Sunday, June 29, 2014

Coming Home and the Presentation of Souvenirs

It's funny, because usually when I'm on vacation, I find time to post here. I think that's because I am always back in a hotel room by 8:30 to put my kiddos to bed and then I have to sit in the dark with nothing but my computer to entertain me as they go to sleep. It turns out that if you go on vacation without your kids, you can do things like stay out until midnight and then go to bed as soon as you get back to the hotel.

In related news, did you know that there is still a midnight?

In more related news, yes, I am aware of how lame I am for being impressed that I was out and about with the living people after eleven in the pm.

Also related, Jesus Christ, I am so glad I don't go to bars late at night. Just walking past them was enough for me.

Anywho, Alex and I have returned from our five-day trip to Key West. In case you want a reminder of exactly how pathetic we are, that was our first trip without our kids since before Sam was born. In other words, about 13 years.

Don't worry though. Much as we may have considered it, we didn't just abandon Team Stimey Junior to Minecraft and their own devices. My mother came into town to take care of them. She didn't let on, but she was suitably apprehensive. After all, as an old friend of hers said, "DON'T YOU READ HER BLOG?!"

She shouldn't have worried. They got along swimmingly.

I’m not sure that Jack ever stops moving long enough to be completely not blurry.

Although let's be honest. I think we all know that my kids didn't sit around compliantly all week. My mom definitely worked hard.

Yes. That looks right.

I can't wait to tell you guys about our trip because it was awesome. We had so much fun. I took seven million great photos. We laughed and snorkeled and drank out of pineapples.

But tonight I am preparing to go back to work tomorrow and it is also Jack's first day of camp and my mom left this afternoon, so I am going to hold off on telling you about all of that and instead, I will sit here by my cat and regale you with stories about our alcohol-fueled metal sculpture souvenir-buying extravaganza.

I think my mom was nervous when I called her to get her mailing address because it wasn't in my phone and then texted her a photo of the souvenir I'd purchased for myself.

I call him Hemingway. He is so fucking awesome. And, yes, I was also baffled that no one else had already bought him. Weirdly, the shopkeeper seemed thrilled to sell him, offering us a deep discount.

"Yours is more dignified," I told my mom via text.

Also, it was a pelican.

I would name him Rusty, but who knows what my mom will call him.

I'm pretty sure she's going to place him right inside her front door so it's the first thing visitors to her home see. She used an appropriate amount of enthusiasm when I eventually showed her a photo, so I think she likes it.

In other news, I have a metal sculpture-buying tip for you: As you put more and more giant metal statuary on the shop counter, discounts will get increasingly larger and the salesperson's face will get increasingly happier. You might then choose to buy one sculpture for each of your children instead of one for the three of them to share.

Whereas for my mom, we were looking for something a reasonable adult would put in a home, we had no such criterion for our children.

That’s why we got this hockey-playing monster who tried to eat Chester for Jack.

Jack's most excellent response upon seeing this guy was, "LOL. He's like me."

He then took him to his room to find a spot for him. Jack reported back that "he's trying to eat my bedroom."

Jack. That kid totally gets Alex and me.

Sam got the cat version of my rat. Said cat is pretty hilarious.

Honestly, his was probably the most dignified non-pelican that we purchased.

You've probably already guessed that we got Quinn a cat as well, but you may not have guessed that we got him a Slinky Cat. He's hilarious.

Slinky Cat has the benefit of being poseable. He can sit or stand. (He chooses to stand.)

Clearly, Alex and I are pretty delighted with our souvenir purchases. Fortunately, our recipients seem to be equally enamored.

I hope you all enjoy them as well. Thank you for indulging me. You may now carry on with the non-metal sculpture related parts of your life.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

This Is Likely to End With the Adoption of 800 New Stimey Cats

In the county in which my kids go to school, each child must perform 75 SSL (student service learning) hours before they graduate from high school. Students start earning their hours once they enter middle school, so Sam started this past year and Jack will begin this coming year.

Because of this, I am always looking for fun and approved volunteer jobs for my kiddos. Up until now, these jobs have been mostly one-shot events that I've run across. For example, Sam has helped with a school event or we picked up trash for a local organization. However, I've been looking for recurring jobs because that just seems easier than always keeping my eyes open for something my kiddos can help with.

Recently, we found a Saturday chess camp at which Sam can volunteer, which is great, but the real coup, the be-all-end-all of SSL volunteer opportunities came when a friend of ours recommended my family for a weekly job, starting this month.

The timing was terrible. We trained right during our move and our first week was this week, when my mom was in town and we had 7000 other things to do. It was one more thing that my family could barely handle, but we did it.

Do you wanna know why?

Do you wanna know what our four-hours-a-week-Wednesday-afternoon volunteer job is?

Here's a hint:

It’s blurry because it was one of seven million photos that my kids took in rapid succession.

Yes. It is cat related.

Yes. It is a job that was practically tailor made for Team Stimey.

We are working for a local cat rescue organization that put cats up for adoption at a pet store. My kids are in heaven.

We clean the cages and keep everything in our little room all ship shape and...wait for it...we play with the cats. Sam and Jack get to earn their SSL hours by playing with cats. It's the greatest gig ever. Especially considering that I help them clean the cages.

Can you tell how hard he’s working?

I actually think I got the rawest end of the deal. I'm hoping to take only two of my kids at a time, so as not to overwhelm the cats, so this week I just took Sam and Jack. One of them would help me clean a cage and the other would play with the cat who occupied that cage. Then they would trade for the next cage.

Sadly, I never got to rotate out to the cat-playing position to watch them clean a cage together.

Fortunately, after we cleaned the cages, I got to snuggle some cats too. But still. Kinda unfair, right? I'm hoping to train them well enough so that eventually I'll just sit and pet cats as I watch my kids scrub litter boxes.

I figure we'll get to that point in five, maybe six...years.

Still, even though I did a bunch of the work, both Sam and Jack did great. After about an hour, Jack asked for a break, so I let him play iPad for a while. He still earned his hours though because he was simultaneously working hard taking care of the cats.

Did I mention that this is the best gig ever?

The hazard to this job, however, is that my kids want to adopt every cat in the place. They filled up my phone with photos and videos of the cats that were there this week and I have already gotten my fair share of, "Please mom! I really want to adopt him!"

Team Stimey Junior doesn't seem to understand, "But we have a really good cat ecosystem right now and we don't want to upset the balance," so I've had to resort to shouting, "No! NO! I said we're not adopting any more cats! NOOOOOO!"

So far no one has cried. Not even me.

We all feel pretty happy about the whole deal. But, for the love of god, let's stop throwing these perfect opportunities my way, okay? My calendar is filling up.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Let's Talk About the Avalon Bay Portable Ice Maker (AB-ICE26)

Sharp left turn: Now it's time for a product review! Fine print: I was given a free Avalon ice maker for review purposes. My thoughts here are my own.

The last time Alex and I lived without an ice maker built into our refrigerator, it almost ended in divorce, what with all the finger pointing and the blaming and the recriminations about who used all the ice and who left the ice cube tray empty and HOW DAMN HARD IS IT TO PUT WATER IN A SERIES OF LITTLE PLASTIC SQUARES ANYWAY?!

Because I'm still reliving the trauma of that situation, I was worried when I discovered that the house we were moving into had no ice maker in the fridge.

I know. The horror.

But then, out of nowhere, I got an email from the good people at Avalon Bay. They had a product called the Avalon Bay Portable Ice Maker (SKU=AB-ICE26) and they wanted to offer one to me for review. Weird, right? I mean, how did they know?

It comes in other colors, but I like the red.

Now, you don't see me doing a lot of reviews around here because it's not really my thing. But every once in a while, something comes along that I am really curious about and would like to try out. This was one of them. I signed right up and shortly thereafter, my brand new ice maker showed up at my door.


You don't need a water line connected to the ice maker. All you have to do is plug it in and fill it with a couple liters of clean water. The machine swings into action and produces ice cubes in less than 13 minutes. It continues to make and collect ice cubes in a little ice tray at the top of the machine until said ice tray is full. Because it isn't refrigerated, the unused ice melts back into the water reservoir and is remade into new ice so there is always fresh ice in the ice tray.


It makes ice without my having to fill little plastic trays with water.

It's fast. It really does make ice in just a matter of minutes. The ice cubes are hollow, which is how it gets made so fast. Also, I think there is some sort of magic going on down there in the machine. It doesn't make a lot of ice, even when the ice tray is full, but it makes it fast enough that that doesn't really matter. My family has been using it for three or more weeks now and we've never run out of ice.

You just saved so much space in your freezer! No more ice cube trays!

You can choose between two sizes of ice so if you want to fit the ice in a water bottle or something, it will fit.

My family has mostly used the large cubes.

The ice is fun to eat because of its texture and hollowness. It's good. And it crunches in a fun way.


The ice maker is kinda pricey. It costs $149.95. If I'd had to pay for it, I would have had to think long and hard about it. That said, it's cheaper than buying a fridge specifically because of its ice making abilities.

It's also big. If your counter space is at a premium, it might be tough to find a place for the ice maker. I have it tucked into a corner in my kitchen and it doesn't feel obtrusive, but it could be.

Pineapple for scale.

It is loud. I would say this is the ice maker's biggest drawback. Because the ice melts and reforms, it runs almost all the time. It doesn't run when the ice tray is full, but it runs a lot. I'm not sure what to compare it to, but I would say that maybe it sounds like a coffee maker that is running most of the time. It's white noise, but if running appliances bother you, this one might.


We complain about how loud it is, but we use the thing all the time. I like not having to worry about refilling ice trays. I don't even have to fill the water reservoir very often. It had never even occurred to me to get a portable ice maker, but I am very happy that I have one now.

Also, still no ice tray-related divorce.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Where's Chester?

Here's Chester!

This monkey is prominently placed in front of our new home. It’s like a sign post that says, “We’re whimsical!” or “These people are ridiculous; avoid them!”
We're settling into our new house and loving it so very much. I mean, it's not awesome that the air conditioner broke a week after we moved in and even though it is covered by our home warranty, that still doesn't make the part get ordered any faster and it's 80 million degrees in my bedroom right now and has been for the past five days, because OF COURSE THAT HAPPENED A WEEK AFTER WE MOVED IN.

But anywho.

I'm still unpacking, but I've prepared the house enough to introduce you all to the new location of Stimeyland. Naturally, it is way more fun to introduce you with a game involving Chester, the toy mouse.

Remember Waldo? Just as you used to try to find a drawing of Waldo in a much larger scene, you will try to find Chester in larger photos of some of the rooms in my new house. Unfortunately, it was not until this very moment that it occurred to me that I should have dressed him in a red and white striped shirt and hat.

Dammit. Opportunity missed.

We'll start with an easy one. Here is the front of my house. Where's Chester?

As with all the photos in this post, you can click to embiggen for easier searching.

Oh, look! There he is!

I made a mistake and didn’t take this photo from the same vantage point as the bigger one. I’m sorry. I did better with the others.

That one was too easy, but you get the point, right? Okay, let's play!

Here is the back yard of my house. We brought our bedraggled hammock all the way from our old house. Because we are klassy that way.

Where’s Chester?
Here's Chester!

The thing that makes this hammock even classier is that the hammock pillow there? It’s actually a seat cushion I tied to the hammock. Put that shit on Pinterest.
One fun thing about our new house is that it comes with its very own train. Beyond our back fence is a ravine with tracks at the bottom. Alex has had one question for anyone who will listen: "What's the hobo situation?"

I can see one tiny hobo in the photo. Can you?
Also, again I'm disappointed in myself for not making him a little stick with a kercheif packet at the end of it.

Wouldn’t he look jauntier if he had a bindle?
In addition to a gate that gives us access to the tracks (and hobos), we have a Chester-sized hole so he has easy access as well. It's like this house was built for us.

Hopefully he won’t take off as soon as he finds the right sized stick.
I love our new living room. Please ignore the toys strewn all over the floor.

Please, however, don’t ignore the awesome piggy bank, which is one of my favorite things in my house.
Ever since we moved, I haven't had a good chance to nap, which is one of my favorite activities.

Chester, however, has not had a similar problem.
We haven't had a formal dining room...ever, so we don't have a lot of stuff to put in that room.

That’s Ruby enjoying the flowers a wonderful friend brought to me.
Chester was pretty easy to spot, wasn't he?

There he is, sitting under the cat, reading a note my friend Kate‘s daughter left at our house.
Every house needs a kitchen, or so I hear.

We mostly use it as a repository for snacks and a place to cut fruit.
If you need a hint about where Chester is, just remember that our AC is broken and it was 99 degrees today.

He’s in our new portable ice maker. (I’m reviewing the ice maker. Stay tuned for that this week.) I wish *I* could fit in an ice maker.
Maybe my favorite room in the whole house is our family room. We splurged on a new couch for this room. I love it so much. So do my kids, who have enjoyed the time I've spent unpacking because that means I let them play Xbox all day.

If you look closely, you can see a couple of the munchkins gorging on screen time in the couch.
You can also see someone else gorging on screentime.

He’s a big fan of Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare.
"But where are the gerbils, Stimey?" you ask.

That was a tough one. I wanted them somewhere that they would be near people a lot, but Alex didn't want them in our family room because when they chew their cardboard, they're pretty loud and make it hard to hear the TV.

Therefore, they went to live in the office.

I cannot even tell you how nice it is to have my chair right next to that big ol’ window. The gerbils are nice too.
I like that the gerbils are so low so visiting children, cats, and other friends can stop by and say hi.

Chester and Jefferie took some time during our photo session to get acquainted.

Chester's not in the next photo, but Starfire made a pretty good case for being a new Stimeyland cover photo with this next pose:

She is also making a good case for why we don’t have live plants. That bamboo plant used to have shoots coming out the top before Starfy and her buddies waged war on it.
The biggest reason we moved to a new house was so all of our kids could have their own rooms. This one belongs to Quinn:

Quinn is so delighted with this room. It took close to a week before he let either of his brothers cross the threshold.

Chester on the other hand, well, he can come and go as he pleases.

Chester can use some therapy swinging, just like Q-ball.
When we bought the house, Jack's room was painted in bright yellow and pink vertical stripes. Take a moment to visualize that. Then look at how beautiful it is now.

Some day we’ll put blinds on that window, but today is not that day.

I haven't unpacked all of Jack's things yet, but even so, he has managed to create delightful little scenes all over his shelves.

He’s a daredevil, that Chester.

We haven't put anything on any of the walls, with the exception of where there are already nails. Sam was lucky enough to have one of those spots in his room.

That window treatment was there when we moved in. Sam loves it. Awesome. One less thing to buy.

I'm not sure how Sam can make a mess of his room when we haven't unpacked everything and he has, like, three belongings in there. It's almost like someone else has been sneaking in and using the room in his absence.

Gasp! Scandal!

Alex and my room hasn't been fully unpacked yet. The movers put a lot of boxes up there that don't belong up there, so I'm currently sorting through them to figure out where they actually go.

Chester is tough to find in this photo, but see if you can spot all three cats.

This room is huge. That is the corner of our bed in the bottom left. I love it so much. You can’t really tell in this photo, but it is really bright up there.

Oh, right. The cats. Ruby is up in the left window. Starfire is on the floor to the left of one of the boxes and Oreo is walking into the room from the right.

Chester is in the box of packing paper.

Wait. That’s not Chester.

There's Chester in the box of packing paper!

Whereas Oreo hopped in the box herself and settled in for the duration, I think Chester was more concerned about being recycled.

Also, this photo of Ruby is super pretty, so I'm posting it as well.

This house has lots of window sills for the cats. I think they like it here.

We also have a basement. I haven't unpacked a damn thing down there. We have, however, made use of the Foosball table the previous owners left for us.

It is apparently a “left handed Foosball table.” I have no idea what that means.

In the spirit of the World Cup, here is a closeup of the table—and its friendly and vigilant goalkeeper.

I don’t think he knows how close he is to being knocked down into the bowels of the Foosball table. One fast moving ball is all it would take.

So there it is—a tour of much of my new house. I hoped you enjoyed it as much as Chester did. I love this house so much. I mean, once you get past that it is hot as hell inside. It is so beautiful and spacious and I feel so lucky to live in it.

One of these days—I'm guessing 2017 or so—I will be all done unpacking and I'll get to actually relax in the house. That's going to be a good year.

Until then, I will just keep enjoying the fiasco that is a partially unpacked house and the chaos that comes with it. Although actually, I might be sad when I'm done unpacking because the cats are enjoying the process so much and I am truly enjoying watching them enjoy it.

Like this. I mean, really. Can you beat this?

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I don't even know what to say about what has occurred over the past two days. My last post seems to have hit a nerve.

I want to thank you for your support. Knowing that Jack and I have you in my corner makes me feel so very good. Thank you for commenting on that last post and sharing it and reminding me that it is important to tell these stories so more people hopefully hear, really hear, how important it is to include all students.

The thing that kills me is that, as a result of that post, I have been hearing story after story of similar exclusions happening to special education students all over the country. Every time someone sent a mean comment or told me that what happened wasn't a big deal, someone else sent me a story of a brokenhearted kid who had been left out of something as simple but important to them as a photo.

There were the kids who were left out of their school yearbooks. There were the kids whose school forgot to read their names at their elementary school graduation.There were the kids who didn't get included in the second grade end-of-year activities. There was the kiddo who was excluded from his first grade class photo. There were more stories, but you get the idea.

I sent Jack's principal an email on Friday morning. It seemed like the right thing to do. In the email, I told her why I wrote the post, my intention being to highlight how much it matters to include every student in all aspects of student life. I told her how, in her position at a school that houses an autism program, she had a very powerful opportunity to not just make sure that all students are included, but to make sure that the typical students know that all students are valued and counted as well.

She responded to my email with a phone call and we talked, not just about the bulletin board, but about the atmosphere of inclusion and whether or not special education students and parents feel it at Sligo Creek. I can't speak for everyone. I'm sure some do. I can speak for some. Even though they love the Asperger's program, they don't feel like a part of the school community.

The principal disputes the timeline as I laid it out in my post. She says the the photos were up before my friend posted the photo she took. My friend remains adamant that the photos were not up at that time. I know my friend and I know she was looking for her daughter's photo. I believe my friend. Her daughter stood with her as she posted the photo. I imagine that if her photo were already up, that bright, strong-minded fifth grader would have mentioned it to her mom. Some of you will believe the principal. That's fine. There's some fuzzy blame about not getting messages and front office staff. I can't know for sure what happened, but my friend is not a person who just makes things up. I trust her account.

The principal told me how our kids were left out in the first place. The photos were taken at lunchtime in the cafeteria, a time when my son and his classmates are in their classroom. Their photos weren't taken because they weren't there. Innocent oversight, sure.

But, I would posit that when you forget a classroom of kids just because they are not in the room, you are not fostering that atmosphere of inclusion.

To her credit, the principal sounded horrified about the whole situation. Part of that horror could be that everyone from the superintendent on down has evidently been in contact with her about this. To her credit, she apologized to me. Not to her credit, as of Friday night, she had not contacted my friend to apologize.

The principal told me stories of helping and standing up for the students in the autism program individually that I hope are accurate, because they are lovely. They are also the right thing to do and in most cases, legally required of a principal. She told me about her own disabled daughter and how it hurts her that people would think she doesn't support students with disabilities. I didn't mention this on the phone, but I have written here about some of the wonderful school-wide inclusion that I have seen at Sligo Creek.

She was very nice on the phone. She sounded very genuine. I don't think she's a bad person. Being a principal must be a very difficult job and I'm sure it's frustrating to be called out so publicly for one thing. I understood her position. But then I thought about how I had felt at the school for the past two years.

I really do love Jack's program. I feel very at home and welcomed by the Asperger's program staff and the school paraeducators and one of the general education teachers. But I haven't felt like a full, participating member of the school community

I needed to tell her that.

I hate phones. I hate confrontation. I was shaking as I spoke to the her. But I knew that I had to speak up. I am so glad that you are doing these things, I told her. (I am.) I hope that the students in the Asperger's program don't feel the lack of inclusion that some of the parents feel, because that is what matters, I told her. But, I said, I am not the only parent who feels this way. There are a bunch of us who feel as if we don't quite belong and aren't welcomed the way the rest of the school families are.

I reminded her about how last year a general education parent and I had tried for months to get a meeting with her to discuss doing some autism education for the general education kids who go to school alongside our autistic kiddos. I reminded her that the other parent works in autism research and that I have done autism education with kids—and have Asperger's myself. I reminded her that we emailed over and over and when that didn't work, when a meeting had been scheduled and then canceled just an hour beforehand, we submitted a written proposal that she never commented on. I told her how we eventually just gave up.

I told her about how my family had tried to attend the end-of-the-year social just last week, which was completely unstructured and held in a parking lot. I told her that my son couldn't participate without a common activity, even playground equipment, to start an interaction. I told her how my son, who has been at the school for two years, ended up just walking in circles. I didn't see a single student come up to him to say hi. No one was mean. No one objected to his presence. But no one welcomed him either.

There are more examples. I gave some to the principal. Some I did not. I don't need to go into them now. Probably any parent of a child with a disability has similar experiences. Probably any person with a disability has similar examples.

I am school volunteer person. This year I co-chaired large events at each of my other sons' schools. At my youngest son's elementary school, people used to ask if I worked there because I was there so often. I served on the PTA board there for the past three years and for the past two, have had weekly or near weekly volunteer jobs there. I volunteered last year at Jack's school for a couple of class parties and with some wall decorations for a big 4th grade project. The parents were nice. But I could never quite shake the feeling of "other." I know that's not all the school's fault. Part of it is my own baggage. But there are definitely ways to be more inclusive of our families, many of whom come in to the school in 3rd or 4th or 5th grade, after most of the families have been together since kindergarten.

It sounds like the principal will be making an effort at more inclusion. She contacted a family who had had some inclusion concerns of their own and suggested that they meet over the summer to discuss how to make the school more inclusive. She has told me that she'd like to schedule a meeting with me and the other mom who wanted to speak to her about autism education. I'm thrilled to hear these things. I hope they really do come to fruition. I am sad that it took a firestorm of controversy to make it happen.

At the end of the day, however, we have to remember that our kids weren't included because they weren't in the room when the camera showed up. We have to remember that my friend went to the office multiple times and was put off, fuzzy blame about who knew what and who was told when be damned. My friend followed the chain of command in informing the secretary and had extremely valid reasons for not contacting the principal about this particular issue (those reasons being not mine to share). The school was informed of their mistake and it took them weeks to fix it. That matters to the kids who walked by the bulletin board every day.

You should know that my friend works so hard at that school. The reason she knows the photo situation was going on for so long was because she was at the school regularly. She's a squeaky wheel, my friend, always speaking up for our kids. Part of speaking up as a parent of a special education child includes fear of reprisals—not for us, but for our kids. That is the culture of special education in this county, in this country. I panicked a little when this post started making the rounds, for that very reason. My friend is extremely brave to speak her mind the way she does and I am so glad that I could amplify her voice this one time.

I have hope that maybe this will start a conversation at Sligo Creek. I hope that the principal can put aside feeling hurt and listen to the kids and parents who are at the school now and in the future. I hope that the angry parents who responded on my last post telling me this was no big deal can look past their anger and understand that this isn't about parent egos—it's about young kids and their self esteem. I hope that all the parents at the school can continue to help their kids grow into people who include all people every time. I hope that I can put aside my own hurt and anger and meaningfully contribute my voice to the conversation.

I hope that this fundamental message can spread: Every person has intrinsic value and deserves to be included as a human right. Remember what my son wrote in his essay: "I would not be forgotten." No child should have to feel that they could be forgotten at their school.

To each of your kids who has had this happen to them, tell them that that they are important. Tell them that they are valued. Tell them that they are not less than or an afterthought. Tell them that they should be included because they are worth including, not just because it's the right thing to do. Tell them that we love them and that we SEE them. 

Tell them that they are superstars.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Literally Every 5th Grader

I don't know exactly when the bulletin board went up, but it was probably in January or February. I didn't have a chance to go in to Jack's school very often, so I wasn't aware of it at all until a friend of mine—the mom of one of Jack's classmates—posted about it on Facebook in March.

See, this was a bulletin board about the "Superstars" of Jack's school—the class of 2014.

I took this photo last Friday, months after it was originally put up.

Jack is part of the class of 2014, so I imagine he was excited to be called a superstar. Except...well, except for the fact that this bulletin board—which was posted within 30 feet of his classroom, insuring that he saw it every single day—included photos of all the fifth graders except for the three fifth graders in Jack's Asperger's classroom.

Evidently if you are in an autism classroom, you aren't a superstar at Sligo Creek Elementary School.

My friend, who is the hero of this story, wrote on Facebook about how she saw this bulletin board often, as she visited the class regularly.
"Each visit is the same: I approach the poster with a mixture of dread and anger at what I know I will see, yet again. And then I turn around, go to the office, and politely inform the secretary that the poster that my daughter and her classmates walk past every day *still* does not include them, and maybe this whole thing started out as just an oversight but it's been weeks now and could someone *please* add our children's pictures to the poster so they don't have to be reminded every single day, as they walk to their special education classroom, that their school's administration has overlooked them and their achievements?"
She did this for weeks. She would see that the poster didn't include our kids and she would tell the secretary and she would be ignored. When she finally told the secretary that she was going to fix the poster herself by adding a photo of our kids, she was told that she couldn't do that because it would be defacing school property.

As you might imagine, that didn't go over well with my friend. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that if the kids from the autism program weren't added to the poster by the administration, she would do it herself, and if someone had a problem with that, well, that problem would become public fast.

It was early March when my friend's daughter reported that the principal had come to the classroom to take photos of the three fifth grade students in Jack's class.


Except again.

The photos still didn't go up. It was mid-March when those three fifth grade students attended a birthday party together. My friend put our kids together and took a photo. On March 18th [date corrected from earlier version], she took that photo and four thumbtacks to the school and she DEFACED THAT BULLETIN BOARD.

Their real faces are even cuter.

*standing ovation*

This was nine weeks after she first mentioned this to the secretary. NINE WEEKS.

At some point the school went ahead and posted individual photos of each of the three fifth graders in the autism classroom, but it wasn't done until my friend had spoken up multiple times over the course of weeks and then posted her own photo.

I think this photo adds a lot to the superstar collage.

As far as I know, my friend and her daughter haven't gotten an apology from the principal. I know that Jack and I sure haven't.

I really like Jack's program. He has done really well there. He has gone from being miserable about school and himself to being happy and full of self esteem. He has a safe place to be when school gets too overwhelming, but he spends much of his day in inclusion classes. His teachers are wonderful. His paras have been good to him. His IEP team is delightful. The other kids in his class are phenomenal. I'm very happy that he is in this program. He is very happy that he is in this program.

But damn.

I wish that my school district was able to serve my kid in his home school in an inclusion classroom. But they couldn't. They couldn't or wouldn't give him the support he needed, so we found another option, one that seemed to work. The thing is, segregation of students has limitations. Even though my kid has been well served in his program, he is obviously seen as less than in the eyes of the administration. These kids do not seem to be the principal's priority.

If you read here, I'm sure you know why it matters that all kids are included in all parts of school life. It seems so obvious to me, yet it is clearly not obvious to the people who kept moving "post photos from the Asperger's class" to the bottom of their to-do list.

Every child has an intrinsic worth. Every child has a right to belong. Every child has a right to be treated with respect. Every child has a right to be included, not just by peers and teachers, but by the people who lead the school and set the tone for everyone in the building.

I was furious when I heard about this bulletin board from my friend. I am still furious as I write this. It breaks my heart that people who work with students with disabilities day in and day out still forget that they matter and that they have thoughts and feelings and desires and complex inner lives.

If you doubt that, check out this essay that Jack brought home last week about 5th grade photo day. The 5th grade all wore their special "class of 2014" shirts on the same day and sat for a photo of the whole grade. Jack remembered all by himself what day he was to wear the shirt and excitedly sat for the photo.

Jack wrote about the day. Full text is below.

"2014 School Picture: On June 3rd, I was so excited for the 5th grade picture. I couldn't wait for it. All the 5th grade, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM, were in the picture. It was so awesome, I could not wait for it. I was in the 3rd row closest to the camera, very close to the flash, so it could get a good angle of me. I couldn't be forgotten in Sligo Creek Elementary pictures with me in one, especially this one and the graduating class of 2014. [Classmate one] and [classmate two] were close to me, and they were good friends. Lots of people I knew were there, some were close to me and some weren't. Everyone else seemed to be prepared, as I was thoroughly prepared. That was the best day of my life!"

Read that and tell me that it doesn't matter if Jack's photo wasn't on the superstar board. Read that and tell me that putting my kid's photo up was "defacing" the bulletin board. Read that and tell me that the principal was doing her best by my kid and those in his class. Read that and tell me that Jack doesn't understand inclusion.

"I couldn't be forgotten."

"All the 5th grade, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM, were in the picture."

"That was the best day of my life!"

In terms of injustice toward disabled people, this is probably not that big a deal. But to my kid and to the kids in his class, it is a huge deal. Remember that. Even the little things matter.