Into the woods, again and again

By Mir
February 23, 2012

It seems like we were just out in the wilderness with Hippie School, doing important things like licking slugs, but today it’s time to go do it again. (I am hoping we’re exploring a slug-free zone, today.)

The last time I wrote about going on one of these adventures with Hippie School, Chickadee was freshly home from the hospital, and I was sure we were finally coming out the end of a long, dark tunnel. It was the beginning of Better; it had to be.

I guess I can’t say it’s NOT Better. Frankly, hot sauce to the eyeballs is probably better than having a kid in the hospital. So yes, sure, it’s better. I guess I just wish it was MORE better. I wish it was ALL better. I’m ready for the times when we can say, “Remember when you were sick and everything sucked? And see how great it is that you aren’t, anymore?” That time will come, I think. It’s just taking its sweet time arriving.

In the meantime, we celebrate every pound gained. We travel the Open And Say Ah circuit—a team of doctors, each of whom assures us that we’re in good hands—we send her to school as much as possible.

Yesterday she told me that school used to be the best part of her day, and now she dreads it. I tried to keep my face neutral, when she said that, even though I knew it was coming, even though I know it’s excruciating for her on many levels right now. Her friends are happy to have her back, but they look at her differently. The other kids whisper about her. The teachers she loves, the classes she likes, she’s caught up easily, but still feels tired and distracted—which in turn makes her feel bad that she’s not performing “up to expectations.” The teachers who don’t seem to get it, the classes she doesn’t enjoy… they’re a different story. She’s not caught up because we can’t seem to figure out what needs to be done, or she’s given assignments she can’t possibly complete.

So now—before heading into the woods—I’ll drive over to one of the many doctors’ offices and get some Official Paperwork. (I probably should’ve done it sooner, but I kept hoping that Things Would Even Out, because I’m stupid like that.) We’ll set up our Official Meeting and soon, Chickie will have a 504 Plan for the remainder of the school year. It’s for her own protection, so that they can’t hassle us about absences, so that teachers will be more cooperative, all of that. I don’t know why it feels like failure, honestly. Or maybe I’m just confusing helplessness with failure.

[I’m sort of looking forward to seeing the district 504 coordinator, again. She helped us when Monkey was just starting out here, five years ago, and when he was moved to an IEP and we were assigned to someone else, I was really bummed. I will try not to greet her with, “REMEMBER US? WE HAVE ANOTHER PROBLEM CHILD FOR YOU!”]

Progress in a situation like this isn’t going to be linear. Logically, I know this. Emotionally, I’m tired of feeling like every gain is followed by three steps backward. I’m tired of being reassured that “it takes time” and we “need to be patient.”

Playing by the rules doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere, so today we’re not going to. I’m busting Chickadee out of school and taking her on the Hippie School trip. In a sea of, erm, “highly individual” younger kids, no one is going to think anything about her except that she’s Monkey’s sister and she’s awesome. I’ll pack sandwiches and fruit and cookies and we’ll eat lunch in the forest together and I will sit there with my children and silently adore them. Monkey loves these outings more than just about anything. I have to believe a few hours outside, unjudged, un-gossiped-about, un-pressured, can only be good medicine for my other baby, too.

Who knows? Perhaps slug-licking is better for the soul than I know.


  1. Kelly

    I think that is an awesome idea! Wish I could come. :)

  2. addy

    Ya, still not down with the slug licking thing. Ick! Great plan for Chickie to spend the day in freedom. And for the school plan. I too use the wait-and-see approach for these things. Have Fun!

  3. JMH

    As a teacher, I think that a 504 is a brilliant idea. Hope it all works out quickly so everyone can relax a bit for the remainder of the school year! Enjoy your day together :)

  4. Tenessa

    Sounds like good food for everyone’s soul. Although, I’d skip the slug licking…ick. <3

  5. Diane

    The slugs are probably just as happy not to be licked.

    Big hugs for all of you, and prayers that the 504 plan helps everyone involved realized that it is going to take time for things to get back to business as usual for Chickadee. Sometimes you need to step back from the “progress” graph’s every minute up and down squiggles to see that the trend is still consistently, though maddeningly slowly, upward.

    Yay for busting her out and going into the woods!

  6. birchsprite

    A bit of Hippie School would do wonders for anyone I think! I hope you get to recharge your batteries too… have a lovely day!

  7. Brigitte

    I always think a day in the woods is a fine and dandy thing . .

    and I certainly don’t see having to resort to the 504 as any failure on your part, it’s a failure of the don’t-get-it-teachers that you’ve already tried your best to work with.

  8. dgm

    Good for all of you! Maybe not having to face the stressor of going to school will be the thing that hastens Chickadee’s improvement. It could be the best thing you do for her health. Have a great time today. You’ll be out of the woods soon. :)

  9. Rachael

    ((HUGS)) MIr and Chickee and Monkey and Otto. The hubs and I continue to pray. Is Chickee’s illness related to the never-ending rash?

  10. ani

    It took nearly a year husband to fully recover from his near fatal illness. Over 6 weeks before he could do a full day of work. And, he did not have to face middle school!

    Time heals but it takes its sweet time doing so. Forest therapy sounds awesome.

    Hugs to all of you. And a wave of sanity pixie dust to the school so they can wake up and be less buttheads about the situation.

    Alternatively….this might be a time to consider online schooling as an option for the rest of the year. That wsy she can go at her own pace.

  11. Karen

    Have a terrific day with your kids, Mir. Sending good vibes your way – I was wondering the same thing as rachael above, are the rash and the illness related? And ofcourse it’s none of my business either.

  12. ani

    Oh and keep chickie away from that slug, you never know how many licking parties he’s been to. :-)

  13. Karyn

    I usually only read, but something about this one hit me. My soon to be husband was in a similar spot in highschool. His senior year he became very sick. What they thought was mono turned into Epstein Barr and then the diagnosis quickly turned to Ulcerative Colitis. He couldn’t even try to come to school. Back then we didn’t get along and I didn’t know the whole story, but now (12 years later) i know that the school was providing a tutor for the work he didn’t understand, and they worked with the situation because they understood it. I’m sure there were awful teachers who didn’t seem to care (some barely cared that you did come to class let alone being that sick). But somehow, someway the school and counselors must have stepped in. Because the day we graduated he walked across the stage and recieved a diploma just like any other ordinary kid.
    Things will get better. I know it. :)

  14. Stephanie

    licking slugs… gah! but the woods are amazingly good for the soul… and the body. what a wonderful place to take a wounded chickadee… :) you’re one smart momma!

  15. RuthWells

    I heartily approve!

  16. Katherine

    A walk in the woods is good for everyone. And I’m glad to hear that Chickie feels up to it. I’ll bet she wouldn’t have the last time, so that’s progress. I wish she didn’t need the 504, but it’s good to have it – and maybe just the act of getting it will help some of the less helpful teachers “get it”. Best wishes to you all and for a delightful day in the woods!

  17. Jenn

    Yep, healing is sadly not one of those straight lines traveling ever upwards. It’s uneven and sometime sharply spikey. Enjoy your nature therapy.

  18. Chuck

    I know things kind of suck right now, but I think you’re doing an amazing job. The teachers who aren’t being helpful right now are about to feel the Wrath. Hang in there, I’m sure things will get better before you know it. And the forest outing sounds like an awesome idea today, for both of your kids.

  19. s

    My heart breaks for you both and I hope your day today gives you some much needed peace and distance for any school and illness related angst.

    Human nature isn’t always kind – such a harsh reality. Here’s hoping that the kindness found in some areas of your life will help light up the gloomier corners. Sometimes I wish back for those days when my kids’ worlds were defined by me – the borders of our yard and some intentional outings, when wounds could be fixed by a bandaid, a kiss, and a well timed popsicle. When moms of older kids would tell me “just you wait, these are the EASY days”, I didn’t quite believe them – I do now. Because their wounds are outside our influence – we can’t protect, however well intentioned we are, however close we are to our kids, however open we think our communication channels are – we can’t stop a gossipy girl even with the steeliest of our gazes.

    We can’t change the hearts of our children even with our hugs, kisses, and “you are strong” speeches. We can only have faith that our love and our words will armor them against all the cracks coming their way. Your kids are lucky to have you and even if you can’t solve all their problems, knowing you are in their corner has to go a lot farther than you probably think it does.

    Now go lick a slug!

  20. Rachel

    It seems teachers are either AWESOME or horrible… not much middle ground. Why is that?
    Anyway, I hope Chickie enjoys her day in the woods with you & Monkey. Hugs from ND, where a field trip in the woods today would involve several layers of clothing, lots of hot chocolate, & not much actual time outside. =)

  21. christine

    I’m so glad you’re getting a 504 for her, it was just what I was going to suggest. Thank you for being such a good mom. You’re also so very pretty (so is Chickadee).

  22. Little Bird

    Ummmm…. What is a 504? I get the distinct feeling that knowing what that is will clarify much.
    Good on you for breaking Chickie out for a day in the woods! Everybody needs a day like that now and then.

  23. Arnebya

    I’m w/Ani above; forest therapy! Being Chickie’s age is hard enough, I’m sure you know, without added things like illness and time out of school. But you are doing a wonderful job from what I can glean here staying on top of her needs. I don’t doubt that whatever needs to be done to make this easier, smoother for her, you will find and do. Enjoy the calmness of the woods as I’m sure it’ll only enhance your adoration of Chickie and Monkey. How could it not? It’s supposed to be a beautiful (yet creepy for February) day!

  24. Arina

    Thinking of you all, and wishing peace for everyone. Sometime the things we need to do because they’re right are the hardest things to do. Sending you strength, and to Chickie, too!

  25. Kim

    That sounds like a wonderful idea. I’ve been trying not to ask any questions, but I too have been wondering….are the illness and rash related?

  26. Aimee

    I gotta say, a day of hanging out in the woods and eating sandwiches and cookies sounds pretty darn good to me. I will DEFINITELY take a pass on the slug-licking, though.

    Have fun!

  27. Sheila

    How many calories in a slug-lick? Every one counts, you know! Added bonus: years from now, Chickie can tell everyone how she was really really sick one time and she pulled out of it in part by licking slugs. Makes for awesome cocktail party banter.

  28. Karen R.

    Here’s hoping that a wonderful time is had by all, and that you get to lick something really enticing this time.

  29. Nancy R

    I wish it was warm enough here for forest therapy – I think it soulds lovely.

    Idle curiosity…what kind of vegetarian sandwich are you making for Chikadee?

  30. Tracy B

    I only wish that I could tag along. We all have our battles and troubles and the feeling of one giant step forward and 3 little ones back is known all too well lately. Hang in there, Mir…I promise the terrible times makes the better times all worth it. We learn to appreciate!!! I’m still trying to learn that. :)

  31. Joan Allison

    Sounds like some great emotional medicine for her. It sounds like she’s overdue to go play in the woods. Hope y’all all enjoy your day.

  32. Genevieve

    Getting a 504 is excellent progress — and very much not failure of any kind. It’s you taking the next reasonable step to help your kid recover and move forward with school. It made sense not to start with one, to see if everyone at school would be reasonable about accommodating her illness, but since not everyone is, you’re taking the logical next step. You’re doing the right things.

    I so hear you on the being tired of one step forward and three steps back. I was there myself for quite a while, but am now in the upswing where it really is MORE better. It feels so good, and it will be that way for Chickie too. Meanwhile, all the emotional and practical support you’re giving her while she’s still in the frustrating “be patient” part is so so important and I’m sure it’s so so appreciated. It’s hard on you to see the “be patient” part, as hard or harder than it is for her because you love her so much, but you are doing so much for her by being there for her, helping her get accommodation, taking her out for a day of forest therapy, listening to her. I love the ring you got her — when I felt so horrible physically and emotionally, I had a talisman necklace that I bought myself that I would reach up and hold — how much better to have something like that given to her by her mom.

    Little suggestion that you can feel free to ignore: is there something cool that you and Chickie could do/change that would be a fun topic of conversation when she’s at school? I know when I was at my lowest, I dreaded going to work because I didn’t feel that I had anything to talk about other than recovering from injuries, and I felt like people were tired of hearing about it and I didn’t want to talk about it. I had an office I could go hide in, but you don’t get that in school.
    Could you give Chickie temporary hair color (maybe not if contraindicated by meds) or get her a cute haircut? Something positive and different for her friends to comment on when they see her next. Some pretty earrings, a funky Threadless shirt, something she’s been wanting? Or rent a movie that she’s been wanting to see, that her friends would be interested in talking about, or get her a great teen book (I recommend anything by Maureen Johnson [Suite Scarlett or Let It Snow would be fun] or E. Lockhart [especially Dramarama]). Things that are a little escapist and lighthearted might be good. Maybe a friend could even come over on the weekend to watch a movie with her.

    Just brainstorming because I know a little bit how Chickie feels.

  33. bj

    Sitting in the woods and silently adoring your children is good for everyone’s soul.

  34. Em

    I am happy for her that she has a mom that knows when a mental health day is in order (even when physical health days took up some time). I hope she enjoys feeling awesome today.

    I am questioning myself for even asking this and please, if it hasn’t been mentioned, ignore the question. Did you ever find out (or post) what made her so ill? I am under no illusions that it is any of my business. I just didn’t know if I had somehow missed that info and I like to make my prayers specific ;-) Still keeping you all in them and regardless of why she was sick, I hope her recovery starts to make some measurable strides so you can feel like you are looking back on it instead of still being stuck in it.

  35. ale

    I <3 <3 <3 the idea of a new haircut, hair color, etc. to cheer her and give her friends something new to talk about. That's clever.

    I agree with the above that Chickadee has a GREAT mom that sees the need for a day off. Enjoy it.

    Praying for you all. Like the commentor above, I totally get why you aren't posting her exacts but what in the world made this sweet girl so sick?????

  36. Jackie

    Poor baby girl. I just want to hug her and walk around with her at school and dare anyone to say anything ugly to her or look at her wrong. Or for a teacher not to care. I would be on them so fast it would make their head spin. I want to play mama bear and I don’t know any of you from Adam. I’m so glad you are taking her out for a day of adventrue. That will be something all of you remember and something she will cherish when she is an adult.

    Hoping and praying this helps heal all of your hearts just a little.


  37. kathy

    I’m so sorry that her once happy place is now no longer providing her that escape. I don’t know if this will help, but there are a lot of kids being blogged about or blogging at I found a lot of help there when my son had his cardiothoracic surgery. We are at 5 months postop and things are starting to get back to normal but fortunately, all his teachers are working with him. I don’t think any of the kids at school look at him any differently (which isn’t saying much when you’re the lone towering gringo, he was pretty different to begin with). He started playing futbol a couple weeks ago and TBH jis healing is definitely a slower timeline than Chickie (he never could have gone for a walk that soon after getting out of the hospital) so she sounds GOOD to me! :) Perspective…

    Hoping for healing.

  38. Kathy

    Sometimes … teachers are difficult!

    Sending prayers and (((hugs))) your way! Enjoy your day in the sunshine!


  39. Anna

    Last I checked, peanut butter was vegetarian.

    Good luck with your hike today, Mir. Hugs for the challenges.

  40. diane

    If there are any failures at play here, it’s the failures of the school and of (bizarre, teenage) human nature. Certainly not of Mama and most certainly not of Chickie.

  41. Leanner

    Maybe you feel like the 504 plan is a failure because school has always been one of the places Chickadee excels and you never thought you’d be doing this kind of advocating for her. I know that when something challenges my expectations it throws me and puts me in a funk. I’m slow to accept change even when I know intellectually it’s the only plan that makes sense. You might try to think about it this way, thank goodness you have experience with 504 plans and IEP’s, you know exactly what to do, and are well versed in both your’s and Chickadee’s rights. Go Mama power! 😊

  42. Lise

    The 504 sounds like a good solution to a really hard situation. And add me to the “I don’t want to pry, but I hope to goodness the doctors have figured out what made her so ill, and that it also explains the rashes” club.

  43. Susan

    I think a day in the woods may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

  44. My Kids Mom

    Perhaps licking slugs is therapeutic? Slugs are not vegetarian fare tho, are they?

  45. Jessica

    I really don’t understand teachers who are in the business of teaching kids … and then they don’t like or don’t care about kids. I work in an office of a school, and I still worry when I see multiple absences or grades plummeting for no discernible reason (I usually mention it to the counselor, on the off-chance that the child isn’t on someone’s radar). I don’t worry about the grades or absences, mind you, but about what might be going on in the student’s life to cause them. I used to teach, and I can’t imagine having a “meh, whatever” attitude when it comes to students. (I realize that class sizes have sky-rocketed, but still…you’re in the business of caring when you’re a teacher!)

    Stepping off my high horse for a moment, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus: A 504 plan is no failure on your or Chickie’s part at all. If anything, it’s a failure of the school to make Chickie feel safe enough to continue without one (or the failure of teachers to care enough to help her through this). Is the 504 lady the same one you used to bring baked goods to? Because I’m sure she’ll be MORE than happy to see you back if you bring her freshly-baked cinnamon rolls… ;~)

    There is no place that I feel more at peace than in the woods. I feel…surrounded by wisdom or something like that when I’m among the trees and chirping birds and gnawing chipmunks. Enjoy the woods. Enjoy your children. :-)

  46. Megan

    Love Genevieve’s ideas (and not JUST because her name is Genevieve – my grandmother had six kids and could never get the right child’s name out when she wanted to holler for one so she would just yell out GENEVIEVE!! and they all knew to come running. My aunt named her oldest Genevieve and I’ve loved the name for as long as I can remember)

    Anyway! Again, love love love the idea of giving that patient, sweet Chickie something positive to focus on and talk about with her friends!

  47. kapgaf

    Have fun, relax, let things go. Neither a step forward nor a step back but a side step away from what’s been going on.

    I am kind of sorry it’s a slug free zone – photos of slug-licking would have been awesome!

  48. Reb

    She was in critical care a few weeks ago and some of her teachers expect her to have already caught up?

    Words fail me.

    I hope you all enjoy the woods – and don’t forget to tell the teachers they’ve got to find slugs.

  49. Daisy

    The 504 is a great idea. Brilliant, even. The challenge will be forcing those teachers who don’t get it – well, to get it enough to follow the plan.

  50. TC

    504 = great idea. Stop worrying about not having done it sooner. How much sooner could you have done it anyway?

    I don’t really understand why the kids are gossiping about her, and I can’t understand how her teachers would expect her to catch up this quickly…but I do understand that it sucks. And that if there’s anyone whose ass needs kicking long distance, I’m your girl.


  51. Mit

    This is what my friend Google says about 504 plans (for the people like me who don’t have kids – and aren’t involved in education)

    The “504” in “504 plan” refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or postsecondary schooling. “Disability” in this context refers to a “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This can include physical impairments; illnesses or injuries; communicable diseases; chronic conditions like asthma, allergies and diabetes; and learning problems. A 504 plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for these students to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peers, and might include such things as wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, an extra set of textbooks, a peanut-free lunch environment, home instruction, or a tape recorder or keyboard for taking notes.

    this sounded generic enough to not be wildly wrong – and yet in “plain-ol-english” to make it incomprehensible.

    I hope I’m passing on accurate/useful info.

    My prayers/thoughts are with all of you too.

  52. Cele

    Mir, My best wishes, thoughts and prayers your you and yours. I’m crossing my fingers too.

  53. Little Bird

    Thank you Mir, and Mit, for explaining that. Would that we had known about that when I was a student. It might also have helped to have the diagnosis then too, I suppose ;)

  54. Paul

    I am wishing you the best , Mir. I also long to get back to that elusive spot of feeling everything is OK. To feeling that everything is as it should be. To happy and safe.

  55. Katie in MA

    You know, when you mentioned the algae thing, I wondered why she wasn’t going on these outings. I love esploring – sounds like a perfect day of escapism to me!

  56. tiffany

    my baby is currently on a full blown iep instead of the 504 so we dont get hassled about missed school, drs appts and late assignments. She is on meds still that have fuzzled her brain and doesnt remember to turn her stuff in :( i completely understand the 2 steps forward 3 steps back, it gets better i promise but i know it doesnt seem like it….we are still living in that moment also
    hope chickie continues to feel better

  57. paige

    I currently have a student who went to the doctor four weeks ago with a vision problem. She had a weeks-long journey through doctor’s offices and is now in another part of the state, at a teaching hospital, battling a very serious, life threatening illness.

    Every time I make a packet of lessons for her, I think of Chickadee…and I readjust things, rework things to make sure it’s realistic (difficult because she is nearly sightless now) and I include a note or a card, or a picture of her classmates or of our class pet lizard. I would just skip the lesson plans, but she really wants to stay in the loop as much as possible.

    Thank you for posting about this…and I hope and pray that Chickadee’s progress starts becoming more linear and steady and this episode is quickly behind your family.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest