Category Archives: marriage

Christmas on Crutches


by Lillian Csernica on December 23rd, 2016

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Some time around last Friday, I sprained my good knee, the right one.

Don’t know how I did it. I suspect it has to do with all the getting in and out of the car while Christmas shopping. I tend to push out with my weight on my right leg, and that’s the first leg in the car when I climb back into the driver’s seat.

I expect this kind of thing from my left knee, but it came as a nasty shock when my right knee exploded into a great big firework of pain. Spent the weekend hobbling around the few times I was on my feet. Ibuprofen and even Extra Strength Tylenol mean nothing to whatever is wrong with my treacherous joint. The Spousal Unit took pity on me and offered me one of his Vicodin.

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Matters hadn’t improved by Tuesday, so I went to the local Urgent Care clinic. Two hours and three x rays later, the diagnosis came in. A sprain, along with the possible onset of an arthritic condition. They wrapped my knee up in two Ace bandages, taught me how to use my crutches, and sent me home with my own Rx for Vicodin.

I know all about being sick for Christmas, but this is ridiculous.

So now I’m off my feet, icing my knee, wrapping it when I do have to move around, and hoarding the Vicodin for those times when the knee starts throbbing. Nobody has had the bad taste to make any Tiny Tim jokes yet, which is a good thing. Crutches might be padded in some places, but elsewhere they’re good stiff metal!

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Tomorrow I’m up with the sun to pull half the morning shift with Michael. Can’t take any Vicodin, because there are a few last Christmas errands to run. One does not take Vicodin and attempt to drive a car. Operating crutches while taking Vicodin is enough of a challenge.

God rest ye, merry gentlefolk. God bless us, everyone!

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After the Happily Ever After


by Lillian Csernica on October 16, 2016

Today is a very exciting day for me!

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After the Happily Ever After: a collection of fractured fairy tales is a massive anthology that features more than seventy stories that transform the well-known and strange fables into sweeter, darker, and more fantastical tales. These certainly aren’t the stories we grew up with.

Please take a look at the gorgeous book trailer the wonderful folks at Transmundane Press have put together. On behalf of all my fellow contributors, let me say we appreciate your support!

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NaNoWriMo Round 2


by Lillian Csernica on October 12, 2016

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Back in 2014, I won NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of Garden of Lies, the second book in my Flower Maiden trilogy.

I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016. I hope to get to the 50,000 word mark on the third book of the trilogy. 7 pages a day, every day.

I thumb my nose at the Forces of Chaos that beset me on a daily basis. Come what may, I shall write my daily quota. By December 1, I will have at least half of the first draft of my new novel.

(Then comes the Labor of Hercules known as Editing the Manuscript, but I’ll get to that when the time comes.)

I send my best wishes to everybody else crazy dedicated enough to embrace NaNoWriMo!

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How to Avoid Cheating on Yourself


by Lillian Csernica on June 11, 2016

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We’d been together for years.  It’s hard to remember a time when we haven’t been together.  I knew it would be a big commitment.  What we’ve built together is strong.  There are good days.  There are bad days.  In the end, we’ve always ended up working at it together again.

Then it happened.

I didn’t see it coming.  I really didn’t.  One minute I was trudging along in my happy little rut, taking care of that day’s To Do list.  The next….

Nothing equals the excitement of a new beginning.  A fresh start, full of all the possibilities, the starry-eyed joy that you feel before any of the mistakes start happening.

I wanted to stay up all night.  I wanted it to last forever.  That feeling.  That sense of power, of fulfillment.  It’s addictive.  It’s also a trap.

The fast fix.  The one night stand.  Getting it all in one quick and dirty burst.

Short stories are such sluts.  They’ll let anybody write them.

I’d betrayed my novel.  It sat there at home, waiting for me, while I was off having a fling with A New Idea.

It’s so difficult.  At times the temptation is intense.  I just want a project I can finish!  I love typing “END.”  Is that so wrong?

My novel has to come first.  Oh, I can have my little stories on the side, but I have to do the day’s work on my novel first.  Then, if I have any energy left, any lingering “unmet needs,” only then can I go run off and play with some trollop of a short story.

They call it “career management,” but it feels a lot more like couples therapy.

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I is for Island


by Lillian Csernica on April 11, 2016

Islands offer some unique opportunities to travelers.  Arriving on the island can be as simple as a ferry ride or as complex as multiple international flights.  Some islands are popular tourist destinations, and others are best-kept local secrets.  When I began working on this post, I was startled to realize just how many islands I’ve visited!

 

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Alameda Island — Located in the San Francisco Bay, “the Alameda” is home to the U.S.S. Hornet.  When John was in grade school, I went with him on a field trip to see this national historical monument.  For me this was quite a sentimental journey.  My father served aboard the U.S.S. Shangri-la.  To be able to show John this huge aircraft carrier similar to where his grandfather had served meant so much to me.

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Santa Catalina Island— I’ve been to the island a total of three times.  The most memorable trip had to be in my junior year of high school.  Mr. Gilbert, my Marine Biology teacher, took a group of us students to one of the quieter coves away from the busy harbor closest to Avalon, the main city.  We camped out on wooden platforms with no tents, just sleeping bags.  We must have done experiments or some type of lab work.  Unfortunately , what I remember most about that trip was falling off the boat into the water and losing my contact lenses.  I had to spend a day and a half being led around by somebody, which didn’t endear me to my classmates.  Worse, I dreaded going home and telling Mom I needed a new pair of lenses.  Back then they cost two hundred dollars!

 

 

Manhattan — Before the kids came along, my husband and I spent Christmas vacation with his mother in New Jersey.  She gave us tickets to see “Les Miserables” on Broadway.  Oh wow.  Nothing in live theater has blown my mind like the moment when Javert jumps off the bridge.  The way the stage crew made that happen, between the lighting and the turntable in the stage and flying the bridge upward….  I really believed I saw Javert’s body spinning in the current of the river.  After the performance was over, I couldn’t stop crying for a solid hour.  I was so moved, and so overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performers.

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Maui — Once upon a time I went to Maui with my mother.  This was the first time I’d been to Hawaii, so I was quite excited.  At one point I gave serious thought to Marine Biology as a career.  Given that, I was really looking forward to the ride around the coral reefs offered by Atlantis Submarines.  An obstacle arose in the form of a tropical storm.  Ye gods and little fish!  The rain came down so hard I felt like an extra in Key Largo. Mom and I had only so many days to spend on Maui.  We were worried we’d have to leave before weather conditions made the submarine ride possible.  The big concern was whether or not the ocean currents would be strong enough to sweep the small, battery-powered submarine out over the island’s shelf and into the deeper waters.

We did get to take the ride, which involved a boat ride out to the spot offshore where we boarded the submarine.  The ride was everything I’d hoped for.  The tour guide pointed out various species of fish.  Much to my satisfaction, I spotted a rockfish despite its excellent camouflage.

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Vashon Island — When Michael was just a baby, Chris and I went to Vashon Island on a pilgrimage to the All-Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery.  The abbot is Priestmonk Tryphon, shown here with Hammi, his Norwegian Forest Cat.  The gold badge Fr. Tryphon is wearing on his belt represents his rank as the Chaplain for the Vashon Island Police and Fire Departments.  The pilgrimage included several presentations.  I gave a speech on the life of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, one of the few female Fools for Christ.  St. Xenia is one of my favorite saints.  She’s known in particular for helping people overcome alcoholism.  Given how much damage alcoholism did to my father’s body, I’m sure that’s a big part of what took him from us before he could see his grandsons.  Holy St. Xenia, pray to God for us!

Japan, on the main island of Honshu:

Narita Airport, Tokyo

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I regret to say that the only time I’ve spent in Tokyo has been inside Narita Airport, entering the country before I caught a train or a flight to my final destination.

Kyoto

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Ah, Kyoto.   The adventure of a lifetime!

Yokohama

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Yokohama hosted the first World Science Fiction Convention in Asia, Nippon 2007.  I was there!

Kansai International Airport (Osaka)

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Osaka is a marvelous city.  Once again, I was there just long enough to land and make my connection to my next flight.  I must go back, if only for the okinomiyaki!

 

 

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H is for Hotel


by Lillian Csernica on April 9, 2016

An important part of any travel is where you’re going to stay for the night.  If you aren’t fortunate enough to have friends or family in the area, then you will probably end up getting a room in an hotel.  I have quite a few hotel stories.

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When I was 10, 13, and 16, my father and I drove from Southern California to Toledo, OH to visit my grandmother.  It took us about 3 days to get there.  We stopped for the night at cheap local motels.  On the inside, they all looked pretty much the same.  Knotty pine walls, thrift store furniture, ugly paintings, and sagging mattresses.  Until I was old enough for a driver’s license, I had to invent various games to keep myself entertained during the long hours on the road. On one particular trip  I recall sitting up late in the bathroom with the door shut so the light wouldn’t keep Daddy awake.  I wrote postcards to a friend of mine from my debate team days.  I’d drop them in the mail at post offices along the way so the postcards arrived one after the other like those old Burma Shave signs!

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At BayCon one year Pat and I didn’t make our hotel reservation in time, so we ended up at the Motel 6 down the street.  The room was clean, with a bed and a shower, which is pretty much all I really need.  We did discover one very strange feature.  The light switch for the bathroom was on the wall outside the actual bathroom itself.  Do I need to tell you what happened next?  Pat and I would sneak up on each other and flip the switch at some very inconvenient moments!

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My husband and I met at the Northern Renaissance Faire and even worked there together for a few years.  When I became pregnant with our first son, I wasn’t working Faire anymore, but Chris and I did decide to go visit for a weekend.  We booked a  cheap motel near the Faire site and woke up Sunday morning to the sounds of the people in the next room having a very good time.  So good they were slamming their headboard against the wall just on the other side next to our heads.  I got up and took a shower.  Now I was at that stage of pregnancy where your balance starts to change.  The shower/bathtub unit was brand sparkling new, no mat or traction pads on the bottom, and no safety rail.  My husband told me later what happened next.

There I was, in the shower, washing my long hair.  I got soap in my eyes, leaned back to wash it away, and lost my balance.  Our neighbors reached the Big Moment in their good time.  He screamed, she screamed, and then I screamed.  My husband told me there was a moment of stunned silence, a sudden thumping as of running feet, then the door to their room opened and shut.  Car doors slammed, the engine revved, and they took off.  I stepped out of the bathroom minutes later to find my husband still whooping with laughter.

 

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Photo courtesy of A Creative Writing Place

On a side street just off of Beverly Hills boulevard, quite close to some of the big, glitzy hotels, there is a small family-run hotel that was built in the 1930s.  Pat and I stayed there about 12 years ago when we were working on some screenplays for an actor who was also a world champion martial artist.  One night, quite late, we heard sounds in the room above us like somebody was bowling or moving heavy furniture.  In the morning we asked the manager about it.  He insisted the room was unoccupied.  This was an old building, under partial renovation.  OK fine.  The next night,  after midnight, we had a plugged toilet some plumbing problems.  We knew the manager and his wife were already asleep, so I went downstairs looking for a supply closet.

This was a bad idea.  No, I was not in the basement.  I did have to walk down a hallway I’d never seen before.  The light was on, the doors were shut, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for.  When I turned around to walk back, some of the doors were slightly ajar.  I had that horrible feeling of being watched.  And then I heard three or four little kids whispering and giggling.  There were no children in the hotel.  At all.  I bolted upstairs like I had hellhounds chasing me.  Between my panic and the resulting asthma attack it took me at least ten minutes to tell Pat what happened.  She went downstairs and came back with the plunger we needed.

We never stayed in that hotel again.

 

 

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F is for Folk Art


by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2016

 

MEXICO

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One of the aspects of traveling in Mexico I really enjoy is the vibrant color to be found in the clothing, the flowers, and especially in the art.  I’m a big fan of El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  The folk art and pop art imagery that has arisen from the traditional El Dia De Los Muertos decorations, sugar skulls, etc. is, if you’ll pardon the expression, positively alive with color!

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BELGIUM

I passed through Belgium on my way from the Netherlands to France.  That took me through the northern part of the country.  Belgium is lovely, and in the summer it’s quite sunny and green.  Most of the tourism in Belgium happens in the south, so I myself was something of an oddity as a lone American teenager riding along with a bus tour of Dutch folks!  You know how much I love history, so here are some fascinating facts about Belgian folk art and handicrafts.

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From Countries and Their Cultures:

Wooden shoes called sabots (Walloon) or klompen (Flemish) were traditional footwear for men, women, and children. Like the people of Belgium, they wore these shoes outdoors; they were left by the door when entering the house. Some immigrants brought the knowledge and the tools for making wooden shoes with them from Belgium. Belgian Americans who could afford them wore wooden shoes decorated with carvings of leaves and flowers. Children sometimes used their wooden shoes as skates or sleds. The early immigrants were usually clothed in homespun cloth and caps. Belgian lace, the fine handwork which originated in sixteenth-century Flanders, was often used to trim religious vestments, altar cloths, handkerchiefs, table cloths, napkins, and bed linens. This fine art was practiced by Belgian immigrants in every area of settlement in the United States. When celebrating the Kermiss, which is a Belgian harvest festival, the organizers of the Kermiss wore red, white, and blue sashes while leading the people of the community in a procession to the church to give thanks.

Pennsylvania, UNITED STATES

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Pennsylvania Dutch folk art is often referred to as “hex signs.”  People who live on working farms have a lot to be worried about, from crop failure to cattle disease to the illnesses that plague human beings.  It’s no wonder these good luck charms and protective symbols came into being.  Painting one’s barn led naturally to decorating it as well.  There is some controversy about whether or not these hex signs have any actual talismanic power.

My mother-in-law lives in New Jersey.  At one time she was right across the Delaware from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  On one of our visits to her, my husband and I bought this particular hex sign:

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Doves, heart, tulip = Peace, Love, Faith

 

 

 JAPAN

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Kokeshi dolls are everywhere in Japan.  On the Sannen-zaka, the outdoor shopping mall that leads to Kiyomizudera, there were several shops that sold kokeshi dolls.  The variety is staggering!  I was so amazed by all the sizes and the designs I could not decide on a favorite.  I had much the same dilemma when looking over all the maneki neko, or good luck cats, available.  (Upon reflection I do wish I’d bought the good luck cat lying there on its back as if asking for a tummy rub!)

The history of kokeshi dolls

 

 

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Caregivers Who Don’t Care


EDIT: February 19, 2015

We’re down to two R.N.s again, and one is on vacation.  My sister has been working too hard and wound up with an injury.  We run on a pretty slim staff as it is.  When Chris and I have to spell each other taking care of Michael, it’s hard on everybody.  More stress in the house isn’t good for any of us, especially both Michael and John.

With that in mind, I’m re-running this blog post.

by Lillian Csernica on June 29, 2013

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I’m seeing a really alarming trend in the news lately.  There are more and more reports of teacher and aides abusing special needs children.   The very people we’re supposed to trust with the safety, care, and education of our learning disabled, medically fragile, and behaviorally challenged children are bullying them and physically abusing them.  This has raised awareness to the point where parents are calling for surveillance equipment in the classrooms to make sure more special needs students don’t suffer at the hands of people despicable enough to abuse their powers of authority.

My younger son John is autistic and has in-home aides who help him after school.  Such aides come to us from the care agency which is contracted with the state agency who pays for this service.  I’m here to tell you that some of the people sent to us by this agency shouldn’t be put in charge of blowing their own noses, much less taking care of a special needs child.  One particular aide John had was a sneaky wretch.  She was all smiles and shipshape manner in front of me, but I found out from one of the other mothers at the park where John played that this aide grabbed his arm and shook him, or she’d drag him around by the arm, and this was before John did anything that might merit strong action.

The day I fired this woman, she stood there in my living room ranting for ten minutes about how the situation was all my fault.  Not until I told her I was about to call the police would she shut up and get out.  I informed all of the mandated reporters I knew about this aide and made it clear to the agency how she had abused my son.

Caveat emptor, my fellow special needs parents.  Just because the state and county agencies say they’ll provide a one to one aide either in school, at home, or both, don’t take whoever they provide at face value.  You would not believe some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other parents about the kinds of people who go into home care, both as nurses and as aides.  Regarding aides, it’s often more or less unskilled labor provided by somebody old enough to make sure the child stays out of trouble and can call 911 if a medical crisis occurs.   That’s not good enough!

Many parents don’t know the right questions to ask, especially when they’re still coping with the shock that follows realizing their child may have special needs.  Many parents aren’t familiar with all of their rights in regard to what they can ask for, and how they can go about making sure the school district provides it.  When Michael reached an age where he could enter the school system, I really wish I’d had somebody there to tell me all the details and guide me through the decisions I had to make.  With these concerns in mind, I’d like to offer this list of helpful and informative links:

Coping with Learning Disabilities

The Assertive Patient

The rights Special Needs Parents have under the IDEA

Expected Standards for a Professional Health Care Worker

The qualifications Care Agencies require from potential in-home workers

As parents, we are the primary caregivers.  We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  We must defend those who cannot defend themselves.

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How I Saved My Own Future


by Lillian Csernica on January 16, 2015

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In 1987 I was in a car accident that left me for dead on Interstate 5 in the middle of the night.  I spent a week in the hospital, then months recovering.

Two months after the accident, my boyfriend asked me to marry him.  I agreed, and worked three different jobs to help pay for our wedding.  This meant driving, something I had no desire to do ever again.  I stayed off the freeways, but I did it.

A few years after we got married, we donated my old used car to charity.  That meant our only vehicle was the one my husband drove to work every day.  If I wanted to go anywhere while he was at work, I walked or took public transportation (the bus).

For years now I have resisted the idea of getting another car.  At times it’s been a financial issue.  We did have to invest in a van equipped with a lift so we could transport Michael to his various medical appointments.  At other times, it’s just been a matter of my bone deep reluctance to get behind the wheel again.  There are a lot of crazy people on the roads these days.

This forced me to rely on my husband, my mother, my sister, or a friend when I needed a ride somewhere.  I felt like I was in high school again.  People kept telling me I needed to get over this fear of driving and just do it.  It’s so easy for people to say something like that when they’re not living inside the anxiety, especially anticipatory anxiety.  That kind of fear puts a real dent in rational thinking.

My husband and I have had more than one loud, hurtful argument about what a “burden” I’ve been to everyone around me because of my “selfishness” about driving myself around.  This resulted in me not going out at all except when I absolutely had to, or when a friend and I spent time together.   My depression got worse.

It’s horrible to be caught between relentless fear and the ongoing hostility and judgment from the people I look to for support.  With family or total strangers, the bottom line remains the same: I can’t change them.  The only person I can change is myself.

Today is a day of celebration.  Today I got angry enough to shove my fears aside, go to a used car dealer, and find a car we could afford, one that suits my needs and makes me feel both comfortable and happy.

Today I crossed a big bridge in my life, a bridge that leads to freedom, to independence, and to better mental health.

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This is my car, the Dodge Neon.

 

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A Special Needs Christmas Carol


by Lillian Csernica on December 15th, 2015

The holiday season has come round again.  It’s a stressful time for any family.  In a household where we already have all the demands of the special needs lifestyle, the additional claims on our time and sanity increase exponentially.

To show my support for all the caregivers who come under the heading of Family, I’ve rewritten The Twelve Days of Christmas to reflect the holiday season from our point of view.

The 12 Days of Christmas

as sung in an ASD household.

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On the first day of Christmas,

the spectrum gave to me

My child having a hissy.

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On the second day of Christmas,

the spectrum gave to me

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the third day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the fourth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the fifth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the sixth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the seventh day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

And my child having a hissy.

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On the eighth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the ninth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the tenth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Ten goldfish crackers

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the eleventh day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Eleven wants repeated

Ten goldfish crackers

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the twelfth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Twelve migraines drumming

Eleven wants repeated

Ten goldfish crackers

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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