Friday, November 30, 2007

New and Unwrapped

This is why I love blogging...You guys make me think. You don't always make me agree--and I'm still not entirely buying the idea that an unwrapped toy is an unwelcome toy, for reasons I'll discuss below--but you do bring up important points. I'd assumed that a stuffed animal could be adequately cleaned, for instance, and maybe that's not the case. And I'd assumed that a charity could just toss (or use for some other purpose) anything that doesn't meet minimum standards--like a bear with missing fur. But again, maybe that would be too much work, for too little benefit.

Nor am I suggesting that nobody should give new and unwrapped. Just that allowing like-new stuff to be donated would open the giving up to everyone, not just those who can afford to add another couple of toys to their already-taxed holiday budgets.

Maybe it's a matter of perspective? Let me be clearer about mine: Every single year, some percentage of the presents I give my kids are used and unwrapped (until I wrap them). I could never afford eight nights of Chanukah otherwise! This year, for instance, they will each be receiving some cute shirts I found for them at Goodwill. (Several of 'em each, actually. Because they cost only $1.50, I can give them a nice little bag full of cool clothes for half the price of a single Gap t-shirt.) And they will each be receiving a little stack of books I found at the library book sales for a quarter apiece--again, they'll get a stack, and I'll have spent maybe a whole dollar or two! Win-win. And they will probably each receive a used game--Em for her DS, N for his Playstation 2*--that I get at GameStop. Each game will cost under $15; otherwise, I won't get them.

But here's the thing: I don't feel like this is something shameful. I am thrilled to be able to afford to give these things to them, and they will be thrilled to get them. Because they've never been told that there's anything wrong with something that's been used. I'm not even sure they realize that the stuff is used...I mean, I'm sure Em knows the difference, but I don't think she attaches any meaning to that difference. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I've never seen any evidence to the contrary.

Now, all of this is just to provide you with my perspective, as I said. I am very aware that there's a difference between giving to my own kids, and giving to someone else's. I have a list of more than 15 kids I need to get presents for this season--there's a full slate of birthdays AND holidays--and not one of them is going to get a used library book--because I, knowing what's expected socially, would be embarrassed to do so. So maybe that's how I should be thinking about this charitable giving thing. That I should be embarrassed to give someone else's kid a used toy--whether that person is someone I know or not. But that bumps up against the fact that I actually don't think it IS embarrassing...or at least I don't think it's wrong. Or maybe I should say that at least I don't think it should be wrong.

And here's one more twist before I shut up: As Hilary pointed out in my last post, it's not just that there are these opportunities to give, and if I don't have it to give, that's OK, I can just walk away, lalala. It's that there is all this pressure to give. Everywhere you go, there's someone with a hand extended right now. You get looks when you don't give. You get attitude. (Or you feel guilty and you perceive attitude. Probably half and half.) Plus, not giving feels bad. It feels mean. And, worse, I want to give. But they don't want what I have to give. And therein lies the problem.

I'll deal with it like I have every year. I will donate clothes to those charities I feel comfortable giving to, and I will Freecycle the toys and stuffed animals. And I will try not to feel judged when the plan to have "the whole troop participate" in the stuffed animal drive goes awry because of me, just like I try not to feel mean when I don't let Em go Christmas caroling with her troop either. (Aaaaaand, it's back! The Scrooginess is in full swing now!)

*While the truth is that these particular items were purchased for the kids by other family members rather than by us, I made a point of being specific here so that you'd understand that my kids have no dearth of the high-tech and trendy stuff that is out there. And sometimes those items are bought by Baroy and myself. And yes, this year for the holidays, my kids will get new things, too. A nice little selection of new things. (N is going to FLIP for this ride-on toy, which is his Big Present. He'll also love the new-in-bag Spongebob Squarepants comforter I got for him. And Em is getting a gorgeous, very grown-up Star of David necklace that she picked out and a brand-new Hairspray DVD, because she is INSANE for that show and that movie. And that's only a sampling.) My point is, it's the used stuff that will allow me to buy them some new things, too, and still have something to give them every night. No, that's not right. My point is, it doesn't matter that some of what I'm giving them is used. They're all gifts. It's all good. Or maybe not.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Heads do not have to roll

This is my second-to-last NaBloPoMo post. Not that I'm counting or anything.

I decided, this morning, to stop by the principal's office after volunteering for a couple of hours in N's classroom, to express my, um, mild vexation over Idiot School Psychologist's name being on N's IEP-timeline sheet. Didn't curse this time, either. Go me! Maybe because she looked appropriately annoyed (at the district, not at me) and took out paperwork to show me that the name of the psychologist who is going to be assessing N--and who will also be heading up his IEP meeting--is not that of Idiot School Psychologist. I had a feeling that that might be the case--that the timeline sheet was filled out pro forma by someone who hadn't been in the "No, don't mention his name in front of TC; she'll go ballistic" loop, but that the actual assessment paperwork is indeed all in order.

When I got home, there was a nice long phone message from the guy at the school district saying essentially the same thing, and promising me that Idiot School Psychologist would not be anywhere near my child.

My work here is nowhere near done, but at least I can let this one go.

Which means, of course, that I need to replace it with something else to be annoyed and belligerent about. And since it's That Time of Year and I haven't had anything to be truly Scroogey about lately, I'm going to take the little shred of indignation I worked up this morning over an email I received, and turn it into a full head of steam.

To wit: Times are lean here. (Do I hear any amens out there? I thought I would.) So, this morning, when I got a notice about a Girl Scout stuffed-animal drive for needy kids, I was thrilled. This was something we could be part of; we have, in our home, something resembling the population of a wild game park in which all hunting has been prohibited for the past 50 years and the animals were all given fertility drugs. In other words, we have a lot of stuffed animals. Nobody would even notice if a few (dozen) went missing.

Except then I read further: "Council will receive donations of NEW stuffed buddies..."

Now, it's hard to express my distaste over this new trend of everyone only accepting "new, unwrapped" toys to give to kids who don't get much. Every time I try it, I end up sounding like some kind of mean old fogey, mumbling about how those "damn charity cases ought to take my kids' broken and stinky old toys and LIKE IT." Which is not my point at all. But here's what my point is: Ignoring the whole Christmas/Chanukah/feeling marginalized thing, this is supposed to be a season of giving. And my upbringing and my faith have both taught me that there is always someone more in need than you, and that it is not only a privilege, but a duty to give. And I have much to give. Except I don't have it in cash. What I have are toys and stuffed animals and clothes that my kids have hardly every touched or worn, and which could make another child very happy. Except I'm not allowed to give that stuff to those children. Instead, I'll end up trucking them over to Goodwill or Out of the Closet or a consignment shop. And then these things will be out of reach, again, to the truly underprivileged, the kids whose parents can't even come up with a buck-fifty for a t-shirt.

It just seems stupid...and wrong...that we are now at a point in our society where reaching out and giving to another person in need has become yet another privilege, something out of the reach of many of us. Does it really matter if the freaking teddy bear still has its Gund tag on it? Will some three-year-old love it less because some other kid hugged it first? Because, personally, I think that makes it more valuable, not less. Yet I'm being told by organization after organization this season that my gifts--that my impulse to give--just aren't good enough. And while I'd like to scoff and say, "Fine. Their loss," the truth is, it's making me feel like I'm not good enough, either. Not good enough to give.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Governator Speaks

So, yeah, Em finally heard back from Governor Schwarzenegger. Well, actually, *I* heard back from him. Except it wasn't a response to my note to the governor. It was a response to Em's note, sent to my email address. They obviously lost her original note, but decided they'd best pretend to have gotten it, since hell hath no fury like a mother whose daughter didn't get an emailed response from a government official in a reasonable amount of time. Works for me.

Works for Em, too, since she got seven cubes, Mom for the two emails--her original and the governor's response. (Her fifth grade teacher has an elaborate system of weekly rewards based on cubes and the accumulation thereof by various methods including extra credit work or really anything you do outside of school that's educational, with the reward being the having of lunch with said teacher, who is awesome, Mom, and so cool, Mom, and has a girlfriend in a rock-and-roll band, Mom, and used to play football for USC, Mom. All I know is that he's a kick-ass teacher, the kids work their butts off for him, and Em has learned more in the last three months than she did in all of third and fourth grades. So all is well in Emland.)

Oh, and speaking of hell hath no fury...Did I mention that I got a return-receipt-requested letter on Saturday from the school district's special ed office, saying that "I believe the issues have been resolved, as we have received the assessment plan in our office." Which would be indeed the case if I hadn't also received, in that same day's mail, a notice of Receipt of Consent and Individualized Education Program Meeting Timeline--a notice that had stated that my consent for the assessment had been received in the Special Ed office on November 11th, and that an IEP meeting will thus be held no later than January 25th, and that if I have any questions, I should call...wait for's worth the wait...oh, you guessed already did you? THE IDIOT SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST WHO I SPECIFICALLY SAID I DIDN'T WANT IN THE SAME ROOM AS MY SON, MUCH LESS HEADING UP HIS FREAKING IEP! Seriously? I almost had a friggin' coronary, I was so pissed.

And thus I left a message this morning on the voice mail of the special ed teacher specialist who had sent me the "I believe the issues have been resolved..." letter, stating somewhat coldly that the issues have apparently NOT been resolved, and that if I find out that man has been anywhere NEAR my child, there will be hell to pay. OK. I didn't say hell, because I'm actually a good girl, and I don't swear at authority figures. Usually. I don't actually know what I did say...except that I spoke for several moments into the voice mail in a Very Stern Voice and demanded a call back, and then hung up the phone only to encounter a simultaneously bemused and clearly proud expression on the face of my listening husband, who said, simply, "Well. There's no way they're going to be able to misread your feelings on THAT topic."

Of course, I have no idea if they misread them or not, because Mr. Teacher Specialist didn't return my call.

Tomorrow's voice mail may just include a swear word or two.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lucky Seven

KE tagged me for a meme. It's like a gift from God...A meme in the last week of NaBloPoMo! A you-don't-have-to-come-up-with-a-topic-to-write-about day! I could kiss you, KE!

So, here goes, starting with the rules:

Link to the person who tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
Share 7 facts about yourself.
Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

My Seven:

1. I just had a conversation with my 10-year-old daughter about Viking sex.

2. I have four siblings: one 'full' sister, one step sister, one half sister, and one half brother. Aside from my full sister, I don't think there is a person alive who has met all five of us. I myself haven't seen my brother since he was 8. I am the oldest of the five.

3. I have attended more than one cross-stitching convention.

4. I got my driver's license when I was 29, six months after moving to Los Angeles.

5. I haven't had any kind of regular dental care in more than 25 years. I am quite comfortable with that state of affairs.

6. I cannot sit on the inside of a booth in a restaurant without prompting a full-blown panic attack.

7. I told my mother about my first 'real' kiss on the back of a postcard sent from summer camp in 1976, when I was 12. She was mortified that the postman knew about my prepubertal escapades before she did.

I would tag 7 people, but it seems like there aren't 7 people left to tag! Sheesh! What was I, the bottom of the barrel? I spent at least 15 minutes poking around the NaBlo Randomizer, and only managed to come up with four people. And so...

Is There Any Paper Around Here?

My Chihuahua Bites!
Le Stylo en Rose

Monday, November 26, 2007


My Aunt Barbara has been staying with us for the last week-and-a-bit, on and off. She lives in Florida, and it's been a couple of years since my kids have seen her at all. They're like pigs in slop with all the attention they're getting--little consumer-driven, Aunt-Barbara-wants-to-spoil-us-rotten-and-we're-not-going-to-complain pigs.

N, especially, has been loving having Aunt Barbara here, because she's actually been playing with him--or, more specifically, watching his many activities and submitting to being bossed around by a not-yet-7-year-old who seems to have the bossing abilities of a man many years his senior.

[You're going to have to forgive me here, by the way. I've spent the last 20 minutes trying to figure out just how to make this into a cohesive story rather than a series of only loosely related sentences, and I just can't make it hang together. But I still want to say what I want to say. So please ignore the utter and complete lack of transitions. Or don't ignore them, but at least try to forgive them. Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely, The Management]

One of N's 'quirks' is his extreme difficulty with names. There are people he's known for years whose names he still has trouble with...people he's known since he was BORN. Given time and hints, he'll get it...but it's a definite weakness he'll likely have to deal with all his life.

Thus it was not much of a surprise to me that he's been continually getting stalled this week when trying to get Aunt Barbara's attention. (Like most people, Aunt Barbara balks at responding to "Hey, you!") He's gotten better and better over time at covering for favorite this week was when he tried to ask me when Aunt Barbara was coming back from her friend's house where she stayed for a couple of nights, and wound up asking, "When know...our aunt be coming home?" Our aunt. Couldn't you just smush him up and eat him with brown sugar and butter melted on top?

Now, all of this is complicated by the fact that many, many years back--for reasons we have been debating on and off all week--I began calling my Aunt Barbara AB. (Short for, you know, Aunt Barbara. In case that was confusing anyone. Yes, feel free to despise me now for talking down to you.) Em has picked that up as well, but N had only ever referred to her as Aunt Barbara. Which only worsened the problem of his coming up with her name, since he wasn't hearing it from me or Em. Finally, however, after days and days of stumbling over her name and having to be reminded of what it was and of seeming to be visibly flustered by this problem--one of the first times I've seen him seem to feel badly about not knowing a name--he's finally given up, and has started calling her AB. Which, for some reason, seems unbearably cute and grown-up and yet almost inappropriate--almost disrespectful--coming from him. Still, the cute wins out. As AB said to me today, "I was going to tell him that you have to be a certain age to call me AB, but it's just so adorable coming from him, I can't bring myself to do it."

See? Not only rambling and badly constructed, but pointless as well! A trifecta of Bad Blogging!

This month simply can't end soon enough, can it?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Damn animals

One of our cats, Buttons, has an upper respiratory infection, and needs daily antibiotics. Which is why, of course, she hasn't yet come home tonight. Any other night, and she's in and sleeping on our bed like clockwork.

Our dog, Snug, has a lump on his leg that went from bug-bite sized to golf-ball sized in an afternoon. Our vet/friend tried to aspirate it, but found it wasn't really solid, and said it looked "weird" under a microscope. So it has to come off. To the tune of about a grand. Baroy was trying to figure out how to convince the surgeon who will do N's surgery (when we schedule it) that N just got kinda furry recently...and that his testicle has wandered down to his rear paw...I mean leg. After all, THAT surgery would probably cost us well under a hundred bucks.

Our friend, Ambre, got thrown from her horse yesterday...thrown over a fence and onto the hard-packed earth outside the ring. She broke her clavicle and scapula, and suffered a compression fracture in one of her vertebrae. If you were able to read that without shuddering, you're made of stone.

Why did we decide it was a good idea to domesticate animals again?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bounce Back

My daughter's resiliency is truly awesome. To wit: Yes, not only did she hear what T said yesterday, she was the one who told me the story, with her friend J throwing in her "Yeah, and it wasn't nice!" here and there as she went along. Apparently they had gone back outside afterwards, and Em had told T off...or, rather, told him that he'd hurt her feelings. He'd responded in typical 11-year-old-boy fashion: "I was just kidding!" As if that makes it all better.

Thing is, it actually didn't take much more than that to make it all better. All Em seemed to really need was to vent to me and say things like, "Can you believe him?" and "Isn't that just so RUDE?" and to hear me say things like, "Does it really matter what a silly boy says?" and "You know your body and what is and isn't true about it. So forget him." Within minutes she was back to putting on her little skit for me and my aunt, all bubbly and animated and excited. And she and J spent about half the day today playing with T and his brother, even having a picnic lunch with them on T's front lawn. She truly did just shake it off.

That's just the way Em is, really. Tonight, for instance, she went to a bowling party, and was hanging out with two of her friends from Hebrew School, when they decided that a boy who was bowling with them was really cute. That is just not Em's thing as yet, so she went on her merry way, but one of the other girls apparently started ignoring Em in favor of ogling this boy. When I came to pick her up, Em was obviously, visibly unhappy. I made her and her friend talk it out a bit, and there were a lot of tears from Em, whose feelings were truly hurt by being ignored and left out by a friend. On the way home, I talked to her a bit about how this was something she was going to come upon in her life--girlfriends who would drop her like a hot potato every time some guy came along--and how this was another one of those things she would have to use to decide who is worth spending a lot of 'friendship energy' on, and who simply isn't reliable and worth having as a really close friend. By the time we got home--not 15 minutes later, and with the tears still wet on her cheeks--she was giggling about it, and walked into the house to announce--grinning, mind you--to her dad, "Guess what? I had a first tonight! It was the first time one of my friends dumped me for a boy!"

All I can say is that I should only be that resilient. That kid makes me so freaking proud.

Friday, November 23, 2007

So much for thanks...I'm gonna kill the little fucker

Em and her friend J are putting practicing a play they created that I said I would videotape for them. In it, they are both pregnant, with big pillows stuffed under their shirts. They heard the boys on the street playing and so, giggling, they went outside:

"Hey, guys," Em shouts over to them. "I think J and I gained a little weight over Thanksgiving."

T, one of boys, shouts back. "Hey, J! Now you look like Em!"

That child had best not be standing in the middle of the street next time I'm behind the wheel of my car, is all I can say.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Forgotten Greens

No matter what I do, no matter how many lists I make (and check twice), there's always something left behind in my Thanksgiving dinner. Tonight it was the last-minute addition of Trader Joe's organic greens, popped into the microwave when I realized I had absolutely nothing of that color in my menu. Of course, since I left them in the microwave, I still didn't serve anything green, but...c'est la vie.

Dinner was fabulous. I can't decide if my stomach hurts more from eating or from laughing. We have my Aunt Barbara in from Florida, and our friends M and G, who always bring fun with them. I am thankful in so many ways, but too selfish to take any more time away from my family and friends to elaborate.

One quick semi-anecdote: On ParentsConnect, someone wrote about a Thanksgiving activity (we call them DOs) called the Thankful Tablecloth. I loved the idea, and decided to give it a shot this year, with a bunch of Sharpies and a $10 white tablecloth from Ikea (upon which N immediately spilled a full glass of grape juice, prompting G to write "I am thankful that I was not sitting right here" over the stain. Hee!)

As for my kids, well, N wrote, "I am thankful for the soldiers." Which was unexpected, and really sweet. And Em? Em started with, "I am thankful for my family and friends and Harry Potter," but then decided to add a few more thought. "And I am thankful for the environment. And NOT for the governor."

Good to know she's learning how to let things go, huh?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanks, Em

What? Go away; leave me alone. I have no time for you people! I have brine to make and potatoes to peel, kids to pick up and a house to clean.

Thank goodness for Em, who shows a level of obsession with Governor Schwarzenegger matched only by my own and decided to email her uncle about it. Thank goodness for her uncle, who forwarded the email to me, knowing I'd love seeing it. Because now I can have my 10-year-old write my blog entry for me.
Ok maybe I'm over reacting but I mean it when I say, THE GOVERNER IS REALLY MEAN!!!!!!!! He hasn't replied and it been over a month. Mommy and I are both mad. We both think the governer stinks. Mommy sent him a nasty letter asking why he dosn't answer 10 year old girls e-mails. I think she is very brave. But he hasn't replied to her eaither (well maybe he dosn't want to respond to her letter because it was nasty) but that still dosn't excuse him from not sending anything to me. So to shorten up this e-mail I DON'T LIKE THAT GOVERNER.
Love you
(Somewhere my mother is rolling her eyes at the atrocious spelling. Trust me, Mom, I'm with you. But that aside, that kid cracks me up. Plus, she called me brave. My heart is now a smooshy warm puddle existing somewhere in the vicinity of my ankles.)

Take THAT, Ahnold. Don't mess with the Em.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In the Waiting Room

We had an appointment with a surgeon today to discuss whether N needs surgery on his hernia and sometimes-undescended testicle (which today was present, though high, leading to a decision to hold off on surgery for another few months and do a recheck at that point). The surgeon was about half an hour behind schedule, however, owing to an emergency appendectomy, so N wound up playing for a long time in the waiting room. He was doing really well, sharing one of those weird bead-roller-coaster thingies with a couple of other kids, when a little boy--who, I later learned from his very sweet mom, had just turned three--joined the group. The boy decided that he wanted to play with every single bead N touched, and it was frustrating N to no end. N and I talked a couple of times about how he had to share, but the truth is that no matter what N did, no matter how many times N let the boy have one bead and just moved on to another, the boy would grab for the bead in N's hand. His mom was trying very hard to redirect him, and even gave him a couple of time outs. But at one point, when N put his hand on a bead that the boy was just about to grab for, the boy just suddenly lashed out and whacked N in the face.

Appropriately, the boy was scolded and taken away from the toy for a long time and made to come over to apologize to N, and all was more or less well. Except that N doesn't recover quickly from such things, and so kept sobbing and being dramatic. I had him on my lap and was talking to him quietly and finally said, "You have to understand sweetie, he's still just a baby."

"Yeah, I know," N said, his voice full of tears. "But he's a mean baby."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Like Hurts

I took this photo a few days ago, after N had written some messages to me on our well-used, impossible-to-clean, no-longer-anything-approaching-white white board.

Baroy, noticing these messages, made a side comment to me along the usual 'what am I, chopped liver?' lines. N overheard, and apparently decided to address the issue, so as not to make his Dad feel badly. "I wrote you a letter, too, Daddy!" he announced proudly just a few minutes later.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

That man makes me laugh

It's Sunday-night get-together with the gang. Eight adults, nine kids. The youngest four or five boys are running around with various gun-like toys, shooting at each other. S, the mom of the house, stops them. "Hey, you guys know the rule! No shooting at people!"

"But Mom," says one of her sons, "Dad said we could."

Looking over at said Dad, I roll my eyes disbelievingly. "You didn't really tell them they could shoot at people, did you?"

"Actually, I did," the Dad replies.

S makes a face in his direction that pretty much says it all. "Ooooh, you're in trouble," I say.

"Well," the Dad says, "I thought it was assumed that when I said they could shoot each other, I only meant they could shoot each other until their Mom saw them and put an end to it."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Postscript-ish Defense

Everyone's kinda jumping on the poor SLP for saying N's not on the spectrum. So I feel like I should stand up for her--and for me--a bit. What she was saying, in essence, was that he qualifies for and deserves major services, period. For a variety of issues.

She did say, as several of you did, that yes, if I keep looking and asking and pushing, I might get someone to give him a PDD label. But she also implied (and gosh I wish I had a tape recorder so I could put it the very gentle and diplomatic way she did) that anyone who did give him such a label would be doing it because they were either not very good at their job or would be turning a blind eye to the truth in order to help me get what I want. The truth is that, yes, on paper, he's spectrummy, what with the social issues (though they are becoming more and more invisible outside the classroom), the communication issues, the sensory issues. But in person, he simply is not. He's something so many senses of the word. (She mentioned another, possibly more fitting, umbrella label that of course went in and out of my head...something along the lines of Multisomething Developmental Delays maybe?)

[I'm putting aside the 'it's a spectrum' argument for now, because, yes, semantically, everyone is on the spectrum. But 'everyone' doesn't qualify for a label, and 'everyone' doesn't qualify for services. So there's clearly a line over which you're considered to really be 'on' the spectrum rather than off it. Em is way way way off it. N is too, just less so.]

I really do agree with her. As, to be honest, has every single professional who has ever looked at him. I have a folder full of reports from Pediatricians and Developmental Pediatricians and Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists and Special Education Teams...and on every single one, it says that there is this concern and that concern and the other concern, but they also all say in one way or another that he doesn't meet the criteria. Not even close. This isn't about getting a second opinion. I've had, conservatively, five opinions--and, in reality, closer to eight or ten. And they all say no.

That sounds negative, but she wasn't being negative. She thinks that I have a very strong case to get him an IEP and accommodations WITHOUT a spectrum diagnosis, and she was almost flat-out begging me to go that route. She warned that I would likely need an advocate to help me down the road (which, thanks to my buddy Valle's constant reiteration of the same refrain will be easy to do, since I have a great, huge list of people to contact when the time comes), because she thinks they may balk at it, but also because she thinks we may end up having to ask them to pay for more appropriate speech therapy than they can provide, or for private OT, etc. She also thinks there's a real case to be made for him needing an at-least-part-time one-on-one aide to help him regulate in class.

But before we go advocates, etc...she said she thinks I should start by going in with the simple and straightforward attitude that it is illegal for them to refuse to help him if he qualifies for help--regardless of his label or lack thereof. He has problems that are interfering with his ability to learn...period. Doesn't matter what he's called. He need help, he deserves help, they need to help. FAPE, baby!

And that is something I can fight for without feeling at all like I'm fudging. We'll see how it goes.

How the Assessment Went

Oh, you mean ASIDE from the fact that my kid was drunk? (No, not really, PnP. Chill.) THAT kind of how it went?

It went...Well, wait. How do you determine whether an assessment went well or not? If by 'it went well' you mean they looked at him and looked at me and said, "Pish-posh, nothing wrong here. You're overreacting. Your son is fine. Go home and he will magically be like every other kid, because we said he's fine, you silly," then no. It did not go well. They didn't say anything like that.

But if by well you mean they listened to what Baroy and I had to say and remembered everything I'd said on the phone and then went and spent time with him and came back and told us that yes, everything I think is wrong is really wrong (and I mean REALLY wrong), then yay. It went swimmingly.

There's a report coming that will have words in it that will help me make more sense out of that whole experience. But I can say that there was a lot of 'stuff' we talked about that gave me plenty to mull over in the meantime: Like recognizing that N's deficits are REAL, but they're not in areas that are easily quantifiable, and thus don't show up easily on measured tests, and that's just the way that is. (When you can't pronounce words, that's quantifiable; you can literally count the sounds a child can or cannot make, for instance. But when you have trouble taking your thoughts and translating them into appropriate sentences, that can't be measured.) So it's going to be fight. Like recognizing what 'winning' that fight means at the district level--i.e., I can fight and fight to get him into speech therapy, and I will likely get there with this assessment report in my hand, but that the school-based therapy/therapist is, oh, let's be optimistic and say it's unlikely she will be able to appropriately address his issues, no matter how much therapy she gives him, because this is not her area of expertise. Like recognizing that he is not, not, not likely at all to get an autism spectrum diagnosis (because he's not autistic...or Asperger's...or PDD...and I know that), and how that is not supposed to make a difference (you're not supposed to need a label to get services; you're just supposed to have a demonstrable need, and he does), but that it might. Like recognizing that there still may not be an umbrella label for me to use as a guide through all of this, but that that doesn't mean there isn't a problem. There's a problem.

But, oh, how intense it was to watch professionals at work, and to really see how someone who knows what they're doing can just zero in on an issue and lay it out there. Even *I* had never seen the basic issue laid out there quite so baldly before. (And it was done in such a 'duh' simple. She read him a book, then asked him to tell Baroy and me the story. Even with the book in hand to remind him, he couldn't even come close to making it make sense. "It was dark, and then they...Boom! And more of it. And then he was sick.") Equally fascinating--if fundamentally upsetting to see him that way--was watching N's body while he was doing this task. He was literally bouncing off of the couch, off of me, off of Baroy. Sitting, then jumping up, then switching positions, then throwing his hands in the air, then...It was exhausting and stressful just watching him. Pure anxiety in motion.

Perhaps the most interesting thing the lead therapist (the woman who owns the practice, and who N declared he's going to marry when he's a grownup) brought up was the classic chicken-and-egg question: N has language problems. He has social issues. He has anxiety. He has sensory issues. But which came first? Did his developmental delays in speech lead to his being anxious about interacting with other children, who he has trouble communicating with? Did his anxieties about interacting with other children lead to a delay in speech? Are his sensory issues causing him anxiety? Does he have sensory issues because he's naturally anxious and he uses sensory input to calm his anxiety?

In the end, this isn't going to be critical, but I do wonder in which order these things developed. Because, to some degree, it would help me to know where to start, which angle to attack things from. When you have limited resources of time, money, whatever, it's best to use those resources to attack the root of the problem, rather than just one of its branches. But what is the root?

One thing I am now positively going to INSIST on going forward, though: This kid needs some kind of well-thought-out sensory diet, and he needs it to be implemented at school. After the disaster of the story-retelling, N jumped up from the couch and started telling the therapists to watch how far he could jump; the woman who was interviewing Baroy and me 'made him' jump back and forth across the room three times, and got him to do it in froggy jumps. "He needs that right now," she said. "He just did something that was so hard for him. He needs to let go of some of the anxiety."

Of course. Of course he does. And this is what he must feel like all day, every day, at school. I knew that, but I'd never seen it so clearly before. Of course he needs that. He's being asked to do things all the time that are damned near impossible for him, and he pulls them off, and then...he's asked to do some more of them. And to be quiet about it. And to stay in his seat while he does it. It must be torture. Last year we tried to address that to some degree by getting the teacher to allow him to chew on straws so that he wouldn't chew on his shirts. But now it's time to get accommodations like that written into an IEP or a 504 Plan, if we ultimately fail on the IEP front.

So, um, yeah. That's how the assessment went.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hair of the Dog

Here's a conversation I wasn't expecting to have this morning. We were leaving the house in a bit of a rush to get to the private speech assessment, and N said he was thirsty, so I told him to go have a quick drink of something and meet me out by the car. Baroy was lagging behind to lock up the house.

N, coming out of the house: What was the funny thing in that soda, Mama?

Me, helping him into the car because he was moving sooooo slowly: What funny thing?

N: In the soda I just drank. It maybe tasted like wine, I think.

Me, getting into the driver's seat: I'm sure it wasn't wine, honey.

N: Well, it tasted like it. It was in that soda can, the red one.

Me, suddenly stopping dead in my tracks, thinking What do we have in the house in a red can? We have diet ginger ale in a white can and diet coke in a gold can and...oh, shit...: Open your mouth and breathe out for me, honey. (A pause.) Holy...

Yup. My not-yet-7-year-old kid knocked back a full swig of beer at 8:30 in the morning. (In his defense, we usually only have beer in bottles, but one of our friends brought over some cans of Tecate the other night, so I'm not surprised he didn't recognize it as off limits.)

And so I dragged him out of the car, brushed his teeth, and washed his face. Because dayum. The kid smelled like a frigging BREWERY. And then spent the ride into Pasadena trying to figure out how to explain this to the speech therapist..."Well, no, actually, the slurring isn't normal for him..."

And that, my friends, was the beginning of my day. How's yours going?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Taking It Out on the Governor

About a month ago, Em wrote a letter to the Governor of California. Oh, never mind my trying to explain it. Here's the email I just sent to Schwarzenegger's office:

A month ago, my 10-year-old daughter, all fired up with excitement over the idea of helping the environment by using compact fluorescent light bulbs, was told that the Governor was considering (or would be considering) an actual ban on incandescent bulbs. I gave her a full-out civics lecture on the subject, telling her that even though she wasn't of voting age, her opinion is important. So she spent an entire evening working on an email to the Governor, and sent it off. I've never seen her so excited about anything. She wrote, on a private blog she keeps, "I am so excited to get an e-mail back and I hope that this e-mail will efect if it actually becomes a law. I'm glad that I'm now part of the politcal process."

Except, of course, that she has not heard back from the Governor. I explained to her that, of course, Governor Schwarzenegger himself would probably not write her back, and warned her that she might only get an email from your office, thanking her for her time and her thoughts. But I truly believed that she would get SOME kind of response. I told her how important it was that she put her opinions out there, that kids are constituents, too. Except obviously I was lying to her without realizing it.

Ten is an awfully young age for a child to have to face the indifference of our government towards the people it supposedly serves, isn't it? Or maybe I'm just naive.


I figure, if I'm going to be cranky and hate the world, I might as well put it to some use, right?


I can't stand anyone. Everyone is dumb. They have dumb thoughts and they do dumb things and they are big dummies. And not just whole people. There are plenty of dumb body parts out there, too. For instance, my legs. They are exceptionally dumb. They are so dumb they seem to think that if they just annoy me enough, I will set them free to do whatever restless-leggy thing they want to do. They are right, actually. If they do NOT STOP BUGGING ME, I'm just going to cut them off. See how far they get. It'll be easier than trying to find the time to DO something about them in between this doctor appointment for N and that speech therapy assessment for N and this deadline and that commitment and the FUCKING HOLIDAY--which in and of itself is actually one of my all-time favorites, since it's all about the cooking and I love the cooking--that starts on WEDNESDAY in our school district and continues until THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY. Hence the 'fucking' part of that previous sentence.

Why yes, I am premenstrual. Why do you ask? Why do you ask as you back away from me, hands held up in a protective gesture, trying to shield both your face and your genitals at the same time?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Greatest Grate-ist

I helped make 175 potato latkes today for a pre-Chanukah Shop-n-Nosh event this Sunday at my temple. I was in charge of the potatoes (among other things). The food processor was broken, and so I had to HAND GRATE approximately 70 potatoes. And because I am an obsessive-compulsive, those 'tatoes were grated down to the nub, down to within an inch of their lives. Or half an inch, really.

So it's actually pretty impressive that it wasn't until the second-to-last potato that I grated off all the skin on my thumb joint, don't you think?

Still, perhaps I won't share that story with the hundred-plus people who will be eating those latkes on Sunday...

From potatoes to rice: If you aren't spending all of your free time here, you will be once you click that link. Especially if, like me, you really miss those SAT days. (Sadly, that's not even sarcastic. If all of life were about being book-smart and testing well, I'd be King of the World. Or Queen. Or something. But, until then, earning grains of rice for starving people will have to be my reward.)

While you're there, check out the link about the site's history of rice-earning. Pretty cool to see those numbers swell, no? Worth spreading the word about, methinks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I'm sure many people who are a lot smarter than I am will have or already have had much to say about the NYTimes piece today on ADHD and academic success. So I'll be brief: This is news? I mean, yeah, it's sorta news that kids with behavioral issues will do well on their fifth-grade math tests whether or not their issues are treated. But, really, isn't that a waywayway side issue? I mean, I'm not pursuing help for N because he failed his first-grade science test. I'm pursuing help for him because I want him to be better able to navigate this way through the world--the worlds of social interaction, of working and playing well with others, of speaking his mind, of organizing his thoughts, of reaching his potential...It goes on and on. He's not a behavior problem, and he doesn't have ADHD (so far as I can tell), but it just feels like these studies miss the point of why we, as parents, push so hard to get help for our kids. We're thinking big picture, long-term success. Not "I want Johnny to get an 85 on his fractions test next week." Nobody gives their kid medication so that he can get an 85 on his fractions test. Or, at least, I hope not.

As an aside, I once interviewed that story's author for a job at the university where I used to work. I knew him in that way that you tend to know most of the main players in a small specialty field--in this case, science writing--and I remember telling him I thought he could do better than the job he was applying for. So I really shouldn't be ragingly jealous that he's writing lead health pieces for the Times, while not? I should be pleased for him, right? I'll work on that, I guess.

My legs, they are restless again. When they woke me up at the stroke o' three last night, I started wondering about where, exactly, they wanted to go. I was pretty much ready take them wherever they wanted at that point, if it would make them stop feeling 'that way.'

They refused to tell me a thing. Bastards.

I've lost about six or seven pounds in the last month, for absolutely no specific reason I can figure. This used to be my body's MO, so I'm not especially worried about it. Maybe it's all the stress. (Probably it's at least in part because of that.) Or maybe it's because I've been skewing vegetarian in my food choices of late--which is a HUGE difference from BEING vegetarian, mind you. Skewing vegetarian means I'm making myself tofu and string beans for lunch today, or choosing the veggie burrito at Los Gringos Rapidos when I stop in there for something to eat during a long walk. But it doesn't rule out Susanna's chili or Baroy's ground-beef-and-sausage-laden spaghetti sauce. Or a McDonald's hamburger, even. So, I'm not really sure how that would knock six-plus pounds off in less than four weeks. But knocked they have been. And I'm OK with that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My cross to bear

We were trolling the not-as-good-as-the-one-on-Saturday, more-flea-than-farmer's market yesterday. I'd gotten some pumpkin-sized yellow peppers and the more-petite red ones, as well as a bag full of not-as-ripe-as-I'd-hoped tomatoes, and was letting the kids have a look at some of the other booths before we headed back home. Em was lingering for quite a while at a hand-made jewelry booth, so N started looking, too.

"I like that one best of all," he announced definitively, pointing vaguely at the counter, mere seconds after he'd joined Em.

"That's nice, dear," I said in my best I-am-actually-paying-zero-attention-to-you-but-am-trying-to-fake-it voice as I peered a few stands over to see if they had mushrooms. (Not a 'shroom to be found at this farmer's market. Feh.)

"I DEFinitely like that one best of all," he repeated. I glanced over at him, only to find him pointing at an easily six-inch-long cross.

Greeeeaaaaaaat. "You like that, huh?"

"Yep. It's the best one here."

The lady behind the counter was watching me now, slightly expectant, figuring on a Christmas sale, I'm guessing. I couldn't resist; I kept her in the corner of my eye as I leaned in toward N and said, in a stage whisper, "It's very nice, but it's not really meant for a Jewish boy like you. That's meant for someone who goes to church, not to temple."

And I smiled sweetly at the clearly eye-rolling lady behind the counter (oh, please, lady; like I'd buy a six-inch-long cross for a barely three-foot-tall boy under any circumstances), took my son's hand, and led him and his sister away from the booth, while he kept repeating, "But it's the best one!"

Thank god for the distraction of a family-size bag of kettle corn. Nothing like a little salt, butter, and sugar to derail a budding Jew for Jesus, I guess.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I am too full to type

We have our usual Sunday Gang over (we don't always get together at our house, but we see these same three other couples and their kids most weekends), and Baroy made a homemade tomato sauce and I made a boatload o' pasta and my friend S made a HUGE casserole dish full of rich, FABULOUS crab dip, and there are chips and veggies and beer and...

I am full. I am very, very, very full. There is food in my typing joints, and food stuffed up in my brain. This makes writing very difficult. Impossible, really. So, really, the lack of content today? It's the dip's fault. There's nothing I can do.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our Undefeated U-10 Girls Soccer Team

...isn't so undefeated any more.

It was the last game of the regular season. There are 30 teams in our division. There were only two teams going into today who were undefeated...our team, and the team we were playing.

Now theirs is the only undefeated team in the division.

But damn, Em and the rest of those girls played hard. I'm really proud of them.

Now, on to the playoffs. (Which start next Saturday and for which we have no schedule. Which is a huge rant that I'm not going to bother with, because, really, it's kinda mundane. Suffice it to say, it's hard to plan your weekends when you have no idea when your kid is going to be required to spend a couple of hours on a soccer field. And my weekends, they need planning.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

I Rock (If I Do Say So Myself)

[BTW, does the fact that I decide on a day-to-day basis whether or not to title-cap my titles bug anyone but me? No? I didn't think so.]

On Tuesday, I sent out what I've been calling my 'assessment rebuttal' letters to N's principal and to the assistant superintendent of the school district, the one who is in charge of special ed. I told them that I thought a psychological assessment of N was "crucial," but that I would not consent to one done by Idiot School Psychologist, the guy who--based on my telling him about N's shirt chewing and thumb sucking--told me N has OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder and needs to be medicated.

I threw a bunch of "in order to ensure that appropriate channels of assessment and services are maintained" and "for the purposes of providing an unbiased and accurate representation of our son’s behavioral/psychological/developmental state" and "begin as soon as possible in order to prevent any further regression in N’s academic progress" in there, all thanks to my friend from the school who has a son in special ed and speaks the language of IEP intimidation fluently. Really, this post should be entitled Friend From School Rocks. But hey. I typed up the letter and sent it out. That counts, right?

Anyway. This morning, the principal from the school called, all cheery and chipper. "Mrs. Confused? I have a revised assessment form here for you, whenever you want to come and talk about it." I walked over to the school, and there it was: An agreement for a full-on, no-holds-barred assessment in every area except for those that literally don't apply to N (like an auditory assessment for children with hearing impairments or a vocational abilities assessment). He'll be getting assessments in academic/preacademic performance; self-help, social, and emotional status; motor ability; language and speech; general ability; health, development, vision and hearing; and 'other areas' (meaning occupational therapy/sensory). That's five more assessments than they were originally going to give him, and thus five more areas in which we might be able to wrest some kind of services from them.

"Oh, and Mrs. Confused? Where it says here and here that these particular assessments will be done by the school psychologist...The district will assign a school psychologist other than Mr. Idiot to do these."

"Thank you," I said. "I'm sorry it had to be this way, but thank you."

And then I signed the form then and there, since there was not a single thing I'd asked for that wasn't included. Which means the clock is ticking, and they have some version of 50 days (including weekends, but not including the winter break or something like that) to do the assessments and call an IEP meeting.

I'm well aware the battle is neither won nor even half over, but damn. I felt good walking out of there, I'll tell you. For the first time since we started this, I didn't feel like there was something else I should have done. I got everything I wanted. I did right by my boy. At least for now, I'm pleased.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

God, I'm stupid

That coffee from TJ's? The decaf stuff that gave me a major caf reaction? Yeah. Not decaf. Not marked decaf. Absolutely NOTHING to make me think that it WAS decaf, except for the fact that it has a green lid. Which sometimes, in other places, means decaf. Except not at TJ's. At TJ's, decaf is bright orange. And I knew that.

So, um, I take it back. Sorry Trader Joe's. I still love you.

And if any of you have a spare brain lying around your house, and want to help out a woman in need...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I'm have an exceptionally bad time of it lately. Panic attack upon panic attack upon please-don't-make-me-get-out-of-bed attack upon restless-legs-so-I-can't-sleep attack upon work-is-sucking-my-soul-out-of-some-extremely-painful-orifice attack. Etc.

Just moments ago, feeling awwwwwwfully sorry for myself and internally lamenting about how I can't afford (time, money, energy, you name it) to find and start with a new therapist right now, I started to talk in my head to my old therapist, and wondered what, if anything, she might be able to say to me to help me now. Since I can't channel people who aren't me, that was a non-starter. But what I was saying to her was kind of interesting...if you find my tsuris interesting. Which I do. Hence this blog.

Here's what I was saying to her, boiled down: Everyone seems to have an opinion on what I 'should' be doing to make things better for myself. The less someone knows me, the more justified they seem to feel in telling me what I should do. (And before you start feeling sad or insulted, I am talking about people in the World Out There. I've been interacting with too many people in the World Out There lately, methinks. Mostly New-to-Me People in the World Out There. And I'm finding that these people don't just leave supportive or gently chiding comments on a relevant post, so that you can deal with them when you want to, and when you feel strong enough to. No. They tell you things. To your face. And sometimes those things are Really, Really, Intensely Stupid. I think I spend too much time dealing with smart bloggers, because I'm surprised at just HOW intensely stupid, if well-meaning, World-Out-There people can be.)

Anyway, about half of these shoulds (mostly involving the enormous variety of ways in which I'm not doing for N what needs to be done) send me into panic because I know that the people are right; these ARE things I should be doing. The other half of those shoulds (mostly involving the enormous variety of ways in which I need to handle my and Baroy's work situations or lack thereof, and the financial crises that result from that second part) send me into a panic because they make me angry, and anger makes me panicky, since I don't know how to handle it. And if it were possible to have a third half, it would involve the enormous variety of ways in which I feel I am failing Em, simply because she doesn't squeak loudly enough. Those come directly from me, though. No World Out There involved.

I suppose the word 'should' is just another way of expressing guilt. And that's really nothing new...not in my life or in yours, I'm sure. But somehow I realized, today, while talking to my imaginary therapist (and if that doesn't qualify me for institutionalization, I don't know what does), that while there are a variety of individual reasons why I'm not doing any one of the 658 'shoulds' on my mental list, there is one overarching reason: Because I don't wanna.

I don't wanna take a job at Starbucks so that I can get out of a bad job situation. I don't wanna go back to a cubicle job, either. I don't wanna divorce Baroy because he's not a good provider (and you'd be SHOCKED at how many people actually feel it appropriate to suggest the dissolution of my marriage over this issue). I don't wanna spend every waking hour taking N to another therapist or diagnostician. I don't wanna quit doing volunteer jobs that make me feel good in order to have more time for stuff that doesn't make me feel good. I don't wanna stop taking my daily walks so that I can do more freelance work (or take N to a therapist or clean my kitchen). I don't wanna go through the headaches and nauseas and what-have-yous that would mean getting back on antidepressants, especially since there hasn't been one that worked well yet. I don't even wanna get back into therapy. Just because. Because I don't wanna.

Which, really, you know, is fine. I don't have to do anything I don't want to do, and I'm sure that that's precisely what any (imaginary) therapist worth her salt would tell me. But she'd also tell me that I have to recognize the costs of those decisions--the costs being my continued depression, or unhappiness in my job, or concern over N, or disgust over the state of my house.

And, guess what? I don't wanna. And therein lies the problem.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Trader Joe's Done Done Me Wrong

I'm a big girl. I should know by now. Decaf doesn't mean no caf.

As someone with an extreme--and really, I can't overstate that word, extreme--sensitivity to caffeine, I keep a sort of mental chart of what I can and cannot handle. A few sips of Diet Coke will speed up my heart, but it won't make me sick to my stomach. A whole can? Well, let's just say I'm not that far from my 13-year-old self, who got so hyped up by a can of soda at sleepaway camp that she decided to try to jump off the concrete steps leading up to her bunk. It took the rest of the summer for the skin to grow back on the backs of my thighs after I slid down the last four or five of those steps.

[An aside: When I worry about having bipolar disorder like my dad did, it is to stories like that that I obsessively turn. Because I distinctly remember giggling about how I was Supergirl or something equally insipid. And that is pretty much textbook mania...if you're not on drugs. For me, however, caffeine is very much a drug. Whether there's a connection between the two, well, you tell me.]

What else can I handle? One tall Starbucks decaf coffee a day, so long as the barista actually POURS decaf. (I would say that two out of every five cups I order has to be poured out when I ask, "That's decaf, right?") What can't I handle? Any decaf coffee beverage from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. I don't know why. Their decaf is just too...caf for me. Which is a pity, because their Iced Blendeds kick some Frappuccino ass. But it's not worth the price.

What is the price? Depending on the level of caffeine and the amount I drink, it can include some or all of the following: A rapid heartbeat that easily lasts six hours after I down the drink. Hands that shake more than normal (which means some fairly serious shaking, considering that 'normal' for me is Parkinsonian for most other people). Intense, low-level nausea. Other gastrointestinal symptoms (I'll spare you specificity there). Extreme irritability. And a post-reaction headache that can hang on for days.

So what did TJ's do to me that warranted a scolding in the title above? It sold me a can of decaffeinated whole coffee beans, is what it did. And not just ANY coffee beans. I've been trying to pay a little more attention to the quality of what I eat, and care a little more about where my food dollars go, and so I decided to forego my usual Trader Joe's brand decaf and try this new 'breakfast blend' that was both organic AND 'fair trade.' (I am the world, I am the children, lalalala...) After all, I've never had a problem with any of their coffees before.

Of course, now, one mug later? Oooooooh, I'm not feeling well. I'm not feeling well at all. Like venti-cup-of-full-caf bad. And I'm pissed about it (see irritability on symptom list, above). Because I have stuff to DO. And now I can't. Because I'm shaky, and my fingers are going all over the place, and it's taken me about half an hour more than it should to type this. And my mind is racing, as is my dinner, which clearly wants OUT of my stomach.

Damn you, Trader Joe's. There goes my night. And there goes a just-opened can of what had been a pretty nice, mellow cuppa joe...before it decided to try to kill me. And also, there goes another addition to my mental list of 'don't believe it when they say it's decaf.'

Monday, November 5, 2007

Neil "gets" me

So I've been loving reading Neil over at Citizen of the Month, even if he does talk about his penis more than I am strictly comfortable with. But now? It's gone waaay beyond that. Now I am his BFF (Best Fan Forever), because he! He understood me! He thinks I'm nuts--which is fine, because I am, after all--but he GOT me!

Truly, is there anything more gratifying (and rare) than saying something...and actually being understood?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

And the winner is...

This is what happens when you promise to post every day for a month; you yell down to your kids, who are tired and whose bodies say it's really 10 o'clock, even if the hands are pointing to the 9 and the 12, "Well, you're just going to have to wait a few minutes! I have to finish this post!"

Email me for the address to which to ship my Mother of the Year award, OK?

Today was Mitzvah Day at our temple and about two or three dozen others in the area. (And by area, I mean all of Los Angeles County. Because, trust me, where I live? Not even two or three dozen JEWS.) And although there were wonderful projects galore--making blankets for the homeless, putting together care packages for the servicemen in Iraq, rolling the change the families collected over the year to be sent to the charity chosen by the congregation (and I wish I could remember its name, but the money is ultimately bound to Darfur), making frozen casseroles for temple members who are sick or in need--I ultimately wound up spending almost my entire time in one corner of the room, surrounded by donated books.

And here is what I learned: Never let the two biggest bibliophiles be in charge of the sorting of books. For one thing, it took us FOREVER to get through them all, because we had to open each one, and browse through it, and talk about the author, and read parts out loud get my point. For another...well, let's just say that I didn't ACTUALLY take any of the books out of the boxes and sneak them home with me, despite my many cries of, "Oh, but I've been WANTING to read this one!" and "Oh, I remember this one from when I was a kid! I would love to read it to Em and N!" But let's also just say that it was really, really close. Really close. So close that the words, "Um, TC, you do remember why people donated these right?" and "Uh, TC, you could probably just take that one out of the library if you really want to read it..." had to be uttered on more than one occasion. And I should also point out that while all of the books will be making it to their final destination, some of them are slightly sodden due to having had me and my book-y comrade-in-arms drool all over them.

You might as well send my Volunteer of the Year award along with the Mother of the Year award. Shipping is probably cheaper that way, anyway.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Em's U-10 soccer team--under the same coaching staff (with Baroy as assistant coach) as last year--is 7-0-1 this year. Last year? 1-7-2.

To say that the coaches are happier with this year's team is an understatement. But I have to tell you; I'm finding this year's games so much more nervewracking. Last year, anything good that happened--from them heading in the right direction after the switch at halftime, to someone not lifting a foot during a throw-in--was met with huge cheers. There just wasn't that much to celebrate. Worrying about whether they'd win...well, it wasn't worth throwing a lot of energy in that direction.

But this year. This year, they RAWK. They are one of the tiniest collections of 8-, 9-, and 10-year-old girls I've ever seen. But they are fast, and they are strong, and they are GOOD. Their footwork is AWESOME. And they PASS to each other. They have an incredible bond; they giggle and chatter during practices, but when it's game time, they GO. (And Em, for the record, has been ALL OVER that field this year. Her strength is truly in defense; she loves playing defense, and has developed an awesome foot that can clear almost any shot that comes within her reach. She's also scored four goals this year...though three of them were in one game. I am exceptionally proud of her. And she is having an absolute, unadulterated BLAST.)

So, why nervewracking? Because the last couple of games--after a few that were embarrassingly one-sided--have been nail biters. And this year, a loss...well, it doesn't actually MEAN anything in the Big Wide World sense of meaning something. But these girls are seriously excited about what they've accomplished, and being undefeated is a huge deal to them. Today's game was a 0-0 tie until near the end of the fourth quarter, when our team finally managed to both penetrate their defense AND get a shot off. (They were doing well at the former, but having trouble with the latter...) Our sideline absolutely ERUPTED. I can't remember the last time I screamed that loudly...or the last time I ran down a row of adults, high-fiving everyone in sight. (Yes, I am a soccer mom. And yes, I'm embarrassing. But I'm not embarrassed. And, trust me. I wasn't the only one whooping it up.)

Still, I swear. The pressure that had built up until that point? All I could think was, "I need a Xanax," followed swiftly by, "Did I just think about taking a Xanax to deal with the pressures of a tied soccer game played by girls under the age of 10?" Clearly, what I really need is an antipsychotic.

Damn, soccer is fun.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I'm having a hard time finishing up that letter to the school district about N's evaluation.

It's not that I don't know what to say, it's that I'm not sure how much I want to...lie is a strong word. Exaggerate? Dissemble slightly?

Here's the thing: There is a woman at our school, a woman whose son is on the spectrum and in special ed (though very much mainstreamed into a general ed classroom). She has become so consumed by this process that she is now on the district's special ed advisory board. Rather than having me pay an advocate, she has taken on sort of 'mentoring' me. She is a WEALTH of knowledge (you should have seen--or, rather, FELT--the box of information she handed me when we got together the other day to talk) and a very strong personality. Perfect for an advocate, actually. I would not be at all surprised if that's what she eventually ends up doing in her life.

I sent her a draft of the fleshed-out letter I wrote up the other night, in full panic-and-stress sweat, angry and nervous and unsure of what was right to say. She made a bunch of changes, suggestions, no more than that. She thinks I really need to push for an autism-spectrum diagnosis, or at least to push for the sorts of assessments that would lead to an autism-spectrum diagnosis, in order to get the information we both think I'll need to help N be successful in school. That's all well and good...except I am almost totally certain that he is NOT on the spectrum. And saying, "I think he's on the spectrum, thus you need to do the following tests" feels...deceitful to me. Put a little more positively, it would just be fighting fire with fire--stacking my deceits, aimed at helping my son, against their deceits, aimed at avoiding spending money on helping my son. Do the ends justify the means? And, really, if you think about it...Who am I to say he ISN'T on the spectrum? If pushing the symptoms that are spectrummy (and he has them, though some of them are fading quickly) to the forefront--even if they're not really forefront issues right now--will help, is it wrong to do that? Do I owe these people perfect forthrightness? Don't I owe my son more?

And have you ever seen a paragraph that more defines the words "self justification" than the one above?

There's also a lot of entitlement in what she wants me to ask for...which is a problem I have. I do not have a huge sense of entitlement--or, perhaps, just not one huge enough for the battle before me. But that I might be able to muster. One of her other main points--that I should insist on having people from the district level involved in and attending these assessments and IEP meetings--seems to me to be almost asking for too much attention for a child who is clearly at a lower level of need than many of the other special-ed kids. I worry, somewhat, that bringing in the people who see the full spectrum of what is in the district will backfire on me, make N's problems seem even more insignificant, and even less worthy of services. I just don't know.

So, I'll be spending part of this weekend tweaking my original letter complaining about the assessment process, and adding in those of her suggestions I feel could possibly have come from my mouth, and finding out the addresses of the people to whom I will be sending it. (In that, this woman's help has been absolutely invaluable...She gave me the names of the key personnel at the district level to whom I need to level the complaints I have about the way the assessment meeting went. And THAT I have no problem doing. Because that meeting was fairly atrocious, and I want blood.)

Wish me...not luck. A cool, calm head. And the ability to walk the line of morality and advocacy so as to achieve the best end possible.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Season is Upon Us

I'm talking, of course, about NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month.

What does that mean? It means that you lucky people are about to get 30 consecutive days of ME and nothing but ME. Oh, and maybe some turkey, too.

I'm psyched to do this, though for the life of me I don't know why...Like I need one more daily pressure? But this is FUN pressure. So, it doesn't really count.

Of course, 30 days of posting does NOT mean 30 days of making sense or saying anything of is evidenced by this, my first NaBloPoMo post. Don't say I didn't warn you.