Monday, September 26, 2005

Ups and Downs, Good News and Bad

Last Monday was the first day of Enthusio's after-school Spanish, which means he gets out of school at the same time Mermaid does. I sent them off to school by themselves that morning, and counted on them to meet and get themselves home together as well. They did great! That afternoon, Enthusio and I dropped Mermaid off at the pool for swim practice and then drove to the library. As we were walking inside, my cell phone rang: "Hi, this is Jennifer over at City of Davis Gymnastics. I have (Mermaid) here -- swim practice got cancelled -- can you come pick her up?" I said yes and we headed right back over there. When we arrived, Mermaid was a little teary: "I'm sorry, Mom! I forgot to tell you!" They are renovating the pool where she's had practice since the beginning of the summer, so practice was moved to a different pool. I knew that was coming soon, but I didn't realize Monday was the day. Once I assured her that it was okay, that I wasn't angry and we'd just go over to the other pool, she was fine.

To recap: I dropped my autistic 10-year-old daughter off downtown at a pool where there was no swim practice, and instead of freaking the hell out, she calmly walked next door to the gymnastics gym, asked an adult for help, and gave the adult both our home and my cell phone numbers. Then she waited for me to pick her up, and the only part of it that was upsetting for her was thinking I would be mad that she forgot to tell me practice was moved. I think she was pretty taken aback that I hugged her and told her over and over how proud of her I was instead :-)

That evening, after we'd waded through two hours of homework and had dinner, we got out her saxophone and practiced putting it together and blowing into it the right way for a little while, in anticipation of her first lesson the next day. She had a much better experience getting the right sound out of it than she had at the orientation meetting when, in a room full of other kids and a lot of noise and confusion, she'd ended up in tears and unable to get anything other than a squeak out of it. Tuesday I attended her first lesson with her, since she wasn't going to have an aide with her at that time and I wanted to make sure she could follow what was going on. Great news: there are only two beginning saxophone students at her school this year! So she actually didn't really need me there all that much and I think I'll probably only go once or twice more, until I'm confident she knows how to put the sax together and take it apart and clean it herself really well. What's more, she totally got what was going on and did really well and seemed to have fun. I'm so thrilled! I think she's going to learn to read music really well, because that's decoding skills and hers are really good. She had good practices for the rest of the week, and I'm just really excited and happy this is going well for her. It's something she's wanted to do for a long time.

It's good to have a some happy stuff going on, because Enthusio has been having a really hard time lately. I know I've written about his trials and tribulations a lot in the last few months. Well, the week before last, after talking to one of his teachers at Back To School night and hearing about the issues he's been having in the classroom (falling apart when it's time to stop one activity and move on to another because he hasn't finished his work yet and that sort of thing), we decided to finally take the step of finding him a therapist. We spoke to our pediatrician, who agreed that it was a good idea to start him seeing someone -- she said that in her experience, this kind of anxiety goes up and down throughout childhood and the peak ages for boys are 9-11. That afternoon I made contact with a psychologist who practices here in town, and was able to go in to talk to her for a while and set up an appointment for Enthusio to see her.

I filled out numerous forms and questionaires, including one that, when I handed it back to her, caused her to say something like "oh yeah, there are some issues here" just based on the way I'd filled in the boxes. On the one hand, it makes me sad to have it confirmed by professionals that he is in need of professional help. But on the other hand, it's a relief -- it's not like, if his pediatrician or this psychologist had told me "don't worry, he's fine" I would have felt better, because at this point, I know there's something wrong, and Reasonable Man and I have dealt with it as best we can, but it's not getting better, and we know Enthusio needs help we can't give him ourselves. In that way it's very much like what we went through getting Mermaid some help all those years ago when we first became concerned about her development, only much less terrifying, of course, because this stuff he's going through? A lot of it is stuff Reasonable Man and I went through ourselves growing up. I can remember panicking in class back in first and second grade because everyone was doing their math faster than I was, and the more panicky I got, the slower I went. I hate it that my son is going through this, and I will do anything to help make it easier on him.

Unfortunately, that's not all. A couple of weeks ago, he told me some boys had teased him on the playground, saying he was a first grader. They'd had an assembly about bullying and teasing at school the week before, where they learned about how when kids tease you, you don't have to "take the bait" -- you can stay "off the hook" by ignoring them, walking away, making a joke, etc. Enthusio really took this to heart and told me all about it -- when he first told me about these boys teasing him, he started out by saying "Mom, I was kind of on the hook today." Then, this past Monday, he told me it hadn't stopped -- these same three boys from third grade had been seeking him out on the playground every day, usually during afternoon recess, and hassling him. He hadn't told a grown-up or done anything else to get help with the problem. We talked about what to do and I encouraged him to go to the yard duty immediately when this happened on the following day. The next day after school I asked him about it and he first said he "forgot" to go to the yard duty, then said he didn't go ask her for help because he was afraid he wouldn't get any.

Because I needed to be at school to work in Mermaid's classroom Wednesday right after Enthusio's recess time, I went early to help him go to talk with the yard duty. When I found him, he told me we couldn't talk to the yard duty because she'd benched him for kicking a kid this morning before school started. This kid is well known to us here in the neighborhood and Enthusio has had problems with him before. So the kid harrassed Enthusio, Enthusio kicked him, and the kid ran to the yard duty and told on him. After hearing this I went directly to Enthusio's teacher, who told me the kicking incident was actually Enthusio's second "referral" -- last week, he punched the same kid. Three referrals and it's a phone call home (big deal there -- I already know about the first two and I welcome the opportunity to chat about what's going on with whomever is brave enough to call me). She acknowledged that she knows about Enthusio's situation, and was quite concerned to hear about what was going on with the 3rd grade boys, which she hadn't known about before -- she said she would get right on taking care of that.

After the kids got home and we went to activities and Mermaid was at swim practice (at the right pool!) and I finally had Enthusio alone, we had a long talk. And what I got out of him was very interesting. For one thing, he hadn't gone to a yard duty about the kid from our neighborhood bothering him before school or the three 3rd grade boys bothering him at recess because he says he never thinks of that. The kid from the neighborhood comes up and says "Try to get me! Try to get me!" and he just reacts -- by punching or kicking -- and the kid immediately runs over to the yard duty and tells, and Enthusio gets in trouble. The 3rd grade boys run up and say "ah! It's the first grader!" (this is how they taunt him) and he just reacts by running after them and getting upset. The only time a yard duty has taken any notice of this was one time that he actually caught up to two of them and grabbed the backs of their shirts, and Enthusio was told to stop and leave them alone.

In other words, they come and provoke him, he lashes out, and he's the one who ends up in trouble. When I pointed out the similarity between the two situations to him, it was obvious he'd never thought about it before. I, on the other hand, had never realized exactly what was going on with him. He's simply not thinking, but reacting in a completely emotional way every time he's presented with any kind of stressful, frustrating or upsetting situation. Given the tools to deal with those situations, he can step back a bit and react more thoughtfully, but he needs guidance in that area -- he can't come up with those tools on his own.

So we talked, and he agreed to stay away from the kid who was bothering him before school, to resist chasing after the 3rd grade boys who call him a 1st grader, and most importantly to go to a grown-up for help if these kids or anyone else persists in teasing or provoking him in any way, and as far as I know, there have been no further incidents. I will still be checking in with him and with his teacher to make sure things stay on the right track, of course. And of course, I have high hopes for him making strides in therapy. He had his first session this past Friday, and although I wasn't allowed to come in and listen, I could hear him talking animatedly inside her office and he seemed quite happy when he came out at the end of the session. He says she has cool toys to play with and he really liked talking to her. So that's all good.

This parenting stuff is harder than it looks!

Check Out My Article...

... on! Yes, all the brain power I waste on entertainment/celebrity issues and events does pay off once in a while...

A Real Housewife Takes On Housewives

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Reasonable Man and the kids left to go visit my in-laws yesterday, and I've been mightily enjoying having them gone. Folks will probably think it sounds terrible for me to say that, but I don't care. I don't really feel the need to defend the amount of devotion I feel for these people who live in the house with me. Also, I expect all three of them occasionally relish times when I'm not around as well. Besides -- show me a married mother of living-at-home-age kids who doesn't enjoy a little solitude once in a while, and I'll show you a woman who needs to get herself a LIFE already. In case I haven't already demonstrated my feelings on this subject clearly enough as of yet, being a wife and mother does not equal putting the needs of everyone else ahead of your own 24/7. Everyone needs a little alone time once in a while.

I should clarify to say that I spent the first ten hours my family was gone anything but alone -- I spent it in the company of my good friend Sue, her eight siblings, and a few of their assorted spouses and children. Sue's sister Loretta, her only sibling living in California, who was until two days ago the only sibling of Sue's I had met, is getting married today, so the whole clan is here for the big day. I met two of Sue's sisters (and one brother-in-law) Friday night, and the rest of the out-of-town sisters were there at Sue's by the time I joined them yesterday, and we all packed up headed down to the Bay Area for the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival.

I'll just say this. My dad is one of seven kids, so I'm no stranger to enormous gatherings of related people, but it's different when it's not your own family, and it can be highly entertaining to be there observing the dynamics in kind of the same way it was two years ago when I went to Reasonable Man's 15-year high school reunion. Don't get me wrong -- I had a blast hanging out with Sue and her family yesterday, and they couldn't have made me feel more welcome and a part of things if they'd tried. But I was still able to step back from it all for a few moments here and there and just see the different relationships between various siblings. Sue, who is always trying to take care of everyone, including me, is exactly the same way with all her siblings, which I find curious because she is one of the younger ones, the seventh of nine. Funny how that stuff comes out.

I enjoyed the Art & Wine Festival. I bought a wine glass and tickets for 4 glasses of wine (one of which I ended up giving to Sue's brother John, since it felt like a good idea to stop at 3), and I then I went on a quest for cute dangly earrings, which are a rediscovered treat since I got my contact lenses and a new short haircut. I also got a fitted gold toe ring, which was exciting since a) seems like everything you find is silver, and b) instead of being adjustable, it actually fits my toe and doesn't bend open, if you know what I mean. I hate the ones that open and then they get mishapen from being taken on and off and they get caught on your socks and all that. This is just a gold band with flower and leaf pattern on it and I can leave it on my toe forever and ever if I want. I probably went a little crazy with the earrings since none of them were exactly cheap, and two pairs have green, but that's okay. I also got some comfy lounging pants and a little bit of Christmas shopping done. So it was good.

I was home by 10:30, in bed reading by 11, and down for the count by 12, so that was nice. Slept in till about 8:30 this morning, then got up and had coffee and messed around on the computer for a while. Since I didn't go to the gym yesterday or Friday, I felt like I really should go today, but appeased my inner critic by riding my bike downtown instead. I got a couple of household necessities at the hardware store (why oh why are they finding lead in vinyl lunch boxes? more on this in another post), picked up a frappucino at Starbucks, and then spent a while messing around at Borders. I can kill a lot of time there, accompanied or not. Today I lingered in the "stationery, wrapping paper and other over-priced crap you don't really need" section, picking up some cute notebooks and a photo box that were 50% off and some scrapbooking stickers that were not. Then I dawdled for a while over baby name books. No, I am not planning to have anymore babies that need names, but I love baby name books anyway, and I do use them in my writing. Finally, I headed over to the True Crime section, where I was prepared to loiter for quite a while, but unfortunately, there was this dude there standing front-and-center by the shelf I wanted to look at, and he and his PowerAde or whatever his red beverage was were not moving. Fortunately I found a book I wanted on the shelf next to that one anyway. After that I went home, showered, and spent the rest of the afternoon screwing around on the computer some more and doing a few things around the house.

So anyway, that's how I wasted away my free time yesterday and today. All in all, a nice bit a peace, and now I feel refreshed and ready to go again...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Running Errands

The other day I headed out to Vacaville to run some errands and I was thinking about the recent disaster on the Gulf Coast. Actually, I started out thinking about gas prices, since it was the first time I'd had to put gas in my car since the price went up over $3/gallon. I knew I was close to needing a fill-up as I was leaving Davis, but I figured I could probably do better than $3.09/gallon for regular unleaded, so I headed down the road and ended up stopping at a place in Dixon where it was $2.98/gallon. So it was about $45 to fill up the minivan, and it was then that I realized that I didn't really care how much it cost me -- I'd been thinking more about how much gas I was using to drive around town mostly because I'm thinking more about conserving lately, not becuase it's gotten expensive.

Yep, I'm still a liberal

Besides, any time I think about how much gas costs, I remind myself how lucky I am if that's my biggest problem. After all, there are so many people who lost their homes or even their lives down on the Gulf Coast.

I enjoyed my shopping trip, even though I couldn't stop thinking about all of that. I went to the Adidas outlet because I needed new running shoes, and found two pairs of work-out pants there on clearance. Since I am what you might call pear-shaped, finding pants that fit me can be a bit of a challenge, so this was a big deal. That they were ridiculously cheap for quality, brand-name work-out clothes (a year ago I paid about $40 for a pair of running pants there -- this time I paid $11 for a pair of cropped work-out pants and $14 for a pair of long ones) was an added bonus. Shoes were a good deal too. If they'd had my size, I would have been able to buy a new pair of the same running shoes I already had for $25, less than half what I paid at the store in Davis last time. But I wasn't even bummed out that they didn't have my size, because they also had another pair that were a) still a bargain at $40, b) deliciously comfortable, and c) not even ugly! I mean, they're still running shoes, so they're not attractive, but they are white with grey and teal green accents, and they are not-hideous enough that I commented to the guy who rang me up that I suspicious of whether they were actually real running shoes or not. For a guy who works at a sports attire outlet, he seemed awfully clueless about the joke I was trying to make.

After that, I headed over to Costco. I couldn't help thinking that if we could just airlift the entire contents of a few Costco stores over to the hurricane victims down on the Gulf Coast, we could go a long way toward replacing a lot of what they are needing. Food, clothing, appliances, luggage, furniture, books and DVDs, tents and sleeping bags, basic hygeine items -- Costco has it all, and in huge quantities. I'll tell you what -- if there's ever a natural disaster nearby and we need to evacuate our home, the nearest Costco would be my first choice to take my family. The one we shop at in Vacaville is built kind of up on a hill, which would be great in the event of a flood.

Knowing I was going to Costco, I hadn't eaten lunch before I left home. I knew that even if I didn't stuff myself with free samples of microwaved delicacies, I could grab a yummy, cheap hot dog or frozen yogurt on the way out. So I made my way to the back of the store, starting in the bakery area, and starting snagging samples as I approached my main objective: a roast chicken. Sure, they have them at Safeway across the street from my house, but the ones at Costco are twice as big and cost $2 less each. We had a Safeway chicken last week and found it sorely lacking. So I picked up a chicken, and as I travelled on in search of more culinary delights, I passed a sign above a little dispenser that said "Hairnets and Beardnets." Beardnets? Well, yeah, I guess that makes sense -- I don't want some guy's nasty little beard hairs falling in my free pasta sample anymore more than I want some woman's head hairs in there -- but just the idea of a guy with a hairnet over his beard kind of grossed me out. "I hope I never see that," I told myself. Naturally, not two minutes later, I did see that, on the guy handing out samples of french bread pepperoni pizza. All I can say is, bleah! Someone should tell that guy that his yucky beard is not worth that kind of humiliation.

Anyway, this post does have a point, and it is not to make light of the Katrina situation. It's more that I don't know what to feel when I am able to just go about my regular, normal business -- sending the kids off to school, going to the gym, going off to Vacaville to run not-unpleasant errands -- while huge numbers of my fellow citizens are suffering a couple thousand miles away. This is very similar to how I felt 4 years ago, when terrorists attacked the East coast -- it's already unfathomable that these kinds of things can happen, and that much more so when you are so far away that your daily life is more or less untouched by the tragedy. The 9/11 attacks had a California component in that the plane that went down in Pennsylvania was headed to Los Angeles and carried a number of Californians -- similarly, I'm sure there must be lots of people here in California who have friends or relatives who have been severely affected by the hurricane and flooding, but just like 4 years ago, I'm not one of them this time either. And so all I can really do is be sad and angry and terrified for all the victims, but in a vague kind of way, and there's no point in doing anything other than contributing to the relief efforts and going on with my business.

Another similarity between this disaster and the terrorist attacks is that it occurred at almost exactly the same point in President Bush's second term as 9/11 happened in his first term. If pre-9/11 intelligence reports are to be believed, there were a number of clues that those attacks were coming -- similarly, all indications are that this kind of flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi in the event of a big hurricane was well anticipated but not prepared for. Yet somehow, the Bush administration turned the 9/11 attacks to their advantage, using them as a reason to attack Iraq, even though no Iraqis were involved in 9/11, and probably exposing the U.S. to even more anger-fueled terrorist attacks in the future. It makes me wonder if they can also manage to turn the devastation of Katrina to their paradoxical advantage again, as a means of cutting back disaster relief or services to poor people, or stripping away at environmental protections.

Finally-- last winter when the tsunami hit island nations in southeast Asia, there was a lot of talk about why should those nations automatically expect help from the United States? Wasn't it their own problem that their governments weren't able to provide them with disaster relief? Now that our great, powerful federal government has managed to bungle providing that same kind of relief to its very own citizens in almost every possible way, one would hope the people who complained about us sending help to the tsunami victims would be a little more humble. But I doubt that will happen. Unfortunately, one thing I think people will remember is that a tiny percentage of the victims were angry and misguided enough to take up arms and shoot at their would-be rescuers. The Bush administration has already done some blame-the-victim-style damage control, so it stands to reason that we can expect plenty of "they didn't want our help!"-type spin from our less charitable citizens in the years to come.

And probably lots of bitching about the high cost of gasoline as well.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New Kind of Spam?

I got these two comments on my last post:
Anonymous said...

I think your blog is great It's a lot of fun, you may be interested in learning about Confetti Cannons Create WOW's with Confetti Cannons

Anonymous said...

This is a excellent blog. Keep it going. Don't miss visiting this site about salvation in respect to info on salvation

The words in italics were links (which I have removed) to exactly what you'd expect, a website for a confetti cannon for parties and events and a religious website. I'm sure there's some kind of automated way to put these comments on people's blogs, but I just want to make a statement right now saying that I will delete anything like this that appears as a comment to my blog from now on. I'm not interested, so if you're reading, please don't do it. Seriously.

Summer's Over

I always meant to write a kind of general wrapping-up-the-summer post about the kids and Reasonable Man beat me to it. He is so handy sometimes!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

iTunes Celebrity Playlists and Me

Have you ever looked at the Celebrity Playlists on iTunes? It shouldn't surprise anyone that I have. I suck up any kind of celebrity-related info, even though I detest the whole celebrity-worship culture and I can't stand shit like InStyle magazine where you're supposed to be all clamoring to know what moisturizer the mom on "7th Heaven" uses and other ridiculous things like that. For the same reason, you would think that I would avoid things like iTunes Celebrity Playlists, but instead I spent an hour one night looking at them, the same way I thumb through InStyle magazine at hair salons and my parents' house on occasion. Pretty much everything I saw got on my nerves, but I kept on with it.

I'm not going to complain about the fact that they even have iTunes Celebrity Playlists because I did have the option to not look at them. I was a little surprised that they had them available to purchase in their entireity, but not really. After all, the whole point of iTunes is to sell you music, and if people will buy a CD of songs just because the case says that Sheryl Crow likes them, why wouldn't people want to download a list of songs that was lovingly assembled by the likes of Howie Mandel, Nicole Kidman, Al Franken or RuPaul?

I guess you could say that I find the idea of these famous, busy people sitting down and trying to compile these lists far more interesting than anything actually on the lists. I have to wonder how many of the celebrities are actually putting these things together themselves. Celebrities are notorious for not doing much of anything for themselves, after all. Nicole Kidman says that she asked her pre-teenage daughter to help her, resulting in songs by Gwen Stefani, the Black-Eyed Peas and Outkast being included on her list. Beyonce and Mariah Carey put a lot of their own songs on their lists, which seemed kind of tacky to me.

One thing I'm sure about is that if I were a celebrity and I were asked to come up with a list of my favorite songs for iTunes, it would probably turn me into a nervous wreck. For one thing, the idea of making a list of songs and having them represent what I like on iTunes for all eternity would make me nuts. What I love and adore at this moment is not necessarily what I will love and adore a year, or even a month, from now. The iTunes people would probably get sick of me begging to be allowed to revise my list every few months and come to regret ever having asked me to submit a list for them in the first place.

Also, obviously they don't let you include any songs that they don't have available for sale on the site, which means no Beatles, which -- please. And further to that note -- in putting together a list of your favorite songs, there is always the question of representing your favorites. Besides the Beatles, there are also Billy Joel, Sarah McLachlan, Barry Manilow (I love Barry and I don't care who knows it!), Dixie Chicks and others to contend with. These are artists for whom I can come up with entire CDs of favorites -- how am I supposed narrow it down to one or even two of their songs? Not to mention categories like 80s (I can easily come up with a whole CD of favorite songs from each of the decades I've lived in -- so far I've made a series of 4 CDs of my favorite songs from the 80s) or disco or Motown. It's exhausting just thinking about trying to narrow all those things down to a couple of representative selections.

Nevertheless, I set those issues aside and did come up with a list of my favorite songs, my essential songs, that, at this moment in time, either have personal meaning for me or I just love to listen to. (Why did I do this? Who knows -- it's just the kind of thing I do.) I tried to narrow it down to what would fit on a CD ("1.2 hours" is the magic number when I'm making the CD using iTunes) but it was not to be. The list took on its own organic size. Here it is:

"Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest - Just one of those songs that makes me feel happy every time I hear it. I'm pretty sure it's about smoking pot, but I don't care.

"Sunrise (2003)" by Simply Red - My friend Becky told me to download this song a couple of years ago and I fell instantly in love. I've always found it ironic that a music group that made what I think is one of the all-time worst songs in history ("Holding Back the Years") would go on to make a song I loved so much. It's like they decided to apologize to me. My favorite line is "At this moment in time, love's indescribable..." Gives me goosebumps.

"Fire & Rain" by James Taylor - This is a song I remember occasionally hearing from my early childhood on. In 1989, it was used in the movie "Running On Empty," in which River Phoenix played a teenager who eventually has to cut ties with his parents, activists who have gone underground to escape prosecution for a bombing they participated in back in the 60s, so he can attend Julliard. The song is played, to poignant effect, as he stands by the side of the road and watches them drive away at the end of the movie. River Phoenix was one of my very favorite actors, and since he died in 1993, this song has always made me think of him.

"This Love" by Maroon 5 - Evidently this song was one of those way-overplayed songs that people really got sick of, but I don't listen to the radio that much anymore, and I just loved from the first time I heard it. I even bought the CD, and I almost never buy CDs since the whole music downloading revolution happened.

"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" by George Harrison - This is a current favorite. George is my favorite Beatle and I'm just starting to get into his solo work. I just love the emotion in his voice and the way it builds. I remember hearing bits and pieces of this over the years but I didn't realize who sang it or ever listen to the whole thing till I downloaded it a few months ago.

"Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder - This is another song I know I've heard over and over from the time I was a kid, and I'm embarrassed to admit what made me smack myself on the forehead and go "what a great song!" was when Nike used a bit of it in a commercial featuring Michael Jordan (double bleah!). But anyway, not only do I love the way it sounds, I also love the theme of the lyrics: you've never realized I love you (see also "Sunrise (2003)"). Songs about that always get me.

"I Know" by Dionne Farris - Just an awesome, catchy song. When the single was out and the video was in heavy rotation, Reasonable Man bought me the cassette to apologize for something he'd done that annoyed the crap out of me. I don't remember what he did to piss me off, but I'll always remember the sweet gesture he made to apologize for it. Flowers are great, but you can't go wrong with giving me the means to listen to a favorite song over and over again.

"Change the World" by Eric Clapton - This is another song that other people probably got sick of. I never will. "Tears in Heaven" never did for me what it did for the rest of the world, but this one does. There's just something really nice and heartfelt about it, wrapped up in a really good pop song...

"A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton - ... as is this one. I love the piano and her little girl voice. I can just listen to it over and over and never get tired of it. I also love her songs "Ordinary Day" and "White Houses" and I just generally think she's really cool.

"You Gotta Be" by Des'ree - I never develop a love for a song based on the message, but I liked the way this one sounded the first time I heard it, and the lyrics are about learning to believe in oneself but they're really well-done and not clunky and sentimental. It's hard to get that right. I also remember the video was nice, with the singer dressed in white against a black background, and black against a white background, and doing cool things with her hands.

"Crush" by Dave Matthews Band - I wasn't a Dave Matthews fan and this song played a lot on the radio the summer of 1999 before I one day had the sudden epiphany that it was absolutely awesome and I couldn't listen to it enough. It totally captures that feeling of being with someone you're totally into immediately following... well, you know. Very sensual and romantic.

"Heart & Soul" by T'Pau - This is an 80s song I only heard maybe a few times in the 80s. I don't remember it getting any airplay on the radio where I grew up, but I went to visit my cousin in the Central Valley during my senior year of high school, and she and her friends were way into it. I always remembered it from the night I went out cruising with them, and it was always a treat to hear it until I was able to download it a few years ago. It definitely ranks among my top several 80s songs now.

"Rock DJ" by Robbie Williams - This is a really fun song. Robbie Williams is nut -- he's never taken off in the U.S. but they love him in England, and I thinks he's great. This song just kind of perfectly captures his silly, outrageous persona and it's great to run to and I just find it irresistable overall.

"Wonder" by Natalie Merchant - 1997 was a hard year for me, as it was the year we realized that Mermaid had developmental problems, and I spent a lot of time not just trying to figure out what was going on with her but experiencing the frustrations associated with trying to figure out how to get her the help she needed. Mermaid always liked music and the two of us were home alone together with the radio on a lot. "Wonder" had been playing quite a lot for several months before I suddenly listened to the lyrics one day and realized the song was about an amazing girl with special abilities, and from that day on, in my mind this song was about Mermaid. I even printed out part of the lyrics and put them in her baby book. She likes to sing , and if she performed this song someday, I could die happy.

"Better Man" by Pearl Jam - I was never into grunge rock but I do kind of like Pearl Jam, and there's something about the simplicity of this song and its lyrics that I love. It tells a story you've heard a million times before but it's just done really really well and I love to listen to it.

"Alive & Kicking" by Simple Minds - Another 80s favorite. The lead singer's voice together with the gospel-choir-sounding background vocalists and the way it builds to the climax -- "don't say good-bye, don't say good-bye, in the final seconds, who's gonna save you?" -- I just love it. I think this is a much better song than their bigger hit, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" from "The Breakfast Club."

"You Get What You Give" by New Radicals - I thought this was just a really great, rocking song from the first time I heard it. The silly lyrics about Hanson, Courtney Love, etc. near the end are fun too.

"Tunnel of Love" by Bruce Springsteen - I know the guy's an icon, but he doesn't really do anything for me, except for this song. I love the way all the different pieces of music fit together, and the idea of this couple riding this carnival ride works really well as a metaphor for the problems in their relationship.

"Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" by Sophie B. Hawkins - This song is a good example of
a whole being more than the sum of its parts. This woman is raspy and weak as a vocalist, and the lyrics range from silly ("Shucks! For me there is no other") to bizarre ("I sat on the mountainside with peace of mind, and I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear") to kind of overly suggestive ("I'll give you something sweet each time you come inside my jungle book"), and the arrangement doesn't seem like anything special, but put them all together and they amount to a song I find intoxicating. When I hear it, I always want to sing along and move to the music.

"Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve - It grabs you from the opening hook, which I had as the ring tone on my old cell phone. The song takes its time building, layer upon layer, until it gets going, but it makes the wait worthwhile. Not good for running to, but otherwise I love it. One time several years ago, both the kids were complaining, and whining became crying, and Reasonable Man started singing "'cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this li-ife..." and we both cracked up.

"Sowing the Seeds of Love" by Tears for Fears - In my mind this is kind of an 80s song and kind of not -- I remember the first time I heard it, close to the end of the summer between my first and second years of college. It was 1989 but I have a hard time classifying songs that came out when I was in college as true 80s songs. Anyway, the first time I heard it was when I saw the video, and right away I heard the Beatles kind of sound and just loved it. Tears for Fears is one of the few 80s groups that kept on making interesting music into the 90s. I bought the cassette this song came from, "Sowing the Seeds" and it was a really cool mix of pop and jazz. This is an excellent song even though some of the lyrics are kind of silly.

So there you go. I've now spent several hours on this post and now I'm wondering if any of the celebrities who have a playlist on iTunes ever put as much effort into their playlists that actually have a shot at being seen by more than the handful of people who actually read my blog. (Not that I don't love you guys! You know I do!) If you actually read everything I wrote, I thank you, and if not -- yeah, I don't blame you :-) But anyway, that's the list.

And I reserve the right to revise it whenever the mood strikes.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

No Time For Blogging

This is my second year of having both kids in school all day, so why am I so surprised to hardly have time to think now that the school year has begun? I already went through this last fall...

Yes, the kids are back in school, and that's great. Enthusio has two teachers who team-teach and about whom I have only heard great things. So far he's doing okay, although he did have a bit of a breakdown on the first day during lunch recess, when he evidently thought one of his best little friends from last year didn't like him anymore. She found him and straightened things out, happily. Mermaid has a teacher who has been great so far -- very responsive to my concerns about smoothing out the homework process, so I'm very pleased. Mermaid also has her same aide from last year. I was really pissed when I found out that our school was getting yet another new Full Inclusion Specialist this year -- we've had a new one each of the 5 years the school has been open now. The new one is very nice but I'm not getting attached! Anyway, I decided I'd rather have a new FIS and the same aide from last year than vice versa, for Mermaid's sake. She also started swim practice on Monday and seems to understand that's going to limit her time and she has to do homework when we ask her to. We are planning to get her a tutor to help homework time work better, and I'm meeting with her teacher and the FIS to talk about homework concerns next week.

She also has decided she wants to play saxophone in the the school band. I'm not sure how that's going to go, but I've always liked the idea of her playing an instrument in the school band. I warned her that she will have to practice! Anyway, that would mean each kid has one in-school activity and two after-school activities. Mermaid will play in the band (if that works out), plus swim and Girl Scouts, and Enthusio will have his Spanish class, plus he wants to do a musical at the art center and to try Tae Kwon Do. That all is more than enough to keep us very busy and I just wonder how families where kids have more activities than that can function!

As for me, I'm proud of myself for having gone to the gym 5 of the last 6 days, and riding my bike a lot. I'm riding back and forth to school with the kids in anticipation of them going by themselves, and today was actually the first day that I only went to accompany Enthusio and allowed Mermaid to ride home alone when she got out of school half an hour later. She's having trouble mastering the whole bike-lock end of things but as far as going back and forth, she's quite independent -- she even rode to the school and back to pick up a book she forgot yesterday afternoon. I'm quite proud of her, and happy we're all on bikes more and in the car less. I think by the time Enthusio's Spanish class starts in a couple of weeks, making it so they get out of school at the same time every day, they will be handling both directions together well enough for me to no longer be making two daily trips to school -- at least until it starts raining.

On a completely unrelated note, Reasonable Man and I went to the movies this weekend and saw "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." I thought it looked pretty stupid so it was a pleasant surprise when I got hooked within the first 30 seconds and laughed my way through the whole movie. It was full or profanity and crude sex talk, no question there, but I wasn't expecting it to all be kind of sweet. It would have been easy to make the main character into a pathetic, oblivious, desperate doofus, but instead, he had a certain amount of dignity and in some ways he was more of a grown-up than the guy friends who give him advice on how to get some throughout the movie. And I definitely didn't expect it to turn into a well-done romantic comedy involving a couple whose happiness together I actually cared about. It's not for everyone, but if you don't mind some raunchy, rude talk and you like to laugh, definitely check it out.

Remember my laptop that is already held together with velcro and duct tape? Well, last weekend I managed to vacuum up the power cord so that some of the plastic ripped off, exposing the wires inside. Yeah, brilliant, huh? This sent me to Fry's (a.k.a. the Hellmouth, as far as I'm concerned) for a replacement. The charming fellow (NOT) at the Parts desk took one look at it, said they didn't have it and I would have to order directly from the manufacturer, and then explained to me how it wasn't in stock because customers kept stealing the heads off the cords. HUH? I managed to refrain from telling him how ordering direct from the manufacturer was the only option less appealing to me than coming to Fry's, or congratulate him on managing to blame the customers for the fact that something wasn't in stock. Give me a break. Came home and looked up the part online -- I can get the off-brand version for $99. Yeah, I COULD do that -- but come on, you know me, you can probably figure out what I did. No? Two words: duct tape. Unless that sucker starts actually giving me problems, there will be no purchase of a $99 power cord.

In other minor disasters, I decided to color my own hair this week. My regular hairdresser is out of town, taking care of her sick mom, and having failed to make an appointment with any of her salon-mates to take care of the increasingly visible silver hairs in my part, I figured I could just as well buy something at Rite Aid and do it myself. I picked a color called "Natural Light Golden Brown." Close your eyes and picture that color in your head. Now imagine something about 3 shades darker than that. Yep, this week I'm a brunette. It also left purplish stains on my forehead and temples that wouldn't come off with baby wipes, astringent, rubbing alcohol, or nail polish remover. They'd faded away by this morning, but still. I think my hair will fade as well, but for the time being, I'm not so pleased with it.

I think that's about it...