July 26, 2006

Where Were We?

The weather is sabotaging all our efforts to start up the Pirate's new project. We have gotten stuck at the Guage Swatch. It's simply too hot for the poor man to muster sufficient enthusiasm for the idea of having a Nice Warm Hat... not enough, at any rate, to inspire him to overcome his new-found loathing for Purling.

I've tried to explain that purling really isn't too bad once you get the rhythm of it (I hate it myself, when I'm doing seed stitch or ribbing, but don't mind a nice long row of it). But it's so hot and muggy that doing enough knitting with his nice, fuzzy worsted to get into a rhythm is beyond the Pirate's ability to cope. And as our temps start their climb back towards triple digits again, I can't say I blame him.

Does anyone have a pattern for a nice Air Conditioner... in garter stitch?

July 25, 2006

What We Watch

The multi-talented Emma Bull authors a most readable blog (Dark Roast) in which she recently expressed an opinion about Showtime's relatively short-lived series Dead Like Me.

Her opinion, summed up, was that it was an excellent show that would appeal greatly to young adults... and which she thought parents would not allow their teens to view, due to graphic language and some sexual content.

I agree with her views on Dead Like Me. We watched each of the seasons as they came out in dvd. We watched it with the Vampire, who was a huge fan from the age of 14 on.

And why not? The writing was sharp, the characters interesting, and it followed a recipe that the best of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons had established: the language and tone were cynical enough to appeal to the younger set, yet the core messages were all about hope, responsibility, love and the self-sacrifice it often demands. In fact, Dead Like Me follows the heroine through her transition from a young adult with a particularly tough case of cynicism through to the final, tender episode in which she expresses fully her hard-won understanding and
appreciation of how precious life is because of its flawed and transitory nature.

Shows like Buffy and Dead Like Me are, in fact, about growing up - the very process that teenagers are going through, whether they wish to do so or not. Teens see and appreciate that these shows are holding up a mirror to their lives, and finding the view a bit messy, but interesting and exciting and yes, lovable.

Reasonably alert parents understand that cynicism is the refuge of frustrated idealism, and that young adults are the ultimate idealists. A veneer of ennui and fashionable social rebellion comes with the territory, but by and large that is protective coloring, a middle- and high-school survival mechanism that sloughs off like a snake's skin when they graduate from that hyper-cliqued environment.

Our society spends too much time concentrating on trying to control that predictable and transitory veneer, and too little time paying attention to the inner idealist. We do a disservice to our kids when we keep them from seeing shows like Dead Like Me, but encourage (or at least allow) them to deaden and degrade their minds and spirits on stuff like Fear Factor, Unanimous, and Windfall.

When deciding which books/shows/films/games are going to get the parental blessing, I try to remember to value a package by its contents, rather than its wrapping - and to trust that I've taught my child to do the same.

Certainly it wouldn't be a bad idea for us to judge people that way...

July 24, 2006

Me And My Shadow #1

There were 15 months when I was myself, but I don't remember them. I have a couple little wisps here and there - the sound of my parents' voices reading to me; my mother's soft hair; the moments after the ostrich at the zoo bit me and my father swung me up on his shoulders, praising his 'brave girl' (I remember struggling to control my face, desperately wanting to meet his expectations, to please him). But that's all - I don't remember me, me alone.

Of course, at the time I didn't know that those 15 months were all I would ever have. I was busy storing up little bits of understanding of the world - I wasn't old enough to have begun storing up understanding of myself, of my family, of people. That sort of understanding takes a lifetime to achieve, or more, and I had hardly begun back then. There were those 15 months. And then there was After.

I don't remember my sister as a baby, either. Not even wisps. My memory produces her the way magicians produce their doves - not there at all, then Poof! Another body laying under the table or leaning against mine on the couch. Someone else listening to the sound of books being read aloud by my parents, listening to the Disney-ized versions of Bambi and Pinocchio playing on the reel-to-reel tape player. Someone else using my toys, someone else digging in the yard, someone else in the wading pool, someone else in the room always, following me everywhere.

For 15 months there was me. Then there was me and my shadow...

July 21, 2006

Teen Taxonomy

(The following was written primarily by the Vampire, with a few pointers from Schooled friends and editing by his proud mum. It is intended to reflect the local teen species only, and as both local and exotic species may evolve and/or mutate spontaneously, this should not be taken as the penultimate study on the subject.)

Teens In the Wild

(A Social Study of Teen Social Groupings and Associated Behavior)


Geeks are considered social outcasts by most non-geeks. Geeks themselves, however, find this concept laughable. Far from being alone and friendless, geeks organize themselves in close-knit friends. These groups are often found sitting around tables, sharing food and participating in complex rituals involving role-playing, trading card games, and arguing out the merits of the philosophies espoused in Firefly vs. those in Star Trek. When alone, geeks often play video/computer games with skill unmatched by any other group.

Markers: Long hair, T-shirts bearing lengthy prose, ‘Gamer’s Slouch’
Favorite Quote: Geeks can quote from anything, and frequently do. At great length.
Jobs: Game Stores, Video Stores, Book Stores, Convention Hucksters
Heroes: Wil Wheaton, Joss Whedon, J.R.R. Tolkien
Music: Anything except Rap
Stores: GameStop, Borders, Wizards of the Coast


First Rule of Nerds: Never confuse them with Geeks. Call a nerd a geek, and you will wake up with your credit rating slashed.

The quickest way to tell if someone is a nerd or a geek is to confront them with an attractive person of the opposite sex. A nerd will turn into a stammering pile of Jell-O. A geek will mysteriously end up with a date for the weekend.

Nerds are basically walking brains with no fashion or social understanding. These kids are brilliant hackers, captains of their math and science teams, and holders of vast stores of memorized fact lists.

Markers: Hygiene issues, solitary habits, lack of matching socks
Favorite Quote: “Define Your Terms”
Jobs: Hacking… eventually, hiring other hackers
Heroes: Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Marshall from ‘Alias’
Music: Anything with complex patterns
Stores: Radio Shack, Ax Man, Circuit City


With dyed black hair (or in some cases, bald heads) and faces that look like they would crack if they smiled, emos could make a basset hound look cheerful. Any attempt at communication will be met with a withering glare that could curdle milk. Don’t even try to cheer them up, as they will find this act highly insulting. Emo fashion primarily consists of ‘two sizes too small’. The emo color palette is varied – it includes gunmetal gray, silver gray, slate gray, charcoal gray, lead gray, iron gray, blackish gray and (when they get really crazy) taupe. Emos think that terminal illness is Romantic.

Approach with caution.

Markers: Pale, quiet, frequently near tears… or possible psychosis.
Favorite Quote: “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I didn’t ask to be born”
Jobs: Dead End, particularly retail
Heroes: Edgar Allan Poe, Romeo & Juliet
Music: Evanescence, Rites of Spring (anything emotional, especially Punk)
Stores: Hot Topic, Goodwill, theatrical makeup outlets


Don’t let the monochromatic color scheme and heavy makeup fool you… Goths are nothing like Emos. While Emos would like to disappear, Goths force you to look at them by wearing flamboyant (black) clothing, dramatic makeup and hair, and enough metal ornamentation to set off detectors in the next county. While somewhat frightening at first glance, Goths are surprisingly innocuous and friendly once you get to know them. Preps and Goths are natural enemies.

Markers: Black clothing and hair, white skin, a tendency to lurk dramatically, jingle when they walk
Favorite Quote: “Leave me alone”
Jobs: Night Clubs, coffee bars, cafes
Heroes: the Vampire Lestat, Lenore/Roman Dirge, Tim Burton
Music: Bauhaus, Love & Rockets
Stores: Hot Topic, Claire’s, Theatrical costume and set auctions


Punks and their iPods are inseparable, and at times the iPods are more noticeable. Punks move in time to the music, slamming their heads all the way. These kids are the real Rebels Without a Cause, dressing so outrageously that they make Goths look merely drab. At night punks are usually found in nightclubs, slam dancing… yet somehow they manage not to fatally impale each other with their 3-foot-long spiked hair. Any skin or body part not covered by hair or makeup will be heavily tattooed and/or pierced.

Markers: These people are loud, in both the auditory and the fashion sense
Favorite Quote: (random humming, occasional air drum/air guitar)
Jobs: Tattoo Artist, Body Piercing Specialist, Garage Band Member, Roadie
Heroes: Any garage band that is Big but not Too Big
Music: Green Day, Flogging Molly
Stores: Hot Topic, Great Clips. Saint Sabrina's Parlor In Purgatory


Preps are often rich, spoiled, arrogant - and very popular. Preps have highly sensitive social antennae, and are often the most influential forces in any school. Not only do they wear and embody the latest fashions, they often control them. Preps are attracted to positions of power in the student body: student council, yearbook committee, prom committee, etc. They are usually the nucleus in a surrounding cloud of hangers-on; cliques are the natural habitat of Preps, and they rule them with an iron… attitude. Prolonged exposure to Prep Society often leaves the sufferer with a debilitating inferiority complex.

Markers: Wears the latest fashion. Surrounded by cringing toadies.
Favorite Quote: “What are you wearing?” (inflection is everything)
Jobs: Trendy Retailers Everywhere
Heroes: Paris Hilton. That’s it.
Music: American Idols, the Top 20 pop songs
Stores: American Eagle, Forever 21, designer outlets, Mall of America


The only thing that can control a prep is a jock. Primarily male, the jocks are the big, strong, athletic masters of sports… and of their personal universe. While not always as dumb as the cliché would have it, their GPA will never be as high a priority as their ERA. Handsome and sometimes charming, their heightened testosterone levels can lead to trouble for Beta Males and the more suggestible sort of female. Physically and socially, these guys are all about pecking order – geeks and nerds need not apply, just simply get to the end of the line.

Markers: Sports/letter jackets in school colors with double-digit numbers, trendy-but-short haircuts, known by name at the local gym
Favorite Quote: “I won that”
Jobs: Flexible, so as to leave time for practice and competition
Heroes: Sports stars. Themselves.
Music: ‘Jock Rock’, anything that would sound good coming out of a stadium loudspeaker
Stores: Authentic Sports, The Twins Store (or other official sports team’s outlet)


Another primarily male group. Greasers might have made good jocks, if they had been coordinated and socially adept enough. Greasers spend all of their free time waxing, detailing, tinkering with, or showing off their cars. Girls are interested in cars as status symbols, and Greasers often have good ones… but it’s hard to pry their attention away from their One True Love.

Markers: Oily stains, obsession with engine parts, distracted expression
Favorite Quote: “Huh?”
Jobs: Garages, Auto Parts stores
Heroes: Nascar racers, stunt drivers
Music: the hum of a well-oiled machine
Stores: Auto dealers, junkyards, auto parts stores


Deliberately intimidating figures, gangstas travel in small sullen-looking packs and wear clothes that are loose enough to lead more timid types to suspect that they might be concealing weapons - such as a pistol, a knife, or a diamond-studded missile launcher. Gangstas wear jewelry that can be easily spotted by orbiting satellite systems (‘bling’), and are often prematurely deaf due to frequently indulging a generous impulse to share their favorite music with everyone within a ten-mile radius.

Markers: Scowls, hats worn backwards or low over eyes, toddler-like gait due to pants crotches hitting at knee-level
Favorite Quote: … (scowl) …
Jobs: We’re afraid to ask
Heroes: Tupac Shakur
Music: Rap
Stores: Wal-Mart, Sears

Systemite (see Prep)

These innocents make up a large part of the prep’s toadying mob. Conformists through and through, systemites usually come in two flavors: Prep Wannabe’s or Teacher’s Pet. Systemites just want to please, so they are happy to do whatever anyone wants them to do. They have the intestinal fortitude of Kleenex, and about as much individuality. Their expression is similar to that of a rabbit confronted by a snake, and their posture cries out, “I’m sorry I got in your way…”

Markers: Nervous twitch, tendency to become invisible when there’s something better to do (
See Prep)
Favorite Quote: “What do you think?” (See Prep)
Jobs: Whatever they’re told to do (
See Prep)
Heroes: Whoever is in Authority (See Prep)
Music: Top 20 Pop - how can that many people be wrong? (See Prep)
Stores: Wherever their Hero shops (see Prep)


Retro Hippies, their life cycles between two states: High, and Passed Out. Their expression is generally amiable, as is their speech – if you can figure out what they are meaning to say. Stoners like colorful clothing that is easy to find and identify if they happen to take it off and wander away for a little while. Generous to a fault, stoners are happy to give you anything they have, although they can’t quite identify exactly what that might be at any given moment, or where it came from.

Markers: Long hair, tie-dyed clothing, total lack of focus or direction, random fits of giggling, uneven appetite, extreme gullibility
Favorite Quote: “Really?”
Jobs: you’re kidding, right?
Heroes: The Bobs: Bob Marley, Silent Bob
Music: Reggae, World Music, Pink Floyd
Stores: Twisted Groove, Electric Fetus, Ellis Drum Shop


Stoners without the charm, generosity, or Connection to the Universe. Burnouts are the early or soon-to-be Homeless, and unlike stoners they also have no spiritual home. Their attitude tends to be one of ‘offence is the best defense,’ seemingly wanting to reject the world before it can officially reject them. Burnouts sometimes hang out in groups, but don’t seem to like each other much, often seeming to use each other for Rejection Practice. Where stoners use drugs to become one with the Universe, burnouts use drugs in order to avoid it.

Markers: Head hunched into shoulders, clothes and hair ragged, grunts when spoken to
Favorite Quote: (too rude to transcribe)
Jobs: Kitchen work, janitorial, manual labor
Heroes: None, on principle
Music: Rock, Heavy Metal
Stores: Army Surplus, Goodwill, dumpsters


The Don’s full title is short for ‘Don Juan de Marco’, also known as ‘Casanova’. Dons dress well, smell good, have at least a passing acquaintance with the arts, are either smooth or smoldering in style, and see the world as an ocean of romantic/sexual possibilities. These guys have social antennae that are as sensitive as those of the preps, but the focus for Dons is primarily on pleasing (at least for a short time) the latest Conquest. They have the Hunt and the Capture (and the Release) down to a fine art, so although on the surface they get along well enough with other guys, eventually they end up ‘poaching’ on too many territories and earn fairly universal resentment from the rest of the male population. Which explains why Dons rarely stay in one environment for very long.

Markers: Good looking, well groomed (even if ‘bad boy’ style don), fashionable, great eye contact, alert to surroundings. Cool.
Favorite Quote: “I’m not totally over her… yet”
Jobs: Actor, Model, Lead Singer in Band
Heroes: Himself, of course
Music: Whatever works
Stores: Whatever is In this week


The loner is just as he or she sounds. Loners stay in the background, they don’t mix with others, and when approached tend to put potential friends off by being either prickly and surly or silent and dull. Their reasons for being loners varies… sometimes it’s a matter of preference, and sometimes it’s a matter of being ostracized, but by the time they are teens it’s become habitual. Loners by nature are not conformists, and so they don’t fall into any target marketing group.

Markers: Avoid human contact
Favorite Quote: “Hrmph”
Jobs: Graveyard shift, no customer service or teamwork
Heroes: “Hrmph”
Music: N/A (varies)
Stores: N/A (varies)

July 19, 2006

Miracles Do Happen

This entry should be accompanied by a picture, but I was unprepared for the Miracle.

You might argue that if I was going to voluntarily bring a beautiful pair of hand-knitted socks to the intended recipient, it shouldn't be entirely unexpected that I might go home at the end of the day Sans Socks. You might point out that a knitter of even moderate intelligence could reasonably be expected to prepare for the possibility, perhaps by taking a photo of said socks prior to toting them to the recipient's house.

You might think that. But that's only because you don't understand...

I have obsessively knit socks for the last three years. Obsessive to the point where people who only see me once or twice a year are starting to discern a pattern. Obsessive to the point where people see me and *ask where the sock is* if it isn't in clear evidence. My husband puts up with the insanity because he is always living in the (occasionally fulfilled) hope that he will be gifted with the current pair-in-process. The Pirate loves him some woolly socks.

My mother, on the other hand, has consistently maintained that the socks are evidence of my increasing Loopiness (loopy, knitting, get it?) and has steadfastly resisted all of my numerous attempts to convince her that hand knit socks are acceptable footwear. The socks are too thick, they'd be too hot. You have to hand wash them, they are too much trouble. The wool is scratchy, but if mixed with anything else it's too binding or isn't sufficiently breathable. The stitches are too big, she could feel them on the bottom of her feet. The ridges along the place where I picked up the stitches from the heel flap are too noticeable, they bother her.

My mom is the Princess & the Pea of sock wearers.

I never gave up, but I did accept the unlikelihood of success.

So when I carefully chose a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Merino Supersock to fit most closely my mother's color preferences, my hopes of actually having the gift accepted were not high.

After knitting a guage swatch, I decided that it almost definitely wasn't soft enough. I tried hard, but couldn't get the ridges off the heel flap quite flat enough. Just In Case, I knitted the socks to fall between my huge foot size and my mother's small foot size, so that when she inevitably rejected the beautiful objects they could still be enjoyed by someone (me).

Maybe I could find some nice bamboo sock yarn? Does soy silk breathe?

I took the socks casually out of my knitting bag and laid them along the back of the couch while unearthing my current sock project (Trekking XL in a particularly exhuberant stripe combo of yellow, green, and gray-blue which the Pirate chose for himself during a trip to the yarn store BY HIMSELF). I told my mom that the socks were my latest finished pair, and asked what she thought of the yarn, and how well the socks fit... I *didn't* tell her that I had made them with her in mind.


She said they were pretty. She said they fit well. She said they felt fine.

So what could I do? I couldn't take them home again... she might change her mind if given the time to think about it. So I packed up the knitting bag again while casually mumbling, "They're yours," and then quickly skedaddled out the door before she could martial any arguments.

So there's no picture.

If I tried, the socks probably wouldn't show up on film anyway. Magical objects are like that...

July 18, 2006

Up the Establishment

After yesterday's rant you may be laboring under the impression that you now know why I am not a big fan of the medical establishment in general and Psychologists in specific.

You don't know the half of it.

If you knew that an unfortunate error had been made by an underpaid and probably overworked nurse, and that error had led to the death of my beloved maternal grandmother, and that the hospital had then gone to ridiculous lengths to cover that error up, you might think that the experience might have soured me on the medical profession. You'd be wrong... it soured me on that particular hospital, certainly, but the medical profession *also* saved my life and that of my darling baby, so I'd consider it all a wash.

Nope. The reason I feel the way I do about the Cherrix case and other similar cases, the way I feel about the incestuous relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the AMA, and the way I feel about the behavior of Experts when they deal with their subjects patients comes from a different source altogether.

A year or two after we defied the System by pulling our child out of it (against the advice of the Experts), I discovered that I had a capacity for rage that I never would have imagined. I experienced true Evil in the form of bureaucratic indifference and arrogance. I saw how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Before that experience I would have read the above and thought it overly theatrical and in all likelihood hysterical.

That was before someone I loved was in serious danger of being locked up and left insane for the rest of their life simply because a doctor... and then a System... didn't want to be seen to be in (relatively minor) error.

The story is a relatively long one and requires that I fill in some background, so I will tell it in a couple of installments. I'll sandwich it between other, less negative posts... that way you will hopefully understand that I haven't gone entirely round the Reactionary Bend. But we are all shaped by our experiences, and this is mine.

Unfortunately for her, it is also my sister's. If anything, the story will hopefully give you an understanding and some respect for a group of people that tend to be ignored, mocked, and sometimes tortured by the 'average citizen'... and all too often by the people who are being paid to care for them.

July 14, 2006

Hysteric/Hysterical, Tomayto/Tomahto

The Vampire is a handsome, charming, funny, creative, enthusiastic, sensitive, and occasionally brilliant kid.

The Vampire has Asperger's Syndrome.

AS is a disorder on the Autistic Spectrum. It has a wide variety of symptoms. Few people have *all* of the many symptoms associated with AS, and because many of those symptoms are shared with other 'popular' disorders (Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, various Behavioral Disorders, various types of learning disabilities) AS is difficult to diagnose, and is often misdiagnosed - sometimes multiple times - before the correct diagnosis is arrived at.

AS is associated with a wide range of comorbid conditions - Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Sensory Integration disorders are common (although many of us believe that some of these are less a disorder in themselves and more a reasonable reaction to the world as a person with AS experiences it).**

The most common 'symptom' that all people with AS share is difficulty with social interaction. Recent studies of patients with AS show that instead of reading faces and body language with the part of the brain that is activated in most people, people with AS use the same part of the brain that is used for assessing inanimate objects. In other words, in the brain of a person with AS, there is little difference processing-wise between a person and a chair.

Which means that whatever they do when dealing with people, they have to learn by rote rather than by instinct... they learn to interact with others the way most people learn to play the piano. And in many cases, they have to learn it without the benefit of a knowledgeable and understanding teacher. They have trouble with 'normal' social functions, such as making eye contact, interpreting facial expressions and body language, and using the abstract thinking processes that allow people to communicate beyond literal/factual statements. They tend to be literal in their communications and their interpretation of the communications of others, and as a result they tend to be very gullible... which makes them irrisistable targets for bullies and other predators.

Which is a partial explanation for the Vampire's school experience, and why by the end of 5th grade he was experiencing uncontrollable meltdowns, frequent bouts of self-destructive rage, paranoia, and suicidal depression. Counseling at school had proved worse than useless, and repeated attempts at finding a support group for kids/teens with AS or any sort of Social Training ended in frustrating failure.

In spite of our moderate income and lack of adequate health insurance, we spent a great deal of time and money trying to find help for our suffering child.

Easier said than done. Adequate treatment for AS is still very difficult for most people to find, in spite of recent advances in understanding of the syndrome. More importantly, parents not only find it difficult to get help for their child when they turn to the medical and educational 'experts' - they often find themselves victimized by the very people they turn to for help. The following is just one example.


I am forever and officially labeled a 'Hysteric' in my son's medical records - not because I raised my voice or got agitated, but because I calmly and rationally explained to several therapists that due to:

a) my son's physical issues, some of which have to do with growth and hormones and bone age (some of the meds prescribed affect to some degree growth, weight gain, and hormonal development)

b) my family's strong history on both sides of having severe 'adverse reactions' to medicines in general and neurological medicines in particular

c) my husband's family's strong history of addictions, my son having the type of personality and history that is particularly prone to addiction, and the fact that the meds in question were stimulants and tend to need to be gradually increased in dosage/added to over time

d) the studies done on these meds showing that they have a relatively low rate of effectiveness on people with multiple co-morbid conditions, which my son had

d) the lack of a clear understanding (even among doctors and pharmacists) of what exactly these medicines actually do, a lack of long-term studies on what the medicines recommended do to an immature brain when used over time, and a significant history of adverse effects in a not insignificant number of children... including suicide

e) the lack of a clear and consistant diagnosis for him thus far (AS was the 5th and hopefully last in a line of changing diagnoses we'd been given during his school career) on which the prescription was based


e) the emotional/behavioral problems that he was having were provably directly related to an adverse environment (school), and abated when he was removed from that environment

... I had decided that medication was not the right *first line of treatment* for my son. I made clear that I wasn't ruling medications out, simply that I wanted to try other treatments first - ones that weren't invasive, and had less possibility of harmful side effects.

One doctor told me that 'withholding' medication was child abuse and tantamount to refusing to give a deaf child hearing aids.

One admonished me for being Hysterical and Paranoid.

One did the same, and added that we weren't in the Dark Ages anymore and told me, "Stop descending to the same idiotic, caveman level of people like Christian Scientists and Scientologists." (does my reasoning above seem reactionary & idiotic?)

One told me that I could 'withhold' (again that word, as though my son were pleading for help and I were refusing him as a punishment) the medications for a while, but it was pointless... he would not get better without, I would be forced to medicate him sooner or later.

They all agreed (as did the educational Experts that we consulted) that homeschooling was the last thing in the world we should try, as it would deprive him of the exact Socialization/Social Practice that he so badly needed. Even though it was the School version of Socialization/Social Practice that was causing these problems in the first place, and after 7 years of application the Vampire had not significantly advanced in his understanding or application of 'normal' social behavior.

His peers were rapidly leaving him behind... and increasingly they were ostracizing and punishing him for it. The universally prescribed solution was to put him on a round of drugs and increased exposure his School Peers' tender mercies.

I tried to be patient and reasonable. I carefully took their advice as far as school and behavioral/therapeutic interventions went. I took him to regular sessions with therapists. We searched for a better school environment for him, even in private schools that we could not really afford. He even tried a week of schooling at our lovely local Waldorf School; unfortunately he found the academic pace too slow and although the other kids were polite and not unkind, the teacher felt that his 'sophistication' (in 5th grade his jokes tended towards memorized complex political satire, and his other conversational gambits involved movies and other Media-driven interests, which are discouraged for Waldorf youngsters) made him unlikely to 'fit in'. Not that 'fitting in' was even on our radar screen by then. We just wanted to have hope that he would survive his adolescence.

In the end, with a great deal of trepidation and against the strong urgings of the Experts*** we had consulted, we decided to try homeschooling.

Within six months we had our cheerful, confident child back again.

Within two years he had learned more social skills from other homeschooled kids than he had learned in 7 years of school... and his social interactions were all positive. He went from being bullied and ostracized to having more social connections and appointments than we were able to schedule in. He will probably always be considered Eccentric/Odd, and he will probably encounter social environments in which he will find it difficult or even impossible to function successfully... but he knows there are environments in which he can succeed, he knows how to find and make friends, how to get support in interpreting the world, and hopefully he now has a greater ability to Cope.

And we did it all without recourse to messing about with his neurology.

But it was clear... it was made *abundantly* clear by the 'Experts' we had voluntarily consulted and paid for... that given the chance they would force us to medicate our son, against our will and his own. I have to give some credence to the thought that the written reports labeling me as a paranoid hysteric, and the pointed references to Child Abuse/Neglect may in part have been intended as a potential legal groundwork should the Experts feel that I was going to stubbornly refuse medication after a period of time (one therapist specified six months as being the outer limits of the time she expected it would take before I would, "...be forced to change (my) mind and use medication").

This is not the only, or even the most egregious case of interference and bullying by the medical (and in this case, educational) establishment towards my family, not to mention friends and acquaintances.*** And legal interference/enforcement in medical treatment is becoming more and more common, and more and more intrusive, in the last decade or so. In at least the case of the rapidly increasing incidence of legally forced electroshock therapy for the mentally ill, and forced drugging of the elderly patients in our nation's nursing homes, it's becoming alarming.

Is this how you will want your parents treated when they become too old to care for (or fight for) themselves? Is this how you will want to be treated when you have to decide on treatment for a catastrophic illness of your child, your spouse, yourself?

The incidence of Autistic Spectrum Disorders is thought to be on the rise, beyond what increased diagnosis could account for. More info on AS - including symptoms, resources, how loved ones and teachers can cope, etc. - can be found here.

This isn't a blanket condemnation of Experts, or of doctors. We continue to be extremely grateful to our son's fabulous pediatrician, who has always been supportive and helpful in every way. Our family practitioner is wonderful, and we've met with specialists over the years who have behaved perfectly reasonably and ethically. I don't expect doctors to be omniscient... in fact, my complaint is with doctors who are inclined to believe themselves to be just that.
I respect the years of training and experience they have invested in their field of study. I just want them to respect the years of training and experience I have invested in *my* field of study, which is my unique and specific child. I am paying them to be my partner in helping this kid of mine; I am not trying to hand the responsibility of raising him over to anyone, and feel that since *we and our son* are the ones who will be held accountable for his behavior and are the ones who have to live with the results of whatever decisions are made, we should be the ones with the final say as to what those decisions should be.

Hot Under the Collar

And hot everywhere else, too. With high humidity and projected triple digit temps, Minnesota is clearly not always nice!

We don't have A/C, so we plan to spend most of the next few days in places which are.

Which is why I will wait until next week to explain my personal reasons for being so enraged by this particular news item, which relates the struggle cancer patient Abraham Cherrix and his parents are waging in order to be allowed to decide their own fate (and treatment).

Note particularly that because the family involved did not agree with 'their' doctors, the state (which can be counted on to support the position of the state-run hospital and its employees) has been given 'joint custody' of the young man involved... which means that both he and his parents will not be allowed to make any decision that isn't in lockstep with that of the Authorities.

It's one more illustration of a disturbing trend in our medical, judicial and political systems, a situation rendered all the more weird and frightening when one looks at the concurrent trend towards lack of personal responsibility and honesty in both our personal and our public lives.

We need to start thinking very hard about just how far we, as a society and as individuals, are willing to go when we take the position that We Are Our Brother's/Sister's Keepers. The consequences are huge... and unfortunately easy to ignore until it's too late for you or your loved ones.

Martin Niemöller wrote, "Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up." It's not always easy to identify who 'they' are, especially when They Are Us.

July 11, 2006

We're a Practical People...

... so of course, given a Cool Day in the mid 80's and a predicted week of temps in the mid 90's and possibly up to 100 (with lots of humidity), and given no air conditioning, the Pirate and I decided that now would be an excellent time to spend with some nice, woolly Malabrigo yarn.

The good thing about this fit of insanity is that it turns out that the Pirate is a genius.

He not only caught on to purling very quickly (even though he announces that purling is Evil), but he also figured out the Long Tail Cast On in less two minutes.

(aren't you jealous? don't you wish YOU had a genius for a husband?)

The bad thing about this fit of insanity is that there is no way on earth that he's going to get any more practice in the coming week (being insane but not suicidal), and of course will have to learn both things all over again after this heat wave passes.

Sometime in the next century or two, then.

But really, isn't he clever?

July 07, 2006

Total Goober Moment

(distractedly half-watching new show "Kyle XY" with Vampire last week whilst busily turning the heel of a sock)

Me: That's ridiculous. Why would a kid pull down his pants and sit down on the toilet cover?

Teenaged Son: (incredulous look at his inexplicably dense mother)

[kid on screen plucks girlie magazine out of hiding place]

Teenaged Son: (clears throat pointedly)

Me: Oh. Right. Never mind...

Controlling, Moi?

Me: When I am dead and you talk to me in your head, will you call me Mama, or Mom?

Kid: Mom.

Me: Really?

Kid: Definitely.


Me: I won't answer, you know.

July 04, 2006

A VERY Happy 4th!

It's 11:30 pm and the Vampire isn't back from his carousing yet... but he called home twice, so I know he's safe and having lots of fun, and we aren't to expect him home for another hour at least. What the heck, he's with friends, and it's the Glorious Fourth!


In the meantime, we had
what the Pirate, my folks, and I all feel is the best and most festive Independence Day in many a year. We had a grand time, and I thought I'd share a bit of it with you!

First, we all gathered on the patio at the St. Anthony Park Home, decorated ourselves and the wheelchairs, painted ourselves with suns
creen, and were ready to go.

Here's the Pirate, flirting with my grandmothe
r (sporting the dashing hat) and friend, Evelyn (sporting the dubious expression, although luckily for the Pirate's reputation, the camera angle hides it well).

Once we were well and truly organized, we all took
off for the park, where the 4th of July Parade participants were gathering. The weather was gorgeous, warm with just enough breeze to cool the brow, flutter the flags and rotate the pinwheels.

We spent some time waiti
ng for the parade to begin, and made a few new friends (front row is Evelyn, grandma, and the talented Margaret; middle row is my mom and two extremely well-dressed clowns; back row is me, my shade hat and a flag) .

Once the parade was ready to begin, we wheeled down the road en masse, to the delight of both audience and participants.

John, the dedicated owner of the St. Anthony Park Home, circled the participants in his Uni-que manner...

Once we had returned to the Home, we settled on the beautiful patio for a most delightful picnic lunch.

We had croissant sandwiches (chicken salad), mixed fruit, potato chips, and dark chocolate chunk brownies, washed down with much-appreciated cold beverages of various sorts.

The residents then went up to the sunroom for a hotly contested game of Bingo. Their exhausted families went home for a mid-day snooze! We couldn't have had a better time.


The Vampire just got home, safe and sound and ready to recount his day to his loving Mom. I can't wait... well, I can, just long enough to download the photos here. I hope your day was as lovely as ours was!

Happy 4th!

Just want to wish a quick "Happy Independence Day!" to the US readers. The Pirate and I are about to meet my folks and go en masse to the wonderful nursing home where my grandmother lives. There we will help decorate the wheelchairs of the participants, and then we will push them down to the nearby park for our own Fourth of July parade and picnic. Luckily the temps have gone down from 'broil' to 'gentle bake', so we won't have to be unreasonably concerned about sunstroke. Should be a grand time!

In the meantime, the Vampire will be biking about the city of St. Paul with his Fencing-and-Gaming friends, wreaking havoc on the general populace.

They will be attending Taste of Minnesota, where a parent will be playing in a band.
They will probably be LARPing in Como Park. They will be watching fireworks from somewhere in downtownish St. Paul. Heaven knows what else they will be up to...

Don't worry too much, St. Paulites. This is a group of very sweet geeky teens, and generally they only hit each other with the swords.

But I can't vouch for their aim, so it might be best to keep a safe distance. Just in case...

July 03, 2006

With Apologies to the Pirate...

... it's still comical that we get particularly upset when other people (most of all, our kids) do as we do.

The Pirate got really ticked off when he accidently knocked into an open bottle of mineral water that the Vampire left on the floor next to the couch last night... worse, the Vampire was off at a friend's house, so the Pirate had to clean up the puddle himself and had no better an audience for his subsequent mini-tirade than his unsympathetic wife.

Unsympathetic, because said wife spends what she considers an unreasonable amount of time picking up half-full cans of beer and glasses of water off the bit of floor adjacent to the Pirate's favorite PSII game-playing seat, usually during the time of day when the Pirate has traipsed off to work and is unavailable for mop-up duty.

I'm not complaining about the Pirate and his ways - at least, not at the moment. I have PLENTY of annoying slobular habits myself, which the Pirate mostly lets slide and/or compensates for - and what's more you couldn't find a more loving and kindly guy anywhere on earth. You couldn't get my guy out of my clutches with a crowbar.

What I'm saying is that we spend a lot more time complaining about our kid's behavior than we spend looking at their role models for that behavior, and more time complaining about annoying traits in our friends and neighbors and fellow motorists than we spend examining our own shortcomings, and that if we made a log of our favorite complaints about others and compared them to a list of the complaints our friends and family made about *us*, we might find a lot more similarity there than would make us entirely comfortable.

I will try to remember that next time I complain about territorial driving, tardiness, self-centeredness, monopolizers of conversation, criticism, tactlessness, lack of gratitude, thoughtlessness, or lack of responsibility.

Which should be in about three minutes, give or take 60 seconds...

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