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?