Friday, February 22, 2008

What is the MATTER with People These Days?

It has happened AGAIN. For the third time in as many years, a child in our community has died at the hands of a parent - the person who is supposed to love them the best, the person every child blindly trusts and loves, the person charged with protecting them.

In 2006, it was Michelle Fontanez, a 13-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and strangled by her stepfather. The Florida Department of Children and Families admitted it "failed" Michelle by not monitoring the family, despite repeated reports of abuse. A shake-up at the agency accomplished nothing but damage control and a vow that not another child would be harmed.

Then, just last spring, a beautiful, beaming, 3-year-old little boy named Zahid Jones was brutally beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend. Like most people in our community, I couldn't read the newspaper accounts without crying. Zahid was the same age as my oldest nephew, and he was so little, and his mother's boyfriend was so big and so angry and so much stronger...and, what gets me the most is, Zahid was old enough to know what was happening, and old enough to be terrified as he was enduring the beating that would ultimately take his precious life. I'm crying even now, imagining how scared he must have been, and how abandoned and alone he must have felt.

As with the Fontanez case, DCF admitted it failed Zahid Jones by not continuing to monitor the family, and not verifying that Zahid's mother was complying with the judge's orders to prohibit her boyfriend from being in the house with her children. Zahid died because his mother defied the judge's orders, and her boyfriend didn't like it when Zahid cried. Zahid's paternal grandmother - bless her soul - rightly raised such a ruckus in the community that every social welfare agency, every community stakeholder, and our local media all vowed "never again. No more."

So, then, the news from Cape Coral on Monday is especially disturbing. It has happened again: on Monday 6-year-old Joshua Jenkins died from a vicious beating delivered by his 250-lb. stepfather. The boy weighed 50 lbs. Apparently, Joshua wet the bed. For this grievous offense, Joshua endured a beating that resulted in severe internal bleeding (losing 3 liters of blood in his abdominal area), a lacerated liver, a hemorrhaged forehead and left temple and bite marks. Upon his arrest, the stepfather claimed he was "playing too rough" with the child. Last I checked, "play" does not result in bite marks, hemorrhages and a lacerated liver. And now, for the third time, the DCF has admitted it "failed" Joshua by failing to continue monitoring the family, despite repeated reports of abuse. Even more outrageous is the fact that DCF and our esteemed family court judges have allowed the mother to maintain custody of the 6-MONTH-old child she made with the animal who murdered her 6-YEAR-old son.

As Peegie and I listened to the news on Tuesday, all I could do is cry. Like the two other children before him, I imagine how scared he must have been, and how alone he felt, and how he probably couldn't understand why this terrible thing was happening to him.

I feel so helpless, even though I know it will take all of us - as a community - to put a stop to this horrifying child abuse. The only thing I could do in that moment was pick up my son, hold him close, smother him with kisses and promise him that I would never, ever let anything bad happen to him.

I told Zane I would NEVER spank him or hurt him for crying or wetting the bed. I promised to be patient with him, and to work with him to figure things out...even if it means washing his sheets every hour, or buying a new mattress, or holding him close while he wails and cries, or whatever...Peegie promised him that he can cry and cry and cry and cry, and it is WAY OKAY...that we will love him and hold him, and that he can trust us.

Every night, before I go to sleep, I pray. I always start by thanking God for the blessings in my life, especially Peegie, Zane, and my family. I pray for strength and patience, and I thank God for the challenges He presents to me wherein I can learn strength and patience. In the last two days, I have also prayed that God will keep Michelle, Zahid and Joshua close to Him. And I pray that we will not tolerate losing another child at the hands of their parents.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Valentine for My Valentine

About one year into our blissful togetherness, Peegie and I agreed that we would make our Valentine's Day gifts to each other.

Peegie is extremely creative. Over the last eight years, I have received Chippendale's calendars customized with pictures of Peegie's face juxtaposed onto the dancers' bodies; Peegie Picnics; a hand-drawn hieroglyphic that says "Peegie and Paige, Best Friends Forever;" and many other equally imaginative and thoughtful gifts.

Peegie is also a planner, which means that major holidays never sneak up on him. Even Valentine's Day, with the whole "let's make the gifts" thing. He is always prepared, and always knocks my socks off with a handmade gift that tops the gift from the year before.

I am neither creative, nor a planner. Despite the fact that Valentine's Day happens every year on February 14, somehow I always end up in a panic on February 13, no handmade gift and, even worse, no good ideas. Clearly, Peegie is a much better Valentine to me than I am to him.

So, this year, Peegie was away from home on a business trip on Valentine's Day. As he was packing, I confessed to him that I had not done anything at all about Valentine's Day; and he confided to me that he had not planned anything either. With that, we both looked at our beautiful Zane and agreed, "we made a gift!" That was February 12.

On February 13, the day Peegie left for his trip, I found tiny candy hearts at each location of my daily routine: a heart next to my glass of water on the shelf at my bedside (that I would find while nursing Zane); a heart on top of my Carmex tin in the medicine cabinet; a heart inside the refrigerator by the milk; a heart in my leftover Cake Batter ice cream from Coldstone; a heart by my sunglasses, and still another on the console of his Expedition (that I would have found immediately, had I driven his car that day.) When I thanked him for the love bombs disguised as conversation hearts, he said, "even though I can't be there, I wanted to do something for you on Valentine's Day because I love you." That's my man: always thinking of ways to show how much he loves me; and, truth be told, every day is like Valentine's Day around here.

So, it's another Valentine's Day, and Peegie has managed to pull it off with aplomb, and I've got nothing. Nothing but a keyboard, that is; so, here's my Valentine to you, my love:

Thank you for loving me the way you do, and thank you for not making me choose between the two loves of my life. Thank you for always supporting my dreams, and for being my best friend and partner. Thank you for allowing me to grow into the person I am meant to be, and for giving me the space to show up new and different. Thank you for Zane, and for being a most wonderful and excellent Pop. Thank you for sharing your imagination with me, and for creating so much fun and adventure in our life. Thank you for taking the leap with me, and for creating a life with me (now us!) in Fort Myers. Thank you for being mine. You have my heart, always. I love you. xxoo

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine for Our Son

Dear Zane,

First we had each other, then we had you, now we have everything. We love you, sweet baby boy!

xxoo,

Mama and Pop

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Back to his Old Self

Our Sweet Baby Zane is back (finally).

As part of his 2-month checkup yesterday, he was stuck in the leg FIVE times. I am totally on board with preventing the reemergence of epidemic diseases that are totally preventable, but, yesterday afternoon, I questioned our decision to vaccinate our sweet, angelic baby boy.

The poor heart was so out of sorts, and the worst part was he had no idea WHY he was so upset. He looked so pitiful, it was heartbreaking. Peegie and I, of course, knew why he was fussy and crying, so we were reduced to spoiling him with lots of naptime, lots of holding, lots of sleeping on our chests and lots of soft crooning of blessings into his sweet little ears.

It worked. He nursed very well last night at bedtime, and he slept very well. When we awakened at 6:30AM, Baby Z was all smiles and sweetness again.

Score one for the benefits of attachment parenting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

5:00AM Can Be Really Funny

Having an 8-week-old baby in the house means that Peegie and I experience the 5:00AM hour quite frequently. Like most people, neither Peegie nor I find much humor in the 5:00AM hour. All of that changed this morning.

We have established a pretty good nursing/sleeping routine for Zane: nurse at 10:00PM/11:00PM, burp, swaddle, comfort, kiss repeatedly, down to sleep until 4:00AM/5:00AM. When Zane awakens to nurse, Peegie gets up with him to change his diaper and brings him to me to nurse. This morning, as they came back into the bedroom, Peegie was laughing convulsively. At 5:00AM.

Zane loves to be swaddled. He is a snuggler and will immediately settle into sleep when swaddled. Apparently, he also loves to stretch. Hence the convulsive laughter at 5:00AM this morning. As Peegie began unwrapping Zane to change his diaper, Zane began stretching and groaning (the type of groan that generally accompanies a good stretch...) The groaning and stretching continued in perfect harmony as Peegie continued unwrapping him, until, finally, when Zane was completely out of the swaddle, his arms and legs stiffened, stretching straight up toward the ceiling and the groaning reached a crescendo. Peegie was laughing so hard there were tears running down his cheek, and he could barely repeat the story to me.

Another good use for a baby: entertainment at 5:00AM.

Thriving!

(Author's note: this post duplicates a post at Worst Mama Ever)

Today is a big day in our household. Zane had his 2-month checkup this morning and, although we haven't broken him and he's still breathing, I thought FOR SURE we'd be admonished for something...something...about how we are managing our baby. After all, we are first-timers, with a one-percenter, and we don't even know what we don't know.

Alas, he is "perfect." At two months, Baby Zane weighs 10 lbs. 6 oz., is 22-3/4 inches long and his head is 40 cm in circumference. Apparently we are doing not just a good job, but a "fantastic" job growing our little human. He is happy (smiling, cooing, "giggling" with his whole body), healthy (nursing 7 times a day, sleeping well) and beautiful (baby acne is gone, and he's got the adorably fat buddha belly). As Peegie said this afternoon, "parenthood...who knew?"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sweet Baby Zane

Peegie and I are having so much fun with our little buddy!

EVERYONE warned us that he would grow faster than we can blink, but we really had no idea just HOW FAST "fast" really is...we can hardly believe he will be eight weeks old tomorrow! Our days are filled with smiles and coos, and our nights are filled with sweet baby sleep sounds and (usually) seven total hours of sleep.

Here are two photos from the last week:

Bathtime with Pop. Zane adores his Pops, and Peegie adores his little buddy. We are THRILLED that he seems to be a water baby!
To be fair, we are extremely proud (and biased...) parents; but, have you ever seen a more beautiful child??
We are just smitten with our sweet baby Zane!