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We are so excited for fall this year, to watch our new maple trees do their job of being beautiful.   And as I went looking for the old post about our baby maple trees, I realized I never blogged it.  Well, in early May we bought two maple trees. (a side note:  I see when I go through my pictures looking for tree pictures that I never did blog about spring break trip… or the last two kid birthdays…  oops.)

So pretty!  Well, these trees have grown a lot this year.  And Tree Tall (we have Tree Tall and Tree Wide) even housed a nest of baby birds!

Here they are mid-June…

and here is baby bird nest.  I didn’t ever get a picture of baby birds, though.

Now that we’re caught up… Fall.  Fall is here, and our Red Sunset Maple trees are starting to turn red!

Tree Wide is still mostly green.  It’s so cool how the color goes from top down, and tips of the leaves in.  Perfect for a science discussion with the kids!

We’re looking forward to piles of red leaves to rake.  Carl and Humorous Thinker got going on fall yard work anyway, even with just a few leaves.


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Constructive Criticism

One major facet of clinical boot camp is constant supervisor feedback.  I think we all came into this time knowing that our supervisors would be watching, and rating how we did; I did, at least.  However, the reality of getting that feedback hasn’t been quite so straight-forward, at least emotionally.

I am not unfamiliar to constructive criticism, and even not-so-constructive criticism.  I don’t for even a small moment think that I am perfect, or the best there ever was.  I know I have room for growth–a lot of room in many areas.   And I specifically asked to be challenged at boot camp.  On my information form, I said I wanted new things, clients that would stretch me.

Even with this mindset coming in, when I got that very first feedback form from a supervisor, it was not as easy to be so pragmatic.   The feedback form has a left column with 19 different areas.  There are then columns to check excellent, good, average, or needs improvement, along with a small area for written comments.    On my very first form (for the second session), I received several average, and most good.  It doesn’t sound so bad, but I looked at it and almost immediately started crying.

I can, even now, look back and see how silly it is. But it’s an emotional thing, to be seemingly judged on how you interact and work with a child, when you’ve only just met the child.  And while I know I have room to grow, this is one area in my life where I feel that I am actually pretty good; at least, the kids I work with make progress on their goals every year!  So to read “average”, which isn’t even bad, was hard to swallow for this overachiever.  Add this to being away from all that is familiar, living in a hotel room without my family, and I felt suddenly incapable of handling even the most minor correction.

So, I went home, and cried.  I then sent a message to the very best mentor and former supervisor there is.  When feeling discouraged, there is nothing like the encouraging words of someone who knows you well; in this case, someone who has seen me do therapy for much longer than 2 sessions total.  She talked me down, reminded me in the nicest possible way that I am here to learn, and to take feedback in that way–as an opportunity to learn even more.  She also reminded me that I am good at what I do, but that being good at it doesn’t mean I never have to learn any new tricks.

So, I did that.  I relaxed, and was able to go back and read the feedback form again with a less emotional lens.  I found that my supervisor had some great comments for me.  Her suggestions were valid.   They related to behavior management, not an area in which I normally have problems during the school year, but that’s because I know the kids with whom I work pretty well.  I could see that my method for working with a new child was not the best, and that with the wrong child, it could really backfire.  So, her suggestions would be very useful for any new child, and, for many of them, might be all they needed in the longer-term, too.

I thought about it a lot over the weekend, and then went into Tuesday’s session ready to implement it.  In this session, she even came into the room to give me a therapy suggestion.  I was able to immediately implement it, and it really made a difference.  My feedback form gave me all “good” and one “excellent”, and had many comments written on it.  I spent even more time thinking about what she was suggesting, and figuring out how to implement it.  For the Thursday session, I did it.  I did everything she was suggesting.

And, that session was amazing.  I knew it even when I was in the session.  The behavior management worked amazingly for him.  The therapy technique she gave me was perfect, and really did aid his understanding of the concept.  This is also something I’ll be able to implement at work.  The whole session felt smooth and effective.  He worked hard, and made a lot of progress on his goals.

Even before I got my feedback form, I was very happy with how the session went.  It felt good.  And then, I got the form.  This time, nearly all “excellent”.  I was happy that I was able to grow as she’d suggested, and that it really did work.

And yet, I know that my work isn’t done.  I guess this lesson is even deeper than getting “excellent” on my feedback forms.  I learned that part of growing as a clinician will mean making changes that are suggested to me, and learning how to implement those changes into therapy.  I am not suddenly completely “excellent” with no need for any other improvement, ever.  I know that on the next feedback form, I may have more “average”, as I may encounter an area in which I need to grow.  I know that I always want to be able to incorporate new ideas into my therapy, and to be able to grow and change.

Even if it sometimes makes me cry.

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Compassion and generosity from Compassion

Our family has sponsored children through Compassion International for seven years, starting when Humorous Thinker was young and Perpetual Motion Boy was just an infant. Therefore, getting letters and occasional pictures from our sponsored children, Rajes in Indonesia and Josephine in Rwanda, along with writing letters together at the dinner table, has always been a consistent part of their memories.

Here is a picture of Josephine, who is now 14. We have been sponsoring her since she was 7.

And here is Rajes, who is now 11.  We also have been sponsoring him since he was 7.

As Humorous Thinker gets older, it has been such a privilege to watch him grow compassion and generosity in his life, some of it directly related to Compassion.  Recently he has been reading the Compassion magazine which we receive periodically in the mail.  It includes a section for kids.  In the summer issue, there was something that inspired him, and I’m not even sure what it was.  One day at dinner he told Carl that he was going to only have a small portion, with no seconds, and eat no evening snack.  He wanted to do this, which is very contrary to his set pattern, because he wanted to express solidarity with the large percentage of the world who had no choice but to eat in this way.

This concept has also helped him when he’s felt frustrated, near a meltdown due to not being able to eat some food.  He is gluten free, and has been since he was 3.  Recently, though, the concept of eating different foods, or doing without, has been much more difficult for him than it ever has been before.  My attempts to cajole him, or promise different snacks later, have been mostly ineffective in placating him, and really have done little to change his heart and attitude.  However, once he learned more about what kids in other countries eat, he has  been able to treat every opportunity where he has had no hamburger bun, for instance, as an opportunity to pray for kids who are making do with much less, and might not have enough food at all.

And this all culminated in his desire to sponsor another child.  He earns some money by mowing lawns for neighbors and for us, and  he is always after ways to earn money in the home by doing extra chores.  He’s very responsible and generous, so we do try to help him find ways to earn money frequently.  He decided that he wanted to help the family support another child, and committed to give some of his money every month in order to meet the sponsorship.  He picked out the child, and wrote the first letter all on his own.  So now our family has added 5-year-old Rudic from Nicaragua.

I look forward to seeing Humorous Thinker grow in compassion and generosity through this new sponsorship, and to seeing Rudic grow as well.  It requires sacrifice and effort on HT’s part–he has to continue to earn money in order to meet his part of the sponsorship.  He has to be responsible in the letter writing.  We’ll learn more about Nicaragua, and find ways to encourage Rudic together.  And I know that Humorous Thinker, and the rest of the family, will continue to be led to remember that we have so much that it is absolutely necessary that we share some, or even most, of that with others.

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23 more days…

My first week has been a bit of a let-down.  I’ve pretty much been sick all week.  A slight cold started a week and a half ago, and while I didn’t really get sick, I got congestion.  Which may or may not (but probably may) be related to the fact that the Oak tree in our backyard is bright yellow with pollen.

Not the best picture, but that bright tree on the right center is oak.  To which I am highly allergic (4+ on the skin test).  I should add that I pulled out my allergy test paperwork to verify that number, and I am not at all allergic to maple, which is nice since we just planted two in the front yard.  Though I’m sure I will be later, the way my body works.

At any rate, this cold/allergy problem induced a case of laryngitis this past week, and I spent all week struggling to talk.  Which, as you may guess, makes doing speech therapy very difficult. Very, very difficult.  My throat doesn’t hurt, but my voice was tired all week.  It’s better now, but still strained.

Allergies have also kicked my asthma into high gear this spring.   After a nice winter without it, I’ve used my rescue inhaler for 4 days in a row, on Friday because I had an asthma attack, which for me is cough-variant.  Happened mid-sentence in conversation with a co-worker.  I need to go to the allergist, clearly, as just Claritin is not cutting it right now.  So I’ve now verified that my current allergist is included in my new health plan (haven’t been to the allergist since 9-2009, though, so I’m not sure it’s considered current!), and I’ll make an appointment next week.

The allergies, cold, and asthma have also limited my physical activity this week.  I ran once, but then have had to take a break, aside from the two times I had to chase the dog for a few blocks as she got out.  Which left me incredibly winded and gasping for air, leading me to deduce that going for a longer run might not be in my best interest.

I have read some, I have watched some fun shows with my husband, I have relaxed.  I also got to go out to a movie and dinner with some great girlfriends last night, which was wonderful (but not so good for my voice, as I forgot to engage the “stop talking!” switch at several points in time.)

I have started going through photos on the camera, including Perpetual Motion Boy’s birthday in March, and our great spring break trip to Washington, D.C.  I’d like to get through those this next week.

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Spring Semester in Review, Part 3

Seminar in Child Language: Final grade A, 97%

This class grade was a bit of a wildcard for me, as I did not do as well as I’d like on the midterm.  But our final format was much different, and played right into my strengths–writing and talking about myself.  Ha.  I ended up with full credit on everything but the first midterm, and my grade ended up right where I wanted it.

So, to sum up, I love child language, and I love this textbook, which means I really loved what I learned in this class.  I had covered the first half of my textbook in a class I took last summer as a prerequisite for grad school, and so studying it again meant I have an even better grasp on the material.  For this class, we had weekly assignments, two very practical projects, a midterm, a final, and participation points.

The weekly assignments asked questions about each week’s reading.  Most of the time I tried to read the chapter first before answering the questions, but as time is often short, I sometimes just found the applicable section in the text and then answered the question.   However, in the later chapters that I hadn’t yet read, I tried to read them all.  I know for my personal benefit, I need to read the later chapters again, to really get the most out of them.  While it’s a textbook, and incredibly dense with information, I find it pretty easy to read, so that’s not a task that is too overwhelming.  The question is really about when I’ll read it.  I still need this down time, and then when summer classes start, my time is again short.  I suppose it might remain on the to-read list for sometime in the fall of 2012.

The assignments, as I said, were incredibly practical.  The first was to make a therapeutic treatment product.  I made a photo pronouns book, which I have used a lot already, and use for far more than pronouns, including verbs, simple sentences, third person singular verbs, requesting, asking and answering questions, and vocabulary.  Most of the kids also really enjoy that the pictures are of my family, and it provides a chance for some general conversation about families.  Here are a few pages as an example:


Maybe I need to have a conversation about playing guitar in pajamas…

The second project was much bigger in scope and in points (25 points for the tx product, 100 points for the research project).  Our assignment was to create a Research Resource Binder; my topic was on Early Literacy and the SLP.  I had to find at least 25 resources, review them, and compile them into a document.  Then it all had to be put together into a binder (I printed the articles and some articles, gave a first page or sample for other resources), and a powerpoint presentation put together to show off the binder and discuss the purpose, what was learned, etc.  Finally, we had to write a 2-page reflection paper, a more complete telling than the powerpoint.

It took a lot of time to complete, but I am very thankful for doing it.  I learned so much!  While I might not complete a binder that is so thorough, the concept of this kind of research is very appealing to me.  A binder also provides a place in which to file new resources when they are received, to be able to refer to them later.  I’d like to start a general binder for many topics, either electronically, where I get myself to set up folders, put articles and reviews and websites, etc into the appropriate folder, or actual binders.

Here I am contemplating the wealth of knowledge contained in my new binder, before I turned it in.  Notice the dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep…

And here is  the finished binder.  It’s big!

As I mentioned, the midterm in this class was not my best.  It was true/false, multiple choice, and short answer.  I made some silly mistakes and some mistakes from which I learned.  However, the final was right up my alley.  I feel bad about loving it so much, as many of my classmates hated it.  But, it’s just my style.  I had to write about things I had learned this semester, according to specific parameters in 3 questions.  We had a page limit of 4 pages, double spaced, and that was the hardest part for me.  I could have easily filled 4 pages single-spaced, with 10-point font and .5 inch margins.  Being held to APA formatting was difficult.  I did it, however, and really enjoyed the process of writing it and reflecting upon what I learned.

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Today = Relaxed

Today is a holiday, and thus, I did not have to work.  I did do quite a bit, but in a very relaxed manner.

  • I slept in until 7:45 or so.  Ahhh.
  • I made pancakes, but only to fill in the gap for breakfasts the rest of the week.  The kids who were awake had already eaten, and the other was sleeping, so didn’t need them yet (Perpetual Motion Boy slept until after 8.  This is unheard of here!  That’s a nice 12 hours of sleep for him).  It was nice to make pancakes in a non-rushed manner.
  • I drank a lot of coffee, but only because I love coffee, not because I needed it to stay awake.
  • I relaxed, quietly, while the kids (and neighbor kid, over for the day) were playing.
  • I took a long, hot shower.
  • I played some card games with the neighbor kid.
  • I played Quirkle for the first time, and I love it!
  • I ate an even bigger salad than normal for lunch, since it didn’t have to fit into a container in my lunch box.
  • I did a lot of research for the next 5 resources for my project for Seminar in Child Language.  My eyes hurt from reading pdf articles online, but I could take a break when I needed.
  • I made crepes for dinner, my first time ever making crepes!  The first few were a disaster, but once I perfected how long to cook them before flipping, and how thick to pour the batter, they were good!  We had ham and cheese for dinner crepes, and Dark Chocolate Dreams + sliced bananas for dessert crepes.  I did forget to do a vegetable for dinner, in my relaxed mindset today.  I told the kids they get double tomorrow.   It was supposed to be spaghetti squash.
  • I put one grumpy Miss Imagination (maybe better called Miss Attitude at bedtime tonight) to bed while one boy played outside for 30 minutes in the fresh snow, and the other boy spent an hour shoveling the sidewalk around the block, earning the accolades of our neighbor, who said she wants him to be in charge of shoveling her sidewalk next year, for money.  Way to go, Humorous Thinker!
  • I cleaned up from dinner, and now I’m relaxing before Perpetual Motion Boy goes to bed.

The real test will be, can I get myself out of this “relaxed” mindset, and back into “way too much to do, but I have to do it anyway” mindset tomorrow at work.  You know you’ve got a lot going on when you are, for a moment, thankful when  a whole group of kids is out sick.  That’s right before realizing that it’s really only a matter of time before my boys, at the same school, get the flu that is going around.  But for a brief moment, the possibility of getting paperwork done in that 20 free minutes is exhilarating.


Busy day, so tired

My day today was full of good things.  However, these good things do leave me lacking in motivation to blog.  I’m currently curled up in bed, cozy pajamas, and electric blanket on.  It’s 8:21 and I could fall asleep right now.  In a few minutes we’ll watch Modern Family, and then I will fall asleep.

But about today.  I started typing it all out, but it’s too much.  I don’t have the energy to make it readable.  So, I have two things:  A summary, and my favorite part of the day.
Summary:  wake up (5:30), get ready, go to Growth Group, go to work, therapy for 34 students, attend/take notes for IEP conference at the end of the day, catch the end of a playdate for Miss Imagination, spend time talking with playdate’s mom, start dinner, do a presentation on How and Why you should Read to your Children, come home, read to Perpetual Motion Boy, take care of slept-most-of-the-afternoon Humorous Thinker Son (who might be sick son), get into bed, check Blackboard for most recent information on 3 grad classes starting next week, realize I have an assignment due on Tuesday (first day of class), plus some reading to be ready for lecture, write blog.

Favorite thing:  It seems like it was actually 3 days ago, but my Growth Group (by any other name a Bible Study or Small Group) has been something I have been wanting for a long time.  I started this group for the current round of Growth Groups through I’m so thankful for women who are willing to meet at 6:30 am to learn and encourage each other.  What a blessing!

Modern Family has loaded.  Time to laugh.  And sleep.  Probably in that order, though I never can be sure.