How WIC Saved Us

I’m going to keep this short and to the point. 

No ranting. No giving you my opinion of the GOP or politicians in general. I’m not going to be political about this because there really isn’t a point, and there are millions of others out there saturating the Internets with their opinions, anaylysis, anger, bias, and what have you. 

I’m not going to give you politics. Instead I’ll give you something personal and leave you with a plea for tangible, effective action. 

When I separated from the USAF in Nov 2006, I was 7 months pregnant with Brennan, who you know is my oldest, my boy genius. Having been a military cop in service, all of the jobs I had applied to in early 2006 in preparation of my discharge were security or law enforcement related: Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, and positions at various security firms in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia. My plan was to go to college and work full-time, doing bartending and security until I graduated w/a degree in Communications & Journalism.

I had to terminate my applications and job search in June 2006 when I found out I was expecting. I started trying to scramble to come up with a back up plan when Brennan’s father refused to “be a part of something he didn’t agree with” because I refused to get the abortion he wanted. He shut me out completely, as did many members of my squadron, so while I had a few friends remain by my side I was basically alone to fend for myself. Going back home to my mom & stepdad’s in NJ wasn’t an option either. So I scrambled, tried some things that didn’t work out, some smart, some completely stupid (ie an engagement to a complete idiot I shouldn’t have trusted) and upon discharge I was practically homeless, staying with friends but not having anything permanent in place for when I had Brennan.

Finding a job at 7 months pregnant was impossible in the civilian sector. I was too far along. No one was going to hire me only to see me go on maternity leave 2 months later-I was told as much during interview after interview, phone call after phone call. 

After serving 4 1/2 years, I was entitled to unemployment for at least 9 months, but once it was discovered that I was pregnant I was denied because it meant I couldn’t really look for work, which was a requirement. I had to appeal and it took exactly 71 days before the decision was reversed and I was afforded $592/month. My first check came 2 days after I had Brennan- February 24, 2007. I didn’t even have a bank account anymore and had to cash it at a check cashing place.

During those 71 days, those last months of pregnancy, I had no money. NONE. My friends did what they could to help. I also had no prenatal care. My disability and compensation claim with the VA had just been filed and wouldn’t be processed until March of 2008, so I had no way of even getting healthcare services through that system, and at the time, they didn’t cover prenatal care anyway from what I had been told. I applied to medicaid and for other social services, but the application and approval process took nearly 60 days, despite my being in what they considered an “emergency” situation. The only application that processed fairly quickly was my WIC application.  

I had no health care. No money. No job. Barely had a place to stay-a friend’s couch. But I had WIC. My WIC experience had some negatives to it, which I’ll discuss at another time, but I can tell you right now, were it not for WIC I wouldn’t have had anything to eat during those months right before Brennan arrived. 

Thanks to the WIC program I could use vouchers to buy bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cereal, juice, beans, and fruit from the one farmer’s market in Prince George’s county, Maryland that I could take the bus too. (I had a car, but didn’t drive much, because gas=money I didn’t have) 

That was the ONLY food I ate. If I found a dollar in change, which happened I think 2 or 3 times, I splurged and bought a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s off the dollar menu. Twice, a friend took me to grab a bite to eat, but that was it. My WIC vouchers were how I ate the one (small) meal I had every one of those 71 days I waited for an appeal on my unemployment case. Yes, I had ONE meal a day. At 8 and 9 months pregnant. That was it. The fact that Brennan was and is healthy is pretty much a miracle if you ask me. 

WIC is considered “non essential” during a government shutdown, meaning applications aren’t processed, case managers don’t work, families can’t stop by WIC offices to pick up their monthly vouchers for formula, milk, and food. Any breastfeeding support a woman is receiving via her WIC office stops. Families who rely on WIC to help them purchase specialized and expensive formula to feed their infants with health problems? Same thing. Do you know how many school aged children rely on WIC for breakfast? With SNAP benefits being decimated last week, imagine being a parent already struggling to put food on the table and now facing the reality that two very crucial resources you depend on have been gambled away, gutted, halted.

 Whatever your political leanings are I urge and beg you to flood your food banks and organizations that partner with WIC offices with donations of food, baby formula, and baby food. Diapers even. Grocery store gift cards. A monetary donation, which help food banks even more sometimes than donations of physical goods. Whatever you can. Hunger is a real problem in this country and we need to take it more seriously than we do.

Politicians can play their games, claim victories for their childish and stubborn agendas, and we can’t do shit about it but gnash our teeth, word vomit our frustrations, theories, and opinions on social networks, and vote…two years from now. That’s it. This shutdown is out of our hands, our control, and beyond anything that WE the people can tangibly do to fix….BUT we can do what Congress isn’t right now and serve ourselves, serve each other. WE can be for the people and by the people. We CAN do something, have some control in this situation-and that’s by ensuring our neighbor, our coworker’s kid, our elderly, our servicemembers, our disabled, OUR people, are fed. 

We can do that….can’t we? 

WIC saved me and mine during a very horrifying and unsettling time in my life. Help me do for others what it did for me. Donate to an organization or food bank. Please. 

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Secret Mommyhood Confession: I’m Getting Owned by My 2 year Old

You’ve seen it before…

You’re in the mall, at a restaurant, in line at Target,  at the grocery store, shopping or eating in peace when all of a sudden it sounds like an animal is being slaughtered. Ear piecing screams shatter the peaceful atmosphere as everyone stops wherever they’re at to ascertain the location of the disturbance. As the commotion gets louder, your eyes scan the area around you back & forth, you step out of the aisle, perhaps try to peer over at the next register, and then you zero in on a painful sight.

There’s no animal being sacrificed, no demon being exorcised…it’s just some kid going bat s*it crazy on their poor parent. Embarrassed and red in the face, the parent tries to calm their little terror down by employing all the SWAT team & verbal judo tactics they learned in those parenting books. This only seems to fan the flames of the meltdown as the child resorts to more animistic sounds and flailing about on the floor, face purple from the rage boiling over inside of them.

At this point I’ve only ever seen one of two things happen: either the parent scoops up the kid and flees the store while being pummeled by tiny fists of fury, crushed & mortified, OR the meltdown and failed attempts to squash it tip the parent over the edge of their sanity and they resort to either screaming right back at the child, or lowering their voice to just above a whisper and starting to issue threats that range from bodily harm to being left at the store.

I’ve witnessed this countless times. Before I had children, I used to be one of those people who just stare in disapproval, shaking their heads and whispering to the person next to them how THEY would handle the situation. Yea. I’m ashamed to say I was one of those people. The ones who just stare & cast judgement like they’ve got some kind of  f*cking degree in child rearing that you, the one who pushed the little barbarian out, don’t.  “Oh I wouldn’t have that. Nope. My child would know better than to embarrass me like that, shoooooot.” (Insert finger snapping & neck rolling here, if you’d like.) ” I wish they would. I’d snatch them up in a heartbeat! There’s no way I’d let my child get that out of control.”  (Yea, I was pretty stupid before I had kids, but in my defense I was young and childless-my middle name was Naive.)

Once I had Brennan though, my attitude changed of course. It went from thinking I knew how my child wouldn’t act, to asking God to get us in and out of public places without incident. For the most part, God heard my supplications & was merciful. Brennan was the model toddler. No public scream fests, I never had to exorcise any demons at Target, and thankfully, any tantrums he did have were easily subdued.

Then I had Alex. I knew within months he was going to be that kid, and I would become that mom… you know the one trying to desperately talk down a two year old who’s losing their s*it because he ran out of milk in his sippy cup? Yea, I knew that was going to be me.

How did I know, you ask?  Well, there were clues. As an infant, he cried all. the. time. He despised car rides and never let us get through one without unleashing his wrath. The older he’s gotten, the more independent he’s become. I mean fiercely independent. He has to do things his way, and in his time. You can’t feed him. Changing his diaper is a WWE match punctuated with screams. My boy is so picky he’s gone from eating whole Chic-Fil-A nuggets (no other nuggets will do) to only eating the corners of them.  If he’s not happy about something, trust and believe he’s going to vocalize his discontent over it. Change the channel? Tantrum. A commercial comes on? Ear piercing screams. Tell him he has to wait until after dinner for his daily PediaSure hit? You’re getting cussed out in toddler speak. Catch him dancing to the Fresh Beat Band and say “yay! Go Alex!” and he’s prostrate on the floor, hands covering eyes, face distorted in a scowl.  Tell him it’s time to go bye bye and take too long to get to the door? Tasmanian devil-sized meltdown.

Screams. Scowls. Body flailing. Fists of fury. Anger. Aggression. He’s full of all of it, and I’m completely lost as to how to handle any of it. Do I fall out on the floor with him? Discipline him? How? Since he turned 2 in April we’ve been treated to shouts of “NOOOO!!!!!” while either hitting one of us, pushing Brennan, or launching something across the room. Sometimes it’s whatever’s next to him or in his hand, others it’s his actual body.

It was manageable when he was 1. It’s become hell now that he’s 2. His father and I have been trying everything to keep from resorting to how our parents dealt with us…you know, with a back hand. These days, if you were to eavesdrop outside our door, you’re sure to hear lots of “NOOOOOOOOO!” “Do you want timeout?!” “NO! NO! (more toddler gibberish) NO!” I’m buying a special “time out chair” next week. We’ll see how effective it is.

Yep. I’ve become that mom who has that kid. Maybe we’ll just become a family of recluses. Stay inside until he’s 10…or 30. Or maybe we’ll be the family the entire store is staring at as we try to navigate the Terrible Two’s without losing our sanity…or going to jail.

Just do me a favor: If you happen to see me fleeing Target with a screaming, purple-faced Alex, be a friend. Chase after me and tell me it’s going to be okay and he’ll grow out of it eventually. Also? Bring Tequila. Patron if you can swing it.

*Note: Alex is an awesome kid. Full of laughter and rambunctious energy. I love him to death, but I had to vent about this Terrible Two nonsense. It’s testing the limits of my sanity*

**This post is part of All Work & No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something’s Secret Mommyhood Confession link up. You can read the rest of these posts, add your own,  and more by clicking here**

Something Something Button

Why Politics Scare The Crap Out Of Me As A Parent

Confession: I’ve grown to hate political campaigns. I’ve come to despise election year. I loathe the way we do our politics here in the U.S. and what it’s done to our culture.

Why?

Because at a time when candidates are supposed to be putting their best feet forward,and encouraging us to think critically about issues, the whole process seems to bring out the worst in both candidates and their supporters.

Things aren’t just divisive. Nowadays they are downright hostile. People can’t agree to disagree anymore, they instead have to load their rhetoric with hate, fear, and truly disgusting insults.

Prejudices about gender and race are alive and well. I find it saddening that in 2012, 48 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, and the dismantling of segregation and Jim Crow, racism is still a major stumbling block for our society. I find it insulting that women’s rights are still being decided upon by men who think our health and well being isn’t a necessary concern. With social networking and social media making the work a smaller place in terms of communication, it has also paved the way for us to see in black and white what people really think about each other, classes of people, basic human rights, and other key issues….I wish I could say this is a good thing.

I’ve watched and read the thoughts of our society on news sites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter streams, and what I’ve read has made me fear for the world my two sons will grow up in, especially since they are African American and Latino males. I worry about how they will adjust and assimilate into a culture that appears to hate them….I wonder how they will fare in a culture that speaks so much negativity and seems to be hell bent on restricting their potential and progress just because they aren’t part of the 1%.

As a Christian parent I’m wondering how to teach them to love others in such an environment, especially when Christian culture is just as hateful in our response to those who are “different.”

I wish the climate of our culture didn’t make me so uneasy and fearful, but it at least pushes me to try and raise my boys to be the most loving and responsible people they can be. It urges me to do my best to instill solid values into them and validate who they are. It also pushes me to be a better example for them when it comes to respecting, loving, and treating others they way I want us to be treated.

Do you get worried a out the world your kids will grow up in? How do you channel those fears into constructive parenting and life lessons?

Wordless Wednesday: Brothers

My heart….

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…they help make this journey worthwhile.

The Unspoken Prayer of Mother(Parent)Hood

God,

In all your wondrous, majestic splendor and creative power, I can’t tell you how grateful I am this morning for the gifts that you bestow upon us.

You give unto us one of the most miraculous, precious, and loving gifts only You could give:

You give us children.

Lively, sweet, courageous little beings who inspire us to do better and remind us of what’s important in life…..

Little beings who are giggling, silly, hilariously entertaining one minute…..

and then loud, screaming, meltdown-inducing, bewilderingly difficult little terrors the next.

And that is why, O God, I am most grateful this Tuesday morning,

for those who you’ve graced with the creative know how  and authoritative power

to have such shows like The Backyardigans, The Wonder Pets, Kelli & Chica,  the ever questioning Dora and her globetrotting cousin Diego,

The Bubble Guppies, The Fresh Beat Band,  The Wiggles, Sesame Street, countless others and yes, even the always weird but somehow cool Gabba Gang who leaves me feeling like I’m on an acid trip,

From the Disney Channel to Nick Jr to Sprout TV & PBS Kids,

From Disney to Pixar to Dreamworks Studios,

to every animator, illustrator, computer programmer, and creative director,

to every person who modifies their voice to bring life to all of these characters,

to every adult dancer and singer who makes a fool of themselves dressing in costumes and “going bananas”,

(*cough The Wiggles, Hip Hop Harry & The Fresh Beat Band cough*)

to every CEO who makes money off of me for being a cable subscriber and a toy consumer

Bless them God. Seven times over. Bless them financially and more importantly creatively so they can continue to get better, more innovative, more fun!

So that we, the parents, the mamas, can continue to have our sanity held intact. So that we, the parents, the mamas, can have the brain cells we lose

every minute of every day

restored during those moments when the shows these valuable people put on

calm the wild barbarians children

that rage, and yell, and scream, and cry, and whine and pout,

and leave us totally clueless as to what’s wrong with them ,

when it often turns out they are perfectly fine,

they just want to see us squirm and sweat, and get flustered, and cry, and gnash our teeth in frustration because

they are our offspring, our legacy, what we are leaving behind and we should NEVER

want to throw them through the wall like Mr. Incredible did to his boss

RIGHT?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(sigh)

I digress.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

God.

Bless those who you’ve blessed to create such awesome programming that entertains our children

while we use those precious moments to replace the brain cells that we’ve lost.

Let them know that they are indeed the best bench team I’ve ever had.

Their shows always come in the clutch when I need a game winning shot to keep my parenting hopes alive.

Let them know they are appreciated.

Let them know they are loved and celebrated.

Let them know that what they do is important to our national security.

Let them know that without them, the quality of a parent’s mental health would be far worse,

and let them know that as a parent who struggles greatly in the mental health department,

their shows play a key role in helping me be a good mother.

They are part of my coping arsenal.

Bless them God.

Bless them.

Amen.

Oh wait: God? I don’t know how this whole afterlife & “who gets into heaven” thing works per se, but could you please make sure Steve Jobs is comfy

where ever he’s floating around  at?

THANK YOU for the gifts you gave him, because if it weren’t for his iPad invention…..

I would’ve lost it in the middle of Wal-Mart on several of occasions…and I’ve only had the thing for like a month.

Anywhoo, please bless Steve Jobs.

Thanks.

Amen.

* a Tuesday morning prayer by a frazzled, worn out, on the edge mama whose brain cells and sanity were saved this morning by Dora and her never ending stream of questions…

and the Bubble Guppies whose constant singing and dancing helped soothe my sick, cranky 19mo old. *

Wordless Wednesday: Laughter is the Best Kind of Medicine