Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 7

I felt today required more than a simple Facebook post. For those of you coming in late, my mom is out of town for 10 days, this puts the rest of us on 24/7 Dad duty.

In case you didn’t already know I like to have things done in a certain way. If I’m going to have to do most (or all) of the work, we are going to do this my way. Not the “easier” way or the way you might think it will work better. Nope. This has been my mentality the past 7 days.

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Mornings are hard, getting Kelli up and ready for camp and getting Dad up and ready so that I can get them both fed and ready for the day. I’ve been doing this mostly alone.

This morning we had someone from church coming over to hang out with Dad, this way Troy and I could keep an appointment. I was attempting to make the house some what presentable and “make” breakfast (AKA Cereal). I had run down stairs to put something away and when I came back up Kelli came running up to me so excited.

She had given Papa (what she calls Dad) grapes and a cup of juice all by herself. She was so excited that she was “a helper.” I couldn’t help it. I cried. My 4-year-old took the initiative to give her grandfather breakfast as her Mom was trying to do other things.

Grapes and Juice for Breakfast

30 min later the man who had volunteered 2 hours of his morning showed up.
Within 30 minutes I had been smacked on the head twice. Then later in the day my sister and I were having a heated discussion about Saturday’s schedule. And I have learned an ugly lesson:

 Yes, I can do a lot, but I can’t do it all. 

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Not me 

I have to surrender to the idea that other people can help, and help in different ways. I may not always get the help I want in the way I want it. (Is that too much to ask for!?) But I have to take what I can get and roll with it.

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This is a lesson I have learned over-and-over. But it is also a lesson that I have forgotten over and over. I am always reminded of this butt kicking lesson at what appears to be the worst of times.
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The Lesson I Never Remember 

But it is really the best times. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"How Is Your Dad?"

I think the question I get the most is “how is your Dad?” Which is a valid question. And I am often stumped on how to answer. Do you want me to say “fine.” To avoid going in to detail and so we can both check off the social etiquette box. Or should I give you the real and depressing truth. And do I want to have that conversation. It takes an emotional toll to keep repeating the same depressing truth. 

Because of my personality I tend to go with the depressing truth. Not because I want the asking party depressed but because I believe in not sugar coating the reality.
So how is Fred?

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Well, he has Alzheimer’s. This is a degenerative disease, so things get worse, never better. But it is also very inconsistent. There are days where he is totally confused, there are other days where is spot on and you see much of Fred.

What really scares me is Alzheimer's or premature senility, losing that ability to read and enjoy and to write. And you do it, and some days maybe aren't so good, and then some days, you really catch a wave, and it's as good as it ever was.     
Stephen King

Dad recognizes those in the house and people that he has interacted on a regular basis for most of my life. But he slowly starting to mix up names. He sometimes forgets the house we live in is home. He will almost instantaneously forget something you just told him. As a result you answer the same question over and over. One day he was asking Mom how much they had to pay per night to stay at the house. Another day he asked if we were going to eat dinner (every meal is dinner) we joked and said there is no food in the house, he turned to me and said, “think you’re funny do ya?!”

He no longer has appropriate emotional reactions. Sometimes when people are being very serious he’ll start laughing, other times when people are laughing he’ll start crying.

Since March he has had 3 what the hospital called “syncopial episodes.” AKA he passed out. However what doctors weren’t getting was after these episodes his cognitive and physical abilities DROPPED significantly for 2-10 days. Then he’d slowly get better, but he has never gotten back to where he was functioning before. Since March he has started to need a walker for out of the house. He moves a lot slower and unsteady, we typically leave 5min or so earlier now to get to where we want to go.  We recently saw his neurologist who we love (it was great when Mom asked if she could ask unrelated questions. He said wait till the end, Mom pouted and was about to argue. She said she is a teacher and used to getting her way, his response. “You’re in my hood now!” I was laughing so hard). He believes they were most likely seizures. Which he is more prone to now, something I did not know! 
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Enjoying the fireworks

Overall Dad is following the “typical Alzheimer’s path” accept one thing. There is somethings about Fred that Alzheimer’s has not robbed us of. His smile. His pure love. His sense of humor.

Many persons with Alzheimer’s become agitated and hard to deal with. Constantly yelling or arguing. Not Fred. He laughs, he gives you a big smile when he sees you, he’ll ask how are you. He is still the same easy-going Fred.

Now don’t get me wrong, he isn’t always compliant. He recently got dismissed for a day group, why? He wasn’t following directions. Part of it is probably comprehension. But the other part is Fred doesn’t want to go sit and do arts and crafts. He recently just walked out of the house, Mom was yelling his name and he just waved and kept on walking. Don’t tell me that’s because he didn’t understand!

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But again, he waved and basically said “peace out suckers!” versus the yelling and screaming that many other families see.
See why it can be so much easier to just say “fine.”?

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The longest day of the year is also Alzheimer’s Awareness Day. The longest day is about love, love for the persons that are fighting or have fought this incurable disease. I made a couple of facebook posts thinking people would be like “oh that’s cool.” Hit the like button and continue to scroll. I was surprised how many people wore purple (Alzheimer’s color) and a few even donated to research.

Alzheimer's disease locks all the doors and exits. There is no reprieve, no escape.
Patti Davis

The love and support from family and friends has been amazing. People have come to hang out with Dad so we can run a quick errand or simply just have a break.

To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.
Tia Walker

So if you ask me “how is your Dad?” and I pause, know this is all going through my head. And know that if I do say “fine” it is because I want to check off that social etiquette box and leave it at that. 

The thing about Alzheimer's is that it's it's sort of like all these little, small deaths along the way, before they actually physically die.     
Lucinda Williams

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2016-2017 School Year Review

A few friends have started a blog/ written posts, which reminded me I haven’t even started on my list of posts I want to do!

I think Fairfax County is the last county in the whole world to get out of school. June 23rd was the last day for students then June 27th was the last contract day for us. THEN for the first time ever FCPS (Fairfax County Public Schools) will start the 2017-2018 school year before Labor Day. So, we have the world’s shortest summer break… Yay.

I finished my first full year teaching! The whole family survived. I am happy to report I will be going back and doing the same thing. For those of you who missed it, I’m one of the special education teachers in the science department at the local middle school. 
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I have learned a lot this last year, and have seen that I have much to still learn. As someone who doesn’t like hearing “you need to do better at _____” it can be hard to accept. My mid-year evaluation was HARD. I came out read to cry, like any evaluation should be, I came out with a list of things I needed to improve on and one or two things I was good at. How could I have gotten through college and student teaching and still come out with this enormous list!? 

It was a hard reality to face.
But my great co-workers cheered me up, gave me more tips, resources, pep talks and sent me back in the classroom.

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Some of the Science Department went to the Train and O.A.R concert 
The school year got a little easier as it got ready to whined down. But I immediately started to think about what I would differently next year. Would I use a different incentive system in the classroom? Would I use one at all? What order will I teach things?

And on the other side: What will stay the same?
I’ve been pondering on things that my role model teachers did. How did their classroom run? What about them helped me? What about them inspired me?

It’s been an exhausting and never-ending processes. But in the process, I have acquired some fun things… Like an awesome (and over-priced) Erin Condren lesson planner and dollar store science cut outs.

I’m excited (and slightly) terrified of what year 3 will bring.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Closet Bar

Fight or flight.

When we face a problem, we do one of those things. But, it looks different for everyone. If I decide to “flight.” I get a Diet Coke, or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and watch a movie, do a random Google search, or maybe even write a blog.

For fight. I feel like Rosie the Riveter, roll my sleeves and hit the problem head on.

Many of the household “projects” I have done. When something breaks in the house I like to figure out why and how to fix it. It's fun. I like using my hands and fixing things. Most recently was installing the grab bars in the shower. I drilled through tile people. Not gonna lie. I felt like a badass.
Glitter paint is great for marking tile

In crisis situations, I’ve never ran. I feel like I’ve seen it all (aside from death) seizures, heart attacks, chocking, psychotic breaks, etc. I jump in with both feet without thinking twice.

Now for work.

As my first full teaching I have had my share of flight moments. As my “roommate” (we share a room and teach 3 classes together) will tell you. I have had a fair share of flight moments. Monday mornings I avoid my laptop. I talk to the teachers, maybe I’ll go ask another teacher about a student, then the students start to show up and maybe I’ll stand in the hall and say good morning. Then I open Outlook and see the 20 e-mails waiting for me to respond.
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Science Department. I couldn't ask for better co-workers! 
With SOLs (Standards of Learning, AKA VA state test) coming up in May I’m feeling the pressure. We must get through X amount of material, review 3 years of science, and practice how to take these weird tests. I want to go into flight. I want to spend my prep and class time watching Bill Nye and Magic School bus while hiding in the corner. But can I do that? No. So, I must pick myself up and buckle down.
Bill Nye the Science Guy AKA my hero

And with all these decisions, we all have a breaking point. We can only fight for so long. Then we eventually sit down and wave the white flag for a break.

M white flag

This past week has been spring break. Kelli and I went to Charleston, SC with a friend and Troy went to Montana to see his family. It has been Kelli and I since last Saturday, and it will be till Tuesday. 
Carriage tours in Downtown Charleston, SC

The usually day-to-day things are easy for us. Today Kelli and I went to the church Easter party, then an Easter performance in Washington DC, Costco, then I mowed the lawn. I was tucking Kelli in and suddenly, the closet bar fell along with all her nice dresses. Kelli jumps up and yelled “Uh oh Mommy!! We need to fix it!” All I could do was stare at it. Really?
The now pile of clothes that was hanging nicely

This is my white flag moment. I surrender. The closet bar wins tonight. I’ve fought all day and all week. Now I’m going to drink a Diet Coke and do a random Google search. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ta Da!

What do you think!?!? I decided it was time to change, or at least update my pictures. I told my dear friend Misty to go with her muse and this what I got. Far cooler than I ever imagined!!

I had to think of something to write to debut my amazing new look. I was flipping through old posts to give me some inspiration. Only to realize I never wrote about work after I actually started working. SO. As I said earlier I am a special education science teacher. There is three of us, one for 7th grade, one for 8th and then me. The one who teaches BOTH 7th AND 8th grade. For those of you who are unfamiliar with 7th and 8th grade science curriculum in the state of VA they are totally different. 7th is biology. 8th grade is ½ chemistry and ½ physics. Two totally different lesson preps. I do a mix of self-contained classes and team taught.

My feelings on this fancy position has changed as the year has gone on.  In the beginning, I thought I was going to leave. I had no idea what I was doing, no materials, people coming in and out to observe me, then observe different students. But then things started to settle, my coworkers picked me up, gave me materials, and sent me in the classroom with a diet coke.
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Science Department Halloween Costumes

December I knew I could make it through the year but I didn’t know what I wanted after that.

January I had to figure out what I was doing again after the break. But I was really starting to love doing both grades. My 7th graders are so sweet, they get so excited when they see me, want to tell me of all their achievements and their latest discoveries. My 8th graders are sassy soon to be high schoolers wanting to mess with me and get a rise. And I have my special Harry Potter students who come up to me at every class (I have about 1 in each class) and tell me about where they are in the book, what they think will happen, etc.

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February came and crazy me started to talk to the office about next year. Yup, I went in there and asked to do the 7/8 split again. You are probably thinking what I was thinking when I walked out of the office “What just happened?”

What I have learned about myself in this last year is never say I won't do something. Because there is a chance I will! 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington D.C 2017

Today like for millions of people was a day of mixed emotions. I have had plans to go to the Washington D. C Women’s March for quite some time. But last minute the friend I was supposed to go with couldn’t go, I asked some random people but none became real plans.

So I went by myself. With nothing but my camera and what few things could fit in my camera bag.

The official mission statement: The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.
We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

Everyone had their personal reason to march. Some came for their Moms, Grandmothers, daughters, etc. I had three:

Me- I work to support my family and to pay for daycare. I need access to equal pay, benefits, and health care. I need someone to watch out for me.

My daughter- I don’t want her to grow up in a world where she is told that she can’t. I'd also like her to have a planet to live on but "climate change isn't real." 

My students- Have you heard his Secretary of Education nominee? We need guns to protect us from bears? We need to get rid of IDEA? No public schools? What kind of education system will that leave us?

I woke up at 7:30am and dragged Troy out of bed. He dropped me off at the local metro where the lines where already crazy. It took me 20-30min to find the right line, By total coincidence I was standing next to my neighbors. An hour later I got on the Metro. Lucky for me I was dropped off at the very end of the line. Meaning by the time we got to the second or third stop, there was absolutely no room. The cars were packed, PACKED, I stood the whole two-hour ride. Because I was by myself, and, well, me. I talked to everyone around me. On the train I met local teachers, woman from Maine, New Jersey, & even Ireland!
My favorite sign- probably because Troy was with Kelli

              The feeling at the station and on the bus was excitement and support. Women and men were cheering, finishing their signs, passing out water and granola bars. People weren’t pushing or complaining about the insane lines and long waits. They were cheering and encouraging each other.

This 5 year old stood in line for hours and sat on the Metro for two! 

              Once I got off the train I walked up to a giant sea of pink hats. Here I met more people from all over the country and in every age range. The rally took place at Independence Ave & 3rd. But, as you no doubt no. There was millions of people there. The closest I got was Independence & 11th. They had large screens projecting the speeches every few blocks so everyone could hear. Many of the speeches where on Planned Parenthood, another majority was on equal opportunity and equal pay. There was some on education, global warming as well as the North Dakota access pipeline. Some spoke, some sang, some read poetry, and some just made simple statements.

I won’t lie, there was a lot of Trump hate. But as many people have liked to point out, he is President. And that can’t be changed, but we can contact our local representatives, get involved, volunteer, and be heard.

              During the rally the emotions where all over. Everyone saw and heard different things, so everyone had their own “emotional roller coaster.” It was anger, excitement, hope, motivation, I could go on and on. I encourage you to look at clips of the speakers, you will no doubt feel inspired. 
This Cop was with us. He encouraged, chanted, and even danced. 

              The rally was 10-1:15 and then the march was supposed to start. Supposed too. 1:15 came and left and the speeches continued, people were getting frustrated, tired, and wanted to march. In between speaker’s people were chanting “March! March! March” Many people (including me) started walking, it was time to move! Slowly but surely we were moving, it was very slow, in the beginning, but once we started turning off Independence it picked up. Then we were on Constitution Ave and there was no stopping. People were chanting, screaming, and singing. About ½ mile in we got ushered off Constitution and into the field in front of the Monument. I later learned it was because the official March got called off. There was too many. Too many Mothers, sisters, Fathers, brothers, lovers, marching that they had to cancel it.

              As I was standing in front of the Monument I was just walking around following the crowd. I continued to talk to people. Many people came with families of all different shapes and colors. It was beautiful to see.

              Eventually I made it to the point where I could see the white house. People had taken their signs and hung them on the gate. I was fortunate enough to get a text from my best friend that her and her Dad had come. After taking 30min to find each other we walked the 3 miles to the car and went home.
People left signs for politicians to read 

              As I set here and reflect I can’t help but feel hope for the future. While the people elected might be scary there are millions of people who won’t sit back. 

We will not be silenced.