The College Student Comes Home

My sister was five years ahead of me in school and attended a university nine hours away from home.  We weren’t close growing up, but became closer once she left for college.  Distance of both miles and time helped as well as each year that brought me closer to adulthood, thus catching me up to her.  We usually had a pretty good time together when she came home.

DD1 is a sophomore in college this year.  Last year her siblings were quite excited when break times loomed near.  This year they have mixed emotions, though they don’t readily admit it.  That’s sad for me to see.  DD1 was four when my youngest was born.  The three kiddos were pretty tight growing up.

So why would they not be excited to see DD1?  For my son, he sees the girls go off together and leave him out…again.  Same old story he’s grown up with.  The girls shared a room for over ten years and would often close the door while he sat just outside in the hallway.  It was pretty sad, but you can’t force kids to play together.

DD1 is DH’s favorite.  I say that from observation only, not from admission on his part.  She’s the one he picks on constantly and the other two kids and I understand that he picks on her out of love.  He does not do the same with them.  DH also actively engages DD1 in board games while she’s home.  DS has proposed board games and been turned down.  It can be for various reasons.  My son doesn’t always have the best timing, but he’s trying to spend time with his dad and I don’t think DH recognizes the motive behind the request.

DD2 has mixed emotions about DD1’s return as DD1 is quite bossy toward her.  From a very young age she has tried to take on a role similar to being a third parent.  The girls are scarcely 15 months apart in age.  When DD1 invited her brother and sister for siblings weekend last year, she tried to get DD2 to not wear her hat and gloves or carry her purse.  DD2 stood her ground, thankfully, but it made for conflict.  Similar bossing takes place here at home.

In speaking with DD2, I learned that DD1 has told her that she doesn’t believe that DD2 has sensory processing disorder.  I think it’s pretty bold to tell someone you don’t think they truly suffer from something, especially when an evaluation by a professional took place (and occupational therapy and counseling followed).  Last spring DD1 very dramatically declared that she was “done” with DD2.  Something very minor had occurred, and the reaction took me by surprise.

DH and I were relieved when DD1 told us that because of her job this year, she probably won’t be able to have company for sibling’s weekend.  Last year was a bit of a disaster. Last year we found out that DD1 was ditching her siblings for a meeting within an hour of their arrival.  We were floored, and she wouldn’t tell us what the meeting was for.  We left campus with the kids and took them to dinner while DD1 went to her dinner meeting.  At the end of the evening, she finally told her dad that the meeting was for a ping pong club.  That’s important stuff all right!  We were less than pleased with her rudeness.  After all, she invited them by her own free choice.  Then there was the tension over hats, gloves, and purses.  The kids ended up staying with us in our hotel instead of with their sister due to a lesser chain of events.

Then there’s the phone.  It is constantly in DD1’s hand, and constantly chirping that someone put something on snap chat.  That sure can’t wait.  She doesn’t fully come home to us when that thing’s going off and interrupting conversations all the time.  I think I’ll campaign for the phone to stay home during the Christmas visits.  I get tired of it, too.

I don’t know what the answer to all of this is.  The girls are adults and our son is in high school.  I can see both sides of the issue, to a degree, but it is for them to work out.

Here’s hoping that they can find new footing to stand on with each other, and that they can stand on that new ground in a positive way.

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Preparations

December begins tomorrow and the holiday began over a week ago.  I did partake of some minor Black Friday shopping.  I’m not the die-hard, plan of action in hand kind of person when it comes to Black Friday.  There have been a few items over the past few years which have drawn me out.  Jo-Ann’s got me for flannel when I was making the kid’s nightgowns and pjs, and Kohl’s gets me for those super soft blankets which make great gifts.  These are the calm places to shop.  I won’t go near the electronics.

I just ordered two photo books, one for each of our moms.  Neither one of them wants or really needs anything, so I grabbed onto something my mom said when we visited last week.  She doesn’t pull out the photo albums, but she does look at the photo books she’s been given.  I made one of my dad when he died, one of my sister when she died, and my aunt gave Mom a book focusing on another part of the family.  So I decided it was time for an all-grandchild book.  DH is an only, so it is all of his mom’s grandchildren.  I didn’t include my sister’s kids because I just don’t have extensive pictures of them.  My son has an expressive face, so what he does not yet know is that two pages are dedicated to his face.  We’ve caught some awesome expressions over the years.  Our moms will love it and he will hate it.

I’m watching the grocery store fliers like a hawk, laying in the expected holiday treats.  DH loves his Coke in glass bottles, so that’s a treat at Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  Those were on a three day special.  The cashews and pistachios are laid in.  The Ghiradelli peppermint bark is purchased.  I’m watching for snow crab legs to go on sale.  DH doesn’t like a traditional meal on Christmas, and sea food has been the choice of the last couple of years.  (DD2 and I have opted for frozen pizza.)

The decorations need to start going up.  I dust and clean as I decorate, so it’s as much work as it is fun.  DD2 will be helping this year.  The tree is waiting for DH to finish some work before we put that up.  Last year we had it up for DD1’s Thanksgiving break, but she’ll live.  She’s got a small tree of her own that went back to school with her.

The shopping is drawing to a close.  We finished the girl’s presents and are close with our son.  I’ve finished my mom and my cousin’s daughter, and possibly DH as well.  I need to think about that one a little more.  The Christmas letter and cards have yet to be done.  I printed out address labels and have the letter three-quarters finished.  I’d better get going on that.

When all is said and done, I always want to enjoy the Christmas season.  It’s not about the gifts, lights, and decorations after all.  It’s about our families and friends and the love we share.  It’s about celebrating Christ’s birth and all that His life and death mean for us.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Catching Up

I’ve been trying to ‘catch up’ on housework and projects for years now.  I’m always staring down a to-do list of one kind or another.  That might lead you to think I spend my days fretting over the lists.  I don’t.  There are moments of fret, days of laziness, days of industry, and those days which fall in between.

I recently had a day of industry in the sewing stack which felt really good.  I had some Christmas flannel (bought at a fantastic sale price) to make up into pillow covers for our family/living room.  The room is tight and does not get our Christmas tree, so I try to bring other decorations in.  Two years ago I bought miniature trees for the mantle and battery powered lights for them.  Pillow covers seemed like a good idea as the cats won’t shred them to bits, yet I can have fun with the colors.  I have two sets of every day covers for them, and now have two sets of Christmas covers.

Every month or so I have to ask my son to catch up on keeping his room tidy.  I try not to beat this drum too hard or too frequently to hopefully give him space to see the mess for himself.  Alas, he usually chooses not to see the mess and Mom needs to nag a bit.

My MIL offered to host Thanksgiving this year, which is a mental YAY! for me.  I don’t enjoy hosting big dinners.  It’s not my wheelhouse and I always forget at least one thing.  We’ll go to my mom’s house the next day.  With her new puppy, she’s not traveling for a while – maybe not until DS graduates in two and a half years.  I told her not to plan anything big.  It may just be Little Ceasar’s.  The main thing is the visit.  Our kids hate the traditional holiday meal anyway.  I’m taking a spaghetti casserole to MIL’s for turkey day, to make sure they eat.

Here’s where someone who doesn’t know my kids will say, “If they’re hungry, they’ll eat.”  No they won’t.  Been there, done that.  My daughter, in particular, will go without food for an entire day rather than eat something she doesn’t like.  She doesn’t do this with a nasty attitude, she just doesn’t eat.  With her SPD, however, her body then gets out of sorts and makes her grouchy.  It’s better now that she’s older and is more aware of her system and makes a bigger effort, so I try to meet her half way.

I’ve made some progress on housework, but everything constantly keeps getting dusty/dirty/whatever and needs attention.  I just have to keep plugging along.

Now we approach the holidays and decorating.  The thing about decorating is that it also involves cleaning.  For me, it just doesn’t make sense to put decorations on a dusty surface, especially when the decorations make cleaning more difficult.  The good news is that I have a helper this year.  I’m going to put my stay at home daughter to work beside me.

I need to keep plodding along.  The list will never go away, but if I don’t keep working on it, the list will only grow.

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An Unbreakable Christmas

The other day, DH and I were talking about Christmas and the fact we can’t decorate the tree all the way down this year, with young kittens.  We decided to leave the bottom row or two of branches off of our artificial tree this year as well.  Thinking further, I invested in shatterproof (fancy word for plastic, there) ornaments.  For the next couple of years We’ll leave the glass ornaments packed away as well as the made-at-school and difficult to replace ornaments.

This could actually be a lot of fun.  We get to have a different tree for a bit.  The topper will be silver clip on poinsettias instead of our light up star.  It’s a chance to make a slew of things with the kids and to try out some crochet patterns I found on Pinterest.

These kitties are much more adventurous than our last pair.  This just might be the year the tree gets knocked over, hence all of the unbreakable things to put on it.

One of our last kitties stole bows from packages, so DH and I used that as an excuse to not put presents under the tree until the day before they were needed.  The kids came to prefer not having the gifts out early.

I’d far rather make a small investment in plastic, than be furious because a favorite ornament was destroyed by playful kitties.

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Looking for Closure

I wrote a letter to send to my daughter’s former teacher, wanting to have her hear our side of everything that happened as a result of her actions with my daughter.  DH pointed out that sending this letter would lead to no good, and I reluctantly agree.  I still need the closure which I hoped sending the letter would bring, so instead of sending it to the teacher, I’m going to post the letter here.

Mrs. K,

Today was DD’s first opportunity to vote.  Our precinct votes at your elementary.  As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed a look of panic on DD’s face.  When questioned, she let me know that she feels as if the walls of the school are falling on her as she walks in.  What would make her feel that way?  Perhaps the way she was treated in that school?

In our final meeting with you, you scoffed at the idea that you had traumatized our daughter when you and another teacher dragged her through the hallway to the office by her arms.  One year after the dragging, she scratched both of your pictures out of her yearbook.  She didn’t do this for my benefit.  Her brother told me about it.  Today I found out that the thought of going in to the school causes her panic – eight years later.  I’d say she experienced trauma.

There were things I should have told you eight years ago.  I was sorely disappointed in the lack of communication I received from you and the school regarding DD.  In our final meeting you made the statement, “I guess I should have told you every little thing!”  I sure would have liked to have been told about the time you dragged DD to the office while she was sitting in her chair.  I found out about this incident by accident three days later, then had to wait two additional days to hear your full account.  That was not a “little thing”.  It made me wonder how many other “little things” happened about which you never told me.  DD told me, a year later, that she was being sent to the office once or twice a week.  Parents can’t be true partners with the school if they aren’t informed.

Have you ever considered the fact that we could have gone to the school board, the local paper, or taken you to court over the dragging?  We fully considered all three.  We decided that your actions were specific to our child, and I simply had too much to do to get home school up and running to let you have much more of my time and energy.

You and the principal clearly thought home school would fail.  How could I, a lowly parent, ever be able to teach my child?  I would also have to deal with such a troublesome student!  Ah, but I have a teaching degree and quickly pulled my curriculum together.  I was downloading grade level content expectations from the state website before we spoke to you that fateful night.  You dragged her on a Wednesday, and she had assignments for Thursday and Friday.  Home school was fully functioning Monday morning.  There were other things to do Thursday: take DD to the doctor to have her foot looked at – she hurt it on the cement hall floor (for readers – she started kicking after the teachers began to drag her, and her shoes flew off).  We got the incident on record with the doctor, then with her counselor.  Both doctors agreed that DD should never go back to your classroom.

What seemed a hasty decision to home school had actually been in consideration from the day you dragged DD to the office in her chair on December 9.  Such a ‘little thing’ to have happened, yet I still remember the date.  We’d been weighing the pros and cons of home school versus public school for six weeks when you dragged her by the arms.  We just thought we were considering it for middle school.

When report cards came out, I didn’t look for anything but an orchestra grade for DD.  She hadn’t finished the semester (one week shy) and my mind was busy with home school.  I didn’t see your comments until the end of the year and it was a shock when I saw how vitriolic your comments were.  You were clearly protecting yourself against the day when we came crawling back.  You never would have called DD “manipulative” to our faces, yet felt it was okay to put it on her permanent record.  You never mentioned her sensory processing disorder, just your complaints.  I’m sure you know that I put a letter in DD’s file to answer your comments.  You’ve probably read it.

You seemed resentful of the fact that DH and I spoke with other students to find out about what happened in the classroom the day you dragged DD.  DD’s account left us thinking that surely there was more to be told.  It had such a simple start: you asked her to come to her desk to do an assignment (which she had worked on all the previous night.  I helped her print it out, but she froze and couldn’t speak up to tell you.).  She put her head down on her desk and cried.  You pulled her into the hallway by the arm then told her to go do the assignment or go to the principal.  She couldn’t speak and crumpled to the floor.  Then you got the teacher next door and the two of you dragged her to the office.  There had to be more to the story to have escalated so greatly.

I called the one other student who I knew who was in the classroom at the time.  Her retelling matched DD’s exactly.  We found out who else had been in the room and DH started placing calls.  We spoke to three additional students who told us the exact same story.  Then we called you, and your version was quite a bit different.  After the call with you, a student who had been in the shower called us back.  After she told us what happened, again matching all of the other student’s versions, we asked specific questions regarding your version without telling the student that we were asking about your story.  She refuted every one of your assertions.

You implied that we had only contacted friends.  We only knew the first student we called.  The other four were strangers to us, and were not in DD’s group of friends.  DD spoke to no one from school after coming home, and she left before the end of the school day.  The first question to each of the students was to simply tell us what happened.  Any further questions were asked after the child was finished giving their own account to avoid leading their account in any particular direction.  We wanted the truth, even if unflattering to our daughter.

Once I heard how different your version of events was from the versions of six other people present, I questioned the veracity of every accounting you had shared with me that year.  Looking through notes from our conversations, it struck me that you would often choose graphic words and greatly emphasize them.  I distinctly remember you turning “slammed” into a two-syllable word.  According to you, DD “sl-ammed her head on her desk”, yet this was one of the descriptions which the last student we spoke with refuted, saying DD just put her head down.

When we met, you thought that demonstrating how you and the other teacher dragged DD would make me feel better about it.  I’m guessing the look on my face as you put your hands on my arm told you differently since you backed away quickly.  It also didn’t help when DH asked the principal if he would go by six matching stories or the one that stood alone and he answered that he would stand by the teacher’s version.  Neither of you liked DH pointing out that judges gave a lot of weight to what kids had to say when it came to abuse.  He also pointed out that if he and I had dragged DD down the hallway, we would have been met by authorities at the door.

I needed to write this letter because I needed you to hear our side of this story.  In my mind, you will always be the woman who dragged my daughter and couldn’t understand that you had done anything wrong.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.  Mrs. K is unlikely to ever see this, but it’s out there.  Teachers are people and make mistakes just as all of us do.  Be your child’s biggest advocate.

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First Time Voter, Long Time Fear

My eldest had her first vote back in August, and today was DD2’s turn to vote for the first time.

This morning I was walking her through the voting process and I saw a frozen look of panic on her face.  She broke down into tears and explained that walking into the school was the real fear factor.  We pulled her out of public school a week shy of the end of the first semester of fifth grade after her teacher and one other teacher dragged her down the hall to the office, each holding one of her arms.  (Her crime was crying, then freezing in panic.)

When we were in the meeting with DD’s teacher and the principal, the teacher scoffed at the idea that she had traumatized my daughter.  I think my daughter’s fear of walking in to this woman’s school – eight years later – refutes her scorn.

I wish I could say that I’m a perfect Christian and long ago forgave this woman.  The forgiveness would come so much easier if she had ever admitted to error in judgement or action, apologized to us or to our daughter, anything along those lines.

I saw this teacher crying/gossiping to another teacher when I came to clean out my daughter’s desk.  I heard her say she was offended when I informed her I’d be home schooling DD.  I heard the principal say he’d take the word of the teacher over seven children’s accounts of what happened in the classroom that day.  (Their accounts were all the same – the teacher’s was different.  We spoke to one of the kids after the teacher, and asked questions based the teacher’s account.  The child denied every one of the teacher’s assertions.)  I saw disbelief on the school secretary’s face when I turned in the official letter to de-enroll our child from that school.

I once wrote a letter to this teacher to get my feelings out, but never sent it.  This woman does not realize the full reach of her actions.  She never took ownership of her actions.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d feel more at peace if we had taken action beyond pulling our daughter out of the school.  I know I couldn’t have handled a lot back at that time.  I needed to focus on the whirlwind of organizing home school over a weekend.  I wonder if she ever considered that we could’ve gone to the school board, local newspaper, court, or all three?

In a year and a half her son will graduate and I shouldn’t run into her at school anymore, but somehow I still need to find a way to let go.  I don’t live every day thinking about that event, but it stays with me when something like learning that my daughter hates walking into school buildings comes up.

I might need to send her that letter.  I might need to pray an awful lot, too.

 

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Back to Teaching

Following my son’s evaluation results, I called the recommended tutoring center.  We played some phone tag, finally connected, then I found that they don’t offer tutoring for writing organization.  They mostly handle dyslexia as it pertains to reading.  Well, DS tested at the college reading level (he’s in tenth grade), so that rules this option out.  She suggested that I find a retired elementary teacher to help him.

I never retired, just left the schools to raise my children.   The tutoring center just knocked the ball back into my court.  I’m not opposed to tutoring my son, just thought he might do better with someone else.

I now have two books on the way, found worksheets to help with paragraph construction, and developed a plan for his handwriting and for starter work on paragraphs.  I spoke with my son when I picked him up after school yesterday, letting him know that I don’t want him to feel as if he’s back in first grade.  I let him know that if he and I both give this an honest shot and it isn’t working, we’ll look at other tutoring options.

The positives are that I know what his interests are without a “getting to know you” phase.  That will help with writing topics.  I have access to his books, and have his permission to copy them.  I’m going to write out portions of his favorite books for him to trace.  I also have a line of communication with his teachers, and will get any feedback directly.

My homeschool child graduated last spring.  Now I’m right back in it.  Good thing God led me to get a teaching degree.

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