Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Two things that made me smile this week

The first started with a big frown, as an online retailer who shall remain nameless waited until the Monday before Christmas to tell me that, oops, that item I ordered for my son, that he's been asking about every day, is out of stock. The story of the Road Map Rug and the rescuer who made sure we got it on time is on my site. Let's just say that parents of children with special needs have to stick together.

The second started with a tear in the eye, as the news of John Spencer's death (see Friday's entry) made me sadder than it should have, considering that I never met the man and have only admired his work on TV. But the outpouring of affection shown on the Television Without Pity forum over the weekend and into this week -- 46 pages worth and counting -- has inspired me with the power of the internet to bring people together. If you're a West Wing fan, stop by and add your condolences (and read a note from Aaron Sorkin expressing thanks on behalf of the producers and cast).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Late shopper

Well, I did a foolish thing. I ordered a whole bunch of Christmas presents online, like I swore I wasn't going to do this year. And I ordered them late, with just a tiny big of wiggle room to get them here for Christmas. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So here I am this week, sweating it out, making my list of expected deliveries and checking it twice, jumping up every time it sounds like a UPS truck might be in the vicinity. Maybe Santa will come through and deliver this stuff down my chimney late on Dec. 24. Or maybe, late on Dec. 24, I'll be on an endless line at Target picking up emergency gifts.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Goodbye to John Spencer, and Leo McGarry

It's silly to get all worked up about the death of an actor, but I'm feeling really sad tonight to hear that John Spencer, beloved as Leo McGarry on "The West Wing" and, before that, as Tommy Mullaney on "L.A. Law," has passed away from a heart attack at age 58. It seems I watch some episode of "The West Wing" or other most days thanks to reruns on Bravo and my DVD sets, and it's hard to imagine life without Leo. I could spend all day and night remembering and typing out some of that character's wonderful lines, but one monologue seems particularly appropriate to this blog for parents with special-needs kids, who have been down in holes before and helped each other out. Long-time fans of the show will recognize it instantly; for those who aren't, it's said by Leo, a recovering alcoholic, to his deputy Josh, who's suffering from PTSD after being injured in an assassination attempt, to let him know he has his boss' unwavering support:
This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey, you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?" The priest writes a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me. Can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out." (Text from IMDb)
If you're also mourning the loss of John and Leo, and want to share those feelings with people who won't think you're an idiot for mourning someone you've never met and a TV character, there's a bit of a wake going on at the Television Without Pity forums. Bring a big block of cheese.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bad friends

I've read that choosing the wrong friends is standard behavior for adolescents with FASD, and boy oh boy, are we seeing it this year with my 12-year-old son. Every day, constantly, I'm hearing Nick this, Nick that, Nick the other thing. When my son says something offensive, I get, "But Nick says it!" When I tell him he can't have 50 Cent CDs for, like, the 5,432nd time, I get, "But Nick has them!" Nick also, apparently, has a new video iPod, a cell phone, every possible objectionable movie and videogame, and parents who are way more lenient than I. He gets to stay up late, he gets to skip homework, he gets to do whatever he wants. Between him and Caillou's dad, I'm constantly falling on the "mean parent" side of the line.

Now, I've met Nick. He's been in my son's self-contained special-ed class for a couple of years now, and he doesn't seem to be a mean kid. He's got issues of his own, for sure, so I can't come down too hard on him. But I do think he gets a kick out of how fervently my son imitates him, and sometimes tells him to say bad or scandalous things just because he knows my boy will do it. And that, eventually, is going to be trouble, whether because the things he repeats are really bad or because Nick tells him to actually do things. This is classic FASD, logic-free, consequence-ignorant behavior, and I sure do wish I could make him see why doing what Nick does and saying what Nick says is such a bad idea.

I got a little glimpse of the future yesterday, when my son met me at the door of the school shouting, "The new-style flush!" Um, what? "Nick says it!" Apparently Nick had flushed the toilet in the boys' room with his foot and called it "the new-style flush," and now it's my son's catch phrase or something. As we walked to the car, my son yelled it out to every kid who went past. At one point, he started poking the girl walking in front of us and saying, "Hey, kid! The new-style flush! The new-style flush! Hey!" She gave him a look caught somewhere between disgust and terror, and I wrestled him away and tried talking to him, but "Nick says it" and that's that. I'll bet Nick doesn't say it constantly to every person who walks by, but he certainly gets the ball rolling as far as my son's concerned. What happens if he thinks it's funny to tell my son to say phrases with threats or obscenities? Maybe it's a good thing my guy's speech is still not real clear. Memo to speech therapist: Lay off articulation for a while, okay?

There are so many sweet and gentle and harmless kids in my son's class. Why can't he imitate that kid who never talks, hmmm? Why doesn't he fixate on him? Yeah, I know. "Choosing the wrong friends." It's going to be a long adolescence.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yet another use for duct tape

Saw an article in the paper this morning about a second-grade teacher who was suspended for duct-taping a few of her young charges to their chairs. And I know I should be all righteously indignant about it, as the mom of a child who can be a behavior problem and who needs to be dealt with using positive behavior management techniques, not abuse. But then again, you know, there are days when nothing reasonable seems to work, and, hmmm, duct tape, you say? Not touching the skin, you know, but over the clothes and under the chair? Oh, wrong, wrong, wrong, yes, but, hmmm. According to the AP report,
"The woman, a five-year employee of Land O' Pines Elementary School, reportedly used tape to confine up to four students to their seats in one day, schools Superintendent Enid Golden said. It wasn't clear what provoked the teacher, Golden said."
I wish I could say I can't imagine what it was, but, well, hmmm.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Puppy profiling

I've never been a victim of profiling myself -- unless you count the assumption that anyone under 5 feet tall must be a child, or any parent in a Child Study Team meeting must be in denial or clueless -- and so it's been interesting watching something like it taking place with, of all creatures, our very sweet and gentle dog. Princess has been a part of our family since July, and has put up with enormous amounts of overly enthusiastic behavior from my son without so much as nipping his nose. I've seen her bark a bit at other dogs who didn't show appropriate respect (certainly, at age 9, she's entitled to that), but her approach to humans has always been reserved but friendly. At most, she just wants to sniff you over to add you to the comprehensive Encyclopedia of Smells that appears to be her life's work. But some people look at this harmless old girl and see one thing: German Shepherd. And add to it, Vicious German Shepherd. Bloodthirsty German Shepherd. You can see them go pale, and check for escape routes. Most recently it was a telephone installer who saw her standing at the top of the steps when he came to our door and said, tensely, "Would you please put the dog away," in a tone of voice that conveyed, "Chain up that ruthless animal or you'll get no phone service from me!" She was kind of ticked off not to get a chance to smell him, but ruthless? Would a ruthless dog lick the face of a small boy who grabbed her muzzle and yelled "KISS KISS!" I think not.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Play time

Here's a game to play with yourself when you're looking around the internet for something to waste time on. Go to Google Images, and search for your name (type it in quotes to get only matches with your full name). If you've posted pictures of yourself on the 'net, you may find them. If not, you'll see what other people with your name look like. And maybe there will be some stuff there that's just bizarre. When I searched for my name, two images came up: one of me, from my site, and one of Napoleon Dynamite. I know why the latter is there -- it's from a Blogging Baby post in which my name is mentioned -- but still. It does give me kind of an odd impression of myself. Try it with your name, and comment on what you find.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I got your number

Students at my kids' school now have to wear ID badges around their necks at all times. This offers numerous advantages. Administrators can see at a glance when someone doesn't belong in the building. Teachers have an easier time remembering students' names, or yelling them out in the hallway, if they're written right there on the front of them. Plus, of course, now we can take advantage of that student ID discount at the movies. On the other hand, theft and loss of badges is going to be a problem; already, after a week, I heard of a kid who had his stolen from his gym locker. Kids who routinely forget their badges at home will be penalized, giving the behavior-challenged another hurtle to jump. Those signs around everyone's necks, teachers too, are a reminder that we no longer live in a world where you didn't have to lock school doors and account for everyone constantly. And though I'm thrilled to be able to scan ID badges under the bar-code reader in the library instead of making kids spell their names for me, it sort of makes me feel like I'm working at a supermarket, and the kids are packaged goods. Nothing but a number, baby! Wear it with pride.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Questionable goals

Had first marking period conferences with my kids' teachers this week, and all seems to be well. One common note struck by each of my daughter's teachers is that they've made themselves a little project of getting her to speak up more, stand up for herself, answer questions, talk without fear. It's nice that they all like her so much and want to help her be more confident, and, gee, good luck with that, but I've got to wonder whether teaching a nice quiet girl to be a loudmouth is the kind of thing that's going to turn out to be maybe not such a great idea. If she starts mouthing off more at home, I'm going to blame them.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unsatisfactory report cards

I try not to make a big deal of grades with my kids, but their new report cards are just screwy. Their middle school hasn't used letter grades on report cards for as long as I've had kids there; they get numbers for each class, and up until this quarter, the explanation has been "70-100: Passing. Under 70: Failing." That's at least to the point. Kids still talk in terms of letter grades, but since I encourage my kids to work hard and just worry about passing, I'm cool with the simple pass/fail designation. But now the school has switched to a new computer program with new explanation: "85-100: Honor Roll. 70-84: Good. Under 70: Unsatisfactory." Classifying any grade above 85 as "honor roll" is kind of misleading, since at least in the past, you've had to get every grade over 85 to make it. And then, that 70-84 "good" -- in other words, if you blow the honor roll, you might as well get a D, it's all the same. I guess that's nice for kids who have to try hard to get a D, but it kind of stinks for those who try hard to get a nice solid B. And now kids don't fail anymore, they're just "unsatisfactory"? Gentle's nice, but only if they're not still going to make you repeat the year if you're unsatisfactory in a whole lotta subjects. I don't know. Generally, terminology that rewards effort and softens failure is good for learning challenged kids like mine. But this stuff just sounds like it was made up by a committee, based on whatever the way the educational wind is blowing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Are you likely/unlikely to call again?

My daughter had her first experience with phone surveys last night, and although she claimed to have enjoyed it, I don't think she'll be quite as curious about who's on the phone when we hang up quickly from now on. The survey was on moviegoing habits, and although I usually refuse to participate in such things, the lady on the phone sounded nice and must have got me in a soft moment, because I volunteered to go along. Unfortunately, my demographic was filled (or more likely, she was just being nice, and they really don't care about what 46-year-olds think), so I offered up my 15-year-old daughter to answer some questions. This was partly to give her some telephone experience, and partly to get back at surveyors who call cold like this -- here, try asking your questions to a kid with language impairments! Ha! The questioning went on for 15 minutes, with the lady asking my girl if she'd heard of a movie, if based on description of it she'd be definitely likely/somewhat likely/might or might not/probably unlikely/or definitely unlikely to see it. She'd heard of a few of them, was completely stumped by a few others, and many of them had me, as I listened in secret, ready to say "We would never let her go see that!!!" I did finally speak up when they tried to enlist her into some sort of online movie reviewing group that might win her a trip to Hollywood and probably take personal information of unacceptable detail. All in all, I think it was interesting to her, and somewhat safe. And maybe after the experience of repeating things over and over for my sweet but not always comprehending daughter, these survey folk will spread the word not to call our house anymore.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Novel interlude

Thanks to a friend with a book club membership (thanks, Carolyn!), I just took a little break from my usual ceaseless parenting book reading and polished off an actual novel. Light from Heaven is the latest, and according to the book jacket, the last in the Mitford series of books by Jan Karon. These books are my reading equivalent of comfort food, something that goes down easy and is mildly meaningful without requiring a whole lot of work. I love being able to just sit down and lose myself in a tale of Father Tim now and then, the biggest problem being that I tend to read them cover to cover in a short time and then get sent back to the purgatory of parenting books yet again. Glad for the break, anyway, however brief.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Parental guidance in gift cards

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I really am an old fogey, despite my pathetic attempts to reassure myself that I'm still semi-hip. But I don't know. I went to Sam Goody with my daughter on Saturday to get a music gift-certificate for her friend's birthday party. A gift certificate. Seems harmless enough, right? The girl behind the counter started to pick up a gift card with a dog in a Santa hat, but then asked: "Is it for Christmas?" And I said, "No, a birthday." And she grabbed a different card, one that ... Well. The card was glued to a larger carboard piece that folds up to make a nice little gift card presentation. And on this larger piece was a black silhouette graphic of a young woman rocking out. She had her punky-haired head tilted to one side and her chest positively thrust out on the other, so that when you look at this item your eyes immediately go to that part of her anatomy. Making this more disconcerting is the fact that the fold in the cardboard piece hit right across this area, giving the ... chest a rather sharp tip that looked like a, well, let's just say she appeared to be either braless or clothesless.

By the time I had adequately taken this little piece of artwork in, the girl had already encoded the card with my purchase amount and handed it to me with a receipt. I examined it as we walked to the car, and I examined it again in the car, and I had my daughter examine it, and I asked if it would make her uncomfortable to give it to her (male) friend. She finally allowed that it did bother her, although maybe because I was bothering her so much, and so I walked back into the store and told the kids behind the counter that I had a teen-age girl giving this to a teen-age boy and the design was just too suggestive. They looked at me as if to ask if the caves were cold and the dinosaurs scary back when I was their age, but they exchanged it, and we got the dog in the Santa hat. It's bad enough that so much of the music being sold to kids these days has an X rating. Can't the gift cards at least be rated G?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I'm dreaming of a Christmas that is not here yet

I keep checking the calendar, and it keeps telling me that we're in mid-November. I'm pretty sure Thanksgiving is next week, not last week. It's still fall, isn't it? I'm just making sure, because the radio station my daughter listens to has already started playing all Christmas carols, all the time. A street I drove down last night already had its Christmas decorations hanging from its streetlights. A Hummer I saw at a stoplight had strings of green lights all over it. And I thought maybe I had been in a time warp of some sort and it was December 19, not November. What's that you say? No? They're all just jumping the gun? Well, alright. Now that you mention it, I do see that our neighbors, who usually put up enough Christmas lights to land planes by, have not yet started stringing. The holidays will be here before we know it. But they're not here yet. People, get a grip.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Getting in gear

I had a chat today with the child study team leader at my kids' middle school, and now have IEP meetings set on my calendar for next February and March. This is one of those rare years when I'm more worried about my daughter's meeting than my son's, because he has two more years at this same school, where they seem to be handling him pretty well, but my daughter's moving on to high school. I'm less worried about her actually doing okay in high school than I am about her initial transition; if it's as difficult as her into-middle-school transition was, it'll be a very tough time. I've got the phone number of the transition person at the high school and will try to touch base with her and find out what we can do to make things go as smoothly as possible. But hey, you know, it's adolescence. What are the odds of anything going smoothly at all?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Classic is in the eye of the beholder

If you've just been dying to watch old episodes of "Adventures of Brisco County Jr.," "Head of the Class" and "Kung Fu," good news: AOL will soon be offering these and other "classic" TV shows in streaming video for internet viewing. Some of the shows to be shown actually do have some cultural flashback value; I might be interested in watching "Alice" and "Eight Is Enough" again, and I'm sure there are people who'd feel the same about "The Fugitive," "Maverick," "Lois & Clark" and "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." But I have trouble believing there's really a big audience pining away for "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" repeats. It makes me think about "The Hat Squad," a blink-and-you-missed-it series that got replayed endlessly on one of the few channels we had available while we were in Russia adopting our kids 11 years ago this month. I remember watching it with Russian dubbed over the voices and thinking: So this is where bad American TV goes when it dies. But now, I guess that distribution path is changing. Apparently, as with so much else, it goes on the internet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Candyshop: A Literary Analysis"

Look for gunfire to be flaring up at a bookstore near you: Rapper 50 Cent, whose movie debut already has a fatality rate, is putting out a line of "G-Unit Books," novellas and graphic novels of "street fiction" using the same themes found in his raps. According to publisher Pocket/MTV Books, "These tales will tell the truth about The Life; the sex, guns and cash; the brutal highs and short lives of the players on the streets." Oh, middle school English teachers, you have my sympathies. You're going to be getting some way interesting book reports.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Shopping, or not

I almost got my Christmas shopping started this weekend, but no: the dinosaur book I got for my nephew was so perfect for him that his father had already gotten it. So now I step back from square two to square one, where I shall no doubt stay until well after Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, is it bad to really, truly, seriously want to have it catered by Boston Market? They'll even give you a whole turkey now, so you can, you know, take it out of the oven and pretend. Do you have to tell your family if you get it from a take-out place, or can you sneak things into dirty baking dishes and pieces of china and act like you slaved away all day. It's not like my son wouldn't out me in a minute, but it's a nice dream. Mmmmmmmm, pre-mashed potatoes!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cleaning up after the packrat

Pfew! The room clean-up is done, or at least phase one. That phase was a two-day event of taking everything out of my son's room, every piece of torn paper, every ripped-up plastic bag, every destroyed toy car, every bit of the 5,000-piece grocery store set he got for Christmas a couple of years ago, every key, every old sock that he pretends is fish for his cooking games, every receipt in his receipt collection, every last thing. That was yesterday. Today was sorting through it and putting almost everything back, because even if it looks like trash to you and it looks like trash to me, it looks like a compulsively necessary treasure to the boy. I don't even fight. If it's put away and I don't have to look at it, it can stay. The room is reassembled now, in sightlier fashion, but that doesn't count the huge amount of junk on top of the unused bunkbed, and the piles of junk down by the garage where he enjoys packing up the car with clutter and unpacking it repeatedly. Those two spots are a job for another day. Or month. Or maybe, year. I'm beat.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Who made this big mess?

You may not be hearing from me for a while. Since my kids are home from school these two days, plus the weekend, I have set this time aside for cleaning my son's room. It may not be enough. I may wander too deep into the jungle of toys and car magazines and plastic shopping bags and never be heard from again. It's the kind of risk a mom has to take. I've tolerated my guy's space looking like the sort of thing a homeless person would set up under a highway overpass for quite some time now, but no more: Every so often, the place has to be completely cleared out and things put back in some semblance of order, and that time has come. So here I go. Once more into the breach. Talk among yourselves for a while, okay.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dinner dread

It looks like Thanksgiving's going to be at our house this year, so I have to dig up my recipes and start planning. Last time we did the dinner I put my son, the Food Network fan, in charge, and helped him put it all together. Hopefully, he'll be up for it again this year. My wish for the day is that I can keep from being over-the-top stressed and obnoxious about it. Maybe we could just order from Boston Market ... Speaking of recipes, if you've got some great Thanksgiving recipes for kids with food allergies, diabetes, or other dietary restrictions, come share them on the Parenting Special Needs forum. We can all use some new ideas now and then.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Why I hate November

November is the most ridiculous month for school in our district. The kids had a complete week of school last week, but this week they have a half-day off tomorrow for election day and then no school Thursday and Friday due to a teacher's conference. They have another complete week, then a half-day off for Thanksgiving eve and no school Thursday and Friday. Very nice job of keeping a routine going there, guys. At least in December, we get all five days off in a row.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Where are the parents?

More proof that I'm the most overprotective parent in the world: Friday night, my daughter played trombone at a football game with the high school band. It was "Eighth Grade Band Night," an annual event during which kids who will be in high school the following year get a little preview of what it's like to be marching on the field and playing rah-rah music in the stands. When it was over, my girl wanted to go somewhere for a snack, and we picked the nearby Burger King because it was, well, nearby. Big mistake. The parking lot of the fast food joint was filled with a giant mob of unchaperoned kids, who would have overflowed the inside of the restaurant, too, had an apoplectic manager not been stationed at the door to yell YOU HAVE TO BUY SOMETHING TO COME IN HERE. YOU CAN'T JUST HANG AROUND.

Now, I was a kid once, too, and I was in high school, and I hung out at a local eatery after football games and school programs with my friends, without parents, and I, you know, put salt shakers upside down and made messes and laughed at apoplectic managers and did the things kids do, or did back in the Stone Age. But that was high school, and that was a time when you did not open the paper every day to hear about kids being abducted or abused. My daughter saw plenty of her friends from middle school there, traveling in unaccompanied gangs, long after dark, looking young and vulnerable and in need of some parental supervision, okay? There's one boy we've known since he was in second grade, a kid I'd lay money on has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a kid who's pretty much had a "headed for trouble on the fast train" sign hung around his neck since he was in elementary school, and there he is running around Burger King, not a grown-up in sight. And you just know when these kids get in trouble, their parents are going to say, "We had no idea!" Well, folks, here's a good way to get an idea: Get your butt to Burger King. I could have used a little company over in the geriatric section.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Celebrate adoption

Apparently November is National Adoption Month, which is appropriate for my family since November was the month in 2004 that we spent in Russia adopting our kids. The entire month, although it was only supposed to be (cue "Gilligan's Island" theme) a two-week trip, a two-week trip. Whatever your reason for wanting to celebrate adoption this month, Carrie Craft at the adoption site has a calendar of 30 daily pro-adoption activities to fill up your month. Believe me, it's better than watching bad American TV dubbed into Russian 24/7.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The look of longing

Like I don't have enough to do trying to decipher the secret messages in the behaviors of my children, I'm spending a lot of time lately wondering just what on earth it is my dog wants. She looks at me with such purpose, with such clear intent to communicate, and yet ... well, who knows. I always seem to guess wrong. She's not cross with me, never seems to lose her patience that I will, in fact, figure it out, rather like the way I use my super sweet gentle voice when my son is out of control and just keep telling him telling him telling him what he needs to do. Maybe I'm as incomprehensible to him sometimes as Princess is to me. Oh, well. She's always happy to have a walk, and even though she goes back to her silent imploring afterwards, leading me to believe that the walk was not actually the thing, it at least occupies her for a bit. Maybe I'll go give her one now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

November is novel month

Anyone out there participating in NaNoWriMo this year? National Novel Writing Month, for long, encourages prospective writers to put their fingers to the keyboard and write a 50,000+ word novel between November 1 and 30. I actually did sign up this year, although whether I'll really be able to follow through with all the other stuff I've got on my plate is questionable. Still, it's a nice, hopeful kind of thing to do. I have an idea for a young adult novel with a learning-disabled heroine that's working itself out in my mind. If you're noveling this month too and have anything online to show for it, comment or e-mail me and I'll link to you here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween horrors

Here's my idea of a scary Halloween: Drop your teen child off in the dark of night in the middle of a street in a strange neighborhood to go trick-or-treating with friends, only one of whom you know and you don't even trust him that much. That's the shivery way I spent my October 31, and although everything worked out okay, I'm not sure I would do it again. First she was to be dropped off at her friend's house, which was okay, because I know where that is and I know his parents. At the last minute, the drop-off point changed to the friend's friend's house, which was less okay but at least I sort of knew where it was, and could walk her in and get the gist of things. But then we couldn't find the house -- wouldn't do to have like, house numbers that you could see in the dark, would it? -- and happened to see her friend walking on the street. My girl just kind of jumped out and ran off, although not before I had the cell phone number of her friend and had passed my cell phone on.

As I drove away, I thought of every possible worst-case scenario: Would she get lost? Would the kids be nice? Would she get hit by a car? Did she know how to dial my cell phone? But as it turned out, she called about an hour-and-a-half later from her friend's house, saying she was tired of trick-or-treating and wanted to be picked up. Her friend had continued on without her, and she was worried that he thought she was a baby, or just no fun. She's a little too old to be excited about trick-or-treating, and a little too young to be comfortable walking around at night with no adults. We both assumed that put her off the track with her merry trick-or-treating parent-free friends, but maybe not. I saw her friend this morning at school, and he mentioned that, well, he's a little too old to be excited about trick-or-treating, and a little to young to be comfortable walking around at night with no adults. Next year, I'm thinking we'll need to throw a Halloween party. At our house. With a spotlight on the address.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Conference call

If you get a call from your child's teacher with some unsettling news, like classroom misbehavior or academic struggles, where do you imagine that teacher being as he or she has this conversation? Some private office, a conference room, a teacher lounge? I never think of my kids' teachers as speaking in a big group of people, with a voice loud enough to be heard, but I know of course that they usually are. At my kids' elementary school, I frequently heard teachers standing in the middle of the busy office arguing with some parent or other, and now, of course, I hear more than my fair share of confidences simply by virtue of standing near the phone when I volunteer at the library. That's the way it is, but it's not the way it should be, is it? Aren't there issues of privacy and confidentiality being violated? The other day, I was in the library when a teacher actually trooped a student to the phone, made him stand there as he called the parent, and then spoke loudly and theatrically about how bad the kid was doing. Bad enough I was an audience to this, but there was a group of students sitting at computers quite nearby who got an earful as well. I know the kid only slightly, and don't know how much he cares about being onstage or what the teacher has put up with to get him there, but still. I hate when teachers belittle a child in public, and even though that wasn't the intent of this call, given the setting it was certainly the effect. When you get a call from your child's teacher, do you assume it's private? And how bothered would you be if it's not?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I blame 50 Cent

Apparently, child's play isn't what it used to be. Today, between frames in the parent-child bowling league I'm in with my son, I was invited to play a little challenge match of rock-paper-scissors with teeny little guy from another team, maybe four years old. He made the universal pounding fist motion at me, and we played peacefully for a little while, scissors beating paper, paper beating rock, rock beating scissors. Then, one round, I did scissors and he did one pointing finger. I asked him what that was supposed to be, figuring it was a scissors gone awry in the heat of the moment, but no. "A GUN!" he answered proudly, reveling in his triumph. I guess a gun does beat all, but somehow it just ain't sportsmanlike.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Caillou's dad: Public Parenting Enemy #1

I've limited my son to watching only the mildest of TV kiddie fare because fun flashy Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network stuff makes him jumpier than SpongeBob on speed, but while the likes of "Arthur" and "Zoboomafoo" and "Little Bear" do keep him calm, there are always complications. Right now, for example, Caillou's dad has become the exemplar of all that parents should be and all that I am not. 'Cause see, Caillou's dad says yes to everything. No matter what Caillou wants to do, his dad finds a way to make it fun and safe and cool and cartooneriffic. Why, my son would like to know, can't I be more like Caillou's dad? Why can't I say yes all the time? I try to explain that we only see a tiny part of Caillou's day, and maybe his dad says no all the time in between; I try to explain that good parents have to say no sometimes; I try to explain that it's easy to say yes when you're a cartoon character; I try to explain that Caillou never asks his dad if he can listen to 50 Cent. But it's no use. Caillou's dad is cool, and I'm a killjoy. You've got to ask yourself, though: What did Caillou's dad say yes to that caused all his kid's hair to fall out?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Dance fever

The good thing about chaperoning middle school dances is that if something happens and your child wants to leave, you're right there on the spot and able to come to the rescue. And the bad thing about chaperoning middle school dances is that if something happens and your child wants to leave, you're right there on the spot and able to come to the rescue. When my daughter came out of the dance crying last night and insisting on going home, I could hardly march her back in there. She claimed there was something about the volume of the music that was making her sick, and surely the music was loud, and she's been sickened by heavy bass before. But she's also been to dances before with loud music and loved them. Was it really the music, or the fact that her friend wasn't there and she couldn't find anyone to hang with? Had someone said something that hurt her feelings? Was her musical discomfort overridden in the past by the fact that she was having a good time with her friend, and now it wasn't? She insisted it was just the music, and I took her home. But if I wasn't there, she'd have had to stick it out, and maybe she'd have found some way to have fun. Mom on hand for rescue: Good or bad? A little bit of both, I think.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Testing a hypothesis

We're going to have an interesting child behavior experiment with my son this holiday season. In the past, his school behavior has always taken a sharp downturn around the end of November or beginning of December, whenever they start practicing in earnest for the dreaded holiday program. It's been my theory that the rehearsals, with their disruptions of routine, extended exposure to mainstream classmates, and expectations to stand or sit quietly, are major stressors for him, and leave him with fewer resources for self-control and restraint through the rest of the day. One year, I even had him pulled from the program because it wasn't worth all the agony.

But this year, he's in middle school. No school-wide holiday programs there. If you're not in the band or in the chorus, you're off the hook. So now we'll see. Is it really the rehearsals that give him the crazies? I wonder if I can get some sort of research grant for this stuff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bad news Tuesday

I volunteer at the library at my kids' school, and do most of my work at a counter near the phone that teachers use to call parents for reasons that are seldom celebratory. I've heard my fair share of calls regarding missed homework, failed tests, needed conferences and other areas of concern. But yesterday was particularly sad, as I listened to one poor teacher call seven parents to let them know their kids were acting up, dropping out, and generally failing her class. For one kid, constantly being the class clown was the source of the trouble; for another, rampant disrespect; for another, no work being done at all. I don't think it was easy for the teacher to make those calls, and undoubtedly it wasn't easy for the parents to hear them. Kind of ironic that she ended each conversation with, "Have a nice day." Not much chance of that, anymore.

What struck me most while listening to these calls was the vast relief I felt at never getting one of them. I've never been more grateful for special education. If my son were forced to be in a mainstream class, he could easily fit many of the descriptions I heard the teacher making. But in the structure of a small self-contained class, he's able to function acceptably. Later that afternoon, I went for conferences with my daughter's teachers and heard how great she was doing, either despite of her learning problems or because of the help she's getting for them. At least they all know that if they ever have to talk to me, I'm already by the phone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Depression fiction

Books for older children and young teens are just a minefield, aren't they? There's a stretch there when every book seems to just be about misery and despair. It's the kind of thing that gets satirized in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books, and debated when the misery and despair are because of social issues that some parents don't want their kids reading about, but even in the little innocent paperbacks about run-of-the-mill school problems, the unhappiness runs so darn deep it's hard for me to read them. I remember reading some Marvin Redpost books with my daughter a few years ago and finding them semi-sadistic, with the amount of problems piled upon the young protagonist, chapter after chapter after chapter. False friends. Uncaring teachers. Inattentive parents. At every turn, no one to see things his way. At every turn, blame and shame. As a mom, it just made me want to scream, and knock some heads together. I'm getting those same feelings from the latest book I'm reading with my daughter, "Best Friends Forever?" We're maybe six chapters in, and if I didn't know better I'd think it might be a book about teen suicide, because man, the author is hard on her young narrator. And I know from reading the back cover that there's more unhappiness to come before -- oh, usually it's the last chapter or so -- everything works out happily. It's said that kids are so miserable in these years of their lives, so into the drama of their days, that they want to read about other kids having jackhammer-like problems so they can relate. Maybe. But man, couldn't we just lighten up a little bit? Some kids need their moms reading along, and this stuff's bringing me down.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Desperately worried about "Housewives"

I've started to get into "Lost" a little this season, but last year's other big passed-me-by hit, "Desperate Housewives," is still passing me by. But today there's been a little rumble about it on one of the special-needs lists I subscribe to, because apparently a character who's been chained up in a basement has been revealed to be mentally challenged and possibly violent. This is the sort of thing that special-needs moms suit up for. Misrepresentations of our children's disabilities. Implications that the developmentally disabled are dangerous and should be locked away. Suggestions that the lock-away spot could just as well be in your basement. Maybe the recent news story about special-needs kids being kept in cages by an adoptive family makes this subject a little sorer. And I know that some folks are going to think it's ridiculous to take a storyline on "DH" with any degree of seriousness, but hey, "It's just a TV show" has never stopped special interest groups from griping before. I'm just saying, from what I've been hearing about the direction the ratings have been going for this once hot number, the writers might not want to be making any enemies just now.

If you're concerned about this or are organizing a protest or merely want to go somewhere publicly and say, "Oh, lighten up," I've set up a topic on's Parenting Special Needs Forum on this very subject. Stop by and sound off.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Making doll ownership more like adoption

Blogging Baby, a weblog I'm quickly becoming addicted to, has an item about baby dolls being sold in some sort of elaborate hospital adoption scenario, and the outrage expressed by adoption advocates over this insult to adoptive children and families. I'm not usually one to get riled about the casual use of the word "adoption" to describe the caretaking of animals or portions of highway, but I have to admit this ploy by Lee Middleton Orginal Dolls to increase the perceived value of high-priced playthings by pretending that going into a store with a hundred bucks in your pocket and picking out a dolly you fancy is anything like the process of adoption is offputting to say the least. Will it make people believe that adoption is buying babies? Will it make children think that if a child they know was adopted, that they were at one time in a display case at Saks? Maybe, maybe not.

Still, if the Middleton company feels strongly that pretending its dolls are adopted is a big selling point, then why not take it all the way? Give the children who will be "adopting" its dolls a true adoption experience. Send social workers to their home to make sure their toys are well cared-for and that they know what will be involved in having an additional doll in the household. Make them pay for a homestudy before they can even be considered for getting a doll. Make them get certified letters from their teacher and scout leader and best friend declaring their suitability for doll ownership. Make them take classes on doll care and repair. Make them wait months or years, and then call them in the middle of the night and tell them they've got to get to the store right now. To give some kids an international adoption experience, lock them in the store for a couple of weeks or months before they get to leave with their new doll. Definitely send some more social workers afterward to make sure everything's going okay, and the doll's not tucked in a toychest or missing limbs or sitting somewhere naked. And don't forget to advise the new doll owner's friends to ask her from time to time, "Is that your real doll?"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Kids and horses

It's two movies in two weekends for me, a kind of unbelievable record for recent days. This time, it was a family flick, "Dreamer," and I went with my husband and kids. Just the experience of sitting with my son while he calmly and quietly watches a movie with no talking, no jumping around, no needing to leave partway through, is worth the admission price. He's gotten so good at being good at the movies. When did that happen? I was pretty surprised when the person in front of him asked him to stop kicking the seat, because he totally wasn't, just crossing his legs and bumping the seat along the way. Fortunately, we were able to move him to a seat with nobody in front of him, before I had to stick up for him in a way that would probably have made things worse. He was so good! Don't dis him when he's being good.

The movie, you say? What about the movie? Well, the movie was charming. If you've seen the trailer, you know pretty much every plot point and every emotional beat in the movie, but who cares, it's a beautiful little girl and a beautiful horse and a happy ending and who can resist? I particularly enjoyed the fact that the mother was always right. The story would have you believe it was the child who orchestrated this triumph for her dad but really, if Mom hadn't been setting things up and pushing her husband to do the right thing, the kid never would have met the horse in the first place and the story wouldn't have happend. That mom was a hero, I'll tell you. I bet she would have told my boy that he shouldn't care what other people say, he should just go ahead and kick that seat if he needed to. Hey, it's all about living your dreams.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

CSI: New Jersey

It was like a scene from CSI around our house this evening. My husband noticed it first: There was a trail of blood all around our room. The trail continued with blood on the hallway carpet and blood on the living room floor. We checked ourselves for open wounds, and then checked the kids, but it appeared that we were all in tact. And so finally, our forensic expertise turned to ... the dog. Who had her nails clipped earlier in the day. And had apparently scuffed them up enough on a couple of walks during the day that one had started to bleed. That's as best we could figure, anyway, since there was a little blood on her paw but no apparent wounds there, either. Maybe Gil Grissom could have come up with a better solution. But we just washed her paw, stuck a sock over it, wiped up the crime scene, and went on with our evening.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Stealth lyrics

My daughter often begs to be allowed to download songs that I've forbidden because of racy lyrics. She swears that she doesn't understand the words and just likes the music, and while I'm pretty sure she's right, I still put my foot down. But you know, songs sneak up on you. I've been enjoying Ryan Adams' "Come Pick Me Up" ever since I got the Elizabethtown soundtrack. I kind of hummed along with the lovely melody and didn't pay much attention to the words ... until I was watching the movie, and heard the song blasted at me in seriously overamplified stereo. Suddenly, it sounded like the singer was saying some of those words you can't say on my children's iPods. I thought I must be imagining it, because the song is so pretty and affecting, but sure enough, I googled the lyrics, and, well, hmm. I guess if I wanted to be absolutely consistent, I'd have to ditch this song out of my iTunes player and iPod, but part of my argument is that some music is for adults, and so I reserve the right to keep it from my kids. This song, too. I'll keep listening to it, and enjoying it. But I probably won't be able to keep my eyebrows from popping up every time he hits that chorus. And I'll think about Paula Dean's character in the movie, carefully covering the ears of the young person near her when the talk gets too salty.

Traveling companions

I watched the new "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" DVD with my daughter over the weekend, and was reconfirmed in my impression that it was a great movie for mother-daughter viewing, sweet but not too sweet, with good performances and a brisk pace that takes us through four girls' summer without a lot of time wasted. Many of the movies my daughter likes I just can't suspend disbelief enough to enjoy, but with these spirited young actresses and a story that doesn't condescend to them too much, I'm willing to travel along. It helped that we had just completed the book, which was quite a feat for my daughter. She doesn't often read big, long, jumpily plotted books that are popular with her peers, but seeing the movie made her want to read the book, and reading the book made her want to see the movie again. To mothers with daughters of reluctant readers, I say, look to the pants!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Covers that need covering up

What makes a great magazine cover? Nudity, apparently. A naked John Lennon kissing Yoko Ono on the cover of Rolling Stone and a naked Demi Moore cradling her pregnant belly on the cover of Vanity Fair took the top two places in the American Association of Magazine Editors' list of the Top 40 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years. A shirtless Mohammed Ali is #3, but at least he's wearing boxing shorts. Also on the list, at #27, are nude Dixie Chicks on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. These sorts of lists exist mostly so people can disagree with them, but I'm not really enough of a student of cover art to be able to say one way or the other whether these are the tops (and bottoms) or not. I'm glad to see that classic New Yorker drawing of the world as seen from Manhattan make the top 5, though. If it was the Naked City, it might have hit #1.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Me vs. all that is cool

What would you do about this? I've written here before that there are artists I won't let my kids listen to, because I don't think their songs are appropriate for kids. Not to say they should be censored or banned or forced to write about the moon in June, just that children and young teens don't need to be listening to that stuff, at least not in my house. So now: My son has been reporting that in his middle-school art class, which is a self-contained cycle class but is led by an art teacher who is not a special educator, the teacher plays Green Day CDs. That's bothered me some; I'm sure she's a Green Day fan, and I like their music too, but I've looked up their lyrics and a lot of them are -- as befits an adult act -- political or provocative or worded in a way that, again, isn't appropriate for kids. And then: The last couple of days, my son has reported that they get to use the computer to do whatever they want in art class, and they've been going to (home to another artist I've nixed) which, his friend promptly added, has pictures of barely-dressed women. Now, I went to the site, and I couldn't find the women (probably because I don't have the same motivation as some of the boys in his class), but I did see right off the bat more guns than I want my kid looking at in art class, I'll tell you.

But what do I do? Can I really storm into that art class like Tipper Gore and tell this woman to stop polluting the mind of my boy with her mature music and her dangerous websites? I'll feel like a bat out of the '50s. I know I can't control everything my kids see and hear, but should they be hearing and seeing this stuff in school, in class? Do I have a legitimate beef? I fear I'm going to be taking on the "cool teacher" here. There's a reason it's called "Parenting Isn't Pretty."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Catch it while you can

Just went to see the new Cameron Crowe movie, Elizabethtown, a rare cinema outing for me and an entirely worthwhile one. I've been a fan of Crowe's since "Say Anything" and most especially since "Almost Famous," and since the reviews for this particular personal outing by the director have been, shall we say, less than kind, I wanted to get out there and see it a) while there was still a chance that a good first weekend could save it and b) before it disappeared. And while I won't disagree with the critics that the movie is meandering and formless and anecdotal and features a silly tap dance by Susan Sarandon, I will heartily disagree that those are bad things. And let's face it, who cares what's happening in the rest of the film, just looking at Orlando Bloom for two hours ain't a bad deal right there.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wonder what your mother-in-law thinks? Turn on the news!

Recent reports in the media about Katie Holmes' dad complaining publicly about his daughter and fiance Tom Cruise getting pregnant before getting hitched have got me thinking ... man, whatever your feelings about this particular couple, can you just imagine what a joy it would be to have everything your parents or your in-laws have to say about the way you're conducting your relationship or managing your family turned into a press release? Most of us don't even want to hear that kind of thing when it's lobbed at us across the dinner table, much less blaring out from every newstand and Web browser. Would you wish that even on your worst enemy? I don't know; maybe you would. As for me, I'm thinking that, like Disneyland, the gym and L.A. freeways, dissing by the elders ought to be a celebrity privacy zone.

School pictures, again

My kids have school picture day today. I used to get really excited about that, but now I'm an old veteran parent with a drawerful of unused photo packages and, I don't know, the thrill is gone somehow. Last year was kind of a mixed bag; my son, for once, didn't turn on the cheesy smile for his school picture and actually looked okay, but my daughter's picture apparently got lost somewhere along the line, after we viewed a sample and paid and had our check cashed but before we got the packet, and so we have nothing, not even the stupid sample with the word "sample" stamped across it. So this year, you know, I hope they smile nice and keep their clothes clean and actually deliver the goods. But it will all probably wind up right back in the drawer with the rest of them. Do you order school pictures? And do you actually do anything with 'em?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Love that technology

I have no plans to buy a big expensive video iPod -- my old iPod mini is working just fine for me -- but I'm way excited over the fact that the iTunes store is now selling episodes of TV shows that can be watched on the computer, too. Talk about filling a niche I didn't even know existed! For now, the only shows available are a few ABC shows (including hot tickets "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives") and a couple of Disney Channel sit-coms (which my daughter's going to be bugging me for), but surely it won't be long before other networks jump on, and I'll be able to, say, do something else on Sunday night at 8 p.m. knowing I'll have a $1.99 episode of "The West Wing" waiting for me the next day. Sure, I could tape it, but history shows that I'd probably forget (even if I did have a working VCR). How cool to have backup.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Having "the talk"

I've been trying for some time to think about how, when, and whether to talk to my son, now 12, about sex. On the one hand, he's probably past the age at which he should know the nuts and bolts about the birds and the bees. On the other hand, giving his impulsivity and tendency to perseverate on words and phrases, I'm afraid he might share any information given to every stranger he meets, or maybe shout it out in the cafeteria. Is no news good news? The authors of Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities say no: You've got to tell, and you've got to tell now. Children with special needs are extremely vulnerable to abuse, and all the more so if they're ignorant of the way things are supposed to work. The book spends a lot of time dealing with the need to give intellectually challenged kids satisfying, full lives, and not as much dealing with problems like my cafeteria nightmare, but it's still interesting reading for parents who are trying to figure out how our kids will fit in the real world, and how we can best get them there.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Somebody put some clothes on this girl

Here's yet another story to make me feel ancient: Esquire magazine has named Jessica Biel as its "Sexiest Woman Alive." Now, I'll acknowledge that I'm not exactly Esquire's target audience, and so its selections will always be somewhat inscrutable to me, but ... Jessica Biel? My daughter watches DVDs of early "7th Heaven" seasons on a more or less constant basis, so it's hard enough for me to think of the actress who plays tomboy Mary as a woman, much less the sexiest one alive. I know she's 23 now and all, and has spent a lot of time and effort and publicist dollars to be seen as anybody but tomboy Mary, but sheesh. The sexiest woman alive? Really? Hmmm.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Another view of autism

I've been reading a lot about autism lately -- whether it's a disorder or a difference, and whether curing or even treating it is approriate. Those seem like bizarre questions to parents who devote so much of their lives to finding ways to help their children fit in and succeed, but a lot of people with autism are starting to stand up and say, "Don't cure me!" There's a very effective portrayal of that point of view at Getting the Truth Out, but although some of it may be difficult reading you have to keep going all the way through, because it starts out saying something very different than what it actually means.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Middle school torture

Reasons why I'm glad I'm not in middle school #1,565,823: My daughter has to do something in her social studies class involving current events. She has to find a story in the newspaper, write a summary of it, pick three vocabulary words and find definitions for them, and then present the whole thing in a mini-oral report to the class. The prep work is hard enough for a reading- and writing-challenged kid, but it's do-able. But standing up and saying it in front of everyone! Talk about torture at a time in a kids' life when what they most want to do is be either a) cool or b) unnoticed. I was worried about whether my girl would be able to pull it off, but she went today and got a 90 on her presentation, and whether that's a mercy grade or a true reflection of her ability, at least it's over. She won't have to do it again until everyone else in the class has had their first turn, and since the teacher gives kids who aren't ready one day the chance to do it the next, that could take a while. My daughter didn't believe me when I told her that it was good to be one of the first people to go because then you can spend a long stress-free time of not having to worry about it and watching others squirm, but she's learning. More about that than about current events, I'm thinking.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What does RAD mean to you?

Here's a headline in our local paper that caught my eye ... and made my jaw drop: "Children learn it's good to be RAD." Of course, as it turned out, the subject of the article was not Reactive Attachment Disorder, which was what I automatically assumed and something I think we can all agree it is not good for children to be. It was for some dopey-sounding self-defense program called "Resisting Aggression Defensively" that trains kids to assault strangers who may be trying to abduct them. I think they might want to consider changing that acronym, but maybe this is just one of those things that separates those who read and think too much about special needs from those who don't know their RAD from their ADD, and don't much care.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


We're singing the squandered-our-homework-time blues tonight. The kids had a day off from school today, so last night getting the homework done was no big deal, and this morning they still had all day, and this afternoon there was still plenty of time, then all of a sudden -- hoo-boy, where did all this work come from! Big page of hard math problems for my daughter, lots of pages of words to write for my son, lots of stress and nagging for their Mama and Papa. Looks like time management isn't much of a strong suit for any of us this week, is it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

TV or not TV

I can still remember a time, pre-children, when the start of the TV season was a big deal for me. I would read every word in the "TV Guide" Fall preview issue, plot out my viewing, eagerly anticipate those start dates. Even right up until we adopted our kids, I was still into the new shows. I remember being sorry when we went to Russia for the adoption that I would be missing episodes of two new programs I liked, "Friends" and "My So-Called Life." By the time we got back a month later, the shows had gone on without me and I had gone on without them into a world where it was hard to make a commitment to any TV that started before bedtime and hard to stay awake for anything after.

This year again the TV season sort of snuck up on me, and now there are premieres all over the place and I'm watching them sail by. As I posted earlier, I did catch the "Everybody Hates Chris" premiere last Thursday, but missed the "Commander in Chief" one last night because homework went waaaaay beyond 9 p.m. "Lost" repeated its season opener tonight and my husband and I actually sat together and watched that and the second episode that followed, but I don't know; I was badly burned by "Twin Peaks," and might not have it in me to invest in another More Mysteries Than They Know What to Do With kinda series. About the only series I've watched with any regularity in recent years is "The West Wing," which is now on Sundays at 8 p.m., virtually assuring that I will either forget it's on or be otherwise child-occupied. As with most shows, come to think of it.

Have you caught up with any new or returning shows this year -- anything that's impressed you, or depressed you? Tell me about it in the comments, 'cause that's about as close as I'm going to get to watching any of this stuff.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cursing kiddies

So here's how young it starts: My son was playing video games with his cousins yesterday, with much yelling and competitive chatter, and every now and then I would hear my nephew, who just started first grade, yell Jesus! in frustration over some losing move or other. I let it go a few times, but then I just had to go out there and do my "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain" speech. Is leaving the tender confines of kindergarten and hitting the mean streets of first grade all it takes to turn kids into little blasphemers now? I don't know what sort of sociological conclusions we can draw from this, but if I try really hard I'll bet I can find some way to blame 50 Cent.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Hey, I'd GIVE him the coins

I'm beginning to think you can tell who is a parent of a child of a certain age by noting their response to this question: "Do you have 50 Cent?" My son's been asking that question wherever he goes, and parents of younger children or those who have limited child-exposure tend to pat their pockets, looking for quarters, and maybe correct his grammar or his greed. Those with kids who are taking an active and peer-pressured interest in music, however, know that he's trying to find someone with a CD by that rapper his mom won't let him listen to. They also know the right answer to the question: "No."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Everybody hates commercials

I've been looking for a nice family show to watch with my daughter for quite a while. Most family shows these days, even those in the "family hour," are pretty likely to have more double entendres and jokes about sex than I really want to have to explain to a language impaired middle-schooler. The Disney sit-coms she likes to watch are clean, alright, but aren't anything I'm eager to spend any time in front of. So "Everybody Hates Chris," the new sit-com about Chris Rock's childhood on UPN, sounded promising, sharp and funny for me, focused on kid-problems and situations for her. And indeed, I found very little that was objectionable about the show itself when we watched the premiere last night. But the commercials. Oh, my. The ones for "Eve" and "Love Inc." featured jokes that were sex-related enough to make me uncomfortable but not enough to go on my daughter's radar. The ad for "Sex, Love and Secrets," though, was way over the top; couldn't they have kept the sex more of a secret? UPN may not have enough child-friendly programs to air during a child-friendly sit-com, but couldn't they be a little more discreet with what they do advertise? It's hard enough to find a show a family can watch together on TV these days; when I do find one, I don't want to be diving for the remote every time the commercials come on.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Brought to you today by the word "rotten" and the number 50

The word of the day is "rotten." That's what my son says I am. And says and says and says. He said it when he got in the car after school. He said it to every person at my office when I stopped by to pick something up. And what is the cause of all this maternal rottenness? I won't let him download songs by 50 Cent for his iPod shuffle. Or songs by Green Day. I perform the unpardonable offense of looking up song lyrics on the internet, and refusing to buy those whose words aren't intended for the ears of 12-year-olds. My son is pretty sure this makes me the meanest mom in the world, since his friends at school get those songs. But a funny thing happened when he proclaimed my rottenness to the folks in my office: Most of them said they wouldn't buy those songs for kids, either. Maybe he just happened upon a little pocket of meanness in an otherwise tolerant world. Rotten luck for him, that. ... If you're mean, too, check out my tips for being a music monitor on You, too, can be rotten.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Catching up

How the heck did it get to be Wednesday already? I've fallen way behind in my blogging duties. Before I move on to more important things, I did want to follow up a little on the Emmys. I was amused, watching the red carpet entry show, that all the stars were making such a big effort to look like just plain folks, albeit just plain folks wearing fabulous dresses and jewels. They kept talking about their kids and the normal things they did while getting ready for the evening. It was pretty hilarious when the glamorous Mrs. Trump went on about how she cooks dinner, but the best by far was Jennifer Love Hewitt, who claimed to have spent her day eating In-n-Out burgers and cleaning her refrigerator. Uh-huh. I think if I were at all successful as an actress, the very first luxury I would give myself, before I bought the sportscar and the house in the Hollywood hills and the pricey shoes, would be somebody to clean out my refrigerator for me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Anyone up for an Emmy chat?

The Emmys are on tonight, and even though I hardly watch TV anymore, I'm always up for a good awards show. Or a bad awards show, although I reserve the right to hit the mute button if some poor celeb is really humiliating him or herself. I can usually count on my daughter to watch award shows with me if only to make fun of the dresses, but tonight there's some sort of must-watch Aaron Carter event on the Disney channel followed by a special, send-the-parents-screaming-out-of-the-room revival of the beloved big-ol'-dog movie "Beethoven," so her evening is otherwise spoken for. So I am going to try again to do what I have failed so resoundingly at in the past, which is to find other homebound but Emmy-watching folks to chat with during the event. If you've subscribed to the Mothers with Attitude Daily Dispatch and get posts from this blog sent to your inbox, you can go to the chat page of our Yahoogroups site at and crack wise with me. I'll be passing through regularly starting about 6 p.m., when the dress dissing begins on E! and the TV Guide channel, and then park myself there for good around 8 p.m., when the ceremony starts on CBS. Stop by for a short or a long while and keep me company, why don't you? If you're not a group member but want to chat, go ahead and join for tonight (click on "Subscribe" under "Links" at right) and ditch out tomorrow. I'll forgive you.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The nonsense continues

It looks like I'm going to be getting a new part-time job: Calling and bugging people in special education offices. Not to mention writing letters to people in special education offices, sending faxes to people in special education offices, stressing out about why people in special education offices are such *@/$%)# obstructionists. I've been trying to avoid taking things to the next level with my son's aide situation because, frankly, I don't need a new part-time job. But the clock is running, and if the situation's not resolved satisfactorily by 5 p.m. Monday, at 9 a.m. Tuesday I go to war.

Meanwhile, today an administrator at my kids' school gave me some work to do and then was shocked to find out I was a parent; she thought I was an aide. So I appear to have moved up from being taken for a child to being taken for an employee. Take that, cafeteria lady!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Special-ed staffing nonsense

Honestly, wouldn't you think that the special education department of a largish school district would at the very least want to be organized? Or at least look organized? I'm dealing with ongoing 1-on-1 aide nonsense with my son, and so far every skirmish, every misunderstanding, every angry phone call, could have been easily avoided with the simple provision of a list to the school administration of which kids need aides and which aides have been assigned to them. Yet such a piece of paper does not seem to be forthcoming. I've been stonewalled, and I've sat in the principal's office listening on speakerphone while he was stonewalled. I've escalated my phone manner from apologetic to polite to firm to livid, and we still don't seem to have an answer. All of which leads me to believe that either 1) There is no such list, and they're just throwing people wherever somebody's yelling for one; 2) There is a list, but it has such significant problems that they don't want anybody looking at it; or 3) They have a list and could provide it but prefer to play political games with handicapped children. That third possibility is scary, but would at least indicate that somebody has a plan. Honestly, though, I think the answer is probably #1, and that's just inexcusable. It's not like a truckload of children needing aides suddenly enrolled in the district on September 1; we're not in Baton Rouge. They've known about these needs since the spring. How is it possible that no firm and comprehensive staffing plan was made? I'm sympathetic to the challenges of managing a large number of cases with multiple service needs across a large number of schools, but wouldn't that make you want to be more organized?

I guess I should just shut up and be grateful that nobody thought I was a child today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I'm not a 'girl,' either

So yesterday, I griped about people at my kids' school, present and past, who would cheerfully tell me I looked like one of the kids, in a friendly way that indicated I would think that was flattering or funny. Bad enough.

Today, I got yelled at by the cafeteria lady.

I had gotten permission for my daughter to enter the school early if she stayed with me. We went to the room near the cafeteria where she stores her trombone during the day, and as we were leaving the room the bell rang, at which point it was okay for her to be unescorted. She headed off to her locker ... just as the cafeteria lady came out, guns blazing. "You girls!" she yelled. "What are you doing back here?"

Excuse me?

I looked back to see who might be getting in trouble along with my daughter, and to come to her defense, and saw that the Guardian of Hallway Correctness was wagging her Finger of Justice at me! When I hesitated, a little incredulous, she barked at me again. "You girls! Why are you back here?" And maybe if I hadn't just been grumbling about this, I would have laughed or at least been a little gentler in my response. But instead, I marched up to her and said "I'm a MOM. I'm her mom. And she has permission to be here." My daughter, poor thing, added "It's okay if I'm with her." Pointing at me. You know, that other girl. We were finally allowed to pass without further hassle, but without apology, either. And I think I was owed one. With extra groveling.

Sheesh. I've been doing great at school this past week, working at the library, meeting all the people who will work with my son, conferring with the principal over one thing and another, feeling like the very model of a responsible adult, and people keep cutting my short little legs out from under me. What do I have to do? Wear high heels and a business suit whenever I'm in the building? Invest in a grey wig? Wear a placard, front and back, that reads "Hey! Parent Here!" This is getting ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I am not a child

At what age, I wonder, is it flattering to be told you look like a child? Children might not care one way or the other, although the fact that they count their birthdays by half- and quarter-years indicates that even little ones don't want to be taken for littler ones. Preteens and teens, certainly, expend an enormous amount of energy and fashion cash trying not to look like children. People in their 20s are pretty determined to be taken for adults. Maybe at some point in one's 30s, the thought of recapturing childhood has a bit of allure, but at some point beyond that it just becomes insulting, doesn't it?

So why do people think it's so cute to tell me, as I walk around my children's school on parenting business, that I look like one of the kids?

I look at myself in the mirror, and I can see that my wrinkles have wrinkles. My chin has a chin. My hair is thin, and more than a few strands are grey. I do not look like a middle school student. So any remarks to that effect must really be comments on my height (all 4'10" of it), my style of dress, or the way I do (or don't do) my hair. And in no case would those be considered complimentary. Yet I'm supposed to smile and be flattered that I've been taken for a 12-year-old? What's up with that? It happens so frequently (and happened even when my kids were in elementary school) that I can't just take it as a mistake of someone with bad eyesight. Perhaps I'm being oversensitive, and most 46-year-old women would love to be mistaken for a 6th-grader. But I think not.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fundraiser fatigue

I can see already that creative fundraising for Hurricane Katrina victims is going to be a thing this school year. So far, I have a memo from the physical education teachers at my kids' school about some complicated touchdown event they need to get pledges for, and from the junior high group at our church about participating in a car wash benefit (although, isn't a fundraiser that involves water in pretty bad taste?) I know it's good to get kids involved in altruism and all, but I can see a long fall of fundraisers ahead and it just makes me wonder, as with so many school benefits for the band and the Home and School and charities many and sundry, can't I just write a check? Our family has already contributed to the Red Cross, but I'll make another big donation just to avoid soliciting pledges from friends and helping out at car washes and, I don't know, buying pies. I guess this makes me a Grinch or a bad sport or something. But the school year's only a few days old, and I'm already starting to feel fundraiser fatigue.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

One disaster after another

It's odd seeing all the Sept. 11 remembrances this weekend playing out against the backdrop of the ongoing Hurricane Katrina drama -- sort of like, "We interrupt your current disaster to bring you these images from a previous tragedy." For the people directly affected by the terrorist attacks, I don't suppose the memory ever fades, but for the rest of us, time just keeps on passing. Back on Sept. 11, 2001, my kids were in their second year at an elementary school they've both graduated from now. I was in the second year of a job it looks like I'm going to be leaving now. Since that frightening day, my daughter's become a teenager, my son's grown to within about an inch of my height, my children's last grandparent has passed away. Life goes on, as impossible as that may seem when the tragedy is fresh, and four years from now we'll be having memorials for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and looking back, vaguely through all our own personal history, to remember what it was like when New Orleans was underwater and on the news 24 hours a day. Those of us, that is, who are blessed to not have had our whole lives washed away.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What would you have done?

My son started middle school this week, a perilous time even for the most socially adept kiddos. He's not that, for sure, but I thought the fact that he was in a self-contained special-ed class with as many layers of protective personnel around him as I could manage might keep him from attracting the attention of his judgmental non-special-ed peers for at least a few weeks. But no. Today, after I'd picked him up and tucked him away in the minivan and stood nearby on the sidewalk waiting to flag down his sister, I heard a knot of girls gossiping. And what they were saying was, "Did you see that boy in special-ed, always doing this?" They used my son's name, and imitated his flapping-jumping-bobbing walk. And maybe because I work in the school library and lead a book group and talk to kids there all the time, I said, "Hey, girls? That's my son you're talking about, and he's right in the car here. So shhh!" They sort of closed ranks and moved away as I added, "He's trying his best." And then proceeded to spend the rest of the time before my daughter finally found us trying to keep him from getting out of the car and putting himself back on display.

When I told my husband the story later, he said he wouldn't have talked to the girls at all -- "they're just kids." So now I'm wondering -- did I make it worse? Having a pushy mom who walks you in and out of school and chastises classmates on your behalf isn't exactly the coolest middle school accessory. Is he now going to be that weird kid with that weird mother? I'm not sure the girls were even saying anything all that mean about him, except that he was noticeable, which he certainly is. If you'd been there, and it was your kid, would you have spoken up? Blown it off? Or stood there and silently suffered?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Uninterruptedness has its drawbacks

Aaaaaahhhh.. A nice long day with the children at school and no one home but me and the dog. A day for writing and working without interruption from small boys yelling "Play with me! Play with me! Play with me!" A day for finally tidying up my desk, straightening up the living room, cleaning up the bathroom. A day with no excuses for not getting all those things done. A day that I darn well better have something to show for at the end. A day when ... hmmm. How long until the next school vacation, now?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Back to school ... almost

The back-to-school countdown is really on now. My kids have their school supplies. They have their new school shoes (although my daughter has already decided that the lace-up yellow Skechers she just had to have hurt her feet). The anticipation is so thick, it's actually going to be kind of hard to get through the last, idle day of vacation tomorrow. Maybe we'll all get up early and take a test drive to the school, although without the normal morning traffic it's not going to be much of a test. We're kind of itching to be at it, though. In a couple of weeks when we're up to our ears in homework, I'm going to be wondering what was the darned hurry.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Perspective is good

I've been meaning to come by here and share the results of my Thursday meeting with the administrators and teacher at my son's new middle school. I was going to say that the meeting went really well, everyone said the right things, it looks like my son's going to have a great year, but of course there's a screw-up, they have him sharing an aide instead of having a one-on-one, and I had to call the special-ed office, and now everything appears to be straightened out, though I'll believe it when I see it ... but you know, I spent some time tonight posting this essay by a mom in Baton Rouge who in addition to dealing with all the frustrations and inconveniences that accompany a natural disaster, and all the upheaval that comes from a large number of newly homeless people coming into your community, is facing the likelihood that her child's nicely arranged special education program will be disrupted by the volume of new students at his school, and now it feels kind of silly to be fretting about aides. We've got a house. We've got lights and water. We've got food and clothing and mobility. And we've got only nine kids to a self-contained class. Really, what could there be to complain about?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

School report

I finally got my kids' school schedules on Tuesday, and everything was in order. My son had the teacher he was supposed to have and the all-self-contained classes he was supposed to have. I was a bit surprised to see that my daughter has all male teachers this year except for one, which will be an interesting transition. Her music teachers have always been male, and her art teacher in elementary school, but to have one for every subject but science will be pretty different. Not sure whether it will work for her, but we'll see. Tomorrow, I'm going to the middle school with a couple of moms from my son's special-ed class to pester the vice principal with questions about what the day will be like for our little ones and what we should expect. The teacher should be there, too, and maybe after this I'll be able to just relax and anticipate the beginning of school without nagging doubts and nervousness. Naaah, probably not.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Getting old

I know I've been sort of ridiculously all-about-the-celebrities lately, and I'll knock it off soon, I promise. I've been procrastinating a lot instead of, say, writing insightful blog posts or buying school supplies, and if I wander the Web enough I always seem to wind up on the celeb gossip pages -- some sort of internet tractor beam, it must be. So this morning, I saw an item that said something to the effect of "Keanu Reeves, 40, is once again dating Diane Keaton, 59." And I know I was supposed to think something like, "Whoah, check out that age difference!" or "You go, Diane, getting a younger man!" or "'Bout time we reversed that old-guy-young-babe Hollywood double standard!" But all I could think of was: Keanu Reeves is 40? When the heck did that happen? Maybe it's just the fact that I'm sending my youngest to middle school that's making me feel so ancient.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Whine dining

When you're in a restaurant and somebody else's kids are misbehaving -- I mean really acting up, making noise, running around, getting in the waiter's way -- what is your first reaction? A) Annoyance that those parents just can't control their children; B) annoyance that the ruckus made by the out-of-control children of those parents might cause your own angel babies to fuss; or C) boundless relief and gratitude that it is somebody else's child this time, and not yours. God be with you, fellow traveler! Have mercy on me next time when it's my child who's a-fussin'.

I guess it's clear that I'm a C), and occasionally a B), but only very rarely an A). Which means I'm probably one of those parents, the kind that the restaurant mentioned in this Blogging Baby post would advise to make alternative dining plans. I don't like to think of myself as a spineless, child-whipped bad parent. I try to keep my kids quiet in restaurants, within reason. I don't bring them to restaurants where they're obviously not welcome. And I try to get them out when they've really met their limits. But you know, my son has fetal alcohol effects, and impulse control is really kind of a nice dream. I try to give him as much slack as I can without completely letting him run wild, but it's a fine line. From where I'm sitting, we're usually just on the OK side of it. From where you're sitting, right behind him when he's jumping on the seat or right in front of him when he's racing down the aisles to the salad bar yelling "Out of my way! Out of my way!" we might appear to be quite decidedly on the other side.

We've gotten glares from time to time, usually from elderly people who grew up in a time when they used to beat kids like mine, or single people who still have big dreams of what great parents they'll be. But people who are parents right now would understand, wouldn't they? Surely we've all been in a position in which our child was acting up in awkward circumstances and we couldn't easily stop it. Haven't we? Haven't we? Maybe not, judging from the comments to the post mentioned above, which tend toward "My child knows how to behave, and if those parents can't be bothered to properly train theirs, they should just never leave the house." Such a lack of camaraderie with one's fellow parents, such superiority, such assuredness! If there's one thing parenting has taught me, it's that assuredness goeth before a fall. I'd like to think that one day I'll see those parents in a restaurant, and their child will have hit a phase in which throwing crackers at other diners is the height of comedy, and they'll be all apologies and scolding, and I'll give them my smuggest, smuggest look. But you know, in the end, I'll probably be glad it's their kid throwing crackers and not mine. And I'll just wind up nodding and sending a little "Hey, thanks!" in their direction.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Baby bummers

Saw two thoroughly depressing news items on the Celebrity Baby Blog tonight:
1) Britney Spears has been spotted drinking multiple alcoholic beverages despite being very pregnant. Apparently the stress of being with child is causing her to need margaritas, but honey, let me tell you, you don't know stress until you're dealing with a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, okay? There seems to be some doubt as to whether the story is actually true, and let's just hope for the sake of Britney and her baby-to-be that it's not. But good judgment doesn't seem like one of this girl's strong suits, does it?

2) Donny Osmond is a grandpa. Okay, this is a lot less serious than drinking while pregnant. It's just that ... sigh ... I'm old now, aren't I? Very, very old.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sticks and stones

My daughter hates me. That's what she tells me on a regular basis, anyway. I don't let it bother me because I'm pretty sure she doesn't mean it -- she hates what I'm doing at that moment, not me -- but people who hear her say it tend to leap to my defense. I mostly just say, "I don't think that's true," and it's not, and it's our little joke. So the other day, when she really wanted to cut me down, she had to dig a little bit deeper into her bag of middle-school insults. And this is what she came up with: "Mom, you are not cool." Ooooh, burn. She kept saying it with ascending levels of scorn, waiting, I guess, for me to crumble into pieces over the public revelation of my uncoolness, but no; I just kept doing whatever geeky thing I was doing, making it worse by laughing at her insults. I'm a hard nut to crack, alright. She'll have to stock up on much worse stuff than that when she goes back to school to really ruffle my feathers.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Stalking celebrities

Alright, I'll admit, I followed a link to read this story, which I guess makes me part of the problem. But reading a story about Scarlett Johansson's call to 911 when she got into a fender bender while evading paparazzi is one thing. Actually listening to it is another, isn't it? After reading the story on People magazine's site about the way photographer's invaded the young actress's privacy, you can invade it your very own self by listening to an audio file of the actual call. Now, I don't waste a lot of time feeling sorry for celebrities. A certain amount of privacy loss goes with the territory of being successful and famous and fabulous, and stars need to acknowledge that with a certain amount of humility. But they should also be allowed to go about their daily lives without being constantly trailed by photographers. Some of this stuff crosses the line between aggressive coverage and stalking. And they should probably be allowed to call 911 without worrying that anyone with a computer is going to be able to download their most stressful and upsetting moments. (But if anyone does listen, hey, tell me if there's anything interesting!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Information drought

I'm going into serious information withdrawal here, with two weeks until the start of school. Usually my kids' school schedules arrive somewhere in the middle of August, frequently on a week when we're on vacation and then I have to wait until we get home to see it. Bad enough. Bad enough I have to wait until August to be sure that they're in the right classes, at the right schools. Special education means never being entirely sure that things will be what you expect. But again, usually by mid-August I have either the comfort of knowing things are A-OK or the ammunition for fighting the good fight. This year, though -- this year, when my son is starting middle school and I am therefore particularly concerned about getting him in the right place with the right person -- there's some new computer program and personnel gaps screwing things up, and we won't be getting the schedules until next week. As in, one week before school starts. As in, almost the entire summer spent fretting and worrying with no solid info whatsoever. I am not a happy mom. I could probably make calls and knock heads and sneak into offices at night and search through files and find out whether things are as they should be, but that would be starting the year out on a pushy foot and I like to save that for when I really need it. Maybe I do really need it. And maybe I don't. I want to know NOW. It's going to be a long week.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The laughter police

I mentioned a few entries ago that I went a little crazy running interference for my son at a science museum, and wondered whether, if I had just let him be his own exuberant self, everything would have been okay. I was second-guessing myself big time, but today I read a news story that made me think I was probably right to be absurdly protective of the rights of other people not to be annoyed by him. I'm talking about the tale of the boy with autism and cerebral palsy who was ejected from a New York movie theater for laughing too loud. Now, this wasn't the case of a family bringing a child into a dialog-heavy adult picture and expecting everyone to just live with the distraction. This was a midday showing of "March of the Penguins," the popular kid-friendly nature documentary. The theater refunded the family's money, and has apologized now that a bit of a furor has been raised. On the one hand, I have a hard time imagining how this kid could have raised enough of a ruckus to deserve ejection from a kiddie show, and I think it's worth asking whether he was unfairly targeted because he was in a wheelchair. On the other hand, all the heartfelt comments people have made to the effect of "these poor little handicapped kids suffer so much they should be allowed to have these small chances at happiness" rub me the wrong way, too. A kid in a theater is a kid in a theater. If your kid's being disruptive, you should try to minimize it. If you're making an effort, the ushers should be understanding. At some point, you may just need to get your kid out of there, whether it's a crying baby or a chatty six-year-old or a child who can't control the exuberance of his laughter. I'm probably too quick to get to that point. And maybe the management at this theater was too quick to get there in this instance. But the point does exist, doesn't it? For everyone? Or should kids with disabilities get a free pass?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Back-to-school readiness

Are you ready for back-to-school? I know some districts have already started up again, but hereabouts we're three weeks and counting. My kids are finishing up their summer homework assignments, but I haven't quite gotten with the schoolclothes shopping and equipment checking. Regardless of where my family's at with this back-to-school thing, though, I did finally get my website act together. I've spent the last few weeks stalling and procrastinating and starting and starting over and starting again, but the whining is over now and I've finally got my index of 107 web pages with back-to-school-related content up and running on my site. They're all articles or links lists that I'd posted previously, gathered together here for your school-panicking pleasure. Reading through all this wonderful content will allow you to continue putting off getting your kids ready for school, and isn't that really what it's all about?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Call too late, visit too early

Now that my daughter is big into talking to her friends on the phone, we've had some conversations about how late it is acceptable to call someone you are not related to or who is not expecting your call. Before 10 p.m. is my rule, but even after 9 p.m. I feel awkward. (I don't even like hearing from family members much after 9 p.m., to tell the truth.) But something happened yesterday that made me think of another rule of polite communication that seems to need defining: What's the earliest time in the morning it's okay to show up at somebody's house? My son has a school friend who lives across the street from us on the alternate weekends he's living with his dad, and this kid (who roams the neighborhood way more freely than a control-freak mom like me can comfortably abide) showed up at our door at about 7:50 a.m. Sunday morning, just as we were rushing out the door to church. We told him to come back later, but that almost-playdate was enough to set my son on "I don't want to be in church" mode for the next hour. Who lets their kid go to a friend's house at 7:50 a.m.? On a Sunday? I'd say anytime before 10 a.m. on a weekend's pushing it, and then you should call first. But not before 9 a.m. (and even then, I'm liable to bark at you for waking me up). What are your time-and-communication rules?