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.

 

I’m Not a Package Thief! Let Me Explain

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Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

In the past few months, I’ve seen a fair few security footage videos on social media, showing people stealing boxes from front porches. “Help us identify this thief” is a common caption. I keep wondering, don’t these front porch parcel bandits realize how likely they are to end up on camera, and then all over the internet, their crimes broadcast to the world?

This was all going through my mind the other day as I removed two boxes from someone’s porch and carried them across a busy street in broad daylight, taking them to my own house, with the full intention of keeping them. Did someone record me doing this? Is my image even now being impugned on the Facebook pages of strangers? See the dastardly woman making away with her neighbors’ goods!

Rest assured, I am not a package thief. I am merely a player in a small coincidence of the cosmos.

I’ve been keeping an eye on my neighbors’ house while they’ve been out of the country. On the day in question, when I  went over to do my rounds and make sure everything was in order, I spotted two packages on their front porch. I thought it was a little odd that they’d order any goods delivered when they were halfway around the world, but figured I’d better take the boxes inside the house so they didn’t get stolen or weather damaged.

One was large and I hoped it wasn’t too heavy. I was relieved to see the words ‘furnace filters” printed on the cardboard. Coincidentally enough, I had just ordered furnace filters from the same company. How about that?

When I took a closer look, I saw the coincidence was of a different nature. Those boxes were mine, both of them. They were addressed to me — my name and my home address. But they’d been delivered to the wrong house. Where I happened to find them anyway, because I was keeping an eye on the place for my neighbors. What are the odds?

And what are the odds someone saw me take them and recorded the whole thing? That’s what I keep wondering. If you see a video posted of a middle-aged, curly-haired woman swiping two unwieldy boxes from someone’s porch and carrying them away, please let me know. I can explain the whole thing.

Merry Crisis and a Happy New Improvisation

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Our dinner venue for Christmas Eve

Considering who raised them, my kids couldn’t help growing up with a dark sense of humor. It helps get us through hard times, minor and major. They’re both in their early twenties now, long past the age where I could shield them from the troubles of the world. Past the age where I even want to. It’s a relief in a lot of ways, being able to speak openly with your kids about big issues.

It’s been a year of living since last Christmas, which means a year with a few problems mixed in with our joys. Car repairs. My younger son, the 20-year-old, has been dealing with annoying health issues off and on for several months. Our washing machine is about to give up the ghost — in a shuddering exorcism, by the looks of things. My firstborn has roommate issues. Deep cuts in benefits at my workplace. Some deaths of loved ones. I hurt my back a couple of weeks ago, and could barely move for about three days. Which meant Christmas prep was rushed and last minute. Then there are the things happening on the world stage — refugees needing asylum, climate change, markets crashing.

But in the middle of all of that, we’ve been able to foment a spirit of celebration within the family around Christmas. Granted, the celebratory spirit has an edge to it. “Merry Crisis!” read the text from my oldest a few days ago. It quickly became our unified holiday greeting. With every newly developing issue — Merry Crisis! Yeah, the world’s going to hell, but we’ve got each other and we’re going to make what joy we can.

I ordered some gifts to be shipped to Kid One, thinking we wouldn’t be seeing them for Christmas. They live four hours away, too far for a day trip. Parties on neither end could do an overnight, for various reasons. I thought I was okay with being apart, since we message all the time.

But I got sad as the day approached, and sadness is sometimes the mother of invention. At nearly the last minute, I pitched a Christmas Eve plan to meet halfway. I looked at maps, researched restaurants that might be open, and found the perfect spot to meet, a two-hour drive from each end. That perfect spot was an IHOP in Quincy, Illinois.

It worked out. It wasn’t the Christmas get together of days gone by, but it was a new innovation that turned out nicely. Kid One brought along their significant other and we had a great visit, filled with our usual brand of humor, leading to lots of laughter. In case anyone wonders, we left a sizable tip for the wait staff working on the holiday. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten to visit with my (23-year-old) baby.

If there’s a lesson for me, it’s to let go of what I think a Christmas celebration should be or what it has been, and to improvise as need to make it what it can be.

Merry Crisis and a Happy New Improvisation!