Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bitchy Mama: a Sunday at the homestead

Was is the sun? Barely recognizable to our drizzle addled brains.

Was it heat? True NW'ers start whining anywhere above 75 degrees.

Maybe it was just the pure freedom of a day with no "have to dos".

I was actually in a great mood. The garden thrives. The sun is shining. The birds are signing.

Yet, the kids managed to fight, argue, squabble about every little thing. Nothing was ok today.

I found myself mitigating and playing the serial facilitator all day with not many happy lasting outcomes.

Shea has gotten good at crying bloody murder whenever he doesn't get his way. I mean, really, like he has severed a limb. Jake and I come running and it's because Molly wants to climb the rope ladder even though Shea was doing something totally different, a good distance away. Or something equally eye-ball rolling.

About a dozen of those sitations and bitchy mommy comes for a stay.

I tried something different with Shea and his reluctant big boy pants issue. I took off a poopy dipe and thought ok, he is going au natural for the rest of the day.

He did not like that. Every other kid in the world would revel in the nakeness but not Shea. He misses the support or whatever. So, I told him he could wear big boy pants but he didn't like that idea either.

That is about when bitchy mommy walked away and left the whiney, pouty progidy by himself on the backporch to grump by himself. I sort of toss over my bitchy shoulder, "Ok. If you don't want to wear them, that is fine with me. See ya!"

I timed it. It took 3 more minutes of solo-grumping then he put the big boy pants on HIMSELF and trotted down to the backyard to receive my exuberant praise.

We are so pathetically behind the 8 ball as far as potty training goes so that little incident is actually a victory. I have had several open, planning discussions with Shea about how we are going to say bye-bye to dipes after school is out. We are saying hello to big boy pants for the summer. He seems skeptical.

Would Jesus shoot an abortion doctor?

I think not. And, in fact, I think Jesus would have some tough-talk for anyone who did!

How can someone be so "pro-life" that they think in there twisted little pointy head that it would be justifiable to take the life of anyone let alone this doctor. A person who has devoted his life to making sure woman could have a choice.

Just sickening.

You know all that hope we have been praying and wishing on? Well, I guess it is sending the bat-shit crazies over the edge!

My thoughts and prayers go out to George Tiller's family; a gentle man who provided safe and LEGAL abortions to woman who faced the excruciating choice of whether they could provide a healthy, stable, safe home for their child.

I would hope that we could all agree that we want and need to keep abortions safe, legal and rare. Let's make every child a wanted child.

You can donate to Planned Parenthood right here.

Bless you, Dr. Tiller. May you rest in peace.

From the Seattle Times:

WICHITA, Kan. —

Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

The gunman fled, but a 51-year-old suspect was arrested some 170 miles away in suburban Kansas City three hours after the shooting, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Up: can Pixar do anything wrong?

Up. What a terrifically wonderful, touchingly poignant, entertainly scary movie. Those Pixar folks are literal geniuses!

That being said, if you have any fear of heights, no matter how small or scary dog phobia - be warned. This movie may send you over the edge.

There are enough vertigo provoking episodes in this movie to keep you off ladders for months. But, don't worry, it is a happy ending.

The dogs. The dogs? The dogs almost stole the show. Each outfitted with a transmitter that gives it the capability of human speech...priceless.

It was a full house at the old Vashon Theatre for opening night. Literally the entire theater was packed and howling with laughter.

Tons of kids, nice and cool and dark inside; a great outing for a Friday night.

Would I see the movie again? Absolutely. Would I buy it? Plan to.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A real summer day here in the NW

Summers in the Northwest is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. Something about lots of water nearby, not too hot temps and no bugs is a real crowd please.

Hey! Come visit and spend your vacation dollars here!

Our summers almost make up for the 6-8 solid months of drizzle and gray bleh. Hard to even remember what it usually is like on a day like this.

Perfect. 75 degrees, cloudless blue sky, slight breeze and did I mention the no bugs part?

And, drum roll please...

The corn has actually emerged in my garden! I thought for sure I had screwed that up. Much to my surprise, they even look different from all the weeds. Now that I can tell the difference I guess I better do some weeding.

Pumpkins starting popping up yesterday with more happening today.

And, row after row of bush beans making their first appearance. Wow, they move fast once they are up.

I read somewhere that crows particularly like bean starts so to get some flashy tape or something to scare them away. GGF has some on order for us both. You know that metallic tape that you string around and it flashes light and is supposed to discombobulate the birds? Hope it works and we get it in time!

I might need an extra special strategy because my crows are pesky smart ones. They wait until we aren't around and snack on the cat kibble off the back porch and they have no qualms about snatching pretzels from Shea's lunch when he wanders off even for a brief moment.

In fact, one of two may be Ravens because they seem awful big for crows. I actually sort of like them but not well enough to feed them my bean babies.

Is it scarecrow time?

Suggestions?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bountious basil

Just hit the hot weather plant start sale at the high school today. For those of you who missed my pro-vocational education rave and the previous plant sale for cool weather plants, by all means here it is.

First, it was roasting hot in that green house and I am sure the kids wanted to be squirting hoses around but, again, they were on their best behavior scuttling around, showing us where we could find the peppers, basil and tomatoes galore.

Wow! That was some turn out! Impressive, robust starts very reasonably priced.

I have never seen a more healthy crop of basil starts in my life. A buck each!!!! $1.00 for a plant I just spent $3 over the weekend for. Sheesh!

For those that know, Basil is notoriously hard to start from seed unless you have a greenhouse and perfectly stable conditions. Basil is not easily started in the window sill with the dogs, cats, kids, curtains messing up the conditions. I have long stopped trying and routinely buy them in starts each year.

My GGF was feeling all failure-ish because her basil didn't happen this year. I assured her that she is already super-human with the sheep, the garden, the kid, the chickens and the farmstand. And, if her basil starts worked out too I would have saddly had to feel even more inadequate!

No fear! None of hers came out and there was enough beautiful basil starts to make everyone happy today at the sale.

I brainstormed a little with the horticulture teacher. Her and the kids have planted up a huge victory garden and was wondering how to open it up for community events during the summer. I always found it ironic that the best months for the garden the kids were off from school. So, after all their hard work in the spring, they never really gets to be rewarded for it.

Maybe the summer kids YMCA program could come up and do some weeding and be able to harvest some of the veggies to eat? Maybe they could promote it for summer parties and weddings? Maybe they could offer produce for weekly garden help to folks who don't have a garden or live in apartments?

There are so many ways a garden can grow. And, watching those kids take it on just reminds me that it really should be a community activity.

I-pod volume limit controls

Wow! Now that is a good idea!

Password-protected volume limit controls

To help prevent hearing loss that may occur when listening to audio at high volume over long periods of time through earphones, all currently available iPod models include volume limit controls allowing you to easily set the maximum listening volume. You can protect the maximum volume with a password, so it cannot be changed without permission.

Hat tip to my excellent anonymous pal who happens to be an old high school sweet heart!

Thanks Mitch! XOX

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My new I-pod or thank god my kid can figure it out for me

Ok. Molly's brand spanking new Nano arrived today complete with jumping and shouting and many thank you hugs.

To review: Molly earned money to buy this contraption by playing her violin or busking.

She has been plugged in ever since except for the "no I-pod at the dinner table" rule. She did take some time out to set up my new I-pod or her old Shuffle.

Am I excited? Yes. Am I jumping around hugging and shouting? Not yet. But, I am very thankful that she could set it up for me and teach me how to do it.

Volume...check.
On, Off...check.
Ok. Good to go. I think.

Now, how do you download a song? She was proud to teach me how and I was very thankful my kid can help me with this 21st century apparatus.

So, I downloaded my first song.

What was it?

Yellow by Coldplay

Nice.

The special bus

Because Shea has an IEP, he is offered door to door bus service for pre-school which is a really wonderful thing. And, because the bus picks him up at my door and I climb on to buckle him up 4 days a week, I have gotten to know all of Shea's fellow bus pals.

There are only 5 including Shea, so it is a lovely little grouping. And, it wouldn't be as lovely without the bus driver, Karen, who has a great attitude and is a calm, happy person to ride to school with.

Sometimes Karen has rock music cranked. She says the kids asked for something "fast" and then they will all be banging out to some classic rock tune. Sometimes the kids are blissing out to Bach or whatever happens to pop up on the local classic station.

I think it is sweet that she is so present with the kids each day. She isn't just the bus driver, she is their friend.

They are all boys except for one girl, Sophia, a little red head. She is the same age as Shea and we have known her since they were first identified back when they were 18 months old. Sophia is the girl who Shea bestowed the only hug of his birthday party on. He just couldn't help hugging Sophia. The best part is that she didn't mind and hugged back.

Sophia has been singing the same song for a good couple of months. "Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly" she peeps, almost not recognizable yet somehow...there it is. Is she watching The Wizard of Oz over and over again? Is she a Judy Garland fan? I don't know.

The kids, after seeing me all year, now include me in whatever happens to be going on. Will I pick up so-and-so's teddy bear. Where is your chicken? Can Shea have a play date?

After I buckle Shea in and climb off the bus, I have this delicious freshly dropped off feeling, I am particularly exuberant.

I stand and wave to all the kids and blow kisses to Shea (and whoever else will catch them) while jumping around like an idiot. The kids find this particularly hilarious and undoubtedly figure I am one of those "fun" moms.

I'm not really, just really glad to see the bus drive out of my driveway.

Shea is included and accepted on this bus. These are his peers, his friends. The years ahead will only get more complicated but the time on this bus makes me feel like they are a team and can take it on together.

GGF and her snazzy camera

Gal pal, Deirdre, came over with her sooper-cool, expensive, intimidates the heck out of me camera and took some pictures around the old homestead yesterday.

Darling kid shots and the near unveiling of Jake's newest little building: the garden shed/kid's playhouse/chicken closet intimately snuggled next to the gardn. Obviously we are packing a lot in a 6x12 space.

See that building? The top is a deck! Or it is going to be! We will be able to check out the garden and Mt. Rainier and the fireworks on the 4th (hopefully).

Welcome to King County, where you do not need any building permits for a structure 200 sq. ft. or under. Hence the continued perfecting of the science and art of small buildings.

That's Jake alright and he does a mean little building. Do you want one? That can be arranged.

And, wow! Look at how cool the garden looks from the heights! Sweet! Also, just to be clear, it is COMPLETELY deer fenced because nothing would survive without the 7 ft. fence to keep bambi and her relatives out.

Thanks for documenting it, gal pal.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kid offers banned books from lending library in her locker

Hm. I guess the book ban back fired.

Chaucer? Orwell? Twain? Banned books? Yikes!

Smart kid. You gotta love her!

From Yahoo Ask:

"I go to a private school that is rather strict. Recently, the principal and school teacher council released a (very long) list of books we're not allowed to read. I was absolutely appalled, because a large number of the books were classics and others that are my favorites. One of my personal favorites, The Catcher in the Rye, was on the list, so I decided to bring it to school to see if I would really get in trouble. Well... I did but not too much.

Then (surprise!) a boy in my English class asked if he could borrow the book, because he heard it was very good AND it was banned! This happened a lot and my locker got to overflowing with the banned books, so I decided to put the unoccupied locker next to me to a good use. I now have 62 books in that locker, about half of what was on the list. I took care only to bring the books with literary quality. Some of these books are:


The Perks of Being a Wallflower
His Dark Materials trilogy
Sabriel
The Canterbury Tales
Candide
The Divine Comedy
Paradise Lost
The Godfather
Mort
Interview with the Vampire
The Hunger Games
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Animal Farm
The Witches
Shade's Children
The Evolution of Man
the Holy Qu'ran
... and lots more.

Anyway, I now operate a little mini-library that no one has access to but myself. Practically a real library, because I keep an inventory log and give people due dates and everything. I would be in so much trouble if I got caught, but I think it's the right thing to do because before I started, almost no kid at school but myself took an active interest in reading! Now not only are all the kids reading the banned books, but go out of their way to read anything they can get their hands on. So I'm doing a good thing, right? Oh, and since you're probably wondering "Why can't you just go to a local library and check out the books?" most of the kids are too chicken or their parents won't let them but the books. I think that people should have open minds.

Most of the books were banned because they contained information that opposed Catholisism. I limit my 'library' to only the sophmores, juniors and seniors just in case so you can't say I'm exposing young people to materiel they're not mature enough for. But is what I'm doing wrong because parents and teachers don't know about it and might not like it, or is it a good thing because I am starting appreciation of the classics and truly good novels (Not just fad novels like Twilight) in my generation?

5,000+!

When I started this blog last fall, I never could imagine who, if anyone, would read it.

Yeah, my friends, my mom, people who know me, know Shea, you know, the insiders. I knew they would read it. And, it has been a really wonderful way to keep those folks in the loop.

But, I get a real kick out of all the different people from all over the country and world who just happen along and visit. Who knows how you find it but you visit and I thank you for it.

My hit counter just went over 5,000. Sure, about 4,878 hits are probably me just refreshing my screen but those other ones are you.

Thank you for visiting this blog and leaving your comments. Did I mention how much I love comments? Well, I do. So, don't be shy, leave a trace of yourself!

I have found a lot of solace, inspiration and fun during these months blogging about all sorts of things and it is all because of you...the folks that read it.

Hugs and kisses from,

Shea's mom

In memory of the fallen...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Poverty levels influence kid's learning

Another one for the "duh" category.

But, this also reaffirms why children in poverty do not test well. NCLB is a vicious cycle; underfunded schools who serve low income kids supposedly "failing" but only because of the standardized tests.

From the StatemansJournal.com:

Educators often point to poverty as a factor in sub-par student achievement. And there is research to back them up.

A landmark 1995 study showed that how fast children's vocabularies grow is greatly influenced by how often their parents talk to them — and that children from lower-income families hear significantly fewer words than their wealthier counterparts.


The study found that, in a year, children of professionals hear 11 million words on average, while children of working-class families hear 6 million words, and children of families on public assistance hear 3 million words.

Garden update: end of May


Salad, potatoes and Raspberries; oh my!

Harvested: only salad greens (wide variety) and radishes so far but peas, basil, onion, broccoli, caloflower, cabbage starts planted.

Corn, beans and pumpkins seeds planted although haven't broken through yet. I probably planted way too early but couldn't resist.

Best so far? Radishes and spicy mustard for zippy salads to chase the winter dull drums away!

I'm really happy!

Shea said today while playing on his favorite thing in the whole wide yard; the rope ladder. He has gotten quite adept at it and now tries to climb with only one hand.

I'm really (yilly) happy too, baby!

Take a look at those dirty summer time feet!

This is about all that is going on for for our Memorial Day weekend.

Bliss!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Abstinence only or teen pregnancy?

Is Bristol Palin promoting abstinence only or teen pregnancy with this cover shot? Darn good question. Really, REALLY hard to tell. Read more about it here.

Hey there girls? If there is any confusion...uh...don't do what she did ok? You know, the lack of birth control part!

Colorado 3rd grader organizes rally for Gay Marriage

From HuffingtonPost.com:



Ethan McNamee, a 3rd grader from Denver, CO arranged the rally as an independent class project.

He was concerned about the issue after hearing about anti-gay remarks on the playground and then learning about a same sex couple in his neighborhood that couldn't get married.

"Everybody is different in a good way," he said.

Ethan believes that if two people love each other that is the only issue to be considered.

Ethan took it upon himself to arrange the rally and line up the guest speakers. He admitted it was more work then he thought it would be, but adds it was fun.

Bridge building for 5th graders

I always find it interesting when teachers capture the kids attention and hold it. Good lessons plans, good ideas and good projects. And, perhaps most importantly, good attitudes. The kids genuinely like these teachers.

We are just finishing up the year with one of the best math teachers Molly has ever had; the beloved Mutant Math Teacher, Mr. L.

He teaches the advanced math class for the 5th graders and has managed all year to entertain yet teach, always a delicate balance.

The latest example is the bridge building lesson.

4 groups of 6 kids, each one with a job; Architect, Project Manager, 2 Construction Manager, Materials manager and Accountant.

They are given a budget to build a bridge from scratch. They have to purchase materials and record the costs; toothpicks (bundles of 10), glue, string and cardboard for a building surface. They can't go over budget and they get extra points for being under.

I had seen the design stage because Molly was the Architect and I saw her working her triangulation on the graph paper but I helped in the class last week and saw the construction phase. Very impressive indeed.

Ok. First, the 2 girl's teams were far better at working cooperatively together. And, they were way further along. They were supportive and kind about making suggestions and didn't seem to step on the other kids job descriptions. They chatted in a cluster around the bridge discussing improvements. Occasionally a boy would come by threatening flirtatiously about sabotaging the girl's bridge. Needless to say, the girls did not find this threat at all amusing. Much discussion about boys. Things like, "Boys say stuff like, you run like a girl and mean it as an insult."

I reminded them that their bridges were farther along, stronger and better designed. Let them think that they are insulting you. You girls know better.

They said that most real bridge builders were men. I said, "Not anymore. You are the bridge builders if you want to be."

Contrast; the boy's teams were a mess! Frustration. Anger. Panic? Screwing around while only one kid was working on the bridge.

Both boy's teams were no where near completion where both the 2 girl's were reinforcing and strengthening.

Yesterday was the big bridge competition. Weights were used to determine how much each bridge could hold. Molly's team ended up winning by being able to hold 8,345 grams for 12 seconds. The record. The second place came in at 6, 278 grams; another girl's team.

It got me thinking. How many of those girls will go on to do engineering? When I was in college there were just a handful of women in the engineering program with the majority, by far, men. It was sort of understood that men had those engineering brains. Although, I know plenty of women with brains like that.

Is that changing? So much focus has been made to encourage young girls to focus on math and science. Will it play out with this batch of kids? The graduating class of 2016?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Other brilliant crisis school fund raising ideas....

...other than just calling people and hassling them for a check!

Hat tip to gal pal, Deirdre.

- One day a week Granny's dedicates 50% of proceeds to the Teacher Fund. I recall about a year ago Granny's had a Too Much Money problem. Not sure if that is still the case, but certainly much of their clothing is donated by the Lost and Found at schools and the families that attend schools. Could they spare 1/6th of their proceeds for the next 3 months? A definite sunset date would ensure that this not become an ongoing embedded program that burdens that organization.

- A partnership with Thriftway like their breast cancer fundraiser. Cards and promotion at the checkout - Save Our Teachers! Again, who are TW's best customers? Do they want to lose families and teachers to the mainland? Maybe they will see such a drive in their own best interest...?

- Could Parks and the YMCA add a voluntary surcharge to their summer programs - ask parents signing kids up for summer classes and camps to check a $10 for Teachers box on all their forms? Or, would these agencies be willing to convert 1-5% of their program revenues to a teacher fund?

- We talked, briefly, about the state now allowing Districts to move to a 4-day week to save teacher positions - is that politically explosive? Why not give the teachers a chance to save their colleagues? I don't know the details of their contract, but am wondering if anyone's tapped into the teachers themselves for suggestions.

- I know librarians are also affected - maybe the Friends of the Library would be willing to donate their book sales revenues for the summer and spearhead a Save the Librarians drive?

- Also, no one cares more about the teachers than their students. Has anyone tapped the students for ideas? Car washes, bake sales, dances, festival - what could be more powerful for a teen than knowing they helped save their favorite teacher from a layoff? The Horticulture program is already doing this with their plant start sales - these monies go directly to fund a summer mentor for students in that program.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guns in parks? Like fish need a bicycle?

Somehow, I just don't feel safer!

Middle school orientation

I have been dreading these middle school years for my oldest. They were tough, rocky years for me and I sure didn't want that for her. Some stuff they just have to go through, that is for sure. Can't protect them forever, even though you want to.

Last night was the orientation for the parents; a Q&A with teachers, administrators and, best of all, some of the middle school kids.

The principal assured all us involved parents that they still want parental volunteers. Please, please, volunteer. So that was nice to know.

They had coordinated a panel of mentors, who were 7th graders, to discuss the 5th/6th grade transition. They stood out front and met (shaking hands! and surprisingly good grips!) with each parent as they arrived giving them an agenda of the evening. It was a little disconcerting to see kids that I had known from our multi-age class (1st, 2nd, 3rd grades) wearing make-up and curving out.

Each mentor took a turn talking about a fear as they were transitioning into 6th grade and a hi-point. It was the cutest darn thing I have seen in a while. Nervous giggles, wiggling feets, embarressed, blushing cheeks but managing to be really poised all the while.

Fears:

Couldn't find their class, getting lost
Not being able to open their locker
Getting picked on, bullying
Too much homework
Not being able to make friends
Having to get up really early

They assured us that non of their fears came to pass. Except having to get up early! Middle school and high school starts at 7:36 AM!

One kid said she used to want to stay up late and nagged her parents to be able to. Now, she says sleep is sacred and she willing goes to bed at 8:30. Yow!

Hi-lights:

Band
Changing classes
New friends
Fun teachers
Cool electives
Dances

Everything, I suspect, a parent would want to hear. But, it was a very sweet look into their heads and hearts.

I shook hands with a particularly engaging Humanities teacher, "I think we are going to get along just fine." I gave him a thumbs up sign.

I think/hope we are going to be just fine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heroin on Vashon

There was an interesting article in today Vashon Beachcomber, our little home town paper, about the unprecedented selling and use of heroin on Vashon.

And, apparently it's cheap! Very cheap! When the hell did heroin get cheap! I remember stories about low-lifes stealing to maintain their habit because it was expensive and hard to get!

Don't get me wrong. I have never, ever been into hard drugs like that. I can't even handle a tetnus shot. The thought of actually shooting up drugs into my body was the biggest turn off ever. And, for the record, I have smoked my share of wacky-tabacky but have never, ever been tempted to do anything so ludicrous. I still feel that way.

But, I thought heroine was wicked expensive! Apparently not.

Then I remembered.

Remember when the Bush administration moved their focus from Afghanistan to Iraq after 9-11. They proceeded to preemptively attack Iraq even though it was Al-qaeeda who hit the twin towers. It was Afghanistan who harbored Osama. Afghanistan; where all the training camps were located.

Remember that? Bush and all his war criminal buddies took their eyes off of Afghanistan so that Bush could whoop Sadam's ass cuz he "tried to kill my daddy."

Remember!!??

Well, right after we blew them to pieces then left, Afghanistan had a record crop of poppy, one of the only cash crops they could grow. And, I guess it keeps on coming. Apparently, one of the only good things those Al-qaeda crazies did was discourage poppy growing.

And, for those that need me to explain: Poppy equals Herion.

So, now we know why it is so cheap.

And, why you don't have to be a scum bag looser hanging out in the dark dank streets of a big city to find it, get and shoot it up. You can be a stupid lost high school kid and get it right here in our bucolic little Vashon Island!

Hello rehab, nice to see you emergency room. Hope you don't die getting hooked on this stupid drug.

Lovely.

See, our countries political decision do effect day to day life, don't they?

And another damn good reason why I despise Bush and all his war criminal buddies.

Thanks a hell of a lot, creeps!

T-ball: rock piles and drawing in the dirt

Shea seems to be enjoying T-ball. They have settled into a good groove. He is by far NOT the worst player on the team. Or the best. Which is a nice safe place to be.

Baseball at this age group is pretty counter intuitive. Most of the play are sort of like this:

"Ok, stand there, swing! Run, run, run! Stop. Stay there. Pay attention. Stay there. Stay there. Run, run, run! Awwww....you're out."

All of the 5 years olds are playing with a good healthy dose of "huh?" running through it all. But, of course, there are plenty of (too many in fact) adults around to tell them what to do.

A favorite past time for the players is Rock Pile while waiting for someone to hit a ball to them. Sometimes Rock Pile can get so engrossing the ball whizzes right by them. They don't mind, really. "Just look at this excellent Rock Pile!" It is not considered that the rock pile will inevitably trip them or one of their team member up the next time around. And it does.

Another favorite is Dirt Doodle; could be letters or just random drawing. Hard to tell at times. This one gets engrossing too. Sometimes "beloved sticks" are included in this game. Until, of course, a ball is hit and whole swarm of adults start yelling. At least these don't trip up the players.

Despite us grown up idiots, they seem to be having fun. Thank god they are such good sports about us.

Congress hears accounts of abuse of special needs students

I had no idea this was getting so prevalent. What the hell is happening out there?

What is it about Special Education? Not enough training? Not enough money? Not enough oversight? What!!???

This sort of thing is just gut churning but at least our congress-critters are shining a light under this rock.

From CNN:

A Texas woman tearfully recounted the death of her foster child at the hands of a schoolteacher during a congressional hearing Tuesday looking into the use of seclusion and restraints in U.S. schools.

The House Committee on Education and Labor heard testimony Tuesday on a report looking at school abuse.

The hearing came on the heels of a report issued by the investigating arm of Congress that documents widespread abuse of techniques use to restrain or discipline special-education students.

The Government Accountability Office report was prepared for the House Committee on Education and Labor, which heard testimony from parents, investigators and experts who described traumatizing punishment of special-needs children.

The violent acts -- from hours of isolation in locked rooms or closets to the use of handcuffs and pinning children on the floor -- often led to serious injuries and even death, witnesses said.

Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller, D-California, called the testimony "startling."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tiny microphone brings autistic boy's abuse to the light of day

Ok. Prepare yourself folks; this story is a particularly ugly one.

As the mother of a child with severe speech delays, this is one of my personal horrors; your child is not being able to tell you if someone is hurting them or is not treating them well.

That is why I am so intrigued by this tiny microphone. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear what your kid hears at school each day?

From 11Alive.com:

ATLANTA -- Stefan is an 11-year-old boy with Autism. A judge ruled he was physically and verbally abused at school.

11Alive has learned from the Deputy Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools that the teacher involved in this story is "no longer in the classroom."

Stefan cannot speak. He has Autism, and is non-verbal. He could not tell his parents -- couldn't tell anyone -- what happened to him. But he had a mother who believed, before this happened, that something was terribly wrong at his school.

Stefan went to Margaret Mitchell Elementary School, Buckhead, where he was doing well, but he was transferred to the Marshall School in DeKalb County in August 2008, due to renovations.

That's when the Ferraris say things started to fall apart. "I knew something was really wrong for the first time on September 8th," said Stefan's mother, Carolyn Ferrari.

That's when she said Stefan came home with bloody scratches, bruises and ripped shorts. His behavior over the next month deteriorated. "It was getting worse and worse," Carolyn said.

Marcelo and Carolyn Ferrari say they repeatedly told school officials they were concerned. So the mother of a boy without a voice found a way to give him one.


"It's about the size of a quarter," Carolyn said about a microphone she sewed into Stefan's shirt. She sent him to school with it on October 21.

It would be his last day at Marshall.

Fare thee well, lone chicken

Lone chicken was feeling broody. For those of you who aren't intimately familiar with chicken nature, that means she wanted to sit on her eggs. Even if there were no eggs in her nest, she still wanted to sit on them.

Something happens to them and they get all "maternal". Maybe because we are always swiping her eggs? Maybe it is a protest! Like a sit in!

It didn't matter that there was no rooster around to make those eggs be anything but just plain old farm fresh eggs.

Her incredible survival instinct, that had served her well for quite a long time, took a vacation.

When it got dark and she needed to fly into the tree to escape the rowdy, raucous raccoons all she wanted to do was sit on that nest. I went out to discuss the folly of this plan with her.

"Chicky, you are going to need to get away from those nasty raccoons soon. Fly up to your roost!"

She didn't. She should have.

RIP Lone Chicken

We loved you for your beauty and perseverance.

Garbage food: eat at your own risk!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bake sale anyone?

Our little school district has a budget shortfall of almost a million dollars for next year. Therefore 9 teachers have gotten the ax. These are sad, tough times for public education.

Our school board has approved a fund raising effort to try to help. They are asking each parent to chip in $150 per kid they have in school. And, they are passing the hat in the community. They are seeking volunteers to call 25 people to hassle them about the money. Or perhaps more diplomatically phrased; remind them of the dire straights our school district is in.

Frankly, I am not sure how successful this is going to be. It's not like we are unique. School districts around the state and country are hurting and purging teachers.

Our community has about 5,000 households. That would take every single household donating $200. I suppose it is worth a shot.

But, I sure would like to see some of that boundless creativity put to work to raise some money. Can we please be a little more creative than just asking for a check?

Will I send a check? Yes. But, I am not going to call and hassle anyone about it. People are hurting out there and I am not going to put the screws on someone who maybe just got laid off, is in foreclosure or just experiencing tough economic times. People know if they can give or not and I don't need to be the one to pressure them.

This is one of my pet peeves. Can we please come up with ANOTHER fund raising idea other than an auction or a phone-a-thon?

These are unprecedented times, calling for unprecedented fund raising measures.

So, when I say bake sale, I am serious. Or a talent show or an art sale or an fun run or whatever. Or all of the above, repeatedly. The point being someone may be able to donate a plate of brownies but not a $150 check. Someone may be able to donate time to coordinate an event but not a check. Someone might be able to come up with a really good idea for a fund raiser if the barn doors where blown off and everyone was thinking outside the normal box!

Or may be we should institute a state income tax so that we can fund public education properly!

But, since that isn't happening. Those of us who can, will whip out our checkbooks, write the check and send it in. There. Our responsibility is done.

Or is it?

Here's an idea! Let's arrest the teachers!

This is getting bad!

Question:

Would you be willing to protest your local public school teacher lay offs? How about get arrested?

From the LA Times:

Hundreds of teachers call in sick and hundreds of high school students walk out of classrooms. The teachers union president is among 39 arrested at a sit-in outside L.A. Unified headquarters.

The head of the Los Angeles teachers union was among 39 people arrested Friday during a sit-in outside the school district headquarters, one among dozens of peaceful protests around the city by teachers and students outraged by plans for deep cuts in education spending.

"Don't raise class size!" the protesters chanted before Los Angeles Police Department officers moved in to break up the demonstration.

United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy was among those who had raised his fist in response to police requests to disperse, and who was bound with plastic handcuffs and taken away in an LAPD bus for booking on a charge of blocking a public street.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Busking update

Yesterday, after busking for a bit over an hour, Molly hit her target.

She made $32 and now has enough to buy the snazzy new I-pod Nano that she is lusting after.

I asked her if this meant that she wasn't going to busk anymore.

She said "No way. How about next weekend?"

Mother's talk influences kid's social skills

Really? I guess I need to catalog this under, "Duh!"

From CNN:

Mothers often get blamed for the way their children turn out, and a new study gives additional weight to that accusation.

Mothers have opportunities to teach empathy every day, psychologists say.

Research from the United Kingdom shows that the way mothers talk to their children at a young age influences their social skills later in childhood.

The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that children whose mothers often talked to them about people's feelings, beliefs, wants and intentions developed better social understanding than children whose mothers did not.

In the first part of the study, mothers were asked to talk to their 3-year-old children about a series of pictures depicting scenes such as a child coming out of school looking happy and people waiting in line. Children whose mothers talked about the mental state of characters in the picture tended to perform better on social understanding tasks, the researchers found.

The effect persisted when the researchers revisited the families -- 57 of them remained in the study until the end -- on an almost yearly basis. The authors controlled for socioeconomic status and IQ of the mothers and found that these factors were not as relevant.

Twilight AKA The sexy vampire story

Always just a little behind the times over here, we are finally catching up to the mainstream.

Molly has plugged into these Twilight books and therefore so have I.

First the book:

If there is a better example of teeny-bopper chick lit, I would be greatly surprised. This story has it all. Teenage angst, annoying yet lovable parents, crushes, being a new kid at a new school and, of course, forbidden love. And, when I say forbidden, wow, I mean it.

I don't need to tell the story as we have all heard it before. But, I was struck with it's undeniable comparison to Romeo and Juliet; just different problems. Oh, and then, of course, there is the somewhat happy ending with the inevitable sequel with yet another sequel on it's heels.

For Molly this is the first real romance book and frankly I think it is ok. I read it, it is quite chaste really. I mean, what can happen? He is vampire for goodness sake! But, one sex pot of a vampire I have to admit. The majority of the book is page after page of gazing longingly at each other. A little tiring for me but oh-so-exciting for the likes of my kid.

She is, of course, devouring the books. She just finished the 3rd; a 600+ page book in less than a week. Needless to say, she has been bitten.

Ok, now the movie.

We decided to both read the book before we would see the movie. No time like the present, so we rented it this weekend and, yes, it is a pretty darn entertaining movie.

Molly LOVED it. I liked it too. All the gazing woefully at each other was a little over the top but then again who wouldn't gaze at that kid, vampire or not. I call him Sedewick (from the Harry Potter movie) but I guess his name is Robert Pattinson. And, he is undeniably a hottie. I realize that it is undoubtedly inappropriate for such an old bag like me to notice. It sure annoys Molly.

The movie was shot beautifully. Forks, WA never looked so good. Somehow they drained the color from a lot of the footage so it has a very unearthly, pale look. The scenery is striking and for those who don't live in Washington state it may seem hard to believe. But, yes, it looks like that.

Effects? I thought the running really fast and up the trees was a little fakey but Molly was eating it up. The scary vampires vs. the "good" vampires was interesting. And, they were scary! But, he gets his and you are very glad. The baseball game was really fun to watch but, of course, ends all too soon. I won't spoil the whole darn thing!

All in all, a sweet little love story. Lots of complications though, making real life seem easy in comparison.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Parasite


I know. And, it's really getting painful!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dazzling Ornamental groundcover: Ajuga

I just had to share one of my favorite ground covers, Ajuga, because it is blooming right now.

Blooming? And how!

This is a very versatile plant, easy to grow and even easier to encourage it to cover hard to deal with spots in your yard or garde.

In shade or sun it does well and needs very shallow soil depths. It's dark green and burgundy folage creeps along, filling in well and then come May - hold on to your hat!

Beautiful, deep blue spike tower blooms, thick vigorous foliage with little or no fussy care. Flowers stay a good long time and absolutely pack a whollop of color in those very hard to deal with spots.

After flowering, they will die back a bit and will get a little droopy in the full scorch of summer. They may even look like they aren't going to make it. But, give them a good full winter and lots of water in the spring and they will bounce right back.

It is a very easy plant to transplant. So spread them around!

End of school year-itus

It could be called "senior-itus". Or, "just can't wait to get out of school for the summer-itus", if you don't happen to be a senior. But, there is something mighty prevalent at and around the schools these days.

Concentration is difficult. There are all these special occasion activities disrupting the normal flow. Normal Flow? Out the window.

I know we only have a month left of school but this started as soon the the WASL was finished.

WASL is what our state calls the big gargantuan standardized test that each school's performance is tied to. It takes 2 full weeks. And, after the hype and the stress and then the relief, it is nearly impossible to get the kid brains focused back on the business at hand.

Unless of course the business at hand is to kill time until summer vacation.

It's like the kids have already moved onto the next grade, at least, mentally. Maybe it is really hitting me this year because there is all this transition stuff going on about the oldest going to middle school next year.

They are all a little bit more squirrelly than usual. Sort of like they see the end of the tunnel and are making a mad sprint for it. Day light lasts making bed times hard to keep. Good weather, if we are lucky enough to have any, would make it hard to come inside at all; let alone do homework, practice violin, pull together the library books that are over due, etc.

It is only a month more but it is a hell of a month! Somewhere in there, we need to pull together a Night of the Notables report and corresponding presentation board on Groucho Marx. Countless "end of year" parties and strangely a birthday party every other weekend from here on out. Man, the calendar is getting really tight.

And, to be perfectly honest, I am getting a little summer-itus myself. Not like its a vacation for me but I have caught it too!

So, here's to the sprint to the finish. Pace yourself folks! We are going to need our energy for the next round.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is why I blog about my kids...

...to make it easier to remember the little things; the day to day, small stuff of life. I write my blog so that I can share it with my kids someday when they care enough and so that I can relive it for myself. You know. Completely selfish reasons.


Thanks for sharing in it. Check out this wonderful essay. She says it so well.


Hat tip to gal pal, Judith, for sending it to me!


by Anna Quindlen


If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.


ALL MY BABIES are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.


Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.


What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.


Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout.


One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.


I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.


Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did-Hall-of-Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I included that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I included that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?


But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.


Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.


The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me.


I was bound and determined to learn from the experts.


It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Pushing the oldest kid

What is it about the oldest child? The first born. They seem to share these stereotypical characteristics; wanting to please, good in school or sports, responsible, etc. Dare I generalize?

Is it just the kids? Maybe but probably not. I have a theory. I think it is the parents and how hard we push our first offspring.

I have watched hovering but loving parents push a violin on a 3 year old who could barely talk. Sure, they were opening up opportunities for their child. But, come on! I have seen kids buckle into stressed out tears at performances while the parents stand pinched lipped nearby.

I have seen parents push their oldest so hard at sports that it is embarrassing to see them at the games. You know these parents; the ones who don't act like it is a game. The ones yelling the loudest, talking trash about the other team. The kids who cry when they lose and are inconsolable. Maybe because they know there will be a long discussion about how they could play better next time or what they did wrong on the way home? I am not talking about high school kids, I am talking little elementary school kids.

We know of extremely talented high school athletes that won't play their sport anymore. They are burned out. They were pushed too hard. Played to competitively, too early. It wasn't fun anymore and they rebelled. There goes that athletic scholarship that mom and dad had been banking on.

And, there is plenty of pushing academically too. I remember a whole subsection of parents being mad at the school because Kindergarten wasn't rigorous enough. How rigorous should Kindergarten be?

And, at the Math is Cool competition, kids that didn't do well shed real tears too. Both parents and kids were crushed. Not a happy ride home after that.

One 5 year old we know is skipping over Kindergarten and doing a unprecidented 1st grade/Kindergarten. Hm. Not sure how that works. Pushing your kid from preschool to first grade. First child? You bet. Who is that for really? Where does parental ego stop and what is best for the kid begin? How will that kid like being the shortest, youngest kid in his grade when he is in, say, 5th grade? Was pushing him to 1st grade when he was 5 worth it? Only time will tell.

I told Molly about this kid. She asked if I think I pushed her too hard. I suppose I did to some degree. I suppose we can't help it. It is only when the next one comes along that you realize how hard you pushed. I asked her if she thought I pushed her too hard. She said no but I would like to ask her again when she is 15, 20, 25 or 30.

I told her I wondered about the wisdom of even pushing the violin on a 5 year old. She reminded me that she begged us for 2 years to take lessons. If she hadn't we probably would not have started her. Why? Because violin is the hardest instrument to learn to play and I didn't want to set her up for failure. I tried to talk her into piano!

See? That is the other side of this same coin. We want our first to fly high! For their glory and our own. The next kid? Maybe we realize by then, that they are who they are. With encouragement they will make their own leaps. That pushing too much is, well, too much. It can backfire and the guilt is all encompassing.

Jake has a story about his dad. When he was born, his dad asked the oldest son, 12 year old Danny, what he should do different with the new baby boy. He said, "Don't push so hard, Dad." Ouch.

We are all trying the best we can.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teacher layoffs: it's not about "need" it's about "afford"

I know school districts all around the country are feeling the pain. Teachers are being laid off in record number for next year. All at the worst possible time. Not only is this awful for the schools and most importantly the kids, it is frightening for the local economies.

Teachers don't make high wages in the first place, but it is a good, solid job in these rocky days. Now, many won't even have that.

Our school district is threatening to RIF (reduction in force) 8 or 9 full time teachers for next year. We are a small school district. We already have pretty large class sizes. I can see what is coming down the pike.

Special Education isn't immune.

Last year there were 2 full time teachers for the Developmental Preschool that Shea attends. This program handles 0-3, Child Find, outreach, preschool for 3-6, screenings, testing and IEPs. That is a pretty full plate for 2 teachers.

This year, the staffing went down to 1.5 teachers. Same duties but less paid time to get it all done. Next year there will only be one full time teacher. Guess what? They still have to do all the same stuff.

How could anyone get all that done? Answer: they won't we able to. They will spend less time per child, less time per task and still probably have to bring a bunch of work home. And, then we wonder why teachers are bailing to find other employment.

I understand this is a dollar and cents game. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, as they say. But, how long can we really afford to continue short changing the kids? And, then put the additional squeeze on the weakest of the bunch?

And, all this from Washington state that won't even talk about an income tax to help pay for the social contract. You know? The commons! The price of living in a civilized society!

Pitiful.

As Americans, we have legally decided that public education is a right. Yet, we still don't pay for it. Why is that? How can we justify the lack of investment?

We can't. There is no justification. It is selfishness and greed clear and simple. We only take care of our own. The others? Be damned. This is the product of the "me first" societal view.

Education is a long term investment. And, if we do not make the effort and sacrifice now, it does not even equate to a gamble but a lost opportunity, never to be regained.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Carrots

No, this is not a blog post about my garden. This is definitely a parenting post.

Before I had kids, I had no idea how much negotiation went on.

"If you eat a good dinner, you can have ice cream."

"If you hit your sister one more time, you will get a time out."

Cause and effect. You know the drill.

Parenting seems to be deal with carrots and sticks all the time. Or bribes and punishments?

As the kids get older, the carrots and the sticks change. It keeps a parent on their toes to be a step or two in front so that the negotiation gets the desired effect.

When Molly first started violin she was 5 and stickers were her carrot. They lost their luster after awhile and nothing would do but sweets.

I remember sitting with her as she practiced her tunes adding chocolate chips one by one to a bowl for each song she played. That worked for a bit.

About a year ago, we shamelessly went to money. If she practices, she gets a buck. It has to be a good practice, her best effort. I consider it money well spent and better for her than candy.

Recently, we stumbled upon a new sparkly, dazzling, lusted after carrot. She wants an I-pod upgrade. Let me explain, she got a Shuffle a year or two back but is only really getting into listening to music lately. The Shuffle does not have a video screen. Gasp! So she wants a Nano which will hold 2,000 songs and 8 hours of video. My mind still reals; what the heck?

Anyway, she wants it, hence it is a new powerful carrot. No, you do not just provide the carrot, you make them work for the carrot, of course. That is the point.

I told her that I would buy her Shuffle from her for $75 but she would need to come up with the rest. Ah ha! With that statement she has swung into money making mode.

We made some plans and mapped out a strategy. She counted up all the money she has now and how much more she will need to make. We looked at the calendar and picked out some days for her to do her money making.

How does she make money? She busks. She sets up at the Saturday Farmers Market and plays solo violin with her case open. I "seed" with a starter buck and the rest is up to her.

Today was the first busk of the season and I have finally wised up and brought a lawn chair. I just sit somewhat nearby and stay out of her way.

Within an hour or so, she made $26.

Someone today started rattling off to me all the good life lessons she was getting; people skills, practical math, project planning and goal definition. He went on and on.

People are always incredibly kind and encouraging. They are dazzled at her bravery to stand there alone and play. So am I.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Flying solo all week

Jake has been gone all week doing a workshop in Portland, OR. He will be back tonight and I am very, VERY glad.

I know there are single parents out there who manage by themselves just fine, thank you very much! For this, I take my parental hat off to you. I don't know how you do it!

Because it is damn hard being the only one. Maybe I am just too old for this? The house is a disaster (more than usual), my dinner ideas are completely tapped out without the resident BBQ maestro and the "Let's wait for daddy to get home" list of projects and problems is getting longer by the hour.

Yes, we missed him. I am sure he learned lots and it was time well spent. But, I learned something too.

Damn, I appreciate him! And, I'm glad I don't have to fly solo all the time.

Get home safe, babe.

Research suggest Children can recover from Autism

From Newsnet5.com:

Leo Lytel was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. But by age 9 he had overcome the disorder.

His progress is part of a growing body of research that suggests at least 10 percent of children with autism can "recover" from it -- most of them after undergoing years of intensive behavioral therapy.

Skeptics question the phenomenon, but University of Connecticut psychology professor Deborah Fein is among those convinced it's real. She presented research this week at an autism conference in Chicago that included 20 children who, according to rigorous analysis, got a correct diagnosis but years later were no longer considered autistic.

Among them was Leo, a boy in Washington, D.C., who once made no eye contact, who echoed words said to him and often spun around in circles -- all classic autism symptoms. Now he is an articulate, social third-grader. His mother, Jayne Lytel, says his teachers call Leo a leader.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, involves children ages 9 to 18. Autism researcher Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, called Fein's research a breakthrough.

"Even though a number of us out in the clinical field have seen kids who appear to recover," it has never been documented as thoroughly as Fein's work, Dawson said. "We're at a very early stage in terms of understanding" the phenomenon, Dawson said. Previous studies have suggested between 3 percent and 25 percent of autistic kids recover. Fein says her studies have shown the range is 10 percent to 20 percent. But even after lots of therapy -- often carefully designed educational and social activities with rewards -- most autistic children remain autistic.

Recovery is "not a realistic expectation for the majority of kids," but parents should know it can happen, Fein said. Doubters say "either they really weren't autistic to begin with ... or they're still socially odd and obsessive, but they don't exactly meet criteria" for autism, she said.

Fein said the children in her study "really were" autistic and now they're "really not."

University of Michigan autism expert Catherine Lord said she also has seen autistic patients who recover. Most had parents who spent long hours working with them on behavior improvement. But, Lord added, "I don't think we can predict who this will happen for." And she does not think it's possible to make it happen.

The children in Fein's study, which is still ongoing, were diagnosed by an autism specialist before age 5 but no longer meet diagnostic criteria for autism. The initial diagnoses were verified through early medical records. Because the phenomenon is so rare, Fein is still seeking children to help bolster evidence on what traits formerly autistic kids may have in common. Her team is also comparing these children with autistic and non-autistic kids.

So far, the "recovered" kids "are turning out very normal" on neuropsychological exams and verbal and nonverbal tests, she said. The researchers are also doing imaging tests to see if the recovered kids' brains look more like those of autistic or nonautistic children. Autistic children's brains tend to be slightly larger than normal. Imaging scans also are being done to examine brain function in formerly autistic kids. Researchers want to know if their "normal" behavior is a result of "normal" brain activity, or if their brains process information in a non-typical way to compensate for any deficits. Results from those tests are still being analyzed.

Most of the formerly autistic kids got long-term behavior treatment soon after diagnosis, in some cases for 30 or 40 hours weekly. Many also have above-average IQs and had been diagnosed with relatively mild cases of autism. At age 2, many were within the normal range for motor development, able to walk, climb and hold a pencil. Significant improvement suggesting recovery was evident by around age 7 in most cases, Fein said. None of the children has shown any sign of relapse. But nearly three-fourths of the formerly autistic kids have had other disorders, including attention-deficit problems, tics and phobias; eight still are affected. Jayne Lytel says Leo sometimes still gets upset easily but is much more flexible than before.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The politics of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

When I started this blog, I specifically didn't want to have it be politics heavy. Even though I live and breath liberal politics on a day to day basis, I had no intention for my blog to be politically focused. There are many, many, MANY political blogs out there and there is nothing that I could say better than any of those people.

But, one thing I was always going to allow myself was to post political cartoons and satire that I liked and enjoyed. As a life long liberal, I know that laughter is not only the best medicine, it may be the only medicine when times are tough. Like the last 8 years.

So, as you may know, every once in awhile I post a political cartoon because it is funny or apt or a perfect example of how a picture says 1,000 words.

So what. Right?

I got this anonymous comment today attached to a cartoon about Souter retiring from the Supreme Court.

"You should leave the politics off of your site - the kids are much more interesting. It's also such a cliche to be liberal on Vashon. Show some independence of thought."

RE: "The kids are much more interesting." Isn't that the truth! But, then again I am so biased!

But, I have to say, I was a liberal long before I moved to Vashon, cliche or not. I was unwittingly breathing tear gas just trying to get home from work during the Seattle WTO protests. Maybe that hit of tear gas made me more politically active or maybe it was watching the police beat the crap out of an unarmed protester but that is not what specifically sent me to the island.

I moved here for the public schools and the rural setting. Lots of liberals were a bonus. But, then again, we weren't lacking for liberals in West Seattle either.

Frankly, I love somewhat snarky comments! I makes things much more interesting. Plus, it must mean I am hitting a nerve! Good. I have always felt that life is way too short to be a boring conformist.

But, why must we think politics needs to stay in it's stinky little corner? Every time I blog about public education I am talking politics. Every time I blog about human dignity, mutual respect and diversity, I am touching on political issues. As a parent I better be a political animal. As a special parent I sure as heck better be a political animal. All the better to advocate!

Maybe if more parents saw their day to day life in "political" terms we wouldn't be in the deep, deep ugly hole we are in right now.

So, to all of you who know me: I am a liberal. I am unapologetic. I live on Vashon. Coincidence? Who gives a shit. Lacking in "independent thought"? You must not know me very well.

For those of you who don't know me; I am a liberal, I like political cartoons, I like thinking about making the world a better place.

Problems with that? Snark away!

Or, as a famous recent war-criminal president said, "Bring 'em on!"
Related Posts with Thumbnails