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.