Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The physics of living a rainbow

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"It's like learning physics."

That according to Beatrice's occupational therapist during her last appointment. I took her this time, wanting to witness the exercises she's put through -- learning to cross the midline better, improving fine motor schools and dexterity, and more.

Or having an apple and orange juice party with Daddy. She's more hip and fresh that way.

The Mama is witness to Bea's incremental progress every day, and while she's intellectually smart as a whip, she has struggled with some level of auditory processing disorder (APD). And that in turn has delayed various self-care activities and speech articulation, overall attention span and focus.

Not too long ago Bea struggled with potty training, dressing, stringing beads on a string, drawing a rainbow, speaking clearly, processing basic instructions -- while at the same time nailing her numbers and letters and other preschool academia as well as scoring quite high on the social butterfly scale. Kids with APD (or related diagnoses) have difficultly processing auditory signals and are visual learners.

Most children, even those with processing delays, fall into a broad spectrum of hitting developmental milestones. The big worry, one that we admit to having since Bea turned two years old, was that we were dealing with mild autism. But because of her progress and social prowess, both her speech and occupational therapists concur that's off the table, although it will take the next few years to see what other deficits might appear during grade school.

Activities like crossing the midline are critical, because when one crosses the midline, the brain begins to make new connections and the right and left hemispheres begin to work together. This communication process organizes the brain for better concentration and problem solving. 

We are going to have some more testing done this summer to rule out physical anomalies, but while I watched her during her OT appointment, I was so proud of her progress. The physics of drawing a rainbow have been mastered, and even though her speech still includes a sometimes brief frequency-tuning undecipherable phrase before nailing a sentence, she's really doing quite well.

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I was especially proud of her after taking her to the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo yesterday for a sunrise animal feeding tour. She really enjoyed it, paid attention and romped just like one of the regular kids. Don't get me wrong -- it's not that she's irregular, but for any parent who has a child with any "disorder," however mild, it's thrilling when they make progress like those children without any issues.

And we rocked the toddler roller coaster! 

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Beatrice's sunny disposition is the most amazing thing to be around, though. It's like she's mastered the physics of living a rainbow, something I wish I would've had more of growing up. We do hope she can carry that with her into grade school and beyond.

Bryce? Well, she's a different animal for sure -- bolder, more confident and developmentally in order than her elder sister was on the cusp of two. She's already mastered the physics of eating a rainbow. Seriously. More on that soon.

Look out world. My girls mean business.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

That was when I wept

She didn't log them in correctly, so there was no record of them ever being there. No video surveillance to capture who took them. No witnesses whatsoever since they were the only ones there besides the daycare owner, who for whatever reason was out of the room.

And now they were gone. 

It felt like a hot knife had opened me up, my vitals then falling to the ground with a slow-motion crash like glass splintering into billions of sharp slivers. Slivers that I had to crawl across emotionally while the Mama and me grappled with our loss.

The details were so painfully real, which is why I nearly wept when I awoke this morning, not wanting to recount the terrible dream, not even wanting to share any more of what I remember here (and I still remember too much).

It's one of parents' worst nightmares -- having a child abducted. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that each year:

  • 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
  • 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
  • 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
  • 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)

Over 2,000 reported missing each and every day. Dear God.

So this morning, I spent even more time playing with my girls, holding them in my arms and burning the memories into my mind like faded photographs of happier times from my own childhood.

That was when I wept.

Good morning

Sunday, May 13, 2012

God bless the Mama

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It's the reactions to and reflections of the Mama that move me the most.

Although the B-hive's trust and love of the Mama are conditional -- meaning that  without the Mama's trust and love they most likely wouldn't grow and mature into unconditional adults -- the bonds of mother and child can and should be impervious to mistrust and hate.

This isn't always the case, but with us it is. Of course it also doesn't mean there aren't times when the Mama is tired and frustrated and needs a break. We must all pay respects to our cellular screams and shouts, there's no getting around that, Mama or Daddy alike. Responsible parenting is an 24/7 overtime job, but the intangible benefits of making the world a better place one moment at a time are exceeded only by experiencing the moments themselves.

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When watching our girls interact with the Mama, and her with them, I feel like a Daddy anthropologist in the field taking notes on how to be a better parent. Hey, I do okay, and if I was with them all as much as she is with them, then I'm sure I'd do even better, which is why again I'm fascinated watching our family participate in life.

There's a level of patience inherent in the Mama (and mothers everywhere) that takes a lot more energy for me to measure and match. The adage of soothing the savage beast couldn't be truer when one of the girls is melting down before bed for example (or both at the same time; when one catches fire usually the other bursts into flame as well). Within minutes the raging fires are out, almost as if the Mama love is kind of an elephant tranquilizer extinguisher when necessary. (And it is, because I've experienced it myself.)

When people tell us, "Just wait until your girls are older" -- we think, "We are waiting because we're here with them today, not pretending it's tomorrow."

Our own mothers and sisters as well as mothers before them and since have had a resilience and adaptability to daily circumstance in nearly infinite settings, unrivaled domain expertise of which most others can only dream about.

God bless the Mama. Happy Mother's Day! I love you!

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

But then came the backstory

At first, it was just a picture of a rooster shared on my Facebook page with the Mama's caption, "Sweetie, look what I found!"

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It came at an opportune time during a meeting I was at. I shared the picture with everyone at the meeting, who then shared some chuckles back, a moment of levity.

But then came the backstory -- the fact that the rooster belonged to a young woman living in her car up the street from us. She was from the Northwest and had picked up the rooster in Arcata on her way down to Santa Cruz. Her car supposedly had a dead battery and a flat tire. The woman told the Mama that she was living temporarily in her car, but offered up no other information, and the Mama didn't push.

The rooster ended up in our backyard because the woman wanted to go the beach. That's when I started firing off questions:

"The beach? Why? Did she have any track marks on her arms? Did she have pock marks on her face, like from using meth?"

Wow. Where did that come from, Dad?

The Mama answered, "Not that I could tell."

"You didn't let her in the house, did you?"

"No."

"Maybe she's mentally ill," I said.

The Mama sighed. "I don't know. What should we do, though?"

"Get that frickin' chicken out of the backyard, baby. That's what."

"Don't worry, she'll come and get it. But we should help her somehow."

"Were there any signs of abuse?" I asked.

"No, not that I could tell. We could recommend a shelter to her, right?"

"Yes, of course."

We discussed it further for a few, wondering what to do, how to help, but all I could keep thinking about was protecting my family. Why is this young woman traveling alone, living out of her car, with a rooster? What if she was casing our place? What if she was a druggy and/or mentally ill? What if she brought back sketchy guys to get the rooster, or worse, and I wasn't there? 

That's where I went -- immediately to the horrific side of human nature -- which actually surprised me a little. Usually I'm trying to see the converse, the promise of personal responsibility and being one of the good guys and good girls.

Like my own girls, one of whom could grow up and somehow find herself alone, living out of a broken down car, with a rooster...

The Mama and her mother ended up shooing the rooster out of the backyard at the end of the day, a comical event to witness. They tried to shoo it up the street to where the girl was parked, but it just frantically ran across the street to the field and hid in the bushes.

Shortly thereafter I saw her; the young woman came back for her rooster. She looked earthy and wore flowing, hemp-like clothes, and was thin but pretty, reminding me of the Dead Head dancers at the Grateful Dead shows I used to go to. I watched her track the rooster, pick him up, kiss him on the beak, then carry him off down the street.

I watched her and wanted to know her backstory, to see if I could help her, but was worried I'd scare her if I approached.

The reality, however, was that I was scared of her, because of the italicized thought above. A strange mix of empathy, disappointment and despair overcame me, paralyzing me. I could only watch her walk away down the street. The Mama had her mom to take the woman a bag of food, which she did. The young woman was grateful, even teary-eyed. We're trying to figure out how to help her with her car now.

But why is this young woman traveling alone, living out of her car, with a rooster?

I could just ask her, right?