Make Up Your Mind!

It has been made clear to me over the nine years of my marriage that I am a mediocre housekeeper.  I admit it!  Scrubbing toilets and dusting tchotchkes just isn't my jam.  But even I have my limits.  This evening, the clutter started closing in on me.  I started I the kitchen - ground zero for family clutter in my house.  Once I got going on the kitchen, I started buzzing into the living room and laundry rooms.    The kids were in bed and T was channel surfing.

After I walked in front of the tube for about the fifth time, he looked at me and asked, very concerned, "Are you okay?"

Me, puzzled, "Um, yes?  I'm just cleaning."  I know it isn't a daily occurrence, but seriously!  It isn't that rare!

"We'll, you just seem a little grumpy."

Yes, T, cleaning up everyone's clutter makes me crabby.  Do you want neat or do you want chipper?  Because you can't have both.


The Fun Continues

Turns out, not only is Z dyslexic, she is severely dyslexic.  And severely dysgraphic.  With highly probable ADHD.  And just to keep things interesting?  Irlen Syndrome.  Turns out we are learning disability overachievers.  Yay!

Once I had compiled all of my information, I scheduled a meeting with the school.  The whole gang was there: principal, counselor, teacher, head of special ed. for the school district.  At first, I was getting a your-daughter-is-doing-fine-why-are-you-bothering-me? vibe.  After a little conversation, it became clear that I was the most dyslexia-educated person in the room.  I filled them in on what I knew and they warmed up to my agenda.

When the lady from downtown arrived, the mood turned cool again.  She looked Z's test results and said that the first set by itself wasn't enough to prove dyslexia.  And that taking the CTOP, a dyslexia diagnostic test, twice in such short succession called the results into question.  Luckily, I knew she had been exposed to the test - or one like it - in kindergarten.  And that was why the second tester gave her the Part B of the test (that she hadn't seen before) and got very clear results.  When she saw how well informed I was, she seemed to change directions and decided that she would accept Z's diagnosis as dyslexic.


Next came the debate about what to do about it.  One of the diagnosticians mentioned that I would need to choose one remediation program and stick with it, so as not to confuse Z with differing terminology.  So when the lady from downtown, mentioned it, too, I felt like she had done her homework.  In the end, we decided to do outside tutoring to help with the dyslexia problems and accommodations in the classroom to support her until she is ready to go without them.

We decided that a 504 plan with a formal diagnosis of dyslexia would be the best way to insure that she gets the support she need for the rest of her public school career.  All in all, I am feeling quite pleased with the results.  I think everyone is happy and best of all, Z will get the help she needs to be successful.

Rats, Foiled Again!

Irony?  I has it!

I finally caved in to the siren song that is Amazon Prime.  Because of the cheap shipping?  No.  Because of the free Kindle book every month?  No.  Because of the streaming video?  Yes!

When I tried to watch a show, I discovered that none of my devices are Amazon Prime compatible.



Um, Yay?

So this week I have had a simultaneous "Yay!" and "Oh, sh!t!" moment.  My baby girl, my first born child, my brilliant headstrong daughter is...


Am I shocked?  Um, no.  I have suspected that something was up since pre-school.  Difficulty writing.  Difficulty rhyming.  No interest in independent reading.  Was it?  Wasn't it?  I just wasn't sure.  I knew I had arm-chair quarterbacked a dyslexia diagnosis on both her dad and paternal grandmother, but what did I know?  My master's degree is in reading not learning disabilities.

In Kinder - at the talented and gifted magnet - her handwriting continued to be atrocious, but otherwise she blossomed.  Still not super interested in reading on her own, but if pressed, could do well enough.  I was troubled by her letter reversals and seeming inability to conquer certain sight words, but I was assured it was all developmental.  Besides, the school district has a policy of not testing kindergartners for dyslexia. First grade is still plenty early for a diagnosis, right?

In first grade I was up front with Z's teacher about my fears/suspicions.  She assured me that she had a son with learning difficulties, so she knew where I was coming from.  I felt supported!  I was confident she was watching for signs that something might be amiss.  So come January, when her spelling grades TANKED, I was taken by surprise.

I scheduled the first of a series of teacher conferences wherein her teacher asked me, "Why are you so set on labeling her?" when I inquired about testing.  Z was given tutoring in spelling.  Her teacher gave her extra kinesthetic spelling activities.  I became a spelling flashcard nazi.  Our combined focus helped Z pass - barely.  But it was enough to satisfy the powers in charge of these things.  Tutoring was successful!  There is no need for those pesky dyslexia tests!  See ya in second grade!  I asked if I had her tested at my own expense, if those results would be considered and was told the district wouldn't honor them.

Thank goodness we lucked out with her second grade teacher.  She is everything a good teacher should be wrapped with a layer of laughter around a soft gooey center of kindness and compassion.  All she needs is gift wrap and a big pink bow!  We love her so much!  Her concern for my baby has literally brought me to tears on multiple occasions this year.

About a week into the school year, on second grade orientation night, I tried to squeeze in a visit with Z's teacher during a lull.  I just wanted to put her on the look out for Z's difficulties and have her call me if she saw any red flags.  She immediately linked arms with me and asked me to come chat with her after the meeting was over.

She told me she had started documenting Z on the first day of school.  She took ONE LOOK at Z's homework journal (where she copies assignments from the board) and knew something was going on.  When I told her my suspicions, she was like, "Of course!  That makes sense."  She called in her team mates and we discussed things we could do to make Z's life easier and more successful.  Whew!

Alas, the wheels of progress turn slooooooooooooowly.

For all her teacher's accommodations, Z was still falling behind in reading.  A computer based reading test, (iStation, anyone?  Does anyone know anything about this program?) put her reading level at way below second grade.  Her teacher knew this couldn't be quite right and moved her up a level or two, but she was still behind every. single. one. of her classmates.  A fact made obvious by the Accelerated Reader program - the books are shelved according to reading level, so it was clear to everyone that she was different.

That was the last straw for me.  I was volunteering across the library and I could see that Z was the only kid at the first grade cart.  It broke my heart.  It was time for action.

I called everyone I could think of that afternoon: the head of the dyslexia department for the school district; a local clinic that tests for dyslexia; my friend whose sister is dyslexic.  Man, I missed my mom that day!  My friend headed off my hysteria (thanks, Bun!).  The clinic called back and directed me to some really excellent information about dyslexia.  She asked me to review the videos and call back if I was interested in scheduling  testing.

The videos were long and painfully dull, but they were an information gold mine.  The more I watched, the more convinced I became that Z was the poster child for dyslexia.  She couldn't seem more dyslexic if she were trying!  Freaky high I.Q.? Check.  Slow labored reading? Check.  Super high comprehension? Check. Dysgraphia? Check.

I signed her up for testing and mentioned to the school councilor what was going on so she wouldn't be blindsided when I called for a conference the following week.  I told her that I understood that the climate in the district was such that I wasn't expecting dyslexia services, but that I would take the information that we gathered and use it to force a 504 plan (required accommodations without the need for a special ed. hearing).

I ended up having her evaluated by two different testers - a second opinion is always good, right?  Both of them said she was a clear case of dyslexia.  With a probable dose of ADHD thrown in.  Interestingly, I got calls back from all over Wester that afternoon.

The head of the district's dyslexia department called me back and questioned why I felt the need for testing on my own.  She assured me that my outside testing data would be considered for placement in the dyslexia program and that she would even attend the conference when we discussed it.

As soon as I hung up with her, Z's principal called me.  She was also suddenly sure that we could get Z considered for the dyslexia program.  Her principal is great and I know we are on the same team here.  Everyone is - from her kinder teacher (who I loved so much I requested her for Q) through her second grade teacher.

I am NOT bashing the school district.  It is just amazing to me that it takes this much effort to even get my daughter looked at by the district.  As much as a formal diagnosis of dyslexia SUCKS for Z, I am relieved that she is finally going to get some appropriate help.  Finally.

But what about all the kids who don't have pushy moms like me?


More Gardening for Masochists

So we left my fair garden back at square one.  (Get it?  Square foot gardening?  Ha!)  The first order of business was weed death.  Luckily, my dad-in-law (aka: Dr. Death) whipped up an extra strong batch of weed killer and hosed the whole enclosure.  Then, because he is awesome, he went back and pulled up the worst of them - five feet tall!  thorny!  sneeze inducing! - and carted them to the dumpster.

That left me with a less weedy, but abundantly rocky, garden.  I learned from last summer's experiment that I needed more room for vines, so I decided to add an additional bed around the two sides of the garden that back up to a barn and a car port.  A loooong skinny bed with trellises on the wall sides.  In order to build my vine garden, I needed to level the ground where the bed would go.

So. many. rocks.

The previous owners had chucked all of the rocks they dug up (in a traditional dig-up-the-ground-style garden) into the corner of where I wanted my vine bed to go.  So I schlepped a big inconvenient pile of rocks from inside the garden into a less inconvenient pile outside the garden.  Then I used an assortment of implements to pick, hoe, shovel and rake the rocks into submission.  Whew!

Now on to weed control.  More (so! much! more!) pick-hoe-rake-and-shovel-ing later, it was time to roll out the weed blocking fabric.  Bear in mind, I had put off getting the ball rolling until the west Texas spring heated up to 100+ degrees.  That made all of the pick-hoe-rake-and-shovel-ing just that much more fun!  It was a total sweat-fest that took most of a week to adequately complete.  I did have help from my super-helpful in-laws.  I have to say that Grandma's attention to detail probably added a little time to getting this stage completed, but considerably upped the quality of the weed removal.

Once the weeds were subdued, I rolled out the weed blocking fabric.  In 20 mile per hour winds.  Yay!  So I would roll out some fabric, stand on it and try to move cinder blocks on top of it while the wind blew the fabric around Lucy-and-Ethel-style.  It wasn't pretty.  One pair of heavy-duty garden gloves later - I actually wore the finger tips off! - the bones of the garden were complete!


The Masochistic Gardener

So what do you do when you move to the desert?  Why, put in a garden, of course!

Put in a garden? you say.  Didn't you do that last year?  Why, yes.  Yes, I did.

It was what I shall call a 'successful experiment.'  That is to say, I put in a ton of work to grow about 20 bushels of basil (win!), a mega mint and a pumpkin vine that tried to take over the world.  After babying the garden through a summer of record breaking heat, I threw up my hands and walked away when the rabbits ate my one and only pumpkin just weeks before Halloween.

This was a tragic miscalculation.

I learned a lot in my first summer of vegetable gardening.  Square Foot Gardening?  Awesome!  Shoddy site prep for said garden? Not so awesome.  Forgetting to turn off the automatic sprinkler timer?  Not awesome. At. All.  By the end of our freakishly warm winter, the weeds had taken over my garden.  Again.

I needed a whip and a chair to get inside the fence when it was time to get started for the spring.  The basil had petrified into a woody bush.  The mint was so massive that it had invaded fully half of my garden.  Rabbits had moved in under it, built condos and bred like, well, rabbits.  And the weeds?  Oh, my.  Desert dwelling weeds are hearty buggers.  Grass and stickers had grown up not just around my raised beds, but through them.  There was a tragic miscommunication regarding weed removal and my M-i-L accidentally ruined all of the soil that remained from last year.


Basically, I was back to square one.  So I decided to do it right this time.

(To be continued!)


Life Lessons Suck

Tomorrow is awards day at Z's school.  Awards include Perfect Attendance, Honor Roll, Perfect Homework, the Principal's Conduct Award and the like.  We are a talented and gifted magnet school, so all of the first grade parents are invited to will attend and photograph and/or video the recognition their preshus snowflake's many accomplishments.

Z won't be getting an award.

I'm okay with this.  Mostly.  I don't want to give her the expectation that she will be awarded just for showing up.  I want her to know that effort is required to get the gold star.  But, seriously?  Do we really have to learn this lesson in first grade?

It has been a rough year for Z.  Me, too, really.  She caught every virus early and often.  No perfect attendance.  Homework has gone from being a no-brainer to a daily battle.  No perfect homework. She is showing all the signs of being dyslexic, and the hoops that must be jumped through to get tested for the dyslexia program are EPIC.  No honor roll.  She inherited her mother's gift of the gab.  No conduct award.

T suggested that we institute First Grade Skip Day.  I don't really think that is the answer either, but, geez!  My heart aches for my sweet baby.  Not that I'm entirely sure she will be bothered by her lack of brightly-colored-copy-paper-certificate validation.  It has never occurred to Z that she is anything less than AWESOME.

But what if it does bother her?  I guess it is just a lesson that everyone needs to learn.  Why do life lessons have to suck so much?