Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Days Gone By

Days Gone By

I am thankful this year I got to see the grandbabies in February. That visit has to last me until June.

Once my girls married and left home and were living up north, Spring Break became a routine. I was in my car, driving north the Friday school let out. If I went to Ohio, then I did Mother’s Day in NJ or vice versa. There were Easter Egg hunts, birthday parties, dance recitals, dinners out, yard sales, shopping sprees and playgrounds. Fred would fly up after a week to drive back home with me.

Later, when we got our little dog, he would make the trip too. I guess we did this for about 8 years. A couple years ago, circumstances changed for us and the trips are not possible now.

Now Spring Break is home in Florida, filled with doctor appointments for Fred, Mom and myself. Dental check ups, eye appointments, procedures, blood work etc. all are crammed into a little over a week. I liked the old routine much better than this new one.

In June, I will be in that car driving north and headed for the Jersey shore. The thought of vacation sustains me at this time of the year. When I go to the doctors, I picture the kids on the beach or playing at dusk and I swear my blood pressure goes down ten points.

I had to have an anesthetic for my procedures this week and when they knocked me out it was the BEST part of my vacation. I could be a drug addict, no sweat. I love that knock out juice.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Blind-side: to catch unaware

Watched the movie twice already and the messages are powerful. There are times in our life when we are blindsided by an event or happening. I can relate. That is how I felt when mom came for a visit, had her stroke and we became her caretakers.

Sandra Bullock did a great job portraying a woman who in my terms “walked the walk”.  Her family reached out to a young man who had no one and made him a genuine member of their family. It had a real fairy tale ending.

My fairy tale ending would be that my mom would wake up and be happy to live in Sunny Florida. She would be happy to have a nice room, three cooked meals and people who take care of her and love her. But then I would really be blind-sided.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It is in the "Genes"

Making family connections is really life giving. It is so important for so many reasons. One of the reasons I feel so disconnected from my own brothers and sister is the fact that we have no new memories. When you get together you spend a lot of wasted time going over and over things from your childhood when you should be making new memories.

Opportunities to reconnect come when someone in the family makes the effort to plan a family reunion. My dad used to do this. When he died, we lost an entire side of the family. We grew up just 25 minutes away from all of our cousins and we still never saw them until Ukrainian Christmas, Ukrainian Easter or a wedding and a funeral.

This past week my first cousin flew here to visit my mother. I adored her when she was little and still do. She had a busy life as a child because she was an entertainer. My one big memory was when I was in HS I stayed at her house two weeks because my parents were away. She was only in 5th grade. Those were the past memories. We had not spent any time together since 1975. The last time I saw her was when my dad died.

But in a few short days, we were able to catch up, to reconnect. We made lots of new memories crammed in a few days. I lost my keys at least three times; she rummaged through her purse on several occasions looking for stuff. We laughed over and over as we realized we had so many things in common. She has a GPS and it was like the blind leading the blind trying to figure how to get it to work in Florida.

Even our health concerns were similar; she has problems with her throat me with my cough, and our super high familial cholesterol. Her mother lives with her out in Las Vegas and we could giggle about the challenges we face.

I sent her home to tell her husband and children a message. I told her to tell them, “ I found out I am not a crazy person, it is all in my genes”. We have decided that all of our craziness is just who we are.

This summer I plan on getting together with many of my cousins whom I have not seen since childhood and some who I never met. I know the experience will be the same and I cannot wait.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Can’t Get Silk Out of a Sow’s Ear

Every year at spring test time, this phrase pops in my head. It is because they (bureaucracy) put so much pressure on teachers to bring up test scores.

In some countries the children have aptitude tests and they are guided through middle and high school on the track that suits them. We can’t all be rocket scientist. If the student would be better suited as a mechanic or whatever they are encouraged to be the best they can be and sent to specific schools for each track.

I know this is America and everyone has access to an education and the possibility to go to a university, but really should every student in high school be expected to pass Algebra or for that matter the over 200 Special Education children that may attend a school make progress on an FCAT test or else the teacher’s fail.

We are talking about children who often have IQ’s well below 70 with physical and mental problems that make it a challenge just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get on a bus with many middle school kids who can be downright abusive at times.

We should celebrate each day a special child survives a day at a public school. What an astronomical step these children take, facing the real world challenges navigating through a system where not everyone is kind.  They DO make progress each and everyday they come to school, it is just not percentage points on a test data sheet. The teachers are a success every day just by the fact each child wants to come to their classroom.

The test scores are reflected in what is referred to as AYP or adequate yearly progress along with everyone else. If your school does not make AYP then it won’t be long before they are tagged “F” or Title 1, Title 2 or "Superintendents" school.

Our school (where I currently work) services more special education students ( over 200) then a whole county center. I applaud our teachers. I admire their smiles and determination and willingness to hang in there each day.  I especially cheer the extra curriculum teachers like P.E, Music, and Art who have the students mainstreamed in overcrowded classroom. They all have such patience. Most important, I applaud the special education students.

But here is the kicker for you. I don’t believe in mainstreaming. I believe it does the kids so much more harm being exposed to jeers and tears of the already tough middle school years.

I speak from experience. My nephew went to a special school until he was 22 years old. He was safe, had friends, school functions, proms, field trips and the like. My sister had a break each day when his bus picked him up early to take him on a long drive to a private school. He had the same bus driver for almost twenty years. I am thankful my sister fought the system and won. Public tax dollars had to pay for his private education and transportation. His tuition, transportation etc was cheaper than setting up an appropriate class to meet his needs and paying teacher's salary back in the 1970's. Now laws have changed and every school system must accommodate with special needs so they don't have to fork out for private school. The private institution however was Robert's family, his home away from home, his safe place.

Later, My nephew transitioned into a group home environment where he lives today. He is 46 years old. Yes, he lives on SSI government money but he does work with the others from his group home cleaning office buildings. He saves up his money and goes on vacations each year and did not become a burden to his parents. I often think of him when I walk down our halls. He could have never survived here. At least he didn’t have to worry about taking a test every spring.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Games and the Martin Family

It was probably because Fred was poor and we did not go out much. We loved to play games, board games, and word games, trivia. When I married into the Martin’s, I fit right in with all of the crazy people. Fred’s mother aka Deedle was the absolute worse. She was cut throat. Annie & Jaime were just little kids and damn it, she would not let them win at “Candyland” or “Critter in the Candy”.

We would go to PA for a weekend and it was a "Trivia" marathon back in the 70’s. Fred was the king of “Boggle”. No one liked to play with him. He was so distracting because he would tee hee like the dog Precious in the cartoon. Every time he would snicker we knew he found a seven-letter word on the board.

Every family vacation you could count on card games or board games for family hysterics. Once we played the game “Pit” at Twenty Pines and kept getting in trouble by the adults we were making too much noise.
When our girls were older and dating, this was one way we sized up the boyfriends. How well could they handle the pressure of playing games in our house?   
Now with our grandchildren, it is the electronic game “Wii” or “American Idol.” I totally suck at these and I get very frustrated but judging from the laughter when I try to do them, still building memories. I enjoy watching the kids interact with each other and their parents. I would give a million if Fred’s mom were still around to see how she would play Wii or sing a Karaoke tune on the Idol game.