Thursday, January 28, 2016

Love and Understanding

So it was just over a month ago that we gave Sweetie a printed copy of this letter. And... it went well, all things considered. She was confused. She shed tears. She wondered why we were now "taking the magic away from her." She had lots and lots of questions, even into the next few days afterwards. But all in all, she got the intended message, was wowed by the efforts we've gone through to bring magic into her life, and completely all about being on "Team Santa" - even wanting us to buy matching "Team Santa" T-shirts for us to wear next Christmas season. Yes, ma'am! Can't wait to show our united front next year and work with you to bring joy and happiness to the world!

In other news, Sweetie continues to thrive - yes, thrive! - in junior high school. Straight A's on her 1st quarter report card, and A's and B+'s for Quarter 2 (Gym and English earned her those B+'s), with straight A's of varying degree rounding out her Semester 1. Way to go, Sweetie!

Back in early December Sweetie turned in her application for a specialized STEM-focused charter school in our area, as Math and Science are both her strongest subjects and her most enjoyed. We attended this school's information night shortly before turning in the application, and Sweetie just loved it. Despite their warning of the intense workload and effort expected, Sweetie proclaimed afterwards how much more she was now interested in attending this school, and that she couldn't believe there was a school like this that seemed made just for her.

Alas, admission to this school is strictly through a lottery basis. Last weekend was the lottery and, while we don't officially know yet if an invitation to attend the school will be offered to her or not, we do know that her grade-specific position is quite high and that only a small number for her next-year grade will be offered admission. So - very unlikely. This opportunity has probably passed us by for this year. But she'll try again next and hope for the best.

At the same time, Sweetie seems to be just killing it in her math education at her current school! For one thing, she and everyone else in her grade recently participated in NWEA testing. Now, I've never been one for standardized tests, but if you've got to take them, I think the NWEAs do it well. All computerized, and the questions adjust to each kid's individualized level of understanding. No 2 kids take the same test, and the test, in a way, pushes each kid to answer more and more difficult questions until they prove that they've reached a plateau. At least that's my understanding. At any rate, Sweetie took hers (they are tests for Math and English only) and came home with the news that not only did she receive a math score earning her a spot next year in Honors Algebra 1 (as did her previous Math score on this test when she took it in 6th grade, actually), but that she received the 3rd highest Math score in her whole grade (2nd highest, if you consider that the top score was a tie between 2 students)! Wow! (I'm told she did well on the English portion as well, but I don't know specifics.)

On top of that, Sweetie (and about 30 other students in Middle School, including her BFF) joined the Math Club about 2 or 3 months ago. Just around the time that she found out her NWEA score, she and her BFF, and anyone else in Math Club who wanted to (which was pretty much all of them, I hear) took a voluntary math test to see who would make it onto the official Math Team that will soon compete at a nearby college along with several other Math Teams in the area. The top 8 scores on this test made it onto the team. Sweetie and her friend tied, securing their spots as the 6th and 7th members on the team! That big competition is a week from tomorrow... who knows what will happen then, but we sure are proud of our Little Miss Smarty Pants for getting even this far!

All this math stuff (not to mention her complete and total love for and skill in Science) just... hmmmm... I don't know... just has me so confused. Especially because I don't often have any call to see her use these skills in action. She most often has her homework done by the time I see her at night, so I've never really seen her struggle - or not! - with any math or science concept. And life in general just doesn't have her displaying her skills in these areas on any regular occasion. Not to mention that I hate math (okay - hate is a strong word and I know I should never use it. But math and I have a very mutual strong dislike of each other, is all I'm saying.) I'm a writer! I was an English major! I never even liked Science very much. And Hubby? Well, he went to school for Graphic Design. I think he did okay and kinda/sorta liked Geometry once upon a time. And he has a general interest in word problem/puzzles. I've always liked puzzles too, actually. So I know we've passed on this particular love to Sweetie. But all the rest it? I just don't know, man. I don't get it. Love it! Appreciate it! Am so thankful that she "gets" her math homework, because we sure as heck wouldn't be able to help her with it! But, you know... kinda dumbfounded over the whole thing too. Where did this come from? Whatever - rock on, Sweetie! Keep on doing what you're doing - it's obviously working well for you.

And then there's, well, Sweetie's just general sense of self, sense of confidence, and appreciation for her own "weirdness" that I both love so much to see, and - at the same time - am completely confused by. Again, she didn't get these positive self-image personality traits from me or her father, shy creatures that we are now and definitely were back in middle and high school. Today, for example, she wanted to go off to school - mind you, just a regular ol' school day like every other - dressed as a cat. Oh, it was just a black shirt, pants, and boots - but also with the ears, tail, and face makeup proudly in place. Just because. And I let her. Just because. Except, I didn't allow all the face makeup that she wanted - not until she asked her Advisory teacher if she thought it would be okay. So who knows, I may pick her up after school to see her completely decked out... or I may find her completely de-cattified if any school staff instructed her to take the accessories and makeup off. Can't wait to see who, or what, I pick up.

But even that... even with me warning her that this may not be allowed by her school... that the "mean girls," the "cool girls," and anyone else in between is likely to pick on her, to tease her, about what she's wearing. I made this perfectly clear that she should expect that she will be picked on, and what was she going to do about that? She assured me that no one was going to pick on her and, the couple kids she could think of who may be the ones to tease her, well - they aren't even in any of her classes. "They'll find a way, Sweetie. Word will get to them and they will find a way." She remained unfazed. So, despite my warning and reservations, I ultimately agreed to her cat-wishes and sent her off. Again, I can't wait to see what she has to say when I pick her up.

You know, though... I knew that my warnings of what kids may pick on and tease her about would not affect her. I knew she wouldn't care. She revels in her differentness at school. She loves her friends who are as different as she is and who love her for her "weirdnesses." And she couldn't care less about what her other peers think. And, yes, she could be putting up a front and deep down having some not-so-pleasant reactions to kids who may pick and tease. But, for the most part, I really don't think so. An adult we know who knows Sweetie pretty well, and who has a grown daughter whom he thinks was just like Sweetie is now, said recently that his daughter "oozes self-confidence" and he thought Sweetie did too. And I'd have to agree. Body issues and bullying and all that happy Middle School stuff - well, if they're there, they're just not touching her. She doesn't participate in getting others down, and she doesn't allow anyone who may be trying to dig at her to find any success with that. I'm so thankful for this and hope she continues to be as strong and confident as she currently is.

However! For as much self confidence as I know Sweetie has, and for as well as I feel she can handle peer teasing or other peer negativity that may, or already has, come her way... the girl just cannot handle family members teasing her. More specifically, adult family members. This paradox just hit me today. Why can she confidently not be fazed by one, but be brought to tears and confusion by another?

I think the answer might be love. (Awwww.... the answer is always love, isn't it?) What I mean by that is - Sweetie has no particular emotional connection to anyone at school who may choose her as their focus in their teasing antics. So, who cares if they pick on her! She doesn't care what they think anyway. The confidence and love she has in herself is way stronger than anything these dumb put downs could possibly be. But - if someone she loves teases her about something (and specifically any adult who tries to tease her)... in a joking way, in a not-trying-to-hurt-you-at-all kind of way, but just as a silly tease about something meaningless in the eyes of the teaser... well, then. Sweetie is much more apt to not interpret what is said as a tease, but as something authentic and meaningful, and coming from a place of love. And why on Earth would something said that's coming from a place of love make her feel so confused, hurt, dumb, or whatever the case may be? Aha! I think that just may be it!

Fights between her and I, for instance, are apt to happen because of a misinterpreted tease. And that is definitely true between her Daddy and her too. So often we're having to end up talking to her about her attitude or her too-sensitive nature (her words) and assuring her that so-and-so meant nothing by what they offhandedly said. It was a tease. Don't worry about it. Everything is fine. You've got to learn to relax, to tease back, and to move on.

Wow. From Santa to Math Excellency to Self Confidence, Teasing and Love... What an epic post! I've always said that writing helps make things clearer for me. Oh how true that is today. Something to think about here, maybe, for everyone. A little bit of love and understanding will do ya all a bit of good, whatever you may be going through.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Push Me Around, Why Doncha!

We took Sweetie to - finally! - see The Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science this past Saturday. This made me so happy, because it's something Sweetie's been wanting to see since the Spring, when she was one of a handful (or so) of kids who actually got to preview a few parts of the exhibit and offer her opinion on what she liked and didn't like about it - all in the name of making the exhibit excellent for all to see when it finally was ready to open to the public. She loved it, we loved it, and it was especially fun to share the experience with my cousin and her family, who happened to be planning a trip to the exhibit on the same day. It was a fun day all around!

But... the experience also made me sad because, well, it was just hard for me to do. Physically. To walk around. Without pain. Without numbness in my legs. Without sitting down every chance I got (which, if I was lucky, was every 5 minutes or so or, if I wasn't so lucky, every 20 minutes or more.) In fact - I wasn't able to get through the day - or even the first 15 - 20 minutes of our visit - without the pain and numbness settling in and not giving up. Finding a place to sit down for a bit always helps. It helps a good deal, actually. But the back pain was there, at some level or another, to stay, and the leg numbness returned within moments after getting up from every little rest I could find.

I could blame this all on the fact that I forgot to bring with me my (store bought by my own decision) back brace. But... hmmmm.... the last time I knew we'd be going on a bit of a walk (a tour of a local school Sweetie is interested in transferring to) and I did wear my back brace.... well, my legs got more numb and my back was in more pain than I can ever remember them being. I was forced to sit down and miss the second half (or more) of the tour because I simply wasn't physically able to do it. So, no. I don't think having my back brace would have done much, if anything, beneficial to me at the museum.

You know what? It's not how difficult it was for me to get around, or the pain or numbness that made me sad. No - I was expecting that. It's what my life is like now. Seeing the exhibit, being with family, seeing the excitement in Sweetie's eyes at everything - in the Pixar exhibit and beyond in the rest of the museum we visited afterwards - completely makes it all worthwhile to me. I can do it! My family allows me to sit and rest as much as I need, without complaint, each and every time. They are used to the limitations I have and what I need to do to help myself out, and they honor each and every request for "a few minutes rest" whenever the situation arises.

What really made me sad - makes me sad - is the realization I've now been forced to accept that I cannot do this anymore. I cannot go out on big walking adventures anymore. I. just. can't.

It's time. It's time I admit to myself that, when we go places that will require a large amount of walking, I must rent a wheelchair. This will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. There will be no issues with how long I can "last" as long as my companions are willing and able to help get me from place to place. Sure, they'll have me to push around, but Hubby and Sweetie are strong and able. I'm sure it'll be no problem at all - even fun! - for them to wheel me around anywhere we care to go, for as long as we all want to be there.

And it's not like I've never ridden in a wheelchair before! Why, when I was 16 and way more energetic and had a lot more "ability" with my disability, I visited Disney World with my mom and aunt and they wheeled me all around the Magic Kingdom and the other Disney parks. And when Hubby and I visited Paris when we were first dating, we were able to get me a wheelchair for our tour around the Louvre Museum. I wasn't riddled with back pain or numbness in those days. But I had just walked a ton on our Paris adventure, so getting to sit awhile while we visiting the museum was a treat for my tired bones.

But still - it's a sad realization for me to have to admit that this is it. I really can't just choose anymore to get a wheelchair or not just because it will make things a little easier maybe... No, now I absolutely must get a chair if I want to have any stamina left at the end of the day, and not want to feel like I'm complaining or making Hubby, Sweetie, or whomever else I'm with feel like they have to shorten their experience just because I'm completely done walking around.

But still - it feels like admitting this is just the first(??) step in heading downhill in my abilities as I get older (stairs are getting harder and harder for me too - at least on the up trip.) I don't want to get worse! I don't want to have to be in a wheelchair all the time! I don't want to become a burden to Hubby, Sweetie or anyone else!

Maybe you can even argue that I could work really hard and help myself enough with exercise, therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc., etc., etc... now to get me back to good enough and not needing a wheelchair when we're out and about. And maybe that's right. But only right enough. I've had this back pain and leg numbness (which is becoming worse as of late) long enough and with enough therapies, exercises, etc., etc., to know that all of what could be helping me only helps me a very minimal amount. Chiropractic perhaps is the best and I should look into getting back to that. But... take acupuncture, which is my latest attempt at relief. I had an acute back side pain that treatments helped with immensely! But treatments (and, yes, I've only had 4) have not done a lick of good for my general, Spina Bifida related pains and numbness. And, if you think about it, how could they? My body is just not set up the way it "should" be to have proper flow and connections. So acupuncture really could only get me so far, if at all, through any chronic issues I have. But chiropractic has helped me before - greatly! - and can work, over time, to physically move my body back into a more fluid order where synapses can begin to connect and pain and numbness can ease away. Yes, if anything, I suppose I'd go back to chiropractic.

But still - that would not be a cure-all. A great help, sure! But not a cure. I know it would still feel like the best option - to rent that wheelchair when out on lengthy adventures so that whatever chiropractic has helped to restore is not thrown out the window when my body walks and walks and walks, getting more and more tired, sloppy, and back to disrepair.

Okay. So this is not a sad thing. It's a helpful thing! We can be out for longer stretches of time! We can do more! I can still get out of the wheelchair when I want or when that makes looking at something on our adventure easier. It's not like I'd be stuck in it. But it would be helpful. And I know Sweetie and Hubby would actually make it fun, for them to push me around and "drive" me all over the place. It could be a real hoot, if I think about it. I mean, come on! Do you know Sweetie and Hubby?! They'd be a riot! We'd all be laughing and racing and having a grand old time, I'm sure.

So. There it is. A major, permanent change in how I live my life. I simply won't be able to do some adventures, since it's pretty hard to maneuver a wheelchair through the woods on geocaching hikes. But there will be so much more I now can do, because I'm not tiring out my body and I'm granting myself permission to take care of myself like I should.

Hubby is always telling me not to be a martyr. That I don't ask for help nearly as much as I should. He, more than anyone else, knows what I am capable of, and what I am not. He allows me to push myself further than anyone else does, because he knows I can do it! So.... that's another thing. Not wanting to disappoint him that this is now a thing that I cannot do.... But, no. Again, he tells me not to be a martyr. To ask for help! Well, I'm saying now, with this aspect of my life, I need the help.

Not sad. Glad. Glad I'm finding a way to still do (most) of the things I want to do with my family, while also doing what's right for me and my health.