Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thankfulness for technology...one machine at a time


I know that the title sounds a little Dr. Who-ish and maybe one might expect a Dalek or other type of machine to hop out in front of you, but truly as a parent of a medically fragile child, one learns to not only appreciate but rely on the machines in our life.

It is ironic to read about those who sleep away from their child for the night find it quiet...the whoosh of the ventilator becomes white noise to us, ever present. It is comforting, know that your child is receiving the breath of life...through the night while they sleep. Their body is resting, strengthening while the machine does the work, filling their lungs.

The suction machine becomes ones closest friend. Without the ability to cough up secretions fully, my son is in danger of choking, blocking his airway. The suction machine clears the secretions quickly and efficiently...many times people don't even realize what has happened.

Last night, Javad really started showing symptoms of a cold. Yesterday he was pretty punky, wanting a wash cloth on his head, not really interacting, but last night it came on full force. I was suctioning every, what felt like, five seconds. Wiping his nose and his face, surrounding him with pillows, blankets, anything that brought him comfort. I know how he felt...I am still feeling it, but as I was up and down during the night, I realized how thankful I am...I am thankful that I have this little ICU in my house, thankful that I can reach over and give him a boost of oxygen, thankful that I can suction as needed. When he was a baby, I didn't have all these options. This cold would have given us weeks in the hospital, but through decisions we made of a trach and ventilator, we have the option to handle these things at home.

I am in love with my son...he is sweet, loving, and adorable, even when sick. In a weird way, now that he is sick I can kiss him because I am sick too. We can hold hands, the whoosh of the ventilator in the background and wait this one out...because we can...we have the technology and we use it one machine at a time.

#mtmcnmthankfulnessinitiative

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gratitude in spite of...a burger and a shirt.

Right now I am feeling a bit bummed...my body hurts from the accident, my car is a wreck, I'm tired all the time from the accident and now...I have a cold. It's like the universe just said, "Shannon...here...gonna dump it all on you right now!"

I sort-of want to scream, "uncle," but, as you know, that's not my style.I forge forward...I keep at it. That is the attitude that has helped me to be who I am with Javad. Even when times are rough, you just keep going. I like to think of my friend Julie when we were walking a half marathon. It was not long after "Finding Nemo" came out and we would find ourselves saying, "just keep swimming," but also we knew at the end that we were getting a burger and a shirt, so that became our mantra...As we were walking up the hill, tired and ready to give up, we would start chanting, "a burger and a shirt...a burger and a shirt." That's sort of where I am right now...looking for the mantra to keep me going. Both of the ones from my past come to mind. When you parent a child with special needs, there really isn't time to think about other things. You just have to keep going...regardless.

I am grateful...grateful that I wasn't injured more in the accident...grateful that I was able to come home from the hospital that day, grateful that our nursing agency jumped to bat for me and got me coverage and grateful that it was our primary nurse, who probably cared more for me that she did Javad that first night. I have many things to be grateful for...good friends, caring co-workers, and students who really make my job worthwhile...sometimes I just am joining the pity party for 1...

I just have to remember, this sickness, this pain, all of it will pass....at the end I'm pretty sure I'll get a burger and a shirt!

For more about Myotubular Myopathy, Javad's disease, you can look at www.mtm-cnm.org/thanksgiving. If you want to write about how our family has impacted yours, make sure to hashtag your status update with #mtmcnmthankfulnessinitiative

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sleep...a thought of thankfulness


It's not that I don't think about the things I am thankful for during the years, but I do love expressing my specific areas where I am thankful during the month of November. Today, it is easy...I am thankful for sleep.

Anyone who has a medically fragile child knows that sleep is a commodity that is in rare supply. Now, frankly, any parent knows that sleep can be in rare supply, but when you have a medically fragile child it seems that the most frightening things happen at night, when you are groggy and it is important that you are able to make life and death decisions. 

We have never had nursing during the night, which makes many of our friends shake their head in disbelief. It started with my desire to work and the limited nursing hours we had needed to be used during the day so I could stay employed. It was a bit of a circle...keep the job to keep the nursing to keep the job. Comical beginning to say the least.

Now, after all these years, we still don't have night nursing...it becomes a bit more difficult as Javad gets older...not because he is sicker or more challenging...it's because we are getting older. David drives a lot for work and I am at the high school, which for some reason seems more tiring. We are thirteen years older and need our sleep as well. We split the night, as we always have, and do our best. I am starting to recognize that this might need to change...we might need help.


This recent car accident has really highlighted the issue around sleep. I need more sleep due to the head injury I sustained. Each day I am coming home from work and taking a nap. This nap lasts between 1.5 to 3 hours. It has become crucial to my basic functioning. I can't believe that in the past a nap was a luxury and now it has become a necessity. 

Today, I had a doctor appointment after school and, I admit, I made a quick trip to Target. When I got home, I only had a half hour for my nap. I was tired and dragging. I thought I was doing better but was hitting the wall. With a phone call and some rearranging, I was able to take my much necessary nap while still taking car of my obligations...life has a way of throwing you a curve ball and letting you know when it's time to take your life and health seriously. Today I am thankful for sleep...it has become the thing that is helping me heal, ever so slowly, but yet moving me in the right direction.

For more about MTM-CNM, go to our website at www.mtm-cnm.org. Consider writing your own story of thankfulness and how our family or how another mtm-cnm family has impacted your life in a positive way. Tag us using #mtmcnmthankfulnessinitiative  




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thankfulness: My students

#mtmcnmthankfulnessinitiative

Day 4: Sometimes being a teacher gets a bad rap...let's face it, the American public thinks that we aren't doing enough, that the students are lazy, that the rigorous education of the past is gone, that we are raising children who are screen-induced zombies...

I am not going to lie...the education system has some issues, but this is not the time or place to get on my soap box about how we are over testing and underestimating our youth. Yes, they are different than children were twenty years ago, but they are still children who, overall, desire to learn.

Over the last thirteen years, I have witnessed some incredible kindness in my students. Each year I tell them about the littlest and let them know that I sometimes am called away due to health issues. They ask about him...students who have been mine years in the past keep up on him, celebrating success. It is heart warming beyond belief.

This past week I was in an accident...my students worried. Yesterday, upon my return I got jubilant hugs and many telling me that they had missed me.

My life can be crazy...sometimes it is hard to fill full, but this year I am experiencing something I haven't had in many years...the cup overflowing. I have students that I have watched grow up...some from the seventh grade who are now seniors...I am lucky on so many levels...for today, I am most thankful for those who warm my heart and fill my cup daily...my students. <3

f you’d like to support the MTM-CNM Family Conference and help connect our families, please consider making a tax-deductible donation at www.mtm-cnm.org/thanksgiving.html. Thank you!







Monday, November 3, 2014

Nursing our mental and physical health...

MTM-CNM Thankfulness Initiative Day 3: When you have a child that is medically fragile, you have to make concessions...time, freedom, friendships, family, sleep, and sometimes even your sanity..

Many of these concessions come slowly...you don't see them coming until they have blasted through you, leaving you breathless and sometimes flustered, not knowing what just hit you.

In our case, Javad was a surprise...on so may levels...but his birth, and lack of health, was a big shock. Everyone assumes that your child will be healthy...we assumed the same...until it wasn't.  I vividly remember one of the NICU nurses, Ron, telling the Neonatologist that we could benefit from home nursing and her response essentially being that it wasn't going to happen. At that time I had no idea what that meant, but now I realize that they were sending our sweetest boy home to die...nursing wouldn't be needed. He had other plans....

After five months the insurance decided that it was more economic to have nursing...our boy was a fighter...after thirteen years, he still is!

One of the main reasons we have made it these thirteen years is because we have been lucky to have wonderful nursing care. Our primary nurse, Anne, has been with us since Javad was five months old. Think about that for a moment...she has been here for it all...the good, the bad, the ugly. She is a member of our family in so many ways and I can't imagine our life without her. There are other nurses that have been with us for a long time...Alice has been taking care of Javad for 10 years, and then we have some newer nurses, Codie, Alicia, Lauren, and Shelley. Each one becomes a part of our journey to keep the boy healthy and growing.

I realize that we have been lucky...we have won the lottery, for the most part, and have had wonderful, committed, and caring individuals who have made it their priority to help us defy the odds...

For that...I am thankful! <3

If you’d like to support the MTM-CNM Family Conference and help connect our families, please consider making a tax-deductible donation at www.mtm-cnm.org/thanksgiving.html. Thank you!

#mtmcnmthankfulnessinititative

Monday, October 20, 2014

Patience and breathing....sigh

Today was one of those days. It doesn't matter what your profession...it was one of those days...one where everything is irritating. By the end of the day, a ball of aggravation and anxiousness was inside. I felt like I was having a panic attack.

My students had gotten under my skin...

Argh...I hate when that happens!

I was feeling pretty good when the day started...I was wearing my newly purchased Flash Gordon socks for Homecoming "Crazy Sock Day..." I had arrived (almost) on time, had coffee, made my copies and was on my way. Upon arrival to my classroom, I found students already inside (ugh!), I had a student get huge attitude because I asked him to get his work out (tragedy), then had to explain to said student that the attitude was not really required.

The next classes made the day seem like it was going in the right direction...the students were polite...we got work done...we did a warm-up on how many candy corn would fit in a jar...all seemed good! Then my freshman came...inappropriate comments, blatant disregard for others. Really...I am sorry that my instruction is getting in the way of your conversation. Tomorrow may be time for a seating chart.

I really do love my students and my job, but on days like today I need to remember why I do this because I just wanted to bash my head on the lockers outside my room for most of the day....

Ahhhh...Homecoming...fall love...the honeymoon is over.

I know there is much to learn...much to reflect over...much to breathe about. It is time for the work to begin!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Teacher Crush in 3 Acts

Awhile back I discovered the 3 Act Math tasks. If you haven't checked them out, you should...even if you aren't a math teacher. They are really cool and a fun way to get kids interested in excited about math. Last weekend I went to the Northwest Math Conference. Although I realize that being at the conference doesn't bring you all to the same level of excitement as me, it really was amazing! I mean, really, how often do you get to see a teacher crush, meet a few more, see some friends, and, most of all, see some really great speakers!

Dan Meyer is an incredible speaker and the creator of the 3 Act Math tasks. AS a young teacher, he realized that the way he was teaching math wasn't reaching his students, so he created something else...something that he thought would be better, something that would reach his students, get their creative juices flowing.

Sometimes, I'm sure in every career, you get to meet your idol...this was one of those times. At a young age, he was able to not only capture his students attention, but the nations math teachers as well.

The NW Math Conference was an opportunity to meet so many movers and shakers in the math world...people that are seeking to move things forward in the math world, make math more reachable for students.

I think about my experiences as a math teacher...the years I have put into this career...the changes I have made in my practice. I look back when I began and, although I felt that I was a flexible, I realize that my beliefs about students and their learning was a bit rigid. I worked in a penal system of education where students had to prove themselves in a way that now seems a bit unfair. The idea that things were learned to proficiency was assumed but not really taught. Testing was on percentages and reteaching didn't really happen.

Now I am looking at the world from another view...I want my students to really understand the math...sometimes to the point that I am "being mean" (as they put it!). I am evolving and continue to evolve every year.

I'd like to think that someday I will refine my practice, but I worry that once I have reached that point it might be time to retire...

Until then...I continue to have teacher crushes, continue to refine my practice and continue teaching...it's almost my own personal 3 Act task...one act at a time!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rehab...

I have a classroom full of addicts...they are addicted to formulas. It seems that they can't do math without them. These students, extremely bright...in an advanced math class looked at me like a deer in the headlights. Today I was giving a quiz and it began...

S1: "I don't remember the formula."
Me: "You don't need the formula...look at the picture...do the math."
S2: "But it wants us to find the Surface Area...I can't remember the formula."
Me (exasperated): "You don't need the formula to find Surface Area...think about it...WHAT IS SURFACE AREA??"
S: (Blank stares)
Me: "Look at this prism...when you need to find Surface Area, what are you trying to find? I mean, really you guys, do the math. I want you to think. This is not about the formula...this is about learning WHY the formula makes sense...doing the math without even knowing the formula..."
S3 (in jest): "Gasp!"
Me: "You guys are junkies. You just want the formulas rather than having to think..."
S4: "This is hard...."
Me: "Thinking is hard. I swear...you guys are in hard core...I am cutting you off from formulas."
S: (noooooooooooooo)
Me: "This year is going to be like rehab...you will have to learn why all of the formulas really make sense, not just plugging numbers in. That does nothing for your learning. I am going to force you to think this year. We are all going into rehab together. That's it!"

Sigh...they really are great kids but trying to pull advanced kids away from formulas is painful...I'm not sure who is it going to be harder for...me or them...but I am sure of one thing...

It will totally be worth it in the end!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Today I write...even if it's long...

It has been a long gap in my blogging life...probably the longest since I started writing a few years ago. For those who check up on me...thank you...

I started teaching at the high school this fall. It has been good. This is the first time in my teaching career that I have had the opportunity to have students for a second time. There are many that I had in 8th grade and now have again in 10th grade. They are different...I am different. This group...the group of 10th graders was a special one...some groups are. It fills my cup to have them again. I feel strong and inspired...for the first time in a few years.

It has been a strange beginning...good times and bad. My cousin, who I grew up with but have only kept in touch with through Facebook and occasional family gatherings, had startling tragedy this fall with the sudden loss of her 22 year old son. Seemingly healthy, he was jogging and had a massive heart attack. When I went to his service, I had a strange response...this young man was clearly amazing..He was on his way. A filmmaker who had already received numerous awards in college, he was expanding and laying down his future. He had an opportunity in college to go to New Zealand and visit with the director of The Hobbit. Pictures of his long and lanky body draped over Hobbit furniture exuded joy. He was experiencing something that so many of us search for...true peace and love over his passion...his chosen career. He was well on his way. What I also learned is that he was incredibly kind, gregarious, and loyal. He was the kind of son we all hope for. Watching my cousin in pain was heart-wrenching.

For twelve years, I have prepared in many ways to be that mother...the one who has lost her son. I have watched so many others suffer the loss, their heart breaking every day. Pictures of these sweet angel boys come over my Facebook feed every day...my heart breaking for them, breaking for those who wonder when their own time may come. No one is ever prepared for this type of loss...no one should have to be. Their child, wrenched from them...a piece so intimate that the hole can never be filled...the edges may get softer, the sharpness dulls, but it is there..the hole in their heart that can never be filled.

This fall has been a time of change. Relationships in my life, relationships in my work...the ebb and flow is always there. As an adult, I think that we forget that these things will happen. The closeness we feel with others can always change. How a relationship is built, the foundation, is crucial. The outside may change, but the core is what is important. I am looking at these. Most would say that I am outgoing...that I have many friends, but the reality is that is not true. Well, the outgoing part is, but true deep friendships? There are only a few. My time is precious and since I have very little of it to spend with others, I am finding myself choosing where I want to direct my attention. We all do it...choosing where to put our effort. I think the thing that I am realizing (I mean, really...I am not fifteen...why has it taken me so long) is that I can still have important people in my life, even if our time is limited. I have known this intrinsically, but am really seeing it come to light. For so many years I have just moved on...when the relationship wasn't close, I drifted away. Working on doing things differently takes effort...one that I am not sure I have been willing (or able) to do in the past. Learning new methods of doing things is difficult...especially when the way you've been doing something works, even if, ultimately, you haven't been satisfied with the results.

So...the year has begun...I am encouraged and full...busy, crazy, sometimes feeling like I am moments ahead of the students, but feeling like I have much to offer. I was given the opportunity to teach more than just Freshman...I have sophomores, juniors, even some seniors. I feel like I am well liked, but more than that, I feel like I am making connections with kids. I am telling them stories of their own success that they are starting to believe. I look into those shining faces and confidence is growing, even if that confidence is only to ask questions in search of understanding. I am building a safe space. I have some co-workers that value my opinion...have made me feel welcome. I am slowing organizing my space so that I can not only find things, but I also feel that the chaos has subsided. I am trying to teach from a place of joy, a place of learning, a place of support. I am teaching from a place where the love of math is overflowing.

Seven years ago I moved to my old school...the place where I felt my people were. I miss many of them...at times feel lost as to where I am supposed to turn for information. Just like the brain using the growth mindset, I am making new connections...I am expanding my brain and growing. This move, although a challenge, has made me feel alive again..my love of teaching is overflowing.

Today I write...there have been so many things that I have not been able to gather my thoughts enough to write. I have sat down at the computer more than once...starting a draft (that sit in my list of unposted posts), but have been in a cloud of words, too overwhelming to write. I haven't known where to start...haven't known where to begin. It feels like nothing has happened and yet everything is happening...

Today I write to purge my thoughts, feeling like this is a bit of verbal vomit. I have sliced open my head and revealed the whirling brain inside. I am excavating my brain, looking for knowledge from my past that will help me build this new future. A tornado inside, a whirlwind of thoughts being thrown out into the blogosphere for all to read.

Today I write because it is time...it is time to open my head and heart again, looking for the good in the world.

It's long and (possibly) torturous to read, but for those who are still with me...thank you for your patience...

I will continue to write...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Like the Phoenix...

There have been many stages to my teaching career...it has gone in a weird group of segments. The first segment was the one where I was still married to my ex-husband. I got my first job and then he joined the military. This meant I left to follow him to his next destination, California. After two and a half in California I came home. So the first segment was an (almost) five year stint.

Then I returned home to Oregon, daughter in tow. After six months of healing, I began subbing until I found a part time job. This began the second portion of my career. Four more years and the second portion of my career was done.

The third portion of my career began when I was hired in my current district. Now on my fifteenth year, I am in my third "rotation." I have almost done it all, alternative HS, middle school, and now high school. Each of these positions have brought me a spark. Getting the first job (a job I thought I didn't want) turned out to be a gift I didn't even know I wanted...an opportunity to find myself, my love for teaching and the ability to make a lasting impact.

My move to middle school was impulsive yet so important for my growth as a teacher. It was the beginning of a new era, opportunities to take on leadership...opportunities for personal and professional growth. I learned a great deal about myself and my teaching. I began to get connected with mathematicians at the State Level, opportunities to get involved with the growth of mathematics at a broader level. These connections brought me to the present, the HS.

Moving to the HS was a scary move. A place that I had concerns about in the past was now part of my present and future. Leaving behind my friends and the foundation I had built was frightening. Moving toward the unknown left me with feelings of uncertainty, the foundation I had built was not going with me but rather I was forging it alone. I didn't know if I was ready...if I could stand on my own. Over the last few years my spirit had been broken, the fire intense and left me doubting. Could I grow again? Would I be able to bring my best to someplace new and foreign?

Sometimes, like the phoenix, rebirth comes from the fire...the hottest flames refining. I have been reborn and a better version of me has come from the fire. I am ready to rebuild into something stronger...a better teacher, a better teammate, a better person.