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Mothers.

So well meaning in their attempts.  I almost have sympathy.  They raised us to believe they could solve our every problem.  They were almost always right when they said it would be okay, that this, too, would pass, and that things would look better in the morning.  How did they know? 

I’m beginning to doubt the credo of “Mothers are always right”.  More specifically, “Mom can fix everything.”  Yet I’m still calling Mom, still wanting her to fix the impossible problems, still asking for and receiving advice.  Only now, I’m starting to tune out when she launches into a diatribe that begins, “Well you know, sometimes things happen and…let me tell you about my newest Kid Client.”  She always has a parallel to some 18 month old who’s been displaced from a home where she learned nothing but swear words; a 10 year old living in a therapeutic group facility whose access to cookies is restricted without rationale, and a 5 year old whose psychologist has diagnosed him as having dysarthria (weakness of speech muscles causing “slushy” speech) without anything in the medical history indicating so.  All these examples are supposed to solve my problems.  It’s sad to say, but when she starts launching into one of her lectures – which I can smell a mile away – I just tune out.  I “uh huh” and comment flatly to give an illusion of listening, but it’s just not worth my efforts.  

Worse yet is when she gets an idea into her head to “solve” a problem, and it’s so ridiculous I can’t even entertain it.  I’m now trying to be more direct in heading her off at the pass when I sense her gearing up, but she squeaks through and the unwanted awful idea is born, kind of like the unsuccessfully aborted fetus on Family Guy.  

Problem number 1 – our in-wall air-conditioning unit, which is charged with cooling the living room and dining room, wasn’t working.  It made noise, but mostly just blew air around, which we didn’t know, having bought the house in February of that year.  Mom visited during the warm months last spring/summer, and didn’t just complain.  She issued an ultimatum: that she wouldn’t visit again until it was repaired/replaced.  Well, our home warranty doesn’t cover wall units, nor will any HVAC guy come out to look at a wall or window unit.  Sad as it is, they’re disposable.  On the bright side, anything we replaced it with was bound to pay for itself in energy savings, seeing as the old unit was probably installed in the Ford administration.  So we promised ourselves we’d schlep out to Sears and buy something.  We did, too.  But before we had committed to doing so, Mom had an Idea.  She had a dormant “portable” air-conditioner that was too bulky for her to use in the kitchen (Have you seen these things?  They remind me of “portable” dish-washers.  You wheel the monstrosity out [it’s roughly the size of an 1950s computer], connect a piece of hosing to the window, and basically obstruct the entire room.), so she offered it to us.  Not as is, mind you, but with the plan that we’d have it “converted” to a wall unit so it would work.  That we’d pay a handyman to finagle some way for the system to fit into the pre-cut rectangular hole in our house and keep stone-faced as he laughed at us.  Thankfully she didn’t visit long enough all winter to bring the stupid thing out in a car-load of other crap, and we were able to hold her off with vague promises that “We’ll take care of it.” And “It’s been taken care of.” 

Of course, we wanted the situation fixed as much as she did.  Last visit, when we were showing off our new Sears A/C unit that actually was made as a wall-unit, she brought up the portable A/C again, using her party line, that “The price was right,” even if the item was not.   Finally, I explained to her how utterly ridiculous and impossible it was, what a white elephant it would have been, that it would have been like giving someone with an electric hook-up a gas range and telling them to go “convert it” at their own cost.  

Gah.

Then, as Mr. Apron prepares to change jobs this fall, I made the mistake of lamenting to her my/our frustration with the process.  How it’s hard to wait for calls, how endless applications go in and no one returns phone calls, how he’s overeducated for the jobs he wants, and under-experienced for the jobs that pay more than $12/hr.  After I’d summarily dismissed every suggestion she had (after all, this is a two-way street, and when I’m frustrated, I can see no solutions to the problem), she came out with one that struck me speechless:  how about he become a bartender?  Yes, my 30-year-old husband who’s never touched anything more than the Manischewitz wine at family Shabbat dinners, who has never attended social drinking events, and whose only two experiences in a bar include taking publicity stills for a play he was putting on, and attending a concert by an up-and-coming folk singer.  But sure!  He could be a bartender!  That’s just the sort of thing people who are teetotalers who need to work dayshifts so their wives can spend time with them should go and do.  Just the sort of thing to do when you’re 30 years old and have a Master’s Degree and are leaving your last job due in part to the insane evening/weekend hours you’ve been required to work.  When I had regained my faculties, I shut her right down.  “I cannot even fathom – cannot even begin to entertain an idea – of why you thought that idea would even remotely make an iota of sense!” I screeched.  And I said we would never speak of it again.  I wouldn’t have, either, had it not been for the humor in hindsight that the suggestion has produced.  I tell everybody.  Including you.

Finally, my dear friend has a relationship with her mother where they speak at least 5 times daily.  In the era when she had a land-line, her mother used it as her personal hot-line and made sure there was unlimited long-distance so my friend could call her, without  any fear of personal inconvenience, at all hours, as much as she needed to.  Now, as have many of my generation, she has given up the land-line.  This shouldn’t make her any more difficult to reach.  On the contrary, now there’s only one line to reach her, so there’s no second guessing where she might be.  My friend told me last weekend that she usually showers somewhere between 10 and 11pm, right before bed.  And those 15 minutes when she’s under water are the 15 minutes her mom NEEDS to reach her.  Always.  Doesn’t matter if it’s 10-10:15, 10:15-10:30, 10:30-10:45, or 10:45-11.  It’s mother’s intuition, and it’s apparently very upsetting.  “What if it’s an emergency!” “What if I really need to reach you?”  And all that.   Her mother has decided that the solution to this perceived problem is to have a land-line installed.  My friend will still take showers, but her mom has some idea that the phone will have an extension in the bathroom.  Of course, as soon as she publicized her frustration on Facebook, Mr. Apron suggested that poetic irony would be to have my friend electrocute herself, to be found in the tub with the handset of a cordless phone as she tried in vain to solve her mother’s dilemma.

What are we to do with our mothers?  When they start into ranting, just listen politely, and run the other way.

*Disclaimer: If you run a daycare, work in a daycare, send your kids to daycare, or if Daycare is your middle name, please understand I am only culling together my own observations.  I have experienced the full gamut of quality child care, and this is in no way meant to disparage the good ones out there, nor the need for high-quality child care, which supports the working families in our country.  

How to make a daycare center

Find a building, any building, or a space in a building.  It can be an abandoned school, a mechanic’s garage, a storefront, a church basement, or the 2nd floor of a strip mall.  Splash paint on this building.

Think of a creative name to put forth your mission – Creative Minds, Future Footsteps, Minds Matter, Little Shepherds, Little Ones of the Future, Precious Babies, Kiddie Karriage, Kiddie Korner, Terrific Tots, Wonderfully Made, or Shake, Rattle, & Roll.  (These are actual examples.)  Now call a sign maker, and ask for your daycare’s name to be emblazoned on your storefront. Under no circumstances should you ask for a proof or – heaven forbid! – go into the store to make sure the spelling is right.  Having the name of your center spelled correctly would only make people feel insecure when they can’t spell the center’s name.  If you have extra money, have multiple signs made – for the doors, the marquee (if it’s an old movie theatre), the awning (if it’s an old laundromat), the windows, or walls inside.  Don’t worry about consistency in spelling.  Again, if you get 3 different spellings of “shepherd”, one of them is bound to be correct.  For marketing purposes, you can also write on any of your signs the attributes parents are bound to be attracted to in child care, such as “trips”  “computers” “French classes” and “open at 4am”.  

Buy lots of materials.  Make sure you buy the kit from the school supply catalog that will label the centers – science, math, art, reading housekeeping, blocks, writing – and paste these liberally to the walls, regardless or whether or not you have those actual centers at your daycare.  Repeat with the ABCs and numbers.  Make sure you have borders for the bulletin boards.  Bulletin board design is a very important way to show what creative teachers you have.  Another way to show creativity is by buying art kits.  Kids will learn exactly where to place the pre-cut, pre-glued dog’s nose on his face, and all the projects will turn out exactly the same.  

Also, buy lots of tables and chairs.  These do not have to be precisely fit to the size/age of the kids you’re serving, because kids grow into things, don’t they? And besides, small children are meant to spend long hours seated at tables doing worksheets, which reminds me –

Buy lots of workbooks to copy worksheets out of.  Don’t bother buying reference books for teachers to learn developmentally appropriate practices.  They’ll just figure it out as they go along.

Make sure you have 1 thin rug from a school supply catalog for circle time.  At this point, if you’re worried about running out of money for actual toys, fill empty bins with broken Happy Meal toys, torn books from the “Free” bin at the library, and your kids’ old Barbies and Beanie Babies.  

Staffing is not really an issue to get worked up about.  Young, inexperienced teachers will learn from older, burnt-out teachers.  Overweight teachers with Daycare Butt © will use their loud voices to command presence in the room.  Make sure each teacher is working toward a CDA so you don’t lose your license.  If teachers are really green and can’t handle their rooms of children, just put more new teachers into the room to help.  Don’t bother making one the “lead” and others the “associates” – that kind of hierarchy just makes people angle for bigger paychecks, and might give certain teachers a sense of superiority.  And you can always just move them around in the middle of the school year if they’re not a good fit.  

Lastly, use whatever money you have left to put up walls to make separate classrooms, depending on how many rooms you can legally create.  If you have just a few dollars, buy some cubicle partitions – the walls work great for displaying kids’ art projects using push-pins.  If you have more money or know a handy-man, you can put up a half-wall.  This makes sure the daycare noises of loud teachers, crying children, and the clean-up song will be able to travel from room to room, unabated.  Teachers will also be able to communicate freely over the wall about their upcoming court dates, custody battles, and new tattoos.  If you’re lucky, your building will already be divided into rooms, or if you want to spend the big bucks, go for real walls. Otherwise, you have many options.

And with that, throw up one more sign that says “Now enrolling, subsidized excepted” and open your doors to the oncoming masses.

I once was visiting my sister at college, and she had a list up on the wall of her likes and dislikes.  It wasn’t lame as in, ” long walks on the beach,” “the smell of clean cotton,” or “sharing a movie with a good friend”.  The list held honest little truths that any one reading it would be able to actually get to know my sister by reading.  Inspired, I tried my own list, but I’d forget to update it, and the entry in my journal I started for that purpose is dated 7/8/09.  Here’s what I wrote:

Things I like:

  • living in a place that has fireflies
  • the smell of linen closets

Things I Don’t Like:

  • When stores do not follow their posted hours, and are closed when their signs say they are open.  Ditto for stores that just leave up the OPEN sign or don’t post hours so you don’t know when to come back.
  • When you stake out a private spot at the beach or a lawn concert or the fireworks only to have a large family, preferably smokers, with many small children sit practically on top of you.
  • Group projects.
  • Meetings that go on for an hour to discuss a 5 minute item.

I think I’ll take the time now to expand the Don’t Like list, since it’s decidedly less lame, and I can rant for hours, while being positive and meaningful is very draining.

MORE things I don’t like:

  • Having such a sensitive nose.  I can detect dog shit if it’s anywhere in the house.  With our new “puppy”, this has become all too frequent.  I’ll start sniffing, Mr. Apron will deny it, and I’ll go on a paranoid hunt for the mythic dog shit.  Or I’ll be the only one offended by someone’s liberal application of Brut, KMart’s finest fragrance, or B.O., or cigarette smoke.  And then I get migraines, and then no one’s happy.
  • The tire pressure idiot light on my dashboard.  The number of false positives that stupid light reads is infuriating.  I pulled over tonight, convinced my car was listing to the left, sure I had a flat on the left, certain I was going to have to change my tire at 9:30 at night wearing a skirt.  Nope.  False alarm.  Like every other time it came on, except once.  And that once keeps me checking.
  • Having the windows down in Mr. Apron’s car when my hair is not pulled back.  Something to do with the wind resistance, cabin-forward design, positioning of the A-pillar.  I don’t know, but that car’s open window blows my hair in my face like no other, including his former car, a 2001 New Beetle tarted up like Herbie the Love Bug, in which the front seat occupants sat practically in the middle of the car, and the only convertible I’ve spent ample time in, a 1973 MGB.  His current car, a 2002 Volvo S40 takes the cake.  I keep a bandana in it for such purposes, only it looks less Elizabeth Taylor, more Golde from Fiddler on the Roof. 
  • Running out of bobbin thread on my sewing machine 2 inches from the end.  Also, realizing I’ve been sewing 80% of my work without a bobbin thread and will have to do it all over again.
  • Rules for rules’ sake, not for common sense.  You see this in stores/corporate places where all the employees can do is recite The Rules, and aren’t allowed to have an independence, sensical thought.  For example, at work, the impending edict is that footwear needs to have closed backs.  The reasoning behind this was not explained.  We surmise it is so we can ostensibly run after children without losing footwear in the pursuit.  But how much more effective are flimsy skimmers than a well-fitted (open-back) sandal at running after eloping children?  We tell the kids to wear sneakers so they can run and climb and play.  We don’t have to wear sneakers, so it’s not an example we’re supposed to be setting.  And why don’t they care about our toes?  I care about my toes.  I’m considering looping a piece of elastic on my flip-flops so they meet the requirement, just to flaunt my disrespect for the rules. Cause that’s how I roll.
  • Having to eat and pee.  Mind you, I don’t mind the processes themselves, rather the inconvenience of always having to plan for those eventualities.  Road tripping?  You’ll have to stop for both.  Day-trips?  You’ll have to think about both.  Bring your own food, store it, keep it cool/hot, or suffer the consequences of overpriced captive audience food, also known as the $9 hot dog at the ball park.  Doing an all-day craft fair?  Find someone to babysit the booth, and then suffer the port-o-let’s cruel wrath.  I like eating, I like food, just not having stop what I’m doing to take care of those needs.
  • Experiencing bad parenting in public.  Occasionally, I’ll hear something that will make my heart sing.  At the same craft fair where I had to be next in line at a Potty Queen after a little boy had spent a loooong time in there, I saw a little girl in a stroller bend over the edge, point excitedly at a leaf, and say, “Look! A heart!” and the Daddy stopped picked it up, and reinforced her discovery, even showing it to me.  This happens 1% of the time.  The other 99%, I hear, “Put it down!”  “No, it’s a leaf!” “Don’t touch that; it’s nasty!” “Why are you doing that!?” and other supportive phrases.  I see clueless parents prolonging tantrums by continually engaging kids with unending threats they’ll never carry out.  “Okay, the next time you do that, we’re really leaving.  I mean it this time.  You do that again, you’re not getting a toy.  That’s it.  We’re leaving.”  But they never do.  It ruins my shopping experience, and my heart aches for the kids. 

Mr. Apron has informed me, via reading over my shoulder, that the post is getting “very long”, so he suggests I leave it to be continued for another time.  I really could go on and on, and on, but that might be something you don’t like.

The automatic doors whooshed open.  The awkward-looking gentleman gripping onto his wheeled-podium postured for a few moments too long, his mouth agape, his tongue searching for the right position, before announcing, in much the same volume, manner, and expression I imagine Kenneth from 30 Rock would do, “Welcome to Wal-Mart!”

I averted my eyes, and bore a bee-line to the Returns counter which conveniently also serves for paying utility bills; counting spare change alerting customers to recalled strollers, “play yards”, slings, cribs, and mobiles; issuing cash for tax-refund checks; and selling certified money orders.  While I was grateful not to have to go through the usual interminable cashiers’ lines, I was not heartened to see the stock-still line of disenfranchised customers being waited on by a single Wal-Mart employee who was on the phone. 

As the line edged ever nearer to the counter, I saw a strangely cheerful woman enter the store and approach the greeter.  Wal-Mart 101:  never talk to the greeter.  They are only there to “welcome” you to Wal-Mart.  They don’t have any authority, information, or skill sets outside of “Welcome to Wal-Mart”.  She was trying to explain why the purple bottle of chemicals was inadequate for her cleaning needs.  The greeter feebly pointed to my line.  Sensing danger, I turned away.

“Oh, am I glad to be back in Pennsylvania!” she announced to no one in particular.  “I was in Michigan for 2 years, and I couldn’t even get a job shoveling horse manure, the economy’s so bad out there.”

An African-American woman wearing dark skinny jeans with sequins running down the side-seams, standing two ahead of me took the bait.  “Oh, I know!  I was in South Carolina, and I’m in The Ministry, and I couldn’t find work.  I just had to retire.”  She looked about 43 and a half. 

Michigan continues, “You know I’m just waiting for Judgment Day when they come with the big swords to slay the sinners.  I know who they’ll slay first — it’ll be those people who slay innocent animals.”

Clearly we’re on a tangent she loves, so she continues.  “You know they put the diseased cattle in with the healthy ones?  I tell my husband, ‘You buy as much meat as you want, but I’m not touching any of it!’ But he just says I talk too much.” 

Really.

“And on the Judgment Day you go into a scanner and they scan you to see your whole life and so God knows what you’ve done.”

Sequins butts in here.  After all, she is in The Ministry.  ” Oh, the Lord alreadys knows what I done.  He knows my whole life.  He knew me before I was conceived in the womb; he knew me.  I already know where I’m going.”

Michigan, eager to make her point, “I just feel, whatever there is after this life, I just know I’m going.  I tell my husband, if I talk too much, may I be struck dead if I ever speak a lie.  And I’m still here, ain’t I?”

Oh, you are.  You most definitely are. 

Finally it’s Sequins’ turn in line. “You have a blessed day.”

“You, too.”

I returned the envelopes that were the wrong size for my notecards, and noted the bins of returns behind the counter.  “Candy”  “Housewares”  “Jewerly”  It looks almost right, doesn’t it?

So did my Wal-Mart associate’s name:  Candida.  At first blush, it looks cute, like the feminine form of Candide, standing for optimism, philosophy, and satire.  Then I remembered my other association: the Latin name for the most unfortunate infection Mr. Apron developed following his taking some very strong antibiotics to kick a sinus infection.  Also known as thrush.  People who get thrush usually have compromised immune systems, weaked by AIDS, or chemotherapy, or organ transplant treatment.  Ready to see a picture of the girl’s name?  Warning on gross-out picture:  click.

I hate Wal-Mart, with a burning, seething passion.  But sometimes it’s the convenient choice.  And sometimes you get blog material.

My father is the quintessential absent-minded professor.  A babysitter once described his absent moments as seeming as though he is consulting a giant invisible blackboard in front of him, full of mathematical equations only he can understand.  My father is very smart.  He has also been trending more towards the absent-mindedness lately.  He can’t seem to hold a job since September, and this, for a man who is 68 but defines himself by his work, is breaking my heart.  He apparently did something — some mistake, some errors, some oversight, some slip-up — at his last place of employment, and now they can’t even give him a fair recommendation when a prospective employer calls.  They can’t even let him move on with his life.  Each place he interviews, they find out about the last place, and the hiring process stops dead in the water. 

We the family have no idea what this mistake was.  My family is pretty tight about our personal secrets, and not so good about sharing difficult moments or talking about emotionally laden subject matter.  I may or may not have referred to my brother as “emotionally retarded”.  I’m lying; I call him that regularly, just not to his face.  He’s not a macho guy, really.  He’s trending more Euro-trash lately, thanks to the influence of his fellow cosmopolitan physics doctoral students.  However, he regards any displays of emotion as being “like mom” and dismisses them as some sort of genetic defect.  See?  Not macho; he just  has the emotional maturity of a 4 year old.  And the rhetoric skills to go with it.

Apple not fall from from tree, you say?  Yeah, Dad’s not so good at that either.  Yet the main difference here is that Dad knows he’s not good at it.  After some recent blow-out/family drama/weekly crying session, he admitted, “I’m not good at the emotional piece (of child rearing),” but he had sensed that I was sad.  So Dad, despite his brilliance, and his blunder, has not spoken openly about what happened at work.  Suffice it to say, it was a B.M. (Big Mistake).

It was recommended, after the B.M., and subsequent job-leads-gone-bust, that he be evaluated by a psychiatrist to look for some physical/chemical/neurological explanation as to why, after working consistently and competently since 1967, he suddenly can’t hold or acquire a job.

And he, non-chalantly, mentioned this to me on the phone.  I freaked out.  Of course, not while talking to him.  Any family members who share feelings might have had the following conversation:

“Daddy, that’s scary.  What do they think is wrong with you?”

“Oh, it could be dementia, you know.  Don’t worry.  We’ll let you know how the MRI turns out.”

“Daddy, I’m so scared.  Talk to me and make me less scared.”

Or something.  I’m imagining this conversation, clearly, because the last time we approximated it, I was afraid of a witch hiding in my walk-in closet while I slept, and I haven’t had a walk-in closet since I was 6.  In reality, it went more like this.

“Yeah, well, they did an MRI, because they think I have some early stage dementia.”

“Uh huh?”

“And I didn’t do well on the word recall test, mostly.  No matter how many times they gave me the list of words, I couldn’t recall enough of them.”

“Uh huh.”

And then I hung up the phone and cried on my husband’s shoulder.  I imagined all of our unborn children growing up without a grandfather, as I did.  My father’s father made it until I was about 7, but he had had one of those diseases that cause you to sleep in a hospital bed in the dining room and sit in a wheelchair without moving or talking, and scare the piss out of your grandchildren.  I didn’t really know him.  I remember making Betamax videos for Grandma Esther and Grandpa Oscar, so they could watch us grow up.  I remember more about our grandma, who died when I was in 9th grade.  But about my grandfather, I have very few memories.  I saw the same fate befalling my children, and it scared me.  What would we do?  What would happen?  What would it look like?  When would he stop remembering us?  He’s always called us by the other’s names, and I comforted myself neatly into Denial thinking of that.  He’s always taken 45 minutes to go change a pair of pants, and he’s been getting lost going to my mother’s office for the five years she’s owned it.  But what else could happen?  I didn’t dare think.  I just let myself be held, and I cried. 

Today, he called me to talk about the new computer he bought on my recommendation.  Dad’s a tech-nut.  Even as he isn’t always on the fore-front of gizmotry and gadgetude, he’s interested in technology.  We were the first family I knew to own a CD-ROM, a DVD player, and a Disc-man.  His latest thrill is some unlimited tech-support in Bangalore he purchased.  It’s called iYogi, or something, and they’ll help him for two years, even running his virus protection software for him.  He’s very happy.  And they transferred all his old memory files to the new computer, something I told him they could do.  He was even happier.  The MRI came back negative.  I was even happier.  They still don’t know what’s wrong with my father.  They’re looking into nutritional definiciencies, since he’s an almost-vegetarian 5’6″ man who weighs less than 130lbs.  They’re looking into sleep and alertness issues, since the 95lb chocolate lab pins him down at night and he can’t move.  But the truth is, they don’t know my daddy.  They might not find out what’s wrong, or what’s newly wrong, or what’s different.  As long as I get a reprieve from my fears, and more time to prepare myself.  It’s hard enough dealing with my father as he is, a true absent-minded professor.  Let’s hope nothing more, and nothing less.

Toy manufacturers are in a business; there’s no denying that.  I think they earn most of their money producing things that already exist.  Simply put, there are no new toys.  We have the balls, strings, blocks, sticks, and sculpting material.  Put them together in some combination, and you have a toy.  Look for “new” toys on the shelf: chances are they’re some variation on the ball, string, block, stick, or clay theme.  In other words, building a better mousetrap.

But what about when it isn’t actually better?  What about those toys I see in the Toys ‘R Us circular that I can’t fathom an adult thinking, “Oh!  That’s such a great toy!” and buying it.  Moreover, I can’t picture a child playing with it after 7:45 Christmas morning.  And what about those toys that seek to fill a “need” that wasn’t actually there in the first place?  The types of commercials/ads pushing these toys first have to convince you how miserable your life is, and what horrible problems you have.  Then, they present their product, and you’re cured of your insatiable depressive existence on this earth. 

At one preschool/Head Start center I visit, each classroom seems to have grey plastic shoes in the dress-up area.  They look like an old man’s jogging shoes, complete with red accented plastic, but thse are no real shoes.  They’re for teaching children how to velcro, snap, and tie shoes.  What’s more, they’re not actually designed for kids to put on their feet, yet they’re in the dress-ups, as if a child might put on a silly hat, glamorous gown, and try to wedge their feet into these plastic vessels.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find an image of these ridiculous “toys”.  I guess the Head Start bought out the stock of the fake grey plastic un-shoes several years ago and instituted it center-wide as a sort of mandate. 

“All house-keeping and dramatic play areas will heretofore be outfitted with a set of plastic shoes model 147A, 147C, 147T, and 147Q.  Failure to adhere to this guideline will result in immediate enrollment of children you thought you expelled for eating crayons and pooping in the sandbox.”

Anyway, when I realized they were not even functional as dress-up shoes, I began to think how silly it is to create a product that imitates a real thing, yet would seem to serve no additional purpose.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to practice tying  shoes by, um, tying shoes?  And if the argument is made that it’s hard to learn to tie one’s own shoes, then wouldn’t it serve dual purposes to have kids tie each other’s shoes?  Then the teacher spends less time crouched on the ground gripping sticky, dirty, sandy laces, and the kids develop special standing when they become resident “Tiers” (hmmm…that doesn’t look right.  Tie-ers?  Lacers?  Lasers?  Sneakers? Knotters?). 

Here are some of the fabulous offerings from respected toy makers for those in the market for fake shoes you can’t wear…I mean, “dexterity toys”: Here, and here.

To draw some parallels, in speech pathology there is a movement afoot which posits that some children need to do so-called “non-speech oral motor therapy” separate from actual speech therapy.  It involves blowing whistles and horns, blowing bubbles, blowing cotton balls across the table, and sucking through straws.  As much fun as this is (especially for those producing and selling the whistles, horns, and straws), for kids who don’t have actual, demonstrated motor deficits (i.e., your normal, articulation therapy candidate), we in the speechie world have found that the best way to work on speech is to actually practice speech. 

Can you imagine learning to play a musical instrument by drumming your fingers on a table and never touching an actual piano?  I can understand rehearsing music mentally, clapping out beats, and cellists practicing finger positions silently on their arms, but never to touch an instrument, in service to playing an instrument?

Or how about learning to chew food by practicing first on packing peanuts, bubble wrap, kitchen sponges, and aquarium tubing?

Or learn how to drive a car by sitting in a carboard box with a paper plate stapled on as your steering wheel?  Or, worse yet, by taking drivers ed while playing Need for Speed?

Scary.

Due to some recent instability at work (insecurity as well) I’m in the process of “putting out feelers” in my field, seeing what’s open, who’s hiring, just in case I need to know. 

Mr. Apron found a terrific-sounding job.  It would be working in a classroom with a team of teachers to support kindergarteners who are at risk of learning disabilities.  Language enrichment all day long, not just during your 30 minute speech therapy session.  Sounds, great, doesn’t it?  So I applied.  And they asked to have a phone interview today!  Turns out it’s only a part-time job — 28 hours a week, and no health insurance.  I needn’t say that amounts to a pretty substantial pay cut, enough so that I can’t begin to entertain the idea of pursuing this any further. 

Then I went into the office after a morning of seeing kids who have June fever — they’re just about bursting to get out the doors and are making their teachers/therapists nuts.  I have scarcely enough time to do my regular paperwork, let alone the extra paperwork I’m doing for a colleague who’s out on sick leave, and we have a staff meeting, where we found out we’re doing our paperwork all wrong. 

And I longed for the other job.  This just about set me into a fit of depression already, but the meeting had started late.  We never finish on time anyway, so I dashed out the door already a half-hour late. 

Traffic, for those who don’t Commute, is determined by exponential factors.  Leave the office at 3:30pm precisely, the trip may take 42 minutes.  Leave at 3:45, it’s creeping up to 48 minutes.  Leave closer to 4:00, it’ll be an hour.  I resigned myself to my fate, and promptly sat on my ass for an hour, trying to decide not to kill the four youths who decided to thin the gene pool by crossing a highway at a leisurely pace nowhere near a light or a crosswalk. 

No one I wanted to complain to was able to talk on the phone.  My sister, a social worker, had to take someone grocery shopping.  My mom was in the basement of a fabric store.  My husband had an appointment.  Eventually, I reached Mom, whose solution was that Mr. Apron should go to bartending school.  As a teetotaler, and the wife of a teetotaler who has never anything beyond Manischewitz brush his lips, I could not begin to fathom where she had conceived such a ridiculous idea.  And told her so.  That always goes well.  As usual, she changed the subject, trying to distract me by telling me about some 3.5 year old client she has who gets speech therapy. 

I reached Mr. Apron, but there was nothing more to be said.  I’m sad about not being able to entertain the idea of the job.  They hurt my feelings at work by asking too much of me and not respecting my time.  And I was stuck in traffic, with two dogs at home fairly pissing themselves.

Finally walked the dogs, one at a time, for ease of perambulation.  The puppy seems to have forgotten how to sit on command, even with a treat dangled in front of her nose and few birds, squirrels, dogs, humans, and cats to distract her. 

Oh, and my wrist hurts — my tendonitis is acting up again.  Because that’s awesome when I’m trying to walk two dogs. 

So I sit down to be productive, to have a little success.  I pull out my brand-new box of invitation-sized envelopes so I can bundle up notecards Mr. Apron and I made for my upcoming craft fair, and start to stack 5 envelopes with 5 notecards.  Lo and behold — Staples’ definition of “invitation size” is different from Wal-Mart’s definition of “invitation size”.  Staples knows you want to chop up a piece of cardstock and slide it in the envelope; Wal-Mart assumes you want to mail 4″x6″ photos.  Since I had already started before I ran out of envelopes, I’m now faced with a dilemma: do I use all the Wal-Mart ones, which are absurdly oversized, but would all be uniform?  or do I dissolve, sobbing, in the dining room table, over the matter of a quarter inch of envelope?