Saturday, December 29, 2012


Last night my husband and I had the opportunity to escape for quick, impromptu date night and go to the movies. Often not agreeing on movies, we settled on the new Quentin Tarantino film Django,Unchained. Generally I am a fan of Tarantino films although they tend to be over the top in their graphic goriness and bloodiness. This one was no exception. The subject matter was harsh, the language was explicit and the blood was flying. It is, in no doubt, and R rated film.

But the most horrifying moment of the night occurred before the film even started. It was an 8 o'clock film with a running time of two hours 45 minutes. After adding in previews a conservative estimate of ending time of the film would be about 11 PM (it was late for me to be out especially having worked all afternoon). Just moments before the start of the show, a couple came in and sat in the seats directly next to us.  With their young child, approximately 18 months-old.  Pat and I looked at each other as if to say, "Are they really doing this?  Are they really here with their young child, at a film that is so very violent an inappropriate?"  And the answer was yes.

There were so many things wrong with this scene.  A child that age is really too young to be at the movies.  The loudness in the theater is not good for developing ears, especially when you sit in the third row.  Secondly, why is a child out that late?  Young children need their sleep and routines and bedtimes.  This child was awake for much of the film, and appeared to be looking at the screen for at least some of the film.  Thirdly, the film was so very, very inappropriate for that child to be exposed to.  Not only with the use of cursing and cussing (it is a Tarantino film, so there is gratuitous use of the F word),  but with the subject matter of slavery, the use of the N word was very, very prevalent.  Not the word that a young child needs to be hearing, or think is acceptable or funny (because the audience was laughing at times when it was used).  I cannot even count how many people literally got their brains blown out during this film with massive blood spatters everywhere.  We do not need to be exposing our children to this from the time they exit the womb.  Perhaps it is exposure to this kind of violence that desensitizes them to it, making kids think that unabashed violence is acceptable with no real consequences.

When we choose to become parents, or for that matter engage in activities that may lead us to become parents, we need to realize that our own needs no longer come first. Being a parent is the most important task we will ever undertake. We are responsible for the creation and upbringing of a nether human being. We are responsible for the kind of person that child becomes. We are responsible for putting in the hard work and making the sacrifices in order to create another decent hard-working contributing member of society. If we were not responsible for this, human young would not need to stay with their parents.

Parenting is hard work. No doubt about it. For the mom, sacrifice begins with diet modification and lifestyle change when one is hoping to become or already has become pregnant. The sacrifice does not end when the birth occurs. It continues with sleepless nights, physical weariness, actual scars from childbirth, and a worry that surrounds your heart for as long as you have your child.

Sacrifice has its rewards. There is the unconditional love those bright brilliant eyes smiling at you at 6 AM in the morning. The hugs with the pat on the back which nothing can ever quite replace. The feel of the small hand, holding yours. The sound of a child's giggles that you wish you could bottle and save for a dark day. There is the reward of watching your children play a game together and feeling like your heart will burst from all the love. There is the reward of creating this human being, this tiny little baby who becomes a wonderful person.

Somehow, in our society we have forgotten that the reward does not come without the sacrifice. Perhaps it is because we are now an entitlement society where we expect to be paid and rewarded without earning it first.  Mothers see little children as dolls to dress up. They are not dolls, they cannot be put on a shelf when we don't feel like playing. Parenthood takes work. A lot of it. And it may mean forgoing date night at the movies. It may mean waiting a year or two until the movie comes out on DVD. It may mean the only time you see the inside of a movie theater is to see an animated film for years on end. But it may mean that you raise a child who was wonderful and loving and caring and a productive member of society.

It bothers me to see people so selfish that they cannot put their own need for entertainment aside for an evening for the needs of their child. I may be making a judgment here but I'm guessing this is not the first time this is occurred nor is it the last. And to disrupt a child's routine, schedule, bedtime and expose them to something so harsh and gory, is needless. We all know our children learn by what they see and hear around them. It's why our kids watch Sesame Street. They learn how to count, they learn how to sing, they learn their colors and shapes. With the amount of times the F and the N word were used it's not unreasonable to think a small child could learn either one of those words in that three hour time span.

And I do know that part of what makes me better able to parent my children is that I do get breaks from them. My husband and I need time with just us to work on providing a stable foundation for our children. I'm a big advocate of date nights. If you can afford two or three movie tickets, the jumbo size popcorn and soda, as well as candy bars and designer clothes and iphones, you can save for a few more weeks to get a babysitter. But people don't want to wait. They want instant gratification. They don't want to stop and think about someone else's needs before their own. And this is just another thing that is wrong with our society and our mentality.

People need to stop and think. They need to realize that raising their child is their first priority. They need to be prepared to put their own needs somewhat lower. It is part of being a responsible parent.

Responsibility is a big issue these days. No one wants to take it because it often means we are at fault. Or it means we are sacrificing. We all wonder what the world is coming to.  What is wrong with society. We all need to start taking a little more responsibility. We will never fix our societal problems unless we do. We can not teach our children that we have to give to receive, that we have to work to get paid and that we do not just deserve stuff.  And it starts in the home with parents making the first sacrifice.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Gift I Have to Give

In homes across the country, and I assume the world, the stress levels have peeked.  Christmas is TOMORROW!  Moms are in full blown panic mode.  (Except, of course for those who are all set. For the record, I don't like you.)  We have run around like chickens with their heads cut off for the last five weeks.  We have poured over sale fliers trying to find just the right gift at the best price.  Then, about a week ago, we said "screw it" and paid more money just for the sake of not having to go to another store.

We're up to our elbows in wrapping paper and bows and cookie dough.  We've had lots of late nights with one more to go.  If I could receive sleep wrapped under the tree tomorrow, I'm pretty I would be very happy.

The events of the last few weeks have helped me figure out why I go through this every year.  Magic.  I want to give my kids magic.  They are children for such a short time.  Innocence is lost earlier and earlier with each generation.  Giving my children a sense of family and tradition and faith and magic is better than any toy I can give them.  All of this subterfuge helps them feel that there is magic in this world.  And they need that.  They need to think that they can be rewarded for being good children.  They need to think that the specific thing they have asked for can magically appear just for them.  They need to see Mom and Dad working together to get things done.  They need to see us putting forth the effort to do things for others.

It is a time to talk about family, those here and those who have already left us.  They need to know that it's ok to miss those who are not here, but that we need to continue living.  Pulling out my grandmother's recipe box and making some of the treats that she used to make makes me feel closer to her, even though she's not here.  I get a sense of whole-ness when I make the cookies with my kids, just as I used to do with Mimere.  I hope someday, they'll do the same with their children and grandchildren.

I want my kids to believe that there is good of an unseen nature in this world.  They see enough evil.  I'm happy to say we have taken the time to watch some classic Christmas specials.  We have listened to and sung Christmas songs.  We have decorated.  We have baked.  We have wrapped.  We went on the Polar Express.  Today, we'll read "A Visit from St. Nick."  We'll go visit family.  Pat and I will stay up late tonight, making sure the tree is perfect.

Even though our tree will be full of stuff, the best gift we're giving our kids is not anything that can be wrapped.  The presents, the songs, the baked goods, the lights, the traditions...they're the physical embodiment of love. And that's the best present of all.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My gift

Normally, I look forward to going to sleep each night, but especially on Mondays.  Going to bed tonight is going to age me a year.  Sometime in the wee hours of the morning (ok, 2:54 am to be exact), I'm going to turn a year older.  I'm going to be, gulp, 37.  That's officially late 30's.  How did that happen?  Most days, I don't feel a day over 50.

I have more lines on my face.  My freckles are no longer cute.  And they're getting larger.  And they can kind of be called age spots at this point.  My joints hurt some of the time.  I make involuntary grunting noises when  squatting down or standing up.

But I'm sort of ok with it.  I'm at a good point in my life right now.  My kids are great ages, especially during this holiday season.  I like my job and think that I have enough experience now that people kind of, sometimes respect what I have to say.  My husband and I have worked through the ups and downs of 11 years of marriage and are there for each other.  I am truly blessed to have a wonderful life.

I've made the decision and commitment in the last month or so to actively pursue happiness.  It is my gift to me this year.  And it is my gift to my family.  Especially in light of recent tragedies, both local and national, we have no guarantees about how long we have on this earth.  I always think about my father-in-law, who was forced into early retirement at the age of 57.  He was not happy about it, but took they next three years to teach (which he loved) and enjoy retirement.  He died, very suddenly, at the age of 60.  If he had not had those three years of unplanned retirement, he would have worked until he dropped.

Despite my rapidly advancing age, I don't have the option of early retirement.  But I want to take each day for what it can offer.  I want to be happy.  I'm letting go of the small things.  I'm trying to react less to the medium stuff.  I'm trying to roll with the biggies. I'm trying to live so that I don't have any regrets.  It's not always easy, but like anything worthwhile (relationships, marriage, parenting), the reward is worth the work.  Should my number get pulled, I don't want to have any regrets about how I spent my time here.

I really believe that happiness is a choice.  I know people who bad things keep happening to, but they are always smiling and chipper and with a glass-half-full attitude.  Conversely, I know people with seemingly good lives who are so full of negativity that they feel toxic to be around.  I cannot and will not be that person.  I choose happiness.

So my birthday gift cannot be found in a store.  It cannot be returned or exchanged.  But, just like a pregnant cat, it is the gift that keeps on giving.  And instead of something that is consumed, I'm giving my birthday gift out to those around me.  To those friends who are my village, whom I could not survive parenting without.  To my kids, who are the sun in my world.  To my family, who keep me focused on what outcome I desire.  And to my husband, who, for better or worse, is my partner throughout this journey.

Me, 37 years ago.  Already a ham.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Underlying Issue

The events of Sandy Hook are truly, truly horrible.  I'm having trouble even formulating words and thoughts about the atrocities that took place.  My heart breaks for the parents of those twenty children, and for the families of the valiant adults who, no doubt, tried to protect the innocent lives.

Social media is on fire right now with talk about gun control.  That tighter gun control could have prevented this.  That now is the time for increased gun control.  That increased gun control is the answer.

But what I do not hear anyone talking about is mental illness.  I have to believe that the man who did this was mentally ill.  Because if he were not, he was soulless and evil, and I cannot believe that a person like that actually exists in this world.  In this country, we do not have adequate health care for people with mental illness, especially severe mental illness.  The largest clearing house for people with significant mental illness in this country is prison.  We do not have adequate inpatient facilities to treat our mentally ill.  The inpatient facilities for children are rumored to be rampant with sexual abuse.  At least 25% of homeless people are mentally ill.

This is the time to look at how we are supporting those with significant mental illness.  What treatments are available?  What is out there?  Advocates like Pete Earley and Susan and Michael Schofield are fighting because they were forced too--their children have mental illness.

When someone is not connected to society due to lack of empathy, psychosis and delusions, a law about a gun will not deter them.  And if a gun is not available, they will use a knife.  Or a bomb.  Or a chemical.  Most serial killers do not kill with guns.

In 2007, over 41,000 people were killed in automobile accidents.  In that same year, 12,000 were killed in homicides with guns.  Another 5,000 were killed by law enforcement in legal interventions.  About 700 were accidental discharge deaths.  Cars caused more than twice the amount of deaths than guns caused.

We don't need tighter gun control.  We need more help for people with mental illness.  If this case, along  Aurora, Tuscon and Virginia Tech do not illustrate that, then nothing will.  Too many lives have been lost.  77 innocent lives in those four events, plus the four lives of the mentally ill individuals (as well as those wounded, but who survived).  Let's not fight about gun control.  Let's fight for proper mental health care so this does not happen again.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One step back and two steps forward

Every so often, things do not go how you expect.  Like when I deliver bad news, and it is awesome.

Yep, you got that right, awesome.

There was the time I told a mom that I thought her child needed a wheelchair.  When I said it, she paused, and there was an intake of breath.  She listened to the reasoning and rationale.  She listened when we reiterated that is was her decision, not ours.  She listened to the pros and cons.  She listened to the process.  She listened to me when I explained how it would help her child and her family.  She listened when I explained how I could help her.  And then she told me to go ahead and do it.  Awesome.

This is one of the crappy, but often unspoken parts of my job.   In the schools, my job is to make sure that kids can access their education in a safe and efficient manner.  Physical therapy in the schools is not designed to meet all the therapeutic needs of a student, but rather just those that impact access to one's education.  It involves a lot of accommodating and problem solving.  It is why I don't work with kids older than 3rd grade a whole lot.  At that point, most children with developmental disabilities are relatively stable.  PT stays on in a consult mode to help classroom and building staff by training them with lifting and positioning, on using equipment appropriately, and with wheelchairs and braces.

I have seen a lot of kids with cerebral palsy (CP) in my career.  CP is a catch-all term to describe a condition that results when there is brain injury prior to, during, or shortly after birth.  Often, children who have strokes before the age of 2 are usually labeled with CP, although I do think they present much differently.  CP is quite common in children born prematurely, with the risk increasing the earlier a child was born.  CP ranges in severity, and its effects are varied, depending on the area of the brain injured and the size of the insult.  As such, people with CP can have normal cognitition, or be severely intellectually disabled (which used to be what was called mental retardation).  People with CP always have a motor impairment, but is can be a minor tightening in the calf muscle, impairment of one arm, impairment of one whole side of the body, impairment of just the legs or the whole body can be involved.  Most people with CP have spastic, tight muscles (but there are different types that can also cause loose floppy muscles, random uncontrollable movements, or difficulty with coordination).

In kids with the spastic type of CP, the pre-pubescent growth spurt is a nasty thing.  We all know that kids seem to shoot up overnight once they hit 10, 11, 12 years old.  They come to school seemingly 2 inches taller than the day before.  Generally, during these growth spurts, the bones grow quicker than the muscles.  In people with spastic CP, the bone growth causes the muscles to be stretched, which increases the spasticity and tightness, which makes the already tight muscles tighter.  This makes joint deformities and limited range of motion even worse.  So, if before the growth spurt, a kid had tight hamstrings, he would have difficulty straightening his knee all the way.    After the growth spurt, the knee would straighten less and be bent even more.

Now picture walking this way, on your toes, with your knees bent.  It takes a lot of energy.  Now, go up on your toes a little more and bend your knees a little bit further.  Hold it that way.  Now walk.  Pretty tiring, right?  Hard to hold your balance, right?  Walking for people with spastic CP is very energy costly.  They can fall a lot.  Also, the chronic stresses placed on joints that are in poor alignment causes early degeneration.  Arthritis is common, often by the teen years.  Adults with CP can have a lot of pain because of this degeneration.

Often, we hear reports that children are falling asleep in school because they are so wiped out from moving around.  Anxiety and fear often begin to limit the child as he or she is afraid of being in crowded areas where they might fall.  Kids give up physical activities that they used to love.  These kids are often in pain.  Use of a wheelchair can help the child preserve energy while at school, thereby allowing the child to use energy to attend to learning, rather than moving from point A to B.  The wheelchair can also diminish anxiety in the school, home and community, which can improve the quality of life overall.  Pain can be diminished as well.

I know that some people with CP who are ambulatory do not feel that a wheelchair is a good solution.  I have gone many rounds with many families about this.  Their children have worked so hard to walk that they do not want to take that independence away from them.  I feel that a wheelchair, especially when a person still has the ability to walk, actually gives more independence, but it is from a different perspective.  There is no perfect, one size fits all solution.

I know when I have this talk with a family, it is difficult for them to hear.  It does not seem like many of my families are prepared for the changes that puberty bring (other than the obvious) for their children with CP.  I don't feel that the physicians prepare the families for the decline in function that accompanies puberty for many individuals with spastic CP.  The mom that I am thinking of  handled the news with such dignity and grace.  She had seen the decline in her child.  She knew that her child was having problems.  No one ever explained to her why, or how it was impacting her child (for example, she knew anxiety in crowds was becoming problematic and that her child was avoiding going out, but she didn't realize it was due to fatigue and unsteadiness while walking).  At that time, I don't think she knew I was going to suggest a wheelchair.  I'm sure that she cried over the recommendation.  I'm sure her child cried too (which breaks my heart, because I never want to make anyone cry) .  It is a loss for them.  But with the child's increased mobility, energy and confidence, it will be more of a gain.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

'Tis the Season

So, it's December again.  Which means one thing...MY BIRTHDAY!!!

No, seriously, it's that busy Christmas season where the words 'chaotic' and 'cacophony' can be used almost daily.  The moms I know are running around, even more frenzied and harried than usual.  The dads must still believe in Santa, because suddenly, Christmas has been delivered to their house.  Even though Thanksgiving was early this year, there never seems to be enough time (ie, weekends) leading up to the big day.

I gotta admit...I love the lights.  I love the way my house looks all decorated.  I hate taking the stuff down, not just because it's a lot of work, but because my perfectly respectable house looks dull and blah afterwards.  I love that the kids plug the tree and indoor lights is every night.  There is just something indescribably peaceful about sitting in a room lit only from the soft glow of the golden Christmas tree lights.

Singing Christmas songs really does lighten one's mood, I find.  I just wish they wouldn't convert the radio stations over to all Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  And I wish many of the stations would vary their selection.  There are so many cool versions of songs out there.  My favorite Christmas song has historically been Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses.  I don't hear it that much anymore.  I have, on many occasions, sat in my car, just to listen.

A leftover remnant of my childhood piano lessons is a book of Christmas carols.  I remember a lot of them without the music, so Christmas time is the one time of the year that I really sit down and play the piano.  My kids are fascinated by it.  Makes me wish I had kept with it, but I like at least being able to play some favorites.  Sometimes I feel like Janie in "It's a Wonderful Life" practicing 'Hark! The Harold Angels Sing' over and over.

Speaking of "It's a Wonderful Life,"  I love all the Christmas specials.  Sophia listens to the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack year round, every night to fall asleep (long story--neighbors were being loud one night, and it was the only instrumental CD I could put my hands on in the dark at 10 pm).  It's a little odd to be listening to 'O Tannenbaum' in July, but it seems to fit now.  All of us, even Pat, can watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" over and over.  I mean, the dancing kids are just the best.

And "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the cartoon, not the movie) is one that I cannot miss.  Imagine my delight when Jake started doing his best "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" at breakfast yesterday morning.

My Christmas show this year is 'Elf: The Musical.'  It's extra special this year because Sophia is in it with me.  Her very first one!  We all love the music and have been singing it non-stop for weeks.  I find myself waking up at all hours of the night with the songs running through my head.  I still have to sew trim onto five more ballet costumes before Sunday's performance, yet here I sit writing instead of sewing.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to make a gigantic ass out of myself, but it can't be any worse than the year I was Fiona in "Shrek the Halls."  I was GREEN for pete's sake!
Last year, when we did "The Nutcracker, All Jazz'd Up,"  I was a little more respectable as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

So, we have that for the next two weekends.  Good thing the house is all decorated.  Shopping is mostly done, but wrapping has not yet even been considered. Christmas cards are in process.  I cut back to 80 this year.  Snapfish only lets you order in bundles of 20, and for the past few years I've been sending out around 90.  Sorry to some that may have been cut.  Blame Snapfish (or blame yourself for NEVER sending a card back to us).  I really like getting the cards too.  Only two so far this year, but it's early yet.  

So, in other words, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to blog over the next few weeks.  We have the Christmas show, birthday parties (not just for me), charity events, and getting though the next few weeks of school.  

Here's another Christmas song to get you all in the spirit of things.  If this doesn't help, then you're just a big Scrooge.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention, my birthday is coming up too!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reliving the awesomeness

My husband and I are getting a chance to relive the awesomeness that was our childhoods...Star Wars.

Now, I'm by no means a Star Wars geek, but I was born in the 1970's, so Star Wars was the iconic symbol of my youth.  I used to think that the 20th Century Fox theme was part of the Star Wars theme music, since watching the videos always started with that.  Insert geektoid fact here...the Star Wars trilogy is what saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy.  We had all three movies on VHS (illegally copied, of course).  I remember going to the theater to see Return of the Jedi in June 1983 for my oldest brother's 12th birthday party.  I only ever saw the other two at home on VHS (I was only 18 months old when Episode IV debuted).

I so wanted to be Princess Leia.

Now, Pat and I have spent a few nights this week watching parts of the three original movies with the kids (they've been on Spike), the four of us lined up on the couch all snuggled under the fuzzy blanket.  We point out to the kids where the digital remastering is.  Although the original effects leave a little to be desired by today's standards, for the time they were pretty awesome.  I remember watching a documentary about them once.  The light saber sound effect was caused by hollow tubes.  Pretty ingenious, no?

I think we're going to get the entire series and watch it with the kids, maybe over Christmas break.  It is so special to share this with the kids.  Sophia is asking hundreds of questions, but she's really interested, as is Jake.  Jake does not like The Empire Strikes Back, because he does not like when Han Solo gets frozen in carbonite.

Sophia insists that the bad guy is "Dark" Vader.  We do have to keep reminding her that the people in this are actors and this is not real.  She's afraid that the real people are dying.  We have to tell her that no people were harmed in the making of these movies.

I love the way Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Canobi) says 'evil.'

Sharing this with the kids ties them to our history and our own youth.  We're looking forward to the next installment coming in 2015.

And I still want to be Princess Leia.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Scary Things...

A few disturbing things have happened in the last day or so.  The first thing, and it is a minor one, is that my daughter smuggled bubble gum in with the groceries (she hid from me on the conveyor belt so that I didn't see it, but still paid for it).  She has been asking for that gum, and I keep telling her 'no.'  She knew I would say no and deliberately schemed, successfully so, to get the gum.  At least she was honest enough to know that we had to pay for it, and is not dishonest enough to steal it.  She figured, however, that I still would not let her have it, and has suggested that we give it to Papa.  For the record, Sophia gets gum whenever she rides with Papa, which is at least three days a week when he picks her up.  She is cunning enough to realize that giving the gum to Papa is really giving the gum to herself, thereby creating a loop-hole in the punishment I have deemed fitting.  She is a born politician.  I'm standing strong and not letting her have the gum.  She has to know that that kind of deceptive and devious behavior will not be tolerated in this house.

The second disturbing thing, and this is the big one, is that my friend's children were almost abducted.  Right from their front yard.  In a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood.  The two children, who are the same ages as my kids, were out front playing when a man in a white Toyota Camry approached them and told them to get into the car.  Luckily, the eight year-old had the wherewithal to high tail it into the house with his sister, and tell their mother, who was able to call the police.  Details of the event can be found here. 

This is frightening on so many levels.  This is a nice neighborhood.  These are good kids.  My children play there.  In fact, Sophia goes to a babysitter just a few houses away.  This is not the crappy,crime-riddled inner city neighborhoods where I spend my days, armed with a tiny little vial of pepper spray that my dad bought me.  This is where we all want to live.  Where everyone knows the neighbors and kids are outside playing, riding bikes and being kids.  It is the neighborhood of the American dream.

(The third scary thing about this whole incident is that I was interviewed for WTEN about the incident.  While I'm sure I will cringe at hearing myself on camera, my most cringe-worthy moment will be when I decided that today would be a FINE day to go without make-up.  YIKES!)

But back to the precipitating event.  I have to ask...what the hell is going on with society?  How can someone think that's is perfectly acceptable to snatch two innocent children from their front yard?  I can answer that question, but it will not be popular.  We, as a society, have lost our moral compass.  Just turn on the news.  It's disgusting.  We no longer have a grounding foundation of what is right or wrong.  We no longer have consequences for our actions, because we don't accept responsibility for our actions. People only barely admit guilt, and that is usually only after they are caught red-handed.  Our leaders tell us bold-faced lies (watch Dianne Feinstein in this interview, minute 11:20), and we eat it up.  We know they are lying, but no one says anything.

We accept that people who are cruel to animals should be punished, but we don't have the same level of punishment for people who harm other people.  There is a woman in the area who killed three other women, mowing them down in a horrific, gruesome manner, because she was driving her car under the influence on seven prescription medications.  6 months in prison, with time already served.  Really?!?

We, as a society, need to step up.  We need to establish some sort of moral code.  We need to stop excusing poor behavior and have some kind of minimum standards.  We cannot excuse flagrant disregard for humanity and the law.  We need to respect life and honor it, not degrade and disparage it.

Who do we turn to for this?  Our government...certainly not.  (Just an aside, why is Gen. Pertraeus forced to end his career for adultery when Bill Clinton and Elliot Spitzer, who actually broke the law, have continued on unscathed and revered?)  Our, no.  Our entertainers...just having the ability to sing or get paid to lie, I mean act for a living does not give one the ability to set a moral compass.  Case in point, Kevin Clash.  Our athletes have proven over and over, not only disregard for each other, but also for money and their spouses (there are just too many examples to list here).

We need to turn to ourselves.  To our village.  To our community.  We need to expect more out of each other.  We need to teach our children right from wrong.  We need to teach our children respect for elders, themselves and their community.  We need to work together to create a safe place for our children to grow up.

Tonight, I am so proud of my son's friend (who is also my friend's son).  To me, he is a hero.  But I am scared that this nut job is out there.  Please, anyone out there reading this...if you know who he is, hold him accountable.  Make our village a safe place for our kids to live in.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thank You

On this, the observance of Veterans Day, I would like to say thank you.

I want to start by saying 'thank you' to the legions of men and women who have given of themselves in service to this country.  Thank you to the souls who never come home from duty.  Thank you to the souls who do come home, but are forever changed.  Thank you to the families who sacrifice while their loved ones defend my rights and my freedoms.

Personally, I want to thank my father who spent 30 years in the reserves.  While as a child, I noticed your absence on that one weekend a month and two weeks a year, it was a minor sacrifice to have the rights that I enjoy and take for granted.  Being a member of the 109th Airlift Wing was so very important to you.  I am so proud of the work you did and the roles you played in some important missions.

I want to thank my grandfather, who came home from battle, but fought internally for the rest of his too brief life.  He fought in the Pacific Theater, taking part in some of the most horrific battles of the war.  He was never able to talk about what he went through, and that weight was too much for him to carry.

My father-in-law, although I never met him, always took pride in his role in the 2nd Berlin Airdrop.  Serving his country allowed him his education, which pulled his family out of poverty and has personally afforded my husband and I our lifestyle.

I want to thank my uncle who not only gave 2 tours, but a lifetime in the reserves.  The military was a good fit, and he became a top-ranked drill Sargent.  If only his drill-ees could see him with his grandchildren now... 

I want to thank my brother, who does not get to tuck his children into bed each night.  Who cannot attend the school plays or read to his children.  And to my sister-in-law, who soldiers on at home.  She would not want to take credit, but she is as much of a warrior as her husband.  But for much less pay.

I want to thank my cousin and his new bride, thankful they have a few more weeks together before she deploys to Afghanistan for a year.

In this day and age of American entitlement, I want you to know that we are not entitled to all that we have.  It has been hard fought and won for us by the men and women who serve their country.  I want thank all those men and women who give of themselves in ways that I am not strong enough to.  To those who leave their lives, their souls, their limbs, their sanity on the battlefield...your sacrifice is noted and appreciated.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

One of a Kind

1 in 88.  

My son is the one in 88 children who have Austism Spectrum Disorder.  There, I said it.  It is hard to say, even though he was diagnosed almost five years ago.  I can still tell you that day, even without looking at a calendar.  January 11, 2008.  I can tell you what I was wearing (black nursing top, jeans).  I remember Sophia was so sick with what we later learned was RSV.  My grandmother was in the hospital with pneumonia.  My cousin and his wife had just had a baby, several weeks early.  And Developmental Pediatrics called and said they had a cancellation and could see Jake that day.  I remember thinking, as I was rushing to get my 4 month-old and almost 4 year-old ready with just 30 minutes notice that, "This might be our last time being normal."  If he was given the diagnosis, from that day on, he would never be a normal child again.  

But he wasn't "normal," whatever that was. Obviously, if he was, we would not have been seeking an evaluation.  He would not be receiving special ed services.  I watched him perseverate and refuse to cooperate throughout the evaluation.  The doctor at the end confirmed my suspicion that Jake had "mild" Asperger's syndrome.  She then said, "I know you were hoping to hear this."  I said, "No, I was hoping you would say he was just quirky."  Who would hope for this for their child?  She reassured me that he would "grow" out of it, meaning that he would learn functional coping strategies that would essentially make him able to function without standing out.  It was a grim day.

But that was almost 5 years ago.  Since then, we've done special education teacher services, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling.  Jake went to a highly restrictive kindergarten program that was not a great fit for him, but afforded him one of the best teachers I have ever met.  Jake has done really, really well.  He has come such a long way.

He makes eye contact, and has the best smile.

He no longer perseverates.

He has developed flexibility.

He has friends.

But, he also has attention difficulties and very, very slow processing.  

In 2013, the book that defines psychiatric illness, the DSM, is being revised (it will be the DSM-5).  Asperger's syndrome (as well as Pervasive Developmental Delay, or PDD) will no longer be stand-alone diagnoses.  They will be under the Austism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.  Meaning, Jake will officially be "Autistic." 

So, I had Jake re-evaluated.  To me, he does not look like a child with Autism.  I know children with Autism.  He is not anything like that.  He is very high functioning.  But he's still quirky.  He is also very, very intelligent.  But he's not Autistic, right?

No, he is.  That's what the latest round of testing has shown.  He is still very mildly on the Autism Spectrum.  He is still the one in 88.  

It is still hard to admit.  I feel like he's broken and I can't fix him.  

I know how lucky we are.  Not bragging or anything, but my son is completely and totally awesome.  Everyone loves him (except sometimes for his sister, but that's understandable).  He is funny.  He is bright.  He is musically gifted.  He is compassionate.  He's a good kid.  He will do great things in his life (which is a direct quote from the psychologist).  He will go to college and get a great job and get married and make me a grandmother (but not for at least 25 years, if he knows what's good for him!).  

I know how fortunate we are.  

I work with the families day in and day out whose children may not have the same potential.  The kids who are so locked into their own worlds that there is no reaching them.  I work with families who end up burying their children.  

I know we are lucky.

I know that some of the same characteristics that put Jake on the spectrum are what make him so wonderful.    It is two sides of the same coin.  I wouldn't trade Jake for anything, but I want to make the road a little easier for him.  

It still hurts to hear that my son has (even though it is mild) Autism Spectrum Disorder.  And now we can add Attention Variability Disorder (a form of ADD) and Processing Disorder.  I know that these are things that describe how Jake's brain works, but they are not who is he.  He is wonderful.  He is smart.  He is funny.  He is nice.  He is loving.  He is cuddly.  He is inquisitive.  He is loved.  He is my son, and while he may be one in eighty-eight, he is really one of a kind.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Gotta Bad Feeling About This...

So, I had a great day yesterday.  I worked my tail off, and got most of my list accomplished.  For those of you keeping track, I only managed 5 loads of laundry instead of 6, and only got 2 of the 5 folded.  I figured folding laundry is something that doesn't require electricity, so as long as it's washed, I can fold it later (Plus, playing Bubble Safari and Angry Birds does require electricity, so I needed to get my fix in).  Before you besmirch me, let me tell you that, in addition to the listed items, I ended up cleaning some expired food out of the pantry, returning cans and bottles to the market, unloading and reloading the dishwasher a second time, made dinner (a yummy tortellini soup), writing a blog post (thanks Cathy for pointing that out), and carving pumpkins with the family.

And I was so good that God rewarded me with a day off from work.  Because of the impending storm, my district closed.  I work in an inner-city school district that doesn't bus, and the parents are not reliable enough to pick their kids up an hour or two early.  Voila!  Snow day without any snow.

The best part...wait for kids still had school.  (Pause for maniacal evil laughter.)

So, I decided to keep up my forward momentum, and use my day off productively.  I cleaned out the shelves in the laundry and washed load #6 (from yesterday).  I folded load #5.  I vacuumed the laundry room and my bathroom.  I stripped my bed and washed my sheets and blankets.  I flea combed the cats, yet again.  I went to the vets and picked up the free samples of flea meds they promised me after infesting my cats.  I made a Wal-Mart run and got Wal-Mart Rock Star parking (second spot back, after the handicapped and cart corral, directly in front of the door).  I found slippers for my kids since they've outgrown theirs, and picked up the few things I forgot yesterday.  I picked up Sophia from school and made us lunch.  I gave the cats their flea treatment.  I am en fuego.  

While eating lunch, my feeling of pride was slowly eeked out by a feeling of dread.  Usually when things go this well, all things immediately start falling apart.  We all know this.  Just when the going gets good, your world goes to crap, and fast.  This is not a comforting feeling to have while a natural disaster is approaching.

Sure enough, one of the cats licked the other's back, and immediately began foaming at the mouth.  Great, I just poisoned my cat. I rinsed his mouth out, and hopefully he'll be ok.  Sigh.

I'm hoping that this calm before the storm is actually literal, and not figurative for my life right now.

Hope everyone stays safe!

Photo: Is this how you will prepare for the storm?  :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why I'm Kind-of OK with Stormageddon

As we all know, the storm of all storms, Hurricane Sandy, is barreling down on us.  It's predicted to be completely and totally awful.  The meteorologists (who are in HEAVEN) are likening this to The Perfect Storm of 1991 (which also occurred on October 28).  This one is expected to be worse because it is expected to make landfall and impact Washington, Philadelphia, NYC and Boston.

People are starting to panic, and the kids are scared sh*tless.  Mostly, because they're afraid we won't get to trick-or-treat on Wednesday.

Here's why I'm kind-of diggin''s making me be productive.  I procrastinate...a lot.  I waste a lot of time, as well.   As a result, my house is in constant state of dirt, clutter and controlled chaos. I simply cannot keep the house clean and take care of all my projects just because.  I need a specific motivating factor to get going.  I know, in the back of my mind, that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I really need to get a move on.

Yup, that's me.

But with Frankenstorm looming, I've got to get ready.  With the kids this morning, we were talking about rooms in the house that were most appropriate to ride out a storm in.  The first floor bathroom is one of our few rooms without windows, and would be the best choice.  Except for one problem...the litter box.  Jake said, "I'm not hiding in there.  It smells!"   I was planning on cleaning it today anyway, but this spurred me into action.  Along with the fact that my kids had virtually no clean clothes this morning.  Yikes.  Here's my list for the day:

  1. Unload and reload the dishwasher.
  2. Run the dishwasher (this is listed separately because certain male adult members of this household who shall remain nameless don't seem to get that once the dishes are in, you actually have to run it).
  3. Clean litter box.
  4. Clean downstairs bathroom, including mopping floor.
  5. Flea comb the cats (long story, but thanks to the vet for infesting them when they got fixed).
  6. Laundry:
    1. My clothes (2 loads)
    2. Kids' clothes (2 loads)
    3. Towels and rugs (2 loads)
  7. Confirm location of fondue pot on top shelf in back corner of pantry to cook food.
  8. Bag up recyclables in pantry so that fondue pot is reachable without killing oneself.
  9. Charge solar powered lantern.
  10. Locate and take out flashlights.
  11. Fold and put away said laundry.
  12. Charge electronics.
  13. Reconcile bank statement and prepare deposits for PTA
  14. Go to Sam's Club to pay bill (which is due today).
  15. Go to market to stock up on a few things.
Considering that it's not even 1 pm, and I've already completed items 1-9 (laundry is in progress), I think I'm in good shape.  I'm gonna try to get some vacuuming done as well, since I hate a crumby floor.  I have dinner to cook, and we're carving pumpkins tonight as well.

Ambitious list, but I'm trying.  It can be my jumpstart for Thanksgiving.  Assuming we all survive the storm, that is!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Racing to the Top is causing me to Bottom Out...

School is kicking my rear-end this year.  I hate it.   And I don't mean the schools I work in...I mean my children's school.  My kids are in Kindergarten and 3rd grade, and education in New York has gone to hell in a hand basket.  With the adaptation of the Common Core Learning Standards, and the addition of testing for teacher evaluations, it is a whole new game.  And one that is definitely less fun for the whole family.  It's not only making me hate school, but my kids as well.  Five o'clock, the usual witching hour, is now the dreaded homework hour.  There is frustration and yelling and tears.  This is not how school should be.

Firstly, it needs to be stated that New York State has adopted both of the aforementioned programs in order to receive federal funding.  Without adopting these measures, New York State could lose out on the monies from the Obama Race to the Top initiative.  It is a huge sum of money (something like $700 million).

However, the Common Core Learning Standards are not developmentally appropriate.  By adopting them, they are essentially accelerating the learning process up by about a year.  Meaning, third-graders are now expected to know material once presented in fourth-grade.  But they were never presented with the third-grade skills.  These "gap skills" are being crammed in here and there, without time for actual mastery of the material.  Also, presenting material that is above the learning level of the student does not lead to mastery and generalization of the skill.  It leads to poor compensatory strategies, poor study habits, aversion to school and learning, increased frustration and increased anxiety.  This is the perfect storm to increase the level of children acting out, thereby further disrupting an already disrupted and stressed classroom.

The teacher evaluations are making matters even worse.  Kids are now being subjected to testing of some sort or another at a disgustingly high rate.  (Even the kindergartners.  This is even more outrageous, because, in New York State, KINDERGARTEN is NOT MANDATED.)  The first two months of school have been about testing students for the the teacher evaluations, which include the APPR's and SLO's.  This means that the teachers have been out of the classroom, testing students.  Instruction has been interrupted, stalled and otherwise off-kilter for the first seven weeks of school.  In other words, to boost the effectiveness of teachers, we are pulling them out of the classroom.  Please, if anyone can understand this, explain it to me.  I do not understand how a teacher can teach if they are not in the classroom.

Our children need to attend school to learn, not to learn how to take tests.

Improving test scores will not make the United States more competitive in the world market.  Teaching at a level too developmentally high for a child's neurological development will not make a better student.  Here is my analogy for this...children typically learn to walk between 9-18 months, which is a huge range.  Every so often, you'll hear about a child who walks at 8 months.  Sometimes, kids are working on it, but just don't master it until they are about 2.  Outside the normal range, but they get there.  But someone notices that Russia has the best gymnasts.  They are physically superior to ours...they must be.  After all, at the World Gymnastic Championships, they have won an overall 772 medals, while the US has only won 243.  To be a better gymnast, the government decides that ALL children born should walk earlier so that they have more time to work on gymnastic skills.  So now, all pediatricians will be responsible for making sure that children walk by the age of six months.  Otherwise, they cannot get paid.  If they cannot get paid, they will not be able to rent office space and buy supplies and pay staff.  They will be forced to close.  But, you say, a six month-old can barely sit independently.  They do not have the trunk strength or stability to stand, let alone walk.  This is ridiculous.

This is what is happening in education.  Kids are being asked to read and write before they are PHYSICALLY and PHYSIOLOGICALLY able.  And if they are not successful, the teacher and the school are at fault.

The Common Core Learning Standards are designed to make us competitive with China and Korea.  However, the average US school year is 180 days, while in China, India and Korea, children attend school 200-220 days per year.  Up to 40 more days each year.   That means, but the time a child in China is in third grade, they have attended 160 more days of school, which is almost a full year for our students.  They simply have more educational time.  Also, the family structure is different.  In Korea, there are often several generations of family living under one roof, with only one to two children per parents.  This creates a large extended family...after all, it takes a village.  In China, parents can only have one child.  And because of this, most children with apparent or suspected disabilities are abandoned into orphanages, and education is not a priority.  In the United States, as of 2009, 33% of families are single parent.  In African-American households, 66% are single parent.  Right there, that indicates that American kids don't have the support that their supposed peers in China and Korea have.  Also, the cultural differences in Asia and America, especially in regards to mandatory military service for all males and length of work days is so staggering that it likens comparing education between the two regions to comparing apples to oranges.

All this being said, we do need educational standards, and teachers need to teach.  We have a lot of stale, ineffective or overall crappy teachers out there.  It is nearly impossible to fire a teacher in NY.  This, too, has to change.

I don't have any good answers.  I don't think there are any easy solutions.  One that I can think of is to propose is to lengthen the school year.  We no longer need our children available to assist with the harvest, so an 11 week summer vacation is needless.  The time off creates regression, and then teachers lose even more time re-teaching material that was taught at the end of the previous year.  What if we went to school for 7 weeks, and then had a 2 week break, all year round (with possibly an extra week during the December holiday break), or something like that?

We need to create a dialogue, and quickly.  Our children are suffering.  Our home lives are suffering.  Good teachers are being driven away from their calling.  Homework is being used as a catch up tool, and it is creating un-happy home lives.  My friend actually said this to me tonight (her boys are 10 and 7, and fight often), "The boys still have homework to finish, and I just checked on them.  They are playing nicely together, with the older boy teaching his younger brother to play chess.  I know I need to tell them they need to get their homework done, but this is so nice to see.  What do I do?  Can I let them play?"  We as parents should not have to ask that hard of a question...can I let my children play?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Randomness for a Friday Night

Even though it was a four day work week, this week seemed to take forever.  Just a lot of randomness tonight, and so I thought I'd share.

My dad bought me a gift today (pepper spray).  On the packaging, it says, "Making men cry since 1975."  I can relate.

My daughter's definition of cute:  Danny (a boy she likes), babies and kittens.

My son's take on Star Wars:  The Death Maul is actually a mall located in the Death Star.  Oh, and dressing up as Darth Vader is so two-years ago.

The mixed bag of emotions regarding making Halloween costumes has been replaced by a feeling of total awesomeness at making a costume without a pattern, and making creative use of fabric remnants given to me by a friend.  Excited about the outcome.

How many shows about Alaska are now on TV?  Even though they all pretty much seem the same, I'd take them over Housewives or Honey Boo Boo any day.

Why is one of the cats set to go off at 4 am and why can't I find his snooze button?

Bought a new novel this week, written by a high school boyfriend.  Kind of surreal.  Led to a dream that my own book was getting published.  Reality was cruel the next morning.

I could really use a massage and a facial.

I hope people stay warm tonight.  I am thinking of a preschool  friend going through a rough time, and hope she and her family are ok.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


About a year ago, I wrote a post about my annual making of Halloween costumes.  If you're really, really bored and need a refresher, you can read it here.

A lot happened last year while making the costumes.  My sewing machine broke, about 3/4 of the way through finishing the second costume.  I borrowed a friend's, but couldn't get that to work either.  And then my grandmother got sick, and passed away.  It was all very quick, but those four days in the hospital seem like they were the longest on record.  With family still in town, and snow on the ground (remember that--it snowed in October, and then not again until March!?!), I sent my husband to pick up my machine, which was blissfully fixed, so I could finish Mr. Lincoln's costume.

Here's how they turned out:

So, pretty much a year has passed. Sophia decided that she wanted to be Alice in Wonderland about 10 seconds after meeting her in Epcot this summer.  I held her to it, mostly because she changes her mind on everything.  After much soul-searching, Jake informed me that he wanted to be a Clone Trooper (like a Star Wars storm trooper, but from the new, crappier movies).  This surprised me, as he does not watch Clone Wars, and is not really into Star Wars that much.  He did correct me that he did watch Clone Wars once.  I was kind of hoping he'd be the Mad Hatter (probably the Johnny Depp version, not the Ed Wynn one).

Respecting his choice, I looked for a pattern for the Clone Trooper, but could not find one. I figured it would really be easier just to buy one.  I ran this by Jake, who insisted that it was fine.  He still went shopping with Sophia and I to get her pattern and material.  And he was fine with me not making his costume.

And this is where the mixed emotions come in.  Because of last year, there is part of me that doesn't want to make the Halloween costumes at all.  I just don't feel like it.  It makes me sad.  I even looked at buying Sophia's.  This was similar to what I found at the local mall store:

Um, no.  It's Alice, it shouldn't be sexy.  Oh, yeah, and she's FIVE.  Never mind, I can make it.  But I hemmed and hawed, and procrastinated.  And then I realized that it was already baseball post-season (I had lost interest a while back because the Red Sox were so colossally awful this year), and I needed to get working.  But I didn't want to do it.  The pattern and material just sat there.

But now, there's the part of me that is sad that Jake would rather have a store bought commercial costume that something I made for him.  He'll look like all the other boys.  On the other hand, he'll look like all the other boys, which is something we've strived for for him.

This is one of those things that should be simple, but it's not.  There are too many things running through my head and my heart.  I'm sad about the fact that my grandmother has been gone for almost a year.  One of the last conversations I had with her was about finishing up the kids' costumes.  I'm sad that my son doesn't want me to make his costume, because it means he's growing up.  I'm sad that they dress little girls like trollops.  I'm sad that I don't want to do this for my kids this year.


I buckled down, and got the costume done (which is a new world record for me in terms of being done early), mostly while the kids were on a play date on Sunday.  Sophia was thrilled to see the progress, and I am very pleased with the outcome.  The kids sat with me on their Columbus Day off, cutting fabric scraps and making different clothing items for the cats (I apologize to the cats).  The kids were happy that I was sewing again, and even asked me to make them Christmas pajamas.  That I can do.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I'm Grateful

I'm grateful for this beautiful fall day,
and for my children who laugh and play.

I'm grateful for this house that I designed,
this roof, this building, the things I call mine.

I'm grateful for my dad who cooks me dinner,
but need to stop worrying about being thinner.

I'm grateful for all the skills Mom taught me,
they help me to be all I that I can be.

I'm grateful for my friends who make me laugh and smile,
and are always there for me, going that extra mile.

I'm grateful for every laugh, every giggle,
even the ones that make my belly jiggle.

I'm grateful that I get to be someone's wife,
as it has given purpose to my life.

I'm grateful for my husband, who is my best friend,
and will share each day with me until THE END.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Time for Gingerbread!

With gale force winds whipping outside, and the mention of frost and snow, you think this post is going to be about the wintertime cookie, right?

Nope.  It's not even about gingerbread lattes, which are completely and totally wonderful in and of themselves and a reason to celebrate fall.

This story is about what happens when you don't follow the rules.  While Jake has presented with and continues to present many challenges in parenting him, one of the easiest things about him is his NEED to follow rules. So, if you tell him that something is a 'rule,' expect him to follow it.

But, then, there's Sophia.  I often say (and really, really mean) that it's a good think they look alike, otherwise we'd be convinced that one of them got switched at the hospital.  Because they are nothing, and I mean nothing alike.  Pretty much polar opposites.

So, to Sophia, a rule is not a hard and fast thing.  It's flexible and malleable, and made to not necessarily be broken, but to see how far it can be bent (we see a career in politics in her future).  She's awfully creative, and frankly, so humorous about it that she often gets away with murder because we admire her skill.

So, yesterday, I got to visit Sophia's kindergarten classroom as mystery reader.  While there, the teacher (who happens to be a good friend of mine as well) introduces to the class this paper gingerbread man who is about the size of an average kindergartner.  She tells the class that the gingerbread man is magic and explores the school after everyone has left for the day, and that they'll have to hunt for the gingerbread man every day when they get to school.

So my kid, of course, pipes up "That doesn't really happen," leaving the teacher to defend this story.  She used the phrase "have I ever lied to you?" which was totally ironic, because she WAS lying to them.  But she told them that the gingerbread man is so ticklish that you cannot touch him.  My time at school was about up, and as I left, I noticed that Sophia and one of her best buds (who is cut from very similar cloth) with their heads together near the gingerbread man.

When Sophia got home from school, she informed me that she TOUCHED the gingerbread man, but her finger didn't turn brown.  Huh?  Upon further questioning, she explained to me that if you touch the gingerbread man, he can cast a spell on you and you start to turn brown because you're turning into gingerbread.  And once you're all gingerbread, you have to go live in Candyland.   Sophia was very relieved that she and her friend had not started to turn brown, even though they BOTH touched the gingerbread man, despite being told not to.

Fast forward to the evening.  Sophia is soaking in the tub.  Suddenly, she starts yelling for me.  I go in, and she tells me, "This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me."  What?  A bath?  Surely it cannot be that bad.  She points to her knee.  On her knee is a brown spot, about the size of a dime.  Now, to the lay person, it's just a bruise.  But, Sophia was convinced she was starting to turn into a gingerbread man.  I played along (thinking that she can't REALLY believe this.  After all, she was the one who didn't buy the whole story to begin with.)  I tell her we'll just have to wait until morning to see if she continues to turn brown.

(Now, in the back of my mind, I'm envisioning sneaking into her room after she falls asleep and coloring her hands brown with a marker.  How funny would that be!)

Sophia starts to panic a little.  She asks me to soap up her leg and see if the spot comes off.  It doesn't. I get her out of the tub, and she's on the verge of tears.  By the time she's dressed, she's crying.  Her father is holding her.  We're trying not to laugh.  She is in a full on panic.  Sophia really thinks she's turning into a gingerbread man.  She asks to wear pants to school so no one can see that she's turning brown.  She wonders if her friend is turning brown too. The tears are really flowing.

I call her teacher to ask if there is a way to "reverse" the magic.  There is a pause on the line.  The teacher never told the girls such a thing.  She told them not to touch it, but that was all.  Apparently Sophia and her friend came up with the idea that touching the gingerbread man can make them turn into gingerbread.  I repeat all this to Sophia, along with the message that the gingerbread man doesn't have THAT kind of magic, to turn kids into gingerbread man.

Sophia finally buys it.  She says, "I think it's just a bruise, right?"  We assure her.  We also remind her that if she had followed the rules this would not have happened.

I resisted the temptation to color her hands in at night.  Today, she is still checking for brown, and is relieved that her spot has not gotten bigger.

I'm not sure she'll ever eat gingerbread again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


As a school physical therapist, a large part of my job is about adapting the environment so that a child can access his or her education.  This includes things like stair climbing ability (or access to elevators), using more supportive chairs with arms, modifying the desk by using a slant board.  I "come up" with these adaptations to bridge the gaps where we cannot help a child adapt to his or her environment.  For example, a child with CP who is non-ambulatory and will never be ambulatory needs seating and access adaptations made.  We do our best to help the child gain the skills necessary, but sometimes we rely on external rather than internal adaptations.  I think it is a job I'm fairly decent at.  I think I do well with the out of the box thinking that it requires.

I've been having the discussion lately with many people about whether it is best to adapt to the environment or have the environment adapt to you.  For example, it has come up when discussing food allergies.  Some parents are (with good reason) hyper-vigilant about what food is served and where.  I get it.  I understand that ingesting or inhaling allergens can be fatal.  This issue came up last year at a Cub Scout cookie event (each family was asked to bring a batch of cookies/dessert to share).  There were a few boys in the pack with nut allergies.  It was decided that if food was made, packaging should be brought so parents could inspect it, and "nut-free" foods would be kept separate from "non-nut-free" foods.  Sounds like a reasonable solution, right?  Of course not.  Some parents (not necessarily even the parents of the boys with allergies) were up in arms that people would even dare bring foods that may contain nuts.  The event was taking place in the school cafeteria where all the boys eat everyday, and where peanut butter sandwiches are served everyday.  The school nut-free table was being utilized to avoid cross contamination.  I still can not figure out what the big hub-bub was all about.  Those children with allergies were being accommodated by any families willing (one would think their own would be willing to donate).  Other families made treats that were nut-free as well, so additional choices were available.  But some people were not satisfied that these boys could not pick from ALL the cookies.

In life, there is no nut-free table.  Sometimes, due to health issues, physical disabilities, mental limitations, etc., we will all be limited.  I believe the saying goes, "Be all you CAN be."  It does not say "Be all that you WANT to be."  We all have constraints upon us for one reason or another.  We need to learn to live within those boundaries instead of always chafing at the bit.  It is nice to push the boundaries to grow.  It is not nice to always be running into a brick wall.  It is why we say that everyone has their niche.  I think we all recognize this.  We all see someone doing a job that we know, in theory, we are capable of doing, but would NEVER want to do it.  We all know there are things we are just not cut out for.  Most of us accept this and carry on, finding other things to do that make us happy and productive members of society.

For example, I have very short thumbs (frankly, they look like toes).  As a result, even though I liked to play the piano, I have difficulty reaching an octave.  I really can't do it--I can only reach 7 keys.  It limited what I was able to play, and while it didn't cause me to give up playing, it certainly contributed it.  I did not bemoan this.  It simply was.  There was nothing I could do about it.  I would like to have continued and been a better player than I am, but, c'est la vie.

But there's this new generation out there.  This whole group of kids, being raised by parents who want to be friends with their kids.  Who want all kids to get a trophy.  Who don't want to say no.  By doing that, we're hurting our kids.  We're telling them that they are so unique that THEY cannot be changed.  That THEY cannot adapt.  That the environment MUST adapt to them.   These are the kids who were not given grades so that the kids who were failing did not feel badly about themselves.  These are the kids who got an award for showing up, rather than for performing.  By doing this, we are not teaching our children to adapt or evolve.

But we need adaptation and evolution.  We need to grow.  We need to accept that we ALL have limitations in one way or another.  We need to teach our children that.  We need to encourage growth and development, and not put a damper on creativity.  But, we need to be realistic, and remember that the world does not revolve around us.  For all the kids out there with peanut allergies, there are also kids who are not able to eat/digest/tolerate a variety of foods and need to get the excellent nutritional value out of that peanut butter.  Making the world nut-free comes at an expense to others.

We need realistic goals in how far the world can be adapted.  Expecting a person with only one functional arm to have a career in carpentry and wood-working may not be the most wise thing to do.  Maybe that person's talents would be better (and more safely) expressed in the design aspect, rather than the wood-carving aspect.

Here is the issue I am currently personally struggling with:  for a child with attention issues, how much stimulation can you take away?  I am working to create organized spaces that are task specific (a small desk against a bare wall for homework).  But dinner time at the counter (where we normally eat) is always a chore, as there are always more interesting things on the counter than on the dinner plate.  We can try eating at the dinner table, which is much bigger, but could (in theory) be free of extraneous objects.  But in life, tables always have things on them--salt and pepper, menus, other people's lunchboxes, etc.  Is it better to learn how to eat while stuff is there, since I cannot de-clutter the world for my child?  (Heck, I can't even de-clutter the counter at this point!)  Do I remove all the toys from the bedroom, since they are distracting when getting ready for school in the AM?  Or, do we figure something else out so I don't end up losing it every morning screaming to get dressed for the seventh time?  (I'm trying plan B right now)

I am caught in an emotional and professional conundrum.  My job is to adapt the environment, which I generally believe in for the kids I work with.  For my own kids, I really want them to learn how to adapt.  I feel it is a better life skill.  I feel that, when applicable, the choice that leads to the highest level of functioning should be the option picked.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Birds and the Bees

Last spring, we got two male kittens. Some point during July, I (with the kids in tow, of course) had to take them to the vets for shots, etc, and to find out when they can be neutered.  I had prepped the kids that the kittens would be having surgery so they cannot become dads.  On the way to the vet, Sophia told Jake that they were having surgery so they can't have babies.

Jake, being precise as always, had to correct her that they cannot have babies because they are boys.  Sophia agreed and said, "Well, they are having an operation so they can't become dads."

After a momentary pause, Jake asked, "Mom, what part helps them become dads?"

Ok, quick thinking here.  What do I say?  If I mention penis, Sophia will say penis to everyone she meets, everywhere.  Ok, think quick.  How can I say it so Jake gets it, but she doesn't?

"Umm, their franks and beans."

Silence from the back.  Crisis averted, kudos to me.

The silence was processing time.  Jake again, "How exactly does that work?"

Hell, no.  I am NOT having this discussion with an 8 1/2 year old and a 4 year old, holding two kittens while driving 5 minutes to the vet.

"I don't really want to talk about that now.  Sophia is too young."

Jake:  "Is it disgusting?"

Me: "No, Sophia's just too young to talk about it right now."

Sophia:  "Will you tell us when we're 16?"

Excellent solution.  Let's put it off for eight more years.  Crisis averted.  Innocence maintained. Phew.

For about two months...
While finishing up dinner (the kids were slowly finishing their meals, I had already moved onto ice cream and Pat had slunk out to watch Cramer), I was again attacked.  Why does this only seem to happen to me?

Sophia has just finished Day One of Kindergarten.  She, apparently, has decided that since she is all grown up now, we need more babies in the house.  While on vacation this summer, she bombarded me relentlessly with the question, "Did you have an operation so you can't have any more babies?"  I thought I dodged the bullet and never really answered her.  Here she is, a month later, bringing it up again.

Never say never (because I don't want to jinx myself here), but we're done with having kids.  The youngest is in kindergarten.  They're getting self-sufficient.  Sometimes, we can even sleep through the night.  But more importantly, and I told the kids this, that when Sophia was born, I felt like our family was complete.  And it's not because we have a boy and a girl.  We have two kids--we can still play man-to-man defense.  I admit that I am limited.  I don't think I'm cut out to parent via zone defense.  Our kids are healthy and I appreciate that--so much can go wrong that I get nervous about the idea of chancing it again.

So I tell the kids about how I felt our family was complete the first time I held both of them in my arms.  I really did.  I also tell them that if we had a baby, they wouldn't be able to have drum lessons and dance lessons and trips to Disney World, because we'd have to pay for and take care of the baby and I wouldn't be able to work as much.

Sophia moved onto barraging her father with questions and riding her horse "Sexy" around.  (Need you ask why she is the youngest?)  Again, crisis averted.

Jake, God love him, was still pondering the conundrum, came up with a suggestion. (For those of you not aware, Jake, in addition to a near photographic memory, has some significant pragmatic speech difficulties.  That means he has a tremendous vocabulary, but the way he puts words together is sometimes difficult to understand.  I end up translating for him a lot.)  He says, "I have a solution that can solve both your problems (meaning Sophia's want of a younger sister, and my not wanting to have another baby).  You know the teacher Mr. Floyd?"  I nodded.  Jake continued, "He works for a place that rents kids.  You know, for like a week or a month, or just a little while.  You could rent a kid from him."

That took me a minute to figure out.  "You mean foster care?"  He nodded.  He then told me of a schoolmate whose parents had had foster kids.  Ok, good for them.  I told him that I was sure that there were kids out there who needed good homes, and that maybe Pat and I would consider it in the future, but it was not right for us right now.  I told him that with caring for him and his sister, working and taking care of the house, I was full-up and could not take much more on.

His response....

"Well, you could just read 50 Shades of Grey and get pregnant."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

In defense of the Bumbo

This post is pretty much a rant, but it is also more from a therapist perspective...just warning you.  I am not a paid spokesperson (although, Bumbo people, if you want to pay me to endorse your product, I'd be ok with that).

It is about a wonderful baby product called a Bumbo seat.  For those of you not familiar, it is a contraption that looks like this:

It is used to help babies who are not yet independent sitters sit upright.  It is a great way to work on head and neck control, as well as visual development, since the babies are upright.  It gives them a chance to work with their eyes in a vertical plane, giving them the opportunity to work their eye muscles as they work their head and neck muscles.  They even have little trays so kids can work on their fine motor skills too.
Random picture found on internet when googling Bumbo

Bumbo seats have just been recalled for the second time in five years.  It bums me out.  They are being recalled for the same reason, too.  It's because babies can arch and twist, and fall out of the seats.  And when the seats are left on the counter or table, or even a hard floor, and the babies arch and twist, well, babies have cracked their skulls.
Another internet picture.  I take no responsibility for doing this to a baby.

Please note that this seat is on a GRANITE counter top.  I know that someone is taking a picture, but seriously, WHERE is the adult?!?

Seriously people.  They are babies.  They are fragile.  You have to be very careful with them.  There are few places you can leave them unsupervised.  This is one of them.  That being said, it does not mean that this product is not a good one.  It is one where the pros outweigh the cons.  I consider the cons to be the need for supervision, not the skull fractures.

I had the chance to use a Bumbo with a little guy the other day.  He is an archer, not unlike the kid in the picture above.  He also has some feeding difficulties, and is not gaining weight well.  His mom was using his bouncy seat to feed him in, and mealtimes are a battle.  She's pretty frustrated.  I thought I'd give it a shot and see if I could help.  Immediately when in the bouncy seat, he began extending and arching back.  His tongue was out and there was no way that he was eating without a battle.  He did not open his mouth when the spoon approached.  I grabbed the Bumbo and put it on the table.  I had the food and stuff all set up, because I knew that I could not leave him once placed in the seat.  There were still some arching issues, and he required some readjustments from time to time.  However,  he ate more than half the container of carrots (yuck!), whereas he normally ate about 10 spoonfuls.  The first 2 bites in the bouncy seat, he spit out more than was put it.  You try swallowing with your back arched and your head tipped back and rotated.  In fact, try that, and just try closing your mouth.  It's nearly impossible.  Once in the Bumbo, he lost a lot less food.  He was also engaged in the feeding process, and was grabbing the spoon and putting it in his mouth, assisting in the process.  He did tire out, but he is not used to sitting upright to eat.  The difference was remarkable.

For babies who arch, placing them in a flexed position helps them dissociate one part of their body from another.  It helps them get their hands to midline in front of their eyes, which helps with fine motor, vision and visual motor development.  In terms of feeding, the reduction of extension places the head and neck in a slightly flexed position.  This is the preferred position for swallowing.  When swallowing with an extended neck, the trachea is open, which drastically increases the chances of aspiration.

With the Back to Sleep movement, babies are not developing head and neck strength as they should.  There are lots of kids with flat heads out there.  When in the Bumbo, there is no pressure on the back of the skull.  Kids are able to develop strength without flattening the back of their heads.

People, use some sense here.  This is a great piece of equipment.  It can help with a lot of fabulous developmental things.  It is not designed to be a safety seat.  Don't treat it that way.  Maybe babies need to come with the warnings printed on them, instead of the products.

Sophia, in her knock-off Bumbo.  Bumbo was not available when she needed it due to the first recall.   One of my favorite baby products of all time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Changing my feathers

A few months ago, there was an article in Good Housekeeping about happiness.  Ok, there is always an article about happiness, and I rarely read them.  Sometimes, they are just touchy-feely crap and that annoys me.  Sometimes they talk about writing happiness journals.  You see the frequency that I'm on here to blog.  Do you think I really have time for that?  Anyway, I read the opening paragraphs, and it talked about choosing to be a bluebird of happiness or a pigeon of discontent.  I didn't go much further, but liked those expressions.

I want to be a bluebird, but know that I'm genetically programmed to be a pigeon.

But I want to change.  Since July of last year, our family has lost several significant members.  It's been rough, to say the least.  There was the dear family friend, who, to this day, I still call "Uncle."  He and his family were so critically interwoven with my childhood that to remove them would undo the whole fabric of my life.  He was one of the happiest people I had ever met, and you just felt good being around him.

My cousin-in-law (with whom I share a brain.  We seriously, have been able to finish each other's thoughts and sentences since our second meeting) lost her mom.  Her mom was awesome, just like her daughter.  It breaks my heart that my other brain half has to be without her mom for not only the everyday things, but for the big things too, like the birth of her child.

My great aunt, who was my grandfather's twin sister passed away last September.  I know that she had her struggles, and that maybe she was not the most pleasant to live with, but, boy, did she love me and my brothers.  Growing up, she lived across the back porch from my grandmother, and it was like having two sets of grandparents for the price of one.  My aunt always seemed happy to me, even when she was complaining.

I still cannot even begin to describe the hole that losing my Mimere has left.  She was so pragmatic about life, and NEVER complained.  I wish that I could be more like that.

This week, my mom's cousin passed away.  My mom had lived with him for a while growing up, and they all grew up together in the same four family house.  For her, it is like losing her big brother.  He was a golden boy, upon whom the sun always seemed to shine.  I'm sure that it didn't, but that was the perception.  He was another one of those happy people, even in sad times.  You couldn't help laughing when he was around, especially when he was picking on my mom, as only a "sibling" could.

It has been so many losses, but, in shedding my pigeon persona, I want to think about the gains.  I want to not want to want what others have, like my grandmother.  I want to be happy in nature, like Aunt Millie.  I want to make the best of the situation, just like Uncle Phil or John would have.  I want to enjoy my children and husband.  I want to laugh every day.  I want my life to be content.  I want to be a bluebird.

I'm trying, I really am.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A mother's shopping

So, here in the great Capital District, we have two main grocery stores, Price Chopper and Hannaford.  Most people I know are loyal to one or the other.  There is not a lot of cross mingling.  Price Chopper is truly a local company, run by the Golub Corp out of Rotterdam/Schenectady.  It has been around forever.  PC has outlasted Grand Union, Shop Rite, A&P, Edwards, just to name a few.  My mom was never a PC shopper.  We were Grand Union all the way.

So, now that, somehow, I'm a "responsible" adult, I spend a lot of time in the supermarket.  And a lot of my money.  I feel obligated to get the best stuff for the best price.  I have looked around, and Hannaford (or the Big H, as I like to call it), really does have the best overall prices.  They do not have a loyalty card.  Everyone gets the sale prices.  I like that, no discrimination.  Price Chopper runs fantastic sales, so you can get some really good deals.  A lot of times, their BOGO offers run in conjunction with the coupon circulars, so you can get an even better deal.  And PC has the gas program.  However, they just doubled their requirement to earn money off of gas, making it a little less appealing.  Now, for every $100 spent, you earn $0.10 off per gallon of gas.  And the cents off do expire, so you have to be careful.  But, when I paid $3.09/gal for gas the other day, I was pretty pleased.

Hannaford does not double coupons.  PC does, up to $0.99, I believe.  They used to issue 1-3 coupons for double coupons in their circular, but you could double up to $5, if my memory serves me correctly.

The Big H does reward loyal shoppers throughout the year (at least once or twice) by offering cash coupons ($1 or $5 off next purchase).  Those $5 off coupons can really make a difference, especially when you have 3 or 4 of them.

So, enter Shop Rite back to the Capital District.  My cousin in New Jersey, who is pretty much a pro-shopper and coupon magician, has often told tales of fabulous deals at Shop Rite, especially using the loyalty card and TRIPLE coupons.  Woo Hoo, I'm so excited to try this new Shop Rite.  The store openings were news worthy events and people were all abuzz.  Coupons, oh, only doubled up to $0.99, just like PC.  Boo.  Maybe this Shop Rite is nothing special.  But then I heard about it.  Shop At Home.  I can go online, select my stuff.  Then I can either pick it up or have it delivered.  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  My groceries, delivered?  I think I hear the angels singing.  It is every mother's dream, especially during these summer months when grocery shopping means doing it with kids in tow.

I had a few friends try it out.  The comments were about the same, whether it was pick up or delivery.  The orders were not ready on time.  OK, I can probably deal with that, if I know that that is what I'm getting.  So, yesterday was the day.  We were out of milk.  We were out of OJ.  We were running dangerously low on Pop Tarts.  Grocery shopping MUST occur.  I dictate a list of essentials (ketchup, dishwasher detergent, kitty litter, tissues) to Jake while I'm trying to get Sophia up and ready for camp.  So, after my morning appointment, I cut my coupons at lightening fast speed, and log on and try to order.

This is where it all derailed.  It took me a while to find out where to apply for the loyalty card.  Then I got my order all ready for the Albany store (8.36 miles, 16 minutes away).  Trying to beat a 1 pm deadline so that the groceries can be delivered between 5-9pm.  Go to check out, no delivery to my area, pick up only.  Between 5-9 pm.  Uggh.  Switch over to the Niskayuna store (11.2 miles, 19 minutes away).  Thankfully everything stayed in my basket.  But I missed the delivery window, and now my only option was for delivery on Friday am.  FAIL.  Also, I could not figure out how to use the coupons while placing the order.

Oh, crap, now I have to go to the market.  With the kids.  In the 90 degree heat.  Play date first, will go on the way home.  Crap, forgot my purse at home.  All the way back home, get the purse, back to the market with two hungry and tired kids.  At this point, I employed the last ditch parenting strategy of "encouraging" (AKA bribing) the kids with a candy bar for good behavior.

It worked.  The shopping trip was AWESOME.  The Big H was not crowded.  It was nice and cool and refreshing.  The kids liked being able to pick out what they wanted and have an active role in what they are eating.  Ended up buying a lot more produce, but I'm ok with my kids wanting to eat lots of fruit and veggies.  Very little whining, even by me.  Got everything on the list, got to use my coupons.

And reaffirmed what I think I already knew.  Shop Rite, like PC, runs really good deals.  When something is not on sale, however, Hannaford has better prices.  Some items, like the English Muffins were more expensive ($2.99 Big H vs. $1.99 SR).  There were some moderate differences.  Lean Pockets (which Jake specifically requested) are $2.00 at the Big H, where they are $2.79 at SR.  The biggest difference was in the meat department.  SR had no chicken on sale this week.  A 4# package of chicken drumsticks was $7.16.  The same drumsticks were on sale at the Big H, and I ended up paying $3.89 for a 4# package.  The kitty litter that I had a coupon for was $7.99 at SR and only $5.99 at the Big H.  Also, with some of the sale items at SR, you had to buy multiple quantities to get the sale prices (3 BBQ sauce, 4 packages of ziplock bags).

In a perfect world, I would slowly comb the Sunday fliers and make my lists based on what is the best deal at each store.  Is the time and energy worth doing that just to save some money?  Maybe.  I can give it a try and see how much work it really is.

I still like the dream of my groceries just magically appearing on my doorstep.  Maybe someday.