Monthly Archives: May 2007

An Open Letter to My Son’s PTA

Dear PTA:

First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for all that you do for my son’s elementary school. The fund raising, the teacher gifts, the special events – the school wouldn’t be the same without you. In fact, your strength and success are among the reasons we chose this fantastic school for our boy when we moved to Chicago last year. When I sat there in San Francisco, trying desperately to imagine my new life here, you were part of the picture. That is, I just knew that I would be among you on a regular basis, devoting some time each week to the betterment of my child’s school.

What’s that? You don’t recognize my name? No, I know, I shouldn’t be surprised. One of your members introduced herself to me for the third time recently at the Book Fair, and I was too embarrassed to tell her that I knew exactly who she was because we’ve talked a handful of times before. Instead I allowed myself to be an invisible mom, one she’d never met. It was close enough to the truth.

I am not a guilt-ridden mother. I have devoted vast amounts of time, energy, and love to this first-grader of mine, and I don’t fear that I should have given him more. I love my career as a pediatric therapist and find the work enormously satisfying. I do not regret working part-time. I believe that the idea of the “perfect” mother is crap and am generally content to be the “good enough” mother. So why is it that I feel such guilt about my lack of involvement at school?

[To continue reading, click here to hop on over to the Chicago Moms Blog…]

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Classroom Crayons

Around mid-afternoon the phone rang. Matt, just in from a business trip, picked up. From his tone, I could sense that something was wrong, but just couldn’t figure out what. It wasn’t big, like illness or death, but more like something he was surprised about. At the same time he was using his “I’m taking this seriously” tone. I don’t hear that combination so often.

“That was the office at Baxter’s school,” he told me. Asthma problem? I immediately thought. “Ummm, Baxter was sent to the Assistant Principal for…breaking classroom crayons.” Why did I immediately smirk? Breaking classroom crayons?? “There was a sub, apparently, and the sub sent him to the office.” Oooo-kay. Can I remind you that the child is 6? “He had to write a note about it, and he’ll bring that home.”

I spent the hour before Baxter got home trying to decide if I was supposed to be upset. But the phrase “breaking classroom crayons” only made me crack up. I like the emphasis on them being classroom crayons – as Matt pointed out, these weren’t his own crayons from home he was breaking – oh, no, they were the classroom crayons. (Which we parents had to purchase at the beginning of the year, incidentally.)

Now, I’m not in favor of destroying others’ property, and I don’t condone the breaking of classroom anything. But, seriously, these are very young children!

Baxter said he and a friend just started mindlessly breaking a few crayons at the Writing Center. He doesn’t know why. As far as he knows, there was no warning, no substitute asking them to stop before sending them to the principal. So we didn’t make a big deal about it; asked him what it was like, how he felt (he didn’t seem too upset by the whole thing), and then took him to the store where he bought some new classroom crayons with money from his piggy bank.

Matt found his note in the backpack tonight. It reads:

“I am in the office because I broke craons in shool.”

So tell me: is this type of vigilance good because it nips bad school behavior in the bud at an early age? Or do you see it the way I do, that a child young enough to spell like that is too young to be sent to the principal’s office?

Man-in-Training

Tonight at the tail end of dinner, Lyle sat bare-chested at the table. Arm hooked over the back of his red Stokke chair, he thrust out his chest, let rip the loudest, longest fart possible for a two-year-old, and then said, “C’I watch some TV?”

Chicago Moms Blog Has Launched!

Hey, Wonderwheel readers!

A fabulous, brand-new blog has just been launched today. It’s called Chicago Moms Blog and is full of thoughtful, witty writing by brilliant, good-looking Chicago moms! This is a sister blog to the wildly successful Silicon Valley Moms Blog in my old stomping ground.

(Oops! Silly me! I almost forgot to mention that they’ve invited me to join them! My first post just went up today. It may look familiar to my regular readers…)

Come on over and check us out – and tell all your friends!

Still Time to Donate to WALK NOW

I know you’ve all been planning to donate to the Cure Autism Now/Autism Speaks fund raising walk, you just haven’t had time yet, right?

Okay, so now’s the time: the walk is this Sunday! I will reprint the following as a public service – remember, when I say every $10 counts, I mean it!

Matt, the boys, and I will be walking with a team of families and colleagues, the Wiggle Walkers, which has raised over $31,000 to date. Although I do not agree with the way these sponsoring organizations portray children on the spectrum (as hopeless tragedies), this event raises funds for autism research. And we really, really do need more research. You can do it easily online at any time: donate here.

Thank you.

Mother’s Day: Short Version

My Mother’s Day was divine. Truly. So great that I’m too tired to write about it. Or is that the Robitussin laced with codeine talking? Suffice it to say, I added some serious cough medicine to get me through the night and that – in addition to the antibiotics – seems to have turned my health around. So I’ll fill you in soon about the day, but for now, these photos (and more here ) will have to hold you:




Bronchitis: FAQs

Q: Is it a good idea to go to work when you have bronchitis?

A: No, decidedly not. It is a far better idea to stay home in your jammies, reading and posting to blogs all day. Especially when you are a speech therapist and need your voice to work. You’d better just lay off the talking.

Q: Is it acceptable to go to the M. Ward/Norah Jones show when you have bronchitis and aren’t going to work the next day?

A: Most definitely. Especially if it’s at the gorgeous Chicago Theater and you’ve already missed a Wilco and a Lyle Lovett show in the last 8 months due to your children’s illnesses. After all, this is just a Mommy illness!

However, a few things must be kept in mind:

a) try not to tip off those around you that you are actually about to cough up a lung – hold your disgusting cough off until the applause period between each song;

b) although you have to drink water non-stop to keep from coughing, bear in mind that you will not want to leave the show to use the restroom except between sets – this is likely to result in maximum discomfort by the time the encore rolls around;

c) pretend that your cough drops are something less pungent – perhaps an after-dinner mint! – and be confident that those around you will find your devil-may-care attitude contagious.

Q: Is it admissible to pick your mother up at the airport when you have bronchitis?

A: Yes, but keep in mind that you will talk to her the whole way home in the car, because how can you not? She’s your mom. This may set your voice back just a tad.

Q: At what point should you take yourself to the doctor, exactly?

A: This last one is tricky due to the fact that I’m not really about grossing out my readers. Let’s just say that when things get Super Nasty (official medical term) in your lungs, it might be time to throw in the towel and get thee to some antibiotics.

Q: Should you go ahead and take your son to his Wiggleworms music class when you have bronchitis, haven’t been going to work all week, and can’t sing?

A: Absolutely. So what if you’re the only one in your pair who was going to sing to begin with? You want your mom to see your son’s cute music class, right? Right. Just be warned: when he vomits copiously all over himself in the backseat on the way there, forcing you to turn the car around and go home anyway, expect that the decision may start to feel a little foolish.

Overheard in the Playroom


Me: Hey, Lyle, do you remember what my name is?
Lyle: Yes, it’s Mommy!
Me: Yeah, but what’s my other name?
Lyle: Jordan!
Me: That’s right! Do you remember my last name?
Lyle: Ummm… Jordan I-Love-You!

Perfect.

Taking Time for Autism


I would like to take a break from my regularly-scheduled nonsense to talk about something that is extremely important and far more worthy of your attention: autism.

Most of you know that I am a speech-language pathologist (communication therapist, as I prefer to call it) specializing in work with children with autism spectrum disorders. When I am not at work, I continue to learn all I can about the challenges these children and their families face. Late at night, I read a few pages of current books on the subject before falling asleep; I read daily emails from listservs dealing with the disorder (in particular, listservs focused on those using the Floortime intervention technique); I occasionally write for The Family Room, designed to share information with families; I read blogs written by parents with children on the spectrum. I am not “in the trenches” – my children are neurotypical – but I would say that I’ve claimed a little area alongside the trenches and have been digging for some years now.

I am inspired to post this today for a few reasons:

1) The Cure Autism Now/Autism Speaks WALK NOW Chicago event is coming up in less than two weeks. Matt, the boys, and I will be walking with a team of families and colleagues, the Wiggle Walkers, which has raised over $15,000 to date. Our goal is $20,000. As a family, we have raised $175 and I would like to increase that with your help. Although I do not always agree with the way these organizations portray children on the spectrum (as tragedies), this event raises funds for autism research. And we really, really need more research. You can do it easily online at any time: donate here.

2) I am reading a particularly poignant book on the topic right now. It is called “Mozart and the Whale: An Aspergers Love Story“. It is a beautifully-written story of the relationship and marriage of two adults with Aspergers Disorder (often referred to as a “high-functioning” form of autism). This book is worth reading. It is a rare glimpse into the minds of two adults with this disorder and it also chronicles their experiences as undiagnosed children. The pain inflicted on them throughout their lives by others who do not understand them is unbearable to read at times. It doesn’t lay blame, per se; after all, their families did not understand them, nor did they understand themselves. They didn’t hear of autism or Asperger’s until well into adulthood. They were children in a different time. However, it leaves me wishing that humans in general might show more compassion for people we don’t understand.

The last book I read was also worth recommending. “The Boy Who Loved Windows: Opening the Heart and Mind of a Boy Threatened with Autism” is written by a mother (who happens to be a writer) whose son was born with significant developmental delays and eventually diagnosed with autism. Her journey to support him in overcoming his challenges is amazing. This is an incredible window into the life of someone parenting a very young child with a more severe form of the disorder. It can give parents great hope for a successful outcome, although I found myself distracted by the tremendous emotional cost to this particular family.

In addition to the fact that these are interesting, well-written books, there is a reason I believe we should all read these books, and that is because there are children and adults all around us who are living with autism. You may have heard the newest estimate that 1 in 150 children is now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. If no one in your immediate or extended family has it, then I can guarantee that you have a neighbor who does. Your child will go to school with children on the spectrum. They will be in swimming class, gymnastics, and summer camp. Being so familiar with the various characteristics of the spectrum, I see children with autism everywhere. You, as a parent – we as a country – are going to need to understand autism in order to intelligently and compassionately talk to our children, interact as part of a community with children on the spectrum and their families, and support appropriate research, education and intervention. These children are intelligent, joyful, and as capable of showing love and affection as you and me. They deserve to be full members of our schools and communities.

3) Last, but highly significant to me, is the point that we as parents of both neurotypical and autistic children have a great deal to offer each other. I don’t know how parents of children with autism managed before the Internet; it has become an excellent source of information, support, and networking for parents. And yet there often remains an isolation from parents with neurotypical children. Today I read a compelling post from an excellent writer, MOM-NOS (a play on the diagnosis often given to children on the spectrum: PDD-NOS). Please read it: you’ll understand why it moved me to post about this topic. It left me thinking about how much we can all learn from each other and support one another if we open ourselves up to it.

I know most of my readers are parents of young children, and the majority of you have typically developing children. I strongly recommend adding at least one blog written by a parent of a child with special needs to your regular reading; and whether your child has special needs or not, comment and share your ideas and experiences. Please, help to open that dialogue. Here are a few of my favorites, but each of these sites has links to many more: MOM-NOS, The Family Room, and Special Needs Mama.

Also, here are links to a couple of fascinating articles that may interest you:

On the possible link between vaccinations and autism. (Rolling Stone)

On the theory that there is a higher incidence of autism in Silicon Valley due to all those math and science genes. (Wired Magazine)

Read up, my friends. Read, learn, doubt, ask questions. Talk amongst yourselves.

It’ll do all of us some good.

How Does She Do It?


No, no, just kidding. This is not about me, sillies. [Although perhaps this is a good time to admit that I do ask myself that (about, um, myself) on those rare days when I’m racing hither and yon and miraculously keeping all the balls in the air; I like to ask it in a TV voice-over kind of way to make myself laugh. Sometimes I even add the old commercial line, “…not a hair out of place!” which is even funnier because usually my hair is a mess. If you ever have an opportunity to spend a day in my head, you’ll learn that I make myself laugh. A lot. As Matt says, “Nobody thinks Jordan’s as funny as Jordan,” and I can’t deny it. I crack me up. I’m sure I should find this emabarrassing, but I don’t seem to, so there it is.]

At any rate, no, let’s focus here. This is about the amazing writer, Catherine Newman. I don’t think I’ve ever read something by her that I didn’t love, but some of them just really get me. She got me laughing harder than I should’ve been here with my lost-voice-whispery-laugh this morning with this new post at Wondertime. It so perfectly captures the stage that I see Baxter heading towards that I can hardly stand it. And she’s just a damn fine – and funny – writer.