Monday, February 28, 2005

Headline writers come out fighting

I'm feeling a little let down about the fact that "Million Dollar Baby" was such a big winner at the Oscars last night. I would have liked "Sideways" to win, and would have been fine with just about anything else taking home prizes, but it was not to be. Over and above those folks directly involved with the feel-good euthanasia film of the year, though, you've got to believe that headline writers across the country did a little dance of joy when Clint Eastwood's baby stole the spotlight. Name a boxing metaphor, phrase or cliche, it's been used this morning in stories about the ceremony. Lacking the opportunity to use words like "KO'd" and "packed a punch" and "champ" and "knockout" and "heavyweight," what on earth would those poor ink-stained wretches come up with? "'The Aviator' flies high"? "'Sideways' is top vintage"? "Oscar's 'Ray' of sunshine"? "'Finding Neverland' doesn't lose"? Oh, yeah, they're loving those boxing terms. Maybe some sort of fix was in?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Ceremony fever

I watched the "Independent Spirit Awards" last night, mostly to see my favorite movie of this season, "Sideways," get some of the love I'm pretty sure it's not going to get at the Oscars tonight. (Alright, it's not just my favorite movie of this season, it's the only movie up for anything I've actually seen. So sue me. We go with what we know.) It was a pretty amusing ceremony, sort of the anti-Oscars in terms of glamour but certainly not lacking in self-seriousness. I was a little shocked to see that even here there were cheesy musical numbers -- irreverent send-ups of each of the movies nominated for the top spot, in the style of Billy Crystal's Oscar send-ups but not, alas, with that much style. It's hard to know what was worse; listening to the lame attempts at musical comedy or looking at the interspersed shots of the movies' stars trying to hide their horror in the name of good sportsmanship. Now that's acting.

Friday, February 25, 2005

You're putting cameras where?

Now, I'm as interested in Oscar night gossip and backstage banter as the next pathetic show-biz obsessed person, but really, I think this is crossing the line: the WE Network is planning to broadcast from inside the ladies' room during commecials in the Oscar-cast. The idea is that viewers will madly channel-flip during ads to see who's gotta go now -- with host Sandra Bernhardt interviewing them on the way? I do think celebrities sometimes protest too much about the invasiveness of the media and what a hassle it is to be rich and famous and popular, but here, you know, I think they do have a point: Can't they even go to the bathroom now without having a microphone stuck in their face? There might, of course, be some interest in seeing how some of these gals get out of those ornate and excessive gowns to do their business ... but no, no, no. This is just wrong, people. And I'd expect a network that bills itself as "Women's Entertainment" to show a little female solidarity in this regard. Maybe we should start calling it the PEE Network instead.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Scooby's got game

I've written before about my son's invisible friend, Scooby Doo, and how talking with Scooby organizes him in useful ways, and how listening in on their conversations also often clues me in to school gossip that I'd never get from talking directly to my son. Even though 11 years old is pretty far along to still be having imaginary playmates, we've made our peace with Scooby as an at least developmentally appropriate companion, and his teachers and therapists have as well. So yesterday, when we were bowling as a family, when my son insisted that Scooby wanted to play, too, we went ahead and put the big dog on the scoreboard to fill out a twosome on the bumper lane.

Now here's the weird thing: While my son had a fairly typical game, scoring in the high 80s, Scooby did him way better. When throwing as Scooby, he sent the ball right down the middle of the lane and got spare after spare. How does that work, exactly? We're talking a significant difference in gross motor skills when impersonating a giant invisible dog. His physical therapist always tells my son that Scooby has to wait outside during their sessions, but now I'm thinking -- hey, maybe she should make the boy wait outside, and work with the dog! Scooby's got potential.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What my kids are reading now

The book my daughter's class just finished reading in school is "Holes," the contemporary kids' classic by Louis Sachar. The teacher told me that most of the students in the class had already read it and were very familiar with the plot's twists and turns. My daughter, not so much. This is the first time she's read it, and it's still considerably over her head. We're going to try watching the movie and see if Shia La Beouf can somehow bring it home, but if not we have a study guide and she'll just memorize that darn thing for the test.

The book she's reading for "pleasure," if you can use that term with a kid whose motto is "I hate reading," is a Full House novelization, "No-Rules Weekend!" No hard-to-follow plot twists here for sure. And apparently that's a good thing, because my girl actually said "I like this book" after we finished reading last time, and if she'll keep that attitude up I'll get her every Stephanie 'n' Michelle title I can find.

My son, on the other hand, is a book lover, and has been reading Beverly Cleary's "Dear Mr. Henshaw" to me with great enthusiasm. He read it last year with this special-ed class and again this year (he has the same teacher), and quotes it from time to time, so it's nice to actually read the book with him and share his excitement. I don't know how much he "gets" it, inferring the author's responses from the letters the main character writes, but he reads it willingly, and that's something in our house.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

And your kid thinks you're embarrassing

Poor Lindsay Lohan. At an age when most starlets are making headlines with their own inappropriate behavior -- drug and alcohol abuse, fistfights, skipping out on hotel bills, car accidents -- she's had the scandal spotlight stolen from her again and again by her dad, who seems to be hellbent on keeping his girl out of the tabloids by getting himself in them. The latest in a string of "bad dad" headlines is a crash that resulted in a burnt-up car and a DWI arrest for the senior Lohan. Lindsay's not doing a lot of commenting on the old man's antics, but you've got to believe there's some publicist somewhere advising her to go into rehab or orchestrate a public wardrobe malfunction just to get a little publicity to herself.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Sideways in southern California

I grew up in southern California and went to college in Santa Barbara, so one of the things I enjoyed most about the movie "Sideways" was its locations in the Santa Ynez Valley. It was fun recognizing landmarks from my youth, like the sign for Pea Soup Andersen's that I passed so many times on family vacations, or the Danish tourist-trap-town of Solvang. I even took a road trip to this area myself with a couple of pals, although since we were in our late teens at the time there was no wine-tasting involved. I had read reviews that misidentified the film's setting as the better-known Northern California wine country, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the two friends played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church veer off the freeway so very much sooner.

Apparently a lot of folks are now making that detour, because "Sideways" has become a real boon for businesses in the area. You can now go to the Santa Barbara visitor's information Web site and download a "Sideways" map to help you drive along the route followed by Miles and Jack, or purchase a "Sideways" package including hotel and tour. The Hitching Post II, where the waitress played by Virginia Madsen worked, has an article about the filming of the movie on its Web site, and the Los Olivos Cafe, where the four main characters had dinner, offers a "Sideways" menu so you can dine just like they did. The $29 price tag includes a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, but no #@%!$ Merlot.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Time to think about camp

I haven't figured out yet what the heck I'm going to do with my kids over the summer. Have you? I've had them in a special-needs day camp in the past, and more recently in a church day camp that was willing to handle my son's behavior and hire a one-on-one aide for us. But this summer, I'm just not sure. I'm tempted to try to figure out some way to work at home so I could not send them to camp at all but do all sorts of good academic enrichment stuff ... but realistically, given my habit of biting off more than I can chew, am I really going to do all that or will we just wind up sitting around all day? It's getting to be time to figure these plans out. If you're flailing around for camp plans, too, check out the section on camp for kids with special needs I just put up on the Parenting Special Needs site at At least there, I look like I've got all the answers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Too rich and too thin

Looking to feel uncharitably annoyed at someone today? Check out this article from Entertainment Tonight about stars who just can't seem to gain weight. Poor, under-100-pound dears. Most of them are short, but not that short; and most make no claim to an eating disorder, which would at least make me feel a little sorry for them. No, they're just "cursed" with a high metabolism and a natural resistance to fat, apparently. Makes you want to force-feed each and every one of them cheeseburgers, doesn't it? Or maybe just have one yourself ...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Beware of ads

If you think all the money being spent on proms these days is just obscene, check this out: A prom-dress manufacturer placed ads in two teen prom magazines, YM Your Prom and Teen Prom, that -- oops! -- contained the url of a child porn website. The mistake turned up in the company's brochure as well. Darn that typo. Publishers of YM Your Prom pulled what few issues were left of it off the newstand, while Teen Prom's said, "Hey, so they made a mistake. It's not our problem," and kept the issues on sale. I know, like me, you're shocked about this -- there are teen prom magazines? Who knew?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Love your teeth

Kissing prevents tooth decay! This is among the Valentine's Day insights from the Academy of General Dentistry that you probably don't want to share with your teen-age children. This one might be safer: the Academy also advises that kissing couples exchange up to 500 kinds of germs. I love the fact that the Academy of General Dentistry has some poor hack in a cubicle somewhere grasping for connections between dental care and major holidays. That's not too far from some of the jobs I've had in my writing past. Come to think of it, since I seem to be casting around for a way to get some Valentine content in this blog, I guess it's not too far from what I'm doing now.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Beware of beverages

Doctors are speaking out again against that great peril to today's youth: fruit juice. Seems the stuff's got too much sugar in it, even the 100-percent-juice variety, and it's fattening our kiddos, rotting their teeth, and probably making them hyper on top of it. And I'm sure they have a point. I remember when I started on Weight Watchers a year or so ago, I was astonished at the number of points it cost me to drink a glass of juice with dinner, and I think a large part of my weight loss came from switching to water. But at the same time -- do these doctors know what killjoys they are? Do they get a kick out of it? I imagine some sort of Anti-Fun Division of the AMA holding semi-annual meetings to go over our little list of creature comforts and pick one to come out against. Is juice really the best the could come up with this go-round? Seems to me there are worse things a kid could be ingesting.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Dance craze

Well, I've survived my second middle-school dance chaperoning experience, this time as soda pourer instead of door guarder. It was a Valentine's Dance, with many kids dressed in appropriate hues, and if there are any preteen girls out there reading this, let me just tell you that no matter what your body type is, you do not look good in pink sweatpants. Again this time, some of the girls looked like they were dressed for a Britney Spears video while others were endearingly, sloppily casual (my own dear big-T-shirted daughter included). Boys were mostly dress-down, but one lad seems to have entered into the festive spirit of the evening by coloring his stubbly head with a red Magic Marker. All together now: These kids today, boy, I don't know.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

New stuff for parents

New on Mothers with Attitude: A parent's-eye-view of Tic disorders has been added to our Parent's Portfolio, written by "Thinking It Over" columnist April A. Cain. And new on About Parenting Special Needs: How is a special-needs parent like Spiderman or MacGyver? Check these Love Notes to find out.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The trouble with "Million Dollar Baby"

Have you seen "Million Dollar Baby"? The rumble is that it's not good for persons with disabilities, for reasons I can't write about or Roger Ebert will smack me upside the head with a baseball bat (if Roger Ebert even, you know, had a clue this site even existed). I posted a little round-up of the current controversy on the About Parenting Special Needs site, which does go into plot details, so surf at your own risk. I myself have not seen the film, though less because of ideological objections than because I never see movies, no time, no how. Maybe once a year I make it to a theater, and when I do, I darned well want to make sure I'm going to enjoy myself. Boxing along would knock "Baby" off my list, never mind that other thing that we're not supposed to discuss. I'm hoping to sneak out to see "Sideways" sometime before Oscar night; anybody know of anything objectionable there? I suppose as a mom of a child with FASD I should take offense at rampant alcohol abuse, but as long as nobody's pregnant, I'm willing to overlook.

If you have seen "Million Dollar Baby" and have something to say about it, please weigh in at the Parenting Special Needs Forum.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Reporting in

Sighs of relief at my house -- we've survived another report card. My daughter had two really impossible classes this quarter, one to increase her ability to take standardized tests (which, unless there's a magic wand involved, was not likely to happen in ten weeks), the other a health class that stands in for gym one-fourth of the year. She has an inclusion teacher for her academic classes but not for either of these, and that turns out to be a bad thing. There were moments when it seemed she might actually fail one or both of them. Hooray, then, for two D's! They rhyme with B's, which is what she got in her academic subjects (plus an A in social studies!) Not a bad quarter, really. On to the next. My son's report card was good, too, with improvement shown in behavior, surprisingly enough. The third quarter seems to be a tough one for him in terms of classroom decorum, so we'll see if he can hold on to that. I've got a whole five weeks 'til progress report time before I have to worry about it again, anyway.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Who's the expert here?

"In the real world, you have to choose a provider from your insurer's list, your child's coaches just want their star player to keep playing, your husband wants the kid to 'snap out of it,' your other kids are starting to act funny too, the therapists you consult don't tell you anything, and your anorexic is laughing at you." So writes Laura Collins in "Eating with Your Anorexic: How My Child Recovered Through Family-Based Treatment and Yours Can Too," and even if you've never dealt with an eating-disordered child, the experience of watching professionals completely bungle your child's treatment may be all too familiar. Read an excerpt from the book in Mothers with Attitude's Contributor's Corner, and relate.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Fiddler on the radio

Have you heard this new record by Gwen Stefani, "Rich Girl"? It's a pop/rap thing based, hilariously enough, on "If I Was a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof." Maybe I'm branding myself as an old fogey by knowing that it's based on "If I Was a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof" (though probably not as much as I am by calling it a "record"). My daughter certainly doesn't have a clue that the basic melody and lyrical intent originated anywhere outside today's radio playlist. But for goodness sake. I know today's music is all about sampling, and certainly the current trend of pop stars singing standards should have warned me that this sort of thing might be coming, but the thought of Tevye the milkman becoming the basis of a hot hit really just cracks me up. If somebody gets it in their head to turn "Sunrise, Sunset" -- a song that reliably made my own personal mother cry -- into a hip-hop remix, I'm just going to have to tell my daughter she can no longer listen to the radio anywhere that I can hear it. Some things you just don't mess with.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"Love Notes for Special Parents"

Could you use a little appreciation? Come on, who couldn't? Every day in February, I'm featuring a nice little affirmative pep talk for parents of children with special needs on the Parenting Special Needs site. You might not get much recognition from your kids, your spouse, your children's teachers and doctors and therapists and what-all, but I'll always have something nice to say.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Now cut that out

I've been noticing an annoying trend in Web site advertising lately: audio. I'll be surfing around, listening to songs on iTunes and humming along, and all of a sudden my speakers will be flooded with some lousy canned music, usually way too loud and always disconcerting. Sometimes it actually seems to have been set up to coordinate with the actual concept of the site I'm visiting, but more often it seems cued to an ad. And as if that awful music isn't bad enough, other forcefed sound effects are creeping in. Yesterday I was convinced something must be horribly wrong with my computer -- I was hearing a loud crunching sound at irregular intervals, and it sounded for all the world like some evil virus having its way with my data. Only later, when the same sound came from my computer at work, did I finally notice that an ad on a site I visit often ended its little pitch for veggie burgers with a big bite being taken from the ad to the accompaniment of ... yep, that crunching sound. Is that really necessary? If this keeps up, browsers are going to have to come with some sort of discretionary mute button that will filter unwanted sounds while allowing ones we're actually interested in hearing. Or maybe advertisers could just shut the heck up.