No Graduation Day For You…

She’s no beauty school drop out, that is for sure. No shade to those who might be, we all find our own path in our own time. But I think the biggest struggle of the loss of the last quarter of her Senior year is that she always knew exactly where her path would lead.

Ally came to the U.S. proclaiming “I will go to University” in her proper Ghanaian accent. At first, which University was unclear. That didn’t take very long for her to choose either though. As her little sisters entered our family, three from China, and one from Colombia, her path was chosen. She wanted to stay close and attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Those sisters helped her choose her path to a major as well. She will enter the School of Education with a focus in Elementary Education. She is waiting to decide on Special Education versus Regular Ed, but I know that no matter which program she ends up choosing, her understanding of what it is like to have to fight for a child with a disability will guide the way she teaches.

Ally entered the PEOPLE Program her Sophomore year of high school. She began spending every summer on campus in some pretty intensive programming to help support her in understanding the expectations of a large university. She took to the setting beautifully. In fact, she fell in love with Bascom Hill. She will be the 5th generation of Badger women to graduate from UW Madison from my side of the family. 5 generations of women, and the first woman to graduate college in her family of birth. Roots and wings. Ally’s birth mom wanted this for her. This opportunity was part of the reason she made the choice she did.

That drive to “go to University” was born of the woman who gave birth to her, one who was denied an education in part because of her gender and in part because of poverty. Ally took that and carried that with her as she focused on her goals with precision almost no high schoolers have.

We were devastated to learn that her Senior year would be cut short, and that her traditional graduation would be cancelled. One can be simultaneously grateful and devastated, it is possible. Right now, that is where we are living.

We committed to celebrating all that Ally has accomplished though, in a major way. If you would like to celebrate Ally, a wonderful friend is holding a virtual graduation party for her. All donations go directly to her college fund. She did receive a tuition scholarship that will cover four years, but she has other expenses. And, she is looking forward to decorating a dorm room in the fall, if this virus ever goes away.

We would also love to collect messages for Ally here. Please post a comment if you’d like to join in our celebration!

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Bread and Butter, Cam, Cate, Deafness, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily

Quarantine Chronicles

Here we all are, still staying home (you are, right? Please tell me you are?). This was the view from where I am. Well, it was a few days ago. Spring has sprung on what was supposed to be an uneventful, exciting school year.

Ally and I returned from Paris, and we all went back to school. FPD and I work in the same elementary school now. He is a Bilingual Resource Specialist (BRS), bringing his Spanish language skills to our school’s front office. He’s there half days and then goes to pick up the kids from their various schools. Well, he did, right up until mid-March, when life ground to a halt that even I, as the School Nurse, didn’t predict.

Now, here we are, all of us, at home. The other half of both of our jobs, his hospital interpreting gig, and my early childhood centers, no longer able to pay us, are at risk. We are hanging on, but we are in a space, yet again, where I could never have imagined this stress for our family. We have had life-changing, stressful moments before for sure. This is one for the record books too. We are a family of 14, 4 of us in the category defined as ‘high risk’, all staying at home as much as humanly possible.

Food has been hard to come by. All the supply chains are stressed in our area, and all others, I’m sure. Toilet paper was an issue. We figured it out, but for the first time, we had to access our local food pantries. We have had to do this more because we couldn’t buy enough food to feed the kids. Limits in our local grocery stores made this impossible without going store to store and exposing ourselves multiple times, and possibly bringing home the virus to Tess, Gigi, and Isabel.

As we transitioned to virtual learning, we all struggled. Joe and I are supporting the elementary school we serve while also supporting our own 12 children. The older 7 are relatively independent in their learning, but their mental health is a concern. We have had children who have struggled significantly with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety. Everything is heightened right now. We had to transition to virtual therapy sessions, some as many as 3 times/week to keep kids out of the hospital for mental health crises. The younger 5 all have a varied level of independence, from being able to do it on their own, to needing monitoring to make sure they don’t wander onto YouTube, to needing someone right beside them to navigate the learning platforms. We have two kids who are Deaf. That presents an extra barrier to access that requires a ton of creativity and a whole lot of advocacy.

When school closed, there was a three week transition before virtual learning officially began. We didn’t miss a day, not because I am that concerned about their academics, but because the routine is vital. They needed a schedule. That has saved us.

These most basic of needs, food and routine, were made possible by our village. So many people rallied for us. Toilet paper got dropped off on our front porch. People sent gift cards. Other parents and co-workers texted us locations that had milk in stock. Friends of friends reached out to people they knew who are working in the grocery supply chain so that we could order food above the limits. Farmers who were dumping their milk are delivering it to our house now. Friends and co-workers emptied their chest freezers and dropped off ham, jarred food, and other frozen goodies they had stored away.

The teachers that teach our kids, and those we just know through work, helped us keep our littles entertained and distracted with awesome learning tools that were dropped off on our porch, or with online resources that were shared with us. I wouldn’t have made it through those three weeks without you. Working and educating the kids all while staying home is no joke. It has caused so much stress for Joe and I.

As our local school district launched virtual learning, and we are now three weeks into that, there is a new routine, and I have the capacity to plan some fun things for the kids again. Tess requested ‘Fun Friday.’ We end school a little early each Friday and do something together as a family. This week we had a popcorn party.

Saturdays are now themed. We launched this with Disney Day, last Saturday. I can’t wait to upload pictures of that to the blog. Today, we are having ‘Maker Day.’ Gigi and Isa have ‘Fab Lab’ at their school. It is a space filled with every day objects that the kids can re-purpose into their very own creations. They miss ‘Fab Lab’. So, today is all about bringing Fab Lab to us. I will make sure to document this as well.

I hope you all are home, healthy and staying safe. As always, if you are a parent in crisis, and in need of mental health resources, or just someone to talk to, please reach out. We are all in this together.

Ally, FPM

One More Day in Paris

Today was our last day in Paris. We made the very most of it by walking 9.5 miles around the city.

Yes, 9.5 miles.

We made a choice not to use the subway today. We wanted to wander, and wander we did, straight up to Sacré-Coeur.

And back down again.

We bought gifts for everyone at home, scoped out the stop we’ll catch our bus to the airport, and stopped for a coffee where James Baldwin used to sip coffee and write.

I drank my last glass of wine as I looked out over the Eiffel Tower.

Paris, you have been amazing to us.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t believe it’s done, but can’t wait to see her babies!