Election 2016: The Red White and Blue Lining

I teared up this morning as I propped my four-year-old daughter on my knee so she could help me vote. Her tiny hand gently held my arm as I filled in the bubble to cast my vote for the first female president.  I wanted-no, needed her to be a part of making history.  As I then watched her feed the ballot into the machine, I could fight the tears no longer and I let them flow.

 

My daughter and I making history!

We have always been a very civic minded family, at five weeks old; my husband carried my son in his arms as he cast his vote on Election Day.  Every year since we have brought our kids to the polls along with us and added to the album we call “Voting with Daddy Year By Year”.  However, not all in this country share this passion.  Just because our citizens have the right to vote, it doesn’t mean that they have been exercising that right.

voting-with-daddy

 

This year the election has been emotionally draining for each and every citizen.  I was told that the AMA actually put out special guidelines for health care professionals to treat the resulting anxiety produced by the campaigns.  However, if we take the time to look beyond the stress we see that something very important has happened- people have passionately backed a candidate in a most wholehearted and democratic way.  Democracy, at its finest, has been achieved.

 

This country was founded on the basis that every citizen has the right to elect the official of their own choosing. The person who secures the majority of these votes wins the position.  People died in wars fought to establish and maintain this very idea.  Brilliant men debated and labored to form a Constitution which holds these ideas as law of our land.

 

This election has been teeming with more passion and dedication by our citizens than one can recall in recent history.  Social media is bursting with pictures and posts of mothers, brothers, friends, sisters, millennials, elderly, African American, white, male, female, transgender, gay, straight, bi, priests, nuns, and rabbinical voters- you name it, EVERYONE in every group has been driven to the polls to vote.

 

I have especially seen parents bringing their young ones to the polls.  As stated, we have visited the polls yearly and our children have been the only ones under the age of 18 in the room.  This year, however, parents are making it a point to vote as a family; thus, passing on the vital importance of the idea of democracy to the next generation.  We had once become somewhat complaisant with our right to vote, but no longer do we feel this way.  A new life has been restored to the idea that our vote matters, that without it, we would not be the incredible and free democratic society that our founders fought for.

 

Everyone agrees that this has been an incredibly challenging and particularly emotional election year.  Some even say that, as a result, the cavernous divide in this country is irreparable.  I will argue that there is a silver lining- the entire country has been filled with such a passion for our democratic right to vote; that the next generation is already being taught how important it is to maintain and continue this right; that we will never become complaisant again!

 

 

Parenting Is Scarier Than Halloween

It’s Halloween, be safe in the knowledge that being a parent far scarier than anything else you will see on the streets this evening.

Man vs Mommy

The first time you meet my mom, she will undoubtedly disclose my most embarrassing moments within the fist thirty seconds of saying “hello.”  Among her arsenal of mortifying stories from my childhood are two that reflect what an absolute, total coward I am.  The first- when I was three my Dadie (grandpa) took my brother and me to see E.T.; the minute that freakish little alien came onto the screen I began screaming and would not stop until I was carried out of theater.  And the second- two years later- at five, the parent of a friend took me to see Ghostbusters, despite my mother’s protests.  Mom had to sleep in my room, holding my hand, for seven months following this blessed event.

My overwhelming fear of horror movies continues to this day; even now I will cover my eyes when I see a preview for The Ring or The…

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I See You, My Ghost Child

“Mom, I don’t want to be a princess for Halloween anymore, I want to be a ghost!”

 

This declaration hits me like a punch to the gut.  I mean, Lady can be whatever she wants for Halloween; the costume itself has absolutely nothing to do with my reaction to this seemingly innocuous statement.  It’s the use of the word “ghost” that makes me cringe and break out into a cold sweat.

 

“You’re already like a little ghost,” I think to myself, sadly.

 

Did you know, dear readers, that I have a daughter too?  I write about Man all of the time — hell, my blog is called MANvsMommy, but I so rarely write about his sister, my sweet Lady who is 18 months his junior.

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My fiery Lady

I did not coin the term “ghost child” myself, but I am quite familiar with it.  This term refers to the siblings of children with special needs.  Their parents are often required to dedicate so much time to their brother or sister that they are forced to be more independent than they should be at their age.

 

Lady has an unbelievable maturity about her.  It is unclear if this is because she is a girl, she was born this way, or because her older brother requires so much more of my time that she is forced to be this way.  It’s likely a mix of all of these factors.  However, there are times when as a four-year-old, she acts as such.  You can see her independence failing her and her need to have her mom’s attention pushes itself to the forefront.  Who can blame her?  She, like Man, is simply a child who needs her mom.

 

I want you to know, Lady, that I see you.

 

I see how amenable and flexible you are because you understand how much I struggle with Man some days.

 

I gaze at you happily eating all of your dinner, no matter what I put in front of you, because you see how much time I spend trying to get Man to eat.

 

I feel how happy you are just to sit next to me, no matter what I’m doing, just to be in my presence.

 

I see you pick out your clothes and get dressed and tidy your toys without me even asking.

 

I watch you let your brother go first… every time, just to keep the peace.

 

I am in awe of how long you can sit and entertain yourself, because I am otherwise occupied.

 

I am grateful for the smile you put on my face every day.

 

I feel incredibly guilty that there are some days when your needs come last.  I hope one day to be able to make this up to you.

 

I am struck by your uncanny ability to know just when I need a random hug or a secretly whispered, “I love you, mommy.”

 

I try my hardest to carve out special time just for the two of us, though probably not often enough.

 

I admire your independence.  At four, you are more independent than I, your parent, will ever be.

 

I see your sadness when I have to leave you to take Man to one of his many appointments.  I hear you question why you don’t have as many appointments with mommy as he does. I listen to you beg to go with us and not quite understand why you have to stay home.

 

I watch your happiness every day. Absolutely nothing gets you down.  Luckily, you have inherited this trait from your dad.

 

I take notice of the words you choose to use when you try and help soothe your brother from a total meltdown.  The care you take of him is exceptional.  Your understanding of his challenges, without truly understanding them, is nothing close to miraculous.

 

manandmillie

Her love for her brother is fierce.

 

Your inner and outer beauty makes me shine.

 

Your, “whatever Man can do, I can do too” attitude makes me joyous.

 

The little girl that you are now and the woman that I know you will become one day makes me proud to be your mother.

 

I glow as I watch the command you have over every room you walk into.  You are larger than life in a most innocent and purposeful way.

 

I can promise you, my Lady, that I will always be there for you no matter what—that when you truly need me, I will be by your side, as I am for your brother in his times of need.

 

I see you.  I see all of you.  You are not a ghost; you are my daughter and I love you.

 

mommyandmillie2

Silliest girl EVER

Parenting: One Part Helplessness, One Part Hope, And The Rest, Blind Faith

“Parenting doesn’t come with a manual.”

 

When I hear this sentiment uttered, it evokes an image of an elderly grandmother as she glides past a mother and her prostrated, screaming child in an aisle at Target.  The child is having a full blown meltdown and the mother, exasperated, is attempting to do everything in her power to just get that child up off the floor and the hell out of the store.  The grandmother, an “all knowing” smile on her face, chuckles to herself as she walks by while whispering this statement to the mom.

 

milliemeltdown

Did someone order a massive public meltdown?

We have all been there.  You know—those terrible and terrifying moments of parenting when all you can think is, “I have no idea what I am doing, but I hope to God it’s the right thing.”

 

I recently wrote a post called  https://manvsmommy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/adhd-how-my-son-is-already-failing-the-first-grade/.  Many people commented, but even more people sent me private messages or approached me personally.  The circumstances of each person’s story varied, but the feelings shared were all the same, those of utter and complete helplessness.

 

“I work on her reading every night with her, but she’s not improving at all.”

 

“I’ve taken him to every feeding specialist there is, but he’s just not eating well.”

 

“I tried a new psychologist yesterday, but she seemed like all of the rest.”

 

“I tried a new medicine, but her asthma attacks are still so severe.”

 

The desperation in their accounts is palpable; it is laced with a sense of helplessness and a desire for a renewed sense of hope.  As parents, we try everything for our children. No stone goes unturned.  No book, pamphlet, webinar, or podcast is missed.   We are willing to listen to people screaming from atop their soapboxes if it means that there might be some answer to the challenges we face with our kids.

 

Feeling helpless as a parent has become as much a part of me as feeling like a successful one.  I do all I can for my children; I am trying my absolute hardest—but at times it seems insufficient.  I can read the books, study them, highlight the important passages, and then put their suggestions into play.  I can talk to the doctors, see new doctors, and take suggestions from other parents in similar situations, but nothing appears to change.   At one point, we just have to accept that we have done all we can do and let our faith do the rest.

 

Parenting is one part helplessness, one part hope, and the rest, blind faith.

 

As helpless as I feel, I have faith.  I believe that although I might not see immediate change, the fact that I am doing everything I can is enough.  I know that my heart is in the right place, it is with my children every day.  I understand that I will not feel helpless forever, and that there will be times where I feel completely ahead of the parenting game.  I trust that my best is good enough and that as long as I keep fighting things will continue to keep moving in the right direction.

 

The periods of time when I feel most helpless are also those that require me to have the most hope and the largest amount of blind faith.  I do not do it alone.  I count on my husband, my family and my support network.  It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child; it takes a village to raise a parent.

ADHD: How My Son Is Already Failing The First Grade

*I will preface this blog post by stating that I adore Man’s teachers, his school and our school district.  They have been completely supportive since the day we began our journey.

 

The phone rings and I see the number of Man’s school pop up.

 

My heart begins to beat faster, my chest tightens, and an overall feeling of complete anxiety fills my body.

 

“What happened now?” I think

 

I toy with the idea of ignoring the call.  Maybe if I don’t answer it the problem will go away, magically disappear into the vastness of my voicemail, left to be dealt with at a later time when I feel more up to it.  That thought is shoved out quickly and replaced with, “I have to deal with this right away, or I might never call back.”

 

“Mrs. R, this is Mrs… the assistant principal.”  I wonder why she even bothers to introduce herself at all anymore; she calls more often then my best friend or some family members.

 

“Man is…”

 

That blank is often filled with information on some physical altercation or some refusal to do his work all day, thus a removal of some important activity has occurred.

 

This same information comes almost daily in the form of e mails from his teacher, the school psychologist, or the special education teacher.

(*I will add that all of these women are lovely ladies dedicated to their jobs and helping Man. He does not make it easy.)

 

Man has ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  Many people are misinformed, or just have some preconceived notion of what ADHD is, so here is a very brief description-

 

ADHD is NOT:

Just being hyperactive and unable to sit still.

A behavior problem.

Caused by poor parenting and lack of discipline.

Magically treated by medication.

Something small children just outgrow.

Treated with sports or other physical activities.

Just a child being lazy.

 

ADHD IS:

The inability to regulate one’s emotions.

An inability to identify and pick up on general social cues.

An inability to filter out the input around you, therefore, causing extreme distractibility.

An inability to control impulses.

Abnormal levels of activity.

Difficulty organizing and staying on task.

 

This is just a brief overview of some of the characteristics associated with this disorder and a child can have some, many, or all of the characteristics.  Additionally, any one of the symptoms may be more present and cause greater challenges than others.

 

Man has begun first grade this year and the transition has been TREMENDOUSLY difficult.  In kindergarten he was able to have some freedom to play and roam; the expectations were not as high.  Now, in first grade, he is expected to sit still for longer periods of time, do much more class work and pressures have increased one hundred fold.  In many ways, he is crumbling under these pressures.

 

When Man crumbles, it isn’t into pieces — it’s into a fine dust, a total and complete meltdown.

 

There are days when he absolutely just. Can’t. Sit. Still. long enough to do any work.  He refuses.  He must suffer the consequences accordingly.  There are rules of the classroom and he is given plenty of leeway, but at some point, something has to give and his work must be completed.  It often is not.

 

readpic

 

There are days when he calls out so often that no other student can get a word in edgewise.  He is so enthusiastic, so excited about the information in his head and he wants the class to know his thoughts.  When Man is an active participant, which is every day, he is truly an active participant.  But you can’t cut people off; you must give others a turn.  You have to raise your hand and wait patiently to be called on, as do all the other eager and smart students in the class.  He often cannot.

 

There are social situations that Man seems to perceive or interpret incorrectly.  He often uses his words once, but then if a student does not immediate do as he has asked, he will use force to get what he wants.  My sweet child (and I don’t say this because I am blind, he truly is the sweetest, most sensitive child you will meet) sees this as a slight or an insult, has absolutely no impulse control and goes right to pushing or hitting.  He uses the method of a child half of his age to get what he wants.  It happens so fast, so quickly that even when someone tries to stop it, it often does not happen in time.  He feels terrible when these events occur. Yet he cannot control them.

 

The phone calls and e mails begin to flood in.  Man had a difficult day; he refused to do his work all day.  He comes off the bus looking neutral.

 

“What was the best part of your day, my love?”  I ask, praying for something positive.

 

“Seeing my friends at lunch.”

 

“What was the worst part of your day?” the silent prayers beg that he doesn’t burst into tears for the third day in a row.

 

“They took away recess.  I had to go to the assistant principal again.  Bad kids go to the assistant principal.”

 

“You have to try and do your work,” I explain, “I know it’s hard to concentrate.  And you’re not bad.  You’re having some challenges and we are going to work it out, I promise.”  I make a promise I’m not sure I can keep.

 

“I can’t focus, mom,” he cries, hysterically, “Help me.  Help me be able to concentrate.”

 

Other days the conversation goes more like this:

 

“Man, I got a call that you hit someone today.  You KNOW you can’t do that.  You MUST respect personal space.”

 

“I know mom, but they…”

 

The explanation as to what the child did is irrelevant.  What is relevant is that in his mind, he truly believes he was slighted in some way.  Or, in some situations, he uses his words to try and mediate once, and then the impulse control takes over and he just takes care of the problem physically.  This is UNACCEPTABLE.  I imagine a long list of parents who assume my kid is an asshole, a bully, an undisciplined, unmanageable, jerk who just goes around hitting and kicking.  I know I would be thinking the same thing.  However, this is just NOT the case.  He does use force, and it’s a huge challenge, but it’s not because he’s a bully or just a mean and nasty kid.  It is because he literally has no impulse control.  He has no impulse control in many other areas as well (think calling out in the class, taking someone’s turn during gym or music class, etc.) it’s just that in this area, other kids get hurt.  I want to call all of these parents, apologize to every one of them.  Give an explanation of the situation.  I’m not sure that would do anything.

 

I want to help my sweet boy.  I want him to feel smart, for he is truly brilliant.  I want him to feel socially accepted, for he is the nicest, kindest, most loving child.  I want him to feel happy every day, because that is what a six year old deserves.  I’m not sure I know how to do that right now and it terrifies me.

 

I wish society understood just how difficult this disorder truly is.  I want parents to understand that it’s not that our children are undisciplined or lazy; they actually work twice as hard as a typical child to function day to day.  I want schools to get their act together and begin to design programs that work for children who are wired this way.  Why is my child made to feel less than every day because he cannot fit into the mold of the current educational expectations?  We have to do more for children as a whole.

 

man1stday

A smile for the first day of first grade

Hi, my name is Laura, and I’m a Mombieolic.

Hi, my name is Laura, and I’m a Mombieolic.

 

Mombieolic noun– a mother who knowingly stays up well past an appropriate bedtime in order to enjoy copious amounts of alone time.

 

Like many moms, I stay up until ungodly hours of the night- or the wee hours of the morning depending on how you want to look at it- despite severe exhaustion.  Yes, well past the time that Jimmy Kimmel has signed off and is already happily in dreamland, no doubt snoring loudly alongside his own wide awake Mombieolic wife; here I am, vice grip on my Netflix remote ready to start my sixth concurrent episode of Game of Thrones.  It vaguely resembles a throwback to my college days when the mere thought of going out for the evening before 11PM was appalling.  Um, except now I’m like 20 years and two children older and I’m not leaving my house to go socialize with friends, I’m sitting here, in complete and total silence.

mombieimage

 

During this phase of the day, my body aches, and my lids are like little lead weights careening together until I forcefully pry them open.  The blood vessels in my eye balls are so raw that I look like I have either just hot boxed my car with Snoop Dog or that I have literally been up for about 19 hours.  It takes all of my effort to lift what feels like a 30 pound ice cream filled spoon into my mouth, but I get it there, damnit!  Why?  Because I’m a classic Mombieolic!  I. Will. Stay. Awake… Despite the fact that my body is begging me for sleep.

 

Why, you may ask, would I willingly treat myself like a prisoner in Guantanamo?   Why won’t I merely just go to bed at a normal hour?  I’ve just had an incredibly long and tiring day and it appears that tomorrow- as I will every day for the foreseeable decade or two; then why not be kind to the body I have and just go to sleep? Simple- Because this is MY TIME!  It’s the only time in the house when there is complete and total peace.

 

I can almost, allllmost, pretend that I’m alone on relaxing beach vacation.  I can close my eyes- but not for too long because then I will most certainly be overcome by sleep- and picture myself on a chaise lounge, the warmth of the tropical air, the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, the sight of the well oiled cabana boy bringing me fresh fruit and tropical drinks… Shit- get it together, Laura, and open your eyes before you begin to doze and the drool begins to pool on your pillow!

 

The house is so quiet.  There’s no one calling for “waaaaater” or yelling at each other.  The phone isn’t ringing.  The dog isn’t barking at the neighborhood children as they all play and chatter in the street.  There is no bubble bubble bubble, bubble bubble guppies, playing in stereo throughout the house on three different tv’s.  No, the only noise is the sound of me opening another package of Tate’s extra crispy chocolate chip cookies and the loud, delicious crunch they make as I chew them orgasmically, alone!

 

 

I can watch whatever I want.  No one is asking what I’m watching or if they can watch with me.  No one is grabbing the remote from me with abnormally sweaty little hands.  I don’t have to compromise between sports or Blaze And The Monster Machines.  I can put on the Ross and Rachel breakup episode of Friends, watch it four times in a row, and no one will know or be able to comment sarcastically about how cute and idiotic I am.

 

I can eat the really good secret snacks.  Now, there are snacks that we buy for the kids (that we wouldn’t ever consider even allowing touching our pallets) and snacks that we all nosh on- but what the kids don’t know, is that there are snacks that I buy just. For. Me!!  I remove these snacks from their super secret hiding place and eat them in the wee hours of the night without risk of them being grabbed at, drooled on, licked, or tasted by others. Call me selfish, but these are my snacks.  Mine! Miiiiiiiiine!

 

Sometimes I will go online and shop.  Yes, there is nothing like slowly and methodically browsing for new clothes in the darkness of a sleeping household.  It’s almost as good as if you had one of those personal shoppers who bring the clothes to your home try on and choose at your leisure and your convenience.  Or what I imagine that would be like…  Man isn’t suddenly behind me, grabbing at the mouse, pressing buttons, and thus magically emptying my shopping cart and replacing it with a game of Ninja Star Wars or some shit like that, all in all, effectively ruining my peaceful home shopping experience.

 

So you see; being a Mombieolic is not a choice, I am powerless over my late night alone time.  Like all addictions, every morning I, drag my exhausted, consciously sleep deprived ass out of bed and make a promise this past night was the VERY LAST night and that tonight I will without a doubt get to bed early.  Tonight, I will close my eyes and go to sleep the second that the kids go to bed.  I will give up my alone time and replace it with much needed, healthy sleep habits!

 

Fellow Mombieolics, there will be a Mombieolics Anonymous meeting tonight, in my bed, at 1AM.

Will Someone Tell Me How I Can Do More?

I spent this past weekend away, while my husband remained home with the kids.  While away, yet another confusing, senseless mass shooting occurred at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.  When I arrived home this evening, my husband and I traded stories and caught up on each other’s weekends.  The shooting was near the bottom of the list of things we discussed.  I noted our numbness, our easy acceptance, our lack of surprise and shock.  We discussed it with banality.  There was a deafening tone of acceptance that this was no longer a unique occurrence.  It was discussed with such dullness that one would never have guessed that we were talking about what is now the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

 

Something feels different this time.  Something inside is not sitting right.

 

I haven’t shed a tear or watched hours of coverage into the night, something I have often done during past tragedies.
Following both Sandy Hook (Man AND Lady Vs Mommy. Written in Memory of Those Murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary) and Paris (Bombs of Kindness) I immediately wrote reaction pieces- my sadness and fears emptying from my heart and into posts.  This time, my heart is silent.

 

I haven’t changed my FB profile picture, or posted any memes in memoriam.

 

pulese

I haven’t dedicated any posts containing heartfelt sentiments and prayers for the victims and their families.  (Though I did share one post on my private page that I found summed up the impact of the tragedy on the LGBT community rather nicely.)

 

I haven’t read article after article soaking up any information that could possibly help it all make sense.

No calls to action or petitions have been signed or shared.  I have barely even attempted to shoot down angry trolls with my witty and condescending rhetoric.

 

Nothing.  Not. One. Damn. Thing.

 

Why, I ask myself?  Why can’t I hop on the grieving bandwagon?

 

It’s because in doing so, I feel like a fraud.

 

With every passing tragedy, I talk the talk, but the truth is I have no idea how to walk the walk.  I am so tired of absolutely nothing changing, nothing getting better.  I cannot make my profile picture, a temporary, memorial meme; if that is the only thing I am willing to do to bring about change.  Expressing outrage via FB and other social media outlets isn’t doing a damn thing, and I want to do something.

 

What more can I do?  I have signed all of the petitions.  I make phone calls to my congresswoman, whom already supports a ban on assault weapons.  I vote in all of the elections for representatives who share my beliefs.  But really, this does not seem like much.

 

I, like all of you, am outraged.  I am disgusted that so many hundreds of adults and children have died, and likely hundreds more will have to die, for people to understand that guns ARE part of the problem.  I am confused by how people think that hate and bigotry is not at the root of all of these mass shootings.  I am exhausted of the finger pointing and the bickering among politicians and political parties shutting down any chance for change.  I am sickened by the divide in this country that grows deeper with every tragedy.

 

These atrocities will continue to happen, and, unfortunately, I feel that part of the onus has fallen on us, the citizens of this country.  I implore you, how can I help more?  Please, share in the comments section any ideas on how we, as individual citizens, can do more then just share FB posts.  It is up to every one of us to do something, or none of us have the right to express outrage and sadness when something like this occurs again.