Thursday, July 29, 2010

Road trip

I may go off on a road trip today. Thinking about getting back in to leathercrafting. Tooling, carving, stitching, etc. But in order to do that, I'd need supplies.

Dear Butcher's home -- to day may be the day to load the CD's up in the car and head out to the hinterlands to find a leather shop.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I normally have plans for Tuesday mornings, but all three kids are home today.

No school, no camp.

Which means I have to forgo my regular Tuesday morning plans and I'm more than a little annoyed about it.


Monday, July 26, 2010


Got Saul an iPod nano.

He took it on the plane when he and grandma flew to NYC. Apparently it was left on the plane. "That's OK," says Grandma. "I'll replace it." She sent us money, we bought him an iPod Touch.

Dire warnings. DO NOT take this outside. Don't show it off to your friends. Don't take it outside. Don't leave it on the curb when you go skateboarding with your friends.

Fourth of July picnic, he's running across the street to join up in a game of volleyball, and his iPod drops out of his pocket, smashing the screen.

He starts working off the money it will take to replace it in chores, Dear Butcher puts in a claim against the iPod because he purchased it with his American Express card. Hey ho, whaddya know, American Express comes through and we get a refurbished iPod along with a screen cover and a case.

OK then.

Sync the new iPod, software doesn't quite match, reinstall, sync, save, restore, download, sync, restore, etc. An hour and a half later I get the iPod to look like his old iPod with *all* his apps properly installed.

"Oh NO!" he cries. "This is terrible!"


"All my data is gone. I have to REPLAY all my levels!"

Is it too early in the day for a stiff drink? A bubble bath? Because if that's what I get for replacing an iPod that was broken because he didn't listen to the rules, I'd rather have that hour and half back, thank you very much. Just call me Mean Mommie.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A new way to visit old friends

I learned this morning that Charles Craver has donated his impressive collection of Arabian horse skulls to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Charles bred Davenport Arabian horses for decades, including my aunt's beloved Binni. Actually, he didn't just breed them, he gathered the tribe together and created the Davenport program as it currently exists. He corresponded with "The Greats" in the Arabian breeding community, and developed a way of keeping as much genetic diversity as he could within a closed breeding group. He wrote excellent scholarly articles on important people and horses for Arabian Horse World and other magazines. He's something of a legend within certain circles.

Charles became interested in measuring horse's skeletons and skulls because there are so many myths about Arabians. (They are missing a vertebra. Yeah, lots of horses are born without one -- it's not unique to Arabians. They are missing a pair of ribs. Some horses are born without a pair of ribs. Some dogs are born without a pair of ribs. Some humans are too. It's not that big a deal. But to those who buy in to the Majikal Arabians myth, it's handy to throw these anomalies around as signs of divine speshullness.) Charles particularly wanted to know about how the head connects to the neck and whether a family of Arabians that are known to have high head carriage really do have something physically different about them, or whether they just have the tendency to put their heads up in the air.

He had horses in his barns, but he had no skulls. So Charles did a brave and wonderful thing. After every important horse of his died, he carefully prepared its skull and cataloged it. His collection is really remarkable in that he has pictures and measurements for the living animal to be used as comparison to the skull.

Now that Charles is older, he has sold off most of his herd to other breeders save for a few "pensioners". This week, his skull collection was donated to the Carnegie Museum.

I like to go visit descendants of the horses I knew at my aunt's from time to time. (Last month I hung out with one elderly lady I knew in her youth at the farm.) Now I guess I can go visit the ancestors of the Upland Farm crew. It won't be the same without Charles' commentary though. Than again, I keep reminding myself, things change.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Dear Butcher's Birthday

My Birthday

Father's Day

Son's Birthday

Wedding Anniversary

All in a two week period. We like to cram them in!

Dear Butcher gave me cash for my birthday, which was much appreciated. I bought hair ornaments with the money for my ever lengthening locks.

More later when I figure out what I need to blog about

(Oh. Update from my last post regarding my silly mother. Haven't spoken to her in months except that she called on my birthday. Quite calm, non-committal. We now have air conditioning, courtesy of the busted furnace. Elegant little side effect -- running copper pipe underneath Neo's room right along the wall where the wireless router is greatly increases the wireless signal. So I have heat and air, and she has her internet.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Email alerts.

It's all very well to decide not to pick up the phone if caller ID says it's my mother or brother. (Babbling co-dependent loonies, the two of them.) It's a good plan, although annoying in that they will call and call and call and call the house, and my bluetooth in the car doesn't have caller ID, so I end up speaking to my brother all the time on speaker phone in the car because I keep forgetting he has my cell phone number.

Nonetheless, I've been successfully avoiding my mother, although Dear Butcher spoke to her a few days ago. He ended up laughing at her, which I don't think made the conversation a very positive experience for her. (Apparently she said something like, "Now that the custody arrangements are going to go the way I want them to, everything will be perfect." To which Dear Butcher guffawed and said, "Really? Just like that? Perfect.")

Well now, four days later, the custody arrangements are not going the way she wants, so after calling me 14 times yesterday, she sent me an email.

I didn't open it, but when I turned on the computer this morning, the first line of the email was excerpted onto my home page. Just that one line was enough to make me grit my teeth and start thinking of a thousand snappy comebacks, logical devices, snarling rejoinders and other responses while I was making my coffee.

Deep breaths and a mug of coffee later, I'm back on solid ground again.

Our furnace died two days ago. Yesterday we had an HVAC contractor come out to look at the 20 year old beast. After much poking around in vents and examination of electrical service and duct capacity, we're going to not only replace the furnace, but install air conditioning. For this, we have to take out a small equity loan. But the manager of the bank LOVES Dear Butcher. They can sit in the lobby of that teeny bank and discuss The Fed and Prime Interest Rates and the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street happenings for hours. Yes, hours. For all my politicking, those "we are men of business" conversations just make me want to start shrieking and rending my clothes out of boredom. But when Dear Butcher calls the bank manager to say our furnace died, the bank manager yawps into the phone, "Come on DOWN! I'll have the paperwork filled out for you in FIVE MINUTES!" Sometimes schmoozing is a good thing.

But the thing with the furnace is that I'd like to get a handyman in to run ethernet cable up to Neo's room. The wireless is NOT working in this house. We've tried everything, but if you are upstairs there is no signal, and Neo is completely frustrated. With the AC, I've killed any discretionary funds for Neo's computer, so I told her we would ask the grandmothers if they would be interested in helping me pay for the cable work. Shouldn't be much.

The first line of my mother's email detailed how she was going to lose all her savings on fighting for my brother's custody of his son. Woe is me, and aren't I a good mother, and don't you feel sorry for on for more details.

He's almost fifty and you're STILL paying his legal bills and didn't you have to sell your HOUSE to move into an apartment because you were supporting him? Now you're complaining that the custody case is going to wipe out any profit from the sale of your house? The house you did construction on so you could live there in old age. I wouldn't mind a little help with the Furnace and the Computer and Summer Camp you know. But hey, this way is MUCH better. Better for my soul, if not my bottom line. But don't whine to me, OK?

So how do I block my phone, my cell phone AND my email?

I need to find a desert island with an air conditioned house.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Folding laundry, ironing shirts, stacking dishes, cleaning the floor.

All of these involve an insane level of boredom.

I am aware that this is not much of a news flash -- but I'm struck by how very, very, very bored I've been all freaking day long. And the house really doesn't look all that much better as everything is *folded* in the closet rather than lying on the floor of the closet.

Edit -- Lying? Laying? Shirts don't lay eggs, it must by lying, right?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

There's a tree somewhere producing pollen and I'm stuck with this headache.

Allergy medication works, but it KNOCKS me out. Like a hammer to the head, sometimes right in the middle of a sentence.

And the newest fabulosity is that just before the allergy strikes, the entire inside of my mouth starts itching.

I never used to have hay fever. My mother even scorned its very existence -- that children who had hay fever had overprotective parents who were making the whole thing up. I remember sneezing or sniffling here or there as a kid, and I know that over time I've developed a hay allergy, but it was mostly a sniff, sniff, snerkle sort of annoyance.

This comes on like a raging wildfire all at once. There are no preliminary sniffles, just POW!

This morning I'm up and about, no sniffles or itchiness in sight. But I awoke with this sharp headache that coffee isn't fixing. Fun.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Food Revolution

Like JM Carr, I've been watching Food Revolution, but I've been a bit disappointed, as I am with all things regarding public education as reported in the media. There's not enough detail to help explain to the viewer the problems the Jamie's up against as he tries to change the nation's school lunch programs.

First of all, he's not the first chef to try. Alice Waters tried to set up school gardens in the Berkeley public schools, based on the Montessori model of hands-on learning, to encourage kids to recognize their food and to eat the healthy produce they grew. The program continues to expand, but Alice Waters herself has said that just having the kids grow the food was not enough to get them to try it. Now that she's set up a private foundation to support the edible schoolyard, it can be added to the public schools. But on its OWN, as the program was first developed, the Alice Waters experiment was a financial failure.

It's all about finances. Everything. The producers of the show don't even bother to explain the federal program, how it meshes with the "Free and Reduced Lunch Program", or what the difference is between a breakfast and a lunch program. Makes for good TV but very, very poor activism.

To begin to get my hands around this thing, I'll base this off of JMC's post from a few days ago: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

From JMC:
I was intrigued to see the kids all eating breakfast at school. Despite the fact that the federal government mandates certain administration is state-based, and can vary widely. When I was a kid, back in the dark ages (80s and early 90s), breakfast at school was a relative rarity.
But the breakfast program is NOT a school-based program. Neither is the National Lunch Program. Both are administered BY the USDA. Yes, your department of agriculture designs, funds, and provides pre-packaged foods for the food in your school.

More detail on meal reimbursements later, but the breakfast program ends up costing the schools more money if a large number of students don't participate. (Reimbursement for lunch is different -- you can lose a lot of money very quickly in the breakfast program.) Since participation is dependent on parents getting up a bit earlier to get the kids there (as opposed to lunch where you have a captive audience), a lot of schools don't offer breakfast choice at all. If there's a substantial percentage of the school eligible for a free and reduced meal plan, then it can make sense to simply train the student body to expect to eat breakfast at school. When my eldest attended Berkeley public schools, the students came into the classroom, sat down, and ate a breakfast laid out for them at their desk. (Fruit, milk and cold cereal.) In our present district, none of the schools automatically provide breakfast to the entire student body.

Generally, a large school with a large "Title I" population (low socio-economic class) will provide breakfast to the entire population.

More from JMC:

Another contrast was the menu. Locally, the meal usually consisted of milk, eggs, breakfast meat, and/or oatmeal/grits and/or cold cereal. When Jamie walked into the school cafeteria and saw the kids eating “breakfast pizza”, I thought they were eating some sort of flatbread with eggs on it. No, it was regular pizza. And sweetened milk (strawberry or chocolate). I was horrified. It’s one thing to be a hung over college student eating cold pizza for breakfast, but pizza for breakfast every day? For a five, six, seven, eight year old? That is NOT healthy.
Menu development is where there is SOME local control. However, we now enter the new gray area of offer vs. serve. Never heard of offer vs. serve? It's a real problem.

Let's say you want the kids to eat a healthy breakfast of fruit and hot cereal. You plop it on the tray and then they eat it, right? Welllll, no. Not according to the 1980's USDA "Healthy Schools Meal Initiative." (In my opinion, it is this initiative that is creating most of the headache in school nutrition programs.)

You are no longer allowed to plop stuff on the tray and make the kids eat it. Kids have to be offered healthy choices. It's supposed to help kids balance their calories on their own and it destigmatizes the poor kids eating Chicken A La King slop from the wealthy kids eating a piece of whole fruit and a sandwich. Under Offer vs. Serve, ALL kids are encouraged to go through the lunch line, not just the poor kids.

Each child has an option of 4 to 5 choices (one meat, one fruit, etc., etc.) They must choose three, no more than two from the same category. STAFF MAY NOT REQUIRE a child choose this or that. STAFF MAY NOT REQUIRE that a child finish what is on their plate, and the child may not go back through the line to get an option they passed up before. (This link summarizes the rules pretty nicely: An explanation from a high school's website)

This creates an insane amount of waste. The USDA meal plan does include way too much bread and a fairly small amount of protein, but imagine how annoying it is to find the trash bin full, day after day, of food that the kids had no intention of eating in the first place. Over time, this creates a sense in the lunch room that it's better to give the kids foods they are going to eat. Also, you have to offer a choice. It cannot be "Today is roast chicken. Eat it or go hungry." There has to be a choice of this vs. that, and all the choices have to mesh together in such a way that the meal nutrition guidelines are met.

When I was on the board, I looked over a sample of kid's purchases during middle and high school snack. In a three week period, there was 1 purchase of a side salad, 6 purchases of fruit, and daily purchases of bagels w/cream cheese and pizza along with a purchase of ranch dressing. (Kids dip the pizza into ranch -- that's their choice.) So everyday the schools packed the snack carts with fresh salad, so they could show that they had offered it to the kids, and every two days they threw the fresh salads away. They CANNOT take the option of the pizza away without substituting an equal option of bread, vegetables and protein exchanges. Hard to find something that's cheap enough to fit the guidelines in that situation, so the pizza stayed. (The individual packages of ranch dressing went away though.)

The other bit that's not being addressed in these discussions is cost. Once you have a National Lunch program, the prices you can charge for your meals are directly linked to the federal subsidies for your meals. Free and Reduced lunches can cost no more than X to manufacture and full price lunches can be priced at no more than 50 cents to a dollar more than the cost of the Free and Reduced lunch cost. School lunches are about $2.50 because you are capped at about $1.75 in food cost for the Free and Reduced lunch. Even from the federal government, milk takes up about 50 to 60 cents of that $1.75.

A seventy cent meal which includes lots of fresh produce is a tricky thing to pull off.

AND, there's the added issue that many districts are prohibited from producing food in bulk. Small district, small school kitchens -- transportation of hot food stuffs from central kitchen creates health code problems. (Yeah, I know it's stupid, but a few districts in my area have stopped offering spaghetti sauce and chili because they can't keep the vats of sauce at the right temp -- outdated equipment and no $ to upgrade.)

How do you make a 70 cent meal? Never fear! The USDA will provide food for you and will coordinate the food with their own menu plans. Government cheese, government canned beans, government frozen product, government breads and meats. All for pennies.

Our central kitchen is HUGE and is mostly made up of freezers and dry storage space. There is not a single saucepan in site. No one's used the burner or the steam cauldron in years. It's all hotel pans, racks of them, for heating up chicken nuggets and frozen beef patties of the approved nutritional content.

In terms of shifting the program over to healthier eating, there's one other little fly in the ointment. If you want to buy really cheap beans and really cheap meat and really cheap cheese to produce a healthy bean burrito at your central kitchen, that's fine. You just have to place your order in the form of "chits" one year in advance. Over the next year you send in your chits and the government sends you your allotment of frozen ground beef. Make a mistake in ordering? Decide to try a new menu? Too bad, there's no ordering until next January. It's not a matter of blowing your budget by ordering from restaurant supply houses. If the meal costs more than 70 cents to produce, you've violated federal guidelines and you can't serve it.

Professional chefs know how to manage food costs and how to produce healthy cheap meals. Mostly they make everything they can in house and make one sauce that can go on three or four different dishes. Make stuff in bulk. Experiment. Be creative.

School lunch personnel have been locked into a system where it ends up being easier to use the prepackaged junk produced by the government to meet the needs of the government nutritional and budgetary requirements.

Our schools have very little money left to pay teachers and support staff, or to implement innovative programs. Proper nutrition is critical. However, the USDA has created a completely counterproductive and ultimately unworkable system. It's not the school's fault. It's not about local choice; it's about the federal government's willingness to feed poor people food waste and call it nutrition.

I wish, I wish, I wish, someone would do a "Food Nation" on the USDA's guidelines and meal plans. Horrible stuff.

Friday, April 02, 2010

I'll never think that I went overboard in naming my children unusual names again. My daughter has two friends, one named Zephyr and one named Aristotle.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Had a dream last night at Evil Auntie Peril left a comment on my blog which read, "Now what?"

So I started wondering my dream what she meant. What conversation was she referring to? Was she referring to something on her blog?

But in my dream I couldn't get to her blog, and really I couldn't get to my computer either. I just had this image in my head of a computer screen I had seen somewhere with a comment box and Evil Auntie Peril's question.

Was something going on in Czechoslovakia that I should know about? No news, no contact, and this weird feeling that I should be doing something for someone else that I didn't know how to contact.

EAP, what's up? Now what?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Idiot Brother

My Idiot Brother annoys me.

There's more to the story, but essentially, we are back on speaking terms. No, he hasn't apologized for calling a f*&^ing thief, and no, I'm not thrilled that we are speaking again. It's just that he has my phone number, and I care about my nephew too much to spit in his father's eye when there's still a chance that I can be of some benefit to my nephew.

Today he called me after fighting with his son; he wanted to go through the whole fight all over again and explain to me how very wronged he was. Oh goody. He never listens to me, but I told him that he needs to stop fighting with his son. Stop getting angry. Stop trying to convince the kid of anything. Just lay down some rules of the house on paper, some rewards and repercussions, and STOP TALKING.

"Oh, you're so right. You're so right," he gurgles all over me.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You never listen, but sure, I'm right. I'm right.

Best line from MIB (My Idiot Brother): "It's just so HARD raising children!"

Are you freaking kidding me? ME? You're saying this to ME? If you hadn't been a deadbeat dad for the last five years and an oblivious jerk for twelve years before that, you might be having a *slightly* easier time of it now, you know.

Author, know your audience.

Monday, March 29, 2010

And then the crazy hits

This seems to be happening to me with greater frequency this month.

I'll be talking to someone, or following an argument online or on TV, nodding my head, agreeing with the premise, happy and content, and the the crazy hits. About five steps in, the person I thought was so perspicacious drops a crazy bomb right in the middle of an example.

Whoa. Wait a minute. I was with you right up until .... What? You really believe THAT?

Well then, I don't think I can go with what you were saying three minutes ago. Except for the fact that I was fine with where you were going right up until the moment you pulled that LAST over-the-top example out of your butt.

Assuming that we bring up the point we think is the strongest early on when trying to convince someone, can I suppose that this last bit isn't as important to you as the ones I agreed with? I'd like to go with what you said right up until you lost me.

But on the other hand, if you believe ANY PART of that last bit, I have to question whether you are a rational human being I should be taking advice from whatsoever. Because that one was on the nutty side of loony.

Maybe in your quest for intellectual stardom you reached too far? Benefit of the doubt? Want to reel that one back in?

But then when it's in print, there's no way to question the author, is there? And then I'm left with this niggling feeling that this thing I'm reading is annoying the crap out of me not because I'm deeply in denial of finding the pathway to sanity, self-respect, honesty, and a better marriage with a cherry on top, but because the author may very well be a quack dressed up in a business suit and I'm just too smart for all this self-help mumbo-jumbo heaped up on a pile of crazy.

Or I'm sabotaging myself looking for flaws in arguments.

My therapist is going to want to discuss this, and I don't want to find out that my therapist thinks this author is "all that". Because I do not like arguing with my therapist, but I cannot DEAL with any theory based on the application of applied kinesiology as proof. Weaker arm in the presence of negative thoughts my ass.

Crap. Stuck in the crazy.

I need to go find some more escapist fiction, thank you very much.

Best email salutation ever.

"Dear Knitting Mentor Guru Fabulous Suisan Person,"

Now tell me, who wouldn't get a pick-me-up from that? Made my day, it did.


In other news, I should not go shopping with my youngest daughter ever again. She is not me and I don't get her.

I never got the whole "window shopping", "retail therapy", "Let's try on tons of clothes just for fun" thing that girls do to bond with each other. Shopping frustrates me as it forces me to look in the mirror and examine things that don't quite work. It's all a compromise in the end, and I just want to find an outfit that works with as little fuss as possible.

Basically I want Garanimals for adults. If the top is red plaid with a little bit of black, then it goes with black pants or a white skirt. Hoorah and woopdidoo. Can I go home now? I'm totally an East Coast L.L. Bean, Talbot's, Woolrich, Orvis sort of chick. Straight, boxy stuff in simple colors. Toss in the occasional yellow wool blazer for a touch of pizazz when I'm feeling exotic. But everything else should just *be*.

I'm not feeling the kid's clothes these days. It's ruffles at weird places and strange necklines and I seriously cannot figure out whether some of these things are super short skirts or skinny tunics. And the fabrics are, um, yuck.

But hey, I don't have money for L.L. Bean clothes for my youngest kids who grow through them too fast as it is. So here we are at Walmart and Target looking over summer clothes with my youngest daughter. Oy yoi yoi. Bad mommy, me.

We ended up with a good selection of shorts and t-shirts. Along the way there were way too many snide comments ("You know I don't like THAT color green, Mom.") and an almost complete meltdown over socks ("The ankle socks slip under my heel! But I'm not wearing CREW socks with shorts! That's stupid. And stop pressuring me, Mom. There are too many CHOICES!" Really? Short or tall -- pick one.), but eventually we got through it all. I just may never speak to her again.

I can't wait for the teenaged years with this one.

Monday, March 22, 2010

But what if my morals are horrible?

Recently I was considering a job offer for a position I'd really like to have. Lots of organizing of paperwork (which I'm quite good at if it's other people's paperwork, not my own), answering phones, and dealing with the public. But after fiddling with the application over a few days, I realized that there's no way I can make this thing work.

Maybe I can apply in the fall, but this summer my son's summer program operates only from 8am to 12pm, Monday through Friday. So I could work from 8:30 to 11:30 -- this place is open to the public from 11-5 Tuesday through Saturday. Uh, yeah. Not going to work.

So I'll just keep on volunteering and eventually I'll apply for a job when my kids are older. Bummer, but it's also OK. (putting on my best Rosie the Riveter smile) I'll just be the best gosh-darned volunteer they've ever seen.

Uh, no. I'm a touch too grumpy and cynical for all that open enthusiasm.

The director of this organization is someone I know very much on an acquaintance level -- I really know his employees a whole lot better than I know him. His employees are all grouchy women who make comments under their breath or roll their eyes as they answer the phone in their best "Hello Good MORNING!" voices. I fit right in. (They know their stuff too. It's not all complaining and attitudes, but when it's that sort of a day the office politics don't phase me.)

Some of the employees know about my struggles with Saul, most of them know that he goes to a special program and everyone has seen that I drop everything if he needs me. Not many of them know the details. I've told them enough to let them know that I'm not being a drama queen, but that my family has some serious stuff going on from time to time. Not always -- right now we're in a great run. Saul's on the honor roll and is mainstreaming every day in a 32 student class.

So the other day I went to the director's office to say that although I appreciated the employment application, upon further consideration, I just couldn't commit to sending it in. I told him that I really enjoyed working for his organization and that sometime in the very near future I really would like to apply for a paid position, but for right now I just couldn't swing it. I mentioned that my son's summer program prohibited me from working much of anything this summer, although I'd volunteer here and there when I could. I also said that come the fall, I'd be more available as the school days lengthened.

He asked if there was another summer program, maybe a city-run camp, that my son could attend. I sort of chuckled and said, "We've tried those before. Something of a disaster. He doesn't do well in groups and all the summer programs are large groups of loud or competitive kids. This one in the mornings is run by his school and is part of his therapy. As he gets better and older, I'll have more options open to me."

(There's a big part of me that HATES putting this on Saul's shoulders, but on the other hand, the truth is that I CANNOT do much of anything as long as he needs a trained, responsible adult looking after him. But I feel as if I'm constantly shrugging my shoulders and saying, "You know.... My son.")

The director says to me, "You need to be there for your son. It's OK. Look, if you want, come in at 8:30 or 9. We don't care if you're here when the place is open. Get the messages off the machine, do paperwork. It's all helpful, and if we had one person doing it, it would be consistent. We can get someone else to answer the phones."

Wow. That's cool. He's being really cool about this. The volunteer coordinator made it sound as if I couldn't come early.

Then he continues, "Your kid comes first -- your family. Do what you need to there." I nodded a bit. "After all, this is the only time they've got you. You don't want your kid in some city camp learning things from the city teenagers."

Didn't you just suggest a city camp?

"While he's young, you want him learning your morals from you. You know?"

And at this, I nodded quickly, thanked him again, and fled the office. Completely confused me, that comment about morals. What if I have terrible morals? He's a gay man living in a public monogamous relationship -- what if I'm opposed to such things? He wouldn't necessarily know from our few contacts. What if I'm spreading vile filth while taking care of my somewhat disturbed son? (He doesn't know the nature of Saul's condition either.) Is this all good advice?

I have no idea why that one phrase stuck in my head when the conversation was really about a job application, but it keeps floating back into my brain at odd times. I think my subconscious wants me to come up with some rejoinder rather than just nodding and fleeing. Haven't got it yet.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Head desk

Had lengthy email convo with art department head at Neo's high school re: admission to advanced art class.

He agreed to look over her portfolio and said she's most likely be a good fit for "Art 2" or possibly for AP Studio Art, which is a two-year class.

Being a good mommie, I took her art portfolio to school during her lunch break and sat in the office while she was meeting with art department head.

She returned saying she could get in to AP Studio Art, and that he was a good teacher and gave her good feedback on her work, but oh yeah. "I can't take this art class next year anyway. They took away the second elective period, so it's language or art, but not both."

Holy crap. She's absolutely right.

I've spent hours looking over her schedule and devising schedules for outgoing years. To fulfill UC admittance requirements, she can take either three years of language (recommended by UC) OR three years of art (as designed by the art department), but she can't take both. Oh, and she'll never be able to take AP Bio, taught by her favorite teacher, if she takes the right amount of language. She could take language over the summer at a community college, but then she can't take any art classes over the summer.

I agree with my husband -- what is the point of advocating for these kids when all they end up with is a mediocre education anyway. I wish I could afford private school for them. Blergh.


In other news. I had a great experience with Saul the other day. He's taking part in a large group class at the elementary school his special program is aligned with. In other words, he's mainstreaming one class every day. He loves it.

We went to the bookfair the other day. We haven't been to a school function with him in at least two years, certainly not the bookfair staffed by snoopy fussbudget mommies who made his life miserable at his old school. As we're heading out the door with our purchases, the parent volunteer standing in the doorway, a dad, stops him.

"Hey Saul. How you doing? You like the book fair?"

"Uh HUH! It was great!"

"That's so neat. Hey, are you coming back here next year, or are you off to middle school?"

"I think I'm going to middle school."

"Makes sense; you're too smart for us anyway. We're so proud to have you here." Then, turning to me as Saul skipped out of earshot over the blacktop, "He's a great kid. So SMART. I'm so happy I met him this year." I could only nod because I was very close to crying. It was such a small thing to do, to acknowledge him. And I only noticed it because it just never happened at the old place.

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.