Aug 29, 2010

Ice Cream

"Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal." Voltaire

Aug 27, 2010

Wonder Woman Strikes Agian

This post is for those of you who have or work with special needs children. All others will not understand. Since this is school season I will be using lots of visual aids.
As previously stated in The "S" Word Chronicles Wonder Woman got wind of the school bus situation:

Do I smell an IEP violation?.

This was on Wednesday. Because I was at work I could not follow up on the bus situation immediately. I didn't have to as Wonder Woman phoned me first. She informed me that she had instructed the school to amend the IEP which would be done today. (meaning Wednesday) and the handicapped school bus will be ordered. She gave me her cell phone number in case I had any problems. I thanked her. While I am thanking her I am thinking:

On Wednesday afternoon I pick The baby up from school. The teacher approached me stating that she will be amending the IEP today. Here's our conversation:
You will be amending the IEP today?
Teacher: Yes.
Me: You will be
amending the IEP today?
Teacher: Yes
Me: You will be amending the IEP
Teacher: Yes.
Me: What about the staffing?
Teacher: What staffing?
Me: The staffing needed to amend the IEP. You know the one that has always been necessary and always takes weeks to schedule because it takes weeks to get everyone who needs to be at the staffing gathered together in one place at one time?
The staffing that is never done at a parents convenience?
Crickets chirping

Me: Ok. Listen. If you can amend the IEP today I am going on record today as telling you that I will admire you even more than i admire you already.
Teacher. Thank you. (she is smiling and backing away.)

On Thursday afternoon I picked up the baby. The teacher sees me and signals me:

She presents me with the amended IEP for my signature.

Me: You amended the IEP!
Teacher: Yes.
Someone pinch me.

On my way out the aid mentions to me that the PE coach has worked up an adaptive program for The Baby and today they worked with bean bags.

Me: You worked with bean bags? You were there at PE?
Aid: Yes. I attend PE with her.
You attend PE with The Baby?
Aid: Yes.
Me: You
attend PE with The Baby?
Aid: Yes
Me: You attend PE with
The Baby?
Aid: Yes. I am her aid.

On the way out of the classroom the baby points to a poster. "What's that?" I hardly notice as I am in a state of shock. I feel like I have just been injected with a big IV bolus of Versed. The teacher hears The Baby. "What's that, Baby? Tomorrow when you come to school we will discuss this poster and I will tell you all about it."

I know I am not in Heaven because i would not be ankle deep in sewage if I were in Heaven. I do know this. however. The teacher, the aid and Wonder Woman are
members of an all female Amazonian tribe, one of which is pictured below, whose powers include super strength, super speed, stamina, and the ability to fly.

Do I smell an IEP violation?

Aug 26, 2010

Re: Can This Week Get Any Worse?

Yes, it can.

After dropping The Boy and The Baby off at school I got a distress call from Iris wanting to know if I was on my way home. I thought at first because The Baby's classroom was locked and the teacher was running very late that Iris was worried she wouldn't make it to her job on time. Boy, was I wrong.

"The toilet just exploded and the living room, dining room, hallway, kitchen and bedrooms are flooded."

It seems when they were blowing thousands of pounds of pressure through the pipes in the neighborhood there was a stoppage near my pipes so the thousands of pounds of pressure found an easier outlet. My toilet.

I believe sewer guys hard hat among the debris on my dining room table says it all.

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Aug 25, 2010

The "S" Word Chronicles

Warning: fasten your school bus harness. It's going to be a long, bumpy blog ride.
In ABC county, Florida The Student Assignment Plan dated December 18, 2007 and amended January 13, 2009 states the following:

"Starting with the 2009-10 school year, elementary students enrolled in ABC County schools will be assigned to their zoned school."

School Choice (our previous counties "
plan") has been replaced by a zoned school policy. This includes the exceptional student population. Schools that used to be well-versed and equipped to deal with the physically impaired / exceptional student populations no longer exist. Previously, because we had schools who dealt with this exceptional student/physically impaired student population parents generally chose these facilities over their zoned schools. Consequently many of our zoned schools managed to escape this segment of the special education population. Occasionally, if a special ed kid wandered into their zoned school as The Teenager did 12 years ago the race by school staff to transfer that student to a more appropriate "physically impaired" school was on. The transfer was accomplished quickly. With the new zoned school plan those days are over.

I will admit I believe in the "inclusion" and "least restrictive environment" theories that push to put all kids in their zoned schools. Unfortunately, theories don't work when you don't have adequate funding, staffing, appropriate equipment and support personal to implement them. The classroom can become a dangerous environment for a fragile child very quickly.

So...when I picked up The Baby yesterday I made a phone call to the Administrative office regarding my zoned school which is obviously one of those schools who has limited experience with the physically impaired population and asked what they were gong to do about adhering to The Baby's IEP which the teacher still had not seen. There was no adaptive equipment. No adaptive PE. She had only had about one ounce of the special formula I sent and was covered in food as she had no assistance with feeding. The aides were pulled from the classrooms on the first day of school leaving The Baby's teacher with 7 general education students and 7 special education students and no help. Another teacher was explaining to a group of us parents that they had a roofing crisis and a mold problem and the aides were pulled...I never got the entire story because at this point all i could hear was the ringing in my ears as my blood pressure was shooting to stroke level. Still, I'll admit aide-pulling wasn't a total shock. Those of us who have been around the exceptional student education block numerous times already know that just because they are legally obligated to have an aide in the classroom doesn't mean said aide isn't pulled out for lunchroom duty, bus duty, mold duty or whatever "duty" pings around in the minds of those "higher powers."

Yesterday, within 5 minutes of leaving my message with administration a lovely lady I will refer to as
Wonder Woman phoned me back. By 9:30 am today Wonder Woman had already been to The Baby's school delivering an adaptive chair, met with the teacher, the physical therapist and the PE coach, obtained authorization from her supervisor to purchase any and all equipment The Baby needed and told me she was delivering a Touch Talker in the morning to help facilitate the baby's ability to participate verbally. Wonder Woman bubbled on about my adorable child who was "so cute" (uh-oh) "and so eager to participate and alert and aware of her surroundings and she high fived me and was working with puzzles and..." When you run into someone this bubbly it's easy to tell if the bubbles are caused by genuine effervescent enthusiasm or by an accumulation of hot air gas. Wonder Woman was bubbly in the best possible way. I was speechless.

School Bus:
It did not show up on the first day.

On the second day it showed up well after school had already started. I had already taken the baby to school and gone on to work. The bus barely paused at our front door doing what law enforcement officers refer to as a "rolling stop" but Iris/Virus was waiting in the bushes with my list of questions and forced them to a complete stop.
Do you have the car seat on this bus? (I have had 2 foster children who have had buses show up with no car seat or harness even though it was listed on the IEP.)
Do you have the paper work so mom can designate who is permitted to take her off the bus, pertinent medical information and emergency contact?
Do you know The Baby cannot walk?
Keep in mind I specifically asked this question at the IEP meeting and specifically was told that they "would
have to pick her up." When the wheel chair arrived they would amend the IEP and order her a handicapped bus. Apparently the bus drivers and the IEP team aren't on the same page as the bus driver refused to pick her up stating they could not lift or carry her up and down the bus stairs.
Before I even had an opportunity between my work clients to tackle this latest glitch in "inclusion,"
however, Wonder Woman had already gotten wind of the bus issue and began the process to correct it. In the meantime I will be responsible for transporting The Baby to and from school. This is after I transport the Boy to the other end of ya-hootyville (as my mother would say) to his school. All this and working, too. What fun.
Some of you reading this may think I have, "bad luck" or am "overeacting." Some of my OI buddy moms reading this have already fainted.

True example: This week on the first day of school my friend Pam's teenage daughter put her wheelchair bound non-verbal brother on the school bus which came to their house. Bye Bye James! Have a good day at school! The problem, you ask? It was the wrong bus. They took James to a school in the opposite end of the county. Pam received a phone call later in the morning. I assume she had some kind of identification on James for them to finally figure this out.
And you want to know why I won't put The Baby on the bus until they have the appropriate paper work?

For the first time in the boys lifetime time I am not worried sick about his school placement. He is returning to the school he attended last year which is a gift from God. I did have a moment of panic when my phone rang, though and it was his teacher. Did The Boy tell you how the first day went today? Yes. And this is what he said:
1.) Caleb (not his real name) had a "major meltdown in the morning but got his act together and was fine the rest of the day."
2.) "There are 3 kids in the class with bad behavior problems."
3.) "Mrs. Teacher had trouble getting Master X's shoes on because he wasn't cooperating so we told her to try sitting on his head."
4.) "I was the best behaved kid in the class."
This was all confirmed to be true by Mrs. Teacher

For those of you who have inquired about Frank sadly he did not make it. Around the 4th day he seemed a little less lively and when I went to give him his midnight feeding he had already drifted off to squirrel heaven. Frank was a good squirrel and although I hate pink looking rat-like creatures I do miss little Frank. The Boy was sad. The Teenager, who couldn't stop gagging every time she looked at Frank, was relieved.

Sewage From The Bowels Of Hell:
When I came home from work today I noticed the truck 3 doors down....they're back.

Could this week get ANY worse?

A man interrupted my thoughts by yelling across 3 lawns, "when you go in your house can you flush your toilet 2 or 3 times?" I agreed to accommodate him but soon realized I was locked out. By the time I drove to Iris/Virus's second job, picked up the spare key, picked up The Teenager, picked up The Boy and got home sewer man was gone. I learned from my neighbor sewer man's real name was DAMIEN. A bad omen. And as predicted when I put a load of laundry in the washer demonic gurgling started coming out of the bathtub drain. The tub was filling up with sewage. The toilet was starting to overflow.

I locked the bathroom door from the inside and shut it informing the boy there would be no bath tonight as I broke out the bottled water to brush our teeth in the kitchen sink. Our tap water doesn't smell right and I have no intention of contracting Hepatitis A. The boy tells me he doesn't take a bath every night anyway. I correct him. You take a bath EVERY night. Well, not really he replies. "But I do get wet every night." Groan.

I am exhausted beyond belief. The Boy fell asleep immediately after his first day of school. His first nap in seven years. The Baby fell asleep sitting up in her high chair during her nebulizer treatment. Today one of my clients asked if I would attend her child's first IEP as an advocate. Oh God.

I think it's time for some family beach therapy this weekend. We need to sit, inhale the salt air, absorb the suns rays and relax. All the while praying, of course, that The Boy doesn't break his femur in the waves again.

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Aug 23, 2010

Here You Come Again

All I can think of as I leave The Baby's new school for "meet and greet day" is that Dolly Parton song. It keeps pinging round and round in my empty head as I'm maneuvering the baby's stroller through the swamp I had to park in. I had to park in the swamp even though I was 30 minutes early (Hooray for the great parent turnout! I was impressed.) because the new school has one handicap parking place and a car is parked in it with no handicap sticker. Oh wait a minute...what else is that pinging around in my head? I think it's called Deja Vu.

"Here you come again. Just when I'm about to make it work without you."

At the boys former school I nicely informed the principal that the four handicap parking spaces they had were filled with four cars none of which had handicapped tags. Day. After. Day. After. Day. After. Day. My son is in a wheel chair and we shouldn't have to park 1 block away. I informed her of this issue three times. She assured me she'd look into it. She didn't. Another parent, however, was not as nice as I was and screamed, threatened and called the police on a daily basis. And she waited...yes waited... for the people who parked in the spaces to confront them. DAWG! I mean you really have to admire this woman's tenacity and fearlessness! One of the people she confronted was a school employee who made the mistake of stating, "At least you know I work here." OMG. That was a b-i-g mistake. Honey, I ran.

I grew to love this parent and mourned her loss when the family moved back to Tennessee. Although, I do admit I didn't really want to be associated with her when she was confronting the parking perps yelling and pointing my way, "And her son is in a "f%&*#ing wheel chair you b&%!h."

So i get to today's Meet n' Greet soggy having parked in yoo hoo land. But I'm early. I meet the teacher who is a lovely woman and the class aide. I like them immediately. Have you had time to review her IEP I ask the teacher? IEP? No, I haven't even received a list of my assigned students yet from the office. School starts tomorrow. Help me, Jesus. The song starts playing in my head...

"Here you come again. Just when I'm about to make it work without you."

It's the law: In the United states public schools are required to develop an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for EVERY student with a disability who meets the federal and state requirements for special education to provide the child with a free appropriate public education (fape.)

Interpretation: This doesn't mean they ever look at the IEP again once it's developed. (fake)

Looking around the cute classroom I ask where is my daughters adaptive seating? She has cerebral palsy and is paralyzed on one side. It is clearly stated on the IEP that she will have "adaptive seating" in the classroom. The teacher thinks for a moment and then shows me what she could do for adaptive seating to insure The Baby's safety. Not bad for a spur of the moment adaptive seating idea. I like this woman's pa-zazzzzzzz.

How will you get her off the school bus and in to the classroom I ask? Although we have had our wheelchair evaluation the wheel chair is not ready yet. Even when she gets her new wheel chair the only way we will get a school bus to accommodate said wheel chair is to have another IEP meeting to amend the current IEP to reflect "handicapped bus services." Yes, I am not lyng to you people.To schedule an IEP meeting may take weeks. To find a wheel chair bus? 5 to 15 days. (More like 15 in my past experiences.) So. Back to ....She cannot walk and she is heavy. The IEP says you will have a wagon or something for transport because she isn't required to have a wheel chair? She doesn't look heavy the aide replies. I remind her she will have The Baby, The Baby's back pack and won't you have other pre-k students as well to shuffle from bus to classroom? That "dawning of terror" look that I've become so familiar with after 3 adopted special needs children and many, many special needs foster children starts to cloud the aides face. Their wagon isn't an option as it doesn't have sides and the Baby will keel over and fall right out on the cement because of her paralysis. I offer to leave them my adaptive stroller. The teacher informs me when a parent leaves equipment in a classroom it is automatically deemed "equipment for everyone" thus "releasing them from all liability if it is damaged. " I point to the adaptive stroller. "That cost $1,200.00." I say. The look on the teachers face informs me that the adaptive stroller is no longer an option. Around this time the teacher and the aide look at each other simultaneously and mouth those beloved words, "What about PE?" Ah, music to my ears. It's beginning to dawn on them. They are realizing that they are knee deep in IEP crap

At this point I couldn't resist smiling and telling them the Pre-K team who developed her IEP told me that you have a "great" PE program with a "really wonderful coach." Ironically, when the Pre-K team was mentioning this I was looking at their faces and realized something. More than a few of them didn't give this placement a snowballs chance in hell of working.

"Here you come again. Just when I'm about to make it work without you."

How many times have i been through this? Let me count the ways. There was a time when I would have been a basket case after a day like today. Whether foster child or adopted child it wouldn't matter. I loved them all the same.

Will this work? Maybe. Maybe not. Will it be the teachers fault if it doesn't work? Obviously not. The teacher and the aid couldn't hide their enthusiasm and compassion even if they tried. If anyone can adapt to my daughters special needs it will be them and not because there is an IEP looming over there heads. Or in this case not looming over their heads. When I think of the people i most admire in this world teachers are on the top of the list. Dear God...they are saints in my eyes.

I have many friends with special kids who would slap me for my attitude. Their motto's? Fight Fight. Fight. I have two friends who have sued the state they lived in and won. Now that's impressive. And I have to say this ...I'm not a complete idiot...if this was The Boy who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta type 3 I would never send him into a setting like this. He is far too fragile and would be dead the first week. With OI you really can't fly by the seat of your pants.

This is not The Boy. This is The Baby. She is fragile but not as fragile. It could be a wonderful placement for her having met the teacher and the aide. Or I could be delusional and it could be a disaster. I am thankful this is my last special child in the public school system because I am tired of realizing over and over that we really cannot accommodate every special child in this country irregardless of what you write down on a piece of paper because you are legally obligated to.

Am i a coward? Maybe. In the meantime, I'm singing. I'm singing while I'm shopping. You spite of my scrimping, saving, thrifting and buying one little outfit at a time for the baby's school clothes wardrobe it was all to no avail. This school has decided this year that they will all wear uniforms. I was informed of this today. The day before school begins. Just where do I find school uniforms in size 18 months?

"Here you come again. Just when I'm about to make it work without you."

Aug 20, 2010

Graduation Day For The Baby

Photo by The Boy

Thumbs up!

I'm out of here.

Parenthood is filled with many ironies. How can such a happy day be so terribly sad as well? Like this morning for instance. This morning The Baby graduated from the developmental pre-K program she's been attending. Oh, how I wish she could have stayed forever rather than transferring to public school. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. This is the same pre-K that The Teenager went to over 14 years ago. All four of The Teenager's teachers
are still there. That should tell you about the heart, soul and dedication found in this program and the people who make it so special. I will miss all of them terribly.

I told The Baby's teachers it was going to be sad not seeing them anymore since The Baby is the
omega child of our family. The teacher replies, "Isn't that what you said when the teenager graduated 14 years ago?" Yikes. And yikes, again.

Photo by The Boy

So here she sits waiting for her name to be called to receive her diploma and when it is, the physical therapist states to the good-sized crowd, "The Baby will be walking to receive her diploma." WHAT?

Break out the hankies and click to enlarge the next three shots paying careful attention to the looks on the faces of the adults. I am not exaggerating when I tell you
the crowd went wild. The applause and shouting from parents in the rows behind me was thunderous. I was blubbering like a baby wiping away gallons of tears with the one thing I could find. The paper towel I had just wiped the floor up with when The Boy spilled my coffee.

Each precious child was introduced with a laundry list of their strengths and gifts. Some were mother hens. Some fabulous dancers. Some helpers. And The Baby's gift?

Her smile. Of course.

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Aug 17, 2010

Sometimes A Photo Is Enough

Oh and no, people. This is not my cake. If I was an opiate lover my kids would have surely cannibalized me by now when I was stuporous.

Aug 16, 2010

Prone Standers and the End Of Summer Freedoms

Today is the official end of summer vacation. No, we still have 7 more glorious days until school begins but TODAY we begin implementing our school schedule. At least we attempt to begin implementing our school schedule. Mornings during school are brutal and that's putting it mildly. We need to get in to the groove of early to bed and early to rise now and not after the fact. Especially me who was up until 1:30 AM last night watching re-runs of Bones on Netflix.

I am nervous about sending the baby to a new school where she doesn't know any one. Remember how hard the first day of kindergarten was? Letting your 5 year old go off into the big, scary world? Imagine that child could not walk or talk well and was only three. The Baby will begin her new communication disorder pre-k class at a local elementary school while the boy returns to the school he attended last year. Yesterday we took advantage of tax free shopping, BOGO offers, and internet coupons finishing up shoe, uniform and clothing shopping. They are ready. I am not!

So today, the minute the baby got off the school bus we began our new schedule in her prone stander. I have to say I've been lax to say the least about her daily time in the prone stander primarily because Popi cleaned out the garage and buried it under a pile of other equipment that i did not feel like digging through. Motivated by guilt i recently resurrected it and cleaned it up. Before The Baby's physical therapist went on maternity leave we made the necessary adjustments and it is ready to rock n' roll. It has a nifty tray pictured above to do art activities and games on but the most fun is when big brother is "manning the wheel" so to speak. Their antics this afternoon reminded me of my favorite former Disney ride, Mr Toads Wild Ride.
Here we go!

This is where I'm screeching, "Stop sailing her across the room! " Obviously she's terrified.

Pondering what mischief they could get into out side.

Peas in a pod.

There is an irony to this particular prone stander. When we were putting it together after obtaining it from a local hospital's loaner program we found a name etched on the under side. The former owner was someone I knew! The last time I saw the original owner, a little girl with severe cerebral palsy, was when I was the nurse one summer at a Hippotherapy camp for special needs children. The therapist who ran the camp bribed asked me to replace the first nurse who "didn't work out." For my nursing skills she would give one of my foster children and the teenager free scholarships. How could I pass that up? We were talking $1,000.00.

It was stinking hot and nothing says pungent like horse poo in the summer. Besides being the camp nurse i also seemed to be the camp arts and crafts lady, snack lady, life guard, fly swatter, side walker and referee. One darling little girl sat next to me at snack time one day and informed me she liked me
much better than that other nurse who "never moved." I told her someone should have checked her pulse because the nurse was probably dead. At the end of camp while I was walking from one end of the pasture to the other my pants literally almost fell off. I had lost 6 lbs.

The original owner of the prone stander from horsey camp? She's a freshman in college now! Lord, I am getting old!

For all of you young readers I'm here to tell you that your mom is right. It's a short distance from the cradle to the crematorium. It only seems long when you're young.

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Aug 12, 2010

Dyslexia And Other Academic Horrors

After five children I have learned that my strength as a parent is not in the area of behavior and academics having minimal patience for either. I'm sure you are asking your self, what's left? My defect was beautifully illustrated today when The Boy was attempting to say a three word sentence and it was so convoluted I had to ask him to repeat himself three times. When I finally realized what he was saying it tickled me so badly i started hee hawing like a demented burro. I'd share those 3 words with you to further illustrate my point but I can't remember them. I seem to have short term memory retrieval issues and the 1960's are partially to blame for that defect. Laughing at your child's dyslexia is what I've been reduced to after 40 years of parenting. Besides the 1960's it is partially due to "the beach glass phenomenon." (my own diagnoses) Forty years ago I started out crystal clear and sharp enough to pierce with that cutting edge but over the years the stress has worn my edges down and I'm no longer transparent. I've become cloudy-dull and harmless. Pretty soon I'll be in someones fish tank as a decoration.

Around the age of five the boy began exhibiting signs of learning difficulties. I had been told since pre-k he was "fine" by his teachers. One teacher kept telling me he was the "typical medically complex child." What they really meant to say was that he was so cute they couldn't get past it long enough to asses him objectively. I was on red alert, however, having gone through this exact thing with the artist who was also so cute the teachers couldn't assess her objectively either. I found out at the end of the school year that she was never able to complete her assignments so they kept her in at recess every day and helped her complete them. A little late on the notice people. This happened to a friend of mine also who's concerns were brushed off all year long until the last day of kindergarten when the teacher informed her, "I don't think your daughter is ready for first grade." The problem with "cuteness" is that it is generally reserved for pre-K thru 1st grade. After that the reality of academic difficulty is no longer "cute."

For the artist, the solution was removing her from the private schools where she did not fit the cookie cutter mold and putting her in public school where she was in advanced classes and French 3 by 8th grade. Her artistic giftings were simultaneously pursued with a vengeance because that was where her heart was. After turning down acceptance from Boston Conservatory she ended up graduating from The University Of The Arts In Philadelphia and moving to NYC two months later to pursue dance.

The Artist
Photo by Lois Greenfield

It has never been an easy academic road for any of them. The Genius was so intelligent that her IQ was generally a good 50 points higher than most of her teachers and honey she knew it. This did not always go well with the teachers as illustrated by the incident where she ran in to one 10 years later and when he recognized her, he gave her the finger. Couple this with the caustic wit of a high paid talk show host and I was getting phone calls from her high school VP weekly. I love that man to this day because without fail he would always begin his conversation with, "The Genius is a good girl but..." Always reinforcing her goodness had a lasting impression on me. I ran into him years later when he accepted a position at the Artist's high school. I asked him if he remembered The Genius. "Oh! The Genius!" he laughed. " I had a hard time keeping up with The Genius!" I will always love you Mr. Dixon. Enjoy your well deserved retirement. XXXOOO

The Genius went to college later in life and holds a degree in Criminology. She remains one of the funniest people I have ever met making Ellen sound like the Pope.

The solution for The Boy has been more difficult due to the severe dylexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia diagnosed to the tune of $870.00 3 years ago. 40% of dyslexics also suffer from ADHD. Add pre-natal street drug exposure and medical complexities causing severe pain and you have a casserole-for-a- brain with so many ingredients it's hard to identity the main dish. Where to start? I tried to homeschool one year but when he gnawed through the noise canceling headphones and computer mouse wires like a rabid ferret I knew this wasn't going to work.

Here is a snippet of one of the 1,000 interruptions while I am attempting to type this:

SPP: (working on the computer) I have asked you 1,000 times to not interrupt me when I am on the computer or on the phone.
The Boy: But it's not ringing.
SPP: I am on the computer not the phone.
The boy: Oh.

I have two more children somewhere in this house with academic and behavioral issues that would bring George Foreman, (one of the most feared heavy weight boxers in the world prior to his grilling days) to his knees without one blow. Maybe another time. Right now I have to take The Baby in to the pediatrician as we have lost the 3 day viral battle. At breakfast she was blowing prize winning pea soup colored bubbles out of her nose to the chanting of The Boy's,"Pop it! Pop it! Top Pit! Pot Tip!" Our family's version of "dinner theater."

For more famous people with the gift of dyslexia go here

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Aug 11, 2010

Time to Lug Out The Portable Loo

Last months pay check was $500.00 less than it should be. I took one day off for "vacation" when the artist came down. And then there are always the cancellations. I work with a population that is very medically complex. They have numerous medical appointments, many emergent situations and lots of illness. I understand completely. I also missed a day due to yet another flat tire which ended up costing me $300.00 as there wasn't enough tread to patch and "FYI, "you actually have 3 bad tires." After all of this and 3 new tires later Popi calls me before i leave for work this morning to tell me I need to get the car back to Tire Commonwealth as two of them are very low. I've been up all night with the baby who has a virus and high temp. I do not want to hear this. I stick my fingers in my la la la la..... and drive to the other side of the city where my first client is.

Actually my first client is in a galaxy far away at an amusement park so I made arrangements last night with the remainder of my clients to move them up one hour. All graciously agreed. I arrive at 9:00 am for our pre-arranged session at the day care. No baby. Mee Ma (not the real name) took the baby somewhere else but neither day care person or Mee Ma thought about calling me. Yes, I had just spoken to them 12 hours ago. "I'll sign your paper for you," says the gracious day care person. I explained to her that I cannot charge for my services if I don't actually work with a client. Two months ago the hospital I contract out with quit reimbursing for client no shows so my trip to the other side of the city is without gas reimbursement as well.

It's too early to go to my next client who is generally asleep when I get there at the usual time of 12:30 and I have no cell phone to call them anyway as I discovered this morning that i had left it behind earlier this week at another clients... on the other side of the city. A moot point anyway as suddenly and unexpectedly I get horrific diarrhea. There are few bathrooms in the hood. My house is on the other side of the city in the general vicinity of the cell phone but i remember something terrible. Even if I make it home there is always
No tire de la cadena del inodoro! At this time I'm 99% sure I just crapped my pants.

I speed to a distant pharmacy in the rain on my floppy tires and mow down any blue haired lady that gets in my way while I'm doing an accelerated "sting ray shuffle" to the pharmacy bathroom located at the very back of the store. I notice pee all over the bathroom floor. I have a very strong stomach but not when it comes to public restrooms. Public restrooms induce a panic in me that intravenous Valium wouldn't touch. I'd rather be back in Haiti pooping in an outhouse crawling with tarantulas than in a public USA restroom. There's just something about that faux cleanliness that reeks of disease. The pee on the floor only heightens my anxiety but I'm desperate. I plop down quickly unable to swathe the toilet seat in paper, relieved that I did not poop my pants but the relief is short lived. Someone has peed all over the toilet seat as well as the floor. OMG!

Then I remember I am unable to even shower when i get home because of
No tire de la cadena del inodoro!! I spend the next 5 minutes washing my butt off with tp and hand soap.

At this juncture I give up. Before I drive home to use my home phone to cancel the remaining client I stop at the grocery store. As the lady is bagging my hamburger and chicken I notice she is putting them in different PLASTIC bags. I inform her they can go in the same bag. She seems a little snippy when she explains that most people don't want their raw chicken in with anything else even their raw hamburger. Sweetheart. Sweetheart. Sweetheart. At this point if i ended up with e-coli AND salmonella it couldn't be any worse than what my butt has been through already today. I would consider it a mercy killing.

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Aug 10, 2010

No tire de la cadena del inodoro

Phot0 by J Clutter

Today I come home from work and I have a lovely sign on my door that states, " In the next few days, we will be in the neighborhood reconstructing certain sewer pipes in need of repair." It goes on to say that our sewer service connection will be temporarily sealed off and our cooperation is needed:
1.) Do not wash clothes or dishes (Are you serious? We have so much laundry in this house that we rarely if ever are able to visualize our living room sofa. The clothes line, dryer and washer are NEVER...repeat NEVER empty.)
2.) Do not take showers or baths ( I can't even go here with the pee sheets and pee pajamas and pee people every morning. (No, not me. I only pee my pants when I cough, sneeze, drink too much coffee, water, tea, soda, pick up anything weighing over 20 lbs, or laugh too hard.)
3.) Do not flush toilets. No tire de la cadena del inodoro. Even the boy asks, "Mom do we just let the poo pile up all day?" Gag.
4.) Turn off sump pumps which are connected to the sewer service. Or in Spanish which sounds so much more poetic, " Apague las bombas que estan conectadas al servico de drenaje." What is a sump pump but more importantly do I have one?

I am assuming that the old company that blew the neighborhood up a few years back without notice lost their contract. Now we have an obviously more professional company who is warning us in writing that they are about to blow our neighborhood up. You think I'm kidding?

I happened to be home on that fateful day. The teen just got off of the toilet when it began to make foreboding noises. I assumed she had plugged it up as she does on a fairly routine basis and reached for the plunger. Thank God I moved my face just in time as i barely avoided the Vesuvius like-toilet eruption. Fortunately, I am quite good in emergency situations dealing with bodily waste and reacted quickly. I flung open the bathroom window for ventilation, slammed the toilet seat down and bathroom door shut and wedged a towel beneath the door frame. Even so the smell of methane gas was nearly overpowering. Our physical therapist was here for one of the kids therapy sessions and I can still picture the look on her face and the tears running down her cheeks. Sorry, Cheryl.

Here's a fun fact: I have worked pediatrics so long I can name the intestinal bacteria a pediatric client is suffering from simply through fart identification. I should be on a game show. "Yes! I can name that fart in two toots! That fart is definitely a clostridium difficile fart and not rotavirus, Alex." Can you imagine the olfactory processing overload what with an entire neighborhoods' sewer-sludge flowing through my house? And God bless my neighbors who were NOT at home during the eruption. Their bathroom did not fare too well as "lava and ash" were all over the walls if you get my drift.

I was thankful that the teenager was not on the volcanic throne when it erupted. What counselor specializes in that kind of trauma therapy?

Brace yourselves, however for the most horrifying aspect of the explosion. There was an un-sinkable turd in our toilet. What's so bad about that you ask after all we had been through? I'm glad you asked. It wasn't our turd. Whoever owned it must have been eating styrofoam because that stinking thing wouldn't flush for hours.

I sit here reading the instructions trying hard to be thankful in spite of the past. Trying to be grateful for the hours and days and years we do have flush toilets. Thankful for the "break" from laundry and dishes. Thankful that I have to work tomorrow. Then i notice this on the bottom of the placard:

"We have enjoyed being your neighbor - if only for a day."

Yeah, right. Like I believe that one. Here...pull my finger.

Aug 8, 2010

Finding Frank

Frank. Day One

Yesterday the boy came in with yet another critter. Extremely excited, "Look what I found! Look what I found!" I expected a flower, or a creepy bug. I was totally shocked when he presented Frank. The boy had named him.

When I was 15 I had a mouse named Zsa Zsa. I came home late one night and found Zsa Zsa eating her babies. There she sat with a baby between her paws snacking on it's head. From that moment on any pink, creepy thing with a bald tail has totally grossed me out to the point of swooning therefore, I was not excited to see Frank. I was shocked, however, at how lively Frank was. Wiggle. Wiggle. Wiggle. Squeak. Squeak Squeak. The only thing Frank has going for him at this point was his tenacity.

The boy showed me where he found Frank near the play area rock climbing wall. Sure enough, there is a huge nest about 1 1/2 stories up in a big old Live Oak. How Frank survived the fall I'll never know. He had a tiny lump on his head with a little abraded area. Now I not only have this pink rat looking thing, I have a pink rat looking thing with a concussion. I told the boy he should probably put it back where he found it and then he informed me there was a big black racer lurking for a Frank meal. The boy chased the snake away. I'm all for the circle of life but dawg! The thought of Frank being swallowed whole by a black racer made me even more nauseous.

Oh, ok we'll keep Frank only because there are no other options but he will not survive. He had a bad fall. He's too little to be separated from his mommy. The usual critter speech falling on deaf ears. I give it my best effort and got on the Internet researching care of orphaned squirrels. Being a medical family I had just about everything I needed on hand including the Peidaltye recommended for the first few feeds.
I can't believe I am feeding this alien rat looking thing at 1 AM holding him upright to prevent aspiration.

No one was more surprised than me when I saw this this morning:

Frank. Day two.

Frank is still alive and kicking. I'll be a Monkey's Uncle. Or in this case, a Squirrels' nurse maid. Unfortunately, now we have an additional problem. Somehow from the puddle pad he is sleeping on he developed a fiber tourniquet around his tail tip. At 7 am I am attempting to cut way the fine fibers but the tail tip does not look good. Frank eats heartily in spite of it all. Wiggle. Wiggle. Squeak. Squeak. Before i put him back to bed in the garage I washed his little boo boo head and tail with a q-tip. Every time I feed him I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the Princess Bride:

Valerie: "Bye Bye boys!"
Miracle Max:
"Have fun storming the castle!"
"Think it'll work?"
Miracle Max:
"It'll take a miracle."

I'm with Max.

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Aug 6, 2010

Savoring the Sunset

Tonight the family and a feathered friend got together to watch the sun go down.
Can you tell we are on the Gulf coast where the sand looks like snow?

I love the progression of the colors from steel gray

to pretty pastels

and then:

brilliant oranges and yellows

Our friend got hungry and wandered off.
Good night friend.
Good night sun.
Good night everyone!
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Aug 5, 2010

Trash Talkin'

Oscar the Grouch had the correct idea. It's time to love your trash.

This week as I was preparing the baby's organic oatmeal feeling all earth motherish it suddenly occurs to me as I throw away the individual wax paper packet one portion comes in, "what am I doing?" Those were not the exact words running through my brain but this blog is g-rated so I won't go there. I've been disgusted with the amount of trash my family generates for a long time now and I've finally decided it's time to embrace my trash and quit ignoring it. I can honestly say I am busier than most people. I work. I have 3 special needs kids. I am single. I'm old. I'm tired. Yada yada yada. So, don't go all,
"easy for you to accomplish you don't have anything better to do" on me. That does not apply to my life.

We live in a society that loves to be frightened. Horror is one of the top grossing genres for Hollywood generating millions on a yearly basis. How about you save the price of a movie ticket and let me scare you for free with two simple facts about trash:

1.) The average person generates 4.6 pounds of trash daily. Since the 1950's we have used more resources than any other generation before us.

2.) Americans total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the earth six times and reach halfway to the moon.
( Statistics from Welcome To Dump and Run, Inc)

I'll stop there. I could go on and on to the moon like those garbage trucks about how we are destroying our planet one Styrofoam cup at a time, polluting our water table with landfills, poisoning our atmosphere with incinerated garbage but I'm confident enough in your intelligence to do your own research and scare yourselves.

What can my family do? We don't have curbside recycling in our city. We live in the tropics. We have roaches. I'm too busy to drive to the dump to recycle. I work. I'm single. I'm old. I'm tired. We don't have a have a local farmers market. My kids are making me insane.

Knowing how complicated my life is I've decided to start simple.

Fact: 1/3 of our garbage is from "packaging.
- Buy from a source that sells bulk. I'm going to the health food store or bulk food warehouse and pouring oatmeal in a paper bag from now on. And sunflower seeds. And flour and whatever else I use a lot of that can be poured in a bag.
-Don't forget your cloth bags when your shop. Keep them in the car. Our local Hospice Thrift shop and many other establishments have stopped providing bags for customers already. I know this about Hospice because I was behind a women who cursed the cashier out when they could not provide her with a plastic bag. Good for them.
-buy fruit and vegies at a farmers market or local stand that does not package with Styrofoam and plastic wrap. It's healthier anyway.

Fact: It takes 700 years for a plastic bottle to decompose in a landfill.
-If you have the choice between cream cheese in a cardboard container or cream cheese in a plastic tub choose cardboard. Ditto on all other choices.
-Now go set up your recycling area in your garage,on the back porch, laundry room, wherever. Popi just gave us a bunch of discarded bins with lids that we are going to utilize. I shouldn't have to say this but rinse before you re-cycle. I once had a friend who has an extremely high IQ tell me the smell of spoiled milk was too much for her when she attempted to re-cycle milk containers. Did you rinse them first before you put them in your 120 degree garage or did your just erect little neon blinking signs advertising your roach condo's?
- As Paul Blart would say: "Here's a fun fact:" Be kind to Hershey's because they are getting a bad " wrap" in the green movement and put those kiss wrappers in with your re-cycled cans. Approximately 20,000,000 Kiss wrappers (which are aluminum) are generated every day. You didn't really think I was going to tell you to give up chocolate? Do you think I am crazy? Chocolate to me is like Southern Comfort was to Janis. Enough said.
Photo: Jim Marshall

-Familiarize yourself with more fun facts about re-cycling paper, plastic, glass and aluminum here.

Fact: The air inside the typical home is on average 2-5 times more polluted than outside air—and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated. Household cleaners and pesticides account for the majority of this pollution according to Worldwatch Institute.
-Make your own
safer Home Made Laundry Detergent
-Use vinegar to mop, clean glass surfaces, use as a fabric softener, etc. It's cheap, safe and easy. Go HERE for everything you ever wanted to know about vinegar but were afraid to ask. And while you are at it use a cloth rag that can be thrown in the washer, not a paper towel. It takes one month for one paper towels to decompose.

This is where our family will begin. We have already been implementing some of the above things but will add some new things and do the old with renewed commitment. I'll let you know how we succeed. Having said all of the above I will confess I recently watched the documentary, No Impact Man, and I'm not willing to give up toilet paper. I also realize our overly commercial, greedy society has made it impossible to do away with all packaging. For instance, as a mom of children who have medical equipment delivered monthly to my house I can't do a blasted thing about the plastic packaging. What I can do though is take those huge cardboard boxes to the re-cycling center after the kids have played in them and colored on them. Yes, it's not as convenient as putting them to the curb for local trash pick up but our "convenience" mentality is killing us. One cardboard box at a time.

Let me know what you are doing now and one thing that you will attempt to do in the future. For everyone who writes with one new commitment I will send you a hand crafted, book mark or fridge magnet (your choice) made from vintage rescued jewelry and/or vintage buttons. Include your favorite colors in your comment and if you are Rain Man "sparkly" or subdued in you taste. Have fun!

I can't wait to hear what new thing you will be trying!
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Aug 3, 2010

Missing Mom

My mom in 1944

My 90 year old dad recently decided he didn't like his apartment complex anymore because it was a "slum." The "slum" is one of the nicer complexes around town.

This all began almost immediately after my mom died several years ago. In his grief, he decided to sell his home and move to an apartment far too quickly. The Genius, The Artist, Popi and I had a family pow wow to attempt to present the pros and cons of apartment life to a man who is very set in his ways wanting everything done exactly the way he thinks it should be done and exactly when he thinks it should be done. As a seasoned veteran of apartment life I explained to Popi that he would never be happy with the maintenance crew in an apartment complex. He nodded with that glazed over look that people get when you know they are not listening to you, however, the pow wow seemed to go well. I commented to the Genius that it seemed to go well. She informed me it always seems to go well in discussions with Popi and then the next day he does exactly what he had originally planned on doing anyway. The Genius was, of course, correct and shortly after our pow wow Popi sold his home and moved to "the slum."

The plus side of all of this of course is that we never knew he was unhappy in "the slum" because he would NEVER admit we were correct in our initial reservations about his move prompted by grief. By the time I had figured out he had been creating havoc in the "slum " office and sending dozens of photos of "shoddy" work to the corporate "slum " offices he was already bailing out. I'm surprised they didn't give him a "moving out incentive." This week he moved to a new complex directly next door to the 'slum" complex.

I've been over a few times to help but grow terribly weary watching the severe OCD in action. No shelf is at it's proper height. The movers "ruined" his beds and he had to spend 24 hours "retro-fitting" them. I listened to stories of "idiots" who didn't do this project correctly or didn't do that project correctly. Interestingly enough he is generally the person responsible for the project but has forgotten this, laying the blame somewhere else. He had a big gash on his head from a shelf that was not properly installed in the new apartment. He sawed the edge off. I figure by the time he is 92 he'll have everything "adjusted" to his liking. Or not. For the first time since my moms death he verbalized that he misses her.

I once asked my neighbor Brasilia how in the world i could possibly show honor to a dad who has been difficult to put it mildly. Brasilia is not accustomed to hiding emotions and her face became immediately and sincerely puzzled. " What are you talking about?" she asked. "Most people don't even speak to parents much less difficult than Popi. You honor him daily by always being there for him."

I left today with mixed emotions and drove to the Weigh n' Pay which conveniently happens to be across the street from the new non-slum dwelling. I was in desperate need of thrift therapy.

In the parking lot i ran into one of my favorite characters who is employed by the Weigh n' Pay. Leo (not his real name) is a developmentally disabled adult who likes hats. The first time I met him he had on a black granny, gold lamay, giant church hat with a big gold rose on the brim. We've been friends ever since I told him how much i loved his hat. Recently, he had a toddlers Thomas the Tank Engine ball cap perched on his too big head. He informed me he wore it "because I knew you liked it." Several times I've witnessed Leo having seizures on the job and being lovingly tucked into an office sofa by the supervisor. "He'll be ok." she always assures me.

Today Leo is in the parking lot gathering carts when I arrive. No hat? "Where is your hat?" He gives me a withering look and replies, "i can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair."

And then it starts. I can't wear no hat i got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair.

Um, Leo? I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair. I can't wear no hat I got grease in my hair.

I realize most folks would walk away at this point but not me. Short of knocking him upside his hat-less head like you do a malfunctioning CD player I tried everything I could think of to re-route his misfiring neurons. I have no idea why I finally asked him what kind of grease he used but those turned out to be the magic words. "I don't know" he replies, " but it's pink grease." Is it PINK? (I am an avid Pink fan generally buying it by the gallon) "Yeah! That's it! It's called PINK! " Hooray! Mission accomplished! Neurons back in sync. As I was waving goodbye Leo assured me, "Next time I see you I'll wear a hat for you." I look forward to it, Leo.

Our command is this: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Paul sums it up in Romans 12. "...Outdo one another in showing honor..."

You are so right, Paul but it isn't easy. You are so right, Paul but it isn't easy. You are so right, Paul but it isn't easy. You are so right, Paul but it isn't easy. You are so right, Paul but it isn't easy.

Aug 1, 2010

Summer Time And The Living Isn't Exactly Easy But...

People keep asking me what summer camp my children are going to this year. I'm going out on a limb here to clarify my feelings regarding summer camp. I hate summer camp. In my day there was no such thing as summer camp unless you were dripping with money. I grew up in a Catholic Irish/French/Italian neighborhood where no one had money. Just lots of kids and Mary statues in the front yard. Most mothers didn't work in the 50's and 60's and for those of us who had working mothers the rest of the neighbors pitched in and made sure we didn't burn our houses down. Occasionally, they'd toss us a bologna sandwich.

We did have a one week Catholic camp that I went to once at the age of 7. I flunked my canoe test so I never even set one foot in the alligator infested lake but i did learn all about "making out." Our teen cabin counselor snuck out nightly behind a tree to meet up with a counselor from the boys Catholic camp over yonder and we would all peek out of the screened door, watch and giggle. The highlight of this camp was winning a glow in the dark rosary when I was presented with the "most religions camper" award at the end of the week. I wish I still had that rosary.

The Genius and the Artist endured years of summer camps and vacation bible schools since I was a single working mom and in the 80's
latchkey was a dirty word and not the norm. I still carry the guilt as do most single working moms. Sorry girls.

The boy went to summer camp once and re-broke his femur during origami week. It took 1 1/2 years to heal. Cursed Japanese paper folding camp.

I've been trying to get the teenager into a special needs summer camp since she was 6. That was 11 years ago. They've never had an opening. I think it's kind of like getting a ticket for a rock concert. I probably have to go camp out at the rec center over night or something to get her on the list. If one more mom of a special needs kid comes up to me and tells me their child has been going to this camp since they were born I might just hurt them. Beware.

At my age I've finally resolved the summer issue and the guilt that is heaped upon our mom heads by a society who has gone "entertain your kids" insane. And for the first time in a long time I am actually enjoying summer. I haven't knelt by my bedside once this summer asking God to make it all go away and have the school district decide to start school early this year.

It's fun watching them be kids. Getting tan, eating watermelon, catching bugs, sleeping late. Yesterday, for instance the boy had his guy friends from da hood over for a swim, cookout and marshmallow roast. After the boys wrecked my house
left we all cuddled up and watched Anne Of Green Gables which I got free from freecycle. I still have the barbecue potato chip crumbs in my bed. It really was fun!

The bottom line is this...and it's the truth and nothing but the truth. If your child spends the summer at home or they go to a camp in the Swiss alps where they para sailed with The Rock and the entire cast of i Carly when your child's teacher asks them what they did this summer the answer will always be the same. "Nothing."
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