Sunday, August 31, 2008


Laughter is the best medicine, you know. Go laugh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


It's quiet here. There's the clock ticking, the whistle (horn?) on a distant train, the wind in the trees outside the window, computer noises, and me blowing my nose. This is really weird.

Must be time to wake up the kids.

Monday, August 25, 2008


How pathetic is it that with the girls tucked in by 9:30, the little boy out by 10:30(laid down just after 11pm), and the big boy ensconced in his bed, I am now nearly giddy with anticipation of sleep?!

Q's in his own bed, even. Sure, there are cold meds involved, sure he's still a little congested, and yes, he will probably be up again, snorting snot, in a few hours and I'll get to spend another night with my approximately 30 pound sack o' snuggles draped across me on the couch/rocking chair/bed and one thousand pillows. Yes, I will be the one you spot walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame because my neck will be stuck like that. But right now I'm just going to go enjoy the giddiness of the moment with my fingers stuck firmly in my ears, relishing what horizontal, unconscious denial I can get away with.

La la la...


Thursday, August 21, 2008


I was going to post this last night, but then Q went down only intermittently until 5am. He's just now stirring in his little easy chair... Here 'tis:

So the first week of the new fine arts academy is done. At the end of the last day when one of the directors asked the kids if they wanted to come back again next year, there was lots of fist pumping and shouts of "Yeah, yeah!!!" I'm guessing they liked it.

The best part for me personally was the reminder that: " is important to point out the difference between burying your dreams and simply suspending them. To bury your dreams means to be unaware of them, or be in some sort of conflict with them. (...) On the other hand, knowing your soul does not mean that you have to accomplish every dream at once." (Henry Cloud, PhD, in Nine Things You Simply Must Do...) He goes on to tell about a woman he knows who has tabled her dream of law school while she raises her young children. "While she desires a law career, she also desires to raise her children well. She puts both desires in perspective with her values and what she knows her children need from her. That is not burying anything. It is holding her desire for a law career on the altar of sacrificial love, which is the highest form of heart and soul that we know in this life. It is the ability to 'lay down one's life' for those he or she loves."

To whit: I got to help wash brushes, mix tempera paints, talk with children about the colors and shapes they were making, get messy with charcoal and watercolor crayons. I helped cut 32 mats for the finished work, and arrange and hang the final show. I helped little ones who had never read music before to hit their notes with chimes. I picked up trash, fetched water bottles, and washed some more brushes and palettes and tables. We discussed ideas for masters classes, perhaps framing or painting for the high schoolers. I had an utter blast. I can't remember ever seeing so many people in one place who were so tired and still so smiley.

The performances during church and after were neat. Some mamas teared up, just a little, dontcha know. And the inspiration and ensuing discussion for next year's plans were so cool. Lots of really great suggestions made already. Kudos to the persons who jointly held the position of overall organizers -- they pulled all kinds of stuff together seamlessly. And worked their hinies off. I hope they're still asleep, recovering.

The kids are all energized for lessons now, plus new stuff as we stare down the beginning of the new school year. We've joked that maybe we'll just chuck the whole silly "skool" idea and just do piles of lessons for a few months (heh). Or maybe we'll end up just doing math and spelling en route to all the activities? They can still read while Q's in therapies... I'm kidding. Sort of.

We've been looking at service and volunteer possibilities as well. It's tough with this age range to pull off something like feeding the homeless, etc., but we'll find something to do because that's part of the life/curriculum, thank you very much. We've sent a couple of small care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan and the kids have been talking about how kids there could maybe use small items that would help them be warmer through winter -- mittens, hats, etc. (G read Three Cups of Tea this summer and he recommends it highly as something that will change the way you think about that region. I agree.) We did His Kids through church the last couple of years. That was amazing. Makes me nauseous to think about children being so low in resources, homeless, left wanting. We've corresponded with orphans in Mexico -- children the same gender and ages as mine. Their buildings were in the path of the hurricanes last year and the rebuilding process has been arduous, but the progress steady. One little girl thinks her mommy is coming to get her any moment and has warned a couple of times that while she likes writing to my daughter very much she won't be there much longer to write back. I inquired and no, it isn't true. It just rips my heart out.

This thing of children slipping through the cracks brings to mind a topic that's lingered in my head lately: It's compelling to me that we often find ways to marginalize the humanity of others so that we might dismiss their worth as people, thus avoiding any response-ability. I've witnessed situations over the last several months that have made me flinch. Labeling someone as a "slob," "mean," "stupid," or, say, "Muslim," "Catholic," or "poor," makes it easy for us look down on them, to look past them, generally treat them as less than or as if they're outright invisible. What for?

In previous posts I've written a little about disabled folks taking the brunt of someone's untethered limbic system/lizard brain. What makes it okay for people to do this? We all justify the most astonishing things, really, in order to self-soothe. But how does it soothe one's self to be abusive to another? These examples are extreme, horrifying. But when was the last time you yelled at your kid or spouse or some "idiot" in traffic? For all you know, that person who so rudely cut you off is in the middle of an aneurysm bursting. Ya better hope that during your next breaking aneurysm, whomever happens to be nearby extends more grace to you than you just did to them.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
--Plato (as quoted on the wall of a flight school)

Anyway, it's just something I've been thinking about. And to quote me: You are not the center of the universe. Or: Get over yourself. I've found that these axioms are best kept as reminders to oneself as they are unlikely to be well-received no matter what tone one might use for delivery. Discretion is helpful when opening one's mouth (wince). While we're here, let's talk briefly about whether or not you already know better. Well sure you do. You've been on the planet a while now and you've picked up a few things along the way. Some of them really productive, some of them not so. Does your knowing this and still messing up make you a hypocrite? No. Unless you're preaching that people shouldn't beat their wives, then going home and beating your wife. Or telling all you encounter how evil chocolate is even as you suck it out of it's wrapper in your closet the moment you get home from your now world-famous seminars on the evils of chocolate. These kinds of scenarios would make you a hypocrite. It is a word overused by those who feel that they're being judged and found wanting. Of course, sometimes they are being judged (hand-smacking -- you know who you are and you can stop now) but often, it's been my experience that the invocation of the term as a label/slur means there's a serious lack of understanding at play -- see the previous paragraphs. A nasty feedback loop, no?

So -- what for? Most everything we do is somehow about self-protection. We like to think of ourselves as functioning on a higher plane than our ancestors or forest animals, so from what do we need to be protected? There aren't any bears on the front lawn. Not a single disabled person is trying to steal my lunch. Children don't choose to whom they're born and then plot to become criminals. Your spouse loves you and wants what's best for you, your kidlets adore you -- why are you freaking out? Why are you making things harder for those who love you most? Why must you find ways to continually make sure that those receiving help are deserving of it? How will you ever know that, anyway? If you are remotely religious, your Higher Power has all that under control. You can let it go and let him/her do the job. Really. It's true. If you're not remotely religious and you're doing this, may I suggest you re-examine the beliefs that have placed you within spitting distance of your own brand of dogma? And then, religious or not, maybe you could engage in some serious self-examination (not navel gazing) which might include some good books or long talks with smart people, professionals or otherwise.

In a nutshell? Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Fear, through contempt, drives the nasty stuff (road rage, Darfour). You don't really have anything to fear and you know it. You are a human being of infinite value (humming: Redeemed, redeemed...). You already have a bottomless well of patience for those little offspring of yours. You have the words that your spouse needs to hear. You know better. And it will be okay. All of it. Just make those little choices, one at a time, that allow you to pat down the cranky lizard brain, to be gentler with yourself and those you interact with. Push and hold that door shut on fear and contempt lest they skew your version of reality and cost you everything you love. Just keep swimming, baby.

Well that subject sorta got away from me. Moving right along...

Q is crowing in the next room. Chuckle. He's getting better and better with the head switches, increasing recognition and accuracy in choosing colors and games. No small feat, this. For a kid with vision issues, whose motor planning abilities are hit and miss, to be able to get the switch when he wants to and when he's asked to and do so appropriately and with good timing? WAHOO. A couple of months ago, his OT mentioned potty training (gasp). Yikes. I mean, yippee!! It's just that there's going to be all kinds of other things to overcome in the process. The ongoing work on his posture, muscle tone (too high/ too low), ability to sit unaided, to know when he needs to go potty and then to communicate it effectively. Then there's everything with the big kids (school, lessons, fun and games, character development, crafts, laundry, messes) and the prospective acquisition of software and hardware and aug. com. devices and assistive arms for his chair, with working on standing, walking, a walker, helping him to keep himself entertained and clean and fed and...

You get the idea. Sometimes The New Normal makes me tired. Every once in a great while, I would like someone else to do this for a bit.

Earlier this evening I was filling out the fridge calendar for the next couple of months. Turns out it's plenty busy with just the ordinary everyday stuff, never mind ortho and dental, neuro and vision appointments. Lest I sound whiny, I'll be perfectly clear: I am grateful to be here, doing all this, worn to the best kind of frazzle, mama to these incredible little (not so little) human beings. Sometimes I just wish... things. That is all.

And one more thing. About the van issues. We're okay. We're good. We're covered. When I know how to talk more about it, I will. Let's just say for now that I won't be stuck alone with five children, in the dark, by the side of the road, while Q suffers a grand mal seizure (a worst fear of mine) because the poor old thing has finally given up the ghost. We are grateful. I am grateful.

Hope your summer has been spectacular thus far and that your prospects for fall are enlivening, intriguing, and wholly worthy of your attention.


Monday, August 18, 2008


Though movies are right at the bottom of my priorities these days, I generally do like Ben Stiller's work. From what little I know I sure won't be seeing Tropic Thunder. Read more here. And more..

I wonder how any of the actors would think about this issue if one of their kids were marginalized with one of these labels. I doubt that any of the people involved with the film proceeded with their scripts and plans in a spirit remotely malicious. However. To quote VeggieTales: Sometimes not helping is the same as hurting. And in this case, the hurting is of those least able to defend themselves. Who said that a society is judged by how it addresses it's most fragile?


Friday, August 15, 2008

Soul food

Only Friday's classes remain before our day of big performances. This has been the most incredible week. Q has loved his time listening in, the bigger kids have decided all school should always be like this, and the grown-ups involved are looking a little bleary. I can't imagine a more fun, enormously talented, thoroughly enjoyable group to have spent a week with. New friends are firmly made and plans already laid for next year's academy of fine arts.

I sure hope you're planning to have this much fun sometime soon -- everyone should possess a good pair of laugh lines. Now off to bed to sleep fast so we can pop up and do it again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What a day!

We hauled out of the driveway at 6:53 a.m. Everyone but Q had by then had breakfast, was nicely dressed, and appropriately groomed. We made it in plenty of time and thus began our week of summer arts academy/"music camp." The kids have a variety of classes including sundry keyboard things which involve an upcoming walk through a local cathedral's organ. It went astoundingly well, in spite of the fact that I'm a volunteer and Q was trailing the activities all day. He ate well, played well, loved the percussion (didn't want to give the instruments back), sang to the bells and chimes, and lost it only briefly when I hadn't provided him with an appropriate change of scene.

The whole experience was just awesome. S got the rhythm for the back beat immediately, all by herself, the only kid in the class to do so. K drew a totally fearsome pirate and is chafing to play the organ. E made a new friend, a girl who was teary-eyed at the beginning of the day, but quickly clued E in to the peculiarities of handbells. G loved everything but choir. The changing voice, you know. The group is well organized, the teachers incredible and so positive.

Tomorrow Q's going to therapy with my darling aunt. My mom is still on the mend so I'd be hauling him with me again if not for "aunt grandma." So I'll be on my own with the bigger kids. We made our lunches again this evening and all were far more willing to close their eyes tonight than they were last evening. A certain level of exhaustion is good for the soul.

When we got home, we split our time between catching glimpses of the Olympics and vacuuming, running laundry, unloading groceries, making and cleaning up dinner, cleaning out the van and organizing things for tomorrow so we can hit it again before 6 in the morning.

I doubt they'll be as excited to pop out of bed tomorrow. Wish me luck.

The boy is sacked out now, having missed out on a nap, so I'm headed off too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Faster, faster

Q is on the "I'm too cool for food" kick again. (noises of exasperation) I'm hoping it's just his molars coming in that's throwing him off.

And the good news about food? Dinner is simmering. Quinoa, garlic kale, and veggie coconut curry. Can you smell it? Concentrate. How about now? It's okay if you can't -- we'll drool for you.

We're out the door before seven tomorrow morning. The good news is that the laundry's running, the kids are bathed, our clothes are being laid out as I type, and we're going to pack lunches and watch a little Olympic gymnastics before bed.


Saturday, August 09, 2008


G has saved me from a tree frog. I nearly stepped on the poor thing in the living room this morning. He was just little -- under two inches long. He would have been cute had I not been so startled by his presence. Tree frogs in the living room? Not the usual thing a-t'all. The boy fills big shoes -- his dad ushered a baby skunk out of our family room late one evening. G remembers this because he'd been up reading, though he was supposed to be asleep. My squeaking in alarm from my perch halfway up the stairs, uh, caught his attention, so he was peering around the corner whilst his daddy calmly handled things.

When G was about three weeks old, a rather gigantic alligator lizard got in through the cracks in our little old rental house. Even missing most of it's tail, it was about 14 inches long. I looked at it, turned around, went to our room with baby G, laid him on the bed, then closed and stuffed towels under the doors between the kitchen and the bedroom. We hung out there until a certain someone arrived home from work to rescue us. I might have dealt with that one myself (or not) but I thought something that large might just bite and then what? I'd have to walk to ER (only about six blocks) with my newborn son so they could clean out wounds? Or maybe I'd somehow communicate salmonella to the baby? Uh-uh, no way.

Then there was the mouse that made his home in the insulation in our stove and died, so when I went to preheat the oven to make pizza one night the house filled with the most awful stench. I was pregnant (these things never happen when one isn't) and had to go outside, gagging, so I wouldn't throw up. Roasted mousey a la rigormortis is awful. Thank God mister was there. He took the stove apart and got rid of the unfortunate creature. I can still sort of taste the smell...

The end of June we were en route to a family reunion and stopped at a favorite family spot for vegeburgers and curly fries (this thought atop the last paragraph is not so very nice). As we were leaving, the kids wanted to spend a little time under the trees in the grass, leaping, stretching, wiggling, before we got back in the van for the rest of our trek. I put Q's food and diaper bag away and turned from closing up the van to see G and E following the progress of a baby bird along the edge of the building. He'd hop a few hops and stop, then squawk at the eaves, as though calling his mom who must surely be up there and just be missing him like mad, right? "Right? Mom? I know you're there. MOM!!"

We watched for a minute. K was on the grass with Q and S was standing with them, transfixed. It was clear that he (she?) was healthy, just too young to fly. By this time several tables full of patrons had noticed what was going on and I'd grabbed a napkin. With a little discussion, we decided the best thing to do would be to catch the little guy and put him up in the most likely tree. G and E wanted to try to capture him, but they were tentative and the birdy loud and fast. I took the napkin back from G and wrapped it quickly around the little ball of feathers. He didn't fill my hands, cupped together.

G selected the noisiest tree (more likely to contain parent birds) and hauled a very heavy picnic table close enough, all by himself. He climbed up and I handed him the bird in the napkin. G released him on the nearest sizable branch with sort of a hollow to catch him in case he was wobbly. But he wasn't. He chirped once and hopped off, disappearing up the branch into thick foliage.

A smidge anticlimactic, that. G and I sort of blinked at each other, then he jumped down off the table, we returned it to it's proper spot, and headed back to the van, blushing to the applause of nearby patrons.

This scenario ended much better than our previous baby bird incident about five years ago. That one involved us praying over a dying fledgling as the kids tried to shoo the perpetual train of ants off him. That was awful. The kids were littler and not really grasping that death can be merciful. And how do you explain that to very young children when you'd like to shield them for just a little longer?

After a strange series of noises two nights ago, G chased off a raccoon (with help of a friend staying over), reclaimed a prodigal who we had assumed was dead (but may have been living off the bugs under a particularly large cedar), buried an actual dead chicken (cause of death: infected dog bite) and marvelled at the strange and varied bugs around it's carcass (so glad he loves entomology -- shudder).

On that happy note, I'm off to feed breakfast to my peeps.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


This [Bratz] doll projects a sexuality that has more to do with working on the Sunset Strip than enjoying a healthy girlhood.
-M. Gigi Durham, The Lolita Effect

There have always been changes in society from one generation to the next. Parents have always noticed how their children’s world differs from the world of their own childhood. But what is happening now regarding sex and sexuality in the media and popular culture goes far beyond the changes that have occurred between other generations in the past. A revolution is taking place that we need to take seriously. It is a revolution that is harming our children and harming the wider community.
-Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne, excerpted from So Sexy So Soon (Go read the article)

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (emphasis mine)
-C.S. Lewis, as quoted in The Quotable Lewis

So the obvious question arises: How do we encourage our children to engage on deeper levels when nearly everything around them demands they orient toward instant gratification, cultivate appearance over character, and veer toward easy "solutions" rather than dig in and create long-term stability?

I dunno.

I guess the biggest obstacles kids face today are the examples set before them. (Lots of research available on the subject. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce is a particularly pointed tome which discusses this subject and others related to it's title.) Children rarely choose to follow the old adage: Do as I say, not as I do. Once again, I suppose this indicates that we, their parents, have to get off our collective hineys and set the bar higher for ourselves whether we like it or not.

And now Q's out, so that's all I have to say for tonight. Rest well and then give out some extra hugs and kisses.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Random quotes

Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they're yours.
-from a therapist's office wall

That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot prevent. That they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.
-Chinese Proverb

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?"
-Matthew 5:43-48, The Message (Pesky points made there)

More later. People need stuff.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


I hope I don't get in trouble over copyright infringement, but right now I don't so much care. May God have mercy on these people's souls because I doubt many of us could offer them anything other than the slow, hideous deaths they've earned. If you search, there seem to be pictures too. I can't bring myself to post them.

August 1, 2008
Starved, disabled girl was failed at every turn
Associated Press Writer

For days before Danieal Kelly died in a fetid, airless room — made stifling hot by a midsummer heat wave — the bedridden teenager begged for something to drink until she could muster only one word: water.

Unable to help herself because of her cerebral palsy, she wasted away from malnutrition and maggot-infested bedsores that ate her flesh. She died alone on a putrid mattress in her mother's home, the floor covered in feces. She was 14 but weighed just 42 pounds.

The nightmare of forced starvation and infection that killed Danieal while she was under the protection of the city's human services agency is documented in a 258-page grand jury report released this week that charges nine people — her parents, four social workers and three family friends — in her ghastly death.

The report describes a mother, Andrea Kelly, who was embarrassed by her disabled daughter and didn't want to touch her, take her out in public, change her diapers or make sure she had enough fluids. It portrays Daniel Kelly, the father who once had custody of Danieal, as having no interest in raising her.

And it accuses the city Department of Human Services of being "uncaring and incompetent."

"It was this indifference that helped kill Danieal Kelly," an angry District Attorney Lynne Abraham said. "How is it possible for this to have happened?"
The report should "outrage the entire Philadelphia community" and bring about "earth-shattering, cataclysmic changes" at the Department of Human Services, Abraham said.
Andrea Kelly, 39, the only defendant charged with murder, was ordered held Friday without bail. The social workers — suspected of falsifying home visits and progress reports in the case — face charges ranging from child endangerment to involuntary manslaughter. The family friends are accused of lying to the grand jury about the girl's condition before her death.

None of the lawyers for any of the defendants had any immediate comment.
Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, in office only a month, said Thursday that she is intent on improving child safety and worker accountability in an agency that has repeatedly been accused of failing to protect children.
Late Friday, the city announced the resignation of Assistant Health Commissioner Carmen Paris. The grand jury had accused Paris of interfering in the investigation of the girl's death while she was acting health commissioner, but found insufficient evidence to charge her with obstruction of justice.

The report on Danieal's death in August 2006 documents a downward spiral from the early years that she spent in Arizona with her father and his girlfriend.
Though Danieal attended special-needs classes only sporadically, a school report described her as an active learner and "one of the sweetest students ever enrolled in this program." But allegations of parental neglect soon surfaced, and following Daniel Kelly's breakup with his girlfriend in 2001, Danieal never again attended school.

Daniel Kelly and his children moved to Philadelphia in 2003. He eventually asked his estranged wife to move in, even though she had several other children and he knew she was incapable of caring for Danieal, authorities say. He then moved out.
"Daniel Kelly was well aware what deserting his daughter meant to her safety and welfare," the grand jury report said. "He just did not care."

The Department of Human Services received at least five reports of Danieal being mistreated between 2003 and 2005. All described a "helpless child sitting unattended, unkempt and unwashed, in a small stroller in her own urine and feces," her screams ignored by her mother, the grand jury report said. The stroller, which served as a wheelchair, apparently never left the house.

Agency employee Dana Poindexter, assigned to investigate, also ignored Danieal, authorities say. Already having been suspended after a 3-week-old baby died on his watch in 2002, Poindexter continued his "slovenly, neglectful and dangerously reckless work habits" after being assigned the Kelly case, the grand jury said. He did not file a single report, authorities said.

The Kellys finally were assigned help from a private agency in 2005. Employee Julius Murray was required to visit the family twice a week, but authorities believe he may have come to the house only once — to have Andrea Kelly sign predated forms attesting to future visits.

The grand jury report said Laura Sommerer, a city social worker, failed to hold the now-defunct company accountable when, months later, Danieal still was not enrolled in school or receiving medical care.

And after Danieal died, authorities say, company director Mickal Kamuvaka held a "forgery fest" in her office where she had employees "concoct almost a year's worth of false progress reports."

But authorities say Andrea Kelly, whose other children are now in foster care, is primarily responsible for her daughter's death.

The report said she was confronted repeatedly by her own mother, uncle, friends and even two of her sons about Danieal's deteriorating health. She would lie or put them off by saying she would seek help, or banish them from the house, authorities say.
In the meantime, the report said, she entertained friends, attended classes and fed her other children.

"This behavior indicates that Andrea Kelly did not merely allow Danieal to die," the report said. "She may have even wanted her disabled daughter to die."

When an ambulance responded to a 911 call for Danieal on Aug. 4, 2006, the girl had been dead for several hours. Authorities said she was so emaciated she looked like the victim of a concentration camp.

She had been lying on the filthy mattress for so long that her body outline was imprinted on it.

Three more

The kids are coming home today. Whoopee!

And... the kids are coming home.

Did I mention that the kids are coming home?