April 30, 2006

Artsy Fartsy

Schuyler's Monster
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Do you want to know why the internet is cool? Do you?

I got an amazing gift in the mail today, from my friend Jen. She had it drawn by her brother Tom Owens, an animator and storyboard artist at Dreamworks. I had no idea what she was up to until it arrived. I'm hanging it in my office tomorrow. I only regret that I don't have a scanner large enough to properly share it with you.

What an awesome way to start the week. Beats the crap out of last week.

Sunday afternoon, and a question.

She's got a flag.
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I took a break from a problematic video project today and spent the afternoon bike riding with Schuyler. We rode to lunch, had crappy fast food while listening to cheesy 80s music ("She blinded me with science!"), and explored the neighborhood for a few hours. It was the best time we've had a a long, long time.

The biggest change in Schuyler these days, as evidenced by my last entry, is her level of comprehension of the things we tell her and the world around her. We always knew it was there to some extent, but lately it's been possible to converse with her more than ever before.

While we were eating, she got very mellow and cuddled up next to me like she does sometimes. She gets weirdly focused and serious when she's like this, and it's then, with our faces close to each other, that we talk.

I don't know why I never asked her before.

"Do you ever wish you could talk?"

She looked at me for a moment. "Yeah," she said with only a touch of sadness. It's one of her handful of words she can speak fairly clearly. Well, clearly to us, anyway.

But then she thought about it and changed her mind. "No," she said, and smiled. She's got new teeth coming in, so her smile isn't as gummy as it's been lately.

"You don't want to talk?" I asked.

"Huh uh."


"Noooooooo," she said with a little smile and an eye roll, as if it was a silly question.

"You getting along okay like this?"

"Yeah!" she said with a laugh, and that was it. The serious talky window was closed and we were back to play time.

Which was perfectly fine with me. I liked the answer I got.


Schuyler & Friend
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Two things of note this weekend, both of them accomplishments by the ladies of the house. Don't look at me like I'm going to do something equally cool. It's the weekend, man. If I even shave, it's a miracle. (And I didn't.)

First of all, congratulations are in order for Julie, who got a big promotion at The Monolith yesterday. Every time we move, she transfers with the company, which is one of the cool things about working for a big corporate monster like The Monolith, but she always ends up having to take a different position, depending on what's available. Well, as of today, she's back on the management team, in her old position as the store's Community Relations Manager. How weird is is that she and I are both doing the same thing in our respective places of employment? We are Ministers of Propaganda. Say what you will about this household, but it is definitely NOT a no-spin zone.

The other thing that happened yesterday involves Schuyler. I bought her a Cabbage Patch Doll, partly because she's been a very good little girl for quite some time without much in the way of reward and partly to distract her from the Mermaid Barbie that she had become fixated on in the store, despite its near-identical appearance to the Mermaid Barbie she already owned. Her sudden interest in a fat-headed, buck-toothed ugly doll seemed like a healthy improvement over her fixation on perfect, big-boobied Barbie.

She brought her Cabbage Patch Doll home, and I told her that she'd have to name it. This was a reach, and perhaps an unnecessary one since in addition to having the designer's name printed on their asses (no, really, I didn't believe it until Julie told me and had the doll moon me), Cabbage Patch Dolls come with names and birth certificates. Where's the fun in that? That would be like giving birth a baby and not being allowed to name it. (Not to mention someone's name tattooed on its ass.)

I had no idea what she would do, but I told her to get her device and tell me her doll's name. After she considered it for a few moments, she started deliberately typing on her Big Box of Words.

And that's how we learned that her new friend's name is Kelly.

Now here's the thing about that. Schuyler doesn't, to my knowledge, know anyone named Kelly, although she obviously heard the name somewhere. She certainly doesn't have any friends named Kelly. But she knew that was her doll's name, and more importantly, she knew how to spell it. She got it wrong at first, and then she figured out what she got wrong and fixed it.

What this means is that Schuyler understands the functions of letters well enough to work out how to spell a word that she wants to say. It also means that she grasps the basic rules of spelling, and therefore reading. AND, it means that she understands the relatively abstract concept of arbitrarily selecting a name for an inanimate object that represents a living being.

Which might not impress you if you've got your own little neurotypical wonderchild at home. But reading and spelling and abstractions are not easy for a nonverbal child. Stop for a moment and ask yourself how you would teach a mute child to read. Imagine that you could never get any kind of feedback, no repetitions of the things, no reading out loud to confirm that the things you are trying to teach are taking hold. You just read and provide tools like the BBoW and hope and pray for a sign that it's taking root inside a unique and broken brain whose workings have already baffled the world's leading expert on her monster.

So yeah. We're extremely proud of her. I am more convinced than ever that she's going to confound and exceed the world's expectations. I'm counting on her to write the rebuttal to my book one day.

April 26, 2006


Anne Lamott, Schuyler and me
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
"A sober friend once said to me, 'When I was still drinking, I was a sedated monster. After I got sober, I was just a monster.' He told me about his monster. His sounded just like mine without quite so much mascara. When people shine a little light on their monster, we find out how similar most of our monsters are. The secrecy, the obfuscation, the fact that these monsters can only be hinted at, gives us the sense that they must be very bad indeed. But when people let their monsters out for a little onstage interview, it turns out that we've all done or thought the same things, that this is our lot, our condition. We don't end up with a brand on our forehead. Instead, we compare notes."

--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

April 25, 2006

A break in the trainwrecky goodness

Anne Lamott
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Because I am every bit as sick of writing about my teeth as you are of reading about them, and because I don't particularly feel like taking on any of the other things currently making me crazy, I thought I'd share something positive that I'm looking forward to. I'm taking those lemons and making some lemonade, by golly. If I have any left over, perhaps I'll squish them in someone's eye.

Tomorrow after work, I'm going to try to go see a book signing by Anne Lamott.

I've always been a big fan of Anne Lamott. Her book on writing, Bird by Bird, had helped me immeasurably, and Operating Instructions, her account of the first year of raising her son by herself, went a long way towards convincing me that even fucked up, broken people can be good parents. I've been a little less enamored of her later work, as she has delved further and further into a Christian world into which I have a hard time following. Even then, however, she writes more about spirituality than religion, and so it's not so hard to digest. A lot of it actually speaks to me, as scary as that can be sometimes.

I don't know if you remember this or have been reading long enough to catch it the first time I wrote about it, but when I was looking for a literary agent, I knew I'd found the right one when she compared my writing to Anne Lamott's. I don't think for a moment that I'm nearly as good a writer, but I'd like to think that we're on the same path. Minus a lot of the Jesus, perhaps, but still.

So if you're a Dallas area stalker and would like to kill me, you should hide outside the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Park in Dallas tomorrow night. I've got to warn you, though. The pain in my mouth and the bullshit in RobWorld is making me mean. You might have to sneak up on me.


Holy fuck, that hurt.

Holy fuck, it hurts now.

Holy fuck, that cost a lot of money.

Holy fuck, he gave me Tylenol 3.

Holy fuck, it's not doing a thing.

You know, I try to be all cute about this, but right at this moment, I am in more pain than I think I have ever been in, ever. And he's not even done with it. He did a root canal on the NEW pain, since it was/is the worst, but he wasn't able to finish it because the tooth is apparently a "bad actor". And he could only do the one tooth, because of something having to do with infections that frankly I didn't hear a word of.

So it'll be another WEEK before this is done. And I have no idea how I'll pay for it, but honestly, that's not the bad part of this. I just can't imagine feeling like this until the end of the day, much less another week.

People keep saying it, and it's absolutely true. There is nothing in the world like bad dental pain. It makes it hard to think or talk or do anything at all.

That diabetic coma isn't sounding so bad right now.



Well, codeine might not be much of a pain killer, but it sure does improve your mood once it hits your system with both feet.

An hour ago I was in too much pain to drive home to North Dallas. Now? I might just be too stoned.


Pain Merchants, here I come.

Wall of Robliness
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I got a speeding ticket this morning, on my way to work. Huh. I don't want to talk about that, though. I haven't even started processing that bullshit on a stick just yet.

I'm leaving in about thirty minutes for my dentist appointment. This is going to be FUN. In addition to the Bad Bad Tooth that will be getting its just desserts today, the troublesome tooth next to it started hurting this morning. Well, of course it did. So one of two things will happen at the dentist's office. Either he'll make another appointment to do the second tooth and stretch this thing out even longer, or he'll sit my ass down and subject me to TWO root canals in one sitting.

Either way, I'm pretty sure you're going to have a better afternoon than I am.

So I'm sitting here having my pre-dentist terrors, which started about half an hour ago, and while I know you, patient reader, are sick of reading about this, it's just about the only thing in my head today. It's funny how something as visceral as dental pain can drown out the other stuff. That's probably for the best.

I have some special powers, in case you never heard. I can identify the composer of a piece of music if I've ever heard that composer before, even if I've never heard that particular piece of music. I can tell if someone is a born-agan Christian the instant I meet them. And I can smell a lie, as surely as if a can of tuna had been opened.

Okay, enough of my cryptic blather. I'm going to the House of Pain now. See you on the other side. Fuck, I hate The Chair.

April 24, 2006

Chopper Trouble continued

It was last Thursday, which now feels like a month ago, that I went to the dentist to end the bad bad bad bad bad bad pain in my mouth. He gave me antibiotics that were supposed to kill the infection and relieve the pain, with the help of basic over the counter pain killers, so that I could make it to my root canal appointment next Thursday.

It is now Monday, and the pain never got any better.

For four days, I have been dealing with this. ("Dealing" including being a giant grumpy pain in the ass, I'm sure.) I was out of town over the weekend, shooting a wedding, so even if my dentist was open over the weekend, it wouldn't have mattered. (I keep referring to him as "my dentist", as if he did anything for me other than scare the crap out of me with a big monster proposed bill and give me a prescription for amoxicillin, which I thought was an anthrax treatment. Well, I don't believe I have anthrax, so bully for me.)

Four days, and another three days to go? Fuck that. I called the office this morning and told them my sad tale.

"Have you been taking Ibuprofen with the antibiotic?" the nurse asked.


"Have you been taking double the recommended dosage? Dr. Pain Merchant thinks you might not be taking enough."

"Um, I've been taking a LOT more than it says to." I didn't tell her that I also took a bunch of Tylenol 3 with codeine that a friend gave me, which did no good at all. I might as well have been popping Skittles.

It was as if she read my mind. "Well, he doesn't want to give you Tylenol 3 with codeine, since that will just mask the pain."

(Which it doesn't. I could hear my tooth laughing at the Tylenol 3. A tiny little muffled chortle in my mouth.)

In the end, they bumped some people and got me an appointment for tomorrow. (That should make me feel bad except, you know, fuck 'em. I have needs.) One more sleepless night and then blessed relief.

Anyone who knows my past history in the Chair and is watching me now get excited about getting a root canal must think they've wandered into BizarroBlogWorld.

I hope they'll take a check.

April 22, 2006

Been better, been worse.

Target, by Luke Chueh
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Well, it's been a mixed bag of a week. On one hand, people have been slightly more hateful than usual, Schuyler is sick and coughing like a chain smoker, and of course my mouth feels like I've been snacking on glass.

On the other hand, work is going really well, and my pro-blogging career kicked off nicely, by golly. Best of all, I talked to my agent tonight.

And yeah, I still feel like a bit of an asshole when I say that. What are you going to do?

The bad news is that two editors who were very interested in my book changed publishers and are no longer able to publish memoirs. (Imagine, they'd rather change jobs than turn down my agent. I told you she was good.) The good news? Two more editors are looking as we speak, and she's fairly confident that she'll have even better news soon.

I'd be more anxious about it if I actually had a finished book.

We discussed my diabetes diagnosis and whether it should change the direction of my book, and we agreed that it would just be a distraction. Schuyler's monster is both unique and poignant, she said. Diabetes is common and boring.

"No one wants to read about your diabetes, Robert," she said.

Heh. Like I didn't know that already.

April 21, 2006

And... we're live.

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I am now officially The Man over at Diabetes Notes.

I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Hsien-Hsien Lei and Rhys Alexander, the two people most responsible for gettting me on board over at b5media. Go check out their work, too. Good good stuff.

So that's all I had this morning. Please stop by and see me sometime. I think this is going to be fun. Hsien didn't even blink when I asked if I could use "Smart living with a dumb pancreas" as the blog's tagline. That's a good sign.

I'll shut up now, because as a wise man once said, "Nobody likes a kissass."

April 20, 2006

Chopper Trouble

A couple of days ago, I got a toothache.

Now, when I say I got a toothache, I don't want you to imagine me suddenly putting my hand to my cheek and saying "Goodness, that smarts!" Think more of me running to the bathroom mirror and looking in my mouth for the wasp that had clearly snuck into my mouth and was stinging my gum.

After determining that ignoring it was not in fact going to make the pain go away, I went to the dentist today. As some of you know, I hate hate HATE going to the dentist, which is funny since I've had to spend so many delightful hours in the chair. I'm told that I got all my childhood diseases at roughly the same time, at the age of four or five, and I got them bad. I had chicken pox on the bottoms of my feet and inside my mouth, for example. As a result, I was told by my childhood dentist, my permanent teeth developed into little 90 pound weaklings at the beach, constantly having sand kicked in their little teeth faces.

After sitting through a meeting with my boss this morning and smiling happily while resisting the urge to cry, swear or throw myself out the window from the pain, I called 1-800-DENTIST, told them my insurance carrier and where my office was, and they found someone who would take me right then, just run out to the car and go go go.

So I went went went. And like every other time I've gone to the dentist, the news was much worse than I thought it would be.

I was confused because the tooth that was hurting was a crown, and I figured it must have had a root canal at some point. But no, it was a crown on a tooth with a functioning nerve, and thanks to a poorly attached crown when it was originally done, there was decay and infection underneath. To make matters worse, it had spread to the two teeth on either side, one of which DID have a root canal and a crown but would now need a new crown.

So the total required work to Rob's Mouth of Horrors: TWO root canals and THREE crowns. The total cost will be about five grand, and my insurance stops paying after a thousand.

I wish I had a cute, pithy ending to this, but my mouth still hurts. My wallet's feeling sort of woozy too, now that you mention it.

April 17, 2006

Mister Fancy Pants Pro Blogger

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Well, it's been announced on another site now, so I can tell you the thing I was being all vague about the other day. Beginning in May, I will become the host of Diabetes Notes, a diabetes blog (well, yeah, you think?) on b5media, "a blogging network by bloggers from around the world covering the subjects they are most passionate about". Well, there you go. I think I'm pretty passionate about diabetes, even if my passion is in exclaiming "Lo, the Beedies, they doth suck my ass."

The folks at b5media have been very cool and seem excited about having me on board. I'm excited, too, even though at this point, my experience with diabetes is more akin to a cautionary tale than an expert opinion. Well, perhaps that's the draw. I think I've accepted the possibility of becoming a trainwreck, particularly if I'm getting paid. Perhaps I'll have a weekly feature called "Don't Eat This!"

So watch for my debut in May. I can't wait to talk about the gila monster drool again.

April 16, 2006

I'm too sexy for my shoes

Off the Wall
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Well, almost two weeks after the fact (and a week after all my shoes were sold and shipped off), I got a response from eBay about my naughty shoe listing. I thought it was funny at the time because it seemed pretty obvious that in explaining why they delisted a couple of shoes from my auction, they accidentally sent the "Materials adult in nature or otherwise not appropriate for minors (individuals under 18 years of age) may only be listed in eBay's Mature Audiences area" response instead of "Your shoes are too nasty to sell to other humans".

Turns out that no, they got it right.


Thank you for writing to eBay with your concerns. I am happy to help.

I understand your frustration at having your items ended, however, I carefully reviewed your account, the auctions in question and current eBay policy regarding Used Clothing/Mature Audiences and determined that the correct action was taken.

Since there are sellers who list shoes as fetish items, eBay has adopted strict guidelines for the listing of used shoes.

The following are some examples of what is considered inappropriate in listings on the general site:

* Marketing the person who wore the clothing, rather than the clothing item itself. ("TYLER'S used/worn shoes", "MY used socks", "JOCK WORN/USED", "FRAT BOY WORN/USED", "I have worn this shirt daily as I work out", etc.).

* Any reference to odor or stains.

* No reference to "fetish", "special request" or other sexual innuendo is allowed.

* Indicating the item has not been or will not be properly cleaned (any reference to odor, shipping in a zip lock bag, etc.).

* Images showing the sellers face, whole body or that are sexually suggestive or otherwise inappropriate. In listings for used shoes or socks, the image cannot show above the knee, and the foot must be totally inside of the item being sold (no bare foot in a sock auction; no foot outside shoe even partially, in a shoe auction, etc.).

Any extraneous information such as "Then, about a year ago, my feet started hurting. For some reason, I suddenly couldn't wear my Chuck Taylors or my Vans, forced instead to retreat into the comfort of my big leather Airwalks instead. A few weeks ago, I found out that I have diabetes and will never again be able to wear my hip and happenin' shoes from before. Sad story, I know. Every time I walk into my closet, my old shoes are there, mocking me. It's time to get rid of them and move on with my new life, one with trips to the salad bar and fake foods and no alcohol (no, really), and most of all, with ugly new shoes for my big sad diabetic feet. But don't weep for me, gentle buyer friend with unusually large feet, because my fun happy shoes are going to walk again, perhaps on YOUR big dogs."

It has been my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing eBay and have a great day.


Community Watch Team
eBay Trust & Safety

So really, according to the rules, NONE of my shoes should have been fair game. I managed to slip most of my fetish items past The Man and into the hands of sleazy shoe-fuckers. I made a little money, too. Add pornographer to my list of accomplishments.

Incidentally, if you did buy a pair of my shoes and are currently in a relationship with them, you really are encouraged to keep that information to yourself. I'm just here to bring you together. After that, it's all you.

Thank you, Easter Bunny! Bock bock!

Bunny Ears, by Luke Chueh
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Well, it's Easter, a holiday that falls on a Sunday, so you're even less likely to be reading this than usual. In fact, I'll bet no one's reading this but me. I am all alone. I could take off my pants and you wouldn't even know it. Ahhh. Much more comfortable.

Not being Christians, Easter isn't a big day for us. It's funny how many people ask us if we celebrate Easter anyway. You know, for Schuyler. And I suppose it's a fair question, since we celebrate Christmas, or at least the holiday season. (Now that I'm not in retail, it's going to be harder to wage the War on Christmas with my insidious "Happy holidays" greeting.)

I guess the big difference is that Christmas celebrates hope and peace and harmony and good stuff that even us heathens can get behind. Easter's harder to explain. "Yeah, we killed Jesus, but he didn't hold it against us, and then he turned into a zombie, the Greatest Zombie of All, and so we play with rabbits and chickens and eat chocolate eggs. Any questions?"

I suppose we could make it about the beginning of spring, but in Texas, that happens in February. Springtime in Texas means that the hot steering wheel starts to make you cry again.

So yeah, it's complicated being an agnostic at Easter, but that doesn't mean the rest of you can't have a fun day. Julie works today, so I'll spend the day with Schuyler, probably playing with the baby ducks outside (a very Easterly behavior) or watching King Kong again, which is only like Easter in that we've watched it like seventy times since we got it, so it's sort of like he keeps getting resurrected.

Anyway, whether you are celebrating the beginning of spring or the day when Christ rolled back the stone, stepped out and saw his shadow (Damn, another six weeks of winter!), I hope you have a nice day today. It's the one day of the year you can probably wear pastels without getting your ass kicked and your lunch money stolen, although really, why take that chance?

(Note: If you were offended by this entry, I really do apologize. I'm just having a little fun. If it makes you feel better, imagine me in the Lake of Fire, drinking Diet Coke and listening to conservative talk radio for all eternity. Welcome to Hell, here's your accordion...)

April 14, 2006

Talking about stuff

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I got interviewed!

The site is a diabetic blog, and so most of the questions were about my own experiences with the Beedies. I've done some interviews in the past where the questions made me cringe, but this time around I really liked them, and I tried to answer them as honestly as I could. I don't think I came across as particularly knowledgeable, which of course is sadly accurate, but at the very least I hope I seemed like a nice enough guy who might just get his diabetic crap together before someone has to saw off his feet. In any case, I was very pleased with how it turned out, and it might just lead to some more cool stuff. I'm being vague about that last bit because I know it pisses you off.

It's been a weird few days for me. Yesterday I had an outright bad day. I keep reading that it's bad for diabetics to skip meals, and yesterday I discovered that yes, it is in fact not a good idea for diabetics, or at least this diabetic, to go all day without eating. About the time I left work for the long drive home, my energy dropped dramatically, my feet started to feel like someone was stabbing them with knives, and I got dizzy. As soon as I walked in the door, I fell on the bed and passed out for about half an hour.

Julie found me and (with some effort) woke me up, and I groggily took my blood sugar, expecting it to be badly elevated. Weirdly, though, it was unusually low, almost where it was supposed to me. I had dinner and almost instantly felt much better. I have no idea what happened, although I am pretty sure it was high and then dropped like crazy for some reason. What reason? Who the hell knows? Not me.

So yeah, my body has become a mysterious and hostile organism. Today I didn't mess around. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I got some exercise with Schuyler, who was home from school thanks to the kickoff of Zombie Jesus Weekend. I bought her a little pink soccer ball for three bucks, and it was worth every one of those three hundred pennies. I feel normal tonight, healthy even.

So there's one more bit of advice that didn't make it into the interview. Eat some damn food.

April 11, 2006

Welcome to America

There's been so much in the news lately about the proposed immigration legislation being debated in Washington, especially a House bill approved in December that would have made it a felony both to be in the country illegally and even to provide charitable assistance to illegal immigrants. There's been a lot of talk about enforcing the laws we have and making sure the immigrants follow the rules we have in place, and it reminded me of a case in which our laws were successfully enforced and the system worked.

The case in point involved a large group of immigrants who were trying to get into this country despite the fact that most of them didn't speak English and they had no jobs or families waiting for them. Most of them had applied for visas to enter the country, but they chose not to wait before starting their journey to the United States.

After a protracted legal battle, however, the State Department told these immigrant wannabes that they had to "await their turns on the waiting list and then qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States." They were sent back to their point of origin to await the legal process in order to become American citizens according to the rules.

So it was that after getting so close to their American goal that they could see the lights of Miami from the deck of the German transatlantic liner St. Louis, over nine hundred Jewish refugees from Germany and eastern Europe were returned to Europe in 1939 after attempting to enter the United States by way of Cuba after fleeing the Third Reich.

Despite appeals by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, President Roosevelt chose not to issue an executive order admitting the refugees, and the 1924 Immigration Act was enforced. The passengers eventually made their way to Belgium and were relocated to refugee centers in various European countries, many of which eventually fell under German occupation. A number of the passengers of the St. Louis were eventually granted their American visas; many of them had already disappeared into the camps by that time.

Look, I'm not telling you what to believe about the current immigration debate. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it myself, to be perfectly honest. And I'm not saying that the situations faced by European Jews in the 1930s is even remotely the same as that faced by Central American and Asian immigrants today. It's not the same at all, although extreme Third World poverty is certainly its own kind of tyranny.

My point is simply that if we approach this issue simply as one of law and protection of some perceived notion of American status quo, we ignore the human factor. We miss the whole reason that so many people risk so much to try to make a future in this country. In missing that, we miss what it really means to be an American. And unless we live on a reservation, our ancestors probably wouldn't be too thrilled with us for that.

April 9, 2006

A Different Kind of Normal

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I forget who it was now (sorry!), but a few months ago someone pointed me to a new parenting magazine called Wondertime that contained a series of stories about a special needs family and how they cope with a variety of issues. I decide to give it a try, and the first issue finally arrived. Turns out the magazine only comes out a few times a year, so the issue I got was actually the premier issue.

The story in question is "A Different Kind of Normal", by Charlotte Meryman, a writer who appears to focus largely on parenting and special needs topics. Her series for Wondertime follows a Massachusetts family and their 4 year-old son, Jimmy Foard, who has a rare genetic disorder called Alfi's symdrome and also autism spectrum disorder.

I am particularly interested in this series because in the next installment, Meryman will explore Jimmy's quest to find his own voice, through speech therapy and an augmentative alternative communication device, possibly one like Schuyler's Big Box of Words.

The magazine may be hard for you to find, and there's not yet an online edition you can read, but the story is worth taking the trouble to find and read, not only if you're a special needs parent, but also for anyone who wants to understand what we go through.

The opening paragraphs in particular articulate perfectly one of the more heartbreaking aspects of socializing a broken child.

The moment she reads "Dress as a Superhero" on the invitation, Michelle Foard is sure her 4-year-old son, Jimmy, is headed for yet another birthday party disaster. "They'll have," Michelle guesses, "all the things he doesn't like." Like the dreaded bounce house. With his low muscle tone and poor balance, Jimmy hates being jostled on such a billowy surface. Or an arts and crafts table. It's too frustrating; Jimmy's fingers never seem to do what he wants them to do. The way things usually unfold, when no activities click for him, is that Jimmy retreats into himself. This pains Michelle and her husband, Jim, for it defeats the purpose of braving the party in the first place: connecting with other kids.

Yet this doesn't stop Michelle from RSVPing a firm yes. They will go, but with one concession: She'll intentionally arrive late in hopes of minimizing his time there. When the day comes, she keeps Jimmy quiet at home all morning to conserve both their energies and fights off a sense of quiet doom. At 3:00, she slips a Superman T-shirt over her son's head, waves good-bye to Jim and their almost 2-year-old, Maddie, and lifts him into his car seat. And they set off.

Michelle is determined that Jimmy go to as many parties as he can now. "Because I figure at some point," she says, "the invitations will stop."

That knowledge, it must be said, is one of the most piercing parts of parenting a child with special needs. Differences may not matter much to preschoolers, but as kids grow up and friendships cement, the child who can't easily play with others becomes the child who gets left out. Jimmy has been asked to a few playdates, but already Michelle has noted that unless the mom is a friend of hers, "there's no repeat."


Schuyler's new look
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Schuyler wanted red hair.

Schuyler got red hair. Holy crap.

This week we received a letter from her school, informing us that there is a proposal to go to school uniforms next year. The letter included a ballot for every household to vote and return to the school. Our problem is that we are not in agreement on the issue. Julie thinks it's a good idea; I am completely unconvinced.

Any thoughts?

April 6, 2006

Something to think about

I was reading an article in Child Magazine this morning that I thought was interesting. According to the article, there is new evidence to suggest that spanking your kids does more harm than good, regardless of the culture in which you live.

Researchers at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University studied 366 mothers and children in China, India, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines and Thailand. They found that even in those countries where spanking is the cultural norm, the kids who are often physically disciplined are more likely to be anxious and aggressive than those who received either less physical punishment or none at all.

"Children imitate their parents," says lead study author Jennifer Lansford, Ph.D. "If their parent uses hitting to deal with a situation, children think it's okay for them to do it, too."

Paradoxically, this effect may be even more pronounced in places like the United States where spanking is no longer considered to be part of the cultural norm of parenting. "If a child knows most of her friends are spanked, it may feel less strange or frightening," says Dr. Lansford. "But if it isn't the norm, she may feel rejected by her parents or imagine she's a bad kid."

April 4, 2006


Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I'm sitting in McDonald's Playland here in charming North Dallas, Texas. (Not entirely sure which one, either. I live in a world of interchangeable North Dallas suburbs.) I'm watching Schuyler play, and interact with the other kids, and it's fascinating.

She starts off trying to play with three little pretty princesses, all of them carrying orange-haired little dolls from their Happy Meals. Schuyler's possession of an idential doll does not seem to be granting her entrance into their circle, however, and for a good ten minutes I watch her chase them around as they intentionally shun her, turning their backs on her and running away when she tries to talk to them. I can't make out the words they're saying to her, but the tone is unmistakably unkind.

Schuyler's a little doll herself, you know, and she either doesn't realize they are blowing her off, or she just doesn't give a shit.

She takes it in stride, I do not. It's hard, watching little girls be little girls to each other, which often means being horrible little shits. (For the adult version, go visit any Attached Parenting discussion forum.) I want to interfere, I want to say mean things to these little girls and make them run off crying, just for shunning the Chubbin. I don't. I sit here and I watch.

And when I sit and watch long enough, I see the thing that often happens with Schuyler. I see her shrug it off and play with other kids, and I see her begin to attract a little following, the kids who see that she's different but don't yet know enough to treat her like a freak. They'll learn one day, I'm afraid, but not just yet. I see the Schuyler Pied Piper Effect kick in, and before long I'm watching the little mob that inevitably ends up following her, like she's the strange mute drum major in the Weird Kids Parade.

Then it happens. The snotty little princesses that treated her like a leper half an hour ago want to play with her now. She has popularity, and they want some of it.

And to her inexhaustible credit, Schuyler lets them, without hesitation. I am a tiny bit frustrated that they are getting away with it, but I am mostly proud of her for being a bigger person than any of us.

Earlier, we were at the drugstore and she repeated a refrain that's been going for about a week now. Although this photo makes it look otherwise, Schuyler's hair color has faded, as it was supposed to (although, and this is important, not completely), and she wants it redone, this time in red.

"I want red hair." She's been saying it for about a week now.

We went to the aisle where we picked up the last hair color experiment (L'Oreal Color Pulse Concentrated Non-Permanent Color Mousse, for those of you who care, and I assume that's everyone), and she immediately grabbed the one she's been looking at every time we go in. This time it's "Red Pulse", and by golly, it's RED. Nothing subtle here.

So fine, no problem. No ammonia, no peroxide, washes out in eight to ten shampoos (except that it totally doesn't), safe for your hair and loads of fun. There's just one problem this time. She made a special request at a father/daughter bonding exercise.

"Red hair Daddy."

I'm not accustomed to denying Schuyler her requests, particularly the ones she makes on her device. But, um, this might have to be the first.

Well, okay. Maybe just a hint of red. Maybe. She did ask nicely.

The Seedy Side of eBay

Forbidden naughty shoes
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I finally listed my used Vans and Chuck Taylors on eBay this weekend. It's the first time I've ever listed something on eBay, but I believe I got it mostly right. I think I was pretty straight-forward in my descriptions of the shoes. I don't think anyone is going to open a box and say "Hey, wait a minute. These aren't new!"

Here's what you won't see there, however. There are two pairs of shoes that I listed that I described as "well worn". I didn't pull any punches about their condition, but I listed them because in both cases, when I've worn them in public, I've had people ask about them and tell me that they aren't in production anymore. One of them, a pair of black checkered Vans high tops (yeah, Vans, not Converse) have been especially coveted.

When I went to eBay check on how things were going, I found that these shoes had been deleted. I wasn't 100% shocked, since I know they have rules about the condition of used clothes that are being sold, and while I've seen some nasty nasty stuff listed on eBay, these were pretty worn out shoes I was listing.

What puzzled me was the reason for the deletion, which occurred due to "miscategorization":

Materials adult in nature or otherwise not appropriate for minors (individuals under 18 years of age) may only be listed in eBay's Mature Audiences area.

Wow. It didn't even occur to me to market directly to that lucrative shoe fetish crowd.

April 2, 2006

The Gift of Quackage

You know, you can go into a weekend with crappy old health problems and brand new health problems and crappy old money concerns and both old and new child worries and inexplicable exhaustion and your old friend depression. A full bag.

But when it's 80 degrees and sunny outside, and there are baby ducks in the pond outside your front door, I can tell you that eventually you're going to grab a bag of saltines, a camera and a happy little jabbery kid, and you're going to go play with the ducks.

Sometimes you need some breaks in life, and you might not get those breaks, at least not right away.

But you get baby ducks, and you appreciate them.