Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This Retraction Goes on the Front Page

All too often, the the papers accuse someone of being a slime ball on the front page, with a big headline, and in-depth analysis. When it turns out that the paper was in error, they print a one-line retraction on page 18 below the fold.

Smockity Frocks has apologized. Despite all the uproar, some of it very mean-spirited, and from people who should know better, she has found the courage to admit to offending people and try to make peace. I hope the rest of us can do the same.

Does this mean she "gets" what it's like to live with autism? No, and I don't think we should expect her to. While I appreciate any attempt at help or understanding, I get annoyed with people, even especially professionals who have given their lives to helping people with autism, when they claim to understand my life. You may know a lot about autism, but you get to leave it all behind and go home at night. We live with it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes for years without one evening of respite.

That said, I will give the same effort to announcing Grace that I gave to condemnation. I'm no saint; I've only learned to forgive a little because I have been forgiven much.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday: It's only fun until someone loses an eye!

O.K., no one lost an eye at my church this morning, but I have been poked in the eye when some short people related to me got over-enthusiastic with their palm fronds. And I'm sure it happened again today to someone, somewhere. With fronds like these, who needs enemies?

Palm Sunday is a strange holiday. Even staid congregations that don't usually leave their pews for any other reason have processions. People who would normally never raise their hands in church are waving tree branches. And think about it: palms--which would never survive the winters here--before the first hint of buds on local trees.

But the strangest part is this: we praise Jesus by reenacting a scene in which we play the crowd that turned on Him and demanded his crucifixion. I still remember telling my mother about the morning's Sunday school lesson on our way home from church, Palm Sunday, 1975. How Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and the people recognized Him as the Messiah, and cheered as he went by, saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" We relished the story together, but then she pointed out, "Those were the same people shouting, 'Crucify Him!' a week later."

Oh. The teacher hadn't mentioned that. It worried me a bit that people could be so fickle, so treacherous. But I thought I could never do that. Over the years, I noticed that the two stories were kept separate in most of the churches I attended. The connection might be mentioned in passing, but the stories were told on separate occasions. I still waved my palm branches, but I felt vaguely guilty doing so. Should we imitate these people who didn't stay true to Him?

Fast forward to my first Palm Sunday at an Episcopal church. We had the procession, we waved our palm branches, I got poked in the eye, all in the usual way. But when we got to the Gospel reading, instead of the rector reading the entire passage, there were parts for him and parts for the people. When I heard my own voice crying out with the whole congregation, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" an old lesson hit home in a powerful way. My heart is fickle, even treacherous. The choices I have made (and continue to make) sent Him to Calvary. It is only when I recognize my voice in the crowd saying, "Crucify Him!" that I am truly able to cry out, "Hosanna," literally, "Save us!" I was reluctant to identify with the hypocritical crowd, fearing it would make me a hypocrite. What I'd failed to see was that identifying with the crowd only revealed the hypocrisy that was already there. Which of us has not, by our words or our silence, by our actions or our failure to act, failed and failed again to live up to the faith we profess?

The most persistent objection of unbelievers is that "there are hypocrites in the church." Now we all know that there are those in every church who are not yet truly converted, those who pretend to be holy to impress their friends, families, or neighbors. If we forget, there are Christ's own words to remind us: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven." But the reason this accusation stings is that no one is so aware of his own sin as a true believer. We are commanded to confront and eradicate it, even at the cost of a hand or an eye. You can fool your neighbors, you can fool your friends, you can fool your pastor, and, most frightening, you can even fool yourself, but you can't fool God. What happened when Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and were struck dead? Great fear came upon the whole church, and more than ever believers were added to the Lord.

Outsiders who complain of the hypocrites in the church seem to imply that they are above that sort of thing, perhaps not so holy as the holiest believers, but wholly without pretense. Hogwash! Why is the church so full of hypocrites? Because the world is so full of hypocrites. Every problem in the church is a direct result of the fact that we keep letting those damned sinners in, but the reason the church exists is to bring in damned sinners! Some of them will continue to deceive themselves, and those who will become holy will become holy over time. We can't be sure who's who. If we try to uproot the weeds, we will uproot some of the wheat with them. We are commanded to let both grow together until the harvest.

So I admit it, I'm a hypocrite. But if I stayed away from church, I would still be a hypocrite. The church has my only hope of a cure. Seeing hypocrites in the church and saying the church causes hypocrisy is like seeing cancer patients in the hospital and saying the hospital causes cancer. At times, I'm tempted to rap with Steve Taylor:
Can't understand those Christians, so
You type us all in stereo:
"They're hypocrites! They're such a bore!"
Well, come on in! There's room for one more!
But when I look at my own heart, I have to say what Edmund said to Eustace after he'd been un-dragoned: "You were only an ass, but I was a traitor."

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

HS and Disability Support Groups

When homeschooling was considered radical, dangerous, and possibly illegal, most homeschoolers formed "support groups". These became a tradition for some people, and there are still some who can't imagine homeschooling without one, even though homeschooling is now clearly legal, there is now a wide variety of curricula (some of them specifically developed for and marketed to hs'ers) readily available, and hsing, while not mainstream, is generally considered a viable alternative for some people. Some people, on learning we hs, immediately ask which support group we are members of, and are shocked that we are not part of any, and that we actually have very little use for them. We have nothing against people who feel they need such a group, or have found one that fits their needs and helps them toward their goals; our experience has just been different.

As our kids approached "school age", I began reading up on hsing. We had already decided this was the way for our family. So I was well aware of our state's hs laws, hs methods and philosophies, and curricula available. We'd been doing informal lessons for some time, and I had purchased books and mapped out plans for the coming year. But at the urging of friends, we attended a meeting of a local support group. It seemed that most of the moms were mainly interested in doing the minimum they could get by with. Most of the meeting consisted of moms sitting around sharing shortcuts and excuses. (I was the only dad there, and the moms seemed uncomfortable with my presence.) Other than the year BB took classes in a hs co-op (okay, but not worth the drive) we haven't used a hs support group since.

Shortly before GL's diagnosis, when we had a pretty good idea what his problem was, we attended an ASD support group. This was a large and well-organized group. It was founded and run by parents, but it had the size, scope, and efficiency of an institution. They provided heaps of useful information, brought in highly-qualified outside speakers (including some of the biggest names in the field) to their monthly meetings, and sold hard-to-find books at a discount. After the first meeting, I usually attended alone because, even at that age, it was hard to get a sitter. I learned a lot, but after a few months, I stopped going. It was an hour away, and I'd collected all the information I could use for the time being. Then we moved.

Someone put us in touch with a local autism support group. We went, hoping to at least find out how to connect with local services. When you have a child with a disability who's not in the public school, it's amazing how many service providers don't want to talk to you. This was a very small group with a very strong personality in charge. She made sure the group was all about her son. No, actually she made it about her and the cure du jour. Not at all helpful.

So unhelpful that one member, another strong personality, started pressuring her church to start its own support group. They said they didn't have anyone available to organize it. Then a new deacon was elected to the deacon board. He had a son with CP. She went to the deacon board and said, "The church is going to do this, and you're going to run it."

So the new deacon set it up, but the strong personality was clearly in charge. (Just so folks on the East Coast understand, "strong personality" is not a compliment. If you have some friendly advice for a midwesterner, and you want him to even consider following it, preface it with, "You can do what you want, but here's what I might try..." and let it go. Bringing it up again means you're not leaving him a choice, and insures he'll dig in his heels. To a midwesterner, "Here's what you oughta do..." is the same as saying "I'm the boss of you, and you're going to do it my way!" He's too polite to say it, but he's thinking, "Oh, yeah? We'll see about that! Who do you think you are, Yertle the Turtle?") Anyway, at the urging of family members, done in the proper midwestern way, we eventually decided to give it a try.

This group is not about any one disability, although there are several families affected by autism. Neither is it about cures or treatments. And it is not primarily about the disabled child, or even coping with his disability, although we talk about those things, too. It is a place for parents to talk about life, the good, the bad, the difficult, the sad, and the hilarious--without having to explain again and again about autism or CP or whatever to people who just don't get it.

It started out as a very structured group with so many minutes for coffee, so many minutes for chat, an organized discussion of the topic on the agenda, focused on the questions written ahead of time by you-know-who, so many minutes for prayer, and a devotional at the end. I think the reason people outside the sponsoring church were invited at all was to try to sell them on that church. Out of politeness, we tried to follow the rules, but no matter how we tried, we just couldn't stick to the agenda. And we found that that didn't detract from our enjoyment of the meetings. Finally, Mrs. Strong Personality left the group because we weren't doing it right, and because most of us weren't particularly interested in hearing her expertise. We had enough experts in our lives. What we didn't have enough of was friends, particularly friends who "get it". When she left, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

We still get together once a month, we still have coffee, and we still have a devotional at the end, but the emphasis is on friends talking together and praying for each other. I think most of us would still get together even if our children grew up, became completely independent, and moved away. And the Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, and Lutherans are each satisfied with their respective churches, and that doesn't particularly bother anyone.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

A Little History

A funny thing happens when you comment on blogs. Every once in a while, someone reads your comment, clicks on your profile, and starts reading your blog. You can't count on it. You may leave dozens of comments and get no response, let alone new readers, and one day you leave a comment that intrigues or pleases one or more people, and suddenly people whose comments or blogs you've admired leave admiring comments on your blog. That has happened several times recently, and I have received many kind and encouraging words. Thank you all.

I thought it would be nice to welcome new readers with an introduction, or rather a Contradiction and a post or two to give you the general flavor.

Oh, I should also mention that this is actually not my blog, it is a family blog. I just happen to post the most often. And I strive for balance: this is not an autism blog; it is a blog about life. Neither is it an autism-free zone (obviously) because autism is a big part of our life as a family. While working hard to see that GL gets what he needs, the rest of us, Mama Bear, Brother Bear, and I, also work at having a life outside of autism. I've seen what happens to people who don't. It isn't pretty.

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Yes, this is what it feels like.

We have found some people who are very patient and understanding of GL. Not only in his special needs baseball league (Little League's Challenger Division) where you would expect to find such people, (If they weren't patient with special needs, why would they hang around a special needs league?) but also in our church and community.

But every time we go out in public, we risk running into people who, instead of helping, seem to be doing their best to make things worse. From making rude and useless suggestions to rolling their eyes or glaring at us, to verbally attacking him or us. There's no point in arguing with these people. They won't learn because they don't want to. So I usually just endure it and try to help GL escape the situation as quickly and quietly as possible, while trying to appear outwardly calm. Disagreeing with these people only makes them worse.

But this blog post describes pretty well how it feels.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

So that's what he had in his pants!

GL asked to play outside. MB said, "Okay, wear a coat and stay in the yard."
A few minutes later, I went out to check on him. He was holding the waistband of his sweatpants as high as he could, and it was stretching to unbelievable dimensions. Something, somewhere was weighing them down. I asked, "What's wrong with your pants?" He said, "I've got a baseball!" He pulled on the elastic cuff around the ankle, and out rolled a softball.

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Stop that rhyming, and I mean it!

MB: Do not worry, do not fret.
GL: Do not smoke a cigarette!

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Three Days

That's how long it took TKDTS to figure out that GL wasn't playing with them. Yesterday afternoon, Mama Bear and GL were out in the yard when the youngest of TKDTS came by and asked if he could come play. MB said no. He was shocked and asked why. When she said, "Because you threw him in the water," he said he didn't do it, it was his older brothers. MB said that didn't matter, GL was not coming over to play. A few minutes later, his mother came up the walk to debate the matter. I took GL inside, because he was yelling, "I have to play with my friends!"

Mama Bear talked to TKDTS' mother. She insisted that it wasn't her kids that threw him in the water, it was some other kids who were visiting. She also denied the penis threat. Funny, there was no penis-cutting talk until they moved into the neighborhood, and we've met other relatives of this family who say that's pretty typical of how the boys talk when their mother's not around. When she's around, they pretend to be little angels. They don't have to keep it up for long, because she rarely comes outside, and then only to the driveway to watch the toddlers she babysits. Her kids, meanwhile, even the six year old, are running all over town long after dark.

The mother wouldn't quit arguing, so MB finally said, "It doesn't matter. We're taking a break." She didn't mention that the break is permanent. I've been told that he needs to learn how to deal with these situations by experience. Excuse me, one of the main traits of autism is an inability to pick up on social cues. That's like throwing a quadraplegic into shark-infested waters and hoping he'll learn to swim. GL keeps insisting he needs to go play with TKDTS "because they're my friends." He obviously isn't learning from this experience. We need to think of his safety.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Kids down the Street

The kids down the street have been an ongoing problem. GL doesn't recognize when people are mistreating him, taking advantage of him, telling him to do wrong, or letting him take the fall. If they tell him they are his friends, he believes them without question, despite all evidence to the contrary, and defends them when others, even those closest to him, question their loyalty. BB recognizes when they are taking advantage of GL, and warns and protects him as best an 11 year old can, but GL insists on playing with TKDTS all the time, and BB can't always be there, and would rather not play with them at all because they are unpleasant people.

They order GL around, give his autographed football to their dog to chew on, dare him to do things he can't or shouldn't do, teach him to swear and call people "idiot" "moron" and "retard", trip him and laugh when he falls, mock him and call him names, and he keeps coming back like an abused puppy, hoping that maybe, this time, his "friends" will give him some hint of belonging. In response, they refuse to play with him, run away when they see him coming, insist on playing beyond the boundaries of where he is allowed to go on his own, make him the butt of their jokes, find new ways to torment him for their own amusement, and threaten to cut off his penis.

Almost the entire winter's snowfall melted this week. (We've had only a few partial thaws all winter. It's been up to nearly 50 degrees every day.) Then it rained several days in a row. TKDTS now have a lake in their back yard. It's one of those low-lying areas I mentioned. We don't live on a hill, we actually live in a valley, but it's a valley with someplace to drain to. Almost no puddles in our yard, and not a hint of water in our basement. GL insisted on going to play with them this afternoon. He came back soaked to the neck. His winter coat, shirt, pants, and socks were saturated with mud. His shoes squished out water when he walked. First he said TKDTS pushed him in. Then, sensing that I might be displeased with them, insisted that they hadn't because "they're my friends." But he had no other explanation of how he got wet.

He wanted to go right back out and play with them. I insisted on a dry change of clothes. Maybe he had fallen in accidentally. Maybe, but I doubted it. As soon as he was changed he insisted on going back. His shoes were too wet to wear, and he only has one pair, so I compromised, and let him wear his boots. He ran back to their yard, and they pushed him in again. He came back and told me, but insisted on going back. I wouldn't let him. I closed the door. He began pounding on the glass, trying to get out. I managed to distract him with a new DVD, a present I'd been keeping in reserve. I told him he had to take a bath before he could watch it. He reluctantly got in the tub. After his bath and DVD, I distracted him with a computer game until evening. Then he decided it was time to go back and play with them. I said no. He started screaming and pounding on the walls, then hit a window and said he was going to break it to get out. I gave him his meds and put him to bed early.

I have no intention of letting him go to their house to play again. I haven't decided whether I'll let them play over here if they want to--they haven't been to interested in that lately, anyway.

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My Review of Adventure Workshop 6: 4th-6th Grade

Originally submitted at NothingButSoftware

4 Award Winning Educational Titles  - Learn the Fun Way!

These award-winning software adventures feature hours ofexciting gameplay with some of ...

Product mislabled on web site

By Papa Bear from Wisconsin on 3/14/2010


2out of 5

Pros: Great Value, Easy To Install, Easy To Navigate

Cons: Compatibility Issues

Best Uses: Home Use, Educational Purposes, Multimedia

Describe Yourself: Value Oriented

Primary use: Personal

The web site clearly marked this package as Mac OS X software. I received Windows-only disks. When I returned to the web site, all references to this package being Mac compatible had been removed. I took the CDs to my mother's house and installed them on her PC. They work great, and the kids love them, but they can only play them at Grandma's.

I would recommend this product, but not this company.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Natural Disasters

One of my favorite bloggers mentioned local flooding recently and said that she hadn't thought about flooding when she moved there.

Hm, maybe I'm odd, but I did consider natural disasters in choosing a place to live. Although I went to college in Texas (hurricanes and tornados) and Missouri, (tornados and earthquakes) my first choice was along the shores of Lake Superior (no natural disasters). Considering other factors, I eventually settled not far from Lake Michigan.

Yes, there are tornados, but our early warning system is especially good, and if you retreat to the basement during a tornado warning, you will generally be safe even if a tornado hits your neighborhood (unlikely) or your house (even more unlikely).

Flooding? Unless Lake Michigan rises twenty feet, an actual flood is impossible. Everything drains toward the Lake. Low-lying areas surrounded by higher areas are prone to flash flooding in unusually heavy and sustained rains. Don't live there. But even those drain in about 24 hours. Drought? Not unless Lake Michigan dries up.

Heat? We only get a week or two of even moderately hot (highs 90 degrees or above) in a year. Ice storms? Well, we get them, but they aren't the disaster here that they are in the South. Why? They happen often enough that weak limbs break off before they get big enough to be a danger to people or power lines. Blizzards and subzero temperatures? Those are natural hazards, not natural disasters. Try to be home when they start, or as soon after as you possibly can. Stay inside during the worst of it, and it won't affect you.

Hurricanes? Tsunamis? Too far inland. Earthquakes? No fault lines for hundreds of miles. Volcanos? You'd have to travel even farther to find one.

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It's amazing how much you can get done when you have a big enough project to put off.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Anonymous Comments

I have disabled anonymous comments. My blog, my rules.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to Construct an Informative Presentation

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back from Vacation

We left the kids at Grandma's and went away for the weekend to celebrate our 14th anniversary. We came back full of energy, fit, trim, and tan. Not.
Actually, we slept a lot. Which is something we don't do enough around here. So that's good.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Kids down the Street are Back

Actually, they never left. Just when I was getting used to the idea of them being gone, Mama Bear ran into their grandma (who they live with) at the grocery store. She said Goldilocks hadn't done anything to offend them; they had just got new computers for Christmas, and had been spending most of their free time indoors playing with them. I also noticed that their mother is a southerner, and although she doesn't mind her kids running the streets at all hours of the night, she seems to think it's dangerous to play outside if there is snow on the ground. She actually came looking for them when they were playing inside our house or in the snow in our yard because she was worried about the cold. Yesterday they were playing outside with no coats. The weather hasn't changed at all, but they don't need coats any more because it's March, don'cha know.

(Okay, I'll admit it, I was relieved. I suspected they had been taking advantage of GL, and I know they taught him swear words. They're already bullying him again, but he insists they're not bullies, they're his friends. Why? Because they told him so. Just the kind of kids I don't want him playing with, but if he has to learn the hard way, I'd rather he did it when I can still rescue him if he needs it.)

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Say What?

GL: Do I have anything in at the library?
BB: I don't know.
GL: Do I have anything in at the library?
BB: I don't know.
GL: Do I have anything in at the library?
BB: I don't know! I'm not a computer! I'm not God!
GL: Bummer!

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