I don't write a lot about my day job here, because I feel funny about it. I have a hard enough time speaking for myself, let alone the kiddos I work with who have a more difficult time speaking at all. Most of the kids I work with have Autism, and many of them are mostly non-verbal. Back in late January we got a new student, a girl. She's "my student", in that I work primarily with her. I help her get through her day, transitioning her from her solitary work station to a few group acitivities, to recess, etc. She'll be twelve in August, and she has the most beautiful, sweet smile you've ever seen. She's a typical "tween" in as much as she doesn't like hearing the word "no". She hums the same three notes when she's agitated, and she's as hormonal as all get out. Poor kid. Hers are coming on, my are leaving, and together we're quite a stew. But she trusts me, and I trust her, and she pulls on my heart and creeps into my thoughts when I'm cooking dinner for my family, and I'm always trying to figure out new ways to help her communicate her frustration without hurting me, or more importantly, herself. We've made some good strides since those first somewhat frantic days. To be honest, I was really sort of scared to work with her because she is nearly as tall as I am, and I know what those hormones are capable of doing, having gone through puberty myself. Granted, it was a long time ago, but I remember distinctly how crazy it made me feel to go from laughing to crying in the space of 10 seconds. Her first days were really intense, but since then, it's calmed down so much. She's a really hard worker, she's great at following her schedule, AND she's just a cool kid. She loves music, and lately has been testing her voice by singing. I think she knows we love it. She won't do it when asked, but when we're not paying close attention, she'll make sure we're within hearing range before she launches into her repertoire.
It began with the "namaste" song from the yoga video we watch almost daily. When I figured out that's what she was singing, I started singing it along with her. She let me (the first time) because I think she knew she had reached me, but since then she doesn't like it so much when I sing along. I get the same thing at home with JH! Everyone's a critic. Anyway, since then, she's expanded to a couple hits from the 80's and hearing her sing them is THE BEST. She has a beautiful voice. She's on pitch, and while she doesn't have the words, she has most of the vowel sounds, and you can definitely tell what she's singing. Early this week, she hopped on the swing in our classroom and started belting out "Don't You Want Me Baby", and yesterday it was "Saved By Zero". The first one is the one she sings the most, and I wake up with it going through my head.
My not-so-secret mission is to take her up to the music room someday and let her play on the keyboard.
In the meantime, over spring break I'm going to make a cd of hits from the '80's and when we get back, there is going to be a dance party in our room.
It's here. And although it's cold enough to see your breath in the morning, JH and I took our first bike ride of spring yesterday. We saw this:
I had to have a closer look to make sure it wasn't just set dressing. It's been mighty chilly here and I had a hard time believing my eyes, but it was real
We rode and rode, into our little downtown, stopping at Starbucks to get a coffee and a cookie, then raced around the park a few times. Joe-Henry had me laughing so hard at his attempts to fake me out so he could win the race. Thank goodness he's a terrible liar.
On the way home we stopped at Officer's Row, because as Joe-Henry said, "Mom, all this green, green grass is just ASKING for us to lay down in it!" So we did. But not before he did some "meditating". I think the helmet makes him look extra-zen.
We'll be on spring break starting at 3:00 today. But not before I head to the radiologist to get another look at my left boob. They told me that my left breast had some density. Good thing they didn't look at my head! I'm honestly not worried, I promise. If there's any news, I'll let you know. We leave for California on Sunday (JH & I; Charley joins us on Wednesday) to visit the in-laws/grandparents, then it's off to Disneyland for two days, then home. I promise lots of pictures.
I'm in the mood to travel. Perhaps it's all the tweets and flickrs from Austin that did it to me. All those cool people all together experiencing art that makes me want to shake the rain off my jacket and head south.
We will be heading South in a couple weeks. To California to see the grandparents. Don't get me wrong, I'm so excited to see them and get a dose of sunshine.
But I need a dose of new. Going to a place I've never been before. With maybe just my hubby. Or just me. The only place I've ever been by myself was to a theater competition in Long Beach when I was in college. And once to Chicago, but I don't count it because I went to see a boyfriend, and we did what he wanted to do.
In case you're counting, this was all three lifetimes ago.
This is all just wishful thinking because it's not in the budget to take a trip, and logistically it's pretty improbable, what with the kid and the job, etc. And I know if I went somewhere by myself, to a place where I didn't know anyone, I'd get lonesome in about 5 seconds.
But it's those 5 seconds I'd like to experience right about now.
Just watched The 2007 Library of Congress Tribute to Paul Simon, with Joe-Henry cuddled next to me on the couch. It was so amazing to see all his songs covered by people like James Taylor, Marc Anthony, Lyle Lovett and Steven Marley. But a few of my favorites were these: Graceland, which was given a really haunting rendition by Allison Krauss and Jerry Douglas; Diamonds on the Soles of His Shoes sung by Paul Simon himself and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who totally rocked it and rolled it and kicked it outta the house with their amazing moves.
Here's just a snippet of what must have been the most amazing concert to see live in perhaps the history of the universe. Seriously - all that talent? Singing Paul Simon songs?
The Boxer sung by Shawn Colvin and Allison Krauss
I think this might be one of the best story songs ever written. So mournful and beautiful, and these two ladies brought out the best in it's soulful harmonies. Their voices are perfect together.
The best part of the whole night for me, though, was Bridge Over Troubled Water, sung by Simon AND Garfunkle, and me on the couch, to a sleepy Joe-Henry who told me I had the prettiest voice he had ever heard, right before he went to sleep in my arms.
For someone who used to love getting applause, this was better than a standing ovation.
So I leave you with this. 'Cause I love him like a rock.
This morning around 4:00, I heard what I thought was crying coming from JH's room. I went to check, and he was having a very funny dream, because he was laughing hysterically. He was sound asleep, until he heard ME laughing, because it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. When I asked him what he was dreaming about he said he was dreaming about S. trying to get him, but a door kept shutting on his nose and making a honking noise. He could barely tell me, because it made him laugh so hard.
About a month ago, Joe-Henry begged me to let him walk up the hill from the bus stop by himself. He loved how it made him feel - so independent, so carefree. He'd walk in the door so pleased with himself. "Hi Mom! How was your day at work?" I loved giving him this little snippet of independence, even though it meant that I literally counted the seconds from the time the bus roared by the house until I heard his hand on the doorknob.
Then a couple weeks ago, he came home looking, not upset, just puzzled. "Mom, what does this mean?" he said as he held up his middle finger toward me. Nothing like having your eight year old flip you the bird for you to shake off the afternoon sleepies. I have to admit, I'm getting pretty good at not looking or sounding like an airhorn when I'm alarmed anymore. I calmly told him what it was, and that I never, ever wanted to see him do it again. He said that one of his classmates "girlfriends" flipped them off when she got off the bus. Apparently she's an older woman in the third grade.
The next day he mentioned this same classmate with the classy girlfriend were kissing in the boy's bathroom. Oy. Really? Second grade? Holy crap. This particular classmate lives right down the street, and has a brother in fifth grade, and they are known to just roam the streets for hours. We've had them over to play a couple times, but after this next incident, it's not going to happen again.
They have assigned seats on the bus, and two days ago, Joe-Henry walked in the door, hung up his coat, and walked over and threw himself face down into my lap. The fifth grader sits right across the aisle from him and he's been bugging JH about this and that for a couple weeks, but this was the last straw. "S. called me a fucker. He wouldn't stop teasing me about football and said I was a liar and a fucker! I couldn't help myself mom, I flipped him off, and he said if I did it again he was going to punch me in the face!" I lost my cool, collected mother impersonation and out came my airhorn. "WHAT?! He said WHAT?" He repeated exactly what he had just said.
First off, I reminded him that we NEVER flip anyone off, that there is ALWAYS another option, and we would discuss the consequences after I talked to S. I put on my jacket and with JH wide-eyed behind me, I headed down the hill. "Pick on someone your own size, you little shit" was screaming in my head, but when I got to his house, his Aunt answered. When I asked if he was there, she said "What did he do now?" I explained that he and JH had words on the bus and I wanted to resolve the issue. He wasn't home, and we were one our way out the door to piano lessons, so I knew I wouldn't get a chance to speak with him before the next day.
I emailed JH's principal and explained the situation, and yesterday she handled it - quickly, and with the cool remove of a professional. I mostly wanted for him to be able to move to another seat on the bus, but I also wanted her to be aware of what was happening - and not being dealt with - on the bus. She called the boys in and let JH have his say, and let him confront this boy (and, it turns out, another boy) with an adult present. They said their apologies and before JH left her office, she reminded him that he needed to take responsibility for flipping the bird. He promised NEVER to do it again. Which is a shame, because he has that big finger, and it would sure come in handy, even if it isn't the right one!
The principal called me and said that JH mentioned, after the other boy left the office that he had pushed him when they were crossing the street after they got off the bus, and she asked why he didn't mention it in the meeting with the other boy. He said "I forgot until right after he said he was sorry. The timing didn't seem right because he'd already said he was sorry, and I didn't want to make him feel worse." Oh, my kid. He's inherited his mom's Lutheran streak.
He was in a much happier mood yesterday - he was his old self - super talkative, and truly appreciative of his principal. And I have to say - me too.
My dear friend Annie, who you've read about here who is fighting like a f*cking warrior queen against leiomyosarcoma just put up a new website. There is a link under How You Can Help that will directly take donations to help with practical matters.
Her latest update about the chemo is here, and the link to donate is here.
I know money is tight for everyone right now. And I know that everyone has a favorite charity. I'm just putting it out there in case you are so moved to help out a specific family.