Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Scottness Monster

Child protective services showed up at our house. Only Tommy was home, but at 12 years old, we were pretty sure we were on solid legal ground leaving him there for a few hours. The worker told Tommy she "just wanted to know the truth", which left Tommy somewhat flummoxed. "Sure!" he replied.

While Erik and I counted down our frontmost marginal parenting decisions of the past few weeks (the list was surprisingly long and impressive array of missteps and mistakes), he made an appointment for the worker to come back and talk to him and the boys, both alone and separate. I was working, and although I was curious....I wasn't too worried. Turned out it was about Scotty, and the alarm had to have been sounded by summer camp the week before.

When the worker showed up, she explained that Scotty had spilled some water at camp and severely over reacted. Crying, scared, etc. When the camp counselor questioned him, and tried to reassure him that this was not a tragedy, Scotty burst out with, "I get hit! My brother gets hit! My mom gets hit!" Which, really, is only tragically, hilariously funny because none of those things is true. Erik literally laughed when she told him.

"He's just talking. [did not add: out his ass] You'll understand when you meet him." He left the room and went to play guitar while she talked to the kids. He left the door open and could hear her laughing. "Scotty, are you afraid of anything?" Scotty:  "Yes! Have you seen the big yellow tractor at Yolore's house!" 

File marked "unfounded" complaint.

It's hard to explain Scotty. He's a very quirky, unusual kid. But if you meet him...well, no explanation needed. :D He has an insane vocabulary, that he uses totally appropriately. Example: We were at the top of the ferris wheel, overlooking the fair. What six year old wouldn't say "I'm looking for Aunt Karen"? Scotty:  "I'm trying to locate Karen." When he sees a red mini van: "That's a version of your car, just a different color." When he's done: "Set a course for home." (Trekies unite!) 

He practices Extreme Walking and will move furniture all over the house so he can bounce and twist and flip his way through without ever touching the floor. He exhibits mild (in some cases) to moderate (in most cases) OCD behaviors. My brother has called him Monk, after the slightly obsessed tv character, since Scotty was two years old.

He's obsessed with death and dying, and earnestly needs me to reassure him, not occasionally, that human beings can, in fact, live to be 100. But I always gently add, "Scotty...everybody dies. If you live, you have to die. It's nothing to be afraid of. The important thing is to love each other with all the days we're given." I always tell him this while I hold his hand.  Yet, when a small mouse (meant to be eaten by the classroom snake) passed away before he could be swallowed, Scotty cried over his cage and told me it was "his destiny" to use his "energies" to help the dead mouse. He shut his eyes tight and said "I will give some of my life, so he can live." Sometimes, all a mama can do is hug a boy tight and whisper "shhhh" in his ear.

My mom tells me he's indulged and thinks he's the way he is because somehow, he's spoiled? I still don't understand it, actually. He is who he is; marvelously, gloriously, impossibly different Scotty, and very often, I don't know what to say or do with him...but I love him even when I can't understand him, and I try hard not to be impatient with his quirky ways, even when he's so different from me I don't know how to start. He hates change. The first day of anything causes such anxiety and panic in him that he slowly decombusts over his morning routine, until finally he's rolled in a ball, crying, and whispering, "Nobody loves me." I curl myself around him and hug him...."Mama loves you, Scotty. Mama knows this: you get so nervous on the first day! But mama also knows this: you are so happy and smart and kind...this day is going to be a great day. And I'm going to hold your hand, and you're going to get through this part, because there's a lot of fun waiting for you on the other side. I'm here to remind's always this hard for you....but only at first."

Lately, I've noticed that he queues up miscellaneous physical ailments. A jammed finger, a splinter, a stubbed toe....I think he feels it's acceptable to cry over these things, instead of how he's feeling. When he does this lately, I hug him and rock him and tell him..."Scotty, it's normal to feel this way. It's okay to cry when you're feeling scared or lonely or sad or angry." Scotty: "But my finger's my finger!" I know, honey. I know.

I'm so afraid of disappointing him. What if he needs something I do not have? I think...there are times, thinking about my responsibilities as his mom, when I need somebody to hug me tight and whisper "shhh" in my ear. Here's what I know: I love him. I love my children. My story didn't even exist until theirs started.

I hope that's enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Late Summer Garden

 summer squash
 jungle out there
 pumpkins (LOVE)
 seriously....a jungle

So many cucumbers! Lots of green tomatoes, but it's been a bad year for tomatoes. Not one tomato has been harvested! I wonder if it's the same all over? I have been too busy to know what is happening in the tomato world.

August is a bit of a blur for me at the moment...two birthday boys ate many cupcakes and I worked for two weeks and the boys went to day camp (LOVE) and I worked hard...setting up my classroom and STILL wasn't quite ready for the first day of school two days ago. 

It's foggy these mornings....I'm feeling quiet and open to possibilities. I started taking a writing class on Monday evenings (worst. timing. ever.) and as you can see from this stellar blog post...that shit works! ;)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Before and During

I've been keeping very busy the last few weeks. I was overtaken by the urge to completely overhaul my classroom. Several contributing factors led me to go through every file, box, closet, cupboard, and drawer. I have been purging, recycling, donating, gifting, and tossing like....well, frankly, like it isn't my own stuff. Do you know that feeling? I love when I feel completely detached from STUFF and I like to take advantage of those periods of time. Teachers (elementary school teachers, in particular) are notorious hoarders. But I had three big steel file cabinets in my room....representing 15 cumulative years of teaching 5 different grade levels AND five years of being a math coach....and 90% of what was in those filing cabinets.....went straight into the recycling or the "free to good home box". I pushed those empty cabinets into the hallway and I feel about 2000% better already.

But more than just cleaning, and organizing, I've taken a big leap and I'm actually....well, I guess the word I'm looking for is "decorating". There are teachers who LOVE to make bulletin boards and pick a "theme" each year....The Beach, then The Rainforest, then Western, and on and on. Then there is me. I do not. I gladly leave up the backings for three years (and they were kindly left up by the person who had the room before me! lol) and have students staple up work when the mood strikes.

But I don't hit me this summer that I would nest into my classroom, the same way I nest into my home. And I'm never going to be what I am not, but I was suddenly inspired to be a much better "what I am".

So here are some befores and some durings, as I am not done.

 Here's something funny. I typically think of my closets as pretty organized. It's not unusual for me to even have some empty shelves in my closets, so this before picture of the first two kinda shocks even me. But, at the end of the year, things that are usually out and about in the classroom need to be stowed away in favor of a deep cleaning (our custodians work their butts off all summer! love them!) so that accounts for some of the haphazard look. But not all of it, no sir.
Here is the first closet. Bottom three shelves (blue, then white, then repurposed green worm bin haha!) are all base ten math materials. units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Need them.
Next shelf is a box with my unit on rocks (a box of rocks! only a teacher!), a box of multiplication array cards, and on top, a box AND two tubs of dice - dice!!!! - and three big jars of assorted beans. If you're wondering about my mental health, so am I. SO MANY DICE. I actually labeled the box of dice with a small sign that says "OMG Dice" haha. For some reason, everything I touched had some number of small paperclips and dice. I cannot explain, but if you need either, give me a call.
 Nothing fancy here, and I've already emptied those shelves and am separating those books into "staying" and "giving away", but $7.50 for a shower curtain, rings, and a tension rod never looked so good in my opinion. And a coat of black paint makes EVERYTHING better, including two cement garden blocks and a shelf I found that, it seems, was once part of that very bookshelf.

 Speaking of black paint, I'm looking at you writing cupboard. This is a during and after, technically, since in the photo on the left I've already painted the top and sides with the black paint. Picture the "oak" veneer on the sides and straight up board on top, since the oak veneer panel had popped off long before I moved into the classroom. Contact paper left over from pantry (surprisingly easy to apply...I had certainly anticipated much cursing, but it was a pleasant 6 minutes) and it's no longer being used for writing.
 These are the extra math materials (a lot of these will come out and go into individual bags the students keep at their desks) and the shelves where their Problem Solving Journals are kept. The kids can use all of these at will.
 Black paint for all (love you black paint!) and some Dollar Store scrapbook paper....and the afters are so much nicer! In the after picture, I have the cubby facing the "wrong" direction because on top is a stacking 'inbox' system I use to keep their math folders. It only fits on the cubby in this direction, so for now, this makes the most sense to me. We'll see if the orientation is a problem once The Squirrels move in. Oh, why can't they keep these in their desks? Because they aren't allowed to. Things in their desks get ripped, lost, spilled on, stuck to.....and, whatever else. No desks for you!
 Before: 24 cubbies. These were when K-3 had 20 students. Each student was assigned a cubby for....I don't know? Homework? Book storage? Mail? I have no idea, but the tell-tale stickers of student names (students I've never even met who are, I'm assuming, driving by now) and generally grungy appearance has been hidden for three years under.....uh, MORE math bins. haha What can I say? I'm a hammer, so everything I see is a nail.
 During: Meet my new writing center. Black paint on the sides and run across the fronts, more Dollar Store scrapbook paper and this showstopper is going places. 24 cubbies for a writing center, you ask? Oh, it's full.

Anyway, I've been working, painting, sorting, tossing, and organizing. Feels good! Something more interesting soon, I promise :) and Michelle, I haven't forgotten about you... I have Disney opinions, believe me!