Steps to a Perfect Saturday

Monday, November 23, 2015

Steps to a perfect Saturday, Hallford family style:
  • Sleep in very, very late
  • Eat a lazy breakfast 
  • Play with toys and hang out while Mama crochets and Daddy grabs some video game time
  • Finally bother getting dressed
  • Head out to the movie theater for The Peanuts Movie and lunch

  • Bonus option: sneak the lid off of your drink and dump it on your unsuspecting mother's lap! 
  • Go home and nap hard
  • Wake up just in time to leave for the championship game of the tournament
  • Cheer on Daddy's team!

  • Have the feeling squeezed out of your hand by your mother, who is either experiencing anxiety because of the crazy close score OR is digging deep for the self-restraint to not scold the girl next to her for yelling mean things at our guys. Maybe both.
  • Talk about how to be a good, supportive fan and not an obnoxious one.
  • WIN the championship!

  • Enjoy the rare treat of going out to eat with Daddy after the game!

  • Go home and crawl into bed, declaring that you have just had the BEST DAY EVER.

Quick Takes

Friday, November 20, 2015

1. It's officially Thanksgiving break! I can't believe we're at this point in the semester already, it just flew by, thank goodness, we really needed a week off, let's see how many days we can all wear pajamas and not go anywhere, etc., etc. All of those trite (and true!) statements.

2. I am feeling a little stressed about where my classes are leaving off, especially considering that we only have two weeks after Thanksgiving break before Christmas break. I've been doing this for ten years and it's still difficult to avoid valuing quantity over quality, to keep from feeling like we're falling behind if we don't read! ALL! the books! like a little literature class factory. Our philosophy at Flint has always been to pick a few very good books and read them thoroughly, really digging in. Which is fortunate, because I just can't bring myself to hustle my students through any faster. I love all of our discussions, how they constantly jump beyond the scope of one story and the teenagers are suddenly discussing and formulating (and maybe verbalizing for the first time ever) their ideas about everything. That's really important.

3. Also, you get super adorable student work like this:

Yes. The Odyssey meets Twitter. Boom. Nothing about this assignment was my idea (I think I said something really boring like write a narration of what we read this week, blah blah blah) but I love it.

4. Aaron and I took some of the upperclassmen on a road trip Sunday and Monday to visit some Flint alumni who are attending Central Christian College in Kansas. It was fantastic to see them doing so well, talking about classes and work and Life Beyond High School. We got to tour the campus, have lunch with some of the coaches, talk to an admissions counselor, fill out applications, and watch one of our guys play in the varsity game that evening.

5. It was awesome! And then we made the long drive home...all night...through some storms that looked suspiciously tornado-y. We got home at six in the morning, caught two whole hours of sleep, and then taught classes all day. Aaron had a JV game that evening and I took the girls to dance class, and then our big achievement was staying awake until we put the kids to bed. It was worth it, but it DID throw the entire week into minor chaos. I'm not entirely sure I could have made it through without the promise of Thanksgiving break on the horizon.

6. All of the classes had their Thanksgiving feasts yesterday, which grandparents were invited to. I managed to sneak over to the grammar school hallway and see Avalon and Lainey's classes give their adorable presentations. Cuteness overload!

7. The varsity and the girl's varsity teams are in a tournament all weekend, but then there aren't any basketball games for the rest of the break. Which is probably a good thing - I realized last night (when I put the girls to bed and then ran back out to see the varsity's first game of the tournament) that basketball season is going to be interesting combined with my third trimester. From the way the baby somersaulted and kicked in response to all my cheering and yelling, I may need to learn to be a bit more zen during games this year!

Sports, Flint Academy Style

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The homecoming game was our last football game of the season (we're jumping head-first into basketball season now, the varsity, JV, and girls teams have already had their first games!) and it was a great inaugural season. We won TWO football games this year, which is a big deal if you remember our first few years of basketball. Starting a new sports program is a sloooow process no matter where you are...and doing it the Flint way adds a few dozen extra layers of complicated.

For the past few weeks I keep seeing a video pop up on my Facebook feed about a high school student with autism who scores a touchdown at a football game. The coaches and players from both teams cooperate to give him the ball and get him down to the end zone, and everyone lauds the character and sportsmanship the teams displayed in including him. It's a heartwarming moment to watch, seeing everyone pull together like that. But every time I see it, I can't help but think of our team...where many of the players share that diagnosis of autism, where every single player lives with disorders, disadvantages, and disabilities that qualify them for special services. 

Our idea of full inclusion looks very different than the mainstream. And it is messy, you guys. It is chaotic and annoying and a great big headache. When nearly every practice is disrupted by anxiety and OCD and attachment disorders and ADD and fights caused by misunderstood social cues, when dyslexia makes studying the playbook nearly impossible, when no one can remember the plays or the calls or their position or their cleats, when one of the most dedicated (and talented!) players is legally blind and another doesn't speak any English, when you step back and realize that it's highly unlikely that any of them would have made the team (or been able to stay on it for any length of time) at any of the schools we play against? You can imagine why the coach comes home after every single practice with a twitch in his eye and a tendency to thump his head on the dinner table repeatedly.

And then he sighs, pulls out his clipboard, and draws up a new play that magically accommodates that entire list of struggles. Because it's worth it. They are worth it. And they need it.

Think about all of the good things that can come from high school sports - the camaraderie and teamwork, the pride and confidence, the perseverance and determination. Our guys need these benefits, some of them desperately, and they receive them. If you want to be on the team at Flint? You are on the team, end of story. 

Now think about all of the sensory issues you get to face down in one afternoon of football practice. Pads and helmets, noise and confusion, discomfort and physical contact. Imagine how strong you would feel, battling through the chaos and pressure of a game when you have severe anxiety. Think of all the communication skills that get practiced, the social skills that get reinforced, the behavior modifications that can be built in, the anger issues that pop up and demand to be addressed. This list could go on for miles, but what I'm saying is that our athletics program is, in a very real sense, extremely sneaky therapy. That the boys sign up for voluntarily! Even if they never won a game, do you have any idea how incredibly valuable that is?

I've been hesitant to write this post because it's not something we tend to highlight. Behind the scenes, yes, we know all of the diagnoses and accommodations and goals. They are discussed at great length on a near-daily basis, actually. Just not with any kind of fanfare. Most of the schools we play have no idea of the variety of diagnoses on our rosters, and the vast majority of our students are fairly oblivious as well. A few times coaches have sidled up to Aaron before a game to confide awkwardly, "Just FIY, uh, we've got a kid with special needs on our team this year, so..." And Aaron just nods, because what do you say? I hear you, buddy, meet my entire team? That's just not how we see it. 

It's like how we don't see Flint as a "special needs" school. It's a school, and we'll teach any child who walks through the doors, anything they need to learn. Tons of our kids are typical or advanced, actually. And tons aren't, and they are all mixed up side by side in the classrooms all day, participating in lessons, doing service projects, going on field trips, and rehearsing for the school plays. It's often messy and chaotic, and makes our eyes twitch, but it's worth it. It's family. It's beautiful and it works.

The varsity basketball team won the season opening game last Thursday 71-37, I'm just saying.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Homecoming and Halloween

Monday, November 2, 2015

This past weekend was busy! On Friday we had our Homecoming game, which can best be summarized by this picture I snapped of one of my 8th graders:

It was a VERY stormy evening! We made it through most of the game without getting too soaked, although we did give up on things like umbrellas and ponchos that were just blowing away as soon as we could get them situated. 

Then in the last two minutes of the game the heavens opened up and down came the floods. The girls and I ran to my van, but the field was far enough away from the parking lot that we didn't really avoid much of the downpour. It was an adventure!

Happily we won the football game! Not so happily (from my daughters' perspective) I made the executive decision to be sensible and take my soaked, frozen children home instead of to the school-wide Homecoming party as planned. There was a mechanical bull there, you guys, and I made them go home to take hot baths and drink tea and go to bed. I repeat, a mechanical bull. They are still in disbelief that I (or any sane person) could weigh silly things like chattering teeth and blue lips and flash flood warnings more heavily than that.
Also not so happily, I nearly water-damaged my phone to death, just running to the car. After spending the night in a bowl of rice it worked again, but my camera was all foggy. Like so:

(Halloween manicures with black fingernail polish, naturally!)

Ugh. Just in time to be lame for our Halloween party and trick-or-treating, things I would ordinarily take a MILLION pictures of. I realized how much I rely on my phone to document everything. A whole lot, that's how much. I stole Aaron's phone a few times to take pictures, so between that and the pictures that GiGi and my mom took we still ended up with nearly half a million pictures. Which is good, because we had a really fun evening!

I'm fairly certain that the girls picked the costume theme this year based on various lawn decorations they saw, but whatever, I went with it. I like letting them pick as long as they're being mostly reasonable. Avalon was a spider, Lainey was a bat, and Phoebe was a black kitty cat. We had some friends and family over for treats, party games, trick-or-treating, and of course, the traditional viewing of a Harry Potter movie while gorging on candy! 

Good times! Thanks to the time change, we didn't even have too hard of a time getting up for church in the morning. And thanks to some additional rice-bowl treatments, my phone dried out the rest of the way and my camera started working properly again!

 (Atomic Wings for lunch before running a few errands and then taking some epic naps!)

I finished off the weekend by cleaning up all the party mess and switching the Halloween decorations out for just Fall-type things, then cooking up a big low-country boil for dinner. After the crazy fun week we had, and all the Fun Things to Do over the weekend, I was honestly expecting to be completely worn out and frantic by Sunday afternoon. It was quite a surprise when I realized at nine pm that everything was taken care of and I could just watch Big Bang Theory with Aaron and paint my toenails!

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