Friday, April 28, 2006

Its the weekend!!!

I have not outgrown that surging soaring feeling that I got when I was a little kid and the confined world of school would go away. The weekend is here!!! The world is full of possibility for two WHOLE days. I can spend my time the way I like, on my schedule, at my own pace. I can sleep late if I want. I can stay up late if I want. Stretch out on the sofa and nap if I want. Family! Friends! Movies! Music! Food! Outside!

Do retired people feel this? or is it a product of "confinement"? If I didn't spend a large chunk of my waking life under someone else's control, would I feel so great on Friday afternoons?

Time will tell.

Monday, April 24, 2006

closing a door

We have been struggling for the last few months with the Baltimore City school system. We had hoped to get the City to take over tuition payments for our son's special education schooling. He currently attends Baltimore Lab, a special education, arts-based school for bright kids with moderate to severe learning disabilities. It is a wonderful school, and he is thriving there. But the expense is very difficult for us to manage.

We had researched the issue. ADA covers learning disabilities. Under the law, our son is entitled to FAPE (a free and appropriate public education) that must consider physical and other disabilities. So we gathered our various test results, medical results, etc and began the public school process.

We met with a team of specialists. They quickly decided our test results were too old to accept, and that they would have to conduct their own tests. Then they went back on that slightly and said they would accept his IQ results, and his medical results. Because he has ADHD, and Optic Nerve Atrophy, they had no trouble classifying him as disabled and eligible for services.

We were very excited, since we thought this would mean an easy process for getting tuition. But it didn't work out that way at all. The test results came back and I attended a very uncomfortable meeting with the specialist team. They decided he did in fact need OT services. They would provide us the maximum allowed --which turned out to be 1 hour per month! I don't think there is ANY therapy in the world that would be productive on that schedule. They decided he would not be eligible for speech language services, despite his dysgraphia. This is because in Baltimore City, speech language does not cover written language disorders.

Then we got to the crux of the biscuit. He is not eligible for special education because he is performing above grade level in almost everything. Because his current school is so effective, he is now reading at beyond a 12th grade level. Even his math tested at 7th grade (he is in 6th grade). So no services.

If we choose to enroll him in our neighborhood public middle school, they will provide an IEP for accomodations for his vision, his ADHD and his dysgraphia, but that's all. No help, just accomodations.

We decided to end the process. We realize that we could take the city to court, and that if we were persistent enough, they would probably fork over money to make us go away. But we both feel that it would be unethical to sue an already financially depleted system, one that can only come up with 1 hour a month for Occupational Therapy for even its neediest students, so that our son can get the optimal education we want for him.

The whole thing has really made me sad. I feel so bad for the kids trapped by lack of means in a system that can't help them, and probably hinders them. I feel bad that the education my son is receiving is not available to everyone. The progress he is making currently shows me that these kids can be taught, and can succeed, if the right methods are applied.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

changing AGAIN

changejunkie wouldn't be changejunkie if I wasn't into it. My latest jump -- I am GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. Yup, got the paperwork sitting in front of me. I will be pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts at Johns Hopkins University, assuming they accept me into the program. I of course am going the slacker's route, i.e. very very part time. I figure my tuition remission will cover 1 course per semester, plus one each summer so a whopping 3 per year. But the degree only requires 10 courses, and 1 or 2 of them are the Capstone paper (30-50 pages, fiction, non-fiction, drawings, slide show, movie, whatever...) or a Thesis (120 pages of original research). I don't have to specialize, so I can take art, history, literature, philosophy, whatever. And no overarching theme is required, so I can follow my eclectic tastes to my heart's content. On SOMEONE ELSE'S DIME.

I have always had to pay my own way for school. But as a loyal employee of this fine fine institution, I am entitled to $5600 per year in tuition benefits. So, while I am still entitled, I thought I would take advantage of it. The problem has been that well, you can only use the benefit at Hopkins, and their admission standards, are well, VERY VERY DEMANDING. For example, the IT masters program requires 2 full years of higher order math (calculus or beyond) at the college level for admission. Some programs require a 3.5 or above GPA, outstanding GREs and documented community service.

And then I found the Liberal Arts program. No GREs, just a resume, a reference (which can come from your employer), a 3.0 in your last two years of college, and an essay. Hopefully I can manage this.

Who knew how much fun it would be to go back to school?

Friday, April 14, 2006

home sings me of sweet of things

with apologies to Karla Bonoff. Last night was picture perfect. Beautiful blue skies. Crisp clear light. Wonderfully deliciously warm. My husband and I walked to a local restaurant for dinner. It still amazes me that I can walk from my home to a restaurant meal. We had a delightful Vietnamese dinner and then went for a walk around the block before going home. We ran into some friends from the neighborhood and stopped to chat for a bit, before continuing home.

Once we got home, and checked that our son had not burned down the house while making his supper [yes, he decided to stay home and make his OWN dinner!!!], I sat for an hour or so on the front porch and read the newspaper while soaking up some early evening sun. The breeze would shift, and I would smell lilacs from my neighbors yard. Then it would shift again, and I was treated to the smell of new mown grass. The birds were singing, and for a brief while, everything in the universe was perfect.

This morning, my husband called me out to the back porch at 6am. I am NOT a morning person, but I am so so glad I made the exception this morning. We were treated to an amazing nature show, right in our back yard. A fox was ambling through our back yard. We watched her for a few minutes, and then I went to wake up our son. I told him he had missed a fox, and he was pretty disappointed.

I went out onto the porch a few minutes later, and the fox was back. This time we ALL got to see her, as she hunted and killed a squirrel. Eventually she carried it off, out of our yard. But a little later she was back. She curled up under one of our trees and proceeded to groom herself, roll around on her back in our grass, and generally relax. Amazing!

I really didn't expect to love living in the city so much. And I never expected the diversity of experience, from the sophisticated to the wild, that make it our home.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

immigrant song

The recent press about immigration resonates with me on a deeply personal level. I am a first generation American; my parents immigrated from Europe. I was a US citizen before my mother was. While many people say we are a nation of immigrants, I really believe it. Still, I am not 100% behind the immigrant cause.

I do think we have to offer illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship. But it shouldn't be open ended -- I don't think immigrants should be allowed to remain here indefinitely while remaining citizens of their home countries. I resent the "commuters" -- people who want American jobs, and American income, but don't have any plans to commit to staying here as citizens. You don't live here, work here, raise your children here, but remain El Salvadoran, or Nigerian, or whatever. I want to see immigrants waving American flags, not Mexican flags.

America has been strengthened by its immigrants. The true believers in the American dream are those folks that came here to pursue it. The drive to succeed, to sacrifice for future success is stronger in those that fight to come here, and fight to stay here, than in those who view success as our birthright, just for being American. I think the country needs these people.

Monday, April 10, 2006

everything fades

Old age is scaring me. Not my age, thanks very much, but my parents. This weekend my mom went mall-walking at Arundel Mills. She does this every weekend with my father, because the mall is very well laid out, like a track. They have measured the loop with a pedometer, so they know how many circuits equals a mile. Mom slipped this time, and fell. Her wrist was hurting so she and Dad cut their walk short and went home. The next day, her wrist was worse, so she went to the doctor. She broke it in 4 places and is in a hard cast. Mom is only 74 years old. When I went to visit her yesterday, she looked old, and suddenly frail. I am so not ready for the change in my parents, and even less ready to acknowledge that I am on the same path. I too will be 74, fates willing, and watch my body betray me in hundreds of little ways. Will I look in the mirror and see 74, or will I, through the deceptive power of the mind, see 32? Or 22? Do you notice the lines? do you understand that you are forgetting more than you remember? Do you feel your bones lose their strength?

Everything ends. I can handle that. I am struggling with the thought that everything fades.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

playground wars, chapter two

Parenthood is weird. It has a way of throwing your own childhood back at you, with all the insecurities and difficulties that went with it. As my child's social life expands, it gets more complex -- for me. Sometimes I don't like a kid my child likes. On this one, I am pretty sure how to handle it. I keep a watchful eye, but that's it. I know enough to know to never never ever tell a child not to hang out with someone. It makes that person the most attractive person in the universe to them.

I'm on rougher ground with parents of friends. Sometimes I really really like them, which is great. Because then you can hang out with the parents, and the kids can hang together and everybody's happy. Sometimes, I can't stand the parents, but have to make nice, in the interest of making sure my child has a decent social life.

My current dilemma is a tough one. I really really like this kid's parents. And the kid really really likes my son. And my son, well he thinks the kid is kind of a jerk. So the parents call to arrange get-togethers for the kids. And I know I should say something. "I enjoy your company, but my son doesn't really click with your kid", but somehow those words just won't come out of my mouth.

I feel exactly like I felt when I was nine, when this kid I couldn't stand wanted to be my best friend. And I kept ducking her. But once in a while I would feel sorry for her and hang out with her. But I never could tell her that I just didn't want to be her buddy.

AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!! This sucked back then, and it doesn't suck any less when its once removed. I hate being a grown up.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

eating the mammoth

I am testing out a theory. I believe we are biologically programmed to have periods of feast and famine. Our early ancestors would get lean and hungry. They would kill a mammoth, and everyone would gorge themselves until the mammoth was gone. And then it would be famine again, until they could kill another mammoth.

Last week, I went on vacation, and I "ate a mammoth". Lots of wonderful restaurant meals, large breakfasts, desserts, vodka, beer, more beer. That was phase I of my experiment. On Sunday, when I came home, I weighed in. I had gained 5 pounds in my week of excess.

Now I am in Phase II -- famine. I am eating a very lean, very healthy diet of 1100-1200 calories a day. I lost a pound and a half on Monday alone. If I am back to my normal weight in 7 days, I will feel my theory holds water.

Once in a while you have to eat the mammoth.