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Monday, October 8, 2012

tiburon soccer game

due to my fear of the bridges around here in earthquake country miles and i took an epic journey to his soccer game in tiburon on bus, ferry, on foot and finally in a taxi.

tiburon is very beautiful, with the bay all around, pretty houses up the sides of hills, little stores and restaurants, boats and more boats, perfectly blue sky, no garbage, no loud buses or sirens.  sitting in a restaurant on the water, eating a kid meal burger while i sipped coffee to try and deny a hangover, miles noted that everyone in tiburon looked the same.  he was right.  same clothes, same hairstyle, same hair color, same skin color.  several older men drove by in expensive looking race cars.  when miles' soccer team showed up the homogeneity was broken up a tiny bit by our mexican, samoan, african-american, and asian soccer players.  they were robbed of the game, which was 2-2 and should have been a win for us.  yes, us, that is how close i feel to my kid's soccer team.

the ferry took us back to pier 41 and we walked off into a sea of action.  a band covered current pop hits so well the crowd was dancing like crazy, people from all over putting their hands in the air, babies being bounced in strollers, drunk tattooed mamas, navy uniformed folks from fleet week, japanese tourists with cameras and big black rimmed glasses.  it was a par-tay, with thousands of people out to hear bluegrass, see ships, watch blue angels. like a benevolent many-eyed monster a gagantuan cruise ship watched over us.



Tiburon(above), Pier 41 (below)


miles had spoken about how he liked the peace in tiburon, asking also, of course, how much the houses cost there.  but we both agreed that, tonight at least, we liked the energy of the city better.  in the cooling early evening we walked along office parks with funky fountains and statues and dinosaur-era trees and plants before we saw two teenagers selling these awesome hats they painted themselves.  i splurged and got one for miles--it looked just right on his head.

lathe of heaven by ursula k leguin

i read this fantastic book over the weekend.  it is a short and inspiring read, go here for reviews.  

special ed doesn't sound right

the other day my kids were playing school and one of the kids was playing "the naughty kid".  and this naughty kid was doing and saying all kinds of very hilarious and bordering on hysterically silly things and i was really enjoying watching my kids play together so well (it is rare, lemme' tell ya') and then suddenly this naughty kid said "i'm in special ed."

well, i was not prepared for what happened next, which was that i started bawling and had to leave the room to calm down.  and both of my kind children followed me trying to make me feel better, the empathetic one hugging me and saying she was sorry i was so sad and the other one defensively  explaining that it was the naughty kid character who said that, but really, what was revealed in this slip from my kid's mouth was not that he dislikes anyone in particular, but that subconsciously "special ed" means something very negative to him.

this might be ok except everyone at my son's school, and at many schools, continues to refer kids in special day classes as "the special ed kids".  i really do not see this phenomenon as much when kids are all in inclusion.  we had a long talk and my daughter had a good point--she doesn't know what to call "those kids" because she doesn't know their names.  boo hoo, i cried a little more.  then i emailed my son's fabulous teacher with a list of a bunch of ideas.  and she let me know that she gives the kids the same redirect if she hears (not usually used negatively) the term "special ed kids", and tells the kids the student's name.

as long as the special day classes exist in their present form here are my random ideas for my son's school, which i know has a lot of challenges in getting kids from different classes to spend time together:
*use name tags , especially for kids who are nonverbal, when kids who are unfamiliar are playing or working together
*let kids take turns picking favorite music and have a dancing corner of the yard with music and a fun and encouraging adult
*put the trampoline or big ball out on the yard and have kids from all classes take turns jumping or rolling with an adult supervising
*give some kids from the special day classes those little three wand bubble holders so they can share
*get out some water for the water paint wall and make sure there are enough brushes for any kids in the sdc classes who want to paint and more to share
*get a wagon for the younger kids to sit in and pull each other
*have some open ended chase games going on with adult facilitation
*do some reverse mainstreaming for kids to go into the special day class classrooms for free play

ok, you can probably see that these are all stolen from preschool, but if kids have trouble with social interaction, difficulty understanding the rules of games, motor planning issues, then they will like activities with  props and facilitated turn-taking at recess.  it is not rocket science.  in fact, many kids like dancing to music, blowing bubbles, open-ended art and sensory motor activities like jumping and rolling.  and yes, you can probably see that all these ideas involve adult facilitation, but if all the kids in the special day class have IEPs, then they all have goals,and if the goals involve social interaction, then what better time to work on this is while having fun on the yard, with their typically-developing peers?  having fun and developing friendships??  why isn't this happening more?

anyway, this is getting long, sorry.

the day after my meltdown my son came home and shared that he had sat with the students in one of the special day classes at lunch.  i found out later his teacher is encouraging kids to mix it up by sending tables with the most kids from different classes out to recess first.  whatever works.  and one of these kids, my son reported, is super fast, and they played chase at recess.  this made us both feel good. and now he knows this student has a name, and he can use it.  thank you to the teacher who encouraged this connection.

keep moving forward, and make it fun.
j

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


sometimes, when kids are ornery and i am well, just not having fun being with them i wonder why i don't just work more and keep them in an after school program every day.  but afternoons like this, laid back and peaceful and silly, plenty of time for homework and playing with pets, and punctuated by maya's living room drawing class (this is miles' beautiful tree) i am grateful that i have extra time at home with these two people i love so much.

it may look cluttered to some, but i noticed  "home" painted on the metal window cover (can someone tell me what the word for this thing is??  i didn't grow up in a place where windows needed to be protected overnight) on the corner store this morning while getting a much needed iced coffee before heading to work. i love it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

here is my poor urban child trying to play soccer with his friend during a visit.  note his poor urban sister screaming in terror as the ball approaches.  no room in the yard because of those pesky plant beds.

and here is a visual cue created by my first grader.  definitely looks a bit like the visual cues we use at my work with not very verbal preschool visual learners.  she has been wanting to play school constantly lately, always taking the teacher role.  she seems kind, patient, and creative, which makes me think her teacher is good this year.  however, during school play about 90% of the time my daughter is dealing with behavior.  one doll gets a sticker for good behavior, another gets warning checks, a stuffed basset hound gets very jealous of the doll's sticker.  there are many references to this chart which tells the student to "keep eyes on the teacher" "don't talk" "raise your hand" "stop" and "sit cross-legged".  when is asked why playing school is not more about learning things i was told that this was "behavior school".  i asked if real school was like this and was told no, but it is hard not to wonder.

i can also see that playing/being teacher gives my daughter a socially  acceptable way to have total control during play.  i know she can't stand playing school with her brother because he always plays the back-talking class clown who she has to discipline.  maybe they both need that, being in and being out of control.  maybe we all need some more of one of those things...


Saturday, September 29, 2012

the association, pta video


my very exhausted pta president friend sent me this awesome video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p09tvwvHnsU


enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

out for a drink tonight at the homestead with two mama friends. we got carded which is starting to seem so ridiculous.  the guy checking ids said he was three years older than us.  i politely lied and said i would have carded him, too. we had a few old fashioneds and my friend scared me by demonstrating how fast her new electric tesla could fly on a city street.

we talked tonight about how our city kids were growing up in a place where they cannot help but be aware of socioeconomic differences.  we are in the middle of a huge pile.  it's not just a matter of who has more toys or cars around here.  some people are sleeping in the dirt, and others have several homes and travel to asia and take many vacations.  somehow my not so diverse childhood made me less concerned with money, and i am not quite sure this is a good or a bad thing.  we will see how it all pans out.

three little girls were chanting on the playground today about how mitt romney could not be allowed to win.  right now i hear a bunch of drunk kids outside chanting something at the bus stop.  what could it be?

recently i am seriously craving some peace and quiet. a place in the woods, with drips of water falling from wild rhododendrons or a fast moving river over rocks.  tired of drunk chanters and angry men with microphones yelling about jesus, and airplanes and buses and cars.

that electric car was wonderfully quiet, the sound of no garbage entering the air.
goodnight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

giant value seals

maya spotted a man "sleeping in the dirt" today as we drove from bayshore to potrero.  seconds later she saw someone lying on the hill in the skate park, neatly tucked in under a tan blanket, rock-like in the grass.  she yelled "look" and then asked very seriously if we should invite people who are homeless into our home. she said it in a way that let me know the idea scared her a bit. but i was glad she asked.  when i told her she could give money to a shelter that would help find places for people to stay she quickly decided she would give away all her money.  then she changed her mind and said she would give "some".  she needs to save some for herself to buy hello kitty marshmallow lollipops at walgreens.






Friday, September 21, 2012

ranting helicopter parent

i think of urban kids as being more affected by helicopter parenting because of the physical environment--we are with the kids more as we drive them everywhere, can't let them loose outside in the crazy neighborhood with lots of traffic.  i have also read some convincing arguments that parents have become more and more involved with their children's lives as a result of marriage becoming less important, or being perceived as a partnership for parenting. these things make sense.

but i also wonder if parents like me are so involved with their kids' lives because of the depressing news we hear about almost daily.  my kids go to school in a urban district state that is 49th out of 50 for education funding. hearing day after day about education cuts, including early education and college, makes me feel like i have to be involved in my kids' education.    parents think so much about private preschools because they have to pay so much money for them, and want to make sure their kid is getting as much into their little brains as possible before they have to enter the underfunded education system.  and ultimately parents are thinking about the future we keep hearing about with economic and climate disaster, etc etc.

we want our offspring to make it through and thrive and have good lives, and we don't feel like society as it is will provide it, so we pour all our resources into our own kids.  i think about the money we are spending on dance class, soccer, and now maya's drama class.  i know a lot of folks who pay for tutors for their elementary kids who are doing quite well in school. all this money adds up.  it could be going into funding a school system that would be better for all the kids in our society.  but the way our society is set up kids are a low priority.  so we helicopter to try and make sure they will be ok anyway.  and while helicoptering all our energy goes into our own kids.

where will this pattern lead?  to more and more inequality, right?

how can we get to a place where kids are the most important people instead of the least?  a plane to finland?



Thursday, September 20, 2012

happy homemaker

on my days off work and kids  i know there are many productive things i could be engaged in.  working and making money, for one.  working on a creative or artistic project.  doing some type of work for the common good.  the world is in need of  serious intervention, and i know it.  however, i am finding that i slip into a domestic meditative state that i really enjoy.  folding laundry, sweeping the floor, watering the garden, putting kids clothes away, paying bills, making tempeh and vegetables, baking oatmeal muffins.  it is sunny and the windows are open and someone's smooth jazz sounds good coming through the back window.  in an hour i will walk up potrero hill to get my kids, taking my time through the starr king open space. cleaning and feeding and keeping things going need to be done, but could be done much more efficiently.  instead of feeling guilt over not making money or producing something of value i am trying to be ok with just having some time, all alone save for the dog and guinea pig, that is simply pleasurable and easy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

sidewalk scaping appreciation video


walking through the mission, an unscripted homage to sidewalk scaping.

my ambitious son told me yesterday he wanted to live in the country when he grew up, in point arena. he would buy part  of our friend's land and then build a huge house, with a huge trampoline he could jump on all the time, and a soccer field.  he said he would stay in the city if he could live in a quiet part, with his own soccer field to play on. when we talked about how cities are good because people share common land, and how native americans didn't even think land could be owned, etc etc, he reconsidered and said that he would buy a house in a city next to a huge soccer field, buy it, and let other people and dogs play on it, too. he then asked me if i knew how much professional soccer players make..."millions, every game! yeah, baby!"  some of us have more drive to own, and own big, than others, all i can work on with my acquisitive kid is  making it seem just as rewarding to give as to acquire.  living in a small city space with a shared yard  could lead to desires for grandeur and space, but also to an appreciation of plants growing out of a former sidewalk square.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

tacolicious fundraiser

tacolicious on valencia street at 18th is supporting my kids' school, starr king elementary.
they are giving a nice chunk of their profits from each monday in september to the school.  the owners have kids in another san francisco public school and do this as a very generous way to give back to the larger community.  so go to tacolicious and splurge on delicious tacos and drinks.  i went last night and liked the tuna tostadas, the heirloom tomato salad, and the pitchers of margaritas--one regular, one with watermelon.  remind me that i am too old to drink alcohol on a work night, though.  none of the kids seemed to mind that i had a headache all day.

size matters


my current caseload is only at 65% of the maximum number of students it is recommended i work with, and i have been able to DO MY JOB for these first weeks of school. i have had time to consult with the preschool teachers and parents.  i have created systematic home practice programs for most of the kids.  i have started one kid with a step by step device and trained the classroom staff on how to use it with him.  i have been able to do some 1:1 pull out sessions to teach new skills and then had time to help the child generalize these skills in the classroom.  i have been building relationships with all my new little students on the autism spectrum. i have been busy as a bee working on visual supports for communication--see some examples of my fine iphone photography above for those students who just don't understand what those picture icons are all about.   i have been able to plan out activities and make materials ahead of the day of.   i have been taking daily notes on progress towards goals.   i have even had time to eat lunch!

it would be fantastic if my caseload stayed this low, but it won't.  it won't, that is, unless some of the  students can move on to less restrictive settings.  we will see how it all unfolds.  it is exciting to feel like you are doing your job.  it is exciting to see little people moving forward into the unlimited world of symbolic language.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

long long break





well, after a blogging break like i never took before i need to ease back into things.  so yes, a rambling post.

summer has already blurred over, but looking at my photo library we had: a visit from my dad and stepmom with a ridiculous kite in a tree rescue and some nice grandparent and grandchild bonding. lots of dug up emotion from childhood which bobs to the surface each time i see my father. my friend who fled to the suburbs of chicago came to stay with us and made me miss her again so much.  there was lots of golden gate park time for me and maya while miles went to tennis camps.  there was plenty of wine.  camp mather, with that pool in the redwoods and a new group of friends formed around the ping pong table.  kayaking on the russian river, and weeks and weeks in sonoma with my mom, swimming in the pool for hours each day, the sun beating down, lots of fruits and vegetables and time in the green town square.  while many of our friends jetted from coast to coast, and off to hawaii and china and beyond we stayed,once again, very local.

and now we are back in the city and school and work.  i see more clearly each year how the preschool special education system should work a lot better and it makes me want to fight.  change is very slow.  and i feel part of a much larger fight in which education and kids are a low priority.  i have been fuming driving to work and listening to republican speeches and sound bites.  my kids have it pretty good this year, with four solid teachers, but i am not satisfied with the way my school district is supporting the "economically disadvantaged" kids at their school.

being a parent, and working in a school system, and seeing the general big systems of our world more and more clearly because i have to wonder how they will affect the lives of my kids and students as they grow i've started to feel very small and powerless at the same time that i am  gaining knowledge.  is there a way to funnel this knowledge into something productive and fulfilling?   i would like to figure this  out before i get too old.

and believe it or not, still thinking about fleeing the city sometimes.  maya and i were feet away from a horrible fight on the number 9 bus  a few days ago.  a 50 year old man and a young guy with an attitude yelling  at each other and shoving and then the older guy hitting the younger--then more shoving and a woman in a wheelchair screaming about babies being on the bus and me holding maya and finally the older guy was hit in the back with a mcdonald's strawberry milkshake and ran away as the police pulled up.  the constant traffic noise has me fantasizing about closing down our street.  there are constant sounds of engines.  i read ecotopia for the 15th time.  i am an occasional peeping tom on facebook especially with friends who are living out in nature, but then i will admit it, i imagine myself living many people's lives and wondering if i would be happier there, it's just a thing i do.

if anyone is reading this, please do me a favor and let me know what you would like me to write more about.  i will do it for you...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

pinnacles national monument

my teacher friend and i took our three kids on an overnight road trip to pinnacles national monument.
there was a very cold swimming pool and a very empty, post-memorial day weekend campground.  we took the hike to bear gulch reservoir which led through a tunnel and two caves, and along some cliff edges which gave me some major vertigo but which i survived.  miles was very kind to me as i clung to the rock wall.  we reached the reservoir at the top (pictured above) just in time to to see a gray fox wind his way down to the water to take a drink.  this morning my friend took the two older kids on a hike almost to the top of the pinnacles.  maya and i stayed below in micro-nature, clearing a space on the ground and building an elaborate tiny village with rocks and sticks right next to a real-live babbling  brook.

along with the fox we saw:
lizards,
bats,
lots of california condors, which are extremely rare
many rabbits,
many quail families
many ground squirrel families

during the night i had a nightmare in which i was living in a housing complex of some sort where a group of people had become violent and were yelling and screaming and shooting guns.  in the dream i was desperate to keep my kids safe and didn't know where to go.  the dream woke me up and when i was fully awake i heard a pack of coyotes howling and yelping in the night.  straight above were countless stars but no one else was awake to see them.

highly recommended campground and hikes, especially if you are not afraid of heights!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

carnaval 2012, kindergarten graduation

pineapple weed growing in a sidewalk crack, 23rd street by the hospital


maya's kindergarten graduation, note the emotion in the backs of the audience members
a dancer in the most excellent carnaval parade today. reminded me of new orleans more than usual, especially the haitian,bolivian, and peruvian crews.  

 at parque ninos de unidos the free farm stand was giving away acme bread, lettuces, pepper seedlings, chard, basil, and these flowering herbs.  the kids ran around high on candy from the parade topped with a watermelon ice pop (no watermelon, chocolate seeds).  miles and his buddy watched two teenagers with skin color and styles somewhat similar to theirs leaning on each other in the grass and laughing with some cute girls and miles said that that would be him and his buddy when they got older.  the neighborhood was full of the buzz of visitors for carnaval, and 23rd street was lovely as usual with landscaped sidewalks and friendly neighbors.  some happy and drunk older men had a pet siamese cat with them eating catfood beside their beer cooler.  tonight miles asked me to meditate with him, which we did with a hokey ipad app.  i am feeling melancholy about my kids growing up so fast, what else is new...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

it is what it is

a friend started telling me about how great it was for her kids when they visited a friend in napa. a big backyard, a tree house, a homemade hot tub, the kids just go off and play for hours. she said her friends just don't realize how hard it can be with kids in the city. as we talked our boys were running around on a soccer field, the girls on a playground with a view of the bay over to oakland, red tailed hawks very high above in the cool clouds. i started my questions of "why are we here then, are we just crazy?", and she replied, probably annoyed at how often i go down this trail of thinking (as you probably are, dear readers)"it is what it is.". this is a saying I have heard many times, and which usually sounds kind of meaningless, but today it seemed right. i need to start thinking more in this zen like way or I will go nuts wondering if i am squandering my kids' lives, and mine, by being in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. it is hard, but there are good things here, and it is what it is. the kids and I watched a great little documentary today called beavers, and i actually found myself wishing i was a beaver, swimming in the clear cold water up in the mountains, surrounded by aspen trees. i will never be a beaver, and i may never live in the country by a river, and i most definitely will never have any certain knowledge that i am making the right choices about where and how to live. this morning we all went to st. francis for breakfast and then miles and i took a very sweet and aimless walk around the neighborhood. we wandered up to harrison street which was closed off for the start of carnaval, and bumped into his school nurse, our neighbor, who mentioned ping pong. and there was the mission rec center right across the street. we went in and found some serious chinese senior citizens playing ping pong. salsa music was blasting in the center as people walked on treadmills and big men played handball in the little squash courts. another chinese family was hanging out, and without much language in common the mom and i assembled the third ping pong table and played doubles for quite a while with her ten year old girl. as we walked back in the sun, talking about architecture and graffiti, miles said that this was a pretty good day so far, and a pretty good summer so far. and i agreed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

edsource report

a brief conversation with a fellow parent this morning had my flee the city alarms ringing.  this parent recently went through a credentialing program to become a teacher, but this is not a good time to be hired in the schools, so she has gone back to work in the non-profit world.  she mentioned considering fleeing not just the city, but california.  she actually has options to move out of the country.

if you have time,  read this edsource report.  click download for the whole thing.  it will either make you want to go out and advocate for tax initiatives that may help the schools, or flee to another state.  or country.  i am sure you know this already, dear readers, but california is a mess.  a beautiful, complicated, mess.

repeat to self: look at my own kids, they are doing fine, they are doing fine.  and where would we flee anyway?  delaware?  a ritzy suburb somewhere?  canada?  i am not sure there is anywhere we could go, and say we did make it out of here to some land far away, how would it feel to be so alone?

there is history of people fleeing unacceptable conditions for promises from far-away lands. all of my ancestors left europe for america during the last two-hundred years.  my best friend left messy california for the relative wealth and stability of the midwest.   there is also history of people staying to fight those unacceptable conditions.  i am starting to feel that i need to step up my efforts to  improve things for our kids and state if we are not going to flee, but how?  it is daunting, but seems imperative.    and do we need an escape plan if things get really really bad?  the economy is getting pretty bad, and it is hard not to wonder if i am just duping myself believing that this is a good place to raise my kids.

once again, repeat to self:  look at your kids, they are doing fine, they are doing fine.  they like school, they have friends, they are at grade level or above, they are healthy and often very happy.

read the report and spread it around.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

the map is the territory

tonight i went out with some co-workers to celebrate and say goodbye to two fellow speech and language pathologists who are getting married and moving away.  one to vegas and one to germany.  it was nice.  at the restaurant i bumped into an old friend from delaware who was going to an art opening later near my house.  i went on the way home and my friends from delaware were already gone but i spent a lot of time looking intently at this amazing amazing artwork.  i love that the gallery where this art was shown is two blocks from my home.  i wish i had $2000 bucks to spare to bring home this beautiful work.

one of our guinea pigs died last night and the kids were devastated.  it is so sad to see my boy child unable to express his feelings.  all he can express articulately is anger and joy.  he cried so hard and hid behind the couch sobbing when he heard the news.  i tried to tell him that he didn't have to talk but that i was here if he needed someone just to hug him but he just sobbed harder and put his hand up saying "don't, just don't".  it seems pretty biological how hard it is for boys to express their feelings.  my daughter, on the other hand, accepted her parents' hugs and cried about how she was heartbroken and accepted comfort. this morning she woke up early and  wrote this poem (spelling  corrected):

love will be found

he died, died, but i still love him
he was a great great friend
but there was a end

and he wasn't there again
prince mermaid

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

when do i let my kid outside alone?

here is maya with a butterfly on her head at the california academy of sciences.  with all of the million dollar exhibits there, her favorite encounter was this one.  i chaperoned this field trip and one kindergarten boy who had never been there before told me "this is a magical place."

the school year is almost over, and i am counting down the minutes.

we were at a friend's house near precita park yesterday and she was telling me how nice it was that her third grader can leave the house alone to cross the street to the park and a new cafe.  i was doing this kind of stuff at age 6.  i remember roaming the woods and finding forts, an area we named strawberry field, the mulberry bush grove, collecting baby frogs. and walking probably 10 blocks by fourth grade to the pet store, and the drug store to buy candy.  yes, there were some wierd times, like when someone hung pornography in the branches of the trees by strawberry fields, and when i almost got hit by a car while running a lemonade stand with aggressive marketing.  but i survived.

it is just too crazy where we live for me to let my kid out alone yet.  i know it is a combination of my tendency to worry and the reality of many mentally ill folks,careless drivers, and crazy traffic around here, but sooner or later this needs to happen.  i need to let him out there alone so he can start to feel more independent and confident.  is living here making my kids less independent?  they are still in the look mommy, watch me, watch me, look, listen stage, sharing their hula hoops skills, calvin and hobbes strips, yu-gi-oh cards.  it is nice and annoying at the same time to have your attention so desired.  do many nine year olds still say "mommy look" upwards from 20 times a day?

anyone reading this have an opinion?  does living somewhere less safe hinder your child's development of independence?  and when are kids ready to be alone in a gritty urban environment?

we will be in sonoma for a few weeks this summer, and i will be giving my son some space to cross a street alone, and buy himself a treat, and then return safely to his mama.

Monday, May 7, 2012

something very small but good.  the wonderful room parents at my kids' school have arranged an end of the year celebration to which were invited "all third grade families", but i noticed that this group did not include the kids in the 2nd/3rd special day class.  i mentioned this to the planners and within a day they had sent out the invitation to those families as well.

the way things are set up for kids in special day classes there are big obstacles for them and their families to be part of the school social community.  most kids come and go on buses, which decreases opportunities for their parents to interact with other school community members.  most of the kids are not very verbal, so they are not going to arrange their own play dates which is how most elementary kids get the out of school social time they love.  and if your kids are not going to have fun with their buddies it is a lot less tempting to put them in the child care at pta meetings, bring them to community building events, etc.  the bottom line is that kids make connections from being together, either in the same classroom or on the same soccer team, or through their parents being friends, and the kids in the special day classes are mostly just with the small group of kids in their own class.

so there need to be more times that kids in the special day classes are with kids in other classes.  with support, of course, to be successful and make friends.  and there needs to be more effort for parents of kids in the special day classes to be included.  i would like to see a lot more of that going on at my kids' school.  i know it is hard with all the other needs.  i was happy to see that ALL the third grade kids were invited to this celebration and i hope they all come.  it will take a whole lot of little steps to make this kind of change, but it should happen.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

sorry, extra super jumpy post




it has been a little extra sketchy around here lately, or maybe i have just been tuning in more to reports of robberies and assaults. ok, i will just say it, shootings. there is a new establishment across from walgreen's called the dirty pigeon. the kids were peering into it from the back seat of the car while i was trying to make a right turn and maya said "it's a bar, or maybe a bar that's a tattoo parlor too." so glad she knows these things. miles and i were joking about how it would be nice to have a new place called the clean white swan instead of the dirty pigeon and cracking ourselves up. it has become the new thing to say around here for a laugh, for no real reason "you dirty pigeon". but deep down not so hilarious when i see a bunch of huge drunk what look like teenagers hanging out outside in a cheech and chong-esque cloud of smoke. i looked it up and the dirty pigeon is actually this . the urban dictionary has a definition here.

maybe i am just getting old. i feel all touchy-feely about pigeons and don't want my kids around a store whose motto is "shitting on everybody". maybe i just need to chillax. a decade ago our friends lived in a warehouse where the dirty pigeon is now and we used to go to super loud parties with live bands playing until 3 in the morning and all kinds of revelry happening. i am sure there were neighbors with kids who didn't love that.

at my niece's birthday miles played about 4 hours of fuzbol. it was a great way for people of various languages, ages, and genders to come together in intense competition and illegal spinning. it made me think about what i am going to need to do to make our boring apartment more enticing for the kids and their friends when they get bigger. fuzbol? ping pong? my mom suggested a swimming pool which made my mind immediately jump to flee the city images, there we are in our country home in sonoma county with a nice pool and the kids are all hanging out. but maybe we can just keep them around with video game time and tasty snacks. maybe we will end up being the place where the kids practice with their rock bands. who knows.

as usual, to cancel out the dirty pigeon and crime statistics we were given a glorious weekend of parties with close-by family, a sunday streets packed with sun and familiar faces and yummy food and live music, and city culture opportunities. here is a photo of maya performing at the brava theater today for the dance mission recital. there were amazing young taiko drummers, salsa dancers, modern ballerinas, and awesome hip hoppers. the other photo is from a week or so ago when miles went on an overnight camping trip to the presidio with his class. the kids walked to the golden gate bridge overlook and then slept on a bluff high above baker beach in gear supplied by the camping in the presidio program, surrounded by cypress and eucalyptus and their buddies. very special.

so, stay here but move somewhere calmer and safer in the city? this would entail more income. stay right here and take our chances? get a ping pong table and some mace? decisions decisions decisions.
xo

Saturday, May 5, 2012

tedd's birthday



if you have a minute and are in the mood for some somewhat raunchy punk rock, take a moment and listen to some songs by yusakuta. dear tedd, happy birthday, your music lives on. the kids are big enough now to observe that the lyrics contain some bad words, and i am big enough to tell them that that's ok. yusakuta was one of the best times of my life. they have seen all the yusakuta era photos and you are becoming a bit of a legend around our household.

my kids are way into hair as well, lots of styling going on. i just told maya i wish we could hang out with my friend tedd. i said he would be able to do some cool hairstyles for her. "oh yay!" she said "rock hairstyles?"

yes!

miss you very very much, my friend.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

colors and shapes not seen here before




these are not the greatest photos, but they show a little of what is happening out back as we try to reduce the rat enticements (vegetables). a little nicotiana plant has become huge, with endless purple blooms. the white carrot flowers stand taller than me. all kinds of nasturtiums are showing up. onions have flowered into perfect white globes and the arugula is flowering and peppery and covered with seed pods. a few forget-me-not seeds have arrived, uninvited but welcome. peaches, strawberries, and raspberries are appearing, and i need to figure out a way to protect them. there are tiny baby birds hopping from branch to branch and chirping in the cestrum tree. a thin empty nest sits in the peach tree. hummingbirds boldly sip from the fuschia just inches from me as i take a photo.

these rats came in and messed with what i wanted to do, and now the backyard is full of unplanned and beautiful things.

i am trying to think of other parts of my life in a similar way. there will be some good out of some of the frankly crummy stuff going on in the world of education right now, i just can't predict exactly what it will be. a now-child's novel about growing up, 20 years from now. a child learning how to protect herself. a friendship. a playground full of fruit trees. a sea change. who knows?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

corny post, awesome at everything


here are some plugs for my kids' school:

next weekend will be the big school fundraiser. it is not dog fest or gran pachanga, but still, a nice little event with a bluegrass prodigy and lots of goodies up for auction. come by if you can and make a bid on something...last year i bought one raffle ticket and won $500! yes! here's the info.

you are also invited to the annual stage write performance of plays written by 5th graders and performed by awesome adult actors with a live band playing songs with lyrics the kids have written. it's at the brava theater this year. you'll laugh, you'll cry, at least one of each, i promise. more info. and my son drew the bubble gum machine man which is featured on the poster. (i'll have to put that on here later, i'm very proud).

which leads me to the title of this post. over the past few years my son has changed from an anxious kid who was worried about trying new things and going places without me to a pretty confident person. these past few weeks have been good ones for him. he played some great soccer, had his artwork chosen for the stage write poster, and won two blue ribbons at the mac can do track meet (which was held on 4/20 from 4-6 in kezar stadium in gg park right near hippie hill --parking was not easy but it was a very mellow crowd). he also started a writing class at 826 valencia and i noticed he was having a pretty good time hamming it up and even arm-wrestling a very cute girl (she beat him). when he showed me his blue ribbons from the track meet he said "awesome at everything" about himself with a huge smile.

part of me wanted to reel him in and remind him he has to work hard, don't get a big head, etc etc but part of me is just so proud. and grateful to the programs that are supporting him...the school which has drama and sports, the parent friends who have worked so hard to make soccer happen, the pirate store tutoring center full of eager young volunteers, the tenderloin track club. my kid is benefiting from some wonderful programs set up to help kids who really need it gain confidence and skills. he is very lucky. and it is inspiring to see all these programs in action, which is nice when things seem so dire with budget cuts and wierd societal priorities. if my kids were being raised solely by their parents i do believe they would be neurotic wrecks so i am glad they do not have to depend on us for everything. i hope things keep on the way they have for my kids, so they can feel mostly good and confident and occasionally even awesome at everything, and i hope all these fabulous programs can continue to survive because i want all the kids i know to feel this way too.

so come to the fundraiser and stage write show!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

random spring holiday-ness




sometimes it bums me out that all of our holiday rituals seem to revolve around candy and/or gifts.

i tried to get the kids interested in learning about the pagan roots of easter with minimal success. i blew eggs and we dyed them and in a moment of inspiration made this mobile. at the zoo we saw a bunny princess but she was all about easter books and parachute games, not springtime and rebirth. last night miles and i accompanied friends to a huge potluck passover seder which was pretty interesting. one of the ideas discussed in little groups was thinking about what our own egypt was and why the desert with its freedom, responsibilities, and dangers might be hard to face, which gave me some things to contemplate. there was great live music and a very cozy singalong at the end with everyone putting their arms around each other's backs in a very friendly way. miles said he liked it but would have liked it better if there was some meat in the potluck dinner. today my brother hosted his annual backyard sugar hunt complete with water machine gun fight, friendly neighbors, and some serious fuzbol. and i did mange to get the kids to help me with the garden a little. damn you, rats! continues, but we harvested some amazing florence fennel and tons of arugula, and i noticed there are now a few artichokes almost ready.

the kids and i capped off the weekend watching the annual bring your own bigwheel race (photo is of maya's favorite racer, her love of nice dresses is gender blind) on vermont street. we were a little late and ran from our house, dashed behind the hospital and zipped right over the highway on the pedestrian bridge. there were so many contestants that the event went on for an hour or so longer than last year so we saw plenty. great music, great costumes, and wonderful to see so many elated adults reliving childhood thrills as they careened around the curves and down the straightaways. if you watch this video to the end you will see that we were almost hit by a michael jackson impersonator.

happy spring!


Friday, April 6, 2012

so there, furlough day!



wow, feels like a lot of furlough days.

we stopped by the new dolores park playground. the best part about this park is, of course, the surreal view. recently the old metal and wood play structures were replaced by the friends of dolores park playground. when miles saw it he commented that "it's not just cool it's sick." but despite the tall and wide slides, climbing wall, kinetic wind sculpture, rocks to climb and blue foam hills to stumble over, my kids were not excited for long. they did spend some time playing with these cool chimes, but overall were more into this climbing tree and the way the leaves smelled (delicious). i wonder how much longer i will be able to hang out at playgrounds with my kids...i love 'em, just the energy of a playground, but maybe my children are starting to move on. waahhh!

we also stopped by the bernal library where miles ran into a buddy. they started reading a book called fart powder aloud together and then discussed the merits of this fine piece of fiction, so they did get some english language arts time in--so there, furlough day!

and there was a poster up at the library about a kindness chain, kids were supposed to write something kind someone did for them on a slip of paper, and the librarian would attach it to the long paper chain laying on top of the dvd section. maya wrote "my mom kised me" with a picture of us puckering up so much i thought i was a parrot. i told miles he had to do it, which sometimes works, and he surprised me by writing "my teacher is kind because she is always teaching me a lot of things and that takes a lot of work." AWWWWWW. so there, nah nah nah nah nah furlough day!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

yikes


maya told me that a boy in her kindergarten class has a crush on her. she told me that he said liked her clothes, said she was smart, and that she was pretty and he liked everything about her.

this afternoon she wanted me to pretend i was a boy wearing jeans and a black t-shirt and sunglasses who was watching her dance. her idea was that she would come over and ask me to dance and i would be so surprised and happy and shy because i was in love with her. but then i would dance with her and we would kiss. a good distraction got me out of this rock and roll version of cinderella because her brother came in and they started playing a wildly unsuccessful jump rope game which ended in two injuries .

i think we need to keep maya away from teen media. no more good luck charlie episodes or high school musical in mandarin.

tough

the special education department in the school district i work for is going through a transition. i have hope that things are moving in the right direction, but we are definitely not yet where we need to be. the idea is a move towards services rather than programs but how this looks in reality has not really been spelled out. say you have a kid who needs a ton of support at school for various reasons, but who also has a lot of skills and potential he doesn't always show. say the school district recommends he gets the highest level of support it can offer, which it says is a "severely impaired special day class" even though the idea we are transitioning toward is that kids just need "specialized academic instruction" for a certain amount of their day rather than being placed in a certain category. it is hard not to hear this and not think your kid is being labeled "severely impaired" and it is hard not to disagree with the recommendation when you visit the class where your kid is assigned and see that all the other kids in this class are not verbal and that there is very little interaction between kids happening. tough tough tough.

i am sure this is not so interesting to you non-special education readers, but we really need to do better. what can be better in these crappy budget times? getting rid of the special day class categories and just looking more at student:teacher ratio would be a good start, but would cost more money. if a kid needs a high ratio of teachers: students, a small class, and a lot of specialized academic instruction can't we provide this without grouping the kids in such a leveled way? if leveling/tracking is not OK in general education elementary why is it OK in special education at the elementary level? maybe REALLY individualizing the ieps, because there really are some very unique kids who don't fit in neatly as severely impaired, mild-moderate or emotionally disturbed (which are some of the names of classes the district can recommend they be placed in) by assigning some of these hard to place kids to specific teachers, with specific paras, at specific schools that might be the best match. this would open a huge can of worms, of course, and probably can't happen. but it might be a start. i felt on the wrong side of the table today making a recommendation that did not seem so great, but was the best we could come up with. of course we can tell this parent that if she goes downtown and is a squeaky wheel she might get a different offer. i hope she does, but felt a lot of compassion today for a parent in a tough situation.

there is a lot of "it will all work out in the end" talk in my work and parenting life, and in general i believe this talk is true, but it would be nice if some of the pain could be avoided in the first place.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

iPad

I am trying to write my first blog post from my new iPad. I will keep it short as I don't quite have the hang of this yet and don't know how to attach a photo. This piece of technology is pretty sweet, but I am a little annoyed that I dipped into my pretty much nonexistent savings to buy it, when the main reason I bought it was for work. Since I have a budget of zero dollars for materials to use with my students, and since my students need manipulatives and visual supports, I thought the iPad might help cut down on the endless trips to the store for new puppets, books, toys, velcro, and craft materials I have been buying. Plus I do not have a computer in the room where I see walk-in students for therapy and (although I do need the exercise) I am tired of dashing upstairs between students to use the computer in the school library. I have become quite friendly with the librarian, which is nice. I have heard rumors all year about how teachers and therapists serving severely impaired students might get iPads for work, but the rumors seem to be just that, so I gave up and bought my own. Now we won't need piano lessons because Pluto the penguin will teach my kids on the iPad! No need for Mandarin summer camp, iPad will teach the kids Mandarin vocabulary!

On a more serious note, some of the apps for the iPad and iPhone are amazing, especially for visual learners. I have some students who could learn a ton of receptive language from some of these apps. A few of my parents can afford the technology, many probably can't. It would be a good bang for the buck to buy iPads for teachers and their students who could really benefit from them. I can think of several of these kids right now. It would make a lot of sense...but I will be surprised if my district buys any of these magical little devices for anyone in these messed up budget times. So I bought one for myself, will share a little with my students, and can recommend apps to my wealthier parents. The rich get richer. The poor get, well, not richer.

Monday, March 19, 2012

better write something




i have been watching a lot of documentaries lately. loving lampposts, about how families deal when their child is given an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. forks over knives, which makes a very convincing argument about why we should all immediately start eating a plant-based whole foods diet (*note, i spent the weekend after watching this eating way too much fried chicken, pizza, and birthday cake--what can you do with three parties in one weekend?), little man, about a mom's advocacy for her 20-week-old preemie son and the effects of this kid's life on his family, and being elmo, about the puppeteer who created this character--his devotion to his dream and how mentors bring up the next generations.

my son turned 9, and it was a very different party than those of previous years. four guests, a sleepover, and unlimited screen time. not long ago we were doing treasure hunts and pirate themes, and now four boys huddled together around their nintendo ds games. miles is growing up fast. but still not able to get his own bowl of cereal! i was very grateful for a long period sunday morning lying cuddled in bed reading our books together.

we had a furlough day friday. miles was invited to a friend's house whose teacher mom organized an all-day activity in which they learned about the branches of government and then wrote a bill and passed a law for kids to get their own phones. maya and i went to my brother's house where four girls did a science experiment, homework, and then wrote and recorded a song about furlough days. it was hard not to think about all the kids who don't have teacher-y parents or parents who could take time off work, and were probably home watching tv most of the day.

this morning mayor ed lee came to congratulate the kids at starr king for their great improvement on the STAR tests next year. i have been seeing some real negatives of teaching to the test lately,and felt a little cynical about this visit. i am seeing firsthand that the focus on high test achievement discourages giving teachers time or motivation to differentiate and help the kids who are struggling or not challenged by grade level material. it also takes time away from the many valuable subjects which are not directly represented on the tests.

many folks have written far more eloquently on this subject, sorry.

mayor lee was so down-to-earth, though, and good at speaking right to the kids, that i appreciated his visit. "work hard and do well in school and you will be better able to get a good job, help others in the world, and help your parents when they get old" was his message.




Monday, February 27, 2012

voices for children


i am listening to the president of a national children's advocacy group, voices for america's children, on npr. check out the website if you have a minute. in all the national debates about the future--the economy, employment, climate change, abortion, taxes, very little time is being spent talking about children. why? the cynical answer is that kids don't have lobbyists. so sad. more people need to get angry about what is happening on the backs of kids, especially poor kids.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

more whining, actually ranting

all right, since i just whined in that last post i will do it again.

rats are ruining my little urban garden! neighbors are saying that when they started the huge hospital rebuild next door a lot of rats lost their homes and moved to the surrounding blocks. it may not be much but tending to my garden is something i really enjoy. lately seeds have not been growing,and then we saw a rat, and then another, and then i realized the rats were taking the seeds. on another gardener's advice i planted some seeds up on my deck in egg cartons and the first night the seeds were taken and the egg carton ripped up. then last night something chewed all the leaves off my prize collard greens tree (grown from a clipping a gardener in the richmond community garden gave me two years ago). i know they are just little creatures trying to survive but BOO ON RATS. now everything i pick will feel just a little less fresh and healthy and a little more contaminated by rat feet. it just makes me want to go have a drink and listen to some metal music in a loud bar. AAAAHHHHHHH!!!! how dare those rats mess with my little vegetable paradise? and how are we going to get rid of them??

Off Balance

I need an administrative assistant. I really do. Because I am paid for 18 hours per week of work. And I spend exactly 18 hours per week providing direct therapy for my students. That leaves another 4-5 hours minimum per week of unpaid work--this is called caseload management. Some of it is good stuff--writing progress reports and new goals, sharing strategies and education with caregivers, coordinating with other members of the student's IEP team. Oh yeah, and planning lessons and therapy. And taking data on progress. And creating therapy materials. And cleaning play dough off the rug.

Some of it is not so good stuff, like completing time surveys and submitting them online. Completing a very lengthy developmental profile for each student twice a year which goes into some central repository and the parent never reads. Right now we have switched to a new online IEP system. To get started ( and yes I am doing this at home in bed because I only have zero paid minutes per week to do this stuff at my actual work site) "all students need to be verified and SEIS records need to be initiated. All service providers need to verify their student caseloads and confirm their students' services, and case managers need to Affirm and Attest each student in SEIS to validate this information." THERE IS A 27 PAGE MANUAL EXPLAINING THIS PROCESS. Excited yet? This is work--entering all this information is work, but it is not really the work I am being paid to do. Why am I doing it? Because the state and federal governments are asking educators to provide more and more and more documentation that progress is being made, and there is no one to provide the documentation except the people providing the services. Kind of crazy.

I am sure you have heard this rant from folks working in the schools before, but it is just feeling so crystal clear to me lately. Next week I have a small space in the morning when I would love to go observe one of my students at his other preschool. This would be the best use of my time and I could brainstorm with his teachers there about intervention strategies. It would be a good bang for the buck for our poor strapped education system. Instead I will be feverishly affirming and attesting the pile of IEPS I have.

The world of private speech and language therapists looks mighty attractive during stretches like this, when I am just exhausted by the hurricane of kids and families and PAPERWORK. I just have to keep remembering that I like the real work that I do...but I like it a lot better when I have time to do it.

I know there is a reason for documentation and measurable goals and online data systems, but there is a point when the pros outweigh the cons. I see it at my work, I see it at my kids school where testing and standards are not always the road to best practices and deep learning. We need some balance in this system.

Monday, February 13, 2012

pitchfork

maya's plan after reading crictor:
if a burglar comes in our house i will just grab my pitchfork and run down the hall right at him and stick him and then i will carry the pitchfork down the stairs with the burglar on it like a flag and then go outside and call 911. and i'll tell the police to give me back the pitchfork for the other ones (burglars).

i feel safer now.

all i ever needed to know i learned in a percy jackson book


home again. it is a day of sudden weather changes, gusts of wind, hard rain, bright sun in a cloudy sky. miles seemed really sick this morning, coughing and hacking after a weekend of marching in the chinese new year parade, playing soccer, playing futsal, but is now dancing around singing "it's a hard butt life" to the tune of hard knock life. now he is surfing on a little rocking chair eating chocolate pudding and grinning ear to ear lip syncing to dynamite and singing "i stick my hands up in the poo sometimes." oh, ho ho, the potty jokes so funny i just can't stand it. really. why didn't i send this kid to school?

i just ate a delicious home grown lunch of a radish sandwich (sliced radish on wheat bread with butter) and a big bowl of radish greens and arugula. the garden continues to surprise me. it kind of does its own thing at this point, although i am sure it could use some more help from me. many of the greens have reseeded, and surprises like big red radishes just kind of pop out some days. sorrel, arugula, broccoli raab, radishes, slowly rounding blueberries, tall green onions,a lone lemon on a small tree. the fruit trees are blossoming, confused by this weather. i don't have much to do with any of it but i love going out back and coming back in with some food.

miles and i watched "pelada" today, a documentary made by two soccer players who traveled around the world filming pick up games and meeting players. i tried to tie in a little geography and explain some of the different cultures, but miles aptly summarized the film as "if you miss something just keep on doing it to enjoy it. or if you miss it keep on doing it. if you quit start again." which is really what the movie was about--the film makers were both players who were very good, but never made it to the pros, and in the end were joyfully playing pick up games in a park as an enrichment to the rest of their lives, like the folks they found playing pick up games around the globe for the pure enjoyment. one child described first seeing a soccer ball and finding it "beautiful".

anyway, the title here refers to the rick riordan books which miles has been reading pretty relentlessly. he is learning about greek myths in detail from them. somehow this is tied in to the rest of this sick day post, and the rest of our lives...how? i am not sure, but you do have to keep doing what you enjoy....reading, writing, studying our goofy kids, sports, marching in a spectacle, pulling backyard greens for lunch. everything doesn't need to be complicated.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

my mandarin language learners and empathy

my kids are in a dual immersion program, mandarin and english. when my son started most of the families spoke only english, and the kids were all learning mandarin together. in the past few years things have shifted, and there are more and more families with children who speak mandarin. in many ways this is wonderful, and the newer groups of kids are closer to the language mix the program is designed to serve. at least a third of my kindergartener's class speaks mandarin fluently, and i think she is learning more from her classmates than my third grader did. we have met so many great families in all the grades.

the ugly side of this is that now kids like my kids are viewed in a negative light by some parents at the school. just a few, but the viewpoint is out there and it hurts. some of these parents may not be aware that they are thinking this way. but kids like my kids (Mandarin Language Learners, or MLLs) are considered to be slowing things down for the kids who are already fluent in mandarin. "diluting the quality of the program" is a phrase i heard about english-speaking families who don't pursue tutoring outside of school for their kids. it is just a few people, but knowing that anyone at a school does not think your kid really belongs is troublesome. it is a public school! it is designed as a dual immersion program!

i remember when we looked for schools many in-search-of-kindergarten parents (including myself) would say they didn't want a certain school because there were too many english language learners (ELLs). it was assumed that the kindergarten classes full of these ELLs would go at a slower pace, and there would only be a focus on "the basics"--not good enough for our kids who already spoke english and knew oh so much. there was also the feeling that kindergartens with too many poor kids who had not attended preschool would not be interesting and challenging for our middle class kids.

now i am on the other side of that equation. is my creative and wonderful daughter who is just starting to learn a new language at school hindering the progress of her classmates who are already bilingual? is my funny and athletic son who reads like a fiend, always does his homework and particpates eagerly in chinese language arts bringing others down? and what about me and my husband? we can't teach our kids anything in mandarin, and although we make sure they do their homework we can't really talk about it. i suggest chinese books from the library but since i can't read them the kids want the ones in english. so what do we do to support their progress in learning mandarin at school? so far the most consistent activity we have done at home is to let the kids watch mandarin videos.

just kind of interesting. i had not thought that enrolling my kids in mandarin immersion would create more understanding in me for those ELL kids who are subtly judged and criticized for being behind in their english language acquisition. i hadn't thought i would feel more empathy for those families who for whatever reason can not provide much academic support at home--but i do. what is the point of thinking a kid or family doesn't belong? it doesn't feel good to know your kid is not wanted somewhere, especially when you consider them to be thriving.

we are moving towards more inclusive practices in special education in this district as well, and all these issues come together--in a public school, and in public society, all kids belong, and all teachers need support so they can serve all our kids as best they can.



Monday, February 6, 2012

catch-up post


it's a gray monday morning and i am off work doing laundry, dishes, sorting out mounds of kid artwork (maya has been drawing lots of lovely ladies and decorated wine glasses), and listening to NPR stories about oil in nigeria and how private equity is destroying our economy.

hard to know what to write about when there is so much to say. i just came from the school where there was a presentation by the kids who will be marching in the chinese new year parade. i liked watching a very cool fifth grade boy help button a third graders jacket and watched my little boy running as part of the dragon, which looks smaller each year as the kids grow bigger. when they announced students of the week lots of people cheered when a little boy who spent the first months of kindergarten being sent to the office and sent home was named student of the week for his class. his smile was huge in his little round face. a parent who will be helping with the parade this weekend confided her fear about being near the school at night, which is sad but honest, as there has been lots of violence in the neighborhood near the school recently. it is hard to reconcile the facts of these bright little kids running around on the playground with the crime and gun violence happening so close to some of their houses.

i have been part of a group interviewing garden coordinators to work at the school and hope that all the efforts of adults--to engage kids with sports, nature, reading, parades,music, art, good nutrition (while struggling through their own lives as teachers, parents and learners) will somehow fortify the kids to steer away from a future of more crime and violence--of the white collar type, the blue collar type, the gun type, the emotional type, the throw your garbage out the bus window type, the ridicule others type, you get the idea. it is hard for all people to do the right thing, don't think i am making judgments here. i know i am not so great at it.

i felt a flash of anger this morning seeing a photo in national geographic kids of michelle obama exercising with a bunch of kids on the lawn of the white house. it bugs me that our president's kids are in private school. it just does.

see, you never know where these rambling posts will lead. the sun just came out. on the couch next to me is a tattered copy of "after the quake" by haruki murakami. what a beautiful book, i encourage you all to read it, a group of stories written about characters in japan dealing in different ways with the facts of their lives after their country is shaken hard.

Monday, January 23, 2012

hanging out with a bottle of wine, foraging, chocolate-making

it was a nice three-day weekend except for the occasional tantrum blowing through. i am trying to learn how to parent my passionate children better, but it can be hard.

a neighbor friend came over one day with wine and our kids wrote comic books and worked on projects while we talked and had time to drink the whole bottle in little cups. it felt spur of the moment and nice to drink wine during the day.

an old friend visited town for a chocolate conference. he makes fantastic chocolate and lives near a volcano in hawaii. we got a little group together and spent a few hours foraging for native edibles in glen park in the mist and rain. the dog got muddy, kids got muddier. we picked lots of miner's lettuce and chickweed, wild mustard and radish. then we brought back the greens and made a big salad to nibble on during an extremely impromptu six-hour chocolate-making party with new friends and old.

so, there is school stuff and scary budget stuff and work stuff and tantrumming kid stuff. but there is also chocolate, the not-appreciated-by-all pleasure of foraging for food, and friends getting together to drink wine and make things. it was a nice weekend. i need more of this.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

xo in the sky, wierd post


my iphone camera did not quite capture it, but we saw this full moon and "x" made of jet plane exhaust. maya called it a hug and kiss in the sky.

maya is almost six now, and we celebrated her birthday with an old fashioned party full of candy, cake, games, streamers, and horrible but much appreciated kidz bop music. maya received a pricey american girl doll named mckenna, who has been renamed thorn hunt, and who is currently being held and styled by her new mother. she came right from the american girl orphanage, but maya also gave birth to her, and i am the grandma.

lately things have seemed stuck in ruts, both in the personal and public worlds, which can be depressing and overwhelming. seeing negative cycles repeat and expand can be scary. this morning, however, i was so happily surprised (shocked, really), to see miles playing with his sister and her new doll. miles agreed to be the dad, and made a blanket for thorn's cardboard bed. i think he was entranced by her long thick hair--miles has been into hair for a while. he used to comb mine when he was just a toddler, and combs his sister's before school in the morning.

it was a nice reminder not to put my kid in a box--he may be obsessed with sports and video games, and buying more video games, but he also tends to dolls, loves his dog, and watched martin luther king's "i have a dream" speech on youtube 3 times this morning.

there is a key to unlock the part of every person which is capable of being caring and nurturing towards others. for miles, it may be hair. whatever it is, it seems like finding and taking care of this part of all of us is important for our future. i hope that nurturing this part of the next generation will be up there on the government's list of educational priorities. how to make this happen??

Sunday, January 1, 2012

the horse boy

i just watched a documentary about a couple seeking help for their son with autism, the horse boy. they end up taking him on a journey to what must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, mongolia, and riding horses for days on end as they met with shamans and are accompanied by the guide and his six-year-old son. at the end of the trip the boy had changed, with less tantrums, more social connectedness with peers, and was using the toilet. the father considered it the work of the shamans, the mother was not so convinced, but they both seemed strong in their belief that the trip had drastically changed their lives. they now run a center for children with autism that specializes in equine therapy, out in the country in texas.

i couldn't help but feel as i watched this quite beautiful film, that just about any kid in the world would come out stronger after a journey like this, knowing that it was all for him, to help him, that his parents were 100% there for him, and that each day he could do his most preferred activity for hours, ride horses, through an amazing wide open landscape of water, green, and blue sky. AND there was a little boy there with him, all day, a funny little friendly typically-developing kid who just jumped right in to playing with him. chase, animals, pretend fighting and wrestling, silly sounds. wonderful.

of course my mind went to two of my current obsessions--that all kids need the kind of time this kid lucked out to have--time engaging with the natural, not man-made world, of plants, animals, rocks, water, mud. and that kids with autism need time, lots of time, to play with friendly, typically-developing kids.

i am in a city where these things are not happening for many kids, and the inequities are hard to take, especially when the kids are just entering the world of school. why do some preschool kids with autism in our public schools end up in places with lots of nature and great opportunities to become friends with peers both with and without disabilities? why are others assigned to schools with mostly asphalt, and ONLY kids with disabilities to interact with? i know things are changing, and "we're working on it" but how is that going to help the kids who are missing out on opportunities right now? it is driving me a little crazy. i am becoming more of an inclusion advocate, especially for preschool. kind of wandering all over the place here, but that is where this film took me. check it out if you have a chance.

i have probably written this sentence too many times on this blog but ALL kids need more time in nature. we are working on it at my kids' school, but it is slow work.

2012 is the year i am going to be louder and squeakier calling out what i think could be much better in my little world of special education. i will just have to be patient, thoughtful, and see if i can use some of that drummer's timing i used to have when i call it out.

Friday, December 30, 2011

winter staycation 2011

some photos. it has been a beautiful two weeks off with sun, fog, presents, treats, video games, tennis camp, golden gate park, zoo, cliff house, beach. one of my kids is going through some kind of emotional change, and there have been a lot of tears and angst most evenings, but that is a story for another time. another year has rolled by, another opportunity for resolutions-- which are kind of ridiculous in many ways, but i still have a little hope i can change for the better.