Tuesday, September 30, 2008

There's a difference? I've got no filter!

So Tonya posted a blog today talking about the "Knoah Phenomenon", which is something quite familiar to most of us with dwarf children. You know, you walk around anywhere on the planet where you can encounter people you don't know, and everyone - I mean EVERYONE - does a double take, and stops to stare. Now typically, in our experience, it's not meant as a negative thing. Most often, the reaction we get is some variant of "My gosh, she's so adorable!" We've been kind of proud of that when it comes to Caitlin anyway, but the level of it has really stepped up a notch or three over the last month or so, as she's really hitting that "I'm not an infant" stage in her development.

The line that really got me thinking, and then writing, was Tonya's response to a comment from a friend of the family that he really doesn't see anything different, he doesn't see "small" or "handicapped", he just sees Knoah. Tonya's response, truncated for space, was "Why is it okay in some situations to say something and not other’s? Where is that line people are suppose to have?" Man, I can so identify with that question!!

For some reason, nothing's really considered to be "off limits" unless it's been through a decade or so of public criticism, and even then it's still touch and go. As you probably know, being in a mixed race relationship with mixed race kids still gets plenty of looks, and occasionally, comments. I almost decked a lady in WalMart a month or so back who simply would not believe that the little brown-skinned boy that I was helping try on shoes was my son. Even after Evan called me "daddy" she didn't want to walk away!

It's even worse when the difference is one that isn't at all common. Like it or not, mixed race couples are everywhere, and people are learning to shut up about it. Dwarfs, on the other hand, are usually only visible in movies, and then as a joke at least half the time. Our kids are crazy cute, but part of that cuteness comes from their perceived precociousness - the ability to do things that children their size shouldn't be able to do. This weekend we were at a restaurant and Caitlin was, as usual, being very vocal and proactive in her own feeding, and was looking around the room taking the measure of everything in eyesight, all while attempting to stand up in the high chair without support.

The young lady (probably mid-20's) at the table next to us kept staring and smiling at Caitlin, and giggling at every cute little thing she would do. Finally, the shared pleasure in watching Caitlin overcame the natural separation we all create while in public, and she began to overflow about how adorable Caitlin was. We, of course, had no problem accepting the compliments, because we absolutely agree. Then she asked the dreaded question - "how old is she?" Our answer, of course, was a proud "14 months". We're quite happy with her development - the fact that she's at age appropriate levels for almost all motor skills development is something we're quite proud of!

Her reaction was "I'm sorry - what did you say?" You could tell that she'd heard the response, but it didn't make any sense to her, so she'd assumed that she'd heard wrong. Logical enough, as the human thought pattern goes. We repeated "14 months" and continued smiling. You could almost see the wheels spinning in her head, completely failing to get any traction. Her first response was "Wow!" She struggled for a response for a minute (well, it was actually probably 10 seconds or so, but the awkwardness of the moment made it seem like a full 60) and finally turned to her dinner companion and said "my daughter must be huge!"

Honestly, I almost lost it, laughing hysterically on the inside. We've, predictably, dealt with plenty of the "but she's so little!" type comments as we've been out and about with Caitlin, but this was the first time I'd ever had anybody assume that Caitlin was average and their own child was the aberration! I had to mark that as a truly memorable moment in our lives.

The problem is that one of the primary adaptations that the human mind has developed is the ability to quickly categorize objects it encounters for easier processing. This, starting with the identification of simple shapes in early childhood education settings, is the basis for every high level thought that the human mind is capable of. We create symbols of things in our mind to allow our mind to process and manipulate the symbol in ways we can't process or manipulate the original object, and this allows us to think and process faster. It's why there is some truth to the commonly joked about statement that "all you (insert racial color description here) people look alike to me!". The reality is that our brain categorizes every single thing we see by shape, color, size, etc., starting with the generalities, and if we only see one or two examples of a shape, size, or color, we get them easily confused while the brain tries to figure out where to fit this new example.

I remember working local crew on the Tim & Faith tour many years ago, and being surprised at the t-shirts being worn by the only two African American road crew on the tour. At this point, the typical road crew was white, male, and late twenties to early thirties, so seeing anything that differed from that standard was very unusual. Because of the vast confusion this had caused on shows in the past, they both wore shirts on the front of which was printed "Hi, I'm (insert name, which escapes me after so many years)", and on the back of which was printed, in large block letters, "No, I'm the other black guy". The intent was to have some fun with the fact that they didn't look dramatically dissimilar, and thanks to that were constantly being mistaken for each other, but I thought it was a much more interesting commentary on something that has been both a blessing and a curse for all of humanity.

Anyway, this started as a response to Tonya's post, but ended up developing into something much longer, but really I think I mostly agree with Knoah's PT who said that the problem is when people look at Knoah, or any of our kids, they immediately classify them as babies or infants, and then become completely flummoxed by the fact that developmentally they can't be babies at all. Since we've all heard of prodigies, and never realize that dwarfs start as children, and really do occur in everyday, ordinary families, the brain immediately rejects the developmental age and accepts the visual age. Immediately the brain shuts off its filter, and the owner of the brain starts using its mouth instead.

Anyway, I need to go to a series of production meetings, so lemme wrap by saying we have an important meeting with Caitlin's geneticist on Friday, where we will be pressing to have all the testing done that is apparently standard for other kids with achondroplasia, but was never done for Caitlin, so I will have much to report after that, and we are also heading for the District 12 Fall Regional in San Jose the weekend after. Should be much to come!!

Tata for now...

Monday, September 15, 2008

One last bit about Supreme Master TV :-)

I found the links to the videos for the show I lit over Labor Day weekend for Supreme Master TV! If you're interested, here is how I spent my holiday :-) If it looks pretty, I probably did it. If it looks like crap, I'll be glad to blame somebody else! Hehehe...

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Enjoy at your own risk! If you end up vegetarian, don't tell your spouse I was responsible - I didn't drink the kool-aid!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

News/ Supreme Master explained

First, the news. Caitlin took her first steps with a walker today! She's been pulling up and cruising on furniture, toys, your legs, etc. for quite a while now, and occasionally we've been able to get her to take a few steps while holding her up by her hands, but today for the first time she pulled herself up on a walker and took about 2 steps before sitting back down on her butt! Cherylle saw it happen several times, but she would never repeat it in front of me... Boo!

All this was happening while I was wiring up some lights we'd gotten from a trip to Ikea a while back, and hanging a canopy over Caitlin's crib. The lights consist of two pink 5-petal flowers and one green bug, and the canopy is made of a material similar to mosquito netting with large leaves and vines appliqued onto it. Her crib is in one corner of her room, so one of the flowers got hung on the wall at the foot of the crib, which is to the left as you face it. The canopy was hung center over the crib and spread out around the perimeter, and the bug and the other flower were hung to the right of the canopy, and staggered for height. It'll all look beautiful when I have enough light bulbs to go around - I didn't realize they were supposed to be candelabra base until after I'd already bought 25w medium screw base ones for the project! Oh well... it's not as if I'm supposed to be a lighting professional or anything...


Anyway, by request, here is further explanation of the cult I spent Labor Day weekend with. Supreme Master TV is the television studio for a religious group that follows the teachings of a lady they call the "Supreme Master" who preaches vegetarianism and green living as a way to achieve heaven on earth. The religious part is a blend of Catholicism and Buddhism, as she was raised Catholic and "found enlightenment" through the Quan Yin method of meditation, as taught to her by an enlightened master deep in the Himalayas. After returning from the mountains, supposedly she "spontaneously" became talented in painting, poetry, jewelry design, and a large number of other things that she sells to raise money for global awareness. The TV station is broadcast on a number of obscure satellites and on the website I linked to earlier. Most of the time they talk about vegetarian cooking, being nice to animals, and protecting the planet.

The funny part is that as big of a hippie as I am I don't entirely disagree with everything they espouse, I just felt like I was the only one not drinking the kool-aid while I was there! I was actually raised vegetarian as a Seventh Day Adventist, and although I've since converted to omnivorism, I can appreciate the desire to be vegetarian both from a health and a "cruelty to animals" perspective. I mean, I love a good hamburger, but have you seen those cattle farms in the California central valley? Disgusting!!

Anyway, the event I was working was a series of musical performers coming together for a concert for the TV station's 2nd anniversary, presented by a couple of B list celebrities, the most outstanding of whom was one of the producers of the movie "Babe" who was inspired to make the film because he thought it would help kids understand that factory farms are bad, as is eating your friends - and animals (even the gross ones) are your friends. Interesting, but so was the bacon and eggs I had last night for dinner. LOL

At some point the show I lit should show up on their website - when it does I'll link that video here so y'all can see some of what I did...

That's all for now!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Remembrance

I got a phone call from my brother-in-law at 7am the morning of September 11, 2001, telling me to turn on the television, that we were under attack. From then on, I was glued to the screen, in complete disbelief at what was happening. That shock turned to grief as I watched the towers collapse, one after another, while people in the streets fled in terror.

I find it immensely saddening that our country, which tries so hard to do so much good in the world, can be hated so fiercely as well. People offer reasons, both valid and invalid, but there is never justification for hatred so complete that it can extend to a minimum-wage filing clerk who just needed to pay the rent; or to an airline flight attendant who had just given you a cup of water; or to a security guard at the front desk who smiled and waved when workers dragged themselves in to the office in the morning, still sucking on a scalding cup of coffee in a futile attempt to wake up; or, realistically, to anyone who died that fateful morning.

If anything good can possibly be said to come from the deaths of over 3000 people whose only offense was to be in a building that was a symbol of American economic strength, it is that on one day a year, we can put aside politics and just be Americans, citizens of the United States of America, brothers and sisters in the spirit of this great country. For another 364 days a year we debate the meanings, the causes, and the appropriate reactions to the events of September 11, 2001. Today, we mourn together, and we remember together, and hopefully, we grow closer together.

May God bless you, and keep you.

May God lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Busy weekend!

I worked way too much this weekend, so I missed most of the fun. My wife's entire family came over for the long weekend! It was absolutely a packed house for those three days, though. We've got a 1300 square foot condo with three bedrooms, the master for us and one for each of the kids. Cherylle's parents slept in the spare bed in Caitlin's room, her youngest brother and his family all packed onto a queen-size inflatable bed in Evan's room, and her middle brother crashed on the couch downstairs.

While I was off spending 30 hours over two days in a small TV studio in South El Monte (not a particularly nice neighborhood!) with a very pleasant but slightly Jonestownian group who believed that vegetarianism was the path to saving the planet, while following a lady known as the Supreme Master, the rest of the family was out having fun. They drove down to the Northridge Fashion Plaza for a day of shopping, capped off with a night at the Wood Ranch Grill steakhouse (while I was eating vege-meats, mind you!) on Saturday, and then cruised to the local mall on Sunday finished off with a trip to Buca di Beppo. At least they brought home leftovers from there!

Anyway, since Caitlin is the reason for this blog, here are the updates on her. After waiting until she was a year old to cut her first tooth, she's now got three coming in at once! Both of her top teeth and one of her bottoms are all coming in at the same time. Obviously it's great to get them over with, but it's making for some cranky nights... Cherylle's poor dad is a very light sleeper, and Caitlin kept him up all night both nights!

We also rediscovered a toy we'd bought for Evan many years ago - a tripod table from Fisher Price designed to encourage standing play. It's got lots of noisy toys around the perimeter, and on one side it has a steering wheel with a gear shift lever that moves a series of alphabet pictures in the center, playing back the name and sound to match each picture. Caitlin loves it! It's exactly the right height for her to pull herself up and cruise around, and she has a blast playing with it, despite the fact that it barely works anymore!

I've got pics, but they're trapped on my phone... for some stupid reason, Samsung doesn't support Macs for sync, so I have to disassemble the phone, remove the micro-SD card, find the adapter to regular SD size, go upstairs and plug the printer into my laptop with the USB cable, and finally grab the pics. Realistically, it's just that I'm really lazy, and collapsed on the couch downstairs with the computer in my lap and a beer in my hand, trying to talk myself into going to sleep since tomorrow's my first day on the new job...

'till next time!