Monday, February 25, 2002

February 25-March 1, 2002

FEBRUARY 25, 2002

Things I meant to do with my kids this past week while they were off for Winter Vacation: Read books. Play games. Go to a museum. Do art projects. Get ahead on schoolwork. Write stories. Practice book reports. Take walks. Read magazines. Go to a movie. Do puzzles. Invite friends over. Investigate some child-friendly Web sites. Clean rooms. Memorize chorus music. Take pictures. Celebrate bountiful together-time.

Things I did: Read a couple of books with my son. Read two chapters of a school-assigned novel with my daughter. Played one game of Trouble.

School vacations always seem like such vast fields of opportunity, endless days to be filled with enriching experiences and familial bonding. Yet in our house, they usually wind up being endless days filled with the Disney channel. This week, at least, my kids played on the computer a lot, and if I work hard I can probably paint that as an enrichment activity. My daughter and I did bond over the Olympics, falling asleep within minutes of each other on the sofa. And I did get them both started with an auditory training program that involves listening to classical music for 15 minutes twice a day, and that's gotta be enriching, right? (My pop-music-loving daughter begs to differ, that's for sure.) Still, if the beginning of vacation feels like a vast opportunity, the end always feels like opportunity wasted. But hey, there's another vacation in a couple of months. Spring Break! That's the ticket. Think of all the wonderful things I'll do with my kids that week!

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FEBRUARY 26, 2002

My daughter has now had a cough for over two weeks. It's not a constant cough; it's not a cough accompanied by fever or obvious sickness; it's not a cough that hurts, or brings up disgusting goop from the lower depths. It's a cough that comes and goes, in multiple-minute-long fits, and never quite goes away. We've been to the pediatrician, who couldn't find much of anything wrong but prescribed an antibiotic anyway. The antibiotic's gone now; the cough, not so much.

This kind of ongoing, disruptive but not serious illness presents a real quandary in terms of sending a child to school. When I was a kid, the rule was always: If you have a fever, you stay home; if you don't, get your butt out of bed. I've always accepted a fever as the certifiable seal of sickness, and have carried over this philosophy in my own parenting. But there are plenty of times when a child may not be feverish, but may still be a biohazard. I remember a couple of winters when my son had a sneezy, runny nose pretty much from November through February. The teacher suggested keeping him home, but for how long? I'm not looking to homeschool. With my daughter, I'm not so concerned with her being infectious as being distracting. Woe to the teacher who has to talk over ten minutes of hacking from my darling girl.

Sometimes I wonder what they must think of me, sending a kid with such a nasty sounding cough into the classroom each day. But I've felt a lot better since talking to another mom while we were volunteering in the library a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing the fact that there had been a lot of sickness in the school, and she mentioned that her boy, too, had been unwell for a while. Why, the very night before, he had thrown up three times between 3 and 5 a.m. But when it came time to go to school, he didn't have a fever, so he was in his seat. It's our rule, and we're sticking to it.

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FEBRUARY 27, 2002

Over the years, I've wondered what kind of job my son might find his way into as a grown-up. He likes to jump, always, all the time, so maybe he'll be a track star, or a circus performer. He can look at a key and tell which kind of car it goes to, so maybe he'll be a valet parking attendant, or a car thief. He can talk like Scooby Doo, so maybe he'll be an animation voice-over artist, or an entertainer at children's parties. In all my pondering, I've never thought about the legal profession for my definitely-not-desk-job-material guy. But after the story his teacher told me at a conference last night, I'm thinking again.

Apparently one of my son's classmates -- we'll call him Sam -- was trying the teacher's patience something fierce. She sent him to the time-out chair once and told him to come back when he had calmed down. She sent him there another time and told him to sit there for two minutes. Finally, a third time, she sent him there to sit indefinitely. Apparently, my son was watching the time, because at about three minutes he went up to the teacher and said, "Do you know that my friend Sam is still sitting in the time-out chair? He's my friend, and it hurts my heart to see him sitting there." At this point, the teacher felt about two inches tall, and gave Sam a reprieve. I don't know what kind of fee my boy charged for his services, but I'm told the plaintiff and his council did hug after the verdict.

If he can talk a kid out of time-out, maybe there's hope for him in the field of litigation. As long as the judge doesn't mind attorneys who jump all the time and suck their fingers.

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FEBRUARY 28, 2002

I saw half of a child-abuse-prevention program at my kids' school the other morning. I meant to see all of it, but it overlapped with my husband's tooth-extraction appointment and I needed to give him a ride. Felt bad sneaking out -- would people think that something the speaker said had caused me to bolt? I wound up missing the part in which they showed videotapes of the kind of workshop my kids will be taking part in sometime in the coming weeks. But the description I did hear was interesting, and I hope the information will sink in enough with my kiddos to keep them at least a little safer than they were before.

One of the interesting things that the speaker advocated was teaching kids that it's okay to say "no" to adults. And boy, isn't that just something from which parents instinctively recoil? From the time our kids learn to talk, we spend multiple developmental stages trying to get them to stop saying the "n" word. We teach them to respect grown-ups, be polite, do what you're told, don't talk back. We tell them to do what the teacher or the priest or the scoutmaster or the baby-sitter says or they'll be in big trouble. We let them know that adults know better than they do what's right, and that just because they don't feel like doing something is no excuse for not doing it. And this speaker suggested that in convincing them of all this, we're making our kids sitting ducks for pedophiles.

So in a week or two, she will be teaching my kids to say "no" to things that make them feel uncomfortable, things that seem wrong. Not peas for dinner or making their beds or doing their homework, but things that take away their right to be "safe, strong and free." That's a heck of a distinction for kids to make, though, isn't it? The sad thing is, in most situations, they are better off listening to adults. Most adults do want to keep them safe. But now we need to put them on their guard, question grown-ups' judgments, defend themselves verbally and physically. I wish we didn't live in a world where that was necessary. You only have to pick up a paper these days, though, to see how far we are from there.

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MARCH 1, 2002

Yesterday we added another activity to the list of things my almost-9-year-old son's still not ready for: Karate. He's been bugging me for months about wanting to try it, and I finally found a place that would take on kids with special needs. The teacher and I discussed his hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention problems, low muscle tone. I explained that he had FAE and that I didn't know if he would be able to follow along. The teacher had had one student with fetal alcohol exposure in the past and admitted that it was tough. But he said we were welcome to give it a try.

And so, last night, we did. And he didn't. Out of the hour class, he tried on and off for the first 20 minutes -- not getting the movements right, but at least moving -- then just laid on the floor for about ten minutes, then started going over to the door and playing with the wind chime, coming to where I was sitting and complaining about being hungry, and finally flat-out asking to go home. He liked the parts where the kids yell as they count their jumping jacks or karate chops or kicks. He did the yelling part really, really well. He liked when the class took turns running laps around the room. But the actual karate part? Not so much.

Still, he did better than he would have done a year ago. He didn't melt down or freak out. He followed along for a while, and that's big. And at the end, he made me laugh, which always earns consolation points. As his class concluded, the next class -- a group of older students -- filed into the room and lined up against the back wall, right behind my guy. They stood solemnly, seriously, as the little kids bowed to them and then to their teacher in the ritualistic ending to the earlier class. But my guy's not into ritual. He saw all those solemn, serious older kids and decided they needed a warm-up. "So," he said, "Who wants to kick? Who wants to hit? Who wants to chop? Who wants to scratch their butts?" By the end, at least half of the big kids were cracking up. A little blonde haired girl from the younger class wasn't impressed; she walked by my son on the way out and said, "You're not funny."

"Yes, I am," was my boy's reply. And frankly, I'd have to agree. But definitely not martial arts material.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

February 19-23, 2002

FEBRUARY 19, 2002

Tomorrow, I'm taking my son to a therapist to investigate the possibility of starting auditory integration training. I'm excited at the possibility of doing something to help my boy with his hyperactive behavior. I've heard good stories about this therapy helping kids just like him. It always feels good to be doing something positive, finding therapies and pursuing them.

And yet... I also felt excited about therapeutic horseback riding. And sensory integration therapy. And nutritional supplements. And FastForward for my daughter. And various other helpful strategies that I researched and pursued and pushed for but never quite got the full fruits of. FastForward may have helped my daughter a little, but not a lot. The therapeutic riding was great for my son, but the stable decided to limit each student to 16 weeks and then we had to hit the dusty trail. Sensory integration therapy is, I think, vital to my son's neurological well-being, but therapists seem to run out of steam with him. And the nutritional supplements? Despite guarantees by the manufacturers and happy users that the cod liver oil inside those gel caps tasted just like strawberries, my son bit down once, declared the contents disgusting, and wouldn't go near them again.

I can't complain, really; both my kids are making steady forward progress, steady, steady, slow and steady. Not for us the magical forward surges. I've run out of steam a bit myself lately, content to float along with the slow current and stop trying to ride the rapids. But tomorrow, I'll get it together for another attempt at dramatic improvement. And after that, maybe I'll start a Therapies Anonymous group for parents who can't stop looking for that magic key.

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FEBRUARY 20, 2002

Of all the commercials that play constantly during the Olympics, I'm really loving the one for Allstate featuring the parents of Olympian Eric Bergoust. Through old home movies, it tells the story of a little boy who loved to jump off things, and a mom and dad who thought that was just fine. There are pictures of him jumping off chairs through the years with increasingly fine form. There's a shot of him jumping off the chimney of his house with his parents waiting happily below with a stack of mattresses. There's mention of the fact that the boy grew up to be a freestyle aerial skier -- the kind who launch off ski jumps flipping and twisting -- and won an Olympic gold medal four years ago in Nagano. And finally, a giggling acknowledgment by his parents that they were the only ones who didn't think the kid was absolutely nuts.

I'll bet there were more than a few people who thought the parents were absolutely nuts, too. I mean, jumping off the chimney? But what I love about this ad is the depiction of parents who, with love, enthusiasm and unjudgmental support, help their child accomplish his dream. And I wonder: Would I be able to offer that kind of support? If my kid was jumping off chairs, would I ever try to find a way to help him do it better? If he was laying on his back on a skateboard and rocketing down the steep streets of our cul de sac, would I think to find a way to help him learn to luge? I think I've done a pretty good job about finding something positive in parts of my son's behavior that others have felt was wild or unproductive or absolutely nuts. Will I be justified one day when he finds a way to turn that "bad behavior" into something good? Better start taking home movies.

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FEBRUARY 21, 2002

My daughter is finally showing some interest in watching the Olympics, I'm happy to say. Every night we're sitting together, watching together, falling asleep over figure skating together. It's a mother-daughter thing. As nice as it is to have company, I will say that watching some of these sports with the Queen of the Literal can sometimes be a challenge. After each competitor finishes his or her ski run or ski jump or bobsled slide or speed-skating pairing, she'll say, "Did he win?" "Did she win?" And I'll try to explain, again and again, that we have to wait until everybody gets a turn to know who won. And sometimes we have to wait for everybody to get a turn twice. And sometimes they have to take turns again on a different day. You'd have thought NBC had already cut out all extraneous races to the point of ludicrousness, but my girl would be happy if they'd just show the winners winning and be done with it. Let's hope she never becomes a network exec.

One of the sports we watched last night was Skeleton, and why exactly don't they slap a parental advisory on this thing anyway? Luge was bad enough, but do you really want your child to get the idea that hurtling down an icy slope with his or her chin an inch off the ice would be a good way to go for Olympic glory? I felt like putting my hand over my daughter's eyes. In the end, though, I don't know what was more scary about that sport: the fact that, as one commentator commented, it's like leaning out of a car, face thisclose to the pavement, while it's going 80 miles an hour on the highway; or the fact that the silver medalist, that guy with the funny-colored spiky hair and extreme-sports demeanor, makes a living as an air traffic controller. Yeah, that's the guy I want landing my plane.

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FEBRUARY 22, 2002

So there are all these stinkin' teenagers on the TV winning gold medals, making me feel about 106. And there are their parents in the stands, looking all thrilled and basking in their offspring's accomplishments. Part of me feels a little sad, because it doesn't look like my kiddos will ever be doing anything to make sports commentators gush over them; my daughter at 11 is pretty much over-the-hill for beginning a sport, apparently, and my son ... well, if they ever come up with a sport that requires no motor planning ability, muscle tone or impulse control, he's there. But you know, it doesn't really matter, because we parents of children with special needs don't need the big things to be proud as all get-out. Little things are big. The first word at age 3, the potty training at age 5, the belated but welcome onset of pretend play or ball catching or even simple whining -- it's all gold medal material.

Sometimes it's something as simple as telling a riddle right. At dinner the other night, my deeply language delayed daughter upped the degree of difficulty on her dinner table conversation with this sentence-sentence combination: "Dad, I have a challenge for you. Do you see a pattern in the glasses on the table?" Her dad picked up pretty quickly that the boys had grape juice and the girls had apple juice, but I was too busy doing my victory dance to notice. I mean, she used the words "challenge" and "pattern" in a sentence absolutely correctly. That's hard for her. She understood the concept of "pattern" enough to actually pick one out on her own. That's harder. And she used language to turn her observation into a riddle. That's a 6.0, ladies and gentleman. The family looked at me a little funny when I started humming the national anthem, but hey, I'll take victory where I can find it.

Monday, February 11, 2002

February 11-15, 2002

FEBRUARY 11, 2002

I thought watching the Winter Olympics would be something my kids and I could do together. I have nice memories of watching them with my mom when I was growing up, and now my kids have the added incentive of seeing athletes from their native land competing with those from their adopted one. I thought my daughter would love watching the graceful figure skaters and my son would love all the speed-demon skiing and we'd all love having something on TV that didn't bore one of us to tears. But no: Bored is exactly what they are. Never mind the Russian competitors with the same name as my daughter or the folks hurtling down hills faster than we'd hurtle down the highway or the snowboarding that's just like the skateboarding on "Rocket Power." Unless Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and SpongeBob SquarePants turn up to do commentary soon, my kids could not be less interested in these games.

Which means I'm viewing on my own, since my husband thinks the events are either monotonous (anything that involves athletes going down the same slope or around the same course over and over) or silly (anything that involves men wearing spandex and sequins). But me, I could have that stuff on morning, noon and night. I'm ticked off at NBC for not having the games playing constantly somewhere on one of their cable networks, at least. If they're going to preempt my favorite prime time shows, the least they could do is give me something to watch at 10:30 on a Saturday morning in return. Let the kids squabble about who gets to watch the Disney channel and who gets to watch Nick; for the next two weeks, anyway, one of these TVs is mine. Loser gets to watch curling with mom.

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FEBRUARY 12, 2002

Watching the Winter Olympics this year, I am once again struck by what a bad example these athletes are setting for our young people. I'm not talking about steroids or bad sportsmanship here; I'm talking about how flat-out unsafe most of this stuff is. Maybe it's a good thing that my kids don't want to watch the games with me -- they might get the idea that, say, laying on your back on a small piece of metal and flying down an icy, slippery track is something they'd like to try. Which would have to in some way involve my dead body, Olympic glory or no Olympic glory.

The Olympics didn't need snowboarding to say they're into extreme sports; you can't get much more extreme than what some of those downhill skiers are doing, careening down nearly perpendicular slopes at speeds that would get you pulled over on the turnpike. Even so delicate a sport as figure skating now involves so many elaborate and risky jumps and throws that I have a hard time watching. I guess they're trying to make it more athletic and that's after all the point of this whole endeavor, but I liked it better when it was just pretty.

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FEBRUARY 13, 2002

I don't think I've ever been so happy to have children who have no prodigious talents yet apparent as when I heard Jim McKay's "Up Close and Personal" profile of figure skater Todd Eldridge last night. The story revealed how Eldridge had left home at the age of 10 to pursue his skating dreams. The age of 10! Do kids get to leave home at the age of 10? I mean, I know he wasn't standing at the side of the road with a sign reading "Olympics or Bust" or anything, but that seems such a tender age to devote one's life so completely to something. At age 10, my daughter devoted her life to watching the Disney Channel, but at least she didn't need to leave home to do it.

I suppose if your child does have an overwhelming talent and ability at something, be it ice skating or gymnastics or whatever other practice-intensive discipline comes to mind, it would be hard to deny them the absolute best shot at excellence, even if it meant moving away to train. I suppose it would be hard to say no; but how on earth could you say yes, knowing what sort of insane pressure these activities put on young people, knowing that any semblance of a real life is out of the question, knowing that your son might devote 20 years of his life to a sport and still fall down at every blasted Olympics. Knowing all that, wouldn't you just want to tell that 10-year-old to take the skates off, sit his butt down and watch some TV already? Come to think of it, maybe it's not a coincidence that my children are showing no prodigious talents...

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FEBRUARY 14, 2002

Between helping my daughter do a science report on dingos, helping my son make Valentine cupcakes for his class, watching a little "Star Trek" just to have some contact with my husband, and falling asleep where I sat, I didn't get to watch any of the Olympics last night. My only peek at the games was in the early evening when my daughter and I watched a little curling. Yes, it was curling that brought her to the TV at last. To ask, "What are they doing?" And, "Why?" If this were prime time on NBC, we'd get a detailed little documentary on the sport complete with bios of its main players and stirring theme music. But since it's 5:30 on MSNBC, we just got guys pushing rocks and sweeping. Do those guys sweep up around the house as part of their training? Just wondering.

Don't know if I missed any figure skating, but I'm not sure if I can handle the stress of that sport anyhow. The judging factor has become a problem, hasn't it? It's hard enough, as the sport has added so many complicated jumps and twists and throws, to watch the routines through parted fingers, silently willing the skaters to please, please stay upright; to then have them receive a figurative crow bar to the kneecaps in the scoring is too much. Were the judges wrong? How the heck do I know? I believe what Scott Hamilton tells me. I do have a pretty good idea, though, that if the Canadians had bobbled and won based on funny numbers and the Russians complained, we would not be still be hearing about it. There's something to be said, and to be taught to children, about being a good loser, even in the face of perceived injustice. Otherwise, parents across the land are going to be hearing about kids' grades being low because the teacher has a fix in.

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FEBRUARY 15, 2002

It seems like the news is full of cheaters these days, from duplicitous Enron execs to influenced Olympics judges to Web-surfing high school students. The first two I have no use for, but those high school kids ... the story goes that about a fifth of the sophomores in biology class in Piper, Kansas, copied material from the Web and used it in a leaf-describing project that formed half of their course grade. When the teacher failed them for plagiarizing, their parents protested, and the school board eventually ordered the teacher to change the grades. The teacher resigned, the town is up in arms, and pundits everywhere are using it as an example of the decline of American schools and American character. Cheating is cheating, plagiarism is theft, and condoning it in any way is saying that no one needs to do honest work anymore. There's always an excuse, a loophole, an irrational parent to get you out of it.

And I wonder: Did none of these people foaming at the mouth about the awfulness of copying work off the internet and getting away with it ever use something in their school days without rewriting it? I mean, I was a good writer in high school, and mostly did my own work, but there were more than a few times when a careful comparison between my research and the World Book Encyclopedia would have resulted in a mighty embarrassing similarity. It's hard, for a kid, to see something written clearly and then find a way to rewrite it, especially if it says pretty much exactly what they want to say. Goodness knows, it's hard for adults sometimes.

Parents of the offenders have been quoted as saying that their children worked hard on their projects -- which involved gathering leaves over a long period, studying them and making a nice presentation of them, in addition to looking up material on the Web and writing about them -- and don't deserve zeroes. They say their children did not understand to what degree they were expected to rewrite their research. The teacher counters that she made everybody sign a contract at the beginning of the project that there would be no plagiarism. But I wonder how many kids connect plagiarism -- the deliberate stealing of another's work and passing it off as your own, as in copying someone's report or downloading a term paper off the internet -- with putting research found on the Web word for word in one's own report. Did the teacher give them lessons in rewriting research? Did she explain that you're supposed to find several sources, distill them in your head, and mix them into a new presentation of thought? Are her students able to do that? Or were they just pointed toward the Web and expected to know what to do with it?

I think it's too bad that the teacher took the hard line she did here, rather than conferring with the students and families before giving the zeroes. And once she did give them, I think it's too bad that the school board didn't back her 100 percent. As in Olympic competitions, sometimes the decision of the judges just has to be final, like it or not; otherwise the whole system, and any respect for it, falls apart. That's what appeared to have happened in Piper, where students stopped listening to the teacher because they knew they could appeal any decision she made to the school board. I blame the kids for that attitude, and their parents if they condone it, but the cheating? Man, I've had my fourth-grade daughter copy sentences out of her textbook to answer social studies questions; is that plagiarism? She brought home research printed off the internet for a report on dingos the other day, with the parts she needed helpfully highlighted by her aide, and let me tell you, just getting her to understand what fit where was a big chore. Did I have her rewrite sufficiently? There are only so many ways you can describe the coat of a dingo. And, I'll bet, a leaf.

Monday, February 04, 2002

February 4-8, 2002

FEBRUARY 4, 2002

Well, once again, our household does not exactly have its finger on the pulse of popular culture. Maybe we're somewhere near the shoulder of popular culture. Or the right ear. At any rate, on Super Bowl Sunday, the day when a nation turns its attention to sports and snack foods, our television was tuned to the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen marathon on the ABC Family channel. Morning (the early twin movie "To Grandmother's House We Go," a longtime favorite in our VCR), noon (re-runs of one of the girls' forgettable post-Full House TV series) and night (the teen twins make mischief in Paris), we were all Olsens, all the time. Now, of course, we do have more than one TV; the other was devoted to the "Hey, Arnold!" marathon on Nickelodeon. My husband did get to watch the tail end of the Big Game after the kids went to bed, but by then all the good commercials -- certainly the only reason I have any interest in the game -- were gone.

It's interesting that the non-Super Bowl-carrying channels have broadened the strategy of counterprogramming with shows aimed at women to counterprogramming with shows aimed at kids. Probably a smart one, too: Moms are likely more willing to humor Dads and let them watch the game than the kids are. Heck, you know, I've already seen "Sabrina," and a Lifetime movie about Brooke Shields being stalked by Richard Thomas does not appeal, and there are, after all, those commercials; but my daughter, well, you do not wrest my daughter away from Mary-Kate and Ashley programming without a crowbar. Not even with all the Britney Spears Pepsi ads in the world.

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FEBRUARY 5, 2002

It's sort of one of the perks of parenthood to be able to complain that everything was so much harder when you were a kid. Five miles barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, and all that. So it always throws me when my daughter brings home tests marked "D" or "F," and I realize that in my day -- you know, back when things were really tough -- those would have been "C"s and "D"s. I distinctly remember that we were graded on a strict 10-percent system: 90 A, 80 B, 70 C, 60 D, and anything under 60 was an F. It seemed fair; if you knew seven out of 10 answers, you were about average; if you barely knew half, you weren't.

But now -- and whether it's a sign of the times or just a sign of a crotchety school district, I don't know -- the percentages have been tightened up. For my girl, it's 90 A, 80 B, 75 C, 70 D, and anything under 70 is an F. That's a full 10-point difference from my good old days, and it means it's impossible to get a C on a 10-question test. Not right, somehow. So I've made a deal with my daughter: Her teacher might call a 74 a D and a 69 an F, but in my book, they're a letter-grade higher. You can't blame the old folks sometimes for having their heads caught in the past.

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FEBRUARY 6, 2002

It's come to this: I've actually purchased a "SpongeBob SquarePants" chapter book to yank my son into reading. The line between TV viewing and reading hereabouts just gets blurrier and blurrier. It all seemed harmless enough when it was "Arthur" and "Clifford" and "Franklin" and "Little Bear" books, because those were all literature before they were televised. But now the reverse trend is in full swing, and there are "Scooby-Doo" books and "Blue's Clues" books and "Rugrats" books overstuffing our bookcase. And now, of all things, a "SpongeBob SquarePants" book. That surrealistic series seems the last thing you'd expect to find in the relatively harmless confines of a simple chapter book.

The story is straightforward by SpongeBob standards, involving Patrick the starfish's destructive behavior when SpongeBob's valentine for him is unexpectedly detained. My son has in fact been interested in reading it with me -- his first chapter book -- and I've found, somewhat alarmingly, that I do the voices of Patrick and the squirrel Sandy pretty darn well. Don't know where this tube-to-tome trend is going to lead for us, but if Emeril Lagasse ever does novelizations of his Food Network adventures for the 7-10 set, we're there.

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FEBRUARY 7, 2002

I'm obsessed right now with my son's calcium intake. There's not enough of it. The boy steadfastly refuses to drink milk, and I'm okay with that; but now he's being finicky about yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, all those milk alternates I've been pumping into him, and I'm getting worried. The one true thing about my son has always been that you can't really get him to do something he doesn't want to do. He's self-determining. You can make him want to do it, if you're lucky, but especially in terms of eating, he eats what he eats.

I've been frantically dashing about the Web, then, looking for other calcium ideas. Collard greens! Canned shrimp! Tofu! Sardines are a possibility, since he likes fish and he likes salty things and he likes things that most kids think are disgusting. Broccoli is good; he likes broccoli. Perhaps a healthy breakfast of broccoli and sardines will do his bones good? Because he's sure not eating cereal with milk. He does eat waffles, which according to the package, offer 10% of our daily calcium needs. He also eats cream cheese, which according to the package offers 0%. How can that be? Guess they're whipping all the good stuff out of cream cheese and injecting it into Eggos. But heck, I'll take the calcium where I can get it. Or he can, anyway.

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FEBRUARY 8, 2002

My son's teacher sent home one of those notices last week that strikes fear in the hearts of adoptive parents: a request for a baby picture. I've always figured that, if the question came up, we could use one of his pictures from the orphanage. He was 21 months old, but he was about the size of a healthy infant. But as it turns out, it wasn't necessary. The fine print on the notice actually specified a picture of age three and under. I thought it was nice of the teacher to be so vague, and told her so. Her answer was, "You think your son's the only one in the class who's adopted?" And actually, I do know of at least one other child who is, and it turns out she was adopted at age three, and thus the age cut-off.

I guess it's one of the perks of being in a small, self-contained special-ed class, in which the teacher gets lots of detailed information on her students' backgrounds. When you've only got eight students, you can do some thinking about how to make things appropriate for everybody. So although we had those baby-looking pictures available, my son was able to pick a picture of himself on his second birthday. Another boy -- not to my knowledge adopted -- showed me the picture he brought, and it was of about the same age. No one standing out here for lack of infant photography. Would that all adopted kids would get the same inclusive assignments.