Monday, March 25, 2002

March 25-29, 2002

MARCH 25, 2002

Stayed up (yawn) until all hours (yawn) watching the Oscars last night, and feeling a little nostalgic for my younger days -- pre-kids, pre-move to the East Coast -- when Oscar evening was such a big deal for me. Back when I could have a big party because the show didn't last until, well, all hours. Back when I could clear a whole evening to do nothing but watch TV. Back when I still went to the movies. I used to get a bunch of friends together every year, and we'd dress up to dress down the stars and their wardrobes. Ah, those were the days.

This year, I watched the first hour or so of the ceremony with my daughter, doing flashcards with her during the commercials and hitting the "mute" button during boring speeches and reading segments from her literature book. After she went off to sleep, I struggled hard not to do the same. I'd at least seen one movie that was up for an award -- "Kate & Leopold," up for Sting's best song -- but other than that, watching the little scenes that played with each nomination is about as close as I'll get to any of these flicks. And that's okay; normally, my kids are plenty entertaining enough to make me forget that I'm not getting my full ration of theater seats and popcorn. But on nights like last night, I can't help feeling nostalgic anyway. Or falling asleep, either.

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MARCH 26, 2002

My son's teacher made a point of telling me today, when I picked him up, that he is now standing up straight, with his head high, when he walks down the school hallways. This is in contrast to his former hall-walking posture, which was bent over, with his head down. That posture didn't bother me so much because I knew he was getting some sensory integration benefits from it. But it bothered the folks at school. It's bothered them for years. And so they have made a big project out of it, and now they're successful. People have been commenting, she said, as he walks by their classroom, how much better he's walking. Recognition from the community for improving one's behavior is good, surely, even if the improvement is otherwise pretty meaningless.

But that's just me. I would have thought there were more important goals to tackle with such consistency and enthusiasm, but maybe not. When his speech therapist talked proudly about how she kept making him go back to the classroom and do it again until he walked straight and tall for her, all I could think of was, "You're spending your speech therapy time on this?" But I try to keep in mind that I'm not there at the school, and I don't entirely understand what goes on there, and I have to trust educators who I believe are good at what they do and sincere in their desire to help my son. So he's standing up straight now. That's great. It's good for him, to be showing some self-control. It's good for the school, to have him not thumping through the hallways not quite looking where he's going. And it's good for me, because now I can imagine everybody's attention finally turning toward something else.

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MARCH 27, 2002

Any parent who's had plans ruined by a child's illness has to be at least a little heartwarmed by the news reports coming out about Will Smith's mysterious disappearance from the Oscar ceremonies Sunday night. He and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, were there at the start of the ceremony, when Whoopi Goldberg made a joke about them sitting next to Maggie Smith. But by the time his big moment came -- the category for which he was nominated, Best Actor -- Mr. Smith was nowhere to be found.

What happened? Was he in the bathroom? At the bar? Brawling backstage? As it turns out, security had informed the couple that their 1.5-year-old daughter had been taken to the hospital with a high fever and ear infection, and they had rushed off to be with her. Now, I like the idea of celebs being sufficiently wrapped up in their kids that they'd flee the entertainment industry's biggest night to be with their baby. But what I like even more is the image of Jada Pinkett rushing into the ER in that ball gown she was wearing. Surely they didn't stop to change? I've been caught on emergency runs in ratty sweatclothes I didn't expect anybody to see me in, but never formalwear. Will Smith may have lost the Oscar to Denzel Washington, but he was a lock for Best Dressed Dad at the hospital.

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MARCH 28, 2002

Another milestone for my son (this seems to be the season for them) -- as of his pediatrician visit yesterday, and at the ripe old age of 9, he is now, finally, for the first time, officially on the height and weight charts. He's been off the bottom of them for so long, following the curve but not getting any closer to it. But now, big boy that he is, he's at about the fifth percentile for height and the seventh percentile for weight. Woo-hoo! For a little guy with FAE who we thought would always be below the bottom, this is a red-letter day.

I always said that if he ever hit the charts, I'd have a party. Next month, in another milestone event, he's making his first Holy Communion, so maybe we'll make the party for that a dual spiritual/physical growth celebration. Proud accomplishments, both. But what I really want to know about his newfound size is: If he's now taller than five percent of 9-year-olds, and heavier than seven, does this mean I'll now be able to buy pants that fit him? Talk about dreams coming true.

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MARCH 29, 2002

As soon as the couple with the son who had been nearly drowned in the bathtub and the doctor-who's-not-that-kind-of-doctor in tow made it to an examining room on "ER" last night, I knew what was going on. "They were doing some sort of rebirthing exercise with the kid," I told my husband. And then, "And he's going to turn out to have been adopted from eastern Europe." And I could have added, knowing the way parenting storylines have been going on this show lately, "And they're going to do a gloss on RAD that's going to make the parents look like irresponsible twits." I was right on all three counts.

I've complained before about how black and white this show has gotten about medical issues involving children; didn't they used to be more interested in shades of gray? I know George Clooney's Dr. Ross used to get on his high horse with parents quite a lot, but it seems he got knocked off a time or two, too. But no more. The doctor is always right, and the parents are always ridiculous and irresponsible. And since the show is done from the doctors' point of view, I guess that's the way it should be -- I know I'm not the only parent of a child with special needs who's pretty sure the doctors feel they're always right, and I'm ridiculous and irresponsible.

But still, with the audience they have and the interest in telling good stories, couldn't they at least put a responsible argument in the parents' mouths before condeming them? Last night, when Peter Scolari as the dad (and right there, you lose any chance of dramatic gravitas) started twitting about how they adopted Victor in Prague and it was just taking him so darn long to bond and it was affecting their marriage and this therapist had a lot of success, I wanted to scream. Post-institutionalized children have real problems that real families struggle with every day; kids with attatchment disorders show far more severe and frightening and complex behavior than just not bonding fast enough for a parent's taste. And the lack of respect, support and recognition these families receive from more traditional medical professionals has got to be a contributing factor as to why practitioners of extreme therapies -- legitimate or no -- come to weild such power. Physicians, examine yourselves.

Monday, March 18, 2002

March 18-22, 2002

MARCH 18, 2002

It's Monday again, and again I'm going to urge you to watch "Once and Again." The show airs tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC. Last week, it got a good ratings bump and some good publicity from a storyline that involved two teen-age girls kissing. The episode even got pulled by an affiliate in Virginia, and as we all know you can't buy that kind of press. Interesting that the great outrage seemed to center around the teen lesbian storyline and not the other major plot thread of the episode, which involved a teen-age girl's intense relationship with her English teacher, which almost but not quite ended with a kiss between the two. I guess as long as the teacher's a guy, that's okay.

Tonight, as is this show's often frustrating habit, those plots will be on the back burner, if they're mentioned at all, and completely different characters will be in the spotlight. This week, it's Judy, sister of Sela Ward's character; her off-again, on-again boyfriend, Sam; and Sam's son, who has some sort of non-specified neurological/psychological/behavioral impairment. On the only other episode he's been on, his father said only that they'd been to lots of doctors and tried lots of medications, and nothing works. Whether this means that the writers are lazy and haven't researched these problems, or the father is so self-absorbed he's taken in only enough information about his son's challenges to make him feel sorry for himself, remains to be seen. However, these writers have handled storylines on anorexia and schizophrenia with impressive accuracy and verisimilitude, and this character has never shown himself to be anything other than a self-centered lout, so I'm thinking it's the latter. Tune in tonight to see where they're going with this kid.

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MARCH 19, 2002

On Sunday, I did something I've been imagining myself doing for years: I chewed out somebody who shushed my son in church.

All those times people would give us the look -- the "why can't you control that child" look, the "what a bad boy you are" look -- I would dream of them coming over after services to reprimand us and me going into all the reasons my son can't be quiet and all the reasons they should be ashamed to call themselves Christians. Oh, I've run through those delicious conversations in my head again and again. But nobody ever actually said anything. And neither, of course, did I.

But this past Sunday... To start out, I was sick, dragging myself to Mass with about my last ounce of energy. For another, I was on my own; although we almost always attend church as a family, this weekend work schedules and illness schedules had made it most expedient for me to take my son to our church in the morning and my husband to take our daughter to another, less-kid-friendly church in the evening. I figured we'd sit in the back, in the "cry room," so my coughing and his acting up would disturb no one. When we arrived, there was no one in the room but one woman, sans children. We picked a pew, my son said something to me, and the woman turned around and gave him a stern "Shush!"

Blame it on the codein cough syrup, but I gave her what for.

I told her that this room is specifically for children who can't stay quiet. She walked over and said, sternly, "It's for crying babies, not for little boys who want to talk." And I started babbling. I don't remember what I said, but it included stating that we come back here specifically so he could make noise without bothering anybody, and what was she doing there, anyway? She said defiantly that she was sick. And I said that I was sick, too, and that this child (putting my hand on my son's head) had neurological impairments that made it hard for him to stay quiet and that's why we sit back there and just let me shush him and leave us alone and mind your own business and whatever all else. She went back to her seat, and my son, my sweet boy, started stroking my face and smiling because he knew I was upset.

And maybe that tipped this gal off, because she came back over to explain why she had taken it upon herself to shush in the first place and admonish me so: She thought I was a boy, too. She thought we were two boys. And so she was teaching us a lesson about being quiet in church. I admitted to being a mom, and not a boy; and she admitted to being kukoo, and that was that.

I don't know what I feel worse about, here: getting into a quarrel with a fellow churchgoer during Mass, or being mistaken -- a 42-year-old mother of two -- for a boy. At least now I know that, if I ever get those brochures printed up that explain all the reasons why my son behaves the way he does, I'll have to add at the end: "And by the way, the person giving this to you is his MOTHER."

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MARCH 20, 2002

And once again, we have famous adopters in the news. Newlyweds Liza Minelli and David Gest have proclaimed their desire to adopt four children, "of all races." And, well, golly, good for them. Raises the profile of adoption, you know. Nice for kids to get homes. Nice especially for kids "of all races." Good for celebs to share their bounty. Good, good, good.

And yet... ack! I'm trying to be a person of good will unto all prospective adoptive parents, but... geez, have you seen these two? They look like they just escaped from Madame Tussaud's. She's 56, on her fourth marriage; he's 48, and marrying for the first time. How easily do you suppose most regular folks with her particular history would be able to score a homestudy? And hey -- Michael Jackson was their best man. Suppose they'll ask him to write one of their letters of reference?

But really, really, you never know about these things, it will probably be perfectly okay, I'm sure they're upstanding and good-hearted people, and adoption is good, it's good for adoption to be in the news as something fabulous people do, it's good for kids to get homes, it's good, good, good. Good?

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MARCH 21, 2002

Today is my son’s ninth birthday. It’s hard to believe he’s 9 -- partially because he’s still such a little peanut, 45 pounds and 4 feet tall. If you saw him a store, and he asked you for your keys and proceeded to tell you what kind of car you have, you’d take him maybe for a precocious kindergartner. You’d be shocked to hear he’s 9. But 9 he is, and todays’ the day.

It’s also hard to believe he’s 9 because I’m a mom, and “Sunrise, Sunset” automatically plays in my head on my children’s birthdays, and I remember how we brought him home when he was 21 months old, not walking or talking, thinking the metal piece that went back and forth on top of a swing in his orphanage room was the most fascinating thing in the world. To say he’s come a long way is like saying cars have gotten a little fancier since the Model T.

Now, I work at the library at my kids’ school, and I see what 9-year-olds look and act like, and I know my boy’s not there. But when I think about how much he’s learned and grown and shown in the past seven years, and what a delightful fellow he is, I gotta tell you, I think he’s about the most wonderful 9-year-old there is.

Happy birthday to him.

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MARCH 22, 2002

My daughter, as I may have mentioned, is a Disney Channel fanatic. She'd watch it from morning to bedtime, and, come to think of it, has on a couple of vacation occasions. She begs to do her homework in front of "Even Stevens" and reruns of "Boy Meets World" (and speaking of the latter show, who knew there were so very many many many episodes to re-run? I've watched Corey and Topanga go from grade-schoolers to newlyweds back to grade-schoolers again the next day. It's sort of surreal to pass through the TV room and see what age they are on any given afternoon.)

She of course HAS to watch the Disney movies -- HAS to, because the desperate need has been programmed into her brain by the endless commercials the channel runs pumping its product. We've watched the movie where "Malcolm in the Middle" is a sick kid who only wants to race in a soapbox derby. We've watched the movies about the boy who finds out he's a leprechaun and the boy who finds out he's a mermaid and the girl who finds out her stepsister is an alien. We've watched the one about the twin basketball stars played by non-twins and the one that's like a junior-high "Private Benjamin." My desire to not even see these films once is thwarted by the fact that they are on pretty much every five minutes.

Next month, though, there's one I might actually want her to watch. Called "Tru Confessions," it's about the way a young girl comes to terms with having a developmentally disabled brother. Maybe it will give my girl some insight into her own brother and why he does the things he does. At the very least, it stars Mare Winningham as the mom, so there will be at least somebody on screen who I can watch without wincing. At any rate, since I haven't yet seen five million commercials for this one, here's a description from a Disney Channel press release for those who might be interested:

"Tru Confessions tells the story of Trudy "Tru" Walker (Clara Bryant of Disney Channel's "Under Wraps"), a precocious teenager who dreams of becoming an investigative reporter. When a local public access station has a "Win Your Own TV Show" contest, Tru jumps at the chance to show her stuff by putting together a video documentary about her twin brother, Eddie (Shia LaBeouf of Disney Channel's "Even Stevens"). After Eddie was deprived of oxygen in the womb, he was left developmentally disabled. Although she loves her brother dearly, Tru is constantly guilty that she is healthy and growing up normally while Eddie is not. However, she has no one with whom to discuss her feelings; her father has become a workaholic to keep from having to face his son's disabilities, and Tru doesn't feel as though she can open up to her mother (Mare Winningham). The documentary, then, becomes a perfect outlet for Tru to express herself. Through the process of making her film, Tru comes to appreciate Eddie for who he is and to understand that his situation is not her fault. Further, Tru's film helps her father come to terms with his son's disabilities and, ultimately, becomes the instrument that brings the family closer together."

Monday, March 11, 2002

March 11-15, 2002

MARCH 11, 2002

Big news for our family last week: My son, who will be nine next week, learned how to tie his shoes! At least, I think he did. His teacher said so. She came rushing into the library where I was working on Wednesday to tell me that he paid attention for a very long time and tied a bow a bunch of times and what an exciting thing that is. I was excited, too, but could I get him to show me his new skill at home? No way. Not even the promise of Scooby Doo lace-up sneakers could get him to give me a demonstration.

And that's okay. We've been here before. With many of his major milestones -- walking, talking, potty training -- he's refused to perform until he could do it perfectly. So I'll let him practice and practice with the teacher, get all those frustrations out, in the knowledge that eventually, he'll tie me some bows in person. Sometime, I hope, before he turns ten. Or his feet get too big for Scooby shoes.

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MARCH 12, 2002

I didn't set out to watch the "9/11" documentary on CBS Sunday night, but I was flipping through channels and stopped there for a moment and got hooked. There was something mesmerizing about the "you are there" style of the thing, waiting for the bad stuff you knew was going to happen to happen. It was a striking piece of filmmaking in many ways, but I'm a little ashamed to say that the thing that struck me the most -- more than the depictions of disaster, more than the heroic actions of firefighters -- was the uncensored use of the "F" word on prime-time network TV. The camera was running through scenes of real-life trauma and tragedy and reunion and firefighters talked the way firefighters undoubtedly talk, the way any of us might talk in such an unimaginable situation, and CBS showed it all, bleep-free.

As they should have, certainly. Certainly the death and destruction of that day were far more obscene than any language could be, and there was no bleeping that. It didn't seem exploitive or intentionally boundary-breaking, just entirely incidental to the scenes being filmed. And yet, there was something jarring about it. Intentionally or not, a boundary was broken. You gotta believe TV writers and producers all over Hollywood are going to be eying the phenomenal ratings the documentary garnered and using them as proof that if you're telling a sufficiently dramatic story, people don't mind about bad language. I'd be surprised if that "NYPD Blue" squad room doesn't start sounding like that "9/11" firehouse any old episode now.

What I want to know is, how long until Lizzie McGuire and SpongeBob SquarePants start spouting undeleted expletives? As long as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon hold out, my kids' ears will be safe.

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MARCH 13, 2002

Well, add two more names to the list of celebrity adoptive parents. Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton have made their twosome a threesome with the addition of seven-and-a-half-month-old Maddox, who hails from Cambodia. According to a report on Yahoo News, the couple met their future son while visiting a Cambodian orphanage in November, underwent all that nasty paperwork over the course of four months and officially took custody of him on Sunday in Africa, where the new mom is working on a movie. They plan to raise the child both in the U.S. and in Cambodia, where they are shopping for property.

Now part of me feels all snarky when I read news like this. Celeb couple swoops in, picks a baby, flies through paperwork and has the kid wrapped and delivered to the locale of their choice. And how do people with such carefully cultivated reputations for bizarre behavior pass a homestudy, anyway? But I'm trying to keep a positive outlook in the New Year, and not speak negatively of people, so instead I'll reflect that it's always nice to see a positive adoption story. It's always good when a child finds a home. Even if celeb adoptions raise eyebrows, they do give adoption a certain cachet, and that can't be bad. And you know, if there's ever been a Mother with Attitude, it's going to be Angelina Jolie.

So I'm taking deep breaths, and wishing the new family nothing but happiness in their new homes. But hey, mom and dad? Wait for a while before giving the kid a tattoo, okay?

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MARCH 14, 2002

I've always been a little concerned about my daughter's taste in TV. And no, I don't mean the Disney channel sit-coms she spaces out in front of in the evenings; those are at least age appropriate. I'm talking about the fact that, at age 11 and in 4th grade, she's perfectly happy watching "Barney" after school, or taking in the entire baby-friendly Nick Jr. line-up on a day off from class. Should she really be able to sit through "Bob the Builder" and "Oswald" at her advanced age? It doesn't seem right, somehow, and sometimes I've felt a little embarrassed for her.

And yet... I have to admit, there are times when I see some value to her regressive viewing habits. Last night, for example, she had to memorize the order of the planets in our solar system for a quiz this morning, and we both broke into the song from "Blue's Clues" in which Steve names them all. (Oh, come on, join in with me, you toddler moms: "The sun's a hot star, and Mercury's hot too, Venus is the brightest planet, Earth's home to me and you, Mars is the red one, and Jupiter's most wide, Saturn's got those icy rings, and Uranus spins on its side, Neptune's really windy, and Pluto's really small, Well, we wanted to name the planets, and now we've named them all. Again!") My sometimes-memory-impaired girl can rattle off those rocks without a hitch now, and it's all thanks to Steve and Blue. Who's to say she won't one day have an assignment that will hinge on some long-lost "Barney" episode? It's pretty scary to think of, but you never know.

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MARCH 15, 2002

Lately, I've just been the best little mom in the world, serving my kids a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash-browns every morning before carting them off to school. Of course, they're the microwave variety, the kind you usually get served on airplanes, but the kids scarf them down and they're hot, all right. I'm usually dashing around like a crazy person trying to get these columns posted and get myself dressed and get backpacks filled and snacks made; the kids may eat alone, and I may eat a breakfast bar at my desk hours later, but I feel good knowing that they've had something that at least resembles real food.

And for lunch? Who knows what they eat. We pay for "hot lunch," but do they eat it? They say they do. They say they eat both the entree and the miscellaneous fruits and vegetables that go with. They say this, even though my daughter comes home so hungry she could eat a half a bag of cookies. My lunch responsibility is fulfilled by filling out the order form and writing out the check. Getting them to eat it should be someone else's responsibility. I don't know whose. But I've got breakfast covered.

Dinner is my husband's job, and it gets on the table eventually. Definitely before bedtime, sometimes just. My son is a pig at dinner, making up for any lack of appetite he's shown during the day. My daughter is exactly as picky as any other 11-year-old, contemptuous of peas and broccoli and anything not exactly like something she's eaten and enjoyed in the past. It often seems to take her hours to eat, and since I was young once, many centuries ago, I certainly recognize the "maybe if I eat my food one molecule at a time my parents will eventually get tired or bored and let me go away from here" strategy. It doesn't work, but I respect the effort. And I feel a secret satisfaction that however much she fights eating dinner, in the morning, she's always ready for eggs. I have a mean way with a microwave.

Monday, March 04, 2002

March 4-8, 2002

MARCH 4, 2002

Tonight, one of the few TV shows I make it a point to watch comes back on the air, finally, after a long seven weeks. That show is "Once and Again," the life-after-divorce drama starring Sela Ward and Billy Campbell, and it's moved from Fridays to Mondays for a last-ditch attempt at finishing its third season, much less starting its fourth. If you're not already watching this show (and judging by the ratings, you're not), here are five reasons why you may want to start:

5. In the last new episode, a major character was hit by a car and ended up with a shattered pelvis. Tonight's episode (and future ones, no doubt) will involve a lot of physical therapy. Something we know about!

4. The show has one of those dream psychiatrists who's smart, funny, perceptive, caring, and not actually existant in real life. He's helping one of the show's central teen-agers deal with her anorexia, and now with her mother's injuries as well. The fact that he's played by one of the show's producers means there's probably some wish-fulfillment going on for them as well.

3. In addition to anorexia, the show features ongoing story lines on schizophrenia, depression and learning disabilities without suggesting that these things can be resolved with warm family hugs all around.

2. There's a blended family, but it ain't exactly the Brady Bunch, with jealousy among stepsisters and romantic attraction between a stepsister and stepbrother. Particularly interesting, for those of us dealing with children with special needs and siblings without, is the way one stepsister feels the other gets special treatment because of her eating disorder.

1. Hey, you have to fall asleep in front of something at 10 p.m. Billy Campbell's not exactly the worst thing to be looking at at the time.

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MARCH 5, 2002

Do kids with ADHD really just need more sleep? That's the conclusion suggested by a recent study by a University of Michigan neurologist and sleep researcher. Out of 866 children studied, those who snored were significantly more likely to be diagnosed as ADHD. This appears to contribute to theories that sleep disorders can create hyperactive behavior, since (as we all know from years of bad bedtimes) young children often react to tiredness with wiredness. It may also explain why stimulants like Ritalin sooth kids who appear overstimulated -- gives them a nice wake-up call.

It's an interesting thought, anyway. The researcher suggests that the removal of tonsils may improve ADHD behavior in some cases, and I'm always happy to hear of any solution that doesn't involve medication (beyond anesthesia, I suppose.) My son doesn't snore, but his sleep habits are something of a mystery because since he came to us at age 2, he's never cried at night while awake, just laid in his crib or bed rocking and singing and talking to himself. Could be that he doesn't get enough sleep. When he actually does sit still and stay quiet during the day, he often gets sleepy, and I've always thought that his hyperactive behavior was really an attempt to keep himself awake and alert. So it will be interesting to see if anything comes of this latest study. Though, the way research seems to work these days, the next study coming out will undoubtedly refute it.

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MARCH 6, 2002

My daughter, age almost-12, is making the big step up this cold-and-flu season from liquid medications to those in pill form. No more measuring antibiotics by the teaspoonful; this time, for her ongoing, never-ending, hair-raising cough, she has a neat little vial of blue pills. It's a grown-up thing, and she couldn't be prouder. There's only one problem: Getting them down her.

She's had some success swallowing Advils for menstrual cramps, but those of course have that neat candy coating that make them melt in your mouth a little slower. The antibiotics, on the other hand, are just pure, raw, naked medication, horrible-tasting from the moment it hits your tongue. The first night we tried having her take it with vigorous gulps of water, but it was a disaster. She started gagging as soon as the thing was in her mouth, kept spitting it out and putting it back in in various stages of dissolve and making faces and gagging. Finally she went ahead and threw up the pill and her dinner and that was that.

She was pretty much convinced, understandably enough, that she'd never, ever, ever be able to swallow that awful pill, but moms don't give up that easy. The next morning, we tried again with juice instead of water, in the hope that it would block the taste at least for a moment, and to both of our amazement, she downed the pill on the first swallow. At dinnertime, it took two swallows. I hate to say anything to jinx this, but it appears she's got this pill-swallowing thing down. Which means she really IS growing up. Dang.

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MARCH 7, 2002

You hear from time to time that antibiotics are becoming less effective, and one of the culprits listed is always the fact that parents demand them for their children, and thus they are overprescribed. There's an image of pediatricians as not being able to bend the will of overbearing parents with mere medical explanations of why antibiotics will not be effective in any particular situation. I gave my opinion of how utterly ridiculous that scenario was in the very first dispatch on this Web site, and I still think it's bunk. Consider three recent doctor visits in our family, two for my daughter and one for me.

The first time my daughter went to the pediatrician, she'd had a cough for about a week. No fever, no congestion, no symptoms of sickness other than a periodic hard, barking cough that left her red-faced and light-headed. The pediatrician checked her ears, her throat, her chest, and said that although there were no obvious signs of anything, there were probably some bacteria involved, and so my girl should take a one-week course of antibiotics. Two weeks later, antibiotics long gone, the girl is still coughing. So back to the pediatrician. Again, not much to find, but another antibiotic prescription. In neither case did I demand meds, unless the simple act of bringing your child to the doctor is considered a demand for drugs. In neither case was there a raging example of bacterial infection (although on visit two the doctor did notice some "white tenacious mucous" when examining my daughter for post-nasal drip; maybe I've been reading too much Dave Barry, but all I could think of was that "White Tenacious Mucous" would be a good name for a rock band). And in both cases, the antibiotics were given freely. They might as well have had a bowl of them out in the waiting room.

Now, I'm not saying the pediatrician was wrong, or prescribing too loosely. I trust my kids' doctor and if she feels they need antibiotics, antibiotics they shall have. But I did find it somewhat curious that when I finally caught my daughter's cough and went to my own physician, I was told it was a viral thing and antibiotics wouldn't help me out. I left with a prescription for cough syrup, a handful of decongestant samples, and get-well wishes. Maybe he missed something, or maybe pediatricians are more cautious with children -- but at any rate, somebody should stop blaming pushy parents for all those pills. I would only have been pushy had I said no.

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MARCH 8, 2002

I had another one of those "Jekyll-and-Hyde" experiences with my eight-year-old son yesterday, where I see him at his best and worst within a short period of time. The best occurred when we were walking down the sidewalk to the car after school and saw a grandma and mom pushing a baby carriage walking toward us. My son walked right up to them, said "What a cute baby! Hi, baby!" and asked, "What's his name?" He then introduced himself to the baby by name, cood to it for a bit, helped the mom put a hat on the baby's little head, and said a very polite farewell. "What a nice boy!" the grandma said to me. And I thought, she'll probably tell her friends she saw the best-behaved little boy during their walk.

Whereas in fact, behavior is the area in which he's generally considered least likely to succeed.

A little while later, we had a similar meeting with a small dog. Things started out the same; he politely inquired as to the name of the little dog, and then properly introduced himself. He petted gently and talked to the pooch. But it was like one of those movies where you keep cutting to a gauge that's showing something getting hotter and hotter and hotter, until the needle's twitching away in the red zone. By degrees, my boy got more and more excited. First he was petting quietly. Then he was kneeling with his face on the ground so the dog could sniff his hair. That must have made him feel like another dog, because then he started barking a friendly sort of bark. Then he started barking not-so-friendly and lunging at the pup, who must have been completely panicked by that point. Our sweet little dog-petting episode ended up with me holding him in a bear hug from behind and urging him to calm down, calm down, calm down.

He's getting better with modulating his level of excitement, better and better every day, but doggone it, we're not there yet.