The Penny

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

[Saturday, July 30, 2011]

Sweet Relief


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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...