The Search Is Over

Sometimes you find something you forgot you were looking for.

This was the case today.  My wife, son and I went down to Rehoboth Beach.  Our destinations: Funland and some of the arcades.  Just a loose, carefree trip with no hassles and no issues.  As many who read this blog already know, I have a son with disabilities.  Multiple disabilities.  His main disability is Tourette Syndrome, but with that comes a host of comorbidities.  Those include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sometimes they all collide at once and it results in an untenable situation.

This happened today.  When we got there, we got some Grotto’s Pizza and walked down to Funland.  My wife and son went on the pirate ship dragon ride and then we did the bumper cars.  After, my wife wanted to chill on the beach for a bit so I brought my son to the arcade.  You know those grappling hook games that usually cost a dollar?  The ones where you have to position the hook over something, the hook drops down, and if you are very lucky it will grab the prize you wanted and you get it.  I gave my son some money and watched him do his thing.  Yes, I know these games are a big scam, and I tell him every time we go.  He knows it before and after, but when he is playing it this seems to escape his memory.  In a sense, it is like gambling.

I watched him getting frustrated after the third or fourth attempt and I told him he may want to give up.  I got “the look” and was told to go away.  Sometimes you have to learn lessons and this was obviously one of those times.  It’s happened before with a simple shrug and then he gets over it.  Keep in mind, there are tons of people in there and sounds coming from all the different machines.  After he had been on two amusement park rides with thousands of people all around us.  The overwhelming smell of different foods and the sea salt smell coming up from the ocean, the sounds of people laughing, talking, crying, the sights of flashing lights in the arcade, bumper cars coming at him, the slight ugh feeling from the pirate ride, and severe frustration building up from the rigged grappling hook games.  I advised him he didn’t have too much money left and he might want to save it for something else.  This is when his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder kicked in.  He had to beat this game of rigged chance no matter what.  It was all-consuming to him.  After he blew his money he became very upset.

I told him I would talk to the manager about the hook did grab three things on three different games only to release the object of his choice and drop it in stunning defeat.  The manager said that is just how the games are set up but people do win prizes at times.  I knew this.  But I had to make sure my son knew it.  He was allowed to spend x amount of money and that was it.  He blew it in ten minutes.  Like I said, these things happened before, but today was just the perfect storm of whatever was bubbling up inside him heading up to the surface at lightning speed.  I called my wife and asked her to come up from the beach.  She came up and we tried to console my son.  We could have given him a million dollars right then and there and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Words were said, and we were all upset.  People were looking at us.  This happens with children with disabilities.  For us, this is normal.  For those watching who don’t have children with special needs it is like watching the worst dysfunctional family ever.  I’ve grown immune to this over the years and I don’t let it bother me.  They haven’t walked in our shoes, so they just don’t know.

I decided to get something to drink.  If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is this: when both my wife and I try to help him, it seems to him like two against one.  One of us had to walk away.  That was me.  I came back and I took over.  My wife went back to the beach and my son and I sat there for about ten minutes.  Not speaking to each other because I knew he needed his space.  We got away from the crowds to a quieter area.  All of a sudden, he got up and just wanted to walk.  Sometimes the best way to get out of a storm is to walk away from it.  We checked out some of the shops on Main Street.  Tons of stores all around.  He was looking at phone cases in one store.  One of them had a buy one get one free sale.  He called my wife who was able to find her serenity watching the waves come in from the Atlantic Ocean.

We stopped by Snyder’s Candy Store.  He actually had a lot of fun in there.  They had Pez dispenser collections with sets of four Presidents in them going all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  There were action figures and candy-flavored crickets and all sorts of funny distractions for him in there.  The store was empty aside from us and the three workers.  My son found a little canister of “thinking putty” and asked if he could get it.  We have given him putty to use when he gets stressed out at times and it usually does the trick for him.  I said okay but he was still looking around.  I was looking at some of the different candies the store was selling.

Flashback to 1997.  At the time, I was living in Sweden.  That winter, I was in a candy store and they had these chocolate candies called chocolate rum balls.  It was a ball of chocolate with rum mixed in with chocolate sprinkles around it.  During the next five months I lived outside of Stockholm, I would frequently visit this store and get bags of these chocolate rum balls.  When I moved back to America, I couldn’t find them anywhere.  When I went back to visit some friends in Sweden in 1999, I brought a whole bunch back with me.  Ever since then, if I happened to be in a candy store, I would sometimes ask “Do you have chocolate rum balls?”  “Sorry, we don’t.”  After years, I just kind of gave up.

At Snyder’s Candy Store, I asked the cashier if he had these.  I think he thought I meant actual liquid rum was inside of them and he said they didn’t have them.  As I was paying for my son’s thinking putty, on the top shelf of the chocolates right next to the cash register they were there.  I yelled out “Oh my God, they have them!”  My son jumped back at his Dad’s weird moment of excitement.  I bought a quarter pound of them which gave me about fifteen of them.

ChocolateRumBalls

My wife called and she was getting something to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant so my son and I walked back to meet her.  We were all fine again.  A happy family.  He had his thinking putty, my wife had this dish she raves about every time we go to Rehoboth, and I had my chocolate rum balls I was looking for the past seventeen years.  Of course, the moment when only a 12 year old could give when telling my wife what I was eating with his silly grin didn’t escape me.  I offered some to him, but I think he thought his dad was a very odd man at this point and said no.  I savored every single one of those chocolate rum balls.  The taste brought back the memories of a 27 year old young man in a foreign country who missed home and knew he would be heading back at some point in the future.  I knew the language enough to get by and I had friends there, but it never felt like home.  In the winter, it could get very lonely with only a few hours of sunlight.  In the summer, I would frequently wake up at 2am in the morning as the sun came blazing in the window.  The circumstances that led me to Sweden were long and varied, but those circumstances were changing.  It was hard to leave, but it would have been harder to stay.

But I always missed those damn chocolate rum balls that were as elusive as a shooting star on a cloudy night.  I wasn’t meant to stay away from circumstances which led me to where I am now.  If it meant not eating chocolate rum balls for seventeen years, that was what had to be.  Life had an unexpected journey waiting in the wings and I had no clue about any of it.

Today, my long search ended.  I was able to taste memories long since forgotten.  Today was a day of senses for my entire family.  Sometimes they got to us, and other times they provided us comfort and strength.  Life isn’t perfect.  It never was and it never will be.  There will always be hurdles.  I accept that.  I have learned, and continue to learn, when my son needs my wife or I and when he just needs to work it out himself.  Sometimes I stumble with this reality.  Sometimes my patience is stretched to its limit and I lose my cool.  We all do this.  We all have our inner coping mechanisms that allow us to ride out any storms life throws at us.  Sometimes it is thinking putty.  And sometimes it is chocolate rum balls.

As we drove back from the beach, I found myself lost in thought.  Just staring at the setting sun and seeing the beautiful farms of Delaware all around me.  My son was asleep in the back seat and my wife had headphones on listening to music.  It was quiet.  Serene.  I wouldn’t trade today for anything.  Spending quality time with my wife and son, for all the angst in the beginning, was worth it.  Sometimes, when they don’t know it, I just look at them both and feel nothing but love.  These two people who God sent into my life.  The woman I love so much and the son I am meant to teach, guide, and love as long as I am able to.  God threw an extra piece in with his disabilities.  I don’t write much about the daily situations that manifest as a result of those disabilities.  But they happen.  It is as much a part of my life as anything else.  I could complain about how tough it is, but that doesn’t help my son.  I can try to mitigate situations the best I can, for him and others.  Which always leads me back to here.

He is why I fight.  Him, and every child like him.  The adults can bicker and make their silly rules, but I can clearly see that what matters most is the kids.  The ones who don’t always have someone looking out for their best interests.  The ones who don’t know half the crazy battles us adults play on their behalf.  The ones who are shut out of those conversations.  The ones who don’t get to decide where the money goes.  But these decisions affect their lives and play into their education.  Every subject I write about on here, I question if the things I find are good for kids.  Sadly, the answer is no most of the time.  This causes me to get in tug-of-war fights all the time.  Even my allies question what I do sometimes.  Some people think I’m crazy doing what I do.  Let them.  It’s not about them and it never was.

Today was just another walk on my journey through life.  It was a special day, with highs and lows, just like any other day.  Little victories to be won and moments to deal with.  But I have to think I was being told something today.  That at the moments when giving up seems like the best thing, and all you want to do is ask why, that I have to get past that and ask God to help my son instead of me.  He answered my prayers.  And I got a little extra something in the bargain!

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

-The Foo Fighters

 

Jack Markell As The Next U.S. Secretary of Education? OVER MY DEAD BODY!!!!

A fate worse than death would be Jack Markell as the United States Secretary of Education under President Hillary Clinton.  What Markell has done to Delaware education in less than eight years (twelve if you count his contributions towards Rodel’s plans) has been nothing short of a disaster.  As one of the chief proponents of Common Core, Markell was the ringmaster for state accountability systems designed to perpetuate an endless cycle of high-stakes testing, school labeling, teacher shaming, and student rigor.

We now know Jack Markell really wants to be the U.S. Secretary of Education.  John King is just filler until the next President.  Town Square Delaware reported this morning that because John King stated Markell “has had his eye on this job for years” based on a Politico report about Hillary’s potential Cabinet posts.  Granted, there are other contenders such as former Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, outgoing Chancellor of D.C. Schools Kaya Henderson, and even John King himself.  None of those would be a good pick.  If Clinton wins and picks any of these people, we will firmly know where she stands on education: she is a sell-out to corporations.

If Clinton wins and she nominates Markell as the next U.S. Secretary of Education, I will personally travel to D.C. to attend the Senate nomination hearing for Markell and testify against his capabilities to lead our country’s children.  This would be a major step backwards, not forward.  He is a corporate guy, not an education guy.  He can’t stand parents butting into education, dislikes teachers, and goes back on his word constantly.  This will not happen if I have anything to say about it.  And I will not be the only one.

Do we really want a guy who allows state law to be circumvented by his administration.  In the Chip Flowers FOIA scandal, Markell’s office is blocking sending out emails requested through a FOIA request because it has other legislators in the email.  It’s called redacting those names!  But Markell is shady, no doubt about it.  But he is also good at covering up his tracks.  Look at all the corporate tax loopholes he has created during his time as Governor.  This is NOT the guy for education.  The mail room for education?  Sure.  Not as the leader!

Just because The News Journal quoted John King as saying Markell has performed “nation-leading work” in early education does not qualify for him for this post.  He has never been a teacher or even worked in public education.  Think about that.  Someone who only steps into a classroom to announce his latest agendas for corporate education reform…

Senator Colin Bonini Has The Best Idea I’ve Heard From Any Of The Candidates Running For Governor

Yesterday, Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini responded to a constituent via email about an initiative he wants to create in Delaware.  It is an idea that is so simplistic, but it makes perfect sense.  He wants to create a “Does It Work?” program which would lead to the creation of an Inspector General in Delaware.  This is exactly what Delaware needs.  Our budget is out of control.  Education funding has little to no oversight.  Our State Auditor seems to be asleep at the wheel as he put his chief investigator on leave for the most bogus of reasons.  With Markell leaving his post in January, the education mafia in our state will lose a lot of power.  They know this.

Bonini just shot way up on my interest list.  Carney has been relatively mute with actual ideas.  He is too busy planning for his assumed reign to actually get out and talk with the people in a public forum.  Out of all the candidates for Governor, Carney is the only one that has not reached out to me.  Colin has, Lacey Lafferty has, and so has Sean Goward.  Sorry Carney, your response form letters don’t count.  The invite to talk is still there, but if you want to squander that opportunity, don’t get mad when I write about you like this.

Bonini needs to get his ideas out now.  He needs to be very vocal as of yesterday.  This is an excellent idea, and I am looking forward to hearing more about it.  Now some might say this was in the planning stages already by the Joint Finance Committee.  The same JFC who knew this year would be a tight budget year, but kicked the can down the road another year to take a “serious look” at things.  I don’t have faith in the JFC led Democrat tag team of State Rep. Melanie Smith and State Senator Harris McDowell that others may have.

This is what Bonini wrote:

Reality is that it’s very difficult to get reliable information from the bureaucracy. One of the main reasons I vote no on the budget, in addition to the growth in spending, is the lack of accountability in our state government. I am rolling out an initiative in the next several weeks called the “Does it work?” Initiative which will call for the creation of an Inspector General’s office and the requirement that each program in State Government, large or small, be evaluated every year as to efficiency, and most importantly, effectiveness.

We have the right to know where our money is going and whether it is being used for what it’s supposed to be used for. We also have a right to know whether the expenditures are actually producing results.

Way to go Colin!

Will Public Education Survive the Next Administration?

Save Maine Schools

Donald Trump has called Common Core a “disaster.” The leaked DNC emails refer to the standards as a “political third rail.”

At this point, however, the controversial standards may be more of a red herring than anything else.

While the public remains largely in the dark, a massive upheaval of our public school system is well underway, and recent proposals from both major political parties indicate that the transformation will move full speed ahead regardless of who is elected president this fall.

The new system is designed to expand the education market by allowing out-of-district providers – including online programs, non-profits, local businesses, and even corporations- to award credit for student learning. At the same time, it doubles down on workforce development by aligning educational outcomes to the needs of industry leaders.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students will “no longer [be] tethered to school buildings or…

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Democratic Congressional Leaders Applaud Bush-Era Punitive Accountability

Diane Ravitch's blog

To my amazement and disgust, Democrats in the Senate and the House is that they have become forceful defenders of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind-style legacy of punitive accountability. They love testing and accountability, which was always the GOP agenda.

During the debate about the reauthorization of NCLB, which produced the Every Student Succeeds Act, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut proposed an amendment that would have preserved the punitive AYP accountability of NCLB. Almost every Democratic senator supported the Murphy amendment, even Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren. See here and here. The only Democrats to vote against the Murphy amendment were Senator Tester of Montana and Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Yesterday, POLITICO reported that Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State and Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia commended Secretary of Education John King for his efforts to insert sharp teeth into ESSA, doing…

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There’s a place…❤

A Dose of Inspiration

photostudio_1470248321129“It takes all different kinds of people to run the world. We need everyone.”

I saw this quote (don’t remember where; it was on a photo) and find it so inspiring. 

“‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun”

Place in the sun – Winjama (reggae version) – mobile

Place in the Sun – Winjama – desktop

There are so many kinds of people in this world and we need us all. 

My dad used to watch the tv show The Sopranos every night a few months ago until all the seasons ended.

There’s a few episodes where a woman who is an FBI agent in the show pretends to be just a girl shopping at a…

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If Trump Drops Out, Will There Be Any Reason to Vote For Clinton?

gadflyonthewallblog

hillary-clinton-donald-trump-getty-images-640x480

Rumor has it Donald Trump may be dropping out of the Presidential race.

We’ve heard these speculations before, but after kicking a crying baby out of one of his rallies, even his staunchest supporters are scratching their heads.

Does this guy even want to be President of the United States?

Only a few weeks ago a story was circulating that Donald Jr. was calling up potential Republican running mates asking if they wanted to run both domestic and foreign policy while his dad handled “Making America Great Again.”

From the very beginning of this unlikely Presidential run, people have questioned all kinds of things about the Trump campaign – chief among them was this: Is he serious!?

Donald Trump is the Republican standard barer – Isn’t he more of a Democrat? Isn’t he actually friends with his supposed Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton? Didn’t he actually donate money to…

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Why Dave Sokola’s Newark Charter School Perpetuates Separate-But-Not-Equal Education for Afro Americans

kavips

Dave Sokola, who is trying to hang on to his seat in the 8th Senatorial District against Meredith Chapman, has long been a defender of Newark Charter School. Back when it was ruled that Wilmington School District would be dissolved and its students bused to the more affluent suburbs, many wealthy sought to keep their children separate.  Most put them in parochial and private schools costing up to $20,000 a year…

But some wanted to escape black culture and could not afford $20,000 a year. Charter Schools were born to fill that gap. A charter is a school that is not bound by the Federal and State regulatory bodies.  They cherry picked their students, and if they do it correctly, they get themselves an all-white school.  Newark Charter in its early years had only one minority student.

Dave Sokola frequently uses this line.  “People need a choice if they are not…

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