Friday, March 30, 2007

Read It In The Paper

There's a letter to the editor in today's Beacon Journal from the mother of an autistic child. She praises the Akron Public Schools, her family, etc., etc., but what caught my eye was her reference to the "Phil Donahue Syndrome," which made me laugh: I knew right away what she meant. We've been Donahued a time or two ourselves. Most people mean well. It's one of those situations where you can make a conscious decision not to be offended, on the grounds of "hey, they only think they know what they're talking about, whereas we DO know" and save your righteous anger for the rare occasion when offense IS intended, which, unfortunately, does happen. Not often, though.

Here are a few of the things that people have said to me that, at the time, made me fume, but now.... okay, depending on the day, I can still work up a pretty good snit. Mostly, though, I have to chuckle: HOW could you voice such....moronic....suppositions?

1) I love this one: "Didn't you have prenatal testing?" I laugh every time I remember the first time someone said this to me. I couldn't believe anyone could be so stupid. The next 500 times weren't quite as funny.

2) "You can't expect the public schools to deal with Sarah!" Well, gee, give me another option and I'll TAKE it. I don't know what people think is out there, educationwise.

3) "Have you considered home schooling?" THIS I heard at soooo many conferences/IEP meetings that I finally had to say something fairly rude in order to make my point: "You expect me to teach, in my dining room, a child that an entire school system can't figure out how to handle?"

Okay, I can feel my blood pressure going up. Maybe I'm not as well-adjusted as I thought.

Last weekend, when we had family here, we were looking at my niece's yearbooks and there was this one senior picture (this, I don't get. I think you ought to be required to have a standard head shot) where a boy was dressed as Superman. Believe me, he didn't look any loonier than most of the other seniors with their artfully crafted statements of individuality (my daughter Hannah told me last year that there was this popular tee shirt that said something like "Dare To Be Different" but that so many people wore it that it should have said, "Dare To Be Similar." I thought of that when I was leafing through the senior pictures, let me tell you) but my cow: the COMMENTS this kid drew from the crowd (all of whom are, yes, related to me.) Turns out the boy was in special ed. THIS cued up a replay of a story that makes me cringe, as MY DAUGHTER IS IN SPECIAL ED: my brother-in-law starts in with how there was this kid they went to school with who was in special ed and that's what they called him, like it was his name: "Special Ed." Ha ha. Really funny.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Longer, Less Amusing Version of the ADT Story

I added a comment to Mr. Nichols' blog today concerning ADT and my in-laws, and here's the unexpurgated tale of "ADT, Part II," or, "Why I Don't Particularly Admire My Sister-In-Law, Part MCVII."

The time ADT called here with the message that a smoke detector was going off at my brother-in-law's house, I was on my way out the door to one of my cleaning jobs. This family had an unlisted number, and I'd refused to give that number to both ADT and my sister-in-law, as I wasn't there consistently and didn't want my employers to be bothered by calls for me when I wasn't, you know, there. I- irritated (duh! ADT had long since worn out its welcome with me at this point: there had been HOW many calls, and HOW many actual emergencies?)- let the machine pick up. When I heard the "smoke detector" advisory, though, I started to obsess: okay. It really wasn't MY responsibility (both adults who ACTUALLY OWN THE HOUSE had work numbers AND cell numbers where they could be reached) but I didn't want the house to BURN, for pete's sake!) I left for my job but couldn't stop worrying. I fretted all day long.

When I returned home, ADT had called several more times, so I started to try and reach my sister-in-law, bracing myself for both how I would explain that I hadn't responded promptly, and the tongue-lashing that was sure to follow. She was working at a preschool run by a church, but the church and the preschool were unrelated, so I couldn't call the church and ask for her, and the preschool didn't have a number listed. I finally got through on her cellphone- after repeated attempts- and was all but wetting my pants as I tried to explain that I hadn't IGNORED the summons, exactly, sister-in-law (who'd had to take her phone somewhere that allowed her to get reception, and must've picked up something on the way to eat, as the conversation was punctuated by chewing and swallowing) said, off-handedly, "Oh, the battery's going in one of the detectors. ADT has to come and change it. (Munch. Gulp.)" Me: "Um...couldn't they, like," "I can't have them bothering me at work!" she snapped.

But wait! There's more: I haven't had a key to my in-laws' house in years (gave it back to them when they lost a set), but remain on the list of people ADT calls. One memorable episode involved a call to my home when I didn't know they would be out of town, but on a whim, I called their number, and got the dog walker: she was happy to hear from me, but wasn't so happy once she realized that I- like her- didn't have a current code to punch into the alarm box. My in-laws had told her a code that wasn't the one actually in use at the time. I called the most recent cell number I had (dog walker had a previous number that was no longer in use, ho ho), and reached the in-laws after an hour or two, only to hear an exasperated, "Well, it's ______ birthday! You KNEW that!" As though...oh, never mind. Let's just say that A) I had no idea when ____'s birthday was, and B) that it was the current code.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Donder and Blitzen

Sarah and I waited all afternoon yesterday for a thunderstorm but were shot down. A smallish one just blew through, but she's at school, where she was no doubt all but crawling under her desk. Sigh. I gave her a granola bar this morning for breakfast (runnin' late) and heard an "OW!" about ten seconds later. Me (no coffee yet: as soon as I get up it's girls-cat-cat-dog-fish before I do anything for, you know, myself): "What th- I mean, is something wrong?" Sarah: "I hurt myself with this stupid granola bar!" She was attempting to eat it in such a way as to spare this one tooth right in the front of her bottom jaw (getting pushed around pretty rapidly by her braces) and the granola bar slipped and scraped this gaping wound on her chin that started as a pimple and is now threatening to take over her face because SHE CAN'T KEEP HER HANDS OFF IT and yes, I've tried flaxseed oil and about 300 other potential remedies and am now at the point of ordering up an exorcism.

The wise woman would be folding laundry and running to the store right now.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's All About Me, Me, Me

My co-worker Janet said something I agree with whole-heartedly regarding the Mr. Rogersization of childrearing: the "you're special just the way you are!" stuff goes only so far toward producing a well-behaved, or rather, an appropriately-behaved child who will eventually become an appropriately-behaved adult. Self-esteem is something that needs to be earned, and is not an end in itself: your self-esteem probably ought to be based on something other than the fact you exist. Janet was alluding to behavior at our workplace, but could just as well be addressing society as a whole, and while I'm easily frustrated when considering "big" issues, I have a few things to say about this one.

The behavior you're willing to tolerate from your children in your home isn't going to be met with universal praise, and it's YOUR job to educate YOUR kids about manners. All too often any more there seems to be this "my kid, right or wrong" attitude that has replaced an expectation that your child has a responsibility to his/her parents to behave decently both at home and in public. It doesn't seem like that big a deal when talking about little kids, until you realize that the first generations of children raised with this l'aissez faire approach to behavior are now adults and are rather more disinclined than not to behave in an adult manner. When I say "adult" I mean well-mannered: I'm continually baffled by how little value my peers seem to place on treating other people with respect. So many of them have this: "me first, second, and last" thing going on, and I just don't understand. Don't you WANT to get along with other people? Don't you WANT your neighbors and co-workers to like you? It goes along with this...this....this vile assertion that I've heard about 5,000 times too often: "I say what I think." Huh. I know what that means: it means, "I care so little about you and so much about myself that I see no need to temper my opinions with grace and/or politeness, and if you don't like it, I don't care." THAT pretty much sums up what passes for "self-esteem" in adults.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fashion Tips for the Disturbingly Puffy Woman

I am SO rotund today! Like a barrel on two legs. I know why, too: too dang much salt these last few days. I look like a buddha. I should know better: last night I was lying in bed eating (mistake #1) Sour Punch Straws (green apple: my favorite!) and washing them down with a big glass of iced milk (mistake #2. I'm too embarrassed to reveal what I'd eaten for dinner, which would be mistake #3) and even as I was motoring through them (what on earth is WRONG with me?????) I was kicking myself. I woke up in the middle of the night with my ears thrumming from the blood racing up to my head: some day my heart is just going to explode. Aaargh. Aaaargh. AAAAARRRGGGHHHHHH.

AND I get to see my freakishly petite sister this weekend (and her wee little children. One would think....we married brothers, right? So why are MY kids these big galoots- even their feet are enormous!- and her's are these dainty little...oh, who cares) so I'll feel even more bovine than usual. Sigh. Where's that muumuu when I need it?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We Eat Again

Big grocery trip today. Last night Isaiah painted the doors (dog scratches: lousy hound) and touched up the trim upstairs (he's doing the floor/banister tonight) while I was erranding and starting dinner (Thai green coconut chicken curry) and when he went to make himself a hotdog we were so low on condiments that it wasn't funny. When I was a child that was the kind of stuff I was oblivious to (and my husband still is, actually): you opened the refrigerator and catsup was just THERE. I need an ironclad list today or I know I'll forget something that will be the first thing someone notices ("You spent $___ at the grocery store today and didn't get _____???") Sigh.

My sister's family is coming up for the weekend. She's a better person than I am: stopping to see my dad on the way. Just reading the email exchanges she forwards here about trying to choose a place to eat dinner while in best to describe my dad? Hmm...where's the thesaurus?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Night and Day

I worked the late shift last night, which tends to be less stressful: not so many angry people, or maybe that's my imagination. I did handle a phone call that had me wondering: a mother called from her workplace: she was supposed to pick up her son but was running late. Was he there? Me: puzzled silence. She asks again: is her son there? She hadn't even attempted to provide a name or description at this point and seemed to think what she had said....I began to explain: "I'm very sorry, but we can't track down children for you. If you tell me his name and he comes up to check out materials and comes to my terminal, I'll tell him you called." She persists: he's supposed to be there using the computer but he's grounded and isn't supposed to be using the computer to play games; can't I just check for her? Hmmm. Gee. In a word: no. She, at least, was amenable throughout the conversation: usually the is-my-kid-there call ends with a phone slammed in ones ear, a la the time- also a Tuesday night!- when an irate mother called: her son had taken the family car (with permission) and she needed it back immediately. She wanted me to find her son and tell him to go home. Well, the place was awash in kids that night; I could no more have picked this child out of the crowd...even after she'd supplied a description, which went like this: I heard her ask her husband or whoever, "What was ______ wearing when he left? Did he have his black jacket on?" Irate male voice: "HOW THE !@## WOULD I KNOW?? KID LOOKS LIKE A !@##$%^&* RETARD EVERY TIME HE LEAVES THIS HOUSE!!!!!!" Well, that describes an awful lot of kids, including my own....

Speaking of: Isaiah was downright chatty when I got home last night. He missed two days of school not long ago (boy's had strep three times this winter) and has had to work like a beaver to catch up. I wouldn't be that age again. No way. I was immediately suspicious (kid has hardly spoken to me in so long that any time he antes up a few consecutive words I brace myself) but...but....maybe.....I shouldn't get my hopes up, but MAYBE he's coming out the other side of this teenager thing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Why did my last post print out as some goofy hieroglyphic-esque font?

What we need here is a Rosetta stone......

Monday, March 19, 2007


Found out today that we'd incorrectly claimed our oldest child as a dependent when filing our tax forms this year. Yow. Big hit to the budget. Oh, man. A mystery, this: our kids get MORE costly as the years go by. Why does the tax credit end just as the truly expensive years begin? The money we spent getting Isaiah licensed to drive (necessary for him to get to the very snazzy full-time job he held last summer, and will hold this summer as well) cow.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mother of the Year

A good mother wouldn't be grouchy on her day off. I, however, am ready to tear my hair out. Sarah is driving me insane (roaming through the house bumping into things) and our water heater needs replacing, preferably today. Nate's shopping for a new one on his way home from church, which means he'll be gone about twelve hours as he comparison shops and shops and shops. Mr. Thorough.

Last night's closing at work was a repeat of Friday night's: way too many customers still in the building despite repeated announcements. I went to lock the doors and a mom/daughters combo, who'd been told to leave through the stairwell door, ignored this instruction and pushed past me and out the handicapped door with this "I'll do what I please" smirk that had me scratching my head. The waiting-until-we're-closed-to-come-up-to-the-checkout-desk thing makes me wonder: maybe we should shut down regardless, and after a time or two of being denied materials, people would learn. I don't know. The balance between following procedure and giving good customer service is a delicate one. We want people to patronize our library, but the overall demeanor of far too many of our customers is just...I don't think it's the library that elicits this surliness: it seems to be universal, but why? And why does it drive us so crazy when people wait too long to check out? Probably because it's not that one instance: it's the day-long accretion: no, you cannot check out unless you have your card or a license. No, you can't have more than five adult and five children's DVDs. No, you can't use our phone. No, we don't have bags. No, you can't use your husband's card to check out. No, you can't pick up your child's holds. No, I'm very sorry, but I can't renew this for you. You have a fine in excess of ______ and it must be below ______ to check out. No, I can't just issue you a new card: you have to pay your fine, and no, we don't waive payment because you were on vacation/have been busy/had a cold/lent your movies to your neighbor and she didn't return them. No. No. Six pm. No.

I REALLY like my job. I believe in the importance of libraries and the services they provide to the public, but am starting to agree with my husband's point of view: he's of the opinion that when people are getting something for free, they're less likely to be polite/conscientious/respectful of what they receive. Huh. Hmm. Food for thought.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wish Fulfilled

"Trans-Sister Radio" was waiting for me when I got to work today. Dig! I won't have much time this weekend, but anyone who knows me knows that won't hamper my intention to absorb more of the printed word than many people do in a year.

We're hosting kindergarten registration and I'm surprised at how it's making me feel. I don't believe in over-analyzing and/or dwelling, so the misery that's dogging my usually sunny demeanor (ha ha! I crack myself up!) has been a bit unwelcome. I barely recall taking Isaiah or Hannah to registration, but I could write a book- okay, a novella- about taking Sarah. I'd dressed her in this gorgeous y ellow dress (she wore a dress every day back then) and wasn't exactly expecting anything in particular: sure, I knew she was a handful, but.... she all but flat-lined the testing, from the simplest physical feats to whatever the heck else they were looking for. Not that this seemed to raise any eyebrows: she was included in the preschool that fall, but it wasn't until kindergarten when her teacher (who'd had my older kids, and had heard my "heads up, there's a real live wire still at home" speech multiple times) was willing to go out on a limb and be blunt about Sarah's issues. Not that that was the "aha!" moment: that was still several years in the future. It's funny: autism, and its related syndromes, seems to be EVERYWHERE now, but I can't say I've seen a potential kindergartener here yet who's struck me (and I've gotten pretty doggoned good at picking them off) as being very Sarah-esque. Good.

Is There Nothing New Under The Sun?

Brought home the new Chris Bohjalian book last night and will be returning it today. I can't seem to find any new fiction that catches my interest these days. I've been disappointed in Bohjalian's last few works (my favorite, "Trans-Sister Radio," may be the least well-known of his novels; "Midwives," which was much more popular, was pretty decent, too) so can't say I was surprised, exactly, to find this latest ("The Double Bind") unsatisfactory. Sigh. I ordered up (ILL, mon amour! My one true friend!) "Trans-Sister" and a sort of companion book I like to read along with it, "She's Not There" by Jennifer Finney Boylan (I think. This is a memoir, and a truly fascinating read. I've been intrigued by a six-degrees-of-separation thing that has Jennifer- once James, if memory serves; I haven't read "She's Not There" in a while- at its center. Richard Russo, who wrote one of my favorite books of all time ("Nobody's Fool") figures prominently in "She's Not There" (he taught with Boylan at - memory's getting a workout today!- Colby College....I think) and J.F.B. pops up in another memoir, just in passing, when she/he visits the author of-I THINK- "You Make Me Feel Like An Unnatural Woman," which is a pretty good account of an older mother's first year or so with her twin boys. (Note how I don't know how to underline titles. I cringe every time I put one in quotation marks.)
After chugging through as much of "Double Bind" as I could, I abandoned it in favor of "East of Eden," which I read with one eye while watching "Breaking Away" with my husband and Hannah. Was somewhat startled to realize that the parents in this movie are probably younger than I am now. Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Nate drove the girls to school this morning (Isaiah doesn't go in all this week until 10: OGT) after debating whether it made sense to take them before the weather cleared a little; he had to retrieve his car from the school lot across the street anyway (fills up fast starting at about 7:15, though not- ho ho- this morning) and was pacing around the house like a lion, waiting for a break in the icy rain before attempting the drive into Cleveland. I called the middle school to alert them as to Sarah's potential tardiness (she gets all weirded out if she's late, or even thinks she might be late, which leads all too often to having A Very Bad Day Indeed) and was taken aback AGAIN by how rude the person answering the phone was. If I were to answer the phone like that, I'd fully expect the caller to bite my head off and possibly ask to speak to my supervisor, but instead, I used my best charming-and-a-little-confused voice to explain that Sarah might be a bit late and could someone make sure she wasn't marked tardy? Or if she were, to please not let her know until after school? After all, the weather blah blah blah better safe than sorry etc. The receptionist cuts me off with an abrupt "We don't excuse tardies due to bad weather." Big pause. Pause. Paaauuuussse as I waited her out. "But since you called beforehand...." Uh-huh. Streets are iced over... cars are creeping along.... my husband, Mr. "I Wouldn't Miss A Day Of Work If My Head Were Lopped Off" actually goes in LATE....and the school isn't cutting anyone any slack. Good thing I called (although Sarah was, in fact, on time.) I've never known a child to be so concerned about being late to school.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Day Off

Took Sarah to the mall to spend her essay gift certificate: she bought two of these sparkly Barbies at Claire's, where the salesgirl had this BEAUTIFUL hot pink '50's kind of dress. She'd bought it at Wet Seal, so we high-tailed it over there, but they were all sold. Drat! That was MY dress if I ever saw one.

I made a kind of a big deal out of the excursion to honor Sarah's triumphant prize-winning essay and bought her both an Orange Julius and a Subway sub for her dinner. Yes, I know: rewarding with food (it wasn't the food so much as my willingness to buy it: anyone who knows me knows how frugal I am) isn't smart, but I don't care. I wasted how many years...oh, never mind. Sarah is, and is going to be, a grand, big individual. So far, she has none of the weight/appearance consciousness that has warped my life so thoroughly. She ordered a Spicy Italian on white, no jalapenos. God bless, you sweetheart! Eat it in good health.

Rainy Wednesday

My very favorite weather: warm and rainy.

I must be a fool for even attempting another blog; how much rambling does one person have in her? Quite a bit, actually: as I sail through my kids' teen years ("sail." Ha. There's a misnomer) I'm finding a certain amount of tension relieved by the ability to vent, and as I'm not much of a chatterer, writing (okay: typing) fills that bill nicely. (That "sailing" reference brings to mind a quotation from a- of course! - book I read titled "One Small Boat." The author takes in foster children and wrote about a child in particular who was eventually placed with her natural father- who hadn't known about her- after being approved for adoption by the author and her husband. It was a very good book: different from other foster-children-adoption-etc. in many ways, AND had what turned out to be a happy resolution. Anywho: the "One Small Boat" refers to the author's [aargh! What was her name????] prayer: "Oh, God, be good to me: the sea is so wide and my boat is so small." These teen years have my husband and me riding a sort of poorly-assembled raft across the kind of waves that were used to illustrate Sebastian Junger's book (and subsequent bad movie) "The Perfect Storm." And our kids aren't even "bad" (knock wood): they're just teenagers!

What's For Dinner: reubens. Like a fool, I bought this enormous corned beef flat, forgetting that 2/3 of my kids aren't likely to eat a reuben. I myself didn't care for corned beef as a child: it may be one of those adult-taste food products, particularly when you throw in some sauerkraut and rye bread and so forth. I can't recall the last time I saw one of my kids refuse something to eat (too well-mannered, for one, and possessed of distinguished palates, for another. I've never made a separate "kid dinner" here) so they may surprise me. It's not as though you can break down a reuben into more palatable parts: the corned beef seems to be the main issue, so what's left? A sauerkraut sandwich? Hmmm. Grilled swiss on rye. Why am I even thinking about this??? All three of them are more than capable of fending for themselves. (Note to self: buy big dill pickles.)

What I'm Reading Now: dry spell. I have stuff on hold, but it's slow to arrive. In the interim, I've resorted to some old favorites: Tom Perotta's "The Wishbones," "....And Ladies of the Club" (Helen Hooven Santmeyer. I'm post-it noting the references to the Civil War in it for my husband, whom I KNOW would love this book if he could get past the slow first chapter or two. It begins just as Reconstruction is starting and takes place in Ohio. I can't tell you how many times I've blurted out a line from this excellent novel in response to something Nate's said about the war) and "Pearl" by Tabitha King. I started reading her books after having discovered "Midlife Confidential," which is a sort of compilation of essays written by the authors who make up the literary band "Rockbottom Remainders." Her husband- Stephen King- was in the band (wrote a very nice essay, too.) Ms. King writes pretty well herself, although "Pearl" is the only book of hers that I read again and again.