Jul 17 2017

Never say never…but this time I mean it

 

The universe has laughed and smacked me upside the head every time I’ve ever said “never” about something. Don’t believe me?

Never leaving Colorado (HAHAHA! 2011)
Never homeschooling (HAHAHA 2012)
Never moving again (HAHAHA 2015)

See? You’d think I’d learn. I say “never,” the universe takes that as a challenge and cracks its knuckles, I find myself trussed to four horses headed in opposite directions. There’s a reason I don’t say “never” about returning to a classroom and just keep renewing my Illinois teaching certificate.

But I really, truly, hand to god and the founding fathers mean it this time.

I am never, ever, EVER painting a room inside my house ever again.

There are other home improvements on deck that involve paint, like a wooden tray I found at a yard sale and my front door, but a room? In which I live? I will not apply paint to another wall in any home in which I reside ever again so help me.

Tom and I just finished painting half the house. This is the fourth home we’ve painted together, and by far the most difficult. We’re blaming the high ceilings and sheer square footage, and not the fact that we’re 20 years older than the first time we cracked open a gallon of Behr. And when I say half the house, I mean we painted: two hallways, my loft office, the kitchen, the family room, the master bedroom, the master bathroom, and the master closet. Walls, ceilings, trim, doors. Six different colors, two coats (but not on the ceiling and trim/doors, because even we have limits). Crap, upon further review that’s actually more than half the house. My hands are so sore and swollen that I still can’t get my rings back on, and my hips are grousing about the amount of time spent curled up on the floor painting trim. I had a flute student stare at the bruises on my legs and ask if they were from painting. Yes, yes they are, dear child. I acknowledge that my lower limbs resemble a blotched giraffe, but that’s what happens when you’re prone to bruising and lean your body weight against ladders and step stools so you don’t fall on your ass, which would piss you off because of the paint in the carpet and not because of the hospital stay. Oh, and we cleaned the carpets after painting and before moving furniture back in, because they were filthy and I am a glutton for home improvement punishment.

In fact, I am so 100% certain that I will never paint again that while I cut in yet another wall I mentally created a list of things I would be inclined to do instead.

French braid my nose hairs.
Count to infinity using only prime numbers.
Waterski on my face.
Jump out of a perfectly functional plane.
Dress for a formal event without the assistance of Spanx.
Go on a gluten bender. Though if I were to do that, I’d start with Chinese dim sum and just eat my way around the world.
Get a full color 3D tattoo of current occupant on my ass, wearing a #MAGA hat and having a “grownup tickle fight” with Putin.

You can see I’ve really thought this through, which happens when you’re painting for nearly three weeks straight; low VOC or not, the fumes really get to you. Our living room, banister, and laundry room still need painting but we’re hiring that shit out. We don’t own scaffolding to reach the top of the room, the banister needs repair on top of paint and stain, and the laundry room floor needs replaced before anything else.

I considered burning my painting clothes (16 year old maternity shirt covered in the paint of three different homes, and a pair of cutoff sweatpants that I think were from high school and I suspect have some “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” magic shit going on because they really should NOT fit), but they’re so saturated with latex at this point that a bonfire would be a hazmat situation. Or they would just stand there in the flames like the undead, mocking me and my plans to never, ever paint another room in which I live.

I’m saying never. And this time I really, truly mean it.

Jul 01 2017

The seesaw of boredom and burnout


You will rarely hear me say that I’m bored. I don’t get bored easily, so it’s hard to remember the last time I was someplace and wanted to chew my leg off to escape. I can sit and stare out the window on long trips and get lost in my own mind (and being a parent, this is delightful). Snowed in? Bring it (there’s always wine in the house). Forced into a meeting on something 1) I don’t understand and don’t give half a golden shit about, 2) know everything about, or 3) does not involve me in the slightest…AHA! That’s close to boredom for me, though I’m more likely to call it angry frustration over boredom. A billion and one things I could and should be doing and I’m stuck, can’t even play in my own head? Yeah.

But burnout. Man, I know all about burnout, I fall into that pit far too often. Most recently towards the end of the school year, right at the end of May. It’d been a long and busy spring. Tom travels most weeks February through May (and works 14+ hour days when he’s home), I was involved in more volunteer activities, the boys had their things, my flute studio was booming, the country was setting itself on fire as it wove the basket carrying it on the greased slide to hell… By the time I hit Memorial Day I was 31 flavors of burned out. Fold, put a fork in me, no mas. I guesstimate I land in the burnout pit at least four times a year. I’m getting good at the entries, making them showier. I may try for a double tuck back roll through a pack of velociraptors during a lighting storm next time. I could sell tickets, pay for the recovery wine.

I don’t recall being like this until college, and then boom! I’d get to end of every semester and literally just sit and shake when it was over. Gradually it got to the point that I was hauling my sorry ass over the finish line, grateful to have survived. November 1998. Third of four grad school semesters. Wind ensemble concert. BIG concert. I had a jazz solo that terrified me (it did not go so well…didn’t listen to the recording for FIFTEEN years…and it was every bit as horrific as I remembered). Got through the concert and crashed hard and big and ugly. It was bad.

Now burnout doesn’t follow a school schedule as reliably as it once did. Damn. At least then I could pencil in the recovery time. Now it hits whenever my mental/physical/emotional energy hits an unexpected low, often with little to no warning. I rarely know when burnout will send me flipping into the pit. It’s taken a toll on my health, and is why I’m becoming more vocal about preventative self-care.

I wonder if those in the gifted community are more prone to this than others. We’re good at many things, and have a tendency to take on too much. I’ve always had too much going on (link to cloaks in many closets). Then, because we refuse to fail at something (especially a schedule or situation of our own making), we overwork ourselves to the point of burnout. Put our own needs last. Little sleep, even less downtime. I see this all the time with my flute students, and it kills me. I can understand why they do that to themselves, they believe that they need a packed resume to get into college. Adults? I think we just can’t say no to our brains’ desire to learn and be challenged and to try new things. Because if we said no…we might get bored.

As I wrote this post (which is long past deadline for the blog hop, because overwhelmed), I was also canning 20 quarts of strawberries, writing other posts to schedule for later this summer, teaching 18 flute lessons a week, beginning to plan my fall schedule, and prepping half the house to paint. Literally half the house, including my office and our bedroom. Sleep? Not a whole lot. Downtime? Even less. Burnout imminent? We’ll see.

There’s a fine balance between boredom and burnout, and I’m getting better at finding it. I’ve discovered that it’s a see-saw and I ride that sucker like a bucking bronco. I’m white-knuckling the handles right now; maybe one day I’ll have the courage to ride one-handed and swing my hat around as I hoot and holler at the top of my lungs.

In the meantime, it’s a helluva ride.

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Today’s post is part of of the July blog hop run by Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page. There are a lot of talented people writing on this topic, and I encourage you to go check them out.

 

Jun 13 2017

Even grownups need blanket forts

A few weeks ago, on the cusp of final exams, one of my flute students came into her lesson, collapsed onto the chair and wearily declared:

“When I’m done with finals I’m building a blanket fort and binge-watching Netflix for 12 hours.”

It’s been that kind of spring for all of my students.

It’s been that kind of spring (and winter) for all the adults I know.

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad several months for most of the country and we’re all feeling it.

I thought the blanket fort idea was so brilliant that I literally assigned it to every single one of my students that week. I shared it with my friends on Facebook, and more than one teacher sighed with longing and said they would do it too.

Oh, the best of intentions. I really and truly intended to build my blanket fort the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, to crawl in and read and watch bad TV and color in my profanity-laced adult coloring book and growl at anyone who dared disturb me. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…my road to hell is not only paved with good intentions but has lovely landscaping as well. While I did finally snatch a Saturday from the jaws of productivity to sit on the couch and not do a damned thing, I am still sans blanket fort.

Remember building blanket forts as a kid? Gathering up the old blankets and couch cushions and card tables to create a kid-sized hidey-hole? I did that a lot as a kid; I remember listening to the original Star Wars soundtrack on a Fisher-Price record player, over and over and over, while camped out in a blanket fort. My brother and I built so many forts that my parents just gave up on ever having their card table back. They were cozy and kid-sized and private.

Why did we stop? Even grownups need blanket forts.

Man Caves and She Sheds are the adult equivalent, I guess, but they lack the coziness and certainly lack the creativity of designing and building it yourself. Plus I don’t have a few thousand dollars propping up a table leg to throw at something like that. I do have blankets and couch cushions and card tables and the deep desire to be left alone for a few hours.

So this summer I vow to build a blanket fort. Hopefully it’ll fall on a stormy day, which makes them even cozier and more fun. I’ll dig out my supplies and gather my entertainment and be a kid again for a few hours. I may even let the boys join me, which kinds defeats the privacy part but jacks up the memory points by a factor of a million. We’ll listen to music and read and color and eat snacks and watch TV and just let the outside world burn for an afternoon.

Go build. Ignore adult responsibilities and the world outside your flannel walls. Make some memories. Life kinda sucks out there right now, so I’m assigning blanket forts to everyone.

Blanket forts. Soothing the inner child since forever.

May 11 2017

{Book Review} Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget

I’m privileged to have a foot in both the homeschooling and public schooling worlds. I have a 7th grader in public school, a homeschooling high schooler, and I teach flute lessons to all ages, from all educational settings. And what I see is disturbing.

The students I have in public high school are so stressed and overwhelmed I truly do not know how they can function. These are teens from several different high schools, from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and locations from rural to urban. They’re in multiple activities, sports, AP classes. Many of them don’t actually start homework until after 9 pm; dude, by that point I’m usually crawling into bed with mindless reading material. Teenagers need more than four hours a sleep a night, and there is really no reason for anyone to have to do multiple hours of homework after a full day of school. They often start their school days at 7 am and don’t stop until midnight or later. I’ve had more than one student mention choosing sleep over homework, only to have to catch up the next day.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s been a quiet revolution going on in education, growing out of homeschooling, and we’ve been lucky to be involved.

Micro-schools.

My friend Jade has opened several micro-schools for G2e kids in California. She describes micro-schools thusly:

Micro-Schooling is the minimalist movement in education.

Micro-schools are designed to run lean with very little overhead and expenditures, while providing only the opportunities, services, and materials that are going to truly contribute to a child’s education, with a heavy emphasis on connection — connection with oneself, others, and the world.

This last year Andy has been involved in a teen co-op. It wasn’t until I read Jade’s book, Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget (affiliate link) that I realized that he was participating in a new micro-school. I then proceeded to throw her book at the school’s leaders, and then promptly forgot that I’d write a review of the book. Look, if I’m throwing books at people, that’s a good sign that I like and recommend the book, yes? Sadly, it’s not a lot of use to people who are not within throwing distance of my arm, hence today’s long-tardy review.

Imagine a smallish gathering of younguns. Imagine them learning in a group space, at their own pace, with the accommodations they need to grow and thrive. Imagine them learning, not just memorizing and regurgitating information for an exam, but making connections to previous knowledge and to their own lives. Imagine a teacher who facilitates learning, someone not at the mercy of standardized tests, an educator who meets students where they are and guides them forward. Imagine an educational philosophy that puts a student’s social-emotional growth on the same level as their intellectual growth. Imagine a setting in which students’ sensitivities are respected. Imagine all this…and then know that this is the kind of micro-school Jade has started, and her book outlines how to create your own.

Yes, Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget is a handy guide to starting a micro-school in your community. See why I was throwing it at people? (By the way, the people running the teen co-op were already doing most of what Jade suggests…WIN!) I envision micro-schools as being the next step in education, and Jade is at the forefront. While her book is focused on a set up for G2e students, it can easily be adapted to any population.

As a society, we’re looking for more personalization in our lives, to be seen, to simplify. For the last few decades, schools have become larger, packed with students in a factory model. They’ve been too large to do much other than shepherd students through for several years. Micro-schools are the antithesis of this, and their time has come. Jade Rivera’s book is the guidebook we need to kickstart the education revolution we desperately need.

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I was provided a copy of Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget for review. Then I loaned it out before reading it and writing a review, so I bought a Kindle copy. And was sent another paper copy. So while I’m the proud owner of multiple copies of this book, none of that influenced my opinion for this review.

May 01 2017

Overthinking causes grey hair

“Turn your brain off.”
“Quit thinking so much!”
“I can hear you thinking, shush!”
“Your brain is trying to derail you, ignore it.”
“For the love of all things holy and green, shove a sweaty sock into your brain’s talk-hole to shut it up!”

I’ve said these phrases and variations on them to every one of my students…this week alone. Every year, for roughly twenty years. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something along these lines to one of my flute students, I could afford to cover the grey hairs more often than once a year.

Overthinking.

It’s ironic, really, that I constantly harp on my flute students about thinking too much, for allowing the inner mental chatter to distract them. I am Queen and Empress For Life of The Land of Overthinking. It’s both a curse and a gift. On one hand, I can dissect an issue or idea, chew it up, swish it around, and spit out several outcomes or possibilities; my husband of 20 years is still impressed and spooked by this. On the other hand, I’m also fantastically awesome at spinning (getting wrapped up in thinking to the point of emotional incapacity); said aforementioned husband is less enamored of finding his wife hyperventilating while staring at her to-do list in horror. Our bodies interpret that kind of mental logjam as a threat, so we tend to react with fight/flight/freeze. I’m a freezer…I figure it matches my chronically cold, AAS physiology. My brain locks up and I struggle with moving forward. Strangely enough, I seldom struggle with this in my flute playing; I must have learned how to work through it while getting my degrees. The rest of my life? Not so much. I struggle with making the mental transfer. BUT! I do recognize when students are overthinking during lessons. I can practically hear their mental chatter shouting at them. It’s a strong feeling of tension and overwhelm and a measure of fear. I suspect I freak them out when I can point to a specific spot in their music and say, “this is where you lost the flow and started listening to your brain”….and I’m always right.

Most of my students are tightly wound. Whether that’s because that kind of intensity is drawn to music or because an inordinate number of gifted individuals pick up an instrument, it doesn’t really matter. I know this mental chatter, know the feeling of helplessness and self-directed anger when your brain shouts at you, standing between you and flow. It doesn’t matter what it says, positive or negative, the brain hates being ignored and so it shouts for your full attention. Irritating asshole, the brain is.

And so I advise my students to wrestle that irritating voice to the ground and shove a smelly sock into its mouth to shut it up. YES, I KNOW IT’S HARD, I STRUGGLE WITH IT TOO!

It’s hard work to train yourself away from overthinking and into flow. Mindfulness is the best way, at least for me. Sheer awareness that I’m spinning and listening to that harpy inner voice is the first step. That at least puts me back in control of my thoughts. Then, just like playing flute, breathing. Everything, and I do mean everything, improves with awareness of the breath.

From there, everyone’s path out of the overthinking labyrinth is different. I like the suggestions from a recent Savvy Psychologist podcast on feeling overwhelmed, and I’m working to implement them (back) into my life. This summer, part of my be a better flute teacher study will include learning how to help my students get into that blissful performance flow more easily and often. And then, you know, teacher heal thyself and all that.

Just wish I had all those nickels…my hair could really use fewer grey sparkles.

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This post is part of the Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page May blog hop on overthinking. Go read some of the other writers and share your overthinking with them too!

Apr 10 2017

Twelve years of twice-exceptional

It’s been a solid dozen years of twice-exceptional life here in the House of Chaos. Our son was 4 when we first had him evaluated for giftedness and we heard “likely twice-exceptional.” In that time we’ve done all the interventions, made all the changes, and upended our lives so as to scaffold our son into adulthood. I never thought I would homeschool, yet here I am, deep into the thickest scaffolding you can imagine, trying to get him to where HE needs to go. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been our reality for twelve years now. Wildly different is perfectly normal and we think nothing of it anymore.

And then I’m faced with what a neurotypical teenager is like. You’d think I’d be faced with that nearly daily, as I teach flute to a good number of them. But it’s different. I can’t really explain how, but it is. Something to do with how my students interact with me. I’m still doing a lot of scaffolding and teaching to how my students best learn, just as I am with my own son. I’ve been meaning to write a series on how homeschooling has made me a better flute teacher and how flute teaching has made me a better homeschooler. Someday, when I have time, which may be half past never.

I’m mentoring a young woman at church, for her Affirmation year. In Unitarian Universalism, young teens go through Affirmation, similar to Confirmation or Bas Mitzvahs. It’s a year long process and can be a challenge. Andy went through it last year and it just about did me in. The Affirmants do a service project as part of their journey, and then present a Statement of Belief to the full congregation at the end of the year. Getting our 2e son to work on, finish, and then present his project was probably a “half-case of wine” job. Getting our 2e son to work on and then give a speech in front of a room packed full of people was a “storage room at a bourbon distillery” job. We weren’t sure he’d give that speech until he finished and sat back down; I kept having flashbacks to the meltdown he had in 3rd grade, when he lost his shit in the school hallway because he was supposed to go out and sing with his class at the Open House and stage fright descended upon him with a resounding thud. So getting him through the Affirmation process last year was brutal, and we were so relieved to have it behind us. Next year is his brother and dear lord I hope we’re all  ready for that.

But back to my mentee. She is a delight. A flutist herself, I was paired with her for that reason. But she is a neurotypical 8th grade girl, and the reality of my alternative normal keeps goosing me. We talked very briefly last fall about her project, and she ran with it. I checked in on her maybe twice, then freaked out when I didn’t hear from her right before her project presentation. Her presentation? Perfect. Little input from me and absolutely no prodding. It was just done. In fact, she’s still working on her project; this week I was cc’d on an email she sent out into the community. I vaguely recall her saying she was going to do that, and…she did. No reminders. We met last week to discuss her belief statement. She already had a good portion of it written, we just discussed some finer points and that was that. No pushing from me, no scaffolding, nothing. I was barely needed, other than to remind her to slow down when she talks. Just got an email from her with the completed speech. Gobsmacked is putting it mildly.

In the meantime I’m scraping up the oobleck goo that is my 2e high schooler, trying to scaffold him through his struggles while begging encouraging him to design and build his own scaffolds for the future.

And the dichotomy stings.

Since we started homeschooling, we’ve had the luxury of essentially hiding from the “normal” world. We likely have two 2e sons, just based on the fact that I have to do a lot of similar scaffolding for both boys. So I don’t really know what the normal, non-2e world is like until it is literally standing in front of me, doing what it is supposed to do, done well and on time. A teen with a basic grip on time management or planning or the concept of cause and effect? An alien life-form to me. I try not to dwell on it, try not to be jealous, try not to rail at the world. But my god, I am so envious of the parents who don’t need to constantly herd their kids through life and homework and responsibilities. Do they even know how good they have it? I know they don’t grok what life is like on this side, that’s for damned sure.

I’ve often said that parenting 2e kids to adulthood is running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. At this point of the race, the finish line is still over that last rise, there are no water stops within sight, and I’m flagging. We have two years to get one kid ready to launch, and his younger brother? Another half decade. So we still have 2-5 years, bare minimum, of this fast-paced marathon, and I suspect it won’t slow down much after that.

Life has gotten so much better over the last 12 years, it really has; any decade old post on this site proves that. The struggles have brought us closer, but my god it is still hard. It is demanding and thankless and exhausting, but it’s the only parenting life I know. But you know what? This wildly different is perfectly normal life is all mine, and after twelve years I’m finally embracing the weird it has brought to my life.

Just…boys? Please don’t take that as a challenge to up the chaos level, m’kay? Kthxbai.

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April’s GHF Blog Hop topic is Revisiting 2e. Many other bloggers are sharing their thoughts on this today; please go check them out as well!

Apr 06 2017

Observations on Gifted, the movie


The following is a movie review for which I received no compensation other than entrance to a pre-release screening.

I had the opportunity to see Gifted last night, before tomorrow’s official release. It’s taking me some time to unpack my thoughts and emotions on it, because, well, it’s giftedness. It’s something about which I’ve advocated and written for close to twelve years. It’s personal, it’s woven deeply into the tapestry of my family’s life, and in the general public it is so, so misunderstood.

The movie preview came out last fall and at first glance I was disgusted and dismayed.

Great, a stereotypical gifted movie that intimates that giftedness is special and awesome and elitism and sunshine and roses. Crap, now I have to write about how giftedness really isn’t like that and I am so sick of writing that and will someone please listen when I say that it’s hard and thankless work parenting a gifted child? Gifted kids are awesome but my god they are advanced parenting. I don’t know how much longer I can keep shouting into the wind; I’m getting a sore throat and it’s demoralizing.

And then I saw it.

I don’t know who the gifted consultant was on this movie (and I stayed through the credits to see if anyone was listed), but Gifted got it right. I still can’t believe it. In this age of reality TV shows pushing the notion that gifted kids are automatons, competing to be the Little Genius of the Hour, this movie actually dove into the reality of giftedness. Not the deep end, but deep enough to move around freely.

I saw my family in this movie.

A young child with a very strong sense of social justice.
An offhand warning about the risks of a bored gifted child.
Existential questions that I swear I’ve answered myself.
A preference for older friends/adults, that people her age were boring.
Intense emotions and over-excitabilities from the three family members.
The word meltdown was used, in a very matter of fact way, no judgment.
A philosophical discussion seamlessly segueing into silly humor.
The facial expressions from that kid…I’ve seen them on my own sons’ faces.
Grief for “what might have been,” for giving up one’s dream for her family.
Both adults breaking down over their children; I’ve often said that if you haven’t sobbed under your desk you may not have a gifted child.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” comment.

The line “can I just get five minutes of my own life?” hit so close to home for me that I gasped and let out a sob.

I don’t know who all was in the theater (other than a Girl Scout troop), but there were times when I wanted to shout to all of them, “THIS! This is what it’s like! Do you have gifted children? Do you know what it’s like? THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE!” I wish I could have given a Gifted 101 presentation after the movie.

It wasn’t perfect but then it couldn’t be. The writers had to use a pretty broad brush to tell the story and move it along. For example, it’s extremely rare for a teacher to try and convince the parent that their child is gifted; usually it’s the parent begging the teacher for accommodations. Making the young girl a math prodigy from a family of math prodigies was necessary for the storyline, but it brushed aside the “gifted is wiring” part a bit and ignored the humanities entirely (which was noticeable in the uncle’s backstory). While it really did show how ceaselessly hard it can be to raise a gifted child, and how emotionally fraught it is, there was little indication of some of the hidden challenges gifted parents deal with. If the girl had complained of itchy shirt tags or sock seams I probably would have jumped up in the theater and cheered.

It was the small details, the ones that most of society would miss BUT WE WOULDN’T, that really showcased the giftedness. I felt the movie told a story and snuck in advocacy and educating the masses, like veggies hidden in a brownie.

If you go, and I highly suggest you do, take tissues. There will be a few spots where you may shed a tear. I had several instances of quiet sobbing and was thankful to have had a row to myself. I did manage to hold it together until the very end of the credits, until I saw the line “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” I proceeded to lose my shit, and then ugly sobbed in my car for a solid ten minutes. Parenting gifted and twice-exceptional kids is just so ceaselessly hard, and right now for me particularly so. Gotta tell ya though, that ugly cry was cathartic.

Get a sitter, grab your tribe, see the movie, and then go out for drinks. You will really want to unpack this with people who get it. I’m so relieved to have been wrong about this movie.

I’m grateful to the production company for the opportunity to catch a pre-release screening. And when they’re ready to make a movie about twice-exceptional kids, I can recommend a book for reference.


Mar 29 2017

It’s just a number

<General sibling bickering. This is the soundtrack of my life these days.>

Andy: “…well, because I…Mom, what is my IQ number?”
Me: “Oh dear son, I know your number and I am not sharing it with you.”
Andy: “Why not? I deserve to know!”
Me: “For this very reason. Your IQ number is just that, a number. It doesn’t matter what your number is, what matters is what you do with it. What matters is how you treat other people. What matters is how you lead your life. Not some number.”

And so it began.

He asked me about his IQ score a few years ago. Yes, I do know it, and no, I don’t plan to share it with him any time soon. I’m thinking adulthood, maybe. I kinda put IQ scores in the same category as the number on the scale when I climb on: it’s good to know, because reasons, but for the love of sanity I do not base my entire reason for living on it. I know how much I weigh, I know it’s a much higher number than I’d like, but it does not define me. Andy’s IQ? I know what it is, I know it would probably surprise people, but it does not define him.

I believe that IQ scores have their place. I think they can help kids and their parents search out the resources they need. I think they can open doors that might otherwise be closed and locked. But I don’t think an IQ score is the be-all end-all holy grail, or something a helicopter parent can “buy” from a sympathetic psychologist (something a school official once told me).

It’s just a number.

That number isn’t going to get my kid into an elite college or earn him the career of his dreams; his hard work will do that. That number won’t get my kid a partner or spouse; his loving and caring heart will do that. And that number won’t earn him the respect of others; only reciprocal respect and honesty can do that.

It’s been awhile since Andy originally asked about his IQ score, and he hasn’t asked again. If I had an IQ number floating around out there, I don’t know if I’d want to know it. Even if I were to somehow get tested now I’m not sure I’d do it. I already feel like I don’t live up to my potential in many ways, I sure as hell don’t need a number mocking me further.

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I started this post a few years ago, and it’s languished in my drafts folder collecting cobwebs ever since. But despite its age and wrinkles, suddenly it’s a little more relevant. This spring Andy will be undergoing his third (yes, THIRD) neuropsychological evaluation. It’s not as though we big puffy heart sending our oldest son for several days of intense testing, or have money that’s tired of the coziness of the bank. No, we’re staring down the barrel of college entrance exams (hold me) and the probable need for accommodations in college (tighter, please hold me tighter). Thankfully we already have a paper trail with his previous evaluations, but nothing recent, hence the new testing.

Homeschooling for the last five years has been a profound blessing, and I don’t use that term lightly. It’s allowed our son to proceed at his pace, and to grow in a way many teens don’t get a chance to do. He’s learning time and project management skills that I didn’t have until college, and has a strong sense of self you don’t often see in teens. But because he’s been “off the beaten path,” there is no official proof of the challenges we’ve been doing our best to manage for the last half decade.

With the new testing comes an updated IQ score, and despite my strong belief that it’s just a number, I’m worried about what that score will be. Actually, not so much the number as the extensive written report from the testing. When you live up close and personal with twice-exceptionality, it’s like living with a funhouse mirror in your bathroom. Everything is magnified and distorted from your point of view, and sometimes you need someone else’s eyes to help you interpret what you’re seeing. There are strengths that have become so common that I no longer recognize them as exceptional; will the testing indicate that these strengths actually exist? There are challenges that are so draining that they seem to overwhelm everything and yet are still our normal; will the testing prove that they are there, and that they do need accommodating?

Will the testing support the 2e diagnosis from 2009, or have we been deluding ourselves for several years?

I know that it doesn’t matter, that my son is one hell of an awesome person regardless of what a report says.

It’s just a number.

Right?

Mar 13 2017

Prettier When Wrapped: What’s So Difficult About Being Gifted?

Here, a gift for you.

Don’t open it just yet.

Admire the wrapping. Isn’t it pretty? Shiny and admirable? See how everyone is envious of your gift? How did it get that way, all perfect corners and crisp folds? No one wrapped it, no one demanded that outer cover that so many admire, it just is.

But isn’t it lovely? Everyone wants a gift like that, wants their child to have a gift like that. Everyone thinks it’s glorious to be the recipient of such a perfectly wrapped gift. Everyone also believes that anyone with such a gift must think they’re better than everyone else, but everyone would be wrong. No one brags about this gift.

Now, go ahead. Open it.

A box. A perfectly normal, perfectly square box, perfectly engraved with the word arodnap. The box feels unusual in your palms, warm and vibrant, as though it were too heavy for its size. It makes you feel slightly uncomfortable, though you cannot explain why. It’s simply a box, after all.

You find the flap, and you open the box.

Inside are layers upon layers upon layers of inner humanity: emotions, sensitivities, thoughts, passions, beliefs, a rage to learn, perfectionism, existential angst, intensities. You cannot see where one layer ends and the next begins; they are separate and yet one. They blend together and dance apart, they pulse with their own heartbeats, they swirl to the music only they create and hear. This inner humanity, carefully packed inside a perfectly normal, perfectly square box burns with an intensity that sears your very soul. You cannot look away, for these are your layers searing your soul and they demand to be let from the box, for that is where they thrive.

This is the difficulty of being gifted. The world sees a gift bestowed upon someone, wrapped in perfection. Shiny, clean paper, perfect corners and crisp folds. A handmade ribbon and bow. Handed over to someone, who is often unfortunately snubbed for simply holding this gift. The world doesn’t recognize (or perhaps doesn’t want to see) what is under that pretty wrapping: layers of intense inner humanity that are difficult to manage, under-appreciated by others, and can sear the owner’s soul without a second thought.

Giftedness is prettier when wrapped, or so the world thinks. But those in the know recognize the swirling music and dance of that inner humanity because it reminds them of their own, and appreciate the true beauty and awesomeness of giftedness.

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Today’s post is part of the March GHF Blog Hop, on The Difficulties of Being Gifted. It’s not all sunshine and roses, and I encourage you to follow the link and go read others’ thoughts on the topic.

 

Mar 12 2017

Silver noisy swear-stick 

I’m a simple pup. I don’t need much. Kibble, belly rubs, a nice poop without anyone watching (AVERT YOUR EYES!!!). I have a pretty good life, which is a good thing for an elderly dog to say. Once upon a time I was a stray, so yeah, I know how good I have it. My family is pretty fantastic, except for one thing.

When Mama pulls out her silver noisy swear-stick and starts making it wail. I don’t know what the hell that thing is, but when she has that thing in her hands my brain implodes and runs out my silky ears. And when she pulls out the tiny black pain-rod, I just want to stick my head up my own ass so I don’t have to hear it anymore.

What is she doing to those poor things? They are so loud and screech so high…my god I can taste every color in the Rainbow Bridge when they cry for help. And it goes on for hours. The torture the silver noisy swear-stick and the tiny black pain-rod endure! I’m suffering an auditory waterboarding, what is it like for them? And Mama doesn’t seem to care. She tortures those things, muttering under her breath and wiping the slobber from her face. Sometimes she even shouts in frustration, as though she were the one suffering. We’re all suffering here, Mama! I see you pull out the black gig bag of death and I don’t even break stride anymore, I just turn right around and go hide with Papa. He makes a nice low woof sound when he talks and that doesn’t hurt my ears. Just because I snurf at his door when you have little ones over with their silver noisy swear-sticks doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with him. I just want to roll over for the little ones; they give great belly rubs and ear scritches.

So Mama? Be nice to your silver noisy swear-stick and tiny black pain-rod. What’d they ever do to you?

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