Saturday, August 16, 2008

A word about the Olympics

I'm jaded on the Olympics.
I don't know what did it.

I wasn't bothered that the fireworks display was 'fixed up' so it'd appear brighter and bigger.

I was annoyed, but not all that surprised, given China's nature, that they pulled a bait-n-switch with the endearing little girl that lip-synced at the Olympics.

But the Chinese girl's gymnastics team did me in.

Nobody really believes these girls are old enough to be in the Olympics. They don't look 16. They look like the pre-pubescent 13-year-olds everyone suspects them to be. And it's not that they won the gold in the team events that upsets me. It's the aura of deceit that the Chinese are pulling, an aura that other nations and the Olympic Committee is helping uphold. The age on the passport is the only thing that matters, and they are holding to that caveat as an excuse to not investigate the allegations that three of the members on the Chinese gymnastics team may be too young.

Are we really surprised though?

This is a nation that starts training before the kids even get to be kids. They live in training camps and faciilties and their entire lives are sports. It's not enough to be good, they have to be great. And if, at 13, a girl can win the gold, what is it to change the age on a passport in a nation who's government is involved in every aspect of an Olympiad's life? If a 13 year old is better than a 16 year old because she is lighter, limber, less 'mature' physcially, than what is it to change a number?

I think our girls are great. They are world-class, and I think they can hold their own against girls a few years younger, but the truth is, it's not okay, and it's not right, because we don't let our 13 year olds compete for very good reasons. If we're keeping our best athletes home because they aren't the correct age, is it really 'okay' to let other nation's get away with it?

And, if it isn't (which it's not) why won't the Olympic Committee do something about it, investigate it, find out the truth?

They won't, because in an event that is supposed to have nothing to do with politics, politically, it would be a huge slap to the Chinese if it's found they lied, and politically, slapping the host-nation of the Olympics isn't a good idea.

And that is why I'm jaded on the Olympics.
Because this Olympics, more so than any other, is all about the politics.

The Chinese girls who are most likely too young to be performing will win their medals. The American girls who win their medals will pretend to not have an opinion about whether or not the girls were too young, because it IS all about the competition for them, but it will be in their minds... what if they got to compete against the 16 year olds....

In soome sports we'll dominate, in others, we won't, and Phelps will be hyped up for being the most winningest athlete ever, (he's part merman, didn't you know?), and the Olympics will fade from our minds as fast as they dominated our television screens, but the sour taste that the aura of deception the Chinese left won't fully fade.

It's just a reminder that this nation is a nation who shows you only a careful mask. What you see is never what you'll get. I think it'd be good to remember the olympics for the future... because the Chinese are becoming big players in the world. It would be wise to deal with both the mask and what is behind it as well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

School Shopping -- a nightmare

Did you know the only difference between Justice for Girl's Jeans and Arizona Jeans are one has an extra wave thingie on the back pocket?


There is nothing more nightmarish than back to school shopping, and I started early. But today, the Friday before the First Day of School, I had to go out... in the unseasonable rain and even more unseasonable cold, to Justice for Girls, J.C. Penney, and the grocery store. It was mad chaos. First, Target has the cutest shoes, but nothing at all, LITERALLY nothing at all, for any girl who is above 8 years old. We left empty handed.

J.C. Penney had their lovely buy one get one for $1 sale which comes in handy when you have twins, but their shoe selection for kids is, and has always been, very dismal, at least at the shop I went to. Turbo and Bear talked (begged) me into Star Wars Lego T-shirts, the most unpractical and unnecessary clothing item I purchased. It's summer, they've got TONS of t-shirts. But I did end up with cute shoes.

But the hordes and crowds were out. Nobody seemed to be buying a lot, but everyone was out today buying... something. It didn't help I had to do groceries today as well.

All I can say is it's done, I'm glad of it, and Drama Girl and Turbo and Bear aren't getting a piece of clothing unless absolutely needed, in December, when it begins to think about snowing, because if I think about how much I spent on clothes that will get stained, ruined, ripped, and outgrown by December... lets not think of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dear Snarky School Counselor's Secretary... regarding an IEP

My daughter has an IEP. She's had one since she was 9. I just would like to clear that straight up.
I am her parent, and I like to be involved. I'd also like to make that clear.

I understand you were in the middle of chatting with your BFF about adopting poor children overseas, and I'm sorry to hear that Ukranians are no longer adoptable, and I realize I'm interrupting your most interesting conversation, at 10:45 a.m. during your workday.

It's just that, when I asked you to take a message for the counselor because I wanted to touch base and have a short conversation with her about my daughter's IEP, you seemed to misunderstand me.
Somehow, you believed I needed a lecture on IEP Process 101.
You explained to me the IEP process, the same one I've been working with since Drama Girl was 9, but thank you kindly, for assuming I never actually bothered to read her IEP. But you didn't take down my message.
You then proceeded to explain how the special education teachers and regular teachers and principles from both schools all met together to have a nice little chat about my daughter and her IEP. I already knew this. It's mandated by law that I receive notice of and invitations to all IEP meetings and reviews, and I'll be damned if I never miss 'em.
I'm sure it surprised you, what me being a parent, and all, that I was disrupting what you perceived to be as sound process.
Anyhow, what you clearly should also know, since you know so much, is that last year, your counselor was in a foreign country, and didn't make my daughter's IEP meeting. Neither did I, although I did send an e-mail and discussed beforehand with her current teachers what I felt were important things that hadn't been dealt with before. The fact your counselor was absent is the reason I'm sitting in your office smiling through teeth that really want to gnash you to precious little bits, trying to get you to give me a piece of paper so I can deal with someone I really need to deal with.

That was all I wanted -- a simple piece of paper so I could write a note to the counselor requesting a brief chat about the transition.
I understand that you are a process person, so clearly caught up in the process that it never occurred once to you that all the while when you were discussing meetings about MY child with counselors and teachers and special education helpers you neglected to mention me, the parent. You seemed to think I was an unnecessary complication. My presence or involvement in the matter unnecessary. Your precious process handled it.
And you still didn't give me a piece of paper.

Well, Snarky School Counselor's Secretary, I'm afraid you've given me the impression we'll be seeing a lot of each other these next three years, so let me start all over and reintroduce myself properly.

I am a mother of a child with an IEP. I care about her education, the help she's getting or not getting, and what goes on during her day at school. I am an involved parent. I am not satisfied with any process that involves my child, specialists and teachers, but not me, the parent. You'll be hearing from me fairly frequently. Try to be less snarky. Oh, thank you, now, for finally giving me the piece of paper. Don't think to toss it. If I don't hear from a counselor soon, I'll be calling Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday... you get the idea.

P.S. By the way, regarding your precious process, let me assure you, no one can spin in and out of process, paperwork and red-tape than someone who's worked ten years in government. I know what process is. It's why I'm damned if I'm going to leave my child to it.

Being Crafty, oh and Curious Dragons

It doesn't take a crafty person to be crafty.

Take my chore chart, for instance. This masterpiece is functional and crafty, but messy, but a huge success.
But I want my sons' room to be crafty. Turbo and Bear deserve a crafty boys room. They just do. They want one, too, desperately. I can tell, it's in their eyes. Trust me. It's really for them.

Anyhow, because I know deep in their hearts what kind of room they want, I'm giving it to them. They want a blue room, because they asked for blue. They want airplanes. They love letters. They want cool cube shelves to put the wood cars and trains and planes they paint on display. They want a mom crafty enough to do all of this.
They got me.

So, here is craft no. 1 of the boy's room.
Craftily painted wood airplanes that will fly along the walls amongst craftily painted wood stars.
Witness Exhibit A:
The first of five airplanes hand painted. Cost of plane -- $1. Cost of reusable paint -- $8.
(The stars are only 25 cents)

And After:

The little mistakes won't be obvious when hanging on the wall! It's just good ole crafts paints and cheap paint brushes!
Stay tuned for next weeks' installment: Painted letters that spell out a silly math wordquation.
Oh and btw, for those curious about curious, open-minded dragons who could just as easily be really confident with themselves.... Fleming was created at a pottery studio. Remember, I'm not crafty, and I'm not really good at oh, painting neatly... or doing anything neatly. I like to think it gives my creations 'character.' Anyhow...
Meet Fleming.

I am not so much pink, as rose.

I am most definitely mysterious.

But most of all, I am Magnificent...

Fleming, The Magnificent!

... and curious... oh so very curious....


Here are some things that I still worry about, even though on this second time around I feel like I should know better:

1 - Obsessive/Compulsive type hand and wrist twisting
2 - Still can't roll over at 7 months
3 - Isn't sleeping more than 5 hours at night
4 - Head sweats so much it makes wet spots on my clothing
5 - Excessive ear wax

Oh, I know that nothing's wrong with him, but sometimes I'll see him twisting his little hands for an hour, or flipping his tongue around in his mouth like a crazy man, and I have a twinge of fear. Not a "mother's instinct is usually right" twinge, but an "Oh no, they were RIGHT about the vaccines and what have I done to my baby??" twinge.

Luckily I'm both too busy and too tired to actually pursue any of these panics. But I don't make fun of moms that are worrying about something that seems insignificant to me. I suspect it's a hormonal imperative for mothers to fret, and according to my mom, it never ends.

In Its Proper Channel

Dear Perfectly Normal Ladies,

Why do new parents talk nonstop about poop? When my baby is born next month, I'm not going to bore my childless friends to death talking about waste.

Uh huh. You and every other innocent that ever walked through the shoals of pregnancy.

But you have to make this vow. Everyone does. I did, my mother did, and her mother before her did as well. We were all going to be sparkling conversationalists the day after birth, and we certainly wouldn't go on and on about our child's obvious brilliance and beauty, LET ALONE fecal matter.

The very strongest among us even keep this vow for a week, maybe two. We have read extensively about meconium, and we chuckle gently as we explain to our spouses that greenish black tar is perfectly normal for infants. When it becomes "mustard seed" in appearance, we smile tolerantly as we assure the teenaged cousin changing his first diaper that it's natural.

However, when it becomes green and gooey, almost taffy like, no vow will stop us from racing to the internet, asking if our offspring is the victim of some kind of intestinal plague. Even if the internet is reassuring, we will still ask every single parent friend we have for further points of data. At lunch. In front of the childless girl. Sorry. It's the circle of life, my friend. The only way out is to not have kids at all, or for that matter, pets.

Finally, bear in mind that during baseball season, baseball fans talk about baseball. And for a new parent, it's always poop season. Between blowouts, texture changes, color changes, and strange smells, the infinite variety never grows stale.

For instance, blowouts. Some people think they're caused by diapers that are the wrong size for the infant. The factor in question is "volume." A diaper may fit properly, but be unequal to the infant's output ability.

My mate and I believe there is another cause. We call it the channel effect, or "up the chute." The crack between the baby's butt cheeks acts like the veins in a leaf. The capillary effect sucks the poop right up and over his tailbone in a fountain of feces. Of course, you don't realize this has happened until you pick up the baby, and it squelches out over the top of the diaper, and soaks though the onesie. Actually, you might not realize it even then, until the disgusting slop seeps through the sleeve of the nice hotel-quality lounging robe you got for a Christmas present, the one you stopped wearing when you realized you'd created a life form that throws up all the time.

But maybe your baby hadn't horked in three days so you thought it might be safe, so you were wearing it as you waved your husband down the driveway, holding his son so the last thing he saw on the way to the office would be his gorgeously attired wife and his heir learning to wave bye bye.

Oh, you were so wrong, but hey, at least you got the onesie off without smearing poop in the baby's hair. And this accomplishment is so much harder than it looks that you must tell your friends, and indeed, the ENTIRE INTERNET.

Monday, August 11, 2008


The boy turned six months old over the weekend. (Woo! End of SIDS danger! Show me a girl who tells you she isn't secretly holding their breath a little bit until this risk is past, and I'll show you someone who didn't do any pre-partum reading on the topic.) And that meant it was time for his six month vaccinations.

This topic is the one above all others driving me insane. I believe there is zero evidence proving that autism is caused by vaccines, mind you. But I do wonder, with cause, what long term evidence we have that THIS many vaccines in such a short period of time is safe. Some of these vaccines simply lack any long term studies (at least, any studies available to the tenacious layman with internet access and a library card). I am concerned, with good cause, about the "inactive ingredients" in vaccines. Finally, I don't quite understand the reasoning that says a one size fits all vaccination schedule is a good idea.

The temptation not to vaccinate was not strong for me, however. This is a small world, and with easy, affordable global travel, all kinds of creeping awfuls are just one trip through an international terminal away. Even though the northern outpost of hell isn't quite as cosmopolitan as the town I was living in, we still have an international community hailing from places with drastically different approaches to public health. And I hope to teach my son to love travel, to love exploring, and to not be afraid of people.

I still have to look out for this one little person. I declined the Hep shot given at birth. He wasn't going to run into any hookers or dirty needles that week. I am holding off on chicken pox until I can no longer refuse due to school entry requirements - I'd rather he just got the chicken pox. We are not getting flu shots in this house for more reasons than I can list here. And even my pediatrician thinks the rotavirus vaccine is strictly a profit maker for pharmaceutical companies.

I've read all the books recommended by the anti-vax crowd. The science in most of them is... weak. However, there is no thoughtful rebuttal that doesn't require equal leaps of faith.

But my grandfather suffered for more than eighty years from post-polio syndrome, and he was considered lucky. Measles and mumps are more serious than chicken pox, and those vaccines have survived the test of time. And modern horrors like Hep, Hib, and the pneumo-nasties make me glad there is better living through chemistry.

We're still doing a delayed schedule.