Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why You Should Sit in the Back

In college, a few friends and I went to see some of the Whose Line is it Anyway people in a live show.  We sat in the nosebleed seats.  I remember thinking, at the time, that it was probably for the best...we were a whole level above any of the poor unfortunate people who might be picked from the audience to participate.

My TiVo grabbed an episode of Whose Line on Christmas Eve.  Imagine my surprise when Drew sauntered into the audience and grabbed my aunt's hand, thus proving my theory that you should sit far, far away.

For the record, the game was "Sound Effects."

Apologies for the lousy quality of the screencaps; my TiVo records suggestions at the lowest possible quality.

Notice also the fiendish glee in my uncle's eyes.

You can just imagine what my aunt is thinking here.  (Also, again with the fiendish glee.)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:  BofA finally credited my account with the missing $1200.  The affidavit is duly signed and faxed back, though there wasn't a box to check that exactly fit the circumstances, so I wrote a little note saying that though my wallet was out of my possession for half an hour, it is not physically possible to get from Santa Clarita to Fresno and back in half an hour.  (To say nothing of finding and paying for $1200 of building supplies.)  Hopefully that's the end of it, though who really knows.

The Bad:  The stomach flu that was rampaging through school before Christmas break?  I finally succumbed, while spending my Christmas money from Grandpa on some very nice pants at the Catherine's outlet in Vegas.  (And, let me tell you, a five hour drive with the stomach flu is fun.)

The Ugly:  The shirt that looked really pretty on the rack at Catherine's, but made me look like a walking Pepto Bismol bottle.  (There was a blue one too, but it looked like a beach coverup.)  Fortunately, I was trying clothes on as I'd never bought jeans from Catherine's, and it's better to be safe than sorry, given that I wear a different size at just about every place I buy pants.

The Extra:  Our cable was out for most of yesterday, except for Headline News on the TV in the living room, and the Weather Channel (and, sort of, Sci-Fi) on mine.  Thus, any Internet surfing I did was on my iPhone.  Thus my not replying to anyone's email.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Delis

My family has always been a Brent's family.

For any out of state readers, Brent's is a family-run deli in a nondescript strip mall in Southern California.  It's surrounded by a bar on one side -- they used to do their cooking, and would pass orders through a hole in their wall you could see from the counter -- and a carpet store on the other.  The parking lot is perpetually full.

Brent's has been a staple in my family for many years.  It was my first outing as a child, as it was Patrick's.  My dad put the alarm in the deli, the owners' house, and their kids' houses as they got married.  He used to trade alarm service for food.  In fact, I remember going with him on a service call during the summer; it was 2:00 on a weekday, and still full.

I remember when Brent's was a tiny deli; the restaurant itself was two rows wide and stopped at the end of the counter.  Behind that was storage and restrooms.  It's expanded twice since then -- once to turn the storage and restrooms into more seating (a relatively modest expansion) and then when they bought the store next to them (a bakery, I think) and doubled the size of the restaurant.

If anything, the lines got longer.

We stopped going for a while after my dad died, and then again when one of the waitresses teased Patrick beyond his limit to tolerate it.  (Not "teased" as in "haw-haw," teased as in, "hey, maybe I'll take one of these action figures home!" -- she thought she was being friendly, but Patrick hated it.)

Once the new location opened in Westlake Village, we've been going there, generally on trips to the Costco in Ventura, which is the farthest south you can get Splash Cafe clam chowder.

Anyhow, aside from a few trips with a friend to a Weiler's Deli in high school (meh) because it was on the way to her house, and the godawful Country Deli with my grandparents (why they liked that place, I'll never know; I have noticed that grandpa hasn't gone since grandma died), it's been Brent's or no deli food.

Patrick threw a monkey wrench into that on Christmas.

The last few years, we've been left without anywhere to go on Christmas Day; my grandpa has been on trips with his girlfriend, generally, while my cousins are with their in-laws, and my other aunt and uncle are Jewish.

So, of course, Patrick generally wants to go to Disneyland.

That was the plan this year until about noon on Christmas Day, when he decided he wanted to stay home.

Okay, fine...except that there was nothing really to cook; I had been planning on making these until Patrick came up with the Disneyland Plan, but they require being rubbed the night before and several hours to braise...not something I could do on short notice like that.

So, around 7:00, we piled into the car on an expedition to find an open restaurant.  We tried the likely places first -- restaurants near movie theaters (oh, my God, were they packed!) but they were all closed.  So I suggested driving down Ventura, haven of all restaurants in the valley.

Lo and behold, there were quite a few open -- several delis, in fact.  The only one I recognized was Jerry's Famous Deli, so we pulled in and decided to try it.

At this point, it was about 8:00.  The restaurant was packed, and there was a 20 minute wait.  They were showing whichever Pirates movie was on ABC (with closed captioning on, thankfully), and then we were seated.

The menu is a big plus.  It's varied but has recognizable deli food everywhere, along with some surprising additions (like gyros...yum!).  Observing the tables around us, the service seems to be generally good.

(Now, understand, at Brent's, the service is impeccable.  You order quickly, your food is served quickly, bus boys are paid extra and do things like refill your drinks before they're even empty, etc. etc. etc.  But that's rare, at any restaurant...however....)

Our waiter clearly had ADD.

As in, Bulldozer has a longer attention span than this guy.  As in -- oh, look, a dust mote just flew by!

By the time he actually took our drink orders, he'd stopped by the table at least four times, started to ask what we wanted, saw something else that needed doing, and flitted away.

By the time we finished our -- very good -- meal, Pirates was nearly over, it was 10 minutes to 11:00, and it had passed the point of annoyance right into morbid gallows humor.

The plus side is that it seemed from watching the other tables that it was only our section that suffered thusly, and the food was very, very good, though a tad more expensive than Brent's.  Their eggs in particular were cooked just the way I like them (to be fair, that's drier than most people) and they were seasoned beautifully.  The bagels, while not Western Bagels, were also very good, and were served with a healthy amount of cream cheese -- so that I didn't have to beg, borrow, or steal some from other people.

All in all, I actually plan to go back -- among all the other pluses, they serve my favorite kind of ranch -- but nothing will ever be Brent's.  Nothing ever can be Brent's.

(I am now so craving a special steak and eggs...Brent's marinates or rubs or something their steaks with something that is unique and wonderful, and I'm gonna stop now before I drool on my keyboard.)

In totally unrelated news, Sci-Fi was showing a Christmas Stargate marathon, and aside from picking up the Canadian "ow" pronunciation from listening to Canadians talk for far too many hours straight, I was reminded of the following hilarious exchange:

Vala:  Blah blah blah, so we shall blah blah blah.

(Note:  She does not say "blah blah blah," although it sounds like something she would say, but I can't remember what she and Daniel were talking about.)

Daniel (firmly):  No, we shalln't.


Hee hee.

(What?  I'm easily amused by word play.  So shoot me.)



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everybody, from a happy but frustrated nerd.

(I got a nifty new gadget for Christmas -- thus the happy -- but a power blip at the wrong time has rendered the accompanying software...messed up -- thus the frustrated.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Small Update

Sage is now part of the pot roast recipe forever.


Surprisingly Easy

I did my Christmas shopping for Patrick this morning (I was waiting for the promised funds to reappear in my checking account by, alas, they haven't yet...I sense another string of phone calls is in my future on Wednesday).  I'm not buying him much since we're taking our trip together, but I got the usual: a shirt, a couple of DVDs, paper (he's the King of Lists), and scotch tape.  I went around 10:00 this morning and made it in and out of both Wal-Mart (clothes and paper) and Best Buy in just over an hour.

The last thing Patrick really needs is more shirts, but it's a Routine, and one he'd be very upset if I didn't stick with.  I began buying him an outfit for Christmas and his birthday when he hit 12 or 13 and our mom was still buying him little boy clothes.  I believe that kids with disabilities have enough disadvantages in making good impressions with people, and that one thing I can do to help smooth the road is ensure his clothes are nice and stylish.

As he got older, as most people do, Patrick developed his own style.  He loves Hawaiian shirts -- the brighter and bolder, the better -- as well as button-down shirts and 80s style polo shirts.  So what did I find for him today?

Well, I can't find a picture online, but it's a dark purple fake-silk button down short sleeved shirt with a bold, bright swirly pattern of lighter purple and other complimentary colors on it.  It's loud and bold and perfect for Patrick.

Meanwhile, I'm taking advantage of the lull in activity to make one of my favorite meals for a long, slow, non-school day: Alton Brown's pot roast.

With, of course, minor variations.

Alton suggests using bone-in chuck -- 7 blade steaks, as I recall -- but I prefer brisket.  I've made it with chuck and just didn't like the texture of the meat.  Brisket is a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.

I use a bit more tomato juice in the braising liquid than he suggests, as well.  (Be aware that the acid in both the tomato juice and balsamic vinegar is strong when you're reducing the braising liquid -- you'll tear up as much as you do when you chop onions...or, at least, I do.)

Finally, this time, I added some torn sage leaves to the braising liquid, as well as a chiffonade of three more sage leaves.  When I rubbed the meat, I added some paprika and dried sage to the cumin.

Yum.  :-)

Also -- if you make a roux (mix together equal parts butter and flour) and then pour the liquid (only the liquid) left over after cooking, and bring it to a boil, you'll have a yummy sauce.  It's even better if you add just a little whole milk to cut the acidity.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Writer's Block Means to Me

I've started another video. It  all happened while driving -- my iPod was on random (as usual) and I heard "Don't You Need," and before I knew it, I had the insane idea to try to pull enough clips from "Blood Fever" to make a Voyager video.

Problem is, all the relevant clips from that episode are dark -- lit by the actors' handheld flashlights -- and they are filled with talky-face.  I may end up making slight exception, despite the generally accepted vidder's rule that talky-face is bad.

So now I'm left borrowing clips from other episodes -- mostly in the third season, when the producers randomly decided to go the Tom/B'Elanna route instead of the Harry/B'Elanna route -- while still trying to make the narrative make sense.

(The main narrative is, of course, the story of B'Elanna's increasing desperation as the pon farr makes her more and more...err...feverish.)

I don't have the series on DVD but of course it's -- cough -- available in other venues -- cough -- not that I would ever -- cough -- acquire the series that way.  I am, of course, simply -- cough -- story-boarding at this point.


What was I saying?

Oh, yeah.  Writer's block.

So the other night, just for fun, I opened most of my active stories in Word and just cycled through them.  Lots of words.  Some in script format, some in narrative format, and some half-and-half.

Dialogue remains my weakness, as does my tendency be very straightforward and information-dump-like in my descriptions, so I have a few stories I'm working on specifically to force myself to describe things better -- in particular stories that force me to work within certain limitations (for instance, a Blood Ties story from Vicki's point of view in near-darkness (she has night blindness, or a Sue Thomas story where I can't rely on Sue picking up on tone of voice).

One thing I've learned over the past few years is that different things draw me to different stories, characters, and even shows.

For instance, the large majority of my Farscape stories are centered around a few isolated moments.

Like, say, Aeryn in "Till the Blood Runs Clear," because I find the interplay between her fierce desire to be independent despite her temporary blindness and her wide grin when Crichton compliments her ingenuity to be fascinating.  I saw a brief snippet of that episode when it first aired, and for years after -- even though I didn't yet watch the show -- my memory of Aeryn was her abrupt "Don't help me, Crichton!"  In fact, my first Farscape story was based off that moment.

Most of my other stories are centered around the following: Aeryn's breakdown in "The Way We Weren't," the aftermath of Moya!John's death (which is one of only two stories written from anyone other than Aeryn's point of view), the aftermath of Aeryn's torture, and the aftermath of John's collapse in The Peacekeeper Wars.

With other shows, of course, it's other moments -- but that's why I tend to write missing scenes and episode tags.  I'm drawn to the moments and want to explore them more.

So, anyhow, when a bout of writer's block comes along, the first thing that begins to happen is that I watch these moments themselves, or I'm reading something, or listening to a song, and start thinking: "Wow, if only I had that gift with language."

Which brings me back to the beginning of this.  I realize song writing is an entirely different thing than fiction writing or prose writing.  But when I read the lyrics to "Don't You Need," I'm invariably struck by the powerful imagery -- and it's something that always seems like it's beyond my reach.

In fact, imagery is one reason I've always been drawn to Melissa Etheridge's songs, ever since a friend gave me a copy of her self-titled album because it didn't fit on her CD case and I liked the song "Come to My Window."

(That song was immediately over-played and is probably one of my least favorite of her songs now, but whatever.)

So I've got these open files, especially the ones that are in script format, and I wonder: Can I come up with words to bring the images in my head into being on paper?  Lately, it seems like the answer is no.  The images themselves are as clear as ever -- I generally picture it like a movie in my head -- but when I try to describe them, it ends up sounding like an instruction manual.

Writer's block, for me, is not a lack of ideas.  It's not a lack of story lines, of plots, even of dialogue.  Writer's block is self-censoring.  It's me stopping myself from writing something because I know -- I know -- it's not up to snuff.

It's times like this that I have to remember what I did during the Summer of Drama, when I finished my first long story -- write a little, every day, on every story -- even if it's just a word, just a sentence.

Even if it sucks...because I can always go back and change it later.

Today's lesson in self pity was brought to you by the letters W and B and the number 47.

(W and B for writer's block, of course, and the number 47 just 'cause.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Ongoing Saga

Absent-Minded Professor Update:  We went to my grandpa's last night to get our Christmas cards and take food (he's going on a trip, and clearly frozen food can't be kept in a freezer for a week!  Hmph.).  He gave us our Christmas cards but we weren't allowed to open them.

So, having waited patiently for my affidavit to come from BofA regarding the $1200 charge on my account that I didn't make, I called today to check why it still wasn't in the mail.

I tried four numbers, all of which had been given to me in this process as "faster" and "more direct."  None of them worked.  One even took me to an Apple credit account I had written a letter to close something like three years ago.

What I finally did was call their general "lost or stolen" line, and then had them transfer me through three more people, where I was asked repeatedly, "So you've never done business with this merchant before?"

"No," I said (repeatedly).

"It says here your card was swiped."

"I know," I said.  "That's what everyone else told me too.  But I don't know what to tell you other than: I didn't do it; and, it's not physically possible to get from Santa Clarita's Borders to Fresno, where the charge was made (not to mention collecting $1200 of building supplies to pay FOR) in half an hour."

So, he read me an affidavit over the phone, which I agreed to, and then said the money would be back in my account tonight.  They will send me the paper affidavit, plus possibly requests for other information, and if I don't send it back, the money comes back out.

But at least it's kinda solved, though I'm peeved that this was a "we can mostly take care of this over the phone" kind of thing that took nearly 3 weeks to resolve.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This Is Not A Spoiler

Absent Minded Professorism strikes again.  Over an hour of very-difficult-for-me small talk with my grandpa's girlfriend (who, truly, is a very nice person, but I find her difficult to talk to -- for one thing, because her body language is subtly different (she's from Estonia) and difficult for me to read) and he apparently forgot the cards.

Anyhow, I bought The Simpsons Movie tonight -- which I wanted to see but missed in theaters -- and although I won't list my two favorite moments here, I had to share something I noticed while fast-forwarding through the credits to make sure there were no more little asides.

"Filmed on location in Springfield."

Heh heh.


I'm about to go out to dinner to get my Christmas present from my grandpa (this will be either a check for $60 or some random amount of cash near $60 -- last year, I got $57 dollars).

However, this makes my monorail-fiend brother very, very happy.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Aide T is not a fink.  She is made of awesomeness, and emailed Principal SDF to ask that our sit down be rescheduled to when she can come.

(Now, I'm not gonna put words in her mouth, and I suspect that at least part of this is train wreck syndrome in which she wants to see what Aides S and J say, but it'll be nice to be able to look at someone who doesn't want to kill me.)

Closer and Closer

Tomorrow is the day when classroom staff will be in general disarray. I have backup activities planned, so we'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, Swiss Family Robinson is all done except for the book report. It's done -- chapters, questions, sequencing, true/false, Bingo, simplified version for's all done except for the book report. That's 12 weeks of planning. Yippee!

In other news, Speech Person DFT would not meet my eyes today when she came in to observe Elastigirl (apparently, 15 minutes of direct services a week means "watch Elastigirl do the same thing at the same time daily"). Principal SDF says she got a fake-innocent email that was, in her words, trying to dig herself out of her hole. She also says that Program Specialist SBS basically said, "What????" when she got the email.

So that's nice. I'm still miffed about the whole thing. And the fact that our day is likely to go...well...not smoothly from now until break is not encouraging...although Thursday is Principal's recess, plus the OTs are doing a lesson at some point, plus, we're watching the other version of Charlie.

And, just in case, I have a bunch of bowls and a box of corn starch. Plus a few tubs of bubbles if it doesn't rain, and a High School Musical 2 CD to dance to if it does.

Please wish Aide T a safe flight to and from South Carolina. The fink is missing out on the sit down with my staff on Thursday where I get to play Good Cop to SDF's Bad Cop...which is happening roughly 4 1/2 years since I began asking Principal SW to do something similar.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Moral of the Story

About a month ago, our principal wrote a...poorly-received weekly bulletin.

A few weeks ago, our principal wrote a...poorly-received suggestion to play Secret Elfs.

She called me today after reading my response to her email and said that all her questions for me were really for herself.  Bwuah?

Plus, the "other people" that have been gossiping are none other than Aide J, and Aide S, and Speech Person DFT.

I'm still very upset, particularly at Speech Person DFT, and I still wish people would ASK ME QUESTIONS.

It's nice to have it resolved, kinda, but I'm still dreading seeing Speech Person DFT -- though, as I told our principal on the phone, I'd like to see HER do any better.  (Also, our principal said she figured DFT would ignore us completely.)

Also?  The moral of the story?

Apparently, our principal should never write emails, ever.

Ironic, given that I vastly prefer written communication to face-to-face communication, especially with adults.

Friday, December 14, 2007


As far as kids go, today was a fairly good day, though we were very short-staffed (for a total of an hour and a half today, it was me and an aide and eight kids).

Then, predictably, the other shoe dropped.

The other day, Superhero pushed PH, and then imitated a Bulldozer meltdown -- even in the intonation of the wailing.

So Speech Person DFT wrote an email to our principal and my program specialist...I'm not sure about what, but the implication was that the class was going you-know-where in a handbasket because I'm a bad teacher.

Speaking to our principal after school, she seemed fairly supportive.  She was very upset with Speech Person DFT for going over my head -- and hers.

But then I got an email basically attacking everything I do -- in the guise of asking me to "think about it" this weekend.  From a principal I thought had my back.

The class has been hard this year, and there are moments that it feels like I'm barely holding on -- but if there's one thing no one has ever questioned, it's what and how I teach the kids.

So now I have to go to the Christmas party knowing that DFT will be there, and now wondering where I stand with the principal.

There was more, but even thinking about it is making me feel sick to my stomach.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


(Aide J and Aide S were both out today; fortunately, we had mostly okay subs...the morning went well...the afternoon went to you-know-where in a handbasket, but the subs played Sequence with the kids that were doing well, so that went okay.)

Right on the heels of Elastigirl's triumph yesterday, I got some interesting news today.

(I'm gonna be even more vague than usual in order to preserve anonymity, but I imagine at least Cat will know who I'm talking about.)

There's a student in the class who we'll call...Jane.  Jane has Down syndrome.  Jane has significant cognitive delays and some behavior issues.

My program specialist, as well as the psychologist who did her last tri, insisted that her cognitive level was six to nine months.

Now, this girl has severe cognitive delays -- no one is disupting that.

But six to nine months?

Nu-uh.  No way, no how.

While talking to Speech Person DFT (who, predictably, wants to exit her from speech without a reliable communication system) about her, she mentioned that Jane's cognitive level came out to about 2 years.

THANK you.

Now, I don't put much store by cognitive levels -- especially in kids who may have what people used to call "splinter skills" (but if you don't have disabilities, they're called talents) -- but a ballpark is nice.

Six to nine months is ridiculous.  Two years, I can live with.  That's been my guess all along.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

E = MC2

I could easily vent about the happenings at school (again with the, "Why can't you just come to work and do your job like the rest of the grown-ups in the world?" with a dose of "Writing With Symbols, please cooperate just this once), and Aide T has been kindly comisserating with me over email -- a fact that, I fear, would not go over well if other people knew about it...


I got distracted there.

What I wanted to say was that this was all overshadowed by one of those tiny shining moments that make your heart swell with pride and go "Yeeee-haw!"

Elastigirl, as you may have guessed from reading this blog, has some pretty significant delays. She has some challenging behaviors and a lot of obstacles to overcome.

That said, I adore the girl.

Anyway, she spent several years of her education either left to her own devices or forcibly moved to "quiet areas" and left alone. It took my staff -- chiefly Aide T -- and myself about 6 weeks last year just to convince her that we wanted her to sit with us, and that she should sit with the rest of the group.

Today, though....

Today, we were doing a group lesson -- our whole school uses the Second Step program, and I've been doing modified versions of the fourth grade lessons. However, with this group, I've had to mix it up a bit.

First, I have PECs pictures of feelings and we go through them in a sort of game-like format. Every kid gets four "Turn" cards -- four chances to be right, then they can't answer any more -- and I'll hold up a feeling. Anyone who knows can raise their hand, then I pick someone to answer (usually via eenie-meenie-miney-moe).

So, today, I hold up "frustrated."

Seven hands go up.

I start eenie-meenie-miney-moing, intending to...ahem...accidentally land on Superhero, because I know he knows that one, when, lo and behold...

...wait for it...


I stare at her.

She's not really following natural cues and imitating her classmates, is she?

That would be too huge. No way. It was a fluke.

Still, I go over, present "frustrated" and the blank back of a card as a distracter, and say, "Elastigirl, where's 'frustrated'?"

She picks it. The class claps for her. She preens.

We go on, me still thinking it was a happy fluke that I had the chance to reinforce.

A few turns later, I hold up "excited."

Seven hands go up.


That's twice, in one day.

I go over to Elastigirl, who had since put her hand down, and look at her. I raise my hand. The rest of my monkey-see-monkey-do kiddos follow me.

Elastigirl does not look at me. She looks at Superhero and Angel. She thinks. She looks at Superhero again.


I realize that for those of you wno do not deal with kids with severe cognitive impairments, the idea of a 10-year-old girl looking at her classmates and copying them is not a big thing.

For Elastigirl, this is like figuring out the Theory of Relativity.

It still may have been a fluke...but it was THREE times...and if she can do it three times today, she'll be able to do it again...on her own timetable, of course.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Oy Vey

I am trying very hard to restrain myself from a prolonged rant about today -- including such titillating topics as Important Things to Tell Your Child's Teacher, Why the Frell Can't You Just Be a Grown-Up and Do Your Job, and even Stupid Reproductive System, Why Now -- but suffice it to say, I'm not a happy camper.

However, my aching left wrist (I don't even remember what I did to it, but it's more than Baby Carpal Tunnel Aggravated By Wacky Weather) is forcing me to just say:


Thursday, December 06, 2007


Barring book report projects and the Bingo game, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is done. Questions and all. Yippee!

Oh, and Swiss Family Robinson is all typed; I just need to make questions and such.


I think that sums up the last two days: Meh. Things haven't been great, nor have they been awful. Bulldozer had one medium-sized meltdown in the morning today and one incidence of hitting and such but he was redirectable...but, man, the kid must've had a gallon of Mountain Dew for breakfast, 'cause he was running at thirty-five thousand miles an hour all day.

We had to send Superhero home sick yesterday 'cause he coughed up phlegm. Yuck. He was out today and has a doctor's appointment tomorrow. Angel was also out today, and Sleeping Beauty (formerly known as Princess) was asking to go home (!?!) so she must not have been feeling well.

I realized today when I looked at our Charlie schedule that I actually make a big mistake this week...this was the week we were supposed to go to one chapter per day in order to finish on time (we were scheduled to be done reading next Thursday and to spend the next few days doing catch-up work, book reports, bingo, etc.)...but we were still trundling along at two chapters per day!

However, if I nix our weekly poem both this week and next week, we'll make it. Just.

Thank goodness I was avoiding giving M eye contact at that one point today!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


"Haltingly familiar."


Haltingly familiar?

HALTingly familiar?

Good grief.  You meant, perhaps, hauntingly familiar?

Bulldozer was better today, despite the principal telling him he had to stay behind from the field trip...poor Aide T missed former-student-C (of the 3 hour long screamfests) again.  A minor meltdown in the afternoon (a few swings but mostly wailing like a stuck pig).

Personally, I think it was just a couple of bad days.  But I think at this point, even the principal doesn't believe me that he's doing better -- because all she's seen is him being a brat.  I should pull all my Bulldozer comments out of here and make them like pretty (as in, a data-type spreadsheet or something) to prove it.

Our sub for Aide J, who we've had before -- though granted not during the Drama Fest that is this year -- was muttering all afternoon about how it was "ridiculous" that Bulldozer could "do whatever he wants."  Perhaps she missed the part where he missed the field trip, had to work before he earned a break, and then wailed for half an hour because he had to work again?

(Boy, it's tempting, though.  Imagine how happy Bulldozer would be if he could do whatever he wanted?)

Meanwhile, I'm still sick.  Walking to Target about did me in today, so I'm hopeful that just a...ahem...regular school day tomorrow will be more manageable.  (I must have looked bad today; I was in the office after the kids got on the bus, and the principal sent me home!)

Edited to add:  this is so sad....

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Plot Thickens

Turns out it wasn't a Countrywide Mortgage Building -- it was Country Wide Building Supplies or something like that in Fresno.

And, it turns out, whoever bought $1200 of building supplies in Fresno used an actual card.  If I can't get them to stop the payment themselves, then I have to call B of A back and file another type of claim.

Of course, it should be fairly easy to figure out that it wasn't me, based on the time stamps between my Borders transaction and my Target transaction...Google Maps says it takes 2 hours to get from Santa Clarita to Fresno, and to get FROM Borders to the hardware store and BACK to Target is impossible.

Let's just hope B of A understands that.

Meanwhile, I have to wait for my new ATM card to arrive.

Oh, and I guess today was just INSANE at school...I took my first sick day of the year in an attempt to recover from my cold enough to manage the field trip tomorrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What a Difference a Pan Makes

B of A update:  Their offices were not open when I called, so I'm just going to stop by a branch tomorrow.  Hopefully, it will be a relatively simple matter of checking with Countrywide to verify that I don't have a mortgage with them, in Fresno or otherwise.

Anyhow, my immune system has finally given up the ghost.  The culprit was a fairly mild (for me) allergy attack last night that I couldn't stop with drugs in time.  So I'm dragging today, trying to sleep it off before going back into the lion's den.

(I should have known yesterday when I stood fully dressed, literally shuddering from cold while Patrick was sitting on the couch in a flimsy undershirt without a problem.)

However, because it's times like this that you want comfort food, so I took a nap to build back my strength (grocery shopping's killer, ya know ;-)) and made Alton Brown's baked macaroni and cheese.  It's very, very good, though of course I've tweaked the recipe a bit.  Instead of 12 ounces of cheese, I use 16 -- a mixture of sharp cheddar and mozzarella.  I top it with the mozzarella and a handful of parmesan (parmiggiano reggiano if I'm feeling particularly indulgent).

I've yet to see what it would do to the texture of the sauce to add some ricotta, but that's on the to-do list of possible tweaks.

In any event, I've tried to make this several times before and was never totally happy with it.  It took almost twice as long as it was supposed to, for one thing, for the sauce to thicken, and I was constantly switching between a whisk and a spoon to get flour out of the corners of the pot when I was cooking the roux.

So I finally bit the bullet and bought an honest to goodness saucier -- a pan dedicated to sauce making (which is really what mac and cheese is -- it's macaroni folded into a bechamel sauce with cheese and then baked).  It's not quite professional quality -- real, truly professional cookware is expensive (cooking, writing, and photography...why are two of my hobbies so expensive?) -- but it's not bargain basement either.  It's decently heavy, with a distinct thickness of the bottom to even out the heat.

This is the second time I've used the pan for this recipe, and it's amazing the difference it makes. Yay.  :-)

Also?  Slightly warmed up leftovers smushed between two pieces of toast makes a yummy sandwich.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Because Life is Never Easy

I did some Hanukkah shopping today, and bought a few books for myself at Borders.  

Stopped for a cookie at the Tollhouse cookie place and *gasp* forgot my purse.  20 minutes later, I went back, and it was behind the counter.

Then I went to Target to buy a really pretty sweater, and Target said there was a problem with my ATM card.

Got home and had an email from B of A saying there was suspicious activity on my account, so I logged in, and lo and behold, there was a $1200 charge to a Countrywide branch in Fresno.  Bwuah?

So, I called the number in the email and went through the identify verification junk, and was reviewing purchases with the guy on the line.  After a few, he said, "Well, that seems like everything's okay, then."

So I pointed out the Countrywide charge.  He was a touch confused, saying it had been "approved."  Well, yeah, I had enough funds to cover it, but there's the slight problem wherein I wasn't in Fresno today and I don't have a mortgage -- with Countrywide or anyone else.

So he turned off my ATM card and gave me another number I have to call tomorrow.  Then they will mail me an affidavit to sign, so that they can put the funds back in my account.

Meanwhile, I have to figure out if I have any other automatic payments due in the interim -- luckily, the cell phone, TiVo, and Netflix all went through yesterday...but I have to check about my car insurance.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Alas, Poor Sparky Junior

Once upon a time, while I was in college, I had a computer named Sparky.  Sparky was a 166 MHz Pentium with something like 32 megabytes of RAM.  (I imagine my iPhone runs faster than 166 MHz).  It was in a monstrously large tower and came with a 17" CRT monitor that weighed as much as Patrick at the time.

During my senior year of college, Sparky, who had been slowly limping along, suddenly panicked and the next thing I knew, I had a mostly empty hard drive.  Strangely enough, there was no apparent rhyme or reason to what, exactly, was sacrificed in the Great Hard Drive Suicide of 1999, but it was certainly traumatic.

So, after the semester I took off to look after Patrick and help to run and then sell my dad's alarm company and monitoring station after he died, I bought Sparky Junior, a 1.7 GHz (10 times faster than Sparky; I was ecstatic) PC with 256 MB of RAM and a 15" LCD monitor.  It ran Windows Me (yeah, I know), which I eventually upgraded to XP.

The sticking point here is the RAM.  It is a random kind of RAM that only existed for a brief time before SDRAM appeared and took over the world, and not even Crucial carries it.

Being a fairly well-informed computer user (translation = uber nerd), I am careful to protect my computer from spyware and viruses and only visit a few trusted sites when using the PC (as opposed to my laptop).  I have virus programs and spyware checkers, and have both a software and hardware firewall.

So I don't think the way my computer randomly slows to a crawl and complains of being out of memory is a virus or spyware issue.

I think Sparky Junior is dying.

Or, rather, I think Sparky Junior's memory is dying, and seeing as how it's virtually impossible to replace, I will soon be in the market for a desktop.  Having become a Mac fan in the interim -- especially now that you can also run Windows for those few applications that require it (Boardmaker and Writing With Symbols being the main suspects) -- it will likely be an iMac.  I wish I could afford the utter powerhouse that is the Mac Pro, but because that would require me to buy a monitor as well, I just won't be able to swing that.  For the price I'd pay on the Mac Pro and the monitor, I could get a very nice iMac as well as Final Cut Studio.

Alas, Poor Sparky Junior; I knew him, Horatio....

Wake Me Up When December Ends

So, I have this song stuck in my head, as it was playing just as I got home today...and it ocurred to me that if I just tweaked

There's a lot of chaos on the school front. Speech Aide A is refusing to work with Bulldozer because he hit her on Tuesday. I got a lovely email from Speech Person DFT when I asked if Speech Aide A was all right -- she'd come into the speech session with guns blazing ("Okay, Bulldozer, it's time for speech...NOW, NO HITTING, OKAY?") and a bad attitude.

The response I got began with something along the lines of, "I'd have to say that no she is not okay" and went on to passively aggressively chastise me for not being at her beck and call at all times ("she came to see you after school and so did I, but you were not available" -- which she knew, because she knew I was translating conferences all afternoon) and then proceeded to explain to me that, OMG, SPEECH AIDE A FILLED OUT AN ACCIDENT REPORT AND IT IS NOW ON PRINCIPAL S's DESK!

(Yeeeah, that's where they all go. Also? They're so not a big deal. My first year of teaching, I did like three a week because I had a fourth grader with some very difficult behavior.)

What bugged me the most is that she assumed his behavior was like that all the time. Long term readers of this blog know that Bulldozer can have his moments, and had many of them at the beginning of the year. However, they will also recall that as the year has gone by, his meltdowns have gotten less frequent and less intense.

(Of course, articulating that to Principal S was the dumbest thing I have ever done, as you would have thought it was a Monday in early September wasn't until 5 minutes before lunch that I got him through a transition from a break back to work without triggering another meltdown.)

In any event, my reply wasn't -- I admit -- a stalwart example of courtesy, though of course you never know how something will appear in email. I won't get into it here, but I pointed out that Bulldozer's behavior has never been wonderful, and that part of the current behavior regarding speech as opposed to just about anything else is that it worked at the beginning of the year when we were fighting battles about just about everything.

Meanwhile, the teachers are up in arms about a mysterious comment or twelve in this week's bulletin that I hope wasn't prompted at least in part by this drama.

The only reasons we survived today is that Student M was out and that it was a Thursday, so Aide Mrs. B came at 11:30, because Aide S left sick at 9:30.


Yeah, duh, the reason for the post.

We determined why the existence of November is such a problem for Bulldozer. He wants Christmas, but bad. He wants it now, now, now, now, now, now, NOW.


So I'd just as soon have it be the end of December, thanks.

Oh, and I finally decided on Swiss Family Robinson for our next book. It's available pre-adapted to a first grade reading level and the version I bought includes a professionally narrated CD for the kids to listen to for the "listening comprehension" day for each chapter, so all I have to do is retype it verbatim with Writing with Symbols and make comprehension questions. Yippee. I'm hoping to have the whole book done before Christmas so that I have a few weeks to breathe before I have to worry about adapting Matilda.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Of Lee Press-On Nails

I forgot to add below that I -- really, truly -- forgot to write the "please clip Elastigirl's fingernails" note today. Of course, I had a kid melting down today before he even got on the bus, so hopefully I'm forgiven.

However, that brought up an excellent point.

Elastigirl has been fairly regularly melting down at about 11:30 each day. I suspect it has to do with Aide J getting tired and stressed, and Elastigirl reacting to that, but I'm too smart to say that.

So, today, I pulled her, along with her News-2-You work, some different work, and just me, with the express intention of doing a few scientific experiments to determine if it's (1) the time, (2) the work, (3) Aide J (didn't say that one aloud), or (4) some combination of the three.

I was all set up, when the psychologist called and reminded us that she wanted to do a few more tests on Elastigirl.


A Voice is Crying, "Your Doom is Near at Hand"

(Can ya tell I'm a quote person?)

Anyhow, remember a while back when I said I felt disaster lurking around the bend?

Disaster, thy name is December 18.

Why December 18th, do you ask?

On December 18th, of the total four staff that I have (one morning, one PM, two all day), three -- three -- will be out.

All three morning folks -- Aides S, T, and J -- will be out.

I have already asked the office if I can borrow aide #4 -- Aide Mrs. B -- in the morning and give my sub to her morning position just to have somebody who knows the kids.

And yet, I keep thinking: ALL THREE OF THEM WILL BE GONE.

Whattaya wanna bet that's the morning I wake up to a stolen transmission, four flat tires, and a dead battery?

(Meanwhile, having for the first time spent extensive time with Teacher R, a second grade teacher at our school, and her son L, I have discovered yet someone else with Down syndrome who chews their thumb. I am intrigued. Also? While I'm sure that L can be a royal hell raiser (you should hear his giggle!) he is absolutely utterly adorable, and I have decided that should anything happen to R, I will happily adopt him.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sometimes I Amuse Myself Too Much

Must be part of the writing thing.  Sometimes, the phrases that come out of my head just amuse me...especially when they appear on my computer screen without any advance warning.

Right now, I am tickled pink that my brain came up with this:
Tara shook her head in exasperation. “They’re the FBI’s real life Mulder and Scully.” She shrugged defensively at the looks she was getting. “X-Files? If they kissed, the world would stop turning?” She shook her head. “Forget it.”
The joke here, of course, is that the "real life" Mulder and Scully are just as fictional as...

...hey, it was funny to me!  :-)

Of Fingernail Clippers

The good news is that it was a Monday and Bulldozer only had two minor meltdowns -- one of which was semi-provoked. Yay. :-)

The better news is that against all expectations, Aide S's working for a certain psych care services place has only made her better at her job instead of turning her into a discrete trial drone. Yay. :-)


(You knew there was a however, didn't you?)

However, our current drama is that Aide J is just incensed because Elastigirl's parents must clip her fingernails right this second!!!!!

She has asked me to write a note requesting that they do this, but I replied that I was not comfortable doing that because they know that Elastigirl's fingernails should be cut.

(And, also, 'cause you wouldn't get the bejeezus scratched out of you if you only actually did what I told you to for more than 10 minutes at a time, and 'cause the girl could find a way to scratch if all of her fingernails were ripped off in a tragic Velcro accident. Seriously.)

In any event, she has now decided that Elastigirl's scratching is OMG A HEALTH HAZARD because she touches places that shouldn't be touched without washing your hand.

And she is, apparently, telling everybody this...according to our principal.

So I chatted with our principal after school, who grinned knowingly when I said that Aide J had been asked repeatedly to just step away when Elastigirl is scratching ('cause, you know, if you move away, she won't get attention, and -- get this! -- she'll stop scratching) and said that she would tell her the same.

But she did ask me to write the note asking that Elastigirl's fingernails be clipped.

I'm chafing at that (I've worked hard to maintain a good relationship with them, because they had some run-ins with school staff before), but our principal has been very nice and very supportive, so, hey, don't rock the boat, you know?

But this is my blog, and I'll have my say here. (So there.)

1. Elastigirl's parents know her fingernails need to be cut. Her behavior is the same at home as it is at school.

2. Elastigirl's parents have been working very hard to provide for her and do right by her, in the face of enormous challenges and obstacles. She has even done homework sometimes.

3. Elastigirl cringes and flails away from washing her hands. Can you imagine the production that is required to actually clip her fingernails?

4. Seriously. They know her fingernails should be cut. They also know she should have a bath every day, but with a kid with intense needs who has a dad on daily dialysis...sometimes things have to give -- and feeding her dinner is more important than washing her hair.

4a. Don't get all snippy with me. I know kids should have baths. But I have also been the harried sixteen-year-old sister whose dad is in the hospital and who is trying to study for midterms, pick her kid brother up from school, cook dinner, take midterms, hold together a tutoring program while the official tutor's brother is in a hospice dying of cancer, and waiting to see if her dad will wake up from his coma. Guess what? Patrick didn't get a bath that week. So sue me.

4b. Seriously? They know. Get over it and implement her behavior support plan and stop worrying about trivial things like fingernails. If you're worried they're so dirty, wash her hands. Or, you know, your cuts. That you wouldn't have (or, at least, 90% of which you wouldn't have) if you actually absorbed what I tol dyou.

4c. Seriously? They know. They're trying.

4d. While Elastigirl's "mental functioning" is in question, she unquestionably has severe delays. My brother -- my 20-year-old, mostly high-functioning brother -- would, to this day, rather chew off his fingernails than allow fingernail clippers within 50 feet of him. He would rather his toenails rip off in his socks than allow toenail clippers within 100 feet of him. Don't assume it's a matter of, "Oh, c'mere, Elastigirl, let me cut your fingernails, honey."

4e. Seriously? They know.


Allow me to rephrase that: If I have only so much good will with this family, I'd rather use it on the thing that is causing such severe pain that hitting herself is the only thing that will make it feel better than on something they know should be done anyway.


Amusing bookmark to this story. I, I admit, whined at one point, "Oooh, she's such a thorn in my side sometimes."

The principal looked askance at me. "Aide J, not Elastigirl," I said.

She looked dubious.

"Seriously. I adore Elastigirl (I do). I'd take Elastigirl home with me in a second...though I might have to fight Aide T for the privelege."

She grinned and at that point wondered if perhaps Aide J is angling for a disability leave from us (with pay, of course) so she only has to work the one job but is paid for both.

Welcome to another week!

(However, my writer's block un-blocked. Or, rather, the dam burst. I have about 4 stories almost done and two videos totally vidded in my head. Squee!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

My New Favorite Quote

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Coma

And to think he only ate the requisite one bite of turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a great one!

Monday, November 19, 2007

...And Smites Him to the Earth

From "Demonbane," a filk song written by Mercedes Lackey.
The wizard shouts in triumph
Too soon he vents his mirth
For Vanyel calls the lightning down
And smites him to the earth
If I could call lightning down, I might have...smote...someone today.

If you'll recall, a few weeks ago I shared the uncharitable thought I'd had about Speech Person DFT, who ignored my repeated requests not to speak with Elastigirl's aide in front of Elastigirl -- both for ethical reasons and because of the simple fact that when she feels ignored, Elastigirl tends to do unfortunate things.

Anyhow, if you'll recall, I had the uncharitable thought that Elastigirl would, you know, get DFT instead of Aide J.  Or me.  Or anyone else DFT managed to get her mad at.

Elastigirl's tri is coming up.  Aside from trying to get the poor girl off services -- again -- the only services she'd done with Elastigirl this whole year is come in and watch.  She should thank her lucky stars Elastigirl's family is not the questioning kind.

Anyhow, she came in today and started peppering Aide J with questions.

Which, okay, don't do that in front of the kid, don't distract Aide J...all the normal stuff.

We were in the middle of a whole-group News-2-You lesson.

Which, as you may have guessed from my school stories here this year, is not an easy task on the best of days.

So, poor The Boss (Girl J) is trying to read.  Several people are talking.  I prompt her to say, "It's my turn!"

She does.  The kids stop talking.

Except for one.  DFT is deep in conversation with New Girl T.

I repeat, loudly, trying to get DFT's attention, "The Boss, say, 'It's my turn' so people will be quiet so you can read.'"

Chatter, chatter, chatter.

At this point, I'm seeing red.

One more time, "The Boss, I'm so sorry that people are being so rude to you.  Say it again, 'It's my turn.'"

New Girl T stopped talking, but DFT kept right on going.

At that point, Aide B comes to collect Third Grade A, who has been reading with us while her teacher is on maternity leave.

I throw up my hands in defeat, read a page or two to them, split the kids up into groups to work, and go about my life.

But not before I overhear DFT making snarky comments about Elastigirl's work during News-2-You.

The thing is, a year ago, Elastigirl couldn't sit through more than 15 minutes or so of a whole group lesson.  So, I made her file folder games based on the content we were working on.  I also started giving her things to do while the class read, including being master of ceremonies (rolling dice to see who reads next), and a few other things.  What really worked was giving her pictures to match while we read.

A year later, she's progressed from matching color coded pictures, to highlighted pictures, to just pictures, to color-coded words, to large not-color-coded words, and now to just words in the text highlighted.

And DFT has the gall to not only question the work itself, but to be snarky about the size of the text?

So, I girded my metaphorical loins, channeled my inner Vanyel, and wrote an email after school asking her to not do that anymore.  I am going to share it with my staff so that they know to redirect her to me.
The clouds of black have lifted
And there on barren ground
Stands Vanyel, hurt but victor,
The demons tied and bound
He looks down on Lord Nedran
His eyes grow cold and bleak
"Now I shall give you Nedran
all the power that you seek!"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

PC Run Amok

You know, I'm all for sensitivity of language and respect for other cultures.  Really.  I've ranted before about the casual use of the "r" word and its derivatives such as "fantard."

But when you have to "warn" that the earlier seasons of Sesame Street, now available on DVD, are for adults only because Alastair Cookie (of Monsterpiece Theater) smokes and then gobbles -- yes, GOBBLES -- a pipe, and because Oscar the Grouch is...well, grouchy, that's just insane.

I mean, for one thing, people should realize that the world was different in the late 60s.  Sesame Street has always very forthright with its audience -- and, I think, its motives.  It's had characters with a variety of disabilities, including physical disabilities, Down syndrome, and, if any Deaf readers will pardon my lumping it in here, Deaf characters.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Sesame Street took it upon itself to reassure children by having the characters deal with a fire and then visit a fire station.

That kind of political correctness is fine.  In both cases, they're presenting the world as it is -- there are people in the world with disabilities and the only way to build comfort (let alone mutual respect) is to show people with disabilities participating in society.  In the case of September 11, it happened, and to pretend it didn't is ridiculous.  In fact, to discuss it (or, rather, allude to it) while reassuring children is way better than having them see snatches of news coverage or -- for kids in New York -- to look outside and see smoldering ruins and wonder if they will be next.

Complaining that Oscar the Grouch is too grouchy is just beyond comprehension.  He, like all the other characters, is an exaggeration.

As for Alastair Cookie....  Okay, so he smoked a pipe.

Here's an idea.  Talk about it.  Say, "Boy, that wasn't a good idea.  He ATE the pipe.  You know what's a worse idea?  Smoking it.  Smoking is very bad for you.  I wonder what Alastair Cookie would do if someone asked him to stop?"

Or, you know, talk about the story...all of which I remember fondly.

It may be obvious from this that I was a Sesame Street fan in my formative years.

And I was.  I'm fairly certain I learned phonics from Big Bird's alphabet song.  I loved Kermit's news reports, and I ADORED the sketches where Grover was a waiter.

I watched Sesame Street in the early 80s, when Grover sang with Bernadette Peters, when everybody thought Snuffy was Big Bird's imaginary friend, and -- get this -- before Elmo.

So while some of this rant may be coming from my undeniable nostalgia, I just have to ask: what on Earth are these people thinking?

Kids can tell -- or should be taught, either way -- reality from fantasy.  Alastair Cookie is fantasy.

I never looked at Alastair Cookie and thought, "Oh, good, let's go try EATING a PIPE."

(I mean...really?)

I never thought mummies in Egypt actually walked around, nor did I ever think you could get fish to jump willingly to their doom just by crooning, "Here, fishy fishy fishy."

I grew up with songs like "These are the People in Your Neighborhood," "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon," and "I Love Trash."

And, get this, I never got the idea to collect trash.

Gosh, I must have had parents who told me it was a bad idea.

I betcha they told me not to eat pipes too.  (Well, okay, I like to think I didn't need to be told that.)

Imagine that.

And, in case you're wondering, Patrick grew up on Sesame Street too.  And to prove it, I quote here the first ten pages or so of the masterpiece of early childhood fiction, Ernie's Big Mess.

"Ernie and Bert are best friends.  They live together.  Bert is neat.  Ernie is messy.  Sometimes Ernie is very messy.  Then Bert gets mad.  'Ernie, come here!' Bert shouts.  'Look at the mess you have made!'

'Okay, Bert,' says Ernie.  'I am coming.'  Ernie jumps out of the tub.  Splash!  He splashes water on the floor.  Drip, drip.  He drips water on the rug.

'Ernie!' Bert shouts.  'You are making a bigger mess!'

'But Bert,' Ernie says, 'you told me to look at the mess I made.'"

For the record, he never tired to eat a pipe.  Or smoke one.

Also for the record, my favorite Sesame Street books were There's a Monster at the End of This Book and Gover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum.

Oh, and I like Oscar the Grouch just the way he is, thank you very much.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Unexpected Expenses

Sorry for the rambling rant last night...though I'm glad the articles on introverts were useful.  I found them particularly funny because I always make comments like, "Cat had to drag me by the ear to the Christmas party."  All three used a variation on that theme.

It's not that I don't like being around coworkers, many of whom I consider friends, a couple of whom I consider good friends, and I feel generally positive towards the rest with one exception.  It's just that it's overwhelming and exhausting.  At a party, you'll usually find me hanging in a corner chatting with a couple of people or watching from the sidelines.  I generally don't initiate conversations but if someone comes up and starts one, I'm generally open for it.

Truthfully, I'm not sure why yesterday slid me so far into overload mode that I essentially hid away from people all night, but after a long night's sleep, I feel much better today.

Now, about that unexpected expense.

I'm not, to put it mildly, the most organized person on the planet, but I generally don't lose my electronics.  In fact, I've had 3 iPods, 2 Shuffles, an iPhone, 2 point and shoot digital cameras, a Sony Reader, and a fairly expensive pair of earbuds, and not lost any of them.  And I'd like to point out that a 2nd generation shuffle is about a quarter of the size of a credit card.

And yet, my trusty 5th generation iPod has gone missing.

I've looked all over the house, through backpacks, purses, camera bags, cars...everywhere.  And I'm reluctantly forced to decide that it must have fallen out of my purse at one point.

So, I'm now the reluctant owner of an already-full (or, it will be when it finally finishes syncing) 160 gb iPod classic.  In honor of its lost sibling, I gave it the same name -- Lo'La (all my iPods are named after ships on Farscape -- nerdy, yes, but more 'cause I like the way the names Talyn and Moya sound, and Lo'La was all that was left).

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Have No Idea Where This Is Going

Warning:  This is probably going to be more a brain dump than an actual blog post.

1.  Most of today at school was really good, with a few exceptions.  First, Aide J apparently had a "nervous breakdown" at her other job last night and said she wanted criticism and to be told when she needs help.  Second, Aide J started the day well but by afternoon had (again) forgotten everything I told her yesterday.  This is frustrating to me.  And, third, Superhero -- after one of the most spectacular days I've seen him have yet -- randomly hit Aide Mrs. B.  

2.  There were two big exceptions.

2a.  First, PH shouldn't have been at school -- at least not this morning.  He coughed a lot, dozed off, perked up, and then the cycle would just start all over again.  This is not the big problem.  The problem is that when we asked the office to call and his mom protested that she didn't want to pick him up, the office's response was to tell us to let him sleep on our beanbag.  I mean, what the frell?  If this were a kid in general education, that wouldn't have been an acceptable alternative, but because PH has special needs, he's allowed to just sleep it off at school -- thus infecting all of us?

2b.  There is a 6th grade girl who's fully included that we'll call Student E.  She takes the bus with my kiddos, but today she said she was being picked up.  We said, "okay," and went about our life.  Then our office clerk B comes out and says E was supposed to ride the bus.  She was very snippy and even said that next time we should check with her.  Again, what the frell?  Not my student.  Not my business.  Not my job.  Plus, she's never been wrong before.

2c.  I generally like Clerk B a lot.  Today, however, she was On My List.

3.  Someone parked in my spot this morning at school and I had to park half a block away.

4.  However, Superhero read nearly a whole paragraph (with picture support) on his own, and M is reading non-picture-supported phrases on her own AND showing comprehension.  Woo-hoo.

5.  I am very grumpy today, for reasons that make no sense to me, given the relatively calm day.  Thus, given my turtle tendency, all I really want to do is hide in my bedroom tonight.

5a.  And yet, it is suddenly Absolutely Vital that my grandpa order prints of the 100 pictures he's taken in the 2 years he's had his digital camera.  I have shown him three times how to do this with iPhoto, and have no patience for the process -- or, to be totally honest, my electrical engineer grandpa...standing behind me staring over my shoulder and either pretending he knows what I'm doing or, worse, marveling at the fact that I can FIND and CLICK the "Order Prints" button.

5b.  I am now in deep familial trouble by saying that I just couldn't tonight, because apparently I am never allowed to need to be by myself.  It's enough to make me want to print copies of this or this or this for my entire family.

5c.  When I was a child, because of the screwed up psychology of my family where I got in trouble for speaking up to my grandma and saying "no" to crossing a street against a red light, I would have never dared to say, "I need to be alone now."  The few times I tried, I got in trouble for being anti-social.  Old habits die hard...I am sitting here already riddled with guilt because I chose not to go.

5d.  The fact that I was able to stand up for myself and say, "I just can't tonight" really should be a sign to people of how much I need my time alone.  But despite some of the craziest crazies in the family having since passed I said...old habits die hard.

6.  Someday, I probably should go into therapy.

The funny thing is, my brain can go on even wilder tangents than that, but it's abruptly said, "that's enough" right now, so I'm going to watch The Simpsons and wait for 11:00.  Thank goodness for brainless fun TV.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Girl

So, the new girl came today. She's very nice. Very, very fact, I suspect her nickname will be something along the lines of Motormouth. She just has to be a part of every conversation. She's sweet, and Angel was very relieved to have another girl to play with and interact with.

Her can see where her mom has an inflated idea of what she can do -- because it's very deceptive, having a girl who has such good conversational and social skills.

She said several times she had a good first day, though she was a bit puzzled by Elastigirl -- "You mean she can't talk?" she asked two or three times, and she looked askance at Superhero (again with the allergies and rash, so again with the squealing and obnoxious behavior) several times, but she seemed happy.

But of course my days can never be that easy.

I walked Elastigirl up to class today, and we were chatting and playing together.

(Granted, "chatting" consists of me giving her deep pressure on an arm, while saying cheerfully, "I'm squeezing your arm!" and her repeating "squeeze" or saying "more," but, still...who'd've thunk I'd be chatting with Elastigirl?)

That, of course, was my first mistake.

Then, at PE, Elastigirl wouldn't walk with Aide J...because Aide J just kept saying, "C'mon, Elastigirl."

She wandered up to me, so I took her hand and swung it vigorously back and forth, which she loved, so I held on and gave her arm a tug.

(This is not at all like it sounds, but that's the only way I can describe it -- Elastigirl loves the sensation of people pulling on her arms, and seeks out spinning activities where she can hold and and then let go. So, she thought it was fun...I wasn't, like, torturing her or anything.)

She giggled like mad and ran after me. So we kept going. Every once in a while, I'd say,
"Swing?" and she'd either say "swing" or "more" or sign "please," and we'd do it again. We made a whole lap that way and kept going. As soon as she saw Aide J following us, she dropped to the ground.

So, I just walked on a bit and ignored her. She got up and followed after me. We'd swing once or twice and she'd drop again, but she always followed me.

Thus, I dug my own grave.

Then, after recess, Elastigirl suddenly paled and started crying. PH was out today because he threw up on the bus, so of course we were worried that she was about to puke all over everything, but she calmed down. Then, later, she started wailing again, and as we watched to see if she was going to throw up, she urinated (she wears pull-ups).

So, of cousre, we suspect a urinary tract infection -- which, of course, is one thing I don't know how to say in Spanish.

Anyhow, to add to all the mess, her parents never reapplied for the lunch program (I know I'm not supposed to know, but when a child has intense needs, etc. etc. etc.), so her lunch routine -- which she's followed from kindergarten to fifth grade is messed up, thus making her grumpy.

She was a wreck after recess, so as we got ready to leave, I asked Aide Mrs. B. to hang out in case Aide J needed help getting Elastigirl to the bus.

And, thus, I shoveled the dirt on my own grave. She asked me if something was "wrong" and proceeded to start to cry.

So, to sum up: if Aide T. offers to help, Aide J does the opposite. If I offer to help, Aide J says "no thank you" and ignores my suggestions. If Aide S offers to help, Aide J says "no thank you" and ignores everybody's suggestions. If Elastigirl so much as looks at any one of us, we get the pinched jealous face. If we don't offer help, she moans about how she doesn't think she can handle the scratching.

When I suggest -- for the fiftieth time -- moving away and ignoring the inappropriate behavior, I get a knowing nod. And then I see her crouched down beside Elastigirl, who has just tried to scratch a kindergartner, telling her how that was bad and would hurt and yadda yadda yadda, and then looks shocked when Elastigirl takes a swipe at her.

So, to put all this in words that I know at least Amie will understand, I have my dad's mom working in my classroom. Yee-haw.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


So, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but in all 5 years I've been teaching, my class has defied statistics by having more boys than girls.  In some years, the ratio is fairly close.

Last year was a record, with 2 boys and 8 girls (25%).

This year has just gotten closer, with the addition of girl #6, making it 3 boys and 6 girls (33% boys).

I met the new New Girl (Student T for now until I -- or, more likely, Cat -- come up with a nickname for her) after school today.  She seems nice, but in a year where we've been teetering on the edge of the abyss, the first thing I did was complete the aide request form I was going to do with my program specialist this week (she forgot).

Then, I stuck my head in the principal's office and told her that if she promised to sign it, I promised not to run for the hills screaming.


Also, it turned out that Bulldozer was not sick, but had, in fact, two dentist appointments, and he's expected to be out the rest of the week.

Which, in the Bizarro World that is my life, means he'll be there with bells on tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Elastigirl hugged Cat before leaving today and somehow that means Aide J thinks I'm the devil.

Yay me.

One of these days I'm going to try reverse psychology on her.  I'm going to tell her to get right up into Elastigirl's face and tell her how she absolutely should not be doing X, Y, or Z.  Maybe then she'd ignore her.

Or, more likely, would choose that one instance to listen to me.

Meanwhile, we discovered part of the secret of Superhero's recent behavior issues.  He's been breaking out in a rash every time he gets near the school's lawn.  So, now that we've figured it out, we just have to figure out what to do about it.  Today after lunch I had him wipe his face and arms -- all of his exposed body, really -- with a couple of wipes to get the pollen/dust/whatever it is off, and though he had a hard time at first, he calmed down and did a fairly good job.

Which, of course, means that two days from now, it will be a new puzzle and a new issue.

Ah well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The brother of a good teacher friend is in the process of traveling home from active duty in Iraq.  Please send good thoughts his way for his safe return.

More later.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bizarro World

Today, Bulldozer had a meltdown.

Okay, he had several, which is unusual for a Thursday anymore.

What is really, really weird, though, is what triggered the first one.

He was doing his journal, after doing speech -- without a single attempt at hitting, yay -- and had written that today was Thursday.

Yay Bulldozer.

Then he had to write that it was November.

Not October or December.


Instant level 8 meltdown, complete with wounded-mo0se-like wailing and culminated in actual screaming -- which he borrowed from PH, not-yay.

Now, if he had some sort of deep moral objection to November, you'd have thought that it would have manifested itself in the several other days' worth of journals that all also happened in November.

On a totally unrelated note, NASA has nifty sounds recorded by the Cassini-Hugyens spacecraft near Saturn.  Some of them sound like they could have been lifted right from a 50s sci-fi show.  What do you think?  Coincidence or prescience?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Amie!

Hope you had a great one. :-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Groundhog Day

Warning. I am going to whine. I am going to be...petty and probably not well-represented here. It's just that kinda day.

So, as I said recently, any sci-fi show that can even remotely justify doing a "groundhog day" episode does one sooner or later; the most recent was Blood Ties. As with anything that has become a cliche, the execution can be really good or really bad...and this one was quite good.

My life, on the other hand, has rapidly begun to resemble its own groundhog day episode, except that the student having issues changes.

Today, it was PH, who got on the bus screaming and didn't stop until about 9:15. I have no idea what caused it, because the only explanation he could give me was not true -- he said someone on the bus bothered him, but the bus driver said he'd gotten on the bus upset.

In return, both M and Superhero were angels (M did lose it at the end of the day, but after listening to that, I was about to lose it). Superhero even exceeded what I'd intended for him to do on his science quiz. Yay.

(Of course, I can't count; I made him a water molecule to complete for the quiz and gave him one H and two Os.)

I had a hard time shaking the week off this past weekend; it's weeks like this that make me want a job I can go to, do my job, and leave when the day is over.

Meanwhile, Elastigirl was very grumpy after lunch today. I reminded Aide J (again) to move away from her, and got a wide-eyed, "Oh, okay," for my efforts. It's like she wants to get the bejeezus beaten out of her, which is a concept I'm not willing to entertain yet.

Then, when Speech Person DFT came in to talk about Elastigirl, she started to speak to Aide J (not me). Elastigirl was in full meltdown mode at this point because, as usual, I was speaking to brick walls today. (She even used her VOCA -- speech device -- to request attention, and I got dirty looks for reinforcing that, 'cause, apparently, VOCAs aren't better than scratching...but what do I know?)

Anyhow, I told DFT that she shouldn't speak to Aide J at the moment because Elastigirl would not be able to handle it. What does she do? Speaks to Aide J for a really long time. I try redirecting her twice and give up, secretly -- and, yes, I know this is petty and ill-becoming -- hoping Elastigirl would snap and hit her for a change, if only so I could say, "I told you so."

However, I did see a nifty bumper sticker on the way home that said, "Give Bush and inch and he'll think he's a ruler." Heh.

If I get over myself, I may post later on the writer's strike.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Trouble With Martians

Back before the Internet was the Internet, before the AOL floppy disks that promised 10 free hours!, before the general public even knew what email was, there was CompuServe, and there were bulletin boards.

Now, I realize that for those of you who didn't grow up related to Early Adopter Computer Nerds, that means very little, so I'll take a wild guess and say I'm probably thinking of the mid to late eighties -- say around 87 or 88.  1990 at the latest.

Anyhow, around this time, my dad began to correspond with David Gerrold, who is famous among fandom circles for writing the Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" in his late teens or early 20s.

Of course, in true nerd fashion, they never discussed tribbles or Trek, but rather Lotus Notes or somesuch.

I've always felt just a tiny kinship with him after that, just by virtue of the fact that he was a kinda, sorta, maybe virtual acquaintance -- dare I say friend? -- of my dad's.

So, I was quietly rooting for Martian Child -- which is based on his life, though they changed a few key details (he was never married, for one, and wrote the eponymous book about being the single gay parent of a troubled, adopted kid -- which I didn't know until I heard about the movie).  It doesn't look like it did too well.

In his review, David Gerrold seems to have liked it.  So at least there's that.

And, no, I didn't see it.  Movies give me headaches -- I believe that I can see the difference in frame rate (film is essentially 25 frames per second, where TV is 30) and my eyes strain themselves, trying to ignore the flicker -- but I'll probably rent it eventually.

Friday, November 02, 2007


If you're a sci-fi fan, you may have noticed that quite often a character in a sci-fi show will say something dramatically optimistic.

For instance, when faced with a ginormous fleet of attacking nasties, you might say, "If they want Armageddon, then by God let's give it to them!"

Or even just a simple, "Whatever comes, we'll be ready for it."

And the observant sci-fi fan says, "Ooooh, Will, you just doomed everybody."

(Pardon me for mixing my fandoms, but I'm trying to make a point.)

A while back on her blog, Jane Espenson (of Buffy and Gilmore Girls fame) talked about reworking old jokes by acknowledging that they were old.

Tonight, a sci-fi show did that with the old "We can handle it" thing.

I give you:

Coreen:  I can handle anything that they throw at us!

Vicki:  Oooh, I'm sure we'll read that in the Book of Famous Last Words.

Heh.  It's cheesy and brainless, but for some reason, I like cheesy and brainless right now.  Plus, Henry's way cuter than Angel was...but not cuter than Spike, who had the benefit of the accent.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This Takes the Cake

I have complained before about certain days in history being boring, but I think November 9 has just claimed the prize.

(For the record, I chose the Berlin Wall.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

At Least I'm Not the Only One

I have no particular affection one way or the other for Robert Goulet.  I'm sorry for his family, naturally, but it's kind of like looking at a local obituary page -- I have no attachment to him specifically.

Except for one thing.

Ever since I read the news that he'd died, I've had the song "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen" from A Chorus Line stuck in my head, because of this verbal aside during one of the verses:

"Robert Goulet!  Robert Goulet!  My God, it's Robert Goulet!"

("Too young to take over / Too old to ignore / Gee, I'm almost ready / But what for?")

Later in the song, it's:

"Steve McQueen's real sexy.  Bob Goulet out, Steeve McQueenie in."

("Why do I pay for all those lessons? / Dance for grandma!  Dance for grandma!")

Fortunately, at least two people in this thread had the same reaction.

I may be weird, but at least I have company.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Ironically enough, this has nothing to do with the latest sci-fi show's obligatory Groundhog day episode (which, yes, I did was rather good at that).

In my first two years of teaching, I had an aide we shall call ME. ME was...well, to put it nicely, she was not the brightest candle in the inn. But she was well-meaning and generally nice, and a very good match with the student with whom she was paired.

Around spring break of my first year of teaching, I received two new students: a fourth grader named Girl C and a fifth grader named Boy T. Girl C, despite her emotional issues, was a very nice girl and I enjoyed her a lot. Boy T...well, Boy T just didn't understand why the rest of the world didn't understand that he was the boss.

It was not all Boy T's fault. Though he had, officially, borderline intelligence scores, he also had severe ADHD as well as seizures. He took medication for both, but the medications interacted such that neither was ever completely controlled.

Boy T wasn't a bad kid, mind you -- he was just bossy, impulsive, and whiny. God, could that kid whine.

ME hated him.

They butted heads constantly. It was always, "Well...I'll just see what Miss Spoowriter says about that!" Seriously.

Enter PH (Boy J). In many ways, PH reminds me of T. He's got the same sense of entitlement -- but where they're both entirely externally motivated, there was a big difference.

T thought that if he did good things or if you praised him you liked him; if he did bad things and if you scolded him, you were trying to "break [his] heart."

PH does good things so that good things will happen to him. He couldn't care less what people think of him, as near as I can tell. When bad things happen to him, they simply happen -- they have little or no correlation with his own actions -- again, as near as I can tell.

And, of course, there's the voice. There's just something about that wheedling, whiny voice they both have that just drives me up the frelling wall.

But, I am aware of the fact that I, sadly, just don't like PH that much, and am constantly on my guard to make sure that I am treating him fairly and not showing how I feel about him.

You may have guessed that, like with ME, this is not the case with one of my aides.

Now that things have settled into a sort of routine, with Aide T able to take some of the weight off my shoulders (I have, in fact, probably been relying on her too much, but it's been so nice to have Bulldozer and/or Superhero be someone else's problem for a while that I've enjoyed the chance to breathe), I am noticing some things that I was simply too swamped -- tsunamid, really -- to see.

Aide J does not like PH.

(Again, not that I blame her, but it's obvious.)

He was very, very bad yesterday and was one ticket short of principal's recess tomorrow. Today was his last chance to earn it (technically, I suppose tomorrow is, as I give tickets for homework too, but the day PH returns homework is the day Vulcans land and make first contact).

So, today, Aide J gets all up and down his case about everything. It was like she wanted to make sure he didn't get principal's recess. At one point, she was actively arguing with me over the fact that he should lose a card because he didn't use the prefix "Miss" for a teacher, because they'd Talked About It Yesterday.

Yesterday is a long time ago, I pointed out. That also assumes he (1) knows what "disrespectful" is, (2) was dropping the prefix specifically to be disrespectful, (3) remembered being told not to do so yesterday, and (4) decided that the best was to be disrespectful was to say "Aide B" instead of "Aide Mrs. B" or "Teacher C" instead of "Teacher Mrs. C."

'Cause, you know, a kid who thinks it's funny to yell "poopy head!" for an hour straight will be so amused by calling Mrs. Smith "Smith!"

Ironically, Patrick had a summer school teacher once who got all up in arms over the same thing -- except this was a severely delayed 7-year-old with a horrible stutter who had a vocabulary of maybe 20 words. The fact that he knew her name was "Butler" was a minor miracle in and of itself.

The moral of this story: pick your frelling battles, people. The kid made a ginormous mess yesterday and spent half an hour yelling obscentities (F you, s**t) and cackling in glee when M repeated them. Dropping the Mrs?