Monday, May 13, 2002

May 13-17, 2002

MAY 13, 2002

Well, here's a study that's sure to inspire sympathy among us all ... NOT. Telemarketers, those scourges who call us during dinner and insist that we listen to sales pitches for things we neither need nor want nor really even asked to hear about, are losing their voices. Vocal distress -- ranging from dry throat to hoarseness to utter voicelessness -- is a regular occupational hazard, scientists at the University of Nebraska discovered, and may in fact be causing the poor dears to talk softly and call less. And although I do always try to think of those determined souls yapping away on the other end of the line as hardworking individuals trying to support their families and not as pushy pests trying to ruin my day, may I just take a moment to say ... hooray! There's justice after all.

The one word of warning in this study, however, is that the thing that most likely causes the vocal damage is not merely the frequency of speaking -- or even some sort of cosmic payback -- but the way that telemarketers tend to lower the pitch of their voices to sound more authoritative, and also to speak at a higher volume than absolutely necessary. Which may give those of us who frequently scold our children in a loud, booming voice cause for concern. Come to think of it, I believe I'm feeling a bit hoarse myself.

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MAY 14, 2002

They say that people with fetal alcohol impairments will always need an "external brain" to help with reasoning and organizational matters their "internal brains" want no part of. That seems true of my boy now, and in the future will likely mean that he'll never be truly independent -- he'll need his dad and I to keep charge of him, or a good group home, or in maybe the best-case scenario a really bossy wife.

I got a glance at what that last option might look like this past Saturday, when I acted as his aide in his end-of-second-grade religious education class.

I didn't recognize the girl, and I was touched when she came over to my son and asked if he wanted to be her partner as they walked to the music room. I was amused to hear her barking at him in about the same tone of voice I use to keep him from wandering off, and relieved to see that he listened to her no better than he listened to me. She was a little fed up by the time they got to their destination, and I made him come sit with me and walk back with me after the music session was finished. I figured she'd about had it with him, and I didn't blame her.

But I was wrong. When we got back to the classroom, she asked my boy if he wouldn't like her to move to the empty desk next to him. She asked if they could work together on a coloring project. She spoke to him in that high patient voice adults use on babies and toddlers -- urging him to color exactly the way she was and not, say, use the black crayon to color in the Virgin Mary's face, as he was determined to do -- and I didn't know if I wanted to hug her for being so nice or smack her for being so dang condescending. But he didn't seem to mind; as he does with his bossy mom, he listened to her when he felt like it and ignored her when he didn't (although even he squawked when she reached over with her crayon and inserted a comma into some words he'd written.)

I don't honestly know whether she was really intrigued by him or just thought she was doing her good help-the-handicapped deed for the day, but it was nice to see another child in a mainstream setting show that much interest in him. And a little unsettling, too -- because although a bossy wife may be a good thing for his future, I'm sure not ready yet to give up my status as bossiest woman in his life. Keep your distance, girlie.

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MAY 15, 2002

My son's been showing a lot of interest in taking walks lately, and I've been pleased because walking is something I could really use to do. Finding time to exercise -- and finding exercise I can stand -- is becoming more of an issue as my cholesterol goes up and my waistline expands and swimsuit season draws inexorably near. How nice to find a way to get some movement in my life and also spend time with my boy. You gotta love multitasking.

Problem is, my idea of walking is a nice brisk stroll that gets the heart pumping, burns calories and, you know, is over in a reasonable period of time. And my son's idea of walking is ambling along, taking in the scenery, interacting with the environment, and staying outdoors as long as possible. While I'm trying to keep the cardiovascular pace, he's stopping to pick dandelions. Read car license plates. Talk to statues in our Civic Center sculpture garden. Sit on the sidewalk and rest. Pet dogs. Pick up rocks. Pull leaves off trees. Hug trees. Even, from time to time, kiss trees. Dilly-dallying galore. And though walking with my guy isn't exactly a heart-healthy experience, it sure does my heart good to see his imagination, inspiration and energy at work. Besides, rounding him up again and again has to burn a few calories, right?

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MAY 16, 2002

We have begun to look for dogs, albeit in a laid-back sort of way. It mostly involves my son and I stopping by the local animal shelter on our ambling walks and seeing if there's anybody new who's meant for us. He and I both have our favorites among the dogs who very clearly are not right for our family: There's a golden labrador retreiver that I could easily give my heart to, but already there in the cage I see that he can jump higher than our fence would hold. And there's a black lab that is as delighted to see my son as he is to see her, jumping and barking and carrying on (both the dog and my son, as it happens), but I can tell that that dog is the canine equivalent of my boy, and we've already got one of him. A clear case of doggie ADHD there. I had to laugh reading the shelter's description of her on its Web site, which reads in part: "I'm a very friendly young lady with lots of energy. I really need a home with someone who has lots of energy too. I need some obedience training but we can work on that together." With a change of gender, the same could be said of my son.

So far, we haven't found our canine match, but there is endless time. I'll admit to snooping around from time to time, searching for the perfect smallish dog, just as I used to poke around the on-line databases of adoptable children back when I was thinking about adding an extra child instead of a four-legged creature. There's an unsettling similarity between the two types of Web sites that someone who easily gets up in arms about unsuitable uses of the word "adopt" could probably, well, get up in arms about. I'm not, and I don't. I mean, just wook at all the wittle puppies! Maybe browsing is the next best thing to having one. And when my husband the non-dog-lover realizes that I'm talking about getting a pooch at the same time I'm talking about getting new living room furniture, that may be as close as I'll come.

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MAY 17, 2002

I guess it's a sign of the times: Accompanying the children on my daughter's fourth-grade field trip yesterday -- in addition to teachers, aides, and me and the other class moms -- was a nurse whose job it was to administer the midday meds. It makes sense, I guess; a need for medication does not go away when the school building does, and if the teachers aren't allowed to administer at school they shouldn't have to do it in the field. But it seemed odd all the same to have a traveling pharmacy aboard the bus. The woman was not the normal school nurse (who presumably had to stay behind to do med duty for the non-field-trip-going masses), and so she went around introducing herself to each class so the kids who needed to find her at noontime would know who to look for.

The trip was to a historical park, where we toured houses from the 1870s and learned from costumed presenters what life was like way back when. One of the stops was an apothecary's shop, and while the woman behind the counter talked to kids about more primitive meds, I took a look at the barber shop display on the other side of the room. I enjoyed the sign that gave the prices for haircuts: men, 10 cents; boys, 8 cents; and wiggly boys, 9 cents. Never did find out how much the apothecary charged wiggly boys. Or whether she went on field trips, too.

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