Monday, September 29, 2008

W00t! 30 caches found!

Diana's campus has a few geocaches. We found one yesterday when I brought her back to school & put the travel bug Tea Dog in it. That brought my total to 30 found! I haven't hidden any yet, but I have ideas ;)

List of Geocaches found

Traditional Caches *

Unknown (Mystery) Caches *

*Total Caches Found


Saturday, September 27, 2008


We got a frantic call from Diana yesterday. She had gotten her disbursement check from the Financial Aid office.

The problem was the check was for $600.00. She has three months of rent plus food she needs to pay through December.

Her rent alone is $449 a month... You see the problem? (Holy crap - where did all her money go???)

I knew something was off. She has grants & scholarships that should prevent her from needing to take out any loans. I was already going to get her to spend the weekend with us anyway, so I got approval to leave work a little early, and I went up Friday afternoon.

We are really kind of new to the whole Financial Aid part of college. I didn't need it when I was in school, and I don't think Lee did either. Trevor had to take out loans, so we knew that part.

Diana & I raced over to the Financial Aid office -- she hadn't gotten the letter from them stating she needed to turn in our tax information to them, so I had brought that along (note to self, make at least 2 copies of taxes for each student - one for the FAFSA, one for the college). Once we'd turned that in, I asked for a breakdown of where Diana's funding had gone.

Turns out only the Ford Scholarship has paid so far. So the $600.00 is what was left over after fees & tuition were paid for the term. The other grants & scholarships will all be disbursed to her once they are in :) *Whew!* That's a good chunk and will easily cover rent, and probably the food.

She's going to get a work study job anyway - it's part of her financial aid package, but they may give her a little money above & beyond if she earns her work study time off. Then she's got a little extra.

Also, because her lease is for the full year, she'll need to have a source of income over the summer. The financial aid scholarships & grants only cover the school year.

On the plus side, she has a really sweet deal with her room. It's off-campus, like an apartment, so they aren't actually part of the campus. The actual dorms are so packed with students that the rooms for 2 are getting cots for a 3rd student to come in, and the singles are all being made into doubles. I have no idea how they are going to store anything for the extra students in the dorms! Yikes!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Connor Funnies

On the way home from church yesterday, I'm driving past the house where the little white "horde" truck parks. It's not there tho.

All of a sudden, Connor yells out, "For the Horde!" Yes, I had to laugh.

Then when we were getting ready for dinner last night, I noticed a large deer walking past the driveway. I told Connor, "Hey, look outside, there's a deer there."

He opens the front door, and yells, "Hey Deer! What are you doing there? It's dangerous out there!" Lee & Trevor heard and we all laughed. He's right, you know!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I like

Today we drove up to visit Diana at school. We took her to lunch, got her more undies & socks (the washer/dryer setup isn't done yet), and found a geocache on campus. General visit the kid at college stuff.

Before we left home, the van was low on gas, and I needed to fill up soon. Gas in town was $3.75/gallon. I checked last night, and found pretty much everyone north of us was less expensive. I don't know why it's so much here - it doesn't make sense. Whatever the reason, I'm going to keep buying gas out of town whenever I head up to Diana.

How much did I pay in Creswell, OR?


Friday, September 19, 2008

Girl in College

Lee brought Diana to Eugene on Monday.

They had to wait 3 hours to get her all signed in for her unit for her quad apartment. She's living with Froggy's daughter, Tia, plus two other girls. There are four rooms that share a kitchen/dining area. Each room comes with it's own bathroom, TV, air conditioner, and heating. The monthly cost is actually cheaper than the least expensive dorms on campus - however, these quads are on a year-lease, vs. just school months. Diana will have to have a job to cover rent over the summers.

All the units in 8 buildings were renovated over the summer, which is why it took so long to get in. Instead of the usual 25% new tenants, it was 100% new tenants.

There are still a few things to fix, like there's no drain cover in the shower, or TV yet, or internet. Diana is hoping the internet is fixed first. In the meantime, she can jump on wifi around campus, but she's not in the comfort of her own room.

We are going to visit her tomorrow, and figure out what she still needs and hopefully fill in any stuff we can.

I'm purposefully not mentioning her school, because of the MTV thing. We've actually gotten a fan calling the house (some kid from New Jersey?), and I'd rather not have anyone stalking her at her new school!

This week was move-in for those quads. Next week is the "Week of Welcome" with lots of stuff going on for the freshmen & new students at the college. The following week, classes will start. Oh boy!

And I apologize for the lack of photos. It's why I haven't been posting much. Stupid camera.

Psychiatric Study

Email from my friend, Rose:

A study conducted by UCLA's Department of Psychiatry has revealed that the kind of face a woman finds attractive on a man can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle.

For example: If she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged & masculine features.

However, if she is menstruating, or menopausal, she tends to be more attracted to a man with duct tape over his mouth and a spear lodged in his chest while he is on fire.

No further studies are expected.

And people wonder why I play World of Warcraft...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nice Perspective

Today's Quote:
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Friday, September 12, 2008

Update on Connor

We had another meeting with the 'team' for Connor on Wednesday.

We decided that there needs to be some tracking of data to help determine 1) antecedents to the 'meltdown' (what was happening in the 1/2 hour before the meltdown), 2) who was working with him at the time (training necessary?), 3) what was done to calm him down, and 4) was it effective?

The autism consultant will train the folks that are scheduled to work with Connor so that the reactions & rewards/consequences are consistent. Lee & I think that they had about 4 people working with him last year when things started to go south, and they all probably dealt with Connor in different ways. It is SO much easier to teach him the right way to deal with something if everyone teaches him the SAME thing.

We also got a look at his schedule, and the teacher from the classroom was there to let us know which activities she recommended for Connor to do with the class. He should have an assistant with him whenever he goes to 5th grade :)

So it turns out, he's only going to 5th grade for the opening of the day, and then a one-hour block of time in the mornings. He'll do his reading & math in the LRC, because his class is too high in the concepts they're working on in 5th grade. He will have more time in the computer lab (which he loves) and they will be using more computer programs to work with him vs. pen & paper stuff. Again, the autism consultant will work with the staff so they can set things up for Connor to be more successful. We're okay with the amount of time in the classroom. Most likely this will be his final year with his 'typical' peers. This is, of course, due to the fact that they are far ahead of him intellectually.

We came away with a positive feeling toward the specialists & school. The principal especially stated, "Connor is an Eastwood kid. We are going to do everything we can to keep him here."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How Nerdy Am I?

Someone has this symbol on the tailgate of his white pickup truck on the way into town.

Every time I drive past, I yell out, "For the Horde!!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Briding to Adult


Yesterday I realized that hey - it was Tuesday, and I didn't have a Girl Scout meeting!

On Saturday, the last of my troop bridged to Adult Girl Scouts. This is a rather rare event, actually. I think many more Boy Scouts make it up to that level vs. girls, and that's just kind of due to girls being girls, and the differences in the programs.

In any case, Amanda & Diana were there for the ceremony. Mary's dad was ill, so she had to miss it :(

The leaders did the flag ceremony - I don't know that I've ever even done one before!

The moms were supposed to write a little thing up about how they had watched their daughters grow in their girl scout years. I had a hard time writing about JUST Diana, since as the leader, they ALL felt like MY girls! I think I did okay however, altho Amanda's mom had recounted some of the same experiences since the girls were in the same troop.

Also bridging to Adult was Katelyn, who put on the Day Camp over the summer with Amanda. All but Diana had been scouts since Daisies (I didn't know there was anything with girl scouts in Kindergarten, since it didn't exist when I was in school), so they got a daisy with their bouquet of roses. Very nice :)

Afterwards, we had the girls over to watch the Terminator. Since their time as girl scouts was terminated. Okay, no. It was because Lee had rented it for our kids (sans Connor) to watch, since they'd heard about it but never seen it. Katelyn's friend was a little scared, but once she saw how dated the effects were - she was fine.

And we had ice cream :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Connor & Church

It has taken some time, but we have been able to manage keeping Connor in his seat through a whole mass now. It didn't help that our former pastor felt that when you come to God's house, you should not be checking the time - neither did he. Consequently, what normally goes for an hour would take an extra 30 or 45 minutes more - not so good when you have a very antsy autistic kid who isn't really paying attention to the sermon anyway. The music, singing, candles & all that was fine, but when it got to the sermon, either Lee or I would have to take Connor out for a walk/play/run break.

He's now 10 years old. He gets a blessing at communion, since he hasn't been able to sit through religious education classes or sacramental preparation classes. He was baptized as a baby, because that's more our rite than his - we are promising to raise him with our beliefs in our church. Communion in our church means you are accepting Christ into yourself, and you need to understand and believe in that to participate. There is also the sacrament of reconciliation prior to First Communion, and that also should be understood as a way to ask forgiveness.

Those kinds of concepts were a little too far beyond what Connor could comprehend before. In the last year, however, he has shown more understanding about himself and others in the world, and has been able to accept the death of my dad and understand something about that as well.

Today was our first day in class. I have him in the second grade for religious ed, because it's much more visual and presented at a level he will understand better. The sacramental preparation class usually requires at least a year in religious education, but they are waiving that for Connor so that he can get First Reconciliation and First Communion in the same year. :)

He did very well today in class with me. He seemed to get most of what was going on, because he was able to choose the correct answers at the multiple choice at the end. He also reads more quickly than the rest of the class - heh. It's the comprehension that we're working on!

I had him do some running & jumping jacks before we went in for Mass after the hour-long class. He did very well through Mass as well. Good job, Connor!

Friday, September 05, 2008

A little insight

School started this week. We were bummed when we went to register Connor for 5th grade, he didn't have a regular education teacher listed. He had brought an "apple for teacher" and he didn't have a teacher to meet. :( That was the first time that's ever happened. In fact, in prior years, we've had an informal meeting with his teacher to help them understand Connor and how his autism affects him - typically on registration day, the week before school starts. Some have even come to the house to spend a little more time with him before he was in their classroom.

Last year, we ended Connor's 4th grade without a clear picture of what was going to happen for him in 5th grade. We weren't able to get the whole IEP team together for a placement meeting before we ran out of time in the school year.

He had been pulled out of the regular ed classroom because his frustration behaviors had gotten so loud and long that it affected the whole class. Connor has been at this school since Kindergarten (I was actually working there when I was pregnant with him) and he has a history with his peers there. They know & understand him better because of that. We didn't want the other kids to change their view of him and start associating him with the tantrum behavior, so we agreed to move him out of the regular ed room to the Learning Resource Center (LRC) for the majority of his day.

Thing is, the behavior continued in the LRC. He apparently has these tantrums for up to 3 hours at a time (!?!) up to three days a week! And the whole building can hear him.

The options being considered at the end of 4th grade were to have him placed in a Developmental Learning Center (DLC) for extreme behavior/severly mentally disabled kids, or bump him up a year early to the Jr. High - either the DLC at the one, or the LRC at the other. Jr. High kids work more on life skills than academics, and Connor hasn't been getting much better at the academics.

I asked the teacher at the DLC from the school where I work to observe Connor at his school. She agreed with me that a DLC placement would be too restrictive for Connor, and she didn't see a tantrum while she was there. She did let Connor's LRC teacher know that the DLC would not be a good fit.

Lee & I were both pretty opposed to the Jr. High placement. He's already delayed, and putting him in with even older kids would just be too hard now. It will be hard enough when he's the right age!

So we wound up with the same situation where he was at the end of last year for 5th grade - but somehow I still thought he'd have a regular ed teacher for all the peer stuff when we registered him.

Moving on - today we had a placement meeting with the IEP (individualized education plan) team. Present were: Lee & me, the LRC teacher, the DLC teacher from the school where I work, the acting principal, the school psychologist, the district student services representative, the new (on pregnancy leave) principal, the Consulting Teacher (formerly Autism Consultant), and Connor's Speech therapist.

We have to meet again next Wednesday to figure things out a little more.

The purpose of this meeting was to discuss strategies that had been tried & worked or failed and what our concerns were as parents & the team.

Lee & I would like to see Connor with a full-time aide, trained in working with autisic kids. He had one previously who had been faded when she wasn't as necessary and he was doing things as he needed to do them. But he got older, the requirements changed, and the classrooms changed, and he hasn't adjusted as we'd hoped. That particular aide moved away, and we're not sure that the current aides are as up-to-date with practices for autistic children as we'd like. Autism is very different from a behavioral diagnosis, and requires a whole different approach.

We would like him to spend some non-academic time with his peers in a regular ed room with the aide to assist him. Like the opening & closing parts of the day. Art. Music. Hands-on Science. He can either do his Reading and Math in small groups or one-on-one with the aide. Depends on the concepts and his mood, really.

What we heard today & last year is that Connor runs 'hot or cold' with his behavior/attitude. If he's upset coming off the bus, he's going to be upset for the whole day. Lee mentioned to the team that he'd prefer that people not create a self-fulfilling prophecy effect with that kind of attitude. If he's upset at home, we remove him from the situation, talk him through as much as we can, and give him time to settle himself in a different location. Sometimes he will be inconsolable for who knows what reason, and we just have to hold him and talk to him calmly. It's been maybe 45 minutes tops, ever. Most of the time it's closer to 15 minutes to get him back to normal.

We were asked if we have the same experiences at home with his tantrums. No. We don't. Granted, we aren't asking him to sit for 45 minutes and do math problems he doesn't know why he needs to know. But we do ask him to stop doing things he likes to do chores for us, etc. I think the big difference is that he has a good motivator in place for after he completes his chores. I don't know that the motivator they are using at school works for what they are trying to have him do.

Random reinforcement doesn't work at all for autistic kids. There has to be a very clear connection between the action and the reward. Similarly, taking away the reinforcer or motivator makes things worse, instead of creating a desire to do the work to get the reward. Both of these were mentioned by the LRC teacher as strategies being used with Connor. The Consulting Teacher reiterated that those things won't be effective with a student like Connor.

So - everyone on the team got a little bit of 'homework' for the next meeting. Which teacher would be best for him? Who can be the aide? Get an unbiased observation from someone not as familiar with Connor. How can we work the funding? What other teaching strategies are available? When can the staff be trained?

We're meeting again next Wednesday to go from there.

Hopefully we will have some solid answers to the above, and good strategies and starting points to make Connor's 5th grade year a happy and effective one.

Go hug your "typical" kid now. :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Being nice...

I have to stop being so nice.

Last week, the staff for my classroom found out there needed to be someone to ride the bus with one of our students. The aide she had last year is no longer available. I was asked if I could ride along with her, since I live right up the street.

I said as long as it didn't affect my pay & insurance, okay.

So last night I find out they want to cut 7.5 hours from my regular pay and have me do 10 hours a week as a bus aide. They will allow me to continue to get insurance even though that puts me under the 'full-time' cutoff for insurance while I'm doing this. And even though they say I'm okay - this is a government agency - I can just see some auditor looking at my paystub and saying "she doesn't qualify for insurance" and bingo - I'm off the insurance.

But that's not even the biggie. There's about a $10/hour discrepancy between my regular pay & the bus aide pay. So I'd be LOSING $55 for the additional 3.5 hours I'm working a week. Not only that, I'm missing out on any meetings before school starts in the morning, which is where most of our training takes place. We have 3 new kids this year with their own histories of their complex needs, and I really would like to know how we work with them!

Now they are trying to see if they can allow me my regular pay during the time I'd normally be in my classroom, and then bus aide pay for the additional time I'm on the bus. Personally, I don't see the school district being able to cough up the additional funds for a bus aide (albeit a highly qualified one).

Then again, I didn't sign anything, and I can just quit if things don't work for me.

I was only trying to be nice.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Vince's Home Construction

New link on the right ---->

We had not seen Vince & Kelley since we went to visit them in Glendale before they moved to their current home, before we moved to Oregon. So it had been a while.

It was wonderful seeing them again at the reunion, and since so many of us are blogging now, we twisted Vince's arm, and lo & behold! - Vince is blogging!

He has done a great job on showing his BIG home construction project using a lot of Preston-narrated video, which is just way cool. I only have photos from our room addition. I'll take a cue from Vince & video next time & let Connor do some talking :)

Since he just started the blog recently, he has dated all the construction from last year forward. So this stuff is all prior to the reunion still.

So I spent my Labor Day morning, sipping my coffee, and reading & watching all about Vince's Labor!! Go Vince!