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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Miscellaneous and Nothing at all worth Reading about

Well it's Monday afternoon and still no blog inspiration. Good thing I'm not a columnist--yet. Presently I'm shirking my mommy duties of playing and instead I'm trying to type to the beat of Calliou. It is almost as annoying as Diego, but not quite. I mean how many towers of blocks can you stack with your 18 month old? We did colors, shapes, cars, legos, snack, wearing hats, loving loveys, stacking, knocking down, climbing up, talking on the phone, music, dancing, playing chase. I'm done. I don't know what else to play. And he's so desperate to go outside, but it's too cold. So instead we woke his big brother who had collapsed in the car, exhausted from his turn at Show and Tell apparently. Now they are playing together and watching a movie. Guess big brother is more fun than me. Super.
Topics on the menu for this week included, teaching your child the finer points of Crazy Eight (I accomplished this in 3 short days. Now on to Gin Rummy), navigating the rules of Show and Tell (no you can't take 6 things to school, it says right here on the paper ONE thing), keeping your toddler out of the kitchen drawers (it is necessary to put packing tape up high, I forgot about that and my toddler taped his hands together somehow), and the most humane way to lock your children in a room while you take a much needed 20 minute nap. Also up for discussion, can caffeine be delivered intravenously? is it possible to exercise without sweating or actually finding time to do it? how expensive is lipo-suction and does it work like a do-over on your ass or does it just suck out the cellulite and leave the skin rolls?
Needless to say my mind is not staying focused on one thing. I started a new job this week and all my creative juices have gone into learning 20 new students. I really like my new placement. Good thing since I'm there until the end of May. The kids are the most precious of the precious. I feel like a million bucks when I'm around them. But they definitely take it out of me.
Lent is upon us on Wednesday. I am attempting to give up a few things. We received a new calendar in the mail this week, much like our Advent calendar, but it's for Lent. Good thing it comes with stickers and instructions. It's a 40 day journey into Jerusalem that takes us through Passover all the way to Easter. Cool. At first I thought it was for the kids (it is), but I decided it's just as helpful for me. Hopefully that little cardboard reminder will inspire me not to give in too easily. So maybe by the weekend when I'm in a hazy spiritual glow from the alcohol and caffeine and sugar detox that is hopefully going to be my Lenten journey, I'll be able to write something more profound. In the mean time, keep it in the road and if you get tired, pull over and nap. So what if people look at you funny when you wake up with a big red outline of a horn on your forehead b/c you nodded off over your steering wheel? That happened to me today and I survived.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In Memorium

Jesus says to Peter in the New Testament, "Simon, son of John do you love me...[then] feed my sheep." John 20:15

Do you remember that old Sunday School song, "I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together?" It goes on to say, "the church is not a building, the church is not a a steeple, the church is the people." Today I want to remember someone who lived both the song and the verse. This lady was Bonnie. Bonnie passed away over a year ago. This morning in the shower I started thinking about her and about the legacy she left me and countless others who remember her.

Bonnie was a legend among my friends in MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship). She was the best cook in the church. She made the best soup. She made a peanut butter sandwich and you thought it was prime rib. I mean she was just awesome. I remember Bonnie mostly for her cooking, but also as my Sunday school teacher, my Children's Hour teacher (precursor to MYF for the younger kids), craft helper, snack/meal provider. Her daughter and I took dance lessons together. I spent the night at her house. She liked cats.

Bonnie was quiet. I'm not sure I ever had a conversation lasting more than 30 seconds at a time with her. But she was one of the most faithful people to our MYF. She never missed a snack/meal for us. When we went on trips, she made food for us to take so we didn't have to buy any. She helped me memorize the books of the Bible during VBS (vacation Bible school). I cannot think of my life in the church without thinking of Bonnie. She was a treasure. And I am sad that she is no longer with us. I still have my Christmas ornament I made in her first grade Sunday school class. It is green and red beaded wreath with a plastic reindeer glued in the center and a red ribbon on top to hide the wire at the top. I cherish all of my Christmas ornaments, but I always always stop and remember her when I pull that one out.

I am remiss that I never got to say thank you to Bonnie when she was alive. And I am even more at fault for not writing this before now and sending it to her daughter. But I'm writing it now. I can only imagine how often the Lord spoke to Bonnie and said, "Bonnie, do you love me? Then feed my sheep." And she did. Every single time. The church is so much more than a place to worship. If you ever wonder how the church can change your life, wonder no more. It's been 15 years since I have been to my old church, and yet in my mind, it's Sunday afternoon and I can see Bonnie's car yet pulled up next to the side entrance of the fellowship hall. Her daughter running down the hill towards us as we jump out of the backseat. There is Bonnie, balancing a cake in one hand and opening her trunk to take in what we all know will be a great meal after our flag football in the side yard before the lesson. Thank you Bonnie for feeding us body and soul, week after week, Sunday after Sunday.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why Music is Important

I started thinking about art and music and science and math and literature as disciplines. These subjects are so intertwined you cannot separate them except arbitrarily. For instance, do you know how much math is involved with music? You can actually teach fractions by teaching music theory. Whole notes, quarter notes, half notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes. Then there is rhythm. Four-four time is four beats per measure with the quarter note acting as the base, one. Then there is the waltz which is three-three time. An octave is eight notes, and within an octave there are thirds, fourths, fifths, etc. Each octave is named for the beginning and ending key (i.e. the key of C, D, E, F, G, A, B). The distance between C and G is a fifth. The distance between C and F is a fourth. And so forth. I could go on, but it gets complicated after that.

Think of the other ways in which we use music to teach things. Every preschool across America knows the "Clean Up" song and "This is the Way we Wash our Hands" song. And by the way, how did you learn your ABC's? There is a song for learning the days of the week, the months of the year, multiplication tables, and even states and capitals. In language therapy with young children, we use songs to open and close the day, for sensory integration, and to teach rote skills and routines.

Science and music are also intricately related on a most basic level. Sound waves, resonance, and frequency can all be related to music because we call these things musical properties, even though they are also scientific properties. Anyone who has ever taken a physical science course remembers the tuning fork exercise when learning about waves and frequencies. When I arrived in my speech science class in graduate school, I began learning in depth about the science of sound. Every phoneme has a distinct and specific frequency and duration that can be physically measured by its sound wave. Technically, if you're good (I was only marginal) you can spell out entire words just by looking at the frequency analysis of each sound. For my speech science final I think I had to label four or five words by looking at their graphs. I could get technical, but I might lose my audience.

Music as a discipline is also multi-faceted. First there is the actual discipline it takes to learn to read music. Then there are the physical and mental challenges of learning to play an instrument. Toss in group dynamics? Singing in a choir requires discipline. You have to follow the director. You have to sing on pitch. Everyone has to sing and sing correctly, or it doesn't work. Same with the orchestra, band, quartet, etc.

From a creativity standpoint, music is one of the most basic art forms in the world. It is a form of discipline and a form of entertainment all at the same time. In the year 2009 we have ring tones for our phones, iTunes is one of the most popular sites ever on the Internet, even our President has an iPod. We use music to sell products on tv and the radio. Here is where I enter my passionate plea since I've stated my rational and dispassionate arguments already. Nothing makes me happier than making music. I make music all day long. Sometimes it's just toe tapping. Sometimes it's humming. Sometimes it's singing. I make up silly songs and silly dances. Some kids just get music. It gets them in ways we don't even understand. If we're going to spend millions of dollars on sports and special education programs and after care programs and pilot learning programs, why can't we spend a little money on a tried and true method of reaching children? Music works.

So now I humbly ask you, education administrators, why exactly is it when we talk about budget cuts the first thing we toss out is art and music? If the above revelations aren't enough for you, here are a few more. What about learning critical thinking skills? What about discovering creativity? I am here to tell you rote memorizing of factual information is not education. Learning what a fraction is, is pointless if it cannot be related to everyday life. Learning to read music is an application of mathematical concepts from the understanding of linear progression to simple fractions and number order. Studying music as an art form is a window into history. Is the national anthem not an important song? Doesn't ever state in our union have a "state song"? Did you know that the book of Psalms in the Bible is a book of songs? What about Song of Solomon? It's also a book in the Old Testament. And if none of these arguments do it for you, here is one more. How do they teach newest members of the armed forces to march? The drill Sergeant teaches them to march in step to a cadence. "I don't know what I've been told...but the art of music is solid gold."

Tune in next week for my arguments for saving art....

Monday, February 2, 2009

Talking to kids about Sex

Well it's time for a down and dirty blog post. Those who know me well, know that I talk about sex alot. I can be funny about it, serious about it, absurd about it, and totally and irreverently bold about it. I am always truthful, always candid, and if you take a straw poll, I am generally saying what everyone else is thinking, but aren't saying. Leave it to me to state the obvious. So here I go. Caution, this is not about my sexual relationship with my husband. I have developed a filter at this late date and I do know that would be entirely inappropriate to post in the blog-o-sphere, so if you're hoping for some gut spilling, you're going to have to go elsewhere....

My husband has become increasingly uncomfortable with my being naked around my older son (he's 4 1/2). Now, please note, I do not parade around the house naked or in my underwear. I don't even wear bikinis anymore and you will rarely find me without a cover-up at the beach or pool unless I'm in my mommy suit. However, my husband is worried that we're sending the wrong signal to my son when he sees me naked. I just laugh gently at him. "What signal?" I asked. "He doesn't even know I don't have any clothes on. Trust me, we'll know when the time comes." And I'm not about to let my child go off to the bathroom alone in a public place. And if I have to pee, the boys come with me. What else am I to do?

Let's also not forget that on weekday mornings, the love of my life trots off to work and leaves me alone with two children to sometimes bathe, always dress, feed, pack lunches for, get coats on, get diaper bags and back packs and show and tell and lunch bags, coats, mittens, hats, toys for the car, keys, cell phone, and three bodies out the door on our way to school and work. Somewhere in the midst of all that, I'm supposed to shower, fix my hair, find clothes that match and aren't stained, and make sure I have on clean underwear and shoes. Granted I could get up before everyone else and do all that, but who the hell thinks that is fair? I don't. So, I have to lock the kids in the bathroom with me so I can get ready. If I didn't do that, I would get out of the shower to find my toddler stuck inside the chimney and my 4 1/2 year old dialing 911 to see if the police show up. I'd be standing there dripping wet in a towel with the local cops knocking on my door. Can we say arrested for child endangerment and indecent exposure?

Anyway, our short discussion about my sons possibly seeing mommy naked and being somehow scarred for life got me thinking about sex and my children and how to talk about sex when the time comes. Sure, pretty soon, I'm going to have to suck it up and get ready before the boys get up. But by then, they can watch cartoons (and get all those sexual innuendos running through their spongy little brains) while I get ready. And yes, I have a while before the birds and bees talk, maybe not as long as we did a generation ago, but a while. Plus I have two boys so luckily my talk might be a little shorter and a little easier, but I don't know. Being a woman, I think often times we sell our men short by letting them off with a shorter less meaningful conversation about sex.

As I was thinking about this topic, I realized that teaching your children about sex encompasses so much more than just the birds and the bees talk. Sex has several definitions: first, it means male or female--as in what sex is your baby? Second, it means the actual act of intercourse. Third, it means anything from applying gender labels to advertising body lotion. There is sex in music, movies, books, billboards, tv shows, advertisements. Sex is everywhere. So how do you talk to your child about sex?

Think about sex in broader terms. What do you want your children to know about the way men and women relate to each other in general? What do you want your children to know about intimacy? Intimacy is critical, because often people confuse intimacy with sex. What do you want your children to know about how they should be treated by a man or woman they care about? What do you want your children to know about gender? Is it an important distinction? Why? What do you want them to know about sex that will later translate into how they think men and women should be treated at church, in the workplace, in social situations? What do they think about rape? About child molestation? About pornography? About sexual slavery? These are all weighty and important topics.

First, I think you wait as long as you can to talk about sex at all. There is no need to bring up a topic that your child will neither understand or appreciate. My 4 1/2 year old knows that there are boys and girls in his class, but only recently has he begun saying "I don't want to play with girls" or "I don't want to invite any girls over here to play." And I honestly think he's just repeating somebody else. He certainly plays his heart out with any little girls he is around at church or on the playground or who come visit us with their parents. Obviously we aren't going to have a discussion about child pornography and the child-slave trade when my sons are 7 and 10. But you bet your boots we're going to talk about Stranger Danger and good/bad touching and public safety.

Secondly, I think the way you talk about sex is how you act about sex. Do you let your kids see you kissing your spouse? (I don't mean a major mack session, I just mean a hello/goodbye smooch or something else equally benign.) Is that okay with you? For some it is and some it isn't. How do you and your spouse treat each other or tease each other? Are there "daddy jobs" and "mommy jobs" at your house? Why are those routines labeled as such? Is it personal preference? Is it a joke? We're equal opportunity diaper changers and garbage taker outers and kitchen cleaner uppers and bathtime givers around here, for example. When your children slay you with the, "oh but I'm a boy and only boys are allowed to play with this toy/in this room" do you let it go? Do you laugh and go in anyway? Do you say okay, but talk about it later? I do work, but I don't pay our bills. I often find myself excusing my husband's absence to my kids by saying, "Daddy is working to make money so you and I can go do x and y today." Now all by itself that's an innocuous statement. But it would be an easy extrapolation for my child to think only daddies make money to pay bills. Not true. So where do we go from here? I am not passing judgment on any of these moments. Lord knows I fall short all the time. But I am pointing out how easy judgments about sex creep up and bite you on the ass in every day life at home.

Finally, and this is the fun part, what am I going to say about sex to my boys? Heaven help me I don't know. Yes, I Marla, am speechless. I just don't know how much is too much and how much is too little. I know I'm going to have to undo a lot of false information for my boys that the world will put out there for them. That alone would keep me going for hours. I also know it's going to be up to me as the mother to allow their father to guide them through the delicate process of manhood. I also know that how I allow myself to be treated by their father, by their grandfathers, by their friends and other men I know socially or men I see on the street sets precedent and examples for what they will expect other women to act like. Boy won't they be surprised? I also know that what I say about other women will not fall on deaf ears. We women are harder on ourselves than other men. We cannot allow our propensity for judgment color what our children think of other mommies, other girls, other women they know and meet.

Oh I wish this parenting thing was easier. Why do people who know these things already never tell you how hard it is going to be? I guess that's why I've always been so loud about sex in general. Why would you act like you don't know anything about sex, or that it shouldn't be talked about, when everyone is doing it and we all have the same issues? I don't know why we let issues bully us around. But we do. So there you have it. There's my take on sex and children. I'm sure as my boys get older, much to their chagrin, I will have lots more to say about it. Meanwhile, I'll just keep saying colorful things that add a little more spice to the afternoon barbeque.