Monday, August 14, 2017

Atypical Review

I haven't watched the entire series but I've watched 5 out of 8 episodes.

Atypical is about an 18 year old high school senior who is interested in dating and his family.  The show is not for families with young children.  It's a show more for older teenagers and adults because there is adult language and adult topics.

I like the family dynamics. It's real and raw. Sam, the character at the center of the show, has a younger sister.  She has to deal with the fall out of having an older autistic brother.  Sam's father, we also discover, had a harder time dealing with Sam's diagnosis.  But he's trying.  Sam's mother is over protective.

Sam has friends who care about him.  They are neurotypicals but have their own quarks.  And they try to help Sam.

The support group that Sam's mother goes to is an exaggeration of some aspects of the autism community.  They expect to use people first language (which really is up to the individual person because some prefer being called autistic) for example.

Sam is a well shaped character.  He shows some aspects of what it's like to live on the spectrum such as sensory sensitivity, confusion over why he's being bullied but knowing that he is, and not understanding idiomatic language.

The affair Sam's mother has doesn't seem to make sense with the plot.  Sam's mother is beginning to realize that she's not as much needed so she starts having an affair?  The other scenes where she gets in the face of department store sales woman and how she despises Sam's therapist for helping Sam be more independent make sense.  But the affair seems to be taking the show in a direction away from light heartedness and yet realness of autism and more into a mom drama.

Likewise I'm not sure why we need to know so much about the therapist's relationship as a sub-plot. It may help for Sam to have an example of dating (although living with your boyfriend isn't a good one).  But other than that I don't really see the relevance. 

There's a bit of confusion for me with Sam about money.  In the first episode Sam is seen riding a public bus back from therapy.  Don't buses require you to use money or a bus pass?  And then later on we see that Sam's sister has to give him his lunch money every day.  So my question is this: is Sam having a difficult time with money or not?  What's the difficulty?  At school, my children don't have to deal with money for lunch.  They have lunch cards and you can deposit money electronically through an online website.  There's no need for checks or cash.  Furthermore if Sam has an IEP, which I assume that he does, why isn't his mother insisting that his lunch money be handled by the lunch staff or the office staff per an IEP?  Why is it that Sam's younger sister has to do this for him instead of the school staff?  I just have difficulty believing that this isn't possible.  And I have difficulty believing that Sam's overprotective mother hasn't been forcing the hand of the school to make some sort of accommodation.  It's just poor writing.

The other thing that I noticed is this: Sam's mother is a hair dresser, Sam's father is an EMT, Sam gets therapy but he does have a part time job at an electronic store. Okay. How do they afford a large house in the suburbs?  We've seen shots of the exterior of the house and the interior of the house and it's a nice two story house.  It's more realistic to depict Sam's family as being lower middle class to working poor given what kinds of income his mother and father probably make.  Instead we see them living in a house that would be a bit out of their income range and it's not really explained why.  Sam's sister does say that the downstairs toilet is messed up and she's in need of a scholarship in order to attend a top private school.  So we know that they do have money constraints.  It just doesn't show up in how they live, which is a large house in the suburbs.

It also bothers me that we don't see anyone else on the spectrum.  Just in my daily life I've met many people who are autistic of various age groups before and since my son's diagnosis.  The other thing is I don't like the use of high-functioning versus low-functioning.  It's a weird distinction.  I would say compared to Sam, my son is far more higher functioning.  At age 7 he's already working on social skills that Sam is only just now seeming to understand.  Likewise you can have a very social autistic who doesn't speak and would be classified as low-functioning.  You can also have children who are called autistic but have other disorders to contend with.  It's more like a pin wheel of color and it's confusing (if not pigeon holing) to say that autistics fit into groups of high versus low functioning.  It would make more sense to say things like verbal versus non-verbal or very sensory sensitive versus not so much. 

What I would like to see:
Other characters on the spectrum because being autistic is just as diverse as being neurotypical.

More of Sam: I feel like there are too many sub-plots related to other characters who are not Sam and yet Sam is the focus of the show.  It's confusing.

More of the school: Sam is a senior yet we barely see any of the school staff during the show.  In one scene Sam hides in the chemistry lab and a friend can't find him.  So the friend calls Sam's sister.  Why isn't the friend alerting the school staff especially if Sam is a potential flight risk?  It doesn't really show if the school is inept or actually really awesome about dealing with Sam's disability.

More of Sam's work: So far we've seen Sam interact with his close friend and co-worker and there's one scene with his boss.  What about his interactions with other co-workers or clients?  How is working at the tech store good for Sam?  We are told that Sam actually studied the store before he landed the job.  So did that contribute to him landing the job there?  I'm so puzzled about Sam's job.

More about therapy for Sam: We know that Sam has had a lot of therapy in the past. And now he essentially speaks to a psychologist.  Can we learn about his past therapy and more about replacement behaviors?

Does Sam have a community for support?: We know that Sam's mom attends a support group for parents, but there are likewise support groups or just groups in general for those on the spectrum.  Has Sam explored them?  Does he have autistic friends?

The show has a lot of potential and it's headed in sort of the right direction, but it could use some improving.  Overall I would say it's good and worth watching with the potential to become great.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Day One of the Job Search aka Back to School

Hi again. So today is the first day back for school.  I'm sure people in other parts of the country are scratching their head and saying "isn't that early."  Not really. There were schools who started last week.

The kids got up okay.  The straggler this year was not HB.  It was Knee.  It's like they've role reversed.  While HBs behavior has improved tremendously over the summer, Knee has turned to excessive whining.  *suffering sigh*

We walked over to school and ran into the resource teacher for HB.  She explained that this year they plan on doing a seperate morning activity with her sensory sensitive students and one in the afternoon.  The morning one would be a circle activity and sensory related thing to start the day on a good foot.  Then they'll be returned to their classroom.  And in the afternoon when I'm to pick him up from her where they'll do a review of the day and give awards for good behavior.  I think it sounds fantastic.  She told him to meet her in room 3.

Well we walked Knee over to his classroom and got him settled.  Then we went over to HB's classroom teacher and got him straightened out.  In the process I realized that I had accidentally dropped paper work.  HB simply walked out the door and left.  So Hubby and I went frantically around the school looking for him.

He ended up going to room 3 instead of waiting for us to say good-bye or anything.  Needless to say we talked to him about needing to communicate with people and not simply taking off.  He was fine, but it was a bit heart pounding for a few minutes.  He did apologize.

Hubby went on to work and I walked home to do some light cleaning.  Then I drove over to one of the closest job resource centers in my area.  It's run by a non-profit.

You see I haven't had to do job interviews or put together a resume in nearly 10 years.  So as you can imagine, I'm a little rusty.  I'm so rusty that I feel fortunate that I still have hard copies of my old resumes because I'm pretty sure the digital copies won't work on current computer software.  There there's the process of job searching and online applications.  It's a more and more common thing for it to be all electronic.

So the volunteer there was extremely helpful.  He's retired from the federal government and worked in the HR department.  He set me to the task of writing a first draft of a resume and making an online account for job searches.  He also told me that if I needed to I could do mock interviews with him or other volunteers as well.

I spent about 2.5 hours there working on getting back into the swing of things.  So we'll see.  Hopefully I can start sending in job applications tomorrow.

So how are things with you?

Friday, August 4, 2017


"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." Luke 16:18

Considering the sheer number of couples in the country who have filed, I'm sure you've come across this at some point in your life.  Maybe it's family member, a friend, or a co-worker. They saddle themselves up to you and say "I'm getting a divorce." It's awkward. What exactly do you say to that?

I told my friend a week ago. "Oh, I'm sorry." and her response was "Don't be." Well, I really can't be overjoyed. The friend in question is a non-Catholic married to a Catholic who procured a special dispensation for the marriage.  So it's a valid one. I don't know what his side of the story is, but she was miserable. There was no affair, no abuse, no serious reason to avoid seeking help. But they didn't work on it and fell apart as far as I can tell. So no I can't feel anything but sorry.  It's sad.

In that same vein, I ran into an awkward situation in which a divorcee is getting remarried. He's a non-Catholic Christian and like a deer in the headlights I had no idea how to react. My thoughts were "he's divorced. Should I be celebrating this?" Instead he flashed a ring looking for some sort of approval or something and all I could muster up was "Oh, okay." and nod my head. If he were Catholic it would be slam dunk, no annulment therefore can't remarried. I'm sure many of you have run into those moments yourselves. In his case, he went through a pseudo-annulment process for his particular denomination, but does this make his marriage invalid? I can't tell you.

I actually sent a direct message to an online priest who I trust his opinion and asked for help. What if they ask me to the wedding?  What do I do? His advice was to treat it as a case of annulment and since the couple in question isn't Catholic, this isn't a strong case of no-annulment=still married.  I'll probably go a step further and see if I can speak to one of my parish priests about the matter. I have a feeling that he will tell me the same thing.  This isn't a case of a "gay wedding" invite.  This isn't a case of a "no-annulment" Catholic. So we have to weigh it differently.

I wish life was less messy and that these things were clearer. I wish black was black and white was white. I wish that when people made vows they took them seriously. I wish I didn't have to go seeking spiritual advice for what to do about situations that others place me in rather than seeking spiritual advice for more personal decisions.  But here we are. Life is messy and I'm sure Jesus understands. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Moana: The Story of Vocation

They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.- Luke 12:53

One of the criticisms of the Moana movie is that the title character Moana disobeys her father's wishes to save her village.  Christians criticize the movie because they feel it teaches children that they can willfully disobey their parents, but I disagree.

The story is about having a vocation or a calling as the movie says.  Moana is called to be the leader of her village, and she is called to lead her people in such a way as to save and restore them.  Her father agrees that she is their leader, but disagrees with the path she is called to take to lead them.  She's not willfully disobeying her father. 

The movie has a pantheistic religious feel.  The ocean calls her to this quest, but it's more metaphorical in my mind.  God is calling her. He's using the ocean. Sometimes obeying God means disobeying our parents.

Jesus spoke about this division and disobedience in the Bible.  It seems it is frequently overlooked by a number of prominent Christian leaders who wish to make a buck off their version of godly parenting.  It annoys me.  I'm not a perfect person and do not have the full picture of what God is calling my children to do with their lives.  My job is to help cultivate their ability to discern but not thwart God's call. 

I wish other parents were supportive of their children's calling. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes parents inadvertently shut down any exploration into a religious vocation. Reality is that even parents are prone to sin.  Instead of cultivating an environment where children can follow where God leads them, there is division and pushing from parents in the exact opposite direction. Some parents yearn for grandchildren instead of their child serving the Church.  I understand.

So ultimately who should the child obey: mere sinful parents or the all-knowing God?  I think it's pretty obvious.  And I think it's obvious from the movie that other adults in Moana's life know just what her calling is supposed to be even if her father is to blind by his personal pain to see it.  He's an imperfect man.  And movies like this are good because Moana following her calling doesn't mean she's doing something immoral.  This is a clear cut case of her obeying God even when it's difficult and separates you from your family.

You know who Moana's story reminds me of?  Mother Angelica.  She felt a strong calling despite her single mother not wanting to loose her.  But Mother Angelica entered the convent and never looked back.  She obeyed Jesus' call within a call by starting a television network even though she was cloistered.  And she was reunited with her mother when eventually her own mother became an extern-sister.  I am sure that she is again reunited with her mother in heaven.  She never said her vocation was an easy one, but she followed the path Christ led her down.

Moana's a great movie and a good one to your children about when it comes to obeying God, not stealing, and making restitution for sins.  Let your children watch it.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Public School = Bad?

I hate twitter sometimes.  I follow a lot, a lot of social commentators. Maybe I should unfollow them.  It might save my sanity because one of them, a prominent Catholic, has basically said that in his opinion public school is the spawn of Satan.  Well he actually said he doesn't understand how you can be Christian and still send your child to public school.

It's ridiculous really.  Because for some people this is what the alternative to public school looks like:

1) public school or private  *cough* racist *cough* Christian school because there are no Catholic schools within reasonable distance (that would be me).

2) public school or private Catholic school which produces poorer quality students (that would be my husband)

3) public school or not being able to feed your children so they can go to private school

4) public school because there is a lottery to get into really great charter school and you still need to feed your children.

Well you can probably get the idea from the above scenarios that choosing a school is complicated.  And the fact that a fellow Catholic would brandish about cavalierly without understanding the complete picture for each family irks me to say the least.  It reeks with judgement if not the sin of rash judgement.

 He's assuming also that all teachers in every public school system are secretly Marxist followers (basically he said they teach Marxism in public school).  This of course is false because I personally know several practicing Catholic within my children's school.  It's basically the sin of slander to assume that all teachers in public schools are horrible immoral people.  I went to public school.  My math teacher was such a devote Christian that she said she avidly avoided lying.  Public school teacher teaching morality and avoiding sin.  Boom! Get thee to a confessional!  Maybe just maybe the reason why the school teachers at my children's school who are practicing Catholics don't work for Catholic parochial schools is because 1) the pay is better and they need to provide for their families and 2) they have more flexibility in terms of taking maternity leave and whatnot.  One teacher said she took a job over the summer helping run a summer camp program at the school because she needed the extra income.  Private schools don't typically provide summer programs for children and so the teachers have to drum up some other form of income during the summer months.

If he judges that for his family homeschooling is best, great. More power to him.  I'm all for school choice and I follow the catechism says that it's the parent's call to choose what is best for their children.  I'm not a mind reader. I can't begin to understand how the schools operate in each area because all public schools in the US are largely autonomous and within those individual schools so are teachers. 

I'm also one of the blessed ones. I live in a state that has tax credit/voucher program in place.  It's raised the standards of teaching in my state because there is now competition.  Don't believe me?  The largest school district in Tucson called Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has had a surprising loss of student returnees.  They are actively calling families to find out why.  I think the school district is poor in a lot of ways and wouldn't send my children there, but you know what parents have options and they have spoken.  If the school wants to retain more students (and thus funds), they are going to actively try and improve.

In my children's school, because we have open enrollment which means anyone can enroll and they don't have to live in the area, 58% of the parents elect to send their children to our school. That's right over half compared their local school to ours and said "I like that school and even though it's also public I want my children to go to school there." 

For the record, of all the people in my Bible study group for moms (and we're way devote here) only one (yes one) sent her children to the parochial school.  The rest of us send our children to public school.  Not charter.  Not homeschool. Public school. So please, stop calling us horrible people. It's so Pharisaical. 

Point is that you cannot judge why a parent decides to send their child to a public school in the area.  The public school could be an excellent one.  And this judging is really just another "mommy" war where parents smugly try to make themselves out to be the better parent.  Grow up. Let it go. Parent your own child and let others parent theirs.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Hypocritical Nature of an Older Generation

Today I took the children to the library.  It was teaming with children in the children's section.  Children's story time starts a little later and many parents bring their children in before hand so they can drop off and pick up books.  Normally it's at this time that it's loud.  After story time began, my children opted out (the story time is for preschoolers and neither one of them really are although we were invited).  Instead they were engaging in imaginative play with puppets and play structure inside the children's section. 

Our library is quite small.  The children's section is at the entrance and is separated from the teens and adult sections by computers.

My children are quite exuberant as boys often are.  There's also a saying that says you know you are a parent of an autistic if you child is sensitive to loud noises, but he is the loudest person you know.  HB doesn't know his own volume and neither does his younger brother when he's trying to edge into HB's imaginative world.

They were playing.  So I sat in a chair on one side of the tall structure.  On the opposite side sat a teenage volunteer reading a book.  He was manning the summer reading program.  Neither he nor the librarians bustling about said anything.  After the children's section was mostly empty, the boys were still playing at the structure.  And a little while later I heard an old lady remark "those boys are so loud and no parent either."  I'm not sure what the teenager thought.  He said nothing.  He might of looked up and then went back to reading his book. 

The remark bothered me. It wasn't because I was sitting right there and she simply couldn't see me.  So in fact she was wrong. No, I had to unpack why, it stung.  And I realized that it was this kind of attitude that has changed society.

You see back in this lady's day I bet she went to the library alone.  I bet she walked with her siblings to the library.  And I bet what's more if she had children, they also probably walked to the library alone.  Now if a parent allows a child to walk to the library alone or the park, CPS and the authorities involve themselves.  The parent is labeled neglectful. 

The reason why is because the older generation, which enjoyed having the freedom of walking to libraries as a child without parents, thinks that younger generations shouldn't allow that to happen.  My generation feels the enormous pressure of having to have eyes glued to the back of their heads.  This is why we have so much technology these days geared toward parents like baby monitors with video.

And this reaps negative consequences.  Exuberant boys aren't allowed to be exuberant.  They aren't given that independence and the experience to handle small crisis.  Instead boys are supposed to be quiet and sit in front of screens for hours to appease the mass of people (not just older people but younger ones as well).  Or they are to be locked into camps with someone to watch them constantly because 10 year olds aren't deemed old enough to stay at home alone and be bored.  (I found it weird that there were a couple of pubescent girls in the day care program the school runs. Why?)

We live in a country where it is safer for children than any previous generation.  So that's a poor excuse to keep children locked in doors during the summer.

This is what bothers me about her remark.  It's completely hypocritical.  Why should she expect more from my generation and my children that wasn't expected from her generation or from her children?

Lady, you are the reason why my children are in the library with their mother whooping it up over puppets.  If you don't like it, then stop making such remarks.  Who cares if they are alone?  It's a library; it's summer. Where on earth do you think they should be?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Frugality and 25 things

One of the criticisms of the minimalist movement is that people may own very few things, but they spend an awful lot of money.  There are minimalists who both own less and are frugal.  I was born frugal.  I have no idea where it comes from.  My parents can tell you that I have always been that way.  I also married frugal.  However I'm not perfect.  There are things that frugal people do that I don't.  I recently watched a youtube vlog about the 25 frugal things this family does and while I don't do all of them, I certainly can come up with my own list.

1) Keep my air conditioner on a higher temperature setting (and thus drown the therapists in buckets of sweat) and also keep my heater on a lower temperature setting (thus freezing people).

2) Make things. Sometimes these are gifts for other people.  Sometimes this is toothpaste, cleaning solutions, bone broth, etc.

3) Fix things. I'm not great at fixing a car, but I fix a hem and sew back on a button.

4) Check out things from the library including music cds and dvds.

5) Use an antenna on my television. We went two years using the library and only antenna channels, but now we have netflix so the antenna gets used seldom especially with watching youtube videos. My husband and I have never had cable or satellite and we will have been married 10 years on Friday.

6) Rarely purchase postage. Most everything can be done electronically including paying your bills.

7) Line dry.

8) Purchase used clothing.

9) Purchased used home furnishings.

10) Rarely purchase children....anything. My children seem to attract things. Small toys at the eye doctor's. Crayons from the end of the year at school.  Books from school and even the library.  Even sometimes we get clothes from friends for free.

11) Free (or low cost) outings. The park is free (if it wasn't too hot outside). The library has free events/clubs. And the local autism association will sponsor movie showings and we can get free passes to those.  There are also a number of community events that are free such as firework displays.

12) Free food. In the summer a number of the schools will give children under the age of 18 free breakfast and free lunch.  It doesn't matter your income or if you are even attend or are old enough to attend the school.  My children had free lunch today (and probably will tomorrow).

13) Use freecycle.

14) Repurpose things.

15) Wear stuff out. Nobody needs a new car, a new computer, or a new cell phone everything a new model comes on the market.

16) Take care of what we do have.

17) Free calendars. My parents give those to use every year for Christmas.  And if you are Catholic, they usually come free at New Years to your parish.

18) Play lots and lots of games. Board, video, and physical ones.

19) Eat at home.  We do eat out, but I think it's below the national average of times that people do. Neither one of us are gourmands so this is one we aren't as frugal on.

20) Buy food in season and on sale.

21) Only wash full loads. That said my modern washing machine uses low water based on the amount of clothes you put in.  It has a sensor.  My dishwasher doesn't measure out water.

22) Use rechargeable batteries.  I haven't done a cost comparison based on the amount of energy to charge a rechargeable versus constantly purchasing new batteries.  That said over the years I think we've saved.  I've only had to get rid of some rechargeable recently because they weren't working properly.  And that's the first time...ever.

23) Make do. I recently left behind some stuff at a friend's house.  I'm hoping she'll bring them back, but in the meantime, we're doing without.

24) Use rags. There's been studies that show a kitchen sponge is the dirtiest most bacteria-filled thing in your house so I avoid using them like the plague.  Instead I use a dish rag and deposit it in a bucket which when full goes into the washing machine. 

25) Trade services. I was giving music lessons for free babysitting.