Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm on my Soapbox!

Well, today is Princess J's 17 month birthday, and while she's a bit under the weather, I did have some photos to share. Since for some reason which I can't figure out, they won't load, I'll save them for tomorrow.

Today, since I don't have any Princess photos, I wanted to share a letter that was written to the LA Times by California's First Lady Maria Shriver. It is in regards to the movie Tropic Thunder and the protesting that has been going on.

The 'R-word' is no joke
For the intellectually disabled and their families, it's just as bad as the "N"-word.

This has been a year filled with teachable political moments. Racism, sexism, ageism and "change" have been debated at kitchen tables and water coolers across America. But this last week, those gathered around my kitchen table have been consumed with another discussion, one that is not Democratic or Republican -- it's the "R-word" debate.

The "R-word" stands for "retard." For the 6 million to 8 million Americans with intellectual disabilities and their families, this word and its hurtful use is equal to the impact of the "N-word" on an African American.

The reason it's kitchen-table fodder is because of the Dreamworks film "Tropic Thunder," which topped the box-office charts when it opened last weekend and which will attract many more moviegoers this weekend. In the R-rated film, which I've seen, a character named Simple Jack is a caricature of a person with a developmental disability. In one of the scenes, the character played by Robert Downey Jr. chastises Ben Stiller's character for "going full retard," and the "R-word" is repeated many times.

As a journalist, I respect the right to freedom of speech, and my kids will tell you I laugh the loudest when we see a comedy. But as the niece of someone who had a developmental disability, and as a member of the board of directors of Special Olympics International, I know how hurtful the "R-word" is to someone with a disability. I know why "Tropic Thunder's" opening was met by protests on behalf of the intellectually disabled.

Listen to actor Eddie Barbanell, who serves on the Special Olympics board with me, and he will tell you in very emotional terms how the use of that word has made him feel rejected, stupid, demeaned.

Or you can talk to Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne, who speaks on behalf of millions when she describes how the "R-word" has been used to mock and degrade her. She asks all of us to stop using this word without regard to its effect on the hearts and minds of people with disabilities.

There is an old saying: "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me." Even when I chanted it as a child, I never believed it. Words do hurt -- they break people's spirits, they break people's dreams, they break people's hearts.

Kids will see "Tropic Thunder," no matter the rating, and when they leave the theater and go out to their schools, their homes and their communities, they'll call each other the "R-word" because they think it's funny. They'll do it without any idea or regard to how it makes a person with a disability feel.

Too many in the intellectually disabled movement cannot speak out for themselves. It is up to their families and those of us who advocate on their behalf to explain that calling someone by the "R-word" is no longer acceptable and is anything but funny.

It's not acceptable in a movie theater; it's not acceptable on a playground. It's not acceptable that college coaches use it to chastise athletes. It's not OK to use it in a classroom or a boardroom.

"Tropic Thunder" is giving Claiborne, Barbanell and many other individuals and organizations that serve those with special needs -- the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, the Arc, the American Assn. of People with Disabilities, Parent to Parent-USA -- a teachable moment. They are ready to join with the entertainment industry to change minds. Dreamworks' decision to include a public service announcement with DVDs of "Tropic Thunder" is an important first step, but far more needs to be done.

Just as important, parents must talk to kids at our kitchen tables about how we have felt when someone called us stupid, idiotic or lame. Because once we put ourselves in someone else's shoes, certain names just aren't that funny any more.

I often quote the Hopi prayer that tells us not to look outside ourselves for a leader. It tells us that we are the ones we have been waiting for. We can exchange one "R-word" for another: respect. We can teach our children that name-calling hurts.

Let's makes the "R-word" as unacceptable as the "N-word." Think of all we can accomplish if we work together.

It's one thing in this political season that shouldn't require a water-cooler debate.

Maria Shriver is the first lady of California

As the mommy of a child with intellectual disabilities, it hurts my heart to think that kids at his school will be using this word and hurting his feelings. Right now, he's only 3, so he doesn't understand, but someday he will. No matter how many times I tell him I'm proud of him, or what an amazing little boy he is, or how much we love him, it will hurt him. When he is hurt, I will be hurt also. I also dread what kind of an impact these things will have on his sister. I know her heart will hurt when others use these words as well.

Little J has so much unconditional love and joy to offer the world. I hope people will open themselves up to see that and love him back. Little J is the most joyful spirit you will ever meet. Your life and your heart will be touched just knowing him.

I personally have chosen not to support this movie. I may watch it when it goes to DVD, to see their PSA in the beginning. I think there is already enough hurt by the mean things that are said to one another, that we don't need to promote these things in movies. It's time to not only teach our children about using the 'R-word', but also about being kind to one another and having compassion for those who by no fault of their own have all types of disabilities seen and unseen.

*stepping off my soapbox now*

Let's just be nice to eachother, today and everyday......

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is There a 12 Step Program??

For Reality TV junkies?

Here in all it's glory is my list of Reality TV programing. I know my Dad and Stepmom are shaking there heads at me as they read this......I'm sorry I can't help it.

These are listed in no particular order other than what order I thought of them in.

I should add that I don't watch all of these religously or anything. They definately are not all on in the same season either. Most of them are on networks that play them over and over and over and over and over, so you are bound to be able to catch an episode without dedicating any time to it. :D

Million Dollar Listing
Big Brother 10
Date My Ex: Jo and Slade (although I've given up on this one as it is really stupid)
Survivor (New Season Starting soon!)
Amazing Race (New Season Starting soon!)
Top Chef
The Mole
Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
Hell's Kitchen
How Clean is Your House? (I know this is old, but I can't help it!)
Last Restaurant Standing (Hope BBC comes up with a new season!)
Real Housewives (of the OC, of NYC and the new season will be Atlanta)
Tabitha's Salon Takeover
Real World (still)
My Super Sweet 16: Exiled (I was disgusted by the behavior of these girls in the original series setting up their parties, but I LOVE this, where they send these prima donnas to little tribal villages in other countries and make them live in houses made of cow poo!)
The Hills
Platnum Wedding
Dancing With the Stars
American Idol
Flipping Out
The First 48
Americas Most Wanted
Dog the Bounty Hunter
Wife Swap
Baby Borrowers
Last Comic Standing

I'm sure there is more that I'm missing here, but I think that is enough embarassment for now.

Sadly, I will probably also get sucked into the show Paris Hiltons: My New BFF. OY! Seriously, is there rehab for this? I've done the first step, admitting I'm a junkie.

Back to regularly scheduled Little J and Princess J postings soon.... Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big Belly Laughs!

This little girl CRACKS me up! She makes the silliest faces and when she's watching her shows she lets out the biggest belly laughs. It's really infectious, even if you are in another room, you hear those belly laughs and you just can't help but laugh out loud! Don't get me wrong, she's still the biggest drama queen I have ever met in my entire life, but those belly laughs kill me!

She's really on the go these days. Once you put her down and give her freedom, she wants nothing to do with being picked up. She is already on lil' independent mama. She knows what she likes and what she doesn't like and she's not afraid to tell it like it is.....sans words yet.......

Little J is doing really well. We have 13 more days until school starts and I know he's ready to go back. He has learned this summer how to tell us off. While he's got his own little language, that we don't quite understand, the facial expressions are enough to tell us that he is a little irritated at times with us. I need to get a video of a "telling off" session. I know lots of typical 3 year olds have their way of telling off their parents and it's not funny, but when Little J does it, well for's HILARIOUS! I need to capture it on film now, while I still think it's hilarious and can look back at these blog posts and remember....
Today, my MIL recomended Alvin and the Chipmunks for the kids. She thought that Little J would especially love was a hit with Princess J she was glued to it....until we gave her a toy to play with. LOL! Little J liked the singing parts.

Super Frustrated!

This post will be short and sweet and I promise to post something more fun later. I am so frustrated with the order for Little J's activity chair. This has been an ongoing process since October of last year! Ugh!

First, we had to get a prescription which was relatively simple, then we had to pick out the right chair for Little J and thankfully we were able to test this one out at home for a few weeks before we made a choice.

We selected the chair and waited and waited and waited. I was then told we were waiting for word from our insurance company. I called them and they told me they were waiting for additional information from the provider.....all they wanted was the prescribing doctors name and phone number. They had been waiting for this information for 2 weeks! So I gave them that info and waited some more.

Finally, I get a letter telling me they are denying the request, because it's too much of a chair for Little J's needs. We file for arbitration and our doctors, therapists and us write new letters explaining why we are selecting this chair and why it is the best one for Little J's needs. Two weeks later, we get a letter saying they have reviewed our request and will approve it! Yay!

The information goes back to the provider and now we had to wait for our local regional center to approve payment of the 10% not covered by our insurance. About 3 weeks later, we get a call that the payment has been approved and they will send out the approval to the provider ASAP.

The provider get the approval from our local regional center and you think all would be good and they could order the stinkin' chair right? NO! Now they need to get an extension on approval from our insurance company and now we are WAITING AGAIN! Ugh!!!!

Once they get this extension they say they will try and expedite the order, but in general it takes 6 to 8 weeks to get the chair. That will be OCTOBER! OY! A whole year to get medical equipment that our little one really needs to be comfy and safe.

Thankfully, a family that we are friends with who also has a daughter with special needs had a chair that their daughter grew out of, so while it's not the perfect chair for Little J, at least he's safe.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Little Fun, A Few Photos, A Little Help, and A Prayer Request.

So, I've been trying very hard to get new photos of the kiddos, but they have been pretty uncooperative in that department. Hopefully this coming week we can get some good ones. I have an outing planned for the 3 of us for some summer fun, so wish me luck with that! Princess J, is kind of a ham, so I had her out on the lawn playing and she did decide that it might be fun to pose for a couple of photos with the leaf she discovered. She didn't want to let go of that leaf for anything! She ran around with it the whole time we were outside and was pretty irritated when we took it away to go inside. Let's just say the neighbors within a 5 block radius knew she was mad....this girl can SCREAM! LOL!

We've been enjoying the local Farmer's Market lately too! Every Saturday we've been there tasting great fruit and stocking up on fresh fruit, fresh pastries, and fresh flowers! I love having fresh flowers in the house! It's really true that fresh beautiful flowers really do brighten up a day! The vendor there who sells flowers is very friendly and generous with her bouquets. A few weeks ago I had bought a bouquet for our table at Safeway that was $8.99 plus tax. When I got it home, the flowers were beautiful, but the bouquet outside of it's wrapping looked a little meager. The Farmers Market vendor sells her bouquets for between $5 and $10. I generally buy the $7 bouquet, and it really put the Safeway one to shame. Not only is it much fuller, but the colors are extra vibrant. I will try to take a photo of our current bouquet. If you haven't taken the time to visit your local Farmer's Market, it's well worth the time! Not only do you get fresh fruits, veggies and handcrafted items, but you also support local farmers, businesses and your community. Ours also has musical entertainment with different music artists each week Little J really enjoys this! Sometimes, if we go later in the day, I bring a snack for the kids and a Starbucks for me and we sit and enjoy the community, the weather and the music. Watching Little J smile and enjoy the music is tons of fun! Must remember to take my camera and actually take some photos at the next Saturday!

I thought I had our September schedule all planned out. I had signed Princess J up for the fall semester at Little Gym, so once school started for Little J, we would be off to her favorite place. Sadly, I just got a letter today, that the nearest one that we've been going to is closing at the end of next week. Anyone have any recomendations for some Mommy and Me classes for us? Princess J has really loved the gymnastics element of Little Gym. I have really seen her get brave and try new things, and this girl loves to tumble! We're open to almost anything though, I want to find something that is just for her. With Little J's therapies and such, I want to make sure that Princess J has activities that just revolve around her and what she loves to do. I also want to see her explore the world in ways that sometimes we just can't do with Little J.

I have a prayer request too! If you could keep my friend Krista (I'd link you to her blog, but it's private) in your prayers. She and her family are going through a rough time right now and could use a little lifting up in prayer. Hugs to you Krista! We are praying for you and your family right now for comfort and peace with everything going on!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

If you were at PF Chang's this afternoon.....

and you saw a mommy with a little drama queen and a comedian on either side of her trying to feed both of them simultaniously......I'm sorry. I'm sorry my little drama queen was constantly screaming and throwing whatever she could get her hands on onto the floor. Thanks to those patrons behind me who picked up her toy and didn't give me the "get the heck outta here" look, because your kids are hecka buggin' me! I'm sorry my comedian was, well being a comedian. I honestly made every effort to make sure they would not disrupt your eating experience. I brought every toy that they usually love, I brought their favorite snack and didn't just stop because I thought they had too many already, I asked for a spot in the restaurant that was as discreet as possible. I'm sorry you got stuck next to us.

I'm not sorry that I went though! I had a wonderful (yet busy) lunch with my sorority sisters Verna, Annie, Maria and another Sister's mother Sheryl. It was so awesome to catch up with them...because we really don't do it often enough. Thanks to them for putting up with my crazy kiddos today and for embracing them in all their glory! Because, life with them is an adventure that sometimes tires me out, but I sure love the fun memories to laugh about later! Thanks to them for seriously taking an interest in Little J and asking any question! I LOVE THAT! Just spending some time with all of you made my day! :D

Verna took some photos, so when I get some I'll post two were keeping me way to busy to get the camera out.

Oh, the funniest thing little Princess J was wearing her "Diva" shirt and she was defintately in rare form today (I think she's a little outta sorts after her vaccine shots on Monday). She was fussin' up a storm (loud) and as I said earlier throwing whatever she could her her hands on. The minute Verna pulled out her camera, she started posing and smiling! ROFLOL!! Can't wait to see those photos.

Also, I decided to order a rice bowl for the two kids to split. Little J wouldn't eat the rice, he kept picking it out of his mouth he would only tolerate the chicken (he's not a Chinese food fan..takes after his dad). Princess J wanted nothing to do with the chicken she would only eat the rice(she is my daughter!).....grain by grain with her fingers! :D

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

I found this on another blog that I read and just wanted to share:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 Hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes. The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. 'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided, I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and Favorite passions--things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.' If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. So... Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play With your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. 'Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that Really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.' One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. 'I'm glad you asked'. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'