Monday, December 22, 2008

Ice isn't nice at school drop-off time

Wow, what a mess the school commute is this morning.

I'm usually skeptical about things like snow days and delayed openings, but it's obvious that this morning the openings should have been delayed even longer than they were, until the school parking lots weren't completely covered in wheel-spinning, shoe-sliding ice.

It was an adventure walking my son to school -- from getting down our skating-rink driveway to making our way down icy sidewalks to crossing the extremely slippery and dangerous parking lot. Our walk was accompanied by the sounds of spinning wheels as car after car got stuck trying to drop students off. And by honking, because, you know, nothing helps the stuck car in front of you dislodge like laying on your horn. Hey, maybe sound vibrates the ice, who knows.

I suspect this same scene was played out in other parking lots all around town. What a mess. As cold and limb-risking as it was walking to school, I'd much rather have been doing that than driving. Even with my son hanging on my arm for dear life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Can we swap "Wife Swap" for something less annoying?

My daughter has acquired a fascination with the show Wife Swap. And it is at times like this that I regret moving my desk out into the family area. No matter how high I crank the iTunes on my eMac, I can still hear those people whining at each other. Who signs up for something like that? Who would want to watch them? Other than teenage girls looking for an excuse not to do homework? I may have to flee the room.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are you the kind of parent who would read her child's e-mail?

Would you go so far as to set up an account for your young person in such a way that all messages would be copied to you? Could you be that much of a privacy-invading, helicopter-parenting, trust-ungiving snoop?

Yeah, me too. I posted a step-by-step on my site today describing how I set up a Gmail account for my daughter that forwards all messages to me. So I can see what she's buying on iTunes, and who she's friending on Facebook, and what her aunt is writing to tease her. Inquiring minds want to know.

She knows about it, by the way. For kids uncertain of their social skills, a benevolent spy's not such a bad thing to have looking over your shoulder. Hope she keeps trusting me more than I trust the people who write to her.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is it just me, or does this seem like a hostile gesture?

Our school district's special-education department started a parent advisory group, as per state law. Meetings have been spottily scheduled all along, but recently they seem to have settled on 2:00-3:30 p.m. Which happens to neatly encompass all the school dismissal times for the district.

Now, I get that you sometimes have to schedule these meetings during the day, but why on earth would you ask parents to gather in a conference room at the very time when they need to be picking up children or waiting home for buses? Is it just me, or is this sending the message that they really would like it very much if nobody came?

It goes without saying, I suppose, that they send the notifications out so late that it's difficult to make alternative arrangements for your kids even if you could.

Yeah, puts me in a heck of a collaborative mood.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why did the parent cross the road?

Do you drop your child off at school? Let me ask you something: When you're driving through the school parking lot, do you drive fast? If you see a kid trying to cross in front of you, do you slow down or speed up? Because seriously, the parents who drop off kids at the high school next door to us seem to be thinking about nothing but speeding their cherub to the front door, and if they have to mow down a few classmates to do it, that's just the way it goes.

I've always driven my kids to school before this, and I think I've been fairly respectful of young pedestrians (though not always of crossing guards, one of whom seemed to time his trips to eliminate any hope of a left turn at a busy intersection). Now that my kids are walking to school, though, I'm noticing what an unsafe situation it is, even in these days when everybody's talking big about Child Obesity and Global Warming and The Tragedy of Kids No Longer Walking to School.

For my kids, the problem is the main speedway passage through the high-school parking lot, which they have to cross to get from the side where our house is to the side where the buildings are. They don't have to cross a public street, just that parking-lot lane. There's a sidewalk that goes around our corner and ends at a natural spot for a crosswalk ... but no lines, no signs, no indication that kids will be making their way across the asphalt. And no slowing down from motorists, either.

I'm not expecting them to put out a crossing guard to hold the hands of teenagers as they make their way to school. But a crosswalk would both show kids one safe place to cross -- rather than darting randomly through traffic, as they do now -- and show parents, at least theoretically, that here's a spot where they need to slow down.

As it is, I have to walk my son to school, because no way could I trust him to not cross unsafely (or, for that matter, stop in the middle of the roadway to look at an interesting rock). On my way home today, I saw the high-school principal standing outside without armed guards or anything, and went up to make my case about a crosswalk. He listened for a few minutes, then gave me that "Parent, you have overstated your case" eye-glaze that professionals get, so who knows if it will do any good.

But if you drive your kid to school, next time you're driving through a school parking lot, slow the heck down, wouldja? Some of us are trying to cross here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's beginning to look too much like Christmas

I'm about half to two-thirds of the way through Christmas shopping, which is slightly ahead of schedule for me, but nowhere close to getting Christmas cards out, which is entirely according to my usual schedule. I'd like to think there's still tons of time, but I know these next two-plus weeks are going to zip by like a flying reindeer, and soon I'll be giving up on the card-sending and paying the emergency-delivery fees on gifts. Makes me miss the days when we were kids and Christmas took FOREVER to come.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Leaving an IEP meeting happy

My daughter's IEP meeting was today, and we set up such a good program for her senior year that it's going to be hard for me to wait through the rest of this year. It looks like she will be able to do an internship for a couple of periods out of the day, at the elementary school she and my son attended. She wants to go into childcare, so it will be good experience and training, in an environment where a lot of people will know and support her. Cool!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cafeteria intrigue

I have cafeteria ladies spying on my son now. Does that make me an overprotective parent?

At issue is the fact that we've been giving him $1.25 to buy a Snapple with lunch, but that money has often been going to a classmate -- whether because he's a bully, an opportunist, or a willing recipient of my guy's generosity, I don't know. He's a child with special needs, too, and I don't want to get him in trouble, and I don't want my son to be a rat, I'd just like the $1.25 to go to the purchase of a Snapple consumed by the appropriate party, or be returned to me.

I've been conferring with the very helpful food-service coordinator, who suggested that the workers who run the Snapple-selling snack bar could tip me when he doesn't buy one. Apparently, my guy's well-known, and they're willing keep an eye on him. I hope this can be done without turning the whole thing into a federal case. I hope that just knowing I'll know will be enough to stop the illegal transfer of funds. But we'll see.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Friendless on Facebook

My daughter dipped a toe in the Facebook waters this weekend, then jumped in with both feet. Now she has 43 friends. How many friends do I have on Facebook? Three. Not that I'm competitive or anything, but if you're on Facebook and want to be my friend, look me up. I'm the Terri Mauro with the glasses and the messy hair and the blue dress and the smile that makes me look like I forgot my dentures. As opposed the Terri Mauro standing in front of a racecar. That Terri Mauro has 88 friends. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Calling All Parent/Experts

More on those User Answer opportunities I've been plugging on my site. Today I'm starting a big push to get folks to contribute their knowledge about their child's specific diagnosis, by giving advice to parents just receiving that diagnosis. You can read more about it in this blog post, or just go to the index of my "First Five Things to Do" lists, select the one for your child's diagnosis, read my five things, look for the words "Tell Your Tips" below -- it will either be a text box or a link; if it's a link, click it and the text box will open -- and then add your advice. Thanks for your help.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fun with carols

My daughter's favorite radio station started playing all Christmas music the first week of November this year. The first week of November! I was all for it when the station started playing them after Thanksgiving, because there are some nice songs to hear and it's good to get more than a few days of 'em. But the first week of November? Is pushing it.

If you're not already being caroled to death, here are some that may be good for a laugh: The Special-Needs Christmas Carols on my site, updated for this year with artwork and two new offerings -- "Carol of the Mall" and "Hark, the Relatives Complain." Hope they'll give you a boost this harried holiday weekend. (And for more timely humor, check out the Family Gathering Survival Kit.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

High School Musical 3: Now with more leg

I finally took my daughter to see High School Musical 3 on the big-screen yesterday, and enjoyed it very much, certainly more than the first sequel. The dancing was excellent and suitably supersized, and it's always good to have a reminder that even super-talented "typical" kids can dash their parents dreams and do impulsive stuff like driving 1,000 miles in a wrecked-out car to go see a girl.

One thing I noticed this time around, and now will have to watch DVDs of the first two to compare, was the extreme shortness of the girls' skirts, particularly Gabriella's. Was that a movie wardrobe choice, or have they always been wearing outfits that wouldn't pass any respectable school's dress code? During the sweet rooftop waltz scene between Troy and Gabriella, I kept being distracted by her barely butt-clearing baby-doll dress, which by all rights should have flown up around her waist with every twirl. They must have crazy-glued that thing to her thighs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making the grade

Thanks to those of you who answered my question a few posts back on what to do about a teacher my son has been worrying over. I thought yesterday's report-card arrival might provide some impetus for setting up a meeting, but look at that, the little son-of-a-gun made it on the honor roll, the first quarter of high school. The teacher in question gave him a "B" and a "Satisfactory" for behavior, so yeah, I shall continue with the "well enough alone" course of (non)action.

My daughter made the honor roll, too, for the second time in her high-school career. Look at me, I've got a couple of overachievers all of a sudden.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

High-tech teen dreaming

My son has a new obsession: downloading photos of Miranda Cosgrove and her show, iCarly, for showing on his iPod. Problem is, he doesn't know how to do the photo downloading himself, and so that means downloading photos of Miranda Cosgrove is now my obsession, too. We did 104 last night before I could stand it no more, and he's got a bunch more these days. I love my computer, but at times like this, I long for the days when kids would just sit around tearing pictures out of teen magazines and taping them to the wall.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two new employees

We're trying a new behavior strategy here that may prove excessively costly, but may be worth it in terms of enrichment opportunities and reduction of stress from nagging.

Both my kids have certain chores they're expected to do, and they get some iTunes dough every month for that. There are other things, though, that I badly want them to do but are, admittedly, hard for them. Like trombone practice. Reading with parents daily. Doing exercises in a standardized-test practice book. Writing a blog regularly. Don't want to make these chores, because I would be constantly constantly constantly nagging. (Been there. Done that. Got the pounding headache.)

So I'm trying a new incentive program. Both of them have things they want money for. Both of them had summer jobs. Now they have fall, winter, and spring jobs: Doing the extra, hard things I want them to do. Up to them how much they do, but they get paid by the hour. They each have a time book for jotting how much time they spend on my little projects, and payday is Sunday.

My daughter has taken to it very quickly, and is now, unbelievably, practicing trombone and doing reading exercises without prompting. I wouldn't mind if she didn't do them first thing in the morning, before I'm awake, and come waking me up to sign off on her timebook, but still -- she's doing things I would have had to hector long and hard to get her to do before. My son's a little slower to catch on, but he's starting to ask for things to do now, too. We've actually read together the last few nights, something he's been very reluctant to do of late.

Not sure whether they'll keep up this level of interest, but for now, they're motivated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teacher trauma

Alright, I'm supposed to be the big expert on how to deal with your kids' teachers, but I'm new to high school and need some suggestions. What would you do in this situation? My son likes all of his teachers but one. Every one of his classmates I talk to also expresses dislike for this teacher. This is also the only teacher I haven't met, because she didn't turn up for Back to School Night. My son's progress report for the class was satisfactory, and although he tells me she's given detention to a couple of rowdy boys in the class, he's gotten none. This leads me to believe that while she may not be his cup of tea, she bears him no ill will at this time. So, do I:

a. Ask the counselor to set up a meeting, just 'cause I haven't met her yet, and hope it doesn't flip her over to considering him a troublemaker with a troublemaking mother?

b. Try an e-mail or phone call first, just to touch base, and hope as above?

c. Leave well enough the heck alone.

I've been leaning toward c, since I've had proactiveness backfire a time or two. Really, since the teacher is reporting no problems, I don't have anything to hang a meeting on other than, "Geez, my kid hates you. What exactly are you doing in that class?" And no good can come of that.

What would you do? And if there are any teachers out there reading, how would you want a parent to approach this?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another season survived

Our high-school football team lost its first play-off game on Friday, and that means marching-band season is essentially over. That's good news to my daughter, who likes everything about marching band except the, you know, marching. And the football games.

It's good news for me, too, because I'll have a little break from feeling guilty over making her do something that is overwhelmingly and obviously good for her but also hard hard hard. No more teary, "Mom, I want to quit band!" sessions until next summer's band camp. No more long-winded speeches from me about how you have to do things that are hard in order to grow, and look how far she's come, and how things that were hard freshman year are easy now, and blah blah blah. By this time in the season it sounds like crap to me, too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your advice needed again

Sorry to keep promoting my site here, but I'm going great guns on these new "User Answer" modules, and I want to give everyone notice to contribute. Here are the latest additions:

How do you get your child through worship services?

What special-education placement works best for your child?

How do you use up leftover Halloween candy?

Thanks for any answers you can add.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music to my ears

I've been playing around a lot the last few days with Pandora, a website that lets you create little radio stations by entering the name of an artist you like; it automatically selects tunes by that artists and ones it considers to be similar. Usually I listen to my iTunes library while I'm working, but this is a way to listen to some things I don't yet own for a change. (And since I seem to spend hours at the computer, variety is nice.)

I think if you click on this link, it will take you to the mix I've got playing now. If you listen to music on your computer frequently, Pandora seems like a free service worth having some fun with.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A disrupted-routine week

We have a weird school week this week, with schools closed yesterday for the election and tomorrow and Friday for a teacher's convention. My daughter's all ticked off, saying that if they're going to have three days off they should have five days off, and although I like my time alone during the day to work, I really have to agree with her. This one day here in the middle of days off is just kind of silly. Plus, my son has The Cold That Won't Die, and I wouldn't mind him having a little stretch of days off without me having to send his snotty self back to class in between. But I guess the district powers-that-be have to hoard those days off in case of snow days ... so they can give the unused ones to us in the spring and mess up more weeks. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted, have you?

Well, this was a historic election for our family -- our daughter, turned 18 in April, voted for the first time. The fact that it's going to be a historic election for the country regardless of who wins makes it especially exciting for her first time out.

On the minus side, though, being a first-time voter in this particular election is no big deal, because there seemed to be a lot of first-time voters making their way to the polls, few of them just 18. I'm happy that people are feeling motivated to vote, yet when I see carloads of folks looking for polls they've obviously never been to before, I can't help but think, "Where were you when we were trying to pass a school budget? Where were you for the City Council and School Board elections? The bozos who got elected there because you couldn't be bothered are probably going to have a bigger impact on your actual life than what the guy in Washington does."

Do they give out stickers that say "I voted" where you live? In our town, we get nothing, no proof that we were at the polls. No big deal to me, but it would have been cool for my daughter to get something commemorating the day. Guess we'll just have to put aside her sample ballot for posterity.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thankful for the thankfulness

Wow, I got a lot of good responses to the questions mentioned in my last post for a new user-submission feature on my site. To my readers here who submitted, thanks! Great job! And whether you submitted or not, check out the responses that came in -- I'm particularly moved by the answers to the question, "What are you thankful for about your child with special needs?"

Friday, October 31, 2008

What do you have to say for yourself?

There's a new feature on my site that invites users to add their ideas and stories to the end of my articles. I've added it to three so far, and if you have answers you want to contribute to these questions, please join in!

What's the worst thing a "loved one" has said about your child or your parenting?

How have you handled head lice?

What are you thankful for about your child with special needs?

I know many of you who read these blog posts have things to say about those topics. I hope you'll stop by and sound off!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Constant supervision gets constant-er

Well, my guy survived his day yesterday, and came home seemingly not the worse for having been forced into school and analyzed by grown-ups. His aide talked to her supervisor and the case manager, and they decided to have him change for gym in the clinic instead of the locker room, and to have the aide make sure the bathroom is empty before he goes in.

In a way, I'm sorry for him to have those extra restrictions, and I worry that he'll be embarrassed by them. But I am a big believer in constant supervision for kids with FASD, and controlling the last few places he couldn't easily be supervised seems like a good idea. I'm glad it was proposed by the school and not by me. The more adult eyes are on him, the less we'll have to trust in his ability to articulate what's going on. Hope so, anyway.

At any rate, he went to school today without complaint.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oh, what a horrible morning!

My son did not, did not, did not want to go to school today. This is a new behavior since high school, and surprising because generally, he seems to be doing okay there. It's hard to tell whether his resistance is because he didn't feel good (though no cough, snot, or fever apparent), because he didn't get enough sleep (took a long nap yesterday, though), because he just wanted to lie in bed and look at Miranda Cosgrove pictures on his iPod (always a possibility), or because something is going on at school that he's afraid of.

I tend to leap to that last likelihood, only because he's never been one to want to stay home. But of course, once I try to ask him questions about what's bothering him, it's impossible not to ask leading questions, and then impossible to know whether the answers are for real, or just to get me to let him stay home, or maybe something he's fixated on from a TV show. Since he couldn't give me a good explanation (and couldn't give one to his invisible friend, either, as far as I could eavesdrop), I did make him go, but I felt like a parent in one of those young adult novels. You know, where the child is in danger of bullying or other terrible consequences, and begs to stay home, and the parent blithely sends him into danger, while the reader goes, "No, listen to your child! Don't make him go where he doesn't want to be!" Well, I yell that while I'm reading those books, anyway. But I still sent my kid to school.

I did chat with his aide a bit about the problem, and asked her to keep an extra eye out. I put in a call to the gym teacher regarding any locker-room problems (since that's one place the aide can't be). I got a call from his case manager, so apparently the word's gotten around that I'm worried. She's going to talk to him tomorrow, and I wish I could believe that will solve something, but past history with my daughter suggests that this level of adult involvement only tends to make things worse.

And in the back of my mind through all this is that gossip item about one of his old friends being in a gang. Would this friend involve him in gang business? Or hurt him as a gang thing? I'd like to believe not; the kid I know wouldn't. But he wouldn't be in a gang, either.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Distraction and fun for hospitalized kids

I made this my Site of the Day on this morning, but thought I'd mention it here, too, because it's such a neat idea. The blog network 5 Minutes for Moms (I'm a fan of the special-needs blog there) is giving away 10 PSP bundles to kids whose serious illnesses require a lot of hospitalization. You have until November 18 to nominate a child or teen, and can find out all about what's involved here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

To meddle or not to meddle

Sometimes I feel like my son and his friends are in a bubble, kept safe from the normal stress of adolescence by their special needs and their self-contained classrooms. And then sometimes I hear about one of them having something stolen at school, or get a look at the way some of the girls are dressing way beyond what their emotional sophistication can protect them from, and I worry about the way the world pops that bubble.

The other day I heard from another mom about a boy who's been in our kids' classes since first grade. He's a sweet kid, polite and smart, a survivor of many medical procedures we haven't been given much information on. He's also a child who doesn't get a lot of the sort of helicopter parenting I favor with my own kids. I've seen him around the community with boys I don't like the looks of, and now this other mom has mentioned that, according to her daughter, he's in a gang.

And you know, it just makes my heart sink. I feel like I should do something for him, talk to him or a family member or a school administrator or someone who can protect him from himself. I think he's recently been mainstreamed, bright idea, so I'm not sure he even has supports from special-education personnel to be put in place. I don't want to make my son a target by getting involved in gang matters, but there's a degree to which I feel motherly and protective of all these kids who've gone through self-contained classes with my son. This boy in particular has been one of my favorites.

What would you do? Should I try to help? What's the best way to do that? I feel like I'm caught in an episode of 7th Heaven here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fundraiser blues

We're in the thick of fundraiser season now. My daughter currently has two band fundraisers and a Girl Scouts fundraiser, while my son recently finished a Special Olympics fundraiser. I've been trying to find him a club to join at school, but the knowledge that it may come with fundraiser obligations may be dampening my enthusiasm.

When I say my kids have these fundraisers, I am, of course, lying. I have these fundraisers. I sell stuff to a few kindly friends and family members and then buy stuff myself. Now, back when I was in high school, those were the Wild West days when kids actually went door to door selling stuff themselves. I remember long afternoons slogging around far-off neighborhoods trying to interest strangers in tickets to my choir concerts. These days, door-to-door is discouraged, and the biggest rounds your merchandise is going to make is around your parents' office.

Which puts our family at a disadvantage, because I work from home and my husband works in a supermarket. Can't really bring the form for that band citrus-fruit fundraiser into the produce department. I should probably set up some sort of e-commerce widget here to sell fundraising things to you, my readers, but I don't think I'd have too much luck shipping those fresh pies my daughter's selling.

Plus, then I'd be getting guilt e-mails from you to buy what your kid's selling.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting my Halloween Things in order

I'm so spoiled by online shopping, it always amazes me when something can't be obtained with a quick spin through, or maybe a little concentrated Googling. Last night I was looking for a "Thing 1" T-shirt to go with the "Thing 2" T-shirt my friend bought at the Dr. Seuss store in Universal Studios a couple of years ago. I wanted the two shirts as costumes for my son and his buddy for a Halloween party being given for their special-needs social groups. The T-shirts would be a funny coordinated costume without having to put anything too hard-to-wear on them. (We may be adding wigs, but that's in negotiations.)

I figured Universal surely had some studio store online where I could pick a T-shirt out and order it ... but, no. There's a Universal Studios store site that sells tickets, and lots of places that sell baby-sized "Thing" shirts and child-sized ones. But the adult version was nowhere to be found. Most of the Google listings were of message boards asking, "Where can I find Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts?"

It was on one of those boards that I found reference to a mail order e-mail address that is actually lurking down at the very bottom of that ticket-selling Universal Studios store, in unobtrusive type, like they're hoping no one will ask. I did ask, though, and got an e-mail back promptly saying that they could get me the shirt. I called and placed an order, and we should be in the Thing before Halloween. The woman on the phone said it would take a day to place the order, because they have to send someone in the park to buy the shirt and then mail it to me. Seems like a pretty low-tech shopping solution for a high-tech amusement park, but as long as my Thing gets to me, I guess I can't complain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Teachers and tattoos

There was an article in the blog Parent Dish yesterday about a school district requiring teachers with tattoos to keep them covered. Apparently they're a distraction to the kids, or send a message about tattoos being acceptable that somebody doesn't like, or something. Personally, I'd say that if you want to discourage students from getting tattoos, seeing a bunch of teachers sporting them might make them somewhat less of an instrument of rebellion. With "body art" being more and more mainstream these days, I wonder whether future generations will begin to find it terribly uncool?

I've never noticed a tattoo on my kids' school teachers, and I don't know that it would bother me particularly. Not as much, anyway, as the speech therapist at my kids' elementary school whose thong used to show prominently above her pants when she sat on the bleachers at assemblies and leaned forward. Don't know if a tattoo was also visible; I was too embarrassed to look. I'll bet some fifth-grade boys weren't, though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lacking sense, and cents

Giving lunch money to my son has always been an adventure. He likes to buy Snapple to go with his meal, and asks for extra cash for that. Then we'll find, like, 50 quarters in a drawer and ask where he got them. Whether he's overcharging us for the Snapple, or not buying it, is hard to tell. I'd like to be able to ask his aide, but they're big on not micromanaging the kids at lunch. Which is why my son has mystery quarters, and why his friend let somebody look at his iPod and never saw it again. Folks, some kids need micromanaging all the time.

This year in high school, we were lucky at first because he liked the juice that came with the lunch -- no extra cash needed! Then he said the juice machine is broken. Then he said he didn't like that juice anyway. He took extra money for bottled water, but then said he bought Snapple, which is more expensive. Did he borrow from someone? We gave him more money, and got no change. Is he giving money to someone? There are quarters floating around the universe somewhere, not sure whether they're going to turn up in his drawer or his pockets or the pockets of some other kid. I'd ask if there was a prepaid card he could use, except it's good for him to learn how to pay for things. If only he would just pay for things, and not play.

Micromanaging, people. I want a helicopter aide.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Water, water anywhere

I've been reading a lot lately about the environmental terribleness of bottled water, how it's no better than tap water and costs a lot of money and leaves a lot of plastic behind. What I never see addressed in all these diatribes are the reasons I buy bottled water: To drink when I've no access to a tap, or when I need a disposable container.

When I'm home, I'm perfectly content to drink tap water from my Brita pitcher and be all small-footprinted. But when I'm picking up something, say, at a convenience store, do I really have to buy my kids some vat of soda in a biodegradable cup to avoid purchasing water? If my child is going on a field trip and is forbidden from carting containers around after lunch, are sugar-packed juice boxes the only acceptable option?

I'd like to think the water in those bottles are clean, and maybe I do imagine pristine mountain waterfalls when I twist one open instead of some sink in Newark. But at those times when water seems the best beverage option, and the only way to get it is to buy it, yeah, I'm going to spring for the fake spring water. And be glad it's at hand.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Usually I avoid politics

And I don't want to turn this into a political blog. But since it's a parenting special needs blog, I hope it's okay to say that this passage from Sarah Palin's speech got me pretty choked up:
Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge.

And children with special needs inspire a special love.

To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.

I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.
Especially, I think, the way she looked right into the camera when she said it. Nice to be singled out in such a big speech.

CNN had someone in Alaska talking to Palin's sister all through the evening, and at one point they mentioned that she also had a child with special needs. Has anyone seen anything about that before? They didn't mention the diagnosis.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Psyched about the VP Nominee

When I saw the news this morning that Sarah Palin -- the governor of Alaska and the mother of a four-month-old with Down syndrome -- had been named as the Republican nominee for vice president, I let out a whoop that made my children look at me very strangely. I had been thinking she'd be a good dark-horse candidate for a ticket badly in need of excitement, but didn't expect it would really happen.

However things go with the campaign, I'm hoping this will raise the visibility of kids with special needs, and publicize the fact that having a child with a disability does not in fact mark the end of your life.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Schedule schmedule

It seems to be taking our school district longer and longer to send out class schedules. Back when my kids were in elementary school, their classroom placements used to come the second or third week of August, whichever one we wound up being on vacation during. It was hard enough to wait that long. This year, though, here we are, school starting a week from tomorrow, and nothin'. That means the first few weeks of school are going to be a total loss as everything shakes down. That's bad for any student, particularly bad for students with special needs who need structure and predictability from Day 1, and very bad indeed for students with special needs who are making the scary transition to high school this year. And, you know, their mothers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bug-on-Bug Violence

Here's a warning to anyone in New Jersey who's thinking of taking a young child to Liberty Science Center.

There's a 3D movie playing there that you may want to steer clear of. It's called "Bugs!" and, although the 3D effects are cool and the narration by Judi Dench is top-notch, your Disney-trained child may be a little traumatized by some of the scientifically accurate goings-on.

For example, bug sex. Mating butterflies. A preying mantis male perfecting his moves so as not to get his head devoured.

And speaking of devouring, the scene in which the preying mantis catches a fly, rips its head off, and eats its brains is not for the squeamish.

Worst of all, though, is the intertwined fate of the two bugs whose life cycle Dame Judi talks us through, with a cute name for each. At the film's end, unceremoniously, one of them eats the other. More specifically, the creepy one eats the pretty one.

If I'd seen that as a young child, in 3D no less, I'd have been so upset that no amount of gift-shop swag would have comforted me.

I'm a little shaky now, thinking of it.

Never mind the young children. Send your teenage boys in alone, and save yourself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Enough of that high-minded stuff

I got an e-mail from my utility company today that cracked me up. It linked to this story with the amusingly realistic title "Go Green and Feel Smug." Enough of all that saving the world stuff; somebody's finally figured out that the way to make people want to be more environmentally responsible is to point out they can lord it over the neighbors.

Not sure "My carbon footprint is smaller than your carbon footprint" is going to catch on, but it's a nice try.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tropic Thunder blunders

Have you heard about the controversy surrounding Tropic Thunder, the raunchy comedy debuting this week with Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. in the leads? You may have heard that Downey's in blackface, and that the film's sort of intentionally offensive in the way of R-rated comedies these days. But what's been getting less publicity is a subplot involving the frequent use of the word "retard." Stiller can say all he wants that he's making fun of an actor playing a developmentally disabled character, and not people with developmental disabilities, but reports from early screenings indicate that he's not so sensitive to the difference as he thinks.

I've got a long blog post about this on my site this morning, with links to the Disability News blog, which has much more extensive coverage. Sometime today, it's likely that The Arc, Special Olympics, and other disability-rights groups will be announcing protests and boycotts. At the very least, if you have young people with special needs who thought this would be a fun flick to go see, you may want to help them reconsider.

I'm not in the target audience for a movie like this, and I wouldn't have gone regardless. But I had good will toward it because I liked the actors involved. Now, I just want to hit them upside the head. What were they thinking? Or why weren't they?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Do you Twitter?

I'm not at all sure I've got the hang of it, or even figured out why one would care about what people are doing in 140-word increments, but I'm giving it a try. Old dogs, new tricks, all of that. There's a widget down on the right side of this blog you can use to find me; and if you're twittering, let me know and I'll add you to my list.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Is this where we have to look for decent kids' clothes?

On the one hand, it's kind of disturbing that the religious sect recently in the news for having all its children taken away due to its men's tendency to take many teenage brides has opened an online store to market its ultra-modest style of apparel.

On the other hand, having just chaperoned an eighth-grade dance at which many if not most of the girls dressed like they were auditioning for a job at Hooters, I gotta say ... those high-necked low-hemlined prairie dresses don't look so bad, ya know?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Memo to the counter girl at Dunkin' Donuts

It's very sweet of you to want to give me a dozen donuts for less money than the seven donuts I asked for.

However, truly, seven donuts is what I want. It's all I want. It's what my family can reasonably eat at this time.

Yes, that's right, I am willing to pay a premium to get the number of donuts that we can consume without becoming ill. Call us crazy health nuts.

When you continue to harangue me about the need to Buy a Dozen! They're Cheaper! I have to wonder -- does Dunkin' Donuts have some evil plan to addict the human race to fried pastries? Are you going to make us dependent on getting a dozen and then raise prices through the roof?

Because at least when McDonald's tried to supersize me, they charged a little more for it. You're paying me to get supersized. And I don't like it.

So cut it out with the hard sell. And while you're at it, you can keep your medium coffee for the same price as small, too. If I wanted more caffeine, I would have asked you for it.

Glad to get that off my chest,


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making an angry taxpayer out of me

I just got a phone call that set my blood boiling. It had to do with school politics in our town, which just couldn't be more messed up. The schools are overcrowded, and people are pretty much doing backflips to keep from acknowledging that because they don't want to pay more taxes.

There are kids having classes in closets, in hallways, in the cafeteria; my daughter had resource room in the media center, because when you're struggling with a subject, you for sure want everybody walking through the library to see you do it. And we have people claiming that the way you see if a school's overcrowded is divide the number of square feet by the number of students. They're advocating putting up screens to divide classrooms in half so as to maximize all that wasted space. Never mind whether students can hear the particular lesson they're getting, you know?

Now, my feeling on this is, objectively, we need new school space. But if you don't want to pay the taxes, fine, I get it. Taxes are high. But you then give up your right to complain about test scores. You want to consider schools to be sardine cans that, if you try hard enough, you can cram a few more sardines into, great. But don't gripe if kids can't learn.

So it is in that context that a call came to my house at 8:45 p.m., a time when I'm already, off the bat, going to be defensive toward junk calls. Somebody with an accent not from around here announced that he was taking a survey of taxpayers in our town, and asked a question this way: "Are you aware that taxes have been going up while test scores are going down, and given that, how likely are you to support the school budget that is coming up for a vote?"

That's not a survey question. That's an editorial. And I know exactly the segment of our citizenry it's coming from. The sardine-pushers. Who apparently have money to pay some company to take a survey, but not to give kids decent classrooms.

I gave that poor out-of-towner an earful and slammed the phone down. And now my heart is beating fast and I'm all grouchy. I keep saying I'm not going to let local politics get to me, because it's stupid and it's always been stupid and it always will be, and I just need to get my kids through school and out.

But the answer is: Very likely to support the budget. Very, extremely likely. Because schools are important. Because band uniforms are in that budget, and my daughter's uniform is so worn out it's splitting across the behind. Because the tanking test scores have more to do with the badness of the tests than the poorness of the teaching, and if you think otherwise you are only going to make it worse. And because, if you're calling my house at quarter to nine trying to stir up trouble, you are only going to make me more eager to vote against you.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Big boy

My son turned 15 on Friday, and has been growing into a very big boy for quite some time. When he and I look at ourselves in the mirror now, him towering over me by about a head, he looks so ... large. Not just taller, but outsized, like something out of Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. I used to tuck this little guy under my arm, he used to ride on my hip. Now he's big enough to stomp Las Vegas.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Family viewing

I've recently moved my computer out to the living room so that my kids can see me as I work obsessively, though not so much interrupt me, you know? This has given me a good view of what they watch on TV, which mostly makes me want to move my office back to the farthest reaches of my bedroom, pronto.

My daughter's new favorite is Kenan and Kel on Nick, a show whose broad humor makes me want to crank up the iTunes on my computer as loud as I can to drown out the dialog. I've let my son start watching Hey Arnold again, after an unfortunate spell in elementary school during which he picked up on the bully's "I'm gonna pound you!" and repeated it to everybody at school. He's not fixing on any phrases at the moment, but he still likes to rewind and replay bits of a dialog in a way that makes me nuts.

Of course, the kids aren't the only ones whose TV choices make me cringe. My husband always seems to be watching some violent thing or other, whether it's old Westerns or contemporary actioners or some serial-killer TV series or other. It makes me wonder: How come he can watch people being dismembered or blown to bits and not worry about the kids coming in the room, but if I watch something with a smidgen of profanity, it's like I'm corrupting the minors?

What does your family watch that drives you crazy? (And if you're wondering what I watch that drives my family crazy, that's easy: this dang computer screen.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Still a fan of Juno

It's been a couple of months since I finally saw the adoption comedy Juno, and though I've meant every day to post here about it, it's March already, the Oscar is lost, the movie's out of most theaters, and the backlash against this small charming movie is in full swing. It hurts my feelings, a little, to see how people pile on these modest films that unexpectedly become popular.

Me? Loved it then, love it now, will buy the DVD on Day 1.

I suppose I can see how birthparents might have some objections to the way Juno, a pregnant teen, chooses to have her baby and give it to someone she finds in the PennySaver, without making any sort of appropriate plan. And I suppose I can see how parents who adopted children from China might be offended by young Juno characterizing Chinese adoption as giving away infants like iPods, although I'd probably suggest they get a sense of humor.

But in general, for adoptive parents? Let's just say, it's our answer to birthparent fantasies like August Rush.

In particular, I adored the performance of Jennifer Garner as the prospective adoptive mom. I wanted to give her a hug, and maybe send her flowers. I think she hit so many perfect notes along the way, from seeming sort of stiff and businesslike at the beginning, to being obsessed with baby minutiae, to demonstrating a genuine love and appreciation for kids. I loved the fact that Juno was able to see past her initial assessment of the adoptive couple to realize that Vanessa was meant to be her baby's mom.

In the end, you know, it's not a documentary. It's not supposed to be the last word on anything. It's kind of quirky, with a dialog and rhythm that are not exactly naturalistic. But I loved its spirit, and its validation of the sort of family I've formed. The writing is fun and the performances are excellent.

Below, the film's trailer. It's due out on DVD April 15. I've got my copy pre-ordered.