Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meeting the Needs

Early into the school year this year Cookie began to have noticeable problems.  A girl who was so excited for the first day of school, she couldn't stop smiling, a girl who used to cry because it was Saturday started to cry because it was a school day, a girl who came home in tears every.single.day telling us how much she hated school.  We knew something was amiss, but couldn't quite finger what it was.  Our very verbal girl could only talk about how "Bad" her class was.  She could only express anxiety about going into her classroom filled with different kids and a new teacher.  She would extol the virtues of her teacher and discuss how wonderful Mrs. was.  But, her classmates were another story.  Upon discussion with her teacher, nothing was accomplished she held it together at school, teacher thought Cookie appeared happy.
    Cookie attends a wonderful neighborhood school that is full inclusion for special needs children.  This was a plus during her kinder year, as her bestest, most favorite person in the whole world was a boy with cerebral palsy in her class.  Their mutual love for another was sweet and encouraging.  She would only have a birthday party where he could attend, cognisant of his special needs.  She loved to have play dates at the special needs park near the house, she insisted on a play date at the local kid's museum so he could play with her.  These things warmed my heart and made me proud of the person she was becoming.
     Then came first grade.  Her class did not have more special needs, but different ones...one's where children were not yet identified, needs where children had violent outbursts and cruel practices.  These things scared her and upset our child who needs order and rules.  These children didn't follow rules, these children had "special" rules that only applied to them, while everyone else had to behave.  While we were trying to pin point what exactly was making her anxious and upset, I visited the classroom.  I witnessed an overstressed system with too many special needs kids in one class and not enough support staff.  I witness at least 3 unidentified children who desperately needed help but had not gotten it yet.  I witnessed a phenomenal teacher, who despite this was doing an amazing job at educating.  What I witnessed in 3 hours in that classroom is going on across this nation.  What I saw explains why it is so hard to hold on to excellent, wonderful, well trained teachers.  They are stressed and strained, they are being asked to accommodate without the help or resources to accommodate.  Children who have well educated active parents, who are by all means normal and not exceptional or special needs are being ignored and left to their own devices in order to help others whose glaringly special needs have to be addressed.  The normal average kid is being lost in the shuffle.
     While all this was going on, Cookie was bitten by one of the special needs children when there was a substitute in the classroom.  A bite that was not looked at by a nurse, a bite where I was not notified, a bite that left a mark.  I had to hear about it from Cookie on the way home after school.  There were two identified special needs children, but only one aide...two high needs children, one non-verbal, in a wheelchair,  who had to be hand fed and another who had a tendancy to run away, yell obscenities, and physically harm others and only one aide.  I can almost guarantee that each of those children's IEPs stated they were to have one on one aides, yet there was only one aide because in the other two 1st grade classrooms there were also extreme needs and the school had not had NORM day yet to hire another aide.  Children, who need help and were not receiving it.  And a classroom full of other children who were not being educated because the teacher and aides were overwhelmed.  In three hours I witnessed the teacher having to stop teaching almost every 2 minutes to redirect one boy, while the aide was busy trying to calm the non-verbal child from crying and moaning.  These children deserve as much an education as my child.  They deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. So does my child.
     We scheduled a meeting with the new principal of the school.  Basically, because we felt that the school was doing a piss poor job of meeting all the students' needs.  Not just our child but all the children.  But we felt our child was being left behind because of the number of special needs and not enough aides or help.  Because I was a teacher, because I have been in the trenches, because I have been educated in IEPs and the proper educational lingo, I scared this principal.  I said all the things they are frightened to hear...not meeting IEPs, not having the proper aides per student as stated in said IEPs. Setting themselves up for lawsuits.  They made changes fast.
     They began to identify the children in the classroom, they began to bring in the counselor more to work with all the children.  They have been amazing at changing and trying to help every child.  We did our own work at home with Cookie.  We sticker charted good days.  We encouraged positive talk and she had to think about and tell me three good things that happened every day.  We set aside 10 minutes at night to discuss the things that caused her anxiety and upset her.  Slowly things got better.  I firmly believed the school and us were a team.  Her teacher and I touched base daily.  I finagled to be in the school more even if they didn't like the time I could be there.  I became more visible than ever.
     I never thought having the special needs in Cookie's class was a detriment, I have always thought she gained so much empathy from it.  Yet, when does it become too much?  This question is being asked by educators and parents on both ends.  How does one advocate for their child with special needs without harming the rest of the students.  How does their special needs child begin to navigate the world if we are excluding not including.  Those with money and lawyers get the aides, get the tools for their children those that have nothing get nothing.  They get shoved around and told "well this is just how it is."
     Cookie's friend is being told he has to leave the district.  His parents got divorced, his mother could no longer handle it.  His father became a single dad.  His father works two jobs to make ends meet.  He is this child's only caregiver.  Imagine how hard it is being a single parent and then add a child with extreme needs.  Add a child in a wheelchair.  Now find affordable housing to accommodate your wheelchair bound child.  He is getting bigger, you can no longer keep carrying him up and down stairs. The state has a program to help you, but the only housing available for you is .1 miles out of your child's school district.  The school your child attends is one block from the only other people who are qualified to care for your son, your parents.  They are in district, you are now out and the school says you can finish out the year, but you need to register in the other district.  Do you blame them?  They have to provide busing and aides and therapy for your special needs kid.  They don't get enough money from the state to cover your child.  That spot can go to normal non-special needs kids.  You can apply for an out of district transfer, which they allow for some parents who are close to the district lines and whose parents can prove it is a financial burden or strain or work in district.  This man does, his only help is in district, yet they deny him, while allowing normal kids in.
     I want to help this man.  He is a friend, and yet, at the same time I felt that I harmed them.  The guilt is there.  I complained about all the special needs kids in the classroom.  Well that's being solved.  Not only are they kicking this kid out, they are kicking out the biter, too.  What I really complained about was that their needs were not being met.  This man does not have money, he can't afford a lawyer.  It is all so political and upsetting and no one is winning here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The World's Best playdough Recipe...Really!

Ms. Pam's playdough recipe.

This is the playdough recipe my kids use at preschool...It is the best I have ever used....This makes A LOT!!! You can halve if you need to. Also, read this through first before beginning.

6 T. cooking oil
6 c. flour
6 c. water
3 c. salt
food coloring (or Kool-Aid for smell and color)
12 tsp. Cream of tartar (to keep it from getting moldy)

(I use an electric handheld mixer while stirring). Mix liquids (and food coloring or kool-aide) together in a large pot and slowly add (w/mixer) dry ingredients.  Cook over a high heat until heatend through, then reduce to medium heat, stirring constantly (w/mixer as long a possible) until mixture forms a "dough" consistency...( I am usually using a wooden spoon by then and folding the mixture.  You'll notice that as you 'turn-it' while stirring that the hottest bottom part will begin to look like dough.  While still a tad "sticky" (but looks like dough throughout), remove from head and knead on wax paper.  (I have granite counters, so I clean them before beginning and then turn out dough straight onto the counter top to knead).  It is HOT so be careful (I use rubber gloves for kneading).  After cooling completely on the wax paper store in Ziplock bags or start playing.  If you close the bags while it is still warm, the playdough will sweat and then get sticky...if needs be, leave the bags open for a few hours. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Things I want for my Birthday this year

Things I want for my Birthday this year.

1. Not to be on my period, cause I always feel like shit. (can a girl hope for a one day period?) 
2. To sleep in past 7 a.m.
3. Not to have to cook or prepare one meal.
4. Chocolate (see number one...if I can't have that at least give me Chocolate)
5. To not read about how stupendous and wonderful and thoughtful other people's husband's and 
    children are on their birthday that is days from mine...
6. The dog to walk on lead without trying to drag me....for reals can he cut that shit out already.
7. For husband and children to at least remember that it is my birthday.
8. To be able to go for a run without whining or crying or being dragged. (see number 6)
9. No fighting.
10. A giant Margarita.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My GOD What is That Thing?

This is from a guest post on my friend Kelly's page...please support her because she rocks.  http://debiehive.blogspot.com/

I am not sure how long I have known Kelly, the Queen, Debie.  We went to the same middle and high school. We hung out in some of the same circles, yet never quite with each other.  Our school and community was small enough that usually when you mention a name of someone who graduated the same year as you, you know of them.  Thanks to the Internets, Kelly and I discovered that even though we both moved 1800 miles away from our home town, we were only 30 miles from each other.   I started writing an occasional blog post on my own blog because of Kelly.  Kelly asked me to discuss what it was like to raise bi-racial children.  I am white, grew up in a very white town, and married my high school sweetheart, a full blooded Korean American.   Here is my story about raising two Korean/Anglo American Children in a mid-sized college town that is predominately white. 

As any first time mom, I would proudly jaunt around town with my adorable baby girl, trolling for compliments.   I'd contemplate outfits to dress her in while nursing at 2:00 a.m.  The outfits that would best compliment Cookie's dark copper complexion.  Lavenders and purples mostly.  I couldn't wait to brag discuss her birth story.  Yes, I was the first person in the world to give birth drug free!

First time parents, well those that are honest, will tell you, the first year is the hardest.  With your first child, the first few months are wrought with nervous fear that you are doing it all wrong.  You are literally fumbling around in the dark trying not to feel like you are fucking it and your child up.  Not to mention the hormones.  For me, I was in a horrible haze of postpartum that I didn't realize I was in...until..well I was no longer in it.  So, when stranger after stranger approaches you to gush over your sweet baby, you lap it up. However, for me, the comments towards my child were more like a double edged sword. 

Cookie at 100 days. See those dimples!
Cookie was born with the darkest of brown hair, almost black.  And she had a lot of it.  She came out and the nurses just about swooned over her double dimpled chubby cheeks.  I was very excited over the dimples, I had always wanted them for myself.  Her skin was a beautiful copper color.  She was like a Korean version of me.  Her eyes were almond shaped but had the "double eyelid" that is so important to have in the Korean culture.  In Korea, women march in droves to get plastic surgery for double eyelids.  For those that don't know, It means, having the extra fold that white people have.  

The first indication that my interaction with strangers with my child would be different was the constant stroking.  A stranger would come up to me, and begin stroking my daughter's arm.  "What beautiful skin color she has. You are so fair..." They would leave the last word hanging, like I needed to fill in a blank that was missing.  When pregnant, I kinda got creeped out at stranger's wanting to touch me. This was my child, creepy went to a whole new level.  It is one thing to want to grab a baby's hand and have those little fingers wrap around yours, or touch the sweet toes.  Who can resist baby toes?  But the stroking was weird.  In all my life I've never been compelled to stroke a strange child. Okay, maybe squeeze some baby thigh.  But continually stroke a baby's arm...weird.

Besides the stroking, there were the rude comments and questions.   I am not exaggerating them, I am not making this up.  The following were actual things said to me, on almost a daily basis, by more than one person.

- Is she yours?
- Where'd you get her?
-My cousin(brother, sister...extended family member or friend) adopted from China.
-What is she?
-Is she American?
-She looks.......not all white?
-She looks kinda like my friend's kids who are adopted.
- My (insert relationship here) is married to an (insert any ethnicity).
- Are you the nanny? 
- Your baby is so exotic looking.
- What's her nationality?

Apparently my copper skinned, almond shaped eyed, dark haired baby looked nothing like me.  Here I carried her for 9 months, gave birth (drug free...at the time this was important), was nursing her exclusively (she refused a bottle of even pumped milk), and she doesn't look like my child!  I was indignant.  I was angry, and did I mention a little post pardem and depressed.  The only joy I was getting was showing off my child and these people were taking it away!  I had an identity crisis for her.  I started dying my hair dark dark brown, almost black in order to look more like her.  I began wearing make-up, lining my eyes to look more Asian.  I wanted my baby to never have to question who she was or where she belonged.   Hubby just shrugged and said, "yea, that's what it is like to be not white. Get used to it."

I began to get pissy.  Mostly because I wanted people to recognize that I was her mother.   Depending on how people asked, I began to answer in all kinds of equally rude ways. 

-Is she yours?  "I hope so, I'm taking her home with me."
-Where'd you get her? "My vagina, you do know how babies are born right?"
-My ____ adopted from China.  "I hope that goes well for them"
-What is she? " Human, what are you?"
-Is she American? "Yes, OMG ARE YOU????"
-She looks.....not all white. "I know, she tans just going to the mailbox."
-She looks kinda like my friend's kids who are adopted. "Well I can assure you, they aren't mine, I haven't given birth to any more children."
-My ____ is married to an ____. "Fantastic???"
-Are you the Nanny. "Nope she came from my Vagina"
-Your baby is so exotic looking.  "UMMMM....Thank You????"
- What's her Nationality? "American"

By the time Jelly came around two years later, I learned to grow thicker skin.  I also learned that no matter what, people would be interested, that people are rude and feel their curiosity should be answered.  More importantly people didn't know the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality.  My job, as my children's mother, is to give them a foundation in their family histories.  To teach them Korean, to discuss why their Harmonee and Harabogee look different and speak different than Nana and Papa.  Most importantly, my job is to give them pride and love of themselves not based on race or their ethnicity, but on their actions. 
The hardest part of raising a bi-racial child, as a white parent, is confronting racism for the first time.  Real racism.  The kind where old white people look at you and your child like you have leprocy. The kind where skin heads glare at you in a menacing way.  To come to terms with one's own white privilege. ( A great 'guide' to read is this http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/a-definitive-guide-to-white-privilege/) To finally know that you don't know racism.   It is one thing to experience prejudice and racism against oneself, it is another to experience it for your child.  To have caused them harm from just being.  To realize that no matter what, someone may call your child ugly or worthless because of their ethnicity or the way they look. My job is to teach my children tools on how to deal with that racism.  At first, in my rage,  I decided that I would not sit back and take people's ignorance, I would shove it in their face.  Make them see how they were insensitive or just plain ignorant.  Today, I like to sit back and wait for someone to stumble through asking me.  How I perceive that person, what kind of human being they are is from that interaction.  I try and take the high road.  Sometimes I just give them the answer they are seeking.  Sometimes I make them work for it.  Mostly I try to be a
positive role model for my children.  Do not let what others say define you.

But times they are a changing.  When I had Jelly, in 2009, I did not get quite so many of the rude questions I received in 2007 with Cookie.  I am not sure if people stopped asking because 1. Jelly was fairer skinned, with light brown whispy hair. 2. They would see me with two children that looked alike, but different in coloring, so they assumed they were both of my loins. 3. Cookie started to look more like me as she got bigger.  4. Our community has changed.  Since the time we moved here, you could go months without seeing someone of color.  Where if we came across another Asian, hubby and other Asian would give each other a nod. Or if it was a young adult or teenager, they'd get super excited and say, "I"M KOREAN TOO!" Once at a restaurant, a young college student's friends pointed to Hubby and said to their Asian friend, "Look there is another Asian in town!"
My babies together. Cookie at 2 1/2, Jelly at about 3 months.

Now we see so many mixed couples, mixed children, that I think people are just more accepting.  It is the norm.  The bi-racial child is no longer a circus attraction.  This means that I can take my children to the park on the day the families who did adopt from China have a support group meet-up and not be asked to join them.  (true story this happened) Does this mean the road for my children will be easy?  I am sure they will experience all kinds of ignorant, mean, cruel, asinine behavior from children to grown adults.  My job is to help arm them in the best way possible.  To be kind, to be intelligent, and to be world savvy. 
Me and the girls..not that you can see Jelly