My daughter has announced, via sign language, that she will not be going back to school in April. She is going to stay home with me, she signs, and I am going to teach her English.
I am not sure how this all came about. Last we asked, she liked school, especially math and art. She really got into the story about Suho and the white horse that she covered in Japanese class. She still talks, er, signs, about wearing a Mongolian costume and playing the batokin.
Maybe she got this idea about homeschooling because she saw me for the first time as a teacher. At the end of the school year, I baked apple pie with the first and second graders and told them about Johnny Appleseed. I wrote some English words on the white board at the teachers’ request. The kids were mostly interested in the pie, but Lilia’s teachers commented on how she wasn’t clinging to me as they expected, and that she’d seen me as something other than her mom.
I had a brief fantasy about homeschooling when I was writing an article on the subject, but I know myself and my relationship with my children well enough to know that it’s not for me. But for the next week or so, I will happily teach Lilia how to write the alphabet and a few words. And maybe we’ll write another picture book together like we did yesterday.
Only one day left of second grade. A few days ago, I had a conference with Lilia’s teacher. We talked about how she had become adept at counting on her fingers, and how she can now add and subtract triple digit numbers quickly and accurately. We also talked about her inability to memorize the multiplication table, and how this will make long division in third grade very difficult. We talked about how at ease and independent she is in her wheelchair, and how wonderful that she can go to the bathroom at school by herself. We also talked about how she rarely uses her legs at school even though many therapists have told me that she looks like a kid who will stand and walk one day. We talked about how she has not been able to learn how to speak, but she can understand a lot through lip-reading and listening. We talked about how she can now recognize some written words and can now write some simple sentencesby herself, and also about the fact that the third grade Japanese textbook will be too hard for her to read. Her teacher suggested that she study Japanese with the first graders. It sounds more practical than pretending that she can keep up, while she gets in way over her head, but the girl has pride.
I know that her cerebral palsy makes her different from other deaf kids, in ways that I’m still trying to figure out. I feel like I’m standing on a divide - on one side, are teachers giving up, and the other is the shiny future I can give her if I push harder. Or maybe it’s mostly up to Lilia and she will find her own way.
My friend Michele interviewed me for MotherVerse. Our conversation is now posted on the blog.
Check out Susannah Pabot’s review of Losing Kei in the Literary Mama!
Homegirl wants her own room.
If we were in the States, she’d probably already have it by now, but she’s been sharing a bunk bed with her brother for the past five years. It’s more economical that way, as it’s expensive to heat two or three rooms at night in the winter and cool them in the summer. Also, Jio gets lonely. Up till now, we’ve been asking him periodically if he wants his own room, and he’s been saying no. But Lilia has started to rebel. Last week she decided that the room between our part of the house and my m-i-l’s part will be hers. It was originally conceived of as a play room, but right now it’s more of a book and storage room. Anyhow, she made a sign – Lilia’s Room ! – and posted it and had a fit when we wouldn’t let her sleep there at night.
So I guess it’s about time to take the bunk bed apart and get the girl set up. She needs her own wall for all of the Sakurai Sho posters she’s been collecting.
I’ve been working on an essay about Bizan, the emblematic mountain of Tokushima. Here is an excerpt:
Although I purchased a round-trip ticket on the ropeway, I decide to hike down. How hard could it be? I find the shortest route on the map, one that I think will take me to my starting point, but almost immediately I wonder at the wisdom of this decision. All morning I have been tramping up and down concrete steps and sidewalks, but this is an actual hiking trail. The steep, narrow path is strewn with dry leaves, which may be slippery. I don’t have a walking stick, and instead of a backpack, I’ve got this handbag hooked over my arm. There is also the question of snakes.
Nevertheless, I begin to pick my way down the incline, imagining Moraes nearly a century ago in these same woods in his kimono. I grab onto tree trunks and seek purchase on protruding roots and rocks. My thighs burn with the effort.
The forest is so dense that I can’t see the city beyond. No one is on the trail behind or ahead of me. No one knows where I am. It’s an odd feeling, here in this densely populated country where I am so seldom truly alone. All I can hear is the wind in the trees, and what I take to be birds rustling the leaves as they forage for food.
Although I’m tempted to pull out my field guide and try to identify a plant or a bird – were those gray-tailed birds that just flew past starlings or brown-eared bulbuls? – there are no stumps for sitting, no spots for rifling through my bag. I keep going until I spot a paved road through the trees. The trail seems to suddenly drop off to this road.
It’s a couple of meters down. I start looking for a sturdy branch that I might be able to use to vault myself down, and then I see a businessman strolling up the road. Maybe he’s out for his daily constitutional. Crouched here on the side of the mountain with my Louis Vuitton bag, I suddenly feel ridiculous. I hold myself very still and hope that he doesn’t notice me. When he’s out of sight, I manage to scoot down without scraping myself on the rocks and I walk a ways down the road.
My goodness, it’s already March! That means that my anthology, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, will be published in only two months!!!!
Today my publicist brought up the issue of bloggers. These days, no promotion plan is complete without a blog tour, which brings me to you. If you are interested in participating in a blog tour for my book in May, please let me know ( suekamata(at) msn (dot) com )and I’ll try to get my PR person to send you a galley.
You could do any number of things – read the book and share your impressions, interview me or one of the other contributors, or, um, think of something else. Ideally you would have some interest in literature, and disability issues.
Check out my interview with Lucia Moreno, publisher of Topka Press.
My daughter has developed a crush on a teen idol named Sakurai Sho. I don’t know much about him, except that he is in a boy band managed by Johnny’s, and he is one of those indiscriminate pretty boys with messy hair. His picture is now pasted to Lilia’s homework folder and on our refrigerator door.
Help! My little girl is only eight! I think I was eleven or twelve when I fell in puppy love with Shaun Cassidy.
Lilia learned his name after being told only once. Now she fingerspells it throughout the day. I’m thinking her thing for young men might serve her well at school. The third year teacher at the deaf school is young and handsome. Maybe she’ll work harder for a pretty face.