Saturday, March 25, 2006

A New Superpower!

I have just discovered my newest superpower. I, apparently have the ability to make it rain, even when the previous day has been quite beautiful and sunny. I love the rain, so it is quite a handy superpower to have for when i'm in the mood to start a fire in my fireplace and lounge around inside reading and listening to music. The way I acess this superpower is quite simple. I wash my Civic.

I am now three for three.

Maybe I need to develop the power to check the weather report.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Still shocked...

But not necessarily awed.
Because I believe that what we focus our energy and thoughts on shapes our environment, I try to refrain from focusing on events that I believe that are negative. Still, the reality is that today is the first day of our fourth year our country has been at war.

This saddens me…

For everyone on our planet, including the families of soldiers currently overseas to fight a war declared for a reason that could never even be validated. Some of the longest six months of my life were when my baby brother (24 years, but sometimes he let’s me refer to him as my “baby” brother) spent working Satellite Communications for the Air Force in Tikrit (although we didn’t even know at the time, as we were not allowed due to the sensitivity of his placement…we all suspected Baghdad).

I read in yesterdays Los Angeles Times that the polls show that 38% of Americans believe that the war is going “well”.


Who are these people?

Ironically, I was thinking that today was our coldest day of Winter here in Southern California, until I found out it was the first day of Spring.

Square Girl

Saturday, March 18, 2006


While contemplating yoga, I went shopping today. I saved twenty-seven dollars. Well technically, I SPENT fifty-seven dollars and forty-eight cents, but the reciept that told me I had saved money had me fooled for a second or two.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Presuming Ability

Over a month ago, Kristina and her soul sister Mother’s Vox wrote posts that inspired me to write about my own experiences which caused me to discover the importance of presuming competence and islets of ability.
But then I got distracted.
And a little lazy.
And probably ended up posting something mundane and meaningless, but I don’t remember what it was.
But now that I am sorta unplugging in an attempt to hear my own inside voices as opposed to all of the spam and pop-up ads and what the radio seems to be calling music these days. And while I spend time with my own thoughts, I am slightly haunted by a post that keeps quietly reminds me needs to be written. Not read…it doesn’t need to be read, but written. I can’t get past this feeling that I am supposed to write this.

Over the course of teaching my little friends, I never cease to be amazed by what they know, understand and capable of. And when I am listening and paying very close attention to what my friends are doing and trying to say to the world, I am sometimes rewarded with a glimpse of their potential. During my teaching years, there is no one who demonstrated this more to me than my little friend William. William was and is a favorite student of mine (yes, I admit to having favorites, maybe that is wrong, but I just can’t help it).

While it may sound superficial, I will begin with a physical description, because William was so darn cute (all my friends are by the way, but he is especially so). He was six when I taught hem, had red hair, freckles and a teethy grin. He was slightly pudgy, but adorably so…In addition, William has, what is referred to as low tone. In other words, his coordination seemed quite awkward and his speech, quite unintelligible…that is assuming that you recognized the noises that he made as speech (unfortunately most people around him did not).

Let me continue to describe William by describing our first day together as student and teacher....lemesee…well, my first day of teaching couldn’t have been more disasterous (well, I’m sure it could have, but I can’t imagine what else could have gone wrong). One of my students I never met had run off of the bus and into a playground of approximately 300 kids and I was expected to find him, while I meanwhile had an irate bus driver because I wasn’t getting my remaining new students off of the bus in a timely manner, as one was REFUSING to get off of the bus “NO” with a firm kick to the seat in front of him was his replay to any request. Plea, negotiation to leave the bus to a school and a teacher he had never even seen before (Of course I told you my kids were smart). This really is just the beginning, but I will spare any reader of this the woe is me details especially since this day is really just the beginning of one of the most meaningful years of my life…but as for William. Well,William, as adorable as he is, is also quite, well, loud. …and quite dysregulated by change and new environments. Oh, and still in a diaper, which I was in no way prepared for. So William, on his first day of school, spent the entire day, screaming, banging his head with his fists, rolling around on the floor, taking his shoes off and attempting to pull off all of his clothes. And while I’m revealing all the details of my first day as a teacher of a Special Day Class consisting of students (grades K-4) all on the spectrum, let me just confess that I drove home the whole way crying and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

That was the first day. And while I can’t recall every subsequent day in such vivid detail, there were moments, good, bad and beautiful that are etched in my memory, and sentimentialy I recount a few of these moments, the ones that taught me to never underestimate or discount ANYONE, EVER.

Well the rolling around the floor and taking off clothes bit lasted no more than two days…this is where the mean-ole ABA teacher took over and insisted that 1. Clothes stay on (yes, I know, I’m a meanie) and 2. You participate with the rest of the class (again, I’m a meanie, an no child of my classroom is left behind or rolling around one the floor). The shoes took a few more days, but they never came off after the first week and a half. And after these issues, well my William became the superstar that he was always meant to be. Not only did he sit for Circle time, but he became my Calendar helper. He laeraned (or demonstrated for the first time) to count, identify numbers and add. He began to learn phonics and sight words. All of these things would seem unremarkable except he had an in-home behavior consultant that upon the request of Williams mom visited the classroom one day to observe. At the end of the day she told me that this was the first time ever that William was part of a class…I asked her what she meant and she told me that in all of his past classes he would just be off on his own screaming and stimming and was not a part of the class at all. William had already demonstrated his willingness and capacity to learn, so imagining him spending an entire year left behind broke my heart.

William, for whatever reasons scared a lot of people (the loud stimmy screaming was probably what did it), and as a result had a one to one aide. His aide was named Amy (note, I always change my friends names, but “Amy” was his aides real name). Amy was young and sensitive, but very sweet and loving. One of the things that Amy and William would do together is play with play-doh…at some point Amy began rolling play-doh into long strips and I remember the first time she did this she got extremely excited and said “Squaregirl! Squaregirl! William’s making letters!” And indeed he was. He made Amy’s strips into the letters “A”,”B”,”C” subsequently. This was very exciting! We had no idea William knew or even cared about letters, yet clearly he was demonstrating that he did. The next time he and Amy played this “game”, Amy nearly hyperventilated…”SquareGirl! William just spelled “Pig”, “Cow”, “Dog” etc. Again…this was very exciting to see this from someone who’s last IEP goals included keeping his shoes on for more than an hour an who apparently never participated in any classroom activites. So as much as I loved William and am confident that William loved me, mid-year, when Amy was out sick, William grabbed my hand and led me toward where the play-doh was kept…”ABC” he told me in his ow tone that I never would have understood a few months earlier, but had obtained new listening skills. I pulled down the play-doh and rolled it into long strips the way I knew Amy did with him and he did what he had done with Amy in the past…make an “A”. I continues to make the strips, expecting a “B” from him, buit instead, he made an “M” and of course my last strips turned into a “Y”. I don’t even know where to begin to explain what this meant to me…William can spell…William is trying to tell me something: He does this with Amy, he misses Amy, Where is Amy? This was just the beginning of my understanding of my friend William, much of which I would like to share over time...he is quite an amazing individual….this is not even the tip of the iceberg of his ability…

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unplugging...well mostly

My mind has been quite noisy as of late. Now I know I could blame it on the crap on the radio or all of the tangents my DSL takes me on, but I am a fully grown woman, completely capable of reaching out to push the “power off” button on may car stereo and step away from the highly distractable DSL for a couple of hours and walk over to a yoga class (always a good way for me to quiet my mind), I do after all have at least three yoga studio’s within walking distance of my apartment (Four if I am ambitious in my walking, but One is literally ACROSS THE STREET). So I have taken the first step. My car radio is off. I walked to my the library (my pre-dsl favorite haunting grounds), checked out several books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (already read, but I am a re-reader of favorites), Joseph Campbell and a book by William Carlos Williams, who I know so little about yet have always enjoyed his poetry. I also took the fifty or so yard trek to the yoga studio to obtain an updated schedule. I haven’t actually read the books yet, nor attended a yoga class, but already my mind feels quieter just thinking about doing those things. Unlike my plants, I am sure that my laptop, telephone, television or radio will not wilt and become lackluster, due to lack of attention and love.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Once, twice, three times an auntie...

Squaresis #3 had a girl!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Taking time to smell the steam

About eleven years ago I was working as a school shadow for one of my little friends Oliver. Oliver loooved to take his time for everything, which was quite charming actually, except when the bell rang and I knew Oliver would take his lovely sweet time to get to the classroom and be late once again (of course he never minded, but it caused me a little stress). Needless to say, the school was next to some sort of plant (I either never knew or I forgot) and one morning as I was trying to get him into his classroom within a reasonable amount of tardiness, he stopped and stared at the steam from the plant for a few seconds and asked:

“What’s that?”

“I think it’s steam…we gotta go Oliver, we’re a little late.”

Oliver seemed to not hear me, but absolutely charmed me when he said “Oh loook! It’s making sky!”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Great Expectations

Squaresis #3 (my neice's mama) is expecting baby #2 in less than a week! Everybody’s favorite question of course, is what are you having? Well, squaresis doesn’t know. Not because she didn’t have a sonogram to find out…she had like three…but apparently the baby wants to surprise everyone as s/he kept h/er/is legs closed nice and tight in order to keep us all from knowing. This babies gonna be a trickster I can already tell! Well needless to say, SquareSis has been quite exhausted, taking care of a highly energetic two-year-old, running a cloth-diaper making and selling business as well as being nearly nine months pregnant and all, and has yet to decied on a name for the baby. This has proven quite disturbing for some of her friends…”How can you not know?”, “I think you should make it your goal to decide on a name today”, “Aren’t you worried that you don’t have a name yet?”. These are statements and questions that she hears regulary.
She was sharing with me her frustrations over everyone elses frustrations about her not having chosen a name yet, and I was reminded about how other people always have ideas and expectations about where we are supposed to be in OUR lives. I shared with SquarSis about how a few months ago, when I was at the wedding of a college friend I braced myself for the all too familiar question I get at every wedding I attend of “When is it gonna be your turn?”, when my friend Beth, who I was a bridesmaid for five years ago leaned towards me and said “I always brace myself for people to ask me, ‘when are you gonna have kids?’”. I have always known this, but at this moment, I further realized that it never-ever ends. Other people are always going to have expectations and opinions about where you are supposed to be in your life, and for some reason it bothers them more than it bothers you that you are not where THEY expect for you to be. I think the question needs to be asked more often is “Are you happy?”.

I advised my sister to come up with a really awful, ridiculous and ugly name and when people asked her what she planned on naming the baby tell them that name and amuse herself with how they respond.

That is what the little imp in me would do. I’ve had a lot of practice defying expectations.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Putting my Thinking Cap on...

I was hyperlexic. Only recently have I discovered that the word “hyperlexic” is being used as a diagnosis on the spectral line of autism, because I had always understood “hyperlexic” to simply mean reading at a very early age. According to my mom, I wasn’t much of a talker as a toddler, but I used to sit on her lap during church and she would point to each word in the hymnal as the congregation sang, until one day she realized I was singing along. To be honest, I never remember NOT reading.

In Kindergarten, at the small private school I attended, our teacher would divide us into groups during our reading time. There were approximately four of us in my group and all of us were reading. A wonderful woman who was retired and volunteered a couple hours a day in our classroom facilitated our group. I remember quite well, that before we began reading, she would instruct us to put on our “thinking caps”, upon which we would each put an imaginary cap upon our heads. To this day, I refer to my imaginary “thinking cap”. As many of us do, I wear many hats in my life, but there are some things, conversations, posts, NPR programs that require me to put on my “thinking cap”. I don’t wear it all the time, but always come out more enlightened and fulfilled when I do…

I am certain that nearly all of the twelve readers who read this also read Kristina Chew’s site (and if you don’t I suggest you do so RIGHT NOW), so everyone reading this post is certainly aware of how she interweaves the unedited touching and raw moments of her life with her little best friend, with mythology, Latin and Greek, and ABA all the while completely free of judgment, self-rieghtousness, and most importantly DISCRIMINATION. Her blog is one of the most inclusive blogs I have read. As a former five year Latin student, an ABA consultant (who does not appreciate references to Skinner and Tabula Rasa), a mythology lover, who pours over the works of Joseph Campbell and an individual who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, I find Kristina’s writings, touching, thought-provoking, breath-taking, heart-breaking and heart-warming all at the same time. Her latest posts on the poetry in autism are simply stunning. They have got me thinking about how much autism is indeed like poetry… beautiful, stunning, amusing, egnimatic, capricious, paradoxical, confusing and prophetic, all at once. Some people don’t even try to bother to understand poetry, while others think they understand the meaning, based on superficial one time reading. But for the most part, poetry…real poetry has so many levels and complexities that go far beyond that…Autism has many analogies, but I am not surprised that Kristina’s analogy resonates the strongest with me.

I know I need to put on my thinking cap whenever I go to visit Kristina, but if I ever forget to do so, I always leave Kristina’s place with my thinking (and feeling) cap fitted quite snugly on top of my head…I am quite certain that she has plenty of experience putting “thinking caps” on her own as well as other people's heads.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Songs of the day...

One of my problems with the Jett is that it’s electric system often malfunctioned, causing the alarm to go off spontaneously and the radio to malfunction (I think the Jett was angry with me). Needless to say, I had stopped listening to the radio and turned to entertaining myself by talking to myself and singing out loud. However when the Civic came into my life, I decided once again to listen to the radio. I mostly listen to NPR, but there are times that I simply don’t feel like thinking all that much so I will listen to music. As I flipped through the music stations the other day, I realized that the most of the music out there right now is indeed still crap (sorry, but it is)…oh wait, gotta go, American Idol is about to start!