Monday, January 28, 2013

I Love You Too!

Today's post at Childswork is just how I feel. 

Do I want to hear my daughter tell me she loves me?  Absolutely.  But I am simultaneously completely comfortable that she really for the most part does not. 

What I'm not comfortable with is the process of teaching her a rote response to "I love you" as if it's something you just say anytime anyone says it to you...the way 'Hi' or 'Bye' are treated.  It's different.  It should be different.

Here's the post at Childswork, "Unconditional Love".  Hopefully it'll make my wife cry.  She likes when I make her cry.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Benefit of the Doubt

Presuming Competence is very 'buzz-wordy' in the autism community.  And honestly, the post at Childswork doesn't get super deep into it.  When Leslie and I were talking about what my next topic was, she said something about how we don't know how much Lily knows, but was know she knows SOMETHING...and how you go about trying to figure out what that something is...and as I started writing it up, it started looking more and more like a "presume competence" kind of thing...

"Presume Competence"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Problems With Words

If you follow me on Facebook...this isn't about Words with Friends, though I understand why you might think that.  If you follow me on twitter, or the blogging community, this isn't about autism, although I understand why you might think that...

Yesterday a couple people I know were lamenting the pain of word problems in math.  And, because I had been thinking about doing something like this for Emma already (who like most kids ALSO hates word problems) I decided to kill essentially my entire lunch hour coming up with a couple tips I try to tell Emma to use when she solves word problems.  And I turned it into a fancy graphic-ma-bobby!

Word problems are tricky, and the line between relying solely on keywords and phrases to determine operators gets really blurry when multiplication/division and addition sometimes share words, BUT...for the easier math word problems, this is at least a good start.  If you have comments or suggestions I'd be happy to incorporate them.

Oh, and one more thing.  I googled the phrases and then added some of my own, but MOST of the phrases/words I found on:  I didn't like their graphic, though, because I wanted all the phrases on a single page, and of course...I love my face.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Planning Memories

Today over at Childswork I'm posting my wife's brilliant idea about looking ahead and planning out some goals in the form of "firsts", and while it may not work for all kids (the older ones, for example), Lily still has tons of missing firsts that Emma filled long ago.  I list a few from 2012 that we sort of did on the spur of the moment.  

These are linked to my posts discussing them (if you're interested).

And the idea is, essentially, pick some goals (that AREN'T scissor goals or reciprocal stair descent goals, or line drawing or reading goals) that you'd like to share with your child, and then get them on the books.  Whether it's "first amusement park" or "first cruise ship" or "first santa picture" or whatever, make a point of planning out some experiences you want to share with your child and use that advanced planning to give yourself time to include accomodations/support to give yourself the best opportunity for success.

The post is "The List of Firsts".

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Price of Peace?

This is a weird post to write for me.  "Lots" of people read this blog who really don't have any idea about Facebook and its goings on, or social media in general.  My parents are a good example.  They're not on Facebook, and so they'll probably be reading this and thinking...what is this all about?  Regardless...

Social media is difficult because it's all written word.  There's no way to show expression when you type it up (short of including it in the text, I suppose *wink, smile*) and so any reader can insert his/her tone into the words and make one message sound very different than intended with their tone of choice.

So last week there was a big misunderstanding/altercation on Facebook that generated the previous post..."How to Be Insensitive" which sorta pussy footed around the idea that misunderstandings happen and here's now not to handle them...without actually talking about the misunderstanding that happened.  I pray this is the last ultra cryptic post I have to write.  It doesn't make for easy reading for anyone not involved.

This isn't a post about the misunderstanding.  It's a post about the friends who stood beside me and fought on my behalf while I was in the middle of it.  Because after all the apologies were offered and peace was made, Jim Walter looks like he comes out smelling like a rose, but Jim Walter's friends suffered in the process.  And so here's how it looks to my chose to make peace with a stranger at the expense of your friends.

And what I've been really struggling with over the past couple days is whether or not I think that's fair.  And what I'm really struggling with is that I can't just shout "NO!" and convince myself let alone anyone else.

I can't explain without dredging up the details, so I can't explain.

I love my friends.  Whether I told them to defend me or not is irrelevant.  They perceived an injustice being done to me.  They didn't feel comfortable letting me take it on alone.  They stuck up for me.  They defended me.  They supported me.  And some of them suffered for it.  Some of them are still suffering for it from what I've heard.  There were repercussions for them...but I smell like a rose.

How they handled their defense of me also isn't relevant.  Whether I agreed with their approaches or not, the aim was to defend and support me.  Just as the other party's friends defended and supported him.  I don't blame them.

And I too cavalierly dismissed the losses they sustained during the fight because things were starting to settle down...cooler heads were prevailing...the dust was settling...yay!  Meanwhile they were removing themselves from causes they loved, leaving support groups to which they belonged, and I was...I was in the clear.

What I keep coming back to is what I'd try to teach my kids about the situation.  It's hard to explain the conundrum without getting too deeply into the disagreement.  But what do you do when the price of peace is to withdraw your support from your friends?  How important is that peace?

I'm sorry I wasn't the friend to you that you were to me.  I can only try to do it right next time.  I'm still the same guy you defended in the first place.  I hope we can get back to that place again.  Soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How to Be Insensitive

This isn't what you think.  This IS what you think.  We make mistakes in life.  We hope we learn from them.  This isn't a post to talk about recent mistakes, but more a post to talk about how ignorance can turn into insensitivity. 

I've told this story a lot over the past two days, because I feel like it parallels other things going on.  I know this is cryptic, and I'm sorry, but it's going to stay cryptic.  Suffer along with me while I say that the story requires no background and it's just as instructive as it would be if you had background.  It's just a story about a day I was insensitive, but nothing really came of it...except a realization of insensitivity and a desire to do better.

My wife and I took Lily to Chuck E. Cheese.  I won't say which one, it's local, but if the Target thing has taught me anything, it's that I need to be discrete because some people may not love the spotlight in quite the way I seem to love it.  It was a little boy's birthday party.  Lily's teacher and the classroom aids were there to help facilitate things...and to enjoy the time with their kids as well.  It was really cool from that perspective, but that's not the story. 

We approached the gatekeeper (CEC has a guy who stands at the door and stamps parents and their kids with an invisible stamp that they scan upon departure to make sure the kid with you matches the stamp...) for admittance. He stamped our hands.  I don't remember what my wife said to him.  It was "harmless".  She asked him for something.  Let's say she proposed that he stamp her left hand instead of her right because she was holding Lily's hand with the other.  I don't think that was it, but it was something like that.  The kid froze.  Literally a deer in the headlights. 

"Did you hear me," she asked?  He froze again and we stood there...getting irritated.  What the hell was going on?

He filled in the missing information, "I don't handle conflict well."

And this is where I'm frustrated with myself as a human being...we CHALLENGED him on it.  "It wasn't a CONFLICT...we just asked if you could stamp the other hand."

And he froze again.

Are you kidding me?  The boy tells you he has a problem with you get into a conflict with him??  We didn't get it.  We tried to use our allistic NT brains to interpret it and it did not intuitively compute.  How dare this kid imply we were getting into a conflict...let's with him about it? 

That's at the heart of the issue then...a lack of understanding...even empathy.  I think this failure to immediately understand somehow generated this...fight mechanism.  Like my failure to understand was somehow his fault.  How dare he say something that is so clearly bullshit...I mean...we didn't even do anything.  And that emotional response based on ignorance or misunderstanding sets the wheels in motion, trading emotional blow after emotional blow, each side getting angrier at the other.  Or it could.

In the case of the kid, the second time was enough for us to figure it back "believe" his disability.  When someone speaks/writes well, makes his/her points clearly and effectively, we sometimes forget invisible disabilities that make conflict...or sarcasm...or jokes or whatever...hard to understand or process.  We just assume they think the way we think...and not thinking the way we think somehow implies they think we think wrong!  But they don't.  And we don't.  It's just different.  Sometimes different means stopping and giving extra time to process, like when I try to count to three in my head after I tell Lily to do something, because sometimes it doesn't immediately sink in.  Sometimes it means changing tacks, or retracing steps, or apologizing and backing off.  And the thing to do then is NOT attack.  NOT accuse.  NOT assume.  The thing to do is to stop...and process.  The thing to do is try your level best to empathize.  The thing to do is take him/her at his word.  "I have a difficult time with conflict."

"Oh!  I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to make that sound aggressive...I don't know what the policy is.  Are you able to stamp my left other hand instead of the right?"  Maybe that would have been a better approach?

The thing I found most galling about the whole exchange was that we try extremely hard to be the nonjudgmental supportive human beings that being the parent of an autistic little girl has helped us become and we muffed it.

I still make mistakes.  And I still hope to learn from them.  I'll probably make this one many many more times in my life.  But I'll try not to.  And I'm sorry for the people who have to suffer through my learning process.

Lily drives...Chuck E. rides shotgun.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Today I'm discussing the benefits of hindsight over at Childswork.  Specifically, using January as an arbitrary (but somehow NOT arbitrary) month to look back at past blogs or notes or journals or calendars and sort of collect the progress pros and cons.

Without getting too much into what I already wrote over there, just opening last year's resolution post from January there were two or three tidbits in it that I didn't recall happening.  It's a nice way to remind yourself that progress IS being made, or to help you figure out what to focus more on.

It's here:  "Looking Back and Looking Forward"
Lily checks the rear view, because hindsight is 20/20 and she doesn't have her glasses on.

Monday, January 7, 2013

All for One and One for All

I mentioned to a Facebook support group I'm in that:
Every picture I post of myself with my older daughter makes me feel like I'm not including my younger daughter. It makes me think, "I wonder if people look at this picture and wonder where my younger daughter is, and why she's not there". Every picture I take of me with my younger daughter makes me think, "I wonder if people see this picture and think, he's just taking pictures of his youngest daughter so it doesn't look like he spends all his time with his oldest daughter."
Anyone ever feel that way? Sometimes maybe we need to give OURSELVES a fucking break from scrutiny and judgement.
And I was sort of pressed for time, but it had been eating at me a little and I wanted to just lay it out there for the universe (at least this collapsed and particularly singular universe that is the autism parenting universe) to consider.

And after I left it there I felt like I needed to return to the thought and give it a little more fleshing out.  It's not that I think I'm a bad parent.  It's not that I think I give more of my time or attention to Emma.  It's not that I think the time I spend with Lily is spent in order to somehow prove to other people that I'm not just focused on my other kid.  It's that the thought occurs to me that other people might think that.  

The point I was trying to get across at the time was less even that other people might be judging me, and more that they may not be judging me at all!  And if they are, how would I know?  And if they're not, why am I growing gray hairs worrying about something that clearly is only occurring to me?  This hypothetical judgement is less about what other people might be thinking and more, "I'm thinking it."

I think that at the end of the day I realize that a lot of the "fun" activities I get pictures of myself and Emma doing are things that Lily isn't as interested in, or outright hates.  But the appearance of me sledding with Emma, or eating cotton candy at a Pirate game with Emma, or at a movie with Emma, gives a photographic record of only my time with Emma...not Lily.  And I think that grates a little.  I think it makes me feel like I'm not doing enough to get Lily involved in activities that might be more fun for the whole family.

Tonight I took Emma and Lily out into the snow.  Lily was reluctant.  It would have been easy to say, "Okay, honey, you stay inside."  But I knew there had to be something out there in the white that would appeal, and so fighting inertia and Lily's strange finger force field (the only effect of which is to repel mittens from her hands) we trudged outside into the snow to play.

And Lily hated the sledding, and after confirming a couple times that yes, sledding is not Lily's thing, we made a snowman, and found that kicking and whacking the Lily's thing.  It's enough of Lily's thing that I had to set the timer on my Iphone (duck quacking) for five more minutes so I could help transition her back inside the house (that she hadn't wanted to leave) with less fight.

It's a weird sort of win-win.  I know that I try really hard to spend time with both my girls, but there is a lazy inertial ease associated with just letting Lily do what Lily loves most all day, which is to watch TV.  And letting her watch TV, while it may be what she prefers, is not actively being involved with her.  And the pictures I take of myself with Lily while she's not actively involved with me kind of are a bit of a lie, proof only that I was in the same room with her, and not that I was involved in doing something with her.

I took her into the snow and I got my family time with both girls.  And I got my picture with both girls.  Part of my pledge to myself and my family is that I'm going to try to help facilitate more of that inclusive family time.  The pictures weren't ever the point.  The point was that the pictures led me to realize I wasn't making enough of an effort.
The Three Musketeers - Photography by the Fourth Musketeer

Friday, January 4, 2013


I wrote today about Resolutions on Childswork.  I'd nutshell it for you, but then you wouldn't go to the site and read the post, and what good would that do me?  You'll get to see how I did with last year's resolution to lose 15 pounds in 2012 AND you'll get to learn what NEW resolution(s) I'm making in 2013.

Hopefully the title's not a spoiler...

The Promises We Break

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Meanwhile Back at The Vineyard...

Probably for the best, this post will be short-lived since tomorrow's Childswork auto post will go live at 6:00 a.m.  NEVERTHELESS...this story needed to be told.

I made wine with my friend Jimmy.  I've been making beer for more than 20 years, but until about two months ago, I had never made wine.  Jimmy asked if I wanted to go in on a batch with him and it sounded good to me, so we went to the wine store and bought the ingredients and the equipment and I made up a bitchin' project schedule and then over the course of about four nights...we ...vinted?  I don't know what they call that.  We made wine.

So the wine-making ended in late November, and it says to wait until it's been in the bottle AT LEAST a month before you try it, so I decided I'd crack it open at our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

Every year on Christmas Eve we invite the immediate family over for a lobster/filet supper after church.  Jimmy and I had made Pinot Noir, and Pinot Noir is a a pretty's not quite red, it's not at all white sort of wine that straddles the surf and the turf.  It's a wine they say you should serve if you're only serving one.  And I wasn't confident enough of it that it was the only bottle on hand, we had cabernet and sauvignon blanc on hand as well, and the way I figured it was after dinner, when everyone had already had a couple glasses anyway...what better time to try it out.

That's when I uncorked "Jims' Enormous Pinot".

Oh, did I mention that I named the wine, "Jims' Enormous Pinot"?  Because I did.  And the way I figured it, the looks of discomfort or amusement made it worth it.

It was good, and I served it in a gigantic bottle, so the name was doubly apt.

Plus making people feel uncomfortable was just the gravy I was hoping for.

What I did NOT expect, however, was having the tables somehow turned on me, and the feelings of discomfort as my mother said, "Oh, Jim, your enormous pinot is delicious!"  or my mother-in-law tell me she'd wanted just a little taste of my enormous pinot because she didn't want to get filled up.  And somehow it wasn't as amusing as I'd anticipated...

But it was still pretty damned amusing.

The label...