Another monkey wrench (Monkey wrench?)

By Mir
January 16, 2012

First: A health update! Thank you so much to everyone who had such kind words and thoughts for my sweet mother-in-law; once again, she fooled us all. She’s out of the ICU and doing much better. This is good news because we love her, but excellent news because I don’t think Otto could’ve taken it if things had gone differently. (Although I didn’t mention this in the last post, while waiting on updates on my mother-in-law, we unfortunately lost two other magnificent folks—their deaths weren’t unexpected, but were still way too soon. “They” say bad things come in threes, and for once I was VERY VERY GLAD that they are dirty stinking liars.)

So. What could POSSIBLY be better than sickness and death? I MEAN REALLY? We started off the year with a real bang in the stressors department, and by any measure of stress and “life challenges” one would probably think this was enough, no? I certainly would’ve checked the “FULL UP ON ANGST, THANKS” box, had I been polled on the matter.

[Sidebar: I WAS NOT POLLED. Still bitter, frankly.]

Well, death and sickness was not to be the entire story for this, my VERY FAVORITE January. Nope! I picked Monkey and Mario up from Hippie School one day and Teresa asked me to call her “when I had a sec” after I got home.

Naturally, my face registered the utter panic I felt, and she laid a reassuring hand on my arm and said, “Oh! It’s nothing bad! Just… don’t think about it! We’ll talk in a little bit!”

I drove home as fast as was marginally safe, threw some snack food at the boys and encouraged them to go play, and called Teresa to ask what was up. I was trying really hard to remind myself that it was “nothing bad.” I even continued to believe it, I think, right up until the part where she started to cry.

So. Teresa is moving away this summer.

There was that moment, you know, when she said it, and I felt like the floor had dropped out from under me. But it was only a moment, because we are all pretty much a family at Hippie School, and as a family we have all been aware of, and worried about, the fact that Teresa’s youngest child decided to go live with Dad this year (out of state). The good news is that the move has been a positive one for her child; the bad news is that she’s not with her kid. And that’s gotten harder and harder, and so over the holiday break she made the same choice any of us would’ve made, I think. She needs to be with her baby. Even I—wrapped up in “what does this mean for MY baby??”—couldn’t fault her for that.

But… what does this mean for Hippie School? What does it mean for Monkey?

The good news is that Merry, the assistant teacher, is going to take over the school. Hippie School will continue, and it will continue in the same manner, with the same vision and principles, as it exists right now. Merry is fantastic and brilliant and we all love her, and I think she’ll be amazing.

The bad news is that Teresa has decades of experience with kids with special needs, and Merry… finished her Masters last year (and her special needs experience consists of her year working with Teresa). In figuring out how things may best be continued for the majority at Hippie School, together they went through the current students and discussed each of them. Then they sorted them into two lists: Those who could come back next year, and those who would not be invited back.

“And then there’s Monkey,” Teresa said. I held my breath. He hadn’t made the cut. Of course he hadn’t, because his needs are… extensive. And Teresa meets most of them. Surely Merry didn’t feel she could handle him. Still I couldn’t breathe, and I waited for Teresa to just say it. “Merry wants you to know how much she loves Monkey, and that she wants him to be able to come back. But…” I tried to exhale. “She’s not sure yet what that would need to look like, for it to work. We need to meet and talk about it.” Finally, I exhaled. But a tear slipped down my cheek, too.

We knew before the official announcement was made. So we had to just sit with it and mark time until we had the big all-school meeting where everyone was filled in. And then wait a little bit longer until our conference. The night of the big meeting, I sat there and teared up three or four times, but mostly in a good way—we’re all going to miss Teresa so much, but this community is so committed to the ways of Hippie School (insert woo-woo sounds and tie-dye here) and each other. It really reinforced our belief that we’ve found a wonderful place, and also that it can and will continue to flourish under Merry’s direction. Also, Merry pulled me aside before we left and said, “Don’t worry. I want Monkey here. We’ll figure it out.”

Otto and I drove home that night and he asked me how I felt. “Better,” I said, without hesitation. “It’s going to be okay, I think.”

But then a few days later we walked into our conference, and were presented with a list of “possible requirements” for Monkey to continue as a student there next year. “None of this is set in stone, and we don’t have to decide anything now,” Merry assured us, and Teresa concurred. I nodded, then looked at the list.

And my heart sank.

You know, I think about a month ago Monkey turned a huge corner. I can’t tell you how or why or exactly when, but he’s in a good patch. He seems so much happier and more capable and even-keeled right now than he’s been in… I dunno, EVER, that I forget that “super duper” for Monkey is still “putting the SPECIAL in special needs” for, oh, the rest of the world.

So… they love him. (Of course they do; he’s a pretty lovable kid!) They want him to be able to continue. But Merry has (real and legitimate) concerns about balancing his needs and the needs of the other students. We should be grateful he wasn’t immediately relegated to the “needs too great for the revamped, Teresa-less school” list. We ARE grateful he wasn’t put on that list.

But. Some of the suggestions on the list are things we can’t do. (Hire a parapro? Sure thing! A private parapro should only cost us… oh… three times what we pay for tuition at Hippie School.) Some of the suggestions on the list are things we don’t want to do. (Have him drop down to just two or three days a week? Sure, if you feel like spending those two or three days listening to him freak out about what he missed on the days he wasn’t there.) Some of the suggestions put me back at the sacrifices I’d be making to plain ol’ homeschool him, and if I’m going to torpedo my career to give him what he needs, so be it, but I should maybe just go ahead and homeschool, then, rather than spending tuition money that I’ll no longer be earning.

“We’ll figure it out,” they both kept saying.

Maybe we will. He’s changed so much in five months; maybe in another five, the picture will be different.

We told him about Teresa yesterday morning, before we made pancakes. I took a few cues from things said by other parents at the big meeting, and brightly told him that GUESS WHAT, you know all those meetings we’ve been having? Something REALLY EXCITING is happening! It turns out that Merry is taking over Hippie School next year, isn’t that cool?

“Yes!” he agreed. “But… where’s Teresa going?” I took a deep breath and asked him if Teresa is sad very often, and he said no, and I said that’s right, but when she IS sad, why is she sad? And he knew, then, right away. “Oh, we can’t be sad about her moving, then,” he said, “she will be so much happier. Kids need their moms. And we will email her. And besides, she’s not leaving for MONTHS!”

I couldn’t believe how well he was taking it, proving once again that I am absolutely terrible at predicting… anything. And we kept talking, and I was reassuring him that many things would NOT be changing (same building! most of the same kids!), and his face clouded over; in a very small voice he asked, “But… will they still go all through middle school? Will Merry let us stay through 8th grade?”

I may have said, “OH YES THEY ARE STILL GOING THROUGH MIDDLE SCHOOL!” a little louder than I meant to.

And then I tried to talk to him a little more, make sure he was okay, and finally Monkey turned to me in exasperation and said, “Okay! Let’s not talk about it any more because I think I might get upset!” And he wiped his eyes and said, “Can we please just have pancakes now?” So we made pancakes. Maple syrup is very healing.

Now I have five months to find a miracle or two. Believe you me, we won’t be letting go of Hippie School without a fight, but damn. Damn it damn it damn it.


  1. Jen

    Oh Mir! And Monkey! So heartbroken for you. Why does it never seem to let up? Had a (not so) similar event with my son before Christmas (his ABA home therapist quit with no notice, after 2 months, having committed to at least a year) and the frustration and disappointment just about buried me – someone else gone from his life and he doesn’t understand why (he still asks for her and it breaks me every time). His new therapist starts today and while I’m trying to be positive, I feel so fragile and battered by the whole experience, I can totally empathize with your struggles. Just know that you are an awesome mom and although it all sucks now, you will always do the best for your son (and daughter). That being said, if you like I can send you a ticket for the “Screw doing my best for my child, I want THE best help he can get and to not have to fight so damned hard for it for once ’cause he’s awesome and, DAMMIT, he deserves it” Train anytime you like. ;-)

  2. Tenessa

    That’s so harsh. Maybe they’ll get an assistant that is perfect for Monkey. Here’s to hoping for the best.

    I started homeschooling my Aspie and his little sister in August 2011. Frankly, I was scared shitless, but I’ve surprised myself. For reasons to long to go into here, it was really hard at first, but not for my Aspie, Chi. He has flourished and grown and matured with homeschooling. He is calmer and more even-keeled than he’s been, ever. I’m so glad I made the hard choice to do this thing.

  3. Liza


    They want Monkey. Monkey wants to stay. Somehow, somehow it will work out. And you DO have half a year before things are final.

  4. Melanie

    Oh Wow! I think I just went through every emotion you went through just in the reading of this post! I truly believe that 5 months is a long way away, and Monkey is showing great progress… I mean really! He asked to quit talking about something before he got upset! How mature and self aware is that?!

    I have homeschooled a long time and I have counseled many considering homeschooling. One rule of thumb we have is that for every year a child has been in school, he needs that many months to “deschool”. While this certainly isn’t true for everyone, I imagine it is especially true for Monkey.. and I think you are seeing his “healing” from the pressures put on him at regular school.

    In addition, my own Monkey learned what he could and couldn’t handle and learned what situations to embrace or avoid as he matured. Monkey is doing that! I can see from your posts.

    I have a strong feeling that next year will be a very Merry year indeed with Merry!

  5. Heather

    Oh my heart is hurting for you :(

  6. Tara

    What a kick in the you-know-whats. I have no experience with your situation, so all I can offer are prayers for miracles. Keep the faith that something good will come of this. Try not to succumb to it. Hugs.

  7. Navhelowife

    Putting on my thinking cap about the parapro thing. There’s got to be some good way to keep him in that school!

  8. Julie

    Oh honey, what a hard, hard situation! I’ve had you on my mind so much these last few days. Will send every good wish your way for finding a positive solution for you and your lovely boy.

  9. Heather

    Hugs….I remember those feelings when my perfect child-care provider, who got my daughter’s special needs, embraced them and let my kids flourish, quit for reasons I couldn’t fault her for (about to have a new baby, just couldn’t keep up) and and the agony of finding replacements….it sucks.

    I’m praying that you’ll have just the right solution evolve in the next few months and peace of mind from it.

  10. Karen

    I’m thinking… don’t think too far ahead. It sounds as if they really want it to work out, and he is already thriving there. Perhaps they need to find another Theresa who can join the staff. Perhaps even a retired Theresa-type who would like to work once again with children with special needs.

  11. Em

    I hate that just when things were going so well, the bottom fell out. I certainly understand her reasons too but I hate it just the same. I hope the same world shaking that happened to you guys happens somewhere else in the world and shakes everything into place for you.

  12. jodifur

    Oh wow, that sucks. And I know that is not so helpful, but I believe in life there are things where the only comment that you can make is wow, that sucks.

    I’m so sorry.

  13. Kelly

    Just know that we are thinking of you during this extremely stressful time.

  14. BethRD

    Does your local school system have any responsibility for providing him services (maybe a parapro) even though he isn’t enrolled in public school? I am totally fuzzy on how all of this works, but I know that I have heard tell of kids in private school getting public services of some kind. Might be worth looking into.

  15. Rachel

    Damn… thinking of you!

  16. Megan

    Oh heavens.


    I was so deeply impressed with Monkey and his maturity and awareness! Not only reacting with such love and understanding for Teresa, but also knowing when he needed to pull back from the discussion for a while to keep himself centered. No wonder they love him and want to work with him and with you.

    I’ll side with Merry and hope that things will work.

  17. Jean


    5 months is a long time. In my heart of hearts, I really think this is going to work out somehow….I’m a stranger to you, but you have helped me deal with so many of my own issues with my newly diagnosed PDD-NOS boy, my precious, amazing angel child. So just (((HUGS))) and prayers and anything else I can send your way.

  18. Lissa

    I’m so sorry that you have been given such a curveball. The whole situation kinds sucks, especially since you can’t even be angry at anyone. It’s always easier when there is a scapegoat!

    Can you get a parapro or some kind of support through the school district? Perhaps consulting with an special needs advocate in your area may be worthwhile. I know of a family here (NY) that pays to sent their child to private school, but all of the related services are provided by the school district. If Monkey was eligible for a parapro in public school (and you can show that his needs can’t be met there – that’s where an advocate comes in), he should get something even if he is at private school.

    I know the laws vary in different states – but I figured it was worth sharing.

    No matter what, Monkey is so lucky to have you in his corner. You have all of us sending you whatever support we can.

  19. Chuck

    WIshing the best for Monkey to be able to continue at Hippie School. Maybe they can find another person to work with the remaining staff and things will work out for the best. I am THINKING POSITIVE for you and Monkey. I know that you are resilient and will be able to work things out whatever happens. Also, great news about Otto’s Mom.

  20. Gayle

    Thinking of you all.

  21. Brigid

    So I’m sitting here crying for you. And for Monkey. And knowing that somehow, some way, it will all work out. Because it has to.

    But those moments when you realize that your child is doing FANTASTIC and that means they are, well, still really not anywhere near where their peers are, those kind of take my breath away.

  22. Brigid

    Oh, and we’re 1/24th through with 2012. So there’s that.

  23. liz

    Sending hugs and love.

  24. Sheila

    One thing I know is that this blog is far-reaching and that out there somewhere is another dedicated professional who is looking for a new place for him or herself. The Internet is a magical place where sometimes things come together in amazing ways. I’m hoping for you and Monkey and the rest of the kids at Hippie School that another Teresa (or Thomas, perhaps) is out there, and that she or he finds you.

    Also? Monkey has the best possible family for him and you will work it out. (So that’s two things I know, I guess.)

  25. Tracy B

    Damn it!!! When it rains it comes a freakin’ hurricane! I’m so sorry but ALOT can happen in 5 months! ALOT!

  26. Rachel C.

    Sending love and Light… knowing that you will figure this out… and sending strength to put in reserve for when you need it.

  27. Varda (SquashedMom)

    Ah, nuts! So sorry this had to happen. I know you have thought of this before, but, since Merry is moving up to Teresa’s job, and someone obviously has to be hired to replace Merry’s old position, could you ensure that person be a wonderful teacher who has extensive Special Ed experience? One way of doing this might be to volunteer to spearhead the search & hiring committee. (I know in all your spare time, right?)

    Merry may be lovely, but the school has to know that as a relatively green teacher, she will need to be counterbalanced by someone more seasoned, yes? Got my fingers & toes crossed this will work out for Monkey.

  28. Sassy Apple

    Damn it.

    I also think you should check into what the public school is obligated to provide. Our state is required to provide SPED services to qualifying students in private schools.

    I’m thankful Otto’s mom is healing. I’m thankful for Merry’s ‘teacher’s heart’ that loves Monkey, and I’m also glad she has a ‘teacher’s brain,’ that realizes there are challenges to be faced. It tells me she’s wiser than most teachers with her experience.

    I’m also thankful for you. A stranger to us all, but not. I think it’s poetic that today’s post is about keeping hope even when the struggle seems too great.

    After all, that was Dr. King’s message.

  29. Dawn

    I sincerely hope that you and Merry can find a way to make it work for Monkey next year. The changes you’ve described in him since he started going there have been absolutely amazing. I’ll be praying for you and sending out all of the good hippie energy vibes I have.

  30. Mary

    Sending positive thoughts towards you, Monkey, and Merry. We’re all rooting for the best situation possible for Monkey.

  31. Beth R

    Fingers crossed, tears welling, and muttering under my breath. Sending all of the possible good thought waves I can your way that things will work out in a good way in the next 5 months. As others have pointed out, that’s a heck of a long time for things to happen in.

    Hugs and yay! to hear that Otto’s Mom is out of ICU :)

  32. Karen R.

    I really hope it all works out. I second (third?) Lissa and Sassy Apple’s suggestions to see if the school district will provide the FAPE related services in a private school setting. A part-time para-pro at Hippie School would probably cost less than what would be required to put Monkey back in the public schools (which you don’t have to mention that you would never, ever consider…), so they might be willing.

    Back when my school district was balking at providing transportation that did not require a 6 hour daily round trip and threatened to put my daughter back into the local public school, I responded that putting her in the walking-distance school was fine — as long as they could provide a FAPE, with a small classroom size, on grade level, non-violent classmates, and an appropriate level of related services. They cut her ride time down to 45 minutes each way.

  33. Jen

    DAMN! Oh hon. Why? Why does this happen to the kids who have the hardest time dealing with it? I’m so sorry, and so very hopeful that things fall into place in the next few months.

  34. Heidi

    Oh, geez, lIfe sure packs a wallop sometimes, doesn’t it? Yay, for Otto’s mom. I’m so very sorry about your losses.

    Whoa, Theresa’s daughter moving certainly set the stage for one hmm-hmm of a ripple effect. Wishing the very best outcome possible for Monkey. (Even though we don’t always know what that is; opportunities show up in the strangest places…)

  35. Katie in MA

    Goshdarnitall. I was afraid it was school-related. It will work out, somehow someway. Remember when you didn’t even know about Hippie School? Who knows what will happen between now and then. No way Monkey’s fairy godmother (or wait, was it yours?) brought him all this way just to slam the door. It will work out; we just don’t know how yet.

  36. Laura (a loyal lurker)

    All I can say is that if you do decide that homeschooling is the right option, your career won’t be totally torpedoed. We’ll still be here to cheer you on!

  37. victoria

    Hi. I read your article this am (my time) before lunch. I’m really sorry for each time Monkey has an upset in his school. (I read your articles when I can, and enjoy them). So I went home feeling bad for you. Then at lunch, I learn that my 7 year old Aspie ‘heard a voice telling him to hit people’ this morning. What leve l of panic should I be feeling??

  38. RuthWells

    I am going to decree that in the next 5 months, Monkey is going to make such progress that none of these concerns are even going to be issues. Okay? Because, seriously, time for some good news, for chrissakes.

    Also, I don’t know what the laws are like in GA, but here in PA, there are funds available from the public trough for special needs kids even if they don’t attend the public school system. Something about the state being under obligation to provide “appropriate” educational resources for all kids. It might be time to talk to a lawyer about what Monkey’s rights are — perhaps a parapro wouldn’t be completely out of the question?

    Big sloppy hugs.

  39. Anna

    What about a grant to pay for the parapro?

  40. Daisy

    I know it won’t be easy. I hope Merry’s requests become more reasonable as she looks at the list.
    Asperger’s isn’t nearly as tough to handle as some other needs can be. Trust me: I teach, and my Aspie turned 20 today. 20!!

  41. Jeanie

    Prayers for your “miracle.”

  42. Rebecca M.

    Crossing my fingers and hoping that you find your solution. It seems to me that Monkey being able to recognize that something was upsetting him and verbalize it is a huge sign of the progress he’s making.

  43. Stephanie

    I’m really sorry, Mir. I can’t even imagine how difficult all this must be for all of you guys. All I can tell you is this…if you TRULY believe in a “higher power”, then you MUST believe that the “powers that be” have control over what’s going on, and it WILL all work out for the best. I know, you want to slap me, don’t you? I’m sorry, but I do mean well.

  44. Michelle

    I’m normally a lurker, but I had to comment on this one, just to tell you how sorry I am. I’ll be sending some serious Hippie School Vibes your way in hopes that the best solution presents itself very, very soon.

  45. vanessa

    this makes me REALLY ANGRY. i know, i know! legitimate concerns! but it still makes me REALLY ANGRY.

    i am thinking of you all and hoping you figure something out. come to DC! I’ll babysit and we have tons of great schools.


    (seriously, so sorry).

  46. Lara

    Good to hear that Otto’s mom is doing well. Sorry to hear about your losses. And sorry about the changes coming up for Monkey. I hope it all works out ok.

  47. Stimey

    You have all my sympathy for your school situation. I just spent five hours yesterday filling out a private school application, because I don’t think Jack’s school is working anymore. All that uncertainty is so hard. Our poor kiddos. They work so hard, but finding the right school for them is incredibly difficult.

    But! I am so happy to hear about Otto’s mom. So happy.

  48. KarenNM

    I’m just chiming in to let you know that one more person is sending thoughts and prayers your way. I’m wishing the absolute best for Monkey, and have faith that something will work out for him, no matter what. Hang in there!

  49. mamaspeak

    Ok, deep breaths. I was thinking about how things have been improving since he started the Hippie School. I think a lot of it has to do w/an environment that understands him better. I also think some of it has to do w/Monkey’s age. I know Monkey has “issues” but he’s also a tween. His hormones are going crazy, and we know that’s no small thing, for anyone. So, I think, that there’s is going to be more good than bad in the upcoming months. That doesn’t mean there won’t be issues, but I suspect, that as time goes on, he may be heading in a direction where Monkey is learning to police himself better. Totally based on my extensive knowledge and experience of reading your blog.

    Currently I prescribe a large bottle of wine, dark chocolate, doggie snuggles and horrible suto-reality TV. ;-) (((hugs)))

  50. Lise

    I’m so sorry. It sounds like Monkey has made great strides this year.

  51. Rasselas

    Oh, dammit. I absolutely hate it when things seem to be going in the right direction, and then it all falls through. It just happened to me recently. But usually, after the grisly fallout, and tears, and depression, there are ways to pick up pieces and try to build anew.

    There’s got to be a way to keep Monkey at the Hippie School. Maybe they really need to get another assistant. In this economic climate, I bet there’s tons of people with qualifications who would welcome at least a part-time job. After all, it used to be a two-person job before! Of course, I don’t know the exact situation, I’m just brainstorming uninvited.

    I was so happy for Monkey because all I read about Hippie School was so inspiring. It would’ve been my dream school as a kid. In fact, I researched tons of Sudbury-type schools as an adult purely because they would’ve been my dream schools. I was always great at studying on my own, but never fit in the school system. I hope this crisis gets resolved and things turn out good for Monkey.

  52. Julie

    My heart sank when I read your news about the changes at Hippie School. Sigh. Very happy to hear that your mother-in-law is improving. Sending lots of good thoughts your way.

  53. Brigitte

    Dang! When you started talking a couple weeks ago about BAD THINGS, my internal Murphy’s-Law spidey-sense was afraid it might be something to do with Hippie School. I’m upset for you and Monkey, but know you guys will get through this somehow!

  54. Mandy

    Is it possible that Teresa can work some magic and find an experienced (new) assistant before she leaves? If she has been in education for a long time, surely she must have connections (parapro, assistant, whatever), and it would be a wonderful parting gift if she used it to help you and Monkey.

  55. TC

    DAMN IT.

  56. Kathy

    Ya know … if Monkey has an IEP, even though he’s at private school, you MAY be able to get a parapro for him compliments of the local public school district. Look into it!

    I was SO sorry to hear of your latest “bad day”! I am praying for a GREAT solution for you … and, I might add, a MUCH better year! Hang in there, sweet friend!


  57. Dawn

    If you can gather your documentation, and prove that your school district could not meet his needs, then your school district would have to pay his tuition and, possibly for a paraprofessional. At the very least, the tuition and then you could use what you are paying for tuition to pay a para.

  58. Another Dawn

    The power of the interwebs compells them.

    To provide what Monkey needs, be it parapro, tuition… whatever.

    You’ll all in our thoughts, prayers that how ever this plays out, Monkey will be where he needs to be.

  59. Aimee

    I know I’m late with this, but I just wanted to pipe up and say DARN IT! I mean, I totally understand why Theresa needs to do what she’s doing, but it sure would be nice if this could just be a nice, easy transition for you guys. I’m sending up a prayer that it will all work out in a way that allows Monkey to stay at Hippie School.

  60. Chris

    Oh dear, dear dear. I am also late but wanted to add my sincere wishes that somehow it will all work out.

  61. Kim W.

    I want to cuss a lot, but I’m not sure it’s the nicest thing to leave on a blog. I’m mad and sad and I’m crying. I’m so sorry, Mir. I will think the most positive hippiest thoughts for sweet Monkey and all of you.

  62. Ilona

    This post made me cry. I feel so badly for poor Monkey. The boy gets a break, and then… damn it.

    I hope the next five months see such improvement that Merry doesn’t hesitate to keep him on, and if conditions are still required, they’re conditions you can accommodate.


Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest