All Of These Emotions Are Normal: Getting Your Child The Help They Need

Having the suspicion that your child has a learning disability can be nervewracking. Having your child tested for learning disabilities can be emotional. Getting the confirmation that your child has learning disabilities can be a straight kick to the gut.

As a parent, all we want is for our child to do well in life and school. As they are babies, we dream of the day they get the “Good Reader” award in Kindergarten, make the honor roll in Junior High, and win a science scholarship in high school. We somehow manifest this perfect child in our minds where nothing bad can ever touch them. Then school age hits. You notice your child is struggling but you don’t want to see it. You start to see a trend in their grades, notes from the teacher, chats with the teacher’s aids…but you still don’t want to see it. You even start to see them struggling in the same areas you did when you were in school, so you look away even more. All of these emotions are normal.

As a parent of a child with documented learning disabilities, I went through all of these. Even after growing up in a family where more than one person had documented learning disabilities, I still went through all these emotions. There was no way my child was struggling because there was something “wrong” with him. My child was going to be that shining example of a student. To top it all off, there was no way any of this was MY fault. All of these emotions are normal.

When my son was in second grade, I finally put my emotions aside and stepped up to the plate. I had to do something to help my son. I was scared shitless and had no idea what steps I really needed to take. All I knew is I had to start somewhere. I advocated for him during parent-teacher conferences and finally convinced the school to test him. Yes, I had to CONVINCE the school. That was the first moment of clarity I had through the whole processes. That moment when I realized no one else had my son’s best interest at heart. No one else was going to figure out how to make learning better for him. No one else was going to get him the help he needed. It was up to me to make all this happen. *insert superhero music*

Even with this moment of clarity and the sudden superhero feeling, nothing could prepare me for when they gave me the test results. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I’m pretty sure I just sat there staring at the teachers sitting at the table with me. This one of the few times in my life I was actually speechless. They went over what the different results meant and what measures would be taken to help him overcome these issues.

In my mind, I desperately tried to find the reasoning behind all of this. Was it something I did while I was pregnant? Was it because I wasn’t a stay-at-home-mom when he was a baby? Did I not breastfeed him long enough? Did vaccines do this? Did my divorce cause this? I wanted a reason all of this happened, but there wasn’t one. All of these emotions are normal.

At first, I met with the school twice a year. Once in the fall, once in the spring. We combed through each aspect of his Individual Education Plan (IEP) with a fine-toothed comb. Everything he did was monitored and measured. He had certain times set aside each day to meet with different specialists. They helped him with his language deficiencies and worked with him on coping with his color blindness.

Initially, I was worried he would start to feel singled out from being pulled out of the classroom. As a young boy who often came home feeling like his classmates were laughing at him because he couldn’t read as fast as them, having him taken out of the classroom was a major concern for me. Luckily, he ended up finding comfort in the space away from the other students. There he didn’t feel pressured and could take the time he needed. As the years have gone by, his need for additional help has dropped off a bit. Instead of leaving the classroom several times a day, now he only leaves once. He is more confident in his abilities, making it easier for him to ask questions in class and ask for additional help when he needs it.

It has become so much like second nature to him, the other day he asked me why he even needs an IEP anymore. I explained to him that it’s what enables him to have extended testing times, the extra help with reading comprehension, and other parts he had “forgotten” were only applicable to him. We talked about his different deficiencies and how they make his learning style unique and how it will affect him all through his school years. I told him his IEP will follow him all through school, even if he gets to go to the same private high school I had gone to (a dream of his since he was 5), even through any SSATs, SATs, or ACTs he takes.

He then proceeded to poke fun at his different learning disabilities, showing me that they weren’t a disability for him at all. He realizes that all of this has helped to make him the student he is today. He knows his strong points and what he needs to work on. He is more aware of his learning needs than most 11-year-olds I know and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’m glad I got over my personal fears as a mother and became his advocate. Even after he looked at me with a huge grin and said, “You know my learning disabilities are all your fault, right? No one in daddy’s family has any of these.” And then I threw him out of the car and made him walk to soccer practice. My response, “No honey, daddy’s family has their own set of issues you’ll learn about as you get to know them better.”

To any parent who suspects their child is having trouble in class due to learning disabilities, you are their only advocate. You have to be the one to talk with their teachers and have them tested. The worst thing that can happen is they can find ease in learning again. Yes, it is scary but you have to remember that it is scarier for you than it is for them. They are the ones who have been living with the frustration of not learning the way everyone else does. They are the ones who have been picked on for being slower on assignments. They are the ones living with learning disabilities day in and day out. As their parent, they look to you to help them. They need you advocate for them, to be pushy about getting them tested, to make sure they have all the resources they need to be able to finish school and become a productive member of society. All those emotions you are going through, they are all normal. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to feel like it’s your fault even though you know it’s not. It’s ok to cry through all of it. It’s ok to have a moment where you feel helpless. All of these emotions are normal, and so is your child. Learning disabilities don’t make them different or make you a bad parent.

If you suspect your child has learning disabilities or is struggling in school, act sooner rather than later. They will thank you for it at graduation.

 

 

 

I Don’t Need to Feel Beautiful to be a Mother

I don’t feel beautiful anymore. I don’t even feel pretty. The word “attractive” doesn’t cross my mind unless I’m thinking about Mike Rowe or Bruce Willis. That’s a lie, the word “hot” crosses my mind when I think about them. “Fucking Hot,” to be exact. So no, I don’t feel beautiful or pretty. I feel…average.

Average Brandi, the woman who is a little larger than most 37-year-olds in the area. Average Brandi, the outspoken single mom. Average Brandi, the woman who spends time in the mirror each morning wondering where all the fun went. Average Brandi, the mom who is constantly asking other parents to be her Rent-a-spouse. Average Brandi, the woman who is used to feeling alone while surrounded by people. Average Brandi, the woman whose body hasn’t been a Wonderland in years. Average Brandi, the woman who loves her kids more than life itself. Average Brandi, the woman who has somehow helped two children thrive in a one parent household. Average Brandi, who constantly feels like she’s holding the world on her shoulders. Average Brandi, the woman who isn’t average at all.

I may not feel beautiful anymore, and I may no longer turn heads. Men don’t think I’m irresistible, and I’ll probably never be sexy again. I’ll never have that certain something that turns anyone on, or produces the feeling of passion in a person again…and I’m ok with that.

I’m ok with that because to two people in my life, I’m not average. To them I am amazing. To them, I make a difference.

If I only get to be those things to just two people in my entire lifetime, I’m ok with that. Why? Because I’m a mother. Those two people call me “mom” and that’s all I need in my life. It is all I need to feel complete, whole and wanted. Nothing in life matters more than that.

I am a mother. I am strong. All beauty aside, I stand tall. I am a pillar of strength for my children. I am their advocate. I am their everything. Even when the day comes where they rebel against me, I know it will pass and I will once again be “mom”.

I don’t need beauty or sex appeal to be who I am because I am a mother.

Today I Am Worth It

In the past two and a half years I have put on almost 20 pounds. I now find myself jiggling in places I haven’t felt jiggle since my daughter was born. When I walk, my ass looks like it’s bumpin’ at the club, and my sides wiggle  like they’re being tickled. Don’t even get me started on my boobs. The two things that are growing at such an obscene pace, I’ve maxed out my JC Penny’s credit card. I have wrinkles in places I didn’t even know could wrinkle, and hair growing in places no hair should ever go.

This past year, I let the weight gain, wrinkles, and hair get the better of me. To top it all off, I was letting the stresses of life get to me. I would look in the mirror, and not even recognize the person looking back at me. All I saw was a sad woman, carrying the weight on the world on her shoulders. She constantly looked exhausted. She never liked to smile. Her eyes were sad. Her skin was pale. I had let all these things define me. My struggles at work, a failing relationship, and overall struggle of raising two young kids had taken over what I thought I was. Boy, was I wrong! Letting all that define me made me into…well…a miserable bitch.

Life isn’t always fun, I know that. Life isn’t always awful either, I need to remember that. As I looked at myself in the mirror the other night, tears streaming down my face, flat out ugly crying I started to look at my life up to that point. Where had I been? What had I done? What had brought me to this point of self hate? I want to say this is the point where I had this amazing, snot induced epiphany…but it wasn’t. This is where I went downstairs, ignored the homework that was due in two hours, drank too much a beer. I was a failure. I was useless. I couldn’t believe I was allowed to raise children. My personal pity party carried on into the next day, at work and into the night.

I sent out a few “pay attention to me” text messages to friends, posted some adult emo content on social media, and cried…a lot. I was convinced I would never finish my degree, get a better paying job, buy a house, or find someone who thought I was worthy of a daily weekly foot rub. My kids deserved better, and I was the worst mother alive. I looked at myself in the mirror again, confirming all the horrible things. I then climbed into a hole, covered myself with dirt, and gave in. I let the all the negative in. I let it take over all my emotions. I could feel myself breaking apart, full of hopelessness. There was no way I was going to be able to climb out of this. Then I woke up.

The alarm was going off. The cat was starring at me. Same day, different date. But something was different. Something had changed. As I climbed out of bed, I caught a glimpse on my naked body in the mirror behind the door. Who was that? She had soft curves, smooth skin. She was younger and free. Then it hit me, I was looking at myself. My wrinkles were still there, but they were less harsh. My ass was still bumpin’ at the club yes, I checked, and my boobs were still monsters. Everything was still THERE, it was just different. Confused, I walked into the bathroom to look in a different mirror. There I saw strength and beauty. I saw a woman who had control of her life, and was going to do something about it.

I had let all the negative consume me completely. I let it fester and manifest. I let it have it’s way with me. Then it burned itself out, leaving me in a pile of ashes. This morning, from those ashes, I awoke and arose a phoenix. Today I can take on the world. Today I can give my children everything needed for a full, and happy life. Today I am beautiful. Today I am worth it. Today is the beginning of the rest of my life.

Yes, I’ll still have to shave my toes and work on losing weight, and that’s ok. I’ll still have days where life will push me down, but I’m ready. Today I have a confidence I have never had before. Today I love myswlf. Today and every day going forward.
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Santa: Never Stop Believing, a true story.

Everyone knows the story of Santa Claus. How could we not? Every year that jolly old elf pops up on store shelves shorty before Halloween, and watches over us with a tinkling eye until he comes barreling down our chimneys to eat  eat cookies and leave presents behind. As kids our parents threatened us with gifts of coal from the big man, and as adults, we threaten our kids with the same. Santa Claus is quite possibly the most loved and adored man to have ever “allegedly” walked the face of this earth. With magical reindeer and an army of overly productive elves, it’s hard for any child to not get excited about the thought of Santa coming to visit.

I remember, as a child, sneaking down the stairs Christmas morning hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of that man in red. To my dismay I never saw him, but I never stopped believing either. Over the years my friends would stop getting presents from Santa. They said it was because he wasn’t real. I said it was because they didn’t believe.

My father was possibly the most joyful person you could ever meet. He had a smile that could light up a room, and a laugh that made you feel good all over. There was no better feeling than to be wrapped up in his arms when I would go home to visit, and at 36 years old, I would still sit on his lap and talk to him about my hopes and dreams. I’m almost pretty sure he lived off of a steady diet of cookies and sweets, much to my mother’s dismay, and it was because of this he had quite a bulbous belly that made him recognizable to almost anyone.

To say my father loved Christmas was an understatement. I used to catch him silently staring at the tree from time to time with a glimmer in his eye. One corner of his mouth would turn up, and a gentle chuckle would escape his lips for no reason other than the fact he was looking at the tree. After my brother and I moved out of the house my parents downsized their tree. It went from being a marvelous wonderment we would haul out of the woods, to nothing more than a table top tree from the back yard. However, I would still catch my father chuckling at that table top tree because, to him, it was still marvelous.

Last month my father passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. I was so angry when it happened because I wasn’t done spending time with him, and neither were my kids. Like so many “children” I wanted to think that my father would be around forever, but as we all know, all things must eventually come to end. The grieving process has been a roller-coaster. I have my good days, and I have my bad days, but the other day turned it all around.

As we were sitting at the table one night for dinner, the kids and I started talking about my father, aka Papa. I was telling them how much Papa loved Christmas, how it was his absolute favorite holiday. We laughed about how he had a big nose and rosy cheeks, and how his belly shook when he laughed. My son then mentioned how we needed to buy more “cheap Christmas cookies” because we were out, and they were Papa’s favorites. We then all looked at the tree in the corner of the living room. It was all lit up and cast little shadows of homemade ornaments on the walls. Then it hit me.

I looked at the kids and said, “Wait a minute, we all know that Santa doesn’t live forever. Right? I mean, someone has to replace him every once in while. Right?” They agreed. “And who is the jolliest person you know?”

“Papa.”

“And who loved Christmas more than anyone else, EVER?”

“Papa!”

Suddenly my daughter pops up in her chair, “And who eats Christmas cookies ALL the time???”

“PAPA!!! Papa is the new Santa!!!”

It all makes sense to me now. Why I loved my father’s laugh. Why I sat on his lap every time I saw him.

Why I never stopped believing. Who could ever stop believing when they grew up with the future Santa after all? So, this Christmas, my family can take a little joy knowing that my father isn’t really gone. He will live forever in our hearts and minds as we take comfort in knowing that he will be coming down our chimneys for many Christmas Eves to come.

I miss my father every day, so can you do me a favor? The next time you’re out at the mall or store, and you see Santa, go sit on his lap and tell him his family misses him, but we’re so glad he’s spreading the joy and magic of Christmas.

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Three Mother F*#king Days

Three Days. Three mother fucking days is all you get for bereavement time. It doesn’t matter who died, a parent, a spouse, or (heaven forbid) a child; all you get is three days. In three days you are supposed to grasp the fact that an immediate family member has passed away, organize their funeral/wake/memorial service/celebration of life, and get your ass back to work. Three mother fucking days. What cold, heartless twat fuck came up with that number?

I lost my father two weeks ago. He had been “sick” but I honestly didn’t think it was going to kill him. Actually, it wasn’t even his “illness” that killed him, it was complications after surgery. I called him on his birthday to sing a poor, yet loving, rendition of “Happy Birthday” as he chuckled in the hospital bed. We then talked about his second surgery scheduled for the next day, and I told him I would talk to him afterwards. Instead of talking to my father afterwards, I found myself driving three hours to the hospital to stand by my mother as we waited for the doctors to tell us good news. There was no good news. He had stopped breathing that morning, and two days later he was gone.

The next day was a Friday. I took it off, using personal time, because I wanted to be with my family. That Monday and Tuesday I was back at work, trying to pretend the most important man in my life hadn’t just left me. Why was I back so soon? Because I felt my three bereavement days were better spent at the end of the week when the funeral was. Those three days were a whirlwind. So many details, making sure my mother was ok, people, people, and more people. You don’t have time to grieve during that time. The only thing you have time for is spinning. And that’s exactly what I did, spin.

The spinning quickly turned into anger. So, for the past week all I have been is angry…at everything. My head wants to explode, my chest feels as if it may actually crush from anxiety, my body is exhausted, I’m messing up at work, I can’t sleep, and all I want to do is yell and blame people. However, I have to keep going because my three bereavement days are over and done with. I am now expected to “get over it” and “carry on” with my everyday life. Enough sulking, Brandi. Pull your head out of your ass and grieve on your own time.

I am a strong person. Some would say I am an extremely strong person. Yes, I cry at tv commercials and YouTube videos, but I am rock solid when it comes to my family. I am a mother, that is my job. I show the strength, courage, and fortitude needed to raise little humans. But my father dying…that totally rocked my world. I have no idea what to do, and I’m having trouble momming. I go through the daily motions because I’m supposed to, but with no honest effort. I’ve lost that desire. I thought getting back to our daily routine would help, but it hasn’t. Instead the anger and anxiety inside of me grows with each passing day. All because I only get three mother fucking days.

I’m hoping the holidays will whip the grief out of me. I plan to sit around, crying into my mashed potatoes as my kids wonder why mommy is falling apart. I mean, I have to get it out of my system somehow, so I might as well use my paid holidays to do so. *throws up double middle fingers at the twat fuck who decided three days was enough*

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Oysters, Fortresses, And Love

I met a man in my early twenties while shopping at LL Bean. He was, simply put, gorgeous. He had eyes that could reach way down inside of you, and lips you couldn’t help but want to kiss. To my surprise, he asked me for my phone number. A week later we had our first date. I remember being so nervous. Dating wasn’t really my thing it still isn’t, so I had absolutely no idea how to act. Add the fact this guy was a dreamboat, and I was pretty much a blubbering idiot the entire day leading up to that night. Being young, dumb, and a college student, I was beside myself over the fact he was going to come to my apartment and pick me up. Like in a car and shit. Weird, right?

I had never had oysters so he insisted we go to a tiny little oyster bar down on the docks. When we walked in the smell of salt and ice filled my nose as he gently took my hand and lead me across the dimly lit bar. We sat at the bar between two burly fishermen just in from their day. Growing up in a fishing town, in a fishing family, this place felt oddly like home. The sounds. The smells. All coupled with a man I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

We sat bellied up to the bar, eating oysters and drinking beer, for hours. We talked about where we were in our lives. What our hopes were. What had brought us to this point. Conversation came so easy and smooth, as he sat there with his hand on my thigh the entire time. At one point I had explained to him about my rocky sexual past. The rape and molestation, and my inability to form valid physical relationships. I was afraid I was falling into a trend of only wanting to have sex with men instead of getting to know them and forming something meaningful. He took both my hands into his, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Let’s not let you slip away like that. No sex. Not tonight. I promise.”

Shortly thereafter we left the comfort of the salty smell and burly fishermen, and he drove me home. He walked me to my door, and I asked him to come inside. Our date continued as we sat on the couch and talked until we could barely keep our eyes open. I invited him to stay until morning. I felt secure in his words about not having sex, and I wanted to experience what it truly meant to sleep next to someone with no expectations. As we laid in bed, limbs entwined, he pressed his body against mine and kissed me gently. Every ounce of me wanted to rub my body against his, pull his clothes off, and feel him inside me. But he had already said “not tonight”. So we didn’t. We simply rubbed gently against each other and fell asleep.

The next morning he kissed my lips as he walked out the door saying he would call me later.

He never called.

When I saw him a few weeks later at LL Bean he pretended he had no idea who I was. He was polite, but still would not acknowledge that he had ever even laid eyes on me before. I was upset, as most people would be. I had felt something I thought was sincere. Something I didn’t know existed. I was suddenly left standing there wondering if it had all been a dream. I often went back to the oyster bar on the docks, looking for that same comfort I had felt that night. I went there with different men, my roommates, and even by myself. The salty air and the burly fishermen were all still there is the dim lights, but the comfort was not. I’m not sure why, but it took me a long time to get past the feeling of lost hope from that night.

I’m past it now, but there are times I look back and wonder what happened. So smooth and cunning. Easy going and handsome. I’ve never met a man like him since. Not one to that level of comfort I felt anyway. Perhaps it’s from the walls I built up after, or the hardening from military service. Now, however, I’m working on knocking down those walls. I’m working on finding that comfort with someone. I’ve learned it’s not the sex, or the lack there of, it’s the ability to let people in. The ability to be confident enough in yourself to open up without being afraid of the hurt that may follow. We are all our own fortresses, and we guard ourselves well. However, every now and then we have to let someone in because living in a fortress by ourselves can be very lonely. Life is, after all, better spent with love.

America’s Favorite Pastime

Baseball, America’s favorite pastime. It’s the smell of the leather, the slap of the ball, and the crack of the bat. It’s the taste of the franks and the smell of the clay. We all remember ball games as kids. Either we were playing as kids as we watched the clouds float by, making daisy chains in the outfield, or watched our parents play as our dads drank beer and our mothers served cocktails in the dugout. Whatever the experience you had as a kid, baseball usually had a roll in it somewhere. Maybe you got hit in the nose repetitively like I did, or couldn’t hit the ball to save your life also like me. It doesn’t matter what your experience was, baseball is America’s favorite pastime.

When my 7 year old decided he wanted to be the next Babe Ruth play baseball this summer through the rec department, I was a bit hesitant. An entire summer dedicated to a sport he doesn’t even know if he “really” likes or not. Boy, was I excited. Despite my hesitation, I signed him up. It was only twice a week, and $15 for the whole thing. Worse case scenario, I’m out $15 and have only lost 12 hours of my life after 6 weeks weeks of practices. I’ve lost more time using the bathroom. At least this benefits someone other than myself. I think most parents will agree with me that the worst part of enrolling your kids into sports is having to sit through the practices. They usually last about an hour, and you have to sit there with other parents you don’t necessarily like or don’t like you (which is my case). You all sit there and play nicely with each other as you try not to strangle scold the younger siblings swarming about like black flies, because no one parents nearly as well as you do and try to come up with something non controversial to talk about. In short, athletic practices are pure torture for those of us who only partake in team sports between the sheets.

Five weeks into the season, and I was ready for it to be over. Even with one week off because my kids were magically whisked away with the grandparents, I was spent. I even debated telling my son it was over a week early, but decided not to when I remembered he goes to camp with all the kids on his team. This was the dilemma I was fighting in my head as we drove to practice last Thursday, but I smiled and got Theo excited about another day on the baseball diamond. As we got to the field, five minutes before practice, the field was empty. Not a car in the parking lot or a kid on the field. Maybe I wasn’t the only parent fighting this dilemma….maybe my wish had been granted! As the practice start time came and went I pitched the ball to Theo as Pheobe lazily baseball practice is even more enthralling for her chased the ball in the outfield until she decided to make snow angels in the grass. Suddenly we see one of the coaches truck drive in, followed by a few more cars. 15 minutes into the scheduled practice time we now had six players, proving half the parents fought and loss the same dilemma I had.

In all my mommy wisdom, I suggested we have a scrimmage of parents vs kids because there really weren’t enough players to have a “meaningful” practice. Why not? It beats sitting in the bleachers with a bunch of other parents who don’t want to be there either. At least this way we are up and moving, and more importantly, interacting with our kids. Right? Sure. I admit, it was a great idea until I looked down at my clogs, remembered I didn’t have a t-shirt on under my sweatshirt, and was suddenly overpowered by the enormity of my breasts who weren’t wrangled in appropriate attire.

Great idea, Brandi. Absolutely brilliant.

Then I looked around the field, another sweatshirt, some flip flops, a dress, and a pair of work boots. Needless to say, the kids knew they had this in the bag. The parents were going down, and they were going down hard! Five parents still dressed for work against six kids in full baseball attire. The next hour was spent running around barefoot in the gravel, dodging little cleats, using gloves that were too small and bats that were too short. Long sleeves were rolled up as the sweat poured off of us, and we all learned that throwing a baseball is more difficult than it looks. The rule of “three strikes, you’re out” was thrown out the window for both teams, and new paths to each base were forged. Laughter became the prime element as parents and kids had actual fun together. There were no cell phones, laptops, or portable games. There were no separate rooms for everyone to hang out in, just good old fashioned fun on the baseball diamond.

So there I was, enjoying baseball again, but this time it was with my son. This was the game he was going to remember from the entire season, and so was I. It was in that hour that I was reminded why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. You can’t beat a pickup game of baseball with the people in your community especially if you add the grill and beer. I guess sticking it out another week won’t be so bad, maybe I’ll even jump in the dugout and help.

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