Archive | 2012

Managing a Large Family

A reader asked me a while back about managing so many kids as far as morning and evening routines (sorry it’s taken me this long to remember to get to this, Amy!).  It isn’t easy!

First, I will say that I’m a stickler for routine.  Being the type-A personality that I am, organization is a must.  That is not to say that I run things around here with military precision (if only!), or that things even tend to run very smoothly (they usually don’t), but in order to have some small modicum of orderliness, we try to stick to a general routine:

On school days, I set my alarm for 6:15.  Kevin has zero period, so he starts school at 7:00 a.m.  He was walking to school until I realized, before we changed the clocks recently at the end of Daylight Savings Time, that it was still dark when he left the house at 6:20.  Call me an overprotective, paranoid mom, but I suddenly began having visions of  – well, let’s just say horrible visions, even though he’s almost 16.  So I started driving him to school, intending to have him start walking again with the time change.  However, of course, my driving him has stuck, so, yeah, I drive him to school.

The other kids start school at 8:40.  The girls – Annabelle, Daisy, and Lilah, that is (who share a room) – get up around 6:00 a.m. no matter if it’s a school day or not, regardless of what time they go to bed.  So on school days, I don’t have to get them up, because chances are, they’re up already.  The rule is, if Daddy or I aren’t up already and it’s a school day, they are to stay in their room quietly until we get up.  However, it’s not uncommon for the three of them to be in their room raising hell at 5:30 a.m.

If Michael isn’t in a rush to get to work, he’ll get the kids their cereal in the morning.  Sometimes I do it when I get back from taking Kevin to school.  They’re getting better about getting it themselves, but in all honesty, I’d rather Michael or I do it so as to control the portions and the mess.  The girls and Joey, of course, get themselves dressed, etc. (although they apparently need twenty reminders every single day).  I let Scarlett lay in our bed after I get up for as long as she’s willing to; first thing in the morning seems to be her most content part of the day, and she will often lay in our bed amusing herself by staring at her hands or chewing on the covers for an hour.  I get Finn up around 7:00, and I try to spend some quiet time with him, sitting in the rocking chair in his room.  Then he and I have a quick breakfast together.  I make the kids’ sandwiches the night before, and they finish up making their lunches for school after they get dressed in the morning.  After they’re all dressed, teeth are brushed, lunches are made, etc., they’re allowed to watch TV until it’s time to go.  Meanwhile, I clean up the kitchen, make the beds (I know it’s ridiculous, but I cannot leave the house in the morning with unmade beds), and I might throw a load of laundry in the washing machine.  We leave the house at about 8:25 to head to school; in good weather and if I’m feeling ambitious, I walk the kids to school.  If I’m feeling lazy and/or on days Finn has preschool, I drive them to school.

The kids get out of school at 3:00 p.m. (except Wednesdays, with the exception of Kevin, they get out at 1:00ish).  When we get home, they have snacks and then do their homework.

Have I mentioned how much I hate elementary school homework?  In case I haven’t, let me just say it: I HATE HOMEWORK.  You can make all the arguments in favor of it that you want, but you will not sell me on the idea that homework in the primary grades does anything except rob kids of free time (which they should have after spending 6+ hours of their day at school), rob families of family time, create tension between kids and parents, and foster resentment – not love – of schoolwork.

So they spend their afternoon doing homework.  It usually involves much whining, or at the very least, stalling.  The teachers say that a first grader (Lilah) should be spending no more than 20 minutes on her homework, plus 20 minutes of mandatory reading, and third graders (Annabelle and Daisy) should be spending no more than about 40 minutes a day on homework (plus mandatory reading).  It never works out that way – ever.  It always takes at least twice as long as the prescribed time, no matter what threats, bargaining tools, reasoning, or rewards I offer.

When they do finally complete their homework (and I’m mainly talking about the three girls; Joey and Kevin, thank goodness, are both pretty self-directed as far as homework goes), it’s 4:30 – 5:00.  No time to go play outside.  I have the three girls take their showers before dinner because with this many kids, we’d be up until midnight having them all take their showers after dinner.  Kevin and Joey shower after dinner.  Bath time for Finn and Scarlett is much more lax, as I can bathe them during the day when everyone else is at school, and neither of them even require daily baths yet; I bathe them about every other day.

I try to get dinner started by 5:00 – 5:30, with the hope of having dinner on the table by 6:00 – 6:30 (which is roughly when Michael usually gets home from work).  Michael and I share kitchen clean-up duties, and then we divide and conquer to get the kids to bed.  We try to have Finn and the girls in bed by 7:30 (that’s right!).  Kevin and Joey are allowed to stay up until 8:30, and then they can read in bed until 9:00, and then lights out.  Yes, my teenager has a 9:00 bedtime.  He needs the sleep – and I need the sanity of having them all in bed at a decent time.  Right now, Scarlett is usually a wreck by early evening due to the fact that she’s kind of a horrible napper, so I wrap her up tight, nurse her to sleep and put her in her swing around the time we’re sitting down to dinner, and if things go well, she’ll stay there until I’m ready to go to bed around 10:00 – 10:30.  Then I put her in bed with me – not so much because I’m a big believer in co-sleeping (whatever works for you, I say), but because it’s the only way I can get a decent night’s sleep.  If my husband doesn’t keep me awake with his snoring, that is . . . but that’s a topic for a different day.

So there you have it: semi-sanity, summed up.

Bad Elf

Two years ago I bought into the whole Elf on the Shelf phenom.  It seemed like every family I knew suddenly had one, and not wanting to be the bad mom and cheat my kids, I succumbed.  At first blush, it seemed like a fun tradition to start, and the bonus would be motivating my kids to toe the line – at least during the holiday season, right?  Santa’s little narc, right here in our very own home.

Well, the experience didn’t go so well.  My kids were terrified of the thing (come walk down Memory Lane with me, won’t you?).  Plus, I quickly realized that “tradition” translates to “giant pain in the ass.”  Mom’s ass, to be specific, because it ain’t Dad thinking up creative places to place the Elf, and remembering to do it every damn night.

(Really, this is just another sadistic twist in the competitive game of Motherhood, isn’t it?  The good moms not only remember to move the Elf, and find super fun things for the Elf to do in order to amuse their kids and keep the holiday magic alive, but they take photos of their Elves and post them to Facebook so that we slacker moms can feel like the losers we are.)

Well, after that scarring experience two years ago, I said “no more!” and stuffed the blasted Elf into a drawer where it’s remained, forgotten about, all this time.

Forgotten about until a couple of days ago, that is.  Suddenly Annabelle (the child who was most terrified of it a couple years ago) got it in her head that the Elf must return, post haste! “Call Santa, Mommy, and tell him to send the Elf back!  I’m not afraid anymore!”  She said.  “Mommy, did you call Santa yet?”  “No.”  “Mommy, will you call Santa tonight and tell him to send the Elf back to our house?”  “Mommy, did you call Santa?”  “Mommy, when will you call Santa?!?!”

Great balls of fire!

So, against my better judgment, I dug the Elf out last night and put him up on the top of the mirror in our dining room.  The kids were thrilled to see him up there this morning.

Now, let me just stop for a second and wonder aloud how it is that Joey, age 10, no longer believes in the Halloween Ghost (an apparition who appears on Halloween night after the kids have gone to sleep and exchanges most of their candy haul for a toy or book; I made this up when Kevin was a tyke in order to convince him to willingly part with most of the crap he got trick-or-treating), but does still believe not only in Santa, but that this stupid, fake-looking Elf doll is a real elf.  Go figure.

Then the questions start:

“Mommy, when did he get here?”

“Did you see him come in?”

“How did he get in the house?”

“Does he fly?”

“Does he talk?”

“Why does he look like a doll?”

“Will he talk to you while we’re at school?”

“Will he still be here when we get home from school?”

My favorite: “Mommy, I saw a bunch of boxes at Target that said ‘The Elf on the Shelf’ on them.  What are those for?”

And leave it to Annabelle to climb up onto a chair to get a closer look.  “Mommy, why does it look like he’s taped to the wall?  I can see tape behind him.  How come there’s tape on him?”

Listen, kid.  If you keep up with the questions, your pal the Elf is going to take a header into the nearest garbage can.

I’m just not good at making up lies on the spot.  I need time to weave my lies to make them more believable, so if my kids are expecting wise, magical answers from me, I’m sure they’re sorely disappointed.  I give my standard answer to all of their questions pertaining to the Elf: “I.  Don’t.  Know.”

In any event, it does seem that our Elf is quite the rascal.

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There he is, up on the dining room mirror (pretend you don’t see the dust up there).  Oh my goodness, what in the world . . . ??

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Well, I never!

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Hey!  That’s my vodka!!

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Elf, you dawg!  You da man!

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Oh look!  He shits mini chocolate chips!  Isn’t it precious?

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Happy freakin’ holidays!

Faith Doesn’t Work For Everyone

In the wake of a local teen’s sudden death last week, there has been much talk in the community about faith.  We live in an especially conservative, predominantly Christian part of California, so it’s not all that surprising that most of the people impacted by this tragedy, directly or indirectly, are Christians, or that they are turning to their faith to cope.

A few days after he died, I ran into a friend at the store.  She and I have forged a somewhat tentative friendship – tentative because her Christian faith is so much a part of her, and my unbelief flies in the face of that.  It’s hard to find common ground when one of us knows the other is praying for her soul, and the other knows that the beliefs she holds dear are thought of as delusional.  We’re both moms, so that’s our common ground, but even in that there are wide differences in how we each approach it based on our spiritual status.

Anyway, she is close friends with the mother of the boy who died.  When we ran into each other at the store, she said that the family is coping as well as could be expected, and are definitely being buoyed by their faith.  She then relayed to me how – understanding that I don’t believe – faith has carried her through some very difficult times in her life.  She told me how there have been some particular instances during which she was filled with peace when she didn’t think she should have had peace, and that was evidence to her of God’s presence, and it affirmed her faith.

As she was telling me this, I was reminded of another friend of mine whose little boy died in a tragic accident a number of years ago.  She was a devout Christian, and she counted on one of the promises of Christian faith that God would walk with her through the difficult times and offer her comfort and peace – only to find that in her darkest hours, she didn’t feel the comfort or peace of God’s presence at all.  She wrote about it here.

I think back on my own life and the many dark times I’ve gone through – times of loss, of suffering.  I was a believer through most of it – it’s only been the last five or six years that I’ve let go of the faith I carried around with me from the time I was a child.  My faith never lent me peace or comfort.  In my darkest hours, I didn’t feel God’s presence – I felt utterly alone.  In my darkest hours, my faith led to more tormented thoughts than anything (Why was God allowing a man to beat the crap out of me and emotionally torture me?  Could my dad possibly go to heaven if he wasn’t a believer?)

So how do the believers reconcile this?  Why do some believers feel God’s presence and the peace and comfort that goes with that, and other believers – just as pure (or unpure) of heart and soul – don’t when they should?  Are they doing faith wrong?  Are they just not as favored by God?

I can’t deny that the peace and comfort that those select believers feel when they need to feel it is very real to them.  But it also can’t be denied that not everyone – not even every faithful person – enjoys that benefit of faith.

These are just some of the reasons I don’t believe.

 

What We Did Over Thanksgiving Break … or, The Great Vomitfest of 2012

For the third year running, the kids had the entire week off from school for Thanksgiving.  We spent almost the entire week in a sea of puke.  Yes, the stomach flu that is going around has hit our house hard.  (Interestingly, the “stomach flu” is actually a misnomer, as it is not a flu at all, but rather gastroenteritis.)

It all started two weeks ago when Lilah vomited all over her bed in the middle of the night (isn’t that the best, when kids do that?).  She had eaten a whole lotta cantaloupe and also a filched chocolate bar from the Halloween stash, so you can imagine what her bed looked like.  In any case, I wrote the episode off as probably cantaloupe that was a smidge beyond its prime.

Then last weekend, Saturday night, Daisy began vomiting (thankfully, she didn’t hurl in her bed – a top bunk, which would have been all the more a bummer – but all over her bedroom floor, including a throw rug).  She vomited repeatedly for several hours, and then was in bed, weak and head-achey for a full day.

Sunday night, Joey got it.  He puked in his bed.  And all over the floor in his room.  The vomiting went on for several hours, just like Daisy, and he was in bed with a terrible headache for a day and a half after the vomiting stopped.

Late Monday morning, Annabelle began throwing up.  She was very matter-of-fact about it.  “Mommy, I’m going to throw up,” she told me.  Then she calmly walked herself to the bathroom and hurled in the toilet, thank goodness.  She’s the only one of the kids who made it into the toilet every time.  After the first time she puked, she complained that she was hungry!  Then she cried because I wouldn’t let her eat!  Then she puked again.  And again.  Just like the others, that went on for several hours and then she was in bed with a headache for a day.

Tuesday night, I was awakened by Finn screaming.  I went into his room, and sure enough, he had barfed all over his bed.  Now, with the other kids, once they started throwing up, I put them to bed with a bucket or empty trash can next to them for emergencies.  Can’t be done with Finn.  He doesn’t understand.  If he’s going to hurl, he’s going to hurl without reservation wherever he is.  So I changed his bedding and his jammies and put him back to bed, knowing full well that this was going to go on for several hours.  Sure enough, he threw up eight times before he was done, and I cleaned him up and changed him every time, and washed my hands until they were raw.  I gave up on bedding after the second time he threw up and just started putting towels down.  After a few hours, he was done throwing up and was lethargic for another two days.

As one kid after another was picked off by this bug, I started thinking that Lilah had actually been the first to get it when she threw up all that cantaloupe and chocolate a couple weeks back.  But Friday night she started throwing up again, and I knew then that, no, that first round was just bad cantaloupe after all, and this was the stomach flu (or whatever you want to call it).  I think Lilah probably had it worse than anyone.  Instead of vomiting repeatedly for several hours, she vomited occasionally over a period of two days.  She spent the entire weekend in bed or lying on the couch with a trash can next to her and I don’t think she ate more than a couple of crackers all weekend.  She’s finally better today, but I kept her home from school just because she’s so weak from being so sick and not eating, and her poor little face just looks thin and wan.

Through all this, I decided that by sheer force of will – that, and those Super Mom Powers I’m supposed to be endowed with – that I was not going to get it.  After all, days and days went by with kid after kid puking and me cleaning it up and looking after them, and I felt fine.

Then, this past Saturday night, around midnight, it started.  I woke up with my stomach feeling not right, and I knew.  I threw up repeatedly for five solid hours, with such force that I felt like my organs were going to come up, until I was weak and completely depleted.  Michael started throwing up within a couple of hours of me.  Both of us stayed in bed for most of the day yesterday, and I don’t know about him, but I had a killer headache, just like the kids complained of.

I hate that feeling of an entire day slipping by, of nothing productive getting done.  I’m a task-oriented person, and never is that more evident than when I am forced to not do anything because of illness.  It unsettles me.

Today I feel better, but still weak.  I lost four pounds over 24 hours, though I’m sure it will be back within a few days.  I am really sore, as if I did some hardcore upper body workout, which I guess, if you think about it, is what repeated violent vomiting amounts to.

Kevin and Scarlett are the only ones to have escaped it so far.  I’m not thanking my lucky stars just yet, though, because it’s too soon – they could still both come down with it.  I especially worry about Scarlett.  I have visions of her becoming quickly dehydrated from repeated vomiting and having to go to the hospital and be hooked up to an IV.  Worst case scenario, I know, but probably not far-fetched.  Hopefully the antibodies she gets from nursing will serve her well.

As for Thanksgiving itself, it was kind of a bust.  It was the only day last week that nobody was actively sick, but it wasn’t a day that went especially well.  I decided it would be the perfect day to do our annual family photo for our holiday cards, and that’s always an ordeal.  Just getting everyone dressed and out the door took two hours.  And then, trying to get everyone to cooperate for the actual photos is a torment.  We came up with a great concept this year, but the actual photos are a bit of a disappointment.  One of them will have to do, though, because there’s no way I’m putting us through that torture again for another year.  That whole process took up way more time than we thought it would, so Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t on the table until hours later than we had hoped, and tempers were flaring before then, so . . . yeah.

‘Tis the season.

Scarlett @ Five Months

Another month, and she’s grown more beautiful, don’t you think?

 

(Sometimes I can’t believe she’s mine!)

 

 

Gosh, I hope those blue eyes stay blue.  But I suspect they’ll eventually turn green like Kevin’s and Finn’s did, and even mine.

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that, temperament-wise, she’s Joey’s clone as a baby.  Right down to the loud humming herself to sleep as she nurses.  Joey was a tough baby, but he ended up being the sweetest little boy you’d ever want to know.  So I have hope for Scarlett!  Not that she’s not sweet, but she’s tough – yes, still.

 

I know, the pictures make a liar out of me, huh?  Okay, she doesn’t cry all the time.  She’s happy when she’s getting attention.  And she’s got everyone in the house wrapped around her little finger.

 

Just stay my little baby, Scarlett.

Life, Death, and Faith

My heart is heavy today.  The older brother of a classmate of my twins died very suddenly yesterday.  I learned about it on Facebook (what a world we live in!); details are still emerging, but apparently it had something to do with his heart, and although I’m not sure, what I’m gathering is that he was not known to have had a heart condition, so it makes the shock of someone so young and apparently vital dying all the more unsettling.  He was 14 years old.

I do not know the family.  I know the little girl in Daisy and Annabelle’s class by sight, and her mom and I exchange greetings when we pass each other on the way to or from school, but that’s the extent of it.  So I can’t stake a claim of personal grief – and yet, hearing about anyone losing a child brings on grief, doesn’t it?  It is unfathomable to me what this family must be experiencing right now.  I asked Kevin if he knew the boy, because although they attended different high schools and were a grade apart, they would have attended elementary school together.  Kevin didn’t know him, but when I told him what happened, he said, “Let’s be thankful that everyone in our family is alive and healthy.”  He’s right, of course.  And yet, to think that, to feel that, feels cheap in a way.  As if to say, “I’m thankful that happened to someone else and not us.”  To believe that somehow, fate has favored us above them.

Inevitably, sentiments of faith are being expressed on Facebook regarding this tragedy.  The faithful believe that he’s with Jesus now, that he’s in a better place, that God needed him more than his family did.

The usefulness of faith is perhaps never more apparent than in times of grieving.  Holding onto such beliefs offers comfort in a time of great turmoil and pain.  If one really believes those things – that there is a better place after this earthly life, that a wise and merciful god is merely carrying out his divine plan – it can dull the pain of astounding loss.  It can make it all seem as if there is a good reason behind it – a purpose.  And the faithful are comforted also  by the belief that they will one day meet their loved one again in the Great Beyond.

But faith has another side to it.

When my dad died almost fourteen years ago – I was still a believer then – I agonized for months about where my dad’s soul had ended up.  He was agnostic, and to my knowledge, never “accepted Jesus Christ as his savior,” and so, based on what I was taught, his soul must have gone to hell.  Images of torture and fire and eternal cries of agony tortured me.  On the other hand, I had also been taught that God is compassionate and merciful, and so I argued with myself, “God loves everyone, he wouldn’t send someone to hell who was, underneath many flaws, a decent human being.”  And so I tried to believe that Dad went to heaven.  I went back and forth for a long, long time.  It was probably one of the more painful aspects of losing my dad so suddenly – the not knowing where he ended up.  Finally, I decided that of course he went to heaven.  Because that’s what I needed to believe to get through the grief and go on.  I would see him again one day after my earthly life was over, and that was all there was to it.  Because I needed to believe that, I could adjust my beliefs accordingly.  Faith seems to work that way.

I look back on that time now and feel something close to anger and disgust that I had to expend so much energy and time worrying and agonizing over the final resting place of my dad’s soul – all thanks to my faith, which had mostly been spoon fed to me.

We are all born and we all die, and between being born and dying, we all experience sorrow and loss and pain, as well as joy.  That is the natural order of things – that is life.  It seems that, were there any fairness at all though, no parent should ever have to bury a child.  That seems atrociously unfair and unnatural.  And yet, it happens all the time, all over the world.   So we try to make sense of it the best we can, and we take comfort wherever we can.

 

Finn’s Awesome Preschool . . . or, Beautiful Inclusion

Yesterday the preschool Finn attends had its annual family feast in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  It was a time for the families to sit down together and share a meal (“breaking bread” together is an important element of this preschool program, as the director is a big believer in connecting with one another through communal activities; the kids eat breakfast and lunch together every day, provided by the school), and a way for the school to thank the families for their involvement in the program.

Eating proficiently with utensils (including soup from a spoon!) and drinking from an open cup are just two of the skills Finn has mastered merely by having these skills modeled by typical peers.

The outdoor area is a kids’ paradise – so much to see and do and explore.  Finn is completely at home there and wanted to show us everything.

I’m not sure any if the kids see anything different about Finn.  They all seem to accept him as just one of them.  They all greet him when I drop him off in the morning, and there is one little girl in particular who proclaims Finn her “best friend” and hugs him without reservation.  The teachers recognize Finn’s differences without allowing those differences to define him; they talk to him the same way they talk to the other kids, they have generally the same expectations of him that they do the other children (taking his dishes up to the teacher after eating, for instance, and picking up toys that he is finished playing with).  They see him as a whole person with value and potential.  I wish with all my heart that the whole world could see him that way.

How to Make a 3-D Person Out of a Wooden Kitchen Spoon

Joey, our 10-year old, is in the midst of a fifth grade biography project for which he was instructed to choose a famous person, dead or alive, who has had a positive impact on society, research and prepare organized notes and give an oral presentation about that person, and create a 3-D model of that person.  Joey chose Mark Twain (an awesome choice!), and he’s been working very hard reading about him and preparing notes.  This weekend he and I headed to the craft store with no specific ideas in mind about what sort of 3-D model he might make, hoping for inspiration.

As we wandered the aisles of Michael’s, it hit me out of nowhere: a regular wooden kitchen spoon would be perfect as the body.  And so was born Joey’s model of Mark Twain:

 

 

Materials used included:

Wooden kitchen spoon

Cotton balls

Felt

Elmer’s glue

Hot glue

Markers

Beads

Plastic disposable bowl

The photos are pretty self-explanatory; markers were used for the face and some of the details on the clothes, cotton balls for the hair and mustache, felt for the clothes, and beads for the buttons.  Elmer’s glue was used for the hair (cotton balls), and hot glue was used to attach front and back clothing pieces at the edges.  I used a sharp knife to cut an X in the center of an overturned plastic bowl and stuck the finished spoon figure through the hole (like you would a straw in a soft drink) to create the base.  Voila!  The possibilities are endless, really; I’m sure a wooden spoon could be used to create just about any person, and there’s no limit to the materials that could be used for clothing and details.  The whole thing cost five or six bucks – you can’t beat that!

On Being a Bleeding Heart Liberal

As I was leaving the grocery store yesterday, I passed a car in the parking lot that had this bumper sticker displayed:

 

It made me feel angry and sickened.  What a crock of shit.

What I want to know is: what do you consider to be “welfare”?

I suspect that when most people think of “welfare,” what they think about is food stamps and checks rolling in to pay for (undeserved) living expenses.  I think to a lot of people, the idea of “welfare” conjures up images of a trashy mom, obese from the fruits of her food stamps, parked on a sofa, chain-smoking and eating Doritos and watching Jerry Springer on the tube as her ten children from ten different fathers by turns slurp Coca Cola from their baby bottles, graffiti the neighborhood as they ditch school, and corrupt the good children from hardworking families with drugs and foul language.

I’m sure there are people out there exactly like that.  But you don’t really believe that that picture represents the majority of people on “welfare,” do you?  Do you think anybody likes being poor?  Do you think very many people are proud to collect government assistance?  And do you really believe that very many people who are on welfare are living high on the hog?  Sure, there is definitely welfare fraud going on, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about people who humbly tap into a resource that allows them to feed their children, and to eke out an existence that is still probably considered poverty-level.

Why do the Haves begrudge the Have-Nots so vehemently and meanly?  Why are so many people so deeply invested in the Mine-Mine-Mine! mindset?  How is it that many of the same politically conservative people who out of one side of their mouths insist that the United States of America was founded on Christian values and that we, as a country, have strayed too far away from those values insist out of the other side of their mouths that those who are less fortunate, those who have fallen on hard times or who were born into hard times, are moochers and parasites?  Isn’t helping those who are less fortunate a basic Christian tenet?  Shouldn’t it be a basic human tenet?

Why are so many people so hypocritical – and they don’t even see it?

Consider this: “welfare” is not merely food stamps.  “Welfare” is defined as –

. . . the provision of a minimal level of wellbeing and social support for all citizens. In most developed countries, welfare is largely provided by the government, in addition to charities, informal social groups, religious groups, and inter-governmental organizations. In the end, this term replaces “charity” as it was known for thousands of years, being the voluntary act of providing for those who temporarily or permanently could not.

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Welfare systems differ from country to country, but Welfare is commonly provided to individuals who are unemployed, those with illness or disability, the elderly, those with dependent children, and veterans.

It is fair and accurate to say, then, that “welfare” encompasses any program designed to provide medical, monetary, or other assistance at the expense of taxpayers.  That means – and I’m talking to you, my friends in the Down syndrome community – Medicaid, early intervention services, respite care, and diapers from Regional Center.  If you have taken advantage of any of those, then you, my friend, have received welfare.  Should anyone begrudge you that?  Does it make you a moocher or a parasite?

Maybe the person who owns that car with that bumper sticker has never, ever received anything on the taxpayers’ dime.  But what would that person do if, by some catastrophe, they lost everything?   What would that person do if they had a child with a disability and that child needed therapy or extensive medical intervention?

It’s funny how it’s a whole different story when the circumstances come home to roost.

Scarlett’s 4-month Well-Baby Checkup, and Our Pediatrician’s Curious Take on Autism and Vaccines

So Scarlett had her 4-month well-baby checkup this morning.  She weighs in at 11 pounds 10 ounces and is 24 inches long (or 2 feet tall, which is more fun to say).  She is perfect!

After the routine physical exam, the doc says to me, “So, still no vaccines?”  “Nope,” I say.  Okay, you’re not really surprised at this, coming from a home-birthing, cloth-diapering, extended breastfeeding mother, are you?  Not that not vaccinating necessarily goes hand in hand with those other things, but, well, it is true that “crunchy” parents (and I only consider myself to be “crispy”) tend to be less inclined to vaccinate their children, or at least to be choosy about which vaccines to go ahead with and on what sort of schedule.

Without going into a whole song and dance about our reasons for not vaccinating (because I wrote about it a while back here), I’ll just say briefly that, although our five older kids are vaccinated, Finn remains unvaccinated, and at least for now, so does Scarlett.

So here are some things the pediatrician had to say to me this morning (paraphrased):

  • First and foremost, autism is NOT caused by vaccines!
  • Autism is genetic, and by genetic, he means hereditary.  He said that he can almost always tell, by observation, which parent the kid got it from.
  • Autism is caused by parents not being connected enough to their kids.  (However, this is also a doctor who has been telling me since Kevin was a baby that babies should not sleep with their parents and parents should not pick their baby up every time he/she cries, and babies do best by being left to cry it out.)
  • He knows a kid (a patient?  Not sure . . .) who WAS vaccinated who caught meningitis from a kid who was NOT vaccinated.  “If he was vaccinated, how did he catch meningitis from someone who wasn’t vaccinated?” I asked.  “Vaccines aren’t perfect!” he exclaimed.  “Which is why you have to get as much of them as you can!”
  • There is a “family of autistics” who live in his neighborhood – a grandmother, a mom and a dad, their kids, and the mom’s sister who comes to visit occasionally.  They’re all autistic, according to the doc.  He did say that none of them has ever been diagnosed, but it is his feeling that they all have autism.  And apparently, the grandma is the “most severe” – and she was never vaccinated because she was born in China!  According to him, each generation in the family has received more vaccines, and yet the autism has lessened in severity with each generation.  No, he really said this!

After relaying all of this to me, he asked me again, “So, you’re sure you don’t want to vaccinate Scarlett today?”  “Yep,” I said.

Also, this is the same doc who insisted to me a month or two back that Finn’s eye turning inward is all in my imagination, it’s an “illusion,” but then Finn was diagnosed with strabismus by a pediatric ophthalmologist shortly thereafter.

Now you may be asking why we stick with this pediatrician!   Well, habit, I guess.  In all honesty, we’ve been with him for almost 16 years – since Kevin was born.  And generally I like him.  But it does seem that the older he gets (and he’s only a few years older than me!), the more radical his idea become, and the more we differ in our approach to certain things.  I guess I’ve learned to take it with a grain of salt.  Take what works, and leave the rest.  I’m okay going to him for routine stuff, but, yeah, obviously I don’t rely on everything he says.

As for vaccines, I’m not some nut job, and Jenny McCarthy is not my role model.  I wish people would give those of us who don’t vaccinate the benefit of the doubt, and instead of assuming we’re deranged, assume that we’ve given the issue careful thought, we’ve done our own research, and have perhaps just come to different conclusions than other parents have.  I don’t know what causes autism, but neither does anybody else to date.  When someone figures out what does cause autism and how it can be prevented, if the time ever comes that all vaccines are deemed completely safe for all children with no risk of side effects or neurological injury, when there is no longer any need for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program – then come and talk to me about my parenting choices.