School’s Out For – Ever?

I think I’m not going to re-register the boys at their preschool for next year — essentially unschooling, ahead of schedule.

I’d previously secured a promise from the other parent that we’d “look at all the options” come kindergarten-age. “All the options” would include the regular public school down the street, whatever charter or magnet options are available, and truly alternative options like unschooling and the state’s K-12 online curriculum (technically a charter, but logistically very homeschooly).

When we agreed-to-agree-later, the expectation that the boys would just happily bop along in preschool until the final lightning round. But it’s just not going well enough to justify the time and effort and expense. And because of their late birthday, they will be nearly 6 before starting kindy — kind of unthinkable to a May-baby like me.

I was ardently supportive of unschooling years before we thought we’d have a kid. I read The Teenage Liberation Handbook in college — alas, a couple years too late to apply it to my own life — but the attitude and openness to unschooling was exactly what I’d wanted, and what I’d eked out a little of, in spite of compulsory public schooling, without ever having a word or a model for it.

I was so underserved in school because I was a smart, good, girl.

I didn’t demand anything from my teachers. I didn’t even ask sweetly for anything. I didn’t know I could.

I finished every assignment early and pulled out a book or needlepoint project.

When I broke my ankle in 3rd and 6th grade, I stayed inside and graded the others students’ worksheets while they went out to PE, because I was accurate and trustworthy.

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Christmas, age 7. My favorite gift? A book called The Human Body. #ThisIsNotNormal

Because my home life was, um, “hectic,” I did all my homework on the bus on the way to school, or during homeroom, or in the class immediately prior.

My teachers asked to keep my posters and projects and papers to show as models to next year’s students. Except for a diorama I made in 2nd grade of The Snowy Day – that one we donated to the big public library downtown, and they displayed it each winter for several years.

I won scholarships to summer arts camps at the local college.

I scored 99%ile on every CRCT and ITBS and any other standardized test we took. A perfect score on the 8th grade state writing exam.

I got straight A’s until 8th grade, when I got super depressed (again) and revolted (finally).

I wanted to DIE.

And I was one of the lucky ones.

I mostly had good teachers, caring and bright.

At the end of kindergarten, my teacher recommended I be tested for the gifted program, which I easily passed. Taking that test is one of my few early memories because it was so FUN – solving puzzles, one-on-one, for a nice lady who smiled at me!

Once a week for the rest of elementary school, I spent a day in a gifted class, with more interesting projects and a chance to stretch my thinking a little. In middle school, it changed to a class period a day. Better than nothing?

“Slow down and let the other kids catch up,” my parent’s joked when I came home complaining.

“You think it’s easy now? Just wait til you get to middle school,” they said.

“You think it’s easy now? Just wait til you get to high school,” they said.

“You think it’s easy now? Just wait til you get to college,” they said.

So I went to college, as I’d been begging to do since at least 8th grade. (“This standardized test says I’m reading at a 16th grade level! I wasn’t even trying! Why can’t I just skip to it?” I was insufferable because I was suffering.)

I’d like to say college was the sea change I’d been seeking. And when I got there, there were other smart women, and super professors, and fun books to read, and new ways to stretch my brain. But there was still so much awareness that I had to slow down to let others catch up with a class discussion, or not be too participatory in a group project. Just save it for office hours, just work it out in the essay you’ll be getting an A on no matter what.

I couldn’t take a math class because I probably wouldn’t get an A in it, and that would threaten my scholarships. Even though I had questions that my high school math teachers hadn’t been able to answer.

I couldn’t take an econ class because  I wasn’t an econ major or minor, and I might not have gotten an A in it.

I couldn’t sleep at night because I was manic.

I couldn’t wake up in the morning because I was depressed.

I couldn’t…I couldn’t…until I couldn’t any longer: I spite-failed my senior seminar (required for my major) and had to take 21 hours in my last semester to graduate on time/get on with my life. If it weren’t for STUNT, I don’t think I’d be here today.

As a kid, I could never make my parents happy, because their unhappiness had deep roots reaching back well before I made the scene. My teachers, on the other hand, were too easy to please: I didn’t struggle academically or socially, and god knows there were plenty of others who did, enough to fill all the teacher’s available time and attention and then some.

Bosses, it turned out, were like my teachers (and occasionally like my parents). In either case, my effect was muted, and I would quit after 9 or 10 interminable months. Over and over, for years. (Also, being a secretary is really. fucking. boring.) Only once I landed in libraries did I slow the rapid-failure pace and find a sweet spot for fulfilling my needs for curiosity and autonomy and service.

One of the hardest works of my adult life has been recognizing that I am not normal, not average, and never have been, and that it’s okay to be that way.

A few years after college, I tried in vain to get my mom to tell me what my IQ score(s) had been from my gifted test in kindergarten, but of course she’d willfully forgotten and saved not a scrap of evidence, like it was some kind of the dirty family secret.

So I took the MENSA entrance exam one sunny afternoon, thinking that’d be an easy way to rule out that I fell in the top 2%. I didn’t expect to get the acceptance letter a few weeks later.

Well, THAT’S interesting, I thought.

I read books and blogs on unschooling and laid their frames over my story, imaging different experiences and outcomes. Verdict: Yes, I probably could have been a contender. I taught the word “autodidact” to a physician I worked with/for. I read whenever there’s a spare moment and play pub trivia for its louche appeal.

More recently, I’ve read about Asperger’s/ASD (especially in women, it’s different, yo), and about Dabrowski (he GOT it), and blogs like Your Rainforest Mind. And it’s bittersweet – to finally be seen, not just a malcontent and nerd but as someone with high potential and deep sensitivities.

As someone not congenitally broken.

As someone who deserved more than she got.

I can’t make education decisions for my children without weighing these experiences.

At 3, the boys are too young to test for giftedness, but according to the research consensus, their IQs likely fall within 5-10 points of my own. (Which I still don’t know exactly, argh.) Their donor is an unknown variable, but most of the heritability of IQ comes from the mother anyway.

As environment goes, they’ve got nearly every advantage we can give them, that I wish we could ensure for every child everywhere: food, shelter, loving adults, relative stability, books and music, art supplies and blocks, time for doing and time for reflecting, chances to make mistakes and get hurt and make new mistakes and get better. They were born full-term and healthy #blessed. They’re bilingual. They are curious and motivated and tenacious and intense.

Plus in the fall, they’ll start weekly German school, and maybe an extracurricular, and we’ll keep going to libraries and museums and performances and cultural festivals and playgrounds, and I’ll keep thrifting way too many great books and toys. We’ll visit family and friends, spend time in the woods, make art, eat good food. Within the year, I expect they’ll start reading independently, asking more questions, testing even more limits.

In other words, I have no reason to think they are NOT gifted, and I want them to be treated as such.

Preschool’s greatest strength and ultimate betrayal is its die-hard determination that all students are equal.

Public school’s greatest strength and ultimate betrayal is its insistence that all students better be equal (but the white male ones should be a bit more so, that’s just how it’s always been done, hup hup, barf).

In both cases, all student deserve the same opportunity for high-quality education to grow up to be the best contributors they can be, with the most fully-realized selves. Society depends on it. Our collective future depends on it.

And for now, my children depend on me to make the best choices for them, given the options and information available at the time. It’s not a decision I take lightly or wish to abdicate to anyone else. Their futures depend on it. Their selves, now and later, depend on it.

The world has the right to expect great things from them, and they have the right to know it.

 

Nevus Say Nevus

In which I play with gifs because I can’t draw.

Yesterday I went to a new dermatologist office.

Nurse: What brings you in today?

Me: I have this big mole on the side of my face that isn’t getting smaller, so I’d like to see about having it removed. Also wanted to ask about these skin tags around my eyes.

Nurse: Ok, we can help with that. The PA will be in shortly.

[shortly]

Disembodied voice behind me: Hi, it’s great to meet you.

Me: I hear a voice behind me but I see nothing. Is that you, god?

This office has the patient chairs face away from the exam room doors. It’s HIPPAA-approved and probably good for modesty, but who brings THAT to the doctor’s office? Plebes.

PA, appearing finally in my line of vision: What brings you in today?

Me: I have this big mole on the side of my face that I’d like to have removed. It got like 3 times bigger while I was pregnant, and they said it might go back down, but wow obviously THAT hasn’t happened so here I am [don’t say how many years don’t say how many years]

PA: Yep. Sure, we can do that. Is…that all…you want to ask about?

Me: I know a trap when I see one. Why don’t you just tell me what you’re seeing?

No matter what I point out, it’s bound to be the wrong thing. I’m a 36yo woman with weird acne behind my ears, nose blackheads big enough to break your axle if you drove through them, skin tags a plenty, allergic shiners despite the 3 allergy meds I take every day, eyebrow hairs in at least 3 colors with the propensity to get shockingly long overnight, a chickenpox scar on my cheek (well, that one I’m actually a bit fond of).

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How much time have you got, PA McTeasey?

Besides, she was the elephant in the room: 7+ months pregnant, a perfect baby belly under her bold horizontal-striped top. She asked about my kids but never said *a single thing* about her own obviously impending one. And I, having taken the sacred vow to Never Assume a Pregnancy Unless I am Personally Witnessing its Exciting Conclusion, was powerless to ask.

PA: I have to tell you 3 things first. First, we have to send the tissue to the lab to biopsy, so you can have peace of mind that it’s not cancerous. And so your insurance will pay for it.

Me: A-yup.

PA: Two, there may be a small scar left afterward. It will be white and flat.

Me: Yep.

PA: I mean, anything’s better than what you’ve got, right?!

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Me: [highfiving myself in the face] Ok, so you get this. I like you.

PA: Third, it might come back.

Me: oh. I was “expecting” you to tell me you were pregnant. But yeah, fine. Slice n dice.

Approx 10 painless seconds later, it’s all done and I have a tiny bandaid over the previously nipple-sized mole. Hot damn.

PA, snapping off gloves: Ok, simple aftercare. Anything else?

Me: No. I mean, yeah! Could you make a quick recommendation about these skin tags around my eyes? My previous derm said I could just clean some scissors and snip them off, but I’m kind of afraid of poking my eye out, or cutting off my eyelid or something.

PA: THAT IS HORRIBLE ADVICE. I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY SAID THAT.

Me: weeping softly: It’s been so hard.

PA: Those are flat so we’d have to cut out all the skin under them, which, yikes! So instead, what we’d do is dip a qtip in liquid nitrogen and dab it on.

Me: Sounds…better? Approximate costs?

PA: Very low three-figures.

Me: Wow, great! I’ll schedule that on my way out!

PA: Yeeeah…just pick a Friday or something, because after we do it, you’re going to look like you were in a bar fight. Swelling, scabbing…

Me: Will you marry me? You can have our baby!

Outcome: all win.

I now have one less nipple on my face (aerodynamic win) and maybe a new scar once it heals (character win).

And someday soon, I will look like I’ve been in a bar fight (badassery win) and then have less face clutter (ultimate goal).

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Name That Tune, Felix Wunderkind

We popped into Kris’ office this morning to deliver an important message. She was listening to, at that moment, the Stereo MC’s “Step It Up.”

After delivering our message, Felix asked sweetly, “Mama, are you listening to the dinosaur song?”

Huh?

He continued, “I like this Dinosaur Train song.”

Mamas running to catch up in 3…2…1…

Oh. Wh–?

How?!

Holy shit.

I invite you to compare:

What’s the german word for “the first time this happened, it was interesting, but now that it’s happened a second time, it’s even more shocking”?

Because it happened last year, too.

Sometime last year (since March), Kris was listening to Beethoven’s Ninth (the Ode to Joy one), doing chores. Felix ran over to his keyboard and pushed the button to play one of the demo songs. This one:

“See, Mama!”

If it sounded identical, it would make more sense to me.

What is this talent of his called, and how on earth can I feed it?

snapshots

🌬️59°

This is the coolest morning we’ve had since ever, so I made the family come out on the porch – before breakfast – just to FEEL IT.

Felix got it – he put on his boots and started up his lawnmower.😂 Emerson said something about “muffins,” but I just put my finger to his lips and whispered, “sshhhh…feeel the cooool, child. this is your birthright, october-baby”

My whole body hurts, but for a few hours, the windows are open and my soul is free.

#xpost via Instagram http://ift.tt/2cNFjF9

WYG 3: A Landscape So Changed

 

The wind and sand set about
scrubbing the skin from my body
the myelin from my nerves
the meat from my bones
So the sun can bleach them
An elemental purification no less violent for being silent.

Georgia O’Keefe got the good desert while
I got the sandworms and sunburns.
She called it “vast and empty and untouchable,”
so, well, maybe I do belong here now, or
my grief at least does.
And since I am the embodiment
the meatmobile
for that particular pathology,
well.

You know it’s bad when
you start admiring the
ease of the tumbleweeds and
the poise of the cow skulls.

Even in death, they’ve got me beat.
No contest.

I want so much to be a cactus
thick skin
spines
needles
spikes
and the cactus doesn’t apologize for hurting
anybody.

But I was built for the fecund forests back east,
deep dappled shade and leafy loam
gray fox, gray squirrel.

My hair was moss
and skin? Cool river stone.
My home was den and dead tree and warm red dirt.

This desert is arid and scrupling,
hostile to my body of water.

Water is my life
was
my life
but I’m not ready to change

I can’t adapt
try harder

can’t evolve
not with an attitude like that

I feel like I’m dying
you’re fine

I’m working so hard and
you haven’t even folded the laundry

but
I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?

dinner? Dying people don’t need to eat
I’m not dying

so I’m losing you, too? myself, my home, and you now too?
why don’t you go take a nap or something. 15 minutes?

<there are no words>
why are you shutting me out?

<there. are. no. words>
I talk to you.

<there are no >
feeling sexy?

<no, I>
I’m normal!

<I know>
when are you going to be like you used to be?

This trail of tears doesn’t brook u-turns.

Driven west by masked men with long guns and germs
snarling dogs and cracking whips.
I used to have my own language, alphabet,
music, government, religion, art.
I thought I had my family.
I knew every deer path and berry patch
and hill and hollow for five miles around.
I could fish and shoot and weave
start fires, tell stories, rock babies, tan hides.

I’m moved to the reservation because
because
because
trash land for trash people.

I’m not the only one.
There are so many others so lonely
our doctors can’t keep us straight.
Pharmas fight over our gold and obeisance
bow and scrape and they’ll let you live a little longer

as long as you can pay.

Expectation, meet Reality

WYG 1: The Person I Used to Be

I used to be a paper doll with a relatively-rockin’ wardrobe of money, title, privilege. A two-dimensional darling of modest means but sky-high potential, and this was America at the turn of the 21st century, so how bad could life be, really?

I used to give more than I took. I used to be reliable: making commitments and keeping them. (Why didn’t life do the same for me?)

I used to agonize over what I would do with my life, with the wispy expectation that with enough strength inventories and navel gazing, I’d eventually figure it out, live it out, make good on some time-debt I inherited.

I used to know how the world worked. I used to know how to get my way and have people thank me for it. I used to have conversations and never lose the next word, much less the entire thread evaporated. I used to be able to do 5 things at once.

I used to pee and poop when I wanted to, in bathrooms, in private. I used to be able to drive at night, at dusk and dawn and every hour between. I used to be depressed sometimes, but there was always the going to be time to grow out of it, this phase, this rough patch, this one-off blue mood.

I used to want to save the world. I used to think that the hardest part of my life was past and that I had the rest of my life to keep making it better. I used to be able to feel touch and temperature and pleasure and not want to crawl out my skin.

I used to be in sync with the rhythms of the world – wake and work and play and sleep, repeat. I used to have a job to go to, a week that made a weekend make sense. I used to be proud of myself sometimes.

I used to read books. No — I used to inhale books, devour books, put a new book  on like a sexy new dress and spin around and shimmy. Then I went blind and got mostly unblind and had kids. Now I buy books and stack them and give up and give them away unread.

I used to be independent, not a joiner. I used to feel equal to my wife, or near enough – a star fit to hang near her moon. Not this frozen dwarf planet orbiting by habit, dumbly waiting for an international body of scientists to demote me further, any year now who knows, it’s not up to me.

I am medical records number 56-1802,
the patient in exam room 3,
claim number 45688-48375-00092-1,
the refill request on line 2,
dependent of the primary insurance holder. I am
“ma’am, are you okay?”
“ma’am, do you need help?”

Becoming a mom has not helped, not that I expected it to, but maybe I didn’t expect it to hurt so much. How could I possibly compete with the piss and vinegar of somebody 1/35th my age, even 1/17th, 1/12th? They arrived programmed to learn at such a breathtaking pace, to hoard skills and knowledge like so many goldfish crackers. They are still on that upward trajectory with a hazy ending so inexpertly timed that we can pretend it doesn’t even exist.

I, on the other hand, am perversely devolving, deviating from that upward arc of exploration and acquisition. I am losing, always losing, with no hope of getting back, as the world and my people in it keep moving on, up, out, and around.

As they should! As I should.

I used to be a bad imitation of myself. Now I’m a bad imitation of somebody else. Not well enough to be well, not sick enough to die. Disabled, but not “wheelchair bound.” Disabled, but not born that way. Not appropriately grateful for whatever it is I’ve got left, not happy to have been conscripted in the fight of my life.

Not getting better has been the biggest failure of my life, tied maybe with not being able to quit caring about the failing – six of one. I can’t get out from under the disappointment, steeped in shame, the failure of imagination and neurons and pelvic floor.

But nearly ten years in, it’s obvious that the horse is out of the barn and I’d just as soon burn it down, that piece of shit, falling-down, ramshackle deathtrap of a barn. At least then the horse will have to find a better place to live.

Who is the horse? Who is the barn? If I’m so smart, why can’t I figure this out?