Saturday, May 24, 2008

Detour into Mayaland

Maya has always had her own way of expressing herself. When she was little, she used to say ma-mu instead of milk. I guess I can kind of see that, but I still don't know where she came up with Na for yes. Now that I think of it, I guess it's kind of strange that she doesn't say puhsketti instead of spaghetti. Instead, she's got her own little word rearrangement: reglear for regular. Kind of the opposite of the nuclear/nucular thing. Yes, Maya asks for binoclears when we go birdwatching.

It's not just in the area of vocabulary that Maya has carved out her own way of looking at things. When you've got a spare minute, it's definitely worth it to ask her about the world where people use frogs for money.

Maya: Well, money just goes around in a circle, because people grow food and sell it to make money, and then they use the money to buy food, so what if there was a world where people really liked frogs, and used them to pay for things instead --

Ziad: Then you could breed your own money!

Me: Well, but if people like frogs, then wouldn't they want to keep them for pets instead of using them to buy things?

Maya: That's GOOD!


And apparently Maya has been perplexed by the Star Wars movie where Princess Leia appears in the famous metal bikini slave costume (we were watching at my father's house -- eventually Ziad was the one who found it unwatchable and brought the evening's viewing to an end.) Yes, apparently she's been thinking it over and has figured it out. Princess Leia is in DISGUISE as an ALIEN in an attempt to infiltrate Jabba the Hut's domain and rescue Han Solo. Except those round things fell off her head so he recognized her and that's why she's tied up.

Yup, definitely worth it listening to what Maya has to say.

I hope no one feels I am exposing my daughter to ridicule on the internet. I love Maya and her oddball ways so much. These fleeting moments of childish perspective are a treasure I am setting down here in the hopes that we will share them together when she is grown.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Adult Aspberger's

This article, by Tim Page, appeared in the August 20, 2007 issue of the New Yorker. A personal memoir and an eloquent description of life with Aspberger's, I found it deeply moving.

I received a grade of “Unsatisfactory” in Social Development from the Mansfield Public Schools that year. I did not work to the best of my ability, did not show neatness and care in assignments, did not coöperate with the group, and did not exercise self-control. About the only positive assessment was that I worked well independently. Of course: then as now, it was all that I could do.

In the years since the phrase became a cliché, I have received any number of compliments for my supposed ability to “think outside the box.” Actually, it has been a struggle for me to perceive just what these “boxes” were—why they were there, why other people regarded them as important, where their borderlines might be, how to live safely within and without them. My efforts have been only partly successful: after fifty-two years, I am left with the melancholy sensation that my life has been spent in a perpetual state of parallel play, alongside, but distinctly apart from, the rest of humanity.

Many who are now adults have had similar childhood experiences, the feeling that something is not quite right, but never knowing exactly what it is.

In the fall of 2000, in the course of what had become a protracted effort to identify—and, if possible, alleviate—my lifelong unease, I was told that I had Asperger’s syndrome. I had never heard of the condition, which had been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association only six years earlier. Nevertheless, the diagnosis was one of those rare clinical confirmations which are met mostly with relief. Here, finally, was an objective explanation for some of my strengths and weaknesses, the simultaneous capacity for unbroken work and all-encompassing recall, linked inextricably to a driven, uncomfortable personality. And I learned that there were others like me—people who yearned for steady routines, repeated patterns, and a few cherished subjects, the driftwood that keeps us afloat.

Although most people would greet a diagnosis of Aspberger's with dismay, it seems clear that it is no hindrance to a successful, if not entirely happy, life. Even happiness, I think, is not impossible, especially living in a world where these conditions are recognized as something we can work with, beginning in early childhood.

I'm very glad to have stumbled across this article; I hope you find it worth reading as well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Amici Curiae

This is an interesting document. It is a amici curiae (friends of the court) brief, filed by the Attorney General in conjunction with attorneys representing Governor Schwarzeneggor, addressing the recent homeschool ruling that has had so many people up in arms. This case is still generating heated discussion among homeschoolers. Even though the original decision was vacated, the court is now accepting amici curiae briefs from EDUCATORS, but not from homeschoolers. Understandably, homeschoolers are not happy about this. I'm glad that government officials are giving this support to homeschoolers.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tom Chapin

Tom Chapin has made himself the darling of the homeschool crowd with his song Not on the Test. I'm not as crazy in love with this song as some of my friends seem to be, but I think it's worth a listen. So I'm putting in a link to his website, where the song is sitting, waiting to be heard. (The page with the song will follow the introductory photo page after a few seconds, all on its own.) And I'll add that, in my opinion, this is far from his best work.

Overall, our family LOVES his music. Could there be any higher praise than the fact that just about the only music on Nabil's iPod comes from one of his albums? He comes out to California every year to do a benefit for People of Note, a local organization dedicated to training volunteers to provide music education in public schools. Even though we've basically memorized all his jokes and patter, we go every year, sing along at the top of our voices, and have a great time. I like the way he donates his time for this cause that he believes in, I love the way he engages the audience during his performances, and I always enjoy the music he plays. Of course I don't know him personally, but he certainly gives the impression of being a genuinely nice, down-to-earth person. Not bad for someone who's won three Grammies.

So don't stop with this song -- click on "Listen" (right between "Requests" and "Cool Stuff" on the top of the page). This Pretty Planet and Together Tomorrow are two of my favorites, and yes, that's Judy Collins singing along. Simple and beautiful, these are songs that children and parents can sing together with pleasure.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bees do it

Have you ever heard that bees are aerodynamically unsuited for flight? I'm not sure this is actually true (I guess I should look on Snopes), but anyway, it seems that all my life I've been hearing that engineers and scientists can not explain the mysterious ability of these round, chubby insects to take to the air.

This, in turn, has always reminded me of a story about my father. He has a lot of family around Stockton, and sometimes spent his summers on the farm with them. Naturally he would help out with the chores. One time he was driving a tractor, and took a turn too sharply, whereupon the tractor fell over. When his concerned relatives rushed over to see if he was OK, they found him in a ditch with his slide rule, muttering, "That shouldn't have happened."

What I really want to know is, who drives a tractor with a slide rule in their pocket?


Monday, May 19, 2008

Another story about my mother

Jennifer and I went to see my dad yesterday for an early birthday lunch. Apparently, at some point in the conversation when my attention was involved elsewhere, he told her this story:

It's really no secret that my mom and dad had a fairly contentious relationship. Their personalities are so different, and so strong, that a fair amount of conflict was probably inevitable. To put it bluntly, they argued a lot.

One evening, they were having dinner at a restaurant. A passing waiter, carrying a try laden with huge piles of dishes and glasses, tripped and dropped the tray. Huge commotion. Lots of crashing plates and breaking glass. My mother turned to my father and said, "They're playing our song."

Good one, mom.

And Happy Birthday, dad.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Go, Snowball

Snowball is a Medium Sulfur Crested Eleanora Cockatoo. I think he shows real talent.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Maybe it was just my turn for a bad day ...

I could so easily write some whiny blog post about how I didn't feel good when I woke up, and I didn't really want to go up in the hills today, and I would have canceled except I am all worked up about whether I'm conscientious or not (thanks, Malcolm Gladwell) so I soldiered on, right into spilling coffee all over my car and accidentally mistaking a green turn signal for a green light.

It would be easy enough to say, "You know, I KNEW I should have just stayed home."

But of course, if I had stayed home, it's not like I could have monitored what would have been that alternate reality where I'm looking through my coffee-scented car for the insurance information that just isn't there because a cop has just pulled me over for running a red light. More likely I would have been feeling lazy and guilty. And maybe I would even have had a REALLY BAD DAY at home. Who knows?

This is what I do know: I have a headache from being out in the sun, I got a ticket and I'm going to have to go to traffic school, and I'm not a happy camper. But we did have a nice hike. I saw the ocean from the mountains, I took lots of pictures of flowers, I got to hang out with Katherine who also studied graduate linguistics and whose kids have an even keel our family can barely aspire to.

I just wish my brain would not check out on me like it does from time to time, because all the tickets in the world are not going to stop that from happening again, and when it does, who knows what could happen? It's amazing I've survived as long as I have.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

May 8, 2008

This is the park entrance where we start our Thursdays.

Today we spent a minimal amount of time catching lizards in the parking lot, and headed on down to Horseshoe Lake. Maya found a soap root lying on the hillside. This root was used by the Ohlone for brushes as well as for soap, and you can see how hairy and brush-like the bristles are naturally.

From there, we followed the mostly dry stream bed down a dry waterfall, and on down into a ravine.

It was a beautiful and mysterious trip through the woods. Every now and then slight trickle of water moistened the rocks, and there a few pools had accumulated.

There was a lot of greenery (much of it poison oak, unfortunately), lots of moss, and many beautiful ferns. Some were even growing out of the rock!

One of the pools had newts in it.


This picture is meant to show the newt's orange belly.

Climbing up and down the rocks occupied most of our day this time. We had a few minutes for quick lunch under the pines.

And that was our day!

I decided to document a few of the remaining wildflowers:

I'm not sure what this is. I didn't see too many of them.

Popcorn plant


Blue-eyed grass

Another yellow flower I'm not sure of


Wild iris

California buttercup


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Courtesy of my sister

Your musical education is not complete until you have listened to this.

And getting to listen to all the spoken Japanese is a big plus.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Pictures of Hawaii

Maya took these pictures on Kuaui.


Of course they gave us leis when we arrived.

This is a fountain at the Westin in Princeville.

It's been almost a year, but really, aren't pictures of Hawaii nice just about any time?
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