Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

Everyone else in the world is doing a "best of the decade" and "what happened this year" list, so I thought I would throw my synopsis out into the ethos.

A lot of my FaceBook friends have status updates today indicating that they are glad to see 2009 go. While the past 365 brought us a lot of conflict and confusion, it also brought us some answers, closer to our friends and found us more involved in temple life.

While Jack's diagnosis has certainly been the central theme of 2009, we were happy to have some fantastic diversions as well.

January found my back in the Big Easy courtesy of Sisterhood. My friend Pam and I got the opportunity to travel together to New Orleans for a fantastic leadership conference. It also gave us some one on one girl time, which was really nice.

In May, Osi and I both got a chance to participate in the roast of our outgoing music director, Bryan Zive. It was a great chance to give the kid some flak, drink with our friends and generally throw, or be a part of, a fantastic farewell party. In May we also got to see the fogies from "This is Spinal Tap." An amazing concert of just about every different kind of person you can imagine. We had a great time yukking it up and singing along with our friends the Baskinds and the Howards.

June found us in Marietta, on a much needed getaway. Well, sorta. It was the marching band reunion I had helped plan. While it was a headache while it was being planned, it was completely gratifying to see the former director and assistant director and so many of the people whose lives they had touched come together to reminisce. It also allowed me to catch up with a lot of old friends and see who they had become. Always interesting.

Our summer was filled with a lot of family time. Trips to the zoo, the Popcorn Pops, the Bexley July 4th parade and the temple picnic were all opportunities for us to spend time together as a family doing some pretty fun stuff.

One of my favorite traditions (is two years a tradition?) is picking apples with my college girlfriends and their kids in the fall. I remarked to my friend Erin as we lifted our sons to reach an especially juicy fruit that this, in the orchard with my son and friends, was my happy place. I look forward to it every year and I hope we continue to frequent the orchard for years to come once the leaves start to turn.

Jack actually "got" trick-or-treat this year, so it was wonderful to watching him all spiffed out in is Top Gun costume and use his manners. i was a very proud momma and he was a very sugared-up boy.

Among other things Jack "got" this year, was Hanukkah. Or at least the candle lighting = gifts concept of Hanukkah. It was really nice to have him look forward to it every night and, in fact, on December 31, he is still asking if we can "do Hanukkah" tonight.

So, as much as I want to rail and rage against 2009, it has produced some pretty fantastic memories and time together with some of our favorite people. I hope we can be so blessed in 2010. Happy New Year to all of you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Crisis" Management

Since Thanksgiving, the JCC has had a third teacher working in Jack's classroom. Kylie is a senior at Ohio University majoring in Early Childhood Intervention. She has made tremendous strides in eliminating Jack's flight risk, keeping him away from doors and helping with his meltdowns. We still need work with using out words when we are mad, frustrated, sad or jealous, but, hey, he is four.

Meanwhile, Osi and I have been trying to find an aide to help in the classroom to shadow Jack and give the teachers some help. We interviewed a gal whose resume was impressive, but who was not at all the "warm and fuzzy" we were seeking. She seemed unenthusiastic to be on the interview, yet alone in the classroom. We were going to give her a shot anyway, out of desperation, but she also decided it wasn't a good fit and waited until yesterday to tell us she wouldn't be taking the job next week.

Jack has two teachers in his room. He had two teachers from August until Thanksgiving. While this did present logistical challenges while he was a flight risk and constantly at the doors, they managed (Again - not ideal, but they did it).

Kylie's last day at the JCC is today. Yesterday I informed the social worker, teachers and administration that our aide had flaked on us. Apparently now we need to meet to formulate "A Plan."

Well, folks, the plan is that we will continue to pay the $600 JCC membership fee that is required to get into the preschool. We'll continue to pay almost $1000 a month for Jack to attend preschool. In return, how about you teach him some shit and quit complaining that he is acting like a four-year-old when he is, you know, FOUR-YEARS-OLD.

My beef is this: I feel like 90% of the behaviors this group has a problem with is because Jack is a 4-year-old boy, not because he is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. however, because he IS diagnosed on the spectrum, they find it an easy excuse to say "Jack made sad choices today," or "Jack has quite a few meltdowns today." You know what? So do other four-year-olds. You know how I know? I have stood in the classroom and watched them do it.

So man up, educators, administrators and social workers. A diagnosis is NOT an excuse to sweep all undesirable behavior into the "developmentally disables" category. Sometimes he is just pissed because he is 4 and boy, that can really suck some days.

We have a meeting with the school system at the end of January to discuss Jack's IEP. Once we have the IEP, we can apply for the Autism Scholarship. This is $625 a week that helps meet the child's education needs as stated in the IEP. This is MORE than enough to hire an aide for the amount of time we need them in the classroom each week. However, we don;t get that money until the IEP is in place and the scholarship approved - probably late February.

This delay in getting an aide - about 6-8 weeks, caused "increasing concern" with the teachers and administrators. So we are meeting at 4 pm today to discuss "A Plan", as mentioned above.

I'm sorry, did you not sign up for a 2:14 teacher to student ratio? And, I'm sorry if, though your poor planning, 10 of those 14 kids are 4 year old boys - rambunctious all.

So tell me again how it is my responsibility to pay $500 for an additional aide in the classroom when I am already shelling out about $13,000 a year to you to play with my kid from 9 am - 4 p.m.? Maybe I am the developmentally disabled one, because I just don't get it.

The Director reports Jack is not the first PDD-NOS kiddo the JCC has had and that he certainly won;t be the last. My question - was each of the previous kid's families responsible for providing their own teacher on their own payroll> I think not, but I guess I'll find that out today.

I think they don't need help specifically with Jack (although I acknowledge he has challenges, most of you have met him and were surprised that anything was diagnosed because he is so high functioning). I think they need help because they have 10 hyper 4-year-old boys for 8 hours a day and 4 kind of emotional little girls. I would pull my hair out. But you know what? I didn't go to school for this and sign up for it as my chosen profession. You did.

Man up. This is not a crisis and we do not need "A Plan." We need for people to have learned from the extremely capable Kylie while she was there for a month. How was she able to keep Jack in classroom? Well, maybe the two other teachers should model that, ya' think? We need for you to acknowledge that we cam into this school year with no diagnosis and 2 teachers and, while it was a challenge, it was workable.

What has changed? The diagnosis and the fact that the two teachers saw how much easier a third set of hands made their lives. Would someoen please tell me how it is my responsibility to pay for that third teacher now that Kylie is back at school? If I am going to shell out $1500 a meonth, I just as soon take Jack someplace where the teacher ratio is 1:3 and he is getting intensive therapy.

And if you don't want him here, you should have told us this months ago. We will gladly spend $13,000 a year somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Defending the Dogma

I expected to have to defend, or at least explain, my decision to convert to Judaism earlier this year to a handful of people. My parents, devout Christian friends and rabbis to name a few. Never, however, did I think I would find myself defending my decision to the gal who cuts my kid's hair while he is seated in a toy airplane.

We have been going to this particular hair-cutter ("stylist" hardly seems appropriate when she give the kid a buzz every 4 weeks) for about a year or so. My first clue that I might be in trouble was in the fall, when she was uber excited that her kid got to read "The Christian Pledge of Allegiance" on a local Christian radio station. I had never heard of this and asked her about it. She enthusiastically explained that the kids all pledge their allegiance to Christ, Our Savior. "Hmmm...." I thought. After looking it up, I found the words "with life and liberty to all who believe" inserted in the end. So much for separation of church and state.

So last night we were in for my son's monthly shearing (seriously, the kid's hair grows like a Chia Pet. And in about the same pattern and texture). She asked how our holiday went and when I said great, we are headed down to Cincinnati this weekend to celebrate Christmas with my parents, this sparked a look. I can't describe it exactly, but maybe she thought she could save me back. She asks, point blank, which I believe MORE. Sticky situation.

I explained that while I have always been a questioner (really, Catholics? Unbaptized babies can't get into heaven? That seems a bit harsh), I felt as a Catholic I was never really allowed to question. Judaism allows me to question, encourages it, even. We also believe that you shouldn't so much worry about what is going to happen to your soul after death- that you should act here on earth like your soul depended on those actions. That our job is to heal the world - whether the inhabitants are Jews or Christians (although many seem split on what we do with Muslims).

Her answer to that? "Right on."

It was not the first time this week, even, that my beliefs cam into question. Christmas - this beloved holiday celebrating the birth of the Christian Savior - seems to bring out nastiness in people.

A friend on Facebook joined a group called "It's Merry Christmas NOT Happy Holidays." I felt the need to ask "Why not be inclusive?" A few others echoed my point and this particular person got all righteous, saying that I had pissed her off and that she didn't join the group to have her moral integrity or, and I quote, "diversiveness" questioned. Short story - she was hot about having her beliefs questioned, but didn't hesitate to plaster them on Facebook.

(For the record, I think if you put something out there on the interwebs, it is up for public debate and consumption. Since this blog is on the Web AND posts to FB as a note, feel free to comment, disagree, etc.)

I knew Christmas would be a challenge for me this year,since it is my first as an official Member of the Tribe. But it has turned out to be difficult in a different way than I expected. I don't miss the tree. I am, even as I type this, waiting for cookies to come out of the oven and I persuaded Sisterhood to adopt a family or two for Christmas, so I got to wrap and deliver gifts.

The holidays are difficult for me this year because it is the first time I have had to publicly say "I am different than you." For a kid who, for 30-odd years has wanted nothing more than to just fit in, this is a difficult, but absolutely necessary statement to make. I really do believe that it is only when we ask questions of one another and at least TRY to understand the other point of view, it is then that the world will run a little more smoothly.

So thanks, Jennifer G., for asking the questions. I hope my answer made sense and that you got a peek into what makes this particular Jew tick - and Merry Christmas (AND Happy Holidays)!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I am a firm believer in follow-through. I don't accept tasks, committee positions or other things that will add to my "to do" list unless I can commit to them and give it a decent effort. I also believe you get out of things what you put into them. This includes relationships.

I am beginning to realize that not all adults function this way. Which make me wonder how people hold jobs, maintain relationships and avoid being a social pariah.

I enjoy volunteering. I do it for selfish reasons - to help shape policy, make an event better than it was before, etc. I also do it because I like being a part of a larger whole.

I was recently mocked for the number of committees I am on at Temple. That's OK. I generally don't mind it - EXCEPT when those who also volunteer aren't getting things done. As a former volunteer coordinator, this drives me bonkers. Not everyone has to be as committed to a cause as everyone else. We need people at all levels f time and interest. What we DO need is for everyone to be on the same page. If you agree to sit on a committee, TRY to show up at the meetings. You know what, do more than try. Be at one or two of them. I don;t need you at every meeting, but I DO need you to be on the same page as everyone else on the team.

If I am your friend, I generally try to be a good friend. And, as a rule, I am usually pretty darn loyal. I try to keep plans for social engagements, to listen when you are having a rough day to spend some time with you. Relationships sink quickly when left on auto-pilot.

And so, friends, this is another rant. A rant about just saying NO if you are over-committed, or busy or - frick - just want to sit on your couch rather than attend a meeting with me. Just say no. It is that easy. Please don;t avoid the calls and e-mails. Please say you are going to be somewhere and habitually cancel. Don't set me up for disappointment and frustration. Just say no. It will save us both a lot of time, trouble and blood pressure medication.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Many Meanings of "Blue"

Blue is my favorite color. But it is so much more than that.

If you look up "blue" on Webster's, no less than 19 different definitions for the word come back to you. For instance, you knew that if you clicked on that blue link right there, you'd go to, didn't you?

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. A blue mood, so to speak, which has me thinking about this. It is my first holiday season as a full-fledged MOT and, while I do not for one minute regret my conversion, I do feel a twinge of sadness for the loss of my childhood traditions. Let's be honest - taking down the Christmas tree and accompanying decorations is a huge pain in the ass. That I will not miss. But the glow of the lights against the snow, the presents stacked beneath a well-decorated tree and the smell of cinnamon pine cones, these are all things for which I am in a little bit of mourning this month. Add to this the colossal fiasco that was Thanksgiving (not unironically, revolving around the decoration of my parent's tree), and there is the indigo icing on the blue cake.

The blue mood has made my fuse even shorter than usual (as if, notes my husband under his breath, that were possible). That, in turn, has caused an increase my cursing a blue streak. Not something of which I am especially proud. I do appreciate the line in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie refers to his father as working "in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay." I think it might say something about me as a human being that my favorite part in that entire movie is when the dogs run through the kitchen and steal the turkey and the father yells "Sonsabitches! Bumpuses!" (Side note: I cannot believe I couldn't fine a clip of that moment to post here!!)

This time of year also brings the ubiquitous Christmas music. I do not say "Christmas Carol", which implies angelic looking children with beatific faces singing happily at your door. No, no, friends. I speak here of the auditory assault that is "The Christmas Shoes" and, well, anything Mariah Carey puts out this time of year. What we need here is a little Christmas Blues. A little FUNK - another word with multiple meanings. Let's get Doctor John and B.B. King up in here to do up Christmas right. (OK, admittedly, that Dr. John clip has Christina Aguilera singing. But it IS blues and, c'mon, girlfriend has some pipes.) So, in case you didn't get my inference, I am a fan of blues music as well. Stevie Ray Vaughn. Mm Hm. That's all I'm sayin'.
So, to wrap it up an in a nice little blue ribbon; while this post might seem out of the blue, it is an offering in contrast to all of the Christmas red and green popping up this time of year. (Oh, HEY! Hanukkah - blue and white. Not a bad tie in.)