Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Know Him

So I saw this posted on Facebook.  And, after reading it, I thought "I taught Adam Lanza."

When I worked at a childcare center as a 3 year old teacher (before working at WEE), I had a little boy in my class that I will call "Bryan" for the purposes of this post.

I had a class of 13 at the beginning of the year (by myself, up to 15 is legal).  One of those came to me about 10 am from public school.  She had Cystic Fibrosis and had some very special needs (seizures, not potty trained, developmentally about 18 months in a 3 year old body and in a class full of 3 year olds).  It was already difficult to give all the children the attention they needed with my CF friend and I asked for an aide.  I did not get one.

About a month in, they moved a little girl from another classroom into mine because the girl's teacher refused to "deal with her" anymore.  She had a single mother who was pregnant.  Her behavior was understandable and, with some attention, manageable.  But it was getting even harder to split my attention.

Then, a few weeks later, I got Bryan.  Bryan came to us from another school, where he had been asked to leave.  He was put in my class because I had the opening (he made the 15th) but my director said she thought I'd be able to handle him best.  (To this day I'm not sure if she meant it or was just buttering me up...)  I had asked for an assistant before, but after Bryan came along, I asked more and more often.  Eventually, after seeing his behavior, I got one.  She was in other classes more often than mine, because they preferred to move people around to getting a sub.  I agree that it's cheaper that way, and I did get paid more an hour there than any other place, but it was not a good choice except from a business standpoint.

From the beginning, Bryan behaved differently than the other children.  He was the sweetest child in the class when I could catch him in the right mood.  He'd want to snuggle, tell you stories, do a puzzle with you, or just be near you as he did his own thing.  It seemed like maybe all he needed was some attention and, like my friend before, be able to function in our classroom.  If we break all behavior down into three parts Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence, and we agree that there is always all three, but sometimes they aren't apparent, I can say that, while I know there was an Antecedent, it was not always apparent.  Sometimes, I knew what was fixing to set him off and could move him or the other children before the behavior started.  Sometimes, there was not apparent Antecedent.  In typical behavior modification fashion, I tried varying consequences to find one that worked.  But it was never consistent.  One day, something would work, the next, he'd laugh at it.  Avoiding the antecedents that set him off was impossible.  Some were avoidable, but most were not.  And his behaviors were increasingly dangerous to himself and others.

The incident that led to my actually getting an assistant (well, getting her sometimes) was particularity scary.  Just before lunch it was our routine to clean up from centers, get out our mats for nap, and, if we had time depending on how long the rest took us, read on our mats until lunch.  This day, Bryan had refused to clean up when the other children did.  Knowing it would most likely upset him, I moved the mats of the children who slept in Homeliving to other areas.  Then I approached him, still playing, in Homeliving.  Very calmly, I told him that it was time to clean up and go to lunch.  We'd had a pretty good day that day.  I was hoping that if I was calm, he'd take the cue from me and clean up and it wouldn't be a problem.  Even knowing he'd probably be set off, I didn't (and still don't ) think that should have excused him from doing what was expected.  There are times we have choices and times we don't and I think that is something we need to teach young children.

So, I asked him to clean up.

He continued playing as if he hadn't heard me.

I turned his body so I could make eye contact and repeated that it was time to clean up so we could go to lunch.

As loudly as he could, he called me an "f"ing "b" and said that he didn't have to do what I told him and his daddy would come "get me."  Calmly (on the outside at least), I told him that I was ready to go to lunch and I very much wanted him to clean up so we could go.  He said, in his most authoritative and demanding voice "take me to the office!"

You see, I had made the mistake of giving away my authority once, in sending him to the office when I was feeling particularly defeated one day.  And he quite enjoyed the attention he got.  So it became a mantra to him, anytime he was in trouble, to say "take me to the office."  With the exception of the time he was sick, he never went to the office again.

Instead of taking him to the office, I called the office to ask that someone come take my other children to lunch so that I could continue to help Bryan make a good choice but my other children wouldn't miss lunch.  He responded by throwing his shoes at me from across the room.  Thankfully, he didn't hit any other children.  Sadly, it was because they knew to look out for things like that from him.

As I made sure no one was hit and read to other children while waiting for the person to come, he began pushing the Homeliving furniture down on the other children.  I'm not sure how I moved so fast, but I kept the child-sized refrigerator from landing on the child laying on his mat behind it.

I told the children to line up, someone would be there soon to take them to lunch.  The director came in.  She saw what had happened and took the class for me.  It was days later that the assistant came.  Honestly, she didn't have the training or the apparent desire to help with the children that needed extra attention.  But she did help with the others so that I could give the extra attention.

I remember on several occasions telling my husband that I would see that boy's face on the news one day.  I hoped not, but his parents weren't very interested in helping him, only in threatening discipline at home for his behavior at school.  For awhile they pretended it didn't happen at home.

His aunt told me different.

After a month or so, I thought that maybe with all the words he knew that he should not have known and all the threats he used to beat, "get," spank, whup, hurt, or kill others, that maybe he was being exposed to things he shouldn't and reported the family to CPS.  I hoped that, even if they didn't find any abuse or neglect, they might be able to suggest he get help too and the parents would listen then.

CPS sent me a letter that said nothing was wrong in the household.

Incidentally, the father-figure (who wasn't biological, but was the only father the child had ever known, and who I only met on one occasion) was out of the picture about a week before I received the letter.  I don't know if it was related.  Bryan's behavior improved a little bit after the father left.  Then it took a sharp spiral down.

There were several incidents.  My reflexes became quicker the longer he was with me.  He tried to bite, kick, hit, etc.  I would eventually put him in a hold until he calmed down.  He threw my glasses across the room once.  I have no idea how they came through unscathed.  He was belligerent and threatening.  At one point, I tried ignoring the behavior entirely.  I'd move him to a section of the room, and bring all the other kids to another section.  They'd try to tell me what he was doing, but I told them to pretend like he wasn't there.  Sometimes that deescalated the situation.  Sometimes it made it worse.  I never quite knew what would work.

One day, he took a block (one of those really long, wooden ones) and threw it because the boys in the block center said they didn't want to play with him (not that I blamed them, but before I could intervene in any way, the block was thrown).

It hit another little boy in the back of his head.

It's not very pleasant to have to tell a parent that their child might have a concussion because another child in your class threw a block at them.

Then Bryan wanted to know why the other child was crying.

The other children became increasingly mistrustful of him, never wanting him to play with him.  When he did play with them, 90% of the time he was sweet and played very well with them, willing to do what they others were doing, happy to be whatever member of the family they said he should be or to build whatever they decided to build, taking turns with art supplies or books or puzzles.

 But they all knew there was that other 10% when he could hurt them. 

I feel like I was judged, by other teachers, the parents, the office staff.  I feel like they thought it was me that was the problem and that I just couldn't handle him.  Most of the time, when we were with the other classes or when someone new was in the room, he was his normal, happy self.  Very rarely did others see the other side of him.  I began to think it was me, too.  I left that job after 5 months.  There were many, many reasons.  But he was part of it.  The fact that I couldn't get help for him.  The fact that I began to believe I was part of the problem.  (I no longer think that, but at the time I was too close to see it.) The fact that I couldn't get help in my classroom.

I can imagine the mother of a similar child must feel all of those things and more, with more intensity. 

Bryan should be in 2nd grade by now.  I hope that he got some help.  I hope that someone advocated for him.  I hope I never see his face on the news.  But I wouldn't be surprised. 

I think too often today, we get stuck in the PC world of Least Restrictive Environment and are too busy trying to figure out what is best and most normal for the person with special needs to realize it may not be best or normal for anyone else.  You know, I'm sad for the families that lost their babies.  But I am devastated for the babies who have to figure out how to cope with what they saw.  We don't expect grown-ups to deal well, and these babies don't have the emotional maturity to even start to process. 

I think too often today we see people as two-part beings (mind and body) when we were created three-part beings (mind, body, and soul).  I think that a gun was no more responsible for any of the school shootings than the block was when Bryan hit the other little boy.  Inanimate objects cannot be responsible.

Issues aside, a person makes choices everyday.  If a person has proven incapable of making good, safe choices for themselves and others, the issues should not keep us from protecting everyone from those choices.

I do not propose to know the answers.  I was incapable of keeping a three-year-old from hurting others.  I just think that instead of wasting time talking about guns, we need to talk about people.  School tragedies have a history of being the catalyst that solves issues.  In New London, Texas, a natural gas leak and a spark blew up a school.  295 students and teachers lost their lives.  The response?  Oderize gas so people know it's leaking.  This tragedy in CT has the ability to be a catalyst.  Let us pray it is a catalyst for the right changes.

This transcript of a speech, given by Darrell Scott, father of two Columbine victims (one, a witness, the other, a victim) says things well.

I may have alienated people, both by the length of this post and the conclusions at the end, but I am glad to have put my jumbled thoughts into jumbled words.

Also, for someone who writes infinity better than I, read this.  


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pageviews by Country

OK, so the US and Denmark page views make total sense.  I have followers in those countries.  I know them in real life.  But the others?  WEIRD!  Kinda cool, but kinda creepy...


Monday, December 3, 2012

I Got Yelled At

For not posting more.

I have nothing much to say though.  I started decorating for Christmas and have been working on other projects.  R and I did completely finish this one though:

I've used it already!  I need to get two 3-prong extension cords now (one for the toaster) so I can use it here, but it's on wheels too so I can roll it over where I want it.  If I had the extension cord, I could switch the mixer and bread machine and use it there where it's not in the way of anything.  Because neither the bread machine nor the mixer fit on my countertops, the uppers are too low. Not that they are extra tall, and not that it doesn't make it easier for 4'11" me to reach things, but it is annoying that things that are supposed to and normally do fit don't.

To further complain about the kitchen, the 20-30 year old dishwasher is dying and the 30-40 year old stove doesn't have a thermostat so it doesn't know when to turn itself down.  Plus it runs on pilot light and not electric start, which scares me a little.  And it has carpet.  BUT we can fix it all with dedicated fixing up the youth parsonage money.  It's just the house needs to be leveled (pier and beam) first, and seriously, the bathroom is worse and needs to go first.  I have serious doubts about how far the money will go...

Also, we did accomplish alot in Odessa.  Got everything we should need for a month.  And after some technical difficulties, God preformed a miracle (which I'm not even saying as a joke) and we spent exactly the amount of money we had planned on groceries.  Plus we put $50 of our gas money on an HEB card and got TWELVE CENTS OFF A GALLON at the pump.  From a 1/4 tank to full on a 20.5 gallon tank, it took FORTY EIGHT AMERICAN DOLLARS to fill up!  Craziness.

And C did not go with me to Odessa, she decided she wasn't up for it after all (especially when I told her Christmas shopping, etc. would also be happening and it might be a long day) but we did go over to C and D's house after we got back and had a mini-party with make your own pizza night!  That was fun.

Also, when we were in Odessa, the girl at Staples was rude and slow and made me angry and even though I really like Staples and might still buy a printer from them, I will never let the Odessa Staples copier and binder people ever do anything for me ever again as long as I live.  But the people at Office Depot copying and binding are very nice even though they had been there until midnight the night before because someone messed up and took an order they should have outsourced and then they had been there from 9 that morning and it was after 4 when I was there.  It took them 15 minutes to do what the other girl had not been able to do from about noon until 4 and said would still be "I don't know.  Hours, I guess" more until it was done.

OK, I'm not sure if this is really a post or not, but I am ready to go back to Christmas decorating since you currently have to manuever very carefully through my (previously clean) living room and only have two spots to sit, not to mention my laptop is sitting in the only empty square on my (previously mostly clean) table top. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

I've Been Busy

I have completed quite a few projects in the last week or so.  (Granted, I had some help...)

As soon as I finish getting some "before"s together, I'll take some "after"s and show ya'll what all I've done!

Also, have I sent ya'll to this hilarious blog yet?  Because, really, Eli makes me laugh.  A lot. 

Today, I (almost) finished my cabinet project (teasers below, R still has to make the drawer handle fit and one of us has got to put the hinges on), continued with my plate project (to be revealed in the "after"s), cleaned the kitchen (which is, of course, dirty again, just makes me mad), did a load of laundry, wasted a lot of time, listened to lots of Christmas music on Pandora, and got ready for the trip to the Big City.

Yup, it's that time again.  Once a month I make a pilgrimage to the Big City to stock up for the month since here in Podunk, West Texas we have limited shopping opportunities.  I can't go alone on this excursion because it's just too much.  (OK, I could, but I don't want to.) So last week, when R said he didn't think he'd be able to go, I asked my new friend C if she wanted to go.  She said she wanted to, but she was having her wisdom teeth out on Wednesday so she didn't think she'd be up for it.  Then, R changed his min or his plans or whatever it was and decided he wanted to go.  THEN, C texted me just a few minutes ago and said she was feeling pretty good and needed to go to town and she'd like to go tomorrow.  I'm just so popular. : )

So I spent a couple hours cleaning out the fridge, loading the car with various bags, boxes, and coolers, plus the stuff I need to take to town (a music book to be re-bound, and shelf supporter thingies I need to buy a shelf for), organizing the money (in a way reminiscent of Dave Ramsey), and making a list.  Or rather, lists.  One list for each money category.  And I saved the lists to my Google Drive and shared it with R (because his Android lets him edit spreadsheets, my iPhone does not) so now we are ready to get up and spend all day in the Big City! 

It truly takes me a few hours to prepare and then all day shopping at different stores (groceries last) and putting away but it's nice to do it an be done.  We might run to the local store for eggs or medicines later this month, but we shouldn't have to go for anything else. (Not even milk because I said I was buying 6 gallons tomorrow and if R couldn't make that last for a month, including me using some for baking, he could buy more with his own spending money because that is ridiculous! I did the math and even if I used up 2 whole gallons, he'd still get to drink just over 2 cups a day!)

I'm pretty sure only one of you is even reading at this point, so I'm just going to stop. 

Here are the cabinet teasers, as promised, plus a bonus:

This is the front of the cabinet, sans hardware and door a little saggy as the catch is holding it and not hinges.  We found the cabinet outside here when we moved in,  R rebuilt parts, sanded others, added wheels, Mom and I kind of whitewashed the top (but with paint), and I painted the rest.  It was too rough to ever get a perfect finish, so I went with a distressed finish.

The side.
The back.

The other side.  It's going to go in my kitchen.  My mixer, bread machine, and some baking stuff will go in/on it.
 And the bonus...

This started life as a light in our dining room.  Then some mean men took it out because it was old.  But they left it in the storeroom and I found it again!  I took it apart, cleaned it, and put it back together (so I wouldn't forget how it went).  Momma brought some other lamp bits and pieces when she came and we put it all together to get...  


Tada!  It even works!  (And Daddy only had to make one tweak and then add the turner offer thingy on the cord because you couldn't get to the other part to do that and I would've just had to plug and unplug it.  Once I get a table for it, it's going in my living room!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Cannot Tell You How Many Of These I've Written...

Seriously.  How many posts have centered around all the things I haven't gotten done today?  I did pretty much read all of this hilarious blog.  Pay special attention to these gems. Seriously, they could've been written by my brother.  Except I'm not sure he would've had the patience/audacity/gumption to continue past the first few texts, much less into a second day! 

I originally planned to do nothing today, because that is how most of my Sundays go.  BUT I did nothing yesterday, so I felt the need to transfer the goals.  It didn't work.  I do need to go take the clothes out of the dryer and move the clothes from the washer to the dryer so they don't mildew.  Mostly because that would just equal more effort later.  Also, I'm not quite sure why, but R has been completely incapable of using a cup for more than two swallows so all of our cups are either (clean) in the dishwasher or in the sink or randomly placed around the house where he has left them even more than he usually does.  So I should probably go empty the dishwasher and attempt to re-load it. 

Also, because I cannot seem to get anything done without impending doom type goal setting, I decided that, since I've been completely focused on unpacking and decorating and getting rid of all the crap vintage items the woman who used to live here left (actually, a lot of it has been really cool or come in handy.  And by "a lot" I mean somewhere around 1/2.  Which is really not such a bad ratio if you think about it.) so we can actually us the storeroom as a storeroom and the middle bedroom as a bedroom (it still is about half full of stuff, but it's stuff I want to find a home for inside so...), etc., I should now focus on cleaning for a few days.  I decided (like 2 or 3 days ago) that if I cleaned 2 rooms a day for the next few days (skipping Sunday), I would be done by the time people came for Thanksgiving.  The problem, though, is that I don't feel an overwhelming need for my house to be spotless for the family that is coming (because of how much I love them, not because I don't).  But I do want to show off how different the house is since they were last here, so it'd be nice for it to be a little cleaner for that.  Especially since our puppy Starbuck has discovered a new love of sneaking into the little trashcan that basically has nothing but used tissues in it and then proceeding to MAKE IT SNOW (say that in a really excited part-lab puppy voice) in the living and dining room.  (Also, she destroyed her stuffed duck, Donald.  Part of the snow is his guts.)


 Here is a better picture of her (see the bits of puppy snow?):

And, yes, she is named Starbuck not StarbuckS.  It's after Lt. Kara Thrace, call sign "Starbuck," from Battlestar Galactica.  Because we are that kind of geek.

I'm off to keep laundry from mildewing and hunt down cups.  We'll see if I accomplish my goals in typical down-to-the-wire fashion...

(Also, I'm really excited my Momma and Daddy and brother are coming for Thanksgiving!  I cannot tell you how many things we have discovered that we have wanted their opinions on.  Like if the wiring in this house will kill us.  Or what color to paint these square metal things.  Or how exactly we should hang the chandalier Mom found for THIRTY AMERICAN DOLLARS!!!!! in my craft room/guest room/black and white toile haven.)

Love to you all (unless you are a lurker I've never met, then I don't know if I love you),


Saturday, November 17, 2012

A New Leaf

OK, so for two years I lived in the boondocks with no real internet access and gave up blogging.  Now, we have moved to West Texas and have internet at home!  So, I'm (maybe) going to take up blogging again.  I made a list before we moved of things I want to do after we moved (since I don't have a full-time job here, I've applied to sub, but they haven't called me yet).  Here it is:
Creating trainings to teach childcare teachers
Taking hours needed to be qualified director
Selling sewn and crafted items

So far, all I've done is decorating and blogging.  

Eventually, I'll edit some video I've done of "befores" of the house.  Or maybe even take some stills from the videos.  I've got some pictures of the "after" so far as I've already done.

Also, I've given up my Etsy shop.  I may try to start it again, or I may just ignore the last item on my list.

I'm excited to say that my craft room is finally set up!  I still need some shelves for both decoration and storage, but otherwise I'm pretty well done.  The only two rooms we haven't really touched yet are the middle bedroom and bathroom.  The middle bedroom has been a catch-all for us.  It still has several things in it that I need to move so we can put furniture in there.  R's parents have furniture in his room at home that is supposed to be his.  It's family heirloom furniture.  I'm not really in a big hurry to get it because, at this point, it'd be a pain to get it cleared out.  We also haven't touched the bathroom.  The plan is to try to level the house this winter and then work on the bathroom in the spring.  It de-sperately needs a new sink, new floor, and new walls.  You'll see when I get the pictures up.

OK, I'm done for today.  Maybe when I get back in the swing of things I'll have a less disjointed post! : )