28 February 2010


I have the sweetest little niece.  Her blog name is Peanut and you can see her stories here.

She was at my house recently when she came in from outside and showed me a dandelion she'd picked.

"Oh sweetheart, that's lovely," I gushed.  "Mummy will be so happy you've picked a flower for her.  She's in the loungeroom."

"I picked it for you, Aunty Kate," she said.  And I may or may not have got a little teary.  Did I mention she's such a little sweetheart?

But here's the thing.  Peanut is a funny little thing, beautiful, wonderful, sweet, fun and creative ... and also a little bit quirky.

So I thought it quite fitting she'd picked me a mutant, double-headed dandelion.

24 February 2010

You are not my son, you are a SNORT!

Before Nat was born, I was in hospital a few times overnight having my blood pressure taken every two hours.  That was fantastic for my stress levels, and consequently it was great for my blood pressure.  But medicine knows best.

Anyway.  It was interesting being an inpatient on the maternity ward before actually becoming a mother.  I had the opportunity to hear many different babies crying all through the night while the nurses' bell rang over and over again.  At one stage the door between the ward and Birth Suite was left open for a time and I enjoyed the soothing sounds of a woman in hard, active labour, most probaby the pushing stage.  It gave me a unique opportunity to look forward to my turn the following day.  It was a wonderful way to spend my final few nights of non-motherhood before I had to -you know- have interrupted sleep every night for the next decade.  But medicine knows best.

I got a little carried away in the previous two paragraphs, but I was trying in a roundabout way to introduce the topic of Other People's Babies And Their Cries.  During those nights (and the night when I was hospitalised before the birth of Anna-Lucia for the same reasons) I lay awake listening to Other People's Babies' Cries.  Some of them were hoarse and raspy, others were insistent and grating, and some were just plain bizarre.  All of them made me think, "I bet that mother is mortified to know that her baby has such an embarrassing cry, and we are all listening."  I sure was arrogant.  But I share my weaknesses with you.

The first night in hospital after the births of Nat and Anna-Lucia, I watched them as they screwed up their tiny faces, opened their minuscule mouths ... and ROARED.  "I must say," I congratulated myself, "they are loud, but they have very normal cries.  Not too hoarse, raspy or grating, and nothing bizarre."

And lo, I filled with pride.

But God wanted to remind me that pride goes before ... a fall, and so when He was creating sweet Joseph, he dipped into the Bottle of Weird Wails.

On Joseph's first night in the hospital, I watched in puzzled amazement as my beautiful baby boy opened his tiny mouth and cried, "raasssp ... SNORT!  raasssp ... SNORT!"
From, as you probably know, "Are You My Mother?" (c) 1960 P. D. Eastman.

But since two surgeons had just sliced me open and most probaby allowed a cat and a dog to fight it out inside me, I decided I couldn't care less about the cry my little bloke was emitting.

He's seven months old now, and he still snorts.

On Sunday a friend of ours did the devotion part of the church service before communion.  It was great, but we struggled to hear what she was saying over our children who took turns becoming frustrated and loud.

At the end, our friend said, "Now let's share in the communion entirely free of distractions."

I turned to the couple behind us who had a 2½ year old girl and whispered, "Did she just say 'free of distractions'?"  "Yeah, we had a laugh at that too," they replied.

So on we went with communion.  Communion is open for all who love Jesus at our church, and so once our kids get some basic concepts about God, Jesus and Jesus' death on the cross for us, we let them join us if they're in "the right place" and can focus on the meaning of it.

I was trying to hold Joseph while I got two pieces of bread and two minuscule cups of juice to share with Anna-Lucia.  Then Joseph grabbed a cup and spilled it on the little tray.

He went on to be loud and difficult while I gave Anna-Lucia her bread and juice, and continued arching his back and whinging as Anna-Lucia and I said quietly, "Thankyou God, for Jesus."

Then during the final prayer he arched backwards right over my arm, and he sucked in one great big


It was later commented on by someone sitting several rows behind us.

"Entirely free of distractions."  Yeah.

23 February 2010

Nothing ...

Nothing can make a girl pause before going outside ...

... peer anxiously at the eaves ...

... gaze worriedly at the overhead trees ...

... search the ground meticulously ...

... always make sure she has shoes on ...

... or worry if she's forgotten to put them on ...

... Nothing can instil such fear in a girl ...

... like finding a fully-grown female funnel-web spider just outside the side door.

(Before you ask, it's here.)

21 February 2010

Nap, Interrupted.

Today I thought I wouldn't make it to nighttime without falling asleep on the job.  The Mum-job.

Joseph was asleep in the cot and after a day of playing, Nat and Anna-Lucia were watching some TV.  It was just after 4:00pm when I thought, "I could sneak a quick 20 minute power nap in, and be fine for dinner."

So I lay down.  With (what I thought was surely) my last ounce of energy, I opened one eye and looked at the clock: 4:15pm.

The following is a completely honest recount of what happened, and the exact times that each thing happened.  I am not making this up.

4:16pm:  Enter Nat, yelling.  "Mum!  MUM!  MUM!!"  "I'm resting.  What do you want?"  "I've decided for my other superhero suit I'd like Iron Man instead of Batman.  He's a good guy and he's got flames coming out his feet.  So I want that instead of Batman."  Exit Nat.

4:17pm: Enter Anna-Lucia, whispering. "Mummy?  Mum?"  "I'm resting."  "Can I please have some milk?"  "You can get some water by yourself."  "Okay."  Exit Anna-Lucia.

4:18pm: Joseph cries.

4:19pm: Unable to sleep, I got up and attended to Joseph.

No joke.

19 February 2010


On Nat's third day of school - his third day of school ever - the crossing supervisor got mad at him.

I thought it was uncalled-for.  He'd been balancing on a low brick ledge as I walked him out of school and had just hopped down when he saw the crossing supervisor looking straight at him.

I assumed she was going to get down on his level and speak sweetly and kindly, explaining that they ask children not to get up there because they might fall and hurt themselves.  No such luck.

"Right!  Now that you're down, I don't ever want to see you up there again!  You're breaking all the safety laws!"

Shocked, we crossed the road in silence.

Third day of school?  "I don't ever want to see you up there again?"  That was a bit much.

Breaking all the what?  All the "safety laws"?  Did she say "laws"?  What was her problem?

It reminded me of Adrian Plass working on being more forgiving in his life, confessing that he was thinking of scratching the words "I forgive you" in the paintwork on the bonnet (hood) of someone's car.  Tempting, to say the least.  I know the crossing supervisor's car.

I restrained the urge to deface her car and went home and thought about the whole incident.  Mulled.  Stewed.  And got so angry I thought I might crucify her with words on my blog.  But no, I decided a long time ago that I was going to use my blog (and my words!) for Good and not for Evil, and I decided to let the matter drop.

I would, however, not speak to her at the crossing.  It was partly petty grudge-holding on my part, it was partly my desire to avoid a lengthy prison term for homicide.

My resolve not to respond to her at the crossing strengthened when she yelled at Anna-Lucia a few times to stop when she was already stopped, and to get off the road while she was getting off the road.  Humph.  As if Anna-Lucia needed instruction to do what she was doing.  As if I needed to be overruled as the authority figure because I was obviously not doing a good enough job of snapping at my child often enough.

One day I observed her as children went home.  "Walk!  Don't Run!" she bellowed unkindly at every single child who crossed.

Other people's children.  Other people's pride and joy.  Howled at by a self-important nagging old shrew high on the power of her little STOP sign and reflective vest.

I just didn't like her.  And then Nat said something important.

We were walking into school one day and had successfully negotiated her crossing without having to make eye contact or respond.  Then as we walked into the school yard, hand in hand, Nat turned his face toward mine and said quietly,

"That lady said she never wanted to see me again."

Fighting down my urge to complain to the Principal and get her removed from her position, I quietly told Nat what she really said, what she really meant, that I thought her words were harsh, and I gave him an example of what I thought she should have said: "Oh no sweetie, we usually tell the kids not to climb up there in case they fall and scrape their leg on the sharp bricks.  Okay?"  Then I left it, only to hear the exact same words from my son as we walked into school the very next day:

"She said she never wanted to see me again."

Mentally calculating how early I could get out on parole for good behaviour if the Crossing Supervisor Homicide became reality, I quietly restated everything I'd said the day before, and again dropped the subject.

A week later, I was still ignoring her "Good Mornings" and her "See you tomorrows."  And one day, as we crossed the road under her watchful eye, Nat turned to face her.

"Good Morning!" he said cheerfully.

I thought to myself, "There's a lesson in forgiveness in there for me." 

I'm working on it, but I'm only half-way there.

18 February 2010

Writer's Workshop: the loudest aspect of increasing your family size

Mama's Losin' It
I'm jumping in with a Writer's Workshop post this week.  Finally I've got some inspiration! 
Prompt number 2: Relay an entertaining conversation ... you recently had with someone.

Two was a great number of children to have.  We loved the days with us and Nat and Anna-Lucia.  This does not mean that we wanted to stop at two children however; it turned out that loving those days made us yearn for Baby Number Three.

There's a bit to consider when you're adding to your brood.  We'd thought it through a lot and decided that Baby Number Three would certainly be very much loved and would change our dynamic in many good ways. 

Sure the idea of three children when I was just coping with two got me thinking about how I would manage.  But whenever anyone said to me, "Wow - three kids!  You're brave!" (because people DO say that!) I always replied with a big grin and a breezy, "Yeah, I'm gonna need a LOT of prayer!"

So I was tossing this idea around with my good friend, Hippomanic Jen.

"You see Jen, having three children will take us from 'just manageable' to 'crazy raucous loud'.  I can just imagine days when people see me with my three kids and think, 'Wow, what a riot.  I'm not sure I want to invite them over to our house anymore."

Jen replied, "Oh no, I think three would be a lovely number of children for you."  And then she went on to say some lovely things about my children which made me blush with pride.  They also made me hope she never pops in during arsenic hour when all three of them are crying and demanding my attention.

I told her about an idea I'd had.  "Sometimes I wonder if I should have a little supper with you and all my other good friends before we try for Number Three.  You know - discuss things, and then pray about it.  And when that's done, we'd feel really secure and peaceful and confident to go ahead and try for another baby."

"That's a lovely idea," she replied.  "Although, as we all left your house after the prayer evening, we'd know what you'd be doing ..." she continued with a wicked giggle.

I laughed and vaguely agreed, then I continued on my original train of thought without much warning to Jen.

"I mean, of course I know that we would be all loud and raucous, and as I said, nobody will want to have us over to dinner anymore... Jen?  What?  WHAT?"

I've rarely seen her so paralytic with laughter.

17 February 2010

Sweet and sour for every course

Anna-Lucia had been busy in her little kitchen, and called me over to the Red Table.  She had the little red chairs pulled up around it and on one side, a tiny wooden table had been placed there to accommodate my larger-than-child-size posterior.  She thinks of everything.

Each place had been set with a bowl, a spoon and a cup and saucer.  She stood at her place wearing her tiny little white apron, miming serving out food into the bowls and pouring tea into the cups.

"This looks lovely," I said.  "What are we having for dinner?"

She was at a loss.  She had spent so much time preparing the place settings and cooking the 'dinner' that she'd forgotten to specify exactly what 'dinner' she had cooked.

"Spaghetti?  With chicken?"

"Yes," she said, a little relieved. "Sa-getti wiff kicken."

"Mmm, it's lovely," I replied after Grace had been said and we'd taken our first mouthfuls.  "It's really tasty.  What did you put in it to make it taste so nice?"

"Strawberries," she said.

"Oh, ha, wow.  No wonder it's so nice!  Anything else?  Mayonnaise?" I knew she liked mayonnaise.

"Yeah - strawberries and bay-maise."

"Well that's just lovely.  And this cup of tea - now that's different!  What's in that?"

"Grapes," she said.

"Mmm - nice.  I've never had grapes in my tea before.  Okay, now what's for dessert?"

Again, she was a little lost.  I knew she'd prepared it because the chocolate pudding tin was sitting on the table ready for serving.

"Did you make chocolate pudding?"

"Yeah, it's clock-late putting!" she cheered.

"Ooooh, that's is love-ly!" I encouraged, and took a bite.  "Now this is different too!  There's a new flavour in that.  What did you put in?"

"Punkyin," she answered, without missing a beat.

16 February 2010

Big Brother Love

I don't care how old and forgetful I grow, there are some memories I never want to lose.  One of these is the time I told Nat that I was pregnant with another baby (who turned out to be sweet Joseph.)

He had been saying for a long time how he would love to have another baby in the family, and stuck unswervingly to that.  There were even times when he prayed for another baby for the family. 

We'd decided that we'd better wait until the baby was common knowledge before telling Nat, because he was sure to be so excited that he would spill the beans.  However sometimes it's just right to do something at a different time than when you planned - you can just tell.

One night over the Christmas break, I wasn't having a great time.  I was feeling sick a lot and the pressure to move house was weighing heavily on me.  I crept away from Christmas celebrations and hid in the toilet to have a little cry and to bring up my dinner, if that was what the dinner really wanted.

Not surprisingly, I was followed a few minutes later by Nat.  He too left the celebrations and came to join me in hiding.

"Why are you doing that?" he asked, referring to the way I was sitting beside the toilet, ready to lose my dinner.  I just knew that I wanted to tell Nat right then.

"Because Nat," I said, "sometimes when a lady has a baby in her tummy, she feels a bit sick."

There.  I'd said it.  The chances of him understanding the real meaning of it were slightly shy of 50%, I thought.

But his eyes grew wide and delighted understanding crept over his face.

"Is there one?" he whispered.

"Yes!" I whispered back, grinning.

"Wow.  That's good," he smiled.

14 February 2010

DRAMA at the immunisation clinic

First I didn't believe in Swine Flu.  Then Swift Jan got it.

Then I decided I didn't believe we needed the swine flu vaccination.  Then my Mum said (of swine flu), "I don't want to get it."  And I realised the wisdom in her not getting it, me not getting it, Mr de Elba not getting it, and the children not getting it.

So we decided that getting a free vaccination to save us from a Swine Flu Plague similar to the de Elba Plague of June 2009 would be wise.

If you believe it's unwise to get the vaccination and we're all quite silly, I would be nearly prepared to agree with you.  Except that some people get very sick, and we don't do 'sick' all that well.  We learned from the ElbaPlague that we do 'sick' in a big way and all together, with the sick mother usually as nursemaid.  Nuh-uh.  I will avoid that if I can.

I was mildly perturbed at the thought of Nat getting a bit cranky having to have a needle, but I thought, "Mr de Elba will be with me.  What's the worst that can happen?"

Yes, Mr de Elba was with me.  But.

The worst that can happen turned out to be the most major screaming meltdown that my mature, helpful, nearly-5-year-old boy could muster.  Imagine a child with a full-blown kicking, screaming phobia of needles, at the immunisation clinic, getting a needle.

"Stop it!  I don't like it!  I hate needles!  Don't do it to me!  Don't give me a needle!  I'M ALLERGIC TO NEEDLES!!!" he screamed, acting more frightened than I've ever seen him.

This from the boy who put his sister's nappy and pyjamas on tonight after her bath when her parents were being a little tardy getting three children ready for bed.

He went completely nuts.  "I-don't-want-him-to-get-Swine-Flu-I-don't-want-him-to-get-Swine-Flu..." I repeated in response to my desire not to go through with the whole thing.

I wasn't much help for Mr de Elba as he tried to restrain Nat.  I was required to fill out 5 long and complex forms which first they told me had to be done before we started, then they told me I could bring in with me to complete while various of my loved ones were getting jabbed.  I couldn't do it with Joseph trying to eat the paper so I let the nurse put him on the change mat but this was little help as she was then required to restrain Nat and halted my progress on the forms by insisting I put my hand on Joseph's tummy to stop him from - I don't know - flying off the change mat or something (don't these people ever HAVE children of their own?  What was the change mat FOR if not to leave a child on while other things needed to be done?  For crying out loud woman.) 

I was also trying to keep Anna-Lucia from witnessing the disgraceful display by her brother but that was impossible - everyone for three blocks could have heard it.  We were all in the same tiny, hot claustrophobic room after the nurses persuaded us to all come in together despite my clever suggestion that Mr de E and Nat went first then I take the little ones later.  I got pretty mad when they said that perhaps we could have done the children separately, as if it had been their idea and I was really quite foolish to have brought all five of us into the room at once. 

Yeah right, that was my idea because I'm dumb like that.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when they looked at Anna-Lucia and suggested that I "put Katherine on my lap."  I don't know why this mere confusion over names angered me more than the complete lack of foresight and planning regarding the method and order of jabbing two adults and three small children, but all it did was make me mad.

She cried too, mostly from the sheer terror of going through the same thing that made her big brother go so completely nutzoid.  And seeing her cry made Nat go completely nutzoid all over again.  Which made her cry so hard she couldn't eat her chocolate treat which had been returned to her after being so helpfully taken off her at the start of her turn by the nurse who snatched it out of her hand muttering something about "...she might inhale..." 

Seriously where do they get these people?

And then, when it was all over and I was sitting there finishing off the last details on the final one of the five stupid forms, one of the nurses delivered the final blow.

"Now," she said smiling, "you can come back for the next dose on 10 March."

"WHAT?!?" I didn't-quite-scream.



And with that we left.

Yep, it was truly DRAMA at the immunisation clinic, and something tells me that there will be more drama to come. 

But that will be nothing compared to the drama that will ensue if the vaccination does not, in fact, protect us from Swine Flu and we all get it.

12 February 2010

The longest word you've never seen

I am going to share with you a darling response a student once gave in an assessment session, because it warms my heart whenever I think of it.  Now we don't go around telling people specific test items because it undermines the validity of the normative date we have, so you'll have to fill in the blanks that I am purposely leaving so that I can maintain the validity of our assessment.

I was assessing using the non-word section of a literacy test.  We often use non-words like (let me make one up) "strave" to see how well students can read and spell words that follow regular phonics rules but they most certainly haven't seen before.  If they are already familiar with a word, there is the possibility they are relying on their sight-word recognition skills rather than their phonics skills only.

In this test of spelling nonwords, my Year 5 student with autistic spectrum disorder was struggling.  He was a clever student, but found it incredibly difficult to use his 'sounding-out' skills to spell the simple one-syllable and two-syllable words I was presenting him.

And then I gave him a few three-syllable words.  He tried his best, but became a little unstuck at a tricky item halfway down the list.

He started well, and was on his way to getting full marks for that item.  However he didn't finish well, but I made a mental note about how close he was to getting that word correct and I was about to move on to the next item.

Then I saw that he was adding another letter to the end.  And another and another and another.  I'd already repeated the word once so wasn't able to repeat it again in the testing situation, but he didn't give any evidence that he'd lost the word from his auditory memory as he continued writing.

Then he hit the edge of the page!  I thought he would finish there, but no, he turned a 90 degree corner and kept writing down the right-hand margin all the way down to the bottom of the page! 

The target word had 10 letters.  His final response contained 34 letters, which included a double 'er' and three 3's.

I thought he was being silly, and expected him to look up with a cheeky grin on his face.

Instead he looked up, raised his eyebrows and said, "Phew!  That was a LONG word!!!"  Then he got ready for the next item.

I always enjoyed working with him!

11 February 2010

Guard Croc

This Guard Croc was carefully placed at the doorway of Anna-Lucia's bedroom and because we thought it was cute, we left it there for days.

10 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday (except for the words)

08 February 2010

What Price Saviour?

One of my whole-class speech and language programs was run in a special facility within a large primary school.  The children I was working with were mainly 5-7 year olds with various developmental delays, and some had diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

One of my favourite (except we don't have favourites) boys to work with was one who wasn't on my direct-therapy caseload at all.  Matthew (but of course his name wasn't really Matthew) was a charming 6 year old with Aspergers Syndrome who, despite having difficulties with routines and fitting into a regular class, was very talkative and charming, and he always kept me smiling.

One day as he walked to the bathroom (a little obsession of his), he passed me sitting at a table doing some therapy with another student.  As he walked by, he noticed that I had a pen stuck into my hair.  I often keep a pen stick through my bun or ponytail because I think it's good to have a pen close to hand.  Unfortunately, I never look for pens in my hair, I only stick them in.  There have been times when I've been frantically searching for a pen, only to be told there are three sticking out of my scalp.

Matthew was scandalised.  He addressed me in the tone you'd use for someone being deliberately dense.  "Miss Kate," he said, "did you know you have a pen in your hair." It was more of a "you've got to be kidding me" sort of statement than a question, hence the lack of question mark.

"Yes," I said, "I know. I keep it there so I've always got a pen handy!" 

The only way for me to adequately convey the punchline to you would have been to have taken a picture of the expression he gave me.  Matthew looked at me as if I was completely insane.  It was gorgeous.

But that's all by way of introduction.  I really wanted to tell you about the time I was leading my whole-class speech and language program in front of him and his classmates.  This day, the focus sounds were initial 'r' blends.  I was going through the activities with 'br', 'cr', 'dr', 'fr', 'gr', 'pr' and 'thr' words.  Some of the pictures required explanation.

One of the 'pr' words was 'price', illustrated by a t-shirt with a tag hanging off it showing the price.  I watched as the small children wrinkled their noses, wondering if the word was 'shirt'.  I told them that the tag was showing the price, and that was the target word for the next activity: price.

Suddenly Matthew shot his hand up.  He stretched and strained, desperate to catch my attention and tell me something.  "Ooo, oo, oo!" he said.  "I KNOW that!  I know that word!  We say it at our church all the time!   Jesus Price!"

Sometimes you don't want to finish a session.  You just want to scoop the children up into your arms and hug them tight!

05 February 2010

Straddling The International Date Line

Last night, I put my book away too late and as a result, I couldn't sleep.  Not being able to sleep is new to me, and I don't like it.

Mr de Elba came to bed, hit the pillow and started snoring.  Snoring even louder than I snore.  That is, when I can get to sleep.

As I lay staring at the ceiling listening to him snore, I got to thinking.  (Snoring doesn't keep me awake, by the way, insomnia keeps me awake.  Snoring is just the Soundtrack of Insomnia.)

I thought, as I am sure you can understand, about The International Date Line.  Doesn't it just blow your mind?  An imaginary line in the middle of the Pacific, anxiously skirting the islands because if it (gasp) travelled near or on land, CAN. YOU. IMAGINE. THE. CHAOS?

You think that having Daylight Saving Time in New South Wales and no Daylight Saving in Queensland is confusing?  Imagine if the International Date Line divided an island!  One half getting a head start on tomorrow while the other half was still catching up on yesterday, while today's sun shines down on both of them.  Or something.

I can imagine that if one was straddling the International Date Line and facing north, then one's right hand would most certainly not know what one's left hand ... was going to do.  Or had done, if one was facing south.

Actually, no.  If one was facing south, one's right hand could know what one's left hand had done, but it may have forgotten given that it happened an extra 24 hours ago.

Well, all of this fascinated me and I had nothing better to do, so I imagined a conversation between two people, one on each side of the International Date Line.  I expected it would be an interesting exchange, but it wasn't.

This is how it played out in my mind.  Because the Line neurotically keeps to the deep ocean, I pictured my two people bobbing up and down in little rowing boats, pulled up on either side of the International Date Line which was demarcated by giant red pontoons arranged in a dot-dash formation, akin to the Date Line on maps.

Andy:  Hey mate!  How's it going?  How are the wife and kids?

Mike: Oh mate, sorry I didn't get back to you.  I forgot you asked me that this morning.  They're doing fine thanks.  How are you and yours?  ...Andy?  Andy? ...Mate?

Andy: You asked me that tomorrow.  I haven't heard it yet.

- The End -
I didn't promise it was Cecil B. DeMille.

Now my brain hurts. 

This never happened to Copernicus or Galileo.

04 February 2010


I have a long history of putting my credit cards through the wash when I have young children. 

When I have a too-young-to-walk-by-him/herself child, I really don't like taking my handbag wherever I go.  I hate the way that with a baby in one arm, the handbag falls off the shoulder of the other arm and clunks around, dangling from my elbow, potentially spilling contents everywhere.  And no way am I going into all the fuss and bother of a pram (which my babies just cry in) just to keep my handbag in, and only taking my handbag in the first place because I need to get my card out to pay for groceries.

Much easier to keep the card in my back right pocket and whip it out when it's needed.

Unfortunately, I am not in the habit of whipping it out when I get home, nor of whipping it out when I toss that pair of pants into the wash.

I have blogged about this before.  I have left my card in the wash countless times, and it has survived.  It even survived one trip through the dryer.  (My remote car key died in its second wash - obviously not a stayer.)

But whether it was the new post-bedbugs washing machine or the fact that my current card was cracked in two places already, in today's wash it met its Waterloo.  (Waterloo - ha!  Nearly a pun!  But not quite.)

They charge so much for replacements that I would certainly be going to a different institution if the card didn't expire in a month, and a new free one wasn't coming to me soon.

03 February 2010

I'm not sure if I should be concerned

Believe this if you can.

Anna-Lucia has been "cooking" her baby dolls in her toy oven.

One day, Mr de Elba walked past Anna-Lucia playing in her kitchen, and said, "What's cooking in the oven, Anna?" to which Anna replied, "Maisie!"

And just today, my attention was grabbed when Anna-Lucia shut her oven door and said with satisfaction, "There.  She's woasting!"

I didn't say "who", I said "What's roasting, sweetheart?"  And she replied, "Caroline!"

No Lie.

Either something has derailed in the Culinary Cortex in her brain, or we're raising the Wicked Witch of the West.

02 February 2010

Practicing in front of a mirror isn't such a bad idea

Working as a speech pathologist in schools, I often had to come up with innovative service delivery options so that I could better service the need of schools, rather than just providing assessments and recommendations only.  I certainly did many assessments-only, but I also tried to provide direct individual and group therapy for the higher-needs students wherever I could.

One of the service delivery options I enjoyed providing was the Whole Class Program.  In schools where a great number of lower-priority younger students were referred, I offered to run eight half-hour sessions for the whole group and provide follow-up activities for the teachers.  Each session focussed on one aspect of speech and one aspect of language, and I would lead the activites in front of the group of referred children or the whole class if preferred.

I remember the first time I ran my session focussing on 'l' blends.  I talked a lot about how to produce the 'l' sound, and then I introduced words starting with 'bl', 'cl', 'fl', 'gl' and 'pl' blends.

The school principal (different school, different principal) was inordinately pleased that I could see a large number of her struggling Year 1 students.  She loved the idea of the whole-class program, and came to see how it was working.  She brought her deputy and the learning support teacher as well.  The class teacher was there of course, as were the children.

I was on a roll.  The session was going well, but the children were struggling to get their tongues around the 'l' blends.  I tried an easy technique first.

"Now what's this one?  This is a plum!  Try that ..."  I noticed that they were having trouble with that 'l'.

"It is tricky, isn't it?" I said.  "How about we try saying 'lum' ... see if you can ..."  Yes, that was easier for them.  Little tongues go up to the spot just behind their front teeth and LUMMM!  Yes!

"Okay, now we have to put this 'p' in front of it.  Try 'p-lum' ..."

I could see them thinking very hard about where their lips and tongues were to go - lips closed for the 'p' then tongues up for the 'l'.  And it was working - great.  This technique, easy as it was, seemed to be working for this group of 5 year olds.

"Let's try the next one.  It's a 'cl' one this time.  'Clap'.  First we're going to practice saying, 'lap.'  Now let's put the 'c' in front - 'c-lap'." Great.  We're on a roll!

"This is a flag.  See - I've got 'lag' ... and now we can say, 'flag'."

"This is a glass.  Here I've got 'lass' ... and now we can say 'g-lass'."

"This is a plate.  See, I've got 'late' ... and now we can say 'p-late'."

"This is a knife with its blade.  Now I've got 'lade' ... err ... umm ... I meant ... uh-"

Confused silence.

Wh-what?  Did I just say I've got laid?  In front of a whole class of Year 1 students, their teacher, the Learning Support Teacher, the Deputy Principal and the Principal?

Surely not.

Uh - I wish this lesson was over.

01 February 2010

Assessing with the CESS - the Classroom Evaluation of Salutatory Speech

I've never told you much about some of the things I've come across in my work as a speech pathologist.  I have been concerned that even though I would obviously be changing names and protecting anonymity, that I would be somehow doing people an ethical disservice by telling their stories. 

But I think that there are a few stories I can tell in a way so as not to make fun of the communicatively vulnerable, so I will attempt a series of posts called The Speech Files.

This first story does not tell the story of the communicatively vulnerable, it involves a primary school principal and his on-the-spot speech assessment.

During my time working within schools as the itinerant speech pathologist, at any one time my caseload consisted of between 15 and 19 individual schools.  Service provision in this framework meant that each school saw me for a few hours a fortnight and school staff and families were required to provide follow-up work in between my visits.  Understandably, school principals were keen to make sure my time at their school was used wisely.

On a typical visit to one of my schools, the Year 3 teacher was away.  This was a little frustrating for me, as he had nominated one of his students to fill an assessment place (where I carry out an assessment of the student's speech and language skills and provide recommendations) and he hadn't left instructions with his replacement regarding where the official referral form was, nor which student I was to see.

The principal was nearing retirement age.  He was a small but fierce man who dragged respect from students and staff alike.  But I had to see him to ask if the referral form was in the school office, or if he knew which student it was who was referred, (not that I can legally see a student without the official referral or the signed parent permission form.)

I saw the desperation on the principal's face.  Panic!  He didn't know where the forms were, and he knew that I would not be paying another visit for a fortnight.  He was desperate for this student (whoever he/she was) to be seen as soon as possible, and attempted to brush away my firm resolve not to see the student without the formal paperwork.

By golly, this student was going to be ferreted out, and assessed by me, that very day!

He said, "Come with me to the classroom and we'll see if we can work out which student it is."

What was he going to do?  Look on the teacher's desk for the paperwork?  Look in the teacher's handover instructions to the substitute?  I had no idea.

I was certainly not prepared for an impromptu speech assessment carried out upon the entire class.

Please understand this.  Speech and Language Assessments are extremely well-researched psychometric evaluations that have withstood intense scrutiny regarding their validity and reliabilty, and their statistical analysis has been thoroughy tested to make sure that we are testing what we claim to be testing, that similar assessments will show similar results, and we can truy draw the conclusions regarding a child's skills from their performance on the test items.  It's big stuff, people!

The principal didn't understand this.  He devised an on-the-spot screening assessment right then and there, and from the students' barked responses, I was supposed to (a) pinpoint the exact student with the speech problem, (b) overlook the need for formal paperwork, and (c) assess the chosen student right away.

He stood glaring at the class of Year 3 students, trying to divine who the student with speech difficulties could be (or was it language? I wondered.  Or was the student referred for a language-based listeracy problem?)

"Right!" he snapped.  "Stand up, one by one, and say 'Good Morning, Mr Terry*' in a loud, clear voice!  You first!"

A frightened boy pointed to himself.  "Me?"

"Yes!" the principal hissed impatiently.  "Yes, you!  Stand up and say 'Good Morning!'  Go!"

The student half-rose.  "G-good morning Mister Terry," he said, forced into a sudden stutter in panic.  He sat.

"Right!  Next!" snapped the principal.

Stand.  "G'morning Mister Terry!"  the next student said, and sat.  And so on around the classroom.

Stand.  "G'morning Mister Terry!"  Sit.

Stand.  "G'morning Mister Terry!"  Sit.

Stand.  "G'morning Mister Terry!"  Sit.

Stand.  "G'morning Mister Terry!"  Sit.

At the end, there was an awkward silence.  The principal said "Hmm," and turned to me.

"Did anything strike you?" he asked.

Anything apart from the absolute lunacy of the total farce he has just instigated in the name of a whole-class speech screening assessment?  Nope.  Nothing there I don't think.

"I think I'd better wait for the teacher to come back and give me the referral form."

"Hmm.  Okay then.  Will we see you next fortnight then?"

"Yes, you will."

"Okay then."

And I took my leave.  To my knowledge, the CESS (Classroom Evaluation of Salutatory Speech) has never been standardised or published.  I think it may have got a rubbishing in a medical journal too ...

* - name changed