23 August, 2010

Who's Your Teacher?

This morning I was talking with my friend Pollyanna. We've known each other since our first kids were babies. Jake was less than 6 months old and her daughter was nearly 2 months old. I had specifically chosen a playgroup of first time moms with babies who were younger than Jake. I knew already that something was different about my son, and the longer we could "look normal" while I figured out what was wrong, the better. Of course the playgroup was all girls, and they all passed him by in a matter of months, but by that time I had somehow managed to rope in a few women to be my friends, in spite of my different, but beautiful boy. While I don't see all of those women now, I know that in addition to Pollyanna, I could probably call at least two of them right now and they would help me if they could. It was, for the most part, a great group of people.

So, of course our first children are all the same age, and should be going into the same grades, etc. When I was talking with Pollyanna, I had to ask what grade her daughter was going into. Perhaps if I were a better friend, I would know these things, but mostly, I realized, I should know because my son should be going into the same grade, or it should be close, maybe he should be in the grade above hers. I should be at least as accurate as to be within 2 years...and I had no idea; just couldn't come up with it without asking, or starting to do some math, or counting all of Jake's teachers, which would just put me in a dark place because I am still not over kindergarten.

And while my conversation was such a nice welcome home after so many days away from my community, my tribe, after I hung up I was melancholy. A piece of my heart, in spite of being so full of joy it could burst, was sad. This has nothing to do with Pollyanna, or either of her beautiful, talented children... in fact I should celebrate the problem I have... I will never need to worry about what grade Jake is going into ever again; as long as he stays at WunderSkool, it will never matter. He may change classrooms, and certainly, at eighteen or so he will switch to the adult program, but as long as he is a part of that program, it just won't matter. All that matters there is his development, his needs, his growth, his happiness; the things that are important.

So why the frowny face jennyalice?

Markers, milestones, certification, progress checks... they are those bits of childhood that made our parents proud, or got us grounded. The little slips of paper in the mail from the state, "Your child is gifted." or "Your child meets the state standards for reading." There was the "N" for "needs improvement" I received erroneously in second grade, right before spring break, which made me lose my sh*t so badly that I cried all the way home on the bus (having looked at my report card even though you weren't supposed to look at it before your parents did...). That little "N" made me so upset that my dad, who was somehow home, and not at work, drove me back to school so he could speak with my teacher who thankfully was still there. Those report cards, checking the list on the wall the week before school started to see who your teacher would be, the anticipation of a new desk...shopping for school supplies and back-to-school fashionable clothing purchases... I don't really need to worry about any of that for Jake. None of it.

I buy clothes in the fall because he normally has grown so much over the summer it's a necessity. I clean out his backpack and lunch box, because they are filthy, but he's been using the same backpack and lunch box since I put him on that little yellow short bus 7 years ago. He will go to the same classroom, at the same school, for a very long time, and he can't even tell me if he has apprehension about the one new thing he'll have tomorrow... the bus driver.

I'm not grieving really. I'm not feeling all that left out. I just noticed. I noticed that we are different at our house, again. Even in the simplest ways, our house will continue to run differently than other houses with kids the same age. And while we will go through many of these little things with Jake's little sister, we aren't racing to Target today to get Jake a pencil case, and some wide-ruled paper.

14 August, 2010

This is My Country

I'm having such a great time on our trip. It's really amazing to me how diverse the land...and the people are in this great country. I may be liberal, but the conservatives can't steal my love of country or my ability to display the flag at my house, though you probably won't finding me with a flag lapel pin any time soon. I love this country, and my heart swells with pride when I think about how lucky I am to have been born here, and had the ability to have an education, and marry the person I wanted to marry. Knowing I can raise my children with clean water, and an abundance of food,  instilling our family's take on religion without persecution. And we can travel freely from place to place, without fear. It is truly a privilege to live here.

Visiting Washington, D.C., looking at all of the monuments to some of the greatest community builders the world has ever seen, makes me weepy. Our first President, George Washington, leading a group of disparate people in unity to help build our country. Abraham Lincoln, who held the country together, when slavery, and economics nearly shredded the fabric of the new nation beyond repair. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seeing clearly that each person had value, and as a society we have a moral obligation to take care of each other, a concept that presses upon me as a parent of a special needs child who will always be on the receiving end of society's beneficence.

The amount of leadership and personal integrity those people must have displayed is astounding. I've already mentioned how moved I was by the John Adams series, and the personality traits it brought to light for us all these years later. I think anytime I see great leadership, or community building I am moved. BlogHer'10 gave me some great moments, especially watching Lisa Stone, an amazing community builder herself,  interview the the International Activist Blogger Scholarship recipients.

The speakers:
Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai, Sri Lanka, publisher of Humanity Ashore
Esra'a Al Shafei, Bahrain
, publisher at www.mideastyouth.com
Freshta Basij-Rasikh, Afghanistan, writer for the Afghan Women's Writing Project
Marie Trigona, Argentina, publisher of Latin American Activism
I was especially excited to hear Esr'a Al Shafei speak with such passion. I think my favorite quote was. "If you're going to piss a lot of people off you better do it very well." Which is exactly what the founding framers of this great nation did when they cleaved our future nation from the Crown.


myBoy at the FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.
It was an honor to hear those women speak, and a great feeling to be a part of BlogHer. I've met many wonderful women, who are now part of my community, my little world of Special Needs, and the advocacy and activism that come with it. 

And while I'm not saying that the International speakers are in the same exact same category as Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt, in many ways they are. They are trying to make unheard voices heard, finding a way for their needs to be given credence. They are sewing up differences between religions and cultures, and encouraging a fresh perspective on old topics. And with their work, so important, and probably unappreciated for many years, they are reminding us to value the least of us, and to honor the best in us. 

****** 

I do hope you're following us along on our cross country adventure. http://www.haveautismwilltravel.blogspot.com

10 August, 2010

Family is Family

We've had a nice trip so far. I feel so lucky that the kids were able to see/meet so far, an aunt, an uncle, two cousins, three second cousins, and 5 cousins once removed. At last I think that's what they're called.
We are exiting the freeway RIGHT NOW to go see Niagara Falls.

Okay, right after I wrote that we got off a ramp and saw that the clearance was only 12 feet.
We are at 12 feet 6 inches...at least.
So here's what I know:
New York State troopers are very kind.
It takes 5 lollipops to get myGirl througha call to the NY state police.
My husband and I are GREAT together in a crisis.

More later.. gotta go look at those falls (we made it!)
More later.

06 August, 2010

Conferencing

So I'm at BlogHer '10 in New York this weekend...I left Descartes and the kids in D.C. Last I saw them we were all hot and sweaty and tired from walking all around the monuments on the mall. They dropped me at D.C.'s Union Station, and I had a nice air-conditioned train ride in to New York. This was followed by a very hot, sweaty walk to the hotel, because, while I did navigate the train to subway connection, and I got on the right train...I was not paying attention and got off on 42nd street (which made me start singing) until I remembered that the hotel is at 53rd. Wow. With luggage and a laptop bag, and a purse to carry, I'm fairly certain I lost nearly all the water in my body.

Though I'm in New York for the weekend, we've started our Big Adventure, officially, and I hope you'll follow along at www.HaveAutismWillTravel.com on Twitter we are http://twitter.com/autismtravels

I leave New York on Sunday, and will take the train to Pennsylvania, a state I've never visited, then Descartes and the kids AND the grandparents will pick me up and we will really be on the road.

Then we are off to several New York destinations, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Mt. Rushmore, The Badlands, Yellowstone...and then it gets a bit hazy for me, but Descartes knows where we're going.
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