Archive for April, 2011


Tornado Over Raleigh 04/16/2011

On April 16th, our neighborhood was spared the devastation of some 62 tornadoes that touched down in our area. We live in a place were tornadoes are few and far between (although I come from a state that is used to such things) and this is the first time in the 9 years we’ve lived here that we’ve had to duck and cover (hurricanes? Yes, we’ve had those, but no tornadoes).

Cloudy with a chance of FREAKING OUT!

Digression: On March 4 2010, we watched a movie that has become infamous in our household: “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” This was at the very beginning of what became an epic regression for Chi and a complete shutdown at school that resulted in him missing a bunch of school so he could get his work done at home. This also marks the beginning of Chi’s anxiety with the weather. And the news.

We cannot watch the weather or the news with Chi in the house. He seems to have some sort of sixth sense (although with him it might be an eighth sense) when it comes to informational TV that may, or may not, contain questionable material. He can’t seem to file this type of information away. It eats at his sense of security and erodes his self-control to the point of anxiety attacks and fetal positions.

We cannot even talk about the weather. Yeah. It’s that bad. (end digression)

SO

A half mile from our neighborhood.

We do not have cable or satellite TV (couldn’t keep track of the weather that way anyhow, now could we?) so we get our weather information from the internet. We knew that the weather that Saturday was supposed to be sketchy at best so we maintained “constant vigilance” (think Mad-eye Moody).

It was grey and overcast all day with the temperature dropping and the wind whipping to and fro all day. Those grey clouds spit rain on occasion, but other than the clouds tracking across the sky at a fast pace, there seemed no real cause for concern. There were tornado watches all day (which normally means nothing around here), but at

No one was hurt.

around 330p things started getting a little hairy with warnings popping up southwest of the city.

As the warnings moved closer, we heard that the system was moving through the area at an astonishing 75 mph. Trying to be as nonchalant at possible I requested that my three kids and my niece, who had spent the night, gather their pillows and favorite stuffed friends and bring them downstairs “just in case.”

At around 355p a warning was issued for our area and I, again as calmly as possible, asked them to gather their items and head into the half bath off the kitchen. I gathered my phone and

This really doesn't do the extent of the damage justice.

laptop and a cat (Hubs gathered the other cat and Doodle’s “not a dog”) and headed into the bathroom with the kids. I shut the door and headed back into the kitchen to get a flashlight and urge my brother to come in off the porch “for godsake!” and then shut myself in with the kids.

The girls were singing and Pieces was having a grand ole time. Chi, on the other hand, was falling a part. He was vibrating so hard I thought he might come apart at the seams, and his eyes were gigantic. Not only that, but his pupils were obliterating any blue whatsoever. He was talking really loudly and just generally freaking out. It was starting to effect Abshie and Pynni (Pieces being oblivious and rather finding the camping in the bathroom to be a right jolly experience. Quite a fantastic idea, if he did say so himself).

Not actually Chi.


I knew I had to get Chi under control if I was to keep everyone else calm. So I pressed my hands down on his shoulders (a deep pressure technique to help calm him) and began talking to him in a very calm, very matter-of-fact voice. I started telling him all about tornadoes. I told him everything I had ever learned about how they form and why. I talked about the weather and how systems move across the state. I talked about watches and warnings and what the difference was and what they meant. I told him about why we were holing up in the bathroom.

And do you know what? He calmed down. He even told me afterward that he wanted to learn all there was to know about tornadoes and weather. He asked if we could learn about that when we start homeschooling. Of course. Of course, we can.

We have to drive through the areas that you see in the photos above to get to Pieces preschool and go to the grocery store. It is wrenching every time. A few days after this, I took Chi with me to pick up our CSA which takes us through this devastation. I could see that Chi was really having a hard time processing what he was seeing. We discussed that the houses were gone or broken because of the tornado. I told him, “You know what, though? No one was hurt. They were all able to get to the safest part of their houses like we did.” Chi just nodded.

We had to pass back through on our way home from the pick up location. When we got past the worst of it, Chi was still silent. Then he said, “You know, Mom? Those tornadoes sure do break a lot of things.” pause “…but they make every thing else really green!”

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Okay, so I mentioned before that the elementary school administration has decided that Pynni needs a PEP (Personalized Education Plan) which sounds great, I know. The point of this PEP is to address deficits in Pynni’s academic performance. In math. In Kindergarten. What she needs to know by now and what she needs to know before the end of school (in 8 weeks if you count this week. (and I do)) is how to count/write/draw to 30 (now) and how to add/subtract using visual aids and manipulatives (by the end of school).

Wait. What? BUT SHE ALREADY CAN COUNT TO 30! SHE CAN WRITE TO 30!

WHAT THE HELL?!?

Now, admittedly, she can’t add or subtract. She doesn’t even really know what those terms mean.

because

THEY INTRODUCED THAT TWO WEEKS AGO! (and last week was spring break. HELLO?!?)

Irritated Face


Kay, sorry. I’m a little angry. I’m a lot disgruntled. I knew this was coming because Pynni’s “not very happy” Teacher warned me it was coming even though she has argued against this necessity. She tells me over and over that she knows Pynni is proficient in these areas; that she is not behind.

Still.

Really?

Angry Face with ! and !!! and !!!1one

Happy Birthday!

April is a busy month. Two of my three kids were born in April almost exactly two weeks apart. Pieces turned FOUR on the fifth and today is Pynni Pie’s SIXTH! My babies aren’t babies anymore and I’m not quite sure what to do with that.

These two are awesome. They are awesome individually and they are awesome together. They are like peas and carrots or peanut butter and jelly. They just go together.

Pynni came into my life during some of the most trying times with her older brother, Chi. I wanted another baby and we’d planned and prepared for her, but I was scared to death that my second child was going to be as hard as my first, and I’m not talking about labor.

"Chi and Pie"

She was a baby that slept almost all of the time until she was about 5 weeks old, and by that time she was close to
sleeping through the night and not needing to eat every couple of hours. When she was awake, she was smiling, then laughing, then laughing and smiling and clapping. She did almost nothing early. She was content to just be. She had this calming effect on me. I had struggled mightily with post-partem depression with Chi and was still dealing with depression throughout my pregnancy. After she was born, it was like this light had been born inside of her that banished all the darkness. She even helped calm Chi. He was enamored of her.

MY BABY!

Then Pieces came along when Pynni wasn’t much more than a baby herself. I worried that she would be jealous and that I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with her one on one as I otherwise would have. Turns out that Pieces is the perfect little brother for her and she was DELIGHTED to have a baby. In fact, it was all I could do to keep her out of his face. She wanted to hold him and kiss on him and poke at him non-stop. Good thing he’s WAAAAAY easy going. (Chi, I think, would like it if we could have a new brother or sister every couple of years. He was crushed when I told him that couldn’t be so.)

So, today we celebrate the birth of Wynni. We will make cake and open gifts and let her pick the meals (oh, god, I am NOT looking forward to that!). We will sing and blow out candles and play with new toys and probably watch a new movie. (it’s spring break so we have ALL DAY!)

Oh yes. The system has failed. What are the statistics for illiteracy in middle school students? I don’t know but I found this when I googled “illiteracy statistics us”. What it says is that 42 million Americans cannot read at all and another 50 million read no better than a 4th or 5th grader and those numbers grow by 2.25 million every year as kids leave the school systems to become part of adult society. Those numbers are scary and I actually have a passion for teaching literacy, but that isn’t the point of this post.

My point is this:

My daughter is not one of those people nor will she be. We work with her on reading and writing and math after school every day. EVERY DAY. I was told in February that she was not going to pass Kindergarten when I knew for a fact she was at or beyond grade level in every subject. Still, I took the IRT’s advice and the PrinciPAL’s suggestions and began doing even more work with her. Then, her teacher came back to the school from her maternity leave (all is well with her baby, yay!) and was appalled at how her class had been handled in her absence.

She set about reassessing all of the kids and found that, at least in Pynni’s case, she had been miss-assessed (is that a term?) and was actually above grade level in reading and writing and at grade level in math. She told me that Pynni would most certainly move on to first grade, and might not have to go to summer school. (I’m still reeling from this. Summer school for rising first graders? Really? That just seems like overkill.) “MIGHT not?” I asked. Ms. S said that the administration felt that she would need the extra tutoring that summer school would provide even though Ms. S was not recommending it.

On Thursday, I found out that Pynni is being recommended for a P.E.P. (personalized education plan) which would be GREAT except that it is reserved for academically troubled students. Ms. S stated that she was against such a thing and that in the end it isn’t bad, but the administration is determined that Pynni is this horribly slow student whose parents are checked out and is in need of all kinds of interventions to keep her from falling behind.

I cannot express in words that don’t make me sound awful and uneducated how angry all of this makes me. I appreciate that they are trying to catch the “at risk” students before they are sent forward through the system without all the necessary tools, but Pynni isn’t one of them.

Conversely, Chi isn’t necessarily “at risk” but he needs all the help he can get. He needs academic and sensory interventions. He most likely needs an aide specifically for him in the classroom and that will increasingly be the case the further through school he gets as he accumulates subjects and teachers. But can I get many of these things without jumping through hoop after hoop after hoop? No.

Then the school tries to “help” Chi prepare for this test they’ve been hanging over his head since the beginning of the year by putting him in this before school “camp” twice a week. It turns out that it was a camp not geared toward kids with Chi’s particular needs or even with needs similar to his. It wasn’t a camp taught by a teacher with any experience either with Chi or with any other Aspies or simply Autistic kids. Said teacher was not briefed on how to handle Chi. Thanks in part to this camp, Chi almost completely regressed into the state he began the year in.

This is not the kind of “help” Chi needs. (Mrs. Eff agreed and we are pulling him out of that camp.)

Chi is smart. Ridiculously so. He astounds me with what he understands and what he knows. The kicker? He doesn’t like to write. Period. He will avoid it at all costs making it hard to judge how much he understands about what he’s reading or measure his writing ability when it comes to grammar or expository writing. He doesn’t like to answer questions. He doesn’t like to be the focus of attention. He would prefer it if you didn’t look at him directly (I mean he does YOU that favor, after all).

It takes a special person to see beyond his issues into the wonderful kid underneath. It takes a special person to recognize the wonder that is Chi’s intellect within all that refusal to write and cooperate and compromise.With this we have been blessed beyond belief, though. Chi’s teacher is truly a miracle in his life. She truly cares about him. She gets him. She is able to see issues and work to help him overcome them without diminishing him. She appreciates that his brain functions differently than most people. She sees that he has understanding beyond what he is physically able to show her.  (I know I gush about her, but even with all of that, you really have no idea just how great she is and how much I appreciate her)

The problem is that we can’t pocket her and cart her around from grade to grade and class to class for the rest of Chi’s schooling and even she is worried about his ability to succeed in the future grades. Not because he isn’t smart enough or because he’s behind, but because not everyone can work with him and see all of his facets through the coating of his Aspergers PDD-NOS and SPD. He’s a kid who could use the extra help.

Is there a way I can transfer the help for Pynni to Chi?

So I think the system is broken. Ninety-two million is a lot of people who leave school either unable to read or are barely functionally literate. Neither of my kids will fall into that category and I will not be allowing them to fall behind in other subjects either, and so I’m wondering, “How often is this extra help misplaced? How many kids, like Pynni, receive extra help they don’t need? And how many who do need the help slip through the system’s safeguards?”

Plenty apparently.

Look, Ma, no deer!

This morning I was driving Chi to school when several deer crossed the street in front of us. I poked Chi in the arm to get his attention and said, “OOO, look, deer!” gesturing in the general direction of said deer. Chi, way more excited than the event warranted, looked up and around until saw the deer. His eyes followed them until they disappeared into the woods along the road and then he exclaimed, “I’ve never seen an ALIVE deer before!!” I all but stop the car in utter disbelief before I ask, “…uh, seriously?” Chi says, turning his attention back to his game, “Well, yeah, I only see them dead on the bus.”

And for some reason? I couldn’t stop laughing.

Just an update or two.

**In September of last year, late in the month, I herniated a disk in my back while dealing with the recovery of throwing it out a month or so earlier. I am still struggling with this and dealing with pain. So, on Sunday, I will be heading off to the Radiologist to have an MRI of my lumbar spine. Woop! (/sarcasm) I’m not sure to hope for nothing to be wrong (in which case, wtf is up with the continued pain in my back/hips/legs, etc), or hope the MRI shows something wrong (in which case, does that mean surgery? ICK!). You get the picture. In the end, I want everything to be alright. I want this fixed. I want the pain to end.

 

**I decided mid-March that I needed to go talk to my doctor about this issue I’ve been having with exhaustion, depression, hair-loss, and loss of focus. Then, I hurt my back and spent the next two plus weeks lying down full-time again. Yay. Well, I went Wednesday and she ordered some ridiculous amount of blood drawn for tests which I went in to give them this morning. I’ll let ya know the verdict when it comes. I think it’s my thyroid.

 

**Here I talk about the issue Pynni began having at school.

Here I talk about the meeting I had with the Principal to discuss the above mentioned issues.

So, I had a parent-teacher conference with Pynni’s teacher this morning (after I gave blood to the lab people).

OH, her teacher came back a couple of weeks ago! Did I tell you? No? Well, she did.

Now this woman is one of those delicate, soft spoken gentle flowers who never raises her voice and is blessed with a bottomless reservoir of patience. If she weren’t so pleasant, I might want to punch her.

Anyway, she’s back and she’s angry. She is angry at the way her kids were taught while she was gone. She is angry at the way they were evaluated (piss-poorly, if I get my interpretation of the tightness around her mouth correctly). I’m thinking she must be livid considering that I got angry vibes from her and I get the feeling that she and angry aren’t good friends. According to her: my Pynni is fine. My Pynni is right where she is supposed to be and beyond in some cases because I have been spending an inordinate amount of time making sure Pynni isn’t behind at all.

What I got from this meeting: Pynni will go to first grade. Pynni might be required to go to summer school, but Mrs.S is gonna fight against that. (**grumbles** summer school?)

Did I mention that I’m homeschooling next year?

**My story that was just a short story? Right it’s longer. It’s about 36000 words right now, and I don’t see an end in sight. heh. That makes me happy. And whether it ever ends or not? I’m enjoying the process.