Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Traditions

Bookmark and Share

I'm going to stick to my Danish roots here and say that today is Christmas enough to say "Merry Christmas". Growing up, we celebrated both days of the holiday. You had dinner and exchanged gifts on December 24th. The following morning you opened what Santa put in your stocking or under the tree or both and just had a leisurely, simple breakfast (normally some kind of pastry), at lebkucken (not me cause I don't like it), and basked in the delight of the holiday. One formal celebration, on informal. I kinda miss the tradition and feel a little lost on Christmas Eve without it.

My husband's family does not celebrate this way, but there are times when we've had Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. That really all depends on the rest of the family's schedule. The fist Christmas we spend with the my husband's family, the boy was only four, so I doubt he remembers his first three holidays. This is pretty much the only sort of celebration he knows. Sometimes it makes me sad because, as a parent, you want to share these things with your kid. You want to recreate the joy you had as kid with your kid.

The one thing I do love about my in-laws traditions? No stress. My family cannot seem to function with any measure of peace. Over the years, I came to dread certain parts of the festivities. The fights. The two days of cooking. The lack of sleep. The chaos. The who-is-not-coming-cause-they-are-mad-at-so-and-so. The you-can't-make-that-dish-that-way-so-its-easier. I can't imagine subjecting my boy to the stress that used to abound. While I miss my childhood holidays, I do not miss the beast those holidays turned into.

We do hang stockings at the grandparents house Christmas Eve... and when I say stockings, I mean the real deal. Legg's are hung on the chimney with care. It's actually a really neat and old fashioned tradition. To belay anticipation anxiety, we do let him open one gift Christmas Eve. Otherwise, he may literally explode from excitement. And I call today Christmas. 

(At this very second, the whining about opening a gift has started. Apparently, we let him open a gift at 10 am last year, so we are two hours late this year. I have no recollection of when we did last year, but an aspie never forgets. Still, I'm making him clean up his various messes before unwrapping.)

Scrap Credits

Garland Tree
Betsy Tuma Snow kissed Christmas @ two peas in a bucket
Brandy Buffington Holiday Party @ two peas in a bucket
Kelly Jo Scraps Jingle Bell Rock Collab

Kelly Jo Scraps Jingle Bell Rock Collab
Natlie Designs Merry Christmas

Betsy Tuma Snow kissed Christmas @ two peas in a bucket
Shabby Princess Holiday Sampler
Deliscious Scraps Articliscious

Kelly Jo Scraps Jingle Bell Rock Collab
Shabby Princess Holiday Magic
Natlie Designs Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

No witty title for this one

Bookmark and Share
I am a mess. I'm not that happy Christmas kinda mess I normally am this time of year, but the  oh, crap, I forgot to buy presents, bake cookies and mail cards kinda mess. My intestines, I am told, are fabulous. That's what happens when you have surgery in the middle of December.

I've been scrapping to get into the holiday spirit. (It would really help if it wasn't 60 plus degrees outside. I feel like I need to turn on the air conditioning!) Here's a little card for everyone:

Those are my two special guys in front of the tree. The picture was taken pre-invasive-hernia-surgery. I'm glad we decorated the house before I had the procedure because it wouldn't have happened otherwise. Aren't they handsome?

Every year I take pictures of the kid in front of the tree once we are done decorating. I have nine years of a boy in his underpants, so this year was incredibly special. See that? He's wearing clothes! The best part? I didn't have to ask him, beg him, fuss with him or even prompt him. The idea of taking a picture not half naked was his very own idea!! Progress. The autsim gods are smiling upon us at the moment.

The kit I used to make this festive piece is very special. Actually, it's a kit that made me misty-eyed to be candid. There is a Danish scrap designer whose blog I frequent. Being that my mom is directly from Denmark, I'm always thrilled to run into a Dane. Designers come in all flavors from Brazilian to French, but this is the first Dane designer I've ever seen. Naturally when I think of Denmark, I feel all nostalgic, warm and fuzzy inside that makes me feel almost home-sick for some reason. Maybe because I've always enjoyed my time there and want so badly to go back. (I also get hungry-- Danish food is soooo yummy. And no, they don't eat danishes, but there hot dogs rock.)

I posted on her blog-- Nothing But Freebies -- a couple of weeks ago. The other day, I had a comment in my inbox (on another blog). She made me a Danish Christmas themed kit!! It was just about the nicest thing a stranger has done for me in as long as I can remember. Here's what she posted:

The freebie I offer today is a special freebie. It is of course for all of you but it was inspired by a comment I got the other day from Carrie from Delaware and is therefore made especially for and dedicated to her and her mother from Aalborg in northern Jutland, Denmark. The freebie contains a lot of stuff associated with a good, old fashioned, Danish Christmas. I have also included a text that means a lot to all Danes around Christmas. It is an extraction from the Book "Peter's Christmas" written in 1870 and still known to all children in Denmark. I have used the fantastic illustration from the book to make a few elements for the kit. Finally, I have helped all you non-Danish speaking friends around the world by including a small word list giving you a few of the Danish Christmas words in English.

Isn't that so sweet!! Here's the kit:

Check out the whole post and grab the kit while you can!
Isn't it lovely? All the items are familiar to me... and make me wish my mom wasn't a thousand miles a way...

I will be attempting the woven hearts tomorrow, which are ornaments made from construction paper or card stock that form little heart shaped baskets. You fill the baskets with goodies and hang them from the tree. I've  never been good at making these, but I'd love to master it enough to help the kid make some so he can learn to do something Danes do.

I am just so touched! What a nice reminder of the holiday spirit. Thank you, Trinne!!

Even if this holiday has been side track by my ovaries and small intestines and even though I'm mess... and even though my house looks like a tornado hit it, I think its going to be a very memorable Christmas! 

Now I'm gonna wipe the sweat off myself, open a window and try to get some sleep...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Something Larger than Yourself

Bookmark and Share
My kiddo, Matty, and his best friend, Sammy have been nerding out together for over a year now. I'm really quite impressed they have navigated the complicated social situations and hierarchies of neighborhood kids. I am tickled to see the two get into age appropriate trouble together, take up for each other and basically see their bond on display on a regular basis.

Sammy is a great ally for Matt, helping him work through the more aspie moments and understanding when Matty needs space. He's been the autism ambassador for Matty when other kids have asked Matty "why are you so weird?" (true story. And it's autism kids that are supposed to have no filter?).  As a mom, I can't imagine a better friend for my kid.

Remember those days of childhood? One day so and so is friend and the next you have no clue what happened but you're treated like you have the plague. Or maybe it's your aren't cool enough. Or maybe you are different. Maybe you said no to peer pressure. Maybe you saw someone doing something dangerous or wrong and spoke up. Maybe so and so's friend is jealous and starts a rumor about you. We've all been there at some point in our lives. People are mean. Social situations can feel like a battlefield when you are the enemy. Unfortunately kids that are different are often the enemy.

Navigating relationships and social situations as a NT person is not easy. If it were, shows like Jerry Springer would have never existed and Dr. Phil would be out of business. No one would get divorced and Congress would probably be an efficient governing body. No one would commit crimes because people would actually think their actions through. All the world's past and present ills would be erased. Let's face it: NT don't have the social aspect of humanity anywhere close to correct. If we did have it right, we'd be living in Utopia. Being different would be okay.

I'm always a little amazed at the social judgement by NT people. I remember once my husband came home from a kid's birthday party with the kid. Hubby was utterly devastated because other parents made fun of him for not letting our chug can after can soda at five years old. I was shocked. I couldn't believe the judgement passed by other adults just because we helped our kid moderate his behavior, which saves our whole family from sugar-caffiene-crash hell. That judgement came from our choice being different from theirs. I see nothing wrong with teaching our kid how to make healthy choices in a social situation. Cause you know, binge drinking isn't cool at parties. At the same rate, I'm not gonna judge you for letting your child consume their body weight in soda on their birthday or at a party. 

People seem to forget the old saying when you live in a glass houses shouldn't throw stones? I have met a lot of people who could really benefit from social skills training that are well outside the autism community. During a political campaign season, all you have to do is read the news or turn on the television to remind you that humans suck at social skills in general.

This subject, that people are mean to others who are different, ended up playing out in my house the other day. You see, Matty and Sammy have always been open to including new kids in their exploits, but no one has really fit. By fit, I mean no kid has ever been able to hang with the differences of Matty and Sammy in a larger group of kids. Those two always end up being social pariahs (and mostly Sammy by the default of liking and sticking up for my son). There was no third kid with (early) Musketeer ethics (cause don't the Musketeers have a falling out later in life?).

That changed a couple of weeks ago. Enter Teddy. Teddy was a quiet kid, I thought. Matty and Sammy were practically ga-ga over his skateboarding skills. There was no posturing or pretense. He is just a down to earth kid. Teddy is helping the other boys with their skateboard tricks. He just... fits. The two boys made Teddy's visits seem like Tony Hawk himself was showing up at my door.

The other day, Matty told my hubby that Teddy didn't like to speak to people. The kid explained that it wasn't because Teddy was shy or dumb, but because he has a speech impediment. I think it bothered Matty that this really cool, new friend of his didn't think of himself this way. The hubby suggested Matty share his own diagnosis because he can relate to being different.

My kid did just that. He shared with Teddy, he also encouraged Teddy. Different does equal shameful. A speech impediment doesn't mean you have less to say; It just means you have work a bit harder to say it. My kid can certainly relate to communication issues. No one had to say that Teddy has probably faced relentless ridicule by his peers and stigma by adults because of a speech impediment. We know what's its like in this house to be different.

My kid told his friend that there was no shame in being different. Matty related to his new friend in a way that not many others could. Sammy lent support. In the words of Temple Grandin's mother (which I often use myself) different is not less. Different, not less. 

Turns out Teddy has a lot to say. The shy, quiet kid blossomed in my living room. And yes, he does have a speech impediment, but that day it didn't stop him from opening up, chatting away with the boys in front of us parents. He stopped giving me one word answers and there was no silent shaking 'yes' or 'no' of the head. Teddy's whole demeanor changed as his words danced around the room.

Later, when they went outside to skate, you could hear Teddy for the first time hooting and hollering like a boy should. I didn't mind the loudness this time. That noise was a result of my boy who related to and encourage a friend, not by spotlighting sameness, but by relating and embracing differences.  My son took on the challenge of expressing his feelings and thoughts in a way that his friend completely understood. I still feel misty eyed thinking about the positive impact my kid had on his friend's life at that moment, helped a friend remember the power of his voice.

While discussing the boys love for Teddy, my hubby questioned what made Teddy so special to them. I told my husband that the logic to it is simple. Here are two boys who aren't like the other kids around them. They know it. They've been excluded. Teddy adds a piece to that-- he can relate to them. There is strength in numbers. As people, we all want to part of something larger than ourselves-- even if you have an impairment.

Yep, I'm one proud mom.

P.S. I'm sorry if I'm all over the place. For one, I'm outta practice writing. For two, I had surgery yesterday and am loving my pain meds at the moment. 

P.P.S. Later this week, I will be making a really, super exciting announcement!! So stay tuned!! I've been working hard (with the help of some friends) to bring our autism community something really special.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Children of Autism in the Military: An American Fail

Bookmark and Share
That's right. I said FAIL. 

One would think that the military in this country would be leading the charge to serve children with autism because their parents do so much for our country. Like sacrificing lives and such? Their families move around all the time without complaint, they lose a parent to deployment over and over again, and are giving of themselves in countless ways us civilian people would say 'oh hell no' to.

I have a girlfriend who spent her summer so excited about her husband being stationed state-side, only for the fall surprise that the military changed their minds. Not only did the family have move to another country, they lost all her furniture, too. She spent months living out of a suitcase, pregnant, alone with two small kids. I think she's one of the bravest, most adventurous women I know.

Could you imagine doing that with a child on the spectrum? One word: Hell.

This morning, Diary of a Mom's blog made a heart felt plea. Contrary to what we civies think, the military is redefining the word 'under-served' for the autism community. It's inspired me to post this, before I've had even one cup of coffee this morning (so if it seems like there are more typos and word omissions than usual, you know why) and meant putting aside the other brilliant post I was working on for you. I am utterly outraged at this under-service.

Did you know only one in eighty-eight children  receive valuable interventions for autism if their parents are in the military? Again, that's 1 child and 1 family getting the needed help, support and therapies out of 88. It's... it's... UNACCEPTABLE. These children didn't sign up for substandard care and they didn't sign up for the Armed Services. The fact they are in military families without choice comes with a certain expectation: That our government will support them because their parents are supporting us.

We have all failed. It isn't just the military, it's us. We've allowed this to happen by not speaking up. The good news is that it's not to late to fix it. With ONE CLICK, you can make a difference by asking our leaders to support the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act- H.R. 2288. You can let your congress-person know you want this travesty corrected.

This click is brought to you by the tireless work of a mom and Army wife: Rachel Kenyon. Her dedication brings us the ability to speak out, speak up and help our fellow autism parents who also happen to be actively serving our country. It takes no time at all. I did it in between sips of coffee. Rachel doesn't believe the cavalry is coming for her cause, but I say it is now on it's way. Get on your horses, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents and all! Let's be known as a formidable force in Washington, D.C. (I know my congressman must see my emails and think 'it's this chick again... just give her what she wants')

When you are done emailing your congress people, consider another holiday gift for our brave military families by donating time or money HERE. Your gift will keep military parents from drowning in therapy bills and provide for their immediate needs. Let's face it, bills are slow to pass and our politicians are confused at the moment. Our personal donations make a difference here and now while we wait for the rest to follow. 

One more thing: When you are done all that good stuff. Share those links on your favorite social media sites. Spread the word, change a life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Scrap

Bookmark and Share
I have spent a relaxing evening scrapping while the hubby took care of dinner. I used a photo my sis in law took of my inlaws on Thanksgiving. I used Shabby Princess's Harvest. Plentiful and Dinner Party kids (all are free to download).

I also made a Christmas background for my computer using a kit I fell in love with from Natlai Design:

Happy Scrapping, everyone!

Friday, December 2, 2011

No matter how it's packaged, hate is still hate

Bookmark and Share
I've been called a lot of things by a lot of people in my lifetime, but this past week marks the first time I've ever been called 'racist'. I've had a particular fellow call me racist over a hundred times, actually. Sure, I've had some not so nice words hurled at me in passing, but being called racist for agreeing with someone on the issues that many black people have to still deal with in this day and age? Well, it was mind blowing.

I'm not even sure how I got sucked into the conversation. The only thing that I can think is the particular person who spent more than his allotted 140 characters on Twitter doing so engages in this behavior for the sake of publicity. I would imagine he mines Twitter for hashtages, like #tcot (a conservative tag) for people to debate. I use the term loosely because a debate implies reciprocity and arguing facts, neither is something this tweeter believes in. For the sake of simplicity and as not to satisfy his craving for attention, I will refer to him as Mr. C.  

I've always been of the mindset that unless you talk about these icky, tough subjects, people will continue to face discrimination. The Tea Party has made speaking negatively about race in code socially acceptable. We've gone from an open dialogue to no dialogue at all simply because we have a black president. The key to undermining non-whites it to not talk about the problems and injustices they face. Therefore, I'm always willing to discuss the topic.

Truth be told, I was very happy to join in what I thought would be stimulating conversation. I was looking forward to learning new points of view, mental enrichment and the chance to talk about something that matters (besides my kid and husband). Others in the conversation seemed to be really ganging up on Mr. C, which I felt bad for. I did not let them influence my opinion of him.

Mr. C happens to have a blog and a Ustream broadcast, which I happily perused. I found him an articulate, compelling writer. He makes a lot of very valid and important points about racism. His appeared to have good insight into the problems his culture is facing internally and externally. I was jazzed to get to pick his brain, listen to his thoughts and share mine with him.

I was warned by one in the conversation, a conservative, that Mr. C would do nothing but attack me. I laughed that off. Surely a man like Mr. C is compelled to have intelligent conversations. Surely his arguments and points stood on their own merits. A person like him doesn't need to stoop to insults in order to prove his point.

The others in the conversation that agreed with the conservative of the group, I thought, may be ultra conservatives as well. I think I stated something along the lines that I was a big girl and would form my own opinions; I don't feel I need to be liked by someone to agree with them.

Now, I'm not sure whether to show you how the conversation transpired or describe the craziness to you. All I know is that I have never in all my years encountered anything like it and I spent years being the only white person in the room.

Maybe I'll do both. I'm renaming the those in the conversation and putting my thoughts in italics. Here goes:

Mr. B: just wait until Mr. C goes off on him then redguy may change his tune!

Me: BTW, I'm a girl (cause we all know Pooping Red Guy is my blog and also an action figure).

Mr. C: Pooping Red "GUY" is a girl? How damn DUMB is that? (not a very grown up way to start a conversation with someone you've talked to, but I let it ride. I thought perhaps it was humor at my absurd screen name.)

(Now I'm not really good at looking back at old tweets, so I can't pull up the entire conversation. Somehow we stumbled onto racial division. I'm all for maintaining cultural identity, but I also am for diversity. I know the two can be achieved simultaneously. That's a good thing, too, because we can share our cultures with others so that we learn from one another. Also, we can enjoy what those cultures have to offer. It's a win-win.)

One thing that irritates me to no end (and I've heard over and over again from many black people) is when a white person says "I'm not a racists because I have some black friends". It's not a statement that screams "not racist". You are immediately identifying your black friends as black, and not just as your friends. I don't say "I'm not a homopbobe because I have some gay friends" and a man can't say "I'm not a misogynist because I have some women friends". By making those sort of statements you pigeon holing your friends by race, gender and sexual preference with is very much the founding idea in any sort of bigotry. I really wish white people would stop saying they can't be racists because they have black friends. I have actually known racist people who have black friends... the argument holds no water.

Me:  By saying "my kid has a black friend" you are immediately dividing people by race.

Mr. B:  race was divided in the country when the white man stole country from the native Americans! (this is a good point, but just because something was or is doesn't mean it should be or is okay)

Me: it's fine to keep it divided?

Mr. C: And yes Racists should be "divided" from the Blacks that they seek to destroy. (taking this at face value, it seems like a reasonable, understandable sentiment. personally, I'd be happy if we could take racists out of the equation because they are so hateful and hurtful. I'm not sure it's the answer to ending racism, though, nor is it logistically possible.)

Now the conversation goes on in a dizzying kind pace and since Mr. C goes over his 140 character allotment, there's a lot of new windows opening up. In any care, Mr. R (another participant), asks me an interesting question. 

Mr. R: You eat yet? You seem dumber today. Is poop a racist?

I can't find my response, but I said something to effect that I can't judge that since racism is more about the perception of the person's ideas and actions. I've never been called racist, but that if I was than it could be the case. If so, I'd have to re-evaluate my actions. The point was missed as Mr. C interpreted this differently than it was meant.

Mr C: Come on Racist NUT Mr. R. Did you really think this Racist Poop was sincere about not being a Racist and not realizing you were? "My[Racist] kid has a Black friend..." do you know how fucking DUMB that is?

The funny part part is that a) I never said I was racists and b) I hadn't heard enough from any of these folks to determine any overt racism. It should be noted that I really don't understand what Mr. C is trying to convey here. I also find it sad that he's now implied a small child is racist. The kid can't be more than 4 or 5 years old...

I ignored the comment. I became quite clear that my hopes of intelligent, thought provoking, enriching conversation with Mr. C were woefully dashed. I found the others were much better conversationalists and my only chance for any meaningful banter on the topic. There are two people I haven't mentioned yet, but were also late comers in thread: Mr. A, a college student, and Mr. G, an artist, father, philosopher. Some others were in and out of the thread, but not nearly as memorable as Mr. B, Mr. R, Mr. A, and Mr. G (in order of appearance).

Unfortunately, Mr. C spent the remainder of the conversation calling the white speakers racist and the black speakers sell outs. Mind you, this conversation started November 27th and is still going on (it's December 2nd). The real substance of the discussion has come from unexpected sources, for which I am grateful to have made new friends that I can disagree with and then joke around with, while also learning something.

I admit to teasing and egging Mr. C on. It's frankly an exercise in human behavior to see how he reacts to a variety of statements. I imagine that's what the others do, too. It's like watching a train crash over and over again. I do find it sad that this poor man has so much hatred spewing out of him. No one should have to carry that burden. I imagine he's had some pretty whacked up experiences  to have become the man he is today.

I also suspect he has some sort of personality disorder. When I unfollowed him because I was tired of hate speech flooding my Twitter time line, he initiated conversation with me (saying he won an argument we weren't having) and then followed me. That typically doesn't happen when someone doesn't like you and thinks you are racist. It's simply not normal behavior.

For instance, take this tweet I made this morning:

Anger is painful and shortens your life. No one deserves to live with such a rage inside of them &limits them from connecting w/ fellow man

Then he replies to it to say:

Racist insults about Black "anger" make you feel better but it doesn't make an argument. Suggesting that I'm "angry" that you're a Racist won't help you win the argument. Remember your happiness is based on your "winning" so why not get on the right side of the issue and STOP BEING RACIST so you can win? I'm not "angry" because your DUMB White Racist ass can't argue your way out of a paper bag, I'm disappointed that you aren't more of a foe.

Words can't express how sad his response is... for one, he apparently never read anything I've written in the days long conversation (I said I'd rather be happy than win), secondly, when I've agreed with him, he argued with me and called me names and thirdly if I'm such an evil racist and his foe, why on earth is bothering with me? I could say the sky is blue and that would make me racist for not seeing a green sky that is blue. It's just silly.

I made this for Mr. C & sent it to him. Maybe he can sleep better now?

I'm adding the sidebar that I won't be surprised if Mr. C goes ballistic because I didn't use his name in this post. I also predict he'll read it and call bring out the racist nut bit, perhaps even using retaliatory measures. If any of this comes to fruition, I will add it here. I've got my popcorn...   do you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Bookmark and Share
Something utterly wonderful happened this week on Twitter. A hashtag was created:

It's been called cathartic, sad, touching, awesome, wonderful, funny... and mostly so TRUE.  As parents with children on the spectrum come together to share succinct messages  about what it really means to have an autistic child. Because time prevents a long, drawn out post (day before Thanksgiving and all), I've snipped a few of my many favorite posts and some of my own insights on what its like to have an autistic child. Each of these tweets are worthy of their own posts... actually, every tweet with this hashtag deserves an post.

I feel so blessed and thankful at this moment... words cannot describe what this hashtag has done for me. I wish I could hug every single one these #youmightbeanautismparentif tweeps. They get it. They really, really get it. It's an invaluable topic that I believe is not going to go away any time soon.

When I think that less than fifty years ago people didn't talk about autism. Parents were told to put their kids away for life and to try again... as if autistic children were defective products recalled by a company. I wonder if the first advocates of autism, the first generation of parents to speak out could have ever envisioned what happened this week?

I'm giving my thanks tomorrow to the first few that said "Autism isn't a death sentence", despite society's view (a society who had the approval of the medical and psychiatric community).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Fun

Bookmark and Share
Beautful stone work at the cemetery. Photo by C. Arick
We have a cemetery near our house that is a beautiful and historic. My family happens to really love the paranormal, which means we really love Halloween. My husband and I also dabble in paranormal investigations in our free time. As part of a homeschool lesson for our son, I decided last Friday that it was the perfect time take a Halloween themed field trip. Paranormal investigations require interesting tools- tools that are great for teaching science, on top of the interesting history lessons you learn researching your investigation area. 

About 5 pm, after my son did some research on out town's history, we gathered our ghost hunting gear, installed fresh batteries, gave each piece a test run to ensure it was working and headed to the little cemetery. We employed a digital voice recorder, a digital camera, a ghost box, and EMF detector. We snapped some photos and started our EVP session. We enjoyed reading the old headstones and imagining the people's stories. My son kept a keen lookout for our town's more famous residents, like Capt. William Russell.

I took out our ghost box and turned it on. There was only one problem: no sound! It was strange because I had just replaced the batteries and tested 15 minutes ago (we live about a minute by car from the cemetery). I fiddled with it, a little peeved because its not cheap, but no matter what I did I could not get sound from it. We've had the ghost box for a couple of years and used it many times never encountering such a malfunction. I ended up putting it away to fix when we got home, bummed that it might be dead.

A few minutes later, my son called to me. He found a headstone that intrigued him. It was small and marked differently than the others. It simply said 'INFANT 1896-1896'. I headed over to him with digital recorder in hand. When I got near to the headstone, I hit record on the recorder. I remarked that I couldn't imagine what it was like to lose a child (though I could, I said this for my son's benefit) adding that the loss was so sad. I wondered who the child belonged to, but before I could really study the surrounding graves to match baby with mother, my son was off somewhere else. 

A little while later, as the sun started to set, we concluded our investigation. Other than the ghost box malfunction, there was nothing out of the ordinary at the cemetery. We got into the car and I decided to check the ghost box to see if it was working yet. Yep, it worked, much to my relief. My son asked to see it, so I handed to him. He rolled down his window and stuck the box out of the car at which point the sound from the box immediately ceased. I had no explanation for it.

We went home and immediately started reviewing our digital voice recordings. We had about 10 minute long bursts of recordings. My son got bored after the third recording, so I let him go do his own thing while I put on my headphones and kept reviewing. I came to the recording of the infant gravestone. Much to my surprise, a voice stuck out like a sore thumb not only to my ears, but in the visual frequency graph, too. The following links are snippets of those recordings, raw and amplified:

Old headstone Rendering by C. Arick

I know it says download, but if you click the link, you can listen to the recordings directly at the site! 

I won't tell you what I hear, but will say that I thought it was a relevant comment to the subject matter at the time. It was also the only thing we recorded for which I did not have an explanation. We look forward to going back to see if we can repeat the results from our little field trip soon.

Happy Halloween!! 

Do you believe in ghosts? Have any ghost stories you want to tell? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Skateboarding: Who Knew?

Bookmark and Share
Never in my life did I pet my clumsy (like his mom), vision impaired child (worse than his mom... they don't make a prescription strong enough for his eyes... a disease is suspected, but we won't know until he's a little older) as an athlete. Yet, he's turning out to be just that. The sport? Skateboarding.

My son has been practicing religiously since April. He's moving his body, making friends and learning very important life lessons. He's overcoming his lack of vision and developing coordination. He's getting a huge sense of accomplishment as he hones his skills. We watch professional skateboarders on television.

I never realized skateboarding was an actual sport, but I'm learning its value. Living near the beach, we have no shortage of kids who enjoy skating and surfing. I've never seen so many kids skateboarding in my life until I moved here. I never minded the skating activity in our old neighborhood or around our one shopping center because you know exactly what those kids are doing: skating. They are focused. They are staying out of trouble. They are being kids, not little gangsters or hoodlums. Now my child, who is at that age where he is more independent and doesn't always have his parents around to guide him to the good, healthy choice is benefiting from that focus.

Skating has become an obsession for my boy, which is okay by me. It's socially appropriate. He has skater friends. He made a new friend because of his interest in skating. A new friend. That's huge! The older skateboarding kids (some of them in their twenties) take a big brother approach with the younger ones. He learning how to interact in a variety of new and challenging social situations. He's figuring out how to literally and figuratively think on his feet. I'm not sure that would be possible in any other traditional sport where you are coached and guided by adults. This is a free-range sport that's self, peer and community guided. I can't think of another way where he could get this sorta education.

The local skate stores know who my son is and love talking to him about skating. Our favorite store, Liquid, gave my kid (or rather his grandparents) a great deal on new parts for his skateboard and some stickers to cover up their corporate competitors stickers on the bottom of his deck (which I've learned is the proper name for the wood part of a skateboard). My kid completes all the interaction himself with the clerks and shopkeepers. To hear them talk is like listening to another language, but it's nice to hear that your kid knows his stuff.

Our area lacks an actual designated skate park, so in the next town over a church has donated part of its parking lot for a mini-skate park. Kids and their parents, shop owners and enthusiasts have donated and built ramps and other neat skate equipment for the area. I never knew skaters would have such a sense of community, but I'm glad they are influencing my son.

I don't know if this is just another aspie phase, but until he's done with it we will encourage him. We will help him foster self-confidence through the sport of skateboarding. We'll support the skater community and local businesses that support him. And we'll guide him through the social lessons so that he can continue to grow and thrive. Skaters don't care if you have autism as long as you skate.

I'm going to take the time to give accolades to the church where the skate park is located: This particular church is extremely active in the county, helping families and the community like nothing I've ever seen before. The funny part is this church's congreation is made up largely of the gay, lesbian, transexual and transgender residents of our county. I often think to myself that all churches should be like this church. My husband had an office there and we have friends that attend that church. If I were to go to church, it would have to be this one. Acceptance is an amazing thing and it is a rock in our community.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Glee's Sugar not so sweet

Bookmark and Share
I am a total Gleek. My husband and I faithfully DVR every new episode to watch undisturbed. In our house Glee is an event. We put the boy to bed, grab our snacks, turn off the phones and settle in for an hour of laughter, drama, and music. There are times when we have to hit pause just so we can spend ten minutes delving into philosophical conversation about the relationship between Sue and Will.  We found that ourselves almost pooping our pants in anticipation of this season's premiere episode.

Image from Gleewiki
Something odd occurred during the season premiere: We saw our kid on television. Okay, not really our kid, but someone like our kid. Her name is Sugar Motta, a "self-diagnosed" aspie girl.  My jaw hit the floor when she said "... which means I can pretty much say whatever I want. " because my boy just went through this phase. (Part of the reason why I haven't had time to post is because he decided having Asperger's could give him a free pass to do and say whatever he liked. Thankfully, we have moved past that for the most part.)

I won't get into how offensive it is to hear over and over again that there is something wrong with having a "stereotypical" aspie kid. If  there is anything I have taken from this debate it's that the autism community does not accept stereotypical aspie kids or their parents. 

I can't say I know what the writer's intentions with this charcter is or what the future will hold for her. What I can say is that I recognized some of my kid in her. Spoiled, check. Egotistical, check. Rude, check. Smart-mouthed, check. Manipulative, check. Of course, he's not that way all the time, but he certainly has those moments-- a lot of them in the past month. One of his biggest challenges is learning not to tell people how much smarter and more skilled he is than his peers. Most of the time it's true, but there are times when he over-estimates his abilities landing him in a socially awkward pickle. His reaction is much like Sugar's reaction to being rejected membership in the glee club. She calls Will a "Broadway wanna-be", then angrily storms off. Been there, done that.

I can say that after watching the second show I'm sure Sugar isn't autistic. My god, she gave out a hug without a thought to someone she hardly knew! My kid would never, ever do that unless it was family. He hugs family because that is his routine. Does that make me hate the character? Nope.  It wouldn't be the first time Glee faked a disability--remember Tina and her stuttering? I'm okay with that because being a regular teenager is hard and you couldn't pay me to go back.

Now most of the autism community is outraged by this portrayal of a self-diagnosed autistic young lady using AS to as a free pass. Sugar was not a well received character. Twitter, Facebook, the entire Blogosphere was all abuzz with criticism. The character is viewed as stereo-typical and insulting to those with Asperger's. For a good summation of those thoughts and feelings, I suggest Beth Arky's post at The Child Mind Institute. I'm not going into detail, mostly because I'm feeling lazy and want to eat my gyro leftover from last night's dinner.

I happen to hold the less popular view that Sugar is an interesting character. I don't find myself taking offense, maybe because I am raising a stereotypical aspie kid? Or maybe because I'm okay with television writer's taking liberties with things that effect humans. I'm certainly more okay with Sugar than I am with journalist saying autistic kids lack empathy. That really gets up my nose. I don't watch Glee to be educated; I watch it to be entertained. It's great when a work of fiction gets us thinking, actually I prefer that, but I don't get my facts from hour long musical show.

I think what surprises me most about this debate is the fact that the autism community took a first impression and made a very harsh judgement. One thing I've learned from autism is that a first impression isn't the the time to pass judgement. You just don't know what's underneath the surface in five minutes of character introduction.

I think the autism community is having a knee-jerk reaction, which I can understand. Getting people to really and truly understand autism is hard, hard work. There's a lot of discrimination, a lot of "you're just saying that so your kid's behavior is excused". I get that. I've lived that. Yet, does a history of experiences with others' knee-jerk reactions justify us having our own?

Julia Bascom's blog post, Just Stimming, makes a very good point that I will leave you with (and I reccommend you read her entire post on the subject):

Anyone who thinks that Sugar’s actions won’t be addressed hasn’t been paying attention to how the show works for the past two years. Anyone who thinks that her plot has anything to do with actual autism, or the issue of self-identification in the autistic community, is putting assumptions into play that the show has never expressed an interest in. And anyone who thinks she is written as actually autistic, as some parents have been suggesting, has some serious ableism of their own to unpack.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Natural Diaster Week not enough for you?

Bookmark and Share
Photo:NASA/NOAA GOES Project Hurricane Irene
There was a lot of complaining in our little state that the news media and officials gave too much hype to Hurricane Irene. I think THIS cartoon, by Rob Torone, sums it up best. For those who think it was over-hyped: Did you really want find out what mega-flooding is and are you expecting weather forecasters and public officials to make guarantees that loss of life and property are going to occur?

We don't have the science for those guarantees... except with this storm those terrible things did occur. It's just that we got lucky. Really, really lucky... except for those people who had their homes and vehicles destroyed. And the farmers who lost crops and livestock... and the businesses that were flooded.  Oh, and the people who died. So I guess you could say that the people who were merely inconvenienced were annoyed at being inconvenienced without thinking about the actual people and communities that had tremendous losses on the Delmarva Peninsula. Plus, it really damaged my garden, which had been a labor of love... :(

Don't worry, inconvenienced people! You'll see that devastation show up in your rising grocery budget. Economic devastation does trickles down. Actually, that economic impact can be compared to a river at flood stage.

I personally think our area needed Irene to test the mettle of its newest emergency plan. Good news: It worked! Whether one thinks it was dramatized or not, we now know that we can face a potential mega-disaster with relative calm because we've been through the Irene Drill. I would venture to guess that many, many homes now have an emergency kit and plan. I know we have ours. As a state, we are ready to face whatever nature throws at us while hoping we don't have to face it.

If there's one thing I've taught my son, it's that he needs to respect Mother Nature. You cannot master the forces of the Earth, so never underestimate them. What you can do is be prepared and practice good safety measures to minimize it's impact. It's a great method for helping kids feel like they have some measure of control over their own environment when things don't feel all that stable.

The week of natural disasters, everything was shaky-- emotionally, mentally and physically. I think everyone was on edge because the hurricane was preceded by an earthquake. I think that got everyone ready to expect the unexpected. But maybe there was a big let down that this was not the end of the world or enough to have our area featured  in one of those Discovery Channel mega disaster shows?

(The Delmarva Peninsula has the grand privilege of amplifying earthquake waves. They say the quake we felt was only a 2 on the Richter Scale. It'd hate to feel a three! Our house turned into a shaky kidde-coaster. The house went up and down and side to side, with enough motion to pop up floor board nails, disconnect some plumbing and pop plastic siding out of place. I'm ready to move into a sturdier structure!)

Did I want to find out how my home reacts to an earthquake and a hurricane happening within a week of each other? Not really. Did I mind the forecasters saying "get away from water!"? Not at all, especially since our little town floods whenever we have heavy rains. Did I want to find out how autism and hurricanes mix? Not on your life. Earthquakes and autism don't do well together, so I was not about to lump in the potential storm of the century.

We opted for a "hurrication". Instead of going to a shelter, instead of going through the anxiety of a storm, we went to visit my parents in upstate New York. We beat the traffic by leaving a day before everything was officially evacuated. We packed up all the essentials, including our pets-- who did really well on a 9 hours car trip-- and hit the open road.

We hadn't had a vacation in two years and after our crazy, stressful summer, it was time. We had an awesome and relaxing time... except for Saturday night when we watched the news with bated breath to see if our area survived the storm. It did survive, mainly due to the preparation measures (yay for a sandbagged library). So, instead of riding out a hurricane, my boy rode on roller coasters. He was happy and relaxed rather than having anxiety induced meltdowns.

I'm not sure what people expected to happen? Did they want more death and destruction to feel like the weekend wasn't wasted? I'm not really sure. Perhaps they aren't educated in the art of hurricane prediction and forecasting? Or maybe they don't realize that the media can get into a lot of trouble for over-hyping a hurricane? You know, forecasters aren't allowed to cause mass panic.

When the people on The Weather Channel get deadly serious and have a somber tone-- dropping the meteorologist boner tone- we need to listen. When governors go on the airwaves speaking to the populous like children, they have good reason to do it. When resort towns start banning the sale of alcohol things are not okay.

If the hurricane wasn't enough for you or annoyed you, well, all I have to say is good luck in future storms. Hurricane season isn't over until November, so perhaps you'll have plenty of opportunity to practice what you preach. And maybe you'll be lucky to keep preaching after the next one... or maybe Mother Nature will take you and your stuff out. In the mean time, I'd be happy to give you a hurricane reenactment-- it'd be great stress relief!