Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dirty Laundry

Gabe has taken a newfound interest in learning how to take care of himself. He's halfway to seventeen and it's suddenly dawned on him that sooner than later he's going to have to go take on that Big Bad World by himself.

So, in the spirit of independence and maturity, he has taken it upon himself to ask me how to accomplish simple household tasks.

Last week was great. It was "The Week the Boy Wanted to Learn to Cook". And cook he did. Basic things like eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese.

When Gabe is doing simple day to day activities, such as watching television, feeding the dog, washing dishes, and playing video games, it's easy to forget that he has Asperger's. Then something as simple as the instructions on the mac and cheese box will slam you upside the head, with the brute force of a rubber mallet, to remind you . . . Yes, the Boy has Asperger's! Instructions that seem so simple to me (even a cave man can do it!) become ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for him. Too many instructions all at once and Gabe's brain starts spinning. It probably didn't help that I, being the control freak that I am, tried to give him more instructions than were on the box: "pour the milk into the measuring cup over the sink because that way, if you spill, you won't pour too much into the pot and you won't make a mess on the counter," "have your strainer ready in the sink while you're waiting for the noodles to boil because that way you won't have to worry about hurrying to do it at the end," "see, the measurements for the butter are posted on the wrapper! Notice how eight tablespoons equal half a cup- but you won't use half a cup today,""be sure to stir the pot occasionally so the noodles don't stick to the bottom." Meanwhile, the Boy was still trying to figure out how to read measuring spoons.

I am still trying to decide if these measuring spoons
 will help him or only make him more confused.

All things considered, I am very proud of him for not having a classic Asperger's meltdown in the middle of all this due to over-stimulation.

It's interesting (and amazing) how people with Asperger's can do things like: tell you every detail of every episode of Spongebob Squarepants (but they can't remember where they put their socks), take apart a broken transistor radio and put it back together better than when it was new (but they can't learn how to ride a bike), recite whole acts of Shakespeare (but not understand the plot of a rated PG-13 movie).

But I digress . . .

So this past weekend the Boy asks me to teach him how to do laundry. Wow! I'm on the bonus plan! This is wonderful! What a great kid!

I have him gather all the laundry and show him how to sort it. Sorting things is one of his favorite past-times, and laundry sorting is just as enjoyable for him as is sorting all his video games (according to year of release, favorite to least favorite, maturity ratings, popularity, educational to simply entertaining, color of packaging, etc). Great! So far so good!

Then I have him place all the dark clothes in the laundry basket and follow me into the laundry room. I have him raise the lid on the washing machine, show him how to measure the laundry detergent, and explain to him why and how you set the washing machine for different types of laundry. Then . . . the Big Moment.

I tell him to turn on the washing machine.

Water begins to pour into the tub.

Gabe's eyes grow large.

I chose this image because: (A) Gabe loves owls and can
tell you anything you ever wanted to know about them; 
and (B) this is pretty much the expression on his face
when the water began pouring into the washing machine.

"Uh, Mom, is that supposed to happen?"

(I'm thinking to myself, "I have done laundry around this boy for years, I know he can sometimes be oblivious to his environment, but surely this is no revelation to him?!")

(I am wrong.)

"Yes, Gabe. How do you think the clothes get clean?"

"But, Mom, won't the water ruin the clothes?"

Ruin? How?

"No, Gabe. The water washes out all the germs and dirt and stains and makes the clothes clean."

Dramatic pause.

"Okay. If you say so."

Yes, Gabe. I say so. Because I have been washing your clothes for almost seventeen years with water and they always, amazingly, seem to come out clean and . . . non-ruined.

We go back to whatever we were doing before we started the laundry (for me this means reading blog posts in Feministe or Pharyngula . . . or, more apropos for this experience, Moms Who Drink and Swear; for Gabe, this means hand counting the number of pages in the book he's about to read before he begins reading it- including those blank pages they put in the front and back of the book).

Eventually, the washing machine finishes its job and I call Gabe back into the laundry room.

"Now you're going to take all the clothes out of the washing machine and place them in the dryer."

"But, Mom, they're wet!"

I do my typical Asperger's Mom's count-to-ten. 

"Yes, Gabe, I understand you have texture issues but you need to get over this. You can't expect other people to do your laundry for you your entire life." (Asperger's people often can't abide certain textures: the feel of paper, cotton balls, seams of clothes, anything damp, or squishy, etc.)

"No, Mom, I don't care that they're wet. I'm just asking . . . um, is it okay to put wet clothes in the dryer?"

Now I do the not-oft employed Asperger's Mom's count-to-twenty (mostly so I don't laugh out loud in front of him).

"Gabe, why wouldn't I put wet clothes in the dryer?"

"Because, um . . . it will break the dryer?"

"Gabe, why do you think this machine is called a 'dryer'?"

He pauses to think.

I do so love these precious moments.

"Oh! That's so cool!"

Then it's on to the discussion about the importance of fabric softener sheets (which turns into a flurry of scientifically based questions regarding static and fabric softness for which I'm hardly qualified to answer). Really, I can't just say, "There are magic static fighting fairies in the fabric softener sheet!" Why not? Because Asperger's kids, though often quite gullible, aren't that gullible. 

The rest of the laundry-doing instruction goes quite well. Folding laundry makes him happy. He loves to sort the clothes based on to whom it belongs, largest pieces to smallest, and color schemes. Oh, happy Gabe.

All bets are off on tidiness and 
symmetry once it reaches his room.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Did I Do That?

Do you know what I like about Blogspot? I like that I can go into my stats and see:
  • How many people are viewing my blog (on a daily, weekly, monthly and all-time basis).
  • What operating systems my viewers are using.
  • How people are arriving at my site.
  • Where these people are located globally.
  • Which blog posts are being read the most.
And most importantly:
  • While searching for information, what keywords people are using that lead them to my site.
So imagine my surprise this morning, while reading my stats, when I discovered what keywords are leading readers to click on my post Transformer 3: Michael Bay's Wet Dream for the Male Masses. Let me tell you, looking back on it, I realize my naivete and I am feeling quite sheepish.

Fortunately, no one used "wet dream" as a keyword to find my site. At least not yet. A little surprising, considering I've set myself up for it in my ignorance. Unfortunately, "leaking pussy" is the champion keyword for a lot of people who found my post.

Never in my wildest dreams (none of them "wet") have I considered writing a piece about "leaking pussy". Yet, somehow, a lot of people who are curious about "leaking pussy" have found me. My only consolation is in imagining their surprise when they actually arrived at my blog and saw that my main content emphasizes feminism. Bwahahahahaaaaa!

I'm sure these pervs would like to imagine that I set them up for it on purpose; that I misled them. In my defense, if you actually look at my labels (or keywords) under the post you will see the following list: . And I am really doubting there are many people who are searching the internet for Transformers-related media under the search term "leaking pussy" (a term I never once used in my actual post).

So if you're one of the pervs who found my page by accident while perusing the internet for slippery squack I have only one thing to say to you: 
I hope you took the time to read through the entire post so that you were able to take in the bit about menstruating robots. Because that's as close as you're going to get to your preferred subject on my blog. Next time be sure, when typing your search words, to include whether or not you're looking for a human vagina as well as what type of fluid discharge you prefer.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Demonizing Daddy and the Alienation Invasion

Today I'm going to write about something much more personal. It's a lightning rod, so put on your big girl panties and brace yourself.

Before I begin:

Disclaimer:  I know that one answer is not always the best, just as I know that not all scenarios are the same. I understand that the issue of which I am about to discuss is multi-faceted and contains many shades of gray. I also understand that a vast number of people have their own story- or side of a story. This is not your story. It's mine. So please do me a favor and don't play devil's advocate. Just . . . listen.

As a long time feminist I have spent a great deal of time and energy snarling at dead-beat dads and demonizing men of divorce-torn families with children as casualties of war in the fight to "win". Yet, simply by existing and living through experience, I have had my eyes opened to my flaws and have learned that not all stories are one-sided, one side can never be always right, and that women can be just as evil as men . . . just as men can be just as innocent as women. Because the truth is, we are all human; flawed, struggling, adapting, and feeling human beings. Gender does not guarantee an ethical standard and stereotypes are dangerous.

That being said, I'm ready to get my gripe on.

I believe I have only mentioned in one previous (and brief) post that I am a stepmother (I am a biological mother as well . . . but that is a different story). My husband dearly loves his children and works hard to make sure they're provided for. We moved to the city in which we now live in order to be closer to his children (we are located within twenty minutes of their home). Yet despite the close proximity we seem to see them less and less every month. Now, three years later, they hardly want to see us at all. They have more important things to do than spend time with daddy.

We have gotten reports from the children that mommy says bad things about daddy, or that when the children say bad things about daddy mommy agrees with them and eggs them on.

We have offered to take care of the children during the summer months while mommy works (during daddy's time off) but they'd rather stay home alone than spend any time with us.

And here's another stinky factor: they think we're boring. Daddy doesn't have a lot of money because he spends a lot of his earnings on child support payments. Not that we're griping. My husband is working 60 hour weeks to make sure his children are provided for and does so gladly . . . But because we can't play SuperDad and take them out shopping, to restaurants, and other entertainment . . . we're boring. We've tried taking them fishing, to free events, making up family entertainment, etc . . . but it's just not the same as it is at Mommy's.

It seems a shame to penalize Daddy for being boring because he's broke when so much of his income goes toward taking care of them. Of course, being children they don't understand that. They just can't make the connection. And trying to explain it to them will only further traumatize minds that are already struggling to come to grips with the reality that Mommy and Daddy are divorced and now who is this crazy lady Daddy married?

So here is the current conundrum: Daddy gets one solid week of summer visitation (as per the Parenting Plan- the Divorced Parent's Bible). The children were busy with camps and other activities from June through July. My husband was promised a wide open August to schedule as he pleased. So we waited. The only thing we pointed out to the biological mother was that our anniversary falls in the middle of August so we wouldn't be available on that particular weekend. The children start school on August 22, which nibbles down the window of opportunity a little.

First of all, at the end of July the mother told us that she'd planned a three day camping trip with the children for the first weekend in August. She offered us a window of opportunity for the one week visitation that fell right in the middle of our anniversary. Okay, I'll play Pollyanna. Maybe she forgot. We were ready to accept a five day visitation so as to avoid squabbling with the kids in the middle. Then, the week before said camping trip, their mother informed us she'd canceled the trip altogether. With great hope, we saw an opportunity to mend the visitation plan and utilize the full seven days promised to my husband. We asked for August 4 through 11. After a week she finally got back to us (but only after we reminded her of our request and that we needed an answer so that we could prepare) and said that would be fine . . . Except that the oldest and youngest child only wanted to stay for three days, not seven.

We tried to be diplomatic, and we wanted to know why only three days. We felt that if they could give us a valid reason then we'd be understanding and supportive. We also asked that the children call their father and discuss it with him. Our motive for this is that we needed to know that this was the children's idea and not their mother's.

So the children called. It turns out that a family friend was supposed to visit the same week and the children didn't want to miss out. Understandable. These things happen. What if Daddy agreed to take you home (on his way to work, at 7a.m.) and leave you there all day so you can visit this family friend and then pick you up on his way home from work (7p.m.)? Would that be a reasonable compromise. Ummmmm..... uhhhhhh..... nooooooo. Oh, and by the way, stepmom is boring.

So this is the dilemma: children don't always know what's best for them. If we didn't MAKE them brush their teeth, do their homework, and go to school most of them wouldn't. Sure, spending time with Daddy may seem boring now but fostering a bond and a relationship is more important than spending a few days with a family friend you only see about once a year. So do we MAKE them stay the whole seven days? Is it REALLY for their own good? Because if they're here and they're sulky and they feel forced into it that sends a negative message. But if we give up any more time than we already have and continue to allow their mother to alienate us with her games and negative comments isn't that also fostering a negative relationship? Do we let them get away with being selfish only to lose quality time with them and perhaps have them think that we only let them do what they want simply because we don't care about them? Do we let their mother get away with continuing to put us in a position where no matter what we do we are always the bad guys or do we put our foot down, which only compounds the children's belief that we're picking on their mommy? I don't know. There is no easy answer.

And to make matters more convoluted: we just found out today that this family friend changed their plans and is, in fact, not coming at all. The children's mother knew this all along. Did she mislead them? Did the children know? Do we call the children on it and ask them if they have changed their minds?  Or does doing so only make them feel more pressured? Or do we teach them accountability by encouraging them to be honest about their feelings?

Okay, I'm done whining. I'll put my big girl panties on . . . one leg at a time.

In the meantime, parental alienation is a real and present danger to children caught up in the middle of a divorce and/or the aftermath of divorce. If you are a separated or divorced parent please take a moment to participate in the following quiz to find out if you are an alienator:

Am I a Parental Alienator? 

Please answer unconditionally, YES or NO

1.  Have I ever criticized or spoken negatively about the other parent or his/her family or friends in front of my child or where the child can hear me?
2.  Have I ever forced my child to choose between loving the other parent and me?
3.  Do I talk about child support, money, or legal issues in front of my child?
4.  Do I ever limit time with the other parent because I feel I am the best parent?
5.  Do I ask the child to keep secrets, lie or hide things from the other parent?
6.  Do I pump my child to get detailed information of where they go and what they do when they are with the other parent?
7.  Do I ever prevent the child from speaking with the other parent by blocking phone messages, not returning phone calls, erasing email messages, not giving them mail or gifts?
8.  Do I interrupt the child’s time with the other parent by calling too much or planning activities during their time together?
9.  Do I deny my child the right to spend the designated time with the other parent?
10.  Have I ever sabotaged any activity that my child is doing with the other parent?
11.  Do I encourage my child to blame the other parent or to choose sides?
12.  Do I use my child as a therapist or my special friend to share my deep and upsetting emotions?
13.  Do I let my child know that I feel badly when he/she has a good time with the other parent?
14.  Do I ask my child to spy for me while with the other parent?
15.  Do I ever instill guilt, pressure, or rejection of the other parent in my child?
16.  Do I make a contest of how much love, care, and attention the child gives to the other parent and his or her family and friends versus how much attention I receive?
17.  Have you ever made false accusations, such as implying drug abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior to the police or Department of Child and Family Services?
18.  Do I stop my child from expressing his/her feelings whether I agree with them or not? (e.g., love, happiness, excitement, anger, fear, sadness)

"If you answered "YES" to any of these questions, you need to evaluate to what extent you are engaging in parental alienation. Children need to be free to love both parents. If you don’t like the other parent or feel that they are inappropriate for your child, you need to solve the problem without resorting to destroying that child’s relationship with this parent. Your child can make up his or her own mind about how much they love or even like the other parent without being unduly influenced by you. Obsessed parent alienators will stop at nothing to damage or even
severe a child’s relationship with a parent. This is a serious form of child abuse where a child is not allowed to have loving feelings for his parent, or his or her extended family and friends. These people represent half of the child’s heritage. Most parents "slip up" once in a while, however, parents who really care about their child’s best interest will do all they can to keep their child out of the middle and allow them to love both parents."
To know more about the above quiz and/or other information regarding PAS, please visit the following link:   Major Family Services *
Here is another link to an excellent website offering more information about what parental alienation is,  how it happens, the motives and "logic" (or lack thereof) of the alienating parent, what to expect from the courts and child support services, and how alienated parents can cope:   Parents Who Have Successfully Fought Parental Alienation Syndrome *

* I am in no way marketing or encouraging the purchase of any products that may be offered for sale on the links I have provided. I have provided the links because I feel that they offer some helpful information about Parental Alienation Syndrome.

August 3 update: The oldest child now states that she wants to take a babysitting job that will keep her busy from Monday through Wednesday. The cynical part of me says, "Isn't that convenient now that she doesn't have the 'friend coming to visit' excuse?" The exasperated part of me leans more toward, "Oh hell, if she doesn't want to come then why make her?" Then there's the principled part of me, "I will not give up. We are fighting for our family here."
Sometimes I wonder who is more stuck in the middle of this tug-of-war: me and my husband or the children? A sneaky little voice in the back of my head reminds me, "The children."

Be Careful What You Ask For

It is a common predicament of mine to be asked, "Why are you a feminist?"

Yes, I said "predicament". No one gets asked why they are female/male, why they breathe, why they brush their teeth, or why they want (and expect) to be treated justly. So it's a predicament because it's a loaded question. No one I've met ever really asks me just because they want to hear my answer. Mostly they already have a retort lined up and are asking the question as a launching pad to hammer me with their own opinion. I suppose it's human nature though. So many of us ask questions not because we seek the truth but because we have an answer of our own that is more important to us than what anyone else has to say.

I dream of a day when people ask questions because they honestly want to stop, listen, and appreciate a good answer.

There used to be a time when I looked forward to being asked this question. I saw it as my opportunity to enlighten people. I saw it as a doorway in which I could open their minds in a way in which I was an invited guest, rather than forcing my ideals and objectives on others; however, I now know better.

"Why are you a feminist?" is a question that does not fill me with hope that my dream will one day come true. Because, truly, most people are not prepared for the answer (whether they really wanted to know, or because they didn't realize the magnitude of what they were asking, or because they're too focused on their own motive to conscientiously listen to my response). Asking, "Why are you a feminist?" is a little like asking, "Why do we exist?"; it's difficult to deliver a short and concise answer that will fit into the typical human attention span. And it's usually conjoined with questions to the effect of, "Why do we still need the feminist movement?"

People ask, thoughtlessly, without realizing what they're asking for. So when my answer passes the three-minute mark, and eyes start glazing over, I become (to their way of thinking) the fanatic ranter, the hysterical femi-nazi.

Thus, I want to burn several CDs of this presentation and just keep oodles of them on hand for random "Why are you a feminist?" encounters. I'll hand people the CD and ask them to watch this presentation at a time that is convenient to them, and they shall have all the answers they require:

Then again, who am I kidding? No one will ever give this presentation a chance as long as re-runs of Jersey Shore are still being aired on cable TV.