Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunny Day

It is sunny here again in the wilds of Iowa. I was talking to my mom last night and she mentioned how cloudy and unpleasant the weather has been there lately. Of course, I had to point out that we have had only three or four cloudy, rainy days in the two months we've lived here. It does rain, but usually at night. If the day starts cloudy, which is unusual, it is generally sunny by the time I get to work. I used to check the weather report in advance if I had anything planned that required being outside. Now I never do. I know it won't always be like this, but I am going to enjoy it while we have it.

My parents are going to come out and visit us here in a week or so, maybe even as soon as this weekend. They want to wait until everyone is healthy before they come. They also suggested waiting until the forecast was for good weather, but I don't know if that will really be an issue. We are so excited to see them. Jon Felipe is counting the days until they come. He is going to be disappointed if he has to wait an extra week, but I do agree that waiting until everyone is healthy is a good idea. So far, that is looking good too.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I feel terrible and look worse. I have been fighting some sort of respiratory/throat issue for over a week. Each day I think I'm going to start feeling better, but I only seem to feel worse. I finally completely lost my voice yesterday and during the night the infection migrated to my eyes and I woke with a raging case of pinkeye. I went to the medical clinic as soon as it opened at 8 and was told that I was not to teach until after I saw the doctor. I cancelled my first class and went to see the doctor. He confirmed that I had a raging infection in my throat that had migrated to my eyes and that I was highly contagious. Now, unlike at elementary and secondary schools, there are not necessarily rules for not bringing pinkeye into the college classroom. However, spreading germs is definitely frowned on and since my students are all also doing placements in the local schools, he strongly recommended that I not return to my classroom until the infection clears up. He did point out that this infection was most likely a "present" from one of my Dordt students since I'm the only at home who is sick.

So, I am on two antibiotics (one is an antibiotic eye drop). He said it would be three to five days before the pinkeye cleared up and given that I'm "not as young as I used to be," it could be a full week. Obviously, I have no intention of missing that much school, but with the weekend, I could agree to the three days that he considered best case scenario. I brought piles of books home, planning to get lots of work done, and then spent the entire day sleeping, drinking tea, and reading an Agatha Christie that Dwight had gotten me from the library. I guess all that work will have to wait till tomorrow.

In other news, the first case of H1N1 has been reported at Sioux Center Christian School. That is the school Maria and Jon Felipe attend. Also, a parapro has been hired to support Jon Felipe's learning. She starts Monday and I am really praying that she and Jon work well together. He has been really trying hard to please his teacher and she has sent us notes every day this week about how well he is doing. He is SO proud of himself. I have to note, though, that he has a crush on a little girl in his class named Jamaica and I think she may be a bigger motivator toward good behavior than the teacher :-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


We get to move again. The little house we are renting has been sold and we need to move by the end of October. We knew the house was for sale when we rented it, we just didn't anticipate that it would sell within a week of us moving in. We know the new owner and he is a great guy and this will be a perfect house for him, but it still means we need to move.

Our house in Holland still hasn't sold yet, so we have given up h0pe of being able to buy something anytime soon. We also don't want to move a third time this school year, so we have decided not to rent another house that is also for sale (not a lot of options there anyway). Thus, we have decided to become long-term renters, which has significantly narrowed our prospects. Essentially, we have two possibilities to choose from.

House A is smaller and older. It is in a nice neighborhood and right by Jon and Maria's school. It has no basement and a funky layout, but the rent (albeit higher than we are paying now) is the lower of the two options (big plus). It does have two bathrooms. One concern is that the appliances are quite elderly and the property manager told us that this landlord does not supply appliances so if the refrigerator or stove should stop working, we would have to replace those items ourselves. Also, the kitchen has no counter space to speak of.

House B is brand new and quite large. Honestly, it is nicer than any of the houses we've owned. It is quite near Dordt. There isn't really much neighborhood yet, although there is a park nearby for the kids. The rent is higher for obvious reasons. Jon and Maria do get "door-to-door" bussing and that would continue if we moved to this house. It is by the public middle and high schools, so there is a lot of traffic around at the start and end of school. If you decided to come visit us, you could stay with us since there is plenty of room. You'd just have to bring your own bed :-)

So, which would you choose?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It seems that most work places have a maintenance/custodial person who is always willing to set down his tools and have a chat with you. At HC, that was Bob. Here in my building at Dordt, that is Doug. I met Doug soon after starting at Dordt. That first day, he spent 20 minutes telling me how he was so far behind on that day's jobs that he was going to have to stay past quitting time. It sounded like a lot of conversations I have had with Bob. Doug is really a great guy, though, and would do anything for you which is probably part of why he gets so far behind. When he came to hang my bulletin board a couple weeks ago, he looked at the one I had been given and said, "Oh, you want a nicer one than that." He then disappeared into the recesses of the building and came back with a larger, nicer bulletin board, while also taking care to get one that still fit the spot where I had wanted to hang it.

A couple days ago, I was in the maintenance shed picking out a watermelon and a couple canteloupes. One advantage of working at a college that has an agriculture program is fresh produce. Corn is done for the season, but melons are still going strong. Doug also happened to be out there at that time. He helped me pick out some good melons (I am particularly hopeless with watermelon) and then carried them out to my car for me so I wouldn't get dirt on my clothes as the melons were still dirty from the fields. He didn't mind at all taking the time to help me. I have enjoyed getting to know Doug a bit better and really appreciate all the work he does for us here at the college.

A few weeks ago, Doug mentioned that he was having trouble with a student worker. He referred to her as the "autistic girl" on his crew. It wasn't done in a derogatory way, but I still stopped him and pointed out that he should use person-first language. I told him that I knew I sounded petty, but Dordt was paying me the big bucks to raise awareness and that I would be glad to help him with the difficulties he was having in working with this student. That has led to several conversations related to solving specific problems that have arisen. He seems genuinely appreciative of having some assistance with these problems. Also, he now refers to this student as "my young lady with autism" or simply "the young lady on my crew." Doug does a lot for us and I'm glad I could help him out just a little bit.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moms and Dads

Jon Felipe and I were chatting (in Spanish of course) as I got him dressed for school this morning. He commented that there were a lot of kids at his school who had a mom and a dad. I know this doesn't seem profound to you, but at the school he attended last year this was likely not the norm and he was very impressed that so many children had two parents. We talked a bit about that and what it meant for him to have a mom and a dad. Then he told me that there were lots of boys and girls at Ayudame (his orphanage) that would really like to have a mom and a dad. He also said he thought that it would make Maria Clemencia (the orphanage director) happy if all the kids at Ayudame left the orphanage because they all had moms and dads. I'll admit that Jon Felipe can be challenging at times, but I am so glad that I get to be his mom.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reading Material

As a department, we subscribe to some journals that are circulated among the faculty members. Each journal has a checklist of faculty names and after you read the material, you check your name off and pass it on to someone else on the list. The way it actually works, however, is if you leave your office unattended journals sprout on your desk like end-of-summer zucchini. I had such a large pile of items-to-be-read on my desk the other day that I declared that I was going home for the rest of the day and would be getting caught up on my reading. The next morning, my name neatly checked off on each one, I followed the time-honored distribution method of sneaking them into other people's offices when they were out. Of course, by the time I got back to my desk, some unnamed department member had struck and I had more reading material waiting for me. I know we could just hand them off to each other like civilized persons, but I rather like the sporting element of the thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


All faculty members have to have a plan for their own professional development. I asked that my professional development plan include taking a Spanish class on campus. I had already spoken with Socorro, the professor for the class I wished to join, and she was enthusiastic about the idea. I was told that, although this was an unusual request, it clearly related to my research area (English Language Learners at Head Start) so it was approved. My dean really thought it was a great idea. I was even able to charge the cost of all the textbooks to my professional development account.

I am loving it. Improving my Spanish will certainly help me in conducting my research, but I also just love being in this class. Socorro and I have a great relationship. I am in the class to learn, but I also help lead some activities which is great fun. I sit next to Alex, a young lady from Zeeland, Michigan, whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico. I have really enjoyed getting to know her as we often work on class activities together. She will be graduating at the end of this semester, but plans to stay in Sioux Center as she has a job here. I am trying to convince her to continue her Spanish studies after graduation so we can continue to be partners.

Some of my own students are in this same Spanish class, which really creates a fun dynamic. I also have a student from Nicaragua in one of the courses I teach. She has now started talking to me in Spanish. I practice a lot on Jon Felipe. I'll say my Spanish words and phrases out loud and he will tell me in English what I've said. If I don't get the pronunciation quite right, he makes this funny face at me and says the equivalent of "huh?" in Spanish. It is quite comical. If I forget to match the gender of the adjectives to the nouns, he corrects me. He has also started using a more sophisticated Spanish vocabulary with me. Of course, the new words he is using don't usually match the new words I'm learning at school, so I'm often left with no idea what he is trying to tell me. Still, he and I are having fun with the language. I'd say my Spanish class is another blessing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vultures and Chocolate

At least twice a week, someone stops in my office and offers to buy any textbooks that I don't want anymore. Today, two different people came by looking to buy books. I told Ed, who has the office next to mine, that they are like vultures. They seem to swoop in, hoping to beat the next guy to whatever treasures I might be hoarding. I didn't realize there was such a market for old textbooks. Apparently, because publishers will often send professors a copy of a new text with the hope that we might adopt it for our class, we are likely to have various extra unwanted copies of texts on our shelves.

Yesterday, Maria was struggling health-wise. We're not sure what the cause was, but it probably was some combination of having done too much over the long weekend (biking, swimming, playing with friends), the warm weather, and being ready for the next treatment (which she had today). We "drugged her up" and she managed to go off to school. The teacher did e-mail me to let me know Maria wasn't her usual self, but she held it together until lunch time. Then I got a call from the nurse that perhaps Maria needed to go home. Unfortunately, I had a class starting in just 5 minutes so I couldn't come get her right then. Instead, the nurse gave her some Tylenol and Maria took a nap in the nurse's office. When I called after class ended, she had just returned to her classroom and was able to get through the rest of the day.

It all turned out okay and I think Maria was glad she was able to stay in school (that girl really hates to miss school), but I still felt badly that I hadn't been able to be there for her. I shared with Ed that I felt sad that I hadn't been able to help her. Having his office next to mine means that Ed gets to answer all my endless questions and listen to all my crazy comments. He never seems to mind and always greets me with a smile when I pop over with yet another question. This morning, when I got to my office, I found there a delightfully encouraging card taped to a box of yummy chocolates. Both were from Ed. Another blessing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kid Zone

As I've mentioned before, the public and Christian elementary schools are quite close to each other. About a block from these two schools is a large reformed church. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, this church runs an afterschool program from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. for all the children in the neighborhood.

First, they provide a snack for all the kids as they come in after school. Then they have free time which involves options to participate in a wide range of things. The other day when I was there, there were kids playing games in the gym, kids doing artwork, kids playing board games, kids doing crafts, girls making jewelry, lots of fun stuff was happening. Jon Felipe was playing pool :-) and Maria and some of her girlfriends were enjoying playing with the youngest children. Kid Zone also has a theme for the day and the staff plans activities related to the theme. Finally, they have homework time and volunteers try to help the kids get their homework done before it is time to go home.

This year, the elementary schools have decided to dismiss an hour early on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month for teacher inservice, so Kid Zone has added these days to their schedule as well. There are well over 100 kids who come to Kid Zone and I'm sure more will be joining as the year continues. Maria and Jon Felipe really enjoy going to Kid Zone and the most amazing thing is that this wonderful program is completely FREE. This program is definitely a blessing for our family.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Iowa can be quite aromatic. It seems to be worse first thing in the morning and when it is raining. The other day, I walked out with Jon to wait for the bus. I commented to him that it was "frio" (cold) outside and he responded "y tambien (and also) pee-yeuw!" and waved his hand in front of his face. Tonight we went out for a walk after dinner just as a rainstorm was approaching. We were talking about the smells in Iowa and Jon showed us how, in Iowa, you have to learn to hold your hand in front of your face so it covers your nose and your mouth. He was quite serious as he demonstrated exactly how to cup your hand so that you could block the smell. When I met with the public school principal the other day, he also brought up the smell. He asked if we had noticed the stink and then explained that only newcomers notice it. He said that everyone here is so used to it that they don't even notice. I'm not sure I could live here long enough to not notice the smell. I'm just thankful that it doesn't stink every day and that when it does, it doesn't usually stick around very long. Tonight as we were walking across campus, headed home, we could hear a cow mooing in the distance. Just a reminder of where those smells come from.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Educational Decisions II

Well, we had a very long team meeting today. There were lots of people there, including OT, PT, speech, school psych, classroom teacher, resource teacher, reading specialist, principal, school social worker, and me. We talked about both Jon and Maria. Things are really going well with Maria and we got all her services in place. The team had not realized that Maria's IEP is due to be reviewed this month. For some unexplainable reason, none of her IEPs since 2004 have made into her cumulative record. So, we planned everything today and when we get the pertinent paperwork from Holland, we'll meet again to put it all in writing.

Jon was a little more complicated and we decided not to decide anything just yet. When I met with the public school principal yesterday, he thought the school district might pay for a parapro (teacher aide) to help out with Jon in the classroom. He thought he could get funding for that because of Jon's seizures. Jon did have this support back in Holland. So, the principal is going to explore this option. If it turns out that this can't happen, the plan B is to explore whether the Christian school board is willing to hire a parapro anyway (apparently the principal has a someone in mind that might fit the position). They are also going to have Jon get more resource room support during the class day. They may even try having him participate in some of the reading activities in the first grade classroom to see how that goes, but it sounded like there were a lot of obstacles to that being a possibility. Finally, they are going to look into having him go over to the public school for part of the day. As I said, the schools are very close to each other. Yesterday, when I met with one of the special education teachers at the public school, she told me that she is working with a small group of second graders who are at about the same place academically that Jon is, so going to that building for part of the day to participate in that group could be a good plan for him as well.

Many of you let me know that you were praying about this. Thank you all for your prayers. I feel that they were answered as the team really seemed to be looking for the best way to meet Jon's needs while allowing him to continue at the Christian school. I am very comfortable with this plan to explore all our options before making a decision. Please also pray for Jon's teacher. She is understandably feeling some frustration with the lack of support she has received so far. I hope things get better now that everyone is aware that she needs more help in order to meet Jon's needs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Last week I attended my first convocation. All faculty members gathered in the mezzanine of the B.J. Haan auditorium in our fancy dress to line up for the procession. I must say, we were a good looking bunch. The "regalia" of higher education is interesting and the goal seems to be that the oddest looking one wins the prize. I thought I looked quite distinguished in my black gown with the blue bars indicating doctor of education. In comparison to those around me, however, I looked rather ordinary. My friend Ryan was just behind me in the procession. His gown was bright red and had shields representing his college sewn to the black velvet on the front. His bars had gold piping on the edges. One professor in front of me had a gown that looked more like a long flowing cape. It was red and blue and he wore a coordinating shirt and tie. His large, ornate, red and blue cap had a wide floppy brim and was adorned with a feather. I was told that he earned his degree overseas somewhere, perhaps England or Australia. The college president wore a white gown with a large gold medallion around his neck. It was like attending a fancy dress party. After the ceremony was over, one prof rode off on his bicycle, in a hurry to get to his next class, gown flapping out behind him like something you might see in a movie.

The ceremony was quite nice. At the end of the ceremony, new faculty members were commissioned and I rose with my peers to accept this "God-given office." As I sat in that auditorium listening to the beautiful organ music, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunities I have been given to pursue my education. College was not an opportunity available to my parents, but I knew from a young age that it was their dream that that opportunity would be available to my sisters and me and that they would support us as much as possible in pursuit of that dream. After graduation, I got married and my wonderful husband has continued to support me as I continued my studies in graduate school. As my children got older, they joined in to encourage me to pursue this final degree. And all the time, in the background, my parents have been cheering me on. Thank you to all the friends who took classes with me and gave me encouragement and to all of my family members who continually told me I could do this. I am so grateful to have had these opportunities and I couldn't have done it without your support.