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Today had to be a better day than yesterday; it was just physically impossible for it to be as bad or worse.  In spite of the facts that my throat tickle is heading down the path towards bronchitis; I sport a new bruise on my arm; and I have had sand dumped down my bra, it is indeed a better day.

Wikipedia (our source for accurate information) describes a bruise, or contusion, as “usually caused by blunt impact.”  It also adds that “it may correspond to [the] shape of [the] weapon.”  In my case, a child bit me because he did not want to wash his hands.  I have no doubt it will become the shape of his pointy little weapons.  No blunt impact here.  I think he applied suction, too, like a lamprey eel giving me a hickey.  Awesome.  He calmed down and we had a lovely lunch together of Crispix and water and purple circle-shaped snack food his mother described as “cereal”, but which look suspiciously like chalk.

Later, as I sat at the table trying not to bang my already bruised knees, a rather energetic kiddo played in his personal sand bucket and enthusiastically threw sand directly at my chest, where it conveniently slid into my low-neck shirt and settled down into my bra.  At which point I told him that was no way to keep a girlfriend, and I declared our session over.


I can’t possible recall the awfulness of this day in prose, so you’re getting bullet points.  Somehow the writing is easier, the expectations for coherence lower.

0) Woke up with a tickle in my throat.  Should have stayed in bed.

1) Parked my car at 7:49am.  Knew by 7:51 that the day was going to suck.  Ran into coworker having a smoke break on my way to the building.  Yes, I knew even before I put my key to the lock, that 2 teachers were out sick, a 3rd is on vacation all week, and our social worker is out due to family sickness.  Counting the other teacher who left us a few weeks ago, we were down fully half of our teaching staff.  Yes.  Four classrooms, four teachers, and all the temps we could handle. 

2) Musical teachers ensues.  We’re not “allowed” to have 2 temps in a classroom without a regular staff person, so this creating panic-stricken rearrangement.  One aide went downstairs to be the lead in one classroom.  Another class’s two teachers were split up to go to rooms without teachers.  So where did their class go, do you wonder?  Combined, my friends.  Somehow, the ratios (which are supposed to be 1:9 or 1:10 for typical kids, and 1:5 for kids with special needs) worked out with 3 teachers in one room with two classes’ worth of kids in a way that two classrooms would not have.  Usually, we have classrooms with special needs kids with a max of 10 or 11, with their regular, trained, experienced teachers who know the kids.  Now make that a room of 15 (or so, I couldn’t keep track) children ages 3-5, half of whom have never been in that classroom before, plus 3 teachers who don’t know half the kids and who don’t have any experience in this particular classroom nor with the kids’ adaptations (special chairs, spoons, etc.), and you have all hands on deck.  Manning battle stations.  Prepare for the worst.

3) In another classroom, an inclusive room with mostly typically developing kids and up to 5 kids with special needs, we had zero teachers familiar with the kids.  And only one teacher with a passing familiarity of the daily routine.  She was asking the kids if circle or story came first. 

4)I walked into a classroom as the kids were finishing up breakfast.  What is usually an intimate meal at one table with each child within reaching distance from a teacher now resembled a buffet table, with 3 teachers manically running in circles, not understanding why some kids were having trouble eating, or not  eating at all.  I quickly saw 2 kids in the wrong chairs altogether, another child seated a foot away from the table using the wrong bowl.  No wonder he coudn’t get any food to his mouth.  The girl who only eats bread at school was just stirring her rice krispies around aimlessly.  The teachers were trying, very hard.  It didn’t help that the kid with the most complex adaptations (chair, spoon, bowl, strap, and one-on-one support) hadn’t been in school  at all last week for the new teacher to learn his needs.  It also didn’t help that the labels with the kids’ initials on them weren’t up to date.

5) The afternoon class (combined, of course) contained 3 screamers.  One smallish boy, barely three, who is just getting used to being at school, but has trouble separating from his parents and still cries sometimes, and who can only be calmed by repetitive singing of the ABCs.  One boy who enjoys tearing around the room dumping everything out, and v0calizes at any attempt to redirect his plan.  And one enormous five-year-old who plays the exact same game with a baby doll, all the blankets/cloths, and a basket, all while twisting her nipple under her dress.  Screamer?  Yes, if you even attempt to interfere with this game by, say, hiding the dolls in the closet, asking her not to pull the fabric covers off the computer monitors, or trying to redirect her hands to do something more productive than self-stimulation.  So she screamed all afternoon.  Thankfully the other two were relatively quiet. 

6) The bus was late.  Did I mention the bus?  It’s been doing so much better lately!  Used to be that it dropped off kids at 9:15 for a 8:30am start, and picked up who-knows-when, but it’s been on time and the staffers have been competent.  Until today.  Sure enough, it dropped off at 8:40, which was not cause for alarm but should have been an omen.  The half-day kids get plucked at 11:30.  Usually.  Today that happened closer to 11:50, which meant we were all (15 kids, 4 adults) crammed into the staging area (corralled is more apt) for 25 minutes (having been ready early, in a optimistic effort to kick the morning class out) waiting for the bus.  It finally arrived, depositing 15 more small children for the afternoon session.  They were shepherded into the play yard to make room on the bus for the other crowd.  There are not enough humans on deck to triage this complex changing of the guard.  Finally the morning kids were gone, and it was time for the afternoon of screamers.  Ah, but I’ve nearly forgotten the best part.  After the bus finally picked up the afternoon kids at 2:50pm (dismissal is at 2:30, of course), our program director (“boss”) came up the stairs to the office, where I’d been fielding frantic phone calls about the bus’ not coming and buzzing in other parents, where he related the following tidbit.  Someone reported our bus driver (we contract this privilege) squatting to pee out in broad daylight while dropping off or picking  up kids.  The director dismissed it, telling the dispatcher the driver was male, why would he squat to pee? (in broad daylight, besides)  As he related this funny snippet to one of my coworkers, he was shocked to learn she’d seen the bus matron (decidedly female) squatting to pee right across the street from our center this morning.  His remark: “We have bathrooms!”

7) As I was checking out my hotness in our bathroom mirror, upon arriving home, I noticed a peach-colored splotch on my strawberry-colored shirt, an adorible dotted-swiss number Mr. Apron bought me from Anthropologie, and on which a coworker complimented me today.  It was not food.  It was not bodily fluid (ah, but this happens at work).  It was a bleach spot.  And there were others, little spots from the errant spray of the diluted bleach we use to sterilize the kids’ tables.  Soon they will be holes.  And I will be sad.  I can’t wear nice things to work. 

8) Or flip-flops.  In addition to banging my knee the requisite number of times on small tables and small children’s objects, I had my toes run over by tricycles, squashed by leg-braces, trodden on by lead-footed children, and eviscerated by wooden chairs. 

What’s the damage?  The program director says as long as the children were happy and safe, everything worked out alright.  I don’t blame him; it’s not his fault.  The children were mostly happy, and almost entirely safe (only one incident  report I’m aware of — for a bruised lip caused by a nun-chuk-like toy).  I never want to have another day at work like this.

But in the spirit of my post last week, I give you My One Good Thing: Since we all worked so valiantly as the ship was going down and the education was going to pot, we were allowed to leave early, as soon as the last kid was out the door.  I’ll have unwritten notes to attend to tomorrow, and piles of undeciprable observations on my desk, but I needed that gift.  My commute was shorter as a result, and my last ounce of sanity was saved.

Mr. Apron and I have been together for over six years now, and we’ve had our ups and downs in health issues, been through countless jobs, seemingly endless schooling, and lived in a multitude of places together and apart.  We’ve had those days when no evil things dare to rear their heads into our idyllic lives; and those days where nothing seems to go right.  It’s the latter that spurred a ritual we do called, “One Good Thing”.  On those worst of worst, those Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Days, we ask each other, “What was your Good Thing?”  The idea is, that even if you spend 45 minutes venting about project deadlines, GI issues, nightmare coworkers, the weather, green phlegm, being splattered with red paint, or Rush Limbaugh, there must be one small thing, event, or happening which, if it didn’t brighten your day while it was happening, may just bring you into a better mood at the moment.  Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with one, but we do it to humor each other. 

Some examples might include (for me) a compliment on my new skirt, a cute kid story, or not running into someone objectionable.  Some examples for Mr. Apron might include going a day without getting into a passive-aggressive argument with his boss, teaching a kid something, figuring out a new feature on his phone (Hello, e-mail!), or finding a shirt he thought was lost forever.  On really bad days, we have to stretch.  They’re lame.  It could be finding one last Coke in the back of the fridge; not having to make a lunch because of leftovers; remembering to bring in the groceries from thec car; looking foward to tomorrow being Friday; having enough bags for the dog’s shit; or having a “clean shit”.  But we always pull it together, even if our Good Thing is getting to talk to each other about our bad days.  Though it’s a cop-out, we often end up being each other’s Good Things. 

Today was not a horrendous day by any means, but if you’d asked me my Good Thing, I’d say it would be finding out that the garage door opener works.  Not so long ago, after a long day gardening and making repeat trips to the garage and basement, I sent the opener through the wash with my mud- and grass-caked cargo shorts.  Usually it’s Mr. Apron sending his lip balm through the wash, leaving wax marks all over my t-shirts.  This time it was me, effectively locking us out of our garage, because though it’s an attached garage (in the basement), there’s no entrance to the house from the garage.  1928.  Go figure.  You have to leave the garage, go outside to the parking pad, then in the basement door.  Quirks, ya gotta love ’em.  One of these days we’ll pay some angsty teenagers in pizza to take sledge hammers to the non-load-bearing walls and break on through to the other side, giving us access to the garage for real.  But today, as we were loading up some colors into the washing machine, Mr. Apron absent-mindedly grabbed the garage door opener and clicked it.  Lo and behold, we heard that familiar groaning and cranking as the beast roared to life once again.  I didn’t break it!  YAY!

What was your good thing?

“I am your dentist…And I get off on the pain I inflict” — Orin Scravello, DDS

I went to the dentist tonight.  When I was a child, I didn’t mind going so much.  I debated to myself at an early age if the doctor or the dentist was worse.  On one hand, the doctor made you undress and might give you a shot; on the other hand, you had to go to the dentist twice a year and endure fluoride treatment.  The dentist usually won because I had such lovely young teeth, free of problems, free of cavities, free of concerns.  The hygienists always told me what an excellent patient I was — much better than the adults — and complimented me on how wide I opened my mouth.  I ate all that shit up. 

Suddenly, at 24, I developed my first cavity.  It was akin to getting my first B in high school, my first C on a paper in college, and, if you believe it, my first/only B+ in grad school.  A record is nothing if it’s an “almost”.  Straight A’s are straight A’s.  No cavities means no cavities.  There’s no almost cavity-free.  It crushed me.  It suddenly occured to me that my parents’ horrible teeth were finally catching up to me in adulthood.  I’d avoided many of their dental perils by growing up with fluoridated water and getting those awful fluoride treatments.  But I couldn’t escape my destiny, whether it was soft enamel, or esophageal reflux, or an unusual number of evil bacteria in my mother, or an addiction to Diet Coke; it would follow me for the rest of my life.  From the first two cavities (“decay” is a nicer word, yes?), to the subsequent disappointments when I hear, “Ah, that’s in an unusual spot for decay!”, and then the “Oh, dear; well, do you want them done in one appointment or two?”  to which I reply, “None, please, ” each visit feels like spinning the roulette wheel.  But Dr. B. takes good care of me.  He’s a family friend, so I know he doesn’t drill just to fund his new boat or vacation home at the shore.  At least not from my pocket.  After my first filling, I was so shell-shocked, he called me at home later.  When I heard his voice (slight lisp on the /s/) on the phone, I immediately asked, “Did I do something wrong?” anticipating I was supposed to not eat pickled squash for a week or take in an all puree diet until the trauma subsided.  Turns out he was calling just to make sure I was okay. 

So now, instead of that minor sense of inconvenience at having to drive down to the dentist twice a year for routine visits, I get to carry with me the sense of dread that I might have to come back for the follow-up appointment.  Shudder.  As my toes curl in my shoes and my hands grip each other tightly while I lay back in the chair, I’m not in pain — not physical pain anyway.  It’s the anticipation of the final pronouncement (I know enough not to trust the hygienist’s overzealous, let-me-please-the-doctor-and-guess-right judgment) from the dentist as to my state of dental health that keeps me stressed.  Now I know why all those adults were such inferior patients to us children; they had something real to fear.  They didn’t get to pick from the pencil and eraser and sticker basket. 

Well, there is physical pain, incidentally.  It’s called the WaterPik.  I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this particular instrument of torture.  I never used to go to these high-tech offices with computer screens and paging systems and undulating new-age ceiling decorations.  Scraping was scraping, and it made a horrible sound, but at least you knew what was going on.  When they first used the WaterPik on me, I thought it was just regular poking and scraping.  I didn’t even guess what “Mr. Thirsty” was sucking up — blood, maybe?  At some point it occured to me.  This was the legendary WaterPik.  No ordinary scraper, poker, picker.  If you haven’t had this experience and think, “Ah, it’s water, how bad can it be?” maybe you’ve been through a high-power carwash and felt the water make your steel doors buckle (unless you have a Saturn — and for you I pray in those car washes)?  Maybe you’ve fallen off waterskis at 75 miles an hour?  Or made  a poorly executed dive-cum-belly flop from the high diving board?  Yes, my friends, that gentle water pulsating from the shower head can hurt like a bitch.  Remember that water has carved out mountainsides and eroded river beds and ran the riverside factories during the Industrial Revolution.  It’s powerful.  I’m not saying I prefer the old fashioned pick.  I just have a healthy respect/fear of the WaterPik. 

I survived the WaterPik, the gum-cutting flossing, and the gasps of horror as everyone examined my “trauma ulcer’ (I bit my cheek quite energetically earlier today while trying to subdue a particularly awful carrot).  And guess what?  I don’t have to go back till December!!!  Mr. Apron, however, who had his appointment last week (and who still has no cavities) has to go back, not for a filling, but to an oral surgeon, to have one of his bottom wisdom teeth, (which has decided to erupt, like, now) yanked.  Now I’m glad mine are in an envelope in the junk drawer in my parents’ kitchen, where they’ve been for almost 11 years.  Now that’s an appetizing sight when you go to look for the can opener or skewers, eh?

Mr. Apron has already written Closet, part un, in which we tried to bite the bullet and pay some fancy franchised closet organizer company to make the maximum use out of our existing closets.  See, in 1929, they only had 3 dresses, or 2 suits, and 3 pairs of shoes.  If they happened to be clothes horses, and owned 6 dresses plus a fur coat and 7 blouses, they they probably bought an armoir.  We, however, are modern folk.  I also have a fear of large pieces of furniture, specifically entertainment centers and armoires.  We like our closets built in, to hold our 17 spring skirts, 17 summer skirts, and 17 fall/winter skirts.  My man, at least, has nearly 50 dress shirts, including button-collar oxfords and his dressier spead or point collars (and two eyelet collars), as well as some short sleeve dress shirts, many circa 1950-1970.  He owns one pair of jeans, from an ex-girlfriend whose lasting compliment was, “You’ll look handsome when you get some clothes that fit you”.  She made him shell out $68 for a pair of Structure jeans, which he has never worn, but keeps as a reminder of stupid choices he’s made.  He has pants, slacks, “trousers”, instead, in three tiers of fashion.  Tier I are the nicest pants.  They may have creases, pleats, and cuffs.  They’re suitable for all but the most formal affairs.  Tier II are the more casual pants: Dockers, knakis, vintage polyester trousers, linen pants I introduced him to on our honeymoon to Bali, and Tier I pants which may have met unfortunately with a too-hot iron or an overzealous dryer.  Tier III consists of paint pants, moving pants, gardening pants, and set-construction pants.  They usually started life as Tier II’s.  All of these, you understand, must be hung up.  And then we get to the ties.  Mr. Apron used to shell out $50 or more for new brand name, designer label ties.  Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hil, Calvin Klein.  When we met, he had about 30 or so ties, almost all of which fit on a rotating tie rack.  Then I introduced him to TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and the thrift stores, where he discovered he could get 4 or more ties for $50!  So the collection has, needless to say, grown quite a bit, and no longer fits even on the custom serpentine tie rack I made for him.  And while Mr. Apron has many tastes (British comedy, the 3 Stooges, Gilbert & Sullivan, Herbie the Love Bug, Banjo, Finley, me), my mother continues on her endless quest to buy him more and more and more clothing.  She considers it her personal mission to find each and every odd-sized piece of clothing and buy it, to prevent any other man Mr. Apron’s dimensions from buying clothing that fits.  See, he wears a 15″ collar, with 34/35 sleeves.  I learned about these things.  That means he has a skinny minny neck with go go gadget arms.  Hard to find.  And in trousers, he wears a 30/32, which, again, means he has no waist, and legs that stretch to China.  He’s not overall so grotesquely proportioned; there are many men taller and some men skinnier than he.  It’s just that his combination makes buying clothing challenging.  But not so challenging that my mother didn’t help us fill two suitcases and many several boxes with his oceans of clothing. 

I am guiltier than he.  It was I, afterall, who introduced him to discount shopping, encouraging his acquisition, supporting him to buy short-sleeve shirts when he had nothing but his plaid jersey knit polos from 10th grade to wear in the summer.  So it is my fault.  And, being a woman, I have a worse clothing obsession.  It’s difficult when you’re known for your unusual style, and you find yourself wearing the same half-dozen shirts through the late winter because everything else is in boxes.  When shoes go through a 3 pair rotation because I’ve run out of shoe racks and I still have two boxes of shoes unpacked.  My poor darlings.   I miss them so.

So these closet people came, see?  And the first one tried to convert our future nursery ito a 7’x11′ closet (to keep us from procreating?), as well as try to sell us on closet systems built into every other wall in the house except in our bedroom.  And then when she told us her systems ran from $1,000 to $10,000, we had written her off while she sketched measurements into her folio.  The second guy was on his way out at 5:15 after a 5:00pm appointment.  He fired us, stating simply, that he could spend our money, or we could.  He had no solutions for us, but at least was honest about it.  He told us to hire a handy man to “throw up some drywall and a closet rod.”

And so we did.  Well, we’re trying to.  The first guy we called gave us a estimate of $1600.  We cried all over again, resigning ourselves to curtaining off some garment racks from Bed, Bath, & Beijing.  Then we went looking for another guy.  We asked Mr. Apron’s parents.  “General contractor?  What’s that?”  You know, a handyman.  The guy who fixed your medicine cabinet and shower door.  “Oh.  No.  He asked us not to call him again.”  Dead end.  We asked our grown-up friends who live locally to give us a referral.  And it was then we found out that a friend we already know is a handyman.  Which we didn’t know, because Mr. Apron doesn’t do LinkedIn with him; he just does Gilbert & Sullivan with him.  He’s semi-retired, we think, so he has lots of time, we hope.  All I know is, he showed up on Sunday afternoon with 5 two-by-fours, immediately started, umm, pacing off, our closet space, sawing boards over our carpet with his “ginsu” knife, and screwing boards into the floor.  He quit when his screwdriver’s battery gave out, and we had to leave.  But I think we hired him?  I mean, I guess we did hire him.  He’s giving us the “thespian rate”, which will amount to about $500.  It’s a freaking bargain. 

One mystery he solved was the crackling bulging piece of wall in our bedroom.  He said it was  caused by the bathroom mirror.  Yes, you read that right.  When the previous owners installed a superwide three-way bathroom mirror with a built-in medicine chest, they had to saw through a stud, and remove it.  Meaning that the other side of that wall (our bedroom wall) is not anchored to anything at all.  They didn’t even do a half-ass job of securing it above and below the cabinet.  But our friend said it wasn’t anything structural, it wasn’t in danger of crumbling, and that it would be hidden in the new-to-be closet.  That it was just a bulge; and that’s okay.  Quoth he, rubbing his stomach: “I have a bulge, too.”

As the final task of my clinical fellowship, I have to give a staff “in-service” presentation tomorrow.  I don’t have stage fright, performance anxiety, or fears of having my skirt tucked into my underwear.  I’m sure no more than 8 people will actually show up.  My supervisor asked on Friday, “So, do people know you’re doing the presentation on Monday?”  To which I replied, “It was on the calendar.”  I didn’t pass around a memo or anything.  It’s already been rescheduled from May 19th because no one was going to be in the office, even though I’d put it on the calendar in February.  So, no, “being on the calendar” is no guarantee of anything.  Yet I’m not looking forward to it, whether I have an audience of 2 or 20. 

I dislike these contrived presentations.  We did many of them in grad school, as a way of spreading out the work, so no one had to read more than one article, yet we were all expected to pay such close attention so as to absorb the information in all 31 presentations.  Always with the powerpoints.  Even better with the handouts.  Then you didn’t have to write anything down or pay attention.  The notes were all there, and you didn’t have to prepare for class, so it was great all around.  I still disliked it.  I knew that no matter what I did, it was going to suck.  No one would care.  “Just don’t put us to sleep, and don’t go on too long.”  As long as they’re required to attend, and since I’m no motivational speaker or Michelle Obama, no one is really going to pay attention.  The same goes for tomorrow.  I tried to pick a topic that would have some bearing on their work — English language acquisition in second language learners.  I tried to keep it relevant, but I have no delusions about it being interesting.  It won’t be.  It’s barely interactive.  I have no Far Side cartoons.  Heck, I don’t even have a projector.  It’ll just be me with notes in front of the staff in the staff lounge, bribing people to show up with brownies. 

Oh, yes, that was the other thing, I was told people will expect to be fed.  If I don’t bring food, they might not show up.  And then this’ll all get prolonged further and further, spreading the dread across the summer. But there will be brownies, which Mr. Apron and I made Friday night.  And they will be fed, into a chocolate-laced, post-lunch sugar coma, with expressions of food joy on their faces, which I may choose to believe is my audience hanging on my every word.

1) Do not ask the readers when you are a blogger who has approximately 15 hits/day.  Not enough people care about you to answer your questions.  They look at that as a cop-out post, which it probably was, because you were too lazy to put up real content, and too lazy to google it yourself, which brings me to 2).

2) Do not ask the readers until you have googled and found a website which contains the exact information you are looking for.  

3) Maternity leave through my company is unpaid.  Is this common?  Have I been living in dream world where employers pay for you to bond with your child and give it life-sustaining breast milk for 12 weeks with no drawback?  Turns out all they do is hold your job for you.  So you can take a 3 month pay cut, then come back part time, lose your benefits, and pay for child care.  Hmm, no wonder people are putting off having children; the logistics are sobering.

4) Cheerios used as toilet training encouragement are not comestible rewards for “making sissy in the potty”.  Two of my coworkers were discussing how boys were difficult to potty-train and how if they weren’t interested at all, it was hard to say they were “ready”, and thus, the diapering continued.  So one of them mentioned Cheerios.  I, thinking it was a reward to be given after successful tinkling, added, “Oh, yeah, they’re using Froot Loops with the little boy downstairs.”  Which is exactly how they dole out the cereal.  After he’s peed.  In the toilet.  But no.  As the coworker with the disinterested 2.5 year old boy said, you instruct them to “sink the ships”.  So after a full 10 seconds of processing something other than the conversation I thought we were having, I figured it out.  Not knowing if this was a modern thing, or a regional thing, or a thing when you teach boys to pee standing up as opposed to sitting down, I came home and asked Mr. Apron.  Not that he remembered being potty trained, nor is it exactly an easy thing to imagine one’s grown husband who is now 6 feet tall and steaming wallpaper off of the baseboards and eaves, being potty trained.  He replied in the negative, and added that his mother would have said, in her placid, matter-of-fact way, “Cheerios are for eating.”  So I countered, “Yeah, but wouldn’t it have been fun.”

You learn new things every day.

My mother called today with a request.  She now knows people who are going to Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.  She is friends with their mothers and wives, respectively.  And she, ever the giver (cookies, fabric, garbage bags of stuff from my childhood room, recipes, newspaper clippings, furniture, etc.), wants to send care packages.  Sure, she could just whip up a batch of the cookies for which she is famous (and for which she is known as Judie Crocker), but she wants this to be helpful to the guys receiving them, not just full of cookies.  We’ve been in these wars long enough for people to have figured out what to send in care packages, right?  I mean, some folks must have it down to a science.

So I ask you, dear readers, what should she send in her care packages?  These are both guys in their early to mid-twenties, one married, one single.  I had heard somewhere along the line that soldiers actually asked for mundane necessities of life, such as sweatsocks and toilet paper, but I may be making that up.  She’s counting on us, so let’s have at it: brainstorm away!

Our dog has discriminating tastes.  He’s not exactly like the dog from the beggin’ strips ad, or the dog from the Beneful ad, though he resembles the former.  For years, we have had to coax him to eat his dog food.  Mr. Apron, though not schooled in generations of dog ownership, had never seen a healthy young dog who didn’t fairly squee with joy and anticipation of his food being put down.  As for myself, I grew up in a household where dog food was left out for the animals to graze on throughout the day.  The dogs of my youth managed their appetites and weights just fine, and certainly enjoyed their kibble. 

Finley, however, is different.  He’s not overly picky, per se.  We’ve tried him on every variety of cheap dog chow, and some varieties of expensive stuff.  He just seems to enjoy a little something extra.  I have to say, if I had to eat the same dry food day after day, I’d grow a little bored, too.  For about a year, Mr. Apron had a ritual where he’d make a big fuss of putting a broken-up milk bone on top, as garnish. And sometimes this would work.  Sometimes not.  Unfortunately, we could not just leave it down for him to get hungry, as we soon contracted a fatal case of mice infestation, and guess what food they like best?  Yes, dog food.  They actually managed to chew through the sealed rubbermaid container to get into his foo, so tasty it was to them.  Nor did the old adage of “He’ll eat when he’s hungry”, as there seemed to be no pattern to when it would eat.  I’ve also read that many dogs will eat until they burst, having less of a full/hungry sensation than humans. 

Mr. Apron’s father, on dog-walking duty one day, struck upon the ketchup that began gracing the fridge after I moved in (Mr. Apron himself won’t touch the stuff ), and squirted some in Finley’s bowl.  Hence was born the special sauce.  To this day, it’s the magic elixir that will get him to eat on those days when soy milk is not enough.  Yes, I said soy milk.  I can’t truthfully recall how we discovered this one.  I’m a lactard, as previously disclosed.  I’ve converted Mr. Apron, who never much cared for cow milk, to using soy milk in his cereal.  So when we’re done eating cereal, instead of drinking the leftover dribs and drabs of milk, we pour it into one bowl, and dress Finley’s food.  He waits, attentively, eagerly anticipating the time when the liquid will drop.  He laps up the milk first, then goes for the kibble.  It truly is specific to soy milk.  Once, when Mr. Apron had cow milk in his bowl, and gave that to Finley, he sniffed it, and flatly rejected the whole concoction.  But soy…that’s the stuff.  And it works, at least during the week.  Often on weekends, we have bagel sandwiches, or go out for brunch, or, on rare occasion, make eggs, pancakes, and the like.  On these days, he makes a silent prayer for bacon, cheese, eggs, bagel, or whatever we feel like dropping.  That may not be enough for his dog food, though.  On these days, we resort to another tomato product: watered down pasta sauce.  When we finish a jar of Classico, I fill it back up with water, which takes on the flavor of the sauce.  We slosh it on his grub, and he chows down.  This is especially helpful when we’re at my parents’ house, or dog-sitting, when there are other dogs vying for competition, who may eat his food if he doesn’t get to it fast enough.  Yes, we have our tricks. 

And Finley has his treats.  While generally a well behaved beast, he does bark his head off sometimes for attention, and he has destroyed one hollow-core door and one dog gate, trying to escape unknown assailants (probably flies).  He doesn’t counter surf, doesn’t beg for food audibly, and hasn’t gotten into the trash in 6 years.  He politely sniffs groceries when I come home from the market, but has only one time ever gone into a bag to pull out his favorite food:  broccoli.  Sure, many dogs like carrots, and maybe some dogs like mini-wheats, but Finley is absolutely coo-coo for broccoli.  When it comes out of the fridge for stir fry, or for hors d’oeuvres, he trails that floret like he’s suddenly become a bloodhound.  He sits, focused as a border collie, hoping, praying for a stalk.  We usually give him some of the very fibrous end stalks unfit for human consumption.  We save others in a ziploc in the fridge for use as “green shut-up sticks”, when company shows up and he wants to be the center of attention, or when he’s forgotten how to entertain himself, or when we’d like to be punished later in the evening by his farts.  Yes, he can digest the stalks, and never seems to be in any GI discomfort during or after the treat, but he does let ’em rip later that night.  You know the smell — cafeteria-steamed, army-green florets in a humid lunchroom mixed with locker bologna and some other unidentifiable permanent smell that is probably closely allied with gym socks. 

But hey, he’s happy.  And who can put a price on that?  Finley digs his greens so much that when we visit our crunchy Vermont friends and take him along, he dives headlong into their compost pile.  Worms are great for composting, but I think Finley’s more efficient.  I mean, you’ve got a usable product in 24 hours.  Worms can’t begin to compete. 

How about you?  What do your pets enjoy?  Shredded wheat?  Carrots?  Dried squid?  Apple cores?

On most Mondays, I’m supposed to see about 16 children.  The kids are at the center from 8:30a till 2:30p, so I need to see 16 kids in 6 hours, including my gracious 30 minute lunch, so that’s actually 5 hours 30 minutes, an average of 20.6 minutes per child.  Most children are supposed to receive 30 minutes of therapy, and some get 45 minutes.  How is this possible?  Well, it’s not new math, my friends; it’s grouping and getting creative.  Grouping, in a traditional sense, looks like 3-4 kids sitting around a table in a little closet doing flash cards or a board game working on telling stories or the /f/ sound.  In inclusion therapy, I’m “pushed in” to the classroom, doing therapy during circle time, center time, and outdoor play.  While it’s nice I don’t have to pull a child out of something as cool as making pancakes, or as important (to me, anyway) as storytime, it can be challenging to feel like I’m doing therapy sometimes.  Which is where creativity comes into play. 

Hey, Josie and Anna are both at the sand table.  Josie is working on social interaction with peers, and Anna needs to work on having two-way conversations with human beeings.  Instant group.  Another time, I sit down with Juan to play a board game, casually yet effectively emphasizing words he misarticulates, when A.J. wanders over, wanting to play.  Then Martina spies what looks like a rousing game of Chutes & Ladders.  Never mind that Martina is not on my caseload.  I justify having her as a mature speech “model” for the boys, and I work with Juan on his /s/ blends (spider, snowman, sleepy) while I gently drill A.J. on his /k/ sound.  Instant group.  Yet these are the easy ones.  There’s circle, outdoor play, and breakfast to contend with, not to mention “small group” (a curricular institution I have yet to fully grasp the concept or purpose of).  Sometimes, when I’m supposed to see 5 children in 2 hours (24 min/child), and one of them is supposed to receive 45 minutes of therapy, and they all have the nerve to show up that day, I sandwich myself between two of them at breakfast.  I dole out Cheerios for Anita as she smacks her bowl to ask for more, while talking with Charlie about what he did last weekend or where he wants to play today.  At circle time, I am able to “support” Parker by seating him on my lap so he’ll attend to the story, while modelling gestures, signs, and choral responses (so Gina can follow along, and to increase her participation, while encouraging Dominic say some of the words the teacher leaves out) to “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” while the teacher reads.  And somewhere along the way, if I didn’t sit at circle with Parker for 30 minutes, I’ll add onto it later by cuing him to ask for help putting his coat on; for Dominic, I’ll sit down with him during free play and do a puzzle; and for Gina, I’ll sit in the kitchen while she doctors up a baby doll.  Each kid can’t get 30 minutes of my undivided attention, nor can I work directly on therapy goals each day.  Many times, it just looks like crowd control, or herding kittens, just trying to get everyone to go along with the classroom routine.  And that’s usually okay. 

Today, however, instead of my usual 16, I had 6 kids out!  Some of the medically fragile kids are out with regularity, and some kids, due to their diagnoses, take longer to recover from ear infections, but my Monday group is strong.  Not only that, when I checked the absentee list on my way to the classroom at 8:32am, only one name was on it — a child who is not on my caseload.  Yet when I arrived downstairs, I was informed that two were absent from one room, and two more from another class.  And in the afternoon, as I dashed in from my manic lunch/note-writing marathon, I found only 4 kids on my caseload, down from 7.  So I got ahead for later in the week by seeing 2 Thursday kids, but, more important, I felt good about the therapy I was doing today. 

I spent a focused lunch period working on imitation with a 3-year-old boy with autism.  He whose IEP said he was not imitating anything and had no words back in October was imitating myriad syllables for me today: ba, bee, bye, bo, boo, pa, pee, pie, po, poo, ma, me, my, mo, moo.  And on and on.  Each time I got to a ba, pa, ma, ha, da, or ka word, I’d linger on the ahhhhhhh long enough for his mouth to be open, and I’d slip some pureed bananas inside.  Working on eating at school (a goal) and imitation of speech sound (another goal) during focused practice.  Damn, it felt good.  Then, seeing how attentive the kid was to me, his “girlfriend”, one of the teachers threw 2 syllables together so the kid said my name.  And as lunch finished, I signed and said “all done”.  And so did he. 

The two little girls, Josie and Anna, really were at the sandbox together today .  According to the teacher, they’ve suddenly discovered each other, which is a real boon to me.  I was able to sit near them and observe as they made “pancakes” together.  I cued Josie to ask Anna for some sand, and she did.  I was able to convince Anna, the stubborn one who only wants things her way, to trail after her friend Josie to do puzzles together, even though she at first flatly refused.  They finished, then took my suggestion to trade puzzles, and finally to go find new puzzles.  As one left the table briefly, the other wondered aloud, “Where’s Anna?”  It was all I could have asked for. 

Finally, with a boy who takes most of lunchtime to process that we’re having lunch (seriously — lately he’s been starting to eat during the last 5 minutes of lunch), I got some fabulous imitating and requesting for stickers.  He sat next to me, and 25 times said “Shickuh” or “sickuh” when I asked him what he wanted.  This from a kid who usually mechanically pats his chest — a sign which is supposed to mean “me” or “mine” — to mean anything from “I want more” to “My turn” to “You took my toy” to “I want to play in the block area” to “It’s time to get coats on to go home.”  Somehow he was just cued in today, had taken up residence on the planet.  He liked my goods (stickers, of course), he had a plan (to cover the perimeter of his paper with circle dot stickers), and all he needed to do was ask.  Sometimes it’s so simple. 

Days like this, when I only have to see 11 children, when I feel like I’m using my education, when I’m seeing children make change and progress, are days when I feel like I’m doing good therapy.  Not all days can be like this.  Many more are insane because teachers are out and kids are in, because lunch is late or the fire drill lasts too long, or because I’m grouchy and so are the kids.  Yet days like today, where I feel like a real speech therapist, will hopefully get me through the other days where I feel like a coat zipper, a shoe tie-er, a nose wiper, and a seat belt.  You know, days like tomorrow.

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June 2009
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