Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Faith Like a Child

Yesterday, my buddy HD and I had our first date in a loooong time. I have a big-girl job now and he goes to big-boy school (well, pre-school) four days a week, so we don't get to hang out as much. But yesterday, I had the day off and he needed to get out of the house, so off we went to one of our favorite places in the whole wide world besides Baskin Robbins (ok, we went there too): the Mayborn Museum. Seriously, we were there so much during the summer that the employees now think he's my kid.

HD had the flu earlier in the week and had been cooped up in the house for several days, so my man was full of energy and READY TO PLAY. At one point, when he was literally bouncing off the walls of the Weather room, a random dad made a comment about how different little boys are from girls. I said, "Yes, I don't ever remember throwing myself against a wall for fun". Then I walked away and pretended I didn't know him. Just kidding...weird kid.

We hit all the favorite rooms...we looked at the turtles, and the stamps, and the big fire truck, and the "Fancy Shoe" room, in which we both had to try on various shoes and hats (and I prayed we didn't get head lice) and HD created a rather dashing outfit out of a pair of silk M.C. Hammer-esque pants, a glittery vest, wooden shoes, and a sombrero. Then we made our way down to the other end of the hallway, where we played in the water table and HD got to stand inside a giant bubble.

Directly across the hall from the bubble room is a giant walk-through replica of a beating human heart. HD usually isn't interested in it, but today he walked right inside and pressed his ear against the wall. "Is this what MY heart looks like?" he asked. "Yes, this is what your heart that's inside you looks like", I answered. I pointed out the four different parts, and how the noise that we were hearing is similar to the one that the doctor hears when he listens with his stethoscope. What happened next was one of those moments that made me wish I had a video camera so I could capture it forever:
With a big grin on his face, he crawled inside what I believe is the right ventricle, looked up at me, and asked, "Is this the part where Jesus lives?"

After I picked myself up off the floor because the sweetness killed me dead, I answered, "Yes buddy, that's the part where Jesus lives, and I hope you always remember that". Then I called his mom, who called his dad, and his grandma, and his aunt, and I'm pretty sure his Sunday school teacher.

Oh, to have faith like believe that Jesus is always inside of you, nestled there somewhere around your right ventricle, guarding your little heart at all times. As believers, we still have faith that Jesus is always there, but somewhere along the way, for many of us, the childlike innocence has worn away and fear and doubt have crept in. I know that's the case for me. I just hope that now, after witnessing a child's sweet, pure profession of his faith and trust that Jesus really is always with us, I will remember that, too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

She made a difference.

Tonight, I went to a visitation at a funeral home for someone I've known basically my entire life. My mom has known her since elementary school, and her niece and I were best friends growing up. About two years ago, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, and after going through treatment and finally into remission, doctors found a brain tumor. She passed away Sunday morning, surrounded by her family, and I'm convinced she's now on Jesus's official welcoming committee. I always thought she was one of those people that everybody loved...but I apparently had no idea.

The visitation tonight was from 6-8pm. You've all been to go more out of obligation than anything, to sign the book and hug the family then leave as quickly as possible. Usually it's a quick in-and-out thing. My mom and grandmother and I went around 7 and planned to stay no more than 15 or 20 minutes; I had even made dinner plans for afterwards. When we got to the funeral home, there was a line of people wrapped halfway around the outside of the building waiting to go inside. We stood in line for almost 45 minutes before we even got close to the front of the line. It was incredible. We even joked about it..."Too bad Linda Sue didn't have any friends".

Imagine having such an impact on people that it takes almost an hour to get into your wake. Imagine touching so many lives that for over two solid hours, hundreds of people take time out of their routines to express to your family how much you mean to them. I can think of several people right now who have made that kind of impact in my life: my awesome friend Amy who is finishing up cancer treatments and isn't afraid to rock her fabulous hairdo in public :-); Tracey, who is the kind of mom I want to be someday and lets me join in the wonderful chaos of her life whenever I need a fix; Amanda ,who commiserates with me via text messages almost daily and helps make my work a little more bearable, and who is always quick to offer a movie and pitcher of sangria when I really need it; Amanda, whose story is so incredible and inspiring and who is one of the strongest and bravest women I've ever known; and sweet Lindsay, who is one of the most encouraging people I know even though her husband is in the army and was just sent to Germany for two years. All of these women have shown Jesus to me, just like Linda Sue showed Jesus to every single person she met. I am encouraged by her, and I hope you are too, to be that to someone else. And besides that, let someone you love know it, before you have to wait an hour to get into their wake. I know I definitely need to do more of that.

And when you get to heaven, look for Linda Sue. She'll be the one with the great big smile and the ready hug, welcoming you right on in.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nothing to Say

...Except that I'm tired and I need a vacation which I won't get because I finish working at an autism camp on the 7th and start my real job on the 10th, and my kids at the camp are making me about ready to pull out my hair and scream like a crazy woman, and I really want a Reese's peanut butter cup because I've been on the South Beach diet for a month and a half and I haven't had anything white or refined and I'm LOSING MY MIND.

That is all. Carry on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good things come when other things are lousy.

So, just when I get all whiny about how awful my job is, something cool happened today. I'm pretty sure it's God's little way of saying "Suck it up, sister, you're here for a reason". I get it, I get it.

This morning, while attempting to remove B from every table top/high surface in the room and listening to him scream in protest (for three. hours. straight.), I forgot that Mondays are Art Days. Two very patient women from the Art Center come to camp and let the kids paint to their little hearts' content. Some of them want no part of it, but some love it. My group usually isn't too keen on the whole sitting in a chair and following directions thing, so I didn't think we'd be there long. Little did I know...

Last week, J smacked the art lady in the face within 30 seconds of sitting down. Today, she sat in a chair for eight minutes and let an assistant help her paint a picture of a rainbow. HUGE for this girl. I was sitting by D1, who loves to write and draw, and he was a little hesitant at first. I helped him paint a happy face with hair and ears....then he took off. It was like a lightbulb turned on somewhere in his little mind. He painted an elephant with two people riding on its back, a big bright rainbow, and a house under the rainbow with trees beside it. We could see him thinking about what to paint next. The coolest part was when he picked up the orange paintbrush and wrote "orange", then used the red paint to write "red". Why was this so cool, you ask? Why did the art ladies and I tear up a little at the sight of those two simple words? Because those were the two first words D1 has ever written. Ever. He writes groups of letters that resemble words all the time, but never an actual word. We didn't ask him to write those words, and we didn't spell them for him. Painting somehow stimulated a part of my sweet little guy's brain that said "Hey, we've seen these words a thousand times, let's make these wimpy teachers cry".

Needless to say, I won't forget Art Day next week.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why do I get myself into these things?

Some of you might find this shocking (ha), but I have trouble saying no when people ask me to do things, especially when kids are involved. I'll probably babysit for you even if I have work at 7am the next morning (unless I don't like your kids, then I make up an excuse...don't worry Amanda, I've never done that to you :-) ), and I'll most likely work at XYZ event for free in the scorching heat to support the Organization for Kids with Eleven Toes or whatever. Which is why I've found myself in my current predicament.
Way back in April, I applied for a part-time job as the director of a summer day camp for kids with mental retardation and autism. I figured that, being a director, I wouldn't have to directly care for the kids, but mainly just supervise. I thought my interview went well...and then the current director called. They decided to restructure the camp a little this year, and would I be interested in being a teacher with two assistants in one of the classes? He put me on the spot...what could I say other than, "Um, sure, that sounds great". Dummy.
Now, approximately four weeks into the Camp that Never Ends, I'd like to introduce you to my hellians kiddos. Here's info about my 8 little autistic darlings:

A, aka "The Charmer": 5 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, only eats baby food. Cute as a bug, looks much younger than he is. Usually sweet and cuddly, but can throw a mean tantrum when he doesn't want to do his work. Favorite activity is throwing things up in the air. Quite possibly one of the most spoiled kids ever...his parents and (overbearing) grandparents pulled him out after the second week because he "wasn't getting enough individual attention". Whatever.

B, aka "The Climber": 5 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, never stops moving, leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. Likes to bang his head on the floor when he's mad, and has been known to strip from the waist down and swing his diaper in the air like a lasso. The kid climbs on everything and tries to steal the other kids' lunch. His two-nanosecond attention span seems to be increasing....slooooowly.

D1, aka "The Cutie": 5 years old, potty trained (hallelujah), semi-verbal, relatively high functioning. Sweet boy, likes to cuddle, LOVES to write letters and numbers. He knows the names of everyone in the class, and often asks where so-and-so is. Has a crazy internal clock and knows exactly when it's time for lunch or to go home. Brother to D2, and occasionally imitates his behaviors.

E, aka "The Flasher": 6 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, one of the most severely autistic kids in the class. Loves to have his belly and arms rubbed, but can scratch without warning (I have scars). When he's happy, he has a sweet giggle. When he's mad, he pulls his pants down. Loves to walk the hallways, but throws a fit when he has to come back in the classroom. His favorite thing in the world is Dora the Explorer, which is the only way I can get him to work in the mornings.

D2, aka "The Runner": 7 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, brother to D1. He does NOT like to work, but will if you promise to take him for a walk down the hallways. Will run out of the classroom/playground/building if you look away, and boyfriend is FAST. Also has an obsession with flushing the toilet and climbing up on the cabinets to rewind E's Dora video.

C, aka "The Bottomless Pit": 7 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, will eat anything and everything that is edible. The kid is a toothpick, but never stops eating. Loves borrowing shoes from the other kids and lining them up, and freaks out if you disturb his lines. Likes playing in the dirt on the playground, and has been known to push another kid out of the way in order to sit in a teacher's lap.

J, aka "The Hitter": 8 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, severe autism. J is a mystery to me. She doesn't seem to have any interests other than beating the crap out of me when I'm not paying attention. She's got a mean backhand and uses it often. I'm learning to catch the fist before it connects with my face, but this chick's quick. I'm considering buying her a pair of boxing gloves.

K, aka "The Princess": 8 years old, verbal, potty trained, very high functioning. Likes to do what she wants, when she wants, and throws a royal tantrum if that doesn't happen. She's learning quickly that I can handle her outbursts, so we're working on taking turns and not getting our way rightthissecond. Can be a very sweet girl...when she wants to be.

Z-man: 8 years old, semi-verbal, potty trained, only comes three days each week for half a day. He loves making spaceships out of pattern blocks, and is usually pretty low-maintenance. Loves the playground, hates bowling, and would rather eat Cheez-Its over anything else in the world.

I love these little monsters, but it's been a rough four weeks. Thankfully, I have two fabulous full-time assistants, and two other helpers work with B, J, and Z three days a week. Still, though...I need a vacation from my summer vacation. Seriously.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I have a big girl job!

One question I have grown to dread over the past few weeks is "So, what are your plans for next year?" It's a very well-meaning question, and I ask it occasionally of other people. But when you have NO FREAKING CLUE what your plans are for next year, it gets old. I've had a few leads on jobs, but nothing had panned out. Well, really Monday, but close enough.

As of this August, I will officially have a real job. Not a practicum experience, not an internship, but a real big-girl job. Cool, huh? And weird. I've been a college student for 7 years. I'm not sure I'm going to know what to do with myself without spending at least 3 nights a week in Draper 139. Very, very weird.

What is this new job, you ask? Well, it's kind of complicated, which is why I'm explaining it here and hoping people will read it. My graduate degree is in School Psychology. A person with that degree (and a license, which I am currently applying for and which costs about a bajillion dollars to obtain) is called a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology, or LSSP. I will be an LSSP for Gatesville Intermediate and High schools. My main job will be to create and implement a curriculum in the campuses' behavior classrooms (basically, rooms where kids get sent if they can't handle regular classrooms/get in trouble/piss off the principal) that turns them into less of a prison and more of a rehabilitative situation. My goal is to create some kind of system where kids who are sent to the behavior units can work on improving their coping and behavior management skills and eventually work their way back into regular classrooms. I'll also be having weekly or twice weekly group counseling sessions with the kids to work on controlling their own behavior.

It's going to be a tough job, but I like a challenge. I also like working independently, which is good since I will be pretty much on my own with this. I'm hoping that I can find a program that works and then take it to other schools with similar issues.

I really miss teaching. A lot. I even applied for a few teaching jobs this year. However....I can always be a teacher. I felt like this opportunity was too good to pass up, and I can move on to other things whenever I want. I'm pretty excited about it. Mainly, I'm excited to have a job and know that the rent will get paid. But I think this will a good experience for me...and hopefully it won't cause me to lose every little bit of sanity that I have left.

Friday, April 17, 2009

For the record...

...I think comprehensive exams are a huge and pointless waste of time. Seriously, if the department chair wants to know that I know what I'm doing, he should ask me. Rather than make me answer stupid questions like "What does the United States Constitution have to say about the importance of public education in a representative form of government based on democratic principles?" (huh? and, nothing), or "Briefly explain validity in the context of the Stanford-Binet: Fifth Edition" (who even effing cares). I can look these things up if I ever really need to know them. Ask me a real question, like what to do with a kid who gets written up once a week for rudeness, talking back to teachers, and "grabbing the principal's bottom" (that's a direct quote). At least those answers would be much more entertaining for the grader.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Totally Worth It.

So, I was trying to think of something witty to post, seeing as I haven't written anything in a while (not that anyone actually cares, but whatever)...and then I came across something that made me completely change what I wanted to write. This article is in today's newspaper. Why is that important, you ask? Well, I'm about to tell you.

Since January of 2007, I have been a volunteer with the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children as a Crisis Intervention Advocate. Advocates carry a cell phone and answer the 24-hour crisis hotline, and also go to one of the two area hospitals whenever they register a survivor of sexual assault. We stay with the survivor during the police interview, physical forensic exam, and while they get medication in the ER. Much of my work with the ACCVC has involved having hour-long conversations at 3am with a regular caller who likes me because I remind her of her daughter, referring another regular to the sex offender hotline at least three times each weekend, and spending lots of late nights/early mornings in the ER. It's hard work, very emotionally draining....but it can also be very, very rewarding. Which is why I linked to that article.

I was in the ER with the little girl in the article for 6 hours on a Sunday morning, from 1am until 7am. I remember that her mom was so upset that she brought all 3 of her kids without shoes on, and the little one wasn't wearing a shirt (two amazing ER nurses found them shoes and a shirt, bought the boys breakfast, and gave them toys to play with while they waited). The police officer working the case was wonderful. While we were waiting for the exam to begin, we heard on the police radio that the perpetrator had been arrested. That very rarely happens, and the little girl and I got to check the "arrest made" box on my ACCVC paperwork. We even drew a smiley face next to it.

What also stands out about that case is that, unlike most of the child abusers we deal with, this one didn't try to hide what he did. He did something to her physically that was outwardly visible...something she no doubt would have to explain to curious classmates for a while. The fact that he marked her like that made me SO EFFING MAD. Many of the advocates do what we do because we've "been there", and this case hit very close to home for me. That, combined with how he marked her pretty little face, made me want to hunt down the @#!%^&^ myself.

In my opinion, 20 years is NOT enough for what happened to that little girl, or any little girl (or boy/woman/man), for that matter. But I find comfort in the fact that, for the next 20 years, that sweet girl can finally sleep at night. We're not technically allowed to check up on our clients, but the last I heard, she's thriving. I hope that one day, she'll be able to look him in the eyes and show him how what he did DIDN'T ruin her life, but made her a stronger, more resilient woman.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Um, ew.

This morning, when I walked into the office, there was a bloody squirrel tail and some little squirrel feet hanging out in the yard by the walkway. Not sure where the rest of Mr. Squirrel ended up, but I have a suspicious feeling about the German Shepherd next door. Anyway, it was gross. Apparently we squealed and carried on about it enough that a maintenance man just came into the yard, threw a half-amused, half annoyed glance at the front door, and chunked the squirrel parts into a trash bag. With his bare hands. I kind of want to find him a rabies shot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I think I need a clone. And new tires.

I have decided that tomorrow, I may just lose my mind. Between the hours of 8:00 am and 2:00 pm, I have to give 1 autism assessment, 3 teacher interviews, 1 transfer ARD meeting (which is going to add another counseling kid to my caseload), and 3 counseling sessions, plus schedule a parent interview (with a very pregnant mother whose due date was five minutes ago and could possibly go into labor in my office...wouldn't that be fun?) with an interpreter and coordinate 2 more parent meetings. And scream like a crazy person and pull out my hair. Granted, I kind of forgot to get the 2 parent info sheets, and I did wait until the last two weeks for the teacher interviews. Anyway. This is precisely the reason I am SO ready to graduate and be a real school psychologist in ONE district, rather than splitting my time between two.

In other news, I am thisclose to writing a letter of complaint to the Toyota dealership in Waco. I find letter writing very therapeutic....I've written letters to George W. Bush (about the idocracy that is the No Child Left Behind act), the editor of the Waco Tribune Herald (about his apparent need to comment on every letter in the Letters to the Editor section), and various other people/organizations that have frustrated me at some point in my life. The thing is, I never send them. I write the letters, get it out of my system, and move on with my life. So, if I were to send a letter to the Toyota people, it might go a little something like this.

Dear Toyota service department,
This afternoon, I brought my car in for an oil change and a tire rotation. When I went to the cashier's window to pay, she noticed that the amount seemed off, and after reading the teeny tiny print on the invoice, noticed that you didn't rotate my tires. Apparently, they're completely worn down and need to be replaced. The cashier seemed a little shocked when I told her that nobody said anything to me about the tires. If she hadn't read that part of the invoice, I wouldn't have known, and since I drive over 80 miles on country roads to work and back every day, that could have been BAD NEWS. I'm not very happy with the quality of your customer service, since you kind of forgot to tell me that MY TIRES ARE COMPLETELY BALD AND I COULD DIE IF I KEEP DRIVING ON THEM. I'd like you to know that I'm purchasing tires from another company, and I might start getting oil changes there. On a lighter note, I was very pleased to wait only 55 minutes today, rather than the usual hour and half typically required for an oil change at your dealership.
Have a great day!

Whew. I feel better now. Thanks for letting me vent. ;-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Here goes nothing.

So, I've decided to give in to peer pressure and try this whole blogging thing. I had a xanga a while back (does anybody even know about xanga anymore?), but I'm a slacker and didn't keep up with it. So, I decided to give blogger a shot. I think maybe 2 people might end up reading this, and I have no idea what I'm doing (because I'm technologically incompetent), but it looked like fun. So, here goes.

I figure, at some point, the 2 people who might read this blog will probably wonder where my crazy blog title comes from (or not, but I'm going to tell you anyway). First, I must introduce you to my boyfriend. He's cute, funny, precocious, and knows how to show a girl a good time. We go on fun dates to the museum, zoo, HEB, and the donut shop, and he even offered to drive once (I politely declined, seeing as his feet wouldn't touch the pedals). This is HD.Yes, those would be underpants around his neck. He's starting a new fashion trend, can't you tell? HD belongs to a good friend of mine who lets me borrow him once a week-ish. A few weeks ago, we had just pulled into the donut shop parking lot, when he said, "Wiener (long story, I'll tell it later), I wonder what clouds taste like". After I got over the fact that a 3-year-old asked such a philosophical question, he and I decided that clouds probably taste like cotton candy, or maybe popcorn. Then we went inside and he ate a huge powdered sugar donut.

I chose his sweet ponderance as a blog title because it's random, kind of like my thoughts/comments/life. Also, I firmly believe that if everyone spent more time thinking about things like the flavor of clouds, we'd be a lot happier and whole lot nicer to everyone else. Think about it.