Friday, February 27, 2009

School shouldn't feel like a necessary evil

Tuesday night the fifth graders at Annamarie's school put on their annual musical, which was one of those events that is only fun to attend if your child is actually participating. This year's production was called "I Had a Dream," and it was a 25-minute ode to many of the people who have made our country what it is today. I think every child had at least one line, and Annamarie's was, "A Quaker, like William Penn." She nailed it. I am a sucker for anything patriotic, and Ron liked the fact that the colonial period was heavily represented, so a good time was had by all.

Today, though, I am highly annoyed with that school. Annamarie has a full-time educational assistant, and we have had numerous problems with this woman overstepping her boundaries over the past several years. When something concerns her, she refuses to just call me up, despite my frequent assurances that she is welcome to do so. Three years ago, she reported us to social services because Thomas drew a face on Annamarie's chest and belly with marker. I had been trying to get 7-year-old A to keep her shirt on, and had told her that her breasts were private parts and she needed to be modest. So at school she told her aide that her brother "drew on my private parts." Sigh. Fortunately the woman from DSS had the good sense to laugh about it.

I could go on and on about the assumptions this woman has made about our parenting over the years, and about how hard she has been on my child whose only desire is to do the right thing, but I will spare you. Basically, she has chosen to misinterpret partial stories related by a child who is developmentally disabled and who has serious communication issues.

Today she accused Annamarie of cheating on her homework. She apparently said, "Your mom gave you the answers, didn't she?" She had Annamarie so confused that I believe she admitted to whatever she was being accused of...don't police interrogators use similar methods that don't hold up in court? So here's what actually happened with the homework: It was division, and they have been having A make tick marks and divide them into groups. If the problem is 18 divided by 3, they have her make 18 marks and divide them into 3 equal groups. I believed that she could do it "the regular way" and with only minimal help, she did. I had her multiply by 3s until she got to the right answer, and by the end she was doing them independently. This morning the aide just saw that there were answers and no tick marks all over the paper. She tried to make Annamarie tell her how she got the answers, and when she couldn't (HELLO, cognitive disability, speech and language delays?) she again accused her of getting the answers from me.

So did she call me and say, "Hey, I was just wondering what method you guys used to do homework last night?" No, she sent my child home convinced that she had done something wrong and incredibly stressed out about what will happen tomorrow. And the saddest thing, the thing that breaks my heart and makes me want to scream at these people who just are not doing their best for my child? Annamarie prays for this woman every day. Prays for her health and that her car won't break down, and tells me every day how much she loves her. THAT is who she is, a little girl with Jesus in her heart who tries so hard to do the right thing and who loves with her whole heart.

Coincidentally, waiting in my inbox was a survey from the school system asking how well I feel the special ed department is using communication to help my child succeed. Perfect timing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cruise Mini-album

This little album was actually one of the projects we created on the cruise, in Margie Romney-Aslett's class. Margie gave us general instructions about how to assemble the album (it's made with Making Memories' Passport collection) and then left us to our own devices, which was kind of a relief after several classes full of very precise cutting and pasting.

I didn't want to post individual images of each page, because it's just not that exciting, but there are a couple of envelopes containing memorabilia from the trip and extra photos, as well as a little file folder that has photos and some journaling inside. Lots of the photos in this album were actually taken by Mary Beth, from whom I stole them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tonight's work

Since my design team gig evaporated, I don't really have a place to post my layouts online and so I'm using my blog as my gallery for now. It has been fun this week to just scrap for me, and these simple layouts are going pretty quickly. The background papers on both of the first two pages are papers that I love and have been hoarding for just the right time. I went ahead and used them and the sky didn't start falling. I am trying to break out of hoarding mode and actually use the stuff I have before it's as out of date as the eggs in my fridge.

There is a big BIG box of new supplies coming my way soon, including a Bind-It-All, which I have been wanting for a long time. I love to play with new tools, and the Bind-It-All feeds right into my mini-album addiction.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Too fast

I think Annamarie looks so grown up in this picture. What's happening to my babies??

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Determined to get my mojo back

I have spent the past week reorganizing and purging in my scrap area, and while it's not perfectly finished, I am beginning to feel like I can find things again. I was feeling overwhelmed by too much stuff and after a brutal purge, I think I own less patterned paper than I have in 8 or 9 years. And I am finally taking those 8,000 Zig markers to my Sunday School class. It's kind of freeing!

My dearest local friend left today to spend three months in New Zealand with her new granddaughter, and I am going to be so lonely without her to hang out with. I am going to try to use my spare time getting some real, back-to-basics scrapping done. One of the reasons I've been in a scrapping funk recently is that the design team I've been part of for nearly four years has been disbanded. We've seen it coming, and it's really the best thing for the owner, but it makes me very sad and leaves me without a DT gig. I am pretty much OK with's never been about the recognition for me, but it has been so inspiring to work with such a talented group. And I cannot tell a lie: I will miss the discount.

Here's a page I did tonight. It's Ron and Annamarie at her school's family Valentine dance.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Baby card

I haven't been doing much real scrapping recently, but I have made a few cards, and I keep sending them away before I remember to photograph them. This one is going to a soon-to-be-born little bundle in New Zealand. The striped paper is the wrapping paper I used on the gift.

I also did a layout using a rare photo of me and Ron, based on a challenge at Create My Keepsake to do a love page using no red and no hearts. I sprayed Maya Mist over one of Heidi Swapp's masks for the background. I love to use new techniques, but whenever I try to get artsy my pages end up looking "chumpy," to use my friend Maureen's word. I should probably stick to the simpler style.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

25 Things

I have been tagged twice on Facebook for this "25 random things about me" meme, and I am going to let it serve double duty as a blog post since the well seems so dry these days. Relax--I am not going to tag you, but if you haven't done this yet and feel so inclined, you may tag yourself. When I started this blog I posted a list of 100 things about me, and I can't imagine there are 25 more in there, but I will dig deep.

1. I am a serious night owl, and it runs in my family. I could pretty much call my parents or my brother Brett until midnight.
2. I do not believe the day should begin before 10 am.
3. If Diet Coke is as bad for me as "they" say it is, I am a goner.
4. I used to be very into fashion but now I wear jeans and a t-shirt everywhere except church.
5. They're not mom jeans, though.
6. I am a compulsive spender, enough to annoy my husband but not enough to appear on Dr. Phil.
7. I am trying to change.
8. My favorite scents are Christmas tree and Crayola crayons.
9. My mom wanted to name me Brandy or Jane. My dad said that Brandy was an Irish Setter name and he didn't like my mom's crazy cousin Jane.
10. I don't spend a lot of time wishing I wasn't disabled, but oh how I wish I could dance.
11. I also wish I could sing well, but I am a rock star when I'm alone in my car.
12. I am secretly surprised that my kids have never said, "Mom, quit singing."
13. My husband's love language is acts of service and mine is words of affirmation/physical touch.
14. Neither of us could possibly be any worse at the other's language.
15. Our marriage seems to work anyway.
16. I am very long-waisted and have short legs, so I buy tall shirts and petite pants.
17. My daughter, who was adopted, is built exactly the same way.
18. One of my children makes me feel like a complete failure as a parent, and the other makes me feel like a parenting ninja.
19. I love skim milk, but whole milk makes me gag.
20. I am not very adventurous, foodwise.
21. I don't like to eat any meat or fish that looks like what it was before it was my dinner. Nothing with eyes or in its shell, and if it could be boneless also that would be great.
22. My son recently said, "So like, chickens are walking around full of CHICKEN?" He existed solely on chicken nuggets for 10 years...I'm not sure where he thought they came from.
23. I kiss my dog a lot.
24. I recently realized that I am easily grossed out. Slobbery dogs, sweaty people, raw meat, bad smells, vomit...ICK. Baby spit-up and diapers don't bother me much, strangely.
25. One of the greatest pleasures in my life right now is reconnecting with old friends on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Baby Story

Have I ever told you that Annamarie is obsessed with the TLC show "A Baby Story"? I DVR them for her and she watches them over and over until she has memorized the lines. It is one her more autistic tendencies, but it's harmless and a girl has got to have some interests besides jewelry. When our pastor's wife announced that she was pregnant with her third child, she told Annamarie that she was welcome to visit as soon as the baby was born, and Annamarie has talked about that at least once a day for six months. I swear she has waited as anxiously for this baby as the baby's parents have.

If I must be honest, Annamarie's enthusiasm isn't nearly as much about the baby as it is about the pregnancy and the related medical procedures. When she watches Baby Story, she fast forwards through the parents' preparations for their bundle of joy and right to the labor and delivery. She is just beginning to learn to multiply by 7, but she can tell you everything you might want to know about epidurals. Occasionally she will randomly bust out a line from her favorite show, like yesterday when she told our pastor, "I can't handle the contractions." He is fortunately aware of her obsession and just laughed, but I am sure we've gotten some concerned looks when Annamarie talks about being pregnant at age ten.

Anyway, the blessed event finally arrived and we visited sweet little Sarah Elizabeth and her family at the hospital. This is a strange angle, but Annamarie was holding the baby and said, "Mom, she looks like a baby doll."

I got a couple of beautiful photos of the new baby with her parents, but I didn't think to ask their permission to post them, so you get me. Luckily the sweet baby doll was sleeping peacefully and wasn't frightened by my lack of makeup and eyebrows that need waxing.

I had an epiphany on the way out of the hospital. Fourteen years have passed since we began struggling with infertility, and I have finally reached the point where I can hold a newborn baby and not ache to have one of my own. I am thankful for the miracle and blessing of Sarah's new life, and I am also thankful that I will not be the one waking up every two hours with her.

Wherein I admit that I am insane

I may have mentioned once or twenty times that I am the queen of social phobias. I WANT to be a social butterfly, but I am hampered some by the fact that the prospect of being with people sends me running screaming back into my house. I really hate this about myself and it has gotten worse as the years pass. Whether it's at a school function, church, a clothing store, or Bible Study, for crying out loud, imaginary voices are always whispering to me, "Everyone's thinking how weird you are. You don't fit in. You aren't good enough to be here." Logically I know that people have more important things to think about, and they probably aren't giving me more than a passing thought, but that logic doesn't go deep enough to drown out the negative voices.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that those voices are the remnant of some childhood verbal abuse. My parents were loving and supportive and I don't have any idea what is the source of my insecurity. Yes, I'm chubby and I'm disabled but I have always been those things and I haven't always been afraid to leave my house without a shield of husband or children.

These fears create a vicious cycle: I used to be very involved at my church, and as the social anxieties increased, I began to pull away, which of course made me feel more isolated and more anxious, and I pulled farther away. Because I desperately want my children to be involved and because I love my church, I continue to participate but every Wednesday night I leave feeling emotionally wrung-out, and for the wrong reasons. The stress of constantly worrying about what people are thinking about me, as I sit there doing absolutely nothing worthy of anyone's speculation, keeps me from focusing on worship and leaves me unable to, as I keep hearing people say, make the the main thing the MAIN THING.

The suspicion that these feelings are probably sinful does not lower my stress level any either. I do believe that my God knows me and cherishes me and that my Savior died for love of me and that should be sufficient to make me strong enough and bold enough to face the clerks at the supermarket or the other parents at my children's school. My insecurities have robbed me of so many opportunities over the past few years, and that makes me very sad, and I have no one but my own crazy self to blame.

If you've met me in real life, you might be surprised to learn this about me. In my more rational moments I think that in general I come across as reasonably intelligent and easy-going. But I guarantee that I came away from our last interaction second guessing everything I said or did and believing that you'd find an excuse to be unavailable next time I called. If I never called, that's why.

Holy cow, do you know what this post was originally going to be about? How much I love Facebook.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The day, it sucketh

Here is a terrible self-portrait of me in my pink coat, taken in my home studio (garage). I probably should have buttoned up, which makes me looks much less wide. It is a lovely coat, don't you agree? And I know you can't see much of my scarf, but it was VERY expensive. Another blogger (I can't remember who) posted about a fabulous selection of scarves at Wal-Mart for the princely sum of five dollars, so I ran over there last night while Annamarie was rehearsing for the church musical. I got the pink one and a pretty bright green one, and you should dash over there and get some for yourself. Who doesn't like cute fashion accessories for cheap dollars? No one, that's who.

So Dr. Chupacabra tells me that I do in fact have thyroid cancer, but the good news is that "if you have to have cancer, this is the type you want," because apparently no one dies from this. They will remove my thyroid and maybe give me some radioactive iodine and put me on thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. I am not particularly stressed out about any of this, but I think my mom is. I called her just as she was getting ready to go get her hair done and I will feel horribly guilty if the distraction of worrying about me caused her to wreck her car or make rash hairstyle decisions. And Ron has decided that "cancer likes me" because of my previous bouts with skin cancer. At least it's the fairly benign kinds that like me.

When I got home from the doctor I had two messages from Thomas' school informing me that he is in Big Trouble about two separate and unrelated events. He has not ever been in trouble for anything at school before, unless you count talking too much, so I'm hoping that these are isolated events and that he will not get expelled and cause us to forfeit the huge amount of tuition we paid.

So how's your day going?

Much ado about nothing

Not only has there been nothing going on here worth sharing, my computer came down with the flu and has been operating at a snail's pace. My awesome in-house IT department replaced the hard drive and I am now able to play Pathwords blog at blazing speeds again.

Am I the only one who is sick to death of winter? I need some sunshine, people. As much as I love the hot pink pea coat Ron gave me for Christmas, I am ready to have it dry cleaned and put away for the season. Miss Ruby is right there with me: The dog park is too muddy and cold for her people to take her as often as she is accustomed to and Doggy Day Care is too often full. You may not appreciate the extreme rarity of the event captured below. Not the sweet smiling girl, but a Virginia school bus driving on snow. Twice in the past year our school system has canceled school because snow was forecast, before a single flake fell.

I mentioned a while back that Ron and I were looking for new bedroom furniture and that we were having a difference of opinion on matters of style. We keep rediscovering that our only overlap in taste is Shaker-style furniture. The last time we made this discovery was the last time we bought bedroom furniture, so guess what? The new stuff is so similar in style to the old that it is not at all like having new stuff. Except that it smells new and wonderful, and there is a huge difference in quality. The old bedroom suite came from Rooms to Go and very few trees were harmed in its production, whereas the new one was made from actual oak by actual Amish carpenters in Pennsylvania. I am a bit embarrassed by these pictures, which I snapped to email to my mom. There is bedding on the bed now, but we have taken everything off the walls in preparation for painting. (There is ordinarily a picture between those stars.)

We are repainting the room the same yellow. We went to Lowes Sunday to buy the paint, and I forgot to bring the paint chip, but I was pretty sure I remembered the color name. I went off to look for drawer organizers while Ron ordered the paint, and I didn't look at the swatch painted on the lid until we got home. Apparently the actual color I wanted was Sun SHOWER, and there is a considerable difference between them. Please calibrate your monitor before viewing this image.

We will be returning to Lowes before the painting commences.

In other news, I get the results of my thyroid biopsy tomorrow. Since no one seems to want to hear the details of having cartoonishly huge needles jabbed into my throat, I will just say two things about that. One, people kept telling me that my bruises looked like hickeys. Although it has been a very. long. time. since anyone planted a hickey on me, I remember that it was much more fun than a "fine needle aspiration biopsy." And B) the lovely endocrinologist's name is Dr. Chhabra, and it is all I can do to resist calling her Dr. Chupacabra. This has everything to do with my own immaturity and nothing at all to do with her appearance, skill, or bedside manner.