My son, Tate, and I just got home from the new Pixar movie, "Finding Dory."

Dory's character is a blue tang fish. Image via iStock.


It’s been on our calendar for weeks, as are most animated films. Movies are Tate’s "thing," and we rarely miss one he shows an interest in.

I had not seen the trailer for "Finding Dory," so I only knew that it was a Pixar film and a sequel to "Finding Nemo." "Finding Nemo" was a favorite of Tate’s when he was young, so much so that he has a lot of the dialogue memorized. I knew Tate was going to love the movie, but I did not expect to be overly interested myself. I had no idea that three blue cartoon fish, a couple of clown fish, and a grumpy octopus (make that a septopus) would draw me in and cause me to feel gut-wrenching empathy and compassion.

I found myself comparing Tate and autism to Dory and her own disability.

In the movie, Dory was unable to remember the things she needed to do to be successful and to keep herself from harm. I saw myself in the caregivers who surrounded Dory and tried to keep her safe.

As a very small fish, Dory’s parents tried so hard to surround her with rules and plans to keep her safe and ultimately, lead her toward success. They taught her rhymes and songs to help her remember the safety rules, how to repeat her name and her diagnosis, and they showed her how to get back home by creating a special marked path.

Still, Dory’s mother cried and worried because it might not be enough.

Image via Lisa Smith, used with permission.

I remember all the discrete trial programs we had for Tate, such as memorizing his parents’ names and his address. Those things meant nothing to him, but he could spout them if asked. In the autism community, we have T-shirts that help our kids tell others they have autism. There are ID bracelets available. We can buy signs for our cars and even stickers to put on their bedroom windows for rescue workers to see. Some of us also have service dogs and special locks on our doors. We are extremely careful.

And we still worry, too. What if?

Dory, as a young fish, could not advocate for herself or find help once she was lost. As an adult fish, she depended on others to keep her safe. At 14 years old, Tate cannot communicate well enough to advocate for himself among strangers nor would he know who to turn to and ask for help. Through no fault of her own, Dory made tremendous mistakes at times, and she felt guilty because she could not do the things she felt she should have been able to do.

I hear Tate constantly apologizing for things he cannot do because of his autism. And while I assure him that there is no need to apologize, my heart aches for him.

Nemo is a character that didn't give up on Dory, much like Tate’s friends at school. Nemo knew Dory was capable of more than she was being given credit for. He was supportive and patient, ready to help but willing to wait to see if Dory could do it herself, similar to how Tate’s friends encourage him and know just when to step in to help.

Nemo is based on a clownfish. Image via iStock.

Dory’s caretakers were understanding and patient with her most of time, but occasionally when things were tense, someone snapped at her, making her feel like a failure. At one point in the movie, Marlin criticized Dory, and it crushed her. This scene was telling of our own lives. It rarely happens in our home, but I’m not perfect. Marlin spent a few minutes in denial that he had said anything wrong, then much longer beating himself up for what he said. Once again, I saw myself in the animated character on the screen.

Marlin underestimated Dory several times in this movie. While she had special needs, there were some things she could do well. There have been many times I have doubted Tate and he has shown me just how wrong I was. At the end of the film, we saw Marlin trying so hard to trust in Dory like Nemo does. But even after he had learned his lesson, he still followed and spied from afar to make sure Dory was safe. And Dory knew.

Dory knew that Marlin was watching and there for her if she needed him, just like I will always be there for Tate.

It is such a fine line we walk — or swim.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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Joy

Teacher goes viral for her wholesome 'Chinese Dumpling Song'

Katie Norregaard has found her calling—teaching big lessons in little songs.

As educational as it is adorable.

On her TikTok profile, Katie Norregaard (aka Miss Katie) describes her brand as “if Mr. Rogers and AOC had a kid.” And it’s 100% accurate. The teaching artist has been going viral lately for her kid-friendly tunes that encourage kids to learn about other cultures, speak up for their values and be the best humans they can be.


@misskatiesings Reply to @typebteacher the internet gave me this brand one year ago and I haven’t looked back 🎶 ❤️ #fyp #misterrogers #preschool #aoc #teachertok ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) - 山口夕依


Let’s face it, some kid’s songs are a tad abrasive with their cutesiness, to put it politely. A certain ditty about a shark pup comes to mind. Norregaard manages to bypass any empty saccharine-ness while still remaining incredibly sweet. The effortless warmth of her voice certainly helps with that. Again, she’s got that Mister Rogers vibe down to a tee.

“Miss Katie” has a treasure trove full of fun creations, such as her jazz version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but it’s her “Chinese Dumpling Song" that’s completely taking over the internet.
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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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