Visible Voices Vote

My Better Half shared this article with me on November 6, 2018 (Election Day), and I want to pass it along to others while trying to touch on some of the issues and resources in this article.

I really appreciate the idea and process of supporting all persons with making informed choices and to do so in a way that respects their autonomy as humans and their rights as citizens.

The idea of a social story and anticipatory guidance feels so smart and kind for most adults who are voting for the first time. I think many young adults could benefit from this resource and, as such, I consider it a gift from this mother to have created it for her son and share it.

As I read and re-read the resources in this article, I delved deeper into the Bazelon Center site.

It’s eye-opening and mind-blowing how variable and fraught with ambiguity the law seems to be on the matter of whether individuals with disabilities and mental health concerns can vote. It reminds me, in many ways, of the bar we set before people wishing to become a US citizen.

More specifically, my work often involves talking with families about the topic of guardianship for their children as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. This article gave me cause for pause and added to my understanding about how guardianship determinations could impact a person’s ability to vote later in life or in another state if they so choose to move.

In closing, I would like to encourage folks to share this Know Your Rights resource on voting.

Rethinking Halloween

Halloween as a holiday encompasses a range of traditions, and I think that it’s unique in so far as both children and adults seem to derive a great deal of joy from the traditions around it.

I also think Halloween is special because it creates an opportunity for inclusion by celebrating different cultures and spiritual beliefs in a way that is inviting and fun for people of all ages.

Inclusion

In thinking about how to make Halloween inclusive for people with different language abilities and sensory sensitivities, here are some ideas I’ve come across from talking to other families:

  1. Choose a Sensory Friendly Costume - Tags and hems bother a lot of people, and most costumes are not really designed to be one size fits all. Why not pajamas instead?

  2. Use a Social Story for Trick-or-Treating - I gotta be honest: the whole concept of trick-or-treating is weird when you really break it down. While dressed up as something else, we run up to stranger’s front doors and say a random phrase expecting to receive candy from people we’ve never met before. For real? One of my all time favorite stories comes from working with a particular friend of mine (I can’t believe it, but it was likely 7 or 8 years ago) who quite literally barged into everyone’s house for the first few houses he visited.

  3. Keep Safety in Mind - The big thing I try to keep in mind is visibility and proximity when walking by houses or areas with more car traffic. I think the tricky thing to balance is when to allow children/adolescents to venture out with more distance and independence.

  4. Be Nice to People - While this may seem obvious, I no longer take it for granted or consider it common sense. Here is a post I found shared on my Facebook feed that I think sums up a gentle and accepting approach to greeting trick-or-treaters at your door.

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Tradition!

The best part of Halloween for me is looking forward to doing the same activities each year. Sharing these traditions with friends and seeing our kids look forward to them year after year really gets me into the spirit.

  1. We wear family costumes (see below). I originally detested this idea, but it’s started to really grow on me to the point that I really look forward to it. I wonder how many more years we have left in the tank where the kids will go along with our version of crazy.

  2. Gotta watch the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin

  3. Decorate the house with Spider Lights and now the outside with orange/purple lights.

  4. Visit Powers Farm Market to check out the hayrides and baller Tepees. Seriously.

  5. Celebrate our middle child’s birthday! (pretty much the reason-for-the-season).

"The Shitty Stop Saloon"

Most guys talk about a man cave as a place to escape and relax while watching sports. When you have two children in diapers at the same time, you manage to get creative about what constitutes a man cave. And then a third one comes along, and your remember the joy of it.

In the unfinished basement of an 86 year old house, there’s a high efficiency washing machine with my name on it (figuratively, of course). There’s two or three sacks of “used” cloth diapers gathered about this marvel of modern technology and gloves reminiscent of Breaking Bad.

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On Wednesday and Sunday nights, I trod down the steps to tackle all manner of excrement from cloth diapers and two twin cat litter pans beneath our wooden stairs. Before I started, I'd pop open a beer, plug my iPhone into a stereo I saved and retro-fitted from my middle school years (yep, old), and set it to play what My Better Half lovingly refers to as “my old fart music” (she’s right). I throw three days worth of cloth diapers in the basin and get down to scrubbing.

So here at the Shitty Stop Saloon, I take 30 minutes of musical silence twice a week and find comfort in the ritual of dirty work that remains a part of staying committed to cloth diapering.

After four years of this lovely routine, two children potty trained, we decided to do it again (and by “we,” I mean My Better Half). Our third child arrived in May of 2017, and I’ve started to realize how much I love the ritual of cleaning as way to care for and think of our children. It’s odd in the smelliest sense (pun intended!) to appreciate the value of an awful task, but it helps me absorb the awful with greater appreciation for how important each job/role is in our life.

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Now in an even older house, we purchased a high efficiency laundry machines (this time the largest size they have for residential homes) as a Christmas present to ourselves and set to the work of making “The Shitty Stop Saloon Part Deuce” (get it? poop - #2).

Much like the first, I have the same stereo, plastic gloves (new gloves every month but same old style), and stacks of the same diapers that have covered the butts of all three of our children. However, technology and time have afforded us some upgrades like a curated play list, windows to the outside to air out the funk, and a steam setting that really blasts out the ick. In honor of the new space, my Better Half and two big kids made a sign to decorate the cave.

You’ll find me here every Wednesday and Sunday night cleaning the diapers for their next wear. Hopefully I only have one more year of this before potty training. Here’s hoping (not predicting) a less smelly future.

 Full name added online only. We couldn’t bring ourselves to write expletives over the kids’ art. Parent-life.

Full name added online only. We couldn’t bring ourselves to write expletives over the kids’ art. Parent-life.

Get Your Sleep On

Above all else, they must sleep. They have to sleep. The theories for why we need to sleep are varied, but they all converge on the brutal necessity that we need consistent sleep routines.

According to the Gospel written by St. Matthew, Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness before being tempted by the devil. But lo, nowhere does it say that Christ went without sleep during these forty days. So then, even God in the Incarnate Form seems to have needed sleep.

 The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, 1897, on display at MoMA

The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, 1897, on display at MoMA

There is a lot of controversy and debate about how to help babies sleep, so I will steer clear of this topic and direct folks to consider this resource for infant sleep guidance and references.

The things I would be willing to do to help my children sleep are too endless to count. Sleep is so incredibly important and necessary for adaptive daily functioning that I often do everything I can in my personal and professional life to steer others toward the best possible sleep time.

I want to share with you a blog I stumbled upon a few months ago that does a fantastic job synthesizing and distilling the clinical research related to the importance of sleep routines. This website by Craig Canapari, MD from Yale is a quick, personable, and approachable read.

I appreciate his website for a variety of reasons, but here are the main ones:

  • He's able to take and integrate multiple perspectives in his writing and recommendations.

  • It's pretty transparent that he is open to diverse parenting-styles and family dynamics.

  • He writes with an eye for the research and ear for what parents might use in their homes.

I loved his post on harnessing sleep rhythms for better sleep routines.

I also strongly recommend this post as we creep up on daylight saving time (November 4).

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Some quick thought nuggets regarding sleep for children and adults alike:

  • Knowing thyself and your daily rhythms. Do you know when you generally become most tired or drowsy? Do you know the same for your child? Track it!

  • Viewing technology prior to sleep onset is prohibitive for a variety of reasons. I strongly encourage families, if and where they can, to set clear limits on when technology goes away for the evening and where this technology is stored/kept safe over night.

  • Finding a routine that works for you/your kids is key. Rather than trying to make your family or child conform to other people's presentation of their own perfection, look for what works for you and your family and then find a way to stick to it most of the time. Consistency is the critical part.

If it were not already obvious, I am pretty passionate about this topic. One of my first blog posts provided advice and tips about "Bedtime Routines". The following post was "Product Review: Teach Me Time Clock," which we use in our house to help manage our children's nightly slumber times [Bonus: the price has come down since we first purchased it in 2014]. As I shared in my last post “Third Time’s The Charm” our youngest has needed our help throughout his whole life (all 17 months and counting) to achieve consistent, sleep-through-the-night sleep. I use these resources and suggestions in my personal life every evening, along with a prayer for a good night’s sleep.  

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Third Time's the Charm

What counts as luck depends on what you're looking for…

My Better Half gave birth to our third child in May of 2017, so he's coming up on a year and a half on this earth as we roll through fall. He's about as close to perfectly adorable as one baby could ever be. He's generally happy and adored by his siblings; he loves social gatherings and being held by lots of friends. He goes by a lot of different nicknames based on his behaviors.

But he loves to wake up more often than our previous children and has less variety in his diet. He has not hit his speech and motor milestones at the same time and rate as our first two kids. So in many ways, our third child has held the mirror up to my face when it comes to my work. 

I work with a lot of people who work hard at improving their sleep or that of their loved ones.

I work with a lot of people who work hard at increasing the types of foods their loved ones eat.

I dispense a lot of advice and guidance around eating and sleep routines in my work, and the process of parenting our third child has been quite humbling and eye-opening. Put simply:

Sometimes the evidence does not work so well.

I have read (and re-read) the literature on sleep hygiene, and we consulted with our providers to put in place a well-organized evidence-based approach to increasing the variety in his diet.

And still every day feels the same.

This is all not to say to heck with science/medicine and to go rouge on reality because of it. But this is me acknowledging as a human who happens to be a psychologist that sometimes the ideas and the plans that derive from the scientific method don't apply equally well to all.

That is a sobering thought to hold. 

Our third child has given me a different type of appreciation for those who face these issues and deepened my empathy (and my resolve) for how stressful, challenging, and rewarding these things can be.

When I became a parent, I did not know that love could come in so many forms. The way I feel and I respond to each of our children is so different and implicit it defies the words I have here.

Our youngest is his own unique person - challenges, successes, personality, and all. The big kids often call him “Boss Baby” because he has a huge head on a small frame. And, because he wants what he wants when he wants it and he lets us all know it. So as luck would have it, his smile and his laughter are so infectious that our joy clearly continues to outweigh our work.

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