I hear too much about the hygiene hypothesis and allergies. It is not my favorite theory, at least as the media puts it out there. It makes it sound as if my kid has allergies because I keep my house too clean. Although I am hyper-vigilant about hand washing around the Owl, that came after the allergies were diagnosed.

One allergist explained to me that it wasn't how clean my house was, but the fact that kids were not growing up on farms and in rural areas where they would be exposed to all kinds of things we don't have in our suburban home. So that made me feel slightly better. But when I read about studies saying higher-income families have more allergies than lower-income families, and the conclusion drawn is that the hygiene hypothesis must be true, I get irritated. Are they saying that lower income means poor hygiene? So people with less money don't know how to bathe or clean? (I grew up without much money, and my mom made us all clean the house, we even dusted weekly, so the house was pretty darn clean. In contrast, I have a good income now and my house is a pit...)

I wish people would ask questions about whether it may have something to do with the lack of access to good quality health care that lower-income children are not diagnosed with allergies. Maybe they are suffering and feeling sick and don't know why. Or how about talking about the rise in allergies and the changes in our food supply? There were no soy additives in the food I ate as a child. The food that my parents grew up with definitely did not have long lists of ingredients with unpronounceable chemical names.

I've heard similar hygiene theories floated around about autism. Of course there are a million things that are "studied" such as medication, parental age, income, and a long list of other "factors." I always want to scream that correlation is not the same thing as causation. And again, I wonder if the higher income and higher autism rates are related to health care access. People who wait to have kids may have higher income and better insurance. Why are these questions not being studied instead of saying that poor people are messy? It leads us down such desperate paths as infecting children with parasites.

Researchers need to be asking parents what should really be studied. We know, we just don't have time or enough sleep to work on these things right now. So now to decide...should I go clean up my kitchen now while the kids are asleep, or will it do them some good for me to leave the mess....
I am never sure how holidays will turn out, my kids are unpredictable and so are family gatherings. But all seemed to go well this year. Herbie even decided that he liked turkey for the first time ever. Something to be thankful for! And the other at least got a taste in his mouth. Well, he was screaming in protest at the sight of the turkey on his plate, so I took the opportunity to pop a little piece into his mouth. I know, not at all what the feeding therapists recommend. But it made everyone laugh, even the Owl. (Right after he spit it out.) And we are all looking forward to school starting back up on Monday!

The Wise Old Owl is completely obsessed with the Curious George soundtrack. As far as kids' music goes, it's pretty good. Not the annoying kind that you wish you didn't have to listen to. But seriously, anything starts to get old when you listen to it All. The. Time. Well, I have found an upside to his obsession.

Lately, he has started lip syncing to the songs. He doesn't actually sing along, but he is definitely lip syncing all of the words, even the faster songs. It is cute, he really gets into it and has some great facial expressions to go along with the lyrics. I watch him and I can see how if he were actually vocalizing, how he would be mispronouncing things. So I use it as a little bit of speech practice, cuing him to keep his tongue back for the "s" sound and all that, "singing" along with him while modeling proper form. Somehow it seems easier for him to form the words when he doesn't have to put the sound with it.

For a guy who struggles mightily with the rate of his speech--it usually takes awhile for him to form sentences and responses--it is fun to see him "singing" these up-tempo songs. And I am definitely glad that we are no longer in the days of tape players, where I would be spending quite a bit of time rewinding to find the beginnings of songs when a word is missed and the whole thing needs to be started again!

I took the Wise Old Owl with me to vote on election day. Thankfully, Herbie was at school, he would not have stood still while I filled out my ballot, and he wouldn't have cared much about the whole process. But the Owl has been very curious about it ever since all of the yard sign popped up everywhere. He loves to read them and ask who those people are and why there are signs with their names. We talk about the government and who makes the laws. So he thought it was great fun to go vote. (Interestingly, he was quite confused as to why a man was president--in his world, women are the rule makers, instructors, doctors, etc. So it would make sense to him for a woman to run the country. Gotta love that!)

Leading up to the election and in the days ever since, I have heard a lot of judgmental comments about those with differing views. I certainly have strong opinions of my own, but I also know how terrible it feels to be judged by others for the decisions I make. This is all to common regarding my parenting decisions and the way my kids behave. So I don't judge other parents when I see kids acting out, and I am making a conscious effort not to judge others who have the opposite political views from me. Yes, I may disagree, and I may be sad that they think that way, and I may engage in thoughtful conversations. When people try to engage me in angry debates, though, I am just going to take a deep breath and smile. No judgment, no fighting words. I don't have time for that. I would rather express myself by the way that I live and spend my time and energy.

And at the end of the day, I will just remember that God is way bigger than our political process.
Every year I wonder who came up with all these Halloween traditions and why do we have to follow them? But every year we go through with the costumes and trick-or-treating and are rewarded with the joy of huge smiles and laughter from our kids.

This year, I volunteered at both of the boys' classroom parties. The amount of energy in those rooms is amazing, I was exhausted! The Owl was so giddy about wearing his costume, but Herbie, as usual, did not want to put his on, even though he had been excited for weeks leading up to the day and I had made sure to create something sensory friendly so it would not be unpleasant to wear. I coaxed him into it, and it was fun to see his transformation from feeling nervous and awkward to beaming with pride; every time a kid exclaimed that he had a cool costume, a little smile came over his face, getting bigger and bigger as more and more kids commented. I was particularly pleased that this year, both classes had candy-free parties, and none of the kids even seemed to miss the candy. They all know there will be plenty of candy to come from trick-or treating, so who needs it at school! 

They loved trick-or-treating, which is funny to me, since the Owl can't eat any of the candy and Herbie doesn't really like it. I guess it is just exciting to be given candy! Getting the Owl in and out of his wagon at every house was good exercise for me (justifying me eating some of that candy they didn't want anyway). It was irritating, though, to hear the number of people exclaim, "what did you say?" to the Owl when he said, "trick or treat!" Seriously, when a child in costume rings your doorbell on Halloween night, what else do you expect him to say?!?!?!? I know he gets frustrated when people don't understand him, but he really wanted to say "trick or treat" at every house. So he persisted, and the fun of the whole day kept him in a good mood despite people's stupidity.

We got home, dumped out the loot, from which I took a few favorite things and promptly gave the rest to the lucky group of kids who rang the doorbell at that moment. My boys raided the pantry for their favorite candy--Wintergreen Lifesavers--and I gave them each some Nana's No Gluten Ginger cookies, way better than any of that cheap candy anyway! And they went to bed happy and exhausted, counting down the days until they can do it all again.