Monthly Archives: January 2016

What I Wish Special Education Teachers Knew

I’ve experienced special education from several different viewpoints. As a child I was in special education until the 6th grade. I was a substitute special education teacher for a few months after graduating college. And now I’m the parent of a child in special education.

One time as a substitute I found myself in a classroom with children preparing for a spelling test. Special ed classrooms now always have aides (they didn’t when I was in it), who were useful for orientating me to the kids and classroom procedures. I sat down with one boy watched him practice his spelling. I noticed what errors he was making. One thing I noticed was he was doing something I used to do, confusing his lowercase ‘b’ and ‘d’s. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to spell the words, but that he was mixing up his letters.

So I told him how I learned the difference between lower b and d. The b is a bad child who faces away from his parent (uppercase) letter.

Bb

Meanwhile, d is a darling child who faces his parent letter.

Dd

“Bad B, Darling D” I told him to remember. I also told him when he got his spelling test to write the letters on the top of the page to refer to. And let me say, he lit up SO much when I told him this. He was so excited to have a way to figure out the difference between lowercase b and d. When he took his spelling test he scored 90%, the highest he’d ever gotten on a spelling test! He was over the moon.

Meanwhile, a little girl I’d not had a chance to work with had failed the test. The aide told me to yell at her for failing it. I asked the aide what was going on in her life that might explain the poor grade. For one thing, looking at this girl, I could tell she was likely confronting a lot of bullying. She was completely bald. She was possibly battling a scary illness.

The aide completely discounted this and said she should have studied more.

I felt that familiar sense of frustration. Even though we have a wealth of research showing learning disabilities are real, that when kids are bullied they tend to not focus on studying, or that not performing well in school is usually linked to a cognitive deficit or emotional upset, we still view special education and kids in special education as unmotivated and as needing to be punished. I cannot stress how harmful this is!

I have an auditory processing disorder. In a lot of ways, I grew up deaf, but when tested was rated with above average hearing. In the paradoxical way that sensory processing disorders work, because my hearing was so good, I also could not filter out and distinguish between the sounds I was supposed to focus on and the background noise. Nowadays, under good conditions it’s not a problem. But I still struggle understanding disembodied voices (phones calls are very stressful for me for this reason) and in crowded restaurants or parties I also have a hard time hearing, hence why I’ve never been a party animal or big into the bar scene. I really don’t like gatherings of more than four people. And forget talking to me on a bus.

I remember people talking to me and it was like dunking your head in a swimming people and trying to understand what someone in the pool is saying. Very distorted. I did a lot of guessing what people were saying and answering them as neutrally as possible, simple “yes”, “no” or “I don’t know.” Really I was taking a shot in the dark and hoping my answer would be satisfactory.

I remember one teacher in the first grade got on to me all of the time for not paying attention and didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t understand her. I my mind, I was paying attention. I was sitting quietly and looking at her.

Reading was something I latched onto because the words on a page were solid and certain, not distorted. I think learning to read eventually helped me comprehend what people were saying. To this day if I click on a news article and it takes me to a video I usually hit the back button. I’d much rather read it.

Now, in theory, because my problems were with auditory comprehension and spelling, under Texas law I should have received specialized education targeting those areas. In reality, Texas doesn’t like expending the resources to meet a child’s individual needs. The district wanted to label me ADHD and have my mom put me on ritalin, something she fought tooth and nail (and never did). My mom knew the ADHD diagnosis was bogus because I could sit and read for hours.

Failing that, they decided that since my symptoms most closely resembled dyslexia they would put me in remedial reading classes. For me, this was humiliating. I was reading chapter books at the age of 7, and they put me in a classroom with kids struggling to read, “the goat on the boat went out on the float.” It took some of the kids more than five minutes to read that sentence. I could read an entire chapter in the time it took them to read a simple sentence. This was not the right place for me!

Strangely, in the special ed classroom I was look upon by the other kids as an Einstein. I could read very well! And there were nice things about the special ed classroom. The kids were nicer and I got to interact one on one with them. And my special ed teachers were nice and I tended to be teacher’s pet there because I could read and made their job easier.

However, it didn’t change the fact that going to the special education classroom was a red scarlett letter. When I left general ed to go there, everyone in the general ed classroom knew I needed extra help and couldn’t do the regular work. Combined with the humiliation of not having my actual needs met and being in remedial reading, it was an agonizing experience. In the fifth grade I just stopped going for a few weeks. Amazingly I was so quiet my general ed teacher never even noticed that I hadn’t left. Eventually I went back because I didn’t want to get into trouble when my absence from it would finally be noticed.

Which brings me to the first thing I wish special education teachers knew. It is demoralizing to be in special education. No matter what it is called, how it is dressed up, or how fun it is to be in the actual special education classroom, you are marked as someone who needs special education.

Here’s another thing I wish special education teachers knew. We are called “retards” on the playground. People tease us for being in special education.

Which leads me to my next point, no kid willing underperforms or refuses to learn to the point that they end up in special ed. No one wants to be called “retard” or ostracized from their peers for being in special education. If they are there, then there is something going on that prevents that kid from learning like typically developing children do.

Typically the kids I’ve known in special ed are demoralized. They see other kids reading so easily, and wonder what is wrong with them if they are struggling with something others get so easily. And the thing is, yelling at them is not going to make them perform better. Neither is labeling them defiant or uncooperative.

If a child is having a difficult time learning, we have to figure out what is going on that is causing the difficultly. In the case of the boy I mentioned earlier, he was having difficulty in reversing his letters. This was something I did not need a fancy test or a lot of time to discover. I likely worked with him all of ten minutes. But when I showed him a way to figure out how to write his letters correctly, he grasped at it like a drowning man does to a lifesaver!

The other thing I want to emphasize here is I found this out in 15 minutes. I was subbing in this classroom in the spring semester, the second half of the school year. This was an easy problem with an easy solution. How had it gone on undetected for so long?

Likely, in my opinion, because the teacher was too busy yelling at the kids for being unmotivated rather than finding the reason for the difficultly.

Not all problems are so easy to fix or diagnose. However, if something isn’t working, labeling the kid as the problem is not the way to go about finding the solution. The child is already wondering what is wrong with him. A teacher calling him unmotivated is telling him that’s the problem. To a child who is really trying but failing, this is devastating. If you work really hard at something that you see others doing so easily, but still fail, someone telling you you need to try harder does not motivate you to do so, it’s a recipe for getting someone to give up.

There are some special education teachers who get it. Chris Ulmer starts his class with ten minutes of compliments. For children in special ed, we’re used to hearing about all the things we aren’t doing. We hear about it from our teachers, our parents, other students. Rarely does the kid in special ed hear a compliment.

Ulmer found that when he started the day by complimenting his students, the kids behaved better and made more progress. These kids are now partaking in typical school activities like debate club.

Right now our school system is focused to teaching to one type of learner. Fact is, humanity is diverse, with people who learn in different ways. However, the way things are now, if you don’t fit into the box that schools cater to, you’re branded as being difficult and unmotivated. A lot of times, kids in special education just give up, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To fix this we need a school system that recognizes that varied ways kids learn. A lot of the things that helped me growing up are not difficult or expensive to implement. Certainly teaching kids memory tricks to remember the different between lowercase b and d is not complex. For whatever reason, though, we don’t.

Thirty years later, and still frustrated as hell with the system.

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Alone

This month has been frustrating. My parents are moving five hours away, therefore I’m losing a lot of support. In addition, while I was planning to transition Buddy to more intensive therapy and homeschooling over the summer, I am getting so fed up with his school I’ve decided that it can’t wait.

Lately, potty training has been challenging for him, and the school’s solution is to put him in time out when he goes, something that EVERY book I’ve read on the subject says not to do. Monday they told me he was being defiant and going more often just to spite them. He had diarrhea and turned out to have had a stomach bug, he wasn’t trying to spite them, he was sick. Yeah, I kept him home today.

I feel like talking to them gets me no where, I feel like they don’t understand that he has autism and does not process things the way we do, and that they are reading the most negative interpretation of his actions that they can. And I feel that this is harmful to him.

A few weeks ago I started trying to get him in a new place. However, my emails, phone calls, and online applications went unanswered. I have tried every place in the metroplex, and as of Monday none have contacted me back.

Then Sunday night happened with the off roaders in the park. Sunday evening I emailed the parks department about the situation and then contacted every local hiking group, the local Sierra Club, every place I could think of that would be interested in the problem of off road vehicles tearing apart parks. The city didn’t get back to me and the only message I got from people was good luck. I said I was trying to find some support because it was a complex problem that would require a lot of people to speak out against it to get some action done, and someone told me, in what I’m sure she thought was inspiring, not to underestimate the power of a single voice.

How I took it? Screw it, I’m fucking alone in this.

These past few weeks I have been frantically trying to get help for my son while losing a major source of family support, on top of it, I feel like I’ve lost my sanctuary in losing the park right beside my house, so I took on the off road vehicle battle, hoping to find other people out there who were fed up with them, and nothing.

After hearing nothing from the city department last night I emailed the mayor and all of the city council members. I knew, being in Texas, they weren’t going to care about the environmental devastation, so I played up the fact that one of my children could have been run over and that the area I was in is often frequented by children and if those off roaders are allowed to continue there it will only be a matter of time before one is hit.

That got some action from the city today. They called to tell me some of the strategies they’re working on but didn’t sound too optimistic. I’m still just devastated by how little momentum there is in Texas to do anything about this. I thought surely there had to be an organization fighting the off road vehicle problem somewhere in a state as large as this, but there isn’t. And frankly, I suck at finding like minded people who care as much as I do. Only thing I can think of is to canvas the park and the frisbee golfers, whose area the off roaders are destroying, and find people affected by it and interested in doing something. I’m going to do it, but talking to strangers when I don’t know if I have anything in common with them is extremely anxiety producing for me.

The best part of today, though, that finally gives me some optimism was that one of the therapy places finally contacted me back, and they have a more intensive program for Buddy (I think he needs more hours of therapy than what he’s getting at the school). Of course, it will cost us, I’m still building a client base so money is tight, and I’m still miffed that I had to make a career change so I would have the flexibility to get him to therapy in the first place (this was why we held off so long, with two people working full time there was no way we could take him to and from a therapy program that was 9 to 3. The school only worked because they had bus transportation from his daycare).

The strange part of this was really having one of my first really trying times since becoming a counselor. I’m used to telling people to wade through the bad times, the things you are worrying about now you most likely will not be worried about three months from now. Yesterday I just kept telling myself those things over and over again to get through the day. Hoping today is a turning point in my luck, which seems to have been going downhill for awhile. Perhaps if I’m really lucky when I canvass the park I’ll find a lot of other people just as pissed at the off roaders as me.

What We Are Destroying

One of the redeeming things about where I live is that I am within walking distance of a large park. The park has three playgrounds, a splash pad, and a frisbee golf course that runs along a creek. I often go to the golf course with Buddy, and he loves playing along the banks of the creek and hiking along the trails.

While these little hiking excursions are very enjoyable for Buddy and me, I also believe they serve as physical therapy for Buddy. To go hiking along the creek he has to climb up and down hills, walk over uneven terrain and experience different textures (mud, gravel, sand). He picks up rocks and sticks and throws them in the creek. He and Sissy got branches and were using them as makeshift swords today, which develops imaginary play skills which, as a child with autism, he NEEDS to develop, and imaginary play also fuels language development, which he also needs help with.

So this park means a lot to us. Buddy loves it. Sissy loves it and is now old enough that she has started hiking with us and enjoys it just as much as her brother. And I believe Buddy especially benefits from it.

Buddy alternates between times where he wants to play on the playground and times he wants to go to the frisbee golf course area to hike. We’d been doing a long stretch (several months) at the playground, but last week we alternated to the golf course. I was appalled when I saw it again after just a few months away from it. For one thing, a lot of garbage littered it, including tampon applicators. Worse, the erosion in the area from off road vehicles was noticeably worse.

The off road vehicles have been the bane of my existence since I started going to the park. They gleefully ignore the signs saying “no vehicles beyond this point” and tear the park apart. In addition to making me nervous about walking in the park, they do massive environmental damage. Every year the trails get more torn up and difficult to navigate. A few times I was terrified that me or Buddy was going to get run down, and I’ve dealt with too much catcalling and the like, some of it in front of my son, from the asshats in those vehicles. It makes what should be a relaxing environment an intimidating one.

I myself take refuge in nature. The silence. The solitude. The beauty. It’s therapy and healing for me. But every year it’s been getting harder. The sounds of nature are drowned out by the sounds of revving engines, the ability to go deep enough into the park to not see another person harder and harder because people speed through it. I feel less and less safe there.

So last week I noted the trash and erosion. In the distance I could hear an engine going, but they weren’t headed our way. I was a bit aghast. Typically I don’t have to worry about the off roaders in winter, but it’s been a mild one where I live this year, so I guess they’ve continued to go out.

Today I took my children out, expecting a fun evening in the park. When we got to the fork in the trail where we had to decide if we were going to go hiking or go to the playgrounds, both kids enthusiastically chose hiking. Both ran as fast as they could to the creek. Buddy even grabbed the first rock he found and carried it with him so he could throw it in.

When we got there we found a red pick up truck crashed in the creek. No one was in it. A few seconds later, about ten off roaders pulled up. Jeeps, trucks, 4 wheelers. All big, all loud, all scary.

For Buddy, this was like Christmas being canceled. I tried to pull him away from the creek and he had a meltdown. And frustrating as it was, I couldn’t blame him. He’d done nothing wrong, but because of a group of idiots, he couldn’t play in the creek like he wanted. When he started crying, Sissy started crying. Reigning in BOTH of them on my own and leaving was not possible. Typically when I leave a place Buddy is not ready to leave I just start walking and he’ll follow me when I get a certain distance away, but with a group of off road vehicles there I sure as hell was not doing that, so I had to settle for keeping them as far away as I could. I took a picture and called the police, scared out of my wits that one of my kids would be run over or one of the off roaders would have figured out I’d called the police and would shoot me (I live in Texas, where we even do open carry now. Lucky me.)

While waiting for the police they got the truck out. They were literally driving away as the police pulled up. I showed them the picture I’d taken and they recognized several of the vehicles as repeat offenders. They confirmed that we were on park land where off road vehicles are not allowed but said they were having a difficult time stopping them for reasons.

This whole situation has me frustrated and incredibly angry. My tax dollars go to that park. My kids have a right to play in the park safely without having to worry about being run over. Heck, I have a right to enjoy the park without worrying about being run over and catcalled! And we all owe it to ourselves to keep this planet habitable!

And now I’m stuck in a horrible position. After today I am scared to use the park that I feel Buddy has benefited so much from! Since he doesn’t understand the danger posed by those vehicles and will not follow my directions when I say we need to leave, and since this is becoming a more frequent problem, it is not safe for me to take them there. Yes, I could drive to another park, but by driving to another park I would be getting into my vehicle and adding to my carbon footprint everyday and it just seems wasteful and ridiculous to do so when I have an amazing park that takes less than ten minutes to walk to from my house!

Further, in Texas, people do not walk short distances. I know people who live in the suburbs who drive to their mailbox. It doesn’t even take me a minute to walk to my mailbox, but people drive that distance. I am not exaggerating. I lived a block away from my high school, and people who lived on my block would drive to the school. And when I lived on the on campus apartments in college, I was aghast at how many people who also lived in those apartments would pay extra for on campus parking when everything on campus was a reasonable five minute walk from the apartments! And, depending on which apartments you were in, sometimes the apartment parking was closer than the student parking.

I believe walking is good for our health and the environment. And I want to set that example for my children by walking to as many places as I can. So by driving to another park when there’s a good park within walking distance undermines that.

So I’m in a horrible and frustrating position. And just left wondering when we as a species are going to wake up to what we are destroying.

 

Autism Treatments Through My Lifetime

When I was in college I did ABA therapy with children with autism. This was around 2003-2004. It was the only recommended therapy for children with autism. Looking back, I’d assumed I wasn’t that good with it because it was hard to get the kids to focus on it. But now, having a son with autism and seeing how ABA has failed with him and, through trial and error coming along Floortime techniques that have worked a lot better, I can easily see where a lot of the criticism about ABA therapy comes in.

ABA therapy had been seriously re-evaluated lately. Recent studies have failed to replicate the astounding results that preliminary studies had with it. And then there’s this article that details some harmful practices that arouse in conjunction with it. Things such as administering electric shocks. Now, the ABA therapy I was taught focused on ignoring undesirable behavior, and I would never go along with a treatment that used physical punishment (as a whole I feel punishment PERIOD is ineffective and avoid it as much as possible. Punishing a certain behavior does NOTHING to teach a child how to act instead). However, I did watch as parents would go to bizarre lengths to stop stimming behavior such as hand flapping (heavy, weighted vests, arm bands, etc) and wonder why.

From the stuff I’d read, I’d figured if a child was stimming, they were getting something from that behavior. Buddy doesn’t flap his arms, but he will get a bunch of blocks, put a blanket over them, and roll on them. I don’t stop him because I figure he needs the pressure and stimulation from the blocks to help his brain development. Turns out I was right on that, and what’s more, using Floortime techniques, you can help a stimming behavior become productive, no need to squash it!

Lately I’ve been reading about Floortime techniques, and while reading about them I realized that they were describing a lot of things that we were doing with Buddy that have helped. Floortime focuses on connecting with the child by joining them in what they are doing, and then once you have their attention, pushing them to new developmental skills. I’m not going to claim I had everything figured out, and I am desperate to work with a trained Floortime professional to figure out how to get better. For one thing, I’m not a terribly expressive person, and to do Floortime you need to be expressive around your child to get and maintain their interest. If Buddy was climbing all over me I would usually gently tell him, “no,” but after reading about Floortime, I’ve started doing an exagerrated, “NO!” and found that he actually responds to it. The other thing they’ve taught is that if you lose your child’s interest, work hard to establish it again. For instance, if I was getting some good back and forth with Buddy while playing with blocks and he started to tune out, I would usually tune out as well (I’m an introvert and need a lot of time to plan what I’m going to say). According to Floortime I need to get in front of him, establish that connection again, and keep the back and forth interactions going. It even helped me find something to do if I’m not sure what to say, which is describe what he’s doing until I think of my next move, which has been extremely helpful for me.

And they’ve been working. One thing that I always failed with with ABA was to make a connection with the child. With ABA, we expect the child to come to our level. With Floortime, we get to the child’s level first, and once we’re made that connection, we start pushing to the next level.

Going back to the kid flapping his arms, with Floortime, a parent would flap his arms with their kids, and once the child notices, might start to slow down the flapping and get the kid to match his movements. Or they might block his arms and prompt the child to say, “stop” or “more” to get some communication going.

It also dives nicely with what I’ve read about brain development and how children learn. Children don’t learn by route and flashcards, which ABA therapy relies on. Children learn by manipulating toys in the real world and playing.

I’m really excited about this, but frustrated. All of the programs I’m finding for autism are ABA based. And while I’ve gone through directories of people doing Floortime or similar approaches (all of whom are at least an hour away, and I live 10 minutes away from a large city!), none of them have been calling me back. Seriously, I called five different places in the last two weeks and they have not been getting back to me. I don’t know if they’re back logged or what, but it’s starting to aggravate me. Especially as I hate getting on the phone.

While I’ve been refining my interactions with Buddy using these techniques (and Andy is wonderful in this regard at learning as much as he can and putting it into place himself), I would love more direction on how to push him and how to maximize what I’m doing. I also really struggle with helping him interact with other children, likely because I had such a hard time of it myself growing up. I’ve had some success with talking to the kids we find on the playground and telling them he doesn’t talk much but likes to play. It usually works well, but if there’s a lot of kids and they are climbing deep into a play structure and Buddy goes running off to join them, well, it’s hard for me to reach them before he does.

Going back to raising a child with autism, I’m seeing more and more a divide between parents raising children with autism and adults with autism about what is best to do with children with autism. And I have to side with listening to adults with autism. One of the things that is hard about being a parent of a child with autism is we don’t know what they want, and the best way to find out is to listen to an adult who was in a similar position as a child.

And if they feel that a therapy wasn’t helpful or did more harm than good, we have to listen to that, even if it’s painful to realize we made a mistake. But their experiences going through that treatment are important for evaluating the benefits and costs of that treatment. That, and once they have a voice, it’s rather cruel to discount it.

In all, I guess what truly frustrates me is that I had delays and am possibly on the autism spectrum myself, and my parents really had to go at it alone and teach themselves how to get me the help I needed. In my case I didn’t fit into any nice little box. I sort of looked like I had autism, but there wasn’t enough impairment for it to be autism. And I sort of had dyslexia, but I could read and my problems were related more towards hearing comprehension. Now, it could be my hearing comprehension issues made talking so difficult and made me so indecisive over what to do in social situations that it looked like autism. Or it could be that if I was tested in these times as a child I would test as being autistic. However, schools and therapy programs like kids to fall in little boxes and to go from there, but since I didn’t, the school didn’t know what to do with me. And now about thirty years later, even with all of the research done, it still feels impossible to get my son the services that would best benefit him. This still feels like something this family is going into alone and doing largely self-taught.

After Amber Was Abducted

I remember clearly the morning after Amber Hagerman was abducted from her bicycle two decades ago. While a lot of people may not know about the case that lead to the creation of the Amber Alert, the abduction and murder of the nine year old girl who led to it’s creation happened in my hometown.

She was riding her bicycle with her younger brother in an abandoned grocery store parking lot when a man driving a black pick up truck abducted her. A witness to the abduction immediately called the police, but with no system to notify the public that a child abduction had taken place, precious time was lost.

Amber’s body was found a few days later. Her killed never was.

I remember coming out of my room that morning and my parents were talking about Amber being abducted. Now in my school Amber was a ridiculously popular name and at first I thought they were talking about one of my friends. Panic gripped me as I wondered which Amber it was. Turns out it was an Amber I had never met. Yet she left an imprint on my life.

After she was abducted, everyone wore pink ribbons in the hope that she would be returned safely. And when her body was found, we wore them in her memory and the hope that her killer would be caught and brought to justice. Before she was abducted, parents let their kids walk to the local elementary school alone. After she was abducted, our parents didn’t let us go anywhere alone.

In my classes where a teacher had us discuss current events, information about the police attempting to hunt down potential witnesses came up. No one else ever came forward. I know people wonder how a case can go cold so quickly, but it’s still a big world, and sometimes people who have evil intentions have all the luck.

After Amber was abducted we would spot her mother at various community gatherings. Whenever a murder of a child happened and the mother was under suspicion (such as the Darlie Routier case) my mom would always compare them to Amber’s mother, stating how after her daughter was murdered she barely looked like she could stand up.

I hope there is a break in the case. However, considering that whoever did this was not likely to stop at just murdering one little girl, I feel the perpetrator has either left the city, is in jail for another crime, or dead. There was another abduction that happened several years after Amber’s where the perp was caught, but police stated they have ruled him out as a the perp for the Hagerman case. I still wonder. Both girls were abducted in view of family members, with a man physically getting out of a vehicle to drag them into it. I would love to know on what basis they ruled him out as a possible perp for Hagerman’s murder.

This is one of those cases that, 20 years later, continues to haunt. You can feel of pain of Amber’s family. I can’t imagine going through life wanting two things that no one can give, her daughter back, and since that isn’t going to happen, the perp brought to justice as a distant second. I still remember the feeling of camaraderie that came with wearing the pink ribbons. And it fueled the stranger danger hysteria that gripped my mom.

Yet with every year that passes, the trail gets colder. People who might have known something will start to die off, and even if they do come forward, their memories of the event grow less and less reliable the more time passes. Evidence that could led to the killer degrades. The killer himself could possibly be dead.

I hope a break happens, and soon.

Boy Toys, Girl Toys, How About Just Toys?

Dear Parents Who Gloatingly Insist that their Boys ONLY Play with “Boy” Toys and Their Girls With “Girl” Toys:

I must say, I congratulate you on such a foul proof method you’ve found at squashing sibling rivalry. It’s ingenious really. Stopping sibling rivalry in it’s tracks by deeply ingraining gender roles in your children that they wouldn’t even think of playing with a toy that it marketed towards the opposite gender.

I know, you typically begin your gloat with a “I gave my son a doll, but he refused to play with it” or other type thing, but be honest, it’s easier when your kids aren’t fighting over the doll.

Now my husband and I being rather progressive about gender roles never did much to ingrain them in our children. Heck, my husband is even a closet Brony. In other words, my son doesn’t care if it’s pink and glittery. If his sister is playing with it, he wants it!

And my kids don’t seem to care about whether the toy is for girls or for boys, or whether it’s pink or blue, truly their interest in the toy goes up the moment they see their sibling playing with it. Then all hell breaks lose, be that toy a truck or a doll. “How dare my sibling play with the toy that I like!?”

The other day they were playing nicely, and then at the same time both of their eyes fell on a toy dump truck. The toy dump truck seemed to glow under the gaze of their want and they both reached for it at the same time. It was really something to see! And then of course a fight broke out because there was one dump truck and two kids who wanted it.

I can only imagine the blissful quiet of the other houses of families who also have one of each but managed to ingrain gender roles in their children. Must be nice to have conditioned them so thoroughly that the conditioning overrides sibling rivalry. You have my congratulations!

Now if you’ll excuse me, my kids are fighting over the My Little Pony doll.

Hillary or Bernie?

The primaries are upon us. Usually Texas gets into the primaries so late the candidate is already chosen, though 2008 was an exception. But they moved up the primary dates this time, so there’s a chance my vote would matter (anyone in Congress doing something about our messed up primary system, btw?)

Obviously, the Republican candidates are all so scary that I can’t fathom voting for any of them. So it’s down to Hillary, Bernie or O’Malley, and let’s face it, O’Malley likely isn’t a serious contender. So I find myself going back and forth between Hillary and Bernie. There’s a lot of things I like about both of them. I like the progressive agenda they both support. I like Hillary’s autism platform. I like how Bernie is most definitely not in the hands of Wall Street. All told I’m still upset that Elizabeth Warren didn’t run because I would have voted for her no contest, but she didn’t, so I left with Hillary and Bernie. Both of whom have some serious cons for me.

Hillary

-I’d much rather the first female president not have had a husband who did it first, granted in some ways this would make her more prepared than most people for the White House. And while I was reading Gloria Steinem’s latest book, she pointed out that plenty of men have had other family members in the White House, such as Jeb Bush, and using those family connections to further their political careers is not looked down upon. And Hillary is a an established and experienced politician in her own right.

-Bill Clinton is really a double edged sword for Hillary. I strongly feel that the Monica Lewinsky affair was a personal matter between Bill, Hillary and Monica. The allegations of rape and sexual harassment, even though most have some credibility problems, one does not, and the possibility that he did rape a woman troubles me.

However, Bill is not Hillary. And it’s not fair to judge her for Bill’s actions.

Of course, there is the question of whether or not she is enabling his behavior. I do think until the Lewinsky Hillary was in the dark. And there haven’t been new allegations, so it’s hard to say she’s enabling if he truly has stopped.

But the whole thing doesn’t sit well with me.

However, if she wins the primary, I know she’ll fight for women’s reproductive rights, child care, equal pay, and a lot of other issues that will help women, things that all of the Republican candidates are against.

-Voting for the Iraqi War. I remember there being plenty of information casting doubt on the weapons of mass destruction claim and it was obvious that Bush was fearmongering the nation and whipping them into a war frenzy. The Iraqi War has had disastrous consequences that we are dealing with to this day, such as ISIS. I was devastated when we bombed Iraq because I knew it was wrong, and it’s something I have a hard time forgiving.

Bernie

-Really the big thing for Bernie is his record on gun control isn’t as solid as I would like (I really like O’Malley on this). And yes, Texans for gun control do exist, but we’re few and far between.

-While I’m not sure I want Hillary to be the first female president, I’m not ready to let go of the idea of finally having a female president.

And yeah, writing it all out it looks as though I’m leaning towards Bernie. But the primaries are still a bit away.