Happy Mothman Day

My Mother’s Day started with this message on my phone from my oldest kid:
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Which makes me think I raised him right.

My kids both have birthdays this week. They will be 24 and 21, even though there’s a part of me that refuses to accept the information, a part of my identity that is permanently stuck at being the mom of a 4-year-old and 7-year-old. I’m not sure why that particular point in time. It’s just the feeling of who I am.

There’s a lot to be said for being the mom of adults, though. I never have to nag anyone to shower. I never have to do another parent-teacher conference. If I want to go on a bike ride by myself, I can just go.

I think that’s why parents and children can become friends as life goes on. Because the parents no longer have to be guardians and gatekeepers. Well, there’s still a little of that going on with the younger one. But for the most part, I’ve done what I can do to guide my children to adulthood, for better or worse. It’s up to them now to remember to shower. Meanwhile I get to reap the rewards of gaining a couple of new friends.

 

 

Mixed Feelings on a Beautiful Easter Day

Random thoughts on this Easter Sunday:

If I don’t pay attention to the news, I can be happy for a while. If I don’t think about the bombings in Sri Lanka today, or the continued shenanigans of our president, or climate change. While my heart breaks over all of that, and I know we need to be informed and take action, I also know we need joy. We need to remember what we want to work for, what makes it worthwhile to be here in this universe.

It’s no accident so many religions and cultures have celebrations in the spring centered around renewal, rebirth, resurrection, and promise for the future. This past winter seemed particularly long and particularly gray. But we came out the other side. I know I feel more alive. It helps that it’s a beautiful day here.

Locally, I am in love with my community. When I focus on my immediate circle, I have hope. I see the world as a good place. I went to a literary event yesterday and ran into a number of friends, all of whom are creators or promoters of the arts, all of whom use their energy to improve this experience we call life.

We’ve always been low-key in my family about Easter celebrations, compared to some people I know. We decorated eggs with the kids, hiding them on Easter morning for our children to find. And that’s about it. But it was a ton of fun for a lot of years. Even after the kids outgrew egg hunts, we still decorated, up until last year, when we did nothing.

This year, I decided it was time to try something new. I’m not a super crafty person, but I tried my hand at making some natural dyes last night, with decidedly mixed results. As I said going in, though, the worst that can happen is we get ugly eggs that are still edible.

Easter eggs

 

The blue eggs attest to the magic of cabbage leaves. The orange dye was a mix of onion skins and turmeric. In case anyone wants to duplicate my result of eggs that simply look dirty, I’ll tell you the secret. I achieved that with a combination of spinach and ground mace.

My sneaky husband got up this morning and hid these things, prompting my 20-year-old son and I to do our first Easter egg hunt in at least seven years. That’s a way to get me out of my pajamas and about the day, a forced scavenger hunt before I can have breakfast!

After my egg sandwich and coffee, I got out the chief emblem of my efforts to create my new me – my bicycle, which I’ve named Frieda. A value-added component of my life is the easy access I have to a fantastic walking and biking trail network. The nearest trail head is a five-minute ride from my house (three minutes for my husband. Maybe only two.) Frieda and I managed to get in a nine-mile round trip ride before noon. Along the way, I ran into even more wonderful friends, out walking with their one-year-old son. It was the perfect excuse to stop and rest my legs for a couple of minutes as we chatted and I got a baby fix.

 

Later, I’ll pay attention to the news again, to the problems that need to be solved, the pondering of what I can do about those problems. I’m in the restoration part of the cycle right now.

IEP/504 Meetings of Days Gone By

What’s the opposite of nostalgia? I’m pretty sure I experienced it yesterday when I came across some 10-year-old old paperwork pertaining to school evaluations for my son. My brilliant, sweet boy, who was ten years old at the time.

I have embarked on a project to purge and organized the piles of paperwork that have been accumulating around my house for, oh, ten years. It’s slow going because I keep stopping to read things. For instance a file full of print-outs I made of email communications with school personnel.

For context, my son, M, has auditory processing difficulties. His brain doesn’t filter sounds very well. We started the evaluation process thinking he would have an IEP (individualized education plan), but he didn’t actually need changes in the curriculum, only changes to ensure him equal access to the curriculum. So we ended up with what’s called a 504 plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I had almost managed to forget the constant vigilance and stress involved in having a child in school under these circumstances. Many teachers and school staff were wonderful and amazing. But many others were not. I experienced a fair amount of lip service, some head patting, some gaslighting, and whole lot of hoop jumping on my part. I’m glad that experience is behind me.

The following is one of the emails I re-discovered, and typical of the kinds of things I found myself writing a lot in those days.

Hi Ms. K & Ms. L,

As always, thanks for all of your time and effort on behalf of M. I want to address two things:

1. Regarding the parent input statement I wrote to be included with all evaluation reports: I will make multiple copies for each of you so it can be attached to every printed copy of the report, rather than only in a computer somewhere. I understand the school district’s budget is extremely tight, but it is a part of the report that should be available with every copy. I will supply the paper and ink for that to happen. (I had been told that, of course I could supply a parent input statement to be added to teacher observations and everything else in the reports. But when I showed up for the first meeting, the statement I had emailed was not included and everyone seemed to think it was eccentric of me to believe it would be added to the actual report, which was already using so much paper. I was assured the email had been saved and that my painstakingly created contribution was “in the computer.”)

2. I am also attaching here a copy of more observations I have made including my classroom observations from last May. I sent these once, but was told they couldn’t be included in the report at that time because they happened after the date of the evaluation meeting. I’m sorry I did not bring this to yesterday’s meeting, but did not realize they could now be included until I read through the report and saw mention of staff observations that had occurred from the same time period. Now that I know the door is open again, I’m sending them. (If this isn’t obvious, someone lied to me about why they *couldn’t* put my classroom observations into the report. And I caught them in the lie.) This document should also be attached to all copies of M’s evaluation reports. In addition to attaching it here, I will supply multiple paper copies as a donation to keep district expenses low. 

Best regards,

**

If any parents currently going through the process happen to read this, please know you are not alone. You are allowed to have your voice heard. Don’t let them gaslight you or shut you up. Keep speaking the truth for your child. You will find advocates and allies within the system, though it can sometimes take a little while to figure out who they are. Work on building relationships with those folks. My son’s grade school speech therapist and his junior high counselor, in particular, were real angels who had his back.

That said, I look back on this and wonder about families who don’t have the resources I did. We’ve never been wealthy, but I could at least afford paper and toner. And this was before I started my sandwich generation gig, so I could carve out the time. How many kids fall into the cracks because their parents don’t have the resources or time or knowledge to stay on top of things?

I’m happy to say my son made it through and is now a brilliant, sweet 20-year-old who does what he can to make the world a better place. He made it through with his kindness and compassion intact, which is what I most wanted for him.

 

On My Birthday

I’m 55 years old today, and am starting to understand how my mom felt one time when I told her she was 89. She said, “I never imagined I was that old!”

I have been saving a few dollars back here and there for about three years so I could recapture my youth. Here it is. Here’s my youth recaptured.

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Not the old van. The shiny new bike. I used to bicycle a lot, 25 years ago, before I had kids. And a little since then. But I’ve never really had a decent new bicycle that fit me, since I was five years old and my oldest sister gave me one for Christmas. In my adult life, I’ve mostly ridden used bikes that were slightly too large.

Can I say that going from a 23-year-old bike to a new one is amazing. It’s an entirely different experience. No longer do I have to do special exercise for thumb strength in order to shift gears. Just click and they shift. And a bike that fits me! It’s so comfortable. This is a whole new world for me, peeps. My first good new bicycle in fifty years!

Maybe I’ll buy another new one when I turn 105.

 

 

Putting Sleep on the To-Do List

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A nap is more important than sorting through that paperwork. 

 

Pro tip — if you oversleep on a day you had planned to tackle your extensive to-do list, rather than despairing over crossing off fewer items, simply add one. Put “GET MORE SLEEP” right there at the top. Hey, you’ve already started before you even woke up!

I’m not really kidding. The older I get, the more I see the value of adequate sleep. I come from a family that sleeps little, so this is a newish mindset for me.

I used to be an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” type of person. But that’s ridiculous. An objective evaluation of my life when I’ve had a good sleep versus when I’m running low shows me that the quality of my existence improves when I’m rested. I’m less cranky and more productive. I get fewer colds and other minor illnesses as well.

I have intermittent insomnia, and sometimes have to “work at” getting sleep. I have a variety of tricks. So I’m trying to stop kicking myself when I get a late start on weekend chores because I stayed in bed longer than intended. Instead, I tell myself I’ve met an important health goal.

 

The Unwanted Adventures of Motherhood

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Sparkly, ice-covered plants.

I had a lot of tasks to catch up on this week before I could find time to write this. It’s a narrative of my unexpected adventure last week. Spoiler: we’re all okay now.

It’s late Monday afternoon and I’m working my noon to 9 p.m. shift at the library. I’m on a project hour, away from view of the public services desks, so I’m able to glance at my cell phone when it buzzes. My 23-year-old, who lives ~240 miles away, has been battling a virus, but felt he was over it enough to go to work. He’s messaging me for advice.

He has chest pains. Bad chest pains. Trouble breathing. Do I think he should leave work and go to the ER?

YES! Child of mine, go to the ER. Now. Continue reading “The Unwanted Adventures of Motherhood”

Grown Siblings, Mothering Them by Text

For the past hour, I’ve been having two simultaneous, but extremely different text conversations with my two kids. I worried I would accidentally send a comment or emoji to the wrong one, as I alternated answering one and then the other.

Kid number 1, who lives a few hours away, has spent the morning at urgent care and is feeling terrible, plus worried about not being able to go to work tomorrow. Kid number 2, who still lives with me, just finished participating in a game jam* with a local game developers’ club. He’s flying high with exhilaration over what his group accomplished this weekend.

It’s one of those situations where I want to be present for both, and I guess the technology makes that possible. But I’m dizzy from the back and forth.

“My whole body aches.”

😦 I hope the medicine helps soon.

“Here are the coolest features of the game we created this weekend.”

🙂 That’s amazing. So cool!

Back and forth, back and forth — celebrate, commiserate, celebrate, commiserate. Never letting on to either that I’m having a conversation with their sibling, or what it’s about. Why remind the sick one of other people having fun? And why deflate the happy one by bringing up worries about the sibling?

And if this doesn’t epitomize being the mother of more than one child, I don’t know what does.

*Participants break into teams and have a weekend to create a computer game on a given theme.