Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Various bits of news I've been meaning to share.

The circus is coming to town. Eeep.

A fundraising group has contracted with a circus to set up a big top on school property on the last week of school. (Yes. While graduation is going on. What excellent planning.) So the Superintendent tells me that the Director of Maintenance is looking into it (as in Who Exactly gave this approval?) and is concerned about safety, etc. I'm practically choking on my salad, and the Board Member to my left, who knows that I met my husband while we were both in a circus, is chuckling and rolling her eyes. I sort of sigh and tell the Superintendent one of my TWO BIG SECRETS. (1. I lived at a circus for a year when I was in my twenties and 2. Although I'm a Board Member for a public school system, I have never spent one day of my educational life in a public school. Private all the way, Baby. That second one is a closely guarded secret, although at this point, I think a lot of people have an inkling.)

I ended up speaking to the Director, asking a lot of pointed questions. (Turns out that in his former job, he had a lot of experience from the city side overseeing a big Shriner's production. Which means he's actually got more administrative experience than I do.) We're cool. But it is a weird thing to have one set up in my town under my jurisdiction.

I have a new keyboard.

And this one has a spacebar key which works. Yay!

Eldest Daughter (Who says she'd like to be 'Neo' on my Blog) is on the Honor Roll.

Although, can we just say here that she's not happy in Middle School? Well, she's doing fine socially, except for the crew of about five "Mean Girls" who won't let her alone because she's smart, but she's bored out of her mind. She's a GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) student, but since the GATE program operates after school, more as a reward incentive than as a true educational program, she's not even getting the extra boost that GATE should be giving her. (And she won't sign up for any of the after school offerings because none of them interest her.)

I love and actually admire Neo. She's much more pulled together than I was at that age. She's smart and funny and brutally honest, but she's also entering into that perfectly age appropriate stage where Life Sucks And There's Nothing I Can Do About It, So Just Leave Me Alone.

Dear Butcher and I got into a hell of a fight with Neo over her choice of electives for next year.

Ye gods, do I remember the fights I used to have with my parents. Screaming, weeping, "Why won't you LISTEN to me?" Makes me ill.

Neo brought home a form for elective choice for next year. Short version:

"What do you want to take?"

"Nothing. There's nothing on that list."

"OK, but you have to take SOMETHING. What if we cross out the ones you don't want, and we'll work backwards."

(A few minutes later.)

"So that leaves us with Mixed Media [Art] in the Fall and Industrial Technology [wood shop] in the Spring."

"Yeah, but I don't want to do Industrial Technology."

"I know. But it's paired with Art. Hey. I bumped into Nikki at the supermarket with her mother. She says she's taking Leadership. You want to do Leadership with her? At least you'd be with a friend."


Dear Butcher asks, "Why not? You like Nikki, and you've been complaining this year that you don't have her any classes. Besides, Leadership would look great on a transcript!"

"No! I don't want to BE a leader, and Leadership isn't about that anyway. It's a bunch of cheerleaders!"

"But you also didn't want to do any of the other electives when we started this. Maybe Leadership would be fun."


(This dissolved into hysterical screaming and crying within about fifteen minutes. When did she become a teenager? When did I become the sort of parent who tried to convince her to be happy with what I wanted for her?)

Everyone is happily diagnosing my son without ever having spoken to him.

In order that Kaiser can see its way clear to prescribe meds to my son, I had to attend a "class" for parents on Medicating Your Child, held by the psychiatry dep't. OK, fine. (Once you're there, you can sign up for an evaluation appointment with the psychopharmacologist. The first one I could get was for April 26. He was diagnosed as needing meds in February. School is going to be OVER by the time I get a single pill into him, so we won't be able to see if anything works in a school setting until the Fall, at this rate.)

We sit down, and the Psychiatrist asks each parent to please give the symptom (or diagnosis) which is causing the parents to consider medication. Three people say anxiety, one says "sleeping", five say ADHD, and I say, "Uh. Mostly anxiety, but there's Explosivity too. We were looking at Asperger's or maybe Early Onset Bipolar Disorder, neither of which we've completely ruled out, but his most recent evaluation from UCSF says that he's got generalized anxiety disorder."

The psychiatrist has written next to my son's name on the white board in the front of the room (How very much like House we are!):


So I say, "Excuse me, but everyone's been pretty clear that it's not ADD. His teachers, his psychologist. All the evaluations have come back pointing towards Asperger's, or maybe depression, but not ADD."

He circles "ADHD??" on the board, points to it, and says, "Your son is eight, right? In this age group you're going to find more often that we're looking at ADD more than any other issue." He points to a child's name with the label "Anxiety" next to it. "You see, up here? In the 15 year old range? There you're going to find Anxiety. But really, what we're seeing is that in most cases, it's untreated ADD from down here, in this younger age range. It develops INTO Anxiety when they hit that High School."

You know what?

Fuck you.

You have never seen my kid, never read a single piece of paper relating to him, never heard any of the family history. I walk into a room so that I can jump through a hoop to get some sort of relief for my kid, and you tell me he's got ADD? Tell me to send him to an anger management class next, why don't you?

I bit my tongue really hard and sat through the rest of the hour. And got my appointment.

This of course was the end of the trifecta of "Let me diagnose your son!"

Part One was when my Brilliant Brother weighed in, and Part Two was when my Mother weighed in.

She's been obsessing about my son, and talks to her psychiatrist about his prognosis frequently. (I'm fairly conflicted about her psychiatrist. He's been very helpful in the past, and knows a lot about Asperger's, but he's not completely trustworthy.) She's very worried that the HMO is taking so long to medicate him. How can I speed this up? What can I DO?

I tell her I'm frustrated too, but on the other hand, the medication isn't going to FIX him, just modulate the behavior and the anxiety enough so that he can learn how to deal with his triggers. That's not what she wants to hear. He needs to be fixed Right Now.

She tells me on the phone the other day that she had told her psychiatrist, Dr. R., that UCSF said he had "Anxiety Disorder NOS." She asked him, "What does that mean?"

According to her (Oooo, take this with a HUGE grain of salt folks, she's totally not trustworthy when it comes to relating conversations), he said, "It means Juvenile Delinquent. It's too bad that they didn't come back with an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis. So many options open up for an AS kid which you don't get with a simple anxiety label."

She wants me to bring my son to Boston specifically to meet with Dr R. so that he can diagnose him with Asperger's. (Apparently this will guarantee that he will never become a juvie.) Well, fuck. If he already KNOWS he has AS, then why not just write up a report from Boston? And what would I do with this report? What sort of medications are generally prescribed to AS kids? Small doses of anti-anxiety medications. OK, then. And where would I get this prescription filled and his reactions monitored? Oh yes. At the Psychiatry Department of my HMO. Right.

Isn't that where I am right now? Gee, thanks Mom. And thanks so much to Dr. R. for bring up juvenile delinquency. That was so helpful and calming for your fucking INSANE patient.



My mother makes me nuts sometimes.

(Update. My mother just called to tell me that Dr. R. is ready and waiting to see my son. Sigh. Of course my turning the offer down has no effect. I know that. You want to know when his earliest appointment is? An hour for me without my son, and hour with my son, and then an hour with me again without my son. Ready? Really? July 11, 2007. Oh yeah. I'm so there. Thanks for all you do, Dr. R. Here's a tip: you may want to up her lithium now. I'm seeing signs here that her Zoloft, Klonopin, Tofranil and lithium cocktail may need an adjustment.) (At last count the woman was on 12 different medications. Good to know that simply taking medication takes away all clinical symptoms, no matter what the disease is. Yeah.)

OK, enough of that.

I went to an anniversary celebration for our elementary school

The organizers had invited back as many of the staff who had opened the school as could attend. Most of these teachers are retired, including one retiree who now sits on the School Board. There's something about retired elementary school teachers of a certain age. My Mother-in-law is one of these. She wears "an outfit" and her hair is done and her face is done and her nails are done. (I'm lucky if I show up somewhere in clean pants.) Most of these ladies are real straight shooters and have seen it all, but they'll tell you essentially to go to hell in the sweetest voice imaginable. All the while patting you on the back for being "as good a parent as you can be."

I admire these ladies a lot.

So each one in turn was asked to tell the students what they were doing now that they were no longer teaching.

We heard a lot of, "Well. I don't teach anymore. But I spend a lot of time with my grandkids. So I still see young boys and girls every day, just like I used to. And I read. I read every day."

"I miss teaching young boys and girls just like you. But you know what? I have so much time to READ now. I read every day."

"Mostly I read. And I visit my grandchildren."

So the "pull no punches" Board Member stands up, the only one wearing rubbed corduroy pants and a flannel button down, the one who always says exactly what she thinks, and damn the consequences, the one I want to be when I grow up, she leans into the microphone and says, "You know. I decided I needed a rest a few years ago, so I retired. I like being retired. I take naps. I figured out though, there are only so many crossword puzzles you can do in a day. So I go to the casino. I play blackjack a fair bit, and my husband and I play bridge. About a year or so ago, I decided I was getting bored, so I ran for school board. Boy, was I surprised when I won. But anyway, now I read a lot. But it's all School Board stuff. Not what you'd like to be reading. But I do it. You know, when I'm not at the casino."

I almost hurt myself holding in the squeals of laughter. That's one funny broad right there.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your son's problems with the medical field, it must be so frustrating to want to help and not be able to.
As for your brilliant daughter - I'm an adult, and I'd have a kicking screaming fit if someone made me take 'Leadership' as an elective, lol.
As a teen, I would have prefered a class in spy techniques, or something cool like making animated films. We didn't have electives when I was in school, but if I did, I'd definitely avoid Leadership. There can only be one leader. Can you imagine a class of thirty all learning to be a leader? Someone has to follow. And someone has to tell the leaders they have their head up their asses.

CindyS said...

Gotta love the straight shooters when it comes to retirement - keep moving or die ;)

You know, circling a word on the 'white board' is a diagnosis nowadays ;) I don't know how you keep from ringing people's bells!

I hope your daughter find an elective that doesn't have her bursting into tears!