Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Asha's "Then & Now"

A work by Asha Anderson, found at her blog, Synesis. Click to read it all clearly; it's beautiful.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Of Gun Play, War & The Wisdom To Know The Sameness

Conversations with children never go as planned, or even as you think they will...

I spent the holiday weekend in Wisconsin and Hunter was having tummy troubles. For several reasons which I shall spare you now, I worried about this; I wondered how much of it was due to anxiety. So I began a conversation about where, when and how his tummy hurts. Most of that was rather usual -- even the talk about poo. Then I got to the matter of anxiety. How does he handle his troubles?

"Do you talk to daddy or grandma when you get upset?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, sounding rather bored.

"Can you tell me a time when you told grandma something?"

"Like what?"

"Like how you were feeling... Like when you miss me," I said. "Do you tell her you miss me?"


"And what does grandma say?"

"To not think about it."

I did my best to not react to that -- true or not, what can I say to him about that? So instead I asked him a question.

"Does that work?"

"Not really," he said.

"Well, you can ask grandma to call me, you know," I remind him.


"Can you tell me about a time when you've told dad you're upset?"

"Once I went to ask the kids next door to play and they wouldn't let me," he says, his face in full pout just thinking about it.

"Oh, that must have hurt your feelings," I said, rubbing his back.


"What did daddy say when you told him?"

"He said not to bother asking them anymore."

That made me feel about as happy as grandma's "don't think about it" did, but what can I really say? I don't want to cause additional troubles.

"How old are the kids next door?" I asked, hoping I could help this long after the fact.

"One's 8 and I think the other's 6, maybe?"



"And why didn't they want to play with you?"

"They said I'm no good at playing guns," he said.

"Well, you know momma doesn't have a lot she can say about playing guns or who is good at it," I smiled. He knows his momma's a pacifist -- even if he doesn't know the word for it.

"Why don't you like playing guns?" he asked for like the millionth time. He made his hand into a gun, aimed it at the far wall, and said, "It's just pretend..."

"Yes, I know that it's pretend. I just don't see any fun in pretending to hurt someone," I said.

"When I play guns with my other friends, if you get hit and killed you have to run back to base and count to ten -- then you get another life. You have 10 lives," he says, all happy-like.

"Well, that's not how it works in real life," I said. "In real life, you get hurt and there's no magic base camp."

"No one gets hurt -- it's pretend."

"I know it's pretend, but momma just doesn't like to even pretend to hurt."

"Guns are important and cool and they are good too -- how would you like it if someone came here and wanted to take over Sheboygan or Wisconsin?" he asked, rather convinced this would convince me of the good of guns.

"Well, I just wish people would talk their problems out," I said.

"But if we didn't have any guns, they could take our stuff, our state," he countered.

"If people talked, no guns would be needed," I replied.

"I'd like to be a soldier with a gun," he said -- and so wistfully I nearly cried.

"You know every soldier, every person who is killed or hurt, has a cousin, a sister, a dad, grandparents, maybe a wife or husband, and a mommy... People who love them and are scared for them, and hurt when they hurt," I said.

His eyes grew large and he said nothing.

"People are people, no matter what side they are on," I said softly.

"But still... if they want our stuff..." he said weakly.

"Would you like someone to shoot at your cousin? At your daddy?" I asked him.

"No!" he said.

"That's how everyone feels about their soldier," I said. "That's why I wish people would talk their problems out rather than fighting."

"Maybe they could play a game of football instead," he said, thinking out loud.

"That would be better," I said.

"People get hurt in football too," he gloated.

"Well, not as badly--"

"They get hurt real bad sometimes!" he said.

"That's why mommy thinks they should talk first."

"Then what?"

"Maybe play a game of football?"

"People still could get hurt..."

"How about a game of Sorry or Uno?" I offered.

He thought a minute.

"I don't think enough people can play those games to make people feel good about it," he said.

I was too impressed to say anything right away.

"Maybe it would have to be football after all..." he says.

"Maybe," was all I could reply.

Wiki huh-yeah, What is it good for?

According to Adam Tornes at Compete's Blog anime outranks sex in Wiki searches.

Please note that the largest percentage, 28%, is for "General Research" which according to the author of the post is for news, current events and cultural phenomena. However, after that, the greatest interests deemed not news or current events are "sex" and "anime" (at least in April of 2007).

This is what Tornes has to say about these searches:
Anime (26%)
There is a tremendous amount of interest in learning about Pokemon and Naruto. Perhaps these are parents who want to know what their kids are going crazy over. My Mom didn’t know what “He-Man” was until I was a grown man reflecting on how silly Castle Grayskull was. My mom could have used Wikipedia in the 80’s.

Sex (16%)
What’s interesting about the top sex related terms on Wikipedia is that they do not appear to have gratuitous intent. The top terms include very straightforward inquiries on human reproductive ‘parts’ and basic concepts of what sex is and how it is performed. It appears many people are learning about what sex is and how to have it by referencing Wikipedia.
Since Wiki is not exactly scholarly, I sure hope folks aren't "learning about sex and how to have it by referencing" it.

Ditto for parents who think they'll learn about anime there -- once again, if there are references &/or warnings about hentai, I've not seen them; how many parents are also missing them?

Leading me to ask, a la Edwin Starr's song, War:

Wiki huh-yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y'all

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pomp & Circumstance

I went to the Art Burn on Saturday. I'm not a person who is big on ceremony, but whenever I attend some ceremonial event, I'm rather moved by it; this was no exception.

Hubby (who took the excellent photos) & I brought the girls, Des & Allie, and we all decided that next year we'd not only go again but bring some work of our own.

Knowing how long it took me to decide what to bring to the appraisal, I can only imagine the horror I will go through making the decision what work to burn, but the experience of attending makes participation seem mandatory for next year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Of Alien Pods

Datura isn't supposed to be able to winter in Wisconsin; my mom is supposed to have to re-plant it each spring. But apparently this particular plant does not know this and instead has taken over the garden spot, requiring significant pruning and cutting, especially in the fall.

This fall, the kids (Allie & Hunter) and I had the luck of visiting over Fall Lawn Work Weekend. So we helped. Me with the Datura, the kids with carrying off sticks and holding bags open for all sort of lawn trash. And we all helped carry freshly cut lumber, on its way to being firewood, to the storage spot by the garage.

But there's no reason not to have fun, right?

The amazingly huge Ace paper lawn bags were too much of a temptation for me -- I had to put Hunter in one.

Putting him in, that was the easy part -- getting him out was completely another thing.

He refused to get out, gripping his hands on the side of the bag. The little stinker even used his teeth to get a bite-hold on the bag when I pried his hands off (prying his hands, by the way, only left me holding his hands with not enough of a grip to lift him, let alone the height required to clear the bag). It was like fighting an alien. Or just another child delivery. *wink* Eventually, I 'won' by gently lowering the bag & he to the ground and using his now-pried hands to slide him out.

He was miffed that I, a girl, could beat him -- so he headed pouting to the house.

Anywho, as I saw it, since the Datura had weathered well in Wisconsin, perhaps it would do so here in Fargo too. I carefully plopped the spiked pods into a plastic bag & took them home. They had opened a bit, as you can see, and looked even more terrifying... Big gaping maws on spiked heads.

We had no idea what to do with the seeds and so we put in the same effort into planting my mom had -- very little. Hubby, during his fall lawn work, took the bag of poisonous pod-life out with him and planted them. Some were simply left on the surface of the ground, others were put in shallow graves, others a bit deeper, and still others sort of strewn about and walked on as he continued to work. (Others take this very seriously and you can read their planting tips; but for me, it's just a lark to see what, if anything, happens.)

Hubby did say that he was aware of being pricked by the pods and started wondering if he was now woozy or otherwise feeling the effects of the poisonous plant. I just mocked him, because he wasn't acting any weirder than usual.

(It's not that I don't care about the possible problems, but that I handled them myself and other than washing afterwards, not touching my eyes or any of the simple common sense things, why worry so much? Though if he had suddenly acted nuts or sick, we would have known what to tell the doctors. Anyway, no harm; no foul.)

I would say that I helped my folks with their fall lawn care and all I got were these alien-looking seed pods, but that's not exactly true now, is it -- I have plenty of stories and memories. *wink*

Even if I never get a Detura to grow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Games Kids Play

"Destiny, I have a question for you," I called up the stairs.

"Why?" she responded, in one of those strange replies kids make. (Well, really those sort of replies are not really so strange; they are the result of an annoyed kid who imagines puttering about has just been interrupted by a demand to take out the dogs or perform some other chore and so they make a half-intelligible response hoping you'll just go away.)

Wishing to skipping the whole lecture on either A) how annoying it is when they don't listen &/or reply appropriately, or B) how they should come when called, not yell back -- however appropriate the response might be, I did what I usually do and answered the question.

"Because only you have the answer," I said.

It took Des a few minutes to play back the previous few lines of dialog. When she realized both what she'd asked and what I'd answered her face light up. "That's cool," she said as she came down the stairs.

Kids like to know they're important.

She was even happier when she discovered the question I had for her was an invitation to play a game with me and help me review it.

Which is why I don't like the 'family game night' set aside for every Tuesday or whatever. In our family, we rarely have such a predictable week as to keep nights reserved for such things -- and anyone expecting a game night would likely be disappointed as it was shoved 'til later in the week. Such expectations also seem to remove the fun of just calling kids over and asking if they want to play a game. Living up to game night would be surprising for we adults, but delivery of it would just be 'as expected' and not the surprise that just calling them over for a game is.

Getting back to the game review, I also wanted to mention that going to thrift stores etc. for old games is great fun & an inexpensive way to entertain kids. Just think, with a $20 you'd be lucky to get one new game; but at a rummage sale, flea market or thrift shop, well, you might even be able to get 20 games!

Yes, part of the fun is verifying that you have all the pieces. But hey, you & the kids are spending time together and they feel as victorious finding the missing game piece as they do winning the game.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

More On Comics & Aspergers

Following my post on Auspies and Manga, and how I might learn something from my daughter's obsession with it, I spotted this post at Newsarama's blog. He's quoted a passage from Frank Santoro's post, which frankly is really for die-hard comic fans. But the passage pulled at my earlier thoughts & so I'm going to re-post it here for parents.
There’s often too much emphasis on reading a comic like a novel when really it should be discussed like a painting or a sculpture. Far from dismissing these “out there” comics… I found myself simply hoping to discuss them and appreciate them better, and to do that I think a broader approach has to be encouraged, towards a less conservative definition of comics… I’ve always felt that all comics are inherently narrative because of the form that the book takes. For that matter a single image, an abstract painting, for example, is often narrative. Jackson Pollock’s paintings are narrative — you can follow him, the story of him working by the lassos of color — and the same is true even with the color field abstractionists like Frankenthaler. It’s just a broader range, a greater bandwidth for inventing narrative.
Again, I'm not really certain what this all means -- or if in fact it means anything in the world of Aspergers. But it pulls at the threads of the sweater just a bit more...

The Aspergers/Anime Connection

Allie, the eldest who's an Auspie, had oral surgery recently, so I went in search of cheap manga comic books. She loves anime and manga, but me not-so-much. I'm not only a fan of reading, but manga and anime present parenting problems. For example, in Japan animation and comics aren't just for kids but in fact has an adults only genre called hentai, which is porn. Even the graded or rated stuff isn't a certainty for I've found in books rated 13+ lots of nude topless women, in showers etc., with very adult themes, such as men spying on them. So you really have to screen books and videos to make sure they are appropriate.

In the recent issue of Wired, there were several featured articles on manga, and while I was disappointed to not see any notices or warnings on the issue of hentai, there were some very interesting things. For example, How Manga Conquered the U.S., a Graphic Guide to Japan's Coolest Export is not only very cool but it gives newbies (manga virgins) an idea of what it's all about.

However, of most note to parents of special needs kids was this bit from This Is Your Brain On Manga:
and played But as a Westerner without deep experience with manga, I displayed the hallmarks of what we might call a "prose mind." My eyes herked and jerked across each page, stopping to linger over any text I encountered — almost as if I were scouting for words rather than absorbing pictures. a Then he asked one of his research assistants, 29-year-old NakamichiKeito, to step up. Keito was asked to read a passage from Yanki-kunMegane-chan, a series he doesn't usually follow. When NakazawaKeito's video, it was a revelation. His eyes slalomed smoothly from page edge to page edge, rarely stopping at the text. In fact, there were portions of pages that his eyes never touched — because, as Nakazawa explained, Keito was either processing the words through his peripheral vision or simply imputing what was there. Like a seasoned skier, he moved with great speed yet remained acutely aware of his surroundings.

Keito has a "manga mind," capable of understanding context, supplying missing information, and interpreting word and image as one.
As a parent of an Auspie, I'm now thinking about manga differently.

While I originally barely tolerated anime, I did learn to twist that obsession of hers into the manga books -- hey, it was some form of reading. (And it did reignite her passion for reading after a several year hiatus.) But now I wonder if this "manga mind" thing, where a person views and interprets differently, is some key to further understanding how my daughter receives information.

Perhaps it will lead to more insight. Perhaps not.

But it does mean I will be moving more quickly on screening the piles of manga books and anime videos I have laying about the house.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mommie of Children in the Lamp

As a general rule, I can't pass up a book for $1 and if it's got any sort of ancient Egyptian theme, well, I'm twice the sucker; triple points for my fav Egyptian, Akhenaten. So when I spotted Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure, by P.B. Kerr, I grabbed it.

It wasn't until I was at home sorting through the box of books that I noticed this was a children's book -- but in my defense, it's a children's book in the way that the Harry Potter books are.

The similarities between Kerr's book and those by Rowling are many including that the series features elements of not fitting in along with the magic. Children of the Lamp features twins, John and Philippa Gaunt, from a wealthy family and loving home; but the message is still one of growing up and accepting yourself as you are -- and with the hope that magic is that something special about you which those well-meaning adults keep mentioning. And of course, there's mystery and adventure, full of fantastic possibilities. Which is to say that it's rather a good read for anyone who fancies a fantasy read.

Instead of being wizards, the Gaunt twins are descendants from a long line of Djinn, which is the good side of those beings called jinn (a being which most of us would call a genie), so like Potter and crew, the Gaunt twins must fight against evil.

I personally like the book, finding the story line to be as fantastic as any Potter tale and full of great Egyptian lore -- which means the book is more than some update of the typical 'genie in the lamp' story.

As an adult I particularly loved the British tone. The author, P.B. Kerr, is Philip Kerr, the British bestselling author of thrillers for adult readers, and the British voice is clear in this book. Think of me what you will, I do so enjoy a book which reads in an accent.

An excellent example, in part because one can not only hear the accent but the sneer as well, is this bit from page 25:
Mrs. Gaunt sighed and lit a cigarette prompting the twins to make some faces: They hated her smoking. It had always seemed like the least glamorous part of Layla Gaunt, especially in New York where people get more worked up about things like smoking than they do about guns.
Ah, no American author could get away with saying that.

I remember reading that passage, flipping to the copyright page for the year, and thinking, My gosh, can the author say that in 2004?

I'm delighted it's there. But others aren't.

They think Kerr's use of smoke, smoking and smoking materials is endorsing smoking. I guess they can't see how Kerr has put in negatives regarding of the act of smoking, so I guess they cannot accept that the genie -- err, jinn, are beings born of smoke &/or fire. The history, along with the relationship between jinn and smoke, is clearly told in Kerr's book -- as well as the fact that humans suffer from such things. But I guess that's not good enough for some people; they fear that Kerr is romanticizing smoking.

I once would have believe these people to be the very same people who worried that humans reading the Potter books would harm themselves by trying to fly on Nimbus2000s and walking into train and subway station walls, looking for the platform for wizards -- but that was long before smokers became the new lepers. Which, I think, is part of Kerr's comments on page 25. At least this is, in part, why I find that passage, and others like it, so charming. Perhaps this is an inside joke that only Kerr and I share.

Then again, it may not be -- or Kerr caved -- for I see some commenting that the third book in the series has the smoking go up in smoke. Not that I've read the other books in the Children of the Lamp series; I just stumbled into this one at a book sale this fall.

In any case, I highly recommend the first book, The Akhenaten Adventure, and will be looking to get the others as well. If your kids like Potter and you want to keep them reading, get copies asap.

Visit P.B. Kerr & get series updates here.