Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 3--Highs and Lows

I'm not going to blog the minutiae of every school day. I can hear your sighs of relief from here. But today had some events that I think I'll want to remember, both good and bad. 


Teaching Little Mister is such a delight. The kid understands stuff instantly and quietly follows directions. I need to make sure I do a lesson with just him every day, for both our sakes. 

Not to brag, but I'm a pretty good teacher. My third graders are not only learning, but enjoying it. I've already adapted several of their lessons, particularly in reading, to be more motivating, more successful and less drudgery. 

(Third graders studying spelling on the trampoline.)
Another big bonus today was that Hubby came home at lunch to fix a computer and gave me a break. I walked downtown and bought myself a salad for lunch. Amazing what 25 minutes away and a brisk walk can do to lower my stress levels!


Abi was a mess yesterday and today. The change in schedule seems to have completely thrown her for a loop and she can't even follow simple instructions like, go get a marker. It's like her brain shuts down during an RAD episode. Frustrating when suddenly I need to teach her something! I spent two hours yesterday with her on my lap, just snuggling. That would be fine if she were my only child and that was all I needed to do all day. But it isn't, and so my anxiety crawls through the roof!  Grrrrr!

Bean has been trying hard to be good. I know it's hard for him to have to get so little attention all morning. Glad preschool starts next week, so at least two days a week he'll have something to do. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

School Daze

School is underway! Here are a few pictures of my scholars: two third graders (Curly is joined by a neighbor/friend), a second grader, a Kindergartener, and a preschooler. 

And, of course, RECESS!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Goodbye, Stinky Couch

I thought I'd found a great deal, getting these couches at the second-hand store. But we got them home and they smelled disgustingly like cat pee. Nothing we tried eradicated the smell from the larger couch, so it must have been in some secret, inner location. Yuck. 

Finally, after months of coming in the front door to that hideous odor, not to mention refusing to sit on the thing, we decided the easiest way to send it on its way was to put it in the front yard with a "free" sign. (A perk of living in a college town is that this time of year, desperate students are on the prowl for cheap furniture.) 

Within minutes, a Marine claimed it, in spite of our warnings about the smell. He joyfully said that it would make a good video game couch. Halo 3, chips, beer and cat pee. Perfect. 

Now, our living room is minus some seating, but aaahhh, the space. And the lack of stinky. 

First Day of School


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Getting Ready

After a week of crazy phone calls, phone conferences, emails, signing consent forms and sending ideas back and forth, I feel like we're on our way. 

Abi's IEP can't be written until she is more thoroughly evaluated, but at least her team seems to have a better idea of who she is and what she'll need to be successful. As usual, I've been using all of my creative juices to help round out the supply list, like making this tactile globe using puffy paint. 

Some other things we thought of:

A 7" handheld computer monitor that duplicates whatever is on my monitor so we can watch the videos and do the online lessons together. This might work for this year, since she is losing vision so fast, but that's fine. 

Wooden letter-building shapes for Handwriting Without Tears. Learning print is fairly important since so many cultural references deal with print. (Make an "O" with your mouth. The "A-frame" house. An "S" curve in the road.)

Her Braille teacher, Daniel, will come 3x per week. She calls him Daniel Tiger, and really likes him. He'll also be doing her evaluation. 

The IESDB can loan us things like tactile maps, drawing paper and a refreshable Braille display. 

The only things still unresolved are a good screen reader, like JAWS, and O&M lessons. I have a lead on a teacher in the area, but she isn't connected with the state funding, so they may have someone else in mind. 

All in all, though I had hoped to have more nailed down by the start of school, especially since I've been working on it all spring and summer, it's going to be possible to start school in a meaningful way at least. I struggle with being "that mom" who is a really squeaky wheel, but I realize that I need to put my own comfort aside to get exactly what Abi needs each year. 

On that note, Rachel Coleman's story of how she fought to get her daughter what she needed in school really encouraged me. She was "that mom" too, and her daughter thrived. I also cried when she described the school not having a place for a child who was both gifted and disabled. While Abi may not be gifted, and probably won't skip grades like Little Mister is doing, she is very bright, and the SpEd people are having a difficult time knowing quite what to do with her. 

I have the answer: enjoy her!!!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sunset and a Cat

The loveliest sunset beckoned me out my front door this evening to try to photograph it. 

While I was out there, my little ferile cat, Cinnamon, came up for a pet. 

It is really the first time she's wanted pets for almost a year. 

Although always on her terms, she only lets me pet her. I've never been picked by a one-person cat before. It's kind of flattering, really. 

Only when she first came to us and had her kittens did she come in the house and act friendly. And after she got spayed, she took to her wild life outside again. 

I don't mind. It just makes the rare moment of friendliness that much sweeter.


Tired and stressed?

Climb a mountain. 



This requires a long Facebook vent!

Abi's IEP meeting (via teleconference) was this morning. Let's just say I was a little less than impressed. Thankfully, so was her SpEd teacher, so at least I have one mover/shaker on our team, not just me!

We did get a wee bit of Braille, enough to last us maybe a week. Not sure if I am excited to see braille coming into our home, or disappointed that there is so little of it. I mean, compare the amount of Braille (about 20 pages) with the thousands of pages of print a sighted Kindergartner gets at the beginning of the year.

Still, even baby steps forward are steps.

I keep thinking that in Ethiopia, they don't educate blind kids at all, except a lucky few who live in the main city. In the USA they say they educate blind kids, and then sort of actually do it. More or less. I guess that's better, right? Right? *crickets*

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Week Before the Plunge

This week is:

Phone calls
Getting organized
Last minute school supply shopping
Choosing an Amharic curriculum
Getting excited
Hooking up computers
Praying a lot

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Spider and a Screen Door

I REALLY don't like spiders. I don't quite jump on the couch and shriek when one comes skittering across the floor, but I want to. 

This spider is somewhat welcome in our house at the moment. I guess you could say we have an understanding. He (She?) stays nicely in the web and refrains from skittering, and in turn I allow him (her?) to rent space and catch all of the bugs that have annoyingly entered our house through the screen door that Bean accidentally broke. 

Today, Hubby and I together fixed the screen door. The spider's tenancy may be temporary. 

Negative Space

As a [semi-]sighted person, especially one with a pretty limited field of vision, I've always placed quite a bit of mental emphasis on objects. I've rarely noticed that an object is defined and bounded by the negative space around it. I suppose a visual artist would be chuckling at me not noticing such a simple thing, but honestly, it's so much work to try to see an object, that I don't usually have enough attention span left over to try to see where the object isn't. I mention this only because I had a fairly interesting revelation this week about it

This Thursday, Abi and I had a lesson with a white cane teacher who comes down from Spokane to give us lessons as part of his Master's thesis. This teacher, Tim, is totally blind, which in my opinion makes the best cane instructor. Who better to teach the nuances of using a white cane than a blind person who uses one all day every day? Also, he's had training in the NFB long cane method, which makes much more sense to me than the teachers who say a cane only needs to come to the mid-chest.

Anyway, Tim had me do some blindfold work in order to practice the skills he was teaching Abi. (If I can continue her instruction on a daily basis, she will continue to gain confidence and skill rapidly.) I walked down the street with my cane, desperately trying to remember to keep it in step, use the open palm grip, tap from side to side with just enough width to clear my path but not get stuck in the grass on either side, and hold my hand in the right place on my body: out front and centered. After several blocks of this mental rodeo, Tim had us take a break and work on echolocation.

I've tried doing this before: making a sound and listening as it bounces around me, trying to determine the location and distance of objects based purely on the echoes. I know that skilled blind users of echolocation can, in a sense, "see" well enough to ride a bike, rollerblade or find buildings and doors and stairs. When I try it, however, I get nothing. Zip, Nada. I pretty much stink at echolocation. I get absolutely no sense of where any objects are at all.

As we worked, Tim sent me down the sidewalk by myself, tapping away merrily with my metal-tipped cane, and his instructions were, "Tell me if you hear anything." Apparently, his confidence in me was about one notch higher than mine. At one point, a hedge next to me supposedly would be noticeable, but I ran into it before I had a chance to hear it.

Then, finally, the aural landscape changed. I heard... nothing. Not the nothing I heard when I was fiercely trying to hear the objects around me, but I heard the sound of open space. The absence of objects. The difference flew at me like an echoing symphony. Excitedly, I reported to him, "I hear space!" He grinned and told me it was a parking lot or some sort of open area.

Later, we were walking past a long, blank wall. Although I could not determine my proximity to the wall like he and Abi could, I did notice when it ended. Again, that beautiful feeling of space tickled me from my left side.

I said offhandedly to him, "The space is a lot easier to hear than the objects. I guess blind people must think the space around objects is more important, while sighted people think the objects are more important." He agreed enthusiastically.  From what I can tell it seems like maybe blind people start to get a sense of their surroundings by painting in the empty areas of negative space around stuff when they paint a mental picture of what they hear. I'm sure it quickly becomes a lot more nuanced than that, but that is a start that I hadn't expected. I felt I had taken an important leap into Abi's world.

We walk past this United Methodist Church almost daily to get downtown.

The same photo with the colors inverted, emphasizing the negative space in the picture.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tonight At Shari's

What was supposed to be a pleasant evening out as a family with no dishes to wash, instead turned into us sitting and waiting for our food for an unreasonably long period of time due to our waiter writing his ticket wrong. We sat and froze in the too-low A/C and refused to order the free kids' drinks at least four times because we *gasp* actually wanted water. At the end of the meal, we thought about ordering pie, but the waiter hanging out in the kitchen area shooting the breeze with his fellow waiters, along with the refrigerator-like atmosphere, made us change our minds, and we shivered our way back out to the car.  Then, we bought a cake at Safeway instead. 

I realize that the bar isn't set too high for service at certain restaurants, and we tried to take that into consideration, but this passed even our low expectations. I tried to fill out a customer survey, but the cashier neglected to give us a receipt, upon which is a special code for doing the feedback survey.  No code, no survey. Oh well. 

I did take a few cute kid pictures during the interminable wait for our food. 






Wednesday, August 14, 2013

She Is Leaving Us

Our wonderful, fun, amazing, hardworking babysitter/driver/photographer/friend is leaving us to move to Montana. As if a tight relationship with a great guy is any excuse whatsoever!

The Littles are heartbroken. Even though she is here until the end of August, Bean cried unconsolably for an hour and a half the other night. We're really going to miss her. :)


Monday, August 12, 2013

Year of the Bees

Last weekend, we did our annual Meadow Creek trip, and we took Hubby for the first time! We had a great time, but the kids didn't catch any fish, and the bees were terrible! Still, the landscape was beautiful it was nice to get away. 

Of course, I took the right medicine to treat a bee sting allergy, but luckily, the stings we got were not bad. 

If you can see it, the bee trap we took had hundreds of bees after only a few hours. 

While we were gone, Alyssa kept the Littles, and they had a fantastic time! They roasted marshmallows, slept out in the tent with glow sticks, and went hiking. Bean told me that they were also camping.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


There's this green shirt that I have that I love. I got it while thrifting one year, probably 1998, and have worn it once a week since. How the thing still holds together, I have no idea. 

One day I got the idea to duplicate my favorite shirt. I wanted to try sewing knits, because I know they're hard, especially with my dumb sewing machine, which has a broken tension mechanism. In order to sew, I have to balance a cup full of loose change atop the machine to create an artificial tension mechanism. 

Anyway, I wanted a challenge, and that is what I got! It's been months of doing one seam at a time, getting frustrated and cussing out my machine, and going to the Bernina website online to drool over new machines. 

At last today, I had to listen to an hour and a half of oral history interviews for work, so I put on my earbuds and sewed. 

I finally finished my shirt, and I am pleased with the result. Using all zigzag seams gives it a bit of a retro feel; the fabric drapes beautifully, and I put an extra few inches on the length that's impossible to find in stores. 

Now, if I lost a few pounds, my new shirt would look even better!