January 2016

“I will always love you, Bob”

[I could use this post to write about empathy, pretend play, imagination, special education…..but really, it speaks for itself without my commentary.]

A little figurine of Bob the Minion sits on my desk (thanks to my wonderful husband who knows toys are the way to my heart….), with a magenta stuffed turtle, and a little Pinkie Pie figurine, and several others.

At the end of our session on Friday, Polly chose her sticker and was putting back the sheet of stickers when she glanced at Bob. She sees him each time she’s in my office, often referencing how much she loves the Minions, sometimes asking to pet him on the head (obviously that’s what he wants), and sometimes just acknowledging his presence.

Today, she suggested, “I think we need to write him a note. So that he feels happy and doesn’t feel scared.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “What should the note say?”

“It should say ‘I will always love you, Bob.'” Then he will know that you love him and he will be happy!”

She got out a post-it note and handed me a pen.

After angling the note so that he would be able to read it, Polly was satisfied.



I’ve started weaving words together, into sentences. I’ve started toying with the idea of it. I’ve started thinking, “This is what I would say if I told my story.” I’ve started thinking what I would include and what I wouldn’t. I’ve started thinking about how the way in which I write it is more important than giving all the details.

Someone said to me, “You’ll get there, you’ll be ready.” I told her, “I AM ready.”

Which made me pause.

What’s stopping me? If I am ready, truly ready, to do this, to say what I feel is necessary, for my own reasons, then why am I not typing it out and pressing “Publish”?

Because of others! Because I don’t want to offend! Because I don’t want to upset! Because I don’t want conflict! Because I don’t want disagreement! Because I don’t want negativity!


As the Queen of Feeling Other’s Feelings, and working to step down from the job of Head Security Guard for People’s Well-Being, my fears go something like this:

What if reading it makes someone upset? What if it hurts them? What if someone thinks I should’ve been more or less specific? What if someone I love is disappointed in me for sharing? What if they don’t understand? What if they tell me I shouldn’t have done that?

What I’m reminding myself over and over again in the hopes that it will internalize: People can choose what they read. People can stop reading at any time. People are allowed to have different opinions. People can have different reactions. My job is not to avoid doing what I believe in my heart to be right – but rather to do it, in spite of the fear. This blog is mine – mine. I write for me, above anything else. People don’t have to agree with that. It’s all good.

I have lived my life saying and doing, or not saying and not doing, based on how it would affect others. And I’ve justified that under the umbrella of “I am a considerate person who thinks about others’ feelings, which is what makes me a good human.” But as with anything, it isn’t black and white – it CAN’T be black and white. It’s not obsess over it vs. never think about it. In reality, it’s a middle ground, where you take into account other’s feelings, balance them with your own needs and feelings, and make a decision.

But middle ground is scary. 

Yes. It is. Because it’s vulnerable. And I am striving towards vulnerability. Isn’t this whole blog about vulnerability? A year ago would I have ever dreamed of writing the words, about the topics, that I have today? Would I have ever imagined I’d write candidly about anxiety, depression, grief? Haven’t I relished in the feedback I’ve gotten about it? Haven’t people come out of the woodwork to talk to me about things I’ve written about, to share their own secrets? Haven’t I meant it, truly meant it, when someone has told me that they haven’t read a blog post because it’s too emotional or upsetting and I’ve responded, “That’s okay”?

And this – this back-and-forth, this messy excuse of a blog post – this is reality. This is vulnerability. This is it.

All propelling me forward. To write more, to share more, to tell more.

Because I can’t stand the silence anymore. The fear and the shame and the sadness and the loneliness that so many people are drowning under. I know how that felt, I lived it, and I can’t bear the fact that so many others do, too. I sit in meetings, look around at conferences, and know that of all those faces I see, some are feeling it too. Living in that place.

Each voice that speaks heals a piece of anyone who hears. Chips away a bit at the shame. Erases a bit of the stigma. Glues back a bit of the brokenness. Kindles a bit of bravery.

And so.

It’s almost time. Whatever form it takes. However many words I write. However cryptic it needs to be.

Because one person, or the world – it doesn’t matter which –  is waiting.

Pro vs. Noob

With nearly all of my kids, we talk so much about “smart guesses” vs. “wacky guesses” – a concept that applies in social situations as well as academics. For example, if someone tells you, “You’d better bring your umbrella today,” a smart guess about why they said that, is, It’s probably going to rain today. A wacky guess would be, It’s going to be a beautiful sunny day. If a history book says, “By the end of the war, the population was down 20,000 people,” a smart guess about why would be, People died from the fighting in the war, where a wacky guess would be, All of those people moved away to Antarctica.

Essentially, we’re talking about inferences. Situations where information is not explicitly stated, but you use your prior knowledge plus situational information to make a guess about what’s going on. We do this all the time and don’t think twice about it. Our kids have a much harder time with it step-by-step, let alone automatically.

In my sessions with Nellie, we talk about this constantly. So, when we do reading comprehension practice, we talk about making smart guesses by looking back to the text. When we do social inferencing activities, we talk about making smart guesses to figure out what someone is thinking. We’ve been talking about this for years.

Nellie is obsessed with Minecraft – and she’s good at it. She has her own server, she has responsibility within the game, she is successful and happy when playing it; it’s something that makes her shine. Given the option, she would talk about it for our entire session. She has explained to me that in Minecraft there are rankings, and terms for the levels of players. She is considered a “Pro” – professional. Players who have just started playing, and don’t really know what they’re doing, are considered “Noobs” in Minecraft (“newbies”). Sometimes the “noobs” are spotted easily because they do things that others wouldn’t do – like make a house out of dirt (a very weak material), whereas the “pros” are noticed for using stronger materials and better strategies. She explained how a Noob is someone who just doesn’t know how to do it yet, and a Pro knows the techniques and strategies.

So one day, I forget the context, but we were talking about something unexpected, and I was trying to explain why it’s a wacky thing to do, and Nellie just looked at me and said, “That’s such a NOOB thing to do.”

Boom. Lightbulb. It clicked.

From then on, I switched my language, and she took to it immediately. Everything we did, we talked about the Pro way to do it and the Noob way to do it. Nellie is someone who continues to work on matching reaction size to the size of the problem. She’s a kid who might get grumpy about not going first, despite the fact that she’s almost in high school. She might have a huge reaction if someone bumps into her in the hall. She’s LOVES the silly 911 script. We added to it by saying that having a huge reaction to a small problem (like when our printer didn’t work the other day) would be a Noob thing to do, and a Pro reaction would be to just say, oh, well.

When we do our reading comprehension work now, Nellie makes Pro guesses, not Noob guesses.

When we work with another student, we talk about how making unexpected/odd comments in the middle of the conversation is a Noob thing to do, and a Pro thing to do is hold those thoughts in her thought bubble.

More often than not, she’s the one bringing it up, not me.

She laughs and laughs each time she gets to say, “That’s a NOOB thing to do!” And it’s working. She’ll sometimes see me in the hall and quickly tell me something Noob or Pro that happened.

Our kids always, ALWAYS have a way of learning, a way of making sense of what’s going on. Sometimes they’re the ones that teach us the best way to do it. I never would’ve thought of using Pro vs. Noob terminology – and honestly, if it had been my idea, it probably wouldn’t have worked. This is why following their lead is the way to go. This is why we use their special interests. This is why we build on their scripts. This is why we meet them halfway. This.

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