31 July, 2012

A Little Rain Must Fall

I saw the piled boxes at the store, each one containing a pair of galoshes and a matching umbrella. I hate umbrellas. They just break, or the wind blows them the opposite way turning you into a flower bending in the wind, rain soaked and wilting. And when you've used an umbrella and arrived at your destination then you need to carry the umbrella around, or put it in some bucket at the door where it will most likely be stolen. They never seem to dry out, leaving wet marks on the seat in the car, or on the floor. Their drips of water make the entry way dangerous.

I remember liking umbrellas when I was little. Do you remember the clear ones that came all the way over your head and down to your shoulders, but you could still see? I always wanted one of those, and I'm not sure why I never got one.

So all of those things go through my head as I am standing there looking at cute fireman galoshes with red umbrellas, and black polka-dotted galoshes with a shiny matching polka-dotted umbrella. The pallet of items had just come in, but I know how these places work, and if you aren't there when the awesome thing comes through you are out of luck, so I stood there and decided what kind of mom I was going to be.

My daughter loves umbrellas, and galoshes. She loves matchy-matchy. She loves having the specific gear for an activity. She likes having things that are similar to the things her peers have. But all last year, I denied her having a stupid umbrella because I don't like them. I didn't see it as a necessary item for a 5 year old who never walks in the rain farther than the distance from the car to the classroom door, or our own back door. When I was in kindergarten I walked to school, but I still think I got a ride on rainy days. I did not see the point of starting some umbrella habit, when I could explain, and demonstrate the practicality of hats, which are both fashionable and functional, and can keep you warm and your head dry. I thought that her waterproof jacket and hat were plenty to get her through the misty mornings and occasional downpour.  So that's what we did last rainy season, we went by my rules.

And every chance that kid got she would borrow a friend's umbrella, even if it was just to walk across the playground, or five feet from her friend's coat hook to her own. I almost think that she was the only little girl who didn't have an umbrella of her own last year. Part of me was a bit smug thinking that I was raising this more practical and flexible child who knows that rain is just water, and it will dry. I thought that I had gotten away with something, and that my daughter was more mature having moved right on past that stage of little sets of things for girls that coordinate and fit for only one season.

Standing in the aisle of the giant store, air conditioning blasting, the rainy season more than four months away I thought differently; no longer feeling like I wanted to be practical. Instead I really, really, wanted to give her what she wanted, a matching umbrella and rain boots, because she is growing up so fast, and really, how many years are there left when she will want to look all that cute and buttoned-up, and so over protected from drizzle. I got a bit choked up thinking about how many things she just will never do again, which leads me right to the fact that we aren't having any more kids, so not only is it my daughter's last few years of this preciousness, but the last of mine too.

I vowed to have more patience. I promised to enjoy those things that she needs help with, like getting in and out of the Jeep, or putting on her bike helmet. I thought about doubling up on the singing at night, and reading one more book, every time she asks. I decided to buy her those little boots with the matching umbrella because she would love them, and I would get to have a sweet little girl for at least one more rainy season.

Scanning the boxes, I smiled, thinking how big her feet are already at a size 2.

Then a part of me was crushed-in, maybe forever, as I painfully realized that the boots only go up to size 1.

25 July, 2012

On Our Anniversary

You were a little boy when I met you, I know that now. With your black hair and shiny hazel eyes, you were young, we were so young, but you had already been through so many things that I thought you were very mature and just had a little boy face. I thought I was all grown up with my speedy car and running my own store, and living on my own never having gone back home after college.

I'm glad that you came home after school or I never would have found you. I am so thankful that California felt like home to you so that you came back to your family. I fell in love with your family first, you know that. Your Mom and Dad and how they loved you and your sisters, and the obvious way that you were a family who fought for each other and supported each other even on grumpy or tough days. You were so respectful of your parents, and they trusted your judgement and your choices; it never seemed like you needed to prove anything to them.

It wasn't hard to fall in love with you, but I'm glad that we were friends first and that I told you all of the stories that I never would have told some boyfriend. You know every twist and bad turn I have taken in my life, and you never let go of my hand when I told you those stories. You have always been a good listener, and able to withhold judgement, or at least you appear to be able to do those things, and maybe that's just as important. You see what is good in someone even as they reveal their failings. You see an individual's best intentions, and give so much room for people to succeed.

I liked waking up this morning and once again finding you there on our bed with too many pillows. After all of these years, no one has ever slept on the couch, or left, or run away, and with all of the frustration we've been through, and some sadness, and worry, and strain, my mind always goes to the wonderful things we've seen and done together, and can only hazily remember the disagreements. Maybe that's how I want to remember things, but mostly I think that's how it is. We are on this path together, and any of those harder times just gave us a better sense of direction for our future.

I trust you. You have so much integrity that I know it has put you at a disadvantage sometimes, but I am so thankful that time has not taken that away from you. Cynical, pragmatic, we've been though those months, but it is with great anticipation that I watch our life unfold before us. Even as we have watched relationships around us sour, or dissolve, or break apart in rocky crumbles, there has always been something that we have... we like each other.

I like you, and your humor, and your clickety-fast mind, and your strong hands. I love you as my husband, and treasure you as a father to our children, who have your same twinkly eyes.

Thank you for another year together. I would choose you again, and again.

I choose you now. I love you. Happy anniversary sweet man.

23 July, 2012

Scarborough on Autism

In case you're wondering, I'm pretty sure my son is not going to grow up to be a mass murderer. Thanks Joe Scarborough--it only takes one idiot to undo advocacy.

"You don't want to generalize," said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, but that's exactly what he did when he said that James Holmes, the young man in custody as the Aurora, Colorado shooter,  was "on the autism scale."

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 "As soon as I hear about this shooting, I knew who it was. I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society — it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale," said Scarborough, whose son has Asperger's syndrome. "I don't know if that's the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses — they can even excel on college campuses — but are socially disconnected."

What compounds the irresponsibility of his statement is that Scarborough is the parent of an autistic child. So he managed in one sentence, one very publicly stated sentence, to make autistics out to be dangerous potential murderers, and make parents of children with autism look like asses.

Here is one autistic adult's perspective, her  open letter to the media:
I am an Autistic adult. In the wake of the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, my community was sitting not only in the sadness that all such tragedies bring, but also in fear and anticipation that once again, we would be your scapegoat. Once again, you would start declaring that we and the killer had the same neurology before the bodies were even cold, before the initial tears had dried.And again, you did not disappoint. Again, you went to declare the killer mentally ill or Autistic before you even possibly had a chance to talk to anyone qualified to make those calls. Again, you cast yet another layer of suspicion on my community. Again, you made me someone to be feared.
It would be lovely if Scarborough could apologize in as grand a way as he made his first declaration, but news cycles don't really encourage apologies. It would be even better if he took the time to educate his viewers about autism, perhaps he could, I don't know, have an autistic on his show, or talk to one, like his own son.

A journalist, Mike Elk, who recently "came out" as autistic,  asked Scarborough to educate:
Hopefully, Mr. Scarborough will retract his remarks, as well as host a broader discussion on Autism to spell away the many stereotypes of Autism often spoken by non-Autistic people such as himself.
What message did Scarborough send his own son with his proclamation this morning? What kind of self-loathing is he trying to instill in his child? This kind of language and the stereotypes it perpetuates makes it harder for young autistic adults to move through daily life, it stirs up anxiety in every adult autistic that we have once again gone back two steps, or more, and it makes other parents guilty by association. 

It's easy to have a gaffe and I am all for allowing someone to apologize for something misspoken or said in haste. Talking heads are bound to make a mistake now and then, but then I was thinking, I'm a parent of an autistic child, and I know many autistics, and it did not occur to me at all to diagnose the shooter with autism. Troubled? Yes. Disturbed? Of course, but autistic? Really? Where did that even come from? Because someone said he was a loner? The fact that Scarborough "knew who it was" is so troubling and disturbing, because it leads me to believe that this is not a gaffe in any way, not a "whoopsie" but fundamentally the way he thinks. 

and that, to me, is dangerous.

Sign the petition that Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg created demanding a retraction.  

Other people, other posts:
Emily Willingham:  Mental illness, autism, and mass murder, or why Joe Scarborough needs to shut up
Lydia Brown at Autistic Hoya: All I Want to Do is Weep
Jess at Diary of a Mom: Dear Joe
Lydia Brown The Dangers of Misrepresentation
David Cullen The Unknown Why in the Aurora Killings
ASAN Statement
Caroline Miller at Child Mind Institute James Holmes and the Downside of Amateur Diagnoses

11 July, 2012

Busy Days of Summer

What a great week at the Lake house. Happy, tired kids and happy tired parents. Someone told me I looked rested today, someone else said I looked like I'd been "hiking or something." All I know is that I had a great time.

We had Sage and her family come up for a few days, and while I didn't manage to get a picture with all the kids together,  they got to do lots of things that they like. We went swimming at the beach, and went out on the boat and identified a rare bird for our neighborood. Jake got to chill on our hike, dribbling pine needles and rocks through his hands on the trail that used to be the train bed for the railroad that was built to supply the workers at Hetch- Hetchy.
 Kids and grownups scrambled all over boulders and only one foot of one adult, and one foot of one child got wet in the fun. Not bad. There were very few scuffles amongst the kids that were not resolved in under 5 seconds, and every single one was caused by Lucy being in someone's space. If ever there was a child who wanted a big sister it's Lucy. Thank goodness we have so many close family friends who will be able to step in to that role over the years.

Jake wore a hat. Woot! This is something we've been encouraging for the last two years, and it is really feeling like we can almost call it a success. With a history of melanoma in the family, it's especially important that we do what we can to protect the kids' skin. He lets me put sunblock on his face now too. Those ears get sun blocked every day, rain or shine!

Lucy got to drive around with the roof open on Daddy's Jeep. Even better when Descartes went back to the Bay area for a couple of days I got to drive around in the Jeep with the music and the sunshine and the bluetooth connection, and the awesome handling of the car, it is really hard not to smile the whole time you are driving that car... especially if you are driving it in to Yosemite because Oh My there is so much there right above your head.

I took the kids in to Yosemite by myself on Monday when Descartes went back to the city to work for a couple days. It was exhausting and awesome. Being responsible for little people all by yourself a long way from home with no local safety net is apparently something that gives me a bit of anxiety. It also made me feel powerful, strong and very cool. I'm sure driving with the wind in my hair and sun on my shoulders helped me get through. Did you know I am younger, more beautiful, and always recycle when I am in that car? Did I mention that we love the car?

Lucy asked me to take a picture of her where she is holding up the biggest rock ever. I think she got these crazy photo ideas from Mali and Iz. I will be studying how to get proper forced perspective shots so we can get them over with. By the time I take her to Pisa I want to be able to get that cool shot with her kicking over the Leaning Tower.

Lucy is loving being a little Junior Ranger. In fact, when asked to wear a hero costume to camp past Friday she chose her ranger outfit with hat and vest, because she thinks Park Rangers are like "heroes for the planet." This is one endeavor I do not mind indulging so that means a pin purchase and stamps from the ranger stations in our little passport book. It's been a learning experience for all of us, because as it turns out I did not know that garbage that you might find in the National Park that is over 50 years old should be treated as a historical items. So congratulations all you hippies who left your soda cans in the campground, they are now artifacts!

We explored an area new to us in the Yosemite Valley, the Happy Isles Nature Center. Most of it was very wheelchair friendly, and we were able to park about two miles closer with the disabled placard making the actual hiking part possible. We've been very good about asking Jake if he wants to walk or ride. I forget sometimes that his low tone means that he really will be tired and might not even be able to walk well towards the end of the day.

He and Lucy have both been pretty good sports given each of their limitations. She's only 6, and her little self gets tired out seemingly out of the blue. I think her blood sugar drops and she just plummets. She goes from greatest kid ever to, uhm, not the greatest kid ever. We can fix that most of the time with something from the bottomless snack bag that goes with us wherever we go.
There is so much to see and do, and there are all of those animals and birds to check out, I'm not sure that we will ever get tired of this beautiful place. It doesn't hurt that there is pretty decent pizza and if we stay too late, there's that awesome, inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffet in the evenings in Curry Village. We even discovered that the Pizza Deck has good beer (and commemorative glasses!) I'm not much for Hefewisen, but on a hot day at altitude it sort of hit the spot.
There was an Independence day barbecue, which included an airshow, and music, and many multi-generational families. The world is small, so of course the table next to us had a family that had retired to the Lake from my hometown, and the father had worked with special needs children in his first years of teaching. His daughter went to my rival high school. And there were many people who just stopped by to say hello to Jake. What was nice is that they all said hello to him before they said hello to me. Jake thought the tiny pony was pretty funny but chose not to pet him.

We did a lot of boating on the lake. This kind of cruising makes Jake very happy. He happily wore his life jacket and made me feel at ease enough to sip wine. Some days we took the boat out once in the morning and again for a wine and cheese cruise. It is such a luxury, and I cannot thank my husband enough for his ease on the water, parking the boat, picking us up on other docks. He makes it all look so easy. For the big celebration we entered the boat parade and while they don't give out a second prize, apparently we would have won it. It was supposed to be an historic event, so my darling husband bought hula-hoops and we went for the gold with Olympics 2012. That's the London Eye and Big Ben. We also had a cauldron and the Olympic torch. Little Lucy yelled "GO USA!" for about an hour. We had no colored paint for anything, so if you'd like to know how to make latex house paint go from beige to slightly not beige we don't really know the proportions, but it took coffee grounds, coffee, soy sauce, and a dash of Worcestershire. Pathetic, but very fun. Big Ben is very textured, and smells just plain odd.

Jake went back to summer school and has had positive reports filled with happy sounds and "cooing" as his teacher told me today. Lucy is settled into a new camp where she swims every day, so that little fish is happy and completely over tired by 4:30pm. I am trying to get back to work after weeks of sketchy Internet service. And Descartes and I are both trying to get back to a world where beer with lunch is not normal, and there is no ordering two-for-one pina coladas for me.

Tomorrow is music in the park which we all enjoy, and it just makes me feel all the more thankful because it seems every city in which I rest my head, is a pretty awesome place. Cheers!

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