The Peaceful Playground

My kids attend a two-year-old charter school. Last year they had no playground equipment until some parents donated balls and another parent lent the school a portable basketball hoop last spring.

As with most new charter schools, we went through quite a bit of staff changes the first year. At the beginning of this second year we had a new director. He was a physical education teacher before becoming an administrator, which has been a great boon for our kids when it comes to physical opportunities.

A physical education teacher was hired this year – last year classroom teachers were in charge of physical education for their classrooms. Then, over MEA weekend, new playground equipment was installed. This was great, especially for my child with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Before the playground was put in, he often found himself in trouble fighting over balls with other kids. Because of his syndrome, he is not able to play team sports. He is able to play ball with one other child, maybe two, but even that is very difficult. Since there are not enough balls for every child to have his or her own, he would get into trouble for not sharing, or for stealing a ball from a group of classmates playing a game.

With the addition of the playground equipment, he now had something else to do when a ball was not available. And then came the addition of the Peaceful Playground over spring break. This playground is painted on the parking lot. There are hopscotch boards, four-square courts, a map of the United States and a big circle with shapes and colors that seems to lend itself to all sorts of games. I think there also may be some baselines to play kickball, or something.

I can see how hopscotch and the map are considered peaceful. And when I was a kid four-square was a mild game enjoyed by the less athletic girls, like me. But I have seen how four-square is played now, and it is not peaceful! As you can imagine, my Aspergian wanted in on the fun, with somewhat disastrous results.

He would get so frustrated with his inability to win everytime (which is not possible for anyone – and even less possible for a less-coordinated individual) that he was getting in trouble for pushing classmates when things didn’t go his way. Now he has a paraprofessional who shadows him on the playground and helps him lose gracefully. Since his para joined him several weeks ago, he has only had one physical altercation.

It is good that he is getting help learning how to lose gracefully. We try to teach him that at home, but often we just try to avoid situations that we know will cause trouble, because we want to have a fun, peaceful time. So he is getting the opportunity to learn important life lessons, but I sure miss the peaceful days before the Peaceful Playground!

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Illegal immigration

Hmmm, I am not sure what to say about this one. It is my understanding that the amount of money illegal immigrants add to the system far outweighs the amount of money they take through education and health care. It is my understanding that if it were not for the illegal immigrants, social security would not be doing as well as it is, because the birthrate of legal Americans is not keeping up with the amount of people who are needed to keep social security solvent. So thank goodness for illegal immigrants and their many children who are working and paying into the system.

On a more personal note, I have been told that one of my great-grandfathers was an illegal immigrant from Italy. He never learned to read or write English, but he was also never a drain on the system. He worked at a mattress factory, and when he was too old to work, he spent every day bicycling around the city, delivering flowers to patients at the various hospitals in his city.

I understand that there are some illegal immigrants who are criminals. But I also believe that most aren’t, and that our immigration laws are strange – why do we let in all of the brilliant minds from around the world to compete with jobs that our bright children need, while we shut out people who are more than happy to do the jobs that none of us want to do?

The office I used to work at was cleaned almost exclusively by immigrants. I truly appreciated them giving me such a clean comfortable work environment, while allowing me to focus on my writing. It was refreshing to only have to clean my house, and not my office space, too.

As with all issues, I realize that this is very complex issue. But I do believe we need to realize that, unless we are Native Americans, we are all illegal immigrants, from their perspective. Oh, and we are illegal immigrants of the worst kind. We steal their land, murder them, imprison them on tiny tracts of land, patronize them and then wonder why they are alcoholics and have the highest suicide rate of any people group in America.

We should be thrilled that most of the current illegal immigrants want to work with us rather than against us.

So what’s up with the cute skull and cross bones?

Okay, okay, I did enjoy Treasure Island when I was a kid, but the pirates didn’t win everything. And it certainly didn’t leave me wanting to be a pirate. I was just thrilled that the boy made it back safe.

Johnny Depp made pirates into clowns, so I can see, from that perspective, why people now consider wearing pirate symbols as just something fun. But a skull and cross bones? Really, what is fun about that? A big red nose, rainbow hair and giant shoes are fun. But a dead man’s bare bones plastered on a little girl’s pink shirt? Oh, wait, the skull is rounded into a cute baby shape with a little pink bow on the top, so that makes it alright. Baby skulls are cute – what?!!!?

So I was at a local fabric store waiting to pay for some festive St. Patrick’s Day textiles, when I overheard this conversation. I don’t try to eavesdrop, I just happen to have excellent hearing, and because of my Asperger’s Syndrome, I have to try to block noises out, which means that I automatically hear all conversations around me unless I try not to listen. I wasn’t in the mood to work that hard, so here’s the jist of what I heard.

“I found the cutest little outfit the other day for Stephanie’s (chose not to remember the real name, so this is just a filler) baby. I am going to give it to her at her shower. It is the soft gray with a skull and cross bones on the front. I know she will just love it! She brought over a cute pink outfit with a skull and cross bones with a matching hat when my little girl was born this fall.”

“Oh, that is so cute. Now your kids will match. How adorable.”

What? Adorable? It’s great that there are matching babies wearing the Jolly Roger? What planet are these women on? What is cute about dressing your infants in symbols of death, destruction, lying, cheating, stealing, pillaging, plundering, marooning, mutinying, and so on?

How is it that we think we are going to have a strong, good nation full of people who will be interested in taking care of the world in a positive, unified manner when we dress from their first days, and entertain them with ideas of the above mentioned? Kids won’t hear how you must not actually act like pirates when that is all we feed them.

I have an acquaintance who often has the right things to say – has great wisdom and often gives proper advice when I am faced with difficulties. But I very seldom take that person’s words seriously because that friend’s life does not show that they use anything they preach. I have another acquaintance whose life and words do usually match. I don’t need to tell you what I do with that friend’s advice.

Please tell me that we don’t need to go as far down as enjoying live gladiator shows again before we wake up to the truth of choosing life to have a good life.

Don’t Forget True Religion

I just learned about the Manhattan Declaration last week through a forwarded e-mail. Then our pastor mentioned it at church, so I went to ManhattanDeclaration.org and gave it a “look, see”. I agreed with the front page, so signed it.

This blog was going to be about how I don’t think signing this document will make much of a difference in America. And I still think that is true, as do the authors of the declaration. Unless the signing is also followed up with actions by the signers, but the actions I saw suggested on the website were not very inspiring to me. So I was going to say how those suggested action  items weren’t going to be very helpful to America (e.g. tell your neighbors about the declaration and ask them to sign it).

But to make sure that I wasn’t writing out of line, I decided to do a little more reading on the Manhattan Declaration website, and came away with the opposite opinion. What this declaration encourages Christians to do is, I believe, just what the Bible recommends:

1) Remember that people will know Christians by the love they show – nothing else matters if that is not first and foremost.

2) True religion is to take care of the widow and the orphan (e.i., take care of those who cannot take care of themselves).

3) People must be told about about Jesus. But remember No. 1 and No. 2.

There is so much more in the declaration, but these points stood out to me.

Why do we do that?

My cat loves any water, except the clean water in her dish. Her favorite is the water in the goldfish bowl. But she shows up every morning to lick the water off the door of my embarrassingly dirty shower, and bathtime for the kids always leaves her hankering for the gritty, soapy aftermath in the bottom of the jacuzzi.

I don’t understand it. The goldfish water smells fishy – not just from the fish, but from the additives I put in it to make it safe for the fish. Oh, then there’s the toilets, the bathroom sinks, half empty water glasses drooled in by one of the kids.

But when I put her water dish full of crystal clear, unscented water down, she walks over, sniffs  it, looks at me, and walks away. Every once in awhile she will humor me with a lap or two, but the amount of cat litter I scoop, does not correlate to the amount of water that disappears from her dish. And I have to refill the goldfish bowls more than what would be required simply from evaporation, even in the dry winter air.

My theory is this – she was born a wild kitten in my sister’s barn. She drank from a nearly stagnant rivulet that, I guess a generation or two ago had been used as a sewer. It is all she knew, and now, when presented with something different, though better, she snubs it.

I, unfortunately find myself doing the same thing at times. When presented with a new way of behaving, that will definitely bring more joy into my life than my current way of  behaving, I may give it a little try. But in the long run, I go back to the old lousy way of behaving.

I guess this is a common human problem, since Paul writes a whole passage on it in Romans 7. Verses 15 and 24-25 are my favorites of that section.

I am thankful, that, unlike my cat, whom I allow to continue to drink dirty water, God finds positive and negative pressures to encourage me to change, until, eventually, I want to choose the new, better route. Though I still get lazy and drink the toilet water at times, that happens less and less often, and he promises the same for all of us!