Friday, June 29, 2007

Starbucks Situation At 7am

All of you know that I’m an early into the office kind of guy.  What’s great about being at your desk by 7:30am is that when you go to Starbucks while it is still dark out, there are relatively few lines, and when there are lines, it is usually business people getting coffee – not coffee drinks (if you recognize the difference). Its quick, its easy, and I’m on my way.

If I enter a Starbucks anytime after 7am, the game changes. It just does.  Recognize and accept this folks! Frappachinos, Carmel Macchiatos, etc…they are all being ordered by girls going to school (doesn’t anyone eat breakfast anymore? And have coffee drinks replaced a pre-high-school smoke in the car to show rebellion against parents and teachers?  I think so…) or females. I think Starbucks drink ordering really does break down a lot along gender lines.  You’ll see a guy order a latte periodically, and that’s okay, but if he orders a Peppermint Mocha, he better also order a grande regular and sip that as he carries the Mocha to his car (carrying it home to the wife…)…or risk having his man card pulled and revoked.

Most of you also know that I’m not the biggest fan of children in the world. I used to barely tolerate some kids….now that I have Demetrius and Maya, I’ve come a long way…I can tolerate some kids now. That’s a joke, I really do like kids alot more now, but certain ones still drive me batty.

You also risk having parents with kids in line at Starbucks after 7am, and that’s just asking for your coffee to be spilled…but since I have my own now, I am less judgmental about these things – but still, if it is a weekday morning and we are in our nice work clothes (like I wear those to the office any more – I’m in technology!), please take your kid to Dunkin’ Donuts – it is suited for him or her with food and beverage choices of his her liking… and he and she won’t be surrounded by surly adults, like me at 7am, going into the office.

Finally in the set up of this posting, we all have our favorite Starbucks, even though there are seven stores located in a single strip mall now.  We like walking in and having ‘our’ barista serve us our overly hot cuppa-joe, especially after a long run with Buddy and finally on my way to work at 6:45 am….

Well, at my Starbucks, at 7:10am this morning (I still made it to the office at 7:30am! No traffic on the 400…weird!), there was a line, and I groaned to myself when I walked in.  In the line is a woman, I run into her periodically at this Starbucks after 7am, with her son….and being behind them is painful.  She changes her order all the time, even after she’s been served what she originally ordered!, the kid is always ill behaved and I have actually seen him wipe his hand, after scarfing some scone, on a guy’s pant leg. Sure the Mom let him have it that time, but this is how it is every time I run into them at the Starbucks (about once a quarter of a year, I suspect).  

Pretty much the same thing this morning, except Junior kept changing his order between donuts and scones.  I’m fifth in line.

Dude with Blackberry: Can you move it? I’d like to place my order this morning.

Mom turns and shoots a look at the guy and says, “Excuse me! That’s plenty rude!”

Dude: No, you are rude. Every morning you treat this line like your own kitchen counter, and your kid needs a swift kick in his butt.  Especially after yesterday.

Now, I really, really, really want to know what happened yesterday.  I never found out.  But this exchange had everyone in the little Starbucks/drive through store quiet.  All you heard was the music playing on the speakers and the hissing steam of the espresso maker.

Mom: How dare you.

Dude: I dare, and it is time some one told you to move it, now will you place your order and pay so I can get my cup of coffee?

Manager (I think): That’s enough.  He then turns to the guy working the register – “Everyone in line after this woman gets their coffee for free today.” (I’m the last guy in line! Cool!)

Mom: I’ve been coming to this Starbucks every day for two years, every morning.  I cannot believe I am hearing this.

Manager (I think): And for two years you’ve been rude to my employees, thoughtless of anyone else in line, and it has gotten to a point where other customers are openly hostile in line waiting for coffee. These folks deserve their coffee as much as you deserve yours, and this morning, they deserve it a touch more.

She says absolutely nothing.  Pays for her son’s pumpkin spice donut.  Leaves.  I get a Venti Zen tea (I should have gotten the works, but I like having my man card).

So what’s my take away here?

1 – The manager did a great job leaving the kid out of the conversation altogether.  While this :30 heated exchange was going on, he (kid) kept pulling on his mom (he has to be at least 7 years old) telling her, “he wanted his donut now.” Nightmare kid, but if the Manager said ANYTHING about the kid – he steps over the line.  Even with me.

Frankly, the kid is a nightmare because of his parents allowing him to be so.  It’s not the Manager’s role to judge the kid, even though Dude with the Blackberry had no problem doing so.  If he brings the kid into it, he probably is somewhere in the area where a letter to the district manager gets him in trouble, or fired.  Demetrius has wandered behind the counter at this particular store before, etc…kids are just kids, to an extent. You gotta keep the kid out of it, even though he’s a big part of this altercation.  

I would never want my kid(s) called out like that, so I respect the Manager keeping it among adults here.  That’s either just plain great training on behalf of Starbucks, or this is a guy that understands how to make his point without crossing a line. Good for him if so, and good for Starbucks if that is part of their training.

2 – I’m just not grumpy when I’ve watched this Mom and son interact in line.  Sometimes I think it is me and I’m overreacting to this behavior because its early and I want my tea or decaf coffee and to get on my way to work.  Clearly, it’s not just me.

3 – The employees have been putting up with this behavior, and then angry customers behind and Mom and son for a good long while.  Today… today was probably the last day this happens, without a huge screaming match.  It was completely disarmed by the ‘coffee to the other customers’ reaction to her behavior.

I still want to know what happened yesterday!

I know my kids misbehave, I know there are plenty of days where we don’t order quickly, or change our order a number of times because all the donuts look so good we can’t make up our minds. That’s life with kids.  But where is the line? I suspect the line is crossed at some point after two years of day after day of this, and other actions.

I’ve tried to be as thorough as laying this out as possible. Wondering what everyone else’s take is on this?  I don’t feel a bit sorry for the Mom here, like I said, I bump into her at that Starbucks once every 90 days or son, and it is always that way.  So I can’t imagine being behind her in line every third day or so…I wonder how many folks just go to the next Starbucks or a competitor down the street due to this?  Who knows, at 7ish in the morning, it is all very subjective anyway…

What says you? Also, I don’t think this has to do with our autistic kids, this is more a ‘regular bad behavior’ thing (if Starbucks can’t understand that our kids can be ‘different’ due to the autistic condition, then we go somewhere else, that’s not what I want your feedback about….)

I guess what  I want is, do you think the Manager was right or wrong? I’m in the ‘he’s handled this well’ camp….

Posted by Jerry in 19:42:42 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Demetrius, the BSer?

I was on the phone with Kim this morning…Maya wasn’t interested in talking (she was on the Polly Pocket Web Site, priorities beyond Daddy, you know!) and Demetrius wasn’t either, but I could hear him babbling in the background while I took orders from Kim (just because she’s in Kansas doesn’t mean I get off any easier!).

Demetrius: Mommy! I want to watch some movies.

Mommy: Demetrius, if you want to watch movies, you have to do some homework (she’s a slave driver).

Daddy: Let me talk to Demetrius (Kim hands phone to Demetrius).

Demetrius: Hello Daddy, I want to watch movies, all the movies I brought. First I have to do some homework. Mommy’s wonderful. Bye.

Mommy’s wonderful?

Could it be, just for a moment, could it be – that he is learning to bullshit?

If I say Mommy is wonderful, and do my homework, I’ll get to watch movies.

Maybe I should take notes. I’m so proud.

Posted by Jerry in 20:02:58 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Autistic Planet

Hey guys: I’m going to review this book on the blog in a few days, but if your interested in lining up to get your copy now, here’s the skinny on it from the publisher:

Go Ahead and Flap Your Arms
New Children’s Book Gives Insight into an Alternative Reality

“When your world spins out of line, you’re always welcome back to mine.”
Autistic Planet
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have autism? What if everyone if the world was autistic? Welcome to Autistic Planet (June 2007; Jessica Kingsley Publishers; $16.95; paperback; 978-1-84310-842-9) a new book by Jennifer Elder, author of the bestseller Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes.

Enter a magical world where all trains run exactly on time, where people working in offices have rocking chairs, and where all kids dream of winning the chess World Cup. Take a journey to this alternative reality, where being different is ordinary, and being “typical” is unheard of. Written as a dialogue between two young schoolmates, the storybook features child-friendly rhyme.

With vibrant and textural illustrations by Marc Thomas and Jennifer Elder, Autistic Planet is a beautiful book for kids aged six to ten and can be read alone or with an adult. Education Otherwise declares, “this is a great confidence booster for children with a ‘high functioning’ Autistic Spectrum Disorder, an opportunity for them to show off, and an enjoyable read for everyone, to boot!”

Autistic Planet will bring comfort to children on the autism spectrum by helping them realize they are not alone. It will bring enlightenment to those who want to gain a better understanding of people with the disorder. The book gives a positive, heartfelt glimpse of a unique world and will undoubtedly be much loved by children, particularly those on the autism spectrum, their parents, teachers, caregivers and siblings.


Posted by Jerry in 16:23:42 | Permalink | Comments Off

Of Mice and Men?

Tests on mice eliminate the Fragile X causing PAK chemical with an enzyme.  What does that all mean?  More research, of course.  Read it here.


Posted by Jerry in 14:48:26 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wild And Crazy Guy

After all the hoopla of the wedding, I jetted back here to ATL, by myself. After a rush to do some laundry, other chores, last night was the first night I came home and felt that it was just me at the house.

I do enjoy a bit of the downtime – catch up on some movies I’ve wanted to see, but for one reason or another, have not (Borat, The Departed – man, a whole lot of people were shot in the head in that movie. I’m not sure I’ve seen a movie where that many people were shot in one particular part of the body in such a short period of time!) and spent a lot of time with Buddy laying on top of me. He did this last year too – literally, without the hulla-ba-loo that the kids and Kim bring to the house, I think he gets real lonely – so it is important for a fur covered 60 lb dog, in summer weather, to lay across my body on the couch. It’s a give-and-take. He puts my legs to sleep, and he gets a bit toasty from my laptop battery (I use him like a table in this case). I think he would prefer if I just would pet him, I think I prefer that a large warm dog is not on top of me…but he’s obnoxious. And, of course, I love him for it.

It always works this way – the first week and weekend is great, a reprieve from ‘daily Daddy duties’. The next week, I begin to mope around such a ‘big and empty house’. I miss hearing Demetrius run around, his squaking, screeching and TV talk and Maya’s constant chatter and her crawling up in my lap. I miss Kim too, but I can talk to her at length on the phone. The kids don’t talk on the phone well, so my interaction with them is so limited – so I get to missing them more.

I have some friends, colleagues, acquaintances that are approximately my age, and don’t have kids…some aren’t married either. I always wonder if they do the same things on a Tuesday night that I do…walk the dog, make a small dinner, watch a movie, get back on the laptop to work awhile and then fall asleep? Then I wonder, “Wait, they have social lives in a different way then I do, they’ll do something on a ‘school night’ like eat out or catch a flick or the play softball or something.” I then get my dander up to ‘do something’ after work other than just come home. But ultimately I will think that this will just make me really tired for work the following day, and I would still have to drive the 400 back to Alpharetta, none-the-less, so I end up not doing anything. Buddy does need me, and I’m really not all that exciting to begin with…so I settle with maybe going grocery shopping. “It’s Wednesday night, Seinfeld reruns on TBS and I think I’ll make a lemon cake with lemon frosting! Noone likes that cake but me, so I can eat it all! I can do all of this and be in bed by about 9:30pm! YES!!!”


I don’t think I’m exactly a sad case (spinning am I? You decide) but just that my social life/circle/structure revolve around the boy and Pink Bombshell, and the friends we’ve developed through them. Our friends the Carraghers are baby-sitting me a few times over my fortnight into singledom, and I’ll do a few things with my single friends too.

Well, only if those happenings end around 8-ish, I’d hate to get to bed late.

Posted by Jerry in 15:24:13 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

So, If You Are Having Trouble With Comments On My Blog…..

A few of you pinged me yesterday that you couldn’t provide comments to my blog.  So I tested it out on two machines last night (no problem) and using two different browsers (Firefox and Safari…again, no problem).  I pinged (who hosts this site…and they tested it using a PC with Internet Explorer {again, no issue}).  Finally, I had a Web guru (who will remain nameless) test it also. Here’s his recommendations in his explanation to me:

(1) It really sounds like this person had internet problems. The “you are no longer connected” sounds like his (maybe dial-up) connection timed out, and then because of that he was looking at expired web pages. Tell him if that happens again, instead of using the back button, it’s best to start fresh in the process again, as much of a pain as that may be.

(2) What also could have happened is that he screwed up on the CAPTCHA (stands for Completely Automated Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart…or the small, squiggly numbers and letters) image the first time, and then kept trying to re-submit using his back button, which screwed it all up. If the CAPTCHA fails, best to let it give you a whole nother image to type the letters and numbers for, instead of trying the old one again. That’s to keep the robots at bay that might go through trial and error a bunch of times on the same image.

Try this guys. You might also want to see if your browser needs to be updated to the latest and greatest versions.

Not a very ‘autistic-y’ post today, but I don’t want to miss your spellbinding and deep comments!

Posted by Jerry in 18:42:33 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Study On Social Skill Training Misses A Key Point

I saw this press release that was issued by the University of Indiana today that says, surprise, surprise, that autistic kids make better progress on their social skills if done in a TYPICAL classroom environment.

I could be real cute and comment that I’ve been blogging this, from first hand experience, for the past year-and-a-half, but what’s the point of that? This study has crunched the numbers, which is the crucible of the study – the number crunching proves that studies show integrated classroom infrastructure is most beneficial to autistic kids social development.

Oh, and I forgot, and that those in practice today are largely unsuccessful.

The results seem to me to be missing a bigger point though – and again, I guess I’m speaking from first hand experience, that we have to better ‘train the trainers’ to succeed.

Why wouldn’t the conclusions come to this point along with the others outlined? Strategies can’t succeed if you don’t have the right people to implement. How many businesses have failed because someone has the right secret sauce for the greatest pizza ever tasted, thinks they can run a pizzeria, but has no business acumen at all (thus, the store closes)? A lot. The same logic applies here. It is more than just implementation of a great program and a well thought out strategy; it is training those that execute the programs to recognize what is happening in practice and execution. Who is ideal/qualified to do so, and what skills must she or he have to be considered ‘right for this job’?

Autism is generally a ‘new phenomenon’ that’s just beginning to be researched and analyzed…are we surprised to find out that there is a lack of knowledge to successfully implement amongst educators (the piece doesn’t say this, but I’m reading between the lines here)? I think we’ve had some very good teachers for Demetrius who were just plain not prepared (not their fault) or experienced (not their fault) to deal with this type of disability/issue. It will probably be years before they have the institutional experience to deal with spectrum issues.

Especially if other factors covered in this piece, like mainstream classroom inclusion, is something that has to be implemented. Not too mention, no single kid ever seems to have the same issue as the next autistic kid – it is a spectrum, with individual ticks, so there is probably only a limited amount of experience that can be applied on a 1:1 basis (1: many just won’t work). Therefore, some real world seasoning needs to be in the mix along with clinical and educational training.

I agree that better social skills programming needs to be developed. But I also believe we just need better trained support personnel also. It isn’t just about the program, it is about the experience and skills of those teaching and implementing. What are the criteria for them? Is it an undergraduate degree? Is it a master in education? Is it is specialization in autistic conditions within a master’s program? Is it a number of professional hours logged and tested in dealing with these kids before you are ‘certified’ to be a teacher qualified to teach autistic kids or be a para pro?

Its more than just strategies and pointing out what isn’t working – it is putting the right people, with the right skills, in place to implement, in this dad’s humble opinion.

Posted by Jerry in 17:12:26 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Goldfish, Toys and Maya’s Socks At The Wedding

Well, I’m sitting here in the Omaha airport, waiting for a flight that’s been delayed two plus hours to get me back to Atlanta. The fam is heading to Kansas with the in-laws for their summer sojurn to Washington County, and I will get started on my honey do list beginning tomorrow evening (today I have to get home, walk the dog, mow the lawn…not honey dos as much as everyday dos).

I have to say, there were a lot of memorable moments at the wedding over the past weekend. We’ll start with the fact that as my brother-in-law walked down the aisle, the batteries in the digital camera went kaput. This of course means I’ll take a lot of crappy pictures with the camera phone instead. Nonetheless…

Maya loved being a flower girl.

Maya was the queen bee flower girl. Where she went, the others followed. Adorable. She loved the bow in her hair, alot!

She loved the dress, her bow, and told everyone she ran into on the plane, in the airport, in town, all the way around that this was what she was going to be doing on Saturday. I watched her walk down the aisle with Demetrius (he was in the wedding, but I’m still not sure what his role was exactly)…and then, start to eat? Yes, she’s standing to the left of the aisle, as the bride was walking down….eating, what were those…goldfish? Cheeks full of snacks, and she was offering up snacks to the bridesmaids as the wedding was getting going, what the hell?

We came to find out that one of the grandmas and bridesmaids (who’s daughter was also a flower girl), didn’t want the girls to be hungry, so they had snacks for them in a pew. As my father has said on more than one occasion: no grandmother is going to let a grandchild go hungry at anytime on their watch – no matter what the situation is. It was ‘kinda’ cute to watch Maya offer up snacks to the women in the wedding. For Maya, after it was all over, she hopped in my arms and cried for a good 10 minutes. Why? Well, a lot of pressure, a lot of old ladies touching her she doesn’t know, a lot of people talking to her she doesn’t know, a lot of people telling her to do things she doesn’t know…and Mommy and Daddy are across the church….so I just think a long day, in a weird situation, with the obvious nervous energy around any wedding, got to her. At least she had snacks.

The handsome boy with his biggest fan, Mommy. Oh, and she’s pretty too (better go on recrod saying that and not just talking up Maya…)

Poor, poor Demetrius. Almost 100% polyester rental tuxedo, ill-fitting shoes, black so it was hot (sultry Iowa summer day didn’t help either)….same issues with Maya and the old ladies touching him, and throw the autism on top of it…long day for him too. I enjoyed watching him come down the aisle with his sister….holding two super hero action figures. Unfortunately for Demetrius, this was his threshold of tolerance high point. Once we got to the reception, the noise, throngs of people, band, and altogether too much stimulation of two very busy days, overwhelmed him. He and I, after about ten minutes of tears and ‘no, I don’t want to go in there!’s', headed back to the hotel room.

It was really, I think, way too much for him. He laid down on the bed in the fetal position and cried…pretty much for the remainder of the evening. Long travel days and all that stress were just too much for the runt. After about :10 relaxing, and me getting him changed into shorts, tee shirt and flip flops, we did manage to get to the hotel restaurant for some ‘noodles’ for dinner. But when we got back to the room the whimpering began again…partly due to the fact we were going to be separated for two weeks (he doesn’t do well, as I’ve written before, when I travel and he’s not in a good place about it) and just the ‘tired’ set in. He was out cold close to 8:30pm, and Kim said on the cell phone earlier that he slept until almost 8:00am this morning.

Kim, well, her little brother was getting married… so of course she cried, especially when he started to cry during his vows (what a woos!). She asked me for a Kleenex. What a silly question, I’m not crying at this wedding…I want some of those goldfish Maya’s chowing on! So I handed her purse to her. After a few minutes of shuffling, I her Rachel, Kim’s sister, start laughing. Why? Well, Kim didn’t have any tissues, but she did have a pair of Maya’s socks in her purse, that she thought might ‘be clean’.

Kim, crying, and Maya’s sock that may, or may not, be clean

Other than those items, it was a typical wedding. I am bummed that I wasn’t able to dance with Maya at the reception. I really wanted to do that, but Demetrius is what Demetrius is, and this was Kim’s brother’s day, so she should get to enjoy every moment of it without a fussy autistic kid worrying her. It wasn’t about me, and Demetrius wanted me because I was leaving – so it all worked as it should, I think. I’ll get another chance to dance with Maya, I’m sure.

More pictures below, but be forewarned, these are mostly family pictures for those members of the fam that are interested…..

Kim’s oldest nephew, Garrett

Second nephew, Nathan

Kim’s neice and Maya’s hero, Hannah

Kim’s sister Rachel and her two boys Garrett (right) and Nathan (left). Nathan is 14 and beginning to think he is quite cool. Indeed, I’m sure he’s seen an International Male catalog or something where the male model puts his hand in his jacket like that. Was I that way at 14? Probably..

Maybe Nathan gets his goofy, ‘I think I’m pretty cool’ ‘tude from his soon to be married Uncle JC, who clearly has his Vegas lounge act down here in this photo…

Maya and Nanny Joan during the wedding.  Maya would have been happier to be up and wandering around, but Nanny Joan needed her to hug and hold onto…looks like Jim (Poppy) is happy and finally relieved to be done paying for weddings



Posted by Jerry in 15:50:25 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Friday, June 22, 2007

In Iowa Now…

  • 3:30am – took Buddy for a 4 mile run
  • 5:30am – Left for the airport
  • 6:00am – Rode MARTA train to airport!
  • 7:00am – Got to stand in line to meet nice security folks at the airport
  • 8:45 am – 2 hour plane flight
  • 10:45 am – Land in Omaha
  • 2pm – Arrive in Carroll, IA

Yes, I’m officially tired, and it is 2:24pm, but feels like 7pm.

Here are some photos:

Demetrius, Hartsfield Jackson Airport/Atlanta, GA….approximately 7:30am, in a stall in the men’s room, singing a song from SpongeBob Square Pants called, “Victory, Sweet Victory.”  This is after I fished him out of the women’s restroom, telling a lady in a stall to hurry up because he had ‘to really go poopy.’  The picture doesn’t do justice to his legs swinging back and forth in front of the stall as he sang. Poor guy next to him trying to read USA Today….

Reading books, waiting to take off for Omaha…..

More to come….PS, we went to Burger King in Carroll, IA for lunch….THEY HAD SILVER SURFER TOYS!

Posted by Jerry in 20:32:03 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Two Days

Got the bro-in-law’s wedding to head off to…will try to post some photos over the weekend.  Until next time in Iowa…..
Posted by Jerry in 17:20:29 | Permalink | Comments Off