To Understand

Today, our first day back from break, we had an inservice. Usually we teachers dread inservice days because, very often, they’re not very helpful, to be honest. I was looking forward to our inservice today, on a Monday, the first day back after two weeks, because Olivia’s and my friend, Chloe, was presenting to our staff about her journey with autism. I knew she would be great…but I was so impressed by her outstanding presentation. Everyone was very impressed. Most of us were choking back tears…mostly tears of pride, honestly. Here was this young woman, who clearly has had struggles in school due to her autism, speaking so eloquently and confidently in front of a room full of teachers. She was amazing.

For me, I was very emotional because it felt like she was putting into words what Olivia must feel every single day. I always say I’d love to get inside Olivia’s head, just to see what she’s thinking and feeling when she can’t express it, which is often, and today I felt like I got a glimpse into what she must feel. It was overwhelming. To hear Chloe talk about what it’s like to be “stuck” (when she gets stuck on a topic and can’t let it go), what’s it like when she gets overstimulated, what it’s like for her brain to try and handle everything all at once, was awesome for me…and made me feel upset. I know Olivia struggles, but to hear what it feels like and how difficult it is just to handle everything that’s thrown at her in a day, made me…sad for Olivia. I know she doesn’t know any different, and for her it’s just her normal, but for me, as her mother, it was difficult to hear. But I’m so very glad I heard Chloe talk because I feel like I understand my daughter even better now. And I can’t thank Chloe enough for that insight.

Chloe’s talk also gave all of us as educators wonderful insight into how we can help students like Olivia and Chloe succeed in school. I think, just as Chloe said, education is the key. Teaching everyone, teachers, students, friends, family, about differences and helping that learn that different doesn’t mean bad, is the key to helping people with disabilities succeed. As Chloe said in her presentation, different isn’t less…it’s just different. She said it perfectly.

One part of Chloe’s speech focused on how communication between school and home is super important. I know it is for me. But Chloe explained it from her perspective, which felt like Olivia’s perspective, and it really made me understand even more why this is so important. Chloe told how she would get in her Mom’s car after school and have a total meltdown and, without communication from school, Chloe’s Mom would be at a loss as to what was the matter. Because she was so upset, Chloe wasn’t able to express verbally what was wrong. This happens so often at our house that it really hit home. Olivia and I both need it. We need more than “it was a good day” or “she seemed tired today”. We also need positive, not just negative, information. It’s vital. Sometimes I feel like I ask for too much from school, and Chloe helped me understand that it is as important as I think it is.

Throughout the whole presentation, I was so proud of Chloe. She was so brave to stand up there and tell us all what it’s really like to be her. What she struggles with, what it feels like, what works for her, everything. She was so honest and eloquent and heartfelt and funny. She was wonderful.

Just like I knew she would be.

If you are interested in more information about Chloe, visit her website here. It’s worth it!

Thank you, Chloe, for giving me insight into what Olivia feels inside each day. You were incredible!

Handsome Devil

My baby. Not so much a baby anymore. Especially with his he-chose-it-himself fauxhawk. Hard to believe a few  years ago, this is what he looked like in his Dad’s white shirt…

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And now look at him! He’s a tall, skinny, handsome 9-year-old!

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He makes us laugh every day. Multiple times. He’s hilarious just like his Dad. And maybe his Mom too. At his 3rd grade student-led parent-teacher conference, right in the middle of speaking, he paused, looked at his shoe and said “I have dog poop on the bottom of my shoe!” He put his shoes in the hallway, washed his hands and came back to finish his conference. He looked around and said “That’s better! I’m just glad it was my shoes…I thought my Dad farted!” We all, his teacher included, laughed so hard we had tears coming out of our eyes.

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I took him to get his fauxhawk trimmed and the hairstylist was commenting on how thick his hair is. I said it’s just like his Dad’s and commented that, when Matt’s hair grows, it grows out and poufy instead of down, just like Matthew’s.

Matthew looked at me in shock and said “DAD’S HAIR GROWS?????”

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His new favorite saying, when he notices sarcasm or a pun, is to look at us, point his finger like a gun and say “Oh! I see what you did there!”

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He’s a big thinker, very serious at times with many, many deep questions. He loves to talk and ask questions, yet he likes his quiet time to just be. He’s my baby. He’s my angel. He’s my heart.

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Love you, Matthew.

Happy This Week

It’s Winter Break!!!!!!!!! I have a workday on Monday and then I’m free!!!!!!!!

Three of my students from last year, who are now in high school, came to visit me this week. They just came and hung out for the afternoon in my room while I taught. I loved it. I miss them!

The kids, Matt, my Mom and I got hot chocolate and drove around and looked at Christmas lights. I love doing that…totally puts me in the spirit!

Christmas presents from students are the best! They know I love coffee, that’s for sure! :) One of my students even got me a math ornament! How thoughtful is that??

Olivia loves to have a “screaming contest” after dinner each night. If you haven’t seen my Instagram video (@elastamom417), head over and check it out. She’s hilarious! Especially because she’s so quiet usually!

Christmas movies! We just love them.

It’s almost Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What made you happy this week?

Happy This Week!

Better late than never, right?

Five more days of school until Christmas break! Woohoo! I’m doing nothing but relaxing over break. That’s an order.

Starbucks chestnut praline latte…have you had one? O.m.g. Especially when you share it with your two favorite colleagues!

Watching the kids run down the stairs to see where Buddy is and change the advent calendar. That is worth all the stress and craziness of the holidays.

A clean house!

Matt and I went out on a fun date last Saturday. Dinner and a movie!

Olivia and I had a coffee date while the boys were at basketball. She ordered her own hot chocolate and we sat at a table and chatted while we drank coffee. It was wonderful!

The 2014 Williams Sonoma hater’s guide. Read it here. You’ll laugh out loud.  

Who’s listening to the Serial podcast?? I’m obsessed and there’s only one episode left! Luckily I’m finding podcasts about the podcasts so I can obsess more! What other podcasts do you listen to? I’m enjoying listening to and from work. Especially when I get stuck in traffic.

Playing Trivia Crack with all of my students who are also obsessed with it. It’s fun!

What made you happy this week?

Happy This Week

Three blog posts this week…woo hoo!!

Our advent calendar started on Monday. I was a little stressed about getting it all ready (the kids get an activity or a small gift each day) but then I watched the kids run down the stairs with excitement each day this week. I love watching the kids at the holidays.

We’ve made snowflakes this week and had game night and spent so much time together. It’s been amazing!

Our elf is also back. And as much as elf haters are going to hate, we love it! I am so thankful Gabe helps me with it!!! I’ll have pictures to share next week. If you can believe it, I’m behind on my picture editing. ;)

Olivia, my Mom and I are going to see Disney on Ice tonight…she is so excited. I love watching her watch those shows. She gets beside herself!

We’re also going to see one of my former students dance in The Nutcracker tomorrow. I’m so excited to see Maddie and…I’ve never seen The Nutcracker. Olivia will love it and I love having special girls’ days with my Mom!!

What made you happy this week?

November Things

***Finally linking up with Mamakat again: Share something you learned, bought, read and cooked in November.

Something I learned…

That it is imperative that I slow down and say no. We’ve had weekends and evening with time to just be together, all five of us, no rushing, no running around, no nothing, and it’s been amazing. I have to remember how much I love it when things are quiet. I forget so easily.

Something I bought…

Tickets to the OSU vs. Indiana game! Gabe and Matt went and it was Gabe’s first time at an OSU game. He loved it and was in awe the whole day! I got the tickets from a former student whose parents couldn’t use them that day. The seats were 11 rows from the field!

Something I read…

Three Wishes by Lianne Moriarty. It’s the story of triplets, Lynn, Gemma and Cat and all the ups and downs of their crazy lives. It was a fun, fluffy, mind-candy read. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but it was definitely worth the read.

Something I cooked…

An entire Thanksgiving dinner!! It was delicious! I also made these “puffy tacos” from Pinterest that were delicious. I also made these salisbury steak meatballs from Pioneer Woman that were sooooooo good.

What did you learn, buy, read and cook in November?

Underestimated

I’ve been really upset over Olivia’s special needs lately. It’s not because she’s driving me crazy, or because it’s too hard, or because she’s missing out socially. It’s because I feel as though most people, especially her teachers at school this year, who work with her every day, are underestimating her. For whatever reason, she is acting up this year. She’s refusing to walk from class to class, she’s lashing out at friends, she’s misbehaving in ways we haven’t seen in years. It’s upsetting. I feel like she’s the one in charge when she’s at school when it should be the other way around. I think the main reason she’s able to get away with it is because they are completely underestimating her and her abilities.

I know I’m her mother, and I’m biased, but my girl is very smart. She’s wise, she’s intelligent, she comprehends everything. She’s capable of being someone’s friend, of going to classes with her peers, of doing so many things. I hate it that people look at her and see a disability instead of just a person. A person who is amazing. A person who is capable of damn near anything if she’s given the chance.  It is so upsetting to watch your child be undervalued and underestimated just because she has a disability. I wish they could step in my shoes and see just how far she’s come, just how much she has to offer, just how fun and loving she can be.

I’m not giving up on her…and I’m not letting anyone else either.

Teacher

I am proud to be called daughter, sister, wife and mother. But there’s one more title I am so very thankful for.

Teacher.

I just love my job. I feel privileged and lucky that I get to spend each day with kids, teaching them and loving them. I feel special because I get to be their teacher. Lately I’ve really been pondering how lucky I am that I love going to work every day and that I love what I do. I am so thankful that, 20 years ago, when I sat down with my college advisor for the first time that I decided to be a teacher. I had wanted to be a teacher my whole life. I’ve always loved kids, I’ve always loved school and I’ve always loved being in charge. There could have been a million reasons why NOT to be a teacher but I did it anyway because I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I am so thankful.

Education is a rough career to be in at the moment. We have people “in charge” making decisions for us teachers that are, frankly, ridiculous. They have no clue about teaching. None. We are required to do more and more and more testing and more and more things that are not in the students’ best interest. We feel vilified and treated as though we are unprofessional. It’s astounding to me that the powers that be choose to focus on those who have dedicated their lives to children. It’s sad and, unfortunately, it’s making people dislike their job or not choose education for a career at all. That, my friends, makes me so sad. Because they are missing out on the best part of teaching.

The kids.

They are amazing. Truly. Kids get a bad rap these days with all of the discussion of bullying and mean girls and everything else related to kids. But I’m here to tell you, kids, in general, are wonderful. They are kind, thoughtful, loving, funny, smart and intelligent. They have great ideas, they are hard workers and they just want to be loved. My 8th graders are like puppies. They are all arms and legs and awkward and so lovable. They are still little but big. They love to play games and will do anything for a Jolly Rancher or extra credit, but they are also figuring out the dating scene and dealing with some major issues at home. I know my face lights up when they walk in the room each day because I am truly glad they are there and I am truly happy that I get to teach them. It is a gift.

When I made the decision to go back to the classroom after seven years of teaching online, I was nervous. Was I too old to relate to the kids now? Was I too tired now that I had kids of my own to be the kind of teacher I wanted to be? Would they still like me and my class? Would I still like them? All of my fears were unfounded because I forgot the most important thing. I love kids. And they know it. And that’s all there is to it.

I wish I could tell anyone who is thinking of going into education that, if they feel it in their bones and are passionate about making a difference in the lives of kids, they should go for it. Do it. Sure there are many things about education that stink. The pay. The stress. More and more requirements from the government. Feeling under-appreciated and overwhelmed. Crazy parents. Frustrating kids. I choose not to focus on all of that other crap and focus on the best part. I get to spend each day with kids who are sweet and funny and figuring out the world. Kids who choose to eat lunch with me once a week. Kids who stop by my room in the morning just to say hello. Kids who bring me treats just because. Kids who ask how my weekend was and really want to know. Kids who want to talk movies, books, divorced parents, sports, anything and everything. The fact that I might make a difference in their life, in a small way or a big way, fills my heart with joy.

Yesterday, our language arts teachers delivered letters to us. Students were required to write a thank you letter to a teacher who made a difference in their life and tell them why. I was humbled to receive a few. They made me cry, honestly. To know that students feel good and look forward to coming to my class because of me, to know that they feel loved and appreciated and cared for, to know that they know I am here for them no matter what, and maybe they learn a little math in the process, is a wonderful feeling. And I feel so very blessed to have chosen this life for myself.

What’s Up?

Let’s see…things are slowing down a bit, thankfully. I’m not being dramatic when I say that August, September and October were insane. INSANE. We were way too busy, I said yes to way too many things and we all ended up miserable. On top of that, school for Olivia was going terribly wrong and we had to spend quite a bit of time getting all of that worked out. We started the school year without a game plan for our family, which was a really bad idea, and we finally feel like we are just now catching our breath.

Matt and I went through a rough patch. He was angry, I was angry, we were way too stressed and over scheduled and ended up just not liking each other very much. Anyone who’s been married for longer than a minute knows that’s the way it goes sometimes. But, the great news is, we came out on the other side even stronger in our relationship. Thank God. Those times aren’t easy, are they?

Things are better. We’ve made some changes in our schedule, made sure our priorities are set straight and we feel as though we’re back on track. We’ve been working with Olivia’s school and that’s going better too. It’s still not great, but it’s better. As long as things keep improving, I’m OK with that.

The boys are great. They’re enjoying having some free time as well. We’ve been playing ping pong, playing cards and games and enjoying being together as a family…just as it should be.

I’m working really hard on getting back to this space regularly. I miss being able to express myself this way. I hope a few of you are still out there waiting to read. I know I’m looking forward to reconnecting with all of you.

What’s new with you?

Happy This Week

No soccer means no running around each night! We are enjoying having time after dinner to play ping pong, board games, watch movies together, etc. It’s such a nice break!

Matthew is playing basketball and it might be the cutest thing ever.

Gabe tried out for his school basketball team and didn’t make it. BUT he handled it very well and is going to play rec basketball instead. I’m so proud of the way he handled himself!

Olivia is now in regular Science, Band and Art with her peers and she is loving it. Finally!

The Goldbergs this week was one the funniest things I’ve seen in a while!

I think Julia and Joel are going to get back together this week on Parenthood!! Do you??

Matt and I are going out on a date tonight!

I have the best teaching partners ever!

Only 7 more school days until Thanksgiving break!

What made you happy this week?