A Formal Spanking for Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Vaccination Boogeyman

If you're a follower of the never-ending vaccines/autism chronicles, then you probably already know that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who sparked the "vaccines cause autism" panic, has been formally sanctioned by the UK's General Medical Council. After an investigative hearing lasting more than two years, the GMC reached their verdict [PDF]: Wakefield conducted his research "dishonestly and irresponsibly."

There is so much to be pissed about when it comes to Wakefield: he was in a vaccine-injury lawyer's pocket when he conducted his original study. He had applied for a patent for a vaccine alternative to the MMR before he held the press conference that set off the vaccine/autism storm. His original study comprised only twelve children, few of whom actually met the criteria for the study. He continues to assert that his research is valid, even though 10 of his original co-authors and the journal in which his study was originally published issued formal retractions. And on. And on.

I summarized the matter for BlogHer, and included plenty of links if you'd like to spend your entire day riding an outrage-fueled adrenaline rush. Excerpt:
Have you ever wondered why, exactly, vaccines are erroneously associated with autism? I'll tell you: In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield held a press conference to announce that his research had revealed a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. He published his findings in the respected independent medical journal The Lancet, and spent the next few years promoting his vaccine-autism "concerns" through media outlets like the TV news magazine 60 Minutes.

The result was panic, a vaccination rates nosedive, and the resurrection of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.

In 2004, it was revealed that Wakefield had also been conducting a separate, simultaneous study funded by lawyers seeking compensation for clients who claimed their children suffered from vaccine damage. Ten of Wakefield's twelve original paper co-authors, horrified by Wakefield's conflict of interest as well as the public health crisis they'd help cause, issued an official retraction in The Lancet [PDF], stating, "We wish to make it clear that in [Wakefield's] paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient."
The facts, the deception, the denialist mercenary mindset, the damage to public health, are bad enough -- but Wakefield's actions cause additional damages. As my favorite scientist Emily so eloquently wrote:
Why do I care so much? Oh, it's not just because this hack job of science ended up in so much wasted time, money, energy, emotion, and lives. It's also because in science, we've got ethics. We're supposed to, anyway. We have standards. We've got these rules, you see, about "research involving human subjects." They're designed to keep the more nefarious among us from taking advantage of vulnerable populations, to keep them from exploiting people who are least able to defend themselves because of false hope, scientific ignorance, desperation, or incapacity.

And when a researcher, scientist, doctor violates those rules, steps outside of those bounds, acts dishonestly, doesn't act in the best interests of the children involved, they're joining ranks with the big cheaters of science. With the big selfish bastards of science who are in it only for themselves, the research "subjects" be damned. The ones who will, without compunction, do things that harm just so they can do themselves good.
Iz and I recently watched the movie Contact, in which Jodie Foster plays Ellie Arroway, an astronomer whose principles never waver, not even when doing so would let her fulfill a lifelong dream of extraterrestrial contact. My daughter's face remained naked with awe during Dr. Arroway's hearings, as it dawned on her that devotion to science means devotion to courage. It's a lesson that Dr. Wakefield could stand to learn.

Busting Someone's Windows Is Not a Logical Act

Glee was this morning's school carpool soundtrack, as per usual. Leo beamed all the way through his favorite song, Can't Fight This Feeling, which I tolerate since he loves it so much even though the original REO Speedwagon version wins my personal video award for Milquetoast 80s Guys With Long Bad Hair. Afterwards the violin intro to Bust Your Windows came on, and Iz started trying to analyze.

"Mommy, wouldn't she get in trouble for busting out his car windows? I mean, that's against the law, right?"

"Yes, but it's on private property, so she wouldn't be in trouble unless he called the police, and he'd probably be too embarrased."

"But she left her INITIALS in his WINDSHIELD with a CROWBAR!" He'd have proof that she did it!"

"Iz, you are trying to apply logic to a fictional justification of an irrational act. It's not going to work. You're going to have to let this one go."



Indebted to BlogHer for More Than The Upcoming Autism Panel

This year's BlogHer conference includes an autism panel! Yes! Get your tickets now, they sell out fast!  

Update: I'm especially excited because the panel is partially based on my submission ... and also because BlogHer accepted my proposal to be the moderator! Which I already knew when I took a potshot at the panel's theoretical moderator below...

Update #2: Two of the speakers are Sharon da Vanport of Autism Women's Network, and Jean from Stimeyland!  The third speaker is also a huge coup for BlogHer, but has not yet gone public. Will add her as soon as she's out.

Update #3: The third speaker is ... and OMG this is huge as I have been a big fan of hers for years ... Pamela Merritt (aka SharkFu) of Angry Black Bitch! 

An autism panel is tremendously excellent news for lucky conferencegoers. Many of our most beloved and respected  bloggers will corporealize, and we'll get to spend precious time with far-flung friends from the farthest recesses of our computers. I'm especially looking forward to hanging out with my roommate, Jennyalice -- our new work-from-home lives have overwhelmed us to the point where our friendship is largely conducted through email and texts, even though we live five minutes from each other.

Friendship is what draws me to August's BlogHer conference. Two years ago, I had lost my blogging oomph. Leo was having a hard time tolerating being Leo, and we weren't having much luck making his life easier, plus my father had recently passed away. The result was a dwindling interest in things I'd previously enjoyed, including blogging.

So the BlogHer fairies intervened. Somehow, I was invited to speak at BlogHer08, on parenting our children with special needs. Which was great fun, and could have gone on for another hour, easily. I then had the privilege of getting to know the panel's social sorceress, moderator, and organizer, Susan Etlinger. Through her Jennyalice and I became IRL friends with a whole new group of women, including Christa, Kristen, Kristina, Lori, Jennifer, Vicki, and Jordan. Women who get the whys and the hows, and even the whats too painful to mention. And, even better, our kids seem to like each other, too!

Those friendships are the most precious gifts BlogHer has given me, and I am beyond grateful.

So, yes, I'm excited about the conference. I'm thrilled about the panel, I hope the audience respects BlogHer's philosophy of civil disagreement (though I suppose that will be the moderator's problem; I hope she or he has crowdthinkherding skillz.) But really, I'm just so excited to see my friends!

(Excited even though I just got to see some of them -- and their wonderful partners and/or kids -- during winter "break"):

The trampoline is where Leelo socializes best. Note Mali's gold lamé leggings. Remaining cute boys by Jordan and Susan.

She's brave, she's brave, oh yeah yeah yeah! Points to anyone who knows the namer who's tossing her. (Video by Jordan.)
Smoldering, in triplicate.

Leo and his friend Ben during SEPTAR's "Break from Winter Break" bounce party.

Mr. Bossypants and his biggest fan, Ms. Bossypants.


How to Be a Wicked Mother

Here's the thing about my family, the D'Artagnans: We're people pleasers. We're doggedly loyal (though gods help you if you wrong not us, but someone we love), and we'll dig to the othe side of the planet and back to make things happen for family and friends. But it can be a rather impish process. Witness:

Iz turned eleven this past weekend. All she wanted was to see Wicked -- and had been perseverating to that effect, for months. Finally, in early December, I'd had enough, and told her, "Iz, I need you to stop badgering me about Wicked, otherwise you'll never get to go." (Note that this is not a no.) So she stopped nagging. And I started plotting.

I found discount tickets online, on her birthday. I asked Seymour and Iz's Godfather Michael if they would go with her. They agreed. (I opted out as I needed to do prep for Iz's post-Wicked slumber party.) And then we came up with a plan. We told Iz that godfather Michael was taking her to Alcatraz for her birthday! What a treat! But -- she was genuinely excited, plus we realized that dressing for The Rock and dressing for The Theatre were divergent tasks.

So Michael and I confered, and revised: Oh no, Michael forgot it was a holiday weekend! Alcatraz was sold out! But he'd found an alternate event, and hoped she was as excited as he was! The following letter is all Michael's doing, I merely suggested that he think of a formal event that would underwhelm a tween:

Hello, dearest goddaughter of mine.

Your mom and dad have been kind enough to let me take you out for your birthday. How's that? I would call to ask you personally, but I won't make it home to call you until way past your bed time. When is your bed time, anyway? You're almost eleven now, it may be time to re-negotiate that with your parents. Or not. I have no power over such things, you know.

As if by some stroke of magic, the San Francisco Symphony is performing  a rare "Salute to Canada" on Saturday afternoon, hosted by that most famous of all Canadian songbirds, Anne Murray! I think (and I am sure your mother would agree) that it's high time you started to get more in touch with your glorious Canadian heritage. Two and a half hours of Bryan Adams, Paul Anka, Leonard Cohen, Stompin' John Connors, and Céline Dion songs all performed by one of the greatest symphonies in the world is just too good a thing to pass up.

The performance is at 2 pm. I thought you might like to lunch at a little place called Frjtz before hand. Please dress appropriately for the theatre.

It wil be fun and so educational!


Your Godfather

Iz tried to muster enthusiasm, but confessed to me that she felt guily about not really wanting to go, and that she'd really been looking forward to Alcatraz -- but she didn't want to disappoint her godfather since he was so excited. Poor girl!

The day arrived. And it was a big day, with multiple events: breakfast at our favorite café, her soccer game, lunch at Frjtz, a slumber party, and...

After lunch, we drove to The Orpheum. She saw its huge Wicked sign, and while that was exciting,  didn't think anything of it as were were in the Civic Center neighborhood of majestic performance spaces. But then we stopped and told her she should get out.

Because she was seeing Wicked.


Iz and her dapper Godfather exiting the minivan as her Wicked reality sets in

She basically went supernova with happiness. Which is what every parent wants for their child, yes?

Godfather gave her a hug and apologized for being friends with a mother who delights in playing tricks on her children. Seymour said she remained rapt for the entire performance. I drove off with the two littler children, quite pleased, myself. The D'Artagnan traditions are alive and well in our family.

Happy eleventh, sweet girl.


Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo: Expanding, Accommodating

As you may know, the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is planning to remodel, expand, and transform in the very near future. They are seeking input from local families in general, and families with members with special needs specifically, to ensure that the new Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo will not only be accessible but fun for all visitors.

SEPTAR, the Special Education PTA of Redwood City, is hosting a Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo discussion and presentation this Thursday, Jan 21, at 7 PM (more info below). As always, there will be really great company, refreshments, and hot coffee. We hope to see you there!

SEPTAR Meeting

Thursday, January 21, 2010 7:00pm
750 Bradford Redwood City, CA 94063

Please join us Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 7:00pm for a presentation and discussion
with Tina Keegan from the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo.

The museum is hoping to make their exhibits and facility accessible and inclusive, and they want OUR input.

Free childcare is available.

Thank you-

Jennifer Byde Myers
President, SEPTAR

SEPTAR is the Special Education Parent Teacher Association for Redwood City. We bring families and educators together to meet the special education needs of children in Redwood City.

donate to the Special Education PTA, Redwood City www.septar.org


She's Not Our Cat

She's not our cat.

We feed her.

We brush her.

We pluck off her engorged ticks.

We are wary of her ... can't you tell she's FERAL?

But she's not our cat.

She's not our cat!!


Protecting My Tween From a Scary World

The good folks at BlogHer asked to republish my post Letting My Tween Be Selfish, Just a Little Bit Longer as a response to a wrenching anonymous letter from the Afghan Women's Writing Project: I Am For Sale, Who Will Buy Me?

What do you think? Should we protect our children from the world's harsher realities? Or does it do them good to know how fortunate they are by comparison? Go on over to BlogHer and join the discussion.

Mali's a Monster and It's Your Fault

That's what I said in last week's BlogHer post, anyhow. I really am tired of people enabling my youngest child's disrespectful behavior because she's just so darn adorable, or they're afraid of offending me. Here's the post's chewy center:
Her brother's autism and the extra effort we put into parenting, that's our problem. Teaching kids like Mali to behave respectfully -- that's your problem, too. Once children become social beings and start taking cues from people outside their family, social skills become a group responsibility. And, every time my freshly minted five-year-old walks up to an adult and smacks them on the bottom or otherwise misbehaves, and my apologies and reminders about appropriate behavior are brushed off with an "Oh, it's okay," because she's little and cute  or you're more worried about offending a potentially prickly parent than teaching a child about appropriate boundaries, you have fed my tiny monster anew.
Here's the part that got bloggers like the inimitable Mike Adamick chatting:
Step up, people. You have my permission: kindly but firmly tell other people's children that you are not okay with being treated badly! Really, it's all right. If the parent is offended, feel free to roll your eyes or grumble about them on Twitter. Your responsibility is to the child, to society.
And here's the part I really wanted people to absorb but that apparently wasn't as compelling the more incendiary statements:
This doesn't mean you get to tell off every pint-sized jerk you encounter -- quite the opposite. I expect you to model the behavior you'd like that child to emulate. Actively participating in the parenting and discipline social sphere is not about lashing out or imposing your will on someone else's child, it's about demonstrating how being social means treating people with respect.
I also talked about the importance of removing judgment from such exchanges, and how we use behavioral methods mostly learned from seven years of Leo's home ABA program to parent our children and shape their behavior ever so carefully.  What I didn't mention is that we're back into using bribes, a.k.a. reinforcers, to keep the two girls from strangling each other, and me from finishing the job (CPS types please note: that was a joke).

Iz is a sensitive girl who can't not go berzerk in response to certain external stimuli, like little sisters pinching or taunting or encroachment of a shared arm rest. Mali has Iz's number, she can make her dance like a marionette, and she's not about to back down -- as long as Iz keeps responding, Mali will keep badgering. We needed to break that cycle.

Since Mali draws such great delight from torturing Iz (as our youngest illustrated above; the drawing shows Mali indulging in the venial sin of "smirking" at a very distraught Iz), we pulled out the behavioral water cannons of positive reinforcement: sticker charts. We set time periods of one to two hours during which the girls must not only refrain from needling, shrieking at, or smacking each other, but must treat each other with kindness and respect. Each time they succeed, they get a physical sticker (Mali) or a point on my mental tally chart (Iz). The payoffs for chart completion are items of no great monetary value but great emotional worth.

It's sort of working. Though Mali still really enjoys goading her sister, and Iz still can't not respond. In between points and stickers earned are awful episodes where Seymour and I end up banishing them to opposite ends of the house. Later I'll find them fawning over each other and then looking at me expectantly, hoping for that point or sticker. With enough practice, those fawning sessions may become at least partially genuine.

I don't think Mali is really a monster -- she has a generous, loving heart -- but I do think she's smart and passionate and embodies spiritedness. A girl who emerged from our recent Lord of the Rings movie marathon unable to decide if her favorite character was the Balrog or Grond,  flaming Hammer of the Underworld, and who also thought the trilogy's highlight was Eowyn slaying the Witch King of Angmar, is not going to be a quiet, complacent child. She'll surely be an interesting one, as long as we can guide her away from the path of shadow and flame.


Please Help Zakhquery Price, Please Help Him Now

I am hoping you have already heard about and taken action on behalf of Zakhquery Price, the Arkansas fifth grader with autism who was charged with a felony (at last report the hearing is Tuesday January 12th) and whose family (which includes three other children with autism and who have also lost a young daughter) does not yet have the funds to fight their son's legal battle. But just in case you haven't, here's three starting points:
Please donate to Zakh's legal fund if you can, but if you can't, you can still help by emailing this or another article from this page, or tweeting about it. And if you know anyone in the media (as Age of Autism, the self-declared "Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic" hadn't touched the story as of today, 11 days after it broke), please bring the story to their attention. The more eyes, clicks, and donations we generate, the better the chance that Zakh and his family will be able to stand up for themselves, and keep Zakh from institutionalization and regression.

For those who want more details, Liz Ditz -- a dear friend who is frequently my adjunct brain -- gave me permission to swipe the info below from her January 5th post Update on Zakhquery Price's Case: ASAN Action Alert:

[Liz] told you about Zakhquery Price on January 3. Tricia Kennedy, who hosts Embrace Autism Now interview with Zakh's grandmother on January 5th 2009. 
at Blog Talk Radio, had an

[On January 6th], I received the following action alert
This is another ASAN Update for bloggers in the Autistic and disability rights communities. ASAN has created an Action Alert regarding the case of an 11-year old Autistic boy in Arkansas named Zakhqurey Price, who has been charged with felony assault after a school restraint incident. There were no serious injuries, and the incident occurred under circumstances where the use of restraint would not have been legal if recently introduced federal civil rights legislation to protect children in schools had been in effect. We are asking that you take action by contacting the school principal and superintendent to inform them of your concerns and by reposting the ASAN Action Alert set forth below.

As always, we encourage you to contact us with your comments, and please let us know if you would prefer to receive these announcements at a different address or to be removed from the list.

Best regards,

Meg Evans
Director of Community Liaison, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
email  mmevans@woh.rr.com

By Ari Ne'eman, ASAN President.


In the past, we've written to you about advocacy issues relating to the rights of adults and youth on the autism spectrum. Our voices have made a difference on all manner of policy concerns and have sent a clear message that those who seek to deprive Autistic people of any age of their rights will have our community to answer to. Now we'd like to ask you to help us take action to help protect an 11-year old Autistic boy in Arkansas named Zakhqurey Price, currently being charged with felony assault after fighting back when two staff members restrained him in response to behavioral challenges. The school has ignored repeated efforts from Zakh's grandmother over the course of the last five months to obtain needed IEP supports to improve his educational options and manage his behavioral difficulties.

According to the suspension notice, the restraint was in response to Zakh destroying school property - something beyond the scope of what would be allowed under recently introduced federal civil rights legislation around restraint and seclusion in schools. Disability advocates, including ASAN, are fighting to pass this crucial legislation that would broaden the protections available to students like Zakh as well as those with other disabilities and with no disability at all. We have asked for your help in passing this important legislation, and together we can succeed in bringing proposed civil rights protections into law - but not in time to help Zakh. That is why we need you to take action now. Find out how below:

School Principal:

Pam Siebenmorgan (One of the charging parties in Zakh's felony hearing - polite but firm calls and e-mails encouraging her to drop the charges would be helpful)
Phone: 479-646-0834
E-mail: psiebenm@fortsmithschools.org

School Superintendent:

Dr. Benny Gooden (The Superintendent runs the entire school district - polite but firm calls and e-mails communicating how this situation is damaging Fort Smith Public Schools' reputation would be helpful as well)

E-mail: bgooden@fortsmithschools.org
School Board Office: 1-479-785-2501 Ext. 1201

We recommend that you both e-mail and call if you can. If necessary, e-mail is the preferable option. If you would like your e-mails to be passed along to Zakh's grandmother, please bcc: info@autisticadvocacy.org. Please stress the importance of Fort Smith Public Schools taking the following steps:
  • Drop the charges against Zakhqurey Price
  • Work with his grandmother to put in place an IEP that will fulfill Zakh's right for a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • Improve training for school personnel to prevent future such incidents and to ensure that students on the autism spectrum as well as with other disabilities are included, supported and educated in Fort Smith Public Schools.
  • If Zakh is declared incompetent as part of the hearing scheduled for January 12th, state law requires that he be placed into a mental hospital for at least 30 days. His grandmother fears that, due to the negative repercussions of being taken out of the community and being forced into an institutional setting, Zakh may lose skills in such an environment and not be returned to her indefinitely. That is why we need you to act now. Please distribute and repost this action alert. Thank you for your time and your advocacy, and as always, Nothing About Us, Without Us!
Thank you.


Success! Christmas & the Las Vegas Strip

And this is how we did it: With a visual schedule. Leo's need to anticipate his day was even more important than usual in the unfamiliar though very cool environment of his grandparents' home. Scribbly torn post-it icons were fine -- once we told him what each one was, they were accepted into his personal canon.

Another centering item was this toy, the name of which I cannot remember but which kept Leelo and his sisters occupied for hours, and which I found at Target during a morning Las Vegas toy & materials & last minute gifts run with my friend Kate. Supervisor M had brought Leo a metal-pin version years ago, which he also loved, but he kept tweaking the pins -- and then it wouldn't work properly, and then we had drama. With this plastic version, you can pluck out any bent pins and carry on.


We did a decent job prepping and accommodating Leelo, I think. He was in such a good space that he not only enjoyed Christmas morning but posed for pictures with his sisters:

His grandparents, ever thoughtful, got him a very cool set of therapeutic stepping stones. Leelo loved them, and, having a puzzling sort of mind, immediately fit them together into balls:

Mali's Auntie Bree got her this fashion puppy. It comes with high heeled shoes and a tiara! Mali is enamored of her very L.A. gift from her very L.A., very smart auntie.

The kids spent a lot of time in the pool even though the air temperature was less than 15 degrees above freezing. We also made sure to get out and hike in Las Vegas's beautiful Red Rock Canyon. Mali was not thrilled, but then her legs are a lot shorter than everyone else's. (Can you see the Luxor in the skyline behind her?)


Iz and Leo are almost always enthusiastic hikers. And oversaturated ones! (Oversaturated photos are de rigeur for parenting blogging, yes?)


Leo also tolerated and even enjoyed dinner at a nice sushi restaurant and then at an even nicer -- nice meaning *white tablecloth* restaurant on Christmas Eve.

This made us cocky.

So ... we took Leo to the Las Vegas Strip.

And he did fine! How? Well, let's just say we're thankful for the ubiquity of a certain coffee purveyor and their complimentary long thin green objects.


We toured the new City Center (really cool, and I say that as someone who avoids both malls and casinos), then walked to New York New York so Iz could ride the rollercoaster. Our fun was multiplied by meeting up with our friend Skip (who is not a huge fan of rollercoasters but rode anyhow because Iz asked him to) and his sister Liza (who took this picture, in which I look LIKE HELL but that's neither her nor the camera's fault).


Fun in Las Vegas. Who'd've thunk? Not me, not a year ago when we thought family travel might never happen again.

Our only bonk was a big one: We didn't arrange for respite. Leo's need for 1:1 supervision is stepped up in environments that are not our home, which meant that Las Vegas was all me & Seymour, all the time. And Leo doesn't just require watching; he needs to be engaged. I think we managed to balance socializing with Seymour's very accommodating parents, getting our Xmas organized and deployed, and ensuring that the girls had a good time, but we were both exhausted by the time our visit was over (and I also had to work, which Seymour covered as best he could but which still meant a few late nights on top of long days).

We'll get respite next time. Right now we'll just savor Leo's success, and knowing that our family can travel again!


Letting My Tween Be Selfish, Just A Little Bit Longer

Iz has fully embraced the tween battle cry "it's not FAIR!!"

It's galling; both Seymour and I would have been spanked for such sassing and shrieking, plus, frankly, she is one of the most fortunate kids I know -- but that's my yardstick, not hers. Iz is looking at the world with the blinders of tween materialism, and can only see the many electronic holiday gifts her friends got and she didn't (we declared an electronics-free Christmas), the extra lessons they get that she doesn't, and the clothes they have that she doesn't. All absurd complaints from such a well-dressed, -accessoried, and -instructed girl. Absurd, to us.

Her dissociation from reality can be jaw-dropping. Last week, over breakfast with Leelo's beloved Godmother Hayley and her fiance Pablo (we love him!), Iz started grumbling over all the attention her exuberant, extroverted younger sister was getting. She said that she felt like the older brother in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, when his younger sibling goes on TV.

"Really?" I said, "I can totally understand. Because the Fourth Grade Nothing got the lead in his school play, too? And won the class spelling bee for the fourth year in a row? And got invited to join the winter select soccer team?"

She glared at me before laughing reluctantly, and that mostly for the benefit of our guests. A few minutes later she was mooning about a friend's iTouch.

I waffle between painting a scarlet "I" for "Ingrate" on her forehead, mild murmurs of understanding (I remember the all-consuming, illogical wanting of middle school), and strapping her in a Clockwork Orange-style chair until she finishes reading the Afghan Women's Writing Project's I'm For Sale; Who Will Buy Me? and watches this video about life in North Korea (via Laura Miller's Salon.com review of Barbara Demick's book "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea"):

The only one I'll actually do is occasionally -- very occasionally -- commiserate with her, because the other two options wouldn't be, well, fair (though, hmm, if I photoshop the I onto her forehead and post it on Facebook, she'll never know...). I'll tell her about the Afghan woman's anonymous testimonial and see if she's interested, and let her watch the North Korea movie if she wants to (she was intrigued by Siam Riep's North Korean nightclubs, and the almost-exclusively South Korean clientele's obsession with forbidden North Korean contact). Otherwise, she's not mature enough to be hit upside the head with or absorb true injustice -- she emerged from her week in Cambodia thinking only of its beaches, temples, and foot massage parlors; the poverty, corruption, and minefields didn't register. At all.

I'll continue to remind her to think positively, to focus on all the things she does have, while firmly reminding her to treat people the way she wants to be treated, because neither her father nor I will tolerate being yelled at. I have faith in her; she's a passionate and empathetic kid underneath all the fabricated tween gloss, and she'll be able to grasp what unfair really means, only too soon. It's okay to let her be selfish for a little bit longer.