Monday, October 30, 2006

Well, at least THAT weekend's over

Who woulda guessed that I'd be happy for a Monday? But I am.

By the way, I'm right there with Beth--I also require an OCD non-English speaking older woman to come to my house and ream the place out. Ugh. But back to *me* and *my* problems.

On Friday morning, I took the three kids out of school, popped them on a plane, and flew across the country so that we could celebrate my Dad's seventieth birthday. (Note--I know that older people look younger the closer you get to their age, but yee Gods, my Dad does NOT look seventy. Not even close. Maybe mid-fifties, but seriously, I know forty-somethings who look like they could be his contemporaries. Way to go, Dad.) Dear Butcher had to stay in California to watch the business.

On both flights the seats were booked as Window-Center-[someone in the aisle], [someone in the aisle]-Center-Window. Thanks Mom, that was a great bit of ticket booking. (Note to self: buy your own tickets next time.) So, I can sit next to the five year old and leave the eldest girl to take care of her anxious and angry little brother on the other side of the plane, or I can sit next to my son and let the five year old annoy the living hell out of her older sister. Umm, no. What I really need is three across so that I can sit between the youngest two, and a separate seat anywhere else on the plane for the ever-so-mature eldest child. But that means asking some cross-country traveler to give up an aisle seat. (Note to self: bring cash for bribes to fellow travelers next time we fly.)

Fortunately, my son's inability to cope with changes in his environment kicked in at the most opportune time. Just as I was asking the people seated directly behind my eldest daughter and twitchy son if they would switch with me and my five year old on the other side of the plane, my son yells out, "I HATE THIS PLANE! I HATE YOU!"

He twirls in his seat, punches his sister in the shoulder and then starts kicking her in the chest.

Boy, those adults seated behind him moved quite briskly to the other side of the plane. Once I wrestled my agitated son away from his older sister and placed him in the window seat with a blanket over his head, he calmed down immediately. It was very impressive. If only I could get him to do that on cue, we could get any seat on the plane we ever wanted. (I'm not sure the eldest daughter is down with that plan though. Note to self: invest in a chest protector for eldest daughter.) (Joking)

This, of course, left the five year old seated next to the eldest daughter, with me and my son in the row behind them. Eldest daughter Was Not Amused. And I can't blame her, really, because the five year old loses control of the headphones about every 90 seconds and needs an adult to put them back on her head. After six hours of this the eleven year old was ready to explode.

But my son had a lovely trip. Thank god for TV screens on JetBlue. Hiding under his blanket for most of the trip East, he settled in quite well. Man, he does not like change. But I knew that already, didn't I?

That evening, we all curled up in fluffy hotel comforters and watched a lot of Mythbusters on cable. I do love that show.

On Saturday, we went to my parents' house. Oy. What a house.

This is the house I grew up in. It's a New England red brick center hall Colonial in the suburbs outside of Boston. Living Room to the left, Dining Room to the right, kitchen across the back. Off the top of my head I'd say that no room is larger than maybe 12 by 12.

Now, imagine four radios and two television sets sprinkled throughout the first floor, each on their loudest volume, all tuned to different stations. (No wonder I don't like crowds. I never realized until adulthood what cacophony I had grown up with.)

Now add three Yorkshire terriers, Daphne, Julia, and Victoria. Bark bark bark bark bark bark....

Now add about eight parrots in enormous white metal cages. (There's another eight or so in the enclosed porch off the living room--they have their own radio "to keep them company"--but I never saw them because they fly loose in the Bird Room.) Some of the parrots are rather neat, but they're all terrified of my mother. She walks into the room and the cockatoos put up their crests, stretch their necks out, and screech at their highest volume. To which my mother, the bird lover, responds, "SHUT UP!" (Ever helpful, that.) One Double Yellow-Headed Amazon (great talkers) really and truly screams, "Help! Help!" when she sees my mother, which my mother finds amusing. I find it disturbing.

(Eldest Daughter made very good friends with one of the cockatoos by standing near the cage and whispering, "Hello, Good Boy." He whispered back to her, "Hi. Are you a good boy?" and asked to have his neck scritched. They were getting along very well. The moment my mother walked in, Amos screeched and ran behind a large toy. Yikes.)

Did I mention the dolls? No, I forgot to.

I don't know how many dolls there are, but they stand on every horizontal surface, their dresses slowly crumbling away from their kid bodies, hands reaching forward in an awkwardly stiff gesture, which could either be a request for help, or a warning to turn around and go back out the front door. There are dolls in glass display cases. There are dolls on the mantelpiece. There are wax-headed dolls, papier mache dolls, bisque dolls, china-headed dolls, baby dolls, bride dolls, little boy soldier dolls, and, her newest interest, partially clothed religious figures. There are dolls of different sizes lined up two or three deep on the floor in front of the couches so that you have to step over their strangely large heads if you want to sit on the couches. Not that you would, really, because the back of every couch, and the back of every shirt my mother wears has long white streaks of bird dung dripping down it.

It's like walking into a Tennessee Williams stage set designed by a crack addict.

My poor son.

Really, what can I say here? We walked in the house, and I literally cannot hear my own voice over the TVs and the radios (She puts them on to keep the birds calm. Can you imagine?). I'm standing there in the kitchen trying to figure out what in the world to do with my son, who's sensitive to loud noises as it is. Eldest daughter, wise beyond her years, rolls her eyes at me, shrugs her shoulders, and sits down at the table with her sketch book, her shoulders hunched against any attempt to start up a conversation. The youngest daughter skips merrily into the chaos, climbs into her grandmother's lap and sweetly asks, "Grandma? Will you show me your dolls?" My son stands behind me with his fists on either side of my backbone and starts kicking at my legs. "This place SMELLS!" he announces.

Yeah, buddy, I know. Christ, and it's raining. Normally I just run around with him in the front yard when we visit Grandma's, but it's a rainstorm out there.

My father, reverting to his military form of childrearing puts his hand on my son's shoulder and says sternly, "Don't kick your mother."

"I hate you," mutters my son, ever predictable in his expressions of discomfort. I hear my father preparing the "honor your parents" speech for the benefit of my son, so I cut him off with: "He's my kid. I'll be responsible for what he says and does." My father shrugs and goes off to alternately read the New York Times and yell at the pundits on CNN.

My son soon finds the enormous Nordictrak treadmill (Who could miss it?) and announces, "I need a workout." Within thirty seconds, he's figured the whole machine out, determined how the safety lockout works, programmed a twenty minute workout, and is happily jogging along, checking his pulse rate and grinning. Wow. OK, that works. "Mom! Hey Mom! We need to get one of these! I'm going to get muscles! Right, Mom?"

"Sure, Bud." What a great idea! How cool is that? He found a way to run off his anxiety, and he Lurves the treadmill. Score!

Suddenly Grandma looks up from the babydoll she's showing my youngest and yells, "Oh! No! Get off! No! It's not a toy! You'll break it!"

Moment of logic here: He'll BREAK it? He's, what, 80 pounds? No, less than that, even. What in the world is she thinking? It IS a Nordictrak, right? Can we say, "control issues"? All together now....

My son, also quite predictably, starts yelling at my mother. She starts yelling back at him. I get between the two of them to get my mother to stop yelling and I hand my son his blanket. He's so rageful that he swings it over his head like a lasso just before he throws it to the ground. But when Grandma sees the lasso bit, she yells louder than anyone has up to this point, "Oh! THE BIRDS! No!"

(The birds?)

At which point I turn full on her and just go after her, raging, screaming, the whole nine yards: Stop yelling at my son. Stop yelling at everyone. If anyone's going to yell at him, it's going to be me, because he's my son. (Yeah, I actually said that. You end up saying dumb shit when you're mad at your mother.) Leave Him Alone.

I got my son upstairs to the only bedroom which still has a bed in it (one is a dollhouse assembly station, the other is a massive TBR pile), turned off the radio (!), tucked him into bed with a book, and promised him that No One was coming upstairs to bother him.

When I went downstairs to get his blanket and pillow, my mother said, "You can't just yell at me and then leave the room."

"Oh, yes I can. When my son's that upset, I can do whatever the hell I need to do. You can just wait. I have greater priorities."

Oooooo. Was she pissed.

(By the way, as I relive this whole thing, I have to admit to not having a clue where my father was during this. I think while I was upstairs he might have taken my youngest daughter out to get pizzas, but I'm really unclear about that. So weird.)

After I had delivered the blanket and pillow, we hashed it out some more.

"I was worried that he'd knock over a bird cage."

"He was across the room from the birds. I've asked you not to yell at him."

"Well, I get upset when people hurt animals."

"And I LIKE it when people hurt animals? You think I'd let him hurt your pets?"

"I was just upset."

"You can't be upset around him. If he tweaks you out, leave the room."

"But I can't leave the birds near him."

"You think I'd let him hurt your pets?"

"He might."

"Then lock up the dogs while we're here."

"I can't. This is their house too. Cruelty to animals just gets me upset."

And at this point, I swear to the Almighty God or Beast in heaven, at this exact point in the argument, a bird flew right over us. And Julia; the Yorkie who has eaten three of the cockatiels (sequentially named Jason, each one named after its departed predecessor); the Yorkie who has bitten four parrots in the chest, collapsing a lung on the African Grey; the Yorkie who has bitten my nephew when he tried to rescue his pet lizard from her jaws; Julia the Huntress Yorkie leaped up in the air with a twisting jerk to try to snatch the parrot from the air above our heads.



We actually had a pretty good time after that. My son showed his two older nephews how to operate the treadmill, and they all had stationary races. The Birthday Party Dinner on Saturday evening was fine--lots of my Dad's colleagues from MIT came and told stories about how incredibly smart he is. The kids and I hung out in the hotel room Sunday morning, soaking up the yumminess of fluffy quilts, daylight savings time, and someone else picking up the room service tab. The flight home was fairly non-eventful, especially since Eldest Daughter got a seat all by herself away from us crazies. And I am home in the hovel that is my house, secure in the knowledge that my mother is an idiot, and that I did give her "what for" in my most recent battle with her. I also recognize, once again, that I am damned lucky to be as sane as I think I am. Because, hooo boy, that's one crazy fucked up house run by some truly clueless people.

Did I happen to mention that my son's grandfather, just before we left on Sunday morning, managed to gouge the edge of my son's eye with the rotary sanding attachment on a Dremel tool? Yeah. Good thing my son's got a healthy blink reflex, you know. Power tool, meet eye. Eye, meet power tool. Eldest Daughter asked me, "If Grandpa had blinded him, would you have sued?" I dunno, sweetie, I just don't know.

Jesus Christ. How did I manage to survive that chaos?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Truthiness in Memes

Five things I know are true:

1. Stephen Colbert is da bomb. Seriously--I hurt myself laughing when I watch.

2. Keith Olbermann is almost as great. He certainly speaks the truth as I see it. But I'm beginning to worry that his rants are now easier to discount because they are so pointed. Preaching to the choir?

3. I am a Christian. But when I say that people want to run for the hills. No, I'm not going to try to convert you or preach to you the glory of Jesus, because that stuff squicks me out too. I'm married to a Jewish guy. I swear constantly. But underneath it all, I'm spiritually (and probably morally) a Christian. In fact, I'm even a member of a Methodist Church, come to think of it. But the phrase, "I am a Christian" is now so hateful that I'm not sure how to describe myself--even in my own head.

4. I hate stupid people. Even more, I hate stupid people who are proud of their determined ignorance. "Yap at me all you like about your supposed evidence, I know in my heart what should be true." Some of the ID/Evolution debates I've witnessed have actually made me nauseated.

5. I used to be nicer. I find myself more and more with an almost uncontrollable desire to knock heads together, whereas I remember being much more patient with people in a longish argument. Maybe that's why teenagers sit forever on the bumpers of cars talking about the same topic for hours on end.

OK, my truths are done.

Who to tag, who to tag? (Whom?)

Mailyn, Kristie, Meljean, Bev, and Crankyreader.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A New Day

Today my son went back to school. Yay!

Slightly on tenterhooks to see how that all went, but I guess I'll find out this afternoon.

And I found out that I won a contest on Megan's blog. Yay!! (I Soooo want the companion book to P&P. Hee hee hee.)

Yesterday a story hit the papers regarding the political blowup which I thought we had all moved away from. Newspaper published one of those recap articles, totally stirring the shit, in the Sunday edition complete with a timeline of controversial events, tips from confidential sources, and quotes from active parties, including me.

Yeah, it's my quote, but damn, I gave it to her like three to four months ago. Yeah, I've got no factual beef with the article, but now we've all got to go live through all of the angst, no wait, Sturm und Drang, again. (And at the last Board meeting, there was NO public comment. None. Which is a bizarre but sure sign that the community likes what you're doing. Happy people never bother to say thank you and they certainly never attend meetings.) There's even a quote from little Miss Butter Won't Melt In My Mouth exclaiming, "Why, Rhett! I surely don't know what you're talking about. Letters from lawyers? Now why would you say such a thing. Me? Asking to be bought out? Why no, Suh. Why, I certainly loved my job. I loved working with the children. I don't know why these people didn't like me."

Gag me.

I'm all for a public press and open discussion, but talk about poking a beehive with a stick. Sheesh.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scenes from a married life

I've been in a funk the past few days. Trouble sleeping, so I'm extra grumpy in the mornings.

Dear Butcher and I are in the kitchen. I'm scraping layers of gunk off a cutting board which should have been cleaned over a day ago, and silently berating myself for being such a terrible person to have left not only this cutting board, but the entire kitchen as a disaster area. Dear Butcher is trying to strike up a conversation, but he's annoyed at the state of the kitchen, so he's having trouble finding a neutral topic. The eldest daughter is hiding in her room, and the younger two kids are tumbling around on our bed.

Since the bed is almost directly above our heads, we can hear the thumps every time one of them launches onto the ground or onto one of the chairs. (The launching is entirely planned; they're not falling off the bed.) Soon Dear Butcher is halfway inside the refrigerator, trying to track down the source of the sticky orange substance on the lower shelf. I've got my back turned to him at the sink.

Suddenly the two youngest children appear in the kitchen. Son has a translucent purple plastic object in his hand and asks, "Hey Mom! Mom! Hey, Mom! What's this for?"

At almost the same moment I hear the youngest child, although because she's so short, I cannot yet see her from my position at the sink, mutter, "I got it! If you turn this, it makes your hand wiggle."

The two comments click together and I start laughing uncontrollably. Son says, "Mom! Mom! What's funny? Hey Mom? Mom? HEY!"

"Go ask your father."

"Dad! Dad! Hey, Dad!" His little sister has now joined him by their father's hip. They alternate poking him and shaking his shirt to get his attention. Dear Butcher has discovered a leaking Chinese Food Container and will not be distracted from his course.

Relentless, I say, "Dad! Hey, Dad? They have a question for you."

"Oh come ON!" cries Dear Butcher as he unfolds himself from the depths of the refrigerator. "Can't you just...?" And then he takes in the sight of his darling youngest children lined up before him. One naked, the other wearing only underpants, each holding up a cylindrical plastic object of fascination. The Kindergartner's entire arm is shaking due to her tight grip on the vibrating discovery. I'm laughing so hard that I'm silently crying. "Aii!" screams Dear Butcher. "Give me those!" A sprint up the staircase begins.

"But Dad! Hey Dad! Dad! What are they for?" cries out the son as he trots after his father. Dear Butcher kept them out of the room, and we were treated to the sounds of much opening and closing of dresser drawers before a giggling Dear Butcher returned to the kitchen.

We told the kids to Go Watch A Movie while we almost fell over laughing.

But the kitchen's still a disaster.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Is there anyone more arrogant?

In light of my recent adventures in Bodice-Ripperland (i.e., The Tiger Lily), the word arrogant has been stuck in my mind.

So I need to ask, is there Anyone more arrogant than a seventeen year old with a touch of power?

We have five elected (adult) School Board Members, which our policies name as Regular Board Members. Then we have two from each high school, for a total of four, Student Board Members. Student Board Members are elected by their peers for a one-year term, and act as members of the total board. They receive all non-confidential information provided to the board, may participate in discussions at board meetings, and give an advisory vote for all non-confidential items on the board agenda. (The vote is recorded separately in the minutes and are advisory only. In other words, the Student vote cannot override the tally of the Regular Board Member votes.)

Essentially they are there to provide the Board with a sense of how our decisions would impact the students, and we also provide an active lesson in government to a few students. (They can attend workshops, conferences, etc., statewide.) They also serve as a Representative back to the school sites to fully explain the Board's actions to the students.

But one of our Student Board Members, the only one who speaks, gives arrogant a whole new connotation. And, Lord help us, he was encouraged into his current position by the Board Member who resigned in a huff and the Superintendent who almost sued us on the way out the door to partake of her settlement. So he's convinced himself that the four remaining Regular Board Members are all involved in a darker plot to, I dunno, um, well, I Genuinely Do Not Know what he thinks we are doing that is so egregious. Give teachers a raise, Make sure the curriculum is flexible and current, Ensure that our high school passes the accreditation visit. Yeah, we're bad.

A Board Member resigned recently after writing a letter which paraphrased closed session discussions--it is illegal to divulge closed session discussions as they are confidential--and simultaneously accused the rest of us of violating other laws regarding closed session, which caused her such trauma that she realized that her morals would not allow her to continue serving. (But her morals didn't prevent her from spitting on us on her way out the door.) It was then impossible for any of us to respond to her letter in detail, because to do so would involve, yes, divulging closed session discussions. Gee, thanks. (Sidenote here--the letter itself was so libelous that none of the newspapers will print it, but they did refer to it in articles. Funny how the most ethical and moral amongst us can't resist a touch of character assassination.)

Following the laws regarding filling the board vacancy, we solicited applicants, interviewed them in Open Session at a board meeting, and came back at the last meeting to appoint a Regular Board Member. By law, we're not allowed to discuss any item on the agenda with other board members until we are in the public meeting. One name was offered by a Regular Board Member, and apparently everyone agreed, because there was no discussion. Each Regular Board member mentioned that this was his or her pick as well. We opened the item up for Public Comment. There's none. OK then. Bring it back to the Board, and suddenly, without warning, our Student Board Member starts lobbying for a different candidate.

Which, by the way, is mucho awkward, because he's the only candidate in the audience. So, making eye contact with my second choice candidate, I elaborate on his good qualities, thank all the candidates for coming forward, and briefly pick out two areas where I think first choice candidate will improve the current Board.

Student Board member Keeps On Going: But how about this attribute? The next Regular Board Member mimics my approach. And then you either want to die on the dais or reach down and strangle young arrogant fool, because he starts in AGAIN!

This is not the first time he's done this--once he gets an idea in his head he won't take no for an answer. So far he hasn't messed with me too much, but one of the other Regular Board Members is a 35 year veteran of the district (used to be his Elementary School teacher, actually) and is very clear on her opinions. Student Board Member habitually interrupts her to correct her on various points. Oh, the steam and smoke which arises from her collar. What is he THINKING when he interrupts her?

What's kind of sick about this too, is that he's being used. There are arrogant kids who try to force their opinions down your throat, but very few of them quote chapter and verse of the California Educational Code while they are arguing. A number of times he'll get text messages during the meeting at which point he'll race to the mike with a new argument. (Our previous Superintendent used to pick up text messages during meetings too. Hmmm.) But, being a student, he's not allowed to have a cell phone turned on during school functions, so the current interim superintendent simply asked him to turn off his phone, and that gambit ceased. I almost feel bad for him, but not really.

After all of that, the students all voted In Favor of the Board's pick. I think Mr. Arrogant abstained. Ugh. This only further serves to piss me off. If you think it's a bad idea, Vote Against It. Abstentions are for when you have a conflict of interest on the vote, or you disagree with some parliamentary rule regarding how the motion was set up and you don't want to further the error by actually voting on a flawed motion, or if you, for example, were not present at the meeting for which the minutes are being voted on and therefore cannot determine their accuracy. Learn how to Vote No. Don't abstain the same way the previous Board Member did when she wasn't sure what would be the best political decision.

But I come back to my original question: Is there anyone more arrogant than a seventeen year old kid in a mild position of power, who thinks he knows the very best way to solve any problem, if only the rest of the world would only listen to him?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I love this man.

And, please folks. Learn the phrase Sturm und Drang. It will serve you well as you go through life. That and Bildungsroman.

My Journey with my Son

We don't have a formal diagnosis for my eight-year-old son as of yet, but we kind of sort of think that he's got mild Asperger's Syndrome. For autistic kids, they have an extraordinarily self-defined world which they live in to the exclusion of the "real world". For "Aspergie" kids, they live in our world, but they view it through their own set of lenses which often don't make much sense to everyone else living in the world with them. AS kids tend to be genuinely confused, frustrated, or rageful at the actions of people who do not align with their own rules (which no one else may understand) which give order to the world they find themselves in.

My son's school year so far has been horrendous. We pulled him out of school two weeks ago, and he's had home instruction via visiting teachers. On Monday, he'll go back to school in a new class, with an instructional aide, with a whole new set of groundrules for everybody to understand what makes this kid tick. Welcome to the world of Special Education. Some thoughts on the experience so far.

1. I may never be able to forgive his first teacher. I don't hate people; I tend to only get angry. But I deeply hate this woman. I hate her hair, I hate her face, I want to do evil, painful things to her. I'm having Umbridge-like fantasies of scratching on the back of her hand until blood drips from her knuckles, "I will not torment my students in the hopes that they will not disrupt my lesson plan."

2. I love my child's principal. And the Special Education Director, and the Superintendent. They are genuinely pulling out all the stops to make sure that my son can be respected and loved for being the funky, funny, genuine kid that he is.

3. It's hard being on the School Board while trying to negotiate this situation for my son. I keep hearing things like, "Until the Board does X we can't...Oh, I'm sorry." Or, "We never wanted you to know as a parent that X happened, but as a Board Member you need to know that, etc." Twice today in a meeting I had to stick my fingers in my ears and sing, "La la la."

4. My landscaping will never survive my son's need to self-soothe. (Won't my neighbors be PLEASED.) When he gets upset at home, he rushes out the back door, up onto the hill so that he can dig in the dirt. So far he's started a new terrace on the quickly eroding hilside and stripped most of the bark off a rare Kashmir Cypress tree.

5. Eczema is no fun. Not only is my son twitchy in his own skin (twirls, jumps, sits up down up down up when he's anxious), but he's Itchy in his own skin. He gets flare-ups all over his thighs and along his arms. Poor kid. (Reminds me--need to get a refill on that prescription.)

6. He feels tortured, randomly tortured, by his peers. (His words) In fact, they generally don't tease him. He's in a very accepting group of kids. However, he's so out of touch with what generally accepted social behavior is, that he interprets others as being out to get him.

7. He feels tortured by the world too. Why does he have to write the word he already knows how to spell? Why does he have to write neatly? Why does he have to be polite to a parent volunteer when she's talking about art and he HATES art? Why does he have to go play on the playground when he knows there are no more playground balls? Why can't he follow the custodian around school for a while to see what he does during the day? Why don't people see that they're torturing him when they ask him to follow these idiotic rules?

8. Every time I read an article online about Asperger's Syndrome, I start tearing up. My son's definitely on the mild end of the spectrum, but lordy, this is tough. I'm not used to being so "labile" while researching. (Note--to understand the second linked article, you should know it was written in response to the first.)

9. For all that I detest my son's first teacher (#1), there is nothing more incredible than the teachers who do understand him, or who are at least willing to try to figure him out. To call them saints simply isn't adequate. To watch them sit at my kitchen table, helping him work through science, writing, math, and reading, has been a gift to me. There's no pandering--they expect him to get the work done--but there's an abiding respect for a struggling child which is beautiful to witness.

10. In as self-serving an attitude as possible, thank God for my other two kids, one on either side of my son. Because everytime someone asks, "Is it something in the home?" I can counter with, "Well, see if you can see any symptoms in the other kids." This comes up fairly frequently because my son uses dramatic vocabulary: People torture him, scream their heads off at him, his homework chokes him, his sisters squash him, and the dog tramples him. An isolated interview without an understanding of who he is could land everyone in hot water.

11. When he's got a story to tell, he tells it. He'll often try to change to details to minimize his interpretation of what he may have done wrong, but he'll carefully walk through the story again and again with remarkable patience once he feels safe with his audience.

12. Have I mentioned that I hate his teacher? (#1, #9) Because other than claiming that he assaulted her when he tried to leave his classroom, after he had been TOLD to go to the office when he was upset and she stood in the doorway to block him, she also basically fabricated a story of him assaulting a first grader. Details all came out much later, but I give credit to Dear Butcher for figuring out that something was fishy about the tale of my son dragging a first grader out of line, pinning the child behind a door, and then kicking her, not only because it didn't sound like anything he would do, but because my son could not tell any stories about any children walking in line. No stories about doors, nothing.
Dear Butcher told the principal that our son had no story to tell, the principal thought that was odd too, she investigated with the First Grade teacher, and discovered, that, indeed, nothing close to this ever happened. Piss Me OFF! (First Grade teacher witnessed my son walking one way up a hallway and two first graders walking down a hallway. They met in the middle, neither group would give way, and so my son put his hands on the First grader's shoulders to rotate him out of the way. My son's Third Grade teacher was at the other end of the hall and reported it a targeted assault. Where the pinning behind a door comes into play, no one knows. Thank God the other teacher was in the hallway.) I distinctly hate that teacher, but I love that the principal knew my son well enough to figure out that if he couldn't tell a story than something was missing.

13. This is exhausting. I used to think that my son would grow out of this, or that we were being too lenient with him, or that he would learn a single coping skill to pull his life together. But no. This is who he is. A bright kid with an incredibly low frustration tolerance, a tendency to rage, a sensitivity to loud noises and certain clothes, and a competitive streak which is so pronounced that he cannot participate in games. He can learn how to cope with each of those areas a little better, but he's not going to snap out of this. And that means that we, his family, are going to need to stay closely attuned to him to help him survive.

Monday, October 16, 2006

SBD Help me. I reread a classic.

Oh lordy, lord. I couldn't help myself and reread a book I last read in the early 1980's. Actually, I read two. OK, one and a half, because I skimmed the second one.

I would like to post a picture here, but &*%#$ing Blogger won't let me. So go visit the Amazon page and soak in the glorious treacly goo that is Tiger Lily by Shirlee Busbee.

The boozoom, the lace, the weirdly orange hair, the riding boots, the font. Gah!

OK, except that what's really striking about this cover, is that it is an EXCELLENT depiction of what's between the covers of the book. Leap into the unbridled silliness that is Historical Romance circa 1985.

Hey, please note here that I am NOT snarking on this book. I like it exactly for what it is--the goofiest possible rendition of Spanish Texas, a love story bursting with metaphor, and physical descriptions which cannot end nor include a period, as can be wrapped up in 452 pages of the English language.

I actually had wanted to read Gypsy Lady, which I'm kind of thinking that maybe I remember as being the Busbee that I liked, but then I got Spanish Rose at a Library Sale, and sitting next to it, was Tiger Lily, so hey, into the bag you go.

(At the time I had remembered Tiger Lily as the book wherein a heroine is trapped on the second floor of a southern plantation house while her husband is searching the estate for the Eeeevul Villain. Eeeevul Villain, unbeknownst to our lovers, has snuck into the plantation house and rapes the heroine, using the line that will NOT get out of my head after twenty years, "Give me some cream." Bleggggghhhh! I wanted to see if the scene is just as awful as I remembered, but when I skimmed Tiger Lily there was no such rape scene, so I decided to read it.)




How perfectly insanely goofy is this thing?

Meet Senorita Sabrina. Meet Senor Brett. Yes. Brett. Quite Spanish a name, no? Sabrina is the daughter of a wealthy Spanish landowner. Brett is the older step-son of Sabrina's aunt who is married to--oh, forget it. It's just too complicated to be believed. They know each other, OK?

They first meet when Sabrina is seven and Brett is, OK, let's see here. Chapter Two. Yes. Brett is eighteen. They fall for each other.

Ewwwww. I'm sorry. An eighteen year old guy and a SEVEN YEAR OLD? I can see if she had a crush on him, but Brett is shown as being attracted to her. Page 20:

Her eyes huge, her own red-gold hair flame-colored in the sunlight, she demanded, "You will truly call him that? You will use the name I chose?"
Unable to help himself, Brett flicked a caressing finger down her cheek. "Naturally. What gentleman could refuse such a lovely lady?"

Aiiii! She's seven! Ewwwww. OK, deep breaths. I can get past this bizarre prologue/early section and chalk it up to laying a groundwork for early infatuation. Move On.

The next time they meet, Sabrina is turning seventeen, and her father has just decided that he should invite Brett to the hacienda for an extended visit. This way the two will fall in love, marry, and then the father won't have to worry about his daughter when he dies. (Ummm. Yeah. You got a Plan B there Dad?) She races her horse across a meadow, and Brett, who's just arrived, thinks she's on a runaway horse and so tries to rescue her. (Note: By dragging her off a galloping horse onto his galloping horse? Wow. There's a good way to give you and the victim a handy concussion.) She reacts by stabbing him in the arm while draped across the front of the saddle.

Dancing, I am! I love this shit! The feverish writing here just needs to breathe on the page. I was Squealing when I read this:

Cruelly twisting the arm behind Sabrina's back, he glared down into the angry features so near his own. Astonishment held him speechless as his stunned gaze took in the disheveled mass of flaming curls rioting around the most enchanting face he had ever seen--thickly lashed amber-gold eyes fairly spitting defiance and fury were set under haughty dark brows, a delicate nose with a delightful tilt at the tip was thrust arrogantly into the air, and below it was a generously curved mouth that fairly challenged any man to taste its sweetness.

It was that glorious hair and those unforgettable eyes that brought recognition to him almost instantaneously, and on a note of incredulity, the breathed, "Sabrina?"

Oh shit. This is too damn good. Exactly how long is instantaneously? Because, um, you know dude, I can't read that sentence out loud without gasping for breath. And why so shocked? You are visiting her father's house; she might just be there. But wait, there's more. Next paragraph:

At the sound of her name, Sabrina froze, and suddenly oblivious to the brutal hold on her arm, she stared up into the dark bearded face so near her own. It wasn't precisely reassuring. Heavy black eyebrows curved sardonically over deep-set, cynical, jade-green eyes ringed by remarkably long, thick, black, lashes--the impact of those eyes was mesmerizing. With an effort she tore her gaze away from his and swiftly took in the arrogant nose, the slightly flaring nostrils, and the full, mobile mouth with its mocking slant. The half-grown beard hid most of his face, but with her heart unexpectedly racing in her breast, her gaze once more fastened on the hard green eyes--green eyes that she had never quite forgotten. "Senor Brett?" she got out huskily, unable to believe it was really he.

Sixty-six pages in and they finally make eye contact and recognize each other. I guess the stabbing and the galloping horses helped jar the memory a touch.

I cannot begin to express how much I loved reading this. There are vengeful mothers, jealous pansy-boys, a fake pregnancy, scheming ex-mistresses, an almost rape, a cockney valet (in a Spanish Texas setting? Yeah. I dunno either.) The plot is, well, complex. And silly. Did I mention that after the horse ride, Brett and Sabrina do fall madly in love and Brett proposes?

Well, you'd expect that. But what you didn't expect, (ho ho!) was that Sabrina would reject his suit and that they would be separated for another six years.

Now wait just a goddamn minute. At this point I started trying to find the end page, because, um, it's a 452 page book, and we're only at page 265. What I didn't realize was that we had to get the Political Sub-Plot in. Because what's a romance novel without a political info-dump? Or a spy ring? And valets with attrocious fake English accents? (Oh, THAT'S why he has a valet!!)

Suffering succotash. By the time these two get together again, Brett has grey hair at his temples. (Counting on fingers, seven plus ten plus six. OK, Sabrina's twenty-three, so that makes Brett thirty-four?) So they get married, she gets pregnant, all is well, but, hmmmm, we're not at the end yet. Suisan is beginning to suspect the need for a kidnapping--my least favorite 1980's plot extender. No, no Suisan. You little fool. No Kidnapping Here!

A Fire!! A Fucking Fire! With pregnant Sabrina trapped in the mansion as beams crash down around her head! Quick, Brett! Save Sabrina! Last sentence. Phew!

But then, with a final, instinctive lurch, Sabrina unconscious in his arms, he staggered out of the house, into the night, the cool air that rushed to meet them a balm and a benediction.

Yay!! Curtain calls! Cue the orchestra!

Ooops. Nope. Wait a sec. An Epilogue.

An Epilogue! A Fucking Epilogue! Because there's MORE to this story. More flaming hair, more sardonic brows, more declarations of love, more, and more and more.

Help MEEE!! It's the plot that ate Cleveland! I'm laughing so hard I'm giving myself a stoamch-ache! Make it stop! The lovers won't stop mooning over each other! They're going to trip on their tongues, lolling out of their mouths like that.

That was one hell of a roller-coaster ride. I tried to read Spanish Rose, but when the little Spanish minx started stomping her little Spanish boot on the deck of her evil brother's Spanish galleon after she had stowed away to prevent a marriage to a Nasty Spanish Man, I just gave it up. Too many funnel cakes at the carnival.

Hoooo-boy. That there's one hell of a ride, though. No wonder I liked Shirlee Busbee so much.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Something I always meant to post


I don't have too many pictures of her, but this is mostly how I remember my aunt. She was in her twenties in this photo. As she got older, her face became rounder, and she pulled her hair off her face a little more. But her serious eyes and dramatic features stayed the same.

She once told me that when she was a child, she hated her face. It was crude and sharp. Her eyebrows were too black, and her nose was too big. She learned how to look in a mirror and only focus on one part of her face. Today her lips. The next day her right eye. Sometime in Middle School she bumped into an art teacher who taught her clay sculpture, and that teacher taught her that she was indeed beautiful.

When I was six years old, my aunt lived in a rambling Victorian farmhouse; there was a red painted barn with a rearing pony painted on the doors and a ceramics studio in the basement. Sitting in the damp basement, holding cool lumps of clay in our hands, my aunt taught me what her teacher had told her.

To start a face, you have to bring the face down to its strongest features.

Scrunch a nose.

Scrape an eye.

Pinch, pinch the lips.

Drag a thumb over the clay from hair to the eyes, pulling a brooding eyebrow.

There. Now you have a face. You can shave and scrape it later, but the strongest sculpture starts with a strong foundation. Big nose. Deep eyes. Flat wide cheeks. Prettiness is only a layer of plumping over the top. It only hides the strong features below.

My aunt handed me her mangled lump of grey clay, curled my fingers around it. "Don't only be pretty. Pretty is fat, weak cheeks, and glossy hair, and lipstick. Show your bones. They're made of ivory, carnelian, and jasper. You just don't know it yet."

When I turned eighteen, she gave me a piece of lapis lazuli, not polished, but sharp edged, and lumpy grey. She leaned in very close so that I could smell her leather-scented hair and citrus perfume. "Hold it. And know that with enough polish it turns blue. Hold it tighter until it cuts your hand. There are veins of gold in that stone. Like you. You're the gold. You just don't know it yet." She leaned back in her chair, looked around her at my large family seated in the restaurant. She picked up her fork and dismissively waved at her brother across the table, pretending to be playing with the cutlery. "They'll never get it, " she said. "They're looking for the shiny stones and diamonds." She looked straight at me and said, "When you get home, bury it. Remember the feeling of that pressed in your hand, but bury it back in the earth."

I did. But I wish sometimes I still had that stone so I could crush it in my palm and feel the pain of its strength.

I'm glad that my aunt had an art teacher who convinced her that she was beautiful, and that her beauty had power and grace. And I'm thankful that my aunt was able to teach me about strength. She was fairly terrifying in her ideals, but her words soaked deep into my soul. Because I know that the back of my pelvis, the triangle at the base of my spine is made of dark blue lapis lazuli. And I'm pretty sure that the bone which rises from the back of my left wrist is brown and grey jasper. I'm not sure where the carnelian bones are, but they'll make themselves known at some point.

I guess I don't need the unpolished lump of stone; I just miss it. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 13, 2006

On Love, Charisma, and Crushes

First, go watch this video (the second one) again. Just because. And just because it makes me feel good. Keep that feeling.

Second, if you are my eldest daughter, go away. You've Been Warned.

Third, please know that my daughter has the sweetest, most endearing crush on her science teacher. (And if YOU are still reading this, Eldest Daughter, you should Go Away. I'm not going to tease you or embarrass you. Us adults would like to remember that first blush of a true crush. The one that makes your face red and your palms sweat.)

My daughter has been gifted with a wonderful set of teachers this year. Her favorite is her science teacher; I met him for the first time on Parent's Night. To a critical eye, he's not drop-dead gorgeous, but then I usually don't trust those guys too much anyway. He's wiry, short, athletic, and animated. He clearly loves teaching and has an interest in getting "his kids" curious about science and educated about the scientific method. He's youngish, maybe late-thirties, and he has a deep-set Orlando Bloom eyes tossed in with a wide Willem Dafoe mouth. I can see why she likes him

So, the other morning I was running an errand at her school, just before school started. She asked me to hang around with her until her first class started, so I did. We wandered over to the faculty parking lot, and there we saw a teacher coming through the gate towards class.

He was small, walking confidently towards us with a motorcycle helmet under one arm and a briefcase dangling from the other hand. He was dressed all in black motorcycle leathers: leather jacket, quilted black leather pants, and heavy boots. His hair was tussled from the helmet. As he passed us, he raised the briefcase to my daughter and said, "Hi" to me. Just as the word left his wide mouth, I recognized him as my daughter's science teacher.

And then the squeakiest voice I have ever heard came from my daughter at my side. Speaking so fast it was difficult to separate the words in my head she whisper-squealed, "Oh-My-God-he-rides-a-motorcycle. I-didn't-know-he-rides-a-motorcycle!"

I hurt myself, I did, trying hard not to laugh. Because that would hurt her, and I don't want her to be hurt. But that squeal of fearful, anxious, covert delight will stay with me for a long time.

I remember what that felt like. Poor thing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Look Ma, No Hands!

Garrocha, or Doma Vaquera, is a Spanish/Mexican traditional display of a mounted warrior's (then a bullfighter's) mastery of his horse. Like any ballet, it is just so lovely.

Vegas-style. Lights, costumes, and music. (Why do horse people INSIST on using corny music???) But he keeps his hand on the reins--a shame. Check out the next clip (longer) for the real deal.

And the real deal. This is where my Zorro fascination begins and ends. I never have to see his face, but a man who does all this on a horse with just his seat and legs and demonstrates that he trained the horse respectfully and kindly by NOT jamming on the reins, that man can climb up the rose trellis to my bedchamber any night of the week. Makes me swoon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Megan wrote about getting her son the cutest little pumpkin pie.

Which reminded me of this:

When my eldest daughter was about four she was asking a lot of questions about death and dying. One day she asked me what "that white thing that comes out of your body when you die" is. After stumbling around for a while, I realized that she had just watched the Disney movie, Hercules, and she was taling about the ghost-like souls going to Hades.

"That's a soul!" I cried triumphantly. And you know the next part is coming with twenty-twenty hindsight.

"What's a soul?"

"Eh, well," I mumbled for quite some time. "Your soul is the part of you that makes you you. I have dark hair. You have dark hair, but we're not the same person, right? That part of you that makes you unique and special: that's your soul."

"Oh. OK." She considered that for a minute. "I just wanted to tell you that my soul doesn't like pumpkin pie."

She's so neat. Even at four she was neat to be around. (Hey, and at least that's one food preference I'm not likely to forget. Because I'm always asking my kids, "Now which one of you likes pickles?")

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The updates continue

As of today, my son's situation is much better. And I'm even giggling a little.

We are pulling him from school for two weeks of district assisted at-home instruction. (A teacher will come to the house for an hour a day.) After that respite of about two weeks, we'll examine where to place him.

What we know right now is that he's never going back to the class he just came out of.

After I wrote yesterday's post, I went to school to volunteer at the book fair. While I was there, the psychologist came running through the library saying, "There's an emergency in your son's room." Eh. OK.

My son walked out with the psychologist, calm and quiet, and asked me if he could go home.

"Yeah, sure, kid." The psychologist went back to class to get his backpack--when she returned she told me that he had gotten upset, had tried to leave class so that he could go to the office. (Which is what He's SUPPOSED TO DO!!) The teacher stood in the doorway, so he headbutted her in the belly. The psychologist said the teacher was really upset.

Ok, whatever, I really couldn't care at this point. Let's just go home.

Last night I had two phone calls show up on my caller ID which were from the teacher's home number--I didn't get to them before the answering machine and there were no messages left. Hmm. Wonder what she wants.

This morning I discovered (because I'm a board member, not because I'm a parent, and the District did try to prevent me from finding out, but someone said something odd on another phone call so I asked the Superintendent what he meant) that the teacher has claimed that my son assaulted her. WTF?

The Superintendent then called her a dingbat.

The Superintendent told me that she's not filing a formal claim, but that the District has to investigate anyway. Then the Superintendent called her an idiot.

I shouldn't laugh, but man, there's a certain relief which comes from someone in authority calling someone you're angry at names. (Heh Heh. Dingbat. Heh. Heh.)

And I also found out who's going to be coming to the house to teach my son. HAPPY DANCE!!! My daughter's beloved, best-teacher-ever, fantastically talented, Tinkerbell collecting, former third grade teacher. We love her. We get her presents from Disneyland whenever we go. My daughter still visits her class from time to time to get chocolate kisses from the "I'm A Great Student" basket.

Today it rained for the first time this season, but the sun is shining in my house.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Me, Myself, and Moi

Heaving a great sigh, Suisan started writing her long overdue post in order to bring her faithful readers up to date with her life from late August through today.

1. School Board is better. Much better.
2. My youngest is in Kindergarten. Yay!
3. My eldest is in Middle School and loving it.
4. My Son. Oy. My Son. My son's teacher. My son's entire thrid grade so far.
5. Because number 4 has been so stressful, I've been glomming most of the Risky Regencies backlist. I've read an insane number of very well written Regency novels. At some point I'm simply going to type the titles out with a quick recommendation on each. But not today.

Let's go back to Number 4, because it's the one area of my life which has completely absorbed me. School started August 21, and since that time, my son has visited the Principal's office a record number of times. He tests at being at "advanced" levels for English and Math, but he's getting D's and F's this year. Essentially because he a) hates his teacher, b) refuses to do work for her, c) loses his temper whenever he's frustrated, and d) is much more frustrated this year than ever before.

For every misdemeanor, every infraction of rules, he receives a further restriction in his activities in school. He missed a field trip to the Monet exhibit (and neither my son nor I can actually remember *why* his ability to go was yanked), he's not allowed now to go out on the playground before or after school and is not going outside during recess. He's eight. No recess.

The school is trying to test him into Special Ed. I'm meeting with psychiatrists, having phone consultations with therapists, and everyone agrees that something has to be done for him immediately. Except "immediately" in the public school system takes about three months.

We're working on the diagnosis that perhaps he has Asperger's, or ADD combined with Depression, or some combination of the three. In any event, he's oppositional and rageful. He tears papers if he cannot understand the directions, he flat-out hates his teacher, and he's having a miserable year.

So, of course, everyone else is fairly miserable too. And, really, if I were a different sort of person, I'd ambush his teacher after school and dip her head in diesel fuel. I've come to hate her too. We've met. We've talked. We've met with the teacher and the principal. We've met with the teacher, the principal, and the school psychologist. I've asked the teacher repeatedly to be communicative with me so that I can support her from home.

She smiles. She talks in a high baby voice, and she smiles again. She sings a good morning song to the kids every morning. Third Grade. Third grade songs? I hate her. She also enjoys whispering when she's beginning to get angry. I hate her. She pretends that she's listening, but then she comes back with, "The other children in the class are able to take responsibility for their behavior."

Fuck you too. Because if my son could truly control his behavior he would. Instead, I come to pick him up at the school office to hear him say, "I had a brain stem problem today." Or, "I couldn't stop being angry." Or, "This is a horrid experience." The principal loves him, gives him hugs and tells him how proud she is of him when he's calm. The custodian puts his name in for recognition for helping him, without being asked, to clean up under the tables after lunch. The librarian giggles with him over the newest book he's reading. But his teacher reminds him again and again and again that he's not like the other kids in her class.

I've told her again and agan that my son cannot cope with abrupt changes in his environment. The principal has told her this too. On Monday, the entire class left the classroom (Warning Bell Number One should go off here) went to the library and had a lecture from a parent volunteer (Bell Number Two) and were introduced to the PTA book sale. "OK kids! Here are all the books you can buy if your parents sent you to school with money. If you don't have money, then just fill out this form, and maybe your parents will buy you what you want." (Bell Number Three--tell an angry, disappointed kid to do paperwork?) Instead of telling me, the parent, beforehand that his class was going to visit the library and get a sales pitch from a parent, she waited until he blew up. I would have come to school to help him. To Help You, Ms. Teacher. Instead, she called me and asked me to come pick him up from school because he had already lost his temper. I hate her.

I kept him home yesterday. We took the dog for a walk by the ocean (my son fell in, but enjoyed himself immensely), played Yahtzee, and did his schoolwork. This morning he's at school again in the morning, and then I'm pulling him in the afternoon. I told the teacher this morning. She says, "Oh. Is there a plan I'm not aware of?"

Yes. The plan where I have to step in and protect my kid from your passive-agressive whispering whiny behavior. The plan where I've been at the school for meeting after meeting, crying in the principal's office because my kid got slapped around again by you. The plan where I simply cannot take this anymore and will hold him home for as many days as I can until we FINALLY get some fucking assistance for this child and get him out of your class. That plan.

But, you know, the school board stuff is really getting quite a bit better. It's good to have balance in one's life.