Prom 2017

Prom is upon us and once again the quest for a dress raises the stress levels of every girl around. Honestly I find the whole affair somewhat ridiculous. You have to find a dress, you can’t wear the one from last year, they are stupidly expensive and WTF guys get to rent theirs!

So we go shopping. My daughter is modest. She doesn’t like lots of skin showing so she wanted a long sleeved dress. HAHA! Everything we found was strapless or spaghetti strap. She tried some on then complained that she was naked! Then we found a two piece dress that had a long sleeved top but the skirt? It was poofy and barely came to mid-thigh! Who thought of that?

I told my daughter that if she loved the top then we could work around the skirt.

We went to JoAnn Fabrics and found a beautiful material that would match her top. We found a pattern and all the bits and bobs we needed to make it with.

Once home I sewed her the skirt that she wanted.

Long straight and with a split on the side.

She was very happy.

Not a traditional prom dress but she felt like a princess anyway.

Then came the hair problem. She went to the stylist to get it done up all pretty with a loose braid and all, but it didn’t last once she got home. It had to be redone. She she did it up the best she could and I fixed the rest. I’m no hairdresser but I think it turned out alright between the two of us.

Then the real fun began. She was going with group of friends and they all came to our house to take pictures together.

They have something here that is called the Grand March. I had never seen this until we moved here, but it’s kinda cool.  All the kids who are attending prom and their families, or really anyone who wants to, come to the high school auditorium. They announce each couple or group of friends and they parade across the stage showing off their dresses and tuxes. They often do some pretty goofy poses, like my daughter did. Then they crown the King and Queen and they have the royals’ dance. Then the kids go to prom and the parents go home. It’s kinda cool because everyone gets to see all the kids in their finery. 

So we got past another year. We spent less and laughed more. Prom was a success.

Writing Prompt: What’s up with your dad?

“What’s up with your dad?”

“Oh he’s just sick of people trying to kill him, mainly you.”

“I didn’t try to kill him!” Jonas practically screeched.

“Yeah, he said you’d say that.” I said without looking up from my game. I was nearing the end of the mission and I didn’t feel like starting over.

Jonas collapsed like the trade center onto the couch beside me smashing the remainder of chips in the Doritos bag and scattering  gummie worms onto the floor.Frowning I glanced down at my fallen snack then shrugged.

“I didn’t try to kill him,” Jonas repeated sullenly, “it just kinda happened. Hey! Get that guy!” he pointed to the screen excitedly.

I hate back seat gamers but Jonas was my best friend so I killed the enemy soldier anyway. “You always say things just kinda happened when usually its you being a dumb ass that causes it.”

“I wasn’t really being a dumbass,” Jonas picked up a gummie worm and inspected it for fuzz. “I didin’t mean to pull out in front that semi.”

I slid him a disbelieving look but he went on.

“It’s not like we were really in danger. Your dad has one of those teacher brake thingies on his side. He coulda used it.”

“Dude!” I dropped the controller into my lap and stared at Jonas. “Seriously, this is the third time you’ve taken drivers’ ed and you’ve nearly killed my dad every time!”

“Not every time!” Jonas whined. “That first time it was Julie’s fault!”

Best Big Sister Ever

Life with Autism isn’t easy and sometimes I think it is harder on the siblings than on the parents. Because the child with autism needs a lot more attention, siblings often feel like they are ignored or neglected.It’s never what we as parents intend, but it happens none the less.

As parents we love our children unconditionally, equally, and without bias. But enough time is always an issue when one child has to be watched more than the other. I am often put into a position where I have to choose. For example, volunteering at school during games and things to help raise funds for her Close-up trip. I want to be there and help out but I can’t be there for my daughter because I have no one to watch my son and it breaks my heart. Although she doesn’t resent the extra time her brother needs (well maybe a little) and she is fiercely protective of him, I know it still hurts her and she doesn’t deserve that.

That’s why I want to acknowledge her love and sacrifices.

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So let me say a little something about my daughter. She just turned 17 and is a junior in high school. Somehow even though I feel like I’ve failed her, I ended up with the best daughter in the world.  She’s intelligent and hard working, almost to a fault. She is driven and conscientious. She’s at the top of her class, straight A student, involved in more extra curricular activities than anyone should be, has a full time job as a barista, and still has time to be the best big sister ever.

She loves to take selfies with her brother.

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And even when she is pressed for time to get her homework done she takes the time to play with him and help him learn. This day was volleyball in the front yard.
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She makes it so easy for everyone to relate to her brother.  The other night at the volleyball game she took him down into the student section with her to help cheer our girls. At first a lot of her friends weren’t sure how to deal with him being there. She leads by example including him in everything just like any normal kid would be. Pretty soon the others were helping him cheer and doing high fives with him.

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 She is all that a sibling should be. Don’t get me wrong they still squabble like any normal siblings but she’s always there as an example, guardian, and guide to her little brother. I couldn’t ask for a better daughter or sister for my son. I am so proud of her.

Writing prompt: He never saw it coming.

He never saw it coming. He was too busy ordering more food. I did a double take then whipped around to see if anyone else had noticed.

No one else was watching either.

The man impatiently tapped his foot as he regarded the menu. The bored teen behind the counter waited staring blankly at him without actually seeing him. I glanced back down where the lizard had been. It wasn’t there. My eyes searched the tiles looking for the four legged intruder. The pattern of food particles and grease smears made perfect camouflage. Finally I spotted it. It was nearly under his heel.

I rose up half out of my seat without actually having a plan. If I yelled lizard would anyone listen? Or would they just toss me out thinking I was just another crazy kid out for attention. Better if I just sneak up on it.

I looked around again. Still no one was watching. Slowly I walked up to the counter acting like I was going to order something.  The little green reptile turned a buggy eye on me and flicked its tongue in challenge. I glared at it accepting.

For every step I took it waddle closer to the man. I was only about a foot away when it darted up the back of his pant leg. I gasped and froze waiting for the man to notice but he only shifted his weight and asked about the lettuce on the burgers. The lizard eyed me again and flicked his tongue taunting me with his latest victory. I sneered at it and stepped closer reaching my hand out, ready to grasp the scaly little beast.

Watching me it flicked its tongue and darted a little higher coming to rest on the man’s back pocket where his wallet bulged. I leaned forward ready to grab. Just as I tried to catch it, it darted up the man’s back and my hand landed on his pocket.

He whirled around and grabbed me by the shirt, “What the hell are you doing trying to do steal my wallet?”

I gaped unable to answer as the lizard appeared on top of his shoulder flicking its tongue at me again.

A Mother’s Letter to the Teachers in Crisis

“What are they gonna do, fire me?” This statement has been said thousands of times by countless people who are leaving their jobs, whether by their choice or because they were asked to go.

I know the sentiment. I understand the motivation behind saying it. When you are parting ways from a job that you hate or that hates you, you want some kind of control or outlet for your frustration and anger. I’ve said it myself a couple of times but that’s not important. What is the important thing is where and when you say it.

And that place is NOT in a school and NOT in front of students.

Our schools here in Conrad, MT are in a budget crisis. Money that should have been there in a flex fund is not available anymore and so the school district is trying to find ways to cut costs. This includes closing one of the buildings and combining the middle and high school, unfortunately it also includes staff cuts.

No one wants to lose their job and I believe that a teacher losing their job due to money is a crime against our civilization as a whole. For what will become of our society if our children get bargain basement educations. But it is not up to me and it is not up to our teachers. Budgets must be made and cuts will happen. What is important is how these cuts are handled. Unfortunately they are not being handled with dignity in many cases.

Some of the teachers whose contracts have not been renewed have stopped teaching. They come to class and tell the kids to do whatever they want. Projects go unfinished and grades no longer matter. Others are becoming irreverent and going off topic in class to the confusion and astonishment of the students. When they are called out on it by a student the response has become, “What are they gonna do, fire me?”

I understand their feelings. I have been in jobs where downsizing laid of many of the workers or the regime change in management made me lose my job. However, I still worked. I still did the best I could to accomplish my tasks until the very end. It has been all for the good. Yes it stressed me out but I maintained my work ethic and my reputation as a good and reliable worker allowing me to get other jobs in the future.

Their future employment possibilities aside, what about the example they are showing to the students? Instead of continuing to teach with dignity and grace and being the living breathing example of how to handle a bad situation, these teachers are showing the students that an F-U attitude is the way to go. Like little parrots the kids are going home and repeating, “What are they gonna do, fire me?”  Pretty soon they will be at work and when they have a rough time of it they will start doing a half-assed job and their response will be, “What are they gonna do, fire me?” And they will lose their jobs.

Most of the younger generation already doesn’t know how to handle adversity, now they are getting an up-close and personal view of how not to handle job loss with dignity. This could be a great teaching moment when the teacher says, “Yes, I’m losing my job and it sucks! But this happens sometimes in the real world and this is how you should handle it.” We could be really teaching our children one of life’s most important lessons right now, HOW TO PICK YOURSELF UP, DUST YOURSELF OFF AND KEEP GOING WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN.

Kids look up to teachers. They are some of the most influential people in their lives. We live the rest of our lives by what our teachers showed us when we were children. How many times have you looked back and thought about a teacher from your past and how that person changed your life. This is the moment that will change these students’ lives forever.

Please, I beg you, think of the lives you are influencing with your behavior right now.

First Car Accident

It’s a terrifying moment in every parents life. You answer the phone and it’s the shaking voice of your child saying, “Mom, I just hit a car.”

Immediately your imagination runs to the worst possible thoughts of crushed metal and broken, bleeding bodies. You mind jumps to planning how to get to the hospital or the jail.

From the moment that we let them sit behind the wheel of the car for the first time,  we know that one day it will happen. I know that I went through it, my husband went through it, my brother went through it. It is as inevitable as the sunset. It’s one of those life experiences that you can only learn from the hard way.

A few days ago, it was our turn.

It was icy and snowy. I had just said to my daughter as she left for work, “Be careful, it’s really slick out.”

Not more that five minutes later the phone was ringing. “Mom, I hit a car.”

She had turned into the parking lot near her work. She was only driving about two mph. A second car was coming in through the alley perpendicular to her. My daughter hit her brakes but she was on ice and she didn’t stop. The other car didn’t slow down either. They bumped.

Admittedly it was a very minor accident.

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This is the other person’s car.

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Really can’t see any damage.

The driver of the car got out and was screaming at her through the window threatening to call the police on her. My poor daughter was completely terrified. You have to understand my daughter is a very sensitive girl. She can’t stand it when people yell at her. She began to cry and called me.

I walked her through finding her registration and insurance paper work and told her to take pictures. Especially since the other people were being so frantic about what appeared to be nothing. The police showed up and calmed the other driver down then reassured my daughter that it wasn’t as bad a they were making it out to be.

There were no tickets and despite the ranting of the other driver, we have not as yet heard anything from our insurance. But the lesson that my daughter learned that day will stay with her forever. Even though she was scared to call me because she thought I was going to hate her for getting into a wreck and take away her driving privileges, she acted very responsibly. She handled the whole thing by herself only asking for advice on what to do because as she said, “They never told us in driver’s ed what to do if you’re in an accident.” I am very proud of her for handling the situation as well as she did even under threats from the other driver.

I’m just glad that she’s okay and safe. We’ve both had our firsts. Her first car accident and my first terrifying phone call. God willing this will be the only ones we ever have to have.

Conrad High School Ghost Out 2015

This is what it could look like if you were in a drunk driving accident.

*****WARNING****GRAPHIC PICTURES*****

Our Conrad High School Literary Arts class along with the Pondera Medical Center in cooperation with the Conrad Police, Fire and Rescue services put the fear of death into the kids in our town.

The Literary Arts class filmed a short video of a “typical drunken party” Sunday night. On Thursday the school held IMG_6370an assembly to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving. During this video they heard screams and a crash. The entire high school filed out to the old tennis court that sits behind the school to find this wreck.  They stared in silence at the scene where their bloodied friends lay in a crumple of metal. I have never seen a group so large be so quiet.

IMG_6386The scene continued as the driver awakened to find that he had crashed. He tired to wake up his friends some were unconscious some were shaken and injured but alright enough to walk. Two were dead.IMG_6384

One girl had been thrown from the back of the pick-up and was laying about
30 ft away from the wreck. Of the three girls left in the back of the pick-up two had minor wounds and the third was hurt pretty bad and nearly unconscious. The passenger of the pick-up was suffering from internal injuries that led to his death. The driver of the car was killed onimpact. His passenger was badly injured.

IMG_6387“What did you do! Were you drunk?”  The brother of the pick-up passenger raced out of the crowd and started yelling at the driver. He began to fight with the driver only to be stopped by the panicked shrieks from one of the girls that had been in the back of the pick-up.

Another vehicle came racing up. It was the other kids from the party. One called 911. They put it on speaker so that everyone could hear the conversation between the dispatcher and the girl who was nearly in hysterics. (It had been arranged with the 911 dispatch that this training call would take place. They treated it as if it were real.)

The sirens went off across town. Soon two ambulances, a fire truck and three police car came screeching up to the crash. They were quick to manage the scene. The IMG_6393witnesses and the other kids involved were separated out and the injured were lifted out and strapped to gurneys then wheeled away to be taken to the hospital. The Jaws of Life were used to pry the door off the car so they could reach the body of the boy in the car. The dead kids were covered with sheets. The police interviewed the witnesses and put the driver through a road side sobriety test. He was then handcuffed and led away.

The audience of high school students were still dead silent. There was no elbowing each other and joking. There was no whispering or looking at their phones. They just stared. I didn’t blame them. It was intense. I had helped set it up and when I saw them loading my  daughter (she’s the one on the tailgate) onto that gurney-my stomach clenched and tears burned behind my eyes. All I could see from where I was standing was her Converse tennis shoes hanging off the side of the tailgate surrounded by firemen and medics. That image out of everything we did that day was burned into my mind. It was so real. All I wanted to do was to run to the ambulance and be with her. It was not something that will be easily forgotten for any of the school.

IMG_6396The students were then ushered back into the school where they had set up a trial. Complete with Judge and Attorney. The driver of the pick-up escorted in by the police in full prison garb and was charged then sentenced. They followed the sentencing with a discussion about the laws and the repercussions of the choice to drink and drive.

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Then there was a funeral service for the three students that had died in the wreck. They read obituaries that has been written by their classmates.  The student then filed by a coffin containing a mirror so they could see themselves in the coffin and know that it could have been them. After that there was workshop about grief and regrets.

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They ended the day with an assembly with speakers telling about their experiences with drinking and driving. The Literary Arts class sat up on the stage and answered questions from the student body about their experiences during the project and what they learned. It was unanimous -the kids who had staged the accident for the school all agreed that they would never drink and drive. They were truly disturbed by what they had gone through even though it had all been fake.

My daughter said that she started to have a panic attack when they were strapping her to the gurney as she heard all the screaming and crying around her. Another student who had been filming the project said  that she had a moment where she realized that these were her friends and they were dead. She said she never ever ever wanted to see that in real life or feel that way again.

The next day the kids were talking about the Ghost Out on Yik Yak (a social media app where posts are anonymous). There were a lot of posts about kids wanting to make some changes. So I think that the project has had the desired reaction amongst the students.

All in all the day was horrifying and intense but it was an awesome day.

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The morning started out with two dozen donuts brought by yours truly.

They didn’t last long. Nothing combats nerves like food. Later two gigantic boxes of pizza turned up and a couple of trays of sub-sandwiches joined the group.

It was funny to watch them try and eat around the fake blood dripping from their faces. They were all good sports about it. Although one poor girl couldn’t stand the smell for the fake blood so we had to put some strong smelling chap stick under her nose.

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I had been asked to help out along with some of the other parents and teachers. I was one of the make-up artists who had bruised and bloodied all these kids up. I have a Theatre degree and have done a bit of make-up before but nothing on this scale. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to get some ideas. It was a learning experience for me as well as the kids.

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Fake scars and bruise make up were followed by red food dyed chocolate syrup blood making for some really gruesome wounds.IMG_6366

Some kids had issues with their glass shards falling out of their wounds and we had to reapply their wounds over and over again.

The death scenes were staged to be particularly shocking but were a little difficult because some local wasps decided they liked the smell of the fake blood.

By the end of the day, the kids had consumed a ton of pizza, sub-sandwiches and a lot of soda. They had been grossed out and shocked by their own reflections and they leaned a lot about making the right choices. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids.

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Only in Montana

The Seniors at the High School here in Conrad, MT get a little feisty every year toward the end of school. My daughter takes great pride in coming home and telling my what her friends have gotten up to. These pranks come in all sizes. Here is an example of just some of this years’. Covering the entire commons area floor with styrofoam cups of water so that you can’t walk through the school. Removing all the desks and chairs from classrooms and stacking them on the lawn or on the stairs. Camping on the grass. Plastic wrapping a students car that parked in the Senior parking. Writing physics equations all over the math teachers car. Rearranging all the contents of every locker in the school so no one could find their belongings. Turning all the posters in the English room upside down. You know harmless fun things.

But the best one came with Ride Your Horse to School Day. Apparently back on the books there is a law that says that the Principal must water and care for the students horses all day while the students were in school. So…..

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So you want to commit suicide?

There seems to be a craze going around lately. It’s like a fad diet and just about as useful. All the kids today seem to think that committing suicide is the answer to all the trivial little hurts they receive.

Well I say, “How dare you!”

So what if your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you? So what if you got a bad grade on a test? These are the things you want to die over? Seriously? Of all the selfish, petty and ridiculously over-reactive things!

I realize that in all thing there is a relativity. It may seem like an incident is the most devastating of your young life but really…Your life is not that bad! There are people out there that far worse off and they DON’T WANT TO DIE!

Kids your age that are living in war zones getting bombed everyday are desperate to live and their lives are a lot crappier than your! Or how about the teenage girl who found out that she has cancer so bad that she had to have a limb amputated and lost all her hair from chemotherapy, she is fighting every day to live as long as she can. Or maybe it’s the soldier who is under constant mental and physical attack never knowing if the next step they take will land on a bomb that will kill them and all their friends. They still get up every day and fight to live.

How dare you threaten to destroy your life when tomorrow may be the best day of your life? How will you ever meet that Rock Star of your dreams? If you are dead then you’ll never see the next episode of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or whatever your favorite show might be. You’ll never see your sports team win the championship.
There are so many things to live for. Just look around at the beauty of the world and all the wondrous things you haven’t tried or seen yet. If you commit suicide you’ll never get to travel and meet the thousands of people who will affect your life for better or for worse. How will you learn?

Not just that, how can you be so selfish as to put your family through that! Do you really want you little brother or sister to come in and find your lifeless body? Do you really want your family to have to live with the pain and anguish that your death will bring? Your parents who tucked you in at night and kissed your owies and held you when you were scared and had nightmares, is this how you would repay their love?

What of your friends? Should they have to go through pain of losing you and finally be brought to the point you are in now? Do you want them to feel like that? Do you want to be responsible for their anguish or even death?

I understand that there are people who believe that suicide is their only option, but it is not! If you feel like this GET SOME HELP! TALK TO SOMEONE! CALL A HOTLINE! Suicide is a problem that perpetuates itself. It’s a virus, infecting others with soul pain.
IS that what you want to do with your life?

How dare you!

Like a freezer

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So my daughter says to me, “Mom, my life is like a freezer, cold and steamy.”

I said, “Really? You mean it is full of everything you want?”

She thought about it and restated, “Mom, freezers are like housewives.”

“Um, are you calling me frigid?” I asked.

“NO! I meant hard working and under appreciated!”

“I love you too, sweetie.”