Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real Estate

I have the Lincoln house on my mind.

When Peaches was a baby, we began outgrowing our first adorable little house. In SoCal buying a house ain't easy if you aren't a media mogul, but we scraped together what we needed and started looking. A expert finder, I spied a great little yellow house on Lincoln Street before our hot shot agent could say Open House. Oh, so cute was this yellow house. Old, full of character, a master bedroom to envy, a master bath to lock yourself in and refuse to exit. I wanted the yard for my kids, the hardwood floors, three bedrooms. Unfortunately, one of the three? Smaller than your closet. And there were a few other small flaws. Like the kitchen? Old, but without the charm. And without the dishwasher. And without a few other major things. But! I found it! Affordable three bedroom! Fast! Ta da! Bird in the hand! Yes, this one!

My agent might not find with my speed (who can? I met my husband online! I'm a super searcher!) but he does know real estate. First, he said, you have to sell your own adorable little house. So, with his help, we quickly did. But in the course of those short weeks, someone else got our Lincoln house. Sold. I panicked. Now we had a buyer for our too small house and nowhere to go but limbo. For several days, maybe two weeks, I turned myself into knots. My husband likes to tell me, "You are a twister." Even more than a finder.

Finally, I found the place we call home now. The minute I saw it, check marks went Ding! Ding! Ding! in my head. Yard, bedrooms, kitchen, a bathroom to lock yourself away from humanity. Check check check, ding ding ding! Better than the Lincoln house? Yes, except for one thing. This house fell within the behemoth school district. Not the small, warm, friendly, cozy, Mayberry district of the Lincoln House, just blocks away. Still, Peaches would have room to grow past two feet tall in this house, she would have a room with a closet instead of having a closet for a room, and we could make the numbers work before we landed on the street. Sold.

Flash forward a few months: Rooster gets a diagnosis. And, guess what? Turns out that the behemoth district? It has services. Lots and lots of services. The cozy district I wanted so badly for my kids? They are the ones who had missed his diagnosis completely. They would have offered my boy no help. Funny how some things do work out for the best in the long run despite twisters and their panic attacks.

Lately, I keep thinking about the Lincoln house for solace. See, I've been wanting things again lately. I've been reaching for things, good things that seem like a pretty good match for our family's needs despite a few small flaws. But I haven't been getting those things I want. And I feel on the brink of panic, fearful of outgrowing my shell or winding up in the streets.

Breathe, I tell myself. Breathe, and turn down Lincoln Street. See? That house stands as a symbol, if you choose it to be one. It was a good house, but something better came along. Something that turned out to fit better. Something with unexpected bonuses. It just took time.

I'm letting go of Lincoln houses, and trying to be patient.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Remember Me?

Oh, wow, how I have missed you.

You have been on my mind, though. Out of touch doesn't mean forgotten.

I'm working, writing, reading, reaching, teaching, trying, crying, growing, sowing, going, spinning, grinning, thinking, thinking, thinking. I'm up early and up late, I'm trying new things and trying for new things, and I'm very, very, very me lately. I think a lot less about autism and a lot more about autism. The struggles change, the struggles stay the same. I never knew how MUCH this journey would be, and I'm not sorry one iota, but my hands stay full. How are you?

How ARE you?

All around me, so much life. A friend at long, long last gives birth. Another friend at long, long last conceives. A dear one has not one baby but two miracles who overcome odds that are hard to describe, hard to imagine, very hard to overcome, and guess what? Healthy! Take that, odds! Way to go, K! I thrill for the growing families, I celebrate the familyness everywhere. And I still swallow little lumps that our family continues to do everything the hard way. I wouldn't mind a day that went smoothly, I admit it. But we have good moments each day, and those I grab with gusto.

Roo lost two teeth this week. Peaches told me, "I'm falling in love with R." Roo got 11 out of 12 right on his first spelling test. Peaches decorated a cardboard box with "jewels" and beamed with pride. I'm sitting here searching for more to add to the list and then I realize actually that list satisfies me right now. That's the good stuff.

I lurk all over the blogosphere. I love reading all the kiddos out there. I love learning that one little guy up north from me played his heart out with his brother for few minutes, tearing up the house but not bothering his mom one bit because she knows this is the good stuff. I love knowing that one little guy from my home state found the bike that works for him and also maybe some other tools that seem to be making life easier at school and home. I love knowing that some of my favorite bloggers are taking the show on the road, publishing here and there and everywhere. And for those whose struggles have been tougher of late, I've been sending out extra good thoughts, extra good wishes.

Wow, it's great catching up with you. We can't let so much time pass between visits. Seeing you boosts my spirits every time. Already I'm looking forward to our next little chat like this. Really, let me hear more from you, too, okay? I mean, HOW are you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Daily Planet

Where have I been? It's a good question, to which I have only inadequate answers.

I have not, however, been in Metropolis waiting for Superman. We all know I am not that naive. He ain't comin'.

Fortunately, though, I did get a chance to go to the documentary with my blogger friend, and as a special needs Mama, I just have to state the obvious: I don't know anyone in this community who believes Superman is coming to make schools the places that they should be to properly include all kids with special needs. Not Superman, not the government, not Oprah, not a miracle.

As a teacher, I say to you: Our public schools are broken. Our children are not. Our system is flawed, but our children are beautiful. We must do what we can for our kids, despite the fact that it's overwhelming, that there is no map, no clear destination. As a teacher I say to you that our children are more than just our future. They are right now. They need us. As a teacher, as a mother, as a voter, I am not sure what to do, but "nothing" is not going to cut it.

Now, in case you've recently been under kryptonite, Waiting for "Superman" is Davis Guggenheim's look at our public school system and how, among other things, a handful of heartbreaking families struggle to escape sure catastrophe (their local schools) by hoping to win the lottery that is the charter system. Having taught in public and private schools, and having observed charters, I wanted to see this film once I heard the buzz. I heard words like "depressing." I heard assessments like "beating up teachers." I heard "indictment of unions." I heard, "Public schools suck." I have a child in public school. I have a child in private school. I have an interest in them attending a nearby charter school in the future. I visited the first KIPP classroom in Texas while serving in Teach for America. I needed to see this film.

One of the film's protagonists explains his own realization that no Superman would come rescue the disaster public schools have become, and I believe that is true. The overall situation is dire, and it is worse than dire overall for kids who have physical, emotional, or developmental challenges.

But no film is perfect. Not even documentaries are completely objective. You can't tell the whole shebang of education in the length of a feature film. I appreciated this film and what it shared, I think it's something you should watch and discuss, but it is not an A to Z picture.

As lousy as the conditions are in schools today, as horrifying as the system is that gets me writing late night letters to the White House on their web site, what school really boils down to on a daily basis for most children is teachers. Good teachers make for good learning. I know good teachers. They aren't all in private schools. They aren't all in charter schools. There are teachers who are heroes. For many children, a teacher is as close as they will ever come to Superman. I don't want you to see this movie and think all teachers contribute negatively to the tragically unheroic system. I don't want anyone to believe teachers got us into this mess or refuse to get us out.

And the beautiful, heroic kids in this film have families that have their backs. I am deeply thankful for that. But that is not the story in every household. Want to know what systems are as torn, twisted, mangled and maimed as the school system? (No, I'm not talking about health care, but that was a good guess.) Families. Let's say Education Superman made schools stronger, healthier, cleaner, safer, more resourced, and well staffed. So then all our kids would get good educations, go to college, thrive? Even the ones who live with challenges like homelessness, domestic violence, illness, substance abuse, neglect? We'd need Family Superman, too, wouldn't we?

Schools have increasingly hard jobs in increasingly hard and complicated times. I don't have any answers, but I absolutely plan to keep asking questions. Why is the public school system broken? Why does government get it wrong over and over and over? How can we support teachers who make a difference? Where can we find the leadership we need? And why do we consistently fail our most vulnerable members of society? Are unions really the problem? Are charter schools really the answer? What about kids with special needs?

We don't need to find a Superman or Wonderwoman. We need a nation of them.