Monday, December 13, 2010

College Girl

My daughter is coming to the end of a successful first semester at college. And boy, are those words I thought I'd never say, both the "college" part and the "successful" part. As much as we try, as parents of children with special needs, to stay afloat in the sea of bad testing scores and professional predictions of doom, as much as we try to believe in our kids' abilities, there's always that voice that says, Maybe those experts are right and my children really won't amount to anything. You worry about hoping, and it's easy to doubt achievement.

Read the rest of this post at Hopeful Parents

Monday, November 22, 2010

Adoption Awareness Month

Two stories of interest here in Adoption Awareness Month:

+ I did an interview with Danette Schott at S-O-S for Parents about adopting my kids back in 1994 (!) and what we've learned along the way. Take a look, if only to see photos of how cute my kiddos were then, how cute they are now, and how very old I have become.

+ According to a blog post on, Taye Diggs of Private Practice is producing a show called Matched that "will focus on adoption professionals in Los Angeles" and "the lawyers, doctors, and caseworkers who make the process happen and how it takes its toll on their own lives." It's apparently a fictional show and not reality TV, but ... yikes. Maybe it's just me, but of all the people involved in the adoption process, it's really the lawyers, doctors, and caseworkers we want to spend time with? I guess it makes sense from the point of view of having an unchanging core cast to focus on, but it kinda makes children and families the equivalent of corpses on a police procedural.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

End of an Era

This has been a growing-up kind of year for my son. He's out of self-contained and into inclusion classes at school. He's growing his hair out from the buzz cut we gave him years ago so he wouldn't have to comb his hair. Though his head's no longer stubbly, his face is. These were all expected transitions, and ones we fought for (me, the inclusion classes; him, the hair). But there's one step toward maturity that I totally didn't see coming.

He no longer wants his toy cars.

Read the rest of this post on Hopeful Parents.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

As if kids didn't hear enough bad language in high school already

This year, for the first time, my son is in a resource-room class for English instead of self-contained. And I was excited to hear, at back-to-school night, that the class would be reading Catcher in the Rye, a bona fide literary classic, something that I read and found meaningful during my own schooling. Woot! A standard high-school educational experience for the boy!

So they've gotten to it now, and the paperback has come home (as if I didn't have my very own copy in my Former English Major Collection down at the back of our laundry room), and we're reading it together so he can answer homework questions. And ... well, I'm quite a bit older now, aren't I. And certain language that was a thrill to see in print when I was in high school or college is not so thrilling to be reading aloud to my kid who I have been desperately hoping would not pick up these words and add them to his perseverative-repetition queue. And now he's hearing them directly from me, as part of his English assignment. Um, yay free speech?

I'm not going to launch a protest or anything. I'm not sure how much my son is going to understand the story, and I think I'm going to have some difficult concepts to explain going forward, but it seems like a good thing for him to be in a class that's considering serious fiction. Still, I'm a little worried about vocabulary lists. This is the same teacher who put Mongoloid on a vocabulary list when my daughter had her a few years ago, and argued with me when I complained. If my guy is asked to memorize the meaning of sonuvabitch and use it in a sentence, I am going to have to protest that.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The dreaded assignment, college version

Bad news for adoptive parents who are thinking the hurtful family tree and baby picture type assignments end with lower education. My daughter has a college assignment now that has her in tears: She's to give an oral presentation on her family's cultural heritage, with suggested questions like "Where were you born? How did your parents decide to give you the name they did? When did members of your family come to this country? How do you celebrate your cultural heritage?"

Well. That's some loaded territory for an international adoptee, isn't it? Also, I'd think, for a kid raised in foster care, or an abusive home, or any sort of background in which you might not want to be talking to a roomful of peers about your family history. It's not even a sociology class or psychology class or anything in which roots would be relevant. It's Introduction to the College Experience. And I think the teacher is considering meeting people of different cultures part of the college experience, and rah rah multiculturism, okay, I get it. But wow, does this professor ever for a moment consider that for some kids, it's complicated? One's cultural background can be a source of pride, but that is not a universal experience.

It's not that my daughter is ashamed of being Russian. It's just that she doesn't relate to it at all. And talking about heritage, heritage, heritage makes her start to feel blue about not knowing her birthparents, and she's afraid that if she gets up and starts talking about being Russian, she is going to cry. We communicate well about her adoption issues and try to give her a positive personal narrative about her background and culture, as much as possible given her language and learning difficulties. Adoption is pretty abstract, and she doesn't do abstract.

Really, though, we're a family that doesn't do culture, in the sense of obsessing about where your ancestors came from. My husband is purebred Italian and grew up with an Italian-speaking grandmother in the house and plenty of Italian culture, but he's had zero interest in making that part of our family story. My own upbringing was about as processed-cheese-food suburban American as you can get, and my parents worked hard to make that happen. That's our cultural background: American. That's what my daughter identifies with, what my husband and I proclaim. But I don't think that's what this professor is looking for. Wave the Italian flag! Send in some of my grandmother's Manischewitz soup!

Whatever. If my daughter was younger, I'd have a word with the teacher about this, just to make sure he was sensitive to her sensitivity. As the parent of a college student, I don't seem to be allowed that, and frankly, I'd probably just embarrass her more. As it is, I'm unsure how to proceed. The project does have enough wiggle room that she might be able to just focus on our family's mongrel-like mix of heritages and not accentuate her own. But I kind of wonder if this isn't a good opportunity to work on that pride-in-her-Russian-heritage thing. It's a neat thing about her. It's a neat thing about our family. I kind of hate to hide that light beneath a bushel, though of course, it's her light to do with as she wishes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Walk Down Sensory Memory Lane

The essay I wrote about my son's experience with sensory integration for the 30 Families in 30 Days awareness-raising event for the blog Hartley's Life With 3 Boys is up today. It's our version of a success story. Please go read, and consider donating to the cause of sensory processing research. You might win a copy of one of my books, and if nothing else, there's a super-cute photo of my guy in younger years. At about the age where he walked into his sister's feet while she was swinging on that very swingset. Good times.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Got an Opinion About Parenting Books? Let's Hear It

Do you like to read special-needs parenting books? Can you remember the last time you read a book that was not a special-needs parenting book? (Okay, I do, but only because I had to try out the e-book readers on my new iPhone this summer and all the free books were general interest. But before that? Nah.)

For a while, on my site, I was reading and reviewing a book a week, which was madness. I fell off that pace and was trying for one every two weeks, which is still eluding me. I read as many as I can, though, and write reviews that I hope are helpful. Check out the index and see if there are some that you've read, too -- it's easy to add your review to mine, whether you agree with my take or want to put out a responsible opposing viewpoint. If you see that I'm missing a book you think is important (or important to warn people away from), you can write a review of that, too. I really could use some help, y'know? I can't read all the books. I've tried.

Wanna see how bad my current reading pile is? Click here to read the titles that have stacked up on me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Retirees

My son and his best buddy have a tradition of wearing coordinating Halloween costumes. For the past two years, they've gone to a Halloween party wearing "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" T-shirts and rainbow-colored wigs. This year, it seemed time for a new idea. These two guys have a little routine of saying "I'm retired!" when anybody asks them about school, or what they're going to do after they graduate, or in response to pretty much any question at all. They crack themselves up with this, and they're well-known for it among the folks who will be at this Halloween party. So we're borrowing T-shirts that say "I'm Retired, Having Fun Is My Job" from some retired friends of the family, and decorating cheap caps from the craft store with their favorite phrase -- "I'm Retired!" -- and a runner up -- "I'm Old!" -- and they'll go as retired guys. As a bonus, the outfits will be comfortable and not too sweaty. Whether the white T-shirts will survive a spaghetti dinner remains to be seen. They may look like bloody retired guys by the time that's done. Still fine for Halloween.

If you're still figuring out how to survive Halloween this year, I have some suggestions on my blog, and some places for you to contribute your own ideas and horror stories.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Boy Is Mine

Kind of an unsettling experience at my son's special-needs social group last Friday. My son was ... well, I'm going to say hit on by a fifteen-year-old girl who just kept coming up to him, taking his hand, and pulling him away from his friends. He knows her from school, he's a friendly guy, so he went with her, always drifting back to his friends when she set him free. She started with the hand holding, then moved on to putting her arm around him, then rubbing up against him a little. At one point, she dragged him behind a free-standing bulletin board where I couldn't see them, and I sped over there fast. I kept them on my radar as best I could, and at least one other adult in the room noticed what was going on and did the same.

Maybe part of my concern was that I remembered this particular girl from my son's elementary school, where I used to work in the library. She had problems with indiscriminate affection when she was in second and third grade, and it doesn't look like she's grown out of it. Unfortunately, she's doing it now with a teenaged body, and if she finds someone who's less oblivious to what she's up to than my son, she's going to get some indiscriminate affection back. I'm starting to see how so many girls on my son's special-education track have wound up pregnant in high school.

Since the activity was going in a well-supervised, parent-observed venue (as opposed to, say, a school dance with the lights off), it's easy to think of it as kind of cute. But really, it worried me on so many levels. For one thing, my son will be 18 in March, and then it won't matter whether the underage girl is hitting on him or not, he's going to be responsible for anything that happens. For another, his going off with the girl hurt the feelings of his friends, especially a girl friend who may or may not think she's his girlfriend, but certainly thinks she's got dibs. It's a lot of drama for what's previously been a fun Friday night out. Guess he's really a teenager now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good News for the Chilean Miners, I Guess

Sometimes I see news items about scientific studies that have somehow gotten funding and produced results, and I have to shake my head and wonder: Did we really need to have this proven? Such a story crossed my computer today. Apparently, scientists at the University of Buffalo have conducted a "national multi-year longitudinal study" to confirm that indeed, as conventional wisdom would have it, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

The title of this study was, "Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability and Resilience."

According to a news release, the study "found that adverse experiences do, in fact, appear to foster subsequent adaptability and resilience, with resulting advantages for mental health and well being." This goes against previous research indicating that negative experiences have negative outcomes. Obviously, more research is needed on this pressing issue.

Or not. Surely there are things that psychologists could be researching that have a clearer therapeutic value. I'm not sure what the implications are for the "Whatever Does Not Kill Us" study, although there's lots of technical language in the news release describing it. Are we not going to give people therapy if we find out not getting killed makes you stronger? Are we going to just finish the job and kill people if we find not getting killed makes you weak? Is there something outside the realm of adages that can be more definitively and helpfully examined?

Still, I suppose we can take heart in the study's findings that the beneficial effect of non-killing applies to the small knife cuts that we get every day as well as the cataclysmic events. So that bad IEP meeting, that annoying note from the teacher, that homework it took you all night to drag your child through? Like Wheaties, baby.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Now I Know Why I've Been Putting Off That Paperwork

I've been reading a book about transitioning kids with intellectual disabilities from high school into adulthood, and honestly, it's bumming me out. Not that it's a downbeat book, or that it's discouraging about what adult life holds for kids with disabilities. Just that all the bureaucratic hoops parents have to jump through to ensure services for their adult kids seem to require relentless negative thinking. Don't let your child get a high-school diploma, because that will make him ineligible for some services. So will doing too well on an IQ test. Don't tell evaluators about the things your child can do, or she may be found ineligible for assistance; dwell on the things she can't do instead. Don't let your child have any money, hide back-up funds well, or needed supports and assistance will be denied.

This sort of thing is true of a lot of entitlements, I know. But it sure adds to my ambivalence about the whole process. My daughter's over 18 now, and my son's fast approaching, and I haven't done anything, haven't hidden any money, haven't signed anyone up for the department of disabilities, haven't ensured that they look as incompetent as possible on paper. It's a gamble, but I guess I'm throwing the dice in favor of them being able to make some modest way in the world with the help we can give them. I know there are plenty of families who can't take that risk, and I feel for them, having to hop through those particular hoops. Are you navigating this disheartening process now? Or are you a procrastinator like me?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

With Friends Like These

My son has some friends who are really bad news.

We call them the Doo Brothers. They have first names, but I can't keep track of them all. They have foul mouths. They drive too fast. They care about no one but themselves. They're always buying expensive cars, even though there's no way they're earning that money at the jobs I know about. They drink and smoke. They are not respectful to anybody. They take pride in their bad behavior. ... Join me over at Hopeful Parents for the rest of this post.

Win a Copy of My Book!

My book 50 Ways to Support Your Special Education is one of the prizes being offered today on the blog Lucas's Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder. There are a bunch of free ways to enter, and different prizes for each day in Sensory Awareness Month.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alcohol Is Not Her Best Subject

My daughter has to go through an online alcohol education program for one of her college courses this fall. Working on it with her this weekend, I was amused by two things: how much experience it assumed a college freshman would have with alcohol, and how much that ticked my daughter off.

The makers of the program probably aren't wrong about college freshmen. I still have a few brain cells left from my first year in college, and oh boy, I could have used some alcohol education. I didn't drink in high school, but the college I chose happened to be a "party school," and the boys' wing around the corner from mine in our co-ed dorm was named The Hall of Mixed Drinks. I went from not drinking to drinking a LOT. And vomiting a lot. I am a small person. The line between "This feels great, I want more!" and "Whoops, too much" is frighteningly thin.

That's the sort of thing we expect of college freshmen, underage though they may be. My daughter, though, is genuinely appalled by it all, and offended that she's supposed to have any knowledge of this or any experience to share. We're not a big alcohol household these days. When my husband and I adopted our daughter and son from Russia in 1994, I still enjoyed a glass of wine or two at the end of the day (two getting me closer to that thin, thin line the older I got). But as we learned more about our son's fetal alcohol effects, and understood more about what alcohol had done to his brain, it became harder for me to justify enjoying something that hurt him, and to imagine how I could ever explain that to him. It just felt right to stop, in solidarity. Since my husband was never much of a drinker, it was easy to become a teetotaling household.

Of course, there are plenty of teens from teetotaling households who still experiment with alcohol. A couple of things have kept my girl from being one of them. For one, she doesn't have an adventurous bone in her body, God bless her. For another, I believe she has internalized a message that "Drinking alcohol makes you act like my brother." And she sure doesn't want to go there.

It's probably naive to think that she'll never want to try a drink. Honestly, given her anxiety issues, a small amount of alcohol would probably help her in social situations, though I'm not about to recommend it. One day, she may fall in with a friend or a boyfriend who will tempt her with liquor, and then I'll have to worry. For now, though, it's a huge comfort to see her shaking her head at alcohol quiz questions and saying, with annoyance, "Why would I know that!" For a change, I'm appreciating her cluelessness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Give Me a Sign

My daughter's barely a month into college, and already it's apparently time to pick classes for next semester. (Which of course means that it's almost time to pay for next semester, a fact I am trying to ignore. La, la, la, la, I can't hear you.) This semester she had mostly remedial classes and will next semester as well, but with more space to fill with a couple of college level picks. The humanity classes looked mostly scary, so I suggested she try a beginning sign language class. This will either be a great idea, because it will be a good skill to have in her chosen profession as a teacher's aide, or a terrible idea, because it will be harder to learn than we expect. Language in general has always been really, really hard for her, and I've often wondered whether ASL, in dealing with gestures instead of spoken words, might provide a different sensory experience that could make language easier. I guess we'll find out, but if it's disastrously harder, it'll be on my head. (But could it be disastrously harder for a reading-comprehension-challenged girl than some of those history courses listed? No. I don't think that's possible.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Win a Copy of My Sensory-Integration Book

My book The Everything Parenting Guide to Sensory Integration Disorder is one of the prizes being offered today on the blog Lucas's Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder. There are a bunch of free ways to enter, and different prizes for each day in Sensory Awareness Month. My other book, 50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education, will be up for grabs later in the month.

Monday, September 13, 2010

College Is Hard on Warrior Moms

The time has come for me to hand my daughter the keys.

Not to our family car, though she will in fact be driving that to college every day.

The keys to her educational advocacy -- something I've been cherishing and polishing and tuning up far more faithfully than that 2001 Jeep.

Join me over at Hopeful Parents for the rest of this post. I'll be writing there once a month.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Adoption on "Rizzoli & Isles"

Anybody watch Rizzoli and Isles? Not me -- I'm still making it through the backlog on my DVR, and haven't made room for this new series, though it sounds like the sort of thing I'd like. Kind of hate to hear, though, that it recently used adoption as a plot twist, rather as In Plain Sight did a while ago. According to a TV Squad post, medical examiner Maura Isles (who some have observed seems to have Asperger syndrome) gets some DNA info on a murder victim on her table and finds that the DNA matches her own, and the guy is her biological brother.

Unlike In Plain Sight, this isn't a storyline that's going to go away with the case of the week, and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. TV Squad writer Jason Hughes suggests, "With the series already renewed for a second season, there's plenty of time to unravel the mystery of Isles genetic past, perhaps even tracking down her birth parents and finding out why she was given up for adoption," and ... boy, you know, let's not. If you watch the show, please share any details you have on the plot line and where you'd like to see it go.

Friday, September 03, 2010

School year is a go

Finally got my son's schedule for the school year (with less than a week to spare), and it's ... wow, it's perfect. This is seriously the first time since he's been in high school that there wasn't a duplicate class or a wrong placement that I had to call and complain about. Not only that, but all possible opportunities to have the same class as a friend came through, and he has a friend with him for lunch, too. Several of his teachers are ones my daughter had before him, so I feel like I have some relationships already established. This is a huge year for him, the first time without self-contained classes, just inclusion, resource, and regular-education. He does still have adaptive gym, his one remaining protected spot, but that one I'll cling to for the duration. For the rest, I'm ... really, really interested to see how he's going to do. Judging by his summer homework performance, I think he's up for it. Starting next Tuesday, we'll see.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So, um, about that summer homework

Guess I haven't been too good about reporting in on my kids' progress with their summer homework. Like my son who was supposed to blog every day under my late-summer regimen, I've been slacking. My daughter's homework routine is pretty much in ruins; she's been so stressed about the start of college that I've given her a break from the practice problems. I thought it would be something to take her mind off the wait, but I think it just made her more freaked out. So now, she can watch TV and browse Facebook uninterrupted all the way to the time that college classes begin. We all need a little slothfulness now and then.

My son, despite his non-blogging, has been doing pretty well with the summer homework. Well, we haven't really been reading too much either. Here's the problem I now discover with reading books together on the iPad -- he can always use "the battery's dead" as an excuse. I think he purposely runs the battery down so he'll be able to say that (not so easy, since iPad has a pretty long battery life). Next time, maybe we'll have to go for reading material without a screen.

The geometry and Spanish worksheets, however, he has been working on diligently and without complaint, and that fills me with hope for the school year ahead. I'm extremely pleased by how willingly he's worked -- that's such a large part of the battle, getting the kid to sit down to the homework and feel like the work's not over his head. My boy has always balked when he feels he can't do it, and that has not happened with any of the work this summer. Don't know how closely it will correspond to the actual geometry and Spanish that will be coming home, but it's a delightfully good sign.

Are your kids still homeworking? Are they in school already? We've got until next Tuesday. Less than a week. Counting down.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Not exactly special delivery

This is apropos of nothing topical to this blog, but I gotta vent. My daughter used some of her work money this summer to buy an Apple TV so she could watch her iTunes shows on a screen bigger than her laptop. FedEx truck pulled up with it today, delivery guy jumps off the truck with it, drops it in the street, boots it a little picking it up, then walks over to where I'm standing, watching, and hands it to me like nothing happened. I said, "That's fragile, what you just dropped." And he's all, "Hey, it's under warantee, if it's broken send it back to the company." I got his name and he made like he was reporting the incident on his little handheld, but who knows.

Aside from the fact that if the thing doesn't work, FedEx should pay due to the butterfingered behavior of its delivery guy, sending it back isn't exactly a no-stress option. Pack it back up, wait for FedEx to get it, then wait all over again for a new one? Plus, it's always possible that damage done will take some time to show, by which time returning it may not be so easy. As it is, I can't even see if it's damaged yet because the cables that hook it to the TV come separately and haven't arrived. It looks OK, isn't making any loose-part rattling noises.

Accidents happen, and certainly I have no idea what's happening to these packages when they're out of my sight. They should be packed sufficiently to receive shocks. But at the very least, it seems to me that if you're a delivery person for a company that has a reputation as a premium shipper, and you toss a package on the street right in front of the consumer, it might be a good idea to say you're sorry, and act like this is something that deserves a response from you. Sheesh. Am I being overly sensitive here?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Word problems for the new economy

Today, my daughter's summer homework worksheet contained word problems about fractions. Most were fairly typical, but when we came to this one:
BMW is lying off 8000 employees worldwide. Of the 8000 employees from BMW’s layoffs, 5/8 of the employees received applications for some form of unemployment benefits. However only 3/4 of the laid off employees receiving applications completed and returned their applications to the unemployment offices. How many of the 8000 laid off employees actually applied for unemployment benefits?
Is this what we're coming to now? Word problems about layoffs? Will we be figuring out foreclosure losses on the next one, or calculating food-stamp savings? As if math wasn't already depressing enough.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer homework, Day 6

Pretty good hissy fit over homework today. Unfortunately, the fit-giver was me. I accidentally handed my daughter the answer sheet along with her problems to do, and she copied from it in a way so obvious that it was easy to catch her and impossible to understand why she would have cheated and lied about it. It's comforting, I guess, that she's so bad at being bad, so easily seen right through. But all the more reason for me to impress on her that she must. not. cheat. Even on stupid summer homework with Mom. Especially on word problems that aren't really that hard. Harumph.

Things went better with my son, who did his geography and Spanish without much fuss. The thing he's digging in his heels about is writing in his blog, which is supposed to be a fun way to practice writing. He does a great job with it when he does it. Wish I didn't have to nag so much, though. Then again, given my track record over the past year on this blog, maybe I'm not one to talk.

Friday, August 13, 2010

But What If They Can?

Our kids can't do that.

I hear that phrase a lot lately, when the topic turns to standardized testing, or Common Core State Standards, or inclusion run rampant. Not just from educators and IEP team members, though there's certainly enough eye-rolling and shoulder-shrugging from that quarter over the possibility of students with special needs doing what everybody else is doing. I suppose that's where we learn.

Join me over at Hopeful Parents for the rest of this post. I'll be writing there once a month.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer studying, Day 3

Continuing on with my plan to rob my children of precious summer hours by making them do homework for me.

My daughter did another PEMDAS worksheet, getting closer and closer to at least a passing percentage of correct answers. (By the way, if you're ever working on order of operations with your kids, this calculator rocks -- you can enter the whole long thing and get the answer without having to work it through yourself. Purely for parent use, mind you.) Mostly, now, it's carelessness. You really do have to go boringly step by slow step, not rushing things by combining stuff in and out of paragraphs or doing the figuring too hastily in your head. Good that she's doing all this practicing now, though, so maybe she'll have it together by class time. We read another chapter of The Color of Water, which she has pronounced to be a weird book. That won't get her off the hook.

My son's geometry homework involved looking at pictures of the flags of various countries and matching them to descriptions that use the names of many different shapes, triangles and polygons and dodecagons and trapezoids and what-all. I helped probably a little too much, but seriously, the descriptions were awfully convoluted. In Spanish, we moved on from a chapter about family members to one about rooms of the house. Not sure how much of this he's going to retain, but he's game to try it. We read another chapter in Bridge to Terabithia, and yes, the glasses made a difference.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer studying, Day 2

Another what-we-did-yesterday report on the progress of our summer homework. Running a day late with reports feels about par for the course.

So, yesterday: My son's Spanish worksheet involved translating phrases, and I was really impressed with how conscientiously he finished it, flipping back and forth to different lists of words to find the information he needed to translate a group of sentences from English to Spanish. I did talk him through it a little, but in past years he would have lost interest and attention even for listening to my instructions long before he got to the end. This time, though he yawned frequently -- that's what happens when a kid who moves to stay alert tries to sit still and pay attention -- he finished it all without protest. Ditto his geometry, which was a fun exercise using the concepts of "parallel," "perpendicular," and "intersecting" to find different things on a map. I'm starting to feel really hopeful about his ability to take on the challenging class placements we've got going for him this fall. Remaining patient through a long task is a big and necessary leap.

He was a little more antsy with our reading of another chapter of Bridge to Terabithia. Part of the problem was his sinuses, which were making his voice come out all nasal and through his nose. Hard to understand him, hard to speak clearly. A couple of spritzes of salt water up the nose every day may help with that. The other thing I remembered later is that he hasn't been wearing his glasses while we're reading. Funny how quickly we've forgotten those things in our nonacademic summer routine. Gonna have to dig 'em out.

My daughter and I spent half the day at an orientation for her college, but I still made her do worksheets when we got home. Mean mom. Order of operations was still the order of the day, since she'd done badly on them the day before. We sort of belatedly realized that, though PEMDAS accurately explains the order, the MD (multiplication/division) part has to be done in the same step from left to right, and ditto the AS (addition/subtraction). Once she got that in her head, her accuracy on the problems improved. I tell you, I need to study up on this stuff before I give it to her, not after she's screwed up. After the math, we read another chapter of The Color of Water, which alternates between short chapters in the mother's voice and long chapters in the son's. Yesterday was a son chapter. Much eye-rolling over the length ensued. It's OK, I'm used to it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How I made my kids miserable yesterday

Thought I'd keep some track here of how my kids are doing on that summer homework I mentioned last week, either as a record of success or lazy failure. Here's what we did yesterday, 8/9/10:

The Spanish workbook I'm using with my son tries to make things interesting by throwing in celebrity names -- as in yesterday's exercise, which required matching famous relatives with the Spanish terms that described their relationship (for example, "Goldie Hawn y Kate Hudson" with "La madre and la hija," "Luke y Owen Wilson" with "los hermanos," and "Darth Vader" with "El padre de Luke Skywalker." Cute idea ... except my son's awareness of popular culture pretty much ends at Nickelodeon and PBS Kids. So I had to explain who everyone was before he could have a good guess. Kind of wished we could skip over "Paris y Nicky Hilton" -- I try so hard to pay no attention to them at all.

Also on the table for my son was a geometry worksheet about identifying angles. This book also tries to make things fun, in this case presenting the angles to be identified as the legs of little cartoon gymnasts. Female gymnasts, with arrows pointing to their crotches so we knew just what angle was being asked for. I don't think it registered with my son, but ... maybe not the most tasteful way of presenting the information, ya know?

My daughter did a worksheet from the remedial math review sheets posted on her college's website, my bid to make her as prepared as possible for her upcoming remedial math class. This particular sheet was about order of operations, or PEMDAS as my kids have been taught to call it, and some of the problems were quite complicated, with exponents and square roots and parentheses and brackets. I had to Google for instructions a few times before I could help her out, and even then we came to the conclusion that one of the solutions on the answer sheet was just wrong. More often, though, it came down to her copying something incorrectly as she moved from step to step. Oops.

Because I am mean and want them to be unhappy, I'm also requiring them to read with me for the rest of their summer. Yesterday they each started books -- Bridge to Terabithia, iBooks for iPad version, for my son, and an old coffee-stained copy of The Color of Water for my daughter, who hates to read but will sometimes agree to nonfiction. She almost read The Color of Water her freshman year in high school, before the resource room teacher came back from maternity leave and supplanted the sub who thought that was a good idea. I saw it was on a list of books that might be used in her college remedial reading class, so we'll give it a try. I may have to do some pretty heavy bribing to keep her going.

What unpleasant academic chores are you forcing your kids to do? Share in the comments.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Keep your blog music to yourself

I'm afraid that this is going to come off sounding cruel, and I don't mean it that way, though it's something that often makes me mumble rude words under my breath. I know it's done with all good intentions, in an effort to create a particular atmosphere and share something precious and important. It's meant to be meaningful, not annoying, certainly, I understand that. But it's annoying nonetheless.

I'm talking about music on blogs.

If you've had a song written for your child, or a playlist of songs that your child enjoys, or an inspirational tune that always puts you in a peaceful frame of mind, it is entirely right and nifty that you should share it with the people who are reading your words. But would it be so bad to make it an opt-in experience? To have a big button up top that says, "Listen to my musical selections as you read?"? People would want to do that, I think, particularly if they're enthralled by the rest of your blog.

But when you make the music ring out every time someone hits your site, here's what happens, at least to me. I read blogs in my RSS reader. If it looks interesting, I hit the link to open the page in another tab. I keep reading, opening, reading, opening, and then suddenly I have unexpected music blending unpleasantly with the music I already have playing on iTunes. Then I either have to hit the mute button and lose the music I want to listen to, or scurry frantically through tabs searching, searching for the site making that noise, then scrolling furiously to find the off button, which is usually hidden in a sidebar somewhere, often with decoy idle music players for extra confusion.

So what was meant as a nice extra touch to website design becomes a reason for me to arrive at a site angry, cursing, and frustrated.

I started web writing in the early days of Geocities, in which adding as many gewgaws to your site as possible was the general idea. I was more Warrior Mom than Holly Hobbie, and the froufrou bothered me then. Maybe that's why the music bothers me now. Maybe I'm just always looking for something to be bugged by. Maybe I've written way more words about this than it deserves. What do you think? Does blog Muzak make you nuts too? Add your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Summer homework blues

My son had the last day of his summer job yesterday, and my daughter's is today. School doesn't start until September 7 and 8, so we've got a loooooooooooooong stretch of boring weeks ahead. One thing that's definitely on the agenda is getting to some of the summer homework I meant to have my son do -- a little geometry and Spanish to prepare him for the more mainstream classes he's going to have on those subjects in the fall. I'm trying to persuade my daughter that it would be a good idea for her to do some of the basic math review on her college's website to prepare for the remedial math classes she's taking. When I mention it, she looks like I'm asking her to spend her last precious days of summer digging coal out of the backyard.

The thing that stinks about these kind of summer projects for kids is that I have to be involved in them, and to do so I have to remember geometry and Spanish and higher math concepts, which I do not. I've been out of school for a while. Those brain cells are gone. So before I can sit down to guide my guy through a geometry worksheet, I have to go online and Google, "Quick! Explain geometry to me!" Feels a little like digging coal from this end, too.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Why we don't yell at teachers in public

The ever-helpful special-needs blog The Wrightslaw Way had a post today entitled Going Ballistic in a Public Forum - NOT Good Form! and I say, Amen to that. It gave me an unpleasant flashback to a Back to School night when my son was in first grade. Other parents in that class had a good gripe in that, due to personnel and space considerations, their kids had been kept in the same classroom for years instead of moving up to another self-contained class; meanwhile, younger kids (most noticeably my very small, very fidgety, just-up-from-pre-K guy) kept being added to the mix. I don't begrudge those parents their extreme pissed-offness ... but it was best directed at the special-education supervisor, in a meeting or a thoughtfully phrased letter. Yelling at the young teacher on Back to School night until you made her cry was just bullying, and the mom who did it damaged that class and my son in ways I've never entirely forgiven.

Yelling, anger, sarcasm, making a scene ... those things feel good, I know they do, and they give parents a feeling of power that is hard to come by. But they're a bad idea. They're never the best way to change the system. They always do damage to our ability to function as our children's advocates, even if they appear effective in the short run. We teach our children not to get down on the level of bullies, and we should take that advice ourselves. Treat those school personnel the way we would want them to treat us -- as partners, as knowledgeable professionals, as grown-ups.

Then, you know, start up a blog where you can pour out that venom in a more appropriate and anonymous venue.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Just to be safe

So apparently there's some bickering going on over the Restraint and Seclusion bill that was supposed to protect students with special needs against abusive behavioral practices in schools. According to a Disability Scoop post, the American Association of School Administrators is against the bill, and wants to change it to allow the specification in an IEP that for this particular student, restraint and seclusion are A-OK. A spokesman for the organization is quoted as saying, "We see it as a discussion to be had in advance with the expectation that you never have to use it. We would hopefully only be using it in emergency situations, but instead of being reactive you would be proactive."

Well, okay. Proactive is good. And in that spirit, how about if we also amend the law to add a provision allowing parents to sue a school district and prosecute a school administrator if restraint and seclusion are done improperly, in a way that injures or traumatizes a child, by personnel without proper training and support, in a classroom that's become a dumping ground for behavior problems, in a placement that does not work for the child in question, and/or when less invasive behavioral interventions like a Functional Behavior Assessment and a Behavior Intervention Plan have never been ordered, provided, or implemented.

You know, with the expectation that we'd never have to use it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Well, hello! Pay no attention to the five inches of dog hair on every available surface!

Wow, I just noticed that this blog was named as one of "ten blogs for special-needs parents" by, along with some of my favorite parenting blogs. I'm honored to be in that company, and ... um, a little embarrassed by how infrequently I've been blogging here lately. It's like somebody invited everybody to your place for an open house, and you haven't cleaned in a really, really long time.

So if you've come here from that SheKnows list, hey, welcome! Remove that stack of newspapers from the sofa and have a seat! Pay no attention to the massive cobwebs in the corners! Just give me a few minutes to find my kitchen counter under all the old mail and dirty dishes, and I'll make you some coffee! The mold washes right out of the filter basket, no problem.

Seriously, I've been spending most of my writerly energy these days on my site at -- that's the writing that pays my bills, and keeps my kids in iTunes. Please stop by there and click around 20 or 30 times. I'll try to get some work going here again, too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Site, Same as the Old Site

Just moved Mothers With Attitude (the main site, not this blog) over to a much cheaper Web host, hooray! You should notice absolutely nothing different, same mishmash of styles from when I ran out of steam in a redesign. So far, looks like everything still works the way it should, or doesn't work same as always. Success!

Unless it's just toying with me, and everything is about to fall apart. Could happen. I know enough about technology to sort of make myself think I know what I'm doing, but not enough to actually know. Anyway, if anybody saw "under construction" signs today and worried, I'm back.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adoption on "In Plain Sight"

Last week, USA's witness-protection procedural In Plain Sight had a plot about a witness with Asperger syndrome, and this week there was something else within my blogging realm: an adoption plotline. The witness-of-the-week [spoiler alert!] was a homeless man who stopped a bombing. Turned out he was a genius who fled his adoptive home when he was 15 because he didn't feel understood. In exchange for giving testimony, he asks the authorities to find his birthmother, who he's been searching for unsuccessfully for years. She's found, but she's dying, and he gets there too late to meet her. By unlikely chance, though, the man she was married to at the end of her life turns out to be the man she had a baby with decades before, so the witness finds his birthfather. He also finds out that his mama was a rolling stone, just like him. Biology is destiny, ya know.

Of course, all through this, I'm thinking about the guy's adoptive parents, and whether they've missed him over the fifteen-plus years he's been missing, and now will be even less likely to ever see him again as he takes on a new identity. He, of course, doesn't seem to have given them any thought at all. Chopped liver, they are. Not that I'm defensive or anything.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Why We Don't Just Go "Rescue" Random Kids

Geez, you know I'm all for adoption, and I'm sure many of us who've opened our hearts to children in disadvantaged situations have seen the news from Haiti and thought, "I'd like to scoop those babies up and bring them home with me." But we don't, you know, actually do it. Because there are laws, and precautions, and pesky things like paperwork.

The distinction between charitable impulse and really bad idea was apparently lost on a group of Americans who went to the earthquake-ravaged nation and scooped themselves up some kids, without being all that persnickety about whether they were truly orphans or not. For their troubles, they were arrested and have now been charged with kidnaping.

The ugly truth -- something that those of us who've adopted internationally have probably wrestled with in our hearts, and something that has the potential to stop international adoption in any country that has a little pride -- is that it's hard not to feel that, whether they have a birthfamily who wants them or not, children are better off in our comparitively rich and resource-filled American homes and communities. That's an impulse we have to struggle against, and there should be mountains of paperwork to make sure we don't get off too easily. It's hard enough to shake the image of Americans buying kids when we do have proof of need; the Idaho Baptists are finding out now what happens when you don't bother with it. You wind up in trouble, and probably make it harder for kids who are eligible for adoption to get out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Already Have a Family

I'm finally catching up with "Find My Family," which we taped when it debuted. My daughter is dying to watch it, but I wanted to watch it first, and it's been waiting for me to get up the nerve. Seeing it now ... wow, it's bad. Interesting that the people involved use terms like "birthmother" and "birthfamily," but the show host keeps driving home "MOTHER" and "FAMILY." Adoptive families are clearly chopped liver in this scenario. I don't know what to tell my daughter about this. I know this is an issue for her ... but she's so sensitive and impressionable, and the the show is such overwhelming Adoptee Wish Fulfillment Fantasy, that I think it could do more harm than good. We'll have a talk about it.