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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Body Shaming

The other day, a dear friend of mine and fellow blogger wrote a tongue in cheek piece about a failed -- but humorous -- shopping attempt at lululemon. You can read it here.

As I read, I couldn't help but giggle to myself, because I could relate. I've felt like a fish out of water in a store that obviously wasn't intended for my wallet or my clothing size.  I've also had one of those "OMG-I'm-Stuck-In-This-Spandex-Muffin-Top-Sucking-In-Swimsuit-And-I-Can't-Get-Out" moments while in a dressing room at Dillard's. So when my friend wrote about her shopping experience at lululemon, I couldn't help but laugh a little.

My laughing quickly turned to shock when I began reading the comment section. Seriously, why am I a glutton for punishment?! I couldn't believe the amount of backlash she received for writing about a personal shopping trip that didn't go as planned. More so, I was surprised by the amount of males who felt the need to leave body shaming comments on a blog that is mainly intended for moms.

People like these guys who obviously aspire to be the next Carson Kressley, but unbeknownst to themselves lack any fashion sense:

Or these two fellows who are concerned about the vision health of people everywhere:

And these two who still think it is socially acceptable (was it ever acceptable?) to throw the word "fat" out there like it ain't no thing:

I once had a teacher who said, "if you throw a stick into a pack of fighting dogs, the one who barks the loudest is the one who got hit." Yep. I'm the barking dog. Those comments hit me right in my less-than-slim-gut. 

It's no lie that I've put on my fair share of post baby, post nursing, depression, ice cream obsession weight. I'm not proud of it, and I feel self conscious on a regular basis. I feel uncomfortable when I go shopping for clothes. I feel shame when I sit down to eat at a restaurant, because I worry that people are silently judging me -- for what I ordered, for eating all my food, for getting seconds. I feel embarrassed when I go for my run and cars pass me by. I am afraid they are laughing at how slow I am running, how short of breath I am, how out of shape I am. These are my issues and my insecurities, but they aren't mine alone and they aren't without cause. 

Just a glance through the comments of my friend's post proved that we have a long way to go when it comes to body acceptance -- accepting our own bodies and accepting the bodies of those around us. And while some of the commentors may argue that their harsh comments were tough love meant to motivate people like me to get into shape, I would have to disagree. Belittling remarks do not motivate and demeaning words do not inspire. 

Shaming others over their weight has got to stop. Instead, let's accept that we have no control over other people's bodies -- what they weigh, how they  look, what they wear, and let's focus on ourselves -- how we act, how we treat others, how we try to make the world a better place.

Health and well-being are extremely important, but there is so much more to a person than what it is outwardly apparent. Maybe we should be less preoccupied with the amount of weight on other people and more concerned with the amount of goodness in our own souls.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

When Hurting Leads to Fighting

I was hurt.

I was hurt when people questioned why we marched, and poked fun at it, and belittled it.

I was hurt when I saw post after post pleading to end the political talk, because these issues aren't THAT big of a deal and because Facebook is "no fun these days."

I was hurt when people threatened to "unfollow" and "unfriend" if they saw one more political post while some of us were fighting with every ounce of strength for our children, for our friends, for people we may have never met.

I was hurt when I was abandoned by a privilege I was once familiar with but now no longer know as a mother of a child with special needs.

I was hurt each time I saw a marginalized group of people have their rights threatened and every time someone confided in me that they feared they were next.

And as much as I was hurt by words, I was also hurt by the deafening silence of many of my "friends" and "family."

I was hurt. Now, I'm angry. Now, I fight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What a Skate Around the Rink Taught Me

We took C skating for the first time tonight. I wasn't sure if it would be sensory overload -- the multitude of people, the loud music, the bright lights. I worried that she would become easily frustrated by the physical challenge of skating. I braced myself.

 "I want to skate, mom," she said over and over. And I listened to her. When we got out there -- amongst all the people, amid all the music, under the disco ball of lights, she looked at me, smiled, and said, "I can do it." Despite the doubt I felt, I trusted her. She softly removed my hand from hers and skated off like a pro -- smiling and waving as she left me.

As I continue on this journey, I'm learning to not let my own fears and doubt rule. Like learning to skate, it's a slow process -- one foot at a time, one fall after another. Listening and trusting isn't always easy, but sometimes it was our kids need the most from us.


When Hypotonia Makes Me Question If My Child Is Okay

When we first learned of C's hypotonia, I worried constantly about if she was going to be okay.  When she struggled to lift  her head, I questioned if she would ever walk. Would she be  "okay"? When respiratory illness after respiratory illness struck her and landed her in the hospital, I wondered if she would be healthy. Would she be "okay"? When we waited to see specialists and for the results from tests, I hoped this would not be her forever reality. Would she be "okay"? Each fall and bump and tumble resulted in me nervously asking C, "Are you okay?"

And with every missed milestone and therapy appointment and hospital visit, I often found myself wondering if I was okay too. When I found myself Googling my life away -- hypotonia search after hypotonia search -- I wondered if I was okay. When I felt angry and sad and stressed with unfamiliar hospitals and unknown diagnoses and my own unrealistic expectations, I questioned if I was okay.

Over time, C's hypotonia has become less and less visible to the untrained eye. Not long ago, her inability to stand and walk like her peers was glaringly obvious. Now, not so much. While she still struggles with her fine motor skills, I no longer have to carry her up the stairs; she can walk up them. I no longer have to help her up the playground equipment; she climbs up herself. I no longer worry about her gross motor skills. In fact, sometimes I even forget this journey all started with a gross motor delay. For the most part, I rarely have to ask her if she is physically "okay" anymore.

And then there are days like today -- days when hypotonia messes with her body awareness and balance and messes with my anxiety.

Today, C got stuck in her chair at school, tried to free herself, lost control and fell, resulting in a bruise on her head and a scratched up chin from the fall. When I picked her up, I immediately noticed her "ouchies." My stomach churned, my heart began to race and worry filled my head. I could feel my anxiety start to take over. Taking a deep breath, I gave C a giant hug, asked her about what happened and listened intently.

As her story came to a close, I started to utter a phrase I had not thought of or spoken in quite awhile: "Are you okay?" But before I could, C looked at me and said reassuringly, "I'm okay, mom." Deep down, I knew she was. She gave me a little smirk. And I  knew -- without question -- I was okay too.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Letter to the Teacher of My Typically Developing Child

Dear Teacher,
As another school year begins, I know you are busy preparing your classroom, mapping out lessons, attending faculty meetings and anticipating the new faces that will enter your classroom and your life. It is a busy time and a little overwhelming and so very exciting — for you, for the kids, and for parents like me.

Ever since my youngest daughter entered day care, I have always composed a letter to her teacher. It is detailed and has probably garnered its fair share of eye rolls and sighs. It explains — in no particular order — how and when to put on and take off my daughter’s SMOs,  how to handle her meltdowns from sensory overload,  how her hypotonia often makes tasks like writing her name and keeping up with the other students in the hallway a struggle, how when presented with something she knows will be a challenge for her muscles, she will sometimes shutdown. 

I feel like I must write that letter. Every. Single. Year. That letter is easy to write. I have most of the answers. I know what the end goal is. I understand the journey we are on. I write that letter to make the teacher’s life a little bit easier. To make my daughter’s day at school a little bit brighter. And to make my time away from her a little bit more manageable.
But, there is one letter I have never written until today, and it is this letter to you. A letter to my oldest daughter’s teacher.

In a few short days, my daughter, L, will be stepping into your classroom for the first time, and I know upon meeting her, you will notice the obvious:

L  truly loves learning. This summer, she spent many days at our local library devouring book after book.  “I want to make sure I check out at least one fiction and non-fiction book each time to keep my reading balanced,” she told me one day. And she did.  When she wasn’t reading, she was participating in a Young Author’s Club.  She penned an R.L. Stein inspired short story infused with flashbacks and allusions and cliffhangers and dialogue. L revised the piece five times. She’s a perfectionist and a hard worker. 

You will easily see that she has a big heart and is constantly going out of her way to take care of the people around her, to make sure everyone is included, to lift up people who are feeling down. She will eagerly volunteer to help you pass out papers and she will happily help her classmates without being asked (but with your permission, because she is also a big rule follower.)

Within a week or two, you will probably pick up on the fact that she is not a fan of math, but she can do the work.  That she approaches difficult tasks with a positive, “can-do” attitude. That she loves music class and drawing and science experiments, and that when given the choice to dance in P.E. class or walk laps, she will always pick to walk laps. Always.

You will recognize she makes friends easily, she always brings her lunch and she still thinks boys may possibly have cooties. (I am okay with this. Her father and I have decided she can date when she is married and 35.)

But, I am not worried about what you may see on this journey. I want you to know what you may not always see.

As you have already read, L’s younger sister has special needs. In the perfect world, that would mean absolutely nothing.  It would mean that L hasn’t had to frequent the offices of various specialists — Genetics, Neuro, Caridology, to name a few.  It would mean she has never waited patiently for two hours a week while her sister goes to Occupational and Physical Therapy.  It would mean she has never sat in the car with me, following an ambulance as it rushed her sister to the PICU for a lengthy stay. It would mean she has never seen her sister made fun of or ignored because she was “different.” 

Unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world. L has experienced all of these things and more. While it pains me to write that, I also know that these experiences have shaped her into the beautiful soul she is.

L is a patient and considerate individual. She knows the power of an “inchstone.”  She has waited patiently as her sister slowly learned to crawl and walk and run. She holds her sister’s hand, mindful of slowing her pace, as they walk together so her sister can keep up. 

L is a compassionate and accepting individual. She has witnessed — firsthand–  the hurt that comes from being left out and how good it feels to bring others in. She believes that beauty exists in our differences.

L is a nurturing and strong individual because she often feels it is her responsibility to protect her sister from the cruelties of the world, to help her, to keep her safe, to stand up for her.  

Like many other siblings of children with special needs, L  knows more about sacrifice than I wish she did, but she also knows about the power of unconditional love. 

I want you to know that sometimes, she worries about her sister — that she might get hurt and never be able to walk again. Some nights, L cries, fearful that the next time her sister gets sick, there will be another hospital stay.  While at school, L is afraid that her sister will go back to the hospital and never come home again. At bedtime, she prays for her sister’s muscles to grow stronger and to stay strong.  

And I do my best to reassure her.  I hold her. I wipe away her tears. I listen. I pray too. But I am not perfect. I am still learning how to parent two extremely different children — one who constantly needs me and one who deserves more of me.

I don’t have a list of instructions with this letter, because I don’t have any answers. I am navigating murky waters on an uncharted journey. And I know you have many students, all with diverse needs that you are expected to meet every day. And I know you don’t get to pick which students you want and what homes they come from and what experiences they have lived through. So, I write this letter to simply say “thank you.”  I know this is a journey you didn’t necessarily sign up for, but I already feel better knowing you are traveling these waters with me.  

Monday, August 8, 2016

How to Effectively (or not so effectively) Remove A Splinter in 11 Easy Steps

Tonight, during bath, I noticed my 3-year-old had a splinter on her knee. It was slightly raised and a tad red.

My first reaction was extreme "mom guilt," because I had no clue how long it had been there.  An hour? A day? Three weeks?  Your guess is as good as mine, because I struggled to remember when the last time I gave her a bath was.  That's how I know it is the end of summer -- I don't know what day of the week it is. I don't know if I bathed my kids. I think I have been wearing the same pjs for the last two days, and I contemplated feeding everyone Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner (But that's a different blog post for a different day).
I got over my mom guilt quickly, because my attention was brought back to the slightly raised and red spot on her knee that housed the splinter.  So, my second reaction was a mini-freak out session. Is it infected? Should I call the doctor?  Call my mom? Google?
Yep, when my rational irrational fear of infection reached an all-time high, I decided to calm myself by finding more rational irrational people on the internet.  I turned to Google. And for the first time, Google kinda let me down.  There was nothing out there to really prepare a parent for what I was experiencing. Zilch. Nada.

And since splinters in children are about as common as a Kardashian with a first name that starts with the letter "K," and since the interwebs failed me, I decided to share my step-by-step approach to splinter removal.

Disclaimer: I do not have a medical degree. However, I have watched every episode of "House M.D." and I am proficient in "Grey's Anatomy" up until Cristina left, so I figure I am qualified enough to dispense this knowledge.

Here are the steps I took to remove a splinter:

1. Gave myself a pep-talk: "You can do this Ali! Your vision stinks and hand-eye coordination has never been your thing, but you've got 'stick-with-it-ness.'" I then paced around the room for a good eight minutes contemplating if I really had what it takes.  Took a good last look in the mirror and committed.

2. Got out the good ol' tweezers -- Slant-Tip and Point-Tip -- like a boss. (Actually, I went to CVS and bought them, because if you are anything like me, you have been too busy cleaning -- projectile vomit off of your shirt, toy explosions in your playroom, and lego pieces from your semi-shag carpet -- to have time to keep track of tweezers, let alone use them for their intended purpose of shaping your brows.)

3. Bought a new toy for my kiddo to play with because I believe in bribery, giving out of guilt, and other poor parenting practices. (Side note: Pharmacy toys are overpriced, but you know the saying about desperate times...)

4. Sterilized those tweezers like they had just come back from weekend at Coachella.

5.  Pulled out that blasted splinter -- after about five tries.  In reflecting, my approach could use some work.  The entire extraction vaguely resembled me trying to get in the double dutch ropes in elementary school.
Elementary School Ali: "Now?  Do I go now? Wait...I'm soooo not ready. Okay, okay. I'm gonna do this. Do I get in the ropes now? Now? How about now?"

6. Covered the spot with Neosporin. Maybe slathered would be a better word for what I did. Yep, slathered. I slathered my child in Neosporin to about the same degree as a college student slathers on Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil during Spring Break.

7. Slapped on a Frozen bandaid. I also bought these at CVS along with some Epsom Salt because I heard that helps bring a splinter to the surface. (And some chap stick. A pack of chewing gum. A scented candle, a box of hair color and wine. Okay, okay, and apple shaped sticky notes.  At this point, CVS owns me.)

8. Realized how exhausted I was, so I put the kids to bed.

9. Poured a glass of wine for myself.

10. Poured the Epsom Salt into the tub for me, because a.)the splinter was already out and I hate the idea of wasting perfectly good Epsom Salt and b.) I want to prove to my husband that I am financially responsible by using what I purchase.  Ignore Step 7.

11. Soak, Drink, Repeat.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Reflections on a Picture 3 Years Later

I remember when this picture was new. It was a favorite of mine.  Look at that smile.  Sheer joy! How can you not smile back just looking at it?  I remember posting it on Facebook.  I remember the comments of "She is such a happy baby" and "You are so lucky to see that happy smile each day." I remember that she was a really, truly happy baby, and I was really, truly lucky.

A few days after this picture was taken, our lives fell apart. Looking back, it was really a brief moment in time. 3 years. And it was nowhere near as painful and terrifying as I had envisioned. We survived. We are surviving. But at that time -- that very moment -- it was the end of the world.

A couple months after taking this picture, I stumbled upon it, and I almost deleted it.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  Anger crept into my body, filling my lungs and making it hard for me to breathe. Looking at that image instantly reminded me of what we once had -- a happy and healthy baby -- and it angered me that now her future was one giant unknown.  Looking at it reminded me that -- at one point -- she was "typically developing." Looking at it reminded me of a comfort, simplicity and peace I was once accustomed to but no longer knew, because nothing in my life was comfortable, simple or peaceful.

I almost hit "delete" more than once, but I could never bring myself to do it. My finger would linger over that key, prepared to strike the image from my computer screen and my memory forever, but then I would see that smile.  That mega-watt, light up a room, eyes filled with joy smile, and I couldn't. Because that happiness in that smile, that happiness was still there.  It was present in my daughter's face when her sister would lay next to her on the floor, playfully tickling her feet and sweetly telling her "sister secrets."  That happiness was present when I held my baby in my arms and rocked her to sleep as she snuggled softly into the safety of my arms.  It was present each time my eyes met hers, each time my ears heard her giggle, each time her hand grasped mine.

The comfort and simplicity and peace were gone, but among all of the stress and complications and conflict, the happiness still somehow managed to exist.

As time passes, I am able to tell our story with minimal tears and without my voice quivering.  I am able to find the beauty in the "typical" moments that I once took for granted.  I am able to say that grief does get easier.  Maybe it does not entirely go away, but it does become manageable.  It does slowly move from filling the entirety of your day to simply sitting in a corner of a room you rarely visit.

A few years after taking this picture -- 3 years and 5 months to be exact -- I stumbled upon it.  This time, tears did not fill my eyes.  Anger did not fill my heart.  I looked at that smile -- Sheer joy! Pure happiness! -- and I smiled too.