Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Facebook

Facebook makes me happy.  I'm not a particularly social person, so I don't know why that is, but it does.  Or maybe it's because I'm not a particularly social person that it does.  The last nine years have been extremely helpful in showing that my son's apple didn't fall far from his mama's tree; some of his social issues are clearly my issues.  But on FB, I can be social when I want to be, I can stay away when I don't want to be.  I can catch up on other people's goings-on, I can catch other people up on my goings-on.  I have permission to sort through other people's lives, they can sort through mine if they're so inclined.  (My favorite FB Bumper Sticker?  "It isn't stalking if I see it on Facebook!")  I can see that the ripples intersect and make some pretty cool-looking Venn diagrams.

Those FB people are pretty smart, too.  They've given us the HIDE button.  I can hide "friends" who annoy me with their constantly changing status updates.  I don't mind the "what's for dinner" updates -- I live vicariously through some of them  -- and I'm usually interested in what they're doing today.  I definitely like hearing about triumphs, and I'm quite willing to add them to my prayer list.  What I'm talking about, though, are the people who tell me that they've just woken up.  (Good.)  Fifteen minutes later, I learn that the coffee has brewed.  (OK.  So has mine.)  Another 10 minutes, and I learn that they're going to drive to their physical therapy appointment.  (I get an update on health, and hey, I'm running errands, too!)  An hour later and I learn all about the therapies one can have at physical therapy.  (Now I'm getting twitchy.)  Add an hour and I find out that the bird feeder needs to be refilled.  (And the point is?)  It goes on and on.  Twenty times a day status updates appear on my home page, and I go on overload.  Honestly, if I wanted to know that much about the minutiae of their lives, I'd have married them.  Don't get me wrong -- I still care.  If I'm going to get flooded, I just prefer to put on my waders and visit their home pages in my own timeframe.

HIDING isn't limited to Friends, either!  Oh, no!  I can hide those really annoying Farmville and Mafia Wars applications, too!  HIDE!  And your personal horoscope.  Nice that you're a Pisces, but I'm not.  HIDE!  Poker winnings?  HIDE!  You're most like Marylin Monroe?  HIDE!  If you were a handbag, you'd be Prada?  HIDE!  You entered to win a $100 Target gift card?  HIDE!  If you were a piece of furniture, you'd be a gateleg table?  HIDE!  I think someone at Facebook has Asperger's.

A sidebar to my increased use of Facebook is my decreased use of e-mail.  I used to check my e-mail repeatedly.  I'd turn the volume up on my computer so that I could hear "the ping" from across the house.  Oh, what joy to be pinged!  Now, I leave the volume up on my computer so that I can hear the blip of a FB update.  Do I have a little red Notification circle?  Oh, joy!

All in all, Facebook lets me touch base with people that I wouldn't keep in contact with otherwise.  And that's a good thing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Confessions of a Girl Scout Leader

I could call this blog, "Confessions of a Girl Scout Leader."  I don't have anything particularly titillating to share, (GS frowns on stuff like that.) but sometimes being a GS leader seems to take over my life.  If it's not related to tonight's meeting or to this weekend's event or to cookie sales for the next three months, then it's not getting done.

I have only seven girls in my troop, and two of those are sisters, meaning that they are hitting up the same relatives and family friends for cookies.  This year, my girls just sold 854 boxes during the individual sales part of cookie sales -- that's the door-to-door part.  I'm astounded.  Maybe they did better this year than last because I scared the bejeebers out of them with the grim predictions about booth sales.  Anyway,  854 boxes of cookies is a per girl average of 122 boxes, and that doesn't include booth sales, which don't start for 3 weeks.

Once cookies are bought, there's no returning them, so any cookies left unsold by the end of March are cookies that my troop has to pay for.  That's $2.90/box that I have to send to Council to reconcile my troop's account.  Here's the part that has my heart pounding and my stomach clenching:  I ordered 586 boxes for booth sales.  And as mentioned, the predictions are grim and the competition is fierce for the few locations we have.  Last year, we got burned.  I followed the  advice of experienced leaders and ordered a good number of boxes for booth sales, and we ended up with over 30 unsold -- and that was after I debased myself in any number of ways, one box at a time.  Do the math...  Not only didn't we get to keep the profits from those boxes, but we also had to use our profits to pay for the cookies.  And we didn't have a lot of profits to begin with.

So why did I order 586 boxes for booth sales this year?  What possessed me to do that which causes me to wake up overnight with panic attacks?  Because my co-leaders are sure we're going to sell them.  All.  And have to get more before booth sales are done.  Oh, my little Pollyannas!  Did you learn nothing from last year's ordeal?  Well, neither did I, apparently, because I placed the order.  On February 4th, I will load 120 cases (1,440 boxes) of Girl Scout Cookies into the back of my minivan.  And pray.  (Is it blasphemous to pray to sell 586 boxes of cookies?  I worry.)

You might ask why we need to sell so many boxes.  Aren't we just being greedy?  The answer is:  My girls have plans.  My girls want to do things.  My girls have no clue how much stuff costs.  They need to earn to pay:

• the full fee for the Lighthouse Overnight in April ($150)
• the 2nd donation in Matthew Ennis' name to the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation ($25)
• each girl's Early Bird registration fee for next year ($84)
• SU Encampment ($100)
• World Thinking Day ($28)

That alone takes $387 of the $512.40 profit from individual sales.  But the balance from individual sales plus booth sales profits also need to cover:

• snacks for the remainder of the year
• crafts for the remainder of the year
• awards for the remainder of the year
• end-of-year "wish list" item:  that fun pool place in Calvert County
• end-of-year "wish list" item:  Build-A-Bear
• end-of-year "wish list" item:  final party
• end-of-year "wish list" item:  ???

I love Girl Scouting.  I love that my girls are learning about budgeting and having a work ethic.  I could wish for some anonymous philanthropist to take it upon him/herself to support my troop.  Then the cookie money would be gravy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Year's End

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.  ~Hal Borland


It's Jan. 16th.  (I was going to write this entry back on New Year's Day, but stuff happens...)  I was struck by the quote above.  So many people see Dec. 31st as the end of one year and Jan. 1st as the beginning of another.  And some have one bad thing happen during the year or happen towards the end of the year and call the whole year bad.  I don't see the year as running from January 1st to December 31st.  That just feels so arbitrary to me.  To me, time just seems to flow around in a circle, and the circles stack on top of each other.  If I mark a year at all, and I probably do, it's by school years.  My years run from the start of school to the end of school, and summers are always described as "the summer between x and y grades."  I had my tonsils out in 2nd grade, not in 1972.  I started dating my husband my freshman year of college, not January 1984.  Natalie broke her arm in May of Kindergarten, not in 2006.  I must say, though, that I see grades as being difficult years.  We don't talk about my son's 2nd grade year; it's just too painful.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's Cookie Time

Girl Scouting is a wonderful thing.  There are so many positives about it.  Girls get to experience many activities that they wouldn't otherwise participate in, and they learn responsibility and leadership skills.  My girls (4th graders plus a tag-along 1st grader) love arts & crafts.  Even when they get frustrated or have the attention span of a gnat, they still love arts & crafts.  Unfortunately, though we try to do things as cheaply as possible (Can you say, "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!"?), experiences and crafts cost money.  That's why we sell GS cookies.  It's our big fundraiser.  We get to keep $0.60 for every box we sell, and I can tell you that all those 60¢ really add up!

There are all kinds of rules regarding individual sales (where scouts go door to door, or their parents put up order forms at work) and booth sales.  For the latter, you can sell only within your service area only near businesses that the Service Unit Cookie Manager has set up only on certain dates at certain times.  The rules make sense, and we've been blessed in past years to have 20 businesses say that we can set up our booths in front of their stores.

This year, however, only FIVE businesses have given permission.  Five.  That's it.  I don't know how we're going to be able to hold enough booths to sell enough cookies to have our 60¢ add up to cover all the events and crafts we have planned for the remainder of the year.  I just don't want to have to ask parents for anything more.  I don't think that we're even going to make the $25/girl fee for our overnight at the Lighthouse in April much less an end-of-year event, and not because my girls aren't willing to work for it -- They are! -- but because they don't have the opportunity.

All of which means that if cookie sales are as grim as the predictions would indicate, I'm going to have to hold a meeting to think of other fundraisers.  And Girl Scouts has a ton of rules on what you can and can't do...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Random Thoughts

Jamaica

We had a little scare.  The horrible earthquake in Haiti yesterday spawned a tsunami watch for neighboring countries, one of which is Jamaica.  Jamaica is where my niece and her husband are honeymooning.  While I didn't hear about the watch (or warning?) until several hours after the initial earthquake, it was a shaky couple of hours until I learned that the watch/warning had been called off.  I set my FB status to a request for prayers, and God is great!  My niece said that they were fine, they hadn't even heard about it.

Otis

We got a dog a year ago Thanksgiving.  He's a rescue dog, a beagle/basset mix (or, as my daughter insists, a bagel).  He came with the name Otis, though my daughter really wanted to change his name to Cream Cheese.  He's about the most laid-back dog you'd ever want to meet; sometimes I get real close just to make sure he's breathing.  The week after we got him, we realized that something wasn't quite right:  He was bunny hopping up steps, and he was dripping pee wherever he walked.  Turns out he was in some kind of accident that caused neurological damage to the back end of him.  The vet told me to talk with my family about what we'd be facing if we kept him.

We kept him.  Over this past year, he's gained some muscle tone, and he's made some progress on whizzing independence.  (He won't ever be independent, but he can now "help" a little.)  He's such a good dog, and such a good match for our family.  Yes, my daughter wishes he'd fetch, but he's a sniffer, not a fetcher, and his energy level only infrequently rises above the "couch potato" level, and he tolerates my son's almost incessant petting.  In fact, when we were first looking to rescue a dog and were looking at breeds, we read that bassets are slow to train, will always need treats to do things, and will take off if they catch an interesting scent.  Well, doesn't that make bassets just the perfect Aspie dog?  (Hmm... Slow to train, will always need incentives to do things, and will take off if they find something interesting....)  Otis fits right in!  Add his rear-end issues, and we've got a special needs dog to go with my special needs kids.

To accommodate said special needs (i.e., to allow the dog access to the backyard when he has the need), we installed a doggie flap into the slider screen door.  Otis, because he has trouble lifting his back legs over even the smallest of obstacles, quickly tore through the screening.  I got another screen door and reinstalled the door until such a time as we could decide on how to do things differently.  You've probably seen one of the big problems of this system -- aside from Otis' tearing through screen after screen:  In heat, cold, rain, etc., we can't leave the slider open.  We decided to do a small kitchen renovation and have the slider replaced with a french door, walling up the other half of the opening and installing a proper doggie door in the new wall.  Work started 12/14/09 and stopped 12/15/09.  Work resumed and the doggie door was installed 1/12/10.  The project is not yet complete, but the doggie door is in!  Otis is still getting used to it, but as I was training him yesterday, he was so excited about the treats he got for going out and coming in the doggie door that he pooped -- outside!  Mostly.

(In)Gratitude

I have decided that I am raising two of the most ungrateful children on the planet.  Few "pleases," rare "thank yous," no concept of giving back.  I've been struck by it lately, especially in cases such as this:  Child does something wrong.  I correct child and tell child to stop.  Child continues doing it/does it again.  I follow appropriate behavior intervention plan.  Soon after, if not during, misbehavior, child asks me for something.  And it would be a miracle if one of them showed any interest in what I'm doing (except as regards him/herself) or showed any caring for me.  I'm working on the misbehaving with said plans.  I don't know what it is that I'm doing or not doing as a parent that makes my children ungrateful brats.  I'd really like to talk with Ma Ingalls.  Or maybe Marmee.

Laundry

Back when we got married, we didn't have a washing machine for the first seven or so years.  We would go to the laundromat once a week and take up maybe four washers and four dryers and have the laundry washed, dried, and folded in two hours, door to door.  Our second apartment, the second floor of a house, had a washer/dryer unit in it.  Though it took longer than 2 hours to do a week's worth of laundry, the place was so small that everything had to be done and put away or you couldn't move.  Then we moved to Southern Maryland, bought a house, and had a couple of kids.  The washer and dryer are in the unfinished, barely heated basement, in the farthest possible corner away from the stairs.  Laundry is an ongoing process.  There is no "door to door"; there's only floor to floor, and it has to happen close to daily.  Even if we should happen to have a marathon laundry day, by bedtime, we've got another basket full.  This is not new to anyone out there, I'm sure.  But since I'm looking at 3 loads' worth as I type, it did pop into my head.  Doesn't mean I'm going to do anything about it...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Random Happenings

Robin's Wedding

My niece got married this weekend.  What a joy.  She's sweet, he's a good guy, and now she has a different last name.  Changing her name made it "real" to me.  I got onto Facebook and she popped up not as the girl I knew but as the married woman she now is.  Sniff... sniff...

The wedding was, of course, beautiful.  The church was, of course, beautiful.  The bride was, of course, beautiful.  The groom was, of course, handsome if somewhat pale.  What made it even more special was that her father (my brother-in-law) performed part of the ceremony, as he is a minister (and it was his church).  He beamed his way down the aisle and lovingly (and with humor) married his daughter to the groom.  My kids even paid attention.

I should qualify that last statement:  Tom's focus was to read until he had to pay attention and then to get back to his book, all to mark time until he could play his DS at the reception.  And that's what he did.  He played his DS.  The whole time.  Except when he got in line to get a plateful of cookies.  Even while he ate his plateful of cookies.  Nobody bothered him; he bothered nobody.  He didn't visit with relatives or make friends with the kids his age, and we didn't ask him to.  He just played his DS.  By the end, his stress level was elevated, but he got in the car (playing his DS), sat in the hotel room as we all changed (playing his DS), set it down for a trip into Toys R Us to part with his Christmas money, and picked it back up again to drive to the restaurant for a family dinner, where he played his DS.  His first comment on the evening?  "Yeah, it was so loud in there that no one could hear my DS, and I had it the whole way up."  His second comment:  "I liked the french fries, but I didn't like the chicken."  Then he played his DS all the way back to the hotel.  Do I wish things were different? Do I wish that such gatherings were fun for him?  Do I wish that I had used it as a learning experience for him?  Sure.  I could wish...  But he "got through" a social event without a significant meltdown, and for now, that's enough.

Pride and Prejudice

I found a great website, http://librivox.org/ , which offers free downloads of audio books for works in the public domain.  I'm loving this website.  I downloaded A Christmas Carol first, as I was in the mood for it, and listened to it as I did some projects around the house.  Then I listened to Pride and Prejudice, which is my all-time favorite book -- Elizabeth and Darcy's courtship gets me every time -- as I cleaned the basement, did laundry, and prepped for my Girl Scout meeting.  Here's where I had a little trouble:  Most of the time, the readers, who are volunteers, set a good tone for listening and simply disappear into the background as the story engages me.  However, every once in a while, someone jarring comes along, and instead of listening to the story, I find myself listening to the reader and, more often than not, being annoyed.  I can live with it since it's free and since readers in this book change off every couple of chapters.  So I listened all the way to New Jersey and home again for Robin's wedding.

Checking Out

My friend has posted several entries on her blog.  Some I cried over, but I haven't been able to leave a comment, I think in part because I don't have anything to say except, "I keep on lifting you up in prayer, almost hourly," and in part because I had to "check out" for a couple of days in order to get to/through this wedding.  I feel so constantly sorrowful for her and her sweet child, but I needed to put it on hold to be happy for my niece and new nephew.  I don't feel any less.  I've just wrapped it up and pushed it to the side.  It's there, and I know it's there; I have to go get it and open it up and deal with it.

The Car and the Tree

I've been thinking quite a bit about a time in my life when my children's needs were so great and outside help so unforthcoming that I felt more than overwhelmed.  It was a long time ago, relatively speaking, (Tom was diagnosed with AS 9+ years ago.) but I can recall feeling so tired, all the time, and so very overwhelmed.  I was doing the best I could to get Tom's needs met.  I went to CNMC, where Dr. Gilotty pretty much saved our family.  (I still hear her voice in my ear from time to time reminding me to "speak low and slow" when dealing with him or explaining that this is not willful defiance and noncompliance but rather is a neurological, brain-based, constitutional disorder.)  I took Tom to private OT and PT and social skills groups and adaptive swimming lessons.  I did Therapeutic Listening and the Wilbarger Brushing Protocal at home.  And I bought Boardmaker and picture scheduled the heck out of every action and event.  But I couldn't get our school team to program appropriately for him.  I couldn't get them to not blame him for his diagnosis.  His principal once said to me (at his post-suspension re-admission meeting), "You have to admit, Ms. Griest, that we've given 110%.  We've done everything we can."  I remember thinking at the time that 110% of the wrong thing is 0% of the right.  I despaired of the school team's ever overcoming their ignorance, and that the pattern of problems not being resolved year after year would continue.

I remember once while driving them to the allergist after picking Tom up from school to get him his (weekly) allergy shots -- for which I had prepared the Boardmaker card and the toy bag and the snack bag and the car tv/vcr -- that I just wanted to run the car into a tree.  I didn't want to kill myself, and I certainly didn't want to hurt Tom and Nat.  I just wanted to be taken to the hospital and allowed to sleep while someone else took good care of my kids.  Just a little rest from the constant demands and the hopelessness of the school situation.  Needless to say, I didn't do that.  I pulled into the parking lot, allowed my kids to finish watching the episode of Scooby Doo (because one cannot possibly leave in the middle of an episode), and struggled through the parking lot with my loaded toy bag and two kids to sit in the crowded waiting room until we were called back for shots, only to return to the crowded waiting room to pass our mandatory 20 minutes before checking the injection sites and pronouncing ourselves good to go back to the car, in which we returned home to enjoy our highly structured evening.  I have since learned the proper term for not running my car into a tree to get a little rest.  I can hear my friend saying it now: "Suck it up, Buttercup."  Sometimes sucking it up hurts.  But it moves you on to the next thing.