Monday, July 31, 2000

Pity party

On Sunday, we went to a party that I really didn’t want to go to. Truly, desperately, deeply dreaded. I said I didn’t want to go when we got the invitation. I said I didn’t want to go when the RSVP time rolled around. I whined about going right up until the time we left, at which point I threw a major embarrassing screaming tear-filled tantrum. And still, we went.

It was a graduation party for a relative of my husband’s I don’t know. The graduate’s mother, one of my husband’s five million or so cousins, I could pick out of a line-up if I had to. There were some cousins I knew, many many cousins I didn’t, lots of kids, lots of noise, lots of food, lots of mess, lots of cars, lots of distractions, lots of stuff not to touch, lots of disruptions. Which is why I didn’t want to go. Or why, more specifically, I didn’t want to bring my son.

One of the things I’ve always tried to do with my active, distractible, impulsive, sensory-integration-disordered boy is to control the environments I put him in. Short, specific trips with specific intended outcomes. Trip to the mall for an in-and-out visit to the toy store, yes. Trip to the mall to stand in line for an hour to see some loser in a Disney-character costume, no. Party close by with people we know and a clear escape route, yes. Party two hours away with strangers and an equally endless ride home, no.

I want my son to have as normal a life as possible, but I also know that when he’s put in a position where he can’t behave, he won’t behave. Sometimes, there’s not an option: Church, for example, is a nonnegotiable part of our week, and even though it is a sensory and behavioral disaster for our youngest family member, there’s never a question of not going. But a party—a party too far away—a party with too many relatives—a party that made me exhausted just thinking about it—that party, surely, we could skip.

Especially when it was raining the morning of the party, which was supposed to be a pool party. Especially when my son started coughing and seemed tired and out of it and vaguely pre-cold all morning. Especially when I had a stressful week at work. Especially when I went to all the trouble of throwing a tantrum. But my husband—whose policy in all such events is just to ignore emotional outbursts and keep moving forward in the belief that things will just work themselves out without our help—just kept putting people in the car. And so, we went, with me sulking and sniffling and predicting bad behavior and bad health all the way.

So of course, it wasn’t so bad.

The party was mostly indoors, very crowded and very loud, which instantly put my son into hyperdrive. But his dad took him outside, and walked around looking at cars, and then walked around looking at cars some more, and then gave him some food, and then walked around looking at more cars. They were at the party, in that they were in the same town and on the same block, but out of the four hours we were there father and son were on party premises for about one.

During that one hour, the small boy asked everybody, but everybody, for their keys. Old people, middle-aged people, young people, teenagers, everyone got hit up for their keys. That’s his thing—his party parlor trick—looking at people’s keys and telling them what kind of cars they have. Sometimes people find a small boy sticking his hands in their pockets annoying. Sometimes people find it cute. In this gathering, the latter outnumbered the former, though maybe they were just being polite. At any rate, he looked at a lot of keys and conned a few people into actually letting him in their cars to play.

He didn’t melt down. He didn’t break anything. He didn’t have a screaming fit, or cause one of his parents to have one (though actually, I’d already had one, hadn’t I?) It was, all in all, a successful day. Which is a triumph of sorts for him, coming at a time when he’s had lots of experiences in which people felt he was just the worst little boy on earth. And my appreciation of this is only slightly dampened by the fact that I behaved badly for nothing.

Although I still think it wasn’t necessary. And if he does get a cold, I'll know what to blame it on.

Friday, July 28, 2000


It's summer, time for kids to run and play, jump and climb, ride and romp and slip and fall. Which means, in our house, it's flesh-wound season.

Yes, there's something about warm weather and exposed skin that leads directly to bloodied knees and raw elbows. It is comforting to know that this is one area in which my children are blissfully normal. I remember having my share of skinned knees as a kid, and I didn't have low muscle tone or Sensory Integration Disorder or poor depth perception to blame it on. I was just a klutz. This year, however, my kiddos seem particularly intent on making the antisceptic and band-aid industries very healthy indeed.

We started the summer with a decidedly otherwordly blister on my daughter's thumb. This turned into many blisters, then into many puss-filled grotesqueries that necessitated a lot of painful whining, then into lots of loose flappy skin. She'd had similar yucky business two summers before, so apparently this is an every-other-summer sort of thing. Every other millennium would be too soon for me.

That wound was still in the band-aid cover-up stage when my basketball-camp-going girl suffered what might have been a career ending injury: a traumatic blow to the pinkie. Oh, the agony. She was sure it was broken. We were sure it was bruised. It sure did get black and blue and puffy. Showing her mettle for future professional athletics, she did manage to finish out her time at camp, dribbling in a particularly gingerly fashion, no doubt. She is now proudly able to bend it completely without screaming once again, so no harm done.

Then we have my son, who is racking up the injuries with each new day at camp. He must always fall to the left, because he has two separate skinned spots on his left knee and two more on his left elbow. These are in a constant state of regeneration because he is in a constant state of scab-picking. Here again, a resoundingly normal activity for a small boy, but the extremely expensive special-needs camp would like us to tell him to cut it out all the same. We cover the owies with bandaids, he peels the bandaids off, then peels off what's underneath. It's a regular science experiment. Threats of infection do not concern him; more research!

Today we added to the collection a mark on my son's shoulder-blade that looks like an abrasion to me and a bruise to my husband, and a small cut just below my daughter's nose from where her baby cousin through her Gameboy at her. The Gameboy, I hasten to report, is just fine. But if it wasn't, we'd have had more than enough band-aids to patch it back up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Licorice is for losers

Need to slim down? Break out the Twizzlers.

According to a recent study by the University of Padua in Italy, a half a licorice stick a day reduces body fat. That's right, candy can make you thin.

Of course, it's not that easy. It's never that easy. The licorice reduced the body fat in the test subjects, but also increased their water retention, for a net weight change of zero. Researchers posit that eating less salt while eating more licorice might result in actual weight loss. So eat the licorice, but leave the potato chips and peanuts in the vending machine.

Can licorice-flavor SlimFast be far behind? Weight Watchers-brand licorice whips? Jenny Craig Good 'n Plenty? Who knew the chew had such magical properties? And here I was eating it just because it tastes good. How long before packages of Twizzlers bear a banner reading "Cuts Body Fat!"? The candy already comes emblazoned with the fact that it's low in fat. Low in fat, and makes you low in fat, too! Talk about your perfect foods.

Well, maybe not perfect. As with every diet aide, there's something a little dangerous about licorice. It may reduce fat in small quantities, but in large quantities, it raises blood pressure. So you've got to use it responsibly. Don't eat your weight in the stuff. Don't expect miracles. And don't position a piece of black licorice in your mouth so it looks like you've lost a tooth.

Personally, I'm holding out for the study that says chocolate is good for you. At least, I'd like to participate in it.

Monday, July 24, 2000

Attention deficit

There's nothing that makes a child need his mama like his mama needing to do something else.

My son can usually play independently with very little input. He loves to roam the house looking for items to "recycle," which basically means putting them into plastic bags and carrying them to another part of the house. At any given time, a quarter of our household junk is being "recycled." This game requires very little parental input...unless, of course, the parents are busy. Then, it's time to go to the recycling center, and he needs company. He's going to have a garage sale, and he needs customers. He needs to load his recycling truck, he needs to unload his recycling truck. He needs attention, and he needs it now.

I've long ago discovered the magnetic power of the telephone. Children can be scattered to all corners of the house, happily absorbed in their toy cars or their TV shows or their Gameboys, but when the signal goes out that Mom is talking on the phone, they're suddenly and irresistibly drawn to her compass point, with deeply important requests like, "Can I have a piece of candy?" "Can I go to the bathroom?" "Can we go to Toys R Us later?" "Can I crawl in your lap and wrap the phone cord around me until the phone falls on the floor?" If I'm talking to someone from work, my son is liable to just go ahead and take that lap space without consulting me.

Now, I have about the best possible work situation you can have and still be working. I telecommute three days a week and go into the office two. I do this because I want to have as much time as possible home with the kids, infuriating as that time may sometimes be. But as many times as I have told my children how lucky they are to have me home so much, and how other kids' mommies have to go to work every day, they still see work as an unforgivable encroachment on my time, which should be naturally totally 100 percent devoted to their interest and amusement. My daughter keeps saying, "Just tell your boss you don't want to work now." She even gave me a drawing of herself saying how much she loves me, with the words "Show this to your boss" down the side. I hung it up over my desk. As yet, it has not led my boss to cut me any slack.

Not this weekend, anyway, which was spent working way, way overtime on a way, way under-progressed project. And so of course, my son was clingy in a way far more extreme than usual, constantly begging me to play with him, with ascending degrees of neediness and an astounding capacity for guilt-wielding. I think I may have spent more time with him this hectic, deadline-plagued weekend than I usually do in a normal weekend, just because he was so demanding and so whiney and so in my face. And did I mention guilt?

Of course, if I ever did really quit, and was home all day with nothing to do but nurture, I feel certain that the two of them would want nothing whatever to do with me. The unattainable is always more interesting.

Friday, July 21, 2000

Harry who?

Everybody's wild about Harry. Pick up a magazine, tune in a news show, stop by, and you're likely to see that bespectacled face peering back, accompanied by reports of record sales and unprecedented interest and children lined up around the block to buy a 700-page book. All of these stories mention at some point that anybody who's never heard of Harry Potter must be living under a rock.

Which makes our house Rock Central.

"Who's Harry Potter?" asked my husband when he saw the name emblazoned in a banner on my issue of "Entertainment Weekly." Never heard of the character, never heard of the books, never been touched by the media blitz. But surely the kids have heard of it--I know my daughter's classmates were requesting it in the library, and I've seen endless photos of children her age dressed up in Potter-esque costumes attending bookstore events. But nope. In an informal survey, two out of two of the children living in my home have never heard of the junior wizard. Does the hype machine know about this? It's missed two!

Not surprising, really. As with so many things, we're a little delayed in pop culture skills hereabouts. My 10- and 7-year-olds are still watching "Barney." They can easily watch the whole Nick Jr. lineup without flinching. Since my daughter's been in a mainstream classroom this past year, she's started to get a clue about what she should be liking, but not precisely why. She professes great enthusiasm for Pokemon, but can't tell you any more about it besides the fact that she looooooves Pikachu. She claims to adore Backstreet Boys and Brittany Speers, but rarely plays the music. She does play with her Gameboy regularly, but isn't obsessed with getting new games or new gizmos. She's got the form of fandom, but not the content.

Still, I might have expected her to at least ask to buy the Harry Potter books, even if they'd sit about gathering dust. But then, books are somewhat beneath her radar at the moment. Although she has the mechanics of reading down pat, she's missing the comprehension, the enthusiasm, and the enjoyment. Because she doesn't process words well, she needs to read very slowly, and I don't even want to think about what that would mean with books as thick and detailed as the Potters. Limited vocabulary and limited understanding of abstractions would also be a problem. I'm hoping to read the very slender "Sarah, Plain and Tall" with her this summer, and even that may be too ambitious.

At any rate, the big magical adventure we'll embark on this month will be on the computer, not between the covers. In an attempt to speed up her word-processing abilities, we'll be trying out the Fast Forword program over the next six weeks. The idea is to train the brain to handle sounds faster, in the hope that this will cause faster understanding of words and ideas. There are reports of children gaining a year or more in language development in 30 days. I've had too many disappointments to believe in that sort of quick fix, but I'd be happy if she could just get from the beginning to the end of a sentence without losing her way.

And if she happens to pick up a desire to read books--700 page books or 70 page ones, whatever--so much the better.

Monday, July 17, 2000

Sudden death

It's long been apparent that American parents have a perspective problem when it comes to kids and sports. We hardly needed someone to die to drive that particular point home. But that's what happened recently in Lynnfield, Massachusettes, when two fathers got into a fight over some rough play on the ice. Their own rough play ended with one dad dead and the other headed to jail for what will likely be a long time. So much for good sportsmanship.

What is it that spurs moms and dads to be so insanely competitive about what is supposed to be fun and games? What makes them shout demeaning phrases from the sidelines? What makes them sign their offspring up for every sport offered? What makes dads hound their sons to play better? What makes moms define themselves by the soccer games they schlep their kids too? We're a nation that's serious about its sports, to be sure, but even professional football players don't try to kill the people they play against. People they live with, maybe, random pedestrians on the street, but nobody in the game. That sort of bleacher rage is apparently reserved for rabid overreaching parents.

And that may be why, though I've come close, I've never signed my daughter up for competitive community sports. I've used her special-ed status as an excuse, but really, I'm scared of those other parents. She seems to have some athletic skill, but not a lot of game-sense to go with it. At soccer camp, she very deliberately, and with concentrated effort, kicked the ball into the wrong goal, with no clue she'd messed up. Since it was an informal game, the parents didn't rip me to shreds, but I'd hate to take that chance at a real game.

I didn't yell at her for mistaking the goal; she was so proud of herself, and I was proud of her for trying. I didn't yell at her when she managed to roll gutter balls even with bumpers in the children's bowling league she played in, either. Her form was bad, her scores were sad, but she was having fun. That wasn't enough for some of the dads who came to watch their sons play, though. They'd stand at the back of the lane berating them for bad balls, shouting at them to watch their wrists or the placement of their feet. I was embarrassed for them; for heaven's sake, it's just bowling. The kids, to their credit, seemed to mostly ignore them. And after a while, they'd go back to the bowling alley bar and have another beer.

There were no dads like that at the games my daughter played with the Challenger League, a softball league for children with special needs. For most of the kids, just getting around the field was an accomplishment, and the crowd responded accordingly. Both teams' worth of parents cheered for both teams, regardless of superficial affiliations. The one time I heard someone making negative comments, they were roundly booed. Each child got to keep swinging at the ball until they made contact, and the inning ended when everyone made it home. At the end of the season, every player got a trophy. Several trophies, actually. My daughter has the beginnings of a proper trophy shelf after that year of play.

But she didn't play anything this season. We felt that she was possibly a little too capable for the everyone-plays, everyone-scores atmosphere of the Challenger League, but not quite capable enough for the play-if-you're-good, score-or-you're-out atmosphere of regular Little League. She's now made it through a week of mainstream basketball camp with a good report, and so in the back of my mind I'm thinking--maybe she can be on our town's girl's basketball team. Maybe she could do that. Maybe she could hold her own. Maybe I could put everything else on hold to drive her to night games that will make her unable to do her homework or get a good night's sleep, and maybe I could do nothing on those nights but sit and watch her warm the bench.

Then again, there's a lot to be said for sitting sports out. Worked for me when I was a kid. Guess I'm just not a team player, or a team parent. It's a whole lot safer that way.

Friday, July 14, 2000

Bad medicine

Low on cash? Trying to build up a college fund? Just want to raise your kids' allowance? Medical science has an offer for you: Let us use your children as guinea pigs in drug studies.

For years, no one has bothered to test children's medications; doctors just made their best guess as to how much of a drug that works on grown-ups would have the desired effect on kids. Which means that one way or another, many of our children have been participating in drug studies all along. But now the FDA is formalizing matters and requiring that before a medication can be given to children, it must receive clinical testing on children.

And that's all well and good, but would you want them tested on your kids? Would you want to knowingly feed your little ones pills that might harm them? It's one thing for adults to consent to be test subjects of their own free will, but how can you do that for your children?

Drug companies, for their part, are offering incentives. Sometimes it's cash. Sometimes it's Geoffrey dollars. Sometimes it's an opportunity to try a wonder drug that might cure the child's very real affliction.

And that last one, I can understand. I can understand parents signing their kids up for drug trials in order to gain access to a particular medication. Most of the pediatric studies listed on the government's ClinicalTrials database are testing medications for cancer and HIV, and those are certainly desperate situations that call for desperate measures. It might be worth the risk of unknown side effects--or worth the risk, given the nature of medical tests, of dosing your child with a placebo that does nothing at all.

But would you take the same risks to, say, test a hayfever medication? Most of these trials involve extensive blood-testing. I can barely get my kids in the doctor's office for shots and finger-sticks that they do need. I can't imagine signing them up for something that involves additional dances with needles. The testing staff would have to beef up for the job of wrestling my kiddos into submission.

Surely we can all agree that this is a necessary thing to do, that adult drugs should not be administered to children if no one knows how safe they are. But as with many necessary things to do, I sure wouldn't want to do it. If you did this sort of thing on your own--giving your kids pills out of your medicine chest just to see what will happen, for example--it would be child abuse. But I guess if the drug companies do it, it's research.

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Date night

My husband and I had a rare evening out on Sunday in honor of our tenth anniversary. Well, it was supposed to be an evening out. It turned into an afternoon movie, a break to take our daughter to register at basketball camp, and then dinner for two. Family obligations don't stop just because Mama and Papa want to go on a date.

I know some couples regret or even resent the changes that having children makes in their relationship. We're not one of them. Sure, we have less time for each other, but we never used that time together all that well in the first place. Before we adopted our kids, we would come home from work, eat dinner in front of "Jeopardy," and fall asleep on the couch. Now, we wait until the kids are in bed before we fall asleep on the couch. So actually, maybe we really have more time together.

We've had the kids for half our married life, and we're a pretty good parenting team. My husband shares in all the pick-ups and drop-offs, the homework-enforcing and the bath-supervising. I'm exclusively in charge of dealing with the school district, the doctors, and the therapists; I'm also in charge of the worrying. He makes dinner, does the laundry, washes the dishes, mops the floors. Discipline is mostly the jurisdiction of whoever gets there first, though the runner-up gets to second-guess and criticize. Preferably not in front of the disciplinee, but not always.

So a little kid-care interlude in the middle of our anniversary celebration was just business as usual. It rather fit the theme of the outing, actually. Our movie selection was "Disney's The Kid," a movie we could probably have taken the kids along to (though really, it's more an adult fantasy along the lines of "Groundhog Day" than it is true kiddie fare). And at dinner, although we didn't personally have to deal with children squirming and making noise and making messes, we couldn't help but notice the couple at the next table doing just that. Their baby was being good--only slightly squally--but their toddler was going to town. Rather like my son has done on more raucous restaurant occasions than I can count.

There was a time in our life as a couple when we might have found the tumult from across the aisle annoying--distracting from our conversation and dampening to our dining enjoyment. There was a time when we would have pitied those poor beleaguered parents and been glad we weren't in their shoes. And then there was a time, during our struggles with infertility, when we would have given anything to be in their shoes, screaming or no screaming. But now, we mostly just empathized with the Mom and Dad, having worn their shoes so very many times before. As the little boy shouted "MasterCard! MasterCard! MasterCard!" over and over until his dad let him hold the credit card, and then shouted it again when the waitress took it away, I didn't cringe--I chuckled. I wanted to tell the parents, "Don't worry about keeping him quiet, we have kids too."

And when he wandered toward our table, as he did repeatedly, I wanted to talk to him, give him a piece of the candy I keep in my purse to keep my son quiet in public, show him the toys I keep handy for similar purposes. Instead I just smiled, knowing that, when you're trying to make kids behave like civilized creatures, even the kindness of strangers can be embarrassing. But I wished them well as they scurried out of the place at the earliest possible opportunity. Who knows, maybe one day the parents will come there on their anniversary, and we'll be the noisy family at the next table. My son won't scream out "MasterCard," but he'll surely ask to see their keys.

Monday, July 10, 2000

Don't ask, don't tell

I just left my daughter at basketball camp. It's not a sleepover camp or anything dramatic, no great provoker of separation anxiety, no big growing-up moment. But I still felt like I was abandoning her, sitting there alone, waiting for somebody to tell her what to do. I know she desperately wanted me to wait with her until the actual activities started. I desperately wanted to. But her brother needed to be dropped at his camp, and time was a-wasting, and a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do. So I kissed her goodbye, wished her luck, and left her sitting there with that little pursed-mouth look that means she's trying not to cry.

Here's her revenge, though: She's probably having a great time now, and I'm going to be a nervous wreck until we pick her up this afternoon.

This may seem like an extreme level of anxiety for a 10-year-old at day camp. But though I talk a good game about getting my girl out of the overprotective confines of special-education and special-needs settings, I can't help but feel a little protective of her myself. At school, even when she's in a mainstream class, everyone knows that she needs a little extra help. They keep an eye out for her. They even adjust the workload as necessary to make sure she keeps up and stays happy. I fight all the time for her to be challenged as much as possible, and for her limitations not to define her.

But when school's out and we're dealing with after-school and summertime activities, I tend to be the one playing up those limitations. I don't want to go into a strange setting and say: "Hello, this is my daughter, she has severe language delays and language-based learning disabilities, she's two years behind in school and will be more comfortable with eight-year-olds than ten-year-olds, she needs to be told what to do and if she's not sure what to do, she cries." I don't want to introduce her that way. But don't they need to know?

I'd like her to just be able to dive in and figure things out and shine as her own special self without all those labels and special-ed baggage. It's my goal for her to be able to adapt to new situations without lapsing into helplessness. But she's not there yet. If they put her in a group of kids her own age and expect her to function on that level, she's going to be lost. Maybe she can keep up with the eight-year-olds she's with in school. Don't I need to tell them to hold her back? And don't I need to explain why?

In fact, nobody at the basketball camp much wanted to hear about it. I put a note on her application, and mentioned it at sign-in, but it's a busy place with lots of kids running around and no one lingering long over the tender souls. Maybe it's just the nature of sports groups--not a lot of interest in what parents have to say about their kids' abilities. Yeah, yeah, lady, just drop her off and we'll take it from there. She'll prove herself by her ability, or she'll spend the week on the bench. Either way, she'll get through.

Me, on the other hand...

Friday, July 07, 2000

Summertime blues

Is it September yet?

Seriously, I think the summer is going to kill me. We're only a couple of weeks in, and already I'm in a tizzy. The kids are just finishing up on the half-day church camp that turned into a quarter-day for my son, adding to my rush-around-all-morning quotient, and now, on Monday, begins the mad-dash two-kids-at-two-camps-at-one-time derby. The camps are 20 minutes apart. They start and end at the same time, Where do I go to get me one of them time machines?

Then, after a week, my daughter's camp changes, bringing in a whole new set of transport challenges. And after that, she has no camp but her brother does, which makes transportation easier but also means I have a child at home to amuse. Then, when my son's camp ends, I have two. There's a vacation in there somewhere, but all that means to me now is packing and unpacking and occupying jumpy kids on a long airplane flight.

Probably the worst part of all these varied and rush-around summer plans is that we lose our nice predictable routine. The school year has its share of surprises, too, but the kiddos are in the same school, and they're there for a set amount of hours each day, and their after-school activities fall into a predictable pattern, and that's a good thing. For the kids, because routine is so important for children with neurological impairments. And for me, because without a routine to anchor the day's events I forget things.

Last week, for example, I forgot to take my son to his camp orientation. Just plum forgot. It was on the calendar, I had rearranged my work schedule to accommodate it, I was looking forward to meeting his counselors and group-mates, it had been a cherished plan for weeks. And I forgot, because I spent the morning running around helping out at the church camp, brought my son home at the quarter-day mark, went back to church for my daughter's group's program, brought her home and made lunch, handled some work problems long-distance, picked up my niece from day care. . . About the only thing I didn't do was check the darn calendar. And so now I have to wedge a specially arranged camp visitation into this week's impossible schedule.

Two weeks, and I'm ready for a break. I'm ready for a nap. I'm ready to surrender. I'll admit, I can't keep up. Every day, on our dashing around, we pass the school the kids will be going to in the fall. It will take me three minutes to get them there, and then I will have my days back. Nine weeks and counting. I hope I last that long.

Monday, July 03, 2000

How clean is your kitchen?

"Reality" shows that put strangers together in unfamiliar quarters and tape their conflicts and camaraderie continue to be all the rage. We're invited to imagine what it would be like to be stranded on a desert island, or locked inside a strange house with cameras everywhere. How the participants cope with these new situations and new people, how they form friendships and rivalries, how they perform for the camera, how they react to eating rats, are all supposed to make for fascinating, glad-it's-not-me TV. But I've got a real "reality" concept guaranteed to send a shiver down viewers' spines: What if somebody planted a camera in your own comfortable house, recorded all the stupid, embarrassing, unhygienic things you do every day, and then had experts analyze them over the airwaves?

That's the high concept suggested by a recent study in which 100 Utah families had cameras placed in their kitchens so that researchers could observe all their food-handling mistakes. Like most of us, these were folks who would have said they do a fine job of keeping bacteria at bay. But once that candid camera was trained on them, the truth emerged: They were making mistakes with food that made eating live maggots look like a safer option than sitting down to dinner at their house.

Indeed, what desert-island indignity could compare with these horrors: People failing to use soap when washing their hands! Wiping up juice from raw meat with the same towel they use to dry their hands! Failing to wash the lettuce before making a salad! Tasting marinade after raw fish had been soaking in it! Not using soap to wash something that touched raw eggs! "Shocking!" said one expert. "People have no idea!" clucked another.

Well, of course, people probably do have an idea, but they also have a life, and that gets in the way. Researchers acknowledged that squalling kids, calling telemarketers, bawling babies, and all sorts of other true-life drama interfered with the cooks' attention to hygienic detail. And of course, if they had all washed their hands with soap, someone would have had to test the soap bar or bottle for germs, and whoo-ee, maybe they were better off with good strong hot water. I doubt that any of us would really want our cleanliness examined up close and personal. Personally, between the clutter creatures in my living room, the dust dinosaurs under my bed, and the mold monsters in my shower, my home's a horror movie waiting to happen. And talk about germ-filled kitchen rags? Mine is starting to talk back.

No, I can't say I feel any too superior to the mother in the study who fixed her baby's bottle with raw-chicken hands. Which doesn't mean I think she should be protected from public humiliation. The researchers kindly did not show the videotapes of the families' faux pas, hoping to save the already disgraced homemakers further embarrassment. But what fun is that? Surely NBC, a little light on the reality front just now, has a time-slot open? Call it "Kitchen Survivor," and whoever succumbs to food-poisoning last wins a million bucks and a truckload of Lysol products. If NBC passes, Fox is surely up for "World's Most Horrifying Kitchen Slip-Ups!"

Just as long as they don't try to film in my kitchen. I'd rather eat a rat.