Oh where, oh where has America gone?

Sometimes I wonder what America our military members are fighting for. I thought it was the one where we value the rights provided to us by the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. But then we have incidents like this.

Over the past few years, the Women in Black and Veterans for Peace have grown in our little town, as they have around the world, protesting the war in Iraq. Last I looked, we were allowed to do that– assemble peacefully and express our opinions. I personally know a number of the women of our local Women in Black group, which includes the minister of my church as well as several local women in the social forefront of institutional and educational agencies. They gathered, at first in the public square downtown, to bear silent witness, signs and solidarity for those who want to bring the troops home and end the war. They can’t meet there any more. The pro-war people harass, film and taunt them and make their vigils miserable. In the You Tube clips I’ve seen, where they accuse our local Women in Black of practicing witchcraft among other things, the taunters send their children to verbally assault the protesters. They aren’t even brave enough to do it themselves. And the police won’t do anything about it.

This, they’ll do something about. They charged an 82-year-old woman for allegedly kicking a veteran in his padded behind after he supposedly cursed her for stating her opinion. Yep, this is the America we have now.

(I’m even going to withhold comment on the kind of Iraq veteran who would whine about being “beat up” by an 82-year-old woman. For shame.) (Okay, withhold most of my comment.)

I know Ann DeWalt. We were cast together in the community theatre’s production of Steel Magnolias, myself as Ouiser and Ann as Clairee, and we spent months together. She is a fine lady in every sense of the word. Her sense of humor is sharp as her wit, and she certainly has many weapons at her disposal to fend off the usual sort of mockers. Clearly this went above and beyond.

There is no reason those protesting the war and those supporting the war can’t peacefully express their opinions. There is no reason those protesting the war have to be hounded by those determined to silence them, forced to continue moving the location of their protest to avoid being harassed. It’s in the Constitution, people. Everyone gets their chance to speak. None of us has the right to shut down opposing opinion. Not as far as I read the document.

Ann is hanging in there, bless her. As Clairee said so many nights, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

It makes me sad. This isn’t the America I learned about when I grew up, the country we’re supposed to be so proud of. I’ll go back to Ouiser for my final word: “This is it, I’ve found it, I’m in hell.”

Footnote, 3/25: outcome of hearing, Ann’s found guilty, pays $25 for the privilege.

Alphabet soup

Wherein we must get input from the TSS and the BSC as well as the MD before we meet with the LEA about the IEP to make sure we get FAPE in an LRE for our K-I-D.

Whew.

That’s after you hit school years.

Before that, for those with early diagnosis, you have to travel to the SLP or the PhD to distinguish the NT from the PDD or the ASD, or perhaps the less awkward ADD. Then you have to decide between ABA and DAN and RDI and GFCF.

Confused yet?

Pathetic. Isn’t it hard enough for parents to bring themselves to the conclusion there might be something not quite right with Johnny or Susie without having to venture into a land of foreign language, too? Makes you want PECS.

Years ago, before I had these delightful choices in my own life, I would attend court hearings for people involved in such things, and as far as I was concerned, it sounded like an evening in the Soviet Union. People coming into parents’ homes, dictating their child care, telling them how to communicate with the children, hours upon hours spent at medical and therapeutic facilities; it’s no wonder that in these situations one parent often has the full-time job of managing the special care/education.

Once our household was “diagnosed,” we had Occupational Therapy (OT) one hour per week per child, and one hour per week of speech therapy (ST) and Early Intervention (EI) from the Intermediate Unit (IU5) three hours a week for Little Miss. Within a year or so, they moved into wraparound services; then our previously fairly private house was invaded by Therapeutic Staff Support (TSS) women from the minute school was out until dinnertime, though usually we had to hold dinner because they were late. (The one actually suggested she used to eat dinner and go on vacations with her previous family, as if it was her entitlement. We convinced her that would change.) This went on till last summer. We’re temporarily done.

It IS overwhelming. There is so much to learn. Websites like Autismlink give a good basic grounding in what you need to know. The site is a labor of love of Cindy Waeltermann, whose hands-on learning from her own sons’ diagnosis has turned into a massive outreach helping others, all over the country. She took things step by step, found out what was available, what she needed to know, and then went after it. I did, when it was our turn. So can you.

Take small bites. It’s a big buffet. You’ll have plenty of time to try all the different flavors, and various ones will appeal to you as your tastes/needs change.

Meantime, check these sites for translation of your new alphabet vocabulary. Print out what you need and carry it like a Frommer’s or Baedeker’s. Don’t be shy about using it at meetings; that’s what it’s for. It’ll answer your FAQ, PDQ.

Acronym Definition Primer
Acronyms and Special Education
Autism FAQ
Autism Acronym list of Macomb-St.Clair County

Sisters: Flowers from the same garden, just transplanted

One reason we relocated to Pennsylvania from Florida 18 years ago was for family. Not for the weather. Really. For sure. Word.

At the time, we lived in Homestead–before Hurricane Andrew committed suburban renewal thereupon. One sister lived in California, another in Chicago, and the last in Erie, PA. We were widespread, exchanged phone calls and Christmas cards and wished for vacations so we could spend time together.

Once I had children, the tropical charms of South Florida gave way to thoughts of living in places where we didn’t get shot at. (I’ll tell those stories another day.) Suffice it to say that we came for a visit one verdant summer to the hills of Pennsylvania and it felt like home. We packed dog and caboodle and moved north.

My sister here was thrilled. She helped us find a realtor, etc., and we had dinner at each other’s place several times. She had kids, we had kids, we all had jobs… so we didn’t see each other often. But we lived close.

My California sister moved back several years later, living right next door to me for a short time with her son. We visited a lot, then. But she went back to school and moved about 20 miles north to the state university, near my first sister. We still lived close.

What happened over the years is that although we live 20 miles apart, we hardly ever see each other. Not because we don’t like each other–we get along famously. All that longing for family togetherness we had when we split the country has been consumed in the everyday grind of surviving children, school, work and life in general. We email more often than we call now. I know at least one of them reads the blog. I actually communicate with my Chicago sister more often because she’s brave enough to use the Internet daily, and we chat on MSN a couple times a week.

March 1, my former-California sister is moving closer to her new job up on the lake in Ohio. The split begins again. It’s true that in the last year the three of us have started planning get-togethers every couple of months on purpose, because we all feel guilty. We remember families are supposed to stick close. But it’s not a hundred years ago when many branches of a family tree grew within blocks of each other. Busy professionals have demands that require setting priorities. These don’t always include time with extended family, especially when you’re barely meeting your own kids’ needs.

So best wishes and happy housewarming to D in Ohio! I miss you and stay warm! to M in Erie. Keep writing that book, Casual Gardener in Chicago! And I guess we’ll always have Christmas. My place or yours?

***

‘Tis after all Carnival season, so catch my posts at the Mothers and Daughters Blog Carnival and also at the Personal Development Carnival. Party on!

Summer daze is coming

Though the winter deluge has not yet ceased (to my dismay) it is nearly the dreaded time to plan the summer vacation.

It’s not the vacation that’s dreaded, of course; it’s the planning. The adventure of when, where, why and how much always falls in my lap because my husband shares his son’s ADD and I’m a multi-tasker.

So. Let’s plan a vacation interesting enough for the adults, not overwhelming to Little Miss as she recovers from her sensory disorders, not full of trivia that Captain Oblivious will drown us with over the next six months, and still punchy enough that Ditto Boy (whose ADD drives him to copy faithfully all his brother’s skills) will be able to follow along. Huh.

We are blessed to some extent that the group are fabulous car travelers. The autism actually helped for a long time, because they could be sitting right next to each other and never notice. A gift! Of course, as they’ve gotten better, they’ve started the “Moooom, he’s touching me!” “Moooooom, he took my book.” You know how it goes. They tell me this is progress. I hope it is.

So. Hmm. Traveling. Then, I find this. Now we’re talking.

I’ve always liked the occasional garage sale, in recent years much more selective about attending them because I’ve got plenty of junk in my OWN house, thank you. But my husband is addicted. If we’re driving down the highway and there’s a garage sale or swapmeet on the side of the road he stares longingly, and if I’m driving and we pass it, I swear he makes that whiny noise a sad dog makes. If he’s driving…well, let’s just say the junk value of our house doubles. UNLESS he drives by slowly, and then gives me that look like, “See there, I drove by! I’m not a garage-aholic. I can stop ANY time!” just before he stops at the next one.

But this?? 630 MILES of garage sale in a row? With motel recommendations so you can stay LONGER? When I showed him, he drooled on his keyboard and shorted out the thing.

So I’ve got a friend in Louisville (pronounced Lou-a-ville, my friends) and I’m overdue for a visit with her. We could leave here and be there in seven hours or so, then pick up the trail and head south. Only 490 miles of yard sale. Darn. I hope we don’t miss something important. Then head on south to the end, take a left and drop off the kids at their grandmother’s in South Carolina for their summer visit. Hmm. This might work.

Little Miss is getting into the science of getting. She could find all sorts of wonderful (cheap) things. Ditto Boy and his dad can stop at multiple places for short amounts of time, perfect for their attention spans. Captain Oblivious will likely stock up on books and bury himself in a corner of the back seat with them. Perfect.

I’ll get my husband to install a tray in the front seat for my laptop so I can pen the Great American Murder Mystery while we’re on the road, something about someone driving along 630 miles of yard sale and leaving murder weapons among the junk to vanish into some hot little hands. Yeah, that’s it… (Wait! That’s not a bad idea! Where’s my laptop!)

***
Meantime, I am invited this week to be part of the Just Write Blog Carnival , so writers stop by, and see what else you can find. Then I will leave you with this, which was really cute and demonstrates that some people have much more time than I do.

Can you say ‘I told you so’?

I knew you could.

I suppose I should post a “RANT WARNING”, but you folk who have followed along with me so far seem able to take these things in stride.

Two major developments today. First is the mid-afternoon call from the school principal, just dying to tell me that at lunch today, Captain Oblivious left his seat and wandered the cafeteria, begging for food. When some kid told him to sit down, C.O. announced that this boy was not the boss of him! And then hauled off and punched the kid.

I’m sorry, did I not JUST say that a couple weeks ago? Oy. We didn’t even make it to junior high!

It sounds like the school handled it well enough, I suppose; the principal and the autistic support advisor sat with C.O. in the afternoon and tried to find out what had happened. I don’t know what he actually told them. He lied when he was telling me, and was then surprised after he admitted he lied that I wouldn’t believe him any more. But the principal said he interviewed a number of other children and got the same story from the closest three. Fortunately for us, I suppose, no adults saw it, so he wasn’t 100% sure what had happened. We avoided a suspension.

If C.O.’s going to hit people over crackers, where does that leave us on real issues?

We’ve got a meeting scheduled for next month already, looking toward the change in schools next fall. After I read this thoughtful post, I decided we’d better get prepared even before this year was over (little knowing C.O. would bring it on early). I’m sending a copy of that post to each team member before we meet so they can see what I already KNOW is this child’s future. Hopefully someone will have a plan to offer.

Meantime, Little Miss needs further speech work, now that we can see the language itself is hampering her understanding of schoolwork and the need to be able to regurgitate and express back to the teacher. Do you think we can get it anywhere within 35 miles of home? All I have to ask for is “pragmatic speech therapy,” that her school speech teacher thought would be so easy to schedule, and I get, “Hem, haw, no openings for that in the foreseeable future, have you tried city X?” Or “There might be an opening…if you want to take her out of school to go to sessions in the morning.”

What?!

So as the children bickered over dinner about the spinach I was eating and how only sailors could eat spinach, I have to confess I was thinking of myself sailing away on the deck of that ocean liner with a cool drink in my hand. I’d wave back at them as we headed into the sunset. Really, I would.

Smart kids need an education, too

Apparently, Boston Legal is determined to annoy me this season.

In a story line about the suicide of a high school student overwhelmed by demands for performance, the lawyer in her closing ranted about how schools are at fault and should limit the activities of students. Outcome-based education, she said, was only interested in an end product–a student prepared for the dog-eat-dog competitive world–not the process of learning.

That I don’t disagree with. I don’t know how kids today keep up with the overscheduling of activities, classes, sports and clubs, with no free time for either themselves or their parents. The part that grabbed me was that lawyer’s insistence that Advanced Placement classes be abandoned, “because we don’t need college classes in high schools.”

Now wait a minute.

I confess I am a product of Advanced Placement classes in English, Chemistry, Biology and American History. My daughter attended gifted classes from the time she was six and actually took two classes at the local private college her senior year, paid for by the high school. We both needed to be challenged in a way that the regular high school curriculum couldn’t handle. In an age when teachers are often teaching to the lowest common denominator, No Child Left Behind means the upper academic levels, too!

However, our parents and our peer group did not insist we had to be acceptable to Harvard or Princeton. All we had to do was use our best ability to learn and do well in whatever we chose. I went to Kent State (after the National Guard), and my daughter to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I still went to law school. Thank the heavens I don’t work on Wall Street; I’d hate it. She’s going to be a fine chef. We’re better for the education we were encouraged to have.

Let’s hope school systems across the country don’t take this to heart and continue the trend we’ve seen over the last decade of cutting gifted programming to serve the at-risk kids because of limited funding. These kids are our best and brightest, and if we don’t keep them engaged, what will the next generation become?

Progress by any other name

So Little Miss comes into my home office this morning with several screws in her hand. “I see some nails!” she announces.

I take them from her with thanks, assuming my husband left some out in the living room last time we were putting up pictures or something.

Several minutes later, she comes in the office and pulls a chair up, clanking a bunch of hardware onto the tabletop. With a raised brow, I ask her where she got those about the time the lightbulb goes off: it’s all the metal pulls, etc. from the entertainment center in the living room. All of them. Totally disassembled. “Oh, they’re all broken!” she says with a smile.

“I see that. Can we go put them back in?”

She giggles, and blissfully spends the next ten minutes reconstructing the thing. “I fixed it!” she says.

Indeed. The beginning of the end of the safety of every remaining piece of furniture in the house. Dare I hope she’ll grow up to be a carpenter? They have a great union. She can take care of me in my gray-haired old age. Which at this rate may be next week.

Please take a moment if you have a spare one, and come visit me at the Carnival of Family Life, hosted by the Modern Sage/Practical Living Blog, where a whole bunch of us have articles on family, humor, finance and many other topics.