Archive | February, 2011

Electronic Male-Female Relationships

In my continuing series on the evils of electronic communications . . .

Okay, I kid.  Sort of.

In all seriousness, this is a topic worth discussing and exploring.  Now that the internet has been in exploded mode for a dozen or so years, and just about everybody has a cell phone, an email account, and a Facebook account, it’s become pretty common (methinks . . .) for men and women – who would never have crossed paths were it not for the internet – to develop electronic relationships.  Platonic relationships to be sure (although no doubt a percentage of them become something unplatonic), but relationships nonetheless.  This raises a few questions:

~ How meaningful do you actually consider your strictly online relationships to be?

~ Is it weird or somehow inappropriate to have a strictly electronic relationship with someone of the opposite sex?  Is this a relationship you would engage in if you had access to this person in the flesh?  Or is the friendship only there because it’s electronic and therefore safe?

~ How do/should these online friendships – specifically with people of the opposite sex – impact your real life marriage/romantic relationship?  Does your spouse/partner know about your online friendships with people of the opposite sex?  How do they feel about it?

Just like allowing our kids to delve into the world of electronica is something we are the first generation to be faced with, so, too, are we the first generation to be faced with our own online communications and relationships and how they impact our real lives.

So, I’m curious.  Share your experiences and thoughts, please.

Cowardice and Bravado In the Internet Age

This is not a new phenomenon; there are articles and blog posts galore centered around people behaving in ways via electronic means that they probably wouldn’t in the flesh.  It runs the gamut from “sexting” to leaving snarky, hurtful comments on blogs to verbal brawls on message boards to creating false personas with which to troll the internet.  It’s a fact we can’t escape: it’s pretty damn easy to say just about anything from behind the cover of one’s electronic device.  It can be dangerous for kids and disturbing for adults.  Boundaries have been demolished, and sometimes the whole thing feels like a virtual free for all.

I’ve been party to plenty of this myself – message board and other mainly on-line relationships that fall apart very dramatically (I know we would never have said those things to each other face to face), offensive comments left on my blog (always anonymously).  When you decide to become involved in online relationships (especially group relationships) or open yourself up publicly with a blog, you kind of have to be prepared for occasional ugliness.  And while unpleasant comments left by “Anonymous” can be upsetting, you can at least write strangers off as whackadoodles.  But then there’s this other situation: when somebody leaves a comment on your blog and hides behind attempted anonymity, but you, the blogger, are pretty darn sure you know who this person is, and the person you think it is is someone in your “real life,” and you then feel kind of pissed off that this person wasn’t just straightforward with you.

So, yeah, that’s the sitch I currently find myself in.  Not that the comment in question was offensive, exactly.   Self-serving and defensive, yes, but hey, I don’t write these things to please the masses or insist that everyone agree with me.  I’m open to discussion!  But hiding behind a semi-anonymous identity . . . well, it just strikes me as kind of chickenshit.

Why does this even bother me?  Why is it festering?  Because the person I suspect the commenter to be is someone I encounter face to face occasionally, and now there is this weird tension, and it’s like we’re both pretending that he/she didn’t leave said comment and that I don’t suspect that it’s him/her.  Or, I could be completely wrong about the whole thing!  Which also makes it weird, because all I have is my suspicion.  Why don’t I just confront said person and say, “Hey!  Was that you?”  I don’t know why.  I’m not sure there’s a point to doing so – it’s not like our relationship is that deep or meaningful that it’s imperative the air be cleared on this.  And honestly, there’s a part of me that believes that if I did know for sure it was him/her, I’d be even more ticked off.  So I should just let it go I guess.  And maybe writing it all out here will help with that end.  And it also probably makes me look like someone who expends way too much energy worrying over silly crap.

Anyway.  Let’s all take a pledge, okay?  A pledge to not ever say anything electronically that we wouldn’t say in person, and to not hide behind anonymity to give us balls we don’t really have.

You Too Can Torture Your Kids, Preserve Your Sanity, and Increase Your Entertainment!

It all started as a joke on Facebook.  I was discussing the pros and cons of filing a report against that woman who hit my truck, and Michael said, “Babe, maybe we should have the kids fill out reports instead of tattling to us every five minutes. Let’s make it a house-law. Daisy will need extra forms of course.”  Funny guy, eh?  But it got me thinking . . .

And so was born The Complaint Box:

I made up some simple complaint forms on the ol’ computer, printed off a bunch and informed the offspring that heretofore, they will be required to put their complaints in written form and lodge them in The Complaint Box.  The first batch of forms was dispatched before the sun went down.  Here is a random sampling:

 

This is so Joey.

 

Of course, Kevin had to get in on the gig.  See, we hate his hair, and he hates Justin Bieber, so we keep hoping that if we tell him he looks like Justin Bieber, he will agree to a hair cut.

 

Translation: “Annabelle is making my house knock down because she is not letting me concentrate.”  Daisy is very good at expressing her emotions, as you can see.

 

Really, can you say “Bratty Boots” and not giggle?  Try it.

Translation: “It is not fair that Lilah has Play-Doh.  And I want to go to a restaurant right now.”  Ahhh, Annabelle.  As Mrs. Phillips would say, this is not your personal best!

Translation: Lilah would not get her feet off me.  Mad face!

 

Rilly rilly?

More emotions brought to you by Daisy.

A joint complaint.

You can make these handy complaint forms yourself!  Come on, you know you want to!

 

 

What’s Cooking?

My kids have become big fans of The Cooking Channel.  Which is funny and ironic since they don’t like any food that doesn’t have Goldfish crackers or cheese as the main ingredient.  But I can see the appeal of watching somebody skillfully create a meal from a mess of seemingly random ingredients.  I myself like the idea of liking to cook, but the actual cooking?  Not so much.  A passel of picky kids has pretty much killed any joy I might have once found in the kitchen.

Nevertheless, as I said, it seems that The Cooking Channel has lately replaced Noggin in our house, and there is inspiration to be found!  Last night Michael and I decided to attempt a meal we saw on Cooking For Real.

To prime us for our cooking adventure, we started out with Cherry Bombs:

Ingredients

  • 2 limes, cut into 8 wedges and halved
  • 4 to 5 sprigs mint, leaves only
  • 2 cups black cherry juice
  • 8 ounces London dry gin
  • 1 cup seltzer

Directions

Muddle lime and mint leaves in a shaker or serving pitcher (if the pitcher is sturdy enough). Add cherry juice, gin, and seltzer and stir to incorporate. Serve over ice-filled glasses.

***

We actually couldn’t find black cherry juice at the store, so we tried one using black cherry soda instead (eliminating the seltzer), and the other with pomegranate/cherry juice (with seltzer).  I liked the one with the pom/cherry juice better.

The Main meal was Shrimp With Garlic Pesto Pasta:

Ingredients

  • 15 garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 head)
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus extra for tomatoes
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place garlic cloves in a single layer in a small baking dish. Add 1/2 cup olive oil to cover cloves, cover with foil, and bake 45 minutes, until golden brown and fork-tender. Meanwhile, in another baking dish, toss tomatoes with enough oil to coat. Lightly season with salt and pepper and roast at same temperature until tomatoes blister, about 25 minutes.

Strain garlic cloves and set aside in a small bowl, reserving infused oil separately. In a blender, add the roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, Parmesan, and basil. Pulse until combined. While machine is running, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil until pesto comes together. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Remove to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and reserve.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the linguine and cook until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and saute until the shrimp turn pink and is cooked through.

In a large bowl add the linguine and some of the pesto. Toss to coat and top with the shrimp. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and serve.

Note: There will be leftover pesto.

Ummm . . .

Twinkle grabbed a dropped shrimp.  Lucky dog.

It was absolutely delicious!  I LOVE a good pesto, but had never experienced a tomato -based pesto.  Succulent!  And we have plenty left over to make another meal of it – yay!

I want to give special thanks to my husband for helping me with this project by doing all the cooking. It was hard work sipping my cocktail and taking all the photos!

Hit and Run: WWYD?

Two weeks ago as my Expedition was parked in front of our house, it was sideswiped by a car traveling up our street.  I was home at the time but wasn’t aware of the incident until later in the day when a neighbor, who witnessed the whole thing, came over to see if the driver of the other vehicle had contacted me.   The other driver had not contacted me – had not come to my front door to talk to me about the accident, nor left any contact information on my windshield so that I could contact her, but rather left the scene.  Fortunately, my neighbor took down her license plate number.  We filed a claim with our insurance company and obtained an estimate of the cost to repair the damage caused by the collision, which ended up being in the neighborhood of $2,000.

Yesterday evening while I was out at baseball practice with the twins and Michael was at baseball practice with Joey and Kevin was home with Finn and Lilah, a woman came to our front door looking for me (what possessed Kevin to answer the door to a stranger while his parents weren’t home I have no idea – I’m still upset about that).  It was the woman who hit my truck.  She asked for my phone number, which Kevin did not give to her, so she left her phone number and asked that he have me call her.  Michael dialed her number when we got home, and then thinking better of it (really, it’s in the hands of the insurance company now), hung up, but by then our number was already on her Caller ID, so of course a little while later she called.

To make a long story short, she told Michael how she had just passed her driving test a couple days before the incident (!!), how a car was approaching from the other direction and in her nervousness she veered into my truck, and then “didn’t have the courage” to try to get in t0uch with me about damaging my truck, so left the scene.  At the time of the incident, she was driving her cousin’s car, and her cousin, the owner of the car, was in the car with her.  I would have to assume that he is at least a somewhat experienced driver, so there were two people there who understood that a car they were in had hit another vehicle, and they left the scene.

I’m not sure what she wanted from us.  To handle the whole thing without involvement of insurance companies?  To forgive her because she said she was “very sorry”?  I don’t think she had any idea what the cost of the damage that she caused amounts to, because she was surprised when Michael told her.  Anyway, the insurance claim is already in motion, a check is already being processed.

What I am kind of torn about at this point is: should I file a police report?  The truth is, her cousin’s insurance will pay for the damage to my truck.  And his insurance rates will certainly go up because of this whole thing, but I doubt he’ll ever have to pay an amount in increased premiums that will equal the cost of the damage to my truck.  He will have to work out with his cousin, who was driving his car, how to get restitution from her – that’s between them.  It’s sad that she had just gotten her driver’s license (though she was not a teenager – Kevin estimated her to be in her 20s or 30s), and I’m sure she was nervous, and maybe she is sorry – but the fact is, she left the scene.  Hit and run!  It seems that she was hoping to get away with it and is only sorry now to have been caught by way of our insurance company tracking her down via her license plate number.  There’s a part of me that wants to make sure she is cited and fined for what she did.  But is that just being unnecessarily vindictive?  Is there a good enough reason to shake her life up a little over this, or should I just accept the check from the insurance company and let it go?

What would you do?

The Measure of a Mom

Still feeling a little trepidation about my new, as-yet-unknown duties as Team Mom for Daisy’s t-ball team, my friend Robin sent this to me this morning in an effort to bolster my confidence:

Wow, congrats!  You are embarking on quite a journey.
As far as I can tell, the responsibilities of the team mom are as follows:
1.        Go to team mom meeting at beginning of season.
2.       Be available by phone to calm down the other moms.
3.       Fight with other team moms on which booth the team will staff at the carnival.
4.       Assign other moms to be in charge of everything else: the end of season party, snack booth schedule, weekly snacks.  (btw tell them they need to have appropriately labeled,  decorated and themed snack bags for players or they won’t win the mommy wars).
5.       Tell everyone else what they should get for the coach(es) at the end of the season.
6.       Bring easy up to games.
7.       Help find wayward siblings at games/practices.
8.       Cheer your head off for your team!  Go xxx go!!!

Hmm, I think I can manage this.  And it all plays right into my evil plan to win the Mommy Wars and take over the world!

But wait.  Suddenly my plan is foiled!  I received my first official instructional email this morning from my nemesis, the Team Mom from Joey’s team last season!  Who just happens to be “Auxillary President/Secretary/Ways & Means” (copied from the signature line of her email) of our Little League division.  The Mother of All Mothers.  Queen Bee.  Why is she my nemesis, you ask?  Her Queen Bee ways just rubbed me every wrong way when she was our team mom, from having to listen to her make important calls on her cell phone while sitting in the stands at every game to a little scuffle about fundraising which involved her reaching from behind me in the stands during a game and sticking a coupon book in my face and saying, “Here, you need to sell these.”  I kind of brushed her off, and Michael tells me that this made an impression on her and “Won’t she be surprised to see your name on the list of Team Parent volunteers? (chortle, chortle)”

So the question now is: can I beat her at her own game?  Let us analyze each of our assets and liabilities, shall we?

Queen Bee:

Moi:

Look, I have wayyyyy more assets.  And no liabilities!

My friend Robin followed her initial note to me this morning with this:

Almost forgot, you do all this for a (select one from the following list)

1.       $10 gift card, hopefully to somewhere you like
2.       Picture frame
3.       Lotion/soap

With a thank you note, all in a fancy gift bag done up by one of the other mommy-war competitors.

I will win the Mommy Wars, by God!!

Play Ball!

Today was Daisy’s first t-ball practice.  She’s been very excited about signing up for Little League and getting to be on a team just like Joey.  Out of all the kids, she’s the one who likes to play ball with Joey out in the yard the most, and she’ll sit with him and watch the baseball channel for long stretches too.  It’s cool having a girl who likes the girly things like ballet and the tougher stuff like baseball.  There’s something that makes me proud, seeing her out there, the only girl on the team, wearing her brother’s castoff cleats and baseball pants.

Here are some crappy photos from today’s practice taken with my cell phone.  I know – exciting stuff.  Almost as exciting as looking at someone else’s vacation slides, right?

Daisy is the one in the blue pullover looking right at the camera.  You can see Michael out in the field, and Joey came along to help out too (he’s fourth in line):

You know, t-ball is hilarious.  The kids just really don’t have any idea what they’re doing.  They’re running in all directions, or stopping between bases and turning around, or picking dandelions.  Quite the comedy.  But this is where it all starts.

Oh! And I have a job!  Well, not really.  But I did volunteer to be Team Mom!  Funny how nervous I am about it, wondering if I can handle the responsibility.  Ahhh, gone are the days when I felt so organized and competent and confident in my abilities.  Anyway, not even sure exactly what it entails, but I’m it!

I’ve Got the Down Syndrome Blues.

We had Finn’s IFSP meeting this morning with our Regional Center service coordinator.  Although we dropped out of all therapies for Finn a while back, we agreed to keep Finn’s file open with Regional Center for case management, so they are still required to do an updated IFSP to assess where he’s at, determine what goals he’s met since the last IFSP, and set new goals.

Finn is two and a half now, so this was his final IFSP, and now begins the process of transitioning him to the responsibility of the school district.  Services from and responsibility of the Regional Center ends promptly the day before he turns three, and the school district takes over on his third birthday.

I’ve been absolutely dreading this IFSP meeting.  None of them have ever been especially positive or encouraging experiences – probably in large part because of my attitude towards Early Intervention as a whole.  So there was that, but also just the knowing that this is it, this is the point at which we begin transition, and I feel like my heart is breaking.

Why?  Why does this all hurt so much?  Why does it cause such knots in my stomach and tears in my eyes?  I’ve turned it over and over in my head, trying to get to the bottom of it, of my absolute angst over Early Intervention and what is coming up: Special Education.

Finn is my baby.  He’s my last baby in the nest, and I admit that I am having a hard time with the idea of letting go.  Having and taking care of babies has been my entire life for the last 8+ solid years, and the thought of my last one leaving my side – even if it’s just part-time preschool . . . well, it just undoes me.  Yeah, I’m one of those sickening moms who is probably going to develop a serious drinking problem and a reliance on heavy-duty antidepressants when all of her kids are grown and gone.  I mean, they bug the shit out of me, but they’re my whole life, you know?  So word to the wise: this is what happens when you immerse yourself so completely in motherhood that it becomes your entire identity.

Anyway, so there’s that.  And I have no doubt that I would be feeling this way with my last baby regardless of chromosomal makeup.  But then there is the element of Finn’s special chromosomal makeup.  Not only is he my baby, he really is just a baby.  He’s two and a half, but really more like your typical . . . one-year-old?  Eighteen-month old?  That’s still a baby in my book.  And I never dreamed of sending any of my other kids off to preschool that young (not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not anything I’ve ever wanted for my kids).  But there is now going to be this big push to send him to developmental preschool . . . as soon as he turns three!  And I read all these other blogs by other parents of children with Down syndrome, and they’re all doing it, or have done it, sending their three-year-olds to preschool, and it’s so fun! and it’s so exciting! and they get to take the bus!  and isn’t that exciting?!?!  And I just feel like throwing up from anxiety.  I don’t want to send my three-year-old (who’s more like an eighteen-month-old) to preschool, and I certainly don’t want to stick him on a bus.  Why would I?  None of my other kids have taken the bus to school.

I hate that Finn’s whole life is supposed to follow this pre-mapped prescription.

From birth to three he will receive x, y, and z therapies.  Promptly at age three, he will begin attending developmental preschool.  Later, he may go to an inclusive, typical grade school, with an aide; however, if the powers-that-be determine that he can’t hack typical school, he’ll be warehoused in special education classrooms with all the other retards for the rest of his school career.  Maybe some day he’ll have a menial job and live in a group home.  And everyone will live happily ever after!  The end.

I feel like Finn has never been completely mine from the time he was born.  From the time he was just a few hours old and we had to take him to the ER and hand him over and watch them stick him full of tubes and hook him up to machines, it’s been like he doesn’t fully belong to us.  They have always had part “ownership” of him – first the NICU who had him for the first two weeks of his life and made almost every decision concerning his welfare and slapped our wrists when we tried to step in; then the social worker who told us we had to enroll him in Early Intervention if we wanted what was best for him; then Regional Center and its team of therapists who all have had their own ideas of how Finn should be managed; and now it will be the school district.  I feel like I’m being expected to relinquish his childhood to strangers who have no idea what it’s like to love this little boy so much that it feels like it could demolish me.  What do they know?  They don’t know anything about Finn or me or our family.  Nothing.  And they don’t care.  Finn is just another special needs kid, just another Downs kid, a file, a number, a set of problems to deal with, a set of goals to reach.

And yet . . . Finn is in the midst of a frustrating stage right now.  He yells and screams, a lot.  For long periods of time.  I don’t know if there is a physical cause (he might be cutting molars), or if it’s frustration on his part because he can’t communicate.  See, I don’t know, because he can’t communicate!  He throws things.  He’s suddenly refusing table foods and is back largely on purees (this could be another sign of teething, no?).  He’s made a lot of strides . . . but it’s very, very slow going.  And part of me wonders – of course I wonder! – maybe being in a more intensely therapeutic setting would give him just the push he needs?

Still, it feels like throwing him to the wolves.

A few weeks ago I was at the store and there happened to be a small group of adults with various disabilities there.  There was a woman in charge, and it was clear that this was some sort of day program and they were on some sort of outing.  The woman in charge was not nice.  I heard her admonish them repeatedly, as if they were wayward brats.  She said to one young woman in the group, “It’s not appropriate to ask people their names!  I’ve told you that!  That’s the third inappropriate thing you’ve done today!”  My blood was boiling.  I had Finn with me in a stroller, and I began following them from a distance.  I wanted to shout at the woman, “See my son here?  He’s one of them!  You can’t treat them like that!”

But see, that’s the thing.  I’m sure it gets frustrating and tiring for the people in charge of these “groups.”  And I’m sure they’re not always nice.  And I’m supposed to entrust my son to people I don’t know, on whom he doesn’t even have the ability to tattle on if they mistreat him?

Probably I’m being a little melodramatic.  But this feels HUGE to me.  I’m not ready.  I don’t know if Finn is ready.  All I know is that I want to protect him from all the bad in the world.

So back to our IFSP meeting this morning.  Since Finn has no therapists, our service coordinator did a questionnaire assessment.  She said she’ll plug the answers into this nifty computer program at her office and it will come up with scores for where Finn’s at cognitively and developmentally.  Nice.  Whatever.  So she’ll be setting up a meeting that will take place in April between her, us, and the school district psychologist to begin putting together Finn’s first IEP.  Blech.

I know nobody’s saying he has to start preschool tomorrow – or really even as soon as he turns three (although, clearly, there is an expectation that we will do that if we have his best interests at heart).  And I know that it’s probably silly to sit here and wring my hands before I even know what they’re going to suggest or offer us, or before we have an opportunity to physically go check out whatever they will offer us.  But still, I’m just really having a tough time with this.

Proving Myself As a Mother Through Cute Craft Projects

Ahhh, gone are the days of simple, cheap, tacky, one-dimensional, store-bought paper valentines that grade school kids would pass out to their classmates in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  When I was a kid, it was considered superfancy if those tacky store-bought valentines were accompanied by a box of those horribly artificially sweetened conversation hearts.

Gone are the days of simple anything.  Every class party now is an opportunity for mothers to show off their creativity with fancy gift bags for every student in the class.  Every birthday party guest must be sent home with a memorable parting gift.  Even snacks at the Little League field are required to be assembled with flair.

It’s all part of the Mommy Wars.  Of course, this is just my theory, but I think it’s a pretty good theory.  We mommies are always on the lookout for an opportunity to prove ourselves – to show that we’re good at this whole Mommy Thing!   Who’s the Best Mommy?  The mommy who is the most creative!  The mommy who happily spends hours baking fancy treats, constructing fun, unique school lunches, and painstakingly creating handmade scrapbooks, that’s who!

I’m not knocking these mommies – not totally, anyway.  I both love them and hate them.  I am both inspired by their creativity and ever-smiling efforts, and pissed off at them for raising the bar that much more for us slacker-but-wannabe-better-mommies.

Earlier in my mothering career, I was one of them.  I could often be found hunched over a table piled with stickers, 80 different kinds of scissors, templates, and photos.  Every birthday party my kids had was heralded by fancy handmade invitations, and party guests went home with elaborate, themed goody bags.  When it was my turn to provide snacks for Kevin’s Little League team, no simple granola bar and juice box would suffice – there also had to be stickers (baseball themed, of course), and small prizes, all held in a decorated bag personalized with each player’s name in fancy letters.  Halloween costumes were unique, creative, and handmade by moi.

It goes without saying that the more kids you add to your household, the more difficult these endeavors become.  But I admit that sometimes I still feel the old pull of competition.  Because, let’s be honest, these projects we undertake really aren’t for the kids – they’re for the other moms.  The kids don’t give a crap about the carefully put-together goody bags tied with fancy ribbon, or the elaborate handmade invitations.  It’s the mommies who care about this stuff, and it’s the mommies who are taking note and keeping score!

In keeping with this insanity, I decided yesterday afternoon to undertake the following project for my grade-school kids’ class Valentine’s parties which will be held tomorrow.  If you do the math, you will see that this gave me roughly ONE day to complete this project.

(Note: I actually borrowed this idea from my friend, Heather, who did these for her kids last year.  Hers came out much nicer than mine did.  Mine is kind of the white-trash version.  I guess I lose this one.)

(Additional note: of course I’m providing photographic evidence of my efforts.  That’s all part of the game.)

CUTE PHOTO VALENTINES THAT WILL IMPRESS

Materials:

Digital camera

Photo paper

Color printer

Paper trimmer

Craft knife

Suckers

Coffee (optional)

Instructions:

Take a photo of your child holding his or her hand out in a fist, a little to the side.  Print as many copies of said photo as there are children in your child’s class (3″ X 5″ is a good size).  Trim photos if necessary.  Using a craft knife, cut small slits above and below your child’s hand in each photo.  Gently push the stick of a sucker through the slits in each photo, as such:

Voila!

Each of my kids has 30+ kids in their class, so I printed and cut out 96 photos, cut 192 slits with a craft knife, and pushed 96 suckers through those slits.  I get bonus points for quantity, right?