Thursday, November 29, 2007

Product Review: Home Food Oat and Nut Granola

I know, I've been quiet the past few days. If you've been reading along, you may have guessed that I was finally doing laundry at my own house and getting those reports written - and you'd be right. (Well, okay: one report down, three to go. Let's not exaggerate. But it's a huge improvement. And we're caught up on laundry.)

Although I haven't written in a few days, I have been busy in blog-related activities! Important things, such as doing a little Internet shopping and sending Shannon a bag of the granola she was so disgusted by earlier in the week! Why, that gave me the giggles for days!

Below you will find her product review - enjoy...

OK, I admit that when I first saw an online photo of Home Food’s granola, I thought it looked less than appetizing. It’s possible that I used the phrase “nest-building material” to describe its appearance. It looked a little…shaggy? Twig-like? Chex-Mix-inspired? Not like something I’d enjoy in my breakfast bowl, I can tell you that. And what was the deal with those green pieces I could just barely make out in the photo? They looked suspiciously like wasabi peas. But…no one wants wasabi peas in their granola, do they? (Shudder.)

So when a package arrived on my doorstep the other day bearing a bag of Home Food Oat and Nut Granola, courtesy of Ms. Wonderwheel herself, longtime friend Jordan Sadler, I wondered if I should be offended. Did Jordan want me to ingest shredded nests? Did she wish upon me a morning meal of wasabi peas with my soy milk? Why, oh why?

Luckily, my three-year-old was with me when I opened the package. And, it just happened to be snack time. “Let’s have some right NOW!” she suggested excitedly. How could I say no? I tossed a handful of granola into a small bowl for each of us (mixing some Craisins into Julia’s to make homemade “trail mix”), and sat down to sample.

First, I have to tell you Wonderwheel readers that Home Food’s Oat and Nut Granola looks FAR better in person than on the Internet. Seriously. There is no real resemblance to twigs, or birds’ nests. It is chock full o’ nuts (slivered almonds, whole cashews, sunflower seeds), rounded out with oats and shredded coconut, sweetened with honey—oh, and those green things? PISTACHIOS. Ah, it’s all becoming clear to me now.

People, it was delicious! Home Foods Company, I have a message for you: do something about that photo. Is it the lighting? Was it a granola off-day, the day of the photo shoot? Was the photographer an amateur? Whatever the problem, rectify it. Your product is much tastier than your photo suggests! Chunky! Fresh-tasting! Wholesome! Not overly-sweet like that icky grocery-store granola!

In sum, I wholeheartedly recommend this product. I could happily eat it, wasabi-pea-free, every morning for breakfast,

Oh, and my preschooler loved it too.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Why am I procrastinating so? It's not my style. When I have a report to write for work, I get it done and out the door. So why is it that I've let three unwritten reports collect over my head like so many dark clouds for weeks?

It's not that they'll be difficult; they're not long reports. And no one's asking me for them; I think I usually get things done a lot faster than other people, so my productivity standard is high and probably a little out of whack.

But these things aside, why? Am I getting better at chilling out and not being so frantic about completing tasks? Maybe. Perhaps the past few months (year and a half?) are finally getting the better of me and I'm too burned out to push myself right now. I am really not sure.

It's not like I'm watching TV or reading by the fire in the evenings. There's always so much to do that it's incredibly easy to keep busy doing other things. Things that legitimately need doing. Anything but work.

When I talked to Matt about this last night, his comment was, "Well, it doesn't look like the wheels are falling off the bus."

He's right. The wheels aren't falling off the bus.

I just know I'll be happier when these things are done.

And yet I'm not doing them.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On Neighbors

Remember that post in which I mentioned that our washing machine was broken and I was hauling laundry to the clinic where I work? Yes, lo those many days ago?

It's still broken.

That's right. No washing machine while hosting Thanksgiving - with guests in the house. And with only one set of sheets for our new bed, that's really saying something.

We hope that on Tuesday, when a repair person is scheduled to show up (what a concept!), this will be over.

However, we have learned something in these two weeks: our neighbors are amazing. Some we knew were amazing because they are our friends first and foremost, they just happen to be our neighbors as well (lucky us!). And they have been fantastic. But others we didn't know too well at all, at least not until we started trudging though their homes with our laundry baskets and detergent. Two couples in our condo building have been as generous as our actual couple stopped by with their key on their way out to a party: "Go ahead in and out as you please - watch cable TV while you wait for your laundry if you want - we'll be home late tonight!" The neighbors across the hall have come and knocked on our door multiple times, "Don't you need to do some laundry today? Come over anytime!" and even left their door unlocked when they went out so that we could get in and pick it up. Wow.

My cousin was here from San Francisco. After a couple days of these goings-on, she finally exclaimed with a dropped jaw, "Do you have any idea how incredible this is? I mean, it's actually WEIRD, you guys! People just stop by and offer to help you. They come in for a while with their kids, like, 'I'm just going to stop by and be really, really cool and nice for 10 minutes, hope you don't mind!'. Then they drink some tea and hang out, and leave!" She felt like she was on another planet.

Pretending to be put out by this atypical behavior on the part of city-dwelling human beings, she was essentially echoing what I've been trying to say since we arrived in Chicago. I have lived in big cities and small towns on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in the Midwest, but I've never seen anything like the people in Chicago.


I'm stayin'.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What's Less Sexy than Granola? My robe.

I have a winter robe. Not just any old robe, but this robe. In navy, if you must know.

I bought it last year when we moved here to this cold hinterland, into a home with big, drafty windows. It's not hip, no, that's for certain; but I'm not exactly a slave to fashion. (Since buying it, I have also purchased its equivalents in the slipper and winter coat departments. I might look like a major dork, but I'm warm, you hear me? Warm.)

Tonight I am wearing it around our chilly house.

I stopped to talk to Matt, who is busy typing tonight's 1000 words for his NaNoWriMo story (he's not officially enrolled, but is taking turns writing 1000 words per day with our friend Christopher for the month).

I thought I detected a faint smirk on his face. As I left the room, I called back to him, "What's sexier than this robe, huh?"

His immediate reply: "Granola."


We had a plan.
(I implore you: click on this plan.)

A snowy morning.

Funny relatives in town.

Kids helping.

More food than 15 people at 3 tables could shake a stick at.

The world's cutest kiddie table.

A Backyardigans break between dinner and dessert.

And a final report: big success!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Naked Pillow Fighting (oh, this one will set Google afire...)

Baxter (excitedly): "Mommy, did you know there's naked pillow fighting on TV tonight?"
Me (in shock): "Bax! Where on earth did you hear that?"
Baxter: "Nowhere. I read it in that paper in your bathroom!"

Doh! Time to stop leaving The Onion lying about.

Guess the Turkey's Here

This is what I found on the floor when I went into the kitchen last night after Matt went to the grocery store.

It's occurring to me that perhaps we're not the most formal family I know.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Bookish Meme

Nearly two months ago (eek!) Kristen tagged me for a book meme. I usually jump right on board with a good meme, but two things slowed me down this time. First of all, Kristen suggested that this one required "more soul-searching than usual". ("Soul searching"! Oh, the horror! Look: I've already done my time in therapy - no small amount of time, okay? - must I continue to soul search?!). Second of all, my love for reading is nearly as strong as the likelihood that I will forget what I have read within about 48 hours. Seriously.

However, the fact is that I do love to read, and I do so whenever I can. From childhood on (much like my elder son), I have walked out of the library with a huge stack of books only to ask two days later, "When can we go back to the library?" This, according to NPR's All Things Considered, is unusual; below is an excerpt from today's story:

"One thing is certain: Americans—of either gender—are reading fewer books today than in the past. A poll released last month by The Associated Press and Ipsos, a market-research firm, found that the typical American read only four books last year, and one in four adults read no books at all.

A National Endowment for the Arts report found that only 57 percent of Americans had read a book in 2002 - a four percentage-point drop in a decade. Book sales have been flat in recent years and are expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Among avid readers surveyed by the AP, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography."

This report reminded me that I am overdue on the book meme, and also left me feeling that those of us who actually are avid readers have a responsibility to promote it. So here goes:

Total Number of Books?

Whether this means total number read or total number in the house matters not. Either way, it's too many to count. Our bookshelves - which are everywhere - are double stacked in many places (both adult and children's literature). I am always reading something, and the pile of books that wait on my nightstand is ever-growing. I try to alternate between fiction and literature that relates to my work (e.g., "Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers" which I reviewed here), but this is not a strict rule and does not always apply. For instance, right now I am really enjoying a "for fun" novel after so many work-related books.

I have an account at Shelfari, which is really cool and quite addictive! (Let me know if you can't view my shelf without an invitation - I'll invite you.) My colleague and I are also creating a Shelfari account that catalogs all of the professional books we own so that we can share them with the families at the clinic - a lending library of sorts - and some of those are currently mixed in on my personal shelf. It's a work in progress.

Last Book Read?

"Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism" by Kamran Nazeer. To be honest, I didn't finish it. It wasn't doing it for me. Right now, however, I am thoroughly enjoying Anne Tyler's "Digging to America" and look forward to reading more of it by the fireplace as soon as I am done with this post!

Last Book Bought?

Well, I bought a couple of Thanksgiving books for the kids today but we won't count those. I recently bought the Anne Tyler book I'm reading; also on my nightstand sit "A Thousand Splendid Suns" and "Eat Pray Love", both of which are on loan from friends and unread. I have historically been a strong proponent of the public library, but I find Chicago's online system to be quite backward after the techno-savvy library system in San Francisco, so I don't use it as much as I'd like.

Five Meaningful Books?

I could really let this one drive me nuts. Instead, I'm going to jump in and not over-think it. For once.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Tag 5 Others

I'm not sure who has already done this, but I'll give it a try:

Mike at Cry it Out: Adventures of a Stay-at-Home-Dad
Christopher at Blowing and Drifting
Elise at Snarky Squab
Niksmom at Maternal Instincts
Lori at Spinning Yellow

Happy Reading!


Realizing that we did not have the $12 cash required to send in to school for Baxter's class picture today, we decided it was time to raid his piggy bank.

Walking into the kitchen with the bank, Matt announced cheerfully, "Baxter, we're going to do a lesson in I.O.U.'s today!"

Baxter joined him at the table and said, "Well, whatever that is, it must be related to vowels!"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two for Two

If you've been along for the ride here for a while, you are already aware of my penchant for half-assed low-key kids' birthday parties.

Well, this time I wasn't setting up card tables to cover barf stains on the rug, but I did take this fallen cake:

and claim to my child that we made it look this way on purpose to create "Pokemon Valley" (does this exist? NO! did it matter? NO!):

Yes, he fell for it. And, yes, he loved it. (Phew!)

Thankfully, Baxter asked to invite only his best friends. One couldn't make it, which left us with four kids in addition to our boys. Four hilariously precocious and nice kids, I might add. And not only did he want to keep it small, but he was happy with simple. We walked to the local pizza joint and had ourselves some pizza pies.

The kids talked about what books they're reading (one claimed to another: "I'm really not into the medieval stuff right now."), played tic tac toe, told monster jokes, and mugged for Baxter's camera (we gave him our old digital camera for his birthday - he's already taken over 250 pictures!). Lyle was so in awe of the big kids that he sat there silently and listened to them - unbelievable. It was SO EASY. I had grabbed The Onion on my way into the restaurant and I joked with Matt that the party was such a no-brainer that I could've sat there and read it and no one would've noticed.

Of course, I didn't. You knew that, right? Anyway, we then walked back to our house where the kids played a high energy game of tag and won us over further by making it very easy for little Lyle to play.

For the last half hour, we filled them with chocolate cake and hot cocoa, opened gifts, let them tear-ass around the play room for about 15 minutes, and then sent them on their way!

So, for the second time this year we pulled off a small party that involved lots of pizza and cake, no organized games, and no parental involvement in the play room. And made one boy very, very happy.

And PS: I'm going to LOVE age seven.

Fall in Chicago

I frequently drive down this street on my way to Lyle's nursery school; last week, I just had to stop the car in the middle of the street and take a picture of the trees. (Not bad, considering it was taken with my camera phone and through the windshield. Imagine this a whole lot brighter.)

I love autumn.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What Brain Cells?

We - this family that runs 1-2 loads of laundry a day - have been without a washing machine for seven days now. What is more worrisome to me is that it took us a full five days to get organized enough to even stop and look at what the problem might be. Now we have a large box in our front hall containing a replacement door gasket from GE and no immediately visible opportunity to install it, even though we're heading into the weekend.

I am lucky enough to work in a therapy clinic where we have a small washer and dryer (how many of us can say that about our workplaces?), so twice this week I have trooped in and out of my office, hoping not to be spotted by my clients, with baskets of laundry. I've managed to do three loads there total, which has essentially skimmed the overflow off the top of each chock-full hamper and kept everyone in clean skivvies.

At some point this afternoon, while stuffing another load into the washing machine at work, I allowed myself to look at the full picture of this week momentarily: Baxter's birthday, preparing for his party tomorrow, getting the treasurer's report done for the condo meeting, my work day at Lyle's nursery school and the fund-raising that was due this week, the fact that Matt has been out of town on business, all the work I have yet to complete, trying desperately to remember that I need to buy milk on my way home, and yes, hauling the laundry back and forth. Some people call this multitasking, I thought, but to me it's nothing more than leading an extremely fragmented life. And it's definitely not good.

I wrote as much to Kristen in a brief email exchange this afternoon, and she responded by pointing me in the direction of an article in the November issue of Atlantic Monthly which tells us that multi-tasking kills brain cells. While I don't have online access to the full article, I can already tell you that I don't disagree.

4:30 pm found me at the door to the clinic, running back in to pick up the last load of laundry and bring it out to the car, trying to be quick enough that I could make time for a milk stop on my way home. I stood there grumbling to myself about the damnable key that simply was not fitting in the door, and then snapped out of it long enough to recognize that in my distracted state I had chosen the wrong key for the door I wanted to open - for at least the fifth time this week alone.

And all I could think was, She's right. I'm already there.

Kettle? This is the Pot.

Apparently taking on the role of man of the house with Matt out of town, Lyle took one look at his brother - who was swiveled all the way around to talk to me, away from the breakfast table - and admonished, "Baxter! Please! Turn around and focus on your breakfast!"


Thursday, November 15, 2007


6:30 am, Baxter's birthday, my bedside

Lyle: Mommy, afore we go open Baxter's presents [note the use of "we"], I need you to come downstairs to find Chick Hicks with me!

Me: Okay, Lyle. I just need to use the bathroom first, and then I'll go downstairs with you.

Lyle [whining]: Nooooo! Go downstairs first!!

Me: Lyle! If I don't use the bathroom first, I'll have an accident! [Trying to model not waiting so damn long to go to the bathroom...]

Lyle [thinks about this and then says impatiently]: Just put on a pull-up, Mommy. Let's go!


If you've been reading this blog for more than, oh, let's say a week, you'll know that Lyle is all about the movie CARS. And I do mean, all about it.

When Matt asked him what he wanted for breakfast the other day, Lyle replied with a surly, "I eat losers for breakfast."

Later that evening, Lyle wiped out while running down our long upstairs hallway. He jumped back up and started running again, declaring, "I'm back in the race!"

Too good to be true.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just a Suggestion

If you were, let's say, a second grade teacher who had been called out a mere week ago for making an inappropriate comment to another parent in front of me, I would really, truly recommend that when my husband brings in 30 cupcakes and juice boxes that he bought on a late-night grocery run last night, talking to you about them and putting them smack dab in the center of your desk, that you don't then FORGET TO DO THE PARTY.

Because when my son comes home from school and says confusedly, "I didn't have my party at school...but I don't know why," you are only going to lose more points with me. A. lot. more. points.

Just a suggestion, is all.

Happy Birthday, Baxter








Monday, November 12, 2007


I'm tired. It was a whirlwind week last week, followed by a day in the clinic on Saturday, a late night last night, an early wake-up today, and a long day of work. Oh, and meeting an old college friend downtown for drinks after dinner. Not to mention that Baxter's birthday is in two days - which means there's a party this weekend - and we're hosting Thanksgiving next week.

Too much of a good thing.

On Sunday we had no plans for the afternoon, a rare treat indeed, and I intended to cook. I was able to make Jennifer's lentil soup and Kristen's pear bread again, but this time for my own family. I wanted to put the lentil soup aside for another night (or ten!), so I also made a really yummy tortellini soup that I'm told originally came from the Chicago Tribune's Food Section - it's delicious, easy, and was loved by 100% of adults and 50% of children in our home.

Quick Tortellini Soup

1 tbl. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 - 14 oz. cans low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 package (9 oz) refrigerated tortellini (any variety - and also, we used dried tortellini and it was delicious)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach or 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
2 tbl balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper (or the old stuff in the pepper shaker!!)
grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes and their liquid; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tortellini; cook until tortellini are heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and vinegar; cook until spinach wilts and is heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Add pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls; top with cheese.

Prep time: 20 minutes/Cooking time: 25 minutes


It was wonderful to spend some time in the kitchen, listening to mellow music, and being alone with my thoughts for a while that afternoon. I got the boys set up at the table making cards while I cooked, and Matt did some chores that needed doing around the house. It was definitely a Norman-Rockwell-Eat-Your-Heart-Out kind of an afternoon, one in which all parties feel content and at home. Matt got our gas fireplace working, and after dinner we played a game together in front of the fire even though the air was unseasonably warm.

At one point in the evening, reveling in the delicious home-cooked smells from the kitchen and general familial relaxation, Matt asked with a twinkle in his eye, "Wouldn't you like to stay home for a while?" And for about 10 minutes, I allowed myself that fantasy - of not working, dropping everything, having the luxury of being able to cook sometimes, lots more time with the kids, and not constantly feeling like I'm running in so many different directions. Because although staying home with the boys would be plenty of work - I've done it for long stretches in the past - I would have far less on my plate, more time to do things for our family, and would be much more focused with my energy, for sure. It sounded appealing for a little while, just like dropping everything and home-schooling the boys sounds good every once in a while. But Matt said it before I did: I wouldn't be me, and I wouldn't be happy, if I weren't working.

It's a relief to think about it on occasion and find that I continue to come back and choose what I am already doing, even if it's a harder road for me - and my family - to take and I'm so very fatigued.

And even when the kitchen smells that good.

Parenting Expert Speaks the Truth

I hate television news. I don't turn it on. Ever. The worst offenders of total crap "news" are the local stations, in my book. As you know from my posts about closed captioning foibles on the news, I have been working out at the gym a few mornings a week with the local news in my face, which is sort of amusing sometimes if I can put aside my irritation with it.

But today there was actually something important televised on Chicago's ABC-7 News! Of course, it only lasted about 30 seconds, but there was a local parenting expert named Karen Jacobson who was speaking out on two parenting topics I could talk about for hours if anyone could stand it to listen.

1. From the ABC-7 website, here is what she said first:

"...there is a new group of "at-risk" children growing up today and it's because of these parenting traps that a lot of families are falling into -- the trap of over-scheduling, over-stimulation, over-protection, over-involvement, over-praising, over-scheduling, over-indulging.

The research shows that the new "at-risk" population is children of affluence - college campuses across the nation are reporting that anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol use are at an all time high largely because when these kids get on their own, they do not know how to cope (we well-meaning parents have protected them from struggle, disappointment and negative situations)."

2. And next:

"Jacobson suggests that parents take time to give children the gifts that really matter such as the gift of downtime, struggle, disappointment, empathy, chores, responsibility, limits, consequences, and mistakes."

Amen, sister. I know I've already written about the first point as it relates to my family. As for the second point, many modern parents are so often getting into a pattern of doing everything imaginable to circumvent their children's minor disappointments in order to avoid tantrums and tears. They fear that the child might remember that they had a negative experience with Mommy or Daddy! Well, yes, they probably will.

But you know what else they remember, which is also important? Kids remember that they got through it. They learn strategies to cope, just as Ms. Jacobson pointed out, which leads to an increased sense of competence and self-confidence. From what I can see, a lot of children are being deprived of this critical learning experience. We need to find the balance between old school authoritarian parenting and modern day overly child-centered parenting.

It's not easy to find this balance, but it is a gift to our children, one that truly does keep on giving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Holding Nik in Our Hearts

There is a wonderful blogger I read every day who goes by the name Niksmom. Niksmom writes about the journey she is on parenting young Nik, whom she describes as "a (nearly) 4 yr old former micropreemie with multiple disabilities and exceptional needs including cerebral palsy, seizures, and ASD". I want to call your attention to Niksmom's most recent post, because she has directly requested that we keep her son - who for far too long has been struggling with an illness no doctor has been able to diagnose - in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers.

Please take a moment to read the post and do what you can to support this family. Let her know that she and her son are in our hearts.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Full Circle

Back when I was deciding where I wanted to get my Master's degree in Communication Disorders, I read about an expert in the field of autism named Dr. Barry Prizant. Autism was what drew me into this field in the first place, back in the early '90s, and I wanted to learn more. Before long, I knew that I would target Emerson College in Boston as my school of choice because that's where Dr. Prizant was teaching. Fall of 1995 found me enrolled at Emerson and sitting in one of Dr. Prizant's classes. I learned an enormous amount from him (and many others at Emerson, a fantastic program) over the years there, and what he taught me shaped my entire belief system about autism and was the foundation for my philosophy about working with children with ASD.

Once out of school I worked in a variety of settings: private practice (not mine), public school, and then eventually Oak Hill School, a private DIR school for children with spectrum (and related) disorders. At Oak Hill, I honed my skills and came to learn more about the DIR model, one which fit quite nicely into the developmental approach I learned from Dr. Prizant. Later I went off on my own, and have been in private practice (my own this time!) for almost four years. I have continued to pursue a great deal of continuing education in autism, exploring the DIR model and the awfully similarly named RDI model. (I'm just waiting for the IDR or the RID to come along, simply to confuse things further.) I love a lot about both of those methodologies, and yet - when it comes to deciding to invest time and money in certification in them - something has not quite felt right to me about either one.

The past two days found me at the Chicago SCERTS Institute, a training which was run by Dr. Prizant and a dear friend of mine from Emerson, Emily Rubin, SLP. Emily was in my grad school class and ended up working with Dr. Prizant and later collaborating with him and the other very impressive practitioners and researchers to develop the SCERTS model. I had done a 2-day training with Emily about 3 years ago and have been interested in SCERTS ever since. My colleague and I left the training this week with a great deal of excitement, ready to try it out with a mutual client, and (as is our wont) dreaming and scheming about how to use this model with a group of kids by running a SCERTS model preschool class together next year.

This is a methodology that feels good to me; it's the right fit. I'm sure I will write more about it over time as I am using it and learning more, but for now I'll just say that I'm fascinated by the way in which my work is coming full circle. Not only was I grateful this week that the philosophy within the SCERTS framework was not new to me (as it was to so many people in the room) because it's perfectly aligned with what I was taught 10 years ago, but I was also - for the first time, honestly - grateful that Matt and I have moved around so much. I feel fortunate to have amazing contacts and friends in my field from coast to coast; this never would have happened if we'd just stayed in Minnesota - or Boston - or San Francisco!

There is something comforting about coming full circle with "my people" and this type of methodology, while simultaneously feeling myself using it as a launching pad to move forward in a new, positive direction.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mama Bear Checks in

Thank you all for your helpful and supportive comments and emails last week in response to this post. I am taking a moment during this week's blog hiatus to fill you in after today's parent-teacher conference.

So, we walked in this morning and I immediately grabbed Baxter's teacher by the shoulders. Talking as loudly as she does, I demanded, "Why do you have such a big freaking mouth?? Please think before you speak in the future, and DO NOT talk about your students to other parents!!"

Okay, okay, that was only one of my middle-of-the-night fantasies.

Instead, we participated in the conference like reasonable human beings. I was very pleased with Baxter's progress in the 1st quarter and it was clear that his teacher sees the same strengths and challenges that we see. Despite the fact that he's so young, he is at or above grade level in all areas and has earned a "Good Citizenship" award for being an all-around good guy, as he has every quarter at this school. We pointedly asked about his behavior and attention and were told that everything is fine. I stand by my opinion that she is, in fact, an excellent teacher.

After this glowing report, I - as calmly as I could - explained that I had been quite worried about what she was going to tell us today, given what she was saying last week to another parent during the Halloween celebration. I helped her to recall that the younger children in her class are making it "very difficult for [her] to teach" and "stare at [her] with open mouths when given directions". Ahem.

I watched as her understanding of this mistake unfolded, and she managed to apologize as profusely as we (and our child) deserved. To her credit, as soon as she saw this through our eyes she understood what was problematic about it and was properly mortified. I pointed out that next week, when the other mother's child comes home and says, "It was Baxter's birthday! And Mom - he just turned seven today!", the other mother will immediately connect my son with the image of a child who is struggling to get by in 2nd grade and is detracting from her own daughter's education by making things so very difficult for the teacher. All of which is untrue and unfair to my child. Furthermore, I pointed out that this conversation had taken place not with the principal or another teacher, but with another parent, and that this was inappropriate. I politely but strongly recommended to her that she have another conversation with that other parent and correct herself. She agreed to do so.

We left the room, congratulating ourselves. After all, we were done, right?

Sadly, not really. Although I am certainly relieved to have gotten this off my chest, I am not entirely satisfied. As I see it, there was a whole lot more that needed to be discussed but couldn't possibly be covered since we'd already gone over our alloted 10 minutes and another family was waiting. (Yes: only ten minutes. Another insult of modern education in Illinois and California!)

For one thing, I feel very uncomfortable with the fact that I played the card of Baxter's actual high performance in this scenario, as if that mattered. The truth is, that actually has nothing to do with it. I knew it would help her to understand our point of view as quickly as possible, but let's say that he did have trouble processing information or paying attention in class. I spend many hours a week with perfectly lovely and delightful children who have those very challenges, and I am a strong advocate for them in these types of situations. If my child were having those difficulties, I'd be even more upset about it because of the deep breach in confidentiality and privacy, not to mention discrimination. The point I wanted to make was that her words were a complete and utter insult to any children in her class who might be struggling with anything - that's part of teaching and she needs to be able to deal with whatever skill range she is given. Sure, it's a hard job - so teachers need to talk to other teachers and their principal about how to do it. Not other parents.

Secondly, I would like to have spent a good chunk of time making it clear that we don't all share her educational values. That is, that although she stated (to the mother of an older second grader) that she would prefer her child be "the oldest and smartest" in his class, these two characteristics are not on our top ten list of things important to us for our kids' education. It's not all about "smart" in my book, and for God's sake, someone has to be the youngest. Might as well be my kid. Who cares?! That's a post for another day.

But in the end, I'd say there's a teacher out there who is feeling acutely embarrassed about her behavior. I for one think that is most appropriate, and am happy to have at least part of this burden off my shoulders.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Crazy Week!

It was a good but rather crazy weekend. This week promises to bring more of the same.

We happen to have good friends in town from both coasts this week with one couple staying with us one night (yay!). Later in the week I'll spend two full days at the SCERTS Institute (which I've looked forward to for months!), and I'll be staying at a hotel in the suburbs for the night in between. I'll get back from that on Friday night, hopefully before the boys go to bed, only to have my monthly Saturday in the clinic the very next day. Oops.

Sometimes, even when things are all really great, they pile up in an unfortunate way.

So it may be a bit quieter than usual on the old blog this week. But if you are missing me, dear friends, just come on back and say "hello" to these very special images that I captured in the Bean today - you know, just to tide you over:

Because I'm so lame you just have to come back.

Don't you?

PS: During my little semi-hiatus this week, I've decided to leave you with a few "Best of The Wonderwheel" links for those of you who are newer to the blog:

How I know you don't need a panflute.

How a nice trip to the beach turned into family endangerment.

How we came to be card-carrying Unitarians: The Why Church? series.

What I don't do. (C'mon, I'm giving you another chance to 'fess up!)

Drunk blogging. (My most popular post ever - this should tell me something.)

Notes from California - written during my dad's surgery.

A review of a weekend at my grandparents' house.

My love for parenting boys.

Friday, November 2, 2007

When CARS Imitate Life

This morning, as I got myself ready for work, Matt observed Lyle playing with his cars on the kitchen floor.

He made Lightning McQueen visit each of his friends and say, "Good-bye! Good-bye! I'm going to work!"

Curious, Matt asked Lyle what exactly Lightning McQueen does at work.

Lyle, recently armed with the most basic summary of what I do for a living, thought about it for a bit and finally said, "He's going to try to teach Tow Mater to talk."

Good luck, there, Lightnin'. Good luck.


Do you ever just have one of those days (weeks...months...)? One of those Mama Bear On Alert, Don't-Mess-with-Me kind of days?

I know it started on Halloween, when I was volunteering in Baxter's class. I - the mother of the youngest child in the second grade, thanks to a later cut-off age for kindergarten back in California - had the misfortune of hearing the teacher (how could I not hear that booming voice when I was standing less than two feet away) make a series of comments to another parent about the lack of wisdom of sending one's children to school "too young". It was one of those nasty comments that started with, "Now, I'm not going to tell anyone how to be a parent, but..." and ended with, "I'd rather my child be the oldest and smartest in the class, let me tell you!"

Excuse me?

I didn't relate the entire conversation here, but suffice it to say: if you were the parent of a youngish child OR a child with special needs, you would NOT have been pleased with this teacher's description of trying to teach to all of the kids in her class. No, not at all. It was wrong on so very many levels - what she said, how she said it, who she said it to, and when she said it. The only reason I didn't jump on it right then and there was that it was, well, a party. That and I was afraid I would have said things that I would have regretted later. Instead, I'm saving it up for next week's teacher conference. Oh, yes, I certainly am.

So, folks, let me just say that I am ready for battle. Not that I will actually be anything less than polite next week, but believe me, I will be direct and clear.

In the meantime, take pity on anyone who crosses me. I gave a Hyatt hotel customer service representative a rip-roaring hard time this morning when they screwed up a reservation and then refused to give me the lower rate they had originally promised me. ("Take that! And that! And this is for screwing up in the same week that I'm really, really furious with my son's teacher!")

As I told a good friend on the phone this morning, "If you've got a bone to pick with me about anything, this would not be the day."