Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My first e-mail yesterday afternoon:

Hi Mrs. ________,

I was just wondering if you saw the note I paper clipped in Ethan's planner today regarding the scissor incident.  It may have slipped out.

I was curious as to what he was doing that was inappropriate with his scissors.  Was he putting himself or others in danger?  This concerns me.  I am thinking it must have been something along these lines to have them taken away and have it so he can only use scissors with your permission at your desk.  I have never noticed him to ever exhibit aggressiveness, so if he is having a change like this in behavior, I certainly want to know.  Can you give me the exact details so I can react accordingly with him? 

I will be at the school tomorrow for my daughters Kindergarten assessment at 8:20 so if we need to discuss this further, please let me know.  I am available.

Thank you,

Laura Kowalski

Her response:

​No, I did not see your note in the planner. Sorry~I wish he would of brought it tom my attention.   I was hoping that Ethan would have explained to you what he was doing.  Mrs. ____ had told me after switch time on Fri. that he was using the scissors on his arm.  She had asked him not to do that.  Another student in the class had alerted her to this.  Then later that day he was taking them and pretending to cut off his fingers.  Again, his neighbor next to him had alerted me to this.  I asked him to show me what he was doing and he showed me exactly what she had said.  He added he was not trying to cut them though.  Since it had already been addressed in the other room I told him it would be best to keep them on my desk. He did get mad at the classmate for telling me but I told him she did the right thing by letting me know.
Mrs. _____

My response:


Thank ycou for quickly responding!  I appreciate it.

I had attached the note written on stationary paper with a paper clip.  It likely just fell off somewhere in his backpack or locker.  

I did ask Ethan what happened with the scissors prior to writing you.  He showed me motions he did on his hands, but nothing made me think it was in attempts to harm himself.  I simply wanted your side, as your note requested I discuss it with him and I wasn't sure exactly what there was to discuss.  I believe that when an issue occurs at school and the teacher handles it, it is redundant to discuss the same thing at home.  Now that I know the specifics and your concerns, we discussed the importance of not cutting our fingers or arms off and I do believe he has a firm understanding of how important these body parts are.  I do not think there will be any further amputation attempts.

Thank you for returning his scissors as well.  I respect your decision to remove them if you feel it could cause harm.  The note gave me the impression you were keeping them and he would not be getting them back, so I am glad you reconsidered.  

If you will notice in his planner from yesterday, he wrote his spelling words in the "things to study"column and next to certain words he wrote, "like me."  I discussed this with him as well and discovered these are not emotions he feels at home but instead at school.  This really saddens and disappoints me.  He was quite specific about why he felt that way at school.  Please discuss.

Laura Kowalski

Saturday, January 18, 2014

So I de-activated my Facebook account for all of 24 hours.  It is now re-activated, but not because I dearly missed it.  In fact, it felt amazing during those 24 hours I was "off the grid."  I turned it back on because a family crisis was occurring, and I realized this was one of the biggest ways we communicate, and I also had some things I was in the middle of taking care of, and all of the information I needed was buried in my Facebook messages.  All this means to me is when I re-de-activate (yes, I just created a new word) I need to plan it a little better and make sure there is no unfinished business to take care of. 

I never intended for it to be a permanent "fall off the grid" experience, and I still don't.  I just want a break of having a life that is so "out there."  I am ironically reading a book right now called Intentional Parenting, and the chapter I read AFTER I decided to de-activate touched on Facebook and how relationships are losing their authenticity.  I agree with this whole-heartedly.  Gone are the days where people met face-to-face to catch up and see those vacation photos (just log in from the comfort of your own home with zero human interaction and look at the vacation photos of HUNDREDS of people!  Easy-peasy.  I am a particularly active Facebooker.  I literally take hundreds of photos of my kids, for my own personal enjoyment, and iPhones make it so easy to share them instantly, so I do.  I know my close friends and family genuinely enjoy them, but they become accessible to people I hardly know.  That makes me a little uncomfortable when I really think about it, and I will be honest, when I post them, I'm not thinking about it.

We also open ourselves up to criticism.  My guard is down when I post, and people put their guards down when they comment.  It's all the beauty of being behind a screen.  You are safe.  Until you read words that aren't necessarily kind.  Then it's a whole new ballgame.  Tones are impossible to read and feelings get hurt, causing possibly unnecessary tension in relationships.  Is it really worth it?  I don't think it is.

Now when I say this, I say it from my perspective, but I know it's not just me.  It's everyone.  I have been on both the giving and receiving end of having things misconstrued via typing something.  I have also commented or criticized things when no one asked for my opinion... I just ever-so-unkindly gave it.  And that is not something that rests easy with me.  That is not who I am.  But again:  guard goes down, safety is felt from being in the comfort of my own home and not face-to face.  Authenticity is gone.  I don't ever want to lose my authentic self.  Ever.

And lastly, I lose valuable time staring blankly at a screen.  Valuable time that could be spent with my family (face to face!) or doing things around the house.  Reading a good book.  Going for a walk.  Visiting a museum or visiting a friend.  Those kinds of things fill your heart with a sense of goodness.  Nothing good comes out of staring at a computer or phone screen, for sometimes hours on end.  Your mind essentially shuts down and nothing gets accomplished other than the things I mentioned above.

In the meantime, I am going to tie up some lose ends and make sure people who rely on Facebook to contact me will know an alternative method.  I will wait until after my Aunt Carol's funeral, as family will be coming together over the course of the next few days and Facebook makes it easy to reach everyone fast.  But then I will refocus my time and energy in, to me, more positive ways and see how it goes.  My thought is that it will go very, very well.

Friday, December 27, 2013

With the new year coming, my mind goes to where it always goes around this time:  resolutions.  I never really make any.  This year, though, I think I might, and these are a few of the top ones:

Give 100% in everything I do:  my role as a wife, mom, nurse, daughter, sister, etc.  Just typing that feels exhausting, but I also want to give 100% to myself.  I know in many areas I do not give it my best, and that is a shame.  There are many things I know I need to do (or not do anymore) to make this happen.

Bargain shop!  I have done so well at this this past year.  I still shop TOO much, and that is also an area needing urgent attention, but I definitely want to keep finding those bargains that I have come across.  It's fun!

Continue to lose the weight.  I have lost 30 pounds after my weight plateaued when I gave birth through simple diet changes.  I have put about 5 back on over the holidays but I have a goal weight I want to be at by my 32nd birthday and I want to get serious and get there.  This also ties into giving myself 100%.  I feel so much better when I am eating healthy and exercising.

Drop some of the medications.  I touched on this months ago that the medications I take likely give me unnecessary side effects.  My biggest struggle is chronic headaches (not migraines, just headaches) so I take Excedrin (Migraine and Tension versions) as well as prescription Fioricet.  None of these options help get rid of the headaches and some days they don't do anything at all, but I take one or all on a DAILY basis and that is not healthy or good.  I think I need to figure out the root of what is causing the headaches and start there and work my way up.  First big thing:  drink more water and exercise.  The antidepressants aren't going anywhere any time soon, but who knows.  Maybe if I can get myself in a better physical state of mind, my emotional state of mind will follow suit?

And last:  save, save, save.  We want to take our kids to Disney World SO bad but it is SO expensive.  We really want to do this in the coming year.

I may back away from social media a bit, too.  Eek.  If I say it, does that mean I have to own it?  No guarantees on that one, but for real.  Facebook and blogging is a FUN habit, but a habit that takes me away from giving 100% to my family, which is far more important.  We'll see on this one.  Note I did not include it in my list.  It was more of a little side thought ;)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So we had a little set back in the homework our counselor gave us due to Miss Allison getting quite ill.  Okay, that's kind of a lie.  We didn't dot he homework because we didn't do the homework.  Allison really was sick this week, but it still should not have prevented us from getting the homework done.  We will get on that.

What I DID do, though, since Ethan is a visual learner, was create a list of rules in a nontraditional way. So what I did was I took a poster board and wrote a message about being nice that I read somewhere and it always stuck with me.  Underneath that, I wrote 4 qualities that I felt were important, followed by another uplifting message under that.  Now my PLAN was to gather my wee ones, have them sit around me, we would discuss the key quality, then make a plan as to how we were going to execute it both in our home and out in the world.  Once we had some thoughts, I'd jot them down and move to the next one until we were all in agreement.  This is how it looks:
Notice the writing.  Some is Ethan's, some is mine.  Now the picture of us all gathering around, brainstorming together didn't quite work out that way.  I had Allison on the couch, pre-occupied with her lemonade stand sign she was making for next summer, and Ethan, curled in a ball on the floor because "this was really dumb and really stupid."  Okay, then!  So I kept my cool and went through each quality and why I felt it was important.  Then I asked the kids to help me come up with ways we can follow these traits in our everyday lives.  Allison's ways were very...4 year old girl. "Give the person a flower if they are sad, Mama!"  Well, yes, but how can we prevent making a person sad in the first place?  Then I had Ethan randomly mumbling that rules were dumb, this project was dumb, and he would not be participating.  As he is mumbling this, he is slowly sliding himself out of the room and Allison has moved on from passing out flowers to me finding out if we had any grapes in the fridge cause she REALLY wanted some grapes.

I ended my attempt at regaining control of my household with a "I know stuff like this isn't necessarily fun and you might not enjoy participating, but the fact is, you WILL participate or there will be consequences and I fear the consequences of not participating might make you very sad."

We'll see.  For now, I have this GORGEOUS poster on my living room wall.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I can't bake to save my life.  I see all these delicious treats people are baking and I get a tiny bit envious.  Let me rehash some baking mishaps:

I tried making an angel food cake.  But I didn't have the right pan.  A pan is a pan, though, right?  NO!  If you use the wrong pan, the batter will spillith over and cause a large, balloon food cake that will promptly deflate when you attempt to cut it or smoosh down to the thickness of a saltine cracker because it's so "light and airy" ...or something.

The cake I made for Jay for his birthday a couple years ago.  I was in a bit of a hurry and attempted to frost it before it was completely cooled.  Okay, it was still scorching hot.  Whatev.  I frosted... it melted off.  I frosted more ... more melted off. I ended up with a double layer cake with NO frosting on top, and TWO CANS WORTH of frosting heaped around the edges.  So I decorated said heaps with sprinkles and called it a day.

Fast forward a few years and I decide to make a cake for my sister only this time I let it cool.  Completely.  Unfortunately, even though I used the same pan, one layer was more rounded, and when I stacked them, the top layer wanted to form to the dome shaped bottom layer.  Nothing a little extra frosting can't fix, right?  WRONG!   It didn't happen right away so I thought I was in the clear.  I frosted it and started to outline a heart using red M&M's.  Then I noticed gaps where I thought I placed an M&M only now there apparently wasn't one.  So I'd add another one.  Then a gap would form.  Then I realized my heart was getting very, very wide.  VERY wide.  GAPING wide.  Literally.  We had grand canyon going on.  I figured I could fix said gape with...you guessed it...more frosting.  So I did.  But the frosting make the gape bigger and it was a lost cake.  I named it my volcano cake.

My most recent incident involved boxed brownies.  How do you screw up boxed brownies?  Just ask me.  I was invited to a fancy schmancy book club so I thought I'd take regular old box brownies and spruce 'em up by adding white chocolate chips, cause white chocolate is fancy, ya'll!  I mixed the batter and stirred in some chips.  Some meaning the whole bag.  It just looked so fancy!  Put it in the pan and set the timer.  Timer goes off, and as I grab the pan, the entire middle jiggles.  Totally raw.  I add 10 more minutes.  Check it again.  Pretty gooey! Five more minutes and I take them out and let them cool.  When I go to cut them to put on a fancy plate (fancy meaning one of our regular dinner plants.  We don't do fancy here) the knife didn't cut a dang thing.  It smeared my brownies.  Smeared 'em all over.  We tried to save them by mooshing them into a square like figure, and they looked decent, but if you tried to pick it up, it was a lost cause. 

I can't really think of other baking woes but they ALWAYS happen.  I can follow a recipe to the T and somehow screw it up.  My cooking is no better, so I don't even try.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Today my mom made a confession:  She sometimes dislikes how open I am with mental illness and other issues (my own and Ethan's).  She's not embarrassed by it, but crinches, because we all know there is a stigma attached to it, and she doesn't want it all "out there."  Initially it stung a little.  I have so much respect for my mom and I'd never want to say or do something to disappoint her.  But then I remembered:  my openness has helped a lot of people.  I have had people reach out to me and thank me for making it seem not quite so taboo.  I've had people seek treatment because they had the same issues I had or people who listen to Ethan's "quirks" and say, "my son/daughter does/is the same way!" 

I have a firm, firm belief:  It takes a village to raise a child.  I know that as a parent, it falls mostly on my shoulders.  I take that responsibility so seriously and I try with everything I've got to do the best job I can.  However, the harsh reality is our kids are not with us 24/7.  For my kids, the place they are the most when not with me is school.  I do not feel it is unfair to build a relationship with a school system to make sure the child is happy and successful while there, which is why I got on top of Ethan's struggles as fast as I could and did whatever I could to help him.  In my ideal, controlling mind, I'd love to just quit my job, follow him around his entire life, and keep him on the right track.  That's ridiculous, though, and we all know that.  Since I know him best, though, I am the best person to go to if someone who has to work with him to turn to for advice and suggestions.  The village, in this case, is the school.

Now as a mother and as a person who battles daily on her own with anxiety and depression, I know I can't do it alone.  For myself, I turn to my mom.  She gets me, just like I get Ethan.  Everyone needs someone they can trust to turn to when the road gets a little extra bumpy.  Everyone also needs a good, reliable doctor they can trust.  I am fortunate to have both.  As a mother, it is very easy to put the blame entirely on yourself when your child starts to struggle.  Why can't I just FIX it for him?  Why, if his home is so loving, is he so sad?  Where did I go wrong?  Social media makes it easy to reach out to your friends, family, and community and say in a roundabout way:  I need some help.  I did, and I received incredible help.  I had so many loving, encouraging, and even "been there, done that" message POUR in.  I had 50+ responses on those threads and when I am out in my community, it never fails I run into someone that reminds us they have us lifted in prayer and they will help us.  The village here, is the people that love and care for us.

Sure, it's nothing to be proud of, per se.  It's a flaw.  A yucky flaw.  A flaw that shouts, "I am weak!  I can't do this alone!"  But you know what?  We are working through it.  Neither Ethan, nor myself, have succumbed to a diagnosis.  "Hey, I get depressed!  I'll just spend the next 3 days laying on the couch in my pajamas."  Or even, "Hey!  I'm anxious!  I think I will kill you today because you are making me FREAKING insane!"  No, we work through it.  We admit it's there and it likely will never go away, but there are ways to make it SO much better.  And if we can find ways to make OUR situation better, how awful would it be to keep it a secret from others who feel the same way?  And I can guarantee others struggle just the same.  They might not want to talk about it, but they can read it and do what they want with it.

So yes.  It's something that is tough to be open with, but it's me.  And it's Ethan.  We are who we are, and honestly?  I think we are coming out on top.  I have no idea who reads my blog anymore, if anyone, and what people think about my openness, but please know I will do anything for anyone.  If you want to reach out to me 24/7 (and yes, I mean that with my whole heart, as my anxiety peaks at night) I will be here for you.  I will listen, and more than likely, I will understand at least to SOME degree.  It takes a village.  You do not have to do this alone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Been a while since I posted.  My apologies!  Last week was super busy.  Work was crazy, as usual.

Thursday night we had conferences.  I waited WEEKS for this moment.  More specifically, after the desk dumping incident (Oh, you don't know about that?  I will enlighten you later, surly).  I have been counting down the minutes until conferences.  I just wanted to know what her plan was.  Was their progress or more issues?  I wanted to know.

Unfortunately, I missed conferences because I was with Ethan at a counseling session.  After I ready his little messages about "needing a break" and "wishing I wasn't here", I got moving and got him help.  Our session went WAY over and I missed it.  Jay was there, though, and it didn't go how conferences typically go.  Ethan's report card indicated he was right on track with the exception of the areas she complains the most about:  organization, independence, finishing a task, etc.  Then she acted like she had nothing more to say, so she asked Jay what he wanted to talk about.  Uhhh...Ethan?  So Jay laid it all out.  He told her what we do at home for him.  The structure, the expectations, the pediatric specialist as well as the counselor, the different diagnoses floating around and the medication, etc.  Then he put the ball back in her court:  What are you doing for him at school to help?  First she said she didn't understand what he meant.  He rephrased it (ie. repeated himself) which must have given her time to come up with something, because she shot out, "your wife enables him."  Jay cut her off.  He never asked her opinion on our parenting.  He wants to know... our child is in your care 7 hours per day, 5 days per week.  It's clear he is a handful for you.  What are you doing to help the situation?  She had nothing again, and said "maybe we better meet again another time."

I've already done my crying and ranting over how this went down, because from my perspective, I am doing everything I can think of to help my son.  EVERYTHING.

I just think about it like this:  I remember being in third grade.  Ethan is in 4th, but it goes to show how far back you remember details.  I had a HARD teacher and I was a GOOD kid.  One day she absolutely humiliated me.  We were going around the room reading out loud numbers in the 1,000's.  When it got to my turn, I froze.  She threw her chalk on the ground and went crazy.  I was mortified.  I'm 31 now and that still sticks with me.  How humiliating!  How about show me how to read the number rather than make me feel so stupid.

So with that story, that makes me believe that Ethan will remember his 4th grade year and what happened.

Let's play devils advocate.  Instead of two loving, doting parents, he now has 1 parent.  The other is absent  The one parent does not have an education and has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Money is tight and tension is high.  The one parent is gone all the time.  Maybe even starts resorting to drug use to help ease the stress and tension.  Drug use could mean shady characters are entering said childs house.  People a child should not be around.  Dealers.  And now single parent is parenting high or under the influence.  Child might not directly see or understand, but child knows: this isn't normal.  Child struggles in school.  Parent makes zero effort to help.  Child feels all alone at school, then comes home to an empty house.  No food on the table and strangers meandering in and out.  Child has no structure.  No meal time, bed time, family time.  Child feel alone at school.  Comes home, and feels alone.  No one cares.  Who knows what will happen to that now teen.  But there were clear as day signs and no one read them.  No one intervened.

I know I can be seen as overly dramatic with Ethan and that is not my intention.  Everything I do for him, every decision I make is because I love him SO MUCH and want him to be happy.  My child showed the signs.  He KNOWS I care.  I will fight until my last breath for that child or any of my children, and they know it.