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Primary Schools: Reputation is everything, and I just don’t give a shit any more…
Jun 3rd, 2019 by Blaise

Pressure Cooker

Our five-year-old is going to school. In the fall, he will be a kindergartner! You wouldn’t think this would be a big fuss. After all, it’s just kindergarten, right? No one ever missed out on going to the best college because of a bad choice in kindergartens, right? That’s certainly what I thought, until we started preparing to send our son to kindergarten!

Because, you see, colleges care about what high school you went to, and high schools (if they are charter or private) care about what elementary school you went to, and elementary schools (if they are charter or private) care about what kindergarten you went to. And there’s the problem. If you live somewhere that the public schools perform significantly below average, and you really don’t want to uproot your family to get better public schools, your only choice is the private/charter schools who perform better, and they have opinions about your child’s previous schools!

So we started shopping. Our finalists were a charter school that performs very well and is “free” (i.e. covered by our taxes), and a private school that does even better and sounds more interesting, but costs $13,000 a year on top of our taxes. Suddenly, “next best” started to sound more attractive than “best”, so we asked around. We heard nothing but glowing reviews. Everyone we talked to loved what the charter school was doing. It seemed like we’d be fools not so send our son!

The next challenge was the waiting list. It’s a lottery to get in, and the only special consideration is given to siblings of those already attending and the children of employees. We resigned ourselves to fate, with public school as our backup plan. But then, an opportunity presented itself. The school was hiring, and my wife was looking for a job, and we had a friend who had a friend who might be able to ensure an interview was given…

This was actually a golden opportunity. All my wife had to do was ace an interview or two, and all our problems were solved in one fell swoop. She would finally have a real teaching gig with a 90% decrease in commute time, the boy would get moved to the head of the line for acceptance, and they could even commute together! Needless to say, she got the job, as discussed at length in my previous article, so we were in.

After our son was accepted to the charter school, we started getting mail and emails from them. To be honest, the tone of these communications was a bit peremptory, full of “parents will”s and “students must”s. At first we assumed that given the high opinion others has expressed of them, they had developed their own high opinion of themselves, but after my wife had been working for the school for a couple of weeks, she had begun to observe a certain martinet-like prickliness in the school’s culture. This was my first concern about the school, but it seemed pretty minor in the grand scheme, given their stats.

Then the time came for our son’s kindergarten orientation. This turned out to be a completely surreal, almost cult-like experience. First, we received a reminder email about a week before the event. It gave us the “requirements” for attendance. As expected, we needed to bring the expected stack of documents to satisfy residency, medical, and general government nosiness requirements. It ended with a bizarre diatribe about how the school’s philosophy was that if you were not 15 minutes early, you were late, and that anyone not in the correct room and signed in on time would be ejected and expected to reschedule with the school immediately or face de-registration!

Once we signed in, our son was separated from us by one of the teachers for “evaluation”. This made me vaguely uneasy, but seemed reasonable. Then we were told that parents needed to go to a meeting in another room. We were almost immediately intercepted by another teacher who “offered” to take our two-year-old daughter off our hands for the duration, since we “really needed to pay attention”. Alarm bells were beginning to ring for me, but my wife calmed we down, and we proceeded as asked.

In the meeting room, we were given “classwork” to complete before the meeting started. Afterward, we were shown a powerpoint presentation about the school’s performance, philosophy, and regulations. This included a lengthy speech about what kind of parents “aren’t a good fit” for the school (spoiler: If you have an opinion about how your child should be taught, you aren’t a good fit!). My unease with the situation had begun to grow…

We were told that our kindergartner would be assigned 45 minutes of parent-assisted homework a night, in addition to a required 20 minute reading assignment. They also informed us that the school year was going to start on August 15th instead of the 26th, run later than the regular school district, and that the school day was going to start a half-hour earlier and end 45 minutes to an hour later. This was problematic, as we had finally found a really great summer camp program for our son and this start date was going to cut off the last two weeks of a seven week program. I also expressed concern to the principal over how a child was to find any family time when the school started so early that children needed a 7PM bedtime and parents worked until at least 5PM (6PM for me in particular), but they needed to eat dinner and do an hour-plus of schoolwork every night. Her response was to the effect of, “Yes, some of our families find home-life scheduling a challenge…”. I suddenly felt like I was talking to some incompetent middle manager from corporate America, telling me “That does seem like a problem. I want daily reports until the situation improves!”

Then we were shown a weird video of a school assembly where children from K-through-4th were being lead through a mind-numbing series of chants and recitations that sounded like excerpts from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book of Educational Philosophy. At this point, the alarm bells in my head were beginning to turn into a full-blown anxiety attack.

At some point during all this, I came to the realization that they were using the same creepy crowd-control tactics on us parents that my wife had relayed as those she was expected to use on students at her job. They were literally talking down to grown adults like they were eight-year-olds, “Glow”ing people who were following the rules and reproving those who spoke to each other, looked at their phones, or persistently asked questions that weren’t really being answered (It is left as an exercise to the reader to determine which category I fell into..).

Then there were the workbooks. Each family was given a binder full of “life’s work” for their student. This was homework to be completed by the student before they started school. It was a requirement, we were told, that our child be able to complete all of the assigned work before starting kindergarten to ensure that he would not have any trouble keeping up, which might require extra classes or homework to rectify. It had to be fifty pages long!

Let me stop, at this point, to review all the things currently feeding my feelings of dread about this process. We were sending our kindergartner into a clearly high-pressure/high-stress environment where he would be required to wear a uniform and sit quietly in “poses” all day long, for at least an hour more that regular kids in the same grade. He was effectively going to have no home-playtime on weekdays, and limited recess opportunities at school. He would be attending daily “rallies” that looked and felt like creepy evangelist church services, where he would learn to sing and chant slogans in unison with a crowd. He was was going to lose 30% of his summer camp experience and spend what was left of his summer doing homework with his parents. On top of all that, he was going to have to wear a uniform which was indistinguishable, I shit you not, from the awful, tone-deaf, this-is-what-cool-young-people-dress-like-in-their-spare-time-right clothes handed out by corporate “motivators” on “team-building” retreats.

After the parent indoctrination orientation was over, both our children were returned to us apparently safe and happy, with glowing reports on how bright and talented they both were, and what fine additions they might make to the school… I got us out of there as fast as we could, and nearly hyperventilated in the car driving home. Slowly, over the course of hours, we convinced ourselves that the school’s performance spoke for itself, and that while they were a little weird, maybe we should try it for a year, and just see if it wasn’t really as insane and cult-like an environment as it seemed. I was still anxious, but my wife calmed me down and made me see reason (I thought!).

In the three weeks following the orientation, I continued to do research, and made some troubling discoveries. I found several people online who described having posted negative reviews of the school and having had their posts scrubbed from review and social media sites via “reported content” mechanisms. Several of the few I could find, now having a better idea where to look, were horrifying. They contained words like “military”, “exhausted”, and “miserable”. One of them disappeared within a week of my having found it. I assume the rest are gone by now.

Over that same three weeks, the events described in my previous article transpired. After my wife’s experience with the toxic, unreasonable, and frankly psychotic-seeming behavior of the people running the school, we had had enough. In a discussion that lasted for approximately eight seconds (Me: Holy shit they really are as fucked up as they seem! How can we put our child into that psychotic pressure-cooker?!?!? Her: We can’t.), we decided that our son would be going to public kindergarten with his friends from the neighborhood after all.

My wife turned in the papers withdrawing him from the school and registering for public school around 12 PM the next day. Within five minutes, I received an email from the school telling me that our son’s “application for admission has been rejected”, and if you read nothing else about what kind of a place it is, you could just read the last two sentences to tell you all you need to know!

Our son will be going to public kindergarten. He will have a full summer of fun and actual “life’s work”, like learning to boat and swim and play soccer and hike in the woods, and such. If he needs tutoring to look good on standardized tests in a few years because of it, SO. FUCKING. BE. IT!

Unethical Schools: Why People Who Read Management Books Shouldn’t Be In Charge Of Teaching Children
May 31st, 2019 by Blaise

My wife has a story that needs to be told. She can’t tell it, so I’m going to. It’s the story of a sensitive, creative person who lives to nurture and support others, and doesn’t have a conniving or political bone in her body. It’s also the story of the monstrous world that uses all that against her at every turn, squeezing out all she has to offer and leaving her in the gutter when she is no longer necessary.

My wife is a teacher. She’s a good teacher. She’s the kind of teacher who more than once has gotten letters from the parents of children she didn’t even have in her own class about how much she helped their child. She’s the teacher your kids should have, but rarely will. Apparently, this makes her unemployable!

She’s been working as a substitute, a teacher’s assistant, and a long term substitute for over a decade, all the while desperately trying to get a job as an actual English teacher. One district screwed her out of a tenured TA position because she took a long term sub position that, it was promised, would put her on the short list for the next opening. The opening was simply eliminated without even the offer of an interview, and she had no job to go back to, because the HR department gave her the wrong information about procedures and then wouldn’t admit it. Another time, she finally scrambled her way into another long term sub position that was “almost guaranteed” to turn into a real job, until she had the audacity to have a baby, after which both the long term sub position and the actual job magically evaporated.

Then, she was promised that if she came and worked as a TA in a new district 45 minutes from home, they would put her first in line for new English positions that opened. She busted her ass for four years, taking on extra duties, working full time while being a mom to two children and spending an hour and a half a day commuting, and generally being exceptional. Then, the year that two English positions finally opened up, the superintendent was replaced, and the promise was renegged upon. One position went to the assistant principal who had sold her so hard on the deal in the first place (don’t even get me started on that asshole), and another to an older teacher from another school in the district who just wanted a change of pace…

You need to understand all that to grasp how spectacularly evil her latest saga is. After a decade plus of the aforementioned slogging, my wife got a golden opportunity. A charter school right here in town was hiring an English teacher for the 2019-2020 school year, and we had a friend who had a friend who might be able to increase the chance of an interview being granted, so she went for it.

Of course, she aced the interviews, and was told she’d be getting the English position next year within a few days of her final interview. They even told her they had cancelled all the interviews after hers. We were ecstatic! A few days later, before she could respond, they called again, and asked her if she would also leave her current, tenured position three months early, so she could take over for someone going out on maternity leave, and start “right now”.

Leaving a tenured position (especially mid-year) was a big risk, but even if all she was guaranteed was thee months of one term and the following year, it was a real teaching job with a reasonable commute at the school we were hoping to send our son to. We talked it over, and decided that the chance to do what she had desperately yearned to do since college was worth the risk of not having a job in 18 months. My wife accepted, gave two weeks notice, and the wheels were set in motion.

Fast forward to four weeks later, and the wheels had already begun to come off our plan. I initially got an inkling something was wrong with this place when on her first day, my wife came home and it came up that she had no lunchtime. I asked if they were combining her lunch into her “prep-time”, and when that was scheduled. She told me that she only got a prep time on some days, and that she’d been told that the rest of the time, she should simply eat while she was teaching. I pointed out that as someone who had employees for many years, I was quite certain that while they might not have to pay her for the time, it was literally illegal for them to make her work in excess of 8 hours without a break for food. She didn’t want to rock the boat, so I let it go…

This place was a bit insane. Her work started fifteen minutes before the normal school district, and ended two hours after. This was sprung on her, as she had been told during interviews that school ran until one time, but had already signed on and given notice at her old job when she was told she was required to be physically in school for an hour later than originally stated. She had to get special permission to leave school at the originally advertised time, because she had to pick up our children in the afternoon. In order to get this permission, she was officially docked 9% of her previously agreed upon salary.

As the days passed, things began to go downhill, and it quickly became obvious that that working at this charter school was like working in Soviet Russia. Within days of starting, my wife told me a story of how she asked a fellow English teacher from a grade below her for advice on some minor issue, and within an hour was being grilled by her team leader to explain exactly what she thought she was doing. It would seem that the teachers for each grade are expected to communicate only with each other on work matters, and execute all outside contacts through their leader.

It should also be noted that this school uses a rather unique teaching technique. The teachers don’t make lesson plans, instead teaching directly from pre-supplied materials, reading, and activities. The teacher’s job is to focus on “classroom control”, where students are constantly either talked to or working on these pre-planned materials, and required to remain silent and in one of a set of poses designed to focus attention at all times. This requires the execution of a massive number of detailed procedures on the teacher’s part, and new teachers are given weeks of training and preparation to do so. My wife, on the other hand, was given a couple of hours of instruction and told to shadow a teacher for a week or so, and that she would get the real training next August, before school started.

A few days into actually teaching, my wife began having observations by her new principal, and getting dressed-down right in front of her students almost daily. Loaded atop the already massive upheaval of our whole family’s lives, trying to settle into the new schedule and decrease of Mamma-home-time, this constant harassment quickly became a majorly stressful issue, resulting in an emotional breakdown where my wife needed to leave the classroom for a few minutes to compose herself.

My wife met with her principal. She told her that she understood that her lack of having been trained meant that she was making a lot of mistakes, and that she welcomed constructive criticism. When she also pointed out that it would be much less stressful to receive that criticism without being humiliated directly in front of her students on an almost daily basis, she was told two things. First, that these public dressings-down were a part of the school’s policy on “in the moment feedback” (apparently a teacher-management technique that involves being publicly and at full volume talked down to like you are a child in front of your students for not executing some aspect of the martinet-like classroom process that the school uses, which she was not due to be trained in until August), and second, that she needed to start responding better to feedback, or it might affect her status in the Fall.

This, of course, caused a panic in our house. This risk had been taken with the understanding that she would be employed through the end of the 2020 school year, not for three months. The fact that this was even a possibility would have been a deal-breaker in the first place! My wife scheduled another meeting with her principal to clarify. She explained that she only took this job on the understanding that it would include the 2019-2020 school year, and that the principal’s previous comment was rather world-shaking. Could she, in fact, count on that position in the Fall? “Absolutely” was the answer given.

That answer was given verbally and in private, where no witnesses could be called upon. It would only later become clear how important that was…

My wife committed to her principal that the would redouble her efforts. I helped her practice at home, and she began working nightly on the procedures book she’d been given, in addition to the hours of homework the school already required of her. She immediately stopped being berated daily, began to get an occasional “glow” (which is apparently their corporate-speak for an “attaboy”), and was occasionally spoken to with respect and seeming appreciation. All seemed well.

Even so, it just kept getting weirder. Along the way, my wife came home with stories about a number of colleagues coming back from meetings with the principal in tears and refusing to talk about what was wrong. There were instances of apparent two-facedness from team leaders as well, and an environment apparently full of tension and short tempers.

A couple of weeks later, in discussing the classes my wife would be teaching to a group of students who had been deemed unworthy to attend a school trip, the principal blind-sided my wife with roughly twice the weekly workload she had been previously scheduled to complete (for any given class, the teacher must complete all class materials and assignments before teaching it, and submit this work to a computerized system). This was on a Wednesday, and the principal informed her that the new work should be submitted by the following evening. My wife responded that she had no time in her schedule for the extra workload that day, and that she was preparing for a weekend trip that had been scheduled since before being offered the job, but that she would do her best to get it completed while she was away, so that it was submitted well before actually teaching those classes.

On that Friday evening, while my wife was on a plane, the principal sent her an email scolding her for not submitting the extra work the previous day, and telling her that they needed to have a meeting about her time-management skills. Needless to say, my wife was nonplussed. She responded with a fairly benign “per our previous conversation” email, committing to having it submitted before the classes were due to be taught, and got the work done as promised. The resulting meeting was not “constructive”. The principal sandbagged my wife with a litany of her supposed shortcomings, and again made vague threats about her status in the coming school year. This was the gift my wife’s employer gave to my family for the Memorial day weekend.

At this point, I was frankly of the opinion that my wife’s boss was literally a psychopath. She just seemed to enjoy torturing her for the fun of it, and no amount of improvement or professional engagement was even a factor in it. It seemed a lot like what I’ve read of the way people with borderline personality disorder treat their children…

Now, it was previously known that this principal was leaving her position at the end of the year, and moving to a higher one, and that there would be a new principal in the Fall. This was mentioned only in passing to my wife and she was specifically told it had nothing to do with her status. My wife was scheduled to meet with the new principal the day after Memorial Day. In this meeting, the new principal told my wife that there “were a lot of applicants” for the position she had been promised in the Fall, and that while she was welcome to apply, her “record of problems” on the job made it unlikely she would be accepted!

And then came the clincher. She told my wife that the school was focusing on hiring younger teachers, because they would dedicate more of their time to the job…

Immediately after that meeting, my wife was called by her principal to a “debriefing”. Unbeknownst to her, the old and new principals were preparing a double-teaming session. Out of the blue, she was accused of being “emotionally inconsistent”, and any attempts at self-advocacy were labeled as “poor response to feedback”. These “crimes” being in addition to her “time management issues”, she was told, she “should have expected this”. The old principal then flat-out lied about her commitment to a Fall position right to my wife’s face, with a flouncy, pearl-clutching “I have no idea where you would ever have gotten that idea from”. The meeting ended with an admonition not to discuss this issue with any co-workers, but that they would be “happy” to give her a good recommendation for future employment, assuming she finished out the year “without further problems”.

That night, the new principal doubled down on that veiled threat with an email. It reasserted that, “The contract that you signed was for a three month position.” She continued that “based upon trends in feedback”, they were “unable to offer a contract for next fall”, and that they “would need to see a dramatic change in all areas” for that to change.

A dramatic change. In the eleven days of work left in the year. Sure, that’s a serious sentence!

The email continued by codifying the “keep your mouth shut or we’ll torpedo your career” extortion in two further sentences: “We trust you will not share details with other staff or students.”, and “Provided that you uphold these professional expectations, we will support you as you pursue your next position by providing references.”

Now, I still don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but I have some hypotheses:

  1. As I first thought, my wife’s principal is simply a psychopath, who has hurt her for the simple joy of the torture.
  2. An unethical principal just needed to cover a teacher for three months, lied through her teeth about the next term job to my wife to get her to abandon her tenured position to work as a band-aid, and then tried as hard as she could to make her miserable so she would leave, torpedoing her record when that didn’t work.
  3. This principal hired my wife more or less in good faith, but was subsequently told by an unethical organization that they wanted to eliminate anyone over thirty, so she had to find a way to make the firing look like NOT age-discrimination, so she tried as hard as she could to make her miserable so she would leave, torpedoing her record when that didn’t work.

Whatever the reason, this school has acted in a number of sleazy, borderline illegal ways, and I’m utterly disgusted with them. They made sure that their lies were undocumented and unwitnessed and blind-sided her with unreasonable requirements, ignoring reasonable self-advocacy and blaming her for problems they caused. They’ve shown no remorse while utterly upending my wife’s career and our family’s life!

To anyone who is thinking, “well, she should have known better when it wasn’t in writing”, I say this: Fuck you and your implicit support of someone who tricked a gentle, genuine woman who just fucking wants to teach your fucking children to think and learn! You’re an asshole, and YOU fucking try to explain to my five-year-old how Mommy’s crying because a bad person took away her job and potentially torpedoed her entire career, and then threatened her to keep her quiet about it!

Anyway, my wife is going to uphold those “professional expectations”, because these unethical, lying bastards now hold her career in their hands. I, on the other hand, don’t know anyone that works there, and can relate the whole sordid tragedy at will. This abusive place is the very definition of the word “toxic”. In the future, I will go to great lengths trying to make sure no one I do know ever subjects themselves to this fucking hellhole, especially my SON, who was scheduled to attend there in the Fall, but will now not be allowed anywhere near those maniacs!

You can read about that ordeal in my next post…

Final Minutes…
Dec 12th, 2018 by Blaise

A plague is upon the clan. It came first for the children, slowly turning them into foul fountains of noxiousness. My wife and I ministered to them for days, knowing what was to come.

At last, it came for my wife. She soldiered on for many hours, but eventually succumbed to it, ensconcing herself in blankets and pillows in the corner of a couch. Grimly, I carried on the business of life, deprived of my beloved partner.

Then, a few hours ago, the faintest whisper of a shiver brushed my spine. Knowing the clock was ticking, I hurried the entirety of my besieged clan through the absolute necessities of the evening, every passing moment developing new portents of what was to come as I navigated dogs, children and wife through what passed for dinner and evening ablutions. All preparations were completed just in time, as my alimentary tract began to visit violence upon me.

The shivers have now returned, and I have only these few precious moments of clear-headedness remaining to me in which to chronicle our travails.

I am: “Bed Man Walking”

A Borrowed Musing on Fatherhood
Oct 10th, 2018 by Blaise

From my all-time favorite poet…

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
Contrariwise, my blood runs cold
When little boys go by.
For little boys as little boys,
No special hate I carry,
But now and then they grow to men,
And when they do, they marry.
No matter how they tarry,
Eventually they marry.
And, swine among the pearls,
They marry little girls.

Oh, somewhere, somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who feed and clothe him.
Their lips are sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to loathe him.
Yes, I loathe with loathing shameless
This child who to me is nameless.
This bachelor child in his carriage
Gives never a thought to marriage,
But a person can hardly say knife
Before he will hunt him a wife.

I never see an infant (male),
A-sleeping in the sun,
Without I turn a trifle pale
And think is he the one?
Oh, first he’ll want to crop his curls,
And then he’ll want a pony,
And then he’ll think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a mouse
Is he without a spouse.

Oh, somewhere he bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks his thumbs.
His cheeks are roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are tucked in his gums.
But alas the teeth will begin to grow,
And the bubbles will cease to bubble;
Given a score of years or so,
The roses will turn to stubble.
He’ll sell a bond, or he’ll write a book,
And his eyes will get that acquisitive look,
And raging and ravenous for the kill,
He’ll boldly ask for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose middle
Is diapered still
Will want to marry My daughter Jill.

Oh sweet be his slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear, are infanticiddle.
A fig for embryo Lohengrins!
I’ll open all his safety pins,
I’ll pepper his powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his spinach I’ll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce for his teething ring.
Then perhaps he’ll struggle though fire and water
To marry somebody else’s daughter.

— Ogden Nash
“Free” Public School
Aug 16th, 2018 by Blaise

You know what it costs to send your child to “free” public preschool? $12000 per year. That’s how much.

How is that possible, you ask? I certainly asked that too! Let me break it down for you:

  • You pay more than $1800 per year to the federal government for education funding (approximately 3% of federal budget).
  • You pay $4000 per year to the city for school taxes
  • You enroll your 4-year-old in his $5800+ “free” preschool, and are told “Oh, but school ends at 1 pm, so if you work at a job, you’ll have to enroll him in ‘wrap-around care’. That will be $6000 dollars per year, please”.

    Note that if we enroll our child in private preschool, the most expensive program around costs just over $10,000 per year (‘wrap-around care’ included), just over $1800 per year less than “free” public school. But of course, then we’d still have to pay the $5800 for the “free” public school we weren’t using.

    “Livid” is not the right word for how I feel about “free” public school. It’s much too tame. Maybe “Murderously enraged”? “Teeth-gnashingly furious”?

Wise Old Sayings: A Facelift
Mar 23rd, 2018 by Blaise

As a business owner, home owner, dog owner, and now children owner, I have come to understand a great many things about life in the modern world. Based upon this vast experience, I have decided to update a few of the traditional aphorisms whose usefulness has begun to age out:

  • “Necessity is a mother.”
  • “To err is expensive, to forgive… also expensive.”
  • “When one door closes, somebody is going to come along leave it open again, so we’re heating the whole damned neighborhood!”
  • “If you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing. If you never have anything good to say, you’re probably a three-year-old.”
  • “If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible moment. In the event that something goes right, it will do so in a way that exerts the largest possible negative effect.”
  • “A bird in the hand is really pissed that you pulled him out of your bathroom vent.”
  • “A father and his money are soon parted.”
  • “A coward may die a thousand deaths, but a brave man is generally taking the easy way out.”
  • “A job worth doing is going on the pile until I have the cash to hire someone.”
  • ” A journey of a thousand miles begins with somebody pissing their pants in the back seat because nobody listens to Daddy!”
  • “A lie, told often enough, is sometimes the only thing that’s going to get that kid to sleep.” (Better to call it “pretending”)
  • “A rolling stone is clearly a better toy that the one Mamma spent $80 on.”
  • “All work and no play is why they invented babysitters.”
  • “An ounce of prevention is just impossible to get anyone to try.”
  • “Don’t cry over spilt milk, cry over how much trouble you’re in because I just told you not to touch that!”
  • “Don’t put all your eggs in the dishwasher again!”
  • “Don’t toot your own horn. Or any other horn. It’s very early, and Daddy has a splitting headache.”
  • “Expect the unexpected, and the bill.”
  • “Give ’em an inch, and they’ll find a way to get it stuck in the car door.”
  • “He who hesitates probably forgot.”
  • “Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s had her makeup dumped out and ground into the carpet.”
  • “If the shoe fits, wait three weeks.”
  • “I’m rubber, you’re glue. One of us comes out of fur.”
  • “Misery loves to consume resources.”
  • “The apple never falls far from where it would still be if you’d left it alone like I told you! (No, we don’t have any more apples.)”
  • “All’s fair in love and getting a baby to sleep.”
  • “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but both pale in comparison to five-day-old formula under your truck-seat.”
The Scion, The Sitch, And The Microbe(s): A Final (We Hope!) Update
Jan 28th, 2018 by Blaise

Our boy Dashiell is home safe from the hospital! It was a long road, including six days and nights in the ICU and another three days in the regular hospital, three separate medical procedures, and an unbearable amount of suffering, but the worst is over, and he’s on the mend…

There’s still more medical work in play. He came home with a PICC installed in his arm, which is sort of a mechanical shortcut between his arm and his Vena Cavae, through which his mother must pump him full of a number of drugs on a daily basis. He also still needs more blood tests, and may need to be treated for ongoing fevers for up to two months.

That said, let me tell you about my little boy. At the ripe old age of three, he nearly died of pneumonia. Attacked by four separate virulent microbes at the same time, his lung collapsed, and his chest filled with fluid. While this was going on, and adults scurried around him, he fought harder than I have ever seen anyone fight.

When things were at their worst, he was able to spend hours learning and using meditative breathing exercises to get extra air and deal with the excruciating pain he was in. While he was drugged and barely conscious, his little heart running at nearly 200 beats per minute for thirty hours, cycling every drop of blood in his body in around 90 seconds to scavenge every last bit of available oxygen, he regularly woke to tell his desperate father that he “felt a little bit better” and could he “please have some chocolate milk”.

His parents have never been so terrified, nor so proud, in their entire lives.

Dash is recovering well, but his body is still beaten and bruised, and it will be a few weeks before he has his usual energy back. He is still in pain, but regularly smiles and laughs, which we haven’t seen in weeks. His parents are also recovering well!

We cannot say enough in praise of the doctors and nurses in Albany Medical Center’s emergency room, pediatric intensive care unit, and infectious disease unit. They literally saved our son’s life, and were, to a man, caring, understanding, and professional throughout. We also want to thank the Ronald McDonald House organization and volunteers for providing a homey, comfortable space just feet away from our son’s room where terrified parents could find a few moments of normalcy and respite from the relentless torrent of stress and fear.

We were also truly moved by the massive support we received from family, friends and neighbors during this trial. There were moments when that support was the only thing that kept us all going and sane (and fed!).

The End (we hope…)

Fourth Day in the Hospital: A sad little boy in review
Jan 20th, 2018 by Blaise

This is the continuing update on our son Dashiell’s condition, for distribution to all!

Short Story:

The last three days have been a rollercoaster, but the overall movement has been positive.

Long Story:

What we have discovered so far is that there are a trio of unusually debilitating non-flu respiratory viruses running through Upstate NY children this year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of child pneumonia cases. Our overachieving tyke has managed to contract all three simultaneously! In addition, he also managed to become infected with group A streptococcus (group A being the one that gives you strep throat, but not for our little boy…).

The working theory is that he contracted one of the viruses, and had a strong enough immune system to suppress all symptoms, but not to beat it entirely in the short term. This weakened him enough to allow the other two to gain a foothold. The three together were only able to give him a runny nose and slight cough, but served to depress his immune system to the point that the Streptococcus was able to invade both his lungs and chest cavity.

The result of all this was that his lungs were weakened at the same time that his chest cavity began to fill with fluid. This caused his left lung to almost collapse. Simultaneously, he presented “scarlet fever”, meaning he experienced spikes of extreme high-fever (up to 105, that we caught), and the toxins produced by the strep bacteria produced a hideous, body-wide rash that weirdly moved slowly around on his body, sometimes engulfing his face, his torso, his arms and legs, etc. (By the way, no medical professional here has ever even heard of a moving rash associated with any known disease before, which gave us serious cause for concern early on!).

Fortunately, we were already at the hospital before the worst of the lung collapse and scarlet fever hit, so he was kept from complete respiratory failure, and the scarlet fever only had a few hours to work before it was knocked out by the antibiotics, which meant that he was never as close to death as he might have been, despite how terribly ill he was.

In the last three days, he has had a chest tube installed to drain the fluid, and been treated with multiple antibiotics to combat the strep. There is nothing the doctors can do to cure the viral infections as they are no susceptible to any known antivirals, but his fever is well controlled, the strep is losing the fight, and his lung function is back up to about 90%.

We are not out of the woods, and best case will be staying in the hospital for another week, but we have moved from condition “Terrified he’s gonna die” through condition “Concerned he might die or have serious future medical problems” and on into condition “Still worried there might be an unexpected downturn, but expecting a full recovery”

For his part, Dashiell is annoyed he can’t get out of bed and go to the potty on his own, and confused why people keep sending him toys and balloons when he “already has enough”.

Mommy and Daddy are stressed and emotionally exhausted but grateful for wonderful family, friends, and neighbors who have helped and supported us in our time of need. We love you all!

Medical update
Jan 18th, 2018 by Blaise

For those who’ve inquired, as of 1AM, our son Dashiell is out of surgery with chest tube successfully installed. 300 milliliters of nastiness were siphoned out of his 1.5 liter chest, and his heartrate and respiration are the lowest they’ve been in 48 hours. All is well (or heading there) with the pneumonia!

Meanwhile, the scarlet fever is responding to treatment, with rashes and skin pain/itching slowly receding.

In other news, daddy is a blubbering, exhausted mess, pinballing emotionally between contented relief and “Everything sucks, and I hate everyone!”

I’m sure mamma is the same, but I sent her home with the baby to try to maintain some sense of normalcy for Arabella, and it’s too late to have an extended phone conversation…

Frustration For The Win!
Sep 15th, 2017 by Blaise

It had been a bad evening. Between little sleep due to a newborn, a long day at work, a three-year-old’s perfect-embodiment-of-an-upraised-middle-finger meltdown, and a previously house-trained dog’s homemade mud-wrestling-pit in the upstairs hall, my neurons were frazzled.

Grumpy and resentful, I trundled the dogs out for their nighty walk, muttering and cursing to myself like a crazy person. As we passed a house we pass regularly, we discovered that the door to the enclosed porch had been left open, allowing a rather large, black dog we’d never met before to plaster itself against the screen door and begin barking aggressively, even furiously, at us.

I had pretty much had enough. I was tired and pissed off, and I really needed that decompression time to regain my sanity. Without thinking, I dropped into the low, gravelly voice I had to learn to use when disciplining our bull mastiff, and roared, “HUSH!”

To my surprise, the black dog stopped its calamitous caterwauling instantly, dropped down from the door, and just stood there, looking at us. For a moment, I paused, basking in my restored quiet time.

Then it happened. From inside the house came a woman’s voice, quiet but with a razor-sharp, mocking edge to it, carrying possibly the most devastating thing I’ve ever heard one human say to another.

“Why won’t she do that for you?”

I must have giggled for an hour straight…

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