Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 20

Eve and I are home from the book fair and tired. We had an interview with her teacher who I already loved. She said Eve obviously doesn't face any academic difficulties, so she thinks they should focus on preparing for middle school and high school by working on the challenges of things like group work dynamics and subjects that Eve finds less engaging, like geography (poor kid has a little dead spot in her brain just like mine, where mapping skills should be). Then she said Eve was awesome, which, duh, but always nice to hear.

Then we went back to the book fair. It was crazy busy and crowded and I had to go out in the hallway every time somebody used debit or credit again and fighting through the throngs of people wearing winter coats made me claustrophobic and panicky,  but most people were awesome and we made a metric fuckton of money for the school library and by the end of the evening everything was hilarious and math stopped working in the library for a few minutes around seven o'clock and we thought about asking the principal if next year we could pipe oxygen into the library during the book fair like they do in Vegas. Then there was a lull and I walked around finding picture books and making them seem dirty (which wasn't that hard, really - There was an old woman who swallowed a stick? Oh what a trick, to swallow a stick? Seriously? Okay, she swallowed the stick to hit the puck, but come ON.) Then we played with the pom-pom pens that we had hidden behind the desk because the students kept whacking each other in the face with them. You click a little button that makes the pom-pom fly off, and it WAS oddly satisfying. 

Then we went to McDonald's and ran into some people who had been at the book fair, which made the night feel very small townish, in a good way. Then we came home and watched Bones. It started with a scene in a playground, and Eve said "oh, great. A bunch of kids are about to find a gross dead body. Why do we always watch this show while we're eating?"

Then she said something about dogs and I remembered that I had to show her this, which made me fall off my chair laughing earlier today. When she stopped laughing she said "WHY did she even sign him UP?" As a special bonus, we read the headline in the sidebar which said "Polish playground bans Pooh because 'it doesn't wear underpants'". 

And now I have to get ready for bed because Eve asked me if I would read the Bad Kitty Christmas book she got at the book fair to her just for fun. And I said I would. Because it does sound like fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Surly Tuesday: I'll Complain About the Snow if I Bloody Well Feel Like It

To everyone on Facebook saying "quit whining about the snow, it happens every year, you should be ready for it by now" - FUCK OFF. Unless you're someone I know and like, because I haven't bothered to go back and check who actually said it. If I know and like you - sod off (I'm sufficiently fired up that you still get some kind of expletive containing an 'off' directed at you, but we're still friends).

A lot of things happen every year. We get colds. We get stomach bugs. I get seasonal depression. I have a snow brush in my car that has the head on the wrong way - perpendicular to the handle instead of parallel, like a toothbrush, which means that it's been designed by some disciple of Satan to pull snow down on me instead of brushing it away anywhere useful, WHY WOULD ANYONE EVEN MAKE THIS KIND OF SNOW BRUSH AND OFFER IT FOR SALE??? I claim my right to complain about all of these in a timely and spirited fashion (just ask my husband, the hapless buyer of the aforementioned FUSB (Fucking Useless Snow Brush).

Complaining is one of the pleasures and comforts of life. Everybody has shit going on. Just because somebody else's shit isn't the particular kind of shit that gets to you doesn't mean you get to tell them to shut up about it (without being considered a big jerk). In certain very specific cases - say, someone very very rich is on their yacht being waited on hand and foot, with their loving and faithful spouse by their side, surrounded by their four beautiful children whom they had no trouble conceiving, and they complain that their gold lamé bikini is chafing? Maybe, MAYBE, you should tell them to take a breath and re-evaluate. Otherwise? Cork it.

I think of complaining as vaguely akin to perspiring when it's hot. You perspire, and then a breeze or a fan blows on the perspiration and cools you off so you don't die of spontaneous combustion or something. Similarly, something crappy happens, you complain, friends offer sympathy and commiseration and you don't explode or sink into a boggy mire of despondence. It's a time-honoured tradition.

I get that it's not cool if someone does nothing but complain, especially if there are things they could do to improve their situation. I get that perspective is sometimes useful and that other people often have it much worse. But in the full flush of that cold, or stomach bug, or seasonal depression, or first day driving in the snow with clenched fists and knotted stomach, how much of a percentage of a fuck do I give about perspective? A VERY, VERY LOW FUCK PERCENTAGE.

Moving to Hawaii isn't a viable option for many people who live in places with long, cold winters. Our jobs and families are here. Some of us look really bad in bikinis. And we love where we live, despite the fact that for a good chunk of the year it feels like the outside is trying to kill us (come ON, that thing where Mother Nature drifts down a gorgeous soft white fleecy blanket of snow, and then drops the temperature fifteen degrees so everything turns sharp and chunky and if you slip and fall you might stab yourself in the jugular? That is a HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT) . So we stay, and occasionally we complain. Lord help you if you try to stop us.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Fair Day One

1) I thought of Nicole every time I said "the posters are five dollars each."

2) I thought "there's no way they sent us enough Frozen posters."

3) I told one grade six girl that the pointers were (also) five dollars each and she exclaimed "OH F..." and I gasped and she finished "OH FIVE, I only have FOUR, bummer!" That was exciting.

4) One little boy came back up the counter, clasping his Pokemon book and his Ninjago book, looked at me and the librarian and said 'You guys are the BEST'. 

5) I only screwed up simple addition once. Maybe twice.

6) I ranted (probably for the dozenth time) that all the erasers should be the same price, and whoever added a .50 to ANY price should be shot. Or relieved of their position at Scholastic. Or made to work the book fair without a calculator. Don't even get me started on the 1.25 highlighters.

7) There are no cake pop erasers this year so we haven't had to tell anyone not to bite the erasers. There are, however, pencils with Groucho Marx nose/moustache combos on them, which have been held up to many, many faces. I don't bother to tell them not to do it, but it grosses me out a little. 

8) I was disproportionately cranky about the 'borrowed' pencils for the wish lists. We started the day with almost twenty pencils, and after two classes we had almost none - rotten little pencil thieves. Some teachers were awesome about sending their kids back to return the pencils, some were ridiculously defensive - "most of my kids brought their own pencils" - THAT PENCIL AREA ON THE COUNTER DIDN'T EMPTY ITSELF, SIR. When I came home to grab lunch, I took some pencils back from last year's school supplies. They all have EVE A. carved into them. I will HAVE my pencils back.

9) The woman I volunteered with last year is coming on Wednesday and she's bringing a BABY. On Wednesday I will be working the BABY FAIR, and someone else can do the math and find the fucking unicorn books.

Our book fair was blessedly boner-free
Photo by IIII Chin
10) At one point, Katy the librarian came back to the desk to check the flyer because someone had asked her if we had a book. I asked her what she was looking for and she said "Do we have Fart Powder: Who Cut the Cheese?" This was particularly marvelous because Katy has a British accent, and after she said it a few times I was on the floor laughing, and told her I have to record her saying it so I can play it back when I'm sad. P.S. We did not have Fart Powder: Who Cut the Cheese. (You're saying 'fart powder' to yourself in a British accent now, aren't you? You're welcome).

11) I used to spend hundreds of dollars when I worked the book fair, on books for my kids. Today I spent twenty, on a cool washi tape craft kit, because ninety percent of the books are too young for my kids. That made me sad, but not as sad as I thought it would. 

12) Fart powder. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Panic at the Movie Theatre!

Eve and I just got home from the movies (Big Hero 6). We went with three of her friends and three of mine, with a not-exact breakdown of parent-to-related child ratio, which isn't really important so I'm not even sure why I just tried to figure out a way to describe it. We were all roughly in the middle of the theatre, the four girls in front of the three adult women and one adult male.

Photo by Carlos Garcia |Campillo
We got there pretty early because a couple of weeks ago I took Eve and her friend from next door to see The Book of Life and the theatre was super short-staffed and we didn't get into the movie until two minutes before the movie started which stresses me the fuck out and there were almost no seats left, which was okay except some douchey couple dragged their five little girls in fifteen minutes after the movie started, bustled up to the top row where we were and started calling out asking people to move so their kids could sit down, then left and sat somewhere else while the five little girls whispered and went to the bathroom five times and spilled snacks and jumped up and down until I snarled at one (I didn't actually snarl, I just said "please sit down" quite firmly).

I was focused on not letting this kind of thing happen again. Of course, I can't control the actions of douchey people, but I could get us there early so maybe we would could sit in a less douche-accessible area. 

It seemed to go pretty well. I thought any late-arriving presumptuous douches would have trouble accessing us in the middle where we were. And we had a bit of a wait, but I hadn't seen my one friend in months, so hey, more time to catch up.

We had a lovely chat. It seemed like we had been sitting there for quite a while, but not in a bad way.

The movie was supposed to start at 1:30.

We checked our phones. It was 1:40.

Someone from the theatre came in at 1:45 and said they were having some technical difficulties and it would be ten or fifteen more minutes. We weren't overly upset, since our friends still had time to make it to their family dinner, and our kids were still happily chatting. The people with small children were less sanguine. There were bathroom breaks. There was crying and complaining. There was mutiny among the troops. 

Twenty minutes later, the gentleman came back in and said it would be fifteen to twenty minutes more, MAX, before the movie started, OR we could go to the 3D one at 2:40 (too late for our friends to still make their family dinner, plus I loathe 3D), OR we could get our money back.

Eve and Marielle asked if they could get Dippin Dots. Caitlin and her friend asked for popcorn. Did I mind that we were now basically rewarding the theatre for making us wait for our movie? A little, but not as much as you might think.

We talked some more. The front section of the theatre where the birthday party was set up devolved into something resembling Lord of the Flies. I asked Eve if, in the event that it got too late, she wanted to go to the 3D movie or wait and see it with Marielle next week-end. She said she would wait. 

We were just on the verge of having to bail, and the movie started. I thought the movie was fantastic - I laughed out loud and cried three times, not including the time I cried during the beginning short. As we were leaving the theatre (they refunded everyone's money, even the people who stayed and saw the movie), the parents with small children looked like battle-weary soldiers fresh from the wars.

Sometimes I miss the little hands and baby voices and hilariously mispronounced words and lapful of toddler. 

Sometimes having older kids is a really good deal. 

(A mother and two kids did, in fact, squeeze in right next to me after the movie had started and there was some phone fiddling and loud talking. I might have to avoid the movie theatre for a while until the douche-magnetism  wears off).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Re-post: Book Review: Autism's False Prophets by Paul A. Offit, M.D.

I reviewed this way back in 2009. I wish I could say, five years later, that this kind of evidence-based research has made a bigger difference. If more people would read a book or two instead of getting their science from flaky movie stars and "shocking" Facebook postings....

This is a really well-written, timely, important book. And just thinking about it makes me tired, and sad and angry. Thinking about trying to write this review makes me tired. Because this book is well-written, timely and important, and it's completely preaching to the choir. It's not going to convince anyone who isn't already convinced, or leaning that way. The book itself contains the argument that explains why this is the case. I'm sure Paul Offit understands that he is preaching to the choir with this book, which makes it brave of him to have written it.

Some people think that brave ones are the doctors and experts who say that mercury in vaccines or vaccines themselves have caused an autism epidemic. They think these people are brave because they are going against the medical establishment and Big Pharma, who are unscrupulous if not downright evil and only care about big profits, not about the lives or health of patients.

In fact, many, if not most, of these people are surprisingly well-funded and demonstrably unscrupulous when regarded a little more closely. Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who raised the possibility of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, is a prime example of this. On the strength of what was little better than a hunch, he published a paper in the Lancet that led to years of bitter controversy. Later it was discovered that he had claimed that his investigations were sanctioned by the Ethical Practices Committee, which they weren't. He had also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from personal injuries lawyers who were suing the government for compensation, which he failed to reveal. He paid researchers who produced favourable results for him. He disregarded information that didn't support his claims.

Despite all this, and multiple solid scientific studies that provide no evidence that the MMR has any link to autism (in fact, when Japan discontinued the MMR on the strength of Wakefield's paper, the rate of autism continued to rise), many people still will not be convinced. One of Offit's main points is that science is unfortunately a weak match for splashy headlines and celebrities who passionately advocate for unprovable theories, and claim that the medical establishment ignores them or tries to cover up their 'proof'.

Offit refers back to the silicone breast implant 'fiasco', in which the industry was basically decimated by anecdotal, unsubstantiated claims that silicone breast implants caused connective tissue disease. Massive class action suits were settled, although people who waited in hopes of winning more money individually were out of luck, since eventually the science showed no evidence to support the claims.

One of the major 'problems' with epidemiological studies, which are the most reliable, is that they cannot prove a negative. The most scientists can ever say is that 'there is no evidence' that the MMR or mercury has any link to incidence of autism. In the face of 'miraculous' cures and improvements touted by charlatans who offer chelation therapy and other useless and sometimes harmful 'treatments', this simply isn't sexy enough for the public.

Vaccines are not without risks, and no doctor has ever claimed that they are. Offit refers to incidents where vaccines caused sickness and even deaths. In all of these cases, the CDC detected the problem and halted the use of the vaccines. There was no cover-up, and the deaths caused by vaccines are far, far fewer than the deaths caused by the diseases the vaccines prevent.

In face of the various conflicts of interest, cynicism and suspicion surrounding this issue, Offit asks "if everyone appears to be in someone's pocket, who or what can be trusted? How can people best determine if the results of a scientific study are accurate? The answer is threefold: transparency of the funding source, internal consistency of the data, and reproducibility of the findings." Wakefield's results were never reproducible, or transparently funded.

There are many reasons why parents of autistic children would accept wild theories and unproven therapies over solid science. The so-called experts who propound these theories and therapies generally have simpler aims: publicity, and money. Some of them may actually believe they're trying to help autistic children, and their parents. They aren't.

Offit has been the target of public vitriol, accusations of being paid to say vaccines are safe, and death threats against him and his family. It was brave of him to write this book. I wish I could believe it would make more of a difference.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 14

I really have nothing. My general existential ickiness isn't following the curve I was trying to bend it into. I did work out today, which is a small victory since I really felt like just sitting - which reminds me of an article I just read on how we should be making our kids move more and moving ourselves more other than just in small bursts of activity that we pay for, and I agreed with everything about the article except its title, which was "Sitting is Still Killing Our Kids", and that is so needlessly inflammatory and sensationalized and click-baitey it almost negates the good stuff in the article for me. I'm so sick of things being titled "Number Four Will Blow Your Mind!" and "Six Suppers Containing Spinach That Your Kids Will Devour!" and Some Really Clever Third Thing I Can't Think Of! You don't know my mind. You don't know my kids. Can we cut down on the titular hyperbole a tad?

I just opened my email and Etsy sent me a November Gift Guide. At the beginning was the same black linen sundress that is at the beginning of every Gift Guide I get from Etsy because I looked at it once, and apparently some algorithm has decided that I MUST HAVE IT. Dudes. It's November. Let it go.

But then I came to the miniatures. The miniatures. As Eve says "why is it that small things are so cute and perfect just because they're small?" Well, sweetie, partly so we don't abandon our kids on that mountainside where an eagle pecks out your liver when they turn two and learn the word 'no'.... but I digress. So geez, look at this shockingly realistic tiny roasted turkey so your dolls can have Thanksgiving dinner. And this unbelievably beautiful tiny lemon layer cake so your dolls can have a birthday party. And this pile of tiny wine bottles so your doll can go on a bender after her boyfriend leaves because he's sick of getting flak for putting his feet up on the tiny coffee table - she's better off, chances are he wasn't anatomically correct anyway. I couldn't find a tiny bottle of Maalox but fortunately there are myriad tiny toilets. Who knew dollhouse life could get so sordid?