Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shall we write her off?

I like to fancy myself a writer. And it is important to me. I haven't been published widely, but I can only imagine. And I want it. But not enough to do this.

Even if it was unintentional, and I do get that it can be easy to "channel" your favorite writer's style, it is still inexcusable. But the author is young, perhaps she will rebound. What a shame.

T,who is glad she isn't the author in question

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And the BIG DUH award goes to...

CBS News recently published this article that reports that many of those in the tech fields show autism-like characteristics and that large numbers of "geeks" find solace and shelter in the Internet.

It's been said that people with autism invented the Internet," Eric Hollander, M.D., director of the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, tells WebMD. "By e-mail, you don't have to read people's nonverbal social cues. You don't have to look at body language or facial expressions. It's just the verbal content of communication." Not only does the Internet downplay autistic social deficits, but the language of computers also allows some people with autism to give full expression to their exceptional abilities.

They also tell us that

That means people with Asperger's and high-functioning autism often have great talents for creating and analyzing mechanical systems, such as engines, or abstract systems, like mathematics and computer programs. Baron-Cohen recently surveyed undergrads at Cambridge and found significantly more math majors diagnosed with autism compared with students majoring in other disciplines, such as medicine, law, and social science. These are all brainy subjects, but mathematics is best suited to a systemizing mind."

There is just one problem with this article. They are about 5 years too late. Wired magazine broke this trend back in 2001, long before CBS News had probably ever heard of it.

Said Wired:
It's a familiar joke in the industry that many of the hardcore programmers in IT strongholds like Intel, Adobe, and Silicon Graphics - coming to work early, leaving late, sucking down Big Gulps in their cubicles while they code for hours - are residing somewhere in Asperger's domain. Kathryn Stewart, director of the Orion Academy, a high school for high-functioning kids in Moraga, California, calls Asperger's syndrome "the engineers' disorder."

Wired is famous for the A.Q. Test, a test designed to get you thinking about autism and whether or not you have autistic traits. To some degree, we all do. While the test is not a scientific measurement, it certainly started a dialogue and opened some eyes to a brilliant but misunderstood group.

While I applaud the efforts of CBS News in trying to make this mainstream news, I do think they were a day late and a dollar short on that one.

I often wonder if my son will gravitate towards some sort of engineering; if he will find his place among the slightly autistic group of the Technical Elite. He is a very visual-spatial thinker, much like his father, in that respect. Will he parlay that bent into a career where he is pretty much accepted for who he is? A mother can only hope.

J, that guy I am married to. is a computer engineer in a prominent company. He is very good at what he does. He also has some Aspergerish tendencies. Much of it he has self-taught himself to overcome. Through college classes where interviewing skills were practiced, seminars that taught how to read others as a part of behavioral interviewing, and careful attention to detail, he has managed to pass as just about normal.

He also has me to keep him social. The joke was his friends told him to get a life, he thought they said "wife" and went out and married me. In the early years, I was the Social Director. I am a bit more outgoing than he is, and would pull him out of his comfort zone. This was good for him, and helped him learn to live like the rest of us.

To a point. He is, after all, still a geek. But a damn good one.

T, who loves her geek, even though he went to France and only brought me back a magnet

Friday, April 28, 2006

On Cats and Children

Twelve years ago today, I gave birth to my first child. I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't been a mother before, except to a couple of cats. And well, cats don't really need mothering..


Cats own you and are fairly self-sufficient. They don't need help going to the bathroom. They don't really want anything unless they want to be petted or fed. Beyond that, cats are independent. You can leave for the weekend and they will be fine.

We waited for a few years after marriage before we had a child. And I wasn't sure that I even wanted to have children; I had cats, it was enough for me. But when I found I was pregnant, I was very excited. Scared, but happy..

And of course, wondering how life would change for us. I laugh now thinking of the conversations we had: "So, can we still head to San Diego on whim for the weekend?".

"Of course, nothing will change! It's a baby, not an anchor!".

Nothing will change! Funny. Even funnier to think I would think it. But as I prepared to meet my baby, I was oblivous to the changes that would come. And they were so gradual that it wasn't painful at the time..

She was the first born, and everything was new. I worried about everything. What if she didn't eat? What if she ate too much? What if she wouldn't sleep? What if, unthinkably, she wouldn't wake up? What if she got sick? What if, What if, What if..

As she got older, the questions became bigger. In some ways, it was easier, but in some ways, it was a lot harder. What was discipline? How should she be disciplined? What did we want to teach her?

What if she couldn't learn? Worse, what if she was smarter than I was, at an early age? What if she hated school? What if she was always stressed out? What is her friends laughed at her? What if a boy broke her heart?

Some questions have yet to be answered..

Now at 12, she is a serious, studious young woman, who still finds joy in life. It is a wonder that we don't break the first born child, since we know so little. She was the guinea pig. Each child in our family that came after her has the benefit of her having been there before them.

I am much more relaxed about my parenting, because she came first. With her, I freaked out when she spilled on the floor. Now, the spill gets cleaned up, together. With her, I freaked out over uneaten peas. Now, eh, eat them or don't...I provide the food, I can't make them eat it..

With her, I was able to practice and become a better parent. And I really appreciate that.

I know it isn't easy to be the firstborn child. There are expectations and responsibilities What do you mean "they're watching me? I don't want to an example!" I was the firstborn, too. I understand well the frustrations of having to be the one to do the right thing, to suck it up instead of punching a little brother's lights out. I know it is hard. But it is also character building..

We become who we will be based upon the day to day contact with the people in our lives. Iron sharpens iron is the way the Bible puts it.

So I know my daughter reads my blog "Go to bed, J!" and so I just want to wish her a happy, happy birthday. She brings a light into my life that I never knew I needed. With her, I was able to practice and become a better parent. And I really appreciate that. She is much better than a cat. But a cat would keep his room cleaner.

T, who gets to spend the day with my daughter tomorrow for Girl's Day Out"

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thursday 13- SHOE SHOPPING

13 Shoes That TLC Finds Interesting, But is Too Unadventurous To Wear
(and 3 that she owns)
They say you can tell a lot about a woman by her shoe here are mine..I think I am channeling a Diva:
  1. 1. This Dominatrix!
  2. 2. Isn't this a cute little wedge? It just screams "Bollywood"
  3. 3. I love this suede shoe, but I would break my neck on it (not practical for chasing children)
  4. 4. Everyone needs black shoes. Can never have too many pair!
  5. 5. You can really slink around wearing these
  6. 6. I adore these shoes and would almost wear them
  7. 7. These Betsy Johnson's are soooo cute!
  8. 8. Let's go retro!
  9. 9. These Zinotti shoes are just delicious
  10. 10. Every woman has to have a pair of Cavalli's..take a walk on the Wild Side
  11. 11. I have no idea why, but these are just so cool
  12. 12. A casual shoe by Rebels for your inner-Rock Star- yes, those are silver sequins
  13. 13. These go perfect with the Harley for that Mid-Life Crisis
  1. 1. Keds are more my speed, and I love these
  2. 2. I own two pair of these Phat Farms, because I love tie-dye (one is blue, the other is this one)
  3. 3. Birks are my favorite shoes and these are funky

T, who used to be a Shoe Girl in my younger days, then had children

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T, who used to be a Shoe Girl in my younger days, then had children

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Confessions of a Mean Mommy

I am a Mean Mommy. It's true. I don't let my kids eat junk food. Much. Ok, I see that I have your let's talk.

Do you ever think about how you ate while growing up? As a kid, dinner was Hamburger Helper, or Kraft Mac N Cheese. Sometimes pork chops, mashed potatoes,gravy and canned peas. Kitchen sink burritos, which was everything, and fried potatoes, too. We had Hostess sweets, Pop Tarts and overly sugared cereal. Healthy was brown bread over white.

My mother still bought white bread, usually. We drank a lot of milk. Ate a lot of ice cream, there was always snack foods in my house, usually more than one. For dinner, we ate a lot of red meat. How many kids do you know who sat down to dinner, complaining, "Not steak again!" Don't get me wrong, my mother was a good cook and a good mother. She fed us the way she was supposed to at the time.

Cut to today: In my family, we eat more organic foods (more is available) more fruits and vegetables, leaner meats. We drink very little dairy, and don't eat much cheese. Less packaged items. I tend to shop the perimeter of the grocery store: that's where you find the produce, dairy and meat departments. If you have the willpower, you save money by doing this. Of course, you also miss the cookie aisle, which you might want to hit, because, really, who can survive without cookies? Still, if you have a list, you spend less. And try to be quick: the stores know the longer you spend in the store, the more you will buy.

I don't love grocery shopping. All the expensive, preservative-laden, less nutritious food is at eye level. If it is marketed at kids, it is at their eye level. It is not fun these days to take a small child to the grocery store! Trying to wheel the cart while dealing with velcro kid hanging on at the knees and whining..."But I waaaaaant fruit snacks!" is definitely not relaxing. It is stress-inducing. Guess it is good that our grocery store has a Starbucks inside. Now, I've done it! This was supposed to be a post about eating healthy, and I have given away my biggest vice: Starbucks. Ah well, I plug on..

My daughter is a bit envious of the way her friends are able to eat. Pringles are for fiber, fruit snacks are "fruit." Apparently, no meal is ever complete without some sort of sugar to top it off. "Jell-O" is store-bought and comes in a plastic container, the better to quickly shove into a bag and tote it with you.

Of course, these people consider us strange, because I don't buy most of that food. Complicating this are so many choices! When I was a kid, there were two flavors of Pop Tarts, and now there are at least ten. Today's food panders to childrens' palates: oversugared, artificially flavored and colored. If you want to know if something is nutritious, first clue, if it is fortified, it means the food had very little vitamins and minerals to begin with. Hence, not a good choice!

For the record, I am the Mean Mommy and I don't buy any of the stuff my oldest daughter wants me to buy. Some examples: anything colored just for the sake of it. Blue applesauce, pink cereal, rainbow-colored goldfish. I see no point in filling our bodies with preservatives and additives if we don't have to. It's also something that some kids can have reactions to, such as tantrums, hyperactiveness, whininess. Red soda, really, artificial red anything doesn't enter my house, except on rare occasions. I have taught all of kids from an early age to be label readers.

They know what I will buy and what I won't. It might seem strict to some, but when obesity is such a concern in this country; when the state of California is advertising on television about the evils of sugary snacks ("Mommmy, can I have some diabetes??) I think that I am on the right track, teaching my kids from an early age to eat well.

You are thinking I am a health nut. Trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. My thought is that I eat dinner so that I can have dessert! I am very picky about what foods I bring into my home, but I absolutely do buy chips (Fritos, Kettle Chips and blue corn tortilla chips) and sweets. Currently, my favorite gotta-have-it indulgence is the new Pepperidge Farm chocolate cookies. They are just sinful. And I already busted myself by revealing my Starbucks addiction.

Fast food is easy. Frozen food is easy. We are all about easy...and I know, cooking isn't easy anymore. These days, time is at a premium for many, and so few people actually eat well. Dinner is what you grab on the way to something else. Hamburger Helper is now advertising itself as a "home cooked meal" and the idea isn't the food as much as the result: instant family togetherness. Between sports practice, lessons after school and many working, there is little time to cook nutritious meals Don't get me wrong, I am not spending most of my time in the kitchen, either! I am lazy. I admit it.

But I think we do eat better than many I know. Broiling a tilapia filet a fancy word for "piece of fish" with balsamic a fancy word for "dressing" isn't rocket science. I cheat and buy frozen organic vegetables and I do buy bagged salad. And though I love them, I don't buy tuna or salmon, due to ongoing mercury questions. I mentioned that we drink very little milk in this house; it is mostly used for cereal for my oldest daughter, and for coffee. Rice milk is what my two youngest are used to, and it actually tastes pretty good.

We haven't always eaten like this, but I have been heading this way for a long time. This Summer really was the catalyst. After reading about the Gluten Free/Casein Free diet as a treatment for autism, I decided to give my son a test run. So that he wouldn't feel singled out, I put me and the kids on the diet, too. J ate what he wanted, just not in front of my son. After about a month, we noticed improvement in bowel habits and attitude from J2. There was no difference in anyone else. So I pulled the girls off the diet, and continued my son.

Would there be changes and improvements such as others I knew had experienced? At that point, he was a bit resistant. I mean, you tell me...could you forsake bread, pasta, cookies, cake and dairy? Sounds like hell, doesn't it? But if you knew that it helped you to feel better? What if the very things that you loved to eat were making you sick? be continued

T, loves being a Mean Mommy, if it means feeding my children well

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Music Monday

I am starting a new feature, of sorts. Monday is Music Monday, and I will be sharing my thoughts on music I have recently acquired.

For those who are on the prowl for good kids' music...for those who cringe when Raffi plays, or want to run the other way when they hear the Wiggles, I present:

To hear these tunes you can check out Sandra's Site

Sandra Boynton has done it again. She has a new CD out. For those who started with Rhinoceros Tap (the wonderful CD that gave us O Lonely Peas and Tickle Time) and Philadelphia Chickens, a stage show extraordinaire featuring Cows, We're Remarkable Cows, she gives us Dog Train A Wild Ride On the Rock and Roll Side. Her wacky lyrics are back, with even more talent to back up the songs. This CD was so good it can't be contained in just a CD. It comes with a picture book, too.

In addition to the Bacon Brothers (yes, Kevin and his brother Michael) singing Pots & Pans (with a percussion by long-time Grateful Dead band member Mickey Hart), there is Blues Traveler, taking a ride on the Dog Train, a bluesy, rocking ode to dogs and motion: "kitty cats are not allowed, no kittycats won't go, cause it's a Dog Train - a cat would be a catastrophe." It is easy to picture the dog out the window in this one.

There is a mix of styles on the CD. Boyton, once again showing her affinity for young children speaks for those who can't say what they want. Even Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme show up with the hilariously titled Boring Song. "Suddenly, here you are...right in the middle of a boring song. This song is so boring, and I'm boring, too..." they croon. How many of us have wanted to say that when they hear easy listening standards?

Alison Krauss lends her voice to Evermore, a folksy piece perfect for lullabies, and really the most serious song on the CD.

Can you imagine the duet pairing of Kate Winslet and Weird Al Yankovic? I couldn't either, but it works well on "I Need a Nap. Kate sings, "Now the feeling's so strong, but the song is too long- it's the wrong kind of song- and it seems to be going nowhere. Nowwhere! OH Let Me Sleep! I need a nap.."

I think one of the highlights is the song stylings of The British Invasion 60's singer Billy J. Kramer as he does 3 different episodes of Cow Planet. I can't even do it justice. But as they chant "Cooooooooooooow Plan-ET! We will call the band "Mootopia" I dare you to keep a straight face. I couldn't do it. It is so ludicrous.

I think my favorite song is Penguin Lament, a pensive ode to the difficulties of being a penguin sung by Five For Fighting's John Ondrasik. You can really hear shades of "Superman" in the music, even if the lyrics expound upon the life of a flightless fowl: "I want to be cool like the polar bear guys. I want to be tall and somewhat mysterious. But nothing profound comes in penguin size. Can anyone anyone serious?" I wonder how many kids have had that thought?

There are so many gems on this CD. I just love it. My kids love it. My husband loves it. So, go out and buy it, and then tell me what you think. In my opinion, Sandra Boynton's music collections just keep getting better.

T, who loves music and is just a kid at heart, but doesn't like bad kids' music

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

How To Get Out of Cooking

For the record...

This is an oven mitt and so is this and of course..this

This is a hand It is NOT an oven mitt.

Which goes to explain why I won't be doing much blogging for a day or so. It isn't bad, just more annoying than anything. And it was a really stupid thing to do, trying to hold a casserole that had just come out of the oven. But it got me out of the rest of cooking dinner. Still, I wouldn't advise going to such lengths. Oww.

T, who realizes there is a reason for oven mitts

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why I Shouldn't Go To the Bathroom (Caught her red-handed)

Jazzybean and her fight with the red marker. Thankfully, it is washable.

Thursday 13!

Thirteen Things I Probably Won't Get Around To Doing Today, and Five That I Will 1. weeding the dirt bed (flowers non-existent, I have a black thumb)
2. vacuuming under the refrigerator
3. vacuuming, period
4. a pedicure (can't remember the last time I had one!)
5. a manicure
6. any kind of cure (did I mention I have a cold and feel awful?)
7. scrubbing the bottom of the toilet
8. cleaning out my van
9. writing those thank you notes for that thing, that time
10. calling my Mom
11. escaping the guilt from not calling my Mom
12. going to the gym
13. baking cookies
Things I Probably Will Do Today 1. Cleaning the cat box (don't you wish you were me?)
2. Homeschooling
3. dishes, dishes, always dishes. Seems to the sole reason for my existence around here
4. eating cookies
5. hugging my children
(and one more, bonus)
6. going to the library
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Taking the Plunge (or Where I Would Go For the Weekend)

"Toilet Overflow!" Before the words were even out of my son's mouth, I was up and running, a mixture of adrenaline and speed. I rounded the corner, grabbed the plunger and averted disaster, again. We really need to get our pipes fixed. Homeownership isn't all that it is cracked up to be.

I sat back down and wiped my brow, trying not to hear the din that was my children playing. I need a break. A vacation. Yes, that would be wonderful. And that's when I saw the current topic for my webring, Crazy Hip Blog Mamas.

Where would I go and what would I do if I had a long weekend to myself? Some might think I would head to France, to replace the offending magnet that my husband so thoughtfully brought home for me. And I would, someday, love to see France. But... I would head to Tuscany. I fell madly in love with Tuscany through the book, Under the Tuscan Sun.

That book for me was a mental vacation. I opened the pages and could feel the warm sun beating down upon my head as I read. It was like stepping into a cool pool when the air is sweltering. I would sink down into it, and feel my body relax. Never has a book affected me that way. Now I want to see Tuscany.

Of course, my idea of a vacation is not having to do anything I don't want to do. This includes wiping little bottoms, tying tiny shoes, feeding picky little lemurs who only want to stare at their food and then back at me as though to say, "Are you crazy? I am not eating that!" Taking the children to Tuscany would be awful: "I don't want it, don't they have corn dogs?" There is not enough wine in the region to make a trip such as that enjoyable. So I would go by myself.

I would most likely stay in a nice hotel. There are some wonderful, 4 and 5 star artsy hotels in the area. I had links to them, but, naturally, they were left in a text file on my computer desktop and some child or other magicked them away. My own fault. Have I mentioned I need to get away?

The hotel would have high thread count sheets, and someone would come in and place a chocolate truffle on my pillow at bedtime. Of course, I would be there, and just ask her to leave the entire box. And it would be dark chocolate, naturally.

I would retire, with the light out, and no whining about how it was too dark. And no little feet would kick me in the ribs or steal my covers. No one would call me at 3 a.m. to inform me that they had to go to the bathroom.(and you had to involve me, because? You have forgotten where the bathroom in this house is?)

I would actually sleep through the night. I would awake on my own, with sunlight streaming through the large windows. No little hands would be grabbing at me, no shrill little voices would be demanding food. I would order room service for breakfast, take a shower (because there would be plenty of hot water...J, the Hot Water King, wouldn't be there to use it all) and just relax.

When my food came, I would eat leisurely, then head out for some sightseeing. I would stop and get an espresso at a sidewalk cafe, and just enjoy the local color. I would have no agenda. No one would make any demands on me, I would do what I wanted, as the spirit hit me.

Yes, that to me, would be a perfect get-away. I would arrive home rested, with a little bit of color from the sun. Naturally, I would have to buy some large Italiano Movie Star Sunglasses. When in Rome or Tuscany do as...well, you know the rest.

It would be a wonderful trip. But I don't think I would want to be gone longer than a few days.

The big comfy bed would start to feel lonely. I need those little feet there. And the cats that sleep on my bed at home are warm, and very comforting. Then of course, there is J. I would miss him, as well. And, just to be fair, I would bring him a nice magnet.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio

I am married to Barry White. Well, ok, he isn't quite Barry White, but when he is sick he has Barry's voice. "C'mere Baby." The poor guy is so sick all he can do is croak and I am rubbing up next to him saying, "Talk to me some more you sexy thing, you." Of course, then he gives me the hairy eyeball, thinking I have lost my mind.

Today J stayed home sick from work. He succumbed to what attacked me. He slept all day. Some men are such babies when they are sick. My friends' husbands are this way. They expect to be catered to, have to have the crusts cut off their bread (I kid you not!) and must be medicated within an inch of their lives in order to not be heard moaning piteously.

Mine is not this way. In fact, he tends to retire to the bed, pull the covers over his head, and the house could explode and he wouldn't notice. I want to do things for him, because I feel sorry for him when he is sick. He doesn't complain, and only once have I heard him moan, but that was because he was really, really physically ill. Eventually, he will emerge, the wounded bear making his way out of cave, and go through the motions of making tea or soup before I take pity upon him and take over the preparations.

We have a predator living in our house. (yes, I know that was a non-sequitur, I'm still sick, and couldn't think of a good segueway! It is large and black. It roams the halls while we are sleeping. It forces us, through sheer mind power, to feed it when it wants. It lumbers through the house, skulking in the shadows, pretending to be invisible, until we sit down. Then it suddenly will materialize out of thin air to take over the lap, that was just going to get up and do something important. It is all part of the nefarious plan of World Domination, I am pretty sure. Why do I tell you this?

Because, in addition to breaking my Internet, it would appear that said predator has finally managed to kill my poor, sick husband.

* this is not a staged photo, he really does sleep this way..

I've Got...Two Tickets to Paradise

Well, ok, virtual paradise, in any case.

Since I can't afford to go anywhere for Spring Break this year, I treated myself to a virtual vacation. It occured to me that others might be facing the same thing. So I present you with:

Scott Stulberg Photography Mere words fail have to see this site. It is mostly Southeast Asia, but there is a category he calls "Serendipity" that defies labels. It is a multimedia feast for your soul. Call it, your moment of Zen.

Also, if you have always wanted to see British Columbia, The Yukon & Alaska, visit Distant Horizons

These sites will relax you, make you feel, and are just the best the web has to offer. And you don't even have to book a plane ticket.

Your turn. Where would you like to go if money were no object?

*Neither of the photos are from the sites above...I just like images in my posts. The photos from the sites mentioned are even better than the ones I used.
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