Friday, February 29, 2008

DCMM: Driving While Multitasking

The last two mornings while driving my children to school, I heard news stories on the radio about proposed bans on multitasking while driving.

One New Jersey legislator wants to ban people from smoking while driving (some states have proposals that specifically target smoker-drivers who have children in the car). And Virginia and Maryland want to ban texting while driving.

I'm worried about where this is going to go. Are they going to ban my manic jotting down of notes about blogging ideas while I'm driving?

I get that these proposals are intended to improve road safety. I get that they can't necessarily be compared to helmet and seatbelt laws, because these new proposals are aimed at the safety of everyone, not just the personal safety of the helmet or seatbelt wearer.

I can't argue that if I text (but I probably won't) while driving, the only one I can hurt is me.

But these laws offend me, nonetheless. Yeah, texting while you're driving is an idiotic thing to do. As is reading or making notes. But it seems ridiculous to start banning individual (legal) activities just because of the location in which you engage in them.

And why target texting, smoking, and talking on hand held cell phones? What about changing a CD or a radio station? What about putting on lipstick? What about reading a newspaper behind the wheel? I've seen all of these things. I've engaged in them at times. I'm sure they've all led to accidents. Should we ban them too?

I'm not unsympathetic to road safety. My father was killed in a car accident when I was a young child, so I understand that cars are dangerous and that full attention should be put on the road when you're behind the wheel.

But I also think that the lawmakers are not my parents. The government is not my boss. I am an adult and I should be left to make some decisions for myself. Hopefully while using common sense.

Originally posted at DC Metro Moms Blog.

Jean uses those notes she jots down to remember ideas for posts at Stimeyland and her new deculuttering blog, The Junk Pyramid.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jack's Friend

Jack has had little to no interest in other children for quite a long time. But in the past week, he has suddenly decided that A, a girl he has known since he was one year old, who is in his preschool class, and whom he has mostly ignored for three and a half years, is THE person to know.

He and I were in the classroom today before school because I was co-oping. When she walked into the room, his face LIT up. And I need those capital letters, because when I say his face lit up, it was really like his whole damn body lit up.

He came running over to her and gave her a hug. Then he played with her until class started.

Fortunately, A is just about the most wonderful kid on earth. (Other than my kids, of course.) She is so sweet and laid back (at least in public&#8212her mom may have other thoughts) and she seems to like Jack as well.

I always read that children don't need a lot of friends. They just need one good friend. And I love that Jack is developing the ability to make a good friend.

Bizarre

Did you even know that the Jerry Springer Show is still on the air?

This morning while I was running a load of backpacks and lunch boxes out to the car, Jack managed to turn on the TV.

So when I came back, he was watching Springer on the oft-discussed topic of "Pregnant Gals and a Mime."

If there is a subject that needs more open and honest discussion than that, I don't know what it is.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So Good, You Can't Eat Write Just One

If you're thinking that the the blogosphere needs a new blog just like a packrat needs more junk, then you're in luck!

I have been on a half-assed mission of late to declutter my home. I recently decided to whole-ass it and really go to work. I'm documenting my progress over at Stimeyland's new offshoot, The Junk Pyramid.

The Junk Pyramid is like the food pyramid, only instead of eating six servings of bread every day, I'm getting rid of six servings of clutter every day.

You can get to The Junk Pyramid by clicking on that button you see in the sidebar there to the right.

That is, if you're interested in things like watching the minutiae of someone else cleaning their house. Alex likes it. But he lives here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Mommy Needs a Cocktail:

* Because the skin on my back hurts and I don't know why. And it has for two days.

* Because no matter how many times I dragged Jack out of bed this morning, he kept returning to his covers and the cat who was snuggled in them. And because Sam came down on me for "breaking the deal" that he and Alex made about breakfast before I got there and that I still don't know what it is. And because Quinn is too damn happy in the morning.

* Because when we're in the car and Quinn decides it's time to drive regardless of red lights and oncoming traffic, he'll kick the back of my seat and yell "Go! Go!" until I hit the accelerator.

* Because Jack's bus left him at school today when he was in the bathroom at pick-up time. And he was a little traumatized by it. (Super-neighbor L also deserves a cocktail for stepping up to pick up Sam at the bus stop when I had to go get Jack.)

* Because possibly the worst picture of all time of me has been posted in this Flickr pool. Bet ya can spot it!

* Because I just got this fantastic t-shirt at this Mommy Needs a Cocktail party, and I always follow through on whatever t-shirts tell me to do.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bleg is NOT a Word.

If you were playing Scrabble with someone and they added a "B" to "LEG" to form the—and I use the term loosely—word "BLEG," would you:

1) count it as a word?

2) mercilessly make fun of the person who put it down?

Alex tried to claim bleg as a word and got mad at me when I refused to do #1 and proceeded to do #2. And not only did he try to claim it as a word, but he tried to claim it as a Scrabble word. Which is a whole other thing.

Here's where you come in. The only dictionary we can find is an OED—and I think we all know it's not in there.

Whaddya think?

Is he as insane as I think he is? I need you loyal commenters and lurkers alike to come out and tell my husband he's insane. Please?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

All My Fault

Although I tried to think of every way it could possibly be Alex's fault that I couldn't find the car keys this morning, I couldn't come up with anything.

Last I remembered having them yesterday, I had been standing at Sam's bus stop holding them. Then I came home to a play date and no one else used the car or the keys after that.

This morning, with a house full of kids (most of them mine) that I had to get to school and a coffee date at ten, I completely couldn't find the keys. I could feel the minutes ticking away and knew that if Sam was late getting to drop off, I was going to have to unbuckle three extra kids to walk him into the office to sign him in late.

Determined not to be stupid, I checked pockets, bags, and all the other ridiculous places I tend to find keys after I lose them.

Usually it only takes three or four frantic minutes to find them, but today it took fifteen minutes and three or four frantic phone calls (three to try to blame the situation on Alex, and one to my playdate from yesterday to see if she had noticed where I put my keys down) before I found them.

In my purse.

(Although in my defense, it wasn't a purse I had used at all this week.)

Maybe it can be Alex's fault that we only have one set of keys.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eclipse

I obviously don't have an awesome camera, but this here is my photo of tonight's lunar eclipse.



If it makes you happier, you can just pretend it's a fingernail clipping and you can stop reading.

At about 9:30 tonight I decided to let in the barking dog from outside and check out the eclipse. After I figured out that you can't see the moon from my backyard, I went to the front door and looked out to see a less-blurry version of what you see above.

This being my house, Sam and Jack—who had "gone to bed" at 7:30—were still awake. I dragged them to the front door and tried to explain what was happening.

Jack, aka Mr. Space, decided that an eclipse is "silly."

But ever since then, we've been periodically checking on its progress. It's pretty cool. Jack in particular thinks it's pretty neat.

You'll have to excuse me, I think we're almost at a total eclipse of the moon. I'm going back to check out the wonder of the solar system.

DCMM: Please Define Customer Service For Me

In my studious research of customer service (i.e. one quick Google search) I came across this:
"excellent customer service (is) the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations"
Sounds good to me. In the past I have had some excellent responses to some of my customer service problems as they relate to children's toys. LeapFrog was quick and thorough with a fix for the malfunction of my son's Leap Pad toy. Melissa & Doug not only sent me an entirely free replacement for a mail box my own kids broke, but they told me I could just donate the old one to a school or other organization. Cranium, at whose site I was a registered user, responded to my email request to purchase some replacement balls for Cariboo with something to the effect of, "We've already put some free balls in the mail to you. Enjoy! And here is some magic fairy dust to further make you love us."

Awesome.

I've had more trouble recently with two items I had problems with: my LeapFrog 100 Hoops game and my iRobot Scooba. (The latter is not technically a children's toy, I know, but it does provide endless entertainment for my two-year-old.)

Let's start with the 100 Hoops toy. Shortly after receiving it for Christmas (and by "shortly after," I mean "on Christmas") my kids lost the ball. Given my prompt and satisfactory last experience with Leap Frog (see above) I was hopeful that they would be quick to, at the very least, let me buy a replacement ball.

I emailed and never heard back. I called and was told they don't have any balls (What?! Don't they manufacture the toy?) and I should call back in three weeks. I emailed again a week or so later and received an automated reply saying they would get back to me in 48-72 hours. That was January 14. On January 22nd I wrote back with a strongly worded email about my disappointment in their customer service and my reluctance to buy Leap Frog products in the future for the million and six kids I buy gifts for.

Nothing.

On February 1st I sent another email, this one pointing out that their response time most definitely IS NOT 48-72 hours. Then I continued in the vein of, "You suck, you hate your customers, I'm never going to buy from you again. Can't you at least acknowledge my existence?" But I was a little (a little) nicer than that.

Now it is February 19 and today (!) I got an email telling me how I can send them $3 and they'll send me a ball. Oh, and "We apologize for the delay."

Um. Hum.

I won't bore you with the details of my increasing frustration with Scooba, whom I once considered a member of my family. I will tell you that although iRobot's response was timely, it was not favorable to me. Suffice it to say that sarcasm (on my part) apparently doesn't translate via email, and they don't back their product one hundred percent.

On the other hand, Hammacher Schlemmer, from whom I purchased Scooba, does value their customers. They have a lifetime guarantee on whatever you purchase from them. If you were to email them, say, a year and a half after you buy, say, a robot from them and if you didn't have a date, an order number or anything, they would send you an email within 24 hours with the order number in question and instructions on how to return said robot.

So if you're ever looking for a transparent canoe, a water-repellent goat suede blazer, $1700 binoculars, or a sunshine recorder, whatever the hell that is, I suggest you head to a company who cares about their customers.

What is your best or worst customer service story?

Jean also complains at Stimeyland.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Suppository!

My poor little Quinn. We all know about his, ahem, problems. Flat out, the boy has trouble pooping. We give him Miralax and whatever else we think will make him poop. At an age when most people are giving their children M&Ms for pooping on the potty, we give Quinn a Hershey Kiss every time he poops&#8212no matter where it happens.

And if he doesn't poop over the course of two or three days, we give him a suppository. (Listen, if this is too much information, I think you were warned by the title of this post.)

Needless to say, he hates suppositories. I make sure to tell him ahead of time if he's getting one so that he's not terrified of every diaper change. Regardless, every time I put him on the changing table (I cannot wait to get rid of that piece of furniture, by the way.) he says, "No suppository."

It's a little sad.

Today at preschool when I was co-oping, the kids were playing in pans of water and Quinn had a little penguin that he was sailing around on a toy boat. At some point he picked up a little plastic stick, turned the penguin on its side, and started jabbing at its butt area with the tip.

"I'm giving him a suppository," he said.

Better the penguin than him, I guess.

The other co-oping mom pretty much laughed her head off. Feel free to do the same. I did.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Potpourri

I have been fortunate enough in the time that I have been blogging to "meet" some wonderful blogging (mostly) women. Several of them have taken the time to think of me recently in passing out some wonderful awards. I want to thank each of them. It means a lot to me that we have found each other and developed these relationships. With this in mind, I will pass them on.

My good friend WhyMommy said some really wonderful things when she gave this award to me. And damned if I'm not bummed that she got it first, otherwise I would definitely have passed it directly to her. But in the spirit of no-give-backsies, I will give this to a couple of other wonderful women out there.

Kelley is someone I have completely fallen in love with. Even if I can't walk in the fabulous tall shoes she is known for. And I don't drink coffee. (But I do love chocolate.) And I find her to be amazing.

I also want to give this to BetteJo, whose thoughtful comments I appreciate so much.

Someone created this award specifically for Joeymom. And she definitely deserves it. She's taught me a lot. And was nice enough to pass it to me as well as some wonderful other bloggers.

This one clearly goes to WhyMommy. Because if anyone is good at seeing the beauty, it's her. She has fought so hard this past year. And she continues to see the good. She finds the beauty in her children, her husband, and the stars, among other things. This one is for her, and the beauty she is going to keep seeing for years to come.

Tulip Mom, who I have really enjoyed reading for the last few months, thinks I'm nice!

I may think I would better qualify for the "Abrasiveness Matters" award, but I do try to be nice, so I am very happy to accept this. Most of you out there seem wonderfully nice, and at one point I think I told about half of the blogosphere that you were.

Today I'm going to give this to KC, whom I recently met, and who was nice enough not to hate me for getting her completely busted having fun while her daughter was in school.

I also want to give this to two different Jessicas: one at A Parent in Silver Spring, who is keeping me updated on what to do with my kids in the area; and one at A Bushel and a Peck, whose niceness I have been lucky enough to personally witness.

Phew, almost there. The magnificent Kelley, mentioned above, gave this to me a while ago and I neglected to mention it. Then, after her recent move to her own domain, she regifted it.

Just FYI, this is a good award to get. Apparently Kelley had some people thinking this was not a nice award, when in fact it is a sideways heart. I just didn't want any of y'all thinking I wasn't nice. Remember a few paragraphs back? I'm nice.

I love so many blogs. I love so many that my marriage and work life are suffering because of it. (I'm mostly kidding.) Onward to some I love in particular. And if I don't mention you, it is because I'm saving you for a future award (or I've recently awarded you).

I <3 a="" href="http://bubandpie.blogspot.com/">Bubandpie, The New Girl, Girl, and Swistle.

And that's all of my awards.

But we're not done yet!

Jessica—the one at A Bushel and a Peck—tagged me for a meme in which I am to tell you six quirky things about me. Instead of getting all original on you, I'm going to take off on Jessica's six quirky things.

1. (She loves egg noodles with ketchup.) When I was a kid, my mom used to cut avocados in half and fill up the area where the pit used to be with ketchup. And I ate it. I'm not sure if this is a quirky thing about me or my mom, but there you go.

2. (She used to pronounce "mine" as "my-in.") In my head, whenever I say the word "caterpillar," I pronounce it "cat-er-pill-ar." It's a fun word to say that way. I used to do the same thing with "tortoise," saying it in my head as "tor-toys" until Alex suggested "tor-twah"&#8212you know, the Frenchy way of saying it.

3. (She can't go to sleep if her sheets and blankets are messed up.) I can't sleep with a sheet—just a comforter. And Alex and I have separate comforters because I'm such a blanket-hogging jerk.

4. (She is obsessive about chapstick and hand lotion.) Despite having the driest skin known to humankind, as well as a case of psoriasis, I also have tactile issues that prevent me from using lotion, because it freaks me the hell out.

5. (She has no dogs, but watches dog shows on TV. She also loves the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.) I do have a dog. She's a mutt. But my favorite breed is the Rottweiler (we used to have a lovely Rottie named Mango). Never get a Rottweiler though, unless you're rescuing one and have no other choice. They will break your wallet what with all their genetic issues. Mango had to have two (two!) ACL surgeries.

6. (She is anal-retentive about how her clothes are folded.) My clothes are currently in a big pile on top of my nearly empty dresser. I wish I was anal-retentive about folding clothes.

So there you go: awards and memes. I think I'm all caught up now. Carry on with your regularly scheduled blog reading.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Favorites

Favorite angle from which to take a photo: From behind



Favorite thing to do with a child: Hold him in the rocking chair until both he and I are asleep.

Favorite piece of jewelry:


I have all five of our names engraved equidistantly around this bangle. Alex got it for me (from Sticky J, per my instructions). I like it because I'll catch sight of one of our names and take a minute to think about that person. I like the never-ending circle aspect of it too. I got one each for my sister and her partner with their and their kids' names. They love them too.

Favorite color: Orange

Ever since (long ago) reading William T. Vollmann's book of short stories, The Rainbow Stories, in which he repeatedly refers to orange as scintillant, I have been unable to shake the beauty I feel when I think of the color. That one descriptive word created this whole, amazing vision of orange for me.

Favorite thing about more than one child: Brotherly love

Friday, February 15, 2008

Brain Dump

I had a really wonderful conversation with another mom from Jack's co-op preschool class the other day. At the end of the Valentine's Day party she asked me if I had decided where I was going to send him to kindergarten.

Thinking she was asking because of his behavioral issues, I said, "We're really strongly considering keeping him in preschool for the next year."

She looked surprised and said, "Oh. I was asking because he is so smart and advanced. Sometimes moms can't see it in their own kids, but he is head and shoulders ahead of these other kids."

Now I'm not here to debate who's advanced and who's not, and there are some terrifically smart kids in Jack's class. I'm not sure I agree with the "head and shoulders ahead of" part of that. Yes, he reads. Yes, he does math. Yes, he's weirdly clever about certain things.

But I almost burst into tears when she said that because it was so good to hear a purely positive thing about him from another parent. To hear a compliment about Jack that didn't start with the word "but." ("But he's a sweet kid," after a statement about one of his problems. I do it too.)

To see that this other mom saw a wonderful part of Jack and shared it with me meant so much. Especially after a very well-meaning and lovely mother (and I mean that genuinely) asked if she could give me some advice about Jack that morning.

"Since he's been in his afternoon preschool, his symptoms have been worse," she said. "My guess is that they're trying to teach him a lot of practical things and that instead he might need more time to just be himself." There was more of this and then she told me not to let the school district push me around.

All of this was kindly meant. And I happily accept advice because every perspective is valuable and gives me something to think about.

But, ouch.

Maybe he acts out more than he did last year. But all of the kids do. He just acts out in a different way than they do. And frankly, maybe he's developed a stronger will in refusing to follow directions, but, oh my God, he's turned a corner in so many other ways.

His ability and willingness to hold a conversation has increased in leaps and bounds in the last few months. His recognition of socially appropriate behavior (doctor licking aside) has increased. He's learning what the proper responses to other people are. And this is just what I want him to learn. Because I don't want to change him. I just want to help teach him how to live in the world.

But the best of all his progress is that which he's made in paying attention to other kids. At the beginning of the year he could not or would not tell me the names of anyone in his classes. Now those names come up on a semi-regular basis. He's learned to walk up to a classmate and say, "Hey, Classmate, let's play." He wants to invite a friend over for a playdate. There are certain children he seems to crave a connection with. Last year I don't know if he even noticed Valentine's Day. This year he was excited to pick out his Star Wars valentines, and even though he lost interest after writing his name on three, he very specifically chose his three closest allies and carefully wrote their names down.

All of which is a long way to say: It feels so good to have someone see something unabashedly good about your child. And not have to preface it with "but."


My little Valentine blowing a kiss to his teachers. My Valentine who sang some, but not all, of the songs with his classmates that their teacher had taught them. My Valentine who did some, but not all, of the gestures that accompanied those songs when standing in front of a room full of parents. My Valentine, whom I love more than anything.

Captain Underpants

Quinn had his first foray into underpants wearing today.

Shortly before we went to pick Sam up at his bus, the subject of underpants came up. I showed Quinn our stash of them and he emphatically said no to Madagascar, Spiderman, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Bob the Builder underpants.

But the Finding Nemo underpants? He wanted to wear them.

I put them on him, told him he'd be able to run faster if he was wearing them, and we took off toward the bus stop, Quinn running at top speed.

"I'm wearing underpants," were his first words to Sam after his big brother got off the bus.

"I'm wearing underpants," he told everyone we ran into on the way home. Both familiar neighbors as well as a complete stranger.

I took him to the potty several times with no results. An hour and a half later when I put him on the potty, he'd already had an accident. He hadn't even noticed.

Oh well.

At least he's willing to try them out. Both Sam and Jack looked at underpants as some sort of horrible torture device and screamed and screamed when I initially tried to get them to wear them.

At least it's a step in the right direction.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

At Least He Was Wearing Shoes

Alex just started a new detail at work that, along with requiring him to wear a tie every day, also requires us to rearrange our morning schedule so that he can get out of the house a little earlier in the morning.

I was initially a little nervous about this because Alex always feeds the kids breakfast and gets them dressed. I make their lunches, pack their backpacks, and brush their teeth.

Our new arrangement has Alex making the lunches. And if he doesn't have time, I make breakfast and get them dressed. So far it's gone okay, although one day there was no school and we all (well, not Alex) slept in late. And another day there was a school delay because of weather, so I had all kinds of extra time in the morning.

This morning all the kids were awake at 7:30, which is unusual for us. So Alex was able to feed them breakfast and get them mostly ready before he left. So instead of us scrambling at 8:35 to shove everyone into the car, by 8:11 all three kids were sitting at the kitchen table drawing while I located their shoes.

I was feeling pretty awesome about how well we're doing with our transition.

That is, until I got to preschool and noticed that Quinn was still wearing his pajama pants.

Because both big guys were dressed and because Quinn was wearing a t-shirt instead of a pajama top, I just assumed that Alex had dressed him too.

But no. There he was in what he'd worn to bed the night before, with not even a clean diaper on.

I think we may need to work on our communication. Or maybe I just need to work on my powers of observation.

*****

I'm going to take this opportunity to wish Alex a Happy Valentine's Day because he has to work late tonight and I won't get to do it in person. (But don't cry for us, Internet. We're going out Saturday all by our lonesomes.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

He's Definitely My Kid

Quinn, after bumping himself on the head with a toy: "Ouch."

Me: "Do you need a kiss?"

Quinn: "No, I need chocolate."

Monday, February 11, 2008

DCMM: How I Disenfranchised Myself

Hey, anyone remember how I wrote about not feeling like I have a voice in picking who my candidate is for the presidential election? Turns out I'm right.

Ever since I've been a voter, I have always marked "Decline to State" as my party on my voter registration form. Well, in Maryland, that means I don't get to vote in the presidential primary.

I guess I can't blame anyone else for this, now can I?

As I remember, in California, where I used to live, I was able to vote in the primary even though I don't really feel like a Republican or a Democrat. Not so here.

(That's not entirely true. I do get to vote for the school board candidate of my choice. And I will. But it's not really the same is it?)

Even though it effectively disenfranchises me, I just can't quite make myself take on a label that I don't entirely agree with. I know it's silly and that in the big picture it doesn't really make a difference what I call myself, but I just can't.

At least I'm comfortable voting in November for whomever wins the primary. Although if allowed to choose, I think I would have voted for Obama.

So, tomorrow morning, on primary day, I will be surrounded by Republicans and Democrats happily voting for their presidential candidate. And I and my three children, who will probably make quite a scene, will stand in a long line and I will cast my vote for Alies Muskin, candidate at large for the Board of Education.

It's something, right?

Read more about Jean's questionable choices at Stimeyland.

Wind Update

I just wanted to let you know about the excellent response we had to our power line/tree situation yesterday.

Oh, did the sarcasm in that sentence not adequately come across via the printed word?

The good news is that some action was taken. The bad news is that it seemed sort of slapdash. I'm hoping they were just really busy yesterday and will be coming back to more further fix the situation later.

It was 3:33 am when the phone rang. The caller ID read "POTOMAC ELCTRC." I wasn't completely thrilled that they were calling in the middle of the night to chat, but all the guy wanted to tell me way that they were the power company, they were outside, and that they were putting a ladder up against our house so we shouldn't freak out or take other action, such as pointing a shotgun out the window.

Okay. THAT I appreciate.

Before I even had a chance to hang up, Alex heard the ladder scraping on the house and was up yelling, "What the hell is that?!"

I managed to talk him down before he passed mild freakout. He promptly went back to bed.

Until the chainsaw started and there was the "beeeeep, beeeeep" sound of trucks backing up and such. In my sleep delirium, I listed to a different loud beeping sound for at least 10 minutes before I realized that it was coming from inside the house instead of outside. Our alarm system was responding to the power being turned off and was beeping and flashing the little light under the word "Trouble" on the control panel.

Forty-five minutes later all the noises stopped and the power went back on. The dog was more than happy about that. It turns out that although she is a wee bit cowardly about actually taking action in the face of impending intrusion, she is at least willing to bark incessantly until the bandits go away.

I guess it was naive to think that they could fix the problem in 45 minutes in the dead of night, but this morning I wasn't expecting to see this:


In case you can't tell, that's the power line tied to our chimney with a rope. So it's out of the street, but still dangling in arm's reach near our house.

I am grateful that they came out in the middle of the night to help. I can't quite imagine how unpleasant it must have been at 4 am in the cold on top of my house.

Hopefully I will be able to eventually update this update with some good news about actual fixing instead of jerryrigging.

Who Wants to Take 15 Kids to a Grocery Store Anyway?

I take back everything good I've said recently about field trips.

Today was our annual four-year-old field trip to the post office and the grocery store. Yes, both in one day. Frankly, I can suffer enough with my own kids in these two places. I don't need to add more than a dozen other kids as well.

The trips do have a purpose. All the kids make Valentines for their parents and go to the post office to stamp and mail them. And then they go to the grocery store to shop for ingredients for the "I Love You Lunch" they throw for us on Valentine's Day. And today the grocery store gave us a tour including free cookies, apples, oranges, and juice. So it wasn't all bad, and it's a good real-world type of experience. (As if I didn't have enough real-world experience already, right?)

At least only one of my kids misbehaved in each location. Spreading the joy around, as it were.

It was Jack's turn at the post office. He was NOT pleased to be there. He wouldn't sit with the other kids. He threw my Valentine across the post office. And he was royally ticked off that the stamp had to go in the upper right corner.

At least the other two kids I had in my care and my car were very well behaved.

At the grocery store, Jack took a spot in the shopping cart and sat compliantly through the entire tour. And except for a little bit of scampering around, trying to climb stacks of boxes, and demanding to be picked up, "No, put me down! Pick me up! No! I want to walk!", Quinn was fine.

But I was put on edge early in the tour, near the seafood counter when I suddenly noticed that he was quietly stacking glass jars of tartar sauce. By the time I saw it, he had six of them all resting precariously atop each other. About four of us parents saw this at the same time.

It was like one of those slow-motion "Noooooooooooo..." moments. I don't think I knocked any children out of my way getting there, but I didn't really care, because I just didn't want to see them smashed all over the floor.

We generally make enough of a scene without that sort of thing.

Really, it's a barrel of laughs to be around my family pretty much all the time. At least I make other parents feel good about their compliant children, right?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wind

We had a little bit of a wind storm today in my neck of the woods. And that's a little bit of an understatement.

I was trying to get some work done and Alex had taken the kids to the hardware store. I was happily typing away on my computer listening to the wind outside. I heard a loud bang and there was a short flicker of the lights.

Happy that our power hadn't gone out, I continued working. I ignored our 50-pound dog when she tried to climb into my lap. "There's trouble afoot!" she seemed to be saying.

I should have listened.

A few minutes later I heard an urgent rapping at my side door. One of my neighbors from down the street was there and when I opened the door, he gestured frantically, saying, "You need to come out here."

You want to know what he wanted to show me, you say? It was this:


Yep, a giant GIANT limb from one of our trees had fallen in my front yard. And had pulled the power lines leading from the street to my house down with it.

You can see them here (sort of):


Somehow they were still attached to the telephone pole and my house. Some of the neighbors that saw it happen said that they sparked dramatically when they went down, but fortunately that stopped. There was no fire. No smoke. No damage to the house. And THANK GOD no kids on my lawn when the tree came down.

This is a county-owned tree that we had asked the county to trim last spring, to some disaster. At my urging, Alex called them again not too long ago, asking them come back out to cut it some more. They never called us back. You better believe they'll be hearing from us again.

Anyway, three of my neighbors and I were standing out there in the wind staring up at the tree when one of them said, "We're the dumbest four people in Maryland to be standing under this thing."

True that.

I went inside to call the power company. Their menu did not leave me with any good options. I wasn't calling about an outage (I still had my power and my phone, by some miracle), and it didn't seem to be a life-threatening emergency, but there were wires draped across the road, so I picked that option.

Twenty-five minutes later I had a 35-second conversation with an operator, who said they were aware of the situation.

At some point later that evening a police car stopped by to put flares in the street. Flares which burned out not too much later. Someone in the neighborhood took it upon themselves to build a barricade around the lines with garbage cans that were out for tomorrow's pickup. And then nothing. I'm hoping the power folks come out to see us sometime soon. Because the situation seems precarious.

DCMM: Ready, Set...ENROLL!

When you think about showing up somewhere at 5 am to be the first in a line, what does that bring to mind? Getting concert tickets? Waiting for a Running of the Brides wedding dress sale? Getting a good starting place for a running race?

Did you think about preschool enrollment?

Okay, many of you are parents, so you might have thought of that, but, c'mon, who else thinks it's ridiculous that you have to get up at the crack of dawn to get your child a spot in a preschool where they will fingerpaint and eat playdough?

I'm the person in charge of enrollment at my kids' cooperative preschool, so I've been living in this world on a regular basis. This weekend was our registration for new members and I didn't want to do it.

I didn't want to do it because we had at least 20 kids that wanted the three spots we had open for two-year-olds. I felt fortunate to have 10 spots for three-year-olds, but if you had a four-year-old, we didn't have a single spot. All of our returning members took those spaces.

We traditionally haven't been the get-there-crazy-early kind of preschool, but they are out there. I've heard of local preschools where people will pitch tents and sleep out all night. I've heard of preschools that open up rooms for people to bring sleeping bags and sleep there all for the hope of getting a spot just on the wait list.

I had to force myself to leave the house for registration because I didn't want to have to dash the hopes of multitudes of people. It's just not in my nature.

I've done this job for the past three years, so I've seen all the heartbreaks: The woman who was first on the waitlist and didn't get in because no one dropped out. The woman who enrolled one twin in hopes that her other would get a spot and then had to lose her deposit when it didn't materialize. And it's always the person who shows up fifteen minutes before registration ends who has the mistaken impression that they already had a spot and just had to come in to drop off a form.

No one cried today. No one yelled at me. But there was definitely some disappointment. Although it's really fun to sign those people up who get there early enough to get the spots.

When I first registered for preschool four years ago, I showed up at 9:30 for a 9:45 registration and got a spot. But I think I was lucky. What are your preschool registration stories?

You can read about Jean's adventures in preschool at Stimeyland.

Right Now He's Screaming, "Come Back! Come Back!"

Quinn finally figured out that he is able to get out of his bed at night and (gasp!) open his room door to rejoin the rest of the family.

Tonight, for the first time, after bedtime, his door cracked open and he walked into our TV room.

"I forgot something," he said.

"What did you forget?" I asked.

"I don't know."

Alrighty then.

I pointed to the nearest toy. "Is it that space shuttle?"

"Yes." And then he went back to bed.

*****

Okay. Since I wrote that last sentence, he's been out five make that six times asking for a purple light saber, for me to exit his room out of its other door, for Daddy (who had to go to work tonight), for a hug, for an apple, and because "I'm crying."

It looks like we may have to dig out some of those doorknob locks.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mother of the Year, Part III

Small example: How to Disassemble a Crib (So Your Toddler Will Never Want to See it Again)
First, make sure said toddler is sitting on his new big-boy bed to really hammer (no pun intended) in the idea that beds are bad. Then start removing screws from the crib without thinking ahead to the next step. Make sure that you and the crib are still in the child's tiny bedroom. When taking the last screw out, forget that the largest, heaviest side of the crib is poised to fall directly onto your toddler's head. Administer ice.

Big example: Three Minutes of Chaos

This one's bad, folks.

I was sitting in my living room trying to recover from a long school week while Jack played computer games in another room and Quinn was around the corner playing with pens and jabbering to himself. My front door was open, allowing the sun and neighborhood view to stream through the glass storm door. My dog, Cassidy, was milling about inside the house.

Or so I thought.

At some point I look up to see Cassidy nosing around the fence of the house across the street. "That shouldn't be," I said to myself. Well, actually I think I might have actually shouted something about "that motherfucking dog", but it's possible that I murmured quietly to myself.

Either the dog had nosed the side door open or Quinn had released her into the wild. I'm not sure which would make me more nervous.

Thinking I could run to get her and be home before anyone noticed I was gone, and also not wanting to let her get away, I unlocked the storm door and sprinted across the street. Our street is not very busy at all, but it would easy for her to run to a nearby busy street. In my hurry, I forgot to latch the storm door on the way out&#8212something I don't even forget to do when I'm just walking out onto the driveway to meet Jack's bus.

My across-the-street neighbor and her four kids where in their mudroom about to head out to their car when I jogged past them into their backyard.

Cassidy spotted me, knew the end was near, and took off running for the street. Halfway there she changed her mind and headed for the neighbors in their mudroom. Somehow she managed to weasel her way into the house (maybe it was her who opened the door). One of the kids banged his head on a wall recoiling from her and a couple of the other kids started screaming because their home had just been invaded by a large, hairy animal. I'm not sure it's Cassidy's fault that the baby started crying, but regardless the baby chose that moment to join in as well.

"Well, that's bad neighboring," you say, "but where does the sketchy parenting come in?"

So I grab the dog, offer profuse apologies to the neighbors and walk down their stairs only to see Quinn. Quinn who has spotted me across the street, pushed the storm door open, and walked BY HIMSELF across the street. Yeah, my two and half year old.

And to really drive the point home and ensure that I get the Mother of the Year Award? He was carrying scissors.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cribless

Okay, so we're not quite cribless, because Quinn won't let me actually disassemble his crib and remove it from his room, but we're close. As I type, he is soundly sleeping in his big boy bed.

Well, actually it's a little boy bed in that it's a brightly colored toddler bed with a giant zebra and monkey painted on it, but you get my point.

We pulled it out of the garage last night because Quinn finally climbed out of his crib. And he has been expressing interest in sleeping somewhere other than his crib. Actually he mostly doesn't want to sleep at all. And if he is forced to sleep, I think he would actually prefer to grab a spot on the bunk bed in Sam and Jack's room. A distant third choice would be his own bed in his own room.

This morning when we showed it to him, he was excited. This afternoon when I showed it to him, he was hysterically angry about its mere presence.

So I enlisted Sam's help, who told him the bed was super cool. And then later Jack chimed in with some love for the bed. (After I convinced him that he wasn't, in fact, waaaaay too tall for it as he thought he was.) Once we put sixty-five stuffed animals, eight balls, and a book about space in there, he was all about the bed.

Here's a photo of Quinn from the bed's temporary home in the TV room. This is before Quinn deigned to let us move it into his room (which is about three feet away).


If you're wondering, I put on The Wonder Pets right before this photo was taken in an effort to make him associate pleasant things (like ducks in capes) with the bed instead of unpleasant things (like sleep).

This is the bed's fourth year with us. Sam used it after my mom bought it for us. We found it on sale—half-off of its original $100 price tag—from a store that was going out of business. Then Jack used it. And now finally Quinn.

I have a taker for one of my cribs. (S, you know who you are. And you're required to remove it from my premises. Yay, me!) Yes, we're a two-crib household because we reproduced way faster than my kids could mature. So if any of you local ladies want a free crib, you'd only be doing me a favor.

Wordless Wednesday: The Princess Diaries




Am I going to hell for posting these? I'm going to go put a (large) bill in the future-therapy piggy bank right now.

More Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Snuggles LOLs

Well, I just posted about how boring my life is and how blocked my writing is and then I headed over to Petroville where I learned about the LOLinator.

And my life is now complete.

It turns out that I'm a weirdly deranged looking cat named Snuggles Phisher.

The best part about the LOLinator is that when I LOLinated my blog, it brought up my post about Jack getting his autism diagnosis right next to a photo of an absolutely horrified looking cat with the block letters "OH NOES!!" superimposed on it.

I don't think that I'm usually a fan of things like this, but the above? It totally made my night.

Maybe I need to go to bed.

Blank

Is it writer's block or is my life really this boring?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

It's Finally Happened

Another blogger was able to ID my family in real life based on Quinn and his eccentric outfits. Seriously, we're easy to spot. Because, honestly, there aren't that many of these walking around:


Hi, KC!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Autistic

He is.

And I've finally gotten a professional to commit to such a diagnosis. Hip, hip, hoo-fucking-ray!

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Alex and I went to have our NIMH interview about Jack? Well, Jack had his appointment and tests today.

Alex and I were a little concerned that he would put on his "normal boy" face and trick the doctor. But it turns out that if you are really paying attention, that even that attentive, I'll-do-what-you-want-and-show-you-how-smart-I-am- because-you're-an-adult-giving-me-one-on-one-attention thing that he does won't camouflage his autism.

Plus, he was satisfactorily quirky.

Jack charmed the pants off of the doctor and his assistant. All the cute, weird stuff he does that makes me laugh made them laugh too. And when Jack went off on a tangent like he is wont to do, the doctor let him do so, and even played along.

I'm sorry, Alex, but I think I have a little bit of a crush on this wonderful doctor. Incidentally, this is the same doctor that made me, as I wrote in a comment on that last post, wish that the memory center of my brain was larger than a peanut.

Jack really liked the doctor too. So much so that at one point Jack licked him.

Jack was engaged in giving Dr. Wonderful a giant hug when he stuck out his tongue and gave him a big ol' lick on his cheek. "Did he just lick me?" the doctor asked. Apparently though the lick served a diagnostic purpose because it showed that Jack is not aware that things such as licking a nearly complete stranger are not socially appropriate.

The lick came later in the morning though. The first thing Jack did that made Dr. Wonderful and his assistant drop their jaws was when they were conducting a test and the doctor was marking his scores on the test sheet.

"Why did you write a zero?" Jack asked.

My jaw was also dropped, because to my knowledge, Jack has never asked a "why" question before. During a bathroom break the assistant told me that she'd never seen a kid notice the marking before. Suffice it to say, the doctor gave the marking job to the assistant out of Jack's attention zone after that.

We've had these assessments done before, but it was really amazing to see someone work with Jack the way Dr. Wonderful did. He was so patient. Whereas, when the county tested him and Jack did something slightly different than he was supposed to, they would just not give him credit for it. When Dr. Wonderful saw that same behavior, he made a notation about it.

When the county tested him and Jack's behavior was resistant and quirky, they just called him non-compliant and didn't consider that behavior when they were looking at the larger picture. When Dr. Wonderful saw Jack being resistant and quirky, he paid attention to the behavior and made more notes on it.

When the county tested him and they were done with a particular part of the test and were ready to move on but Jack wasn't, they put the stuff away anyway. When Dr. Wonderful was ready to move on and Jack wasn't, Dr. Wonderful allowed Jack a little latitude to finish what he wanted to do. And he interacted with him while he did it. And he made more notes on it. Hmmmmm. I wonder if this could be why Jack exhibited way less non-compliance with Dr. Wonderful than with the county.

One of my favorite parts of the assessment was when the doctor was using a gun-shaped bubble blower to blow bubbles. Jack badly wanted the gun and eventually the doctor let him have it for a minute. Dr. Wonderful wanted it back after a couple minutes. Jack had no intention of giving it back.

Thus ensued a game of tiny hostage negotiation:

"Give me the gun, Jack."

"No. Pow, pow, pow!"

"Jack, last time. I need you to give me the gun."

"Pow, pow!"

All this while Jack was brandishing the bubble-blower at Dr. Wonderful who had his hand extended in classic let's-stay-calm-and-put-the-gun-down mode. I really almost killed myself trying not to laugh loudly.

When it was all done and after Dr. Wonderful and the other doctor that observed part of the testing had a powwow and did some thinking, he called me into another room to tell me that, yes, Jack is definitely on the spectrum.

There will apparently be some sort of committee meeting to determine exactly what they want to diagnose him as. But all of his cognitive scores were at high average or above average levels, which is fantastic, and Dr. Wonderful had nothing but positive, encouraging things to say about my little man.

Dr. Wonderful wanted to make sure I was okay after he'd told me Jack was autistic, but, you know what? I already knew that. I'm just so happy that someone is finally agreeing with me. Take that, "does not present as autistic" therapists at Jack's school.

Because frankly, not only do I trust my instinct more than I trust theirs, but I also trust the National Damn Institute of Mental Health to have some smarties on staff.