Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Way Things Used To Be

My mom trained as an elementary school teacher before I was born, so our house was always full of educational materials. Things like sandpaper letters, clocks, shapes, puzzles, reading materials, finger paints, pretty much an entire K-3 classroom. Back then, there was no such diagnosis as Asperger's Syndrome or Sensory Processing Disorder, so teachers were trained how to deal with kids with different needs. This kind of variation was considered normal and teachers had to suck it up and deal with it.

Nowadays I've noticed there's a trend to gear classrooms toward only the averagest (is that a word?) students and chuck everybody else into a disability category. I don't know why this is, but I speculate that like 90% of changes in the education field it has something to do with funding. Hence the push to get kids who are different diagnosed with some label-- it's the only way you can get your child what he needs educationally, because the teachers are all too willing to ignore anything that doesn't fit their little mold. Gifted kids are no longer praised and encouraged-- unless by "encouraged" you mean "encouraged to shut the hell up, sit the hell down, and play stupid" or "encouraged to act out by being bored out of their skulls". Kids who can't sit down and shut up like the others are disciplined in hopes that trips to the principal's office will scare them into sitting down and shutting up. And too often I hear stories of kids with ADHD or Asperger's who are suspended or even expelled because their teachers were too dense to grasp the concept that this kid might say provocative things without meaning to be provocative, and might physically attack teachers who get inside their space and try to restrain them.

Is it possible that we could get back to that place where public school teachers are respected professionals who do a professional job and educate ALL children?


Friday, December 29, 2006

So Now How Do I Get Him To Stop?

Bagel cut his finger pretty bad a while back, and it was an ordeal to bandage him. I had to bandage his unhurt hand to keep him from using it to rip the bandages off his hurt hand. He screamed and he protested mightily. But after a few days he was used to the bandage, and he left it alone. He would even let me change it, and he got into the routine of changing it, naming the various items we used in order (ointment, bandaid, wrap). And when we went to my folks' house for Christmas and I forgot to bring the Vetrap, he even let me put just a band-aid on it, without having to wrap it up in Vetrap-- and he kept it on! If you've ever bandaged a two-year-old, you'll know this is astonishing.

Yesterday his bandage fell off by itself. He immediately came to me waving his finger in the air and crying about it. It was time to change it anyway so I took a look at the wound and it was healed enough that it didn't need a bandage and could use some air. I told him his finger was all better and he didn't need a bandage, but he just couldn't accept that. He screamed that he was "bleeding" until I put a new bandage on, at which point he calmed down instantly and went about his business. He uses the word "bleeding" for pain (touching the snow with bare hands causes "bleeding") but I knew this wound was healed to the point where it couldn't be hurting all that much. Evidently he's added the bandage to his world, to the point where taking it away disrupts his world.

So now that I've got him used to wearing a bandage, how do I get him un-used to it?

I suppose I'll probably have to do much the same thing as I did when I put the bandage on: endure a lot of screaming and squirming. Maybe tomorrow, when FH is home and we can tag-team.

Everybody's Doing It

The latest trend around the Hermit house is the wearing of oven mitts as loungewear.

Princess and Sonshine each got a pair of child size oven mitts in their stockings as part of Santa's cost-cutting campaign for Christmas 2006. They have taken to wearing them around the house, and last night they had a sleepover with each other, where Princess (who adores making up rules and enforcing them on others) required that they both wear their oven mitts to bed.

Bagel has seen them running around the house in oven mitts, so I gave him my oven mitts to keep him from stealing theirs. So now all three children who can run are running around the house wearing oven mitts.

You might want to pick up a pair of oven mitts just to stay on top of this breaking trend.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Big Appointment

Bagel went for his big appointment today to start testing toward a diagnosis. He had a hearing test and then we spent a couple hours with a psychologist. She offered him her toy drawer and he immediately picked out the trains. She gave him tests that involved him putting together puzzles, duplicating stacks of cubes, matching things, naming pictures, and identifying differently shaped and colored beads. He did really well on these tests. Then he had a meltdown right on schedule and required to be nursed. I talked to the psychologist about all the difficulties we're having with him, with his brothers, etc. and how we suspected Asperger's Syndrome. Toward the end he bit me and tried to escape from the room, which was helpful as it gave the psychologist an example of what I have to go through every day. I had been afraid that the novelty of the place would distract him just long enough that she would only see him being a perfectly smart little kid, but we were there for 2 hours and that was plenty of time for him to get overwhelmed so that she could observe his everyday behavior.

They agreed to see Sonshine and Knuckles as well, and they want Bagel to have occupational therapy once a week, which will be nice even though it will mean driving into Salt Lake all the time. They also will be recommending to Early Intervention that we have weekly appointments instead of twice a month, and see Early Intervention's OT, and get me a break. And we'll have an appointment to test Bagel's stool to see if a gluten free diet would help.

We are going to be doing a LOT of driving into town, but I really don't care as long as it'll mean I can get a break. I just can't go on doing nothing but caring for kids with special needs from 6:30 in the morning till 10 at night every single day.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I Caught A Fly!

I'm notoriously bad at catching or swatting flies, but I managed to kill one today. It's the middle of winter, so it really bothered me when I found a rather large housefly in my kitchen. One of the things I've always enjoyed about cold weather is that you don't have to worry much about bugs because they're all dormant, and finding a fat black fly in my house was troubling.

Fortunately for me, the fly happened to wander downstairs to the laundry room, where I was putting diapers in the machine to wash. I cleverly left the washer open, and when the fly wandered in to sniff the gloriously dirty diapers,


Did I mention I wash diapers in HOT water? :) Bye bye, fly! Serves you right for being out and about in the middle of winter.

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas went well. We went up to my parents' house for Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas morning we went to my sister's house for brunch, which included waffles made on the waffle maker I got them for Christmas. I wanted to make sure they had a nice waffle maker, one with the removable grids for easier cleaning, and that made four-up waffles so that they could serve all four impatient kids with the first batch. The one I got them has reversible grids that flip over so that it can be used as a griddle for pancakes, eggs, or bacon too.

The kids were delighted with all their gifts. Santa brought the oldest two MP3 players, which is bound to save us loads of money as they will no longer be stealing, fighting over, and breaking my favorite disks. Now I can actually consider buying a CD again! About 70% of Bagel's gifts were Thomas the Tank Engine gear, which pleased him mightily as he is obsessed with trains. Knuckles finally got some toys of his very own, which all three of the other children stole from him at the earliest opportunity.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Visual Multiplication

I'm always on the lookout for alternative arithmetic algorithms, and this one is very cool. It would be good for any teacher with the challenge of teaching a very "visual" student. And the idea of using a video to demonstrate it is great, since most math algorithms are processes that are better understood when seen done than when read about in a textbook.

For anyone who's interested, it's basically a more concrete version of gelosia or "lattice" multiplication. Its main drawback is that it relies on counting dots rather than adding number symbols. When they multiply 123 by 321, the numbers of dots are all small; imagine multiplying 97869 by 67898 by this method and you'll get the idea why this is a significant drawback.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Garrison Keillor offers some practical and good advice in song. If you have RealPlayer, listen to the audio; if not just read the lyrics. I love Prairie Home Companion!

There is linguica at the West Jordan Sam's Club. True, it's Silva's brand which is not the ultimate linguica, and they don't have chourico or linguica dogs or anything. But it sure beats Colosimo's linguica-flavored pork sausage, so I bought four pounds.

If you want to buy foods in bulk check out this cool site. Via Natural LDS Moms group.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Please Shoot Me Before It Gets Any Worse, Part 388

So, I finally get my van back from the shop. It's been in there for three weeks and $2400 getting a rebuilt engine put in it. We paid extra to have all the gaskets replaced with new.

I really haven't been shopping this whole time except to pick up a couple of essentials, because the only time I had a vehicle to do so was after FH came home from work, and FH worked late all last week. So I was really looking forward to driving into Salt Lake City to make a Sam's Club run and see if I could buy a gate to keep the babies from going up the stairs. Our local Wal-Mart sells only two kinds of gates, and neither is suitable for our combination of stairs and kids. I was also going to drop my sister's present off at her place, because we won't be seeing each other on Christmas due to scheduling problems.

I did a Click 'N' Pull order at the South Jordan Sam's Club because I figured I'd go pick up FH for lunch and take him down to get his allergy shot, which is near the South Jordan Sam's Club. Ordinarily I'd have picked a closer Sam's Club, but I figured I'd go get it while he waits the requisite 30 minutes after getting his shot (they're making him wait now, since he almost went into anaphylactic shock that one time). Because South Jordan is nowhere near my sister's place, I figured I'd go to her place first, then backtrack to FH's work and pick him up, run down to Jordan Landing and get the shot and the Click 'N' Pull, then bring FH back to work and be on my way. I had the hardest time even placing the order. I had lost my membership card in the store last time I went to Sam's Club and had to get a new membership card to check out, and so every time I logged on the Sam's Club website it was making me re-register with my new membership number. Also every time I added an item to my Click 'N' Pull list it made me log in again. But I figured it was worth it because every moment I spend in a large, echoey store with a melting-down special needs two year old is not what you might call a "quality moment".

So I get into town and call my sister, but she's not in, so I kinda tooled around downtown waiting for her to call and seeing if I could find a store that might have baby gates. When she didn't call, I couldn't find one, and I had only enough time left to run my other errands, I left to go do those. I called FH, but he had a meeting and couldn't go to lunch till after I had to leave SLC, so that was out. I went to Toys R Us on the way to Jordan Landing, to see if they had a gate, but they didn't have a gate of the right size and type.

So I went to Sam's Club, figuring I have just enough time now to go get my Click 'N' Pull order and get home in time to drive the carpool home from school. I get there and discover that not only do they not have my Click 'N' Pull, but the lady who can figure out why not is out to lunch and nobody else would help me. So I had to roll the cart through Sam's Club with Bagel clawing at my hands, which is precisely the reason why I wanted to do a Click 'N' Pull to begin with.

I'm on my way home from the Sam's Club ordeal, when my check engine light comes on.

I got home and called the shop where we just got through getting the new engine put in our van, and they want me to bring the van in tomorrow. That would be the "tomorrow" that is the Friday before Christmas and if they have to order in any parts or do any repairs, that would mean we won't be able to go up to Logan for Christmas, where I just discovered my grandfather (who hasn't bothered to see anyone in our family for years) has suddenly decided he will be for Christmas.

I'd better quit nursing the baby now to see what kind of metal implement it is that Bagel is using to hit the stove with.

Please shoot me before it gets any worse.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How To Break The Rules

In a discussion about the merits of Harry Potter, someone mentioned that they would never have their kids read Harry Potter because it taught kids how to break the rules. But that's exactly what I like about Harry Potter-- it teaches kids how to break the rules. I want my kids to learn how to break the rules-- and not just how, but when and why.

My two older kids know about the Holocaust (not the gory details, just the basic facts) and they know the story of how Oskar Schindler saved some Jews from the concentration camps and preserved their lives by lying to the authorities. So I asked my children, is it right to tell a lie if it would save people's lives? Then I asked them, is it all right to steal money if the money is to be used to get life-saving medicine for a sick person who would otherwise die? Do the Harry-Potter-breaks-the-rules crowd also keep their kids from reading about Robin Hood? do they allow their kids to read about how Eve sinned against a direct order from God because she believed she was taking a shortcut to what the Lord had wanted her to do? Because you can ride that slippery slope all the way down to the ends justifying the means. Bottom line, Oskar Schindler broke the rules. If you want to go the "commandment" route, it's one of our Articles of Faith that we are to obey our local governments. Did Schindler choose wrongly?

Other people may reckon that their kids will be able to figure out for themselves how and when to break the rules and it's their job right now to teach the kids how to follow the rules. That's their prerogative and they know their kids best. But my kids are little lawyers who insist on knowing up front what to do. Princess loves rules so much that in the absence of a sufficient number of them she'll make up her own and enforce them on others, and Sonshine never came across a rule he didn't at least try to break. So I want my kids, in the finest American tradition, to know from the start that there is a difference between "the rules" and what's right, and to know which side they are ultimately on and learn how to make decisions with the Holy Spirit's guidance and how to deal with what happens when they make the wrong choice. Because when my kids become adults, like all of us and all the Harry Potter characters they will have to decide when to break the rules in order to serve the greater good.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Can I Just Say...

I want to live in a world where people appreciate ingenuity-- not just the kind of ingenuity that comes up with new gadgets, but that makes day-to-day life better using materials at hand.

I want to live in a world where someone who makes an attractive children's coat out of a moth-eaten blanket is looked up to more than someone who bought an expensive coat for their child. I want people to be praised who put their broken cribs back together and reinforce their changing tables with steel so they can be used for toddlers. I want people who build their own server rack or solar power supply for their laptop to be cool.

I want to feel like when I make lemonade out of the lemons life hands me, that I don't have to feel ashamed because it's not Country Time Lemonade.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate! As regular OBF readers know, I too celebrate Hanukkah, although mostly out of sheer habit since it's my dad's relatives who are Jewish.

Bagel was really frustrated because I wouldn't let him stand near the pot of boiling oil where the latkes were frying. I mean, it was bad enough that he could smell the food and yet wasn't being fed-- now he couldn't see the food either! I thought I'd distract him by putting out a bowl of what turned out to be peanut butter frosting (it was supposed to be something else but I got the proportions all wrong). Unbeknownst to me, the peanut-allergic Knuckles crawled into the kitchen and got into the peanut butter frosting, so that necessitated a pause in cooking while I took Bagel and Knuckles upstairs to wash the frosting out of their hair and dose Knuckles up with Benadryl. After that Knuckles threw up, and then he was fine (albeit with some redness lingering in his cheeks).

Bagel, as it turns out, really enjoys gefilte fish. I mean, REALLY enjoys it. He ate about half a jar of it. I like gefilte fish, personally, but evidently I don't like it near as much as he does. Knuckles, for his part, enjoys latkes, and ate two of them all by himself.

It was fun to make latkes again (although it'd be much more fun if I owned a food processor) and I'm seriously contemplating inviting some friends over so that I can make more latkes tomorrow.

Mmmmmmm, latkes...


Bagel's latest words are "Sure," "Fine," and "diarrhea."

"Diarrhea" stems from a recent episode of same, only now he is calling any diaper-soiling action "diarrhea." It's just funny to see a perfectly healthy two-year-old gripping his diaper and saying "I got diarrhea!" with a crap-eating grin on his face.

"Sure" has its usual exclamational usage: "You want a cupcake, Bagel?" "Sure!"

The funniest one by far, though, is "Fine."

"Put water in gun."
"No, Bagel, you can't play with the squirt gun, it's dark and cold outside."
"Aaaaaaaah, wan' play outside wif gun!!"
"No, you can't."

and he stomps off.

I'm glad he's learning a way to cope with disappointment that doesn't involve biting his baby brother.

Job Opportunity

WANTED: College graduate. Must be willing to put up with extra year of bullcrap classes before starting job and incompetent, unprofessional bosses who micromanage your work and make you spend so much time proving you're doing your job that it's impossible for you to actually do your job. Compensation: $25,000 a year, including benefits.

Would YOU apply for that job? If you got the job, would you take it? If not, would it just be because of the pay figure, or would it be because the crap you'd have to put up with is just not worth the money?

So why is this any surprise to anyone? [emphasis added]
...Districts across the state saw an 11 percent turnover rate last year.

When surveyed about hiring new teachers, most school districts reported "some" or "extreme" difficulty, especially in math, science and special education.

That's partly because Utah's educator supply can't keep pace. State colleges and universities have produced flat or declining numbers of new teachers for years, despite recent legislation allowing alternative routes to licensing and the addition of four new colleges of education, Sperry reported.

And although an average of 79 percent of Utah education graduates take jobs in Utah schools, many leave within their first few years, the study suggested. Last year the state minted nearly 2,600 new teachers, but saw more than 1,000 teachers leave after fewer than five years on the job.

And why the hell does everyone but the Utah Foundation seem to think it's just about the money? Yeah, money's cool, but you'd have to pay me well into six figures for it to be worth it to have to deal with the kind of unintelligent seat-warmers they have nowadays in half the administrative posts. As I was pointing out to FH last night, these people knew what the compensation was when they signed up for the job, so the ones that are turned off by the low pay alone aren't the ones turning over, they're the ones not signing on in the first place. The ones turning over are the ones who discover the pay isn't worth the crap they have to put up with. (as well, of course, as the ones whose life circumstances change, but that could hardly account for all of them.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rampant Innumeracy

My brother sends this link with audio, showing adults who work for Verizon who don't get the difference between dollars and cents. Scary!

MORE: Math literate person pays his Verizon bill by check! (Will only be funny to the mathematically literate)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You Too Can See My Famous Sister On TV

... although she's not on TV for what she's famous for, she's just background eyecandy for this news story. She's the one in the brown shirt with the really nice hands, from about 1:18 to 1:25.

Just Frickin' GO To Sleep!!!!!

That's what I'm telling Knuckles. The kid has scarcely slept the last several days. If I'm not holding him, he cries. He crawls around the floor chasing after me as I walk around the house trying to get something-- anything-- done, dragging his sorry tired diaper butt after him and crying his exhausted cry. He'll nurse down, but he's only good for about 5-15 minutes of sleep unless he's on my lap, in which case he'll nap for a good 20 minutes.

Remind me again how much Benadryl it's legal and safe to give a baby...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Please Shoot Me Before It Gets Any Worse, Part 387

While I was gone at the craft show this weekend, FH and the kids cleaned up the study so that we could put a Christmas tree up there. FH must have found a box knife while he was cleaning up, but unfortunately it was left on the computer desk (in full reach of Bagel), because Bagel found it and cut his finger. He didn't come running to me screaming like a normal kid would, he just bled all over everything. When I found him bleeding I rushed him downstairs to where the first aid supplies are, and attempted to bandage his finger. He ripped off the first two bandages. I finally got him into a wrestling hold and got a cotton ball taped onto the cut, which was dripping blood. I had to roll tape all over his hand, then cover the tape and cotton ball with Vetrap, then cover his other hand in Vetrap too, to keep him from using it to rip the bandage off again. The bandages bothered him more than the cut! I held him, kicking and screaming, on my lap for several hellish minutes, trying to put pressure on the wound to get the bleeding to stop.

I let Bagel play with his trains for a while, to calm him down. I will need to look at the wound later on, to see if it's deep enough to need stitches (I suspect not, but because of the location it may need a butterfly bandage). I will try to look at it after he's had his nap, because it's going to be just impossible to look at it before. And once I take the bandage off, he's going to be royally pissed when I put it back on. I'm wondering if maybe I should take him to the hospital or doctor, where they could shoot him up with toddler tranquilizers or strap him to a gurney or something while we look at the wound. But right now I'm just all tapped out. I haven't slept more than an hour at a time for the last few nights because Knuckles has been coughing (he's not sick, he's doing the same thing that FH and Bagel do, for which FH and Bagel take Zyrtec and have inhalers). Our van died two weeks ago and I haven't been able to get out at all except to go to work, and FH is working late and has activities all week so I'm not likely to get out this week except to give my final exam, after which time I will be unemployed at least till the summer semester.

Please shoot me before it gets any worse.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today's Damage Toll

Bagel is a really, really fun child, if by "fun" you mean "takes longer for you to clean up after than it does for him to mess."

Today's damage toll includes:
  • a lipstick
  • a couple square feet of carpet that had wet cookies smeared into it
  • a sippy cup, which he bit the top of the spout off of like Ozzy Osborne biting the head off a bat
  • my calculus lecture notes, which were thrown down the stairs
  • my work bag, which was dumped on the floor and the yarn balls scattered everywhere
  • a stack of tissue paper sheets
The sippy cups are particularly vulnerable to attack. Not only does he bite the spouts off, he has been known to stick pencils down the spouts, breaking them and spoiling their "spill proof" feature. One time he took a plastic tube that was about the same diameter as the silicone inset and shoved it right down the center of the lid ring, knocking the inset down inside the cup. I've thrown away at least half a dozen of these cups in the last few months.

At least Knuckles hasn't gotten his hands on any peanut butter lately.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What a Fun Day!

Bagel is really touchy today and liable to fly off the handle at any moment if anything disrupts his sense of order. At about 6:30 this morning, for example, he came into our bedroom even though he's not supposed to get up till 7. I nursed him but then he demanded to be fed, as is his usual morning routine, and because I was slow to get out of bed he got mad and knocked my glasses onto the floor. I had to search for my glasses immediately lest they get stepped on, which took longer and made him even more enraged at the delay. I poured him his cereal, but because he was upset he wouldn't touch it, even though I got it 100% right. He bit the baby on the back.

I put him in his room so that I could make the kids' sack lunches, get them off to school, and get something to eat myself. When I pulled him out, he demanded to be given toast. He was satisfied for a few seconds when I put the bread in the toaster, but it only took a few seconds for him to have a meltdown when toast was not immediately forthcoming.

Knuckles has started pinching me while nursing, just like Bagel did. This disturbs me. I tried wrapping him up firmly in a blanket last night, and (unlike Bagel) he was able to nurse that way, although not as effectively as when he's allowed to pinch me. For his part, Bagel has given up pinching while nursing in favor of touching the breast in ways I wouldn't let FH do when we were dating. I don't like this, but if I try to make him stop, he won't nurse, and if he doesn't nurse he gets really upset and flies into rages much easier.

This morning Bagel was nursing and Knuckles came over and touched his hand. Bagel found this quite funny and started giggling at the breast, which feels very overpoweringly stimulating for me. I finally ended the feeding because Bagel wouldn't stop giggling. At the moment I am completely exhausted and have no prospects for being able to lay down, let alone sleep, until about 11pm tonight.

This is a typical day at my house. I am a milk cow and short-order cook.

We are getting some help. The lady from the Early Intervention program comes twice a month. A social worker is going to visit us next week to talk to us about resources we can draw on. And right after Christmas, Bagel has an appointment to see a team of professionals about a diagnosis. But until then, all I want for Christmas is a nap.