Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year...What The What?

There are two stories making the rounds this New Year's Eve that have me shaking my head.  One is tragic and the other is just...silly.

The first one is the story of a two year old that shot and killed his mother in a Utah Walmart.  Horrifying.  So many lives ruined in a second.  It raises so many questions:  Why was the gun in her purse?  Why was the kid left alone with the gun and purse?  How did his two year old fingers manage to pull the trigger?  What was she so afraid of in that little podunk town that she felt she needed to be armed to go to Walmart?  Did she get the gun for Christmas?

See the story here.

I don't want to get into a gun debate.  I really don't.  My husband is a former Marine.  He has massive respect for what guns and more importantly, bullets, can do.  We don't have a gun in the house, but if and when we move to the country (which we are thinking about in the future), my husband has already said that he would want a rifle; nothing crazy, just something for protection in a remote area where the police response time is decidedly slower than it is in the suburbs.  I know that he will be responsible with it.  He is that kind of guy.  I am no fan of guns myself, but I have no problem with responsible gun owners.  Where "responsible" becomes "irresponsible" becomes a bit more blurry for me, but that is a discussion for another day.  

I have been reading the debates about this incident.  The most ridiculous arguments are being made by some who are bragging about how savvy their own two year old's are with guns.  They are saying things like "They know not to touch a gun, ever".  I even saw a guy compare his having guns and teaching his toddlers about them to electrical outlets.  "We teach them not to touch those!  This is the same thing!".  Really?

Not the same, not at all.  Yes, we teach our kids to stay away from hot pots and electrical outlets...and guns, and accidents still happen.  As much as we parents are on top of our little ones, we still need to use the bathroom from time to time, or answer the door, or check on another child, or make dinner, or, or...so many "ors" in life.  Two year old's (and five year old's and ten year old's and teenagers and young adults...) don't make the best decisions.  Sure, they may have been told a thousand times that running into the street after a ball is a no-no, but how many do it anyway?  The answer is:  ALL OF THEM.  At one time or another, every kid puts themselves in some kind of dangerous situation.  Hopefully, usually, there is an adult nearby to save them from themselves.

While I certainly hope that these parents of gun-savvy two year old's are correct; which I highly, highly doubt, (sorry, THEY ARE TWO!) what I hope more is that they never learn whether they were wrong.  I hope they never have to second guess their actions because of a tragedy.  I also fervently hope that they are more responsible than that mom in the Walmart.  However you feel about guns, I am fairly certain that we can agree that a loose, loaded handgun in a purse within reach of everyone around you, not just your kids, is a bad idea; really, horribly, sometimes tragically bad.

I am thinking about this family today and hoping that they can find some peace in the coming year.


The other story making the rounds is about...drumroll, please...Playdoh.  It seems that in an attempt to design a kid friendly, fake cake making set, the manufacturers made one part look like this 
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I mean, okay.  I see it.  The person that designed it is either totally incompetent or a total, toy making genius.  After all, it is getting attention.

What I don't get is how this ruined anyone's Christmas.  People are actually saying that.  "It ruined Christmas when our daughter opened this present!", they are saying, hands held to throats in horror.

Seriously?  In what world does this ruin anything?  Sure, it looks like a tiny penis.  My question is:  Who cares?  It's not a tiny penis.  It's a tiny, Playdoh part that happens to look a bit like a tiny penis.  

Penises do not ruin Christmas.  They just don't.  Parents who make a big deal over nothing, do.

Why these two stories together, you ask?  What does one have to do with the other?  The way I see it, with all the horrors in the world, including a two year old shooting and killing his mom, tiny plastic phalluses are the least of our worries; or at least, they should be.

Are we really that far gone as a society that we are so desensitized to violence that we shrug it off, but anything that even resembles a penis has to be blurred out for our viewing (like they did here)?  What does that say about us?  Penises, real, fake, purposeful or not, are not the problem.  Our twisted view of what is bad or wrong, is.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Post

I am sitting in my cosy little house, listening to Christmas music through the Roku.  Things sure have changed since I was a kid...even since my kids were born in the last 18 years.

First of all, Roku?  It sounds like a character in Pokemon; something else that did not exist when I was a kid.  Since I fired up the desktop, I have heard Tony Bennett, The Beach Boys, Idina Menzel and George Michael and I have not had to load my cd player and set it on "shuffle" (remember how cool that was?!?).  All I had to do was pick a Christmas station through my TV.  

Christmases when I was a kid have all become a tinsel-covered blur in my memory.  I remember fat, crazy looking trees at my maternal grandparents house (in sharp contrast to the perfectly shaped fake tree in my other grandparents home), bowls of nuts that you had to crack yourself and bodies; lots and lots of sweaty kids and overheated adults.  The oven and stove going all day long makes for an unpleasantly humid living room, especially when packed with dozens of relatives.

And I totally loved it!

Christmas was a day of many big meals and many stops.  Godawfully (for my parents) early present opening and Santa gift discovering (Santa did not wrap his presents in my childhood home and he still doesn't in my adult home.  That Santa wrapped other kid's gifts started nagging at my already suspicious mind somewhere around the age of six), brunch at my aunt's, super-early dinner (that we were always late for) at my great-aunt's, then, finally stuffed and crabby (if you were a parent) and excited (if you were me), we arrived at my maternal grandparents house.  It's not that the rest of the day wasn't fun; it's just that their house was the MOST fun.  It's where all my cousins and my grandmother's seventeen desserts were waiting for us.  I'm not kidding when I say seventeen.  There were years that I counted and if there were less than ten, my grandmother would be fretting that we might run out.

Adding to the heat and the mayhem, my grandfather would be blinding us all with his movie camera.  Those movies would get broken out on Easter, Thanksgiving, or a later Christmas when the merriment had died down.  I have so many memories of lying on the floor with my chin propped on my hands, surrounded by nearly everyone I loved, laughing at those old movies.

So much stayed the same and so much changed as I got older.  My teen-aged self did not appreciate the Christmas Eve service that took me away from my (totally super-fun) boyfriend's family party.  I did NOT want to get up early to see what Santa brought for my younger sister and brother.  All I wanted was a leather jacket, to sleep late and some freedom.

So many pictures of me smirking or rolling my eyes during these years.

When I moved away at twenty, I was not quite prepared for spending holidays without my relatives.  That first Thanksgiving was pretty sad.  My (different) boyfriend's family was wonderful and welcoming but their traditions were so different from the ones I had grown up with.  I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted any kind of taste of home, I would have to learn how to make it myself and then, it would never, ever taste how I remembered it.  
That year, I did go home for Christmas, but things had already changed in my absence.  I had only been gone for six or seven months, but I had a new cousin, my room was no longer mine and it was clear that being an adult at Christmas was not as fun as being a kid.  By the time New Year's day 1991 came around, I was more than ready to get back to L.A.

Those years were some of the best of my life so far, but the time between Thanksgiving and New Years was always very trying.  My new boyfriend (now husband!  :) ) and our friends became each other's family.  We made the best of things, probably partied a little too much and complained about the lack of holiday spirit that seemed to permeate L.A.

Now, we have our own family and for many years, Christmas has been fun again.  There is nothing like seeing your little ones light up when they see what Santa has left.  It is warm and wonderful and maybe not as chaotic and busy as the holidays of my youth, but it is still wonderful because we are together.  We have our own traditions.  I have learned that the old cliche "Home is where the heart is" is true.  My heart is here with my family and it is also with my extended family and all the friends that made my holidays of the past memorable.  Being away from them has its moments of sadness, but more, it fills me with joy that I have so much to be thankful for and so many people to miss.  It is a luxury to have had them in my life.

Now, I have my own teenagers who roll their eyes and sleep too late and occasionally, make it harder to be filled with Christmas cheer; but they also surprise me with their generosity and warmth towards each other and us.  Santa's bounty is somehow anti-climactic at 11 am, but it is no less appreciated.  The pressure of staying up until 2 am and getting up before prying little eyes is off.  We make each other laugh and they are old enough to reminisce with us.  Things have changed again and I am embracing it; living in the moment, cherishing this time.

So, to my family and friends near and far:  Much love today.  I will be thinking of you while embracing my dear husband and big boys.  

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 15, 2014

This is Nothing Important

My dear husband and I were talking about dream "visits" the other day.  If you have had them, you know the kind I mean.  If not, they are the kind of dreams that feel as if you have spent time with someone that you love that has passed on.  I feel lucky that I have them, even though they usually always make me cry upon waking.

Occasionally, I have "place visits" in my dreams and these make me cry, too; mostly because I am usually dreaming of some wonderful destination that I am longing to be in; Paris, the pyramids in Mexico, or my grandparents' old house that has long since been demolished and turned into two family homes.  If I could time travel, I would go back to the brick front steps of that house or to huge swing in the backyard just to have another conversation with them.  God, I miss them every day.

This morning, I had a visit of another sort.  I woke up suddenly to the sound of crashing from the living room.  Since I have cats and am used to being awoken thus, I just figured I would survey the damage when I was good and ready (it was not the Christmas tree as I had feared, only some heavy cookbooks).  I managed to fall back to sleep almost instantly and immediately fell into a luscious visit with a 6'4 WWE wrestler.  It was the kind of dream that made me feel like I needed a mental shower upon waking; or a long soak in a hot bath for real.  It was a very nice dream.  It was so nice, in fact, that it made me feel guilty enough that I needed to write up this post; as a kind of confession.

I know I can't control my subconscious.  My rich fantasy life is as deeply embedded in my DNA as graying, mousy brown hair, blue eyes and irrational guilt.  They are all parts of me that I am learning to embrace.

Whatever it means and however it makes me feel, it was nice to wake up with a smile on my face, for once, on an otherwise dreary Monday.  Now, if you don't mind, I am going back to bed.



Friday, October 24, 2014

What Ifs

They really aren't helpful, are they?

We all have them.  

Mine range from the superficial "what if I were taller/thinner/better looking?" to questions about my path in life "what if I had moved to NYC instead of Los Angeles?" to "how would my life be different (better/worse) if I had never had kids?"

Yes, I have thought about that last one.  I'm not saying I wish I hadn't had my kids, because that is totally untrue.  Sure, there are moments when I look around my tiny, cluttered house and wish I was living in a loft in Paris...alone.  Who doesn't have these kind of daydreams?  (Angelina Jolie)  I'm saying that maybe I could have been thinner, traveled the world, made some more money, etc, etc, if I hadn't.  And maybe not.  Maybe I would be just as poor, chunky, travel deprived as I am now.  Who really knows?

It's a trade-off.  Okay, for some, it isn't (Hello, Angelina!), but for most, having kids means your life will be somewhat messier and you will be somewhat poorer.  For most parents it is a welcome trade-off.  Our kids enrich our lives in big and small ways every day.  My kids make me laugh, make me proud and make me yell in frustration, sometimes in the span of two minutes.  It's crazy and chaotic and I am happy and feel privileged to have such great kids.


I thought about these "what ifs" when I read an article about a mom with the headline "Mom of son with Down syndrome, 47, wishes she had had an abortion"...or something along those lines.  I refuse to post the article here, but a little Googling on your part will bring you to the story I am referring to.

I read it because a few of my friends had posted it, incredulous that this hateful piece was out there, complete with pictures of the family.  I repeat, pictures.

I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around putting your kid (he's an adult, but still her child) out there with the words "I wish he were never born" or actually, even worse, "I wish I had known what you would be so I could have aborted you" alongside a brand new family portrait.  I am no psychiatrist, but I think there is something deeply, fundamentally wrong with this person.

My first reaction was "how dare she?!"  Seriously, how dare she put her kid's name and picture out there with those words?!?  How dare she pose with him like they were a family?!?!  What purpose does this have?  We should feel sorry for her?  We should pity her?  What does she get out of this?  I have to wonder.  Maybe ( I think, definitely) she has some serious mental disorder.  Maybe she was duped into telling her sensationalized story by some unscrupulous editor (the source it comes from is known for it's outrageous stories and is no friend to the disability community).

Maybe.


I feel awful for her children.  She has another, older son who is missing from the latest family portrait; I would be very interested to hear what he has to say about all of this.  As for her younger son, I just feel so much sadness.  How awful to be the subject of so much loathing and misplaced anger and self-pity.  This woman has decided that her life would have been better without her younger son in it.  Meanwhile, she institutionalized him, so he really wasn't in it much, anyway, so I don't understand how he ruined her life.  She is blaming her crappy life on a child; a child that didn't ask for his issues, or choose his parents.  I have to believe that all any child really wants from their parents is to be loved and accepted.  Feeling like a disappointment is no way to go through life.

I feel sad for her, too, though it's a grudging feeling.  I really don't think she deserves my pity, but I do pity her.  I pity her crappy life.  I pity her inability to see the good and that it outweighs the bad.  I pity the small, sheltered space she must inhabit.  I pity the hatred she must feel for herself.

Yes, I am angry.  I am angry that she put this out there for expecting parents to see.  Will their fears be confirmed with this story?  I hope not.  I hope that they know that there are many, many more parents of kids with Down syndrome who feel pretty much the exact opposite of this one, myself included.

I am angry that people say she is a product of her generation.  That statement is a slap in the face to any parent that chose the hard road of keeping their kid home and fighting for inclusion in those earlier days.  She could have been a pioneer and she chose to be a coward.

Parenting is not for the timid.  At least, parenting well isn't.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

IEP Hell: The Neverending Headache

If you have been following along with the saga of my middle son's IEP's, you will know that we have had our ups and downs.  Mostly, luckily, thankfully, our experience with these meetings has been positive.  Until last year, with the start of his transition to high school, we never really had any kind of problem that we could not solve.

I am feeling that those days are behind us.  Even after a somewhat positive resolution to our last meeting before this school year started link here , we find ourselves baffled by school officials' lack of understanding of what inclusion looks like.

For instance, it does not look like a modified gym class for kids who are recovering from injuries.  Seriously, it does not.  

Charles is not injured.  Down syndrome is NOT a reason to be left out of a typical gym class.  In fact, Charles has ALWAYS been included in a typical gym class...until this year.  They decided (unbeknownst to me) that it would be better (their word was safer) to put Charles in a class where three or four other kids were getting therapy for injuries, rather than with the "general population". I am using that term with no irony whatsoever.

The gym teacher, who, all in all, seems like a very nice person who is trying to get a handle on how to include and teach Charles, is completely overwhelmed by this task.  I am not exactly sure why, but lack of understanding about what Down syndrome is and isn't seems to be a big piece of it.

I really didn't know what to say in the moment, because to me, it seems like a no-brainer that you would just assume he can do stuff until you see that he can't and then modify from there.  In the case of gym, the only modifications Charles needs are the ones that address his AAI What? and those are minor.  He can run, shoot hoops, play games, do bench press...pretty much everything that gym entails.  Can we just for a second assume that he can do stuff before we decide (with no evidence other than ***whispering*** psst, he has Down syndrome ) that he can't?

The problem "they" say is that Charles once left the gym without permission and they are worried that it would be hard to watch him in a large group setting, such as a regular gym class.  I get the need for safety, but let's break it down a bit.  He left this gym class/therapy and went to the next class on his schedule; most likely because he was TOTALLY BORED!  Who wants to sit around watching other people get therapy?  Further, they decided this BEFORE he started school! They had it in their heads that he could not handle the larger class and put him in this poor excuse for a gym class instead, without consulting me (I would have laughed at them) or even trying out the regular class first.  

Seriously?  

So, I told them that we needed to get him into a regular class, like YESTERDAY and they brought out the standard, tired argument of who was going to "watch" him, since, you know, they are so understaffed and the district won't give them another aide and yada, yada, yada...

I'm sorry, what?  

I pay taxes and ridiculous school fees for this "free" education and my kid will get what he needs; and if you put him in a class that actually has activities to keep him engaged, I am pretty sure that he won't feel the need to wander off to the math lab for some excitement.  Besides, my kid is LEGALLY entitled to receive a free, public education in the least restrictive environment; in this case, the high school that his brothers also attend, five blocks from our house.  This is not special treatment.  It is legally protected and socially just inclusion.

His case manager actually started complaining that there were so many kids "like mine" coming down the pike that they didn't know how they were going to handle it. And I said (trying to restrain myself from rolling my eyeballs out of my head) "Yes, you had better believe they are all coming!"  The insinuation was that "we" were the problem.  We.  Us pesky parents and our stupid kids.  

Are you freaking kidding me?!?!  These creative, bright individuals can't think of a way to revamp the system to accommodate children AT THEIR HOME SCHOOLS IN REGULAR CLASSES?!?!?  How about take 75% of the teachers and aides in the segregated classes and put them in the others?  Co-teaching?  Extra hands?  Spending less money busing kids to other schools also means more money for extra teachers.  For the other 25%, we can have some smaller classes for those kids that really, really need it and even those could go away in time, in my opinion.  We are finding out that our kids learn better together.  ALL our kids learn better together; no matter where they are on the continuum. Read Thisthis, and this.  


I am SO TIRED of having to educate the educators.  I am tired of getting beaten down to the point where I feel like my only choices are to pull him out altogether or leave him to rot in "life skills".

I have more to say, but right now, I am just so freaking tired.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Are You Here?" Movie Review ***Spoilers and Yelling...Lots of Yelling***

On a rainy day, like today, one of my favorite things to do is watch a movie. 
My kids are in school, I have nowhere to be in particular today, so it was just me and OnDemand.

I had come across the title "Are You Here?" a few times recently and I thought it sounded promising.  I mean, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler?  What could be bad about this movie?!?!?

As it turns out, virtually everything.  

Now, I am no movie writing genius, but I would think when you cast a couple of 
the funniest people in Hollywood today you would have them be, oh, I don't 
know...funny?  No!  You say?  That is too obvious?  Instead, lets portray them
as a severely depressed, borderline sociopath (Galifianakis) and an uncaring, selfish bitch (Poehler) and Voila! You have this horrendous piece of crap that I ruined a perfectly good rainy day (and wasted $7.99.  Thanks, bloodsucking BigCable!) watching.

Wait, it's a DRAMEDY, therefore, it doesn't need to be funny or serious, apparently, just really, really, horrifyingly awful.

You know when you get to the end of a movie and you are like "No.  NONONONONO, there is NO WAY that that is the ending.  NO!!!  WHAT DID I JUST WATCH?!?!?!???  HOW IS THAT AN ENDING???!!!???  IS THIS REALLY HOW I JUST SPENT TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE?!?!?!? AAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

What does it all mean?  Only Amish people really get it?  Everything else is plastic horses?  WHATDIDIJUSTWATCH?

Here is the link if you don't believe me.  Just don't ever say I didn't try and spare you.

Zach and Amy, for the love of all that I hold dear, PLEASE, PLEASE don't ever make me hate you in a movie again.  Amen.






Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pancakes

It's a long weekend.  I love it when Sunday doesn't mean the weekend is coming to an end, it's only the middle.  Soak it up!  Do! Stuff!  I know what I will do (I think to myself), I will make delicious, cool looking pancakes that my whole family will adore so much, they will beg me to make them all the time and they will become the stuff of family legend.  They will be crying over my coffin thinking about how freaking ridiculously awesome these pancakes were.


(Don't they look great?!?  Not sure about the gummy worms, though, weird.)

I mentally pat myself on the back for being such a great mom as I stroll the market looking for the correct ingredients.  They don't carry an apple corer?  Oh well, I think...no matter.  I will just core these lovely Granny Smith apples by hand.  It should only take, what...30 minutes? (the real answer is:  infinity)

Two hours later, I have given up trying to make apple rings.  After nearly losing two fingers and ruining four apples, I have settled for making a small batch of apple rings and then, I will use the rest of the batter for apple pancakes...just dicing up the leftover apple and adding it to the batter.  

Not quite what I had in mind, but 120 minutes in, there is no way I am not making something on the griddle.

Oh crap.  The griddle is still on top of the fridge and needs to be cleaned.

After scrubbing the crap out of the non-stick (note:  foreshadowing) griddle, I finally start working on the batter.

I read the instructions on the side of the bag of gluten free pancake mix.  "How many eggs do I need?!?!? 5?!?!????!!!  What the hell, Pamela?!?!  Okay, I will use applesauce to make up the difference.  WHAT?!?!?!!!  How are we out of applesauce???!!???Okay, it's still fine, I will improvise.  Two eggs + Two tablespoons of Earth Balance + One cup of Almond Milk+ Whatever oil we have left = Five eggs, right?  Whatever."

The batter is finally prepared and the griddle is hot.  I place the apple rings on the griddle and begin to gently drizzle batter over them.

"What in the world?!?!?  There is no way to leave the middle circle open.  NO WAY.  Okay, that's fine.  They will be circles, not rings, but no less delicious or beautiful."

I am now sweating in my 100 degree kitchen and have gone partially deaf from the sound of the overhead exhaust fan as it labors fruitlessly to waft the smell of burnt batter away from the stove.

Brett comes in and asks if I can drive him to a friend's house.  I ask him very sweetly to wait until I am done making him THESE! DELICIOUS! PANCAKES! and turkey bacon and he backs slowly out of the room.  Smart child.

It as at about this moment that I try and turn the rings (now circles) over.  

If an appliance could laugh, this electric griddle would have.  Huge, loud, Teflon coated guffaws.  "Oh, you want to flip these pancakes?  These, right here?  No way in hell, lady.  Ha ha ha ha ha haaa."


Apple Ring Pancakes:  Nailed it!

I take a few belly breaths and count to five.  It is either that, or start dismantling the kitchen board by board.

I look over at the sad remains of the apple ring pancakes and decide to give in and just make pancakes with apple bits.  They are sure to be delicious, still, right?

I dollop the apple batter onto the comal (with about a half container of Earth Balance to ensure non-stickedness) and let go of the breath I have been holding in for the last two hours.

Danny comes in and takes one look at the griddle and almost starts laughing until he sees the flames shoot from my eyeballs.  Instead, he starts scraping the crap off of it, wondering out loud if the apples are still salvageable.

I start laughing...that maniacal laugh that you know is just one step below tears while wielding the spatula like a knife.

He backs away, nibbling on half burnt/half raw pancake batter and apple, swearing it is delicious.  This is an example of why we are still married.

In the end, I do manage to pull off some surprisingly good apple pancakes and turkey bacon, which only Brett and Danny wound up eating.  The other two rolled their eyes at me and reminded me why I never try and make breakfast in the first place.


Amy's Apple Pancakes

Prep Time:  Three hours

Crying Time:  Three hours (on and off)

Time Husband Spends Trying To Hold In Laughter:  Your entire marriage

Eating Time:  Three minutes

Cleaning Up Afterwards:  Ninety minutes

Yield:  12 Somewhat edible, very greasy pancakes