Better Together

“Run in places you love with people you like. Enjoying your surroundings and training partners will strengthen your commitment to running and bring out the best in you.”
~Deena Kastor

At the end of a long run this summer my running partner looked at me, with hands on her knees, and said, “There is no way I could have done that without you.”

“Right back at you,” I said with a smile and a wink.  Those who have run 17+ miles with me know the deep, dark secrets start to come out to carry us through those last couple miles.  Sometimes making yourself vulnerable physically and emotionally are exactly what you need to do to form bonds, and it’s amazing what you can accomplish with strong connects to others.

It is this belief in strong community that lead me to find a school for #2.  I no longer wanted to be the principal, janitor, lunch lady, classroom teacher, curriculum design, social worker, special ed. teacher, case manager, behavior intervention specialist AND parent.  Well, forget janitor, I had given up on that one almost immediately.  I did, however, know that #2s case was complicated enough that I could no longer educate him and prepare him for “real life” by myself.  He really struggles with self-advocacy, and its difficult to work on this skill when your mother is continually by your side.  He struggles with knowing how to handle social situations, another tricky thing to work on from your dining room table.  By the end of May he was through the first 6 levels of the Wilson Reading System.  I knew he was reading above grade level and his math was above grade level.  It was time for him to work on some other parts of life.

I had heard bits and pieces about Cyber Village Academy from some acquaintances, but when a friend who has a child that struggles in traditional school told me she had enrolled her child, I decided to get serious.  I did a tour and turned in the paperwork, crossing my fingers the entire time.

Two weeks ago I had #2s first IEP meeting.  I felt slightly queezy going in.  I had flashbacks to the disastrous IEP meetings at his previous school.  Those meetings were combative and infuriating.  I cried during or after each and every meeting.  All I wanted was for my child to receive an education and I was treated like I was asking for some incredibly impossible prize at the end of a fanciful rainbow.

This time, however, it was different.  I was listened to.  They asked questions.  They worked with me…and in turn, I worked with them.  I immediately felt part of a team.  I shared with them some successes of homeschooling, and let them know some failures.  I trusted them enough to be vulnerable and let them know I don’t have all the answers.   I told them that this is a very difficult child to educate and this is why I need help.  We laughed at some of my descriptions of trials and tribulations in homeschooling…and I did not cry!  I left the meeting feeling empowered, supported and encouraged to go home and help make this educational setting a success.

And it is that sense of community that will help carry me through 26.2 on Sunday.  Yes, it’s my legs that will need to continually turn over, just as it’s #2 who needs to read, write, listen, etc.  But, a marathon is truly a team effort.  I will have friends and family throughout the coarse cheering, encouraging, taking my clothing layers and handing me gels.  Yesterday, a running friend brought me this for carboloading:

carboloading

really good beer.

And my dear running partner, who has brought me this far, taught me so much, and trained with me for 3 summers in a row brought me this:

playlist

an iPod with an individualized playlist for my pace.  All I need to do is keep the beat.  Because of injury she has decided not to run this year, but she will be with me every step of the way, encouraging me to keep going with the beauty of music (and maybe there will be some deep secrets hidden in the music I encounter at mile 24).

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we do things together.

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Show them what you’ve got

The marathon is 9 days away.  I have reached rest week.  Now I sit, sleep and eat for a week and get filled with nerves and questions of “What have I gotten myself into?”  Long runs are done.  Hill drills are done.  Track workouts, tempo runs, pace runs, long mid-week runs….all done.  The workout routine that I have come to love and rely on over the last year will take a break for awhile.  My overall goal has been achieved, which was to make it through a year with no major injury.  I have successfully come back from my major stress fracture and completing my second marathon, no matter my time, will be the icing on the cake.  On my last fast run this morning one of my running partners asked how I felt my summer marathon training had gone.  I commented that I could tell I had spent all winter and spring working incredibly hard to gain strength and endurance.  Last fall I worked hard to relearn how to run with my very condensed stride.  I had to concentrate on every step I took so I didn’t slip into my old habits.  During my marathon training this summer I never felt as tired as I felt last winter when I was doing yoga, skate skiing, running through snow drifts and forcing my body to do things I never thought possible for me.

#2 has also come back from an injury.  Both of us were crushed by his school experience, never knowing if he would re-enter a school after basically being told “we don’t know how to teach you and we don’t want to figure it out.”  At my last meeting with the staff the defining moment came when they told me they didn’t believe it was possible for him to read and write (he was only in 3rd grade at the time).  #2 was so downtrodden that he also never believed he would read or write.

We have worked for 1 1/2 years to build up his strength and confidence and prove his former school (and himself) wrong.  I worked long and hard teaching him how to read and write….and most importantly how to believe in himself again.  We started at the beginning, going over the letters and their sounds.  We worked longer and harder on basic reading, writing and math skills than I ever thought was possible.  He wrote paragraph after paragraph working on his form, spelling and trying to get faster and more automatic.  He read book after book out loud working on his decoding strategies, comprehension and reading fluency.

Near the end of the summer I decided it was time to send him into the world.  Because of all his work, his basic skills are much stronger than I thought was possible a couple years ago.  He can decode a word, understands how English works and can discuss what he has read.  The overall goals of homeschooling were met.  He learned to read at grade level, believes he is a reader, has the confidence and ability to express himself in written form, and is able to get spelling close enough for a spellcheck to help him…most of the time.  His work on the basic skills was done and it was time to apply them in a less controlled environment and work on some new goals, so I enrolled him in school.  He now attends Cyber Village Academy, a small charter school close to our house.  Like all the students on campus, he is at school 3 days a week and at home 2, which seems the perfect blend of homeschooling and traditional school.  Much of the reading and writing take place at home, on a computer.  We still tap out syllables for spelling, remind him about the -ed suffix, and I modify the work that isn’t appropriate for him.  I have had his first IEP meeting and they are working on his main goal of self-advocacy at school, a goal that is pretty difficult when your mother slightly stubborn mother is your only teacher.

The week before I sent him off to school we had a rest week at home.  I was filled with anxiety.  Would he be able to do this? Has he prepared well? Should I have drilled him more on vowel-consonant-e? Will he be able to keep up?

It was time for me to trust again and rely on the work we have done.  Trust myself.  Trust the school.  Trust the teachers.  And, trust #2.

P1030354

#2, Are you ready for this?  It’s going to be hard.  There will be times when you want to quit. You will need to constantly remind yourself that you have worked hard for this moment and you want to be here, especially when its hard.  I will be here to help you and encourage you, but its you that will need to do all the hard work.

His response….

Yes.  I’m ready.

I worked hard and I know I can do this.

Let me prove what I know.

I’m ready to show them what I’ve got.

Now can you PLEASE TAKE THE PICTURE SO WE CAN GET GOING?

And with that, he was off.

In 9 days I will also be doing something not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  I never thought I’d be a runner, but here I am proving myself wrong because of the work I have done, the self-discipline I have learn and the support I have received.  There will surely be moments during the 26.2 when I will want to quit.  But, there will be smiling faces and words of encouragement along the way telling me I can do this, rely on the work I’ve done for the past year, and remember to trust my body.

It’s time for me to show myself what I’ve got.