Jenny McCarthy, Mouthpiece Mom

Tired of all the vaccine talk?  I kinda am.  And I thought it was just receiving vaccines that caused sleepiness (my kids crashed big after boosters).  But no, this time it is my brain that is tired.  But to lay this issue to rest (at least for now) I need to get something off my mind.

Actually,  I need to get someone off my mind.  Jenny McCarthy.  Mom, famous-person, apparent anti-vaxx advocate.  It says something when a well-known individual’s stint as Playmate of the Year gets upended by her staunch support of the vaccines-cause-autism movement (McCarthy even went so far as to write a foreword for Andrew Wakefield’s book Callous Disregard).  But I’m not here to add to the mountain of criticism of McCarthy for her position.  In fact, I want to do the opposite.  Even though I vote “pro-vaxx” I am even more “pro-mother.”  As you might know, Jenny McCarthy’s son was diagnosed with autism.  She writes fervently in her book Louder than Words:  A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism about her efforts to find successful treatment for him.  And what I took away from reading her desperate words was just that:  desperation.  And anger.  And frustration.

She wanted help.  She wanted answers.  And in the early part of the new millennium (when McCarthy’s son was diagnosed) Andrew Wakefield’s paper suggesting the MMR may cause autism was still in print and the debate it sparked was a raging fire.  A scared, desperate mother at that time would come to see this purported connection as a possible cause of her son’s autism.  And what scared, desperate mother wouldn’t voice her worries to her family, friends and anyone else who would listen?

Unfortunately, when you are Jenny McCarthy, the others whom you ask to listen happen to include a hungry media.

But now, with the changing tide of events that includes the renunciation of Dr. Wakefield’s paper and the wave of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, Jenny McCarthy is a pariah.  Surely not at all what she expected.  But she can’t really back out now, at least not gracefully.

Even though, and this is in Louder Than Words, she voices a support for alternative vaccine schedules, not necessarily avoidance of vaccines altogether.  She is quoted as saying, “I’m not anti-vaccine.”  But still.  She is charged with planting the seed of skepticism in parents’ minds about protecting their children from life-threatening illnesses.  And many would, and do, consider that to be “anti-vaccine.”

And, of course, the media prints this as well.

That said, I don’t resent Jenny McCarthy.  Because, when my second-born was 15 months old he:

~stopped babbling.

~wouldn’t respond to his name.

 ~performed some unusual rituals which involved flapping his legs and opening-and-closing-his bedroom door.

I could go on, believe me.  I thought the worst, after making a list at an autism lecture of characteristics that fit my son perfectly.  Even without the formal diagnosis, I felt panic in my heart and worry almost bursting forth in that stuffy, darkened hotel ballroom.  But as fate would have it, my family is luckier than McCarthy’s.

No, I don’t know the pain of having an autistic child but I caught a glimpse of its possibility.  There was a knot in my stomach and a need for answers, all because I love my son.  What mother…famous or notorious, both or neither…wouldn’t have those feelings?  Jenny McCarthy had a very natural, “momma bear” response.  It is unfortunate that she had the media and her status at her disposal, which in the end turned her well-meaning intentions against her.

At least that’s how I see it.

My sweet, loving boy.  It was a "double" ear infection.  Not autism.

My sweet, loving boy as a toddler. It was a “double” ear infection. Not autism.

Grocery Store “Gangstas”

No, that's not my son's hand.  It belongs to some random shopper whom I almost warned to not eat the peppers, but I think he thought I was weird enough already to be snapping photos of produce.

No, that’s not my son’s hand. It belongs to some random shopper whom I almost warned to not eat the peppers.  But I’m sure he thought I was weird enough already to be snapping photos of produce.

He was so proud.  He loved bell peppers and tiny things in general (still does) and showed me the diminutive green pepper while we shopped the produce section of the grocery store.  I turned away for just a few seconds (it’s always “just a few seconds,” right?) to select some lettuce and when I turned back to my son, his tongue was hanging out of his mouth and jalapeño seeds falling to the floor. Continue reading

Why We Vaccinate

[For this week’s photo, imagine a seven year old girl with glasses, opening Christmas presents.  That little girl is me, with the chicken pox]

The answer may seem obvious, but why do we vaccinate children against diseases we may never have heard of, much less whose names we can’t pronounce?  Parents and guardians who consent to having their children vaccinated do get that information (it is a federal law that families receive vaccine information sheets, otherwise known as VIS’s).   However, parents who chose to forgo vaccines for their children are not required to take VIS’s.  Why not?  Every parent should have adequate information regarding vaccines before making an educated decision.  But as seen in the state of Colorado, opposition to that idea made waves in 2014.  A house bill proposed that families denying their children vaccines be required to complete an online tutorial and obtain a healthcare provider signature that vaccine education was completed.  But the bill was shot down, and only a proposal for a voluntary vaccine education module made it to the governor’s desk.

That gutted version of the bill was passed into law in May of 2014 and the online education module is still “Coming Soon!”  But I say, “Why wait?”  Any parent on the fence about vaccinating their child should know why kids need the alphabet soup of shots that is now recommended.  So below is information on some of those vaccines: Continue reading

Another Important Fact About Childhood Vaccines

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After posting Should I Vaccinate My Children? yesterday and “sleeping on it” I realized another important piece of information needs inclusion.  Any parent considering or reconsidering whether to vaccinate their kids needs to know this:  it’s never too late.  If your child is school-aged (even a collegiate) and never been vaccinated or only partially vaccinated, age-appropriate “catch-up” protocols exist.

Grown ups may also apply.

Should I Vaccinate My Children?

I‘m going to give this to you straight. As in 23-gauge needle straight:

∗Vaccinate your kids.

∗ Let them eat dirt.

∗Don’t freak if they eat their boogers.

∗(Do freak if they eat someone else’s.)

Evidence supports doing the first two. The third falls under the “can’t hurt ‘em” line of thinking.  And the fourth, well, goes without saying.

What can hurt, as we know, is the sting from a needle delivering a vaccine, often several administered in rapid succession. But what can hurt even more are the repercussions from choosing to forgo “shots.”  Continue reading

A Reason to Recharge

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The other morning I needed to recharge.  I went to Friday Flow yoga and reconnected with some amazing people.  I got my favorite Chai from my favorite local coffee place.

“Me Time” at its best.

Maybe it was the clarity that only yoga and a jolt of spicy tea can provide, but I got to thinking about this thing we call “Me Time.”  The time we take for just ourselves.  The time we rarely indulge in because we have responsibilities and commitments.  A sense of obligation, and even guilt, makes “Me Time” sound too decadent and selfish.

But “Me Time” not only benefits the individual who takes it.  I know I feel awesomely content and relaxed having taken that break from the daily grind but I realized something:   my family benefits as well.  I am in a better place to help with homework, “run the bus” to activities and engage in meaningful conversation with my husband if I set aside my “to-do’s”  and instead recharge my batteries doing something I not only enjoy….but need.

So perhaps, rather that calling it “Me Time” that little break is better called “Restorative Time.”  That’s really what it is.  Maybe we won’t feel guilty taking five (or more) if we realize we are better caretakers for doing it.  So take that time.  Our families deserve it.

My Daughter is Growing Up. How Can I Help Her?

My daughter's room is pink.  It is fluffy.  It is soft and sweet.  Except for the pink legos.  Those are sharp and they hurt when stepped on.

My daughter’s room is pink. It is fluffy. It is soft and sweet. Except for the pink legos. Those are sharp and they hurt my feet.

My daughter.  Just yesterday I seemed to notice her again, growing taller, holding herself with the air of a budding “tween”.  Even her facial features have changed.  Why is it kids seem to take another step towards maturity over night?

Right now my daughter is in such an awesome place.  She has a great second grade teacher.  She does advanced mathwork.  Her friends are really good kids who have a positive influence on her.  Right now, this tight little group plays with dolls and is reading Harry Potter.  This is the kind of peer pressure parental dreams are made of.  When your daughter dresses her doll like Kit from the Depression Era and also wants to get up early in the morning to read before school, who can complain?

And believe me, I am not.  But my daughter is only eight.  There are lots of pitfalls ahead with emerging adolescence, the teen years themselves (as a friend of mine said, “Sixteen is going to be so much FUN!!!”) and then the self-discovery of early adulthood.  These times are confusing and a girl’s support system is not only her immediate family but also her “peer family.”  The latter becomes pretty darn important and how as parents can we help our daughters make and maintain good friends who may become part of that adolescent peer family?  It is a daunting question and task, especially as I see my girl right now in this sweet spot with wholesome friendships both of us want to last for years to come. Continue reading

The Birth Plan

And there they are, our twins.  Needing a bit more time in the oven, though.

And there they are, our twins. Needing a bit more time in the oven, though.

As our twins’ due date drew near, after the baby showers and the painting of the nursery and the birthing class, it was time to face the reality of our boys’ arrival:   the delivery.  It was a bit of a revelation, with so much focus on ultrasounds and a growing tummy and intense cravings for macaroni and cheese and homemade brownies, that, indeed, these babies would soon make a grand entrance.  Somehow.

The suitcase was packed.  But other than that, we were simply waiting. The hospital of our choice (wait, who am I kidding…the hospital covered by our insurance) felt differently.  In the mail one afternoon I received a form from Labor and Delivery entitled “Birth Plan.”  Please fill in out, the staff requested, and return it to be placed the admission file we have started for you.

Given our “Birth Plan” was to have a delivery of healthy babies under the supervision of experienced hospital staff, I found this form a little concerning.  The “Birth Plan” seemed rather straightforward and obvious.  Puzzled, I began skimming the form.  There were questions about the kind of environment in which I wanted to give birth.  Who I wanted present at the birth (ok, valid security question, I get that).  And other questions about how the staff could make childbirth a most memorable life experience.  In short, these questions were mostly B.S.  I was about to circular-file the form when I stopped short, concerned that in this era of denied insurance claims I’d better comply, less we’d be saddled with a huge hospital bill for not completing a “Birth Plan.”

So here are my responses.  Some are real.  Some are my inner dialogue.

Birth Plan

What type of music would you like playing while you are in labor?

Jimmy Buffett.

Who is allowed to be present at the delivery of your baby?

My husband (who also happens to be the father of the babies), the obstetrician, the necessary nursing staff, and a Green Bay Packers fan.  A Rabid Cheesehead can scream “Go!” like nobody’s business and I may need some encouragement.

Do you wish to have drugs (an epidural, spinal, etc.) to make the laboring process more comfortable?

Hell, YES!

What videos would you like to have available to watch during your time in Labor and Delivery?

The Exorcist.  Oh, and The Sound of Music.  It’s my absolute favorite!

Would you like a mirror so you can watch your child being born?**

Hell, NO!  I’ve seen babies being born and well, it’s yucky!!!  Their birth is the first and final huge mess my children will make that I WON’T have to clean up so leave me totally out of it!  Plus I don’t want anything in the way of the doctor catching my kids as they come out…these little guys are slippery!  ARE YOU PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR MINDS?!?!

Anything else you’d like us to know?

I’m going to give it to you straight:  our “plan” is to have healthy babies delivered by skilled staff.  Staff that can minimize the risk of complications and have the foresight to do so.  Amen.

So there you have it.  For the record, there was no Jimmy Buffett music at our boys’ birth,  no Exorist or cute kids singing “So Long, Farewell.”  There was no mirror, either.    My husband and I wonder what happened to that “Birth Plan,” if anyone ever read it or filed it or pulled it when I was admitted to the hospital.  But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  Because we got exactly what we hoped for:  our two healthy baby boys.

And no one needed a form to know that’s what we all wanted.

**I kid you not, this was an actual question.

From the Desk of…an Eight-Year-Old

Children are astute observers and acutely grounded in reality.  And when they take their perspectives to paper, the results can be hilarious, especially when combined with a glaring absence of auto correct. Or a filter.  They are kids after all…honest and real and curious. So, for example, asking a veteran, “Did you like fighting in the war?” doesn’t seem out-of-line.  (Yes, a second grader wrote this in a letter to my father-in-law this past Veterans’ Day…).

That said, my daughter loves to write.  Recently I found some notes on her desk that would push the envelope if written by an adult but fit her eight-year-old level of development.  They are funny, scary and embarrassing, all at the same time.  Here they are:

1)  In order to fix this one I may have to don my Glinda the Good Witch costume for the next Tooth Fairy visit:

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Translation:  “Dear tooth fairy,  ‘A’ lost his first molar!  He thinks you are fake.  He thinks that you are Daddy.  Love, ”

2)  Someone anonymously posted a note in our mailroom threatening residents with the authorities if their dogs bark a lot.  Below is my daughter’s ire in writing:

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Translation:  “Dear Sheriff, you can not take my dog.  You are drunk so I will kill you for your insolence.  If you dare do that to Dakota he will bite you.  Your friend, ‘D’ ”

For the record:

~Our dog no longer barks for long periods of time, he is now happily adjusted to our home.

~And no, our dog does not bite.

~The local sheriff does NOT have a drinking problem.  I can’t express the importance of this statement enough. And I don’t think my daughter understands what exactly “drunk” means.  We have had a talk.

~I am not happy my daughter wrote such a disturbing letter ending with “Your friend.” Talk about hell-hath-no-fury.

~I am happy she knows the SAT-level word “insolence.”

Oh, from the “mouths” of babes….

Twelve (Plus One) in 2014

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One year ago my New Year’s resolution was to read more books.  I set my sights on enjoying one book a month.  While sometimes it was hard to find the time and motivation, in the end I was able to devour thirteen books cover to cover.  If I included all books started (and not necessarily finished, see Sorry, Mr. Robbins, My Mind Just Doesn’t Work That Way), I could have read fourteen in ’14, which would have been kinda fun.  But that would be cheating.  Numbers aside, one thing is certain:  my love for cracking a cover has been renewed.  The new challenge is to not let reading become a stranger again.

Here, in chronological order, are the books I read in 2014.  Synopses and (amateur) reviews can be read in full on Twelve Books in 2014.

1) The Ten Best Days of My Life by Adena Halpern

2) The Plays of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde

3) Queen Bees and Wannabees, second edition, by Roselind Wiseman

4) The Clique Summer Collection:  Massie by Lisi Harrison

5) Masterminds and Wingmen by Roselind Wiseman

6), 7) and 8) The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

9) All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

10) Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

11) Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

12) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

13) Orange is the New Black:  My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

Each book I loved in its own way, whether I was enlightened, entertained or disgusted.  No matter in what manner a book left an impression, I know each and every one changed me just a bit.  And it was fun.  Here’s to another twelve or thirteen (perhaps fifteen?) equally inspiring volumes in 2015.