EC Planner: editorial calendar

Recently I sat down to figure out how I could back in the swing of things here at Simple. I Just Do.  I re-read some resources I had, and began planning (my favorite thing!), and realized I needed a space for an editorial calendar.  Then I realized I already had the perfect space, and it was under-utilized – the month-at-a-glance portion of my EC planner!

I had seen posts of others using the daily portion, but it didn’t really work for me.  So I sat down, did some brainstorming, analyzed some analytics, and came up with a whole slew of post topics, and even made up a little code for types of post.  I broke out the post-it notes (my second favorite thing!) and began “scheduling” these posts, making sure to plan a variety of types of posts, as well as topics.  Whatever posts that were not scheduled were put off to the side for revision and use in the future.  And if I get an idea for a post, now I just jot it on one of these small post-its, stick it in there, and it’ll be ready for next month’s planning session.  They are also really easy to move around – I had a different post planned for today, but it wasn’t ready, so I moved this one up a few weeks.  Easy peasy.

I’m also able to schedule my social media posts and interaction, linky parties, etc.

It may not be the most beautiful or elegant thing ever, but for me, the most important thing is it WORKS!  And I can make it beautiful later, when I get some time (yeah, right).  This is not an earth-shattering idea, but it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on what has worked in the past, think about what resources you have, and try to marry the two.  No sense in re-creating the wheel when you don’t have to. In fact that’s something good to do in just about every area of your life.  Sounds like a topic for another blog post… now where are my post-its?

5 Tips for Autism Parents for “Dealing with the School”

autism & schoolI’m a latecomer to this.  We were very lucky with The Boy’s elementary school, and his elementary teachers, in particular his ASD teachers who really acted like caseworkers, made sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.  They advocated for the kids with other teachers and with administration, they handled little problems as they came up, they didn’t think the world was ending with every not-so-good day, and thank goodness they were the foundation, the bedrock if you will, of The Boy’s education.

They spoiled us, but they also showed us how it was supposed to be.

When we moved south, I was shocked at how bad a school could handle it’s special education students.  So I fought to get a better placement for The Boy, because I knew it existed, and I knew we would lose him if we didn’t.  And we got it.

Better, but not perfect.  If you follow my blog regularly, you know that even now we have issues with certain teachers who just don’t get it, strange schedule changes that don’t make sense, and administrators all too quick to wash their hands of anything that comes up. In short, I still have to “deal with the school” from time to time, and the following are some of the best strategies I have found over the years for getting what you want from them.

1.  Listen and watch to determine who your allies are.  Before we moved here, I contacted the local autism society who put me in touch with the autism specialist for the county. She was supposed to be this fantastic resource, but I’ve watched her and listened to her, and to this day, I don’t consider her an ally.  She almost prevented The Boy from switching schools, and I’ve seen how she has handled other situations with other parents, and I’m not impressed.  On the other hand, through that placement process, I was impressed with the assistant superintendent for special education – she cut through the bull on the second day of our IEP meeting (with 14 members present), and brought some chart paper to illustrate that this really was a no-brainer, and the best placement was at his current school. If you watch and listen, you can determine who might be a good resource, and someone to turn to when something’s not right.

2.  Never trust anyone 100%.  Unfortunately, you always have to be wary, because in a school setting, people are not always at liberty to say what they really want to say, and sometimes, due to the nature of autism, they will bend the truth about something that happened (or didn’t happen), or not tell you at all.  A friend recently had a conference with two teachers, one of whom was a revered special ed teacher.  The friend and her son walked into the meeting, expecting to meet with cooperative teachers trying to find a solution, and the revered teacher began to yell at the son for disrespecting his mom at home.  My friend was so taken aback, she asked her son to leave the room, and in her words, “if that was supposed to be support for me, it definitely didn’t feel like it!” People are people, and they make mistakes.  They also change, and teachers get tired. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but just because you could depend on someone “on the inside” in the past, doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

3.  Don’t belittle the teachers.  I read on another autism blog’s Facebook page recently something about actual quotes from IEPs she’s been involved in, and it said something like “I am a taxpayer and I pay your salary!”  Ummm, no.  As a former teacher, this is just about the worst and most alienating thing you can say. Many times, teachers’ hands are so bound by mandates and the wishes of the district and administration that they have little to no power, even over what happens in their own classrooms.  Saying things like this ensures that they will not be your allies, and that can turn out really badly, in the end.

4.  Keep a poker face.  It’s ok, and even advisable to play dumb from time to time.  Earlier this year, The Boy got in trouble for making noises when entering his last class, which is supposed to be a social skills class with his autism teacher.  She had decided it was going to be a silent class, and you can imagine how well that went over with The Boy, who understandably feels like he can let loose a little at the end of the day in his little autism community.  And his teacher escalated the situation, making him more and more angry and upset.  She emailed me with a long list of all the things he had done.  Rather than retaliate, and explain to her about autism (as she clearly had forgotten all of her training for that hour), i suggested that The Boy may have needed to *insert any usual autistic reaction here*.  I could have gone off on her, asking her what the hell she was thinking, and didn’t she know that kids on the spectrum stim and make noises, and to make a social skills class a silent period is the definition of stupidity, but I didn’t.  I simply let her know that The Boy may have had a hard time with it.  Don’t tell them how to do their jobs, even if you know better than they do. Play dumb, and remind them that your kid is a kid, and will make mistakes from time to time.  Together we have to teach them what’s appropriate sometimes.

5.  Pick your battles.  Most autism parents are very familiar with this, but realizing school is not the be-all, end-all was a big a-ha moment for me.  I don’t care so much about grades, because they are based on a standardized norm, and my kid is not standardized, and definitely not the norm.  I care if he learns the content more, but again, our home life is more important than the Types of Energy and the Pharaohs of Egypt.  I have given up on the science teacher this year, who rather than modify assignments, is choosing to give my child grades based on effort.  I can’t teach him science, so I guess he just won’t get much out of the class this year.  Disappointing, but not the end of the world.  The teachers (even the autism teacher) are still giving us only a day’s notice about tests and quizzes, so when that happens, we do what we can but I don’t stress. He usually does pretty well, and what do tests show, anyway? Sometimes you bang your head on a brick wall until you realize it hurts, and then you move on.

Some of these tips seem contradictory, but they aren’t.  They’ve all helped me navigate for better resources and understanding for The Boy, and I hope you can use them too.  Do you have any tips of your own?  Share them in the comments, please!

Shared on amamasstory.com – visit her Mama Moments Monday Link-up!

Anti-Resolutions

I’ve said before that resolutions aren’t really my thing.  And they’re still not.  But today, I did yoga for the second time in two weeks (and before that in a loooooong time).  And once this past week, I pulled out my flute and played for about an hour.  Last weekend, I got The Boy out of bed and I went to the beach (even though it was freezing) to take a couple of shots with my new camera – I have to practice using the manual settings – Yay!

I’m trying to be more positive at work, and get more accomplished at both work and home.  I’m trying not to let social media rule my evening so I can enjoy some time with The Man.

These are all things I’d like to continue doing this year, but I haven’t identified any resolutions, because I don’t want to set myself up for failure, and then be disappointed.  So instead, I will just try to form these habits, these good habits.

And it all begins with that first time.

Planner Supplies

Last week, I told you I’d let you know about some of the supplies I’ve picked up for my Erin Condren planner.

  • Post-Its  I love post-it notes, and have them in just about every size, and I used these at first to keep track of events that were tentative in my planner, or things I wanted to remember but didn’t have a strip of wash tape to jot it down on.  I still use them a bit, but not as much as I used to.  I like the ones in bright colors, so they catch my eye and do what they’re supposed to do – remind me of something important!
  • Printable planner stickers from etsy  I bought some full-sheet sticker paper for my printer, and then printed these colorful stickers (that say “bill” and “shopping” and “date night” just to name a few) that I then cut by hand.  It uses a lot of ink, however, so I’m not sure I’ll do this again.  We’ll see.
  • Washi tape I have a new addiction to this stuff, and unfortunately, it ain’t cheap.  But Michael’s sells a bunch of rolls in one tube, and if you can wait for a good sale or coupon, you can get a good deal.  I think they run about $20 for 13 rolls, and I got mine half-off.  Not bad when most places charge you around $4 per roll.  I always keep an eye out for some on clearance at Walmart, as well.  Washi tape is good for keeping track of events in your planner that cover several days.  I also use it instead of the stickers that came with the EC planner, because it is much easier to move – the EC stickers are supposed to be re-positionable, but aren’t very cooperative.
  • Frixion markers I picked a set of these up on Amazon for about $12, and they are life-transforming.  OK, maybe not, but pretty darn close.  They are markers that you can erase, which is GREAT for someone who loves pops of color to help her remember things, but hates the permanence of regular markers.  PLUS, they don’t bleed through the page.
  • Stickers I adore the kawaii and mochi style stickers, but haven’t committed the money to order any yet.  In the meantime, I’ve been checking my regular craft outlets and the dollar store for some cute ones to add a little something here and there.  I got these monster stickers at Walmart for $1. I use triangle-shaped ones to indicate when a bill has been paid.

A Looky-Loo at my planner

You may recall that I splurged a bit and purchased an Erin Condren Life Planner awhile back.  These are kind of a trendy thing right now, and I had no idea if it would be worth the cost, considering I’m not a sorority girl, a teacher (they have a special lesson planner, too), or getting married – all very popular markets for this planner.  But I have kept it up, and especially like finding the perfect supplies to make planning fun (more on that in another post!).

I went back to a paper planner, because I needed one spot to find all my important dates and lists. I’m keeping track of:

  • bills and due dates
  • assignments, quizzes, and tests for The Boy
  • blog posts I want to write
  • appointments at work, and when the boss will be out of town ;)
  • evening activities like school events and date night
  • budgeting and expense tracking for our trailer flip
  • ideas for novels
  • my christmas list
  • prescription renewal reminders

I’d like to also include (but haven’t yet):

  • meal planning
  • shots I want to take and skills I want to practice – I got a new camera for Christmas!
  • a real dashboard – mine (pictured below) is more of a home for unused or previously-used post-its and pre-cut washi tape

Here are a few shots to show you how I’m using it.

photo 2

stars are bill due dates, wash tape indicates evening activities (I like to keep the month at a view fairly simple)

photo 1

my “dashboard” on the inside cover – needs help, I know, but it functions

photo 3

Work is in the middle, because that’s where I spend my days. Due dates on top, because the morning is when I make sure they are all met. Evening activities are on the bottom.

photo 4

Commonly used stickers are in the back (as well as school calendars and other important papers).

 

Goodbye 2014

Here is my obligatory end-of-year post.

2014 was what it was.  7th grade brought new issues for The Boy, and by extension, for us at home.  We never stop learning. And we never stop being amazed at how much we have to learn.

This time of year is a natural time to reflect and plan, and I have much to be thankful for from 2014, and much to look forward to in 2015.

I’m thankful for my good-paying job that does much to support our family in a fairly comfortable fashion, even though it makes me absolutely crazy in the summer.  I actually really enjoy it in the winter, so we shall see what the new year brings.

I am so extremely thankful to have The Man in my life.  He is my rock, my partner in crime, the one who holds me at night, and cracks me up during the day.  There is no one on Earth I would rather have by my side than him.

I’m thankful to have my parents so close after being so far for so long.  It’s a joy to see the relationship between The Boy and his grandparents so strong.  We are lucky to have that, I think.

In the coming year, my first priority is to find more balance.  I’ve been struggling with this.  I work more hours now, for less money, and much of my off-time is wasted in front of the TV.  I plan to use more time in the evenings to work on the necessary things that fall by the wayside too often, as well as the things I’d like to do, which also get pushed to the back burner. This may not be a welcome change at first for The Man, who sees our TV-watching time as time spent together, but in the end, I hope he’ll see it as necessary to my sanity, and therefore a good thing for our relationship. :)

I also need to spend more time with my parents, and I already have some plans  in the works on how to accomplish this.  Time is so dear, but it marches on, as well.  And I don’t want to wake up ten years from now and wish I had done more and taken more time.

Thank you, dear readers, for hanging in with me this year.  I know I haven’t been posting as regularly as I have in the past, and that is another priority for me in the coming year.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve, and enjoy your loved ones.

We Are Destroying Our Children

On the news last night, they featured a music program in a California school system that was funded by a grant because there wasn’t any money in the school budget for it.  This is not new, this happens all the time, but while watching this program I began to cry.  Not like, “Oh, that’s so sweet, and isn’t that great for those kids.” No, this was different.  These tears were more like, “This is completely and utterly unacceptable that our schools cannot afford arts programs.”

Do you know where the money is going?  It’s going to Pearson, and companies like Pearson who charge for their testing programs, for their test prep materials, even for their “professional development” programs – “experts” that they have chosen to send to schools willing to pay enough for the wisdom on… you guessed it, how to get the kids to pass the test.  How to teach more, faster.  How to determine what not to teach, so that you can teach the really important stuff – you know, the stuff that’s on the test.  How to get kindergartners to sit still long enough to take a standardized test.  Test taking strategies to teach to the kids to increase their odds of getting a correct answer… on the test.

Let me be clear – testing is not education.  But our kids and our teachers spend so much time on testing, there is very little time left for actual teaching and learning.

And in the meantime, we wonder why the rates of kids with anxiety have gone through the roof.  We wonder why kids are so mean to each other.  We wonder why our kids get addicted to video games, and their phones, and technology in general.  And I hate to say it, but in ten years or so, we’re going to be shocked at the rise in suicides and mental health issues in our youth.

They don’t know how to play anymore because they don’t have time.   They don’t have hobbies anymore because they don’t have time.  They don’t find joy in music or art because it’s not in their school day anymore, and you guessed it – they don’t have time after school.

They have hours – HOURS! of homework. Even in Kindergarten. They have shortened recess because the class didn’t get everything done.  They have silent lunch periods where they have to sit boy-girl, boy-girl so that they do not socialize and cause “trouble.” They are not allowed to have a real vacation – some teacher will assign a project, because kids will just get bored over break, right?  Why not use that time to get some more standards in?

I cried at that news story out of sheer rage and helplessness.  I left education in large part because it was heading in a very wrong direction, and it is only accelerating  toward that really bad place.  And it will have devastating, crippling effects on this generation of school kids that can only “socialize” and escape via technology.

What do we do? I do what I can. When my kid’s teacher assigns homework over break, I tell him it may not get done, and I might tell a little white lie about why.  My kid deserves a break, and he will get it if I have anything to say about it.  When a school in my district enacts these stupid policies about recess and lunch (and yes, those are real policies in place in an elementary school in my district), I will write letters to principals, superintendents, and school boards. And I will speak loudly to anyone who will listen about testing, and what it is doing to our kids and our educational system.

I do what I can.  It may not be much, but it’s better than crying at the TV.

Life Gets In the Way

I wish I had a better excuse for not blogging. I wish I could say I won NaNoWriMo this year.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes, and, well, we’ve been having a rough go of it lately, behaviorally. It’s hard to write when you have no idea what is going on with your kid. It becomes harder to find time when you struggle to get him to do any homework at all, and really homework is torture for you, as well, and you just need some downtime.

But I’m not one for excuses, except to say that it is what it is. I have missed blogging, and it is something I need to do for my own well-being. Ergo, it shall be done. I may not write every day, but I will write, and I just hope that there are a few of you still out there to read it. If not, that’s ok, too.

Be prepared, though. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Puberty + Autism = Nothing for the faint of heart. I sure hope puberty is the culprit here, because if this isn’t temporary and transitional… I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Thanks for sticking by me. I’m back on the wagon again.

Heads Up: NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us

It’s that time again, and I give you fair warning.  November is National Novel Writing Month, and it begins this Saturday.  I am very excited this year, however I had oodles of time to participate last year – I was unemployed!  And this year, I’m employed full time and wondering when I will have the time to write 50,000 words in 31 days…

Therefore, I may not post with any sort of regularity, although I will attempt to prepare some posts in advance.  If you try to interact with me on the blog or social media, please understand if I don’t get back to you right away. NaNo is a crazy, tortuous thing that is so rewarding and creative that I can’t imagine not doing it again.

This year, I have a killer story and I’ve even done some planning and research (unlike last year, when I completely “pantsed” the whole thing)!  I’m not giving any spoilers yet, but I really, really want to do this, so please, dear readers, bear with me.

I can’t wait!

Last year’s book cover…

bookcover1