Saturday, January 09, 2010

Zakh Price: Sleepless Nights

There are stories out there that keep me up at night, wallowing in thought. The story of Zakh Price is one of them.

For those of you not aware of this ongoing epic, Zakh Price is eleven years old and just started at a new school in Arkansas this past fall. Unfortunately for Zakh, the school's ignorance about special education practice, law, and purpose now has this disabled child facing felony charges and institutionalization. Needless to say, his grandmother, who is his guardian, is beside herself- and out of money. Lawyers ain't cheap, and going head-to-head with a school like this requires lawyers.

If that's not enough to make for sleepless nights, get this: one of the school personnel involved in the escalation of the situation and pressing charges against this child is the school principal.

I am currently working to start the transition process for my son. Our district has gotten on the trendy bandwagon of separating elementary grades into upper and lower elementary. Now, I know there are lots of really good reasons for doing this, particularly with regular-ed kids. After all, there is a huge difference between a kindergardener and a fifth grader. On the other hand, it makes for a pain in the butt for special-ed kids. We lose consistency in staff and philosophy. You just start getting the kinks out of IEP implementation, and you have to basically start from scratch with a whole new set of people who don't know you, don't know your kid, and may have a completely different idea of what educating your kid even means.

I have emailed the school principal three times. Only two of those emails have apparently gotten through to his office. One, I was told he would call, and he never did. The next was only acknowledged after I pointed out this issue to the director of student services, was again told I would be called, and... never have been. This man clearly doesn't understand why I am concerned and want to get this ball rolling now. I have been told balls started rolling among the school personnel, but the relationship with me? Not batting 1000, that's for sure. I find that frightening, especially in light of stories like that of Zakh Price. If the principal is not on board, not trained, not educated, then it clearly is not a priority to that principal- and how can we expect the teachers and staff to be appropriately trained, if such training and understanding are not considered a priority by the principal of the school?

Fortunately- and unfortunately- I have seen some of the special ed staff at this school in action. I have seen excellent teachers. I have seen fair-to-mediocre administrators. I have seen representatives of the school inappropriately railroad a parent in a public forum, and steer a public forum inappropriately to a specific case instead of considering the broader issues involved in that case. Overall, I'm really not comfortable with sending Joey to this new school based on my current observations and conversations with parents in that school. The best teacher on the planet can be railroaded by a mediocre administrator- I've seen it happen first-hand. I know for a fact they have not yet hired the personnel they will need to appropriately understand my son and appropriately support him in regular-ed classrooms. We are not looking forward to the step back we are likely to see if that doesn't change in the next few months.

Yes, the story of Zakh Price keeps me up at night. I fervently believe that we will not have such a dramatic and ugly experience as the Price family is experiencing, but it doesn't need to be so dramatic to still be disastrous.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Plans and works

I had to tell Joey this morning that Quille was gone. When we told Andy about Chris, we got the expected heart-wrenching wailing of loss. With Joey, grief is not so obvious (unless, of course, you know him). I had prepared him, telling him last night how sick Quille was, and that we did not expect him to live, but we were doing everything we could do. I think he knew when he toddled in to the bedroom and saw my face. His own dropped.

He didn't cry or wail. He had questions for me. Was his fish moving? Was he in the box with Chris and Godot? Would a cat eat him? Can we get a new fish? What will Andy name his new fish?

Then the processing: Quille isn't moving any more. Quille was alive yesterday. Andy's fish is dead. It isn't moving anymore. Quille isn't moving anymore. We will get new fish. I'm sorry about the fish. I hate that my fish is dead. My fish died.

I explained our plan to get rosy reds instead of goldfish this time. Rosy reds are minnows, so they are more social and not as dirty as goldfish. They don't get as big, either. Both boys seem to have latched onto the new minnows. I have checked out the water and gotten some bacteria and stuff for it to get it to recover its cycle, and having less dirty fish in our tank should be a help. I scouted out the fish in town, and I have our source pegged out. I spent a long time in front of the snail tanks.

A long time.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fish Catastrophe

I'm sorry to announce that we have had a catastrophe with the fish. I use filtered drinking water to change the tank water every other day. I bought the water at a different-than-usual place yesterday, and changed the water this morning. We believe that there was something in that water that has resulted in... well, we have lost Chris and Godot, and Quille is very, very weak.

I have pulled the tank apart and cleaned and rinsed everything, refilled it with the proper water, and changed all filters. We will see how many fish we are buying tomorrow.

Edit: Quille did not survive the night. I am going to let the tank settle and clear, and then the current plan is to try some rosy reds to help the tank cycle again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Taking Christmas Down

So Joey turns to me Monday afternoon and says, "Mommy, let's take the Christmas tree down." Yep, it's time. Christmas is over. For Joey's world view, Christmas came, Christmas went, it is time to move on. So today, the tree came down. Happy Twelfth Night.

I started while the boys were in school, stripping the tree of ornaments that might require special packing or sorting of any kind. The gold chains, the paper Santas, the toys, etc. all go in their own particular boxes, leaving the plastic to be tossed into one big tub together. In a couple more years, I'll be able to get my real decorations out. Then the boys rolled in. Andy took a few decorations off, then got distracted by the arrival of our neighbor. Joey came off the bus without his backpack, and he nearly melted down he was so upset about forgetting it on the bus. He didn't really recover enough to be interested until I was taking the lights off. Those still need to be boxed. So I ended up doing the vast majority of tree-disassembly myself.

And like most years, as I take the decorations down, I realize that the vast majority of you, once again, never even saw them.

If that strikes you as odd, just keep in mind that as I am putting them up, I am thinking things like, "wow, Stimey would really like this," or "Niksmom would think this was totally cute," or "I wonder what Maddy's kids would think of this." Yes, I love my Christmas decorations, and the solid majority of them I am thinking, "I'm glad Mom this this is pretty" or "JoeyAndyDad enjoys this" or "Joey and Andy are gonna go bonkers over this." And of course, "Hey, this is nice. Let me see how it would look if I did this." And there is an awful lot of things I wish I had gotten around to doing, planned to do, even bought what I needed to get it done, and didn't. But it just seems really weird and surreal to me that most of you guys never see them. In fact, very few folks ever see them. The boys. JoeyAndyDad, My Mom. Evan. This year, my Dad and his wife saw them. Ms. A and Mr. Wesley happened in to see them mostly, but not fully, set up. The neighbor saw them briefly.

And that's it.

I know, last year I put up the video of the decorations, and I hope you guys liked it. I love putting them up and seeing the world all pretty-sparkly Christmasy wonderland in my house. I will miss my lighted garlands of glass ornaments, even if I've been mostly too tired to spend a lot of time in the evening downstairs.

But somehow, that realization that you guys don't see them, it is just one of those things. Something about wishing you were here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Godot Cam: Happy Snail Edition

Insanity: Again.

Many of you might recall that my father and I have an odd non-relationship. You might also recall that he insists on coming to see us around January/Christmas, and that I'm too much of a freakin' chicken to do anything about it. After last year, you'd think I'd get the hint. But no.

He was arriving at 3:30. There were murmurings of picking up the kids from school and hiding out at Chuck E. Cheese, but I didn't. I should have. But I didn't. There was no way to clean the house in time. I hadn't really bought them any presents. My plan had been to see them at the family Christmas and hope to hide for another year. However, my father had made something for the boys, and it was "too big". Just what we needed, something big.

Every year, my father makes something for the boys. It is a nice gesture, I suppose. One year he made them a rocking chair (meaning he painted one green and put a little "John Deere" faux logo on it). Another year it was rocking horse (not sure if he actually put that one together or not). He glued little wood animals to some peg strips he got as the craft store one year. Last year it was a Tic Tac Toe board, which worked out nicely, as the boys were very into Tic Tac Toe. This year? This very large board, painted in strips, with a hole, and legs on one side. You set up the board so it is angled, and toss bean bags at the hole. He had some fancy name for it, and much time was spent informing me of the official rules, and the fact that this was an official-sized board, but the hole was a little bigger than "regulation" because the boys were still little.

Do you have somebody that does things like this to make themselves feel better, and have you ever wondered how you are supposed to take it? I'll put it against another example of gift-giving. My Uncle Lou made the boys a game a couple of summers ago. He took PVC piping, made a three-bar frame, then drilled into tennis balls and connected two with a rope. You throw the balls-on-rope at the frame, and score points if you get them to wrap around one of the bars. The boys love it. It comes apart to be stored, and it is an outside game. He made it for them because he had made one for his own grandsons (the Cousins), and they had really liked it. During a visit, they surprised us with it.

Somehow, it feels so very different. My uncle has no obligation to my children. He saw they really enjoyed something, and he made it happen. Am I the only person who sees the difference?

My husband has assured me more support next year. As in, when we get (if we get) warning, we are hauling butt to Chuck E. Cheese. It's less stressful.