Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What IS that?

I was driving along yesterday, minding my own business, when a quick glance in the rearview mirror showed something massive behind me.  After a stock cartoon double-take, I realized that it was my almost-14-year-old son's head, now higher than the headrest, filling half my mirror.  When did that happen?  I took down the baby mirror only last year...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eight weeks down

I'm at the library right now.  I didn't think they had wifi here, but apparently, they do.  I picked out a couple of books, but I'm not sure why -- It's been a rough several days, and I don't think I'm going to get the chance to read them.  Well, maybe.

My daughter is in her second day of Fine Arts Camp.  This is a new camp for her -- she did Girl Scout Camp six years running and just didn't want to do it again this year.  I truly don't mind as it, too, is running right now, and it's just stinking hot out.  I'm sure I would have been roped in to volunteer again this year, and it's just stinking hot out.  Not to repeat myself.

The Fine Arts Camp is indoor, which is all to the good and requires no daily tick checks.  My daughter is in the Band section, again all to the good, but yesterday she told me she wanted to switch from clarinet because she's getting bored with it -- not, she said, to sound like a bratty teenager -- and pick up the trumpet.  She then told me that the teen counselors at Band Camp told one of the trumpeters yesterday to just go ahead and empty her spit valve on the floor because hey, she was sitting in the trumpet section of the high school band room, and that whole section of carpeting was full of trumpet spit anyway.  Ew.  Really.  Ew.

I got other pieces about her day out of her yesterday, but what made me feel best of all was that she didn't get into the car and tell me she hated it.  While that sounds like damning with faint praise, for my daughter, it's actually a high accolade for the camp.  That and the fact that they played dodge ball the first day made me feel reasonably good about sending her back the second day.

However, camp must not have been good enough because getting her out of bed this morning was horrible.

I might wish for a Chatty Cathy, but that's just not who she is.  I might wish for a glass-half-full kid, but ditto.  I might wish for a kid who remains calm, and that's what we're working on.  And that's why it's been a rough few days.

On to the ugly:  A year ago, I got a case of shingles.  (Yes, I did blog about it, but as it's about shingles, it's not that interesting.)  Ever had shingles??  It's nasty.  Hurts like a son of a gun, itches something fierce, is hideous to look at, and shuts down your life for several weeks.  I swear I think I'm getting it again, this time on the other eye.  There's nothing I can do about it before the rash appears, so I'm in a hold pattern, but I'll be at the doctor's door lickety-split once that rash shows up.  Anyway, though not proven, it's thought that stress and fatigue are triggers of shingles.  Stress and fatigue.  Really?  Maybe I'm surprised only that I don't potentially have it in more than the one location.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Failure for a video game

It's summer vacation in our school system -- in fact, one week of it is now behind us with 8-1/2 weeks still to go.  I feel a bit like a cross between Julie McCoy, Cruise Director, and Simon Legree.

My daughter feels she needs constant activity and entertainment to enjoy herself (and to motivate her to stay off her brother).  At 11, she's too old for "play dates," but there are few children she plays with in our neighborhood (OK, no children that she plays with in our neighborhood), so I can't just open the front door and tell her to come back home for dinner.  At 11, she's dependent on me to take her places or to pick up a friend.  I don't mind if she has a friend over -- two so far this week, with her at one's house, too -- but I can't get her to tell me the name of anyone from her class that she'd like to get together with over the summer.  It's a bit hard to set up a get-together when the pool of people is only two deep, and one of those two gets on her nerves more often than not.

She also wants family time on demand, asking for all of us to do something together regardless of schedule or interest.  And frankly, her brother just isn't interested.  He's an almost 14-year-old boy with Asperger's; playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii to a Ke$ha song simply isn't going to draw him away from Final Fantasy Gazillion.  Yet my daughter takes his disinterest as a personal insult and not as a manifestation of his disability combined with his age.  And whatever happened to the ability to entertain oneself?

My son, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to be left alone to entertain himself with video games.  He'd be quite content to stay in his boy cave in the basement and play games all day, with occasional forages in the pantry.  However, aside from the fact that there's more to life than video games -- Gasp! -- my son requires a taskmaster to complete his summer assignments.  He'll do them with only a prompt, but in his desire to get back to his current game, he is accepting mediocrity in himself.  This is not OK.  We've met too many people in his life already who are willing to accept mediocrity in him -- not only accept it, but encourage it.

My son doesn't pick up on subtle social cues; explicit teaching is typically necessary, but when he doesn't buy into the need for the skill being taught, brick walls are more accepting of the lesson than he is.  I have to find the "hook," and so far, the best I can come up with is that in order to keep that high-paying job he believes he's going to get, he will have to show his boss his best work all the time.  Promotions, retention, all will depend on his doing his job well.  Bring that closer, and the same will be true for his professors; closer still for high school.  "But Mom, who's gonna know if I use a calculator on these problems?"  "Son, ethics is doing what's right even when no one is looking.  And besides, you have to show your work."  "Aren't you supposed to be letting me fail to learn my lesson?"  "I'm not letting you fail so that you can go play a video game."

Eight-and-a-half weeks to go...

Monday, June 13, 2011


The school budget is close to being finalized.  The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) did not step up to the plate, giving only an additional $750,000 and causing everyone to have to swallow their bile to "thank them for the additional funds" when in point of fact, their level of funding has hurt our children.  They didn't touch their fund balance of over $12 million.  The school system's is down to a little over $2 million.  They also claim that they "don't fire teachers" and in fact have no line-item veto power, yet they scrutinize every aspect of the budget and demand that the Board of Education (BoE) justify its request for additional funding in minute detail.  They are quoted as making suggestions for what can be cut, suggestions that show little understanding of the legal constraints that govern a public school system.

The school system will furlough employees next year for three days.  My understanding was that these days would be professional development days, which may fit with what was said recently, that the days would be worked in around weekends or holidays.  Since the additional $750,000  went towards teacher salaries (un-pink-slipping 16 employees), some people seem to be satisfied with accepting the furlough days as the lesser of two evils.  While I don't disagree with that, the furlough days, if they are indeed professional development days, will remove most of my hope that staff will receive the training that is so desperately needed in this county, especially training related to autism spectrum disorders, executive functioning, social skills, and twice-exceptional students.

At the last BoE meeting (last week), one board member suggested that in upcoming talks with the BoCC, the BoE should point out the obligations and legal constraints of special education and Race to the Top in order to help the BoCC better understand the funding needs of the school system.  I hope that this happens.  I'm considering if/how to offer support from the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education (CACSE) and the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.  Nine of us from one, the other, or both spoke to the BoCC in April in support of increased funding for the school system.  I'm not sure what we could do... Would personal stories of the educational needs of our children help? CACSE meets next week.  Perhaps we can brainstorm on the topic.

Today was the last full day of school.  Three early dismissal days follow before my children become rising 9th and 6th graders.  My son has an all-day class trip to an amusement park tomorrow; his sister and I will be doing all the last-minute preparations for our graduation present to her -- tickets to a Katy Perry concert -- on Wednesday.  Wednesday morning is my son's promotion ceremony, which pretty much shoots the entire morning, and my daughter's promotion ceremony is Thursday morning -- ditto on shooting the morning.  I'm not liking this roller coaster week.

And today we got in the mail a bill from my son's school for $83.25 to replace his "mutilated" Spanish book.  I believe smoke was coming out of my ears.  However, he has already paid off $47 of the debt in three trips to GameStop this evening to sell back his video games.  He'll be working off the rest of it next week.  I truly do not understand the psyche of an 8th-grade boy.