Sunday, July 4, 2010

The past lives of Maisie Beth

When Maisie was in Kindergarten, her very Waldorf teacher (like you could look up "Waldorf Kindergarten Teacher" in the dictionary and this woman's picture would be there) told me that she thought that she and Maisie must have known each other in a previous life. She said that she reacted unusually strongly to Maisie and that Maisie could get under her skin in ways no other child she'd taught could. She also said she thought that Maisie must have been royalty in a previous life because she had a funny habit of proclaiming things as though there were servants or peasants waiting to do her bidding.

Um, okay. I adored this teacher, so I just nodded and smiled. Sure. Maybe there is some merit to the past life theory. Who am I to say someone else is crazy? I'm sure not very many people consider me too sane. So, okay. Interesting idea to shelve in the back of my head.

Fast forward to now. We were invited to a dear friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I had never been to a synagogue, never been to a Bat Mitzvah and adore the tenacious not so little girl who had busted her backside learning the Torah and Hebrew for her chance to come of age. We had to go. We drove the 6 hours to the city where the event was to take place, got everyone ready and I gave the standard mother lecture about what to expect and how to behave. Julia was for sure going to go to the service (2 hours in length) because her bff is the younger sister of the girl we had come to see. Maisie wanted to come too and insisted she was capable of sitting quietly for 2 hours. Fine. I felt I could provide enough entertainment in the form of books and paper and a pen to help her make it through.

However. We found seats in the synagogue, inadvertently sitting in the wrong section - someone give this oblivious me a map next time! - but the woman we sat next to was lovely and chatted with Maisie for a moment before the service started. The service began and we pulled out the Jewish prayer and song books, which read right to left and are in Hebrew and English. There were lots of songs, but only the words, not the music, was in the book and nearly every song included a lot of repeating certain lines and skipping around. I was lost and settled for just smiling and enjoying the sound of everyone around me singing. Oddly, there was an extra voice I was not expecting. Maisie. She happily sang most of the songs. She knew the tunes and a fair amount of the words. Hebrew words. Huh? At one point she noticed me looking at her (and not singing) and asked me in her not so quiet voice "Am I supposed to be singing?". I whispered that I didn't know the words as well as she did but that she was to carry on. She did. Beautifully. It was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.

Well. I suppose it is possible that Maisie just is musically gifted enough to be able to wing it when she is in a situation like a Bat Mitzvah in an unfamiliar language. But how did she know the words? And the mystery of when and where songs repeated? I have no idea. None. Some things defy logical explanations. The best I can figure, is that some time between being royalty and being Maisie, this girl was Jewish. And though she has developed an intense love of pork products, she has kept the part of her that knows and understands Hebrew and old songs. It's definitely in the realm of weird, but it seems possible. What other explanation is there?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Last Child in the Yard?

If you haven't read "Last Child in the Woods", you should. However, kids in nature is one thing, what happened to kids playing in the yard? My children are the only voices on our street on any given day. No one else of any age is even outside. It's like a ghost town. Occasionally a silent adult will walk by with a dog or two. Or a bike will pass. That's it. Where is everyone?

My college age neighbor came up to complain last week about how loud the kids were. It was 3:00 in the afternoon on the first really warm day this summer and the kids were whooping and hollering in the sprinklers on the lawn. Actually the neighbor first screamed "SHUT UP!" from her yard. I had no idea she meant us, I thought there was a boyfriend or roommate spat in progress. Anyway, this person informed me that we were bad neighbors, I should be ashamed of myself for being such a terrible parent as to allow my children to be loud outside and I couldn't possibly know how hard it is to study physics and calculus when people are being loud.

Huh. I didn't even know what to say. Still don't. Obviously she was kind of right. The peace and quiet of the neighborhood is broken daily and regularly by my kids. But, and it's a big but, they're kids. They are supposed to be loud. They are supposed to be outside. You cannot play in the sprinkler quietly. Or inside. You can however, study at the library. Guaranteed to be loud child (and loud adult) free. So. What to do? Do I micro-manage the kids outside so that they only make appropriately loud noises. No fighting, no screeching, no loud games of Harry Potter or howling animals? Do I proceed as if she never came up and let the kids do their thing, letting them work out their arguments loudly when necessary, holler if the get ambushed with the hose, and play whatever games the dream up, no matter how loud? What do my elderly neighbors next door think? The older neighbors next door with grown children, what about them? I don't know.

Right now I am gently reminding them about not screaming at each other if they are angry, a good skill for inside and outside play. I am not asking them to say "Expecto Patronum!" quietly when they are playing Harry Potter, if the noise level is necessary for their play, I'm not interfering. I'm not asking them to play inside. Kids will be kids. It's kinda their job. I cannot and will not discourage outside play. I can only hope that people are tolerant and understanding or in this person's case, eventually grow up, have some children of her own and finally get it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Musings of an angry Mom at Midnight

My daughter was poisoned for $4. Four dollars. The difference in cost between a mercury free single dose vial of vaccine and a multidose vial with the mercury based preservative, thimerosal. Four dollars. My prefect, already talking, funny baby disappeared before my eyes. In her place was a child who did not speak, make eye contact, smile at you, play with you or even play at all. She preferred to be in her room alone. In the dark. Alone.

I have often said that Maisie was not on this planet when she had autism. Just joking of course. I certainly remember cleaning poop off the walls and hours and hours in therapy offices waiting and worrying. However, as I learn more about the Anthroposophical Waldorf model of development, I wonder about the theory of children "not being fully in their bodies". It was as though Maisie had left her body completely. Her soul or spirit or whatever just floated out during that time. Where did it go? Why, when so many children don't recover from autism, did Maisie make a full recovery?

The Waldorf teachers talk about choice. Children choosing to come to a particular family from the angels. I can't say I really understand it, but still. The idea that Maisie left and then chose to come back - it just floors me. She came back. Somehow, by choice or luck or faith or Divine intervention, my daughter came back from her personal black hole. She came back. To chronic stomach pain. To a family stressed and wrung out from the unthinkable of having a tragedy explode with the diagnosis - "incurable, untreatable autism". She came back to a mother who had become a completely different person. She came back. And I feel, as the one who dragged her back down into her body, back to this planet and tied her feet to the earth, so much responsibility to make sure that she does not regret it. I am her mother. It is my job.

Maisie's teacher and I had a very circular conversation this afternoon. For the first time ever, Maisie has a teacher who does not "get" her. She just doesn't. Waldorf teachers stay with their class from 1st to 8th grade, so this is a big problem. Maisie's teacher told me today that the first time she saw me, I was angry. And she feels I've been a flood of negativity ever since. She's kind of right. I was angry the first time she saw me. I have not been steadily mad since then, but nearly. This woman and I do not speak the same language. She is hearing dolphin clicks and squeals when I talk. And I am completely unable to find a way to explain anything to her. The teacher feels that the problems come from my relationship with her - she and I don't get on, so Maisie is suffering. I feel that she and I would not have a problem if she an Maisie did not. Chicken or egg, which is it?

So now what? It seems I ask that a lot. I don't have a plan B for educating Maisie. She is not an easy child. She's an opinionated old lady, mother hen, stalwart soldier with an iron will and a little girl. I am starting an attempt to move her up a grade to another class. I don't know if it will be successful or not. In some ways, Maisie would be fine - she is almost certainly a genius. Literally. She's amazingly gifted in math, she reading fluently, and thinks much farther outside "the box" than most adults could dream of. But I worry about her socially. She is fiercely loyal but has a low tolerance for groups. She always has. She loves 1 really good friend at a time, with casual friends occasionally thrown in. Would she be able to bond with the older kids? In which way will I do her the least harm? Move her? Or leave her where she is?

Julia's class studied Native Americans of the Willamette Valley as part of her curriculum this year. One of the topics was "totem animals" (look it up - google can explain it better than I can, I bet). I was with some friends last weekend and someone said something about weasels. Out of my mouth came the spontaneous thought "weasels are my totem animal". We looked it up. Whoa. "The weasel is the most ferocious of all mammals and will even attack humans when it's young are threatened". Guess I was right.

I wrote a chapter in a book called "Mother Warriors". I am the weasel. And I am going to keep fighting for my daughter. I am her mother. Angry or not, it's my job.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wildflower walk

It was the annual Wildflower Festival at Mt. Pisgah (still can't say that without giggling) yesterday. I found out too late to plan to spend the day there. I had sent Dave and the kiddos off on a bike ride, as I was once again, having a moment about the Waldorf school. (I'm not quite sure why that organization can piss me off so fast and easily. Obviously I need to work on this.) Anyway, long story short, I sent the family off, with a minor detoured meet-up at Old Navy (whole 'nother post there) and ran my errands (WHAT? Still no organic GFCF chix nuggets at either Safeway! Crap! Now I have to actually try to cook some myself?) and came home around 1:30 for lunch. Sat down at the computer and saw that the Wildflower Fest was on until 4:00. Should I go? By myself (nice and not so nice at the same time)? Could I stand to be amongst a flock of people right then? Could I "just look" at the plant sale? Did I really want to take a guided wildflower walk or just take a solitary unguided walk and find my own flowers?

If you guessed "not go" - ding, ding, ding - you're right! I rustled up $10 from my "emergency" piggy bank just in case I changed my mind or the trail I wanted to walk was too crowded up with crazy people (or worse - someone I knew from the -dun, dun, dun, dun - Waldorf school). But I was in luck. Mine was the only car at the trail spur parking and I only saw 3 people the 2 hours I walked. No one I knew. I did however, as it was my intention, see lots of wildflowers. The fawn lilies were past, I saw seed pods and leaves, but no more flowers. I made a mental note to come back for seeds in a couple weeks. I saw trilliums, nearly past but still lovely by the creek. Lots of camas, Oregon iris, Siberian candyflowers, inside-out flower, rose checker-mallow, lupines, wild roses, red columbines, checker lilies, the uncommon, unusually furry flower called "Elegant Cat's Ear". But the most lovely of all was the lovely "calypso orchid" aka calypso bulbosa.

For a better view of this native Oregon orchid, I waded knee deep into poison oak, which, truth be told, is quite pretty this time of year as well. Shiny new red leaves and waxy, glistening green leaves just waiting to get you with their toxic poisons. Kind of like the Waldorf school (just kidding, couldn't resist). Anyway. Ahem, back to topic, the calypso orchid is just gorgeous, tiny and delicate and not sturdy enough to transplant - it has some sort of symbiotic relationship with the soil fungi it grows with. Plus, it seems to enjoy having poison oak as a neighbor, which is an effective security system, to say the least.

All in all, it was a fabulous last-day-of-the-weekend-before-the-rain-starts-again walk. I have not, to my great surprise, come down with any poison oak rashes. I was as careful as I could be but off the trail getting closer looks at flowers far too often to be truly safe. I don't recall ever having poison ivy as a child in the south, but surely I did. Perhaps enough time has past for my immune system to have forgotten the toxic oils of the "Poison" plant family and my rash will come in a few days. Or perhaps, not likely but one can dream, maybe I am one of the few who are immune to urushiol oils. (Stop laughing - it could happen).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weirdness of technology

I woke up this morning and sat down with my cup of coffee at the computer. I got on Facebook and found out a friend had died. Her husband had posted that she was cremated yesterday. She passed on Saturday. I had no idea. I thought it was a weird status update joke. Then I read the comments and letters people had written on her page. I'm in shock.

Tracy was an Autism Mom friend. We met through a mutual friend whose daughter was one of Maisie's first therapy friends. Tracy has a son Maisie's age. He's not recovered, but close. When I was in the thick of the autism community we emailed, read each others post on the yahoo autism groups, shared ideas and inspirations and referred parents of newly diagnosed parents back and forth between us and our fellow parents in the storm. The autism community's best resource has always been parents. We are how we stay sane, informed, enlightened and educated and we teach and pray for recovery. For every child.

Tracy found me on Facebook last year. It was nice to hear from her and catch up. We shared how our kiddos were doing. Shared funny stories. She sent me a new parent to mentor.

Would I have ever found out she was gone without Facebook? How long would it have taken for me to cross paths back into Seattle's autism community in a way that I would have met someone who knew and knew I didn't know? How strange to find out about a friend's death on a social networking site. But how would it have been to have gone on for years not feeling the loss and hole she has left behind?

Tracy, I will miss you. Thank you for being my friend. Godspeed.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Here's Julia's party:
Opening presents from the fam. Look at that poor tiny dog hitched to the dog sled!
Uno Spin!
She wanted the AG "get better" set so she could play triage with her dolls. Crippling injury, how fun!
Julia wanted an ice cream cake. Maisie and I made this:
Craft project at her slumber party - AG doll pillows and sleeping bags.
Jess and Emily had too much wine.
Strawberry shortcake for the friends party.
A random shot of Tate-o. He always wants to play Star Wars with the girls when they play AG.


I was wondering, am I depressed because:

a. it's rainy winter in Oregon?
b. Andy Wakefield was vilified by the dastardly UK General Medical Council?
c. there is no good produce to buy in January?
d. Tate refused to cooperate, as in sit quietly, at the past 2 school assemblies and I had to miss the girls performances?
e. my name means "dark" ("dark truth" even with my middle name)and I was born on a Wednesday ("full of woe") and thus a touch of melancholy is unavoidable?
f. all of the above.

Thank you to free radio on for giving me October Project, Susie Suh, A Fine Frenzy and Corrinne May to listen to this week. Good music makes everything better.

That and a glass of wine.