Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Always an adventure

Today was a field trip day. My class joined with another to go up to a camp for special needs youth and adults for a field day. I was sad that 2 of my kids were sick and missed it, along with one student from the other class. We still managed to have a fun day. I really think this was the first time some of these students had ever been out "in the country"! They thoroughly enjoyed it.
We played games, had a picnic lunch, took a hike through the woods, and then went paddle boating.
Some quips and quotes from the day:
I drove one of the vans, and our speech pathologist rode with me. As we got onto the interstate, she said, "I'm sure glad I'm not driving. I'd be a nervous wreck." From right behind us, K quips "I'm sure glad you're not driving either!"

M was singing from the back of the van, "We're going to the country, the country, the country, we're going to the country...."

M said to B on as we passed a farm pond, "Hey. When we grow up, let's go fishing there."

"That was the most fun I've ever had!"

"Let's hunt for bears in these woods."

I think this was the first time on a boat for many of our kids--priceless memories!

Two of the students from the other class decided I was their buddy today. They walked with me, held on to me, and oh yeah--one of them tried to kiss me right before he got onto his bus. He got within inches (he had come from behind me), and pulled back, and he turned and ran to his bus.
Middle schoolers. Hormonal middle schoolers. Hormonal middle schoolers with intellectual disabilities. Never a dull moment!

Finally, I end this with a picture. No, not of our group. I took this from the back of a paddle boat, sitting in between 2 kids who were starting to try to stand up as we were about to dock.
I just thought it was cool looking.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

They Melt My Heart


My students, my kids. They are precious. The things the say, the things they do, the way they help each other out and are proud of doing the right thing. Sure, they have their quirks (who doesn't?). Some of them throw tantrums--actually it's just the girls. Hormones maybe? I love these kids with all of my heart-and will miss them so when I move on to the new job, likely in January.

I've been sick this past week, missing 1 1/2 days of school. One of my TAs was out sick Friday. I haven't felt great at week, and Friday decided to have a low key day with math games, manipulatives, sight word bingo, books online, etc. so as to maintain a distance from them (due to this massive sinus infection), and let them have a bit of a relaxed day. I am off last hour, and 2 of my kids were in another resource teacher's room, visiting with their elementary teacher. I was leaving early to go to the Dr. and stopped in to see how the visit was going. When I said good-bye, K looks at me, asks very seriously "Where are you going? Why?" and when I told her, she said in her most grown-up serious voice, "Sweetheart, goodbye. I really hope you get to feeling better."
I almost lost it. Precious.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cool Weather + the blahs==Chicken Soup

But not just any chicken soup. I was blog surfing this morning from the couch (where I've been most of the weekend) and came across this recipe from Joe's blog. It called out to me. Granted, I had to switch some things up due to what I had in the freezer, as I'm not going to the store today.
Here is what I ended up doing.

Chicken and Ham Wild Rice Soup (Adapted from Joe's adaptation from Land O'Lakes)

3 tablespoons butter
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup 1/2" sliced celery
1/4 cup diced onion (I used red onions--all I had)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sherry
4 cups cooked wild rice (Mine was mixed with some brown rice)
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 cup 1/2" cubed cooked ham
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tossed with 1 T. flour
salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat - add carrots, celery and onion. Cook until softened, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in flour - cook 1 minute, stirring. Whisk in broth and sherry. Stir in rice, chicken and ham - season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in cheese, cook another few minutes until cheese it melted into soup.
Serve with crusty french bread.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings
This was good! Very filling, not too cheesy or heavy, and I'd imagine fairly healthy. The ham I had was already sliced--so it was too thin for my tastes. I might consider omitting it next time, and there will be a next time. I love the richness the sherry added. I've made wild rice & cheese soups that use beer, but I think I might like this combination a bit better.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm watching some news show--20/20 I think. It's talking about the stock market and how it's affected the rich. Someone was interviewed and was saying how someone he knows said giving up his private jet was one of the toughest things he'd ever had to deal with.
Just wow. Really? Material bullshit?

Dude, come spend a day in my world. Giving up shopping at department stores and buying red meat may humble you a bit. So sorry to hear you have it so rough. Expletive. Expletive (I just called him a name that starts with an F.).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Books Have You Read?

I love to read. I have always read almost anything I can get my hands on. Lately, I am more quick easy reads that don't require much thought, but have been known to read more serious material.

While blog surfing, I stumbled across this Meme. I promptly "borrowed" it.

How many have you read??

Apparently, the National Endowment for the Arts believes that the average American has read only 6 of the books on the list below.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline (or mark in a different color) the books you LOVE
4) Reprint this list in your blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (I've read parts of it)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (I think I tried to read this once)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (Don't like sci-fi/fantasy though)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (It's sitting on my night stand)
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (blah--no desire)
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (one of my favorites)
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (Read on my own in 6th grade and again in HS)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving (I started this once; it belonged to my now ex-bf)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (I think I read this as a kid)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (It's about a boy with autism--very interesting)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (sitting on my bookshelf)
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (one of my all-time favorites)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Well what do you know? I have read more books than the average American- 24 books on this list, to be exact. It's sort of sad that that's only 24% of the list though!

This book reminded me of several that I've intended to read--hopefully I'll get my hands on them soon!
What about you? What books have you read? Does this list inspire you to read more?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


OK, a political thread.
I've followed this year's election coverage more than I have in the past. I watched some of both national conventions. I was shocked at the McCain's VP choice and find it somewhat insulting that he seemed to pick her because...she has a uterus. It just appears that he picked her to try and get the female voters who wanted Clinton and are disappointed in Obama, never mind that their stance on many issues are miles and miles apart. The polls have made a swing towards McCain since her appointment (a rather large one), and it just makes me wonder--are those numbers different because Palin is in fact a she, or are people really paying attention to what the candidates stand for and making their choice based on that?

Another issue--I'm already sick of all the negativity surrounding both campaigns. I'm tired of hearing one party's candidates bash the others. And you mean we have 2 more months of this? I may just unplug my TV and be done with it. I really have no care or concern to listen to the negativity. Tell me what your stance is, what you stand for. Address the concerns that many Americans have--the war, the economy, the energy problem. Let us make our decision on who to vote for based on facts, not a bunch of harsh words thrown each way. Please?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

September 11 would have been Dakota's 11th birthday. His last birthday alive was his 4th. Wow, so much time has passed.

It dawned on me last week that my students are just a wee bit older than Dakota would be if he were here. In fact, I had one turn 11 the weekend after school started. I catch myself working with them and wondering what he'd be like. I don't really think he'd be in a class like mine. I think he'd be the ham of whatever class he was in. I think his classmates would love him--and accept him and his differences because he had such a sweet spirit; who couldn't help but love him? I think he'd be walking, though probably with assistance. I think he'd be eating much more through his mouth vs. his g-tube. I think he'd need a muzzle sometimes to keep him from talking, as he was already a chatterbox. I know he'd still be the apple of my parents' eye, the center of their world.

I miss him still.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Camp E

This is a rerun (posted elsewhere) but I am too tired to drum up new material.

What a Week: A Recap of Camp E

Another week done….

This was my 7th (and possibly final, though I am already rethinking that decision) year to serve as a counselor at a very special camp for children whose lives have been affected by cancer. Many of them are now healthy, typical kids. Some of them still bear the scars of their treatments, which may include physical scars, amputations, facial deformities, bone aches, limps, weight gain from steroids, stunted growth, hearing loss, and so forth. Others are still in treatment and dealing with what this brings them—low blood counts, no hair, easy bruising, lethargy, and emotional strains. Others who have come to camp healthy in the past are now a shell of what we remember them as, as they are facing the dreaded relapse—which often times means an even more difficult battle than the ones they have already faced. Counselors also learn that for many of these kids, cancer isn't the worse thing they've had to face. Yet, through all of their hardships, these kids come to a camp in the country (one girl called it creepy because it was in the woods) and find time to laugh, make new friends, fit in, and hopefully learn to be a kid again. How blessed am I to get to experience this awesome week yet again!

My cabin was made up of 6&7 year old girls (plus one 8 yo), and what a rainbow of diversity we had! Hispanic, Indian, African American, Nepalese, Polish, Caucasian, all living together for a week. The girls were the sweetest, most helpful, easy going bunch I think I've had yet. We had a little girl who had a brain tumor and radiation as an infant. We had been told she would require a lot of hands on. Well, how wrong the information was. Yes, her walking was unsteady. Yes, she had a hearing aid and cochlear implant and glasses. Yes, she wore braces on her feet. But most importantly, yes she was very intent and headstrong and insisted on taking care of herself to the fullest extent possible. She even fell down a time or two as she rushed to hold the door open for fellow campers. What a joy her sweet helpful (and stubborn) spirit is. We had a 3rd time camper in our cabin, who at 8 years old, acts like a little adult. She is already talking about how she wants to be a counselor when she grows up. I don't doubt that she will be a very good one. She was such a mother hen to the other girls, and a huge help to her 6 counselors.

I love that camp enables these kids to fit in. I love that the kids I have seen over the years—not always in a cabin with—have blossomed into young adults. There is the camp graduate (age 15) who is small for his age, has some facial deformities from radiation, who always wore sunglasses and a ball cap and never looked up. Last year, he participated in a skit. This year he did more and he also showed up to camp w/o the baseball cap. I talked to him a bit one night and got a hug. Chances are, I'll never see him again but will always remember the progression he made over the years, and I have to think camp had a lot to do with that.

Our little girl who I mentioned earlier brought with her a little stuffed animal. The animal was well known throughout camp by the week's end. We joked that if she was lost, camp would shut down and an all out search would go on. Fortunately, Pinky made it home, though she needed a bath. Anyhow, on the ropes course, we were unsure if little Miss Independent would participate. She got harnessed up and sat and watched her cabin mates go before her. One of the camp counselors who works summers there (a former camper himself) came up to her and said Pinky needed a harness as well. He proceeded to harness little Pinky up. Pinky went up the incline wall hooked onto a carabeener. She then went down the zip line with her owner. I really don't think that ride would have happened if Pinky would have stayed on the ground. We were all amazed and touched at the gesture shown by this young man.

Anyhow, another year has passed…camp was really great, though very hot. I enjoyed the time with my fellow counselors and the kids. I really don't think I'm ready to give this part of my life up; it's too rewarding, too fun, and a strong dose of perspective.

On another note, my first year at camp happened the week after Dakota died (more pictures here). I left for camp the day after his funeral. That first year is a blur—as it is for new counselors, but even more so for me. I had that heaviness over me. As the years have gone by, I always associate camp with Dakota. Just the timing…the healing. That first year I spent some early morning alone time at the chapel just thinking, reflecting. I managed to do that most years afterwards. Well, this year was the first time I didn't feel that connection. I realized on the last night that I hadn't thought of him all week. This at first made me sad, a bit guilty maybe. Then I realized that maybe for the first time I was completely "there" for my campers, without any personal issues lingering in the back of my mind. Anyhow. Camp truly is a healing place.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Maybe I'll try this again

So many thoughts, so little time. I've had a lot on my mind lately. I really want to try getting them down again, so we'll see if I make the time.

In my latest news, I won't be a classroom teacher much longer. Life is a changing. As soon as a replacement is found-you know that will be hard because hello, it's me, J/K, I will be moving on to the state department of education as a Special Education Coordinator. I'm excited about the opportunity, anxious, and sad. I love my kids this year--they are so much of why I came to this profession. Some of them are the age my nephew Dakota would be if he were alive. He would be 11 on Sept 11. It's hard to believe the time that has FLOWN by. Anyhow. My kids. Precious. Sweet. Lovable. Goofy. Entertaining. Where do I start? I have so many funny little stories that I need to get down so I don't forget them. They just really make me laugh and it does my heart good.

After last year--yeah, I didn't blog did I? That was a part of my quest to try and be positive as possible to make life a bit more bearable. It worked, because I am here and sane today. Anyhow, after last year--which I would describe as my worst year teaching and the only time I've ever questioned the decision to switch careers--the year is such a breath of fresh air. And now I will be leaving MY KIDS. Sigh. My reasoning? Financial. I think I am too old to do the 2 jobs thing, at least if my 2nd job was bartending like I had thought about earlier this year. I can't imagine the toll that would take on me, mentally and physically. Yes, I did it when I was in my early 20s, but I was in my early 20s! And it was rough then. Nothing like ending your dad with a liter of beer, a melatonin, and then 6 hours of sleep and 2 jobs and college classes. Yeah, I couldn't do it again. So anyhow, it's about money. I had decided that this would be my last year teaching in Oklahoma; I was either going to have to move back to TX (Yuck) or go back to the corporate world (Yuck). This job enables me to stay in OK (making what I would be making in TX as a teacher but 12 months vs. 10 months a year) but continue to work in the field of special education, which is truly where my heart lies. I won't be working with kids, but I will be working FOR kids, so I think I can live with that.

My anxiety lies with the things I've heard about how political things can be there. Really though, there are politics in any work place. Politics, cliques, favortism, etc. It's a part of life. I can handle that as that's nothing new to me. My philosophy is to just go in, do my job the best that I can, be nice/cordial, and let things play out as they will.

That's all I have in me now. I'll see if I can continue this and actually blog about entertaining stuff!