Saturday, October 31, 2009

Comment Moderation is Awesome

It means that when assholes write shit in comments, it doesn't get published!

So, if you are an asshole - and I think you know who you are - you won't have a platform here. Just FYI.

A Couple of Random Observations on the Morning

Note to the neighbors: There’s a high wind warning today. Raking leaves is pointless!

I was just at the market picking up some things to make cake for M's birthday gathering tomorrow. I saw a tripped out mid-90s Corvette, painted with flames, license plate “SAWEET.” I'm willing to put down money that guy isn't getting any. You know what I mean.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To Each Child, His or Her Own

Yesterday I volunteered in S's classroom. It was lots of fun. What was most interesting was the full range of skills and abilities among all the kids - yet each was totally ready for school.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone I didn't know. It was a mass emailing advertising a "pre-writing" workshop for 4 and 5 year olds. In addition to being curious about how the sender acquired my email address, I was stunned at the content. The email said, among other things:

Times are changing. Today's kindergartners are expected to write more than ever. It's not uncommon for them to be expected to write in a journal in the first weeks of school. They need strong skills to meet these high expectations.


We will address sound symbol recognition (letter sounds), good pencil grip and top to bottom left to right letter formation as well as introduction to journal writing to help get your preschooler and kindergartner off to the right start.

I was more than a little horrified. Journal writing for a four year old? To quote my husband, "Are they high?" While I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of two local moms (a speech therapist and and occupational therapist), I think their target is way off base. They have no understanding of the goal of Kindergarten, at least in this town.

Kindergarten isn't even mandated in this state. It's not. You don't have to send your kid if you don't want to. As such, the goal of Kindergarten in this town is an introduction to the school experience, socialization and needs assessment. It's when the town figures out where kids are at so that going forward they can differentiate need and target instruction.

Going through Kindergarten for the third time in this town, I can tell you that this works pretty well. Not perfect, but pretty well. M, of course, was bored in Kindergarten since he was already reading well and doing higher level math, but we knew that going in; were able to supplement him with a great extended day program and other things - and he still needed to establish social ties with other kids in his grade and be assessed for the future (and now in 4th grade, things are mostly fine! And C, in 8th grade, is doing great). From C's and M's experience I knew what was going to happen for S. And it has.

As far as the "expectation" implied in the email, it's just way off-base! Yes, in November in Kindergarten they do start a "journal" but there's no expectation that it's at any particular level. It's just one of the ways they introduce writing as part of literacy and evaluate and assess. They actually don't care where a kid starts - only drawings and some words or all words and no drawings or any other combination - as long as a kid does start and they are able to support a progression of skills throughout the year.

And in terms of letter formation, so much of that has to do with the development of fine motor skills - and that's totally on an individual schedule; it's something you can't force. When we left North Carolina, I stayed in touch (briefly) with a couple of office mates with similarly aged children. One told me how her daughter was learning cursive in Kindergarten and what a struggle it was. Duh!

It became clear to me pretty quickly that this is a workshop that is more about parental competition than it is kids' needs. If your 4 or 5 year old is ready for writing, super - as long as it's your kid who wants it. You don't need a workshop to force it. If your kid is asking, show and teach and all that - but don't force it.

Yesterday's volunteering session was a great reminder of that. S's class is group 18 interesting and engaging kids. Some clearly have strengths in one area and other strengths in other areas. All of them were really pretty cute - and I think all of them would have been annoyed to go sit in a bare room at the library and be forced to copy letters. The lead teacher and her assistant had an impressive understanding of the different needs of the different kids and I watched them address individual needs as such. I left feeling like my daughter is in good hands and will come through this year not only learning, but really enjoying school.

After yesterday, I wanted to write back and tell these women to just chill the eff out. Let your kids be kids - let all kids be kids!

(I did email one of the two women and asked how she acquired my email address. She lifted it from a formal school communication for parents of Kindergarteners - a big no-no. I contacted the principal of S's school and they have since clarified appropriate use of such information for the entire school community. And I wonder why I'm not popular...:-D )

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


All three kids now H1N1 vaccinated. And not a moment too soon. One of the teachers at M's school is out with a suspected case. I'm also hearing a kid here, two or three there.

The call for the injectable for C came yesterday afternoon. The "well" side of the waiting room was packed. So was the "sick" side with kids a pajamas wearing face masks.

The kids having the vaccine, though, does not mean I can let down my guard in terms of prevention and not spreading anything. Still plenty of handwashing happening. I still haven't had the vaccine.

Now to start trying to find dose for myself. My asthma should move me up the priority list, but still, I suspect it will take some time and persistence.

At least the kids are covered.

What a Mom Knows

We've been having some issues with C and his musical instrument practice. Pretty much par for the course, I suspect.

C plays the French horn. He's decent. Not wonderful, not awful. He could be very good with more practice.

We bought C a nice new double French horn last spring after he pretty much begged for it for months (and his teacher said it was time to move up). It was...pricey. And C had to sign a little contract with me saying that if we, his parents, made this effort and investment, he would commit to it and practice without argument. Yeah, right.

Anyway, C is home alone for several hours after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last night, since it was M's birthday, he didn't get to practicing. He said he'd practice double today. Okay, fine, I said.

When C arrived home today, he called. I reminded him he needed to practice double. He said okay.

When I arrived home, I noticed his horn and backpack by the back door, like they had just been dropped there. I asked if he had done his homework. He said no. I asked if he had practiced. He said yes.

To say I was suspicious is an understatement.

"Then why is your horn here?" I asked. He practices in the loft in the study. He said it was because he has band tomorrow and he needed it to be ready for morning. Uh-huh.

This is a kid who, in the last year, has lost the ability to do anything in advance. He hasn't brought his backpack downstairs and gotten it ready for the next day on his own ever. He has become incapable of picking up his clothes off the bathroom floor. He leaves the milk out. And I am supposed to believe he took his horn to the loft, practiced for 45 minutes, and brought to down again, putting it right next to the unmoved backpack by the door?

I said, "I don't believe you."

He tried to argue, but it was pretty half-hearted. He wouldn't admit to lying, but he wasn't pushing back particularly hard, either.

"You'll practice another 45 minutes after dinner," I said. He tried to argue again. I told him, "If you didn't practice, you'll get your practice in. If you did, it will just be extra." He was annoyed, but not mad.

After dinner, while I got S and M to bed, C practiced again. He sounded okay. Strong. He definitely can use more practice for some faster parts of the music, but it wasn't bad. I still don't think he practiced this afternoon, though.

After practicing, just before bed, I asked to speak to him. He still tried to claim he'd practiced in the afternoon. I told him, "If you are lying to me, you know you are, and you know it's wrong. You do."

Then I sent him off to bed. Nothing like a little mother-induced guilt to go with his REM sleep.

Monday, October 26, 2009

High School, Again

Damn, I feel so stupid.

I put my name in to be the representative for M's school to the district health advisory board. It's a three year appointment.

Usually, these things get only one person interested, if that. I wrote my 150 word description of myself and why I thought I'd be good for the role. I'm good at analyzing data and have my fair share of medical knowledge. With kids both before and after this age group, I have perspective, too. I know the principal of the school well, and the head of the school council. They were thrilled I was putting my name in.

Just got word that I am NOT going to be the representative. Apparently there were two of us, and it went down to a secret ballot at the school council meeting. Then - and I should have done this before - I looked at the list of who is on the school council.

Yes, I lost this position in a mother fucking popularity contest.

I never won those when I was in high school - no chance in hell I'd win one now, especially with the school start time work I've been doing (M's school is the one that went earlier - and they are all FINE! They LIKE it! They are up earlier in the morning anyway, and love having more time to play in the afternoon!). Silly me thinking that if there were more than one candidate, they'd have open discussion and a vote. None of this secret ballot bullshit.

And yes, the person who got it is opposed to the start-time change. She was described as someone who has been mostly quiet in the past but "hit the roof" when the time change came about. She has only younger kids. I will not be at all surprised if this woman has an agenda.

What is also making me mad is how it made me feel. Damn, I thought I was getting over those stupid adolescent feelings. I lost a popularity contest - though, honestly, I haven't been seeking popularity in recent months - and it makes me feel somehow....less. I keep thinking people in general will see through the bullshit around them. Apparently not.

Damn. Damn. Damn.


M is ten today. Wow. Ten years old.

When 2009 started, we realized it would be a big year. C became a teenager, S started Kindergarten, and M went double-digits.

Wow, wow, and more wow. Sometimes I am just in awe at the way life keeps happening.

M had his yearly physical on Friday. While we were in the office, the pediatrician was going over charts and such and said, cryptically, "Hold on." He left the room. A few minutes later he came back in, discreetly holding something in the palm of his hand.

It was two vials of H1N1 vaccine mist. One for M, and one for S, who was with us. (Heck, my husband hasn't even had his dose yet!) The kids all had their seasonal flu vaccine doses in September; timing was perfect.

Vaccine has been coming in intermittently. Injectable vaccine is harder to come by and reserved for certain patients. C is on the hot list to get the injectable when it does come in (they'll call us!), but for the rest of the kids, it's hit or miss, and the doc just happened to know that a box of mist had come in that day. Funny thing is, we're not allowed to tell anyone local that we got it because the demand has been so high while the supply has been so up and down. They are trying to get it to the people who need it most first - and in terms of mist, M and S qualify because of C's health issues, and M also because of his heart.

All that said, it's probably better that I can't tell people we got it. I've been getting very annoyed with anti-vaccine people. I know people have concerns and getting all the info you can is very reasonable and responsible - but H1N1 is doing crazy things and kids especially seem to be at high risk. I've already been through one PICU experience and hope never to be there again. From everything I have read, any risk from the vaccine itself is orders of magnitude lower than risk of complications from H1N1. I want my family protected in every possible way.

There's a good Q&A with a rockin' pediatric infectious disease guy here. This doctor was one of C's doctor when he was sick, and he is so, so good. He's written text books. He's a real go-to guy in the field.

Last week I read this article on the vaccine. The line that stood out to me was this one:

"This flu, seemingly by random, occasionally picks out the healthy child or young adult and puts them in the intensive care unit, hanging on by a thread," he says. "We don't have thousands and thousands of ICU beds and high-frequency jet ventilators standing by to care for those people."

This is all to say, go get yourself and your kids vaccinated if you can. Really. I've done the PICU and high-frequency jet ventilator thing and I don't wish it on anyone. Anyone.

So, M is covered. S will have to go back to get another dose of the mist in a month. Hopefully we'll have found the injectable for C by then. He's on the priority list not only at our regular pediatric practice, but also at the infectious disease clinic up at the hospital. The pediatrician told us to get on every list we could, take the first one that comes up then cancel the others after we actually get it. My husband will get one at work (since he works with immune-compromised patients). I'm looking for a dose myself. Somehow, some way we'll get the whole family covered.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


A few weeks ago, in the midst of my deadline push, I had a dream. I don't remember the subject of the dream. I don't remember anything about it except that my dad was there.

When my dad died six and a half years ago, I was a mess. C had been out of the hospital exactly a month and we'd each just completed our first full weeks back at a school and work, respectively. The whole family was tired, emotionally and physically. We were just wiped.

When the phone rang that night, I knew when my brother said my name what had happened. Hell, I think I knew before that, when the phone rang. Several weeks before C got sick, I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, Dad is really getting older. He's 78 now. He could go any time." I never, of course, expected it to be so soon. I'd just gotten back to writing him my weekly letters, and hadn't had the phone number of the latest nursing home to even call him. I don't know, still, if he ever received that last letter I wrote, the one where I let him know that his grandson, the one named after his beloved little brother, was going to be okay.

My brother, sister, and I never had any closure with dad before his death. Dad's wife kept his pneumonia and deteriorating health from us even though she knew it was bad. I would have been on the next plane had I known, even as fragile as I felt from C's ordeal. My brother and sister would have walked through fire, too, to be there. I know forgiveness is necessary in one's life, but I'm still struggling with forgiveness for this act by Dad's wife. I don't think I hate the woman (though I never did like her), but I truly don't understand how someone can be so heartless.

Anyway, we all went out for the memorial service and surrounding dysfunctional insanity and ridiculousness that is always a key feature of my family's gatherings. It was good to be there for my dad, but in so many other ways, it was just awful. Awful. If I were to tell you some of what went on with the wife and my dad's half-sister, your jaw would drop. It's barely speakable.

I became pregnant with S a couple of months later; I spent the last half of the summer a walking disaster. I don't do pregnancy well to begin with, and combined with the fallout from almost losing C and grief on so many planes and...well, it wasn't a pretty sight.

Unlike my previous pregnancies, my dreams were vivid when I was pregnant with S. Every night. Technicolor. Detailed. Some made sense, some didn't. I had many early dreams that featured a baby girl - and none that featured a baby boy - so when the ultrasound tech wrote "XX" on the screen at my 18 week developmental ultrasound, I wasn't all that surprised. I just thought, oh, my dreams were right.

Shortly thereafter, I had a dream about my dad.

In my dream, my dad was his older self, but he was active and with it. He was not encumbered by Parkinson's disease. His voice was not slurred, his movements were normal, his face had expression, and his hearing was fine. He was smiling.

The other people that were there were interesting. There was this woman who I think was named Nancy. It was a woman I met in real-life once, many years ago, when I traveled with my dad to some meeting. This woman was one of the organizers of that meeting; she was gregarious and genuine - and just the kind of woman I would have expected my dad to end up with (but clearly didn't). She wasn't a "trophy" wife. She was just a cool woman. I can still remember what this woman was wearing and her manner when I met her all those years ago.

Also there were two of my cousins, the sons of my dad's half sister. But they weren't adults. They were young kids, ages I never would have known them at. They were still innocent in this dream - it was before they were completely fucked over by their mother and father. (I refer to them here.)

My brother was there, and my sister was somehow present, but I didn't see her.

In the dream we were all sitting around a table, except for Nancy, who was up and down and around. My cousins were actually fun to be around. They were smiling and impish. They each had crew cuts. (Now I don't want these cousins to know where I am.)

My dad kept telling me, "I'm okay. I'm okay." He was almost smiling, and his eyes were clear. He really meant it.

After that dream, I felt better about his death. Not completely, but I wasn't as torn up about it as I had been - not at total peace but not so worked up. I've always thought that dream was Dad visiting me to let me know that he really and truly is in a better place.

I didn't feel creeped out or anything after that dream. I felt relief. And I hoped Dad would visit me in my dreams again sometime. He didn't until recently, until that dream I can't remember.

I've missed him a lot through the years, of course. He'd get such a kick out of my kids, especially M, I think. He'd dote on S. He'd tear up every time he saw C (as he did before he got sick, just saying C's name would do that). Every time I'd visit, he'd remark on my relative paleness - a result of the East Coast life of a Southwest native. He'd continue to remark that I should have gone to law school. He'd have huge respect and affection for my husband.

There have been times I have been sure we'd have an argument over this or that - politics mostly. There are plenty of things he'd criticize, and other things I'd take too personally. We'd still be sparring over the "Bake him a pie" comment. I'd still get annoyed every time, when there'd be discord among the siblings, he'd say, "I just wish everyone would get along!"

I've wondered what he'd think about how I've become involved in school/town issues. I wonder what he would say about the book - especially since I haven't yet told my family anything about it. I wonder what he'd say about my trying to get back to printmaking. I wonder if he thinks I'm getting it right with the kids.

I wonder if that dream I had recently was just to let me know he's still around. Maybe the content of the dream isn't as important as just knowing he's around.

Still, I hope he visits again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sexism is Alive and Well - and Where I Least Expect It

Coming down after this big writing push has been interesting. The publishing house still hasn't been in touch ("soon" could mean February!), but the name of the book is searchable via Google, so something is being published. (Not on the big book site yet, but some smaller ones - including a "Christian" book site. I think that's a hoot - not that there's anything offensive in the book incompatible with the site, I don't think, but I never imagined it being sold/marketed in that way.) Just wonder what resemblance the final product will have to what I wrote.

I feel like I have a lot to say yet still no time to say it. I'm trying to catch up in so many ways. It felt great to clean my house last Wednesday. But it already needs to be cleaned again. I hate that! Five people and three furry pets will do that.

There's much other organizing and following up and all that to do. And some serious sitting in front of the idiot box and flipping through dumb magazines. It feels SO good to do that.

Anyway, on to the sexism thing.

For years my mother has given me a membership to the local (big) art museum as a birthday gift. She may not call my or otherwise acknowledge my birthday, but she does do this, and that's nice. I always send nice thank you notes (on that good paper, eba).

For several years, she gave me the individual membership, and each year I would pay the additional $25 to add my hubby onto the membership. A couple years ago, Mom clued in and started getting the family membership. Cool.

For all these years, the name on the membership account has been my name on top, and my husband's name with his title on the second line. Appropriate, since the membership is renewed for my birthday.

I was quite surprised this year when we received our new membership cards in the mail. The envelope was addressed to my name followed by my husband's name, but the enclosed letter was addressed to my husband only.

Yup, you read that right, my husband only.

After eight years of membership, I no longer warrant acknowledgment. Nice.

Not that this is a big deal in the big picture - it's not. It's just annoying.

And yes, I have called to voice my displeasure. :-D

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Deadline: An Assortment of Random Thoughts

Last night about 11:15PM, I emailed a 217 page, 67,303 word file to the publishing house. I finished the book - or, I finished it as much as I can tell it's finished. I've never done this kind of writing before or in this way.

In my email to the production associate, I specifically asked her to email me to let me know she received the file okay. I heard nothing all morning. A few minutes ago, I emailed again. "Did you get the file?" Finally a response:

"Oh, yeah, got it. Will be in touch soon."

And that was it.

It feels like such a let down. I worked my butt off on a very tight deadline, and all I hear is, "Will be in touch soon."

Have I mentioned this production associate is young? As in I've been in the work force longer than this girl young woman girl has been alive. Okay, that was petty. She's just really young. I've been writing technical documentation since she was still in diapers, creating whole books on my own.

I thought several times over the summer, no wonder print media isn't doing well. Communication - for a company that's supposed to be all about communicating - has been poor to say the least. They really could stand to step into the 21st century and communicate in a complete and timely manner. I'm not saying they should be carrying crackberries and responding to email 24/7 (not healthy for anyone), just within a couple business days would be good (instead of the ten plus days I experienced this summer and which led me to believe several times the deal was dead or dying - and led to the very tight writing schedule).

I am likely to see bits of the book again in the next few weeks. They tell me there's an editing process, but are a bit cagey about it. I think the experience I do have scares them. Production is supposed to start November 2nd. They actually will still produce blues to proof.

Anyway, for now, I am looking forward to the following:

  • Cleaning my house. Seriously. It's been a tad neglected recently.
  • Reading foufy magazines. And some non-foufy magazines. There's a small pile of magazines to which I subscribe still encased in plastic by my bed.
  • Finally putting together our vacation photo album.
  • Baking.
  • Cleaning out the boys' room. It's time for it to make a transition to bigger kid room.
  • Thinking about Halloween costumes.
  • Planning M's birthday. Any ideas of what to give a 10 year old? I can't remember what we gave C.
  • Knitting! I bought some alpaca yarn the other day just for this purpose!
  • Printing! My beautiful basement worktable has been neglected. And the holidays are coming. I'm hoping to print a good number of gifts this year.
  • Watching some mindless television. I'd been hoping to spend a little time with my baseball boyfriend, but, alas, that is not to be. (CHOKE! Seems like old times, boys.) Going to have to wait for spring training, I guess.
I also have to deal with (but am not looking forward to dealing with) more school start time stuff. Yes, the insanity is STILL going on. These women (about ten of them and one man) still insist they their precious darlings are going to be harmed by getting up early. I recently came up with a list of over 1000 early start elementary schools across the country, many high performing, and they still deny the possibility - no, the reality! - that it IS working here. Just amazing.

(One of the current school committee members has asked me to run for school committee in the spring. That is SO not going to happen.)

Meanwhile the kids and their lives have just plugged along. There's a scout den meeting tonight, soccer all weekend, C is planning on learning the trumpet in addition to French horn, S loves Kindergarten, and on and on and on.

I have a lot of catching up to do.