A Much Needed April Fool’s Day

The day of pranks. The day where your favorite companies put out the most ridiculous ideas for the amusement of their fans. Sometimes their ideas are so ridiculous but so good that you can’t help but to want these plans to come to fruition. It was refreshing to see something so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly be true and realizing that you weren’t actually reading the news. It was a great change for me.

But the day has ended. Now we are stuck reading news that is too ridiculous to be true but actually is. When your instinct after reading a headline is to check if it’s from The Onion or some other similarly hilarious news site. Where there is a Reddit dedicated to “NotTheOnion” news stories. There isn’t going to be a giant meteor coming down to destroy us; we’re doing an awesome enough job doing it ourselves. I don’t mean this as a compliment.

We are being pandered to and lied to and told that anyone who is against us are the enemy. The Russian investigation? A ploy by the sore loser democrats who are the enemy of the people. The bad media coverage? A ploy by our enemy, the media. Does AOC and Donald Trump get unfair coverage from the “other side”? Absolutely. But if you ask me, there shouldn’t be an “other side” when it comes to reporting. It should be facts, not opinion wrapped up in a box titled “facts”. The enemy isn’t the one correcting the facts; it’s the one that’s spreading misinformation and enjoying the ignorance in those who blindly follow.

Are there media outlets and pundits willingly misleading us? You’d be silly to think that they aren’t. These people aren’t in it for their journalistic integrity; that’s a thing of the past. They are a business. And the best business model right now is feeding into the misinformation and half-truths by offering more, not correcting the news.

It’s more important than ever to look at things from someone else’s point of view. To listen to each other. To be kind to each other. These people are only profiting off of us fighting about what’s fact and what’s fiction. We can change it.

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Those Highly Anticipated WoW Allied Races

There was no Overwatch League this week, so today’s gaming post goes to my WoW leveling adventures.

If you have been catching my stream prior to the release of the Zandalari trolls, you would have probably heard me lament about wanting to play a Zandalari. This was a race that I have wanted to play since they were announced, all that time ago. I excitedly picked up the alpha and beta of Battle for Azeroth, where I was hopeful that I could play one. It wasn’t ready yet. I was disappointed but I quickly became happy when I could play that Nightborne, a race I have wanted to play since the Suramar quests in Legion.

At launch, I was disappointed again. Still no Zandalari. I get it, they wanted it to fit in with the lore. Sure, great. I just wanted my troll! Those druid forms were amazing, especially the moonkin form that resembled the Arakkoa of Warlords of Draenor. (Which I also wanted as a class, but this came close enough.) Admittedly, I was less excited about the Kul Tiran race. They were just dopey looking, fatter Humans. They were nowhere near as cool looking as the Zandalari appeared.

All last week, I worked hard to level up my Zandalari to 100. It was worth every second, even though their moonkin form doesn’t have a dance. They were cool looking. The voices were less annoying than the Troll’s voice. They even have a different dance. I had a lot more fun customizing it. It was everything that I had wanted them to be. Did I mention that druid form? Those druid forms are amazing. The WoW team did an amazing job with this race and honestly, this one was well worth the wait. I may even level another one, a pally. Because those pally mounts look awesome.

But what about the Kul Tiran? I got as far as making a KT druid. I couldn’t decide which class to do, but those druid forms were much cooler looking than I thought they would be. The race is about as awful looking as you would expect, but I did manage to make one that I was pleased with. Today, I will probably get started on leveling my Kul Tiran, though I will likely switch back and forth depending on Legion Invasions, which are still the best way to level up through Legion.

I should be getting other characters up to 120, but I refuse to waste the effort until I can fly again. If you’re interested in some Allied Races fun, check out my stream this week.

When You Start Cutting Special Needs Funding

The idea of cutting slashing special needs funding is appalling to me. This is the group that arguably needs their funding cut the least. It’s easy to dismiss this if you never had to sit through IEP meetings or worry about how your kid is going to succeed in school without receiving services. “Those are kids that would never make it anyways, so what does it matter?” is a sentiment that makes me cringe. This isn’t just going to affect those kids who may have severe disabilities, who deserve the dignity of going to school and learning and interacting with other people. Cutting this type of funding affects a broad range of students that you may look at and not believe that they receive services. But they are. And cutting those services will only hurt them.

It’s apparent that there is already a budget issue with funding special needs programs. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My son’s early intervention services ended at 3, at which point I would either have had to hope that he got into this preschool program that offered these services or I would have to cough up money that I didn’t have. (Which I would have figured out, because that’s what you do.) When doing the evaluations, they met several difficulties along the way. First of all, he was still basically nonverbal just shy of his 3rd birthday. Secondly, he doesn’t have the focus or attention span to be bothered with testing. The tests came back inconclusive. That was a very bad sign that this nonverbal 3 year old was not going to get into a program that he really needed to get into. I was fortunate enough where that special needs team came together and realized there was a need, even if they had to really strain to get him into the program (he made it in for “self-control” issues).

The gamble paid off as the next year he did qualify for speech services. After getting those speech services? He just took off and not only did he start speaking very well, it turned out he could actually read. Which we wouldn’t have known had he not gotten these services. Had this team just dismiss him. They recognized that he was a bright child and that they needed to intervene to ensure that he could succeed in life. After he left preschool, he was out of these services. I thought I didn’t have to worry about it again. Until I did.

Again, in the meeting it was a struggle for the team. While they used a few technicalities as answers, it was needed otherwise my son wouldn’t get the services that they agree he needed. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to fight. Other parents aren’t that lucky. Those are the parents that suffer because the budget is already so tight for these kids. These kids are arguably the most vulnerable in the school system, especially for those “normal” kids like my son. Those kids where people don’t even realize that they are receiving services. Without receiving these services, my son could have easily become a statistic. He could be on the track of disciplinary issues or even eventually drop out because they are frustrated or dismissed as “unworthy” by a school system that values students based on testing and meeting a specific grade on unfair standardized tests. But for now, he is going to be fine.

That is until funding starts getting cut. Cutting the Special Olympics funding because “rich people will keep it afloat”? Are we seriously trusting fancy rich people do to things that don’t benefit their bottom line? But charter school funding remains untouched? Why not count on the rich people to put their money into those charter schools? Why cut services like the ones for those on the autism spectrum? Do you think rich donors are going to cover that too? It’s disgusting and appalling. These aren’t just issues that affect low income people. These are issues that the middle class are dealing with and the moment you ignore that, you are disproving anything that you have ever said about caring about the middle class. My son needed noise cancelling headsets to be okay in school. It took nearly 2 months to find a pair from someplace that was willing to share it because they didn’t need it at the time. The schools should be able to have those accommodations for the kids who need it. But hey, let’s cut funding to the special needs programs that kids rely on to succeed.

Make broad cuts that are necessary. If charter schools are really that great, parents can make that choice themselves. Don’t take money from public schools who actually need the money to improve. The special needs programs need more funding to keep up with the growing need, not getting cuts and forcing these school systems to refuse even more services than they already do for kids in need. If I didn’t have an excellent team supporting us, my son would’ve lagged behind. And if I need to, I will make it my mission to ensure other kids like him are taken care of. And I’m one hell of a fighter.

Surprise! It’s a Pre-504 Meeting!

Last week, I mentioned about how I felt like I was in an endless cycle of evaluations. I discussed about how my youngest spend most of his time in an early intervention, dealing with specialists and evaluations. When he was done with his IEP, I was relieved. I thought that this would be the end of it. That now we could just worry about him being the kid that he’s supposed to be without needing to “fix” anything. He still had his quirks, but that was just who my boy was. And I love him for that.

I also mentioned about how I received a letter asking for permission to do more assessments on him, that the first evaluation required a closer look at his situation. His situation is that his handwriting is illegible, so much that the teacher can’t accurately assess him. I mentioned that I hadn’t heard back from this last letter, and I was anxious to see what was next for him. It was later that day, after the blog had been posted, that I received a phone call from the school to schedule a meeting with me. I knew what that meant. That mean that the cycle I had just ended with my son was starting up again. Had the evaluations gone well, I would have just received a letter saying that everything was fine. Instead, I had a voicemail that said “let’s schedule this thing as soon as possible.” That wasn’t a good sign.

I did become very anxious about this. Any parent in the same situation can understand the feeling of failure. That you did everything that you thought was right and it turns out, you fell short again. It’s not even a consideration in your mind that this was just how things were; it’s something that you did to cause it. You fear that everyone thinks that they need to fix your kid. But they don’t, because he isn’t broken. He’s just a little different.

They discussed some of the interventions that they had already started to put in place for him. In addition to the noise cancelling headphones for his sensory issues (which was a result of diligence on his teacher’s behalf rather than a requirement due to an IEP/504), they had started giving him one of the classroom’s Chromebooks to write out his lessons in instead of handwriting the work. This made them extremely happy because not only could he type well, he could type fast. He would type out between 3-4 sentences in under a few minutes. He could spell fine, even words that they wouldn’t expect a kid his age to use properly let alone spell. He was so bright and they needed to help him so that everyone else could see how bright he was too.

Back with his speech problems, I was always afraid that people wouldn’t realize how smart this kid was just because he couldn’t verbally communicate with anyone. They knew though. My biggest fear was that he would always be dismissed because he was his own person. This was validation that maybe I didn’t have to worry as much about that. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to fight for my kid because it seems like he has the right people on his side that are fighting for him too. I didn’t have to fight for a 504. Everyone in that room agreed with the plan.

So what is the plan? He’s back to movement breaks/rest breaks as needed to keep him focused and to help his attention/anxiety issues. He continues to use the computer and will use a special grip for his pencil to help strengthen those muscles to improve his handwriting. The occupational therapist, though I didn’t meet her at this meeting, seemed confident that he was bright enough that he would pick everything up quickly. He is bright enough to pick it up quickly, but they are also forgetting what I like to call “The Georgie Factor”. Getting his cooperation is more of a fight than his intelligence. Best of luck to them though.

Next week, I get to go back to the school and get the official 504 plan. I’m interested in meeting the occupational therapist to see what she says about him. I’m also very interested in getting tips of what I can do at home with him because it’s apparently not enough. But I’m relieved that there’s a plan, that they know what they are dealing with, and that they are confident in a positive outcome.

Overwatch League, Season 2, Stage 1 Playoffs

Playoff week is always exciting. This year, there were more teams allowed into the playoffs and the event was much more exciting. You may have even noticed that it got the broadcast network treatment, much to the dismay of everyone who doesn’t understand the community. Even my parents. I tried. It didn’t work. It’s hard for people outside of the gaming community to understand the competitive nature of eSports. I love watching a solid competition and I can’t say I was disappointed. Here’s a look at the playoffs in its new format.

8 teams were in and there would be a reseeding process as the playoffs went on. Some teams weren’t happy about it. Some viewers weren’t happy about how the lowest seed would face the highest seed. But that’s how it’s done in professional sports and Nanzer’s goal was to make this just like a “real” sports league. Unfortunately that meant Boston Uprising, as the lowest seed, would face against the top seeded and undefeated Vancouver Titans. I picked my bracket. (My husband is still mad at me for this.. not really, but he wasn’t happy. I wanted to be right though.) I picked the final 4 to be Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, Vancouver Titans, and Philadelphia Fusion with the Shock winning it all.

Why did I make such bold predictions? First, I wanted Seoul to win for personal reasons. This was a decent team that was expected to be the top team last season, only the fell far short of expectations especially as they failed to even make a stage playoff. Next, I really didn’t want NYXL to continue domination. Then there were the logical reasons. NYXL is known to choke. Michelle is a beast on Sombra. My upset pick was right. I wanted Boston to beat Vancouver, but I didn’t trust Colourhex to out-Zarya Seo because he couldn’t out Zarya anyone really. I knew Shock was going to make it to the end because Sinatraa was looking unstoppable to this point, plus the whole Neko-teabagging sitch made me just want to see him taken down a few notches. And I wanted the Fusion to beat the Reign because I honestly didn’t think that they deserved the place in the playoffs. I view them as only a meme team and I really don’t take them seriously. (Seriously, you guys get distracted by a Doomfist and totally C9 the point as Neptuno solo capped the 1/3rd of a point that they needed? I was in awe watching that unfold.)

The semi-finals were exactly how I thought they would be. My final 4 teams were in and the games were actually not very interesting at all. However, the finals more than made up for the lackluster semis. Moth predicted prior to the match that it would be a back and forth battle between the teams, with Shock going 4-2. While it was a back and forth battle that was really intense to watch, they just couldn’t pull off the win and fell 4-3 to Vancouver Titans. Sinatraa was solid and I have a new respect for his talent as a player after watching it. There were a lot of times where I wondered what they were thinking, but there were “WTF” moments from Vancouver too. Some of those ults were used seemingly just because a player just wanted to be the hero by clicking Q. It didn’t work and Vancouver won the final map pretty easily.

It was such a close match-up and easily one of the best matches in OWL to date. I look forward to the rest of the season, because this was ultimate hype-mode activation right there. Unfortunately, no Overwatch League for a week. But Boston is back and hopefully they’ll be stronger in a new meta. And that we get to see more Axxiom because he deserves a spot in the starting 6.

Overcoming the Writer’s Block

A submission is due in 10 days for an anthology. 10 days. I keep writing, but I end up tossing everything. It doesn’t seem right. I don’t like the start. What was I thinking when I wrote that? My brain tells me to go again and I do. It’s a long struggle. I have stories in mind that I want to write. In fact, I have manage to plan out NaNoWriMo already with a new idea isn’t of trying to add 50,000 more words to last year’s. I have considered reworking the 25,000 words I completed last year to create a 5,000 word short story. But I didn’t feel I could. It’s not a great time.

It’s not as simple as just writing. That’s the problem when you work in a creative industry. If your brain isn’t functioning that day, you struggle to complete your tasks for the day. You don’t get paid. Other professions, you can have an off day but you still get paid for it. When you have to create ideas and your brain decides “Nah, maybe tomorrow”, you’re stuck. You can try everything in your power to untie this not, but it’s not likely going to work as well as you’d hope.

Yesterday was probably my most productive day I’ve had in a while. The good news is I still have saved the 2 pieces I have started. The bad news is I’m still not feeling it. I hoped that a few days away would have helped the creative process along. It didn’t. But, I’ve always been a “crunch at deadline” kind of writer. Something will hit me and then I will be unstoppable writing. The problem when you spend your writing energy freelancing and ghostwriting to earn money, is that you exert all of your creative energy on those projects. Sometimes for only a few dollars per article. Then when it’s time for you to work on your own projects, it doesn’t work out well.

It isn’t easy being someone in the creative industry. There is no definitive on how good you are. Art is appreciated by some and mocked by others. I still love it. Here’s to hoping that getting through my projects gets a little bit easier now that the weather is getting nicer and I can enjoy some fresh air to clear my head.

Parenting is All About Figuring it Out

It would be really easy if you could look in a book and learn all about how to be the best parent. You can’t, though. It would be great if children fit into some textbook mold so you can know what to expect. But they don’t. The reality is parenting is about the unexpected and walking around like you have no clue what’s going on most of the time, but are just really happy that everyone survived the day. Even if it did require a Deathwish french press coffee in the morning and only God knows how many other cups of instant caramel latte you consumed throughout the day.

I had my first child at 18. Imagine all of that insane wisdom that came with it for my friends in their future. When they mentioned a birth plan, I laughed. There is no planning it. There’s a “dream”; not a plan. I guarantee for the most part, nothing will go as planned. My birth plan at 18? Not to die in childbirth. I like to set the bar low. My birth plan at 29? Can’t say that it was much different. Just simply having a healthy baby and not dying in a pool of my own blood was sufficient enough. When I hear people start planning out their home birth, I do roll my eyes. I do judge. That’s great and all, but what about the unexpected? People need to learn to not be so rigid if they are going to have kids. Because the unexpected is your life now.

I have been very open about the differences between my oldest and my youngest. My youngest, who seems to be in an endless loop of observations and interventions. When he went to preschool for his IEP, I was happy that he was going to get the help that he needed. Or at least that first year, that they would be able to see that he needed speech therapy and set it up. They did. He got it for his second year of preschool. Then he satisfied his IEP and he went into Kindergarten with no plan. Aside from some anxiety issues, he didn’t do terribly in Kindergarten. For a kid who never spoke before 4, he was not only on par with his class in speech, he was exceeding some. He was a little “active” and had “attention” problems, but we all attributed them to his sensory disorder. It was fine.

Then at his parent teacher conference back in November, it was suggested that they do an occupational therapy evaluation on him because of some issues such as his handwriting and need for noise cancelling headphones in class. His teacher has been great. Eventually I finally got a letter a couple of months later. I was anxious to see what the results were. If they mailed it, that means they didn’t need to setup a meeting for an IEP, right? It turns out, it was a letter to inform me that there was more testing needed. It was stressful. When you have been dealing with evaluations for practically his whole life for various things, it does get into your head a little. It isn’t about me thinking he’s less than anything because of these interventions. It isn’t about what other kids will think of him. It’s all about wanting to do the best for your child. If he needs the help, I’m going to make sure that he gets what he needs. I want him to succeed. I want him to thrive. I just hate the waiting game, because that means you just sit around worrying until the results come in.

No one expects watching their young child go into surgery when they are planning out the nursery. No one expects struggling through evaluations when they feel that first kick. No one expects that they are going to agonize over every decision that they make because who knows what the repercussions are for their future. There is no greater responsibility in the world than being a parent. My best advice that I have ever given to any other parent is: “At the end of the day, as long as you did everything that you could to make sure everyone made it out alive, you did exactly what you were supposed to.” You can’t control what happens, but you can give them the best odds possible.