Posted by: kateraidt | May 9, 2010

Can We Trust Our Police?

Four weeks ago I was returning home from my son’s soccer practice at 9:15am. As I drove through our neighborhood, the main thoroughfare was closed by the police and yellow tape was strung across the street. Obviously something serious had happened. At 11:30 that same morning I was leaving to run errands and the police barricade had grown. I pulled over and asked the police office on duty, “Sir, I live down the street. Can you tell me what’s happened here?”. In a shipper tone he said, “Sure. A body was found in a neighbor’s yard early this morning. Don’t worry. It looks like a drifter wandered into the neighborhood overnight, possibly somebody who was mentally ill and/or wasn’t taking their medication and they died overnight – possibly someone with Alzheimer’s.” I said, “How do you know that?” The office said, “We can see from our preliminary evidence that this was a drifter, someone who was sick, and who probably needed medication. There is nothing to fear. So don’t  tell your neighbors that there was a homicide or that someone was killed in the area. That’s definitely not the case.”

Later that evening our entire neighborhood learned on the evening news that the body that was found was of a 5-year old little boy. He had been murdered and dumped on a random person’s lawn. He lived less than a mile away. Til this day I am dumbfounded, disgusted and angry that the police officer blatantly lied to me. If he couldn’t release any information at the scene of the crime, why didn’t he just say, “Ma’am, I cannot release any information at this time.”?

Back in 2007, I was driving down Interstate 35 at noon on a Saturday afternoon. I witnessed a 4-year old boy being beaten on the side of the highway. I slammed on my horn and immediately pulled my car over. Two other drivers pulled over as well. I called 911. The man beating the little boy jumped into his car and darted into traffic. The witness who pulled over behind him chased him. I wrote down the license plate numbers. I had to drive 2-3 miles up the road to find a police office to file the police report. I remember when he wrote down the information on his mini notepad, he did not write down specific details about the boy, the abuser or the car involved. I asked him, “You are going to do something about this, right? The police officer said, “Oh, of course. I have children myself.”

Tuesday of that week I called the police department to get an update whether the police arrested the abuser, if the little boy was okay, etc…The lady who took my call said, “We do not have any police report. I do see three 911 calls about this situation. But that’s it. We would only have a police report if the police officers turned in the report you filed. Apparently neither of the 3 police reports that were made by the witnesses were turned in – so nothing will ever be done about this case.”

I hounded the police department for two years trying to open this case and have the man who was beating a young boy in broad daylight arrested. In a two-hour phone conversation with the police chief, he finally confessed that “child abuse cases in Austin are like cock roaches. There are so many of them we simply do not have the manpower to handle them all.” He said that the police officers did not submit the police reports because they all probably knew that nothing would ever be done about it. The police chief also said that his officers become desensitized. “They are dealing with rapes, murders and fatal car accidents daily. Unfortunately, a child being abused doesn’t shock them like it should. It’s definitely a problem we have.”

So, can we trust our police? If police officers are desensitized, can we trust them to make our abusive partners and home invasions a top priority?If we can’t get  a straight answer when a child shows up murdered blocks from your home, when do we know we are being told the truth? And if three separate police officers on a child abuse case all throw the police report in the trash, when are reports being submitted and justice being done?

I guess that old saying sums it up: Trust in God, but lock your doors!

Posted by: kateraidt | May 6, 2010

When You See Someone Drinking and Driving With a Child

Many times before I have seen on television or radio shows “What to do if you see someone drinking and driving with a child”. I never thought in a million years I would live to have to make that decision myself. Two weeks ago I did. (the name of the child and how we know this child have been changed for privacy purposes).

Two weeks ago I took my kids to our local park at 3pm. We ran into “Laura” – a 4-year old on our “t-ball” team. Laura was at the park with her grandma. I was talking to grandma about our sports team when I smelled a strong whiff of beer. I thought Why am I smelling beer at 3pm at a park for children? I looked down, and grandma had a large plastic mug of beer full to the brim. Is the really beer? Surely grandma isn’t driving. When grandma walked away and left her drink on the park bench, I bent over to tie my shoelace in order to confirm what she was drinking. Yep, it was beer – foam and all.

Then my head started spinning. What should I do if grandma is driving? Should I do anything at all? What did all of those television episodes say to do? Am I damned if I do and damned if I don’t? What if grandma and Laura’s parents lash out at me at the next ballgame for calling the police?

All I could think about is this: If my children were in the care of a grandparent, babysitter, teacher or neighbor, and someone saw that they were being neglected or in harm’s way, not only would I hope that person would help and do something, but as the parent I would also want to know as well.

About 45 minutes later after grandma chugged her beer she said goodbye and headed to her car. Yes, she was driving. At the same moment I realized there was a small Sheriff’s office on the premise of the park. I jumped in the office and informed them that an intoxicated woman was getting in her car with a child. There were about 8 people in the Sheriff’s office. The deputy said, “Call 911.” I said, “Call 911? But you guys ARE 911!? All 8 people in the Sheriff’s office stood at the window and watched grandma pack her car. One lady called 911. By the time the 911 call was completed, grandma was long gone.

This morning at our t-ball game, I sat next to Laura’s mother. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t share with her that her daughter was being driven around town by a drunk driver. This is what I said: “Are you Laura’s mom? I’m Kate, Conley’s mom. I want to share something with you that has been tugging on my heart whether to say or not. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because if I were in your shoes, I would want to know. Last week we ran into Laura at the park and her caregiver was drinking and driving with Laura in the car. I’m so sorry to be the bearer of this kind of news…but I just felt that for your family’s well-being you deserve to know.” Laura’s mother was very kind and very thankful for the information. She completely understood why I shared this information with her.

The person I am upset with the most is myself. I cannot believe that for even 10 seconds I almost chose to do nothing because of the social stigma of getting grandma in trouble, or the parents being mad at me, or the stigma of being the “snitch”. Come on folks, we are not in high school anymore. When a child’s well-being is at stake, we must all be snitches. I would much rather live with the consequences of a drunk grandma being mad at me, than to live with the news that a child was killed (or other drivers) because I was too self-absorbed to do or say anything. And shame on the Sheriff’s department for not doing anything as well. They could have easily approached grandma at her car and had her call for a ride, a taxi or sit in the office until she was sober – but they didn’t. Like most people, they tossed the baton to someone else.

Posted by: kateraidt | April 14, 2010

How to Talk to Your Children About Sexual Abuse

Every day I record on my DVR every episode of Oprah. At 10pm I zip through each episode to see if anything is worth watching. Well, last night I caught the Oprah episode “Inside the Mind of a Child Molester”. It was intriguing, uncomfortable, disgusting, heartbreaking but important to watch. I realized that my daughter is going on 5-years old and I have yet to have a serious conversation with her about what to do if/when an adult attempts to molest her. This is not a conversation any parent wants to have, but it’s a conversation that every parent must have with their children.

First, I identified that the mornings are when my daughter is the most “awake” and focused. I wanted to talk to her at time when she wouldn’t be distracted or tired. So, at 6:45am this morning while her baby brother was still asleep, I said:

Conley, I want to talk to you about something very important. (I sat her on my bed and I kneeled on the floor so I could talk to her eye-to-eye). Sometimes grown-ups do things to children that are very bad. Sometimes they touch children on their body where they shouldn’t be touched. Honey, what part of your body is private to only you and nobody should ever touch? My pee pee and po-po. Exactly! Conley, if anybody ever touches you on your pee pee or po-po I want you to tell Mommy, okay? Even if it is someone we know: daddy, oma, opa, uncle Benny, your teacher at school, a babysitter, a neighbor…you need to tell mommy right away. Mommy, but what if you are not there? Good question! If you are alone, and if you are able to run for help, then run as fast as you can away from the person. If you are not able to run, I want you to push, kick or hit the person as hard as you can. Let’s practice this. (I role-played with her for about 7-10 minutes). Okay, pretend mommy is a bad person. I am going to try and grab you. Kick me as hard as you can! Pow pow. Great! Now as I try to reach for your body, push my hands away as hard as you can. Awesome! Conley, one last thing…when a grown-up does something to a child that is bad, they try and scare the child by telling you that if you tell anyone about what they did, that they will hurt you or hurt mommy and daddy. That is a total lie. If you tell mommy or daddy, nothing bad will happen to you or mommy. You will always be safe and protected. Do you understand that?

I plan to have this conversation with my kids at least once per year. Many parents think I mentioned it once so I don’t need to mention it again. Kids are forgetful and by opening the dialog on a continuous basis will give your kids the security knowing that they can always talk to you about all serious situations. By opening the doors to talk about sexual abuse and molestation, will also keep the dialog box open to talking about sex, drugs, peer pressure and other challenging and destructive things our world throws at our kids.

The one topic you don’t cover with your children, too many times is the one topic that can ruin their life forever. Yep, I have bruises on my shins from being my daughter’s punching bag this morning. But I’d rather deal with having banged up legs for one day out of every year rather than dealing with the wounds of having my daughter sexually abused.

Posted by: kateraidt | March 31, 2010

Is Serving Junk Food to Children Child Abuse?

Last week Jamie Oliver, the controversial host of the new show Food Revolution, was interviewed on Oprah. That same morning I was the guest speaker at a workshop for parents who have overweight kids. Obesity in children has been a topic pounding my brain recently. Why do parents feed their children enormous amounts of junk food? The most poignant question Oprah asked Jamie is, “Do you feel that parents who consistently feed their children junk food are practicing child abuse?” Jamie didn’t flinch. “Absolutely.”

That question has forced me to ask myself If it is illegal for a parent to give a child a bruise on their body, then why isn’t it illegal if they ruin their heart, liver, kidney, brain, blood sugar, self-worth and self-confidence?

My children attend a private Christian school. The school is fantastic – except for the garbage they feed the children (which is a little ironic since the Bible says we are supposed to honor our bodies, right). Last Friday lunch was pizza and chocolate pudding. The afternoon snack was a bag of Fritos and juice. Every morning I pack my kid’s lunch and bring a substitute for the snacks that are served. Even though I take huge strides to ensure my children are eating healthy, their diet and health are constantly being compromised by another teacher or adult. Today (Tuesday) the teacher bought the class chocolate chip cookies because they had good behavior. Tomorrow is a kid’s birthday (which means cake and ice cream) and Thursday is their Easter party (which means candy, chocolate and any other garbage people can shove down their throats).

I have written letters to the school board and talked to the teachers about implementing healthier food alternatives at the school. Nothing has changed.

So the other question I ask myself is: Considering the foods that are served are highly contributing to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity, is the school my children attend practicing child abuse?

Absolutely.

Posted by: kateraidt | March 24, 2010

Secret Treatment for Eczema

My son is 20-months old. He has had chronic eczema for almost a year. Our pediatrician has given us every ointment, cream and remedy known to man. About a month ago we were in her office being treated for an ear infection. She noticed the eczema was still raging.

Pediatrician: I have one last remedy I want you to try to treat your son’s eczema.
Me: OK. What’s that?
Pediatrician: Crisco. Smother him with Crisco before he goes to bed. Cover him with his pajamas. It works like a charm. I use it on my own children.
Me: Crisco? You mean the stuff you use for fried chicken?
Pediatrician: Yep. Give that a try and let me know how it works.

So I went that day to the store and bought a big tub of Crisco shortening. The thought of scooping up a wad of it and smothering it on my son’s body made me want to gag. The Crisco sat in my pantry for a month…until last night. We came home from gymnastics and my son was blazing red from head to toe. His eczema was the worst I had ever seen it. Okay honey, time for the Crisco. We rocks/paper/scissored over who had to do the dirty job. I lost. I rolled up my sleeves, sunk my hand in the Crisco jug and began my duty as Nurse Mom. Time for bed.

I was eager to wake up this morning and strip down my son to see if the Crisco had worked it’s magic. IT DID! Less than 12 hours after applying the Crisco, my son had just a slight trace of his eczema left. I wish I had taken before and after photos, but I was truly sceptical that the Crisco would not possibly work.

I smothered my son again this morning before he went to school and informed his teachers that he will be a little slippery when they change his diaper. I am hoping that his will be the end to our battle with eczema!

Posted by: kateraidt | March 23, 2010

Cancer Doesn’t Care if You Are a Republican or Democrat

Throughout the fighting, cursing and war over health care reform, I have been asking myself Why is this a political issue? Why are we so divided? The Democrats believe in health care reform and the Republicans are adamantly opposed to it. Here are the sobering facts that should wake up any human with a heartbeat and realize our current healthcare system is detrimental to both Democrats and Republicans:

* Over 1,000,000 Americans file for bankruptcy every year due to medical bills – AND 80% OF THESE PEOPLE HAD HEALTH INSURANCE AT THE ONSET OF THEIR ILLNESS. Yes, the people affected are both Republicans and Democrats. It is an outrage that millions of people are “covered” by medical insurance at the time of an accident or illness – but still end up bankrupt. Do Republicans think that these situations cannot or will not happen to them or that they will “have everything covered”? Just ask the hundreds of people I meet every year while selling cancer insurance (mostly Republicans – I live in Texas!) who have shared their stories about how they skipped chemotherapy treatments because they couldn’t afford the co-pays any longer, or the family who had to sell their house to pay for their deductibles, or the family whose son broke his arm at school but waited 2 months to have him seen by a doctor in fear of the medical bills they would face. If any one of these families could turn back the clock and have not skipped chemotherapy treatments due to money, not had to sell their house to pay their medical bills, or taken their son immediately to a doctor because money wouldn’t have been an issue – which way do you think they would have had it? Of course they would have wanted a reformed health care system. Cancer doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat. You can and will lose your job, your health care benefits, your savings and max-out every credit card you have with one simple bout with cancer – regardless of who you voted for in the last election.

* I have interviewed hundreds of people to be hired as an insurance agent. We are self-employed so we pay for our own health insurance. I cannot tell you how many fantastic, outgoing and talented candidates I have hired over the years who are thrilled for a job opportunity (especially in our down economy) but when they discover that they cannot get on a group health insurance plan they are heartbroken. “My daughter has seizures, my son is diabetic, my wife had cancer 8 years ago, my daughter has a heart condition…” I have heard it all. No insurance company will take their phone calls unless they skirt in on a group plan. A person should never have to choose a job based on the fact that their family will be protected medically or not. Everyone should be eligible for coverage whether you are self-employed, unemployed or work for the largest employer in town.

* In Germany, Sweden, France and the rest of the developed world who have successful socialized medical systems, the citizens pay a higher tax rate than we do in the US. GASP! I said the forbidden words: Higher – Tax- Rate. I have interviewed people in over a dozen socialized countries, and the one thing they all have in common? Not ONE person complained about paying higher taxes. Not ONE! Here’s why
1. Their mentality is that they are investing in their future. They pay today to have protection later. Just like we do in the US for life insurance – pay today, reap the benefits later.
2. A socialized system pays much more than medical bills. In Germany, the higher taxes pays 100% of your medical bills, disability, travel expenses to and from the doctors, PAID maternity leave for one year and 100% coverage for the elderly. This would be the equivalent of every tax-paying US citizen having 100% health care coverage no matter what, 100% disability coverage, 100% supplemental insurance for out-of-pocket expenses, 100% coverage for Medicare and Medicaid AND 1 year paid leave for mothers or fathers to stay home with their children and give them adequate time and attention. Why are Americans so opposed to this? Instead, we want every penny from our paychecks today in order to pay for our McMansions and SUVs – and gamble our lives away on cancer, heart disease and car accidents – and enroll our infants in daycare 10 hours per day in order to pay for the McMansion and SUV which we will all lose anyways when the medical time bomb explodes.

I wish every socialized health care-hater would move to Germany for a year, pay a bit more in taxes, give birth to your next child there, experience the level of care the doctors and nurses give you and then collect a full salary while you stay home with your baby. Then come back to the US and report how horrible it was – or not.

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!

Posted by: kateraidt | March 18, 2010

Overcoming Rejection in Sales

I sold educational books door-to-door for 10 summers. I have been rejected by more people than everyone reading this blog – combined! My first 7 summers selling books I would walk to my car with my tail between my legs each time “Ms. Jones” said “I’m not interested”, “I don’t buy from peddlers” or “Do you have any literature?”

So I decided to start having a little fun with Ms. Jones instead of letting her fool with my emotions. Here is my new-and-improved, mega-advanced technique on handling rejection in sales:

Ms. Jones: I’m not interested
Me: (In the sweetest tone of voice I could muster) Your not interesting? It’s OK, you don’t have to be interesting. Betty across the street, poor thing, she’s not very interesting but she bought from me.

Ms. Jones: I don’t buy from peddlers
Me: Peddler? But I’m not riding a bicycle. My car is parked in your driveway!

Ms. Jones: Do you have any literature?
Me: Literature? Of course! In volume 2 we have Shakespeare and all of the other famous authors alphabetized!

We all know that these ridiculous objections people give us are just a polite way of saying “no”. It’s never cool to be rude or defiant to a prospective customer, but it’s perfectly OK to have a little fun with them – as long as you don’t get the cops called on yourself.

Posted by: kateraidt | March 12, 2010

When Your Child Won’t Play Sports

In the summer of 2009 my daughter Conley joined the YMCA co-ed soccer league for 3-5 year-olds. One of Conley’s teammates was a boy named Hayden. Hayden’s mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles all gathered every Saturday morning, decked out in burnt orange, to cheer Hayden on. But Hayden hated soccer. When he was chosen by the coach to join the game, Hayden clung to his mommy and screamed in terror. His foot didn’t touch the ball the entire summer season. Hayden’s family cheered mightily for the other teammates and never criticized Hayden for his lack of participation. Based on their enthusiasm, you would have thought Hayden was the star player of the team. He was far from it. I didn’t expect to see Hayden on a soccer field ever again.

The Fall season rolled around and Conley was on a different team. One crisp Saturday morning I happened to glance at the opposing team. I see Hayden. This time his team colors were lime green. Quickly I spotted mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt and uncle on the sidelines with their lime green gear hooting GO HAYDEN WHOOP WHOOP! Ten minutes into the game the coach called for Hayden to play. He walked onto the field without mommy and his foot connected with the ball twice. YEA HAYDEN! THAT’S OUR BOY! GREAT JOB! Then he quickly escaped the field. Still not an eager player, but much improved since the first season.

Then the winter season approached. This was Conley and Hayden’s third season playing YMCA soccer. About the third game of the season, who did we see on the opposing team? Hayden. This time he was the starting player. When the whistle blew, Hayden was the first to the ball. Score! A few minutes later, score again! I was so thrilled for him, I started rooting for Hayden’s team. I had tears of joy running down my face. Score again. Score again. Hayden scored 5 goals this game an annihilated my daughter’s team. I was fine with the loss.

After the game I approached Hayden’s family. I want to tell you not only how proud I am of Hayden for doing so well today and having so  much fun, but I really want to commend you for never giving up on him. You encouraged and supported him just as much when he sat on the sidelines in tears as you did when he scored 5 goals. Most parents would have given up on him long ago – but you didn’t. From one parent to another, thank you.

Participating in team sports with  my children is like a parenting science lab for me. There are 10 kids on a team at the beginning of a season. When any of the kids are like Hayden and are not mini-Beckhams, the parents disappear after two games. This accounts for at least 3 of the parents. Then another 1-2 drop out because their kid is not on the winning team or the parents are too lazy to get their kid to practice during the week. There are 3 more parents whose “encouragement” comes in the form of criticism, threats and verbal assaults You will get in there and play right now or we are going home! If you don’t get your act together you’re getting a spanking. I didn’t come here today to watch you moan on the sidelines! Out of 10 players, only about 1 or 2 have parents who instill them with positive reinforcement – whether they are a Beckham or a Hayden.

3 Tips to Helping Your Child Enjoy Sports:

1. When your child wants to sit on the sidelines and not play, it’s OK! When my daughter has her “moments” I simply say, “You don’t have to play, but we are doing to cheer on your teammates and encourage them to do well.” When I take my focus off my daughter and put it on the game (enthusiastically) she usually turns around and asks to go back in the game. If you pack up and head to the car, you have taught your kids that it’s OK to quit and you lose the chance to team them about what it means to be part of a team.
2. Sports are supposed to be a fun, self-esteem building opportunity for kids. If you are critical of your child’s lack of participation, they will never, ever enjoy the sport, you will shatter their self-worth and resent you in the process. Negative reinforcement might work for 10 minutes, but it is devastating for the long run. Always use positive reinforcement with any activities your children participate in.
3. Not all kids are natural-born athletes. It’s the parent’s job to identify where a child’s strengths are. Sometimes we push our kids into a particular activity because it’s our dream, but not theirs. Some kids are not suited for contact sports – so golf or tennis might be a better option. Could you see Rodger Federrer on a football team? And some kids have a greater talent for art or music rather than sports as well. Just because the cool sport in your community is football, hockey or soccer doesn’t make you or your child inadequate if he/she isn’t fit for these sports.

Give your kids the chance to experience many types of sports and activities. Utilize positive reinforcement at all times. Identify where your children’s strengths are. Most importantly, have fun along the way!

Posted by: kateraidt | March 4, 2010

Baby Monitors – WARNING TO ALL PARENTS!

Last year when my son was born, he slept in his crib in our room. We had a nursery set up for him, but because of the influx of visitors we had, the nursery turned into a hotel room. My mother was our first visitor, then my sister and her kids, and then my husband’s entire family (Oma, Opa, Uncle Bennie + girlfriend)  flew across the pond from Germany to visit for a month. About the time the Germans invaded, I received the thumbs up from my doctor that I was in the clear to get some post-partum lovin from my husband. One sunny Texas afternoon, our daughter was playing at a friend’s house. Oma plus the German entourage were downstairs watching t.v, and the baby was asleep downstairs in the bouncy thing. I said to my husband, “Honey, we are in the clear to make out. Nobody is upstairs. Let’s go!” So we snuck in our room and had our first romantic encounter in about…uh…three months. It was lovely. Afterwards, we snuck downstairs with our poker faces on.

Uncle Bennie said, “Whatcha been doing?”

 I said, “Oh, just checking emails.” The German envasion began laughing.

Uncle Bennie replied in his thick German accent, “Next time you might want to turn off the baby monitor!”

To the makers of all baby monitors, please include a WARNING label for the stupid parents like me: IF YOUR BABY MONITOR IS ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE WHEN YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND HAVE SEX FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 3 MONTHS, THE ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD AND POSSIBLY SOME NEIGHBORS WILL HEAR EVERYTHING!

This is the culprit!

This is the culprit!

Posted by: kateraidt | March 2, 2010

My New Favorite Store = Best Bargains

I always thought that the best bargains were at the megastores Walmart or Target. Last year I hosted a Valentine’s Day party so I bought all of the party accessories at Target – table cloth, plates, napkins, crafts, coffee mugs, party favors, etc…I remember spending close to $100. Well, three doors down from Target a DOLLAR TREE just opened. I wandered in to check out the scene to find that every single item in there is really just a dollar. This year I found ALL of my Valentine’s Day party goods at the Dollar Tree. A pack of adorable Valentine’s day plates – $1. Coffee mugs – $1 a piece. Table cloth – $1. Construction paper, balloons, stickers, etc… – $1 each. I bought everything I needed for the party, plus some, for less than $15!

Warning: Just because a store has the word “dollar” in it’s name doesn’t mean everything is a dollar. Last month I was out of town and I realized I forgot my hairbrush. I ran into a Dollar General and bought a crappy hairbrush, bottled water, a bag of chips and two sticker books for my kids. My tab was $20. Not such a bargain. At the Dollar Tree the same items would have been $5. The Dollar General…Generally Not a Dollar!

So, if you can find a Dollar TREE in your neighborhood, shop there for your school supplies, holiday and seasonal knick knacks, balloons, kitchen ware, toys and inexpensive gifts. Why spend triple or quadruple the money at another store? I love a great bargain!

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