Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Merry Sithmas: Best Christmas Special Ever

Totally the new favorite holiday special in our house!  Little Dude would like to request a version of Rudolph where the Mos Eisley Cantina doubles as the Island of Misfit Toys.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Ways Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Doesn't Look Like Mine

Everyone wants their Thanksgiving to look just like the Norman Rockwell painting “Freedom from Want.”  Ours?  Never looks exactly picture-perfect.  Let's count the ways Rockwell's Thanksgiving dinner differs from mine!
1. Family can afford 50-lb. turkey.

2. Aunts not arguing over who ruined Barbie’s hair 30 years ago.*

3. Drunk uncle smiling cheerfully instead of ranting about Operation Wall Street.

4. Grapes in centerpiece have not yet been demolished by my children.

5. Where. Is. The. Wine?

6. No one using celery stalks as light sabers.

7. Tablecloth not “enhanced” with cranberry stains.

8. Children not relegated to card table in kitchen.

9. Teen nephew not sporting snarl and multiple piercings.

10. Grandpa still wearing pants.

How does your Thanksgiving look?

*Note to my sister: You totally told me to give your Barbie that mohawk.  She looked way cooler like that, anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Woo-hoo! My Big Fat Announcement

This week, a fantabulous new humor website launched just for moms.  It's called and I am super stoked to be a part of it.  I'm honored to be among writers and comedians like Calise Hawkins, Brenna Jennings of the blog Suburban Snapshots, Leanne Shirtliffe of the blog Ironic Mom, and lots more.

No worries -- I'm still going to be ranting and raving right here, too.

Okay.  I know exactly what my long-time readers are thinking: I can't believe Nickelodeon hired you after what you wrote about Dora.

I. Know.

In fact, when the hipsters at Nick first contacted me, I was all, "um, you should know about this thing I wrote because I really think it's going to bite me in the ass it would be really embarassing for you to hire me and then find out later."

If you'll recall, I may have said implied that Dora's parents were out partying with Max and Ruby's parents, and perhaps a call to Child Protective Services was in order.  I may have said something about Dora and Boots both being on peyote.  It's also somewhat possible that I also explicitly stated hinted that MTV (also owned by Viacom) should have an entire episode of Intervention dedicated to the entire lineup of NickJr. parents.

My actual next line was:
Note: I believe this is the exact moment my blog became ineligible for any of the awards on the Nickelodeon "Parents Connect" site.
It turns out that the people at Nickelodeon have a great sense of humor (and apparently also a forgiving nature), because they didn't tell me not to let the door hit me on the ass on the way out.

That, my friends, is what we call being the luckiest writer in the world.

My first post is up at nickmom, and I even have an author page, which makes me feel pretty fancy.  My first post is about how much I'd like to be like Ma Ingalls.  You should totally check it out, because who didn't enjoy Pa Ingalls', um ... hardtack?

I'd love for you to check me and the other writers out on nickmom.  There's some serious motherfunny over there, and I think you're going to love it.

Oooh, and also?  If you have time, can you leave me a comment there so I can feel all popular and stuff?

Mostly I want to say thank you to you guys who come here and read my nonsense.  If it wasn't for you, Nickelodeon would never have noticed me in the first place.  Thanks, y'all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The 99 Percent (of Teachers)

Apple for the teacher.
Alternate use: for beaning sucky
people in the head.
My heart breaks for teachers. So many teachers are going above and beyond the call, slogging away in a profession that gets harder every year, thanks to budget cuts, standardized testing, and general nonsense outside of their control. 

And then a couple of douchebags do something not just unprofessional, but downright mean, and it casts a shadow on your whole profession.  A news story broke last week about an Ohio mother who went so far as to equip her special needs daughter with a wire, to record the bullying comments and actions made by her special education classroom aide and a teacher.  (ABC News story here; and local television coverage of the story here.  Warning: the television coverage has the actual audio; it's very disturbing.)

Our kids have been blessed with some amazing teachers, the kind I learn from as a parent.  Even in the highly problematic school my kids attended when we lived in Texas, we had some amazing teachers.  And right now?  Each of my kids has the absolute best teacher for him or her.  It's pretty dreamy.

I also have several friends who are teachers, one of whom teaches in one of the roughest high schools in the country.  Despite having been physically assaulted more than once at his place of employment, he still tears up with pride when talking about his students.

At the beginning of this school year, there was a great op-ed piece on CNN called "What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents." In the article, award-winning veteran educator Ron Clark spells out exactly how parents can have a great working relationship with their children's teachers.  I agreed with almost all of it -- except for this:
The respect I have for teachers is immense.  But what kind of relationship would I have with my child if I didn't ask for his or her side of the story?  Teachers are human.  They can make mistakes.  There can be misunderstandings.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you.

This is especially in our case, since Little Dude's reality doesn't always align with everyone else's reality.  In fact, asking for both Little Dude's side of a story, and his teachers' version of what happened, has helped his teachers and I figure out some of Little Dude's emotional and communication problems.  (We figured out that when he's stressed, he basically stops processing information.) 

Obviously, the problem isn't asking for your child's version of what happened, it's how you ask for that information.  I would never want to disrespect a teacher like that, especially in front of a student.


The other problem is that while 99 percent of teachers are telling the truth, there's that 1 percent that isn't. 

Let's take a step back and think about how bad things would have to be to wire your kid. Think about how bad it had to be, and how ignored the girl's parents had had to feel, to take that step.  The parents, in fact, had complained to the school about the problems in the past.  The school "investigated" the claims, and found no basis for them, even saying that the allegations "bordered on slander and harassment."

Here's some lowlights from the recordings, made over four days:
"Are you kidding me? Are you that damn dumb? Oh my God.  You are such a liar."
"No wonder you don't have any friends. No wonder no one likes you."
"Don't you want to get rid of that belly?...Go for a walk. Do you know how to? You are just lazy and your family is lazy."
At one point in the recordings, you can also hear the teacher and the aide discussing the family in front of the girl, calling them "liars" and "manipulators."

After the school district was presented with the audio evidence, the aide was dismissed.  The teacher, who was not suspended, has to take eight hours of training.  The school district settled the lawsuit with the family for $300,000.

There are people who suck in every profession.  When teachers make these kinds of grievous errors, it affects our children, it's shocking, and it makes the news.

I'm sorry for that, you fabulous teachers, you 99 percent. Please know that we parents know that you are not like the educators in Ohio who bullied that special needs student. We know how hard you work, and we thank you.

This week is American Education Week.  Besides helping out in our elementary school's library, I'll be attending special events in each of my kids' classes to learn about what my kids are doing in school.  I'll also be taking a minute to thank my kids' teachers for generally being awesome.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day, Mommies

Happy Veteran's Day! 

In my life B.C. (before children), I served as an active-duty soldier in the United States Army.  I served during the Gulf War, but I was fortunate enough to remain stateside, a fact for which I am still grateful.

A while back I wrote a post about how my U.S. Army Basic Training prepared me well for motherhood.  You know: the exhaustion, the high-calorie food eaten at odd hours, the SNAFUs. 

In that post, I missed some of the other similarities between parenting and being a soldier, but I have them today in honor of Veteran's Day.  Take a look:

For Veteran's Day, there's a massive parade in my county, but Little Dude doesn't do so well with parades.  So we'll be calling friends and family members who are veterans to thank them for their service.  What are you guys doing for Veteran's Day?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Defense of the Duggars (updated)

A note from stark. raving. mad. mommy.:

Hi there!  Just a friendly reminder that if you leave comments that are hateful to one another, I will delete that shizz.  Also, perhaps some people should consider trying decaf.

While I welcome feedback on my writing, suggestions for more information, or thoughtful opinions, I simply cannot stomach online bullying.  If you are reading this, you are old enough to know better.

If you don't share my views on the Duggars, that's totally cool.  I get it.  My very good friend (who is far more well-read than me) at Mom-In-A-Million wrote a post that I love called "I Don't Admire The Duggars."  I agree with 99% of what she's saying.  Except I still like to watch the show.

I've temporarily enabled comment moderation until this dies down.  Thanks for your patience.


* * * * * *

We have four kids, and that's plenty for us. We're stopping there. We live in a mostly Catholic town where no one bats an eyelash at four kids. Most of the people who grew up here in Vatican Hill, Pennsylvania have at least five siblings.

It's all over the news that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are expecting their 20th child.  I care about this in the sense that it's fascinating, in the way reading the Guinness Book of World Records is fascinating.  I mean, how many children can one woman give birth to before her uterus goes on strike?

Even if they didn't have their own reality show, a woman being pregnant with her 20th child is interesting fodder for a slow news day.  With a reality show, it goes even more viral.

The thing is, I don't care.  If Michelle Duggar wants to treat her vag like a clown car, that's her business.  It's not like they've asked me to babysit their trillion kids.  It seems that they don't take a dime in state or federal support.  Jim Bob and Michelle seem like loving, dedicated parents. Their kids seem pretty much normal and happy, despite growing up in what is essentially a small corporation.  In fact, in many ways they seem better-adjusted than my own kids.

Plus, Michelle has that awesome laundry soap recipe that I lurve.

I'm not a huge fan of putting kids on television, because they're not old enough to give consent.  It's the same reason I don't use my kids' names on my blog, or use their photos.  It's not fair to them.  But the Duggars are a far cry from being the Gosselins.  The're not even as nutty as the Browns from Sister Wives. Not that I care what the heck the Browns do in their bedrooms, but they're living a life that is actually illegal (whether it should be or not), and parading their kids around while doing it. It's got to be kind of awkward for those kids at school, no?

In fact, as reality show parents go, the Duggars are pretty freaking awesome.

Remember this game?

Let's play, shall we? First, the moms:

Sure, at first glance you think it's Kate Gosselin who's "doing her own thing," with the crazy eyes and Madonna-scary biceps.  But let me ask you this: if you had to ask any of these moms to watch your kids, who would you ask?  I bet it's Michelle Duggar, who seems to be inflicting the least amount of weirdness on her kids.

Now, the dads:

Not sure? Here's a hint: which one is not wearing an Ed Hardy or Ed Hardy knockoff?  Also, which one is actually a guy you'd invite to have dinner with your family?

I don't share the Duggars' religious views. I also don't share their desire to populate the earth with as many mini-me's as possible. But I do respect their right to knock themselves out trying.

Yes, Michelle Duggar's pregnancy is high-risk. So were all three of my pregnancies: my first (twins, and then pre-eclampsia), my second (VBAC), and my third and last (pre-eclampsia, emergency c-section). Michelle says she is exercising, eating right and napping daily to keep her strength up and honestly the fact that a mom of 19 is able to find time to nap shows me that she has got her act together.  (That and she's got half a dozen built-in babysitters, but whatevs.)

Lots of other risks go up with age and having had so many pregnancies.  One doctor told me to make sure I took a calcium supplement because my "serial pregnancies" can deplete the minerals from your bones.  Michelle is also at higher risk to have a baby with special needs.  That seems to be a chance the Duggars are willing to take, and frankly I think they'd do a bang-up job of raising a special needs child.

Okay, so maybe I do care.  I care exactly enough to wish Michelle Duggar a happy and healthy pregnancy.

Best wishes, and thanks for the laundry soap recipe, Michelle.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What I Did All Damn Day

What it would take to ask me what I do all day.

Note: This is a long-ass post because I have a long-ass day.

The other day my friend Hartley Steiner of the blog Hartley's Life with 3 Boys posted on Facebook, "if you're a stay-at-home mom of a special needs child, what do you tell people when they ask you what you do all day?"

If someone actually had the brass balls it would take to ask me that question, I would tell them I sit on my ass at Starbucks, chatting with my stay-at-home mom friends, drinking pumpkin lattes and eating those little cake-pop things all day.  Then I would punch them in the throat and return to scheduling therapy sessions and cleaning up other people's literal and figurative crap.

While no one has ever been stupid enough to ask me what I do all damn day, I do get a lot of emails to the effect of, "how do you do it all?" and the answer is, I don't. This week I have been wearing the same pair of (unwashed) jeans for five days straight. I am drowning in dishes, laundry, bills, unreturned emails, medical and educational appointments, therapy sessions, and fifth-grade math homework.

Here's just one of my days from last week:

5:00 a.m. Little Dude crawls into bed with me.  You think at 5 a.m. I want to have an argument about this?  Hellz no.  I fall back asleep and so does he.

6:00 a.m. Wake up. The Absent-Minded Professor is long gone, at work.  I normally make coffee, but this morning I was out of coffee, which is the most horrendous thing that can happen to any mom and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  Yesterday I noticed that I used up the last of the coffee, but because I didn't type it into my phone to remind me to get coffee later, I forgot.  (F--k you too, ADHD.)  So instead I microwaved the old coffee that was still in the coffee pot from yesterday.  This is not a good start to the day.

Check my emails, and respond to the ones I can respond to off the top of my head.  Scan the news so that I don't become completely detatched from the world.

Get the kids' school clothes ready.  Realize that two out of four kids don't seem to have clean clothes.  Get wrinkled clothes out the dryer.  One child is going to wear pants that are tad too big and a shirt that's a tad too small, but she'll be in dress code, so I don't care.

7:00 a.m. Get the kids up.  This takes longer than it should.  Feed them breakfast, dose out medications.  Nag them to check their visual checklists to see what they're supposed to do in the morning.

7:20 a.m. I take a shower.  I am able to get entirely clean in five minutes.  (Cold weather = pants = not shaving my legs for the next few months = major time-saver.)  However, during that five minutes:  someone knocked and screamed about needing socks so he could "sock skate" in the kitchen; someone else asked me to sign her homework copy book; and a third person came in, used the toilet, and flushed the toilet, causing me to only have boiling-hot water.  Not to worry: that person also left the door open when she left the bathroom, so the cold air that came in kind of evened out the scalding.

7:25 a.m. Get dried off and dressed.  This takes me another five minutes, including combing my hair.  I take an extra minute to spackle on some cover-up over my stress pimples.  I'm high-maintenance that way.

7:30 a.m.: Check to see where the kids are on their visual morning checklists.  They're doing pretty good.  We also have a chore chart, which they were great about at first, but now the novelty has worn off.  Inform the kids that if they don't do their chores after school, I'm not going to do mine.  Which means I'm not making dinner or doing laundry.  So if the kitty litter doesn't get scooped and the trash doesn't get taken out this afternoon, they can make themselves some cereal tonight and wear dirty clothes to school tomorrow.  It seems like they're going to get back on track with the chore chart.

In the next forty minutes, we do the following: pack lunches, brush hair, brush teeth, apply hydrocortisone to rashy kids and give nebulizer treatments to wheezy kids.  I also dress Little Dude, which is not as easy as it
sounds, because his eczema is making his sensory processing issues worse than usual.  So there is some
screaming.  And flapping.  And running and wrestling and possibly pinning down a child and sitting on him.
Think I won't take you to school without shoes?  Try me.

8:10 a.m. Inform all children that I am taking them to school, whether they are wearing shoes or not.

8:15 a.m.: Drive the girls to school.  Our elementary school, which is the best elementary school ever, has parent volunteers who open the car door and help your kids out. 

8:30 a.m.: Take Little Dude to Kindergarten, where I have to park and walk him to the door.  I put his headphones on him before he walks in.  Today he walked in with no fussing.  We are there early, which helps, because it's visually less confusing to him when there's fewer kids in the auditorium.

8:40 a.m.: Stop at Wawa for coffee and a cholesterol sandwich.  I don't usually do that, but I need coffee desperately, and perhaps a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich will make me feel better.

It doesn't.

8:50 a.m.: Come home.  Drink coffee.  Sob for ten minutes because I'm so freaking overwhelmed.  Feel stupid for crying when, in the grand scheme of things, it was actually a good morning.

9:00 a.m. I have a two-hour window in which to get things done before I leave to pick Little Dude up from Kindergarten.  I use this time to write, run errands, and get stuff done around the house that's hard to get done with Little Dude around.  I also sometimes use this time to volunteer at the elementary school library, but today is not a library day.  Probably I would get more done around the house if I didn't do this volunteer work, but it's my only opportunity to see other grown-ups, and I like it.

I need whatever women were smoking in 1949.
Today I answer emails to the Pork Lo Maniac's teachers about her poor pragmatic language skills and email the school district on the status of them paying for an independent evaluation about that.  I research some issues for Little Dude's IEP meeting next week, which I have convened because there are some accommodations which I didn't get in writing the first time.  Guess what?  Accommodations you have arranged verbally are not going to be followed.  This will be fixed, but not without politely but firmly hassling a bunch of people.

I spend about an hour working on my blog and some free-lance writing projects.  I spend the other hour trying to get a few things done around the house:
  • Throw in a load of laundry.
  • Send emails and leave voicemails for various school district employees.
  • Try to correct a bill from Quest Labs, but their system is down.
  • Dump the other dry, wrinkly clothes from the dryer onto the couch.  Leave them there.
  • Finally take the air conditioners out of the windows and put them up in the attic.  Probably this is something my husband should or could do, but honestly he works about a billion hours and I'd rather he spend his measly home time playing with the kids or doing the dishes.  Did you know that when you take an air conditioner out of a window, it might be full of water?  Which will spill on your jeans, the rug, and whatever toys 'n' crap are on the floor?  I did not know that, but now I do. 
11:00 a.m. Leave to pick up Little Dude from Kindergarten.  We spend about fifteen minutes playing on the school playground, until the dayare kids come a-screamin' out for their recess.  It's too many kids, it's too much noise.  We leave.

11:30 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. This is my time with Little Dude.  We work on his homework, we eat lunch, we read.  Lately he's been pretty stressed, so all he wants to do is sit next to me on the couch, stimming by spinning a Lego minifig in his fingers while he watches me play Lego games on the Wii.  You know he's stressed when he can't even play the Wii.  He can only watch.  It's soothing to him, so I do this.  I take breaks between each level to switch out laundry, wash a few dishes, or make a phone call.  While I do those things, he sits there and stims, until I come back.

Also during this time, I try to get Little Dude to use the potty.  He's doing incredibly well wearing underwear most of the time, and maybe once a day he'll pee on the potty at home.  But he's still not really using the potty, which seems pretty critical to the whole potty-training process.  Before we leave to pick up the girls from school, I put a Pull-Up on him so he can finally poop.  Then I put him in a fresh Pull-Up, because by this time he's kind of exhausted from the whole underwear scene.

I take him to the elementary school early, so he can play on the playground until the girls come out.  He even has a little friend there now, another boy who plays while waiting for his siblings.

3:15 p.m. The girls come out of school, and we play for a few minutes in the fresh air before going home to start homework.  Their homework needs more supervision and help than it probably should, but what am I supposed to do?  If someone doesn't understand something in their homework, I help them figure it out.  Sometimes I have to be there to keep them focused on their homework.  Sometimes we have to deal with anxiety meltdowns.  It sucks.  I hate homework more now than I did when I was a kid.  I try really, really hard not to let my kids know that.

This is what I use as a diaper bag.
 4:45 p.m. It's Thursday, which means the Peanut Butter Kid has therapy tonight at 5:15, a most awkward time.  There are no good times for therapy, though.  Therapy eats into your homework time, your dinner time, or your bedtime-preparation time.  You pick the time that the therapist is available, and work around it.  I pack sandwiches, fruit, and drinks for the kids to eat in the car after therapy.  I make sure the other kids bring their homework if it's not done, or something else to do.  I make sure I remember to bring a Lego minifig for Little Dude or else there will be hell to pay.  I also remember to bring a Pull-Up, and a potty seat in case Little Dude miraculously wants to try to use the toilet at the therapy building.  This is all to go somewhere for a 50-minute appointment.  Pretty much, any time we go anywhere, it looks like we're moving in.  During some of the appointment, I join in.  I add things like "make family calendar so kids know what to expect" and "schedule worry time" and "spend 15 minutes discussing the next day" to my phone calendar.

5:50 p.m. Eat peanut butter sandwiches in the car for dinner on the way to the next appointment. 
6:30 p.m. Cookie has an appointment with the pediatrician for asthma issues. 

7:15 p.m. Get home.  Assuming all the homework is done, there is now 30 minutes left to play a game or watch some TV.  Unless it's a shower night, in which case that has to start right away in order to get all four kids clean.  I used to stagger their showers and baths, but then I would forget who was clean and who was funky, so now we're back to just showering or bathing all the kids in one night.

7:45 p.m. Bedtime preparation begins. Dose out medicines, run the nebulizer treatments.  The Absent-Minded Professor gets Little Dude ready for bed and reads to him.  This is good because by the end of the day I start to run out of patience.  Wrestling Little Dude into his jammies might be the tipping point for me into complete insanity.  I do lie down next to Little Dude until he falls asleep.  I had gotten away from doing that, but then we moved, and that got shot to hell.  And now we're trying to potty-train and work on other stuff at school, so he's too stressed for me to change one. more. damn. thing. 

8:30 p.m. Little Dude is asleep.  I generally spend the next hour dealing with one or more daughter who is having trouble falling asleep due to anxiety issues.  By 9 p.m., it takes every ounce of control that I have to get through this without losing my patience.  Some days my patience feels so depleted that I'm seriously considering tattooing the word "patience" to my wrist as a reminder that losing my schmidt absolutely never helps the situation.

9:30 p.m. Scarf down some leftover Halloween candy while watching an old episode of Glee on Netflix.  (This is the closest I will come to sitting on the couch eating bon-bons.) 

10:15 p.m.  Play Words With Friends on my phone for a few minutes and then pass out.

This wasn't a bad day.  No one was sick; there were no calls from the school; there were no massive meltdowns.  I didn't even attempt to run errands.  I didn't lose my schmidt.  There were about a trillion things that did not get done: I need to pay some bills, I need to vacuum, I need to clean up some sticky stuff in the fridge.  I need to schedule dental appointments and I need to call my doctor to get a refill on my ADHD meds.

I did the best I could, and that has to be enough.

But there you have it.  What I did all damn day.  And tomorrow I get up and do it all again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Little Good News for Your Day

It's from 2006, but bears re-watching.  Video of autistic high school basketball manager Jason McElwain's high-scoring basketball game has gone viral again this week and honestly, I just don't get tired of it.  No matter how many times I see it, I grin. And weep.

On Facebook you can watch the clip from CBS, which didn't give YouTube the rights to run it.  But I liked the ESPN piece on Jason the best anyway, which you can watch right here.

The Kardashian Divorce: Top 10 Tweets and Other Stuff

Today I'm over at Rants from Mommyland, giggling with Lydia over tweets about the Kim Kardashian - Kris Humphries divorce.  We're totally not taking pleasure from someone else's misfortune, I swear.  But the fact that her wedding cost $10 million (and yet it appears she made a profit off the thing) makes me want to vomit.

Also, here's a few more thoughts about this insanity:
  • Kim Kardashian's wedding: $10 million.  3 custom-made gowns by Vera Want. 72 days.
  • My wedding: Under $2,000 total.  1 dress that I bought off the rack.  I've been married over 16 years.
  • If 72 days is now a unit of time called a Kardashian, I have been married for 82.33 Kardashians.  You can calculate your marriage in Kardashians at the Kardashian Calculator(Thank you to reader Amy T. for letting me know about the calculator!)
Here is a photo of just one of the three custom-made gowns Kim wore for her wedding.

Here is a photo of my friend's spoiled hamster, whom we call Rodent Kim Kardashian.  You can't see the blinged-out cage in the photo.  The resemblance is uncanny, right?
Also, not to get all political up in here, but here is my fave image out of the whole thing.

I dream of a day when we all have equal rights to an ostentatious, blinged-out, publicity-hounding sham of a legal marriage.

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