Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving's Pause

Thanksgiving is obviously, a time to be thankful. This year for me, it's more than being grateful for blessings, it's also about being aware and being present. This morning while I was feeding my kids, my little one asked for more milk. As I poured him more milk, I stood there thinking about all the mothers in the world who couldn't even give their children a cup of clean water. Later, after the kids had breakfast and were cleaned up, I sat down to eat a quick bite. Again, my little one toddled through the kitchen and asked for a bite. As I relinquished half of my breakfast to those chubby little hands, I thought of all the mothers who had to chose between food for themselves and food for their children. Hunger even in my own backyard of Tennessee is a desperate situation for so many people. I have never known it. My children have never known it. And I would venture to say my parents never really knew hunger. They may have known want or even tight circumstances for periods of their lives, but true hunger, I doubt it. I hope we never do.
So today, as I put the finishing touches on the casserole and brownies that I'm taking to my in-laws, I pause and give thanks for uber-blessings, clean water, clean air, warmth, food, family, and friends. May none of us ever know hunger or thirst. May we strive to meet the needs of those who do, not only during the holidays but all the time. Blessings and peace to you today and always.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Community II

To continue the thread from yesterday's posting, I wanted to take a moment to share with my readers the infinite blessings I receive from being in community with others. The term synergy comes to mind. When many people are acting in one accord, it is amazing what can happen!

Living in community with my sisters (and brothers, but mostly sisters) has strengthened me in so many ways. For example, there is something powerful and holy about knowing you are prayed for by others--particularly in those moments when you just can't pray for yourself anymore. You can truly feel yourself being carried on a wave of caring, love, and communion with God. It is amazing to me how a note from a friend in my mailbox lifts me up. I find it mood altering to spend an evening in good company with good conversation and good wine making plans and discussing life's problems. It is energizing to do practical "good deeds." Not only does useful work get done, but the end result brings people together in ways that create a positive, non-threatening, and interesting atmosphere.

Being in community with others also keeps me humble, honest, and focused. It isn't about others being grateful, it is about my own personal gratitude. Is my heart in the right place? Are my motives selfless or selfish? Is my participation a help or a hindrance? In the event I do get on my high horse every now and then, I have honest friends available to call me to account. What a blessing I have so many beacons of light on my journey. There is nothing more valuable on earth than a good, honest, and true friend to call you out.

Have you ever participated in a recipe exchange "chain" email? Well, group participation is kind of like that. You post two recipes and you get 20 in your inbox. Putting yourself in the stream of God's grace and allowing Him to bless others through you, is like being a ripple on a pond. The chain reaction of events goes on and on and circles back to you again and again and again. I have been so blessed by the wonderful women in my life. We have created many wonderful moments in the last year that have left lasting impressions on us as well as our communities. Every time we get together for work or for play, our own lives are enriched just by being present.

I close with a quote from a piece of fiction I am currently reading: "Mr. Simpless, my parson friend thinks [Grace means] that if one cares deeply about someone or something new, one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and "fruitfulness" is drawn in." (p. 116, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Living In Community

We Davidsonians tend to be civic minded people. You know, often times when I read all the alumni news, after the surge of pride and interest, a little self-doubt and insignificance begins to creep in. But I've been working on those feelings and in the last year I've developed a new perspective about what a civic minded Davidsonian (who no longer lives on campus) looks like. Perhaps it's all the Facebook time I've been logging. Catching up with everyone and their families and what they're doing with their lives has helped me look at my own life with clearer eyes. Perhaps it's staying connected with a dear friend whose daily life is its own challenge. She uses her own limitations to change those around her through sharing her very personal story in a weekly blog. Perhaps it's spending time with former Davidsonians and their own children and watching how they engage in their own communities on a daily basis.

I probably won't ever do anything spectacular or world changing. I had the audacity once, to tell my English teacher I wanted to be an ambassador. Well, it turns out I am an ambassador, just not to a foreign country. Instead I reach out and proffer olive branches, world peace, and mutually beneficial trade propositions in small ways. I hold little hands in parking lots and crossing the street. I try to help two small boys and their friends who come and go through my house reign in aggression and curiosity and channel that energy into productive play and participation in preschool, Sunday School, and with our neighbors at the playground. I lead a circle of friends by helping us all stay connected through emails, phone calls, food, and friendship. I support another Davidsonian in her quest to revitalize and reshape a children's ministry in our church by participating in as many opportunities as my schedule allows. I facilitate a Bible study gathering of women that spans three generations. None of these activities is particularly earth shattering, but each of these activities shares a common thread--community engagement.

Community participation is so critical to our well being as human beings. In all our ways (big and small) we seek to better the lives of those around us as well as bettering ourselves by pursuing a life lived in community with one another. While none of my current pursuits fall under the banner of social justice or economic development or political change, all of my activities help me stay connected with other women. I am so fortunate to know so many who when hearing the call: take dinner to a friend in need, pick up a child at school for a mom who has an emergency, organize a family service project that exposes their children to those who make it work with less, collect school supplies, coats, backpacks, bedding, clothing, and linens for families who have sustained losses, are starting over, or need help bridging the gaps. We take care of each other and collectively work to take care of others.

In my current stage in life as caretaker of small children it makes sense to use my time and energy wisely doing what I am able and not hankering for CNN news headlines. Since so many Davidsonians actually make CNN with big picture decisions, it is sometimes hard for me to remind myself that even my small little life is important in big ways to others around me. So I do my part with a cheerful countenance and with joy in my heart (most days). I never know when doing a small thing like taking dinner to a friend will have a big impact. Maybe that rotisserie chicken I picked up at BiLo to go with the green bean casserole I made will free up enough time for her to finish that presentation she was doing before the crisis hit that prompted me to bring dinner--and her idea revolutionizes how we manage health care. Who knows? Maybe I'm teaching a child who will grow up to cure cancer. Maybe my friends' daughters and sons, having been raised in homes where love for neighbor is a way of life, grow up to start foundations that change lives.

Engaging in community and working towards sustaining community through friendship, service, work, and play is really an extension of my youthful desire to make a difference in the world. Making a difference isn't always about the big things. Often times, it's about the small things--a note to a friend suffering a loss, a thank you note to a friend for their empathy and help, an intentional word of kindness to someone difficult to get along with. God is in the big and the small. If I can take care of some of the small, maybe it will give Him more time to do the big. So I think I do make a difference these days--one playdate, carpool, or casserole at a time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Making Connections

How do you teach empathy? I try to model it when I can. I try to explain it when the opportunity arises. But interestingly enough, whenever I try to be a "good parent" and do all that talking and explaining, my kids up and kick me in the teeth. I even try to keep it short and sweet and in easy words. No dice. I guess empathy is not something you can teach, but something that must be experienced. I remain hopeful, after all, my son is only five.

It is unnerving to see him tease his brother unmercifully, laugh when someone gets hurt or when someone else gets in trouble, and simply not care that he has made a poor choice. I can't decide if he is hiding his true feelings and pretending not to care, or he doesn't get it, or he simply doesn't care. Maybe it's because I'm female and males have totally different reactions--even at this young age? My husband doesn't seem overly concerned about any of this. Maybe I'm over-reading it. I don't know, but I'm concerned.

Anyway, tonight I found part of my son's medicine regime (he takes 3 or 4 things right now for allergies and wheezing) crushed up under the table. Now I know this isn't an accident because it happens to be the tablet that tastes the worst and that my son complains about the most. I also know it is his, because no one else in the house takes it. I called him into the kitchen and we talked about a) hiding medicine is just like telling a lie, b) not taking medicine keeps us from getting well, and c) how mommy understands exactly how he feels about taking medicine. We pretty much got part b down, but the rest of it? Well I guess we'll see.

The reason I am so upset about the medicine under the table is, I happen to know a little girl about my son's age who used to hide her asthma medication. I also remember getting in trouble many times for hiding it, flushing it, spitting it out, etc. I also remember how frustrated my parents were by it because a) I was lying, b) I wasn't getting better because I wouldn't take it, and c) it was very expensive medicine. Looking back, I suppose I'm as guilty as my child, because it is obvious to me now (as an adult) that I didn't care very much about a, b, or c. I got caught at least 3 times in my recollection. These were not pleasant moments.

I hurt for my son. I hurt for him that he has to take this medicine to stay well enough to play outside and go to school. I hurt for him that I have to give him bad tasting yucky stuff. I feel like the bad guy, even though I'm the good guy. The reason it is so hard for me to play nurse is that I KNOW how frustrating it is to have to keep taking this stuff every time he gets sick. I was that kid. I missed more recess than I played. I stayed inside almost every day between October and June for more years than I can remember.

My son loves to hear me tell stories about when I was little. He loves to hear about the time I fell off a scooter at my friend Jennifer's house and scraped my knee really really badly. I told him that one, when he fell off his bike the first time. He begs to hear about the time my sister and I saw Santa Claus by hiding under the dining room table and watching him walk through our house to find the living room when we were 3 and 4. I told him that one when he was four, to keep him in his bed at night.

So I tried to share my story with him tonight about how I used to hide my medicine. I didn't go into details for fear of giving him ideas--but I did share with him just how much I understood his dislike for medicine, why he was driven to hide it, and why I wasn't mad at him for doing it. I did however tell him that I was very upset about the lie he told and we reviewed what a lie is and what it means. I don't guess this story was nearly as interesting because he didn't seem to care. Maybe in the morning when it's medicine time, he'll ask me to tell him the story again.

I feel let down on a couple of levels. I didn't make an important connection with him on of all things, honesty and empathy. He didn't appreciate my story (well that's my problem, but it still didn't feel good). And he still lied and wasn't sorry. I feel like I'm getting it all wrong. Fortunately, tomorrow is another day for me and for my son. We can only try again. I have a hunch this won't be the last time I tell him the story of hiding my asthma medicine, after all, I hid it many, many times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seeing with New Eyes

Living with a 5 year old is an interesting experience. My son meets the world with fresh eyes each morning. We recently went on a trip to Chicago and it was as if I had never been before. It amazes me how little it takes to impress a child. I am constantly in awe of how enthusiastic my son is about life. Everything is important. Everything is interesting.

My son loves airports. He loves going through the security gate. My normally shy guy (borderline recalcitrant to adults), just grins at the folks in uniform. He hands the security guard his boarding pass, grinning the whole way, gives the guy a high five, and bounds up to the end of the x-ray machine to watch his plastic bin holding his backpack and shoes come through the machine. "Did you put your bag in there too mom?" "Why do we have to take our shoes off?" "They won't lose my transformer will they?" "Can you tie my shoes?"

Then we proceed to the terminal. My son bumps into people the whole way because he is incapable of looking where he is walking. And man o man if we have a people mover or escalator before we get there, we have arrived in airport heaven. If I said it once, I said nine thousand times, "Pay attention to where you are walking. You are in the way of other people. Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me or I will have to hold your hand. Walk with me. Walk right here beside me. Son. Son. SON--right here, NOW." Who knew reading off the gate letter/numbers, watching all the tvs, looking at the airplane models hanging from the ceiling, reading off the fast food marquees, and going down the up escalators full of people trying to go up was so intensely satisfying?

The plane ride itself just thrills him. "Oh, we're taking off now mom!" "Look at the clouds mom. What are clouds made of?" "Is that the man who is driving talking?" "What's in that cart?" "What's this button for mom?" "Help me play Leapster mom." "Let's go mom, we've landed." "On to the next plane." All of these comments and many more at top volume. Inside voice does not translate for him. He has not the executive functioning skills yet to monitor his volume, much to my chagrin. My mother would call this payback for surviving years of the same from me. Of course, she thinks I still have volume control issues, but that's another topic entirely.

Downtown Chicago was just over the top. We all had a wonderful day sight seeing. We spent a long time at the Museum of Science and Industry, and then we went to the Sears Tower. At the end of the day, my son says, "I got two toys, a movie, two escalator rides, a train ride, AND a water bottle out of the machine. Man I'm a really lucky boy mom."

And later when we traveled to Iowa City for his father's alumni meeting, it was just my son and me. We went out to lunch. "Hey will you draw this maze with me (on the kids' menu)?" We went to the antique car museum. "Wow look at all these cars. Do you think they have our car in here?" We went for ice cream. "Thanks for my ice cream mom, would you like a taste?" I just wanted to bottle the day and take it home with me.

There are other day to day reminders that he is just as easily enthusiastic about life at home as anywhere else. Getting stickers from the Walmart lady. Getting a sucker from the bank teller. Riding the escalator at the mall. Getting a balloon at the end of lunch at Chick-fil-A. Having a snack if he finishes his lunch at school. Going by an ambulance or fire truck with the siren on. Practicing piano together just because it's fun to sit together and do something while little brother naps. I want to absorb all these sweet precious things. One, because it reminds me how little he still is. And two, someday when he's a teenager and I think he has been inhabited by aliens, I want to remember that once I could rock his world with a popsicle and a kiss. It also helps me keep a lid on my frustration when I arrive at a teachable moment and blow it.

Taking my son on this little excursion to Chicago was like signing a new lease on our relationship. I forgot what it was like to have just one child (little brother stayed home). I had recently forgotten how much fun and how funny and truly insightful my 5 year old can be. I am so very blessed to have the opportunity to travel at all. To make memories like these with my son is extra-special. I hope someday he'll be able to remember this trip. Maybe he won't, but I know I will. So, "Thanks son, I'm really a lucky mom."

Friday, August 21, 2009

School Days

I haven't blogged in a month. I'm sorely out of practice. I've been fairly busy with life, like back to school and all that jazz. Did I mention I was terribly unprepared?

After wishing for school to start since early July, I was surprised and slightly panicked that I was not ready. I forgot how hard it is to leave my children in the mornings. And let's not forget all the drama that goes into getting them into the car to drive to our destination. I forgot how the 2 year old's chubby little arms squeeze the breath out of me. Those crocodile tears over my leaving make me cry real ones. I forgot how proud I am on the outside at the casual over-the-shoulder "bye mom" from my 5 year old. On the inside I want to go to pieces, because I feel insignificant and not nearly cool enough. I forgot how much I love picking them up from school. They both come running as if I've been gone 20 years instead of a couple of hours. I forgot how little they will tell me about their day. They'd much they'd rather watch a movie, eat a snack, or try to kill each other with spatula swords. So yes, I was caught short when my emotional meter went from frazzled stay at home summer mom to tearful school year mom of preschoolers.

I remind myself of a sage piece of advice another mom once gave me. She relayed a statement her mom told her. She said, "Think about how blessed you are that your child is ready and able to go to the next level. Think how different your life would be if they couldn't." So my tears are really tears of joy. My sadness is really shock over a new state of "need less of you today, mom."

Monday through Thursday and before too long Monday through Friday, I'll put on my drop off armor and go forward. A kiss if they'll take it. A quick "I love you." And a promise to always come back after nap. I shall walk down those hallways and not look back. They need to know I know they can do it. It's going to be a good year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Here I Go Again Asking Unpopular Questions

I don't always look before I leap. I don't always watch my mouth. I often say things I wish I could take back. I often email messages I should have read more carefully. Hence why I will never run for public office. I want to jump into this health care debate, but I am having reservations about do so. And here is why. I have no idea what it would take to provide an answer that would make sense and be fair to enough people.
If you polled (you know we're so fond of polls in this country. Apparently you can figure out any right answer just by taking a poll) the American people in general, you would get similar answers across the board on health care. What I don't understand is why no one with representative power is listening. Why spend the money on the poll if you're just gonna toss out all the responses? Maybe to make the American people stop paying attention long enough to get this bill passed and go home so you can start campaigning for 2010? Perhaps I'm too cynical. Last time I checked though, it's all politics all the time. Which is why a satisfactory answer to health care is not going to come any time soon.
I've come to the conclusion there is no way to run a true issue-based campaign anymore. For one thing you still can't win (on a grand scale) as a third party candidate--it's too expensive. And in order to find "consensus" you have to sell your soul to Satan. Believe me I'm all for our Republic. After all, town hall democracy only works in town halls. For a country this large and this complicated, you have to have a representative republic. It's the best way to diffuse power grabbing and to slow single interests that may not be in our best interests. That's why it takes so damn long to get any laws passed. This is a good thing, truly. However, the downside to our Republic is that we've high-jacked ourselves by special interests and two party politics. Most representative Republics are multi-partied in general... but back to health care. I guess I'll jump in the fray while I'm on a roll.
If we are truly TRULY interested in reforming health care, we have to decide what we are going to reform. Are we going to reform the way we practice medicine? Are we going to reform the way we reimburse expenses? Are we going to reform our insurance system? What exactly are we going to change? And of course, how are we going to pay for it? I think the problem with health care reform (and I've said this before) is that we are talking about health care as if it is a single problem. Health care is so multi-faceted it's no wonder the current bill is 1000 pages. Excessive yes, but not surprising. Here are some questions that might make the next bill a few pages shorter, and maybe a bit meatier:

1. How do we create a system of preventative care available to all citizens? I think this is the fundamental question that is up for debate when we are talking about providing universal health care. Meat and potatoes medicine. Well visits, vaccinations, health screenings, blood work, basic cold and flu. Insurance companies don't make any money of off this kind of medicine, but people without insurance don't have access to this type of medicine in a way that is affordable to them. Health departments and ERs and walk-in clinics pick up the slack and are OVERRUN with people without the money to pay for basic routine care. This is one area I think is imperative that we figure out.

2. How do we create a system pool that spreads the risk of all these health problems that doesn't cost a gazillion dollars? I don't think we can. I think a pay as we go system is ultimately the only way we're going to be able to go in the end. I'm in a minority with this opinion, but it's what I think. Pretty much you pay as you go in other countries who have socialized medicine now. The universal bit is the preventative, basic stuff. If you want treatment above and beyond you go to the States. Insurance is basically a scam on healthy people that disproportionately favors people with health issues, that is until they lose a job, or move, or can't pay the premium anymore. If we're going to commit to a system that helps everybody we're going to have to put limitations on what helping everybody means. And we don't like to do that in America--at least not on camera. The way we work it now is to allow insurance companies to perform criminal acts like hiking insurance premiums to levels that people can't pay, dropping people unnecessarily without warning, and enacting the pre-existing condition clause whenever the mood strikes them. I think these above-mentioned practices are worse than a pay as you go system. It leaves people in a lurch, without hope, and in debt beyond what they will ever be able to pay. If you get kicked off your insurance policy or you can't pay the premium anymore, can you get a refund on all those months you paid that you didn't use the system? Now that would be exciting. But that would be like expecting a social security check when you're 67.5 years old if you were born after 1960.

3. How are we going to pay for research? We love the research. We love the potential cures. We love the fact that so many ugly things have been wiped out or are now manageable with drugs. It's part of what we do in America. I'm all for it. Someday I may need it. But it costs money. LOTS of money. There isn't an R&D budget in the country that could satisfy an immunologist or a pathologist. That's what they do. They search for a better way. It doesn't come cheap. It's not because they demand huge salaries, it's because what they do is very expensive. Did you really think a cure for cancer would be cheap? Do you really think AIDS will go away if we throw enough money at it?

4. How do we pay for an aging population? This is a serious question that is only going to get more serious. We walk a fine line in this country when it comes to saving people and helping people live longer. Think of all the degenerative diseases out there can last half a lifetime for people. Alzheimer's comes to mind right out of the box. Think about how early we save preemies in this country--24 weeks now. Not only do we "save" the very old indefinitely, but we "save" the very young too. I write the word "save" in quotes because sometimes I wonder what kind of life we are saving people for. I would rather take a bullet than spend my remaining years in a hospital bed in a skilled nursing facility. And there is a reason a human baby takes 40 weeks to make. Please don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to be callous, uncaring, or insensitive. I would never do that on purpose. If it was my child or my parent I would want heroic measures taken if I thought there was any chance the measures would work. We've made such huge strides in modern medicine in the last 100, 50, 25, even 10 years that there is every reason in the world to try to save a person. Doctors are successful alot of the time. That's what makes medicine so hard and why I'm not a doctor. How do you make rational decisions about life and death? I tend to emote more than rationalize. I wouldn't be good at medicine. Medical decisions from routine to cutting edge costs lots and lots and lots of money. And we want to pay for everybody. Everybody. Everybody.

5. How are we going to pay for it? Please please please don't say rich people. I'm over that answer. Wealthy Americans already pay a disproportionate amount of the bill already. I'm not sure when America (the place people STILL to this day come to be all they can be and make a better life) decided that rich people are the devil. Not only is it oxymoronic, it's demoralizing and frankly unjust.
While I'm harping on tired old rhetoric, the lines about how criminal it is that the richest country in the world has people who are poor, who don't have this, that, and the other is growing thin and tiresome. Did anyone ever take a moment to think that not everyone wants to be saved? Has anyone ever tried to determine what poor means? Did anyone ever take a moment to think about whether or not it is the fiscal responsibility of the rest of us to take care of everybody?
Conservatives run into problems when they try to answer the question of fiscal responsibility. It isn't that their logic is wrong, they just can't sell the response. 1) No it is not every person's fiscal responsibility to take care of everyone else. But there are many people out there who are in serious need by no fault of their own. 2) It may not be our fiscal responsibility, but there is a pretty powerful argument that we have a moral obligation or personal conviction to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, or those in a spot of trouble, or who could use a hand up. Some people call that American patriotism. Some people call that Christianity in action. But then again, our President just spent a great part of his first 6 months convincing the world we aren't a Christian nation, so I'm not sure about that argument anymore. Last time I checked we didn't have an official religion or language, but I'm pretty sure we are a tolerant, Christian nation with a healthy dose of religions represented who worship in peace within the borders. I could be wrong.
The problem with the "who deserves help argument" is 1) the government does not discriminate between deserving and undeserving. If it did, no one would ever get a fair shake in the judicial system. Vigilante justice would prevail. Our founding fathers guarded against derailing a fair process by eliminating a deserving/undeserving argument as much as they could. 2) When money stays local, it's easier to discern the best use of funds to reach the most people. Now the government wants all that money and local sources of discernment are drying out. 3) Many of those we help cannot be put to the test because they are either children, victims of circumstance, or disabled. The part I can't figure out is how I am to help the people I am morally obligated to help when all the money I would use to help them goes to a morally reprehensible group of people located inside the beltway about 8 hours north of here under the guise of the IRS and some misguided notion that it is my patriotic duty to pay more because I make more.
So anyway, I hope Congress can figure all this out before the Summer recess. I'd hate for the momentum of insanity to be stopped by any serious questioning of voters. How on earth are we supposed to find serious, even-handed, long-lasting answers when we're rushing to pass a bill that no one has read!?!?!?! I tried to read it. I didn't make it all the way through. My husband thinks I've read more of it than most Congress members. He may be right, but Congress does have staffers to do that sort of thing for them. I urge you to contact your representatives and talk to the latest staffer about your questions on health care legislation. At least leave a message saying how you feel about it.
Meanwhile, I'm going to keep tossing up these random questions even though the firestorm of responses from some of my friends will reign down upon me. Somebody has to ask the unpopular questions right? It's not like I'm running for office. I couldn't ask these questions if I had serious designs on an elected office. What does that say about us as voters? If I were to campaign on the serious, untouchables of politics I couldn't get elected at all. Hmm, definitely a blog for another day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Celebrating Independence?

In honor of the 4th of July, I decided to write about my latest experiences with Independence. My boys are 5 and 2. These ages are in and of themselves difficult, trying, interesting times. The juxtaposition of these two ages is not only entertaining, but eye opening. I have forgotten much about how my 5 year old got to be 5 and I'm watching my 2 year old do all those 2 year old things for the first time (for him). It's so interesting!
Both of my boys can be clingy, whiny, all about the mamma boys from time to time, but mostly, they are fiercely independent little creatures with their own minds about how things should go. The difference between the two, is of course, that the 5 year old is much better at articulating how things should go and he's bigger so he can make things go his way more often. The 2 year old however, is not far behind.
Someday, my 5 year old will most likely be a hostage negotiator. I've never seen a child negotiate for what he wants like he does--with me, his father, his brother, his grandparents. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it's frightening. Sometimes it's just plain annoying. Mostly I don't do negotiating unless it's something that doesn't pop up on the mom radar. Sometimes the order of what is done isn't so important as long as it's done. Sometimes, one more movie is okay with me. Sometimes I think he just likes to line it up in his head. My 5 year old is very methodical, highly anxious, and very focused. Maybe he'll be an air traffic controller.
The 2 year old, well, he's just so darn laid back he gets his way just by grinning that sweet smile and saying "cheese" for please. Those big old apple cheeks and dimples with that tow head of hair get me every time. He'll probably be a movie star or something. We should have named him Ham. "No" has been a favorite word for a while now. And when he's really really pissed about something he'll screw up those little eyes and turn his head and get all red in the face. WATCH OUT. He's also become quite the slugger. I'm waiting for the day he takes down big brother. Then it will be game on.
Anyway, about that independence thing. My boys buck authority about as good as any kids I know. I don't quite know what to do with that. Do I celebrate their desire to do it their own way? Should I be secretly glad that I can't lead them around by the nose? Is this muscle flexing a testosterone thing that they don't know how to deal with yet? I'm asking a serious question because the way I've been dealing with it isn't working. The sass is getting bigger and the spanking pretty much entices them to hit back--on each other. It's pretty stupid logic to whack your kid and say "don't hit your brother". But I'm telling you after about 3 minutes of a constant stream of whine and back talk, you just about have to tie my backhand down. I'm learning that forcing my hand is not the way I want to go about this. It doesn't provide me with any satisfaction because a) the lesson wasn't learned, and b) it's pretty obvious I'm not a good example of self-control.
So, HELP! All you mammas with kids who lived to be 6, let me know what worked for you. In the mean time, I'll continue doing my dance and praying for perseverance. If I don't keel over from my own anxiety attack, I'm throwing myself a party when the baby turns six.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why I love the 4th of July

Yes, it sounds like a sixth grade essay title doesn't it? Maybe I'll think of something snazzier as I write. I'm leaving in a couple of hours for North Carolina to celebrate the 4th of July. I love this holiday. It's just so dang American. I have to say I have always always made a point of celebrating the 4th. Perhaps because tradition in my family dictates it, or maybe just because I have a thing for fireworks. I don't know. As far back as I can remember we have always celebrated the 4th. And almost every year of my life, I've celebrated it at Badin Lake. Of course, that was before I got married and moved away. This year though, we're going to Badin. I'm pretty excited about it.
When I was younger, we'd spend the entire week before cleaning up for our friends or family to come. My mom would cook and peel and slice and stock until her hands were about to fall off. My sister and I would clean the boats with Fantastik and 409 until we turned black on our arms and legs. My dad would get under the pier and knock off the fish eggs and attempt to de-slime everything. We would go all over the lake borrowing life jackets so we would have enough for everybody.
By midmorning of the 4th we were ready! By lunch time our friends (or in the early years our extended family) would arrive. It was such a great time. I would drink about 8 or 9 Dr. peppers in about 24 hours--which thrilled me to the core, because I wasn't normally allowed to drink that much coke (or soda whatever y'all call it). We'd cut about 6 watermelons and eat them on the pier (my dad would come behind us and toss buckets of lake water on the dock to clean it off). We'd sneak out later and toss the rinds in the woods.
About dark when we were all exhausted, sunburned, tired, and well-fed, those of us left would jockey for the best seat on the boat and head out to the fireworks. Inevitably I was always the one who had to ride in the back and hold the light (it wouldn't work unless you held it a certain way with your mouth open). Spitting bugs and spitting mad, I would hold the light while we drove. It was always me, because I was the older kid, I would do what I was told, and my arms were the longest (never be the oldest, most obedient, and tallest girl in the group).
Now that I'm grown and I have my own kids. The last 10 or 12 years I've been accumulating newer 4th memories. There is the one I spent with my best friend in Boston. Fireworks and Pops on the River was an awesome experience, plus her family is something else. We had a great time. Then there is the one I spent at Patrick Henry Village near Heidelberg, Germany (a military base of sorts). I was determined to find a place to celebrate the 4th properly while abroad! Then there was the one in Iowa City. We covered our 1 month old (at the time) with mosquito netting and set out for the city ball fields for the fireworks. So I celebrated with Middle America once too! The last 3 years we've celebrated here in our small town by watching the town parade with friends and going to the Lion's Club barbeque at the town park. Then we return to the fairway on number 7 to watch fireworks at night. It's a big block party on the golf course complete with contraband beer, lawn chairs, bug spray, and really tired toddlers running around in glow-in-the-dark necklaces so we kind find them later.
Anyway, the 4th of July is one of my favorite sense memories. It's more of a collective memory over about 30 years worth of memories. I am excited to be going home (while I didn't grow up on Badin itself, I went there all summer all my life at home). I hope my boys will have as much fun as I did. I plan too! And if you're at Badin this weekend, y'all come.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is it Funny or do I need Super Nanny?

So I haven't written anything funny in a while. My funny meter has been hovering around 5% funny. In retrospect I suppose most of what happens to me is entertaining on some level, but while it is happening it isn't so funny.
Like this morning on the way to Aquarium Camp my 5 year old from the back seat, says "Mom stop talking!" I said, "That's no way to talk to your mother." And he said, "Do you want a spankin' mom? 'Cause if you keep talkin' you're gonna get one."
Why me? Because I talk too freaking much! Every morning I pray to not yell and to watch my mouth around my children. It's not working. Either I'm too damned hardheaded to listen to God or God finds me entertaining.
On our way out of Aquarium camp after pick up, I started cussing the car in front of me. I stopped myself just in time. "What's F mom?"
"Nothing, buddy I just stopped myself from saying something ugly."
"No you didn't. You said F. So you really did say it." Honest to Pete, can I get a louder conscience?
I love my son. But he drives me bananas. He's always on his own time table. He never listens to me unless I'm at the top of my decibel register. AND he's a parrot. EVERYTHING I have ever said to him comes back to me--and a lot of stuff I haven't said that he picked up on.
Like this morning, he asked me why I was doing something and I said, well because I like it and he said, "You're just odd mom." WTF?? I didn't know he knew that word. Did he get the context right by accident? Seriously.
And to top it all off, I have another little smarty britches in training, my almost two year old really didn't like my singing along to his nursery tunes yesterday. "Yush! yush! YUSH. Mama YUSH!" he yells from his carseat in the back.
"Tell me to hush one more time you little snookums and I'm gonna pull this car over and give you the what for." I said laughing. I couldn't help myself. But I don't know that it was really funny that my 2 year old told me to hush.
Maybe I need to duct tape my mouth closed for a day and see what happens. Between my hot temper and my mouth with no check on it, I'm in deep doo doo. And I'm so sick of these parenting books that tell me to stay calm and think rationally and count to ten. WHO DOES THAT? And not get on their level--obviously the people writing these books either have some sort of St. Theresa mommy gene or else they never spent the day with two wild boys who are really fast and really damn smart.
Maybe I should never have had children. After I get done yelling and they get done yelling, we all feel much better. We get a snack and move on. It's fine. This is probably not a good thing, but I am me and me is loud and me is short tempered and me is one hell of a holy yeller, hand slammer, thing thrower. I cannot for the life of me put a stop to it. The boys just look at me with big eyes and wait for the storm to pass. Is it any wonder my two year old is terrified on thunderstorms? (Of course I'm a big wuss when it comes to storms, so maybe he inherited it, I don't know.) I've been trying for 5 years now to put a lid on it, but it's like trying to jam a frying pan lid on a stock pot. They aren't interchangeable lids. I'll try harder. After all, like my 5 year old says, "It's okay mom, we'll just try it again tomorrow, right?"
Bless them. They forgive 70 times 7 and then some.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let Learning Be Cherished...

I'm on my education soapbox again. I came across a draft of this blog post today that I never published. Granted school's out for summer, but I thought this draft worth polishing and publishing. I've been dry in the lengthy op-eds lately anyway, so here goes...

My Alma mater's motto, Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas. Translated "Let Learning Be Cherished
Where Liberty Has Arisen."

The problem with education in this country is that education is no longer cherished properly. We moan about the state of our schools, but if we have the money to move into a good neighborhood with good schools, or we can pay our way out of public school into a private system, we do. Why wouldn't we? Why would you condemn your child to less if you can provide better for them?

The problem inherent in the above argument is that we miss the point entirely. When as a community (or district, or state, or nation) we don't accept the challenge of cherishing education for everyone, we diminish the value of educating anyone. While we can work on rectifying the state of our schools on any number of levels--spending, restructuring, and rethinking, the fundamental questions remain the same: do we cherish the opportunity to educate our children? What is it we want every child to learn?

There are many problems in this world that are not the fault of children--divorce, single parenthood, neighborhood crime, drugs, lack of money for infrastructure, lack of money for salaries, lack of jobs in poor neighborhoods, the list goes on. However, we can certainly hold our children and each other accountable for their success. Part of our education system's failure is that we no longer hold children accountable for their own success or failure. We blame the system, the neighborhood, the lack of parental supervision. If the child isn't successful, it's the teachers fault, or the curriculum's fault, or there are too many kids in the room, or the bus ride is too long. I've seen schools twist themselves into pretzels trying to offer extra help, homework hot lines, free supplies, after-school programs, extra credit, more time, extensions, the list goes on. For what? What happened to taking away the car keys, cell phone, the xbox, the Internet, the TV, pocket money? And in the absence of those things what happened to grounding or restriction? We've let parents off the hook too. And what about the community? There was a time in my life when my parents knew what happened at school before I could get home to tell them. I wish we had a school rule handbook for parents to remind them that public school isn't a birthright, it's a privilege. A privilege paid for by a lot of people in America because they believe that learning should be cherished.

Individual responsibility for your life belongs to you and you alone--that's liberty. What you choose to do with opportunities you are given is your choice--that's liberty. We are no longer teaching this ideal to our children. We lay the responsibility of success or failure at the feet of teachers, tests, administrators, everybody but the child. Granted children must be taught responsibility, must be taught to value things, must be taught to cherish things. But how do we teach these principles if we do not apply the principle of accountability? I'm not saying public schools don't have rules. I'm not saying public schools don't have accountability. I am saying that there has been a dangerous trend over time to reduce the amount of accountability for the student from "I matter therefore my choice to participate matters" to merely showing up and staying quiet in his or her seat. Showing up, keeping your head down, and not making noise doesn't make a roomful of successful children ready to cherish learning.

There are many different kinds of education; life lessons, book lessons, cooking lessons, self-help lessons, financial lessons, love lessons, survival lessons. I understand that many children in our country live in places in which surviving super cedes any other form of learning. I also know that modeling reliance on self can be a great lesson--in any culture, in any place, at any time. In the absence of family, it is up to us as community to model self-reliance, love of learning, and how to place value appropriately regardless of where we live and often times, in spite of it.

Do you ever watch those movies about extraordinary individuals who went in and turned around a school, a class, a group of people, fought the system, etc. etc? Besides the warm fuzzy those movies give us, there are reasons why those folks accomplished the extraordinary. They demanded accountability from everyone. When leaders demand accountability from followers, synergy happens. Giving a human being freedom over their lives by making them important enough to be responsible for their own choices creates an atmosphere of inspiration. Instilling the idea that "I matter" is essential in cherishing an education.

What do I think it means to "let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen?" School rules that make sense and are enforceable. Bend the rules for exceptions if you know you are right. Give teachers back the command of their classroom. Make the students accountable for their work, for their behavior, for their attendance, for their success and even for their failure. Give them the opportunity to fail. Nobody gets a free ride for anything. If you want it, you gotta work for it. You can't cherish something you haven't worked for. You can't value something that has no value to you. You can't love something in which you haven't invested time and labor.

Teaching is a labor of love. Teaching is an investment in human capital. True teachers cherish learning. They cherish the students they teach. They cherish their students' potential. They value students' work. True teachers aren't just in the classroom--they are at church, at home, in the grocery store, at the post office, on the street, on the television. If we all acted every day the way we would if we were responsible for the education and well-being of all children, imagine what a different kind of place America would be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I've been thinking about love. Not sure why. It's just been on my mind lately. The word love is probably one of the most over-used words in the English language. Often I find myself answering "LOVE it" when someone who asks me, "do you like your _____?" or "how do you feel about ____?" Perhaps I over-state?

Love is Action. It's the "do" and "be" in the marriage covenant, "Do you be your..." Love is not a feeling. I love my husband. We've been married almost 10 years. While I still get those sharp lightening bolts down my spine every now and then when I look at him, I am pretty damn sure loving him is not that crazy hormonal state I was in when I first met him. That would have been something akin to lust and passion and need. Loving someone takes effort from time to time--hard, gut busting, tear filled, how did I ever marry you, we are never going to get past this, are we still arguing about this issue, work. But using the tools we have been given in love--patience, perseverance, forgiveness, truthfulness, hopefulness, and charity, we can build a love relationship that is almost perfect.

The Greek term agape translates into English as "love", but it means so much more than that. Wikipedia defines agape by referencing well-known author C. S. Lewis. "In his book The Four Loves, lists agape as describing the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other." ( Lewis, C. S. (June 5, 2002). The Four Loves. Fount. ISBN 0-00-628089-7. ) Since my husband and I committed to care more about each other than ourselves, our marriage works itself out--most of the time.

Love isn't an easy road. It's fraught with disappointment, loss of trust, selfishness, and human frailty. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes we lose really big. It takes work to build something worthwhile and it takes more work to save something worth keeping. It is hard to love something that doesn't want to be loved. It is harder to forgive someone who doesn't want forgiveness. The amount of time and energy needed to rebuild trust that is lost is almost more than many of us have. It takes effort to extend charity to another person when you don't want to. If love were easy, we wouldn't have to pray "thy kingdom come," the kingdom would already be here. Don't kid yourself, you're going to hit snags. Sometimes your going to fall off the cliff. Sometimes a relationship can't be saved--whether a marriage, a parent-child, or friendship. Those are the most difficult moments.

I think love can also be defined as a natural extension of how you feel about human beings. How do you interact with people in general? Are you a trusting person? Do you have hope for something better out of people? Are you truthful with people? Do you nurture your friendships? Do you forgive easily? Do you give of yourself often? Are we acting out love as Jesus called us to? Do we reach beyond ourselves? Our ability to love is also based on our ability to receive love from others. Our capacity to love is exceeded only by our ability to forgive. Do we seek justice and mercy and honor and forgiveness and charity for others? The greatest commandment was to love one another. But this kind of love takes effort and prayer on your part. A commitment to the well-being of others regardless of yourself is not a mission to take lightly.

I think about love in this way. Love is a cup that is in a constant state of flow. The more love you pour out, the more love fills up your cup. The more love fills your cup, the more you want to pour out your love on others. So even when some acts of love fail, there are other acts of love that refill your cup, so that you will be able to act again. The love of Christ is constantly flowing out to us all the time. All we have to do is stand in the stream of it and let it flow over, around, and through us. We emerge strengthened in agape so that we may in turn practice agape with our spouse, our children, our friends, our community, and our world.

**The cup imagery comes from the "Companions in Christ" series and a beautiful explanation by my sister in Christ B.J. Neal. While I have adopted it as my own, it isn't my original idea. This imagery continues to sustain me and in using it again recently, I was reminded of this post. I felt I should credit the source, although I'm not sure I know which book the cup is in because we've talked about it in every text for four years now!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Story Time

The Tale of the Pepper Trail
by Marla McDaniel

Dedication: To the Two Brothers with Love

Chapter 1
Once upon a time there were two brothers. The older brother was almost 5 and the younger brother was almost 2. The two little boys lived with their mommy and daddy in a red brick house set way back from the road. One day when the mommy wasn't watching, the older little boy said to the younger little boy, "I have a great idea. Let's make mommy insane today, want to?" The little brother, who loved playing with his big brother just clapped his hands and said "yeah." He didn't have many words, but "yeah" was one of his favorites.
So while mommy was elsewhere in the house for a minute (not on facebook, not checking email, not on the phone--probably taking a much needed pee break, or maybe folding laundry, or taking out the diapers)--the boys started in on their idea.
They waited for just the right moment. The mommy turned on a Thomas movie and gave out a snack and ran upstairs to pull together some things for the boys' Vacation Bible School while the movie worked it magic. Meanwhile, the older brother got down from his chair, pulled the step stool out of the pantry, dragged it to the counter and climbed up on the counter. Looking back at the little brother snugly strapped into the high chair, the older brother winked. He opened the corner cabinet above the counter that held all of mommy's baking supplies. Quick as a wink he pulled out the big tub of sugar, the large refill canister of pepper, the baking powder, the cocoa powder, the canister of grits, the canister of bread crumbs, and the can of coconut. Putting all these things on the counter he quickly scooted down and ran back and forth to his room until everything was in place.

Chapter 2
After the movie, the mommy came back downstairs unstrapped the little one from the high chair and asked if the boys wanted to play outside. "Yeah" cried the little boy. "Sure" said the older boy. So the mommy went out to play with the boys completely unaware that a trick was brewing in the older brother's bedroom. After a while, the phone rang. A good friend was calling and the mommy chatted for a long time. She learned her lesson (or so she thought) previously about phone calls and didn't let the boys out of her sight for more than a minute or two at a time.
Once back inside the mommy indulgently sat on the love seat and watched the boys jump, climb, and otherwise destroy her couch in the living room. It was already beyond repair anyway and she didn't have the energy to harp anymore about not jumping on the living room furniture.
A few minutes later the boys laughing ran around to the older boy's bedroom. The mommy sighed with relief. They were safe in there. The boys couldn't really mess it up. She had taken away all the crayons, markers, pens, pencils, chalk, and any other potential writing utensils.
All of a sudden it was just too quiet in the house. The mommy went to investigate.

Chapter 3
Upon entering the room the mommy found the two little boys happily at play. The youngest was driving cars in six inches of black pepper powder poured out on the carpet in the shape of a road. The older child was giggling as he jumped around and splashed his hands in the bread crumbs, cocoa and grits. The beanbag in the corner had a fine layer of cocoa powder on it. Underneath the beanbag was a large pile of grits. And on the wall were newly formed letters drawn in cocoa powder.
The mommy, being known for her screaming ability was utterly speechless. She managed to hold it together long enough to scoop up the toddler and carry him to his crib. A fine whispering sound followed them as pepper poured out of the creases of his shorts, diaper, and shoes. Placing him not so gently in the crib, she scolded him and told him to stay there indefinitely. Turning off the light and slamming the door behind her, she turned her attention to the older brother. He, smartly, was covering his behind and cowering in the corner up to his ankles in a mixed concoction of finely grained particles.
"Go to the closet. Get the vacuum cleaner and come back." she said softly, but terribly. The little boy ran terrified because his mothers eyes were glowing like Buzz Lightyear's red laser beam that shoots from the arm of his space suit. The boy returned dragging the vacuum cleaner behind him and banging into the wall repeatedly. He stood silently as his mother plugged it in. She turned and said, "Fix this mess. Now."
The little boy got to vacuuming. But he was too little to manage the attachment on the vacuum cleaner. So his mother took the attachment off and handed the hose back to him. The boy went back to work. It was odd, but he seemed to delight in the opportunity to be of help to his mother. He chatted about his work and how well he was helping clean up. All of a sudden the vacuum cleaner died.
Upon inspection the mother realized that the bag was full of small tiny granules from the floor. Wordlessly she left the room, got a new vacuum cleaner bag, changed the bag and gave the hose back to the little boy again.
"Finish," was all she said.

Chapter 4
The mother sighed and took the full vacuum cleaner bag to the kitchen. As she pushed the foot pedal to open the trashcan, she saw it. Dropping the bag in the trash, she bent for a closer look. On her brand-newly painted kitchen wall above the trashcan was an autograph "OwenMcD". She rubbed her eyes.
"There must be some mistake," she thought. The child just received the punishment of a lifetime last week for drawing on every wall in the playroom and the bedroom. Had she not spent an afternoon with him scrubbing his very own walls with a Mr. Clean magic eraser? Large black Os had been written across the wall in his bedroom and on the carpet. Shaking her head, the mommy looked for the offending ink pen and found it on the floor under the cabinet.
"How did it get there?" She really thought she had removed every writing utensil in the house.
Slowly she walked to the older son's room. "Come out here."
"Did you write this?" she asked, barely concealing her anger.
"Oh yes." said the older son matter-of-factly.
"Why?" she spit out.
"Because I wanted to." he said defiantly, raising his chin a bit.
"I don't understand. I know that you know that we don't write on the walls." said the mommy breathing heavily to keep a lid on it and her arms locked behind her own back.
"Well, but ..." the little boy began to falter.
"Don't you but mamma me." said the mommy, a little louder this time.
"I just..."the little boy began to squirm and the hands shot to his bottom again.
"What are you doing that for? I'm not going to spank you. What's the point?" the mommy raised her voice again.
"You take this pencil eraser and you make that disappear. If it doesn't come off my brand new kitchen wall, you owe me three thousand dollars. And you better hope I don't tell your daddy. He will end you." the mommy said loudly, but without yelling. Casually she walked away.
The young child got to erasing. Lucky for him it all came off. He would live another day.
"I think you better go to your room and stay there," the mommy said when he finished.
"For how long?" he asked petulantly.
"For as long as it takes. Do not speak. Do not call me. Do not even let me know you are alive in there," said the mommy without moving from her watchful post by the sink.
The little boy ran for his life.

Chapter 5
Meanwhile the younger son had been crying the entire time. The decibel level was reaching epic proportions when the mommy returned.
"Dry it up!" the mommy shouted as she entered the room. Immediately the small boy stopped crying. The occasional whimper escaped while the mother stood there trying to keep it together.
"You may get down, but you will stay in this room," she said in a more controlled tone. The mommy picked up the little boy and set him down. She handed him a book, his truck, and the blanket from the crib.
"Do not come out of this room," said the mommy. She turned and closed the door.
The little boy had been growing and learning and figuring things out of late. He was quite capable of opening the door. In fact he had been practicing on that pantry door for a long time. The mommy however had found him out and placed a call to the daddy for a lock for the pantry door. Undeterred he began working on all the other doors in the house. Over the next hour, the little boy opened his bedroom door and peaked out at the mommy at least 30 times. She was too good. Every single time she seemed to be right there.
"You close that door." she would say and he would close it back. The poor little boy thought he would never get to leave that room. Meanwhile he was wondering what had happened to his older brother. They always played together. This separate room thing was no fun.

Chapter 6
Presently the daddy came home. He and the mommy weren't speaking. He had called on the way home and it had not been a pleasant phone call. Full of remorse for his unkindness and total lack of understanding (after all he has an office full of assistants to help him keep an eye on things), he apologized gracefully to the mommy. She accepted his apology rather un-gracefully and turned back to the stove. Silently, the daddy went to the bedroom to deal with the older son.
The mommy quietly put the toddler back in the high chair and dished up the dinner she had been trying to make for the last two hours. It was a silent meal for the three of them. The older son was wailing in his room because he was being denied dinner with the family and yet another stay in his room. After dinner, the mommy--still not speaking to anyone--quietly cleaned up the kitchen. When she was finished, the mommy opened the refrigerator, took out two Michelob Ultras, grabbed her purse and keys, left a note for the daddy, got in her car and drove to her bookclub.

All's well that ends well. The little boys miraculously recovered after an evening with daddy. The mommy miraculously recovered her ability to speak with the father. After a few beers and a few hours of moral support from her friends, the mommy's eyes and voice returned to their natural state. Everyone slept through the night in the red brick house set far from the road. The next morning the sunshine came, and all was right with the world.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Got to Get Bloggin'

I haven't had the urge to rant in a while. I've been sick, sick, sick. Grrr. However blog forthcoming on the lack of volunteers for Vacation Bible School. Why is it that I always hear, "Um, I like grown up children better," or "Well, I've already been there and done that and put in my time." You never know when you could become a very important person in the eyes of a child. I must run to work, but rest assured I'm working on a thoughtful blog about church volunteerism. Maybe it will worm its way into the pulpit? We'll see.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Media Circus

I think I'm going to have to start getting my news directly from the AP wire and the Christian Science Monitor or else read 5 newspapers a day. To be fair, I can count on one hand how many times I've watched CNN unless it's a Christiane Amanpour special since 1999 and I haven't watched MSNBC since 2004. There for a while I got my news from Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, but then their shows ceased to entertain me. I loved watching Meet the Press on Sunday mornings before Tim Russert died. And I used to enjoy watching Chris Matthews mix it up. We're pretty much a Fox News household as my husband is a FNC junkie. I sometimes sneak on other networks just to make sure I'm not missing a more "balanced" approach to news. Not to worry, I'm not.

I pretty much watch Bill O'Reilly, check the Yahoo News headlines, and read the local Sunday paper these days. In an attempt to be even handed in my commentary here, O'Reilly likes to mix it up and is a tad sensational at least once a night. He's got a couple of crusades going on for sure. But I find him entertaining and I find we agree about alot of things. Since it feels like anyone and everyone associated with the press/media in general is out to tear down anyone that has an opinion that is centrist or even remotely right of center, I figure I'm probably getting an even dose of my news with FNC headlines. At least no one is trying to make me feel like an uneducated heel that just crawled out from under some rock in the southern corner of middle America. I do have a master's degree. It's not like I don't know how to evaluate a news article or report for its value and information.

According to "un-conservative" networks all across the airwaves (or fiber optic cables) any agreement I might find with a more conservative outlook has been described as hot-headed righteous indignation, right-wing radical conservatism, a merging of right-wingers and Christian Conservatives into a White Pride movement and most recently (and my personal favorite) racist tea-bagging redneck.

So, what do I do? Protesting was once lauded and applauded (but that was back when we wanted equal rights and moms to get rid of guns and cheap gasoline). Apparently these days protesting government decisions is wrong and immoral behavior. So that's out. And somehow believing that marriage is between a man and a woman makes pretty young women giving nervous 30 second answers to difficult questions on the fly while on national television, gay bashing, holy rolling dumb blondes. So I'm thinking tv journalism, protest rallies, and beauty pageants are not viable options for me. I've missed the age cutoff for beauty pageants, off the cuff remarks consistently get me into trouble, and I don't believe I engage in wrong, or immoral behavior. Bummer.

So what do I do? Well, simply put, I turn off my tv. I live my life. I do my best to avoid gut-reactions without sampling the evidence first and I make no apologies for my personal convictions. Whether or not I choose to make those positions known is my business. I usually try to choose my audience carefully. Today's post might be an exception. I'd be lying if I said the negative comments that will inevitably emerge won't bother me. Generally, I think there is no need to piss people off unnecessarily. I prefer getting along with people.

I truly don't find myself that conservative of a person, but our country's mouthpieces on all points of the spectrum have a way of shoe-horning us into "positions" that aren't quite accurate. How we got to this point is beyond me. I do know I am confused and frustrated and flabbergasted at what makes the news and why. I don't think it's going to get better. The world is one big ball of gray; rarely is it black and white. Using hot-button sound bites and fanning the flames of polarization to prey on the short attention spans of Americans who tune in for a few minutes a night is not the answer. These tactics deprive our citizens of real information. It also says that viewers are neither smart enough, important enough, or worthy enough to engage in solid debate about what our country stands for. I find this sad on multiple levels. I could go on. But enough is enough. Gotta go, reading five different newspapers is going to take a while.

Friday, April 3, 2009


You know it's coming. You wake up with itchy eyes and a slightly scratchy throat. You sneeze about 33 times before noon. All afternoon your nose drips--not enough for a blowing, but enough to make you wipe your sleeve casually because you don't have any Kleenex around. You just hope no one sees you do it. By nightfall your left ear is stopped up and your nose is no longer dripping. It's so stopped up your eyeballs fill squished by your cheeks which are rising into your lower eye lids from the swelling and pressure. You know the migraine is coming if you don't pop twice the normal dose of Advil--which will make you constipated later on, but I'll take it any day over a migraine.
You will yourself to sleep only to awaken ninety minutes later gagging on the snot that is flowing down the back of your throat. You have cotton mouth, your lip just cracked open as you attempted to lick it. You spend the rest of the evening propped up by a myriad of pillows of different sizes and thickness trying to get that just right angle--not upright, not horizontal, more than 45 degrees, neck straight instead of bent because then you'll have a crick in it. Allergy season has begun.
I haven't blogged this week because between wiping my own nose, I've been soothing my babies noses and listening to their dry hacking coughs and wheezes. The three of us are under serious attack by some histamine in our body that doesn't like spring. Mercifully for me, the nurse practitioner at the CVS gave me some allegra and flonase and sudafed. Along with lots of water and ginger-lemon tea with honey I'm going to make it. My older son has been on Singulair for almost 3 years now. With round the clock benadryl when the symptoms arise, he is usually okay. He has shadows under his eyes from lack of good sleep and a hack from the post-nasal drip, but otherwise, he's okay. The poor baby has to wait until he's two to start that Singulair, but you better believe I'm going to ask for it this fall. Poor kid. Between the eczema and the runny nose/cough the kid hasn't slept well in two nights.
This morning I woke up with a start at 530. I just knew something was wrong, but nobody was up. Then I heard it. This pitiful weak little cough from the nursery. He was so tired he couldn't even cough well. He sounded like an 80 year old man in there snoring. I rubbed his back and started the music and stood there for a while to make sure he was still breathing. Then I heard the other one, "mmoooommmy" so softly. The older one was half-awake. He was having a cough attack too and his nose was crusted over. I got a wash cloth and washed his face and gave him some water. Then we settled on the couch to snuggle--at a 45 degree angle so we could both sleep. After about 20 minutes we gave up and made breakfast.
Once we get to the end of June we should be okay until the end of September. Spring is one of my favorite seasons. But allergies are wretched. There isn't much I can do for the boys. It's so hard to keep them quiet when they really want to go out and play. Usually I let them go play and we just hose down every night to get the pollen off. I spent ten years of my life cooped up inside and I don't think I was better off for it. But we didn't have the wonder drugs we do today to help me deal with it and my wheezing made my parents walk the floor. I don't know how to keep little boys quiet anyway. We're on 3 1/2 hours of movies already today. We've been through every toy, every game, every puzzle, pretend play, pretend trick o treating, emptying the pantry--even jumping on the bed. The only thing left is art, and unless it's really messy (meaning outside mud pies or chalk) they don't like it.
Welcome Spring, do your thing and bring on Summer. Hurry please.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Religion 101

My oldest son is almost 5. Every Sunday we attempt to reinforce the Sunday School lesson by asking him what it was about. We have been encouraged by the Children's Ministries director to do so. Our church uses Godly Play in the 5 and under crowd. Godly Play roughly follows the church calendar and uses all types of mediums (figurines, colored blocks, sand, art, water, music, drama, pieces of colored felt, and so forth) to talk about the creation story, the parables of Jesus, Noah's ark, Advent, the Nativity, and Easter, etc.

Every single Sunday without fail for the last six months we have asked our almost 5 year old, what was your Sunday school lesson about and every single time without fail he says, "oh it was about guns. Yeah and then we shooted people and I shot so-and-so deader." Lovely.

Today my husband and I helped with Children's Fellowship. So knowing that today they did not learn about guns and armed with both the children's lesson from big church and the movie that coincided with it during fellowship time, I dutifully asked my almost 5 year old, "so what was Sunday school about today?" And he said, just as dutifully, "oh, we had a really short story about guns." I said, "oh really? I thought today's lesson was about trees." And he said, "no that was what we did in the Clubhouse mom, not Sunday school." (Note: the Clubhouse is where the kids are corralled during worship). "Ah, I see. What else did we do in the Clubhouse?" I asked. Here is the following transcript:

Son: "Oh, we watched a movie about trees."
Mom: "Tell me about those trees."
Son: "Well there were three of them."
Mom: "I wonder what they wanted." (Note: Godly play does a lot of wondering. Almost every question starts with, I wonder...)
Son: "Well one wanted to be a treasure chest, but he ended up as a manger for the animals."
Mom: "What about the second one?"
Son: "Oh he was a fishing boat."
Mom: "I see. And the third one?"
Son: "I don't know."
Mom: "Didn't it become a cross?"
Son: "yeah that's it."
Mom: "Well I wonder who went in that manger?"
Son: "Jesus did. But I bet that first tree was disappointed. He really wanted to be a treasure chest."
Mom: "Well, but that manger held the greatest treasure of all. That's where Jesus was born." Son: "Yeah, but he wanted to be a treasure chest, not a manger."
Mom: "True. But don't you think he was something even better? (Moving on) What about the boat?"
Son: "I don't know."
Mom: "Jesus was on that boat calming the storm, remember."
Son: Shrugged his shoulders, not really that interested.
Mom: "And what about that cross? Who was on the cross?"
Son: "God."
Mom: "Well, not God exactly, but his son Jesus. Do you know why he was there?"
Son: "He died."
Mom: "That's true. Do you know why he died?"
Son: "Because he was really really old."
Mom: Trying not to laugh... "Well not exactly. He died for us." Frantically thinking how to put the crucifixion delicately. "He died to take away our sin so we can be closer to God."
Son: "Okay."
Mom: "Do you know what sin is?"
Son: "No."
Mom: "Well when we do things that disappoint God it's called sin. Like when you get in trouble with mom and dad for doing stuff you shouldn't do. What do you think God does about that stuff?"
Son: "Does he hit us?"
Mom: OH CRAP! No more spankings! "No Owen. God doesn't hit. God loves us."
Son: "Does he beat us up and take our stuff?"
Mom: "Are you being silly? No Owen. God asked Jesus to take our sins away so we can be closer to him always and forever."
Son: "Oh."
Mom: "You know what? After Jesus died, three days later he came back to life."
Son: "How did he do that?"
Mom: "God brought him back to life and then took him to heaven."
Son: "So when we get dead, are we going to come back alive?"
Mom: "Well, we will be alive again in heaven after we die. God brings us up to heaven to be alive with him."
Son: "Is that further away than space?"
Mom: "Yes it's so far away we can't even see it."
Son: "Cool. Can I have some more crackers now?"

I wonder who learned more here? Mommy or Child? What will you wonder about this week?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On My Spring Break Vacation

My husband and I went to New York City for a few days over Spring Break. Visiting the Big Apple is always new no matter how many times I go. I must say I can tell I'm getting older. The very things I loved about New York in my late teens and early twenties I absolutely hate now--crowds, over-stimulating lights and signs, traffic, late nights, high heels, everyone wearing black, one in every 100 people speaking English. I find it amusing about myself how much I've changed.

Wearing tennis shoes is of course a dead give away that you're a tourist unless you are wearing work out clothes and carrying an iPod. Since I didn't take work out clothes to New York, I dutifully changed out of my tennis shoes as often as I could stand it. But walking in my sorely out-of-fashion-but-at-least-they-were-black knee high boots with 2 inch stacked heels was a big mistake for my flat footed self. I enjoy a good walk as much as the next person, but I think I gave myself a heel spur and my arches and calf muscles are in agony. Luckily for me, jeans are still in. So every day I put on my one pair of designer jeans. They are comfortable, fit well, and I had them hemmed for flats so they didn't gather too much at the bottom--also uncool.
And why is it that New York, fashion capital of the country, is still so insanely into black? I felt like I was in Europe the whole time. I'm no fashionista. I have neither the time, the money, nor the interest to give two cents to what is "in". I'm woefully trapped in wash-n-wear from LL Bean and Lands End and Old Navy with the occasional Talbot's sweater or dry clean only skirt. So I try to wear a few colors to brighten up my sadly plain weekday wardrobe. Apparently color is not cool either. I don't understand, I watched Sex in the City and they wore colors all the time. Anyway, 24 hours after my arrival I found myself buying a fabulous black belted knee length trench coat in black from Banana Republic that was on sale. I've had my eye on it for a while (it's pretty snazzy for me) but I needed a little push for the purchase. Needless to say I wore it day and night with my black scarf and black gloves and black boots and my jeans. I felt a little better about my attempt to look vaguely like a New Yorker--even though my shoulders are stiff, my neck is still itchy from the scarf, and my ankles may never be the same. In other fashion news, Ugg--LY boots are still very much in. It's like the 80's. Skinny jeans tucked into boots (with no heel now unless you're bravely walking in stilettos), colored tights are back--with black clothes of course, and huge purses continue to dominate the landscape--purses can be different colors. Apparently only accessories are allowed to come in more than one shade.

Other Stuff:
We saw some great shows! Avenue Q, A Night with George W. Bush (Will Ferrell's one man show), and Stomp! All excellent. We also got lottery tickets to a taping of the Dave Letterman show. That was very entertaining.
I broke my Lenten fast from alcohol and caffeine. It seemed more sacreligious to forgo the red wine while eating excellent Italian on vacation with my husband without our children and a serious possibility of sex. Of course, the next day, a diet coke was in order to function. Plus we were in Chinatown having an early lunch of Dim Sum and I had already downed the green tea which was chock full of caffeine, so I figure why not go the whole hog before returning to purgatory?
We went to Ellis Island. The audio tour is very good. We went to the Guggenheim Museum--coulda skipped that. I like art. I appreciate art. Alas, I don't understand modern art very much at all. We rode the subway, walked all over, shopped, slept late, and ate many more marvelous meals. No dishes, no screaming kids, no cooking, no driving, no housecleaning. And we caught a few minutes of the St. Patty's Day parade that went up 5th avenue all day on Tuesday.
Needless to say we had a super super time.

The Return:
So after several airline delays we arrived back in Chattanooga via Delta. I was reminded again why I prefer to fly Frontier out of Nashville and why I never fly out of Chattanooga unless it can be avoided. However, our flights were never cancelled and we did arrive safely and at a reasonable time, so I am grateful for small things even though I moaned like the weary traveller I was.
We arrived home at 3:05. Hugs, kisses, and presents all around. My older son was showing off and the baby had a green nose and a croupy cough. Typical. At 3:20 I discovered what looked like a snot explosion in the baby's right ear. I was back in the car and headed down the mountain by 3:25 and in the doctor's office by 4. Ear infection. So a trip to the pharmacy and the grocery store later with a quick stop at the Pumpkin Patch to play, I was back home washing dishes, making dinner, changing sheets, soothing a sick boy and disciplining my other one. Showers, medicine giving, and teeth brushing commenced shortly thereafter, and everyone was asleep by 8. A little tv, another load of laundry, a check on the boys, finally a quick check of my email and facebook--which I didn't even miss while away--and I collapsed in bed around 1130. I'm back from vacation alright. It's amazing how you step right back into it and it doesn't even phase you. What a vacation. By Saturday I'll need another one, but for now, I'm grateful and happy to be home. It isn't New York, but it's my life and it's always a colorful one, and I'm alright with that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ins and Outs of the Sandbox

All kids need a sandbox. There is something so "earthy" about dirt. (haha) While I was watching my boys "play" in the sandbox, I was wondering, just what are they thinking? Do they have a rationale for this behavior? Is it merely fun? Do they have a goal in mind at the end of this play? Maybe they aren't thinking at all, just moving. All I know is there is more sand outside of the sandbox than in it. And I, being a neat and orderly person do not get it.
It amazes me how long the boys will play in the sand. I suspect I could leave the backyard go on a walk and come back an hour later and they would still be at it. By then though, the baby would have about a pound of sand inside his tummy (he's an eater) and the oldest would have piles of sand all around the yard. I often wonder if I should just save my breath instead of saying at least a dozen times per fifteen minutes, the sand goes in the box, where does the sand go, once it's gone it's gone--over and over and over.
I once heard my children's daycare director say, "yes, our one year olds are the fillers and dumpers." It was so spot on. Have you ever noticed that your toddler is intent on emptying out everything--Kleenexes, Lego's, blocks, cars, groceries, milk, cheerios--just to attempt to put it all back in the box again. Obviously they have yet to hear of Pandora. Maybe it's all about gravity. Maybe it's the sensory input of dry soft stuff on their little hands.
I don't know but I love to watch them. I could watch the boys play in the sand for a long long time. I love to take them to the beach. The oldest will dig holes for hours and the youngest will just grab handful after handful and look at it as if seeing it for the first time every single time. I love to watch them get in the sand box and then get out and squat down and stand up and walk around and come back and start the process over again. I mean, what on earth could require so much concentration? Every action is very deliberate.
There are some things you learn in the sand. Don't throw things (sand or shovels) you could hurt somebody. Don't take someone else's shovel unless they aren't using it. It takes more than one person to make a sandcastle, one to dig the moat, one to mold the sand. You have to take turns because nobody likes to dig ditches and everybody wants a castle. Be careful where you put your toys they could get buried in the sand and then you can't find them. Always put your things away and cover your sandbox--that way the dogs don't run off with your toys and the cats don't pee in your sand.
I reckon we should all go play in the sandbox for a while, we might learn something again for the very first time.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

To Your Health

So recently I watched Michael Moore's movie, "Sicko." Although I am not a big Michael Moore fan, I usually watch his movies--eventually. This movie is all about health insurance, universal health coverage/medical treatment in Western European countries, and in his view, all the problems of the American health system.

Here's my version of the deal, until we are ready to deal with insurance companies, there is no way out of a crumbling US health care system. I knew this before I watched the Michael Moore film by the way, just like I knew fast food is terrible for you before I watched "Super Size Me" by Morgan Spurlock. Plain and simple, there is a big difference between health care and health insurance. Don't be mad at your doctor. (Acknowledged, there are bad doctors out there who are implicit in fraud; it's okay to be mad at them.) Don't be mad at your hospital. (Acknowledged, sometimes hospitals have been found to do terrible things like put people on the street who can't pay; that's pretty bad too.) Don't be mad at your pharmacist. By and large, be mad at insurance companies. But don't be mad at insurance employees, who after all need their own job and insurance. Be mad at the policy makers--if you can find them. It's all smoke and mirrors as far as I can tell. If you don't have insurance, be mad at your Congressional leaders, they take more money from health insurance company lobbyists than any other lobbyists.

I have my own health insurance story. It's not sad like some, but it's enough to put me into a snit. My mother has a health insurance story. It's not beyond the pale, but it's pretty awful. My sister has a health insurance story. We all have a health insurance story, not to mention runaway premiums. Oh, and did I mention Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN is building a huge new "campus" with reflecting ponds and spa-like atmosphere up on the hill in Chattanooga to the tune of 300 million dollars? Every time I drive into town I am reminded of my anger and helpless rage at insurance companies.

We can talk all day about universal health insurance in this country. But here is the bottom line: until we make a health care system that focuses on prevention and treats everyone regardless of pre-existing condition AND returns medicine into the hands of doctors, the system will always be broken. Notice I said health care system, not health insurance coverage system. If we have a system that doesn't incentivize preventative care, how will we ever bring down the escalating cost of health care? If we maintain a system that keeps people away from doctors and hospitals until they cannot go on without seeking treatment, how will we ever cut it off at the pass? If we continue to use the emergency room as our outpatient clinic instead of for emergencies, how will we ever expect to rid ourselves of mounting debts?

Health insurance coverage is just that, insurance. It's a gamble that you won't need it. Like life insurance, home owners insurance, etc. etc. Remember Hurricane Katrina and all those reports of insurance companies denying claims left and right? They were overwhelmed with claims payouts that were never supposed to happen. Well, that's what has happened to health insurance in this country, except that insurance companies never planned to pay in the first place.

I see how universal health care is attractive. I see how it works (in theory and on camera) in places like Canada and England and France. The system they have there is health coverage not health insurance. It might be called health insurance, but it's not, it's actual services provided. Universal health services provided for free to everybody and taxes pay for it. Doctors practice the medicine they were trained to do. Everyone gets help when they are sick. Their medicines don't cost the mortgage payment. Staffing needs are actually based on patient need instead of paper pushing, insurance claim filing secretaries needed to send this form and that form and deal with this denial and that late check. I'd be down with that, if I thought it would work.

I'm no scientist, economist, medical doctor, or insurance analyst, but I see some big problems right off the start with universal health care. One, the sheer massive size of the United States. We can't even get a good bead on our current population if you stir immigration into the mix, which you ultimately will have to given our open border situation. Two, how are we ever going to make a system here that is based on health services and not health insurance? Do you really think Humana, Aetna, Blue Cross, Kaiser, and Cigna are just going to waltz off into the sunset? Any government subsidized/paid for system is not going to be passed in Congress without these guys getting their cut--and you can take your publicly traded shares to the bank and cash them over that. Three, who is going to run it and how? The Federal Government doesn't have a great track record--i.e. public education (a black hole), the Postal Service (going bankrupt), Social Security (going bankrupt). Four, let's not forget the drug companies. They're going to want their cut too.

And before we leave the issue entirely, let's not forget about litigation. One thing Michael Moore's interviewees in France got wrong is this--Americans are not afraid of the government, Americans are afraid of litigation. Don't get me wrong, lawyers are helpful to both wronged doctors and wronged patients on different days for different reasons. And in the end, it is people who decide to sue, not attorneys. Suing can't bring back your dead grandma, or make your child well. Science is science and miracles are miracles, and accidents are accidents, but doctors and nurses and EMTs and ambulance drivers are still people at the end of the day. No one is saying gross negligence shouldn't be prosecuted, but we all know a money seeking civil suit when we see one. I'm not sure we can reform health care without torte reform. The escalating costs of liability and malpractice insurance are a case in point. And torte reform my friends, will send Congress running for cover health care or no health care.

Health insurance guarantees neither treatment, payment, or health. Wake up people and smell the coffins. When insurance companies need a better profit margin, they cut the reimbursements to practitioners and hospitals and jack up premiums. Then doctors and hospitals have to increase the number of patients they see in order to cover expenses. Increasing this pressure on institutions and doctors that should be dedicated to providing health care causes mistakes. People are only human.

It's way past time for the American people to decide if health care is a universal right like education, social security, death, and taxes. If we are serious about reforming health care (again treatment not insurance) in this country--and if anything we should be serious--we have to start again. Let's not create a bigger black hole that allows insurance companies to make more money off the government too, or make a system that allows the government to make our health care decisions, or make a system that ties doctors up even further with useless paperwork ballooning overhead out of control. Let's make a system that makes sense.

I do need to pause for a moment to acknowledge a couple of other arguments I have not yet touched on. One, America was founded in part as the anti-government nation. People came here as a protest against taxation, government persecuted religion, etc. etc. etc. Call me crazy, but there is a holdover in many American minds that says, "My government doesn't have the right to tell me when and how and where to get my health care." What about the right to abuse your own body? Many people think it's their right to do what they want to their body. Are we going to be okay with treating every junkie, every alcoholic, every morbidly obese person, every smoker? These are serious questions folks. Everybody means everybody. There is also the argument that doctors don't want to be told what to charge, where to practice, what hours to keep, etc. etc. Unless you are going to pay their student loans and get rid of insurance reimbursement strategies that minimize payment and figure out a way to bring overhead to under 50%, I think doctors have a point. Then there are fiscally responsible questions to ask, "why does an MRI cost so much?" Let's also not forget the stigma that has been created in this country over medicaid. Alot of people consider medicaid a drain of the system. Regardless of how you qualify, walk in and say you're a medicaid patient and you get "the look."

It's way past time for some serious answers and some serious debate among regular people on this issue. Maybe we should all march on Kaiser Permanente and Humana? What about a million person march against health insurance? Maybe we should all fine tune our stock portfolios (and what better time since the market is in the toilet anyway) and divest ourselves from insurance companies. Would that send a signal? I don't know what the answers are, but I'm going to keep talking. At some point, I'll find somebody who has a great idea. When I find that person, I'm calling CNN, MSNBC, FOX, NPR, the BBC network, and Michael Moore.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What I Do All Day

I've received many questions over the years, like, "so what does a speech therapist do?" I also get a lot of, "oh I had a speech therapist. she helped me with my s's." And sometimes I get, "how do make a stutterer stop? do you tell them to stop?" I've even heard, "do you teach people English?" So I decided to blog about the day in the life of a speech therapist today. Here is what I did yesterday...
At one of my schools, I am responsible for the speech services for the multi-handicapped room (lingo speak for severely disabled kids ranging from mental to physical impairments), and two CDC rooms (lingo speak for kids who spend all day in the special ed room). Yesterday I got on the floor with Abby** (not her real name of course). I asked the PT (physical therapist) to show me how to sit holding her so she wouldn't be in a constant flexed position. Abby is in a wheel chair because she cannot walk, sit up on her own, or crawl. When she lies on the floor she constantly throws herself into rigid positions because she cannot control the spasticity in her limbs. So I sat around Abby positioning her into an upright 90 position and we rocked and vocalized together. When she would make noise, I would make noise back and shape it into a speech sound. We did that until she fell asleep either from being totally relaxed or from being tired from the effort--I'm not sure which. Then I sang Bingo with Charlie**(also not his name). He loves the Bingo song. Charlie is also in a wheel chair all day. He has some upper limb movement (he can move his arms enough to feed himself and give high fives and make some signs) so we worked on signing more, giving high 5's for yes, and generally having fun communicating. He is also working on requesting objects and choosing the correct response from a picture set (i.e. I put 2 pictures in front of him and say, "show me __.") Then I helped another child Gavin** feed himself. He is learning to feed himself. He has some upper body movements, but they are not under his control very well. It's hard to say if it's lack of motivation or lack of ability with Gavin. It just depends on the day. So I made him feed himself 3 or 4 bites (while ducking as he flipped purreed peas at me and sneezed ground chicken patty in my face b/c he sometimes aspirates if he doesn't pay close attention to eating) then I would take the spoon and feed him a few bites so he could rest his arms. I worked with two other folks in that room, but they weren't having a good day so we made each other smile and I brushed their arms with a plastic brush (it's an Occupational Therapy thing) for sensory input hoping to get some attempts at requesting, or any response at all.
Then I went to the special ed room and did language and artic work. I told a Matt and Molly story. Matt and Molly are characters that do a whole host of things in 4 picture cards. So we retold the story together, then we acted it out, then we worked on sequencing the story correctly (the back of the picture cards are numbered). Then we worked on pronouns, "Molly is a girl. SHE told Matt to get the ball." etc. etc. etc. While I'm doing all this, I'm embedding words that have the sound some of the kids are working on (basketball--sk, sk, sk, sk--basketball, Now you say it) and having some make a choice. This story is about basketball, which of these balls (there are three a football, soccer, and basketball) is the basketball? Tell me on your talker (i.e. the augmentative communication device, or "talker" is a machine that uses digital sound and pictures to help children who cannot use their voices, participate in spoken language). After circle time, we split up into small groups of 2-3 or even 1 at a time and work on specific skills. It's a full day.
Today I went to my other school where I work with three boys who have some severe articulation (speech sounds) problems. One can read and write. So we make word lists with the sounds that are difficult and we write stories and sentences (working on grammar like subject verb agreement--"do you say is or are in this sentence?" and on using function words like "I play the slide"--okay great sentence, but you forgot a word. Do you play slide or do you play ON the slide?). We also work on proper speech sounds and positioning the tongue correctly in the mouth, and awareness of sounds. I could get technical but I won't. The other two boys are Pre-K/K. Today we spent 20 minutes playing Thomas the Train. Now of course we weren't just playing trains. We were working on locatives and increasing the levels of conceptual information. They are trying to graduate from front/back to first/last, beginning/ending. So we took turns (also something that needs work). Who's train is in the front? back? first? last? middle? Put your trains on the track. Take your trains off the track. Where is the beginning of the track? Where is the end? Look there are blocks on the track? Can the train go OVER the blocks? Nope. Can we go AROUND the blocks? And so forth and so on. And since we can't sit still for too long we walk up and down the halls looking for different shapes and colors. Hey, look at the floor. I see a square. Do you see a square? What shape is that? Look at the bulletin board. What shape is that? Is it a rectangle or a square? Hey look at the door nob? What shape is that? CIRCLE. (I get bonus points, because /s/ is a sound they are working on and though circle begins with c, the sound is an /s/. Plus, square starts with the /s/ sound too!)
Anyway, maybe it all sounds Greek to you. Maybe it makes complete sense and you're wondering why they pay me the big bucks (hahaha). Maybe if you're an SLP and you're reading this you're thinking, kill me now thank God I work with adults. Either way, I thought you'd like to know what I do all day. At least, that's what I'm doing these days. Last semester I had a few folks who had stuttering problems and when I did home health I managed a whole host of dining plans and dysphagia problems. I also did a lot of functional communication development, staff training, and communication plans involving pictures, and the occasional swallow study (I accompanied for support and also to watch it in radiology myself. I didn't actually perform the study although I am trained to do it, b/c I don't have hospital privileges and that would not be legal. But I was able to watch it which was more helpful than just reading the report).
I can say there is never a dull moment in my job. There are many days that are not fun. Nothing goes the way it should. I have to talk to parents about reality and expectation and limitations. Noone is motivated to participate. Everyone is agitated and upset. I can't do what I wanted to do because I have to go to a meeting or any number of things. But there are many days that just rock my world. I love what I do. I can't really see myself doing anything else. I like to do a lot of things and I'm good at a lot of things, but this is what I like to do best.