Precious, Precious Memories. And Zombies.

About two years ago, I became skeptical of my decision to allow the kids free will.

Well, at least regarding toys. Not being a huge fan of gender stereotypes, pink, or damsels in distress, you can imagine how thrilled I was when my daughter began showing major signs of some serious Princess infatuation.

Princess dolls, books, sippy cups, clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste(!?), backpack, and even underpants.  Obviously, my attempts at cheery gender neutrality (“look sweetie, don’t you love these rainbow sneakers??”) were fatally outnumbered.  In the end, not wanting to unintentionally give the message that my daughter’s choices were somehow invalid, I swallowed my feminist theory and celebrated her frilly fanaticism with tea party gusto.

(And besides, trying to obstruct the line of focus in someone with ASD – no matter how little, or cute they may be –  is about as effective as asking a charging bull to politely move to the side.)

So today, just as I was wondering whether or not to let my son wear a tutu he was begging for, I heard my daughter making some strange…haunted noises, followed by the analog voice of Miley Cyrus emanating from a barbie.  Hmm. 

Me:  “Honey, what are you doing in there?”
Her:  “I’m playing Hannah Montana, mom.   Hannah Montana and ZOMBIES!”  She said with unmitigated glee.

I went to go watch, and the visual effect was not unlike how I’d imagine a Precious Moments line of Undead figurines.

So, so sweet. So, so adorable, so…morbid.

That’s my girl!

One more time, from the soapbox:

It appears that in some circles, Autism is code for Spoiled Brat.

Indeed, there are no medical tests to determine whether or not an individual has Autism.  If that is a problem then I suppose Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, and Depression qualify as socially constructed maladies or shameful parental inadequacies as well.

There are remarks that attempt to dismiss Autism as “merely” a nouveau grab-bag diagnosis, often compared to the surge of ADHD awareness in the 90’s. 

If you ask me, a grab bag diagnosis is better than no diagnosis at all.  The therapies common in management of Autism symptoms are resoundingly beneficial in a wide range of abilities or disabilities on the spectrum.   In fact, what we should be wondering is why ABA, Individualized Education Plans, Floor Time, RDI, etc. are not incorporated into the general care of ALL children.

When it Bakes it Pours

Ah the power of yeast.  Today I baked from scratch, by hand – hardcore DIY, I know – two, yes TWO loaves of successful wheat bread (sure I forgot the salt, but if you’re familiar with my standard product, then you know how profoundly harmless this is in comparison to past exploits.  Just think “doorstop” or “iron ore” or “inedible” for comparison), two batches of wheat pizza dough for future use, a generous mass of Biga (Italian ‘rustic’ -whatever that means- bread dough starter), a spinach mushroom quiche, AND a freakin French apple pie!  WTF?  Is it Christmas or what?  Bring on the suare, I’m ready to entertain!  Well, maybe not my actual friends, because I’d actually want to hang out with them again and you never really know with my cooking… 

Anyway, the kids thought it was hilarious and never knew cooking could be such an extreme sport.  “Mommy, WHY are you boxing that dough?!”  

Hmmm, perhaps that’s why I find this so much more cathartic than yoga.  Maybe next I’ll smack down a brioche.

All in the Family Band

I just found out (only 4 years late) that one of my favorite bands, Mates of State, also happens to be a musical little family!  They have a darling blog, for all of you interested in the goings on of an indie-pop duo and their wee ones on tour.

Communication Is Not Wed to Language

I don’t normally soapbox, but I really feel that this is something worth being, well, vocal about. 

The idea of communication and the human obsession with qualifying it as a singularly linguistic enterprise is something I’ve been thinking about and fascinated with for a very long time.  An article in Wired (go on, read it!) perfectly illustrates our narrow scope and acceptance for what constitutes valid communication, and by extension thought and consciousness. 

This obviously raises unsettling questions about our reactions to and (mis)treatment of non-verbal individuals currently and throughout history.  For me, the continuation of this quandary is to reconsider our relationship with, and treatment of many other creatures, not just humans.  

As Biggs demonstrates, and beautifully articulates in her video, her language of sensory input and reaction is being completely ignored by society at large.  Again, I can’t help but think of all the other sentient creatures who are communicating via similarly unfamiliar modes of non-verbal physical interaction and reaction.  It seems that verbal language, while being a huge part of the human experience, requires a very specific (and relatively narrow) set of neurological and physical attributes for success.

Biggs references human justice, and the inability to truly realize it until we begin to accept and respect communication methods that exist outside the societal norm.  I couldn’t agree more. 

The whole article is well worth reading, and touches on many issues that I’ve struggled with personally (via my children) but could never quite articulate.  I especially like the idea that treating autism disorders by way of the traditional disease model is rather maladaptive – though unfortunately that’s the only way to get insurance companies to pay for anything, by pledging to “fix” the person.  As Biggs addresses in her blog: should autism be treated?  Yes, with respect

Here’s the Wired article, in case you ignored my links above:  http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/magazine/16-03/ff_autism?currentPage=1

And Biggs’s wonderful personal blog: http://ballastexistenz.autistics.org/

And a related CNN link: http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/02/22/autism.emails/index.html

Cloudy With a Chance of Pee

My son loves Thomas the train.  LOVES him.  My son’s devotion is so deep, he feels strong personal ownership of any and ALL Thomas train sets, regardless of who they may actually belong to.  I tend to avoid public places that have a nice little train table set up for less fanatical boys and girls – it only gets ugly when we arrive.  My son is like a crazed preschool version of stalker fandom.   He has a similar reaction to tomatoes, (farmers’ markets are a disaster) but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, in one of our favorite films, (watched safely from the confines of our own home) Thomas and his pals are subjected to various extreme weather capers: “Oh no, Thomas, the summer sun is melting the children’s ice cream delivery!” or “Watch out for the avalaaaaaaanche!”

My son enjoys this immensely, reenacting the climatological drama with his own elaborate network of trains and tracks.   

I’ve learned that a toddler can be a very demanding, temperamental, and merciless station master.  Our poor trains have seen it all: catastrophic cliff dives, giant building-block rock slides, impenetrable drifts of cotton ball snow, goldfish cracker hail storms.

And torrential rains.  And by rains, I mean pee. 

This is what happens when you mix a pre-existing fascination of liquids with unmonitored potty training.

It’s a good thing we bought the die-cast trains.  They seem to hold up to repeated, vigorous, scalding washes quite well.

Beauty School Dropout

It’s time I became one. 

The other evening I attempted to attend an advisory conference at the local university in the hopes of finally finishing my undergraduate degree.  Because, you know, it’s only been thirteen years since I started.

Anyway, the fates were against me right from the get go. 

I started planning for this conference a month early.  Wrote it on the calendar, post-its, planner board, my arm with a big sharpie.  I was really counting on my husband being around to watch the kids (I’m sure you can see this one coming) so OF COURSE a week prior to my big night he pulls a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” and claims to have a totally unavoidable appointment.

Bowling.

All right.  I take a deep breath and call on the dubious help of my family, arranging for my brother to come by instead…

The evening of my appointment included, in starring order:  A no-show babysitter who I eventually had to call and wake up – at 4:45 pm.    A miserably lost cab.  A miserably lost me.  POURING rain.  A broken umbrella.  Bad directions.  Worse directions.  And my favorite, the big fat irony to bring this circus to an end:  A painfully confusing, awkward, drawn out episode of miscommunication in the…technical communications building!

Seriously, I can take a hint. 

Trade school never looked so good.