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.