Tuesday, September 26, 2006

God must be laughing at me OR My perception was FAR from reality

So, when I accepted the offer of my current position back in March, I had concerns. I knew that the children with autism were primarily going to be placed at different campuses from mine and that I would get the overflow. My class is a Developmentally Delayed preschool class. Most of the kids are speech delayed. I thought my class would be made up of kids who were slow to talk, maybe a syndrome or two (Downs, Williams, Fragile X). I was worried that I would miss the challenge of working with the kids like I had previously. Get that? In other words, I was worried that my new job wouldn't present the challenges that I wanted. Oh my, how WRONG I was! My morning class is a potpourri of students and personalities. None fit into any kind of mold anywhere near another student in that class (not that I expect them to be alike). Each is 180 degrees different from the next. While I thought I would miss the challenge of working with students with autism, I didn't realize the challenges I would face with students with such different needs. I don't really know what I was thinking earlier this year--maybe I just wasn't thinking!
What brings all this up now? I was reading a report on a potential new student and just had to start laughing. Of course we'll get him-he fits right in to my morning class, which is to say he doesn't fit in at all! Bring 'em on! I'm ready for the challenge. :)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend Dog Blog

I took some shots of the dogs basking in the backyard on this 2nd day of fall. Harley is feeling much better and looking much better after the 15 pounds he dropped during his illness.

Check out Sweetnicks for all of the other cute dogs this week!


I lived in Stillwater, OK for 2 years during my first round of graduate school ('96-98). It wasn't a pleasant time. School was tough--studying was my life, and I never grew to like the small town. Maybe it was because the school was OK State University, and having grown up a fan of the University of Oklahoma, it was tough to really get acclimated. Plus, I look awful in orange. Anyhow, one of my good memories from that time is Hideaway Pizza. It was across from the campus and their pizza was delish. My favorite was a Pizza of the Gods--olive oil & garlic sauce, topped with artichokes, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Of course, back then I didn't eat mushrooms, so I always subbed black olives. All this was covered in a provolone/mozzarella blend. I've dreamt about that pizza from time to time. Well, Friday I was driving around near the University of Oklahoma and what do I see? A Hideaway Pizza! So, though I was a little bit afraid of tarnishing that memory I have of that oh-so-good pizza, I could resist the urge to see if this Hideaway stood up to the original. I got my pizza to do (with the mushrooms this time) and brought it home. I stuck it in the oven to keep warm while I tended to some other things, and soon caught the smell--the garlic! Wonderful!
So, I'm happy to report that the Pizza of the Gods did live up to my memories. It was heavenly. I'll have to take some out of town friends there when they are here next month.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


So, lately I only bring my camera home on weekends--it's in a locked cabinet at school the rest of the time. However, I have gradually begun getting acquainted with my kitchen again! We're still having hot days, but the nights are getting cooler. To me, that means soup season! I've made soup 3x the past week--the tomato soup posted below (it wasn't as good as I remembered it being?), Spicy Sweet Corn and Poblano Soup (first made by Lula at a Supper Club and repeated by me many times since), and a Creamy Rosemary-Potato Soup created by me. I'll attempt a recipe below.
There's something about the crisp cool air that just screams my name. I love this time of the year, and living back in Oklahoma somehow makes me savor it more.

I have another new student coming next week, and yet another one coming soon. My students are all so DIFFERENT. Yes, of course they are, right? But more the underlying reason for their developmental delay...one is as of yet undiagnosed as to any medical condition that might explain his actions and behaviors. It's driving me crazy. I feel like I can't help him unless I know more, because what I know isn't enough. Right now we are dealing with a child who screams whenever he doesn't get his way or is put at a table for any 'teacher time' activities. He basically wants to run around like a tornado and do whatever he wants, otherwise he screams. He screams loud. We've tried ignoring-not reinforcing the behavior that gets attention. We've tried redirecting. We've been stern. We did turn off the water fountain he likes to play in. He didn't scream when he realized it doesn't work, but he did look quite perplexed. :)

On to the soup. All measurements are approximate (as anyone who has seen me cook can imagine). At first, I didn't think I was going to like it on account of too much rosemary, but when it was said and done, I was quite pleased. Nothing gourmet...but stick to your ribs good.

1 T. olive oil
3/4 pound of white potatoes, diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
5 cups vegetable broth (I used water+Better than Bouillon)
1/4 c. half and half
1 cup fat free milk
1 t. dried rosemary
S&P to taste
cheese for garnish (I used cheddar, but was tempted to use smoked Gouda)
bacon for garnish

Heat olive oil and garlic cloves. Add onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add diced potatoes and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender. Add rosemary. Use a stick blender to puree soup to desired consistency. Add half & half and milk and heat. Season to taste. Garnish with shredded cheese and bacon.

Guilty confession: I also added some of the bacon grease to the soup. It really helps the flavor.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Soup Season!

Night time temperatures are going to be in the 50s soon. I'm ready for soup! Since I just cook for one, I like to make things that I can take to work or make 2 meals out of. This soup was a favorite last season and it's on the menu for this week-maybe tomorrow. I just need to make a run to get things for a salad and I am set!

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Cooking the vegetables at the high temperature of 500° caramelizes their natural sugars and deepens their flavor; the liquid poured over them ensures they won't burn. Prepare the soup up to two days ahead; reheat over medium heat before serving.

1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
Cooking spray
3/4 cup half-and-half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 500°.
Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)

CALORIES 120(35% from fat); FAT 4.7g (sat 3g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 3.8g; CHOLESTEROL 23mg; CALCIUM 120mg; SODIUM 452mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 1.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g
Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2005

Friday, September 15, 2006

Snippets from my classroom

What a week! I got 2 new students this week. They are both in my morning class. Typically, my new students will start on their 3rd birthday, which is when they become the school district's legal responsibility per IDEA. Both of these students are about 4 1/2 which makes me sad for a couple of reasons. One is that they've missed 4+ years of early intervention services, and they really could have benefited from having help sooner. The second is that their time with me will be limited! I'll still have them for the rest of this year and next, so hopefully will be able to see much progress. One is a girl (poor thing, she's the only girl). She has no effect at all. I've yet to see her smile or laugh, which really makes me sad for her. The other is a cute red headed blue eyed boy. I almost got teary when I met him--he is too cute and unfortunately his delays are human induced. I know it happens in our world, but seeing the results of child abuse up close is heartbreaking. He is a very engaging and sweet little boy.

I had a meeting with some parents today that left us all in stitches. They were asking who K is. They thought it was a student. K is one of my TAs. Turns out there son really likes K and talks about her all the time. Funny that her name has stuck so well because the first two weeks of school he called her Leo! Anyhow, one night he was talking about her and said "Ms. B (me) changes K's diapers. K has big titties!" I don't know which is more hysterical--that he said this or that the mom felt she had to share this bit! I was giving this child an assessment recently. I asked him to draw a person for me, like his mom or dad. He proceded to draw a bunch of lines and circles. When I asked him to identify the parts he drew, he pointed to one circle and said, "That's my daddy's ass!" I had to look away and take a deep breath. He doesn't know what a chin, thumb, elbow, or knee are but he knows his daddy's ass!

I'm happy to report that Harley came home on Wednesday and so far is doing OK. He's still on meds, and has a checkup next week. I hope once he's off the meds that the same issues don't arise again because my checkbook can't handle much more! Still, Peanut and I are so glad that he's home and getting back to his normal self!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Birthday

Dakota would have been 9 today.
The more birthdays that go by, the harder is it to picture what he'd be like today.

Still missing you Dakota.

Aunt JJ

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Year Ago

Today is the anniversary of my parents' motorcycle accident. A year...Dad is still in a walking shoe, but shouldn't have to have any more surgeries. He hasn't worked since the week before the accident.

Cynthia and Clayton have had 1 new grandchild and have another on the way since they passed on. The 'gang' all went out to the cemetary this afternoon. I'm sure they toasted to Clayton and Cynthia!

Harley dog has been at the hospital since Monday. I'm hoping he gets to come home tomorrow. Friday, it looked like some tough decisions may be in the future if he didn't hurry up and respond already to his meds. Peanut and I visited him yesterday. While initially, the tech couldn't get him to budge to come to the room where Peanut and I were waiting, once he saw me he stood up and almost darted to the outside door! I got him in a room with me for a short while and just loved on him. He was quite tuckered out, so we grudgingly left. The tech was very happy to see Harley get so motivated over something! The report on the med front was good too, so hopefully he was starting to respond.

Harley is a dog who defies all logic. Really. Most of his health issues have been the sort that stump the vet. Right now, they are treating him for colitis, but pancreatitis or possibly something else as of yet unknown could be the culprit. Medically speaking, Harley is an anomaly. He always has the weirdest things happen to him.

Here he is Monday morning after spending a night in the ER. Notice he still has the port for an IV. Is that just pathetic or what?

Check out Sweetnicks for some cute and healthy (hopefully) pooches for this weekend's edition of Weekend Dog Blog.

Continuing With the Theme...Top 10 Things I Like About Living in Norman

10. The people.

9. I can afford more than a postage stamp sized lot here! My dogs can actually sprint across the yard if they want.

8. Buying local. I can get just about everything I need locally. I've even found a hometown pharmacist! No big box chain...someone who will come in on a Sunday morning for an emergency (I found this out from experience).

7. Being close to family. It's nice to be able to call mom to go shopping or dad to see if he can come help me with something. :) Mom's best friend called me to go shopping today--it's like having a 2nd mom around.

6. The University--it adds a lot to the culture of the community.

5. My job. Working with the younger kids is different, but is definitely fun and rewarding.

4. No traffic (except game days, but at least you can plan around that).

3. It takes less than 15 minutes to get to work, even though I live on the opposite of town as school.

2. I live on a quiet cul-de-sac where there isn't much traffic noise. There is undeveloped land very nearby and I can hear the locusts at night! I can also see the stars!

1. Boomer Sooner!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Top 10 Things I DON'T Miss About Texas

10. Air pollution from too many damn people

9. Texas pride

8. Too much concrete

7. Over $3,000/yr in property taxes for my cookie cutter cheapy house in the suburbs

6. It takes 25 minutes to get just about anywhere (OK, so I did live in the suburbs...which was part of the problem)

5. Cookie cutter cheapy houses. Everywhere. In neighborhoods where they cut down all the trees. Ugly.

4. Traffic. No matter the time or the day...you're going to get STUCK in it 95% of the time.

3. The Dallas "Attitude"

2. Construction. Everywhere. All the time.

1. The 6 milllion or so people in the Metroplex

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Top 10 Things I Miss About Texas

10. The cheap little Italian joint near my house. I would love one of their calzones right about now.

9. My Supper Club. While we didn't meet as often anymore, we always had a good time with good food, good laughs, and good company. So far, people treat me like a freak if they realize I am eating a home made lunch!

8. DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse). I hear one is coming in here though.

7. Sprouts. I was just getting used to having one-their produce was the cheapest and good quality to boot. And the chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels? Yum!

6. Central Market. Need I say more?

5. Night OWLS--family respite program I volunteered with. I am visiting them next month. :)

4. My students. Most of them. I will not forget them--they taught me a lot.

3. My neighbors. I had good neighbors. They were good to my dogs. And to me.

2. My friends there. You know who you are. :)

1. Children's Medical Center of Dallas--my volunteer 'job' there was the most constant part of the 7 years I spent in Dallas. I met many wonderful, professional staff there over that course of time.

On another note, think good healing thoughts towards my dog Harley. He has been in the hospital since Monday. :( He's on IV antibiotics and is also getting fluids. I visited him yesterday and it was just heartbreaking. I miss my Harley. So does Peanut.