It’s Not Her, It’s You

“Mama, what wrong with me? Why does nobody want to be my friend?”
This is what my 5 year old asked me when we were driving, as her sister napped beside her in the van.

Why would a 5 year old ask such a thing?

Because at her very young age, she has had more challenges than an average child. She has been subjected to years of incessant bullying not only by peers, but by adults as well. She has been told that people don’t like her and that nobody wants to play with her. She has been told “I hate you. You’re stupid.” She is excluded from all kinds of invites and activities because people are trying to predict how she might behave. She has been removed from activities. She has had adults call her names such as “spoiled brat” and has been referred to as “out of control”. They have said she is “too much”.

I had to explain to her that there is nothing wrong with her.

I did have to explain to her though that she is autistic. That her brain works differently than most other kids and that some people don’t understand.

I didn’t explain to her that despite her diagnoses, people don’t believe me when I tell them.

I didn’t explain to her that her genetics made her taller and made her teeth grow in faster and fall out faster and that because of that, people expect she will act like an 8 year old. Because despite the fact that I pushed this baby out of my body, people don’t believe me when I say she is 5.

Not only do they expect her to act like an 8 year old, they expect her to act like a neurotypical 8 year old.

She is not 8 or neurotypical.

She is 5 and autistic.

She does not deserve to be bullied. Nobody does.

It’s hard. I know that her neurotypical friends wonder why she acts the way she does. I know for certain that the parents do. And the autism parents seem to think that because of her functioning level, she can’t be friends with their kids.

When are we going to start the conversations like we have about race and religion, but start having them about people with disabilities?

It is OK to tell your children that my children are different. It is ok to talk about their brown skin. It is okay that we have different spiritual beliefs. And it is ok to talk about autism. In fact, I encourage you to do so.

How are we to teach our children acceptance and tolerance if we are pretending that their skin is not different or by pretending that they are neurotypical?

Please, tell your children that mine are autistic. Tell them that it is like the difference between a Mac and a PC. There are a lot of the same components, but the operating system is different. Tell them that my daughters might scream really loud. Or they might sit in the corner with their ears covered and rock. Tell them that my kids will very likely lash out if you get in their face and too close in their space. Tell them that sometimes my children may be really stuck on one idea when they are playing and that it is hard to move away from it.

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And if you are not sure what to tell your kids, ask me. Or have your kids ask me. I will explain things the best I can.

And use the word “autistic”. It’s not a bad word. “K_____ is autistic.”

And look within yourself. Look at your own judgements. Look at how you talk to my children. Look at how you talk in front of them. Look at how you treat them.

My children are really amazing little people. They are smart, creative, artistic and musical. They love science and potty humour. They love riding bikes and playing at the park. And they really love people. They love playing with friends. They love hanging out with adults.

Get to know them. They might surprise you.

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1 in 50

Early on, when my daughter was a baby, I started noticing that she was just a “bit more”. She was more sensitive to sound, light, and temperature, Textures were sometimes unbearable. She was more loud. She was more persistent.
As she grew, she had more words than her peers. She was more aggressive.
She had trouble tolerating foods. She couldn’t sleep.
She would play the same things day in and day out. She would set things up in a particular way and freak out if things were moved or touched. She loved crashing into things.
Someone mentioned looking into Sensory Processing Disorder, and so I looked into it. I started doing some of the things suggested to “feed” her sensory needs. And they started to work. We made amazing leaps and bounds.
Last year, she was assessed and diagnosed with high functioning autism. I was not in the least bit surprised when I went into the team meeting and they gave me the diagnoses. I had already figured it out by then.

I struggled a lot with “the label”. I did not want that for her. But what the label brought us was access to programs and professional help that would be otherwise unavailable without a diagnoses and access to funding.

Most people, meeting my daughter, would never guess. They might think she is a little louder, a little more hyper than most kids. I have heard adults call her names like “brat” and tell me that my kid is “out of control”. I have seen adults be far more cruel to her than a child could be.

The reason I want to share my story is: when we think autism, we tend to think of the kids who are non-verbal and exhibit more obvious impairments. We rarely talk about the high functioning kids. And for some reason people think that because they are high functioning, it is not challenging for the family. Even within the autism community, you might be considered “lucky” when your child is high functioning.

I am here to be the one to break the silence. It is not easy. Every single day is a challenge. And because there is a preconceived notion that these kids should be behaving as their same age peers, they get labeled as all sorts of things that they are not.

I know all parents have struggles with their kids to get them dressed or get their shoes on. Something that might take an average child 20 minutes of dawdling and fooling around can take hours for a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). So the simple, every day, day to day things can eat up half of your day.

FOOD:
Recently, my daughter has stopped eating. Yes, kids go through phases of eating lots and eating little. But she is losing weight. So she HAS to eat. Sometimes, getting her fed can take 2 hours or more. If she does not eat, she is lethargic and prone to meltdowns.
Food is big for ASD kids. Many have issues with textures, temperatures, etc. That means they won’t eat a lot of things. They also tend to have gut issues and allergies. They also react more to sugars, dyes, nitrates and preservatives. So along with the inability to eat things due to sensory issues, most ASD families are also working with a restricted diet. It can be extremely challenging to get the basic need of nutrition met.

GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE:
Getting outside can pose a huge problem for these highly sensory kids. It can take almost an hour to get her dressed to go out to play, especially in the winter. If you can even get her in clothes that she will wear and are appropriate for the weather. All of her clothes must feel just right, fit just right. Every sleeve, every seam, every crease has to be in the right spot. She can’t feel too cold or too hot. If her sensory needs are not met, she is prone to a meltdown.

Going to other people’s houses can be really hard. Especially larger gatherings. I have always loved potlucks and family of friends gatherings. When she was a baby she usually just fussed the whole time, so I would just sit in the corner and nurse her. As she has gotten older, it has gotten increasingly difficult to take her to things. The sounds are different, the smells are different, the temperature is different. Also, the rules at other people’s houses are different, so are the expectations. All of this is prime condition to trigger a meltdown. Needless to say, we mostly go to stuff like this in the summer, when we can get away a little more easily if things start going crazy for her.

Daily errands can be a nightmare. I know that most parents have had occasion to abort a mission to go to a store because their kid is freaking out. For us, it can be a very regular occurrence. I have even had periods of weeks where we have been unable to step in a store, and have had to ask friends to pick up groceries for us. When that is not an option, I am the parent you see with the kid in the store who is going beserk, because I have no choice but to go buy food for us.
REPETITION:
Repetition, picking up behaviours and forming habits. All kids learn by repetition and example. ASD kids can do this with more gusto than you can imagine. That annoying little thing your friend’s kid does? An ASD kid will pick it up and amplify it tenfold and do nothing but that for months. Potty talk? Swear words? Once they are picked up, they are repeated, nonstop, for months on end, whether or not they garner attention by the parent.

SLEEP:
This has been the most trying issue. I think it is for most families with ASD kids. ASD kids don’t sleep. At least not normally. For months when she was a baby, she would be up screaming bloody murder for hours at a time. We are talking beyond colic. 7 hour writhing tantrums. 5-7 nights a week. After a trip to a naturopath, we were able to get a bit of relief and the amount of hours dropped and it dropped to 4-6 nights a week of little to no sleep. I read every sleep book ever published. I even went through about 2 hours of hell trying the “cry-it-out” method, only to find she had slammed her head so hard it was swollen and she was sitting in a pile of puke and feces. Even now, at 5 years old, it can take her hours to go to sleep. She may just randomly awaken in the night and lie there for a few hours or play. There is seemingly no rhyme or reason to it. She just requires less sleep. It would be much better if she could just wake up and not wake me. Or her sister.

MELTDOWNS VS. TANTRUMS:

Now let’s talk about meltdowns. Meltdowns and tantrums are not the same thing. A meltdown can be triggered in the same way as many tantrums are: a limit being set, being told “no”, etc. But they are an entirely different beast.
Although the trigger can be similar, a meltdown also has a lot more triggers. A lot of them are sensory. A noise, a light, a smell, a taste, a feel can set them off.

During a tantrum, a child will look around to see if they are getting a reaction or any attention. They will try to manipulate a situation to their benefit. You can end a tantrum quickly by giving in to the demand. During a tantrum, a child will avoid hurting themselves. They are generally common between ages 2-4.

During a meltdown, a child does not care if anyone is paying attention or not. They don’t care if they are in danger or are hurting themselves. Meltdowns, unlike tantrums, will reach a point of no return. That means that when you give into the original request or trigger, it doesn’t matter anymore. They can go on for hours before they subside.
Meltdowns have no age limit, they carry on into adulthood, although coping mechanisms can be taught. As the child gets older, bigger and stronger, this becomes a major safety issue in some families.
I have had to help my daughter through meltdowns that have literally lasted hours. It is exhausting for everyone.

THE SIBLING FACTOR:
I also have a younger daughter. It is really hard on her to see her sister going through all of this. And to see me going through it. She is 3 and is mimicking all of the behaviours. She is there for every moment of things, because it is just the three of us. She has seen all the meltdowns. I am wondering how this is affecting her development. She is scared and stressed a lot of the time. For days after her sister has a big meltdown, she is decompressing.

So I just want to let you know that when I say I have not had more than two 8 hour sleeps in 5 years, I am not exaggerating. When I tell you that we will be unable to make it to your potluck, it is not because we don’t want to come. And if we do come, we may just have to leave early. If I say that we would love to come and visit, but are unable to, it is because it is very challenging for us to stay at someone else’s house. When I make plans with you and have to cancel, it is not because I don’t want to see you. When I tell you I can’t find a babysitter or appropriate childcare, it is true. When I tell you I am exhausted, it is beyond physical, it is an exhaustion that spreads through every fiber of my being.

My reason for writing this blog is so that you can understand. Not only my family, but the thousands of other families who face similar challenges with their high functioning ASD children. So maybe, before you make a judgment, you will stop to think that maybe you don’t know the whole story. That maybe, when you see that 7 year old in the store having what you thought was a tantrum over something, you will realize that maybe they are not “a spoiled brat”. And maybe, instead of offering advice, you will offer a hand.

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My family

“Where did you GET your kids? They are so beautiful!”
“Well, I grew them inside my uterus and pushed them out through my vagina.”

My answer is always treated as though I have somehow said something offensive and inappropriate.

The reality is, when you ask me that question, it is you that is being offensive and inappropriate.

I am tired of the notion that it is somehow okay for a perfect stranger to come over and ask me personal questions about my family. It started when my girls were just babies. And my oldest daughter is 5 years old now.

“Well, we are just curious. “

Well, you can just be curious then. Because here is something that you never seem to think about when you come over to ask me questions about my family.
You are not thinking about my family.
You are not thinking about the profound effect of your comment on the little sponges that are my children.

“Why did they ask if I was yours, mama?

“Why did they ask where we were from, mama?”

“Why are they talking about our skin colour, mama?”

These messages are being played and replayed to my children on a regular basis. The message that they don’t “belong” in my family because, in your eyes, we don’t look the same.

Funny thing is, if you took a moment to actually look at us, our eyes, our faces, and looked beyond the shade of skin, you would see that my daughters look quite a lot like me. They also look like their father.

The other thing is, that even if they were adopted, your comments would still be making them feel that they are not a part of my family, and that somehow, they don’t belong.

They do belong. We are a family.

Your ignorant words hurt my children.

“Oh, her hair is so curly! Are you going to straighten it?”
“Her hair is so curly, can I touch it?”
“Her hair is so curly, it must be so hard to look after.”

I am not going to straighten her hair. She was born with her hair, why would I want to change it? I would not perm or dye or pour chemicals on my child’s head if she had straight hair, and quite frankly, you would not be asking me.
Like everything else to do with body autonomy, they have the right to choose what happens to their body.
That includes their hair.
Sure, it takes a little more time to look after it, but just like anything, once you get into a routine about it, it is really not that challenging.
They are like other little kids.
One does not mind having her hair done and one hates it. So one has long hair and one has short.

And no, random stranger, you cannot touch my kid. Can I just come over and touch your hair? It’s weird. It’s just a weird question and a weird thing to do if you think about it.

We are not here to answer your curious questions. We are not your anthropology assignment. We are people. We are a family. We are entitled to our privacy. We are entitled to go out into public to get groceries or play at the park or have a meal without being questioned.

If, at some time in the future, we become friends of some kind, and we have spent some time together, I may be more receptive to answer your curiosities. But unless that is to happen, I just really want my children and I to be able to go out and do all of the things that you do on a daily basis without being accosted.

So when I answer your rude questions in a rude manner, don’t be surprised.

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Do We Need Pink to Teach Science (or anything else) to Girls?

OK, my first post about GoldieBlox, I wrote when I was riled up.

I am glad I did, because the reactions are giving me a lot to respond to. Also, I did not think too many would read it. My blog, which at most had 35 hits on a post, is at 5000 and counting! So, instead of answering each comment on my blog, I decided a second post was warranted.

First, let’s address the “but girlie girls can be engineers too’. Of course they can. This is not tomboys vs. girlie girls. This is marketing vs. children. How did pink and princesses become the defining factor of being a girl? It was when Disney started marketing the Disney Princesses as a package.

I am 38 years old. This was not happening when I was a kid. Yes, there was always a bit of “boy” and “girl” stuff, but not everything was glaringly pink. Back then, we had choices of red, blue, pink, green, orange and yellow. Now anything that is not pink or pastel is considered “boy colours”.

My doll stroller was blue and red. You likely could not even find such a thing today. I am not saying “let’s make everything gender neutral”, but that that girls deserve more choice.

My daughter, at age 2, came home from daycare one day announcing “My favourite colour is pink!” I said “Oh, why did you choose that?” “I’m a girl, so I like pink.”
This is not natural. This is marketing.

Second, let’s address the Beastie Boys song. I don’t think reappropriation works. Yes, there are a handful of terms that have been “taken back”, like queer. But the last time someone called you a “b*tch”, a  “sl*t”, a “c*nt”, a f*gg*t”,  a “n*gg*r”, how did you feel? Did you feel like those words have been reappropriated? I have not seen that yet in this society.

I am not ragging on the Beastie Boys. They are an amazing band and I have listened to them since the release of their first album. I know that “Girls” was not their best decision as a band. But it’s like putting a compromising picture of yourself out on the internet. You can’t ever really, fully take it back

Third: GoldieBlox themselves stated that they were going to break out of the pink/princess mold:

“We’re GoldieBlox, a toy company out to show the world that girls deserve more choices than dolls and princesses. We believe that femininity is strong and girls will build the future — literally.

Our founder, Debbie Sterling, is a Stanford engineer who decided last year that girls need more choices than the pink aisle has to offer. She developed GoldieBlox, an interactive book series + construction set starring Goldie, the kid inventor who loves to build.
This year, we wondered what we could do to showcase the amazing inventive power that girls have. So…we might have recruited three young girls and that guy who made OK Go’s famous Rube Goldberg machine to turn an average home into a massive, magical contraption.”

The ad with the Beastie Boys song is misleading. People will see the ad, the blurb from the company and think “Yay! Finally something that is NOT princess!” And go to the store to purchase it (with their excited daughter) only to find yet another princess toy.

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Contrary to the comments I have received on my blog, I am not anti-pink. But I want my daughters to have choices. When you go to the store and over 80% of the toys geared toward girls are pink, of course they will “like” pink. What else are they going to like? It’s kind of like if the only meat you ever eat is chicken, then when people ask you your favourite meat, your answer will be “chicken”.

I am also not anti-feminine. Indeed, I wear a dress or skirt 90% of the time, if not more.  People are always shocked when I am wearing pants. I just prefer dresses. But I have a choice. I can choose to wear pants or a dress. My daughters choose what to wear. Although I will say, it is almost impossible to find a bright green, a blue or a red shirt in the girl’s section of the store, unless it is emblazoned with words like “cute” or “sexy”. There is mostly pink. And some purple.
That is not choice.

And yes I am a feminist. I believe that women should have a right to choose everything in their life. And I believe it should start when they are young girls. I chose to leave my career job to go have babies and a garden. It was a conscious decision I made in my 30’s. I want my girls to have choices, even at their young age.

My daughters have play food, dolls, animals, cars, tools, Lego (regular), and tons of outside toys, from skates, to bikes to scooters to hula hoops. They wear dresses, skirts, pants and shorts. They wear pink, brown, blue, green, yellow, red and purple. In fact, as I was writing this post, they were building with Lego together. Not once did they throw down the primary coloured Lego and scream “We can’t do this, Mama! We need PINK Lego!”

My daughters love science. I don’t need to go out and find them pink princess stuff to teach them science. I take what they are interested in and run with it. Right now it is space. I make sure that they know that there are female astronauts, female scientists, female engineers. I follow their lead in what they want to learn. And wow, do they ever want to learn! So I teach them.

They know Mae Jemison, Karen Nyberg, Kalpana Chawla, Eileen Collins. Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride, Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette. They already know, at ages 3 and 4 that they can be and do whatever they want. I follow their interests and encourage them.

Maybe they will lose interest in science. I don’t know. If they do, I can guarantee that it will not happen because it did not come wrapped up with a pretty pink bow in a princess package. It will be because they have made a decision that they want to pursue something else. And when they make that decision, I will be there to support them.

I don’t think that if “the system is broken” that we should just sit back quietly and do nothing about it. If you want to be progressive, and you have a great opportunity to, then do it. Why do things half way?
Oh right.
Money.
Bottom line. GoldieBlox sold out from their original ideal for the almighty dollar. (Read their aforementioned statement again if you have any doubt.)
I am a fighter. I stand up for what I think is right. I do this in every aspect of my life, from environmental issues to gender stereotypes.

I would encourage you to do some research about how companies market to children. I would suggest the documentary “Consuming Kids” as well as “CBC Doc Zone: Sext Up Kids”.
I would also encourage you to read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” as well as “The Achilles Effect”.

Gender stereotypes hurt our children. What are you going to tell your daughter when she grows up and realizes “princess” is not an attainable goal? And before you jump down my throat about boys playing “pirates” and “ninjas”, there is a huge difference. Pretend play is great for childhood development. But how many times have you said to a boy “Hey little ninja! You are so handsome!” And said it to them every day? Repetition is a large part of how children learn. And if every day, your little girl hears that she is a pretty princess, but hears nothing else, or an occasional “good girl” or “how smart”, and is constantly bombarded by unachievable body images, that is what she will think she needs to be. So why not give her more tools and choices than that?

This blog at https://www.facebook.com/PigtailPals sums it all up quite well:
“Stop believing the hype, “Well, if it gets girls building that is all I care about.” No. Just no. Have more faith in girls that they don’t need products dripping in the pink syrup and exhausted princess stories. Be brave enough to tell new, more daring stories. If you go there, the girls will come. They don’t need pink bread crumbs leading the way. Have the strength of your convictions.”
http://blog.pigtailpals.com/2013/11/stop-using-stereotypes-to-sell-stem-to-girls/

And the New Statesman has this to say.

“Yet what I find most odd is that while Lego are condemned for pinking and shrinking a gender neutral toy, Goldie Box are praised because there’s no gender neutral version with which to make a comparison. This doesn’t seem fair when ultimately the message is the same: there is real life and then there’s the girls’ version.”
http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/11/sly-sexism-goldie-bloxs-confidence-boosting-toys-girls

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GoldieBlox? No thanks.

Let’s empower little girls! Let’s stop all of this Princess bullshit!

So a woman engineer comes up with the brainchild “GoldieBlox”.

I saw it in the store one day, after hearing so much about it. It could have just blended right into the regular fray of pink princess crap with its dull pink pastel box.
Maybe it’s a great toy, but I will never buy it. And here is why.

“In this award-winning debut story, Goldie builds a spinning machine to help her dog, Nacho, chase his tail. Soon all her friends want in on the action. Help Goldie build a belt drive machine to spin everybody!”

“In this much-anticipated sequel, Goldie’s friends Ruby and Katinka compete in a princess pageant with the hopes of riding in the town parade. When Katinka loses the crown, Goldie and Ruby team up to build her a parade float as well as other fun rolling, spinning, and whirling designs. “

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It’s the same dumb-downed princess bullshit as the rest of the stuff they are shoving down the throats of our daughters.

And then came the ad. I love the fact that the girls are fighting back about all their crappy pink princess toys and build this awesome contraption to deal with it all. But it is set to the tune of one of the most misogynist songs to ever be recorded, “Girls” by the Beastie Boys. Yes they have changed the lyrics for the commercial,  and we all know that the tune is catchy as hell… but do you remember the actual lyrics? “Girls! To do the dishes! Girls! To clean up my room! Girls! To do the laundry! Girls! And in the bathroom!”

I don’t understand why it is being marketed this way. And why it is pink and pastel and princessed out.

It’s as bad as Lego Friends! Lego Friends sets for girls include a beauty shop, a café, and a pet salon with fun stuff to do like “Makeover the LEGO® Friends at the Butterfly Beauty Shop with makeup, hair accessories and tons of realistic details for serious salon fun!”

Whatever happened to all the brightly coloured Lego that we used to just build everything with? Houses and planes and rockets?

Why is advertising to girls like this?

When they don’t need to and could still advertise like this?

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I can say without a doubt, that GoldieBlox has just been added to my list of toys I will not waste money on.

I like the idea of engineering toys for kids, and even aimed at girls, but in my opinion this is a major fail.

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Hell No, We Won’t Go

So my 3 and 4 year old made posters of their own to go to a protest last weekend.

It was a protest called “Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities”.
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Some people didn’t like that I was taking them to a protest. Some people thought it might be “dangerous”. Some people mentioned that I am somehow indoctrinating my children.

Yes, I have seen protests get violent. I am not naïve. Indeed, the first protest I ever went to, the protest line got mowed down by a car, and I was one of the people who got a direct hit from the car. I was 16.

I am now 38.

I have never been injured at a protest since. And if I was somewhere, anywhere with my children and felt unsafe in any way, I would turn around and leave.

Am I indoctrinating my children? I am teaching them my own morals, values and beliefs.

I also do not profess to know everything about the oil industry. But I do know the following:
* They want to build a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the north coast of BC. It goes through the Big Bear Rainforest, and tankers would be navigating through waters that a ferry (who navigates those waters every day) crashed last week. None of it sounds particularly safe to me.
* The tar sands are an area bigger than the United Kingdom.
* Canada has backed out of the Kyoto Accord and now has one of the worst environmental records of any country.
* Global warming is real. Ask a scientist. Or 50. Yes, there are always changes in the Earth, but we are contributing to the rapid rate at which the changes are occurring.
* From Exxon’s very own site “Gasoline accounts for less than one half of the products made from a barrel of crude in the United States. Roughly another third goes to making the diesel and jet fuels that power commercial transportation and personal travel. So what about the rest of the barrel? Oil is an important source of raw materials for making plastics and other chemical products.”
We need to rethink how we are living. We need to look at how we are choosing to live. So how can we make a difference and stop contributing to the industry?
* Wars happen over oil. When your 4 year old asks you “Why do people kill one another in wars?”, what do you tell them? I tell mine the truth. I tell them that people kill people over oil and money and religion. That’s the 4 year old version, and it is the real truth.

* The safest way to transport oil is by rail. Yes, trains derail, but not at the frequency of truck accidents or broken pipelines.

* The use of oil is not going away. There need to be enforced safety measures in place and companies need to be held accountable for spills.

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My children are my world. I want them to have clean water to drink. I want them to have clean air to breathe. I want them to eat real, clean food that was grown locally.  I don’t want them to die of cancer like their father did.

I don’t want to lose them into this consumer culture.

So I am making efforts in our lives to be less consumers.

My 4 year old, in her infinite wisdom, after ranting for about 20 minutes one day, said the most profound thing. She said “Mama, I think everybody around the whole world needs to fly up in a rocket ship and look down at the Earth and see what is happening. Maybe then they would stop killing the earth.”

I think she is right.

So I will keep teaching my kids. I think it’s important. They are the future.

In 1990, my favourite Canadian band, Spirit of the West,  released a song called “Dirty Pool”. It still rings true today.

The water is black the coast was clear
Now they’re sweating dollars dripping fear
What a way to end the fiscal year
Mopping up the dirty pool
Mopping up the dirty pool
They’ve given us a new career
It’s the make work project of the year
Oh dear god bless the volunteer
Mopping up the dirty pool
Mopping up the dirty pool
Your way can’t stay
Your way can’t stay won’t stay can’t stay
Mopping up the dirty pool
This ship of steel is a leaky tin
Spilt milk tears run down your chin
This crying shame’s a fuckin’ sin
Mopping up the dirty pool
A rusty tanker’s belly a fault somewhere it seems
Bled gallons to the ocean and poisoned the marine
The shoreline’s tarred and feathered
And the seagulls look like crows
The unofficial explanation
“shit happens don’t you know”
Your way can’t stay
Your way can’t stay won’t stay
Can’t stay won’t stay
Mopping up the dirty pool
Your way is the wrong way
Your way can’t stay won’t stay can’t stay
Mopping up the dirty
Mopping up the dirty
Mopping up the dirty pool

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC212HixdXQ

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Oh, That Pesky Internet

I have a strong love/hate relationship with the internet.

I feel in some ways that I am addicted to it, although whenever I do get a forced break, I don’t seem to mind.  We travelled enough and camped “out of range” enough this summer for me to know that I don’t really miss it when it is not there.

I also use it as my out. When I can’t cope with things and I need to ignore what is happening in my immediate surroundings, it is a quick escape for a burnt out stay at home single mama.

I definitely spend way too much time on the computer. And worse, I should never have gotten this ridiculous smartphone. It’s like an extra appendage.  And I find myself, sometimes, just staring at it or checking it, thinking somehow someone texted me and I amazingly missed the obnoxious tone. God forbid I miss a text or a phone call.

My daughters call me on it sometimes. “Mama, put your phone down and come play.”

That covers the hate aspect.

But the love… oh, the love.

As a homeschooling mama with a daughter who has a very keen interest in anything science, it is amazing to have, at my fingertips, at any given time, access to the whole wide world of know scientific knowledge. “Why is the sky blue, mama?” I can answer that! “How many moons does Neptune have?” “Umm, 13.”  “What does a giraffe sound like?”
I am not fooling her. She knows I don’t know everything. But she knows I have access to it.

We also have endless access to music. All kinds of music. And oh, we love the music around here.

I can also look up random useful stuff like how to get a mustard stain off your shoe and how to make the best dang homemade bathroom cleaner a person has ever used. I can learn how to bake and sew and get free patterns for stuff. I can learn how to change the oil on my car. I can learn how to do yoga.

There is a whole myriad of free courses online, through universities like MIT. If I ever pull my nose out of Facebook long enough, I might even look into doing some.

But nothing compares to the thing I use it for the most.

And that is this community of people.

It has connected me and re-connected me and kept me in touch with all kinds of people. From elementary chums to college mates to new friends.

As I have mentioned before, being a single parent is extremely isolating. Some days, unless I go to the store, the only interaction I get with an adult is here, on social media, on the internet.

I have friends on here who are like family. I turn to them when I need someone and I am here for them when they do.

I have watched single mamas helping single mamas by sending clothes to them for their kids, sending pizza to their house when they are broke and hungry and waiting for their check the next day. I have seen them help pay someone’s bills when they are getting their water or power cut off. I have seen them pay damage deposits and help with moving costs.

I have seen mamas helping mamas through divorce and custody matters.

I have seen mamas helping each other with health issues and supporting healthier lifestyles.

I have read the highs and lows of parenting. The moments that make you smile and the moments that make you want to quit. I have seen them all supporting each other (and me) through extreme issues with parenting.

I have seen people helping each other get jobs, or figure out how to work from home. I have seen them supporting each other’s home businesses by ordering from their Etsy shops.

I have seen real friendships form. I have had real friendships form for me. I have spoken on the phone with these women. I have received amazing gifts for my own family (someone paid for a house cleaner for me when I was really struggling!)

We share jokes and crushes and pictures and laughs.

We share our hopes and dreams.

We are helping each other in our parenting journeys through advice and support.

The most amazing aspect is the real friendships. The community.  The real connections It surprised me. Because I never expected it.

I feel blessed that in this day and age, where everyone just goes home every night and closes their door, that this other door into a whole new world is open. Because without the support of my online community, I would be struggling a lot more.

So to all of you mamas out there, sitting on Facebook wearing your beer drinking couch pants (or wine, for you classy ones), I salute you.

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