Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!

New Year's Eve. The designated night to officially turn the page on your life. Out with the old, in with the new, new chapters, new resolutions, new goals. If an on-again-off again-relationship with Weight Watchers spanning 10 years has taught me anything, it's that you have a better chance of succeeding if you make a public declaration of your intentions so your friends and family can support and not enable.  So... in 2012 I resolve:

1.  To lose weight. The weight of my worry is literally pushing me down deeper into this chair as I type. I worry about Charlotte and whether my screwed up body image will be contagious. I worry about her friends picking on her because she's a giant, but can't do anything about it because after all, she is a giant. I worry that I'm not doing something I should have to make her childhood more rewarding, fulfilling, the time she looks back on as her favorite time ever. I worry about Henry. Every moment of every day. Could we be doing something we haven't thought about? How will he change as he enters the Early Childhood program in the school district? Will he be teased? Will he cry? Will he fall when he gets tired because his brain forgets to pick up his right foot? How many stitches will he need when that does happen? Will stitches be enough? I worry about Aaron. Is he happy enough? Fulfilled? Challenged? How can I make that happen for him?  I worry about the normal stuff too.... will the bills get paid, will I have enough yarn to finish this scarf in the same dyelot, will the front porch EVER stay clean for more than 24 hours....  I have that constant brain chatter that never shuts off and that worry wears on my face, sliding my cheeks lower toward my chin. It wears on my back, in the constant curve of concern. It weighs me down.  In 2012, I resolve to weigh less. To breathe more. To not worry about everything all the time, but just about the important things at the appropriate times. To not let the weight of the world join me on the scale, and ultimately, to weigh less.

2.  To expect the unexpected. It's all about living outside of the comfort zone this year. Trying something new, pushing the bar, surprising myself by what I can accomplish. I ask for so much from Henry and even Aaron and Charlotte. Now it's my turn to step up.  I have a couple things on the calendar so far, but all ideas are welcome. Especially if there's something you've been eager to try but don't think you have the guts to do it alone. Call me. I'm there.  

Those are the big ones...  (insert "that's what she said" reference here). I want to give more back, be a better listener, be more patient, keep a cleaner house, connect more with family... and who knows, that could all happen.  But one thing at a time people. I have to save something for next year! 

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and have Happy New Year!!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Game on.

Here in Wisconsin November 15th marks the start of the recall of Governor Walker. The citizens of our fair state have 60 days to gather 540,000 signatures of eligible voters who are interested in seeing our fair Governor in the unemployment line. I will be gathering signatures, manning booths, doing everything I can to see this happen, and honestly believe we will succeed in forcing a recall vote. 

Now here's the thing, I believe that we get what we pay for, and he won the popular vote in 2010, and that there should be consequences, right? I get that. But, between running for the position and actually fulfilling his duties, somewhere, something went horribly wrong. If Walker played by the rules, I'd be disappointed in his performance and his decisions, but I wouldn't feel like the rug was pulled out from under me while someone punched me in the gut and peed on my leg all at the same time. It's the changing of the rules, ignoring federal regulations, the "my way or the high way" attitude I take exception with.

In my world, he is changing the structure of Wisconsin's Early Intervention Birth to Three services, the vehicle for which Henry receives his weekly PT and OT that expand his world. Eligibility for these services is becoming more restrictive, and Medicare funds that supplement county budgets to provide these services for needy families are getting decimated, with wide reaching impact. Private insurance doesn't cover anything deemed "Developmental", including PT and OT, so the only reimbursement they get for all of the billing they do is from children who are on the state's Badgercare program. If we had a private insurance mandate inclusive of all special needs kids, Birth to Three budgets everywhere would find another revenue stream without changing any benefits, but for now, parents have to make their case for why their kid needs therapy, and they are about to need to be a lot more convincing. Governor Walker is changing eligibility requirements, federally supported eligibility requirements that are restricting enrollment and reporting to the extent that federal funds may be in jeopardy. That doesn't matter to him. He doesn't want people like Henry to milk the system, to take advantage of free services that are only available for the first three years of their life. Interestingly enough, he didn't use his disdain of toddlers as an anthem in his campaigning, but that is absolutely one of the first casualties of his biennial budget.

I'm horrified at his approach to public education. I'm sick with worry about his promise to not enforce the Affordable Care Act in Wisconsin. I'm deeply discouraged by his lack of respect for career professionals in favor of appointing unqualified children of donors in high income positions. But the reason I protest, the reason I advocate, network, and ultimately want to recall this ignorant man is my blue eyed dimpled little boy and the thousands of others like him who expect more from us, from me. I promised Henry, and myself, to do everything I could to make sure he had every tool at his disposal that any typically developing child would, and our dear Governor is taking those tools away from me. Well. That's not acceptable. November 15th, we start the process to take those tools back.

I hope to have petitions with me pretty much all of the time. I am working with Joanne Vogt in Plain to canvas and collect signatures in the 53577. This is too important to just let someone else do it. Game on.

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and join me, won't you?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I don't believe in a lot of things, but other things I believe in so strongly that the idea that they are up to chance, that it's all indeed random, brings tears to my eyes so quickly I can't breathe.  Today I learned another lesson to reinforce the idea that we will meet the people we are supposed to meet, when we are supposed to meet them, and absolutely everyone has a lesson to share if I'm willing to listen.

Here's my admission....It's easy to fight for kids, for children who have special needs to make sure they have schools that accomodate, nurture, support and a community that accepts, includes.  It's not easy, that's the wrong word.... it's definable. I know what that looks like, what it feels like. What I struggle with is what that looks like for the adult child. The child who has grown into an adult body but who themselves remain at risk. In need. But, with the ability to procreate, to themselves have children. What happens when a special needs child grows into a special needs adult and becomes a special needs parent? And then, what happens when that child has their own special needs? In this scenario, who's the caregiver? Who's the "responsible adult"? 

My heart breaks today for a mother who couldn't. Who just couldn't for a million reasons....  but couldn't.  My heart breaks for a society that accepts her failure and judges her as lacking, not contributing in a world she didn't understand. My heart breaks for the daughter of this woman who didn't grasp the significance of medical conditions that are rarely fatal if properly maintained, but today my heart breaks for a mother who's burying her baby girl.

And I don't understand how we could let this happen. I'm so angry and so hurt and feel so guilty. I feel so ignorant of what kinds of services are available to families like hers, and in my self-righteous indignance I demand change. What kind of change... I have no idea. I don't think that throwing money at the problem is the answer. That people with disabilities are given their SSI check and expected to manage that money, and the money for their household, just baffles me. Where are the supported living homes that are not just for the individual but for the family? I know how much I depend on my friends and family, my community to help me work through things, get through things, every single day. What kind of support network did she have? She was raising two children on her own, with financial assistance sure, but little else. Why is this the best we have to offer her?

Today it's easy to identify how much I had to learn. I just wish it didn't have to come at such high of a cost. I'm so sorry... heart broken open... listening... learning. 

hug your kids/partner/pet a little tighter today, and the next time you see someone who fits this story remember the words of Plato and "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Buddha Baby on Brain Science

I know that Henry is brilliant. I know he will be fine. There's not a doubt in my mind he will have a deeply satisfying life and will shape the world around him in unimaginable ways. I know this. But I'm the mom, so I play every 'what if' scenario in my head and project futures that are entirely dependant on what I'm doing right now. Everything from the daily therapies to what he eats for breakfast to why potty training will never happen... don't get me started on weaning. The rational side of my brain knows that he will eventually be potty trained, he won't nurse forever, high fructose corn syrup won't destroy his potential and that the daily therapies matter. I know that. That's the left side of my brain, the constant chatter, the inner dialogue, the detailed language I use to project, study, organize, predict. That's the left side. Cause and effect. Linear. Detailed. Left.

But that's the side of Henry's injury, the part he lost in his stroke. So what does his brain sound like?  How do right-brained people think?  Yesterday I found myself mesmerized by a Ted Talk (  seriously check them out if you haven't before!) by Jill Bolte Taylor who authored "My Stroke of Insight". Short version, she was a neuroscientist who had a stroke at 37, and recovered fully. In her Ted Talk, she spoke about the difference in right brain and left brain thought, and it gave me new insight into Henry's world. The right brain deals in the sensory experience of this very moment. It thinks in pictures, embracing the collage of sights, smells, sounds that make up the now. It learns through movement, it feels. The right brain focuses on the (quoting Seamus Haney here) "IT of it all". It connects us to the world around us, and each other as sentient beings in that world, on a cellular level. It is experience. It is sensation. Being one with the universe because no one told you not to be.

I know that Henry's left brain wasn't lost, that he will recover the same way Dr. Bolte Taylor did. I know that. What I secretly hope is that he will retain the ability to turn off the left side's brain chatter and embrace his predisposition to live in the moment. That he will be big, confused about how to squeeze the enormity of his being into the tiny body that is Henry. That he will experience life more fully somehow than those of with excessive mom brain chatter. That he won't project a thousand what if's, and instead just be present. Just Be.

As long as we're sharing secrets here, the other secret I have is that I can't do yoga without crying. I can't turn off my brain chatter and be. It terrifies me. I am far more comfortable living in the land of projections and hypothesis than the current reality.

So that's my challenge to myself. To be present. To embrace my right brain and turn off my left brain. To taste dinner instead of putting it on the table while running a bath, reviewing Charlotte's homework, listening to the news. To cry during yoga, but to be okay with that.

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and turn off the chatter. This moment will never come again.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Zombie Jesus

Charlotte is not remotely convinced that death is a permanent condition. She routinely asks the question that kids all over ask, one that is reinforced by the fact that she attends a parochial school. Why do some people get to come back to life and other people don't?  Trying to explain the whole "son of god" thing loses some steam in our home (which I'm sure has something to do with the delivery), and instead we change the subject as tactfully and swiftly as possible. Because she has watched The Simpsons: Treehouse of horrors more than the Passion of the Christ, a more rational explanation to her is that creatures that come back from the dead are zombies and the reason people don't come back after they die is because zombies scare little kids and great-grammy doesn't want to scare her. So.... enter zombie Jesus.


My 6 year old believes that Jesus and zombies both come back from the dead, so he must be king of the zombies. 

I take great pride in her reasoning and deduction, while realizing that she will not pass religion at St. Luke's if we let this idea gain any ground. I am currently actively soliciting any ideas to help my daughter not get expelled from first grade.

Aren't you glad I started blogging again?

Hug your partner/kid/pet and share your wisdom, Please! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Knit one, Run two: The rhythm of parenting

I have many guilty pleasures, but the top two by far, the two that always leave me feeling selfish and a little spoiled are knitting and running. In the winter I knit and in the summer I run. I love the rhythm of each, the consistency and how any tension in your body is obvious in your stitches the way it's equally apparent in your stride. Furious days get taken out on the road, or find half started projects completely unwoven. These pasttimes are my saving grace more often than I can imagine. They bring sanity to my day and connect me to something bigger and more ancient than myself. I love the idea of people running all over the world, running to tell a story, to share their river with a friend, to set a record, to get milk. I love that people have been running since time began, and that they each run to their own rhythm, in their own way.

Knitting does the same thing for me, in a weird way. The steady hand of a consistent tension, my own quiet rhythm, knowing that women (men too, I'm sure) have been tying these knots and weaving yarn into fabric for centuries in the same way I am, with the same stitches. I love it.

I mentioned that I was training for a half (Full hopefully!) marathon and my well-intentioned coworker said innocently, "Don't you feel so selfish when you run?" Which I didn't before she asked, but now, can't get out of my head. It's true, I prefer to run without children. Charlotte can ride her bike, but wants to take every side road to look for frogs, and I'm trying to hit a new personal best. Henry just screams. Likewise, it's very difficult to knit and parent. The objects I've knit while nursing certainly look like someone was distracted throughout their creation. My happiest knitting moments are popping in an audio book and getting lost in the story while counting stitches. Somewhat at odds with an ever-narrating 6 year old and a hands on toddler.

So what's a girl to do?  This week, I've logged 8 miles (so far!) with Henry in the jogstroller, safely strapped in and screaming at the top of his lungs. But, we live in the country, and I just turn the music up and push through. He keeps coming back for more though, walks right over to the stroller and climbs in; he just would prefer if I walked instead of ran, and gets pretty upset if I break my pace at all, or turn in a direction he's not expecting. It doesn't help with the selfish feeling, and probably just makes it a bit worse. Now, I'm trying to do something that I enjoy, when it's clear to every car driving by that my son is miserable, and I'm making him do it anyway, which certainly takes some of the enjoyment away.... sigh...

So if the question is "how to be a less selfish parent", is there an answer that isn't "don't run and don't knit?"  If there is, I'm not sure I want to hear it. And perhaps that's the wrong question altogether. Maybe the better question is "When am I going to be able to bring an even stride to my parenting?" When will I have a clean house, dinner on the table at six, well behaved and polite children who go to bed the first time they are asked... and make it all look seamless. 

Until that magical day comes, I'm going to keep running, and keep knitting. The kids can parent themselves for a bit.

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and make it a great day,


Friday, July 22, 2011

It is never too late to become what you might have been

Randomly, I get completely obsessed with quotes. I'd love to think it has something to do with where I am in life, something on a grand and completely philosophical scale. Am I moving forward? Accomplishing goals making progress, learning from my mistakes... that's what I think I mean by "moving forward" anyway. Or am I simply hanging in there? On some days, too many to count, just maintaining the status quo is no small feat. It's the days when I'm not hanging in there, when I feel myself actually slipping away that I find inspiration in the words of others who've already been on this journey. Abraham Lincoln said "The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time." I rely on these words to get me through the threat of being completely overwhelmed by Henry's unknown future. I don't have to worry about whether he'll be able to drive one day, if he'll have any kind of learning disorders, or even if he'll be able to cut his own food at the dinner table. Those are all so far down the road in that unknown future. Today, he's perfect, annoying his big sister in all of the quintessential little brother ways, behaving age appropriately with his possessive self-centered views. The future comes one day at a time, and today is amazing.

I saw a poster with the message "My Worth will not be dicated by a number." Not a quote that's attributed to anyone, but one that pulls me out of that backslide that the scale always sends me down. My worth will not be dicated by a number. That's not a poster, that's my life.

One of my favorites though, "It is never too late to become what you might have been." ~George Eliot.

George Eliot was a penname for Mary Ann Evans, who authored Silas Marner in the mid 1800's. A couple of things here... If you haven't read Silas Marner, it's a beautiful book. It's the story of a man who was wronged and found redemption through the eyes of his daughter, or the girl who he raised as his daughter. It's about a man who is rescued by the devotion of a child, who finds a new life and a creates a whole new world around that child and is better for it. It's heartache of love lost, lives ruined by assumptions and ignorance, and a child healing all of that only to grow up and cause her own pain. It's a lovely story. And, the author has her own story, choosing to hide her true identity to be taken seriously as a writer, and then coming out mid-way, making her own rules, demanding respect in an unyielding society. Pretty remarkable herself. So, today, if you find yourself in a backslide, think of Mary Ann Evans who couldn't follow her dreams because she was a woman, and how she refused to let that stop her. Think of Silas Marner who's life was redefined by a child, and how that happens to us all. It is never too late to become what you might have been. Be a dreamer, a writer, a poet. Be a scholar, an advocate, a parent. Be loved. Be honest. Be forgiving. It's never too late. 

Hug your partner/pet/child, and make it a great day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Becoming a mom

When I was growing up, I don't remember my mom sitting down, ever. She must have, at some point, but it seems like in every memory she's on her way somewhere, doing something. I never doubted her, I never questioned that she was the mom and everything was going to be better because she was on the job. She always made me feel safe, loved, brilliant, beautiful. In my eyes, she was always my mom first, and then somewhere down the line she must have been other things too... a woman, a wife, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend.

I wonder today, as a 35 year old mother of two, when my mother "became" a mother, or if it really was as innate as it seemed. Every day, I am still so hesitant that my kids get stuck with me as a mom. I mean, really? 1994 was yesterday. I remember sitting in my 1986 Plymouth TurboColt learning to drive stick in the high school parking lot so vividly. Waitressing third shift at Denny's and going out for breakfast the next morning, trying to stay awake long enough to watch the nail salon open. I still blast the radio to Salt N' Pepa and Katrina and the Waves, just not when Henry's sleeping in the back.

I think I expected the whole mom thing to just happen overnight. I mean, let's be honest here. I studied for the baby. I had lots of books that I thoroughly poured over in a quest to truly have the happiest baby on the block. I feel like I passed once I passed the first round, I was tossed into toddlerhood, then preschool, kindergarten, first grade (really?!?) and didn't have time or energy to study along the way. So, here I am, making it up as I go. Making our own rules and making all the mistakes that come along with that. Knowing that I will not be the mom that my mom was, and trying to come to terms with that. Hoping that at some point, I'll be graded on a generous and forgiving curve that rewards the big things and dismisses the dust on the shelves and the fact that I'm playing Tetris on my phone while nursing Henry to sleep. 

Love you mom, I still don't know how you did it. Then again, it was the 70's, there are a lot of unanswered questions about that particular decade.

Hug your partner/kid/pet and go make your own mistakes. We're all in this together and I need all of the help I can get!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Just the frosting, please

I made cinnamon rolls this morning and Charlotte licked every bit of frosting off hers before pronouncing that she didn't want the rest because "it's just not good." Now, truthfully, it's a cinnamon roll. There's nothing not good about it. Similarly though, I'm not going to force her to eat it because it also has zero nutritional value. I got her a bowl of strawberries instead, but here I sit, pondering the choices I'm making as a parent.

Is it wrong to just give your kids the "frosting" in life and not make them take the rough parts with it? I think I know the answer, I know what my gut says, but I'm interested what you think. I, like you, want to raise strong, confident people that contribute to society, give back to their community, are loyal friends and gentle listeners. I want to raise people that accept, that don't judge, that are kind-hearted and level-headed. How does that fit in to, when they are say, 6, making them do things they don't want to, or NOT making them do those things?  I don't think that Charlotte is spoiled, she certainly hears "no" enough, but I do think that we go out of our way to celebrate her because of all she does for Henry. So much of our lives revolve around him, and it's a constant balancing act. Partly, just being the big sister means accomodating the changing family needs. We didn't do much when Charlotte was two because, well, she was two. She doesn't remember that though and now, she feels like she has to give up so much because of Henry, which is true. I think that sibs of special needs kids all over are likely in the same boat. But does she realize that, or am I projecting that on her? Am I overcompensating by going out of my way to try and celebrate her when I should just be letting her figure out that this is her life now and she has to deal with it. And, now she's old enough that she plays the "you should do this because I'm a great big sister" card. Slippery I giving her frosting without making her eat the cake?  Or better yet, is there intrinsic value in the cake alone, will eating the "cake" in life make her stronger, more patient, more likely to be kind-hearted and level-headed, everything I hope she will be? 

For now, I have an extra, frosting-free cinnamon roll with my name on it. Today, and likely in the future, I will eat my daughter's cake.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beginning to Blog

On the direct orders from my friends on facebook, here I am, starting a blog. I make no guarantees as to how often I will update it, I only promise to do my best. Today, I'm thinking about six word memoires. Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to tell a complete story in six words. His story? "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn."  My heart aches every time I read that. We talk alot about our six word memoires in my household, knowing that they change as we change. Once upon a time, my memoire was "I'll be there in a minute."  Always running, always on my way, always in motion... and that was when I only had Charlotte! I'm not sure what mine would be today... something profound?
"Ask questions. Accept answers. Practice gratitude."
Something silly? "Unmopped floors breed practical science experiments."
How about "having children means never sleeping in."
Today, my six word memoire is simple. "Grocery store hugs make me happy". Because they do.  I'd love to hear your six word memoire. Check out, for inspiration.

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and make this a great day!