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musings about autism, food, weight, God, organized religion, and marriage

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So because I have been eating only vegetarian foods for the past 3 months, with success, I decided to move on to veganism about 3 weeks ago. I do love me some cheese, but other than that, I have never really been a milk or egg kind of person. Not only do I not enjoy the flavor, but it has always disturbed me what I was eating. Needless to say, it has not been a great sacrifice. :)

So how have I been feeling? Overall, pretty good. The first few days, I was having headaches and felt pretty tired. That has passed, and I have been feeling okay. My skin has been bright and clear, and I have lost 3 more lbs.

Obviously, this is still very early, but it is giving me hope that this may be the way that my body is meant to eat.


Current Location:
the in-laws
Current Mood:
calm calm
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So Rex had a training meeting yesterday, and for no apparent reason the Regional Manager for Northern California/Oregon was at the meeting, as well. After the training session he sat down w/ the manager and expressed interest in being transferred to the Portland area. Rex gave him his card, and thinks that it went well.

I think that this is a "God thing". It never ceases to amaze me when people seem to be in the right places at the right time for no obvious reason. Things seem to be coming together, but we will need to wait and see.

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Current Mood:
hopeful hopeful
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So, I started, once again, to watch what I was eating around Mother's Day. In about 8 months I had lost 20 lbs., which is far too slow. Not even 1 lb per week on average. Basically, I was eating well, and then overeating, and then jumping back on the wagon w/ guilty feelings. Losing 1-2 lbs, and then gaining 2, and then losing 4, and so on...

In the beginning of December, I decided that I wanted to explore vegetarianism. I have never been a big meat eater, except during my pregnancies when I had cravings for red meat. But recently I have begun to become more conscience of the inhumane treatment of animals in commercial farming practices. I found that it has not been difficult, and that I have felt better overall.

And now, we have decided to not eat out. The basic premise is that we are broke ;) and trying to save money, but what I have found is that it has also given me a jump start in the weight loss realm. In January alone, I have lost another 5 lbs. I was surprised that I had lost weight so quickly, and was questioning my progress, when Rex pointed out that I have been cooking and eating at home. I was convinced that that could not be it, that it was far too simple. My lovely husband then seized upon my natural anxiety and told me that I was right, of course, and it must be cancer instead.

He deserves a smack for that, but it did make me laugh!
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Current Music:
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It is raining! I love the rain. I love the way it sounds, and how it makes me feel. Living in California, it is a rare occurrence, so I am trying to relax and enjoy.

Rex is at work, but Erica and I have the day off for MLK day. She is in her room playing on DeviantArt, so I have some time to myself. Heavenly!

I do really need to start cleaning (I did downstairs yesterday, so upstairs needs to happen today), but I am feeling particularly lazy listening to the rain. :)

Current Mood:
happy happy
Current Music:
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Okay. I have not written in about 1.5 years. How do I summarize 1 and a half years in a few sentences? Lets see...Erica is doing well in school, but still struggling socially. I am teaching infants and adults, again. Rex is still a very effective Branch Manager. AND we are still struggling financially here in Orange County.

About 5 years ago we were entertaining the idea of moving to the Portland area, and then Rex's company closed their Tigard branch. Oregon is beautiful, but it does not have the best job market, so we decided to put the idea on the back burner. Well, they now have 3 branches in the Portland area!

We have decided to do a road trip for Erica's Spring Break in April. She is not pleased w/ us. She has informed us that she will NOT be moving to Oregon, and because of this she does not even want to go there for a vacation. Oh well. We are using the "adult card", as Erica calls it. "We are the adults, and you are the adolescent (she gets veeeeery pissed if we say child). We get to make the final decision".

I understand that even the idea of such a big change in her life, scares the crap out of her. But overall, I STILL think that removing her from Orange County and having our little family settle in in a smaller, slower, way-less-stressful community could only be a good thing for all of us. We shall see...
Current Mood:
contemplative contemplative
Current Music:
the BBC on NPR
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So I have been told repeatedly that I had to see this movie. How great it was. I have always kind of laughed it off and told people that I didn't need to see it, I had lived it.

Well I had Rex rent it for me yesterday. He went to play cards and E is asleep, so I decided to watch it. It's cute, in an edgy we're so uncool that we are too cool sort of way. Which is, of course, the kind of movie that I love, but it really wasn't about teenage pregnancy or adoption. Not really, anyways.

But the scene where Juno is laying in bed after giving birth, and tears are just streaming down her cheeks, I completely lost it. She is narrating the scene and she says something like, "I decided not to see him because he doesn't really feel like mine." I chose to see my baby. Shit we negotiated an open adoption. But I still remember feeling empty and broken emotionally. I knew/hoped that we would see her soon, and continue this relationship as she grew up, but it still broke my heart to know that after we left the hospital I would no longer be her mom.

She is 15 years old today, and we do have contact, but that feeling of hopelessness still kicks my ass.
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Current Mood:
sad sad
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So about 2 months ago we decided to have Miss E allergy tested because 1. she's always feeling run down, 2. she has been complaining of some vague symptoms (i.e. sore throat w/ out strep, stomach aches, headaches, constipation from birth!), and 3. it is fairly common for kids on the spectrum to have allergies.

After doing 3 panels of skin tests she is highly allergic to:

basically all grasses
olive trees
household dust and dust mites (but of course that is no problem w/ my spotless house ;) yah, right!)
horse and rabbit dander
Moderately allergic to:

shrimp and lobster
and although not allergic to dairy, probably has a lactose intolerance.

Well we bought all these nifty dust mite protectors for her bedding and have made sure that she is taking her Claritin daily, but she was still complaining about not feeling well. And then she didn't poop for like 5 days. Wheeeee! So we decided to see another doctor that works w/ alot of kids on the spectrum and deals w/ more of a integrative health approach. She has put E on a bunch of supplements and did a food sensitivity blood test panel .The results have just come back and although E may not be allergic, per se, she is sensitive to:

carrots, again
fructose (what do I do about this?! Maggie any ideas?)

Oh joy! I am going to become really friendly w/ the people at Trader Joe's and Mother's Market. While Lay's potato chips and Frito's are GFCF, I have yet to find a good gluten free bread. I just ordered a few different loafs online that are ener-g brand. Does anyone out there have any recommendations? Also, any recipes for tomato-free ketchup that also does not have carrots?
Current Location:
The O.C.
Current Mood:
tired tired
Current Music:
Jars of Clay
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I am going to let the article stand for itself.


Current Mood:
stressed stressed
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Forget Homework
It's a waste of time for elementary-school students.
By Emily Bazelon
Posted Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, at 7:47 AM ET

Over the last decade, Japanese schools have been scrapping homework while American elementary schools have been assigning more of it. What gives—aren't they supposed to be the model achievers while we're the slackers? No doubt our eagerness to shed the slacker mantle has helped feed the American homework maw. But it may be the Japanese, once again, who know what they're doing.

Such is my conclusion after reading three new books on the subject: The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish; The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn; and the third edition of The Battle Over Homework by Duke psychology professor Harris Cooper. If you already despise homework, Bennett and Kalish provide advice on how to plead with teachers and schools for mercy. If you're agnostic, as I was, Kohn is the meatier read. Kohn is the author of several rebellious books about education, and he exposes the lack of evidence for many of the standard arguments in favor of homework: that it boosts achievement, that it inculcates good study habits, that it teaches kids to take the initiative, that it's better than video games or whatever else kids do in their free time.

Cooper is one of Kohn's main foils and a leading scholar on the subject, so I picked up his book expecting to find a convincing counterargument defending homework. I didn't. Cooper's research shows that, much of the time, take-home assignments in elementary school are an act of faith. No one really knows whether all those math sheets and spelling drills add up to anything. If there's little or no evidence that younger students benefit from homework, why assign it at all? Or, to adopt Kohn's less extreme position in The Homework Myth, why make homework the rule rather than the rare and thought-through exception?

In The Battle Over Homework, Cooper has crunched the numbers on dozens of studies of homework for students of all ages. Looking across all the studies is supposed to offer a fairly accurate picture even though the science behind some of them is sketchy. For elementary-school students, Cooper found that "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero." In Kohn's book, he highlights a 1998 study that Cooper and his colleagues did with second- through 12th-graders. For younger students, the amount of homework completed had no effect on test scores and bore a negative relationship to grades. (The results weren't quite so grim for older students. Their grades rose in relation to the amount of homework they completed, though their test scores did not.) Kohn looks at these findings and concludes that most homework is at best a waste of time and at worst a source of tedious vexation.

Cooper, despite his findings, continues to back the "10-minute rule"—10 minutes of homework in kindergarten and first grade, with 10 more minutes for each additional grade level. For support, he zeroes in on six studies conducted between 1987 and 2003. These included third- through fifth-graders, and they compared kids who did homework with kids who didn't. (In a rare moment of good science in this field, the kids were assigned randomly to one group or the other in four of the studies.) The homework kids performed better, but only on a "unit test"—a test of the material they'd been sent home to study. Which means that Cooper's best evidence doesn't refute one of Kohn's central claims—that the measurable benefits of homework diminish the longer students are tracked for. Take a snapshot of a math quiz on fractions after kids drill fractions at night and homework looks good. Take a longer view and the shine comes off.

Cooper's support for the 10-minute rule actually makes him a voice of homework moderation in light of evil-homework tales of kindergartners slogging through 130-word lists. But as Kohn writes, "We sometimes forget that not everything that's destructive when done to excess is innocuous when done in moderation." In response, homework advocates emphasize the inviting notion that homework in elementary school fosters good study habits. "Before you can build a house, you need to build the scaffolding, " Cooper says. Giving young kids briefer take-home assignments "is like learning to add single-digit numbers before you can add double digits."

This claim seems to make intuitive sense to a lot of people, but there is no research to either support or debunk it—the association between early homework and study habits simply hasn't been studied. And to me, it makes no sense at all. Time management and a general notion of discipline are not refined and specific and cumulative skills like playing tennis or baseball. So, why should we think that practicing homework in first grade will make you better at doing it in middle school? Doesn't the opposite seem equally plausible: that it's counterproductive to ask children to sit down and work at night before they're developmentally ready because you'll just make them tired and cross? "Most twelve-year- olds are better [at time management] than most seven-year-olds regardless of how much homework they've been assigned," Kohn writes. "It's both naive and unhelpful to expect younger children to defer gratification or know how to engage in long-term planning."

Nor does most homework teach kids to take the initiative and make learning their own. Instead, it's about following directions. In The Homework Myth, Kohn muses that the real purpose may be to foster uncritical obedience so that when kids grow up they'll accept the long hours Americans are expected to work. I'm not sure I'm ready to join that conspiracy theory, but I do resent the lemminglike nature of homework and its incursion on my kid's time. Eli is at school for 6.5 hours a day already—that seems like plenty of opportunity to get across what they want to teach him.

Kohn makes one major exception to his skepticism about homework—the encouragement of reading for pleasure. But he counsels that schools should take care lest their prodding turn books from a joy into a chore. Eli and his classmates are supposed to write down the books that they've read or had read to them. I'm willing to try this, but wary. It's only the first month of school, and a friend's daughter has already pretended to have read books that clearly haven't left her shelf. Homework as temptation to fib: not the lesson that schools intend to teach, but probably one that a lot of students learn.

When I shopped around the arguments against homework, I discovered that how you feel about it depends a lot on what you think kids will do if they don't have any. Eli's homework seems like an imposition when I measure it against running around the playground or playing card games or building with blocks or talking to his little brother.

In response to this, Cooper delicately suggested that my idea of a childhood afternoon well-spent is idealized and elitist. Maybe so. But the argument that homework is a net benefit for most kids has a big weakness. When homework boosts achievement, it mostly boosts the achievement of affluent students. They're the ones whose parents are most likely to make them do the assignments, and who have the education to explain and help. "If we sat around and deliberately tried to come up with a way to further enlarge the achievement gap, we might just invent homework," New York educator Deborah Meier told Kohn.

I e-mailed the principal of Eli's public elementary school, Scott Cartland, to ask about homework, and he emphasized the value of encouraging reading and making room for long-term projects. But he also fell back on logic that he admits is not, well, logical. "It has been drilled into our collective psyche that rigorous schools assign rigorous homework," Cartland wrote. "I recognize that this is a ridiculous thought process, particularly since your research suggests otherwise, but it's hard to break the thinking on this one. How could we be a high-achieving school and not assign homework?" How indeed. I hope the education establishment begins to wrestle with this question. If not, maybe it's time to move to Japan.

Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor.

Article URL: http://www.slate. com/id/2149593/

Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost. Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
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It is sooooo hot here in the O.C.! Erica and Rex get grouchy in the heat, so it has been loads of fun. Actually, it is only hot today, and not humid, which is a big help. I am running the a/c right now, but we have been trying not to. You know how a few months back "they" were saying that electricity is going to be more expensive again. Well we just got our s.c.e. bill. OMG! Apparently there is a baseline allotted for each home and if you go over your baseline you are charged like double for the electricity. My Scandinavian family needs to learn to be okay w/ heat!

We went to the Irish Fair this weekend and had so much fun! There were some great bands (Joshua Tree,a U2 tribute band, and American Wake), Irish dancing competitions, and lots of stuff to buy! I got a very cool hat that I plan on wearing this weekend when we go to see Flogging Molly at the Hootenanny. Erica loves Celtic music so she was in a wonderful mood.

We have been taking it easy these past 2 weeks. I plan on starting some instruction early to mid July. I want to go over multiplication and some social studies. Multiplication has been difficult for her this year. Not the concepts, but the memorization. She just doesn't learn that way. I think I am just going to let her use a times table chart. As she looks up the problems and then writes down the answers, I think, she will remember them over time.

I hope everyone is doing well and keeping cool!
Current Location:
the O.C.
Current Mood:
hot hot
Current Music:
Factory Girls, Flogging Molly
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