Hilarious. . .and so, so true.

From my friend, Carolyn, who has raised a variety of children–some her own and some not–over the course of her lifetime.

“We’re dealing with children, they need to be terrified, it’s like mothers milk to them – without it their bones won’t grow properly” Sue Sylvester

Now with hands

I am not much a You Tube surfer. I appreciate it and all, but I normally go there for a particular item rather than just shopping around. That being said, I ran over to Boomama’s today, and what did I find but this. Victoria and I pondered over whether it was “real” or slowed down or sped up or what-have-you. . .then I pointed out that the gal’s ponytail was swinging in a most natural way–both in actual velocity and timing. With that settled, we were all set to be amazed.

Then, Victoria told me about a cool video that her teacher showed them that involved hands, and low and behold if it wasn’t over to the right on Youtube. It, too, is cool. It is a testament to my daughter’s middle school that this can be shown in class without a bunch of 6th graders making noises over the placement of a certain finger during one segment. . .not out of crudeness but out of necessity. Were it not family friendly, I’d not post it here. Speed it up to 40 or so seconds in unless you just want to enjoy some techno-pop with no amazement factor.

And when we screw up. . .

I think I have said before that I teach the dyslexia class at my school. People often ask me exactly what that looks like and how I teach it.

First of all, dyslexia is not just people spelling poorly or reading things backward. There are various and sundry degrees of dyslexia, just like there are various and sundry degrees of myopia or various and sundry shades and colors of red hair. You can be a little dyslexic or a lot dyslexic. It never goes away. You don’t outgrow it. You just learn to cope. . . much like being left-handed in a right-handed world–but way, way, WAY worse.

Unlike seeing a left-handed child struggle to not smear their pencil across a page, diagnosis for dyslexic kids is a difficult thing. We’ve all heard tales from folks who lived many years without glasses, then when they were ten, someone got a clue and took them to the eye doctor. All of a sudden things were crisp and sharp and identifiable rather than just being big blobs of color. Why didn’t they KNOW that trees should have individual leaves? Well, because a tree had been a big, green blog all of their lives. It’s the same things with dyslexic kids. If you don’t KNOW the direction that letters should go. . .or that words have spaces between them, then learning to read makes NO SENSE whatsoever.

Dyslexic kids are, by and large, really, really smart. This is a double-edged sword as they ARE so smart that people think they just “aren’t trying” or are “being lazy.” “You’re so smart. You should be able to do this.” After being told that enough–after failing enough tests–after being in the “blue bird” reading group even though you have the vocabulary of someone a couple of grades ahead much less the yahoos in the “eagle” group–after going as far as your own made-up and unintentional coping mechanisms can take you, you finally give in and go with it. You’re not trying. You’re lazy. You’re dumb.

Add to this another thing called Irlen Syndrome or scotopic sensitivity. This involves the way your eyes process light. Bright light–much like florescent lighting in classrooms–makes it harder for kids with Irlen to read what is on the page. Rather than this being a “reading” issue, it’s a vision issue, but the kids have 20/20 vision. It still isn’t completely understood, but it has to do with the arrangement of rods and cones in your eyes and the processing of the two extremes of white and black on a page. A lot of time these kids will cover their book with their arms or put their book under their desk and rest their forehead on the desk to block out the light. They may even prefer to read in dark rooms or to read only paper back books because of the reduced glare. They don’t know WHY they prefer those things. . .but there is a reason.

To some it’s still a “controversial” topic, but I’ve seen enough to know that it is, indeed, real. Here is an example of how some people with Irlen Syndrome or “SSS” (Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome) see text. The most common complaint is “rivers” in the words. . .where natural breaks that we see move or change. Or the words and letters dance and shake.

More telling than anything was the story of our diagnostician at school. Her job is to test kids for special ed and be in charge of all of the ARDS (meetings regarding special ed kids) and IEPs (federally guarded documents for special ed kids). Her son was having some eye strain and it was determined that he had SSS. When it was being explained to them, they mentioned how the words will sometimes fade out or swirl on the edge of the page. . .the paper will fade from white to gray and back again. R., the diagnostician, said, “Is that not supposed to happen?” She was 33 at the time and had suffered from Irlen syndrome her entire life without knowing it.

And get this. Fifty percent of kids with dyslexia have Irlen Syndrome.

Yep. Not good. Just like dyslexia, you can be a little scotopic or a lot scotopic–it just depends. And you don’t HAVE to be dyslexic to have scotopic sensitivity. The “cure” for scotopic is colored overlays. They are specially developed, blah, blah, blah. . .if you have questions or think you or someone you know might have SSS, I can explain more or point you in the right direction.

I have KNOWN about Irlen for years–literally–and I have taught dyslexic kids AND began teaching the dyslexia class at my school last year. I am familiar, though not an expert, with what red flags warrant testing. I have recommended kids to be tested for both Irlen AND dyslexia during my tenure as a teacher.

So imagine my jaw-dropping, bone-jarring, face-reddening chagrin when during the BIG, FAT MIDDLE of my 3rd session of presenting information about Scotopic Sensitivity (Irlen) Syndrome to the entire staff of my middle school back in August FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, the picture of a boy exploded in my brain. It wasn’t his face that I saw immediately. It was the top of his head. . .because I CANNOT COUNT THE NUMBER OF TIMES LAST YEAR THAT I SAID, “B., put your book on your desk, and pick your head up.” It breaks my heart to think of it–how frustrated I was with his grades despite his intelligence. . .he never turned work in. . .he failed his reading tests. . .but he knew definitions to words that other kids couldn’t even pronounce. “You are smart, B. You just need to TRY. Will you TRY????”

Shortly after I saw the top of his head in my mind, I saw his beautiful aqua blue eyes. . .his white blond hair. . .and his sad, sad face. And he was sad. A lot. And no wonder.

Once school started, I went and found him one day during my off period. I asked him some questions, explained to him what I thought might be the problem, handed him a permission letter for his mom to sign so I could have him tested for SSS even though I don’t teach him this year.

And then I apologized.

I told him how sorry I was that I had not seen what was right in front of my (perfectly healthy) eyes all of last year. . .and I told him that I was going to do my very best to help him all I could. I apologized AGAIN today when I went to tell him that on Wednesday, the district screener will come to test him officially to see if he does, as I suspect, have Irlen.

I don’t need words of encouragement about how I “fixed” my mistake as soon as I recognized it. . .I pray that this is in fact the problem and that we can fix it now before B. goes even one more week thinking it’s just too hard to even begin to try. More than anything, I’m thankful that God showed me the back of that boy’s head as I explained to other teachers what they should look for, because I have NO DOUBT that it was God who did it. And just now, right this second, sitting here typing this, I know why I am back in the district. At least I know ONE of the reasons I’m back. . .if I had been tucked away in a 4th grade classroom in Magnolia, I might have thought of B. I might have even contacted someone to have him tested. But I am right there in the same building. . .I will make SURE he is tested. I am hopeful that if B. IS diagnosed, his mom will let us test his brother who is now in high school. I never taught R. But I know he struggled like B. does. I’ll keep you posted.

In the mean time, say a prayer for B. and for his brother. Say a prayer for the gal in our district who tests kids for scotopic and dyslexia. . .she truly IS an expert and takes her job straight to heart. And say a prayer for the teachers who hold childrens’ very lives in their hands on a daily basis. I am so often blinded by other things–by my own concerns or worries or stresses. I am thankful that God is giving me the opportunity to try and make this right.

Konst av Konstnären (Art by the Artist)

Last week I showed you my lovely new piece of art from Stephanie.

And there was this AWESOME portrait of our old house from June, 2006.

I’ve also mentioned the other pieces of art with which she has gifted me, but I’ve never shown them to you. . .so here they are NOW.

I met Stephanie in college. She was an art major and as such, at the end of our senior year she had an art show. I attended and fell in love with two pieces of her work. This piece of pottery was the one I felt I could afford to buy. I can’t remember what I paid for it–not nearly what it was/is worth. . .but after the show, she delivered it to me, and it is in my house to this day.

On this you’ll note, she put the title of my blog. . .I had recently been bemoaning some MAJOR drama in my life to my friend and dorm mother, Katrina,and she told me about a song, “It Be’s That Way Sometimes.” I shared the story with Stephanie, and that is what she entitled my piece of pottery. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAy back in 1991. 🙂

At the very same art show, I also fell in love with a wonderful water color. It was just gorgeous. . .right up my alley. . .lovely, lovely, lovely. I can’t even remember if it was a piece she had for sale–and if so it was WAY out of my price range, but I told her how gorgeous I thought it was. It was entitled, “Waiting .” And I was in the midst of doing a lot of that at the time. . .waiting. . .much like “The Waiting Place” in Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go.

One lovely May evening (central Arkansas KNOWS how to do spring) I went for a walk, and when I returned, sitting on a chair in my apartment was the painting. Stephanie had given it to me as a graduation present.

(Click to see it REALLY big.)

See? Lovely. She was about 20 when she painted this.

As I was photographing these to put on the blog, Victoria said, “Who made those?” I told her it was Mrs. Stephanie. As these are things Victoria has always seen (and it never dawned on me to tell her), she had no idea. . .and her response was, “What can she NOT do?”

Now–knowing Stephanie like I do, I know she would be the first to give you a long, exhaustive list of all the things she CANNOT do. . .but I am here to tell you that one thing she CAN forevermore do is create–wonderful meals, handsome boys, beautifully wrapped packages, and art, art, art. . .from original paintings to envelopes in which to stuff letters that are covered with her font-like hand writing.

Amazing.

When I thanked her for the most recent masterpiece, I tacked on a little note in Swedish. She is, in fact, from Sweden–was born there and lived the first 10 or 11 years of her life there. She speaks, reads, and writes fluent Swedish but you’d never know it to hear her. She sounds like your run of the mill southern-ish girl. Anyway–here is what my Swedish (courtesy of Google Translate which Stephanie assures me did a truly fine job) thank you said:

Thank you my dear, dear, dear, dear friend. Your love for and acceptance of me and my many, many flaws has been a blessing all the years I have known you, but this past year in particular. Thank you for being a sounding board, a confidant, a kick in the pants, and for being able to create things that neither my imagination nor hands can design. You are a jewel both valuable and rare, and also very, very sparkly. I love you.

And sparkle she does.

Saturday Evening Bouquet

Not only is the light changing, but so is the flora and fauna ’round here. Autumn cometh, and with it some flowers are dying while others are blooming. We strolled down to the lake tonight–and also trespassed while we were at it–and while Victoria pondered aloud about whether us walking onto the deserted property of our ex-neighbors was indeed legal, she gathered a bouquet. Here ’tis gussied up a bit.

Pretty no?

We also have wild morning glories running amok. I noticed them on a particular fence last fall, and have taken my camera several days to photograph them. Alas, it is too dark in the morning and they are all closed up tight in the afternoon (the tightly closed pinkish flower at the bottom left of Victoria’s bouquet is what the morning glories look like once it gets hot), but I WAS able to snap this shot the other day when I was running late. Not the fence I want, but it’ll do for now.

And not nearly as lovely, but with a beauty all their own, we’ve had a crop of mushrooms sprout after the recent rainfall.

As beautiful as all these things are. . .one or more of them has released a pollen into the air that is none too kind to my allergies. I’ll just carry a box of kleenex with me while I enjoy the loveliness.

Happy Birthday, Dear Sarah. . .

Happy Birthday, friend. Not sure how good this cake TASTES, but it’s pretty. And since we are only VIRTUALLY partaking of it’s loveliness, then looks are what matter this time.

And since we are throwing around virtual presents, I’m gonna give you THIS too. . .if you go to yoga (or some variation) today, here is an image for your “happy place” during savasana.

Love you. . .happy day!!!!

Unveiled

Again. . .the time alludes me. . .but here it is (even though I didn’t do it justice.) I will just have to let creativity speak for creativity. (It’s really big if you click on the picture. . .)

I told Stephanie that I love this “new” cover of my favorite classic novel. And I DO love it. . .the novel and the cover.

Victoria's profile


Watching Victoria’s face as she recognized herself (I had sent a photo of her looking up-ish at a pine tree in our yard), was a sight to behold. I am proud to say that her Daddy recognized her profile right away. 🙂


It’s a sort of a still life, silhouette, collage of sorts. And it’s way more words worth of description than I have time to write. . .

Beautiful, lovely, creative, timeless, just right. . .