Sunday 31 March 2013

Anagram Queen (Grimm spoiler)

To begin, normally I am horrible at anagrams.

But this week's Grimm episode featured a creature who had committed multiple murders by slicing people in half over the centuries and had been known by many names.  It's taunting its victims, asking them to remember his name.

Our plucky hero realized all the names had the same number of letters, making it an anagram.  So they came up with a program which spit out all the possible combinations, over 200 possibilities.

Finally they found the name the creature was using: TRINKET LIPSLUMS.

Two seconds later, I realize it's an anagram for RUMPELSTILTSKIN.

It was a nice play on the original story.  In the original, Rumpelstiltskin spins straw into gold for the miller's daughter while she's imprisoned.  She's in terror of being caught out by the king, especially after he makes her his queen.  (Gotta go with the wealth over the heart apparently.)  Rumpelstiltskin demands her first child as payment for his services but if she guesses his name, the payment is off.  She manages it and everything turns out well.

In the Grimm episode, Rumpelstiltskin writes a phenomenal new programming code which promises to make the gaming company our victims work for incredibly rich.  The team who takes the credit ends up getting killed one by one until one victim and our hero team up and reveal the creature's name.  It was a nice modern twist and even nicer that it wasn't immediately recognizable.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Making You Think

Even a half-hearted search of the Internet will reveal dozens of articles on how unrealistic Hollywood explosions are.  Especially in science-fiction.

Admittedly, some of the great battlestations and ships of our imagination appear to have been built out of extremely flammable papier mache.  The Death Star, the mother ship from Independence Day, the mother ship from The Avengers, most of the alien vessels from any of the Star Trek franchises, all of them are destroyed by a single well-placed rockets (and those are just the ones I thought of while I was typing this).

Geeks will go on and on about how stupid this is and how it would never happen.  (We're completely cool with superpowers but for some reason we're stuck on this rocket thing.)

This is a message to my fellow geeks:

Did it ever occur to you that Hollywood does this deliberately so that when the real aliens pick up our broadcasts, they'll be scared of us? 

Click-click, click-click-click, click-click (Translation: no, we don't want to mess with Earth.  They have some kind of physics-defying ammo down there.  And dinosaurs.)

Friday 29 March 2013

Fallout from the Autism Rally

This is one of those interesting comparisons which happen when you have two children with autism.  (Or at least, it would be interesting if I was a social scientist observing the situation rather than being the one stuck in it.)

Alex is on the moderate to severe range of autistic behaviours.  Nathan is much milder.  If I'd had to guess which one was going to be more severely affected by our visit to Parliament, I would have guessed Alex.  He would understand less of what's going on, he would be more frustrated at the restrictions and has much less interest in being the focus of attention.

But I would have been wrong.

Nathan has been showing some signs of real distress after our visit.  He was up for a lot of the night with bad dreams and wanted a lot of contact with me and Dave.  He's needing a lot of reassurance and having accidents.  Hopefully we can get over this regressive bump quickly but it bothers me that he's been so affected.

Maybe it's because he has just enough social awareness and imagination to recognize the potential threats in situations.  Maybe he was upset at hearing autism described as a burden on families (he knows he's autistic so he may well have taken the remarks personally).  Maybe he's starting to get ill and this has nothing to do with the situation.  I can't know because he can't articulate what's wrong.

This is one of those illustrations about how parenting an autistic child is different from parenting a neurotypical one.  A typical five year old might not be the most self-reflective and articulate person out there, but should be able to tell you if his tummy hurts or if he feels sad.

I had some concerns before we went about talking about the burdens of autism in front of the boys.  I don't ever want them thinking of themselves as burdens or something we endure rather than cherish.  There is a reality factor to it, but it isn't something they should have to deal with.  That's my job as a parent, to protect them from it.  I did my best during the discussions to talk away from them but I can't be sure what other people were saying.

I hope this is just a blip and we can get back to normal quickly.  But it shows how quickly the situation can devolve.  And how limited our tools are for getting it back on track.

Thursday 28 March 2013

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I was listening to the news when I heard a report about a guy who asked his friend to pretend to be a mugger.  The plan was to have Friend jump out with a knife so that Guy could fight him off, thus impressing Potential Girlfriend with his manly competence.  The plan backfired when Potential Girlfriend panicked and jumped over a small cliff to get away from the knife-wielding maniac.  She broke her leg (or her ankle, I wasn't paying much attention at that point) and the police got involved.  The police quickly discovered that Guy and Friend had hatched this plan together.

At this point the host (female) went into an indignant rant: what kind of friend would do this?

Let me tell you, lady.  Guy friends.  That's who.

I have always been blessed with a number of friends of the opposite sex.  They've given me valuable insight into guy culture and the bewildering and frustrating things men do.  Women know men are smart.  And yet they seem capable of some truly mind-bogglingly stupid ideas sometimes.  (Famous and oft-repeated last words: I got an idea!  Somebody hold my beer.)

If a guy won't dissuade a fellow guy from tying a mattress to a car and riding it down a road, then a little dramatic role-playing isn't going to make the bad-idea cut either. 

We as women should all be honest.  If we were out on a first date and our date handily fought off a mugger, we would tell everyone we know.  It would be an amazing story and his credit with us would soar.  (At least until he introduced us to his friends and we recognized our attacker ...)

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Autism on the Hill

Today we took our boys to mingle with Senators and MPs as a real life demonstration of living with autism.

The boys were actually excited to go to Parliament Hill.

They were excited about going to the "castle building" with the "pointy windows", a fair description of our nation's Capital.
They gave several good demonstrations of life with autism.  As soon as he arrived in the room, Alex went right to the podium and began talking into the live mike.  "Hello everybody and welcome to our show!"  Luckily he got distracted before launching into "Rockabye Your Bear" from the Wiggles, but I still feel the point was made.
Alex was running around but Nathan curled up in a corner, overwhelmed by the number of people.

After the first twenty minutes, both of them were buried in the iPads we'd brought.  I tried to get a picture of the two boys and Dave, all busily thumbing their tablets, but they didn't quite cooperate.
There were several points I was hoping to make but they didn't quite come through.  So I'm making them now:
- early intervention is critical and resource efficient.  The faster these kids can be diagnosed and treated, the better their outcomes are.  My boys are evidence of that.
- families with autism bankrupt themselves to pay for private therapy due to the gaps and delays in the publicly funded programs.  This affects everything from home ownership to retirement plans to college funds.  Having a child with autism should be taken into consideration when the government is deciding we're "too wealthy" to need help.
- the income caps on respite and other assistance programs should be re-examined, along with the tax rates.  Most programs have an income cap of $75 000 when you have one child with autism.  Having a second child raises it to $80 000.  Now do the math: a family paying the $30 000 per year for therapy for two children is left with $20 000 to live on, below the poverty line for a family of four.  But they're still taxed as if earning $80 0000.
I wish I could have had the opportunity to actually articulate these points to people with the power to actually do something about it but it was not to be.
The boys enjoyed making their escape.  Alex tried several times to figure out the exit-routine.  He shook hands, hugged people and thanked them (all typical preludes to leaving).  And yet we kept insisting he stay in the room. 
Each of them had something to look forward to.  Nathan wanted to see the Eternal Flame again.  (Doesn't he look like the most adorable little patriot?)
And Alex got to see the Stop/Arret sign on Parliament Hill and add the photo to his collection. (He has pictures of signs from all over the world which various family and friends have sent him over the years.)

Tuesday 26 March 2013

A Morning Giggle and Making of the Day

This morning we were in a rush.  Through various small delays, we ended up running around trying to get the boys ready for school rather than having time to take things slowly.

Usually Alex gets to have a few minutes of playing outside before his van picks him up.  However, today the van arrived while I was still trying to get him to pull on his socks.  Eeep! So I rushed him into his gear and hustled him out the door and got him into the van with a minimum of fuss.  So far, so good.

Until I get a call 15 minutes later. 

"Hello, um, did Alex have boots when he left the house today?"

Me: <surprised>  "Yes, of course he had boots."

"Are you sure?"

<Glancing down the hall at the front door>  "Of course I'm ... uh-oh."

The boots are sitting in the front hallway.

Alex being a determined and creative kind of kid, the staff at school had been tearing the van apart for the last five minutes trying to figure out where he stashed his boots.

Despite a nagging feeling that I might qualify for an identifying tag which reads "negligent mother," I'm still getting a good laugh out of the idea of Alex running out the door in his socks.  He doesn't like his boots and tries a sock-only exit at least once a week.  Today he finally got his wish. 

At least the driveway was dry.

The other completely awesome thing which happened was when a parent told me that he and his wife found my website to be really helpful.  Their child has just been diagnosed so they're only beginning their adventure in autism-world. 

It's the reason I started this site in the first place (and out of a hope that I would soon have published novels to promote) and it makes my day to know that it's helped.

Monday 25 March 2013

Exciting News From the Weekend

We had two very exciting breakthroughs this weekend.

My youngest son did a BM in the toilet for the very first time.  We have been working on this for months, creating social stories, trying to find a good balance between providing opportunities and keeping things unpressured.  I was actually having serious second-thoughts and some despair about our approach.  I had managed to catch him just as he began to have a BM and despite sitting on the toilet for ten minutes, he still went in his pants within five minutes of getting dressed.  (Which meant I had it perfectly timed but there was still an underlying resistance.)

This doesn't mean the battle is over but it's a big breakthrough.  With luck we can continue to build on this success and slowly but surely, gain a completely potty-trained child.  Which is something which doesn't exist in our family yet.

Alex, not to be outdone, sampled a croissant at a family brunch.  Alex's eating sensitivities mean that he rarely even consents to touch anything other than pureed food.  We've been making specialty food for him for the last seven years, taking five years to move from pudding-like purees to fruits and vegetables with a chunky-relish kind of consistency.

Alex ended up eating three croissants and asking for more.  This year, we introduced very well cooked pasta to his repetoire (5 months) and last year, we managed to get him to eat bread and sandwiches (2 years of work).  Clearly the rate of acceptance has sped up and Alex is overcoming his distaste for solid foods. 

Both of these are small steps to those outside the autism world.  But for those of us inside it, these are cause enough for fiesta fireworks. 

Sunday 24 March 2013

Upcoming Event: Autism on the Hill

There's a big demonstration coming up on Wednesday, March 27th on Parliament Hill to raise awareness for the issues families with autism face.

Bill S-206 is being passed.  It recognizes World Autism Day in Canada.  It's a small step but it's something.

I think this is a great opportunities for families to have their voices heard.  The demonstration goes from 12 to 12:45.

Friday 22 March 2013

Alex Skates With Spartacat

Alex tried hockey this year and really loved it.  His natural athletic ability made it easy to learn the basics.

For a finale to his skating season, he got to go to Scotiabank Place and skate with Spartacat.

He had a great time.  He even got his jersey signed.

He was fascinated with Spartacat and kept going up to the mascot.  Alex would come right up to him and grin and say "Meow."

Now, Sparty is not allowed to talk but he would thump his knee and shake his head then point at Alex.  Alex understood this meant that Sparty thought he was funny and the game began. 

Once again I have to say thank you to the Senators for making a little boy thrilled and happy.  I guess I'm going to have to stop referring to myself as a non-hockey fan.  I may not care about the lineups or our playoff status, but the team is definitely working its way into my good books.

Thursday 21 March 2013

It'll Make You Laugh Out Loud

Assuming you're a huge geek like me.

I've been reading an article on about the irregular development of technology in sci-fi films.

The article itself is hilarious to anyone with a self-respecting geek title.

However, I have just spent the last five minutes laughing in my chair over one particular comment about the movie Avatar.

"Pandora has everything, including giant bulletproof shark-cows"

That four word description is going in my happy jar because it is never going to get old.  :)

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Not Just A Secretary

I work as an administrative assistant to two wonderful psychologists.  I have a bachelor's degree in the Humanities.  I read six to eight books a week. 

One thing I am not is dumb.

I overheard some undetermined professionals talking and complaining about the receptionist where they work.  I'm not sure what they did for a living but one was most irritated at the receptionists inability to keep track of particular files.  (I can sympathize, disorganization can be frustrating.)  What struck me was a certain level of dismissiveness about both the job and the person doing it.  As if such a person was, by definition, somehow lesser than they.

Incompetence is one thing, but a superior attitude will light a fire on my tongue every time.  There is no category in the world which automatically exults or casts down those within it (with the possible exception of sociopaths and killers but let's not allow exceptions to derail a good rant.)

I have more respect for a gardener who does his or her work well and with a cheerful disposition than I do for a doctor with multiple degrees who can't remember my name or show up on time.  Education does not guarantee superior competence or intelligence. 

This is one lesson I'm proud to have learned from my family.  It's deep in my bones:  Everyone deserves respect for doing their job well, regardless of the job. 

I hope I can pass it on to my sons.  Service people tend to get the short end of the stick, invisible when doing well, first on the firing line when things go badly.  Treating them with courtesy and respect always pays dividends.  And it's the decent, humane thing to do, in case we needed another reason.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Gender Gaps

I've been reading a very interesting book by Susan Pinker called The Sexual Paradox in which she examines the continuing "wage gap" between men and women, where women tend to earn about 80% of what men do with the same educational background.

Initially I was put off by her claims of inherent biological differences but she made a compelling argument.  We don't like to believe there are inherent biological differences between the sexes because we like to believe we are all created equal and biological differences have been historically used to justify appalling conditions and circumstances.  Pinker argues that if we ignore actual biological differences, then we are being inherently unfair to both men and women by pretending their preferences don't actually exist.

Whether by social indoctrination or biological urgings, the vast majority of women are not willing or even particularly interested in the 80-100 hour week required for the top levels of their careers.  Even with overt encouragement, corporate enticement and family support, women tend to choose jobs with more flexibility and stability, which also tend to be lower paid.  Even without children or other care obligations, women abandon the high-stakes, high-pay professions for jobs that are more meaningful or allow a more balanced life.

Pinker suggests that to truly close the wage gap, we would need to increase the pay of the sort of jobs women are attracted to.  Legal aid instead of corporate law, family practice instead of surgery, teaching instead of research.

She raises some valid points.  Insisting women play the game by men's standards and using the male model isn't really a move for equality.  With real power, shouldn't we be able to shift the goalposts of success to something we feel more comfortable with?  Maybe we are, simply by refusing to play the game as outlined.

Monday 18 March 2013

Scared Myself Silly

I have an active imagination.  Most of the time it's good.  And sometimes ... less than ideal.

I watched an episode of Alien Mysteries on TV.  It's a show about encounters with aliens (the space kind not the immigrant kind).  Aliens have freaked me out ever since I saw E.T. yet the idea of exterrestrial contact and paranormal activity fascinate me, so I tuned in.

The story was scary, hitting most of my buttons.  The woman had been repeatedly abducted since she was a child.  And then she found out the aliens were coming into her home and taking her daughter as well.  There was a freaky recreation with the little bulbuous headed fellow flickering in and out down her hallway, heading into the daughter's room.  But the bit which really freaked me out  was a recreation of an encounter she had with a friend while stargazing.

The two women pull off into a little side dip in the road and are looking at the stars when they notice a trio of green stars that appear to be hovering nearby.  They then hear a noise in the bushes nearby.  Thinking of bears, they shine their flashlights only to see five or six little gray aliens, their almond eyes reflecting the light like animals.  The women run and the aliens come after them, one crawling onto the hood of the car before they manage to escape.

I'm shivering just remembering it.  (And I have to check the window ... that is the only one of my creep factor buttons they didn't hit ... having the alien staring into the house from the window.)

Being powerless.  Having your home invaded.  Having your children threatened and being unable to help them.  Being chased by something strange and powerful.  Put like that, it's not surprising.  Most of us are afraid of these things.

So why do aliens freak me out when werewolves and vampires don't?  Maybe it's the fact that I don't believe we're alone (although I doubt that they visit nearly as often as claimed).  Maybe it is Spielberg's fault for having frightened the beejeebies out of me with E.T., setting me up with a particular phobia.  Maybe it's because there are no sexy romance novels featuring the classic Greys and they are never played by Scotsmen on the screen. 

Whatever the reason, I woke up in the middle of the night out of a nightmare and could not get back to sleep.  It didn't help that it was snowing, making it lighter than it should have been in the middle of the night.  And just to make it more creeptacular, the house was humming in the wind (it's done it for years, something in the siding or roof which we haven't been able to figure out).  Bright light and a strange humming sound ... and I just watched a show on alien abduction with my overactive imagination.

Eventually I did get back to sleep.  And Alien Mysteries got deleted from the PVR.

Sunday 17 March 2013

March Break

March Break was exhausting but good.

Nathan spent the week at a camp run by his karate school.  A full day of running around, various games, a little karate and more running around.  I was worried about having him in a full day program.  He's never had one before.  The longest independent activity he does is school, which is still less than 3 hours.  But he took to it like rain to water, having a great time and coming home pleasantly exhausted.

Alex's tutor was enjoying a well-deserved vacation in Mexico, which left me without much for Alex to do.  I arranged for my father to take him out for two mornings so that I could get some work done.  (I've discovered in the past that Alex is too distracting for me to be able to concentrate on work.)  That worked well and my parents even took him out to a hockey game.  He wasn't allowed to ride on the Zamboni but still enjoyed it.

I decided to take advantage of the time to have some fun with Alex.  We don't get a lot of opportunities for one on one without the pressure of schedules and timetables.  We went swimming twice at the local wave pool.  Alex loves the water and would live in a pool if we would let him.  It took him a little while to get comfortable with having me there.  I got a lot of "Thank you, Mommy" which is his polite way of telling me to get lost so he can do what he wants to do.

But eventually he realized that I wasn't trying to herd him or interfere.  I held his floating carpet steady while he knelt on it in the waves and recited short poems from 4 Square.  He went down the waterslide with me, patiently waiting his turn with the other kids.  He was good about not running away while I got towels out of the locker.  Very successful outings.

Our trip to the Museum of Science and Technology was less successful.  Alex loves the digital displays but he hogs them, hitting buttons over and over to stim on the first few seconds of the video.  With dozens of other children trying to use the machines, it quickly became frustrating for him.  The museum got very crowded much faster than I was anticipating, so we left earlier than I'd planned.  I think he still enjoyed it though.  Especially his new school bus from the gift shop.

It's a lot of work keeping an eye on Alex and after awhile, I start feeling like a Bill Cosby routine, repeating the same warnings over and over (don't jump on the couch, megablocks after lunch, eat your food, no food in the kitchen .... and on and on).  But I'm still glad we got the time together.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Irregular Posting

I haven't been great about posting this week.  With the kids home and me working, I haven't had much time to sit down and collect my thoughts, let alone type them out.

But all that aside, I think we're having a pretty good March Break.  Alex's planned activities fell through but he and I are getting good one on one time together while Nathan is at his activities.

Wish me luck for making it through the whole week.

Monday 11 March 2013

Volunteer Exhaustion

One of the lessons my parents taught me was that if I was going to belong to an organization, then I should volunteer to help as much as I can.  My mother joined the PTA and Girl Guides when I was young.  My father currently volunteers with the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers, since Alex joined that program.

I often feel as if I'm taking advantage of an organization if I join or sign up my children but don't then volunteer.  But at the same time, the thought of taking on that much responsibility is exhausting.

When my boys were little, they went to a co-op preschool.  Parents were expected to come in as volunteers at least once a month to serve as adult supervision in the classroom.  There were other tasks as well but in the usual way of volunteers, 10% of the people did 90% of the work.

I volunteered in Nathan's JK classroom and it was great to get to see him in class, but no longer possible now that I'm working.

I volunteered to be on the executive committee with the Ottawa Romance Writer's Association.

But that's where I draw the line.  The schools would like me to volunteer for committees and bake sales.  Beavers would like me to volunteer as a leader.  At least two therapy programs have asked for parent volunteers and several of the afterschool groups.

Volunteers seem like a simple idea.  Get a little help from everyone and the organizers can charge less.  Families get to participate together.  But it is incredibly naive to continue to believe it will work out.  The majority of conscripted volunteers are passive and when volunteerism isn't mandatory, the rosters are thin.  People know that there's a lot of work and not many people willing to do it properly.

I am a recovering perfectionist and control freak and find it really difficult to step away from a job I know is being done poorly.  And once I've stepped up, I find it hard to not do it to the best of my ability.  So I protect myself with willful blindness.  I don't put myself in positions where I feel obligated to act.

Maybe this is an elitist opinion, but I'd rather pay a little more and have someone paid to take care of the issue.  (We can't always afford to pay more, but that's a separate issue.)

Or maybe I'm just that tired.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Update on Toileting

Thus far Mr. Mucky has not had the effect we were hoping for.  In fact, we've had something of a regression where our son is having to be reminded to go to the bathroom on a schedule or else he's having an accident.

It's frustrating, to say the least.  Things started very promisingly.  He was very interested in the little story I made and talked a lot about Mr. Mucky wanting to go on the waterslide (the toilet) instead of being squished. 

Hopefully this is only a temporary setback.  I keep hearing how it is not unusual for children with autism to regress as they're learning a new skill.

We'll keep trying this tack awhile longer. 

Friday 8 March 2013

Dr. Phil's Life Code

Dr. Phil has really been pushing his new book Life Code on his show and something about it is just rubbing me the wrong way.

He talks about the new rules for life and how we can't trust anyone.  He says we need to verify everything and be constantly aware of opportunities for people to abuse our trust.

I'll be honest and say I haven't read the book yet but the way he's presenting his viewpoint is giving me a visceral reaction of rejection.

Perhaps it was because I was raised to be suspicious of outsiders.  My parents were very big on the Stranger Danger lessons.  We practiced me being "lost" in shopping malls and who I could go to for help.  I had to point out all the Block Parent signs on the way to and from school.  I got pop quizes on which way I should run if a car pulled up alongside me (the opposite way the car is pointed, in case anyone is curious) or where a safe spot to hide would be.

Intentionally or not, it left me with an inherently suspicious and fearful view of the world.  In The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker talks about trusting the little voice inside which warns of danger.  Mine warns me all the time, which makes it a less than useful tool.

I've learned to overcome those initial instincts and to make my way in the world.  But I'm trying very hard to get a more realistic balance of being cautious and being comfortable for my children. 

Caution is good.  We should be using our brains rather than blindly trusting.  But to become too suspicious is to drive away the support network we need to keep from being vulnerable.

Hopefully Dr. Phil has a better balance in his book than he's presenting in his show.  On the show, it's coming off as a blame-the-victim approach.  This week, there was a woman whose husband had lied to her for five years about having various jobs.  They even moved to accomodate his fictious employment.  This guy was a very committed liar, building up backstories and corroborations.  The only real gap was never bringing home a paycheque, which he overcame by insisting on exclusively managing the finances after the first few years.

Meanwhile, in that five years, she had to deal with a miscarriage and two house fires.  I can understand concentrating on that rather than wondering if someone you trust is consistently lying to you.

Personally, I think the focus should have been on him and his lies rather than blaming her for trusting him.

Thursday 7 March 2013

A Nostalgic Trip to Babylon 5

I'll recuse myself right away.  I love the series Babylon 5.  I think JMS is one of the best character writers out there and I have a great deal of admiration for how he handled the extended plotline through at least three of the five seasons.

Having finished rewatching Angel on DVD over the last few years (we would watch an episode when our current TV shows went on hiatus or if we ran into a night with nothing ready on the PVR.), we needed a new show to re-explore.  I suggested and Dave enthusiastically agreed to see if Babylon 5 was as good as we remembered.

We began with the TV-movie pilot, The Gathering.  It's rough.  I won't lie.  It was intended as a self-contained plot but JMS wanted to have threads there that he could pull through the rest of the series: the mystery of the Vorlons, the commander's girlfriend with her shipping company, even the doctor's use of stims to keep himself going.

Watching it in hindsight, I think I can decipher what the storylines would have been.

The mystery of the Vorlons is the big reveal of the second season.  It was set up nicely and didn't need much tweaking.  Commander Sinclair would have been taught the same way Captain Sheridan was taught, drawing him in and then we would have made the big discovery.

I am betting that Commander Sinclair was originally going to abscond with Babylon 4 after 20 years in this timeline.  It probably would have been the last episode of the series.  He would have returned to the past and begun the Minbari-Human crossovers.  This would mean that his girlfriend would have played the part Anna Sheridan played.  She would have been lost in the systems on the Galactic Rim and taken over by the Shadows.  Then she could have returned when Sinclair and Delenn had gotten together.  That would have been a nice bit of tension.

There are some brilliant bits which shine even despite the rough cuts and slightly incomprehensible story line.  Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas as Londo and G'Kar seem to be very comfortable very quickly with their characters and their relationship is full of explosive chemistry.  Jerry Doyle as Garibaldi isn't quite there yet but you can see he's working on it.

Michael O'Hare never quite seemed to pull Commander Sinclair out of limbo.  Sometimes the character would be an aggressive commander, in the style of Captain Kirk, and other times, he followed a more priestly path, like Morpheus in the Matrix.  The two didn't blend well.  It's too bad.  With a little more uniform direction for the character, I think he would have done well.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series and really, that's the best endorsement I can offer for something I can practically recite the dialogue with.

Wednesday 6 March 2013


A few years ago, Dave and I decided we wouldn't plan to have any more genetic children.  We love both our boys but we are also realists.  The odds are good that any future children would also have autism and we wouldn't be able to afford the time and money to give them the treatment they would likely need.  Even if we had a neurotypical child, the demands of Alex and Nathan would likely squeeze them out.

It was a sad decision for me.  One of those I call head-easy and heart-hard.  I love being a mom and there are a lot of days where I miss having a baby in my arms.  I've tried borrowing other people's kids (with their permission, mostly) but it's not the same.  I'm not "Mommy" to those kids.  I am at best a comfortable place to rest and at worst, I am an evil impostor who seeks to destroy their universe.  (Babies are very suspicious.  Just watch one the next time you get a chance.  Those cute little eyes see more than they let on.)

Today we took the big step.  There had been some discussion as to which one of us would get "fixed" but since the female option involves major surgery and an extended recovery period, Dave drew the short straw.

The procedure was quick and efficient.  We were in and out in less than an hour.  Dave has slept through a fair chunk of the afternoon and spent the rest of his time watching TV with an icepack.  The doctor gave him some good painkillers so I don't expect there will be too many problems.  He has a week of not being able to lift anything or engage in any activity which could result in damage to the testicles, but after that his life can get back to normal.

The boys are a little confused as to what's going on.  I've tried to explain it but a vasectomy is not a concept a 5 year old can grasp.  Mostly I've kept it to: Daddy had to go to the doctor to fix something and it hurts but after it will be much better.  Other key message: we have to be gentle with Daddy this week.

I did get some amusement though.  Dave asked for his favourite hamburgers from a local butchery on the way home.  We stopped but since the burgers are done up fresh, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get your order.  Dave was still very out of it from the Valium and surgery.  He had trouble walking and putting coherent thoughts together.  And guess who was waiting for their order when we arrived?  A half dozen uniformed police officers.

I was waiting for one of them to ask if Dave was on drugs.  I didn't think it would happen but I had the perfect retort waiting if they did.  I can just picture the winces of sympathy as I explain that he had a vasectomy less than an hour ago. 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Abuse and Predicting Outcomes

Last week's Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode has gotten me thinking.  Although they're very clear on stories not being based on real life (to avoid being sued), this one was clearly based on the incident between Rhianna and Chris Brown.

(For those who don't remember, Chris Brown beat up Rhianna right before the Grammy awards, badly enough that she went to the hospital.  People were outraged when she forgave him and continued to have a relationship with him.)

In the episode, the relationship continues to spiral into greater and greater abuse until she's killed.  Every cycle is predictable: he hits her, she's upset, he apologizes, she forgives him and drops charges, he hits her again.

The sad part is that this cycle is predictable in real life, too.  (Although generally a little more stretched out.)  The character in the episode is nineteen and she behaves just like a typical 18-22 year old, believing him every time he says it will never happen again.  The detectives are getting hugely frustrated dealing with her, trying to get her to see and understand that her life is at risk.

I was watching and it occured to me: Why are they getting frustrated?  As special victims detectives, they must have seen this cycle often enough to know how it plays out.  They must know that getting frustrated only drives the victim into deeper solidarity with her abuser.  Then I remembered an oft repeated statistic on Dr. Phil how the ability to predict long-term consequences for our chosen behaviours doesn't come fully online until our mid-twenties.

Maybe this is one of the ways women get trapped in abusive relationships.  They literally aren't able to see that the pattern is only going to get worse if it's allowed to continue.  I don't know the statistics but from a lifetime of watching Oprah and Dr. Phil, a lot of women who are there to get help for abuse say they met their husband/boyfriend as a teenager or in their early twenties.  Once they're stuck in the pattern and everyone else seems to be against them, they're isolated.

If this really is a factor, then we might need a different model for preventing abuse other than trying to make the woman aware of the risks.  A teenager can glibly recite statistics and patterns but never believes in his or her heart that it will happen to them, be it about smoking, drugs or other dangerous activities.  Add in the emotional hormone-driven high of a first intense relationship and a first sexual relationship and the odds really are against anyone making logical, clear-headed decisions.

I have seen friends in abusive relationships.  I have watched them accept things which are unacceptable.  And I've watched the silence fall over them as they realize the rest of the world isn't sympathetic if they're not prepared to leave.  They put on brave faces and hide what is going on, lying to themselves just as consistently as they lie to everyone else.

It's sad to watch someone be broken by both a sadistic SOB and the expectations of society.  I think we expect too much logic and rationality of ourselves.  It leaves us vulnerable to the power of our emotions.  We all have had a time where we knew what we should do and we didn't do it because of emotional reasons.

I don't pretend to have a solution.  But isn't acknowledging there's a problem supposed to be the first step?

Monday 4 March 2013

Good Reviews So Far

I asked a few friends to take a look at my first few chapters and thus far I've gotten good reviews.

Not to say there aren't things wrong.  Two big pieces of advice: I need to have more description of my main characters and there is a major plothole in chapter 5.  A very-cool-but-this-makes-no-sense scene.  Oops.

I'm a big believer in honesty in criticism.  If someone asks me to critique something, I assume they want an honest opinion.  This has gotten me in some trouble sometimes.  Mostly with clothing shopping.  I was saying that a particular cut was unflattering and my friend took it as a criticism of her body.  Not my finest hour.

Because I believe in honesty, that means telling what works as well as what doesn't.  I'm just as happy to wax enthusiastic about a brilliant turn of phrase or bit of dialogue as I am about nailing repetitious description.

So now I take a pause in my charge forward through Revelations to go back and write a new layer for my first 10 chapters.  I'm actually feeling excited about this.

But I'll admit, my biggest control-myself-so-I-don't-geek-out moment?  When a writer I really admire, who has had a lot of success, told me that she wouldn't consider me an intermediate writer.  That she thought I deserved a higher level.  I'm still grinning over that one. 

Sunday 3 March 2013

Survived the Cosmic Sleepover

Nathan's Beaver troupe had a sleepover at Cosmic Adventures over the weekend.  We were a little nervous about it, Nathan has a bad record of being upset when asked to sleep away from his bed.  But we decided to go ahead with it.  Dave and I would both go with him so he'd have lots of parental support.  Cosmic is just about the most fun place you could imagine to have a sleepover, which we hoped would encourage him.  And it was just one night so if it turned into a disaster, we'd be okay.

Once we'd decided, we began to hear horror stories from other parents who had done Cosmic sleepovers before.  How no one slept the entire night because of noise and lights from the various arcade games throughout the building.  How kids became rampaging monsters by about 2 am.  How they locked you into the building and you couldn't leave!  (That one was true, as it happened.)

Through ignorance or bravery, we decided to plunge ahead.  And I'm glad we did because it turned out to be a really fun time.

Nathan did great with listening to the Beaver leaders.  Dave and I were able to sit back in the cafeteria and just watch him play.  We even had time to accomplish our mandatory Child Safety Video (more on how that needed to be revised in another post).  He ran wild on the structure and had some fun with the arcade games.

He participated in the Beaver campfire, although he got a little bored with some of the stories.  (Not surprising, I'd guess about a third of the kids were staring into space.)
They had activities until 10:30 at night, which meant that the kids were getting pretty tired in spite of their excitement.  We picked out our spot and laid out our sleeping bags and camping mats.  I was prepared to be listening to children chatting and playing well into the night but everyone was quiet by 11 or so.
Dave and I both slept better than we expected, despite an over-enthusiastic air conditioner.  (I'd worried our heavy sleeping bags would be too warm but I was glad of them before the night was over!)  Nathan woke up briefly in the night but settled back to sleep quickly.  He even slept in past the 6:30 wake up call.  He even woke up cheerfully for us.
All in all, I'm calling this a highly successful adventure.  Maybe next year we'll ditch the sleeping mats and actually sleep in the structure.

Saturday 2 March 2013

One of Our Little Songs

This may have been funnier at 3 am but it's an example of the twisted humour which lets us get through each day.

We've been dealing with a persistent bedwetting situation, so we have to check each night before we go to bed.  The other night, we came up with a song.

(To the tune of "We're off to see the wizard" from Wizard of Oz)

We're off to see the whizzer,
That wonderful whizzer of ours.
He really is a wiz of a whiz, if ever a wiz there was.
If ever, if ever a whiz he does, that whizzer of ours is fun because
Because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful things he does.
We're off to see the whizzer.
That wonderful whizzer of ours!

Friday 1 March 2013

Looking for Dylan Redwine

Of late, I haven't been watching too much Dr. Phil, although I used to enjoy the show very much.  It's to the point that I've seen much of the reactions and scenarios and thus am not much interested in watching this particular drug addict, or this divorcing couple or this defiant teen go through the predictable steps of the drama.

However, Tuesday and Wednesday's show this week caught my attention.  It was the story of a missing boy, Dylan Redwine.  He disappeared 3 months ago while visiting his father.

It's a long shot but I'm attaching his picture here, just in case someone knows something.

Dr. Phil was very cautious to be fair but by the end of two hours of TV, I was fairly certain the father knew more than he was telling.  My heart went out to his mother, who was clearly at the end of her rope and desperate to find her son.  She was begging with her ex-husband to tell her what had happened.

Dylan's phone stopped texting at 9:30 pm.  At 7:30 the next morning, the father went to work.  He said he saw Dylan and got a sleepy acknowledgement.  At 11:30, the father comes home and Dylan isn't there.  He's not worried, he assumes the boy is hiking or has gone to visit a friend.  The father takes a nap and wakes up an hour later.  Dylan still isn't home and now he notices that his son's things are gone.  At 1:30, he begins to grow alarmed and starts to search.

There are a lot of red flags in what happened.  The father kept slipping into the past tense when talking about his son: he was a good boy, he was careful, etc.  He refused to talk to Dylan's mother, insisting on exchanging text messages instead.  On the show, he refused to take a polygraph test.

None of this is evidence but I can't help but try and put together a scenario which fits.  The dad was described as tempermental and stubborn by many people who knew him.  Could he and Dylan have gotten into a teen-parent scrap and Dylan took off?  The father's home is very rural and isolated and a 13 year old could have gotten into trouble quickly if he took off in the November night.  Could the dad have destroyed Dylan's phone in a fit of irritation, thus cutting off his son's avenue of communication?

It strikes me as a plausible scenario.  Typical fight, kid storms off and Dad hunkers down, assuming the kid will be back shortly.  Come morning, kid isn't back and Dad starts to panic, realizing he's made a critical parenting failure.  Choosing to cover it up instead of fixing the problem isn't unheard of (sad to say but true). 

I wish I knew.  I wish I had the power to be able to tell that terrified mother what exactly happened to her son.  Knowing the worst isn't as bad as having to be aware of all the possibilities.  I wish I had some sort of remote viewing device which let me watch the past, discover what happened to all the missing children out there.

I hope the family finds answers soon.  I hope Dylan is okay and hiding out somewhere, waiting until it's safe to come home.  My thoughts are with them.