Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good Citizens

I don’t think that anyone who is a mother, republican or democrat can understand in any way, shape or form, the reasoning behind the President’s veto of the SCHIP legislation increase and renewal. There is no excuse, and this unacceptable decision is compounded by the fact that yesterday he requested another $46 Billion to fund the Iraq war. A war that has yet to make any difference in our struggle against an ideology that has no home base that claims no country of origin, no allegiance to a state. Muslim Fundamentalism is not an ideology of Iraq; it is an ideology that lives deep in the hearts of a people who inhabit a multitude of countries and a vast representation of humanity. They do not wear a uniform and carry a passport and hence we can not fight them in a traditional war. I won’t go too deeply into the fact that not one of the hijackers was from Iraq. They were, 17 of them, from Saudi Arabia, our good friends.

I highlight these truths only because I think that we are so quick to loose sight of the important nuances that make our current situations what they are, and we are too quick to believe everything that makes these situations any more palatable for ourselves. We will face choices as mothers in upcoming elections that will call on us all to take the time to really understand the policies we support through the candidates we elect. We must take the time to read, research, ask questions, and demand truth from ourselves and our leaders. We must, in short, be good citizens.

The SCHIP program is one such topic that should require more inquiry and more understanding. We, the collective maternal population must take the time to truly understand what SCHIP does, for whom, and why. If we do not defend the needs of the children who so greatly need our help, who will?

A Brief explanation of SCHIP:

The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, makes funds available to states that have in place federally approved programs providing health insurance coverage to uninsured children. This program gives each state permission to offer health insurance for children, up to age 19, who are not already insured. SCHIP is a state administered program and each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services.
Amounts of SCHIP funds receive annually is determined according to a formula based on the number of uninsured, low-income children in the state and a geographic health care cost factor. Participating states use most of their SCHIP funding to provide health insurance to uninsured children who could not otherwise be covered under the state's plan alone.
In most states the maximum household income allowed is $36,000. If you read carefully, the second paragraph above highlights the fact that states in which there is a greater population of poor children, say Mississippi, may have more children in the program and their threshold for eligibility may be lower than a state like New York or Maryland that has fewer children living below the poverty line, but the cost of living is dramatically higher, hence the threshold for eligibility may be higher. The argument that the program allows families who make $84,000 a year are eligible and therefore the program is flawed is faulty logic and a good game of slight of hand being played by the President. He knows it too.
The reality is that the fear of the administration is that the migration of families who currently choose health care over proper nutrition, safe cars, or other needs would impact the private health insurance industry negatively. Read that slowly, understand it fully.
*President Bush does not want Private Insurance Companies to suffer premium losses as a result of state funded programs that will provide medical care to children. *
Now, think about that. Further, the excuse that this program is somehow the lead in to the slippery slope of socialized medicine is bullshit; Medicare and Medicaid have been around for decades. Ask our seniors where they would be without it and if their fixed income would allow them to move back onto private medical insurance. They could not do it and survive.
Not everyone will agree with my assessment of the President and his policies in the middle east and I make no attempt to hide my opinion, but regardless of opinion on other issues, I believe that this one calls on all mothers to stand up for the voiceless and helpless among us. Understand the issues, write to your representatives and senators and demand that they fight the President on the SCHIP veto.
I live in North Carolina, a big tobacco state. Senator Elizabeth Dole supported the president because she did not want a tobacco tax used to support funding for SCHIP here in our state. WHAT? We don’t want to tax a product that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, contributes to childhood asthma and other pulmonary diseases in an effort to bring health care to poor children. Help me understand that logic. I can not. I simply can not.
SCHIP is one issue among many, many issues that will require your thought, research, understanding and time. Make the time and make it a priority whether you are a Donkey or an Elephant, do it for yourself, and do it for your kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Next Generation of Men

I have often wondered if the ability to deal with children is intrinsic in women and a learned skill for men, because by all observable evidence it is. I think that it is similar to the chain reaction vomit syndrome; I throw up when I have to witness anyone but one of my children throwing up. It is some sort of internal primal mechanism that allows us to care for our sick young with out barfing on their heads.
But when it comes to continuous screaming and crying, kicking and writhing, it takes a creature with ovaries to manage the chaos. Women react and respond to outrageous behavior differently than men, and it is not only in matters of unruly children. Women react differently when they encounter road rage, rude people in the grocery line, unexpected home repair issues, etc. Once you roll all of these issues into a category and determine one's ability or lack thereof to deal with them, it is a matter of coping mechanisms--and women have them.

It is not meant to suggest that women possess a superiority over men in a general sense, it is merely pointed out here to illustrate what I believe to be a very important skill to teach our young sons, and a behavior or talent to foster in our daughters. Any mother raising a son(s) and a daughter(s) can attest, they are hard-wired differently at birth, and anyone who is married can attest that those differences become more pronounced with age.

I am not offering clear advice here on how to teach this skill to boys, because I do not know myself how to go about doing it. I only attempt to encourage my son to take his time, to take a deep breath, and to remember that the calamity, no matter how great, can be dealt with. There is always a huge eruption when a piece of Lego goes missing, especially a Lego piece that is part of a Star Wars Clone Battle Fighter (seriously, I know this shit now), and if the matter is not taken seriously and met with complete urgency on my part there will be tears. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth, locusts, perhaps floods. The Universe hates missing Legos. His reaction always seems to me to be so totally overblown, and although my daughter is extremely dramatic (she is four and it is what four year old girls do), her reaction to a similar challenge is never panicked.

I think that at the core of this for my son is that his primary reaction is believing that the situation is hopeless and therefore the only thing to do is panic. What can be done? How will I survive? Instead of realizing that the black piece of plastic that he had in his hand and in his sights 20 seconds prior did not grow legs and walk away. There is no measure of time between 1) Where did I put that? And 2) Holy Shit it is gone, gone, gone forever! There is the tipping point. Male humans do not have a pause. They do not stop, adjust, recalculate, and begin. Can we teach that?

I hope so, I am trying. Women live their whole lives utilizing this process. Stop – I got my period. Adjust – these jeans will not zip today and I must select something else to wear. Recalculate – I think that this “Mamas and Papas” style house dress looks pretty. Begin – I can wear this to the party and everyone will think I am being “hip”. Coping leads to recovery.

I do not think that there is a magic bullet, I know there is no one way to teach the process of challenge recovery to our boys, but there are multiple ways to teach them. I firmly 100% agree with the much celebrated comments made by Sally Field when she accepted her Emmy award: “If mothers ran the world, there would be no goddamned wars.” Because women know how to pause. Can we teach this to our sons? Can we all make a vow to at least try? What if that simple skill alone could become part of the one wish we all have – World Peace?

This is a grand over simplification on my part, but we are growing human beings here--which is no small task. We are helping to create the leaders of tomorrow, men and women. I say let's help them embrace the differences and value the skill sets they hold in common and value and endeavor to learn the skills that they do not. What a wonderful generation that would be.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

crazy mama

It's now official. I am now one of those crazy women you see in the grocery store who talk to and oogle over other peoples babies. You know the ones who have to tell you how much YOUR baby reminds them of THEIR babies when they were little. the worst ones want to hold or touch your babies( I'm not that bad...yet) My friend once had a lady stick her finger in her newborns mouth to help her stop him from crying! SERIOUSLY! Oh she meant no harm, it's just once a mama always a mama.

I can't stand to hear a baby cry. I actually think a two year old temper tantrum is adorable, and I give way more advice than I should to new mothers who are already bombarded with advice.
I can't help myself! I miss the little years and my babies so much.

The other night I came across my journals and it was 4 hours later when I finally put them down. If my house caught on fire I wouldn't think twice about running in to save those precious memories.

Don't get me wrong those journals aren't just filled with the sweet moments. They are also packed with the PMS, pulling your hair out, "I can't do this one more day "moments. I always say if I died suddenly and anybody read them they would think I was loony. But it was all real and writing all the crap down helped me magically change my mood, sort of snap out of myself. I mean come on how hard is life REALLY here for us . I mean really What ABOUT all those starving people in Africa! Get over it, don't take it all so seriously. My entries would start out ... "I can't take it anymore ...blah...blah...blah..". and end "But the birds are singing and the sky is SO blue and I love my life." Those books would literally heal my mixed up mind.

But now that my beautiful babies are pre-teens( and my babies were the most beautiful babies ever, even though you all think that yours are, I'm just letting it known that really MINE were) and I will always miss those little people that I will never see and hold and squeeze again, I'm still really enjoying these new people developing right before my eyes. My son taught me to do a hip hop dance the other day ,and yes I looked like a mom doing a hip hop dance. I remember teaching my mom to do the hustle when I was 11and thinking what a dork! Well now I'm the dork! But at least he still wants to" hang "with me, although for how long I do not know. Someday I 'll be over the top dork and I'll get nothin!

So for all you mamas with littles out there, write it all down ,every bit of it!And laugh at those temper tantrums (it's hard being two)! Squeeze and smell them all you can because when they are 12 they won't let you do that anymore. And enjoy every moment!

Monday, October 1, 2007

One Size Does Not Fit All

Last week, my son got a 100% on his math test. Now maybe for some of you this is a common occurrence but for others, like us perhaps, this is cause to throw a damn party.

The little signs that our son was struggling with schoolwork started in pre-school but became more pronounced in Kindergarten. Then last year, in 1st grade, it was obvious that we needed to do something other than give him extra time to do his work and extra encouragement. I couldn't figure out why my son, who has incredible wit and humor and was so bright just couldn't seem to "get it" when it came to academics and had such anxiety at test time. It broke my heart to see him struggling and to see his self-confidence suffering.

We started with the usual eye and hearing exams to be sure that the problem wasn’t there. It wasn’t. We gave him a modified curriculum and extra tutoring to see if he just needed to catch up. His teacher described him in the classroom as being “out there”. He wasn’t engaging in the classroom, he became easily frustrated with work and complained of being tired. This mirrored what we were seeing at home when it was time to do homework or work on projects.

He was never hyperactive or disruptive but the diagnosis came back – ADHD. The testing process we chose was extremely comprehensive, extremely expensive…and extremely worthwhile.

Now, I had always been one of those moms that thought it was crazy that “all these ADD kids are being thrown on Ritalin” and here was this psychologist sitting across from me and recommending medication for my son. I am a BIG proponent of alternative and holistic care. But after much discussion, research and debate, we decided that we needed to try it at least. The common "starting dose" turned out to be way too much for him. We ended up cutting it in half after only 1 day and found success.

I am not suggesting that medication is the answer for every kid out there who is struggling with ADHD. What I can tell you is that it has worked for MY kid. He can stay focused and attentive in class. He participates in discussion and is engaged, anxious to raise his hand and answer questions. And most importantly? His confidence level has gone way up.

My kid got a 100% on his math test. And the look of joyful pride on his face was worth every anxious moment we’ve had in the last 7 months.

Posted by another Mama

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Autism, need I say more?


Wonder Twin Powers ACTIVATE

Autism, need I say more? Yes, there’s a lot more to say actually. My three and a half year old twin boys are teaching me this everyday. Our beautiful boys were born to us with no complications at birth, at least not any that we were aware of. They were strong, healthy, and ACTIVE. They both walked before they turned one, they ate like champs, and always had a special bond. Then the gap of communication began to divide them like the parting of the Red Sea. Trevor’s language soared, Darren remained silent. Don’t get me wrong, Darren laughed, cried, and made certain unrelated sounds, but no words. How could this be?
Autism, need I say more? Yes, Darren was diagnosed with Autism. Trevor is not at all autistic but he is also living with Autism as is our entire family and circle of supportive friends. This diagnosis was a life changing experience for us all. Of course, as with any situation, we all deal with things differently. It hit me hard at first, so hard that at times I felt I couldn’t breathe. After touring a potential school for Darren, I actually gasped for air. That day changed our lives. We became pro-active from that day forward. What does this have to do with superheroes?
Autism, need I say more? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some autism fighting superheroes to save all the children affected by this epidemic? In my eyes, Trevor is just that, and together, they create Super Twin Power. They have always had each other. They, from day one, have been in this together. Together they fight this epidemic with true brotherly love. I have always said that I learned early on to let go of preconceived dreams in regards to these boys. Just when I think that I am teaching them, they are teaching me more. Their unconditional love is breaking down walls. Darren has begun to use simple sign language, yes, so has Trevor. (I have to laugh because anyone who knows Trevor knows that he would have made me say that) He learned 6 signs in a week’s time. He is making wonderful, purposeful sounds. Just hearing his voice make real sounds is just amazing. It takes my breath away.

Autism, need I say more? Yes! I’ve started running almost every day. It seemed like the fastest and easy way to exercise. But it’s become so much more. I now run for clarity and for Darren. Running is about breathing, about control, about strength, about endurance, and about pushing yourself that much further. Today I could have run around the world. Some days, my body is so tired. On those days I say to myself, keep running, keep fighting, Darren is. Right before my run, Trevor suggested that we go downstairs and work with Darren. So tonight, my run was a little later than normal. I’ve decided to never turn down Trevor’s request, it means a lot to him, which ends up meaning a lot to Darren. I relate it to my asking my dad to play catch, he never said no. He knew that if I asked, then I really wanted to do it. Life lessons seem to come full circle these days. The world seems to be full of real life superheroes: Parents, teachers, therapist, family, friends and brothers.

Autism, need I say more? Lastly, yes. We feel so blessed to have our Super Twins. We are also so thankful for all of the love and support that we have received. Breakthroughs are worth sharing. This is one that I wish I could shout from the highest mountain top. Love to all!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Being a good parent is not always easy, and more to the point being a good person is not always easy. But I do believe that a very simple rule of thumb can be followed and if done so with a strong intention to succeed, you likely will. Our children are in a way mirrors of ourselves and just like our bathroom mirrors we have to look them in the face every day and confront who and what we are.

Here it is, my bold wisdom that I share with my kids and that I try to apply to myself – “Don’t be a jerk.”

The truth is that it takes more energy and more effort to be a jerk than it does to be a good person. It is not always easy to do the right thing, but in the end I think that most of us are more inclined towards right than we are towards wrong. We are somehow, as humans connected by this mutual need for survival and mutual benefit – our world political leaders not withstanding.

I have just returned from a business trip to the Midwest – Chicago to be exact. I always find that the time spent alone and away from my family brings in to sharp focus what is important in life, and also allows me to examine the people in my life who act in direct opposition to my above mentioned rule. There, unfortunately a great many people who simply do not get the fact that being an asshole is not conducive to a well lived life, nor is being a mercenary for money or power. But you might be surprised by just how many people are willing to suppress a certain amount of “right” in order to achieve a goal in which money is a goal. Business, like politics can simply bring out the worst in people, but I just do not believe that it has to be that way. I don’t believe that “nice guys finish last”. I think in short, that is bullshit.

I once again draw a parallel between the rules we try to follow as adults and the way children act as common practice. We went to a party yesterday hosted by a family who has children in school with our kids. They are lovely people and they have a spectacular home on the water. They throw a mean party. They have a pool and an outdoor living space complete with fireplace, an outdoor bar complete with fridge and icemaker (oh and bartender!). They also had a water slide, the big blow up sort that three men deliver in a huge truck and take an hour to set up. There were about 30 kids there ranging in ages from 2 to 14. There was a lot of activity between the slide, the pool, the running, the falling, the tree house, the popcorn machine, etc. There was at any given moment a tremendous opportunity for arguments and disagreement. The line for the ice cream, the line for the slide, the rafts in the pool, or the line for the popcorn all resented a chance for one kid to butt in line, to push another child, to take someone’s place on the raft. It did not happen. Not once. Rather, there were kids helping each other up to the top of the slide, helping smaller kids reach their ice cream, pulling each other onto the raft. They worked together without prompting and none of them acted like jerks. It made more sense for them to help each other, the mutual benefit for all of them out weighing the singular benefit of any given one of them. If one kid needed help at the bottom of the slide getting off and out of the way, the other kids helped. Can you imagine the implications for Rush Hour traffic if adults employed the same mind set when letting cars change lanes and merge? Amazing outcome might be – less traffic backed up because people are not “being jerks”.

After all it does take more energy to keep your car at exactly the right speed as to discourage the guy next to you from moving ahead of you and taking your place at the next red light. Doesn’t it?

I have worked with so many people over the years who subscribed whole heartedly to the belief that being a jerk is required to succeed and that being nice will actually derail your express to success and the good life. These are dangerous people to deal with. They will screw you over as soon as look at you and they will look you directly in the face when they do screw you over. My question is, does this allow me to forego my commitment to myself and others to not be “a jerk” in an effort to keep the game even? I submit that it cannot be. It is part of being a good parent to teach by doing, and in order to do that sometimes you have to take it on the chin. Sometimes the jerks do win. That is a very hard lesson to teach your kids, and it is exactly why being a good parent is so hard – because in the end being a good person can feel darn near impossible if you let the jerks make you think that their way is easier. It isn’t.
Just ask their mirrors.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tears of a Clown

Tears of a Clown.

At some point during this past weekend both of my children told me that they “were leaving”. My son came and stood in my closet, looked around and said; “can I borrow one of your bags?” I asked why he needed it and he told me that he was leaving.
When I asked why, he left the room and went upstairs only to return with half of his hanging clothes in his arms. I must admit that I had to turn my back for a minute because I was laughing and I was still not clear as to whether or not he was just goofing around.
This went on for the next 20 minutes or so. He would declare his intention to leave, I would ask why? What had happened? He would go back up stairs and return with more clothes.
Now I have to provide a little background at this point, his morning did start off pretty horribly:
he awoke
he turned on some part of one of the Star Wars movies
he ate
he was informed that I was taking him and his sister to see a movie
he played a video game and played with his sister and I helped them clean their rooms
he got dressed and played some more
he was informed that the movie started at 2:40, and it was now 12:00 noon
he melted into a puddle of “I can not possibly wait two whole hours before you take me to the movies and buy me food you would not normally feed me”
At some point during this absolute horror show of parental neglect and obvious abuse, my daughter chimed in and tried to make him feel better about his time in purgatory – the waiting!

That was it! That was the last straw, for him to be quieted by a 4 year old was more than he could take and THAT ladies and gentlemen was why he had to leave. Wait….it is because….
“Ingrid sometimes annoys me”

That was the answer he gave me after I followed him around the house begging for justification for his desire to leave us all and join the circus. Because his sister sometimes annoyed him, my god, will the injustice of life give him no rest?

This of course resulted in hurt feelings. My daughter was upset to think that her brother would actually leave because of her! This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me, the mother in search of a reason to make a point, to teach a lesson, to share my wisdom, to address the topic of family love and forgiveness. There have been many times after all that I wanted to leave and join the circus and I know that my husband has gone so far as to send for a DVD on tight rope and trapeze for beginners. We have all at some point wanted to run away.

I looked at my son and asked him if he had any idea how miserable I would be if he left. He looked at me. I asked him if he knew how much Daddy and Ingrid would miss him. He looked at me. I asked him if he know how much Piper, our Corgi, and Duke our cat that sleeps with him every night would miss him. He burst into tears! It is always the animals that evoke the tears.

Anyway, we sat down and talked it all out and I explained that families are pretty likely to annoy each other because we spend so much time together, but that the love that we have for each other gives us the strength we need to stay. To not run away. To not join the circus. To not seek legal advice. Love makes us stay.

When you think that you have had enough, when you are sure that one more moment of psychotic behavior from another family member will force you to do the unthinkable and bail, you remember that it is this same person , this crazy collection which you have opted to share your life with that in the end give your life meaning. It is this group of nuts that make you feel normal and who love you so much in return that they put up with you. What if we were able to find it in ourselves to remember that all the time? How about if we treated every day and every moment with the happy heart that decided NOT to join the circus and more with the happy heart that learned of someone’s decision to stay?
Maybe the craziness of a family would be less crazy if we did a better job of remembering how much effort it can take sometimes to stay, for all of us.