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?