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August 24, 2015

My {Interrupted} SLP Life: Hiking

I love my all-consuming SLP life: the kids, the research, the outcomes, creating products, blogging...but sometimes I need an interruption of routine to keep me balanced.  This is the first in a series of blog posts that will give you a glimpse of some of the interruptions that keep me sane, happy and healthy.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, it's hard to NOT want to live a healthy lifestyle. Everywhere you go, you'll find people being active.  They might be cycling, hiking, boating, wind surfing, fishing, rafting, camping, jogging, snowboarding, skiing, or any number of other outdoor activities.

My husband and I really enjoy hiking, and there is no limit to the number of trails to explore.

We pack a backpack with supplies for the day and head out to a place of spectacular beauty with our happy, hiking Havanese, Bruno.

One of our favorite places to explore is the Columbia River Gorge. There are at least 25 different waterfalls that can be seen from trails varying from easy to difficult terrain, and are always a draw for us.  Check this one out:

This one is called Oneonta Falls. Most of the "trail" is in the stream, so you have to plan on getting wet and dress accordingly. Isn't it magical? When you're on the trail, going through the cavern with the steep cliffs on either side, you really feel like you've been transported into a scene from Lord of the Rings.

Before you get to the waterfall, you have to scale this enormous log jam. This is always a favorite with my boys! I have to admit, I love the challenge, too!

This is Horsetail Falls, which is just down the road from Oneonta Falls. It's a favorite place to bring out of town guests who are up for a short hike.

Sometimes we head over the Cascades to the high desert and hike at Smith Rock State Park.  It is jaw-droppingly beautiful! We follow the trail along the creek bed and circle around the breathtaking rock formations. We always marvel at the majesty of these towering rocks!

We just discovered this hike this year. It's called Opal Creek and is another stunner with its beautiful blue pools, cascading waterfalls and crystal clear stream.

It even has a natural waterslide to play in, if you don't mind icy cold water.

For a change of pace, we can head to the coast and hike on trails along the Pacific Ocean. This is the view from Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon. I hate to use this word again, but it is STUNNING! I could stay there all day and watch the waves crash on the shore.

One Monday earlier this month, my husband and I headed out to a trail on Mt. Hood that we hadn't explored before. It's called Ramona Falls and the hiking website we checked said it was a 6.6 mile hike (moderately difficult). That distance is a little longer than we like to hike, but we decided to go for it. 

The trail meandered through beautiful stands of douglas fir trees and was a pleasant hike. We met a hiker coming from the opposite direction who stopped to pet our dog. He said he was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Mexico to British Columbia. Here's a snippet of our conversation:

     Hiker: I am on Day 100 of my hike, with 550 miles to go. How far are you going?
     Me: Just to the waterfall.
     Hiker: Waterfall? What waterfall?
     Me: There's supposed to be a waterfall ahead less than a mile from here.
     Hiker: Oh, I missed it, I guess. I don't have time to take in the scenery.

What?!? How can you miss a waterfall? I started thinking that maybe we took a wrong turn somewhere.  But we kept hiking, and just about the time Bruno and I thought we could go no further, we turned a corner and saw this: a beautiful fairy-tail clearing leading up to a shimmering waterfall.

Absolutely awe-inspiring.  I do not know what is so mesmerizing and magical about water falling over some rocks, but it is. It just is.

The cool, refreshing mist on our faces, the patterns of the water as it falls to the rocks below, the sound of the cascading water, the green of the moss...the intricate handiwork of God. How can I not but worship Him in this place?

We left this sacred ground in silence for awhile as we hiked along the stream that fed this waterfall. I could not comprehend not stopping to experience the beauty and the magic of this magnificent place! How could that hiker have missed this? But as my husband and I hiked along, deep in our own thoughts, it occurred to me that we (me and the PCT hiker) were two hikers on the same trail for a time, but both with very different goals.  His was to complete a very long hike in a prescribed amount of time.  He had to plan his trip down to the last detail, set an agenda, and hike at a pace in which he could successfully complete his hike each day. He had his end goal in mind. My goal was to hike a few miles, take in the scenery, and appreciate God's creation, stopping to take detours along the way. Two very different perspectives. 

Since that day, I've thought of that hiker a number of times. I really admire his dedication, self-discipline and determination! But I've also come to view his hike and mine as an analogy for my life as a speech-language pathologist in two ways.

In relation to other SLP's:  I have this terrible habit of comparing myself to others. I look at colleagues who have opened their own practices and now employ several others and wonder, should I be doing that? I admire the aspiration of other SLP's that continue their education to gain higher degrees and wonder where they have the time. I witness the successes of other SLP's in many different capacities and wonder if I should be doing more. I forget that even though we're on the same trail, we each come with our own goals and perspectives. But we're all in this to make a difference in people's lives, right? We're all on the same path to help others become better communicators. It's just that some of us are on the fast track, with the end-goal to own a large practice, become the president of ASHA or our state organization, or become the top SLP seller on Teachers Pay Teachers. We need those people! Some of us have come to this path by the way of a previous profession and have a unique perspective to offer. We need those people, too! And some of us are content to bloom where we're planted and find no greater joy than taking the time to appreciate the scenery around us and to celebrate the little victories along the way. When our paths merge, let's remember that we're coming from different perspectives and let's celebrate the differences! 

In relation to the children I work with:  They are all on the trail to become successful communicators. It will take hard work and dedication to get to their destination. But each one approaches the trail with a unique perspective and a unique set of skills. Some will be on the fast-track, and get there in record time. Some will move steadily along the trail, making progress each day. Others will meander and plod along, putting one foot in front of the other just to reach the next rise in the trail.  Don't you have those kids who are so challenging that all you feel like you've done is climb uphill with no waterfall in sight? But then, suddenly you go around the bend and there it is: the imitation of a sign or word, that new sound learned, that new social skill used to converse with a peer. Let the waterfall flow! I'm so glad I took the time to stop and witness it!

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.
He will teach us His ways
And we shall walk in His paths.
                            Isaiah 2:3

August 19, 2015

Change? I hate change! Or do I???

I have always thought of myself as a person who dreads change. There are many times when I find myself wishing that "things" could go back to being just as they were. But then I got to really thinking about changes, and it turns out that I don't really hate ALL change.  So what's the deal? What kinds of changes do I dread? Here's a list of some changes I've experienced in the last six months and how I feel about them.

1. Online mobile deposits with my bank app: Bring it on! I love it! Such a time-saver!

2.  My middle son moving to Seattle:  Boo!

3.  Progress in treatment (both monumental and small): Yay! I love it! It inspires me!

4.  Buying a new car:  Boo! Too much work and I hate the payments.

5.  Meeting and networking with new online SLP friends: Love it any day of the week!

6.  New procedures for preauthorization of services through the insurance company I bill to the most: Awful. Don't even get me started.

7. My favorite grocery store closing after being "my store" for the past 20 years: What? They can't do this to me! Don't they know how convenient it is for me to shop there?  I know where everything is! Ugh!

8. A new locally-sourced grocery story opening in the new shopping center: Yes! I love all the healthy food options! (But it IS located in a spot that is less convenient.) (And I don't know where anything is.)

9.  Needing to paint my kitchen: Rats. It's been like this for 12 years now. It's just fine, right?

But the best one is #10, so (drumroll please), without further ado...

10. Giving my blog and social media sites a makeover: Yes! I'm so excited! I can't believe I've waited THIS LONG to do it! And Blogs Fit for a Queen did a fabulous job with the design and pulling it all together.

So what do you think of the new look??? I hope you like it, because I won't be changing it anytime soon!

August 15, 2015

Bananagrams for Synonyms

I pulled out an old favorite this week: Bananagrams! I forgot how much this kids like this one and how many different ways there are to use it to target language goals. I'm going to share how we played this week.

First, each player chose twenty letters. I left the letters facing up so the kids could choose the ones they wanted.  The directions were to use all twenty letters to make words, crossword puzzle style. The players could exchange letters one at a time if they needed a different letter to make a word, and add a few extra to complete the final word if necessary.

After the players' words were complete, each player named the words they made. Then, they took turns choosing one of their words and naming a synonym for that word. If they couldn't think of one, we looked the word up on Thesaurus.com.

Next week, we're going to try this again with word associations. Instead of naming a synonym, I'll have the students name a word that goes along with each word.

Do you use Bananagrams in treatment? Tell me how in the comments!

August 2, 2015

Pairing a Picture Dictionary with the Expanding Expression Tool

I've been using Sara Smith's Expanding Expression Tool (EET) for a couple of years now to help my students define and describe objects and make word associations. It is a multi-sensory tool for improving oral language, and I have witnessed first-hand how effective it can be in helping students organize their thoughts when defining and describing objects and their functions. The tool is simply a string of colored beads that are used as cues to help the students remember what to include in their descriptions. Each color represents a different facet of the definition. For example, the green bead reminds the student to name the group the item belongs to, blue prompts them to tell what the object does, etc. If you're unfamiliar with this tool, you should really check it out. Just click on the link above.

But for those of you who know all about EET and use it as part of your treatment, I want to share how I've been using it with my upper elementary and younger middle school students.  I've been pairing it with a picture dictionary, a dry erase pouch and dry erase markers.

I just choose a page and slide the page right into the dry erase pouch to keep the page clean and protected. Next, I choose one of the words on the page.

We used colored dry erase pens in corresponding colors to underline the elements of the definition of the chosen word. We found three separate things that ice does or what people do with ice, so we underlined them in blue. Next we used the tool to review the possible parts of a definition and read the definition again, underlining the group name with green, what it's made of with brown, and it's attributes with black. We noted that this dictionary's definition did not include a detail corresponding to the white bead (i.e. where you would find it), so the student restated the definition adding that extra information.

Here's an example of one we did using six different colors.

This definition was pretty complete, so we didn't need to add a thing. But since both of these items were on the same page, we decided to use the definitions to compare and contrast the objects. The color-coded key words really helped simplify the task and keep the responses organized.

Do you use EET? If so, I'd love to hear how you use it! Leave me your ideas in the comments.

*I am not affiliated with the makers of The Expanding Expression Tool in any way, nor am I being compensated to review this product. The treatment ideas and opinions in this post are solely mine.