Monday, September 26, 2011


For years msk  has said leet-deet. Actually he says "leet-deet, leet-deet, leet-deet, leet-deet, leet-deet, leet-deet, leet-deet, leet-deet." It's often one of those stand in phrases that mean something in msk-code. I've interpreted it as frustration, if I pay attention at all. If he's not saying it loud, it might just be a noise he likes to make.

I never really thought a whole lot more about decoding it because when msk is in the midst of being frustrated, asking a lot of verbal questions is a bad idea. Generally, verbal communication is frustrating for msk, and questions are more like interrogations (under the bright light in the police station) in his mind.

So, leet-deet, was just one of those echolalic phrases that sometimes indicated distress and dealing with msk's  distress is usally about taking a deep breath, radiating a sense of calm and if at all possible removing the object of frustration with little or no talking.

Sometimes though, I just have a hard time reaching that place of calm. Lately, college applications and financial worries related to college choices, have shortened my patience. On Saturday I was driving with msk  and he was verbally repeating some sort of you tube clip or computer game. I said something meaningless to him out loud (something on the order of "how's it going?"). Small talk is never msk's  forte and when he's in the middle of a recitation, this type of distraction forces him to stop recreating what's playing back in his mind, make the obligatory, but pointless, "I'M DOING OK, MOM." Then there's my obligatory "It's OK for people to talk to you, so don't yell at me please." I think he said he had to start over and I said something about his self-talking was getting on my nerves. Probably not the high-point of my parenting empathy and understanding.

Anyway, there was a level of frustration in the car and silence as I drove. Then I heard a frustrated "LEET-DEET, LEET-DEET, LEET-DEET" at the same time I noticed that my turn signal was stuck on after I had switched lanes. It finally clicked. The noise of the turn signal was driving him crazy."Leet-Deet." means stop that annoying noise. The rhythm, the tone, and the emphasis were all exactly the same tone as my car.

Mystery solved.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

College Apps

I’m not sure how to make this into an interesting post, but I thought I should capture some of the things I have learned at this stage of trying to find the right college for my eldest to attend next year since it seems to be taking up a lot of my time and energy at the moment.

  • There’s a difference between early action and early decision for college applications – action is on the college’s part, as in they’ll tell you if you get in; decision is on the applicant’s part, as in you only get one and you promise to go there
  • Applying to 10 colleges is not an outrageous number, it seems to be about average for the people I’ve talked to
  • Application deadlines are all over the place – this means there’s not a single super-stressful date, but it also means that there are nearly continuous deadlines through senior year
  • Colleges seem to have all sorts of money for some spectacularly designed mailings, although I’m not really sure how many hours of reading/attention time they get per dollar spent
  • Some schools (UMCP for example) pretty much make you apply by the early deadline because that’s the deadline for honors programs and scholarships and what college applicant isn’t at least hoping for a scholarship? This means that you really need to figure out your list of colleges early so that you can check if any of them have early application deadlines for things you are interested in
  • People who love graphs and databases and number crunching should find the $20 fee for full access to US News & World Report’s college database worth the money. I started trying to build something similar in excel before I found it. I thought all they did was college rankings (which I’m a little skeptical about), but they have all sorts of information, like tuition, student to teacher ratios etc
  • No matter how much time, effort and money you pour into working with your kid on this stuff there will be parents who have done more, much more.
  • Your child will love and/or hate schools for reasons that seem really stupid. I’m trying to use these 17 years of experience with this child to remember patience and diplomacy when I try to nudge for or against a specific college as well as remembering that this is not my college education we are talking about, although I will be sinking a lot of money into it…

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Remember that light-hearted post I was promising?

I don't often talk about my husband here, but he is, of course, the love of my life. He's go a penchant for god-awful Hawaiian shirts. It started as a joke, but I think that now he actually feels fondness for their hideousness.

I have been known to hold a grudge. In 9th grade we read The Scarlet Letter. I hated it mainly because I hated the characters. At that age I had very little tolerance for the idea that different times had different values. At 14 I was sure that I understood sexual freedom and hated prudes... based on theory and reading of course.

I realize the silliness in retrospect, but still, I just can't seem to find an sympathy for Puritans.

The connection? Puritan brand Hawaiian shirts and Hester, Dimsdale, Chillingsworth and all the rest, turning in their graves.

It makes me smile every time I do laundry.

Monday, September 12, 2011


So here's the post that has been knocking around in my head ever since I read a comment with this link on a blog that I had resolved never to read again.

What do you know about school choice in Baltimore? How can you say with such certainty that children that are assigned to a school that is failing, in so many senses of the word, are not better off at an alternative school? Because of some sort of vague national surveys? Because you've never set foot in Baltimore? Because you've never talked to anyone with actual first hand experience in a charter school in Baltimore?

I hate to use the term, but it seems to me that you are an outside agitator. Your goals have nothing to do with improving educational outcomes in Baltimore and everything to do with political correctness. If you can make your point by storing up anger and tearing apart unity, that's fine.

The pundits on the national education scene have no interest in msk's challenges in finding a school that valued him and his special needs. School choice means privatization to them, regardless of the fact that a charter school may have been started by teachers looking for freedom in developing an educational philosophy. No, it's all about corporations taking over our excellent public school system and trying to make a buck. But Baltimore's schools didn't strike me as excellent and big changes, even though I know they are painful, have made very positive changes in msk's education.

I realize we all have different perspectives - teachers, students, administrators and parents. We have to actually listen to those first hand experiences and value them, as opposed to dismissing things that don't fit into your grand theory.

Venting is over. Sorry. Next post will be light-hearted, I promise.

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