10.31.2009

Cat Heaven


I'm sure that's where Pat the Cat has gone. It's been four weeks since he waltzed out the door with the other cats in the morning, then for the first time in his life didn't come back for dinner. He had been getting stiff and frail, so we are telling ourselves he did a typical feline hide-and-die somewhere in the multi-acre wild canyon below our house.

Seymour and I found Pat the tiny flea-ridden kitten in a Charlotte, NC rental truck yard, during a 1994 Brooklyn -> Bay Area relocation trip. He rode across the country in my lap and received flea baths in many I-40 motel sinks. He was waiting in the truck while Seymour and I succumbed to the Painted Desert and got engaged. He lived in four different homes with us, and went through three separate WTF processing periods each time we brought home another yowling infant.

He was our beautiful otter pelt cat, he drooled copiously when he was happy, he was much prettier than he was smart, and everyone loved him. His non-pseudonymous name was Boone. Now you get the joke.

10.28.2009

The Sharer

Leo made it all the way through our cavernous new Costco without much fuss over the baguette he requested and which I placed in our cart. He so desperately wanted to attack it and shove it in his mouth while we wound our way through the aisles between the bakery section and checkout! But I told him he would have to wait, and that he could have a bite once we got back to our car. He made a few more requests for his bread and hit his head once or twice along the way, but was easily calmed, and -- so you know our benchmark -- I rate one or two yells/head slaps strictly mathematically, i.e., almost zero.

His tolerance of delayed gratification was amazing. It was not so long ago that I would have let him have a few nibbles so we could complete our trip. Now I have faith in him, and his self-control.

I tore him a hunk of baguette once he'd strapped himself into his car seat, then started loading our haul into the car. His sisters noticed him nomming the baguette, and pleaded for some, too. So I tried an experiment: I tore another piece from the baguette, then handed it to Leo, and said, "Leo, pass this to Izzy."

He did. Though all he wanted to do was to eat the bread himself, and without me mentioning any kind of reward, he did what I asked.

That would be a milestone.

10.26.2009

Please ask for *Luv Ya Bunches* at your local Scholastic Book Fair

Written by an anonymous friend who very much wants her message to be passed on, so feel free:

You might or might not have heard by now about the recent brouhaha over Lauren Myracle’s new book *Luv Ya Bunches*. If you haven’t, here’s the story in a nutshell: Myracle wrote a book that features, among other things, a girl with two moms; Scholastic wrote her editor a note asking her to change it to standard hetero parents so they wouldn’t have trouble featuring the title at book fairs; Myracle refused to change it, and (not particularly surprisingly) Scholastic is not offering Luv Ya Bunches at book fairs.

Scholastic says it’s not censorship because there are *lots* of books they don’t offer at book fairs; they pick and choose based on many factors. I’m sure they do select for a number of factors, and also that
potential controversy is one of those factors (I once heard Gordon Korman recount a conversation with his editor who, having just read the first page of Korman’s *Born to Rock*, which features a reference to an a prison cavity search, said matter-of-factly, “So, not a book fair candidate, then.”).

Nonetheless, and regardless of what it's called, as a former book fair chairperson, a librarian, a reader, and the lesbian parent of a girl right in *Luv Ya Bunches*’s target audience, I am spitting mad about this. There’s a petition going out to Scholastic leadership asking it to stop censoring gay-friendly books.

I’d like to try another tack as well. The truth is that overall, this mess is probably (I hope!) going to bring lots of welcome publicity and sales to *Luv Ya Bunches*, so that’s not an issue. The issue is the book’s availability *at book fairs*. Book fairs, like libraries, are where kids get to exercise their autonomy and freedom of choice by picking their own books about the things they’re interested in. Book fairs are one of the places where kids’ horizons get expanded. (I still have the copy of *Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret* that I bought at a book sale in elementary school, and still remember the feeling of revelation I had when reading it.) If this title isn’t available at book fairs, kids like my kid and her friends won’t have the chance to make that choice for themselves. By excluding Luv Ya Bunches from book fairs, Scholastic is putting same-sex parents  in the same category as a prison cavity search: something yucky, distasteful, and for mature audiences only.

When I told my daughter yesterday morning about this development (I left out the cavity search analogy, and in fact didn't give my opinions at all), she was shocked and indignant. “They need to WAKE UP!” she said. “Families can be different. NOT everybody has a mom and a dad. It’s just not right!” I couldn’t agree more. I suggested to her what I’m going to suggest to you: that when your school has a Scholastic book fair, you ask for Luv Ya Bunches by name **at the fair**. If you are a school librarian or book fair chairperson, and you have your initial consultation with your book fair rep from Scholastic, ask them to send Luv Ya Bunches in your shipment. If you are a parent or classroom teacher, ask your school librarian and/or book fair chairperson to order it. If you are a book blogger, ask your readers to do the same. And if you aren't any of the above but know someone who is:
pass it on.

And then, if they do manage to order it at the book fair? Buy it.

Look, Scholastic isn’t evil, and I’m sure most of the people involved would tell you that they’re not homophobic themselves. Scholastic is a business, and it’s driven by the market. Its decision-makers are afraid of getting negative publicity and losing book fair sales in conservative communities if Luv Ya Bunches is offered at book fairs. But if there is demand, they want to sell books. If there’s enough demand, regularly, for a title, and they’re licensed to offer it, they’ll stock multiple copies and send it in those huge unwieldy metal carts loaded full of books about vampires and best friends and Bionicles and cute little puppies. Communities that don’t want the book offered can always ask for Scholastic not to send it, or can pull it at book fair setup and hide it (like the Easter books Scholastic inevitably sends to Jewish schools' book fairs).

So, please, ask for *Luv Ya Bunches* at your local Scholastic Book Fair. Let’s help Scholastic wake up to the 21st century.

10.24.2009

Leave Photobooth Pix On My Desktop, Will You?


Though they both have nice healthy pink tongues, don't you think? Oral hygiene is important.

Fat Talk Free Week Is Over, Dude


photo by Barak Yedidia

I think this is a lovely photo, in which everyone in my family looks great, our yard looks appropriately autumnal, and even the broken concrete pieces forming our leach field's retaining wall appear picturesque. But I also think that my right breast looks larger than my head, and that my overall shape is displeasing -- to me at least.

I told Jennyalice about my concerns. She was sympathetic, and asked if there was anything she could help me do, go on walks, etc.

"Hell no!" I said, "I'll just ask Barak if we can do a reshoot from a different angle."

10.22.2009

He's the King of a House! And a Bush! And a Cat!

Check out this boy. I bet he's saying, "Oh marvelous me! For I am the ruler of all that I see!" While these projected thoughts mostly reveal how much Dr. Seuss we listen to in the car, my boy does rule.

His food tolerance continues to stretch and accommodate. He flabbergasted his parents three weeks ago, by willingly taking chewable antibiotics to treat an ear infection. I ran with that precedent, and bought him some chewable vitamins to see if he'd take those, too. He did! Six years of grinding NuThera vitamin pills into his rice milk, all done!

Unfortunately his food cravings -- we think it's more of a stim -- are at an all time high, and so is his weight. His pediatrician is not yet worried that he weighs 91 lbs, but Seymour and I are. More exercise for everyone, more activities to keep him away from the kitchen. Not easy as the kitchen/counter/peninsula area is our house's socializing nexus, but we'll make efforts to congregate elsewhere. Otherwise Leo thinks he gets food whenever he sees people gathered in the area.

We had Leo's annual social worker visit last week. My son did not hit her. That is a win! She did not cut our respite hours despite how well he's doing compared to last year, as Leo is still very obviously a 1:1 boy.

He is mostly cheerful and snuggly, grabbing us for spontaneous hugs and kisses, with huge lit-up smiles and giggles. He loves for us to lie down with him in the morning before he gets out of bed, and just hug. I'm normally a rather tactile-averse person, but cannot resist Leo's ever-so-sincere requests to "Lie down wif Mommy!" I'm savoring these moments, too -- I know two boys with autism who hit puberty a lot earlier than their peers, so who knows for how much longer early morning snuggling will be appropriate.

He had his first-ever full dental exam two days ago. They had no choice but to knock him out cold, and pull his loose front tooth as it was a liability for the anesthesiologist. (The awesome part: she handed me his tooth to keep, another first. He's swallowed or ignored/lost every other baby tooth.) His dentist couldn't believe what good teeth he has -- no cavities! Apparently the saying about "an apple a day" extends to dentists. He had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia, with prolonged emergence delirium, but eventually we got him into the car and took him home. Then he had a hard time remembering that he temporarily lacked sufficient balance to run rings on his beloved tactile path. By late afternoon he was just fine.

 
Yesterday we took him on our annual pumpkineering excursion to Bob's Pumpkin Patch in Half Moon Bay. He so loves running around with all the other kids, between the pumpkins, over the dead truck, through the cornstalks, around the goat pens, and up the hay bale pyramid. He enjoys his yearly trip to Bob's more than any other part of Halloween. And because he loves it so much, I feel the same way. Not that this will stop me from mooching candy off of his sisters on November 1st. (BTW, yesterday's BlogHer post is all about how to do Halloween -- or not -- when your kid has special needs.)

Even among all this happiness and goodness, I know that winter's coming. Leo's never had a good winter. The fact that Leo's never had a good winter is why he's still at the all-quirky-kids school rather than in a special ed class on a regular campus. But today, he is good and we are good and hope you're good, too.

10.20.2009

Dr. Bridget Taylor: Interview, Webinars on Autism & Problem Behaviors

The amazing behavioralist Supervisor M has been leading Leo's ABA therapy team since he was two, but not every child with autism has my son's luck. ABA therapy can be expensive, school districts can be resistant, and qualified therapists can be elusive.

How lovely that Dr. Bridget Taylor has become the senior clinical advisor for Rethink Autism, the online ABA Therapy curriculum resource. I know am not the only parent who, upon hearing that ABA therapy could actually make a difference for my child, daydreamed about having Dr. Taylor on his ABA therapy team. Dr. Taylor is the ABA therapist and researcher who helped Let Me Hear Your Voice author Catherine Maurice's children lose their autism diagnoses. She also co-founded New Jersey's center for learners with autism, the Alpine Learning Group. Thanks to Rethink Autism, she can now be part of any ABA therapy team with internet access.

The Rethink Autism team is aware that not everyone can afford their monthly subscription rate, so they have engaged Dr. Taylor to conduct free webinars, both tomorrow, Wednesday, October 20, and Monday, October 26, in which participants can discuss autism and behavioral problems with her, via live chat. Here is Rethink Autism's summary of the webinars:

For many parents and families with children on the autism spectrum problem behavior can be challenging. That's why this month's free live webinar focuses on the best problem behavior treatment and prevention strategies available. You'll learn how to begin immediately applying these techniques with your child and have a chance to ask questions via live chat with autism expert Dr. Bridget Taylor, a leader in the field of autism treatment and research, and rethink autism's senior clinical adviser.

Register for a webinar session now by clicking a date below:

For those who can't participate in the webinars, read on -- Dr. Taylor agreed to answer a few of my and Supervisor M's questions about autism, managing problem behaviors, the role of the internet in the autism community, and the most important things parents should be focusing on at various stages in their children's lives:

What has drawn you, personally, to the Rethink Autism online and webinar model?

As a clinician working in the field of autism treatment for over twenty years, I am very excited about being involved in an innovative company that has the potential to reach many families of children with autism. I have always been committed to translating complex concepts and teaching techniques for families so that they can be empowered to teach their children. Rethink Autism’s video-based curriculum presents teaching techniques in a simple step-by-step manner so that families can see how to teach their children.

Do you plan to have your Rethink Autism curriculum contributions about managing problem behaviors at home, etc., evolve with your research findings at the Alpine Learning Group, for example reducing too-rapid eating by use of a pager prompt?

All of the Rethink Autism’s teaching techniques and procedures are based on research that has been conducted in the field of applied behavior analysis. The techniques that I will discuss about managing challenging behavior are based on general principles of learning, and how challenging behavior is usually a result of the interaction between environment and behavior. That is, behavior occurs in relationship to certain events occurring in the environment. If we can identify those events and determine the reason for the challenging behavior, we can change behavior for the better. The pager prompt study is one example of how you can teach an individual with autism to attend to specific cues in the environment in order to reduce a behavior of concern. In this case eating too quickly.

Some children with autism engage in problem behaviors due to skill deficits and; a general lack of self-management skills; they do not yet have a rich repertoire of independent play, leisure, and self-care skills (and so must always be engaged by an adult). In addition to teaching independence, what are some ways school staff and families can manage these problems without promoting problem behaviors (e.g. excessive repetetive/stimulatory behaviors, prolonged dependence on adults?

Yes, many children engage in behavior because they lack skills in specific areas. So, teaching children with autism play and leisure skills can replace some repetitive behavior. Teaching children with autism for example to follow photographic activity schedules can help to keep children stay engaged without constant prompts from adults. Research in the use of activity schedules has shown that children can sustain engagement by attending to photo cues that serve as prompts to engage in play and leisure activities. In addition, teaching other functional skills such as how to ask for a break when demands are too difficult or how to wait for a preferred activity can be helpful to reduce challenging behavior associated with these contexts.

What are some suggestions to include the family member with autism in general family activities? Day to day living?

Make activities very predictable and start with short realistic activities. For example, if you are going to a restaurant, begin with one that does not require a long wait (e.g., a fast food restaurant), and bring your child’s preferred activities to engage in during the waiting period. In general, help the child with autism know what is expected of him / her in during the activity (e.g., first we are going to the store and then we are going to Grandma’s house). Pictures can serve as cues for children as to what will take place during the activity and the general sequence of the activities.

In terms of general family routines such as eating at the dinner table together, start with a short duration of sitting and use timers to help the child know how long he will have to sit. For other family activities the child may need an incentive or a reward to participate. For example, if you want the child to sit and watch a TV show with his sibling, intermittent rewards such as access to a preferred snack while he is watching the show, may motivate him to participate in the activity the next time. Over time, you can fade the snack out. In general, the more you practice family activities and make these activities very predictable, the more the child will learn about what is expected and it will become easier over time.

How can parents assist the teams they collaborate with? 

Parents are clinicians' best allies. They can assist in many ways. For example, they can help clinicians identify important goals to work on (e.g., cooperating in haircuts, attending religious services, playing with siblings), they can help in transferring skills learned during teaching sessions to every day, real-life activities, and they can support the intervention by implementing the interventions in daily life. In addition, since they truly know their child best, they can provide essential information to team members about the child (e.g., likes, dislikes, general patterns of behavior, etc).

What is the one suggestion that you would make to a parent of a newly diagnosed child? 

Access interventions based on applied behavior analysis as soon as you can.

What would be your one suggestion to a parent whose child is ten years old? 

This is a good time to reevaluate the goals you are working on. Ask yourself, “will he need this skill when he is twenty years old?” How often will this skill be needed in daily life? How is this skill going to help him be as independent as possible?

How about for a parent of a child who is transition age? 

Identify agencies and supports in the community that your child can be part of for the long term. Identify agencies that have multiple program components such as career planning, residential planning, and recreation and leisure activities.

What is one piece of advice you would give all parents? 

No one knows your child better than you – you will be your child’s strongest and most passionate advocate. You are after all the architect of your child’s future and as you collaborate with professionals help them to learn as much as they can about your child and your vision for your child’s future.

What is one thing you would suggest that parents avoid? 

Avoid interventions that are not grounded in sound scientific research.

What are your thoughts with regards to the internet and the role it plays in the autism community? 

The internet can be a great resource to families in terms of learning about treatment, accessing services, and gaining support from other families. Unfortunately, it can also lead families down the wrong path to a treatment that does not have a lot of research supporting it. When parents google “autism and treatment” they are confronted with hundreds of options, this can be daunting for families. But, the internet allows families to learn about effective, science-based interventions such as applied behavior analysis. Rethink autism’s innovate web-based curriculum is one such example of how the internet can potentially change lives.

10.15.2009

Holiday Photos Preview: Iz


We're using Barak Yedidia for our holiday photos.
Are  you using Barak Yedidia for your holiday photos?
We're using Barak Yedidia for our holiday photos.

10.12.2009

Review: Wonder Rotunda

Today is my 40th birthday. If I were the type who considered such milestones opportunities to dwell upon unachieved dreams, I would moan bitterly about the very cool new kids' educational online world, Wonder Rotunda, and gripe bout why I should have been the one to create it given that I and my two Geography degrees have been creating and improving upon that which used to be called "edutainment," for almost fifteen years.

Instead, I'll pause to appreciate all the loveliness in my life, remark that contract gigs combining geography, education, and interactivity are my very favorite kind of paid endeavor, and commence with the review.

Wonder Rotunda is an online, exploration-based learning environment for kids age seven - twelvish who want to learn more about the world around them, or whose parents would like them to learn more and understand that game-like environments are very good carrots. Specifically:
"The Wonder Rotunda is a virtual, educational theme park designed to open the eyes of youngsters to the wonders of our world, much the way world’s fairs and expos did for prior generations. It is designed to get kids thinking about our world, finding things that they're passionate about, and exploring how they might make their mark some day.
"Set on an island in New York Harbor, the Wonder Rotunda’s fifteen, interactive, animated adventures cover topics as diverse as tropical rainforests, African wildlife, marine life, the human body's digestive system, money and business, American government, nutrition, globalization, film making, classical music, performing and visual arts, space exploration and, making a difference in the world. The adventures move briskly and with excitement, while affording youngsters the option of probing more deeply where they have the interest."


The kids explore Wonder Rotunda's many exhibits via self-created avatars (mind you, kids used to Rock Band avatars might be a bit option-underwhelmed). There's a bit of standard kid-game looking for gold coins and Wonder Dollars to keep the avatars supplied with "healthy choices" from the Wonder Rotunda food stands, or to let them shop for souvenirs, but otherwise players are free to explore the many educational exhibits and adventures, in as much detail as they like.

Parents worried about Webkinz or Club Penguin-like unmonitored social environments will be pleased with Wonder Rotunda. Though it's web-based, there are no social networking or commercial options, no advertising. And there are considerable parental controls, such as requiring parents to create their own, administrative account before the child's account can be created, allowing parents to create their own avatar so they can tag along with their kids (the Wonder Rotunda folks liken it to visiting a museum together), and the ability to browse your child's Wonder Rotunda's trail, to see where they have been spending the most time -- so you can tell what subjects they're most interested in, and encourage them to pursue them.

I have to admit, given Wonder Rotunda's squeaky-clean appearance, its earnest goals, and the home page's tour, I have not felt the need to monitor my ten-year-old Iz as she explores Wonder Rotunda. She finds WR's subject matter motivating, and has been tearing around all by herself, popping out occasionally to blurt newly acquired facts:"iguanas can fall from a height of 40 feet without getting hurt!" and decry the occasional factual error: "Thomas Jefferson was the third U.S. President, not the second, tell them that right now, Mommy!" (To their credit, the Wonder Rotunda staff fixed the error immediately. Gotta love online content.)



The graphics are nicely done, the content has depth (always a concern, Iz gets bored quickly), and -- most tellingly -- I had to rip Iz away from the screen so she could do her homework. This led to a debate about my priorities -- did I want to send her brain chasing after the new facts, systems, and synergies Wonder Rotunda offered, or did I want it to stagnate in revisiting concepts and worksheets it had already mastered? I recommend that you avoid such scenarios by requiring that your children finish their homework before they get to "play" with Wonder Rotunda.



I approve of Wonder Rotunda's mission wholeheartedly. I would likely have purchased it for my kids independently, but we were gifted a one month unlimited access pass worth $12. (Unlimited access for one year is $45, and can be renewed each year for $35). If you have the kind of kids who love The Magic Schoolbus and The Discovery Channel -- or are looking to nudge your kids in that direction -- Wonder Rotunda is a safe, mentally enriching, fun place to send them.

10.09.2009

I Will Look Different When I Return

I am heading northwards in the morning, for a pre-birthday soak in solitude, a hard reset on my brain via a cedar compost steep, a pilgrimage to various artists' altars, and to sample the culinary fruits of a nuclear-free zone. I hope to return with a quieter mind and the ability to once again draw full, deep breaths -- the better to hit 40 head-on come Monday.

In the meantime, have a loverly Saturday. I'll leave you with Mali and her alfabeto. She is enjoying Spanish immersion greatly and is already wielding her pidgin Spanglish like a bastanada -- though she is irritated that everyone treats her like a muñeca because she's so teeny. So sometimes she still punches them. Working on that.

10/15 SEPTAR Presentation: Emergencies & Our Kids With Limited Communication

Please come join SEPTAR and the Woodside Fire Protection District in presenting "When Words Are Not Enough, An educational tool for Fire Department personnel and other First Responders."

We will watch the video used to train San Mateo County emergency professionals, then talk about not only how "communicating with individuals who have impaired communication skills due to various physical, psycho-social, developmental, and or learning disabilities can be extremely challenging to first responders at an emergency scene,"  but how we can better prepare both our children and first responder professionals to handle such emergencies. Please do bring questions!
  • Thursday, October 15
  • 7:00 PM
  • Redwood City School District Offices
  • 750 Bradford Street
  • Redwood City, CA 94063
Free Spanish Translation and babysitting are always provided. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Regards,

Shannon Des Roches Rosa
VP, Member Services
SEPTAR, the Special Education PTA of Redwood City
www.septar.org

10.08.2009

Double Dipping on BlogHer

BlogHer had me plaster up two posts this week, rather than the usual just one.

The first is about the Anita Teldadi adopted-child surrendering scenario. As I wrote last week, the story punches some of my most sensitive buttons. I tried to sort out my tangled emotions in the post, about what relinquishing a child means to someone who has done it as a birth mother, and also to a someone who claps her hands over her ears and starts yodeling whenever anyone brings up the term "residential care" with regards to Leo. When does being the best parent for a child mean putting them into another's care? I'd be interested to know what you think.

The second post is an interview with Autism Science Foundation president and founder Alison Singer. She is a role model for parents like me whose attitudes and outlook and education about our children with autism and indeed on autism in general have evolved over many years. I particularly admire her positivity; she shows that it is possible to highlight approaches harmful to our children or autistic adults, that drain the wallets of the autism-affiliated and credulous -- without using a verbal baseball bat. She calls for us all to move on, be smart, be mindful of the role of love, and to save our energies and resources to support our kids and families, now. She also talks about her relationship with the Neurodiversity community, and clarifies what exactly the Autism Science Foundation does and plans to do (hint: support research research research!).

I'd be grateful if you'd leave any comments on the BlogHer posts themselves. Thanks.

10.06.2009

The Horse Boy Author Rupert Isaacson: Reading Oct 16th

**TIME CHANGE!** Now 12:00 - 1:30 

A free local autism and hippotherapy event is coming up next Friday. Author Rupert Isaacson will be coming to speak about his book The Horse Boy, and talk about his family's journey to heal their son's autism through hippotherapy. I am particularly interested in hearing what Mr. Isaacson has to say after reading this quote about him:
"He told us he didn’t want a cure for autism. He wants healing. Isaacson said that he doesn’t want his son to suffer, but that he wants him to keep his personality – that is what makes him special."
Here's some official information about the event, which I am hoping to attend:
The National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy (NCEFT) of Woodside is proud to welcome Rupert Isaacson, author of the best selling book and award winning documentary film The Horse Boy on Friday October 16, 2009.

Mr. Isaacson will be reading from his book and discussing the benefits of equine assisted therapy, his son's autism, and his family's personal, spirtual, healing, horse-centric journey. He will be available to sign copies of his best seller after the presentation.

WHERE 
NCEFT, a non-profit Woodside Hippotherapy center
Mounted Patrol Grounds
521 Kings Mountain Road
Woodside, CA

WHEN  
Friday October 16, 2009

TIME
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For more information please visit our website at www.nceft.org

10.05.2009

This Family Will Live by the Precepts of JeDuBu

I have had it with living in a yelling house. And by yelling, I don't meant hollering to get each others' attention because of the cavernous and sound-dampening nature of our dwelling, but shrieking with fury because we are bucking under the strain of being in middle school and having responsibilities, and do not like the consequences of neglecting said responsibilities. Or we are, possibly, a female adult reacting to said middle school shrieking.

I have told Iz that I will help her with her self-organization skills, but that she has to take responsibility for managing her own business in a timely manner, even if books and TV beckon more alluringly. I reminded her that she's ninety percent of the way there with most of her school work and self-starting her homework, etc.

And I told her that there would be no more yelling in anger. Not at all. It's intolerable, it's going to give me a blood-pressure-triggered heart attack, and it's a horrible example for her siblings. It turns our pleasant, well-organized morning school drop off routine into a traveling misery-fest.

So, what will we do? We do our best to follow the examples of non-yellers Jesus, Dumbledore, and Buddha. We will become a JeDuBu household.



The Precepts of JeDuBu
  • We will give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of making accusations.
  • We will be mindful that ours is one of only two perspectives in a dialog.
  • We will pause whenever we feel the urge to yell, and wait until we can speak calmly.
  • We will try to be patient, and wait for the other person to finish talking before we speak.
  • We will try to accommodate each others' emotional states.
  • We will remember that we love each other, and treat each other as loved ones.
  • We will reserve the right to tweak each other's noses non-maliciously, as needed.
What else do you think these guys would add to the list above?

10.03.2009

You Could Make Me Cry In Two Seconds If You Wanted To

It's been a rich, roiling, emotional, and ultimately amazing week here at Casa Rosenberg.

My nose has been to the cash-generating grindstone for a week now, and it feels good. I made a couple of noob mistakes that my co-workers graciously downplayed, but otherwise feel as though I'm getting shit done, and getting it done faster and better each day. Working is certainly making me more efficient; the piles of dirty laundry still threaten to engulf the laundry room, but they've not gotten any larger and in fact have shrunk some. Now I just need to figure out the sleeping thing, because at the moment getting sleep is what's giving.

Somehow, I maintained this efficiency though Seymour was in Jackson Hole for the week, impressing the coolest people in the wildlife filmmaking world by winning awards for his online media work against piffly competitors like the BBC and Alexandra Cousteau (yes, that Cousteau family). My partner and I are both feeling good about ourselves this week.

But I'm tired. It would be absurd for me to say I'm not. Though I'm thriving on these feelings of productivity and competence, stretching myself means stretching the membrane protecting my heart from the world -- which means it doesn't take much to make me cry right now.

I cried when I read this story about an adoptive mom's soul-searing realization that she doesn't have what it takes to parent a special needs child, after all. It's easy to condemn her, but I can't. I feel for her, I'm grateful to her for sharing her story instead of trying to rally through a reality she wasn't equipped for, and wonder what special needs considerations were left out of the brief article. I hope her son is thriving with his new family.

I also cried when I read the transcript of Thursday night's Redwood City School District school board candidates forum (SEPTAR co-sponsored the event, but I was solo parenting and couldn't attend). The perennial shit-disturber libertarian candidate is determined to defund the school district, yet has no interest in learning how the school district actually works, or investigating the root causes of its challenges. His lack of compassion and complete cluelessness regarding the civil rights of special education funding are what triggered my outraged tears:
Question: What are the two most important areas in Special Ed the district needs to address?

JH: cost and inequitable expenditure of assets. Students that can’t take advantage of the free public education should be given their 10 thousand dollars as a family.
So even though our children in special ed are entitled, by law, since 1973, to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), JH wants the district to hand them the same amount of money they'd spend on any other child, then kick them out the door to find their own way. I'm not sure which is more repellent: JH's attitude or his ignorance. This man does NOT deserve a place on my town's school board.

Jennyalice made cry twice, in a good way. Once when she offered to do the overnight death match to sign Leo up for camp, and again when I told her I found out she was going to go sign up Leo because I couldn't go, even though she was refusing to do so for Jake because of the camp's refusal to revise sign up policies. Huh? And what an amazing friend. And Leo got in anyhow, seeing as the regional centers are no longer funding overnight camps and only people who can finagle self-pay can go.  Those are conflicted tears, people.

My kids are making me cry too, but not through their specific actions.

Leo is doing so well in so many areas that I'm tearing up with excitement over his potential. His teacher is pleased with him, his classroom staff is eager to soak up the training Supervisor M has been providing, and my son is excited to go to school every day.

He's been demonstrating his smarts in sneaky ways both there and at home, like when I present an array of familiar items and ask him what is missing, and he tells me. Or when I ask him to go get my car keys -- which I've never before pointed out to him, nor have I specifically shown him the drawer in which they live -- and he does, without hesitation. There's a lot more observation, processing, and complex thought going on in his beautiful head than he's able to demonstrate, and I look forward to further expressions of his smarts.

His tolerance keeps expanding -- he is willing to wear hats, leave on slightly damp clothes and even complete soaker shoes (he stepped in a creek at the farthest point of a woodland hike, I thought -- and even said -- GAME OVER, but he walked the two miles back to our car without complaining), he ate ten macadamia nuts and licked a chicken nugget.

I couldn't help crying today when Mali's teacher told me that while our girl has figured out the kindergarten routine and is "cute as a bug," now the biggest boy in her classroom is obsessed with her, and his attention is starting to become more and more physical (the teacher is ON it, so no comments needed). But my poor bit who is just starting to feel secure at home after months of carefully managed interactions with a formerly unpredictably violent and much larger autistic brother is now being physically harassed at school. After almost a year of telling her "we don't hit, Leo is still learning not to hit," another child is hitting her. All our talk about walking away or getting an adult to help evaporated the moment that boy made contact, because she walloped him right back. I'm not even angry with the boy or his family, because it honestly sounds like he might be one of our spectrum friends -- his attention to Mali is nothing if not perseveration -- I'm angry and sad that of all the little girls in the classroom, he had to pick one who could use a break from a bigger child's physical intimidation attempts.

And I did a milestone cry when Iz left for her first middle school dance last night.

10.02.2009

DonorsChoose: Help Bay Area Classrooms in Need

Dear altruistic, amazing readers and friends:

It is your continuously generous support, fundraising, and activism that inspired me to participate in the BlogHer DonorsChoose campaign -- which kicked off today, and will be running for the month of October. To quote the inimitable Denise Tanton:
DonorsChoose is an online charity that makes it easy for everyone to help fund educational projects around the country. During the Social Media Challenge bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, (and BlogHers) will come together to raise money that goes straight to the place it's needed the most - the classroom. Last year, bloggers raised more than $275,000 and helped fund projects in 65,000 public schools.
I helped select Bay Area classroom projects supporting students with special needs or affected by poverty (unfortunately, it's not too hard to find dual-purpose classrooms in our area). I hope you find them compelling enough to help out, because there are so many options for supporting this challenge:
I am a particular fan of the Classroom Rug project, which describes the many ways in which a Word Map rug would enrich a local kindergarten classroom's learning experience. I am a geographer, I have a kindergartener, and I happen to know that the school in question has an established program for including a special ed child in every single classroom.

All the DonorChoose projects are worthy of your attention. Please help us fund as many programs as we can, by the end of October, even if it's just by spreading the word.

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