Social Distancing 2020

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Netflix and pink frosting

I’m glad Riley is not off to college this year of coronavirus. I would not like being “quarantined” alone. It’s hard enough not being able to see Mom and Dad or travel to my brother’s. If I couldn’t hang out with Riley, I’d go stir crazy. Even if she’s dancing in her room with the door shut or sitting at the table engrossed in “Bring It,” it’s a comfort knowing she’s here.

And while it’s been weird to spend so much time in the house, we have had fun, too. We’ve been talking about college (her future and my and her dad’s past), laughing at dumb internet memes, learning TikTok dances, reminiscing about her childhood, watching Korean dramas and 80s movies, and putting together her audition videos for the Roar, UNA’s Dance Team. She made it!

Something I haven’t done much that I thought I would is read. I have not been able to concentrate on a page. I managed to finish How to Break Up with Your Phone, but I started it before “confinement.” And, anyway, this is a hard time to be without a phone. It’s our only connection to the world outside our little duplex.

I’ve been working throughout this pandemic–full time the first two weeks, then two days a week the next three weeks, and now back to full time since the governor loosened restrictions on the Stay-at-Home orders. I hope we don’t regret that.

What We’ve Watched
Cinderella and the Four Princes
Crash Landing On You
Memories of Alhambra
Book Club (twice)
Harry Potter 1 & 2
In the Shadows of Motown
Noelle
DJ DNice Club Quarantine Instagram Live
New Kids On the Block Live
Knives Out
Bring It (Riley)
Waiting to Exhale
Romancing the Stone
Tigertail
Say Yes to the Dress (Riley)
Total Divas (Riley)
Parasite
Babyface and Teddy Riley on Instagram Live
NFL Draft
Sound of Music
Footloose (new one–Riley)
Remember the Titans
Back to the Future 1 & 2
Star Wars
Baby Boom
La Bamba
Jimmy O. Yang’s comedy special
Mulan
Brave
Little Mermaid (Riley)
Return to Neverland
The Farewell

What I’ve Downloaded
Ritchie Valens
Dixie Chicks
Babyface hits
Songs from Waiting to Exhale
Teddy Riley hits
House Party-New Kids on the Block
Neill Diamond
Hall & Oates
Songs from Club Quarantine by DNice

What I’ve Bought
Food, and a lot of it
A rug
Flatten the Curve T-shirts to benefit employee assistance fund
House Party shirts to benefit No Kid Hungry
Abide No Hatred shirt to benefit SPLC
Contacts with Transitions coating
$28 prescription eyeglasses
Two Senior 2020 yard signs (because she missed out on all the fun senior year stuff)
Senior portraits

Sounds of the season

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(Originally published Dec. 12, 2011)

Imagine the sounds of the Christmas season: the ripping of wrapping paper, the squeal of an excited child, jingle bells, the whispers to Santa, and your favorite Christmas carol.

Now imagine the holidays without those sounds. That’s how it was for Riley until she turned 2. With the help of cochlear implants and years of auditory-verbal therapy, she is able to enjoy all the sounds of the season just like any kid with typical hearing, including me yelling, “Riley! Stop shaking your presents!”

One of Riley’s favorite Christmas sounds is a DVD by The Wiggles. The kiddie band was one of the first things she heard after her implants were activated. “Mama, I don’t care how old I get, ” she says, “I’ll always love The Wiggles.”  The photo at right shows her gettin’ wiggly during her first holiday to hear. Pretty special, right?

Since then she has sung in numerous school Christmas programs and played three roles in her third-grade-class production of “A Christmas Carol.” Not bad for a girl who, when she was born, couldn’t hear a jet engine if you held her next to it.

When all the noise starts getting to you, stop and think what it’d be like if you couldn’t hear at all. No kids singing “Away in a Manger,” no friends laughing, no voice saying “I love you.” Then be grateful for the sounds. And take some ibuprofen and a nap and get on with your holiday-ing.

Stay focused

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Two weeks into 2018 and life has been busy. Riley started the second semester of her sophomore year, and I’ve spent every extra hour planning a seven-team, 300-dancer showcase. I sent about 200 emails and countless texts while coordinating one of Riley’s dance team’s largest fundraisers. Unfortunately, a wintry weather forecast forced its cancellation. Maybe we can come up with another fundraiser before our Nationals trip at the end of February to help offset travel costs.

Last post I talked about focusing on the word CREATE. This post I want to talk about my need to STAY FOCUSED. If I cannot stay focused on where I want to go and what I want to do and be, then creating will be out of the question. I’ll just sit around on Twitter or Facebook all night after work and get nothing accomplished. Speaking of Twitter, here’s my plan to STAY FOCUSED on my creations:

  • Less Twitter – More books
  • Less sitting – More moving
  • Less outrage – More action
  • Less outrage – More peace
  • Less multitasking – More finishing

Twitter is anxiety-inducing so I’ve cut back. I don’t need to check an app to know the president has done something to make a mockery of our country and our democracy. That’s an everyday thing now. And my books are still waiting for me, their jackets getting dusty.

In addition to “Good Booty” and my other music books, I also want to read “America’s Original Sin” about slavery and its effects today and my books on writing like “Writing Is My Drink” and “Writer With a Day Job.”

Another goal is to get physical. I spend 8-10 hours at a desk at my day job and it is terrible for my body, both inner workings and outer shell. I’ve done a few squats and pushups the last couple of days – it may not be much, but I have to start somewhere. I’m trying to make it a point to stand more at work, too, even if just for 5 minutes at a time.

Next on the list is less outrage, more action. That means not clogging up social media with anger and disbelief at what is happening in the world, but doing something to make the world better. Whether it’s helping a family navigate a hearing loss diagnosis or donating to a progressive political candidate or calling a friend or writing an article or biting my tongue when I really want to lash out at someone. Doing something will give me more peace than just being mad online.

And, finally, less multitasking, more finishing. I’ve found that when I have too many pots on the stove, something gets burned. Usually me. I’m more productive when I focus on only one or two projects at a time. Any more and I get overwhelmed and procrastinate.

Oh, and one other thing: Roll Tide! What an incredible season and comeback to win the National Championship! Because ESPN’s streaming of live events is terrible, Riley and I listened to Eli Gold on the radio. Listening to a game is a very different experience. You really have to … STAY FOCUSED!

The smell of puberty

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Ah, take a deep breath. Do you smell that? It’s the smell of puberty. And it makes parents of tweens everywhere ask three important questions before the kids head out the door each day.

“Did you put on deodorant?”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Are you wearing clean underwear?”

One day our kids are toddling around in footed pajamas smelling like baby powder, and the next they’re stomping around in week-old socks smelling like, well, week-old socks. A change has come … and many times they’re oblivious.

Here’s the rest of the article, pasted here since the magazine where it was originally printed took down all its previous links.

“I just had a battle with a certain 12-year-old girl,” Amy Vanwestervelt, mom to three, said. “She was ready to head out to school in the shirt she was wearing the day before (that she also decided to sleep in), hair not brushed, and hadn’t brushed her teeth. She was ticked off that I made her change, brush and pull her hair back and brush her teeth.”

Give them the lowdown
Getting kids to pay attention to hygiene is an ongoing battle. My daughter loves to look cute for school – she’ll put together a pretty outfit and take time to put her hair in an actual bun. But brushing her teeth? It’s like I’ve asked her to deep clean the toilet with a toothbrush! And she has braces, so not brushing can lead to double trouble.

Short of constantly checking behind their ears and standing at the sink with a timer, what can frustrated parents do to get our children to take care of their bodies?

Jennifer Sheehy-Knight, Ph.D, psychologist at Children’s of Alabama, said education is key. “One of the things I often recommend is to pick up a book about what’s happening with their bodies and start reading it with them when you start seeing the first signs of puberty, usually around the ages of 9 or 10. This introduction will help with later discussions and you can use it as a reference.”

A few clues it’s starting: oilier skin, a growth spurt, growth of body hair, breast development in girls, and a change in voice for boys. If you’ve noticed a couple of these, welcome to puberty!

Kids this age are already anxious about starting middle school, the new boy-girl dynamic, and changes they feel in their bodies, so the last thing parents want to do is make it worse by telling them they stink.

“Talk about the changes in terms of puberty and development and that as a result their sweat is changing,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “Hormones change in each stage from childhood to teenage years to adulthood and everyone goes through it. Along with that development comes body odor – it’s a natural part of growing up. But that odor also signals that it’s time to get serious about how you take care of your body.”

Getting social
Additionally, puberty and its symptoms can also affect children socially. Who hasn’t been turned off by a friend’s bad breath or sweaty feet? Let’s face it, sometimes, even though we know it’s not nice, it’s hard to be around a person who stinks.

“Often kids cannot accurately smell their own odor,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said, “It’s important to use good hygiene, even if you think you’re OK, in order to avoid negative comments. Kids this age have to be more thorough. They can’t just give it the ‘once-over.’ Emphasize that it can impact them socially and help them understand that people will shy away. This might help them strive toward better hygiene.”

To do: Loosen the reins
This age group requires us parents to balance their autonomy with our authority. Explain the expectations then let them try to fulfill them. “They’re no longer children, but they’re not yet mature, so you still have to watch and monitor,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “As they’re making this transition, they are working toward more independence. However, they’ll also be forgetful, so a checklist might be a good idea.”

We all have to-do lists, at work, at home, on weekends. “You can help them create one for the morning routine and one for bedtime,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “This will allow them to take more responsibility and develop good habits.”

A checklist can work in tandem with a rewards system. For instance, set a showering goal of four days a week and when they reach it, they get extra video game time. Just make sure the incentive is something that will motivate them. It can be as simple as giving them a choice.

“A couple of things I do is buy a bazillion kinds of deodorant,” Heather Smith Davis said. “The girls can use any kind they want as long as they use it. And showers are on our chore list. Feed dogs, water dogs, sweep kitchen and hallway, take shower. They don’t get allowance if they don’t take a shower. And we have a gazillion soaps in there. Use whatever kind you want as long as it’s used.”

Orthodontist Britt Reagin, DMD, MS, said getting kids to take ownership is crucial to good hygiene, especially when they have braces. “We educate the child with an instructional video on how to take care of their teeth and what will happen if they don’t,” said Reagin, who completed his residency at UAB and now practices in South Carolina. Then he has them sign a contract, making them responsible for their teeth. “Most kids have never signed a contract, so it is a big deal to them. We also have in-office contests for kids who maintain regular hygiene visits with their dentist, and we grade hygiene at each visit. Much like homework, ultimately, it is home life and parents that determine good hygiene.”

Of course, parents still need to check that the kids taking care of business. Are they walking out the door with stained jeans or unbrushed hair? Are there more than two pairs of underwear in the laundry basket? Is the toothpaste tube still full? We can use our powers of observation to find out, no nagging required.

Light at the end of the tunnel
While we might think this battle over body will never end, hope abounds. Many parents report that one day their kids started showering daily or brushing their teeth without being told to, or, miracle of miracles, doing their own laundry! Eventually, they get the importance of good hygiene, as these moms can attest.

“My daughter is 12, and this summer she started showering without prompting and downright being made to,” Heather Hurlock said. “She now showers daily on her own. It has helped tremendously with the maintenance of her hair, and she even likes her hair being ‘cute’ again.”

Apryl Chapman Thomas said, “I battled with my daughter last year, but since she started sixth grade, she’s changed. She wants to blow dry and fix her hair. She loves lotions and spray from Bath and Body Works. I think her changes are not only because of her age and being in middle school, but also because she sees her friends doing the same, too.”

“It all comes down to education and understanding the possible consequences,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “If you’re not cleaning your face regularly, you’ll get pimples. If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get cavities. Once they start keeping up with good hygiene, it will become one less thing they have to worry about when it comes to finding their fit socially.”

And parents can change the out-the-door conversation.

“Great job on that last report card!”

“Nice outfit!”

“I love you!”

Warning: 2012 will bring honesty

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In 2012, honesty is the word here – I’ll be writing about what’s really on my mind. I’m tired of tiptoeing around because of who might be reading. I’m a grown woman, I’m single, and I’m a writer. I’m going to write about grown-up issues, and the joys and challenges of being mama to the best girl in the world. Besides, it’s easier for me to write about it than talk about it.

2012 To Do List
1. Tell the truth on my blog. Otherwise, why bother?

2. Wear these shoes. Often. Red peep-toe heels

3. Do 10 real pushups. Get off my knees and get it done.

4. Get to Dallas in September for Bamapocalypse II – Alabama vs. Michigan – and finally meet my Roll Bama Roll pals who’ve made the past year easier.

5. Run another 5K. Yes, run. A little walking is fine,
but I aim to run most of the 3.1 miles.

CottonRow

Running my first 5K with my brother Michael

6. Return to a writing routine.
I have a book in me. Somewhere. I want to get it out.

7. Learn to embrace that I’m a woman with wants and needs. It’s natural and normal.

8. Read more books. I have stacks by my bed, on my dressers,
on the bookcase, on my desk that I want to finally read this year.DSC09426

9. Go to church more often. I want Riley to grow up
with faith in God like I did.Peace

10. Take control of my money. Learn what’s worth
spending it on and what’s not. Save accordingly.

11. Expect nothing from anyone except myself. And then expect good.Me

Jingle, jingle, jingle

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Imagine the sounds of the Christmas season: the ripping of wrapping paper, the squeal of an excited child, jingle bells, the whispers to Santa, and your favorite Christmas carol.

Now imagine the holidays without those sounds. That’s how it was for Riley until she turned 2. With the help of cochlear implants and years of auditory-verbal therapy, she is able to enjoy all the sounds of the season just like any kid with typical hearing, including me yelling, “Riley! Stop shaking your presents!”

One of Riley’s favorite Christmas sounds is a DVD by The Wiggles. The kiddie band was one of the first things she heard after her implants were activated. “Mama, I don’t care how old I get, ” she says, “I’ll always love The Wiggles.”  The photo at right shows her gettin’ wiggly during her first holiday to hear. Pretty special, right?

Since then she has sung in numerous school Christmas programs and played three roles in her third-grade-class production of “A Christmas Carol.” Not bad for a girl who, when she was born, couldn’t hear a jet engine if you held her next to it.

When all the noise starts getting to you, stop and think what it’d be like if you couldn’t hear at all. No kids singing “Away in a Manger,” no friends laughing, no voice saying “I love you.” Then be grateful for the sounds. And take some ibuprofen and a nap and get on with your holiday-ing.

Tornadoes wipe out part of my community

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I found this receipt from Hackleburg, 115 miles away, on our sidewalk the day after the storm.

After 5 days without power, I’m finally charging my computer and blogging about what has happened in my community and the state. And I’m asking for your help.

Tornadoes ripped across Alabama on Wednesday, from Tuscaloosa to Huntsville. While Tuscaloosa is getting most of the attention, it’s not the only place affected.

Several small towns were obliterated. Towns where I played softball, towns that I drove through on my way to Brewer State Junior College, towns whose schools I covered during my time as a sportswriter.

Communities gone. Thousands of people are left with nothing.

Part of the damage in the Lawrence County community of Mount Hope. Photo by Matt McKean/Decatur Daily

Mount Hope.
Hackleburg.
Phil Campbell.
Carter’s Gin.
Harvest.

All these places need help. So fire up your phone and text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to tornado relief here in my beloved Alabama. Or visit Red Cross to give online.

You can also donate blood; it’s a lifesaver that’s always needed.

If you live near any of these places, see what they need … bottled water, clothing, diapers, feminine products, food, tarps … and donate some goods.

Or you can sign up online to volunteer in the cleanup.

The sky just after the storm went through Wednesday night.

My neighbors and I have been sharing food, shelter, hot water (some have gas water heaters and generators), and companionship. Having wonderful neighbors has been a blessing, especially when you’ve got a bored 9-year-old who doesn’t know what it’s like to live without electricity for more than an hour or two.

We still don’t have power at my house, but there is power at work, so I’ll go back tomorrow. Two days without pay is two days too many. Riley will be with my parents until we get power back and school starts back. Ryan is without power and needs to work when he can, too.

Grilled SpaghettiOs for lunch

I am so grateful that my family and my home made it through these devastating storms this week. And I’ll be doing what I can to help my neighbors and community heal and rebuild in the coming weeks and months.

I hope you’ll help, too.

New resource: Hearing Families

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Efrat Schorr, a developmental psychologist, launched the website Hearing Families early this year. Dr. Schorr has first-hand experience with hearing loss. “As a mother of a child with hearing loss, there were so many questions I had about my son’s social and emotional development and I had nowhere to turn. I decided to start this website to share information that is hard to find.”

The site covers everything from newly diagnosed children to understanding teens to supporting siblings of kids with hearing loss. Dr. Schorr welcomes questions and suggestions from parents, too.

Her Top 10 List is packed with gems to remember, especially this one: “YOU are your child’s most persuasive advocates – your child is counting on you.”

Check it out; you might discover something you never knew.

Good progress

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Some good news about Riley and her auditory-verbal therapy … our therapist cut us back to every other week instead of every week! After seven years of weekly sessions (give or take holidays and illnesses), it’s nice that she’s made so much progress that we can go less often.

Her expressive vocabulary is better, her sentences are better and her conversation skills are better. I think a lot has to do with her social life, too. She plays softball and dances and has lots of friends who treat her like a “normal” kid. Her teachers and coaches expect the same out of her as they do other kids. She has accommodations at school, but she’s still expected to do everything.

Riley’s teacher makes her use correct sentence structure even when she knows what Riley is trying to say. I do the same at home. Her coaches often ask her for clarification, too. Everyone is working together to get the best out of Riley, and it’s paying off.

Third-grade math is a bit of a struggle, but she’s catching on. Slowly. This carrying the one and taking away the one and multiplication is tough. She’ll get three or four problems right, then miss one or two. One thing I’ve done to help her is have her tell me how to solve the problem. We go column by column and she tells me what to do and what numbers to write. Then we check our work with the calculator. That works pretty well.

She has two projects to do over fall break: a book report and a multiplication model. She hasn’t picked her book yet, but she’s finished her model using candy to illustrate 2×9=18. That’s my girl! Anything hands-on she loves and will get cracking on it right away. She did the same with her “All About Me” poster at the beginning of school. Finished it the day it was assigned.

She makes my life beautiful.

Show me your hearing

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So I got this email the other day from Jennifer with the Hear the World initiative about a photography contest, sponsored by Phonak, called “Show Us Your Hearing.” The project wants to see you in a “conscious pose of hearing” (hand cupped behind your ear) and aims to raise awareness of hearing loss, which affects 16 percent of the world.

Each year in the United States alone, 12,000 babies are born with hearing loss, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery reports that 1.3 million children under age 3 have a hearing impairment.

Clearly, hearing loss affects every aspect of a child’s life, from academics to developmental to social issues. Most of you know our story: Our daughter, Riley, was diagnosed with profound deafness when she was around 18 months old. We were devastated, but with education and information we made the right decision for our family. Just before she turned 2, she had cochlear implant surgery and now at age 8, she is a bilateral CI user headed to the third grade, an all-star softball player and an incredible dancer.

Some big names in music are part of this initiative including Annie Lennox, Rod Stewart, Common, Billy Idol, Harry Belafonte, Joss Stone, Lenny Kravitz. Singer-songwriter and photographer Bryan Adams captured each ambassador in the “hearing pose,” which “demonstrates the importance of being aware of your hearing at every age.”

Check out the Hear the World photographs—including ones of Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Moby, and Amy Winehouse.

Now the initiative wants you to submit your own photo! Details are below.

Show Us Your Hearing
Photography Competition

WHEN IS THE CONTEST DEADLINE? Monday, July 12th
HOW DO I ENTER? To enter, follow these 5 easy steps:

1. Register: You will receive an email registration confirmation from Hear the World. If you don’t receive an email, please check your Junk Mail folder.

2. Visit: Click the “enter the contest” button, and enter the entry form.

3. Upload a photograph of you, a friend, or family member in the “Conscious Pose of Hearing.” The photo must be high res (300dpi), between 1MB – 3MB.

4. Give your photograph a title and provide a description of up to 100 words describing the importance of being aware of your hearing at every age.

5. Click “Send.” Your Entry will not be officially entered into the Competition unless you click the final Send button and receive a confirmation screen that states that your Entry was accepted.

WHY SHOULD I ENTER?

  • To take a moment to think about your sense of hearing and the sounds you are grateful to hear every day.
  • To support the Hear the World initiative, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of hearing, while also educating the public about the consequences of hearing loss and the available solutions.
  • For a chance to win a Polaroid 300 Instant Camera and for a chance to see your photograph published in the award-winning Hear the World magazine.

WHAT ARE THE JUDGES LOOKING FOR?

  • Most visually appealing–50%
  • Originality–30%
  • 100 word description–10%
  • Self-explanatory–10%

HOW AND WHEN WILL THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER BE DETERMINED?
1. The public will vote on their favorite photo between July 13 – August 3.
2. The top five entries that receive the most votes will be judged by a panel of judges between August 4 – August 10.
3. The grand prize winner will be announced on August 16 on the Hear the World website. Winners will be notified by phone and email.

Disclosure: Riley wore Phonak hearing aids before she received her cochlear implants, but that was in 2003, way before this contest was even a twinkle in the marketing department’s eyes. Heck, before I replied to the email, they didn’t even know I had a child with hearing loss.