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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Teacher's Reflections on Autism

April is Autism Awareness month. I was asked to guest blog on my experiences as an educator. I chose to write about my experiences with a student who became such a delight to have in class, on the stage, and as a runner. The original article can be found at Reconciled World's blog, or since you're already here, you can read the article below.



When I first started teaching 12 years ago I had no idea what autism was. Coming from a business/management background, words like autism, IEP, and Asperger’s were foreign to me. So when I was told that I would have a 7th grade student who shared my name and had autism, I thought, “Cool. Another me.” I had no idea what it would be like to be a teacher for Matt. I knew that his parents were apprehensive about how he would adjust to the new school, and we were all warned that Matt would sometimes need alone time. I was also told that Matt loved to run. He sounded enough like me that I started wondering if we were the same person.

When I met Matt, he was a lot like any other 12-year-old student I had ever worked with. He made goofy jokes that often made me laugh. He asked questions that challenged me. He gave answers that were so far from what I was looking for that I didn’t know how to respond. But I also quickly recognized his obstacles. He had a really difficult time with any small changes to routine. If something did not go as he had planned, he would quickly reach the point of a panic attack. He also had moments when he started to withdraw. I recognized these as times that he needed to be alone. Sometimes I could sense these times coming on by the way he started rocking back and forth. And sometimes I could tell that he was ready for a break by the way he stared out the window.

Matt and I really bonded on the cross country team. He was a 7th grade superstar, and I was the dorky first year coach who had no real idea what he was doing. Matt would run his hardest, get first place in a race, rest for about thirty seconds, and then go play on the playground if one was nearby. He would blurt out comments that were sometimes taken the wrong way, like the time he got a first place medal from a school, took it in his hand, and shouted out, “But it’s so small!” Or the time we had a race on an Indian reservation and Matt, excited about our new red uniforms, shouted continuously, as an encouragement to his teammates, “We’re red and we’re proud!” You see, Matt had an innocence about him that caused him to see things for what they were, without understanding the offense that others could take.

Matt and I spent six years at our school together in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I got to watch Matt come out of his shell and develop into a confident young man. He never lost that candidness that was so endearing. He learned how to put off needed alone time in order to complete tasks and to handle surprises more calmly. Matt went on to graduate from college.

Learning how to help Matt through his struggles and watching him grow and stretch himself was a great privilege. He brought me joy on the days when I felt frustrated or stressed. In the beginning of seventh grade, I thought I had to “deal with” Matt because of autism. But it wasn’t long before I just saw Matt as a person…a really cool guy.
 

When I first started teaching 12 years ago I had no idea what autism was. Coming from a business/management background, words like autism, IEP, and Asperger’s were foreign to me. So when I was told that I would have a 7th grade student who shared my name and had autism, I thought, “Cool. Another me.” I had no idea what it would be like to be a teacher for Matt. I knew that his parents were apprehensive about how he would adjust to the new school, and we were all warned that Matt would sometimes need alone time. I was also told that Matt loved to run. He sounded enough like me that I started wondering if we were the same person.

When I met Matt, he was a lot like any other 12-year-old student I had ever worked with. He made goofy jokes that often made me laugh. He asked questions that challenged me. He gave answers that were so far from what I was looking for that I didn’t know how to respond. But I also quickly recognized his obstacles. He had a really difficult time with any small changes to routine. If something did not go as he had planned, he would quickly reach the point of a panic attack. He also had moments when he started to withdraw. I recognized these as times that he needed to be alone. Sometimes I could sense these times coming on by the way he started rocking back and forth. And sometimes I could tell that he was ready for a break by the way he stared out the window.
Matt and I really bonded on the cross country team. He was a 7th grade superstar, and I was the dorky first year coach who had no real idea what he was doing. Matt would run his hardest, get first place in a race, rest for about thirty seconds, and then go play on the playground if one was nearby. He would blurt out comments that were sometimes taken the wrong way, like the time he got a first place medal from a school, took it in his hand, and shouted out, “But it’s so small!” Or the time we had a race on an Indian reservation and Matt, excited about our new red uniforms, shouted continuously, as an encouragement to his teammates, “We’re red and we’re proud!” You see, Matt had an innocence about him that caused him to see things for what they were, without understanding the offense that others could take.
Matt and I spent six years at our school together in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I got to watch Matt come out of his shell and develop into a confident young man. He never lost that candidness that was so endearing. He learned how to put off needed alone time in order to complete tasks and to handle surprises more calmly. Matt went on to graduate from college.
Learning how to help Matt through his struggles and watching him grow and stretch himself was a great privilege. He brought me joy on the days when I felt frustrated or stressed. In the beginning of seventh grade, I thought I had to “deal with” Matt because of autism. But it wasn’t long before I just saw Matt as a person…a really cool guy.
- See more at: http://reconciledworld.org/journey-of-a-student-with-aspergers/#sthash.6zDF8jLy.dpuf

Matt and I really bonded on the cross country team. He was a 7th grade superstar, and I was the dorky first year coach who had no real idea what he was doing. Matt would run his hardest, get first place in a race, rest for about thirty seconds, and then go play on the playground if one was nearby. He would blurt out comments that were sometimes taken the wrong way, like the time he got a first place medal from a school, took it in his hand, and shouted out, “But it’s so small!” Or the time we had a race on an Indian reservation and Matt, excited about our new red uniforms, shouted continuously, as an encouragement to his teammates, “We’re red and we’re proud!” You see, Matt had an innocence about him that caused him to see things for what they were, without understanding the offense that others could take.
Matt and I spent six years at our school together in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I got to watch Matt come out of his shell and develop into a confident young man. He never lost that candidness that was so endearing. He learned how to put off needed alone time in order to complete tasks and to handle surprises more calmly. Matt went on to graduate from college.
Learning how to help Matt through his struggles and watching him grow and stretch himself was a great privilege. He brought me joy on the days when I felt frustrated or stressed. In the beginning of seventh grade, I thought I had to “deal with” Matt because of autism. But it wasn’t long before I just saw Matt as a person…a really cool guy.
- See more at: http://reconciledworld.org/journey-of-a-student-with-aspergers/#sthash.6zDF8.
When I first started teaching 12 years ago I had no idea what autism was. Coming from a business/management background, words like autism, IEP, and Asperger’s were foreign to me. So when I was told that I would have a 7th grade student who shared my name and had autism, I thought, “Cool. Another me.” I had no idea what it would be like to be a teacher for Matt. I knew that his parents were apprehensive about how he would adjust to the new school, and we were all warned that Matt would sometimes need alone time. I was also told that Matt loved to run. He sounded enough like me that I started wondering if we were the same person.

When I met Matt, he was a lot like any other 12-year-old student I had ever worked with. He made goofy jokes that often made me laugh. He asked questions that challenged me. He gave answers that were so far from what I was looking for that I didn’t know how to respond. But I also quickly recognized his obstacles. He had a really difficult time with any small changes to routine. If something did not go as he had planned, he would quickly reach the point of a panic attack. He also had moments when he started to withdraw. I recognized these as times that he needed to be alone. Sometimes I could sense these times coming on by the way he started rocking back and forth. And sometimes I could tell that he was ready for a break by the way he stared out the window.
Matt and I really bonded on the cross country team. He was a 7th grade superstar, and I was the dorky first year coach who had no real idea what he was doing. Matt would run his hardest, get first place in a race, rest for about thirty seconds, and then go play on the playground if one was nearby. He would blurt out comments that were sometimes taken the wrong way, like the time he got a first place medal from a school, took it in his hand, and shouted out, “But it’s so small!” Or the time we had a race on an Indian reservation and Matt, excited about our new red uniforms, shouted continuously, as an encouragement to his teammates, “We’re red and we’re proud!” You see, Matt had an innocence about him that caused him to see things for what they were, without understanding the offense that others could take.
Matt and I spent six years at our school together in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I got to watch Matt come out of his shell and develop into a confident young man. He never lost that candidness that was so endearing. He learned how to put off needed alone time in order to complete tasks and to handle surprises more calmly. Matt went on to graduate from college.
Learning how to help Matt through his struggles and watching him grow and stretch himself was a great privilege. He brought me joy on the days when I felt frustrated or stressed. In the beginning of seventh grade, I thought I had to “deal with” Matt because of autism. But it wasn’t long before I just saw Matt as a person…a really cool guy.
- See more at: http://reconciledworld.org/journey-of-a-student-with-aspergers/#sthash.6zDF8jLy.dpuf
When I first started teaching 12 years ago I had no idea what autism was. Coming from a business/management background, words like autism, IEP, and Asperger’s were foreign to me. So when I was told that I would have a 7th grade student who shared my name and had autism, I thought, “Cool. Another me.” I had no idea what it would be like to be a teacher for Matt. I knew that his parents were apprehensive about how he would adjust to the new school, and we were all warned that Matt would sometimes need alone time. I was also told that Matt loved to run. He sounded enough like me that I started wondering if we were the same person.

When I met Matt, he was a lot like any other 12-year-old student I had ever worked with. He made goofy jokes that often made me laugh. He asked questions that challenged me. He gave answers that were so far from what I was looking for that I didn’t know how to respond. But I also quickly recognized his obstacles. He had a really difficult time with any small changes to routine. If something did not go as he had planned, he would quickly reach the point of a panic attack. He also had moments when he started to withdraw. I recognized these as times that he needed to be alone. Sometimes I could sense these times coming on by the way he started rocking back and forth. And sometimes I could tell that he was ready for a break by the way he stared out the window.
Matt and I really bonded on the cross country team. He was a 7th grade superstar, and I was the dorky first year coach who had no real idea what he was doing. Matt would run his hardest, get first place in a race, rest for about thirty seconds, and then go play on the playground if one was nearby. He would blurt out comments that were sometimes taken the wrong way, like the time he got a first place medal from a school, took it in his hand, and shouted out, “But it’s so small!” Or the time we had a race on an Indian reservation and Matt, excited about our new red uniforms, shouted continuously, as an encouragement to his teammates, “We’re red and we’re proud!” You see, Matt had an innocence about him that caused him to see things for what they were, without understanding the offense that others could take.
Matt and I spent six years at our school together in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I got to watch Matt come out of his shell and develop into a confident young man. He never lost that candidness that was so endearing. He learned how to put off needed alone time in order to complete tasks and to handle surprises more calmly. Matt went on to graduate from college.
Learning how to help Matt through his struggles and watching him grow and stretch himself was a great privilege. He brought me joy on the days when I felt frustrated or stressed. In the beginning of seventh grade, I thought I had to “deal with” Matt because of autism. But it wasn’t long before I just saw Matt as a person…a really cool guy.
- See more at: http://reconciledworld.org/journey-of-a-student-with-aspergers/#sthash.6zDF8jLy.dpuf
When I first started teaching 12 years ago I had no idea what autism was. Coming from a business/management background, words like autism, IEP, and Asperger’s were foreign to me. So when I was told that I would have a 7th grade student who shared my name and had autism, I thought, “Cool. Another me.” I had no idea what it would be like to be a teacher for Matt. I knew that his parents were apprehensive about how he would adjust to the new school, and we were all warned that Matt would sometimes need alone time. I was also told that Matt loved to run. He sounded enough like me that I started wondering if we were the same person.

When I met Matt, he was a lot like any other 12-year-old student I had ever worked with. He made goofy jokes that often made me laugh. He asked questions that challenged me. He gave answers that were so far from what I was looking for that I didn’t know how to respond. But I also quickly recognized his obstacles. He had a really difficult time with any small changes to routine. If something did not go as he had planned, he would quickly reach the point of a panic attack. He also had moments when he started to withdraw. I recognized these as times that he needed to be alone. Sometimes I could sense these times coming on by the way he started rocking back and forth. And sometimes I could tell that he was ready for a break by the way he stared out the window.
Matt and I really bonded on the cross country team. He was a 7th grade superstar, and I was the dorky first year coach who had no real idea what he was doing. Matt would run his hardest, get first place in a race, rest for about thirty seconds, and then go play on the playground if one was nearby. He would blurt out comments that were sometimes taken the wrong way, like the time he got a first place medal from a school, took it in his hand, and shouted out, “But it’s so small!” Or the time we had a race on an Indian reservation and Matt, excited about our new red uniforms, shouted continuously, as an encouragement to his teammates, “We’re red and we’re proud!” You see, Matt had an innocence about him that caused him to see things for what they were, without understanding the offense that others could take.
Matt and I spent six years at our school together in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I got to watch Matt come out of his shell and develop into a confident young man. He never lost that candidness that was so endearing. He learned how to put off needed alone time in order to complete tasks and to handle surprises more calmly. Matt went on to graduate from college.
Learning how to help Matt through his struggles and watching him grow and stretch himself was a great privilege. He brought me joy on the days when I felt frustrated or stressed. In the beginning of seventh grade, I thought I had to “deal with” Matt because of autism. But it wasn’t long before I just saw Matt as a person…a really cool guy.
- See more at: http://reconciledworld.org/journey-of-a-student-with-aspergers/#sthash.6zDF8jLy.dpuf

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Fix a Leaky Kitchen Sink

Always work with a partner
There are some annoyances that come with being a homeowner. One of the worst is that kitchen or bathroom sink that has a slow leak. Not enough of a leak to be a real pain, but a couple of drips that just keep you having to wipe up under the sink. Sometimes "you" have a full container of dishwashing detergent that gets water in it, and it gets ruined to the point that "you" get fed up with dealing with the leak and finally decide it's time to fix it. I'm not necessarily saying that happened to me, but I'm not saying that it didn't. If that's you, here is a way to troubleshoot and fix the problem for a few dollars.

Wipe and check the washer
1) Check the compression nuts. (The piece that my fingers are on in picture 3 is a compression nut). If you have PVC, like I do, sometimes things bump the compression nuts and make them loose. These thread onto the pipes and keep things water tight. In theory. For PVC you should be able to hand tighten them. If you have metal plumbing you will need some pliers to make the fix.

2) If everything seems to be tight and there is still water, see if you can determine where the water is coming from. Dry everything off with a towel to make drips more noticeable. Then use a flashlight, turn on the faucet, and watch for the drips.

Picture 3 - installed washers
3) Once you see where the leak is coming from, loosen that compression nut and inspect the washer. Now, realize that you should have had a towel under the sink for water that is in the pipes; run and grab one. Then go back to inspecting the washer. The washer is a plastic angled circle that should fit into to pipe to keep it water tight. Take the washer off and wipe it down. Look for nicks or tears. One time our house had washers that were installed upside down (not by me), causing leaks. The wider side of the washer should be facing the compression nut (Picture 3).

4) Wipe down all of the gunk. Food, hair, and other terrible smelling crud can build up in the pipes. Wipe down the inside and outside of the pipes and washers with a rag towel. Inspect the trap (the u-shaped pipe) for anything that may have fallen down the drain. Little E and I found two straws and a whole pile of crud (4).

4 - Look what we found!
5) Have your helper double check that all washers and nuts are properly installed before reassembling (5). If you are new to this whole plumbing thing it would have been a good idea to take a picture of everything before you disassembled it so that you could get it back in the right order. Ah, hindsight. My first time working on a kitchen sink was before cell phones had cameras, and I really messed up the plumbing.

 6) Hand tighten all connections. Run the water and inspect all unions with a flashlight to make sure there are no leaks (6).

7) Celebrate a job well done by treating your partner to a popsicle. After all, we work hard. We play hard. 


Little E making sure I'm doing it right











Everything back in order


Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Magic of Mulch: One Man's Trash...

Mulchless tomatoes
Every winter I wonder if there is something wrong with me. As I take trash out to the alley, I see bags of leaves that people have raked up from their yard, bagged, and thrown away. I can't help myself. I inevitably grab the bags of leaves and load up my backyard with them. After collecting more than 15 bags this past winter, another neighbor heard what we were doing and started giving us bags of her leaves. The result was almost 30 bags of leaves piled up in my backyard. I normally mix the leaves in with my compost, but this was excessive. What to do... What to do...

As I spent time weeding my garden last weekend, I realized something. My vegetables are very happy in the compost-rich soil that I have, but the grass is equally as happy. Additionally, the top of the soil dries out in the sun, which I recently discovered is one of the causes of split tomato skins. Then I had an epiphany. It was like lightening hitting my brain. What if I used my Patriot chipper to shred several bags of leaves and I used those shredded leaves as mulch?
Healthy vegetables, dry soil, and grass

I rolled out the Patriot chipper and started running leaves through. Some of the leaves had gotten wet, which slowed down the process, but in about 45 minutes I had managed to shred six large bags of leaves. My kids and I started dumping the shredded leaves around the plants, giving them about one to one-and-a-half inches of mulch.

Already in one week I am noticing a difference. There is far less grass in my garden beds than I usually have in a week. When I worked on the sprinklers and dug down today, the soil was nice
and moist and healthy. And as the summer rolls on, the mulch-leaves
One inch of shredded leaves = happy plants
will start to break down and feed the soil. Additionally, the nice layer of leaves and branches that are spread on top just make the garden look nice, like a forest floor in the fall.

It's interesting how something that so many people bag up and throw away can be used in practical ways, both as an additive to compost and as a water retaining mulch. My neighbors' trash is saving me money! As we move into the throws of spring, happy gardening!

It's like a blanket for your veggies!