parenting

Ready For The World

Austin will be a year old on Wednesday. Half of me is consumed with relief, praising God I made it through his first year with my mental health (mostly) intact. My biggest fear as I approached his birth was that I'd relapse and be ill like I was during Alex's first year. Granted, the past 12 months haven't been free from moments of anxiety and forays into darkness, but I don't live in it's oppressive fog like I did back then. Many things have thankfully been different this time around, and the ones that weren't I've been able to address as needed thanks to knowledge and increased self-awareness.

The other half of me is dumbstruck, in search of where the time went. How did it pass by so quickly? I'm not sad necessarily-to be honest as much as I love how adorable fresh life is, I enjoy watching my children get older and find new ways to step into their independence and personhood. From my experience, babies are precious, but hard, especially in those first four months when everything becomes about surviving sleep deprivation and learning who this stranger is that emerged from your body. They then become conduits of wonder between six to nine months, granting you an opportunity to see the world through eyes and a perspective thrilled by discovery and exploration. Teething and rapid leaps in development make the last three months of their first year reminiscent of the first four, leaving you to wonder if you'll ever get uninterrupted sleep or your own skin to yourself ever again. So I'm not sad to see him turn one, even though he's my last. I'm embracing it, eager to watch him chase after his brothers on wobbly legs still finding their rhythm, and hear his first words. I'm just...surprised at how quickly it went. Alex's first year seemed like an eternity, Austin's a nanosecond.

I've been watching him intently these past 2 days, in awe of how rapidly he's becoming his own person, holding his own as the youngest in a family of five. He has this wild joy about him and thirst for living that makes my heart dance. His laugh frees my soul in a way that's hard to articulate with words...it triggers a release from what's binding me, causing me to rise and walk free; revived like Lazarus emerging from the tomb. Perhaps that's why this year has gone by so quickly-joy has been carrying us through it, even during the moments I thought I'd fall and break.

I snapped this photo of him yesterday evening. He was staring out of our hotel window, looking out of the expanse of the city and babbling emphatically as he pointed to various objects in the distant that only he could identify. He would look back at me every so often and clap his hands, a smile bursting across his face and excitement dancing in his eyes, then turn back and bang on the window, letting out a yell, as if to say, "Let me out, I'm ready! I'm coming for you, world!"

It was in that moment that I recognized what I love the most about watching a child cross the threshold of their first year-the readiness. It's in their eyes, lives in their voice, and dominates their body language. It's life-giving to witness, their daily declarations of readiness for what's next in life, their head first leap into further exploration and discovery, their fearlessness and wonderment.

He is my baby but already not so much of a baby anymore. Instead he's a little boy with an emerging independence that tells me when he doesn't need me to be so close, with eyes that ask for a bit of freedom and autonomy every day. I've held him so close to me this first year that watching him at the window yesterday reminded me it's time to start releasing my grip just enough so that he can stand and take on the world-one wobbly step at a time.

Ready to take on the world.

On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I've been punked by one of those "never say never" situations. I remember being 18 in the women's underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn't "owe" her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft.

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Dancing in the Light During the Seasons When Darkness Abounds

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Confession: My greatest fear is that I will lose my life to suicide.

I don't say that to be melodramatic, I simply state it as a fact. As a person living with bipolar disorder, it is a fear that silently stalks me, always watching for a misstep to expose a weakness it can take advantage of, a crack it can slide itself into. Once inside it starts searching for the gaps serotonin has been unable to fill, settling into each one, and methodically goes to work on eroding my mind's defenses.

Sometimes the process is slow, my mental erosion, building up to a collapse. Others it is swift and jarring, flinging me from the light of life into a plunging darkness that swallows my soul instantly. And then there are times when it's an excavation of my insides, a scooping and hollowing out of my personhood designed to leave me as nothing more than an outward shell of a woman.

When I was 13, years of abuse at the hands of my father gave birth to a despair that swiftly engulfed me one Saturday afternoon while my belly was empty from hunger and my father was out on a golf outing. That time it was pills. It was an amateurish and desperate attempt at escaping the hell I lived in that lead me to a drugged sleep but not death.

At 20 it found me after a series of rapid changes over a short amount of time and the hormonal shift that comes with miscarriage. Becoming an airman, being stationed at my first base, the dissolving of a tech school relationship that had left me pregnant and then suddenly not, surrounded by people I did not know, working a job that wasn't what I had envisioned or hoped for when I swore an oath to protect and serve my country, being estranged from my family...it found me in my dorm room and I went to work at my next shift, telling my supervisor I couldn't arm up and that instead, I needed to be taken to the mental health clinic on base to be seen.

It started feverishly raking its claws on the walls of my mind daily just shy of Alex's first birthday. I was constantly triggered by anxiety and depression, guilt over not being the mother I thought my kids deserved, feelings of overwhelm when he would scream inconsolably, and my thoughts dancing with sudden desires to just leave and never come back. I started seeing a therapist who specialized in treated women with postpartum mood disorders like PPD and its grasp on my mind unclenched just enough for light to enter in again.

In July 2011 I woke up on a Monday, found it staring me steadfastly in the eyes and just knew: I wouldn't make it past the next two weeks alive if I didn't get help. Even with the help I had been getting, my symptoms had been getting worse. I was dancing with what I know now was hypomania and plummeting into gravity wells of depression hourly. It was constant and unrelenting, its devouring and feasting on my mind. It's appetite was insatiable and if I wasn't crying from the burn depression's cold grip had around my heart, I was screaming from the rage flashing through me...if I wasn't bounding off the Earth from the energy vibrating through my body and bursting out of my fingertips, I was pressing my sweating, anxious body into the coolness of my bathroom floor, praying each inhalation would quell the panic trying to claw it's way out of my skin. My mind was too loud, full of thoughts that spun and splintered into chaos at a pace that often left me nauseated. Two days later,  I found a sitter for Brennan, put myself on a bus with Alex wrapped to my chest in the Moby, and walked into the VA Behavioral Health Clinic in Philadelphia, with whispers of death roaring in my ears. The intake psych diagnosed me with rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 2 & OCD and put me on a mood stabilizer. Within a week it kicked in and I embarked on a new treatment journey for an illness that I could more accurately name.

Treatment has helped, and while other times it just shows up to flirt, every Fall has become hunting season. Suicide is the predator, my life and sanity the prey. No matter how well I've been taking care of myself and compliant in treatment, it hunts me down, licking its chops as it circles me, watching...waiting.

Two years ago I had to go inpatient to stay safe from its advances. I slowly paced the halls of the VA Mental Health psychiatric ward in Waco in my green, floppy, foam sock shoes desperately wanting to go home to my boys and my life but at the same time stay hidden, monitored by those who whose job it was to not let Death have me. "Do you really want to die?" the doctor had asked me. No. I didn't. I just wanted relief and couldn't find it in living with a mind designed to self-destruct...fray at the edges...unravel...erode...become my enemy.

It's found me again as I'm nearing one year postpartum. It's been a year that's come with it's difficulties as I've adjusted to mothering three while living with this illness, but joy has found me at various points throughout, grabbing my hand and saying, "dance with me, Addye. Be free."

This is the freest I've ever felt in my almost 32 years of living and yet here I am again staring at the whites of Suicide's eyes and searching desperately for a gun to shoot it with...

I want to keep dancing in the light.

But my marriage is barely breathing as my husband and I scour the landscape for a path that brings us back to each other. Each of my sons has An Issue that demands every ounce of my mental capacity daily that leaves me exhausted and specialized attention that is straining our finances. Writing here has brought some success this year, but exposure saw my inboxes become inundated with vitriol from those who'd rather the Other stay silent. I look at my baby as he screams and cries like babies do and brace myself against the panic that floods my system. Images I'd rather not see flash through my mind, unwarranted and unwanted. Overwhelm asks me repeatedly throughout the day if I'm done and my breath is labored when I whisper "No." Worry fills me. Depression courts me. Anxiety ravages my insides, ripping me open, exposing where my heart and resolve are weak.

I want to keep dancing in the light.

So I tighten my grip as my mind cycles from one extreme to the next. I expand my ribs out as far as my bones and skin will allow and I drink in the morning air as I take Alex to school. I concentrate on the laughs bubbling up and spilling out of my infant son and use it to anchor me to the present. I respond when Brennan asks me if I know that lions are the only big cats that live in packs, and beg him to tell me more so I can marvel at how much information his brain clamors to hold. I take their pictures on my phone and use them to dig in and root deeper when the darkness pulls at me. I paint my lips with my favorite shade of purple lipstick because it makes my heart beat a little faster and my hips sway with power and allure when I walk. I text my friends. I use the internet to distract. I read the words of others, press my hands in paint, go away for a weekend retreat to hold onto myself. I call my psychiatrist and resolve to hold on until December 9th when I can sit in her office and say "help me."

And I come here. Today. To find my way back after struggling to see Why My Words Matter in the hopes that it will help me remember why my life does.

For them.

For me.

I'm here to dance in the light even in the seasons when it can't be found.

Selah.

Blue Light

I'm currently taking an eCourse called Liberated Lines. I jumped at the chance to take it because not only do I love Alisha's work (I'm a new and HUGE fan), I'm also trying to find my poetic voice again. It's been years since I've written poetry, and since my goal for 2014 is to embody who I am as a writer and artist, this course is the perfect chance to jump back in, head first. I'm feeling all wobbly and rusty, but also very good to be working these creative muscles again.  

Here's today's entry, quick and dirty, just speaking what came to mind...

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"This is no ordinary love", it whispers softly as it dances its faceted blues in the sunlight. I pause and let this truth wash away the stress & toil of marriage that collects from time to time like the grit & grime that collects under one's fingernails. As it does, I feel my shoulders slowly sink back into their foundation and as the tension recedes like the tide, I open. To him. To us. To impromptu rendezvous and lunchtime mojitos. To connecting in the midday amidst the grind of daily living and earning to provide. I unfurl and soften as I watch the blue dance in the light. I open and let my heart stand naked and unashamed to the one who loves me like none other. #liberatedlinesopen"

Feel free to follow the #libertatedlinesopen tag on Instagram to read what words we unearth over the next 4 weeks!

Moving Toward the Sun

I've been in a depressive episode for nearly 8 weeks. The decline has been gradual. There have been good days scattered throughout, but I've been edgy, tense, fatigued....my mind has been too loud some days, eerily silent during others. I've been crying off and on in my bathroom to hide my breaking from my kids...in my car as I drive from one errand to the next. I've had to shift to auto-pilot to just get through hard moments, root myself in detachment to keep from getting swallowed up by the stress. I've spent the last two weeks cycling rapidly between hypomania (marked mostly by agitation and a mind packed with too many thoughts), and a dragging depression that swallows me up and sends me into its belly for a few moments then spits me back out into the sun and air where I can breathe again. And then everything's still and quiet...I feel "normal" and then the cycle repeats itself hourly, daily, weekly....and so it's been for nearly 2 months now. Rinse. Settle. Repeat.

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I'm still in that critical postpartum window. I just weaned nearly a month ago. My body and hormones are in flux and adjusting as a result. I hate it.

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Stress is both motivating and crippling for me. I can handle 10 things going on all at once with ease. It's once the 11th shows up demanding my attention that my mind starts to split and scatter off into darker corners. I think about my life these days and chide myself with all kinds of "should" statements for feeling and being overwhelmed by all I manage on a day-to-day basis: baby is teething & raging,  middle child with special needs, oldest was just diagnosed with ADHD and his enthusiasm for school has waned significantly, trying to overhaul our home and parenting lifestyles to accommodate and support their needs (like increasing structure and making our home more sensory friendly), supporting my husband while he deals with stress at work. New therapy schedules, trips to the pediatrician, and comprehensive psychometric testing have dominated our lives over the past month. Up ahead there is more testing to be done, and meetings with the school district to discuss accommodations for Brennan and evaluations and placement for Alex who is gearing up for preK this fall...

It's not all stressful. I'm involved in birthing great projects. I'm taking my mom's advice on avoiding burnout by feeding my spirit so I don't fall prey to losing myself, you know? I've joined writing & art communities online,  I'm painting at 11pm, I've signed up for retreats and writing eCourses, done a couple of write-ins with groups, and I've done a juice cleanse to try to reset my body and mind. I'm re-reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as well as books on painting, sensory processing disorder, creativity, and feminism. I'm trying to find my way here still, in this space as far as my writing is concerned. I'm trying to learn how to embody all the parts of myself that have come alive over the past few years-artist, writer, advocate-in the midst of the daily demands on my person and time as a mother and wife. I'm trying to bloom where I'm planted. At 31, it's still a stumbling process though.

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I'm searching for my flow amidst the rhythms, rocking and swaying as the ebb and flow of my life's current carries me throughout my days. But the stress of everything gets triggering and I find myself cycling with the ebb and flow as a result sometimes. That's when my knees buckle and my head spins. My chest constricts and my brain starts to feel like it's suffocating. My grip gets weak. Fatigue sets in and my steps forward get heavy. Taking care of myself gets harder, and usually becomes the last checked off item on my must do list-if it's checked off at all. I end each day feeling as though I have no safe place to come up for air and just process my thoughts, fears, and anxiety...I end most days feeling unsettled and bottled up, stuffed to capacity and as I close my eyes to sleep I've found myself starting to pray like Jabez, asking God or whoever is listening for an increase in capacity...in ability...in might...

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My hair is pink again with some blue added for extra fun. My hair and color are always my first lines of defense against the disorder of my brain chemistry and mood.

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I visited my psychiatrist last week at the VA. This is another area that I can't seem to find solid footing. We've lived here for nearly two years and I'm on my 3rd psychiatrist. Obtaining talk therapy has been a fail. The appointment scheduling system here is confusing and useless to me because I have very little say in what days and times fit into my schedule that's already inundated with the kid's school and therapies. I've had to fight to get treated, and I'm constantly having to say "but if you read this and go here, research and experts agree that....". I feel lost in a system that I'm constantly told is for me to use and that I should trust. But the bureaucracy I face with nearly every interaction chips away at that trust. I have no confidence in my mental health care these days, in the professionals assigned to my care. And yet, at my appointment last week, I sat in front of her desk and allowed myself to become undone. Completely and unapologetically. I unloaded nearly 24 months of thoughts and stress right there in her office in 20 minutes while my smiling baby squirmed and cooed in my arms. She listened to every word. Asked some questions that dug a little deeper. Apologized for all the trouble with the system I've had and for not really hearing me 6 weeks ago when I told her my anxiety was becoming a problem. She admitted that lack of knowledge about medications while breastfeeding restricted her ability to really give me what I was needing. We decided now that I'm no longer pregnant and breastfeeding we could get more aggressive with my meds again-go back to finding a more therapeutic dose. So over the next two months I'll be doing that-going up on lamictal and prozac and trying out an additional med for anxiety. I started the increase yesterday. I'm hoping by the end of the week my brain and mood will start to grab ahold and adjust accordingly.

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I've struggled today to pick everything back up and keep walking. To push past and through. To square my shoulders and lift my chin. To turn a deaf ear to the tape playing in my head that has all kinds of lies and frenzied talk on a loop.

But I'm doing it-picking up and pushing. I'm moving forward. Slowly. The sun is shining outside despite the cold front that's moved through. I'm working my way out into the sun, breathing in deep as I go.

My Dear Addye, With All My Love, Susan

Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I've recruited some of Addye's friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it's written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you'd like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with "For Butterfly Confessions" in the subject line! Without further ado, I present Susan's lovely words for Addye.....

 

My Dear Addye,

You and I have been friends for 3 years, now.  And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman.  You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith - faith in yourself more than any one person.  You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be.  Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved.  You honor me with your friendship.

You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life - one written by you and you alone.  One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family.  And this baby?  Is a part of that new life.  I can see it in your eyes - in the way you look at him and hold him.  I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm.  It renews the spirit.  And I couldn't have wished a better birth experience for you.

SusanQuoteRemember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture.  The nights are long and the days are even longer.  And no matter how happy you are, it's okay to be exhausted.  It's okay to be emotional.  And it's okay to still need help.  This is not a test of your spirit.  You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester.  There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones.  And your tribe?  Will be standing beside you for both.

I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy.  But if it's not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.

With all my love, Susan

In Between

I woke up at 5:24 this morning and stumble-waddled my way through the dark for yet another trip to the bathroom. I sat there, on the throne, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror through vision hazy from sleep, and whispered out loud, "It's almost over."

As soon as the words left my lips and drifted off into space, a mix of varied emotions weaved their way up from my toes to my belly where my hands were interlaced. My fingers tensed as each emotion swept through and around me, each one squeezing tightly and then releasing me much like the contractions I've been having the past six weeks.

So many contractions. 2 trips to L&D. Body pumped full of medications to stop them but they've refused to surrender. They are tenacious and stubborn, insistent on being present. Stronger and more frequent than Braxton Hicks, but not productive enough to fully initiate labor. They last for hours, pulsing and squeezing, tightening and releasing me sometimes one to two minutes apart, at others three to five, and at their slowest every twenty to thirty. They are overwhelming and tiring at their most frequent intervals and annoying at their slowest.

They are altogether frustrating, and their constant presence since week thirty have taken a toll on my psyche. At times they are all I can think about, my nerves on edge, trying to decide if I should call the nurse line and go in or just ride them out. Confusion and doubt often set in, intermingling with the pain, setting my OCD senses tingling and on high alert. My thoughts often ruminate during the more intense rounds and I often can't tell if I'm losing my mind, responding mentally and emotionally as any pregnant woman in my situation would, or just being melodramatic & hormonal.

The past two weeks they've been accompanied by nausea, cramps, back aches, loose bowels, loss of appetite and a drop in weight-all of your textbook signs of your body preparing for birth & early labor. "Your labor will most likely be very slow in the beginning, much like your last," said my OB last week. "Which we want, because we want to keep him in just another week or two longer. Your cervix is stubborn, which we need it to be right now. Hang in there. Let's see what happens-hopefully next week we'll start to see some big changes!"

So here I am, sitting on the toilet at 5:24am, at 35 weeks and 7 days, staring at the start of week 36 with an aching back and pulsing thighs...nauseated....exhausted yet mind abuzz with energy....body contracting physically and emotionally....forcing myself to whisper words to counteract the anxiety that has separated itself from the emotions pulsing around my belly and wound its way up to my chest, squeezing my heart until it feels as though it will burst from the constriction.

"It's almost over."

"Hang in there."

"Pregnancy is a shitty and invasive force of Nature that always biologically beats my body into submission, but it's worth the end result."

The end result being my third child, another boy.

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After the anxiety passes my interlaced fingers tighten their hold on my belly and I feel the other emotions that remain creating a sense of heat around my womb, both inside and out.

Yes it's almost over and there is excitement. There is anticipation. There is a desire for joy to meet me at the end when I peer into his eyes and behold the mystery behind them for the first time; the first glimpse into him, this tiny stranger, an extended combination of my husband and I that has been growing and squirming restlessly within me for nine months. There is hope. There is an eagerness to begin this new season of my life as a mother to him and his brothers, a mother of three. There is a shout wanting to shoot it's way from my soul and burst forth from my lips in exaltation at what a year it's been for me, for my husband, for the boys individually, and for our family as a whole. This child, this boy,  is the culmination of the new life we set out to build for ourselves back in April of 2012; when my husband and I sat in an IHOP in Philly, allowing restoration to heal our broken relationship. He is the embodiment of our new life as a whole unit, and the cairn directing our steps towards yet another new way forward for our family.

I've had each of my children during life altering transitions and significant periods of growth in my life, and timing of this child's birth will be no different. What he embodies and signifies in my life at this moment are special to me, just like his brothers. Brennan healed my heart from my past, he is my empathy, my reincarnated self given another chance at a peaceful and full childhood, he showed me that I was good, and clean, and capable at motherhood and life. Alex is the one who challenged me in new and painful ways that were unexpected but oh so necessary. His entrance into my life dug itself deep into my core and unearthed in me things I had yet to see, and shone a harsh light on what I need to face and finally deal with. He shifted me as a woman, a mother, a believer...with him I was forced to throw all I thought I knew and carve out a new way of living and thinking. Alex taught me how to take care of myself and make my well-being a priority-a first for me. Alex pushed me out of the stagnant, boxed up life I had been living and out into a world I hadn't let myself explore. He pushed me up and out of the rubble of the past 29 years and into wholeness-into my real self. I am the woman I am right at this very moment because I gave birth to him.

And here I am with this one. I know what he means to me personally, as a mother, and our life as a family in one sense...but he remains a complete mystery to me in another, which I find exciting and my being twinges with eagerness to learn and explore the world through his eyes as I have through his brothers.

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And yet there is also fear of what's to follow once we make our way back out through the hospital doors, and back to our home where the adjustment and shift of our family dynamic will begin to take shape; permanently rooting itself in our lives, our family.

Will I relapse? Will I catch it before it sucks me in?  What if I can't get appointments or calls in to my therapist and psychiatrist because of how slow and overbooked the VA appointment system is? How will I handle the hard and the overwhelming task of meeting the needs of three children, who are all at very different stages and seasons of life? My husband being unavailable due to work obligations? Fluctuating hormones and fatigue?

And the boys: how will Alex adjust to the change and new presence, both as a three year old, and as a child who struggles with change and disruption of routine on the sensory level? Will his ABA based preschool be enough of an outlet for him? How will Brennan feel, as the oldest? So much of the focus has been on Alex and his therapies these past months, I often wonder if I've given him enough attention, and now with a newborn....

There is fear...despite all of the knowledge, support, and awareness I have, despite knowing that I'm at a much different place in life than I was when Alex was born and suffered through that first year...there is a lurking fear that sits and stares me directly in the eyes, making me all the more aware of the reality of my illness and how stress, change, and motherhood trigger it.

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So I am here at 5:24 in the early dark of morning, with foggy eyes squinting through the bright bathroom lights at my pregnant self, fingers tightly interlaced across my belly. Body and mind are engulfed in emotions that jar against each other, breathing deeply and staring back at what has been, and into what lies ahead. Feeling new life roll and jab in a space that is becoming too cramped and ready to be birthed. Ready but yet not ready. Craving for it to be over, yet continue on because what's on the other side is still dark and unseen in a few areas. On the brink yet still stuck in the space and feelings between old and new. Waiting.

How WIC Saved Us

I'm going to keep this short and to the point. 

No ranting. No giving you my opinion of the GOP or politicians in general. I'm not going to be political about this because there really isn't a point, and there are millions of others out there saturating the Internets with their opinions, anaylysis, anger, bias, and what have you. 

I'm not going to give you politics. Instead I'll give you something personal and leave you with a plea for tangible, effective action. 

When I separated from the USAF in Nov 2006, I was 7 months pregnant with Brennan, who you know is my oldest, my boy genius. Having been a military cop in service, all of the jobs I had applied to in early 2006 in preparation of my discharge were security or law enforcement related: Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, and positions at various security firms in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia. My plan was to go to college and work full-time, doing bartending and security until I graduated w/a degree in Communications & Journalism.

I had to terminate my applications and job search in June 2006 when I found out I was expecting. I started trying to scramble to come up with a back up plan when Brennan's father refused to "be a part of something he didn't agree with" because I refused to get the abortion he wanted. He shut me out completely, as did many members of my squadron, so while I had a few friends remain by my side I was basically alone to fend for myself. Going back home to my mom & stepdad's in NJ wasn't an option either. So I scrambled, tried some things that didn't work out, some smart, some completely stupid (ie an engagement to a complete idiot I shouldn't have trusted) and upon discharge I was practically homeless, staying with friends but not having anything permanent in place for when I had Brennan.

Finding a job at 7 months pregnant was impossible in the civilian sector. I was too far along. No one was going to hire me only to see me go on maternity leave 2 months later-I was told as much during interview after interview, phone call after phone call. 

After serving 4 1/2 years, I was entitled to unemployment for at least 9 months, but once it was discovered that I was pregnant I was denied because it meant I couldn't really look for work, which was a requirement. I had to appeal and it took exactly 71 days before the decision was reversed and I was afforded $592/month. My first check came 2 days after I had Brennan- February 24, 2007. I didn't even have a bank account anymore and had to cash it at a check cashing place.

During those 71 days, those last months of pregnancy, I had no money. NONE. My friends did what they could to help. I also had no prenatal care. My disability and compensation claim with the VA had just been filed and wouldn't be processed until March of 2008, so I had no way of even getting healthcare services through that system, and at the time, they didn't cover prenatal care anyway from what I had been told. I applied to medicaid and for other social services, but the application and approval process took nearly 60 days, despite my being in what they considered an "emergency" situation. The only application that processed fairly quickly was my WIC application.  

I had no health care. No money. No job. Barely had a place to stay-a friend's couch. But I had WIC. My WIC experience had some negatives to it, which I'll discuss at another time, but I can tell you right now, were it not for WIC I wouldn't have had anything to eat during those months right before Brennan arrived. 

Thanks to the WIC program I could use vouchers to buy bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cereal, juice, beans, and fruit from the one farmer's market in Prince George's county, Maryland that I could take the bus too. (I had a car, but didn't drive much, because gas=money I didn't have) 

That was the ONLY food I ate. If I found a dollar in change, which happened I think 2 or 3 times, I splurged and bought a double cheeseburger from McDonald's off the dollar menu. Twice, a friend took me to grab a bite to eat, but that was it. My WIC vouchers were how I ate the one (small) meal I had every one of those 71 days I waited for an appeal on my unemployment case. Yes, I had ONE meal a day. At 8 and 9 months pregnant. That was it. The fact that Brennan was and is healthy is pretty much a miracle if you ask me. 

WIC is considered "non essential" during a government shutdown, meaning applications aren't processed, case managers don't work, families can't stop by WIC offices to pick up their monthly vouchers for formula, milk, and food. Any breastfeeding support a woman is receiving via her WIC office stops. Families who rely on WIC to help them purchase specialized and expensive formula to feed their infants with health problems? Same thing. Do you know how many school aged children rely on WIC for breakfast? With SNAP benefits being decimated last week, imagine being a parent already struggling to put food on the table and now facing the reality that two very crucial resources you depend on have been gambled away, gutted, halted.

 Whatever your political leanings are I urge and beg you to flood your food banks and organizations that partner with WIC offices with donations of food, baby formula, and baby food. Diapers even. Grocery store gift cards. A monetary donation, which help food banks even more sometimes than donations of physical goods. Whatever you can. Hunger is a real problem in this country and we need to take it more seriously than we do.

Politicians can play their games, claim victories for their childish and stubborn agendas, and we can't do shit about it but gnash our teeth, word vomit our frustrations, theories, and opinions on social networks, and vote...two years from now. That's it. This shutdown is out of our hands, our control, and beyond anything that WE the people can tangibly do to fix....BUT we can do what Congress isn't right now and serve ourselves, serve each other. WE can be for the people and by the people. We CAN do something, have some control in this situation-and that's by ensuring our neighbor, our coworker's kid, our elderly, our servicemembers, our disabled, OUR people, are fed. 

We can do that....can't we? 

WIC saved me and mine during a very horrifying and unsettling time in my life. Help me do for others what it did for me. Donate to an organization or food bank. Please. 

Now What?

Not guilty. Now what? What do we do now? Where do we turn? Who do we turn to, except each other to grieve and travail as despair and fear grip our souls mamas?

What do we do women of color? Jim Crow's ghost is laughing at us, reminding us yet again that it is a crime for our men to even exist, reminding us yet again that ever since they were first chained to ships bound for these shores, our men are not worthy of life and freedom.

Black & brown manhood has once again been demonized, criminalized, and deemed a threat to humanity, and allowed to be stalked and hunted like prey by predators blinded by fear, insecurity and delusion.

Profiled in broad daylight.

Hunted in the dark.

Statistics.

Killed by them and by each other. Every. Day. By the hundreds.

What do we do now? What do we tell our babies? How do we raise our sons? How do we dress them? Where can we send them to keep them safe from urban violence and from the suburban neighborhood watchman with a gun?

What is enough? Education? Income? Manners? No...seems like it was for awhile but that got ripped from us tonight. Again.

How do we change the system if we can't become it because they're closing our schools and putting our men in prison? How do we fight systemic legal and cultural oppression?

When will our voice be heard? How much longer do we have to go on killing ourselves everyday? How many more of our futures must be killed and destroyed by violence? By systemic and cultural oppression?

When will our anger be deemed righteous and worthy enough to receive and initiate effective change for ourselves and our men? Our baby boys?

Not guilty. What do we DO now? Except hold our sons and feel the crushing weight of guilt for bringing them into a world & society that doesn't value their personhood shatter our hearts?

I am a wailing woman tonight. A woman travailing in despair for the lives of brown boys and brown men in this country. For my sons. For my husband. For my brother. For your men, your sons.

What do we do? What do we tell them to encourage them to be who they are when who they are is on trial every day? Misunderstood, demonized, criticized, devalued, and dehumanized on a daily basis?

What do we do besides hold our babies tonight and feel hopeless and terrified to send them out into the world and see pain and maybe death too soon in their future?

How do we fight? Where do we fight? WHO do we fight? When will our fight for them and their fight for themselves matter?

When will brown men and brown people matter in this country? We haven't since Columbus set foot on this continent. We have been fighting genocide and for our existence for that long. When will the fight for survival end?

A brown man can be sent to jail for fighting and killing dogs. But if he fights for his life after he's stalked and confronted? He goes on trial for his own death and his killer is handed the gun that ended his life as he goes home. Free.

Not guilty.

What do we do?

I'm Here...Just Consumed By Life

Sorry I haven't stopped by here since May 20th. Life's been pretty consuming as of late, and I'm not as good about writing my way through periods like this as I was a year ago. Things are busy busy busy and I'll be honest-sitting down to write has proved to be more difficult than I would like it to be. The words are there, waiting to be given life, the stories are stacked up on shelves in my brain, the desire is there, but it all just becomes a jumbled mess when I sit down to type or even write in my journal. Part of it is because my brain is so scattered, thanks to my disorder and my recent hypomanic episodes and cycling. Part of it is because I become to preoccupied by my compulsions to clean, organize, and rearrange everything in our apartment. Part of it is because I'm fatigued and the energy I do have is poured into being  pregnant, mama, wife, housekeeper, cook, errand runner...the desire to create or give anything back to myself lingers quietly in folds of my heart, but never finds its way to execution. My mind is scattered and my hands feel inadequate, empty, unable to form the words or images that are mixed in the chaos.

Part of it is because I've become completely immersed in a new parenting approach with Alex and in implementing new routines and techniques I hope make like easier for him...and for all of us, really. I'm seeing how different and significant some of his needs are and in a lot of ways re-learning this whole parenting thing. From how I discipline, to the words and tone I use when speaking to him, to even how much pressure I apply when I touch or hug him, my whole posture towards parenting and mothering him has changed. Most of my days are consumed with being engaged with him in ways I wasn't before. Learning about sensory processing disorder, autism, and what we're learning from his therapists since April has given me new ways to engage and interact with him  that are different from how I did before. It's been quite the learning curve-there's so much more to be aware of these days! I'm more watchful, taking note of the slightest change in attitude or behavior (positive or negative), more apprehensive and mindful about how changes in routine, however slight, will impact him from moment to moment. In some ways I feel like I'm on high alert from the time he wakes up until he finally falls asleep after I've put him back in his bed and given him a deep pressure squeeze for the fifth or sixth time. I've had to become much more patient, learning to move at his pace, and how to move him along faster in a way that he can understand when we're short on time. I've found that all of this has taken an energy that I, especially being pregnant, barely have the reserves for. The simplest things from washing his hands to getting dressed to helping desensitize his facial muscles before his speech therapy sessions is all a process; exhausting and consuming, but one I'm committed to helping all of us navigate and learn as best we can.

Part of it is because I'm committed to being well during this pregnancy and am forcing myself to focus on self-care. This becomes increasingly difficult when pregnancy is kicking my ass, particularly when migraines attack, and my blood pressure is low. The migraines have been pretty frequent this pregnancy; during a good week I only get one, during my worst I've had them for 4 days straight. Functioning when I'm a wreck physically feels impossible, but I somehow get through making sure the kids have what they need for the day and that's about it. Aside from eating and taking my medications, taking care of myself takes a backseat and I have to fight to make things like taking a shower, combing my hair, getting in any kind of exercise or leisure activity a priority. Overall I'm doing better on the self-care front than I have in the past, especially during my last pregnancy.

All of this focus on concentration on these other areas of my life leave little for my writing here and painting....advocating even. I had all of these plans for my creative pursuits this year but the mental and creative bandwidth I need to execute them isn't what I'd like it to be. For some reason I can't seem to find space for those two to fit in my life as of late and this does sadden me. Frustrates me. Leaves me to wonder how I'll fit them in when there are THREE children to give my time and attention to. I'm hoping I can find a way....I'm in awe of those who've found a way to balance and navigate it all.

At any rate, while I find it hard to write and paint these days, I have found it easy to keep up with vlogging-probably because I can just do it on my phone while I'm on the go and have a few minutes alone. So I think that's just what I'm going to have to do for now because it's the one thing that I can keep up with that fits in best with everything else. It's the one thing I feel I can keep up with right now on this front. I'm hoping to write here during the summer, but know that if you don't see me here, you'll be able to find me on my YouTube channel, addyeBeesWorld, where I'll mostly be sharing the nitty-gritty of navigating bipolar disorder while being a pregnant mama. Feel free to watch and subscribe-I've done videos for weeks 15, 16, and 17 so far (I tell you what we're having in my second video for week 16!) And of course, I'll always be on Twitter :) (@addyeB)

So that's where I've been, what I've been up to, what's going on. I'm still here...I'm just consumed is all.

Maybe I just need to Lean In...anyone have Sheryl Sandberg's number?

Turkey Baby!

First, some snaps from Alex's post bath photo-shoot...

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And secondly, I'm pretty sure my heart grew 2-3 sizes thanks to all the love pouring in it while these moments were captured. Which, if you ask me, is just the kind of expansion my mama heart needed seeing as though a new resident is moving in...

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Looks like I'll be having more than just turkey for Thanksgiving this year, y'all :)

A Beautiful Weekend Full of Hiking, Smiles, and Incredible Fathers

From the weather, to the squeals of laughter erupting from the boys as they ran from Bertski, to the time spent outdoors, we had a beautiful weekend. We woke up way earlier than normal for us on a Saturday and went hiking through Historic Rittenhouse & Wissahickon Creek, one of Bertski's favorite places in Philly.

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We rounded out the day with a little retail therapy at (where else?) Target and finished the night off with a Pocoyo marathon for the boys and a date night for us, complete with take out from Carrabas. NOM. (I don't have any pictures because I practically inhaled my food before I could snap any food porn for ya)

We started off Father's Day letting Berski sleep in...because honestly he's usually the one who gets up with the boys on the weekends and feeds them breakfast while I continue to slobber all over my pillow. But this morning I put my big girl panties on, stumbled my way into the boys room armed with milk and cereal, locked myself in and proceeded to engross myself in the nuanced life of Curious George.

Once Bertski woke up, we headed out for another hike, this time at the infamous Valley Forge Historic National Park in Valley Forge, PA.

This place? GORGEOUS y'all. It was once the headquarters for George Washington and the Revolutionary Army, and served as the location for some of the Revolution's most epic battles.

Today, it's sprawling landscape serves as a place for bikers, hikers, and any other "ers" to enjoy and take advantage of. Lush vegetation, sky high trees, deeply wooded areas, and beautifully mysterious trails and pathways accentuate the historical feel of the park. Scattered throughout are various log cabins and buildings that once housed farmers & troops. As we hiked our way through, I could envision British and Rebel soldiers marching toward each other over its rolling hills, as canons fired rounds and each side's Calvary lead the charge to battle. I told Bertski how humbled and somber I felt thinking of those who met their fate at the end of a bayonet or canon blast (shudder)...our nation's very first veterans, if I'm not mistaken. (If I am, correct me you history buffs)

It was a gorgeous day, the boys loved exploring and chasing each other, I snapped a slew of pictures, everyone worked up a good sweat and a serious craving for some Mexican Post-our favorite place in Philly for Mexican food and Grand Marnier Margaritas.

Coming home consisted of the three males in the house chasing each other, rough housing, and tearing through the apartment-all in their underwear (and diaper) and I snuggled in for a good read, feeling grateful for the noise.

I couldn't have asked for a better weekend or for a more fulfilling way for Bertski to spend his Father's Day. I really hope we have more like this as we venture through the summer.

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On The Creflo Dollar Case & Why I'm Choosing Not to Spank My Children

As I was sitting down at my kitchen table to do some journaling and write my posts for this week, an article in my Twitter stream grabbed my attention. As I read it, a flurry of words rushed to my lips in response, and I knew I had to push aside my original post for today to share my thoughts on this. The article, which you can read here, articulates a lot of my feelings regarding the Creflo Dollar child abuse case. For those unaware, mega church pastor Creflo Dollar was arrested last week after an altercation with his 15 year old daughter. From all of the reports I've read, a few things appear to be consistent

  1. His daughter wanted to go to a party and Dollar said no
  2. An argument ensued and escalated
  3. A physical altercation took place; In his statement to police, Dollar claims he grabbed his daughter by the shoulders when she became disrespectful, wrestled her to the ground, and spanked her. Both the daughter involved in the altercation and his older, 19 year old daughter who witnessed the altercation claim Dollar grabbed, choked, and hit the 15 year old.
  4. The daughter who witnessed the fight initially gave contradicting stories to police, with her written statement differing from what she verbally told police. When confronted on the discrepancies, she rewrote her statement, saying that her parents being with her at the time caused her to give a statement corroborating Dollar's claims about the incident.

Now....there's a lot that bothers me about this, and let me start by making one thing perfectly clear: this is NOT a smear campaign against Creflo Dollar, I am not "hating" on him because of who he is, or attempting to vilify him in any way. I personally could care less about the man or what he preaches. I don't listen to his messages, buy his books, or ascribe to his particular brand of gospel. But what I DO care about is the fact that a grown man is  justifying whatever his behavior was that night because his daughter was being "disrespectful."

This is where the article I read this afternoon comes in. (Again, you should read it here) It pretty much summed up what bothers me about this case: in Black Culture there is a prevailing and acceptable perspective that letting loose on your child when they disrespect you is ok, and that getting a back hand to the face or some other form of physical force is the same as disciplining your children.

In our culture, disrespect is just not tolerated. At all. No back talking, sass,  attitude,  lip smacking, none, zilch, nada. We're brought up in a culture that says if you even THINK about pursing your lips to say something out of line to your parents or an elder, you're catching a world of heat. And that heat will land anywhere from your behind to your face, depending on how close within reach you are to the one you've offended. Slaps & smacks to the face are common, as are spankings or "gettin beat," as we call them.

For me, growing up, I learned early on if I even looked like I had something negative to say, there would be hell to pay. My father was one of those people who took spanking to the extreme. He didn't just swat me on the behind when I told a lie or looked like I was rolling my eyes (which I never dreamed of doing I was so petrified of him) or didn't do something to his liking. He literally did whatever he could to beat the life out of me. And his punishments? Forget it. Textbook child abuser, that was my father.

But aside from being out of his mind, that's how my father was raised. He was raised getting beat for whatever he did wrong or for being disrespectful. He grew up "old school" as the older folk call it. He lived under that whole "spare the rod, spoil the child," mentality that older generations of (black) parents took as license to discipline their children however they saw fit, even if it meant excessive physical force.

Even when I moved in with my mother and step-father, I wasn't abused but spankings with a belt did happen as did a back hand or two if any disrespect was given or even perceived.

So it's no surprise that when I became a parent, I thought discipline equaled physical force...after all, that's what my background and culture had taught me.  Brennan didn't really go through the Terrible Two phase, but when he did have a meltdown or tantrum, I spanked him. Not more than a swat on his behind but I spanked him nonetheless. I remember my parents telling me that I needed to "keep a firm hand" on him and make sure he knew I was the parent, and that there would be consequences for getting out of line...consequences that involved physical contact. I even remember being told to spank him if that's what was needed to get him potty trained.

So I did. I spanked him from time to time when he was acting up, but every time I did, I just didn't feel right. All it seemed to do was make him scared of me, which I hated. And it didn't seem to correct anything. So I had a very honest talk with myself and decide that while I wanted to establish healthy boundaries and rules for him to abide by, I didn't necessarily want to make physical contact a part of my discipline strategy. The same goes for Alex.  As he's entered toddlerhood and is proving to give Terrible Two's a new meaning, both myself and his father have had to find creative ways to discipline him and not let him "rule" us without spanking him.

I regret spanking my children because I know that coming from my background it's just not a good idea.  I'm adamantly against perpetuating the cycle of abuse in my family, and for me, that means I have to go against my cultural norm and choose to discipline my children in other ways. And while I'm finding that it doesn't work for me, I'm not judging those parents who feel it does. I'm not the one to question how you choose to discipline your child....

Until something like what happened with the Dollar family takes place. As I read numerous responses & comments from his supporters and those who claim you have to "do what you need to do to keep your kids in line," I can't help but wonder how healthy it is for parents and their children to think that physical force is an appropriate way to deal with someone who's disrespected you.  And even if you do think spanking is appropriate, is it at 15? I don't know if he choked or punched his daughter as it's being claimed, but he openly admits that things "escalated" and that he wrestled her to the ground and spanked her. Is wrestling your children to the ground because they are upset you won't let them attend a party the best way to handle "disrespect?" Is that really teaching them how to respect anyone, especially those in authority?

Somewhere along the line, we've started to equate force with discipline and fostering respect. I think that too many of us as parents (especially black parents) forget that in order to get respect you have to give it, and that our children model what we do, whether or not we're willing to admit it.

How we treat our children impacts not only how they treat others, but how they will treat their children when they become parents as well...This incident with Mr. Dollar leaves me wondering how this will affect how his daughter treats her own son or daughter when faced with the difficult aspects of parenting.

I think it's time to start sending a different kind of message....do you?

You can read more about the alleged incident here, and listen to Mr. Dollar's statements regarding the case below...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcgKDPeDt0Y]

Secret Mommyhood Confession: I'm Getting Owned by My 2 year Old

You've seen it before... You're in the mall, at a restaurant, in line at Target,  at the grocery store, shopping or eating in peace when all of a sudden it sounds like an animal is being slaughtered. Ear piecing screams shatter the peaceful atmosphere as everyone stops wherever they're at to ascertain the location of the disturbance. As the commotion gets louder, your eyes scan the area around you back & forth, you step out of the aisle, perhaps try to peer over at the next register, and then you zero in on a painful sight.

There's no animal being sacrificed, no demon being exorcised...it's just some kid going bat s*it crazy on their poor parent. Embarrassed and red in the face, the parent tries to calm their little terror down by employing all the SWAT team & verbal judo tactics they learned in those parenting books. This only seems to fan the flames of the meltdown as the child resorts to more animistic sounds and flailing about on the floor, face purple from the rage boiling over inside of them.

At this point I've only ever seen one of two things happen: either the parent scoops up the kid and flees the store while being pummeled by tiny fists of fury, crushed & mortified, OR the meltdown and failed attempts to squash it tip the parent over the edge of their sanity and they resort to either screaming right back at the child, or lowering their voice to just above a whisper and starting to issue threats that range from bodily harm to being left at the store.

I've witnessed this countless times. Before I had children, I used to be one of those people who just stare in disapproval, shaking their heads and whispering to the person next to them how THEY would handle the situation. Yea. I'm ashamed to say I was one of those people. The ones who just stare & cast judgement like they've got some kind of  f*cking degree in child rearing that you, the one who pushed the little barbarian out, don't.  "Oh I wouldn't have that. Nope. My child would know better than to embarrass me like that, shoooooot." (Insert finger snapping & neck rolling here, if you'd like.) " I wish they would. I'd snatch them up in a heartbeat! There's no way I'd let my child get that out of control."  (Yea, I was pretty stupid before I had kids, but in my defense I was young and childless-my middle name was Naive.)

Once I had Brennan though, my attitude changed of course. It went from thinking I knew how my child wouldn't act, to asking God to get us in and out of public places without incident. For the most part, God heard my supplications & was merciful. Brennan was the model toddler. No public scream fests, I never had to exorcise any demons at Target, and thankfully, any tantrums he did have were easily subdued.

Then I had Alex. I knew within months he was going to be that kid, and I would become that mom... you know the one trying to desperately talk down a two year old who's losing their s*it because he ran out of milk in his sippy cup? Yea, I knew that was going to be me.

How did I know, you ask?  Well, there were clues. As an infant, he cried all. the. time. He despised car rides and never let us get through one without unleashing his wrath. The older he's gotten, the more independent he's become. I mean fiercely independent. He has to do things his way, and in his time. You can't feed him. Changing his diaper is a WWE match punctuated with screams. My boy is so picky he's gone from eating whole Chic-Fil-A nuggets (no other nuggets will do) to only eating the corners of them.  If he's not happy about something, trust and believe he's going to vocalize his discontent over it. Change the channel? Tantrum. A commercial comes on? Ear piercing screams. Tell him he has to wait until after dinner for his daily PediaSure hit? You're getting cussed out in toddler speak. Catch him dancing to the Fresh Beat Band and say "yay! Go Alex!" and he's prostrate on the floor, hands covering eyes, face distorted in a scowl.  Tell him it's time to go bye bye and take too long to get to the door? Tasmanian devil-sized meltdown.

Screams. Scowls. Body flailing. Fists of fury. Anger. Aggression. He's full of all of it, and I'm completely lost as to how to handle any of it. Do I fall out on the floor with him? Discipline him? How? Since he turned 2 in April we've been treated to shouts of "NOOOO!!!!!" while either hitting one of us, pushing Brennan, or launching something across the room. Sometimes it's whatever's next to him or in his hand, others it's his actual body.

It was manageable when he was 1. It's become hell now that he's 2. His father and I have been trying everything to keep from resorting to how our parents dealt with us...you know, with a back hand. These days, if you were to eavesdrop outside our door, you're sure to hear lots of "NOOOOOOOOO!" "Do you want timeout?!" "NO! NO! (more toddler gibberish) NO!" I'm buying a special "time out chair" next week. We'll see how effective it is.

Yep. I've become that mom who has that kid. Maybe we'll just become a family of recluses. Stay inside until he's 10...or 30. Or maybe we'll be the family the entire store is staring at as we try to navigate the Terrible Two's without losing our sanity...or going to jail.

Just do me a favor: If you happen to see me fleeing Target with a screaming, purple-faced Alex, be a friend. Chase after me and tell me it's going to be okay and he'll grow out of it eventually. Also? Bring Tequila. Patron if you can swing it.

*Note: Alex is an awesome kid. Full of laughter and rambunctious energy. I love him to death, but I had to vent about this Terrible Two nonsense. It's testing the limits of my sanity*

**This post is part of All Work & No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something's Secret Mommyhood Confession link up. You can read the rest of these posts, add your own,  and more by clicking here**

Something Something Button

Why Politics Scare The Crap Out Of Me As A Parent

Confession: I've grown to hate political campaigns. I've come to despise election year. I loathe the way we do our politics here in the U.S. and what it's done to our culture. Why?

Because at a time when candidates are supposed to be putting their best feet forward,and encouraging us to think critically about issues, the whole process seems to bring out the worst in both candidates and their supporters.

Things aren't just divisive. Nowadays they are downright hostile. People can't agree to disagree anymore, they instead have to load their rhetoric with hate, fear, and truly disgusting insults.

Prejudices about gender and race are alive and well. I find it saddening that in 2012, 48 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, and the dismantling of segregation and Jim Crow, racism is still a major stumbling block for our society. I find it insulting that women's rights are still being decided upon by men who think our health and well being isn't a necessary concern. With social networking and social media making the work a smaller place in terms of communication, it has also paved the way for us to see in black and white what people really think about each other, classes of people, basic human rights, and other key issues....I wish I could say this is a good thing.

I've watched and read the thoughts of our society on news sites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter streams, and what I've read has made me fear for the world my two sons will grow up in, especially since they are African American and Latino males. I worry about how they will adjust and assimilate into a culture that appears to hate them....I wonder how they will fare in a culture that speaks so much negativity and seems to be hell bent on restricting their potential and progress just because they aren't part of the 1%.

As a Christian parent I'm wondering how to teach them to love others in such an environment, especially when Christian culture is just as hateful in our response to those who are "different."

I wish the climate of our culture didn't make me so uneasy and fearful, but it at least pushes me to try and raise my boys to be the most loving and responsible people they can be. It urges me to do my best to instill solid values into them and validate who they are. It also pushes me to be a better example for them when it comes to respecting, loving, and treating others they way I want us to be treated.

Do you get worried a out the world your kids will grow up in? How do you channel those fears into constructive parenting and life lessons?