Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pick's Disease

How many of you have heard of this disease?  A member of my family is suffering from this, which closely resembles Altzheimer's. Pick's Disease, however, is usually first recognized by behavioral changes as opposed to the memory lapses associated with Altzheimer's Disease. Because the two seem so closely related, especially to anyone who may not have had direct encounters with either, Pick's is studied far less than Altzheimer's.

The quick and nasty run-down of the disease:
  • Neither the cause, nor a cure, is known.
  • Pick's affects primarily the frontal lobes of the brain.
  • It affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and is quite rare after the age of 60.
  • It starts with behavioral changes which can best be described as uninhibited - side-stepping social decorum, not caring, or not noticing, if people's feelings are hurt, possibly hypersexuality.
  • Mutism and aphasia are frequently associated, and grow worse as the disease progresses.
  • Basic research I've conducted show the disease can run its course in as quickly as 5 years, leading eventually to complete apathy and living in a vegetative state before death. However, documented cases have shown the patient living up to 15 years in this state.
  • I've seen conflicting information, which I believe explains all that there is to know, regarding whether this is genetic or not. Some sources say yes while others state there is no genetic proof. Basically, they don't know.
Unfortunately, what we're encountering is, because this is such a rare disease (counting for 1% - 5% of dementia cases [http://www.bhoffcomp.com/coping/picks.html]), very little support is "out there" for Pick's Disease family members and caregivers, specifically. There is, obviously, Altzheimer's Association support groups, which are wonderful.

Also, because the age group is so young for sufferers of this disease, support through health care and insurance is spotty, at best.

Looking at this information is daunting. But add "life" to it, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who works in a nursing home or is a private caregiver. Essentially, word of this disease needs to spread so that those who need help may receive it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You've Got Mail!

How many of you actually remember that lovely metallic robotic voice telling you someone was thinking about you? I find myself caught off guard by references I make in class - analogies, etc. - that have completely aged out. When I hear crickets, I know I've gone too far back. And with as quickly as technology is advancing, I know most of my kids will not have the infrastructure to understand that reference. Of course, the Tom Hanks / Meg Ryan movie still plays on TBS, so perhaps...

 Anyway, the reason I started on that tangent is that I am quite proud of my most recent art project. This is absolutely nothing compared to what my extremely talented sister is doing, but it is something of which to be proud, nonetheless. Syd has been struggling with the idea of not playing with every mailbox we come across as we take nightly walks around the neighborhood. He got upset the other day when I licked an envelope closed without his help. He wants to put the letters in. He wants to put the flag up. He is fascinated with watching the truck come by daily. (Really - garbage trucks [and "cycables"], mail, school buses - he loves his consistent vehicles...)

So, to ease his mind, I undertook the most fun I've had in a while - I made him a mail box!

  1. I took a shoe box, taped it shut (though leaving one side untaped) and then cut the remaining side ends to the one untaped side.
  2. Then, I covered everything with white paper (so toddler could add his own decorations).
  3. I added the house numbers, just like ours, and bought those brad pin thingys (what are those called?) They were only sold in boxes of 50 or 100, but I figured we'll use them plenty over the next 5 years or so...
  4. And added the flag. Heaven forbid a mailbox not have a flag!
  5. For the door handle, I took a piece of the side I cut out and folded it in half. Then, I cut a slit in the door.
  6. I poked the end of the cardboard through, cut about a 1/4 inch along the crease, and folded the two pieces away from each other.
  7. I then taped this down with packing tape with the ends spread so he wouldn't be able to pull the handle out. I repeated this on the other side to make a 3D handle for his mailbox.
  8. Last, I took a regular sheet of printer paper and folded the bottom right corner up until it was evenly lined with the left edge. This marked where the square became a rectangle. I cut away the excess paper to make a square.
  9. Fold any two opposing corners in to each other and crease.
  10. Fold up either of the remaining corners. Tape the three corners down. You have an envelope! Fold over the top corner to make the closing flap.
  11. I wrote his name and address in the recipient spot, added one of my own address labels in the sender position, and cut another address label to remove my name and address. The remaining picture from my label I put in the stamp space.
  12. Syd has mail!
He love it so much more than I ever expected! He carries it around by the handle. He puts the mail in (the envelope I created as well as a few pieces of junk mail from OUR mail), shuts the door, and waits a few seconds. Then he declares it's "done." He opens, takes it out, and sorts through it. I presume he is copying Daddy and me.

Syd even asks to sleep with it. We have to put it in the corner of the bed, and it must have all his mail in it. He will sit there and play with it after I put him to bed until he falls asleep. It is the cutest thing I've ever seen, and I am really honored he adores it so much. And it cost me - $5? for the glue, brads, and maybe the cost in paper? I know it's not the most durable thing, but what does it matter when the next time, we can do it together?

Here's to summer and art projects! I'll post pictures of what it is we've been doing during the day, soon!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Swimming Lessons

Syd is taking swim lessons again. I think this is going to be our schedule as he grows - first class after school is out, and then we'll repeat as necessary. One thing I love about swim lessons, though, is the nap that takes place after.
The funny thing is, he wasn't even asleep, yet. I brought him inside after getting home just in time to watch the garbage truck pick up our trash (that, I can tell you, is a wondrous weekly occurrence in itself...). I put him down on the stairs, thinking he'd climb up by himself. Then, I turned to get my keys out of the door. I heard a sigh, and when I turned back around, this is what I saw.

The poor lil guy usually naps by 1. On swim days, he's barely able to make it til 11:30, and even then, I have to fight to keep him up a little longer. My friend, Kathleen, says they call this the "Odin Nap" at her house, and it is the most appropriate label I could apply to any youngster after a big morning of blowing bubbles, kick kick kicking, and scoopy scoopy scoopy-ing. Here's to summer days, swim lessons, and long naps.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I did it; So can you!

I finished my book!

No, really!

I am thrilled at the moment, and I don't know what to do. I knew I would have to wait until after school was over to focus on it. But, Steve's grandmother was able to stay with Syd for the past three days so I could focus, uninterrupted.

Day 1: The majority of the day was spent reading what I had and making plot line notes on paper. I hadn't read it since I wrote it in November.

Day 2: Finish the main story. I had to tie up loose ends, bring about a way for it to end, etc.

Day 3: Write the closing chapter, double check loose ends (I really despise loose ends - I loathe watching a movie or reading a book and asking "What about ___? What happened to him? Why was this introduced with no follow up?" Drives me crazy and can truly ruin a solid story for me. I hope I don't have any I missed...) Is it decent? Yeah - I'd go with decent. It is awe-inspiring? No. Not a chance. But it is complete.

I am also utilizing Createspace.com to get it bound. I won 5 free copies for completing Nanowrimo.org this past November. Steve has claimed one copy. I promised G.W. a copy (the wonderful, brilliant, dark child of my heart who gave me a copy of her Nano book). And one must stay on my own bookshelves. The last two - well, we'll see...

The problem? It is taking for-ev-er for the 95 pages to load on to Createspace. Really. I've been sitting here, doubting myself, twiddling my thumbs, and writing the blog entry for nearly 30 minutes waiting for it to load. I hope it completes soon. But I am proud of my accomplishment, and I love the fact that I was able to use a photo I took for the cover art. I am anxious to see the finished copy...

Steve is excited - he said he'd like to participate in this year's Nanowrimo. I say go for it. But then again, if we both participate, there won't be any clean clothes for the month, and we'll probably subsist completely on chicken nuggets and french fries. Maybe, on second thought, I'll let him have this one by himself...

Friday, June 8, 2012

What Stirs the Teenage Soul to Read

When I first started teaching high school, Harry Potter was at its height. I was a self-confessed Potterhead. I had all the books that were released up to that point. I had seen all the movies produced up to that point. It was seamless for me to start teaching high schoolers and make allusions to and jokes about the happenings at Hogwarts.

But then the expected happened - more quickly than I anticipated - the student Potterheads started to dwindle - graduating out. The book series was coming to an end in 2005, with only one book left to publish and four movies (of course, the final book was made in to a two-part film) to produce and release. My point is, the Potter Hysteria was dying down. Slowly, something started popping up in my classroom that I didn't recognize.

Twilight sprouted, like a black dandelion. It gave no warning. It was nowhere one day and sporadically sprinkled across the lawn of my classroom the next. And it procreated madly. Before long, witches and wizards were the stuff of the past and vampires and werewolves were everywhere. But I noticed a trend with this particular series I didn't see with Harry. The general audience for the Twilight series was void of male readers. The Y chromosome didn't find the same draw to the fantasy that the double-X did. With Harry, I could crack a joke, make an analogy, and nods of agreement, laughter, rolling the eyes would be evenly distributed across the room. I hadn't read any Twilight, but the audience was solely female.

That being said, I managed to go quite a few years without reading the series. I got busy. I had a baby. I took on advanced classes. I had no time to read - for myself or for school. And Twilight stayed in the classroom, though the numbers began to dwindle. And then the next wave of excitement started.

I had heard of The Hunger Games from a coworker of mine. But the name dropped in my ear and flushed right out - I had too much going on to retain it. Then, I started seeing the book, and it's sequels, in class. Like the dandelion that is vampire, the combination that is 1984, Ancient Roman coliseum, and futuristic Civil War spread like the wildfire present the first time Katniss enters the games.

I read these. I read the first, and after finishing it, I took a break. SoLs were coming. The semester needed to be tidied up. I had no time to get hooked. And then I got sick. While cocooned in bed, I read Catching Fire. And while a reader could feasibly take a break between Book I and Book II, there is no way to take a break between II & III. So, I put all school aside while I finished the entire series. I was a fan.

Again, THG kept coming up in class - kids blogged about it; books were laying on the tables, waiting for classwork to end so they could read; the movie came out this past March.  The difference was, again, I was able to make references to the series that both genders enjoyed and understood.

I needed to see for myself what the big difference was between the different series. I needed to keep my finger on the pulse that is teenage interest.  I was donated the Twilight series by seniors who were no longer enraptured by the argument between Team Edward and Team Jacob. And I read the entire series. After I finished the series, I borrowed the released movies.

I will refrain from expounding on my thoughts on the books themselves, as this was initially a lesson for me in gender interest. My key reason for reading all of this, when I have so much more I need to do, was to understand why my students were in love with one thing over another. Twilight is, in essence, a love story. But then again, so is, in one aspect, THG. Why did boys find interest in Katniss and Peeta and not Bella and Edward?

Perhaps it was the peripheral plot lines that caught their attention. Or rather, the fact that the peripheral plot line in Twilight was everything else while the meat of the sandwich was the love story. And the meat of the sandwich in The Hunger Games was, in fact, everything else while the peripheral story is the love interests.

Having read all there is to read on Harry, Katniss, and Bella, and seen all that has been released to see (Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt II is scheduled to be released in November of this year), I will say that the most rounded of the series is The Hunger Games - it feels the most realistic - the most applicable. Witches and wizards may exist. There may be dragons and quidditch. Vampires - who knows? Crime sprees abound and could be explained through newborns. But most of us tend to revert to a logical sense of thought that see what happens in Panem and can project that in to our own future, unless things change. And most of today's kids are not given credit for understanding that. It may be more visceral than forefront, but it is there.

Ultimately, I can only say I appreciate all three series for finding something that stirs the teenager to read. Regardless of gender, as an English teacher, I am thankful that the kids I've had the privilege of knowing in my 7 years of public high school teaching have found something to which to relate. It really doesn't matter which they read, as long as they read. But it leaves me asking - what is the next trend? Where do I need to start reading, again?

On a side note, not as a series, but it is of interest that the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes out this fall. Another book that has stirred the teenage soul. I'm reading it starting tomorrow.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Comes in like a Lion and goes out like a...Lion?

I should have known by the end of the first week of school that, regardless of the caliber of student I would be teaching, leading, coercing, it was going to be a trying year.

And I would have been correct on all accounts, had I known.

Our first week of school, which is recaptured here, I discussed how exciting it was to encounter an unexpected earthquake, hurricane, and tropical storm. That particular entry was written before the (ahem...) repercussions of both - a huge sink hole opened up in our school's driveway, causing our particular school to close for the day. A heck of a way to begin the year.

Summarize briefly - testing, illness, surgery, testing, illness, emergency room, testing, AP test. A rough year, though these are some of the best kids I've had the pleasure of teaching, leading, coercing.

Today was the first day of exams. My four classes of juniors have all passed their two state standardized tests (except one poor girl who doesn't test well - she passed one but not the other). My seniors are all graduating, all have plans, and we're waiting for their scores. I finished their final grades to be handed in today so we know, ahead of time, who still is a valedictorian, etc. My pile of semester-long reading projects have all been graded. My room is peaceful for the first true time since the work week in August.

And buses are delayed for those who were not exempt from their exams for today.

And a "I'm-trying-to-play-off-my-frantic-feelings" assistant principal comes on the loudspeaker asking everyone to stay in class.

And the "I'm-also-trying-to-play-off-my-frantic-feelings-but-failing" other assistant principal comes on remind us all to stay in classes.

A minute later, he comes back on and says we're in lock down.

Apparently, a group of youngsters were dressed in camo on the hiking trail behind our middle and high schools, playing "war" with air rifles. Imagine their surprise when they looked up to find themselves surrounded by police, guns pulled, ensuring the safety of our students and staff. I liken this to the scene in Jaws where the two tween boys are pretending to be the shark - complete with fake fin strapped to their backs. "He - he made me do it!" one shakily points out to the Coast Guard, harpoons drawn.

Lock down drills on the first day of exams. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tropical storms, and sink holes. I wonder what the remainder of this school year will bring?