Sunday, February 28, 2010

Top Gear

I'm not even sure what they're watching, but I can hear Jeremy's voice, and my two eldest kids are CACKLING with laughter in the living room. BBC America must be showing Top Gear.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why I love my daughter's summer camp

My youngest daughter went to four weeks of sleep-away summer camp last summer. She LOVED it. This year we're sending her back.

I was reading through the handbook to check on a few dates and came across a certain attitude that reminds me why I love this place. Anyone who can write these into a parent handbook should be my best friend.

On the use of cell phones at camp:

Cell phones of all types are not permitted at camp. The policy is based on camp being a quiet place where campers learn to experience independence and a quiet vacation.... If this policy is unacceptable to you we would ask you to select a different camp.

Which makes me chuckle. But what makes me burst out in a laud guffaw is this one on parent visits to the camp. Basically parents are invited to come visit after the campers have settled in for a while, and then we come to this gem:

No camper is ever permitted to leave camp with anyone except their own parents. NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule. Not even notes signed by god will alter this policy.

Ha! Love it.

My youngest is so cute -- she's already sorting her drawers into "going to camp" clothes and "staying here" clothes. She's worried that her flashlight will need batteries. She tries on her bathing suits once a month to see if they fit. I'd like to point out that it's the very end of February. So cute.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What she said

Real Fur makes you a better skater? Why can't he just wear fake fur and be done with it?

Or, What She Said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


It's Valentine's Day.

How do I know this? I have red roses on my dining room table. Sent to me by my mother.

Because her first date with my dad was on Valentine's Day and she wants me to call her and congratulate her on staying together for so many decades. To encourage me to call her, she sends me flowers on Valentine's Day.

It's quite odd.

Today I'm taking apart my youngest daughter's room and putting it back together. This involves trips to Home Depot. I'm walking around looking at everyone wearing red and I'm thinking, "Heart health? Cancer? Why the red?"

Not til I got in the car to go home did it hit me that the reason so many people were lined up outside Olive Garden and Red Lobster in their red shirts was because it was Valentine's Day. Mmmm. Red Lobster for a romantic date. Right after Home Depot. Yikes, I'm a snob. (On the other hand, there was no line at Applebee's. Some one's got standards.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aw, come on.

I spend a good part of my online time in the "general conversation" area of a message board. Made some good friends there, participated in a few kerfuffles, teased some trolls, supported a few people through some rough times. We end up talking a lot about horses too, which is fun.

But recently the horse thread is no good. Which is too bad -- we had fourteen threads of fifty pages each on training, buying, riding, breed-centric conversations, pictures, etc. But I can't deal. Hit my limit or patience or something.

Now we've got a group going on and on about how Ghosthunters MUST be real, because why would they fake anything on TV? A few people have handed out James Randi links and told them to go read Flim Flam and said, "Yeah, there may be ghosts and I've been spooked before, but that doesn't mean that I think orbs on a photo are ghostly manifestations." Thread won't die.

I'm done.

I'll miss them, but I'm done.

And I think I'm coming off of facebook too. I don't *get it*. I tried it for a bit, but I can't figure out what I'm supposed to DO on facebook.

I need to go curl up with my IBM Selectric and listen to it hum sweet non-computer rumblings in my ear.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Getting all misty-eyed?

I went to a school-district-sponsored community budget forum last night. Yes, yet again we are out of money and facing big cuts. I haven't been paying a LOT of attention to school budget stuff, and I always learn the stuff better when it's presented to me in person, so I toddled down to the elementary school to stand in the back and soak it up.

There was a City Council member there -- he whispered in my ear, "Getting all misty-eyed for this stuff?"

"No way."

"Smart lady. These people scare me."

"Staff? Or public?"

"Geez, no. The school mommies. They'll rip your heart from your chest in a moment."

When I was on the board (03-07) we had a budget of about 33 million which went down to 31 million at one point. We learned later that the 31 million dollar figure was never an accurate number, so we were mostly at 33. It was rough. We had no director of Human Resources, Curriculum, Maintenance, or Technology. We had no accountant, no payroll technician. (These folks need to sign off on each other's work -- since we didn't have them we had one person doing the work and signing off that she had audited it. Ummm.) We had no counselors at the middle school, half the recommended amount at the high school and we were missing I think one or two VP's at the high school. Oh yeah, at one point we didn't even HAVE a principal at the high school. Seems to me that 33 million was not quite enough money to run the district. At 31 things were getting stupid.

Total budget now is around 36 million, just shy of 37. Lots of cuts came down last year, and now the district has to trim an additional 2.4 million this year. I dunno. I must be a mean person, but I don't have a tons of sympathy for the levels of drama I saw last night. Cutting 2.4 from 36 is NOT the same story as cutting 2.4 from 33. Take a chill pill, folks.

Xenophobes were out in force last night. "How many kids from other towns do we let in to our schools? They don't pay taxes here. We shouldn't let them in. They cause behavior problems."

Superintendent: "Out of 5,000 kids we currently have 124 interdistrict transfers. To come here, they have to apply to their home district to be released, and they we have to decide if we'll take them. They have to sign a behavior contract and a GPA maintenance contract. If they don't fulfill those requirements, we can negate the transfer. So they DON'T cause behavior problems and we're very pleased to have them here. If they weren't here, we wouldn't have the money they bring with them."

This did NOTHING to appease our hometown racists. Not a thing.

Other controversy was that at a meeting that I watched on television, the school board voted to adopt a policy which would offer health care coverage to school board members. Also the school board voted to give itself a $240/month stipend. All the current school board members are self-employed, and are having difficulties getting to all the committee meetings and traveling, etc. I acutally saw TWO meetings where the health care coverage was discussed, on TV, publicly. Both times the entire board said that none of the current members would take health care because they get it elsewhere, but that they wanted the policy enacted to bring this board into parity with other government agencies in the county. So basically, it costs the district nothing. The stipend is there, but they lowered it from $300 to $240 this year. Still amounts to very little.

HOWLING from the audience. "Why weren't we TOLD?" The superintendent answered that it was at a public meeting. Not good enough. "How can we KNOW what you are going to be talking about? I volunteer ALL my time here at this school and I don't get paid! It's not FAIR!"

Jesus Freaking Christ. It's a public meeting that's televised. What did you want? An invitation? The agendas are on the website. The minutes are on the website. If I had had a tomato in my pocket, I would have thrown it at the woman.

I did put up on the white piece of paper my two ideas for economizing, the same two I put forward every other year. So maybe they'll get discussed by the board, since no one else in the room put anything up there. Yay me. Woo. I participated.

Not misty-eyed.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Got Joni on the brain

He was sitting in the lounge of the Empire Hotel
He was drinking for diversion
He was thinking for himself
A little money riding on the Maple Leafs
Along comes a lady in lacy sleeves
She says let me sit down
You know, drinkin' alone's a shame
It's a shame it's a crying shame

Look at those jokers
Glued to that damn hockey game
Hey honey-you've got lots of cash
Bring us round a bottle
And we'll have some laughs
Gin's what I'm drinking
I was raised on robbery

Monday, February 08, 2010

Temple Grandin

If you haven't yet seen the HBO biopic on Temple Grandin, you should set aside some time to see it on demand. I was waiting for it to be smooshy and schmaltzy and one-dimensional, but no, it was quite good.

If you don't know who Temple Grandin is, Oliver Sacks wrote about her in An Anthropologist on Mars, and she has eloquently written about herself and her work in a number of books. Here's HBO's trailer which summarizes who she is and what she's done.

I think her book, Thinking in Pictures, does a better job of really delving into the way she thinks and why her slaughterhouse designs are so revolutionary, but in lieu of a book, there's always movies. Thing is, I come away from the movie being both moved and conflicted.

I can't quite get into words what it is about watching the movie that disturbed me, but I think it was something about the way the mother was handled which set me off. Possibly because I identify so much with her. The Me/Not Me thing kept getting in the way.

She's upset when the doctor diagnoses Temple with infantile schizophrenia, describing it as being caused by a mother's unnatural coldness towards the child. Clearly, any mother in that situation would be horrified. There's a scene of Temple's mother desperately trying to communicate with her daughter, and another where she cries at the idea that Temple will be teased at boarding school. And then, somehow, every other time she's on screen, Temple's mother DOES seem frozen and aloof. Although the audience KNOWS the doctor is wrong, somehow the movie subtly projects that the mother is distant? Or that she's projecting her own wishes onto Temple, who is not capable of living up to her mother's expectations? I dunno. It just felt off somehow.

Partially it's because of my own (dare I use the word?) trauma surrounding my son. Yes, at one point we thought he had some sort of mild Asperger's, but that diagnosis has fallen away the older he gets. It's definitely anxiety plus bipolar or unipolar depression. Nonetheless, he's an explosive and rigid child, so it sort of fits to say he's "Asperger's-like" since most lay people don't know what depression looks like in an young child.

Mostly, it's been awful, with a few rays of light peeking through. Three years of fighting and cajoling have paid off. He's in a fantastic program right now, with an excellent therapist and great staff. Judging from our last IEP, he'll be staying there for a few more years until he's ready to enter High School. He's bright, had some friends in the neighborhood (!), is fascinated with MythBusters and Trek and old NES game reviews on Youtube, and is sleeping and eating well. So we're on the easy upswing now where we're getting results and professionals are listening to us.

But the black past still sits there coloring most of my perceptions of parenthood now. I'm a very different person than I was a few years ago. I can't cope with conversations about parenting anymore, which makes me a not-very-satisfying friend to other mothers in my life. The girls like to complain about how hard it is to get everyone to soccer practice and I just want to spit bile all over their new frocks. People compliment me on my parenting skills and how far we've all walked and I want to say, "I feel as if you're telling someone who came through the Bataan Death March, 'Excellent constitutional, Chap.'" I don't really *care* that I've learned these skills, to tell the truth. I'd rather not have bothered.

Which gets me back to blogging, I guess. And autism. And how we see the world. And friends.

I'm trying to see where I fit. Somewhat like Temple Grandin, I suppose.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lessons in French

Had to find an entire day when I knew I would not be interrupted.

That finally happened yesterday, so I tucked myself into bed and read it.


Thank you, Laura Kinsale for an amazing new "keeper". Loved it tremendously.