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An Open Letter to ‘Mrs Jones’

February 7, 2010

Last week, I received Chipmunk’s link book to discover that his teacher had made some rather sarcastic remarks in response to something I had written.  At first, I was fuming.  I was so, so angry, I could hardly think straight.

Over this weekend, after calming down, I have been thinking about things.  I think maybe she felt got-at because I told the SENCO that the book was not being used properly, and I was worried about it being read.  She does make it very difficult to talk to her, as she does not like to be bothered with things before class, therefore the link book is vital.  However, maybe there is fault on both sides.

I tried to think of a way to fix it.  This is what I came up with:

Dear Mrs Jones,

Firstly, I should like to take this opportunity to thank you and your teaching assistants for everything you have done for Chipmunk so far this year.  He is thriving since starting in Class C, and I am sure this is due in no small part to the structured routine you provide.  He is like a different child than the one from last year, increasing in confidence every day, and I am so grateful for this.

I realise that I may seem over-zealous as far as passing along information is concerned.  Please allow me to offer an explanation.  You may have been made aware by Mr Smith that there have been several mix-ups at the hospital with regard to Chipmunk’s records.  Information has not been communicated between various departments, his records have been muddled with another child’s records, and vital information has been sent to completely the wrong place – and ultimately lost.  While I appreciate that none of this is your – or the school’s – fault, it has served to significantly undermine my confidence in professionals!  I often feel as though I am his only advocate, which I am sure you will appreciate can be daunting in the extreme.  I am still learning as far as Chipmunk’s diagnosis is concerned, and I can only try to do my best for him.

Sometimes I feel as if I am in a constant battle simply to ensure that information is passed along to where it is needed, so that he gets the correct attention.  That is why I was concerned about the link book – not because I was accusing you of not bothering with it, but simply because there is a fair amount going on with Chipmunk at the moment, and I feel it is the easiest and most effective way of keeping you in the loop so that you are not left out of any developments.  Also, when I mentioned the possibility of a visual impairment being behind his tentative reactions, I was most certainly not accusing you of anything!  I was simply clarifying (for myself as much as anybody else) that there was a possible explanation for this, and that this was a good thing because finding an explanation is the first step to finding a solution.  This was not a slight against you in any way, and I apologise if you saw it as such.  Your input as his teacher is so important and that is the only reason I do my utmost to share everything with you.  With so many agencies currently involved with Chipmunk’s care and well-being, it is obviously vital that you are made aware of important developments, and to this end I believe that Mr Smith is attempting to instigate a CAF.

My one and only priority as far as Chipmunk is concerned, is that we are all coming from the same place with regard to his development.  The only way we can do this is by working together and making sure that all information is shared.  I truly would never seek to undermine you or cause offence, and I apologise if this has been the case.  All I want is for Chipmunk to be the best that he can be, and under your care this year he is blossoming.  Thank you.

God Bless,

bubbleboo

I will be delivering this to her on Monday.  I hope that by also posting it here, teachers and parents everywhere will be able to see things from both perspectives.  I do not want my relationship with Mrs Jones to be a war.  Things do not need to be difficult.  I know that there are many teachers who care very much about their pupils, but there are also others who – intentionally or not – make a relationship extremely difficult.  I also know that the same goes for parents.  Maybe we all need to step back, think about the child, and try to move forward together.

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Happy Birthday, Chipmunk

February 6, 2010

Seven years today.

Seven years since we almost lost you.

Seven years since we almost lost me.

How the time flies.

Now, I could never imagine being without you.  You are not just part of my life.  You are my life.

I know you have your struggles, and I know you get frustrated – and I ache for you when you do.

But you are stronger than you know.  Your sense of humour can reduce the most po-faced of adults into fits of helpless giggles.  You are funny, and charming, and generous.  Kind, giving and selfless.  The ‘oldest’ child I have ever known.

These last seven years have been the hardest of my life.  But they have been the best of my life.

You complete me.  You make me whole.  You light up each and every day – even when you are grumpy!  Everyone falls in love with you, and you don’t even realise.

You are so special and I am so glad that you’re mine.

I love you from the bottom of my soul.  I promise that I will go on fighting for you for as long as you need me to, while trying to equip you with the means to be able to fight for yourself…as hard as that may be.  Hopefully, one day, you can stop fighting – and just live.  I know that you will be the best that you can be – and you can be anything you want to be,  Never stop believing.

I love you.

Happy Birthday, Chipmunk.

FELINE FRIDAY: Good Morning, My Friend

February 5, 2010

It’s been too long since my last Feline Friday post, so today I finally decided to live up to my constant promises and actually deliver!  I hope you enjoy sharing a glimpse into the life of my (rather odd) kitty…

Sometime around 7am, on a weekday of your choice.  Chipmunk is watching his favourite TV show from my bed, while I get up, wash, dress and make his lunch.  I come back up the stairs to this:

Now, Chipmunk and the kitty have always had kind of a love-hate relationship.  Chipmunk does love kitty, and likes it when he is close…as long as he is not too close.  Then, Chipmunk tends to give a little squeal and run around the room with a cry of “Eek!  Kitty is trying to catch me!”.  Invariably, kitty has been taking a nap in the middle of the floor, and has finally gotten fed up with Chipmunk’s constant running up and down (I believe it’s called ‘stimming’ by those in the know as far as autism goes) so he takes a good-natured swipe at him.  Chipmunk then freaks out and refuses to speak to kitty for a day or so.

However, Chipmunk often complains that kitty won’t come and sit on his lap, and he enjoys stroking him while he is sleeping.  Hearing a contended “Aww, look at the kitty” is not uncommon.  So yes, a love-hate thing for sure.  I guess kitty has decided now that he is going to make a bit more of an effort, and so is going to keep Chipmunk company in the mornings!  Either that, or he saw an opportunity for getting onto my bed without being told off.  Hmm…let’s not go there for now!

Kitty started off at the far end of the bed, by Chipmunk’s legs.  Then, he decided this wasn’t quite good enough.  He looked at the spot next to Chipmunk for a while, debating his next move.

Then…

KITTY:  Excuse me, Master Chipmunk.  You don’t mind if I nonchalantly sidle up the bed a bit, do you?  Only, that spot right there looks mighty comfortable, and I could do with a nap…

CHIPMUNK (staring at the ceiling): *Sigh*  Good morning, kitty.

The result?

CHIPMUNK (still looking at the ceiling):  Kitty, you have to move, I need to get up.

KITTY:  Comfy, this bit, isn’t it?  Let’s snuggle…  *Gentle cat-snoring commences*

CHIPMUNK:  *Sigh*  Mummmyyy!

MY TAKE ON…The John Terry Affair

February 4, 2010

Another week, another sporting sex scandal.

*Sigh*

This time, it’s the UK’s turn, with the news that John Terry – captain of the England football team – has cheated on his wife, Toni.  Again.  The difference this time?  The reason it’s such big news?  Because the woman he was cheating with this time – Vanessa Perroncel – was the ex-fiancée of his best friend.  Toni has fled with her twins and her parents to Dubai, John Terry is keeping a low profile, and the mistress is currently negotiating deals with the tabloids to sell her story.  Nice.

Public sympathy seems to be geared towards Wayne Bridge – the cuckolded fiancé who discovered his England team-mate was sleeping with the mother of his son – and, of course, Toni Terry.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Maybe it’s just me, but I am actually finding it very difficult to have much sympathy for any of the players in this whole tawdry affair – Wayne Bridge and Toni Terry included.  Does that seem harsh?  Maybe I should elaborate.

Let’s start with Bridge.  This is the man who was happy to allow John Terry to use his house for sex sessions with at least one of his ‘mistresses’, so that Toni wouldn’t find out what was happening.  He only cops a strop when the woman Terry decides to sleep with next time is his own girlfriend – up until that point, he apparently saw nothing wrong with Terry’s behaviour at all.  Three words, Wayne:  Pot.  Kettle.  Black.  Given this information, even the most charitable of souls would find it hard not to find Bridge’s behaviour hypocritical in the extreme.  A tip for next time:  If you are going to move hundreds of miles to another city, and you know your best mate can’t keep it in his trousers, you might want to take your lingerie model girlfriend with you, rather than leaving her living alone a few doors away from the aforementioned friend.  Talk about tempting fate.

Now for Toni Terry.  This is a woman whose 11-year relationship with the Chelsea and England captain has been defined by his many, many affairs (and one-night stands, and orgies…you get the picture).  Yes, they were childhood sweethearts, and I am sure that there is a big part of her that truly loves him, but come on.  How low does your self-esteem need to be – or how much do you need to love the money and the lifestyle that comes with being a Premier-league WAG – to put up with this kind of ritual humiliation?  There’s a vast difference between knowing that your husband has a penchant for sleeping with scantily-clad slappers, and thinking that he is a faithful, honest, reliable husband and father – and then discovering that he is, in fact…well…John Terry.  She is a very different kettle of fish from Elin Woods, for example, who I think truly was stunned to discover what her husband was capable of.  Toni, on the other hand, very definitely always knew what her husband was like.  She was cheated on regularly by him for eight years before they married.  Did she really, honestly think he was going to change just because he had a nice new bit of bling on his finger?

No, Toni Terry has been devastated because of the identity of the slapper.  Sorry, mistress.  Actually, no, I think I was right the first time.  It is Vanessa that Toni feels cheated by, because she saw her as a friend.  I doubt her husband’s infidelity was much of a surprise, but the fact that it was with a woman she trusted must have smarted.

So, just what is it that keeps these women – the Toni’s, Cheryl’s and Coleen’s – with their unfailingly unfaithful, multi-millionaire husbands?  Hmm.  I think we can all answer that fairly easily.  But I fail to see how being able to afford the latest Hermes bag can make up for the pain and humiliation that goes with being married to a man like John Terry.  And actually, turning a blind eye to these affairs in exchange for the status as a WAG makes these women no better than the common slappers throwing themselves at these footballers in the pubs and clubs they all seem to frequent.  The word prostitution may be harsh, but that doesn’t mean it is not accurate.

That many of these women are happy to bring children into this situation is even worse.  I wonder how many years’ of bullying and teasing John and Toni’s twins will have to endure once they are at school.  How will they feel, growing up to realise that Daddy doesn’t care enough about Mummy – or them – to give up his endless parade of cheap tarts?

Maybe it is just me.  Maybe my inability to feel sympathy for Toni Terry makes me a hard-nosed cow.  But I believe that sometimes, you need to look at what is really important in life.  Sometimes, you need to take a deep breath and walk away.  Sometimes, love isn’t enough.

Splish, Splash, Splosh!

February 3, 2010

This evening, Chipmunk went swimming with the disabled swimmers group for the first time.  (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can check the post here!).  Beforehand, he was nervous, jittery and anxious – pretty much as you’d expect.

And then, something happened.

We got into the water, and one of the male leaders came to talk to Chipmunk.  And Chipmunk responded.  The male leader got into the water, all the time talking gently to Chipmunk – who then allowed the leader to lay him on his back and support him, Chipmunk’s head on his shoulder, while he encouraged him to kick his legs.  He did this for two lengths of the (small) pool, before allowing Chipmunk to go back to walking up and down as his physio recommended.  He left to see to someone else, promising to return later.

A few minutes after this, the female leader came to see Chipmunk.  She brought a woggle* with her.  Within a couple of minutes, Chipmunk was off – first on his front, then on his back.  Using his arms and legs, with the woggle for support and the female leader by his side, but not touching him.

She then asked if he would be prepared to get his face wet.  This has always been Chipmunk’s biggest obstacle.  He will put his mouth in and blow bubbles, but the water goes no further than his top lip.  If you think he’s gonna get his nose wet, you’ve got another think coming!  So, what did he do when she asked him this?  Why, he scooped up a handful of water and threw it over his face, of course!  And then he did it again.  And again.  And again.  In fact, she had to give up on asking him the next question, because he was so enjoying soaking himself (and everyone else within five feet of him, including me!).  He was bouncing up and down, pouring water over his head, shouting:  “This is fun!” and giggling non-stop!  Then, she asked him to jump in.  He did…twice!

To say this was a different child would be the understatement of the decade!  He was loving it!  He was happy, and confident, and free.  He made good eye contact with both leaders when they spoke with him (apart from when he got a little carried away with the splashing!) and he enjoyed every second of it.  There were no demands, no unrealistic expectations, no pressure.  He could just revel in being in the water, with other people who are in similar situations to his.

We were in the pool for almost an hour, and Chipmunk did not want to get out at all.

The female leader knows Chipmunk’s teacher, and has promised faithfully to tell her how well he did tonight.  He even made a friend – a young adult with learning difficulties who took a shine to him.  They talked in the pool, in the changing room and on the way out.  They shook hands and agreed to see each other next week.

The effect this one swimming session has had on Chipmunk is astonishing.  And you know, I think this is going to work.  Roll on next week.

*Woggle:  An unsinkable piece of circular polystyrene, used as a flotation device when learning to swim.

Image Courtesy cproppe

The Nature of Friendship

February 2, 2010

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.

〜 Douglas Pagels

I have been pondering the nature of friendship lately.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason I have been thinking about it a lot, so I decided to blog it in the hope that maybe that would sort my ideas out a little!

Without friends, no-one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.

〜 Aristotle (384B.C. – 322B.C.)

The thing that I am pondering is this:  Are online friendships as valid as ‘real-life’ ones?  Can you ever really know someone if you have only ever met via a computer monitor?  Are virtual friendships real?

Friendship is the golden thread that ties the heart of all the world.

〜 John Evelyn

The answer to all the above questions, I have concluded, is yes.  Obviously I love and care about my real-life friends.  That goes without saying.  But I love and care about some of my online friends, too.  Some of the people that I have met through the wonders of the internet are as special to me as any friends that I have elsewhere.  Of course, you have to be more careful, more selective, when you can’t see the person on the other end of the conversation.  But, in my opinion, as long as you are fairly perceptive and keep your wits about you, there is no reason that real friendships cannot blossom online.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

〜 Albert Schweitzer

I know that there are people that I have never met face-to-face, that I would do absolutely anything for.  That I would lay myself on the line for.  That I would go to the ends of the Earth for if they were in trouble and needed me.  Yes, they are a select few of the many, many friends and acquaintances that I have made in my last few years online – but they are as real as either of the BFFs who live in my town.  And let’s face it:  How many of us have been hurt by real-life people that we have known for years, that we trusted, that we loved?  People are capable of hurting each other regardless of location or communication medium.  Often, I find it is those people that I have only ever talked to online, who are the first – or even the only ones – to offer congratulations or commiserations on life’s great events.  In fact, sometimes they are the only ones to do so…those that are close physically may not be the ones who are close emotionally.

One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.

〜 Euripides (408B.C.)

It is my belief that friendship can cross boundaries, countries and continents.  You can’t be friends with everyone, but when you find someone you really connect with, don’t dismiss them because they happen to be on the wrong end of a broadband connection.  All true friends, regardless of where they may be, should be celebrated, cherished and loved.

There is magic in long-distance friendships.  They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound.

〜 Diana Cortes

Image courtesy Patrick Q

Strange Snow and Accident Central

February 1, 2010

Today started off in a fairly normal way.  By normal, I mean normal for us, obviously.  Which is probably not normal by anybody else’s standards.  But I digress.  So, there we were – rushing around the house (to clarify:  I was rushing, Chipmunk was meandering slowly, being distracted by pretty much anything and generally driving my blood pressure even higher), getting everything ready for school, and heading for the car.  It was a cold day, necessitating de-frosting of the car, but nothing to write home about.  Or blog about.

The drive in to the village started off pretty normal, too.  The dual-carriageway was busy, but not hectic, as we had managed to leave in plenty of time.  The road into the village was busy, but moving steadily.  Everything was fine, in fact, until about halfway along that road – the only road through the village.  Then we reached the halfway point, and things started to get…well…weird.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, everything was covered in what looked like a heavy frost.  Literally, we went from nothing to having to drive really carefully.  A car had obviously had an accident at one of the chicanes in the road, designed as a traffic-calming measure.  (All it actually does is encourage people to speed up to see if they can get through before the car coming the other way reaches the chicane.  As it is sited on a bend, where the road starts to dip downhill, where there is a complete blind spot, they invariably do not make it!).  Anyway, past the point of the damaged car, the road became really slippery.  In fact, my anti-lock brakes locked up completely and I lost control of the steering.  Luckily we were only going about 5 miles an hour, so I was able to cruise until I got the power back!

This was not the strangest part of the school run.  We drove up the hill to the school, and the frost began to look like a light dusting of snow.  When we got out of the car and saw it properly, it became even odder.  The frost, or snow, or whatever-the-heck it was, looked like little balls of polystyrene.  Teeny-tiny, perfectly round balls of white powder.  It was truly bizarre.  Walking across the playground, the stuff was sparkling and shimmering silver-white in the sunlight.  It was beautiful, but somewhat unsettling in its almost ethereal nature.  I know I have never seen anything like it before.

Driving back home through the village, the traffic was at a standstill.  I realised that the police were parked behind the car from the earlier accident, as I could see the blue lights flashing from where I was at the bottom of the hill.  Then, I noticed that this wasn’t actually the cause of the hold-up.  Closer to me, a motorcycle had managed to collide with a bicycle.  I don’t think anyone was hurt, but some other drivers were helping the motorcyclist out of the road.  The police officer must have noticed what was going on, as he had to negotiate his way out from behind the accident-damaged car, down the hill to this new accident.

Once I was out of the village, I thought everything would be returning to normal.  Apparently not.  As I drove along the dual-carriageway towards home, I realised a sports car was in the ditch at the side of the road, brake lights still on, steaming gently.  There was another car and people there, so I decided it was safer to keep going than stop and add to the confusion, especially as it seemed everyone was safe – but what a surreal day!

And on the school run this afternoon?  Everything was dry and sunny.  All trace of the snow/frost/whatever had completely vanished, and all was once again right with the world.

I promise I didn’t imagine it!

Photo courtesy tuchodi