Friday, July 31, 2009

Teenage Girls & Phone Use

Neither of my girls uses the phone much (Austism, etc. makes them less social), but even if they did, cell phones & cordless phones have replaced these images of yesteryear...

Teenage Girl Talking on Telephone

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chain Of Confidence: My Mom's A Strong Link!

It's not always easy to talk about your mother -- until you are older & wiser yourself. And it's not always easy write about your mother -- the idea of an "essay about your mother" sounds as trite as a "what I did on my summer vacation" school report. But I had to nominate my mother for the Tupperware Chain of Confidence Challenge -- because when it comes to instilling confidence, she's done the most to inspire me.

I encourage all of you to nominate your mom or another inspirational woman in your life. Not only is it a fabulous contest, but it's a nice way to make the time to say "thanks!" to people who deserve it.

It's also a fabulous exercise in being concise, because the contest essay may only be 1500 characters (not words) -- and the form's counter is off by a bit (even though the form said I had 2 characters to spare, it would not accept it until I hacked off a dozen more -- you've been warned lol)

To enter the contest, submit your written submission anytime from May 14th through August 14th 2009 at (You'll need to register or login first; simple and painless.)

Prizes will be awarded in three categories:

1. How has a Friend or Relative inspired you
2. How has a Tupperware Consultant/Director inspired you
3. Viewer's Choice (If you choose to let your story be public on the site, visitors can vote on it.)


• A $5,000 donation to a selected charitable organization chosen by the winning nominee so that they can pass it on in a way that will empower other women.
• Both nominator and nominee will each receive a Tupperware gift card valued at $1,000.
• Tupperware consultant/director winners will attend a Tupperware event in January 2010 where they will receive an official Chain of Confidence award.

Funniest Five Momfinitions

Inspired by Momfinitions at, my 5 Momfinitions -- I don't think I need to tell you that all of these are actual and true words in our household, but I just did *wink*

This first one comes from my mom & has been handed down lovingly to both myself and my sister. It surprisingly sees a lot of use.

noun: Any round-ish object (bead, button, game piece, decorated ponytail holder) for which you, in your addled & busy parental state of existence, can no longer remember the name. As in, "Jackie, hand me that beepleberry over there on the dresser."

(No, it doesn't really help anyone looking for the object; but just knowing that I share the same frustrations -- and memory loss -- as my mother and sister is somehow oddly comforting.)

C'mere Sneer
noun: The look on a child's face when they are going to show you something they know you will find unpleasant & they will not be found guilty of of responsible for. As in, "C'mere and see what Johnny did."

C'mere Fear
noun: The apprehension & fear a parent feels when asked to come see something a child has discovered or created.

A recent example:

Destiny: "Dad, c'mere... There's something weird on the fence."

Dad follows (while I, not addressed directly, remained in the house full of c'mere fear).

Dad returns, child is in her room, reading.

Me: "Well?"

Dad: "A bird must have had a heart attack or something while perched on the fence by the basketball hoop, & now it's stuck there. I checked to see if it can be knocked off -- with a poke of a stick -- but it's really stuck there."

Me: "What?!"

He repeats what he just said.

I head out to look.

Freaked & disgusted, I return to the house.

Me: "Did you take a picture of it?"

Dad: "No."

Me: "Really? You take photos of everything..."

Then I headed out to take photos for you, dear blog reader.

(Sorry if they are hard to see; the sun was behind the black bird body.)

I'm not in agreement over the cause of death; it looks more like a tornado blasted the poor bird into our fence. But we've had no tornado or gale force winds... Nor am I going to perform a bird autopsy to prove it. Draw your own conclusions.
OK, back to the remaining momfinitions.

C'mere Smear
noun: The residue left on your person after a child has tugged on you &/or your clothing in order to get you to follow them.

(I can only count myself lucky that Destiny did not touch this or hubby or I when she came to get someone to see the dead bird!)

noun: 1) The condition which afflicts your child so that he or she is the last one out the door, last one in line, etc.; to "bring up the rear" consistently & chronically.

2) The condition which afflicts your child (or spouse) in such a way that they fail or are unable to shut doors behind them; to have such a long tail, that, though invisible, it prevents the closing of doors.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Permissive Parents, Stop Ruining Your Children

I was at the doctor's again; this time to have my stitches removed. In yet another exam room, the prominently placed sign: "Do not allow children to open drawers or touch the equipment."

It is not just my jaded opinion, but verified with the staff, that these signs are needed because parents are far too permissive with their children. And it's not just the lazy parents who don't actually supervise their children, but those who angrily defend their "right" to let their children touch whatever they want.

I first started seeing this when working retail when we mere clerks served double-duty as retail employees and babysitters/prison matrons to parents who let their children climb shelving, spin & sit under clothing racks, run behind the cash-wrap desks and play with the registers, scoot under fitting room doors, etc. Naturally, it is an uncomfortable place to be in, to mention to parents that their child is doing is wrong, so typically we just phrased the infractions as alerts. It didn't really have the desired affects.

"Excuse me, but your son is behind the counter," was met with the whiny, "But Johnny is curious," or the more superior & defensive, "I believe it is best to encourage curiosity in children."

When, "Excuse me, M'am, but your child is climbing the denim wall..." was met with a blank stare, you'd continue, "The wall really isn't designed for that; it's not safe." Often, after yelling at her child to get off the wall, the mom would angrily stride for the door, loudly & indignantly announcing how she would, "never shop here again; the store store staff is too rude!"

But my favorites were the parents who would point store clerks out to their children saying, "See that mean lady over there? You'd better behave in here, or she'll get you." (No wonder so many children freak-out in shopping malls!) In truth, there's little we can do in today's world of "Don't touch/talk to/admonish/ my child!" So it was a 50-50 split as to if the kid would run-a-muck or not

From there, it's only gotten worse, for as I aged and had children & my friends & extended family had children, I then had to face bratty children in other settings allowed to the same or worse -- including in my own home.

I just don't get it.

Back in my day, when we rode dinosaurs, it never even entered my head to open a drawer or cabinet at the doctor's office. Not because 'doctors are gods'; but I was then -- and still am -- operating from the very same sense of privacy & respect given to the drawers and cabinets at other people's homes. It's not my stuff; so I have business prying. And I teach my children the same.

But apparently this is no longer commonplace.

This shouldn't be so surprising to me; after all these years, I've seen enough permissive parents & their bratty children that my eyebrows should not be able to get any higher. But still, it's shocking to think that the numbers, the percentages, have grown so high that doctors' offices must make signs & post them in every room.

Reading them filled me with a great sense of shame -- how dare our society be so rude & reckless that we force people to make signs to admonish what should be commonsense, common courtesy.

In all of these situations of permissiveness, the parents not only risk their child's safety, & potentially the safety of others, but they undermine their own authority with their children and give their children a sense of entitlement.

Even if the children are not physically harmed, they are crippled by developing a belligerent sense of entitlement.

It is part of a parent's duties to teach their children better, to demand that they give respect in order to earn it; when they don't, they end up with brats, bullies and the sorts of children and adults that no one respects or wants to be around.

When "Not Tonight, Honey, I Have A Headache" Is Good News For Your Breasts

WebMD reports that a Follow-up Study Confirms That Migraine Headache Sufferers Have Lower Breast Cancer Risk:
Women who experience migraine headaches have a significantly lower risk of getting breast cancer than those who don't suffer the headaches, according to a new study.

The recent study is a follow-up to research published in 2008 that also found migraine headache sufferers have a significantly reduced risk of getting breast cancer. The newer study has thousands more participants from a wider age range than did the previous one.

"It does appear that migraines may protect women from breast cancer, and that it's equally protective for both younger and older women," says Christopher Li, MD, PhD, the lead author of both studies and a breast cancer epidemiologist and associate member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Public Health Sciences Division in Seattle.

"We see a 26% reduction in risk associated with migraine," he tells WebMD. The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

This is the first good news I've had about my migraines. (And now I'm off to call my migraine suffering mom & tell her the good news too.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

More Thoughts On Autsim & Acting

It continues to be difficult yet surprising for me to watch my daughter perform in public. Last week, at Trollwood's celebration of the end of the summer performing arts camp (called "Sun Celebration"), I once again watched my daughter perform.

I have to say that she was the best in the "Acting For The Camera" class -- and that's a big call for me because, as I have shared, I tend to spend more time protectively yet critically watching her, her interactions with others (and their reactions to her), comparing her to the others in terms of performance & acceptance among her classmates. So when this mother claims her kid was the best, it's a really big (and slightly uncomfortable) deal. I was so proud of her! Very emotional, but I struggled to maintain "normal parent appearance" for everyone's sake.

During the musical production number Allie was in, I did notice that she, in typical Asperger's fashion, had her eyes locked upwards, towards the ceiling. It seems that all my years of coaching her to look people in the face when speaking to them worked very well for the scenes she worked with one other student actor; but when on stage in a musical number, facing the audience, she does not know where to look, how to smile out towards the audience, etc. Something I think I may address with her... Or possibly contact Trollwood about in terms of educating their instructors. (Allie cannot be the only spectrum person they will work with at Trollwood, let alone in other settings.)

But my fears of Allie's continued interest in (obsession with) the performing arts are now shifting from "will she fit in?" to the more typical cautions that most parents of kids who dream of being on the stage (or directing etc. etc.). My main focus now is to convince her to keep a day job, continue her education, while she works toward The Dream in such a highly competitive job market.

This is one time, I know her resistance to "the practical" is completely as to be expected. ;)

July 9th Version of Thursday Thunks

The Thursday Thunks meme:

1. Do you tend to have a guilty conscious?

No. Why -- do you think I should?

2. Do you still have your wisdom teeth?

Nope. And thanks for bringing up the painful memory of the removal of impacted molars, pudding & blood clots.

3. Peanut Butter - creamy or crunchy?

Creamy. (But hubby loves the crunchy -- of course, he also butters his bread first, then puts on the peanut butter. This requires his wife to nag him about regular cholesterol screenings.)

4. Get up off your butt. Take 5 steps. Which leg did you start out on?

My right leg.

5. What color is your favorite kitchen utensil?

The rubber spatula that's covered in (and continually dips into) cake & cookie batter. Yum.

6. Did you watch the Michael Jackson memorial/funeral?

I saw parts of it on other shows, blogs etc. (Was it actually possible to avoid it without changing your life?)

7. Do you know anyone who graduated from high school this year? Were you invited to their graduation party? Did you go?

Yes, yes, and no. (Maybe I should change the answer to #1 after all...)

8. White with black stripes or black with white stripes?

Depends on my shoes.

9. If we were to call your 6th grade teacher, what would they say about you?

She, like all the others, would all remember my sister. Even though she was two grades behind me, she made the impressions. It was weird being the older sister who when she got to class heard, "Oh, you must be Jackie's sister!"

10. Can you draw a perfect circle?

I don't think I've tried (can't think of anything I draw that requires a perfect circle; it's usually natural things).

11. What was your favorite scratch & sniff sticker scent?

The one not in the room. I get serious headaches from such chemical concoctions.

12. What does your sibling do for a living?

The famous Jackie is an (infamous) corporate attorney. (And her reputation making abilities do help her intimidate today!)

13. How many light switches and electrical outlets are in the room that you are in right now?

Who can tell with all the bookshelves?

14. Do you know sign language?

No. I've always thought it should be taught along with English (and worldwide, with their native/usual language classes) from the beginning of school.

15. Do you step on cracks in the sidewalk?

I neither walk to step on nor avoid them (unless they present a danger). I am usually walking with purpose (to the grocery store, library etc.), talking with children &/or husband, &/or enjoying the scenery on a stroll and too absorbed in something else to notice.

16. And the sheets on your bed look like....?

Umm, simple plain white, I believe. With lots of pet hair. (A per-pet-ual problem.)

17. What is something that everyone else has, but you don't?

I don't know everyone else has. I don't concern myself with The Joneses unless they are a danger to themselves or others, need help, or something. As for family & friends, I don't view things in the "have vs. have-not" sort of a way... And as the mom of special needs kids, I don't view traits, skills, needs, etc. that way either. Things are a process.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Defying Autism? More Like Damning Autism

When asked to participate in the blog tour for Defying Autism by Karen Mayer Cunningham, I responded by saying:
I'd be interested in reviewing a copy of this book, possibly interviewing the author... But I must warn you, I'm rather skeptical about this. As the parent of a (now adult) child on the autism spectrum, I'm really a hard sell on cures -- no matter how miraculous.

Let me know if you/the author are up to the challenge...
Karen Power of Christian Speaker Services, the one organizing the blog book tour, replied favorably:
I totally understand. And, Karen Mayer Cunningham isn't trying to push the cure. It's her story, her journey, and what she learned along the way. I think it's more for the mothers/parents than about the cure.
I have to include this information along with my review for several reasons.

First of all, after 20 years parenting my own child with Asperger's, I've run the gambit, from spiritual to scientific, from dietary to "refrigerator mom" (and even less flattering approaches), only to end up where we are today, with a daughter with serious delays who remains on the spectrum. So I'm more than a little skeptical about "cures for autism."

Secondly, I want to be fair with this book review and provide a disclaimer of my own beliefs as well as documentation of my stance with the folks involved in promoting the book.

A few other reasons will be illuminated along the way.

Defying Autism: A Miraculous Story Of Hope by Karen Mayer Cunningham is an easy to read slim book of 115 pages which, unless you are upset by the material, can easily be read in an hour or two. The first two chapters deal with Karen's return as the prodigal-esque daughter -- and frankly, as I read them, I wondered why they were included in the book. But as we near the end of Biblical proportions, such context adds to the story. For you see, once Karen's son James becomes difficult & is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, a large part of Karen's guilt centers around belief that she is, through her son, being punished for being less than perfect.

This is not uncommon among the parents of special needs children; even if you aren't particularly religious. Nor is the reaction/response of Karen's husband, Tom, who accuses Karen of being a bad mother. Guilt is typically the inward path of blame that women take; males tend to externalize their blame. This is a large part of why many marriages between parents of special needs children end in divorce.

If these issues were familiar to me, the problems with school & childcare providers were doubly so.

Like Karen, I'd had to battle schools & utter very real threats of legal actions and media attentions. I'd also had horrible scenes & difficult times with childcare (from baby sitters to childcare centers) because those providing the childcare had no clue what to do. I've faced the same ignorance, accusations & animosity Karen faced -- and then some, because my daughter was actually booted from childcare centers & punished at school, despite her "special ed kid" stamp. So I knew how Karen felt when she & her family were treated so poorly by their church's childcare & the public school.

I sighed & ached as I read of Karen's external battles & internal struggles; it certainly isn't easy parenting special needs children. Especially when the child "looks normal" but then displays otherwise. Like Karen, I've often thought that if my child looked special (had Down's or was in a wheelchair, for example), that more allowances & understanding would be given -- to both the child and the parent. (But I wouldn't, as the author does on page 72, call a classically autistic child "deathly, deathly ill with no hope for a cure.")

Also unlike the author, I've never received any such miracle healing of my child.

It's not that I have not prayed; it's not that others have not prayed for my daughter. It's just that my daughter's situation remains (albeit some advancement due to continuing professional assistance, counseling, medication for sleep/stress, & ongoing education).

Having tried various spiritual treatments (finding them at best supportive to me emotionally -- the power of which should not be underestimated), I am not comfortable suggesting a miracle cure as a way to extend hope to other parents. It's rather dubious, actually. For it is at this point of non-miracle that one must then realize the doorway is open for such questions as:

  • "If playing Christian music, anointing with oil, &/or other rituals of faith combined with prayer were all that was required to receive God's attention, His miracle, then why do so many suffer?"
  • "Am I so sinful that my child must suffer?"
  • "Am I of the right church?"
  • "Do I follow the right God?"

All of this is not only more guilt for mother ("Are my sins are too great?") but dangerous rhetoric ("Whose God is greater?"). We parents did not "give" our children autism; that's self-defeating and does not support our children. All faiths offer forgiveness and each faith can offer up miracle healings of their own; but still, what a dangerous argumentative path in our times of intolerance.

While I certainly do not begrudge James his healing, Karen her miracle, or anyone their belief in faith, I can, as I do with Jenny McCarthy, remain skeptical & express concern over what is offered as hope but comes with so much rejection. And in this case, it comes with judgment too.

On page 111:
Not every autistic child is demonically possessed, but autism is a curse. In that sense, it must be seen as an oppressive and tormenting force that must be faced with more than just the standard social service tools. The enemy of God wants the people of God ignorant and in despair; this is the ultimate curse. But the Father is in the curse-busting business, and so whether He leads us to phenomenally gifted physicians and clinicians, or to alternative therapies, or to those who know how to address spiritual matters in the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, He wants us to be free. He wants our children to be free.

Calling autism a "curse" is more than just dangerous in terms of guilt & religious intolerance; it's damning of the individual with autism.

There are things equal-to or worse than autism (where is God during such "curses" as domestic violence, rape, murder, war?) and many on the spectrum would not change who they are. In fact, some folks, such as my daughter's therapist, call autism a gift. Others might not go so far as to call it a gift (I personally struggle with that label myself; from time to time asking for the gift receipt so that I might exchange my daughter's Asperger's for the singing talent to win American Idol), but, like Horton says, "A person's a person," no matter where they sit on the autism spectrum.

If Defying Autism is, as Powers says, "more for the mothers/parents than about the cure," then the author goes about it all wrong. If this bit, from page 110, doesn't "promise a cure," it sure implies it:
This is something only God can do. This is bigger than what the medical field could promise or state agencies manage or those with good intentions assist. It is called a miracle.

(There's a reason people in the medical field don't promise a cure; they'd get sued.)

As the mother of one child diagnosed Asperger's (and one being screened for the spectrum), I found the condemnation of a "curse" far overshadowing any ability to commiserate, let alone be hopeful. In fact, I found Karen Mayer Cunningham's book inflammatory & antagonizing.

It's difficult to say that even if the author had skipped the whole curse bit if I'd have felt better about the book... But she didn't and the aftertaste is too bitter, too strong.

But I suppose, if you are feeling isolated in parenting a child on the autism spectrum (and are unwilling to get yourself to one of the plethora of online networks or real-world support groups), Defying Autism might help you feel less alone... Similarly, if you've got a relative who just doesn't "get it", this book might help them understand some of your struggles, fears, guilts etc... But for me, suggesting someone learn more about autism by reading a copy of a book that calls my kid "cursed" would be horrific. (Would you call your child in a wheelchair "cursed" or "demonically possessed?" I don't think so.)

In any case, I'd caution readers against expecting a healing miracle.

And you might be better off tearing out page 111 entirely.

Medical Moments: July Begins With A Bang

July 1: Had two cysts removed. One on my arm that I'd had for 7-8 years (thought it was a over-the-counter product resistant wart) and one on my breast (the start & end of cellulitis).

Not quite prepared for:

The local does not "sting" -- it burns. Burns like hell.

Surreal moments when you see where the action in on your body, say as the doctor stitches up your arm, but you feel tugging elsewhere, like at your elbow.

Though the cysts were dot-like, the eye-shaped holes where they once were are long and deep; resulting in centipede-like stitches and "dents" where the meat was. Someone should have warned me.

My body mourned the loss by making me weepy. (Family completely enjoyed mocking me.)

July 5: Went in about 6 a.m. with incomprehensible, unbearable chest & back pain. After hours in emergency room, upper GI, EKG, x-rays and assorted other tests, I was pronounced as "not having a heart attack."

Comforting? Yes... But...

For that much pain, and all those tests, you think you should know more.

Or that they would at least know more.

I was sent home with a script for 12 pain pills and a sheet of paper that said "atypical chest pain."