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After a miserably disappointing trip to Northern Liberties last weekend to not find the Philadelphia Independent Craft Market’s show (seriously — the address that was given led us to a padlocked theatre building with no signs of life anywhere), we tried again to have success this weekend.  Last time we went to the Art Star Craft Bazaar it was a much smaller affair on a blocked off coupla blocks in Northern Liberties, an up-and-coming hipster neighborhood that’s seeing a lot of changes.  This year it was down at Penn’s Landing, an admittedly more “legitimate” venue for a craft fair.  It.  Was.  Huge.  And also, I think, catered to a larger segment of the populati0n.  Not only tattooed hipsters with their babies dressed in goth onesies, but straight-edge looking people as well.  Parking last time cost nothing, and was just on a sidestreet.  Parking this time costs  flat rate of $13 or $17, depending on which lot you wanted to rape you.  We were trapped.  Penn’s Landing is a generic name for a number of waterfront sites.  Not knowing which one it was, we couldn’t park across the I-95 bridge (it cuts right near I-95) and park in the neighborhoods of Philly.  The waterfront area is full of pay parking lots, expensive restaurants, and old boats, some of which are expensive restaurants.  You get raped for parking no matter what.  So Mr. Apron convinced me to suck it up and just pay to park.  Actually, since he was driving, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Oh, and we brought the dog. 

This thing was huge!  I can’t even know for sure how many vendors, but I’d say 150 – 200, easily.  It was a bring-your-own-tent event for the vendors.  Each display looked like it belonged in the windowfront of an Anthropologie store.  Coordinating tablecloths, customized hang tags and labels, people processing credit cards — these were legitimate businesses.  Compared to my library craft fair, this was the big time.  It made me feel small and amateurish.  Like maybe why am I even bothering to try to do another craft fair when my booth won’t measure up?  I don’t have an EZ-up tent, I don’t have 25lb concrete weights to hold the tent down.  I don’t have labels or a sign with my as-yet-undetermined business name.  I wouldn’t know how to go about learning to process credit cards.  My displays rely heavily on luck and safety pins.  And my tables would be borrowed from my current crafting area. 

We sat down in a piece of shade so the dog, who had heretofore been lying down in the  middle of vendors’ tents to grab some rest, wouldn’t pass out.  And so we wouldn’t get heatstroke.  Mr. Apron and I talked about how I was feeling.  He said I could choose to make this about comparing myself and my crafts and my abilities and where I am in selling my wares, or I could relax and enjoy it as a consumer.  Or I could do both.  Everything we do that ties into my interests (early music, crafting, dogs, architecture, Balinese gamelan, clothing design) doesn’t have to be about unrequited dreams and abilities, about things I could do if I spent more time, money, energy, education on them.  I do get sad when we go to a music or theatre performance.  They remind me of how little I’m doing those things in my life.  When I was in college, music took up easily three evenings a week (9 hours) and at least as many hours of classtime, plus any practicing I deigned to do.  In high school, I was in maybe 2 plays a year as well as a pit orchestra or some other special activity (examples include performing Mozart’s Requiem with the local Mormon church, and playing with the Mayo Clinic orchestra).  And now?  I maybe sing a little Gilbert & Sullivan with Mr. Apron when I’m helping him rehearse for one of the 5 plays he’s done in as many years, and I listen to him playing banjo.  My bassoon sits in the basement, my clarinets next to me in a milk crate, plaguing me with familial guilt, as I come from a very musical family.  I used to recall with glee all the instruments I was proficient on — clarinet, bassoon, piano, recorder, (early music instruments:) dulcian, viola da gamba, krumhorn — or could play passingly — bari saxophone, folk harp.  Now I’m embarrassed at how low my skill level has fallen.  I’m overwhelmed at how much work it would take me to play well again. 

I guess the craft fair stirred up those feelings in a less-extreme way today.  I know I’m never going to be a professional craft artisan, making a living off of my etsy shop and schlepping to craft fairs up and down the eastern seabord.  I don’t want to, either.  I want to do enough crafting that I still enjoy it, not so much that I think of it as a business.  I don’t want to think of my art pieces as commodities.  So when Mr. Apron said I could do both — look at it with lessons to learn as well as fun for shopping — I needed to hear it. 

I did look at the other people selling baby onesies and compare prices.  I charge $10 or 2/$18 for potato-stamped onesies.  People today were selling them for as much as $25 and $30.  Granted these were appliquéd, so they took more hand-work, but even the screen-printed ($$ for start-up, but cheap per-piece costs) ones were$20.  The jumpers I sell (well, hope to sell) for $22 and $25 were going for $35 today, for an almost identical product.  I guess this is what you can get, or have to charge, in the “big time” of craft vending.  Maybe those prices would be way out of line for an elementary school or library craft fair, where you’ll see more crocheted doilies and plastic canvas angels than screenprinted tees with skull-octopuses and art prints of a very sinister-looking little red riding hood. 

On the whole, people loved Finley.  They pet him, commented on his unusual “beauty”, and even crawled under tables to get to pet him (adults did this).  He got some sample doggie cookies, and one man even gave us his tupperware from his fruit salad (dumping his fruit into a ziploc bag) so Finley could have a drink of water.  Someone asked us about our grooming choices for him (laughable right now with his full “mop” ‘do), and only one person was afraid enough to shriek and back away hysterically.  ‘Cuz he’s really intimidating.  Yup.  I bought something, too.  Not something like what I make.  I make a point of only buying things from craft fairs that I could not make.  It’s a head-band with a huge felt 3-D flower placed jauntily, so as to resemble nothing so much as a 1940s hat.  I chose the yellow one, as it seemed more vintage.  Mr. Apron bought something, too.  It’s that little red riding hood print I mentioned.  It’s pretty dark, probably more similar to an original illustration from Grimm Brothers than a modern Disney-fied cartoon.  But it’s awesome.  Just enough whimsey and fun.  In the end, I’m glad we went, even if we paid $13 to park, even if we were roasting in open sun for 2 hours, and even if our purchases were pretty pricey.  We supported independent artists, and bought things you can’t find at Costco or the GAP, no matter what you pay for them.

It can be hard to be the smart kid.  It can be hard to have the answer each time the teacher asks the question, to painfully wait until the dingbat she wants to answer finally mumbles some unintelligible, yet probably incorrect, reply.  It’s also hard to understand why the teacher won’t call on the smart kid each and every time.

She’s a 5-year-old African-American girl in one of the head starts I visit.  Seeing as she’s the smart, assertive, clear-spoken kid, she’s not actually on my caseload.  Boy would that be weird.  Week after week as I sit in on interminable circle times, as the teacher threaten to make the circle last longer and longer until all the kids sit on their circles with their legs criss-crossed applesauce (no more Indian-style, folks), or else they’ll take away the promise of recess, which would actually be an antidote to all the sitting still and drilling numbers, letters, and animals sounds, I see this girl.  She always knows the answer.  And quickly.  The child I’m seeing needs extra processing time.  Count to ten after you ask him a question, and he’ll begin “umm”ing.  Count to ten again, rephrase the question, and give him a starter phrase, “I know that cows…”, and he might just give you a short, simple answer.  This other kid, however, has not learned about “bubblegum lips” as some other classes institute, and so she calls out each correct reply.  The teacher lectures her: “How do I know if Nasir knows the answer or if he’s just copying you!?”  and time after time, she goes to time out, sometimes multiple times in one circle.  The first time, she’s usually just bewildered.  Why should she get punished for getting the answer when other times, the teacher tells her to “give your brain a kiss” for having the answer?  As the time-outs pile-up, she gets tearful, withdrawn, upset.  Over time, no doubt this will have a damaging effect on her self-image.  I think she’ll stop calling out, stop raising her hand, stop trying to get the answer. 

Maybe she will learn to keep quiet.  Maybe some gracious teacher, trying to find a way to keep the kid’s trap shut, will tell her about bubblegum lips.  Maybe a compassionate teacher will sit her down and explain in real words how wonderful it is that she knows the capital of Uzbekistan, but that it’s equally important the other children learn as well.  Maybe she’ll find a role as a mentor in her class, tutoring other kids who don’t quite get it.  Or maybe she’ll just learn to shut up.  I wonder at the messages — tacit and direct — some teachers are sending the smart kids. 

Okay, I was  am the smart kid.  I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  Even in grad school, I cringed, groaned, rolled my eyes — discreetly, quietly, under my breath — as professors asked questions no one would volunteer to answer.  The good instructors would engage us in discussion, not relying so heavily on fishing for predetermined answers, but there were always those deadly silences, those periods of time that stretched on and on, when I wished I could just answer the question so we all could be released from that purgatory.  In middle school, I did the hand raised high, “Oh! Oh!  Me! Me!”, clamping my lips together because I was just bursting with knowledge (except in history class).  Which did wonders for my social status.  In the intervening years, I’ve learned a little about restraint.  In grad school, I was worried about making my first impressions as an insufferable know-it-all, but it happened all over again.  This time, instead of being surrounded by people who hadn’t done the reading, or who had just rolled out of bed, I was instead in the midst of a sea of girls.  Say what you will about gender differences.  Who does all the question answering in classes?  Boys.  Especially in physics.  It’s just the way of the world.  I’m not saying teachers call on them more, or favor boys, or fondle boys, or any of that.  I’m just saying girls develop a wall flower mentality about showing off smarts.  And here I was in a “class” of 29 girls, and one 62 year-old man pursuing a 2nd career.  The insufferable know-it-all boy arrived the next summer, and immediately took all the scorn I’d perceived would have been directed at me. 

It doesn’t change really, from age 5 to age 25.  It’s still a delicate balance between wanting to earn your “class participation” points, needing to demonstrate your knowledge, and trying to mold your perception of what your peers think of you.  I hope this little girl finds compassionate people who encourage her, who help her develop her skills and her interests, and push her to keep raising her hand.  Middle school doesn’t last forever, and there’ll always be someone more annoying than you in college.  Usually it’s the kid who’s been told, “There are no dumb questions,” and believes it.  He’s the one who asks the dumb questions, and you’ll be able to turn your insufferable know-it-all face to the girl next to you, and roll your eyes in a knowing way.  She’ll roll her eyes back at you, and you’ll get the same satisfaction as if you’d answered all the questions yourself.

I met with my speech therapist supervisor today to talk about me (yay!), and go over all the necessary paperwork for the end of my CFY.   June 2nd will mark the unofficial end of my Clinical Fellowship “Year” (well, 9 months really), the end of 36 hours of observation, the end of many meetings that stretched beyond working hours, the end of having to have my billing paperwork co-signed, and the end of a lesser salary (so I’ve been told, and I choose to believe it).  Thankfully my supervisor is so awesome, I know it won’t be the end of mentorship.  I know I can always come to her with an issue with a coworker, or a clinical question, or to bounce ideas off of her.  But still, it’s a good feeling to be nearing the end.  I’ll get my state license in the coming months, and I’ll be a real, grown-up SLP. 

Recall how I bitched about my commute in previous posts?  About how the driving and the construction and the car’s seatbelt make commuting a quality of life issue for me?  Ah, yes.  Well, I put in for my transfer to the other center (the one half as far away as I travel now), and while my company is stalling, beating around the bush, and tiptoeing through the tulips to avoid telling me yay or nay, I did hear today during our meeting that I have an 82% chance of being transferred.  Not 85%, I was told, but 82%.  Which I’ll take for now.  If I’ve got that light at the end of the interminable traffic jam, then just maybe I can tough it out till June.  Or August.  Whenever they get all the new hires slotted into vacancies and the budget figured out and their horoscopes reworked (HR is a special place).  Then I’ll find out. 

Put in a good word for me with my hopes and dreams, please.  It would make a nice present to celebrate the end of my clinical fellowship year.  And we all like presents, don’t we?

Probably the last thing I should be doing right now is sitting down in an office chair in front of a computer screen to blog.  I’ve been sitting in 10″ high molded plastic or wood veneer chairs all morning, followed by an afternoon of sitting in an office chair that someone else’s butt broke in already.  Now I’m seated in a wheelie chair (fun!) that unfortunately has lost all its padding (not fun) in the six years I’ve owned it.  Has Oprah done an exposé on when you should replace your office chair?  She should.  Her masses will listen.  Then I spent the last couple of hours alternatively crouched over a mini-ironing board that’s definitely the wrong height for ironing, and a sewing machine that’s definitely the wrong height for sewing.  Or maybe the non-sewing chair I was sitting in is the culprit.  I’d hate to blame my new toy

I’m making some more I Spy Bags for some friends and customers, a task I had not been looking forward to.  I’d cut out all the pieces, assembled all the toys, and purchased the PVC pellets I use to fill them.  Yet they sat unassembled on my sewing machine because of vinyl.  Sewing vinyl is a torturous task.  I will try to describe it in a way that non-sewers can understand.  Remember the vinyl seats in my parents’ 1978 Buick station wagon?  Of course you don’t, but you had a car with vinyl seats, or you sat in a rental truck that had them, or you sat at a diner with a vinyl booth once.  And I know you’ve ridden a school bus.  Cue the vinyl.  Now cue summer time.  And you’re wearing shorts.  It’s hot and sticky because the rental truck didn’t come with A/C or the A/C in the Buick doesn’t reach the “way back” (as we called the 3rd row), or because someone driving feels that having the windows open is better.  But you’re trapped.  And so are your thighs.  Channel that friction between your naked skin and the sticky PVC (aka vinyl) as you peel your thighs up from the seat they’ve somehow glued themselves to.  Now imagine trying to glide your school bus seat through the gears of  a sewing machine.  It’s like pretending your car seat is a slip-n-slide.  It’s just not working.  It’s a no-go.  Until now, I’ve churned out I-Spy bags using an arduous process my mother taught me: tissue paper.  So I used to save scraps of tissue paper and use them to sandwich the vinyl between layers so it never actually touched the sewing machine.  Afterward I had to carefully tear the tissue away and cut myself another scrap to do the next seam.  Others on craftster have suggested using Vaseline, dropping down the presser foot, or buying a Teflon foot. 

Being cheap, I never even looked to see if my old machine had an accessory Teflon foot I could buy.  But my new machine came with a plastic foot with a magical surface on the bottom I can only assume is the famed Teflon.  All I can say, after churning out two I Spy bags tonight as if I were sewing regular cotton, is that I’m throwing the tissue paper out.  And it’s very hard for me to throw anything out; just ask Mr. Apron.  I’m a complete convert.  I told my machine I was sewing leather/vinyl (seriously, there’s a button), and it automatically sets the stitch length for me and suggests a foot and a needle.  I took the extra time to put in the heavy duty needle and the new foot, and it was magic.  Like switching to Corinthian leather seats on my rental car.  I hope you’re a convert, too.

All was going well at 8:07 this morning.  Three children had called out sick, and all expected staff had called in for work.  By 8:45, it was apparent we were just keeping up appearances.  One assistant teacher fairly swooned at the front desk as I was describing how to make chocolate ganache (not my fault — I swear), and had gone home for the day by 8:45am.  Another lead teacher had shown up with a back brace on, and wasn’t to do any lifting, bending, etc.   You know, the stuff you do with small children.  And the secretary/adminstrative wonderwoman is out on vacation this week.  All of which leads to minor insanity all day long.  At 2:30pm, it came to a head.  The social worker, who, bless her heart, had been answering phones all day, was in an IEP meeting, as was the program director.  The occupational therapist was out today recovering from her Memorial Day party.  And I was the only one in the office. at 2:30pm, precisely the time school ends and the building is supposed to empty of all small children.  The children are kept safe from their parents via a locked door, which can be opened by buzzer only by someone in the office.  And, for 42 parents (average) to be coming within the alleged space of 7.5 minutes, you’d think they’d coincide their arrivals with each other’s departures, and HOLD THE FUCKING DOOR.  But no.  So the phone rings for them to be let in, and I”m given the task of door buzzer-inner.  Forty-two times.  Sometimes more.  Because they can’t figure out the door.  They often buzz, then stand around lazily, expecting, I don’t know, the door to automatically open?  So the door buzzes, and they reach, alas!  Too late.  Or we have the ones who have one hand on the buzzer, one hand on the door, ready for door buzzer relay racing.  They often pull before I buzz, and by the time they pull again, it’s too late.  Like when you’re at the passenger side of the car, and you lift the handle/push the button at precisely the time the driver unlocks the car, and you automatically cancel each other out.  So you do it again.  And again.  A door handle jinx dance.  Love it. 

As if door duty weren’t bad enough while I’m trying to feverishly scribble out 12 informative and data-rich notes on children (today was a “light” day), I also had to answer the phones  Or pretend to.  I would wait many rings, then, as I saw the social worker darting in to answer the phone, I”d make the effort that said, “Oh, I was just about to get that one!  But you go ahead.”  Because, you see, I hate answering the phone.  With a passion.  Will do anything to avoid it.  Let the voicemail pick up during business hours.  Take walks away from the office so I’m no nearer the phones than anyone else.  Write my notes in the break room.  Play deaf.  Fake laryngitis.  My philosophy is this — I do not have information for people calling.  I do not know about registration, the wait list, scheduling an IEP, when the secretary will be back, how to submit an application, what the air conditioning system has been up to, if the lunches/bus/children/temp staffers came on time.  I have none of this.  Yes, I can take messages, but so can the voicemail.  And the voicemail doesn’t have horrific penmanship which can be traced back to me for verification of spelling, phone numbers, or content.  Voicemail isn’t lost on an orange Post-it on someone’s desk.  And frankly, I don’t want the information, because that means I’ll be held responsible for disseminating it, expected to answer the phone, and culpable if I screwed something up.  I don’t want the responsibility of knowing the alarm code, because that means I’ll get asked to open or close or talk to the alarm people. 

I do, however, have a key.  I’m never the only one in the building, and not even the first to arrive.  So you’d think there’d always be someone to buzz me in.  Techincally, there is.  But, as you remember, I’m too-often the only one in the office buzzing people in.  That would mean someone else had to run to a phone and let me in.  And then I’d have to talk into the buzzer and identify myself.  That’s too much like talking on the phone, which I’ve established is something I’d rather not do.  Let me slip in stealthily. Let me curse the parents who play the buzzer dance.  Just don’t make me answer that phone.

As Mr. Apron just astutely observed, while checking his blog statistics, “People are not at home reading blogs today.”

No, siree, they are not.  In addition to shopping for huge amounts of meat and baby clothing at the outlet stores, they’re also out shopping for cars.  We went car-driving today, too.  I have been lusting after a Honda Fit (for non-US readers, Jazz) since they arrived on these shores in late 2006 (2007 model year).  Mr. Apron even went so far as to buy me a promise ring. The summer before we were engaged, he bought me a claddaugh ring with a tiny emerald in it — a promise ring.  This time, he bought me a different sort of ring — a keyring with the Fit logo emblazoned on it.  And so it went, throughout grad school.  I kept myself motivated, fooling myself into thinking that upon graduation, I’d land a job immediately, and go buy a Fit.  Wrong.  I got the job, but we bought a house instead.  So the car plans went on the back burner.  That, and I have an allergy to both large furniture (entertainment centers and wardrobes, chiefly) and having 2 car payments at the same time.  As my current 2001 P.T. Loser is paid off and runs great, and we’re still paying Mr. Apron’s Ford Focus, we sit for a while and wait for 1) his car to be paid off (April 2011!), or 2) my car to die.  While I’d rather the former, the latter would certainly give us a sense of necessity, as we agree it’s just not a priority right now.

But Mr. Apron gets bugs up his butt, spends hours on ebay motors, and becomes obsessed with a car or an idea (usually about selling, trading in, or unloading one of our cars).  This week it’s been the Fit.  Actually it’s pretty selfless of him.  He could instead have focused on his “next car” or some far off insane dream — the recurring one is a vintage 1967 VW Beetle — but this weekend it was my turn. 

I have an issue with car dealers.  I have never been present at the purchase of a car.  We usually only prowl the lots to drool on new cars after hours so the sleazy sweaty men can’t hassle us.  The last time we ventured on a lot during business hours was when we were looking for a Civic Si (back when they were cute performance hatchbacks).  Of course, they stopped making them, shoved us in a regular Civic to test-drive, and then proceeded to send me weekly nagging letters in the mail for the next two months.  We weren’t in the market to buy; I just wanted to look and to test-drive it. 

See, I have specific needs, as outlined in the P.T. Loser post.  I needed to know if this Fit would fit, or if it would have the same issues with ratcheting seatbelts and pedals I can’t reach.  So I need to more than looking at it, more than sitting in it on the lot; I needed to drive it, or just let the dream go here and now.  So Mr. Apron began his campaign to get me into a Fit. 

1)  First we thought about the neighbor down the block who drives a red Fit, but it’s a stick.  I can technically drive a stick, but it’s a highly unenjoyable experience for me and my passengers, and you just can’t ask new neighbors to let you drive their car with the preface, “Yeah I can drive a stick, but I haven’t in 5 years because I really suck at it.  Can I drive your car now?”  So that didn’t work. 

2) Mr. Apron’s voicemail one day was infused with brilliance.  He’d thought of the perfect way to let me drive a Fit.  We’d join Philly Car Share, which has a fleet of Priuses (Prii?) and, among other cars, Fits.  I immediately set to work researching.  There’s a monthly or yearly fee, plus you have to go to an orientation.  Then you have to reserve it and pay the daily or hourly fee.  And the nearest Fit is parked back near our old neighborhood.  See, ‘cuz it’s Philly  Car Share, not Suburban Main Line We All Have Cars Anyway Share.  So that went to the chopping block.

3) Finally, we resigned ourselves to going to a dealer.  I tried to subdue my inherent defensiveness I feel whenever approached by a slimey salesman, we parked far away so they coudn’t judge us by our “trade-in” and Mr. Apron told me he’d take care of the talking lying. 

As it turned out, we were on the lot for a record amount of time before being approached.  The salesmen were so busy no one bothered us at all.  On an ordinary day of just drooling, that would have been fine, but we needed to drive today, and the sleaze-Os hold the keys.  We ventured inside, looked at all the brochurage, judged all the other customers, and lazily looked at the new Civics and Accords.  Finally.   “Are you being helped?”  No, not yet. 

John tried only once to upsell us, to distract us from our mission.  When I asked if the new Fits had a height-adjustable seat (knowing the old ones did not), he said the ’09s did not, but that the Civics did, would we like to see one?  Ah, no.  Nice try. When we turned down that easy segue, I think he got the picture.  We had a goal.  He showed us the pretty blue Fit flecked with May’s productive pollen.  This was a barebones model.  No armrest, no navigation system, no bun warmers.  But it had a CD player, ABS, and 6 + airbags.  Good enough.  The seating is not ideal.  If I’m close enough to reach the pedals, I either get wedged in the seat by the steering wheel, or I bang my knee on the overhanging accessory buttons on the left side of the dashboard.  (done, and done)  Still, the seat ranked high on the comfort level,  low-end acceleration was great, the aerodynamics meant the open windows delivered plenty of fresh air, and there was even a distracting digital graphic reflecting fuel economy, just like my 1987 Cadillac had!  How far we have come. 

No, I didn’t come home with one today, but it was still a success of sorts.  No one pressured us.  No one has us on a mailing list (my license that he photocoped still has out old address on it, so even if they harrass us the way the other dealership did, it’ll go to our old apartment!).  No one tried to low-ball our trade-in or calculate monthly payments.  They just let us drive the car.  John didn’t even come with us!  He let us go by ourselves.  Maybe this is because the backseat was covered in plastic.  Maybe he’s hiding the fact that it doesn’t humanely seat a full-sized adult male.  But maybe he just realized we were no fools.  We weren’t the types he could get into a Pilot or even make a sale on a Fit today.  And besides.  If we’d made off with their little car, the cops would have been all over our asses.  And then you’d see a different picture below — my booking mug:

Test-driving the 2009 Honda Fit

Test-driving the 2009 Honda Fit

Remember that scene from The Jungle Book with the vultures perched in some high-up tree?  If you don’t, or if you grew up in some place devoid of Disney movies, I reproduce it without anyone’s permission below:

Buzzy yawns:  Hey, Flaps, what we gonna do?

Flaps:  I don’t know. What you wanna do?

Ziggy:  I got it! Let’s flap over to the east side of the jungle! They’ve always got a bit of action, a bit of a swinging scene. All right?

Buzzy:  Ah, come off it! Things are right dead all over.

Ziggy:  You mean you wish they were!

    [they laugh]

Dizzy:  Very funny.

Buzzy:  Okay, so what we gonna do?

Flaps:  I don’t know, what you wanna do?

Buzzy:  Look, Flaps, first I say, “what we gonna do?” and then you say, “what you wanna do?”, they I say, “what we gonna do?”, you say “what you wanna do?”, “what you gonna do”, “what you wanna” – let’s do something!

Flaps:  Okay. What you wanna do?

Buzzy:  Oh, blimey, there you go again. The same once again!

Ziggy:  I’ve got it! This time, I’ve really got it.

Buzzy:  So you got it. So what we gonna do?

Dizzy:  Hold it lads. Look, look what’s coming our way.

Flaps:  Hey, what in the world is that?

Ziggy:  What a crazy looking bunch of bones.

Dizzy:  Yeah, and the’re all walking about by themselves

Buzzy:  So what we gonna do?

Flaps:  I don’t know– and now don’t start that again!

Buzzy yawns:  Hey, Flaps, what we gonna do?

Flaps:  I don’t know. What you wanna do?

As Mr. Apron has just said, “I think they’ll get the gist of it.”

This is precisely what happens when my college friends and I try to plan a mini-reunion.  I don’t go to the official ones, of course.  The only people I’d want to see are the ones I get together with anyway, and it just so happens that they’re coming to Philly this summer to see me!  Well, I”m just a sideshow, really, for the real reason they’re coming — some sort of ultimate fight club thingy, and a vacation that was supposed to go to Florida instead.  But still, we’re making plans!  It seems that this sort of wishy-washy waffling is endemic to the small, private liberal arts college we attended.  Mr. Apron sticks an adjective ending to our school and has made that a synonym for indecisive.  We just can’t decide.  On a restaurant, on a meeting time or place, or on plans for this weekend.  It took us 10 Facebook messages to pick a date, time, and location for an activity.  It’s a lot of, “Oh, I’m fine with whatever you guys decide, as long as it’s not Friday because I’m working late or Sunday afternoon because my boyfriend’s in town”.  To which another replies, “Well, we’re coming in late Saturday morning, so brunch doesn’t work then, but we can come out to the suburbs if you want.”  And then a third says, “I can come into the city; no problem.  Unless you want to come out and meet the dog and see our new house.”  And on it goes.  I’m as guilty as the next.  The third person was me, actually.  But I do grown weary  of endless voicemails or e-mails, or Facebook messages piling up without planning so much as a date.  And full of “whatever’s good for you guys”.  We’re all trying so hard to be agreeable, we can’t find something to agree upon.  And it’s no better when we don’t make plans.  We’ll just meet in some large East Coast city, at some easy, familiar location for out-of-towners, and just roam the neighborhoods.  Which is all fine and good.  Until it’s time for a meal.  And then it starts again.  “Whatever’s good for you guys” meets up with “Well, do they have anything vegetarian?  Oh, don’t worry; I’ll find something.” and “I don’t eat Thai food because of a bad experience once, but I”m fine with whatever.”  Sure you are.   We all are.  And it can go on as we reject restaurants left and right for being too pricey, too divey, too greasy, too meaty, etc.  Ultimately, my hunger/grouchiness drives us into some eating establishment.  So it was with the planning for this weekend.  It went on and on. 

Finally, I sent an e-mail with a date (Sunday morning, 11:30am) a place (cute little restaurant in upcoming neighborhood), and an event (brunch).  It will be done, I ordained.  Sure enough, I get a message back promptly: “That sounds perfect :)”  Sometimes you’ve gotta break out of your alma mater’s mold and boldly make a decision. 

Or maybe not.  I’m not sure.  Whatever you think.  I’m fine with whatever.

Getting a migraine at 6pm when it’s too late to take the real meds — those with caffeine — because, due to my low caffeine tolerance, it’ll keep me up at night.

Knowing now, as I prepare to go to sleep, that Advil will only “take the edge off” for so long, and I”ll wake up at 4am with a pounding head, trying to stay in bed till 6am. 

Being bitchy to Mr. Apron because I cannot tolerate noises, smells, bright lights, dog barking, or talking about anything serious, and I just shut down and get bitchy, which isn’t fair to Mr. Apron because he shouldn’t have to suffer from the migraine, too.  But he does.

Having a migraine.  That’s what sucks.

I am the only speech therapist at the center I work at 3 days/week.  The other 2 days, I am in the field, itinerant, going into head starts, daycare, and church basements.  My center, unfortunately, has a caseload more suited for a full-time person, or at least, 5 days’ worth of a therapist.  We had that back in September, actually, but the other gal left november 4th for a new job, leaving almost half the kids at the center without speech therapy.  I picked up as many as I could while still managing the new kids coming into the classrooms I was already committed to.   At present time, I am seeing 38 kids in 3 days.  Logistics are a bitch, as I overlap with the kids only on certain days.  Many only come in 3 half-days, so I end up having to see Johnny on Monday morning, and Quadir on Thursday afternoon.  And of course, for every child who’s highly capable and only needs service 30 minutes a month, there are 2 kids who need extensive support 60 minutes a week.  So the number 38 does not tell the whole story.

What about the other 27 kids not receiving any speech therapy?  Well, we say that they’re “unmet needs” kids.  We acknowledge — to those who ask — that we have no therapist for them.  They’re still in a special ed or regular ed classroom environment, a language-rich environment with highly trained teachers, etc.  But we’re not able to fully meet their needs as per the IEP.  So they go on a wait list, waiting since November for speech to pick back up, or (for new kids) to begin at all.  All of which feels pretty yucky. 

How do parents feel about this?  Well, for the ones who don’t ask, they don’t know.  We offer full disclosure, but it’s kind of a don’t ask- don’t tell policy.  Who gets service?  Who doesn’t?  Is it based on need?  Which classroom the child is in?  Which teacher has a louder voice or asks nicely?  Nope.  It’s based on which parents know their rights.  They’re the ones who demand service, my friends.  And they’re the ones who get it.  I now have 2 extra children on my caseload who came in after November 4th, in a classroom where I do not support any other children officially.  One child’s parent seemed so anxious, so eager to have speech therapy, that I was asked by our director to support that child.  He has a new diagnosis of autism, after looking like a typically developing kid for the first two year of his life.  He has a young mother who does not speak English.  She is desparate for support, for help, for herself and her child.  So I took it.  Kind of as a favor.  The other child is the most beautiful child at the center.  He’s a tiny round-headed boy with straw-blond hair and elfin eyes.  All he’s missing are pointy ears and you might believe he had been born out of a flower with dew on his freckles.  His mother knew her rights.  Demanded service.  And probably compensatory time as well.  His level of service: 60 minutes a week.  Guess who stepped up to avoid getting taken to due process?

It’s not that we’re doing anything illegal.  Really.  Our parent agency tells us to take in children even though we cannot fully meet their needs.  We report them.  We have them on a list.  But the parents, many of whom do not speak English, do not know their rights, or are too new to the world or early intervention, just do not know. 

The second child’s evaluation report read like a parent’s worst nightmare.  Autism spectrum diagnosis, global delays, poor social connection, avoiding eye contact, tantrum behaviors, and resistant to talking.  The child I encountered when I first began seeing him in March was a different child altogether.  He’s highly social, and has a best buddy in the classroom with whom he plays cooperatively.  He makes eye contact, shows adults his work with pride, and is now imitating 3-word phrases with me.  When I gently frustrate him to elicit language (e.g., block his path so he has to tell me to move), he readily responds verbally, sometimes by signing and saying “move” or “beep beep”.  Either he has made untold gains in 3 months of just being at the center in a preschool setting (could be; what do I know?); or the evaluation was criminally wrong.  Why does this matter?  Couldn’t it just be an assessment taken on a bad day?  Couldn’t his natural development have spontaneously accouted for these leaps and gains?  Yes, and yes.  But it does matter. 

That evalation report read so ominously for this poor child’s future, that the parents flipped out.  That report, written when he was scarcely 3, freaked them out so severely that they needed to seek out every single option for intervention.  And when they found out it was not being provided, they saw their child’s future jeopardized.  If it were my child, and I read that report, I would have done the same thing.  I have to hope my children will all be healthy and have typical (nay, exceptional) development, but if I were in their place, I would have fought tooth and nail to get my child what he was allegedly provided under the law. 

Give me involved, interested parents vested in their child’s education.  Give me parents who show up for conferences and read the mail I send home.  Give me parents who show you they care, and I’ll show you better therapy, faster progress, and a happier speech therapist.

Mr. Apron and I have been homeowners since February 18th, when we handed over large amounts of money in exchange for keys and responsibility.  I heard someone joke that when you become a homeowner, you should take $1,000 in $1 bills and staple them to your house, just to get used to spending money on it.  Let me tell you what has required out attention in these short 3 months.

PECO, the gas company, has twice been out to investigate gas odors.  The first time was a legitimate gas leak from the dryer line.  I smelled it when I got home, but figured a) the dog wasn’t dead (heretofore my gauge for home odor strength), and b) I didn’t have a headache from being inside, so I waited for Mr. Apron to get home.  $500 latre,we feel safer.  The second time was a false alarm.  Again, I smelled an odor, and waited for Mr. Apron to come home since the dog was still alive.  PECO guy came, and told us it was just the paint fumes (so much for low-VOC paint) from our new downstairs paint job interacting with the burner in the basement when we activated the flame by turning on the hot water.  All these things about gas-heated homes we are learning.

The bathroom sink is slow.  Clogged perpetually.  Has been since we moved in.  Inspector theorized it’d be “no big deal”.  Well, after Mr.Apron and his father tried unsuccessfully with plungers, “The Bomb” (some product in a can), and regualar Liquid Plumber, Mr. Apron stuck a coat hanger down the pipes, and busted a hole in the J-bend.  Cost: $79, with a lesson not to stick anything else down there.  Plumber said the problem is most likely at the level of the sewer pipe, and that it would require ripping up the tile floor to fix when we’re ready.  Guess what?  We still dealing with a slow drain.  And an intact floor.

The oven, circa 1980, suddenly decided, during a double-batch of chocolate cupcakes, to forget how to maintain 300 degrees F, and instead, keep heating until the smoke alarm went off.  After I tossed 24 charred rocks in the garbage and ran out for more ingredients, I then babysat the oven, turning it off periodically to simulate the pilot light turning on and off in a normally functioning gas oven that knows how to maintain a temperature.  We are now looking at new ovens, and making do with our upper oven (this is old, folks), which works fine, but is quite small and can’t fit a full-size cookie sheet inside.  Cost: projected to be $500-$700.

And today, Mr. Apron was spending far too much time online looking at ebaymotors, so I send him/us out to buy hedgeclippers (cost: $18.95 + tax) and deal with a growing nuisance in the front yard.  It seems like only yesterday they were sweet little shoots promising spring was just around the corner, and now they’re threatening to attack neighbors innocently walking past.  Mr. Apron’s father has electric hedgeclippers, and kept warning us not to do it ourselves, not to exert ourselves, that he’d come over, that they’d do it together.  Well, he hasn’t come yet, and I wanted to prove we were manually strong and could save the environment while strengthening our upper arms and shoulders, so we clipped.  It was fun.  Satisfying, in some way, appealing to our sense of order.  While Mr. Apron clipped, I cleaned up after him (insert sexist husband-wife joke here), and vis-a-vis (insert reverse sexist wife-husband joke here).  While I was waiting for him to make some more refuse, I stepped into the “yard” of pachysandra, intent on pulling some weeds, and I found poison ivy.  Joy of all joys.  And I’m wearing shorts and flip-flops.  So this now requires action, either of a pesticidal variety, or of a manual weed-pulling variety, complete with toxic waste substance isolation gear.  I can’t wait.  We can go buy Round-Up and paint it on the leaves, so it won’t harm the pachysandra which saves us from that other fun chore — mowing the lawn — or we can don rubber gloves, long pants, and long sleeves and pull out the poison ivy all summer long, hoping to make a dent.  I swear, my legs are itching already.  The mind-body connection is a powerful one, eh?

What’s next, house?  Bring it on!  Water damage?  Another gas scare?  Crumbling retaining wall out back?  Basement stairs falling down? Oh, wait! I forgot my latest blunder.  I put the garage door opener in my pocket one day when we wrre running back and forth to the garage to install our china in our new china cabinet, and Friday night, as we were lamely celebrating the weekend, I washed it.  In the washing machine.  We now can’t get into the garage.  Awesome.  I am so cool.

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May 2009