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.

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A really long day

I know today is April 1st. This means that I should be starting a 30 Day Drawing Challenge with some fellow bloggers. This also means, I’m supposed to start my re-release of my “30 Days with Autism” blog series, in hopes that the third year is the year I finish it.

But

My cat died this morning.

It was not uncommon for Bellatrix LeStrange to go days, or even a week or more, without eating. She did this several times a year and was always okay. Not this time.

The kids have been obsessed with weighing and measuring things lately, so they naturally moved on to “How much does Bella weigh?” when they tired of weighing themselves and each other.

She was around eight pounds two weeks ago.

She was just 4 pounds this past weekend.

My cat literally starved herself to death. For no reason I can find, Bellatrix stopped eating about ten days ago. I had just refilled her food dish and she wouldn’t touch it. After a few days, it seems she also gave up on drinking water. Again, this was not uncommon and she’d done it many times over the four and a half years we had her. She was always fine. This past weekend, when I had taken note of the weight she’d lost, I began to cry out for help.

I texted my mother, my friends with cats, I even took to a group of Army wives on Facebook. We gave her chicken (boiled and raw), salmon, cat food, cat treats, milk, water, I even scrubbed her bowl out to make sure there was nothing on it that might be effecting her appetite. She wouldn’t touch any of it. She had been using the litter box, so she must have at least been drinking some water.

With Spring Break over, the kids were off to school this morning, bright and early. We were running a few minutes behind, but I decided to check on her before we left. I could see she wasn’t breathing. I didn’t need to touch her to know her body was rigid. I barely touched her fur to feel the chill on her body. I began to cry, but not sob. That comes later, when the kids aren’t around. I ushered them into the car without a word to suggest anything was wrong. I was still crying and Little Brother asked if I was sad. I told him I was crying because I was just so very tired from Spring Break and I took them to school.

I was able to hold it together for about 45 minutes. Long enough to get through speech therapy and put in the money for our Autism Walk T-shirt order. I went home and sobbed. I cried hard and ugly sobs. I feel like I cried for hours, that’s probably because I did. My friends, my husband, nobody knew what to say. I dug the hole in our backyard by myself for a while. Got it nearly eighteen inches deep before the panic and the stress and the tunnel vision got the better of me and I almost threw up right there in the yard.

I had a brief snack and then had to get Sissy from school. Watching her bound out of the building and run to me with a huge smile on her face, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m about to destroy her perfect little world.”

She took it better than I thought she would. Getting emotional a few times, but handling it with her classic optimism. A friend and her family came over to help us. Her husband finished the hole in the backyard while we tended to the children inside. I took each of them aside and explained it. For Sissy, I explained that now Papa (my late father-in-law) would have a friend in Heaven now. For Little Brother, I told him that Bellatrix had to go fight the dragons and that she would be gone forever. He replied, “But she doesn’t have a sword?” True to form, Little Brother is my own personal comic relief.

I took the cat outside, bound in a towel and three layers of bags, wrapped in a paper bag so the kids wouldn’t have to see her like that. We, Sissy and I, went out back and said a prayer over the cat. Then together we shoveled the dirt back into the hole and went back inside.

My friend was still here, and the kids played for a bit, then I took everyone out to dinner. I needed to be with people and have something positive today. We spent quite a bit of money, but the fun, friends and good time were worth it. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are worth their weight in the most precious rubies.

So my beautiful kitty is gone, my husband isn’t here to comfort me and I’ve been crying literally since 8:15 this morning…

I will double post tomorrow all the good stuff that April has in store for me and you, but for tonight, I leave it here.

RIP my dear sweet kitty.
August 2008-Easter 2013

This was taken last week. I was trying to get her to drink water in the kitchen, she was more interested in watching the water circle down the drain.

This was taken last week. I was trying to get her to drink water in the kitchen, she was more interested in watching the water circle down the drain.

Why we are choosing homeschool next year

Alternatively titled: Why my daughter’s teacher is a fricken idiot!

I’ve tried to be nice about all this, I swear, I really have. It has gotten to the point where other students are now calling out the teacher during class and they are being ignored even though their answers are, in fact, correct and the teacher is wrong! Instead of ranting about all the crappy things my daughter’s teacher has done (and not done) this year. I’ll let the tests speak for themselves. These are actual questions from the tests my daughter, a second grader, has taken this year. I will mark for you the answers the TEACHER feels are the correct ones, regardless of whether or not she is correct. I have pictures of some of them, it’s starting to get cute and annoying.

Let’s start with Math: This is a hugely popular subject at our house, where my daughter had to stop learning multiplication because it was causing problems with her (second grade) teacher teaching skip counting…

1. The teacher felt the correct answer to this question was C. 2 meters. Keep in mind the very next question on the test referenced a motorcycle being 2 meters long (in the question itself). I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a “real medium dog” the same height as a motorcycle is long.

I love how she underlines "real" and then claims the medium sized dog to be two meters tall... For reference, that makes the average "medium dog" taller than I am.

I love how she underlines “real” and then claims the medium sized dog to be two meters tall… For reference, that makes the average “medium dog” taller than I am.

2. Kay’s plant was 6 centimeters tall. Four weeks later it was 24 centimeters tall. How much did it grow in four weeks?
A. 30 centimeters                        B. 10 centimeters
C. 28 centimeters                             D. 18 centimeters

Now despite being blatantly wrong, Sissy says a boy in her class actually confronted the teacher regarding the correct answer, which is D. 18 cm. He was told that he was wrong. Let me explain why the score is now Teacher 0, Students 2. When you ask “how much did it grow in four weeks”, you are NOT asking how tall it is now, but the rate of growth over the given timeline. SO, had she asked “How tall is it at the end of the fourth week?”, which btw, the answer still is not A because the problem states the plant was 24 cm four weeks later, asked and answered. BUT, she asked “how much did it grow in four weeks”, thus making the answer the difference between the height of the plant at the start and finish of the four weeks which is 18 cm.

3. Danny has a plant that is 6 centimeters tall. The plant grows 4 centimeters each week. How tall will his plant be in four weeks?

This one was open-ended meaning the students had to write out and solve a problem to arrive at the solution. Now for me, the plant started at 6 centimeters tall (way to go Danny Boy!), for each of the next four weeks, it grew 4 centimeters. Then it asks how tall will it be in four weeks. This means that 4+4+4+4=16, or 4×4=16, but any way you look at it, over the course of the next four weeks, Danny’s plant will gain an additional 16 cm. Add that 16 cm to his previous height of 6cm, and you arrive at the addition problem 6+16=22. Danny’s plant is now 22cm tall. Apparently, not according to Teacher but hey, I’m no teacher, I’m just a mathematics major who took a class on Differential Equations as an elective…

Score: Teacher 0, Students 3

Here’s the picture of Kay and Danny to confirm my side of the story.

But at least the kids make good gardeners. Those plants are growing pretty well... Even better when the teacher grades the test.

But at least the kids make good gardeners. Those plants are growing pretty well… Even better when the teacher grades the test.

Then there’s the problems that arise when the study guide answers don’t match the answers to the test. Pretty sure that IS a parallelogram, and unless you are studying Euclidean Geometry (at this point I’d love her teacher just to spell “Euclidean Geometry”), that one up top there, is a type of Rhombus. We’re now 0-5 to the Students.

Study guide that was given to us by the teacher for the purpose of studying.

Study guide that was given to us by the teacher for the purpose of studying.

The test. Note that the letter G is the designation for the parallelogram and that shape looks exactly like the one on the study guide and yet, Sissy still got the wrong answer.

The test. Note that the letter G is the designation for the parallelogram and that shape looks exactly like the one on the study guide and yet, Sissy still got the wrong answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s move on to Language Arts, consisting of spelling, language, vocabulary, reading and reading comprehension. This is where it gets REALLY fun!

Two, To, Too... There is a difference and even my, then, six year old could see that.

Two, To, Too… There is a difference and even my, then, six year old could see that.

Look very carefully at this one. Notice that little circle placed randomly in the sentence, near the end there. Look close, it’s there. That’s not a random circle, that’s the letter “O”. When asked why she put it there, my then six year old, told me the word “too” needed two “o”… Why yes Folks, my then six year old was already correcting the grammar on the spelling tests. Makes a mother so proud.

Here we have "role reversal" the teacher spelled it correctly, so Sissy misspelled it for her.

Here we have “role reversal” the teacher spelled it correctly, so Sissy misspelled it for her.

Oh and when you format the spelling test so that the kids have to identify and correctly spell this weeks words, the least you could do is actually misspell the spelling word. You can’t fix what isn’t broken and you just confused the hell out of the kids, particularly the autistic child who knew the word, but still gets it wrong because her teacher failed her own test. That’s bringing us to Teacher 0-Students 7.

Let’s continue.

She got a perfect score on this homework assignment despite not following directions.

She got a perfect score on this homework assignment despite not following directions.

There’s the homework my daughter didn’t do “correctly” using the phrase “more clear” instead of the word “clearer” (which I was always taught wasn’t a word anyway) and the teacher didn’t notice. I’m half convinced she could randomly write anything in those blanks and her teacher wouldn’t know the difference.

There was the test on comparative and superlative adjectives where even the teacher wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be grading.

And yes, we get dozens of tests marked up like this one. Where correct answers are marked wrong and then fixed and then marked wrong again, but she gets the points anyway. It's confusing.

And yes, we get dozens of tests marked up like this one, where correct answers are marked wrong and then fixed and then marked wrong again, but she gets the points anyway. It’s confusing.

Or the time Teacher clearly didn’t read that weeks story and I can cite the page number and paragraph to prove it…

When you ask about a specific from the story it helps to READ THE STORY!

When you ask about a specific from the story it helps to READ THE STORY!

For those without a second grade reading book at home, this is the content of page 58. If you note paragraph two, as I wrote on the test, you will find the correct answer to the question.

For those without a second grade reading book at home, this is the content of page 58. If you note paragraph two, as I wrote on the test, you will find the correct answer to the question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the test where multiple answers were correct. Yes, they were both smart dogs, but they were also both girl dogs. Sorry Teacher, you failed that test too.

Tara and Tiree, another story from class that involved two smart, girl dogs.

Tara and Tiree, another story from class that involved two smart, girl dogs.

 

And the one she got marked right though clearly half a verb phrase and a prepositional phrase do not equal a sentence subject.

I circled "mom" while arguing with Sissy about whether or not "mom" was the subject... It is by the way.

I circled “mom” while arguing with Sissy about whether or not “mom” was the subject… It is by the way.

 

Pay attention to sentence #6 on this one… If you have to rewrite the sentence post-exam to make the vocabulary word fit the test, you fail as a test preparer.

The vocabulary word is "descend" the word they were looking for "descent". FAIL!

The vocabulary word is “descend” the word they were looking for “descent”. FAIL!

Now I know I may see harsh, but I was a teacher before I got married. I know what goes into making a lesson plan and what goes into assigning homework and how much time it takes to grade all of this. But COME ON! My daughter’s grades are suffering because her teacher is just downright lazy. Every page of homework she brings home is a worksheet printed off the internet. These sheets come from websites I use during the summer to homeschool Sissy. I requested a meeting with the principal of the school nearly two weeks ago and haven’t heard back yet. I know there are answers on these tests that my daughter got wrong because of her disability. Plain and simple, her brain sees things very linear and I’m trying to work on that with her. There are answers she gets wrong because she truly didn’t know the answer.  And there are answers she gets wrong because her teacher is a fricken idiot!

THIS is an autism related answer. "as far as we can see" means "we see nothing else", makes sense to me.

THIS is an autism related answer. “as far as we can see” means “we see nothing else”, makes sense to me.

The heart of a child

God tells us in both Mark 10:15, and Luke 18:17, that unless we have the faith of a child we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mark 10:15 (New King James Version)

15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Luke 18:17 (New King James Version)

17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Now this is something I struggle with dearly. Having Asperger’s Syndrome, there is so much out of my control and so much that upsets me that I tend to grab tight and don’t let go of the things I can control. I’ve gotten upset about some random thing or another and dyed my hair, or shaved my head, or pierced something (yes, I said pierced, like needle through flesh).
Having the faith that it will all work out for the better is NOT my strongest gift. I was blessed with an empathetic heart, a kind ear, a for the most part, a gentle word. Blind faith is not something I am good at. It is a constant struggle for me to remember that in order to succeed in life, I must first lose myself in Christ. What does this have to do with having the heart and faith of a child? Everything.
Just yesterday, I was crying on Skype to my poor husband because I am fearful about money. If it were up to me, we would buy only what is absolutely necessary for survival and squirrel away the rest. I grew up in a family that was beyond poor. We went to McDonald’s once a month, on the day my mom got her welfare check, just because my mom wanted us to be like the other kids and have the stupid little toys lying all over the house. My mom would water down the milk, to thin it out and make it last to the next paycheck. My mother would go days without eating so that my sister and I could have two meals a day at home during the school week. This left me very fearful that at some point there will be no more money and I will not be able to care for my family. I do not have the faith of a child when it comes to being prepared and caring for my family.
Today, I took my kids out to breakfast, we were running late. Our order arrived late at our table, and immediately after breakfast we went to the closest Walmart to the Denny’s only to discover that Walmart did not have a fabric department. Driving to our second Walmart of the day took another 40 minutes. Just before we arrived, I was flipping through the radio stations as I always do, like I said, I have to have control in a lot of areas of my life including not listening to songs that I don’t care for.
Hitting the sixth button on my dashboard brings up “The Beaver 100.3 FM“. Listening to the song until it ended, the announcer came on live for the local Toys R Us, where the radio station in partnership with a lot children’s assistance organizations, were holding a holiday toy drive. Along with the radio station DJs, members from the Dark Empire Group and the 501st Legion would be there to take pictures with the kids. Telling my daughter this as we pulled into the parking lot of the second Walmart, she says “Maybe we could take a toy to the Toys R Us.” I looked at her sadly and told her “Maybe another day, kid. We will donate toys before Christmas, but I just don’t think we can do it today.” She looked sad for a minute, on the verge of tears, and then her face lit up and she exclaimed “But I could give my Pix E. Flutters.”
This was the nail in heart. She had begged for that doll for so long and had finally received it just this past Easter. She’s owned that doll all of eight months, but here she sits, strapped into her booster seat, so willing to part with it for the benefit of someone else.
That is the faith of a child.
In my mind, I replayed the conversation with my husband yesterday and all my fears about money went streaming through my head on a fast-forward loop. I could tell her ‘no, we need to wait’… I could easily lie to her and say we couldn’t afford it right now, but I know myself too well. If something is not front and center in my focus right now, I will forget.
“We’ll see,” I told her.
“We’ll see is another way of saying ‘no’,” she replied without even thinking of it.
She didn’t mean it the way it probably sounds. She sounded disappointed, not bitter or angry. She was just stating that I do say the phrase “We’ll see” a lot and typically, we don’t end up doing the thing we’re “seeing” about. What she said was a statement of fact, but it hit me harder than any rebuke I have ever had. God was using my daughter in that moment to teach me a lesson. I truly hope I do not forget this lesson she helped to teach me.
We walked right into the Walmart and headed for the toy department. Sissy picked out a Lalaloopsy doll, and Little Brother grabbed a Lightning McQueen talking flashlight. I spent $50 including the items I had originally gone in for and we drove straight to the Toys R Us to deliver our toys. Upon telling the DJ about how we ended up there, she shook my hand and told me that it speaks volumes about me as a parent and how we are raising our kids. They loaded the kids with miniature candy canes and even grabbed most of the members of the 501st Legion and the Dark Empire Group to take a picture to send to my husband in Afghanistan.
My dear girl wanted to give one of her own dolls to a child in need. God used her to lay it on my heart to not worry about tomorrow, but help today. I truly have a blessed little girl as a daughter, and somewhere in the city of Clarksville, on Christmas morning, there will be a doll under a tree just waiting for another little girl to open it, and she’ll never know about the special little girl who helped put it there.

Happy Thanksgiving

Little Brother: “momma, you want to make chocolate cupcakes now”
Me: No bud, I already
LB: “You already ate them all!” (eyes are really big)
M: Yes, I ate 24 cupcakes last night after you went to bed
LB: “But I wanted to eat one, two, three, four, five, six.”

So that’s how I started my Thanksgiving. Actually, it’s not, this was the first conversation I had with my kids this morning, while still in my pajamas tucked too warmly into my bed. And to avoid confusion, my son likes to start every conversation with the word ‘but’.

Little Brother: But I need to ask you a question.
Me: Okay, ask me a question
LB: We need to go three places today.
Me: Okay, what three places do we need to go today.
LB: We need to go to Sissy’s school and then the doctor and then to Auntie C’s birthday
Me: Auntie C’s birthday, huh. We bud Sissy doesn’t have school today, nobody has school today.

[Enter the Sissy in question who, hearing our conversation, runs from the room declaring]

Sissy: Let’s check the map and see where Auntie C lives. Oh NO! Auntie C is in Texas, we wont be able to decorate the Christmas tree tomorrow, maybe we could just call her.

Family is so far away today, my family is all over Florida, my husband’s scattered throughout California, with exception of his brother who is in Texas on a PCS.  The love of my life is alone in a foreign land. Traditions will be broken simply because the person who participates isn’t here to do so. My husband loves turkey sandwiches, on toast, with avocado on Black Friday. Have one for him, keep our tradition alive while he cannot.

As tradition, we don’t shop on Black Friday. We don’t even leave the house. We instead, take the time to decorate our Christmas tree, together, as a family. My husband’s ornaments are delayed in the mail and he wont be able to participate in this one either I’m afraid. But he has the movie White Christmas with him, and that is always something we watch on Thanksgiving night. A tradition started long before we were married within his family and carried into our own.

The holidays are coming, let’s not lose sight of the important things. With the economy getting tougher on a lot of families, it’s easy to feel disheartened that the amount of presents under your tree is less than in years past. It’s easy to feel upset that the doll your daughter wants, you just can’t afford to get her. The toys, the noise, the wrappings all pass.

Don’t focus on the presents, focus on the presence. Be grateful that you have each other. Today, I am most thankful for a husband who serves selflessly for his country and for friends who are taking my kids and I in today, so that we don’t have to eat macaroni and cheese alone.

Happy Anniversary!

Though I actually wrote this ten days ago, today dear readers is my anniversary. November 19, 2005

You see, seven years ago today, I waddled my seven month pregnant self down the aisle, leaning on my mother for support and strength, toward the man I would, God willing, spend the rest of my life with. I was 20 years old, on the verge of motherhood and was suddenly a wife. I was terrified. WE were terrified. But somehow we’ve pulled through.

When we got married, the statistics weren’t good for marriages where a pregnancy was present at the time of the nuptials. I believe it was eighteen months. The average marriage when the wife was pregnant at the wedding was lasting about 18 months when we said our “I Do”. That wasn’t encouraging to those who cared about us because, regardless of what we said or how often we said it, I’m pretty sure they all believed we were getting married because of the baby. But there was something more. Something they couldn’t know.

He was put in my life to make me a better person and I was there to help him be one too. That’s what our marriage is about. Loving God, loving each other, loving our kids, and making each other the best we can be. The fact that no one understood this was very evident when I talked to my boss (she was also a friend) about “our song”. While I’m not sure we have an “official” song, there are several songs that have had a large impact on us as a couple and, I believe, the very first one was “The Reason” by Hoobastank.

Now most people from my generation have heard this song. It came out the year after I graduated high school and was very popular at the time. My boss, ‘LuLu’, was convinced this was the worst song possible for a new romance to set as their own. She believed the song was about changing yourself to be good enough for your lover and feared that this was what I was doing. I don’t actually think she had ever paid attention to the lyrics of this song with a hint of accuracy. With this in mind, let’s look at those lyrics:

“The Reason” (from azlyrics.com)

I’m not a perfect person
There’s many things I wish I didn’t do
But I continue learning
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
and the reason is you

Okay, let’s start here. The narrator here is saying “I’m a f**k up, I didn’t mean to do that. I’m working on me, but I know that’s not enough for you right now. I’ll leave, but before I do, I want you to know that I want to be a better person. I want to change so I don’t do this to someone else and you are the reason I want to make that change” I fail to see how this is a bad thing. We all strive to be better people and many of us have people of inspiration behind these drastic behavior changes. Next verse:

I’m sorry that I hurt you
It’s something I must live with everyday
And all the pain I put you through
I wish that I could take it all away
And be the one who catches all your tears
Thats why i need you to hear

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
and the reason is You

Here again, we gain a little more insight into the problem. Whatever behavior he wishes to change has become incredibly painful to the woman he loves. He hurt her pretty badly and has to live with the fact that he caused a great pain to the woman of his heart. He says “I’m sorry. I wish I could change what happened, I wish I could stop the pain, the hurt and your tears. That’s why I need you to listen. I need you to know that I’m trying to be a better person and that you are the reason I want to change. I don’t want to put you or anyone else through this again.” The rest of the song is for emphasis. A “please listen to me”, if you will.

and the reason is You [x3]

I’m not a perfect person
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
and the reason is you

I’ve found a reason to show
A side of me you didn’t know
A reason for all that I do
And the reason is you

So this was the song my husband and I chose all those years ago. We chose a song that in the moment was a great one for us. Eight years ago, we chose to be a better person than we were being. We made the effort to always build each other up and to change behaviors that were harmful to ourselves or each other. We strive to be better people.

We are not perfect. We have gone through a lot in our marriage that has knocked the floor out from under us. There have been times that have been so difficult and so painful that it almost cost us our marriage. Multiple times. There have been times where it would have been much easier to just give up. Times where it was my fault. Times where it was his fault. But instead of calling it quits and walking away, we pulled together. We’ve been in marriage counseling on two separate occasions and I’m not afraid to admit it. I had a severe bout of depression years ago that almost destroyed us. I changed my thinking habits, took medications for a while and haven’t had a serious issue with it since 2007.

We’ve stuck with it when it would have been easier to leave. We’ve done amazing things in our marriage and I hope that, someday, our marriage can be a beacon of hope for someone else going through hard times. I want to continue being the reason he strives to be a better man. A better husband, a better father. And I want to be his better wife, better mother, and better woman in return.

At this point in our lives, any number of songs could describe how I feel about my marriage, my husband, my life. Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark“, for instance, Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends“, even Alanis Morissette’s “Head Over Feet“. I’ve always communicated better through music. I love my husband more today that I did all those years ago. I can say that without irony, and with full honesty. I love him more now. I’ve watched him grow as a man. I’ve watched him grow as a husband and as a father. I’ve seen him stumble. I’ve seen him fall. I’ve seen every bump and bruise in between. My husband is a better man today that he was those seven years ago. He will be a better man seven years from now.

I miss him terribly, I want him here with me. Personal sacrifice is part of growing. It’s part of learning who you are and what you are made of. I bare this cross with honor for my country. I’ve got your back. So does my husband.

I love you, kid. See you soon!

Science, Choice, and Ethics

Reading through today’s Freshly Pressed, as I do most days, I found this blog to be heartfelt. “Defriended Over a Wedding, a Straight Man Gains Perspective” Naturally, the topic of gay marriage is a touchy one to a lot of people, but one comment in particular seemed to be gaining a bit of infamy and, to put it lightly, pissed off a lot of other readers:

Now, of course, they say it occurs in the womb, and is not a choise. Then when will science give parents a real choice in the matter, after all the same progressives believe that it is not human until it exits the womb!

I think what he’s trying to say is that IF homosexuality is genetic, meaning they are born gay (and let’s all admit, there will always be debate about this one), what would the pro-choicers say to a genetic test that could allow parents the choice to let the child be born? If these “progressives” as he calls them believe life begins AFTER birth, not before, would homosexuality still be something you were born with? Would you be allowed to terminate a pregnancy on the basis that you didn’t want a “gay child” because of the results of this test? What would any of us say to something like that? What would pro-lifers do if they knew their child would be gay? Would they abort the pregnancy and save their child “from sin”? Personally, I don’t believe genetic testing of any type should be done unless there is a real risk of death in early infancy as a result of a genetic condition the child may carry. (And yes, I opted out of such testing when I was pregnant. My beliefs are that God gave me the children He did because I was the best mother for them.) They are already screening pregnancies worldwide for Down Syndrome and letting women abort their pregnancies on the outcome of those results (up to 90% of DS positive pregnancies are aborted for this reason, in contrast 3 to 7% of positives can be false. Averaging 5% false positives, at a 90% abortion rate, odds are more likely that those 5/100 false positives will be aborted or at least 4 of them will be). They are currently working on prenatal testing to determine if a child would develop autism, something my daughter and I both have. Would I have been born if my mother knew I would have Aspergers? That her grandchildren could be autistic?

The argument he lacked elegance in making was simple:
1) Is homosexuality a choice or something your born with?
2) If there was a genetic test for it, prenatally, would it be ethical to terminate the pregnancy based on the results of the test?
3) Would the “progressives” cry foul and switch arguments on abortion IF more pregnancies were aborted on the basis of genetic predetermination of sexual orientation?
I think on some level it is a question we must all ask ourselves: Would it make a difference to us?
As an anti-homosexuality, pro-lifer, would you still be pro-life if you knew your child would be gay? How would that effect your views on the pregnancy?
As a person who supports the “homosexuality is born” idea and is pro-choice, are you still pro-choice if it means that a subculture of people would be destroyed because of something they are “born with”? And if, in fact, you see that as wrong, why is then not wrong to do it to children with Down Syndrome or Autism?

These are tough questions, but as science moves forward and we get closer to proving many parts of our lives, choices, and personalities are, in fact, genetic, what does that do to the views we hold? What does that do to the choices we make? Google: Designer Babies Debate, people have been trying to play God for years by altering the genetic code of embryos to produce children with certain hair or eye colors, to allow them to look more like one parent or the other, or to avoid having big ears like their grandfather. Time magazine did in article on this topic way back in 1999! Where does that end and what’s the difference if we begin altering the genetic code to “remove” homosexuality from the child before it was born? These are not religious questions.

As science moves forward, we as society need to be responsible for the outcome of scientific breakthroughs. Science makes leaps and bounds every day, are we ready for the ethical dilemmas some of these leaps bring?