Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hair today, gone tomorrow

My son got a buzz cut last week. This is something I've been lobbying for, because when you have a kid with major sensory-integration issues who hates to have his hair combed, you look for ways to avoid conflict. He and his dad had major battles over post-hairwash combing, with much yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth (and that was just my husband). I, on the other hand, usually avoided the issue, even if it meant letting him go to school in the mornings with cowlicks like you wouldn't believe. With short-short hair in vogue now for boys, that seemed like the most logical solution: a no-comb style for a no-comb kid. He requested it himself when he popped into the barber's chair, and his dad begrudgingly went along. I'm happy to have this struggle out of the way, at least for the time being, and he looks cute enough, I suppose. But I do miss my little shaggy-headed boy. Even the cowlicks, just a little.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Big Brother is watching you, and wants your dessert

Do you know what your child eats for lunch at school? Do you care? Big Brother may soon give you the opportunity to stay right on top of that topic with a program that lets you electronically prepay your kids' lunch bill, and then see what he or she gets for it. Even items bought with hoarded change will show up, so there's no hiding that jumbo cookie or extra Snapple from Mom and Dad. I've been moderating a lunch-hour book club at my daughter's school for the past couple of years, so I've seen what sort of a la carte combos kid come up with; one boy routinely bought a lunch consisting of two or three pieces of cake. And I'll admit, it would be interesting to see just how many times a week my daughter eats pizza. But I can also see a few flaws in the system. For one thing, unless it tells you how much of what your child paid for he or she actually ate, you're still not getting a good idea of how much balanced nutrition is going on. And I've got to believe that it won't take long for the kids whose parents either don't participate in the plan or don't care what they buy to set up a pretty brisk business in ordering goodies for their friends. Where there's a will to eat a jumbo cookie, there's a way.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

What did he say?

Boy, there's nothing that makes you feel older than reading the words of your children's favorite songs. I've gotten into the habit of doing Google searches on the lyrics of ditties my daughter wants to download from iTunes, unless I recognize the artist and am pretty darn sure the song's not nasty. But some of the ones I've looked into have made me drop my dentures. It's hard to believe some of this stuff is getting by the FCC, because I know she's hearing them on the radio, and they don't all have "clean" versions. I guess if you avoid four-letter words and load on the metaphors, you can sing or rap about just about anything. That's the only explanation I can thing of for the fact that 50 Cent's "Candyshop" is on the radio. I finally read through all the lyrics to that and, oh my goodness, there's no way you could clean up those lyrics without just starting over and writing a different song. I don't know what's scarier, the fact that the song's basically pornography with a beat, or that about half of my son's fifth-grade class listed it in the yearbook as their favorite piece of music. I know they don't understand the words and just like the rhythm, but ... sheesh. Do you think my parents felt this scandalized by, like, the Bee Gees?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

New on Mothers with Attitude

Ken Swarner's latest "Family Man" column deals with his family's tendency to have medical emergencies in the middle of the night, necessitating emergency room visits at a time of day when dad's not exactly at his best. I'm guessing that most parents of children with special needs can relate to that, with the added degree of difficulty of having to remember your child's arm-length list of diagnoses and medical background when all your head wants to do is hit a pillow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mom as MVP

My son is playing in a special-needs baseball league this year, and it could not be more low-key. They play three innings, tops; everyone gets to bat each inning, everyone gets pitched to until they make contact with the ball, everyone gets on base and stays on base, and at the end of the inning, everyone who's on base runs home. There are a few kids who can actually catch and throw the ball, but there are also quite a few like my guy, who are more interested in playing with the dirt in the infield. It's nice, though, for him to put on a uniform and go outside and play with other kids, or at least in the vicinity of other kids, and it's nice for my husband and I to go out and be sports parents, even if it's in a league where everybody cheers for both sides. I'm hardly a "sports mom," though, not close to the pro level of the mom of sports writer Mark Dewar, who pays tribute to his MVP in his Contributor's Corner essay, "Athletes Choke, But Moms Don't."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dropping like flies

Boy, you know, I just can't get a break. I've been working feverishly to try to prepare my son's way into middle school next year, and it seems that every time I think I've got things lined up, they fall apart. I had a good relationship with the speech therapist from her work with my daughter, but when I went to talk with her about my son she told me she was quitting. I didn't even get a chance to talk to the guidance counselor before hearing that he was retiring, and a new person would be there in the fall. And now I find that my daughter's child study team leader, who had been extremely helpful in advising me on my son's IEP and whom I had made sure would be his CST leader too, is leaving at the end of this year. It's getting so I'm afraid to talk to anybody. I've actually had a couple of nice conversations with the principal, so I figure he's doomed for sure.

I've always had a policy of thinking only six months ahead because so much can change in a school or a district, but this is getting ridiculous.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Book lover

My son loves the Shiloh trilogy of books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Just loves them. Loves them beyond all logic. For a kid who has about a 30-second attention span for all but a handful of obsessions, he can converse on Shiloh at length, apply life lessons from the book to other situations, and sit still, rapt with attention, for chapters upon chapters. As a big reader myself, I'm thrilled to see a book take such a strong hold on a youngster, even if, well, maybe, from time to time, we could, like, read a different book? No? Okay.

He's been on a particular Shiloh kick lately, dropping observations about evil Judd Travers and noble young Marty and the sweet beagle that one of them abused and the other saved. This is fine when he's talking to me, because I know what he's talking about, and the things he says make sense. But it can take other folks by surprise. Like Sunday, when we were down at the animal shelter looking for a prospective pet of our own. As we took one little pooch on a get-to-know-you walk with a shelter volunteer, my guy started talking about how mean Judd Travers was to his dogs, and how he chained them up, and yelled at them, and kicked them, and starved them, and hunted out of season. The volunteer's eyes got wider and wider until she asked me, "Is this a real person he's talking about?" She was pretty much ready to call the police on this scumbag, and was relieved to hear that he was a fictional scumbag, and one who got plenty of comeuppance. Maybe now she'll seek out the Shiloh books, for herself or her children, and my son will have passed on his passion. Or else she'll make some secret "nut-job" notation on our application to ensure that the closest we get to a real dog is a well-thumbed paperback.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Becoming one of those moms

I feel like I've gone over to the dark side: After years and years of refusing to go to Home & School Association meetings (got two special-needs kids at home, don't you know, need to be there every second), years and years of finding my little nitches that allow me to work at my children's school without having to deal with personalities and politics, I've actually volunteered to be vice president of the HSA at my daughter's middle school. It will be my son's middle school next year, and that's the real reason I'm joining up; it's all part of my plan to raise my profile among the administrators there, so that when my guy inevitably misbehaves he won't be "that horrible little boy" but "that horrible little boy whose mom is on the HSA board." Will it make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. But at least they'll know where to find me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Heavy duty

I ordered my son a weighted blanket for his bed from Dream Catcher Blankets a while back, and it finally came last week. He was thrilled with it -- Eileen Jackson, who makes the blankets, found a really cute Scooby Doo fabric for my Scooby-loving boy. He likes having weight on top of him, and so my hope is that this will help him sleep better, and also calm him down when he needs it. The jury is still out on whether it's going to work for him -- he's been going through a really silly phase, and I'm not sure even a two-ton truck could weigh him down -- but hey, I crawled under it one time and I felt calmer. That's got to count for something.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Your name is what now?

I helped chaperone my daughter's last seventh-grade dance last night. This time, much to the delight of my poor elderly ears, I was not in the over-amped gymnasium but standing by the front door of the school, checking the names of arriving children off a list of all students in good standing. Let me just give my fellow parents a piece of advice here: If you are dropping your young person off at an event which might require them to have their names checked off a list, please drill them a bit before they get out of the car as to what letter of the alphabet their name starts with. I can't tell you how many kids stood, dumbfounded, staring at the signs that said "A-L" and "M-Z" and using up every last brain cell trying to figure out what line they belonged in. And they still got it wrong more often than not. Since the room was noisy, what with all those cerebral wheels whirring, I often had to ask kids to just tell me the first letter of their last name, at which point most of them told me their first name. I'll tell you, it all made me feel a lot better about my daughter and her learning disabilities. She, at least, got in the right line.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sick days

My son was calm and well-behaved this weekend. He listened well. He paid more attention than ever at his special-needs baseball game (not much, but more). He was quiet all through church. He played by himself happily and didn't bug me for attention every two minutes. So I should have known he was sick long before the thermometer read 102.8 and the doctor confirmed my diagnosis of strep throat.

Do your kids get good when they're sick? I'd expect the opposite -- feeling bad should make sensory sensitive kids go nuts -- but this is a regular pattern with my guy. Adding this to his experience with a splint on his arm after a bad fall, in which he was calm and focused even though he couldn't suck his fingers as he so constantly does, I'm wondering: Maybe we should stop thinking about finding medication that can "cure" our kids of their neurological problems. Maybe we should start thinking about medication that keeps them always in a state of low-grade illness or injury. What's up with that?

Monday, May 02, 2005

New on Mothers with Attitude

In "Miracles," the latest installment of her "Thinking It Over" column, April Cain considers the connection between the late Pope John Paul II and her son's addition to the family. ... In "Three Little Words," special education director Amy Krause realizes how much she takes for granted ... and in his latest "Family Man" column, Ken Swarner wonders whether his wife even needs him to be there for some of their conversations.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Theme park fun

We just got back from a week in Orlando, and I once again got a lesson from my son on fun being in the eye of the beholder. With theme park upon theme park of rides and attractions to choose from, his absolute favorite spot was the display of GM cars that you pass when exiting from the Test Trak roller coaster at Epcot. It's just supposed to be a stroll by, maybe check out a car and watch a commercial, and then be on your way to the next meticulously designed and scripted Disney amusement, but for my car-obsessed guy it was the be-all and end-all. We got a Park Hopper pass so that no matter where we started the day, we could end it with those six or seven cars. He crawled in and out and all around them for hours and hours. Sometimes we'd feel guilty for not forcing him to experience more, and sometimes we'd get him to try a ride or two, but really, he was as joy-filled amongst these down-to-earth vehicles as a hall full of Small World marionettes. The happiest place on earth? Behind the wheel of a showroom Hummer, my friend.