Taking control of chaos

Put your head down and push through

So what do you do when someone you love and respect passes judgement not only on your son, but on your parenting? You put your head down and push through.

When someone says, “He talks to YOU, so he’s just being rude by not talking to me…” When someone says, “All he does is sit there and cry…” Especially when this person is an adult who should be able to put their own ego aside… You put your head down and push through.

When someone you love and respect tells you that, despite the fact that your life has been placed on hold to find the help your son needs, despite the fact that you have never had a real support system or break from special needs parenting, despite the fact that there have been times you’d give anything to have someone else take over for a while, despite all of this, you have been found lacking because it is sometimes all too much for you to handle alone… You put your head down and push through.

When your son is unable to tap properly into his emotions… When your son’s default reaction to emotions is to cry, but that’s better than where he was a year ago when emotions made him want to die… When he has made so much progress in so many areas of his life that you consider even this small gain a miracle… You put your head down and push through.

Because you know the truth…that in spite of the overwhelming panic and inadequacy you feel at times, you would  – and have – done everything you could for your son. In spite of the fact that you had to do it alone, you did it. And it has made an incredible difference in his life.

The Great Smarties Candies Refocusing Strategy

I agree wholeheartedly!


Q. What do Smarties candies (the American kind), Orwellian Doublespeak, Union solidarity, Hamilton, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the New Jersey Turnpike’s Joyce Kilmer Res…

Source: The Great Smarties Candies Refocusing Strategy

The Impact we Have

This will be my last year at my current school. It is closing, and students are being transferred all over the county. I will never see many of my kids after this year, and that has been difficult to accept. I call them “my kids” because they are…I help them grow their minds and their worldviews, and I can’t fully express how much that means. It is amazing to watch them adjust as they learn more about the world around them…I love teaching high school!

This year, I have had a lot of thoughts like, “What difference could I possibly make in this last year? It’s just one year out of their education.” I am used to having relationships with students over multiple years. Once they leave my class I still check up on them. My impact with this year’s students is such a tiny part of their experience that it couldn’t possibly make a difference, right?

This morning, a few things happened to change my thinking.

A student I’ve only substitute taught while her regular teacher is out came to say good morning, even though her class is nowhere near my room. We chatted a bit, and she hugged me when she headed off to class and asked if she could come by at lunch time. I have no idea what is going in her life right now, but I am honored to be a known safe person.

Two of my students were rapping in the hall, and one of them dropped the “N-word” as it is used in the song. When he saw me, he apologized immediately. “Mrs. Johnson… I’m sorry. I know you don’t like that word.” No, I don’t. And you shouldn’t. You’re better than that word. Remember that.

A student came by after the bell rang. I immediately told him I wasn’t going to give him a pass to get into class, that he had to go to the office. He held up a pass in his hand and said, “No…I came to see you! I’m going to miss you next year.” I told him I would miss him, too, and he asked, “Do you think I could have one of the books from your library to keep? And maybe you can sign it for me?” If you promise to read it, if you promise to read anything, yes! Yes! Yes!

This one year contains many moments in which I can make an impact on my kids. I had forgotten that in the emotional chaos of the school closing. I am so thankful for these reminders.


It has always been incredibly difficult for me to admit I need help, probably because, for most of my life, help wasn’t forthcoming. Right now, I am unable to manage any single part of my life, and I don’t know how to fix it. I am completely overwhelmed, and it seems much easier to simply curl into a ball until everything passes by. I have been living each day in survival mode, simply attempting to exist until bedtime.

While Dom is making some progress in his speech-language and social skills, he has backslid in his self-care and independence skills. Self-advocacy has always been an issue, but it seems to be a much larger problem the older he gets. While other kids his age are learning to prepare simple meals, Dom sits starving until I ask if he’s hungry. If anyone else asks, his answer is no. If I don’t ask, he remains hungry until he gets sick. Simple chores require Herculean effort, as he regularly forgets how to do them, even when there are directions posted.  After five years of dressing himself, he still has trouble remembering all of the steps involved in that process.

His progress with social interactions has increased dramatically, but last Saturday we were back at Step 1 when his normal social skills therapist was out. Despite two weeks of planning and the inclusion of the substitute in those two weeks of work, Dom still refused to interact with the substitute at all when his normal therapist was not present. That day’s therapy session was a waste of time, and it served as a reminder that he still has so far to go.

Between Dom and some problems with other family members, I am an anxious wreck myself. As a result, I go through teach day in a fog, just trying to put one foot in front of the other.

I am in the midst of an ongoing battle with our insurance company to get Dom’s ABA therapy approved. Carefirst says the mental health insurance company is responsible, and that company says Carefirst is responsible, and the end result is that we wait. More time passes without Dom getting help he needs, and I get more anxious as that time passes by.

Today, as I spilled my guts and tears all over my mentor teacher, she asked me, “Isn’t there anyone willing to help?” My answer was, unequivocally, “Yes, but…” Her response was, “If you try to do it all, you’re going to kill yourself, and then there will be nobody to do any of it.”

I don’t know what parts of this chaos anyone could help with. I don’t know how I could foist Dom off on anyone, knowing that his reaction could be swift and severe. What I do know is that I’m going to break if things don’t change for the better soon, so if you can do nothing else, please pray.

To Worry or Not to Worry

I am a worrier. I have high anxiety and have always spent my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I worry about money, car breakdowns, unemployment, illness, my kids, my kids’ illnesses, allergies, and on and on…endlessly. I worry even in the face of all logical reassurances. I worry even when I know I don’t really need to worry at all.

Today, I saw someone with a tattoo that said simply, “Choose Joy.” It took a bit for that to settle.

When it comes down to the most basic atoms of my worry, I choose it. Sure, I have an anxiety disorder that sometimes completely takes over and removes the choice from my hands. But my regular, day-to-day worries? Those are me choosing to worry, instead of pushing the worry out of my mind, where it belongs. Instead, I need to choose joy.

I am going to do a small trial…when I start to worry about things that are completely out of my control, I am going to start doing something instead that brings me joy. Whether that means spending time with my family, reading a good book, or getting lost in a Netflix binge, I am going to do my best to choose joy.

I don’t expect this to be easy at first. I am, after all, wired for worry after a lifetime of wrapping it around me. There will still be days when worry overtakes my life. But if I can have fewer of those days, if I can choose joy on some days, what a difference that would make to my life!

As I sit here…

My teaching day just ended. I should straighten up my room. I should change my board to tomorrow’s warm-ups, objectives, classwork assignments, and vocabulary.  I should call the building’s IT guru to figure out why the internet has been down all afternoon, requiring me to use my phone as a hot-spot to get my work done.

Instead, I am sitting here. As I sit here, I am wondering whether it is all worth it. It seems that my reasons for becoming a teacher are being slowly chipped away by a system more concerned about bureaucracy than students.

Today, my last class of the day was assigned a standardized test. Boring, oh so boring, but necessary. Not really for them, but for me. Because that boring test influences the student achievement portion of my evaluations. Only one student bothered doing the test.

Today, I spent my free period meeting with students about their grades and troubleshooting solutions with my colleagues. Today, I comforted a student mourning a friend lost to violence. Today, I advised a student facing a life-altering decision. Today, I split my lunch between two students because their mothers don’t have any money right now to add to their lunch accounts. Today, I locked my classroom door and cried over a student whom I simply can’t seem to reach. Today, I sent healthy snacks home with a student for him to share with his siblings for dinner. Today, I fretted over the consequences to my students of our probable school closure. Today, I worried about the outcomes my students will face now that the school system has decided to discontinue the intensive-level placements they need in order to be successful.

As I sit here, I wonder why an employer would sacrifice an employee’s meaningful work on the alter of assessments students don’t take seriously. I wonder why an employee would continue working a job in which they are so devalued. But what do I know? I’m just a teacher.

To the Me of Ten Years Ago | Herding Cats

A voyeur’s view of life with a child with special needs. Beautifully written.


via To the Me of Ten Years Ago | Herding Cats.

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

I just came across this, and I am already feeling this way just two years into my teaching career. It’s all too much, and it seems nobody is putting the students where they belong: first.

Source: A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

Let’s Get This Started!

Hello! I am all kinds of overwhelmed by my family, my job and my health. For far too long, my health has taken a back burner to everything else in my life. That needs to stop now. I could continue to come up with a million reasons to continue as I am…

I don’t have time to cook from scratch. Honestly, though, I love to cook. Other things are just always more important. But even though I can’t cook 12-course meals, I can make some better choices.

My kids need me too much. My youngest has autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and specific learning disabilities. We spend our evenings at various therapy appointments (which is why I don’t have time to cook). My daughter is nearly 16 and, well, dramatic (and she has ADHD, too). But if I flip this one around, they need me so much that I need to take better care of myself, right? I need to make myself more of a priority.

I am too stressed at work. I am a teacher. I am on my feet in the classroom all day long, except during my planning period, which I spend in meetings. I usually don’t get to eat my lunch until 1:30…I gulp it down from 1:30 – 1:35 between classes. By then, though, it is usually too late to prevent a migraine, so my evenings are hellish. Which leads to…

I am too sick to get myself better. Even though I know a better lifestyle would give me a better quality of life, it is hard to care when I am in the throes of a pukey migraine or a fibromyalgia flare. This is the Catch-22 for me: I feel like crap, so I can’t do the things I need to do to stop feeling like crap. I need to do them, anyway.

My loose plan is to share my life, my journey here. I will try recipes and give some honest reviews. I will ask for kicks in the butt when necessary to keep me moving. Mostly, I hope that writing it all down will help me stay focused.

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