Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our Journey So Far

My son was diagnosed with Apraxia and SID/SPD at the age of 2 1/2. We had known for some time that there was something different about A. As the youngest of 5 (at that time), it was easy for us to note the differences in his development when compared to the four who came before. He has since been diagnosed with ADHD, Dysgraphia, and Dyslexia (sometimes known as "specific learning disorder in the area of reading"). Having moved to two different states (three counties) and two different countries since his first diagnosis, we have become extraordinary familiar with the special needs education system in the U.S. (which varies widely by state) and within the State Department (which offers amazing support - one of the best perks of being an FSO, IMO). I continually update this resource page whenever I add a new post about our journey as a special needs family.

Our Journey:
October 2014
September 2014
September 2014
December 2012
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
April 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
September 2009
September 2009
August 2009
August 2009
July 2009

Special Needs Reading:
Dyslexia & Spelling
No Such Thing as Sight Words?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Retro in Retrospect

So I've mentioned a few times that last month I went back to my hometown to meet up with some of my oldest and dearest friends. And when I say old, I mean some of us have literally known each other since birth. Two of us were born at the same hospital, three of us grew up in the same neighborhood, while the fourth joined us in about 3rd/4th grade. I've stayed in touch with each of them on and off for years, but Facebook has made it easy to feel like we each know what's going on in each others lives. About 4-5 years ago the three of them got together in New York unexpectedly. One of us lives in NYC, another works out of NYC (she's a flight attendant), and the third was there for a conference. So out of the blue they skyped me:

And thus was born the idea of a reunion. Of course, just a short time later I joined the State Department and we moved to the Philippines making such a reunion a little out of reach. So during this last short time in the US, I was determined to make it happen. Everything fell into place remarkably well considering the odds. Currently we live in rural Michigan, Chicago, NYC, and Northern Virginia; one of us is a flight attendant, one is project manager in construction, one is a diplomat, and one runs a canoe livery! Our hometown is about an hours drive from me, making it within driving distance for me and the girl who lives in NYC. My flight attendant friend is able to fly for free, so it was no issue for her. Luckily my other friend in Michigan has most of her family still living in our hometown giving her a great excuse to come visit. Additionally, the weekend we chose just happened to be her little sister's birthday. Little sister generously offered up the use of her gorgeous house to us in exchange for dog sitting for the weekend. So the date was set just a few weeks in advance.

I admit, I was a little nervous. These girls were like family to me. They shared almost every event of my childhood from birth til I was 16 and moved to Albuquerque.* We played together, trick-or-treated together, vacationed together, went to camp together, went through bat mitzvahs and crazy Unitarian Church coming of age rituals together...I can't think of a single defining childhood moment that one of those girls wasn't a part of. Still, it had been 20 years. No, really, 20 years(!!) since I had last seen most of them.** Our lives had gone in totally different directions. I knew I would have a great time, but I was not sure what to expect.

It's hard to put into words what it's like to have people like this in your life. Even though we live in completely different places and have such different lives, the minute we all were together it was like we were never apart. There was no hesitation or weirdness or uncertainty. We instantly fell back into conversing like the years had never passed (although hopefully our conversations were a little more meaningful then our 15-year old versions!). As one of them wrote afterward, "I have good friends here in XX but I felt so close with you gals and wish I could get together with you all all the time! Hanging out with you was more than reminiscing, it was hanging out with very good friends."

It was really astonishing to me how deeply connected I feel to these girls. It really was more than reminiscing. We all have very similar outlooks on life, our political and social stances are more than compatible, our way of communicating and interacting was similar, almost familial. It really says something about how and where we were raised. Our hometown is a completely unique place. I've never seen or heard of anyplace quite like it. It was originally a planned community for low- to mid-income families who needed to commute to Baltimore and DC. It was an extraordinarily diverse area, almost a live action version of Free to Be You and Me.*** In my elementary school we celebrated Christmas, Hannukah, Diawali, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa. On my block alone we were white, black, hispanic, and Asian all living, playing, and celebrating together. We had a 4th of July parade every year where the kids would dress up in red, white, and blue and prance around the neighborhood in our radio flyer wagons or on bikes or big wheels. It was an awesome, awesome thing. I just never appreciated how completely different it was to grow up in a place where diversity was encouraged and celebrated.

Of course, it's not the same now. I mean, the area we grew up in kind of looks the same. Same houses, some of the same families****, same school, same neighborhood pool, same weird little graveyard in the middle of a suburban development, but the diversity we never appreciated is dwindling. I hesitated to put the name of my hometown out there into the ethernet simply because it has become so known as a place with expensive housing, a place almost synonymous with elitism. It's really quite a stark contrast to the idyllic world I grew up in. A world we did not appreciate at all at the time. I think we all grew up thinking how in hell can we get out of here! Two of us went directly to college and never looked back, the other two (myself included) left earlier. We never even finished high school. We took a slightly more roundabout way to our personal success stories. And I was delighted to note that all of us have become extremely successful and content people. I think that also speaks volumes to how and where we are raised.

Anyway, getting back to the personal element. We only managed 2 days together this time, mostly because we've all got jobs and families that need us, and also because our timeline was rather pinched thanks to my imminent departure. But I know we'll meet again. We're already hoping and planning for 2016 in Hong Kong! I feel so incredibly blessed that somehow I have people like these girls in my life. It is really extraordinary to me that we have such a deep connection. I don't feel like that happens very often. It certainly makes me a bit sad that I have constantly moved my children from place to place. I don't think our decision to move around is a bad one, there are many wonderful things they will take away from their unique experiences living around the country and around the world, but it has certainly made their childhoods very different from mine.

Check out our then and now:

*Which I now consider to be my hometown.
**One actually ended up moving to Albuquerque for a period of time, but it was still a good 12-15 years since I'd last seen her.
***Which I also never realized wasn't required watching until I was much, much older. Also, it is awesome and you should all go either watch it or listen to the music right now. 
****In fact, one of the girls mom's still lives her old house. It was such a trip to visit and have lunch there! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Still Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Even though I did just have baby #4, I have to say that when it comes to the old AF pt test I am still kicking ass and taking names. I still have to test as a Reservist, and since it had been a while thanks to this last pregnancy I was a wee bit concerned that the years might be catching up to me. Though I missed excellent by just .2% (ten seconds faster on the run will secure my old spot), I still managed to max both sit-ups and waist measurement. Not too shabby for a chick with 4 kids whose pushing 40!

Okay, enough boasting...back to my favorite pastime during PCS season - worrying. Ugh. So, so much to do and not nearly enough time to get everything done. Certainly not enough time to keep up with my blog. I mean it's already halfway through November and I haven't even blogged about Halloween! :(

They had a blast, btw. An American Halloween full of candy and pumpkins was greatly enjoyed by all (especially Hermione and Darth Vader).

Then last weekend the 'rents came back for a visit. Our time here in the US is all too precious since we won't be getting an R&R from Hong Kong (I guess there's not really all that much there to need a rest and recuperation from!), so we don't plan on coming back for the duration of our time there. It's been so nice to have my parents (relatively) close by. This is the 3rd visit for each, and then we will also spend a good chunk of time with them during our home leave. It's been wonderful watching their relationships with my children develop so nicely. Skype is great for maintaining contact, but I find that medium is not really conducive to building a relationship at least with children so young.

While we didn't do much while they were here (besides the usual gluttony and wine, that is), we did spend a day in Shenandoah enjoying the last of the lovely fall weather.

And Grandma even cooked with J a couple of times. They made an awesome baked ziti, which I totally forgot to take a picture of. And then she made candy sleighs with J and A. So cute! Wish I had her talent and patience to make some of those creations. I have such great memories of doing stuff like that with my mom when I was a kid. It's nice to see that at least my older sis (who made my awesome nephew a Minecraft cake for his 5th b-day) is carrying on the tradition.

Ok that last picture has nothing to do with anything I've posted, but he's just so chuckaliciously cute that maybe I'll be forgiven that I still haven't posted about my Columbia reunion. I promise it's coming soon, but I have a lot to say there so I need more time to gather my thoughts.