An Early Gift

OK, so my wife was pregnant again. It was a rough, high risk pregnancy that a couple doctors implied would not last. After several months of bed rest, the issue appeared to resolve itself. Over the last couple weeks she has been having a lot of low key contractions. On Friday, we had to rush her to the hospital and then after an hour of monitoring, discovered her past problems had returned and an emergency c-section was necessary. We went from let’s see what happens to seven people in the room wheeling her to the OR while I had to follow filling out the consent form.
Evin Paige

Ends up the lives of both my wife and my new baby daughter were at risk. Fortunately right as things fell apart, all the other pieces came together. Certainly makes me, once again, appreciate modern medicine.

At 33 weeks she came out screaming and was discharged with my wife on Christmas Eve. The baby had to be readmitted on Christmas day but comes home again today. She is a fighter and survived in a situation that others haven’t. Her name reflects that spirit. Plus she has two older brothers, she needs to toughen up quick!

It has been a long strange trip (dating back to the beginning of this ordeal), but we are thrilled it is finally at an end and we can start our lives as a family of five (this is it!). Time to start truckin’.

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing. Two stories, one topic.

Story 1.

My oldest son (5) has been into a series of books called the Magic Tree House. A brother and sister find a tree house that can transport them through time and around the world. In ten chapters and about 80 pages we’ve visited Pompeii, the Titanic, the age of dinosaurs, the ice age, Ancient China, and about fifteen other destinations. They usually involve a riddle or simple mystery and have served as a good learning tool.

When the latest group of books came into the library, my wife and I noticed that two of the books were about war – the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. My children are probably a bit sheltered. We do not let them watch much television, and even then, it is stuff that both the five and three year old can watch together. We do not own a toy gun, nor do we let them play with them at other kid’s houses. We know that will change eventually, but we are not looking forward to that day.

Last night I tried to explain the concept of war to him.

“Sometimes groups of people fight one another”

“Why”

“For lots of reasons. For this war, there were two groups fighting. The Northerners were trying to stop the Southerners from hurting another group of people.”

“Well, why didn’t they just ask them to stop?”

“They did, but they didn’t listen. So they started to fight about it. Now we try to avoid fighting, right?”

“Yes.”

“But does it make sense that somebody is doing something wrong you might have to fight them to get them to stop?”

“Yes.” (still a little puzzled)

So I start reading the book. The tree house takes them back in a Civil War battlefield where injured soldiers are walking towards some destination.

“Why are they hurt?”

“Well, people can get hurt when fighting a war.”

“Do people die?”

“Yes, sometimes people die.”

Tears start to well up, “Why do people fight then?”

“They fight to stop other people from doing bad things. Or they fight because they are making bad choices. Or they fight because they just can’t agree.”

Tears turn into sobs. “I don’t like this, I don’t want to read this.”

After he calmed down, I read him a nice book about jungle animals.

He was probably too young, for this book and conversation. As are the children who actually have to witness war firsthand.

Story 2.

Last February, I wrote about a former student who visited me after his second tour in Iraq. Today, I got another visit from him. As soon as I saw him walk in I knew something wasn’t right. He was shipped out for his third tour in March. He still had several months before his tour was up. Then he limped through the door. I left the front of class – the students were involved in a self directed activity for the time – and went back to talk to him. His leg had almost been “blown off.” Had it not been for the swift reactions of his friends, he would have died. He spent two weeks in a medically induced coma and was able to wake to the face of his wife.

I didn’t feel comfortable asking him too much about his injury, but he pulled up his pant leg and showed a nasty wound, now filled with scar tissue and skin grafts from his upper thigh.

He stayed only a few minutes. I shook his hand. As he left, I thought, at least HE does not have to go back.

————

While I am a pacifist at heart, I do recognize that war is part of humanity. One thing I always tell my students is that people, human beings as a whole, have issues. Humanity has always needed a good therapist – self help books just don’t work. Religion doesn’t seem to be the answer for world peace either.

Some times wars have to be fought. Sometimes they are fought over pettiness and greed. In middle of any war are the innocent, the children who just don’t understand why people would kill each on purpose. In the middle of any war are the young men (and women today) who follow orders, fight, and die for what they, or what their leaders, believe is right. When is a sacrifice for the common good, just a waste and when it is it justified.

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First, First Day of School

I’ve had some 29 first days of school since I started attending my local public school in kindergarten – 13 as a K-12 student, 6 as a college/student teacher, then another 11 now as a teacher.

On Monday, my oldest, had his first, first day of school. We have been pumping it up for months now and he was very excited to go. When he got home, he was all smiles. Claimed he wanted to go everyday (don’t worry!) and wanted to live there (we can walk by on the weekends if he wants).

I hope his teacher and his parents can help him keep that excitement beyond the first few days of this new thing. When you think about it, school is the long haul. 13 years. If you don’t have the interest and/or the support network, it has got to be tough. It certainly explains some of the attitudes towards school and education I see at the high school level.

Good luck, kiddo! Your mommy and I are proud!

Perspective

It has been a packed and dramatic last couple of weeks. Just over a week ago, my union settled with the district (not officially until next week because we are on Spring Break). After all of the intensity, the stress, the rallies, the concern for my AP students, and the disappointment that I would have to use a decent amount of money we had saved to live off of for an indefinite period of time. There was also the fear that this superintendent and board were fighting an ideological battle (far right trying to destroy a union) and we would be out for a while. The deal we got is OK. Decent. The best we would get from this board, certainly a lot less then we figured to be fair, but the next step was a strike. We also have a bigger fish to fry – the board itself. Three seats are up for election in November. A chance to shift the balance of power, perhaps have an inefficient superintendent removed.

Then there are the TWO stacks of AP essays and pile of college prep projects. I’m trying not to look at them – maybe they will go away.

I am distracted. I can’t seem to get too excited about the deal. I am avoiding the essays and lesson planning I need to do. I am ignoring my bloglines account and the fact that baseball season has start has barely registered.

All of this is because there is something that is currently redefining my life. My oldest son has been having stomach issues for a couple years. We knew something was wrong, but his doctors couldn’t figure it out (one was honestly trying, the other wasn’t). Finally, my wife figured it out. He has Celiac Sprue. First, it isn’t deadly – it won’t kill him. It is intolerance to gluten (found in wheat, oats, barley, rye, and malt) – it is essentially poison to his body. His life was all about gluten – Cheerios for breakfast, sandwich or wrap for lunch, and pasta for dinner. He is a creature of habit and routines, so this is what he ate almost everyday.

My wife and I have been trying to wrap our brains around our new lifestyle. This disease (it is hard for me to say that word) is relatively common (although not mainstream) and there are many web sites and books that have helped us immensely. Luckily, my wife was already an avid cook and baker. She has already spent countless hours experimenting and trying new recipes for bread, cake, brownies, and cookies (you know, the important stuff). The stuff that will help normalize his life. Rice flour is not the same as sweet rice flour apparently. A specific brand of brown rice past has seamlessly replaced the regular variety. Corn tortillas have replaced flour ones. My son has been wonderful. He is smart enough to understand that he has to help take care of himself at five years old. He asks the grandparents if there is gluten in the special treats they try and give him. He even willing gave up some Easter candy he got from preschool yesterday.

We have gone through grieving, anger, frustration, and a bit of acceptance. But the biggest emotion we feel when he is in the room is relief. He had stopped growing. He was skinny; his almost-three year-old brother was quickly catching him in size. Getting him to eat was a battle. He complained of stomachaches regularly. He was lethargic. He was always tired. He avoided playing in big groups. He was off. Today he is a new kid. In two weeks he has gained five pounds. He won’t stop playing, running, laughing, and, most importantly, eating.

We missed so much of him in the last couple years, but we have him now. Welcome back kiddo.