Saturday, March 28, 2009
I never planned to have kids, for as long as I can remember. The idea of experiencing birth from this side was one that only brought me to make a scrunched up face and say, "No, thank you." I did not have this big desire to have children, not even a small one. Just didn't. I'm the oldest of six kids, and the youngest is 22 years younger than I am (yes, same parents), so I think I just had my fill. There were times I remember thinking that one reason I didn't want to have any children is because I "knew" I could not handle being given a child with special needs, and I just felt like my chances were high. There's no science for that. I had no reason to think that. But it was there, more than once, that conversation with myself in my head somewhere.
When I graduated from college in 1995, I went to Singapore for the summer. It was a great trip. It's a wonderful place that I desperately hope to return to. I had high hopes of coming back, finding a job, and getting on with my adult life. Upon return, I parked myself in good old Dent County, where the parents lived, simply because I didn't have anywhere else to go at the time. I first worked for a dentist, as a chair-side assistant, and I found quickly that the clinical part of healthcare is not for me. Six weeks later, I thanked my friend, the dentist, for the opportunity, but respectfully resigned. The school in town was the next obvious choice...substitute teaching. It sounded like a good deal, some days you work, some you don't, free time here and there, so what's not to like? Little did I know that nonchalant choice to get on the sub list would be found so pivotal in later days.
At first, I had random placements in every school in town, filling in for Kindergarten through 12th grade at different times. I had elementary art for a few days, which was quite exhausting. There was the junior high, where I spent alot of time, and it seemed to be pretty enjoyable. I also did alot of subbing in the high school, where my brother had graduated the year before as a basketball star. My last name then was one that could be altered by childish minds to an unfavorable point, so though most of them knew my last name, I went by "Miss Kay." To this day, I see kids--well, they're adults with their own kids now--in town that I had in class and they call me Miss Kay. It did not take long for me to find very regular placements, probably because I was always available.
I began to have a reputation for dealing well with the "difficult classes," which often could describe most any of the junior high and high school. Goes with the teenage years, I think. It didn't bother me. I tend to be quite strict, but I'm reasonable, and I would start almost every class with the same offer. If they cooperated and did what was asked, there would be time at the end of the period for them to chill out and talk or whatever. Very few teachers left plans that truly filled the time period, although as I was there longer, if the teacher knew I was the sub, they started to leave me "real" stuff instead of just movies. It was nice to be respected by the teachers and trusted to actually teach, I must say. There was always time to kill before the bell, and I think the kids appreciated that I kept my end of the deal, so they behaved.
Being known for handling the challenging situations brings, well, challenges, of course. I began to get placements in long-term leaves. Maternity leaves, medical leaves, etc. I had 6 weeks in 7th grade at one of the rural schools on two different occasions. There was a block of 3 weeks in 2nd grade, then another of 4 weeks in 8th grade. Since my education is in music, I often was put in the high school music/band slot, and there's no challenge like that. But there came a time when they called me to the office in the junior high to ask me a tough question. "Would you be willing to fill in for Mrs. P?" I didn't know what to say, and I felt very unsure that I could do it. Mrs. P was the special education teacher.
For a few days, I went when she was there, to acquaint myself with the students and the process. Mrs. P was a friend, she attended the same church, and I liked her very much. We got along well, and I thought she did a great job with the kids. My worries about the class diminished quickly, and my first day of having the class without her went well. There were several times that I subbed for her, and I really did enjoy those days alot. Soon after, the high school principal called me and asked if I'd consider taking some days in the high school special education class. I told him that would be fine, but I'd like to sit in as I did in the junior high to get a feel for how it went before the teacher was not there. Of course, he agreed.
It was amazing to me, in both the high school and the junior high, how attached the students were to their teachers. They could NOT tell me enough how great Mrs. P and Mrs. B were. They just loved having a new face in the room, and they all wanted to show me their work and what they could do. The teachers were far more than someone there to educate them, they were family to these kids, and in some cases, I found they were the best family they had. As I spent time learning how the high school class was organized and run, I learned to appreciate these students for the effort they put forth, FAR more than their "typical" counterparts ever exhibited. These kids tried and tried and tried, and when they succeeded in any small thing, there was a celebration, and I loved that. The high school class knew that Mrs. B was going to leave, she was sick, they said. The last day she was there, they cried and spent alot of time giving hugs and making cards for her to take and writing her notes for her to read while she was gone. That was on Friday, and on Monday I took over.
What these kids didn't know was that Mrs. B had cancer, and that would be the last time they'd see her. I was their teacher for the entire semester, and in the last couple weeks, as I remember, we got the news that she was quite ill, then that she had passed away. I will never in my life forget that day, when the students were told. The pain on their faces, the wide range of reactions that varied from one student to the next, the tears and more tears and more tears. Many of them didn't stay the whole day, parents came to get them, or at least to spend time with them for a little while. Mrs. B was an integral part of their lives, and she was gone. Some did not quite comprehend, it was clear. But many did, and for them, some of whom had been with her for 4 or even 5 years, the pain was too much. I've not had much in my life that has been more emotionally draining than those days following her death, but those kids were worth it.
There were many diagnoses in the class, some were very vague, and some were specific. There were varying levels of functional ability, as a few students would work on math and english, but others still worked on more basic things like which coin was worth which amount and such. I think there were 6 or 7 students on most days, as there were almost always absences for one reason or another. More than one of the students had a less-than-desirable home life, and that often brought more challenges to the classroom. But I feel like I helped maintain a safe place for them, one that they looked forward to every day, and for that one semester, I could give them reasons to smile and laugh during the day at school. Mrs. B had done the same, even so much more, and I tried hard to continue her wonderful example.
There was one student, BP, that had Down syndrome. He was one of my favorites, I admit. His smile was eager and his charm was undeniable. He was a pal of many in the high school, never was lacking for a story of who was with who and what she said about him and where the big game was going to be this weekend. It was sometimes hard to understand his speech, but he always got his point across. As I sit here now, I can still remember how he would say, "Miss Kay!?!" with feigned shock when I would ask him every Monday if he had a date the previous weekend. His sister had been in school with my brother, and I knew who she was. She later sang in a group that I had put together. He liked to tell me what J was up to, what crazy thing her boyfriend had done, and how much he liked what his mom had made for dinner on Sunday.
This week, while I've been at my parents' house, I've had occasion to run into a few former students from the junior high and high school, as well as some fellow teachers from back in those days. I'm not always very good at seeing people who I knew "back then" for reasons that will have to wait for another day, but I do usually enjoy seeing the kids that remember me and come up to say, "Hi Miss Kay!" One of the students that was in class with BP attends the same church as my parents, and I see her each time I'm here. She often writes letters and sends cards in the mail for Braska and now for Kinlee too. She always wants to be sure to have new pictures of the girls on her cell phone, and I try to remember to bring new wallet prints for her as well. When I saw her Wednesday evening this week, I gave her new prints, and she was quite excited. She sat behind us in church, and Braska warmed up to her and told her "Hi" while waving about 50 times.
I've not seen BP for many, many years. But my parents did see him recently, and he remembered me. He saw pictures of Braska and Kinlee and made sure to show his mom. That makes me happy. I don't know how much he remembers about what happened each day in school, but he has a positive response to hearing my name, and I feel like that's an accomplishment after dealing with such tough times through that semester.
I would be hard pressed to specify things that I learned through these students that I use on a daily basis, but I feel sure it was one of many ways that God was preparing me, years ahead of time, for accepting and adjusting to the news that would shock me. I know I learned that they are wonderful human beings, as worthy of life and value as anyone, and that they feel and love and hurt just like any other person. Those kids will never know or comprehend how their path affected mine, but I'm appreciative nontheless.
Thank God that He knows better than I do, that he chose to place me there at that time, and that I can continue the journey with my "extra" precious princess.
Friday, March 27, 2009
When we arrived home today, there was a very delightful surprise here to greet us. A sweet bouquet of flowers.
It might look simple to you, but to me it's absolutely perfect. I knew immediately that there was thought behind it, and I'm all about that kind of thing. I called M right away and told him we were home and that I loved the flowers. And he confirmed that I was right in thinking that he'd planned this little bouquet very carefully.
There's the rose for me.
Many of you will know why that tulip is so special. For those that don't, read this. We like Holland, and especially it's beautiful flowers.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Just down the road from the parents' place is a corner that I will forever notice. This time it's not for something I was involved in but instead for someone I knew. Sandy was the nurse at the first medical clinic I worked at 12 years ago. It was a new after-hours clinic that was beginning here, and there were just three of us involved: Sandy, Dr. S, and myself. It was a very neat experience overall, and it began my career in medical practice management that continued for the next 11 years. Sandy and I spent hours just sitting at the front desk working on setting up, waiting for the next patient to walk in, and we passed the time talking about everything.
Sandy was a thinker, an analytical person through and through. She was the same age I am now, which seems so weird, because I thought her just enough older to be so wise. And she really was wise. She was also hurting, in that she had recently been divorced, moved to Dent County from St. Louis, and missed her son desperately. He had stayed with his dad for a variety of reasons, but he visited or she went there quite often. She had an amicable relationship with her ex-husband, and I met him several times. Sandy wanted to understand everything. She just LOVED trying to figure people out, and it was constant fodder for her that I had just begun to date this crazy guy that I met online. M's quirks and idiosyncracies were always interesting to her, and she had a philosophy and backstory for each one of them. I think, now that I'm so far into life with him, that she was right quite often. She taught me alot about the clinical side of medicine, and I really believe that working with her made me a better manager through the years to the many nurses that have worked in my practices.
Sometimes I'm still amazed at how much I think of her and wish I could get some of her analysis these days. But I can't. Sandy was headed home to her parents, who don't live that far from mine, and she crossed that intersection at the wrong time. I had already moved to St. Louis by that time, a year or so later. I got the news and was told that they took her to St. John's Mercy Hospital where she was in the ICU. That was difficult for many because that is the hospital where she worked before she moved here. Many of her friends and former coworkers came to visit her, but she did not regain consciousness. I went to see her, and even though I've made literally hundreds of hospital visits in my lifetime for friends and fellow church members, this was one of the hardest. She was not there. Her body was not even what it had been due to the accident, and it was very tough to see her that way. She died soon after, and I attended her funeral. It was good to see her son and her ex-husband. I spent a while with her son, and he just sat with me and said nothing. For my part, I simply told him that his mother adored him and never went more than two minutes without telling me what he was doing or what he had said when he called or how excited she was that he was coming to stay for the week. She loved him SO very much.
That corner bears a small white cross with flowers on it. I hope it is always there. Not that I need it to remind me. There will never be a time, no matter what is happening around me as we pass that place, that I don't think of her as I cross that intersection and remember fondly all the wise things she said and the great conversations we shared as we waited for another patient to enter the clinic. She gave me a panda bear figurine for Christmas that holds a small apple, and even though I'm slowly thinning out the panda collection from years gone by, that will never be given away or sold. It will be mine for life. And if the parents ever move and I no longer drive through that intersection any longer, I will kind of miss my little moments of remembrance. But I will never forget her. That is certain.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I used to take 68 every time. When I made this trip home from college. When I went back to St. Louis for things after graduating while I was living in town nearby. When I would come back here to visit after moving back to St. Louis. Highway 68 was the route for me.
You see, I'm a driving enthusiast. I love to drive. I especially love to drive good cars, powerful cars, cars with tight sport suspension, cars that respond when you ask alot of them. There has been a passion for cars in me for quite a while. Back in junior high/high school in southern Illinois, we lived on the highway going into town from the bigger town 17 miles away. Everyone passed our house several times a week. I would sit out in the front yard on a swing and just watch people. I knew everyone in town by their vehicle. Make, model, year, and usually the license plate number, as well. Of course, it helped that at the time, 80% of Illinois had vanity plates, so they were much easier to remember. I could name a make and model by the headlights at night. Pretty crazy, but it's true. In college, friends thought that it was humorous that I got Road & Track, Motor Trend, Corvette Weekly, and Autoweek delivered to my tiny college mailbox.
But I even enjoy driving cars that have to try a bit harder sometimes. While I was reading my auto magazines in college, I was driving a little, tiny, white 1989 Ford Festiva. (It was 1991, not so bad.) Not exactly a sports or muscle car. But in defense of that little car, it could get up and go if you knew how to drive it. And I did. It was a five-speed manual, and I knew how to use all five gears to their max. When I went to college in St. Louis, we lived in Kentucky, and the Festiva did great on those trips back and forth. It was a great car for college, got excellent gas mileage, and it made more than a few long trips to road games for soccer and basketball, piled with my friends. A couple cars later, I had another small five-speed, a Mitsubishi this time, and it was not bad to drive either. There was not the spunk under the hood like the Festiva had, but it wasn't too bad.
On those trips home through the years, once "home" became south central Missouri, I chose 68 every time. It was just fun, kind of like a 27-mile roller coaster. It didn't take long to learn exactly where to gain speed and where to slow down. The curves and hills aren't marked with warning signs because there are just too many. It's all either a curve or a hill or a curve on a hill. For people that don't know the road, it can be less fun, I suppose. But when you know the road well, you also know just where to floor that gas pedal and fly by the out-of-towners in the tiny spaces where the yellow line is broken instead of solid. Ah, good times.
Now when we travel, we take 72. This has been the case since I met my husband 11 1/2 years ago. He simply cannot stomach 68. And that's ok. Highway 72 is a bit straighter, it has been redone and actually levelled out quite a bit from what it used to be. It's a good road, and I'm happy to use it. But this time, as I came to the exit for Highway 68, just a few miles before Highway 72, I had a decision to make. Which way should I go? Go for the old, fun way or the straighter, sensible way? The girls were asleep, so I decided on a whim to get off at 68.
As I got through St. James and made it out into the open road again, I thought about how 68 is about as curvy as the numbers in its name--there is not hardly a straight portion. And as I drove, I started remembering.
- I thought of the tornado that tore through the St. James Golf Course years ago and cut across 68.
- There was the little dip in the road where Dad hit a dog with the church van when we were headed up to St. Louis on a trip. I was so sick to my stomach. It came out of nowhere, and there is no way to see ahead on that road. Poor dog. Makes me feel ill even now.
- One time I was headed home from school, driving faster than I should have been, as I did far too often. I came into a little stretch that is straight for a short while but has many of what I call "ribbon hills," one big hill after another, like a still shot of a flowing ribbon. I decided it was a good time to pass the slow poke in front of me, and I dashed out. I didn't quite make it back into the lane in time and the oncoming flatbed pick-up truck swerved to avoid me. I darted back into my lane as I saw him spin around in my rearview mirror. The big cooler and other items on his bed went flying, but he remained on the road and didn't collide with anything or anyone. I didn't stop to help him pick up his things. Of course, I should have stopped, but I was 19, unwise, and suddenly scared. I just went straight home, thankful that it wasn't worse.
- I remember the time that my brother and I were returning from a Cardinals baseball game. It was very late at night, maybe early morning, and we headed down 68. We came to a place where just ahead I could see headlights that seemed to be too far left of me to be on the road. I slowed and remember well a very strange chill that came over me. I came almost to a stop as we got closer, looking at a pick-up truck that was off the road on the other side and had obviously not purposely parked there. The headlights were on, but the passenger door was hanging open. I didn't see anyone, Jody and I discussed it briefly, and I started to pull over to that side of the road, near the truck, to see if anyone needed help. At the last minute, we decided we wouldn't be much help and that we would be better as two teenagers to head home and call for help. I did that, called the sherriff's department, reported the accident, and left my name if they needed anything else. I found out the next day that the driver had been drunk and had hit a utility pole. He had been found dead in the tall grass right where I started to pull over to stop. I was thankful that we had not been sooner to get down that stretch of road for the fear of how much he crossed the center line before going off the road, and I was creeped out that I could have had a grisly finding if we'd stopped. To this day, I still look along that stretch to find the "new" utility pole, from almost 16 years ago, that was put up when the area was repaired.
- Then there's the brick columns that flank a long driveway to somewhere. A family friend, who would later be my boss for a short time, had a drinking problem and had run off the road into one of those columns. His children were with him, and for some reason that I can't quite remember, I went with my dad out to the crash site to be with the kids while things got cleared up and bring them home. That was a turning point for our friend. He got his act together, and, last I heard, was still sober.
- At the end of the 27-mile roller coaster, there's the house where a family from our church used to live. They had two teenage girls that I had in class at school. One of the girls played on the high school football team for a while. It was a big deal. I have no idea what happened to that family, but I think of it when I drive by that house.
It's funny how things come back to me after a long period of living in the corners of my mind. I don't know why these little memories still come to the front when I drive curvy Highway 68. But as I drove it yesterday, enjoying how the car I love so much handled the terrain, I found it very...I don't know... comforting, I guess, that Highway 68 and I have this history. Be it good or bad, I know the road well. And I still love to drive it.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I'm in a bit of rush...ya know, new baby, toddler, and all...so this will be relatively short.
I'm not all that sensitive about this kind of thing--questionable jokes, using the wrong words, or words in the "wrong" order--related to the disability community. I'm in the minority in many circles that I travel in due to this. I understand the outrage at the "r-word" and I know the PC way to say things, but I admit I don't really react with the fervor that many do. That's just the honest truth. So this is not me flipping out about his comment about the Special Olympics. It's more about what it may indicate. And one thing I do agree with many of my friends and acquaintances in the world of developmental disabilities... it's not just a joke. And if it hurts someone, it's worth not saying. Check out Sarah's letter and see how she feels about it. She understands more than any of us can, and she has a great perspective.
To the anonymous poster(s): Yes, we all say things we shouldn't. I have loads of things I've said and joked about that aren't very nice. I'm not at all afraid of karma. I'm a Christian and I'm a Republican (barely) and I'm FAR from perfect. If you know anyone who is either of those, or Democrat, or agnostic, or whatever, and is perfect, please let's name them and celebrate them. That is not my point. And it has nothing to do with judging or forgiveness or anything so drastic... As I said in a comment on my friend Michelle's blog today, "It's amazing to me mostly because things said in jokes with our guards down usually indicate our inner thoughts. That's the part that concerns me. Only time will tell, in this situation." My issue is that it indicates more than the surface. Mr. President is know for his communication, "openness," and has more dyed-in-the-wool followers than I've ever seen. Yet when he is kicking back and chatting about something as insignificant as bowling, this is where it goes. No, it's not the end of the world. But I fear it may be a peek at something inside, possibly subconscious. I hope I'm wrong.
To Heidi: Hey girl! You're right. Anonymous comments are allowed on the blog because many don't have logins to Blogger or the other options. And I don't mind an occasional unsigned comment, but if a person feels strongly enough to carry on a conversation and make generalizations, it does seem right to be willing to identify yourself. I think I've proven in the past that we can agree to disagree and still maintain bloggy civility.
To Jason: Dude, you rock. I'm always glad you've got our backs, especially since you guys are unconditionally adoring fans of our Braska girl. That means alot, my friend. And your second comment... right on. You GET it. Thanks!!
To the rest of you, commenters here and via email: Thanks for getting it. Thanks for knowing me well enough to know that I'm not lynching the guy, just making an observation and hoping for better things with the knowledge gained from today.
Summary (In case you couldn't hear it)
BO: "I bowled a 129"
JL: "That's very good."
BO:" It's like Special Olympics or something."
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
But really...how nice is it to see 70s and sun?!?
Since I got in the mood, I did a new spring layout tonight, too. Featuring my favorite little cutie blossoms, of course.
If you haven't seen it, check out Braska's blog to see what she decided to "spring" on us tonight!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
When the girls were weighed on Friday, Kinlee was 9 lb 3 oz. Less than 5 weeks old, born at 7 lb 6 oz. What?!? How does that happen? Maybe that's normal to some people, but not for us. I weighed her THREE times just to be sure it was right. I can't believe she's gaining that fast. Braska was at least 2 months, closer to 3 when she got there. She was 11 lbs at her surgery at 3 months after us stuffing her with tube feeds. Then she was back to 10 lbs at 4 months, 15 lbs at 12 months.Which brings us to the next bit of info....
Braska was 22 lb 1 oz!!!!! That's crazy! This from the girl who gained only 4 lbs between her first and second birthdays. 3 months ago she was just shy of 20 lbs, now she's over 22?
I suppose it's about the intake...go figure. Kinlee is eating like a champ, though I didn't think nearly enough to gain that much. And Braska has still been eating her few tablespoons of food a couple times a day, in addition, of course, to her regular tube feeds of Pediasure. But her few tablespoons add up to some decent calories, sometimes 30% more calories in a day, so it's making a difference!
Crazy. Just amazing. But we'll take it.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
You Are a Crossword Puzzle
You are well read, and you have a good head for remembering facts.
You are a wordsmith. You have a way with words, and you're very literate.
You are a mysterious person who enjoys dropping little clues every now and then.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I'm really not keeping up with this blogging stuff like I'd hoped, but hey...what else is new!? Me? Learning something different than I had planned? No way! I know there are a particular few of you who especially enjoy these epiphanies of mine....so go right ahead. The girls are both in their beds sleeping right now, I just got out of the shower, and I've got about 40 minutes to say hello to blogworld and pick up the living room before the PT gets here.
How are we? That is the most popular question. Depending on it's context, there are several answers...
Physically--We are all well. I'm feeling pretty good, much better than I have for months since all that pregnancy aching is gone. The girls have been healthy. M is finally feeling better after having a couple rounds of frustrating symptoms. My net gain for the pregnancy was 8 pounds, and I've lost 22 or so as of the 3-week mark, so I can't complain. Now just to get my appetite in order... I've been famished lately! Breastfeeding is not a topic I'm one to discuss, usually, but it's going well and I'm even storing up a supply in the freezer for later, so that's encouraging. I did learn a valuable lesson about what I eat affecting Kinlee... poor kid.
Mentally--I'm good! Red Raspberry Leaves capsules ROCK! For being such a skeptic about herbal remedies and such, I'm sure a believer in this particular one. If you've got hormone-related symptoms, either with PCOS, pregnancy (morning sickness!!), PMS, postpartum, or whatever, try these. They can't hurt you (according to physician and pharmacist that I consulted) and in my case, and several others that I've now come to hear from, they have been amazing! I've not had any panic since the day I started them, and after the following day, I've not had much of the anxious stuff at all. That's really really really great in my book! The dose on the bottle is 2 capsules per day, but I started with 3 twice a day when I was at my worst, then I've dropped down to 2 twice a day right now, soon to drop to the maintenance 2 per day. Again, this was checked out with the pros. (Now, having worked in medicine for many years, I have to add the disclaimer that I'm not making any guarantees and I'm not a doctor... but if your issues are hormonally driven...I'd say give it a try!)
Maternally--I'm slowly figuring out how to be the mom to two girls, how to have time to be a wife, and how to sleep in small nuggets of time. In all honesty, I think we have been way blessed and fortunate. Kinlee is SO good, and she is much like her sister in ways that many swore wasn't possible. She's very easygoing, rarely cries unless she's hungry, and then it's such a quiet and short-lived cry. She sleeps well in her crib ,and at night she's taken to a 4 hour schedule for the most part, and I'm loving that. Both the girls travel well when we need to go out. Kinlee is happy to have a bottle or the "real thing" either one and does great with both, so what's not to like about that?!? I am sure there will be days when I crumble and want to run away, but thankfully, the last week or so has been quite manageable.
**Ok, both girls just woke up at the same time, so I'll have to adjust... time to wrap up**
Overall, we're just finding our way to figuring out how to be a happy family of four. So far, so good. Again, thanks so much to all of you who have sent cards and gifts and goodies of all kinds. We SO appreciate you all, and one day I might get caught up on my thank-you cards!!