Thursday, October 29, 2009


To borrow a line from A.: In a move that surprised no one, he has been diagnosed with Asperger's.

But it's official now. Full report to follow, etc, etc.

Nonetheless, they sent us away with a short letter making it official. And a good number of suggestions.

The hardest part will be figuring out if we can get any services close to home or if we'll be traveling to Big City on a more regular basis. That will be the case for certain things, like the nutritional counseling we can get through their clinic, but we're hoping to find a good, local match for some cognitive behavior therapy once we get onto our new health insurance.

I also came away with a few suggestions for people to call for myself. (And not even a batted eye when I asked.)

This is not a panacea, but at least we feel like we've been on the right track and have opened up a few more avenues for help.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Closer to official

We've only been asking questions since E. was 18-months-old. To be fair, A. is the one who initiated them. Mostly I felt like I understood why he was odd in the ways he was--and most of them pointed to my family's bank of personal quirks, so I mostly didn't want to follow that trail too far, at first.

I wrote a while back about a particular student whom I recognized as likely having Asperger's. There's a moment I left out from that anecdote. As I read the article, I so got it. I completely understood where the kids they were profiling were coming from. But, I told myself then and a thousand times after, I am empathetic to a fault and overly sensitive to others' feelings. That means this isn't me.

A couple years later, A. and I were sitting in the coffeeshop near our condo. Our conversation, as was common in those days shortly after E. turned 4, turned to autism. Both of us had moved into fix-it mode, lining up OT and looking into other options for him. I had mostly gotten over the guilt I'd been feeling about the role of my genetics. And I finally spoke out loud an idea that had been brewing for a while at that point: I have Asperger's. My ability to read emotions and my sensitivity to others are both the result of years of observing and categorizing.

I think that since then, we've known that E. would end up just on one side or the other of the diagnostic line for autism spectrum disorder--our guess has long been Asperger's, a suspicion that has only grown stronger as E. gets older.

And now we're moving towards official.

E. went in for educational testing last week, the ADOS administered by the district's autism team.

The written report will take a few weeks yet, but the word has come back to us that he most definitely qualifies. He goes in for a full evaluation and possible medical diagnosis soon. We don't expect that outcome to be substantially different, perhaps just further refinement of where we are now.

This reminds me a bit of when we got our second-parent adoption. Suddenly we had official recognition, but at the same time nothing changed. Everything is exactly as we've known it to be all along.

Except that this time there's the kernel of the potential for where this will take us down the line.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A couple more steps

As I was driving yesterday afternoon, a thought came to me unbidden: I had in my possession a business card for the child psychologist who was part of E.'s evaluation team. The one that told us to come back in a year and see where he was then. The impression A. and I had at the time was that the evaluation team was split and that she might lean towards the diagnosis.

In any case, we were back in the queue for the re-evaluation. When we called this summer, we were told we would need to fill out the paperwork again, go through the whole process. This didn't seem quite right, but we couldn't remember any explicit promises that there'd be a shorter line for the re-eval, so we did as we were told.

So I called the psychologist this morning to let her know about the recent rough patch and get some suggestions. Which boil down mostly to the fact that the adults around him need to know and understand his communication limitations. While we need to do some advocating, the main key will be getting his teacher to communicate more fully and on a regular, preferably daily, basis. I suspect this will be harder than it looks on paper since most of my communication with the teacher so far have left me unsatisfied; she never provides all the information I'm looking for and is not so good on following through. It will take a lot of effort on our part.

There was, of course, an ulterior motive in making the call today, and I didn't have to do much of anything to get movement in that direction. The psychologist pulled up E.'s record to remind herself of the assessment. I answered one of her questions that we were in line for the re-eval, but didn't have an appointment set up yet. She mentioned that she didn't see why we should have to go through the whole process again since he's already an established patient and they have his history on record.

Turns out that there was a change in the administrative staff this past summer, so our status of re-eval was not handled properly. We got a call this afternoon to schedule our appointment--not for a little over a month, but better than what they'd been telling us before.

I don't think a diagnosis will be a cure-all. But, as I explained to the psychologist, I think it will give us better access to services and some terminology that will lead to a better understanding of the cluster of issues E. has--or at least sound official enough that a teacher might take heed. Currently, there are several things his therapists are sneaking in without them being part of his IEP; with an autism or Asperger's diagnosis, he would change categories and these issues would be addressed head on in his paperwork.

We've still got an uphill battle. We need to address the current problems now and not let them go any further. And I already know it won't be easy. But I'll take the small victory for today. I'm too exhausted not to.

Monday, August 24, 2009


It's a chilly and dreary day here. Alone, not quite enough to put me in a sour mood--I'm happy about the temperature drop since I prefer cool weather and, this year in particular, have been looking forward to switching to my fall/winter wardrobe since nearly all of my maternity clothing fits into that category.

But I've spent the morning being reminded of why I've held off so long on getting my teacher certification. (Which, by the way, I've decided to get my teacher certification and enrolled in an online alternative licensure program.) The information available on my course so far does nothing to correct my long-standing perspective that most education courses are fairly simple, but make sure you'll put in time by creating busywork. I have a worksheet to do this week.

I've also been trying to track down and clear up the problem that has led to my acceptance papers showing the wrong endorsement. I'm working on my secondary license, requiring me to pick a subject. Given the state's requirements and my own personal preference, I of course indicated Latin. Except the paperwork came back to me with Language Arts (i.e., English). I've already received several different, sometimes contradictory answers about why this happened--all from the same person. And while I most likely will get a second endorsement in Language Arts (especially if it looks like I'll be pursuing high-school teaching as a full-time gig), I do not have enough credit hours to qualify for it as a first endorsement.

The most recent email informed me that there is no Latin endorsement. So I've sent back an explanation of where its definition appears in the education department's regulations (there's a general Languages endorsement with more specific information in the subsections) and am hoping we can get this cleared up.

Then I'm also dealing with some pregnancy-related anxiety. I had already decided that I wouldn't get the H1N1 vaccination when it becomes available, despite the high priority given to pregnant women. But it looks like that will be a moot point anyway, as there's a decent chance it is currently working its way through our school system. There's a chance it's regular flu, and we won't find out test results until the end of the week, but the speed and severity with which it has hit our middle school sure makes it sound like H1N1. I expect to see it hit the other schools within a few days now. So I will probably end up exposed to it well before the vaccine would be available anyway. Of course, this makes me nervous about accepting sub jobs, so I'm trying to keep a close eye on developments in order to balance my health with our checking account. (And counting down to the end of the month when A. is supposed to get paid for the job she started this month--but we've already played one round of "where's my money?" this summer, so we're waiting to see how this goes.)

I see that I have a new email in my inbox. Hopefully it's the positive conclusion to my endorsement issue. And then, having vented here and had a happy resolution, I can return to the paper I've promised my supervisor.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The terrible twos at six

In all the reading I've done on developmental delays and the like, I seem to remember coming across the idea that children who do not hit certain milestones at the expected time will go through them at a later date. I feel like we've been hitting at least a couple of these this summer.

As a toddler and preschooler, E. did not get into very much. We did some babyproofing before he could even crawl and then didn't get to much more. We always figured that we kept a pretty good eye on him and would be able to take care of any location that caught his fancy. We did not add any more latches, didn't need to. In retrospect, I suspect it is part of the Asperger's; since he tends to see the world from his own perspective only and just as it is presented to him, he simply didn't think to open drawers and doors and climb on things.

Similarly, he has not put on great displays of independence. Sure, he has learned to do more for himself, but his proclamations of "I can do it myself" have never been as frequent or vehement as one might expect from a preschooler, even as stubborn as he is.

That has changed a lot. He's into everything now. My mother-in-law has said that she never worried about leaving him for a short time, but now she knows that any amount of silence is not a good thing. At my sister's, he kept showing up with rolls of tape, taken surreptitiously from a particular drawer. When A. and I stocked up on medicines, in order to use up her flexible spending account before she was off payroll, I installed the first cabinet latch in our house--not because of the baby we were then hoping would be in our future, but because we worried that E. would be into it.

The past few days have added his loudly announced belief that he doesn't need me anymore. (Me specifically due to being the one who has denied him some things.) He's chafing at the bit and wanting to be bigger, older, able to do more.

While this may be developmentally appropriate for him at this point, it is more wearing than I imagine it would have been at 2 or 3 (or even 4). The combination of a couple more years and a creative mind is problematic. He can reach higher than before, even more so now that he's grown a couple inches this summer, and has the ability to plot out at least part of his action ahead of time. His idea of what constitutes independence is grander and more sweeping now--we've had to say no to the driving and remain insistent about holding hands (or finger, as he allowed this morning) when crossing certain streets.

Some good may come of this--he's suddenly interested in not wearing pull-ups at night since they're for babies--but I can't wait for the rest of this to pass.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to school

The other night I had a school anxiety dream--about Scooter's school. It was right before the class lists were going to go up and I was inside the school and knew I shouldn't be there and needed to get outside. See, the tradition seems to be that the class lists go up just as the secretaries are leaving for the day, meaning the building is locked up and empty just as people start to get their information.

I've spent the summer wondering which class Scooter will end up in and if it will be a good fit. I found out at the end of the school year who the two 1st grade teachers would be; Mr. Teacher and the classroom assistant gave me a brief rundown. Although both teachers are solid in academics, the teacher who is more academically oriented is also stricter and without much humor. The other teacher is more fun, but a bit flaky. The first teacher would probably provide more structure, the second more flexibility. I could see how he would have trouble with either one, but was hoping a bit more for Mrs. Fun. I worried that since both Mr. Teacher and his assistant thought Mrs. Strict would be a good match with Scooter academically, he might end up in that class.

My worry was allayed a bit by knowing that Scooter has people on his IEP team who very much want him to succeed. A couple different conversations with his OT included heavy intimation that they would make sure he ended up in the class they thought best for him. So I've tried to remain calm with the knowledge that regardless of which teacher Scooter was assigned to, it would be the best fit available.

As I walked up to the school with Scooter to check the lists, I hit upon a sign I would look for that all had been arranged as planned. Scooter had both OT and speech therapy with a particular classmate, a kid who has some similar issues. It seems likely that this pairing would continue and it would be easiest for the therapists to schedule them together if they're in the same class.

Sure enough, Scooter's name appeared just a few lines below this kid's--under the Mrs. Fun column.

Even better, he has two other friends in his class, including one with whom he's had several playdates this summer. We even like the mother a lot.

Even better than that... the two kids I least wanted him to have in class--both picked on him and one of them is a master manipulator--are with the other teacher.

The teacher's name is only an abstract concept to him right now. I think even the list of kids he knows is mostly abstract. It'll take being in the classroom and starting back into the routine of school to make this real. But at least he's excited to go back and maybe I can stop with the displaced anxiety dreams already.

Monday, August 10, 2009

In search of the wellspring of patience

When Scooter was born, I learned a lot about myself. One thing that surprised me was the depth of patience I discovered. Even when I was frustrated and overwhelmed, somehow I managed not to take it out on him. I made it through the initial hormone fluctuations, breastfeeding difficulties, picky eating, and years of sleep problems--crying copiously to Trillian, of course, but not losing my cool with my son. I understood that he simply couldn't help it and that getting agitated wouldn't help the situation.

Increasingly that's not the case.

Intellectually I get how hard some things are for him. It's not as simple as tasting a new food or then eating more than a single bite. He truly does not process our requests until the third or so repetition. He must find one particular toy before he can settle in to go to sleep.

He needs me to guide him gently in the right direction, understanding when it's more than he can handle for the moment.

But I find myself becoming short and sharp more often than I would like. And wishing he could just get over it--even though I know it's not that simple.

I worry that my patience is gone forever and that Scooter will remember me as being more tense and curt than fun. I worry that the next child will never know the mother who had bottomless reserves of calm and that I will be frazzled and frustrated from day one. I know that I don't have the ability to step out of the situation and determine the best way to find my center again.

Summer vacation has been particularly difficult. What does it say that I think all of us view the start of the school year as our real vacation?

Sunday, August 09, 2009


I found it interesting that Aliki commented on my last post that she had been wondering, after reading my previous post, if I were pregnant. While it was not foremost in my mind when I wrote that post, we definitely blamed pregnancy fog for my forgetting the pull-ups and Trillian has been a lot more concerned over my bedtime lately. On the other hand, there have definitely been a good number of posts that were carefully crafted to write around the issue. I thought I'd share some of those moments with you now.

Several of my posts mention an inability to focus, blamed on either the heat or simply "too much to contemplate." Trying to get pregnant and then being pregnant certainly played a role. Only 6 days after our first insemination attempt, I reference trying for child #2 before Trillian was employed again. It was weighing especially heavy since I knew there was a chance, a good chance since I had timed things correctly, that I was already pregnant.

By the time I wrote about Scooter's perfectionism, we'd already had a positive test. That post reads as it would have at any other time, but obviously the idea of genetics and what I may pass on is a frequent topic of rumination right now.

The big piece of subtext is the crib post. The night before I headed down to Albuquerque, I re-assembled the crib. Trillian truly had wanted me to in order to make it easier to chase down dust bunnies, and I decided to put it together before any possibility of pregnancy instead of waiting until the second trimester. Of course, by the time I downloaded the picture and got around to writing the post, the "hope" in the title had switched from hoping for a positive test to hoping for an uneventful first trimester.

And yes, although Trillian and I started discussing a minivan a couple months ago, the timing of the post was due to my growing resignation that this will be our next major purchase.

The discussion I had with my sister about potential future children is portrayed fairly, especially since I waited to tell her until just before my big announcement here.

I know that I mentioned the horror Trillian and I have felt at the possibility of 16 straight years of diapers (if one includes night-time pull-ups, the kids were 8 years apart, and each used them until 8-years-old). When I wrote that, I was staring squarely at the fact that we are pretty much guaranteed no break at this point. I'm hoping for a second child who feels quite differently from Scooter on the issue of potty-training!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cat, bag, etc

Originally, I had this grand idea. I would post the following for Wordless Wednesday:

And then on Thursday I would tell the story of two Julys ago when the first person who found out I was pregnant (for the third time, which would be my second miscarriage) was Bea, because our families were spending the day together and when we started discussing dinner options, I turned down one with a phrase like "I'm not eating feta right now" (which is immediately code for I'm pregnant, but don't want to say).

As it happened, the announcement ended up on Facebook today. Since nearly all of my core readership is on my friends list over there, it just wouldn't have the same impact.

Instead I'll say the following: I've just exited my first trimester, I'm due in early February, and we've been able to see and hear the baby several times now. I wrote a few drafts during the past few weeks about the first trimester and will be posting those over the next few days.

I'll also say that the nausea has pretty much passed, but I could do without the headaches that seem to have taken its place.

ETA: And since there are so many people from my department on Facebook, I feel I should tell my supervisor now, as opposed to a few days from now when I hope to have a draft of my paper (which, realistically, may or may not happen). I'm not looking forward to telling him that my comps are going to get extended by the length of this next leave of absence.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Notes from the road

Scooter's fresh out of his bath in the hotel, has taken his vitamins, and has been rubbed with lotion. Time for the pull-up...

I vividly remember looking at the pack under the sink in his bathroom and making a mental note to pack some. Guess what I forgot!?

Quick trip to the local grocery store in this tiny little town. As I drive down there, I realize it's already 8:30 (thanks, time change) on a weekend night. Fingers crossed they're open until at least 9:00. Rejoicing when I discover that they're open until 10. And they have the exact pull-ups I know will fit Scooter without any leaking!

* * * *

I also pick up a bag of raisins. We have other healthy snacks in the car too, but of course Scooter focused on the sugar today, with a side of Fritos. He was in a foul mood this evening and had a meltdown over how he needed more candy. We insisted on something healthy and managed cream-cheese crackers with apple juice. Absolutely no more sugar! As he winds down for the evening, he's a bit more pleasant, so the detox is already working.

* * * *

I'd forgotten that the Indigo Girls cuss on their more recent albums. Like the f-word. In multiple songs now. One of the times I'm thankful that Scooter's auditory processing issues and lack of interest in our music means he's not paying attention to the words.

* * * *

Trillian's insisting I head to bed. Given that I woke up just after 5 this morning, I'm inclined to agree with her.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disordered sleep

I have had two sleep studies now in an attempt to get to the bottom of my "disordered sleep." From the first one, I found out that while I do not suffer from sleep apnea, I have an insane number of episodes of hypopnea, or periods of 10 seconds or more when my breathing becomes especially shallow or slow. I also woke up 12 times during the night for absolutely no discernible reason. (Though if they'd asked I would have explained that I start to ache anytime I'm in one position for too long and tend to wake a little whenever I have to move around.)

The second study was to try me on a BiPAP, which is a machine that creates positive airway pressure by blowing air down my throat. It's supposed to let up the pressure on the exhale. I managed to fall asleep with it on by meditating, but the second the nurse began to turn up the pressure (the goal was to adjust the level until my hypopnea frequency went way down) I woke up and had a panic attack. I tried to fall asleep again, but became very aware of the lag between when I would start to exhale and when the machine's pressure would let up. I spent the rest of the night sleeping without it.

At some point I will have to address the sleep issue and probably figure out a way to deal with the sleep mask, though I'll be trying some other methods first. Losing weight is always at the top of the list, though there's a good chance it won't be enough since I've had trouble sleeping since I was a kid.

Coinciding with my attempts to work on my own sleep issues, Scooter has experienced a bit of backsliding. Usually I'll talk about his sleep problems in the past tense, thinking of the years when he needed one of us with him to fall asleep and it would still take at least two hours. We did eventually get him to where he could fall asleep on his own, decently quickly too.

That's been eroding little by little, though we did not consider it all that significant since he still was falling asleep on his own. It took longer and frequently required several visits from one or both of us. But he was staying in his own room and mostly staying in bed.

Then we hit summer. As every child before him, he complains about going to bed before the sun goes down, but he still fell asleep not much after his usual time. We tolerated the sneaking out to his playroom to get "just one more thing."

And then he said he didn't want to sleep in his room anymore. The first night, he got into the Ikea tent he had set up in the playroom and said he would sleep there. He had brought a pillow and blanket. We figured it wouldn't last, given that the tent lay on a thin mat over hard tile. But he fell asleep quickly, even with us in the next room watching TV. This continued a few more nights, though I brought in floor cushions as a make-shift bed. We then successfully shifted the whole thing back to his room until he got tired of it.

At this point, he declared that he didn't like his bed anymore. Given that we don't possess any spare beds we could just haul out in the middle of the night, we worked with him to figure out what is so awful about his bed. Well... the pillow. I showed him our spare pillows and found one that would be acceptable if only it were blue. Pulled out a blue pillowcase. Then a blue sheet to serve as a blanket. The whole production.

So we've at least got him in his bed, which is acceptable again. But the sneaking out and general resistance to falling asleep in a timely manner continues. I fervently hope that the new school year will restore a sense of schedule--or at least tire him out enough that sleep comes quickly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reading for something other than my degree

My goal is to finish a draft of my paper, something that won't make my supervisor wonder why I've been allowed to continue in the program--sometime in the next week. This goal coincides with our last trip of the summer, a return to visit my sister (and my alma mater's library). And although I'll be trying to get some more research and academic reading done, I plan on treating myself by turning to some fun reading.

Now for the decision: which series to continue? I have four options and no clear winner right now. All of it's fluff reading, most of it is juvenile (as in, I will be heading to the children's section of our library). For all of these, I'd probably bring at least two books with me.

  1. This one wouldn't require a trip to the library, but I'm itching to re-read the entirety of Harry Potter. I just saw the 6th movie this week and usually would have already worked through at least the corresponding book, if not the entire series, but it didn't work out that way with this one.
  2. One of the trailers before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was for Percy Jones and the Lightning Thief. I read that book, borrowed from a friend in Toronto, shortly before leaving there. I have not picked up any of the others and had almost forgotten about the series. But it's an enjoyable read and almost on-topic for me, given the presence of the Olympian gods.
  3. Then again, there's a series I started fairly recently: Books of Ember. The first book was made into a movie, City of Ember, which Trillian and I saw via Netflix. The movie did not do particularly well, meaning that the remaining books will likely never become movies, but I was intrigued by the ideas and (as is usually the case) found the book even more compelling.
  4. Finally, I made it through the second book of the Twilight series a couple months ago. I'm not enamored of the series and have grown to dislike Edward and Bella even more, but I feel almost obligated to power through in case I experience a sudden conversion. (Interestingly, I was checking out an author blog at the time I was reading the second book and she made some reference to some book she'd been reading where she disliked most of the characters and thought the writing was not particularly good, yet she felt compelled to continue. She purposely didn't name names, but I'm convinced she was talking about this series.)
I suspect I know what the general consensus will be, but am still interested to see what people say.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A body at rest tends to stay at rest

I've lost momentum on my schoolwork. I try to be fair to myself. There's a lot going on here, extra stressors, oddly busy days popping up here and there, a bored 6-year-old to keep from destroying the house, heat that makes reading other languages a near impossibility. Some of those items are bigger than others, but the combination has made me that much slower to commit as much as a sentence to the screen in a day.

I will send a draft off to my supervisor soon. For better or worse. We'll see how it goes over with him.

What I'm least looking forward to is the likely pointed reminder that I would probably be making faster progress were I still a resident of Toronto.

That's somewhat debatable, even in its most simplistic form. While I would have better library resources at my disposal and a private carrel in which to sequester myself on occasion, being around the department would provide more distractions. (I have a couple friends in particular with whom I can chat for hours. Facebook, at least, spreads the conversation out.)

But I've also been thinking about this is grander terms, the likely trajectory certain aspects of my life might have taken had we stayed in Canada.

The first, one of our biggest motivators in moving back to the States, is Scooter's education. We had already held Scooter out of junior kindergarten because we expected to move and didn't want to create additional transitions for him. Maybe we would have decided differently if we'd known we were going to stay, but I'm not sure. We were still waiting on an evaluation and were not confident that he would have qualified for much in the way of services. For kindergarten, we would have been able to keep him at his old daycare for mornings and send him to a school near campus for afternoon kindergarten. And then for first grade, he would have to leave that school and go to the one near our condo. Too many transitions, too many different administrations to deal with.

Then there was the toll on our health. There was one solid year when at least one of us was sick. We thought for a while that Scooter had asthma; it turned out to be a persistent bronchial infection that took multiple medications and an inhaler to conquer. I found out this past year that I am horribly allergic to several types of mold, the likely culprit for my own respiratory problems. Trillian and I even posit that between the mold allergy and the gluten sensitivity, my immune system was working overtime and may have contributed to my miscarriages.

Not to mention the toll on our relationship. Trillian came closer to breaking up in Toronto than any other time in our now 16 1/2 years together. The above point played its part; we both felt physically off most of the time we were there. I felt responsible for dropping us into the whole situation, Trillian was carrying the financial burden of our family. Throw in trying to maintain finances across international borders, issues with the health system I've written about before, and the discovery that both of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder to some degree (holy hell, the winters there are long and gray, so very gray). Things have not been perfect for us here, far from it, but the tension between us has lessened considerably.

I feel pretty certain that had I stayed in Toronto, either with my family or in some long-distance arrangement, I would either have dropped out of the program (as too much for my son, my marriage, our finances) or ended up staying in Toronto alone (with Trillian and Scooter down here, another huge drain on our finances).

Not that I'll be saying all this to my supervisor the next time he makes his remark. I know he'll always think that this move was a bad idea in terms of my studies--and it's his job to focus on that. And I don't think I have the fortitude to suggest that as far as my priorities go, graduate school ranks lower than some other aspects of my life.

(Mostly unrelated, but brought to mind by the issue of priorities: due to a changing of the guard in my department, my committee is now comprised entirely of childless-by-choice professors. Two of them aren't even living with anybody. I'm not looking forward to my annual meeting.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

In the kitchen: Ice cream

If you're still cursing me for the discovery that chocolate truffles are ridiculously easy to make, so not go see what I've been doing in the kitchen. Seriously.

As for me, I'm off to serve myself a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Boy oh boy

Scooter is a boy.

So yeah, this is news to nobody, but it's become a fact he needs to assert frequently and in the strongest manner possible.

I know that this is all completely age-appropriate. He's defining himself in relation to the world around him and the labels that are most readily available. He's also learning social conventions via his peers.

I have to keep all of this in perspective. It can take a lot of self-monitoring and reminders.

It's a good thing that he's finally paying attention to people and how they differ. More than that, it's impressive he's picked it up without more explicit teaching since this is a typical weakness for people with Asperger's.

But sometimes it's a tiny little dagger in my feminist heart.

He has begun to loudly and insistently classify things--toys, movies, shows, games, books--as "for boys" and "for girls." He proclaims that he "hates" certain movies and characters he loved when he was younger.

I occasionally respond to his announcements with something like, "Anybody, boy or girl, can like that." Not because I expect it to make a difference in his present opinion, not because I'm trying to lecture him. Rather, I hope that when he gets past his current need to assert his gender so strongly, that idea might stick with him and he'll allow himself to like things simply because they appeal to him.

Oh, and to counter the vehement reinforcement of gender many of his classmates have picked up from their parents. Scooter went to one birthday party with a football theme. I suspect that this father heavily emphasizes "boy" activities since his son being gay would be about the worst thing he could imagine. (Should I anonymously pass along articles on gay professional athletes?) Another parent "punished" her son by sending him to school with Disney Princess fruit snacks, instead of the usual Spiderman ones. At the time, I told him that she probably ran out of the others and that they're the same basic fruit snacks anyway--later I found out, directly from the mother, that most of her children's stuff is gender-specific and that giving her son something "girly" is a mild form of punishment.

I wonder how these parents would/do respond to a fairly normal statement from boys at this stage. Scooter has declared recently that he does not want to marry a girl (seeing as they are conveyors of "girl stuff" and all). Sometimes he'll refuse kisses from Trillian and me since we're girls (though sometimes we can win them back by pointing out that they're "mommy kisses," which are a slightly different category). I don't expect this to be predictive of the dates he brings home in high school, but I also don't care how it plays out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baby talk

My brain coalesced long enough for me to remember a couple of the topics I had intended to stick into blog posts. And so I have picked the easiest one for tonight. (It's still very hot here, so deep thinking and organized writing requires a greater effort than I'm willing to expend right now.)

My sister, the one we went to visit last month, was the first family member I told about my second miscarriage. (And, if I remember correctly, remains one of only two extended family member's I have ever told.) She is, in fact, one of very few people with whom I will discuss child plans very frankly--outside of the vast internet, apparently. In return she is one of the few people I feel comfortable asking about her own child-spawning plans.

(All of this is a bit amusing to me, particularly since we're not super-close--certainly not like other siblings I know. And we have insanely different approaches when it comes to child-rearing, food, and some priorities. Sometimes it seems odd that we could have grown up in the same household. Compare the third sister with either one of us, and you end up with a similar dissonance.)

So of course we chatted some about our child plans in the time we had together. I had suspected that she was close to trying again; she recently, successfully quit smoking, and I knew that was one of her goals/starting points. She told me that she and her husband have decided that a 4-year gap between children was a good idea. I made note of her daughter's current age (3 years 1 month) and remarked that she was just about to hit that mark.

Turns out she's been waiting for the return of a regular cycle after going off her birth control. And, in fact, they were just about to that point.

We laughed about the different approaches we have to take in this whole baby-making endeavor. I talked about having the one shot per month--but still having a pretty good track record on getting pregnant. She has had good luck getting pregnant as soon as she sets her mind to it (it's in the genes; we are fertile women!), but she does a little math, marks off a few nights on the calendar, and her husband mans up.

We also laughed about the fact that we could end up with kids incredibly close in age, depending on the success each of us meets.

Here's to the hope of new cousins in the new year.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

My brains have melted

OK, it's not that hot here. Plus it's a dry heat, as the saying goes. But I had a whole mental list of things to write about, but I can't remember any of the topics now (except for one, but it would take too long to write and I'm almost ready for bed). So I'm blaming the heat. Which is compounded by the fact that we have only one portable air conditioner that we should probably move back to our bedroom since we can't shut off a small enough area with the living room to make it effective.

Really, I ought to write in the morning, since we seem to get a good block of hours before the sun really beats down. But that's when I'm staring at Word with its current facsimile of a paper that I really need to finish. I'm averaging a handful of sentences and/or a good footnote per day.

I just finished reading Stardust today. (The link is not to the exact edition I have. Mine includes the original illustrations by Charles Vess.) I was too hot to concentrate on my paper any more, so I finished the last three chapters. I'm looking forward to Gaiman's Graveyard Book and Coraline too, though I will not be starting another book until I send off a draft to my supervisor.

Last week, I received the results from my state's basic skills test for teacher certification. Back when I took it, I found it incredibly easy, leaving after just over two hours of the allotted four. My scaled score was at the very top of scale. And the breakdown of my subareas looked the same. So I think I can convince the state that I am intelligent enough to stand in front of a class.

Good thing I didn't have to prove that today.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Creating motivational opportunities

Anybody who saw my Facebook status yesterday read that I have been resorting to bribery lately. I thought it was funny that the friends who responded were all parents. Funny, and not at all surprising.

So there are two areas in which we've increased our motivational efforts.

The first is in potty training. Our recent system has been to reward with a sticker for no accidents during the day and one for pooping in the toilet (which continues to be a serious sticking point). We've decided to throw in a couple more opportunities for no accidents at night. So far, we haven't been able to convince him to get out of bed when the urge hits, so he still wears pull-ups at night.

(Our neighbor whose son reminds us so much of Scooter in terms of sensory and social issues told us that he didn't stop wearing pull-ups at night until age 8. I said to Trillian, "If we have our second child when Scooter's 8 and that child is similar, we could be dealing with diapers for 16 years--for only two kids.)

Every sticker covers one letter in the word "Dollar." 6 stickers, 1 dollar. And now we have a variety of Legos that he can "purchase" from us. Extra motivation.

The second area, a new one, is food. Scooter's never eaten a broad variety of foods, but all of the food groups were represented, so we didn't worry too much. Multi-vitamin to cover the gaps, and we went along just fine. Now, we're down mostly to carbs and dairy with occasional protein (from the dairy and a few choice meat products). Once upon a time, his pediatrician said not to worry about veggies since he was eating a variety of fruit. Besides 100% fruit juice (the only way he'll do oranges), he used to eat apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. We're down to the occasional apple slice now (and the little bit of zucchini I snuck into him via those cookies, though he refused those today--sigh).

In one of the many books I've read about dealing with sensory issues, the suggestion was made to pay the child for interactions with new foods. The demands start at the level of looking at and touching the food. Then sniffing and touching with one's tongue. They're supposed to be easier tasks, a slow introduction to the food.

With Scooter, he gets a quarter for each step, culminating with several bites and swallows. We've decided to allow him to earn the full amount for a new food as many as 5 times, in the hopes that he'll get to the point where he decides he likes it enough to eat on its own. So often, he'll try one bite of something, announce that it tastes good, but not want to have any more--maybe because of the novelty more than anything else? He's agreed to give peanut butter a go next. Seriously, the kid has never had a peanut butter sandwich.

This could all backfire. He may simply do these things as long as he gets a reward and then stop. I'm hoping we appeal to his sense of routine, however, and sneak in these new behaviors before he can think better of them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In the kitchen: Healthy(-ish) chocolate chip cookies

I did a little baking and just love this new (to me) chocolate chip cookie recipe! Even better... they're hiding some veggies and other nutrients. I'd feel guilty, but this is the only way we've been able to get vegetables past his lips.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In the kitchen: Celebrating

It was a good day, and so we had a special dinner, prepared on the grill. I'm headed out to put the cover back on, but be sure to head over there to see why we were celebrating.

An end in sight (maybe)

May was a difficult month for us. Trillian spent the entire month hoping to hear something, anything from her old employer or her hopeful future employer. Nothing. My substitute teaching brought in enough for utilities and food, but I was only able to work about half the time I'd hoped for. And then nothing more since the school year was over.

June has been a little better. Her old company has brought her back on for some hourly work. Not a lot--the big guy who saw fit to lay her off in the first place has been adamant about limiting her hours--but probably enough to pay the mortgage and almost our other basics. So at least we'll be pulling less out of our savings than last month.

July could see us back to something resembling normal. Her hopeful employer--after the end of their hiring freeze, advertising the position internally for a month, and now clearing her through all the layers of HR--is almost ready to bring her in on a temp-to-perm position. Apparently they've had a problem with turnover/incompetence in this area recently, so she'll have a 90-day probation and work through a staffing firm. But it's a full-time job, more in line with what she expected to be doing when she took this previous position and has room for advancement.

Of course, we're still waiting to see something in writing, so it's all about fingers crossed and frequent checking of email here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Home again

We just spent a fun, but very hectic, week visiting family. I intended to post several times, but tended to find myself chatting with my sister in the evenings, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes passing on advice (requested only, particularly about raising children without religion since her daughter's starting to get old enough to notice these things).

My niece is absolutely adorable, even when throwing a fit. She speaks in complete sentences and points her finger or stomps her feet for emphasis. Her parents are especially doomed since she is entirely cherubic in appearance, including soft blond curls.

It was the first time she was really able to play with Scooter in a manner he found (mostly) appropriate. There were incidents involving disappointment in the other's sharing ability (with my niece mumbling, "He just has to share," and shaking her head as she walked around the house one time--of course, her definition of sharing right now always involves somebody handing over what she wants and not usually vice versa). Scooter was also dismissive at times over the amount of "girl" stuff, particularly with anything involving princesses. This even extended to him turning down the female super heroes his uncle offered. (All the males made it home, however.)

I managed to get some work done too. A good thing since the initial impetus of planning this June trip was so I could get some time in a better-appointed library than the one in Big City. There's another university just a little bit closer that would have pretty much everything I would be able to get at UofT, but I wouldn't be able to visit with family or crash someplace for free while I worked there. This was a pretty good compromise.

The worst part, of course, was the drive. We spread it out over two days both ways, making each day manageable, but extending the experience. Lavish promises of swimming at the hotels and a trip to a Lego Store gave Scooter something to look forward to, but didn't stop my knee from aching or my back from going stiff.

At least this time, we had all the supplies we needed for the inevitable vomit incident. But only one and not nearly the mess it could have been. Anybody know where one can purchase those air-sickness bags?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Just don't call me a soccer mom

Currently in our garage is a 2004 Toyota Corolla. It's a workhorse of a car and has served us well. And it has helped us survive the bite of higher has prices, continuing to average upwards of 35 miles per gallon. Plus, there's the advantage of very few repairs outside of regular maintenance.

But a few road trips and adding a (large) dog to the family have illustrated its limitations. The trunk is surprisingly roomy for a compact family car, but when we're driving to visit the family we have in a reasonable radius (1 very long day or 2 easier days), the backseat becomes overloaded with a cooler and Scooter's diversions. Even for our shorter trips down to Capital City, the backseat's full once the dog's back there. He easily fills one-third of the backseat, a full two-thirds when he takes a nap.

Figure in the second child we'd like to have (or twins, as I tease Trillian) and...

We've decided that once Trillian is back to full-time work (which is now on the horizon) and we've had a few months to put some of our savings back in the bank, we'll be purchasing a mini-van, probably a Toyota Sienna.

I'm hoping my cousin forgets that time I swore up and down that I would never own a mini-van, despite her protestations of how convenient it was.

Trillian came around to this idea a lot faster than I did. And I quickly admitted that for all the situations we would need to cover on a regular basis, we probably need a vehicle with 3 rows (which the dog has made even more of a reality). For a while, I was pushing for a Highlander Hybrid. An SUV, yes, but a hybrid. Once I did a little research, however, I discovered two facts that made it hard to justify over a minivan. (1) The Highlander's highway mileage is no better than the Sienna's, and our city mileage, where there is a noticeable difference, would be minimal; (2) There's a $15,000 price difference.

So sometime in the next year or two, I will be behind the wheel of a minivan. Sometimes. The Corolla will still be the car of choice for solo trips or with a single kid. If I get the job at the Small Liberal Arts College in Capital City, it will be my commuting car until we've paid off the minivan--at which point I'll be looking at the small- to medium-sized hybrids so I can offset the minivan even more.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

(Not at all) Wordless Wednesday: Hope

I was surprised to find only the one set of moving stickers on the pieces of the crib. This had been its third move with us, though I suppose Scooter had used it as a toddler bed for a couple of those moves. But the crib has accompanied us so many times not because it was our only option for Scooter, but because the plan all along had been for babay #2 to use it--and it's a nice crib, a gift from Trillian's parents on the Christmas Eve before Scooter was born. It's been in pieces, leaned up against the wall in our bedroom*, collecting dust bunnies. That's why Trillian wanted it assembled, so that we could get at the dust a little more easily.

I got to it just a couple weeks ago, on the eve of another visit to the fertility doctor. Not because I expect we will have immediate need of it, but because it serves as a tangible reminder of our goal. Next to it is Scooter's old changing table.

Right now, both the crib and the changing table are serving primarily as a laundry sorting facility, as evidenced in the picture. And Trillian feels pretty strongly about replacing the mattress for a new baby. But the simply seeing the crib standing there on a daily basis is a positive reminder of what we hope is to come.

On the other hand, there is a dresser we still need to move from Scooter's closet, filled with a selection of baby clothes. It will stay there until I'm relying on more than hope that a baby will be joining us. Then you can bet I'll be combing through the many containers of clothing we have in the third bedroom, picking out the tiniest of outfits and organizing them just so.

* For Bea and the other paint chip enthusiasts: our walls are Victorian Gold. It's actually a warm, medium brown. It's the first color we ever picked out for a place where we would live (though we did pick a cheery yellow for our first house shortly before we moved out), and we both love it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The radical act of being ourselves

In the last couple weeks of school, Scooter's class reviewed the months and made a calendar. Each month was associated with a specific event or holiday. And so every time a month is mentioned, he pipes up with that month's special day.

We were driving along the other day, talking about how close June--and his summer vacation--was.

"Father's Day is in June," he remarked. Then some amusement crept into his voice, "And I don't even have a dad!"

We brought up the fact that we can celebrate Father's Day with his grandfather. This appeased him and the conversation moved back to summer vacation and his intention to emulate Phineas and Ferb.

We've long been prepared for questions, difficult questions, from Scooter about our family and how he came to be. Yet he's only once or twice asked why he doesn't have a father. He was younger then and easily satisfied with the explanation that families can look different and his family has two moms.

We haven't gone far into the "where do babies come from" discussion either. He still subscribes to the belief that babies come from "the baby store" (not sure where that came from, though I think it's his self-manufactured explanation). I've brought up at least some correction each time this arises, though the furthest any conversation has gone ended with him exclaiming, "You ate me?!" That was on the way to school and his voice carries, so I decided to table further discussion until later. I recently tried to explain the idea of a uterus/womb to him. He wasn't interested in continuing the conversation, so that's where we've left it.

This attitude, this non-need to question the way his life is, continues, I suspect, as a result of his likely-Asperger's. It's hard for him to take a worldview other than his own, so he doesn't even think to wonder about its differences from others around him.

His classmates, on the other hand, have been quite interested in the idea that Scooter has two mommies. It's one of those things that came up on occasion throughout the year. As Trillian took more turns dropping Scooter off at school and picking him up, even going in for one of my volunteer hours when I was substitute teaching, the questions increased.

"He really has two moms and no dad?"

"How can he have two moms?"

"Wait, so you're his mom and you're his mom too?" (said on those occasions when we'd both go up)

"Why does he call you that?" (referring to the non-standard name he calls me)

My answers are simple, variations on "that's just what our family looks like" and "all families look different." (And, on that last one, "It's just what he decided to call me. There are a lot of different words that can mean 'mother' and this is his word for me.")

So many of the students in Scooter's class live with their biological mothers and fathers; only a couple have divorced parents. All of them have at least one other sibling (seriously, Scooter was the only only-child in his class). And so our family interests them, challenges their definition of family, usually the first any of them have dealt with outside of their expectations.

We'll have some new classmates to introduce to this concept next year. Though I'll be interested to see how many of this past year's classmates try to explain it to them and just what exactly they say.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A pre-Blogging for LGBT Families Day rant

Somehow, tomorrow is June 1st. Which means that it's another "Blogging for LGBT Families Day."

(Quick aside: Can anyone tell me where I put in an application for a moratorium on the passage of time? Just until I can finish the reading I've supposedly been doing for my comps. Or at least for the equivalent of a month or so.)

I'll be posting what I hope will be a more coherent post tomorrow, but wanted to throw out a few of the thoughts that passed through my head as I was pondering on my planned topic.

Trillian and I do not face a lot of obvious discrimination, or even dislike for our "alternative lifestyle," in our daily life. I think that a lot of this occurs because of the way we present ourselves. Matter of fact, not asking for others' opinions on who we are. Having a kid can make this a little easier too, since other parents can certainly identify with the priority our son is.

But... I can feel pretty certain that there are at least two sets of neighbors who strongly believe that our family set-up is wrong. They both belong to a church that says this in their doctrine, and it's not a church most people would attend if they disagreed--there are plenty of other churches for those people. Yet our neighborly interactions are perfectly pleasant, and Scooter regularly plays with the one kid who's close to him in age (at his house or ours, whichever is most convenient for the time).

Hate the sin, love the sinner and all that, I guess. Though I do often wonder what they really think.

There's the standard assertion that coming out, being truthful about who we are, helps fight homophobia. How could someone who knows and respects, maybe loves, somebody who's gay continue to think bad things about homosexuals?

Except that Trillian and I have first-hand experience of the fact that this is not always the case. We recently found out that one of Trillian's aunts and uncles, who happen to belong to the same denomination as our neighbors, signed a petition in order to bring an anti-gay referendum to vote in their state. Not just that they voted for it, but that they played a role in its creation. This was not even "just" a same-sex marriage issue, but one that specifically addressed the rights of gays and lesbians regarding custody of children.

They know Scooter. They send him gifts. They say complimentary things about him. And they don't think our family should exist. Their church told them to sign the petition, told them this legislation is necessary, and they didn't--not even for a second--make the connection to their own niece.

All the numbers show that the vast majority of those who oppose same-sex marriage and the other rights that have been coming up for a vote (and I won't even get started on the issue of voting on people's rights) are demographically concentrated among older voters. For most, as in a majority, of the younger demographics, this is simply not an issue for which they consider debate necessary. And yes this will sound crass, but they will grow up, the older voters will die, and there will be a shift.

Not that it will free us from these uncertain and uncomfortable moments, as there will always be individuals who feel as our relatives do, but I will be much happier when they are undeniably in the minority.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Compare and contrast: perfectionism edition

Since I was in the classroom today anyway, Scooter's teacher gave me a preview of his standardized test scores. In both math and reading, he's above the district average (which is above the national average), though the math was just barely ahead. As the teacher told me, Scooter completed that test in 8 minutes. "Of course," he retorted, "I'd rather have a student finish in 8 minutes and still meet benchmark than finish it in 5 minutes and miss them all--as one of mine did."

Then during Scooter's rotation to my center, he quickly finished the phonetics worksheet. I told him that he could color it; much of the classroom is packed up or not in its usual place, making it difficult to find even blank paper, so it was easiest to have them color in the various pictures. He said he didn't want to. "Then you can sit there," I suggested (which doesn't come across well on the screen, but this was a playful exchange). "OK" was his reply.

I turned to the teacher's assistant and opined, "He's like me in so very many ways, but I had a real desire to please authority and he's fine just doing his own thing." Turns out this is not uncommon--in art class, for example, he's happy to sit and do nothing when he finishes the day's project instead of starting a new one, as is usually suggested. On the plus side--at least he's not being disruptive.

Except when it leads to the two of us butting heads, I actually love that he has this security in who he is and is willing to assert himself. Even more, I'm happy that he has not fallen completely prey to the pervasive perfectionism I have had to consciously wean myself from. This is not to say that he doesn't have moments when he obsesses over getting things just right, but it is also true that he has brought home many an incomplete or incorrect math worksheet because he got bored and there was something more exciting to attend to.

(I, on the other hand, can still remember the one mistake I made in our math workbook in kindergarten. Seriously. I can still picture the worksheet.)

We will need to monitor this to make sure that he learns to focus on required work even when it doesn't particularly interest him. Maybe I'll be singing a different tune then. But for the time being, I'm very happy he doesn't share this particular characteristic with me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A month

As I've said before, everything seems to be moving slower in this economy. It's been slightly more than a month since Trillian received notice about being laid off, slightly less than a month since she went off payroll.

I've been subbing when I can for most of that time. I managed one solid week, which was exhausting but not too bad. And then I had a week where I could only get one assignment. On the plus side, I'm making enough to pay for our utilities and food for a month--and I've gotten in good enough with one of the secretaries at the high school that she was telling me about part-time openings for next year.

We've spent most of this past month waiting to see if the big firm her friend works for would make an exception to their hiring freeze for her or be willing to hire her once the hiring freeze was lifted. Technically, her friend's business unit received approval for the position before the freeze expired, but the bureaucracy and paper pushing means that they haven't really moved forward in filling it. Frequent reassurances that they will hire her soon. Unfortunately, corporate soon is a bit different than our soon.

In the meantime, her previous company has made overtures about hiring her on an hourly basis for 1 1/2 to 2 days per week. At the hourly rate Trillian is requesting (or even a couple bucks less), we could cover 60-75% of our monthly expenses; if she could get more like 2 1/2 days, our withdrawals from the emergency fund would be negligible. Her previous supervisor wants her full-time, of course--Trillian had been scheduled for more than 40 hours per week at the time she was laid off and everybody else on her team is fully booked, so the work just hasn't been getting done. This remains hypothetical, as the work has not actually been approved yet.

More waiting. Always more waiting.

Trillian is giving either position one more week to materialize. Then she's going to start looking at companies in the metro area where we used to live, staying with family or friends in that area.

I remain fairly optimistic. I'm not always sure why, but I keep finding myself thinking, "Soon enough."

In the meantime, we're getting to the end of school for Scooter (and me), taking advantage of the free movie tickets we get with credit card points, looking forward to the local pool's opening (and a warm enough day), and making good use of what we already have.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Requisite parental bragging

Kindergarten is almost over for Scooter. Mostly I try not to think about that--that and how he's now 6 and will be starting a numbered grade in less than three weeks.

But really it's been a good year. He has learned so much. Not just the academic subjects, which he really has devoured, but his social improvements have also been impressive.

I watched him in gymnastics and marveled at how he easily accepts not being first in line and is not interrupting quite as much (still plenty of work to do there).

We went to his class play where he waited his turn and delivered his line loudly and without hesitation.

I attended an autism workshop and ran into some people from the district there. They invited me to lunch with them, and so I tagged along. As part of the introduction the two people who have met Scooter gave to the rest of the table, they beamed and pronounced me the mother of "a most delightful boy." One of them, his occupational therapist, and I chatted on the way back to the workshop, about Asperger's in general and a little about Scooter. She doesn't know that he'll end up qualifying for a diagnosis, but made it clear that they would make sure he received services as long as they could qualify him under any category. She thinks the school as a whole, not just the extra services, are a good fit for him and that he very well could improve to the point that he'll be fine on his own.

And then my mother-in-law reported to me a conversation she had with the teacher's assistant. They had gotten to the topic of first-grade preparedness. And the assistant mentioned that Scooter is definitely ready, at the top of the class academically. To which his grandmother, who has volunteered in the classroom and knows the kids pretty well, responded that there were probably a good number of kids in the class who were in a similar boat. Only two or three really, and Scooter's ahead of them.

Trillian and I have long said that our main reason for sending Scooter to school is to work on his social education, that we wouldn't care if he hadn't improved at all academically. (Mostly because we knew that the reading and all that would come along naturally without too much prodding. As it did.) But it doesn't mean that I don't absolutely light up with pride over this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Punting again

I've written a number of posts in my head, just haven't gotten to the keyboard when they're fresh. Several posts about autism, more on the economy and the torture that is uncertainty, balancing between prudence and deprivation, the mixed feelings of usefulness and futility engendered by a substitute's rate of pay (better than minimum wage, but barely a drop in the bucket, especially when no jobs come up for several days), the mix of exhilaration and anxiety brought about by moving forward with our attempts at child #2 before Trillian has secured a new job, the fact that Trillian tentatively, maybe has a job in the pipeline but it's moving at a corporate pace (see uncertainty above), the affirmation in hearing school professionals describe Scooter as "utterly delightful" and clearly mean it, my thoughts on the series I watch that have been renewed or canceled (because you all care about my opinion on that). And maybe a few recipes thrown in.


The wind picked up as I walked the dog tonight. Far, far off lightning flashed, diffused by the clouds that were obscuring the stars for once. The thermometer said it was still warm, and I certainly was fine in a t-shirt, but there was a delicious chill in the breezes that passed over my face.

I really do love this place. The ease of finding solitude while never being far from people and always feeling safe. All I have to do to enjoy some nature is step out my front door--if that's not enough escape, I can bail off on any of the nearby trails, including the one that starts one house over.

Certainly this place is not perfect, and some of the specifics will come out as I write about some of the aforementioned topics. But there's a lot to be said for a place where a daily walk counts as a moment of meditation.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Longer posts on actual topics coming soon, but...

Skimming some comments on an article I was reading, someone remarked that one aspect was 'ludacris.' Really?! We're now learning our spelling from rappers?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For me

For my birthday, the only thing I could come up with was a footbath. I've had to put off bunion surgery--indefinitely now, given the job situation and my soon-to-occur attempts to get pregnant. But my feet have been killing me, so I'm trying just about anything I can. My dance teacher suggested the footbath, and I found a decently priced model over at Amazon.

But I didn't get the information passed along in near enough time. And then when Trillian mentioned it to her parents, it turned out that her mother has had one in the garage that she doesn't use anymore, same brand as the one I wanted, same basic features, shy only one non-important frill. So she brought it by for me to try, saying I could either keep that one or at least use it to decide if I wanted a different one.

Then as my birthday present, they got me a gift certificate to Amazon. I'm supposed to use it on something I really want.

Except I find that very hard to do. Not that I don't have some frivolous desires, but I do tend to make myself justify most of my purchases.

If I had received the gift certificate a few days ago, I would have used the money for the gluten-free items we purchase in bulk from Amazon (case discount, plus free shipping). As it is right now, I have two academic books sitting in my cart. One of them I definitely want on my reference shelf. The other I could probably get from the library, but it's very much in my field and will end up in my personal library some day. They would be the responsible purchase.

I don't have any well-formed idea of what else I might consider. Other equally practical items for other areas of my life, maybe. But even those aren't exactly leaping to mind.

Of course, I could just sit on it for a while and wait until Battlestar Galactica's final season and Pushing Daisies are on DVD...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Reviewing 9th grade genetics

I was a biology geek anyway and enjoyed pretty much everything we did. Including dissections. (We had lunch right after that period, and while my friends would be pushing their food around their trays, not particularly hungry after what we'd just done, I'd be saying, "You gonna eat that?")

But one of my favorite units was genetics. Some of it was the sense of wonder--microscopic strands of nucleotides dance into position, resulting in a whole human being. More than anything, however, I loved the Punnett squares. All the wonder in a handy logic-puzzle format. I could calculate my chances of having a blue-eyed child with my crush at the time. (50%. Same as with the donor we've been using.) And then I could expand the square to account for more than one genetic trait.

Of course, genetics is not as cut and dried as all that. There are times when there's a step between dominant and recessive. (Exhibit A: My hazel eyes, the result of a brown-eyed and a blue-eyed parent.) And then there's sex linkage, where a gene appears only on the X-chromosome. A benign example of this is the calico and tortoiseshell patterns in cats. The gene for color is on the X-chromosome, and any tri-color pattern requires two color genes. Since males only have one X-chromosome, they will have two colors max (or be a sterile XXY male). This is also what's at work with hemophilia and color blindness.

Which brings me to the catalyst for this reminiscence.

In the past year or so, in the midst of all the tests administered to Scooter in preparation for school and general evaluation, there's been a bit of an asterisk to some of his vision testing. Various medical practitioners have pulled out the standard color-blindness testing book (the Ishihara color test, apparently) and had Scooter take a crack. Before all this, doctors either didn't try the test or didn't expect him to be able to read the numbers due to his age. But there have been honest attempts recently. The last two had the professionals shrugging and saying, "He's not totally colorblind, but he may not be seeing this correctly either. Let's try again in a bit." Scooter would read the first couple right and then got less certain. When he was asked to trace what he saw, he'd go over part of the number and then trail off. We couldn't decide if he really couldn't see or if he was just being non-cooperative.

Scooter's most recent eye exam has confirmed that he definitely cannot see all shades of color. He seems to have the most trouble with lighter shades of green and red. If you check out the linked color test, he would probably see a 71 (or a 21, as mentioned in the caption). He can see a difference in red and green, but I have no idea what they actually look like to him.

So I was interested in tracking down the genetics of this. There was no color blindness in the donor's profile--and that's more complete than my own medical history. And I wasn't aware of any color blindness in my generation or the one above me.

I remembered to mention this to my mother in one conversation. It may not have been until our next one that she was able to vaguely recall her uncle having some form of color blindness.

And so I was able to recreate this gene's path:
  • My mother's maternal uncle is color-blind. His sister, her own mother, is a carrier.
  • This gene misses her one boy-child, but is passed on at least to one of her girl-children. My mother is a carrier.
  • My mother only has girl-children and passes it along to at least one. I am a carrier.
  • I have a boy-child and am therefore responsible for his only X-chromosome. By the luck of the draw, the one he got includes the color-blindness gene.
It's a three-generation gap in expression, but it makes perfect sense, in a way I learned to figure on paper more than 20 years ago.

(And I've been told kids remember nothing from junior high.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Things that could be posts unto themselves, but that would require sustained thought

Into my second week of subbing, and I have a nearly full schedule. Diving back into teaching like this is exhausting, particularly since I have yet to go a day without some completely unexpected event. Short version: fire drill, locked out of a classroom, speaker didn't show up. Here's hoping tomorrow goes without bumps.

But I haven't posted here for a bit, so I thought I'd treat you to my fleeting thoughts:
  • I've been dealing with a lot of migraines lately. It had been years--as in, since before Scooter's birth. Most of these, as I now suspect earlier ones had been, are hormone-related. There's not much I can take that gets rid of them. And since I'm taking a daily aspirin, I've had to lay off the ibuprofen, which would take the edge off.
  • The daily aspirin is in preparation for a new round of trying to get pregnant. It's probably unnecessary, but I had some borderline blood results that make it not a bad idea.
  • Besides the migraines, I've been experiencing other hormone-related pains and discomfort, also reminiscent of before my first pregnancy. I'm trying to view this as a positive--maybe my body is finally ready to support another pregnancy.
  • I started the second book of the Twilight series. And am finding it very easy to put down.
  • It has been proven to me, yet again, that I just shouldn't doubt any of the facts Scooter quotes me about the solar system. He has long insisted that Venus is the hottest planet. I couldn't believe this is the case since Mercury is closer to the sun--and then I looked at a couple of the books he checked out from the library and found out that Venus is indeed warmer than Mercury.
  • I owe my supervisor an email. And an explanation of why I decided not to submit paper proposals to two different conferences.
  • I'm not on Twitter and have no real interest in it. I already have to deal with information overload with blogs and Facebook. I think Twitter would push me over that line.
  • I'm making truffles tonight. My excuse is that my birthday's coming up, but does one really need an excuse for chocolate?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

(insert witty sub pun here)

Reasons for an Aspie not to be a substitute teacher:
  • The job, by its very nature, is not at all consistent. There is little opportunity to develop a routine. Each day is new classes, new students, new schedule, new room, maybe even new school.
  • It can be unsettling to be the official teacher for a subject she does not know well, creating some anxiety over not looking less than intelligent.
  • It requires a lot of interaction with a whole host of people she does not know. Lots of small talk and processing new information quickly.
Reasons an Aspie (with previous, successful teaching experience) might be a pretty good sub:
  • Previous practice has given her confidence in her ability to maintain acceptable order in nearly any classroom.
  • She will already have a number of scripts to handle varying situations, both for conversations with people and for handling information outside her areas of specialty.
  • Her attention to detail and need to get things right means that lesson plans will be followed closely.
  • This also translates to a conscientiousness that means she'll do more than read a book and ignore all but the loudest outbursts. She will most definitely not lose concentration long enough that some students sneak out (as happened to a different sub on the day she was at the school for an observation).
Guess what I'm doing to make a little money!

I am the newest addition to the substitute roster for Springfield Public Schools. It was much easier than the application made it out to be. And they're definitely happy to have someone who is more than just a warm body.

Two of my classes today met in the school library to work on their research papers. The head librarian admitted to me that he usually dislikes it when a teacher sends their students to the library with a sub. But he also made a point of telling me that my previous experience as a teacher was quite obvious and that I had handled the students very well. Not that the students were all that troublesome--it was mostly an issue of keeping them from talking too loudly and gently nudging them back on task. The librarian was actually disappointed to hear that I wouldn't be the teacher's sub for the remaining days he'll be out.

It has been nice for me to find a way to earn something to stretch our savings for the time being, especially since subbing pays better than the minimum-wage jobs I would otherwise be after. I've also missed being in the classroom, so this is a way to sate that.

But boy do my feet and hips ache from a day on my feet!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guess what I'm still thinking about

I have moments when I panic, when I run the numbers and worry about how long our savings will really last (mostly when I open bills like the one we just got for my life insurance--it's figured into our budget at a monthly level, but I'd forgotten it would come due in one lump sum, right at the beginning of all of this).

But most of the time I'm optimistic. Something will come through for Trillian soon. Not quite as soon as I'd like--that would be yesterday--but all signs point to enough work, through one or more sources, coming her way in the next month or so.

And the local school district has already jumped on my substitute application, so I may be able to make it through the rest of their process in time to get around a month's worth of work before summer break begins.

I've also been able to keep the humorous side of things in view. Maybe it's immature or small of me, but the fact that the company has handled so poorly pleases me (in a schadenfreude sort of way, except that the event is not separate from our own suffering).

Turns out that the decision to let go of Trillian came from very high up, based entirely on numbers, and not discussed with anyone who actually knows her work. Her immediate supervisor, who is just below the apex of the management pyramid, did not know until afterwards. In fact the supervisor sent Trillian an email in an everyday tone, asking about an aspect of their current project. Trillian, a bit confused, mentioned that she was not working on anything, given the whole lay-off thing. Which was the first her supervisor had heard of it.

Not that it gets Trillian her job back (though contract work or even getting the job back are looking more and more likely), but I do take some perverse pleasure in the damage the big guy has done to morale. Her supervisor is completely frustrated that he has no sense of the knowledge base she has--or the fact that they literally cannot replace it with a single person. And even if Trillian does get some work back with this company, he's made it that much easier for people to understand why she might want to leave if another offer comes along.

Another glint of silver lining is that Trillian has had a lot of former co-workers write glowing references for her. The unanimous opinion among her most recent co-workers and the friend who has been trying to get her a job with her own company has been "I really want you to be working with me, but the most important thing is to make sure your family is OK, so I'll help you get a job anywhere I can." It's not the circumstances one hopes for to discover how much one's work is appreciated, but it counts for a little something.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad news

As Scooter and I walked home from school one day last week, he gave me his bad news for the day. A friend had gone to a doctor's appointment and missed recess playtime with him, his made-up superhero had needed to run from equally made-up bad guys, and--my favorite--some kid had brought a frisbee from home and then thrown it into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a passing vehicle.

There was a sense of comfort in hearing the bad news from a six-year-old's day, especially in contrast to the very big bad news his parents have been dealing with. Trillian has been laid off. Quite unexpectedly, with absolutely no warning, not all that long after we'd convinced ourselves that her job was secure (there's already been a round of layoffs, her team had enough work to keep everyone scheduled at 50+ hours per week, and they're expecting to enter an even busier period soon).

Her company has handled this in a very ham-fisted manner. The person who spoke to her on the phone gave her some misleading information (and said more than he should have--if we wanted to sue for wrongful termination, he gave us enough ammo); she wasn't clearly told until the next day that the lay off was immediate and that keeping her on payroll until the end of the month is the sum total of her severance package. They may or may not be able to throw some hourly work her way, but it's not clear who will be making that decision. And it sounds like they won't be able to get COBRA information to her until sometime in May, after their payment of her coverage ends. The COBRA benefits will be retroactive to the beginning of May, but the sticky point is that I may or may not be covered by them--since Trillian and I are not married in the eyes of the federal government, this is a gray area. So the longer they sit on the information, the more likely it becomes that I will be without insurance for at least a couple weeks.

The silver lining, I suppose, is that Trillian detested this job. She had been brought on with the promise of a mix of the work she'd done before and the opportunity to expand her skill set. Instead, she was stuck with a bunch of editing work that nobody else wanted to do and which was really many steps back for her.

She's been working on some of her contacts for a couple months now. The plan had been to stay put until something definite was in place. Her best lead is with a large company where a former co-worker and friend has been dying to bring her on. Of course, that company put in a hiring freeze just as her boss wanted to hire Trillian. So now we're waiting to see what comes of this. The current bad news/good news is that the person who would need to sign an exception to the hiring freeze has not made any moves, but the hiring freeze is expected to end in mid-May. We're hopeful that even if we have to wait a month, things move smoothly after that.

In the meantime, we have our emergency savings. It hurts to dive into it, but this is exactly the situation for it. We've got 5 months at our current spending levels, more as we cut expenses and I attempt to pick up some tutoring, maybe substitute teaching and childcare too. Trillian already cut our costs on a couple extras, without us having to sacrifice much at this point.

The experience of even these few days has shown me how hard it will be for the economy to reach its previous state. For a few months, we'd cut back on our spending, suffering from the psychological fear brought on by all the news coverage. Just recently, having been reassured that Trillian's job wasn't going anywhere, we were spending a little more. Not tons, not lavishly, not cutting out savings, but allowing ourselves the occasional treat, continuing our Starbucks habit, planning vacations. All of that, just to get bitten on the ass. Now you can be sure that even if Trillian manages to get another job before we've been without a full income for a month, we'll be socking it away like mad, less inclined than before to spend on the extras.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reaching for the life preserver

I've been meaning to write the funny version of Scooter's recent arguments and obstinance. Trillian and I (and several others) have been laughing.

But the flip side is that things have been really hard the past few days. It doesn't seem to be any one thing that has set Scooter on edge, but the accumulation of all the little events have led to exhaustion and tears and yelling.

Scooter came out of his birthday celebrations and Spring Break not wanting to return to kindergarten. The funny bit is that he had this all worked out logically and had decided he would just stay home until 1st grade starts in August.

I ended up driving him to school that morning, as he was dragging his feet (and yelling about not going, etc). He did get into the car under his own power once he realized that Trillian and I were 100% not backing down. So he quit talking instead. It didn't last long, I'm told, but I left his classroom half expecting a call sometime during the day.

Since then, he's had numerous accidents at school. I could write a whole post on the fact that we're here at 6 and still no end in sight to toilet training. With the school connection, I am most concerned about any social stigma that may follow him.

There are other little things at school that suggest he's been thrown off kilter, though he's mostly holding together. But then he gets home and has meltdown after meltdown and generally communicates by yelling. Little decisions, like what he wants to eat, are too much, but if we offer concrete suggestions, he rejects them all.

He cops to being "a little grumpy"--and yells at me if I leave off the qualifier or suggest "very" in its place. But he says he doesn't know why. And I'm inclined to believe he really doesn't. I have memories of elementary school and bursting into tears without being able to explain why, just knowing that I felt off, but unable to figure out the one or many causes.

Right now I'm holding onto the hope that is the support team we have through our school. Not only is his OT on the district's autism team, but the child psychologist who is assigned to his school part-time is the lead of that team. And the school's special education coordinator, while not to my knowledge part of that team, is both his SLP and the go-to person in the district for social stories. Even without an official diagnosis, even without a major crisis at school, they're on the case.

I think that I had expected another layer of bureaucracy between parents and the autism team. Not that I thought they would be aloof or unresponsive, just that we wouldn't have the direct line we seem to have obtained. Technically, the psychologist isn't even on Scooter's team. She was brought in for one meeting when we went over the autism evaluation, but was not initially included in the list for his annual IEP meeting. She had, however, offered to meet with us to go over more details of the report and then expressed an interest in attending the meeting. We've since emailed or spoken with her on occasion for advice in specific situations, and she's always been quick to respond, even to call us or seek me out when I'm scheduled to be at school.

On the flip side of all this, I recognize that some part of my anxiety comes from the confirmation that this is where Scooter needs to be now, probably through elementary school at the least... paired with the fact that employment may be hard to come by for me within an hour's drive. I've started to put together applications for substitute teaching and a teacher certification program so that I can have a foot in the public schools here, plus I'll be keeping my application active at the small liberal arts college in Capital City and crossing my fingers that the local branch of the state university decides they can use me after all (although their adjunct pay is beyond crap).

Now to bed so that I can try to find some bit of energy for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The twins

One of the indignities of the two miscarriages is that my breasts managed to grow in the short time I was pregnant--and then stayed there. To some people, this would be a positive, but here's a point of reference: I'm just now back to my old size and it required losing fifteen pounds overall... and my current size is a D-cup.

This is not a post on insecurities about body image. I have plenty of that, but not connected with my rack. I actually think I have a nice rack. (Topic #1 for those of you who've met me: Yay or Nay?)

Anyway, my style of dressing is not particularly revealing, but it does tend to accent my assets. Though to be fair, it would take more effort and consideration to hide them.

Here's my current dilemma. I have a tutoring student, a male teen. And while our sessions do include a good amount of productive explanation and drilling, I'm pretty sure his eyes wander every time we're not focused on a specific line of text. Even when I'm wearing a non-descript t-shirt.

Either I don't usually attract this sort of attention or I'm just less attuned to adults who may be a bit more subtle in their gaze, but this is new to me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Going into the opening reception for my conference, I was already exhausted, having left our house very early in the morning, met with an old teaching colleague, and then braved a major shopping area to do some shopping at Ikea and the Lego Store (first one was a necessity since we've been missing one caster we need to raise our TV cabinet, second was inevitable since it provided plenty of options for the 'surprise' Scooter expects).

I told Trillian that I would aim to stay for the first half of the two-hour reception. Since I'm staying a ways outside the city (for free!), I didn't want to push past my limits.

At the outset, I came upon someone I had met at a small conference last fall while getting some antipasti. We chatted a little, then she excused herself to get some more food--she'd been traveling all day. I sat down at one of the tables to eat my cheese and olives, trying to see if there was anyone else I knew--the program had not been very promising in that respect. The woman I had already spoken with joined me, and we talked for a good 30 minutes. At first about kids and being in safe, small towns. And then a really excellent conversation on an area of overlap in our interests, one that spoke directly to some issues I will have to tackle for my last paper before I start my dissertation (and will bleed into that as well).

During all of this, I saw a woman at a not-too-distant table who looked very familiar. I was tempted to go up and introduce myself, tell her I thought I knew her. And I was going to do this after my previous conversation ended, until I got a new perspective on the table. I saw the older woman sitting next to her and a man across the table, and the new context gave me the answer immediately: these were all people from University of 2nd-PhD-program-I-dropped-out-of. The older woman was a professor I'd had, and suddenly I didn't want to go up and introduce myself.

"Hey, remember me? You know, the one who spent a whole semester in your department before deciding she'd rather go do just about anything than stay?"

So I checked my watch, decided 50 minutes was close enough to an hour, and headed to the bathroom, conveniently located across from the elevators to parking.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Now we are six

My son is now 6. Undeniably, irrevocably six.

He had decided that he would not actually be six until his birthday party. And when his friends had left, he announced that he was pretty sure he was bigger and that he was definitely a big kid now. The cuteness, it may kill me!

I had convinced myself that we had until the hour of his birth--and then I realized that it would come earlier here, due to being in a different time zone from that of his birth.

He is a big boy now. He has grown at least two inches in the past four months. He is reading at least a grade level above. He's teaching me all sorts of facts about space. (I was flipping through a book he got at his party and discovered that there really is a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. I had been under the impression that all dwarf planets were out in the Kuiper Belt with Pluto.) He didn't flinch at having ten other kids running around and touching his stuff for two hours. He remembered what I told him about opening presents politely.

And the truth is that I'm not really sad that he's growing up, just a little nostalgic. But mostly proud.

Happy Birthday, Scooter!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

March Madness

  1. Go Alma Mater!
  2. It's snowing. To the extent that we will need to check tomorrow morning for a snow day. And even if it warms up for Scooter's party, it will probably be too muddy to send the kids outside. At least 10 kids inside for 2 hours!
  3. Scooter turns 6 very soon. Getting ready for his party has served as a major distraction to the fact that he is not such a little boy anymore.
  4. Most of the parent bloggers I read are people I personally know. (Hi, Toronto moms!) But I've been reading Amalah for several years now, from even before the move up north. Her older son has definite sensory processing issues, and so I can identify with a lot she's going through. Being the opinionated person I am, I also have a strong reaction to many of the comments over there. The worst are of the category of an early one from yesterday (see previous link), where the commenter basically said Amalah was causing these issues because of her anxiety. Definitely the mark of someone who has just no idea--and is a jack-ass. But I also get frustrated with the commenters who give anecdotes about the child they knew who had all sorts of problems and is now perfectly fine. Trillian and I made the decision early on that we would pursue those therapies that were suggested, available, and non-invasive. Although we have no way of knowing for sure, both of us feel confident that OT, in particular, has made a huge difference for him.
  5. Which reminds me of a conversation Lisa b and I had some time ago about OT. Both of us are so scientifically minded and have been faced with putting kids into OT without knowing if it would help or if improvement would come on its own. We joked about having identical twins with the same developmental delays and then being able to put one into OT and let the other one alone. (For those who don't know me--this is my brand of science-geek humor. I would never actually do that.)
  6. So I was moving forward on this foot-surgery thing. Even went so far as to get a second opinion (which matched the first one almost identically). Then I looked more closely at my insurance plan. They have a very specific paragraph on foot surgery, including a dollar limit on what they'll pay in a year, if it is not due to a fracture or dislocation. Which is less than a third of what the procedure would cost me. I'm going to call to clarify, but I just can't justify that expense right now. The podiatrist thinks, and I agree, that this is their attempt to keep people from getting what is technically elective surgery. (As in, there is nothing that says I absolutely must have this surgery right now.) He also asked if there was a knee or hip clause--and there isn't. Sucks that my pain is in the foot and not another joint, which would be covered. Maybe if I had Trillian back the car over my foot...
  7. But if I don't get the surgery next month, I'll probably be heading back to the fertility clinic (which, if I read the insurance properly, will be partially covered). I've now met with a different fertility doctor in Big City, who is definitely an improvement over the first asshole I saw. Still debating some things--this doctor, as have others, would like me to get a hysterosalpingogram to check my uterus' shape, as a possible key to the two miscarriages. If there were a structural issue, they could operate on it, but I already know that I wouldn't do that. So now I'm debating whether I should do this or just push forward with the three remaining vials (which I have also decided will mark the limit of my attempts).
  8. And then there's the paper I'm delivering in 8 days. I'm hoping for notes from my supervisor soon. Not that I'll be able to do any major rewrites at this point, but at least I should have an idea of where it sucks before I deliver it to an audience.
  9. Gah! A houseful of kids in two days. Definitely March Madness!