Monday, March 30, 2009

Eight Short Subjects; One Long Post

I know I haven't been around here much lately, but we've been busy. Funny, but it turns out that an un-blogged life is worth living. Who knew?

The bummer about me not having enough time to blog much lately is that we have been doing all kinds of super fun—and photogenic—things.

*****

We did us some Science:

"Zee goggles! Zey do nothing!"

We finally created the volcano that Santa Claus was dumb enough to give Sam for Christmas. The little dudes had a really good time even though (or maybe because) it was the messiest project that I have ever allowed anyone to do on my dining room table.

I was absolutely horrified by this project. Fortunately I managed to not touch it. Even Jack, who is normally the kind of kid who loves crazy, gooey textures, seemed grossed out.


And the really lame thing about this horrible, messy project is that it didn't even work very well. I remember making a paper mache volcano when I was a kid and it erupted like a mofo. This one kind of just oozed out of the top.


Fortunately, none of my little dudes were alive to witness the glory of my elementary school volcano, so they were duly impressed by the volcano eruption leak we got.

*****

We also did some Social Studies:

And by "social studies," I mean, "Quinn's class went to the fire station." They had all kinds of fun, even though Quinn was a little bummed out that there was no fire pole. And there were a few minutes when we were the only people in the fire station when the fire engines and firefighters rapidly departed on a call.

Fortunately an ambulance came back and the firefighters on it were happy to get decked out in their firefighter gear for the munchkins.


And lest anyone think that Quinn doesn't look like his brothers, compare his "I'm totally disturbed by the firefighter" look to Jack's "I'm totally disturbed by the volcano goo" look.



Quinn turned on both the windshield wipers and the siren in the ambulance. Guess which he thought was cooler? If you think it's the siren, you'd be wrong. He was so totally pleased that he cleaned the windshield.

Seriously. He talked about it all day.

*****

Not to be outdone by Santa and the fire department, Alex had us learn about Nature:

He goes by the Audobon Society every day on his way to work and has been really excited for the past week because they put up a sign about BIRDHOUSES! ON SALE!

So we all piled into the car on Saturday and went to buy birdhouses—one for each kid.


Of course Sam fell in love with the most expensive birdhouse there. Because that's just the way he is. The $50 house he wanted was painted to look like an actual house.

I finally convinced him that we could paint a birdhouse for much cheaper.

*****

Which leads us to Art!

Before and after. Not bad, huh?

*****

A quick note about Animal Husbandry:*

Don't turn your back on the dog.

You should totally click this photo to better look at Alex.

* See what I did there? Animal? Husbandry? The dog and my husband?

I am so goddamn funny.

*****

Because we're us, we have to spend time on Computer Science:

Teaching Nana to play the Wii was kind of awesome.


Those kids are going to miss her when she leaves town tomorrow. (I might too.)

*****

We also spent some time today doing Sports, namely, duckpin bowling.

Did you know that the tendency to lean the way you want the ball to roll is instinctual and not learned?


That was his first turn. I laughed so hard at my three little dudes trying to bowl that I almost couldn't score my own 88.

Yes. I scored an 88. And I came in second place. My family is not going pro anytime soon.

*****

Well, kudos to you for reading the whole thing. I leave you with Brotherly Love.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Two Years! (And, um, three days.)

Do you know what Wednesday was? Wednesday was my two-year blogoversary. And it totally slipped by, uncelebrated. I've been too scattered to remember such a thing.

I gotta tell you, I've been busy. I'm weeks behind on reading all of your blogs. You may have noticed that when I do get a chance to comment that I'm commenting on things that happened so long ago in your life that you no longer remember they happened.

That pregnancy I just wrote a "hang in there" comment to you about? The baby just celebrated her half birthday. And remember how I just commented to congratulate you on your new job? Yeah, you've already found a new one and moved to another state by now.

My blogs are woefully un-updated. I haven't decluttered anything for at least a week. I have been desperately schilling my two review blog contests, but other than that, I've barely even had time to Twitter.

My work-at-home job? I'm like a month and a half behind on parts of it. I have to send out order forms for a videography project I'm about to start on, but I keep "forgetting," mostly because I think I don't want to add the stress of that to my work load.

I did manage to prepare for Jack's IEP meeting last Thursday, but it wasn't too difficult because I didn't anticipate any problems. Fortunately, there weren't any.

Not to mention that I fall unconscious into a dead sleep if I sit in one place for too long. (I really do. I'm starting to worry about narcolepsy.)

My poor family is terribly neglected. Every day that I think I have a free afternoon to play with them, it turns out that I actually have an appointment or an assignment due. My mom is in town this week and I think I've been about the most boring person to visit what with all the working every night and the errands I have to run and the frequent napping.

I know that it proably gets old to read "tired, busy, tired, busy, tired, busy" over and over again. But don't worry, I'm thinking about adding "surly" to the mix.

I'm hoping that things chill out for me a little soon. This whole work/kid/being-a-person balance is tough.

But two years of writing most every day? That is something I'm proud of. I'm really proud of my blog. I almost am willing to consider myself a "writer." I was even so bold as to put it on my Twitter profile, so it must be true, right?

Anyway, I'm interested to see where the next year or two of writing takes me. I hope you'll stick around with me. Because after two years, all of you are a big part of Team Stimey.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stimey Is Happy.

The other day I lost my cell phone. It's gone. I can't find it. It's totally tragic.

Or is it?

Because my next phone was going to be an iPhone, it made no sense to buy another cell phone or get a free one on my T-Mobile account.

So I bought an iPhone.

(You understand why I looked for the phone, but I didn't kill myself looking for it.)

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!

I looooooove it.

So here's my question: What apps do I need? In particular I'm looking for a feed reader if there's a good one and a twitter app. Plus anything else I can't live without.

*****

Also, please be pregnant in Chicago and want to win something.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Hero

Do you ever have one of those days when you discover a previously unknown talent in one of your children? I've found some pretty spectacular talents in my kids, but I think the one I discovered today takes the cake.

Jack and I were sitting in the waiting room at speech therapy today when K, Jack's therapist, came out to get him.

K was sitting in a chair facing Jack, who was standing in front of her, when she gasped, visibly shuddered, did a triple take, then jumped up and ran out of the room saying, "I don't like spiders!"

It turns out that she was going to get a paper towel.

But a fat lot of good that was to the rest of us, who were trapped in the waiting room with a quarter-sized black spider lumbering toward us. And frankly, that paper towel did not have adequate squooshing powers. Trust me. That spider was large. And he looked like he might crunch if squooshed.

Also? That spider was coming straight at me. It helped that he was sauntering, rather than running, but still. I did some gibbering and I might have stood up and backed away. To my credit, I don't think I screamed.

Jack was closest to the tormentor in question and you could almost see his brain working. He was close, he was standing, and he was the only one who didn't seem to have entirely lost his mind.

He lifted his foot and...SQUOOSH!

Jack's heretofore unknown talent? Spider killing. His new title around the house? Spider Killer/Hero.

Hopefully this means there will be no more having to call the neighbors to kill things for me.

*****

Postscript:

I was going to find a generic photo of a scary black spider to put on this post to fully illustrate the horribleness of this particular spider, but I just couldn't do it. A quick image search has pretty much insured that I'm going to have some nightmares tonight, and I kind of feel like there's a spider on me...I think it's on me...is it on me?!...OH MY FUCKING GOD IS IT ON ME?!

So I didn't.

You're welcome.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Not Your Ordinary Sunday

There were a lot of exciting things that happened today, but they were all usurped by an ice cream sandwich.

This ice cream sandwich:


Jack was happily munching away when he said, "My tooth!" And then he handed me this:


Considering that we lost not just Sam's first tooth, but his second tooth as well, I was pretty impressed that Jack was able to present his tooth to us.

(Sam had been eating spaghetti when he lost his first tooth, so we hunted around in the pasta until we found a small, hard piece of pasta and we told him that it was his tooth. He bought it. For the second tooth, he was eating popcorn in the back yard and lost the tooth. That time we wrote a note to the tooth fairy. Fortunately, the lack of an actual tooth does not deter our tooth fairy.)

Jack was really excited, and more than a little relieved that it didn't hurt. He was also very cute with his gap-toothed grin.


Sam was hoping for something more dramatic than a gap-tooth grin. "I hope he gets new teeth," he said, "that are shiny. And metal." Huh.

I suggested that Jack draw a picture of himself with his missing tooth. The words were no sooner out of my mouth than he sprinted off to find some paper and a marker.

You'll have to bear with me here as I utilize Stimeyland for one of its truest purposes: to record the adorable things my kids do so that I can remember them forever.

I now present Jack's Loose Tooth:

a.k.a. "Jack's Lose tooth"

(That's Jack holding his ice cream sandwich up there.)

"I think a tooth is Lose."

Please notice the shark-like teeth Jack is sporting in that above drawing. And please notice my little genius and his correct use of apostrophes in the drawing below.

"It's Going to come out. 'Hmmm.'"

"It came out! 'It didn't hert'"

That square is the tooth. Originally there was no speech bubble on this page. But as his obvious relief that it didn't hurt sunk in, he added it.

"Hmmm It is Time for bed said mom."

That's Jack in the bottom bunk of his and Sam's bunk bed. They have a dresser that sits at the end of the bed, just like in his drawing.

"a penny!"

Evidently our tooth fairy is not only cheap, but gives out counterfeit pennies that say "5¢." (The tooth fairy really gives out dollar coins. ) Jack thinks that the tooth fairy turns the teeth into the coins.

Excuse me. I'm going to die from the cute for a second.

...And now I'm back. But there's going to be some more cute-dying in just a second because guess what? In Jack's very literal mind, something called "the tooth fairy" looks like a tooth.

That balloon thing? It's actually a "thing" that changes the tooth into a coin.

It makes sense if you think about it. And to Jack, the "tooth" part is clearly more important than the "fairy" part.

There aren't a lot of girls at our house.

Other cool things that happened?

Jack got to cuddle with his nana and read his Tooth Book to her. It's not every day that you get to lose your first tooth in a room full of Mom, Dad, both brothers, AND Nana.


But maybe the best part? Finding out that a missing tooth leaves the perfect opening for a straw.


Honestly, I don't think Jack could be cuter if he tried.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Perfectly Healthy But For That Nagging Fever

Today is the third day in a row that Sam has been home from school. Ever since he came home from school sobbing on Monday, he's had a constant fever except for when he's under the influence of Motrin.

When he is under the influence of Motrin, he is perky, happy, and jumping around doing frequent Ewok impressions. Four to six hours later, he's flushed, sweaty, feverish, and yelling about, "My head hurts! My head hurts!" and "The light! It hurts my eyes!"

Because today was Day 4 of this, I decided to call the doctor's office to see if we should go in. After hearing about the headache and light sensitivity, they suggested we come in.

Here is Sam in the library the new armchairs in the doctor's exam rooms.

I wonder how often they've been puked on. Ick.
But comfy!

Anyway, he doesn't have meningitis. (Yay!)

I didn't actually think he had meningitis. But it seemed like the responsible thing to do to take him to the doctor. The doctor offered to swab and test Sam for something, but as it wouldn't have changed the (non)treatment plan, I passed. If he's not better by Monday, we get to go back.

I'm hopeful that Sam will get to go back to school tomorrow, if only because it is incredibly sad to watch Jack gamely trooping off to school each day while his brothers cavort at home.

So now you know what I've been doing all week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

DCMM: R.I.P. Fourth Estate

I'm sure you've all heard by now that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has ceased to exist as an ink and paper newspaper. I'm sure you've also heard about the Washington Post cutting its business section six days out of the week. Everyone seems to agree that this is just the beginning of the cuts and closings that will affect the newspaper industry in the coming months and years.

Frankly, this trend scares me to death.

Yes, there will be national newspapers, TV news, and online news, but what we really need as a society are those local newsrooms. I have a master's degree in journalism. I went to journalism school largely because I believe in the power and the importance of the press as the fourth estate. If we lose local newsrooms, we lose the watchdog power of the media.

I think the most disheartening part of seeing the physical Seattle P-I close is that only 20 of its reporters went to the website. Not only is that a lot of lost jobs, but that represents a lot of important news contacts lost. That represents a lot of carefully cultivated sources gone. That represents a lot of shady, lazy, or dishonest politicians, corporations, and agencies that won't be watched as carefully as they used to be.

And the thing is, if it can happen in information-savvy Seattle to a well-established newspaper, it can happen anywhere. San Francisco could be next. And when those papers in the smaller markets start to fall, there is not going to be anyone covering small-town politics at all. And frankly, even in Seattle, a tiny web staff isn't going to be able to cover the city the way it used to.

Journalism and journalists are much maligned. But I truly believe that the press keeps the powers-that-be in line. It scares the hell out of me that bit by bit we are starting to lose the eyes and ears that investigate and report on those powers. It makes me nervous about the future. As citizens, we need that extra line of defense.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that in order to be a free and well-informed society, we need numerous and well-staffed newsrooms all over this country.

Original DC Metro Moms post. Jean also writes at Stimeyland.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning...

I just got a phone call from Alex. He was at work. He was sitting in his office with his friend and they were talking about the Wiggles, because apparently this is what attorneys do.

"I have you on speaker phone," he said. "I'm sitting here in my office with my friend who was telling me about watching the Wiggles this morning with his child."

Evidently the Wiggles sang about Henry the Octopus, then they talked about how octopi have eight legs. Then they talked about cats and how they have four legs.

"So, ha! Four legs!" he shouted triumphantly. "The laws of the Wiggles apply!"

Very calmly I said, "But, Alex, I was the one who claimed that cats have four legs."

There was the slightest of pauses, then some loud cursing, and then he slammed the phone down.

And that, my friends, is what victory sounds like.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, read here.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blerg.

I wasn't completely unsympathetic this morning when Sam insisted that he had a headache and didn't want to go to school, but we did give him some Tylenol, stuff him in the car, and drop him off at school.

I think the fact that he had to wipe his copious tears with the back of his hand to put on his game face before he got out of the car at drop off should have tipped me off to the fact that he really wasn't feeling well.

I also should have known that even though I told him that if he didn't start to feel better soon that he could go to the nurse and have her call me, he would never in a million years do that. I was the same way. I would rather suffer in silence than call attention to myself.

Because I didn't hear from him all day, I assumed he was fine. After school, he got off the bus, walked straight over to me, and collapsed into my side, sobbing.

He was NOT fine.

"I want to go home right now. I don't feel good. I want to go home right now!" he cried. And then I had to walk home very slowly because he refused to release me from the death grip he had around my waist.

Many tiny, tiny steps later we entered the house and he fell on the couch. I took pity on the poor guy and canceled Jack's speech therapy and social skills group that usually falls on Mondays directly after school.

I DO have some words to say about the receptionist at our speech place. She's not too good with the phone and the transferring calls skills. Which, as the therapists do their own insurance billing, seems to be MOST OF HER JOB. I had to employ alternate means of cancellation. (You know, email.) /rant

Sam napped for two hours and woke up with a fever.

If you need me tomorrow, you know where to find me. Here. With a sick kid.

*****

Plus? After volunteering in Jack's class this morning, then calling his teacher to interrogate her about what she thinks about his special ed services, she had to call me a half hour later to tell me that he fell on the playground and got a knot on his head.

The teacher has assumed the nurse called me. She was calling to see if I wanted to bring him dry pants because he fell in a wet spot. By the time we talked, Jack was happily eating the ice out his ice pack. Which sounds a lot like Jack.

We're best friends now, considering we call each other every 15 seconds, but don't you think the nurse might have called or sent a note home to let me know that Jack suffered a head injury? It seems important.

*****

Oh, ALSO?! I had three chicken breasts sitting happily on the broiling pan on the counter waiting for the oven to heat up. And 15 minutes later I had ONE. And a suspiciously full-looking dog.

If I'm lucky, she'll barf it all up later.

*****

So...blerg.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Wish My To-Do List Looked Like This

This is quite possibly the best list I have ever seen:


List.
1. I ♥ You.
2. I Need You.
3. I [w]rote a List.

Please notice the extraneous but awesome hyphen. Jack wrote this list and Jack likes punctuation. And apparently lists.

Like mother, like son.

*****

More ways I am like Jack.

Also, want to win a LeapFrog TAG?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Peep Arthur and the Peeps of the Round Table

Last year my friend E made the mistake of inviting me and my kids to her house the week after the Washington Post published its gallery of Peeps art. I got all excited about it and totally riled up one of her kids who has apparently been talking about Peeps and what he we can create with it for the rest of the year.

I got a phone call late this week from E. "It's Peeps time!" she exclaimed. "The Peeps dioramas are due on Sunday!"

All I can say is thank goodness the Washington Post decided to get rid of its business section instead of its Peeps section. Because there's not all that much going on in the business world anyway.

So Saturday morning I dragged Sam over to E's house to follow up on what I'd started. Fortunately he was very excited about it. After I, you know, told him what a diorama was. And what Peeps were.

Also fortunately, E and her son J had done all of the planning for us. They'd decided on a castle theme. The yellow bunny soldiers would be protecting the castle and its pink princess from the hordes of green ogres.

Sam, J, J's dad, and I set about trying to bring this to fruition. I think we did a damn fine job. I'm pretty sure you want a step-by-step here, and who am I to deny you?

Here are Sam and J with their (delicious) supplies. I assume they're delicious because Sam really enjoyed eating his Peeps. I don't think he'd ever eaten a Peep before. The Easter Bunny has never brought them to our house. I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a little afraid of them.


After Sam and J drew their background and I whined until Sam let me make the princess' tiara, J started to create the knights. By this time J's brother P was home from karate, so he headed up Operation Give the Bunnies Swords.


Don't think that it's a coincidence that that particular heavily armored knight is standing in front of a tin foil box that says "HEAVY DUTY," because he is. No ogre is taking that knight down.


No, we left the taking down of the knights to our lack of knowledge about how to adhere those things to the box.

The following knight did not have a helmet. And there were dire consequences.


However, he fared better than the ogre in the next photo. I believe this is the very definition of "cleaved in twain."


What you see below is not exactly the finished product. (I don't want to wreck it for you when J wins the Washington Post contest.) Sam wanted to make some additions to the diorama after we had completed it. He added that king over on the right. And I'm not quite sure what that slain pink bunny is doing in the foreground.


Didn't they do a great job though? Did you notice the gargoyles up on the castle walls? And how cool is their tin foil armor? And that damsel up there is totally in distress. By the way, did you notice her awesome tiara?

Here's something else fun. Evidently J's babysitter told him that if you put Peeps in the microwave that they explode. J's dad was not totally thrilled that J had learned this. But I'll hand it to him because when I said, "Is it wrong that I really want to blow up a Peep?" he was ready with a plan.

BEFORE: (Sorry, little dude.)


AFTER: (Do you see his haunted little eyes?)


Next year I'm totally going to make my own Peeps diorama and it's going to be based on The Blob.

I think it says not very nice things about me that my favorite part was watching the Peep expand to giant size and then collapse into a puddle of gunk. But, dude, it was cool.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Next INTERNET PHENOMENON, a.k.a. The Chicken Game

Y'all read Swistle, right? I'm sure you all do, but if you don't, you should. She cracks me up on a regular basis. Well, she has this friend named Dr. Maureen (tagline: "I'm not that kind of doctor"), who seems to be similarly amusing.

Dr. Maureen has outlined the rules for what is sure to sweep the web in a flurry of greatness to become, as she puts it, the next INTERNET PHENOMENON. Some of you may prefer to refer to it as The Chicken Game. (Or TCG if you're cool enough. I am not.)

Basically, you take a small chicken of the type you find in craft stores. If you are like me, you might want to take a friend with you. I stood in front of the Easter section at Michael's for a good five minutes only to have my buddy walk up and point to an entire section full of these things.

Here is my chicken family:


There are many things you can do with your chicken, whom Swistle and Dr. Maureen refer to as Mr. Pickles. Which is totally crazy, because obviously these chickens should be named Clive.

The point of the game is to hide the chicken somewhere fun. Then your opponent co-player finds the chicken, laughs hysterically, and hides it somewhere for you to find. It turns out that I was playing this game even before I knew that I was.

Or you can do funny things with your chicken and post the photos to The Chicken Game Flickr group. I did that with my chicken counterpart here:

If you click that photo to enlarge it, you can see that the chicken is tweeting.

I have to say that Alex is not the most cooperative Chicken Gamer. He thought it was really funny when he found the chicken in perhaps the most inspired place I could think of to hide it.


After he found it though, he just put it back in the egg carton and put the eggs back in the fridge. So I painstakingly explained the game and he gave me a puzzled look and wandered off.

So I decided to re-hide the chicken. He will continue to find chickens in unexpected places around the house until he gives in and joins The Chicken Game. Then he'll still find chickens in unexpected places around the house, but at least he'll be having all kinds of fun while he's doing it. Right?

After finding that first perfect place for the chicken, I had to think hard about its next hiding place. I briefly considered this...


...but then I realized that if the chicken accidentally got shoved down into the booze that I would be in big trouble. Because it's funny to open your scotch and find a chicken in the neck of the bottle, but it's less funny to pick up your bottle and see a drowned, matted chicken floating in it.

My chicken smelled a little bit like a distillery after I took him out.

I thought about putting him here...


...but he did not care for that idea, what with the high possibility of accidental nuking. Also? I can't believe I'm posting a photo of my filthy microwave on the internet.

I finally decided on this semi-mysterious option:


The ball chicken is in your court, Alex.

So all of you: jump on board. You know you want to. Get yourself a chicken and join in the next great INTERNET PHENOMENON. It's totally going to be bigger than You Tube.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Case You Forgot What My Kids Looked Like

I'm kinda tired and kinda behind on my work, and I'm just going to post some cute photos of my kids. Don't feel obligated to comment, but really, how damn cute are they?

First up is the Q-ball. His friend brought a stuffed dog to school today complete with collar and leash from the dollar section at Target. So guess where he made me go directly after school today?

And if you're wondering, he says that no, he didn't paint at school today. So that's settled.


We've also been trying out Quickstart Tennis, a program by the US Tennis Association to get kids to start playing tennis with fun, easy equipment and lessons. I'll have a review up next week on my review site, but until then...

Tennis, anyone?


If you ever want to experience some chaos, take three kids, a bunch of tennis balls, and a camera to the park on the first 70-degree day of spring.

So, what do you think? Do you think the USTA found a fun way to teach tennis?


'Cause Sam does.

And to conclude, do you want to know just one of the things I love about Jack? That in the midst of the aforementioned chaos with the balls and the rackets and the camera and the packed tennis court, he can still find his point of calm.


I wish I could find that kind of interest in a tiny rock.

*****

Also, don't forget to enter my contest to give away a LeapFrog TAG for you and one to donate to your local library!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

If You Take Quinn to a Playgroup...You Might Get Called an Anti-Semite

If you take Quinn to a playgroup...

...they might serve pumpkin muffins...

...Quinn might want more than the three pumpkin muffins you limit him to...

...so you might agree to make him muffins at home...

...and Quinn might remember that we don't have chocolate chips at home...

...so you might go to the grocery store to buy chocolate chips, bananas, and buttermilk...

...then, because you've had a cough since November, you might cough as you walk past the checkouts...

...then an old woman might give you the finger...

...then you might walk over to the old woman and say, "Excuse me, ma'am, did you just give me the finger?"...

...and she might say, "Did you just cough when you walked past me because I'm a Jew?!"...

...and you might have to put your hands in the air and back away slowly before the crazy gets any deeper.

To sum up: If you take Quinn to a playgroup, you might get called an anti-Semite at the grocery store for coughing.

COUGHING, people. I had no idea that was some sort of code for that type of thing. Lesson learned.

Monday, March 9, 2009

At the COPAA...COPAAcabana...

Last weekend I attended the COPAA (The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) annual conference in downtown DC. They are a national organization supporting special education rights and advocacy. Their website is a wealth of information and resources, including listings of attorneys and advocates.

I have all kinds of things to think about after attending this conference. I'll go into some of those in a minute. First, I have to share with you that I got to meet Ange from Tis My Life. She came out to the conference to spread some information and awareness about restraints and seclusion rooms.

Isn't she pretty? And righteous!

I was really happy to have a buddy to hang out with, but I am extra glad that it was Ange, because she turned out to be a really cool, fun, smart woman. I kinda miss her already.

I also ran into my educational consultant, who attended one day of the conference. It was nice to spend some time with her without having to worry about what was going to happen with Jack.

It was an intense and tiring weekend for me. I came home at the end of each day and just crashed. Something about having to pay so much attention to such a complicated subject did me in. I have a whole bunch of things to look up and research now. I also have a lot of acronyms to type into the internet to see exactly what the hell these people were talking about.

I did come away with some very useful ideas, lessons, and information. Some of it will help me in the long run with building an advocacy practice. Some of it will help me this month, when we go into Jack's annual review meeting.

That meeting was originally supposed to be tomorrow, but because the special education teacher is sick, it has been postponed a couple of weeks. I'm happy to hear that actually, because it gives me some time to look at the draft IEP we just got with new eyes.

I spent a big chunk of time there feeling really underqualified, intimidated, and overwhelmed. This is mostly due to me and my insecurities—and the fact that both as a parent dealing with special education and as someone going into advocacy, I am brand new. There is so much to learn, and so many specifics to absorb. And there is a certain attitude of know-it-all-ness that I have yet to perfect.

The conference made me little depressed also. There are so many bad things that happen in special education. I get that these kids are harder and that sometimes they seem weird or need a lot of extra help, but it is just so hard to hear stories about educators that clearly do not care about these children. By no means do I think all or even most educators are like that, but some seem to be, and it is mind numbingly horrifying.

Another thing I felt though, was gratitude. I felt gratitude that I live in a school district that, yes, has many problems, but that isn't as flat out horrible as some of them out there. I felt gratitude that my children attend a school where my hiring a lawyer and an educational consultant didn't turn the staff against me. I felt gratitude that my IEP team treats me and my family with respect.

Granted, I'm now terrified of Jack going to high school after hearing some of the stories, but we have some time before he has to go there, and I'm relatively sure that they'll have found a way to stop time before then. Oy.

I also spent a substantial amount of time annoyed at this one woman who just would...not...shut...up. At the ending keynote, the executive director of the organization literally tried to pry the microphone out of this woman's hands, and she wouldn't give it up. In one of the sessions, I was sitting next to my educational consultant who couldn't hack it anymore and finally asked the speaker to stop answering her questions and move on. This was met with surreptitious thumbs-upping and quiet kudos from the back rows.

I have to say, I am really glad I went. It was good to be around people that work in support of special education. It felt nice to see speakers who spend their lives working to help children like mine. There are people out there trying hard. There is so much being done, but it's clearly not enough.

That might be the biggest lesson that I took from the conference: There is still so much to be done.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Maybe a Megaphone?

I'm pretty sure this isn't the intended purpose of the art project in Jack's backpack, but it looks an awful lot like they sent Jack home with his very own dunce cap.


Although in conjunction with the lightning bolt injury on his nose, it looks like it could be a wizard hat. Yeah, let's go with that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

DCMM: Why I Curse in Front of My Kids

I'd like to tell you right off the bat that one of my favorite words is motherfucker. Well, that and platypus. Or, even better, platypi, which I will insist to my dying day is the plural of platypus. If I ever have an opportunity to scream, "Stop that, you motherfucking platypi!" my life will be complete. Although I don't know what circumstance exactly would lead to such a situation.

Which brings me near my point, which is that I have sworn like a sailor since I was young. I don't have any problems with curse words. I just think that you have to know when it is appropriate to use them. This being my philosophy, I've had to put some thought into how to behave around my children.

Some of you might claim that, as a rule, curse words are not appropriate to use around children. Period. I'm not so sure. I don't necessarily try to use these words in front of them, but I don't think it bothers me or them to hear them every once in a while.

In fact, I remember being quite young and hanging out with my slightly older sister and her friend Tiffany. We were talking about the word shit. We couldn't quite figure out why it was a bad word. It was just a word, we said. How can just a word be bad?

There are words that I believe are inherently offensive and disrespectful curse words, but I believe that has just as much to do with context as with the word itself. "You are such an asshole!" sounds a lot the same as "You are such a dummy!" I don't generally use curse words as epithets because I do think it's disrespectful and mean, but pretty much any word can be made into an epithet.

I do, however, use curse words as adjectives. And adverbs. And punctuation. And exclamations. And as fun little extras that I can sprinkle into my language here and there.

I've done a pretty good job of figuring out when it's appropriate for me to swear. When I was in high school in Utah and had mostly conservative Mormon friends, I tried to pretty much only swear in front of my mother. Oy, my poor mother.

As a parent—and a friend—I try not to curse in front of other people's children. I also look at my friends and acquaintances and try to gauge what their curse word-tolerance is. I start by assuming that it is zero, and go from there. If I don't know that you're okay with swearing, I'm not going to do it in front of you. At least not on purpose.

So, yeah, my kids hear me swear. And they hear me say some words and phrases that a lot of you may think it is not okay to say in front of children. I try to keep it in check, so that my children are aware that those words have power. And also that they carry more power if used sparingly.

I gotta tell you though, if I drop a brick on my toe, I'm not going to shout, "Oopsie!" I'm gonna shout, "Motherfucker!" and then I'm going to whine for several days.

We've had some stumbles (that time my oldest said the f-word in preschool was not my proudest moment), but my kids seem to get that certain words are not for certain times and places. They will even occasionally chastise me for saying "a bad word."

If they do spout out a curse word now and again, I will tell them that just like soda and coffee, certain words are not usually for kids to use. I also tell them that some people don't like those words, so it's best not to use them. I'm trying to teach them respect and courtesy, not a list of words they shouldn't say.

I do realize that they are children and their judgment is not the best, which is why I generally tell them not to use the words at this point in their lives. I also realize that I have an autistic child who will repeat words and phrases that appeal to him, so I try extra hard not to curse in front of him.

Mostly what I try to teach my kids is that it is more important to choose a civil, friendly tone and treat people with respect than somewhat arbitrarily mark words off limits for no good reason.

I am aware that I have put forth a wobbly argument full of holes and hypocrisy. And I am aware that these words will probably come back to bite me in the ass some day—quite possibly someday soon.

But I've made a choice not to go to great pains to shield my children from these words. And I stand by my case.

Goddammit.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

If you like rampant—but well placed—cursing, visit Jean's blog at Stimeyland. If you like your cursing in 140 characters or less, follow Jean on twitter.