Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My work's cut out for me

One week left in the year, and it just crossed my mind that I had a lofty to-do list at the beginning of the year. And then I thought, "Aha, easy post."

So let's see where things stand. My lofty plans:
  • We will figure out how big our family will be.
Still working on this one, hopefully will have an answer next year.
  • I will find a way to enjoy exercising again.
I've done pretty well on this. I don't work out as much as I did in the first half of the year, but I regularly make time. Walking on the treadmill for 45-60 minutes is not too much of a chore. And I started dancing again, which is helping to give me a new peace with my body.
  • I will finish my comps.
Eek. Got done with the first set and then hit the doldrums. Am now on leave and cannot officially take the final set until next September. Oh well.
  • I will complete an environmental audit of our new house and devise a plan for how we can minimize our impact.
Not completed thoroughly, but Trillian and I both have a pretty good idea of what we would like to do and where we will start. Now to find a little extra money.
  • We will hang artwork in at least two different rooms.
I went out of my way to hang artwork in one room, artwork we purchased this year. We have also put numerous items up in Scooter's room, though train birthday decorations and a paper-bowl spider are not what I initially had in mind. On the other hand, we hung one of our framed prints in the living room on an existing nail ages ago, but think it's probably the right place for it. So maybe I'm ahead on this one if we count Scooter's room.

(And I just looked up and remembered that the corkboard I covered with some cloth I really like is hanging in my office area, so maybe that counts too.)
  • We will get Scooter evaluated and determine what supports he'll have in school.
This is, of course, an ongoing goal with no definite end, as we are always monitoring his progress and deciding what adjustments need to be made. But we did get him in for multiple evaluations and have developed a good working relationship with his IEP team. Even though we have to wait until next August/September for a follow-up to the inconclusive autism evaluation, I don't think that will fundamentally change his supports in school--although getting a diagnosis would put him into a category that would guarantee us supports for longer than his current, catch-all category.
  • I will experiment with gluten-free baking.
And I did. I have a go-to bread recipe now, and I've tried a whole host of recipes for the cravings that have come up: gingerbread, holiday cookies, birthday cakes, tiramisu cupcakes, crackers, bagels (the one recipe that really didn't work for me), even graham crackers.

I've also been making extensive use of my crockpot, largely thanks to this site, especially since most of the recipes are gluten-free. If my main Christmas wish has been heard, there will be a brand-new, larger crockpot under the tree for me tomorrow.

(This is a good time to mention that I plan on bringing back The Mouse's Kitchen in the new year.)
  • I will meditate regularly.
Another one I need to work on some more. I started back with this just in the past week, although I have to admit that I'm trying to pack as much into my meditation as I can. I've been meditating in a constructive rest position my dance teacher showed me, with my feet in a set of Pampered Toes (an attempt to get pressure off my bunions). The endocrinologist seems to think that stress may be behind my current hair loss, so here's hoping meditation can slow that down.

Somehow I don't think I'll be making much headway in the next year, so I may as well begin working on next year's list.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow day

We've been expecting this day for a while. It was just a matter of when the force and timing of the storm would make it impossible to get roads cleared in the morning. By yesterday afternoon, they'd already called a two-hour delay for this morning; by the time we woke up, everything had been canceled.

A good thing too. Before Trillian got her computer booted up, I tried to imagine how I would get a usually lagging 5 1/2-year-old through snow up to his knees the five or so blocks to school. No way to carry him that distance or even to get the car out of our cul-de-sac. I contemplated bringing the snow shovel and clearing a path as we went. And then dealing with the inevitable back pain.

Instead, we got to hang out in our pajamas for longer than usual, eat a hearty family breakfast, and then prepare for some outdoor fun. Trillian, Scooter, and one of our neighbors spent an hour or so sledding. I joined them for a bit with Zee, who leaps enthusiastically through snow banks up to his chest--and he is a LARGE dog.

After warming up, the neighbor came over to play some more with Scooter. He stayed for hours, but it was very pleasant (other than Scooter's temporary suspicions that his friend might have some designs on his trains). Besides trains, they built Lego creations and especially played together on our Wii.

Then a final trip outside, first in the backyard for snowballs and snow angels and tackling the dog, then out front for more sledding. Trillian and I switched supervisory roles part of the way through.

Our winter stuff is spread around the house, cold and wet, but a testament to the fun we eked out of an unplanned day together.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When is it not enough?

In almost area, we're a really great match. People pick up on this; I can't count the number of times someone has said we're perfect for each other.

Maybe this is why the one area that doesn't work for us is such a problem. Maybe this is why it seems likely to be the one thing that will drive us apart.

Without going into details, but still making my point, it would be an understatement to say that we have incompatible libidos. Hell, we're two women who have lived together for years and our cycles have almost never synched up.

It seems ridiculous that this could cause as much trouble as it does. There's been no cheating, no grand betrayals, not even little secrets. If we could just leave sex out of it, everything would be fine.

But it just doesn't seem to work that way. So instead there's a lot of latent (and not-so-latent) anger and frustration that finds its way out every once in a while. Occasionally we talk of separation or sanctioned cheating or maybe vow to improve things. And then it gets dropped until we hit another crisis point.

I'm sleeping on the couch tonight and am not sure even that is enough space.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday headaches

For the most part I have loads of holiday spirit. Really. Our house has been decorated, presents bought, many of them wrapped. But let's face it, it wouldn't be the holidays without some stress.

The tree issue was the first hurdle. We haven't had one since we hosted Christmas the December before Scooter was born. That year we opted for a real tree over fake, because we did a bunch of research and were squicked out by the lead content and PVC of artificial trees, especially with a baby on the way. I've glossed over the issue every year since then, as we've always traveled to my in-laws. (They have an artificial tree, but I try to stay calm and just make sure we wash our hands after touching it.)

Even though we visit the in-laws regularly, it seemed like a good year to revisit the issue since we're in our house and I even knew where the box of decorations were. I had thought that there were a couple companies with fake trees that no longer contained any lead--at least that's what they said when I looked last year--and I reasoned that a plastic tree we would keep for many, many years would be an acceptable environmental impact, but the lead-free designation had been removed everywhere I looked.

So we have a modest-sized fir tree, fully decorated. Quite festive, really. Enough so that my guilt is mostly tamped down.

In time for the next headache...

So my in-laws' retirement is pretty much in stocks, including some companies that have been hit particularly hard this year. It is not as dire a situation as many that I've read about, but they definitely need to be scaling back. Add to this the fact that Scooter always ends up with much more than we plan for the holidays, and Trillian and I have been trying to moderate things. I volunteered to handle stockings this year, mostly so that I could focus on useful and reusable items instead of random plastic knick-knacks (not to mention tons of sugary candy, which is not good for anyone in the family, especially the diabetic). And since our immediate family took a trip that included a stop at a Lego Store, the plan was that we would pick up items Scooter wanted and various family members could reimburse us. This meant we could focus on items that Scooter really wanted and control their vast number.

Except that my mother-in-law sent an email earlier this week with a list of all the things she had picked up that day. A couple were non-Lego items Scooter wanted, but most were extra things--and she had even picked out things for other family members to give him. Really truly, we're looking at almost double the gifts we had thought would be coming from this side of the family.

A little quick work on my part, and I've been able to match up items with my family. Saves them the shipping. One sister already had something for Scooter, but she's going to hold it back for his birthday. My mother actually had in mind one of the Legos we have here, so she was happy to lay claim to it.

Trillian and I will be holding back an item we managed to get via our credit card rewards program. It's a bit annoying since we're looking forward to how much Scooter (and we) will enjoy it. But since he has no idea it's coming, it's the easiest thing to hold back until March.

So, despite some lingering frustration, that problem is solved too. So now I can worry about the next one...

Since my in-laws will be out of town until a couple days before the holidays, we'll be responsible for picking up a family member from the airport in Big City. There are a number of logistical issues here. I have a doctor's appointment in Capital City up until we're supposed to pick her up (but it was the earliest I could get in to see the endocrinologist, who will most likely tell me that my thyroid looks fine and she can't explain the increased hair loss, but that's not a holiday headache, just a normal one). So she'll already have to wait. And then we'll probably need to have the dog with us since we'll be gone a minimum of 6 hours, probably longer. And our vehicle can't accommodate everyone comfortably with the dog added. So I have a week to find a petsitter I like and get the dog comfortable with her.

And I'm not even going to think about entertaining Scooter while he's out of school for two weeks.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Say what I said

When we went in for Scooter’s evaluation a couple months ago, I tried to describe what I saw as two “verbal tics.”

One is sort of a stutter, but not really. Instead of getting stuck on the beginning of a word, he will repeat the end of a word, e.g. “And then-en-en-en.” It’s not caused by, nor does it cause, stress or anxiety; rather, it’s something of a placeholder as he gathers his thoughts and translates them into words. Our inclination has been to ignore it and give him the time he needs to speak. It hasn’t improved the issue, but it keeps him from getting frustrated with us trying to complete his sentences or ask leading questions.

The other verbal behavior is the one that stands out more. Frequently after an utterance, Scooter will repeat it to himself at a whisper. We’ve suspected that he is usually playing what he said back, checking that it makes sense or simply enjoying the feel of the words. We haven’t employed any intervention on this, not entirely sure what might help—although we feel confident that drawing his attention to the behavior and suggesting he not do it would be the best way to cause him great distress.

At the time of his evaluation, our interviewer marked all this down, but did not offer any analysis or suggestions. The speech-language pathologist assured us that this was neither a stutter nor echolalia, both of which we knew, but gave no more information than that. But now we have a word for the behaviors, thanks to the final report: palilalia.

Turns out that both verbal tics are part of one behavior, and Trillian and I have received a vocabulary lesson. Just as echolalia is the repetition of another’s utterances, palilalia (from the Greek palin = again and lalia = babbling) is the repetition of one’s own speech and manifests as repeating the last part of individual words or entire phrases.

There’s not a large range of information on palilalia available online, though Trillian and I did immediately key in on the fact that it is generally associated with Tourette’s, autism, or Asperger’s. (Also some accounts of people exhibiting this behavior after accidents and illnesses.) One major piece of information missing, both from the report and online, is how to deal with it. The implication from the report, the best place for us to start, is that we should begin by working on some of the speech pieces, specifically his expressive fluency and pragmatics, and that the palilalia might resolve itself as a result of general communicative improvement.

Luckily the report has served as an impetus for Scooter’s educational team at school to work on fine-tuning his IEP. As usual, there are a number of requirements we must meet before moving ahead, but we have started the process and should be able to get things started soon. In our most recent meeting, we agreed to a re-evaluation with the same speech-language pathologist as last year. The coordinator at our school (also an SLP) noted that it may be difficult for Scooter to qualify since the state requires students to demonstrate need for support in two areas before it can be provided in the school, but that pragmatics, the second area where they expect he’d qualify, is a problematic area for accurate testing. By using the same SLP, however, she can select the tests that she thinks will best reflect his particular issues—and she’s already looking through the tests available to them to pick the best tools. If he still doesn’t qualify now, they will keep him on a “monitor” list, which will allow us to have him evaluated periodically. And you can bet we’ll be taking their referrals to a private SLP in Capital City.

The funny thing about reading up on palilalia has been a recognition of this behavior in myself. It is greatly muted, as I have learned to fill the space when I am thinking of words for translating my ideas by circumlocutions or by picking words that are close enough. I do sometimes repeat myself, but in a way that escapes most people’s notice. When responding with just a word or two, I tend to repeat them: “Good, good.” Sometimes I vary the inflection or it sounds emphatic, but I’m very aware that it’s a compulsion, not at all the way I would respond in writing or when I have a chance to think through what I will say first.

So I figure that Scooter will get this straightened out someday too and that whatever remains for him may diminish to a harmless quirk. Plus, we have another fancy, Greek-derived word to throw around.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


We're still off-schedule here from Thanksgiving break. We generally allowed Scooter to stay up until he just about dropped (brilliant parenting, although there were reasons) and--funny thing--now he's taking forever to fall asleep. Last night was extra bad because Trillian had a migraine and I had trouble falling asleep, never hitting deep sleep until sometime around 2. So my mind is not focusing well, and the many ideas I have for posts quickly drop into nothing. Therefore, fleeting thoughts...

Can I hold Scooter to an oral contract? As we were walking home today, he said that he couldn't wait to learn to drive, but he would have to wait until he was 18. I started to correct him, to tell him that the age for a learner's permit in our state is 15 or 16, but he cut me off. "No, I'm learning to drive when I'm 18." If only I could get that in writing...

I'm currently fed up with doctors. I've had three different opinions on my sedimentation rate and whether or not I should just write off the pain as fibromyalgia. My numbers have generally improved, including thyroid stuff, although that is changing much more quickly than it seems like it should. Still no idea if any of this has any effect on my fertility...

Speaking of which, one of my sisters emailed me about trying to find a time to talk on the phone. We've been doing a bad job of keeping up with each other. Facebook is good and bad since we can follow each others' statuses, but don't get much more depth than that. I have this suspicion that her attempt to get me on the phone is to tell me that she's pregnant. I could be entirely wrong, and it could be just an opportunity to chat. But that's my gut instinct. And I'm kind of glad it's crossed my mind so that I can steal myself. I will be very happy for her when she has her second child, but of course I can't help but think of the conversations she and I had a while back and how our kids were supposed to be staggered (based on our individual plans, not because we were coordinating our pregnancies)...

Less pressing matter I'm dealing with: dog farts. Holy hell this dog has been stinky. I did a little online research, and all of the advice falls within things I already do. I'm switching him gradually to a new food to see if it causes less of an issue. Trillian complains that it distracts her from work, as he sleeps behind her chair and that gas is worse when he's relaxed. Not the worst of dog problems, but one that makes itself known!...

And now I'm heading out for a quick walk with the dog. Our nights have been chilly, and his hair was cut too short at the last grooming. Neither of us wants to hang out for too long.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Note to self: some things to keep in the car

A number of things that were notably missing or not available in large enough number. Don't even need to be going on a long trip, probably useful for any drive over 20 minutes.
  • Wipes. Baby wipes are preferable, as they can be used on pretty much any surface. Good for wiping off skin, cloth, car seats, whatever unfortunate item may be in the path of nasty.
  • Paper towels. Similar to above, good for the initial, rough cleaning.
  • Garbage bags. Because, holy hell, we need someplace to put the above. Multiple bags preferable so that garbage items can be separated from clothing items. (Should help in avoiding the recent mishap in which paper towels and old food were indiscriminately thrown into the washer with clothing instead of carefully separated.)
  • Change of clothing for the boy. This is usually in the car when the child is, but an extra one would not be a mistake.
  • Motion sickness pills. Also usually in the car, but obviously not handy enough.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obligatory "My son is so smart" post

If you're not in the mood for a little parental bragging, you can skip this post.

We had our first parent-teacher conference for kindergarten. Covered a lot of ground in our half hour or so, both the good and the bad. But the gist was that none of the bad is so bad as to require immediate attention or raise red flags. And much of the good is very good. (I will skip for the time being the fact that we discovered--from the special ed teacher who handles Scooter's case, not from Mr. Teacher--that Scooter has in fact qualified for speech therapy, but they had decided against getting him into it at this point, more because they have other kids to deal with than because Scooter doesn't need it.)

What the conference told us is that Scooter's teacher and the classroom assistant have a good sense of who he is and appreciate the strengths that are part of his differences. Scooter is effective at problem solving and approaches problems differently than his classmates--but his ideas work. He has also already passed the goal point for the entire year in reading, is far and away the strongest reader they have. Even better, Mr. Teacher remarked that Scooter is different than many of the early readers they have, in that he seems to really enjoy reading and does not have the air of one who has been overly drilled. (Hooray, we seem to have balanced challenging him while not being too pushy.) I love that a large portion of the kindergarten reading curriculum is very individualized: students work through a series of progressive readers with the teacher.

Trillian and I were amused that when handwriting came up, it was clear that the fine motor skills still need work, but nothing was said about upper vs lower case--which the preschool teacher had gone on and on about with us. And while this is Scooter's weakest "academic" area, Mr. Teacher is not too worried since (a) so many young boys take a while on handwriting, (b) Scooter's handwriting is not the worst in the class, (c) he can write the letters he wants to, even if they're not gorgeous, and (d) he's already using his writing to communicate his own ideas.

Mr. Teacher said that the only way he imagines that Scooter will not meet all of the kindergarten benchmarks by the end of the year is if something is never introduced to the class. We were never worried that Scooter would struggle with the academics, but it sure is nice to know just how well it is going.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Old tricks

Last September, I wrote about my plans to take a ballet class. Then I injured my back before I made it to a single class, moved back to the States, and stuck my ballet stuff into a drawer.

This past fall, Trillian signed up for a community exercise class through the local community college. After the first class, she convinced me to sign up as well, figuring that the combination of stretching and strengthening would be a good mix of what I like and what I need. I started with the second class, at which the teacher asked me about my background, specifically whether I had done yoga, given my flexibility and approach to stretches. I replied that, yes, I had taken yoga... and ballet too. "Ah," she said, "you should come to a ballet class sometime."

A few weeks later, I decided to make up one of the classes I had missed by going to ballet. I pulled my leotard, tights, and slippers from the back of the drawer, pulled my hair back as best as I could, and headed off. When I discovered that the class was Level 2, I almost backed out--my plan had been to go to the most basic class possible.

It was killer. In many ways. My body protested mightily. Simple movements, like grand plies (think slow, controlled squat up and down, but in more graceful positions), made my muscles scream. My balance simply wasn't there. I got to the end of the barre exercises and knew I was done for the evening.

But, as the teacher noted to me when I went to thank her, I was smiling and radiant. She complimented my training, which had pulled me through with a respectable showing for my first ballet class after more than fifteen years. And then she said, "You really are a dancer."

I've been back a couple more times. My muscles still ache for days afterwards, and I am mortified by my lack of ballet-specific strength. There is an odd disconnect between my muscle memory, which has been awakened with vigor, and my ability to execute what I ask of it. My attempt at a double turn--what was I thinking?--did not end well. But my basic form is solid, and I am already able to rely on a skill I carefully cultivated in my days of most serious training, memorizing choreography the first time it is demonstrated.

I'm sitting on the schedule for next semester, waiting to see if I have a part-time teaching position before picking out my exercise options for the spring. But ballet will make the schedule one way or another.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

(Nearly) Wordless Thursday (instead of Wednesday)

I intended to get this up on Wednesday, but have been waiting for a little more certainty in the last couple states (I'm looking at you Missouri and North Carolina):
(I had pink and blue highlighters at my desk and am a big proponent of using what's available.)

And how could I not include a scan of this page from a packet on voting from my son's class:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Rocking my vote

I voted in my first presidential election 16 years ago. Young and idealistic, energized by the fact that my candidate won--even if the state where I lived went for the elder Bush. I remember an older friend who was excited because here was a politician "who actually says 'gay and lesbian'."

There was plenty of time for him to disappoint me on gays in the military and DOMA later. In fact, I withheld my vote for Clinton's second term. Still voted on other positions, just didn't check his box. It was a calculated move. I was still in a state that was going to go for Dole by a significant margin, so I felt that I could register my disappointment without jeopardizing the final outcome.

Voting has been strategic for me pretty much since then. Not that I haven't truly supported the candidates who received my votes. But there wasn't that same energy and excitement. It didn't help that by W.'s second run, much of the campaign felt like a direct attack on my family. It wore me down.

I remained aloof for much of the primaries this time around. Considered Clinton and Obama from a strategic standpoint, and found myself slightly leaning towards Obama. I was impressed by how he seemed to be inspiring the youth and saw some significance in how it recalled my feelings from 1992.

And then a funny thing started to happen. The enthusiasm apparent around me began to infect me. I thought, "Here's a man who could do much to heal what has been ailing this country."

I have been saying all along that the president is primarily a figurehead, that he alone does not wield a lot of power (when he stays within the bounds set by the Constitution). He serves as the face of the country in international affairs and the mouthpiece of the nation.

Which, at this particular moment, are not insignificant things. The USA needs a new presence on the international stage, one which is calm and rational, not a smirking cowboy. And the thought that our next chief executive will have a full understanding of the Constitution--Obama did teach constitutional law for 12 years, after all--is more than a bit reassuring. Respect for citizens' rights, no more casting the courts' protection of minority rights as "activist judges," not unreasonable expectations.

There is something to be said for this welling up of hope. It is not an unpleasant feeling. And should be even better once I can set these butterflies free.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Politics and religion

Two things that ought not be discussed in polite company. And I do find myself biting my tongue quite frequently around here. Our town in general is fairly conservative, particularly in terms of financial and military issues. But there is also a strong religious stripe, which continues to surprise me given the fact that so many people here are associated with the largest local company (which is very science/technology/research-oriented).


I haven't exactly connected with the parents who wait for their kindergarteners in the same general area as I do. Some of it is that so many of them already know each other and so they're chatting away without any look to those around them. Of course, it also strikes me that one of the mothers I knew in passing has barely even looked at me since I had a conversation with her son that involved explaining that Scooter has two moms. (The kid was on Scooter's soccer team, had Trillian as a coach, saw us together as a family, and still wanted to know who "that girl" was.)

The realization struck me a week or so ago that my peer group around the school is the teachers. I volunteer in Scooter's classroom an hour a week. At the end of each session, the kids head out to recess, supervised by a paraprofessional. And I usually chat for a bit with Mr. Teacher and his assistant. They're among the few adults in this town where I don't worry my views will be completely at odd with theirs.

(Quick aside, since I'm easily distracted right now. Just before the school year, one of our neighbors was concerned about her eldest's placement for the year, especially after a difficult couple of years previously, teacher-wise. She said she wasn't adverse to homeschooling, but she didn't feel that God had told her to do this yet, so she was waiting. I know I missed a beat or two and then just smiled and nodded once I realized she meant this in all seriousness. Anyway...)

Today, the morning announcements included the information that there would be a mock election at the school next Tuesday. Mr. Teacher indicated to me that he did not plan on having his class participate, a combination of his feeling that the kids are a bit young--I realized that we have probably shielded Scooter from most of the commercials and he doesn't even know the significance of the names--and because of the things that had been coming out of his students' mouths.

I feel that I must share these quips with you. Remember that these are 5-year-olds. Mostly the children of highly intelligent people, usually at least one parent a scientist.

  • A girl went to Mr. Teacher to tell him that some boys had put her baby (doll) in the (toy) oven. As he was explaining that this was not the proper thing to do with a baby, pretend or real, a child popped up, "That's an abortion." As Mr. Teacher tried to interject and say that wasn't quite right and not a topic to discuss, the child added, "Barack Obama wants to kill all babies."
  • Another student explained why one must vote for McCain: "Because John McCain is the only one who's faithful to God."
  • And yet another: "Barack Obama wants to give all of my daddy's money away."
  • The reading specialist added that one of the third grade classes she visited was asked to name issues important to them. One student piped up with "Homeland Security." "What does that mean?" he was asked. His answer: "I don't know."
I know that children generally mirror their parents' beliefs. And I also hope that Scooter will come to believe much of what I do (since I generally think I'm right). But I also know that kids at this age are not very good at paraphrasing and summarizing, that they are in most cases probably parroting what they've heard, nearly verbatim.

I've laughed at these, mostly because I don't feel like crying.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Write to Marry

The state we currently live in is a bit of a compromise for us. We initially said that when moving back to the US, we would only move to a state that somehow recognized our relationship. Massachusetts has been high on the list (since even before they legalized same-sex marriage, actually). But our location is based on proximity to Trillian's parents--and the fact that while our relationship does not have any legal standing here, it's not explicitly legislated against.

Funny thing, though. We've generally added to our requirements, "but not California." There's some history there, and I won't go into it now. Nonetheless, I very much care about Proposition 8, the proposition concerning same-sex marriage that California voters will vote on next week.

Somehow, I don't think I need to rehash what I have written before about marriage. It's a topic that tends to come up around my anniversary in February and Blogging for LGBT Families in June. I also won't go into my rant about the fact that civil rights should not be up for a vote, that in fact the judicial system plays an important role in ensuring that minorities have access to the same rights as others.

The issue in California is bigger than whether or not my marriage would be recognized there. It's even bigger than my hope that we're seeing a slow movement, one state at a time, towards federal recognition. It's that California so often sets the tone for the nation. If Proposition 8 passes, it will likely set back other attempts across the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

For the first time in a long time, I can't think of friends or family living in California, other than a lesbian couple whose commitment ceremony we attended a couple years ago. I don't have specific people to address about voting--not that those friends and family who lived there in years past would have needed any urging to vote in a manner beneficial to my family. I don't think I even have regular readers in California. And again, most of the people reading here are unlikely to need any convincing. So consider this my little yawp into the void; it may not tip the balance, but at least it's out there.

Monday, October 20, 2008


It's not that I didn't expect to be cleaning up someone else's shit--literal shit--at this point. It was supposed to be an infant's diaper. (And no, this isn't even another miscarriage post.)

Scooter's been backsliding on the potty training. He's able to hold it together during the school day, so at least he doesn't have to deal with any social stigma. But then he gets home and the pressure's off, so he forgets. As his OT has suggested, he seems to be so keyed up for school that he relaxes once he's home and lets it all out.

This is something we brought up with the autism evaluators. Maybe we didn't specifically ask for solutions. I think we made it clear we don't know what else to do beyond the low-pressure, bribery tactics we've employed.

I'm tired of being told that what wonderful parents we are and that we're doing everything we need to for Scooter. Technically, this is not true, as I've become accustomed to hearing this first statement immediately followed by a list of other things to do.

This is what happened at the evaluation. Upon being told he does not qualify for a diagnosis, or at least that they want to wait another year before saying anything more, the speech pathologist then told us the sort of supports that would benefit him. Services that, of course, we cannot easily get from the schools without a diagnosis. (That scream you hear, that's me.)

We should also work on creating a home sensory diet for Scooter, with a book to work from.

For my trip to Toronto, I wrote a social story for Scooter, something he could read while I was gone to remind him of what would be the same and what would be different, how long I'd be gone, what it would be like when I returned (a present figured largely in this). He read it frequently and quoted from it during our phone calls. It clearly helped him handle my absence. Social stories have been one of the things on the list of what more I knew I could be doing--but just didn't get to. (You know, the previous thing that made it clear to me that I wasn't doing everything I could.)

In regards to the academic leave I've been considering, I'm starting to recognize that I won't have to manufacture any excuses. If Scooter is not going to receive speech services, we'll probably add another trip to Capital City or Big City for a social skills speech group. Regardless of that outcome, I will be making more liberal use of social stories (which require an initial investment of time in drawing and writing) and developing a sensory diet to be used on a daily basis. Trying to do a bit more of the list, trying to help Scooter find a balance that might let him move ahead in other areas.

And then I'll wait to see what new shit comes my way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I miss the days of being able to stress eat without thought

And so I found myself in the Whole Foods cafe, eating a slice of gluten-free carrot cake and a decaf Americano.

Out of stress, my body has been screaming for carbs, especially since I've had both a doctor and an acupuncturist tell me to avoid carbs as much as possible. And so knowing that wheat affects me the worst of all flours and that I would really regret some sort of jellied pastry later, I went where I knew I could have something sugary without feeling truly ill later.

I have back-ups in my bag for later.

I think I will be taking a leave from graduate school. It was suggested at my committee meeting and echoes thoughts that have been running through my head on something of a continuous loop.

My committee is trying to be kind. This is a way for me to buy some time before I have to pay my own tuition. They are trying to help me. They are saying--subtly now, but I suspect less so when I meet with my supervisor tomorrow--that I should have asked for help before.

I have spent most of graduate school on the verge of falling apart. Other than one bad exam, things have always come together in the end. Somehow. And I thought that would be the case again. Once Scooter started school, once we had an answer on his diagnosis, once we had an answer on my health. Things would calm down, I would get to work, I'd get over this blip and nobody would be the wiser.

And so it's embarrassing for me to have this suggested. I feel defeated, as if I've failed. Even though the whole point is to shore up my success and keep me from plummeting.

Now excuse me while I go look for the chocolate bar I put in my bag.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Conservation of panic

A body in rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion.

A body panicking over a long to-do list tends to run around in a panic and accomplish nothing.

And now I've left those sentences up there for about ten minutes and come up with nothing else to write.

Some of the panic is brought on simply by being in Toronto for Official Graduate School Business, i.e. my yearly committee meeting, as required now that I am out of coursework. I'm supposed to make it sound like I've done some work, when mostly I've been dealing with home stuff--Scooter's school, my health, lots of cooking (in order to meet Scooter's and my dietary needs). I keep volunteering for activities at Scooter's school. And when I'm not actively doing outside things, I manage to find something to read on the internet.

I remain in a holding pattern in many aspects of my life. More blood tests have been sent off, and so I'm waiting to see if they yield anything new, if the acupuncture has helped my systems, if I'm any closer to trying to get pregnant again. We're waiting for the written report from Scooter's evaluation to see if it will be worded in such a way that we will be able to get him the speech services they recommended from the school or if we'll be tracking down private services again (likely 1-2 hours away, as we already know these services don't exist outside of the schools in Springfield). I'm waiting to see if a part-time job comes through from SLAC (small liberal arts college) in Capital City for the second semester.

I don't do well with uncertainty--not a surprise for those who've read me for any length of time. And so my mind is roiling non-stop. And I just need it to shut up long enough that I can wade through some Latin and dense English on that Latin. Just enough that I can convince my committee I've learned a little something in the last 5 months.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Introducing Zee

When my desire for a dog first began to grow over the summer, I suggested that I was willing to consider getting a dog from a breeder if it would mean Trillian's buy-in.

Once we started to move forward on the issue and I started to poke around online, however, I found myself wavering on the issue and gravitating towards shelters and rescue organizations. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of dogs and reading descriptions, trying to figure out from that small amount of information which dog should come live with us.

Although I looked at a whole host of dogs, near and far, I kept an eye out for standard poodles. Poodles are less allergenic than most other dogs, are extremely smart, and generally attach to all the members of a family. Both Trillian and I prefer larger dogs, so a standard would meet that requirement. Trillian was also reluctant about starting with a puppy and was hoping for a dog that was already house-trained.

I found him one state over at a rescue. He had been found as a stray, very thin and horribly matted. There's no proof that he's full-bred, no papers, but everyone who sees him can't imagine he's a mix. He's fairly calm, incredibly sweet.

He's sleeping at my feet right now. I'll call him Zee.

Not that we're not hitting some rough spots. On the drive home from the rescue, he became attached to me to such a degree, even in a few hours, that he couldn't stand for me to run an errand, despite the fact that both Trillian and Scooter were home. He's had a couple accidents, always nerve-related.

But I think he's starting to understand that this is home and that we're sticking with him. Today in particular he has settled in a bit, didn't freak out when I went to get Scooter from school. He even played with us in the backyard, and I finally got to see just how athletic and energetic he can be.

He's bigger than I had pictured. Trillian calls him a 'small horse,' and I can't disagree. He stares Scooter in the face, but he is incredibly gentle and not a major licker (which is Scooter's primary concern with dogs).

As always happens in life, this has not been the ideal time to add a new member to the family. We already had to put him in the kennel for one night (when we took Scooter in for the evaluation, which was a 10-hour day after travel), and I have to head off to Toronto soon, a trip that was moved up from my original plan to accomodate my committee. A couple days ago, I would have been at a loss as to how we would all get through this crazy time, but now I think we'll manage to motor through--isn't that what we do? And now with Zee along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Just over a year go, after the first mention that Scooter might be on the autism spectrum, Trillian and I struggled to wrap our minds around that idea. Our hope, right at the beginning, was that getting him the therapy that had been suggested to us would mean that he would improve enough to be (at least) just on the other side of the diagnostic criteria.

Once we had some time to settle into the idea, read a lot, watch our son thrive in occupational therapy, we began to worry that we would push him just out of a diagnosis. The fear wasn't enough to stop us from pushing forward with interventions that seemed to make a difference.

Guess what we just found out?

The evaluators told us that he is "as borderline as a kid can be." But for the time being, they don't feel he quite meets the diagnostic criteria for autism, PDD-NOS, or Asperger's, primarily in the social skills* category. The final deciding factor (and apparently it was a lively debate that took the better part of an hour) was his improvement of the past 12-18 months and the idea that if he continues on the same trajectory for another year, he will definitely not meet the criteria.

From the history and previous evaluations we provided, they agreed that they probably would have diagnosed him a year ago (PDD-NOS, I'm guessing), but that there is a small subset of children who improve beyond their diagnosis in a few years. And they didn't tell us to stop any of the therapy he currently receives, even suggested looking for a social skills speech group to help with his fluency issues.

A year ago, I would have burst into tears if given a report like this. I would have felt dismissed and unsupported. It's a little easier now because we have support through the school system. My biggest fear right now is that he might no longer qualify for an IEP under his current category before he's ready to leave those supports. (I think, though desperately need to check this with his OT, that the catch-all category--other developmental delay--he's in can only be used for a limited number of years.)

So we have to wait another year for another round of testing.

*The fact that he has friends is, apparently, enough to qualify as having social skills that move him beyond the diagnostic criteria. Despite having no real answer to the question "What is a friend?" and "problematic" eye contact.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happiness is a drawer full of green coffee beans

[My first (almost) Wordless Wednesday. If you can't tell, the coffee is from Sweet Maria's. The smell of it roasting is heavenly.]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When two Aspies are not on the same page

The players:
Neighborhood Kid (NK): Same 8-year-old who asked me about which church I attend.
Mouse (M): A blogger compelled to share with the vast internets.

To be absolutely fair, neither player has an official diagnosis of anything, Asperger's or otherwise. On the other hand, NK's mother has stated that he is generally oblivious of social cues, sarcasm, and other nuances. And M, although she prides herself in being quite observant about people, still fails spectacularly in that area on occasion.

NK is at the door, asking if M's son (Scooter, another potential Aspie) would like to come play outside.

NK (inquisitively turning to M): So do you take care of Scooter?

M (a little befuddled, trying to clarify): Like, during the day? (receives nod) Well, I take him to and from school. But I'm a graduate student, so when he's in school, I read and study.

NK (obviously not quite the answer he wanted, but not sure how to formulate the next question): . . .

M (aware NK wants to say more, but not sure where this is going): . . .

Scooter (completely oblivious to the exchange, running out the door): OK, let's go.

It was only as NK started to follow Scooter that I realized what NK was really asking: Am I the nanny? Apparently this is how having two grown women living in one house with a child makes the most sense to him.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Tucked into a pocket of my purse is a small symbol of hope and expectation. It's round and shiny.

And optimistically engraved with my address, phone number, and the name of my dog.

He's not officially mine yet. But we're basically down to the details of meeting and payment. I found him at a rescue one state over by searching on the internet (of course).

A few weeks ago, Scooter suddenly changed his mind. Instead of telling me "no dog, no way," he decided he likes dogs after all. ("But no cat," he emphatically declared to me one day.) He has maintained this stance ever since, even as I gave him more space and slowly filled out the application.

The dog's tag will go on an orange collar, per Scooter's request. He will sleep on the dog bed in my work area and greet Scooter each morning after they've both enjoyed a good night's sleep. Scooter is quite insistent on this scenario.

And the shiny tag makes me that much more inclined to agree.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The reason I need a new cell phone (with camera)

Because a picture would have so much more impact than me just telling you about the sign I saw on my adventures this weekend: "Ho-Made Chili."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Moving towards answers on a different front

One positive that came out of my unhappy meeting with Cid (Clueless Infertility Doctor) is that our endless go around on Asperger's served as a catalyst for me to finish up the paperwork we needed to compile for Scooter's evaluation.

The process in our state is a bit different than it was in Ontario. Instead of getting on a waitlist immediately and not having to do a lot of paperwork until we'd made it to the first stage (and then waiting to see if they'd recommend a full evaluation after the initial appointment and, I assume, more paperwork then), we had to fill out the paperwork up-front--with the payoff being that our first appointment would be the evaluation.

The clinic's cover letter said the wait could be 6 or more months. The woman Trillian spoke to on the phone said to expect at least 4 months. More waiting, but it was shorter than we'd had in Toronto.

We sent the paperwork off in mid-June. Twenty pages of their questionnaires and another 60+ of supporting papers, all the evaluations we have on file from the past 18 months.

Scooter's appointment is at the end of this month. 3 1/2 months. They wanted to get him immediately. It took this long only because every member of the evaluation team reads through a child's paperwork before they meet and discuss their suspicions.

Trillian thinks that their eagerness to get Scooter in quickly is due to the fact that he has just started school and they want to make sure he can get necessary supports in that environment as soon as possible. Both of us still expect an Asperger's diagnosis, although 5 1/2 is on the young side for that particular diagnosis. (Did you know that the average age of diagnosis for Asperger's is 11?)

I'm not sure what other support Scooter might need at school. He already goes to OT, and his IEP addresses issues like sitting on the periphery to limit distractions. His teacher seems attuned to his personality, and Scooter definitely fits in with his class on a social level. Again, the makeup of the town means that Scooter is not especially odd and most of the kids are already accustomed to being around others with quirks.

But I do think that there would be additional benefit to having a label at last, especially in an educational setting. It gives us more authority in explaining our son; there is more leverage in definitively saying "Asperger's" instead of "Asperger's-like" or "high end of the spectrum."

And if I may turn the spotlight to myself and get a little introspective, this process turns many questions back on me.

In doing all of this research and reading on autism, I've become dead-certain that I too have Asperger's. That it is a family trait, heavily on my mother's side, a bit less so on my father's, but there for at least four generations. So what does this mean?

Here I am, pushing, pushing, pushing to get this evaluation for my son, long decided that I want the label if one is suggested. But what about me?

I balk at any evaluation for myself. Part of this is an uncertainty of where to begin. There may be waitlists, but autism evaluation clinics for children, in one form or another, can be found all over the place. Grownups, not so much. I know, again from my readings, that it is possible to get a diagnosis as an adult, but it can be more difficult since it requires balancing childhood personality with adult function.

But the other reason I've resisted is the label. Do I need one? Do I want one? What would I do with a label if I had one? I know that I can function fine in the life I have. My field is a particularly nerdy one, so it's not like I stand out as being unusually odd. If I become a professor, my immediate colleagues will be just as quirky as I am (and, if previous experience predicts, less aware of it). So I'm unlikely to need the buffer of an official diagnosis at this point in my life.

But then again, I see so many autism alarmists and critics who use, as their proof of the supposed autism epidemic, the rhetorical (to them) question, "So where are all the autistic adults?" And I wonder if I have an obligation and responsibility to wave my hand and say, "Right here."

Luckily, I can sit this one out a bit longer and focus on Scooter's evaluation instead.

Friday, September 05, 2008

We're laughing over here

Some Scooter episodes I've been meaning to share. These are the moments that have made it easier to get through recent toilet issues (thanks, we think, to the first virus of the school year, which has made Scooter vaguely uncomfortable, but not sick enough to stay home).


We've been gently broaching the subject of a sibling again with Scooter. We're still at least a couple months off from trying, but have taken the opportunity to suggest that this is a possibility on those occasions when the topic comes up.

Scooter has been most interested in potential baby names. He easily took the boy name we've almost settled on, but came up with "Albison" for a girl. And no, the 'b' is not a typo. Not sure where that came from, but I did eventually get him to agree that our preferred girl name would work for a baby sister.

Of course, he was touching upon Trillian's worst fear when he announced that he would have a baby brother and a baby sister.


When we were at his grandparents' house recently, two strange (as in we'd never seen them before) ran through the backyard. My mother-in-law was not too happy to see unknown dogs, and Scooter was similarly distressed. He decided that he needed to make, right at that very moment, a "No Dogs" sign. Supplied with a piece of paper and a marker, he drew a dog and then a circle with a slash, topping it all off with "NODOGZ" (the 's' was backwards, but he knew it was supposed to be an s).


Speaking of spelling, the bathtub foam letters remain a favorite, but the play has changed. Instead of nonsense words, he has started spelling out phrases and sentences. Sometimes he'll demand our help in spelling the words, but we have come back to the bathroom on occasion to find fully formed sentences. With only a minimum of invented spelling (e.g., 'Y' for 'why').

He has an amazing memory for the words he's quizzed us on; I'm no longer surprised when he recalls a word from weeks before.


School continues to go well for Scooter. I am volunteering regularly in his classroom; it looks like I'll usually be there for literacy stations. I enjoy seeing all of the different kids and, even after only a couple visits, developing relationships with some of them.

It's a boy-heavy class, but Scooter's teacher seems to have just the right touch with them. We haven't had a specific parent-teacher or IEP meeting yet this year, but Mr. Teacher seems to get how to handle Scooter's meltdowns so that they are short and there's no lingering embarrassment.


Of course, Scooter may be spreading vicious rumors, unknowingly of course.

There was a substitute in the class. Scooter knew her a bit since she spent some time in the preschool classroom last year. As we were walking home, Scooter explained to me why they had a substitute.

"He is marrying his cousin," he proclaimed to me.

A little bit more: "He had to get on an airplane and go far away."

"Maybe," I countered, "he went to his cousin's wedding?"


School definitely agrees with him. He likes being a big kid and is eating up the curriculum. On our last car ride, he serenaded us with a number song. After our frustrations with the preschool program last year, it's nice to feel like our choice to move may be for the best after all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm so not good at the whole "not discussing religion" thing

As promised, I wanted to write some more on the thoughts that have come up in the process of writing my latest religion post and then reading the comments. My attention is splintered between this and the Obama speech, so I don't know where this may wander. Some of this will tread on my earlier writings on the topic, but it's easier to put a little more in here tonight than track down the old posts and expect you to follow links.


I was raised an atheist. Not that my father actively molded us into atheists, but more that he started with a rational, scientific view of the world, and by the time I started to learn about religion, especially Christianity, I just couldn't believe it on a literal level. Religion interests me in something of an anthropological way; I am a fascinated, but outside, observer. And I like it that way--being in the midst of overt religion makes me quite uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, I consider myself spiritual. Not that I believe in one or many deities, but that I find great wonder in the world around me and frequently experience moments of awe. I find these in art, music, science, philosophy, a myriad of little things I encounter in my daily life.

Trillian was raised in a fairly liberal denomination, as a minority in a town practically run by a very conservative denomination. She frequently heard that anybody not agreeing with that church, i.e. her and her family, were going to hell. She heard judgments passed on all sorts of things. She didn't come out until after we were together, and even then limited who she told, because of the horrific pronouncements made on gays and lesbians. Even now, she has to deal with family members who truly cannot reconcile what their religion says and the fact that a relative is gay.

Religion angers Trillian. She bristles at the presence of religion and greatly distrusts it. Can't say I blame her.

With Scooter, it is our intention to raise him more in the spirit of my experiences, but even more conscious of our decision than my father was. It helps to have sites like Dale McGowan's Meming of Life. And as a result of hearing him speak, we now have a group of like-minded parents we meet with twice a month. It's pretty informal right now, but we generally talk about a myth and then do a science activity. With the myths, we plan on working through world mythology in a fairly chronological order, starting with Egyptian and moving forward, reaching Judeo-Christian stories in due time. With the science, we want our children to discover some of the ordering principles of the world while also promoting the sense of wonder such discovery can bring.

Our general approach in dealing with questions of religion that come up (not too many so far, since Scooter is so literal-minded) is to say that "Some people think/believe/do x, but some people don't." And so that is how we tried to handle his "church toys" disdain.


As for the neighbor-kid. He is a sweet kid, similar in many ways to Scooter. Trillian and I actually laugh at how often his mother will remark that her son used to do or still does something that we consider to be a potential indication of Asperger's or PDD-NOS. She says it to soothe us, as proof that Scooter is perfectly normal; we see it as a reminder that there are a lot of boys around here who probably would be considered odd anywhere else. Anyway, this family belongs to the local church of the same denomination that Trillian had to deal with in her hometown. Generally speaking, they are not tolerant and are very literal. From conversations with his mother and another mother in our neighborhood (whose family attends the same church), the children's religious education involves a lot of memorization of scripture. So while I do see some of the helpful, social aspect of the neighbor's question, I also suspect that finding out we don't go to church bothers him because he likes us and doesn't want us to go to hell.


I don't think we're the only neighborhood family, in the cul-de-sac even, that doesn't attend church. As far as I can tell, one set of direct neighbors don't go to church on Sundays; I suspect that even if the wife does on occasion, the husband does not. He's another scientist-type, very no-nonsense, someone who looks at objects and can easily visualize how they work. So we're not the only ones.

On the other hand, I know that I'm a bit skittish because of the lesbian thing. Or, more precisely, because of the combination of the lesbian and atheist (and liberal) thing.

When I was younger, I could usually get people to back off when pushing Christianity by appealing to my Jewishness. For whatever reason, that worked as a sort of pass. Now, I find that the gay label has almost the opposite effect. Most people hear that I'm gay and don't attend a church and immediately assume that there is a cause-and-effect relationship. And so I've heard from many a friend and relative about how accepting their church is or how many gay couples they've met there. Sometimes, I can get away with thanking them for the information and leaving it at that. On some occasions, however, they become quite insistent and I have to explain, usually several times, usually increasing in intensity, that I just don't believe, that I never have, that I would still be an atheist were I straight.

I need to work on how I react to those conversations, both for myself and as an example to Scooter (in case he ever witnesses these), but the people who push don't seem capable of taking the polite response and letting the topic be.


One of Dale McGowan's suggestions in his talk for the religious-literacy education of older children is to allow trusted friends and relatives--who do believe--to take them to their house of worship. He emphasizes that this should be someone who is both religious and open, i.e. not judgmental about raising the child without religion, able to provide the child this experience without pushing indoctrination.

I know that for the next few years at least, I will not let Scooter accept any of those invitations he is sure to get. I remember receiving them as a kid and not understanding why my father wouldn't let me go. (It always sounded like so much fun!) So I do expect to have conversations about this with Scooter. Possibly, down the line, if we're still in Springfield and know people much better, I might consider allowing him to accept the occasional invitation to a church. But only when I feel that his Humanist foundation is solid.


Not comment-related, but somehow appropriate to the topics at hand.

I was searching on Facebook in the high school class a year ahead of me, looking to see if a specific person was on. And came across my first high school boyfriend. That guy, if you catch my drift. Not entirely a surprise, as he was in that year. But I hadn't thought about him in years, hadn't tried to find anything out about him since reading his wedding announcement many years ago in my hometown paper.

But there he was, right in front of me. So I clicked through to see his friends (all I could do since I haven't friended him). No friends in common, not even any names I recognized. But a whole lot of people who listed a particular seminary as one of their networks. So I ran a search and discovered that he also is a student at this seminary, along with his wife.

I suppose there's no reason for this to be a big surprise, yet there was something about it entirely incongruous for me.

OK, so it's been years. (Right around 20! Which doesn't make me feel old at all.) Not that I ever knew him well enough to be able to define his religious beliefs. But even if I had known him as a non-believer, that's plenty of time for him to change his mind or renew an old faith or have an epiphany. Heck, maybe it was great remorse over how shitty he was to me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A political interlude

I started a post as a companion piece to my previous entry; it grew out of my responses to the comments and then grew and grew. But before I finish it up, I wanted to indulge in a brief rant, brought on by the Democratic National Convention and the many different ways the talking heads have been rehashing the discontent among Hilary Clinton's supporters. Apologies to Canadian readers, who, I'm sure, are already bombarded non-stop about an election in which they have no voice.

Here's the thing. I just don't get the Clinton supporters who say they can't support Obama. One reason I reserved final judgment after Edwards dropped out* was that Obama and Clinton have always been close enough on their policy stances that I knew whoever won the candidacy would be generally in sync with my beliefs.

On the flip side, if one were to compare either Obama or Clinton's stances with McCain's, there would be no discernible agreement.

So, if these Clinton supporters feel strongly about even one of her positions, how could they suggest that McCain would be a better choice than Obama? Or, if they're saying that they just won't vote (shades of "I'm taking my toys and going home"), are they really willing to abdicate their voting right and responsibility because their first choice isn't the candidate? And have they always had their optimal candidate in place every time?

From all accounts, Clinton will be making several of these points tonight, though probably a little less stridently than I would.

All of this ignores the fact that the position of president tends to be viewed as more important than it is. The president's main function is as a figurehead, the representation of our country both at home and abroad. (At least if s/he is going to operate within constitutional limitations. Which has been an issue of late.) What is even more important than the specific person in the office is who s/he chooses to function in an advisory capacity.

Exhibit A: The current administration. Bush is, by pretty much all accounts, not particularly bright. But he has a cadre of politicos with lifetimes of experience. Even when recent policies have stepped over those constitutional boundaries (I won't go into that rant tonight), you can be sure it's not Bush who has shaped them, but someone close to him. Bush is the mouthpiece, at least when they use large print and short words on the teleprompter.

The truth is, I find an Obama candidacy exciting. I think he is very much what our country needs right now. He is intelligent, well spoken, and vibrant. He is igniting political interest among the young. He will be able to engage with international leaders on an equal level. This is what we need.

*And now I can say it's a good thing he did, because talk about a campaign ender!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Not ready for that coming out

One of the neighborhood kids caught up to me today as I was walking Scooter to school. I had no problem with him keeping us company. He's quite the talker, so I mostly just listened and made appropriate noises from time to time.

Then he asked, "What church do you go to?"

Several different answers flashed through my mind, but I decided to go with the one that answered the question directly without supplying extra information: "We don't go to any church."

He then told me about the one his family attends and mentioned another one in town, all with a friendly and helpful demeanor.

A bit later, as we approached the school, he mentioned a word he had seen but didn't know. I explained what it meant in Greek, which both jogged his memory ("Oh, I guess I did know it!") and elicited questions about me knowing Greek. "Well, Ancient Greek," I specified. I then explained what "Classics" is and that I spend a lot of time reading Latin and Greek. Which brought him back to matters as religion, as I confirmed to him that, yes, I can in fact read the Bible, or at least the parts in Greek (my Hebrew has shrunk from years of disuse and my Aramaic is non-existent--though I didn't get into that with him).

"But," I clarified, "I mostly read Latin poetry." I tried to explain "epic" and he had heard of Homer, but we ended up back on the Bible again, as his point of reference.

This is primarily a company town, one that employs a lot of people in science and research positions. Pretty much every household around us has at least one very science-oriented person. And yet, religion predominates more than I would have expected. As small as our town is, you can find a wide range of Christian denominations and several of the congregations seem quite large.

In many ways, I feel like being a lesbian is easier than being an atheist here. For one thing, we haven't really had the option to hide the fact that we are two women raising a child we both call "son." (It's not impossible to hide, but involves such a web of lies and paranoia that we never even considered it.) But the atheist angle is not as obvious. As new as we still are to town, it might be easy for them to figure we haven't had a chance to check out the different churches in town. Or maybe we're just not as observant. Or maybe we're going to the same church as Trillian's in-laws in Capital City (which, we kind of are, as in none).

What probably hasn't crossed their minds is that we don't believe. That we are part of a family group in Big City which gathers a couple times a month to present lessons on different cultures' historical beliefs and then perform science experiments. That we are quite consciously raising our son without religion--not to define him as an atheist right now, but to equip him with all sorts of knowledge before he makes a decision. That, as someone raised in a similar environment, I know what I hope he decides.

I know that I didn't explain any of this to our neighbor this morning, in part because this didn't seem like a conversation to have with an 8-year-old. His parents, yes, when the topic comes up, not that I'm looking forward to that conversation either, but I definitely didn't want to come off as trying to push my non-belief on their impressionable child. In a funny way, it's a bit like the fears that can come up with introducing children to the concept of "gay." And again, it's a concept that can be a total non-starter for many people.

(At least Scooter didn't respond to the neighbor's query with his usual disdain for churches. I swear that this doesn't come from us, but one time as we were driving by one of the churches--and we had never told him it was a church and we just don't talk about church at all--he started in on "church toys" and how he didn't need "church toys," all with a sneer in his voice. We suspect this may have come from a conversation at preschool, but never figured out its origin.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The receding horizon

I've been sitting on this for about a week, trying to figure out how I feel and what I want to say.

Technically, by the numbers, according to quantitative measures, I'm perfectly fine.

I went into my appointment hoping that the doctor would come in and tell me she'd found something. I cried when she said I was fine.

"So why do I still feel so bad?" I asked the endocrinologist.

This has come to be about much more than trying to have another kid. Back when I thought I had this figured out, when I thought I had found a reason not just for the miscarriages, but also for the chronic pain that has been my companion for as long as I can remember, I became hopeful about finally feeling better. And then the hope grew until my focus was conquering this pain and pregnancy something to return to after.

But, according to the labwork, it's not my thyroid. Not that my numbers are ideal. My T4 remains a little high, my TSH has been unstable, and a few numbers are at the edge of the reference range, but there's nothing obvious to be treated.

"Western medicine doesn't have all the answers, for all it wants to think that it does," she told me.

At my endocrinologist's suggestion, I have started to see an acupuncturist. I decided that I will be open to what he says and follow all of his recommendations. And so I am taking a range of herbs and probiotics, which I fervently hope will make a difference--and that my underlying doubt will not negate any improvement, placebo-effect or not.

It helps my attitude, at least a little, that the acupuncturist wants to know what the labwork has said. There's enough science in what he says that I can buy into a good part of what he says. He expressed shock that there isn't any obvious issue with my thyroid. (That makes three of us. Trillian is still shaking her head over this.) He is concerned that my sedimentation rate is slightly elevated and suspects that this constant, low-level of inflammation may have caused my miscarriages (which even meshes with what the nurse practitioner said); since tests for rheumatic factor and lupus and other inflammatory diseases always come back negative and the inflammation is not that elevated, most doctors dismiss its importance. So he also gets points for demonstrating concern about issues that concern me. And taking a couple tears in stride.

My emotions continue to roil under the surface, not always under the surface. Back in March, I expected to have an answer within a month. In June, two months. Now, I'd even forgo an answer, if only I could feel better. But the waiting continues.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I do not (usually) complain about other people's children in real life

As I mentioned in a comment on my previous post, Scooter is in a class with a couple of kids I wouldn't mind not seeing again. Now, I hold a strong opinion, forged in my years of teaching, that it is my responsibility, as an adult, to interact appropriately with all children, even those with whom I am a complete mismatch.

But what I write here is not an interaction with those kids, so you'll excuse me if I abdicate my adult responsibilities for just a bit in this space.

The kid I knew would be at Scooter's school is not only in the same class, but will be sitting catty-corner from Scooter at the same table. To start. We let the teacher know that Scooter has a tendency either to get angry at this kid or to imitate his noises.

Wait, let me back-track a minute. Let me explain our interactions with this child. And, so that you can hear this appropriately in your imagination, let me give him a (barely) disguised name: Lucifer. Think of a nickname for this that is a common boy's name. Just know that I used to LOVE this nickname.

We first met Lucifer in an introductory sport class for kids aged 3-5, held at our local Y. I signed Scooter up for something to do before we could get him into the preschool program. I figured it would require him to use gross motor skills and be a marginally helpful thing until he was back in OT. I could do a whole "mean mommies" post on how I found myself in the middle of a group that had been doing this program for months and so the women found it hard to muster even a greeting. But most of you don't need that spelled out.

Lucifer and his mom were a bit late to the first class Scooter and I went to. His entry immediately changed the tenor of the class. He was not still for a second and didn't/couldn't pay any attention to directions. He touched and poked and pushed other kids. His mother split her time between yelling at him to stop whatever he was doing and chasing after her toddler.

By the end of our month, neither Scooter not I wanted to go back, so we waited for soccer instead. Guess who was on that team too!

Turns out we had been seeing a fairly tame version of Lucifer. In soccer, he was even worse. Things like blowing spit bubbles (at kids), picking boogers and chasing people with them, pushing even more, picking up sticks and then refusing to put them down. Whenever he was at practice, Trillian (who was assistant coach) spent most of her time corralling him. His harried mother would again be shrilly, oh so shrilly, shouting his name from the sidelines.

(This is why I can no longer use a boy's name with that nickname. The sound will forever be etched into my brain!)

To be fair, I found out later that he has asthma and is on inhaled steroids. His impulsive behavior is either due to this or, at least, greatly exacerbated by it. So I do feel sorry for him and his mother. But holy hell, that doesn't make me want to spend more time with him.

Then there's a second kid in the class who drives me nuts. He was in Scooter's preschool class, I would guess for behavioral issues. He is, as best as I can tell, the fourth of five kids. When he came to Scooter's birthday party, his father dropped him off really fast and picked him up last (besides the neighborhood friend who lives a couple houses away). We were lucky to have extra adults, because he needed one to watch just him most of the time. He's the only kid who let himself into Scooter's room, while everyone else was playing outside. He also shot one of Scooter's plastic golf balls so far into our neighbor's yard that we couldn't see where it was (and it was yellow, so pretty obvious). He unceremoniously takes possession of anything that interests him, including grabbing ahold of gifts as Scooter unwrapped them.

I initially assumed that this child's behavior was some combination of being the youngest (somehow, I got the impression that he was the youngest of three from what his father had said) and his particular character. Then our neighbor told us that all of this family's brood are just as wild as he is.

So these are two of the kids Scooter will be spending kindergarten alongside. At least during the meet-the-teacher afternoon, I know that the teacher got a chance to witness a little of these two's antics. Apparently he taught one of the wild brood last year, not to mention the obvious grabbing and attempts to make off with others' property. And Lucifer gave a performance of his noises at full volume.

On the plus side, Scooter is sitting next to another soccer teammate, one who seems fairly level-headed and nice. And it turns out that the son of the woman who gave us a ride home during a rainstorm is in his class too. I think that he knows yet another boy too, though I'm only going off of first names, so I won't be sure until I see the whole class.

Crossing my fingers that somehow Scooter's drawn to the nice kids and not the bad boys as he sometimes has been in the past.