If we were having coffee on a rainy Saturday …

Weekend CoffeeIf we were having coffee, your kids (if you have them) would be in my living room playing Legos or making Shamrocks with my boys. We would be drinking a cup of coffee out of my drip coffee maker, you out of a plain black mug and me out of my favorite Texas wildflowers mug. We would be sitting at my dining room table, laughing or crying about what has happened in your life over the past week.

We would certainly be commiserating about the police shootings this past week. I tend to keep a close ear on Twitter about the Ferguson protests, and I know people weren’t happy about the circumstances of the Ferguson city manager and police chief. Both will get their full pay and health insurance for the next year. Honestly, I can’t see them voluntarily resigning to much less than that, but there is a view of them on the streets that they are criminals and should be in jail, not receiving payments. I honestly don’t think protesters will be happy with what happens in the real world … but then, the protesters are trying to change the world as it exists.

In my own way, I am trying to change that. My CHADD organization is trying to bring a teacher training seminar about ADHD, and we want to make it available to teachers in low-income, mostly black schools. I know it may not sound like something that will help. There are many things these schools need more. But I hope that, with better understanding of the disorder, there will be fewer student discipline incidents for things that are really outside the student’s control, and that teachers will be able to address problems other ways. And it is a small way that I can make a difference.

As for the grant my organization has, there may be a chance we can keep the grant. I am waiting to hear a final answer on that.

I have decided to try the A to Z blogging challenge. I will do it on my other blog, Fiction as Life, and Cecilia will discuss her favorite thing, baking. We’re halfway through March already, and since I know I can’t do one post every day for the month, I’d better get started now.

This post is part of a coffee share linkup hosted by Part Time Monster.

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Compassionate Listening

Everywhere you look, people are fighting over something. They fight over big things: religion, land ownership, taxes. They fight over little things: who gets the last Oreo, what time is bedtime, who will take the dog out in the middle of the night.

Yes, people can bicker and argue. They often do. But there is another way to solve problems: compassionate listening.

Compassion does not force its viewpoint on others. It does not try to argue the other side to the ground.

At the same time, compassion does not ignore disagreement.

Compassion, instead, seeks to understand. Compassion looks at the issue and asks where the other viewpoint comes from.

You may think that “compassion” is not the way to win a fight. And it may not be. But compassionate listening can be a way to resolve a problem.

By seeking to understand the opposing viewpoint, you may see a side to the problem that you didn’t see before. You will be able to persuade your opponent better because you can take their viewpoint into account in your arguments better.

In fact, one of the most widely-read books on negotiation, Getting to Yes by William Ury, advocates compassionate listening. Without using the word “compassion”, he recommends (among other things):

  • attack the problem that needs to be addressed without attacking the people with opposing viewpoints
  • Instead of sticking with your position, focus on what you really want

For example, two brothers both want the last Oreo but can’t both have it. (Purely hypothetical, really.) The brother using compassionate listening would:

  • argue that he wants the Oreo without bringing up his brother’s stinky breath
  • Focus on what he really wants (chocolate) rather than solely on getting the Oreo.

If the brothers are able to talk rather than fight, they may discover that while one wants chocolate, the other wants cream filling. (Great! Then they can share the cookie.) Or that Mom has brownies in the oven. Or a million other ways to resolve the problem.

At the very least, the brother who listens compassionately does not escalate the fight.


Over 1,000 people are writing today about “compassion.” If you look at the #1000Speak hashtag, you will see hundreds of blog posts, as well as videos, podcasts, vlogs, and other various media about compassion. 

Doughnut Magic

Just in time for New Year’s, I stumbled along this post about making doughnut magic for your kids.

I was so excited! I even happened upon it while Hubby was at the grocery store, so I texted him and we decided to do it.

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Santa Magic

“I love Santa,” Cassatt said to me as he snuggled into bed.  When I asked why, he said, “because he’s my favorite.”

I can’t help but be amazed at my children’s belief in Santa.  Even though he is everywhere this time of year, even though the world is oversaturated with Christmas cheer, they believe in the magic.  They believe that Santa will leave them presents on Christmas Eve, and that he knows them and cares about them.

In my children’s belief in Santa, I feel some success as a parent. I have not imbued them with adult cynicism.  I have not created their world as I see it, but they are free to be children, to believe in Santa.

For me, the magic is in their belief.  In seeing the world through their eyes, full of magic and wonder.  This is the joy of Christmas.

Picasso Update

So I had posted several weeks ago that the school thinks Picasso has autism.  More than fear, I was upset that the school had hidden that from me.

It turns out, I should have questioned further.  I am so conditioned to expect the worst of the school, it didn’t occur to me that the counselor was making a mistake.  When she was talking to me (keep in mind this meeting was not supposed to be about my son, so I didn’t expect her to look at my son’s file beforehand), she had me confused with another mother.  That other mother had been advocating for an autism diagnosis from the school.

It is such a relief to know that the school wasn’t hiding information from me.  They have been so good about getting services for Picasso, I had been upset with this turn of events.  I am glad to know they are wrong.

Now we are in the middle of evaluations at school, and everyone is on board with keeping an IEP for him.  The ironic thing is, one of the categories they are looking at is autism.  Although I really don’t think a doctor would say he has autism, the criteria for a category at school is different.

We’ll see what happens with the evaluations.  I hope he does qualify to have an IEP after this year.

I keep meaning to watch it, but here is a video about the link between Autism and ADHD.  These videos are worth watching (if you have the time).

And the journey begins …

cc Ian Britton

Or maybe it’s just a new chapter in the journey.  Yeah, probably that.

I had a word dumped on me this week that leaves me shaken.  A word about my child that I didn’t expect to hear, certainly not in the conversation we were having.  A word that describes my child’s school’s understanding of him, which does not mesh with my understanding.

Autism.

How long?  How long have they thought he had autism?  Yes, I know he is different.  I know his behavior sets him apart. I had always thought–assumed–believed–it was ADHD.  Maybe severe ADHD.  But ADHD is a diagnosis I can handle. I can talk about ADHD.  I can understand ADHD.  I can handle ADHD so well that I’m the coordinator of our CHADD chapter.  No, ADHD doesn’t explain all of his struggles, but it is a start.

But autism?  That’s a whole different monster.

The guilt sets in.  Early detection and intervention is important.  It is key to living a good life, right?  To being able to function in a mainstream class, to not being so different that he can’t function in the world.  But this is not early detection.  He is five — FIVE, almost six.  And the doctors said when he was 2 that he doesn’t have autism.

But they also knew something was wrong.  And he’s been getting therapy for the past 4 1/2 years.

How long have they known?  How long have they been hiding this from me?  I feel betrayed.  I had thought we were on the same page, and it turns out we were not. At all.  They could hide behind words like “young child with a developmental delay.”  They could evaluate and not diagnose.  Because he is a young child and he has a developmental delay.

She used it so casually, as if it was something everybody accepted about him already.  It isn’t as a bad thing.  It just is.  She had no idea that the word–and its implications–were not put on him at home.

A diagnosis is not merely a set of symptoms.  A diagnosis is a word, a word that can change a viewpoint.

No wonder they were so impressed with how he behaves at school.  They have given him a word, and with it the expectations that follow from that word.  He is succeeding because he does not fall to those expectations.

 

A bit about me and this blog

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Hello!  Many of you visiting today are new here, so I’d like to formally introduce myself and my blog.  Relax, grab a cup of coffee, and try to catch your breath if you have children hanging off of you.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri.  South county, to be more specific.  I live with my husband Tom, and with Picasso, who is 5 and in Kindergarten, and Cassatt, who is 3 and started preschool this year.  That means I have two child-free mornings each week!  Mornings that go by all too fast with cleaning, errands, laundry, meetings, Bible study, and I try to fit some writing in there too.

I am active in a local MOPS group.  My time there is a chance to breathe.  Picasso is upset this year that he doesn’t get to go, and I am still adjusting to picking up only one child from childcare!  I am the fundraising chair for our MOPS group, which keeps me busy at the beginning of each semester (and during fundraising time, which is now.)

I am also heavily involved in CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD); I am the coordinator of our local chapter.  So I am working hard to spread the word, and somewhat overwhelmed by how big and separated our city really is.  It’s amazing how much work goes into marketing!  Hats off to those who do it well on a small budget.

Once upon a time, I went to law school. I had my own law practice, where I practiced family law and advocated for families working through the IEP process at school.  My license is currently inactive, as my life is too busy to practice right now.  I do keep active with my advocacy work through CHADD, however.  For a while, I had a series on the Advocating for your Child on this blog.

For now, I write.  Most of my writing right now is short fiction, which you can read over at my other blog, Fiction as Life.  I have been published in MOPS’s Hello Darling blog, and have a poem that will be published in When Women Waken in early November.

IMG_20140715_084342This blog is a haphazard mix of posts.  If you stick around, you will find I am not very consistent with posts.  I have made a commitment recently to post more regularly, please help keep me on track with that!  I post everything from kitchen how-tos to posts about my family and my garden to advocacy posts.  I have posted a few times about Ferguson, which is very close to me and appeals to my yearnings for justice.  For the most part, however, I stay away from political posts.

Now you know about me, I would love to hear about you!  What are your hobbies?  What would you like to see more of on this blog?

Siblings at Birth? Prepare Them.

Mothering.com recently posted an article titled The Beauty of Siblings at Birth, basically talking about how wonderful it was to have her children in the room when the new baby came.  It sounds so cozy, such a great family moment, right?

Here’s my experience:

I went into labor at midnight.  I was 33 weeks along, no way were we going to call a sitter at that hour.  (I was determined to wait until a “respectable hour.”  Like 5:00.)  And we don’t have family in town, so Picasso went to the hospital with us.  He was 2 1/2 years old (and was, at the time, recovering from having his tonsils out).

Of course I wanted labor stopped.  But my body doesn’t work that way.  So I labored in the hospital.  For two hours (because it was 3 or so by the time we got there.)  Picasso was in the room with us, and I didn’t care.  I was in labor, someone else got to think about him.

I didn’t care until he said the words I’ll never forget, the moment that will forever be locked in my memory with the birth of my child.

“Mommy made a funny noise.” (followed by laughter.)

Yup, he got kicked out, right then and there.  I learned how wonderful nurses are at babysitting during an emergency.

All of the “good” sibling experiences people have described involved prepared siblings, mothers who thought about having their older children at the labor and what that would entail.  Mine? A child who didn’t understand the pain I was in and thought it was funny.

Next time, I would call the sitter at 2AM.

Cassatt’s Tentacles

First of all, it’s been a while since I’ve written in here.  I’m going to try to be better, really.

We’ve had some medical wolf-crying with Cassatt the past few weeks.  At least I think so.  A few weeks ago he went to the nurse at school because he was acting funny in the Rainbow Room.  It turns out he’s afraid of that room (which is a problem because that’s where they have indoor recess in the winter).  But we didn’t know that at the time, so he went to the nurse.  While in there, he put his head down for a few seconds, was playing with his lip and wouldn’t respond for a few seconds (less than 10).  They wanted me to take him to the doctor, who wanted me to see a neurologist and get an EEG.

Cassatt with his tentacles

The neurologist said it might have been a partial seizure.  I’m still not convinced.  Of course, I didn’t see it so I couldn’t describe it to her, but I think he was probably just scared and didn’t want to respond to people he didn’t know.

We had the EEG yesterday.   They attached electrodes to his head and measured his brain activity.  He really didn’t like the setup process, and was squirming and unhappy.  They wanted him to sleep, and they wanted to see him have a seizure.  Even though he was sleep deprived (we kept him up as late as possible the night before and woke him early that morning), he didn’t sleep during the EEG (although he fell asleep in the car on the short drive home).  And he didn’t have a seizure either.  I think it was much ado about nothing.

The other medical non-emergency is that he went to the nurse (again) on Monday.  He had a sore on his lip because he had fallen over the weekend; I didn’t even think about telling his teacher about it.  So they sent home a note to the class about hand-foot-mouth disease.  This poor kid has been to the nurse so many times that I’m starting to wonder whether  this is the right school for him.  We’ll see if he can have a week without going to the nurse again.

Ferguson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …

The opening of the Declaration of Independence echoes in my head as I contemplate the horrific events in Ferguson last weekend.  Because it is clear that not all people are considered equal in our society.  And also this (from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution):

… nor shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

Last night, in the middle of everything that was happening in Ferguson, I tweeted:

What is “a culture that does not view everyone equally”?

It is a culture where white police officers think it is OK to tell a black teenager to “get the F*** on the sidewalk.”

It is a culture where people are feared based on the color of their skin.

It is a culture where black people are sixty-six percent more likely to be pulled over than white people.

It is a culture where I would not go stand in solidarity to protest a heinous killing because of the color of my skin.

It is a culture that redlined zones for “people of color” to live, separate from white people.

It is a culture where these zones still exist, even if not legal.

It is a culture where what you have is more important than how you got it.

It is a culture where some schools are not given sufficient resources to teach their students.

It is a culture where what happens to some will not happen to others because of age, race, and income.

It is not one culture, but many intertwined cultures.  Each one needs to change, and they cannot change independently of one another.

 

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