Monday, May 06, 2002

May 6-10, 2002

MAY 6, 2002

My son went to a bowling birthday party on Saturday with a bunch of his school buddies, and watching them interact with each other with maximum rowdiness reminded me once again what an absolute saint their teacher is. To not only put up with their turbo-driven rambunctiousness, but to teach them something too! It's a miracle is what it is.

The highlight of the afternoon -- for the boys, to be sure -- came during the brief pause between lunch and cake, when they all decided that making a rude noise against your arm was just about the funniest thing any person could do. The raspberry chorus was pretty much unstoppable; you'd get one of them to quit, and then another would do it, and they'd all jump in again. It's just boy stuff, of course, tuned to a high degree by the fact that they all have neurological impairments that make them especially impulsive and hard to transition from one track of behavior to another. Their teacher puts up with this every day, and then comes back for more. Give that woman a raise.

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MAY 7, 2002

Field trip season is hard upon us at my children's school. Earlier in the year, after Sept. 11, I'd heard that all field trips were cancelled; but now, the district's rules have softened to allow field trips to anywhere but New York City. So, no Bronx Zoo for the second graders, but they can go back to the same Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania that they went to last year. Yippee, another day of chasing my son around while other kids obediently look at demonstrations involving dye and hot wax. Another long, long bus ride. And, on the plus side, another half hour or so in a really nifty gift shop.

My daughter's class is going to an historical park, which should be interesting to all those kids who are heavily into social studies, of whom my girl is decidedly not one. She's also not so into having her mom tag along on field trips, but sadly for her, I'm a class mom this year, and I'm sure enough coming. Sure hope she doesn't try to ditch me for some other class mom. But worst comes to worst, I can always drown my sorrows in souvenirs. The kids are allowed to bring $10 each, and I'm betting that means they have a pretty fine gift shop there, too.

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MAY 8, 2002

Is my son a math whiz? I guess it depends on when you're looking.

He's the kind of kid who will fuss and complain and whine that his math homework is too hard, and then after fifteen minutes of fighting sit down and do the problems in minutes, quickly and correctly. Last night, at a family math workshop at his school, he sat and struggled and counted on his fingers and came up with wrong answers when I asked him to do math equations, but when a friend across the table struggled with his sums, my boy shouted out the right answers without a second thought. His child study team leader reports that when she tested him in math, he sometimes made mistakes when the problems involved carrying into the hundreds and thousands column; which sounds bad, until you realize that before that test, he'd never done addition with hundreds and thousands columns. And that his writing is so messy, he could have had the correct answers and she would never have known.

Is my son a math whiz? Maybe. It would be nice to think so. And even nicer if he wanted to act like one.

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MAY 9, 2002

For a few minutes there, yesterday, I thought my son's classroom had the youngest discipline officer in history.

I was working in the library when his class visited, and one of his little classmates, a relative newcomer I hadn't gotten to know yet -- but who clearly remembered whose mom I was -- came up to me and very officially informed me that my boy was misbehaving. He had, in fact, been misbehaving all week, I was told, and I should be punishing him. I raised my eyebrows and thanked him for the suggestion. Later, he said the same thing in front of my son's one-on-one aide, and when she clearly didn't know what he was talking about, I felt a little better.

Later, the teacher came by my library desk and commented that I'd met the "class kvetch," and that this kid had self-esteem issues they really needed to work on. I guess I can see how pumping oneself up by knocking someone else down is a self-esteem issue; but if so, there are an astonishing number of adults in workplaces around the country who struggle with low self-esteem as well. And here, I always thought they were just weasels.

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MAY 10, 2002

Yesterday I thought I'd give myself a treat and read a book that had absolutely nothing to do with learning disabilities, behavior management or FAS/E, my usual favorite subjects. I'd been saving up "Comfort Me With Apples," the second memoir by food writer Ruth Reichl, for just such an occasion. Her first reminiscence, "Tender at the Bone," which covered her unpredictable childhood with a manic-depressive mother, her beginnings as a chef and a writer, and her marriage to her first husband, had been tasty fun. And now, with IEPs looming over my head, I figured I could use a second helping.

And for most of the way, it was just what I needed. I followed Reichl through jobs with New West magazine and the Los Angeles Times, through affairs and a second marriage, and through many meals so elaborate and strange that I would never want to eat them myself, but certainly enjoyed reading about them. Still, once you become obsessed with certain themes, you tend to find them everywhere -- and I started losing my appetite when, toward the end, the book came to the part of her trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant. A little close to home there. And then she and her husband are given an opportunity to adopt a baby, to whom they instantly become attached. And then the birth mother comes back to claim her, and they must give her up. I almost stopped reading; we'd morphed from food memoir to horror story.

The only way for the book, now quite close to the finish, to end happily, I thought, is if she does manage to get pregnant, unexpectedly. I launched into the final chapter with that thought in mind, and then was horrified all over again, as she left her husband after a romantic interlude and went off for 10 days of heavy drinking in Barcelona with some of California's greatest chefs. With each bottle of wine, each cocktail, I thought: If she's not pregnant at the end, I'll be sad for her; but if she is pregnant, and she's drinking like this, I'll be scared for that baby. The book did indeed end with a positive pregnancy test, and mention of her son, 11 years old at the time the book was written. No mention of how well he came through that Barcelona trip; I'll have to wait for the next memoir to find out if it's an FAS/E book after all.

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