28 November 2012

A Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against The Wall

Photo Credit

I probably should have pounded a few of these before yesterday's meeting, or at least brought some lube.

Yes, it was one of those IEP meetings, however I managed to walk out - 2 hours later - with exactly what I wanted.

*NOTE* Not only was it one of those IEP meetings, it is now going to be one of those posts. Some of you will want to stop reading now. Please do!

When we checked in at the office (Mike attends these meetings with me) I learned that there were several people attending the meeting who were not on the original invite (that's a BIG procedural no-no). 

Although I walked in with an open mind and a good attitude, finding 8 teachers and administrators in the conference room, when I was expecting to see 3, kind of soured my good attitude.

The first part of the meeting was to decide if Cam is still eligible for special education services (his trieneal determination).

Cam has been on an IEP since he was 6. When we lived in Minnesota, he qualified for services under the "Autism" disability category. Illinois doesn't use that category, instead lumping autism (and several other disability categories) under "Other Health Impairment" (OHI). Cam has qualified for special education services under OHI for the past 9 years. This should have been routine.

All was well and good until the Education Service Specialist summarized the determination review, stating that he recommended Cam qualify for services under the Emotional Disturbance (ED) category, with OHI being secondary.

Why did this happen?

Because there were questions surrounding why Cam originally received services under the autism designation when he had never had an autism diagnosis. Because I trusted school administrative personnel when I had been told by a medical professional not to.

It was my fault.

I shared - in confidence - Cam's original diagnosis with the school social worker and the Education Service Specialist in a meeting we had in October.

When Cam was diagnosed with Aperger's, he was also diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Both diagnoses were printed on the report that I shared with the school social worker and the Education Service Specialist, and even though I was clear that I was providing the report for informational purposed only (not to be included in his permanent record), the Education Service Specialist chose to ignore my instructions.

He took one look at that ODD diagnosis and ran with it. ODD is a conduct disorder

Kids with conduct disorders are often placed in self-contained learning environments as they are considered dangerous - their behavior is consistently troubling to others and outside of the range of what is considered normal or acceptable. Kids with conduct disorders often show little remorse, guilt, or understanding of the damage and the pain inflicted by their behavior.

This is where I needed the lube. The Education Service Specialist was fucking me right up the ass, and he wasn't even sneaky about it.

There were some terse words. I refused to accept the ED designation - Cam's behaviors do not meet the criteria for ED and I sure as hell wasn't going to allow the Education Service Specialist to focus on one component of a 10-year old diagnosis while ignoring all of the other more recent test data available. 

Eventually, I won.

It wasn't pretty.

It was insightful.

My suspicions that the administration wants to outplace Cam? Confirmed. 

And their plan to do so? Currently foiled.

Now ... to figure out how I'm going to keep things this way for the next 18 months ...

27 November 2012

Screwy Hammer

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I have yet another meeting with Cam's school today - this one, his trieneal determination of special education eligibility.

The administration tipped their hand this time. They are usually tight-lipped - preferring to attack from the blindside - hoping parents don't have the sense to stop the plan they put in place long before you ever enter the meeting room.

They want to outplace Cam.

I will fight this. 

Past experience indicates outplacement is not the educational solution for Cam.

Past experience indicates that outplacement is socially and emotionally harmful to Cam.

As fate would have it, I came across Jeff Hunter's blog, Talentism, today. Reading his 2007 post titled My Son Won't Do His Homework gave me the push I needed to fight one more fight. He writes:
But school doesn’t care, because school does not have the objective of helping my son produce the maximum amount of value in the future that he will probably encounter. School cares about ensuring that he knows how to take tests, follow directions and can do math that he will never have to care about for the rest of his life. School cares that he can either prove that he is worthy of being in the top 5% that will go on to be homogenized and brainwashed in a top-notch school so that they are almost completely without originality of thought or perspective or that he gets the hell out of the way for those kids that meet that description. School cares that he can be measured and managed, so that he will be a good little cog in a habitual big wheel.
What he says is true. You can argue with me all that you want and it will still be true.

This isn't because teachers are bad.

It is because the public school system is broken.

Shattered even.

I'm going into this meeting to fight one more fight. 

I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure outplacement does not happen, even if that means declining special education services.

IEPs are supposed to be the equalizer in education. For Cam, the IEP has been used as a tool to segregate and exclude.

I can't keep giving the school a hammer and expecting them to tighten screws with it.

I'm going to take the hammer back.

19 November 2012

Things I Learned In Milwaukee

  • Mike is famous in Milwaukee. He insists he isn't, but everywhere we went it seemed everyone knew him.
  • Aloft hotels have amazing showers, but no bathtubs. The hotel was beautiful, and we had a magnificent view from our river facing room, but next time I think we'll stay where I can get in a tub soak.
  • Bloody Mary's are served with a side of beer. I mentioned this in another post, but it's worthy of repeating. It's not like you order a Bloody Mary and a beer either ... if you order a Bloody Mary, a "side" of beer is coming with it.
  • Girls not only travel to the restroom together, they share a stall. Now I'm not at all modest (5 years in the Army will do that), but sharing a stall when sharing isn't required? Just caught me as a little odd.
  • I am too old to drink cheap, bad beer. There were an awful lot of young'uns drinking PBR. Just EEUUWWW!
  • Snow Shoots! I thought these were for trash, but Mike tells me they are for snow removal from upper level parking garages. He also tells me they dump truckloads of snow on the beaches of Lake Michigan, but I have yet to see that.

  • Taking turns with the bartender,throwing a cup-full of dice, results in someone handing me a shot. I have no clue what the rules are of this game, I just know that when Mike plays I get drunk ... quick.
  • I did not feel old while hanging out with Mike's friends. I was actually quite worried I be the old woman out, but discovered that Mike has a diverse group of friends, some of whom are actually my age *gasp*
  • Alterra > Starbucks (or any other mass-market coffee chain). Just driving by the building borders on orgasmic as you can smell the beans roasting. 

  • It's never a good idea to meet new people when hungover. We got together for breakfast at the Red Dot - where you can get poutine and a drink called a C-Note (a Pearl screwdriver mixed with Emergen-C), but you can't get a milkshake - with one of Mike's good friends the day after his birthday. It was all that I could do just to make eye contact every 60 seconds or so. I'm certain they were impressed.
  • Right Lane Ends signs are an invitation for a drag race. I'm one of those drivers who moves to the left lane when I know the right lane ends, and curses those drivers who stay in the right lane to get one or two cars ahead. If I held tight to that pattern in Milwaukee, I'd have been doing nothing more than cursing all weekend long.

18 November 2012

SOCS: Who Do You Compare Yourself To?

Comparisons are my Achilles heel.

I constantly compare myself to others - physically - emotionally - professionally, and it is destructive.

Comparing myself to others often results in a "not good enough" conclusion  and lately I've found that my parenting is the comparison du jour.

Cam is in his junior year of high school. This is a time where parents often talk about ACT/SAT scores, what colleges their kids will be attending, how successful their kids will be. How well our kids do in school seems to be the primary way we measure ourselves as parents.

That's a broken barometer for anyone who has a child who struggles academically in school.

Cam will likely not take the ACT/SAT. He probably won't attend a 4-year university, in fact, it will be nothing short of a miracle if I can talk him into a 2-year college or trade school program.

I often feel I am measured far more on his perceived failures than I am on his successes.

At least I do when I compare myself to other parents.

I don't measure up.

His "failures" must be a result of my parenting.

It's the only logical conclusion ...


This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post (in the sidebar).
  • Link up your post [HERE]
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

16 November 2012

On The Lighter Side

Screw the funk! Some really good things have been happening lately, and it is time that I let go of what's (not really) wrong and celebrate what's right!


I first learned about Project Underblog through Jana, who is a regular contributor to the site. 

Project Underblog is "a submission-based collaborative writing project honoring the smaller voices in the blogging community. With a foundation of 5-10 core bloggers to publish, promote, and engage on a monthly basis, this is ultimately a place where the majority of the content comes from submissions. Anyone can submit and share their voices and stories without consideration of their blog stats, followers, page ranks, and social media reach."

I like the concept of Project Underblog. Quite frankly, there are a lot of "BIG NAME" bloggers out there who have very little to say. I've found that I enjoy the quieter voices - their writing is usually motivated by passion rather than page hits.

Anyway, I was excited when the site launched a few months ago, and have added them to my reader. 

What's better than a FREE t-shirt??

How about Fred Pastasaurus!?!?!

I saw this photo on Sujomi's Project 365 Blog and knew I needed a Fred Pastasaurus in my kitchen!

And guess what? Sujomi thought I did too ... so she sent me one!

Yes, I did text her this photo after opening up the package with the smile on the box.

And then I discovered that Fred also makes a PANTS Salt-and-Pepper Set, a Batterfinger Spatula, and a bunch of other fun cooking utensils.

Then, if that wasn't enough, my employer decided to add Green Mountain Naturals® Hot Apple Cider K-Cup®'s to our ever expanding drink choices (at $0.50/K-Cup®).

These things are to DIE for ... or at least to go broke for as I have now developed a $2.00/day habit.

It's like drinking a slice of hot apple pie - not too tart - not too sweet. I think the only thing that could possibly make them any better would be if you made a Green Mountain Naturals® Hot Apple Cider K-Cup® float!

Anyway, that is the good stuff that has been coming my way lately, which is far more fun to talk about than the funk.

Do tell ... what goodness has found its way to you lately??

14 November 2012


Photo Credit
I battle the funk on occasion. 

I try to fight the good fight, but I know my opponent is getting the best of me when I start seeing signs like:
  • Losing interest in things I usually enjoy
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling (more) anti-social
  • Neglecting my body
  • Wanting to sleep more
  • Feeling defensive and cranky
Unfortunately, I'm usually in a full-fledged funk by the time I acknowledge that I've been seeing the funk warning signs for weeks.

Guess who is singing the FUNK-a-delic blues right now?

Telling myself I shouldn't be in a funk - that I have so much to be grateful for - that others have far worse circumstances than I am - doesn't lift the funk. I mean, logically, I know those things are true, but telling myself I shouldn't be in a funk does little more than make me feel guilty and actually gives the funk new life.

I've decided that what I really need is a plan of action - a collection of weapons that give me a better chance at slaying the funk. 

My first step is to pause  and look at the bigger picture. Is the reason for my funk staring me in the face? Is there an issue I have been avoiding that needs to be addressed? Or is this a general funk? One that cannot be conquered with a single action.

If it’s specific to a single situation/issue (which it sometimes is), and I can ease the funk by confronting the situation/issue, that's exactly what I need to do. Identifying the cause of the funk, before it takes over unrelated parts of my life, is much easier than battling multiple enemies.

But what if I'm facing the funk Army? What if it's a generalized funk that is infiltrating who I am (and yes, this is currently where I am)? What then?

Then it's time to take the "one bite at a time" mentality.

Losing interest in things I usually enjoy - I've learned this often happens when I've overdone whatever "it" is that I enjoy. My personality tends to put me either all in, or all out. I'm working on finding that "happy medium", but until I do, I've decided that giving myself permission to have less interest for awhile - rather than beating myself up over it - is usually a successful strategy.

Being irritable - I got all up in Cam's face earlier this week over the glove box latch breaking in the 14-year old Cavalier. I was unreasonable. It reminded me of the importance of breathing. If I take the time to conscientiously breathe, it gives me time to realize that the things that are irritating me are completely out of my control and are irrelevant in the long run.

Feeling (more) anti-social - Being an introvert by nature, feeling anti-social is pretty normal for me, but when I notice I'm hiding from the world all of the time, it calls for action. I've found that I tend to do this more when my interactions are limited to the same handful of people for an extended period of time. A change in "facial scenery" - like my recent weekend in Milwaukee - will often do the trick.

Neglecting my body - This tends to be the proverbial snowball rolling downhill for me. I find myself engaging in continuous negative self-talk and expect perfection (this would fall into that all in or all out mentality I struggle with). When I find myself in this place, I remind myself that every small decision I make regarding my health has the opportunity to be a a positive one, and do the best I can to make as many of those during the day as possible.

Wanting to sleep more - I am one who uses sleep to avoid - to avoid taking action that might be difficult - to avoid facing the funk. Avoidance doesn't solve much (DAMMIT!), so I've been trying to find activities that are stimulating and productive. Playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook for hours might be stimulating, but it's not productive. Reading a book? Satisfies both requirements.

Feeling defensive and cranky - These are probably the most difficult things for me to deal with during the funk cycle. I know that other people’s actions may make me feel defensive and cranky, but it is seldom (if ever) their intent. Even if it is? I just look like a schmuck when I react this way.Thinking before speaking (or writing) is my best bet on this one.

I do know why this funk appeared. The holidays (sans family) are approaching  I won't be able to do all that I want to do for Cam or for Mike. I've got an eligibility/IEP/placement meeting on the horizon.

I've got sadness, disappointment, frustration, and fear staring me down. I'm not a fan of any of those feelings, so I just shove them down, letting them fester. And then the funk gets worse and gains even more control.

I'm trying to give myself permission to feel the funk (rather than beat myself up over it). At least when I acknowledge how I am feeling, I take the power back, start working on battling the demons, and spend less FUNK-a-delic time.

At least that's the plan.

Are you a frequent funk visitor? What do you do to get yourself out of it?

10 November 2012

Moving On

Photo Credit
It's been just short of 3 years since I left husbandIn that 3 years, the family home has been in limbo - still filled with all of the things that represent who we were supposed to be.

You might remember that husband was insistent that he was not going to pay the mortgage on a home that he was not living in. Rather than fight, I chose to let him and the three cats live happily ever after in a 3,200 square foot abode while I move myself and Cam to a small 2-bedroom apartment. I thought husband was being ridiculous and selfish, but I wanted out more than I wanted to fight.

Selling the house hasn't been an option. We purchased it right before the real estate bubble burst - we aren't just upside-down on the house, we are upside-down and backwards, and my VA loan benefit is tied to it. A foreclosure or short sale would result in obliterating the likelihood of my ever owning a home again.

About 8 months ago, and after listening to husband bitch about living in a 3,200 square foot abode with 3 cats, I suggested that he consider renting the home out - becoming a landlord. That would allow him to move closer to his work (he's got a 90 minute commute each way), reduce his living expenses, and preserve my VA loan benefit as we wouldn't have to sell the house at a loss.

There was one little hiccup in the plan.

The house is filled with stuff - husband's stuff - my stuff - Cam's stuff. 

Lots of STUFF.

I have no storage in my apartment. I've put off moving the stuff out of the house for as long as I possibly can. Anything that I decide to keep will need to be put in a storage unit, and my budget doesn't allow for more than a closet sized storage unit.

That means I have to make some difficult decisions.

I have to pick and choose which memories to donate - which memories to trash - and which memories mean enough to me that I am willing to pay for storing them long term.

I am starting the process this morning.

I've committed to 4 hours with husband today. Although the process would be easier without him there, he is concerned that I might take something that is his.

Whatever ...

If that isn't bad enough, I'm terrified that I am going to toss or donate something that I want to keep and lose the memory.

This is more difficult than I thought it would be - than it should be - but it's time.

08 November 2012

Cheese Curds & Cheese Heads

Friday afternoon was a rough one. A very public shouting match from my cubicle, with the new Education Service Specialist at Cam's school, that included ultimatums and insults (flung at me, not by me). 

Mike and I were scheduled to head to Milwaukee on Saturday to celebrate his birthday. He had contacted his friends to let them know we'd be in town, and we had a hotel reservation for Saturday night. When I got home Friday night, I knew I had to just let go of my extreme frustration or I was going to ruin Mike's birthday weekend.

Then Mike suggested we leave immediately rather than waiting for Saturday.

My response?

But we don't have a hotel! And I cannot leave Cam home alone for an entire weekend without having the police department on speed dial! And ... and ... WE MUST PLAN! Spontaneity is evil! If we don't plan something terrible will happen! No! I don't know what ... I just know it will!!

Thank goodness Mike has mastered the ability to talk me down from the ledge ...

Cam was at a friend's house - a friend who is a good kid and whose parents are very ... well ... parenting parents. Mike suggested I check with them to see if Cam could spend the weekend there while he made an inquiry at the hotel to see if they had rooms available Friday night.

The friend's parents were thrilled to be able to help out and agreed to have Cam as their guest for the weekend.

The hotel had rooms.

We spent the next 30 minutes packing and loading, then headed out.

I was a mess for the first hour of the drive, my bestie - anxiety - sitting squarely on my chest, but as I continued to drive, I began relaxing, letting go of the stuff that bounces around in my brain.

We checked in at the hotel, then headed out for the start of a celebratory weekend.

Mike deemed Friday night as "pre-game warm up". It involved letting Milwaukee know he was in town, drinking at a few different establishments, and losing my Qdoba virginity.

Saturday I woke up in the swanky Aloft Milwaukee Downtown to this view.

Then we went to The Eatery on Farwell for breakfast. I had The Hangover Burger (½ lb hand-pattied burger stacked up with provolone & Muenster cheese, bacon, a fried egg, caramelized red onions, lettuce, tomato, avocado aioli, Sriracha aioli & hollandaise served on a homestyle bun with a choice of side) and the best Bloody Mary I have ever experienced in my life.

Yes, that is beef jerky in that glass. And since when have all Bloody Mary's started being served with a side of beer? I'm not complaining, I've just never seen this!

Bellies full, we headed out shopping. It's been at least 3 years since I've purchased a new outfit at a retail store ... seriously. This was HUGE. I don't spend money on myself, and when I do it's usually for a single clothing item at Goodwill or off the clearance rack at Walmart. But this time? I bought a complete outfit - nothing from the clearance rack - including shoes. I didn't even look at prices (which fortunately turned out to be very reasonable).

Then it was back to the hotel for a little rest, a quick "linner" (if you can have brunch, you can have linner) of cheese curds at The Loaded Slate,

... and then back out for the MAIN EVENT!

Although we had planned on starting at Vitucci's, and then drinking our way to other bars, we wound up staying where we started.

Which was a good thing.

'Cause I got to kiss a girl ... several times ...*

Wait! What???

* Don't you hate it when a blog post ends like that??