November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009, scary! (photos)

J: I am going to tease S. with this giant spider.

L: That's not nice. Why would you do that?

J: I am the encyclopedia of teasing.

October 25, 2009

FACEBOOK, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways

1. How can I be old enough to have friends whom I have known 25, 35, 45 years?

2. Lots of messages in Danish, which is very cool, even though I can't read them

3. I didn't think I had friends in high school, and now it appears that I did.

October 21, 2009

The A-Word

This is the second time someone has said in Jeff's presence, "My son is autistic, too." Although I am the last one to get sniffy about "labeling"--I will do anything to get social services for the boys--this comment is so jarring. My attitude has always been, "I know my kids, so it doesn't really matter what words are used to described them." I confess that I have used the A-word myself on occasion, but usually as shorthand, in the case of frustration or immediacy. On two occasions long ago, adults (once at a playground, once in a bookstore) have tried to grab Jeff and, knowing that this was not going to have the result they intended, I yelled, "Don't touch him. He is autistic."

However, that term is not anywhere in the boys' medical or educational records. It's just as well; it would be much too simplistic. There is no doubt that they are somewhere on the continuum of autistic spectrum disorders, but it's a small piece of a constellation of issues.

As Jeff has gotten older, many of his "autistic" behaviors have diminished. He is somewhat immature for his age and socially clumsy, but that word suggests many traits which Jeff doesn't have. I have overheard Jeff and his respite worker chatting, teasing and joking, like young men anywhere, and I think, "Who is that regular person?" Eye contact is not an issue. Explosive tantrums--nope. Sensivity to noise and texture--not really. It's still hard for Jeff to follow adult conversation, but with a prompt or two, he can participate, and more significantly, he wants to. Autism suggests a lifetime of social isolation--the confusion and bewildering morass of nuanced human behaviors--but Jeff is eager to interact and make friends.

So I'm going back to my own diagnostic description which I employed for many years while waiting for the doctors to come up with something better: autism-lite.

October 12, 2009

Jews at Hogwarts?

While housecleaning recently, I found a letter from one of my cousins in England. She must have sent it a few years ago, when I told her I was a huge Harry Potter fan. LS

No one makes a big deal out of it, but there have always been Jewish kids at Hogwarts. Not many, and not any of the famous ones, but still there are students from the entire U.K. there and from some of the former colonies, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I attend.

A huge effort is made to keep the wizarding world secret, so only my immediate family knows. It hasn't been easy keeping that secret from the extended family who seem to know every single religious school in the world, who attends it and who has graduated from there. But I got a letter when I was almost eleven, just like every other muggle-born wizard in England. My parents in Golders Green assumed it was some advert and tossed it, but a few more identical letters arrived and they finally took a look. I was attending the local Akiba Day School and was intending to go the same Bais Rivka that all sisters and cousins and aunts had attended.

Haha. Now I know better. Hogwarts does not take NO for an answer. I never got to meet Headmaster Dumbledore. That would have been something! He spoke over sixty languages, including Hebrew and a good bit of Yiddish. Some of the Jewish alumni told me that he would astonish their families with his linguistic ability and that would soften them up for the Hogwarts pitch. Professor McGonagal doesn't have quite that ability, but she did win points with my mum when she said that faculty and housemates would be "mispocheh" while I am at school. That didn't impress my dad though. What kind of Jewish kid goes to a school called Hogwarts?

In the end, they relented, although I found out later that all muggle parents do. It's part of the process and Hogwarts headmasters and headmistresses have the recruiting and convincing game down pat, thanks to a bit of harmless magic.

However, I think my mum is the first muggle mother to ever inspect the Hogwarts kitchens. Professor Mc had to relent on that. My parents weren't going to allow me to go anywhere that didn't provide kosher food. Believe it or not, she trained two house elves and made sure that my dishes and silver and cooking utensils are kept separately. Becher and Benscher even got special tea towel uniforms with the London Rabbinical Kashrus seal. I thought they'd complain about all the extra trouble but they are very proud of their special status.

Hogwarts: A History mentions a bit of Jewish history at Hogwarts. All the Jewish students there have been muggle-born, and they have all been in Ravenclaw House. In the whole recorded history of Hogwarts, there has only been one Jewish student on the Quidditch team, but lots of notable Gobstones players.

So that's it. I guess everything thinks that English boarding schools are totally goyishe, but I just want to put a word in that the most famous one isn't, completely.

September 8, 2009

Jeff likes Rodgers and Hammerstein

Don't you have this music on those flat, black things?

September 7, 2009

Warning to the Bully Posse

I do not know you, any of the five of you, and the victim wasn't my kid, so I didn't say anything to you. But don't think I didn't notice. As for that plausible deniability coda at the end, it wasn't very convincing either.

Maybe you think the world of children exists unnoticed, below the radar of adults. Uh-uh. Just because I had on a hat and sunglasses doesn't mean I wasn't paying attention.

Before you reply with the earnestness of Eddie Haskell, I will tell you my perception of the incident:

You approached the deck chairs where my son and his buddy were sitting. Maybe the smaller kid's singing or over-loud voice attracted you. Whatever excuse you have, I saw you come over to us. Did you tease him later when you were out of my earshot? Did you pretend you were being friendly? Did you wait for him to say something you found foolish? I saw him throw the ball at you and had that been my kid, I would have reprimanded him, but when you pounded it back, I knew that it was your intention all along to goad him into an altercation.

You walked by me three more times, smiling and joking about that little provocation. I saw you slap each other five right in front of me. As I say, just because I am out of junior high doesn't mean I don't recognize bullying. I saw you wander around the pool a few more times, looking for more action with him.

You weren't picking on my son, I know. Five junior high kids taking on a 16-year-old a head taller would have been foolhardy. So you needn't have apologized to him, as being mad at "that other kid." That other kid is nowhere near your age and it was five-to-one. That's cowardly.

Consider yourself lucky. I saw you circling like a pack of wolves, trying to separate the weakest one from the pack and I did not like it. So now you know: I am watching you.

August 27, 2009

More Wildlife Tales

So I phone Animal Control to complain about some horrible smell coming from my front stoop. An hour later, the officer removed a dead raccoon from my window well.

Artist's rendering of the scene:

August 26, 2009

The Clothing Fairy retires

Unlike my famous sister, the Tooth Fairy, I get very little press. I suppose it's the money. There is no money and no attention for me, the Clothing Fairy. In most cases, it's a short gig. I select and provide the kids' clothes until about age four when they have their own preferences and desires and can be taken shopping.

However, thanks to me, clothes have been magically appearing in Hart's and Jeff's dresser for many, many years. Additionally, every evening a matching outfit for the next day mysteriously appears, all laid out and assembled. It's been a long relationship, well over a decade.

Mind you, it's not an easy job either. In addition to the rules and regulations of my own chapter (no camoflage, no licensed characters, no polyester), I have to take into consideration the preferences of my clients (no "clownish" colors, no patterned underwear, no white socks, no zippered flies). I am not unreasonable, but the rule about elastic waistbands grew more and more onerous after Hart and Jeff outgrew Gymboree sizing.

Also, Hart is now out of my service area. I am frequently reminded of a bit of dialogue from RAIN MAN. "Tell him, Raymond! K-Mart Sucks." But, never mind. Clearly the Wisconsin Clothing Fairy is much more lax than I.

But now I am retiring. The writing was on the wall a year ago, when Jeff announced that since he was in high school he needed black jeans. The Clothing Fairy cannot magically provide jeans: the client must try them on first. Jeff actually had to go a a store, select a few pairs and go to a dressing room to vet them out. I wasn't sure if this was simply an anomaly, so I remained on the case for almost another whole year, dutifully laying out daily outfits.

Now I am done. Jeff went to overnight camp for four weeks and although the photos prove he isn't the professional clothing selector that I am (why was he wearing a pajama shirt on the ropes course?), it's been a smooth transition. I am overdue for a quiet retirement. Although Jeff wears his STING t-shirt a little too often for my taste . . .

August 7, 2009

Hart explains it all

L: It's almost Chloe's 3rd birthday. Let's call her and wish her a 'happy birthday.'

H: No.

L: No?

H: I want to send her a gift.

L: OK. What do you have in mind?

H: Something for girls.

L: Something pink? A unicorn? What do girls like?

H: Fashion!