Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our Search for the Best Place

It looks as though we may not be moving to Louisianan after all. I won’t lie- I don’t think I would have liked it there much. If we really get to stay here, this means that in a little over a year, A will be retiring from the Army and we will be FREE!!! We can move wherever we want to, for as long as we want to, and do whatever we want to (within the limits of the law, obviously…)
And so, I have been spending many hours thinking about where we could possibly move in 2012. A place that we can call our home, in which our children will grow up and hopefully be happy. The “problem” we have is that we have no restrictions. The world is open to us- we can live pretty much wherever we want.
I have been asking everyone around for their best place to live. Some pick the town they are living in, some pick exotic places with white sandy beaches. Honestly, most people have completely different ideas as to what their perfect place would look like. From the rainy Seattle, to the island paradise of Bora-Bora, all the way to the other end of the world in New Zealand, people have told me that they love it.
What is it that my family is looking for? Well, we’re not easy to please. Climate is a factor. Not too hot (South Carolina is definitely not for me…), but not too cold. Not too much rain, but not too dry. Maybe lots of sunshine? Then there is the political factor. I have to live in a place in which I feel comfortable with the political climate (again, SC does not qualify) There is definitely the social factor. Though we don’t have to worry about health care for our family ever again, it is important to us to be in a place in which there is good quality care available for everyone. And a good sense of security. Where we wouldn’t have to be afraid of starving if we lost our jobs. Then there is education. If we can avoid it, we would rather not have to pay for our children’s schooling and/or college. Lastly, it has to be somewhere with a certain financial stability. We will have to be able to find and keep work.
Overall, we want to feel safe and happy in our environment. If we can help it, we don’t want to have to work ourselves to death. We would much rather have lots of time to spend with our family than be rolling in money.
You’re probably wondering where this place is. Unfortunately, we are still not quite sure ourselves. We have some favorites, though: Denver, CO, with its fantastic weather and affordable cost of living; NYC, with, well, EVERYTHING imaginable- except nice weather; and Germany, with its wonderful security that would enable us to breathe a little easier.
Want to help us out? Tell me what your top pick would be for the best place to live!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Going to the Races

I was considering naming this post ‘The Most Boring Day of My Life’. Just so you know where this is going…
So, the first time I was ever in the US was in July of 2000 with my then fiancĂ©. For the purposes of this story, let’s call him Jed. (By the way, I married this man and also divorced him, but that is a whole different story…) Jed was from a small town in Indiana. It was a big culture shock for me, but overall I enjoyed my time there.
One day, Jed’s father, who was also the sheriff of the county we were staying in (random fact), asked me if I would like to go to ‘the races’ with them. I was excited and told him I would be happy to go! Unfortunately, I was under the impression that we were going to go to a horse race, when the sheriff had actually meant a car race. I caught onto this fact when I realized that I was the only female going- none of Jed’s sisters, not even the sheriff’s wife, wanted to come with us. I asked them why and was told that they didn’t much care for car races. Neither did I, but Jed’s father was so excited about me wanting to come that I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d changed my mind.
I was fairly optimistic on our hour long drive to the race track, picturing something like the Formula One races. When we arrived, I quickly realized that my assumptions had yet again been a little off. It was a rather small dirt track with some seats around it, very simple. Although I was less than enthusiastic, I sat down and tried to see the positive. There were lots of interesting people there- some with teeth, some without. Despite the fact that the cars were producing a deafening volume of noise, some ladies (I am using this term loosely) decided to bring their young infants to the race track.
I spent the first race with my mouth wide open, taking in all the different people, smells, and sounds. I ate the first corn dog of my life, which I thought was delicious. I marveled at the variety of mullets and the fact that, even though they had gone out of style at least a decade earlier, they matched the ladies’ perms and bleached hair rather well.
After about two hours of this amusement- it was around 8pm or so- the cars stopped racing around and I was ready to pack up and leave, mentally patting myself on the back for being such a good sport and not getting too bored. I bravely inquired after our ETD, expecting to be sitting in the comfortable car within the hour. Nothing could have prepared me for the answer I was about to receive. Apparently, the racing we had witnessed had not even been the qualifying rounds, but only the warm ups. I was informed that we had around six more hours (6!!!!!!!!!!!) of racing fun ahead of us.
My heart sank. I tried to keep myself entertained, but not even the fact that we were sitting in a potentially deadly spot- a man sitting next to us had kindly informed me that someone had died in our general seating area just a few races ago after being hit by a flying tire- was able to retain my attention. I went to the bathroom A LOT. I also chatted with concessionaires. I ate a lot of corn dogs and drank a variety of sodas. It was truthfully the dullest, most monotonous activity I have ever taken part in.
Finally, around 1:30 am, it was time to leave. The funny thing is that the sheriff didn’t want to bother staying until the end of the main race because he wanted to beat traffic, so I didn’t even get to see the big finale. That was fine by me, though. I don’t think I have ever been quite as glad to get back into a car as at that moment.
So, from then on, I never agreed to come to anything that I was not 100% sure of again. Ladies, if you are invited to the races and you do not find watching cars drive around in a circle for eight hours entertaining, just say no! Unless you really like mullets…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: My Baby's Piggies

Bye-Bye Paci!

My daughter always had a very strong urge to suck. When she was around four weeks old, we decided to introduce a pacifier for various reasons. R had some reflux and sucking on the pacifier after meals helped keep the milk down a little better. It also helped her to fall asleep. After her reflux had improved and she no longer needed to suck on anything after eating, we only gave her the pacifier for sleeping. Even when we were breastfeeding and co-sleeping, the paci was the one thing she loved to have to help her fall asleep.
R was an awful sleeper. When she finally started sleeping for longer than an hour or two at a time  she was around 15 months old. We were reluctant to change anything in her sleeping environment, terrified that it would bring back the dreaded insomnia. So we let her keep her pacifier. She turned two and we discussed trying to take the paci, but saw no need and let her keep it.
Just recently, R started chewing on her pacifiers in bed. One after another, her beloved pacis had big holes in them and had to be discarded. I thought we were in big trouble- my plan for getting rid of her rubbery friends was to cut holes in the tips in hopes that she wouldn’t like them anymore. Unfortunately, the holes didn’t faze her at all.
I had the idea of letting R throw the pacis away each time they were too chewed up to be used again. She threw them in the trash and seemed to enjoy the task. After naps or in the mornings she would inform us that her paci was broken and needed to be thrown in the trash. Our pacifier supply was dwindling and I felt reluctant to buy more.
So, a few days ago, I decided to put R down for a nap without a pacifier. I didn’t mention it to her and she didn’t even notice, falling asleep within a few minutes. The same evening, my husband tried to put her to bed without the paci. She caught on to the change as soon as she entered the bedroom and seemed upset, so we gave her one to fall asleep with. The next day, she napped without the paci again. That night, we tried bed time without the paci once more. It worked!!! She asked where it was and my husband told her that it was broken and had to be thrown away. She accepted this explanation and fell asleep all on her own. She slept a little more uneasily, but overall the night was a success.
Now, at 28 months, we are free of the pacifier! Never again will we regret not taking it with us somewhere. Nor will my daughter wake up in the middle of the night because it fell on the floor and she wants it back. My son has never shown any interest in a paci, so our household is completely emptied of pacifiers. As all milestones are, this is somehow bittersweet. While I will not miss the pacis, I will miss my baby girl who loved them so much. She’s growing up so fast…

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Putting an End to Torture in the Judge Rotenberg Center

What if I told you that there was a place in the United States where children and adults were subjected to punishments for bad behavior, including but not limited to electronic skin shocks? Would you believe me? What if I went further and told you that these ‘patients’ were receiving this treatment with the consent of their parents or guardians AND the permission of a court? Would your first thought be that that could not possibly be happening here and now?
It sounds like something the torturous Dr. Mengele would have thought of as a new ‘treatment’ to try on his patients in Auschwitz. Unfortunately, it is happening at a very real place here in the US called the Judge Rotenberg Center. It is located in Canton, Massachusetts and calls itself a ‘special needs school’. In this ‘school’, children and adults who fall into the center's description of “emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors” (Quote taken from are educated and ‘treated’ for their problems.
The students are under video surveillance 24 hours a day, even in the shower or when using the bathroom. They are submitted to an aversion/ rewards behavioral modification program which is designed to counteract unwanted behavior, such as aggression, or even trivialities such as yelling. For the most reluctant students, the aversion therapy includes things such as movement limitation, withholding of food, seclusion, and- brace yourselves- electronic skin shocks.
When I first heard about the center a few days ago, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was truly taken aback and disturbed, not really believing that this could be true. I began researching the center, but their website was not working. Today, it is up and running. Every single claim I have read in the media is true! At this place of horrors, children walk around with electrodes on their bodies and a box that can administer an electric shock strapped around their waists. The employees of the center have a little remote for each of these students and- at the push of a button- can send an electric shock through the child’s body.
How is this possible? As I am writing this, the tears are welling up in my eyes. Electric shocks are considered a form of torture and cannot legally be administered to anyone under normal circumstances. Yet, this center, which used to be known as the Behavior Research Institute, has found a way to legally torture disabled human beings. They searched for the most desperate group of people- the parents of mentally disabled and autistic children and adults- and convinced them that their methods could help their children.
After discovering what goes on at this center, the UN contacted the US government in 2010, urging them to stop the madness. The methods the center uses are not accepted anywhere in the scientific community. Yet, the torture continues.
Parents and employees of the center point to their treatment success in some of the students, claiming that their methods work. First of all, I do not believe that the methods truly do work. They probably install so much fear in the children and adults that their behavior is temporarily modified. However, that does not in any way mean that they have been 'cured'. Secondly, it is torture. There can never, under any circumstances, be any justification of torture. Especially not when there are children involved. And in no case when the people suffering are unable to speak out for themselves because they are handicapped.
These people need our protection! We must put an end to this place now!!! Throughout the years, the center has come under attack from different sources. Yet somehow, it is still running. The founder Dr. Matthew Israel was forced to retire in May of this year after being charged in connection with the abuse of several students enrolled in his center in 2007. Still, the center is open for business and enrolling students.
If you are doubting my accounts of this place, please just take a minute to Google it. Or go to their website and click on the second headline ‘Photographs submitted to the Guardian by Rick Friedman’ Or read the report ‘Observations and Findings of Out-of-State Program Visitation Judge Rotenberg Educational Center’.
Personally, I wasn’t able to use a shock collar on the dog we were trying to train. Even after the reassurance of the trainer we were working with, my husband and I felt as though we were breaking our dog’s spirit. In no way would I ever subject another human being to such methods.
Please, take a minute to email your senator. To find their contact info, please click here. Tell them that such methods of torture are not acceptable, especially when children and handicapped people are concerned. Sign the online petition. We must help these people- they have nobody else to speak up for them. Make your voices heard!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vivien the Alien

I’ve never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I am often the weird one, the one who is different from all the others. Mostly, I don’t mind it so much. It has given me a lot of advantages in life. But sometimes, it makes me feel lonely.
My father is German and my mother is Irish. Our household was completely Irish- we spoke only English at home, watched television in English, never ate German food, celebrated holidays according to Irish traditions, etc. So, to most German kids, I was the foreigner. However, when I went to Ireland, I was also the foreigner. I was something in-between, neither really German nor really Irish. Whatever I was, I didn’t fit in with the usual crowd.
Here in the US, I’m just a straight foreigner. I don’t really belong here and I am reminded of that fact at least once a day. While I have blended in really well and my accent is undetectable to most ears, I am still an alien. Most days, I don’t feel weird when I am driving down the roads that look so different from what I grew up with anymore. But something always seems to come up that reminds me of just how different I actually am.
It’s been the same throughout all areas of my life. During my punk phase I looked different from the masses on purpose, yet I didn’t fit in with the punk scene I was in. For example, it was only acceptable to listen to certain types of music, but I never wanted to restrict myself in that way. I still loved rap music and pop and anything else that sounded good. People made fun of me for it. I wasn’t truly one of them.
Politically, I have been left-wing my entire life. It’s what has always felt right to me. I tried to get more involved in the political scene. I found that most people who shared my beliefs were intolerant of everything else. E.g. you couldn’t be progressive and believe in God. Or you couldn’t be a left-wing feminist, but want to have children and get married. I didn’t fit in and left the scene.
Now, in the mommy scene, I’m the odd one out again. I believe in attachment parenting and we practice it at home, which makes me different from the majority of mothers. However, we don’t follow everything to the extreme. We do what works best for our family in every respect. If it fits in with the AP philosophies, great! If not, that’s fine, too. I don’t belong to the extremely crunchy group of mommies, but I also don’t fit in with the broader mass.
Feeling as though you don’t really fit in anywhere is hard sometimes. On the other hand, I’m not willing to compromise on any points that I truly believe in, be it politically or pertaining to my children. I am different than most of you, but you might as well get used to me- I’m not going anywhere and I am most definitely not changing…

Tuesday, July 5, 2011