Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday, March 29th, Life/Food Section, Page 3

This morning, just like every weekday morning, I had to get the kids up, dressed, fed, and ready for school.
Instead, I drove like a bat out of hell to my nearest gas station and bought three copies of The Orange County Register
What?  That’s all they had left.
I screeched into the driveway, jumped out of the car, hobbled into the house, limped down three flights of stairs, got out my magnifying glass,and opened up the paper to the Life/Food section (thank God that sentence is over; I was running out of verbs. Ha! no pun intended).  There, on page 3, for all the world a smaller portion of a small portion of a particular subset of individuals within a slightly larger demographic to see, was my very first article in print.
I know, right?!
My family, of course, was very enthusiastic:
“How come you used Jo Ashline for your byline?  Can’t you refer to yourself as Joanna Agnieszka Bartlomowicz, daughter of the illustrious Polish-immigrant Margaret Bartlomowicz?  That just rolls right off the tongue and sounds so much better, don’t you think?”
Where is your picture?  There’s no picture of you?”
I thought you were going to be on the front page.”
“How come you didn’t mention ME anywhere in the article?”
After all of the supportive gestures from my loved ones, I realized I had to use the bathroom and took my article in as reading material. The whole experience was pretty intense.  The article wasn’t half bad either.
I decided to head over to my local Starbucks, where I quickly noticed that NO ONE was reading my article, and so I may have purchased a half dozen copies, threw away everything except all the page 3’s, and placed them throughout the establishment in a nonchalant manner. I never realized being a writer would be so hands on.
So now here I sit at home, surrounded by huge stacks several copies of today’s paper, my dream of becoming a writer slowly becoming a reality, my house resembling the ones they depict in that show Hoarders, and my face, hands, and certain discreet areas covered in newsprint (don’t ask).
Anybody know where I can find a frame big enough to fit my article and my ego?
If you squint your left eye while blinking your right one rapidly, you should be able to make out my byline.  Let me know if you have trouble, and I’ll let you borrow my magnifying glass.
Ian enjoying mommy’s article
(I threatened him with no breakfast until he read it )
*I used the term “my article” no less than five times in this post. I can’t believe you read this far.  I’ve managed to annoy even myself.*

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The (Not So) Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest

So, a good friend’s mom was purging some old cd’s and I got first pick the other day.
I was mostly looking for music that would appeal to Andrew; that would soothe, stimulate, and engage him at home or in the car.

There was a wide variety to choose from; classical, soft rock, even some compilations of popular numbers from well-known musicals.  I also happened upon a cd entitled “The Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest,” and snatched it up; Lord knows this family could benefit from some soothing sounds every once in a while.

Tuesday afternoon, while driving to Andrew’s physical therapy appointment, Ian saw the stack of cd’s and asked if he could pick one out to play in the car.  I said sure and he ended up choosing the Rainforest one.  We put it in the cd player and listened as the “soothing sounds” filled the car:

A pleasant yet subtle symphony of exotic birds, chirping in the tree tops, their tiny beaks paying homage to nature in joyous harmony .

A soft wind gently caressing the luscious green leaves of environmentally sacred plants and flowers as they danced in unison to the aforementioned bird song.

A child being tortured, yelling out in pain for it’s mother to come save him from the clutches of some wild-eyed jungle baboon who has kidnapped him and is forcing him to pick rainforest-sized bugs off it’s
rainforest-sized baboon butt.


The serenity was replaced with a series of hot flashes, heart palpitations, a desperate desire to rescue this forsaken child, and a sudden, intense, urge to pee my pants as a rush of water filled the tiny speakers of the car.

Now, I may sometimes take creative liberty when I write on this blog, you know, to make it more entertaining for you, so I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that I was full of crap.

Which is why I recorded a portion of what we heard so that you too can experience the “Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest.

The (Not So) Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest from Jo Ashline on Vimeo.

I'm afraid to listen to the rest, especially track #4, which is entitled, "Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest Predators Feasting Upon Their Prey, or track #11, "Soothing Sounds of the Ginormous Rainforest Spiders Crawling on Unassuming and Stupid Tourists.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apparently She’s Just Inconvenient

Seems like some folks in Edgewater, Florida need a lesson in acceptance.

According to this article, there is a six year old little girl whose presence at  school is no longer desired by some of her classmates’ parents. 

Is it because she’s violent?   Nope.

Is it because she brings drugs to school?  Nope.

Is it because she is so severely allergic to peanuts that she is considered legally disabled by the Americans with Disabilities Act?  Yep.

Apparently, all of that extra hand washing and mouth rinsing that students have to “endure” on a daily basis is a bit inconvenient for some (God forbid a bunch of germ-ridden elementary kids wash their hands a few extra times each day).  Their solution?  Remove the problem (her) and have her home-schooled.  

Of course!  What a brilliant idea! Why didn’t we think of that?  In fact, we should go to every school in America and remove every child that requires some sort of “special” attention or accommodation because let’s face it, they’re so inconvenient.

You know what really burns me about this though?  It’s that these are the parents who are raising the next generation of children who will end up becoming a bunch of intolerant, ignorant, #$$%’s when they grow up. 

A few years ago I had a student who had the same kind of allergy as this little girl.  We kept an EpiPen in the classroom (out of reach of curious hands) and the office, and trained the staff how to use it.  The students washed their hands when they came to school each morning, ate at the designated “peanut” table during snack and lunch if they brought food from home that could potentially cause a reaction, and then washed their hands again upon returning to the classroom.

And you know what? Here’s what happened:

1.  We had the healthiest school year ever.

2.  My student with the allergy was able to enjoy coming to school, a right ALL children should be given.

3.  The entire student body learned fundamental lessons in acceptance, compassion, and a sense of responsibility not only to themselves, but to their community and fellow human beings as well (sounds like some of these Edgewater parents could learn a thing or two from them).

And here’s what didn’t happen:

1. No one suffered from some sort of “extra hand washing nervous breakdown.”

2. No one complained.

3. No one felt like they weren’t welcome or didn’t belong because they were different in some way.

4. No one realized that they could and should be resentful of my student because no one taught them that.

So to you, Chris Burr, father of two kids who attend the same school as the young girl at the center of this ridiculous drama, I say this:

It’s easy for you to sit there and pompously proclaim that “If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life,” because luckily you DON’T have a child with a problem, and if God forbid you did, you have no IDEA the lengths you would go to to give her the highest quality of life possible. You see, it’s that darn IF that gets in the way of that logic.  Because IF I had a million dollars I would not drive a used station wagon Volvo, and IF I were a size 4 I would not wear drawstring pants on date night and IF I  had a magic wand I would wave it all around and turn people like you into kinder, gentler, more accepting human beings who realize that parents like us - who DO have children with problems - aren’t looking to turn the world upside down with our “ridiculous” demands; we’re just looking for it to bend at the knees a little and meet us halfway.



*If you haven’t checked it out already, I write a column for The Orange County Register, “This Modified Life, here.  Come by and visit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CNN Does Not Stand For Children’s News Network


“Yes sweetheart?”

“When is the ring of fire coming?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, the ring of fire that’s going to come and burn everything down and make the earth explode into a million pieces and turn people into ash and then the poison will come down from the sky and whoever is still alive will be poisoned to death and their guts will spill out all over the place and their eyes will fill with blood and whoever is still alive after that will go to Walmart and steal television sets.”


“Mom, just tell me the truth.  I already know it’s real, because Seth saw the whole thing on tv last night with his parents and he came to school and told us everything because he watches the news all the time and he said we need to buy special pills and did you buy the pills yet mom? Did you? And he said that the news also said that there are airplanes filled with bombs flying around and that baby seals are being kidnapped and sold in the black market and that the price of tar heroin is on the rise and he knows EVERYTHING mom.”


It’s called The Disney Channel, people.

Try it sometime.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spelling Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Every Monday Ian’s teacher (who is a dear friend and who I absolutely adore) emails the parents the spelling words the kids must practice that week.  I don’t make a huge fuss about it, partly because Ian is brilliant and really doesn’t need the practice, but mostly because I’m too damn lazy and don’t wanna. 

We were gathered at the dinner table tonight, Mikey, the boys, and meandmylaptop, when I noticed that Ian’s new words for the week had just arrived; feeling pressured by society to “parent” my child, I printed them out and announced in my least “this sucks” voice that we would be reviewing them together.

The first few words seemed benign enough:  steam, thread, tried, else….

and then I began to notice a somewhat disturbing theme:








Um, either Mrs. M is having a super duper bad week or, rather than the more traditional “Spring is Here” theme, has chosen Stephen King for her next unit.

Either way, I’ll be paying closer attention to his curriculum from now on; partly out of curiosity, but mostly to gather evidence for the authorities.

Also, If anyone is interested, I am suddenly too petrified busy to continue in my role as room mom.

Also, would it be inappropriate to include a restraining order in her Teacher Appreciation Gift Basket?



Friday, March 11, 2011

And Then She Made Me Face the Truth, (That B***).

I bring him with me, stuffed up and home from school, instead of cancelling, because the last time I had to call last minute, I was charged $150.00 (turns out I had signed some sort of contract about that.  Darn that fine 14 pt. New Romans print)

I take off his shoes, knowing he will climb on top of the couch, which is situated against the window, a perfect view of cars and the occasional bus, which in no time motivates him to press his face against the glass and squeal in delight.

I see her flinch, my therapist, at the sound of his high pitched joy. I ignore the microscopic mixture of self-consciousness and annoyance that has suddenly planted itself in my head.

We begin our weekly 45 minute session, something I both look forward to and sometimes want to avoid, depending on the topic we unearth on a particular day. 

My voice sounds strange today as I describe the challenges and rewards of watching my dream of becoming a professional writer unfold before me, worried that I may not be able to keep up with the vigorous dedication it takes to truly make it, terrified of facing my fears and stepping out of my comfort zone, even if it’s one tiny shuffle at a time.

Something excites Andrew, and he squeals again.

I see my therapist shift in her chair, her facial expression morphing from one of genuine interest to one of disdain.

“Is there any way you can get him to stop doing that?” she asks me.

“Nope.  It’s a stim.  He just does it." I reply tersely.

I feel her watching me for a moment, unable to meet her gaze.

“Tell me what’s going on.  What are you feeling?

The familiar sting hits the corner of my eyes.  I swallow back tears, big, giant, crocodile tears, and before I can stop myself, say what I’m thinking out loud.

“I’m offended. That you asked me to stop him.  That it’s bothering you. That you’re annoyed with my son. I’m shocked that you responded that way, as my therapist.  And I’m thinking I don’t want to come back and see you anymore.”

She is quiet for a moment. “I am not annoyed by your son.  I am not bothered.  I am also not usually in the presence of a child with stims, and so my question was in response to my wanting to know what you can and cannot control.  But your reaction tells me that this is a very sensitive subject for you.  That you must be faced with the fear of what others think of your child on a constant basis.”

I think about what she has just said.  I want to smack her because she has hurt me, because she has brought attention to something I rarely allow myself to think about, and because she couldn’t be more right.

I no longer care whether I appear composed, and I let the pain and disgust and anger and self-consciousness out of their cage, until I am sobbing, drooling, my vision blurred, and within seconds I have emptied the bright orange tissue box propped up against my left thigh.

She has uprooted me.  When I try to tell her that I am defensive only because I am protecting my son, she forces me to admit that I am also protecting myself.  From prodding eyes, from silent questions, from potentially being rejected.

Somewhere in the middle of this very awkward, very unplanned conversation, I find myself sitting up a little bit taller, my shoulders far less tense than I can recall in a long time.  My tears have dried, and though my eyes are red and puffy, they are able to meet the eyes of my therapist, who suddenly seems much less irritating and so very……….smart.

We finish our session while Andrew continues to randomly squeal in an undiscovered octave, his brief but powerful interruptions a sort of exposure therapy for the both of us, as she becomes more accustomed to the shrillness of his voice, and I become less focused on worrying what she thinks of us.  When it is finally time to stop, I stand up feeling lighter not only from what transpired here today, but also from the prospect of what may transpire here in the future.

And that’s why I’ll be back, with a bigger box of tissues, same time next week

(and why she makes the big bucks).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When "OMG,That Sucks" Doesn't Even Begin to Cover It

I've been keeping things pretty light-hearted around here lately.  Sure, once in a while I make you suffer through a bout of poetry that probably only makes sense to me, or I touch upon our struggles of raising a special needs child, or I vent about random crap that needs to be vented about so that I can clear my head and proceed with Life.  But for the most part, I hope you expect a good laugh when you drop by. So I feel it only fair to preempt my post tonight with a fair warning that what you are about to read is not for the faint of heart.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't stay; it just means I want you to be aware of the magnitude of it.

Suz Broughton, who is a columnist for OC Family Magazine and the lead blogger for wrote a post today about a little girl who lives here in Orange County named Maddie James; a tow-headed beauty, aged five, who loves the sea and looks pretty darn fabulous in her tiny spectacles, and who, as of January 16th, 2011, has been given only months to live.

Like most of you, I simply cannot wrap my mind and my heart and my soul around this kind of information.  I hate suffering of any kind, but when it touches a child, something inside of me ignites and a raging fire burns until I am incapable of thinking or feeling anymore at all.

I know the struggles of parenting.  I have gone to bed sobbing from exhaustion and fear, cradled in the cold, hard, unforgiving grasp of reality, wondering if my prayers are being heard, and on the darkest nights of all, wondering who the hell I'm praying to anyway.  But none of that matters when I read a story like this, nothing makes sense when I read a story like this; I am humbled and terrified and inspired by it and as I stare into the face of this tiny, precious, beautiful little angel, I am stripped bare of all of my previous complaints and worries and priorities and I am just a floundering human being, raw and vulnerable and wanting, more than anything to understand.

But that is not my place, and instead, I choose to focus on what I, You, WE, can do.
So before you do anything else tonight, please read this little girl's story, and the amazing plight of her mom and dad.

I know that by the time you read this your children will probably be snuggled up in their beds, your mental reel playing back a day filled with spilled milk, pick ups, drop offs, missing shoes, burned dinner, too much homework, messy bedrooms and backseat brawls. 

And I hope, more than anything else in the whole wide world, you're also thinking how damn lucky you are do have to do it all over again tomorrow.