measuring

I’m learning all the time.

and in that learning, I hope that I also grow some, add to my collective inner wisdom some, bring a little something more to the world around me.

but in the learning and the seeking of experience, I also hope that I’m modeling some for the little eyes and ears that walk this journey beside me. for the little one, her learning looks different than mine — her mind sees things uniquely and ingests the world around us quite uniquely. she understands it all in way that is both very refreshing and, yet, often prism-like in the stained glass fragmentation of it all. it is complex, it is multi-dimensional, it is a place of both great struggle for her and also of great joy, this ying and yang of learning and understanding.

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when we headed north, it was a direct reaction to schooling and educational opportunity for a little one. in the school in the woods, she now has an IEP plan that spans over a dozen pages and is carefully and conscientiously crafted by a team of educators and therapists that I hold in great regard. her day has great scaffolding in place to support her in a varied and enriched setting where she is both included and receiving the one-to-one support and instruction she so clearly needs.

but, let’s be honest here: it’s not a magic panacea. she’s still struggling. she’s had, and continues to have, moments of such high anxiety that she’s reverted back to old patterns and behaviors where she seeks maladaptive sensory input to soothe. I see the scratches, the scabs, the peeled cuticles, the missing facial hair where a rash now exists. my heart aches for these tell-tale signs, and where words aren’t enough, I hold the little one and rock her as I’ve done for years. but I also kick our sensory strategies into high gear to stave off any tailspin, any regressions that lurk in the shadows.

for the first time this year, just this past week, she brought home some homework that she openly acknowledged she should do. we’ve had scant papers sent home over the school year but the mutual understanding has been to follow her lead on much of this and it’s a mutual understanding I deeply appreciate. but this week, it was a ruler and a question to measure two things and record your findings. so I sat back some and had the little one teach me what to do, how to do, when to do.

as a type A momma, this isn’t the easiest nor most comfortable route …
but it is the most meaningful for us both.

so we measured – and not just in inches but in how far she’s come in a calendar year. she’s gained some, she’s lost some, but in all of this, she’s showing us all the way — her way. teaching us how to teach her. allowing us a peek at her world – slowly, meaningfully, deliberately. she’s succeeding in her own way and I don’t measure that success in her academics. far from it, actually. she has friends – not many but enough and the ones she has, boy!, are they fabulous. she’s navigating her day and finding joy along the way that she can relay to me later when we share our days with each other.

recently I attended an informal open house in her classroom and she was so anxious and so nervous — but insisted all week that I had to come. she followed it up with the scripting of her teacher’s words that if you couldn’t come, it was ok … but her eyes told a different story and this momma knew, just knew, how terribly important this all was. where the words fail her, her eyes speak volumes. so we went – stopping frequently in the walk from the car to the school front door to slow down, breathe, count, tell the ‘jumping-insides’ to just sit for a bit.

tower-book-ourtreknorth-wordpress-comand there it was … her easel book. I had heard bits and pieces of this book for a while but what I saw just took me by surprise and awe. the pride and the internal success – she couldn’t contain herself. I couldn’t contain myself. her story was about an event that she and I shared and for the first time in any of her stories, she even described herself as ‘spinning in circles’ when she was excited. that’s what did me in: the self-awareness that she was expressing exactly who she is.

and then over on another area, her ‘tower book’ about a playdate with one of her best friends. oh, and just because she’s awesome like that, she’s also a reader these days … because she simply is succeeding in her own way and at her own pace. but more importantly, those around her are allowing her the space to take learning and success at her own pace, as they are able.

there’s a thought that success truly comes to those who believe in it. I believe success is measured differently than that. in our little home in the woods, we measure success in increments — sometimes even micro-increments. the measure of our success isn’t purely in report cards or even special education assessments: it is that we continue to learn from her, with her, alongside her. where she’s headed is for her to show — what she’ll achieve is for us to be awe-inspired by. where she’ll soar? heaven only knows … but, I’m so elated to be along for the ride, learning and measuring all the while.

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” – Helen Keller

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embracing and acknowledging firsts

:: first toad caught in the backyard who fit so nicely on a momma fingertip

:: first bee sting on a little finger

:: first evening of backyard play with the neighborhood ‘gang’

:: first ‘crazy hair’ caterpillar spotted and, as you do, befriended

:: first encounter with a rafter of wild turkeys stopping us in our tracks, literally

{this momma’s} first day of the new job coming up — so we’re practicing our new normal with …

… first mornings of riding the bus to school!

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in our old city, the little one would long to ride the bus to her city school but never wanted to venture to this uncharted territory. this momma would hear ‘it’s too much, just too much‘. so as a work-at-home momma, we had the undeniable luxury of driving to and from school.

this town is different in countless ways and the little one feels it deep in her bones. riding the bus to your neighborhood school is a neighborhood thing and a place where you can connect with that gang of buddies who backyard hopped in wonderful play just last night.

this morning the little one said ‘I’m excited … and a little nervous’ when waiting at the bus stop at the end of the neighbors driveway, hands wringing a little for good measure. but right beside her was a friend and classmate who already had those “first” feelings when school started a week or so ago and was there to guide the little one. never mind the bus driver that greets each child by name, including the little one who was greeted with a warm “I’m so glad I get to drive you to school!”, making this momma’s heart simply swell.

I can’t wait for more firsts as the year goes by — and certainly as the years go by. but I’m also relishing the normalcy that comes after the firsts — lets call them the seconds and thirds — the ones where the flutters in your belly float away, where you find your footing solid underneath you, where your heart begins to sing and wings spread wide. these are the moments where seeds planted take root, flowers bud, and dreams take flight.

as much as I love experiencing firsts — it’s the seconds and thirds I long for.

first days of first grades

new adventures - ourtreknorth-wordpress-comon the way in, the jitters started and the words didn’t come out easily — and when they did they vacillated between angry and oh-so-scared. I asked the little one what I could do and it was met with loud, big words of “I do NOT know” with tears filling those beautiful brown eyes. this was big, this new adventure — all of it — and today was the starting line and the journey ahead, right then, just looked so big.

so, instead of talking, I hugged. I held hands and walked beside this little one with words that described our time — my self-narration of our journey to school on this new, first day. I talked about how every day we would get to drive by the horses (of which she tells me there are five) and the farm with the alpaca’s (she tells me the brown one is her favorite). I tell her we’ll park every day in the small Town Hall parking lot and walk over, stopping to say a good morning to the police officer and the crossing guard (they welcome us all with large smiles, warm words and envelop us in their safety). the little one never lets my hand go as we navigate down the small stairs, past the bus monitors who all welcome us walkers and start to round the corner to the front of the school.

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and that is where feet become solid with the ground beneath them and the little one decides she can go no further. so this momma pulls her close, arm around shoulder, and asks this “how many people have wished you a ‘good morning’ so far?” (I know she’s been counting, it’s comforting to know the rhythm, to make sense of it all) the little one tells me “three, so far three good-mornings” and I smile. this is where wings  are asked to spread – even when it’s hard to do so. so, I say “three, huh? well, let’s see if we can get five before you get to your classroom with Ms D”.

and the little voice says “but I don’t remember where to go to get to Ms D” and this momma says, as is so often said, “there will always be kind people there to help you find your way”

and so we walk into a school where we’re welcomed by warm teachers and a principal who seeks out the little one, greets her with a smile and shakes her hand. we walk, hand in hand, take a left at the wooden bear, past the library she hopes to sneak into today and turn a corner … to see Ms D at her door, just waiting for this little one with such a warm smile and wide open arms.

here’s to hearing all about her adventures this afternoon, and tomorrow afternoon and the many afternoons beyond. this momma can’t wait to hear of new friends, new skills learned and how she gets to choose to buy (on her own!) chocolate milk every day at lunch (as you do when you’re in first grade!). there will be bumps, there will be tears, there will be laughter and so much joy ahead — but that is the beauty of this journey, which we do together, hand-in-hand.