IEP Season

14 Oct

Maura’s IEP is coming up.  At the sight of those letters – short for Individualized Education Program - every parent of a child with an IEP just shuddered.

So the idea that I’m here, going “Eh” over the IEP, is amazing, even to me.

Back in Michigan, we had to fight for everything for Maura.  Not just us as parents, but some of those working with her had to fight to make sure she got what she needed, what she actually needed.  Not just what the barest of minimums forced them to give.  I went into every IEP knowing how so many people had our backs, were going to make sure Maura had as much as they could give her, and I appreciated every one of them for working with us, and for Maura.

But it was draining.  And disheartening.  I cried – and I never cry at stuff.  IEPs made me cry.  I had to make sure I did my homework, had The Binder with all of Maura’s stuff in it, I would contact people by email, then print out every email conversation and put it in the binder.  I had a book to guide me through the legalities of the IEP.  I talked to people, to outside therapists and other parents, to find out what they thought Maura would need, what their kids were getting, what worked for them.  Then, when the day of the IEP came, I’d arrange for babysitting, because I knew I’d be there for hours.  Seriously.  Four hours once, with fourteen people. They never had a conference room big enough for Maura’s IEPs.

Why so long and so many?  Because at the time, the school didn’t have children with special needs, not like Maura’s.  It was her and one other student her age with the same levels of disabilities, and they weren’t sure what to do with them.  We were the proverbial guinea pigs the entire time we were in Michigan – for the new special ed preschool program, for the new resource room in the elementary school they had to create to handle a child like Maura, for inclusion to this degree.  It was a bit scary, I can admit that.

So four hour IEPs that left me feeling unsure became the norm.  Battles with the special ed director became the norm.  Ranting about the special ed director (who at one point told me my signature wasn’t necessary for the IEP) became too much of a norm.

To sit here, four years later, and have an IEP looming and the thought of it doesn’t make me want to drink?  That is still a gift I can’t get over.  I cherish the idea that I don’t have to worry and wind myself up and gird loins for battle.  I love the idea that an IEP doesn’t have to mean instant crazy-making.  I could hug each member of our current IEP team who make all this non-craziness possible.  I wish that every parent could have this good of an experience.  And I will never take it for granted, because I know that this could all change.  I could go back to the old ways, the tension and the tears and the loins girded for battle.

I’d rather not though.  I’d rather keep our new nice IEP ways.

Oh, I’ll have notes.  Suggestions as to how to help Maura grow and mature.  Questions as to why she’s being such a pill at school (go figure, she’s an angel at home!).  Questions about her future in this program (which I’m not doubting, she’s earned her place in the life skills program, just that she’ll be transitioning to middle school next year.)  And a couple apologies for being a slacker parent this year (though in my defense, I never even saw the paperwork sent home the other day, just the mangled note saying “Please send completed forms back…” – Maura beat me to her folder and took care of the forms for me.  Oops.)

The IEP will be a meeting as to how we can all help Maura grow.  As it should be.  And I am thankful for it, and this program Maura’s in, every single day. Because I know it could be worse.  I have been there.  And I never want to go back.

 

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Why I can’t buy pomegranates

9 Oct

Many years ago, when the kids were shorter than me, I found a deal where I could get a box or two of organic fruit and veg delivered to my doorstep.  We’d get exotic things, like kale, and pineapple.  The children always found these boxes to be amazing, and were always willing to try something new.

At one point, we got a pomegranate.  I’ll be honest, I’d never had one before, and had no clue how to open it.  So I left it in the fridge, with plans on researching what to do with pomegranates on the internet – as you do.

That afternoon, my 4th grader came home – with his light blue shirt covered in purple splatter.

“Sean, what happened?”

“Well, I took the pomegranate to school, but I wasn’t sure how to open it.”

I felt sorry for the kids who sat around him at lunch.  They probably went home a bit purple as well.

“Sean, new rule – you can’t bring fruit to school that you don’t know how to eat.”

I’ll admit, from that day forward, I wasn’t much into buying pomegranates.  I’d buy it already scooped out, seeds in a container, if needed.  But really, there’s not a lot of call for fresh pomegranate in my life, and I’m okay with that.

But yesterday…yesterday I was lured into buying them at Whole Foods.  They were on sale, a twofer deal.  And I knew more about how to open a pomegranate.  My children were older now.  It was safe.

Or so I thought.

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That evening, Miriam asked if she could try one.  I said “Do you know how to open it?”

“No.”

Seriously, I will never learn.  So I told her to cut it open, scoop out the seeds, eat seeds. I heard the sawing of the knife, then silence, then some scraping and pounding.  But it seemed okay, right?  She’s fourteen, right?  This is the girl who knows savvy things like how to get through airport security and how to haggle with souvenir sellers in Rome and what to do in case of a seizure.  Surely my instructions were clear enough.

I was wrong.

So very wrong.

The kitchen looked like a crime scene, where a magenta corpse was dragged about.  There was pomegranate splatter everywhere – counter, clean dishes on the drying board, soaking into my lovely oak farmhouse table.  The girl?  My sweet teen girl?  Coated in pomegranate splatter.  Bits of pomegranate were left between the kitchen and dining room.

“Miriam! Really?  What happened?”

The reply is a bit of a bur, but there were bits of “it was tough” and “I got frustrated with it so just started stabbing at it with a spoon.”

I turned to my husband and said “You would think I’d know better by now than to buy pomegranates.”

You would think.

There’s still one left in the refrigerator.  I should probably do away with it before I find it splattered all over my living room or the like.

 

Halloween Girl

7 Oct

Maura has embraced some of the holidays – Christmas has been a big deal with her for a few years now.  And now, Halloween has made her hit-list.

She loves dressing up.  She loves candy.  It’s all been good.

But it was still a surprise to find her watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas” the other day.  Then watching it again.  And again. And again.

Sure, she loved the old Mickey Mouse cartoons about Halloween, and the Disney “House of Villains” compilation. But “The Nightmare Before Christmas” didn’t seem like a choice for her.

Except it is.

There’s lots of singing.  She loves singing.  So yes, it makes sense, in her own odd fashion.

I did wonder, how far does her love for Halloween stuff go?  I turned on “ParaNorman” for us girls to watch the other night, and she gnawed on her fingers the entire time. I think it was just a bit too intense for her.  Josh’s theory was that things like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” are definitely fantasy, while “ParaNorman” may feel too close to home.  When I mentioned “Doctor Who”, well, the theory is, there’s enough humor in that to get her through the scarier moments (though I’ve yet to see her truly scared at any moment of “Doctor Who” – even Weeping Angels don’t phase her.)

Of course, now I want to track down “Hocus Pocus” and find out what Maura would make of that movie.  But the question is, if she likes it, can I stand viewing it for the next two months straight?Meanwhile, we’re enjoying Live Action Frozen on “Once Upon a Time”.

As for Halloween itself, I don’t know what Maura will be this year.  I’m sure I could make her an Elsa costume and she’d be thrilled.  I’ve thought about a Rapunzel costume as well. Or possibly a Lilo costume to go with her Stitch doll.  Heck, we have a tweedy jacket, add a fez and a bow tie, she could be The Doctor.

The possibilities are endless with this girl!

Maura, Halloween Past.  She couldn't wait for the popcorn, lol!

Maura, Halloween Past. She couldn’t wait for the popcorn, lol!

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