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Blog: Ruminations about virtual PE class

Amy Camenzind is a mom of three kids, and her youngest son will do entirely virtual learning this school year.

COLORADO, USA — Editor's note: Amy is a parent who will be blogging about this upcoming school year for Mile High Mornings. Scroll to the bottom for her full bio. 

1/13/20

This semester, one of my son’s electives is fitness. If you knew my son, you would laugh. Fitness is about the last thing on his mind. By his admission, he is not particularly coordinated and has little desire to do physical activity. Online P.E. is going to be 10 shades of special. My original thought was: how on earth was he going to do the required amount of exercise every week?

During his online orientation session, the teacher had the kids get up every few minutes to exercise for a few seconds. My son stared at the screen. When the other kids were doing jumping jacks, he was waving his arms up and down. He looked a bit frantic, but hey, at least he was moving. I was in the background drinking my cappuccino and watching the fun.

If you knew me, you would know that he is my son. The word “exercise” has me running for the hills. OK, maybe not running for the hills. I will get into my car and drive for the hills.  Exercise… pffft. To me, the word “fitness” means I can fitness cookie into my mouth. Whenever my husband asks to go on a walk, I tell him to stop threatening me.

There is also nothing that I will not do for my children. So, with that in mind, I did the unthinkable. I told my son that either his dad (who does exercise) or I would do it with him so he wouldn’t have to do it alone. Exercise… pffft.

We were trying to do exercise games online last night, but the power source was out. I took that as a sign and was ready to take my rightful place on the couch. Then I remembered I was trying to be a role model. Well, I am sorry, but I was a role model who was wearing pajamas, so it is not like I would take a stroll in the neighborhood. We improvised. I put on a T.V. show, and my son and I were marching in place (get those knees up more, kid) while we watched T.V.  That lasted 10 minutes. Do not knock it. It is a start.

I am trying to focus on the fun (smirk) aspect of what we are doing. If we are having fun, then we almost forget we are exercising. I tend to say inappropriate things that have us both laughing, so it is all good.

Yes, I know that there are countless physical activities that we could do together. We do a lot together. It is just never going to be a marathon. Ever.

When asked about our successes and struggles this online year, this will fall into the struggle area. However, I am happy and in shape. Round is a shape.

Bring it on!

1/5/20

My family committed to online schooling for the 20-21 school year. My son has disabilities that require him to have instructional support. I have been providing the support since August with very few hiccups ... until now.

I am blessed to feel pretty good physically. However, right now, to quote my mother, “I feel like hammered dookie.” The issues that led up to my surgery last week were not fun. However, I did not know how awful I was going to feel afterward. 

“Gee, after I have major surgery and my son still needs help, this is what I will do?" I thought to myself. 

Give me a break (insert eye roll here). 

Thanks to the benefit of pain medication, it has not been too bad so far. However, I did not want my son receiving instructional support from a woman on pain meds, so I gave those up a couple of days ago. Advil and Tylenol reign supreme in my home at this time.

This week my son is starting the third quarter. I am thankful that this school week is only three days and that my son can get extra time to complete his work if he needs to. Unfortunately, when I am not feeling well, there is no substitute teacher. I have to suck it up. It is a pretty bad idea to have my husband miss work unless it is mandatory.  Thank you, honey, for taking care of our family.

To begin with, I have to acknowledge my friend, Michelle. She has medical issues, and even though she feels punky on most days, she has checked in with me several times since my surgery to make sure I am doing OK and make sure I am resting. Thank you, my dear friend. Your support means more to me than you will ever know.

With that in mind, my son knows we will be taking the scenic route in the next few weeks. His dad still has to work, so it is just my son and me. OK, technically, it is me, my son, and several pets. In regards to my son’s education this year, the buck stops with me. So, with that in mind, as a parent, I will power through the pain, the stitches, the fatigue and the brain fog. My mother did not raise a pansy.

The list of mandatory things to get through the next few weeks is pretty short. The top item is getting rest. Without enough rest, I will be ill-equipped to handle everything else. Knowing that money is an excellent motivator, my son’s allowance has received some bonus money. The drawback of that is that he gets up much more frequently to help with the chores that I cannot do right now. He has done well in that area. He hates doing the laundry, so I make sure that he gets that chore regularly. There are always pet chores (dogs, guinea pigs, fish, snails, turtle, chameleon, ball python), which keep us busy.

Can I sit up? Yes, but not for long. I have already told my son that his lessons might take longer than expected to complete, but he usually has them done before the due date, so I am not concerned about this. He also has a rock star case manager at his online school, so if push comes to shove, we can ask her for advice on what to do.  This post-surgical time of the school year is one of those speed bumps in life that are not a lot of fun. However, I know we will look back on this time, along with other things, and know we made it through this together.

Bring it on!

12/29/20

Patty Hearst, Elvis Presley, Jonestown Guyana, John Lennon, Titanic wreck located, Challenger explosion, Sandra Day O’Connor, O.J. Simpson, Princess Diana, Columbine, 9/11, COVID-19.

No, these are not lyrics for a Billy Joel song. These were some of the many major news events in my lifetime. When the event is happening, you cannot seem to escape it no matter where you turn. Eventually, the story that grips so many people becomes a bit of a distant memory, ultimately becoming a section in history books.

COVID-19, you can leave anytime you want to. Do not let the gate hit you on your way out.

No matter what your feelings are on COVID-19, you cannot deny that it has changed our world. Eventually, I will look back at this time and realize that this was when some fundamental changes occurred.

I look at the life events listed above, and the visual I get is that of quilt squares. Each “square” has a story to tell. If you look at each event as a separate thing, there does not appear to be any rhyme or reason. However, once those “squares” are sewn together as part of a person’s life, then you realize that you have stories to tell. It is through sharing our stories that the quilt gets more colorful.

My son is just beginning his life quilt, so the first “square” is COVID-19. I sure hope I’m around for a long time so I can hear everything that will shape his world.

Hello, 2021! Bring it on!

12/23/20

School is now on Christmas break. You would think that no school until January 6th means that my family would have time on our hands. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now, I have time to deal with the stuff that I have been avoiding since school started in August.

It is not very eloquent but “Embrace the suck” sums up 2020 in three words. A year ago, I never would have thought that 2020 would have the trajectory that it did. I cannot even tell you how many times I have told my son to “buck up” and deal with it.  He does not complain much anymore. Probably because he knows for every complaint, I make him say three positive things. For a teenager, that gets old very quickly. At this point, he hides in another living room playing his VR headset. Smart move, kid.

As I said, many things are going on right now. Some positive, and others not so much. If we do something to make our life lighter then the heavier things to deal with are not so bad.  The stay-at-home activity last night was the guinea pig fashion extravaganza.

Credit: Amy Camenzind

Butter Bear is four years old and shares a cage with his son, Mushroom. His extra-curricular activities include trying to beat up his son, eating as much timothy hay as he can stuff into his mouth, and long moonlit walks in his cage. During the holiday season, red velvet is in style, and Butter Bear has his suit paired with a faux fur-trimmed Santa hat to add a punch of color. Thank you for starting and ending the show Butter Bear. Nice job!

The guinea pigs will not be obligated to do another fashion extravaganza until Easter. My son thinks it is funny when we take pictures in their costumes. Yes, that is plural. They have several outfits.  Like I have already said, we do things to make life enjoyable. If a five minute activity makes us giggle, then I am all for it. Our animals are funny to us. We have several, so there is always new material.

To my friends who are not animal people, then I would still say to find something every day to make you smile. Remember to keep a sense of perspective. Was your entire day terrible, or was it just that 10 minutes? In any (yes, any) situation, you can always find the good. Sometimes it takes more time to see it, but it is there if you look long enough. Lastly, nothing (good or bad) lasts forever, so appreciate each moment given to you.

Merry Christmas, and bring it on!

12/14/20

Test anxiety runs rampant in my home. I have never had it, but my son does. Thanks to his disabilities, my son could be the test anxiety poster child. 

Please ignore the fact that he has excellent grades this school year. Last year when he was doing school in person, his grades were not as good, and he was nervous about taking tests. I stupidly thought that he would not have the same anxiety once he started taking tests at home. Boy, was I ever wrong. 

Initially, I was trying to reason with him about why he does not have to be nervous. That lasted about 30 seconds. Then I realized that he was going to be worried no matter what. At that point, my energy focused on helping him manage his anxiety instead of explaining why it should not be there. We are not looking to make test anxiety go away. We want to manage it. It is a lot less stressful now.

My son finished quarter two finals this week. As I expected, he did very well. He also had pre-test anxiety. After learning a few things from the first quarter, I changed how I provided support to him. Stress manifests itself differently in each person. For my son, it is hard for him to concentrate on a simple task. He can also get a headache, stomachache, get frustrated quickly or have negative thinking. Some people might call it “irritable.” I call it “teen ‘tude.”  It’s usually prudent to give him a lot of “me time” before taking a significant test.

Once we get to the point where he has to take tests, our routine is pretty similar each time.

  • A little stress is OK. That is your brain telling you that this is important. I am happy that doing well is important to you. I am proud of you.
  • You still need to eat regular meals and not skip them. Your body will thank you for giving it the fuel it needs to perform well. I am proud of you for taking care of yourself.
  • I know you usually feel less stressed when you are well prepared. We will review all of your subjects and make sure that you feel confident in each one. Thank you for trying so hard. I am proud of you.
  • “Stinkin’ thinkin’ is not allowed. If your brain tells you negative things about yourself, I want you to ignore it and replace it with a positive message. I am proud of you for knowing you are worth it.
  • Thank you for turning off all electronics when you study. That shows that you are focusing on the task at hand. I am proud of you for prioritizing your learning.
  • Mistakes are completely OK. It reminds you that you are human, and we all make mistakes. I am proud of you for acknowledging that and moving on.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help if your anxiety gets to a point where you need help managing it. We all need help from time to time. I am proud of you for reaching out.
  • OK, so you are about to take the test. What do you need to do before you start? Correct, you need to take a few deep breaths.

Breathe in, breathe out, and bring it on!

12/9/20

I have said this before, but 940 is a small number. That is the number of Saturdays between a child’s birth and the day they turn 18. Time goes too quickly.

I am pretty sure I was just pregnant.  What do you mean my last child is now a teenager? I need to and want to engage with him as much as possible.

Years ago, I held my son, and he sat on my lap for the last time, but neither one of us knew it. This past summer, he stopped holding my hand in public. Almost always, he was the one who initiated the contact, but he stopped because it ruined his cool to hold mom’s hand. 

I reached out the first few times, but he magically (wink wink) did not see the middle-aged hand reaching for him and kept walking. Was there a lump in my throat? Absolutely.

While my son is becoming more comfortable branching out on his own, my husband and I still have time left. How do I know? Social studies this week clued me in that we are still important.

We had to do some background work to prepare for a lesson on engaging with other people. One of the videos that we watched was an online interview with parents and children. The participants all received the same question.

First, the parents were interviewed, and the children were in another room. The children did not hear the question at the time. Then the children were asked the same question with the parents listening on a live feed. The question was, “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?” The parents’ answers were interesting. 

Most of them chose celebrities. I am trying to forgive the mother who said Justin Bieber. I doubt I could even go through a drive-through restaurant with him. I digress, so back to the question. 

One of the men said he couldn’t think of anyone. I was trying to guess who I would pick. My choice was Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi and Barry Manilow. I realize that sounds like a bad country song, but it’s my dinner, and those would have been my people.

Then the children were asked the same question. Every one of them said, “Mom and dad.” The parents were shocked at their children’s choices. Most of the moms (including me) were getting teary. The children were talking about what they discuss at dinner and how much it means to them.  What is it that makes eating a meal with others so special? As a parent, I am doing my job when we engage in small talk at mealtimes. In retrospect, I will realize that the little things were the big things and that those 940 Saturdays will be a memory.  For now, it is enough to know that my husband and I are still our son’s chosen guests.

We talk with our son frequently and ask him open-ended questions. He loves it when we engage with him. We get down (not to Funkytown, but on the floor) and play with him. We sing silly songs. We dance like no one is watching (even when they are). We play games. Most importantly, we let him know he matters.

Our son will eventually branch out on his own, but he will come back home (to eat a meal and do laundry). He is not meant to walk in our shadow but to forge his path in life. As his parents, we will always be here for him.

Bring it on!

12/7/20

At the beginning of every year, I tend to have grand and glorious plans on how the year will be. Sure, 2020 was going to be a great year! It was a new year and decade. I can do this!

That is when COVID-19 said, "Hold my beer." This year has been a "head-spinning-what-is-going-on?" year starting in March.

I would never have thought that my son's last day as a full-time in-person student would be March 12. Yes, he has excelled at online learning, and for that, our family is thankful. No, I would not have thought that I would have only worked one day at my paid job since March. Yes, I said one day. Right now, with remote learning, there is not much need for our school district to need me. It is all good. Until I go back to work, my son gets 1:1 para support, which benefits him and frees up school staff for other kids who need help.

I would not have thought that our holiday decorating would include my son's at-home school area. It is quite nice not having to put generic holiday decorations up. We decorate with Christmas specific items. To each his own, and I would say celebrate the season as you choose to. However, we celebrate Christmas and decorate for that holiday.

We still have holiday plans, even if they are socially-distanced or remote. We love to see the Parade of Lights. It is a holiday tradition to go downtown and have so much fun while watching the parade go down the street. Who cares that you're one step away from hypothermia? Parade of Lights in July would be more comfortable, but that does not have quite the same ring to it. This year, like a lot of things, it will look different. I am glad that a holiday tradition is going to happen. I guess if I want to be cold, I can stand outside while watching it on my television. However, sitting inside with my family, covered in blankets and eating holiday snacks is probably the way to go.

I would not have thought that we would have to remove almost all of our social activities from our "fun activity" list. For the holiday season, it is mostly outdoor and socially distanced activities. We have already been to Zoo Lights and will see the lights at the Botanic Gardens and Chatfield later this month.

We attend church online now. They do meet in person, but we still choose to attend online and will do so on Christmas Eve. It is not quite the same, but we, the people, are the church and not the building in which we meet. We hope to see everyone in person soon enough.

Hopefully, COVID-19 will soon be in our lives' background and not the threat that it is now. Until that time comes, my family's contribution is to keep doing what we have been doing and have faith that better days lie ahead.

Bring it on!

11/25/20

Thankful. That is a word that our family practices every day.  It is not something that we do just one day a year. This year, our Thanksgiving feels a bit like Groundhog Day. It is the same day that we have had every day for nine months now. 

Good thing we still like each other.

First and foremost, I am thankful to live in a country where I am free to practice the religion of choice, though my preference is not to identify as Christian per se but “Follower of Jesus”. We are teaching our son to follow that path in life. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do so.

I am thankful for COVID-19. No, that is not a typo. I said COVID-19. My family and I still like spending time together and truthfully have enjoyed this extra time.

This brings me to the next area of thankfulness ... 

Without the love, support, friendship and partnership of my husband, this year at home with our son would not be possible. He is an essential healthcare worker and is on the frontline of the pandemic.  He is fatigued but does not complain. 

Our medical community is battle-weary and could use our help. The biggest thing any of us can do is wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.  It is an easy way to let others know we care.

I am also loving the online learning that my son has been able to do this school year.  Yes, he would prefer to be going to school in person but he has adapted well to this setting and his grades have never been this good.

I am thankful for my youngest son and his disabilities.  The disabilities do not define him but enhance the great young man that he is becoming. His birthday is this Saturday and we will have our last teenager living at home. We are having hot fudge sundaes for breakfast, pizza for lunch, steak for dinner (grilled courtesy of his dad) and a trip to Zoo Lights. Not exactly the day that we might have planned pre-COVID-19 but I think it will be fun.

This week was an off week for school.  My son was current on all of his work so there is nothing for him to do until school begins again next week. Until then, we will relax, spend more time together, play games, watch tv and appreciate the world that we live in.

Bring it on…but wear a mask!

11/20/20

The word “homeostasis”  has been used frequently in my house for the past couple of weeks. It has been a decade or two (OK, maybe several) since I have studied that, but it does come back quickly. I need it to because my son was struggling with the current science unit, and he needed help.

He is completing a unit on homeostasis. He has completed more than one assignment and project on it and still struggled with the meaning and the application. When I assist him with school work, his needs are centered around needing to have things re-worded to understand the subject matter. The most recent conversation went something like this:

“OK, so why don’t we go over homeostasis again. Can you explain what it is?”

“Kinda."

“Humor me. Give it a shot.”

“I think it is when your body is reacting to things. Is that it?”

“Kinda. Let me explain it again. Your body keeps a stable environment internally despite what is happening on the outside. Does that make sense?”

“I think so.”

“Why don’t we try it another way. Charlotte (his ball python) and Max (his veiled chameleon) are cold-blooded. They cannot control their body temperature. They will get cold and become sluggish. They rely on what?”

 “The light bulbs above their cages?”

“Good. The reptiles need us to provide their heat to stay at a comfortable temperature. However, you are warm-blooded. What does that mean?”

 “I stay warm?”

“Close. Your body can maintain its internal temperature despite the surroundings. When it is cold, you get goosebumps and shiver. Your body is trying to keep warm. What happens when you are too hot?”

“I sweat.”

“Now you’re getting it. Your body is trying to cool itself down to keep that same internal temperature.”

“Mom, except in your case, it’s homeo-hot flash. Do you need to listen to that song Heatwave again?”

“No, I am good on Martha and the Vandellas but thank you for asking. Yeah, you get it. School is now done for today.”

That is one of the advantages of online learning. When either my son or I need a break, we take it. At this point, we are getting close to the middle of the school year. He has six synchronous classes each week. He has yet to miss any synchronous classes. Other than that, he can schedule his day around what we have going on. And when I say “what we have going on,” what I mean is how high on the “you are driving me nuts” scale he is and how long of a coffee break for me or an autism break for him that we need. The work all gets done before the deadline.

I never knew a hot flash could inspire someone. I guess all of the pets and people in our home are maintaining homeostasis. My son’s science teacher would be proud that my son now remembers the definition of the word.

Bring it on!

11/12/20

My son is doing assignments this week in honor of Veteran's Day. The teachers have put effort into the assignments, and it shows. They are trying to have the children acknowledge the service of our military members. However, when kids are in an online-only environment, it is not easy to do. It is not quite the same at home. You do an assignment and you submit it.

In the past, we have been a part of military events at school. We have heard veterans speak, waved flags and sang as they marched around the school. We have had special breakfasts with veterans and watched inspiring presentations. We have had the opportunity to express our gratitude in person for their service and commitment.

The presentations and activities at school are lovely, but every day is Veterans Day for our family. We hold our veterans in the highest esteem. These are individuals who were willing to give or gave all for our freedoms. We remember their sacrifice and selfless service.

Our veterans are unique people, each with different circumstances and each with many stories to tell. I stopped saying, "Thank you for your service" a while back. It seems a bit trite. There are so many inspiring and yet heart wrenching stories. These individuals are true heroes.

There are so many additional ways that we can express our appreciation. I choose to acknowledge our veterans by volunteering with a local veterans organization. My son frequently shadows me when I volunteer, so he sees what I do and how my spoke in the wheel is our family showing gratitude and contributing to a worthwhile cause.

My father was a very proud Marine. After he passed in 2017, the Honor Bell Foundation acknowledged his service by tolling the bell at his memorial service. I read about their backstory and wanted to become more involved with their mission. I have volunteered with them (along with my son) for almost three years now. I could not imagine working alongside a better group of people.

Volunteering is what works for my family and me. There are so many deserving organizations in the Denver area that could use help. You don't need to be a veteran to volunteer. Many agencies would appreciate your time.

To our nation's veterans: Thank you for your courage so that my family may enjoy our freedom. We owe you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid in full, so I do what I think is the next best thing; I pay it forward as best I can.

Bring it on!

Credit: Amy Camenzind

11/9/20

It costs you nothing to be kind.

I roll my eyes thinking about election coverage this week. For me, it is not about who I voted for (no comment) or the ballot measures that I did or did not support (again, no comment). It is not about who will next occupy the Oval Office or what I will now pay in new taxes.

For me, the thing that has me rolling my eyes is that common decency seems to have left our society. My son is doing online learning this year. My husband and I are not sad about it.  Truthfully, it is not COVID-19 that concerns me as much as society's insidious influence on today's children. They see what is happening and the adult reactions to election results.

My son has had class topics and assignments this week relating to the election process in our country. The assignments are exciting, and he understands the subject and how to apply them. The issue lies when I dare to turn on the news. Every day there have been stories about unrest if some individuals do not get their way. Is that really what we want to teach our children? "Get your way or pitch a fit." I am pretty sure that mindset should have been left behind when we stopped wearing diapers. Do I agree with all of the election issues this week? No, however, I wore my big girl pants and got over it.

When my son was young, we did not watch the news because there is evil in this world that he did not need to see. He is on the cusp of being a teenager so he watches it with us and has some excellent insight.  His thoughts usually end with, "Jesus can come back anytime now. This world is a mess." I agree, kid.

I received the world from my parents, and I am leaving it to the generations that come after me. I want to leave it in as good of a shape as I can. By that, I mean that I try to be a good steward of the resources and to impart any wisdom learned upon the way. One of the wisest things anyone has ever said to me was, "It costs you nothing to be kind." I do not have to compromise my beliefs to be kind. It is perfectly acceptable to "agree to disagree." Far too many people have the mentality of "My way or the highway." When confronted with those individuals, not only do I take the highway, I drive fast in the express lane. Get me out of there.

Bring it on…but be nice!

10/30/20

October is one of the months in 2020 where I want to give COVID-19 a big high five ... not.

My eyes roll every time someone calls Halloween a holiday. It is not a holiday in our house in the sense that it is something we "celebrate." However, if “holiday” means to buy and eat more candy than you eat the rest of the year, yes, I guess we celebrate the day.

My son is 12, and yes, he still loves trick or treating. Due to his autism and a lack of safety skills, he still gets a parental escort when he goes out. Do I care that he is taller than some of the adults handing him the candy? Nope.

However, it is not just the actual day and the trick or treating. It is the fun school-related activities that he has done over the years. Even though there are clear boundaries that his school district allows regarding “holidays,” teachers go out of their way to make sure the kids have some fun.

We wanted to have fun at home too. COVID-19 doesn’t get to take that from us. 

This year, his school area at home has decorations for Halloween, including lights, cobwebs, pumpkins, and a zombie gnome placed in a different spot every day.  It is probably not very nice of me to tell him, “you need to have good behavior.  Zombie gnome gets mad and starts walking around, thinking of what impish things he could do.” My son is 99% sure I am yanking his chain. However, there is that 1% that isn’t so sure. I call it “maternal behavior modification.”

We have filled the candy bowl several times since we put out decorations about a month ago.  When I say candy bowl, I should probably be more clear. This bowl is ginormous. We eat it during breaks at school. Like I tell my son “Moving calories don’t count. Walk up and down the hall kid, it burns it off.”

Trick or treating makes me a bit sad this year.  As a family, we play things conservatively. No, we do not live in fear. We live in reality. What that means is we told our son about two months ago that his beloved trick or treating will not be happening this year. It is just too dicey at this time.

He was concerned that he would not have a fun day, but I know him well, so we will “embrace the suck.” Our COVID-19 friendly activities this Halloween will begin by watching a scary movie. My son is still scared of horror movies, but he likes them. We solve that by playing them in the morning, sitting on the couch with mom and dad, and sunshine streaming in the windows. We are going to carve pumpkins, make and decorate cookies, and have a pumpkin-shaped pizza. No judging. It works for us.

Hopefully, 2021 will have a bit more sunshine than this year did.  Hopefully, my son will still like trick or treating because, truthfully, I always have fun taking him. Hopefully, I will lose that candy trough, because you know what? Moving calories do count. When people talk about being in shape, I admit I am in shape too. The shape is round.

Dear COVID-19, this too shall pass. Until then, I am thankful for a decorated house, healthy family, and a year with my son that will forever be memorable for both of us.

Bring it on!

10/22/20

We started back from fall break this week. Initially, my son was complaining about going back to school. My nurturing words to him were, “Dude, buck up. Your school is literally 15 feet away from your breakfast table. I am having a hard time feeling too bad for you.”

However, being entirely truthful, I know the reason that he does not want to go back to school: it is that synchronous learning has entered his life again.

I am not on camera during my son’s online class time, but I am always listening to what is going on. I am looking at the screen with my son, but I am also struggling to focus on what the teacher says. The problem with synchronous learning is it is primarily passive learning, and it is boring. I feel sorry for the teachers. They are really trying but there’s something that gets lost from teaching live and in person versus synchronous classes.

It cracks me up because I am looking at what the other kids are doing every class time. Why do I do that? Because I am bored and I am looking to see if the other kids have the same lack of attention that my child does. Frequently they do. Remember the introduction to the Brady Bunch? The cast is against a blue screen, and they are all staring in various directions. It is supposed to be that they are looking at each other. Personally, I think they were in a synchronous learning session. The kids in classes today have the same look. Occasionally, they look at the camera, but they are looking anywhere but the screen for the most part. It always makes me laugh. I have found that giggling keeps me awake.

There really is not much that can be done to make the synchronous time more enjoyable. First, give active listening a try. It might actually be interesting. However, if it is more than you can handle, there are ways around it. With that in mind, I have given my son my top 10 hints on how to look like you’re paying attention online when your mind is a million miles away.

  1. Have your camera on. If it is off, it is a dead giveaway that you are not really focusing on the class. Occasionally the teacher requests you to turn off your camera.  In that case it is a bonus!
  2. Ditch the face filters. Again, you want to look serious.
  3. Sit up in a chair. Laying on the couch or a bed says “zzzzzzzz.”
  4. You want to look at the camera frequently, but you don’t want to give the googly-eyed stare. That is just creepy.
  5. Nod occasionally. It is a subtle way to demonstrate understanding.
  6. Keep a relaxed posture. Sitting there and crossing your arms makes you look insecure or cranky.
  7. If you do not need to take notes, then look like you’re doing it anyway. Make a Christmas list. Write a letter. Count the number of times that one loud kid interrupts the teacher. The possibilities are endless.
  8. I love our pets, and we have a lot. However, none of them will be in my son’s lap during class time. Your classmates do not want to see your pets. No one loves Fluffy as much as you do.
  9. Keep. Your. Fingers. Out. Of. Any. Facial. Orifice.
  10. If you’re brave enough to ask a question in front of dozens of classmates, go for it. Then you are free to let your mind wander. Again.

My child has had a quarter to fine-tune these, so he is pretty good at it. I am not suggesting that this works for everyone, but it does work for us. He is completely rocking the online learning experience and received all A’s on his report card for the first quarter. He will never be an excellent passive learner, so this is just temporary until COVID-19 wants to go away. 

Until then, bring it on!

10/15/20

My son is on fall break this week. However, any parent of a differently-abled individual will tell you that there is no break. I have three children, two of whom have autism. Parenting special needs children has been my life for so long that I genuinely wouldn’t know what to do with a break, even if it were possible. 

In our home, autism reigns supreme, and “normal” is just a setting on the dryer.

Our oldest son lives on his own.  Our youngest child benefits from having his schedule remain the same, even on non-school days. It has been like that for years. It is comforting to him to know what comes next. He needs structure, relaxing activities and time to prepare for any transition.

I have explained to both of my boys that with autism that I can’t enter into their world. They have to come to mine. I can read about and study autism, or I can talk to an individual that has autism. However, that is as far as I can go. I have asked both of my boys what autism is like for them. I always explain that I can read about it, but I want to hear it from them what it feels like in their heads. 

My oldest son says he understands what people say to him, but once the words are in his head, he gets confused and cannot process what someone has said. My youngest says that it is hard to explain what it is like for him. However, he did say that if he could go back in time and talk to his younger self, he would warn himself that he would be diagnosed with autism. 

When I asked why he would warn himself, he said that his self-esteem is low and that autism makes it “one more thing” to be self-conscious about himself.

My husband and I advocate for our youngest son, but we are also teaching him to advocate for himself. To advocate, we have to know him. These are some of the many things that we have learned from our son over the years.

  • Flexibility: In our home, we “go with the flow.” Flexibility is key to a calm atmosphere.
  • Simplicity: We do not, I repeat, do not give multi-step directions. Our son gets lost, we get frustrated, he gets even more frustrated, and we have to start all over again. One step at a time is critical.
  • Patience: We try to be very patient with our son. He is doing the best he can. Do I have to tell my him to shut the car door for the millionth time? Why, yes, I do. Today it will be a million and one. Just roll with it.
  • Touch: Our son typically does not like to be touched. As mom and dad, we get to hug him as long as it is in private. Heaven forbid, we hug him in front of others. That totally ruins his cool. A good hug at the right time does wonders.
  • Frustration: Our son does not like to be interrupted. Another person might view it as a back-and-forth conversation; but he views it as an interruption, which is frustrating. If he is upset and going on about something, it is best just to let him finish. He tends to de-escalate quickly after that.
  • Feelings: Our son needs help identifying and dealing with his emotions. When he is overwhelmed, he does not always know what the emotion is. We ask him open-ended questions that help determine what he is feeling and what he can do to calm his body.
  • Social: Our son wants and needs help with social behaviors. He knows he is “different” from his peers, but he does not always understand socially-acceptable behavior. The behaviors are a huge one for the teenage years. He wants to fit in.
  • Let It Go: Our son has heard repeatedly from me, “New day, clean slate.” Good or bad, yesterday is gone. Today is a moment that will never happen again. We learn from our mistakes and plan for a better tomorrow.

We go back to school (online this year) next week. My son is trying to embrace his autism combined with the struggles and successes of online learning.

My family is looking forward to another successful quarter. 

Bring it on!

10/8/20

Housework makes you ugly.

I’ve seen the phrase “Housework makes you ugly” many times. If that’s the truth, then I’m currently the most beautiful woman ever. My house used to be a bit (ok a lot) less cluttered. Does it drive me nuts that I have an ever-growing list of to-do items? Absolutely.

However, my work is essential and takes precedent over anything else. My work comes in the form of raising a “soon-to-be teenager.” I have not been shy about telling people that my son is my primary ministry.  I was destined to be his mom, so I take that job seriously.  The laundry can come later.

We just finished the first quarter yesterday. Finals are complete, and we’re pretty much in fall break mode around my house. You say that since we’re on a break, I’ll have time to work on my chore list? Dream on my friend. I’ll do some of it but not even close to all of it. I will choose to spend most of the time with my son doing pretty much whatever social distance activities we want to do. The office reorganization can come later.

We like to do crafts, baking, watching movies and playing video games. The leaf raking can come later.

Regarding the crafts, I’ve always told my son that art is an expression of yourself, and that it is never wrong. Be yourself, and the art will be perfect. We’re going to tie-dye masks and make root beer. It’s a lot of fun and super messy. We’re both looking forward to it. The closet reorganization can come later.

We like to watch movies. My son tends to watch the same things again and again. So, I imagine it will be the Wimpy Kid movies repeatedly. He only likes one horror movie, so I guess that will play too. The staining of the wood trim for his play area will come later.

The current baking item that is a family favorite are lemon cheesecake bars. I think that will be a great activity when the weather cools off in a few days. Organizing the recipes to put in a binder can come later.

We play video games and call it exercising. Hey, we don’t go out much, and my thoughts are that any time we’re not sitting on the couch is fantastic. The games get us up and moving. Dusting the vaulted ceiling areas can come later.

When my son is an adult, I know that he’ll remember this time of doing school at home (thanks again, COVID-19). He will not remember that the light fixture needed cleaning a bit more often than it should have been. However, he will remember the time spent with mom and dad. He tells me he loves me several times a day. That alone is enough for me to know my priorities are just fine.

When this is all said and done, the house will still be standing, so until then…Bring it on!

10/1/20

Have you ever had such a good time at something or somewhere that you never want it to end? If possible, you wish that you could literally freeze that snapshot in time forever?

The first quarter of the school year ends next week.  Truthfully, I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun.  I adore children, and I absolutely love being a mom. Getting this unprecedented opportunity to spend time with my son has been invaluable.

My son has always done in-school learning so being at home was brand new to our family.  I didn’t know how it was going to go.  My son has surprised everyone by doing better than he ever has done before. His lowest percentage is 98.7%. In three of his classes, he is getting over 100%.  He discovered extra credit this year. 

“Mom! I thought that was only something that happened in movies. I didn’t know it was a real thing!” he said. 

Seeing him excel (with support) has made my heart swell more than I thought possible. Every day I get up excited, knowing I get to do it all again.

So why did I spend most of this week with a lump in my throat and surges of sadness? Provided that COVID-19 settles down, the plan is to have my son return to in-person learning for the 21-22 school year. I don’t want it to end. It honestly feels like sand slipping through my fingers. Time is moving too fast. I want to push a reset button and do this all over again. I am trying to capture every moment that I can and commit it to memory to be played repeatedly.

There are only 940 Saturdays from the time a baby is born until they turn 18. It makes me realize that time is so short. Maybe I’m being selfish, but that’s not enough time. We’ve done so many things together as a family.  There is an equal amount of things that we haven’t done.  I don’t know why.  You always think there are more “tomorrows”  than there actually are. Spending time with my son was one reason we chose to do online learning this year.

I told my son that I’m likely going to be a hot mess and very sad when he goes back to in-person learning.  He had one of the most loving statements that I’ve ever heard him say. 

“Mom, it’s ok to be sad. You can cry if you need to.  I’ll help you dry your tears…and then I’m walking away and going into school," he said. 

That one statement told me he’ll always have my back and that he’s looking confidently into the future. 

My mom always told me that her job as a parent was to teach me to live without her. She did her job well. My son gives me confidence that I am on track to do the same thing with him.

Bring it on!

9/25/20

Relaxing.

It sounds nice. I don’t get to do it as much as I would like. I work, provide support for my son's online schooling, take care of our many pets, volunteer and take care of my house. I do offer breaks to myself to keep my sanity. When our family chose to do online schooling this year, I knew that my free time would be stretched very thin. So, what did I do? I forced myself to carve out some time each day just to be me.

Relaxing can take many forms. Some people like to take a long, hot bath. I can barely use the restroom without my son needing something. If I want heat, I’ll wait for my next hot flash. So, no long hot baths for me. It’s more like a quick shower.

Some people like to relax by eating, especially chocolate. I know that there are health benefits to cacao. However, my cacao consumption frequently comes in the form of candy that I shouldn’t eat. I had candy for lunch yesterday. My son lovingly informed me that it was a “fat person” thing to do. I responded by opening another piece of candy. Let it go, kid. This bowl is the first bowl of Halloween candy that will be gone long before Halloween arrives. It’s all in the name of relaxing.

My watch beeps at me several times a day to remind me to do a breathing exercise. She (yes, my watch is a girl) usually picks the worst possible times to ask me to breathe. I’m super good at ignoring her. I think it’s supposed to keep me centered and relaxed. Nice try.

I had a membership at a massage business. I canceled it because it’s too much of a pain to get into seeing someone. The inconvenience of that plus the COVID-19 precautions makes it no fun. Add massages to an ever-growing list of things that will be on the emotional back shelf for a while.

However, what I did do for myself was a mental pyramid. It’s similar to the food pyramid, but it’s a relaxing pyramid. I thought about what relaxes me or what is essential. I also thought of things that cause stress. My brain can only handle so much information before I start getting stressed, so I made sure that I prioritized accordingly.

At the bottom of the pyramid are the most important things to me, and I choose to give most of my emotional energy towards (Jesus, my family, friends, coffee, and naps). In the middle are things that I have to deal with, but I don’t let it drain my energy. (my home doesn’t have to be spotless every day, and it isn’t. Also, meetings regarding my son’s education – those can be stressful). The things at the top of the pyramid get very little, if any, space inside my head (toxic relationships or what others think of me).

As for the rest? I deal with things as they come along. If I’m not good for myself then I won’t be able to help others that rely on me.

Bring it on!

9/17/20 blog

“Grace” is a nice word. Depending on how you are using it, it can be either a noun or a verb. It can mean mercy that is not merited or elegant movement. It can mean to honor with one’s presence or a short prayer.

I need grace on a daily basis. God has not blessed me with elegant movement. I stay at home most of the time (Thanks again COVID-19) so there’s not many people to grace with my presence. I say grace several times a day.

In this instance, I would be referring to grace that one might give others, especially educators. I truly feel sorry for them during this time. They need grace.

Last spring, without notice, our world changed. Teachers had to shift from brick and mortar learning to remote learning in a very short amount of time. They need grace.

For some teachers, tech skills are not their forte. They had to do their jobs relying on tech. The teachers that I worked with were really trying to make things work for the children. Some parents were complaining that there was too much work assigned so the teachers lightened up the work load considerably. Then a separate group of parents were expressing their displeasure that there wasn’t enough work to do. These poor teachers just can’t win. They need grace.

We all just wanted to make it until the end of the school year. Maybe, just maybe, things would be “normal” in the fall and kids could go back to school like they used to do. 

“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings” is a colloquialism that is appropriate. COVID-19 is a big girl and she doesn’t like to sing.  She’s not leaving soon.

Which leads me up to this school year and the online school that my child attends. I remain resolute that this was the correct choice for our family. Even on the days when my child and I are frustrated, I don’t make it an issue for his teachers.  They need grace.

There are definitely some growing pains. I would be lying if I said I was always happy every day when my child is online.  Scan this, upload that, Google Drive this, video that.  Sheesh! My son has issues with executive functioning, organization and motor skills.  He tries his best but it’s difficult for a lot of adults to get the technology straight, much less a special needs child.

What I have heard from some teachers is that they’re sad to not see the children in person. They did not go into the profession to see the children on a one-inch square on their computer screen. They did not go into the profession to post another module online.  They did not go into the profession to do a synchronous learning session with almost 200 tweens.  Class sizes online are understandably large for a lot (not all) classes. Can a teacher get a personal connection with 200 kids at once? No, however they’re trying and they need grace.  

I am in the room when my son is doing synchronous classes.  So far, his teachers have done an admirable job. 

When school started, I joined an group for parents whose children are doing online school this year.  The original idea was to support each other and share ideas. I left the group recently because it was more of a mob mentality where the teachers were a common target. I want no part of that.  They need grace.

A kind word goes a very long way. On occasion, I do contact my son’s teachers. It is not always relating to the subject they teach or my child. Sometimes it is just to say thank you. I love our teachers. They make all other professions possible. I appreciate them more than I can say. I am most definitely on your side.

Bring it on!

9/10/20 blog

"You can’t do that. You’re a guest in my home" 

These are the two sentences that have been going through my head this week. It seems like most school districts are already overwhelmed.  Now add the medley of remote learning along with blended and in-person learning and it’s the perfect storm. I think that some school districts have taken things a bit too far.

There has been more than one story in the news this week about children being suspended for the background content in their online school meetings.

In one instance, a child was suspended for an orange tipped toy gun that was not brought to school. The teacher notified the principal, who then suspended the child for five days. The school also notified the sheriff’s office who did a welfare check without notifying the parents first. It was a toy.

Some schools are adding addendums to the policies and conduct rules that are addressing remote and online learning. Other schools are duplicating penalties that the child would have received if they were on campus. Meanwhile, others are having children/parents sign contracts for school computer usage even though they are at home and using a personal device.

Can a school hand down a disciplinary action when the alleged infraction did not occur in the building? Yes, they can and yes, they should. I have heard of children being mistreated off school grounds. I’ve also seen children send threatening electronic messages. In those circumstances, it definitely merits the school looking into the situation to determine if any follow up needs to be completed. 

However, schools need to look at the specifics of each individual situation and determine the best course of action (if any).  Common sense dictates that a school would review any recordings prior to disciplining a child.  Also, I would think they would contact a parent first regarding a concern with their child’s behavior or safety.

I work for a school district and more than once I’ve spoken with a child about how they might want to make better choices.  Children will likely do the right thing with counsel and not elevating the situation to an unnecessary level.  My son hears me say frequently “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” I love our schools but you can’t just apply a one size fits all approach to discipline.

Returning to the Zoom meetings, my son attends five synchronous classes each week. He has autism, ADHD and a few other disabilities.  He does need a fidget toy to keep his hands busy.  Yes, it’s in his IEP.  No, he doesn’t fidget with an orange tipped toy but I wouldn’t be bothered if he did. 

As a parent, can I inspect the homes of my child’s online teachers to make sure it’s suitable for teaching? No, I can’t nor do I want to. I am assuming that they have made the necessary preparations in order to teach.  I want the same from them. I have made the necessary preparations in order for my son to learn.

I realize that school staff has to wear different hats and are looking at many things each day. When I’m at work, I’m working with the children under my care.  When I’m at home, the buck stops with me. I am the authority figure in my home.  If a teacher has enough time to critique my child’s toys then they can come over anytime.  The coffee is always warm and the couch is comfortable.

Bring in on!

9/3/20 blog

Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a little (ok a lot) of a helicopter parent. We’re not talking Baby Bell helicopter. I’m more of a full-blown Apache helicopter mom. I used to apologize for it but not so much anymore. My husband and I are molding our youngest son into what we know will be a great young man and I take my job as a mom seriously.  

Last spring, we started buying the things we needed for his online school area at home. We didn’t make the decision to have him be online only until July. Since then, it has been a steady stream of Amazon boxes to get him set up in a way that will enable him to be successful this school year. We have everything we could think of.  

Everything but etiquette lessons. 

An absolute sign of the times is that my son has to know “Zoom Etiquette”. It was actually one of the things they talked about in his synchronous learning classes the first week of school. I talked to my son about basic etiquette on Zoom before school even started.  The rest would be up to his teachers.

My son’s teachers went over the basic information. Either before or after the meeting, I gave him my rules. I am providing my son’s paraprofessional support for this school year. I also work as a paraprofessional for his school district.  I can’t help but slip into “work mode” when I look at some of the other kids but I do manage to bite my tongue.

I’m not emotionally strong enough for Zoom. I’m not going to be around to see the cause of death on my death certificate however I’m sure it will be tech related. Since I’m still here I’m assuming that Zoom will only make me stronger. 

Bring it on!

8/27/20 Blog

When I was in elementary school, my second-grade teacher liked to post a picture on the blackboard. She wouldn’t say a word about instructions. The only thing she would say is to use our imagination and write a story based upon what we saw in the picture. 

For me, that was always a fun exercise because I love looking at pictures and seeing or wanting to know the story behind it. In some way, I still do it to this day. If Mrs. Griffith only knew the seed that she planted so long ago.

Having a child and several pets means that there is always something that needs to be cleaned in my home. I don’t think I have had a chance to sit in years.

Recently, I was straightening the area around my son’s new school space at home. I hung a new mask on his hook for him to grab the next time we go out. Right after that I noticed that I hung it on the backpack that hasn’t been used since March of this year.  He is doing online school this year so there’s no need for it.

Credit: Courtesy Amy Camenzind

I looked at those two things together and was feeling sad. To me, that picture sums up the difference between pre-COVID-19 and the reality of our new world. 

There is a stark difference between the two. 

The virus has stolen some of our children’s innocence. Children should be able to run and play, not mask up and run away. They should be able to have play dates, not Zoom chats.

My son will never again have a summer when he’s 12.  Every summer I make a huge list of everything we want to do. 

We usually do almost everything on the list. If we don’t, it is because we ran out of time. What did we do this summer? Goat yoga and fishing. Why? Because we didn’t want to be close to anyone.  

Don’t get me wrong, our family loves goat yoga and fishing but there wasn’t anything else that we were willing to have our son near. We take this virus seriously and we’re doing what we feel is right for our family.

When I look at things like this picture, I get sad and cranky. Can I call it sanky? At any rate, when I was sanky looking at it, I decided to invent a happier story.  A story that doesn’t have COVID-19.  A story where there is joy.  

Before I could even write a story, I realized that I couldn’t think of a happy story where a mask is involved. Mrs. Griffith would be so disappointed in me.  Since I couldn’t think of a story, I settled for a haiku.  

OK, technically I settled for two of them. The first one is more how I was feeling by looking at the picture and the second one is when I was feeling more positive. Either way they both represent how I feel when I look at the picture. 

Sanky Haiku  

My son wears a mask
COVID-19 tells him to
These masks are no fun 

Happy thoughts 

I love being home
The sound of my child laughing
Love is in my heart 

I can’t control my circumstances but I can control my reaction to it. Today I choose joy. 

Bring it on!

8/19/20 Blog

Let’s talk pajamas. Growing up, my family called them PJs.  You can call them jammies, nighties, nightgowns, blanket sleepers, footie pajamas or loungewear.  The list goes on but they’re a stay-at-home-thanks-to-COVID-19 necessity.

School started this week. There was no back to school shopping for us this year.  It wasn’t necessary, at least not in the traditional sense. Since our family has decided to do online learning, there was no point in buying new clothes.  

My son’s old clothes still fit and who is he wearing new clothes for? Our pets? The neighbors? We adapted to this ever-changing vortex of a year by going with the flow.  

In keeping with that line of thinking, back to school shopping this year consisted of buying new pajamas.  Since entering the social distancing season of life, our family owns more pajamas than I’ll admit to having.

I frequently tell my son that everything in life is either a blessing or a lesson. 

Pajamas are definitely a blessing.  After wearing primarily pajamas for several months, I now look at a stack of jeans and shirts with a feeling of contempt. Pffft. Denim = I’m leaving the house.  Denim has been pushed to the back of the closet, only to come out when it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m pretty imaginative, so trust me when I say I don’t find it necessary very often. 

I’m an organized person and I love making lists. In honor of pajamas…

The Top 10 Reasons Why Pajamas are Awesome

1. It makes for a fun family dance time before school to play “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Except I have our own version: “Livin’ La Vida Jammies.”

2. My son doesn’t need to get dressed for school. He changes into day pajamas and he’s ready for school.

3. When my son participates in synchronous learning this year, he’ll look great. Hair will be brushed, school shirt on, along with the ever-present pajama bottoms. As long as he doesn’t have to stand up while on camera then we’re set. If he has to stand up, we’ll suddenly have a (cough cough) technical glitch that will cause our feed to go dark.

4. There is no need for my son to get changed into “play clothes” when he gets home. He’s been wearing them since the morning.

5. Wearing pajamas all day keeps you in a relaxed mood.  A relaxed mood is better for my son.  He’ll be in a better frame of mind when doing school work. I’ll be in a better frame of mind when I’m providing his needed supports. Since I’m going through seventh grade again, trust me when I say I need to be relaxed.

6. I’ve found that we actually get more done.  In spite of the relaxed mood in our home, we do everything we would if we were “dressed”.  Flannel doesn’t slow us down.

7. Almost all pajamas have an elastic waist. Elastic a very forgiving piece of material in pants or shorts.

8. There is a feeling of accomplishment that you get when you change from your daytime pajamas to your nighttime pajamas.

9. Pajamas can be very stylish.  There are some really super cute pajamas out there. It’s all about finding something that works for you. If there is an emergency that forces us to leave our home, we’re going to look fabulous standing on the sidewalk.

10. Thanks to online merchants, I don’t even have to leave my home to order more pajamas.  I order in pajamas and pick up the package from my front porch in pajamas.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pajama shopping.

Bring it on!

8/14/20 Blog

In 2010, if you would have asked me where I saw myself in 10 years, I doubt I would have said, "gee, my plan is to mostly isolate myself and my youngest child for months on end. I want to wear as many elastic waist shorts as I can so that I can eat more cookies. I want to do virtually all of my shopping online so that I don’t have to enter a brick and mortar store. I want to avoid seeing people in person. I want to wear a mask whenever I go out. I would like to pull my child from in-person learning so that he’s not as impacted by a global pandemic.  No, no really, that’s my dream." 

Ok, no one has ever said this. 

Truthfully, I’m not one to dwell on negativity or what I can’t control. I didn’t ask for COVID-19 to change my world but it has, so I embrace the change. I buy elastic waist shorts in a rainbow of colors, because who doesn’t like a rainbow? I buy cookies in bulk now and make sure we always have milk on hand because cookies and water just aren’t the same. 

I’m pretty sure some online retailers are having a record year thanks to my shopping habits.  I tried several different types of masks before I finally found one that I would be comfortable wearing when I go out. When my face fogs up, I just pretend it’s a mini facial.

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However, the change I struggled with was school. COVID-19 has impacted our most precious resource: our children.

I love our school district and the teachers and staff who work with the children every day. They miss the kids and we miss them right back. Every child and family are different and I respect the choices and sacrifices that we all have to make.  Due to my son’s disabilities, continuity and the need to keep things on an even keel is critical. If our son went to school in person, it would be blended learning (two days at school, three days at home) with an excellent chance that learning will go to fully remote during the school year. 

That just wasn’t going to work for us.  

So, we chose to have him attend the online school for our school district. He understands that he’ll be at home for the entire school year and that his learning environment will stay the same. I believe in giving children as much control as I can, so my son was instrumental in picking out and decorating his school area at home.  

He has “dancing water” speakers for the computer and plants hanging over his school desk.  School this year is in one of our living rooms and when he’s done for the day, he will go into other rooms in the house.  That helps with keeping the boundary between school and home life. 

I have faith in our school district and that my son will receive the education he deserves for this year. I remain confident that we made the right choice for our family. Our family will enter this school year with hope for the future and knowing we will do what we need to do to help our son succeed. 

Bring it on!

Amy has lived in Colorado her whole life, and says the best job she's ever had is being a mom. She is the mother of a girl and two special needs boys. Her daughter and oldest son are older and moved out of the house, but her youngest is still at home and will be doing 100% online schooling for the 2020-21 school year. 

She also works as a substitute paraprofessional, who works with students with significant needs. She says her own children and the children she works with have made her a better person.

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