Monday, June 29, 2015

Last day of school 2015

On June 23rd, the kids had their last day of school.  Arlington wrapped up her 6th grade year and her first year of middle school.  We both learned a lot this year, and I think next year is going to be a breeze.

Finley and Cainan wrapped up their 2nd grade year.  Finley's 2nd time around in 2nd grade was 2 times a fabulous.  (222 baby!).  She had a much better year and I feel confident that both of them are ready for 3rd grade.  Next year they move to the upper elementary school (which is a different building) so many changes for them.

It was a good year.  It went by quickly, like it always does.  Now I have a 7th grader and two 3rd graders.  How does that happen?

 I took some pictures of Finley and Cainan while we were waiting to go to school

 The 2nd graders do a "Clap Off" since they are leaving the school and going to a new one.  It was pretty cute.  This is Cainan's teacher (on the left) and a teacher's aide in the classroom.

 Finley's teacher - the famous Mrs. Holm
 Finey's aide, Mrs. Sturtz.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

From Fear to Fairies

Two years ago we were a few weeks away from Finley's IEP meeting.  Things were not going well.  Finley was doing fine in first grade, but her teachers felt she should still stay back.  But we weren't having it.  We were moving on and that was that.

I had a talk with the principal because I wanted a chance to meet the 2nd grade teachers and see what their classrooms were like.  Being a mom in a small town, I had already put my feelers out for whom I wanted and whom I didn't.  I made my thoughts known to the principal, but he just smiled and took me to the classes anyway.

I sat begrudgingly in the back of one of the classrooms and thought "I don't care that I was brought to this class - I am not going to want Finley in here".  I started to look around the classroom, and unfolded my arms.  The kids were in their last week of school, but they were being polite and quiet.  They were still learning and seemed happy.  But then I refolded my arms.  No no - I had made up my mind.  I knew better.

Or so I thought.

I sat in the back of Mrs. Holm's class that day with my mind already made up.  Then I started to watch the class.  Really watch.  My hardened exterior started to melt and I started to think I was too quick to judge.  That maybe I didn't know.

And I didn't.

Finley got assigned to Mrs. Holm's class.  Because the principal is smarter than I am, and he knew that I would come around.  Eventually.  I spent the summer wringing my hands.  Talking to parents.  Talking to her braille teacher.  I insisted on sitting with Mrs. Holm before the year started to make sure we were on the same page.  I have felt so out of control at the school up until this point.  (which was all in my head, but that is another story).  I needed to maintain my hold on Finley.

We met.  She was polite.  She expressed her concerns that were brought to her attention about Finley and her possibly being in for a rough year.  I was worried that she was already being set up for failure.  So I put the wall up.  And insisted that she was going to be fine.

But she wasn't.

The year was terrible for Finley.  But not for me.  Mrs. Holm was warm, kind, sweet, and sharp as a tack.  Finley didn't get lost.  Mrs. Holm didn't throw up her hands and say "this kid doesn't belong here - figure it out".  She reached Finley.  She made sure she got the support she needed.  And when we met for conferences in December, she filled me in on what was going on, what she was doing to get Finley through this.  And she gently told me that she thought Finley was in trouble.

And I agreed with her.

We saw Finley start to hate school.  She didn't want to go.  She loved Mrs. Holm but she didn't understand the material, and braille was catching up with her, and 5 hours of pull out of her classroom was sinking her ability to be successful in second grade.

And Mrs. Holm got her through it.  And SHE was the one that I trusted when it came time to make a decision about staying in 2nd grade or going on to 3rd grade.  For the first time, I let go of my control to someone else and realized that she had Finley's best interest at heart.  And that she had truly tried EVERYTHING to make Finley successful.  She didn't quit.

I can't tell you what the turning point was for me in the relationship with Mrs. Holm.  All I can tell you was that it didn't take me long to trust her.  Or to like her.  And to be okay with Finley repeating 2nd grade - as long as she could have Mrs. Holm again.

A few weeks before Finley's IEP last year, Mrs. Holm came up with a plan for Finley.  She wanted to show her that her very (very) large group of adults that worked with her were a team.  That we were all pieces of Finley's puzzle.  She and Finley made a puzzle on paper and listed all the people that were on her team.  And each on of us got a puzzle piece key chain.  And Finley got a puzzle piece necklace.  Each of our pieces fit into hers.  Finley thought this was fantastic.  And so did we.

This year was a complete 180 for Finley.  Mrs. Holm is amazing.  She changed parts of her cirriculum, and even rearranged her room and painted to make it seem a bit different for Finley.  For one student.  We knew she had her back.

A few days before school started, I got an email from her that said she had remembered that Finley loved fairies and fairy gardens.  She had gone out and gotten supplies and made fairy houses in the trees on the school playground.  I was to keep it a secret so that the kids could discover them when school started.  She thought about Finley and Finley's feelings in everything that happened this school year.  Finley and I fell in love with her, and without a doubt in our mind knew that we had made the right decision to keep Finley in 2nd grade for a second year.

The year sped by.  This year's IEP was a breeze.  Finley was doing well.  She was ready for 3rd grade.  She didn't need nearly the support this year that she needed last year.  She had become more confident and a better learner.

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.  We knew it was coming.  Finley had been talking about it for a few weeks.  How hard it was going to be to say goodbye to Mrs. Holm.  None of us would ever be able to thank her enough for what she did not only for Finley, but for us her parents as well.  For the first time in Finley's little life, when it came time to talk about placement for her next year I told the teacher that I had full confidence that she knew what Finley needed.  Because it is true.  I know she does.

This morning, when we stepped out onto the porch to take our last ride to school for this year, we found a fairy garden kit on our porch.  Mrs. Holm had snuck to our house early this morning and put it there for Finley to find.  Wrapped neatly and full of goodies, it came with the following note:

Dear Finley,

            Most teachers do not get the opportunity that I had. The chance to spend two years with a student.  So often we wish we could keep out students for another year to learn more about them and help them to grow.
           In these two years, you've grown so much.  You've learned a great deal and you've taught me a lot too.  The lessons I've learned have helped to make me a better teacher.  I think about many things differently now.
          It's with great pride and sadness that I watch you go on to third grade.  You are so ready and I'm excited for you to experience all that is in store for you.  The sadness part is only because I will miss you.  I've become quite accustomed to seeing your little face.
          As I thought about what to get you, I changed my mind several times.  I wanted it to be something that would remind you of your experience here and to maybe even remember me.  I also wanted it to be something that made me think of you.  I came across this description of fairies.
          "Fairies are said to have magical powers, are very shy, and tend to be a little mischievous.  They like to play tricks; they move things around in the garden and hide things just for their own amusement.  They love to dance and play.  If you look closely, you may see them dancing in the dakr with the fireflies."
          I said, "WOW! I could take out the word FAIRY and put in FINLEY!"  Then I knew just what to give you.  Fairies make me smile.  I love to think about white dandelions being fairy wishes blowing in the wind.  I created my own Fairy Garden in my backyard.  With your creativity and imagination, I thought you might like to do that too.
          Some people doubt the power of fairies because they're so small.  Some people say they don't exist.  I choose to believe in magic because it brings me joy.  I will always believe in you.
         You will do great things my friend.  You are one of the most talented, bravest people I know.  I will always keep you in my thoughts and forever in my heart.

                                                                                                             Mrs. Holm

Are you crying yet?  You know you are.

Life is full of people who change you.  Vanessa Holm changed us.  She changed how we felt about Finley's education and she gave Finley the confidence and the skills to do anything she wants.  Finley will always have that.  We will never forget her.

Do you have a teacher in your life that changed you or your child?  Use today to write them a letter or an email and thank them.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review #20

I am on a roll now.  Well - not with my next book.  I think it will be awhile before I finish it.  But I did read quite a few easy ones in a row.  Almost half way done with my book challenge!

Okay - this book was

Eleanor and Park

It fit in the category:

A Book By a Female Author

This is a story of two young teenagers in love.  It takes place in the 1980s.   One is a chubby red head from a very (very) poor family with a rotten stepdad and 4 siblings.  And the other is a Korean boy with a fantastic family but he is having a hard time figuring out how he fits.  They meet on the school bus and over time fall in love.

I read this book in about a day and a half.  It was hard to put it down, plus it was an easy read.  The story was sweet and I love how their relationship evolved.  It is hard to remember what that is like at 16 - to find your first love.  

What I didn't like about the book was the ending.  It isn't that the ending was written badly, It was that it didn't end the way I was hoping it would.  I wanted more.  I wanted the happy ending (spoiler!).  But it didn't happen.

But it was a good book.  If you need a summer read, put this one on your list.

Rating:  4 1/2 stars

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review #19

3 book reviews in a row?  No, I don't suddenly have tons of time to read.  I was just behind.

The book I read the most recently was

Beach House by James Patterson

This book was under the category:

Reading a book by someone with the same initials as you.  (JP)

This book was about a man who wants to avenge his brother's death.  He is sure it was a murder, but the people who did it have a lot of money (this story takes place in the Hamptons) and a lot of ways to cover it up.   

The book was fairly good......for awhile.  A lot happened in the beginning that made me want to keep reading.  But then it started to lose me about 3/4 of the way through.  It took a weird turn, and I did a lot of eye rolling.

There are better James Patterson books out there.  This is a really, really easy read, so if you are bored on a beach this summer, pick it up at a library.  Otherwise - just pass.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review #18

Three blogs in a row??  Look out!

My next book I read for my book challenge was

Yes Please - by Amy Poehler

This book was in the category:

A Memoir

This book was a little bit of a disappointment.  I love Amy Poehler.  One of the funniest women out there.  But this book was all name dropping about who she knows, who she hangs out with, and who she has met.  It got to a point where I just wanted the book to end.

Don't get me wrong.  It had its good points.  There were a lot of funny stories and quips about her growing up.  That is what kept me going.

But at the book went along, and she started into her adult life, she just talked mostly about the people she knows and that is when she lost me

Maybe it wouldn't bother you, so go ahead and try it.

Star rating - 2 1/2.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review #17

This last month of fundraising craziness has slowed my roll with my reading challenge.  But I have good faith that summer break - which is right around the corner for us here in Massachusetts - will help me catch up.

Moving on

The 17th book I read was:

End of Days

This was the last book in a trilogy I had been reading.  And it fell under the category:

A Book Published This Year

I liked this book series.  It has been almost a year since I read the second book in the series, so I admit I had forgotten where she had left off.  The story is about Angels and Demons taking over the earth and trying to wipe out humans.  Angels fighting the demons off, but not really on the side of the humans either.  One Angel, Raffe, falls in love with a human (back in the first book - Angelfall) named Penryn.  He spends most of the three books trying to keep her alive, and finds that she can really take care of herself.

It ends well.  And I thought Susan Ee wrapped up the series really well.  I recommend reading all three books.

Rating - 4 1/2 stars.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Return to blogging

Well - as usual, it has been awhile.  With running a very large fundraiser over the last few months, this poor blog has gotten neglected.  I have two more books to review, and a slew of pictures to share from our latest event for Finley.

We had our largest attended fundraiser to date on June 7th in our hometown.  It was amazing.  We had 523 people attend.  We had a 5K run/walk and a 1 mile fun run plus a picnic and music, and baskets, and was an amazing day.  We got very lucky with the weather, and we have gotten a lot of compliments on how fun the day was.

We raised $20,000 for our foundation which was the most amazing part.  $20,000 closer to that goal for a cure.

Here are a few pictures.  We had so many that day, (two photographers with over 1000 photos), but most of them will be on our facebook Finley's Fighters page if you want to check them our here:

Enjoy some of my favorites!

My brother in law, Tom, helps put out the cones for the race:
 Directing traffic to go around the race start line.  I was happy when the police showed up to take over.
 Hanging the banner at the start line.
 Our blind running friend, Erich.  He has retinitis pigmentosa whih is basically the adult onset version of LCA.

 The 5K runners/walkers line up.

 Off they go!
 Our sponsors.  We couldn't pull of this size of an event without them.

 Our blind friend, Erich, was also the drummer in the band!

 The police blocked off the roads for the race, and we were very grateful for their support!

 Even the doggies got in on the fun.
 Some of our winners:

 My newest cousin made the trip

 We had the band, and basket raffle, a bounce house, a photo booth, nail painting, hair feathers, hair chalk, face was fun for all.