Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Grieving and guilt

I have been thinking about Papaw a lot.  Not in a crying way, or even in a teary way.  Just in a thinking about a lot way.

Of course, a few days after his funeral, I went to the grocery early in the morning and did become a little teary seeing all the old people doing their shopping.  I have such a sweet spot for old folks.

I began to feel guilty because I didn't do this when D's dad died in 2004....or at least I think I didn't.  I've had 12 years to forget how sad I felt then, so maybe I did feel this way and just don't remember.

When D's dad died, it was a complete shock.  He was only 58 years old.  We were all stunned to the core.  That made a difference in how we processed everything, I think.

And I was in the thick of my own mental health breakdown then, so I don't know that I felt anything accurately.  By the time T passed away on Dec 8, I was on medication (though considerably under-dosed) so I think I just felt a sad numbness.  Whatever I felt grief-wise probably got mixed in with what I was feeling or not feeling anyway--it was just a terrible time.

When T died, N was only 9 months old so we'd had very little time to develop a relationship with T as a grandpa.  He was very independent.  He and my MIL went on vacations with their friends and had their own active lives.  As a result of T dying, we enveloped my MIL, having her come to the house one night a week for dinner and going on vacations with us.  I'm certain we'd have a good relationship with my MIL even if T hadn't died, but I'm not sure it would be as tight as it is now.

I think after T died, we all pulled in as a family.  Papaw became the especially special grandpa because he was the only one on that side of the family; he was already loved, but I think in a sense he became revered in T's absence.  For the longest time, my kids didn't understand that Papaw wasn't married to Mamaw; that he was her daddy.  While we only had 9 months of Tommy as grandpa, we had 12, almost 13, years of Papaw as grandpa.

D and I were married 6 years when T passed away; we were married 19 years when Papaw passed.  In addition to 13 years of having him as grandpa to my kids and developing those memories, I knew Papaw almost 3 times as long as T.  That was 3 times as many Christmases and Easters and summer Sundays eating meals together.

I didn't come up with all this explanation on my own.  My feelings of guilt were really bothering me because I felt like I was dishonoring T so I talked to both D and my MIL about it, and they were the ones who kinda went, "Well, duh....this explains it."

Friday, December 23, 2016

Maybe paying off the house early isn't a financially smart goal

After my last post on personal finance, I got $20 in cash every time I had a big grocery run, set it aside, and when I had $100, I put it on the mortgage principal.  I did this from August through November.  

Good for me.

But then, a week or so ago, I sat down and actually used a mortgage calculator to figure out how much this $100 a month would mean in months taken off our mortgage loan.  

And it was nothing.....not even a year.

So then I figured out how much we'd have to pay off on the principal every month to see a sizable difference in loan reduction (like 2 years).  

It was something on the order of an extra $800 A MONTH!

Um, we don't really have $800 a month floating around doing absolutely nothing.  We don't live paycheck to paycheck, but we also save money in various accounts to help pay for car repairs and house repairs and Christmas expenses and medical expenses and travel.  It would be irresponsible for us to move our cash savings into the house, where it is stuck, and we can't get to it.  

I apparently forgot that in getting a 15-year-mortgage, we had already shaved off 15 YEARS of a mortgage, which is great.  I just wanted to shave off more.  

It was N's orthodontic visit, during which we got the go-ahead to have full braces put on (and the bill that went along with that that), that induced me to really run the numbers.  And I sorta realized that the $500 I had put on the principal might have been better funneled into our medical savings account...

because that is 4 months of braces paid off or over a month of weekly occupational therapy appointments for G.  
It is years of monthly viola rental payments paid off.
It is a little over what I just spent on tires and a coolant flush for my minivan, which really needs to last us another 5 years.  

Security has always been one of our primary financial goals.....having some wiggle room for the unexpected things that come down the pike.  As it happens, when I took the time to look rationally at the numbers (instead of emotionally at the numbers....which is what paying off the mortgage is for emotional desire), it seems that at this stage in our lives, that is not the smartest, most secure financial decision.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A completely useless, feel-good-only post (wall art)

A friend of mine blogged recently about the art on the walls of her home, and it was inspiring.  I enjoyed learning about where and why she got the pieces.  I think you can learn a lot about a person from how they decorate their home.

Lately, I've spent all of my blogging time writing angsty things, and I need to just do blogging lite for a minute.

A big part of my wall decorating is travel art.  Some of it I have purchased, and some of it friends or family have purchased for me.

If I know a friend is going someplace cool that I likely won't go ever or for a very long time
, I say, "Hey, can I give you some money and will you buy a piece of wall art while you're there?"

The best thing about travel art is that I have constant reminders in my home of special places I've visited or special people who have traveled to some interesting places.

My neighbor's daughter has traveled to India and Jordan, and she was kind enough to bring me back some pieces, which I love.  I always think about her when I see them.  (She is currently in England getting her master's degree---how cool of a 20-something existence is that?)

From Jordan

From India

My parents visited Greece, Italy and Turkey a few years ago, and since D and I had already been to Greece and Italy, I asked mom to pick me up something from Turkey.

I do have a couple small shelves in my dining room, where most of the travel art is, although the more places we go, the more I've been having to find new locations.  This shelf has a wooden container from Hawaii (from my parents), a small pottery piece from England (my MIL), a vase from Williamsburg, VA (bought myself) and a vase from Mexico (my MIL).  I have other small things that are currently in my bedroom closet that usually reside in my living room.  They will return just as soon as I put Christmas decor away.  

I just added this to the shelf the other night---my next-door neighbor gave me a cigar from Cuba (he returned not too long ago from his 3rd mission trip).

These two pieces are from Iceland, where D and I went in 2003.

This is from Strasberg, Germany (from my mom and dad).

I've got the Canadian section, which has these two:

Niagara Falls


I have an entire wall of US art, including....

 Charleston, SC

 The Grand Canyon

 Smokey Mountains National Park, TN

Savannah, GA

Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI

These are upstairs in our bedroom and bath.....because my US wall in the dining room is really full.

Sanibel Island, FL

 Edisto Island, SC

 Mackinaw Bridge, Michigan

This is one of my favorite pieces....a piece of lace I bought in Burano, Italy that I had matted and framed once we returned home.  It is in the center of my Mediterranean/Asian wall.  

This piece was given to me by my SIL and is from Mexico.  Right now, it stands alone...since when D and I visted the Caribbean prior to marriage we hadn't yet begun this travel wall art tradition.  If we had, this little guy would have some tropical friends.  

This piece hung in my home for years and years, but I changed things around and haven't found the right place for him again....because he is very long.  A friend traveled to Nepal and brought it back for me.  It stunk of gasoline because of the machines they made it on so I had to dry it with dryer sheets to make it tolerable to hang up.  I always think of RG and TL when I see it.

I think one of the things that makes our house reflective of us and what we value is our travel art.  I always look forward to going new places and finding new pieces to build my memory mosaic.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

The point is not (and was not) to lambast a school

After my last blog about N's middle school and our resides middle school, a friend contacted me and was worried about her own choice to send her kid to N's middle school.  Did my post spark her worry?  Possibly....probably....and that wasn't my intent.

Lord knows, I understand the stewing that middle school decision-making unleashes so to think that I unleashed it in someone else makes me sad.  

I never said N's middle school is terrible.  It isn't.
It is overcrowded, and the layout is weird, and middle schoolers are just frequently assholes.
But that doesn't mean a school is terrible.
I certainly don't walk into her school and fear for my safety....or hers.

I had started this post anyway (before illness and death sidetracked my blogging), but I am compelled to say this in light of today's newspaper article about a small group of parents suing the school.  I am not saying these parents' children weren't bullied.  I know nothing about the case so it is entirely possible that their kids were bullied and experienced a living hell.  I have never personally witnessed bullying in my limited times there (subbing and volunteering), nor have I ever seen class changes when adults were not in the halls monitoring.  I can only say what I have seen with my own eyes.

Did kids buck me when I subbed there?  Yes, but it still didn't suck as bad as this 4th grade class.

N's middle school is a perfectly fine fit for N. It may not be a good fit for me because of the transportation, but I am willing (albeit with some whining on my blog) to transport because it is a good fit for her.

My post wasn't to lambast her school; it was to give kudos to the nearby school that doesn't get all the attention and "love." (Although given these lawsuits, N's school isn't currently getting any love either.)

My post was also to work through my own thoughts that N's school will not be a good fit for G.  They are entirely different people with vastly different temperaments.

I truly love my kids' elementary school, but there have been things and ARE things I don't like about it.  

I am definitely not liking the volume of 3rd-grade worksheets for homework, which are completely do-able when we have a normal stay-at-home evening.  But on an evening when we have something to do, having 2-3 worksheets (1 of which is usually 6 long-ass word problems) just about makes me come unglued.

I haven't loved the inconsistency of the afternoon bus in the past.....which (fingers crossed) hasn't been a problem this year.

As a general rule, I don't love it when teachers misspell content spelling words that they give the kids and then mark incorrect on spelling tests when the kid spells it correctly  (this did not happen to my child but to a friend's child).

No district, no school, no administration, no teacher, no student and no parent is perfect.

The "worst" school in the district is sometimes a hidden gem with a long-held bad rep that no longer applies, and the "golden child" school is sometimes resting on its laurels and not as great as it once was.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Such a tenderheart

G drives me bonkers regularly.  His anxiety sets off my anxiety in a big way so it sometimes feels like we are a whirlwind of uncontrolled fear and emotion.

But there are times when life sprinkles a little wonder in my eyes and helps me see my beautiful G for what he is behind the anxiety and the tantrums over not-tight-enough shoes and loose waistbands.
Last night when D and I discussed Papaw's wake and funeral, he said that when the visitation began and they stood at the casket, G had asked a million questions, like, "Why are Papaw's fingers flat?" and "So.....he'll become a skeleton, right?"

(M refused to look at Papaw in the casket saying, "It makes me sad, so I just want to look at pictures."  So while everyone else was viewing Papaw early on, M and I walked around and looked at all the photographs set around the room.)

At the end of Papaw's funeral yesterday, they had us walk up to or pass by the casket and then make our way out of the chapel.  G walked up and cried a little bit and then walked to the back of the chapel with D.  He sat in a pew and continued crying.

When I came back to the pew, I sat with him until everyone left.  He asked if we could go up and see Papaw again.

At the casket, he touched Papaw's hands and said they felt cold.  He rubbed Papaw's hair and said, "It feels like he's got some hair gel in there," and I explained that the funeral home had fixed his hair so he'd look nice.  G leaned over, with his head in the crook between Papaw's face and the casket pillow, and sobbed, trying his darndest to give his Papaw one last hug.

He then took a tear from his eye with his index finger and placed it on Papaw's heart.

We began to walk to the back of the chapel, and he tried to go to Papaw again, but I explained that we had to leave.

Once G left the chapel, he went up and gave a hug to every single person he saw.  Whether he did this for his own benefit or theirs, I don't know.  Probably a little of both.

Anxiety can feel like a tremendous burden, but yesterday, I saw how anxiety in my boy makes him so sensitive and empathetic, which is such a gift to others.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The eulogy I was most honored to give

In 2010, I wrote a post on my blog about Papaw Chester.  It was, in its own way, a love letter to him.  

Now that might sound a little strange, considering I’m an outlaw in the family and don’t have the stores of memories that De and J, Dn, Dw, Dv and B have.  I only really knew the Papaw aged 72-91.

But I was, and still am, amazed when people are adults and have living grandparents.  My grandparents were all deceased by the time I was 18 so it was the most awesome thing to have a Papaw and be old enough to know how cool that actually is.  

There are many things I think of when I think of Papaw Chester, but one of the first is Cheese Nips.  He always kept a box of them close to his blue chair in the living room, and G and M, even if they’d eaten a 10-course meal prior to visiting Papaw, would ask for some.

Papaw Chester always shared his Cheese Nips.  He also talked up their low sugar content.   It is no great wonder that he lived a robust 91….almost 92…..years between low sugar Cheese Nips and regular sips of apple cider vinegar.  He was a man who knew the value of taking care of something for a long, long time.  

Dv says, “My first memories of Papaw are sitting on his living room floor with B playing with the same old toys that had belonged to Dn and Dw because he kept EVERYTHING. 

Those toys that Papaw kept around the house were a lot like him.  They were worn around the edges, perhaps, but still functional and still fun to spend time with.  The pull-toy dog with the frayed ears comes to mind.  M remembers playing with the old Fisher Price red barn and the cars.  And that dusty, raggedy Garfield stuffed cat that sat on the back of the couch.

Dw says some of her best memories are when she and Dn, T and De used to camp with Papaw and Mamaw.  She says, “I remember catching my first fish with Papaw in his john boat. He was so patient while fishing and with me and Dn fishing, too.”   Mll says fishing is what comes to mind when she thinks of Papaw——his fishing hat and his rod rack in the living room and his “Wishin I was Fishin” t-shirt that I suspect he probably wore holes in.  

Dn remembers Papaw and Mamaw coming over to the house in the spring and summer to work in the back garden.  He says, “It seemed like they were over there every night gardening.”  Dw says she watched and learned about gardening by watching Papaw.  

I don’t think any one of us can think about Papaw without remembering him around dirt or plants.  During the late summer of 2007, Papaw came to our house and helped me plant some flowers in my backyard.  I was very pregnant with G and very much in the nesting stage.  I think back to Papaw at 82 and me with my belly sticking out to kingdom come digging around in the flower beds to get it all in the ground.  I’m sure we made quite a picture.  

Dn says, “Anytime you needed something fixed, you’d call Papaw and he could pretty well fix it.”  He showed Dn how to drill into mortar and helped him install lattice under the deck at our first house.  I don’t think any of us will ever know exactly how many times he fixed the concrete on De's driveway.  

Dv remembers fun times at Papaw’s house when she was a kid.  She says “Sleepovers at his house were something we looked forward too- he ALWAYS gave us what we call "papaw size" servings of desert after dinner.”  

Clearly, that hadn’t changed by the time I entered the family, and we had our regular dinners at Papaw’s house.  He made brownies or chocolate cake or pineapple upside down cake or strawberry cake, and sometimes it felt like he made ALL those desserts and expected us to eat “Papaw size” slices of each.  (I always found it remarkable the look he’d give anyone else in the family if they tried to give HIM a Papaw size piece of anything.)

Dv remembers how when we had meals at Papaw’s home he always tried to accommodate everyone’s preferences, and no matter how our family grew, he always made more room at the table.  

M says when he thinks of Papaw he thinks about ice cream sandwiches.  In addition to Cheese Nips, G and M could pretty well count on Papaw offering them a frozen treat when they visited.

Funny how we’ve circled back to food and Papaw.  

When N thinks of Papaw, she thinks of going up into his attic to pilfer through his closets.  She would dress up in old heels and fur coats that belonged to Mamaw Mll and parade back down so Papaw could see her fashion show.  I think any of us who ventured upstairs at any point can’t get that ginormous owl lamp out of our heads. 

We will all remember the smell of his wood burning stove in the winter and the warmth of his home, especially the excessive warmth of his home on Christmas Eve’s when we were packed to the gills and sitting on top of each other and wishing we had worn short sleeves.  

When Dv thinks back to those childhood sleepovers, she says, “Papaw would pull out the fold out bed for Mamaw and we would help her put the sheets on.  He never let us watch what we wanted, so usually it meant falling to sleep to an episode of Heehaw.  He didn't say much, but when he spoke, you took it all in. He never raised his voice, but when he had something to say everyone listened.  He left us with many lessons reflective of his approach to life. He taught us that people should talk less and listen more. I know that he had lots of opinions, but we didn't often hear them.”

Papaw seemed to be really good, at least in the years I knew him, at accepting his family warts and all.  “They just can’t help it,” was a phrase I know he said about probably most of us at any given time.  I suspect his wisdom helped him know the difference between what any of us could change and couldn’t change.  

Like he never got angry when G said stuff like “Why don’t you have any teeth, Papaw?”  Either he couldn’t hear G or he just simply thought it was funny, even if the rest of us were maybe a little mortified that it was rude.  

Papaw never forgot his kids’, grandkids’ or great-grandkids’ birthdays.  Dv says, “Every year I would get a card with a puppy or a kitten on the front of it. On the inside was always $30 and a simple message  'Love you, Papaw.' After I was in my twenties, I remember telling my dad that Papaw didn't have to do that for me anymore and he told me that Papaw still gave him a card with $30 in it for his birthday every year.  He was sweet like that, always thinking of his family.”

After seeing some photos of Papaw with his great-grandkids on Facebook this week, a friend of mine remarked, “The love in his expression (with his great-grandkids) is heartwarming.”  Dv says, “ I loved seeing how his eyes would light up when my kids would sit in his lap.”  There are few things as wonderful as seeing the look of absolute joy on Papaw’s face whenever he had a great-grandchild in his arms.  

I think Papaw must have changed a lot as he got older.  Dv says, “As a child he always seemed so serious. He wasn't the cuddly type but he was always kind, and we knew he loved us without hugs and kisses.”  I think something about having great grandkids around made him increasingly welcome hugs and cuddles.  

Whenever any of us would leave Papaw and offer a hug, Papaw would follow up with a hand squeeze.  A little extra touch to take with us on the road.  For me, it was sometimes followed up with a “Bye, girl.”  G says when he thinks of Papaw he thinks about fun and love and giving him hugs.  

Papaw did many amazing things….from serving in World War II to building his own home….but I think he’d be pretty darned pleased to be remembered for fun and love and hugs.  If anyone asked in that Papaw way if his life was “any count” we could answer with an absolute yes.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

This "making me stronger" business is kicking my butt

Monday, Dec 5--
9:00 am
D, who had been diagnosed with diverticulitis the week prior, went to the ER for a CT scan to determine if he had a blockage.  
Thankfully, no blockage.  But possible gastroenterologist referral in his near future.  

Tuesday, Dec 6--
Confirmation that my mom's niece has stage 4 aggressive cancer.  

Wednesday, Dec 7--
G has increasingly frequent meltdowns about tying his shoes.  I suspect he needs an increase in his medication since he has gained 10 lbs and grown 2.5 inches in a year.  

Thursday, Dec 8--
5:15 am
G pukes all over his bedroom floor.  Home sick all day with D (who has been working from home for 3 weeks due to sinus infection followed by diverticulitis) since I had a subbing gig.  Out both ends.

3:00 pm,
Take N to orthodontist where we get the good news that if we do expensive orthodontia now, we might be able to avoid her facing jaw surgery when she is 17.  To the tune of $4,000.

Friday, Dec 9--G still run-down so cancel OT but do take him to psychiatrist.  Increase medication as expected.  Feels like elephant sitting on my chest.  Also known as anxiety over having a child who has anxiety and freaks out about tying his shoes and whether his pillows are just so and whether a freckle is a tick.  

Occupational therapist emails me that G is still a year under where he should be developmentally.  Looking at continuing OT at $85 a week for our 4th year.  

Saturday, Dec 10--
Get the phone call that Papaw Chester has died.  He was found on Friday, but probably passed on Thursday, which is the exact anniversary of when D's dad died in 2004.  

Sunday, Dec 11--
My body says, "I fucking give up."  Honking, snorting, sneezing and generally feeling like I want to sleep for 6 weeks.  But carry on.....because what choice do you have?

Monday, Dec 12--
G eats fine all day but complains of stomach hurting at dinner.  Could be leftover from virus? Could it be medication side effects?  Anxiety through the roof again.  
I break the coffee pot trying to get the fucking cat out of the kitchen sink.  Same cat proceeds to Christmas tree where she knocks down her 276th ornament.   
D has the honking, snorting, congestion now, too.  

It is not Aleppo or Palmyra.
It is not the direst of straights.
But man, life just feels all kind of hard right now.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I will miss you

Dear Papaw Chester,

I got the news this morning that you are gone.

Just a few days shy of your 92nd birthday; D and the kids and I were going to come visit today to celebrate.

You had made yourself a cherry pie and were retrieving a napkin from the kitchen to head to your favorite chair that everyone wished you would replace with something more sturdy for your bad knee.  It was walking to that chair that you passed onto and into whatever comes after this life.  I like to think you have moved to another dimension, unseeable and unknowable to us, but still hovering nearby.  You are in our hearts, of course, but maybe also closer to us that what distance and busyness often allowed in this dimension.

I have pulled out some photos of you, but it makes me cry to look at them.  It makes me cry because I will no longer be able to take pictures of you with my that I have treasured these many years.  We have all been so, so fortunate to have our Papaw (and our great Papaw) in our lives for so long.

G said his heart hurts, and I told him that is normal.  Your loss is their first loss of someone close to them in their young lives.  Even though I am sad for myself, I am mostly sad for my kids and your grandkids and your children.

I am ever so thankful to have known you, my adopted Papaw, my not-by-blood-but-by-commitment Papaw.

I probably said everything I ever wanted to say when I posted this.

In the course of those 6 years since I wrote that you slowed down quite a bit. We stopped coming to your house for meals, and you stopped coming to Mamaw's house on Sundays.  This past summer you gave up your garden.  Did you know it was coming or were you just wise enough to accept aging without fussing and fighting?  I admired this about you, Papaw.  You seemed to just roll with the punches, doing what you could with what you had available.

Given how I sometimes feel at 43 years of age....the tiredness and achy were always my hero because at 91 you could put on your own pants and fix your own dinners.  You were always a rock star in my book.

I threatened D quite often with sending him to you so you could teach him to cook.  I will always think with fondness about those meals you fixed us, when we invaded your house, and it busted at the seams.

Although I am sad, I am also so happy because I took advantage of enjoying and appreciating you---the photos, the quick visits, the birthday drop-ins with balloons.  I have no regrets about this, and that is probably one of the best feelings to have even in sadness.  I think it is easier to appreciate someone else's grandparents when you don't have them for very long to begin with in your own life.

You weren't a perfect human being and to suggest that would be syrupy sweet and not in my style of remembrance.  But you were a fine man, a man who lived a simple life, a man who valued family.  A man who headed a family that I now (and for 19 years) have called my own.

Thank you for that.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A year and a half into N's middle school....and thinking ahead to G

I don't regret allowing N to apply to her middle school.  She has been happy there.  Her grades are good.  No problems at all of which to speak.

Sure, there have been some minor what I consider excessive busy-work in Social Studies, but I think I would probably end up being annoyed with Jesus himself.  I am fairly easily annoyed with minor issues.

However, after having subbed at both N's school and our resides middle school, I feel about 98% confident that G will not follow in his sister's footsteps (we don't actually know yet whether his AP scores would even allow him to do so, but even if they are at or near or above her scores, I don't intend for him to apply to her middle school).

I have subbed a couple of times at N's school, and I subbed on Thursday at our resides middle school, where I would have preferred that N attend for a number of reasons.  The first reason is that the building is one level with wide hallways. Secondly, we have transportation by bus to our resides school.  Thirdly, there are AP classes at both schools.  She applied to an "optional liberal arts program" of which I have seen zero benefit.  I don't mind shlepping her back and forth for three years for participation in something "special."  But shlepping her back and forth without any evidence of anything special has grown annoying.

I had been eager to sub at our resides middle school so that I could see first hand how the show operates.

Now I fully recognize that subbing at any school doesn't make me an expert on that school, but I do think being a sub gives a person a better indication of what "really" goes on that just visiting on a school tour or at an Open House.  Being a certified teacher substitute with middle school experience also gives me a different picture because I am talked to with a different level of "insider understanding."  (This could be completely off-the-mark, but that is the impression I get.)  Plus, I've walked the walk and remember what goes on in middle school hallways on a full-time basis.

My impression from these limited subbing experiences is that my daughter's school doesn't really deserve the stellar reputation it has gained.

The teachers are fine.  I have no qualms with the instruction.  People at all of the schools have been personable.  In terms of bells and whistles (teams and activities), my daughter's school is great.

But the behavior issues at her school were worse than the behavior issues I've seen at the three other middle schools (including one in Portland, which many suburban white parents would deem the 7th ring of hell simply because of where it is in the city).  When I have subbed at these middle schools, N's was the only one in which kids outright bucked me, and my de-escalation approaches did not work.  (I work very hard to keep from calling SRT, and I had to call SRT at her school a couple times or literally march someone out of my class and into the AP's office.)

The reason I'm writing about this is because there has been a long (and hopefully waning) dialogue about CrMS (N's school) being all that and a bag of chips and CaMS being bad.  It is part of the reason I stewed mightily about where to send N to middle school.

N is a laid back kid who isn't fazed by much.  She wanted to go to CrMS and has been happy, although any number of her friends actually go to CaMS, so I know she would have been just as happy there, too (and I wouldn't have to shlep her back and forth for three years).

G, however, is a high-strung kid who is fazed by things he shouldn't be fazed by.  To put him in an environment like N's middle school is a recipe for disaster as far as I'm concerned.  I think he would be much better served in a smaller, drastically less crowded environment, with wider hallways, that may not have the "bells and whistles" but will provide him with an equally good education.