There is Something Special About 11

Eleven years ago my husband and I began the greatest journey of our lives. Great seems like the wrong word to describe parenthood, because it doesn’t nearly encompass the ridiculousness of what it means to be someone’s mother or father.

Ridiculous might actually be more appropriate.

When this boy came into our lives, everything changed.

I didn’t know the passion with which I threw myself into my work, my projects, my relationships, my marriage, my family…would be entirely eclipsed by this tiny human who would squeeze my finger and look into my eyes as he nursed. Owning me.

It was ridiculous. It still is ridiculous.

Now that he is becoming, well, himself, I’m learning to let him take over his own life. The life we gave him, the life we help guide as he learns about the world. The good. The bad. The wonder with which he sees everything.

He is so much braver than I am and so much stronger. His heart is so pure- and I know people tend to say that about children a lot-but his heart is truly so pure and loving that he weeps with joy when the sky is full of clouds and feels total elation that is contagious when seeing stars. He makes you look out the window of your everyday car in your everyday life and actually watch the mountains go by and the sun set below the horizon. And then he’ll say something so simple it hurts.

Mom, isn’t the world just beautiful?

His current obsession is flight. Planes. Shuttles. He’s thrown himself into learning everything about how a human might reach the heavens so he can witness Earth’s beauty first hand.

So naturally we bought him a flying lesson for his birthday.

The intensity and fierceness with which I wanted to stop him nearly overwhelmed me. But after ELEVEN YEARS I finally am working on becoming the mother I had always hoped I would be, at least, in part.

I didn’t tell him I was petrified something would go wrong. I didn’t show my nerves. I simply continued to encourage his dream. I wanted him to know I was behind him 110% if this is what he wanted.

Over a decade of parenting and I’m still trying to figure this whole Mom thing out.

When my son arrived in this world, after weeks and weeks and weeks of bed rest…monitor strapped to my swollen belly, sending my preterm contractions to a nurse over an old school modem, we were just happy he was healthy. Then, like every mother before me, I worried and fretted about milestones and motor skills.

Keeping our kids safe seems to be forever on the mind. Protecting.

Yet at the same time, we tell them they can be anything. They can do anything. If they find something they love we will happily help them achieve their goals.

My son wants to fly. In a way, he always has been flying. He’s done it in his mind and daydreams a million times. I’ve watched him. I can see the wheels spinning as he runs through our house flapping his arms.

His first goal as a Kindergartner was to retrieve the rovers from Mars. We wore out one ‘Roving Mars’ DVD and had to buy another before he was reading or writing. A documentary.

It just never occurred to this mother he would need to leave the safety of the ground.

He’s smarter than I am. He has a plan that involves learning to be a pilot young so he can get it out of the way and amass his fortune in order to fund his other obsessions. Inventing his dreamworld filled with creatures and robots and fun. All while making sure Spirit and Opportunity return to Earth not to mention making sure his many hobbies are equally tended to-most of which involve other worlds. Other galaxies. Dark matter, black holes, the beyond.

He figured out long ago he’d need to take this step and didn’t even ask if he could, knowing Mom and Dad would be there to support his dreams.

I adore this child and am glad he’s challenged me to be a better person, a less selfish woman, more of an adventurer, less of a panicked mother.

I always knew he would touch the stars, I just didn’t realize it would take everything in me to let go in order for him to spread his wings and fly.

 

Happy Birthday Jack.

I Knew It Was Coming

He knows, but he doesn’t want to tell me.

It’s fun to believe, right Mom? 

And when you believe it’s all even more magical too…

He knows, and when I push the subject his eyes get full and he looks at me as though begging me to stop asking. He really does not want to answer.

So instead he slowly sits down next to me on the couch and rubs my arm. He always rubs my arm when he’s worried about me. When I’m not feeling well. When I’m upset but trying not to show him…like now.

Plus it’s a tradition Mom. We always have traditions…

He knows, and when I asked him to make sure his sister still believed no matter what he thought might be true, his answer both broke and uplifted my heart…

Oh we all believe in our family and I will make sure she doesn’t know everything. She doesn’t need to know what I figured out a long, long time ago.

But even if I did figure it out a long time ago I just want you to know Mom, you do a really good job. You’re a great Santa helper. And I still like to pretend because I know it makes you happy. And I know it’s fun and it is always a surprise and everyone is always so happy. So please don’t be sad.

I’m not sad, buddy. Not about that anyway. Just trying to stop time a bit so I can take these moments and lock them away in my mind and remember how when you found out about Santa you were more worried about ME than you.

Picture day !!!

Can Anyone Save The House GOP?

You saved us. 

That’s what my son told White House staff gathered around the table as he sat on my lap.

No really, you saved us.

My son, who hadn’t said a word for nearly the entire meeting, even though he had confided in me he really wanted to tell them all about how his Mom has Lupus and how great it was they were helping more people get treatment and medicine and see doctors.

Thank you for saving us.

My son, sitting on my lap in the West Wing, his little sister by his side. Both having devoured packages of White House m&m’s just minutes prior, had the entire room welling up with just those words.

It is all I can think of now as I watch the news and I see these men and women who call themselves representatives of the people. All I can think of is my son, in his suit bought just for the occasion, driving home the importance of Obamacare in a way only the innocence of a chid can.

And this guy always a chip off the old Daddy block

The Affordable Care Act is a law passed by Congress, signed by the President, held up by the Supreme Court, and even fought over during the 2012 election where President Obama, once again, came out on top. Yet still, these men and women who call themselves patriots have rather unpatriotically brought the fight back up again, refusing to accept their defeat and refusing to understand that right now people can go to HealthCare.gov and enroll in an insurance plan.

They shut down the government yet stopped nothing.

Right now I’m looking at my husband’s paycheck to see exactly what gets taken out to pay for my astronomical medical care and I’m comparison shopping at HealthCare.gov - considering our family’s options and what is best for us. There is an Anthem Blue Cross plan that pays 90/10 instead of the current 80/20 we have with Aetna. There is a HealthNet plan that covers my very expensive treatments with copays instead of the huge deductible I pay every January now. Lots of things to look over and consider that potentially could save us even more money.

I say even more money because ObamaCare has already brought us help. People don’t understand the benefits yet, and that’s really what this fight is all about. You’ve seen my bills. I’ve tweeted them time and time again and explained how our family has used ACA already. But what about you? Sally Kohn wrote a great piece for you- Five Reasons Why Americans Already Love ObamaCare. Did you know those things?

Listen, you may not like that 48 million Americans now have access to health care. You may not like that they can shop and insurance companies can compete for their business. You many not like that President Obama has done something amazing and it WILL be life-changing for those like me with chronic illnesses. Except we’re the lucky ones. So many are like me in disorder only.

My family has the luxury of comparison shopping on the exchanges while others have no insurance and don’t even make enough to pay for the meds the ER doc prescribed the last time they got so bad they broke down and went to the hospital. Now they CAN- based on their income they can go to HealthCare.gov and enroll now and it might be FREE or under $100.

That changes everything and those Republicans in the House know it…they KNOW IT.

It’s just a shame they don’t care. 

Perhaps if they were in a room with my family, sitting around a big office table, hearing about how hard it is to live with Lupus and what it does to your life and your kids’ lives…and then to suddenly hear the sincere thanks from a 10-year old child. Perhaps then they might let their hearts grow a bit and take off the attached riders and pass a REAL bill. Not one that tricks Americans into thinking they don’t even NEED health insurance and should just pay the fine. What sort of horrible advice is that? All because they believe this is government run health care? Last I checked Anthem Blue Cross and Aetna and HealthNet weren’t my government. All the government has done is put in place some rules that should have always been there- like the one where they can’t find really stupid reasons to kick you off their policy simply because you are sick and costing them money…we like that one at our house- and put all these companies together in one spot to compete for your business. Sounds pretty damn American to me.

But what’s even more American is a 10-year old boy finding his voice in a room full of adults simply to say thank you because he knew, at that very moment, it was important to express that his family needs ObamaCare and he was grateful to have his Mom.

That’s how the President knows he’s doing the right thing. That’s why he won’t give in and neither will we.

Thank you, Mr. President for saving us and to your staff for staying strong.

As for the House GOP…perhaps a meeting is in order between you all and my son. I’d let my eight-year old daughter tag along but you don’t want her there, trust me. She’s not nearly as sensitive and empathetic as her brother.

She’d just kick your asses.

#allhailhala giving Congress hell in her purple lupus scarf

A Little Rebellion is a Good Thing

Sometimes I totally forget we’re a bit different around here.

Honestly.

And it doesn’t even occur to me until we’re in a situation where we’re surrounded by those who aren’t like us. (i.e. recent trip to North Carolina)

Let me give you a few examples so as to better paint a picture:

I currently have pink hair.

Mama's hair

My husband just spent his Sunday getting two tattoos.

Inked!!!!

I have eight tattoos (only one is visible to the public).

My husband does not wear a suit and tie to work, or carry a briefcase. He doesn’t even wear a button down shirt. We’re talking jeans, t-shirt, flip-flops or Chucks.

We are atheists and/or agnostic (at least I am) at very best.

We discuss the human body, sexuality, private parts,  politics, current events, issues that require deep thought and even global crisis in age-appropriate ways with the children.

We have no trouble pointing out the evils of the world and the injustice and encourage our children to stand up for what they believe in LOUDLY and with real action behind their words. (Our kids have raised substantial amounts of money for causes they believe in- like $1500 for Sea Turtle Relief during the gulf oil spill)

So as my son and I lounged around on a hot summer’s day, he asked me why teenagers are always mean and weird on tv shows. He wanted to know why they fought with their parents or were always ‘grounded.’ I then launched into a rather bad explanation of rebellion. And how we all feel the need at some point in life to show our independence and rebel against our parents.

He cocked his head and looked at me really funny.

Well, how do you think you will rebel when you’re a teen?

What do you mean?

I mean, what do you think you will do to rebel against your Dad and I?

Why would I do that?

Well I’m not sure, let just pretend…

I don’t know…I don’t want to rebel.

Well you don’t HAVE to, I’m just wondering how you might…

This went on and on and on. Until we realized our children would have to be rather over the top to rebel against us. And it’s true. I mean, look at us. We’re 40 or pushing 40 and tattooed, weird haired freaks. Right? Or so some would say.

So I took the same question to my daughter.

How do you think you will rebel?

I just think I’ll be mad at you because I’ll want to go be with my friends and you’ll want me to go somewhere with you. 

But will you DO anything, like shave your head or dye your hair purple (her hair is currently purple and pink) or get at a tattoo because you are mad?

Definitely not. Why would I do that? I can do that NOW and just for fun.

…touche’ my dear.

Which leaves me taking a long hard look at myself and my body. My hair. My tattoos. And you know what? I love it. I love them. I love that my husband and I could care less what the world thinks and we show our children that daily. We are living life on our terms.

He has found an industry that pays him well and supports his family and allows him to stroll into work daily in a t-shirt and jeans. He didn’t have to conform to the suit and tie rat race to ‘make it’ in this world. THAT makes me happy as hell for HIM.

I’ve always marked important milestones in my life with body art (I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday, right after I registered to vote). I’ve still managed to be a guest at the White House four times and interview everyone from celebrities to politicians, simply because I can easily change outfits and you’d never know what was underneath. I have made a career based on hard work and damn good work. When I was a professional journalist I investigated, I worked my sources, I climbed my way to the top. As a blogger and non-traditional journalist I’d like to think I became influential and did the same. Even disabled and sick I’ve managed to keep my influence and use my voice to work hard for the things I believe in.

I hope our children take away that they can be who they are and not compromise. They can follow their dreams and not worry about sacrificing their sense of self. They don’t have to fit in a box- anyone’s box- in order to be successful.

And if they really want to rebel, they can just give us heart attacks by voting Republican.

 

 

Kinfolk Vacation

Vacation with family in the South day #1:

My son learned to whittle with a pocket knife (and loved every second of it, making all three of his cousins Harry Potter wands and making his grandfather very happy).

My son is in the country for sure. He just widdled whiddled widdled ? A wand

My daughter baked and played Barbies.

And #allhailhala is baking

She also avoided, like the plague, the baby that came to visit. She really does not like babies.
We’re ok with this. We hope this helps come her teen years.

My body is tired but holding up. North Carolina is wet and has large mosquitoes and Moral Monday, which I really wish I was here to attend. But again, family first.

We Blend, Trayvon Did Not

My Dad walked into the living room and said “Not guilty.”

I inhaled.

He didn’t have to say anymore. I knew what he was talking about, I knew what he meant. My head swirled.

My 10-year old instinctively clung to my left arm. Began petting me. He didn’t understand. He asked question after question.

But how could he just shoot him and not go to jail? How is that ok? Why would he be not guilty? He shot him. You can’t shoot people, right? 

#relayforlife

I had shielded as much of the Trayvon Martin case as I could from the kids, but my son enjoys watching the news with me and truly enjoys discussing the news with me. So many mornings are spent with the two of us talking over current events. I keep things as age appropriate as possible. With Trayvon it was hard from day one. This was a teenager gunned down for doing nothing more than walking home, being stalked by the local neighborhood watch guy, and when Trayvon confronted George Zimmerman, a fight ensued and Zimmerman shot and killed the teen.

Now Zimmerman walks free and all over my twitter feed under certain hashtags like #tcot and others, people were celebrating. On my Facebook page there were exclamations of ‘What a great day for America!’ and so on.

While my son shook with anger and tears rolled down his face. While my daughter did her best to play her game and not pay attention, yet clearly was listening and upset. While I struggled to come up with the words to tell them justice would prevail…silence permeatited throughout our home.

Silence.

Because there were no words.

There was nothing I could say that would make sense or make this right.

The verdict went against everything we had taught them about our judicial system and it went against everything we taught them about how justice was supposed to be served in the end.

My husband talked about how sometimes, justice does not win. We all did our best to explain away the unexplainable.

But the kids clearly did not understand. Hell, the adults didn’t understand.

Later on in the evening my son asked me how we could make it better. My sweet, sweet baby boy wanted to know what he could do to change the verdict, racism, and the world- and he was very serious.

Again, I had no answer for him. My only answer was that he continue to be a great person. And that hopefully, it would be contagious.

This wasn’t good enough for him.

So I told him about a petition to get the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman to try, once again, to put him behind bars.

He was unimpressed. And I have to say, while I think the petition and case could be worthwhile…Zimmerman walks free while Trayvon is dead. I see no justice there and I see no reason to get excited over the possibility of another trial.

Something my son said keeps repeating over and over in my mind as I think about the verdict:

Mom, what if I walked to go get Hala some candy and you always drink tea…what if I went to get you tea…and that happened to me? But it wouldn’t though, would it? They think I blend in here, don’t they? They don’t understand I’m not on their side…they don’t understand we’re on the kids like Trayvon’s side. That means I can sneak into their talks and find out what is going on and then I can tell everyone and everyone will be safe. They will never know because I blend in. They will think I am one of them, but really I am like a ninja and I will bring all the information back to everyone like Trayvon and US and everyone will be SAFE forever!

I love my son’s big heart more than I can say. In his 10-year old imagination that’s all it takes. Him acting like a superhero of sorts to come save the day for all. Or at the very least, him acting like a super, secret, spy-ninja who can get rid of racism and the bad guys all in one night.

How I wish this were one of those times his imagination’s amazing ideas worked. And it were all just that simple.

That a 10-year old boy’s dreams and ideas could come true and some of this pain and confusion could be erased with good and innocence.

If nothing else, may the world know if there must be sides to take, my son has signed us up to be on Trayvon’s and people ‘like’ Trayvon’s. That means those of color and those who do not ‘blend’ in ‘our’ neighborhood.

Jack has decided we don’t blend. And I’m glad. I don’t want to blend if it means we are anything like the Zimmermans of the world. We’ll happily be just like Trayvon in spirit.

Forever.

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble… oh Yes TROUBLE

We hit a bit of a milestone today.

I had a car filled with 8-year old girls singing their hearts out to Taylor Swift, with my daughter leading the pack.

I couldn’t exactly catch the ear piercing chorus, but this will give you an idea:

…and she couldn’t have been happier.

Giggles, singing about boys being Trouble, begging me to stay in the car just a few more minutes after we had parked because the new Selena Gomez song had come on and ‘Mom, we just have to sing this one too…’

…and I pretended to look at my phone all while grinning and crying on the inside at my baby girl growing up right before my eyes. Unafraid to share her fun in front of her Mom and even thanking me later for being so ‘cool.’

Is this really happening? Is she really old enough to be signing with her friends at the top of her lungs about boys?

…and to top it off as we picked up her older brother at his classroom door he clearly had an admirer there walking him out.

This cool mom isn’t ready for any of this.

Trouble indeed.

The Praying Atheist Child

My son prayed once. It was five years ago and he feels terrible about it. So terrible he had to break down and confess to me last night about this horrible transgression:

4 hours of walking the lake for #relayforlife then a 2 hour bounce wharehouse bday party

I was five Mom. And I wanted Bolt to be real so bad. And I didn’t know what to do. So I got down on my knees and I did that thing they do with their hands so it’s like a triangle, but not really a triangle, but you know what I mean…and I said ‘Please God let Bolt be real and come to my house.’

And I feel so stupid. And I thought I had to tell you because it’s been bothering me all this time that I did it.

I had to hold in the giggle and take him very seriously.

Honey, sometimes I say prayers in my head that I learned when I was a kid just because I think I might as well do anything that could help. I doesn’t hurt. Even if we don’t believe in God.

And he turned and looked at me, ever wide-eyed, like I had told him my innermost secret.

But Mom, that’s so dumb. I’m sorry I said ‘dumb’ but it is. We know there is probably no God. And if there is a God it’s certainly not going to make a cartoon come alive or give you what you asked for- so praying is stupid.

I took a deep breath and tried to explain.

No, prayers may not change the outcome of something. But they might make you feel better. It’s like meditating. Or breathing deeply to calm yourself. Sometimes saying things over and over can calm you and then you feel better about the situation you are praying about.

A light bulb went off.

Oh, so really they are just making themselves feel better when they pray, even though they know there isn’t a God who will answer them. I get it. I just don’t understand talking to something that doesn’t exist. Don’t they put people on medicines and in the hospital for that?

I stifled the giggles again.

Yes, they do. But for some reason our society thinks it’s normal and acceptable to believe in God. So they don’t think believing in God requires medicine or a stay in the hospital.

Well that’s dumb. Oh, I said ‘dumb’ again, I’m sorry Mom.

It’s ok honey. And it’s ok if you want to pray.

No! I only did it that ONE TIME because I was little and I wanted Bolt to come live with us. And I know there isn’t a God who is listening and even if aliens or something else is listening, they don’t care if we want Bolt to come alive and they should care about those people in Oklahoma but they didn’t care about them either. So that just means there is REALLY no one listening that can help us.

What do you think about that? Us being alone in the universe?

I think we have to help each other if we really want to get stuff done. Not pray. I mean I guess it’s ok if it makes you feel better, but you should do something for real too, not just talk to yourself and think something magical might happen. Because it won’t. You need to give them shoes and new houses. And you need to not be on your knees, because that is dumb. Oh, I did it again. I’m sorry Mom.