Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Remembering Sgt. Ryan Baumann

Patrolling the hills of Afghanistan

All spiffed up

From the Arlington National Cemetery Website:

Sergeant Ryan P. Baumann, 24, of Great Mills, Maryland, died August 1, 2008, on Route Alaska, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Ryan's family

Ryan Baumann
made a difference in this world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two hours I could have done without

We had an ugly couple of hours yesterday.  I picked my son up from camp and got everybody snacks; then the fun began.

I'm not going to bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that my son was "Aspergering" all over the place, and my daughter was, in agony, blaming me for completely ruining her life.  I did raise my voice, but only briefly.  Then I brought it back down to "low and slow."  I made my statements and let the ignoring begin.  As my ignoring is typically accompanied by their badgering, I packed up my laptop and a book, grabbed my purse, and told them that they could handle being alone in the house for the 15-30 minutes before their father got home and that I was leaving before I smacked one of them or doled out rash consequences impossible to implement.

They accompanied me to the door with cries of, "No, Mom, STAY!  I promise I won't do it anymore.  Stay, Mom.  Don't go!"   Just as I loaded up the car, my friend pulled up to pick up something from me.  I grabbed it and chatted with her for a few minutes.  My children, who had 15 seconds prior promised me to behave, screeched at each other on the other side of the storm door, and I could tell that they were pushing at each other in various versions of "get out of my way" confrontations.

Those few minutes with my friend were enough of a break for me, but I stayed out on the porch for awhile longer as it seemed prudent.  Needless to say, dinner was late last night.

We did our post-mortems after dinner, when everyone was calm.  Then I went to the grocery store for a short list.  I'm not particularly fond of grocery shopping, but I'll take any break I can get.  I ran into a friend of mine not 10 feet inside the door -- in the banana aisle, if you're interested -- and there we stayed for the next three hours, chatting and laughing and swapping stories, better therapy than the therapist I don't yet have.  (I can only guess that what kept her in the banana aisle for three hours was that she has five kids at home. :)  I got home after midnight to a quiet house and a sleeping family, dogs included.

Today is a new day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Milo and Otis

Although the paperwork is not yet completed, I'd like to present the newest member of our family:

This is Milo.

Milo is a Boston Terrier mix, maybe 2-1/2 years old or a little older.  We don't know what the "mix" is, but we're hoping the vet can give us some possibilities when we take him in for his check-up this week.

Milo came with his name.  We thought about changing it, and my husband would still like to (with Rascal and Bandit as front runners), but my daughter and I really like "Milo."  I think he'll stay with that name.

You might remember my post about our other dog, Otis, a beagle/basset mix.  He, too, came with his name when we adopted him 1-1/2 years ago.  He's just about the best dog ever.

So far, with a little over 24 hours together, Otis and Milo are getting along.  Both my kids love both the dogs, and my husband is goofy-smiling, though I'm sure he'd deny it.  Here they are:

Milo and Otis.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never smile at a crocodile. Never.

My son, almost 13, is one of those kids you don't know what to do with.  (Pardon my preposition.)  He's really, really smart -- not genius level, just really, really smart -- and he has Asperger's.  This gives him the need to have academic input well above that of his peers and to have social and executive functioning (EF) skills training well below that of his peers.

For most of his elementary school years, his "behaviors" were the main focus of special education interventions.  I heard quite a number of "willful defiance and non-compliance" attributions along with a steady stream of "he's not available for learning."  (This despite the fact that he could read by age 3 and absorbs information from books like a sponge.)  By the time he started 4th grade, I finally took the advice of the non-school members of my son's team and asked that his academic gifts be addressed, i.e., give him appropriate gifted/accelerated instruction as well as appropriate special education interventions.  Since my school system has both departments (Special Education and Gifted), I didn't see a problem.  Sadly, the two refused to work together to appropriately program for my child (and for a number of other children in our area).

My son has completed the last two years (6th and 7th grades) in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program, which is for highly-abled learners.  Academically, he's done really well.  Socially?  Organizationally?  He has improved since he left elementary school, but I don't think that we can say he has improved because he has received appropriate interventions.  I think he has improved mostly because he's no longer in a completely inappropriate placement -- he's in the least inappropriate that the school system has available, but as I've said multiple times, available doesn't automatically equal appropriate.  Though we've mostly leveled the playing field academically, I haven't seen that his social and EF interventions have been particularly effective, and he's not much of a squeaky wheel anymore, so he's not seen as needing any oil.

Right now, my son is in a camp for children with ASDs.  It was piloted last year for a week, and it has expanded to a four-week run this year.  (I won't bore you with the stories of past camp failures, most of which ended with calls to come pick him up...)  This camp has got a lot of really good features, including that it provides social skills instruction and physical movement by a staff that is trained to work with this population.  The director is the head of the Adapted P.E. department, the assistant director is a Speech/Language Pathologist, and the two other main people involved are Autism Specialists (recent positions in our school system), both of whom know their stuff and have not yet become jaded, burnt out, or steamrollered by the system.

I have two major areas of concern with the camp.  The first is that yet again, my son's need for high academic input is not being met.  I know, I know, it's camp.  But if you don't "hook" him with highly interesting subject matter, he attends only because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.  (I told him that if he didn't go to this camp, he had to get up early every day and go to the gym and do a complete exercise workout with me.  He chose camp.)  He's doing "OK" in that he's not a behavior problem, but he's not enjoying himself.  He thinks the arts & crafts are babyish (They are.) and  he refuses to bring them home, preferring to either lie and say that the one remaining is not his or to drop them in the trash.  He also doesn't like that many activities are labeled "therapy" -- art therapy, yoga therapy...  He told me today that the biggest problem for him is the vocalizations (sounds and gibberish) and the crying of his fellow campers.  He goes in every day with a defensive posture, and every day he comes home cranky.  We're challenging him to work on areas that are very difficult for him -- fine motor, gross motor, social -- and though we're doing so in a safe environment with staff that are knowledgeable, we're not using his strengths to do so.  (And doesn't that sound like his trip to West Virginia in May?)

Next week I'll pull him from Week 3 of this camp in order to send him to the school system's Space Camp, which is run by the director of the Department of Gifted Instruction.  I have big-time concerns about sending him there without support, without knowing the schedule, without knowing the instructors, without... without... without...  It's interesting that when I told his school team that he was going to attend Space Camp in the middle of the ASD camp, they offered to contact the teacher to let him know a little bit about my son and what tips/tricks work for him.  Since when has the right hand cared what the left was doing?  Since when has anyone been proactive across departments like that?  Well, it's not what it should have been -- that would have included me in the discussion -- but it's more than we've ever had.  But please note my doubt that it was sufficient.

The other major area of concern is that I found out by happenstance last week that one of the people most involved in preventing my son's elementary school success (and the success of a number of other children whose parents I know) is somehow involved in the camp.  I don't know to what level, but when I walked in last week and saw her there, my confidence in the camp's programming plummeted, and my anger rose.  I well and truly thought that I had finished dealing with her, and that thought pleased me.  I rarely blog about the people on my son's school teams, not with personally identifying information, anyway, and I'm not going to start now.  But, oh, the stories I could tell, my own, others' in the county, still more of those who moved away because of the damage she inflicted.  With all the complaints filed, including our own, I don't understand how this person retains her position in the school system.  I wish she were not in a position to be able to defeat our children.  Off and on for the past week, I've heard the tick-tick-tick of the song, "Never Smile at a Crocodile," and I've known who the crocodile is.

Crocodiles aside, can you see my problem?  We've got two camps, one with very strong ties to school and the other completely run by school.  My son fits in both and neither, but not quite.  The camp for children with ASDs is set up to address his many needs, but it doesn't appeal to or use his strengths.  Space Camp will appeal to his strengths (probably), but it won't support his needs.  Where's the place for my son?  Where's the camp for children who are twice exceptional?

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's a dirty job, but someone's got to say it.

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There's this really cool blog I found awhile back called Autism Sucks.  It's slogan is, "Sometimes autism sucks, but our kids never do."  Well, Amen to that, Sister!

It's nice to go visit there because nobody has to apologize for being ticked off with life at the moment.  People write it as they feel it -- the ups and the downs of living with/parenting (and sometimes /being) a person with autism.  It's rarely pretty, and sometimes it feels like gallows humor, but then, that's autism.

I read the slivers of lives of other parents, and most of the time, I can relate to exactly what they're saying, if not now, then at some point in our 10-year journey down this road.  I can add a comment that is not necessarily politically correct but is acceptable to the audience of the blog.  I don't have to watch what I say or feel grateful for what I've got when I visit there.

Autism really does suck.  Every once in a while, it's nice to be able to say it out loud without denouncement.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


After writing Just this..., I realized that there probably is a google-able list of church sign sayings. Yep, there is.  You've probably seen some of them before.  These are the ones that resonated with me:
  • IF THERE MUST BE TROUBLE, LET IT BE IN MY DAY THAT MY CHILD MAY HAVE PEACE -- Amen.  I have nothing more to say about this.
  • 24 HOUR LIFEGUARD ON DUTY - SEE JOHN 3:16 -- What a comfort.
  • GOD'S PROMISES ARE GUARANTEED FOR ETERNITY -- Not to repeat myself or anything, but what a comfort!
  • IT IS UNLIKELY THERE'LL BE A REDUCTION IN THE WAGES OF SIN -- Nope, no reduction in wages, but payment made!  (See John 3:16.)
  • WILL YOUR ETERNAL HOME BE SMOKING OR NON-SMOKING? -- Took a second, didn't it?  I'd like non-smoking, please.
  • WHEN TROUBLE GROWS, YOUR CHARACTER SHOWS -- This is the lesson I so want my children to understand.  Ethics.  Integrity.  Honesty.  These aren't just words.
  • TRUTH IS ALWAYS THE STRONGEST ARGUMENT -- I like to think so, but in the world of Special Education, it seems to me that school system lawyers have the strongest argument, truth or not.  (Or sometimes letter of the law but not spirit of the law.)
  • TELL THE KIDS I LOVE THEM ... GOD -- My daughter just completed Camp Dare (a terrific program).  Seems to me, though, that if they knew God loves them, they might not need Camp Dare as much.
  • WE NEED TO TALK ... GOD -- Yes, yes we do.  Now's a good time.
  • LOVED THE WEDDING, INVITE ME TO THE MARRIAGE ... GOD -- Need to work on this one, I think.
  • THAT "LOVE THY NEIGHBOR' THING, I MEANT IT ... GOD -- Does this one cover not gossiping?  Just lately, I'm needing to remind myself about this.
  • DON'T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE ... GOD -- Can you imagine if He did?
  • SOME ANSWERS JUST CANNOT BE FOUND ON GOOGLE - TRY THE BIBLE ... GOD -- I think I can I google the Bible.  Is that OK?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hanging with the Seniors

I went to the ophthalmologist's a couple of days ago for a follow-up appointment to make sure that the chicken pox virus from the case of shingles I got last month hadn't made its way into my optic nerve.  Cutting to the chase, my optic nerve is currently fine.  However, the doctor told me that bad stuff (technical term) can happen six to nine months later, so, umm, keep my eyes peeled for certain symptoms.

I don't remember ever seeing an ophthalmologist prior to these two appointments.  The office staff was friendly and polite, the office was clean, with up-to-date equipment, the wait times were unconscionably long, and the doctor was knowledgeable with a terrible bedside manner, in my opinion.

However, none of these things struck me nearly as much as did the average age of patients in the waiting room -- and there were a lot of patients:  Mid-70s to 80s seemed to be the norm.  Quite a talkative bunch, too!  I never knew that the ophthalmologist's office was the happening hangout for the senior crowd.

At this exam (but not the one last month), they said they'd have to dilate me.  Now, the last time I was dilated, I gave birth, so this was a bit of an "I beg your pardon?" moment for me.  Once I understood the procedure, however...  But I just felt so old, like I did on my last birthday when I reached that new "What is your age?" check-off box on forms:  
  • 18 - 24
  • 25 - 34
  • 35 - 44
  • 45 - a hundred gazillion
I was hanging with seniors, waiting for my eyes to dilate, and contemplating being vocally cantankerous about the fact that it was over an hour since my appointmet time, and I still hadn't seen the doctor yet.

Thought you'd like to know...

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Excuse me?

"I don't care if you lick windows, take the short bus, or occasionally pee on yourself... You hang in there, Sunshine, 'cause you're friggin' special!"

This quote showed up in a Facebook friend's status feed a few hours ago.  I had never seen/heard it before and was curious about its origins, so, of course, I googled it.  The only thing I could find (without putting too much time into searching) was a bunch of Facebook statuses with various versions of the above, sometimes with swear words or references to being retarded.  And Urban Dictionary has several derogatory definitions of the term "window licker."

Based on those results, I can only assume that it's not an "in-group" reference.  (I hadn't really thought it was, but I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.)

I respect people's right to post whatever they want as their FB status.  Because of that, each of the four times I wrote a comment under this status ("Not sure what this means as I know children who do this."/" ... including one of my children."/"... including my dear friend's child."/ etc.), I deleted it without sharing it.  I thought about sending a direct message with a gentle statement of my distress, but again, Facebook is one's own, and if I don't like it, I have several options I can choose (Hide and Unfriend being just two of them).  But it's wrong to do nothing.  Doing nothing perpetuates the stereotypes and prejudices.

Can I tell you how distressing this is?
  • Nice person writing something offensive.
  • Nice person's friends LOL-ing.
  • Belief that Facebook is one's own place.
  • Need to stand up against stereotypes/prejudices.
  • Need to dispel myths about people with certain types of challenges.
  • Belief that my child deserves better than to be made fun of, no matter how indirectly.
To do what's right:
  • Need for me to move very far outside my comfort zone. 
In the end, I asked where the quote is from.  I thought if I track it to its source, maybe I can combat it better.  So far, no reply.   I'll give it a little longer, but I think I'm going to have to address it somehow.  I don't think I can do nothing for longer than a self-imposed cool-down period.

If you're the praying sort, I wouldn't mind a little help with this one: wisdom, word choices, perspective, open hearts and minds all around, etc.

Update 7/6/2010 -- Sent a three-sentence private message, the gist of which was that this was probably one of those areas that unless it affects you personally, you probably don’t think about it.  The generally lovely person graciously apologized and removed the status, which I had no right to expect, and we seem to be OK.  Would that all such statements were unintentional, and a little knowledge could eradicate them.  Thanks for the prayers.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Just this...

The will of God will never take you
where the grace of God cannot protect you

Twice now in the past few months I've run across the above saying.   I like it.  I wish I knew the source.  I'd probably like it even more if I knew it was the Word of God and not a church sign saying.  Either way, I like it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Needed: Attitude adjustment

"Resentment makes us slaves to the very things
from which we would be free."
... Elizabeth Wray Taylor
Not sure I want my attitude adjusted to this level:

But perhaps I'm not the one who needs the adjustment?