Saturday, April 26, 2014

Thank You, Monet!

"I hope some day to meet God, 
because I want to thank Him for the flowers."  
--Robert Brault

Caroline in a field of white and purple daisies.

It's that time of year, or maybe it's because we just had earth day, or maybe it's because I spent some time at my favorite place, the beach, but I have this beautiful planet on my heart.

No matter where you walk, right now it's showing off.

Taken as I was driving because I was so so utterly blown away by the fleeting majesty.

In my heart, I want to be a photographer, if only to capture the momentary glory and remember...
to press it on my heart in hard times and times of deep sadness...
to know that right around me -- always within reach --
is this.

I have an irrational fondness for these tiny, tiny daisies that sprout up only at this time of year amid the regular if trying to blend in...and finding it an impossible task:

We have wild mustard blooming and those magical California poppies and lupines and iris and roses...always the roses.
I can't help myself.  
I'm in love...with this earth, with the non-stop wonders that surround me... 
with the everyday holiness.

It's sacred.

Found at a Brownie between skit practice and singing campfire songs.

One of my most recent favorite books had the dad thinking aloud with his terminally ill teen-age daughter about our world:
"Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed.  That's what I believe...I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed."
The Fault In Our Stars -- John Green

I agree!
It's pretty obvious it wants to be noticed...
This happens every, single day.

How do we stop noticing??
How can we not tear up with the beauty?
I guess it's called taking it for granted...
but I want to stop and notice.
I want to fill my heart up with the every day glory that is only here in this moment, right now.


I recently taught an art lesson to a bunch of 2nd graders.  We went to our local arboretum and looked at some bridges and wild flowers and just stopped and got quiet and paid attention.

I told them that Claude Monet painted the same bridge in London, the Waterloo Bridge, over 100 times.
This took my breath away.
I showed them the same bridge painted on three different days, years apart by Monet...
one was a gorgeous pinkish hue, fused with early light;
one was bluish in tone with a hint of fog...the blue, a light turquoise with some green tints as well;
one was a lavender, dusky and melancholy and utterly breath-taking.

I've been thinking so much about Monet's wisdom.

Nothing is the same.

Each day it is a bit older, a bit more lush, or broken in, a bit more overgrown or mowed or the tree limbs are bare or that flower is just springing up or the light plays a different way.

His passion for seeing the very same scene with different eyes has transformed me.

Seals and Crofts said it best:
"We may never pass this way again."

Just for today, let's notice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Falling Down

Caroline loves to roller blade.
Most mornings she puts them on first thing and as soon as she is home from school, 
they are back on her feet.  
She's content to roll around the kitchen and living room in and endless loop.

She roller blades outside in the back yard.  
She insists that it is "blading" and always corrects me if I ask her to take her skates off.
She eats dinner with them on.
She does homework with them on.
She reads books or watches TV and forgets that she has something attached to her body.

She's a wee bit obsessed.

Her happiest time of the day is when we walk our dog, Buddy.
She can rollerblade through the neighborhood at supersonic speed.
She hunches over like a roller derby queen and speeds up and goes as fast as her risky self will allow --
which is awful fast to an onlooking mom.

She's gotten I said, they're beginning to just be a part of her body.
She is now practicing tricks -- like jumping over cracks in the sidewalk, or doing the
ice-skating maneuver of the one-leg-in-the-air-glide.
She's confident and proud.

And then a tiny stick got in her way.

She loves this one driveway we pass each day.
It has a big U-shaped driveway and she whizzes up one side of the U and spins and
whizzes down the other the side at top notch speed.  
One time she did it 11 times back and forth...even I was getting dizzy.
And then the unthinkable happened...she bit the dust.

It wasn't a horrible wipe-out as wipe outs go -- but she got a sizable scrape on the side of her belly and nothing else...but a big ole sense of what just happened?
She was shocked.  Stunned.  
Mortified and mad.

She was quiet as she roller-bladed home -- defeated -- and I couldn't yet tell just how injured she was so I didn't push.
At the injury inspection I made a comment about how it wasn't that bad...but she couldn't even respond.
Big, heaving, gasping cries came over her.
Tears and more tears.

I tried to cajole her into the go.
Tried to be soothing and understanding...not working.
I tried the brush-off -- really, kid, you're good...complete flop.
Then I just picked her up and undressed her and plopped a wailing, inconsolable kid into the tub.

She resisted the water, not wanting her scrape to sting, but I insisted, 
which only amped up the situation.

I noticed her forehead...speckled with red splotches like she used to get as an infant after crying really hard...and I tried to tell her it was all going to be okay...back to soothing as an option.

Finally, she leaned back into the water and let it all comfort her and released that soggy sigh that all people release after that final burst of crying, but somehow with kids it tends to be the checkered flag.  We made it.

I tried to help her notice it..."Look, Caroline, you made it over the hump.  You're going to be OK."

A tiny voice and tear-filled bue eyes looked up, 
"I think it was a stick." she reflected.

"It might have been, baby.  But, you need to know that the reason you like roller-blading is partly because of this right here.  You enjoy it because you feel excited.  You know you could fall down.  You accept that part...and you love when you don't."

"But sometimes you do."

"And then, you just have to get back up...and try again."

She slowly got out of the tub.
I snuggled my fresh-from-the-tub-girl -- a treat that rarely happens anymore.
I held her for the briefest of moments and treasured this chance.
I'm so grateful to be able to help her up and comfort her...
I hate it when they fall...
any of them.any.time.

But isn't that where so much of the real learning happens?

We all fall down.
We must get back up.
There really is no choice.

We can cry and scream and blame the stick but it doesn't matter...we will fall.
It's what happens after the fall that matters.

Friday, April 4, 2014

He's Not Broken, Your System Is

"You are here to allow the divine purpose of the universe to unfold.  
That's how important you are!" -- Eckart Tolle

So, my kid is graduating 8th grade.
He's moving to high school.
Leaving the only school he's known for 9 years.

He's excited about it.
He's ready for an adventure and the thrills of high school that he has watched happen with his brother and sister: proms, dances, dates, football games, hanging out with friends --

His speech teacher that he has had since he was two said it best:
"He's excited because every change he has had up until now has made his world bigger and better."
He thinks change is good.

He's upset to say good-bye to his beloved friend and aide, Sarah.
He's not too sure of how to get to his new school...or what to do once there.
He's trying to picture it and he can't.
But overall, he's pretty excited for it.

Then we went to his first hour of formal testing...with a stranger...who gave him candy...and let him quit when he said he didn't know the answers anymore.
Would she let any typical kid quit??
Is that being nice...or is that having low expectations?
Is this test just a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Sure feels like it.

My kid needs to enter a system...a formal system that specializes in disability...a system that prefers to segregate...
and list all of the things Patrick can't do.

I look at all of the things he can do.

A system that wants to prove its value and needs to keep perpetuating this myth of can't.
The myth of "experts".

I'm the expert on my kid.

I don't need a special ed credential to know what's the right placement for him.
It's the one he's had since kinder -- fully included, with support, in his class with his typical peers,
100% of the time.
That's been working for nine years.

On May 1st, I'm going to sit in on a meeting filled with strangers...who will list all of the various gaps in my son's knowledge.

The gaps identified, by the way, from tests that are created for people with 46 chromosomes, not 47.
They're "standardized" but for what kind of kid??
Someone with autism, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome?
Is this a one-size-fits-all test??
If so, how can it measure anything meaningful?

They'll be overly polite.
They'll make comments about how charming Patrick is.
They'll smile...and act as if they know what's best for him educationally.
When they don't have a clue.

If I could, I would dismantle this system.

All children would start in their neighborhood school, in the typical classroom.

No one would have to earn their way in.

I'd train every single teacher in the country in good teaching practices...teaching teachers how to be engaging, how to mix up their class time with active/passive learning, how to monitor and give meaningful feedback, how to use technology to teach, reteach and assess for understanding.
I'd encourage creativity and cooperation and constructivist learning.

If every teacher knew how to extend a lesson and scaffold a lesson and offer support to all learners, we wouldn't need special ed...
which by the way, isn't freaking

Imagine all the money we could save if we didn't test and create goals and retest every three years.
Not to mention the time.
Precious time being wasted so the system can prove over and over how valuable it is...
when the results STINK.

75% of people with intellectual disabilities are UNemployed. 
--> 75% <--

Completely intolerable.

3/4 of the people in your system do not end up working...
why do you hold on to the outdated (and educationally false) notion that separate is equal??

25% of students with intellectual disabilities are fully included in school.
25% of people with intellectual disabilities are employed.
Isn't that an amazing coincidence??

Does it take a graduate degree to connect those dots?

Why do we have this system again??

I know I will have parents tell me amazing stories of amazing special ed teachers doing heroic things...
even a broken clock is right twice a day.

There are good people...terrific a terrible system.

I don't want to dismantle the people.
Just the system.

I want to crush the oppressive bureaucracy of deficit thinking.

A system that itself is disabled --
blinded to the many things the student can do, in favor of underlining and in bold all of the many things the student can't do.

 I view Patrick as a violet living in a daisy world.

He isn't a broken daisy.

He's rare and beautiful and exceptional in his violet-ness, just hanging out with the daisies.
Our garden is better for the variation in the beauty.
Our world is better with is the very definition of grace-in-the-ordinary.

Can you see his violet beauty?
Or do you see a broken daisy?
He's not the one who's broken...your system is.

"Peace requires everyone to be in the circle -- wholeness, inclusion."  -- Isabel Allende