Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bad Nerd

I suppose I should say something about the passing of Madeline L'Engle, since she was a well-known fantasy writer, but the fact of the matter is, I made one aborted attempt many years ago to read A Wrinkle in Time and couldn't.  But still, rest in peace.

I am also a bad nerd because I never did manage to wrangle my mother's wireless adapter into submission; I gave up and bought a new one for her today.

Or, rather, I bought one today.  My wireless router is still off more than it's on -- it turns itself off, I swear, if you look at it wrong.  So I suspect I will use my $100 for being an early iPhone adopter towards an Airport Extreme base station.  However, the Airport Extremes have only 3 ports for wired connections, where my current wireless router has four.  Therefore, my desktop will need the wireless adapter then.

Believe it or not, I'm not considering the Airport Extreme because I'm an Apple fan but more because I would one day (when I have a TV that is compatible) like to have an Apple TV -- as I've said before, my iPod can't hold all of my library, and it would be nice to watch anything I wanted without having to sync my iPod and plug it in to use the video out with my TV.

In other news, I got an email from Aide T today that she won't be coming back for four more weeks!  Boo!

Meanwhile, I actually am writing again -- though it's cheesy and schmoopy.  It's coming slowly, but at least the words aren't all jumbled up in a useless pile in my head anymore.

I have no idea if this is what writer's block is like for other writers, but let me do my best to describe it here.

There is a Harry Potter fanfic author that I discovered once when searching the 'net for stories featuring characters with disabilities (someday, I will get around to writing what my vision of that ideal would be -- someone for whom their disability is just part of life and neither a major Plot Point nor their main source of Drama)....

That was a long parenthetical.  Let me start again.

There is a Harry Potter fanfic author (actually, she now writes Harry Potter/CSI:NY crossovers, and, no, they are not as weird as that sounds) who describes her stories as "mind movies."

I like that analogy -- that's exactly what I get: fully-formed visuals that I see in my head.  When I was younger, I would sometimes lay in bed and narrate what I was seeing to myself in a whisper; ironically, I think all that practice with description is why my dialogue is chronically weaker than the rest of my writing.

In any event, most of my stories start out as "mind movies."  Some of the more schmoopy, schmaltzy ones either live on my hard drive knowing that they'll never be posted for anyone but myself to see.  Some of the others are only "mind movies."

When I have writer's block, my (now internal) narration of what I'm seeing dries up.  I still often see the mind movie itself -- I can still see the scenes which I plan to write -- but the dialogue, the description...anything "verbal" that I would need to commit the scene to "paper" evaporates.

That's what happened this summer.  I had a few "mind movies" going on in my head, including what felt like an interesting morality piece that began as a missing scene from a Stargate SG-1 episode.  But there were no words to describe it.

I know that's not too coherent, but it's a difficult thing to describe if you haven't experienced it.

Suffice it to say that when I started writing a simple scene -- actually, it was adding description to what existed simply as a script-type list of dialogue -- it was a huge relief.

By the way, apologies for the extensive use of snigger quotes.

And it disturbs me more than I can say that I remember that term.  I'd hoped my memories of that class would have long ago evaporated.

(Scarily enough, the only non-PDF result for "humanities tutorial" was the syllabus from the year I took the class.  The beach, it is calling to me....)

Friday, September 07, 2007


Several hours later, it's still tempting to descend into a CAPSLOCK OF RAGE but I'm going to try and describe today's Drama with as little drama as possible.

Note "try."

I've mentioned before that I split my class up at recess this year, mostly to keep R and Boy A apart from each other, but also to let the kids play with the friends they made last year.

After the drama of last Friday (what is it with Fridays?) I thought things were more under control.  Aide K. was going with the 3 fourth graders to the fourth grade playground and Aides D. and J. were going with the 5th and 6th graders.

So, today, I go out to eat with the rest of the upper grade teachers -- except JT, who seems to hate KC for no reason I can understand -- and go pick the kids up when we get back.

I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking they're all on their own again.


All four 5th and 6th graders are there.  Boy A comes trundling across the yard, trailed by Aide K.


This is cause for some concern.

This is cause for wha-aaaat?!?! when Aide K says off-handedly, "By the way, I don't know where. . . [Boy J.] is."

My heart stopped.

Our campus is not fully enclosed, and we are a block away from a 4 lane freeway.

What makes me see red is the "oh, by the way...."

By the way?

By the way?


I have no idea what my face showed at that moment, but I did my darndest to turn to Aide D and say calmly, "Can you please go look with Aide K?"

Princess, meanwhile, looks at me and says, "[Girl J]?

Quite right.

Girl J, however, has made several trips to the restroom so far today.

So, before they go, I say, "So where's Girl J?" assuming she is in the restroom.

Aide K looks confused.  "Oh...I don't know," she says.


There are no words.

There are no words to explain to me how you go to the playground with three children, come back with one, off-handedly acknowledge one is missing, all without noticing the OTHER one is missing too??!?!!

There are no words to describe someone who can't do that math. You had three kids.  Now you have one.  How many are missing?

Hence me applying the lable "boggling" to this post.

So I lead the others back to class and come upon Boy J, but Girl J is still missing.

Meanwhile, it's time for R and Princess to go to science class.  Having no other option -- Aide K and squirrely giggly R who has already endured half an hour of DARE and a half-hour long assembly with perfect behavior? -- I send Aide D.

However, I knowingly break the whole "don't badmouth one aide to another" thing because I can't help it.  I pull Aide D aside (Aide K is still looking for J) and tell her that I need her to take Princess and R to science class. 

Then I tell her, "I'm really frustrated right now.  I may have to send Aide K to 'help' you -- but I want you to know it's not because I think you need help.  I know  you'll do fine."

So Aide D takes the kids to science, and I call Girl J's former teacher M asking if J is in there.  I'm fairly certain my voice revealed my extreme...shall we way, sense of GRRRRRRR!

She offers to send some people to look.  Aide B (formerly of Cat's room) finds Aide K chatting with Girl J in the restroom.

Even more disturbing, Aide K comes back all smiles and cheerfulness.  No "I'm sorry I lost two children," or even a "wow, that was scary."

This disturbs me more that I can say, and it's this response that prompted me to email the principal about it.  It's one thing to lose a kid -- most of us who work with kids with moderate to severe disabilities have misplaced kids (briefly, one hopes)'s terrifying but it does happen.

It's another not to think it's a big deal.

However, Aide J takes the prize for best reaction.  As I am trying to pace off my agitation and getting ready for our Second Step lesson (a great opportunity to model self-calming techniques, eh?), she goes to the fridge and takes out two of R's frozen gummies, I presume so I won't grind my teeth to dust.

The funny thing worked.

The second prize reaction award goes to our science teacher B.

I ran into B after school and she asked how I was.  It was clearly a small-talk "how are you," so I did the sensible thing and asked if she wanted the politically correct answer or the real one.

She wanted the real one.

So I tell her the story, and she is appropriately stunned.  I begin to laminate our Anti-Cheating Devices, and remind her that Princess, who is in her science class, is a sixth grader, even though she's so tiny.

"Funny," I say, "I just realized that Boy J and Girl J are both smaller than she is."

B laughs.  "Well, that's it!" she says.  "They were too small for Aide K to see!"

I did not talk to Aide K about this disaster today.  If I had, she'd have had to call the union on me...there was just no way I could do it calmly and objectively.  That'll have to wait until Monday.

Maybe I'll get lucky and the principal will want to do it for me.  :-)

A Warning

There is a rant coming tonight.
It may even be a CAPSLOCK OF RAGE.
Or a ?!?!??!?!?!? of incredulity.
Haven't decided which.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Four Down, Four to Go

M had a rampaging, royal, on-a-scale-of-one-to-ten a fifteen meltdown today.

It's been coming since the first day of school. M has serious sensory issues, affecting everything from her ability to use the restroom (she doesn't like something about urinating, for instance, and works herself up into a frenzy when she has to "go") to her ability to focus and get her work done.

She has been slowly escalating each and every day, as more demands are placed upon a sensory system that is in no way able to handle anything more than just a desperate bid to stay calm. The tools we had in class were just not sufficient for her.

Hopefully, the tools the OTs brought for her -- her pressure vest, a weighted blanket (bigger and heavier than the weighted lap pad we were using last year), and actual instructions about what to use in combination with what (imagine that) -- will help.

Of course, she, too, suggested brushing. This is an OT-created technique wherein you use a special brush on a child's arms and legs, and then give joint compressions. It's supposed to be very good.


As I have told every OT that has suggested this, our program specialist SBS -- who spent a lot of time in M's old classroom a couple years ago -- said specifically never to brush M because she, and I quote, "climbs the ceiling."

Not the usual idiom "climbs the wall."

She climbs the ceiling.

Now, I am aware that kids' sensory needs and issues change over time. M was not at all keen on the pressure vest at the beginning of last year (nor was E.) -- however, that was because it had been being used punitively, as a punishment, and both girls equated it with that. Once it became a routine -- she wears it first thing every day, after recess, and after lunch -- and that stigma was removed, she was fine with it.

So, my request has always been, "If you want me to brush M, fine. But you have to do it the first time since you're the OT and might actually have ways of calming her down if it does indeed send her into Spider Girl Mode."

We shall see.

Girl J. had a bit of a run-in with Aide J. this morning, and given Girl J.'s speech, I'm not 100% sure she really said what Aide J. says she said...but she was already in trouble for not lining up with the class, so meh.

Besides, Aide J. somehow managed to deal with M. in full meltdown mode and E. (who does not share people well) without a scratch.


So she gets the benefit of the doubt today.

And possibly chocolate.

Meanwhile, as I try to supervise the class (though when the OTs came I switched activities to one that was small-group oriented) because Aide K. is not the brightest candle in the inn and somehow didn't notice M. climbing on the bookcase two feet to her left (as in, standing on top of it and squealing), R. is slowly melting because Aide K. is not paying any attention to him even though he needs the help she's giving Boy J. way more than Boy J. does.

Fun fun.

The good news is, I asked the office which staff (Aide D. or Aide K.) was permanent and which was doing the long-term sub, and although the permanent one is K., our office manager said she might try and transfer her because the other teacher she works with has also reported that she's "weak."

The fact of the matter is, I could have lived with "weak" last year. "Weak" could have taken J., R., or A., to science class, or worked with any of the three of them plus E. (Scissor Girl) in class. "Weak" just can't fly in the class I have this year.

However...drum roll please...Boy A stayed on "green" all day! He was very proud of himself.

In other news, the new Apple product announcements today ("new" Shuffle -- just new colors -- new Nano, iPod Classic, and iPod Touch -- an iPhone without the phone and double the storage space) would cause me serious dilemmas if I wasn't more or less certain I will have to buy the Kinesis keyboard I spoke of earlier.

While I was very perturbed that the Shuffle was available in a pretty shade of blue a few months after I bought my original silver 2nd generation (not the stick shaped white one, though I had one of those too), the new Shuffles today are just more new colors. Big whoop.

As for the Nano -- I can't imagine watching a lot of video on such a small screen, but for music videos it might be nice. I've never been really enamored of the Nano, though, because I have a huge iTunes library.

Now, the iPod Classic -- true to its name, it looks just like my 5th generation 60 gig video iPod -- is tempting, but only for the increased storage. As I said, between lots of videos and lots of self-made audiobooks (I use a program called iSpeakIt to convert text of stories I've liked -- several of which are very, very long -- to speech), my library is already more or less at the 160 GB size of the larger Classic. Although it's annoying managing my library now -- picking and choosing videos and such -- I see no reason to buy an iPod that will be full the moment I first sync'll be back to annoyingly having to select videos manually, the way it is now.

And, the iPod Touch. Oh, is it gorgeous. An iPhone without the phone. But the thing is...I have an iPhone. An 8 GB one (which is, as of today, $200 less than what I paid for it mere months ago -- boo). The Touch is availble in 8 GB and 16 GB. Do I really want to spent a few hundred dollars more for a few more hours of video? Not really. I sync (and charge) my iPhone every night, so I am constantly changing which videos are on it.

The thing is -- I want the best of both worlds. I want the Touch's awesome UI and beautiful screen with the Classic's large capacity. My guess is, that'll be a few generations down the road yet. Now, I push my 5th gen pretty hard, and if it should die before the two lines merge into (hopefully) a Touch with Classic sized capacity, I would probably buy a Classic for space. I have my shuffle and my iPhone for more specific things.

See, what I love about iPods -- what I've always loved, having the attention span of a gnat when it comes to music -- is having all of my music on hand at once. So if the spirit moves me to listen to "You Belong to Me" from Shrek and then the main title from Stargate and then "Yeroushalahim Shel Zahav" from Schindler's List, it's all there. I won't have had to anticipate that random connection of musical inspriation and have the appropriate files on the appropriate device. It's just there.

Ditto videos, really. Who's to say that halfway through "Arthur's Mantle" (SG-1) I won't decide I want to watch a History Channel Presents?

So, here's to a long life and prosperity for my iPod.

Also, if anyone has read this far, am I the only one who expects Allison Janney (formerly of The West Wing) to say Kaiser wants us to live long and prosper and is constantly startled when she says we should thrive instead?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Creative Titles Require Brain Power I Don't Have

So, the car isn't going to be expensive; it's just a bracket that holds the alternator -- what the heck is it with me an alternators, though? -- and a fan belt was rubbing up against it, thus causing the horrible noise.

The problem is -- Dan had to order it from I'm stuck driving my mom's non-air-conditioned van until Thursday or Friday.  Bleh.

At least my mom can hitch a ride with my grandpa to work, so I don't have to worry about the traffic light being out again.

It was Boy J's turn to test the rules today.  Now that all four fourth graders have done so, hopefully our lives can settle down a bit.

However -- being able to wail, at full volume, "I want my mom!" for an hour and a half is just unnatural.  What's worse is that I've been told he once did so for over 2 hours.

Also, we sort of solved the Boy A hitting someone like clockwork every day after recess; turns out he did that in M's class too because he didn't like going from something fun (recess) to something not fun (work).  So, we have classic escape behavior.  As a temporary solution, he now has a special seat to sit at for five minutes after recess; meanwhile, I will have to come up with a replacement behavior -- maybe a request to run an errand, or something like that -- to prevent it from happening.

(Incidentally, the scary deep teacher voice doesn't work so well if your voice cracks on the "more" in "No more hitting."  Oh well.)

It's nice to know why, though...I have to say.

In other news, the Raid appears to have done its job...haven't seen a single ant since I got home (we're prone to them here, but they're usually in the bathroom or the family room).  I crashed again when I got home -- I wanted to just take a power nap but that wasn't just in the cards.  Probably not sleeping because I felt phantom ants all night was the culprit for that as much as our drama today was.

Finally, we did our first activity with our shiny grade-level textbooks for social studies today.  It was a scavenger hunt (I stole the idea shamelessly from our science teacher) where they had to look for certain pictures in the books.  The kids liked it, and it was nice to do something functional (e.g. find pictures, write/copy/ID numbers, write/copy/type words, follow directions, etc.) with actual grade level curriculum.

Monday, September 03, 2007

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

The good:

1.  The tow truck driver thinks it's just a belt.  He also thought enough of the engine's soundness that he tried to drive my little (malfunctioning) four-cylinder car up a very steep grade onto the flat bed tow truck.

2.  The Internet, after several off-and-on moments culminating in several "off" hours, is back.  Or, at least, it has been for about 3 hours now.

3.  I own ant spray.

Why is that a good?

Well, that's because...

...the bad...was...

...ants on my bed!

Oh -- also of the good -- the episodes of Sue Thomas (which I absolutely did not download -- and have not been downloading 3 at a time for weeks now -- from m i n i n o v a . o r g) have gotten back to ones I haven't seen.  At this point in the depths of re-run hell, this is definitely a good.

(Erm...why have I adopted Buffy speech?  I haven't watched an episode in ages....)

Reasons I Think I Lost Some Karma Along the Way

The following things have happened in the last 24 or so hours:

1. A malfunctioning gas pump drenched my right leg, foot, shoe, and
sock in gas.

2. The smell made Patrick -- who had just taken Pepto for stomach
issues -- loudly puke said Pepto.

3. On my dashboard.

4. On my seatbelt.

5. On my ARM!!


7. My Internet is down. I've power cycled the cable box, the modem,
and my router. Repeatedly. Hence typing this on my iPhone, so
pardon any typos.

8. My car just started making a horrible noise. It'll have to go see
Dan. I have little money with which to accomplish this.

9. It is a holiday. Nowhere to rent a car. Thus, I will have to
drive the non-air-conditioned van to work tomorrow.

10. Bye bye summer school paycheck. See #8.

11. The Disneyland APs will have to wait a month. See #8. Patrick
will be ticked.

12. Did I mention getting puked Pepto on my arm? Or that my Internet
access is down? Or the car trouble I can't afford?

I thought so. Sorry for the whine...just had to get that off my chest.