Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Say a bit of a prayer if you've got a moment.

I'm bleaching Neo's hair in preparation for dying it tomorrow a blue-black underneath and a purple on top.

So far the bleach is working well -- rinse is coming up soon. (Darnit, I missed a spot at the end over there. Have to remember to get the blue-black on that strand.)

(We're not doing her whole head, just the crown. She likes her dark hair, so we're keeping that. The top section I trimmed into a shorter layer. The very top near her part is going to be bleached and then dyed.)

Wish me luck. Pictures later.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Books and conversations and politcs and stuff

I'm reading this: Asperger's Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns. I don't know if it's helpful or harmful to read it. Pervasive theme of the book is that once the child has experienced a rage, there is nothing anyone can do but to ride it out. The teachable moments occur as the child is building up to a rage, or during the recovery period after a rage. The fact that an Asperger's child has modeled the correct behavior and response to stress in the comfortable atmosphere of the clinician's office does not mean that the child is able to access that same information when they are under stress. Many "aspies" have excellent memory, but items in their memory are not easily accessible. I know this. I've described this over and over. Yet I still get phone calls saying, "Saul's upset. Boy oh boy is Saul upset. He's more upset than I've ever seen him."

"OK. What was happening just before he got upset?"

"Oh. I don't know. He just suddenly got upset."

And then the rest of the conversation is all about what behaviors he displayed WHILE he was upset, what punishments should be considered for his behavior, how very scary he can become if he cannot be calmed, etc. (Hint. He cannot be calmed. Deal with it. Here's a tip --- you need to work on preventing him from becoming upset in the first place. Remember? We talked about this a while ago. Remember? Hmmm? Lessening his anxiety and increasing his self-esteem comes from moderating his environment so that he is less likely to explode. Right? So why am I expected to lay the disapproval and consequences on like a trowel when you have failed to prevent another outburst?)

Reading this book, I'm stuck every few pages saying to my self, "Uh huh. Yup. Absolutely. No question about it. I know this. Why don't the professionals at the school know this?" It's affirmative to read that certain techniques are state of the art, appropriate, and respectful. And in the same breath, it's infuriating to know that the school thinks that these techniques would be inappropriate for him because he's...because.... Um, where is the because there? Because they are hard to apply? No, not really.

Do they think he's faking?

Most of it is that they really have no training in autism -- Their knowledge is all in the Oprah Winfrey version of Kanner's Autism: one day my kid was adorable and the next he couldn't speak. "I have this tear-jerking video right here to show you what he could have been." I have every possible sympathy for the heartache that these parents have gone through and continue to go through. However, that's not my child.

My child doesn't LOOK disabled. His face has the correct muscle tone. His eyes are the "right" shape. He doesn't flap his hands, tap his feet, or have tics. He has good muscle control and hand-eye coordination. He hears fine. He can carry on conversations. He just interprets what he hears in a very different manner than you do. Parallel conversations are the norm in our house.

I was talking to a friend this morning whose son is only five -- he's just like Saul. I had sent her a letter from a parent who was writing me to complain about all "those disruptive children" in the classroom. She and I are planning to push for a different elementary program, but first I wanted her to see what the general education parents are being told about special ed children by their very own general education teachers. Her response was interesting.

"It's racism. Poor and simple," she said. "If my child looked different, then he'd be patted on the head in a condescending manner and all the adults could congratulate themselves on their own charity in *allowing* that child to participate. If you look different, there's a different standard.

"My child looks the same as the others but has a different brain. Suddenly, there's no charity any more. If it doesn't make you feel good to be understanding, then there's no point, is there?

"I could explain to these people again and again and again that a doctor has diagnosed my child as having a developmental disorder, something wrong with his brain or nervous stem, and they will not give him the slack to struggle with his disability. He has to be pitch-perfect every day. If he isn't, then the teacher gossips to the room mom about how difficult her day is. And that room mom goes and tells four other parents about the child who is *allowed* to act up in class. If my child were drooling, they'd love having him there. They only want sweet idiots in the class. Not the ones that could really boost their test scores if you could just stop talking at them long enough to give them some room to breathe."

Wow. She catches on quick.


I got my first real "We need you on the school board" recruitment call yesterday. From a person who really wants me to be on the City Council, but who first wants me to run in a special election for a school board seat this summer, because then I could get some stuff done and run for City Council in November of 09 as a sitting school board member.

Are you fucking insane?

Did you notice that I got exactly nothing accomplished while I was up there because no one wanted to play ball with me? Why oh why oh WHY would I run for City Council from an active seat on the School Board? Sitting the special election out and then running for a city seat actually makes more sense, but hello? I don't want to run for city council. Zoning ordinances. Water reclamation rights. Public safety. Street lighting. How does one stay awake during a meeting like that?

And if you're so all fired to get a smart woman on the city council, why don't YOU run? If you want someone to run against the most recent school board appointee whom you don't like because the appointee said that she was using the school board as a stepping stone to city council, then, uh, why do you think it's a good idea for me to do the exact same thing? OR, why don't YOU run for school board and leave me the hell out of it?

Ugh. People. Most of the time I don't really like 'em too much.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dear Butcher asked

...who is Black Jack Davy?

I wish I had a video I could embed here to explain. Instead I'm sending you over to this site to listen to Steeleye Span's version.

I'm not a fan of Bob Dylan's version, but that's just me. I prefer the creepier tones of Maddy Prior.

And why is Black Jack Davy on that sidebar over there? Because he's good hero. And his lover is a heroine who runs away from her responsibilities. Sorta like what I do when I'm blogging.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And here we are at ANOTHER meeting

Hey, but this one's good. It's about Neo for once.

Have been seriously looking into homeschooling next year. She's mostly enrolled, except for a few documents. I'm still concerned about her friends at school, although I'd be happy and I KNOW she'd be happier with a stronger curriculum.

Told her that I really wanted the Vice Principals at the school to understand why it was that she was leaving. One in particular has done a lot to help her out, and I wanted her to have a chance to explain what worked and what didn't work. So today we met. Neo, the two VP's, a counselor, and me.

Well, to borrow a pirate phrase, blow me down.

They agree that Neo is not getting challenged, and they want to arrange for her to get some courses at Middle School next year and some courses at the local community college. Preferably English and History at the Junior College level. PE, Math, and Science at the Middle School Level. They are putting in a full-year advanced art elective. Neo already knows the teacher, so the VP wants the teacher to meet with Neo before school gets out to start figuring out what to put in the course to meet Neo's needs. Whoa.

(Of course, since I have some history with the schools saying they are going to do XY and Z for my son, I'm a bit nervous as to whether they are actually going to DO all of this. One the other hand, both the VP and the counselor talked about transferring college credits to the Middle School with some familiarity. The VP, and I trust him of no one else, has said that he will start talking to the community colleges to find out how to dual enroll a child. Then he'll get back to me.)

Late in the meeting, the second VP started asking Neo about GATE electives -- she's not interested in the offerings right now (Ballroom Dance? CSI Techniques?) so is taking none. VP asks her, what do you want to see for next year? Hard question to answer. However, after some fumbling around, the topic of manga came up. Long story short, the VP has asked Neo to put together a Manga reading group, based on whatever PG-rated Manga series Neo thinks is appropriate, perhaps with some art lessons included and an overview of the types of manga art: bishounen, chibi, etc. She's very excited by this. And now they've also asked her to lead it. Now she's SUPER excited.

I really, really, really, really hope this works. Really. It's mid-March -- that should give me enough lead time to see if the leaders over at the middle school are playing with me, or if they are serious about getting some great stuff going for this kid. I don't think she's ready for High School level math, but geez, a decent English course could be really great.

(There's talk also about having her take classes at the High school, but uh, I'm not convinced that the English/History courses are THAT much harder. I'd rather see her go the JC route. If that means she's taking four-year college courses while in High School so be it.)

In Saul news: We're in a holding pattern. He's left school now for the fourth day in a row. Not violent, but not staying on campus and, uh, not eager to stop walking once he's off campus, thank you very much.

In Idiotic Brother news: He called me yesterday to tell me that he didn't have time to call me. Ummm. Yeah. What? We were on the phone for thirty seconds. I think now is a good time to start the countdown until my mother calls me (I give it four days) to say, "Oh I hear you and your brother are talking! Isn't that great?"

In Phebe news: Still quite cute. Very Much So.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Various tunes

which are stuck in my head.

This one too.

But this one's the very best. And the one that won't get OUT of my head.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Book reviews. Finally. Sort of.

This one is great. Read it if you haven't yet.

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne. Terribly embarrassing cover though. Especially since Grey isn't described as LOOKING like his. Gah.

This may even go up into the league of Kinsale and some Ivories for me. Possibly. Dangerously good writing and characterization. Without a lot of heavy breathing and goopiness. You know how I am about sentimentality.

I finished Demon Angel and Demon Moon ages ago, but never wrote about them. They're obviously quite good too. I really like Colin. Meljean Brook is such a great writer too. Funny, but a great world-builder. She has such interesting IDEAS behind her constructs. I love working it all out.

I'll admit though that I'm getting nervous about reading on in this series. Three is usually my breaking point. With Falling for Anthony, Demon Angel and Demon Moon, I'm at three in a series, and I REALLY liked hero and heroine in the last book read. This sets me up for heartache if I keep reading. I'm screwing up my courage to keep going. What a wimp. But a consistent wimp -- I know my limits and am anxious to bump up against them.

Also, I've been catching up on my James Randi backlist. Read both The Faith Healers and The Truth about Uri Geller in one week. His indignation as he relates how a fraud is perpetuated is a marvelous thing to roll around in. I think that's why I love reading him so much. I think that's why I stick around in education so much. I know it can be better, and I get indignant to see people pretending that the only solution to the world's ills is to ignore a problem. I admire Randi a lot. A lot.

Which makes it somewhat difficult that Dear Butcher works in a natural marketplace. He keeps bringing home a suggestion here and a suggestion there which are mostly based on woo-woo thinking. It makes me crazy. Mercury causes autism. (Then WHY do the rates of sutism diagnoses go UP nationwide after thimerosal was taken OUT of children's vaccine preparations?) Gluten causes autism. Uh huh. Red dye allergies cause autism. Uh huh. Processed sugar (hello? The body doesn't know whether it's processed sugar or not. It's all glucose to the cells.) is evil. Soy is good. Unless it's in chicken nuggets. Then it's bad. There are days I want to shrink Randi down into a small necklace sized buddha figure and wear him around my neck.

OH! My least favorite book this month. Pressed upon me by not only one mother, but also a teacher as well. Actually it's not one book, it's a series. The Indigo Children. Has anyone heard of this rot? I'd link to various websites, but you can google it yourself. Believers of the Indigo Children theory surmise that children such as my son have indigo auras and this explains why they are not social when they are around children with different colored auras. They cannot participate easily in this existence because they are more firmly connected to the "other plane". Do not worry parents, they will grow up to be exceptional Spirit Mediums. In the meantime, clothe them in indigo scarves and hang indigo crystals from their bedroom windows to focus their abilities.

I'm now on some sort of weird mailing list and receive New Age catalogs filled with scarves and dreamcatchers and crystals and herbs, all in various shades of blue and purple. Not to mention the dogearred books that are pressed upon me with anxious shaking hands. Read this. Read it. Let me know what you think. It's like living next door to a Jehovah's Witness.

Other things worthy of mention that I've read recently:

The Vanishing Vicountess by Diane Gaston. Much fun. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James. Great set-up: Husband and wife who do not like each other but who are attracted to each other. The man is an idiot in bed, and the wife is something of a shrew. Enjoyed seeing it unfold, but the musical portions did not ring true for me. I just didn't jump far enough into the worlds of composers to latch onto the themes presented. But I loved the set-up, no doubt.

Many articles on Comprehensive Sex Ed. Because, you know, we wouldn't want to actually TEACH someone how to stay safe during sex. This was on NPR's Talk of the Nation last week too. Such a big topic, one that can be obviously addressed, but one that will cause huge drama locally because we cannot wrap our little heads around the fact that kids DOOOOO have sex before marriage. Really. They've been doing it before marriage all along. You don't go passing laws against things people don't do, now do you? No. You pass laws and write down moral codes based on what people are already DOING. Jeez louise.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I'm living in this yucky place where I just want to grab people by the throat and shove something hard and prickly down their necks. There' s no Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy here, folks. Although I do miss Ren and Stimpy, I have to say.

My son won't stay at school. Case manager calls to ask me to come pick him up. I go down, and then she wants to discuss his report card while he's beating up a traffic sign. Want to grab her by the neck. Instead: "Thanks so much. I'll take the report card and talk to you Monday. Buh-bye."

My husband read a posting I made on a guinea pig board where I vented on his not supporting me. And he got his feelings hurt. Want to grab him by the neck too.

My friend who calls me every night on her way home from work because she' s bored on the drive home -- she calls to complain about her kids. Do you have a fucking CLUE what is going on in my life? If you won't get your child tested for disabilities and you refuse to take her to therapy, then WHY are you calling me to complain about her running around the house crying in the morning? I'm not a support for you right now. I couldnt' care less if she makes the soccer team or if she even graduates fourth grade. Leave me alone. Want to pick her up by the neck.

My brother. Oy, my brother. First he writes that idiotic THING on grandpa and my aunt on Wiki, dripping in his reverential worship-laden tone, which was inaccurate besides. Then when he sees that I've edited it he calls to find out how I'm doing. Uh huh. "Gee Brother. You've been working hard on those. All the edits are from February and March." He replies, "Don't tell Mom, but I got fired. It's a great thing though. I'm finding a new path." I seriously want to pick him up by the neck.

My brother's new girlfriend is a researcher on methods of teaching English as a second language in American public schools. Suddenly my brother is all conversant on the state of the American public school system. Except that I tell him the most basic facts, like the fact that NCLB was jointly drafted by Senator Kennedy and Congressman George Miller, both ardent Democrats, he falls off his chair.
"Just WAIT until my girlfriend hears about THIS!"
"Nickleby was drafted by the Democrats and not funded by the Republicans. It was not drafted by the Republicans, just cut off at the knees so that now it's burdensome."
"Kennedy? Really? How do you KNOW these things?"

Oh my good lord. You did miss the fact that I ran for public office and served on the school board for four years, didn't you? When you were dating the special ed teacher, it was exhilarating to have you diagnose my son over the phone. I can't WAIT to hear what these educational conversations are going to entail. Hold still for a sec -- I need to get a good grip on your neck.

Then, the conversation about my aunt. How glad he is that I contributed to Wikipedia. Until I ask the question: "What is she DOING on Wikipedia? OK, she wrote fantasy novels, and she's very well known within a very small sector of the Arabian breeding world, but, uh, she's not internationally important."
"She's important to me."
"Uh huh. So I can go ahead and write one on my husband too? I'm not getting it."
"She was important to the Armenian American community."
"Which is why you didn't put ANYTHING in her bio about her role in the Armenian American community, right?"

Back and forth. Back and forth.

I need to go dig a ditch or something. It used to make me feel better when I was younger. Hours of heavy manual labor, a beer, and a summer afternoon on the roof of the barn, sleeping in the sun, letting the breeze calcify the sweat, the dust, the beer, and the grime. And laughing with the barn rats. I haven't laughed in a while.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Whoa. What?

My aunt has a wikipedia page???

And my grandfather?

Umm. I like them fine, and I think they were neat people. But how did they end up with a wikipedia page?

Oh look. Inaccuracies abound. Some of the family myths have popped up too. ("When she died, she had 60 Davenport Arabian horses on her farm." Uh. No she didn't. I was there and I had to count them.) (And then there's the tale of Grandpa practically inventing the Goodwill bins.)

And, surprise, suprise. My brother wrote the entry on my grandfather. Yeesh. I really should go in and fix my aunt's, but I can't quite deal with the fact that someone put her in Wikipedia for goodness sake. That's just odd.

Edited to add: I just went back to the wiki page for my aunt. My BROTHER put in all the wrong crap about the horses. Somehow, this is even worse. Much gnashing of the teeth.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Like Sands Through the Hourglass, These are the Days of Our Lives

I'm seriously considering enrolling Neo in a home school program for next year. She's been taking placement tests, which is a bit disconcerting to her as she's not testing out as well as she would have expected. (I think she KNOWS the concepts, but is unaware of the vocabulary that goes along with them. Therefore on a "fill in the blank" test, she can't recognize some of the vocabulary linked to the concepts themselves. Ah, well, it will all come out in the wash.) She's an A student in 7th grade math, and this curriculum already warned us that they're about a year ahead of California. She tests as being at the 5th grade level. That stings when you're bright and accomplished. But she's doing well on the language arts stuff. She does know her pronouns, but not any other grammatical rules. Sigh. More to learn.

I think I just hit the wall along with her. Every time we talk about stuff, she's dying to learn more. But there's not much of anything going on for her. I used to worry about her not being social, but she's stepped that up quite a bit too. These pics are from about a month ago. She was so bored in class, she decided to "henna" her hand. I think they're quite cool. She's found a good group of friends, and she meets up with them after school (Finally!) and on weekends. I'm pretty confident that stepping her out of the school environment to kick her brain into gear isn't going to affect those friendships. One of her friends is looking into the program himself as it is.

Up top there is her most recent piece of artwork. These days she's really blowing me out of the water. At the Wondercon a few weekends ago, Dear Butcher bought her a manga graphics program. Currently she takes her pencil sketches and scan them into Photoshop to create images such as this:

With the manga studio program, she can add preloaded textures or tones, and create panels for mange creations. Compare the portrait at the top to the green one here from late last year. She's jumping ahead. Now if she can only learn what the associative property is in math, we'll be all set. (Just kidding.)

In other daily news on the "Kidlet" front. Dear Butcher and I visited an intensive therapeutic educational program run jointly by county mental health and a neighboring school district. There would be professionals working with him, not untrained mommies. There are psychologists right there to help kids when they start rolling out of control. There are four adults for every ten children--very small classes. But then there's some other stuff which is difficult to process. The padded room. The violence of the other children. I dunno. Still churning away on that one. Maybe he really is a candidate for this program. His psychologist recommends it. His psychiatrist recommends against it. Sigh. Thing is, I'm sure I'll never make the right decisions all the time for all my children.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Cult of the Goddess

I don't usually repost my comments on other blogs over here, but in this case, I dunno, I decided to.

Dear Author posted a thread a few days ago which veered off into strange lands of redefining Romance, porn, and the actions of the goddess Aphrodite Porne. Something of a trainwreck. At the very end, I ended up posting this:


As someone who started studying Ancient Greek in tenth grade (age 15) and continued right on through college, studying Plato, Homer, Aristophanes, Herodotus, and various New Testament writers in their original language(s) (Yes, Dears, the languages and vocabulary change throughout time and Homeric Greek is not the same at Attic Greek), can I just say that you are GREATLY misinformed about Aphrodite Porne?

You can create a new mythology for her all you want, and come up with new and intriguing ideas of what sort of love that goddess represented, but you’d have to first understand a whole lot more about the practice of ascribing descriptive epithets to gods and goddesses. Different cults used different names for the same goddess. When the goddess was acting differently, a WHOLE NEW epithet would apply.

Phoebus Apollo from the Homeric epics is NOT the same god as Apherteros Apollo. The god remains the same, his parentage, his symbols and familiars, but his meaning within the culture is totally different.

To link Porne with some odd description of one type of love (as in agape, philia, etc.) is to completely misunderstand how the gods and goddesses operated in Ancient civilizations. But that’s okay. As long as you can “prove” your point.

edited to add: Porne is the epithet which a sect ascribed to Aphrodite. But this does not mean that that particular sect’s view of Aphrodite’s role in Greek society was recognized by the larger Greek community. Sects were in the habit of taking on powerful goddesses to suit their individual needs. The most goddess the largest sector of Attic Greek women routinely prayed to was Hestia, not Aphrodite. Hestia was the goddess of the hearth, virginity, hospitality, and the home; hardly a goddess one would want to tag your aspirations of tipping over the patriarchy onto.

I get a bit tired of people using their own perceptions of the “wise and omniscient” ancient cultures to back up their modern points of view.

I'm sure I sound like a geek, but I just hate the idea of this goddess culture that has sprung up and completely misrepresents the original goddesses and what they stood for, or how they were worshiped or used In The Original Culture. I can put a statue of the Buddha in my living room and burn incense, but this does not make me a Buddhist. Appropriating the sectarian worship of one form of Aphrodite to prove a point shows to me a tremendous disrespect of the people who were worshiping her in the first place.

Carry on.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hospital visits

Beth wrote a post about her father's death. A funeral on a leap year.

And looking over her posts, I'd love to comment there, to say, "I know," and "That shock is so unique that no one else will ever know," and to somehow say, "I'm sorry." But all that would seem trite, a me-too comment, and Beth, ever-wise, has turned off her comments.

When Joyce was getting chemo, she asked me not to visit her in the hospital. She only wanted to see me at the farm, because everything she experienced in the hospital was too disgusting and painful to bring home. So I didn't.

At the end there, when she went into ICU for broken ribs, I stayed away. The cancer had sucked the calcium right out of her bones and they shattered while she was vomiting one night into her toilet. Her husband waited four days before taking her in. Her lungs were filling up with fluid and then there was morphine, and soon we knew she was going.

I remember walking into her room to find her all pale on the bed, the IV's and monitor leads snaking around her chest. Her head had been shaved, and it was too big for her shoulders. My extended family was sitting around the bed looking into their laps. I started sniffling, but came to hug her anyway. She said, "Oh no. Not you too."

I have that image in my head, and I knew at that moment that it would be the last time I saw her alive. I knew that she would die within a day. I remember thinking, "Now I know what an almost dead person looks like."

The next day I traveled on the T from Huntington Street to Charles Street through the Park Street station to visit her. That morning my mother had called to say she was still alive, but I started crying on that trip because I knew she would be dead when I got to Mass General. That poor man sitting next to me on the Red Line. I tried to keep my face to the window so he wouldn't have to be embarrassed by my tears and puffy face. But really, that poor guy. I was already crying on the platform at Park Street. Idiotic, really.

For all that I knew she was going, it was somehow still a surprise that she actually died. She wasn't supposed to do that.

I had a full year to prepare for her death. It was not like Beth's dad, who left them in a sudden shock. Mine was different. But somehow, I still don't know why, I was absolutely shocked that she died. Gut-kicking doesn't begin to describe it. But I had preparation, so it's not the same as Beth, so it's not fair to leave a me-too comment there.

Beth is ever wise. Don't mean to trivialize. But I know what she knows.