdeeblahblah. I figure we still have a little wiggle room in which to get this straightened out. I'll put in the request for testing on Tuesday (Monday's Yom Kippur) and that will get the clock started. We'll see...

4:43 AM

This is how it goes down: Snug--our obsessive, neurotic sweetheart of a dog--starts worrying at something outside Em's window. She tries to call him into the house; no go. At just after 4 AM, she comes upstairs to whisper to Baroy that Snug's keeping her awake. This wakes me, too. We hear Snug pad into the house, so Em returns to her room, and Baroy and I return to sleep.

Or try to.

But it's over for me. The thoughts start flooding in, about the meeting I will have today with the principal at N's school, and how I really have to just go in and ask for a teacher change, and how much that goes against everything I normally am--the "normally am" part of me being generally willing to do pretty much anything so as not to potentially enter into a confrontation, not to god forbid have someone end up not liking me. But then again, when "normally am" comes up against "someone is doing wrong by my son," it's no contest.

And so I start thinking about how I'm going to put this. What should I start with? Should I start with how wrong I think it is of N's teacher to send N to the principal's office for something not "bad," but rather directly, immediately related to the issues that are laid out and emphasized over and over and over in his IEP? That would give me entree to explain to her just how downright mean it seems that the teacher, who soon realized that N likes talking to the principal, decided afterwards to start using the threat of sending him "to a room full of kids you don't know."

Or should I start with the fact that she might not even realize just how mean that is, because despite several attempts to get the teacher to read his IEP, she didn't even have a copy in the room when I met with her the other day to talk about it. She'd "looked at it" in the office, she told me. But it was clear that "looking at" and "reading" are entirely different beasts in this woman's world, since she not only didn't seem to know what his special accommodations are--the accommodations, just so you know, that she is supposed to be implementing in the classroom--but she didn't even know he gets Occupational Therapy. Which takes up three out of the four pages of written goals in his IEP. And is where all the strategies for dealing with him are laid out.

It's like being asked to read Pride and Prejudice and then, at a book club meeting, commenting brightly, "Oh, really? There's a Mr. Darcy?"

Or do I talk immediately about how he is either not being allowed (or is possibly simply too scared to ask) to go to the bathroom more than once between recesses, despite the fact that his accommodations include "frequent breaks; allowing N to get up from his chair and take a break; classroom jobs with require him to get up from his seat"--something she'd know if she'd ever read his IEP.

This not-reading and not-implementing of the IEP is, of course, my trump card. If you're a special ed parent, you know that trump card gets turned over with a single phrase: Out of compliance. Do I start the conversation aggressively, antagonistically, by simply stating that, because of the teacher's actions, the school is now so far out of compliance with N's IEP that I don't think the situation in this classroom is salvageable? Or do I start more slowly, conversationally, almost confidentially, with something like, "I have some serious concerns about Ms. Teacher's abilities to effectively handle N in the classroom," and let the principal lead me to what the options are, so she feels more in control? Should I hold my "out of compliance" trump card (and its accompanying "I might have to bring in a special ed advocate" card which is my card-that-trumps-my-trump-card-if-there-is-such-a-thing) for when and if I need it?

If you're a special ed parent--hell, if you're any kind of a parent--I'm sure you've been here, too. And you know how quickly this kind of practical mulling can devolve into all sorts of existential musings, worries, anxieties. Am I doing right by him? How can I do more right? What about Em? Am I doing right by her? What does she need from me that she's not getting? How can I give it? Where will I get it from?

And so, by 4:43 AM, I find myself here on the couch, writing about it, having given up on sleeping on it. And now, by 5:40 AM, I find myself here in this entry, finishing it, but not finished. And Snug, finally, is asleep by my feet, having given up worrying about whatever-it-was out there that started this all.

Stupid, sweet dog. I think I'll wake him up, just to get him back.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Last Chance for the Gift Card

The AT&T Family Map $100 Visa giftcard giveaway ends tomorrow at midnight, Pacific Time; I'll announce the winner Monday on I Try Things, after the random-number-generator thing does its, um, thing.

If you entered, make sure that I have a valid email address for you; no double entries, though, or you'll be disqualified. If you didn't leave me a valid email and you're regretting it now, send it to me at ihavethings at gmail dot com.

I promise a real entry is coming soon. OK, soonish. I just spent a week in Cleveland for work, and there's just so much other stuff catching up to do. I'm a little, um, fututzed, as they say (but clearly not as they write, because I'm sure that's not even a little bit accurately spelled).

Oh, and to my fellow Members of the Tribe...L'shanah tovah! May the year ahead be sweet and fruitful.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My 9/11--A Story in Emails

What follows is a post from my old blog in 2006. Weirdly, for no reason I can think of, I've never talked about 9/11 here. It's weird because of how much Em remembers, and how we talk about it at home all the time...on the anniversary, and sometimes at other moments as well.

This is one part of my family's 9/11 story. Most of the rest of it is a blur of breastfeeding, rocking, soothing and playing with an infant N, trying to keep it together for him.

My 9/11 was different from that of so many other people's, because while it began in fear and anguish, the personal component of it, which was paramount in my mind, ultimately ended happily. It wasn't until many days, if not weeks, later that I began to think more globally about it all.

The only thing you need to know when you read this is that Em was just a few days past her fourth birthday, and on a trip back east with her daddy while N--who was not even nine months old--and I stayed at home. These are the emails I sent to some of my mommies' mailing lists.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, 8:13 am PDT/11:13 am EDT

Subject: update on us

A quickie, because obviously all heck has broken loose.

Baroy and Em were at Kennedy when the attack began this morning, but
weren't on any of the pertinent airplanes. They are currently trying to
figure out how to get out of the airport and to a place in Queens where my
mother can pick them up--apparently they're not letting traffic into the
airport, though they told everyone that they can indeed get out of the
airport. On what, I don't know. So it's wait and see on how they make it to
my folks' house, but rest assured they're OK.

Looking for updates from all other DC/NY moms...

TC, who just wants her husband and her baby girl home

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, 9:37 am PDT/12:37 pm EDT

Subject: safe for now

Baroy and Em are at my parents' house. I can sort of breathe again. I
hope everyone else has similarly happy endings today. Thanks for all the
thoughts...I'm thinking of all of you on the east coast, and especially
those of you in New York.

a very shaken TC

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Subject: update, such that it is

Since people have asked...

No flights out today. Baroy finally got through to United just a few minutes ago, and they have a definite confirmed flight out on Saturday afternoon. Thank goodness. And they're on a waiting list or whatever for two flights tomorrow. No standbys allowed right now.

I am so on the edge of losing it, but hearing that there is an end in sight has really, really helped. I'm worried about Em, who won't allow Baroy out of her sight. I'm trying to get something set up for her for early next week so that she can be seen/evaluated by a psychologist. I have a feeling we're going to have some separation anxiety issues...

Last night on the phone, I asked her if there was anything she wanted to talk to me about.

"I'm worried," she said.

"What are you worried about?"

"I'm worried about the men who crashed the planes into the buildings. It makes me sad."

"It makes me sad, too, honey."

"And I'm worried about you, Mommy."

"You don't need to be worried about me. I'm fine."

"I'm worried that I can't see you."

And this morning, I was trying to prepare her for the fact that although they were going to the airport, they probably wouldn't be coming home.

"But if I never come home, I'll never see you again." And she started crying, and I couldn't calm her down. The more I talked, the more she cried...

Sigh. One more little piece of collateral damage.


Friday, September 14, 2001, 12:15 pm PDT/3:15 pm EDT

Subject: on a plane

Em and Baroy are on United Flight 897, waiting to take off, as I type. Please keep them in your thoughts over the next six or so hours, that they will arrive safely.

Baroy said they had to do a body search of every passenger, no exceptions. Em protested, so they made it into a game. Now I suppose we're going to have to explain the "nobody can touch your private parts unless there are terrorist attacks and you need to let them so you can get on an airplane" rule.

Hopefully, this is the end of it for us, and now I can concentrate on worrying about my brother-in-law (my stepsister's husband) who is an NYC cop on the front lines right now and spent most of last night at the morgue. ;-( (And who, apparently, would have been among those buried in the collapse had he not had a doctor's appointment in the Bronx Tuesday morning, and who is now mourning the loss of most of his fellow polic officers from his unit...)

TC, heart in her throat

Friday, September 14, 2001, 9:31 pm PDT/12:31 am EDT

Subject: home, safe

Thanks for all the good wishes. Em seems fine, Baroy seems very, very
tired. I'm off to take care of both of them, and couldn't be happier.

Talk to you all when I resurface.

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Subject: Re: Plane in LA

>I just checked the United Airlines website and it looks like Baroy and
>Em are home in Los Angeles. I know I am breathing easier.
>Sending a big hug to TC and her family!!

Not only were you right, Deb, but it turns out that they were the first plane to leave JFK since Tuesday. Everyone had been telling Baroy to just stay put at my mom's house and keep calling the airlines, and that it was ridiculous that he was insisting on going to the airport, etc., etc., etc., and now he is totally full of himself because, of course, he was right to go. Their plane was only half full, he said, and when they touched down, the passengers broke into spontaneous applause.

Apparently, by the way, a Newsday reporter was watching when Em was being searched and Baroy made it into a game. (And yes, it was just a very close wand search.) She was on assignment--her assignment being to fly on some of the first planes out of various airports, and she interviewed Baroy for over an hour during the flight. So, for those of you in New York who get Newsday, could you keep an eye out for me for whatever article they might be mentioned in?

Also, it seems Em was the talk of the airplane. When they were waiting at baggage claim, one of the women from the plane came up to Baroy and was telling him how everyone had been commenting on how amazingly good that little girl had been, especially considering the tension of all the adults around her, and even moreso because she hadn't been allowed to take very much on the airplane with her...just a few Barbie dolls in a case. No books, no crayons, no scissors, etc. I'm really proud of my girl.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


One of N's friend's moms emailed and later called me tonight, asking if N would like to join her and her son at a restaurant for a back-to-school lunch tomorrow.

Sounds like fun, right? Except N doesn't do well with last-minute plans. And he's not comfortable in restaurants. Especially since he doesn't eat much in the way of 'unusual' foods. (It's a Japanese restaurant of the Benihana type.)

So he said he only wanted to go if I could go. And I can't go, because I have to work tomorrow. Oh, let's not even go THERE. (Nutshell: My one-year anniversary at work was today. It's a great job, and since I have to work, it's where I want to work. But I don't WANT to have to work, and when it comes down to my kid needing me and me not being able to be there, well...Guilt and resentment. A fine combination, no?)

Despite the three paragraphs just spent on it, the story above isn't going anywhere, really. I emailed the mom back and declined, explaining briefly that N was a little anxious about a lunch date, but we should definitely get the boys together to play soon, maybe go bowling, something like that. The end.


The problem with these situations is that there are a lot of ways to handle them. The problem with these situations is that none of those ways is necessarily THE way. And the simultaneous problem and blessing in my life is that my husband, with his own way of thinking about things, doesn't always agree with my way, the road I choose. Nor I his.

Which is the literary way of saying that we fought about this decision. I could hedge and say we discussed it--there were no raised voices, and there was certainly no name-calling, because that's just not anything we DO, so it could be called a discussion. But it was a fight. What I call a fight, at least--where we disagree and never do find a common ground, and despite an ultimate agreement to disagree there's resentment in the air, if only for a short while. (And then, within an hour, we're on to something else--talking about politics, analyzing So You Think You Can Dance, laughing at the dog. Our marriage isn't perfect, but it's fine. For some reason, whenever I talk about this sort of thing, I feel the need to make that point. Otherwise, I always worry that it looks from the outside like we're on the edge of complete implosion, when really, we're mostly on the edge of giggling.)

We could all discuss the relative merits of choice--of letting kids have a choice, of when choices should be given, when they're not appropriate--until the cows come home (and have babies, and those babies come home, and so on). And, for a while there, it looked like that's exactly what Baroy and I would end up doing. Instead, I threw up my hand and said, "When the ball's in my court, I do what I do. And I'm not going to second-guess my instincts by wondering what YOU would like me to do."

Which, in retrospect...I think I would hate hearing if the tables where turned. But I also think it's true; I think it's the only way to actually make sure-footed decisions. When *I'm* the one with the ultimate decision-making ability, that is. But when he's the one? I know it would drive me nuts to think he was doing the wrong thing, only to have him basically say, "Tough noogies. It's my choice. Live with it."

I remember when people talked about marriage being all about compromise, and god, no matter how closely I listened, I had no IDEA what that really meant. It's like that whole "yeah, childbirth hurts" thing that is simply NOT POSSIBLE TO FATHOM until you find yourself so fully and completely terrified by the weight of the pain--having never known before that pain could, indeed, be heavy--that you can't even draw in a breath. Marriage and compromise are the same thing: There are times--and, for me, they've all been since I became a mother--when the mere idea of compromise becomes something breath-stealingly, absolutely massively heavy. When it's painful. When, as is too often the case with me when talking about Em and N, it's impossible.

But that doesn't mean I can't see Baroy's side. That's what's so painful. Because if he's right, then I'm wrong. And if I'm wrong, my kid has been, at best, slighted, not given the chance to grow and stretch. And if I'm wrong, my kid has been, at worst, stifled, not given the chance to grow and stretch.

And so while I stood my ground tonight, and while I stand it most nights like this one, I also have to consider the other choices, and what those roads not taken could have, might have, meant to me, to Baroy, to our son. My mind wanders down those roads, some of which are dark and lonely and scary, and I realize that maybe this is, in the end, where he'll wind up. Maybe this is, in the end, where I'll have led him. Or maybe, with my help, he'll find the clearing. Or maybe, it'll be his dad's help that gets him there, despite me. Maybe.

It's enough to paralyze a person, it is. Enough with the choices. Bring on the certainties.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Seems unfair to have left you hanging. But then again, seems unfair to try to squeeze one more thing into an impossibly squozen (no, not a word, don't even bother trying to look it up) schedule.

So, there's this instead: The kids and I stayed with my friends on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights; Baroy picked the kids up on Wednesday afternoon while I was at work and brought them home, to a place where all evacuations had been lifted, but where the air is still considered so unbreathable that the health department doesn't want anyone opening their windows, much less playing outside.

Still, things have continued. School started today: 7th grade (first year of middle school) for Em, 3rd grade for N. Life goes on...and on, and on...which, don't get me wrong, is nothing but wonderful, though tiring.

Photos, anecdotes, maybe even a video to come. But not now. Right now, I have a bed in a cool bedroom (the only cool room in the house) waiting for me...along with my husband and my two sleeping-on-the-floor-so-they'll-be-cool-too kids. And that's where I'm headed, as soon as I finish this press release. (Yes, it's 1:13 a.m. Don't ask.)

Good night all. Good. Very good.