Friday, September 25, 2009

Side of the Road Rage

Why do the people who come to my little cul de sac to wait for their kids after school feel that it's appropriate to park at a stop sign and block my driveway and clog the entrance to my street? Who does that? Where are their manners? This is the kind of thing that makes neighborhoods pull up the welcome mat and get the police to keep people away. I don't mind people turning around in my driveway -- we removed the cement blocks the previous owners had to prevent that -- and I don't mind them sitting in front of my house. But if you're parked in front of my driveway when my daughter's trying to come home for work or my husband's trying to get out after lunch ... honesty, what is the matter with you?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

School craze

I make a big deal in my book about getting your child off to school as calm as possible, plenty of time, no stress, no yelling, no rushing. And boy, did I blow that today, on the very first day of school. Everybody was up and ready in plenty of time, but I let my son have a little too much alone time, and then we were rushing, and then we were halfway to school before I realized he didn't have his schedule, and we had to run back home, and there was some yelling and panicking and melting down (mostly me, but still). I hope that's the most out-of-control part of his day, but given the fact that his aide didn't have the right schedule when we met her and has no idea of what classes he's in, I'd think not.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Listen to me ramble

I've done a couple of podcast interviews for my new book, 50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education, and they're available on the Web if you're interested in hearing me talk and talk and TALK. The one for Mommy Time Radio is about six minutes, and the one for NEED Project is sufficiently longer that I haven't gotten up the nerve to listen to it; I had the impression at the time that I was blathering on, and I'd hate to confirm it. If you give it a listen, let me know how I do. I so prefer writing, where you can go over things and clean them up before anybody sees.

I'm doing another interview on Tuesday for The Parent's Journal, and then on September 10 I'll be doing a live "meet and greet" at the Barnes and Noble in Clifton, NJ. If you're in the vicinity, stop by and keep me company. Details are here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Schedules at last

So my kids' school schedules finally came on Saturday (clever to make them arrive on a day when we can't immediately call and complain.) My daughter's looks perfect, and my son's has just one glitch -- the same elective class in two different periods. That's pretty minor compared to problems on his friends' schedules, though. Two of his friends had schedules with periods completely missing, and his friend who's going to be a junior has senior English on his schedule. It will all work out, and it's good to know now exactly what the issues will be. Lunch, I can see, may be a problem, because none of his friends have it the same period. Either he'll make new friends, eat alone (as my daughter usually has to), or pull up a chair beside his paraprofessional.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Movie recommendation: Julie and Julia

I saw Julie and Julia the other night, and found it to be completely adorable. Unlike a lot of critics, I liked the parts with Julie as well as Julia, and thought the two stories benefited from each other as counterpoint. I'm not at all a foodie, and was not seized by an irresistible urge to eat the kind of food shown onscreen (except maybe that bruschetta Julie made early on). What the movie really made me want to do was go home and hug my husband. The movie offers a great depiction of two functional, affectionate marriages, something you don't see that much of in movies and TV these days. I though it was interesting that, although the plot involved the accomplishments of two women, you couldn't imagine either of them doing what they did without the love and support of their spouses.

For those of us who've dealt with infertility, there was a very sweet little scene, very understated, showing Julia's reaction to news that her sister is pregnant, that rang true and familiar. Been there, cried those tears, got that sweet comforting hug from my husband. A nice touch in a very nice, funny, sweet movie.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Something I didn't know about "Sully"

After the big media rush surrounding the plane that landed on the Hudson River in January, it seemed hard to believe that there was anything more to know about the plane's captain, Chesley Sullenberger. He seemed like a nice guy in danger of being so overexposed that the inevitable autobiography would be a big "so what." Reading a review in our local paper today, though, I saw something that I either missed in the coverage around the event or never got reported before: He's an adoptive dad. From the review: "He tells of training as a military pilot, his first kiss with the woman who would become his wife, their struggles to conceive and their joyful adoption of two girls." Gonna have to put that book on my reading list now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

< shameless promotion >

Hey, if any of you live in the vicinity of Clifton, New Jersey, come out and see me at the Barnes & Noble at Clifton Commons on September 10. I'll be doing a "meet and greet," which is what they do if you're a local author who's not likely to bring in the hordes like, say, Kate Gosselin (for whom my daughter and I waited in line for an hour and a half). I'll be available to chat and sign copies of my new book, and I hope folks will come out for me because otherwise, my son's going to accost random strangers and drag them over. You can get more info about the event here -- and if by chance you've already read the book and liked it, please consider reviewing it on Amazon and/or

< /shameless promotion >

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Worrying off-schedule

While I was on vacation last week, one of the blogs that has been sucking up the time usually reserved for this one -- my Brothers & Sisters blog -- was unceremoniously dumped by 451 Press. I'm hoping that the time I've been spending writing about the fictional Walkers in all their spectacular dysfunction can now be channeled back to keeping this blog current.

And speaking of dysfunction ... why, oh why, oh why can't our school district get schedules out on a timely basis? Come on, people! We usually go on vacation the second week in August, and the kids' schedules have always come reliably during that week when we're not here to obsess with them immediately. This year, though, we came home to nothin'. Nothing in the mail, nothing on the fancy new website the school has for posting schedules and grades. We've usually gotten a preliminary schedule without teachers and classrooms earlier in the summer, too, and that's also gone missing this year.

It seems like every year, things are a little less organized. And that means a little more time wasted at the start of the school year getting everybody in the right place. Maybe they're just trying to minimize the time that parents have to complain before school begins, but I'm afraid that they're just that disorganized. Meanwhile, I'm practically sitting on the mailbox waiting for these pieces of paper that mark the official start of my school worry season. I've got worrying to do, people! Get it together!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My new book is out July 18

Just got a big box of author's copies of my new book this week, and it's so exciting to see it all bound up and pretty. It's called 50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education, and offers really practical things you can do every day to help your child. I've talked to a lot of educators who are disheartened by a lack of parental involvement, and unlike so much of what ails special education, that's an easy thing to fix. Please consider keeping an eye out for the book, online and in your bookstore, and help me get the word out.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Last ER tonight

I'm feeling very nostalgic about the last episode of ER on tonight. The show debuted in 1994, just a couple of months before we went to Russia to adopt our kids. I enjoyed the early episodes, then missed a month's worth while we waited out the adoption in a country where our viewing choices were mostly re-runs of U.S. shows long cancelled. (The Hat Squad seemed to get a lot of airtime.)

When we got back, I started watching the show again. I remember talking my mom, who hated watching medical shows because she always thought she had the same symptoms, into watching the show with me one night while she was visiting. Alas, it turned out to be the night of Love's Labors Lost, one of the most harrowing hours of TV I can remember watching. Took her a while to forgive me for that one, and I don't think she ever watched the show again.

I was a regular viewer for a while, finally throwing in the towel when Abby was shaping up to be Mark Greene 2.0, a character for who nothing could ever go right. I watched the George Clooney episode a few weeks ago for old times' sake, and though I have a meeting to go to tonight, I'll be DVRing the whole three hour goodbye extravaganza tonight. Rumor has it that Clooney will be back for this one, too. Don't know about that, but I'll be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Clooney alert

For those, like me, who plan to watch whatever final-season ER episode George Clooney pops up in, TV Squad says tonight is quite likely the night. Julianna Margulies will be there, anyway. We'll see. I may just DVR it and fast-forward to the good parts, such as they are.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"The trouble with snark"

Love this article by Roger Ebert about snark, particularly as it relates to reviews of the Oscars but as applies to our society in general, too. I've certainly snarked before, and it's fun and cool and easier than really understanding something, but I agree with Ebert that the damage it does is probably not worth it. And unlike him, I have seen snark aimed at regular people rather than celebrities -- you can see it in blog comments and online forums pretty easily -- and nothing ends a useful discussion like it. Food for thought, anyway.

Oh, for goodness sake

My kids just got back to high school after a week of vacation, and now next week they have three half-days due to testing. This on the heels of four half-days before the break for midterms. All this testing seems to result in kids spending less time in school. Which tests parents, for sure.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The new Miley Cyrus song makes me cry like a baby

Alright, so I'm a sucker for country ballads anyway. But the lyrics of "The Climb" (video below) just seem so appropriate to our children who bring such spirit to their struggles, and us parents who keep fighting those battles and climbing those mountains. Along the way, I think we do become aware that life isn't a race and the outcome is less important than the effort. I'm not exactly in Miley's target demographic, but I'll take inspiration where I can get it. Also, a good cry.

(I love how unstyled and age-appropriate she looks in those blue-lit studio shots. Wish she still looked like that on her show.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar reviews

So who watched the Oscars last night? I had to do so alone for the first time in a while, since my normal viewing companions were sidelined by sickness. My husband, who has absolutely no interest in the proceedings, tried valiantly to watch with me, but quickly nodded off. I wasn't close to dozing, though, even though I'd seen none of the performances and had no stake in the winners for the first time in a while. I thought the ceremony was really pretty enjoyable, the banter and musical numbers less cringe-worthy than usual, the montages fun, and the speeches trim and sometimes interesting. So I'm pretty surprised today to go online and find so many bad reviews for the show. Honestly, I think it's the old "it's easier to write a bad review than a good one" principle on display. You never look uncool for not liking something. I'm happy to see that Roger Ebert agreed with me, anyway. What did you think?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Honor roll worries

Both my kids made the honor roll again this marking period. We're in some sort of alternate grading universe, and I like it. Trying not to like it too much, because it's reasonable to expect that, even with continued effort, they will at some point slip somewhere in some class and not make that hallowed list, and then there will inevitably be disappointment. I've always talked a good game about being happy if my kids try hard and pass, and that will always be the case. But once you've gotten that pat on the back, twice now, it's going to feel like a smack if you don't. Though of all the school worries I could be having? This is certainly the one I'd pick.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Phone calls from politicians

It's bad enough when you get all those cheesy recorded calls from politicians and their supporters on the day or two before election day. But this week, I got a recorded call from a politician on the eve of his announcement that he was entering the race. I wouldn't even want to talk to the actual guy at this point, much less listen to his recorded message. If you want to rally my support this early, I don't know, send me chocolate with your name on it. Tape recordings aren't going to do it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Share your camp recommendations

Have you found a great special-needs camp for your child? I'm starting a user-suggested listing page on my site, and I'd like it to be a great parent-to-parent resource instead of a pathetic empty list. I contributed one recommendation to get started, of an extremely program-intensive camp my kids used to go to (before they priced themselves out of our budget). Please add any places you've found and appreciated.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On the ball

I've started using a therapy ball for my desk chair, and ... it's interesting. Not uncomfortable, but maybe not transformative, either. Kind of fun to bounce while I'm writing; can that possibly be good for my eyes? One thing it's shown me, though, is that I have an amazing talent for slouching, and am able to do that even when balanced atop a rubber sphere. Can't put my feet up and lounge back, though. Not if I don't want to go sliding across the living-room floor while the dog laughs at me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I'm not sure that the story about high fructose corn syrup being full of mercury is going to withstand any scientific scrutiny -- there's kind of a funny smackdown of it on the blog Daddy Types already -- but if it gets those annoying Corn Syrup Is Great! commercials off the air, I'm all for it. I don't really get how bragging that your product is just as healthy as sugar (big scoopfuls of sugar, actually) makes sense anyway.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow blunder

Big boo boo in our school district this morning. The teachers got told there was a snow day, the elementary-school parents got told there was a snow day, the middle-school parents got told there was a snow day, but the school website and public-access TV channel that high-school parents have to rely on to tell them there's a snow day? Didn't get told. So anybody without a younger brother or sister or a teacher in the family was left looking out the window and saying ... sure looks like a snow day, but if the website says there's school, isn't there school?

Nope. We live next door to the high school, and it was pretty obvious, looking out my window at the unplowed parking lot and unshoveled sidewalks and dark building that there wasn't going to be school. My daughter was working Facebook, gathering intelligence from kids who'd heard one thing or another, sharing our observations of the empty campus and trying to figure out if there was official word anywhere. A couple of local news channels said our schools were closed, a couple didn't say. The message finally got up on the website and the public-access station about the time the high school would have been starting, and after my daughter's friend had already stood outside waiting for a bus that never came.

I expect many angry, angry letters in the local paper this week. The website's usually so reliable in the case of snow closings and delays, there's a reluctance to believe it's wrong when it bears no emergency message. Whatever mistake got made, they'll have to make sure it doesn't get made again. And maybe pay a couple of high-school students to post the official word on Facebook, too.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Battle at the Barnes & Noble

My friend and I went to Barnes & Noble last night, and almost got caught up in a fistfight in the cafe. It gets brutal in there, you know, with not enough tables for everybody who wants to enjoy an overpriced cup of coffee, and students treating the place like their own personal study space for hours and hours and hours.

We've heard customers get sarcastic when told they couldn't keep sitting without spending, and we've seen some spirited dashes for an open chair that ended with grumbles and stinkeyes, but nothing like this business yesterday. An elderly fellow, without any apparent purchased cafe item in hand, sat himself down in the spare chair at a couple's table. The couple, understandably, didn't want to sit at close quarters with a stranger, particularly a stranger who started yelling at them for lying that the spare chair was waiting for somebody and accusing them of just wanting an extra chair for the lady's coat.

It got to the point where the two men were standing up and yelling one another -- I believe there were accusations that the table-holder had insulted the table-encroacher's hat -- and some poor Barnes & Noble employee had to come over and break them up without actually ticking either one of them off. Not possible. He finally coaxed the old guy away from the table, and talked to him for long enough that the couple finished their beverages and moved on.

A pair of young women sat at the three-chaired table next, and you just knew what was going to happen. One woman went to place an order, and the other was just starting her sandwich when the troublemaker, having eluded the Barnes & Noble employee's grasp, came and asked if he could use the third chair. The girl said sure, thinking, surely, that he would take it somewhere. Instead, he sat in it, turned sideways so that he was staring directly at her as she ate, inches away from her sandwich. She had that look you might get if a wild animal was staring you down: Perhaps if I stay very still, and pretend like I don't notice, it won't attack me.

My friend and I scooted out of there shortly after, grateful that the Extra Chair of Doom wasn't at our table. I'll have to make sure to avoid extra seats in the future. My coat can fend for itself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

They pull me back in

I haven't watched ER in ages, but they've managed to do just about the only thing that might make me tune in for one of these Last! Season! Really! We Promise! episodes: talked George Clooney and Julianna Margulies into coming back. I wouldn't blame either of them for not agreeing to join the reunion 'n' resurrection tour that this season's become, but I'm awfully glad they did. Now to hope that the ER powers that be, whose oafishness is part of the reason I stopped watching in the first place, don't do anything to ruin the pretty nice send-off Doug and Carol got the first time around.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

IEP report

Had a pretty successful IEP meeting for my son today. The reports from the teachers were very nice, and it sounds like he might make the honor roll again this marking period. More importantly, the teachers mentioned that he's curious and asks questions and is a leader among his peers. It's been really gratifying to see a new group of teachers at a new school (high school!) who don't know him see that he's a good kid with strong abilities. I know there have been some behavioral glitches in some of the classes, but the teachers seem to understand that it's more a case of him copying troublemakers rather than being a troublemaker himself.

Next year we're pushing him a little with some more inclusive placements, and I sure hope we're not going too far. He'll still have his one-on-one, so it's not like he's hanging out by himself, but I'm thinking now of how great it is for him to be a leader, and whether that's still going to be the case when he goes from being the highest-functioning kid in the class to the lowest. We'll have to keep a really close eye on things. But I'm cautiously optimistic about inclusion for him, which I've never been before. We'll see if the school can do its part to make it work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not exactly Mr. Current Events

My son came home from school yesterday talking about how they had watched the presidential inauguration in his gym class and lunch period. His verdict on this historical occasion? "Boring!" Now, if they start showing iCarly or SpongeBob SquarePants on the school TV, then he'd probably be impressed. Momentous political events? Not so much.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Technical difficulties

If you've been stopping by the Mothers With Attitude site over the long weekend and noticing some, shall we say, dysfunctionality, come on back, it should be fixed now. I had to make some changes, and they caused me to bump right up against the limits of my technical knowledge. I eventually got everything working, but only after many many site-jumbling tries.

Well, it's not all working. I think the humor essays are still a little wonky, and missing their menus. I'm going to take a little break to rest my head before I tackle that, though. I've got my son's IEP meeting on Thursday, and I need to feel competent.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vote for a special-needs cause

I wrote something today on my site about the vote going on at, to determine ten issues with which to present the incoming presidential administration for consideration. One of them has to do with full funding for Medicaid waivers, and since it needs a good "get out the vote" push to get it into the top 10, ahead of, say, hemp legalization or a Secretary of Peace, I thought I'd mention it here, too. Go to this link:

to register and vote.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stupid driver tricks

Have you ever seen someone who drove the wrong way up a highway offramp, or maybe read about someone doing that in the paper, and thought, "What kind of idiot does that?" Well, I have your answer for you.

Me. I'm that type of idiot. That type of idiot is me.

It happened on Saturday, in the snow, when I was looking for a highway onramp I was pretty sure was somewhere around where my son and I were driving. I didn't see it until we passed, then made what looked like a perfectly A-OK right turn on next big street. The road promptly divided, and since I saw cars coming at me on the left, I went up the little ramp on the right ... and saw a truck coming at me there. It was, in fact, the offramp from a major highway. To say I panicked is to put it lightly.

If I ever had a doubt that my family is being watched by God, I now have proof. We're blessed that cars started coming at us toward the start of the ramp, where there was room for me to pull off to the side and not get creamed. We're blessed that they then stopped coming at us long enough for me to do a shaky three-point turn and get out of there. We're blessed that, during the part of the turn where my car was spread out all the way across the ramp, there was not another truck barreling off the highway. We're blessed that I didn't get us both killed, because that's the sort of thing that usually happens when you start entering highways the wrong way.

Think of me, next time you're set to curse some dummy who made an unthinkable driving mistake. And say a little prayer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Preparing for emergencies

There was a "smoke event" at my kids' school on Friday, which turns out to have been someone throwing a flare down in a crowded hallway, and it getting kicked around where it could burn people and fill the area with smoke. A teacher and a student were injured, and the rest of the student body wound up outside in the freezing cold without jackets -- or, in the case of my son, in his shorts-and-T-shirt gym uniform.

A threat was received for another such attack today, but so far, from my window facing the school, I see no fire-alarm exodus. I can usually hear the chatter and know all 3,000-some students are out there even with my curtains closed. I hope this means they've thwarted the attempt, because although I remembered to send sweats for my son's gym uniform, I forgot to dress him in something sufficiently warm for the rest of the day. If they have to split out during class or lunch instead of gym, he's going to have another cooooooooold spell.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Testy about tests

Next week is midterms at my kids' school, and while part of me looks at my son's class and wonders who on earth thinks it's a good idea to give these students hour-and-a-half tests, part of me is glad that they're getting something approaching a regular-education experience even though they're in self-contained. Should be a heck of a rocky week behaviorally, though. Awful close to the routine-messing-up of Christmas break. Yeah, four half-days with long tests are just what we're lookin' for now.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ice capades

Well, I guess this is my comeuppance for my post about cars slipping on ice in the school parking lot the other day. This morning, the roads seemed to be fine, but the sidewalks were a skating rink. It's that nasty ice that looks no different from the wet pavement around it, so you basically have to step small and pray.

Our first hint that the morning commute would be treacherous was when my daughter said goodbye, headed off down the front steps, and wound up in a heap at the bottom of them. Assuming she'd tripped, I went to run down the steps to her, and did one of those cartoon feet-out-from-under-you falls. Yowch.

I took my son out through the garage when it was his turn, and we managed to pick our way very carefully to the school, but there were near slips all along the way. Later, I went to put salt on the pavement and steps in front of the house and fell again. I'm tired of this. Is it spring yet?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Free calendar, and other useful stuff

A few goodies from my site, in case you haven't been over there (and why not?)

I'm also starting a Tip of the Day feature, right up top on the home page. Check it out! (Daily! Please! I have to believe that somebody's looking at it.