Friday link love

Some serious, most not . . . .

I’m coming across news articles and little tidbits I want to discuss with you, but I never remember them. . . . Until now.  I really hope these links work.  Let me know if they don’t work.

1. This article is about a young woman who was diagnosed with autism at age 21. **The Wall Street Journal link isn’t working–here’s another article about the same person**   Because she was “high functioning,” it took until college for someone to figure out what was going on.  She describes feeling relieved at the diagnosis, because she no longer feels a need to strain to be normal.  . . . It’s a tricky thing because of course a parent does want his kid to have autism, but you want your kid to have all the resources she can. . . . AT the same time, with 1 in 68 people having autism, is it really a disorder?  Or, at higher-functioning levels is it more a personality type?  And does that distinction matter?

2.. Ann Taylor is being bought out by the company that owns DressBarn.  Weird.  I like reading the Wall Street Journal business section from time to time because it’s fun to learn what’s going on behind the scenes at stores where I shop.  (The full text of the WSJ article isn’t available online, so I’m linking to a different article.)

3. The percentage of African-Americans in law enforcement has remained flat since 2007.  With this and all the related news about the Baltimore riots, etc. etc. . . . it’s so frustrating . . . It’s like no one cares about black men until they get shot by the police.   So many black young people–males especially–are on a life course that’s fundamentally at odds with the law.  And it happens in childhood and many barely have a choice.   And all the hiring quotas and body cameras and police training and whatnot in the world isn’t going to change that.  There’s going to be a tension between young black men and the law so long as so many of them have no real lawful options in life.  Could someone out there talk about this please?

4. On a lighter note, I’m thinking a lot about moving soon and what I’ll do differently.  When I arrange and set up and decorate whatever our next house is, I’m focusing on furniture and window coverings, then rugs and wall hangings, and only after that all the knickknacks.  With the current house, I’ve constantly moved mantle decorations and pictures around, never getting the result I wanted because my curtains and furniture sucked.  . ..  Anyway, I was thinking about all this and then later that day I read a post from The Nester on the exact same point.  . . .This stuff doesn’t come naturally to me but I’m learning! . . . Still, the Nester decorates with a lot more knickknacks than I prefer.  Her pictures make me feel a little crowded.

5. A year or two ago I polled you guys about flesh-toned pantyhose.  Guess what?  They’re officially “back.” Ellen called it: Princess Kate can do no sartorial wrong.

6. I am loving, loving the Bossa Nova station on Pandora.  It’s soothing and at the same time it makes me feel like I’m in an Audrey Hepburn movie.

7. Click over to Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes.  Happy weekend!

P.S.  Girl 1 just informed me, “When I grow up I’m going to have five twins!  . . . Their names are going to be Carlos, Carlos, Peg, and Meg!”

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 7 Quick Book Reviews

Let’s see if I can finish this before the three-year-old wakes from her nap:


1. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge: I keep hearing about Elizabeth Goudge. She has a devoted following.  Her books mostly went out of print but are now back in print.  Sadly, I’m not a fan.  She develops some lovely themes of redemptive suffering and the working of grace, but she has a wordy, sentimental style I’m not fond of.

2. Growing Up With Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism: I really appreciated this first-hand account of growing up with sensory processing disorder and autism/Aspergers.  I’ve read a lot of books on similar topics, so I just skimmed it but I might go back.  I especially liked her accounts of what worked for her (her parents’ tough love mixed with lots of understanding) and what didn’t (a lot in the conventional classroom).

3: Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In- When to Worry and When Not to Worry:  The title is misleading.  It sounds like it’s about kids who are quirky but without a diagnosable condition.  Actually, it focuses mainly on kids who are on the autism spectrum, although it doesn’t completely ignore those who don’t have a diagnosis.  Again, I skimmed because a lot of books on this topic cover the same material.  But the one page on picky eating made the book for me: basically, don’t make a big to-do over your quirky child’s eating preferences, they’ll probably do just fine no matter how self-limited their diet; you have bigger issues to deal with.

4. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig: I keep hearing about Whole 30, and this is the book that started it.  I find the authors’ writing style condescending (“We’ll keep the science-y stuff to a minimum,” . . . because I’m too dumb to understand it??? . . . I hate having my intelligence insulted.)  And yet . . . I found it compelling.  I haven’t done a Whole 30 yet for reasons I won’t go into now, but I’m inclined to try in the near future.  I ate almost-paleo for a few weeks and was surprised at how much I liked it.  Also . . . white potatoes now are allowed!  This makes a world of difference to me.

5. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne: This was fun, easy reading.  Total chick lit.  I got bored with the sequel though.  The premise of the first is just original enough to keep me interested but the second felt formulaic from the get-go.

6. Death Comes to the Archbishop, by Willa Cather: So beautiful.  It’s not really about anyone’s death, it’s about a missionary priest–eventual archbishop’s–life, told in a series of short stories about incidents in his life throughout the years.  I wish I could think of a way to make the topic more interesting–as it is, I never would have picked it up if it hadn’t been chosen for book club–but it’s really beautiful and exciting too.  For those who have read it–I almost think the real protagonist is Fr. Joseph, and not the archbishop.  It’s kind of like Fr Joseph’s story is told through the archbishop’s story.  At least, I found Father Joseph a lot more personally likable and colorful than the archbishop.  What do you think?

7. A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh:  I read this years ago, but just discovered it’s a selection of the month for the Wall Street Journal book club.  I’ll following along because I think Waugh’s writing is brilliant, this book included.  To quote the Wall Street Journal article on it,

What they’re talking about is this end of civilization, or the end of a certain kind of civilization. He’s saying it’s all falling apart. These people are losing whatever heritage they’ve ever had. But there’s a subtext where he’s saying: And didn’t they have it coming? These are frivolous, morally groundless people, who are careless about their privilege, careless about each other and careless about society. And they need some moral underpinning that they don’t now have.

The character’s are ridiculous enough to make you laugh, but their faults are realistic enough to make you cringe.  The ending is just wonderfully over the top.  It’s great satire.


Girl 2 is waking up.  Gotta go.  Click over to Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick take posts and click over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more quick lit (she’s finally posting about books she doesn’t like and why she doesn’t).

An ADHD-friendly little girl’s room



Girl 1’s room used to be a complete disaster most of the time.

We would send her into her room to get her pajamas on and put her clothes away.

She’d come back, twenty minutes later, vaguely disoriented and still in her clothes.

She would have trouble finding her pajamas in all the mess and then forget what she went in there for.

If she did find and put on her pajamas, she would leave her clothes on the floor or, at best, piled on top of the dresser in her closet.

(At age 5, Girl 1 hasn’t been diagnosed with ADHD, and she may never be.  But she displays many of the symptoms, so ADHD-geared solutions are really helpful for her.)

I really wish I had taken a more representative “before” picture.  It was 3 times worse on a regular basis.

G1 room before G1 roomAFTER

Our pitfalls were

1. Too many clothes that she didn’t wear, mixed in with the few pieces she did wear,

2. Dress-up clothes perpetually out of the bin and on the floor, mixing in with her regular clothes,

3. An antique dresser with drawers that were hard to open and shut, and

4. A closet bar too high for her to reach.

Inspired by Organizing Solutions for People With ADHD, we revamped the closet, culled through the clothes (storing some of it in bins in another closet), and moved the dress-up clothes to little sister’s room.





1. Shoe bin 2. Clothing bins (one for shirts, one for pants, etc.) 3. Bin for church shoes and dance wear 4. Toys with lots of pieces, to be played with one at a time 5. Bin of clothes to be taken out when the weather changes 6. Hanging rack at Girl 1's height

1. Shoe bin
2. Clothing bins (one for shirts, one for pants, etc.)
3. Bin for church shoes and dance wear
4. Multi-piece toys & games, to be played with one at a time
5. Bin of clothes to be taken out when the weather changes
6. Hanging rack at Girl 1’s height

We (and by we I mean Pat) installed a Rubbermaid custom closet organizer.  It’s nifty because you buy a certain size range (4′-8′ in our case) and you can adjust it to fit any sized closet within the range.

It is a huge thing for Girl 1 to be able to hang up her own dresses.  She really takes pride in it.  (Thank you, Montessori school, for teaching her to hang things on a clothes hanger!)  She even insists on hanging up her nightgown.

Also key are these Sterilite stacking, open-front bins.  (3 for 5 bucks at Walmart.)  So-ho-ho much better than sticky dresser drawers.  She can see where everything goes and doesn’t have to go through the additional steps of opening and closing drawers.

She was so proud of her “new” closet and eager to put her clothes away.  The newness has worn off a bit now, but she’s still able and generally willing to put her things away with a gentle reminder (or two).  She is far from being a neat freak but she can appreciate the niceness of having her room tidy.

We keep the toys and books in the living room and the basement, so Girl 1’s room stays serene and (mostly) clutter free.

Now to figure out little sister’s room . . . .




I’ll link up tomorrow, for the first time, with We Are That Family for Works For Me Wednesday.

A Day At the Movies With a Highly Sensitive Child

and the magical mother-daughter moment that wasn’t.

Okay, it was magical in a way.  On Saturday, after several long sick weeks indoors, Girl 1 and I needed to get out.  We spent over an hour at Old Navy, and that was a miracle in itself.  When she was 2 or 3 or even 4 I could never manage her in a store for more than five minutes at a time.

This time, though, the sensory overload at Old Navy got to me before it got to her.  The bright lights, the stale air, the loud music, the bright baubles that make it hard for me to focus my eyes on anything for more than five seconds.  It all gets to me.

Then we got lunch at Chipotle (steak salad for me, cheese quesadilla for her–no rice, no beans–and chocolate milk).

Then we saw Frozen.

{I’ve been eager to write another post, just so “My Life Is Hell” is no longer the first thing you see on my blog.  “This Felicitous Life . . . which is Hell.”  Still I was tempted to title this post “Hell Frozen Over.”  But that would make the third time in as many weeks that I’ve titled a post using the word “Hell.”  My parents raised me better than that.  Two times per month.  Tops.}

Not sure what I think of the movie.  I think most kids’ movies are pretty dumb, and this isn’t an exception.

I like the message of “love is putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own.”  Love isn’t just romance and kissing.

There’s also a message of “holding back your feelings is bad.”  It can lead to lashing out and inadvertently hurting those you love.  True ‘dat.  Though holding back your feelings isn’t always bad.  The devil is in the details.

And that “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman” song, sung by the little sister who loves her big sister more than anything, when the big sister loves her too but feels she has to stay away?

But in the end, the princess and the guy who loves her (really loves her and sacrificed for her) end on an ambiguous note.  They kiss and things look good for them.  But they might get married; they might not.  Does it really matter?  I kind of think it does.

I heard a Disney exec interviewed on NPR recently.  He was basically apologetic about earlier Disney princess movies, stressing that the newer ones feature “strong women” who “aren’t just waiting around for a guy to rescue them.”  Somehow, I don’t worry about my girls becoming strong women.  I take that as a given.

My bigger concern is that they know they deserve a guy who will risk everything and slay dragons for them.  And they shouldn’t waste their time on anyone offering less.

My biggest problem with the movie experience, though, is that it bombards your senses.  Violently.  Poor Girl 1 had her hands over her ears through most of the movie.  We left three times for “breaks” when it got too scary or just too much.  Too much noise, too many scary monsters, too many chase scenes, too much hanging off cliffs.

Afterward, I asked Girl 1, “What did you think of the movie? . . . Did you like it?”

“Mmm, no.  It wasn’t a good movie.”

We stopped at Panera on our way home, for a cinnamon bun as big as her face (found to contain raisins: mostly rejected).


The warm fuzzies were coursing through my veins.  Shopping! Movie! Food!  It was the perfect mommy-daughter outing.

And then she pouted and whined and kicked my seat the whole way home because I wouldn’t let her play with my phone.

Some moms really enjoy making special “moments.”  I’ve really had to lower my expectations on that front.  I enjoyed our day out, and I know Girl 1 did too.  But my satisfaction can’t hinge on her appreciating the “specialness” of it.  She rarely reacts in a way I feel is warranted.

But on another, perfectly ordinary day not long ago, Girl 1 looked up at me and smiled, saying,

Oh Mommy, I love being me with you.

Oh Girl 1, I love being me with you, too.

Montessori and My Outside-the-Lines Kid

This time I got a normal one!  I almost did a little jig this morning.


Girl 2, my almost-two-year-old, spent at least a half hour this morning carefully scooping from a dish into an egg carton.  She worked happily, quietly, deliberately, filling up each of the twelve little cups.  We then moved on to pasta, then little beads.

It was exactly the kind of activity I’ve been encouraged to try at home during the three and a half years I’ve had Girl 1 in Montessori classes.  And it was the first time it’s ever worked.

Until about age four and a half, Girl 1 would never ever sit still long enough for this sort of thing.  The rice would end up on the floor, she would be bored, I would be frustrated, and in five minutes she’d be pestering me for something else to do, while I was still on hands and knees cleaning up the mess.

I have a love/ hate relationship with the Montessori method.  Mostly love, but a little hate.  It emphasizes the innate capacity for learning that every child has, and the way the child naturally learns things in a certain order, at certain stages.

Montessori contrasts with the American tendency to want kids to learn everything faster, earlier, so they can get into the best college, get the best job, earn the most money.   (Pamela Druckerman has an interesting discussion about this when she contrasts French and American approaches to childhood education in Bringing Up Bebe.)  I get a bit disgusted by the way every child’s toy and book seems to be geared at getting kids to know their alphabet and read read read as early as possible.

For instance, Girl 1 started reading over the summer.  Pat and I nudged her along, introducing her to the concept of phonics and reading to her a lot from the very beginning.  But putting letters together to form words only clicked for her when she was ready.  And now, a few months into her pre-K year, her reading has plateaued.  Every now and then I ask if she wants to read to me from the BOB books, but most of the time she declines.

And I’m not worried about it.  Girl 1 can do anything she wants if she’s motivated enough, but you are in a world of hurt if you try to get her to do something she doesn’t feel like.  If I weren’t immersed in the Montessori philosophy, however, I might feel obligated to push her along at home and pester her teachers to push her along at school.  Instead, I really do trust that Girl 1 will read just fine when she is ready.  Loving books, knowledge . . . wisdom . . . is so much more important than checking off the “reading” box as early as possible.



Montessori emphasizes the different phases of child development, the sensitive periods, the child’s (supposed) natural inclination to model what adults do.  This put me at a loss when my child didn’t fit the mold, didn’t want to model adult activities, didn’t get with the program the way the other children did.

Because Girl 1 was my first child, I didn’t know: is it her?  is it me?  is it all in my head?  am I not disciplined enough? am I too strict?  am I not patient enough?  am I not doing enough to nurture her development?

So, watching Girl 2 scoop rice this morning was like a little epiphany about Girl 1.  It’s not me.  It’s just her.  And she’s fine.  Some attention/ sensory issues probably, but overall she’s right on track.  And even if she isn’t right on track, I can accept that.  I just need to get my bearings straight so I can know.   It’s not me.  It’s her. 

And thank you, God, for giving me a normal one next.

One of the many things I don’t understand about God, though, is why he gave me Girl 1 as my first.  If I
had my “normal” child first, I don’t think I would have felt so distressed with a later-born outside-the-lines-child.  I think I could have been more patient, with myself and with her.  But maybe because of Girl 1, I’ll be more relaxed and patient with Girl 2.

A lot of parents refer to the eldest child as their “guinea pig.”  I think ours is also a sacrificial lamb.

Except she’s more like a lion.  And I guess that’s a good thing.

Men’s “Fashion,” Gluten-Free Bread, and Occupational Therapy: All In One Post, Lucky You! {7QT}

— 1 —

I enjoyed this piece in the Wall Street Journal, a sort of “but the emperor has no clothes!” observation on men’s fashion.   I especially like that it calls out the dress-shoes-with-no-socks thing.  I so very much do not get that.  Speaking of which . . .

— 2 —

Is this not the worst thing you’ve ever seen?

J. Crew Summer 2013, image via

Well, no this is:

Actually, even that’s not the worst.  The worst was in the J. Crew July 2013 catalog: guy wearing tight denim jacket over floral blouse with rolled up pants, no socks, and white dress shoes.  I just spent half an hour looking for it but can’t find it.    Half and hour wasted in search of ugliness.

— 3 —

Moving on . . . .

Girl 2 has had eczema on her wrists for, roughly, the last ten months.  On a hunch, I stopped feeding her gluten and–voila–eczema gone.

— 4 —

I’m trying not to wallow in mother guilt: Pat and I have followed (mostly) a gluten-free diet since October, but I’ve still fed the girls bread and such.

Girl 1 had eczema, too, when she was the same age.  We eliminated gluten from her diet for a while but it didn’t seem to help.  Girl 1’s eczema went away on its own.  So I kind of presumed Girl 2 wasn’t sensitive to gluten, either.  Poor kid has always been kind of fussy and a bad sleeper, and she’s been on antibiotics several times in her young life, and I wonder if it’s all related and . . .

— 5 —

Yeah, trying to avoid mother guilt.

— 6 —

I’m used to cooking gluten-free for all of our main meal, but it’s hard to get away from sandwiches when I need something quick and filling for the girls.  I’ve tried GF breads from the supermarket, but they were distasteful and expensive.  So, hooray for this:

Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free bread mix

which I made in the bread machine just yesterday.  Really really yummy.  (When it’s warm anyway.  Heat it up once it gets cold.)  Not compliant with Pat’s and my diet, but at least it won’t irritate Girl 2.

— 7 —

Girl 1 had her first occupational therapy appointment today.  It went well.  The therapist doesn’t think she has a big problem–maybe not Sensory Integration Dysfunction per se–but she acknowledged the issues I pointed out and said she thinks a few sessions plus some “homework” can help.   This is pretty much what I hoped for: nothing insurmountable but also not all in my head.

Thank you, Jen at Conversion Diary, for hosting today’s link up and giving me an excuse for stringing so many random topics in one post!

My Outside-the-Lines Kid {7QT}

— 1 —

Today was the last day of the one-week ballet “camp” Girl 1 participated in.  Here is the a drawing she made during the program:


— 2 —

All of the other little girls drew neatly inside the lines.  My kid, not so much.  But she was the only one to think of drawing a person inside the tutu.  Why have a tutu without someone wearing it?  Sheesh.


— 3 —

They had a little two-minute performance at the end for the parents.  My kid stood at the end of the line, closest to the teacher.  About half the time, at most, she followed the teacher.  The rest of the time, she was staring off into space, at us, at the mirror, or doing her own thing.

— 4 —

I have to remember that this is progress.  For two years, I took her to storytime at the library almost every week.  I thought she never would be able to sit and listen to an entire story without getting up and running around the room.  Now, she can at least stand in line, even if she’s not paying attention the whole time.

— 5 —

Pat says Girl 1 reminds him of himself at that age.  In tee-ball, he sat in the outfield picking daisies.  In tennis lessons he held his little tennis racket and looked to the side at his mom the whole time, oblivious to the instructor and other kids.  This makes me feel better because, you know, he turned out okay.  Still doesn’t like to follow the herd.  Still a little awkward sometimes . . .


but those qualities just make him perfectly suited to be a software developer.  And that allows me to be the world’s lowest-earning attorney.  So it all works out.


— 6 —

But back to Girl 1: unlike Pat, it’s not enough for Girl 1 just to do her own thing; she often wants to impose her will on the rest of the world (or at least on us).  And she tends to be hyperactive.  And she is LOUD.  But she is oh so charming, when she wants to be.  Very musical.  Very affectionate.  Very sociable though socially immature.  (Just now we have another little four year-old girl  over.  Girl 1 got a kick out of singing “Al-mond milk! Al-mond milk!” over and over to the friend, cracking herself up.  The friend gave a polite but bewildered smile. . . .”Why is she saying almond milk?”  Why, indeed?)  After dealing with Girl 1, along with her also strong-willed, light sleeping, loud-screaming little sister,  I am near catatonic at the end of the day.

— 7 —

I think Girl 1 could be considered ADHD, though her pediatrician says that, at 4, she is too young for a formal diagnosis.  I also think she has some degree of Sensory Integration Dysfunction.  (This book has been informative.)  Part of me doesn’t like to seek out labels for her.  But lately I’m thinking I should think of her as special needs.  Too often–although I try so so hard to be patient and encouraging–my reaction is “Why won’t my kid get with the program???”  I admire mom whose kids have autism or other special needs and who are able to focus on their kids’ individual strengths and weakness, without regard to what is or isn’t “normal” or “average.”  I need some of that.


Because there’s nothing average about my kid.

For more quick takes, visit Conversion Diary!