Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sneak Peak: Maternity Pictures

Last Wednesday, I met up with my friend and owner of ECP, Erica, for Lucas's maternity shots.  Since opening her photography business, Erica has done Michael's maternity and newborn shots, as well as our family photographs.  She's really gifted.  It helps that the kids know her, so she's able to truly capture them and keep them comfortable, but she just has a great eye.  I love looking at her work, and looking at her art on our walls, I'm always touched by how perfect she catches our family on film. 

Lucas's maternity shots will be no different if her sneak peak is any indication.  Just because of my schedule and hers (and my laziness, too), I am several weeks off the "target" maternity shoot.  I was 37w2d when I met her in her North Wales studio for the initial shots before we went to a local preserve for some outdoor, sunset pictures.  Yet, she made me feel comfortable and, even waddling around with I-don't-even-want-to-think-about-how-many-extra-pounds I'm carrying, she made me feel pretty and in my own skin. 

Last night, she posted this first of my maternity shots, and I'm super excited to see the rest in the weeks to come. 
Courtesy of Erica Colvin Photography

(Oh, and only 8 more days til 39 weeks!  3 more until October!  Woo Hoo!)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Single Digits!!!

9 more days to go!!!!

I'm still super psyched to be pregnant: 37w5d today!  I'm pregnant a week longer than with Michael and 10 weeks longer than with Bobby & Maya. 

That being said, we had some excitement on Monday at 37w.  I've been feeling more contractions and definitely more pressure.  I bent down to pick up something that was on the floor and I felt a pop, followed by some intense pain in my lower belly/side/hip.  By 3:30, I called Peter at work and he came home early because I couldn't really get up after the kids.  As night rolled around, we were debating going in to the hospital.  I called the on-call doctor and he suggested, even though my contractions were irregular, that I go into L&D to get checked on the monitor.  We got there around 9:30 and ended up leaving around midnight.  Lucas responded well to the contractions, which stayed around 4 an hour, and the resident felt that all the pressure was from Lucas dropping so low in my pelvis.

Monday, it went from my belly being up near my breastbone, to me having about a hand in-between my breast and belly.  Now?  I have about 2 and a half "hands" between my breasts and belly!  This kid is settling in low!  Several vendors at this morning's Farmer's Market commented on it, as did the cashier at the local supermarket this afternoon.

I'm having more pain at night (probably in response to being active and doing stuff during the day) and then I tend to be up every hour until 2am or so (to go to the bathroom), then get 2-3 hour stretches of sleep.  Peter's been trying to let me stay in bed until 8am or so (I was in bed until 9am today), to try and catch up on some solid sleep. 

This is his last full week at work until he takes some of his paternity leave.  I have an appointment with Dr. B. on Monday morning at 38 weeks- my LAST OB APPOINTMENT OF THIS PREGNANCY!!!!  Oh my goodness, we are there!  That is another goal completely checked off!  Once we hit October 1st, that is my next to last goal; and then, making it to October 5th.  I really can't believe we are so close to meeting Lucas.  It's amazing to be here. 

Outstanding Goals:
___38 weeks  (33 hours)
___Last OB appointment   (43 hours/2 days)
___Making it until October (4 days)
___Making it until 39 weeks (Oct. 5) (9 days)

Monday, September 21, 2015

37 Weeks

We've done it!!!!!  We've made it to 37 weeks!!!!  As of 12:30ish on Saturday (36w5d), I was more pregnant than I'd ever been before.  We've hit the "Term" mark and, as of today, if Lucas were to be born, he would be considered "Early Full Term".  I can't believe it.  There's a part of me that wants to just cry.

The weekend was tough; I had a lot of contractions and, at one point, we were discussing going to L&D.  Thankfully, that situation passed and, although I'm tired, I feel really good today.  14 days to go.... We've got this!

37 weeks!!!!
The only real change is that I had my platelets checked at my 36w appointment.  They've dropped to 119K.  So, not great, but still high enough for the c/s.  Dr. B. called today.  Based on how long it took them to fall, he's thinking we're still going to be okay.  We'll check at my next appointment (38 weeks... 1 week away!) and go from there if we need to do an IVIG infusion before the cesarean.  Hopefully, we won't.  I'll continue doing my papaya supplementation and hoping that slows the falling or keeps it at bay, and then it really is just a matter of doing what we need to do.  I don't want general anesthesia, which means Peter cant be in the OR and that Lucas would automatically go to the NICU for observation.  I'd much rather have the experience I'm used to and the one that is safer for both of us!

But, we are here.  We are almost to single digits in the waiting-to-meet-Lucas journey.  The kids are super excited and counting it down, and so are we.  Everything is ready; all we are missing is this little guy on the outside!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shameless Plug

So, Maya is a Daisy Girl Scout (a second year) and is selling candy, nuts, and magazines to help with our fall Troop Fundraising.  It's a fundraiser... not much else I can say about that.  Here are the links if you'd like to purchase any candy or nuts or if you'd like to purchase magazines.  She's adorable and would be most appreciative!

Monday, September 14, 2015


36 weeks!!!  Only 21 more days to go!  We are almost there, and I still can't believe it. :)

I've definitely been having more contractions than normal, sleeping is more difficult (I'm up about once an hour), and I'm uncomfortable most of the time.  But Lucas is still baking away and happy, so all is good!  Michael was born in 5 days; if Lucas opts to make his appearance at the same time, he'd be born on would have been Peter's maternal grandmother's 99th birthday... which is kind of cool!  I'm hoping for at least another full week to bring us to the "37" mark, but I am really holding out for October.  #OctoberOrBust

My OB appointment was rescheduled from this morning to tomorrow due to an issue with Dr. B., so we'll probably end up discussing the "plan" if I go into labor before my next (38w) appointment.  Otherwise, I can't imagine there will be too much going on.  I'll take my hospital bag and toss it in the car, just in case there is a reason we go to L&D.  The car seat base is installed as of last week (CRAZY!) and we are really ready to go whenever Lucas is.

So, here we are!
36 weeks... Only 21 days until we meet this little guy!

And here's the montage.  I think the fact that he's dropping and pooching out is quite apparent now!

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I'm  sitting here in shock.  Six.  Six years old.  My "babies" are 6. 

Six years ago, I was spending my last day in the hospital with Bobby and Maya on the "inside".  By 7pm, I was in the OR and twenty minutes later, my sweet little two pounders were being taken out of my body and into the "NICU womb" that would care for them for nearly 9 weeks.  Even now, I get choked up thinking about it.  I read their birth story and couldn't not cry. How was that 6 years ago?  How did that happen?  It feels like yesterday, like forever ago, like a dream. 

Suddenly, my just-shy-of-3-lbs-son is now 65+ pounds, his legs hit below my knees when I snuggle him, and, although he is behind developmentally, the last few weeks have seen such huge leaps in both language and behavior.  Bobby loves to write and has beautiful handwriting; his memory is amazing and he can memorize things like it's no big deal.  He really enjoys cooking and, if commercial art were still a field, I could see him going into something like that with his love for logos and design.

In the blink of an eye, my barely-over-2-lbs-daughter is now 37 pounds, long and lanky like her dad with her size 6 skinny jeans but 3T cinched waist.  Maya loves being a Girl Scout and has Peter's scientifically leaning mind.  Science and Math make her happy like nothing else!  She loves to garden and her gift of gab comes straight from me.  She is the princess in our house (although she thinks of herself as Queen Elsa) and I think she puts her value as "big sister" above everything else.  She's my minime at times and it's amazing to talk to her as we snuggle and hear her views on everything from God to space to her best friend.

We went from zero to six in what feels like seconds...
...and I'm not ready.

I'm not ready for them to be well into second grade and preparing for First Penance and First Communion.  I'm not ready for them to be so opinionated and expressive.  I'm not ready for them to be responsible.  In my head, I'm still holding two babies but they are clearly two "kids".  Two kids who want to have their own choices and decisions.  It's hard to let them make them, even though I know they have to... they need to.

So, happy birthday, Bobby and Maya!  Today, we will celebrate you for all the wonderful things you are and the beautiful things you bring into our lives!  May you have many, many more wonderful celebrations of the lives you have blessed us with.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Red Letter Day

Sometimes, I forgot just how shitty autism can be.   Days like today remind me.

I didn't sleep well last night (that has nothing to do with autism... just some background).  I was up every hour to pee (thanks, Lucas!) and then woke up at 3:40 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep.  Eventually, around 5:30, I crashed and by 6:30, I think I was out and didn't wake up until 8.  Which would have been fine, except that I was due to start a Bible Study today, which included a drop off program for the kids- which meant leaving at 8:30 so that we could drop Peter at work and get on our way to the church (not ours), which is half an hour from him.
I was going to ditch but Maya was actually really excited about the kids program.  They have a nursery, a program from 1yo, 2yo, then PreK/K, 1st/2nd homeschooled, and 3-6 homeschooled.  For whatever reason, she was psyched, so we rushed around and got the kids dressed and ready, and left 10 minutes behind schedule.  Not too shabby, since I had to shower still.  But, it meant no one had breakfast.  So, once we left Peter, I stopped off and got the kids pancakes and juice, and they ate in the car on the way.  It all seemed to be good. I reiterated the morning schedule, Bobby repeated me, all was well.
We got to the church (which also houses a large play area that the kids enjoy) and that is when it all went downhill.  Bobby cried from the moment we got out of the car.  We ended up making it to the sidewalk, where he had a complete meltdown that included hitting me in the stomach before he ran away- right into Michael and Maya who were holding hands.  Michael was trampled and pushed down on the sidewalk, which scraped his knee.  By this point, Bobby was a disaster; part of it was the meltdown and I think part of it was realizing he hurt Michael.  He is so tenderhearted that, when he melts down and cannot control himself, he gets more upset as he starts to come out of it and realize that he either had the meltdown in the first place or that he has hurt someone.  He was still in the middle of it but I could also see that he was trying to fight it, too, and that is nearly as heartbreaking.  I grabbed him,  to stop him from running in the street, to drag him back to where Michael is on the ground sobbing.  I'm trying to comfort Michael while Bobby is still flinging himself and, in doing so, is pushing me off the sidewalk and into the street.  Then, to complete the meltdown, Bobby starts peeing on himself.  (This seems to be how most meltdowns end; it's almost as though he can no longer hold whatever is driving him inside, and he just physically expels himself.  While it's awful, it's also usually a sign that the worst is over.)
Maya helped me get Michael back to the car, so that I could help Bobby, who is now crying uncontrollably and apologizing, changed. Once I got him cleaned up at the trunk, I just held him against my chest while he cried.  He wanted to go to the play land and I said that we were going home.  He begged to go to his class with Maya, then to the play area (which was our initial plan), and Maya echoed that.  At this point, all I wanted to do was throw in the towel, but we were already there and Bobby seemed to be calm, so I said we would try. 
We go in and after what felt like forever (because at this point, we are quite late), I find the class listed as "Tuesday Homeschool".  The teacher says the class is for 8y and older and that we are in a different room.  So, we go to the other class, which turns out to be the PreK/K class.  The teacher explains that they canceled the 1/2 class because they didn't have enough adults volunteer.  She was very nice and says she is fine with the kids being in class, since they have ages 4-5 and a few kids about to turn 6 who are in K.  So, I take Michael to his class, and he's fine.  He went right with the teacher and started playing with the other two year olds.  I walked Bobby and Maya back; they went inside, but both refused to participate.  Bobby stood by the door and Maya  clung to his arm.  She is typically shy, but this was a different level- especially since she really wanted to go.  I think she was just emotionally done from the morning too.  I stayed to try and encourage them to play with the other kids but then Maya attached herself to me and wouldn't let go, while Bobby just kept saying "No class.  Go home."  So, I gave up after a few minutes, thanked the teacher (who really was lovely and offered for us to try again next week), and went and got Michael.  His class was about to go to the gym to play with balls, and the teacher said he was doing well for the short time he was there. 
By this point, I was the one of the verge of tears.  Just so exhausted from fighting and struggling to get to this stupid class that I was looking forward to, tired from a lack of sleep, contracting from the stress of dealing with it all and the physical impact from Bobby, and just wanting to sit down.  So, we went to the play area, which was fairly empty and they played for about 30 minutes. 
When we have so many good days, it makes the moments like today seem so far removed.  And then, they come back and smack you in the face, and you remember what it is like to have an atypical child.  He does so well for days and even weeks, and then something like this blows everything up.  It doesn't matter on these days how much you tell yourself "It's going to get better" because, in the moment, all you want is the "better".  I look at Bobby and I see how far he has come, even on the bad days, but in the throws of it all, I just want to cry and curl up under a rock. 
I wasn't the shining example of special needs motherhood, either.  As he was falling apart, I was yelling to be heard and ended up having to hold his face to get him to look at me, which I hate.  It feels so mean to me, even though it is the only way, when he's flailing, that I'm able to get him to pause and look into my eyes.  Holding him, as he's crying and telling me he's sorry, I cant tell him "It's okay" enough, especially when all I want to do is take whatever it is that he's feeling away.  Knowing, as his mother, that I cant really do much except hold him until it passes... it breaks my heart. 
Everyone seems much better now.  They are decompressing with some educational games on their tablet (except for Michael, who is playing with a book).  I'm about to make lunch and am hopeful that the rest of the day will get better.  Our big plan is to make a cake for the Virgin Mary's birthday. :)  The kids are pretty excited about that, and Maya said they should make birthday cards.  So, hopefully once I feel settled and lunch is over, we can get that started. 
Here's to hoping there is a better day post-lunch!

Monday, September 7, 2015


Can you believe it???? 35 weeks!  We are in the home stretch!  Only 4 more weeks- 28 days until we are due to meet Lucas!!!

In a week, I have my next-to-last OB appointment.  It seems so nuts to think that Michael was born in about 2 weeks from now... EEK! CRAZY! 

We are all squared away.  Thanks to wonderful friends who have shared what they no longer needed and folks who were willing to sell used items in good shape for low amounts, we are really done with all our 'must haves'.  We were lucky enough to get the Chicco KeyFit carseat and snapable stroller, I finally picked out a diaper bag "backpack", my hospital bag is packed with some nifty "new" nursing PJs, the crib is up and ready, clothes are washed and folded, diapers are actually on the way (I use Subscribe and Save from Amazon, and Lucas is already in the pile!), the co-sleeper is just waiting to be attached to the bed.  My new mae tai (which is gorgeous) is folded and ready to go!  Peter's mom has made some little blankets, including an adorable carseat blanket, for Lucas, and we are just waiting for the little man to make his appearance in 4 weeks.

I'm tired.  Definitely more tired than with Michael at this stage (when I was running a race, LOL!), but I think a large part of the uncomfortability and tiredness comes from not being as active.  I'm weeks off from running or doing yoga, just because of how low Lucas settled and how painful it was to work out.  That has definitely played a role in how I'm feeling, I think.  I'm in that spot where I'm both counting down to not be pregnant, but also in that place where I know I wont be pregnant forever and I already miss the idea of Lucas being "out".

I'm getting a migraine every week or two, which sucks.  Bobby and Maya had pretty much gotten rid of those; I had a few that came and went when I was pregnant with Michael.  But Lucas has really brought them back regularly.  I am hopeful they will go away once I deliver.  Contractions, too, are becoming a part of daily life, as is sciatica :(  But this kid is a mover and shaker- cannot complain about that one!

Here's the belly at 35 weeks.  He's dropping lower, that is for sure!
35 weeks:  L-28 days til October 5th!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Forgive us, Aylan

This morning, I opened the news to find that the little boy mentioned in my post yesterday had been identified as 3 year old Aylan Kurdi.  Heartbreakingly, I also read that his 5 year old brother, Galip, had also been found, dead.  As this news settled into my heart, I sobbed while I tried to make pancakes for my 2 year old and 5 year old sons.  I was making breakfast for my boys while another mother's boys, who would probably have loved chocolate chip banana pancakes, were dead. 

Later on, I read another article.  Their mother, Rehan, is also dead; as a mother, part of me feels a tad of relief.  I wouldn't want to live after the ordeal of trying to escape with my children, only to have them die while I lived.  But the news doesn't stop there: their father, Abdullah, has survived.  And his grief is palatable when he speaks.  Listening to the pauses, the gasps as he searches for words... There aren't any. 

"The Turk [smuggler] jumped into the sea, then a wave came and flipped us over. I grabbed my sons and wife and we held onto the boat," Mr. Kurdi said, speaking slowly in Arabic and struggling at times for words.

"We stayed like that for an hour, then the first [son] died and I left him so I can help the other, then the second died, so I left him as well to help his mom and I found her dead. ... What do I do. ... I spent three hours waiting for the coast guard to come. The life jackets we were wearing were all fake.

"My wife is my world and I have nothing, by God. I don't even think of getting married again or having more kids. ... I am choking, I cannot breathe. They died in my arms."  (full article)

As people, we want better lives for ourselves; as parents, we want better lives for our children.  This family applied for amnesty in Canada (where the father's sister lives and works) and they were denied.  They tried to legally escape the hell they were in, and, when that failed, they paid over $6000 to a smuggler to try and get their family to Greece, in the hopes that they would be able to eventually get to North America.  It was hope that put those sneakers and red shirt and blue shirts on their youngest son.  It was hope that laced up ineffective life jackets on a 3 and 5 year old.  It was hope that had them clinging to a capsized boat in the hopes that someone- anyone- would help them.  I can't imagine how that hope failed as first one little boy, then another, then their mother, succumbed to the waves as no one came.

I take my kids to the local pool.  Each little pool or section has it's own lifeguard that rotates every 15 minutes.  They watch the kids like hawks; if one looks like they are struggling in the least, one of these teens jumps in the water and pulls them out in an instant.

This family, surrounded by the world watching, died one by one, as no one came.

When Maya was three months old, she began choking on her bottle.  In the seconds that it took to ring 911 and for Peter to grab an aspirator, we had assurances that someone was on their way and less than two minutes later, EMTs were pounding on our door, making sure that our little 6 pound baby was breathing again.

Clinging to a boat in the sea, in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis we've seen in recent times, with reporters giving us bit by bit feeds of what is going on, and this family- and so far almost 3000 people like them- are dying in the sea because no one is helping.

When Peter and I have needed help, be it financial or help with our kids or anything else, we've picked up the phone or sent a text, and friends and family responded.  There's never been a question that, if we needed something, we could hold out our hand and someone would be there to take it.  The flip is true; when someone has needed something and we could help them, then our hand is the one taking the outreached.  It's what you do.  It's being part of the human race.  You help.

No one helped them.  Governments that claim to be willing to help turned them away.  Paying for a smuggler to try and get them to safety failed.  Sons are dead.  A wife and mother are dead.  And their father...  While little Aylan's face and body break me to my core, as a parent, this father's grief hangs heavy in my heart.  His face, distorted by tears and anguish, as he waits for the bodies of his family and asks only to be buried alongside them...  What else is there to say?  There is nothing. 

Our world is broken.  Our country is broken.  As Americans, I feel that we should have a special kinship to the immigrants and refugees from around the world.  Very few of us can claim heritage to the land on which we reside.  My mother can; my father can't.  We have family who fled Ireland due to criminal history, religious persecution, and hunger.  They smuggled themselves and paid fares to get to the U.S., then somehow made their way from Ellis Island down south, where they settled into lives as "Americans".  They left all they knew behind for something they hoped and prayed would be better.  Peter's family, too, can claim no "national" tie to this country; they came and settled here, all looking for something better.  One of our biggest lies is that "at least those immigrants came here legally".  It's interesting to read up on the history of immigration in this country.  The first limits on people wasn't set until the 1920s and laws weren't combined and squared away into what we can sort of see as the start of our current system until the 1950s.  "Legal" immigration was basically getting off the boat and paying your head tax for many of our great-great grandparents who settled here and led us to feeling like we can call ourselves "real" Americans.

We are so far removed from the time when people remember (or can at least remember the relatives who lived through) the hell that they fled from.  We are so far removed from the people of the 1930s who didn't want to intervene in the European "issue" of Hitler; we are too young to remember the horror of the millions of people who died in that "issue" that we had no desire to involve ourselves in.  I remember reading in history about soldiers forcing those who had turned a blind eye to bury the emaciated, murdered Jews who just wanted someone- anyone- to intervene and help them.  They didn't know, the people had said.  They didn't realize.

They didn't care.

And that's where we are.  We don't really care.  If it makes us uncomfortable to see the picture of a dead boy on a beach, we close the computer or switch to a different page.  If we don't know how to address the immigration problem, we turn to the "well, they are all criminals and we don't want that type of person here" argument or we fall back on the "they-don't-look-or-sound-like-me" tendencies.  God forbid they don't worship the same way (or, gasp, the same God) that we do.  That right there is clear grounds to get rid of them or to look the other way! 

This, my friends, is what we don't care about.

These little boys, whose parents just wanted better for them, who just wanted a life where they could be free to grow up without violence and worshiping their God...  These little boys whose bodies were thrashed around in the sea as they tried hopelessly to get to Greece.... These are the little boys that we don't care about.  Those smiles?  That stuffed animal that looks similar to the one your child snuggles at night?  Those two little faces that look like the faces of our children?  Those are the children whose deaths are directly related to the inaction of our governments- and the lack of accountability we the people are giving them.  Aylan and Galip Kurdi's last gasps for breath, their tears and sobs, their drowned bodies on a Turkish beach- those are on our hands.  We each share in the burden of that blame.  For turning a blind eye to what has been going on because "it's not our country". 

Those are people are the love of God!  Children, the elderly, the young!  Human beings.  Who the hell cares if it isn't "our" country!  They are crying out to the international community for help.

We are responsible for not wanting to impede on our own comfortability.  For not wanting to spend the money to get people out or get them to a safer place.  There are people willing to open their own homes to refugees to try and spur their government to action.  To quote them, "Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, our next soul mate, the drummer in our children’s band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, the hacker and the television host. People who we’ll never be able to say to: ‘Your life is worth less than mine.’  Open the gates.”
What is the cost that we are worried about more than the thousands of human beings that are trying to escape and are dying by droves?  What cost to our own humanity and souls are we willing to pay because we don't want it to hit our bottom line?

Where are all the people crowding into their churches on Sunday morning and proclaiming Christ?  Where is the social justice that Jesus demands when He tells followers, point blank, that whatever they do (or don't do) to and for the least among them they are doing to him personally?  Where are our Imams and our Muslim brothers and sisters who truly embrace the social justice found in the Quran, in the thought that if there are tears from the oppressed then the oppressors must be called out on their actions?  Where are our Rabbis, calling out "Tzedek, tzedek tirdof!” and spurring the people to live the Prophets in their lives and not just in their hearts?  Where are those of all faiths who, in one breath, call on followers to social justice but are now quiet?

We are responsible for the dead on these beaches and the people turned away at borders. 

And we, the global community, are better than this.  We are still human.  We still have love and hope- the same hope that the Kurdi family held onto as they piled into that boat to what they believed would bring them a better life- floating through our veins. 

We are better than this crisis and we can change.  We can make Aylan and Galip's deaths and the deaths of all these refugees mean something.  We can hold our governments accountable for what they are doing (and not doing) in our names and interests.  We can demand our Faiths take action.  We can do something ourselves, through secular and religious groups.

We do not have to sit around and watch families destroyed.  We don't have to continue to see imagines of dead babies in the water because we can stop it from happening.  We don't have to sit by, helpless and tearful, because "it's not our country".

May Aylan and Galip, and all those impacted by these atrocities, forgive us.  May God have mercy on us for our failures and give us strength to make the changes needed to help our fellow humans.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Where Is Our Humanity?

At the end of August, I posted the following on my Facebook page, in response to a photo and commentary I'd seen.
"We live in a country where immigration is a fairly large issue, with debates on both sides as to what is "right" and "moral". However, I'm always led back to one thought. Excluding those whose history actually lies within the country they reside (for example, my mother comes from tribal peoples in our country), the vast majority of the world immigrated somewhere... They displaced their families for better lives or religious freedom. They then displaced (and, in many cases ...discriminated against) the people they found in their "new" land. History is history; it can't be undone and, of course, in societies that are based on "law and order", there are methods for coming into countries as citizens. That being said, we are all human. People are fleeing places that have hardships that we cannot, in our "first world" even imagine. And, rather than trying to help them as fellow human beings, we would rather judge their language, their religion, their lack of legal status- anything to avoid looking at them as part of our body, as part of ourselves. Regardless of where people stand on immigration issues, we have to stand together as humanity. And this? This woman clinging to her baby in the middle of the raging sea while people look on and let her drown? This is not humanity."

The issues with refuges fleeing Africa and the Middle East wasn't even on my radar until I saw this article over the summer, in which a Greek soldier had single handedly saved nearly two dozen people after their boat was destroyed in the unforgiving sea.  I think I wrote some glib "wow, proud to say my kids share some of this hero's Greek heritage" on my Facebook link to the article.  I'd like to think that if we saw people dying in the water, trying to get to shore, Peter and I (and anyone we know, honestly) would jump in to help.  I mean, we're human; they are human.  Isn't that part of being part of the human race?

It's upsetting but what I saw today had my heart in my throat; I felt like I couldn't breathe, as though the air had been sucked out of the room.  The tears came and I couldn't stop them.  I scooped up Michael and just held him, holding him as tight as I could.    This photo is hard to see, but it is something we must see.
That child cant be much older than Michael.  His family, fleeing hell on earth, and then plummeted into the sea.  I can imagine that poor little boy, struggling against the waves, as his body was thrown back and forth, until he took his final water laden breath and succumbed to, at last, some sort of peace that was denied him in this life.  I am heartbroken.  I am so deeply troubled.  And I am angry.

I am angry that we see borders and not people.  I am angry that we, as a global society, are allowing this to happen.  I am angry because, in that child, I see this face.

I see my son's face.  And I know that I would want- and pray behind measure- that someone would help my son if he was in need.

Where is the outrage?  Instead of helping these people who are fleeing things we dare not imagine, we have countries that are refusing to help them, that are leaving them to die in the water.  We have countries, in dire need themselves, doing more than their share to try and help.  What are we doing?  With the amount of money our governments will spend on war and weapons, are we so blind that we can't put our money where our morals should be? 

The European refugee crisis is like something out of a horror movie.  While we might be on the other side of the world, the other side of a sea, or a country across the border, we are all humans.  We all bleed red.  We all have feelings and emotions and needs.  I refuse to believe that ignoring the waves of those seeking a better life will make it go away; I refuse to believe that we can ignore it.  Can you ignore the image of a mother clinging to her infant?  The image of that little boy, dead on a beach?

Can you, for a moment, imagine if it were you or your child?

There has to be something we, as a global people, can do.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.  Pray for them.  Hold those who flee their homelands under the mantle of your protection and pray for their peace and safety.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Special Needs Kids Trumps Your Special Needs Kid

This morning, I got slammed with a migraine so, as it wore off and I was coming back to the land of the living, I did what all good folks do: I checked Facebook on my phone.  An article that a friend commented on popped up and I decided to read it: 12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay.  The article is okay; I've read better written things that don't seem to repeat the same idea over and over again, and I've read articles on the flip side.  But the comments on Facebook.... Now those were something to read.

"Entitled monster mommies who think little kids gasping for their last breath is LESS important than their little special snowflakes munching on a their FAVE PB&J getting peanut butter on their sleeve-- because let's face it, kids are messy little monsters-- and then brushing it on their severely allergic classmate's desk."

"There are other things in this world to eat besides nuts. Sheesh. Send them with cold hot dogs."

"It doesn't cost that much more to send them with a cheese sandwich. Or buy deli meat. Or buy ramen noodles for pennies & stick it in a little thermos."

"Its like peanut butter is the ONLY option for a kids lunch at school?? Oh sorry your kid died, mine HAD to have the only lunch I am wiling to make since I don't care enough to make anything else."

"That is so incredibly callous for her not to care about another child's safety.  "

"These selfish bitches need to grow up and look at alternatives."

The person who commented with this dissent:
"My kid's schools aren't peanut free, and I'm glad they aren't. I understand there are allergies, but taking healthy food away from the majority of kids instead of just taking precautions and paying attention isn't the answer."
Was told that "peanuts aren't healthy". "it's...cancer causing", "you really need to think about this", and "So you're perfectly fine killing my kid just so yours can have a peanut butter sandwich? Wow. What a great person you are!"
Another person who wrote "My son's health is just as important as your kid's." was met with "Your picky kid can eat when he gets home." and "teach your child compassion".

Peanut allergies are deadly and real; we have friends with them, and they are no joke.  Even a pan that was touched with peanut oil years ago and washed off could cause a reaction.  It's terrifying.  And I cannot even fathom being the parent of a child with that type of reaction to something.

I have allergies to opiates, latex, and penicillin; none of them will kill me, thankfully, but they will make my life miserable for a while.  When we were first trying to find out how best to help Bobby and we realized the role that diet played in his behaviors, we cut out dairy, wheat, phenalic foods, and foods with dyes.  Talk about life being hard.  Holy goodness.  It was rough.  But getting those foods wouldn't kill him.  We're now at the point where we know his only allergies tend to be artificial food dyes (try buying mainstream food with that fun one) and a sensitivity certain phenol containing foods.  We have to be careful but a slip up means that we'll have a week or two of horrendous behavior, not a run in with an epi pen or, worse, a trip to an ER that could be fatal.

But back to schools banning peanuts because of deadly allergies...  It seems to become a "my kid's life is more important than your kid's life".   With children battling a number of neurological issues that are "hidden", like ASD, SPD, and others, you have children who, while not allergic, have some serious food issues.  Johnny's mom says no peanuts because her kid is allergic; Jimmy's mom says he must have peanut butter because he won't eat anything else and will starve.  (Before someone flames me with "kids will eat when they are hungry enough", let me assure you that children with ASD and SPD are really exceptions to that rule.  They will go days and NOT eat because, neurologically, they can't.  Unless you have that type of special need in your life, then you have zero idea of how food can drastically impact a child with a spectrum disorder.)  So, who wins?  Clearly, we don't want Johnny to die; of course, we don't want Jimmy to starve either.  In almost every case I've ever heard of, the peanut allergy "special need" trumps the other needs.

So, let's expand it.  A friend of mine has an ASD child who struggles with allergies: deadly ones to dairy and fish, and not deadly but problematic to wheat and rice.  Should the school ban milk and fish?  That's only fair, right?  Little Tommy* (*not the child's name) could accidentally come into contact with milk or fish and DIE.  If we are banning nuts for Johnny, then we have to ban dairy and fish.  It's only fair; otherwise, you're saying that one child's deadly allergy trumps the mainstream's right/desire to eat what they want, but that another child's life isn't as important.

I commented this scenario on the FB post and was told that milk isn't "easily transferred" and that schools have to provide milk, so too bad for my friend and her child.  This, basically, was what she was told by the school: her child should make sure to practice good hand washing and avoid all dairy and fish.

According to the State School Heath Policy Database, a lot of what is allowed varies based on state.  That being said, "8 ounces of fluid milk must be offered with breakfast and lunch".  However, federal law stipulates that milk must be skim or 1%, which flies in the face of research that states only obese children over age 2 be offered lower fat cow's milk and that whole milk (and it's fat) are better for developing brains and bodies.   Do kids actually need to drink cow's milk?  "No, of course they don't," said Amy Lanou, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Most people in the world do not drink milk after they are weaned from breast milk, and yet still get adequate nutrition, she added.   What kids should and shouldn't have, milk included, is up for debate all over the U.S.  Looking at a school lunch law site, the following was listed:
"In a few highly publicized cases, parents and educators asked the question whether schools have the right to limit what students may bring to school to eat. On one hand, some argue that certain rules may interfere with their constitutional rights to raise their children according to their own values. On the other hand, some believe that states have an interest in keeping kids safe and healthy through publicly-funded lunch programs. Below are just some of the cases making national news headlines: In Chicago, a local school banned brownbag lunches from being served at all
A North Carolina student had her turkey sandwich taken away by a state inspector and was served cafeteria chicken nuggets in its place
National effort to ban ‘pink slime’ beef filler from USDA lunches
National Physicians Group petitioning to ban milk from school lunches
School districts across the country banning sugary drinks, like sodas and juices from menus
California and Massachusetts have considered banning chocolate and flavored milk because of its high sugar content."

FARE, an advocacy group for food allergies, links to the CDCs recommendations for schools and allergies.  Legally, "Food allergies may constitute a disability...Schools cannot exclude a child with food allergies."  "Federal discrimination law -- i.e., the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Air Carrier Access Act -- require covered programs to not discriminate against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of their disability. More importantly for the purposes of peanut cases, these laws require reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations are those that are not unduly burdensome either administratively or financially...Under the current interpretations of federal law, including the Supreme Court's decision in Abbott v. Bragdon, which applies the definition of disability broadly to cover a woman who was HIV positive but asymptomatic (see Bragdon v. Abbott -- Supreme Court Decision Addresses Application of Americans with Disabilities Act to Individuals with HIV, Bragdon -- The Unanswered Questions, and 118 S.Ct. 1206 (1998)), the courts are likely to find that at least those individuals with severe reactions to peanuts are substantially limited in the major life activity of breathing. It is less clear whether individuals with moderate reactions would be covered. The courts have distinguished between degrees of limitation in cases involving depression, mobility, and other impairments, so it is not impossible to imagine a program challenging the coverage of discrimination law to at least some individuals, although to do so might not be wise from a public relations perspective."  The CDC documents state that schools should avoid identified allergens and make reasonable food accommodations.  One of FARE's fact sheets states: "Children with food allergies need your support to ensure their safety and inclusion. From classroom parties, to school family nights, to after-school fundraisers, keep in mind that all students in the community should be able to participate safely."  But allergists don't recommend banning peanuts; since these are the doctors who have the most information on the topic, should their opinions weigh more heavily?

So... what to do?  If we ban peanuts, do we have to ban every single allergen?  Will we stop kids from eating things in their own homes, for fear they could make a classmate sick later at school?  If Bobby was in a traditional school setting, should we fight to make sure there is no opportunity for him to come into contact with food dye?  One school says yes...  In Canada, a mother claimed a human rights violation and sued the school on behalf of her daughter who is allergic to dairy and eggs.  The school agreed to stop those items from being in the child's class and asking the rest of the school to accommodate as well.  If you read some of the comments on this post, you can see parents really slamming the mother.  Would we do this if the allergy were peanuts?

No one wants to be the mom who misses an ingredient and puts her kid at risk, or (I hope) the parents who feel they have no choice but to protest a child with a peanut allergy (I honestly cant imagine being one of those  So, what do we do?  How far do we go?  Do we stop banning?  Do we ban everything?  Do we send kids back home for lunch?

I honestly don't have an answer.  Bobby has a limited diet and peanut butter plays role in one of the few things he will eat.  (Maya and Michael love PB as well).  That being said, knowing how food plays a role in Bs life, I wouldn't knowingly expose another child to a food that could harm or kill them.  I don't need a ban for that; the world doesn't come with bans.  It doesn't come with common sense either (like, don't give a kid who isn't yours food if you don't know them and know what is okay/what isn't okay).  Part of our job as parents is to teach our kids what is okay and what isn't.  But even that doesn't alleviate the issue of, say, food residue on a table.  Sitting kids with allergies apart can limit that problem (and teach compassion, as friends will choose to not eat offending foods to be with their buddies) but it doesn't stop airborne issues.  So, again, what do we do?  What is the right answer?

Does someone else's special needs child trump another's?