Stickers with a Story

This is a planner post, but it’s a little more than that.

Those of us that are into planners and planning know that people make money off of us.  Big money. The planners themselves aren’t cheap (I’m looking at you, Erin Condren), and then the accessories… Holy Cow. Search Pinterest for Planner accessories and you’ll see what I mean.  There are hundreds of people on eBay who just sell planner stickers. Planner Stickers! And when you add in shipping… well, let’s just say I’ve never felt comfortable spending that much on a consumable, and especially now that it would cost me the better part of a day’s pay for a couple of sheets of stickers…

So what’s a girl to do? All I wanted was a set of stickers to put on days when bills are due.

I started looking at some neato stamps by l2e, but the neato stamps were at least $14 a set. Add in the shipping, the ink…  Not consumable, but still pricy.

Then I went to iconic fonts – the sometimes-free fonts you can download from enterprising young graphic designers that are like tiny little pictures.  I thought if I could find a set that had the icons I wanted, I could put them into a word document, or even a label template and print them out. But it was difficult to find the icons I wanted, especially for free.  Those pesky young graphic designers want to be paid, too.

And then I found this, by Mike Rohde, which are actually some hand drawn bullet journal icons.  At first I thought, “Those are really cool, and kind of what I want, but I can’t draw!”13792208535_267770f11a_m

No, seriously.  I can’t draw.  I used to prepare my students for this fact the few times I had to draw things on the board, and they still laughed.  I explained that this is why I was a music teacher… Can’t draw to save my life.


I came across another pin, recommending Sara Zorel on YouTube.  One of her videos was called “Doodle With Me: Planner Icons”.  Now, doodle I can do.  So when you say “Doodle,” I think I can like that tiny blue engine that could…

And with some practice in my moleskine, I did.

doodle planner icons

I bought a flag shaped punch on clearance at Walmart for $3, and I already had sticker paper (In fact, had scraps of it from my NaNoWriMo prep – more on that later), and so I colored the scraps with markers, punched out some flags, and started doodling.

It may seem small, but I am totally geeked that I can make for myself and not spend money unnecessarily. And that I can kinda sorta draw. Not people, though. That’s just scary.

more doodle planner icons

Shift your paradigm, and when you say to yourself, “I can’t,” question it. Sometimes you can amaze yourself.


Participation trophies.

Let me tell you that I’m on the fence here, but I’m leaning.

Kids should not get something for nothing.

I do not think you need to have a graduation ceremony from preschool.  Nor do I think you need one from kindergarten, 5th grade, or 8th grade.  There should be one graduation ceremony, honoring your hard work, which was a long-term goal.  The rest of that nonsense does not need to happen.  A celebration?  Sure! Graduation? No.

Nor do I think 8th graders should be taking limos and renting tuxes for their 8th grade dance.  That’s a prom thing, and some traditions should be kept to the original event.

But participation awards?

That’s a little different.

This country has an obsession with sports.  If you look at the highest paid people in any society, you will see what they value in their culture.  Look at how competitive kids sports are.  Look at how young they enter AAU leagues, and spend their entire summers (and sometimes school years) traveling, training, and competing.  Look at how many news stories you see about parents who don’t know how to support their children, and cannot control themselves at games.

Every field day, my kid comes home with a participation ribbon.  He doesn’t win stuff in sports.  I didn’t either.  Just about every kid in my elementary school was on a soccer team.  I wasn’t.  I had absolutely no interest.  I played parks and rec basketball and softball a bit.  I was on middle school and freshman volleyball, and I played co-rec in college.  But it wasn’t my bag.

And it gets old seeing other people get stuff all the time.  It’s like watching the popular kid be popular all the time, or the really pretty girl be the center of attention all the time.  It just gets old.

And maybe the participation is kind of a socialist thing, spreading the good feelings around to everyone, regardless of athletic ability.  But before you jump on the socialist part of that statement, think about the other part.  The part about spreading good feelings around to all the kids.  Isn’t that something we want?

I don’t think participation ribbons make any kid think they deserve stuff for not earning it.  A participation ribbon never made me think I had really won anything.  But it told me that at least I showed up and tried at this thing I wasn’t really into.  And in truth, there’s a lot of value in that.  Lots of people grow up and have jobs that they’re not really into, and they aren’t the very best in their field, but they still get paid because they show up and try.

The Boy has taught me a lot.  Every kid is different, and too much in our society tries to peg them into the same interests and hierarchies.  It’s time we really look at kids as people in their own right.  Just because they didn’t win the tournament doesn’t mean they didn’t learn anything from it.  In fact, they probably learned much more from losing.

So if a participation ribbon commemorates showing up, trying, and learning, isn’t that what life’s really all about?

Participation ribbons for everyone. Everyone.


Common Sense

“Common Sense isn’t so common.”

How many times have you heard this phrase?

How many times have you really thought about it, though?

It seems like every day I come across some situation where someone’s behavior or the string of words that come out of their mouth are shocking to me. “They don’t have a lick of sense!” would be a usual response around here.

When employees are at work at a retail store and are “spoken to” because they are not being discreet with their phones… and there is no one in the store.  When teachers “modify” a test down from 75 questions to 15. When a young man with autism isn’t paid for a year of work at a restaurant. I could go on.

Maybe we are becoming more individual which is a good thing.  I mean, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and thoughts, and heaven forbid we go back to the days where kids were seen and not heard, and women voted the way their husbands did (or even to the days when women couldn’t vote!). Everyone was polite then, and there were things that just weren’t done — everyone conformed. And that’s not ideal, either.

But I think somehow, with all of this “entitlement” to our opinions, we have lost something. Is it the ability to think rationally? to problem solve? to logically analyze what’s going on and make deductions based on evidence? to reflect on ourselves, our own behavior, motivations, and actions?

I’m not one to bash technology.  I think it’s a great tool, I use it every day, all the time. But I wonder if our reliance on technology has turned us into a people that cannot think for themselves. Not just about opinions, but about facts, evidence, and what to do with those facts and evidence to make things better for other people and ourselves.

I saw it when I was teaching, and asked my 6th graders to really research and think about the purpose music had in different cultures. They would simply go to google and type: “What is the purpose of music in South Africa?”

Thinking takes time and effort, and unfortunately, I think people of all ages are doing less and less of it.  And as I always told my band kids, when they weren’t practicing their skills, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

Food for thought, my friends.

Post-Move Update

If you follow this blog, you know that we sold our house at the end of August and moved into a rental house where we will live while we build another small house that is in The Boy’s “district”.  In order for him to go to high school with all of the friends he’s made since moving south, we need to live in that area, so we have less than a year to make that a reality.

Moving from our former house was bittersweet.  The Man bought that house pretty cheaply because it needed tons of work, and then did all of the work and then some to make it a very nice house, bigger than anything he or I had ever lived in before, and the best part was that it was paid for – no mortgage payment. We were able to remodel it to our tastes, and the fact that it was paid for was what made it possible for The Boy and me to move here. It was our first house as a married couple, as a family, it was where The Man proposed to me… We had lots of really good memories there. It had a beautiful backyard up next to a golf course, so views of gorgeous sunsets, sunrises, and wildlife were common occurrences. The Boy could ride his bike or scooter to his hearts content, and we were glad that he was safe to do that without being bothered.

While our current rental house isn’t exactly as we’d want it, and there is that rent payment hanging over our heads (right at a time when I’m making so much less than I was before), I can’t help but revel in the positives here, as well. I wrote about the tree swing earlier this week, which The Boy adores, and therefore so do I. The lot itself is quite pretty, with well-placed, picturesque trees and lots for the cat to look at during the day.  We are placed directly between two churches, so there are no neighbors to speak of, and we are so much closer to civilization… I can’t tell you how much easier it is over here.  We don’t have to plan our day around a trip to Walmart – it’s now only two minutes away. We are physically not much closer to Grammy and Poppy, but the fact that you don’t have to cross two bridges and miles of two-lane road to get there make quite a difference in the time.  The house itself is the perfect size, just about the same size we intend to build the new house, so it is easy for us to plan and visualize what we’d like to do.

room with a view

The very best thing is that The Boy loves being closer to his grandparents, civilization, and most of all, his school.  The bus used to come pick him up at 6:30am. Now, we have foregone the bus in the morning (alleviating so much stress), and The Man takes him at 7:20am.  That’s quite a difference to a tired teenager.  One that makes him infinitely happier, and he is not afraid to show it. He has adapted beautifully and I’m proud of him and happy for him, too.

While we could have stayed where we were, I’m so glad we decided to take the risk and do this. Onward and upward!

New Planner for 2016

When money gets tight, you tend to re-evaluate the things you buy on a regular basis. Do I really need this? If the answer is yes, Do I really need this kind, or can a get a cheaper kind? I find myself doing this a lot lately. And I just noticed my Erin Condren planner is about to expire in three months.

How much would I have to change if I went with a different type of planner?

How much would I have to change if I went with a different type of planner?

If you are at all familiar with Erin Condren, you know that they are expensive.  No bones about it.  Yes, you can rationalize the cost with the fact that you use it daily over the course of a year or 18 months. And the sheer fact that it is expensive is a motivator to many (myself included) to use it on a regular basis. This is the one I like, and now they have a horizontal option for the daily planner, which would fit my planning style better, I think.

But now, when the purchase of that planner (including shipping) would equate to at least a couple of days of work, I begin to re-evaluate… And research. I’ve found that their customer service seems to be sub-par. I’ve never had a problem personally, but there are so many unhappy customers out there, and it worries me that you spend that much on something and there is no telephone number to use on their website, anywhere. I don’t like that.

I’ve found Plum Paper Designs as an affordable alternative. Still a bit pricey, but nowhere near what an Erin Condren planner is. Customer Service reviews seem great. They have some really smart add-ons that EC doesn’t offer, and product reviews seem to get high marks, too. (If you need a 10% discount code, let me know in the comments and I can give you one!)

And yet… I cannot make a decision. I have a product in a cart on both websites, and just cannot commit.

Do any of you have an opinion?  Please share.

I will be making a purchase within the next week or so, and I will do a review post on my purchase when it arrives (probably in a month or two). Decisions, decisions…

New, New, New

I’ve written recently about how many changes The Boy is handling at school (and at home) and how well he is doing with all of it.  His school schedule has been sorted, relatively, and his TA is growing into her role as the point of contact at the school.

I, too, have been handling some big change.  I left my job and got a new one, and even though it presents new challenges due to being a little less than full time, I think it quite possibly saved my sanity.  I look forward to going to work again, and learning new tasks with a new crew of people who are not constantly gossiping, backstabbing, and sabotaging.  Even though I work with people much younger than me now, the maturity level is infinitely higher than the workplace I left.

We also closed on the sale of our house and moved into our temporary home while we build on our lot.  The house was left fairly dirty, and the walls were a goldenrod color (seriously??), so we had to clean and paint before unpacking completely, and I was about ready to tear my hair out, but it’s been about a week, and we are finally settling in. I love being on this side of town, and we are so close to The Boy’s school, that The Man is now taking him in the morning, alleviating some of our morning anxieties. The Boy loves it because he gets to sleep in later (ha!).

And everything kind of happened at once. Autism families recognize this as having great potential for disaster, but (knock on wood) we are all adjusting quite well, and much that is positive has come from this round of changes. I guess change is inevitable, but sometimes we get scared. Life is too short to be miserable and afraid, though, and taking risks can result in positive things. It’s good to be reminded of that.


Hope for Eighth Grade

Last week, after my visit to the Sheriff’s Department, I had a meeting with The Boy’s former ASD teacher and the Special Ed teacher he will have this year in 8th grade.

Yes, they have virtually dismantled the high functioning autism pilot program in The Boy’s school, the main reason we have him up at 6am, taking an hour and a half bus ride to the school across the county.  As of his IEP this spring, we were having to make some adjustments, as his ASD teacher would not be there full time, but we found out a couple of weeks ago that she has now been transferred to another school entirely.

So much change for this kiddo…

We agreed, his former ASD teacher and I, that having a meeting with the Special Ed teacher for 8th grade who will sort of serve as his “home base” like she had for the past two years would be a good idea.  The 8th grade Special Ed teacher has actually had The Boy briefly, covering for another Special Ed teacher who was out on maternity leave, and we had a nice, long chat about The Boy, his obsessions, routines, what works, what doesn’t work, etc.  I found out who he would have for his two general ed core classes, and both of those teachers will be better to work with than last years’ teachers, so that is a welcome change.  We also discussed the new principal and assistant principal, and how both would be easier to work with than their predecessors, as well.

Afterwards, I spoke with The Boy about 8th Grade and what he could expect, who would be familiar faces, and who would be new, but nice people.  Even though so much has changed for him, he is looking forward to 8th Grade. I think he’s been looking forward to it for so long, it would take something earth-shattering to make him any less excited.

It seems the district is making some wise choices in terms of placement and hiring, so that even though the pilot program will no longer exist, the competence and kindness of the teachers and administrators in place should help The Boy progress towards his goals as if nothing has changed.  Time will tell, but as of right now, I am extremely hopeful.

Moving, Removing, and Limbo

We put our house on the market in June.  Two days later we had an offer.  We negotiated and agreed upon a price.

Since that time, we have been going through the process – appraisals, inspections, etc.  All of the details that have to happen, be approved, and then to the next step.  This past week, we were supposed to close on Friday.

Monday we got a call that there was an issue with the paperwork, which could nullify the deal. Tuesday, we got another call that the issue had been cleared up, and we were all set to go with the closing on Friday.  Wednesday afternoon, we got another call with another issue, which could delay the closing, but were told to plan as if the closing was still going to happen.

I don’t know about where you live, but apparently here, the buyers take possession of the house immediately after closing.  This means if there is a closing, your house better be packed up and empty.

As a result, we packed up our entire house Wednesday evening so that The Man could move it all to the place we were supposedly renting on Thursday to be ready for the closing Friday.

Thursday, we were in limbo, but emptied the house.

Friday, we were notified that the closing would be postponed 2-4 weeks.

How do people do this? All of the professionals kept saying, “This happens all the time,” and the response in my head was, “Why? How?” I think my stomach was in perpetual knots the entire week.  I couldn’t concentrate at work.  The Boy was completely confused, staying at Grammy’s several days and nights so that he at least had some consistency in his life.  As it is, he is still confused, as am I.

limbo roomWe decided to move everything back to our house, and forgo any rental until the papers are signed, and the money has cleared.  It’s just too much to bear.  In my opinion, attorneys handling the closing should get their paperwork in order way before the week of the closing, so that if there are any issues, people are not having to rent another moving truck to re-move back into their own homes, hopefully they haven’t yet signed a lease on a rental, and they are able to cancel cable installations after they’ve already happened.  It’s insanity.

Apparently, everything is still going to happen, but we have some steps to follow to clear up an issue.  So keep us in your thoughts. The real estate rollercoaster is always aggravating, but this has been beyond the pale, especially with a young man with autism in the house struggling to understand what’s going on.

My Aunt

About a week ago, my aunt was killed in a car accident on her way to our family reunion.

She was my dad’s only sister, and my only aunt not by marriage.  She was my godmother, and mother to 10 children, including three sets of twins, and a son with Down’s Syndrome.  She was a teacher, and when she retired, she continued to teach GED classes at the local prison.  She came from a long line of strong, active, intelligent, family-oriented women.  I’ve written before about her and these strong women here and here.

We were so looking forward to seeing her, and listening to her and my great-aunt share memories.  It was a hard weekend, but it was amazing to be able to share our grief with extended family members.  We won’t be able to make it to her memorial service, but she has been on our minds and in our hearts all week.

Even though she was 87, she was taken from us too soon.  She was an inspiration, even though she’d probably roll her eyes at that.  She was another one who, when asked, “How do you do it?” would have simply replied, “I just do.”

I love you, and I’ll miss you, my dear Aunt Mickey.

The Ex and Summer Plans

The ex has never abided by our agreement which states that he is supposed to give me his intended plans for summer visitation by May 1.  It has never happened in the seven years we have been divorced. This has never surprised me because he has always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants guy, but it is problematic.

This year, we hadn’t heard much from him since April. A week or so ago, he texted me to inform me that his dad had been diagnosed with stage 5 Alzheimer’s, and as a result, he wanted The Boy for the last week in July so that he might be able to see him before it’s too late.

While I feel absolutely awful for my ex-father-in-law, as he is and was rather a sweet guy, our plans for the summer have already been made, and a huge part of that summer includes camp for The Boy.  He has always looked forward to summer camp and ESY as a highlight of his year, and when I asked him if he would prefer to go to Dad’s and miss camp, he said he thought his dad needed to make some other arrangements.  Out of the mouths of babes.

I informed the ex that the last week in July was out, but we would be happy to discuss times when The Boy was not in camp or in school, which left a few weeks in July and exactly one week in August.

He obviously couldn’t get his act together in time to make anything happen in July, but expressed interest in the one week in August, the last week before school.  If you know any child on the spectrum, you know that transitions like going back to school are a huge, huge deal, and just contemplating The Boy making a long trip in that week was making my head hurt.  But I knew in my heart of hearts that probably nothing would come if it anyway – sad, I know.

Sure enough, the ex wanted to bring him back on the first day of school, and I explained that that would not work at all.  He responded by suggesting The Boy fly by himself within an airline assistance program…

Uh… yeah, right.

How friendly are these skies, anyway?

How friendly are these skies, anyway?

In the past when he has suggested this, I have flat out said no.

This time, I didn’t.  I called his bluff.  He wants to pay for a plane ticket, pay extra for special assistance that in all probabliity isn’t even available, all when he is many hundreds of dollars behind on child support? I told him our limitations in terms of airlines that fly into this general area, and suggested he do some research to see if they were even available.  He said he would, and he was excited to have The Boy that week and be able to go camping with him.