Monthly Archives: March 2016

IEP Season

Every year about this time, parents of special ed or gifted kids start re-reading old IEPs, Googling measurable goals, and making lists of questions for the annual meeting about the modifications to their child’s education plan. I’ve been doing this for a very long time but I always get nervous anyway. So far, knock on wood, I’ve been very lucky and only had one cantankerous meeting that, because I was prepared wasn’t actually an issue at all in the end.

I’m at the advantage because there aren’t many services my son needs – some flexibility in the classroom when he needs to stand up or wiggle a bit, a safe place to decompress if he is having a really bad day, and a teacher who isn’t a “quiet hands” sort of teacher who redirects an obnoxious stim rather than scolding him for it. A lot of families I know need a whole lot more than that and it’s a fight for them in ways I’ve never had to deal with.

I’ve been dealing with IEPs for a long time, I even did a weekend seminar/class to be better able to deal with them not just for my own kids but for the families I’ve come across with my support group. I think when you know what you’re dealing with – the language, the pretty standard format, and very few deviations from the standard protocol, you’re able to go into that meeting with confidence. During the Wrightslaw seminar (if they are in your area and you deal with IEPs or 504s it’s worth the time and money to go – you will never regret it) they talk a lot about separating your emotions to be a better advocate for your child and I’ve never gotten better advice. If you leave your emotions at the door, it’s a lot easier to work with the give and take there has to be in a situation like this.

For me, this year was a bit more fraught than usual as we’re transitioning toward middle school and that’s an enormous change. There are so many new things to worry about and so many changes and I’ve heard so many horror stories that all begin in middle school. Fortunately, I have a great team and very little was changed from last year so we’ll just have to see how it goes. The best part of an IEP is that we can always change it if we need to. If what we have put together doesn’t work in practice, we can reconvene and try again. Hopefully we won’t have to but it’s nice to know we can. Now I can get back to my normal work writing stories and such now. Relief is the word of the day.

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Filed under Autism, education, Parenting

Why So Negative?

I can’t help it, I prefer being positive to being negative. Yes, I’m often prepared for the worst, but that doesn’t mean I’m accepting or expecting the worst. Being prepared is just smart but I don’t see a purpose in expecting horrible things to happen. I’m not actually an optimist, I know the world isn’t sunshine and roses most of the time, but I don’t see the point in constant negativity. After a point it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it?

I suppose for me it’s probably more about my own lengthy relationship with depression than it is anything else. I’ve spent enough of my life clouded and shrouded that I just don’t see the point of doom and gloom and no-good-very-bad-everything all the time. I’ve made it my life’s mission to fake it until I make it and wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone else could too? Even at the bottom of a depressive arc, I can find joy – I’ve got two kids, a husband, dogs, a cat, lizards, and coffee – nothing can be all bad with all that around me day to day.

Sometimes, the negative gets to me and I just want to shake people and ask them what good it does to be so down in the mouth. I don’t mind attending the occasional pity party but when you’re throwing them every day, it’s a bit much and maybe the problem isn’t just the situation.

Everyone has their little black rain cloud days (10 points to your House if you’re now singing Winnie The Pooh). Everyone is a little bit Eeyore. But sometimes, a little Tigger is called for – do what makes you happy and BE HAPPY. For one moment out of every day, take a breath and look for the silver in that cloud. I’m not saying that everything has a silver lining – I’m not a fool – but don’t defeat yourself before you get started.

I was on the verge of having a little black rain cloud day today because it’s IEP season and I’m all tied up in knots but I sat down and went over the worst case scenario and remembered that even that isn’t all that bad. No one is going to yell at me or argue with me (pretty sure the one single cantankerous woman I’ve come across during my youngest boy’s educational team meetings is no longer in a position where I ever have to deal with her again). Everyone in that room wants the best for my kid. Said rain cloud got bounced and now I can get to work (more or less).

Right now, I’m coming out of what might be my longest dark stretch since maybe ever. The fact that I can stop and see it clearly tells me I’m coming out. I’m finding the world little brighter and I’m faking it a little less on the daily. That’s not to say I don’t have bad, jabberwocky sort of days but those are temporary (even if it’s hard to remember that when I’m staring into the maw). All the good things in my life, those are permanent.

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The Science of Blue

Blue has been in the news a lot lately. Which is a little weird given that it’s generally just a fabulous color. Even more interesting is that blue has been in the news for science related reasons.

First: The theory that humans didn’t see Blue until recently found on Science Alert. Basically, linguistically, blue was one of the last simple color words to enter language and that begs the question why. The theory is that until we had a word for the color, we didn’t correctly differentiate the color. It’s actually a very interesting thing especially when you read about some of the experiments done with a tribe in Namibia who have no word for blue but many words for green. They couldn’t pick out the blue on a screen but the slightest change in green shades they spotted immediately. I love seeing linguistic evidence being used in part of a more physical science query.

Second: The incredibly Indonesian Volcano that is erupting BLUE LAVA. How awesome is that? Blue Lava! Why is something we generally associate with reds, oranges, and yellows suddenly blue? It’s not like there’s some amazing lava painter running around adding dye like we do to rivers on St Patrick’s Day. It is blue because of the high concentration of sulfur.  And the lava isn’t really blue but the burning Sulfur is basically obstructing our view of the normal color we are accustomed to. Still awesome.

 

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Technological Melodrama Ahead

I like to say that I can kill any machine just by looking at it funny. Really though, I use my equipment often and for long periods of time and machines aren’t like people whose cells renew after a while. It’s only a matter of time before machines hiccup and sputter. Hiccup and sputter they do and have done. It’s probably a testament to the quality of the machines in my life that they put up with the long hours and rapidfire typing I inflict (not to mention weird research, constant scrolling, and the four computer games I actually play).

Today was a lost day because of said hiccup and sputtering. I’d so many good plans and instead I fought to find vanished files, to reset the ipod that itunes suddenly couldn’t recognize, and trying very hard not to pull my hair out as I had to sign in to everything that I have to sign into about thirty eight times. I know it’s really only part way through the day but I still have house stuff to at least pretend to attempt, dinner to make, kid to chauffeur, and Face Off to watch and recap. This post will be the most writing I actually accomplish today but every now and again I have days like that.

At least everything is all settled down now and I can be productive tomorrow.

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Science Shows

It’s Monday so I still want to talk science but today, I want to be a little less specific than usual and a little less actual science related and more engaging science related television related. With the finale of the Mythbusters having come and gone, I’ve been thinking about science related shows. We actually watch or have watched a number of them. We had Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye, and Beakman. My kids had reruns and the Mythbusters. My youngest boy watches How It’s Made quite often but it isn’t the same thing.

It feels like there’s a void now – at least on television – and it makes me sad. Those kids science shows encouraged a love of the scientific method and experimentation. I know some adults who could still use a refresher – especially where causation and correlation is concerned. We watch a lot of the Science Channel – NASA’s Unexplained Files and most especially Outrageous Acts of Science – but it doesn’t actually feel the same. My kids end up watching their science online more often than not and there are perils and pitfalls there as not all YouTube videos are trustworthy but who doesn’t want to see what a ball of molten copper or nickle does to anything?

There is one season of Bill Nye The Science Guy on Netflix that we’ve watched and we’re waiting for more but there is an enormous void now and I hope someone comes along to fill it up. There are a few geared more for adults but not so much the kids and that’s who we need to focus on!

My favorite when I was younger was Bill Nye but Mythbusters took that spot when they premiered. It seems my youngest shares my preference – Nye and Busters both. My oldest son preferred Beakman’s World (probably because he was a little sillier). We need more smart TV that’s geared for kids and tweens – if they’re going to watch the idiot box, then put something a little more engaging on it!

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Luck or Patience and Persistence

Four Leafed Clovers (image: Sarah Wagner)

Four Leafed Clovers (image: Sarah Wagner)

Happy St Patrick’s Day! It is St. Patrick’s Day and, while it may have inspired this post a little as everyone is posting four-leaf clovers and calling them Shamrocks but a true Shamrock only has 3 leaves and in the lore represents the holy trinity (christian or pagan depending on your source material). This post is about those four-leafed cousins

Some would say finding a single four leaf clover is incredibly lucky. I’m not sure what it is when the number is closer to 50.  The picture is of the ones I have in a baby food jar and not in frames, books, or given away.

I don’t think it’s luck for me. I don’t think much of my life has anything to do with luck – or at least not good luck. I can find a four leafed clover not because I’m lucky but because I’m patient, observant, and persistent. Plus, what else is there to do when you walk the dogs and they’re busy sniffing around and the cat isn’t speaking to you because you threw away his mole?

For me, it’s a good allegory for everything else – people think it’s luck but it’s just me being persistent. It’s not luck that landed me any of the publishers I’ve worked with – it’s me being persistent and patient and not giving up (and in one instance, it was knowing the right people who got me invited to submit – still not luck but networking).

Don’t wait for luck – go out an make your dreams come true. It is work, not luck, that gets you where you want to go. If you wait for luck, you might be waiting for a very long time.

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Science Fiction and Science Reality

Today I’m going to combine two things I love – science and stories. We all know about certain inventions that showed up in fiction (written or screen) before they became reality. Things like the submarine, the flip phone, touch screen tablets, and of course the TASER. People are still trying to make a proper hoverboard. Fiction inspires those who know how to create to create incredible things. A snippet of a thing that could be possible can trigger decades of groundbreaking discoveries.

There is a bit of a downside to the connection between real science and fictional science, especially looking at crime and crime fighting. People have seen so much CSI and the like where DNA is almost immediate and every fingerprint or mug shot database works not only smoothly but super quickly. I imagine it’s a lot more difficult to get a conviction without physical evidence that properly tells jurists the story they have come to expect because they see it every week when the scientists from the Jeffersonian tell them exactly everything of importance or the folks at CSI sprayed some luminol and swabbed some fluids to paint a splatter picture. Real forensics is neither that exact or anywhere near that fast. Maybe someday but not just yet. That’s not to say the techniques aren’t being used – you can learn a lot with a mannequin, some yarn, and a bit of knowledge of trajectory.

I’m thrilled to see more interesting technology coming to fruition and it’s really incredible to think of the things that could be real someday. A Faster Than Light engine could make colonization possible. Transporter technology is creepy. Food replicators may become a reality using chemicals and 3D printers (this one is pretty close to being a thing if I’m not mistaken).  Perhaps the next step in our communication evolution will be ansibles (seriously, someone has to be working on these somewhere). I’m not touching much on the medical advances I’m waiting for but, for me, that would be the only real benefit of a transporter like device – if I’m going to have all of me ripped apart and put back together, you damn well better remove all the disease when putting me back together!

What technology are you looking forward to becoming a real thing?

 

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Short Stories

Years ago, it seemed like I wrote a new short story every week and I loved it (and had a number of them published too). There’s something about a good short story – both in the writing of them and the reading of them. I still remember the first time I read The Lottery or The Tell-Tale Heart or the story about the cat who suddenly realized that he is now the king of cats (a moment with Google would give me the name but I’m ashamed of myself for not remembering it off the top of my head). There have been a number of great short stories that have really stuck with me over the years.

Being able to tell a story that moves someone or frightens someone in less than 8000 words is an impressive feat. It gets more impressive as that word count lowers (to me anyway). I would not be the writer that I am without the short stories I’ve read and that I’ve written. It has been much too much too long since I’ve written a solid short story so I that’s what I’m doing today. I don’t know if it’ll be any good or not but right now, I’m not sure that is the part that matters as much as the writing of it – the succinct telling of a complete story. It’s good practice that keeps me from bloating up my longer works with extraneous ramblings.

And I’m procrastinating a little to keep from getting started on my goal of getting a good chunk of a short story drafted up today…

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Giveaways and Online Parties!

Today I’m participating in an online party with my publisher, Boroughs Publishing! It’s on Facebook and there are a lot of fun authors giving away books and such. I’m going to be doing the same very soon! My time slot is from 4:30 – 5PM est but it is running now and will be for the rest of the day. I’m giving away two digital copies of Hunter’s Crossing and, if someone uses one of the five magic words, there will be a special something as well. I do hope you’ll come!

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International Women’s Day

I’d never heard of International Women’s Day before yesterday but I think all opportunities to talk good, strong, female role models are good ones. Despite what you might think, there are no shortage of females – fictional and not – who are worthy of the title of Role Model.

Sarah’s Favorite Fictional Females:

Ellen Ripley, Diana Prince (AKA Wonder Woman), Eve Dallas, Hermione Granger, Leia Organa, and my list could really go on a very long time.

Sarah’s Favorite Real Women Role Models:

Sally Ride, Audrey Hepburn, Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Susan B Anthony, Sacagewea, Bethany Hamilton, Louisa May Alcott, P!nk, and my list could go on a very long time – there are a great number of women who do/have done/will do incredible things.

Honorable Mentions because they aren’t individual people but a totally awesome group of women that I wish had been around when I was a little girl as when I was little, I would have been all over that! (at least until I moved to a place where ice was hard to come by.)  This is the first real season of the NWHL and the first year of the Isobel Cup. I’m really hoping that this takes off and more cities pick up the franchises (pretty please Pittsburgh!).

If you had to pick your favorite role models – fictional or real – who would you pick?

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