Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Aspie Digest – December 1, 2005

It’s about dang time, my fellow Aspies (and families)! Finally, Goldie gets her head out of the rear end and manages to produce a new issue.

Currently reading

I’m currently plowing through this book called “Parenting Your Asperger Child”, by the Drs. Alan Sohn and Cathy Grayson. It was recommended to me by a few people in our local Aspergers support group. The most interesting part of the book to me, so far, has been chapter 3 – “Identifying Asperger Subtypes”. It lists all the different variations of Asperger kids. I have determined I12 to be a “Logic Boy” and myself as a kid/teen to have been a “Predominately Fantasy Child”. The description of the fantasy child fits my childhood personality to a T:

“As he is eating dinner, sitting in class, doing his homework, or talking to you, there is another tape playing in his head. And this tape is all about fantasy. He does word-for-word scripting of dialogue and scenes in his head, combines different ones together, or makes up his own based on something he has seen or read.”

This is the story of my childhood! My poor Mom had to hide my favorite books from me when I was a kid. Of course, the authors go on to add, “Medication is almost always necessary”. Whew, thank God this book wasn’t available in the USSR in the 70’s, and I have managed to grow up without meds.

The book’s last chapter, “Teaching the Asperger student”, could be helpful to parents like me (and schools like my son’s) that have no clear plan on how to make adjustments for an Asperger student in school. My impression from the book, however, has been that it mainly deals with younger children (and I cannot think of a way to apply it to my teen), and the underlying assumption seems to be that the students are all in a Special Ed setting. Only in the very end does the book mention “unsupervised mainstreaming”.

My impression in general has been that the book is about “how to make your Asperger kid normal”, whereas I haven’t yet decided whether I even want to “make him normal”. He may have better chances of having a fulfilled life and making a better contribution to society just the way he is, except with a few minor improvements. Even if I’m wrong here, I don’t want to make him into someone completely different, which in my opinion is what the book teaches the parents to do. Then again, I may have missed a few fine points, since I was reading this book and Harry Potter novels at the same time.

Our Trials and Tribulations

I12 and I are going to meet the Locally Famous Therapist next Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed. The woman takes my medical insurance, but not my mental-health one. I spent quite some time on the phone with both insurance companies, and judging from the information I got, it is possible to get coverage in this situation, but it won’t be easy. If we do not get coverage, we’ll have to leave after a few months and find somebody else, unless of course I win the lottery, which is highly unlikely since I’m not playing.

I have a lot of questions for the new therapist, hope that I will get answers.

I12 is currently happily merged with his computer. He takes turns programming and playing video games, but mostly programming, or else he’s designing new algorithms. I haven’t seen him doing anything else (except for homework) for a while now. He lost all contact with humanity since he disconnected himself from Newgrounds BBS and from the Internet a few weeks ago. I miss his posts on NG BBS, they were interesting and different and used to brighten up my day in a weird way.

He wants to start his own software company, design, develop, and sell computer games, and become rich. To that end, he started developing games. Very soon, he realized that it would be even better to develop a game engine, complete with its own scripting language, that would allow users to develop their own games. So he started working on that. Then he decided to write his own programming language, and use that to develop the game engine. After about a month of that, he decided that first, he needs to create his own operating system, “because Windows sucks”. (I don’t exactly disagree with the second part, but, really!) Next thing we know, he’s taken his computer apart and is making hardware changes, to accommodate the new operating system. Long story short, the computer still works, although it no longer fits in the case and is currently kinda spread all over I12’s desk; the programming language is in the works, and can already be used to program simple math operations and display “Hello, world!”; and I am not sure where I12 is on the operating system.

While this approach faschinates me, I am afraid that it won’t get him anywhere. Any advice for the young programming wiz? He’s using C++.

I have made a futile attempt to coolify I12 by growing his hair. Then, when I took him in to get his hair trimmed, a terrible miscommunication occurred, resulting in I12 getting a short , preppy-boy haircut. I think it gives him a somewhat dorky look. I12 says it’s fine, and that in fact he likes it better as it’s more comfortable. (He also added that what he’d really like to do is shave his head – sorry, ain’t gonna happen!) Same thing with his clothes – the more comfortable, the better. He likes his T-shirts plain, with no prints on them. I must be the strangest parent in the universe, trying to get my son to look cool against his will. I want him to have the latest hairstyle, clothes, etc. (Well, not the overpriced designer clothes, but, you know – just so he doesn’t stand out in the crowd.) I also want him to take good care of himself, brush his hair, basically make sure he looks decent. I’m coming from my own experience as a weird kid. I see the “in” clothes and haircuts as a camouflage of sorts. If you look like everybody else on the outside, then you can be yourself on the inside. If you look funny, then the kids will laugh at you and tease you, and being a weird kid already, you don’t really need any more of that. Worked for me as a teen. I had to struggle with my parents constantly over this. I remember my Mom insisted that I kept my hair cut short, which was the 70’s fashion. Too bad it was the 80’s. I begged her to let me cut my bangs and grow a bob, but Mom told me, and I quote, “I cannot let you do this, because this haircut only looks good on very pretty women.” Oh well, I came home from school one day and cut my own bangs. It turned out horrible, but eventually the bangs grew back very nicely. By the time I was 16-17, I managed to more or less blend in. That helped greatly.

The book I’m currently reading actually backs me up on this (although I could not find the quote).

Too bad I’m in this alone. I12 doesn’t care. Then again, he doesn’t object to any of my experimenting, either. Whatever clothes I bring home from the store are fine by him, as long as they’re comfortable enough and no pink is present. Anyway, his cute long emo hair is gone. If anyone has pictures of long hairstyles for teen boys, please send me a link so I can print out the picture and show it to the stylist next time.

The “reading-then-quitting-church” deal is not working out at all. First, we all had to miss two weeks of church because I was getting tons of calls from work on the weekends. Then we finally made it to church, and I left I12 in the car with his required reading. We came back two hours later to find I12 sleeping like a baby. He had been asleep the entire time. The Sunday after that, I12 pulled one of his last-minute cancellations. That is, he got up on time, took a shower, got dressed, came downstairs, and announced that he wasn’t going. There isn’t much I can do to stop him when we’re running late and I have the second kid all dressed and ready to get in the car, sweating in his jacket and church clothes. We just left I12 behind and went without him. He has done no reading, and I have no idea what to do next, other than throw in the towel and cancel our deal. One thing for sure, I definitely don’t want him back in church and in his Sunday school class, since he no longer believes in God and I don’t want him confusing other kids.

In school, I12 has been getting good feedback. There are no special programs or IEPs or accommodations, other than the teachers agreeing to some of I12’s quirks (these saintly women have my admiration), as well as appealing to his sense of logic when they want to make their point to him. He got decent grades on his report. None of us really know what needs to be done in this situation. Maybe the new therapist could give some advice geared specifically at I12. I have found that recommendations made for some abstract Asperger kid do not apply to him very well.

These are pretty much the things I want to discuss at next week’s appointment. Of course, there are always the lofty goals such as “getting I12 to play sports”, “making it so I12 has lots of friends”, but in reality, I may as well say that I want I12 to go on a space trip – the odds of it actually happening are about the same. So I’m going to start small and see where it takes us.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:16 PM

The Importance of Being Hot

Yesterday at work… (here’s to hoping I don’t get dooced for this…)

Anyway, yesterday at work, around the end of the day, as I walk into a meeting room that’s next to the entrance, I notice these two very pretty girls sitting in our front lobby, typing away on their laptops.

For the record, our building has pretty tight security and, in order to get in, you have to either have a key card, or you can call your party and they will let you in. There is no receptionist or front desk or anything – just a locked door and a phone. This policy was put in place a few years ago, for a variety of (very good) reasons. Normally, people won’t let you in unless they know you work there – the folks were pretty laid-back about it at first, but then somebody let in a guy that turned out to be a security auditor, that put an end to the random acts of kindness pretty quickly.

Back to the story, we’re sitting in the meeting room, going about our business. An hour later, one of the very pretty girls knocks on our door and asks what building it is. She had no idea where she was. You know what that means? That means that someone had let her in, even though he didn’t know her from Eve. (Yes, I’m pretty positive it was a “he”.)

This got me thinking. Isn’t it amazing how the beautiful people get all the breaks in life? I mean, someone put his job on the line just to let a cute girl into the building.

Isn’t it a little bit shallow? But, if it is, why do we find ourselves doing it? I know I do it all the time. I’ll let a cute guy get away with a lot of things (see my “Open Letter” post below.) Why the heck am I, a responsible mother of two, doing this? I should probably stop right now.

This is becoming more of an issue to me as two things take place simultaneously: a) I very rapidly transition from the “hot chick” into the “adorable old lady” category, and therefore am no longer eligible for the benefits; and b) my two sons are growing up and becoming more and more interested in girls. And I have never even thought to teach them to give people equal treatment, regardless of the looks.

Oh, the things we overlook in life.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:23 AM

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Of Trees and Stuff

There’s been some interesting discussions in the blogosphere lately.

First, it was the Intelligent Design in schools.

Now it is all about Christmas. Is Christmas really under attack? Should we say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” Is it a Christmas tree or a holiday tree? Can I send a Christmas card to my especially nasty Jewish relatives, just to piss them off? (okay, the last one was my personal dilemma, so scratch that.)

As I’ve been reading this, I suddenly came up with this most strange analogy.

Think back to your high school years.

Now, picture the most popular kid at your school. You know, the one everybody else wanted to be.

Now picture yourself, walking around your school with a baseball bat, telling people to be nice to the popular kid; to be friends with the popular kid, or else!!!; and promising that, if they say one bad word about the popular kid, you smack them on the head with your bat.

What I don’t understand is this… Does the popular kid really need this kind of defense? Aren’t an awful lot of people friends with the popular kid already? Can’t the popular kid stand for himself?

In other words, does God really need us to shove Him down other people’s throats?

The Goldie family celebrates Christmas. The Goldie parents don’t. I am okay with that.

My kids get both Christmas presents and Hanukkah gelt. Lucky bastards.

The tree that stands in my house (well, it's not standing there yet, but you know what I mean) is most definitely a Christmas tree. The tree that is in my parents’ house is not. It is a New Year tree. I’m fine with that. It doesn’t offend me in any way. The tree in front of our city hall, they can call it the Police Department tree for all I care. Whatever works for the diverse population of our city.

Some days I think Jesus must be more offended by all the retail hype they call Christmas season, than by people wishing each other Happy Holidays.

I hope you each have a happy Holiday season.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:49 AM

Open Letter

Dear Working America,

A few months ago, a representative of your fine organization came to my door. We had a nice conversation; he even complimented my "Dave Barry for President" bumper sticker. As a token of appreciation, I put my signature on the letter he had with him, and wrote a small check.

That said, we need to talk. You see, it was a one-time thing. We’re through. Don’t call me; don’t email me; don’t leave flyers in my mailbox telling me to vote Yes on issues 5, 7, and 9. Please don’t be upset – it’s not you – it’s me. You see, I’m not getting any younger or skinnier. Why, in a little more than a year, I will be forty! And the guy you sent to my door was, you know… really cute… probably young enough to be my son from some random teen pregnancy… plus, the man was a great conversationalist, and Mr. Goldie wasn’t home. I am but a weak human. I gave in to my urges and signed the darn letter and wrote the stupid check. We all make mistakes! Question is, are we mature enough to clean up our act, turn a new page, and move on? I am.

Therefore, I think you should start seeing other people.

You may start with Mr. Goldie. I’ll give you a hint – he gets all bank holidays off, and I don’t. I assume you have hot female reps working for you?

Good-bye, Working America. It was the best fifteen minutes of my life.

Thinking of you,

The Goldie has spoken at 9:23 AM

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wiener Dog?

I have been going through the kids’ school papers during the holiday break, and came across I12’s algebra assignment that went something like this:

“Fred has a dog, chained to the end of a 30-ft. chain in the middle of his lawn. The dog has destroyed all the grass he could reach, and Fred is looking to replant the grass. If one bag of seeds is good for 200 square feet, how many bags does Fred need?”

My genius son wrote, “Depends.”

I was puzzled. What does this mean? Buy Depends for the dog, so he doesn’t destroy any more grass? Finally, I called I12 over and asked him what he meant by that.

He said: “The question was incomplete. They did not specify the length of the dog.”

The Goldie has spoken at 9:14 AM

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Arethusa promised there’d be hot guys, so I went to see the movie yesterday. (Alas, it turns out that we don’t share the same taste in men, although I did enjoy Predrag Bjelac as the dark and evil Igor Karkaroff.) My junior movie reviewer, K10, was with me as well, so we’ll be writing a joint review here.

K10: “I enjoyed it and I would definitely see it again.”

Goldie: “Well, you guys know how I am about movie versions of books, so I wasn’t really expecting much. I’d say the movie lived up to my expectations. It wasn’t so bad, in fact. Of course, as everybody else has already agreed, trying to cram 800 pages of a book into two hours of a movie wasn’t probably a good idea. I can understand cutting out the characters’ inner struggles and leaving the pure action – that, IMO, could work well. But when there’s five hours worth of action and two hours to compress them into, it can lead to some seriously confusing results. Good thing I have just read the book a few weeks ago. Most of the movie, I acted as a translator for K10, because the scenes were changing so rapidly, he had no idea what was going on. (We knew it’d happen, so we sat in the very far corner away from everybody.) Oh, and where the heck are the elves?!”

K10: “The maze gave me a huge hype, but my favorite part was probably the dragon. The Voldemort fight was also very good, very exciting.”

Goldie: “I figured that this particular book would make for a lot of really neat movie scenes, with visual effects and all. I agree with my son, the maze was out of this world, and Voldemort was very convincing, truly intimidating. Actually, the whole Voldemort revival scene gave me the creeps. K10 and I both agreed the Death Eaters looked totally like the KKK!”

K10: “Voldemort had a pretty good role. And I can’t currently think of any more actors.”

Goldie: “Mad-Eye Moody somehow left me unimpressed, probably due to the fact that everyone had been telling me how awesome he would be and I was expecting a lot. Barty Crouch Junior, though, now that was something. I really liked Rita Skeeter. Oh, and I hate to say this, but Viktor Krum looks like a Russian mafia member from the 1990’s. In fact, I don’t know whether it was by design or error, but the whole Durmstrang team gives off this impression that they are a Russian criminal group, passing through Hogwarts on their way from a racketeering job – the clothes, the haircuts, the facial expressions, everything was a complete match.”

K10: “I expect the next movie to be a little more advanced, because in 2007, the producers will have better movie equipment to work with.”

Goldie: “When the movie started, the first thing that popped into my head was, Man, the kids are HUGE! At the rate they’re growing, and the movies are being made, the last movie will show Harry, Ron and Hermione in their thirties. Ah, who cares? I’m still going to go see it.”

The Goldie has spoken at 10:18 PM

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My Weirdest Thanksgiving Ever

So, how was everyone’s Turkey Day? Hey, guess what! We ended up being the Pilgrims! My parents invited us over for dinner. I was pleasantly surprised, as this is very unusual. Why, I do believe the last time Mr. Goldie and I were at my parents’ place for dinner together, was on our wedding day!

We had so much fun, the chicken was awesome. Then I got back home and started reading everyone’s blogs, all the while wondering to myself how we actually had a real Thanksgiving celebration for the first time in years. When all of a sudden I remembered that there was, indeed, one other year. It all started with my coworker Dave. Don’t worry, Dave doesn’t work with me anymore, or live in our area, for that matter. Anyway, a few years ago, Dave surprised me one October afternoon when he stopped me in the hallway and asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving.

“Why, nothing,” I told him.
“Cool! Can you guys come over to our house for dinner?”
“Sure, thanks for inviting us Dave.”
“Ah, that’s nothing,” Dave offered. “My wife told me that, if I don’t bring any guests, then she’s going to invite her mother over. I told her, I’d rather pick a bum off the street.”

The guys sitting in cubicles next to ours poked their heads out, obviously interested in the conversation, but Dave offered no further confessions. I thanked him again, and assured that we’d come. My kids were thrilled to hear the news, they had met Dave’s kids before and got along with them pretty well.

Fast forward a month, it’s the week before Thanksgiving and I decide to give old Dave a call, to make sure they’re still hosting the dinner. Dave sounded really surprised.

“Um, er, you didn’t call to confirm, so we decided you weren’t coming, so we accepted an invitation from our friends. So, er, we won’t be home Thanksgiving night. See, you didn’t confirm, see. How could we know, right?”

I found myself feeling sorry for Dave. How could I set him up like that?

“That’s okay, Dave, no problem at all, hey, listen, do you guys want to come over the day after Thanksgiving? You do? Cool, I’ll make dinner. We’ll see you then. Thanks, Dave.”

So the day after Thanksgiving, I cooked dinner, and, before long, in came Dave, his wife, and their three children.

Allow me to take a break from my story right here to tell you that Dave is a devout Christian, very vocal about his faith in the workplace, and apparently very active at his church.

Back to my regularly scheduled post. Dave’s family stayed till about midnight, and we actually had a lot of fun. His wife is a really cool woman. She stayed at home and homeschooled their children, and was doing a great job, because they were really great kids.

So, I chatted with Dave’s wife while she helped me set the table for dinner. After dinner, the kids ran off to play, and the four of us decided to play euchre. So we’re sitting there playing euchre, the Goldies against the Daves, and Dave is friggin cheating. He’s winning, and getting all excited about it. We switch teams and play the guys against the girls, and what do you know, Dave’s cheating again. It’s like his whole life depends on this single euchre game. Whatever, we all just laugh it off.

Dave then proceeds to have a drinking contest with Mr. Goldie. Mr. Goldie, being a Russian guy, has years of experience and knows how to hold his liquor. But Dave is a big boy. So, an hour later, poor Mr. Goldie is passed out in the bedroom; Dave is parading around the house going, “I won! I won! I beat the Russian guy!”; and Dave’s wife is visibly dying of embarrassment. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore, and told Dave it was time to go home. Which made perfect sense, as the Daves lived forty miles away from us, and it really was getting late.

So, Dave’s family starts getting ready to leave, and does it as follows. Dave’s wife is trying to get her three kids all dressed and ready to go. The kids, as it normally happens at parties, are all hyper and don’t cooperate very well. Meanwhile, Dave is sitting in the car and honking the horn at three-minute intervals. If it was Mr. Goldie doing this, I swear I’d be a widow today, but Dave’s wife is a real saint. She loads the kids in the car, gets in, and they leave.

As I found out when I saw them a month later, Dave drove all the way home that night. That’s right, the man who had just beaten a Russian guy at a vodka-drinking contest, drove forty miles with his entire family in the car. His wife begged him to let her drive, but he wouldn't hear of it. That was by far the most memorable Thanksgiving we’ve ever had.

Inexplicably, Mr. Goldie refused to invite Dave to our house ever again. Men. Who can understand them?

The Goldie has spoken at 11:45 PM

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

And We Don’t Do Black Friday, Either

I have yet another confession to make.

The Goldie family does not do large Thanksgiving celebrations. We just stay home and take it easy. Oh, most likely I will cook a nice dinner just for the four of us, but that’s it. From what I understand, this is a mortal sin. Last time I mentioned it to a girl I know, she looked at me strange and said, and I quote: “Well, given the history of this holiday, you and your family shouldn’t really be celebrating it, anyway”. I picked my jaw up from the floor, and replied, “I don’t think you guys got here on the Mayflower, either!” We both spent the rest of the evening being chewed out by our respective husbands for hurting each other’s feelings.

After this unfortunate incident, I took the time and read up on the history of Thanksgiving. My primary sources of information were the second-grade and fifth-grade school books, since they were most available to me at the time. From what I gathered, the first Thanksgiving was a friendly gathering of the Pilgrims and the Indians, where both sides ate turkey and gave thanks for still being alive after a tough year. The two sides then proceeded to beat each other to a bloody pulp, with the Pilgrim team, as the best-armed, winning and taking over.

I’ve got to say I understand Thanksgiving traditions a lot better now. For example, it explains perfectly why we are supposed to host a dinner and invite all our relatives. I mean, everybody knows that “relatives” is short for “people we have nothing in common with, but are under obligation to spend time together”. An all-out war is definitely an option with most extended families. I can also see a deep meaning in the fact that we (symbolizing the Native Americans) are inviting dozens of our relatives to come over and have dinner on our territory, whereupon the relatives (symbolizing the Pilgrims) proceed to wreak havoc in our homes.

Last year, I actually tried hosting an after-Thanksgiving party for a few of my friends. It was their turn that year to host massive Thanksgiving parties for their relatives, so I invited them to come over the next day, to unwind and share scary stories of their family get-togethers. (They were welcome to bring the leftovers, as well.) It could have been a start of a new and beautiful tradition, except it didn’t go over so well. First of all, exactly one hour before my party started, I suddenly spiked a 102 fever, having caught the flu from someone in the office. I tried to sit a good distance away from everybody, and sneezed and coughed through the dinner. Secondly, there were no leftovers. My friends’ multiple relatives had packed all leftover food and taken it home with them the previous night. We still had fun (we always do), but we won’t be repeating it this year. My plan is to buy a grilled chicken at Heinen’s tomorrow, to have it pose as a turkey; we already have some Greek pastry and some ice cream; and that will conclude our holiday dinner. K10 and I are also planning to go see the Harry Potter movie. Now that I have read the books, I will actually be able to understand what’s going on. Then, we’ll wrap the Christmas presents, watch some DVDs, and do whatever else we feel like doing at the moment.

I have told my coworkers of my plan, and they are envious. Any idea why?

In other news, I12 has disabled his Newgrounds BBS account and disconnected himself from the Internet. This is so he “has more time to write code”. This kid is my hero. If I had his willpower, I tell you, my house would be spotless, my kids well-taken care of, and I would be all fit and skinny and muscular from working out all the time. But I don’t have his willpower, so I am sitting here munching on Greek pastry and writing this post.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, everybody!!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:46 AM

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Life and Death of a Math Camp, Part III

part I, part II

Sorry, no pictures! I tried all weekend, but I am apparently the worst photographer on the face of the Earth.

I am also a great procrastinator.

New and scary changes awaited the kids in camp. Mrs. Umbridge decided to try on them a 65-year-old pedagogical strategy, called “Collective System of Learning”. (I hope my teacher friends are reading this; this is a hoot.) There were two basic prerequisites to the Collective System of Learning. One, the students had to be age-diverse. This was apparently very important, as this emulates the family environment, whereas the traditional grouping by age that we see in school, is unnatural and prevents children from learning how to socialize properly. Therefore, Mrs. Umbridge postulated, we had to have kids of every age from 13 to 16 in equal proportions in each group. (Keep in mind, we are talking about gifted kids learning advanced, college-level math!)

The second component of the Collective System of Learning was that instead of the teacher teaching the students, the students were responsible for teaching each other. Not "working in groups and explaining things to each other occasionally", but teaching each other on a regular basis. The way it worked was, you get a round table and seat about a dozen students around it, along with the teacher. The teacher explains the new material to the student on his immediate right; after that, this student explains the same material to the kid on his or her immediate right; and so you go around the table in this manner. Again, keep in mind, we are talking about math geeks, most of whom couldn’t explain their way out of a paper bag with both ends open! (You should hear my son I12 when he tries to explain things. And I was the same way.)

This genius system was invented in the early years of Soviet state, and implemented in Soviet schools in the early 1920’s. Sadly, it died a natural death shortly thereafter. (Gee, I really wonder why.) And that’s how we were now supposed to teach. Not only did it have all indication of never going to work; it also meant the end of the old-University atmosphere that our camp had been so famous for.

But, as we know, to most teenagers, gifted or not, education, summer education especially, isn’t high on the priority list. Most teenagers come to camp, not for the math, but for the social aspect of it. Now imagine a group of 16-year-olds, the oldest kids in camp. For three years, they had waited to become the oldest group in camp, so everyone else could look up to them and they could “own the camp”. Now imagine having to explain to these kids that, because of the new learning structure, their group will be split into five, and they will be mixed together with the 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds. Do not forget to mention that they will be sharing their bedrooms with the 13-year-olds, as well.

And that, my friends, was what I had to explain to my group that year. Needless to say, they were elated to hear the news. NOT!!!

It was downhill from there. Mrs. Umbridge stopped me in the hallways daily to tell me how much she hated me and how I was a disgrace to the camp. Sir Happy insisted on making asinine comments during staff meetings, thus provoking me to make verbal jabs, make everyone laugh, and piss him off.

At the “Miss and Mr.” contest that year, I finally won the popular vote, and competed in the finals. (Well, not really competed, as counselors are not allowed to compete against students, but you know what I mean.) Sadly, during the same contest, an incident occurred. The finalists were chosen by secret vote, boys voting for the girls, and girls voting for the boys. As we sat there counting votes, we realized that a hugely unpopular girl had made it into the finals. I suspected foul play, and asked to remove her name from the list, but my fellow counselors wouldn’t listen, and, back then, I didn’t know how to make my point. We paired the girl up with one of the finalist boys, and the finalists’ names were announced over the loudspeaker. Sure enough, it turned out to be a setup. Some brain-dead boys, who shall remain anonymous because we never found them, had decided it would be great joyous fun to vote for this girl just for the heck of it. The girl was devastated; the guy that we had paired her with was devastated even more; both withdrew themselves from the competition. Guess who got blasted by Mrs. Umbridge at the staff meeting that night for “allowing this horrible incident to happen”. Moi, of course. And I wasn’t even the one organizing the darn thing. Apparently, in Mrs. Umbridge’s opinion, since I was on stage, participating in the finals, that made me responsible for the whole thing.

One evening, I stayed late with the group of 15- and 16-year-olds, playing my guitar while they were singing along, another great tradition of our camp. In the meantime, a weary 13-year-old kid snuck into his bedroom, got into bed fully clothed, and fell asleep. He was found in this sad condition by Mrs. Umbridge, who called me a sadist and a fascist at the next staff meeting. That was one of the many occasions when I was sorely tempted to pack and leave camp, but stayed because I felt sorry for the kids.

On the last day, my group somehow ended up missing six blankets that I had no money to pay for. On the list where we all had signed for our kids’ possessions, someone had changed the number 60 into 66. Mrs. Umbridge treated me to another lecture on what a horrible counselor I was, then magically forgave the whole thing.

Call me crazy, but I signed up to go back to camp in ’88.

Sometime in the spring of ‘88, Mrs. Umbridge asked us to write to the oldest kids in our groups (the ones that were about to graduate school), and ask them if they wanted to come work in camp as junior counselors. Ninety percent of my kids said yes. I brought their replies to our next meeting.

“Mrs. Umbridge, to your question about junior counselors, six of my kids want to do it, here’s the list and here are the letters.”

Mrs. Umbridge stared at me as if I had sprouted another head.

“What junior counselors? There isn’t going to be any junior counselors.”

I sat there, wondering what I would say to the kids.

I didn’t have to wonder long.

Ten minutes later, Mrs. Umbridge told me that I wasn’t going to camp that summer.

I got up and left, and had a great summer hanging out with my boyfriend, relaxing at a resort, and catching up with old friends in my home town. And that was the last I saw of Mrs. Umbridge, God rest her soul.

It was also the last year of the camp. My friend was there, and according to her, it was a very bad year. The counselors didn’t even participate in the “Miss and Mr.” contest, because, as my friend explained to me, “our guys were all losers.” That makes me the last counselor Miss of the Summer Mathematic School. It was a good camp, and it was sad to see it go. For all I know, it could still be there, if it wasn’t for the hard work of one courageous woman who liked the Collective System of Learning way too much.

If anyone reading this has recognized the camp, and was there at any time between 1980 and 1987, can you email me please. I am trying to get in touch with my old friends.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:05 AM

Friday, November 18, 2005

I Have An Honor Roll Student… And So Does Everyone Else

Today, K10 made me attend the awards ceremony at his school. This is the first time I’ve been to the awards at this particular school – somehow, I managed to miss all of I12’s.

Interesting experience, I’ve got to tell you.

K10 asked me when we were getting in the car,

“Mom, what are you gonna give me for getting a distinguished honor roll?”

On pure intuition, I replied:

“Same thing I used to get your brother when he was in fourth grade – NOTHING!”

Boy, did I make the right decision. In each class, there were only three or four kids who did not get honor rolls. The principal said, next time, they would shoot for 100% honor-rollage.

Does anybody else except me find this strange? I mean, aren’t these things supposed to be hard to earn?

Oh, well.

It took the teachers about twenty minutes to pass out the honor rolls, and parents assumed they could leave. Wrong. There was a second award ceremony right after the first. Turns out, the school is sponsored by a (big company, name withheld). So what they did was, they took an actual performance review sheet used by (big company), graded the kids by the same categories, and picked a winner in each. “Just like a real performance review! Isn’t that great?”

Um, no, it isn’t. Unless you really enjoy all things corporate, which I don’t. It is so much work trying not to puke while filling out the actual thing, I didn’t know if I could sit through another performance review in an elementary school. Eventually, I managed it, but, I have to admit, not with a straight face. I kept on cracking up. Thank God I sat in the last row. There was a guy sitting in front of me. He was kind of puny for a guy, but I figured he was about my height, and I could hide behind him if I tried very hard. It wasn’t easy. For some reason, the guy kept moving his chair and I had to move mine each time he relocated, so I’d be directly behind him. But, I hope I managed. If I didn’t, oh well, I have a bad rap in this school anyway. Nothing I say or do can make it worse than it already is.

By the way, do you know that at (big company) you can get fired from your job for not bringing a pen to a meeting? It’s the truth, the principal told us so! Wow, I had no idea, and I actually have to interact with (big company) employees at work. Poor guys.

After the ceremony, the parents were allowed to go say hi to their kids. I went to say hi to K10 because I figured he’d hate me if I didn’t. But he didn’t even see me. He was busy talking to three most popular girls in his class at once. And to imagine that this kid did not get the award in “Interpersonal Skills”!

What is this world coming to.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:39 AM

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Flurries, My Donkey!

According to the weather forecast, we were supposed to get “flurries” today.

As of right now, there are four inches of dang flurries sitting on the ground, and more keeps coming down at a crazy speed. I really anticipate the 20-mile drive home tonight. Oh well, at least I can drive home, because I will be going south. The northbound part of the freeway has been closed. That’s right, closed due to an inordinate amount of snow!

But, guess what. This is only where I work. Back where I live, we have this lame white dusting that doesn’t even cover the ground. Also, this morning, I went to a dental appointment ten miles south of my home and those SOBs have got nothing!

How fair is that?

They tell me my office is in the “snow belt”, and that the area, historically, gets a lot of “lake effect snow”. Well I don’t know what it all means, but it isn’t fair! I have a proposal.

I say we take a map of our area and draw a line dividing it in two. The top half of the map will be the one enjoying the “lake effect”, and the bottom half will be the one where the people see snow mainly on TV. Then we take everybody in the North, including businesses, schools, what have you, and we pack and we move. We kick the Southerners out of their snow-free homes and office buildings, and move right in. They, of course, are welcome to our part of the world.

You see, I believe in sharing and taking turns. It’s their turn now.

We could do it peacefully, or we could declare war on the lucky bastards. When I was down there this morning, the natives looked suspicious, as though they were hiding something. I say, in all likelihood, they are manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, and need to be stopped. We move ‘em up here, they’ll spend so much on winter tires and four-wheel drives, they won’t be able to afford the weapons of mass destruction anymore!

Then again, we could take it a step further, and have Ohio swap with Hawaii.

What do you think? (This is a rhetorical question, Mr. Mango)

PS. I just had to squeeze this piece of news in. Don’t know if they have it in your schools, but ours hosts a Maturity Tea every year, for fourth-grade girls and their moms. K10 surprised me yesterday with this piece of news: “Mom, you know they had period tea in our school? The girls from my class went. They didn’t wanna go, cause it’s gross, but they had to.”

Well, I would imagine it’s gross. Period tea! What will these schools come up with next?

PPS. The last part of my math camp story is coming up tomorrow. I hope all teachers that come to my place, will read that one. Some interesting stuff in there.

The Goldie has spoken at 3:59 PM

Family Fun

K10 has finally been able to tell us what he was doing last weekend when he was away. Boy, those “Assterbule” folks sure know how to party! Here’s the story in K10’s actual words. Keep in mind there were (in my estimation) five kids present, ages from 2 or 3 to 10.

“Mom, we had so much fun!!! They have like five acres of property, and a dog!! Okay, first, we saw the dog, and I got a bit scared, because it was so big, but then I got to know him better and he’s so kind! He’s a mutt. So we played with him all day. Then came the bonfire.

First, we gathered some firewood, but the fire wasn’t big enough. Then, we poured some gasoline on it, but it still wasn’t big enough. Then, we poured some lighter fluid on it, but it still wasn’t big enough. Then, they told all the kids to stand back because they were gonna throw some nitro on it.”

“Who’s ‘they’?”

“The adults.”

“What’s nitro?”

“I don’t know, but when they threw it on the fire, MOM!!! the fire was, like, ten feet high. It was as high as a house! And on top of the fire, there was this thing, you know, like in the movies? about war? when there’s a nuclear explosion?”

“What, a mushroom?

“Yeah, a mushroom! Mom, it was SO COOL!!!”

(Mom shakes head, rolling eyes and muttering: “guys…”.)

Like an old friend of mine used to say: “Goldie, there most definitely is a God. Because, think about it, if there wasn’t, none of our kids would be alive by now!”

PS. Kim, this story sounds like something I’d normally read on your blog… did my son, by any chance, spend last weekend with any of your male relatives? Because, you know, if he did, that is, like, SO COOL!

The Goldie has spoken at 2:01 PM

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Life and Death of a Math Camp - Part II (of 3)

I actually signed up for Mrs. Umbridge’s correspondence school, and kept sending my work in until I graduated. She was with us on our Tbilisi trip, and turned out to be very protective. She insisted on sharing a room with me and my best friend, the only two girls in the group. Like a security guard, she followed us around and checked on us every ten minutes when we were in the guys’ room. Of course, when a man actually did break into the building at night, woke me up, and asked me if he could get into my bed, Mrs. Umbridge slept like a baby through the whole thing. I had to convince the dude to leave with no outside help.

The story of Mrs. Umbridge’s rise to camp directorship escapes me. I was busy doing other things when it all happened, so all I have is pieces and parts of disconnected information from several different sides. Apparently, in ’84, Mrs. Umbridge arrived at camp, not as a visitor, but as some kind of authority figure. She also brought along a sidekick, named Vella or Veela (yes, the HP analogies continue, except this Veela was old and ugly.) Together, they tried to rule with an iron hand, which didn’t sit well with the old staff. I vaguely remember Veela patrolling the camp territory at night - yelling “Halt!” and shining her flashlight in people’s faces - which was against all tradition, as the 15- and 16-year-olds used to stay up till the wee hours of the morning. (It was, technically, against the rules, but our counselors pretended hard not to notice.) Mrs. Umbridge somehow promoted herself to director, and the old staff left, taking with them the legendary camp banner.

In ’85, the camp opened again, same location, same kids, except there weren’t any counselors left. Mrs. Umbridge hastily recruited a few future math teachers from the Pedagogical Institute, but there still wasn’t enough. A friend of mine, who was in camp with me in ’82 and ’83, came to the camp on the first day, accompanying her younger brother, who was now a student. Her intention was to help him unpack and settle in, and go home. Mrs. Umbridge offered her a counselor’s job and she was hired on the spot.

Veela was gone, but Mrs. Umbridge now had another sidekick (let’s call him, oh, Sir Happy – aw, what the heck, his name is really Sergey) – an older, balding guy who claimed to have been a student at the very first camp in 1971. I worked with the man for two summers and he was such a dazzling nobody, with no personality, no interests, no sense of humor, and, we all suspected, no brains. I am not sure what the man did for a living, or even what his job was at camp. He spent most of his time telling everybody that it was still the same camp, and nothing had changed since he had been a student there. But in reality, a lot had changed. Starting with, oh, the camp’s name. As far as I remember, you could actually get reprimanded for using the old name – Summer Mathematics School. It was now Summer Mathematics Camp. The legendary banner was replaced by a red standard with the hammer and anvil. And, of course, the rules. There wasn’t a whole lot of freethinking going around anymore. Gone was also the University atmosphere – the old staff had quit, and the new hires, like myself, were quite mediocre compared to our predecessors. Add to it the fact that half the students could still remember the old times, and the fact that Mrs. Umbridge for some reason had zero tolerance for the old camp’s traditions, and you have a recipe for disaster.

When I came to camp in ’86, I was horrified. There was nothing left of the old Summer Math School. I’d like to tell you that I was a good teacher, but, I wasn’t. I guess teaching kids wasn’t high on my list of priorities at 19. I was busy partying and searching for date-worthy guys among the staff and doing other important things such as those. The kids, however, loved me, and I have no idea why. Maybe it was because I was living proof of the old times, and, unlike Sir Happy, never failed to stress that the camp had changed dramatically. Then again, at 15, they were hardly “kids” to me. These “kids” are in their mid-thirties now. What a scary thought.

It was only for those kids’ sake that I went back in ’87. Miss Umbridge actually tried to kick me out at the last minute. We were required by her to attend a week-long psychology class in St.-Petersburg before the camp started. I was the only staff member from out of town. When I arrived, on the morning of the first class, I was met by the happy Mrs. Umbridge, who told me that the class location had been changed; it would take me an hour to get there; it would be too late for me to join the class by then, as I would never be able to catch up (it was a 7-day class, eight hours a day, and I had missed a whole hour - egads!!); and the class was an absolute prerequisite to working in camp, so, I could turn around and go back home. Then in the same breath, she announced that one of the counselors had just given notice. That made me the only remaining staff member from the University; the rest were all from the Pedagogical Institite. It did seem as though Mrs. Umbridge was trying to get rid of University students. Today, I would have given her the one-digit salute and walked out the door. But, at 20, I was different from what I am now, so I burst into tears. In a rare moment of kindness, Mrs. Umbridge gave me directions to the psych class.

New and scary changes awaited the kids in camp.

To be continued...

PS. I did find the old pictures from various years of camp yesterday, but have been having a hard time taking shots of them with my digital camera. My sleep-deprived organism just isn't up to the challenge - my hands keep shaking, and I'm cutting off parts of the pictures. I'll get K10 to do it for me tonight.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:55 AM

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Life and Death of a Math Camp

I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Potter lately. (Like I said before, it’s all Holley’s fault.) (Don’t worry, I’m almost done.) I think I totally get why every teacher I know loves that series. Because it taught our kids to love reading, right? Riiiight.

No, really it’s because the series is all about life in school, inside politics, and other related wonderful things. I would know, because I’ve had some exposure. The fifth book, in particular, brought back the memories. You know, the one where the school hires a new teacher, who very soon gets herself promoted to Great Inquisitor and, shortly afterwards, to headmistress? Thing is, I knew that woman. I worked for that woman. And, in the end, she fired me.

I hope I don’t bring bad karma upon myself writing this, as the woman in question has already passed away – about fifteen years ago, in fact. But, I can’t resist. This is just too good of a story to pass up. Naturally, I will not use the woman’s real name. I’ll just call her Mrs. Umbridge.

This story started (for me) in 1980, when my friend and I won, respectively, second and first place on our local math Olympiad. A month later, we both received in the mail application forms for a summer math school. My friend tossed hers in the garbage; I filled mine out. It turned out to be the best summer I’d had yet.

I didn’t fit in well at normal summer camps. Truth be told, I was nerdy, weird, and had very strange hobbies. I fit right in at the math camp. There were dozens of kids just like me. To this day, I fondly refer to the place as the “nerd sanctuary”. It was organized and ran by students, post-grad students, and teachers of the St-Petersburg (Russia) University, math department. We had classes every morning, and some kind of activity each night. Either it was a concert, where one of our counselors played a guitar and sang, with all of us singing along; or it could be a lecture on the paranormal; or a “Miss and Mr.” contest; or who knows what else. After twenty-five years, my memory isn’t what it used to be, so I cannot tell you what else there was.

Socially detached though I was, I couldn’t help noticing the free atmosphere in the camp. Freethinking was encouraged; no one tried pushing any kind of ideology down our throats. That was a nice change from the regular pioneer camps that I used to go to. Unfortunately, the math classes turned out to be over my head. I guess, being a person of many talents, my prowess is kind of limited in each *wink*

The camp was rather run-down, located in an old building in the countryside (Try to imagine a boarding school for severely learning disabled kids in Russia in 1980. That was where we were stationed.) In fact, it moved to a different location each year. Again, I was 13 and living in my own world, but, from what I understood, the students and the few teachers that ran the camp, were not connected enough to keep it running smoothly. The camp was constantly under the threat of being shut down by the authorities. In fact, the following year, in 1981, to my utter devastation, there wasn’t any camp at all. It reconvened in ’82, and I went back. ’83 was a very good year, and my last as a student, as I graduated in ’84. In ’84, the camp was conveniently located a short distance from my hometown, and I visited a lot, along with my friends (I think one of the guys from my year just parked himself in the 16yo guys’ room, and stayed there for the entire 25 days of camp.) The summer of ’85, I spent working at a construction site with my fellow students, and I sucked at it. Never hire me to dig anything around your house or to lay concrete, I will mess it up miserably. Apparently, I don’t know how to hold a shovel. Not that it interfered with my future career in any way.

Did I mention that I went to school at the St-Petersburg University, math department?

In ’86, on my way from one class to another, I saw a flyer in the hallway inviting students to sign up for work in the Summer Mathematics School. That’s right, the same camp. I got all excited, and came to the meeting. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by Mrs. Umbridge. Not that I hadn’t met her before, but now she was the camp director.

We first met Mrs. Umbridge in ’82, when she stopped by the camp for a two- or three-day visit. It was a medium-height, stocky woman with her hair in a tight bun and an air of authority around her. Not that we cared. We were too busy having fun and getting crushes on one another. She visited every class; we yawned through her speech, wherein she introduced her math correspondence school, of which she was a principal; and she left.

In ’83, Mrs. Umbridge came back to the camp, to recruit more kids into her correspondence school, and to invite the best students on a ten-day trip/seminar to Tbilisi, (Russian) Georgia. My name somehow ended up on the list; the trip was awesome. Well, except for the part where I had to use a barf bag on an Aeroflot aircraft while sitting next to my crush. Oh, well, the guy was in love with my best friend anyway. She was on the same trip. We were in camp together three times, but, unlike me, she was very pretty and very popular. We had a good friendship, except for one thing – each year in camp, I’d develop a crush on a guy in our group, confess it to her, then, two weeks later, she’d somehow be dating the guy.

I think she owes me a finder’s fee or something.

But I digress.

To be continued...

This is the geekiest picture I have of me. It was taken in 1981.

This one is from 1986, when I started my work in camp as a counselor. I'll try to find some pix from the actual camp tonight.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:03 AM

Monday, November 14, 2005

Been Tagged – Wise Reflections of a Sleep-Deprived Mind

Holley is challenging me to post five wise thoughts from which the world could clearly benefit (By the way Holley, where I’m from, we don’t call it “heel” of the bread. We call it “ass”. For real.)

Here’s five of mine… which, by the way, is exactly how many hours of sleep I got last night.

1. When interviewing for a job, if asked whether you like being on call, stand up, walk out, and never come back. Do not hesitate; do not ask them “Wuzzat mean, being on call?” – that’s exactly the answer they want to hear.

2. Coffee is the best drink on Earth, and definite proof that God exists.

3. Never, EVER, try to save money by switching to a cheaper dentist. You’ll end up paying double for the rework.

4. On the day when you host a party, if you get, two hours before the guests are scheduled to arrive, an uncontrollable urge to “rake the leaves in front of the house real quick” – do not give in. “Rake the leaves” and “real quick” do not belong in the same sentence.

5. If your 10yo asks your permission to go with his friend’s family to “Assterbule” for the whole weekend – let him do it. Then invite your friends, stay up till 3:30, and have the weekend of your life! Add entertainment to the party by telling your friends that your kid is in Assterbule. They’re gonna love it.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:12 AM

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Public Service Announcement

Having reviewed several different newspapers in the last few months, I've got to tell you that Cleveland Plain Dealer is the best.

I tried switching to other newspapers, but was highly disappointed each time, and had to go back to my favorite Plain Dealer.

Not only is it just the right size, it is also soft and thin enough so I can rip it into shreds with minimal effort. That paper makes the best chinchilla cage bedding.

Make your pet happy! Order your Plain Dealer subscription today.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:25 PM

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Great Parenting Advice!

I won't lie to you... I'm slow. It usually takes me a while to process what's going on around me and detect a pattern.

For this reason, I have been completely oblivious to the fact that, for the last few months, I've had the most effective parenting tool in my hands. I am so dense, I haven't even been using the darn thing.

It's all about to change.

You know how you can never motivate your preteen and teen kids to do anything? They always go:

"Aaah, I don't wanna."
"I'll do it later."
"Do I have to do it? Mom, please, do I have to? Please?" (accompanied by puppy-dog eyes.)
"I will do it at midnight, promise." (Yeah, like I'm going to stay up and check.)
"I'd like to do it, but I'm too lazy."
"I just don't have the motivation."

All this time I've been caving in, thinking that they cannot be motivated, and the motivation was right there in front of me. Every once in a while, my kids would say, and I quote:

"Mom, please, don't put this on your blog."
"You're not going to put this on your blog, Mom, are you?"

Bwahahaha! Dang right I am! I'll put it on my blog and I will get people to link to it and I'll get tons of hits, if you don't do what I say, right now!

If this won't motivate them, then I just don't know what will. But, if it doesn't work, I am fully prepared to take it a step farther.

I'll bring out the baby pictures.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:09 PM

UPDATE: Mama, Just Killed a Post... NOT!

UPDATE: Mamacita gave me an idea, and it worked. I have received permission to post the letter, sans copyright. Yay!

Well, what do you know. Our gifted coordinator has requested that I remove her letter from this site. Apparently, the letter was intended only for the parents in our district, as she feels that it may contain some unverified information and may therefore be misleading for some.

Next time I feel like posting someone else's profound thoughts rather than my own, I will link to a sermon... or something...

I'm off to kill my post *sniffle*

The Goldie has spoken at 9:19 AM

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Carnival of Education and Other News

I have been reading Education Wonks on and off for a few months now, and enjoying it greatly. They are hosting the weekly Carnival of Education today, and they have linked to my post from two days ago.

If you have no idea what I just said, go read this post. And, while you’re at it, you might as well bookmark this site. You won’t regret it!

In other news, work has been hectic, I’ve been getting calls every night, and that makes it kind of difficult to think of a decent post, or even read all the amazing people that are on my blogroll. This, too, shall pass.

I have a question for Holley… did you get it? Mine arrived yesterday! Ooooh I just can’t wait to start reading it!

The Goldie has spoken at 4:07 PM

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I take lousy pictures

But I'll share them anyway.

For the last two days, I've been playing with my new digital camera.

This is I12's laboratory room:

A few days ago, I went to Fashion Bug and bought a few sweaters. This came with the sweaters. I had no idea that Fashion Bug buys their merchandise in South Park, Colorado.

I also would like to share with you some family treasures that have been with us for generations. (Well, not really, but I do carry this stuff in my wallet!)

When I12 was five years old, he tried making counterfeit money. The business wasn't a success, so we had to shut it down after producing one banknote.

When K10 was five, he had a favorite toy snake. One day, he lost it, and was very upset. Luckily, his brother found the missing toy, and returned it to the five-year-old K10 with this note:

And here's the flip side of the note. Always read the small print.

Well, that's it for the day. I'm off to learn how to actually take normal pictures... c-ya!

The Goldie has spoken at 12:37 PM

Monday, November 07, 2005

Straight A’s, They’re Overrated

I guess this is for all of us parents who eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first quarter’s school reports. (We are getting ours this week.) Our school district’s gifted program coordinator has sent a very interesting letter home to the parents. I liked it so much, I put it on my fridge and I’m also putting it on my blog.

As an aside, I really like our gifted coordinator. The two of us get along well, since we are fellow survivors. You see, we both have two boys, two and a half years apart, and we have both managed to survive the first few years. That’s an instant bond right there. I’m not kidding, I know a lot of women who have two sons that are two to three years apart. I remember meeting one of them in the street, shortly after I had K10, and telling her that I now had two boys, only to hear her reply: “My condolences.” (her boys were 8 and 10 at the time). We all kind of gravitate towards one another, and this is not surprising, seeing as we have all returned from the same war… But I digress.

Back to the letter. (All emphasis is mine.)

During a recent visit, my six-year-old granddaughter wrote a short story and drew a picture to go with the story. When she was done, she wanted me to put a “number” on her paper. The number she wanted me to write was 100%. I am not sure she really understands what 100% stands for – but she knew she wanted it on her story. How sad that students begin to value a grade at such a young age. At six-years-old, she should just enjoy writing stories and drawing pictures. No grade should even be involved!

Since this visit, I have thought even more about how grades can negatively impact student learning. As I work with teachers to provide more challenging learning experiences for students who are gifted, I hear them worry aloud that parents will react negatively if their children start getting lower grades. The teachers know that many parents share the misperception that high grades means all is well in school. Perhaps parents need to be reminded that “Intelligence does not equal effortlessness.” Students need to remember this not only while working in the classroom but also while doing homework.

Parents want teachers to provide a challenging environment and expectations. Parents want their child not to fear hard work. To my knowledge, there is no college application that asks for transcripts from elementary or middle schools. Therefore, grades K-8 are the best, safest times for students to learn to welcome hard work rather than avoid it.

Parents certainly don’t want their child to glide through grades K-12, get high grades with little or no effort, then go off to a highly competitive college with no clue of how to study and work hard to learn. This is a recipe for disaster.
Everyone in the freshman class came from the top 5 percent of their high school graduating class. Most are accustomed to getting all A’s in school. Unfortunately, the college doesn’t work that way. Many students will get low grades for the first time in their lives. When that happens, they can become seriously discouraged or even depressed.

It’s much better if your child understands that real learning means forward progress from wherever one enters the learning curve for a particular subject. Straight A’s means that your child knows the material. They don’t necessarily mean that your child is learning. Maybe he knew it six months ago or a year ago. So if a teacher is offering challenging materials and your child is truly learning – celebrate. Praise the effort your child is putting forth even if the grade is not an A.

I hope my granddaughter will take risks in her story writing and that she will be motivated to put forth effort in learning. The “pay off” will be (and should be) a love for learning and not a grade which may not reflect her true depth of knowledge.

I second every word. I was a good student myself, although I never had straight A’s. Once, in my last year of school, I had my biology teacher apologize to me for giving me a B. Given that I cannot understand biology even if my life depended on it, that really freaked me out.

Just like the letter says, I did glide effortlessly through school, and had to learn how to study after I got to college. I did get low grades, for the first time in my life. It didn’t faze me, but my parents were pretty depressed.

My parents are perfectionists. Allow me to illustrate. For several years, they tried to teach I12 calligraphic handwriting. For those of you who don’t know I12, it’s roughly like teaching a cow to fly, or an eagle to produce milk. But my parents are not easily intimidated, and they kept on pressing on for two or three years until they finally gave up.

Probably because all my life I’ve been making an unconscious effort not to be like my parents in a lot of ways, I’m pretty indifferent about grades. Well, if it’s all F’s, then I would probably worry. If the grades are good, or improving, then I will probably say something nice. I understand that a good grade may feel to a child like a reward for a job well done, and I respect that. But, really, they are just grades. They are no more the ultimate goal of our child’s school work than a high salary is the ultimate purpose of our lives. I know parents who discipline their kids if they get a B on their report. So far, I’m glad to say I have been able to avoid both punishing my kids for bad grades, and paying them for good ones.

So… I hope you all are feeling better now, and don’t sweat those reports! Happy Monday!

The Goldie has spoken at 2:54 AM

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I12 Makes Pizza Dough!

Last night, I was out and came home at around 10 PM.

While I was gone, I12 got hungry, and decided to make pizza, but he only got as far as making the dough. When I came home, the dough was sitting on a plate in his room and it actually looks pretty good. We're going to make the pizza tonight.

I12 told me he'd found the recipe on the Internet. On the kitchen counter, I found a sheet of paper that had the recipe written down on it in I12's handwriting.

I've got to tell you there are some interesting recipes on the 'Net. See for yourself.

1 1/2 cups warm water (100 degrees F)
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tbsp yeast
1 1/2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups flour

1. Put water in bowl. Add sugar and yeast. Stir. Wait 10 minutes.
2. Add salt olive oil and slowly add flour while stiring.
3. Place flour on plain.
4. Place dough on plain.
5. Fuck around with the dough with your hands.
6. Cout dough with olive oil and place it on couted bowl and place in warm area. (No, I have no idea what "cout" means).
7. Wait 2 hours.
8. Store dough in fridge.

I've got to tell you, I thought I knew it all about making dough... but I have never tried number 5.

Next time, I probably should.

The Goldie has spoken at 8:22 AM

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Am Nocturnal

My humble contribution to WriAShorStorWe.
Warning, the story contains some strong language. It’s not my fault. That’s how the main character decided to talk.

When I was born, my mother named me Furry Delight, but the creatures that own me now call me “Nicky”. Sometimes they also call me “Chinchilla”. I don’t know why they decided to give me two names. I think one is enough, plus I would prefer it if they used my real name. But I cannot tell it to them, because I don’t talk their language.

My home is located in a nice, cool area and it has three levels. On the lower level there is white shredded stuff covering the floor and that is where I go to the bathroom. This level also has a large round thing. If I get inside and try walking in there, the thing turns. When I do that, my owners call me a Smart Chinchilla. I do not know what this means; must be yet another name. Why do they have to use so many?

On the second level is a small house where I hide, and pieces of wood that I like to chew. Top level is the best, because it has food. There is the pellety stuff and the grassy stuff and the wet stuff that comes out of a tube. I like the grassy stuff best. When I walk, small things keep falling out of my rear end that look like the pellety stuff. I do not know what they are or what causes them.

I guess I rather like my life, although I still remember the days when it used to be different. Once I was a large, two-legged creature like my owners. That was many days ago, before Furry Delight was born. Back then, my name was “Christopher”. I had a large house and many friends. I was famous. It had been a good life, until I got into the accident, and it was a pretty good life even after that.

People called me a great actor. There was one role that impressed them the most. They used to say that I had done an amazing job portraying a man who fights for truth, justice, and the American way. What they didn’t know was that I didn’t have to portray anything. All I had to do for that one role was to be myself. Because I was nocturnal. A famous actor by day, I became that man by night. If not for me, life on this planet as we know it would have ended a long time ago.

My life today is completely different, but, in a way, I’m still the man I was before.

I am still nocturnal.

It is now evening, and my owners are home. My youngest owner decides to play with me. I hate that. He lets me out of my house, and then, before I am done exploring my owners’ place, he decides that he needs to catch me and take me back. I am not yet done with my project, so I hide under the furniture where he cannot reach me. Before the day is over, I have to complete the floor plan of my owners’ place in my head. I will need it tonight.

My owners are making a racket, trying to catch me. I make a mad dash down the hallway, running into every room, rapidly taking measurements as I rush in and out. Finally, I find what I was looking for – a window that you can use to exit onto the roof. The window latch would be easy to open. My work for today is done, so I settle down and let my owners scoop me up. Happily, they congratulate each other. They think they have finally managed to catch me. How naïve. Inside, I cannot help smiling.

I jump off the owners’ arms and into my house. Quickly, I head for the top and look for the grassy stuff. Aw, here it is. I sit down and start eating. I need to have a good, strengthening meal before tonight.

“You’re so hungry, Nicky,” the owners are cooing. “Are you hungry? Why yes you are! Here, have some more hay. Look, Mom, he’s eating out of my hands! Awww!”

I pay no attention to them. I am getting ready for tonight’s mission. There isn’t much time left, and I need to act fast.

Night finally approaches. By now, it must be dark outside. I cannot see that from where I’m sitting. My house is in the basement of the owners’ place, so there are no windows and I cannot look outside. There is a clock on the wall, but its battery has been dead for ages. It’s been showing 5:15 ever since I came to live in this house.

But the night has come. It is here. I can feel it in my blood. Slowly, my old powers are returning to me. My mind is now clear and new strength fills my body. I am ready to do my work. The owners have left the basement and gone to their rooms. Good. I must be discreet.

Using my telekinetic powers, I quietly open the cage door and walk to the storage room. The box labeled “Halloween supplies” is on the top shelf, and is twenty times the size of Nicky the chinchilla. Good thing I’m not Nicky the chinchilla right now, or else I’d never be able to open it.

I fumble inside the box and pull out a black cape. Too bad I lost the old red-and-blue one, sometime in my previous life. Oh well, this one will have to do. I put it on and gingerly make my way to the window that I located during my trip around the house earlier today. Up the stairs, make a sharp turn, first room on my right. The lights are out and my owners are breathing evenly in their sleep. Not to worry, I will not wake them. I stare at the latch, and it turns. I move my stare to the window, and it swings open. Minutes later, I’m on the roof, ready for takeoff. It’s Saturday night, and I have received signals that a tragedy will take place soon unless I step in and make things right.

No time to waste. I step into the sky and it receives me.

There’s a song about me that starts with, “I can’t stand to fly”. Bullshit. Flying is what I love most. After all, the sky is my real home, not this planet. The low movement of the night wind as I rush against it, the stars showing me the way, the planes that I have to maneuver around – all these things excite me and fill me with a special kind of calm and relaxation that I can never get from anywhere else. I glance down and the freeway looks like a shiny caterpillar from up here. I need to follow the caterpillar all the way downtown, because that is where my mission takes me tonight.

I check my internal clock and suddenly realize that I’m running late. The accident is about to happen. I position my body straight for better aerodynamics, and speed up. At last, I am at my destination, so I can begin the landing. The streets and high-rise buildings rush towards me as I spiral down. With a back flip, I land on my feet and take a look around.

Oh shit. I’m too late.

For a split second, I get this feeling of helplessness and despair as I stare at the Lexus SUV, lying on its side, blood spilling from under it. This is the accident that I had to prevent tonight… and I didn’t. In a state of shock, I watch as the driver, unharmed, climbs out the window, and a passer-by helps him to get the vehicle back up. The driver is a young kid that had way too much to drink. He looks as shell-shocked as I am. He gets back behind the wheel and speeds off, leaving his two friends behind. One of the friends is bleeding.

This brings me back to action. What am I doing? Why am I standing here watching this happen? It still isn’t too late to get things back to normal.

As I look at the car getting away, my stare becomes hard, almost physically tangible. I have to concentrate on the driver’s seat. Ah, it worked, just like so many times before. With a squeal of the brakes, the car comes to a stop, and the howling driver falls out on the ground. He has every reason to be in pain. Ten seconds ago, his seat has inexplicably caught on fire. He’s rolling on the ground, as flames and smoke come from the seat of his pants.

But I have no more time for him right now. I’ve got the car; I’ve got the keys. I turn to the two guys sitting on the ground. First, I need to take care of the one that has been injured. He’s bleeding and unconscious. When the car fell on top of him, it tore half of his leg right off. On planet Earth, this is a nearly lethal injury, which has always puzzled me. Why cannot people on Earth learn to regenerate their lost limbs, like we used to do on my home planet? It is so easy. I sit down next to the guy and concentrate my regenerating powers on him. Within a few minute, a new leg grows back. Now to heal the minor scrapes, and my work is done. I check for concussion, but there is none, so no need to fix that. The man is regaining his consciousness as I stand up.

I walk to the car, take the keys out, and hand them to the two guys on the ground.

“Your friend is now fine,” I say. “You can go home now.”

It is incredibly quiet. Everyone is staring at me, including the guy that now has third-degree burns of his ass. At least he managed to put the fire out. I have no intention of healing him. He’ll get over it.

He looks the most scared of the three.

“Who are you?” he manages at last. “What are you?”

I turn to him for a moment.

“I’m nocturnal, bitch!”

And with these words, I take off. Time to leave. My work here is done.

On my way back home, I look at the stars and think about humans. Why are they so different? What makes a human betray his friend and leave him to die? Why would anyone do that? And, if they are capable of doing it, then why do they bother being friends with each other? Why does a human become friends with someone he cannot trust, someone that will betray him in the future? So it must be true that the humans cannot see into the future like we do on my home planet. How confusing it must be for them.

And why do humans keep animals as pets, I wonder as I land on the roof of my owners’ house. Why not just let the animals live in their natural habitat the way they are used to? What’s the point of yanking an animal out of its natural environment, and then spending tons of money trying to recreate that exact same environment in a suburban house? Why not just leave the animal alone to begin with? Speaking of animals, it’s time for me to turn back into Furry Delight. It is almost dawn, and my powers will soon leave me.

I climb though the window, stare at it, and it shuts behind me. Down the stairs to the basement, take off the cape, put the “Halloween supplies” box back into its place, turn into a chinchilla, get inside the cage, shut the door. I crawl inside my little hiding-place and drift off to sleep.

When I wake up, the lights are on and the owners are here. One of the owners is cleaning the cage, sweeping out the brown pellety thingies and putting in the fresh shredded paper. The littlest owner is trying to pet me, but I make a menacing sound and retreat where he cannot reach. I’ll be honest – being a chinchilla sucks ass. But I can live with that, because I know something my owners never will. I know that another night will come.

And Superman will fly again.

Because I am nocturnal.

The Goldie has spoken at 5:05 PM

Aspie Digest - November 2, 2005

Good Blog

I have found this blog last week through Marc's site: Aspie Diaries. This is really good writing, I'd love to add this one to my blogroll, but I would like to get the author's permission first.

Currently Reading

I have finished "The Curious Incident of the Dog..." and really enjoyed it. This book grows on you. Good, thought-provoking stuff.

I have also started and finished "The Speed of Dark". Again, a very good read, thank you Cathy. The main character reminds me of a man I once worked with. Not sure if my coworker was autistic (although in my opinion, almost everyone in IT is borderline - hee hee), but he had a frame of mind very similar to Lou Arrendale's, and he loved classical music, and solitary sports. I miss him a lot. Reading the book was like being in his company once again.

Quotable Quotes - Notes From Tony Attwood's Seminar, Part II

Last time, I stopped at "Making friends". Dr. Attwood was reviewing each age group separately. Here are a few of his thoughts on age group from adolescent to adult.

At this age level, neurotypical adolescents are capable of highly developed forms of friendship, whereas adolescents with AS are several years behind in their social and interpersonal development (for instance, they view conversations as a way of sharing information, not promoting social cohesion). On top of it, kids with AS cannot cope with the noise, crowds, new ideas and being interrupted, and are genuinely pleased to be left alone. They may refrain from making friends because they are afraid of making a social mistake ("safest place is in your bedroom with your computer" - amen to that!) These kids may benefit from having pets, or joining support groups for their special interest (Support group for programmers? Isn't that an oxymoron?) Adults may meet friends through their place of work (this will ensure that they have similar interests.)

Of course, some of the kids (like mine, for instance) do not really want to socialize. They will say, "I socialize in school, I don't want to socialize at home too." This is because their social capacity is very small and it is fully met by social interactions during school time.

Helping an adolescent/adult adjust in the society:

1. Cheat sheets. One of Dr. Attwood's patients had a "compliment schedule" that listed suggested frequencies for sincere compliments: loved one=1-2/day; coworker who is a friend=1/2/week; coworker that isn't a friend=0-1/week; friend=1-2/week. Teaching to say appropriate compliments at appropriate times ("nice shirt" - OK to say to a coworker, but "you have beautiful eyes" - not always OK.)

2. Explanation. Warn your companion in advance about the way you may act in a conversation (examples: "I am the sort of person who looks away when you're talking to concentrate on my answer to your question", "I am the sort of person who talks a lot about trains. If this gets boring, please stop me", etc.)

Impaired Executive Function - this means the ability to plan, organize, stay on task, etc., as well as ability to explain how the problem was solved, ability to convert one's thoughts and feelings into speech. These kids need an executive secretary (Mom!) to do the planning and organizing for them. (I do that a lot. Recently, I have actually moved I12's "good" T-shirts to a different room, so he cannot accidentally wear them at home and get them ripped and stained. Moving the T-shirts out of the room was, by the way, his idea.)

In the same vein, Dr. Attwood recommends minimizing the amount of homework, especially if it takes a very long time to complete, leads to meltdowns and otherwise creates problems at home. The reasoning behind this is that these kids work twice as hard at school as any other child, because they learn both the academic and the social curriculum. By the time they get home, they are very tired and need to relax.

In high school, Dr. Attwood recommends "pruning non-essential subjects" such as languages or sports, and starting to accumulate vocational skills and experience (part-time job or volunteer work in the child's special interest area by the time they are 14-15 years old.)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy - there is an awesome CD/DVD that you can buy on for only $129.00 (hee hee) No, seriously, what you can do is recommend this CD to your child's school. We saw the demo and this CD is really helpful in learning to detect the people's emotions by their facial expressions, voice, gestures, etc. Another site that was recommended to us is

Emotional Toolbox - what kids with AS can learn to do to "fix their feeling" and adjust better. Here are a few possible tools.

Physical Activity Tools - Physical exercise (it is as effective in dealing with depression as medication!) Creative destruction (crushing cans, etc.) I12 has figured that one out a very long time ago!

Relaxation Tools - Music; solitude; reading (as an added bonus, reading fiction is an indirect social therapy!); sleep; stress ball; art; massage.

Social Tools - Talk to a family member or friend; talk to a pet; share a problem; seek a second opinion. Helping someone; being needed (for example, mentoring someone on computers and programming); introduction to someone with similar issues.

Thoughts and perspective - Put the events in perspective; do a reality check; imagine what you would like to do or say (do not do it and do not tell people); comedy programs; sense of humor; etc.

Motivation - for kids with AS, pleasing other people is not a motivation. The biggest motivation for these children is being smart.

Special Interests are an extremely powerful relaxation tool. If arts, writing or music are the child's special interest, then these may also be a means of emotional expression.

Medication as a tool - please don't shoot the messenger. This is what I heard, and this is what I wrote down. There is no medication that directly helps AS. Mood stabilizers may be used to treat secondary mood disorders, but there is a side effect. Those with AS survive by using their intellect, and medication robs them of their clarity of thought. To quote one of Dr. Attwood's patients, "it is like being locked out of my own house."

Other possible tools include sensory like ear plugs, headphones, or soft clothing; communicating via email instead of talking; using money as a reward; employing an executive secretary (Mom!) to help with organizational problems; cutting the amount of homework or changing sports; and dietary changes (gluten-free, dairy-free) as needed.

Inappropriate tools for the child - fight; being alone too long; taking stress out on someone else; hurting yourself.

Inappropriate tools for the parents - affection; "would a hug help? - No, I get madder"; punishment; talking; getting emotional.

(I have said it before, but in the context of all these tools I will say it again - thank God for Newgrounds BBS. I used to hate that forum, but then I realized how much social interaction I12 is getting from it, and how much he learns there in terms of social interactions. The forum is heavily moderated, and most of the regular members seem like pretty good kids, some of them with interests in programming and making flash animation. But the best part is that the kids seem to maintain quite a positive attitude in life. If you come to the BBS and start talking about hating life, or hurting yourself, or killing yourself, people will laugh at you and call you an emo... most of the time you will also get genuine concern and offers to get help. If you have an AS kid who is used to some mature content and strong language... this forum is a lifesaver. The feature that allows to view all your kid's posts in one window also comes in handy *wink* I12 mentioned it on the forum a long time ago that he has "Assburgers". They don't seem to mind.)

Qualities and Difficulties of a person with Aspergers Syndrome


- Honest.
- Determined.
- An expert.
- Notice sounds others do not hear.
- Kind.
- Speak your mind.
- Enjoy solitude.
- Perfectionist.
- Reliable friend.
- Good at art.
- Liked by adults.


- Making friends.
- Managing feelings.
- Taking advice.
- Handwriting.
- Knowing what someone is thinking.
- Being teased.
- Showing as much affection as others expect.

AS is not a disability, but a difference. It is like being left-handed in a right-handed world.

Dr. Attwood tells his patients: "You owe your talents to Aspergers Syndrome." Of course, too often, the patient responds with: "Then why do I need therapy?" The answer is: "to develop team work skills that you will need to succeed in life."

To have AS is an advantage. The difficulty is for the person who has it to cope with those who do not understand AS.

This is all I have from the seminar. I hope it helped. Best wishes to all Aspies and parents (and parents that are Aspies!)

The Goldie has spoken at 8:30 AM

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Now This is Really Spooky!

This happened yesterday.

On a dark and windy Halloween night, five little boys went trick-or-treating in a strange neighborhood: K10, his best friend, the friend’s little brother and cousins. Moving along a dark street, the boys came to a house.

The house didn’t look anything out of the ordinary to them at first. The lights were on, so the children walked up to the door, and rang the doorbell. Little did they know what would happen next…

Slowly, the door opened…

A hand reached out….

And put something in the children’s bags.

At first, they thought it was just a pack of Animal crackers…

But there was more, much more.

They didn’t see it until they started sorting their candy the next morning.

It was a booklet, with Halloween-themed drawings on the cover.

Slowly, the children turned a page…

“The wages of sin is death!” (Romans 3:23 and 6:23)

Our sins, the things we do or think that displease God, keep us out of God’s family.

God must punish us for our sins.

But the way to avoid our punishment is to join God’s family!

But wait, there’s more! They didn’t just get one booklet, but two!

“Can you imagine being stuck in a giant spider web – invisible strings tickling your face and twisting around your arms and legs? Yuck! The more you struggle against the sticky web, the more trapped you become. Someone would have to rescue you, or you would be stuck forever!

Did you know that’s how the Bible describes sin (the bad things we do)? When we do something we know we shouldn’t, the Bible says that we’ve fallen into the “trap of devil”. Satan (the devil) is like a giant spider that tries to trick us into his web. When we fall into his trap, our sin “entangles” us, and there is nothing we can do to free ourselves.

Would you like to be free of Satan’s trap? You can ask God to save you today!”

Followed by “the sinner’s prayer”.


Thank you, kind strangers, for saving our little pagans from what would have been a sure spiritual death. What would our children do without a nice fire and brimstone message to go with their Animal crackers? I think passing out tracts to little kids without asking their parents’ permission first is an awesome idea! I mean, who cares what these parents are trying to teach their kids at home? The parents are obviously pagans themselves, otherwise why would their children be out trick-or-treating? Whatever those poor, misguided creatures might be teaching their children, your message is definitely better, holier, and righter (if that’s even a word)!

My special thanks go out to the creators of these fine tracts:

And, of course, to the church where both booklets came from – The Gospel House Church, 14707 Alexander Road, Walton Hills, Ohio,

Spread the word! Boo!!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:04 AM

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