Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reliving the awesomeness

My husband and I are getting a chance to relive the awesomeness that was our childhoods...Star Wars.

Now, I'm by no means a Star Wars geek, but I was born in the 1970's, so Star Wars was the iconic symbol of my youth.  I used to think that the 20th Century Fox theme was part of the Star Wars theme music, since watching the videos always started with that.  Insert geektoid fact here...the Star Wars trilogy is what saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy.  We had all three movies on VHS (illegally copied, of course).  I remember going to the theater to see Return of the Jedi in June 1983 for my oldest brother's 12th birthday party.  I only ever saw the other two at home on VHS (I was only 18 months old when Episode IV debuted).

I so wanted to be Princess Leia.

Now, Pat and I have spent a few nights this week watching parts of the three original movies with the kids (they've been on Spike), the four of us lined up on the couch all snuggled under the fuzzy blanket.  We point out to the kids where the digital remastering is.  Although the original effects leave a little to be desired by today's standards, for the time they were pretty awesome.  I remember watching a documentary about them once.  The light saber sound effect was caused by hollow tubes.  Pretty ingenious, no?

I think we're going to get the entire series and watch it with the kids, maybe over Christmas break.  It is so special to share this with the kids.  Sophia is asking hundreds of questions, but she's really interested, as is Jake.  Jake does not like The Empire Strikes Back, because he does not like when Han Solo gets frozen in carbonite.

Sophia insists that the bad guy is "Dark" Vader.  We do have to keep reminding her that the people in this are actors and this is not real.  She's afraid that the real people are dying.  We have to tell her that no people were harmed in the making of these movies.

I love the way Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Canobi) says 'evil.'

Sharing this with the kids ties them to our history and our own youth.  We're looking forward to the next installment coming in 2015.

And I still want to be Princess Leia.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Scary Things...

A few disturbing things have happened in the last day or so.  The first thing, and it is a minor one, is that my daughter smuggled bubble gum in with the groceries (she hid from me on the conveyor belt so that I didn't see it, but still paid for it).  She has been asking for that gum, and I keep telling her 'no.'  She knew I would say no and deliberately schemed, successfully so, to get the gum.  At least she was honest enough to know that we had to pay for it, and is not dishonest enough to steal it.  She figured, however, that I still would not let her have it, and has suggested that we give it to Papa.  For the record, Sophia gets gum whenever she rides with Papa, which is at least three days a week when he picks her up.  She is cunning enough to realize that giving the gum to Papa is really giving the gum to herself, thereby creating a loop-hole in the punishment I have deemed fitting.  She is a born politician.  I'm standing strong and not letting her have the gum.  She has to know that that kind of deceptive and devious behavior will not be tolerated in this house.

The second disturbing thing, and this is the big one, is that my friend's children were almost abducted.  Right from their front yard.  In a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood.  The two children, who are the same ages as my kids, were out front playing when a man in a white Toyota Camry approached them and told them to get into the car.  Luckily, the eight year-old had the wherewithal to high tail it into the house with his sister, and tell their mother, who was able to call the police.  Details of the event can be found here. 

This is frightening on so many levels.  This is a nice neighborhood.  These are good kids.  My children play there.  In fact, Sophia goes to a babysitter just a few houses away.  This is not the crappy,crime-riddled inner city neighborhoods where I spend my days, armed with a tiny little vial of pepper spray that my dad bought me.  This is where we all want to live.  Where everyone knows the neighbors and kids are outside playing, riding bikes and being kids.  It is the neighborhood of the American dream.

(The third scary thing about this whole incident is that I was interviewed for WTEN about the incident.  While I'm sure I will cringe at hearing myself on camera, my most cringe-worthy moment will be when I decided that today would be a FINE day to go without make-up.  YIKES!)

But back to the precipitating event.  I have to ask...what the hell is going on with society?  How can someone think that's is perfectly acceptable to snatch two innocent children from their front yard?  I can answer that question, but it will not be popular.  We, as a society, have lost our moral compass.  Just turn on the news.  It's disgusting.  We no longer have a grounding foundation of what is right or wrong.  We no longer have consequences for our actions, because we don't accept responsibility for our actions. People only barely admit guilt, and that is usually only after they are caught red-handed.  Our leaders tell us bold-faced lies (watch Dianne Feinstein in this interview, minute 11:20), and we eat it up.  We know they are lying, but no one says anything.

We accept that people who are cruel to animals should be punished, but we don't have the same level of punishment for people who harm other people.  There is a woman in the area who killed three other women, mowing them down in a horrific, gruesome manner, because she was driving her car under the influence on seven prescription medications.  6 months in prison, with time already served.  Really?!?

We, as a society, need to step up.  We need to establish some sort of moral code.  We need to stop excusing poor behavior and have some kind of minimum standards.  We cannot excuse flagrant disregard for humanity and the law.  We need to respect life and honor it, not degrade and disparage it.

Who do we turn to for this?  Our government...certainly not.  (Just an aside, why is Gen. Pertraeus forced to end his career for adultery when Bill Clinton and Elliot Spitzer, who actually broke the law, have continued on unscathed and revered?)  Our clergy...um, no.  Our entertainers...just having the ability to sing or get paid to lie, I mean act for a living does not give one the ability to set a moral compass.  Case in point, Kevin Clash.  Our athletes have proven over and over, not only disregard for each other, but also for money and their spouses (there are just too many examples to list here).

We need to turn to ourselves.  To our village.  To our community.  We need to expect more out of each other.  We need to teach our children right from wrong.  We need to teach our children respect for elders, themselves and their community.  We need to work together to create a safe place for our children to grow up.

Tonight, I am so proud of my son's friend (who is also my friend's son).  To me, he is a hero.  But I am scared that this nut job is out there.  Please, anyone out there reading this...if you know who he is, hold him accountable.  Make our village a safe place for our kids to live in.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thank You

On this, the observance of Veterans Day, I would like to say thank you.

I want to start by saying 'thank you' to the legions of men and women who have given of themselves in service to this country.  Thank you to the souls who never come home from duty.  Thank you to the souls who do come home, but are forever changed.  Thank you to the families who sacrifice while their loved ones defend my rights and my freedoms.

Personally, I want to thank my father who spent 30 years in the reserves.  While as a child, I noticed your absence on that one weekend a month and two weeks a year, it was a minor sacrifice to have the rights that I enjoy and take for granted.  Being a member of the 109th Airlift Wing was so very important to you.  I am so proud of the work you did and the roles you played in some important missions.

I want to thank my grandfather, who came home from battle, but fought internally for the rest of his too brief life.  He fought in the Pacific Theater, taking part in some of the most horrific battles of the war.  He was never able to talk about what he went through, and that weight was too much for him to carry.

My father-in-law, although I never met him, always took pride in his role in the 2nd Berlin Airdrop.  Serving his country allowed him his education, which pulled his family out of poverty and has personally afforded my husband and I our lifestyle.

I want to thank my uncle who not only gave 2 tours, but a lifetime in the reserves.  The military was a good fit, and he became a top-ranked drill Sargent.  If only his drill-ees could see him with his grandchildren now... 

I want to thank my brother, who does not get to tuck his children into bed each night.  Who cannot attend the school plays or read to his children.  And to my sister-in-law, who soldiers on at home.  She would not want to take credit, but she is as much of a warrior as her husband.  But for much less pay.

I want to thank my cousin and his new bride, thankful they have a few more weeks together before she deploys to Afghanistan for a year.

In this day and age of American entitlement, I want you to know that we are not entitled to all that we have.  It has been hard fought and won for us by the men and women who serve their country.  I want thank all those men and women who give of themselves in ways that I am not strong enough to.  To those who leave their lives, their souls, their limbs, their sanity on the battlefield...your sacrifice is noted and appreciated.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

One of a Kind

1 in 88.  

My son is the one in 88 children who have Austism Spectrum Disorder.  There, I said it.  It is hard to say, even though he was diagnosed almost five years ago.  I can still tell you that day, even without looking at a calendar.  January 11, 2008.  I can tell you what I was wearing (black nursing top, jeans).  I remember Sophia was so sick with what we later learned was RSV.  My grandmother was in the hospital with pneumonia.  My cousin and his wife had just had a baby, several weeks early.  And Developmental Pediatrics called and said they had a cancellation and could see Jake that day.  I remember thinking, as I was rushing to get my 4 month-old and almost 4 year-old ready with just 30 minutes notice that, "This might be our last time being normal."  If he was given the diagnosis, from that day on, he would never be a normal child again.  

But he wasn't "normal," whatever that was. Obviously, if he was, we would not have been seeking an evaluation.  He would not be receiving special ed services.  I watched him perseverate and refuse to cooperate throughout the evaluation.  The doctor at the end confirmed my suspicion that Jake had "mild" Asperger's syndrome.  She then said, "I know you were hoping to hear this."  I said, "No, I was hoping you would say he was just quirky."  Who would hope for this for their child?  She reassured me that he would "grow" out of it, meaning that he would learn functional coping strategies that would essentially make him able to function without standing out.  It was a grim day.

But that was almost 5 years ago.  Since then, we've done special education teacher services, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling.  Jake went to a highly restrictive kindergarten program that was not a great fit for him, but afforded him one of the best teachers I have ever met.  Jake has done really, really well.  He has come such a long way.

He makes eye contact, and has the best smile.

He no longer perseverates.

He has developed flexibility.

He has friends.

But, he also has attention difficulties and very, very slow processing.  

In 2013, the book that defines psychiatric illness, the DSM, is being revised (it will be the DSM-5).  Asperger's syndrome (as well as Pervasive Developmental Delay, or PDD) will no longer be stand-alone diagnoses.  They will be under the Austism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.  Meaning, Jake will officially be "Autistic." 

So, I had Jake re-evaluated.  To me, he does not look like a child with Autism.  I know children with Autism.  He is not anything like that.  He is very high functioning.  But he's still quirky.  He is also very, very intelligent.  But he's not Autistic, right?

No, he is.  That's what the latest round of testing has shown.  He is still very mildly on the Autism Spectrum.  He is still the one in 88.  

It is still hard to admit.  I feel like he's broken and I can't fix him.  

I know how lucky we are.  Not bragging or anything, but my son is completely and totally awesome.  Everyone loves him (except sometimes for his sister, but that's understandable).  He is funny.  He is bright.  He is musically gifted.  He is compassionate.  He's a good kid.  He will do great things in his life (which is a direct quote from the psychologist).  He will go to college and get a great job and get married and make me a grandmother (but not for at least 25 years, if he knows what's good for him!).  

I know how fortunate we are.  

I work with the families day in and day out whose children may not have the same potential.  The kids who are so locked into their own worlds that there is no reaching them.  I work with families who end up burying their children.  

I know we are lucky.

I know that some of the same characteristics that put Jake on the spectrum are what make him so wonderful.    It is two sides of the same coin.  I wouldn't trade Jake for anything, but I want to make the road a little easier for him.  

It still hurts to hear that my son has (even though it is mild) Autism Spectrum Disorder.  And now we can add Attention Variability Disorder (a form of ADD) and Processing Disorder.  I know that these are things that describe how Jake's brain works, but they are not who is he.  He is wonderful.  He is smart.  He is funny.  He is nice.  He is loving.  He is cuddly.  He is inquisitive.  He is loved.  He is my son, and while he may be one in eighty-eight, he is really one of a kind.