Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Anatomy of a Homeschool Snow Day

I'm such a mean mother that I tend to make my children do schoolwork even on their sick days, so you can bet that I don't let them off the hook just because it snows. Actually, I don't always make them do work when they're sick, but I do try to get them through some material if they aren't feeling too rotten. That said, there is still something about a good substantial snowfall that calls for bending the rules a little.

7:30 - Sleeping in is one of the first concessions to the weather. Starting late is no big deal, especially after getting a phone call at five in the morning from John's work, telling him to not come in before noon.

9:30 - Sitting snug on Mom and Dad's bed, watching the snow blowing around out the window, Carter and I discuss run-on sentences while Austin does a little Rosetta Stone French.

10:15 - We watch the bird feeding frenzy around the four stations of the bird seed taste test experiment we set up for Austin's ornithology course. Highlights include two blue jays sparring over the suet and a bald eagle flying over.

11-12 - We get down to honest to goodness schoolwork. We're even in the classroom!

12:00 - Lunch accompanied by a lively discussion about which Pixar characters we are each most like when we lose our tempers.

1:30 - Austin finishes up geometry while Carter suits up and heads out in the snow with Grandpop (I highly recommend everyone have grandparents as neighbors).

Next on the agenda is reading an excerpt from Moby Dick, a group dance-off Wii-style, and shuffling around the schedule to accommodate the lessons we missed (of which there are only two!). I love my life.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Coming Clean

One of the blogs I frequent is written by a woman whose little girl died two and half years ago. I was introduced to her blog by the friend of a friend and found the brave way she told her story and continued to live her life after such tragedy to be so compelling that I began reading her on a regular basis. Last week she wrote a post that was so poignant I haven't been able to get it out of my head. Her honesty struck a real chord with me and took me back to the days when my oldest son was diagnosed with autism--thirteen years ago this month.

Autism is like a death in some ways. I remember the time I spent watching my sleeping little boy, crying over the loss of the life I dreamed he would have. I did a lot of grieving in those days. At an age when most children are opening up and their lucky parents are getting to know them more and more, our son was retreating farther away from us. He wouldn't talk to us or look at us. He wouldn't hug and kiss us. It was years before he could bring himself to say "Mom" or "Dad". And while the years that have passed since then have been full of many victories, I wanted to let you know that I still grieve.

I have heard many parents of special needs children vow that they wouldn't change a thing about their children. In an effort to push societal acceptance, it has become trendy to declare that disabilities do not need a "cure". Let me just say that I would love a cure for my son. I do not relish the suffering and isolation that he must endure and it is the dearest wish of my heart for all the obstacles in his path to be removed. I know that our family has been blessed by the trials this has brought into our life; I don't sit around wallowing in self pity. However, I have had moments where resentment has washed over me. Mostly I focus my anger at my son's disease, but I've also leveled it at innocent women whose only crimes have been to produce non-autistic offspring.

So, to all of you women out there who fall into that category, I'm sorry if I sometimes hate you. I'm sorry if I'm not sympathetic when it comes to the challenges you face in raising your children because I'm too busy thinking that I have it harder than you. I'm sorry if I don't show enough appreciation for the support you show my son when it doesn't come in the form I think it should. I'm sorry for sometimes blaming you for not understanding how it feels to be me.

The vast majority of the time, I don't feel those feelings. I certainly feel them less these days than I did when my grief was new. I just want you and all the mothers that are parenting special needs children to know that my grief is still there, despite all my progress in coming to terms with it. I also want you to know--and this is the most important thing my grief has taught me--to celebrate the little normalcies of your children. They may seem as automatic as breathing, but they are truly miraculous.