The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Tuesday, December 6, 2011]

My Girl

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I went to visit Morgan Thanksgiving weekend. A few days after I returned home, I opened my camera app to find about two dozen pictures of Morgie! I am attaching a few of her stunning self portraits.

[Sunday, November 6, 2011]

Being Happy Now

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Today's Relief Society lesson was on President Uchtdorf's forget-me-not talk. One of the things that was discussed was the importance of being happy now. I thought back about seven years, when I learned that lesson. I cried as I shared what I learned with Laynie--one of those interpreter sidebars. ;)

For four years, I was a nanny for the best child on earth: Morgan. For the last year, I also took care of the sweetest, easiest baby: Carson. I loved them dearly. (Still do.) However, I was getting rather burned out. Young mothers know this feeling. Breaking up fights, teaching kindness, settings limits--raising kids really takes it out of you. The days seem to drag, one turning into the next in a blur of hungry tummies and poopy bottoms.

I worked all day, and I hid down in my little apartment in the evenings. Spending your days with a four-year-old and a one-year-old can be exhausting.

And then I went back to school to finish my education.

Going back to school was the right decision, but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected. That first semester, I cried so often for the children I had left behind. Two thousand miles away! I remember sitting in the temple one time, just sobbing. I was really missing "my" children that day. Sometimes it seemed physically painful to be apart from them. I realized that I had made a huge mistake.


When Morgan would want to be with me in the evening, her parents would tell her, no, Annie needs to rest. When Carson would try to get through the gate to come downstairs, his parents would stop him. I appreciated their thoughtfulness.

I realized that I had not made the most of my time with the children. Walking around the BYU campus, sitting in class, or in my room at my mother's house, Morgan was often on my mind. I would have given anything to have an hour with her.


I had gone back to school in January, and I went back in April to take care of Morgan and Carson again. I stayed for the summer and enjoyed my time there so much. And me tell you, I made the most of the time with them. When Morgan's parents began to tell her no, it is Annie's rest time, I would tell them to let her come to me. I allowed the kids unrestricted access to me.

That summer was one of the best times in my life. I had learned the secret of happiness: enjoy was you have. Enjoy the people and places for what they are. Do not spend your time thinking about tomorrow or wishing things were different.

Nothing had changed about the children. The tummies were just as hungry, the bottoms were just as poopy, and the fights were just as frequent. But somehow the days did not seem so long. Or I enjoyed their length. Despite the challenges, I enjoyed every day.

And that is how I learned to be happy now.

[Friday, October 28, 2011]

Slow But Steady

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I hope she'll win the race!

Laynie continues to make very slow but steady progress with her listening skills. Apparently she rocked the difficult word list she has been working on for the last 4-5 weeks in therapy; she got every word correctly on the first try. Wow!

Even bigger wow, upon arriving on the first floor of the tower building and leaving the elevator, she wondered, "Was the last word that elevator said 'lobby'?" That elevator says which floor you are on, and on the first floor, it says, "This is the first floor and main lobby."

[Sunday, October 9, 2011]

Great Sabbath Morning!

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I had a fantastic time at church today. My dear friend, Cindy, came to see Laynie speak and me sing (as part of an octet... not a solo), and it was so fun having her there.

And Laynie did an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G job with her talk. Her topic was faith, hope, and charity; she ended up focusing mostly on hope. Truly wonderful.

[Wednesday, September 28, 2011]

She Understood!

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On Sunday, my home teacher was here. We talked for a long time, and then he was ready to share the message. He asked if Laynie would like to come downstairs and hear it. She was upstairs working on her talk, which she will give the week after General Conference. I said that I thought Laynie would love that.

I yelled, "Laynie!"

Nothing. But I knew that she was still, listening.

I yelled again, "Laynie!"

She called back, "What?"

I said, "Come down!"

She came downstairs.

I figured that she had just understood from context that I must want to see her, so she should come downstairs. But I was wrong! After the bishop left, I told Laynie I was impressed that she had heard her name, that she knew I wasn't just talking to the bishop. She said, "Yeah, I heard you say, 'Laynie, come down.'"

I said yes, but you could have gotten that from context. She replied that I could have said, "I'm finished," or "He's gone." Good point. But she knew the exact words that I had said. She said she just heard it. What a good listener.

They're Worth It

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Sometimes the days feel so long. Kids to see, notes to write, meetings to attend, emails to read, parents to pacify... It's impossible to get it all done. Today I had a meeting and was late seeing all my Head Start students. I went to the first center and found that my kids were doing fine. Except for one--the teacher wanted to tell me her concerns about him. Darn, I thought he was going to be an easy one. 

I ran home to grab a quick lunch (nice that both Head Start centers are about 5 minutes from my home) and did not want to go back out. Of course, I had to. I went to the other Head Start center.

Went to the first class. My boy was doing great! Needed some help to use words not his hands to solve problems.. but he's three. And learning English: he speaks another language at home. I went to the other classroom to see my twins. 

I had worked with them last year, when they weren't really talking or forming relationships with people. They used to sit together, stoney expressions on their little faces. It was like pulling teeth to get them to play with other kids, and they used to torture the special educator by refusing to look at her or talk to her.

Today they jumped up, waving and begging me to sit with them. One of them ran over to hug me. She was stuck to me like glue the whole time I was there--holding my hand, wanting to hold both of my hands. When we sat down to pop bubble wrap (preschool rocks), she leaned in, trying to get my to put my arm around her.

The twins and I chatted together while we popped our bubbles. They were using complete sentences, asking questions, making comments, and generally behaving like typical four-year-olds. We danced together during music time, making a big circle with the other girls who wanted to partake of our awesomeness.

The class went outside to play. I wrote my notes to the twins' mom, letting her know how they did today. I walked by the playground to leave, yelling goodbye to the twins. The one ran to me full barrel and hugged my legs so that I couldn't walk. She looked at me and pleaded, "Don't go! Don't go!"

We all know the pay is crappy; I'm on a teacher's salary. But the real pay is in love. Awww....

[Tuesday, September 27, 2011]

Bad Blogger

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Yes, yes, I'm a very bad blogger. Well, I've been busy.

I'm looking forward to General Conference. So, so much. Which reminds me, I need to upgrade my Fios package to include BYU TV...

Ugh, it's going to cost $10/mo for a while, then $20/mo. I already pay so much for Verizon. I'll have to think about it. Conference is online with ASL interpretation or in the stake center with closed captions. Laynie likes closed captions better... would be nice to have it at home. I'm sure we could go to someone's house, but ours is best. Besides, I'm not sure everyone likes to watch all the sessions, like I do. Saturday Conference is the best!

Work is good. I feel like I'm always catching up, but I love all my kids.

Church is GREAT. Have I said that I love my ward?

I guess I don't have much to say. That's probably why I haven't blogged.

[Friday, September 16, 2011]

Did I Mention That I Love My Ward?

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I love my ward! Tonight was ward temple night, and I really enjoyed seeing people that I know. Laynie and I sat with our cute little RS Pres (Hi Cari!), and she signed with Laynie. Yes, the ward is learning to sign. It's so neat when several people say hi to Laynie and sign some basics with her.

One sister came up to Laynie after the session and started signing.... and she hasn't even gone to the class Laynie began two weeks ago! I wonder how she learned. How brave of her to come up and start signing when she doesn't know very much.

Now I look forward to going to church instead of [I hate to admit] kind of dreading it.

[Sunday, September 11, 2011]

Obligatory 9/11 Post

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Everyone asks, "Where were you?" So I'll tell mine.

I was in bed, asleep. I was living in New York, working two jobs, as a retail junior manager and a nanny. On September 11, 2001, I had the day off from both jobs.

I was planning to head in to Manhattan that day, but I ended up sleeping in. I'm glad I didn't go there! I wouldn't have been hurt, because I would have been in midtown.. But I would have been stuck on the island. They closed the bridges and tunnels, I think for a few days.

So I was peacefully sleeping when my cell phone rang. It was my mom, panicking a little and relieved to have reached me. Apparently phone circuits were full; cellular networks were overloaded. Mom told me to turn on the TV. So I watched it all unfold on TV, just like everyone else did.

By the time my mom called me, both towers had already been struck. Of course, the news replayed the impact on the second tower repeatedly. Then the towers fell, one after the other. What was happening in DC seemed minor compared with that. It was freaky that things were happening in more than one place, and I wondered, along with everyone else, where would be next.

People in New York were concerned about other parts of the state. Large malls. Tourist spots.

There were several planes unaccounted for or not responding to the tower. That made everyone nervous for a while.

So that's it. My "where were you?" memory.

[Friday, August 26, 2011]

Great Friends Are Great

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Cindy and Cari, I love you girls!

And of course Laynie and Kate. :)

[Tuesday, August 23, 2011]

Earthquake, Curriculum, and Chinese, Oh My!

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We had an earthquake in Maryland! The epicenter was in Virginia, but we certainly felt it up here. I was in a large meeting room, and it felt like I had vertigo... just swaying and moving around. It was a trippy feeling, made me wonder if something was wrong with me. But everyone else was feeling it!

The teachers in my county (probably whole state) are FREAKING OUT. New curriculum! Aaaagh! I am loving it, because the new curriculum is much better than the current one--it's language based. All about thinking and reasoning.

And I might be learning Chinese this fall! My elementary school is participating in a pilot program with immersion world languages instruction. All of the students (yes, even my deaf darlings) will have an hour each week of Chinese in the fall and Spanish in the spring. I may decide to go in with them. Certainly at the beginning of the school year I will, to help them understand the concept of language. I'm afraid they'll think it's just more speaking that they don't understand. Chinese, English, it's all Greek to them.

[Sunday, August 21, 2011]

Three Musketeers

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We are planning to hang pictures in a variety of black and gold frames to adorn the very large wall above the fireplace, so we have been choosing pictures. This is one that we're going to use, which I think Bryndi took. (Hi Bryndi!)

It is so us.

We haven't played Guitar Hero together is sooo long, but we still do nerdy things together. For example, today we played Rummikub while watching Kung Fu Panda. We're very homey and familyish.

Katie is funny, because she generally refers to Laynie as her sister. She'll say to her friend, "I went there with my sisters," or "My sisters would love that," meaning Laynie and me. It's very sweet. I'm glad we all get along.

[Tuesday, August 16, 2011]

Good Listener!

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Laynie has been spending a lot of time upstairs at the desktop computer, working on a project. We email each other if we need to say something, so that we don't have to run up and down the stairs all the time (I hang out downstairs).

The visual email notification isn't working right now (dumb OSX Lion), but it still pings when a message is received. I can't believe that Laynie hears that ping every time! I asked her whether she was keeping the mail program on top of everything else, and she said no, she just listens for the ping.

Even if I'm watching TV downstairs, which is very audible upstairs since Laynie's in a loft room that is open to the living room, she hears that ping!

Just now I turned down the volume on the TV a little to hear a video on the internet, and I got a message from Laynie right away. She was asking what that noise was, whether someone was yelling or if I was on the phone. She's such a good listener!

[Monday, August 15, 2011]

Last Quiet Week

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I can't believe I'll be back to work full time again next week! Next week will be a blur of meetings, trainings, and set up; the kids start back the week after. I am looking forward to seeing my kids again and meeting some new ones.

[Thursday, August 11, 2011]

Wicked Awesome Pictures!

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Laynie, Katie, and I went to a sign interpreted performance of Wicked a few week ago at the Kennedy Center. It was such a fun night. We got there early, so we went up to the terrace for pictures!

Me and Kate


Laynie!






No, those are not long earrings... They're Laynie's 'plants! She changed her cochlear implant processor batteries before the show.

Look, she's so happy to hear! (Or she nearly dropped her left 'plant and barely caught it.)

You can see the Lincoln Memorial on the right and the Jefferson with the dome.




Yay! Almost time! Check out the interpreter--on the left. She was a fantastic actress!

The Wasps

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I'm finally getting around the posting pictures of the unwelcome guests on my old balcony.


Big nest!


My poor finger was swelling up. I tried a baking soda paste, which helped. That was after the initial half hour of stabbing pain. Wasps mean business!

[Tuesday, August 9, 2011]

New Friend and Family History

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After a Relief Society activity focusing on family history, I spoke with the woman teaching the class, Mary. She offered to work with me one on one to help me find my ancestors--who seem like they don't want to be found. Challenging. Well, I went to her house yesterday at noon... and didn't leave until 5:30! We chatted, worked on genealogy, and then chatted some more.

And I have already made some progress with my family history and am so excited to get more done.

[Sunday, August 7, 2011]

Benefit? YES!

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On Friday I went with Laynie to interpret for her rehab appointment, where a rep from Laynie cochlear implant company, Med-El, would be present. The woman showed up early, and they were chatting in the waiting room. One thing she asked Laynie was, "Do you think you benefit from having cochlear implants?"

Benefit? How do you quantify that. Laynie was surprised by the question and not able to answer it fully. The simple answer is YES. But how to explain why? It's especially tough when she's really not understanding much spoken language yet. (yet)

For someone who is hearing and becomes deaf, gets an implant, and understands when people talk, I think a CI would be such a relief. The benefit would be clear. Similarly, a young child implanted and learning to hear and speak, as many implanted kids do, would clearly benefit. But for someone in Laynie's situation, the benefit is less externally apparent. She shared an anecdote about understanding her mother say, "I love you," which made an impact, as well as a few small examples of ways that hearing aids and cochlear implants have been different for her.

At dinner later, we were talking about it, trying to think back on life before implants. After two years with them, it sort of feels like she's always been this way.

I was telling Laynie that I have a very clear memory of an instance when we were standing in a busy area on the BYU campus between classes. I had asked Laynie what she heard, as she happened to be wearing her hearing aid that that day. She said that she heard noise. I asked her to describe it. All she could say was that it was noise, that it was all one sound blended together, at a constant volume. People talking, construction nearby, cars passing... all one sound.

The other day we were in a restaurant, and she asked if there were kids around. I told her which direction, and she nodded knowingly. Later she asked if a table was being cleared nearby. She had heard the clatter of dishes. Not only is she distinguishing the sounds, she's identifying what they are. She can identify laughter in another room. Jazz music, which she hates. A piano amidst the din of a department store. A car vs. jetliner vs. prop plane vs. truck vs. motorcycle going by. Thunder. A baby vs. a toddler screaming during sacrament meeting.

In the kitchen today, Laynie's back was toward me. The microwave was in use, the fan over the stove was on, and food was sizzling in a pan. I don't remember what her attention was on... throwing away trash or something. I said her name at a conversational level and she turned to me.

With hearing aids, Laynie could hear some things, but she could only identify a few. Whistling. A drum. A piano, if she knew it was music and focused on it. But she couldn't tell a voice from a car going by. Not that she couldn't hear the voice. Everything just sounded pretty much the same.

Laynie is hearing quieter things. Today she heard distant thunder from inside the house. She hears all the speech sounds, including very quiet ones like H and TH. Today I whispered quietly from three or four feet away, just to see if she heard me... she did. With her hearing aids there was a whole slew of sounds she didn't hear at all.

Obviously hearing and understanding are two different things. Two different levels of the same thing. Hearing is the bottom rung of the ladder, and understanding is the top. Laynie understands some things when listening purposefully in therapy. But she also understands things occasionally outside of therapy. Just simple things like asking a question and not looking as the answer is given, listening for the yes or no.

Yesterday she was sitting next to me on the couch, telling me something--showing me something on the computer. I don't remember exactly. But I remember that I asked, "Where?" She told me what it was again. I said, "I know, but where?" She said, "Right here," and showed me. I didn't sign it, and she wasn't looking at me. She heard and understood. I asked her if she knew what I said, and she answered, "Where." She didn't realize that I didn't sign it until I told her.

Things like that happen every day. Just the fact that she uses her CIs every day, all day long, is testament to the benefit she receives. She likes them. They help her feel connected to the world around her.

Like many children with CIs, she's beginning to prefer sound over sight for some things. Sometimes sound is easier.

She was saying that she wanted to get a doorbell, because some people knock quietly, which is hard to hear (even for me, and I'm "very hearing" as she says) from the kitchen. We discussed getting a flashing light doorbell, which she's had before. We realized that she hasn't used one in two years! With her CIs, she doesn't need one. She hears a knock just like everybody else. She thought that she would prefer a doorbell that chimes rather than flashes. A flashing light can be easy to miss in the daytime, if you're not looking in that direction. But she could hear a chime from wherever she is, whatever she's doing. So she'll be getting a doorbell that chimes... and she found one that has a portable receiver with a blinking light.

That doorbell will be a perfect fit for a girl who's straddling two worlds. She's Deaf yet very much a person who hears.

[Monday, August 1, 2011]

Off the Juice

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I am so glad to be off Benadryl!

I was sleeping way too much, and I was miserable and cranky when I wasn't sleeping. Or maybe I was miserable and cranky because I was ready to tear my hand off to stop the itching and burning.

I'm doing much better now. The itching had increased and decreased since I stopped icing and began massaging, but it generally decreased. Today it's not bad at all. The allergy junk seems to be stuck in the base of my finger, because that's where it's stiff and itchy now.. but nothing like Friday and Saturday! I'm definitely counting my blessings. I got a blessing yesterday evening, which didn't end up really addressing the wasp allergy problem but did address others on my mind. Love that!

So here's something funny: I'm wearing makeup again. I gave up on it for several years, because it just seemed to accentuate my acne... But now that my face has mostly cleared up, I'm into it again. I'm obsessed with eye makeup. Laynie thinks I've gone mental.

And.... get ready for it... Wasps have built a nest above the front door to my new home!

[Saturday, July 30, 2011]

Sweet Relief

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My hand was not a bit better today, and I was really suffering. My middle finger, part of my ring finger, part of my palm, and part of the back of my hand were hot, stiff, swollen, and itchy. So itchy! After taking Benadryl for more than 24 hours without a change (although being knocked out for a few hours after each dosage was a nice break from the agony), I was frustrated.

Topical creams and sprays did absolutely nothing for me. I found that icing it took away the itching and burning, so I would keep an ice pack on for 20 minutes, then off for 20 minutes. That's how I got through yesterday and this morning. But the swelling was getting worse. I could hardly move my finger. I thought ice was supposed to bring down swelling! It didn't make sense. My finger was hot, with pink streaks up the sides and onto my hand. This morning the itching spread to the knuckle above the sting.

When I got up at 2:00 pm from a three-hour, Benadryl/gabapentin-induced nap, I decided to take a shower. The water beating down on my hand while I washed my hair felt like fiery needles. I didn't know how I could take this for another two days. I was thinking that I couldn't go to church if I had to ice it every 20 minutes. And Monday... I have to test a child for several hours Monday morning. How on earth would I get through that? I couldn't like this. I couldn't go anywhere or do anything.

I prayed.

I read my scriptures, and I had an idea. It wasn't anything that I read, per se, it was just a thought that came while reading.

Massage.

That sounded crazy to me, because I knew that scratching or messing with an itchy spot made it worse. Aren't we advised not to touch mosquito bites? Then I understood that the histamine and dead cell innards and fluid were just hanging out in the finger, that they needed help to leave it. I needed to massage my hand to get things moving.

So I tried it. The itching got much worse! It was just burning now. It got worse for an hour... but then it got a little better. The skin of my finger seemed looser. Now the itching was horrible on the back of my hand, and there was a line of itching up my arm. I went on faith and kept massaging my hand. For the next two hours, it was about like it had been for two days. Then, in the last hour, it dropped off considerably. After four hours of massaging while cleaning, unpacking, cooking, etc., I stopped. The itching was not gone, but it was a million times better.

Now it is five hours since I began massaging my hand. I am occasionally massaging and applying deep pressure, especially to the hot area between my knuckles, and it has not gotten worse. I'd say that the itching is about a 4 on a scale of 0-10. Wow.

I am so grateful that Heavenly Father hears our prayers!

[Friday, July 29, 2011]

Wasps 1, Annie 0

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On Wednesday, Laynie and I went to our old apartment to clean it and get the last of the stuff out.

About three hours in, I remembered the balcony chairs. They are the zero gravity kind--just cheapish ones from Target. I went out to fold them up and bring them down to the U-Haul van I had rented for the mega Goodwill trip that was sorely needed. I tried to fold one up and it was stuck. I realized that I had to release the latches under the arms. After doing that, it folded easily. I went straight for the latches on the second, grabbing both chair arms at the same time... and touched bodies. fluttering wings. Filament legs.

Things are kind of blurry after that. I think I was processing with the right side of my brain, because I can remember snapshots of what happened. I backed up quickly; the wasps swarmed the balcony. A few chased me. One caught me.

Right as I got to the door, a felt the stab into the knuckle of my right middle finger. I couldn't believe that I had been stung and how much it hurt.

I went in and stuck my hand under cold water. I was shocked. The wasp attack was unexpected and had happened so fast. I was shaking hard, the pain was really hitting now. It got worse and worse. I needed to think. I had no idea what to do. All I knew was that my mom was highly allergic to wasps, and I was scared that I might be allergic, too. I didn't want to have an anaphylactic reaction, because I didn't want to go to the ER. That was because a. I didn't want to pay to return the U-Haul van late, and b. I wanted to finish the apartment that day. And I didn't want to waste time and exhaust my body's already limited resources.

So I knew what I didn't want to do: go to the ER. But I didn't know what I ought to do. I couldn't think straight. My hand was shaking hard, and I didn't know if that was from a reaction or because I was scared and the adrenaline was flowing. I checked my other hand. Also shaking. I assumed that it was just because I was freaking out; I was relieved. I was still scared but felt calmer.

The pain kept increasing. I would give it about an 8, almost 9, on the pain scale. And I am talking about PAIN, not itching. It was nothing like a bee sting or bug bite. It swelled up horribly; the skin on my finger looked like it was about to burst.

Some snapshots my brain took from the next 45 minutes:

Icing my hand with a bag of shrimp. The only things left in the freezer were the shrimp, some tilapia, and a tub of strawberries. I found this mildly hilarious.

Texting Katie, who suggested a baking soda and water. Oh boy, if only the baking supplies weren't already at the new house. Wait! The refrigerator contained exactly one thing: a box of baking soda.

Feeling stabs of pain on my left knee. Come to find out I had a red, DC-shaped bruise forming right on my kneecap. No idea what happened.

I called the office to have someone get rid of the wasps. After an hour or two, the pain subsided. It turned into an ache with occasional stabs of pain. While waiting for maintenance to come, Laynie took pictures of me (will post when downloaded), and we studied the wasp-nest chair. I laid on the carpet near the sliding glass door, watching the wasps crawling around under the chair arm and flying to and from the nest. At one point, I counted 11 bodies on the arm, plus whatever was out and about.

A maintenance man from the apartment complex came out with an amazing, quick-acting, foam spray. It seemed to kill on contact. He took out 8 or 9 wasps, knocked the chair on its side, sprayed the nest thoroughly, and said to give it a few minutes before spraying it with a hose (which I didn't have). He said that the wasps that were away from the next would come back for the next few minutes but would quickly vacate the area, because they hate the poison. With that, he left. Dead wasps littered the porch. Later I found out (thanks, Google) that dead wasps emit an attack signal.

Four hunting wasps came and went... mostly came. There was at least one there nearly always. Laynie tried to get the chairs, but every time she went out onto the porch, a wasp would show up. They kept heading for Laynie, and she kept heading for the door. We gave up and went on a Goodwill run then returned the van.

As the afternoon wore on, the wasps did not give up. When I noticed one favoring the arm of the other chair, I had had enough. Wielding oven cleaner, I drove away the wasps and got the chairs down to the garage. The nest was huge! Six or seven inches long, three inches across, and an inch or so thick. Full of babies.

The ache in my finger continued yesterday, accompanied by itching. It felt like I had mosquito bites all over my finger and up the back of my hand. Alternating hydrocortisone cream and baking soda paste, it was manageable. Late in the evening, the itching began to increase. My middle finger was much warmer than the rest of my hand. It was very uncomfortable, so I took a Claritin. I didn't have any Bendryl.

I went to bed, but sleep was not to be mine. I lay awake until 2:30, mainly because I couldn't shut off my brain. Just thoughts, not worries. I was exhausted but couldn't sleep. My hand was itching, though not severely. I finally nodded off...

...but woke up at 4:00 because my hand was on fire. And I was generally hot. I went downstairs to check the thermostat, which was set a little too high by one of my roommates. I sprayed Benadryl spray on my hand and tried to go back to bed.

The itching intensity rapidly increased to "tear off my hand." I gave up and went back downstairs at 4:45.

I had a very difficult morning. I worked on this blog post, which was difficult one handed on an iPad. I was exhausted and my hand felt like burning needles were stabbing me. It was swelling up again. I got some relief from an oatmeal paste, but even that stopped working after a while. A little after 9:00, Laynie and I went to Giant to get Benadryl and and few groceries.

I got back and took the two Benadryl. I typically have an opposite reaction to Benadryl and Dimetapp: they make me wired, jittery. Not today! After an hour, I felt like I would pass out. I checked drug interactions online and found that Benadryl and another medicine I'm on, gabapentin, have a synergistic effect--they increase each other. It warned that someone should monitor the patient for CNS suppression, stopping breathing, etc. Uh oh. Katie was at work and Laynie was getting ready to go to a rehab appointment.

I'm not sure what time I passed out, but I woke up at 2:00 pm. I was still tired, but unfortunately my hand was on fire. My finger was quite swollen.

It hasn't been an easy afternoon since then. Ice... baking soda... Oatmeal... More ice... Stinging, itching, and burning.

I took one Benadryl at 3:30. It's almost 6:00, and I'm having difficulty staying awake. I have that weird feeling in my chest. Just not a happy camper. But I want to stay awake until at least 8:00, if possible.

Dr. Google says that I'm having a local allergic reaction. It will probably last five days. Three more days of this? Heaven help me...

[Monday, July 25, 2011]

Listening Girl

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I went to Laynie's rehab session on Friday. Of course, she continues to make progress and is doing great.

Laynie started a new word/sound list from the WASP program. That program introduces the listener to every sound in the English language, as well as various syllable shapes, like vowel-consonant (of, in) and consonant-vowel (my, be).

I couldn't help comparing how she did with these new words/sounds with how she did the first time with the first WASP list. For one thing, she is much quicker. I think she spent half an hour on the first five words of the first list. On Friday, she got through 10 words in about 10 minutes. And they were much harder words. I was impressed. All of this is through listening only, with the teacher's mouth covered.

Her comprehension has really improved, too. On the first visit, she often said the words perfectly (after many attempts) but had no idea what she said. "Me, me, me, me, hmmm..." Now she knows what she is saying. And these are new words!

So that was cool.

Then they got into the meat of the session: listening to sentences. The teacher says a short sentence, and once Laynie gets all of the words in the sentence, the teacher expands the sentence. Laynie has to listen to where the expansions occur: sometimes adding to the end of the sentence, sometimes inserting words in the middle of the sentences. Sometimes a word from the original sentence is changed.

Obviously this is pretty hard, because Laynie has no idea what the sentences might be. It's not like she has a list of choices. She just has a blank sheet of paper in front of her.

She did such a great job! The teacher says the sentence until Laynie makes a guess at one of the words. Sometimes she just gets a word right. Often she is close, like guessing watch for walk or your for are. It's so neat that she can do that just from listening.

I am so proud of Laynie! And glad that she has weekly rehab sessions for the next few weeks. Imagine: she's doing this well after only having two or three sessions in the last two months, because of vacations and whatnot. She's going to do great when she's focused on listening more often.

[Sunday, July 17, 2011]

This Life Is the Test

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I started thinking today during church... Why is this happening to me? What am I supposed to learn from it?


I have this hope that when I learn whatever it is that I'm supposed to learn, this trial will be over. So far, I am learning that I need to take things slower. I need to have faith that I'll be able to earn enough money to support myself even if I don't put in crazy hours. That's hard! I don't have anyone to fall back on if I can't support myself.


Maybe I need to learn what it feels like to have a disability, since I work with people who have disabilities.


Maybe I need to learn that slow doesn't mean lazy or stupid.


I need to think about this more.


Maybe the learning will come after the trial is over. I remember when I moved into an apartment with bed bugs, that it was such a nightmare. Months of the nightmare, and then months of healing from the psychological damage. Seriously, psychological damage! Well, after the bed bugs were gone, really gone, the feeling of relief was indescribably delicious. My home felt clean, and I appreciated that feeling. That was two years ago, and I still stop sometimes and realize how lovely it is to live unterrorized by those horrible creatures.


Maybe after I'm well, I will appreciate the strength I have. It's been long enough now since I was strong, that I miss it. I remember being able to run and lift things and go go go all day. When I stop and think about it, I realize how much I've lost. Hopefully not forever.


The funny thing about trials, and about earth life in general, is that you don't know how long things will last. If I knew that I would have another month of this or another year, I would say that I can do it. I would be able to plan. Just knowing that a trial will end is somehow heartening. But of course we don't know when our trials will end, and we don't know how bad they will get.


Normally I'm a bit of a planner, but I can't do that now. I just don't know what the next day or week or month will bring. I'm taking it hour by hour. If I have energy for a morning, I'm happy. If I have energy for a full day... well, that doesn't happen. But I think I would appreciate it. Maybe that's what I am learning.


I joked to a friend a few weeks ago that I hoped to get A's on my [medical] tests. But there's a bigger test, isn't there? I wonder how this problem will help me gain the knowledge and skills I need to pass that test.

[Saturday, July 9, 2011]

Cool Kids and Conferences

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I went to the ASHA Schools conference today, which was down by DC. Nice for me! Still, I hemmed and hawed over going, just because of the cost. Oh, and getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. There were a few sessions whose titles interested me, but you never know what the actual session is going to be like. Will it live up to the promise of its title? These ones did!

First I attended a session on Legal Hot Topics. I know, I am so, so nerdy. My boss was in that one, as was everyone's boss, I think. She came over to give me a hard time about going to that session, out of everything that was offered. What can I say, I like to learn. The other topics were stuff I can do well already. I don't need to have someone tell me how to work in the general education classroom or collaborate with general ed teachers (which a few lectures focused on), because I do that every day!

We attended the same afternoon class, as well, which was called "Understanding Comprehension." It was so good! The woman teaching the course was from Utah, although not really, judging by her Kentucky accent. She teaches at Utah State. And she is most definitely not a member of the church. But she gave one of the best lectures I've ever heard, and I am planning to email her thank her profusely for giving me information that I will use the very next time I work with kids.

Speaking of people from Utah, during lunch I made a new friend. All of us were wearing badges with our name and where we're from, and the woman who sat down next to me was from Salt Lake City. Of course, I had to comment on that. Who would come from Salt Lake to DC for such a small conference (about 900 people)? It turns out that she is the head of all of the school SLPs in the state of Utah. We chatted for 45 minutes straight, on everything from playing the piano (she lamented her lack of ability to sight read, and I gave her pointers) to service delivery models in the schools (I explained how to push services in to the general education classroom, which is apparently unheard of in Utah). Come to think of it, it was more of an advice session that anything. She asked me tons of questions about working in gen ed. But I also listened to her tell about her background, her grandchildren, and her niece-in-law who will be attending BYU in the fall. She was super nice, and I was so glad to make a new friend. Better than eating lunch alone! And hopefully I got the wheels turning in her brain and may have influenced better outcomes for students in Utah. Pull out for language intervention is so last century.

And on to cute kids... Alright, let's just say that I'm working with one of my favorite students for summer school, and let's just say that said student is a soon-to-be-9-year-old deaf child who has had ASL exposure for three years and a CI for less than two. With me? So I worked with him and some other kids in the morning one day last week. Because I had to condense some kids together to see all my students in four days due to the holiday, I took him again during math (since he's on grade level in math already) so he could have more speech fun. This child lives for speech.

I've never grouped him with a hearing child before, because I only see deaf kids at his location during the regular school year. But for ESY, I have the deaf and hearing kids at this school. I pulled two hearing kids to work with him: a child in his class and one in the next grade up. They were both working on articulation. Frankly, they were harder to understand than my deaf kid, who has had a CI for less than two years. Sad. I wish I worked with them during the school year, because I could get them intelligible... trying not to let it bother me too much.

But that's not the point. So one of the kids had his word cards sent by his regular SLP, and the other did not. I checked his IEP, and he was to work on saying R and TH. After checking R and finding that he could not say it at all (and ESY is supposed to be for maintenance, not teaching new skills), I opted to work on TH. It's much easier to teach than R.

I had the boys take turns saying their words correctly and taking a turn in Chutes and Ladders. This was old hat to the hearing kids, but I watched as my deaf child absolutely blossomed. He had no concept of what I call "say and play," because I don't work on articulation with him. I work on listening and language, which impacts articulation. He thought artic therapy was the coolest thing ever. He told me later that he wants to have speech with friends all the time. No more individual sessions.

When it was TH boy's turn, I asked him if he knew any words that start with TH. He suggested "two." Then "top." I asked if anyone else knew of a TH word. My deaf kid suggested, "Throw." TH boy said, "Tow." (For any SLPs who read my blog and have a brain, I know... Why on earth would they work on TH for a child who is stopping??? I didn't write the IEP.) Deaf boy prompted, "No, THHHHHrow," pointing to his tongue between his teeth. Haha. I let him. TH boy said, "Thhhhtow." I corrected the error. When TH boy said, "Thow," and I accepted it (because I'm not working on cluster reduction, unfortunately), deaf boy said, "Good job!" and gave him a thumbs up. Then he gave me a knowing look and said, "I finish, I learn that." Meaning: been there! And he has... the math teacher used to ride him about saying thousand correctly.

Then it was deaf boy's turn. I asked him what he wanted to say. He chose SH, which is what his classmate was working on. I offered him the SH cards, but he declined, saying, "I think." Oh, boy. "Shopping." Good one! "Ship." Wait... Does this kid understand the English sound system?

He demonstrated an incredible knowledge of the English sound system (called phonology) throughout the session, thinking of words for TH boy and for himself. He thought of two different words for himself each time, and he produced the target sounds correctly every time. When he ran out of SH words, I suggested switching to K. He said, "Key. Car." I know that he knows how to spell car... He was absolutely relying on the sounds rather than memorized spelling to come up with words. Cat, king, careful, cut, kite...

Then he said he wanted to do T. He said, "Hot." I told him, "That starts with H, not T." He said, "Hot. Hat. End T." He was thinking of words that end with /t/. Ending sounds are much harder than beginning sounds! Hearing kids years older than him struggle with this.

And his family is worried he'll "rely" on ASL forever. This kid is processing sound on a level superior to his hearing peers, after less than two years of part-time exposure! He hears English at school. It's not like they're AVTing it up at home. I am in awe of him.

And simultaneously annoyed with his "gen ed" ESY teachers. There is no true general education during ESY, but these gen ed teachers are assigned to teach the hearing special ed kids (who are occasionally pulled out by a special educator). My deaf babies are in and out of the hearing class. I'd rather more out than in. Those teachers do not "get" my kids.

Case in point: I explained before ESY began that Little Mr. Smarty Listener is on grade level for math. His language is extremely delayed and so is his reading, but with visuals and examples he does fine in math. Well, for whatever reason (because his speech intelligibility is poor and they associate that with learning disabilities?), they ignored my comments and treated him like he couldn't understand.

One day last week I went in during math to help the teacher of the deaf (who just graduated and was understandably terrified of writing interim progress reports that would not set off our rather difficult parents). While I worked with her at the back of the room, I listened to the classroom instruction. And got very, very annoyed.

They were working on decomposition, which sounds disgusting but just means breaking a number into component parts: tens and ones. They were trying to get the kids to see that there's more than one way to do this; for example, 28 can be broken into 2 tens and 8 ones or 1 ten and 18 ones or even 0 tens and 28 ones. My kids were absolutely stuck on the simplest decomposition possible and could not see the numbers another way. With a class of special education rising second graders, the teacher was explaining this verbally in a full-class setting, with the only visual being "____ tens, ____ ones" written on the board. These kids can't read! And they can't understand a verbal explanation. Most of them are in special ed because they have language learning disabilities!

I finally got fed up and went to teach my children. Or at least the one I knew had a fighting chance at understanding it. The multiply handicapped one... of course it would be too hard for her. She's working on counting to 10. But Mr. I'm on Grade Level? Please. There's no reason he can't do this.

I apologized to the interpreter and asked the two deaf students present that day to turn around. Luckily they were already at the back of the group, so they didn't have to move. I asked the other teacher, who was at a table catching up two students who had not yet completed the previous activity, if I could use the blocks at the feet of the idiot teaching. She looked surprised and told me that there were tens and ones manipulatives at the back of the room. (Then why aren't you people... nevermind.)

The TOD came to sit by me. Fine, she can learn how to teach math to low-language kids. I began with the example on the board, 47. I used ASL so as not to disrupt the hearing kids (and because it was more effective).

First, I took a tens stick and lined up 10 ones cubes next to it. They were the same length. I had the kids count the cubes and emphasized that there were 10. Then, I gave them 4 tens sticks and 7 ones cubes and had them verify that it was 47, which they did. I asked how many tens, how many ones. They answered correctly (we taught them this months ago). I took one of the tens sticks and made a show of replaced it with the 10 cubes that he had counted. I asked how many altogether. They both said 47. I asked how many tens. The little "deaf plus" cutie quickly said four. About what I would expect from her--she doesn't understand the concept of tens (I think she thinks "tens" means "first number"). Smarty counted and said three. I asked him how many ones. He looked up at the ceiling (his thinking face), smiled at me, and spoke, "17." And the hearing teacher asked, "Who said that???" I was tuning her out and didn't know that she had been asking the hearing kids to answer that question. I told her it was Smarty, and she was shocked. I hope she realized that deafness does not make you stupid. She told Smarty that he was right, and he played at being embarrassed, smiling behind his hands. I asked him in ASL if he understood, and he nodded. He went on to make quick work of the rest of the problems.

Because that's how you teach math to deaf kids.

[Wednesday, July 6, 2011]

New Home and Old Talent

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First, let me say that I love my new home. There are things that are less than perfect, and there are things that are downright annoying, but overall I am very happy with it. The neighborhood is great! Quiet, with lots of trees. I'll take pictures one of these days. There are many good things about this place, and probably the best is the short commute. One of my schools is five minutes away.

And the ward is fantastic!

That's not why I wanted to blog. I really wanted to brag about my finely tuned hearing.

I went for an EEG today, and the electroencephalographer (who does the EEG) was very nice. She was chatting with me while attaching the electrodes. Laynie was with me, because she couldn't pass up the chance to take a picture of me with wires coming out of my hair. I'll post it once it's downloaded.

As I was listening to this woman, I was trying to place her accent. Slower cadence... slightly more precise final stops... devoiced final consonants... I enjoy identifying the tiny differences in people's speech. I'm nerdy, so what?

I said, "You know, your accent reminds me of Laynie's mom. She's from Austria."

Her response: "Wow! I'm from West Virginia, but when I was a young clinician, I tried hard to suppress my accent. My mentor was an Austrian man, and I guess I picked up his accent."

If only this talent were marketable...

[Monday, June 20, 2011]

Let's Go Already!

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I seriously can't wait to move. I'm not looking forward to the actual move itself (especially since I'm a weakling these days), but I am looking forward to being in the condo. Two neighbors instead of... I don't even know how many. No one living above or beneath me! No screaming kids in the lobby--no lobby!

I am totally stressed out about the actual move. I am stressed about getting the truck (as in, it actually being there, as reserved). I am stressed about driving the truck into my apartment complex. I am stressed about inconveniencing the neighbors by blocking their garages, although I really shouldn't be. They inconvenience me every day with their screaming kids, smoking, and generally trashy loudness.

One thing that's nice is that we have overlap between the apartment and the condo, so if everything doesn't make it into boxes this week, we can always bring the rest of it down by car. Of course, we want as much of our stuff to go on the truck as possible--so that we don't have to carry it. People from church are helping us move.

Which brings me to another stress topic. I don't trust them to show up! Renting a truck is NOT cheap, so I'm hoping they will show up. My ward is not.. um.. what's the word... reliable. But I have hope.

I can't wait to be in the new place, because my 45-60 minute commute will become a 10-20 minute commute. Oh, yeah! I will save a lot on gas. It will be lovely for days when I take a freelance interpreting job in the evening. I can go home for a couple of hours instead of hanging around work until time for my other job. I'll be able to accept a lot more jobs!

Ooo, and I might be able to run home for lunch sometimes. That would be nice. Two of my schools are within 5 minutes of my new home, and so is my boss' office, which is one of my new workplaces. That's kind of a long story.

Another thing I can't wait for but is stressing me at the same time is my neurology appointment tomorrow. I'm glad it's late in the day instead of in the morning, not only because I don't have to take off work but because I tend to get worse as the day goes on. I'm not going to take painkillers tomorrow, so he can see how fun it gets.

I hope this doctor is smart. I don't care if I get a diagnosis or label; I just want the symptoms to go away! Give me a shot or something.

I have a feeling the process will continue, but I'm okay with that as long as we're narrowing in on a target. I got a blessing yesterday. What I really wanted was for the doctor to have a blessing.. but getting a blessing myself was the next best thing.

One thing I'm not stressed about is Laynie getting a job. Way to go, Laynie! Hopefully they recognize the magnitude of her awesomeness and decide to renew her contract in the spring.

[Tuesday, June 14, 2011]

The Right Thing

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At new teacher orientation several years ago, as I began working in this county, one of the themes was Doing the Thing Right and Doing the Right Thing. Doing the Thing Right means following policies and procedures, which is important. Doing the Right Thing is exactly as it sounds.

This has stuck with me, maybe more this year than ever before. Maybe it's delaying re-evaluation to keep a kid on one more year so that she goes to kindergarten with an IEP. Maybe it's nudging an educator to qualify a borderline kid. Maybe it's taking the time to email a parent EVERY SINGLE WEEK despite never receiving a response and certainly never enjoying the same courtesy from her. And maybe it's teaching a student a few life skills that are not exactly on the IEP.

I have a little guy who walks between two worlds. He had no language exposure until well past age five. When he was nearly six, he finally began learning to sign. A year later, he received a cochlear implant. A year after that, a second cochlear implant. He is brilliant, but he is quite delayed in both ASL and English. And his parents do not sign and speak very little English.

This child wants to know everything. He loves to sign. He understands ASL better. However, he tends to speak (despite being understood less than half the time) and tries to gain meaning by listening, because he thinks that is the "right" way to be. He has unfortunately internalized that ASL is somehow a lesser language. No wonder: he gets that message from most of the adults in his life.

Sometimes this gets him into trouble, when he thinks he understands but doesn't. It also gets him into trouble, because he is an excellent little parrot, which makes people think he understands more than he does. And of course, he has perfected the "deaf nod."

One of his teachers is a grumpy person. It must be said: she is just grumpy. She is grumpy with her colleagues, and she is grumpy with students. If a child gives the wrong answer, they are often embarrassed by her harsh response. If they look away during a group lesson, they will be called out on it... again, embarrassed. And heaven forbid someone should not follow directions. My little guy has been mildly embarrassed in class more than once, as have most of the students. This teacher is well-liked by the principal, so there is not much that can be done from my end; the TOD is similarly powerless. Mostly she ignores our kids, which we like. Two of them are so low that she doesn't deign to work with them. Parrot is at the top of the class, so he is on her radar.

Something must have happened in that class last Tuesday, when I was not there. On Wednesday, a member of Parrot's family said that he does not want to go to school, that his teacher is mean to him and doesn't like him. The teacher of the deaf assumed that the child was referring to her, because she had scolded him that day for pushing in the lunch line and deliberately stepping on other children's feet. She explained this to the family member and didn't think much more about it, besides being a little bothered that the child thought she didn't like him.

On Friday, the child's family member came to the school to report that the child was really protesting going to school that day, saying that a teacher was mean, and he didn't want to see her. This time he said which teacher. You guessed it: Grumpy Pants. Not the teacher of the deaf.

I was not at this school Friday or yesterday. During lunch today, the TOD told me what the child had said, and I remembered something that had happened on Thursday. The TOD was in another classroom that day, and I was in with Parrot.

I was working one-on-one with another student when I heard the hubbub. Grumpy was upset with Parrot, much worse than ever before. Parrot is definitely one of her favorite students, but that didn't save him today. Grumpy seemed genuinely angry with him. Apparently he was supposed to do the first four items on the page and then stop. A line and the word "stop" were on the paper below the fourth item, and Parrot certainly knows what that means. I don't know if he was trying to impress her by completing the page--whatever he was trying, it backfired. She let him have it. Then she told him to erase his work on item five.

He must have been in shock. He appeared not to comprehend the direction to erase. He was told more forcefully, and the interpreter tried to help. I tried to sign to him that it was okay, just erase, and Grumpy gave me a Look. The interpreter told him again to erase. Grumpy moved on to another student. I asked the interpreter if Parrot had received the initial directions, and she said that he had. In fact, when he began working on number five, the interpreter reminded him that he was supposed to stop, and he waved her off. I didn't have a great deal of sympathy for him at that point, and I told him to erase number five.

When Grumpy came back around to him two minutes later, I guess he still hadn't erased. She became more angry and yelled at him again. To his credit, he didn't cry. I think I would have! Now I definitely had a great deal of sympathy for him. However, I didn't get a chance to speak with him about it.

When I told the TOD about this incident, she was disappointed that Parrot had willfully disobeyed a teacher but shocked that the teacher had behaved that way. Grumpy's responses were clearly inappropriate. I think she knew she was inappropriate by the look she gave me afterward.

The TOD and I brainstormed, knowing that we needed to give Parrot tools to handle situations like this. One issue we often have with this teacher is that she will say, "Look at me!" This prevents Parrot from looking at the interpreter--Grumpy will turn his face toward her. We have to be careful, because the child's parents would probably like this: they barely tolerate his having an interpreter as it is. I've certainly seen them jerk him around when he "doesn't listen."

We came up with a plan.

When Parrot came back from lunch, I pulled him in to the TOD room to speak with him. I let him know that Grumpy's behavior was wrong. Then the TOD and I had him role play similar scenarios: directions given without sign support, being yelled at for no apparent reason, etc. We taught him to raise his hand and get the TOD's attention. The TOD taught him the phrase, "Must interpreter please." We taught him to sign it and speak it. "Must" is one of his favorite words, which is why she used that. It's something he can understand.

As we ran through the scenarios, Parrot became more confident.

Then we explained that we love him and want him to come to school. If he didn't come to school, we would miss him and feel sad. As we told him this, he began to cry! He understood. Sweet little thing. After taking some deep breaths and drinking some apple juice, he went into that teacher's class, newly empowered.

So it wasn't on his IEP. So it didn't involve speech (much). So there's only a week of school left. Doing the Right Thing felt so good.

[Monday, May 30, 2011]

Washington DC Temple

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I love the Washington DC temple. It's where I did proxy baptisms as a youth, and it's where I received my endowment. I was so glad that my stake in New York was in this temple district when I was endowed! We switched to the Boston temple shortly thereafter, and later we were in the Manhattan temple district. I love those temples, and they may be prettier inside, but the Washington DC temple has a special place in my heart.

Although I detest Beltway traffic, it's neat when you take the outer loop, because the temple suddenly rises to greet you as you come around a bend.

Isn't this next picture cool? God did some of his best landscaping work on Maryland. If you know the area, you can see where Beach Dr winds through the trees. Check out the stake center, north of the temple--it looks so tiny!

When you finally turn in to the parking lot, you see the temple again:

It is truly magnificent! I'm so glad that I went today. I stayed for over an hour after my session was done, because I didn't want to leave. It was so peaceful.

While I was there I had an attack of what's troubling me, and it was scary... but at the same time not. I can't say that I didn't get upset, but I just moved slowly and stayed until I knew I could manage my legs effectively. I used the time to pray and read and think. And cry. And pray some more. I got some good advice. I should write it down, since I'm so forgetful lately!

As I was leaving the temple, I got an email from my ward Relief Society presidency. This Wednesday is stake temple day! As in, two days from now. I thought it was next week, since our stake conference is not this coming Sunday but next. But I'm not complaining... going twice in one week would be great. If I can be done with my IEP meeting that afternoon in time to get down to the temple by 5:00. Yes, they're meeting quite early.

Alright, I'll wrap this up. I'm so glad I took the time today to go to the temple!

[Saturday, May 28, 2011]

Allergist

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I had my allergist appointment earlier this week. First time for me... I figured it couldn't hurt to see if food allergies could be a factor in my problems.

They're not! I kind of figured that, but now I know. It's one more thing to tick off the list.

It was funny how the allergist appointment came about. I was having a bad health day and stayed home from church Easter Sunday. Someone was worried that I might have gotten my feelings hurt over some foolishness with the ward choir and called to check on me. Not at all--I was just a sickly girl. It was sweet of this sister to think of me, though. I told her that I was going through a rough patch again with my health, and she started asking questions. My problems reminded her of her son's, and she urged me to see the allergist that figured out his problems. So that's how I ended up seeing this guy.

As an aside, I was again struck with how funny it is that everyone thinks my problem is whatever they have or their mother had or their kid had or whatever. I guess it's human nature to see connections.

Back to the topic...

The good news is that I don't have allergies to the 11 most common foods (yes, they jabbed me 11 times for that) or 9 of the 10 most common environmental allergens--jabbed me 10 times and then injected 6 for that one. They injected higher doses of some to make sure. I'm allergic to mites, but not severely.

The bad news is that he thinks I have at least four different problems. He thinks I should start with two different specialists (one being an SLP!), but probably will need at least one more. Crazy, right? But what he said made a whole lot of sense. This guy spent over an hour asking me questions and LISTENING to the answers, and later he took another half hour telling me the results of my testing and sharing more thoughts he had while I was being tested. He totally broke the 10-minute limit on time with a physician.

Well, I guess the bad news is still good news. I was so glad to have information that makes sense that I haven't worried much about any of it. I took a few days to self-evaluate then put out the word that I'm looking for a referral to a particular specialty within my field, so hopefully that will yield fruit. I already have a referral for the other specialty he mentioned (like 100 times).

What I really need is a good general practitioner or internist. I think my nurse practitioner is good, but I need someone great. Now that I've experienced excellence, I really don't want to settle.

Grateful...

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I...

Qualified to buy a condo on my own, despite being way over ratio (darn student loans). My dad was willing to co-sign, but it looks like I won't need him to. The guy at the mortgage company kept running the numbers through FHA's system and scratching his head. All he could say was, "I don't know, I guess it likes your credit score..." My hard work at repairing my credit (I was unspeakably dumb between the ages of 18 and 21) paid off.

Have the opportunity to pick up freelance interpreting jobs.

Have the opportunity to tutor wonderful children.

Get to play one of my favorite hymns, "All Creatures of Our God and King" at stake conference. And finally meet the other interpreter in the stake (I was having a super fun medical procedure last time we had stake conference and on vacation the one before, so I haven't met him yet).

Really good at writing IEPs. I get compliments from colleagues and hugs from parents.

Teaching inservices! Woohoo! I love teaching. When I work with kids, I help half a dozen kids a year become more intelligible. When I work with other therapists, I help a hundred kids a year become more intelligible.

Have found support and something like friendship in an unlikely place.

May be able to work full-time this summer. It's almost too good to be true.

Got fantastic advice from the allergist. I don't have allergies (yay) but it was fortuitous that I was referred to him... He's brilliant.

Have the ability to help a friend.

Can go to the temple Monday morning! What a great way to start the week.

Stressing...

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I am...

Buying a condo. Maybe. Offer accepted, but not certain until I read the inspection report. It's an estate sale, and the family is bitching out over it. They know the systems are old and don't want to replace them or cut the price. If the inspection is terrible, I might have to walk... in which case I begin the search over, and I have to be out of my current place by the end of July.

Freelance interpreting as much as possible. See item one.

Tutoring as much as possible. See item one.

Playing the organ for one session of stake conference (in two weeks) and interpreting the other. I've never played the organ in that building, so at some point I need to go there and check it out. In my copious free time.

Writing a million IEPs. Or it might be a dozen. Feels like a million...

Teaching two inservices at work. I volunteered for it, and I'm looking forward to it, but preparing is just one more thing taking up my time.

Coordinating employment for the fall. I can't say much, except that I have had it about up to here (think high) with my agency.

Negotiating pay for a Baltimore City early intervention job. I know, am I crazy? I know people who've worked early intervention in Baltimore City, heard about the drug deals that go on in front of you. You count your blessings if your car is still there when you leave the kid's house. But I need to money (see item one!).

Dealing with my health issues. Slowly. Oh, I'll have to blog about fun times with the allergist.

Thinking how I'm going to help a friend pass the Praxis and certify as a sped teacher. My current thought is just to take the darn thing for her (I work in special ed and could pass the test cold), but that would kind of quash the next item on my list.

Wanting to go to the temple but never seeming to have the time. I'll admit that Beltway traffic is intimidating. That two-hour session requires a five-hour time commitment. Wish they were open this Monday, but they're closed every Monday. Oooooo! I just checked their website and they are open on Memorial Day 8:00-12:00! That's the best news I've heard all week. :)

[Sunday, May 1, 2011]

What to Do...

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As a Speech-Language Pathologist, people often want to show me their kids, especially for articulation issues. "Will you listen to little Johnny?" It's understandable. I'm sure I would do the same thing--you want to be sure your kid is developing appropriately.

But then there are the kids whose parents don't ask but who are screaming, "I have autism!" or "I don't understand anything you say!" Or occasionally there's a kid who is totally unintelligible, but the parents seem unaware that they should be able to understand their kid by that age. It's hard, because I know that early intervention brings great results.. well, appropriate early intervention does. Sometimes the early years are wasted by therapist doing things that fly in the face of reason (not to mention research), like gum brushing and tongue push-ups. But on the whole, early intervention is a very good thing, so I hate to see these kids not get any help until kindergarten.

Because of this, I feel a real conflict when I encounter kiddos who quite obviously are delayed or have a disability. On the one hand, it would be so good for the child to receive services to help their development. On the other hand, the parent has not asked for my expertise. So I keep my big mouth shut.

For example, a friend of mine has a toddler who has many of the signs of autism (or something else neurological). Even Laynie noticed--she can't identify the speech/language concerns, but her eyes got wide when she saw him toe-walking in his heavy Sunday shoes. This child would probably qualify for a special education preschool, with speech and OT. I haven't said anything, but sometimes I wonder if I should. If I were in the parents' place, I think I would want to know. I'm sure they're not ignoring the signs; they just don't know better. He's the oldest child, so they probably don't have a basis for what "typical" is. But maybe they wouldn't want to know or would not be ready to hear it if they weren't seeking the information.

I have thought about offering to have a church "playgroup" once in a while, where the parents could bring their kids if they had concerns or to make sure they were on track. Pediatricians are supposed to fill that role, but I've had so many of the parents of my students (who all have disabilities) say, "My pediatrician thought he was fine, but I just felt like there was something wrong." The child turns out to be deaf, have autism, have a severe language disorder, etc. So I think a lot of pediatricians may not be well-versed in child development.

Hm, maybe I'll talk to the Relief Society President and see what she thinks about having a playgroup or mommy workshop or something. And hopefully those parents would take advantage of it.

Sick of Being Sick, Tired of Being Tired

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I've been sick on and off (definitely more on than off) for the past year and a half. The pain has been so bad sometimes this week... I was not a happy camper. I think I have a better attitude about it since listening to Brother Richards' talk in General Conference last month. It's true that pain brings humility, and it also brings gratitude in a roundabout way: when you're feeling good, it's easy to be grateful for that because you have the memory of not feeling good fresh in your mind. Opposition.

So although it's been a rough week, I'm feeling hopeful. A friend from church called me earlier this week to check in with me, since I wasn't there last Sunday. She thought I should see an allergist, in case I have food allergies, and she gave me the name of her son's allergist. I have an appointment with him later this month, which I am looking forward to. Even if I don't have food allergies, I think I do have other allergies, because I'm always sniffly/coughy, and I have awful dark, yellow circles around my eyes.

People are so funny. I generally do not say anything when I feel sick, and the only people who know are three people at church, three people at work, my sister, and Laynie. My principal and assistant principal knew but I think they assumed I got better when I had my gallbladder removed. I'm not a big whiner. And I would never tell people all of the symptoms, because I don't want them to think I can't do my job or something. When people find out I'm sick (which doesn't really describe it, but whatever), they always want to advise me on what they think it is. People think it's whatever they have heard of or have experienced themselves. I don't mind hearing their theories, though, because I know they're trying to help.

Since I can't change it, I'm now focusing on what I need to learn from this experience. That has been really positive.

Sometimes it's scary and overwhelming. I guess when I think about it, that's how I feel, but I don't think about it a lot. Mostly I focus on compensating, like saving my energy during evenings and weekends. And I've tried some elimination and challenge dietary changes, which gives me a purpose, even if it doesn't help much.

I'm gearing up for another round of "Let the doctors poke and prod, ignore most of what I say, and find nothing." I've been off doctors for a few months, so it's probably time. I have the new allergy guy, and I got a GI recommendation from my boss, who has Crohn's. She's a discriminating GI consumer, so hopefully her recommendation is good. I want to find a new internist/GP. Laynie's family doctor seemed pretty with it, although she was a really strange person. I have a GI doctor who I think is a really good doctor... if your symptoms fit his research interests. He's into Barrett's esophagus and stomach problems. I became less interesting to him when he concluded that my GERD is due to a plain, old, run-of-the-mill hiatal hernia, and when my biopsies showed no signs of Barrett's. Too bad, because he is a brilliant guy, and I want brain power on my problem!

GI is a part of it, the only part that anyone knows. I get a lot of stomach cramping, and sometimes I'll have diarrhea for a day or several days, for no apparent reason. And the surgeon removed several lower abdominal lesions, which he speculated were to due to inflammation/infection unrelated to my poor, tired gallbladder, which had given up the ghost by that point. But there's more.

What's up with limb weakness, abnormally high muscle tension (torso), tingling, and a feeling that I need to MOVE my limbs. I think it might be what they call "restless leg syndrome," but sometimes it's my arms--like right now. I've had a few times where I had a problem with my left hip, that it's weak and hurts when I try to use my leg. I literally cannot support myself. One time it happened just after I entered a preschool classroom, and I had to stand there, balancing on my right leg, because I could not bear weight with the left. Luckily the class was in circle time, so it was not abnormal just to stand there watching them. It happens more often when I'm sitting and go to stand up, and my body says, "Surprise! I've been saving this for you.. You can't stand, silly!" It's not like this happens frequently, but I doubt it's normal to happen at all. I just go ahead and stand with my right leg, and I gently stretch the bad hip. That helps. Or I can wait for it to go away.

I am loath to admit that I have cognitive symptoms, like word retrieval issues, losing my train of thought, and confusion. I know that everyone experiences going into a room only to forget why you're there. But there are days or weeks that it happens to me frequently, then I'm fine for weeks or months. And have you ever suddenly not known where you are? Not just forgotten where you're going but not even known where you are. I'm not sure if that's normal or not. It happened to the title character in Still Alice (a book I highly recommend), and she ended up having Alzheimer's. When it later happened to me, of course I thought about that book, but I don't think I fit the profile for Alzheimer's. Whew. But the description in the book was right on the money.

And then there's the exhaustion. Sometimes I'm so tired when I get home from work, I can't do anything but lay there. That's pretty much guaranteed to happen on days when I work my regular job and take a freelance interpreting job in the evening. Even thinking about doing anything when I feel that way is enough to make me cry. I feel like such a weenie. It's not like I'm out on a construction site all day! My job is mentally and emotionally draining (try interacting all day with people who need you precisely because they can't interact with people), but I really don't think I should be that tired. It's not all the time. And maybe food plays into it, because there are times I'm too busy to eat properly.

The tough thing is that I don't even know that my problems are related. I wonder if the GI stuff is separate from the rest of it.

I'm so glad [next to] no one reads my blog. It's so helpful for me to process.

OK, I'm formulating a plan. I have the allergist appointment. I'm going to make an appointment with my nurse practitioner (give her one last chance--she did order the right tests to identify the gallbladder problem, after all). I'm going to make an appointment with my boss's GI doctor. And I think I'll make an appointment with Laynie's weirdo doctor. When it comes to doctors, I'll take intelligence over good social skills any day, and I think she's intelligent.

Sometimes I feel like I need to get a medical degree to solve my problems!