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Homeschool Blather, Ignore Me

I'm throwing this out on LiveJournal because Tumblr is my fun place where no one really cares about personal issues above the level of fandom feels and because Facebook is my public, small-town persona.  Not very excited talking about personal issues where my dentist and Z's pediatrician can have a read, you know?  This is very, very long and I just want it out of my head, so you honestly can stop reading right now unless reading about other people's problems makes you feel better about your own life. If that's the case, have at it.
Train wreck under here...Collapse )

So.  Homeschool.  Been at it since Z's second grade year and he's halfway through seventh grade now. He's done well. He's your average, happy, lazy 13-year-old boy. He's smart enough, working above grade level in every subject except math and is very self-assured socially (Well, among adults and older teens he is?  His age-level peers perplex him and he's never quite sure how to relate). He seems reasonably content, still has some problems with OCD and anxiety and sensory processing disorder but he's in regular therapy and takes self-defense classes to help him feel more comfortable in his body so he's working on everything. He has his hormonal moods but we've had zero behavioral issues. He helps out around the house willingly (not always cheerfully but he doesn't moan too much) and is learning life skills like cooking, laundry, cleaning. His schooling is mostly self-directed now with online classes. His grades are decent. All around, he's a great kid and life is pretty peaceful.  But it's about to change.

He's ready to go back to a traditional school.  He wants to experience a classroom, he wants to hang out with other kids, he wants to listen to other viewpoints other than mom and dad's, and he wants to try out some extracurriculars.  All good things.  And in a different location, he could experience all of this through homeschool groups or co-op classes but around us the groups are either 100% super-religious and require a statement of faith (ahahah NOPE, I'm teaching evolution, thanks) or their distance precludes our involvement (we have to log 1,000 calendar hours of instruction per year so we can't spend 2 or 3 hours a day driving around to lackluster classes).

So our choices are the public middle school or our choice of four different parochial schools.  And at this point, I'm dropping the narrative and just laying out bullet points because this is mostly to get everything out of my head:

If Zack returns to middle school for his 8th grade year in September, our choices are:

Washington Middle School:  Public school. Thanks to the tight-fisted elderly population, no educational tax issues have passed in the last five years and the public system is seriously overcrowded. Police are a regular presence at the school due to drug dealing and fights. Not sure I want to toss my homeschooled kid into that mix. The overcrowding would be a huge problem for him because he's quiet and polite and tends to get ignored in group settings because he's not causing any trouble. Knows absolutely no one at this school.

Borgia Elementary School:  Has the advantage of being half a block from our house but has an extremely toxic environment of bullying and cronyism. I was told flat-out I couldn't work as a substitute teacher unless I was friends with or was related to another staff member. I didn't have the energy to pursue it. Test scores are abysmal, well below the state average.  It's housed in a centuries-old brick building with no air conditioning, not a great fit for a kid with sensory processing disorder. We learned that repeatedly and in horrible ways when he attended Borgia from preK through first grade. He knows almost all of the kids here but doesn't like most of them.

Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School:  Kids in our town tend to ping-pong between OLL and Borgia.  They enroll in one school, are happy as all get-out for a few months, then their kid has a terrible experience and they jump back to the other.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  OLL is just as toxic an environment as Borgia, isn't air-conditioned and there are no lockers so everyone hauls around fifty pounds of books all day.  Test scores are equally abysmal.  He knows a few of the kids here.

The Ethan Problem:  Zack's best friend since kindergarten. Attended Borgia Elementary and was bullied relentlessly up until a few months ago when he was either expelled, asked to leave or his parents made the decision to send him to OLL. I can't get a straight story. I hear horror stories from the few Borgia moms I'm still in touch with (he broke someone's leg, he broke someone's hip, he put a kid in the hospital, he jumped someone in the gymnasium and beat him with a bowling pin, etc.) and then I hear a completely different story about the perfect misunderstood cinnamon roll from Ethan's mom. Of course I know the truth is somewhere in the middle, but it still puts us in a bad spot. Ethan hangs out here twice a month and I've noticed a change in his attitude and behavior recently. I don't know if it's my keen intuition (don't laugh, I am almost never wrong about people) or if the rumors are getting to me, but I'm not sure I trust Ethan around Zack any longer.  The bullying is starting to follow Ethan to OLL (basically his tormentors at Borgia are contacting their friends at OLL and spreading rumors about him). To complicate matters, while I was working my limited social wiles and trying to get to the bottom of things, Ethan's mom found out and went ballistic on me and now Ethan has been avoiding Zack. So I may have inadvertently torpedoed their friendship. Oops.

Bottom Line:  I'm not crazy about throwing Z into the mix when we have the means and ability to continue homeschooling for his eighth grade year.  Maybe a little loneliness is better than all the middle school drama and trauma, you know?  But then this brings up a second dilemma.  High school.

If Zack returns to high school in September 2017, our choices are:

Washington High School:  Same problems as the middle school. I'm an alumnus and I loved it but high school in the 2010s is completely different from high school in the 1980s and I will never pretend it isn't. I'm not sure I would have survived as a modern-day high school student with the added pressures of social media, the fear of mass shootings, the relentless schedule, AP classes, etc. etc. And unfortunately, Z and I are cut from the same psychological cloth (I am so sorry, Z.)

Borgia High School: Just imagine a long string of expletives here.  This is literally our only other choice for a traditional high school in our town.  Oh my god, the elitism. It's a Catholic high school but it's also college prep so plenty of non-Catholics send their kids here (at a greatly increased tuition rate) simply for the prestige. It's $6,000 a year for Catholics, $7200 for the unwashed heathen. As a private school, they are free to turn down applications and they do this regularly if you are A) not Catholic and B) not wealthy. I have no illusions about our status.  If we want Zack accepted to Borgia, he has to be confirmed in the Catholic church, period. We are not wealthy nor are we well-connected or influential in town. We keep to ourselves and we like it that way.  But our chances of having our child accepted to the school without being a Catholic family are zero. And that's a whole dilemma in itself:

CATHOLIC CHURCH: Russ and I are not practicing Catholics. We used to be. But part of Zack's OCD was scrupulosity and it manifested as severe anxiety, sleeplessness, chronic stomach problems and panic attacks. When we stopped attending Mass, he started to improve. I also have POTS and the whole sit down/kneel/stand up routine usually makes me pass out. So picture a kid quietly freaking out and a mom sinking to the floor dramatically and you can see why we're not a welcome sight at our parish church.  Zack has never had his first communion and the entire idea of confirmation makes me squeamish.  Zack is in PSR this year but he hates it and my latent tendency to rebel against authority is asserting itself. We don't go to Mass and no one is going to force us to. Except if Z doesn't attend Mass, he won't be eligible for confirmation, which means no Borgia High School.

Homeschooling through High School: I'm comfortable with the idea. There are tutors and online academies and stand-alone classes and at age 16 he can start early-entry college courses at our local community college.  At the same time, there are so many high school experiences I can't duplicate for him at home.  No prom, no yearbook, no Knowledge Bowl, no German Club, no dances, no sporting activities. He won't share in what is a common experience for his peers. Socialization will be a huge problem since most homeschoolers in this area return to a tradtional school for high school. There was a homeschoolers prom last year?  I'm sorry, but it was pathetic. Five kids in a church hall, all dressed up and trying to act like they're having a grand time with twenty parent chaperones, all with those fixed 'WE MADE THE RIGHT DECISION' smiles.

If we homeschool through high school, academically Z will be fine.  Emotionally Z will probably be fine. Socially?  He'll be lonely, I know he will and I'm not sure I can do it to him.  Of course, Russ tends to pat me on the head and remind me that attending high school didn't make me any less of a socially-maladjusted loner nerd which is completely true. And the same goes for him. You are who you are. All your peers can do is make you feel like shit about who you are.

What I really, sincerely want to do but then again I'm not a dictator and Z should have a say in it:

Pull him out of PSR immediately and stop stressing about Mass attendance and Confirmation. Let him go back to his religious exploration. He was pretty happy attending dharma talks at a nearby Buddhist monastery and experienced no return of OCD while doing so. The monastery is his happy place.

Give the middle finger to parochial elementary school and keep him out of all the ridiculous middle school drama which is completely pointless. How anyone is getting a decent education with all the distraction is beyond me.

Give the middle finger to our local high schools, both of them, and homeschool through high school. Pray that his volunteer jobs and his summer camps and the teen library board and his few extra-curricular classes will provide enough socialization to keep him from becoming a socially-maladjusted loner nerd. Oh wait, too late, since he has that trait in his DNA already.

Honestly, it's no fucking wonder if all I want to do lately is knit and lose myself in fandom stuff because otherwise I am a nervous wreck, losing sleep, staring at the ceiling all night, snapping at everyone who dares to interact with me and now I think I've made myself physically sick over it all. I'm not even touching on the ongoing shitstorm of my parents.

If you made it this far, congrats and thanks. I'd give you a cookie if I had one.  And I'm not looking for any advice so don't worry about replying, I just needed to clarify everything that's been banging around in my head the last six months.  
I've been meaning to write an update for a while, especially considering the tone of my last entry.  Something that always amazes me is how quickly we adapt to difficult circumstances; even a situation that seems unbearable at first becomes part of a new normal.

Very long story short, my mom's numerous chronic conditions caught up with her last year when she fell and fractured her back which led to a long period of immobility which led to a deep venous thrombosis which led to a massive and nearly-fatal saddle pulmonary embolism in early November.  She'd been losing ground for a long time before the embolism but doctors couldn't seem to pinpoint the cause.

She was released from acute care with stable vitals but was in no shape to return home, even though she tried.  When my dad and Russ tried to transfer her from wheelchair to bed, she fell and had no strength to lift herself back up and it took four of us to finally get her settled.  When the home physical therapist visited the next day she called a social worker from my parent's phone requesting care home placement immediately.  Oh god, so traumatic.  Telling an already ill woman that she can't remain at home; the look on my poor devastated dad's face as he tried to process the news; the endless, endless round of phone calls making all the arrangements.  I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

She is still in the nursing home, slowly regaining strength.  Her mobility is limited to a manual wheelchair and a walker but the distance she can cover increases every day.  Daily visits are just part of my routine now.  She may be returning home, with proper care services, before Christmas.  But the conversations we have had.  Necessary but brutal.  So brutal.  All the family secrets being chiseled out, laid bare in all their ugliness. If I were an outsider, I would almost marvel at how functional we all appear while our family dynamics are so deeply dysfunctional.

My friends have saved me.  There's been Shelly, a home physical therapist who calmly explained the rehabilitation process when we were all overwhelmed in the early days.  She's known me long enough to understand I will never ask for help, that you must batter my door down and make a nuisance of yourself and I will still smile and tell you I'm fine.  She's brought coffee and a shoulder to cry on when I thought I wanted to be left alone.  There is my steadfast Angela, who texts me every day and visits when she can, even though her youngest son was recently involved in a horrific head-on collision. But her own worries do not keep her from loving the people she calls her own and I'm lucky to be one of them.  And Lori, even though she's undergoing chemo for breast cancer, always picks Zack up when she is taking Ethan somewhere fun because she understands a 12-year-old needs to do more than visit hospitals and nursing homes.  They are all beautiful people and I'm blessed to have them.

And my sweet, sweet Russ who has been right there for everything.  On the day we brought my mom home from the hospital and she fell while transferring, Russ kneeled by her and whispered something I could not hear and she stopped shaking and crying and actually laughed.  He is so kind and gentle and strong.  He's my hero.  And my sweet, sweet Zack. There is a long-term resident who often sits in the hallway and the last time I visited, she asked, "Where is that nice, happy boy who's always with you?  I like to see him. Bring him next time."  When our visits are over and Zack is hugging my mom goodbye, she clutches at him and doesn't like to let him go.  He is also a kind, gentle, funny soul like his dad and I have no idea what I've done to deserve these two wonderful people in my life.

So I suppose things have shifted for the better in many ways.  My mom is a little softer now and I found out where I inherited my gift for sarcasm. I've discovered an inner strength I didn't know I had and an unexpected assertiveness when all along I thought I was a meek little mouse.  And I am surrounded with so much love.  So, so much love.  

Nov. 16th, 2014

Life is not good right now but I'm not inclined to go into a lot of detail.  I just wanted to write about cosmic connections and how the universe will sometimes thump you on the head with what you need when you don't know you need it.  Lately my only escape from a brutal reality has been Doctor Who and I'm completely infatuated with Peter Capaldi.  Well, why not? He's the same age as my Russ and as young men they bore a striking resemblance to each other with all the angular features and sharp profile and pretty eyes and crazy curly hair.  Not so unexpected, really.  He seems a genuinely kind soul and I love his Scottish accent.

The other day on Tumblr someone posted a link to a short story that had been on BBC Radio, based on Tom Waits' song, "Come On Up to the House," read by Peter Capaldi.  While I listened, the combination of words and world-weary narration felt like a literal punch in the gut for me. One line still resonates.  "I don't have hobbies. I don't like them...pretending I'm safe enough to play."  Oh god.  Not safe enough to play. My life right now.  The author of the piece was A.L. Kennedy and thank providence I found her last night.  Her words are like water while my soul is dying of thirst.

Today I sat with my parents and we had one of those family conversations that are like opening veins and helplessly watching each other bleed to death and trying to staunch the flow makes the blood stream even more quickly.  I drove and drove and drove after I left them, no destination in mind, just trying to escape the pain, and ended up finding the Tom Waits song the A.L. Kennedy story had been based on.  I've listened more times than is probably healthy for me:

Well the moon is broken
And the sky is cracked
Come on up to the house
The only things that you can see
Is all that you lack
Come on up to the house

All your cryin don't do no good
Come on up to the house
Come down off the cross
We can use the wood
Come on up to the house


So thanks Peter Capaldi and A.L. Kennedy and Tom Waits and pitiless universe, for the threads that run through seemingly happenstance things and tie together a soul that is so broken right now.

Drive-By Posting

It is late.  Zack had a houseful of buddies over tonight to watch movies and eat more pizza and popcorn and make more noise than I thought humanly possible.  I am still awake and all jacked up from the residual adrenaline so I thought I'd check out Facebook.  I found out Zack's pediatrician is now selling Rodan + Fields skin care (it's an MLM scam) and trying to convince her Facebook friends to become consultants.  Really?  She's not like, I don't know, seeing patients in her practice or making hospital rounds or anything?  I think on Monday we're looking for a new doctor.

Lots of Updates

Small happenings, but important nonetheless:

Not Crazy
I found the receipt!!  Okay, it was two days too late to apply for the rebate but at least now I know I'm not losing my mind. It was tucked into a bundle of other receipts that I needed for returns/taxes/recordkeeping.  I must have looked through that pile of receipts at least twenty times and I have no idea how it escaped my attention the first nineteen times.

Maybe a Little Crazy
I was sitting outside on Monday, enjoying the unseasonably cool weather and reading a book in the shade while Zack watered the garden for me.  I am a fortunate mom, I know.  I remember feeling like the ground was falling away beneath my feet and everything went black and white for a few seconds.  As far as I know, I did not faint or fall over but from Zack's description, I must have had a brief seizure. I was diagnosed with absence seizures as a girl but they disappeared somewhere around puberty. I have no idea what triggered this latest event unless it was the pattern of sunlight through the leaves (visuali stimuli would always set off the absence seizures).  At any rate, I am having my brain MRI much sooner than I would like to find out what is happening up there.

But Still Awesome
I made it to the grocery store by myself today! I'm not sure exactly how I managed it except for some AWOLNATION cranked up during the drive to the store and then once I was there, I was determined to finish.  My internal monologue went something like "Oh crap I'm not going to make it, oh my god I'm going to pass out in the milk cooler, oh shit what was I thinking, will anyone notice if I leave a full cart right here in the aisle and run out sobbing, etc."  But I did none of those things even though  I am in bed right now with my feet up above my head.  We have groceries for the week and I managed to cook dinner so yay for me. If there is one positive thing about a florid case of POTS, it is taking pleasure in what others consider mundane chores.

Hopefully It Won't Kill Me
Tomorrow my nephew is visiting from Texas!!  I absolutely cannot wait to see him.  When he lived with my brother his life was going downhill rapidly; he drank heavily, dropped out of high school, and spent all of his time partying.  Then he moved away to live with his mom, met a beautiful and intelligent girl (she is amazing), got his GED, is going to college and is now manager of a retail store.  I am so proud of the way he turned his life around.  I haven't seen him for years. We're taking him out to dinner even if I have to lie down in the middle of the restaurant, which could totally happen and probably will.  I'll take pictures.

What's Next
I just ordered this: Walking Stick with a Tripod Stool. My very first health aid, I'm so proud. I can walk most places but as soon as I have to stand still, like waiting in lines, I hit the floor. Hopefully this will save me from sitting on scroungy shop floors. But I'm afraid there is no way to sexy up a cane or make it look chic and my slide into a complacent old age is beginning.

And how is everyone else doing?

Need a reality check, please

Okay, I swear I won't whine about my health every time I post but as my title indicates, I need a reality check on what is considered a reasonable activity level for an average day.  This is what I managed to do today:

Up at 8 am, shower, fix my hair, do my makeup, get dressed, etc.
Breakfast
Washed breakfast dishes
Up and down stairs washing/drying/folding three loads of laundry
Quick 20-minute run to the store for a few items
Took out bag of trash and recycling, sorted into bins
Checked vegetable garden, weeded, picked vegetables
Fixed lunch for me and Zack
Washed lunch dishes
Cleaned out pantry
Fed the cat and the frogs, scooped litter box, brushed cat
Vacuumed the upper level and carpeted stairs
Swept the kitchen and dining room
Fixed dinner
Washed dinner dishes
Helped Russ water garden and fill bird feeders

And still it feels like I'm spinning my wheels all day long and getting nothing accomplished, mainly because errands are so difficult for me. I can putter around the house like nobody's business because I know I can lie down if I start feeling ill, but when I'm out, it's another matter.  When I went to the store today, I started feeling faint and had to sit down in the canned soup aisle. (A general observation: People are very kind and want to help people who are having a rough time. It's nice to know.)  And there are so many errands I need to run. Of course, there is also online shopping. I'm trying trying trying to be more patient with myself.

Report from Boringville

Honestly, there's not much happening in my world.  I'm continuing to slowly improve.  My horrendous tests are scheduled for the last part of August and until then, I'm avoiding all things medical unless I'm carted into the emergency department feet first.   I was feeling so well yesterday I even thought I'd take care of a few errands but decided to check my blood pressure first.  When I did, the reading was 80/50 and suddenly the idea of staying in the house with my feet up sounded more appealing.  So as an agoraphobic, that's a problem. Being physically unable to leave the house eventually leads to massive anxiety attacks over the idea of leaving the house and that's a road I'm tired of traveling. If it continues, Zack will be grown and gone and I will have missed so much of his life. I will fight my way back, as I've been doing for seven years now, but it does not make for scintillating or uplifting reading.

I've been trying to focus on the positive this summer, as insignificant as those things are right now.  Zack has been volunteering at our local library and has a two-hour shift on Wednesdays for the summer reading program.  This gives him plenty of time to read between patrons and to my complete delight, he's been working his way through the Harry Potter books.  And on hot, lazy afternoons we've been curling up on the couch to watch the movies together.

It has been such a joy and a complete escape to re-discover that world with Zack.  He adores Hagrid, thinks Quidditch is boring and is viscerally disturbed by the very idea of Scabbers/Peter Pettigrew ("Mom, did you know Ron was carrying around a NAKED Peter Pettigrew for his first three years and even let him sleep in his BED???"  At which point he begins to shudder and has to change the subject.)  He's created his own recipe for butterbeer consisting of a can of cream soda, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and butterscotch syrup.  And last night while we were cleaning up after dinner, Russ and Zack even participated in a Snape-Off and we discovered Zack can do an absolutely devastating imitation of him and has apparently memorized most of his scenes. According to Zack, the key is to never unclench your teeth. I laugh every time I think about it.

Posting just because

Now that I'm back in the habit of checking and posting here again, it's hard to give it up even when there is little of importance to share.  My life since I last posted:

Managed to shower and dress in normal clothes for three days in a row.  I feel I need some kind of adult merit badge for this.

Feeling strong enough to take up yoga again, albeit very gentle floor exercises. I'm really good at the corpse pose.

Made final decision on homeschooling for the year.  Zack will use Calvert Academy and will also enroll in PSR (public school religion) classes for the year.  So he'll have a chance to socialize with other tweens without sports being involved unless they've invented something like JesusBall in the meantime.

Dilemma of the day:  Compared to other people in the States, we have excellent healtlh insurance through Russ's job.  I just received a call from the surgery scheduler and apparently the costs of my laparoscopic-assisted hysterectomy, including hospital stay, will be covered 100%.  I am immensely grateful.  I can't imagine going through a health crisis and having to worry about medical bills, too.  We are a very, very fortunate family.  We also have a reimbursement fund in lieu of dental or visual coverage. Every calendar year, $2000 is deposited into an account and as we use services, we pay for them upfront and then submit receipts for full reimbursement.  Any amount not used is carried over for two years.  I just had a $100 eye exam and I've lost the damn receipt somewhere so I can't submit it for reimbursement.  I have no idea where it's gone.  I keep active paperwork in a basket on my desk and I remember attaching the receipt to the claim form and tucking it away.  Now I can't find it.  I've also lost a store receipt that I needed for a rebate on our new air conditioner.  I remember bundling that receipt with other receipts we needed for returns, etc. and it is GONE.  I've taken to wandering around the house and lifting random objects and hoping I will find the missing items.

I also felt well enough today to spend a little time doing yard work.  There were some huge pokeweed plants taking over the corner of the backyard so I wrestled them out there.  And I discovered the cutest little blue-tailed skink has made his home in a raised garden bed.  So he is apparently the source of the "terrible rustling sound" our neighbor reported.  Because see, it's okay to let your teenage kid invite ten of his friends over where they will commence to climbing on garage roofs and playing chicken in the street with passing cars and turning up the bass in their cars and pulling things out of other people's yard to throw at each other and teasing the dog so it will bark non-stop for hours because it's all in good fun.  But god forbid you let a little nature encroach on your yard.  Heavens.  That might mean snakes and bees and pestilential birds and other horrible dangers and it will be necessary to use toxic amounts of pesticides to keep your boring little patch of yard pristine.  I want to start keeping backyard chickens just to piss her off a little more.

I guess I had more to say than I realized.

The land of the living

Our weather is absolutely gorgeous right now with temperatures in the low 70s.  Normally by this time of year if we step outside our hair bursts into flame and our faces melt off so it's a welcome break.  Since POTS is exacerbated by heat, I actually felt well enough today to run a short errand with Zack.  I needed vital things for the home like Axe deodorant, hair wax, and a new vinyl shower curtain because the old one was "disgusting, mom."  Very important pre-teen boy stuff.

As we were leaving, I held the front doors open for a snack cake distributor who was bringing in a cart of supplies.  At the same time, an elderly woman assumed I was holding the door for her and headed through.  I didn't have time to warn her and she nearly got plowed over by his cart.  After checking to make sure she was okay, I said, "Guess it's not the worst way to go, getting run over by a cartful of Little Debbie cakes!"  And she put a hand on my arm and said seriously, "Honey, the Little Debbie snack cakes will get us all in the end."

I'm getting that on a t-shirt. And the beautiful weather continues all week, so Zack and I are making plans to enjoy it while it lasts.