Hear Me Roar! (And Kiss.)

The thoughtful TIV, aka The Individual Voice, awarded me that amazing lion to your left. It makes me very happy to get such an award because it matters to me to hear that someone likes the way I write. Because writing is a very personal thing. Especially when one is writing about such personal things as those I blab about here on a semi-regular basis. (And I’m not necessarily just talking about the poop stories.)

She was kind enough to write that I am “witty and articulate about the challenges and hilarity that goes into mothering three of the cutest, funniest boys I’ve ever seen.” Isn’t that about the nicest thing ever?

So this award comes from the Shameless Lions Writing Circle. Each recipient is instructed to “distribute [the award] to those people who have blogs we love, can’t live without, where we think the writing is good and powerful. […] and accompany the image with three things they believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful.”

So three things that I believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful. Well, the first has to be honesty of emotion. Be it fiction or reality, if the author isn’t being true to the emotions of the situation, the writing likely won’t resonate.

Another thing that I think good writing requires is an interest on the part of the author in the subject matter. No matter how good of a writer you are, if you don’t care about your subject matter, that will shine through. See, I’m really interested in Quinn’s constipation. Thus, the compelling reading you can find under my “poop” category.

Lastly, I think—while not necessary for good writing—a sense of humor helps. Obviously humor is not appropriate in every situation, but a touch of whimsy can help make even the densest topic more interesting. Of course, humor done poorly (or inappropriately) can kill a piece of writing faster than anything. That may have happened here more than once.

I want to pass this award on to Niksmom. She expresses herself so beautifully about her darling child, Nik. I get such a sense of what her little guy is doing based solely on her words. I would actually be surprised if she hasn’t already gotten this award, but I’m giving it to her anyway.

I’d also like to pass this on to Joeymom at Life with Joey because one result of good writing is that it makes you think. And Joeymom regularly makes me think. She also paints vivid portraits of her two children.

*****

I am also honored to have been given the Mwah! award by Slouching Mom. I consider anything she gives to be valuable, so I will happily accept this “chaste kiss given to say thank you for friendships and comments in the blogosphere.”

When I started blogging I never thought I would “meet” so many people that I connect with. There’s lots of you I could pass this on to, but I’m going to start with these lovely women:

Ange at Tis My Life
KAL at Autism Twins
Tulip Mom over at, you know, Tulip Mom
Kelly at Life With 3 Boys
Jessica at A Bushel and a Peck
Sandie at Urban Mama
Canape at Don’t Take the Repeats, who definitely does not have time right now to respond to this.

*****

Do with these awards what you will. Thank you for bestowing them on me.

DCMM: Is Red His Color?

Ah, the joys of a baby born in late summer or early fall…pushing the stroller on crisp fall days, taking your baby out in the Baby Bjorn without having to worry about either of you getting heatstroke, having an excuse to stay inside once the weather starts getting cold.

A downside: making the decision of whether to redshirt or not to redshirt.
If you have a child whose birthday is anywhere near the kindergarten cut-off date—September 30 in DC and Virginia and September 1 in Maryland—chances are you have already had a conversation or two about redshirting, the practice of keeping your child out of kindergarten an extra year to give him or her a chance to get more “ready” for school.

(For an excellent account of some pros and cons and an interesting discussion of the issue, read this  New York Times Magazine article published last summer.)

I have a six-year-old who has an October birthday. Therefore, while not technically redshirted because he wouldn’t have been allowed to start school last year, he is still one of the oldest in his grade. And I am so glad. He started kindergarten this year and is doing really well. But even with his success, he has anxiety and issues that would have been even more profound had he started elementary school last year. His extra year of preschool made a tremendous difference in his readiness to deal with kindergarten—both academically and socially.

This has been on my mind recently because I’ve started considering redshirting my middle child, Jack. Jack will turn five this May and will be expected to attend kindergarten in the fall. Jack is also developmentally delayed and is on a path to being diagnosed with autism. He is incredibly smart, but some of his weaknesses lie in the areas of following directions in class and interacting with his peers. He is also far more likely to interact with younger children.

I wonder what will happen to him if I put him in kindergarten next year. Will he become a “problem child” that gets in trouble all the time because he can’t follow the routine? Because he can’t sit for 45 minutes of floor time? Because he will refuse to transition from one project to another if he’s not ready?

Will he become the loner—the weird child that acts different so no one wants anything to do with him? If he does become that kid, will the stigma follow him through his whole school career? I still remember those kids from my elementary school. They didn’t recover socially, even through high school. It’s sad and wrong, but it’s true.

If I send him to kindergarten and he’s not ready, will he be so damaged by the experience that he will suffer for years to come?

Or if I keep him in preschool for an extra year, will he be so bored by the academics when he finally gets to kindergarten that he will act out and become that very problem child I was hoping to avoid? Will the teachers expect him to be more mature because he will be older than the other children? Will he resent the fact that all of his peers are moving on and he is not?

One of the quotes from the Times article resonates with me: “Early failure begets later failure.” I don’t want to choose the wrong option and create such a situation for my Jack.

Redshirting is also fraught with other land mines: class issues, rich vs. poor, manipulative parenting. Author Elizabeth Weil writes in the Times article, “The last thing any child needs is to be outmaneuvered by other kids’ parents as they cut to the back of the birthday line to manipulate age effects.”

I don’t intend to use my child’s delays as an excuse or a reason why we should not be judged for redshirting. I use it to illustrate how I think this practice might be particularly helpful for him. I know that, bottom line, I have to do what’s right for my child. But still the egalitarian in me worries that by pushing Jack up I am pushing another child down. And even without those concerns, I’m still not sure what will be best for my son.

It’s only January. I have some time to decide what to do. Jack may make great leaps in development that will make the decision clear to me. Or just the opposite. For now I’m just registering him for everything and I will figure out later where to send him.

What would you do?

You can visit Jean’s home-blog, Stimeyland, to read more things about Jack than you might ever want to know.

Rachael Ray and I Are Going To Have Some Fucking Words.

It’s no secret that Jack doesn’t like to eat, well, food. And although I know little to nothing about Rachael Ray, I couldn’t very well NOT buy this cookbook, what with her guarantee and all.


Mmmmmm hmmmm.

Now the Fake-Baked Ziti was very good and Sam did inhale it. But Sam would also have inhaled spaghetti and I wouldn’t have had to grate three types of cheese and make a cream sauce for that.

I think it goes without saying that Ms. Ray should get an acerbic note from me letting her know that her cooking simply did not pass muster with Jack. And, you know, that’s cool and all ’cause he probably wouldn’t eat anything from any other cookbook either, but none of those other cookbooks betrayed me with a promise.

So, how should I word my completely irrational, irate, and never-to-be-sent letter to Ms. I’ll-Make-Bold-Claims-That-Will-Be-Completely-Disproved- the-First-Time-You-Use-My-Cookbook-Ray? I encourage the use of curse words.

DCMM: And When Did He First Pick His Nose?

Currently my middle son, Jack, is being screened to enter a study on autism at NIMH. One of the results of this screening is that he will end up with a diagnosis. Hallelujah!  One of the other results of this screening is that I will end up feeling like the worst mother on the face of the planet because I can apparently remember nothing about his life up to (and including) this point.

My husband and I spent our morning the other day in a tiny room being interviewed for three and a half hours about the minutiae of Jack’s development from birth to last week. Considering I’ve lived with the kid for more than four and a half years and I recently pored over his baby book to fill out stacks of papers about him, you’d think I’d be able to supply some—any—information about him.

I didn’t feel so bad when I couldn’t answer the question, “When was the first time Jack spontaneously said ‘uh-oh’?” But it went downhill from there.

I was quite proud of myself because I had just laid out in detail what I thought was the first time he had said “uh-oh,” complete with what came before and after. Not good enough. Apparently that was non-spontaneous. And, in case you are wondering, there is a difference.

There’s nothing that will make you feel like a bad parent faster than being stared at by a doctor and your husband as you admit that literally the only thing you can remember about Christmas 2005 is that the tree was positioned so that it blocked the front door so visitors had to come in the side door. By the way, that is my youngest child’s first Christmas that I have no memory of.

I don’t know if it’s that I have a bad memory or it’s that I have three kids or what, but the first couple years of Jack’s life are kind of a blur. There is a large sort of blank spot between the time he was three months old and the time he turned three. I remember that he started school somewhere in there, but other than that, I’m not entirely sure of much else.

How many words did he have by 24 months? (“This is a touchpoint for me,” said the doctor.) Hell if I remember. I do remember bringing it up to the pediatrician, so I know it wasn’t a normal amount. Was he putting two words together when he started school? Did he make eye contact when he was a baby and then stop making it later? Did he ever make eye contact? Does he now?

Add to the humiliation the fact that they’re videotaping us so that when the beads of sweat form on my brow because I can’t remember if he had ten words before 24 months or after, every researcher that checks our file in the future will be able to see it.

The doctor did reassure us that “these are hard questions,” and, “your ability to answer these questions is typical.”

But then, like two hours later, when I could no longer answer questions such as, “What kinds of things does Jack like to play with?”, I knew that somehow I had surpassed that point I never thought I would: the point at which I was no longer thrilled to be talking about my child.

You’ll excuse me. I have some home videos to review.

This is cross-posted at Stimeyland, where Jean normally blogs so that she’ll remember things from here on out.

16 Down: How Stimey Feels (4 Letters, 1st Letter is D)*

While I may not be running for president of Mensa anytime soon, I consider myself to be a fairly bright person.

My opinion of myself changed rapidly when I switched from buying crossword puzzle books with words like “fun” and “easy” in the titles to books with words like “New” and “York” and “Times” in the title.

I don’t know anything.

*****

* Answer: Dumb