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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How do you talk to an angel?

Remember that old song? It was a one-hit-wonder from a short-lived early '90s show? Well it's seriously the perfect lame song title to use for this post.
Other (and probably better) song titles considered were: Prince's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" the feels-packed hit from the recently departed artist.
"I'll Stand by You" by the Pretenders. Might be a little dark?
"Slipping Through my Fingers" by freakin' awesome ABBA about a little girl growing up. 
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Allow me to back the f up and eventually get to the reason for titling this post after a song performed by that guy who beat up Donna on 90210 and why I'm dressed as a super hero alongside Hello Kitty.
So, the school year is over. Each year, the last day of school brings a bittersweet adjustment period where I'm relieved for the break but missing the routine of the work and students that I love. My job, working with young emotionally troubled children can be rewarding on good days and tumultuous (at best) on the bad days. This year was very different.
I'm bringing it back in time again, but just to last September. You see, every school year is very different for me. You see, Life is like a box of special needs children; you never know what you're gonna get.
Woo hoo, I got a doozy. 
Although she was cute as a button, "MB" was wild as a puppy who's been let loose in a school building. 
I worked with the same first grade teacher I worked with last year, who happens to be my own first grade teacher when I was a kid. It was exhausting. Attempting to keep her safe and from damaging property proved to be impossible for the most part.
One day she ran off, with me trailing behind her demanding she return. She immediately encountered another like-minded hall runner, a kindergarten girl who was being followed by another adult. With some kind of mental pact, they started moving down the hall together where they met up with a boy named LP (whom I worked with last year) who was on the run with his teacher in pursuit. He changed directions and the two girls followed him as if he were the pied piper of misbehaving children. If you're keeping count, that's three children and three adults sprinting through the school as if reenacting the Benny Hill chase sequence:
Couldn't find original, here are some teenagers.
Luckily, MB was accepted into a special program at another school for emotionally troubled kids where she would hopefully get the help she needed. And lucky for me, I was immediately assigned to look after another equally difficult case.
Or was it? 
AB was the aforementioned kindergarten girl who followed MB in the hallway. She has what is known as select mutism and that was the only thing I knew about her at the time. Actually, I knew one more thing: she loved Hello Kitty. 
AB had curly, dark blonde hair framing her little cherub face. Her beautiful blue eyes were never quite...focused which wasn't immediately noticeable, but it was clear she wasn't your standard issue kid. She was often dressed in ruffly little skirts and sparkly leggings. She was never seen without a plush Hello Kitty. She walked on her tiptoes. When not walking, her toes turned out a little, like the opposite of pigeon-toed. What I'm saying is, she was the epitome of adorable.
It seemed no one quite knew what to do with her. This was her first experience with school. She wouldn't stay in her class, often moving through the halls or going to stand outside her sister's classroom. At her worst, she would rock back and forth as if in complete distress. The school social worker and the assistant principal sometimes let her play in their offices as they weren't sure what else to do. 
I will always remember that day when we became a team. I came into her class, I spoke to her and gave her my friendliest smile. I picked up an iPad and she sat with me at at table and watched as I used the Doodle Buddy app to draw a picture that looked like this:
Artist reenactment
She loved it. A child who doesn't talk with her voice needs you to listen to with your eyes. Seeing her smile was a very good sign. 
After playing on the iPad for a little while we went to the computer lab with the class. Remember, this little girl was a flight risk and from what I was told didn't spend much time participating with the class. Therefore, my first goal was simply, "keep her in one room." In the lab, she did some of her work, but the setting can be extremely distracting. It's the library with laptops and four kindergarten classes crammed in. When AB looked like she was losing interest, I suggested we do something else. Not quite sure what I was going to do, I opened up YouTube and typed in "nursery rhymes" and brought up a cute-sy video of "The Three Little Kittens." Success! She was enjoying it!
Soon, other children were calling for help, asking for bathroom breaks, etc. When I got up to tend to another kid's issue, something unexpected happened. I turned around and saw this:
(kitten reenactment)
She followed me. Like a big cat tracking her prey, her eyes locked on me and her feet followed as I moved through the room. "I got her! She likes me!" I proudly congratulated myself. 
I remembered the words of the social worker who earlier that morning told me, "the most important thing will be earning her trust." In only a couple of hours, it seemed I had accomplished what most of the other adults hadn't been able to. AB could not tell me with her words, but as a small cat rubs up against you when you walk into a room, she seemed to be telling me that she liked me!
I was overjoyed. I knew it wouldn't always be this easy, but it was an excellent start. If I was going to help this little stray kitten, I would have to meet her where she was; and that was without verbal communication. How will I know how to meet her needs? How will I know what she knows? 
I would have to figure it out, because the caseworker and administration liked what they saw when I was with her. We were soon inseparable. 
To be continued. But first, how about that cape?
So, our school does a lot of theme days and during the spring time we has "superhero day." Now, I plant to discuss this in an upcoming post (I'll get right on that) but I'm not so much into the whole superhero/comic book character craze. So, I did my own thing. First I made a cape.
That's a twin sized sheet and a Hello Kitty shirt. I also needed a nice ribbon which I had on hand. 
Look, I know I claim to be a DIY blog but there's no need to reinvent the wheel. There's a way to make a cape by folding the sheet over by an inch or two and sewing it across so that it looks like a curtain with a thing to put the rod through. Well just my luck, the $2.99 sheet I brought home already had a little fold over! All I had to do was cut some 1" slits in it.
See? Then I laced that ribbon through the holes. I had a cape...one that was twice my length. I had to cut a ton off the bottom to prevent my cape from dragging like a long bridal veil. So, I had some material to make this!
Cool mask, huh? I did not wear that mask. I have glasses and unless I wanted to be Daredevil (get it?) a mask would not work. Anyway, I do things at the last minute and I was running out of time to make this regular cape a Hello Kitty cape. 
I considered just cutting the front half of the shirt off and sewing that on. I decided I should go big and not half ass it, so I went ahead and cut out the shapes to add the cape and laid them out. I then decided to skip the sewing and just safety pin them on, thus half assing it. 
I had previously picked up a slightly snug blue shirt with silver belt that was completely inappropriate; unless it was superhero day. Oh, I also cut up a broken waist cincher belt from my wrestling days and made these:
See what I did? I folded those elastic pieces over into wrist-thingies and secured them with safety pins. (Bless you, safety pins.) Then I used some black washi tape to hide the raw edges and pins. As for a mask? I picked up something from the party store for $1.99 and wore it like a headband.
By the end of the school day, this is how I looked. Instagram filtered. What I mean is, I was tired so I took this picture while resting on the couch. I then instagrammed it, pointing out my shifty eyes. I might actually be a villain. Here's one with me posing:
In case you didn't notice, I should acknowledge that I'm pretty much breaking my own arm by trying to pat myself on the back. First, I'm claiming that I worked some sort of miracle (nope, just had some good ideas) and second, I'm dressed like a freakin' caped crusading jerk. Just being self aware.
I hate that I always have to split these story posts up into parts, but...I don't want to keep writing for too long.