Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shoe Love

Duncan:  "What are THOSE shoes, Mama?"

Theresa:  "They're called pumps."

Duncan:  "I want to WEAR them!"

Friday, April 16, 2010


Today we are silent for those who cannot speak.

Today, my school is participating in the Day of Silence; sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Day of Silence is the largest, single student-led action for creating safer schools for all students, regardless of their sexual orientations, gender identity, or gender expression. The Day of Silence began in 1996 at the University of Virginia, with over 150 students participating, and it has grown exponentially.  In 2008, hundreds of thousands of students at over 8,000 schools participated. The movement aims to bring attention to the silence gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people must face in schools where they cannot express themselves openly. It is a pledge that we will NOT be silent if we witness bullying or harassment, that we will stand up for what we believe is right.

Because our students have dyslexia, and their class time and participation are crucial to their academic success, we made a deal with them that we hoped they would speak during class time and spend their time between classes, during break, and at lunch expressing their silence. In the spirit of the day, however, many of our teachers planned silent lessons, and I was impressed with how well our students adapted to silent group projects with independent reading and writing and silent presentations.  At morning assembly, at least 62 members of our upper school community signed up to participate.  Our upper school includes approximately 40 teachers and 65 students so I think that's a pretty good showing. All of our students have learning differences; they all know what it is like to feel different, to feel ostracized, to feel judged on the basis of how they appear to others. I think it would be easy for any one of them to decide that their own issues are all they can handle, but they haven't. It's almost as if they recognize that we've given them a learning environment that is safe and secure and recognizes their learning differences, and now they want to go one step further to make it safe for each other's sexual or gender differences.

I'm not sure how successful they're being at not talking. I'm still hearing a lot of talking in the halls and walking down the hill. Some of them are doing a great job. I have fallen off the wagon a few times; it's simply too hard to help run a school without opening one's mouth, but walking through the hallways without speaking and scribbling frantic notes to my colleagues makes me think about just how hard it is to have to think about everything I say. In the end, I don't really think it matters how successful each individual is; what matters is that they're thinking, and thought is where we plant the seeds for change.

I have straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends. I have friends who have straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family members. Would it not be easier to say "I have friends?" Today I am silent for the students who look to us to make their school safe; more importantly, I am silent for the students who showed us what they can accomplish if we give them a voice.

Food, Glorious Food

If you haven't already, check out Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Man's World

Tonight during a particularly frustrating dinner (which is a euphemism for "Duncan was ADD as all hell, and the only reason he consumed any food was that I shoved it in his mouth when he stopped talking to take a breath"):

Theresa:  "When you are a man, and you're 25, and you live in your own house, will I have to go there to feed you?"

Duncan:  "No, Mama, because I will be a man."

(dramatic pause)

Duncan:  "I can't wait to be a Daddy.'

Jamie:  'Being a Daddy is hard work sometimes."

Duncan:  "It's hard."

...spoken like a little soul who's been around a few times.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Same, Only Different

Similarities Between Childbirth and a Chuck E. Cheese Birthday Party:

1.  It feels like it will never end.

2.  There is an overwhelming amount of stimuli.

3.  You will abandon all modesty upon walking through the door.

4.  Children. Are. Crying.

5.  For the right fee, food and entertainment are provided.

6.  The birthday boy undoubtably wets himself with the excitement.

7.  The birthday boy is so overstimulated that he cannot feed himself.

8.  Mama counts down the hours until she can have a cocktail.

9. It feels great when it is finally over.

10.  It is an experience that must be experienced to be believed.


Duncan turned 4 on March 13. For him, it was the most highly anticipated birthday yet. As his independence has grown so have his opinions and beliefs about such crucial issues as what kind of cake to have, what kind of presents he would like, and whether or not there should be ice cream. Four was a birthday in three acts.

Act One:  When I asked Duncan what he wanted to take to preschool for a treat, he asked for "those red cookies." I am not a crunchy, granola health food freak (yet), but I do draw the line at feeding that much red food dye to someone else's child; I managed to talk Duncan in whoopie pies instead, which I said were the same cookie without the red. This was not exactly true, but this lie will be the least of the reasons he complains about me in therapy when he's 16. In any case, he has begun to enjoy helping out in the kitchen, even if his help primarily consists of dumping in pre-measured ingredients. We had a great time baking the cookies and filling them, and they were a big hit at school.

Act Two:  On the 13th, we made our first venture into Chuck E. Cheese. We had a party there because we needed a venue larger than our house, and it had to be a place where a kid could have a good time. May much time pass before I enter another Chuck E. Cheese, but they fit the bill. In Grandma and Grandpa, John, Melissa, and Anna, Jason and Suzanne, Paul, and Don and Sue celebrated with us in style. It was loud; it was overstimulating; Duncan had a blast. It was a lot of fun to get so many Martins together (first time since August). (I didn't get any decent pictures there because I was so overwhelmed, but this picture is a little flavor of the experience in case you've never enjoyed Chuck E. yourself).

Act Three:  The following weekend, we celebrated with Nana and Poppy, Lorna, Vernon, and Colin in Albany, which was a nice kick-off for our spring break. Duncan had fun playing with new Legos and other toys and especially enjoyed his Mickey Mouse cake.

Epilogue:  I've felt sort of bittersweet about this birthday. It's exciting to watch Duncan grow and mature; I'm constantly amazed by his vocabulary, his creativity, his imagination, and his outside-the-box thinking. Although he seems to us slow to develop independence in daily chores like getting dressed and putting away his toys, life does get a bit easier with each passing day that he is able to do more things without us. Nevertheless, I can't help but be aware that each of those developments also represents another step away from us. I revel in all that he can do but hope we are creating the kind of ties that will enable him always to be my sweet baby boy. Thank you all for sharing with us.  Happy Birthday Duncan; I love you to the universe and back.

Writer's Block

"It's been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time." Yes it has. Many thanks to Led Zeppelin for providing the soundtrack for this post.  With each passing day, it has become more difficult to write because I feel like there is so much to catch up with; how can I possibly begin? Someone else who was absolutely brilliant (and whose name escapes me) once said you have to begin where you begin. So I'm going to take a stab at being back. I will win no Pulitzers for this writing, but sometimes, as I teach my students, you just have to get it done.