Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything is a Battle

Megan started the 2011-12 school year very well. Lots of good friends in her class, personal goals for her classes, and a great attitude. This was our first START of a school year with her diagnosis of dyslexia. We had all the tools in place. We had a plan for after school so emotions do not get the best of us. All of our preparation can be shot down in the matter of one day.

Yesterday, Megan was upset coming in the house after school. The first upsetting incidences of the year happened and unfortunately happened on the same day.

First of all, she failed a reading test… I was ok with this. I wanted to take a look at the test and see what the issue was. She was adamant that she knew the material, but somehow she got every question wrong in an entire section. The closer I looked, I saw that she made a simple mistake that we have all made. She put the wrong answer in the wrong place all the way through the section. She put the answer to # 4 in the # 5 spot. She put the answer to # 5 in the # 6 spot…and so on. I knew this because the teacher made her re-do that section and she got them all right. I am not clear on my feelings as to whether they should change her grade or not, but I think it should be considered. On one hand, I realize she needs to learn a lesson and be more careful, but on another hand, dyslexia is a visual processing disorder.

I wish that was the only thing she was upset about, but it was not. The other incident was more serious to me. The children received their PSSA (standardized tests) scores yesterday. They received them and then they were asked to go to an assembly about the tests. They were told how good the school did and how important it is for them to do their best on these tests. THEN they met with the children individually to talk about their specific scores. The kids had to open their scores in front of the other kids in the assembly and then they had to discuss them with the principal. Having been recently diagnosed with this learning disability, I find this to be extremely unethical. Her perception was that despite the fact that she improved from Basic to Proficient in Reading and Math, the principal told her she needed to improve her writing. She needs to get to the Basic level. He told her it was important to the school. Hmmm ok. Important to the school. What is important to Megan? It is important that Megan not be humiliated. Would they walk up to a child in a wheelchair or on crutches and ask them to run faster? I don’t think so. Why is it ok for them to ask a dyslexic child to write better? Dyslexia is a visual processing disorder. It is NOT seeing things backwards. It is defined by the difficulties that dyslexics have of putting what is in their head, down on paper. It was clear that the principals treated everyone the same. Kids are not the same. There are hard workers and lazy workers. There are kids with parents that care, and kids with parents that don’t care. There are kids that can work harder, and there are kids that no matter how hard they work they cannot make “it” happen. I am ashamed that educational professionals do not know this.

After I did damage control, I hope that Megan realizes that this is something we are working on. She should be so proud that she sets goals for herself. It may take her longer to achieve them, but she WILL achieve them just the same.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Beginnings

This is my first speech that I gave today at my Toastmaster meeting:
My name is Ann Marie Hepler. I am going to talk to you today about how my life is comprised of a series of New Beginnings. The first new beginning was on August 2, 1972. I was born in the Bronx NY to Maria and Philip McIntyre. My given name was Ann Marie McIntyre and I was so lucky to already have a big 5 year old sister, Maureen. From what I hear, Maureen prayed for me to be born. I spent the first few years of my life living in the Bronx. “The City” as we called it, was always our “home”. My mom and dad were born and raised there and so it influenced a lot of my life despite the fact that we moved to Cornwall NY when I was just a toddler. Cornwall was a new beginning for my family. It was a Norman Rockwell town, with a Main Street, American flags, the Hudson River just outside our doors, and the best fourth of July Fireworks anyone could imagine. For several years we spent the weekdays in Cornwall and the weekends traveling the hour drive to the Bronx to see our friends, my grandmothers and get our “fix” of city living. Our travels were always so much fun with me and my sister singing every single ‘50’s song that came on my dad’s radio station. We loved WCBS radio and Wolfman Jack!! My parents were both only children. So I don’t have stories of loud aunts, crazy uncles or annoying cousins. I only had my 2 grandmothers, my mom, my dad and my sister. A family reunion at my house was just about the same as every day dinner. Pretty quiet. Soon enough we were in Cornwall full time. My sister and I were having sleep overs and walking (ok getting a ride from mom) to and from school with our friends. We lived right in town. We could walk to everything.

I was always shy until you got to know me. I loved to be around my mom and dad. My family friends insisted that I would never move out of the house. They said my parents would never get rid of me. Well, on a chilly, rainy day in August of 1992 I surprised them all when my mom, dad and Maureen dropped me off at Slippery Rock University. A “new beginning” that was 7 hours away from home. I knew nobody. I remember the day. After we moved all my stuff into the dorm and after a quick lunch at what is now the Red Rock Falls Restaurant in Slippery Rock, I said a quick goodbye, gave a quick hug and kiss, and did not look back at the car on the walk up the hill to Founders Hall. Tears were streaming down my face.

My dad thought for sure I would be back home for good by labor day.

I worked part time with the Physical Therapist Assistant license I got back in NY from Community College and went to school full time at SRU. In 1994 I graduated with my Bachelors and decided to pursue my Masters. I was offered a full time job in the Mars, PA area and decided to give it one year. After one year, I would assess the situation and move back to New York to be with my family.

My dad thought that no doubt I would be home in a year.

After one year I was getting ready to revisit my decision to move back to New York when one night I went out with some friends. I was tired, I was the designated driver, I had to work in the morning and I wanted to go home. My friends convinced me to make one last stop. They had to see if some guy was at the local bar. I agreed to stop… but only for 5 minutes. There we were in this dark, dingy, local bar. I was cranky, tired and cold. Three guys walked in after us, all hooting and hollering and having fun. I couldn’t help but be sucked into their fun. Dutch, the tall, broad, funny looking one immediately started talking to me and asked for my number. I was going through a major rutt in my dating life…. My track record was men that were too old, men that were married, or men that couldn’t speak much English. So I was pretty skeptical at this point. After some coercion, I agreed that he could call me…. here we had another new beginning. I made the decision that I would give this relationship 1 year. If things were not more serious in a year, I was going back to New York.

My dad was CERTAIN that I would be home…..

Dutch and I had a blast together. He loved to manage benefit concerts and events. I enjoyed helping him. He was so outgoing and fun. Everyone knew him and everyone respected him. He was a hard worker but he was just so fun to be around. A year later he and I were living together and were talking about getting married. We visited New York a couple times, but the more I visited New York, the more I realized what Pennsylvania was doing to me. It was becoming a part of me too. On my birthday weekend in 1996, Dutch knelt down and proposed to me under fireworks. (it was at the Boyers festival….if you can believe that forshadowing!!!). Our wedding was in October of 1997. What a new beginning.

I think my dad believed I would STILL come home someday.

Our wedding was so much fun. The first few years, we continued to live the leisure life. We worked hard, but we played hard too. I was working as a Physical Therapist Assistant. We had fun on the weekends. We traveled and camped and spent a lot of time with each other. We made decisions for ourselves and had no one else to consider. I visited New York several times a year to visit my family. I always had to get my share of NY Pizza, NY Bagels, and NY canolis. Soon enough we decided it was time to grow our family. Megan Corrin was born in May of 2000. She was a precious little 6lb 6oz little girl. She was our new beginning. What a bundle of joy. She was perfect.

I think my dad wanted to believe that I would come home to NY to raise Megan.

I knew I wanted to have a sister or brother for Megan. I knew I wanted my children to know that when everyone and everything in the world is against you… one person has your back… your sibling. So in 2004, we decided to have a second child. Joshua David was born in June of 2004. He was trouble from the very start. Entering the world as an Emergency, he has given me every single one of my white hairs. We love showing our children the blessings of NY and PA. They experience the best of both. Megan will not eat any other hot dog than a NY Sabretts and Josh has an amazing NY accent impression for a 7 year old. I found it was very important to show Megan and Josh how I grew up and how Dutch grew up. My kids have been to “the city” many times already and especially love it in the winter time.

Unfortunately in February 2007 after a long illness, my dad stopped hoping and wishing that I would move back to NY.

Becoming a mom was probably the most defining NEW BEGINNING in my life. From that point, I started making decisions not only for myself, but for my family. It was as if everything that that happened in my life was on purpose to make me who I am. Today I am married to Dutch for 13 years. Megan is 11 and Josh is 7. My mom moved to PA to be next to her grandkids. I have had jobs in private industry that ranged from a Physical Therapist Assistant, to a rehabilitation director, to a workers compensation agent and finally have been working for OPM for 9 years . I travel 11 minutes to get to work. I am adaptable and ready for change because there is nothing more fun than a new beginning.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Day of School 2011 - Tears.... NAHHHHH

So all the build up is over.  Mom and Dad's money is all spent on shiny new pencil boxes, pink rubber erasers, and folders with duckies and kittes on them.  The outfits have been set out, the arm pits have been washed and the "bed time" has regained its popularity.  It was the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!  Josh and Megan jumped slowly drug themselves out of bed, ready for the day.  I made them a delicious breakfast sandwich with fresh rolls, scrammbled egg and ham.  Slathered with just a little mayonaise.  I made this because they asked for it.  Both of them asked for it.  Megan ate hers.  Josh, in his usual difficult-ness... didn't like his.  So a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich helped fill his belly.  Next they got their clothes on and brushed their teeth.  I helped Megan fix her hair and pick out her shoes. 

It was PICTURE TIME!!!  It was blissful Stressful!!  "Josh stand still, Josh, look here, Josh don't touch her, Josh, here... Josh, here, JOSH HERE!!!" 

In normal Western PA fashion, there was quite a chill in the air.  Megan states "mom, I'm cold".  My reply "go get a coat".  Attempt 1...coat had chocolate ice cream down the front and on the arms.  Attempt 2...had a nice grease stain on the front.  Of course there are tears now and yelling about how I wash CLEAN clothes all the time, but when it comes to DIRTY clothes, they never seem to make it in the wash. Attempt 3... WORKS, its clean.  But pulling it over her head makes her hair staticky. ((UH...Really?)

"Josh don't throw rocks at the chicken". "Josh, don't throw rocks at the cat".  "Josh, Don't throw rocks across the road".  "Josh, ONLY throw rocks at the trees." 

((BIG SIGH)).........  my 6th grader and my 1st grader are ready to go... up the steps and off they go. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I decided to join Toastmasters.  Toastmasters is a club that educates its members on how to become better speakers and better leaders.  Through a series of speeches, the members learn confidence, poise, communication skills, and creativity.  The thoughts of giving a speech in front of 25 people that I barely know is enough to give me heart palpatations and make me sweat.  My first speech is in 2 weeks and is supposed to be an IceBreaker....about me.  About my life. At first I thought, how boring.  A 5-7 minute speech about me.  There is nothing to say.  But then I started writing it.  It is still pretty boring, but I definatly have enough material to cover 7 minutes.  It was very therapeutic to write down the story of my life.  I had to stick to the main points of my life.  If I got too detailed, it would take me much longer than 7 minutes. It was enjoyable to think back on my childhood and remember some of the comfortable situations and events.  I also thought of my parents as being MY age right now.  That is something.... When I was a kid I could not see their perspective... but now looking back, I see my life from their eyes.  It was wild.  I think back at what my mom had to deal with at my age.  I am 39.  I have 2 children.  Both of them are active in sports.  I work Full Time and I help to manage Dutch's business.  When I was 11 (Megan's age), my mom was also 39.  She worked full time at night. She always helped to manage whatever Business we had at the time at home.  Her mother was 79. Her mother in law was in her 70's as well and very ill. My sister and I were active, but not in too many after school activity, but we required a lot of attention.  My sister would have been 16.  A new driver.  A teen that had trouble in school.  She required extra attention.  My mom had to manage the house pretty much on her own as well.  My dad would run the dishwasher, but other than that, not a whole lot of help.  But all in all our life was great.  I do not have bad memories.  As I wrote my speech for toastmasters I wrote about all things that were happy.  When it is time for me to stand up and give this speech I will be proud of the person I am not for even trying to improve myself, but I will be proud of the person I am because of the guidance I was given from my parents.  There is no way to express that in a speech.  I am who I am because of the parents that raised me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

time goes by

Every time I get interested in the Blog again, I have really good intentions.  Then I write a little and have a hard time keeping up.  This past year has been a whirl wind.  I know I wrote about Megan trying out for the Silver Creek Starz last year.  She subsequently made the team and it was a wonderful year.  She learned so much and has come so far in one year of training.  Most of all she grew emotionally and socially.  Megan has a rough time in our community.  She does not have a lot of friends.  She talks to a lot of people, but doesn't have a lot of FRIENDS.  This is very hard for me to understand because she is such a kind hearted child.  She always looks out for the "little guy". The group of girls that she became friends with through Starz see Megan for who she truly is.  No preconceived notions of who she is, or who they think she should be.  She is free to be herself.  For a mom of a pre-teen this is a dream come true.  We decided to stay with Starz again this year for a multitude of reasons.  The training she gets is top notch, the softball experience is great, but the friends are priceless.  Megan will be starting school in 1 week.  As she moves into this school year, I believe she will have greater self esteem to deal with the daily grind.We are very lucky that Megan is such a hard worker.  She will not be defeated and this too is a trait that a preteen needs to possess. We are so proud of her.
Joshua has had a stellar year too.  He completed kindergarten with very good grades.  He is a social bug.  He loves to be the center of attention and often his personality allows him to achieve that.  Baseball was his sport of choice over the summer and this year, his team won the championship.  His team was amazing.  The children that played on his team all come from wonderful families and we had such a blast supporting these boys and girls.  The boy that never threw a ball before this season, became the "clean up hitter" by the end of the season.  This fall he is playing football.  This is a sport that I thought for sure would  be "too much work" for him.  I thought he would hate it.  I was wrong.  He loves it.  He works really hard and can't wait to have his first game this weekend.  Josh is so independent.  He has a hard time doing things any other way than his OWN way.  That's ok.  We hope that he uses this determination as he grows up to fight the temptations that will come before him.  We are so proud of him too.
Dutch and I work hard to be good parents.  We spend all of our time with our kids and truly enjoy being with them.  We do things as a family and the biggest challenge this summer came when we had to separate to attend the kids events.  I call it "divide and conquer".  Those were the hardest days of our summer. The proudest moment came just last weekend.  Dutch was playing in a benefit softball tournament to raise money for a local scholarship fund.  Normally, It would be just Dutch playing.  But this year, he asked Megan to play on his team and later in the day, even invited Josh to play.  He was the only dad who allowed and WANTED his children to play on the team with him.  It was the first game that they all played on the same team.  I was so proud!