Archive | November 2012

A “Pool’s Worth” of Opportunity with a “Shotglass” of Tolerance

I came up with this tagline the other day as I was speaking with my 11 year old son’s principal. You see, my son has Aspergers and he is an incredible challenge to teach. He’s ridiculously smart, but so resistant and intolerant of doing anything outside of what he either “finds interesting” or “finds tolerable.” He reads incredibly fast, in fact he’s been reading since he was 21 months old. Actually read words to me before he even spoke. Ever since, he’s devoured books and weekly we travel to all the libraries around Nassau County and take out about 20 books a week on whichever topic he finds compelling. This week he’s breezed through Oliver Sack’s books THE MIND’S EYE, THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT and he’s in the middle of HALLUCINATIONS. His “interest of the week” is perception and how the mind can play tricks on you. Of course last week it was graphic novels, the week before that it was space, pokemon and World Records. It changes and we’re trying not to get whiplash the way he switches it up so much.

So what’s the challenge? Presently, his feelings about school, and particular, the reading lessons. He’s read the chapter book his teacher is going over in class already while the class as a whole is slowly answering questions, chapter by chapter and he’s becoming resentful of having to sit there and listen to it. He tells them he’s bored and I don’t understand why they can’t have him do the curriculum required at his pace and then give him something more challenging. That was the crux of the conversation with the principal, who agrees with me. The trick is, what if they give Ben something more challenging and he decides it’s not “of interest to him?” That could easily happen.

Growing up he was always so ahead of his peers that school was easy. He breezed right through into 4th grade without doing much of anything. We were never concerned cognitively and used school as a place for him to socialize and if he wasn’t challenged enough, we spent our weekends at every museum, bookstore and library we could hit. But then he entered 4th grade and things started to go downhill. More was being asked of him, some of the kids were catching up, and for the first time he had a teacher that wasn’t a good match. Needless to say, it was a horror of a year and I’m going to leave it at that – I’d need another post just to rant incessantly and I’m too exhausted to do that right now. Suffice it to say, we moved him out of district to a different school with only 9 kids to a class. You’d think that would be perfect, but it has its own challenges. We have lovely teachers and aides who work with him, but in a school with kids who ALL have needs, the peer modeling isn’t the greatest and they don’t offer the same challenging classes his twin sister is getting back in his own district.

So, where are we? The principal is going to explore the opportunity for him to “travel” in certain subjects to different classrooms, maybe those in a different grade level, and see if that works. Or, they’re going to do some modifications on what he is learning. Fingers crossed it’s sooner versus later. Already at home we have private Spanish Classes (since his school doesn’t offer it).

In the meantime Ben has come up with an alternate theory about the universe. He’s called it “The Salpeter Theory of Consistency.” I’ve got calls in to the local school’s physics teachers to see if they can help us with “formulating a paper” for this theory so Ben can submit it. I told him  we’ll work on it together and he has to prove his theories, we’ll research and all that good stuff. He is completely on board.

Lucky for me I have a kid like this. I don’t think otherwise I’d ever know so much about Schrodinger’s Cat theory, the concept of Visual Agnosia (which is the inability of the brain to recognize or understand visual stimuli), and that preon is now one of the smallest particles out there (u-surping the mighty quark)

So like I said in the title… if I could take that shotglass of tolerance he has… and just stretch it to a tumbler or a high ball, or even a mightly ice bucket, the world will be this kid’s oyster!

Thanks for the ear and taking the time to read. Have an awesome day. 🙂

Final Thoughts on Hurricane Sandy

This will probably be my last post on Hurricane Sandy. Not that I think the repercussions of it are over, but I’ve been thinking about this experience so much and I’m ready to move on. I posted these thoughts on my Facebook page telling people that from this experience I learned a few important things. “There really are more good people in the world than bad, my family is stronger than we thought we were, we can live without the internet, boxed milk really does come in handy, and I need to re-evaluate my priorities of who should and shouldn’t be in my life.”

This last one was a biggie because the outpouring of support I received from people around the country and around the world was simply amazing. My family and I had never experienced something like this before, of this magnitude, and we consider ourselves extremely lucky we were healthy, our house was intact and even though we went 12 days without power, I was able to assure my children that this situation would end soon and things would go back to normal.

I’ve developed a pretty big social media platform and so many people reached out to me and my family with phone calls, likes, posts, comments and simply kind words. Some were virtual strangers just letting us know we were in their thoughts. Some were family members who opened their homes to us. Friends who let us crash at their house for an entire afternoon and fed us. An awesome Aunt in Florida who was ready to pack up her car with supplies and come get us. People shared my blog and posts, they left cords of wood anonymously on my front porch (I still don’t know who did this), and they simply reached out. You learn there are people who care and then there are people who don’t. And trust me, some really don’t. They have excuses of why they didn’t call, they have blame, they have anger, but at the end of the day we all are accountable to our actions and I’m now at peace with it. I can’t remain hurt for those that never once reached out, because it is beyond my control, so I’m going to move on. From the situation and from them. Obviously my family is not a priority of any sort to these people, and probably never were, and my fretting and stressing about it is unnecessary. My husband and I heard a great saying once which we love. “Don’t let that person rent space in your head.”

So next week I will be back to blogging about my books, conducting author interviews and other musings on my life. Maybe it will be bootcamp, maybe work, maybe cooking. Till then, consider my head rent-free! Peace 🙂

12 Days for the Power to Return – But is Life Back to Normal?

I was about to create a new post on “Night #12 No Power,” when thankfully the power came back on. On top of no electricity or heat, we had just been hit with a Nor’easter, dumping inches of snow back on the ground and so the kids had a two hour delay before they could go to school. I trekked into NYC to get to work and my husband stayed home, preparing to sit in the cold and wait hours in line for gas, since he now had the time.  After getting both kids to school, he came home and started shoveling the snow on our walkway when a man in a car came by and said “go in your house.” My husband looked at him warily and asked, “is everything ok?” The man smiled and said “go turn on your lights.” There had been some LIPA trucks on our block that morning, but he didn’t have any trust it meant much. My husband ran into the house and flicked the switch. I could barely understand him on the phone when he called me seconds later to tell me because he was so excited.

Since he’s not the kind of guy to just sit still, he actually filled my car with gas and then spent the day cleaning the house so when I came in that evening it would feel like home. He brought all the mattresses we had dragged in front of the fireplace back upstairs and made all the beds. He put things away we had simply dumped on the floor because we couldn’t see at night. He cleaned up all the wood chips scattered across the floor from the logs we had dragged in. He vacuumed the entire house. And, even though I asked him if the house was getting warmer, I found out later he had lied to me saying “not yet, but it’s coming on now.” Apparently a part on our boiler busted and he called the plumber while I was at work and somehow had someone come right in and fix it. He told me later, “you coming home and not having heat was not an option.” He picked me up from the train, we went to my sister-in-law in another town, grabbed all our things as we had stayed there the previous few nights, and came home. I walked through the door and welled up. To say he was my hero does not give him the credit he deserves.

So now you’d expect everything to go back to normal, right? The kids came home from school and immediately the television went on, wii games were played, the computer went on and they glued themselves to every piece of technology they had been missing. The house slowly warmed up and we put a container of milk in the fridge.

It’s now the next morning and the kids are doing what they usually do on a Saturday, watching TV and playing on the computer. My husband bought bagels and made coffee. It’s beautiful outside, warming up finally and I’m on my computer. But I’m finding I’m aimless. I’m nervous and scared and unsure, worried about the lights staying on. I’m worried for our friends on Long Island, those in my very town who have spent another cold night without heat. I’m worried for our infrastructure. It’s only November and the idea of a winter of this uncertainty is intolerable. I’m worried about how this is going to affect my children the next time my lights flicker. My daughter seems to be okay, back to ordering her brother around and my son, who has asperger’s, will slowly get back to his routine. These past 12 days were tough on him, but he seems happy this morning and “giving it right back to his sister.” So, things are slowly coming back to normal. Except I guess my bar for normal has been set pretty low right now.

I’m going to do a few things to make myself feel even more prepared. I’m ordering a cord of firewood for my house. I’m getting the chimney flue professionally cleaned. I’m going to Home Depot or Lowe’s and buying lanterns, stocking up on new candles, handwarmers and going to purchase some really good sleeping bags. I’m thinking the kind that people who camp out in sub-zero weather use.

So, for us, things will slowly feel better, day by day, but I don’t want to forget there is still suffering going on around me. We are trying to pay it forward, open our house to folks in need and asking our kid’s friends to spend the night to stay out of the cold.

I guess, unfortunately, dysfunction is the new normal these days. Let’s hope it ends quicker than later.

Night #6 Without Power – #HurricaneSandy

It’s been six days since Hurricane Sandy hit. Six very long days without power, which means no heat, no light and watching the food in the fridge and freezer slowly disappear. The kids have been off of school for the entire week and we still don’t know when they’re going back. There are gas shortages and soon we won’t have enough for the cars to run. The worst have been the nights with temperatures dipping into the 30’s because it is just so cold, it gets into your bones. Even with a fire going in the fireplace, it isn’t enough to get that internal chill to leave. But even with all this, I consider myself thankful. My house survived the storm and my family is healthy. So many people lost so much. I can’t read the newspaper or watch the news without welling up in tears. I feel guilty being upset or overwhelmed when so many lost so much.

Our neighbors have been great. We’ve been sharing firewood, offers of showers from folks who have hot water (we do), and those who got their generators on have offered us to come over and charge our electronics. It’s amazing how removed you feel from society when you are completely disconnected. No internet, no tv, no phones. We have been living meal to meal, buying things at stores that are slowly getting their power turned on, grabbing food we can grill, driving seven miles away where we know a pizza place is open. We keep saying, it could be worse.

And the moments I have gotten on the internet, little snippets at a library or at work one day, I’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from my family and friends and folks on Twitter and Facebook. I don’t even really know some of the people who’ve reached out with kind words and it’s been so unbelievably nice to hear from everyone. You feel very alone at times, even though rationally you know unfortunately another 400,000+ people are still in this boat with you with not a clear date when it will end. But I do know it will end one day… it could be a week, two weeks, or tomorrow. We just have to hope (and it starts with getting that huge weeping willow off the downed power lines outside)

At the end of the day, this will be a lesson for my kids. They’ll learn they can survive something like this, where things aren’t perfect but with a little perseverance and sacrifice, you can make it through.

Tonight we finally caved and went to my sister in law a few towns over. It’s warm and light and cozy. I am on my computer on the internet, my daughter is watching television. Six days worth of laundry is being done and we just finished eating take-out Chinese food. Life feels just a little bit more normal for tonight. Tomorrow night if the power is still out, we’ll brave it again, but for now we’re good.

One day at a time, right? 🙂