Thursday, May 29, 2008

Time to start the anti-rain dances in earnest...


Is NOT what I want to be seeing for Saturday's weather. Not with 21 kids coming to the park for the kiddo's birthday party! The best of all the various weather forecasts I watched or read this morning is calling for "occasional thundershowers" and man, you would not believe how much I'm clinging to that word occasional....... The national maps don't give me much hope that the humungous area of wet weather will either hold off until later Saturday afternoon or come through and be gone by Saturday morning, either.


I knew I was tempting fate - or in this case, Mother Nature - by choosing an outdoor venue for the party. I should've just forked over the money for the YMCA. Dagnabit. Looks like we'll be crammed into the pavilion playing games instead of the kids all frolicking about on the spectacular playground.

*grumble grumble grumble*

I think we have a winner!

I believe Diane is correct in her comment on my previous birdtastic post! I just googled House Finches and here's what Cornell's Ornithology Department page about them says:

"A bright red and brown-striped bird of the cities and suburbs, the House Finch comes readily to feeders. It also breeds in close association with people, and often chooses a hanging plant in which to put its nest."

Now, the pictures on the page aren't an exact match for the birds as I've observed them through the window, but certainly are close enough, as are the eggs. So, unless someone can definitively state otherwise, House Finches they are!

Thanks, Diane!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

For the birds

Every spring, I hang baskets of petunias on our front porch. Last year, some of the local wildlife took an interest, as I discovered when I took the baskets down for their watering one afternoon and found a bird's nest nestled among the petunias. The kiddo and I watched as eventually, three eggs were laid in the nest, then one was pushed out and broke on the porch floor, then another egg replaced it. There was a lot of commotion in and around the basket and porch roof, which we tried to spy upon from inside the house as much as we could. Eventually, the three eggs hatched and there were three baby birds, much to our delight. Unfortunately, when the babies were in their second year of life, we came home from a road trip to discover them all dead (and icky). We don't know what transpired, as we were away, but it was a sad ending. (I will confess that I did not use the babies' demise as a teaching moment in the "circle of life" theme with the kiddo, then aged just 4. I lied and told her the babies must've flown away. Bad mommy, I know.)

I tried very hard not to disturb the nest last year. I'd only take the basket down when necessary for watering, and I took great care to water around the nest and leave it undisturbed. The mama bird came and went throughout that period, so I don't think she abandoned the eggs/babies because of human interference, especially since the babies "flew away" while we were out of town.

Well, Mother's Day weekend I bought my petunia baskets and hung them up once again. This past Sunday, I took the baskets down to water them and found a nest in the same basket! There were no eggs in it at that point, but when I took the baskets down this afternoon for watering, look at what I found:

I also tried to snap a picture of the mama and daddy bird, who perched on the next-door neighbors' roof and were cheeping ferociously at me until I re-hung the basket and went back inside.

Does anyone out there know what the heck kind of birds these are? I tried to figure it out online last year, but didn't come up with anything definitive. They frequent our backyard bird feeders, and I'm almost 100% positive they're the same birds from last year. The eggs are also the same - two smaller, less speckly ones and one much larger, super-speckled egg. Last year, we were guessing that some type of usurper bird was trying to horn in on the nest with her egg (in a cuckoo bird sort of way) and that was the cause of all the ruckus we'd hear out on the porch, the birds fighting over the nest. But a second year in a row? Hmmm, now we're not so sure. Hubby suggested that perhaps the majority of mama bird's egg-creating energy went into the big egg, and the others were sort of "runts of the litter" - or would that be a clutch? Anyhow, we'll now be monitoring this year's nest situation, once again as unobtrusively as possible (I will not sacrifice my flowers for the nest, so I will continue to water around it) and hopefully this year's eggies turn into birdies that actually do fly away this summer!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Five Years

Five years ago this morning, Hubby and I were waking up on what was supposed to be the second day of a five day trip to Las Vegas. We were taking our last couple-only, pre-baby vacation, as we had "matched" with an expectant couple who were planning to place their baby girl for adoption with us when she was born at the end of June/beginning of July. (There was some question as to the baby's exact due date, but it was at least five weeks away.) Hubby had gotten up already and headed downstairs at the Mirage, where we were staying for that trip. We were going to be meeting my sister and brother-in-law, who were also on vacay in Vegas that Memorial Day weekend, for breakfast over at the Mandalay Bay, where they were staying. I was just getting out of the shower when I heard my cell phone ringing. Instead of it being my sister, which is what I was assuming, it was a number I didn't recognize from our hometown area code. It was the expectant mother calling from the hospital to say that the baby had been born overnight, quite enexpectedly and several weeks early. I dressed as quickly as I could and raced downstairs to tell Hubby. I repeated the information I'd been told on the phone to myself the whole way down in the elevator. "Four pounds, nine ounces, seventeen and a half inches long, in the NICU." Hubby and I spent the next few hours on the phone, desperately trying to find a way to get back to our hometown as soon as possible. This was extremely difficult, as it was a national holiday and the last day of the long weekend. We eventually managed to get seats on a flight to a city a little over an hour away from our home (thank you, Southwest Airlines) and once we landed there, we rented a car and drove directly to the hospital. We saw and held that baby girl a little over 24 hours after she was born. She was tiny (down to four pounds even by that point) and covered in wires, in an isolette with portholes on the side. She had some complications, and in the early days she was only eating teaspoons of formula at a time - less than one fluid ounce, every two hours. The first time Hubby ever changed a diaper in his life, it was while she was still in the isolette, with wires coming off her - I told him that if he could manage that, changing a diaper at home would be cake. Two weeks later, her birthparents signed the necessary adoption papers and that tiny, little girl was released from the NICU and came home with us.

Five years ago today, the light and joy of my life came into this world, tiny but strong and full of life and spirit. Today she is a "big girl" as she never fails to remind us, a girl who loves dinosaurs and music and animals, who loves the color pink but isn't particularly fond of dresses, who can draw the most amazing pictures and is well on her way to learning how to read, who has a sharp memory and a surprising eye for detail, who loves vanilla ice cream and baby spinach and any kind of fruit she can get her hands on, who sings and dances and makes us laugh every day. It doesn't seem possible that she is five years old already, though the memory of her being placed in my arms by her birthmother seems a lifetime ago.

Happy birthday, kiddo!!! I love you more than anything!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Please, oh please, Mother Nature!

The Weather Channel is just chock full of bad news this morning... The forecast for tomorrow at noon, when we'd hoped to be grilling up some birthday lunch for ourselves and seven other people and then dining on the deck while the kids play? Rain. Rain. Rain. The forecast for Saturday, when we are hosting the kiddo's classmates-n-friends birthday party at the park (current count: 18 kids plus parents, with 8 kids who haven't RSVPed yet - the "RSVP by" date being last Friday)? Thunderstorms.


If I had my choice of which one of the two birthday events would be rainy, I'd choose tomorrow. We can reasonably accommodate seven extra people indoors at our house. Saturday is still a long way off, weather-prediction-wise, so I still have fingers crossed that it will be nice, at least from 11:00-1:00.

If anyone has any pull with Mother Nature, kindly put in a good word for us for Saturday, will ya? Many thanks!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The world of adoption online

I've been a part of the online adoption community for a while now. I joined one of the largest sites back in 2002, and have been a member of other adoption-related sites in the subsequent years as well. When we were first looking into adoption, I found the online adoption world a valuable resource - it was a place to not only find information, but encouragement and support. Prior to starting our journey to becoming parents through adoption, I had only occasionally visited adoption-related sites, because as an adoptee, I never felt much pull towards them. I felt much more connected as an adoptive parent than I did as an adoptee.

Of the three main sites that I belonged to, I now only participate on one. The first one I joined, I left after it came out that the site discriminated against GLBT couples who were hoping to adopt. The second site, I took an extended break from about a year ago now, and on the third, I am only an occasional poster - I've really stepped back a great deal from the level of participation I was used to on adoption-related forums a few years ago.

The reason I've significantly decreased my participation on these sites is because there is never ending drama among the online adoption community. (In case you didn't know, the adoption community consists of adoptees, parents who have relinquished children for adoption, and adoptive parents - aka the "adoption triad" as it is called these days.) The drama generally stems from one group of folks (or subset of a group) jumping on another group of folks, usually with some sort of sweeping, declarative statement(s) about that other group that is found (and rightly so) to be offensive and hurtful. The maligned group then fires back, the pot is stirred up and the moderators of the board in question find themselves having to deal with injured feelings and out-of-line comments flying all over the place. (I know this from firsthand experience, as I was a moderator for a while on one such site.) It takes an extraordinarily thick skin to be able to read some of the things people write about other members of the triad, and even the most armored heart can't help but still feel occasionally slighted or hurt. I know, because I've been hurt by things I've read, some of which were directed at me, others generalizations about adoptees or adoptive parents - the two-thirds of the triad to which I belong. Most of the offenders in my case were actually other adoptees, strangely enough. It finally came to a point where I needed to step away from the sites because I didn't feel I had anything worthwhile enough to contribute (as anything I shared was only ever my personal opinion based upon my own personal experience, after all) to justify fighting with those who shouted loudest or were most forceful in expressing their views. I have found that I do not miss the drama one bit, and I am fortunate to have a circle of friends online who are all part of the adoption triad and with whom it is safe to share, even when we don't agree, and from whom I can find the support, encouragement and friendship I'd been hoping for in the larger forums.

Nowadays, with blogs being so ubiquitous, there are many adoption-related bloggers out there. Sometimes, the comment sections of these blogs - online, personal journals, mind you - become places for people to attack and hurt other members of the adoption triad. A dear friend of mine recently was hurt by just such a situation. It hurts me to know that there are people in the adoption world with such malicious intent, who seek out controversy and who have nothing better to do than stir the pot. It hurts me even more to know that people I care about have been hurt by such malcontents. I have a suggestion for those people who feel the need to attack in this manner - if you find that a blog's content is something that offends you or doesn't agree with your own personal opinions, and you can't restrain yourself from attacking the blogger or commenters on that blog, don't read the blog any further. Just stay away if you can't read with respect. Does it really make people feel better to attack a fellow human being? I just don't get that. There are several adoption triad-related blogs that friends of mine frequent, have listed in their blogrolls, etc. I don't read most of them, because I know already that what I read there will be upsetting to me personally. It's like closing my eyes during a gory scene in a movie or TV show - I know in advance it's gonna bother me, so I don't look. While I may disagree or dislike what those people are saying, that doesn't mean I feel entitled to go to their blog and rant and attack in the comments section. What they say has value to themselves (or why would they've written it?) and may be informative or eye-opening and therefore have value to others, just not me. So, I don't click on the link and I don't read those blogs. It's not that difficult...

I'm going to close by posting here something I first wrote back in August of 2005. Sadly, it still holds true today.

I'd just like to put out a plea/reminder/wish/hope...The internet has people from all walks of life, corners of the world and all three sides of the adoption triad. Everyone has their own beliefs and opinions about adoption. It just isn't fair for any one person to assume that s/he knows better about any other person's life, circumstances, opinions or feelings. For every happy adoptee, there is an adoptee who is sad. For every happy adoptive parent, there is an adoptive parent who is struggling. For every happy birth parent, there is a birth parent who isn't happy. Adoption is complex, we all know this. What I'd like to ask is that we all please, PLEASE try to keep in mind that we all should show respect for each other. It's okay not to agree with everyone else, but it isn't okay to presume we know better than any other person. No one person here has all the answers (especially not me). What works for one person doesn't for another. Such is life... We can try to support and inform other folks based on our own knowledge and life experience, but again, we should try to do this in a respectful manner. (Anyone else hear Aretha Franklin singing in the background? ) So, please everyone, when reading a post that has a dissenting view, push back from the keyboard and take a few deep breaths before firing off a response. Everyone is equally entitled to their own thoughts and everyone is equally entitled to share them without being jumped all over - in other words, everyone is entitled to be treated with respect.

Okay, /soapbox for now. I just needed to get that off my chest.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Meme tag

Okay, my friend Andy tagged me with this meme days ago, so I'd better get to it...

Favorite person (outside family)? I have a few BFFs that I've been friends with for years (and in one case, decades) now, and they all rate "favorite person" status in my book. In the online world, I adore my fellow Beat Cats - a great group of women and I'm happy and humbled to be friends with them all.

Favorite food? My favorite food category is also my dietary downfall: dairy! From cheese to butter to sour cream to ice cream, I just love dairy products. Especially cheese. And ice cream. Thank goodness my second-favorite food groups are fruits and veggies, otherwise I'd be in real trouble!

Quirks about you? Isn't this the same as the various things I keep blogging about? Well, let me think of a new one.... hmmm. Here's one I don't think I've mentioned yet: I am part shark! Okay, not really, but I did have an extra set of adult teeth that started making their presence known when I was just a tiny tot. That led to eons of orthodontia (I'm fairly certain Drs. Wright and Sterritt are now comfortably ensconced in their respective palatial island villas thanks to my wonkiest of teeth) and also many, many, many pulled teeth. Too bad the Tooth Fairy only handed out a quarter per tooth at the most back then - I could have my own (albeit slightly less palatial) island villa by now if she'd been paying out at today's rates!

How would the person who loves you most describe you in ten words or less? Patient, loyal, talkative, funny, high-maintenance and a little bit crazy.

Any regrets in life? Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention... I guess the thing that I regret the most is a bad relationship I stayed in for much too long and for allowing myself to continue believing that loving someone enough could make them change, even when I was getting hurt on a daily basis - it took me a long time to acknowledge that there are just some people out there in the world who are irredeemably, unrepentantly bad. I also regret ever wishing for time to pass more quickly when I was younger because these days, it goes by much too fast!

Favorite Charity/Cause? I'm all about Sensory Processing Disorder and children with special needs these days (hmmm, I wonder why?) and since in general I'm a bleeding heart liberal, I believe in many, many causes (and hopefully the next US President believes in some of them too...change we can believe in...)

Favorite Blog recently? Does I Can Has Cheezburger count? I am presently a teensy bit obsessed with turning our real life kitty into a LOLcat, so I've been alternately stalking her with my digital camera and spending large chunks of time poring over the latest LOLcats (and laughing a lot) while I wait to capture the perfect shot. (No one ever accused me of having a lack of ambition!)

Something you can’t get enough of? My family, Scrabulous, fresh fruit, time in the day, George Clooney and endurance to adequately up my workouts at the gym.

Worst job you’ve ever had? Telemarketing - I lasted one evening! It was a gig through a temp agency that Hubby - then just my boyfriend - and I signed up for one summer during college. The job was poorly explained to us and turned out to be terrible. We both hated it and barely made it through our shift. At the end of the night, we went to get our timecards signed by the supervisor, who was upset because apparently it was a multi-week assignment (we'd been told by the temp agency that it was just for that one night) and it was a struggle to even get paid since he said we were quitting. It was a misunderstanding and we legitimately only thought we were going to be working that one night, but even if we had initially agreed to do the whole stint, we would've quit. Ugh!

A close second to that job was the summer I dog-sat for some friends of my parents who owned, bred and showed AKC dogs - mostly pugs, along with some bulldogs and a couple of boxers. The dogs lived in crates in this big, basement kennel and had to be let out into the dog run (a large yard) several times a day. Let me just say that me and dog poop? We don't mix well. The smell of dog poop induces my barf reflex faster than any other smell on Earth. I can take cat barf, kid barf, any other animal or human waste, really, but there's something about dog poop... even thinking about cleaning out the crates (some of the dogs weren't entirely housebroken) or scooping the dog run now, over 20 years later, makes me want to vomit.

What job would you pay NOT to have? Dog poop cleaner (ha ha ha)... Podiatrist or pedicurist, dentist, slaughterhouse worker... there are a lot of jobs out there I would not want to attempt, no matter what the salary!

Favorite Bible verse right now? Well, there's always good, old John 3:16, can't go wrong with that one. Also, Philippians 4:4-9 and 1 Corinthians 13. Those aren't my "right now" favorites as much as my "all time" favorites.

Guilty Pleasure? Bad television, well-buttered and salted popcorn (real butter, please, none of that "golden-flavored oil" crap they try to give you at the movies) and wearing jammies for as much of my day as I can possibly get away with.

Got any confessions? I bite my nails. I also don't thoroughly rinse out the milk jugs before I throw them in the recycling bin. There may be others, but not that I'll 'fess up to here and now.

If you HAD to spend $1,000 on YOURSELF, how would you spend it? I'd buy a mega-supply of the daily, disposable contact lenses that are now the only kind I am able to wear. They're more than twice the cost per box of my former lenses, so $1000 would cover me for a little less than two years' worth of daily lens wear. I'd stretch it out, of course - I betcha I could make $1000 worth of lenses last me at least 3 years.

Favorite thing about your house? Our yard, which Hubby and I put in - every last blade of grass, tree, shrub and plant. We had our house built, so when we moved in, there was no yard, just uneven, rock-filled clay covered with a scant, pitiful layer of "top soil" that did nothing to improve the quality of what lurked underneath. Close second: the kiddo's room, which is the only room in our house that we've "done" (paint, border, etc) in the 8.5 years we've lived here. The rest of our walls are the original eggshell white the builders painted them. Pathetic, I know.

Least favorite thing about your house? Lack of a playroom/rec room for the kiddo, in which to house her stuff. It'd be awfully nice to have a coffee table instead of a mini-trampoline in the living room, for example... Another full bathroom would be nice, too. And having walls that were painted with something better than the "scuffs, stains and chips easily" finish in eggshell white, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms. (And painted by someone other than Hubby and/or me.)

One thing you’re good at? Being a mom. Not to boast or anything, but it has been my favorite job and the thing I'm most proud of, and I do think I'm pretty good at it most days.

If you could change something about your circumstances, what would it be? I would make us wealthy enough that our retirement and the kiddo's higher education were assured, and that our parents' retirements (which are much closer to reality) also were financially secure.

Who would you like to meet someday? All my Beat Cat friends. Preferably in a tropical location with delicious, frozen, fruity beverages on hand.

Who is your real life hero? My husband.

What is the hardest part of your job? Well, I'm a stay-at-home mom, so the hardest part of my job is the paycheck - or lack thereof, I suppose. Seriously, though, there are times when being the parent of a child with SPD can be pretty challenging, either from dealing with the kiddo herself or the wider world in relation to the kiddo. Some people just don't get it, and that can make things tough.

When are you most relaxed? When I'm home, in my jammies, with my family, snuggled under one of the pile of throw blankets on the back of the couch with the cat purring on my feet.

What stresses you out? Money, the rising cost of gas and groceries, when someone in my family is stressed out (or my friends), when the kiddo is having a bad day, wondering exactly where our country is headed and if the best candidate will be our next president...

What can you not live without? My family.

Do you agree or disagree with the recent article that reported that blogs are authored by narcissists? I'd be willing to venture that more bloggers than not are narcissists, but aren't we all to some degree, blogs or no?

Why do you blog? I enjoy reading other folks' blogs, so I figured maybe someone out there would enjoy reading mine. (Yep, narcissistic - there ya go!)

Who are you tagging? Like my dear friend Coco, I'm going to defy the Meme Rule Gods. Anyone out there who reads this and blogs and feels like playing, consider yourself tagged. Please link back so we know you did!

And here are the RULES, which I kinda disregarded for #3:
1. Answer the questions
2. Link back to whoever tagged you
3. Tag eight bloggers to do the same, 2 from each category:
New/ newer bloggers (since we want to share the love and send them traffic)
Bloggy friends
Bloggers you’d like to get to know better
Bloggers you don’t think will respond, but you hope will.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

*yawwwwn* the perils of being a bookworm

I did it again last night. I stayed up much later than I should've in order to finish the book I was reading. Last night's book of choice was Jennifer Weiner's latest novel, Certain Girls. I had been waiting rather impatiently since April for my turn on the library's hold list and once I had the book in my hot little hands, I had to read it as fast as possible. Well, that tends to be true for just about any book I'm enjoying...

I've been a bookworm since I first began reading as a preschooler. In my childhood, I spent many a night bargaining to be allowed to stay up late enough to read "just one more chapter" and then reading way more than just one. I cannot tell you how many mornings over my lifetime I've been yawning and bleary-eyed because I didn't get enough sleep thanks to a book. Today is no exception - I wound up getting a little over four hours of sleep last night and now I'm drinking soda at 6:30am to try and wake the heck up. (Yeah, I know - soda first thing in the morning? Ew! I don't drink coffee, however, so soda is the caffeinating beverage of choice for me when necessary!) Not to mention the times when the book I was reading was Nancy Drew or, later on, Stephen King and I'd wind up sleeping not only less, but fitfully thanks to nightmares from the book I'd been reading! When I'd borrowed It from a friend who was a huge King fan, it scared me so much that I wouldn't sleep with the book in my room. I'd read and read and read, then when I couldn't stay awake a moment longer, I'd get up, creep to the other side of the house and leave the book in the guest room closest to my parents' bedroom. Somehow that was supposed to keep me safe, ya know...

I still bargain to read "just one more chapter" these days, but now instead of bargaining with my parents, it is with myself, or Hubby if I'm reading in bed after he's gone to sleep. I'll tell myself "okay, just to the end of this next section to find out what happens." Then I'll get there and want to know what happens next, so it's "one more chapter, that's IT!" Then I'll realize that I'm within 100 pages of the end of the book, and that's when I'm sunk - I can read 100 pages in under an hour unless I'm reallllllly tired, so if I see that I'm that close to the end, I will invariably stay up to finish. This was bad enough when it meant yawning my way through a day of school, but now I'm just getting too darn old to handle such late nights with any regularity. You'd think I would've learned by now to just put the book down, you know? I'm hopeless!

So, if you happen to catch me yawning hugely or looking half-dead on any given day, chances are that it is because I was burning the midnight oil with my nose stuck in a book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

If you're reading this in the buff, I don't want to know...

I am a very social, outgoing person. I will talk to just about anyone, just about anytime. I will strike up conversations with complete strangers without a moment's thought. Yes, I am that person who starts talking to you over the banana selection in the grocery store, or while waiting in line at the post office, or sitting on the benches at the playground. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea (including my own hubby, who is far more introverted than I) and that some people are positively put off by having a total stranger start chatting with them, however innocuous said chatting may be.

You know what puts me off? There is one thing, socially, that I cannot take. I have this thing about having conversations with total strangers if either those strangers or I myself am in a state of undress. Call me a prude, but yikes, I cannot stand it.

Unfortunately, my current fitness regime is now affording me at least six chances a week for Naked Stranger Chat to occur. You see, I've been going to the gym at least once a day to work out (trying to go while the kiddo is in school, but some days I have to bring her with me, deposit her in the Child Watch "Kids' Gym" play area and then do my thing) and those during-the-day hours are when the Y women's locker room is positively crawling with nude oldsters. (Thank you, Silver Sneakers program.) I mean, kudos to the seniors who are committed to keeping in shape and staying active and healthy. I salute you. I just prefer not to do it while either of us are au naturel.

And I'm not just talking about a friendly nod or "Hi" here, either, lest you think I am insanely uptight. No, I'm talking full-on, multi-paragraph conversational exchanges. Like the other day, when I was cornered en route to my locker by a larger, older woman who wanted to learn all about my iPod - or "iPer" as she called it. (I'd left my earphones in as an evasionary tactic, thinking if I clearly couldn't hear anyone, they wouldn't talk to me. Wrong. They just came closer and talked louder. Eek.) She started out three lockers down (a decent space) and advanced inexorably even as I backed away 'til there was no more away in which to back. Even worse, I was trapped between a row of lockers, the full length mirror (so it was like she was in front of and behind me) and a bench upon which sat another naked old bird. She was busily covering every last ounce of her skin with a generous slathering of lotion (seriously - at one point she lifted each boob in turn in order to lotion up the area underneath, thoroughly and meticulously) so clearly, I did not want to get any closer to that action. Lotion Lady joined in the iPod conversation, as they both have grandkids who are perpetually plugged into those silly contraptions, and it was an excrutiating four minutes before I could extricate myself and flee the scene. I've had other, slightly less terrifying conversational situations with the nekkid Silver Sneakers crew, (notably yesterday when the locker room was positively buzzing with chatter about the snow flurries we had in the morning. I know, snow in May - gah!) and I'm getting a bit better at not getting that "deer in headlights" look I've caught in my reflection (there are mirrors everywhere in the locker room) though I think it is more of a "naked appendage wobbling within my personal space border" look, which is perfectly understandable. I mean, these ladies put their business everywhere - on the benches (no towel underneath them), at the sinks, in the toilet stalls, using the hair dryers. Seriously, why can't they just get dressed first, do all these things later? Though as long as they get dressed before they talk to me, that's all I really care about. (I also make absolutely certain that no bare flesh belonging to either myself or the kiddo ever comes into direct contact with any of the benches, or the floor - last week, the kiddo and I observed a woman giving herself a Naked Pedicure. Not just a quick repair job on a stubbed toenail, mind you, but full-on, filing the callouses off the bottoms of her heels and clipping her toenails - there were nail clippings and bits of skin flying everywhere. Ew.)

Maybe when I'm a senior myself, I won't have such issues and will cheerfully stand around in the buff, talking to total strangers about my grandchildren, the weather, the temperature in the pool for today's Osteoarthritis Water Aerobics class, or which episode of Matlock or Murder, She Wrote was on the day before. Maybe. That day, however, is still a few decades off, so in the meantime, I'll have to come up with some other strategy to avoid Naked Chatting in the locker room. *shudder*

Monday, May 19, 2008

Big meeting, big stress and now BIG RELIEF!!

If I could turn cartwheels without breaking a bone or cracking my skull open, I would right about now. The meeting with the school district went better than we could possibly've hoped for and WHEW is that a relief! Not only did the district approve all the services the kiddo's team had requested for the summer (Hubby and I being members of that team, of course), but they approved an even greater level of services than we had initially requested following our discussion. !!! Instead of twice-weekly OT, she will start out with having OT three times a week and will continue with PT twice a week. She also will have a CCA for at least the first 10 weeks of school to assist with any sensory needs she may have outside of her scheduled OT sessions. This CCA will be trained as needed by the OT in order to be able to recognize and provide appropriate sensory input as the kiddo requires it during the day. After 10 weeks, we are going to meet again for a review and if things need to be adjusted one way or the other, we can do so at that time. (Of course if there is an obvious need to adjust things sooner, we can do that too.) The kiddo will be in a regular classroom, as academically and intellectually she is not behind - if anything, she's advanced for her age. I'd been concerned that the school would want to put her in a more restrictive, less academically challenging classroom because of her special needs, but even the principal (who attended the meeting, I think in part because of the conversation I had with her last week) agreed that that setting would not be the most beneficial placement for the kiddo. I'm so, so glad that the school district and the principal heard what we were saying - that the kiddo is very bright and the only thing affecting her is the SPD.

Speaking of SPD, the school district did officially classify her today as a Student with a Disability - Other Health Impaired, which is sort of the catch-all of the 13 different categories of disabilities. (For example, kids with ADD/ADHD also fall in this category.) Considering the challenges I've heard that some other parents face in getting their children with SPD classified so they can receive services, I am breathing a doubly large sigh of relief that our school district classified her without any issues. Since SPD isn't yet recognized in the DSM-IV (though there is a movement, complete with petition, to have it included in the DSM-V which is due to be published in 2012), some parents have had to try and "back-door" their kids into the system in order to get the services they need by getting them diagnosed with some other label (PDD-NOS is a common one) that "counts" because it is already in the DSM, and then they can get the required help for the SPD under that other label. Thank goodness we didn't have to fight that battle!

So, all in all, a great outcome to the meeting today. Woo-hoo! Hopefully these services will ensure that the kiddo has a happy and successful kindergarten year. Rest assured that I'll be watching very closely to make sure that all services are delivered and are sufficient....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big meeting, big stress

Tomorrow morning, we have a meeting with the school district about services for the kiddo both over the summer and for next year when she's in kindergarten. These include OT and PT again, though the kiddo has now overcome her speech issues and no longer will be needing speech therapy. I have some concerns about the transition to kindergarten and want to be sure that every necessary support is in place to allow the kiddo to be successful, so I'm more than a little stressed about the meeting. After all the testing and evaluations were completed for this year, we met with the kiddo's preschool teacher (whom I adore) and went over everything, including what we plan to request. My main concern is that there won't be adequate sensory support for the kiddo and she will have trouble being able to maintain her focus for the longer periods of time that full-day kindergarten (as it is in our district) will require. Yes, this is a key time when SPD rears its troublesome head, and on top of being stressed, I am upset and frustrated and heartbroken all over again to think of the additional difficulties she will face through having something that is not at all her fault. No parent wants to see their child struggle, and this meeting is our main chance to ensure that she has what she needs to avoid any struggle, or at least to minimize it as much as possible.

Being kindergarten and therefore a totally new environment and school adds to my nervousness. Preschool was a known entity, but this is the "big leagues" now. It feels so much more sink or swim, though I'm hoping that this is a false impression. I've already spoken (albeit briefly) with the principal of the elementary school we believe the kiddo will be attending (there is a chance at the meeting, it could be decided a different school in the district is a more appropriate setting for her) and at more length with one of the other school administrators. I've also been in touch with the Occupational Therapist who worked at the school, though she is leaving at the end of this school year and they will be getting a new OT.

Basically, what we need is for there to be adequate sensory support for the kiddo. This can include any number of things, from sitting on an air cushion (similar to the one we have at home and the ones they have at her preschool), using a pressure vest (we send hers in her backpack for school each day) to having an OT do joint compressions, deep pressure or "heavy work" to give her extra sensory input. We're asking for a certain amount of OT each week and her preschool teacher actually called me today to say she thinks we should ask for more than the kiddo's current OT had suggested, so she is going to talk to the OT and have something in writing to present at the meeting tomorrow. (Just one of the reasons I adore her preschool teacher - she was thinking about and worrying about getting the best services in place for the kiddo over the weekend just as I was.) The school has an OT room with trampolines and swings, which are two of the key devices to helping the kiddo regulate her system. Ideally, I'd love a plan in which the kiddo gets taken to the OT room at regular intervals each day for some trampoline-ing or swinging, or other heavy work, along with things like her pressure vest and air cushion. At her preschool now, the staff recognize when the kiddo is needing extra sensory input and can (and do) provide it to her, either in the classroom or in the OT clinic upstairs. Will the kindergarten staff be able to recognize when she is needing extra input and provide it for her, or will she just be labeled a "troublemaker" or a "bad student" because she can't sit still for the required amount of time? This is my fear, and on the other end is the fear that she will be labeled or discriminated against because of being a special needs student. (Her present designation is "preschooler with a disability" but I believe that once she is in kindergarten, she'll be classified as "special needs - other health impaired" and somehow, the label seems more... dangerous, I guess is the word I'm looking for, once she's in the big, bad world of elementary school.) I want her to have the help she needs but not to be judged for it. She is a very, very, very smart kid and has shown this past year how well she can do with the appropriate support. Now we have to convince the school district of this tomorrow and then make sure that the school follows through with the plan...... We've got the kiddo's team all on the same page, so we'll be presenting a united and hopefully convincing front tomorrow to the school district Powers That Be. I only hope that this year's meeting goes as well as last year's meeting, when we got everything we asked for without any trouble. There's a new chairperson on board this time around for the committee, and that is just one more unknown variable to mess with my stress level. Even an extra mile on the elliptical trainer at the gym this afternoon didn't help lessen my stress (and neither did the chocolate caramel brownie I had after lunch. Gotta be bad if chocolate can't cure it!) Ugh. Please think good thoughts and say a prayer for us at 9 tomorrow morning. Hopefully I'll have good news to report!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

As is unfortunately tradition in our house, the kiddo was up at dawn's first light today. Hubby got up with her so I could sleep in, which I did until 7:00 - woo-hoo! This is an improvement over last year when the kiddo set off our security alarm in the wee, small hours of the morning. That was the first and only time she's ever done that (it was accidental - she was looking for her godmother who had been over the night before and was here when the kiddo went to bed. She'd erroneously thought that her godmother had slept over and was trying to check the garage for her. Apparently the kiddo thinks that we'd make guests sleep in the garage......)

Anyhow, when I went moseying on downstairs at 7 this morning, the kiddo couldn't wait to give me my Mother's Day card to open, the one she picked out all by herself on a trip to the card store with Hubby.

The thing that you can't quite make out thanks to the whole "flatbed" part of the flatbed scanner is that Piglet is on a spring. A spring! Who could resist Piglet on a spring? And glitter?! Not my kiddo! She was very excited to point out how springy Piglet is, and how you can see him through the circle on the front of the card, then when you open it, he springs up!

(I should also point out here that the kiddo is yet in the earlier stages of the whole "reading" thing, and that even if she had read the wording on the front - and I'm fairly certain that Hubby pointed it out to her anyhow - the whole Piglet-on-a-spring thing still would have convinced her this was the perfect card, Grandma or not.)

They also gave me a brand-spankin'-new set of gardening tools in a cool carrying case. Apparently the various cheap, hand-me-down/garage sale-acquired tools I've been using for the past several years and lugging about the yard in my old college shower caddy are finally done with once and for all. These tools are not only shiny and new, but are made of rustproof material and are unlikely to bend or even snap in two at their first (or hundredth) contact with our insanely hard, clay soil. Woo-hoo!

Our Mother's Day plans are to get ourselves motivated (yes, I'll grant you that some of the fam has been up a wee bit longer than I have, but we're all still in jammies), head downtown to the Public Market for the first week of their annual Flower City Sundays sale and get the hanging baskets and other annuals I put in the planters on the porch and deck. Then, Hubby is going to rototill the food garden bed for me so I can get all our seedlings planted (they're straining against the lid of the starter tray at this point) and I'll get to play with my new gardening tools. Yippie!!

To all the women out there like me with reason to celebrate today, I wish you a very happy Mother's Day! To those who are grieving the loss of a child, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

This and that

It feels like it has been ages since I've posted anything, though in reality it hasn't been that long... We've been dealing with the nasty head cold the kiddo caught while still on the antibiotics for her strep (I know - virus vs. bacterial; still, you'd think that being on megadoses of medicine would somehow grant immunity to all other germies) and then subsequently passed on to me, despite my rigorous handwashing following every nose-blowing assist given. For me, it's just all jammed up in my sinuses as well as a pretty decent, breath-stealing cough every now and again, whereas the kiddo has a hacking, wet, thick, gooey cough that makes your lungs hurt to hear it to accompany her Niagara Falls Nostrils (now with Magnificent Snot Bubbles!). Mostly the cough is occurring at night while she's sleeping, thank you post-nasal drip.

Seriously, I am so sick of germs. I don't know if it is because she was a preemie or what, but the kiddo manages to pick up seemingly everything that goes through preschool. I'm assuming she'll have an immune system made of freaking adamantium by the time she starts kindergarten... As for me, well, I was feeling a bit smug at how I managed to avoid her strep germs, so of course I had to catch the head cold. At least it didn't sideline me for more than a few early evenings when I was sound asleep by 8pm, and only once of those while under the influence of my magical elixir, aka Nyquil. The kiddo is generally healthier in the summer months, so hopefully this will be the Last Bad Bug (*knocking wood*) for the foreseeable future.


In other illness-related news, I've been dealing with a rather nasty eye disease (I'd been calling it a "condition" but was corrected by the eye doc; it is, in fact, a disease - whee!) for the last six months. The disease caused bumps to form on the underside of my eyelids, and when those bumps grew menacingly large enough, they began to mess up my corneas, scratching them and putting pressure on my eyeballs in weird ways that affected my vision and also rendered me unable to wear my contacts. I had to use steroids in my eyes along with other eyedrops and gels to get things under control, so I've had to deal with occasional bouts of eyelid 'roid rage - not pretty, all that overly-aggressive blinking and winking. Hee. Seriously, though, for a while there was the very real possibility that I'd have to have a surgical procedure done to the insides of my eyelids (I won't go into gory detail - I'll just say the procedure involved membrane peeling and allow you to shudder sufficiently at that) but after two visits with the eye surgeon, the verdict thankfully came back that no membrane peeling was required. (The actual exam, by the by, made me feel like I was a victim in one of the Saw films... seriously one of the more unpleasant things I've ever had to endure and something that made me more convinced than ever that I shall never undergo any sort of eye surgery - Lasik or what have you - unless the choice is that or utter, permanent blindness.)

So, this morning I had an appointment with my regular eye doc, following up on the follow-up with the eye surgeon from last week, and I had more good news: I may be able to wear contact lenses again! That was the biggest downside (well, other than the possibility of permanent corneal damage and all that) to this disease - the fact that I've had to wear my glasses for the last six months. I'd barely been able to wear my contacts for a while before that, as the eyelid bumps made the lenses shift around on my eye - not good for the whole "visual clarity" thing - but to be told officially "No contacts" made me a bit sad even though I'd mostly given up on them already.

See, the thing is, I'm ridiculously - nay, ridonkulously - nearsighted. Have been for decades. Started wearing glasses back in elementary school, and one of the happiest days of my teenage life was my 16th birthday, when I was fitted with my first pair of contact lenses. Having suffered through either the indignity of glasses back when they seemed to have more of a stigma (Four Eyes, Mr. Magoo, etc) than they do nowadays, or the indignity of having to squint with fuzzy vision while not wearing my glasses (eg - I refused to wear them for my role in The Mikado one year in high school, and then had to find my mark onstage by lining myself up with the reflection of the spotlight off our music director's bald head in the orchestra pit, as I couldn't see clearly enough to find a mark on the floor). So, I began wearing contacts at 16 and they became my primary source of vision correction for the following 20 years. That is, 'til this disease slammed me in the eyelids and I was thrown back into the world of glasses.

Things for glasses-wearers certainly have improved over the years. The stigma seems to be fading, if not gone, of being a Magoo. Even the glasses themselves look a lot nicer, and with the invention of the "featherweight" lens, my glasses are now down from Crazy Coke Bottle thickness to a more flattering half-inch thick. (I'm not kidding - I just measured. Seriously, a half inch thick. Yowza.) The biggest downside for me to glasses is my photosensitivity - I can get a wicked migraine from too-bright light, and am therefore a bit paranoid about light. (I'm also allergic to sunlight, but that's another post altogether...) So, with contacts, I could whip out the darkest, largest pair of sunglasses I could find (for years, I wore Ray Ban Wayfarers in tortiseshell, but alas, their price has gone from merely steep - $54 for the last pair I purchased, several years ago - to utterly insane - over $100 a pair for non-prescription glasses!) and I'd be good. I did have a pair of prescription glasses with those cool, clip-on, magnetized sunglass overlays, but these came with problems, the first being that they weren't really dark enough for my liking and the second that they were miiiighty delicate. So delicate, in fact, that one of the bajillion times the kiddo accidentally knocked them off my face, they broke in such a way that repairing them was impossible.

My solution for the past six months has been to have two pairs of glasses - one regular, one sunglasses - and I've felt alternatively like my parents back in the 70s, who used to do the glasses-swap (my dad most nervewrackingly while driving, tossing the pair he was removing onto the dashboard while polishing the pair he was about to don on his shirttail, thereby rendering his vision blurred for waaaay too long in his passengers' opinion), or like some bizarro Mr. Rogers, having to whip off my glasses, invariably having to hold them in my teeth while I replace them with the other pair, and then stuff the removed pair into their case in my purse every time I walk in or out of a building.

This has just been a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. I could have a lot worse to deal with than the double-glasses issue, I realize that. That doesn't mean that I didn't get just a wee bit giddy, though, when the eye doctor handed me 5 trial pairs of daily disposable lenses, with instructions to try out the first four pairs for no more than 8 hours per pair over the next two weeks, then wear the fifth pair to my next appointment to see where things stand (um, pun intended...hee!). Daily disposable lenses are way more expensive than my previous 2-week disposable lenses, almost prohibitively so. If they do work for me, though, I will most probably get a supply and then just not wear them every single day, thereby stretching out the boxes to a more cost-effective value. It would be nice to have the option of contacts for things like taking the kiddo to the pool, for example... There is still a decent chance that the contacts will aggravate my eye disease and that, in fact, I will not be able to ever wear contacts again, but I am cautiously hopeful about the possibility of returning to at least an occasional spectacles-free state.


Stephen King (whose latest book, Duma Key, was awesome, btw) wrote a column in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly (aka my favorite magazine) in which he listed his Top 20 songs, as decreed by what were the most frequently played tunes on his iPod. That made me wonder what my Top 20 are according to my iPod, so I just looked. Wanna know? Well, here is the current Top 20 Most Played songlist from my (full to the point that I can't get one more song on there right now) iPod:

- Macavity, the Mystery Cat and Mr. Mistoffolees, Cats OBC. This is because of the kiddo, who is presently obsessed with Cats and has most of the soundtrack memorized. She frequently requests that we listen to various tunes from the show while driving to and from preschool. (A girl after her own mother's heart: I was once caught by my younger sisters (who whipped my bedroom door open without knocking) dancing around in a "cat-like" manner and belting my heart out to the record, while wearing a belt around my neck as a pseudo-cat collar.) (I cannot believe I just admitted to that in public.)

- Envelop Me, Obsolete and Nothing Here to Hold You, Magne F. For those of you not in the know (or not 80s pop music junkies like myself), Magne F (Furuholmen) is a member of the band a-ha. I've been a fan of a-ha since the 80s, and now am a fan of Magne's solo work. These are my favorite three tracks off of the album, and I'm hoping that his next album (out this month) will also be available on iTunes since his stuff isn't exactly stocked at the local Best Buy or FYE.

- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Billy Joel. What can I say, I'm a diehard Billy Joel fan, and this is my favorite Billy Joel song.

- Hangman Jury, Aerosmith. What can I say, I'm a diehard Aerosmith fan, and this is one of my favorite Aerosmith songs.

- Never Let Me Down, Life on Mars? and God Only Knows, David Bowie. What can I say, I'm a diehard Bowie fan, and these three are among my favorites.

- Imagination and Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone, Harry Connick, Jr. Love Harry. I was, for a while back in college, a true Harry groupie. Saw him in concert several times in a short period, including the opening night of his first Broadway run, and hung around various stage doors as well. Not only did I get to meet and talk with the man himself a few of those times (and I have the autographed poster, framed and now stashed in the basement, to prove it) but I was ultimately on a first-name basis with several members of his band. They were all really nice guys. I think I even convinced one of them that Syracuse was a good school for his son to consider... Go Orange!

- Cara Mia and From Me To You, Bobby McFerrin. Cara Mia is another kiddo-assist, as it is her favorite Bobby McFerrin tune. From Me To You is one of my favorites.

- Days of Elijah, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. This, aside from being an awesome song, was a song we did at church a few months ago in which I had the solo, so I listened to it even more than usual for help in memorizing the part.

- Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Meat Loaf. Please bear in mind that I generally only listen to my iPod while either driving in the car or when working out (so, mostly when driving in my car...). This is a great, driving-with-the-windows-down, arm-hanging-out-the-window, blast-it-from-the-stereo kind of song. Yeah, not so much with the minivan but hey, I've still got a fondness for it.

- Travelin' Thru, Jason Castro. My hubby and my best friend both are utterly bemused and disbelieving that I - or anyone - could possibly be a Jason Castro fan, but then again, he's made the Top 4 on this season's American Idol, so I'm not the only one out there who likes him. They just don't get him, I guess. (For that matter, neither does my mom, who was quite upset that he continues to remain while Carly went home...) It doesn't help that I find his charms rather inexplicable, so cannot adequately detail my reasons for liking him as much as I do... there's just something about his voice. I've downloaded several of his songs from this season, but this is my favorite.

- Elvira, The Oak Ridge Boys. Another song whose appearance in the top 20 is kiddo-assisted. Yes, I will confess to being a diehard ORB fan (I've even seen them in concert - more than once!) and I will further confess to trying to influence the kiddo in her musical tastes by playing the occasional ORB song (as I've likewise quite successfully done with Harry Connick Jr., Bobby McFerrin and the showtunes genre). I didn't realize that she'd take to the oom-pah-pahing of Elvira with such gusto, however! (Sad but True Story: for my tenth birthday, my family went to a "fancy" restaurant for dinner to celebrate. I was allowed to bring two friends as well. This restaurant was so fancy that they had an accordian player wandering about, taking requests. When he approached our table, I was allowed to make a request, as I was the birthday girl. After telling me he couldn't play The Entertainer (because really, wouldn't Joplin sound totally awesome on an accordian?), my second choice was Elvira. It was the year the song came out and it was burning up the charts, and the dude actually knew it well enough to fake his way through a bit. He did not, however, know the lyrics, which I graciously supplied by singing along. Are you getting this picture? Me, with the badly permed, big hair, ginormous glasses and mouth full of glistening metal and elastic, singing Elvira along with the accordian. In public. Happily.)

- The Swing of Things, a-ha. Yep, I love me that 80s pop. Have for decades, since I was a teenager and it was actually current. This is one of my favorite a-ha songs, though I could rattle off others. (Strangely enough, Duran Duran, which was my absolute, most-favorite 80s pop band back in the day, and also the first "rock" concert I ever attended, doesn't make my top 25. I guess that is because I listen to all the songs as opposed to just one over and over again. Hmmmm. I was going to marry John Taylor back in the day, you know. Shame on me for not letting my former-future husband into my top 25.)

- Ain't No Cure for Love, Leonard Cohen. There are other Leonard Cohen tunes, including Hallelujah, in the top 25 playlist on my iPod, but this is the one that cracks the actual top 20.

Oh, and honorable mention has to go to Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede, which is a recent addition (late last week) to my iPod and has completely entranced the kiddo. She is getting quite good at belting out the "ooga-chaka" part while I sing the lead vocal over it. Keep an ear peeled should you spot a silvery-green Toyota Sienna cruising about town with the windows down one of these days...


Birthday party update - the invitations went out to the kiddo's class today. (Or "Valentines" as she kept calling them, before correcting herself.) We've also managed to secure a cake topper (one of those edible sheet thingies) that matches the kiddo's chosen party theme for this year - the Little Einsteins. Turns out that Disney has a stranglehold on all things children's birthday party-related in the Little Einsteins genre, and without resorting to Ebay or other online stores, LE stuff for parties is kinda hard to come by. We're baking the cake ourselves (half chocolate, half vanilla), but it will look a lot nicer with the professionally done topper than, say, last year's cake, when the best I could do for the Go, Diego, Go! theme was frost the cake with chocolate icing, call that "the ground" and then jam a bunch of Diego and his animal posse action figures into the top. The stupid scarlet Macaw kept keeling over into the "dirt" too... Now I just have to obtain and stuff a piñata that preferably matches the LE theme without being able to actually procure an official LE piñata thanks to the aforementioned Disney stranglehold. Maybe I can find one that looks like a music note or something... We've got the menu planned (pizza, fruit salad, pretzels, veggie tray, cake, water and juice boxes) and some games in the works as well. Hopefully the weather cooperates and the kids can run around the playground and we won't wind up crammed under the pavilion in the rain for the entire two hours. I wonder how many of the kids from her class will actually attend? I hope a decent number, though the distance may factor in, as folks in our area are notoriously xenophobic about burbs other than their own. (Hmm, agoraphobic? Burbaphobic? Well, they hate driving to "the other side of the city" at any rate.) The kiddo really wants ALL her friends there, and we've given enough advance notice that we should be able to get on folks' calendars without conflicts. We shall see!


In gardening news, the seed starter trays that we planted a few weeks ago have really done well. So well, in fact, that the kiddo and I had to transplant the corn and sunflowers to the actual ground because they were straining against the lid of the tray. The other stuff isn't far behind, so we're gonna have to get the garden bed prepped sooner rather than later. We also added some blackberry bushes to our berry patch yesterday, courtesy of a woman in my local freecycling group who was thinning out her own berry patch. They look like they withstood the transplanting pretty well, so hopefully we have some delicious blackberries to harvest along with our other berries this summer! Our strawberry plants already have blooms on them, which is the earliest they've ever blossomed, too. Woo-hoo!

Wow, this is a pretty darn long post. Guess that'll take the edge off my blogging jones for a bit! Off to get the kiddo scrubbed in the tub and then sample the new mac and cheese recipe I tried in the crock pot for the first time today. Hopefully she likes it - she is a bit picky about her mac and cheese. A regular mac and cheese gourmet, my kiddo....