Actually, Ken Jennings, wheelchairs are awesome.

Wow. The wheelchair haters are really coming out in full force lately.

First, there was Kanye. At a concert in Melbourne, he demanded that all his fans stand up as he was about to start one of his songs. Apparently, he stopped the entire concert to single out one person who wasn’t standing — because he was in a wheelchair. Only after someone waved his prosthetic leg in the air and the entire venue knew that this guy was disabled did Kanye continue with the concert. Unbelievable.

(And, okay, I guess that’s not wheelchair hating, per se, but it’s certainly insensitive and totally objectifying: “HEY EVERYBODY — CHECK OUT CRIPPLED McNOLEGS OVER HERE! He’s in a wheelchair! He’s literally the only person not standing! He can’t use his legs like KANYE!! I AM A GODDDDDD!!!!”)

No, really … he said that.

Barely a week later, another high-profile celebrity made an insensitive, ableist comment. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame, tweeted that there’s “nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” And, um, I can certainly think of a few. What about a person who’s home-bound because he needs a wheelchair and doesn’t have one? Or how about a self-proclaimed genius who’s too blind to see past conventional standards of beauty, whining on twitter about how a life-changing mode of mobility shrinks his boner? Because that is pretty sad.

“I’ll take ‘Dumbass Things To Say’ for 200, Alex.”

Ken and Kanye’s wheelchair remarks were markedly different, in two completely separate contexts, but they both solidified what our culture, in some ways, has always said: People in wheelchairs are Other. Less desirable. Deserving, somehow, to be lumped together, singled out, pointed at, objectified, and ridiculed. (And by the way, it’s not rude to laugh at someone’s disability — it’s hilarious. It’s edgy.)

Just. So. Edgy. Like this best-selling shirt from T-Shirt Hell. Takes a lot of balls to ridicule someone whose legs work differently than yours.

The consensus in our culture, I guess, is that wheelchairs are sad and people in wheelchairs should be pitied. Or singled out. Or mocked. Or all three. Which makes no sense to me now.

But at a time it did.

Before I had a kid with spina bifida, I didn’t give much thought to wheelchairs at all. But I know for a fact that I did feel bad for people who were resigned to them. Man, I thought, what a pain in the ass it would be to have to use a wheelchair. You’d always be at butt-level with everybody else. You’d have to depend on that chair for everything, and what a pain it would be to transfer over to the toilet or into bed. Ugh. I’m so glad that isn’t me.

I didn’t need a wheelchair. But my child probably will. And when he was born, it changed everything I thought I knew about disability.

He has to use a nasal cannula and a feeding tube in the NICU? Thank God. Now his body can grow and heal without having to use all his energy for eating or breathing.

He has to have a shunt? Thank you, Jesus! A hundred years ago, and even today in some poorer countries, hydrocephalus is a death sentence. But we get a reprieve — just a thin, plastic tube that reroutes his cerebral-spinal fluid to another part of his body, and the hydro is virtually not a problem at all.

We have to catheterize him? AWESOME. Without catheters, Henry’s kidneys and bladders could get seriously messed up or infected.

He might have to use a wheelchair someday? Simply fantastic. Because this little guy might need one. Since his legs and feet don’t work like yours and mine, he’ll need special assistance to get him where he needs to go: On the bus for Kindergarten, out of the house for park and zoo trips, the possibilities are endless. With a wheelchair, we won’t have to worry about him being excluded from things because his legs work differently. He won’t have to be left out or homebound. Wheelchairs are freedom! Wheelchairs are opportunity!

And quite frankly, Ken Jennings, wheelchairs aren’t “sad.” They’re awesome.

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Can we just relax about casual sexism?

There’s a lot of stuff about gender trending on social media this week, like this video. In my twitter feed, I saw no less than THREE WOMEN saying that they had watched this commercial and “cried out of guilt.” Apparently, according to the video’s description on the Huffington Post, parents give their girls an array of subtle social cues that “push girls away from math and science in their earliest childhood years.” These messages can also, according to the description, “ultimately discourage girls from pursuing traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects in school.”

Wow, I thought. What exactly are parents SAYING to these poor girls?! Are they literally burning their daughter’s chemistry books right in front of her? Curious, I clicked on the ad, fully expecting some seriously messed up shit.

This was the first example. Um. I scratched my head. That’s supposed to deter a girl from math and science? …Is the parent off-camera holding a chemistry set right out of her reach? Is that what she’s grabbing for? What am I missing?

Hmm. I guess I see how this could send some bad signals — telling your girl forego exploring for fear of getting “dirty” or “messy”. That’s no good. But maybe this mom just doesn’t want to do another god damn load of laundry? Lord knows between a baby who can’t use utensils yet and a potty-training toddler we do at least two loads PER DAY around here, and you can often hear me yelling, “Can you PLEASE eat your spaghetti OVER your plate so you don’t ruin your new shirt?! Can you PLEASE sit on the potty when you pee, so you don’t spray urine all over your clothes?!” Who knew I was setting her up to hate the hard sciences?

Sheesh. I told June not to pet a dead bird at the park last week … was I really deterring her from scientific inquiry?

At the end of the ad, Sammy, now in highschool, removes a science fair poster from a glass board and applies lipstick, using the glass as a mirror. BOOM. There you go, you sexist parents — you just set little Sammy up for a lifetime of waitressing at Hooters. Sammy could have graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biology, but you had to compliment her DRESS, didn’t you, you science-hating monsters?! Our words can have a huge impact, the ad warns. Apparently. Apparently even the most innocuous comment can have a permanent, life-altering impact. When you tell your daughter she’s pretty, what she’s really hearing is that she’s a vapid princess who’s too dumb to do math, and it will alter the course of her life forever.

Can we all just calm down about this sexism thing? Can we just relax about parenthood in general? 

Sexism is real. It’s subtle and it’s damaging. And I do agree with the (poorly-conveyed) message of this video: If we treat our daughters like they’re adorable morons, persistently and insistently, they’ll probably grow up thinking exactly that. But people, I am so sick of fear-based parenting. 

When June was a newborn, I was constantly terrified. Sure, some of that had to do with my anxiety disorder. But I also labored under the new-parent delusion that every single decision I made was a life-altering one: If I fed her once from a bottle, my milk would dry up. If I gave her a pacifier, she would immediately get nipple confusion, and our breastfeeding relationship would never recover. Once, in a particularly harrowing episode of cluster feeding — she must have been three or four days old at the time, and she had been nursing and crying every forty-five minutes around the clock — my husband started burping her, their noses about six inches apart, his face totally sullen and lined with sleeplessness. I thought, panicked, oh, God! The first formative memory of her father will be him glaring at her and willing her to sleep! It will imprint in her brain and she’ll grow up thinking that he hates her! “HONEY SMILE AT HER,” I shrieked, bolting upright in bed, “YOU HAVE TO SMILE AT HER!”

This article brings me back there, to those high-stakes newborn days. Let’s realize that sexism is real, and it plays itself out in a thousand different ways, sometimes very subtly. And it’s wrong. But holy hell, we parents are going to make mistakes, okay? We’re going to slip up, say the wrong thing, send the wrong message. Big mistakes, subtle mistakes — we just have to accept that we’re going to screw up in some way or another. Let’s own that and maybe calm down about all the million ways we can irreparably damage our children. It would break my heart to see a new parent watch this commercial and stop telling her daughter that she’s beautiful, agonizing over all the ways it would potentially damage her in the future.

Let’s have confidence that our children are not as fragile as we’re making them out to be. Examine yourself, examine your blind spots like racism or sexism, but please let’s not make the mistake of thinking that any slight rebuke or comment is going to scar them forever.

Words have meaning; our actions have meaning; but they don’t set our futures in stone.

 

This post was later picked up by the folks at the Huffington Post! Hop on over and leave a comment, won’t you?

“I smell an agenda…” You bet your balls you do.

One of my favorite sites, Sociological Images, shared one of my blog posts on their facebook and twitter pages this week.

To say I “fangirled” would be an understatement. I was all, whaaaaat?! CHYEAH! I LOVE THEM! They shared my stupid blog post?! They called it a “fabulous satire”?! BRB GONNA DIE OF HAPPINESS NOW!!!! 

(I’ve noticed that two things make me downright giddy, by the way — eating sushi, and being syndicated by a respectable publication. In the past month, my blog posts have been picked up by the Huffington Post (twice!!!), The Mighty, and MamaHealth. Someday I’ll write a piece for the New York Times and I’ll be scarfing down a big-ass Firecracker Roll as it goes live. That’s the world I want to live in.)

I have a vice, though. I gotta admit. I read the comments when my articles are shared, in whatever context. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. I really want to not do this, but I’m half-curious and half-thinking that it might be a good idea to read some constructive criticism (ha). Anyway. I’ve read a fair share of snarky comments about my writing, and it doesn’t bother me. But one comment last night, on the blog post that Sociological Imaged shared — it bothered me.

“I smell an agenda here,” someone said. 

I don’t know why it bothered me. But she was absolutely correct. I do have an agenda.

You smell that? It’s an agenda. And it STANKS.

First on my agenda is to write, because I like writing. I try not to do it and it doesn’t work. I just keep coming back to the keyboard. Two years ago I gave in. Fuck it. I’ll write because I can’t not write. And whoever wants to join me is welcome to.

But my other agenda? I want to change the way we talk about disability in this culture.

I am not an expert on sociology, or language, or (least of all) people with special needs. All I know is that every day since we learned Henry would have spina bifida, we were conditioned to think the worst about his diagnosis. We were advised to terminate, by more than one person, seemingly because a life with spina bifida is so terrible that it’s better to not live it at all. Can you comprehend that? There is such a disconnect between the beautiful children I see who happen to have a disability, and the sorry, deformed, faceless nobodies that our culture makes them out to be. And the disconnect didn’t hit me — not really — until right after Henry was born.

I was holding him, actually, when I got the phone call. It was a nurse from some county office, wanting to let us know that, because of Henry’s condition, we qualified for food stamps and other assistance (which we declined).

“I’m calling,” she said, her voice dripping with sympathy, “because we hear you’ve had an adverse birth outcome.”

What? I thought. He died? And then I realized she was talking about Henry. What the shit? I mean, he’s got some issues, sure. But adverse? A “birth outcome”?

The thing about defining moments is that you don’t really realize they’re defining at the time. My response wasn’t one of righteous indignation. I didn’t deliver some Sorkin-esque speech. I said “Wow. Uh, no?” And then I laughed. Because it was ridiculous. I wasn’t mad, don’t get me wrong — I’m sure she was a very nice woman who was tasked with having a very uncomfortable conversation with a hormonal, post-partum stranger. I get that. But damn if what she said didn’t knock my socks off. So that’s how you see them, I realized. That’s how you see my baby.

Let’s stop with all the bullshiz. People with disabilities are people. They aren’t inspirations or heroes, necessarilybut they aren’t outcomes either. They’re endowed by our Creator with human dignity, by virtue of their status as human beings.

Yes, we should keep them. We should cherish them. We should change the way we think about them, and the way we talk about them. That’s my agenda. That’s where I’m going. And whoever wants to come along is welcome to.

If healthy pregnancies were treated like special needs pregnancies

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, good afternoon. I’m Doctor Dumas, a visiting obstetrician in Doctor Kwak’s practice. It’s nice to meet you.

Look, there’s no easy way to say this, so at the risk of sounding blunt, I have some bad news.

The technician and I reviewed your scans and we found that you’re about ten weeks along with a human fetus. I’m not seeing any abnormalities as far as growth or bone and organ structure, but you’re very clearly pregnant with a human baby. In all likelihood, you’ll carry the baby for another thirty weeks until your amniotic sac ruptures and the baby exits your body vaginally. In some cases, your baby will be extracted via cesarean section. Either mode carries its own set of risks and is extremely painful. We’re so very sorry.

Your baby will be born, unless you suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth. After his birth, he will live, and then he will die. He will live until he dies. I’m sorry to say that life is terminal. The fatality rate for human beings is 100 percent. If he survives past birth, you’d just be living on borrowed time.

How long does he have? We’re not sure. Humans typically live until their mid-seventies, depending on where they’re born and a variety of other factors. But many die at age 5, or 15, or 30. We can’t predict with any certainty how long he has, but we know that death is an inevitability. You probably have a history of death in your family.

We’re also sad to say that your child has cancer. Well, not right now, but statistically it’s possible. You’re carrying a human child, and fourteen thousand of them every single year get some kind of cancer. In fact, the second leading cause of death between kids ages 5-14 is cancer. This is second only to unintentional accidents like a gun misfiring or some sort of collision. So if your baby doesn’t die in a car wreck first, I’m afraid there’s a chance he’ll get cancer. I’m so sorry.

If by some chance we prolong his life until age 15, the odds don’t look good then either. It’s not totally hopeless — I mean, never say never, right? — but teen mortality rates are climbing. There’s always a risk of car accidents, overdose, and particularly suicide. The suicide rate is particularly troublesome. I’m a numbers man, so I’ll give it to you straight: Thirty three thousand teenagers committed suicide in 2006. And being born is the leading cause of eventually committing suicide.

I know you have a lot to think about. Just try to breathe. There are a lot of options. It’s important to take care of yourself first, and your marriage. Children are a big contributor to divorce. Almost forty percent of divorced people have children at one point. Suicide, cancer, divorce … if the baby survives birth, you’d be bringing him into a pretty questionable environment. You’ve got problems coming at him from all angles. Multiple problems. Quality of life is important to consider.

This is the part of my job I hate. I can only imagine how shocking and upsetting this is for you. Unfortunately, we have even more difficult news. Your Chorionic Villus Sampling test came back with some red flags. Our tests indicate that you’re very likely having  a boy. This occurs typically in half of all pregnancies, and nobody really knows why. We know the Y chromosome plays a part, and we know the father is the carrier.

These things just happen.

Risks? Well, males typically have higher testosterone, which could lead to anger issues. They’re more likely to abuse alcohol and much more likely to rape. Something like 90 percent of all homicide offenders are men, and the vast majority of inmates in the penal system are men as well.

You have a 1 in 2 chance of having another boy, should you choose to get pregnant again. You could also try for a girl, but there are risks involved with a girl as well. Girls are much more likely to be raped and make up the vast majority of sex-related homicides. 100 percent of people who die in childbirth are women. Women are less likely to commit suicide and rape other people, but they’re infinitely more likely to die of ovarian and breast cancer. There are significant risks, whatever you do. I’m afraid it’s inescapable.

Well, you have a lot of options. You can take your chances, or you can terminate. I can’t make that decision for you, but I will say that terminating now will let you start the healing process that much sooner. It’s early in the pregnancy, and it would probably be easier to do it now rather than wait twenty five years to see if he turns out to be a rapist.

On the bright side, he could be worse. Your baby is caucasian. Black children are three times more likely to grow up in poverty, and black men are twenty times more likely to be sent to prison than white men. The outcome is just very poor for people of color. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Just be grateful he isn’t a girl. Or black. Or a black girl, God forbid.

So. Talk it over. You two have a lot to discuss.

 

An Open Letter to Judgey McJudgerson about the iPad Potty

Dear Judgey McJudgerson,

This is the picture you shared on Facebook today. You were shocked. Aghast. Horrified. Can you believe it? There are some parents (lazy jerks, I bet) who actually use these things to get their child to use the potty. I mean, just look at this thing. What’s next? Those levitating chairs from Wall-E?! It’s sick, I tell you. SICK.

Your judgey friends chimed in as well:

“That’s so disturbing.” 

“This is only for lazy parents. I would sit next to the potty and read my daughter BOOKS when we were potty-training!” 

“Wow…really? Ever heard of INTERACTING with your child instead of plopping him down in front of a SCREEN?!” 

“Whatever happened to small treats, like a sticker or a cookie? I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way!” 

“What has our society BECOME??!” 

Judgey, let me introduce you to my son.

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I know, he’s unfairly cute. Try not to stare.

Henry has Spina bifida. In about a year, we will begin something called a bowel program for him. Henry has no bowel control. I know, I know what you’re thinking: What baby does have bowel control? That’s what I thought for a long time, anyway.

You know when babies crawl around on the floor, and then they stop what they’re doing, their faces turn red, and they strain VERY OBVIOUSLY to push something out? And that “something” turns out to be poop? Those babies can control their bowels.

For Henry, he poops (and pees) pretty much all day long. It just comes right out. No straining, no pushing. No notice at all, actually, and we’re not sure how much he’s even able to feel down there. Regardless, he can’t control his bowel movements. Poop just pops out of him randomly. (Which, let me tell you, makes me feel like a super shitty parent, no pun intended. People have been known to pick up Henry, wrinkle their noses, and hand him back to me — oops, a poopy diaper! Mommy must not have realized! What they don’t know is that I just got done changing a poopy diaper five minutes ago. And ten minutes before that. And thirty minutes before that. Kids with Spina bifida tend to have lots of really bad diaper rash — is it any surprise?)

So. My point. In a year or so, we’ll have to start a bowel program for this guy, in order to keep him “socially continent.” This means that we’ll perform something called an enema, either once a day or every 48 hours or so, that completely flushes out his bowels so he won’t poop at all during the day. This will allow him to be around other kids and other parents without being the “stinky one.” Great, right?

Here’s what you don’t know about enemas: Kids who get enemas — which is most of the kids who have spina bifida or any kind of spinal cord damage — have to sit on the potty for a long, long time. Much longer, in fact, than a child with typical bowel control. Enemas flush out a lot of poop, so they take a while to work. Kids who use enemas for their bowel program can sit on the potty for forty-five, sixty, or sometimes even upwards of ninety minutes.

Judgey, when was the last time you had to get your toddler to do anything for upwards of ninety minutes? 

Will we purchase this iPad toilet? That remains to be seen.

But, Judgey, you better believe that if this thing gets my son to sit on the toilet for ninety minutes, I’m going to purchase the hell out of it. And I won’t be one bit sorry.

Know what I think? This thing is freaking great. It’s a masterpiece. Potty training is hard, with a bowel program or without, and whatever keeps your kid socially continent and potty-trained before they go to kindergarten, I’m all for.

And you know what else? I’m just gonna say it. All types of parents buy these kinds of things for their kid. Maybe they have a child who is fully potty-trained EXCEPT for poop, and getting her to sit still and poop in the toilet for more than thirty seconds is an impossibility without some screen time (I have one of those children). Maybe they have a kid with really bad sensory issues, and they need some hardcore distraction because poop just feels weird. Or maybe their kid just won’t sit still and kindergarten is fast approaching and they’ll try anything because they’re desperate.

My point, Judgey, is that there are millions of different kinds of people, and there are millions of different ways of parenting. You’ve appointed yourself the Official Worrier of Other People’s Children and Society In General, and you’ve decreed it a crime against humanity to use one of these things to toilet train, because technology will rot their brains!. And relationships will suffer. And WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!. But if you step outside of your self-righteous little bubble, maybe you could learn to appreciate a parent whose kid hasn’t potty-trained as easily as yours. And maybe instead of judgment, you can offer compassion. Or understanding.

Or maybe just mind your own freaking business.

 

 

No love,

Wifeytini

Garage sales: The Good, the Bad, and the Get The Hell Away From Me

 

Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me. It’s about seven miles from my house, to be exact — the affluent suburb of Naperville, IL. Or, you know, wherever there happens to be a garage sale. But Naperville specifically is loaded with rich people who have way too much stuff to sell — name brands, in pretty good condition.

That’s where I come in.

(How much fun is this song, by the way? I must have listened to this song on repeat for the entire seventh grade. I’ve never sailed in my life — except for garage ‘sailing’, duh — but the song sounded romantic and dreamy and was like gasoline to the fire of my hyper-hormonal teenage daydreams. I LOVE YOU LANCE.)

Anyway.

This morning, Lou and I loaded up the car (prepared with individual snacks and drinks for both the kids) and headed to an affluent area that was having their annual subdivision garage sale. They did not disappoint. Well, some of them disappointed. But we got exactly what we came for: 18-24 month clothes for Henry, and crafts for June.

Behold:

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BRAND NEW craft supplies I snagged for June — modeling clay, sidewalk chalk, and beads. Hours of learning for only $5!

My glorious bounty, most of which still had tags on: A halloween costume, 8 pairs of pajamas, a BRAND NEW pair of Nikes for Henry, 13 shirts, 7 onesies, 2 shorts, 1 sweater, 3 pairs of pants, and a vest -- all for $20.

My glorious bounty, most of which still had tags on: A halloween costume, 8 pairs of pajamas, a BRAND NEW pair of Nikes for Henry, 14 shirts, 7 onesies, 3 shorts, 1 sweater, 3 pairs of pants, and a vest — all for $20.

 

A handsome man wearing shorts and shirts (not pictured above, but part of the $20 bounty). Both the shirt AND the shorts had the original price tags on them.

A handsome man wearing shorts and shirts (not pictured above, but part of the $20 bounty). Both the shirt AND the shorts had the original price tags on them.

 

Obviously, this is my favorite way to purchase children’s clothes. Not only is it ridiculously cheap (I paid an average of $0.52 per item of clothing!) but getting such a good deal gives you an incredible high that leaves you floating for days. Just call me the Yard Sale Junkie (don’t call me that).

 

“Buy used and save the difference!” Those Duggars know what’s up.

The ideal garage sale for me isn’t actually a rich neighborhood — rich people tend to hold onto their stuff much more tightly than someone would in a modest neighborhood. Rich people (I’m generalizing, obviously, but it’s been my experience as far as garage sales go) tend to overcharge for their items and are less likely to negotiate. On the other hand, their stuff tends to be in better condition and there tends to be much more of it. So, it’s a trade-off. But rich people garage sales are only worth for me it if the seller is willing to come down in price. Or if the seller is welcoming and appropriately social, and not a total dick.

In fact, there are a few criteria that yard sales have to meet before we even get out of the car — at a glance, it has to have what we’re looking for (bins full of children’s clothes is a good sign), and before we make a purchase, they have to be willing to negotiate.

We’ve learned that a good garage sale has those qualities — people are friendly, they don’t crowd you when you’re shopping, and they genuinely want to get rid of their stuff. But there are a few people we encountered today that are a prime example of yard sales we typically stay away from. For example:

“That table is fifty percent off, and anything inside the garage is buy two, get one free.” 

Newsflash — we’re in your garage, not a Neiman Marcus department store. You’re not a cashier, and your sales tags are just suggestions. A good way to get deals at these kinds of sales (or at any sales, really, but especially these) is to bundle: Scoop up a ton of clothes, and tell the seller what you’d like to pay for it. Rarely if ever do I pay more than $2-$3 for kids clothes — even nice outfits or fancy dresses. If the seller’s price is too high or they’re not willing to work with you, walk away (respectfully!).

“Oooh, yeah, I bought that for $30 and Preslynne only wore it once. So we’re selling it for $25 and that’s the final price.” 

I’m sorry, is this Petit Tresor? No? Then I’m not paying $25 for a pair of Baby Uggs. ANYONE who tells you what they paid for it is trying to get some of their money back — and if that’s the case, why not take it to a consignment store? Why not sell it on eBay? In my opinion, anyone who sets out to make a profit violates the spirit of the garage sale, and I’m not down for that. Neither should you be. Put down the item, smile politely, and try not to damage any of their expensive shit as you sprint back to your car.

“This is SUCH a good deal — it sells for twice as much in the store!” 

Is it, though? Is it really? Yes, I know that this thing retails for $40 and you’ve only used it a handful of times. But if it’s as new as you say, maybe you should just return it to the store? Again, we’re in your yard. And it’s impossible for me to verify how much you’ve really used this item. You could have taken a dump in this high-chair for all I know, and the drop in price is an acknowledgment of that. There’s no recourse for me if I spent a bunch of money and the item turns out to be crap, so I’m really not looking to pay more than a couple bucks.

 “I can’t come down in price. The sales tag already says $8.” 

Oh, right, the sales tag. The price that you made up arbitrarily and stuck on there yourself. You’re powerless to change it. It’s out of your control. Someone actually said this to me today. Luckily, I still got a deal by lumping a bunch of items in together and bargaining with her. But anyone who won’t work with you on price is usually just someone you want to walk away from.

Actual phrases I’ve used to help me land a deal include:

“What’s the lowest you’ll go on all this stuff?” [As it turned out, pretty darn low. Lower than what I would have paid. Which is why it never hurts to ask.]

“Can you cut me a deal if I buy these clothes as a lot?” 

[when some douchebro refused to come down on the price AT ALL for his daughter’s used clothes. You could tell he was a douchebro because he wore his sunglasses on the BACK OF HIS HEAD LIKE GUY FIERI and barely looked up from his iPhone]: “Aww, bro, don’t tell me I dug through all these clothes for nothing!” [He quickly relented, and I got a ton of clothes for like five dolla.]

“Well, the price tag says $5, but I’m sure that’s a mistake. Would you take $1 for it?” [She did.]

[After some mom started going on about how she paid $50 for some outfit that she was selling for $25] “I understand. You probably want to keep this for the memories anyway.” [Turns out, she didn’t!]

“Would you take $3 for both?” [Or insert any price here. So many times I’ve grabbed a bundle of stuff and just threw out a figure. Many, many times, people genuinely just want to get rid of their stuff. They don’t want to add up all the items you want to buy and cross-check that with what you’re offering. And to be perfectly honest, most (American) people aren’t used to haggling and it makes them uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s unethical to use all of those things to your advantage. Throw out an offer and see what they do. This is the phrase I use most often and it works ninety percent of the time.]

My best and often fool-proof strategy for ‘sailing is to have a good idea of what you’d like to pay for each item ($2 max per baby outfit is one of my yardsticks), be upfront about what you want to spend, and always be polite. Watch for the warning signs, and don’t be afraid to walk away.

Don’t be afraid to stay and bargain your way to a sweet deal, either.

I can’t wait to go next weekend.

Just a dream and a Honda Pilot to carry me, and soon I will be free. 

As long as it’s healthy. But what if it’s not?

Six months into our pregnancy with Henry, after our spina bifida diagnosis, my husband and I would make regular treks up to Park Ridge to see the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, who kept us abreast on how the baby was doing in-utero. Since I’m extroverted and I adore small talk, I started chatting up the receptionist as we were filling out some paperwork, post-appointment. At this point, we had already been told by two separate doctors that Henry would be totally paralyzed from the waist down.

We started talking about her kids — three girls! — and I asked her if she preferred girls, or if she might try for a boy. We both quickly agreed that the baby’s sex wasn’t really that important — boy or girl, they were blessings.

“Oh, I like girls, but it doesn’t matter to me!” she exclaimed. “You know, as long as they’re healthy and running around!”

I felt it and Lou felt it, simultaneously — that hot knife of grief in the belly. I think he actually winced. I laughed, bewildered, and said something like, “LOL I KNOW RIGHT? HAHAHA OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE AWFUL, WOULDN’T IT, IF THEY COULDN’T WALK???” and then slumped back to the waiting room with my paperwork.


Later, on the ride home, Lou bristled. “She works for a maternal-fetal specialist,” he grumbled. “What was she thinking? Healthy and running around? What the hell?”

That phrase has haunted me, ever since we found out that our child would be born with a birth defectAs long as it’s healthy! People chirp at you, when you talk about finding out the gender. Boy? Doesn’t matter! Girl? Who gives a shit! Nothing else matters but perfect health! And once you discover that your kid isn’t healthy, it almost feels like a threat.

Because what if it’s not healthy?

What then?

That phrase terrifies me. Because we’re talking about our children — an arrangement that’s supposed to be unconditional — and as long as they’re healthy! is alarmingly conditional. Everyone’s happy for a new baby and congratulations are in order — but only under certain criteria. Right? And if baby doesn’t meet that criteria, well, all bets are off. All the congratulations vanish. Your support system bottoms out from under you. People start whispering. Doctors start talking about going in another direction. Changing the course of the pregnancyDisrupting the pregnancy. Termination. Because, clearly, if your child isn’t picture-perfect, a SWIFT DEATH is preferable.

It’s not wrong to want a healthy baby, make no mistake. Nobody prefers a medically fragile baby. Nobody wants to see her child suffer. So we wish for health. We make ominous, defensive, vague statements. Everything will be okay — unless it’s not! 

Let’s retire that phrase. Shall we?

It’s time to stop putting health on a pedestal.

Is health important? Uh, yeah, duh. Is it the summit of our human experience? Is it the sole quality off of which we should determine the worth of our children? No.

We need to move past this fatalistic attitude we have that says a life with a disability is tragic and hopeless. We need to get over the idea that a handicapped baby is better off dead. We’ve had handicapped presidents, for God’s sake. We’ve had handicapped olympic medalists. One of the most sought-after motivational speakers on the planet has neither arms nor legs, and I’ll bet you a hundred bucks he’s smarter and more physically active than I amFor the love of God, one of the most poetic and well-written books in existence was written by a man who could only blink his left eye.

And when we say as long as it’s healthy!, we’re negating all the unlimited potential we have as human beings. We don’t need to be “healthy” to be heroic. And we shouldn’t need to be able-bodied to be considered human beings.

And when we say as long as it’s healthy!, we’re telling parents that our support as a society is conditional. Have a healthy baby, and you’re golden. Come back from your ultrasound with a special needs diagnosis, and we’ll need to start discussing your options.

Come on, society. We’re better than that.