Friday, December 26, 2008

Shoeless in Iraq

As everyone knows, George Bush was attacked by an Iraqi journalist toting two lethal shoes. How the man, Al-Zeidi, was able to smuggle those shoes into the press conference is still under investigation, however authorities suspect that he might have done so by a method known to many as "wearing the shoes". Apparently, he did not have to enter the room through airport security.

In an official statement issued by the Iraqi government, Al-Zeidi stated that the attack was planned by the infamous terrorist, Al-Maliki. Al-Zeidi's family is claiming that his confession was coerced. One would tend to believe Al-Zeidi's family, as one would have to wonder exactly how much planning would be necessary in order to throw a pair of shoes halfway across a room at a nearly 6' tall man. However, according to the new Iraqi government, this was a planned and unnerving attack.

Really, people, we need to take this very seriously.

Apparently, during the elaborate planning of the attack, Al-Maliki and Al-Zeidi debated the best type of shoe for the attack. First discussed was the use of military boots. However, Al-Zeidi decided against using his boots for that purpose. When asked why, Al-Zeidi responded, "No... these boots were made for walking."

Stilettos were discussed as well, however, neither Al-Maliki nor Al-Zeidi could produce a dress that matched. Sandals were considered too flimsy and unable to cause enough damage. Flip flops? Pahh. Those aren't even shoes!

See. This attack did take some planning.

Where will this all lead? Well, according to top secret sources, there is a joint effort between the Iraqi government and the CIA to find this new cell of terrorists, known now as the "Slipper Cell", equal in infamy only to the "Loafer Cell", which was a threat earlier, but due to a lazy disposition, they never actually achieved any of their goals. Neither cell is as dangerous as the "Stiletto Cell", which is made up of pure young women willing to die in order for their soles to enter into the highest level of heaven, also known in fashion circles as "Paris".

With fashion implications like these, it's easy to assess that this cell most certainly has ties to Italy.

One of the scariest aspects of this attack is the availability of weapons. Once upon a time, shoes were a pricier purchase, but now these weapons can be bought almost anywhere, and authorities believe that this greater availability will only exacerbate the threat. As such, additional security will now be added to stores such as Payless, Walmart and Target. There is also talk about having security clearance before purchase, and a 24 hour waiting period placed on anyone after choosing which shoes they decide to buy. Needless to say, many impecunious husbands are applauding this measure.

In the meantime, people must be willing to express some type of pride and patriotism at the agility of our out-going president. Boy, can he duck. Obviously, that was never considered in the original planning of the attack.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Brothels, Protesting by Laziness, and Corruption

Several months ago I heard a knock on my door. I opened it to see my neighbor's 10-year-old-daughter standing there clinching a catalogue, a pen and some sort of registry list. I knew then that I had lost. It was a school fundraiser. So, within a few minutes, I had flipped through the catalogue and found the thing I most wanted (ie had any inclination at all to buy, since nobody ever actually wants the junk that places sell for fundraising), which was a subscription to "Time" magazine. After receiving our first issue, I realized that I had made a great choice. Blog fodder! So without further ado, here is my commentary on things international:

First off, in Geneva, we learn that too many children die from unintentional accidents. I would tend to agree with that. However, what I think is wonderful is that somehow the "World Report on Child Injury Prevention" thinks we can decrease these unintentional accidents. If they're unintentional, then how do we stop them, as I would tend to think that "unplanned" would fall into the equation as well. Also, I read, once, that annually over 1000 adults in our nation hurt themselves with a mattress or ceiling. Now, if we can't stop adults from getting hurt by the ceiling, then how will we prevent children from getting hurt in unintentional accidents? Aside from using seat belts -- which if you can get people who aren't Americans to use seat belts I'm pretty impressed with you -- how can we prevent "unintentional accidents"? Maybe in Geneva this is a good discussion, but not here in the USA where people are already way too overprotective of their kids.

Another tidbit from Europe comes from Amsterdam. I had the honor of being in the Amsterdam airport the very week that they opened their first airport brothel. It had the effect of making me think, "ewwww" the entire time I was there, and want to use a disinfectant wipe on anything I touched or sat on. Unfortunately, I didn't have a disinfectant wipe, so I just paced for several hours.

Anyway, according to Time magazine, "Citing its brothels and marijuana cafes as havens for crime (NO KIDDING!!! -- my words, not Time's), city officials in the Dutch capital have unveiled a $50 million plan to replace half of them with restaurants , galleries and hotels. Officials hope to broaden the city's appeal and make tourists feel less embarrassed about visiting."

I wonder if this little bit of information will be brought up the next time someone wants to discuss how it "works in Holland" in regards to the legalization of marijuana and prostitution. Somehow I doubt it. In the meantime, the Dutch get to pay for the $50 million plan to replace those brothels and cafes, and many more travelers get to go through Amsterdam thinking "ewwww".

Leaving Europe, I want to point out that, according to Time, the Italian government is putting up $65 million dollars to purchase 200,000 wheels of Parmesan cheese to help the ailing cheese makers of Italy. The cheese will be donated to charity. That got me thinking about the auto bailout in the US. I think if it was a cheese bailout we'd all feel better about it. Then we could all get free cheese. I guess GM could give everybody a free Chevy, but that's just like being given cheese, and since you can't depend on it, and you also can't eat it, it's just not worth it.

One of the more interesting news tidbits I found was "Calling in Gay". I have no idea if this actually happened as it was set for December 10, and I did go into work that day. However, an Internet organized movement to protest California's ban on same-sex marriage was to happen that day. Millions of people were supposed to "call in gay" to work and not show up.

Now, that's responsible! Not stand outside and protest, or gather petitions or write letters to the editors, or even write on a cheesy blog! People are just supposed to call in sick and not work. I guess the idea is you can protest by staying home in your jammies, reading your novel, playing video games... Wow. I think that must say something about our culture that there are people out there that actually think this is a form of protest rather than second rate relaxation!

Of course the other question that it raises is that if you're gay, does that mean you're sick and can't work? Hardly a message I would think that anyone would want to send. There's a fine line between clever and ridiculous, and they are clearly on the ridiculous side of the line.

My favorite, though, is Governor Rob Blagojevich, of Illinois. If you looked up the definition of crook in the dictionary, you'd see his name next to it. The allegations (which are backed up with taped phone conversations and other such physical evidence) include: conspiring to solicit bribes from many people, including the future President of the US, extortion, forcing the Tribune Co. to fire editorial writers in exchange for a tax break, and even threatening to revoke millions in funding for a children's hospital if they didn't contribute to his campaign.

Of course, he's claiming he's innocent. Of course.

What I think would be a just punishment for the Governor would be that he be forced to live for 5 years in a country where corruption of his type is the norm. However, he wouldn't get to live there as a governor, but as an ordinary citizen who has to live under the rule of crooks like him. Now, that would be justice, however, I'll be just as glad to see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

Not surprisingly, there is involvement with the Service Employees International Union. This is the same union that my husband was forced to join, and that sent a representative to my home late one night (when I was alone) who lied to me and told me he worked with my husband. He then tried to get me to tell him who I was going to vote for. So, it's not surprising to me at all that the SEIU is alleged to be considering Blagojevich's idea of creating a "nonprofit" organization that could pay his salary if he picked the "right" candidate for the Senate seat (ie a union supporter) and then retired from politics.

Well, at least we can be comforted with one thing. According to Time, "Blagojevich whined that Obama's people were 'not willing to give me anything except appreciation.'"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Story of Jacob, Esau...And Monica?

Pictured here, you see our newest family member.

What? You say you don't see anything? Then have you no imagination? That, my friend, is a picture of Monica. Our newest family member. Monica is the latest in a string of pretend friends that our youngest daughter, Nappy, has created. First there was her entourage (or what I liked to refer to as her Greek Chorus). That consisted of 2 brown bears, 1 polar bear, 2 frogs, an elephant and a little man named Mister Helen. They went every where she went, commenting, agreeing and supporting Nappy in all her endeavours.

Then came "tiny mommy". Tiny Mommy was only about 6 inches tall and just hung around for general support and comfort. Tiny Mommy also, often, didn't agree with real Mommy, but I'm sure Nappy had no real agenda with that.

Now, though, we have Monica. Monica is Nappy's dear older sister. At first she was 9 years old. The next day she was 96. Then 17, 24, 40 and 44 respectively. Though her age might change with the wind, her personality doesn't. She does anything Nappy asks of her, no matter what it is or how Nappy asks. If Nappy yells at Monica to clean her room, then, well, Monica jumps to it without a complaint.

For days, all I heard from Nappy was how wonderful Monica was. I learned how Monica always understood Nappy, always did exactly what Nappy asked and would spend her days doing nothing but complimenting Nappy. So, when Nappy needed some help with something, I responded with the obvious.

"Why don't you have Monica do it for you?"

"Mom," she replied with a slight roll of her eyes, "Monica can't do that. She's just pretend!"

When does fantasy stop and reality start? Apparently when you need help opening the lid of a metal tin can.

At any rate, Monica has been with us now for about a week. She's gone to the Boy Scout's Christmas Tree Sale, but left early because she got too cold (wimp!). She was late to a tea party because she had a fever (sure -- I think she's really just anti-social). And, she doesn't attend meals where there are mushrooms present. But, in general, she's always with us, conveying her opinions through Aly.

I might find this a bit odd, but I had a pretend friend when I was young. Her name was Honey and she was from Mars. Before you start laughing at me, remember, I didn't name her or make up her story. It's just how she introduced herself to me.

So, life with 6 kids has been interesting. We've also had a change in identity. Meet Jacob and Esau:
They may look like the Ballerina Princess and Green Bottle Boy, but really, they reflect a much more ancient story.

See, Green Bottle Boy had a camera. A nice camera. One that used to belong to another family member but was then passed on to him. Ballerina Princess wanted that camera because she loves to take pictures. The problem was the so does Green Bottle Boy.

So, last night, she goes strolling into his room swinging a bag of Christmas candy given to her by one of her teachers. The aroma of the chocolate made the mouth of Esau-- I mean Green Bottle Boy -- water. Within minutes, he had traded his camera for two small milk-dud sized pieces of chocolate.

"Uh...*****," I asked him, "don't you think that was a little foolish? You love that camera, and to replace it would cost at least $100."

"Oh no, mom," he replied, "That chocolate was really yummy."

Now, I'm not even sure where to start with this, because he really thinks it was a great deal. So, in the meantime, I'm going to just find out what Monica thinks about it all.

After all, she knows best.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday, a day that I not only sleep in, but also avoid any store like the plague. Who, in their right mind, is willing to work those crowds just to save a few bucks? And, I'm really a cheapskate, so this is saying something.

I think there are two kinds of cheapskates. There's the kind that like to participate in Black Friday and the kind that don't. The kind that like to participate in Black Friday are the people who love spending hours in thrift stores, clip every coupon (and remember to bring them to the store with them) and get some kind of thrill out of buying things at the lowest possible cost.

Then, there's my kind of cheapskate, the lazy cheapskate. I just do without. It's just not worth it to me. Shopping is like cleaning my kitchen floor. I'd just rather read a book. And, if I have to wait in line to purchase it, then it needs to be almost free. I always add at least $10 an hour to the actual cost of purchasing something because I figure my time must be worth at least that much. If that's the case, I never find a "steal".

So, while all across America my fellow citizens are enjoying their newly purchased flat screen televisions while lounging in their just-purchased recliner and sipping Coke out of brand new glasses, I'll be happily laying on my old couch, library book in hand, sipping water out of my "Steve Chabot for Congress" cup.

Life just doesn't get any better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

That's my girl -- on CNN!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Lazy Parents Guide to Rough Housing With Your Children

Rob and I were talking last night, and we decided that after over 12 years of parenting there had been some lessons we had learned and wanted to pass on to other parents in hopes of lightening their load.

First of all, all children love to rough house. In fact they need to rough house, especially in winter. So here are 3 games that we created that facilitate the much needed aerobic activity and relational attachment that comes from wrestling with your children.

1) The Mummy
This simple game is based on the old monster movies. You follow your kids around the house, arms outstretched, slowly moving one foot and then the other. The slow speed is necessary in order to really mimic a mummy (or Frankenstein's monster). You never actually catch a kid because you are moving incredibly slowly, and they are running around. But just like the people in the old monster movies, it doesn't occur to them that they can easily outrun "the mummy" and they have a blast while you don't break a sweat.

2) The Tickle Monster
This one was invented by Rob. You lay in one spot, say a couch, and the kids run up to you and you catch them and tickle them. Genius! You don't even have to sit up! Also, if you play this while listening to music, you can have the Tickle Monster "rest" for alternating songs. Of course, the kids don't realize that there's no "chase" to this game, because the "monster" is always relaxing. So, they just continue to run up and get tickled while, again, you don't break a sweat.

3) Hide and Seek
This classic has obvious applications to the parent who doesn't want to overexert themselves. You can offer to the be the counter.... 1,2,3,4,5....pick up a book.... or you can hide in a spot where they won't ever think to look. Again, take a book. Now, this one can back fire because little kids start to cry if they can't find you, and the older kids start to learn your tricks. But, still, you've probably got a good 5-6 year range where these techniques work quite well, and, sometimes, the older kids apply your tricks to the game as well because they're only playing to pacify their really cute little sister who asked them to join.

Here are some short cuts I've come up with:

1) The only real qualification for creating a "pair of socks" is that you have two socks. In fact, if the socks don't match it only adds color to the child's outfit.

2) Always have your kid dress themselves, that way you can just always tell people that they are dressed that way because they dressed themselves, not because you're behind on laundry.

3) Top sheets are useless for kids. They end up wadded up by the foot of the bed under their blanket. Then the child will always look at you with wide innocent eyes as to why the sheet is there and not spread nicely over the entire bed. Yes, you'll think of all the hygienic reasons a top sheet is good, but, my guess is, you'll finally realize it's a losing battle and easier without.

4) LOCK the bathroom door. You deserve the privacy, and they'll still shove notes to you under the door when it's locked.

5) In regards to both the neatness of the bedroom and their bathroom habits: if you can't see it, don't worry about it. Just make sure you teach them how to wash their hands. Then, let it go.

6) If it went through the dishwasher, it's clean (even if your oldest child disagrees), no matter how the dish looks. Honestly, what could possibly live through the temperatures in a dishwasher?

7) Wait to teach them to tell time. Of all the necessary life skills, this one is the best to hold back. Do you really want them to know what time bed time is? Is that really going to work in your favor? Also, once they know how to tell time, they can let you know how late you're running.

8) Teach your children that just because they're curious doesn't mean that you're curious. So, for instance, if they decided to life the dog's tail to see what anatomy is under it, they don't need to share with you exactly what it looks like under your dog's tail.

9) Teach your children to wash hands frequently (see scenario in number 8).

10) Good communication is a must. That way, if they, for instance, decide to burglar-proof your backyard by digging lots of holes in it and then covering the said holes up with sticks and grass, you know that information BEFORE you go out and mow the lawn.

And, now, this epistle must be cut short as I must go up and teach my children how to use the wet vac to clean up dog vomit on the carpet in someone's bedroom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nifty Book, If I Do Say So Myself

Dolores Mize and Angela Talentino have created a new book entitled: Embraced By Love. It's a great celebration of adoption, and just happens to have 3 of my 5 children on the cover. Cool.

Their first book, I Know I am Loved celebrates birth and is filled with incredibly beautiful pictures, even though none of them happen to be my kids.

This is worth checking out:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cruising with the Righteous

I was lying in bed this morning and the radio woke me up. Unfortunately, we have our alarm clock set for one of the national Christian radio stations. This is unfortunate, because I almost always wake up annoyed. I don't do this because I like to punish myself, but because if I put on public radio and something like Maurice Ravel's Reverie is played at alarm time, then I don't hear it and wake up. However, if I crank the volume on it, then I get shocked out of bed by pieces like the "1812 Overture". I get enough Warm 98 when I'm at the Y, and any other secular station risks me having to listen to something gross. Yes, even grosser than someone saying ,"Glory Bump". If I'm lucky I might actually hit the jackpot with Christian radio and wake up to some nice thoughtful worship music.

Not today!

Today I woke up to constant drivel about the "Cruise" -- the one where all the cool Christian's go. Of course, the first thing I wonder is: how many families go on this cruise that don't really have the money to pay for it? I dug around online and couldn't even get a price for renting a cabin on the ship! You can't actually price anything unless you register and want to book. I'm sure there's a good reason for that, a reason far beyond the gluttonous nature of the cruise line industry.

Is this good stewardship? I mean, I know we don't live in poverty, but is a follower of a HOMELESS man really going to even be able to take a "christian" cruise???

Can the people who organize this really see Jesus attending? Paying lots of money in order to go on a ship and eat too much food, mingle with the elites and then go home, having totally pulled himself from the real world?

Maybe a cruise is a way to reward the humble servants who have sacrificed for the cross -- oh wait, they can't afford to go!

Nothing like an elitist church. I guess Jesus welcomes everyone, but only some get to vacation with him. Makes me so proud to be an American Christian.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's Over!

Well, the election's finally over, so our phone has stopped ringing and I can blog once again. I've been unable to get much of anything done in the past few weeks because all I've been doing is answering phone calls from both the Republican and Democratic parties, both of whom really believed I was on their side.

I have to admit it's been an interesting few days. No matter what the outcome, I knew that I was going to be disappointed in the election results. Neither party was offering anything that I liked.

On the conservative side, I was convinced that Sarah Palin did not have the education or experience necessary to be an effective Vice President (which is really saying something when you consider the "work" a VP is actually expected to do...). Honestly, the Republicans put forward a women who considered her family vacations to Mexico and the fact that Alaska was geographically close to part of Russia as part of her foreign affairs resume! I was in shock for months over that choice. Then, I could never shake the feeling that McCain was probably going to get us all blown up within the first year of his presidency. On an international level, we don't need a maverick, we need a diplomat.

I don't know if it's just the travels we've done during the Bush administration that's enlightened me, but it just really strikes me that most Americans really don't understand how incredibly unpopular our country has become, nor do they understand the implications of that unpopularity. These are far reaching implications which can challenge things from international adoption to the global economy to establishing a stable peace, not to mention our influence in things such as humane working conditions, world hunger and infectious disease.

I'm not kidding when I say that over 4 years ago, while in Kazakhstan, we saw a homeless man that wandered the park outside the Museum of Music and Culture in Almaty and approached Americans all with the same greeting (in perfect English), " Leeeet me OFfer my condolences on the OUTcome of yourrr presideeental elections...." The sentiment of the population there, in a country that was improving it's economy through the oil industry and America, was one of distrust at best and unchecked anger and frustration at worst.

Even the difference in attitudes of the "average" Ukrainian towards Americans from our first adoption trip over 6 years ago to our last was noticeable. Our militaristic dominance with no regard to diplomacy has just blown the minds of so many (and quite literally in some parts of the world!) and is just unfathomable to me.

Yes, there is evil in the world, but it seems to me that we've been operating under an administration that only allowed itself to see the evil in its enemy and not in itself.

But, what really strikes me as odd is how so many evangelicals can breeze past the immoral aspects of the war and jump straight to the issue of abortion and stem cell research without regard to the lives of those that have been killed or injured in a war that they have never asked for. In addition to that, to breeze past the administration sanctioned torture at Guantanamo Bay, with nary a blink or wince simply astounds me. I'm not saying that there was not just cause for some military action after 9-11, but I'm sad that the church has not stood it's ground, choosing instead, in so many instances, to follow the entire party line and buy into the "Christianity" offered by the Bush administration.

What about McCain's health care plan -- one that I'm certain would have destroyed us financially-- and it's impact on the working class as well as families facing health problems? What company or organization is possibly going to insure our family when they can just have us use the $5000 tax rebate to purchase health insurance that I'm certain (from price shopping) would cost more like $8000 for our size family. And, $8,000 if we could find an insurance company stupid enough to insure our family!

But, before I have well meaning people attack me with acidic comments.... let me continue. I voted for George Bush for both his terms, and in this election I did, indeed, vote for McCain. I did so with a sick feeling in my stomach, and no peace leading up to the election or even after I had voted. In fact, I felt shame over voting for people I knew were simply not up to the task at hand. But I also know the other truth.

Of course, Obama is not the answer. His liberal politics and disregard for the most vulnerable
lives in our country are an absolute shame. His faith that a government can provide more for it's citizens than it needs, too, is naive and potentially harmful if not kept in check.

However, he's now going to be our President. And, since I believe that God is sovereign, I chose to find the good aspects about him, because, whether or not the standard JC Penny shopping Fox-news network watching Evangelical likes him or not, there are some great points to the man.

First of all, it's obvious he's a diplomat. We are so in need of a diplomat in office! Yes, the president is the Commander-in-Chief, but we have an immense and amazing military with enough advisers to more than make up for his lack of military expertise. Even Fox News has reported on the effects already felt world wide from his election.

And, while the press has loved to throw around the term "universal healthcare" what I've heard coming directly from his mouth is not health care ala Hillary Clinton, but a more economical and fiscally responsible plan than what is becoming a majorly encumbering medicaid system.

In addition to that, while I've heard the term "socialism" thrown around by so many Republicans, including the incredibly rash and immature Glenn Beck, I fail to see how someone left leaning is a socialist, and wealth redistribution is not what I've heard come from his mouth. Lest I remind people, our current tax system is based in the idea that the wealthier pay more in taxes than the rest, thus the tax brackets. I've not heard too many Republicans refer to that as "wealth redistribution". The problem is that it's the wealthiest people and corporations that find the loop holes that allow them to avoid paying the taxes they should consider themselves morally obligated to pay!

As the mother of an Asian child, I'm ecstatic at witnessing the first ever African American in the Oval Office! A barrier has been broken, not only for black children in America, but all children of racial diversity, not to mention children born of a parent who was not an American citizen. Once again, America is leading the way in something good. As my husband pointed out to me, Great Britain has a 30 or 40 year lead on us in abolishing slavery and working against the racism of the British Empire. Despite that we have yet to see a Black or Indian British Prime Minister (or Queen!).

For this to happen so quickly after the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s shows that, indeed, God has been working and healing somethings in our culture, despite our many national flaws. It gives me hope that God truly is working here, despite the fact that it can be clouded by many cultural sins.

So, rather than focus on the things that I don't agree with or can't control , or jump to wild conclusions about us becoming a socialist state, I'm choosing to celebrate what is good from this election, and trust that God is at work. Barack Obama is not a saviour -- Russia's poking at him already and his election certainly didn't make the stock market rebound -- but he is a leader and God will use him to accomplish his purposes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Our Little Miracle

The story starts that we adopted this little girl from Ukraine, and decided that we needed to plan that her disability would never change. We decided this because after adopting our oldest daughter, Swimmer Girl, we dealt with the grief of realizing that her disability would never change. It was extremely painful, and neither of us wanted to face that kind of disappointment again.

Realize, of course, that once we got past that grief, Swimmer Girl has been a great joy. How can you be nothing but proud of a child who so gracefully and faithfully rises above such severe physical disabilities? I often think of her like a modern-day Elijah, when he, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ran faster than King Ahab's chariot. How does she do it? How does she swim like she does? How does she walk? How does she play the piano so beautifully?  How does handle papers and books and opening packages?  How does she manage to carry so many things?

Still, that grief of dealing with the finality of her situation was something I just didn't want to face again. So, we went into Nappy's adoption with the mindset that she was not going to change. Once we got her home, three different doctors agreed with us. We were okay with that because we had seen how God's Glory was revealed through Swimmer Girl's life, and it was really really good.

So, we became comfortable with life as it was presenting itself. Then a doctor ordered a 350lb powerchair that we just simply couldn't accommodate in our lives, and began to push us to put her into therapeutic preschool 5 days a week. None of it made any sense to us. People were jumping the gun, telling us that she couldn't do things that she had never even tried to do. Why would we take on the financial burden (which was huge) of this chair, and rearrange her life and our family life around her disability when no one had even bothered to see what she could do?

So, we bought a manual chair off of eBay for $100. It was the wrong size, way too big, and yet, she was wheeling around in it on her own from the first evening we had it.  I guess she had no clue that she couldn't operate a manual chair. 

It was then we began to realize that maybe there was more than one way for God to reveal His Glory in the life of a person with a disability. So, we ditched the therapists that were offering adaptive devices, therapeutic preschool and other stuff and started pushing for therapies and interventions that would actually make a physical difference in her life. We found a doctor that would accommodate us.

Several months ago, that doctor ordered Nappy's first round of serial casting to stretch her legs straight. We had botox injections done in her right thigh to weaken the constricting muscles and then 3 weeks later started the therapy. Our doctor warned us that Nappy needed to gain over 60-degrees of flexibility in each leg to walk, and that that was really out of the question. The most gained in one round of serial casting recorded was 30-degrees. About 15-degrees was much more typical. She doubted, because of the tightness, that we could gain even that.

We began the process of serial casting. Every 1-2 weeks her leg was stretched a bit more and a new cast was placed on it to stretch the muscles and release the joints. Each week, the therapist would record the changes, and it was like watching a slow motion miracle. After 7 weeks, Nappy had gained almost 70 degrees of flexibility in that knee!

At the same time we were working on her leg, God sent us the perfect occupational therapist.  From the start, she said that she believed that Nappy needed to gain more flexibility in her shoulders, elbows and wrists in order to achieve the goals that we had for her-- goals of putting on her own shirt, buttoning and zipping jackets and drinking from cups without straws.  Those may seem small, but try to do all those things without bending your arms.  

So, we took measurements of her flexibility in those joints and then began the therapy.  I won't bore you with details, but will just say that in the course of this therapy, we've seen our second slow motion miracle.  Her rehab doctor claims that Nappy has gained more flexibility in her arms than she had hoped she could after a couple rounds of botox and serial casting!

In fact, her doctor said that there is only one word to describe the changes in Nappy's body.  One word she doesn't use lightly:  miracle.

We really are witnessing a miracle.

As of now, it really looks like our little girl is going to walk.   And, while we have medical science to thank for it's help, even the doctor knows that this is happening by the hand of God.

In the past month I've really tried to process what we're watching.  I have always believed in miracles, but have never actually witnessed one.  What has overwhelmed me in these past few months is this:  God loves me enough to allow me to witness this miracle.  Watching His healing hand change these joints is the most incredible thing I've ever seen in my entire life -- so much more valuable than any thing this world can offer.   I feel like a little kid who's parents have just given me a gift that I wanted so desperately but was afraid to ask for because it was so lavish and immense. 

Through out this process, as I've prayed with Nappy, we've talked about what God is doing.  Before she'd tell me, "I'll walk in heaven."  Now she'll tell me, "I'll walk in this room.  I'll walk on oaf (earth!)".  Then I'll tell her, "It sure does look like you will walk on earth, but even if you don't....

And, she'll finish it for me, "GOD IS GOOD!"  

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tony Melendez

This is the life I envision for my girls! What a great life of faith, hope and purpose!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bist Du Fertig?

Many years ago, not long after becoming engaged to my husband, I asked him what, exactly, our last name meant. He told me that it was a German name and that it meant "carpenter". So, I felt very proud to enter into a family name that held meaning, much like "Wheeler" being the town's wheel-right, or "Smith" being the town's silversmith. My maiden name has been far too mangled from the original German to mean anything. So, the only meaning I can attach to my side of the family goes with "Campbell" -- which I would assume meant that side of my family was the town's soup-makers. So, finally, I had an identity to attach to my last name.

Something never sat right with me, though. I actually know some German. I'm not fluent in the language, but studied it for about 7 years and got to the point where I could write papers, and read German newspapers and magazines. The German word for carpenter is "Zimmermann", and that's not our last name. But, short of a better explanation, I went with it.

Well, last week Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy told me that his Sunday school teacher asked the kids to look up the meaning of their names in order to share with the class. I decided to double check this whole "carpenter" thing and did some online research. It turns out that our family name has been very researched, and even has it's own website. And, it doesn't mean carpenter -- it means "am ende", at the end. According to the website it meant we were the family at the end of the street or at the end of the village.

Okay, that's slightly less noble than "carpenter" . We're not the family that builds or repairs furniture, we're the family that lives at the end of the street. Not known for anything, just for living at the end of the street. We're vanilla, egg-shell white, no more exciting than Bob Dole.

But then, I reflected upon a bit of my own German experience. While in high school, our class hosted a German exchange student. Once, during a school skate, I sat and chatted with a group of girls, including the exchange student, while drinking cokes. As we finished our drinks, one girl said to the exchange student, whom I'll call Helga, so as to help perpetuate any German stereotypes, "Bist du Fertig?"

We had learned, in our German class, that "fertig" meant, "finished, ready to move on."

Helga looked at us like we were nuts.
"Was?" ("What?" -- for all you non-German speakers!)

"Bist du Fertig? Are you finished?"

With that Helga started laughing and quickly explained that while "bist du fertig" literally meant "are you ready to go?" it was really used as slang for "Are you crazy?"

So, I wondered, does "am ende" really mean the family at the end of the street, or does it mean "the family off the edge?" "the off balance family" "the crazy family"? hmmm...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lest Anyone Think I'm a McCain Fan

Lest anyone think I'm a McCain fan, due to my recent post about Joe Biden's hiney, I thought I should post a bit about McCain and Palin and my concerns there.

McCain -- I like the fact that he and his wife do seem to have a compassionate aspect to their lives. Yes, they are filthy rich. But, really, so are the Obamas, so I don't see how that matters. I also like the fact that they are hearing the cries of so many families of children with special needs, specifically the families of children with autism. Obviously, the growing rate of autism should be a concern in our nation. I'm skeptical that any federal aid to our health insurance situation is going to help, so I also am comfortable with his positions on health care. I don't think that two wrongs make a right, so I'm with him on abortion and the need to obtain stem cells in an ethical manner.

What I don't agree with him on is the war. However, Obama's going to inherit this war, too, and I'm not certain that he really knows what he's doing either. Yes, they both inherited this war from George W., but really, he inherited the situation from Bill "floundering with foreign policy" Clinton. He inherited some of it from George Senior .... at some point we have to stop pointing the finger and just solve the stinking problem.

We need to invest more in diplomacy, which is not something I see either candidate saying. I see McCain upping the ante in the war, and Obama sticking his head in the sand. This summer I attended a small seminar on foreign policy, with the discussion being lead by a man that spent 30 years working in diplomatic relations for the U.S. government. He pointed out that when he was sent to a new part of the world, as a diplomat, he was given a 4 week course on that region of the world, and then dropped into it as a diplomat. When an upper level military person is stationed in a new part of the world, they receive near-graduate level training on that particular culture -- usually at least a year's work of education. What does that say about our government's values, be it democrat or republican?

Then there is Palin. I like a lot of what she professes to be policy. I admire her decision to birth her son with Down Syndrome and show so much love towards him, although isn't that just what a mother is supposed to do anyway? I also, frankly, question how someone can be an effective VP of a major nation and give appropriate time and attention to a large family. Maybe her husband is planning on staying home with the kids. If so, kudos to him and I'm impressed with their family. If not, then I don't think that Sarah Palin actually has the same values that I have. The values I have don't just value that the life of my child exists, my values dictate that I give large quantities of my time to my child.

I can run the nation when my kids are grown. Until then, I can only blabber away on a second rate blog.

Another concern with Palin, of course, is her inexperience. Let's face it. John McCain is old. Could Palin act as president? It's unsure at best. She really seems clueless on an international scene.

The worst thing is, though, that I'm no more confident with Joe Biden.

They' re all just a bunch of ..... politicians.

Let's hope congress shapes up!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Travels with Deb

Obviously I've been a bit weak on blogging lately. Now that the school year has started back up again, I plan to grace your computer screen much more often -- blithely spewing my insights, humor and twisted political rhetoric into your otherwise peaceful day.

So, where have I been all summer? Well....

Our summer started off with Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy participating in a 2-week video camp that was held at the local public access television station in downtown Cincinnati. The camp was great, and, even better, it was free -- unless you count the gas money spent to drive to and from downtown to my suburban home for 10 days. It capped off with the lovely adventure of me forgetting to pick my beloved eldest son up from camp, and thus leaving him waiting for me for over 30 minutes on the corner of Race and Central Parkway. I had nothing to fear, though, because a nice gentleman, who just happened to have multiple body piercings and was smoking a cigarette, waited with him. He told me I had a great kid.

Following video camp was our church's much anticipated Vacation Bible School. I have to admit it was mostly anticipated by me, because it was the first time that I could drop all 5 of my kids off someplace at one time! 2 1/2 hours of free time for 5 straight days! I had visions of me sipping cappuccino while reading Dostoevsky, learning to play an instrument, taking up mosaics , writing the great American novel, waxing philosophical in a coffee house somewhere downtown, or in a less elegant yet realistic moment, visions of me napping on our living room couch.

However, the week before VBS, we decided to put our home on the market ASAP, and I spent the week painting... painting.... painting and painting. And, I hate painting. I hate it more even now. (Plus, our house still hasn't sold!)

The following week, we took our first vacation of the summer. I'm not really sure what insanity caused me to plan a camping trip to a gorge, when I have two physically handicapped children. However, I guess it was that I really want them to experience life to the fullest.

Plus, I figured that if Nappy was ever going to go down into a gorge, then it was going to be on someone's (mine) back, and that was only going to happen when she was little. As the trip approached, though, I was a bit daunted by the 7 days I had booked the campground. Rainy weather saved the day, and we ended up wimping out of about 4 days of our trip. We stayed at the nice Internet-linked, cable television access, air conditioned home of my parents. They, however, were busy at an elder hostel in New York with Swimmer Girl. We did enjoy a day at the small zoo/fun park in Pennsylvania called "Deer Park."

I even had the joy of placing my children in jail:

Unfortunately, Green Bottle Boy worked against me and they were all out within minutes:

After several days of vegging, and making pitiful jokes about us enjoying our vacation at the retirement center, we headed to Watkins Glen, New York.

No. We didn't go there to see the race cars. It happened to be the location we had to get Swimmer Girl to in order to attend the elder hostel, and we wanted to see the Glen.

We arrived home and jumped back into Farm Camp, Woodland Lakes Christian Camp, the end of swim season and the peak of 4H season. 4H projects included, of course, chicken and duck farming despite the fact that we live in a suburb and have a very typical backyard. Word spreads fast when you live in a typical neighborhood and are housing chickies and duckies, and every kid that lives within 1/2 a square mile of our house was visiting us. In fact, the following interchange was not uncommon:

A knock on our front door.

Either I or Rob answers while the dogs stand behind us barking like they would actually protect our house if it really was an intruder and not a 4-year-old at the door.


"Can I have one of your chickens?"

"You want one of our chickens?"

"Yes. Can I keep one?"


"Can I buy one off you?"

"Yep. For $150."


"Good-bye." And, with that a door would close on the child and all their hopes of having their very own chicken to love, raise and then, ultimately, eat.

The ducks and chickens left us the week of the fair.

Several weeks later, while on vacation at Lakeside, Ohio, we ate Calm Wind -- possibly the best broiler I've ever eaten. I'm very thankful that Green Bottle Boy loves agriculture and raising meat. It's a great hobby that's now been embraced by 3 of our kids!

We finished our summer with our week at Lake Erie, in the gated community at Lakeside, Ohio. The boys loved the freedom of the community, being able to play shuffleboard in the park, swimming at the beach, a sailboat ride out onto the lake, and riding bikes everywhere. Swimmer Girl loved the theme for the week: the Civil War. I enjoyed taking the two little girls to hear a live performance of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. Rob enjoyed relaxing. And, Nappy enjoyed the playground.

We finished our summer with a quickie surgery on Swimmer Girl, and now we're off to a quiet school year at home....we hope.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Biden Needs To Get His Little Hiney Out of Dream World and Into Reality

Could somebody out there give me just 5 minutes with Joe Biden? Just 5 minutes! Perhaps he could actually walk away with some kind of idea as to what advocating for the disabled and respecting life actually means.

In reference to advocacy for people with disabilities, Biden made the following snipe:

"Well, guess what, folks? If you care about it, why don't you support stem cell research?" asked Biden, the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

First of all, stem cell research is not as advanced as the proponents of it would like people to believe. I'm really tired of hearing about how the "cures" for diabetes, spinal chord injuries and other illnesses are just steps away but can't be found because we, as a culture, don't have access to enough stem cells.

For years I listened to the American Diabetes Association herald this cry. Then I actually read the research and learned that, like many of the other illnesses, the "cure" was not around the corner, but decades away and possibly not even linked to stem cells.

Secondly, most conservatives are not against stem cell research -- most conservatives are against harvesting them from embryos. Get your stem cells ethically and then research away! Personally, I just don't believe that you take one person's life to solve the medical problems of another.

Thirdly, not all disabilities can be "cured" through research from stem cells. So, advocate away for your stem cells, Joe, but your advocacy doesn't do a bit of good for someone who has a disability due to amniotic banding or their birth mother drinking alcohol while pregnant, nor thousands of other reasons that people end up with disabilities. Not to mention, it's certainly not going impact the life of any person right now.

To reduce disability advocacy to stem cell research is simply a way to politicize a new topic (disability rights and services) that both he and Obama are clueless about. In the meantime, while meaning to slam McCain and Palin, he has totally offended me by seriously implying that I don't care about the disabled because I don't support unethical stem cell research.

Thanks Joe! Glad my life counts for a hill of beans in your book!

Well, guess what, folks, if you care about the disabled, then why don't you actually research what can be done to support them and their families?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! They're Not Speaking For Me!

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has recently released a study regarding the financial situations of families raising disabled children. There is an article summarizing the study on the UNC website, as the study itself will be published in an upcoming edition of "Exceptional Child" magazine. As such, I haven't seen the actual study, but only read the summary of it on UNC's website.

Let me start this by saying that I really don't want to cause problems. I really don't. However, there are some blaring errors in this study, ideas that aren't taken into account and generalities made.

The biggest issue is: what is a disabled child?

To lump all disabled children, let alone all disabled people, into one broad category of "disabled children" is simply ignorant. Do they really think that a child who needs a prosthetic leg to walk has the same needs as a child who is unable to breath without constant assistance? Or a child who is missing an arm requires the same aid as a child learning to handle their diabetes? What about a child with mild cerebral palsy versus a child with extremely severe cerebral palsy? Does a blind child have the same needs as a child that is unable to walk? What about an anemic kid versus an autistic kid? Actually, compare two kids with autism -- do they have the exact same needs? Taking all children with disabilities and lumping them into one category is just plain ignorant, and definitely faulty science.

In addition to that, what is their control group? They claim to have surveyed 28,841 families -- were they all families with a "disabled" child? Were half of them families without a "disabled" child? I mean, YOU HOO, the economy is not doing well, my friends, could their counterparts be reporting the same issues?

According to the article on the UNC website, " The UNC study found that overall, families across all income levels who are raising disabled children are significantly more challenged by food, housing and health issues compared to families without disabled children. Many also struggled to pay their phone bills."

Now, why is that? There are two reasons that I think are possible.

First of all, how well are the families managing their money? Are they unable to pay their bills because of the stress of their disabled child, or are they unable to pay their bills because they (like so many in our culture) have been living beyond their means and the disability provides a great scapegoat for them? I'm thinking that basic phone service, without any of the frills or long distance, is still only about $30 a month -- there has to be some pretty significant reasons that a middle or upper income family struggles to pay that. My first guess would be that it isn't a $30 phone bill, but a $150 phone/cell phone/Internet/long distance bill. If that's the case, then this is an issue of priority, because your family needs food much more than they need Internet or cable.

Another reason, I believe, might be related to the disability but not the disability itself. Of course, I'm referring to the dear medical professionals that recommend incredibly expensive solutions. When we adopted Nappy, the first doctor we saw said she needed a 350lb power chair in order to "function". If we had gone that route, all the additional expenses of setting our house and car up for this power chair, would have cost us anywhere from $20,000- $100,000. Money we don't have. It was incredibly difficult to accept the fact that we couldn't provide for our daughter what the doctor was saying she "needed". In the end, though, it was the best thing for her, and her quality of life, right now, is much higher because we chose to forgo that solution. She may actually walk!!!!

I swear, our culture's answer to every problem involves spending lots of money!

Perhaps some of these parents have found themselves in this financial bind because they have followed the advice of some professionals, without looking at the bigger picture.

And, I'm sure, that there are some in this position because their child has a terrible difficult special need that requires serious medical care and intervention. My intent is not to claim otherwise, but to point out that there is much more to this picture than this study is portraying.

Take for example dental care.

The article stated, "Though the study found that children with disabilities were more likely to have health insurance and a usual source of care, they were 61 percent more likely than non-disabled children to have postponed necessary medical care and 83 percent more likely to have postponed needed dental care. The study didn’t examine the causes for those results, but Parish said they likely are related to the expenses of obtaining care – even with health insurance – and other issues, such as limited transportation."

What they don't look at, as they themselves admit, are the causes for this. Well, let me enlighten everyone on that.

When you have a child that has multiple special needs, then you have to prioritize those needs or you and the child will go insane. For instance, in the past year Swimmer Girl has had major hip surgery, 7 weeks in a body cast, 2 months to relearn to walk, various visits to the prosthetist for leg adjusts and a bout of strep and several other normal "kid diseases". Guess what? We didn't get to the dentist within the recommended 6 months. It just wasn't a priority. I would also like to get her to the allergist because she has displayed numerous signs of allergies I would like to identify. Guess what? It hasn't happened!

Why? Certainly finances are not an issue with this. Her medical bills are covered through our insurance. We have transportation. So, this issue is that there is only so much a person can do at one time, so the successful strategy is to prioritize.

The thing that bugs me about both this study and this article is that it continues to perpetuate the myth that dealing with a disability is this terrible horrible life shattering thing. It perpetuates the myth that the entire family suffers as a result of the disability and that disabilities create terrible financial hardships. In my 6 years of experience in dealing with our daughters' disabilities, I have to say that I have not experienced that. Yes, the disability is hard. Yes, there is grief involved. Yes, it does require more doctor visits and medical expenses (although there is a lot of both public and private help available between government programs, Shriners, and other organizations). However, no, it doesn't have to break the bank, and no it's not "bleak" or "chilling" as this article indicates.

I've found parenting my daughters, just like my sons, to be very rewarding.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Gadget Castle

I grew up believing that every home was like mine. I had no idea that my family was abnormal, no idea that other children weren't growing up in a situation like mine. The experts claim that children just believe that what they live is normal, and that certainly was my story. See, our family had an over-riding force that shaped its very being.

My Dad is an engineer.

Now, this may sound to you like it isn't a big deal, but then you didn't grow up thinking that it was normal to have a wire inside your mailbox that tripped a small flashing light in your living room to tell you that the mailman had arrived. You didn't know that people found it odd that you had a "keep warm" light that your mom set dinner under as she prepared to set the table. You probably didn't live with parents that were whole heartily committed to the electric knife concept because, well, it's electric, so it must work better than a regular knife despite the fact that it might actually dislocate a shoulder with excessive vibrating, and that it shot small flakes of turkey around the room.

Honestly, I thought everybody had one of those strings hanging from the garage ceiling with a cork tied to the end -- to tell you exactly how far into the garage you should pull the car. Also, let's not forget all the heat sensitive outside lights (that would flip on when an intruder might happen past) or the hours spent learning how to do things with our personal computer. Lest you forget, I'm talking about the 70s and 80s, so, really, for most people computers didn't do much. Ours didn't either, but I do remember my Dad sure liked to give me lessons about it.

"The computer can dial the phone for you!" He told me one night.

I was skeptical. Before you judge me, remember, it was the early 80s, and our computer monitor was also a television set if I remember correctly.

"Look, you type in the person's last name. Then you pull up their number. Then you enter the number here and hit enter. Then you wait (and wait and wait, I might add) and then you pick up the phone and it dials." I tried, vainly, to point out that that was no easier than actually dialing.

Interestingly enough, I have now replaced him with a husband who likes to do the same thing. In fact, some nights, when I see the spark creep into his eye, I just know, I know, that he wants to show me how to do something on the computer. My eyes glaze over and my teeth start a subtle grinding. But, my childhood did prepare me for this, so I'm always able to survive my evening tutorial.

Last week, we planned a camping trip to Watkins Glen, New York. A few days of the trip did happen, but due to inclement weather, we shortened the trip and stayed at my parents house. They were out of town, in Corning New York, attending an Intergenerational Elderhostel with Swimmer Girl.

After disarming the security system (of course-- something as basic as that is necessary for any gadget lover), we entered the garage. My Dad, in his retirement, I quickly found, has evolved. He now has a laser to show him how far to pull the car into the garage!

It was late when we arrived, so we dumped the kids in bed and used my parents room to sleep. I lay down in the bed, and Rob turned the lights off.

Instantly I shot of out bed!

"What is that?" I whispered.

On the ceiling was a large red blur. I placed my glasses on my face, and realized that the clock next to me was shining the time in large red numbers on the ceiling above my head.

My Dad strikes again.

Another of my favorite's is his caller id system. Not only caller id, but you can read it across the room.

A convenient favorite is his out-of-town plant watering system. The little green thing is his in-town watering system, a nice little frog gadget that sits in the plant and chirps when it dries out. It works well, and I know that because they bought me one for Christmas.

The mailbox indicator has appeared to morph and has become a garage door indicator, open or closed:

Just the sheer number of remote controls in the house is enough to make a grown woman shudder, but, of course, all my children know exactly how to work each one.

However, the best was this incredible can opener that you simply set on top of the can and push a button.

When all is said and done, I have to admit that the apple must not have fallen far from the tree, because he gave us his nifty can opener and we've eaten something from a can every day this past week. I can only say that it proves my thriftiness, because it provides both dinner and entertainment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jesse Jackson: Enough to Light My Fire to Blog Again

Well, it's been awhile since I've had the chance to blog, but Jesse Jackson has brought me out once again!

If you watch any TV at all, you're probably aware that Jesse Jackson is now the third Chicago pastor to pose a serious problem for Barack Obama's bid for the presidency. There's the Jeremiah Wright (who is a slippery snake) scandel, there's Pastor Michael Felger who used a sermon to attack Hillary Clinton, and now, not to be outdone, Jesse Jackson has appeared on the scene.

However, Jesse Jackson's derogatory comments shouldn't be surprising. Jackson has always been about one thing, and one thing only: Jesse Jackson. He wants to be president, so of course, in his angry bitter soul he's going to attack the one man who's arrived at the place where he's always wanted to be but could never obtain: the democratic nominee for president.

In addition to the immaturity of his comments, which were lewd enough to be banned from my blog, what's really sad about this is that it was in reaction to Obama's speeches addressing the need of black fathers to commit to their families. If Jackson actually spent any amount of time working with inner city children, he'd stick his foot directly in his mouth right now. Maybe Jackson would like to explain to a group of black children who have never had the benefit of an involved father that Obama was coming down too hard on black people?

Honestly, this incident reveals his character. If he wasn't a self-absorbed con artist, then he wouldn't have to watch his mouth when he thinks that camera's not there. How in the world someone who is as anti-family, anti-life, and anti-decency could even attempt to pretend to be a pastor is beyond me.

Of course, it happens on the right as well, as all these political "pastors" really need to get their heads rescrewed on. Using the pulpit to gain political power is straight from the pit of hell, and about as far away from a mustard seed revolution as anyone can get. They are aren't just missing the boat, they're at the wrong port.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Get Ready to Redefine Your Idea of an Athlete!

Swimmer Girl competed in her first swim meet!!!! It was held at the Rec Center on the Campus of Miami University in Oxford.

Saturday afternoon she swam in the 50 meter freestyle heat -- and timed in at 1:35.80.

Then on Sunday, she swam in the 50 meter backstroke heat with a time of 1:33.70!

We are so incredibly proud of Swimmer Girl, a little girl who was never even supposed to walk and has one less arm to propel herself through the water than all the other swimmers! Only God knew what a treasure was waiting for us in that little orphanage in Vinnitza, Ukraine...

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What Would You Do If Someone Told You...

My husband brought home a nice little children's picture book about the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (of the suffrage movement). It's been very interesting reading it to my girls because it has really shown a vast difference in personality.

Last week, Swimmer Girl and I read the book together. Snuggled nicely on the couch, I started to read the first page:

"What would you do if someone told you you couldn't be what you wanted to be because you were a girl --"

"What?!" Swimmer Girl shrieked. "That's insane! Who would think such an incredibly stupid thing? What would give them the right? I would just do what God called me to do anyway! I wouldn't listen to them, and if I did it would only be to tell them that they're wrong..."

I couldn't get a word in edge-wise, and after her indignation wore off, I finally finished reading the book. It's probably a good thing for the men in this country that the suffrage movement happened long before she arrived on the scene. She's a force I really wouldn't want to offend.

Then, yesterday, I was reading the book with my younger two, Nappy and Princess Ballerina. I started off again, "What would you do if someone told you you couldn't be what you wanted to be because you were a girl."

Then I waited for a reaction. None. Nappy was busy looking at the pictures and the Princess Ballerina was just sitting there with a completely docile look on her face.

"Well," I asked her, "What do you think?"

"What?" she replied.

"Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A zoo keeper!! I really really really want to be a zoo keeper!" She emphatically answered.

I must admit I was a little shocked by this dramatic change from wanting to be a princess to wanting to be someone who cleaned up animal poo. Something tells me that she doesn't understand that being a zoo keeper means a bit more than snuggling cute baby animals.

"What if someone told you you couldn't be a zoo keeper because you were a girl?"

"Oh, well, then I'd just pick something else. I mean, maybe they're right. I don't know. I just know it's not worth arguing about. "

Needless to say we had a nice little discussion about how some things are worth arguing about.

Several days later, we were driving in the car, and the topic came up again. Nappy said, to the Princess Ballerina, "What would you do if someone told you you couldn't be what you wanted to be because you were a girl?"

"I know I know..." she replied with great resignation, "I'd have to argue with them, because some arguments are worth it, and I shouldn't do something different just because I'm a girl, even if I'd rather not argue and just pick a different job."

"Well," replied Nappy, "I'd just whap 'em and then be happy."

Three girls. Three different hair colors. Three different attitudes. And all three are mine!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

First Adam, Now Alex

First Adam Race is told he can't participate in Mass and now Alex Barton is voted out of Kindergarten! What does this say about inclusion in our culture?

Alex Barton, a 5 year old who had been attending Kindergarten at Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie Florida, was voted out of his class in an overwhelming 14-2 election, this past week. It would've been 12-4, but the teacher bullied two of his friends into voting against him.

Apparently, Alex, who is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (basically a high functioning form of Autism), has been a bit of a behavior problem in class. So, in an unprecedented act of classroom management, his teacher, Wendy Portillo, brought Alex up to the front of the classroom and proceeded to have each of the students tell him what they didn't like about him. Then she had them vote to determine if Alex could stay in the class.

Alex lost.

In my opinion, they all lost because no matter how difficult a child is, your child has to learn how to deal with him if you want your child to grow up into an adult that can handle the realities of living in a diverse culture. Apparently, Ms. Portillo never learned that lesson. I sure don't want my kids to grow up to be like her!

So, now Alex, who was so shaken up by the incident he was sent to the nurses office where his mother retrieved him, has been sitting around his house saying, "I'm not special". Apparently he was told he was "annoying" and "disgusting." I don't think the educational experts of Florida, really understand just how cruel and injurious being humiliated in front of your peers actually is.

When I was in 7th grade, my lovely school, Howland Junior High School (North Eastern Ohio), held a pep rally. The day before we were instructed to to wear orange and black, the school colors, or we would not be admitted to the rally. That night I laid out my clothes. I didn't own any orange clothes, so I laid out some that were blue and black. Blue and black were not good enough for our spirit-filled school. So, instead of denying me entrance to the rally, they had me and a handful of other kids walk in front of the entire junior high class body-- while the other 200-plus kids booed us. It was incredibly humiliating, and I have an inkling of understanding for what Alex is probably feeling.

Another incident it brought to mind was when I was doing my student teaching, many years ago, at Roberts Paideia Academy (a gem in the Cincinnati Public Schools). During recess one afternoon, I stood by and watched as the special education teachers laughed at a developmentally handicapped boy who was trying to figure out how to jump rope. His big brown eyes were just sparkling with excitement as he tried to figure out which way to move his arms over his head to move the rope. He looked at his teacher for encouragement.

"Come on, idiot" she said, "Just put your hands up and flip the rope over!"

Then she and the other teacher stood there and laughed at the "idiot" who was too much of a "dumb***" to figure out how to jump rope.

Yes, the very people who were supposed to be advocating him, encouraging him to try new things, and celebrating his successes were instead calling him names and making fun of him.

And, yet, people wonder why I won't send my kids to public school!

The school system should be all over this, but, of course, they won't be. In addition to the fact that if she's a NEA member, she's nearly impossible to fire (remember: there are no bad teachers -- not even one's that vote kids out of the class!), they won't be because the fact of the matter is that this teacher crossed this line because she hasn't had the training or support necessary to understand how to work with a student who has behavioral problems -- be it from a disability or for any other reason -- and they know it. It's the same thing as Adam Race's priest. Those working with these kids aren't equipped and no one in charge cares enough to equip them.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial for the Morningside School District to understand that some day cute little Alex will be a 13 year old boy who, hopefully, will have had the appropriate interventions necessary to have a healthy happy life. The current road they've sent him down is sure to produce the opposite, and somebody will be dealing with that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Birthday Boy

Well, this is several days later than I planned. For Rob's birthday, we got to celebrate by taking Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy to the hopsital for a tonsillectimy/adnoidectomy. What a way to celebrate! Now, he's back at the ER with him because Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy has not been drinking water like he told us -- he didn't lie, he just took micro-sips of water so over the course of yesterday only drank about 2 ounces when we thought he drank several cups -- and woke up bleeding from his mouth. Ugh.

Anyway, my wonderful husband turned 39 on Friday. My mom turned 75 on that day too. But she's away touring the Middle East right now, so she doesn't get a birthday blog entry. People who get to tour the Middle East don't get featured on my blog for their birthdays, because they get the special treat of going to the Middle East. Although how much of a treat that is might be debatable in some circles. I, personally, would rather go to the Middle East than be on my blog.

So, for Rob's birthday we had our traditional birthday apple pie, which totally derailed Nappy because you're supposed to have birthday cake, not pie, and she doesn't like apple pie. This is an issue for her, because really, from her perspective, all birthdays are celebrated in her honor. Now, in his honor, I will tell you a bit about my wonderful husband, Rob.

When I met Rob he was in his 20s and I was still a teenager. Scandalous! Okay, I was just shy of turning 20 and he was 23. But still. Well, this might have been scandalous, but he was so shy that I hadn't even realized that I had met him. I told him, later, it was because of the beard, the flannel shirt, and the jean jacket he always wore. Being the kind of college student that was studying classical piano, I hadn't really pondered young men who dressed like they listened to heavy metal. I kind of had my head in the clouds, or more, precisely, in a practice room at CCM, and he just kept coming around.

"Oh well," I thought, "what harm... it's not like I'm going to marry him."

Fast forward three years later, and we were married. He might have been shy, but he was persistent.

So, Rob is a very quiet, persistent guy who has a history of listening to heavy metal. He's also very intelligent. Sometimes this is good -- like it made it possible for him to finish graduate school and get a job, and, even after nearly 13 years of marriage, I still enjoy having conversations with him. Sometimes this is bad -- like when we're arguing about something. I would find that much easier if he just weren't very smart. He also likes to read philosophy, history, fantasy and the occasional geeky sci-fi or action book. Because he likes to read history he's got me hooked on historical fiction, some history non-fiction reading. I even actually read an occasional Star Trek novel.

But, no matter how persuasive he can be, he will never get me to like "Dr. Who". Some things don't even deserve to be an acquired taste.

He does still like some heavy metal, and I do have to say that he has corrupted Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy, who used to be my prized piano student but is now spending his time (while avoiding drinking water) studying electric guitar. However, he also has acquired a taste for both classical and jazz, and most recently, this interesting kind of avant guard folk music that he brought home from the library.

I realized what a gem he was when we were dating and it was winter. He lived in a house full of guys. The guys were nice, the house wasn't. It was a real slum and his room was freezing cold. There was actually no heat in the room. I lived in a pretty nice house with my roommates, and had an attic bedroom. It did get chilly, but I was whiny and complained about how cold I was. I came home from class and found his space heater plugged in and heating my room. He's been consistently that thoughtful for our entire marriage.

He also really loves Jesus. He's been willing to follow God to orphanages in Ukraine and Kazakstan and didn't run out of the room screaming when we realized we'd be working with the secret police on our last adoption. In fact, all we could both do was sit there and laugh. The first time he flew, let alone ever left the country was when we traveled to Ukraine for our first adoption. You would just have to say, too, that he's very brave.

He's also quite good looking.

In addition to all that, he has a great sense of humor. Here you can see his annual beard removal tradition:

First the "Amish Beard." He actually tried to kiss me with his beard like this! It was like being pursued by Abraham Lincoln or Dwight Shrute's brother, Mose. Freaky. We contemplated video taping him running around the yard like Mose, but thought the neighbors already find us unusual enough.

Next came the goatee.

I challenged him to keep it like this for several days, but he didn't. Next year the progression will go: full beard, full goatee, handlebar moustache.

In the course of our marriage he's completed college, graduate school, worked as a librarian, traveled, adopted children, been with me while I birthed children (didn't even get woozy!) been a great dad, helped me with advocating adoption, researched things for our family, being a computer techie kind of guy, read volumes of books to our children and has always been my best friend.

And, he does the laundry.

Not bad for a guy who once told me his motto is, "Never be in a hurry unless you're on your way to relax."

So, Happy Birthday Honey!