Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Every now and then....

Every now and then I come across a former student who lets me know that I am in the right profession. It helps to balance out the one that I feel I may not be reaching, or the parent who might be frustrated with me, and it helps me keep things in perspective - and I really needed that tonight.

I was invited to my former middle school to judge their talent show tonight. On my way from dropping Blondie off from OT, and rushing over there to be on time I drove through the window of a fast food restaurant (doesn't really help the 17 lbs I've lost, but one night won't kill me). As I reach over to grab my food I hear, "HEY MS. D." Of course I recognize one of my former students who is now a senior in high school. This child was VERY quiet, and shy, and in 8th grade barely did her homework. I constantly talked to the kids about how powerful math was to their future choices, but quite honestly it is a very rural community and some of my students didn't see college in their future. This student was one that I thought had potential, but you never know what sort of decisions they will make, so you just trust they will find their way.

So I cautiously asked this young woman her plans for the future. "Ms. Dawson, I just got accepted to Clemson, I'm going to study genetics." My mouth FELL OPEN. She smiled at me and said what every teacher wants to hear, "I wish I had listened to you more about taking the right classes. I decided last year to take the harder math classes because I really want to study why some people get cancer and other diseases. You were right - math is taking me out of here, but I had to do a lot of catching up." I asked her to keep in touch, so she asked for my "digits" and I gave them up easily. She made my night.

I'm just thrilled to know that I made a difference in this girl's life, and I can't thank her enough for actually telling me. So, if you get a chance - let a teacher know in a note, or a call, just how much they have meant for your child. It may not be the person you have this year, but it really is a pick me up for a teacher from the past.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blogger help needed

Any ideas on how to change that banner at the top? I tried the header widget to change, but it accepts my picture and just sits there.... stupidly.... even though I've saved it in 2 different places. Next question - How do I change the words in those links, and then link it to new pages (no widget thingie for those).

The Easter Tree

As a child, I spent 5 years living in Germany. Hanau (Bishofsheim) and Sembach were two of my three favorite places (the third was Ft. Carson) to live growing up. Although we lived on base, or in an American high rise, and we went to American school, the weekends and holidays were anything but American. My parents made a point of having us travel to many of the neighboring countries, sent us with school trips, or girl scouts to wherever we might want to go, and took us skiing in Austria every year. One of my favorite German traditions was the Easter tree. People took pussy willow branches and put them in a vase, and then hung little wooden eggs, or bunnies from them. After living in Germany, my mom started us on the tradition, and now I have passed it down to my children. This year Blondie and Cheesie were pleased to decorate the tree.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Our Mini Mt. Vernon

After my Dad's funeral last year we stayed an extra couple of days in the Northern Virginia area to visit with relatives. Brian and I decided to take the kids (and my mom) over to Mt. Vernon because we had never been there. It was absolutely beautiful, but as I was on my "garden kick" and trying to develop this new habit I was focused more on the grounds than the house (like I would have a few years ago). Mt. Vernon seemed to motivate Brian to focus more on the idea of gardens and garden rooms, so this is why I refer to our founding father's home. We needed that kick in the pants to get moving on some projects. We have gotten a couple of comments, and emails about our property, so I think a tour is in order - along with the list of plans..... all my plans, not necessarily Brian's --- but they will be his plans too he just doesn't know it yet.

The top picture is the view from the back deck. We do live on a giant pond - although a few in the neighborhood call it the smaller lake - it is still a pond. It has turtles and fish, and I'm sure things that slither, but in 7 years of living here I've only heard about 1 snake, I didn't actually see it. We live in the middle of an older subdivision, and we have a shopping center nearby, with all of the amenities.

As, in Mt. Vernon- just a much smaller scale -our backyard is divided into areas. The upper part of the yard right under the deck is a small grassy yard that kids play ball in, or dogs run around on, the right hand side of the yard will hopefully one day just be a beautiful garden of flowers and green, the left middle section is the girls playground, and right behind that is the butterfly garden and the vegetable garden. At the bottom is the soft area of grass by the pond where children can play, just not ball games as the pond is apparently magnetic when it comes to balls. Every ball they play with down there dips in for a swim AT LEAST once, which is why the canoe is housed there too. We do canoe on the pond, but two years ago we noticed that when the little girls got out of the pond they had a rash on them - so I think the chemicals the neighborhood association uses on the pond are definitely NOT natural, which is why we choose not to use that as a source of water to sprinkle on our yard.

Plans - Move the butterfly garden over to the right side of the yard. Yes its pretty, but it is also low and won't obstruct our view. This would leave me with an area for at LEAST four more rasied beds for veggies, etc. With the veggie beds I'm still trying to get rid of those ants - boiling water doesn't seem to work on indestructable fire ants in SC, so now I'm trying white vinegar suggested by another person whose blog I read. The biggest plans are to take down about 12 pine trees - I will rake pine straw or leaves, but I'm tired of doing both, and since the pines are more likely to fall into my house then they must go - along with the Hickory Nut trees that keep Blondie from being totally safe in the backyard.

I'm still debating about joining the growing challenge, but I may just start a garden blog to keep up with what I'm doing in that area.... hmmmm .... that's what I need... another blog.... another committment... I'll have to think on that a little more.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sometimes... Therapy Thursday

Sometimes therapy looks like this:

And sometimes it looks like this

And sometimes it looks like this for awhile....

Until I have to get involved and use tough love to get her "rear in gear." Blondie is learning a new motto - IF ITS HARD - WORK HARDER (my students hear that too). Once the tears subside and she KNOWS I'm not going to back down, then we can get to do this:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Many Hands Make Light Work - except in the yard

My weekend goal was to get the garden beds cleaned up so I could think about planting them... Well, it started in the garden, and then spread to the lower half of the yard. Below is the butterfly garden that I REALLY want to move over to the right side of the yard so I can add 4 more veggie beds there. BUT Brian really put a lot of time and effort into it, so I may have to look at doing that after we someday pull down the pine trees and have a lot of sunlight on the right side of the yard. The adirondak chairs are a great place to sit and read, enjoy the outside temperature, or meet with a neighbor and a bottle of wine after a particularly bad day. Many, many uses, and the perfect dogwood tree.

Nice and clean

Early on into the morning, Brian and the girls found a tiny turtle in the yard. In the past we've actually caught pictures of turtles laying the eggs. I know the female was busy, but it appears that the male, or some other turtle friend comes into the yard as well and sort of stands guard. So spring through summer we are watching for them while we mow and setting them gently back into the pond before a dog gets them, at least in the pond they have a shot at surviving bird raids.....

We (family together time - don't ya know) picked up pinecones, raked pine straw, layed mulch out under new trees, and had to stop when we ran out of yard bags. Unfortunately I can't compost all of that good stuff because we haven't started that yet - another "green thing" on my "to do" list. My next immediate goal is to research how to get rid of a huge swarm of ants that has discovered my garden bed over the winter and to erradicate them. I don't want pesticides on the veggies I give my family, nor do I want the ants to have a free picnic. Fortunately they only discovered one of the beds (as did a family of gecko/skink reptiles) and I will cross my fingers that they don't move into the next one. Any ideas out there? Ants in the south are pretty much impossible to exterminate.

The picture above is of our self-pollinating peach tree. It gave us 6 whole peaches last year, and is already blooming. We'll have to fight the squirrels for the 6 it hopefully gives us this year, but we are prepared. Food just tastes better when you grow it yourself. The pear trees on the other side of the house are blooming too, but those will only produce more when we get rid of the tall pine trees stealing their sunlight. All in all, a very productive day. Next weekend - the play area.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The First Day of Spring

The first day of spring is so full of expectations for me. One of my New Year's goals was to extend the life of my garden so that we could enjoy the best tasting vegetables for a lot longer. Well, I started some seeds for lettuce, and beans, etc. BUT while I was doing the single parent thing with Brian in Florida they didn't get watered as much, and they were left outside when it got QUITE cold - not good for seedlings, so I have purchased similar plants for the garden plot.

The goal is now to buy some more of these:
And then clean out these: (and maybe build a few more):

And then plant the veggies into the lovely turned dirt. Now I'm posting this because it is my goal, and if I make it public, it may just get completed. The weather is gorgeous, and our little dog Tate is loving the outdoors. I'm hoping to spend a lot of time out here this weekend. (It IS really as bright outside as it seems in the pictures).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Miserable weekend for futbol

Big Al in white over by the line ref, girl she knocked over in blue on the left.

I can't wait for Spring to finally get here. I don't mind watching soccer in the rain, but the rain and cold is just miserable. Big Al had a tournament this weekend. They lost, but played well - just playing bigger kids. The nice thing about this season is that we are only losing by one or two goals - compared to the 7 or 8 goals in the fall, so the girls are definitely getting better. This weekend, the fields were close together so the girls didn't have a bench to sit on, and it had been pouring rain in the early hours of the morning - now we were also playing in the early morning (at the field by 7:45), but the ground was drenched. We only had 1 sub, so while Big Al had her turn to wait, she was trying to be comfortable on cold wet ground on the soccer bags.
She played very aggressively, and at one point had a foul called on her for knocking down another girl. One of the other moms leaned over to me and said, "OH, she almost got her yellow card," but this ref was very good in warning the girls about their fouls instead of just handing out the card.
On a totally unrelated note, please check out Megan's blog over at http://www.jettothailand.blogspot.com/ . We hope to one day adopt a child, and Megan is taking a suitcase full of art supplies, and first aid type supplies over to Thailand when they go to get their new son - hopefully soon. This is an orphanage that does really good work with children, and has one that I still pray for because he STILL does not have a mommy. I wish I could be that mom, but it just isn't meant to be at the moment. If you are able to help her out send her an email, she gets right back to you. So, Megan, the Dawsons are sending you the things in the picture below, and hope to send you another box soon.

It's a date

Friday night was the BIG Father Daughter dance at our school. It was the first one ever at our school, and apparently I missed how BIG it was going to be. Two of my students missed my math test to get their hair and nails done - that sort of woke me up to how much excitement was building. Thursday night T-Rex informs me that she has nothing to wear and really needs a new dress. Now, in her defense, this girl has been growing like a weed, so while Cheesie and Blondie don't need a new dress, T-Rex is down to one that she has worn a million places. So Friday after school she and I went shopping (along with Big Al who needed a birthday present for a friend) and had to go to a bunch of stores because the only thing our right now are Easter dresses, but they weren't very "mature" looking, and since T-Rex doesn't want to look like a giant 5 year old we had to search for the appropriate dress. We finally found a cute top and cinderella type black skirt, and made it back to the house in time to get dressed.

Now, Brian had spent the whole week in Florida, and had pulled a muscle in his back. Add to this that the entire 22 years I've known him he has HATED to dance, and it proves how much he was going above and beyond for his girls. I dropped Big Al off at her party, and then had the WHOLE HOUSE to myself in the peace and quiet. Now, if I had been a fabulous teacher I would have gone to help out, but I was pooped from being the only parent to juggle everything all week, so I chose the silent house.

When the girls got back they were all very happy, and glad that their dad stepped up to dance with them. A wildly successful night by all accounts.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tiki Tiki Tembo No San Rembo ( or something like that)

Thursday night found us at the first grade PTO presentation. Kindergarten through 4th grades present a chorus type stage performance every few months for their parents. Of course that packs in the adults for a PTO meeting too (we have a very active PTO). Blondie was very excited about the performance. It was about a little boy with a long Chinese name that fell in a well, and how the village had to get him out. It was incredibly adorable, and I have to give all credit to the music teacher at our school because she works some serious magic with these kids.

They had costumes, and narrators, and actors, and scenery, etc. At one point Blondie, and the little boy next to her, shared a set of tiny finger cymbals - Blondie had one and the boy had the other.... I don't think it had anything to do with the disability because Blondie could have held them both and clinked them together, but I think they were trying to involve as many in the "chorus" as possible. Blondie was thrilled to be able to perform (she loves being in front of people) and had been practicing the songs and their movements the whole previous week (instead of her spelling list).

Brian was able to JUST make it (he was pulling in as we were pulling out - literally) - he had been in Florida on business since Sunday. He also had pulled a muscle in his back, so he was quite the perfect Dad to stand through this presentation with a bad back after driving for 7 hours. I'll post more about him being a perfect Dad tomorrow after he gets home from dancing with 3 chicks at a Father Daughter Dance - still with a bad back.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Moving lefty

After Blondie's surgery she named her left hand "sleepy hand" and constantly referred to it that way until the therapists looked at her and said, "that hand is NOT sleeping, look at it move." So she named it "lefty." Lefty continues to receive therapy 2 days a week and we're four years from surgery. I don't know if it sounds like I just can't accept her differences, but I truly do. Every time I start to think that she isn't getting any stronger she surprises us. Tonight, I posted on our yahoo group about how she is actually able to open and close her hand. She can, and I tried to get video tonight, but it isn't very pretty. I didn't clean her up and make her all shiny and cute - that's a milk mustache on her face, and she (and her clothes) REALLY enjoyed recess today, but at least you get the idea that hemi hands CAN move - sort of. Notice when she opens and closes it she sort of extends and pulls back her arm? She actually uses that as a strategy to retrain her brain to get that arm moving but she also KNOWS that when she needs to pick up something she moves her arm one way, and when she needs to let go she moves it the other. If SHE knows it then she is more likely to use it.

Another reflex sort of move that we accidently found was last week. Her OT was trying to get her to rotate that darn wrist. It wouldn't do it until Blondie happened to reach up and rub her nose (pollen allergies right now) - then that little wrist flipped right over like it was supposed to. Blondie started giggling because she thought it was funny. Now I hear, "hey mom, watch this..." and then she'll rub her nose. The same reflexive type movement happens when she rides her bike too. If we bandage her hand to the bars so it can help steer, then her ankle/knee rotates and her foot falls off the pedal - if we let her ride with one hand the foot isn't an issue. It has to do with rewiring the brain and it is ABSOLUTELY fascinating. I guess that's why we still go to therapy after all of these years. I certainly am realistic about what she may or may not be able to do, but if her brain wants to surprise me then I'm all for it!!! Thankfully I'm constantly surprised.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What a trooper

Big Al wasn't feeling well on Wednesday, and stayed home from school but seemed to rebound Wednesday night. I suspected "Mathtestitis" and booted her to school the next day. Around 2 she calls my classroom in tears because she has a 102 fever, and Brian was on a conference call and didn't pick up. I guess I was wrong - oops. So she (and later Blondie with a virus too) gave us a run for our money all Thursday night and into VERY EARLY Friday morning. Of course she stayed home Friday (she still has to make up that Math test).

Today she had a soccer game 2 HOURS AWAY. (Only one game, by the way, who schedules these things) and we thought she should try. Of course it was also like 80 degress today after a huge cold snap last week, so it was hot. When we got to the game we realized 4 other girls couldn't play because of injury, or the same fever issues. That meant we didn't have subs, AND we were playing two girls short. She still "plays up" so the other team was a year older. They actually played quite well, and held the score to 0-0 until an accidental handball penalty kick.

When she got off the field her face was BRIGHT RED, and now she is having some sort of allergic reaction/ heat rash thing with little spots all over. We also came home to Brian laid up with a pulled muscle in his back - guess I'm on solo duty this weekend.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's the little things

Having a child with a difference in their life can bring little things that just make a mom's heart twinge. Tonight, Blondie came running in really excited:

"Mom, I just saw a commercial that said if you had a child behind in school they could go there and get help!"

"Do you think you're behind in school?"

"I don't know."
Now, Blondie is not far behind her peers in school. A few weeks ago she took a test on her reading story and made an 85 or so. I was pleased, and asked her how it was given to her. She told me that her teacher read it out loud to the whole class and they answered the questions (Blondie is in first grade). So I thought that was how all of her tests would be given.... my mistake. The next week she came home with a 66. GULP. So I asked her if it was read to her, and she said no, she did it by herself. So I went to the teacher and asked if it was the comprehension of the story that was the issue, or the reading of the test. She didn't know either, but agreed to read the next test to her.... now I kind of balked at that, because I am also a teacher and know how difficult that can be to do sometimes. So we came up with the idea that Blondie would read the test to the teacher and when she found a word she needed help with the teacher would tell her what it was. Blondie's next test was a 98, and then 100. I felt like this accomodation was appropriate because it made Blondie responsible for learning to read everything still, but gave her help with words like "gnarled" that couldn't be sounded out easily.

So when Blondie came in to tell me about the commercial we talked about why she needed more practice in things to remember, and how that didn't mean she wasn't smart. Once she knows something she knows it well, but sometimes it only takes one practice, and some things take 20 repetitions. It just really made me sad that she is starting to see herself as struggling. Her teacher and I actually see her as in the middle somewhere so I guess we're going to have to work on that self-concept a lot more.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Double digits

This past Thursday T-Rex turned 10 years old. This is my child that at 10 days old was airlifted for emergency heart surgery. I guess she broke us in for all of the hospital visits to come. She is my introspective child. She loves to read about the Great Depression and the "old" ways of doing things. She is the one I climbed the pear tree for so she could have every single pear to learn how to can them. She watches over our vegetable garden, and collects American Girl dolls. She loves horses, cooking and archery, and wants to learn to fence. Her current topic of fascination is Anne Frank. She has always loved asian culture, and has a copy of the Declaration of Indepence framed on her wall. When she was 5 she carried a spy backpack every where she went in case there was crime that needed to be fought. She loves to read stories of survival (I suspect just in case she needs the skills) and is mourning the fact that Crusoe isn't on TV right now.

I suspect that one day she will find a way to combine all of her interests. Perhaps she will sit on her farm one day writing historical fiction waiting for her souffle to rise. Or maybe she'll come home from her job at the zoo, or some foreign assignment with the CIA and head for her barn for a quiet ride on her horse. This kid has a lot of possibilities.

Keep it up T-Rex, I love watching you grow!