Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Monday, March 29, 2010


I love posting memories here because it's kind of a record of my life. I like to imagine when I die, my loved ones reading this to remember me and my descendants reading this to get to know me. There are even companies that turn blogs into books so someday I may do that.

One time I was taking the T (that's the subway for those of you outside Massachusetts). I was at North Station and I bought a Big Mac at McDonalds because I was hungry and when I walked outside there was a bum sitting there with a cup for donations, which is very common, so it wasn't like the scene invoked some sort of horrified compassion. But at that moment I just thought that he was probably more hungry than me so I offered him the sandwich- it was in the bag still and still warm and melty. He accepted the offer and I went on my merry way. I tell this tale without an ounce of pride that I was some sort of kind, generous person- because first of all- I'm aware that- as Maslaw shows us in his pyramid- I was merely fulfilling my own need for self actualization- and as a Christian- ney a human being- I was only doing living out the kind of compassion we all should feel for one another. But I tell that tale because it's a heart warming memory.

The second memory I'd like to share- I can't remember if I've told this tale before, but even if I did, it bares repeating. It was during the winter Olympics, I think. Maybe 2006 in Italy. But no, I thought it was much earlier than that. But anyway, my mom and I were laying on her bed watching it and I was flipping through a magazine and there was this strange ad in the magazine with just a picture of a faucet and I asked her "What is this? A faucet?" Ok, cue the Twilight Zone music. Just then the Olympic Commentator- maybe Brian Williams? He was, like, caught off guard by the camera because he was still talking to someone off screen and- get this- he said "Yes, that's what it is. A faucet." I swear!!! My mom and I were floored. I wouldn't even believe the memory except my mom witnessed it too!! For days afterward we were like "Did you hear that too?" And we both kept saying to each other "Yes! I heard it too. It really happened".


I came back to add three more stories I remembered. They're like the first except I was on the receiving end of the blessing. The first is when Timmy first went to jail. It was one of the very first few days and I was walking downtown with my baby in the carriage. My life was crumbling all around me. I had no idea how I'd face the future. And then a bum (sorry. Is there a PC term?) yelled to me from across the street, "God loves you!". Tears came to my eyes. They were the words I needed to hear most at that lowly hour of my life.

The second memory was several years into the jail sentence. I'm a struggling single mom. I've got no money. No time, because I work and I'm trying to raise two children. It's my birthday, but there's nobody to wish me a happy birthday. I'm tired and hungry. So I splurge on a pizza- something I never buy and can't really afford anyway. It's a little mom-and-pop pizza shop. The owner barely speaks English. Greek or Portuguese or something. When the pizza is done he hands it to me and says it's free. I hadn't said a word the whole time. He had no idea my circumstances. All I know was that he blessed me more than he'll ever know.

The third memory was when we were homeless and -you know how the day before payday there's nothing left? nothing. So it was that day. As usual, we'd pull it off. But I had nothing to pack for my husband for lunch the next day at work. If only I had a few dollars so he could buy a decent lunch! We had a box of donated food put together for homeless people. Ours was put together by a sweet little girl and her Grandpa. I scraped out the last bit of food from the box and went to throw it out. And there, on the bottom, was this envelope and in it was $10!!! Just enough for lunch for my husband the next day. I was soooo blessed. I'm so grateful to that little girl. She probably gave us money from her own piggy bank.

It's beautiful and inspiring when humanity pulls together for each other. I know those three people who blessed me had no idea how much it meant to me. No idea. Let it be an inspiration, that the littlest things can mean so much.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Healthcare for all

I know the country is heatedly divided on this right now, on the heels of our newly signed healthcare bill. I don't want to rub it in the faces of those who disagree [are misinformed? :) ] But I would be remiss to not touch on the subject in my personal blog since this is one of the subjects I am MOST passionate about in life. I am praising Jesus for this historic accomplishment. In my joy I made a big poster with balloons that says "healthcare for all" and hung it out my window. Here is a beautiful video celebrating all the people, like myself, who put in countless hours fighting the big insurance companies for healthcare for our friends, loved ones, children and our children's children.

MoveOn Health Care Campaign 09-10 from Official Channel on Vimeo.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

My guilty pleasure

Now that we have Direct TV I can record shows and, like Tivo, pause and rewind. I luv it! I never used to be able to watch TV because I don't have time to sit down at a specific time and watch. But now, if I ever get a minute I can just turn on one of my favorites. My favorites being: The Colbert Report, Hoarders and (my guilty pleasure:) The Maury Show. "You are NOT the father". I love that stuff.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The curitive power of breastmilk

I read in the book Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic this interesting quote about breastfeeding.
"[Breastfeeding] appears to have a protective effect and is believed to play a part in the time of onset of Celiac disease. Fewer breastfed children develop Celiac disease and when they do it's at a later age... The mechanism of the protective effect of breast-feeding is unclear. However, breast milk is known to have a variety of antibodies and immunoglobins that confer immunity on children until they can make enough of their own. Breast milk appears to provide some immunity against Celiac disease or its severe form."
I have experienced this very phenomenon with my own son. I breastfed Wolfie until he was 4 1/2 (sorry, honey, for outing you publicly) When he was 8 his Celiac symptoms became deadly serious, causing him to double over in excruciating pain, crying. Over the previous years it had grown gradually and gradually worse. I have no doubt in my mind that he was protected for the first 4 1/2 years by breast milk and once weaned his body began to reject gluten progressively.

I was thinking that on the rare occasion when he has a "wheat attack" (that's our nickname for it), because he accidentally ingests wheat (usually we don't even know where or what)- and he is suffering miserably, and his intestines are being damaged; perhaps I could treat it with some breast milk. Like add it to some ice-cream or something. Currently, we treat it with pepto-bismal and benedryl. Our own personal concoction (OK. not really a concoction. We don't mix them). It's no cure though.

In my crunchy circles, the healing powers of breast milk is not news. They use it to treat conjunctivitis and they express it for friends with cancer. Currently doctors prescribe breast milk for premature/sick babies whose mothers can't breastfeed. But I was thinking that doctors should start prescribing it for adults who could benefit from it too. Namely, those with conjunctivitis, Celiac disease, and cancer. Sure, the demand would go up and burden the already strained milk bank, but that could easily be remedied by paying women for their breast milk. I believe right now this is not allowed because of moral reasons, but, I'm sorry, I see no moral reasons not to pay for it. I guess it's the same argument used against paying for blood or organs. I can (sort of) see the reasons behind that: the poor would donate disproportionally. But in the case of breastmilk (and blood) that is nothing that a good diet and vitamins can't compensate for. (With breast milk having the added benefits of maternal cancer prevention). Plus, it addresses my pet peeve that in our society women are prohibited from working with their babies (with rare exceptions); whereas, throughout history, women have been able to contribute to their family's income and society while childbearing. (Thus forcing women today to greatly limit childbearing, and encourage exclusion from society at a time when they need the most support/interaction).

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bragging on my kids

Saphira is turning two next week and this girl is totally fluent in English!!! She can communicate pretty much anything she wants to say. For instance, today, I was making grilled cheese sandwiches on the stove and while I was checking my email she came over to me and said "Sandwich done". (!!!!!!) Also, annoyingly, she keeps calling me by my first name. No matter how much we correct her.

Dimitri is obsessed with skateboarding. This is the second year in a row so it's no passing phase. I take him to the skateboarding park whenever it's nice out and he is amazing. He can go down ramps and he almost has an olie. He's only five!!! I love how he found this passion all on his own. His brothers aren't into it. That shows me that's it's really deep down him. I can't say that this phase will last into adolescence. But if it does, he could possibly go professional.

Wolfie made some awesome gluten free muffins the other day. He sprinkled sugar on top and they were irresistible.

Brandon is going to be a teenager in two weeks!!!! I'm going to have a teenager!!! This is so exciting.

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Monday, March 15, 2010


I almost peed my pants watching this video. I mean, I love my Asian peeps, so no offense. But we can laugh at ourselves too. Also, you have to wonder, what possessed him to buy studio time to record the song.


A survey

I wrote a survey for my Community Nursing paper. If you would participate I would appreciate it. It will only take a minute. Here's the link.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

my niece and son

My niece came over last night. She and Dimitri (the same age) had a blast. They totally trashed the house. But I didn't mind because I was just being lazy, sitting around reading My Life Outside the Ring, by Hulk Hogan. It's fascinating. They colored and played with cars and online games. Malyna found this little packet of math games Dimitri brought home from school and we played for an long time. My sister in law gave us money for a pizza so we ordered online and Dominos has this cool display that shows what is happening to your pizza. Like "Jahara is prepping your pizza" and "Jahara is cooking your pizza" and at the end "Kevin is delivering your pizza". Every few minutes the kids checked on the status. And when Kevin delivered the pizza I gave him a dollar for Jahara too. :)

In regards to the Hulk Hogan book: It is a tragic, tragic tale of the destruction of a beautiful, long marriage. And what makes it so awful is that I'm 100% convinced it is rooted in Linda's undiagnosed bipolar. I mean, it's clear as night and day from the descriptions of her behavior. If she had been diagnosed ten years ago the marriage could have been saved!!! She could have gotten treatment. And Terry (the Hulk) could have been more understanding and less hurt by her behavior. But as it is, I believe it is irreparable. Terry has moved on and has a new love, of two years, in his life. Who knows though.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Public School Kudos

After the last post about my opinions on Standardized Testing, in which I made the comment that I don't agree with the Public School [teaching/learning] paradigm at all, I wanted to follow up with this kudos post. I want every one to know that I fully support public school. Heck, I send some of my kids to public school. (Maybe next year, all). I may think there is a better way. I disagree. And sometimes that's difficult- like I'm not big on making my kids in younger grades do their homework- a big pet peeve of mine- and when Wolfie was in 3rd grade he got in trouble for that. But, back to the point, there are wonderful things about public school and I wanted to highlight one of them.

Last night Brandon had International Night, in which all the 7th graders did a report on an ancient civilization, in groups of three. They all had a beautiful homemade poster, a clay model and- this was the best part- a 2-5 minute memorized presentation. It started with "Hi, my name is _______ and I will be talking about the government..." -for example. Or in Brandon's case the weapons of ancient Japan. Brandon told me that if someone asked a question that they didn't know the answer to they were supposed to say they would look it up and get back to them. I'm sure that didn't happen, but the fact that they were taught how to act really professionally impressed me. Their teacher, Ms. Waugh, as you can imagine, is really amazing. She always say stuff like "I hate kids" but everyone can tell that she loves them. I sat in on one of her classes once and she was really consistent about discipline, totally on top of her game.

Most of the kids did a great job. One I couldn't understand at all. He spoke really softly and Brandon told me he doesn't speak English well. One of the kids was uh-may-zing. Looked me in the eye. Spoke loud and clear. He would make a great politician. A girl in Brandon's group was a freakin genius. Her memorized speech was really really long - all about Japanese geographyand she drew these amazing pictures for the poster-board. Did you know that Japan comprises of over 3000 islands? I didn't know that.

Brandon was excited about the night. I know it was a big deal to him. The kids learned so much. About ancient civilization. About putting together a full report. About public speaking. It was awesome and I know the kids are better for it.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The memories that are so good they hurt

My brother's moving into the apartment complex I used to live in. The same building in fact. We're helping him move in and the memories it's bringing back are so vivid. I miss the old times so much it hurts. The last time I felt like this was when I was a child and we moved out of state, from Massachusetts to New York, and then again from New York to Massachusetts.

The thing that was so wonderful at this apartment complex was all my close friends. Two of my best friends lived there. Single moms like me. Our kids played together. We walked around the circle together for exercise. We babysat for each other. We had meals together. We hung out at the pool together. We showed up randomly at each other's apartment and hung out, listening to music, reading books, just talking. And at night we would talk on the phone! God, I miss those days!

My son was so happy there. The apartment complex was a community set apart from the rest of the neighborhood/world, so I felt comfortable letting my young son wonder the neighborhood. He had so many close, close friends. They played together non-stop. They played make-believe games constantly. They explored the woods. Just like the childhood a kid is supposed to have.

When I visited the neighborhood and passed the apartments that our close friends used to live in it was painful; I missed them so much. Some we keep in touch with. Some we don't. But regardless, it's not the same. I know I'm looking back through rose colored glasses. I know it was so hard at the time. I was a single mom. At the same time, it was a special time, just me and Brandon and baby Wolfie. Us against the world.

When we moved everything was starting to change. A lot of our friends had moved out. The neighborhood, it seemed, was starting to go downhill. I was dying to get out of there. So, even though I wish I were back, I know it wouldn't be the same. (Although, with my brother, sister in law and niece or nephew it might be pretty close)

I hope I can remember the current times with the same painful happiness. I feel like I understand what an elderly person in a nursing home must feel. Its a sad, cold, hard feeling. I, at least, have family and friends now whom I love and enjoy. But the older folks are often so lonely. When I get old I want to live with my kids til the day I die. The way I raise them, this isn't the burden that maybe you imagine it is, as you read this. In my family we all care for each other. I want to live side by side even after they get married. I want to watch my grand-kids while their parents work. I want to eat together. It would be a natural progressiong for them to care for me as I age, just like I want to care for my parents when they age.

I have digressed (severely) from the topic of this post. Forgive me. But I guess the lesson is just how important relationships are and how blessed we are to have them.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

US Sitting on Mother Lode....

I saw this article online yesterday. It says that we're sitting on rare metals crucial to technology. Stuff that is almost a necessity, in this day and age, and the earth is quickly running out of. It says
"the U.S. holds rare earth ore reserves of up to 13 million metric tons. By contrast, the entire world produced just 124,000 metric tons in 2009"

Wow! That's amazing!! What good news for our country! But we must be very careful to avoid "Dutch Disease" which happens when a valuable natural resource is found. When this happens there can be a manufacturing decrease, there is inflation and we become unstable with price fluctuation of said commodity. The way to prevent Dutch Disease is to control a steady influx of income, maintain a budget surplus and invest in the future, like education of youth and bla bla bla. If you want to read all the boring details here's a link.

In Africa there is a supply of tech-metals that is fueling wars and terror and cruelty. Just like the blood diamonds. It's so frustrating to watch. They have this incredible poverty. And they have these incredible resources that could help lift them out of poverty, but then the corruption turns into a hugely negative thing!! And as a responsible human being you shouldn't buy these items in good conscience. Yet, if we could buy these things- without the corruption- it would be a wonderful contribution to lesson suffering. What a tragedy.

While I'm on the subject of blood diamonds: kudos to my friend Ruth, whose engagement ring is NOT a diamond, being the sensitive and brilliant woman she is (and her husband, Chester).

Also, what was up with Oprah giving diamond earrings out at The Legends Ball- where she gathered 25 amazing black women to celebrate their accomplishments?!

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Another thought on Standardized Testing

I was thinking about standardized testing again. (I'm not sure why. I guess the wheels in my brain are just always turning). If you recall, I wrote a post about this subject several months ago, in which I made an argument for a much shorter test (the one here in Massachusetts takes weeks to complete). The argument being that there should be a basic standard that all kids should be able to meet. No excuses. Which is really the point of standardized testing. To ensure a minimum standard for all kids. The range of academic achievement could still be measured through optional tests that could be used by communities and parents to judge their schools. But the state mandates would only address the requirement that all students pass the minimum standards.

OK, but on to my new idea.

One of my frustration with the public school paradigm (which, I'll be honest, I completely disagree with. But I guess that goes without saying, since I'm an unschooler) is that there are eight forms of intelligence and public school only measures two of them (but teaches five, if gym, music and art aren't slashed in budget cuts). As the Japanese have discovered, there is more to success than just book-smarts. Individually, our society, and the world, in fact, doesn't succeed because everyone is mediocre at everything. We achieve great success when there is a basic standard for all and then each person achieves greatness in their own personal strengths. Whether that is musical genius or animal husbandry, athletic achievements, or computer software programing. So I was thinking that on top of the basic standards measured in the previous post, there could be another type of measurement for exceptional talent. Where children from all schools could compete in national competitions -ones that already exist- like spelling bees and 4H club livestock competitions, geography bowls, engineering design competitions, etc. And the placement of exceptional student work could be rated and compared. This, of course, would put the poorer schools at a disadvantage- at least at first- because the richer parents are already supplementing their kids education with these extra curricular activities. But perhaps, therein lies the crux of the disadvantage that poor schools are facing. Perhaps THAT is the difference between the successful rich schools and the unsuccessful poor schools. Perhaps, if the underachieving students are given a chance to shine in their own perspective gifts, it will open up a side of them that can be more open to success in all aspects of their life. Of course the poor schools will have difficulty funding these sorts of endeavors. But perhaps that's exactly what we need to shine a light on the glaring problem of inequality of funding. Perhaps the current system is masking the true differences between the school funding. There are certain standards of funding equality that must be met between all public schools. And certainly there are scaled down ways of achieving these goals for the poorer schools. For instance, teams of students often compete in technology competitions. So separating the "gifts" into several teams is still an improvement over none at all. And the children who can pursue on their own, their own special gifts, could be given a rearranged schedule to allow for practice.

I came back to edit this post- to add to it - the thought that pushing kids to pursue heavily hobbies they'd just like to try or dabble in, would be detrimental. So, even though I think this would be an improvement, it's no solution. I guess the best solution is to make the laws more homeschooling friendly and make our society more homeschooling friendly. :)

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Voluntary Madness

I just read this book "Voluntary Madness" by Norah Vincent. She's a great writer, and as a wanna be psychiatric nurse practitioner I find the subject matter interesting. It's about her experience in mental illness wards- partly as a writing experiment when she was healthy, and partly as treatment for the very real bipolar depression she experienced.

I vehemently disagree with her disdain towards medication, and for that reason I hesitate to recommend it. It is two steps backwards in the battle for mental illness treatment and understanding. I agree with her repugnance towards pharmaceutical companies and frustration with the side effects and the scientist's lack of full-understanding of the medications, but none of those are a reason to deny the advances we've made toward mental illness treatment.

That aside, there are gems in the book; some of which I'll quote here:

Moral vanity being that great middle-class indulgence that makes us write checks to charities and do the right thing for the less fortunate, because doing so reinforces our fiercely guarded belief that we are good people. But when the less fortunate come banging on your door and your heart in real time, up close, blowing their not so fresh breath in your face, wanting to be a person instead of a project or a write-off, then your cherished little antibacterial ideals turn all squeamish and stuttery, saying "well, but,..." "Yeah, but,..." and finally showing themselves outright to be as vaporous and self-serving as they always were.

How can we treat [the brain] the way we treat, for example, a kidney? There is the brain, whose business is thought and feeling and judgment and even mystical experience. And then there is the kidney, whose business is piss.

When you're not depressed, it's really hard to remember exactly what it felt like when you were depressed. You can remember it as an idea. You can describe it analytically. You know you felt terrible, and you know you don't want to feel that way again. But you don't remember the details, the quality of the suffering.

I was grateful St. Luke's didn't use wristbands. To patients they are indicative of anonymity and neglect, and the doctors who own St. Luke's seemed keyed into that, or so I imagine, understanding on some level that being tagged is a gross insult to your dignity. It makes you feel like property, or a corpse, a body not a person, the implications of the tag-maybe the need for it- being that if you passed out in the hall they'd know who the hell you were.

She knew enough about the course of her condition to know when she was losing touch with reality, and she had a very helpful circle of psychotic friends with whom she had what she called regular "reality checks." This meant that, because their delusions were all different, she could call one of them and say, "I think the CIA is watching me," and they'd be able to set her straight, confirming that, in fact, no, no one was lurking in the bushes outside her house or listening to her phone calls. Similarly, when they called her to ask if aliens were landing in the park down the street or check whether the computer chip in their molar was actually picking up signals from police radios, she could assure them that they were, in all likelihood, mistaken..."I was sitting in one of those meetings and I said, 'Am I God?' and everyone shouted "Nooooo". Now there's a reality check for you."

[Laughing is] like the happy version of vomiting, or the less profane version of coming, depending on your point of view.

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