28 February 2010

Sunday Secret



26 February 2010

Friday Wrap-Up


Work is FINALLY starting to settle down and I am so grateful! Accounting is an odd beast. We work on very stringent deadlines and year end doesn't really end with the end of the year. It looks like things might actually be wrapped up now that we are at the end of February and I can get back to my "normal" deadlines. This is a good thing and a much needed break!


I've been having an issue with my follower numbers lately. I am obsessed with like even numbers. Odd number give me the weeby-jeebers. Yeah ... I know ...

Anyway, as of last Friday I had 99 followers on this blog and 19 followers on Dana Does Digital. I was starting to have serious anxiety attacks over these odd numbers and was considering begging my readers to follow me just so those odd numbers would go away. I was so excited when I logged on Tuesday - I had 100 followers on this blog and 20 on the Dana Does Digital. Does it make me weird that I found comfort in those nice, even numbers?? Don't answer that ...


I had a wonderful mental health day yesterday. I had the privilege, once again, of meeting some fellow bloggers.

Burl and Annie (on the left and center) are hosts of Annie and Burl Live, a Blog Talk Radio show that airs on Wednesday and Saturday nights. They both have blogs as well - in fact Burl has two of them - Musings of the Burl and his Project 365, Life of the Burl. Annie's blog is appropriately titled Annieconda.

Kim (on the right) I met through Annie and Burl's Blog Talk Radio show. We were going to try to get together during my summer trip to Washington (she only recently moved to Chicago) but that ended up being a wash. Fortunately for me, Kim moved out this way in November and couldn't hide any longer! Kim has a Project 365 blog as well, 365 in the 708.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally meet all three of them. I laughed so hard my face hurt at the end of the day! Now that is what one needs on a mental health day!


This week's favorite Dana Does Digital photos ...

Have a great weekend!


25 February 2010

Mental Health Day


I've decided that my mental health is every bit as important as my physical health. Today I called in ... or is that out ... from work.

Instead of crunching numbers, I'll be catching up on some of those tasks that hang heavily on my shoulders.

Not to worry, I'll be taking a few hours out of my day for a little bit of fun too - connecting with a couple of friends whom I've "known" for quite some time but have never seen in 3-dimensional form. We'll be having lunch at Portillo's ... they have THE BEST chopped salad!


24 February 2010

When All Else Fails


*takes a big swig from the coffee cup*

It's one of those days, where motivation and original thought evade me, so instead I'll just answer a few questions from one of those weekly meme blogs that I keep in my reader ... just in case ... or is that Justin Case?? I hate that commercial.

Rambling ...

1. Have you ever fired a gun or shot a bow and arrow?

Ummm ... hello? I am a trained killer, remember? Not only have a fired a gun, I've launched a grenade! Bow & arrow? Does the booth at the Renaissance Fair count? It was actually much more difficult than I anticipated.

2. Do you know where your childhood best friends are?

I have always been a loner and never really "connected deeply" with my peers. Sad as it might sound, I don't even remember many of their names. I have, however, recently connected (via Facebook) with one of those childhood friends and if I can manage to follow the social rules of maintaining friendships, I hope to make the friendship a "keeper" this time!

3. Do you usually arrive early, late, or on time?

My motto? If you're not early, you're late. I despise being late and dealing with people who are chronically late. I consider it an extremely selfish act.

4. Are you more of a New York or California type?

California, without a doubt ... but NORTHERN California. And yes, there is a difference!

5. Do you have a special ring tone?

I do! Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin

6. What is your favorite type of chip?

Jay's Sour & Dill. Nom ... nom ... nom ...

7. Best comedy you've ever seen is ....

Everyone knows I'm a little "odd" right?? I don't get most comedy. Sure, I'll laugh on occasion, but traditional comedy just seems senseless. That is not the case with The Big Bang Theory. I LOVE that show, probably because I get the characters.

8. Have you ever cut your own hair? To quote Dr. Phil, "How'd that work for ya?"

I often cut my own hair and it works out pretty darn good, thank-you-very-much! In fact, I'm considering investing in a flowbee, so there!

9. If you were going to have an extreme makeover, would you rather it be about your house or your personal self?

My personal self. I've always wondered what it would be like to be dressed appropriately. Fashion is another thing I just don't get.

10. Are you allergic to anything?

Penicillin and all derivatives of penicillin ... which is why I tend to be antibiotic-phobic. I figure I had better not overuse antibiotics considering I don't have access to one of the largest and most effective antibiotic families.

11. Why is it so hard to change?

Because good or bad, we all find a certain amount of comfort in routine and predictability (some of us more than others) and launching ourselves into the realm of the unknown is akin to visiting the dentist for a root canal.

12. One last question dedicated to February love: CS Lewis said, "To love is to be vulnerable." Please share one example of that assertion or share any thought you'd like to about this topic.

UGH! The "V" word ...

The problem with vulnerability is that there are folks out there who see it as a weakness and will use it against you (I have a few readers like that). The flip side is that without vulnerability it's impossible to experience a full range of emotions, including love.

I am convinced that somewhere there is a balance and some day (like on my deathbed) I will find it!


23 February 2010

Are You Hungry?


Yesterday, I shared my somewhat unpleasant experience with a food pantry visit and some of the challenges I faced during the process. What I've discovered is that my experience wasn't unusual. In fact, it seems to be disturbingly common.

Feeding America (one of the resources I used to try to find a food pantry) recently conducted a study on Hunger in America. They found that more than 37 million people, one in eight Americans receive emergency food each year through the nation’s network of food banks and the agencies they serve - a 46 percent increase since the organization’s previously released study in 2006.

Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America makes her position clear.

“It is morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where one in six people are struggling to make choices between food and other basic necessities. These are choices that no one should have to make, but particularly households with children. Insufficient nutrition has adverse effects on the physical, behavioral and mental health, and academic performance of children. It is critical that we ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in America as they truly are our engine of economic growth and future vitality.”

It should be easy to fix. This country has plenty for everyone. In fact, we have so much we give it to other countries. Cam and I worked on a project just a few weeks ago that sent 500,000 meals to Haiti, yet 5.7 million people in this country receive emergency food assistance every week? And how many just go without?

The problem isn't just about the availability of food, but certainly the availability of food plays a huge part.

The current economic climate has increased the demands on food pantries. That same economic downturn means food pantry donations are down. Factor in more efficient production and shipping processes in food manufacturing (products that don't meet quality standards are often donated to food pantries) and you've got the perfect storm.

If that weren't enough, there is the difficulty of finding resources for food assistance, food pantries that are open just one or two days a week and for only a few hours (normally during traditional working hours) and overcoming the shame that takes over your life when you are not able to provide basic necessities for your family. We've made being hungry a punishable offense.

So, what can we do? I think the most important thing we can do is acknowledge that it takes just one major life event for many people to find themselves in this place. The unexpected loss of a job or reduction in work hours. A vehicle on its last legs that finally gives up. A long-term or unexpected medical emergency and less than adequate, or no health care coverage at all. A divorce or separation. Although there are people who abuse the system, most do not, and treating a family with respect, compassion and empathy goes a long way.

Donate. Donate food to your local food pantry. Donate time to help sort foods and stock shelves. Donate money to rural food pantries. Generally, large cities do a better job of feeding the hungry. They have more resources at their disposal. Donating money to a rural food pantry enables them to purchase items they need and their purchasing power is usually far greater, making that cash donation go much farther. If you're unsure of where your local food pantry is, visit any of the resources listed at the bottom of this post.

If you know of someone who needs help, or you suspect might need help, reach out to them. I know, it's a difficult conversation to have with someone, people might get defensive, but the shame in having to ask for help often overrides the logical need to get help.

I've compiled a list of resources that I kind of stumbled upon when I was looking for help. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any single, all-inclusive resource - food pantries listed at one website may or may not be listed on another. Navigating the system is just one of the challenges in finding food.

Feeding America - They have a Food Bank locator link that allows you to search by zip code to find an "affiliated" food pantry. This list is in no way all inclusive.

United Way - I discovered that by using their "Find Your Local United Way" link, I could find information on many local food programs as well as other programs (clothing, transportation, education, etc.) that are ready and willing to help out.

Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals - This is a 78-page publication put out by the United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. It contains general food safety guidelines, weekly menus and 40 recipes for cost-effective, nutritional meals.

Frugal Mom Menu - This is a subscription service ($5/month) that emails a weekly PDF file, including recipes, a grocery list and photos, for a weeks worth of dinners for a family of four. The grocery costs for the week of dinners are kept right at $60 and are tasty and nutritious. I subscribe to this service and have been thrilled with the menu plans.

Angel Food Ministries - A non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing food relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. Each moth they offer a box of fresh and frozen foods for $30 per box (click [HERE] to see the box being offered in March) with an average retail value of approximately $60.

They claim that one box of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for almost a month. they also state "The food is all the same high quality one could purchase at a grocery store. There are no second-hand items, no damaged or out-dated goods, no dented cans without labels, no day-old breads and no produce that is almost too ripe." That's a HUGE step up from many food pantries.

I ordered my first "Signature" box this month and will be picking it up Saturday. Distribution of the food is held at local churches (surprisingly, my little town actually has a distribution site) so I am expecting some "strings". Their website does mention "spreading the good news of the gospel of Christ through salvation tracts that are placed in each food order."

I'll let you all know how that process goes.


22 February 2010

Banking on Food


Many (most?) of us have donated food to a food drive at some point in our lives. During the holidays especially, many schools and larger employers run some type of food drive. Non-perishables are collected in some large container with a sign telling us who will be getting the food and what the collection goal is and then sometime, usually right before Christmas, there is an announcement stroking our ego telling us how many families we've fed.

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be on the receiving end of those non-perishables? Have you ever thought about the faces - the stories - of the people who aren't able to secure food for themselves or their families? I think most of us consider it at some level, but I'd venture to say that most of us really don't want to think too hard about it either. We usually have some preconceived notions about those people.

I'm not sharing my food pantry experience to evoke sympathy, but rather to give you an idea of what it is like to be the one who needs what goes into those big boxes.

I'm fairly certain I mentioned that when Cam and I first moved out of the house, a friend who helped me move secured an emergency food distribution from our community food bank for Cam and me. In addition to basic non-perishables (boxes of cereal, tuna, peanut butter, noodles, etc.) we also received $40 in food vouchers to be used at our local market. Unfortunately, our local market has 5 aisles. Prices are extremely high. $40 doesn't go far, but it did allow me to get some fresh items - meat and produce - and some non-food items like toothpaste and toilet paper. It got us through those first few weeks.

It was also painless. I didn't actually have to go to the food pantry - it was delivered by the friend who helped me "qualify" for it.

At the end of January, I was again in a position where Cam and I needed food. We were down to a few cans of soup and some odd things like tomato paste, and canned chillies - things that require a little bit of help to actually become part of a meal. The thought of going to a food pantry was humiliating. The thought of not being able to feed Cam a nutritious meal was worse.

One of the challenges associated with securing food, when you don't have the money to buy it yourself, is finding a community food pantry that you can actually use. Most community food pantries require you live in the community that hosts them and require proof of residency to receive assistance.

In addition to the community residency requirements, many food pantries have limited hours of operation. Our community food pantry - the one I received the emergency distribution from - is open only on the third Monday of the month - and from 8:30AM - 10:30AM only. I had missed our local food pantry by a week.

An extensive online search (and by extensive I mean that it took me at least an hour) led me to a food pantry run by a "mega-church" about 20 miles from the house. They were open on Saturdays and had no residency requirements. The only restriction was that you could visit only one time each month. I sucked up my pride and headed out early Saturday morning.

My initial impression was surprisingly good. The people who greeted me were friendly. The paperwork was fairly painless. The waiting area was crowded, but clean, well lit and didn't scream "PITIFUL PEOPLE COME HERE!" I waited about 30 minutes for my name to be called so that I could be "interviewed" by a "case worker."

The case worker sat down and went over my paperwork with me. There were a few additional questions - did I want the large can of orange juice or the bottle of laundry detergent (I picked the laundry detergent). Although I was on the verge of tears the moment I left the house, I finally lost it during the interview process. It wasn't anything the interviewer said, it was just the overwhelming sense of failure I felt. And then it got worse ...

I suppose I should have expected it. I was visiting a church sponsored food pantry. I understand that Christians (said generally) feel it is equally important to feed the soul with the word of God as it is to provide food for the body, but even I was taken aback by the forcefulness with which this was done.

After reviewing the paperwork, my case manager handed me a 3 x 5 card with a Bible verse printed on it. She then ... well ... she didn't ask ... she said, "Read that Bible verse out loud to me." I hesitated, then did as I was instructed. I was certain once I got through that she would hand me my bags of groceries, but she continued, "Tell me what that verse means to you."

As most of you know, I've recently found my way back to organized religion. I am probably more receptive to a conversation like this than many people are, yet I felt violated by her insistence that I "pay" for my food by meeting her religiously motivated demands. I couldn't begin to imagine what someone who wasn't a church-goer felt like under that type of inquisition.

My case worker then offered a prayer for me (which I accepted) and went back to get my food. Although I understand that some food pantries allow you to make choices in the foods you receive (i.e. "Would you like canned carrots or canned green beans?") many do not. She told me to wait in the entry way and to come out of the building when I saw her in the parking lot. She would then give me my food allotment for my family of two.

I loaded the bags into the back of the car, grateful for whatever they contained, but hanging my head a little lower as I headed home.

When I got home, I opened the bags. There was a pound of hamburger and some turkey wings. There were fresh tomatoes and potatoes. There was an entire bag of breads, bulk oatmeal, bulk brown rice and bulk corn flakes. There were some odd things too. A pan of four Cinnamon rolls. A package of Pork pate. Two United Airlines "Active" snack boxes. A jumble of disjointed items. I had food, but it didn't look like I was going to be able to make a "meal" out of any of it.

If there is one thing I've learned through this process it's that people will help, but they need to know that you need help in order to do so. I was looking for help with meal planning given a rather odd assortment of foods. I reached out to the two people that I knew could help - Evil Twin's Wife (queen of the frugal budget) and ... are you ready?? The one person who I know has amazing creativity when it comes to food - Doggy Bloggy. I know that last one has many of you scratching your head, but ...

Evil Twin's Wife was able to give me some really good tips and tricks for creating meals (not just throwing food on the table) on a frugal budget and with some common staples. Doggy Bloggy came up with some wonderfully creative food combinations after I gave him a list of what seemed like totally random items I had on hand. With the help of both of them, I was able to serve Cam meals, not just fill his belly.

There is a point to this long-ass post ... really ... in fact there are several.

(1) I now understand why people might choose to beg on a city street corner, steal from a grocery store, or go the "freegan" route, rather than making the choice to visit a church sponsored food pantry.

(2) It's not always feasible to get food when you need it, especially in rural America. Food pantry donations are down. Need is up (recent statistics show that one in every EIGHT Americans used a food pantry at least once in the past year). Trying to find a source for food - when you need it - can be quite challenging.

(3) There is a HUGE gap between those who qualify for "food stamps" (I do not) and making enough money to fully support your family. You'd be surprised at how much the faces at a food pantry look surprisingly like ours.

(4) There is a difference between providing food for your family and providing a meal for your family. Although random items in a grocery bag can keep your belly from rumbling, that isn't always what is most important.

The next time you drop those cans of lima beans and corned beef hash into the giant food drive box, just take a moment to think about what life looks like on the other side and know that you have the potential to feed a belly and a soul.


21 February 2010

Sunday Secret



19 February 2010

Friday Wrap-Up


There was a comment on my Now Serving #247 post Monday that I wanted to address here as I think it's a pretty common position.

bicyclesandblotts wrote...

"I also raise money every year for the san francisco aids foundation last year i raised $2,500. In your post you mention being a good christian last year at a aids foundation charity bike ride a group of christians bussed in to protest SFAF for supporting homosexuality and handed out leaflets explaining aids was gods punishment so I don't take much stock in " good christians " and charity work. I think you should volunteer to support your community not out of fear of god."
First, my reference to "good Christian folk" in that post was written a bit tongue in cheek. I am well aware that there are many people who call themselves Christians who practice a level of "hate" I've never seen encouraged in the Bible. That hypocrisy is something that had kept me away from God in the past ... until I realized my problem wasn't with God, but with people.

Second, I really don't care why people volunteer/serve their community. I don't think it matters if you are doing it out of a fear of God, due to peer pressure, or because you are trying to "right" a "wrong." The motivation in this case isn't important - the fact that one is making the community a better place is.


Tuesday evening was spent with the neuropsych who will be evaluating Cam over the next month or so. After sharing extensive background and developmental information with her, she concluded that extensive testing/evaluation is warranted. This wasn't a surprise.

As a side note, I don't remember if I've shared with all of you that the school is recommending Cam be "warehoused" (my word) in the district's Emotional/Behavioral Disorder Program. They have decided that Cam's issues are not related to his disability, but rather are environmental, absolving the teaching staff of any accountability.

Prior to the appointment with the neuropsych, I informed the school that I would not consider any alternate placement for Cam until I was clear on what his needs are (actually, I am quite clear on that but need professional documentation to back that up). The neuropsych validated my position with the school recommending that I, under no circumstances, agree to any alternative placement for Cam until she completes the testing/assessment.

If nothing else, I've bought myself (and Cam) some time. Although I believe an alternate placement might be beneficial to Cam, the one they are suggesting, and coincidentally the only alternate placement available within the district, isn't a good fit for a myriad of reasons.


On the goodness-gracious-that-was-unexpected-good-news front, I received an email from the middle school youth pastor on Wednesday informing me that someone within the church wanted to insure Cam was able to attend church camp this summer and paid - in full - for his registration fees and canteen money (a $400 gift).

Cam attended church camp last summer but I wasn't sure I was going to be able to swing it this year. I submitted an application for a scholarship (limited to $100) and was considering selling a kidney what I could cut from the budget so that I would be able to save the $300 needed by June 26th.

I was so grateful for this news and only wish that I could thank the giver personally, but understand their desire to remain anonymous.


This week's Dana Does Digital pics were ... well ... not spectacular, but that won't keep me from a little self-promotion sharing my two "favorite" with you!


17 February 2010



A little more than a week ago, Google launched Buzz. Designed to be a social media tool that competes with the likes of Twitter and Facebook (because Google doesn't want to feel left out), it allows users to update their status and share it with others in their network.

Ho-hum ... another social media tool. Many of you know I was the anti-Facebook and anti-Twit poster child for quite some time. Now I dabble in both.

Facebook allows me to keep in touch with family and a few selected friends without completely sharing with them ... if-you-know-what-I-mean.

Twitter? It's just mindless chatter for me - a casual conversation with 100 or so "close" friends.

Google Buzz? Privacy FAIL!

When I joined Facebook and Twitter, *I* set up my network. I was able to pick and choose who I wanted to allow to see my updates and if I wanted to see someone elses updates, they were notified and able to accept or decline my invitation.

Google Buzz got a bit egotistical and decided that my contact list should be my network - by default. Not only did Buzz not ask for my permission to share my contacts with my entire network, but Buzz is an automatic tool and shares my contacts whether I am using Buzz or not ... I learned that the hard way.

I looked at Buzz when it bombarded first showed up in my inbox. I decided to see what it was all about before calling it evil names. Before I knew it, my inbox was cluttered with Buzz updates rather than emails. Fortunately, Dr. Anonymous posted a Twitter update with instructions on how to turn the damn thing off. Google did NOT make it easy.

Here I was, thinking I was Buzz free when I got an email from Hubman. He wanted to let me know that my Google profile - including my last name - was still showing up in Buzz. What?? You've got to be kidding me! He wasn't, and trying to figure out just which setting I needed to change in order to protect my privacy was akin to building a Ferris wheel with K'nex (if you've never attempted that feat, don't)!

Cnet did a great job putting together a tutorial on how to fully disable Buzz, but the fact that there needs to be a tutorial on how to disable Buzz says a lot about the tool ... like why I won't be using it.

Are you Buzzing?


16 February 2010

And Around and Around We Go!


I want off!

I know several of my readers have kids with learning differences and/or other disabilities. If they are lucky, they live in an area with excellent school resources and have a strong support system in place. Yet I guarantee they still want off the ride some times.

There is nothing more frustrating, time consuming and emotionally and physically exhausting than fighting for your kid's education ... for years. I got on this ride when Cam was six and he was first diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Cam will be fourteen in two weeks and I am no closer to "solving" any of this than I was eight years ago. I understand it better - I think - but that hasn't translated into Cam thriving at this point.

I thought adding a parent advocate to the mix might be the answer, and although it helped, the advocate is so overworked and trying to advocate for so many parents (that speaks volumes to the special education program in my school district) that I'm afraid her presence is really nothing more than superficial.

I learned yesterday that the Special Education Supervisor who has overseen every IEP meeting Cam has had since we moved to Podunk had never bothered to pull Cam's educational file to see what the history of his needs was. She had no idea that Cam has an Asperger's diagnosis. She was basing her recommendations for Cam's education on very limited information and a lot of teacher opinion. It's not surprising the decisions being made have had less than a positive impact.

Today, we start a new process ... again ... kind of.

Although Cam has been evaluated by two different psychiatrists (the one who initially diagnosed the Asperger's at age six and one who added ADHD to the mix two years ago), we are muddling through the process again - this time with a neuropsychiatrist - a neuropsychiatrist who is the former Director for Autism Spectrum Disorder Services for Alexian Brothers Hospital - a neuropsychiatrist who has her own child on the autism spectrum.

I expect that Cam will be extremely resistant and uncooperative with this process, but I also know the neuropsychiatrist will not be judgmental about that - she'll expect it too. Cam doesn't want to be an "Aspie" or have ADHD - Cam just wants to be Cam - loved, accepted and appreciated for all that he is and all that he isn't. He wants to be just like everyone else and the prospect that he isn't is beyond difficult for him.

I am full of emotions. Anger - at the school and myself for not doing better for Cam. Fear - that I'll learn that I've been fooling myself for all of these years and that Cam's difficulties are the result of nothing more than my piss-poor parenting. Hope - that maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to nail down exactly what it is that is causing Cam such difficulties and make some progress.

When I called to make the appointment, the neuropsychiatrist asked what it was I was hoping to gain from this process. Was I looking for documentation that would force the school district to provide certain accommodations? Was I hoping to get the public school district to provide private school tuition for Cam's education? Did I need an expert witness for a legal proceeding?

I found those questions so odd. All that I want is to identify what it is that is keeping such a smart, creative, caring young man from being successful and appreciated for the smart, creative, caring young man that he is.


15 February 2010

Now Serving #247


Volunteering. Serving. Chipping in.

Cam and I have been volunteering once a month, in some capacity, for the past 1-1/2 years. It's something we both enjoy doing. I've got one of the few kids who gets up at 7:00AM on Saturday to help out at the food bank without so much as a complaining grunt.

You know how some times we get stuck in thinking that all people are like us? Volunteering seems like a no-brainer to me. If there is one thing I have it's time. I can always find 2-4 hours/month to help out someone or some organization in some capacity.

If the truth be known, I feel a little guilty when I volunteer. I know I should be giving of my time for the greater good, and certainly that does play a role, but it makes me feel good too! In fact, study after study shows there are very real personal benefits to volunteering.

When our church announced they were doing an 8-week series on serving, I was a little surprised. It seemed odd to me that "good Christian folks" needed 8-weeks of brow-beating encouragement to serve I mean, the Bible is pretty clear on that one, right? If there is a need, the "right" thing to do is to address that need.

That was the moment I realized that "good Christian folks" are just like everyone else. They figure someone else will take care of it, or it's too difficult to find a place to volunteer, or they just don't have the time, or ... or ...

I'm interested to learn how all of you feel about this. Do you volunteer? Do you prefer to donate money rather than time (organizations need both!)? If you don't volunteer, what are the things that keep you from volunteering?


14 February 2010

Sunday Secret



12 February 2010

Friday Wrap-Up


It's been a while since I did one of these - or any regular blogging for that matter - so I thought I'd get off my duff and give y'all an update ... 'cause I'm a giver like that ...


School continues to be an issue ... which I expected. Although there was a different tone to the meeting we had last week (having a parent advocate does change how teachers and staff present themselves) the results have been the same.

They agreed to some temporary accommodations (modified writing assignments, PE and band used as privileges for classwork completion) until I had an opportunity to do some research and make an informed decision on Cam's placement. In the past week, they have not modified a single assignment and they are pulling him out of PE and band to do "classwork" that none of his other classmates are required to turn in.

Neither the district nor the advocate has had ANY contact with me since the meeting, although I did contact the advocate yesterday to let her know how the school is "handling" the new accommodations and she promises a call back.

The only good that has come of this has been that Cam has made strides in using class time more effectively and homework - although still a struggle - has become a little more manageable for both of us.


This was the major project this week. Actually, Cam has been working on this project since early December. Here in Illinois, 8th grade science fair is kind of a right of passage. The kids are not required to participate in the "formal" Illinois Junior Academy of Science (IJAS) Science Fair, but they are expected to put together a science fair project that could compete.

Cam's topic? Paper Airplanes - Effects of design on flight distance. I was not at all familiar with this process - we didn't have a mandatory science fair back in the olden days when I went to school. The biggest challenge in this was trying to keep Cam motivated for 3 months, but yesterday was the culmination of this great event - Cam turned in his Science Fair poster board. It's a good thing too. I think he was as tired of paper airplanes as I was!


We had a little bit of excitement last night. I got a call from the school at about 2PM. Of course I knew this was the principal calling to tell me Cam was suspended for some impulsive action. Imagine my surprise when I answered the phone and it was the school nurse.

Cam, being Cam, decided scaling a 5-1/2 foot cinder block dividing wall in the locker room made more sense than waiting for his locker room buddies to finish up what they were doing and move out of his way.

In the process, he managed to get his foot caught up in part of the wall and landed hard on his hip, wrist and face.

We spent our Thursday afternoon/evening at an emergency visit to the dentist to repair the teeth (it appears it was just cosmetic damage, but we won't know for a couple of weeks) and then spent a few hours at urgent care for x-rays (he's got a hip pointer and a sprained wrist). He's battered and bruised, but will be fine. I'm actually letting him stay home today to recover from his stupidity injuries.


Goodness! That turned into Cam update didn't it? That's pretty much where my focus has had to be over the last few weeks.

I am managing to keep up with the Project 365 blog (Dana Does Digital) and here are my two favorite pictures from this week:

Have a great weekend!


10 February 2010

Shake, Rattle and Roll!


As a matter of fact we did feel it! That star on the map? It's about 5 miles from my house. My first instinct? Train derailment (we're about 1/2 mile from a busy freight track). Second thought after I didn't hear sirens? A snow plow hit the building.

Fleeting thought? Maybe that was an earthquake. I lived in southern California for a few years - I'm familiar with the sensation. Of course I quickly dismissed that thought. I live in northern Illinois for goodness sakes! That is until I checked my email ...

Who'd have ever guessed? The good news is there was no damage and Cam slept through the entire 10 seconds of the event. He was a little irritated that he missed it!


08 February 2010

When Goliath Fights Back


So what was it this time? Well ...

There is really no way to explain what it's like to have a child who doesn't quite fit in. A child who has superior intelligence, yet failing school performance. A child who "should" be doing better. A child who doesn't "get" social norms and is seen as defiant and disrespectful (if you're not familiar with Cam's story, you can read it HERE and HERE).

I've not always done what I should have done for Cam. I've been inconsistent with IEP's. I've put him in environments that weren't supportive. But in the last three months, I've been working diligently to make things right. I've been pushing the school to do what they are required to do. I've held teachers accountable for their part in Cam's education. I've held Cam accountable for his part in his education. And it blew up in my face.

One of the things I didn't take into consideration is that not all David and Goliath match-ups result in the little guy coming through unscathed. In fact, most times the Davids of the world are slaughtered quickly and efficiently by the Goliaths. I've been known to get stuck in a fight of "right vs. might" in the past, and I'm there again now.

Cam's second term this year resulted in numerous trips to the Principal's office. He would be disruptive - or would refuse to do any work - for one reason or another (usually Asperger's related), be sent out of the class for the remainder of the class period, lose instruction and classwork time, and *surprise* fall farther and farther behind.

When the new term started in late January, the school agreed not to send him out of the classroom as long as he wasn't being disruptive. They also agreed to start supplying me with a list of the classwork that wasn't completed in class so that Cam could complete it at home and get credit for the work. Any guesses as to what happened?

Cam learned quickly that if he didn't do his work, he wasn't going to be sent to the Principal's office. He could just tell the teacher he wasn't going to do the work - the teacher would have him write "refuses to work" on the classwork - and then it would all come home with him. Cam was spending SEVEN hours in school doing relatively nothing, then coming home with an entire day's worth of homework and classwork. I've been putting in 9-10 hour days at work, then coming home to spend 2-4 hours per night homeschooling. Not just helping with classwork and homework, but doing the instruction necessary as well. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

I play life kind of like I play chess. I try to stay at least one move ahead, but am usually thinking two to three moves ahead. I saw this coming. The school had been moving their pawns since Christmas break. This resulted in an IEP meeting on Friday that was "supposed" to address Cam's transition into high school, but instead resulted in the recommendation that Cam be removed from his current school and placed in another school within the district that has a program "better suited to meet his needs." I would argue that it is a program better suited to his current school's needs.

I am beyond frustrated and confused. Although the recommended program sounded like it might be a better fit for Cam, I'm learning that it might not be what the school is touting it to be. I can't give up the fight - I am the only one who really has Cam's (and only Cam's) best interest in mind - yet the the school is the Goliath and this time David is getting beat down.


07 February 2010

Sunday Secret



01 February 2010



You might understand, especially if you'll be celebrating Valentine's Day a little differently this year!

If you want to stay in touch, I'll still be doing a daily posting over at Dana Does Digital!