School: Back in Session Against All Odds (And Reason)

A few weeks ago I started receiving emails about the school district’s plan to reopen all campuses. They would offer online instructional lessons until the end of September, at that time, all students would be required to return to their designated schools. That was the plan until last night.

The Texas attorney general decided to pen an opinion piece in regards to the precautions schools were taking during the health crisis we are currently in. As confirmed cases in the state have skyrocketed in the last couple of months, I was fully expecting the same precautions to come into play for the coming school year. However, Ken Paxton has decided that there isn’t enough justification to delay physically reopening schools in Texas. https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/news/releases/ag-paxton-issues-legal-guidance-school-reopening

Based on the attorney general’s letter, or rather his opinion that there isn’t enough reason to continue to fund online learning, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) changed their plan to reopen schools. Shortly afterward, I received an email from the school district stating they would now be requiring students to be physically present by mid-August.

Let’s unpack this. Schools didn’t reopen after spring break out of an abundance of caution. What started as a week long extension of spring break turned into another two weeks, a month, and eventually the end of the school year. Parents praised teachers, finally realizing (or admitting) the weight and importance of their work wasn’t always reflected in their salaries. Shortly after the beginning of summer vacation Gov. Abbot began opening the state in phases, as most other states did.

People flooded any and all open establishments: no masks, no questions, no worries. Social distancing guidelines went out the window, thrown into a gust of wind named abandon. Businesses would display signs asking customers not to believe the “scamdemic made up by the left.” That was June. Since then Texas hit record numbers in confirmed cases and hospitals warned that they are either at capacity or quickly approaching it.

And now schools will follow the same trend – we are being herded into an unnecessary (and potentially deadly) risk by politicians who are more concerned with votes and fundraisers than the health of the people they are supposed to serve. We should be protecting our future generation, not serving them up in a petri dish.

I’m Back?

It’s been a tough few months, right? I’m not saying today is particularly better but I have a few moments to myself to just unwind, so hello again WordPress – I have missed you. It’s been a shaky year at best, every person in our home has been sick at one point or another at varying degrees, and the future doesn’t look that much better yet.

The virus(es)

I began working from home during the first quarter of the year. It was exciting, and dare I say, brought new energy into my day-to-day struggles. I welcomed the renewed vigor that tackling the IT obstacles for my team brought to the forefront of my managerial tasks. It was relatively short-lived as everyone’s issues began to resolve themselves and the daily hum of complacency washed ashore at my feet again.

About three months ago, A developed a cough and a runny nose. As far as we could tell, she never ran a fever and the doctor said she was starting to get an ear infection. She was ordered Amoxicillin, Benadryl and SensiMist. Around this time, D started coughing, but no runny nose or fever until one afternoon it hit him all at once. My 62-lb five year old went down like a bag of bricks. His nose was draining non-stop and he had a horrendous cough – crying, whining and clingy. He ran a fever for three days but his Strep, flu and COVID tests came back negative. “Let whatever virus this is run it’s course, it typically takes about seven to ten days.” It was hard to see my robust, most-times verbal, healthy child so ill, frail and nonverbal again. And then, finally, I started coughing.

I was negative for COVID, but I developed an upper respiratory infection. So it was a round of antibiotics for me this time. That/those virus/es is/are still here though – my Dad is fighting his way through it now. A couple of days ago he looked like a used paper towel thrown on his bed, his breathing labored as he struggled to sit up and eat soup. He seems like he’s feeling better now, but my Dad will always say he’s fine even when he looks like garbage.

Protest

In the middle of all of this, George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. I have seen the stills in the news articles but not the video. As a mother to a young Black boy, I cannot listen to a Black man beg for his life and call out for his own deceased mother. As a human being I cannot willingly watch someone die – excuse me, not “die”, be murdered.

Back in 2004, I went through MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Brooklyn, NY. I was an emancipated minor – or less than 18 years of age – and I was leaving for USAF basic training the following day. I was waiting to take one of the many physical exams (as required per my specialty code) when an E-6, surrounded by other active duty service members, called me over to watch something on his computer. I heard the exclamations, the expletives, and the hollering for the better part of 15 minutes and not one to disappoint, I walked over. The only warning he gave me was, “are you squeamish?” I shook my head, “No, Tech Sgt.” “You can’t tell anyone I showed you this.” He played the video of Daniel Pearl’s beheading. At first, your brain doesn’t know how to process the images your eyes are sending it – that lasts about five seconds. I stood and watched in silenced horror as the others watched it again, their initial shock has turned into more expletives and raucous laughter. I have already watched a man lose his life at the hands of others, I have no intention of doing it again.

It is refreshing to see people of all backgrounds exercise their constitutional rights and demand their voices be heard. Do I think it will necessarily turn a tide? I’m white-knuckling my guarded optimism for change. I have experienced blatant racism first-hand: as a child, an active duty airman, and most recently, as a civilian. Yes, I am a veteran but no one expects the short, bilingual, Hispanic mother of two kids to have served for six years. Jane Elliott (Blue Eye/Brown Eye Experiment) proved how easily we can fall in line with racism when, in fact, we are all members of the human race.

And in the midst of all the protesting and calls for justice, we are still seeing videos of police brutality and citizens calling the cops on Black people. Why? Does it mean nothing to watch them die over and over again? Playing chicken with their lives over innocuous actions has been America’s unspoken past time and now it’s finally under a microscope.

“I take a picture”

D either loves staying at home all the time, or he’s going stir crazy enough that his brain is forcing him to talk. For the last few weeks I’ve noticed he’s been taking pictures of random things with his iPad. Most of the pictures are of the TV on his favorite shows – although, he has several pictures of My 600 Lb Life (I haven’t figured that one out yet), a couple of me and Papa, maybe one or two of A.

I logged off from my job for the day and cuddled up with A on the couch. Jumanji was on. D’s intense interest of animals quickly drew him in, he started naming them all and eventually he settled down enough to grab his iPad to take pictures. Out of force of habit I asked him what he was doing, not expecting any acknowledgement.

“I take a picture.”

“… you what?”

“I take a picture.”

He didn’t even look up from scrolling through his latest photos. The nerve of this kid. It took me three years to get him to call me “mommy” but he takes some pictures and all of the sudden he talking? In full sentences?!

Of course I’m extremely proud of his progress. However, I’m worried the next time the two sides of his brain make a major synapse it’s going to give me a heart attack.

ABA Therapy? Is that you?

I may not have been as vocal about the fight to get D ABA therapy lately but it’s still been an uphill battle.  The new insurance has been somewhat cooperative and they’re acting like they’re going to pay for full-time ABA but I’m not holding my breath, and to be honest, I’ve stopped worrying about it as much.  These past few weeks (shelter-in-place) I have seen a leap of improvement from him:  using words y’all, washing his hands without me having to tell him 10 times, and following basic directions like, “don’t put jelly in your hair.”  I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of him at this point.

Just to be clear though, he’s picking up A LOT of his progress from A.  From the attitude to the yelling back, he’s has become a bigger version of her to an extent.  This wouldn’t normally be a problem but she is as sassy as they come, and he’s picking it all up.  I guess we have to take the good with the bad at the end of the day.

The main reason I’m excited about ABA is because Kindergarten is coming up in the fall.  Kindergarten.  My anxiety, my blood pressure, my sanity… you get the point.  Our school district wants the kids reading before they move onto first grade.  I just got my kid to say “yes” in a purposeful way, but reading?  When I was a kid the passing requirement was using scissors (which D can do btw) so I wonder if this is too ambitious or if I need to hunker down.  Either way, ABA will come as a relief for him – at the very least he will be getting out of the house instead of asking to go to the zoo and the park on a daily basis.

I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy.  Warm wishes from us.

Balloon

I am somewhat of a germaphobe. One of my least favorite things to do is wash chicken. It is for this reason that there is always a box of latex gloves on my kitchen counter. Recently, my kids have taken ownership of them and figured out they can make balloons at will.

We’re done with dinner, my dad and I are having our evening tea and D decides to blow up one of the gloves. Not one to be outdone, A makes a balloon also. My dad handed her a marker and told her to draw a face.

“Ok, first ovals for the eyes… and eyebrows… and then a line for the mouth… circles for the ears… oh! I forgot the nose! She needs hair! … alllll dooooone!”

A hands me her work of art and I’m not sure what to say. I’m almost overwhelmed by her creativity and then she says, “Look Mommy! I draw you!”

I’ve never looked more beautiful.

Fire Drill

Some days working full-time can be more stressful after you get home. Shortly after returning to school post-Christmas break D had a fire drill. I came home after picking up A at daycare and my dad was in a somber mood, unusual for him. I noticed D was keeping his distance from Papa, unusual for him.

My dad took a deep breath and said, “I need to tell you something. Um, D had a fire drill at school today. I had sweet potatoes in a pot and I went to the garage to throw out some recycling and D stood at the door of the garage and yelled: FIRE! I ran back in the house and found that he had grabbed a paper towel, lit it on the burner, and then pulled it over onto the counter. So I had to throw out those muffins and the crockpot knob is halfway melted.” My dad was cool as a cucumber as my anxiety hit the roof.

It took a lot for my dad to tell me what happened knowing how easily I can freak out when it comes to my kids. It’s ok. Everything is ok now. They’re ok. I had to keep repeating in my head for several minutes. D finally gave me a hug and flashed his huge dimples, then he pulled me over to the crockpot and said, “oh no! Broken!” “It’s not broken buddy, it melted.” He looked at me as if to say: I knew that, and walked off.

Needless to say my dad is waiting until D is asleep to throw out the recycling. That day could’ve had a very different ending, but I’m grateful it didn’t. D knows he’s not allowed to be near the stovetop, unless he’s invited to watch how a meal is cooked. His favorite to watch is spaghetti.

“He’ll Go When He’s Ready”

I can’t begin to tell you how much I disliked that phrase when D was four. It felt like a cop out. There wasn’t enough wording to make me understand my son just wasn’t ready to potty-train. And then he was. Out of the blue, D decided he would use the toilet all on his own.

He turned five a couple of weeks ago – we had a jungle/Lion King/safari-themed afternoon. A few weeks before then, he surprised us by randomly (and independently) dropping what he was doing and running to the nearest restroom. The next step: getting him to communicate that he needed to use the potty.

D’s receptive vocabulary has multiplied since the beginning of the school year. His expressive language has also grown, but not at the same pace. (Any improvement is a step in the right direction.) I have Velcro’d “I need potty” PECS cards throughout our home in the hopes that he’ll begin the use them but I have a hard time catching him before he reaches the restroom in order to properly model the desired behavior. (I apologize if the vernacular is confusing.)

At around 3:30 this morning D woke up. He asked for milk and was talkative for a few minutes. I heard something about animals for the most part and then he started repeating: puppy, puppy, poppy, pah-ppy. Slowly opening one eye I asked, “you want a what?” “POPPY,” he pointed to the bathroom. We jumped out of bed and ran to the commode.

In my exhausted excitement, I almost didn’t notice he was letting out a satisfied, “ahhhhhh!” I have no idea where he learned that from but I let out a hearty laugh – relieved that we made it to the potty on time and that my kid has a great sense of humor.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

It was late last Sunday and we couldn’t decide what to eat for dinner. We went to Half-Priced Books to see if any of the cookbooks inspired our appetite – no luck. We ended up at Jersey Mike’s Subs. It was only my dad, A and myself.

When we walked in, A was her usual chatty self and greeted the lady behind the counter. The lady told her she was cute and A said, “I like your hair!” That was the first time I heard my daughter compliment a stranger. I was also pleasantly surprised that she was able to recognize that it was different than her hairstyle. The lady was wearing box braids with embedded purple streaks.

I guess this is important to me because I want A to understand that we are all different and we should be celebrated for the reasons we’re not alike. She’s only three so she only knows D and accepts him exactly how he is. One day she’ll ask about her brother and we’ll get to have the conversation about differences not always being tangible. I look forward to it, but for now I’ll settle for her admiring box braids.

Back-to-Pre-K

Summer 2019 came and went and took the “hiatus” I was on with it. A couple of updates: Baby A is now three (so I can’t call her Baby A anymore), I got a promotion at work, we bought and moved into a new home – all while juggling swim classes for D and dance classes for A. I’m still tired y’all.

This is D’s official year of pre-K. I’m proud of his progress so far but I’m anxious about him going to school all day. Mostly because he still has trouble verbally addressing his needs. At home, he’s potty-trained, he will stop what he’s doing and bolt to the nearest restroom but it’s not that easy at school. He’s great at asking for what he wants – not his basic needs.

The first day of school was interesting also. Until now, I’ve always seen D be very social and at a minimum smile at all of the teachers and therapists at school. This year he hid behind me bashfully, peaking at them from the back of my shirt. I feel like this is typical behavior? That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

It’s been an interesting summer for A also. She’s maturing at an exponential rate. It’s amazing how much she picks up from me, particularly my vernacular. Again, I feel like this is typical behavior, and I’m really hoping she grows out of it.

I look forward to catching up on the summer posts I missed. I hope everyone had a great one!

Disperse

It’s not a secret that my parents are divorcing and the chain of events following the announcement are starting to snowball.  Last Friday, my dad came to live with us and to be completely honest:  I feel like I won the lottery.  As happy as I am that my dad is here, I still worry about the loose ends.

My parents’ divorce won’t be finalized until next week and I have a feeling my mom will fight to make it as difficult as possible.  My dad just wants to sell the house and everything in it; start all over.  I can sense defeat in his walk, he’s tired of the drama.  However, he has managed to find joy through the underlying sadness in the kids.

He’s only been here a couple of days but D and Baby A act as if he’s been in their lives since they were born.  They gravitate to him:  pulling him to play, asking for him when he’s not within their immediate view and they listen to him.  Y’all – I cannot express how amazing that is.

In preparation for his arrival we’ve been house-hunting for the last several weeks.  He needs his own space and we’ll be moving in the middle of next month.  This should be an exciting time but I’m overcome with dread occasionally.  I know he’s burning through his 401k – my mom wants half.

Half.  He has worked 43 years of his life, paid her bills when she was unemployed, paid for vacations, paid for her plastic surgery and she wants half.  Yes – I’m pissed.  It’s not even about the 401k, it’s because my mom is trying to “outwit” me but really all she’s doing is insulting my intelligence and making a fool of herself.

“How much is an apartment down there?  How about a townhouse?  Are those expensive?”  Mind you, my mom doesn’t even like coming to visit.  Am I really supposed to believe she’s asking out of mere curiosity?  Who knows at this point.

I’m going to try and focus my energy on our home and making the best of the time I have left with my dad.