Friday, December 31, 2010

45th verse, same as the first...

Last year's post rings true today:  Year's End.

However, for those of you who celebrate the holiday,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Won't change a thing.

Since we learned just a few days ago that Otis has cancer and will be with us for just a little bit longer, I've taken so many photographs of all of us with that dog!  I have plans.  I'm going to:
  • Change my Facebook profile picture.  (Already done.)
  • Make an ornament.  (Already started.)
  • Order a photo afghan.  (Already priced.)
  • Make paw prints/photo frame.  (Clay already shipped.)
  • Change my computer wallpaper.
  • Make keepsakes for my children.
Check with me tomorrow, and I'll have added to the above, I'm sure.

Not one of these things is going to make the passing of my Otis any easier.  Not on any of us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Otis... I know.

This afternoon I found out that Otis has cancer and will be with us for maybe six more weeks.  These things happen, I know.  He's a dog, not a person, I know.  We have been so blessed to have him with us these two years, I know.

Unspeakable sadness, I know.

How I'm going to tell my children, I don't know.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Squirrel Babies' Siblings

Removal of Conditions

I approved the draft IEP that removes the conditions from my son's IEP.  Sadly, I'm stuck agreeing to a lesser condition, and I don't know how to get around it.  The STEM Program requires students to work in groups quite a lot, so an accommodation could impact my son's teammates.  This wouldn't  be right, and I agree with that.  So now his IEP no longer says that he can have the accommodation as long as it doesn't compromise the rigor of STEM; instead, it says that he can have it as long as it doesn't impact his peers or it isn't the teaching point.
  • [He] should receive chunking of long-term assignments and reminders of upcoming due dates for each segment of the assignment, with extensions of due dates as needed. Extensions for assignments will be provided for all independent instructional and testing assignments and activities that do not impact his peers' ability to complete their assignment or activity in the specified time allotted.
  • Open-ended or extended tasks should be broken down with more specified directions and steps. This will be done for independent instructional assignments and activities that are not part of a group assignment requiring group members to break down the assignment or activity as part of their "group" grade. 
Then as I wrote the above, I realized that I had to rescind the approval.  I wrote the following to the IEP Chairperson and Supervisor of Special Education at my son's school:
I just re-read the rephrasing on the accommodations.  I've got a fundamental problem, and I don't know that it's limited to Special Education.  Here's the thing:  The phrasing on the first accommodation, which is still a condition, by the way, doesn't allow [my son] to have an extension if the group needs the assignment/activity.  However, students in the STEM program who don't have an IEP frequently come to class without their work completed, even when it's group work, thus impacting [my son] and their other teammates.  Now, perhaps those students take a hit on their grades, but I don't know about that, and I've seen repeatedly over the past couple of years that if students can't get it done, they come to class, say they couldn't get it done, and the whole assignment gets a pushed-back due date!  It seems to me that this phrasing makes it forbidden for [my son] but allows others to do so with impunity.  (It's now also a broad condition that impacts [my son] in Social Studies and Language Arts.)

In addition to the above "fairness" issue, I've got a legal question.  While I agree that [my son] needs to do the work in a timely fashion, the phrasing is still a condition, and I'm asking you to verify that it isn't illegal to have such a phrasing on an IEP.  I'm asking the same for the much-watered-down-but-still-a-condition phrasing of the second accommodation.

I'm really sorry that I didn't catch why I was so uncomfortable with these phrasings before I said that they were okay.  When I read them the first time, they made a certain kind of sense, and I also didn't process that these are still conditions.  The phrasings are okay if they're legal, but they make me uneasy.

Therefore, I need something in writing from the Department of Special Education saying that they have been checked out, and by whom, and that they are legal.  Please advise me if stating this request in this manner is or isn't enough to make that happen.

Again, I'm sorry I wasn't able to figure out what was bothering me earlier.

Thank you.
I don't know what will come of it, but I surely want it in writing.  I've been treated to inaction, lies, and threats in the past; I can't afford to let it continue if there's any question about the legality.

And What Happened After That

I had met with the Supervisor of Special Education for my son's school after the initial IEP meeting to remove the conditions.  The Supervisor had ever-so-gently taken me to task for the tone of my daily emails to the school team regarding my son's pack-up for the day (what he brought home, what he didn't bring home, what he wasn't able to explain, what didn't have due dates, what was signed off, what wasn't, etc.).  I truly believe that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but eventually, I lost that perspective.  Four years of little progress on the pack-up procedure makes for some mighty stale honey.  (At one point this school year, my Facebook status read, "Don't you just love having to be obnoxious to get your child what he needs at school?  Not.")

I should point out that I didn't ask for the Supervisor of Special Education to become involved in the situation; someone on the school team must have requested her presence.  At no time during the honeyed past of lack of progress has the Supervisor involved herself.  (Nice person, the Supervisor, just not involved until recently.)

As I said, I was taken to task, and I sent an apology to the team:
I need to apologize for the tone of my "Day __ Pack-up" messages.  My intent was to log what did/didn't happen with packing up; I regret that the manner of logging that information may have caused a rift in the team.  While my sense of urgency hasn't declined, I'll try to replenish my stock of patience as we work to address [my son's] needs.
Who knows if that was enough to mend the relationship on their end.  I know that tomorrow will be the 71st day of this school year and we're still "working on" the procedure -- a procedure that, by law, is supposed to be in place by the start of the school year.  So really, who owes whom an apology?

Cool FB App.

My Girl

My daughter competed in a Robotics Competition yesterday as part of her STEM5 program.  It was an incredibly stressful set-up, and there was a hugely disappointing snafu with her team's programs.  She went into overload and "withdrew" from those parts of the day; however, she was able to participate very well during the other sections during the day.  Her team tied for 2nd place for Teamwork.  I hope she learns from the snafu and remembers the positives.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Big Day

My mother asked us kids to throw her a 75th birthday party.  Well, there was a lot more to it than that, but that was the result.  When we said we couldn't afford to invite 113 people and it wouldn't be appropriate to hold it in her church hall, she said that we could just surprise her with it all.  Again, there was a lot more to it than that...  Anyway, tomorrow is the big day.

Today we did all the last-minute things that people do before such events:  We made, frosted, and decorated more than 100 cupcakes (duly tested for quality), and we put together two poster boards of photos -- one for a "How Old Was I?" game and the other of random pictures of my mom over the years.  We also put together a couple more games, including a 1935 Trivia Quiz and a "How Well Do You Know Barbara?" Quiz.  While the party is an Open House, we should still be able to go through them with a lot of the guests.

Tomorrow we have to get up early, coordinate showers, etc.,  pack up all the last-minute necessaries, and load up the cars for the hour-long drive to the rec center in my mother's condominium complex.  Then it's the usual:  Unload everything, decorate the hall, lay out the food, set up a gifts table and the guest tables, and maybe set something up to guide guests to the rec center.

I think it'll be a good party.  I'd just like to be able to go to sleep now.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mom of two

I had coffee with Matthew and Luke's mom this morning.  Love her and her boys.  That got me to thinking that I hadn't yet posted this photo:

The monkey is the ornament my daughter and I picked out for Matthew last year.  (I swear it's not as big as it looks!)  We picked the snowmen for Matthew and Luke this year as I wanted something that included their names.   I suppose it's kind of odd to hang ornaments for another person's children on your own tree, but then, they've had such an impact on my life...  So in loving memory of Matthew and in sweet anticipation of Luke, Merry Christmas, Lori's boys.  You are so loved!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


If going back to sleep means I have to continue that dream I was having, I'm staying awake.  I don't care what I have to do tomorrow.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Squirrel Babies

My daughter and I went to my sister's for Thanksgiving.  I'm so appreciative that my sister and brother-in-law stepped up to the plate after our grandmother died and took on the job of hosting Thanksgiving.  I get to see my family, and my kids get the memories of going to New Jersey for a traditional Thanksgiving with family.  (Except we don't really do the whole football thing.  Wasn't it Erma Bombeck who said, “Thanksgiving dinners ... are consumed in 12 minutes.  Football halftime takes 12 minutes, too. This is not coincidence.”)  And nobody has to gripe about coming to Southern Maryland -- a beautiful place to be, but on a peninsula to nowhere.  (The office mate of a friend of mine asked my friend where I was living soon after I had moved away from Philly.  My friend told her that I was about two hours south of Baltimore.  The office mate, originally from Baltimore herself, stated quite emphatically that there was nothing two hours south of Baltimore.  Beg to differ.  Just.  Two hours and fifteen minutes south of Baltimore is nothing but water.)

My daughter has been plotting and planning with her friend just what exactly they were going to do for Black Friday.  She and her friend saved up their money, made lists of the things they wanted to buy, checked out the stores they wanted to go to, and decided that they would each get the other something.  Then they told each other what they were getting.  We started our Black Friday at Toys R Us and ended it at Cherry Hill Mall.  I've got to tell you that while I wish my daughter had Executive Functioning skills commensurate with her cognitive abilities, I appreciated the discrepancy when she went on overload and asked to go home before we made a complete circuit of the mall!

On Saturday, we went to my husband's sister's for our second Thanksgiving with his side of the family.  My in-laws have passed away, but the families of all six surviving children were there.  That hasn't happened in a long time, and I'm glad we got the chance to see everyone.

Science Fair
My son finished his Science Fair project, including the data book, research paper, abstract, and display board, Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend.  He gave his presentation in class yesterday and said it went fine.  While the project itself is mandatory, participation in the school's Science Fair competition (called Brain Battles) is optional for STEM8 students.  I'm a little disappointed that he opted out of the competition, which is next week, but I think that's because in the mandatory STEM6 and STEM7 competitions, he did really well, going on to the county level Science Fair both years and then to the regional competition last year.  I think that was a good confidence booster for him, and it certainly didn't hurt my "mama's pride" any as I look at it as support for his belonging in the STEM program.  This year, we won't know.

On the other hand, I'm relieved he's not participating in Brain Battles next week.  He's got an 8th-grade field trip that day, and students are expected to return a scant 45 minutes prior to the start of Brain Battles.  If he participated, he'd have to go straight from the field trip bus into school -- I'm sure I'd have to supply dinner in there somewhere -- for a couple more hours of "good behavior" in an overwhelming atmosphere.

So for us, Science Fair 2010-2011 is effectively over.

Birthday Party
I've mentioned before that my mother's three children are hosting a 75th Birthday "Open House" party for her.  It'll be in Pennsylvania in just a handful of days.  My sister and I have been doing the planning, buying, ordering, and making.  (My brother will do the errand-running on the day of the party.  Suits me -- I don't know the area, and he used to live there.)  We firmed up a bunch of stuff over Thanksgiving weekend, and praise the powers that be, we made a centerpiece for under $15.  I've also badgered my siblings, children, nieces and nephew to give me a "memory" of her for inclusion in her scrapbook.  To date, I have only my nephew left to nag.

Putting together the scrapbook has been a bit of a nightmare.  I don't have the scrapbooking supplies and knowledge that I need to do the job I want to do; I've had to settle for something that's nice but wouldn't cut it among the scrapbooking crowd.  That's OK.  I've done the best I can do with what I have.  But I can wish.

That's also true of the photos I took over Thanksgiving weekend of the three of us with our mom.  When did we get so old?  (And in my case, so wide?)  My mom was so hunched over she was practically kissing the camera, caught most of the flash, and was 12 shades whiter than the rest of us -- which is saying something as I would be the winner if Crayola ever ran a contest for the color "pasty."  I had a chin thing going on, and my brother had a big ol' bandage on his cheek from a procedure the day before.  My sister looks reasonably decent, but we all caught the glare on our glasses.  Really, there just aren't enough "special effect" features in my photo software package to tidy us up.  (The "elongate like Barbie" button was conspicuously missing.  Maybe they charge extra for that.)  Fortunately, the usable space in the scrapbook is 7x7 inches, so if I print us really, really small and make the "Memories of Mom" write-up really, really big, we might have a winner.

Anyway, here's the first page:

I've got all this other flotsam and jetsam to get out of my head, but this'll do for now.