Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mommy Lives in A Trailer With Soldiers

I was just surfing around and saw some blog talk about when and if to move for your deaf child to get better opportunities. Well our story is a bit odd.

When my son was born we lived in Los Angeles. My husband and I both worked in the film industry. That meant working long hours for ten months and two months off. The money was good and we had awesome benefits. I was able to travel for work and experience things I would never been able to if I worked in a normal job.

Along came a sweet baby boy. My husband stayed home and I worked. This was because I was on a television show which pretty much guaranteed a paycheck. There is a feeling in the business that you don't quit a job until you have a new one so five days a week I would head off for 16 hour days. I was so desperate to see my son my husband would drive an hour to the set often to bring him to me. Haddy loved it. I worked on a military show right next to the Power Ranger stage. Boy heaven. He could come play on the sets and eat off the craft service table.

He loved it but I hated the separation. We had a strong Deaf community and services at this point. Why move? Well, once at a party my son said, " My Mommy lives on a trailer with soldiers" *uh yea I know how that sounds*. This broke my heart. I was a costumer and worked off a trailer on location. The actors were in military clothes for the show. My work was a playgound for him but he had no sense of of me as the mother who lived at home because I got off work when he was asleep and went back before he woke up.

When I got pregnant a second time we decided to find a place to live where we could have normal jobs and I could be Haddy's education advocate. So we had done research about schools and programs. Of course Freemont was the goal. San Diego had an elementary bi/bi program that was awesome and Colorado and Riverside were on the list. We have family in Oregon and Washington so the two state schools were added.

First we visited each school. After each visit we looked into the job market for our unique skills. Nothing we saw would be a place where we could easily find work with film resumes. We would have to start over.

Freemont was great but the housing was too expensive if we didn't have work lined up. Colorado same thing. As we searched we found out we needed to rethink our lifestyle. No problem.

Then my husband's dad made an offer. He would hire him as a sales rep for his small brokerage. Bingo. We could move to Vancouver and Haddy would attend the state school. My husband would learn a new job skill. Our income would be 1/3 of what I was making but we would have dinner together every night and I could be the mom I needed to be. Haddy would have the enivorment we thought he needed,

So we jumped.

To be continued .....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Off To The Fair

I am often asked what sort of work my son might do when he is older. I never really know how to answer this because he has so many interests.

I am a fiber artist and I will sometimes go to fairs to sell my work. My kids always want to go help and sell their own work but I never allow them to come. It is a business not a lemonade stand.

Well last weekend was the Recycled Arts Fair and again my kids begged to come. Again I said no. My son decided to plan a foolproof attack against my decision. He came up with a concept for a booth that he and his sister could run called "Green Kids". They pitched it to the directer of the fair and got the OK to go ahead. They made toys from recycled items and planned demonstrations. They taught people to needle felt and make rockets from film canisters. Long story short they were awesome. The picture is of them setting up their tent before the fair opened.

My son was in charge of the rockets and product table. He would tell the kids how to make paper, treasure stones, felted soap and juggle balls. My daughter taught needle felting and invited people into their tent. They were a great team. I had my tent next to them and would help interpret when needed.

They day started off a bit rough. I had to drag my son from his bed. I cut my finger when we arrived and wrapped it with napkins to stop the bleeding well meanwhile the kids were whining about being too tired to help. They argued about price points and who would do what. When the fair opened they settled down and got focused.

What is so interesting is a lot of people who came to the booth sign. Several deaf people stopped by. The kids sold out their product and by the end of the day they were exhausted. I taught them sales etiquette and they became polished at their pitch. I think now it was a great learning experience for them. Of course I am wiped out and want to sleep for a week but it was worth it. I don't know what kind of work my son will find when he is an adult but he showed me yesterday that I don't need to worry about it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Are You Whispering?

Answers to the most common questions asked about my son

Yes he is deaf

No he doesn't read lips but please look at him not the interpreter when you are talking to him

No he doesn't talk

Yes he can read

Yes he will be able to drive a car

You don't need to help him order at restaurants

Yes he does attend a special school but not the kind you are thinking of

No he doesn't need hearing aides they don't work for him

No he is not hard of hearing or hearing impaired, he is deaf, can't hear a thing

I have heard of the operation and no he is not a candidate

I know you mean well but,

Why are you shouting? He can't hear you

Why are we whispering? He knows what you are saying because I am interpreting our conversation that is why he is giggling

The elephant has left the room

Here are some things I know about my son

He reads, he reads a lot, He reads when he eats, walks and I suspect at times while he sleeps.

He reads about everything. The only topic I haven't seen him pick up is knitting

He can't carry a tune and come to think of it neither can I. I imagine people would pay me not to sing. *note to self look into that*

He tends not to clean his room

He likes sushi

He is proud to be Deaf

He is fluent in ASL

He is an actor, poet and dancer

He loves to write stories

He is a typical 12 year old kid

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Job Interview

So I got a bunch of emails about a new job.....of course I ignored them... I love my job.

Then I got a bunch of emails from folks I know wanting me to open this email and look......I don't open every email because I get so many. I pick and chose.
I opened the email......

I applied for this job on impulse after I opened the email, it is for a parent guide for new parents. I am not sure if this is a match but I want to check it out.

One thing from this interview stays with me. Some things repeat a theme until we catch it and speak.

It started with the idea that parents are grieving.

Yes, your sweet baby is deaf and not the person you thought you knew. I remember how much I cried for three days. Holding him. I remember being terrified and I remember meeting my new son.

So after the interview I had a thought.

My third child died.

I grieved.

It was the most intense thing I have ever felt.

I was a mess. I needed to make decisions. I needed to make them fast. My husband and I were soup sandwiches, herding cats.

How do we bury her? (Money is involved and cultural choices)
Who can give advice? ( This is a business by the way)

I was not able to make the choices I wanted but it was OK.

It would not impact the future. My choices were just to comfort my transition.

The choices a parent of a deaf child makes do matter in the future. I realize the choices do make a difference to the whole family. I realize the family is in the grief process.

I realize I can maybe help.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

With All Due Respect

This is a Deaf culture question.

My son has a really special teacher. He has tremendous respect for her. Some of the other teachers at school get sign names on the fly. Their names are picked because of a physical attribute or characteristic. The problem we have is my son's teacher wants a sign name.

When he refers to her he uses her last name, respect. When I refer to her I finger spell her first name, signifies our relationship.. so she wants a sign name and my son feels it is too special. Her sign name will be a gift.

We sat and talked about all the things he thinks of when her name is mentioned. We worked with her initials and attributes trying to find the right name. Nothing worked for my son. She is too special.

I was talking with his other theater teacher in the office and she mentioned a Deaf actor my son knows will be working near us. She told us to go see him.

As we were walking to the car he said, " Maybe Howie can help me give Averre a sign name".

So my son wants a person who is Deaf to help him give this gift of a name. I don't know if this hearing teacher understands what this means to him but I do know this teacher has given him a gift.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Deaf Comedia at WSD

My last post was about how my mainstreamed Deaf son was going to the deaf school he used to attend with his theater teacher and a fellow student to teach a Comedia theater workshop.

Turns out I was the only one who wasn't nervous. My job was to interpret. I know the kids from the deaf school from years of volunteering and teaching and I knew what to expect. It is a very comfortable place for me. I was excited.

The hearing student from the art school told me on the way over he was nervous. I asked him why? He has been preforming in several art forms for years. This was going to be a short workshop. He tells me he is worried he can't sign good enough. Turns out he had a great time.

The theater teacher told me after that she was nervous before the workshop. This seemed odd because she is a professional actor and director. She was nervous about how to teach deaf kids. Funny, she has been doing a great job with my son all year. Turns out she was awesome. She fully connected with the deaf students. I needed to interpret very few times during the class.

Haddy didn't look nervous at all. That is how he works. He channels his nerves into his work. Several times he took over the class to explain what the teacher was showing them. He is a natural teacher. Even after 12 years his ASL still surprises me. He has such grace and connection with his body. Hearing parents, native signer, priceless. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant.

The deaf students looked shy and nervous but within minutes they were having a great time. They asked us to come back next year. They were so motivated and after the class they wanted to know more about Haddy's school. They wanted to learn more about theater and dance.

So next year we are going to try and set up a way for the two schools to have an ongoing artistic relationship. It took a lot of pushing on my part to get the deaf school to let us come but it was worth it to see the kids so excited. Next year we will be welcome with open arms and hands.

I didn't have time to take pictures but the one I got is of the teacher, me interpreting and of course Haddy. I probably don't need to mention he is wearing the mask The girls around us are students from the state school.

So Haddy was nervous but when it was over he was full of joy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Capitano schools Pedrolino- Deaf Comedia

My son was the only deaf kid in a play. He was also the only 12 year old cast member. It was awesome. It was a Comedia Dell'Arte production which means there is a lot of improve. I posted about it in February.

Most hearing people around here have no concept of what goes on at the state school. They are left with only vague ideas they get from the news. The deaf kids live in a bit of a bubble. The state has strict rules and staffing is an issue so even after school activities are not open to hearing kids.

Well the reason this is on my mind is because today my son with his director and a high school cast member are going to the state school to teach a Comedia workshop to the theater class there. For years I have tried to find ways to get the kids opportunities to partner with hearing kids in the public school system and bring more arts to the school.

Yesterday I sat in on their rehearsal for a sketch they will preform to demonstrate this form of theater. It blew me away how they work together. The senior boy has learned enough sign to not use an interpreter. The director also has found a seamless way to work with him. His interpreter volunteered to help out and I loved watching how at home my son looked.

They took on the roles of Pedrolino (haddy) and Capitano. They created a 3 minute story about Capitano teaching my son to be like him. At one point Capitano does a ballet lift tossing my son about like a noodle. His dance classes have really improved his physical comedy. Haddy taught them the signs they needed and how to express concepts without specific signs but with gesture. For example instead of signing "beautiful Woman" he makes the shape of a rather curvy woman. It was cool for me to get a peek into what his school day looks like.

This morning Haddy got nervous. He will be teaching high school kids that he knows and feels a little worried they won't like comedia. I told him to just have fun. He always comes away from things that make him nervous in a state of pure joy.