Overwhelmed

I’ve always been the kind of person without a strong support system. I’ve always known this to be true and for the most part, I guess I’ve been okay with it. I have always done my own thing and made sure I could do what needed to be done even at great personal sacrifice. It’s just who I am. I have always desired to have the support system others have, with their great extended families and wonderful friends always there with a cup of coffee and a shoulder to cry on, but it’s never been a reality for me. That’s not the way I was raised.

I was raised in a world where you really could only count on yourself. Sure, my parents were there, but not the way I needed them to be and I learned early on what they could and couldn’t handle. I filtered and censored so they didn’t have to be more involved. I still do it. I use this filtering system I’ve developed to keep people at bay. To not let anyone in and that turns into a lack of support system when you need one. It’ s a system that has protected me my entire life, but also makes things really lonely sometimes.

You see, Dear Readers, I’m 32 weeks pregnant today. Give or take a few weeks, in eight weeks, I will be the mom of three children. A beautiful 8-yr old girl, an active 5-yr old boy and a newborn baby. We have next to nothing prepared. It’s been five years since our last baby. Our car seats are outdated, we needed a new port-a-crib, cloth diapers, clothes. I mean, we are starting from scratch on this. That doesn’t really bother me so much as the jealousy that pops up from time to time. You see, I have a friend who is also pregnant with her third baby… Her third baby in four years… More accurately, her third son when her eldest just turned four a week ago… The support she has from her family and friends amazes me. Even after having three boys in as many years, she was still surprised with a baby shower and registered for baby items and the works. She is being celebrated in her pregnancy, yet again. I’m not. It’s been five years since we’ve had an infant and I don’t anticipate a thing from other people. We registered, but only to keep track of the things we don’t have and need to get in the next 6 weeks. (And did I mention, I also need to get our homeschool curricula, for both of the older kids, my son’s fifth birthday in July, and my husband will be leaving for a month long training exercise in two weeks?)

I know this is part of the whole system I have developed and that we are far from our family and friends, but so is she. Being Army families, neither of us live close to our families and yet, hers still makes the effort for her. That makes my heart heavy and my eyes fill with tears. I’ve never had that kind of love. Never been shown that level of support or even kindness… I am truly happy for her to have that kind of support, particularly since she’s had some issues this go round and can no longer travel, per doctors orders. I am also truly saddened for myself. For my children, for my family. We don’t have that level of support. Never have.

My sister-in-law gave birth to her second daughter last fall. She had a baby shower in Texas, where her Army husband is stationed, and a small party after the baby was born in California where she is from. Her second daughter in four years.

Most days, I’m so happy to be pregnant. We are having a home birth this time and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s been a rough ride, but we are almost to the finish line and I’m so excited to meet my newest little man.

I don’t mean to sound petty. I don’t want to be jealous of these ladies and they deserve the support that they have.

I just wish someone had my back, too.

My official refusal of standardize testing or…

Standardize testing can SUCK IT!

A lot has happened since my last post way back in December, but today I’m just going to focus on a small victory for our family. The TCAP was this week. For those who don’t know, TCAP stands for “must take this test instead of being taught actually school work for an entire week and no, you won’t be learning for the rest of the school year despite there being a month left before the end of the year”… No, I don’t actually know what the letters stand for and that’s part of the problem. They administer these tests without knowing what is on them, without any proof that our students are better for them and without releasing a grade for them until it’s already too late to do anything about it. Those who took the TCAP this week will not receive their grades until sometime this summer, and won’t be told what they missed, just what the final score was.

I’m not a fan.

I can vividly remember the anxiety these test days produced in me as a child and I was only expected to take them during my 4th, 8th and 10th grades of schooling. Today’s children, in most states here in the U.S., are expected to take these tests every year from 3rd-8th grade, followed by End of Year Exams from 9th-12th grades. Some schools and districts have even begun to administer these tests as early as kindergarten in an attempt to get ahead of the curve and get as much test preparation in as possible before the kid is even old enough to read.

I’m not a fan.

This year would have been the first year Sissy was expected to sit for the TCAP here in Tennessee, but my husband and I decided at the beginning of the school year that she would not be sitting for this exam under any circumstances. I tried to not sign her up for a testing site. Didn’t work. I tried just not taking her to the testing site the first two days. I was met with multiple emails and phone calls. Then I wrote a letter…

I’m much more articulate in writing. After some editing from my husband (I tend to follow rabbit trails when I’m agitated), I replied back to the school psychologist, a woman who has NEVER met or spoken with or about my daughter, with the following email.

***NOTE: I did change names to maintain privacy. I’m not nearly this snarky normally… Well, yes I am, but that’s beside the point. When she sends me canned emails addressed to “Dear Learning Coach”, I really did want to reply with “Dear School Psychologist”, but my husband was against it. ***

“Dear School Psychologist,

I understand you are the contact person regarding testing arrangements for the TCAP this week. I understand your concern about my child, Sissy, being absent during the scheduled testing time. I assure you, she is just fine. I write this letter to inform you that she will continue to be absent for the duration of the week and will not be participating in any make-up tests scheduled on her behalf. My husband and I are fully aware of the state mandate on local school systems to administer the test, but in absence of a mandate upon my child to actually take said test, we are hereby exercising our right to refuse the TCAP on behalf of our daughter.

Based on the pillars of the 14th Amendment, and the Supreme Court rulings of Meyer v Nebraska (1923), and Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925), I exercise my Constitutional right as a citizen of the United States of America to take complete possession of my children, and to guide their education in a manner in which I see fit. As a taxpayer, I am entitled to the provision of public education for my children as outlined in the State of Tennessee Constitution. By proxy, my children also hold certain rights; among those, that they may not be denied the right to enter the school on testing days simply based on testing refusal, that they may not be discriminated against by denying them meaningful instruction or by placing them in isolation for hours on those testing days, and they may not be punished in any way for not participating in the standardized tests.

We do not believe standardized tests are an adequate measure of the true skills of students or teachers. They also do not measure skills that are needed to be “successful” in our current society (e.g., strong oral communication skills; ability to collaborate/cooperate with others; higher-level, hands-on problem solving skills; self-motivation; tenacity; long-term planning/goal-setting; independence; etc.). Further, as a child with both autism and ADHD, we do not feel the TCAP will be of any benefit to Sissy’s mental and emotion stability. It is a complete disruption to her therapy schedule, as well as the therapy schedule of her younger brother, who receives a district issued Individualized Education Plan (IEP) through the _____ School District. We believe our children’s private and public issued therapy comes before any government sanctioned event, which was a determining factor in us choosing Tennessee Virtual Academy for this school year. The therapy they receive is invaluable to their future success as individuals much more so than any bubble test could possibly measure.

In addition, Sissy lacks both the fine motor muscle endurance and the keyboarding skills to adequately complete either a written exam or a computer simulated test. This will not only prevent her from completing the test in a timely manner, but would reflect poorly on her final grade and on the assessment her school and teachers receive as a result. She would be made to feel “ignorant” because her disability limits the amount of time her hands can function in that capacity. Sissy gets stressed and agitated when she knows she is being timed. This has been witnessed on numerous occasions by her speech and occupational therapists. Sissy also suffers from physiological stress reactions. When she becomes agitated, stressed, or even excited, she throws up. This is a scenario neither of us wants to contend with, I’m sure. The testing site is also our home church here in “our town”. I will not have the state turn her beloved place of worship, fellowship, and fun into a place of anxiety and stress.

We also do not feel her grade on a standardized test is a fair assessment of the teachers she has worked with this school year. Her teachers pay, license, or merit should not depend on MY ability to convey the concepts of each subject to Sissy in a manner such that she would learn and thrive. As an online public school, I am the main source of Sissy’s learning, not a tax payer funded school or teacher. The manner in which the materials are relayed and the amount of information Sissy has retained this year is a direct reflection on my ability to know how to convey such information to Sissy, not on a teacher she speaks with for a few minutes several times a week. It is unjust for our state legislature to tie teacher pay, license and merit to my abilities to understand and communicate with my own child.

In your email to me this week regarding Sissy’s absence from the TCAP administration test site, you made the statement:
“This is a state-mandated assessment, and it is part of your student’s final grade. Students who do not attend the TCAP may be withdrawn from Tennessee Virtual Academy.”

Again, I understand that the TCAP is under mandatory administration, meaning you have to provide the test; we do not have to take it. I understand that should you feel the need to do so, state law allows you to punish Sissy by 15-25% of her final grade as a result of MY choice in her educational path, regardless of the sentiments of the Supreme Court on the matter of parental involvement. I also understand that you could easily change the status of our family to “failure to comply”, which could result in our immediate withdrawal from Tennessee Virtual Academy. If this is the path you choose, I want you to understand this will not force our hand and we will not submit to veiled threats against our child’s education. The state law in Tennessee does not require independent homeschool students to submit to standardize testing during the third grade year. State law only requires homeschool students, who are not schooled under a church-related school program, to participate in district-wide standardize testing during grades 5, 7 and 9. Regardless of where Sissy is registered as a student, either with TNVA or as an independent homeschool student, she will NOT be taking the TCAP this year.

I only wish to be an active participant in my daughter’s education and in doing so, I exercise my right to have a say in regards to the measurement of her academic achievement and “success”.

Thank you for your time. Should you feel the need to discuss this any further, I can be reached primarily by e-mail at “here” or possibly by cell phone, schedule permitting, at “here”.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Rainshadow Noba”

I never got a response.

Life Happens

Well, it’s December 17th and I’ve got very little to show for the year that is now ending. I had plans for this blog this year. I was going to take it places. I had a list of things I wanted to achieve. Things I wanted to do and see and experience and share with all of you.

But life happens. Life gets in the way.

Not bad things, just life. Little things add up and you get behind. You convince yourself you can get caught up, there’s still time. Only days, weeks, months go by without any progress at all.

My relationship with my husband after his deployment was awkward and dysfunctional. I’ve nearly stopped speaking to his family and have stopped speaking to mine. My cat died and we got three new kittens. Friendships have gotten stronger and others have fizzled out into the void.

Life happens.

The world keeps turning. Night to day to night to day to night to day. The world turns and so we are at the end of another year. Proof that life keeps moving, that every day new things and old things change.

Children grow older, grandparents die. Life keeps moving, the world keeps turning and

LIFE HAPPENS.

September 11, 2013

I know it’s late, but that’s how I roll…

September 11, 2001:

I sat in my therapists office as he railed on about worry and fear, telling me: “don’t worry about yesterday, its in the past and you can’t change it. Don’t worry about tomorrow, it isn’t here. Focus on today only.”

I’ve often joked about how my life could have been so different if I had actually taken his advice and focused on “today only”. My young, impressionable mind could have become royally obsessed with the Towers, the airplanes, the people.

Instead, I still fear the past, I still worry about the future and I can’t relax today. Instead, it took me years to process what I’d see and heard that day. The conflicting actions of the people in my life who were supposed to help me through it. Viewing that much hate and that much love and still so much indifference all in a span of a few hours left me with a lot of confusion.

Even further down the years, I’m married to a soldier. He’s fought in the wars that started that day, as has his older brother and so many other men and women. Not all of them come home. When you look at the death counts (a phrase that shouldn’t even exist), do you just count those in the Towers, the ones in the airplanes and the ones in the Pentagon? Or do you remember that so many more have died as a result of that day? Each soldier, contractor, or civilian who has died in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan has died because of what happened September 11, 2001.

Let’s remember this, when we look at other war-torn nations and think we can help. Decades ago, we thought we could help. Today, we mark the anniversary of the day that help bit us in the ass.

Let’s remember those who lost their lives because our government focused too much on today and not enough about our future. Let’s remember those people who lost their lives because a small group of anti-Americans decided a plane would make a great weapon of mass destruction. Let’s remember the soldiers who have lost their lives taking the fight to another country, so our children can grow up without seeing bodies in the streets or living in fear of being murdered in their sleep as a message to the town.

Let’s remember.

Reunions

My high school reunion was this past weekend.

I didn’t go.

I spent Saturday morning at a farmer’s market with my family. Spent the afternoon grilling fresh cut steaks and baking fresh veggie with my husband. Saturday night was full of Doctor Who episodes and snuggling with my husband.

I had planned to submit a photo or two for the slideshow since I wouldn’t be in attendance, but, unsurprisingly, I never heard back from the slideshow coordinator. I’m used to that and given the attitudes of those on the Reunion Facebook page, I haven’t missed much and most haven’t matured much in the past ten years.

In honor of my ten year high school reunion, I’m going to share the post I originally wrote on the topic, last summer. The irony of having my reunion “pass me by” is that I was in Florida for a week just this month, just nowhere near my “hometown”…

 

You knew me when?

Rainbows and Unicorns

This is a difficult topic for me, explaining for my absence while I sort through it all. My husband returned from Afghanistan nearly two months ago and it hasn’t been like you see on TV. It’s not been like the other wives talk about. That running across the room, jumping into each others arms, crying real tears of joy and not letting go. That pure, ecstatic joy that you just can’t control. I want one thing clear before I go any further:

I love my husband. I do now, and always have, love him with all that I am. The thought of not having him in my life everyday kills me.

I just don’t always feel it. When my daughter was born, she was a complete stranger. I didn’t know her, so I couldn’t love her in that mystical way mother’s often describe. There was no instant bond. I had to learn to love her and who she was (and is) growing to become. The way she sucks her finger when she’s nervous. The way she takes showers so she doesn’t have to sit in the bath water. The height of her laughter and her ability to make checks with stripes work magnificently. I had to learn to love her. Taking this pressure off myself when my son was born, knowing I wouldn’t feel that “magical bond” with him, actually made bonding with him a lot easier. I put too much pressure on myself and I always fail.

This is what I did at homecoming. Every homecoming is different. You’ve got the couples that can’t wait to run down the stairs and jump into each others arms and kiss like nobody else exists and the world has stopped spinning just for them. You’ve got the couples who are quietly holding each other in the middle of the chaos, just standing there, silently thankful for answered prayers. You’ve got the couples who are loudly screaming and yelling and jumping around like tailgaters at the Super Bowl after a touchdown, and they don’t care who is around. You’ve got the wives who brought large signs. Babies who’ve never met their father. Children and parents running to their family member, their soldier, their hero. It’s very overwhelming for people like me…

It puts a lot of pressure to feel what they feel, to express those feelings the way that they do, try to find balance and not fall.

I chose to stand at the top of the bleachers waving my arms like a mad woman with the kids on the steps in front of me doing the same. It still took him a minute to find us, but it was worth it. The hard part is that I felt very little for my husband in that moment. There was no “heart knowledge” of the love we have shared for the past seven and a half years. I know in my head that I love him very much, but in that moment, he was a stranger. I was more excited to see him with the kids. Holding them, kissing them, just talking to them. I didn’t care to talk to him myself. Holding him, kissing his face, none of that mattered to me. My children had their father and that is all that mattered. I put pressure on myself and I failed. I expected something different than I had experienced before and I shouldn’t have.

To put this into perspective, since I got married in November 2005, I have seen my mother for a total of 14 days. Three days when my daughter was born in 2006. One week when my sister graduated high school in May 2006. Four days when Little Brother was nearly two, in 2011. I feel very little love towards my mother. In fact, if not for her being my mother, I’m not sure I’d ever have contact with her. When I don’t have constant contact with someone in a meaningful way, I lose my ability to genuinely care for them. This is what happened during the deployment. Nine months of my breath catching when the doorbell rang. Nine months of my blood going cold when an unfamiliar car appeared in my driveway. Nine months of stealing myself for the worst, remaining brave for the kids and putting on a happy face… Nine months of building a wall around my heart to protect myself from the worst outcome possible…

That’s not an easy thing to tear down.

We’ve been working on it since he got home, but in those first few days it was like living with a stranger. We had both changed so much and neither of us knew what to really expect. Nothing seemed to be going right. In the past few weeks, there have been long nights, intimate discussions, and a lot of tears. Old hurts are finally starting to heal and we are coming together as a couple again. It should be romantic. The idea of “falling in love” all over again. In truth, it sucks and it hurts. This is my husband. He is the father of my children. I should have the heart knowledge of love for him. I should feel it after having him gone for so long, but I think I’m expecting too much of myself at this point. The “head knowledge” is there. I know there is no one else I would rather be with. There will never be anyone else. I’ve just got to take the time for my heart to catch up.

Hopefully, with old hurts beginning to heal, this will allow us to come together more fully and allow us to become more vulnerable with each other and that will help bridge that gap between the head and the heart. Some days are easier than others. He’ll do something or say something and all I feel is love. Other days, I truly struggle with the man beside me. The man that has promised to always stand beside me. The man that I promised to always stand beside.

We aren’t standing still anymore. We’ve moved. The ground beneath us has shifted and we are struggling to find where that leaves us once the ground goes still again.

For nine months, the ground shifted, twisted, and turned under our feet. For nine months, we were on different planets, shifting and twisting and turning in different ways. We’ve had two months to work on us. We’ve had some really horrible moments… We’ve had some really great times…

It’s called Marriage.

Thankful Thursday: May 24, 2013 Edition

Look what I found on post. They were just giving them away with a free bus ride.

20130604-115710

I know I haven’t been the best blogger these past few months. For those still reading my posts, I say “Thank You!” If you’ll bear with me, things are in a huge state of flux in the Noba household right now. I may disappear for days, weeks and months at a time as our family faces reintegration. I would ask those of you who pray to do so for our family. In the ten days since my husband has been home some difficulties have already come to light and let’s just say:

“Not all homecomings are joyful and triumphant. Not all homecomings are easy. Not all homecomings are kisses and rainbows and unicorns and butterflies. But we are committed to getting through this stage of life as we have all others. There will be more on this in the future. Of this, I have no doubt.”