Nov 1 2017

Hallowe’en 2017

Featuring a ninja, Space Godzilla, and a dad scientist…

Space Godzilla is a lot like last year’s Godzilla, only with the addition of shoulder spikes. A dad scientist is like a mad scientist, only it’s also a dad joke. Some of us were kinda coasting this year. The ninja is fierce as ever, though.

Oct 21 2017

Rock Stars

Davy, pre-haircut:

Robin, post-haircut:

Sol, napping with a silly filter applied:

We’re all doing well. The terrible fires in Napa and Sonoma made the air quality dangerous here for a while—it was apocalyptic, really. You could smell it everywhere, the ash rained down on cars and sidewalks, just going outside would make you cough and your eyes burn. We packed the kids into the car and spent three days in Reno. It’s a lot better now, but of course there’s so many people displaced; people who have lost everything. The magnitude of the damage is hard to convey. I’ve been hugging these boys tight.

Oct 3 2017

About Sol

Today Sol was formally diagnosed with autism, a step that comes as no surprise to anybody who has been close to him. At four years old he’s still not really talking, except in scattered words and lines quoted from his favorite videos. He’s clearly bright—he’s taught himself to read, in fact, at least at an early/beginning stage—but he’s just utterly unaware of, and uninterested in, social conventions and boundaries. And I’m talking boundaries like “don’t dig out all the soil from the potted plants and strew it all across the living room,” or “if you happen to find the front door unlocked, don’t run out in the middle of the street in your diaper and jump around there.” He is Not Like Other Kids.

He’s also sweet, loving, and happy—delighted with himself most of the time, and delighted to be in the world. He’s singleminded in focus when something interests him. He’s physically active and well-coordinated—loves jumping, climbing, and throwing things. He’s cuddly and affectionate. He really obviously thinks it’s pretty great being Sol.

My focus, on parenting Sol, is on supporting him to do the things he wants to do rather than trying to change or “cure” him. I think autism, or brains that work differently in general—neurodivergence or neurodiversity—is a benefit to humanity. I really value the perspective that my friends who are on the spectrum share. So I consider myself a supporter of the autism acceptance movement, and I have resisted the steady drumbeat of alarm from friends and family who repeat the words “early intervention” as if it’s some kind of mantra. Firstly, autism is a difference, not a disease; it can’t be cured and it shouldn’t be stigmatized. Secondly, I don’t want to intervene in Sol’s development, I want to support it.

I’ve done a lot of reading of blogs by adult autistic people about the “interventions” they endured in childhood, and there are some real horror stories out there. Many adults actually have PTSD from the abuse they suffered in the name of therapy. As the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network puts it:

“Many therapies and products for Autistic children and adults are helpful and should be made more widely available, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and augmentative and assistive communication technology (including supported typing, facilitated communication and other methodologies that support communications access). However, ASAN opposes the use of behavioral programs that focus on normalization rather than teaching useful skills. One of the guiding principles underlying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities. Autistic children should not have to grow up constantly being told that their natural behaviors are wrong and that they cannot be accepted as they are.”

It took us almost a year of navigating a ridiculous bureaucracy to even get Sol diagnosed in the first place, and now that we have? We get to wait another month before we’re formally added to the rolls of the Regional Center of the East Bay, the private non-profit that’s under contract from the California Department of Developmental Services to provide service and support for people with developmental disabilities. I think Sol could benefit from speech therapy so that’s my goal right now, but I would really like everyone to understand that getting services for him isn’t an easy or a straightforward process (and certainly not a quick one).

And most of all I need those close to us to understand that there’s not, like, a magic wand any specialist can wave over Sol’s head to transform him into a “normal” kid. He is always going to have a brain that works differently, and those of us who love him are privileged to benefit from his unique perspective on the world.

Aug 26 2017

When Your CSA Box Hands You Lemons…

I can’t believe it’s back-to-school time already. The older two boys started 4th and 2nd grade (respectively) on Wednesday. Smiles and thumbs-up all around at the end of the days, so at least we’re getting off on the right foot.

After two years of completely neglecting my garden—the whole back yard is a wild forest now—I decided it was time to go back to getting a weekly delivery of local fruit and produce. This time around we’re going with Imperfect Produce, and I was really impressed with our first box. Nectarines, plums, oranges, Asian pears, lemons, limes, garlic, a watermelon, kale, collard greens, a cucumber, green beans, zucchini, a cabbage, an eggplant, and a pint of cherry tomatoes–all organic, and all for $25! (Granted, that’s with the $10 off coupon for the first week, but still.)

Their prices are low because they work with local farms to take the misshapen, “ugly” produce that stores don’t want. The oranges all had cosmetic blemishes, for instance, and the lemons were either smaller or bigger than you’d see on the shelf in a store. They still taste the same! I promptly made a pitcher of cucumber-mint lemonade and I’m already looking forward to tonight’s pasta with sauteed eggplant, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese. School may have already started but dang it, it’s still summer in my kitchen!

Mar 18 2017

Disneyland According to Shannon

Last time we went to Disneyland I wrote about how fascinated I am by the psychology and sociology of the place. That’s still true, but as I spend more time there I find myself increasingly obsessed with the hidden and overlooked aspects of the park, by which I mostly mean things that I’ve overlooked in the past. For instance, I never really bothered with the whole idea of “meeting the characters,” beyond occasionally admiring a princess.

My thinking was that I really don’t need to have an extended interaction with some poor guy or gal in a full-body chipmunk suit who is slowly watching their dreams of making it big in Hollywood die, one overheated sticky day after the other.

I am here to tell you today that I was wrong. You should totally go bother the people in the fursuits. They’re awesome.

We spent last week at Disneyland (and its sister park, California Adventure, which I actually like even better) with my BFF Nina and her beautiful family, and the absolute highlight of the trip according to my kids was the character meet-and-greets. On Monday we met Stitch (from Lilo & Stitch) and for the whole rest of the week Davy was all about Stitch. He needed the Stitch plushie, the Stitch hat, the Stitch pin. He also worked very, very carefully and for a long time on a drawing that he wanted to give to Stitch. It was really good, and for the rest of the week he carried it around in the hopes that we’d see Stitch again.

On the last day, we did. And while the Stitch actors don’t talk, they’re actually kind of amazing in how well they emote through mime. I have no idea if it was the same actor from Monday, but Stitch did an adorable little happy dance when he saw the picture, and then he gave Davy a big hug, and it was…really, really heartwarming.

The caption below the picture, translated from the first-grader, reads: “I hope you like this Stitch picture I tried to make a good one.” It’s signed “Davy 2071.” When we pointed out the year is actually 2017 he informed us that he meant to do it that way because 2071 is the date on Stitch’s home planet.

On Tuesday, we met Darth Vader.

And let me tell you, Vader is seriously intimidating in person. He’s like six and a half feet tall and the cape swirls around him perfectly and he’s got the voice down and…yeah. He stared down at the kids briefly, then ordered: “Come here.” They meekly stood where ordered for the pictures.

He informed them that he sensed something in them…a power. Robin tried to smile. Davy did not. Sol buried his face in Sam’s shoulder and refused to come out.

Lord Vader informed the children that “Today…[ssscccchk, cccchhhh]…you have taken your first steps…along the path that leads…[hhhssshshh, chhhhccchhh]…to the Dark Side.”

Robin smiled weakly. Davy stared, unsmiling, into Vader’s blank facemask and finally said: “Okay.”

I surreptitiously touched the Darth’s cape before we left. Nina asked for his signature and was informed by his attendants, in a hushed and hurried tone, that Vader does not give autographs. We all agreed that an audience with a Sith Lord was one of the coolest things we’d ever done.

Someone on Facebook asked me if I had any Disneyland tips, and let me tell you, I have tips. Here are the nine I gave:

    1. Use FastPasses! The most popular rides at the Disneyland park are (roughly in order) Hyperspace Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, Star Tours, Finding Nemo Submarines, and the Indiana Jones ride. The most popular rides at California Adventure *by far* are Radiator Springs Racer and Toy Story Midway Mania, with Soarin’ Around the World a distant third. If you want to do these rides then either hit them first thing in the morning when the parks open or use FastPasses to avoid hour-long lines.
    2. Get the app! The Disneyland mobile app will show you current wait times for all the attractions, and will also list things like shows and bathrooms. Super useful!
    3. If your kid wants to be in the “Trials of the Temple” Jedi training show, you’ll need to be there at park opening and go straight to the Star Wars launch bay in Tomorrowland to sign them up.

Speaking of, here’s Padawan Davy fighting the Seventh Sister:

It was pretty lucky that he wasn’t paired against Darth Vader, since they’re bros now.

    1. Pick the park that doesn’t have Magic Morning early admission hours for the people staying in Disney hotels. Otherwise all those people will already be in line for stuff when you get in. Do Disneyland on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday and California Adventure on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday to avoid them. (If you’re staying in a Disney hotel, ABSOLUTELY take advantage of Magic Morning, that’s a big part of what you’re paying for.)
    2. The parks are very pleasant early in the morning and later in the evening. Heat and crowds get awful in the mid-afternoon. It makes sense to get up early, do rides in the morning, take a rest in the hotel in the afternoon, then go back to the park as the sun sets and stay ’til closing. Rides like Haunted Mansion that are crowded in midday often go down to a ten minute wait around 8 PM, and the parks are beautifully lit at night.
    3. Some of the more overlooked attractions that I think are great: Tarzan’s Treehouse and the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland, and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and A Bug’s Life in California Adventure. These rarely have significant waits. (Also Tom Sawyer’s Island, though that was closed during our visit.) The Jungle Cruise, like everything else in Adventureland, is culturally problematic but really fun—and usually not too long a line. The water features in A Bug’s Land are a great place to let the kids jump around and cool off a bit:

    1. It’s worth getting a Disney credit card even if you cancel it immediately after the trip. A lot of places in and around the parks give you a ten percent discount for using it, but more importantly, both Disneyland and California Adventure have special character meet-and-greets that are only for cardholders. That’s how we met both Stitch and Darth Vader, which turned out to be highlights of our trip.

    1. The live performances are fantastic! Absolutely check out the Royal Theater in Disneyland and, in California Adventure, the Red Car Trolley News Boys and the Frozen live show at the Hyperion. Again the Disneyland app will give you times for all of these, and they are all well worth checking out. I think a lot of people are solely focused on the rides but the live performers are super talented and a lot of work has gone into designing those shows. Don’t overlook them!
    2. It’s very fun to collect autographs from the characters that you meet! I didn’t know about this until Nina started asking the characters for autographs, but it’s delightful. Their signatures are all carefully designed to match the character’s personality, so the princesses have beautiful calligraphy signatures, Stitch has a nearly illegible scrawl, and…well, you’ve already heard what happened when she asked Vader for an autograph. I love her plan to leave that page in the autograph book blank, to commemorate the experience.

It was a great trip. And I leave you with:

Jan 26 2017

My Face

I’m updating my author photo because a) the old one is like four years old, and b) new glasses!

Jan 9 2017

Short Story: “Blood Red and Raven Black”

I’m very pleased to announce that a story of mine has found a home in the latest issue of Truancy, a “literary microzine” dedicated to “less conventional revisions and retellings of folklore, fairytales and mythology.” Mine is a retelling of Snow White. I’ve always liked that genre of story—fairy tales redone with a twist, from the perspective of a minor character or perhaps even the villain, or by changing one key thing about the story in order to see what happens. What if Cinderella was a werewolf? What if the Troll Princess talked about being jilted at the altar? What if Snow White wasn’t white?

The other stories in Truancy are definitely worth checking out as well—in general I’m impressed with the site and the quality of fiction it curates, and I’m very pleased that a story of mine is now included there.

Dec 13 2016

These Guys

School photos are in!

I kinda love these goobers.

Nov 18 2016

Book Launch: Gail Murphy and the Piskies

I’m very pleased to share that I have a new children’s book out, again beautifully illustrated by Ingrid Steblea. It’s a funny read-aloud story about mischievous sprites and the wise teacher who must keep them from causing chaos in the classroom. I wrote it as an homage/gift to the director of the Peter Pan Cooperative Nursery School, Gail Murphy, who has been a tremendous force for good in the lives of our children and our community—and those of you who are part of the Peter Pan co-op, I would urge you to wait and buy this book at the holiday auction, where you’ll be able to pick it up for a discounted price and the satisfaction of knowing that all proceeds will go to benefit Peter Pan.

For the rest of you, the book is now available in either Kindle ($2.99) or paperback ($15) formats. I can also provide free copies in exchange for your honest rating and review on Amazon: please contact me to request a review copy.

Nov 1 2016

Gotta Catch Em All


Pretty lazy Halloween for me this year. Storebought Pokemon costumes? Check. A couple hours at the neighborhood block Halloween party? Done and done. And you know what, they were just as thrilled with it as they were the year that I decorated the whole house and hand-assembled their costumes and made M&M cookies and rice krispie treats and popcorn balls. (Why, and more importantly how, did I even do that? Who on earth has the kind of energy for that, Past Me?)

Sol was supposedly a Pikachu but his costume didn’t really fit and he didn’t really care, so enh. Good enough!