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Toasting another school year with a strawberry shake


June 19, 2004

Funny how what we miss changes as we grow

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special to Handle Extra

The last day of school always catches me by surprise. So does the first day actually, but the routine is familiar and it doesn’t take long to get into the groove. Before I know it, it’s Christmas, and then spring break.

After that, the days gather speed until another year has passed. In the blur of final exams, recitals and sports, my children make a leap and I’m left with the bags of school papers, broken crayons and assorted hats and mittens they found stuffed in their desk.

This year, the last day was worse than usual. My son left home furious because, according to him, he would be the only student whose parents were abusive enough to make him go to school on the last day.

My daughter overslept, missed the bus and had to be driven to school. She stormed out of the car and into the building without a backward glance.

My youngest child sat quietly in the back seat and rode out the storm. When I delivered her to school, she hopped out of the car and trotted up to the front door, her backpack bobbing up and down. She turned around to smile at me and wave one last time before she disappeared inside.

I drove home and tried to work but I was restless and couldn’t focus. I was worried about my son, and couldn’t stop thinking about my 14-year-old daughter.

Our “welcome summer” tradition on the last day of school has been to go to the Milk Bottle on Garland for a celebratory lunch. In the past their friends have been invited and we were a rolling party of noisy, hungry kids.

This year, the teenagers all had something better to do, something that didn’t include me, so I found myself with only one child. The little third-grade graduate.

We ordered our usual cheeseburger special and while we waited for our food we talked about important things like who her teacher might be next year, and how much homework fourth-graders had.

Suddenly, she put her head down, hiding her face in her arms.

“Are you crying?” I asked. She just shrugged without lifting her head.

“What is it?”

She didn’t say anything for a minute then turned her head to the side. She looked up at me with large tear-filled hazel eyes, and a serious face — with exactly 28 freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose — and said, “I’m schoolsick.”

It’s funny how we can take words, like Playdoh, and squeeze them into new shapes. If her brother or sisters had said the same thing, it would have meant they were sick of school, sick of being told what to do and when to do it, sick of lessons and projects. Just sick of it all.

But she was heartsick because the school year was ending and weeks without the teacher she loved, and the comforting daily routine, were stretching out in front of her. She was bereft.

When our food arrived we stopped talking. She drank the milkshake first, then ate the fries one at a time, and finally a bite or two of the hamburger. By the time we finished, she was cheerful and chatty, full of plans for the summer.

We drove home, and I thought about the future. There aren’t many “hamburger parties” left before she’ll be too busy to celebrate with me. And I may never hear the word “schoolsick” again. Not in a good way, anyway.

That night, I kissed her and tucked her into bed. Then I walked into my room and looked into the mirror. “I’m childsick,” I told my reflection. And I understood exactly what I meant.

Children’s clothing swap this Saturday

The Spokane Buddhist Temple is having a clothing exchange for children ages newborn to 16 on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon. The Temple is asking for donations of clothes without tears, rips or stains. If you can’t make it on Saturday, donations may be dropped off downstairs, or after hours at the basement door, just north of the main stairs. On Saturday, participants can bring a bag of clothing, then start sorting from 10-10:30 a.m. When everything is sorted out, you get to pick clothes from 10:40-11:30 a.m. After that, you can pick items for friends who aren’t there. The Temple is asking for a $1 donation to participate. The Temple is located at 927 S. Perry Street. For more information e-mail spokanebuddhisttemple@gmail.com

Boy-for-sale Craigslist query switches states

Investigation into a Spokane Craigslist ad that offered a 4-year-old boy for sale has been transferred to another law enforcement agency.

A sheriff’s deputy tracked Internet Provider address information for the posting and believes the post may have originated outside of Washington, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced today.

A law enforcement agency in that jurisdiction will continue the investigation “to determine if the ad was a hoax or an actual offer to sell a child,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Police haven’t specified which jurisdiction.

The investigation began March 1 when a Spokane woman told police of a Craigslist ad she spotted on Feb. 28 that offered a boy named Gavin for $5,000.

It included a photo of a small child in a yellow fireman’s helmet and a dark shirt with the word “adventure” on the front.

The ad had been posted just before 11 p.m. the previous day but had been removed by Craigslist when the woman returned to the site after copying the text – but not the photo – into a computer word processing program.

The ad’s author claimed to be the boy’s father.

The author said the boy was a “great kid” but that he could no longer afford to care for him. The boy loves basketball, football and soccer but doesn’t play with cars, refuses to eat vegetables and can scream for hours at a time.

“But he always has a smile on his face. He doesn’t fuss very much, but when he does he just screams for hours. I usually just put him in his closet until he stops and that usually works,” according to the ad.

“It is going to kill me to do this but as I stated before I cannot afford to keep him. His Motherr is out of the picture and my parents no longer talk to me since I’ve had Gavin,” the ad read, according to the search warrant. “So I don’t know what else to do other than find a good family with kids or a couple that wants a son.”

The seller, who identified himself as Rick Obelophy, said he wouldn’t give the boy “to anyone.”

“I want to meet with you and make sure you will be fit parents,” the ad read.

Past coverage:

Boy-for-sale add triggers investigation

Come back to me

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap

January 27, 2010

Special to Pinch

     After almost 6 weeks of having her home, we just helped my middle daughter pack up her gear to return to school at the end of the long winter break. She was ready to go. She was ready to get back to her life on campus.
    She took her new sweaters. She took the new DVDs and the books she bought while she was here. She took the female kitten she recently adopted from a friend on campus and who predictably went into heat  as soon as they got home. The cat whose expensive, but necessary surgery put a significant dent in the post-holiday budget.
    When her ride arrived we sent her on her way - as we always do - with hugs and kisses and a warning to be safe.  To watch out for snow on the mountain passes, to stay alert and aware of other drivers. I told her to call us when she got back to school and to stay in touch on a regular basis. We reminded her to eat right and to make the right choices. She’s in college. I brought up that part about making good choices again.
    I gave the kitten’s ears a rub and waved as the car pulled out of the driveway.

Family Magic

Family Magic

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap

Special to PINCH

Jan 20, 2010

     One of the things I loved most about the Harry Potter books when my children were reading them, was the idea that photographs in newspapers, books and magazines were living images. The people in the magical photos moved, coming and going, talking, laughing and smiling at whoever was looking at them.

      Sometimes, when I walk past the framed black-and-white and sepia-toned photos that hang on my bedroom wall, I think about that. They are, for the most part, snapshots and portraits of my children taken when they were very young.  And most, although I’ve only just realized it, were taken in summer.

      I remember the moment each was taken…

Is it a boy or girl?

Nobody knows – except the parents of “Pop,” a 2-year-old in Sweden whose parents refuse to reveal whether their child is a boy or girl.

Pop’s mom and dad decided to keep their child’s gender a secret because they believe gender is a social construction, according to a recent story published in The Local: Sweden’s News in English.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

 By doing this, their child won’t be subject to society’s tendency to stereotype based on gender, they said. According to The Local, Pop (not the child’s real name) wears both dresses and pants. Pop’s hairstyle also changes on a regular basis.

The family has received both positive and negative feedback. The Local interviewed Kristina Henkel, a gender equality consultant in Sweden, and she said Pop’s lack of gender-identity might be a good thing.

“Girls are told they are cute in their dresses, and boys are told they are cool with their car toys. But if you give them no gender they will be seen more as a human or not a stereotype as a boy or girl,” Henkel told The Local.

The Local also interviewed Susan Pinker, a psychologist, Canadian newspaper columnist and author of the book, “The Sexual Paradox.” “Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual,” Pinker told The Local.

What are your thoughts on this family’s decision? How do you think this experiment will affect Pop as he or she grows up? How long can a child remain “gender-free”?

Lawmakers and governor approve bill to make breastfeeding in public a civil right….

Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed into law House Bill 1596, which declares that the right of a mother to breastfeed her child in public places is a civil right protected by Washington’s anti-discrimination law.

“This new law will eliminate one more obstacle that women are faced with day in and day out,” said Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood. It takes effect in 90 days.

Washington is already one of at least 25 states that have passed laws explicitly declaring that breastfeeding or expressing breast milk does not constitute indecent exposure. In a move intended to prod businesses into making more accomodations for breastfeeding moms, the state also has a law allowing employers to say they’re “infant-friendly” if they allow flexible work schedules and clean facilities for moms.

The new law protects against discrimination by declaring that women can breastfeed a child “in any place of public resort, accomodation, assemblage or amusement.” That includes restaurants, hotels, motels, stores, malls, theaters, concert halls, parks, fairs, libraries, schools, hospitals and government offices.

Complaints would be investigated by the state Human Rights Commission. Based on results involving similar laws in Vermont and Hawaii, the commission estimates that it will field 4-5 complaints a year. It says that Washington has a high percentage of breastfeeding moms, particularly among immigrants and low-income women.

In House and Senate hearings, no one testified against the bill. But proponents said that women continue to be asked to leave public places while breastfeeding. Such hassles, they said, may contribute to a sharp dropoff in breastfeeding at 6 weeks and 6 months.


Lawmakers blast child protective officials; DSHS defends itself…

Photo: Colleen Beimer, from Bonney Lake, cries while holding a picture of her grandchildren. Richard Roesler - The Spokesman Review

Lawmakers, parents and a local prosecutor on Thursday blasted state child-protection officials, saying the state is too quick to remove children from their families.

“The system is broken. The children are forgotten,” said Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen. He said he found “a culture of deceit and deception” among Child Protective Services workers in Colville.

The standing-room-only crowd, numbering about 100, was full of parents and grandparents, some holding photographs of children.

Thursday’s meeting was called by state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who’s been highly critical of state officials for months in a case involving grandparents’ efforts to get custody of their 3-year-old granddaughter.

“Lies are put on desks,” Roach said on the Senate floor later in the day. “Children are being hurt.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services said officials take such allegations very seriously.

“If someone believes that any of our staff have been dishonest, falsified documents or have retaliated against families, we ask that people report this to the Children’s Administration or Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman,” said Sherry Hill.

“The first priority of the Children’s Administration is the safety of children,” she said. “Our goal is to keep children in their home as long as they are safe.”

Of the child abuse and neglect cases investigated, she said, fewer than 20 percent result in the children being placed in foster care. And when that does happen, Hill said, “we then work toward reunification with the family if that is possible.”

After years of trying, advocates pass law extending statute of limitations in child sex crimes…

(This admittedly falls into the category of better-late-than-never news, but I suspect that proponents would say the same thing of the bill itself.)

Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill — closely watched in Spokane — to extend the statute of limitations for some sex crimes against children. Instead of having to prosecute things like first-degree rape of a child under 14 by the time the victim turns 21 or 24, for example, law enforcement could go after the perpetrator up until the time that same victim turns 28.

For years, former local prosecutor Don Brockett has been beating the drum for complete elimination of the statute of limitations in major child sex crimes. Some things, the reasoning goes, are so horrific and life-changing that the offender should spent the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, worried about a police knock on the door.

Local lawmakers, including state Sen. Chris Marr and former state Rep. John Ahern, tried to make that change in recent years, only to run into resistance from lawmakers and some victims advocates and prosecutors. It does no good, opponents argued, to wrongly give victims false hope of prosecuting a case decades after the fact, as documents are lost and memories fade. And defense attorneys argued that it would be extremely difficult to defend an innocent person in such cases.

“Who could imagine that protecting today’s kids from pedophiles by giving yesterday’s victims a chance to grow up and realize the harm and speak up would be controversial? But it was,” Spokane attorney Beth Bollinger wrote on her blog tracking progress of the bill all session.

Brockett (whom I couldn’t immediately reach) is clearly happy with the change, which makes it harder for rapists and molesters to run out the clock and avoid prosecution. But Brockett has long advocated no statute of limitations at all for a wide array of sex crimes involving children.

“You can be sure their molesters are keeping track of that time, knowing they will be able to continue to molest more children with the assurance they will not have the responsibility for their crimes and will not be recognized in the communities in which they live,” Brockett wrote today.

In February, Bollinger went to Olympia to testify on behalf of the change. Abuse victims feel shame and isolation, she and other advocates told the Senate Judiciary Committee, and even 28 is a pretty early age for someone to step forward and reveal past abuse.

After some starts and stops, the bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed into law last week by Gov. Gregoire. It takes effect July 26.

Bollinger wrote on her blog:

I ended up not going to the bill’s signing ceremony. Don didn’t go, and I just decided it would be a lot of driving for just a few minutes. It would have been fun but, in a way, it was unnecessary. The most important thing already had happened. The bill had become law.

When Feelings Hurt

My youngest son had a half-day today. When he climbed into the car he started crying quietly. “I had a bad day,” he said.

“What happened? Did you get in trouble?”

“No,” he sniffed, and cried harder.

“Did someone hurt your feelings?”

“Yes!” he sobbed. “I don’t wanna talk about it!”

We were quiet for a bit. “Would a Happy Meal help you feel better?”

“Yeah, I think so,” he said.

As we pulled out of the drive-thru I asked him if he wanted to talk about what happened, or if he was getting over it. “I’m getting over it,” he replied.

When we got home he gave me a big hug and kiss. “Thanks, Mom.”

How do you handle it when your kids get their feelings hurt?


I drive my nine-year-old son to school every day. Each morning as he prepares to get out of the car he leans forward and plants a big kiss on my cheek. “Bye, Mom,” he says.

“Have a good day. I’ll see you after school,” I reply.

Since he’s my fourth son, I savor this little morning ritual, because I know what comes next. Somewhere between 4th and 6th grade the goodbye kisses will end. He’ll have more on his mind as he leaves for school than saying goodbye to his Mom, and besides, what if one of his friends should catch him?

Thankfully, goodnight kisses in my experience last into the early teen years before they too taper off.

How about you? Do your children still kiss you goodbye? Do you have leave-taking rituals?

Eight might be more than enough

Earlier this month, I asked you about your thoughts on family planning and how factors that include money, time, religious beliefs and environmental concerns all play into your decisions. So along those lines, I thought I’d bring up the California couple that gave birth to octuplets – six boys and two girls, born weighing between 1 pound 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces and delivered via Cesarean section. (The babies, by the way, are all breathing on their own and five have started bottle feeding. And, according to news reports, the woman who gave birth to them also has six other children.)

Yesterday, The Los Angeles Times wrote about the risks and ethics involved in such a pregnancy. “When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies,” Michael Tucker, a clinical embryologist in Atlanta and a leading researcher in infertility treatment, told the LA Times. He added that, “if a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there’s some degree of inappropriate medical therapy.”

The reporters noted that these multiple births not only involve the potential for all kinds of health problems for mother and babies; they also “consume enormous financial resources for hospitals, health insurers and families.”

Some people have strong opinions on this issue. On The Seattle Times website, a woman who identified herself as Bothell mom wrote: “This woman went into the hospital and had a ‘litter’ like an animal. This is going to cost society at some point. There is NO way you can convince me that this family is going to foot this bill on their own for the lives of these kids. Unless this family is pulling in A-List Hollywood paychecks, they’re going to end up being a drain on taxpayers. …”

What do you think?

TUBOB: Unbearably Cute Kids

I was once in the Black Hills of South Dakota and saw a family of wild burros. The baby burro, or foal I think they are called (or are baby burros called “burritos”) was the cutest animal I’ve ever seen in the wild. It was multicolored and playful and running around with his mommy and daddy burros. As cute as it was, and it was beyond cute, it wasn’t as cute as my kids/TUBOB. More here.

Question: Please feel free to use this thread to brag about your kids.

You are Getting Sleepy…

I’ve been going through some journals I kept when my three oldest were all under five. I’m not sure how I stayed awake long enough to write because in almost every entry I mention trying desperately to get some sleep.

One of my favorite entries starts: “They can’t stay up forever, can they? They will go to sleep eventually, won’t they?”
Another entry exults: “Ethan and Alex are both napping at the same time!”  Other mothers and parenting books advised me to nap when my children were napping. Right. That’s when I cleaned house and read the paper.
How about you? If you have young children, do you feel well rested? Do your kids take naps? For parents with older kids, how did you cope during those sleep deprived months/years?

Write it Down

Last week I found a scrap of paper in which I’d written about the last time I rocked my youngest child in our rocking chair. Those five paragraphs brought back a wealth of memories. You can read it here: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/jan/01/take-a-moment-jot-it-down/

Some parents are avid picture takers, some scrapbook. How do you preserve precious memories?

Broken Angels

As angels go it was pretty ugly— its cherubic smile rather disturbing. But my son bought it for me at the Dollar Store when he was four. His dad helped him wrap it and Alex was so excited for me to open it. “Open mine! Open mine!” he yelled on Christmas morning. So I carefully opened the lumpy package. The cheesy gold coating was already flaking off. “It’s an angel, Mommy.” Alex said. “A Christmas angel.”
I smiled and lied like all good mothers. “It’s beautiful, Alex. Thank you so much.”
The next year when I got out the Christmas decorations Alex watched carefully. I thought he might have forgotten about it but he didn’t. “Where’s the golden angel, Mom?”
So each year for the past 12 years that gaudy angel has dominated our Christmas display. Like an ungainly, ugly stepsister she hovered over her more lovely angelic companions.
Until tonight.
I asked Alex to pick up a pair of dirty socks from the living room. Instead of taking them to a laundry basket he opted to lob the socks over the top of the piano and down the stairs.
The socks connected with the angel and she went over the railing and smashed into tiny pieces.
“Uh. Sorry, Mom.” Alex said.
As angels go it wasn’t much to look at. But each year as Alex got older and busier, that angel seemed more beautiful.
Now I know that golden angels, like four-year-old boys are irreplaceable.


Do any of you have ornaments/decorations you once thought ugly, but now couldn’t bear to live without?