Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Meeting O's Teachers

It must be a few weeks into a new school year.

Why is that? Because I got a call and a note that Olivia's teacher wanted to meet with me. I knew what was coming. I mean, she's in fourth grade, we've been through five years of school before this year. Each year, it takes at least two months for Olivia to make a connection with her new teacher. And yet, each year, about four weeks into school, her teacher contacts me and requests a meeting.

Of course I agree. It's what I do. I always want her teachers/aides/principal to know that we're all on the same team. We're all on Team Olivia. We all want the same thing. We want Olivia to succeed at school.

The problem is, each year she had a new teacher, a new classroom, new things to learn. And it takes her time to connect with each new teacher. Until she makes the connection, she just sort of sits there in class, a lump, making a mess of her papers, ignoring questions or just looking at the teacher like she doesn't speak the same language.

So her teachers always want to know from me how they can motivate her.

And I always respond with, "Good question. If you figure it out, share it with me and I'll incorporate it at home."

No. I don't actually say that. I say, "Please know that I understand your frustration. What you go through at school is mirrored at home. I go through the exact same thing each night that she brings home an hour plus worth of homework."

At that, yesterday, her teacher told me, "I feel so awful each afternoon when I see how much work she's bringing home because none of the other kids bring home that much homework. In fact, last night, no other kid in our class had any homework."

Olivia and I did homework the previous evening for an hour and fifteen minutes.

The work Olivia brings home is work she's supposed to do at school. She's given ample time to do the work at school but she just...doesn't. If she doesn't have an adult sitting next to her, she won't work. She will doodle all over the papers she's given. She pulls the lead from her pencils and then has to get up and sharpen the pencils (she's diabolical, if only she'd use her genius for good instead of evil.)

We talked. We told stories. Attending the meeting was her typical classroom teacher, Mrs. K., her special ed. teacher, Mrs. B., and the principal, Mrs. R.

After about twenty minutes the principal asked the director of special education to join us. She listened to the frustration Mrs. K. experiences with Olivia.

She asked if Liv is pulled out for any of her classes. Mrs. B. said that Liv is not, she stays in the typical classroom and gets and aide if an aide is available, which is not always.

The director suggested that we increase O's services, which obviously means amending her IEP to include pull out for at least a few subjects. They asked me if I was okay with that.

I reminded them that she'd been pulled out for a few subjects back in second grade and for a bit of third grade and did well with that. They said that her success with that was the reason they'd stopped pulling her out, they wanted to see if she could succeed as well while remaining in the classroom.

Yeah, obviously not.

So we're amending the IEP. She's going to go to a 'small classroom setting' class for Language, Math and writing. She's going to continue to go to lunch, specials (gym, music, library, art), recess, science and social studies with her typical classmates. This will help her maintain the socialization she needs.

I reminded everyone in the meeting that Olivia has come so far. Back in first grade, she wouldn't eat lunch with her classmates. She had to sit at a table by herself just to take a few bites of her lunch. We got her past that. She now sits with her classmates and eats her entire lunch everyday.

I also reminded them that none of them have ever worked with a student with 5p- syndrome. I wasn't trying to make excuses. I know that O can be a pill to work with. But most of the time, I truly don't think she's doing it on purpose. Yes, she's indulged and spoiled but we make her work at home too. She mostly feeds herself these days. She ties her own shoes. She wipes her own butt (that is a HUGE thing in my life, just saying.) But emotionally, she is not ten years old. She's more like six. She can't remember the things her teacher tells her at the end of the day. I need notes from the teacher so I can help her do her homework. She is still growing, still maturing, still learning. She will never stop learning, thank goodness. But she will always learn at her own pace.

I definitely think we should continue to challenge her but we should also be understanding that sometimes, she just isn't going to be able to do the things her typical peers can do. It's just a fact. It doesn't mean we're going easy on her. We're just adjusting things to her level while still expecting her to do the work.

And yes, I did get off my sick chair (I spend A LOT of time in the recliner as my bruises heal) to attend this meeting. Someday, if Liv ever reads this, I hope she can comprehend how very much I love her. This girl and her sister...they are everything to me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Off the Grid

It's been a while. I didn't mean to disappear but apparently, I don't recover from surgery very well.

So, to recap the past couple of weeks.

I got the cancer diagnosis on August 21. That was a Monday. I met with a surgeon on Thursday, August 24. He sent me for an x-ray and blood work that very day and scheduled an MRI for the following Wednesday, August 30. I met with the surgeon the day after the MRI. He told me that the MRI came back with good news, there was no sign of cancer in my lymph nodes. At that appointment, he also told me he had an opening for surgery the next Tuesday, which would be September 5.

I said, "Let's do it."

And so we did. Tom and I got to the hospital at 10am on Tuesday, September 5. Surgery was scheduled to start at 2pm but the surgeon wanted the surgery to be wire guided, so we got there early so they could insert a wire into the tumor so the doctor wouldn't have to cut more than necessary. The wire was inserted using an ultrasound for guidance. The radiologist who inserted the wire had a hard time finding the tumor. I told him it was pretty deep and he'd have to push harder on the ultrasound wand. They got the wire inserted and then I had to have some dye injected that would make it way to my lymph nodes. Even though the MRI showed no signs of cancer there, the surgeon planned to take out a couple of them for testing.

At about 1:00 my mom showed up to wait with Tom and relieve him so he could go home and wait with the girls when they got off the bus. At some point, my pre-op nurse gave me a Xanax, so I was quite relaxed before surgery. I dozed while waiting to be taken back to surgery. I remember being moved from the pre-op room to the operating room but once I was on the operating table, I remember nothing until I was back in the recovery room.

I evidently also take quite a while to wake up from anesthesia. It makes me very nauseas and so the post-op nurse kept pumping me full of anti-nausea medicine, which also made me groggy. The surgery only took about an hour and a half but I wasn't ready to go home until about 7:30 and even then, I was still a little sick to my stomach and VERY groggy. I slept the entire drive home and vaguely remember Tom and my mom helping me up the stairs to our house. I collapsed in the recliner and do not remember Tom helping me move to the couch to sleep that night. I do remember him giving me the first of the prescription pain pills. Yeah, more on those vile things later.

The next morning I felt better. In pain, but better. I woke up in time to hear Alyssa yelling at Olivia at the kitchen table, where O was being a brat about her hair. I felt good enough to go in and braid her hair for her, which made her happy and made her sister seethe. Alyssa is all about helping and making my life easier. not so much all about that.

My doctor called on Thursday after the surgery to tell me that pathology came back and they got all the cancer. It was contained to the one tumor (Pete) and my lymph nodes were clear. So yes, all good news. He asked me how I was feeling and I reported that I was doing okay.

I saw him for my post-op appointment last Thursday, September 14. After waiting with Tom in the exam room for an hour and fifteen minutes (much to Tom's disgust) the doctor finally arrived. He noticed that I moved slowly from the chair to the exam table. When he first looked at the site of my incision, he flinched a little and said, "Wow, I didn't expect that much bruising. Were you this bruised when we talked last week?"

I shrugged and said, "Well, yeah."

He asked Tom, "Is she always this stoic?"

I joked, "Eh, he probably thinks I'm pretty whiny."

Tom replied, "Not about this, I don't."

The doctor declared that I am much more bruised and swollen than he'd anticipated and decided I need to be off work another two weeks to recover. I appreciate this because I still tire VERY easily and I admit to still being in some pain.

But in the long run, I've been very lucky. The worst news I've had yet is the initial cancer diagnosis. The good news is that we caught it early, it's contained to the one tumor and hasn't spread. It is stage one.

I meet with an oncologist next Tuesday to discuss further treatment.

Today, I had a meeting with Liv's teachers, which means I've been able to think about something other than my own health/pain/recovery. That's always good, even if it is about how to motivate a child who doesn't feel that learning for it's own sake is motivation enough. But that's a post for another day. Tomorrow, maybe?

Sunday, September 3, 2017


How does one spend a nice long weekend before heading off on a Tuesday for surgery?

Wait, did I mention that I'm having surgery on Tuesday? I am. I went to see the surgeon last Thursday after my MRI on Wednesday, at which I was dubbed the valedictorian of MRI patients. So, sure, I might have given myself that title but the technician told me I was the best MRI patient she'd ever had. Even if she tells all her patients that, I'm taking the valedictorian title because, well, I can.

So the appointment with the surgeon on Thursday started with him telling me that the MRI results were good. It showed the cancer isn't in the lymph nodes. That's excellent news.

Then he asked what I thought of surgery on Tuesday. They're going to go in and take out the mass and leave as much breast tissue as possible. There will be a pathologist in the operating room to check the nodes. While the MRI showed good news, they want to make sure while they've got me on the operating table. I do like the idea of only having to be cut once if possible.

So this weekend has been one of prep. I have boatloads of laundry. My bathroom is cleaner than it's been since I moved into this house seven years ago. Yes, I'm kind of ashamed of that. Alyssa, bless her sweet heart, cleaned her bathroom too.

Tomorrow I have to wash the sheets on my bed and shower using Dial antibacterial soap. I am also going to mop the kitchen floor.

I've baked two batches of cookies, apple turnovers and cherry turnovers and blueberry muffins. Apparently, when surgery is looming, I bake.

I still need to clean the half bathroom and someone (Alyssa?) needs to vacuum. I've brought down the movies I might want to watch while I recover from surgery. I would like to dust because, yeah, my house seems filthy as I look around at everything I've put off thinking I have all the time in the world.

And I have kids and a husband to love. Honestly, I'm a very lucky gal.