Monday, November 26, 2007

My daughter the driver

My daughter's learning to drive. She got a 92 on her written test, got her permit, and will be starting the live driving with a teacher at school in December. She's already been doing some tooling around with her dad, through the parking lot at the high school next door and some surface streets.

Just what I needed, you know? Something new to worry about.

It's not that I think she'll be a bad driver. She's a good, organized, serious girl, and I think she'll operate a car in a safe and responsible manner. It's all the other fools on the road I worry about. Prediction and flexibility and grey areas aren't her strong suits; will she be able to anticipate the jerk turning left from the right hand lane or cutting in without warning on the highway or backing up to get to a missed offramp? I worry she'll get flustered, and freeze.

Maybe not. Maybe she'll do great. But I'm flustered, anyway.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The dreaded teacher convention days

I'm all discombobulated today. The kids have off school today and tomorrow because of the teacher's convention, which always falls this week in November, the same week there's a half-day for Election Day. Not to mention the same month there's already a short week for Thanksgiving. It's a cruel month for kids who crave their routine.

Anyway, my brain thinks it's Saturday, and will not be convinced otherwise. Which means, what, on the actual Saturday I'll wake up thinking it's Monday? As if the time change weren't disruptive enough. Hmmph. I'm all turned around.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Brothers and sisters of the world

I was looking at the site statistics on the blog I do about the TV series Brothers & Sisters this morning, and checked out the listing of who was on the site right at that moment. And I was kind of amazed at what I found. There were four readers checking out my posts: one in New Zealand, one in England, one in the Philippines, and one in China.

The internet is such an unexpected place. When I'm sitting writing my sites, I sort of think, in my culturally blindered way, of myself as writing for Americans. And then, so often, I get responses from people all the heck over the place. To have that kind of reach for something I'm creating is ... a little intimidating, actually. But cool.

Where are you from?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Making myself understood

I don't want to come off as one of those English-only purists. I'm a live and let live kinda girl. Watching my daughter's bilingual friend with his monolingual mom leads me to believe that parenting a teenager who can speak a language you don't is fraught with peril, but best of luck for trying.

You'd think, though, that there would be certain jobs for which a clear command of English is a legitimate requirement. One of those would be speech therapist for English-speaking kids, but last year, when my son had a therapist neither the kids nor the parents could understand, I found out that's not the case.

Another would be telemarketers. I don't know if there's some sort of anti-discrimination law that forbids companies from declining to employ unclear English speakers, but speaking as a customer, let me just make this clear to anyone who wants to sell me something: If I cannot understand the description of what you want me to buy, I am not going to buy it. I am going to hang up the phone.

Understand? Sheesh.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Getting it all together

Last week, on one of the shows I blog about, Brothers & Sisters, a mother lost custody of her kids in small part because she forgot to put a signed permission slip in her son's backpack. It was used as an example of how she's unable to juggle all the demands of childcare. And it's a good thing I'm not in that position, because if getting the right stuff in my son's possession at school time was a conspicuous measurement of my fitness as a parent, I'd be seeing my kids alternate weekends, too.

Things have gotten better since the time my son was in second grade and wore shoes on the wrong feet, one each from two different pairs. His clothes are on the right way, although there may sometimes be food stains on them (he's great at wiping his mouth on his shoulder in a way that I don't see until he's getting out of the car). But I'm not always so good about making sure his glasses are on his face or his lunch money's in his pocket. He's left books and gym clothes behind. He's left his backpack behind. I'm making a lot of emergency deliveries lately.

And then stuff happens like this: I was packing up the form for the fundraiser they're doing for field trips for the kids in self-contained classes. I managed to sell items to some aunts and uncles we don't see every day, and figured I'd just write a check for everybody and folks could pay us back on delivery. Except, now, tonight, with the money due tomorrow, I see that they're only accepting cash. I don't happen to have $100+ in cash sitting around, waiting to go to school. Even if I could get going early enough to go the ATM, I don't have a card. Never use the cash machine. Rarely use cash. Rats.

Good thing I don't have a husband who's going to use this against me in a court of law.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The walking wounded

I'm feeling like such a weakling these days. On Thursday, I was running outside, playing with my son and the dog, when I tripped and fell and scraped various body parts on the rough patio cement. I could have fractured my arm, busted a knee, I don't know, given my advanced age, broken a hip. Instead, I had raw scraped skin on my right knee, palm, and elbow. No biggie, right?

So why am I still, three day later, feeling sore and chaffed and wounded? Every time I bend my elbow, or my knee rubs against my pants, I feel sorry for myself. I'm still covering myself in Band-Aids, moving slow, and feeling so tired. It's like I got the wind knocked out of me when I tumbled, and still haven't got it back again. For a few lousy scrapes!

If my daughter was going on about something so minor, I'd tell her to count her blessings and stop acting like it was such a big deal. If my son was, I'd be impressed that he was feeling pain that well and make over him a little before sending him away with, "It's just a scrape." Yet I'm feeling cranky and creaky, and letting myself get away with it.

A weakling, is what I am. A wimp. And one without much sympathy in my own house, I'll tell ya.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Am I writing the right thing here?

I spend a lot of time, a lot a lot a lot of time with my daughter, begging her not to overanalyze every little thing she does. What's done is done! You can't undo it, so why worry about it! No one pays that much attention to you anyway! (Yeah, I know that last one sounds mean; I'm addressing the fact that she believes everybody is watching her every second and judging her harshly for, like, having a serious expression on her face.)

I'm pretty eloquent on the subject. So why can't I follow that advice myself?

I'm flogging myself this morning for speaking up in a meeting last night, going over and over everything I said and wondering if people are now thinking, "That Terri! Why doesn't she just stop talking!" Then, too, I'm obsessing over something I didn't speak up about, and worrying that I let something that's wrong go into the record.

Honestly, sometimes it's hard to believe that my daughter is not related to me by blood. My mother passed the worry-over-every-little-thing gene to me, and I thought my next generation would escape it -- but either my girl's birthmother had the same family trait, or this is more of a nurture than a nature thing.

So now, I'm going to have to analyze every little thing I've done that brought her to this anxious place. Ack!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween letdown

Gads, November! What happened to October? I've been so busy blogging in paying venues that I've seriously neglected this poor blog spot. Only so many brain cells to go around, you know?

Neither of my kids went trick or treating last night; I think we've officially outgrown it. I don't see any need to arm-wrestle them into it just because it's What Young People Do, anyway. My son was all excited about staying home and passing out the candy, and when the first group came, he was just Mr. Suburban Homeowner, commenting on costumes and handing out goodies like a big old grown-up. Unfortunately, that was also our last group. Apparently, pretty much everybody else in our neighborhood has outgrown Halloween, too.

Did you get much business last night? Did your kids go out? If you've got big bags of tooth-rotting treats to deal with today, I've got some tips on my About site on ways to use those goodies for good. I guess we'll be doing that with the candy we meant to hand out.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hey, did you hear about Britney?

So I was doing the treadmill this morning, and flipped on the morning news shows to see what was happening in the big wide world, instead of my own little obsessive part of it.

Turned on CBS's The Early Show, and what's the top story? "Britney Spears loses custody of her kids!"

Great. I flipped over to NBC's The Today Show, and what are they talking about? "Britney Spears loses custody of her kids!"

Gah! I flipped over to ABC's Good Morning America, and guess what the focus was there?

If you said the war, global warming, the presidential race, health care, the economy, world hunger, anything with actual, you know, significance, you'd be wrong.

Because the #1 concern of everyone in the world today is "Britney Spears loses custody of her kids!" Multiple segments of these morning shows were devoted to this story of apparent major importance.

I turned off the TV and walked in silence. Would that Britney could turn off the media onslaught, too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dang it, drat and dagnabbit!

My son came home today with those dreaded words: "Mom, you are not going to be happy to hear this." He says that, in his invisible friend voice, whenever he's gotten in trouble at school.

What was the offense this time? When he noticed that he'd forgotten to put his pencils in his locker, he said, "Damn it!"

And let us be clear: I have no idea at all as to where he could possibly have heard that sort of language. None! It's an honest mystery to me. We're all clean-spoken folk here, by gum!

Ahem. Darn big-eared kid.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Adoption-themed comedy coming

I've been reading a lot lately about an upcoming movie called Juno, about a pregnant teen and the couple who plan to adopt her baby. That plotline could go dramatic, but this time it's a comedy, and by all accounts a pretty good one. There's a review of it on the Cinematical site, and a trailer on (reproduced below, if your browser cooperates). It looks like it offers a fair amount of humanity to all parties involved in an adoption, though without seeing the whole thing I can't be what kind of message it sends. I'm putting it on my list of movies I'd see if I ever actually got to go out and see movies, though.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The games kids play

My daughter just finished this year's round of Band Camp for her high school marching band. On the last night of camp, they have a barbecue and some time to just play together. In the past there have been football games. I remember last year, the band director mentioned that times have changed and soccer is now the sport the kids are playing. This year, my daughter played volleyball with her friends, and other kids passed a football and kicked a soccer ball.

And some other kids? They played cricket.

When my daughter said that, I thought surely she must be mistaken. But now there are photos posted online of the event, and indeed, these New Jersey high schoolers appear to have a cricket bat and wickets, although that sure looks like a tennis ball they're hitting.

Did I miss a memo? Are U.S. kids playing cricket now? I've got to believe it's just one kid with a weird sense of humor learning an unusual sport for kicks, and showing it off to his friends. Kind of cool, actually. But ... cricket? really?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why I don't go to reunions anymore

My high school Class of 1977 just had its 30th reunion, without me. But through the magic of the Internet, I'm able to check out photos of the event on our class' Yahoo group site, and ... and ... well.

On looking at the photos, my first thought was, "What were so many of my parents' friends doing at our reunion?"

There's nothing to make you feel so old as seeing how old people your age look, is there? Dear me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What team?

How overrun are we in High School Musical 2 mania at my house right now? Here's how much: This weekend, I got an e-mail with a subject line that read "Calling all Wildcats!" and I immediately assumed it was some Disney hype related to the movie. Opened it up and ... um, oh yeah, my son's special-needs Little League team is called the Wildcats. Hmmm.

Don't look a gift diploma in the mouth

The blog Spanglish Gringo linked to an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about parents who are mad that school districts have given their mainstreamed special education students a diploma, when the parents believe that they have not actually received an education. And you know, I've often wondered how exactly my daughter is passing her classes, when test scores show her to be horribly behind in pretty much any useful skill, and she has to take exams multiple times.

But unlike these parents, I know my girl's trying hard, and if she manages to earn a diploma, I will kiss that document and frame it and never let anybody wrest it out of our hands. My fear is that because of some administrative curse, probably brought along by parents like the one in the article, she will not be able to get a regular diploma.

I can't help feeling that these parents are expecting and demanding something that cannot be done under the current educational system. But maybe I'm just easy.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Funky Winkerbean finally gets to the birthmother reunion

I've written before about the comic strip "Funky Winkerbean" taking on a storyline of an adopted child searching for his birthmother, and after a number of false starts over the years, the reunion finally came this week. If you don't get the strip in your paper (or never check the funnies), you can see them on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer site. The background of Lisa's pregnancy is available in an archive on the Funky Winkerbean site.

I'm glad this finally got resolved, and that the arc included young Wally talking to his adoptive parents about his search (albeit after the fact) and reassuring them of their place in his life. I'll be reading along hoping for more. If this storyline has been meaningful to you, or may be meaningful one day for your kids, check bookstores in October -- strip creator Tom Batiuk mentions in his blog that a book compiling all Lisa's storylines is due then.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Medical crisis du jour

My daughter had a colossal nosebleed today. A real gusher. It continued long enough to make me call her pediatrician's office, and a nurse told me to wait five or 10 minutes more and then take her to an urgent care center. By 10 minutes it was slowing down, and it finally stopped, with the help of an icepack to the nose.

Then, five hours or so later, just before bedtime, it started again. More gushing. So this time we did hop in the car and head to the Immedicenter, where a doctor cauterized a scraped-up area on her septum. No more nose-picking for you, young lady! If my admonishments to that effect couldn't stop her, perhaps that burning stick up her nose will.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will my pretty new site crash your browser?

I finally completed a redesign of the Mothers with Attitude site that I've been working on in stolen moments for about a year. It looks pretty nifty on the browsers on my newer Mac, but I took a look at it in Internet Explorer on our older laptop today and it was kind of a mess, finally freezing IE up.

If you have a moment, and nothing in your browser you couldn't afford to force-quit away, stop by MWA and take a look, then come back and comment on how it looks on your system. Maybe mention what operation system and browser you're using, if possible. I can't bear the thought of finding the time to re-do it, but I don't want to be crashing folks on a regular basis, either.

Friday, July 27, 2007

My summer TV obsession

I find myself lately being completely obsessed by the HBO show John from Cincinnati. Anybody out there watching it? Nobody I know is, which means I have to haunt message boards and see strangers talk about it. It gives me that same "I have no idea what I just watched, but I've sure never seen anything like that on television" thrill I got years ago from Twin Peaks, and although that show's implosion left me swearing I'd never get taken again, I seem to have jumped aboard the surfboard for this one.

There's even a special-needs parenting connection, a little bit: I wrote on my About site about the use of echolalia by the title character, first in a mindlessly echoing way, then in a way that imbues the echoes with some meaning, and then weaving them into a mind-blowing sermon. I hope the show creators really are going somewhere with this, and know where that somewhere is, and don't wipe-out along the way.

Still, it's not like there are tons of shows to go ga-ga over in the summer. With Brothers & Sisters repeating the same episodes again and again, it's nice to have something to look forward to on Sundays. And then Mondays, and Wednesdays, and whatever other days they're showing repeats. Have I mentioned I'm obsessed?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The risks of silly walks

My son has a weird way of walking sometimes where he leans forward, puts his arms out, and kind of bobs as he goes. This has bothered his teachers since he first started in school. This has bothered me ... well, never, actually. Because I'm a weak, enabling mom, no doubt. I've just never been of the opinion that standing up straight needs to be one of his major goals, and the fact that he gets a good, comforting proprioceptive kick from that bobbing makes it something to not take so lightly.

Lately, the rationale used to stamp this out is that it makes him look weird to his peers. This, too, is fine by me -- standing up straight is not going to suddenly make him a typical 14-year-old, and his peers might as well see him coming. My suspicion is that it's just something that bugs grown-ups, and that they think is an easy and obvious thing to fix. Yet they've been working on this since he was five, and fixed? Not so much.

There is one downside to walking his walk, though, that we discovered on a stroll around the neighborhood last week: If you're leaning forward and your collar is open, a bug can fly in and bite you on the chest.

It freaked me out, I'll admit, seeing those two little marks on my boy's chest. They swelled up pretty fast, and I was all over the Internet trying to find out what dire possibilities we were facing. The description kept bringing up spider bites, but unless we have flying spiders or he walked through a spider web, that seemed unlikely. He said he heard a little buzz, but there was no stinger left behind.

The bite was painful enough to make my feeling-no-pain kid say "Ow!" and the initial swelling was followed up by hives at a nearby spot, which had me hyperventilating. And then ... nothing. He was fine. I was a wreck, but he was A-OK.

I don't think this is going to make me change my position on his walking position. He can still bob and weave for all I care. But you know what? I'm going to button up his darn shirt when he does it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My honor-roll girl

Sign me up for one of those bumper stickers -- my kid made the honor roll!

I've known that for a couple of weeks, because the school sent my daughter a letter of congratulations. What the school didn't send until yesterday was the actual report card. So odd to get the announcement without the actual scores in hand.

I was interested to see the actual grades that resulted in that happy honor-roll placement, because I had been fairly worried that she would get Ds in a couple of classes. I guess talking to her teachers helped, because she bopped to B level in both of them. Mercy grades? Maybe, but we'll take 'em.

Interestingly, although she did honor-roll level work that fourth quarter, she actually failed a couple of her final exams. Her final grades for the year survived on the weight of the classroom work she's been doing, which confirms my faith that if you just do the dang homework, you can pass classes, at least at her level. So many kids blow off the homework, but you get points for it, and you get the goodwill of teachers, too. That and the faithful retaking of failed tests as per her IEP seems to be carrying her along.

Wonder if we could get her retakes on the final?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The real blogger in the family

My son is totally shaming me as a blogger. I set him the task of blogging once a day this summer -- five sentences about anything -- and darned if he's not doing it. Of course, he's motivated: I told him that if he did his daily writing through the start of school, I'd buy him a song on iTunes that I've been saying "no" to. I thought I was pretty safe. But he's writing, and that makes me happy, too.

If you're looking for a summer writing project for your kiddo, a Blogger blog's not a bad idea. Free, easy to do, and it looks like something when they're done. I'm probably more impressed with my son's blogging than he is, but that's because I can barely drag my pixels over here to blog once a week or so. Show-off.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Special-needs sports stars

A newspaper photographer was following my son's Challenger League baseball team for much of the season this year, and the results hit our local paper this weekend with some really wonderful pictures. My first thought on looking at them was, she must have been using a massive telephoto lens, because she could never have gotten these candid shots if an easily distracted kid like my son saw her with a camera.

You can see the photos in slide shows here on the newspaper's site, with audio interviews with coaches and parents. Just click on the link next to "multimedia." My son is in some of the photographs (if you play the first, longest slideshow, he's the skinny kid on the left in the fourth photo to come up), but didn't get interviewed. My husband was there when the reporter approached him, and apparently my son waved her away saying "No interviews! No interviews, please!" What, does he think he was adopted by Angelina Jolie?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stealth teacher

So I've been trying to get one of my daughter's high school teachers on the phone, and this teacher has acknowledged to my daughter that she knows I want to talk to her, and yet after two attempts at contact in two different portions of the school year I have received zero phone calls (or e-mails, though I gave my e-mail address in case she'd rather not speak).

I was trying to figure out whether I really wanted to get the guidance counselor involved, as is the parent contact protocol; try again to reach the teacher informally; or just give up and hope for the best. But then a funny thing happened.

Someone called asking to speak with my daughter. Since my daughter's been having some problems with kids teasing her at school, and a recent suspicious phone call along those lines, I asked who was calling. The caller hesitated and said, "I am calling from the high school." Well, goodie for you. It sounded like a kid telling me they were calling from a location physically at the high school, so I asked again who was calling. And then the voice, faltering again, announced itself to be the teacher I've been trying to reach (and not by name, either, just by job description).

Well, hello!, I said, and launched into a conversation that the teacher had clearly been trying to avoid. We actually had a nice chat before she asked again to talk to my daughter, regarding scheduling for a test make-up. But it struck me as so odd -- why was she avoiding me in the first place? and why, when she was speaking to me directly, was she so reluctant to say who she was? Maybe I didn't sound like a grown-up to her, either. But professionally, when a teacher calls a student's household, would they not announce themselves with name and title?

It's stuff like this that makes me wonder if there's a file somewhere with my name on it and a big red stamp saying "TROUBLE! Do not engage this mom in conversation." Although there are teachers who have dared to do so, and in most cases emerged with their heads still attached. I can be nice! Really!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Singing the parental advisory hits

My son has been taking voice lessons for a little while, more as just a fun activity than in any attempt to make him a singing sensation. In the time he's been singing his voice has dropped, and he's trapped in that teen purgatory of no-longer-a-tenor, not-quite-a-baritone. His teacher has been having quite a time trying to find appropriate material for him to work on. There were some nice Broadway songbooks for his kiddie voice, but the Broadway songbooks for lower voices? A little more contemporary, and a little more troublesome, theme-wise, especially for perseverative kids like my boy. I have to agree with the teacher that "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" from "Avenue Q" is probably not the right material here.

I was thinking about the trickiness of the new Broadway songbook on Tony night when "Spring Awakening" won trophy after trophy. I listened to the whole soundtrack online the next day, and the songs are terrific, but it's hard to ignore that big Parental Advisory label on the CD cover and "Explicit" tag on all the numbers. These are the things I look at when downloading music for my kids, and there's hardly a song here I'd feel comfortable putting on their iPods. And I think the voice teacher's unlikely to want to work with him on songs with titles like "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally F***ed." Yeah, we'll have him perform that one at a recital.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

If Mom likes it, it must be square

This song, "Hey There, Delilah" by the Plain White Ts, has been running around in my head since it plucked its way out from all the rap and noise on my kids' favorite radio station. I'm not sure how something this sweet and quiet is getting airplay these days, but it's lovely, isn't it? It's giving me serious Simon & Garfunkel flashbacks. You can listen to it in the video below, and then it will rattle around your head, too. Unless, like my kids, you think it's just too slow.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nicely played

Yesterday was a red-letter day for us. For the first time, last night, my son ... sat through ... an entire school concert. Yes!

If that doesn't sound like such an accomplishment for a 14-year-old, then you don't have a scoodgy boy like mine.

It was his sister's high-school band concert, and I'd lured him there with the promise that he could leave after a couple of songs -- I just wanted to include him, a little bit. But he sat through a couple of songs, and a couple more, and pretty soon an hour and a concert and a nice little milestone were passed. Sure, he squeaked in his seat some, and he flung his arm around my neck a few times in a way that I thought might alter my spine, and at the end he screamed out his sisters name and opined that she "Rocked The House!"

All in all, though, it was a good experience. The band played nicely. And the boy listened nicely, too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Meddling mom

I've been doing the "how much do I interfere?" dance with my daughter all year.

It's her first year in high school, and she's handled things really well. And so, I've let go a bit, not hanging over her homework or constantly touching base with her teachers. High school makes it harder to do those things anyway, so I was happy to fade back. That's what you do with supports, right? Fade them back when they're not needed?

I've had a few teacher conversations, and one situation where I orchestrated a class change. I've also had one bad contact, when I questioned something a teacher was doing and got a cold shoulder for it. Beyond that, though, I've held my peace.

Now, the end of the year is at hand, and her latest progress report indicated continuing struggles in two subjects. I'm pretty sure she won't fail. I'm pretty sure she can do better. And I'm pretty sure that I need to know what's up before next year's schedule is set in stone.

So today, I sent notes to the teachers with my kinda uncomfortable daughter, just asking them to call and chat. In the big time here, in high school, you're supposed to go through the counselor to contact teachers ... but this isn't a big-time problem, and it's so late in the year. A few teachers have OK'd informal conversations, I hope these two will too.

Or maybe they'll just do the "overinvolved parent!" eyeroll and try stonewalling me for the next four weeks. Or maybe my girl will accidentally forget to give them the notes until it's too late anyway.

Sometimes, don't you just envy those parents who are blissfully uninvolved? I tried, man ... can't do it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TV takes on special-needs parenting ... maybe

I've been watching and blogging about the ABC show Brothers & Sisters for most of the season, and it's made a nice transition from being an intrigue-filled look at a family and a family business in the wake of the patriarch/founder's death to a gentler, sillier examination of the ties that bind families together, whether you really feel like being bound to that person or not. The repartee and rapport between the siblings is golden, well-written and well-acted by the likes of Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffith and Ron Rifkin. I started the season watching it because I need something to space out to at the end of the weekend (it's on Sundays at 10 p.m.), and ended the season with it as my most anticipated show of the week.

One couple who has gotten less plot than usual in the family saga is Tommy, one of the brothers of the title, and his wife, Julia. There was a little plot flurry early on over Tommy's infertility (his brothers donated sperm), and a little flurry about Julia being pregnant with twins, and then a big episode in which the twins were born premature and one of them died. The other was still hospitalized as of Sunday's season finale, and her parents were dealing with that in different ways -- mom depressed and taking sedatives, dad spending time away from home and acting like nothing was wrong.

The writers of this show have a lot of pots on the stove, so to speak, and I don't know whether Tommy and Julia and their baby, Elizabeth, will ever get put on the front burner. But I'm hoping for it, because there's real potential for dealing with issues of special-needs parenting. While Elizabeth survived her birth in better health than her brother, she could well have significant problems related to her prematurity. Watching parents and extended family deal with that could be therapeutic to those of us who've experienced that in real life. The different dynamics of moms and dads in special-needs families could also make for good TV -- I recommend Married With Special-Needs Children to the producers as a textbook.

The show's already dipped its toe into the subject with one sister's daughter having diabetes; let's hope that next season, they dive on in. If you haven't seen the show and are interested in it, you can view all the past episodes online at, and read recaps on my B&S blog.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Airsickness problem solved

We just got back from vacation, which involved two plane flights and much trauma for my daughter. She gets airsick and often throws up on landing, leading her to be understandably unenthusiastic about air travel.

This time around, we tried Dramamine for the tummy troubles, and it made her nicely sleepy for the flight and not nauseated at touchdown time. Unfortunately, it did nothing for the ear discomfort she feels, and without the distraction of vomiting, the ear pain had her crying and moaning. No amount of yawning, chewing, ear tugging, ear massaging, or jaw-working seemed to help. So on the way home, we gave her some Advil along with the Dramamine, and that took care of all nasty landing difficulties. Hooray! She was a little loopy for most of the evening, but otherwise unaffected.

Just thought I'd share this solution for those with noise-sensitive, pressure-sensitive, movement-sensitive, pain-sensitive teens, who need their young people to be unafraid of flying, and also don't like to be thrown up upon all that much.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Comic strip returns to adoption theme

Just a quick note to mention that the comic strip Funky Winkerbean is returning to a periodic adoption story-line, and it looks like this time they're finally going to go through with having a child placed for adoption by one character, Lisa, look up his birthparents.

Funky Winkerbean originally followed Lisa and her classmates through their high school adventures, then took a generational leap and showed those kids as adults with a new group in high school. Lisa's son was adopted by a teacher who is now the high school principal, while Lisa later married a classmate, Les, who teaches at the high school.

The strip has periodically teased the possibility of the boy, Darin, looking up his birthparents, but now, with a push from his girlfriend, he seems poised to do it. If your paper doesn't carry the strip, you can access it online from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer site, among others. The strip has a pretty decent track record in handling dramatic storylines in a restrained way, so it will be interesting to see how this plot thread is woven in.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The livest wire in the room

My son's 14th birthday went off just fine on Sunday, and I did indeed stick to the limited guest list. That made for a smaller-scale bash, and a much quieter one, too, as his classmates this year are notably more subdued than the kids he's been with before. Maybe I should be concerned because these kids seem to be, in some ways, "lower functioning," at least in terms of ability to speak spontaneously and at an audible level. But I think it's the perfect class for him, for two reasons: With no other live wires to spark off, he's much more able to control his behavior; and with no one else rambunctious in the room, his teachers are happy to have one kid with spirit and humor. A room full of them, you don't necessarily want. One, though, keeps things lively in a good way.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Have a happy, guilt-drenched birthday

I think I'm breaking the Mommy Code, and worse than that, the Special Needs Mommy Code. The subject of my offense is my son's birthday party next Sunday. He has been quite firm that he only wants to invite his current self-contained classmates, and no children from the other classes. Because the various classes mix and mingle from one year to another, I've often invited all the children in a couple of classes to make sure we get all of his friends there. It's the code, you know? Most years, he's eager that I do get everyone included. This year? Just the six kids in his class, period, end of list.

Which is fine, from a cost perspective, and from a "manage a bunch of special-needs teens at a bowling alley" perspective. But there's a glitch: A girl who was in his class last year but is in a different class now, invited him to her birthday party this year. And it looks like we're not inviting her back. Which is not done, right? You have to reciprocate? Especially if it could be perceived as rejection by a child who maybe gets enough rejection from non-special-ed kids, whose thoughtless ways we sniff at?

I should either override my son's wishes and invite this girl, in which case I really have to invite all the kids in that class lest they wonder why we like her and not them; or I have to stick with my guy's plan and let the ego chips fall where they may. Knowing me, I'll probably limit the invitations but carry a crushing load of guilt around, plus the dread of one day being called on my code violation by an angry mother. What do you think; am I overreacting? Or am I a bad, bad birthday mom?

Monday, March 05, 2007

The voice of bad experience

I was in a meeting the other day for a school parent committee when one of the participants used that voice. That "I am a trained professional and you are an emotional parent" voice. That voice I've heard at countless IEP meetings where I want information and explanation and innovation and the professionals want to maintain the status quo at all costs. That voice that responds to every passionate question with the same dispassionate answer. I hate that voice. The speaker in question was in the meeting as a parent but is an educator by trade, and I don't know if she even knew she was using it. It must become second nature, when confronted by someone who is disputing the facts, to flip into it. And she wasn't wrong; she did have the facts on her side in the conversation. But man -- that voice. That voice is a loaded weapon, and ought not to be aimed casually. I found myself springing to the defense of those on the other side of the argument, just because the presence of that voice in the room seemed so wrong. Just as educators fall back on that voice without even realizing it, special-ed parents fall into defensiveness and righteous indignation just as surely.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine, and a little rant

I finally caught up with the movie Little Miss Sunshine last night on DVD, and found it to be every bit as funny and enjoyable as I'd heard. What's really amazing is that my husband, who's not a big fan of little comedies or independent films, watched it and laughed right along with me. Whether that broadness of appeal will serve it well on Oscar night remains to be seen. I don't know if it's really substantial enough to bear the Best Picture mantle, but it would be kind of a kick to see something sweet and light and fun beat out all the grim and violent and super-serious fare that usually triumphs. Speaking of all those grim and violent films -- one thing that really struck me about Little Miss Sunshine is that it's like a case study for why the movie rating system needs to be overhauled. I'm not saying it's a great movie for kids; they'd be bored, if nothing else. But to give this confection the same rating as, say, an over-the-top violent film like The Departed seems kinda nuts. Little Miss Sunshine's "R" seems to be mostly for its language, and it's true that the grandfather's patter is extremely salty and sexual. The other characters call him on it, though, and aside from his spiels there are only a few random "F-words" used in times of extreme frustration and anger by the parents and teen brother. The grandfather is also seen snorting heroin once, and the covers of some pornographic magazines are shown. Compared to the language load you'd get in most R-rated films, or drug use or sex or graphic violence, it's pristine. The ratings are supposed to guide parents, and I'll tell you, if they're putting the same rating on this movie and, say, "Saw III," they're not helping me distinguish very well things that will give my teens a naughty laugh versus things that will make them unable to sleep, ever. I'm just saying, there needs to be a better system, and there needs to be people setting the ratings who are more shocked by violence than they are by bad language and a chubby little girl doing a fake strip-tease fully clothed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mother in waiting

My daughter is hanging out at the mall today. That's something she hasn't done much of, partly because she's not a big one for shopping, partly because she doesn't have that many friends to hang out with, partly because I am smothering and overprotective. I'm trying to suppress those latter impulses today; she's old enough to hang out, and maybe probably has enough good sense to do so safely, despite my worst fears. She's out with a boy she's been friends with for a few years, friends but not friends friends, if you know what I mean, and although I'm not crazy about the prospects of him having good sense, his mother is with them at least in a transportational sense and it will probably be okay. Right? Right? She's a freshman in high school and I'm supposed to be giving her space. Not enough space to get lost in, but enough to maybe have a soda at the food court. I'll be glad when she's home, though.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The fine points of diagnosis

Here's how most moms know that their child is sick: The child is slow in the morning, won't get out of bed, and is whiny and clingy all day. Here's how I know my son is sick: He pops out of bed early and gets completely dressed, then sits quietly all through his sick day home from school. Why does perfect conduct have to mean illness for this guy? Normally, I have to remove him from bed with a crowbar, but Friday morning he was awake and clad before I was, and sure enough, he had a fever. Sigh. It's nice for a bit, to have this quiet calm boy, but after a while I do miss his spirit. He'll be back to talking and questioning and jumping and wrestling and burying himself under the bedcovers soon enough, and I'll be glad. But couldn't I get just a little of that good behavior without bad health?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Traffic trauma

Today was like, "Snow Day 2: The Aftermath." It didn't really even snow all that blasted much here, not by a normal winter's standards. But it hasn't been a normal winter, and I guess everybody was all discombobulated by it, because traffic this morning on the pretty-well-plowed streets was unbelievable. About 20 minutes in to the normally 10-minute drive to my son's school, I could still see an endless line of stop-and-go traffic stretching out ahead of me, and figured I could find better ways to spend the next 20 minutes than creeping along, so we headed back home. I had my guy do some homework he'd forgotten about, and when I could see out my window that the streets were clear we tried the commute again, and made it in no time. He'll probably get tagged with a tardy, but at least he passed the time productively and got a less frustrating start to the day. I mean, considering how much muttering and grumbling and yelling at cars I would have done if we'd stayed in the endless line-up, he'd have been a pretty tense teen by the time I dropped him off.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Working in a winter wonderland

We're having our first snow day of a warm and snowless winter today. This was already kind of a disruptive week of school, with half days for both kids (though on different days for different schools), my son's teacher on jury duty, and next week being Winter Break. Not a lot of learning going to be going on this week, I think. But also not a lot of homework, and one fewer drop-off-pick-up routine today, and those both have their charms. My kids got iTunes gifts for Valentine's Day and have been peacefully listening to/watching them all morning, letting me get a little work done. It's days like this I really realize how much they've grown up, and how able they've become to amuse themselves, something I wasn't sure I'd ever see. Will I one day wish that they needed me more constantly, for old time's sake? Maybe. But not today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Test whiplash

My daughter recently had her three year evaluation by the special education team, and then about a month later got her second report card from her first year in high school. And you know, you could get whiplash from looking at these two items side by side. Because the evaluation gives every indication that this is a young person with very limited potential, skills down at elementary school level, low IQ, poor communication abilities. You'd just cry, reading this, and want to give her a hug and teach her how to weave baskets. And then you'd look at the report card, for a slate of classes that include two resource room, two inclusion, and three mainstream, and you'd see ... four As, two Bs and one C. She's a sweet kid who tries hard and I'm willing to buy that there's a little bit of mercy grading going on, but this much? To this degree? How is it that her skills test so abysmally, yet she's able to pull decent marks in grade-level classes? Clearly she has functional and compensatory abilities that aren't measured on tests. It makes me wonder if the evaluations have any value at all for a student like her, other than to keep her in services. I don't feel like we learn anything at all useful from them. And she comes out of them feeling stupid, to the degree that she can't quite own the greatness of having a good report card. The kind of standardized tests the government places so much stress on don't measure her strengths very well, either. So maybe the report card's the aberration here, I don't know. But I'm putting it on my refrigerator anyway.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Grey's Anatomy is more powerful than I thought

I knew Grey's Anatomy was a big powerful TV hit, able to survive time-slot changes and win awards and stir controversies, but I didn't realize quite how powerful it was until last Thursday night. I had to go to a meeting that the superintendent of our school district holds periodically to communicate to designated members of each school's parent organization what's going on in education and educational politics. There's been a lot to say on the matter in our town lately, with a couple of school budgets and construction projects going down in flames for reasons too complex and infuriating to go into here. There's been a lot to say, and this particular superintendent says it and says it and says it, at legendary length. He's actually an engaging speaker, and I think he's done as good a job for our schoolchildren as he's been allowed to, but meetings of which he is in charge are notoriously long and talky. So when one fell on a Thursday, I mourned for my ability to watch Grey's, instructed my husband to tape it if I wasn't home, and secretly plotted to have a family emergency that required me to duck out at 8:45. But, shockingly, no such contingencies were necessary -- the superintendent announced at the outset that several people had requested that the meeting be over in time for Grey's Anatomy, and at 8:30, after an hour-and-a-half of talking, he indeed announced that he would wrap up the formal portion of the meeting so that anybody who had a show to catch could leave. Unbelievable! This, my friends, is the power of the Seattle Grace crew: They can make an education bureaucrat stop talking. I wonder if Bailey would come to my next IEP meeting?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Staying up late for Lost

So Lostis finally, finally back, and how happy am I that it's on at 10 p.m. now? I know some viewers have lamented that the show isn't still on at 9 p.m. or even 8 p.m., but as for me, I'm entirely loving the ability to hunker down and watch the show without either a) hopping up during commercials to get kids into bed, or b) delaying bedtime and risking that one of my kids will wander into the room to see someone getting hit by a bus, or creamed by a smoke monster or something. My kids have enough trouble getting to sleep without all of that. So hooray for Lost on late! But they better keep the action coming if I'm going to stay awake.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Watching his mouth

My son tends to get stuck on certain phrases and repeat them over and over. Most of the time they're just mildly annoying; lately variations on "I'm old," with "ooold" getting a stretched out rolling sort of sound, have fallen firmly into this category, and "I'm not in the mood" was around for a long while but is now phasing out. Every now and then, though, he gets stuck on something that's not so okay to say -- never a bad word, thankfully, but something like, "I'm going to pound you! Are you going to pound me?" Last night, when we went to pick up a new pair of glasses for him (never having found the lost ones), he came out with "Don't lose these or I'll beat you!" The words "I'll beat you!" were heard any number of times during our visit to the optometrist, and I can't honestly say whether folks were looking at us with concern because I was so busy trying to get him to stop saying that, or to explain to all and sundry that it was his invisible friend Scooby who was threatening to beat him, and not his gentle loving Mom and Dad. He hasn't said anything like that since we left the eye doctor, so I have hopes "I'll beat you!" isn't going into heavy repetitive rotation. Getting ooold doesn't seem so bad compared to that.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sleep research

I'm reading a book right now called Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep? by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, who also wrote Raising Your Spirited Child, an earlier parenting book favorite of mine. I'm just a little way in, but Kurcinka is making a decent case for the idea that a lot of bad behavior is caused by fatigue, or rather, by the wired-upping that kids need to do to stay alert when they're fatigued. And while I try not to get swept up in each new parenting theory, especially one posited by someone who was selling a different parenting theory not that long ago, I have to say that to some extent, this seems applicable to my son's behavior. Not the sole reason for it, certainly, but a factor. Even he sees it: The kid saw the book on my desk, pointed to the subtitle, and said, "That's like me, mom!" So I have to give the notion some credence. I haven't gotten to the part in the book yet where Kurcinka gives instructions on how to re-make your family's sleep patterns, but I've taken some preliminary steps and will see over the next couple of weeks if they make a difference. Like making my son go to bed at 9 p.m. when his older sister, the sleepyhead, goes down; he may still lay in bed for an hour or more talking to himself, but when sleep does come it should be earlier. I'm also making an effort to get myself into bed at 11 p.m. every night, rather than falling asleep in my clothes at 10:30, with the lights on because I'm planning to still do more work, and waking up at 2:30 a.m. to finally "go to bed" and then lay awake for a while. I don't know how much sleep deprivation contributes to my son's bad behavior, but I know it contributes to mine.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Social success, of sorts

Well, here's another landmark for my son: He's finally found a social-skills group that will have him for a member. For years, I'd try to get him into groups like this one only to have the gatekeepers evaluate him and tell me, noooo, no no, no, he's not for us, leaving me to wonder what kind of social skills the kids in the group must possess that would still be needful of a group but would be so very superior to my distractible and impulsive but basically good-natured guy's. I guess he's grown into acceptability with time, because this weekend he participated in a group and the folks evaluating him felt he fit in fine. I could hear his voice wafting out to the waiting room from time to time, sounding perfectly friendly and comfortable. So now I have to wonder: Does the fact that his social skills are now good enough to allow him to be in a social-skills group mean that he no longer needs to be in one?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A little early-morning justice

This morning, while driving to school, my son and I saw a familiar sight: a special-education bus with its lights flashing and stop-sign outstretched. This bus, I'll admit, is kind of a nuisance; it blocks a busy road by a middle school each morning just a few minutes before school starts, catching those of us who leave too late and count on shaving seconds on the route in a long, slow wait as a child is wheeled from the house, loaded aboard, and given a few last good words from Mom. It's a nuisance, but a necessary one, and as someone who has in the past loaded her own child into such a bus, I don't begrudge it. But this morning, someone sure did: We saw one, then two cars cut around the bus and accelerate away. Except -- oh, joy! -- the second car was actually a police car, and it immediately pulled over the person who just could not wait for that bus to load. Ha! That's the kind of thing you almost never see happen, a police car right in place to nab someone driving unsafely. The rest of us sat very politely and waited for that loading to completely take place, and for those lights to go off and that stop sign to fold in. All the time in the world, yes sir, officer. No hurry here. Although, you know, did the mom really need to chat up the bus driver at such length? Did I used to do that, too?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A pleasant IEP meeting? Not impossible!

I've had good IEP meetings and bad ones, meetings that had school personnel making threats and ones that had me doing the same, some that were just too rushed or too manipulative or too annoying, but my favorite kind -- and the kind I've really had more often than not, at least in recent years -- are the ones that drift off into a long pleasant conversation between me and the teacher and therapists about how wonderful my child is. That's the kind I had today, for my son, with the child study team leader breaking in now and then to try and ask a serious question so she could do her work. Next year will be high-school transition year for my guy, and then we will have some serious things to discuss, and I can only imagine that meetings at the high school level for someone with his behavior challenges will be far less enjoyable, but for now: They like him. They really like him. And that's nice for a mama to hear.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Should I stay or should I go?

My son, the seventh grader, is doing more and more of his homework completely on his own. We have to nag him to his workspace at the kitchen table, but once he's there, he does a pretty good job of working independently. Which is great! Except that his writing is messy, and his teacher would like it to be neater. So she writes notes asking that we tell him to take his time and write slowly. Which you have to do constantly or you get one neat word and a mess after. But if we sit with him and prompt him and prompt him to write neatly, he's not working alone. And maybe, sometimes, because it's hard to just sit there and watch mistakes being made, we correct his work, too. So the work that goes to school is neat and also correct. Much more correct than the work he does at school. So the teacher writes notes asking us to make sure he does his work alone. Which he does. Which is great! Except that his writing is messy. You see where I'm going with this. As far as I can see, the teacher has two options: Messy writing done independently, or neat writing done with Mom or Dad hanging over shoulder. Personally, I'd opt for the former. But opt she must.

Monday, January 29, 2007

When your child's no longer the noisy one

We're still sitting in the "quiet room" in church -- a closed-in area at the back of the sanctuary where families of noisy children can see and hear but not be seen and heard -- partly out of long-standing habit, partly because being in a place where there's less stress on being quiet and still makes it easier for my son to be quiet and still. There are good days and less good days, but yesterday morning was one of those that made me realize how very far he's come. There was a little curly-haired blond boy in the room with us, and he had clearly just learned how to make the D and T sounds, because he was very, very motivated to show them off to everybody. "DIT! DIT! DIT DIT DIT DIT DIT DIT!" was what we heard, loudly, endlessly, punctuated by frequent but ineffective shhhhhs from his DAD! DAD! DAD! And although it was certainly distracting, I couldn't help but shoot many smiles at the noisy one, because I remember so clearly when my son was the one who Would Not Shut Up, and I also remember when being in the room with a kid who Would Not Shut Up would drive my son crazy. But this time he sat pretty quietly himself, no talking, no rolling around, no "Be quiet, baby!" Maybe it really is time we move into the "big church" and give it a try. But I'd miss these little reminders of big progress.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Not ready for prime time

Do you watch much TV? Do you watch much TV before 10 p.m.? I find it really hard to commit to anything that's on when my kids are awake (8 to 9 p.m.) or getting ready for bed (9 to 10 p.m.) By 10 p.m., I'm usually ready and able to watch, but by that time I'm half asleep. Still, I'm thrilled that Lost is moving to the 10 p.m. hour, so my husband and I won't have to keep shagging my son out of the room while we watch it, and I surely wish Grey's Anatomy would move later, too, because I have to keep running out of my room during the commercials to do prayers and teeth-brushes and tuck-ins. Of course, the commercial breaks in Grey's seem to last about five minutes each, so it's not like I'm missing anything. But it kinda ruins the mood, y'know?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Makeover day at the high school

Here is what they did yesterday in my daughter's high school art class: They painted. On her. Girls at the high school seem to be obsessed with getting my girl to wear makeup, and although I've offered many times to help her pick out some natural-looking and non-dramatic cosmetics, she wants no part of it. Not her style. She just wants to go un-made-up in her baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants and get people to stop telling her to paint her face and wear tight clothes. But yesterday she must have had a weak moment, or a bored one, and she let a girl put foundation on her and some lip gloss. The teacher was absent, so the class was in the auditorium with minimal supervision and I guess it was makeover day. My daughter didn't seem too upset about it, but she also didn't seem eager to hit the mall for some more face goop. Shouldn't kids be able to set their own individual style and be respected for that? Oops, I'm sorry. We're talking about teenagers here. Silly of me, I know.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Your vocabulary word for the day is "Mongoloid"

Alright, folks, tell me if I'm being oversensitive here. My daughter's reading a book in her high school resource-room class about children with disabilities who go to a mainstream camp and have some struggles fitting in there. So yesterday, she brings home her first list of vocabulary words for the book, and one of the words is "Mongoloid." This is a word she's being asked to memorize the definition of, and use in a sentence. Now, that word hits me as offensive, and I look it up in the dictionary, and the dictionary says it's offensive when used to describe a person with Down syndrome, which is the definition she's been given. I wrote a note to the teacher, questioning whether this was an appropriate word to put on a vocab list -- I have no problem with discussing it in class, and explaining its meaning in the context of the story and its time, but to ask kids to put it in a sentence? To test them on it, and expect them to add it to their vocabularies? No! Right?

The teacher just called me back and explained that it's a word that people use, and it's part of the English curriculum, and that when she quizzed the class none of them knew what it meant and so it's on the vocab list. Isn't it a good thing they don't know what it means? It just floors me that this is thought to be a good word to encourage them to use. The teacher kept mentioning that it's the word her grandmother used ... but gads, aren't there lots of words our grandmother used that we would never never never want to make part of the English curriculum today? This is a special-ed teacher! Am I nuts here? I hugely do not want to pick a fight with this teacher; she's just come back from a maternity leave, replacing a substitute who was neither a special-ed teacher nor a language-arts teacher and basically wasted a semester of my daughter's time. This teacher seems to be doing a lot of things that are right, and other teachers I respect have spoken well of her. But she clearly doesn't "get" my concern here, and so I'm wondering: Am I overreacting? What would you do if your child came home with "Mongoloid" as a vocab word to learn?

Of course, it doesn't help that my daughter put her brother's name down as her "cue" for remembering "Mongoloid," and put as her sentence "My brother is a Mongoloid," leaving me to explain that a) you must never, ever write or say a sentence like that and, b) your brother does not actually have Down syndrome. The fact that this word is being systematically taught to kids who don't have the filters on their thinking to use it correctly is pretty disturbing, too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The book that kept me reading all weekend

I did something this past weekend that I really love to do but rarely manage: I read a book all the way through. Okay, I actually finished it up on Monday, but it's an almost-500 page book and I had less than 100 to go after Sunday. The page-turner in question was Tiny Titan, the non-fiction story of a family that survived through so many special-needs challenges that you cannot but put the book down at the end and say, "I am never going to whine about my simple, simple life again." (And, yet, I did whine about my simple, simple life yesterday, didn't I? Um, maybe I hadn't quite finished the book yet. I'm done with whining now, honest.) The titan of the title is a little girl born with Noonan Syndrome whose mother nursed and tended and advocated for her through innumerable medical crises. And then, when the medical crises were under control and the family budget was just starting to recover, what did this family of six do? Adopt another family of five from foster care, with suitcases full of emotional and mental-health baggage, including FASD, bipolar disorder, and RAD. Yet still they persevered, up and down, all along the roller coaster, in a book that's hard to put down. If you've got a free weekend, pick it up. It will make you feel better about the complications you face, and maybe a little worse because you don't face them with as much pluck and determination as the fightin' mom who wrote this book.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A remote and a pair of glasses slip into the great beyond

We're losing things around the house, and it's driving me crazy, crazy beyond all reason. None of these things are irreplaceable. They're not worth the tantrums I've been throwing, or the zealous straightening-up and grumbling. They're just things, much less precious than the people I've been yelling at about them. And yet something about not being able to find them, when I've looked everywhere they could possibly, possibly be, makes me feel out of control in a bad way. I have to be in control of so much -- the kids' educational situation, learning and medical and emotional issues, paperwork and referrals and reports -- losing control of something as stupid and simple as where the blasted DVD remote is is just maddening. Stressed much? Me? Nahhh.