What Can I Write for You?

I am an award-winning journalist who writes about parenting, pop culture, and girlpower. As mom to a teen, I find creative ways to guide my daughter through the highs and lows of growing up. As a grown-up girl myself, I still love sports, music, and getting down on the dance floor. I have been published in Parenting, Volta Voices, Healthy Children, VisitSouth.com, and parenting publications across North America. Email me to discuss your publication’s needs.

Parenting

I’m a working mom, and I know how hard it can be sometimes to balance family life, work life and “me” life. My mom worked, too, so I understand the other side as well. Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world – it’s also one of the most rewarding. Below are a few of my articles on parenting.

 

Girlpower

Girlpower is about being yourself, making your own choices, and learning from your mistakes. It’s about wearing lipstick while throwing out a runner, dancing to your own tunes, making others take you seriously, and moving on if they don’t. It’s about asking for help when you need it and offering it when you can. Girlpower rocks.

Touchdowns and touchups

Burn, baby, burn

No room for sexism in sports

Get in the Game: How children with cochlear implants can benefit from playing sports

Football: Her take on the game

Girls aren’t responsible for boys’ thoughts

A swinging good time: Class introduces women to golf

Football: Her take on the game

The smell of puberty

Ah, take a deep breath. Do you smell that? It’s the smell of puberty. And it makes parents of tweens everywhere ask three important questions before the kids head out the door each day.

“Did you put on deodorant?”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Are you wearing clean underwear?”

One day our kids are toddling around in footed pajamas smelling like baby powder, and the next they’re stomping around in week-old socks smelling like, well, week-old socks. A change has come … and many times they’re oblivious.

Here’s the rest of the article, pasted here since the magazine where it was originally printed took down all its previous links.

“I just had a battle with a certain 12-year-old girl,” Amy Vanwestervelt, mom to three, said. “She was ready to head out to school in the shirt she was wearing the day before (that she also decided to sleep in), hair not brushed, and hadn’t brushed her teeth. She was ticked off that I made her change, brush and pull her hair back and brush her teeth.”

Give them the lowdown
Getting kids to pay attention to hygiene is an ongoing battle. My daughter loves to look cute for school – she’ll put together a pretty outfit and take time to put her hair in an actual bun. But brushing her teeth? It’s like I’ve asked her to deep clean the toilet with a toothbrush! And she has braces, so not brushing can lead to double trouble.

Short of constantly checking behind their ears and standing at the sink with a timer, what can frustrated parents do to get our children to take care of their bodies?

Jennifer Sheehy-Knight, Ph.D, psychologist at Children’s of Alabama, said education is key. “One of the things I often recommend is to pick up a book about what’s happening with their bodies and start reading it with them when you start seeing the first signs of puberty, usually around the ages of 9 or 10. This introduction will help with later discussions and you can use it as a reference.”

A few clues it’s starting: oilier skin, a growth spurt, growth of body hair, breast development in girls, and a change in voice for boys. If you’ve noticed a couple of these, welcome to puberty!

Kids this age are already anxious about starting middle school, the new boy-girl dynamic, and changes they feel in their bodies, so the last thing parents want to do is make it worse by telling them they stink.

“Talk about the changes in terms of puberty and development and that as a result their sweat is changing,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “Hormones change in each stage from childhood to teenage years to adulthood and everyone goes through it. Along with that development comes body odor – it’s a natural part of growing up. But that odor also signals that it’s time to get serious about how you take care of your body.”

Getting social
Additionally, puberty and its symptoms can also affect children socially. Who hasn’t been turned off by a friend’s bad breath or sweaty feet? Let’s face it, sometimes, even though we know it’s not nice, it’s hard to be around a person who stinks.

“Often kids cannot accurately smell their own odor,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said, “It’s important to use good hygiene, even if you think you’re OK, in order to avoid negative comments. Kids this age have to be more thorough. They can’t just give it the ‘once-over.’ Emphasize that it can impact them socially and help them understand that people will shy away. This might help them strive toward better hygiene.”

To do: Loosen the reins
This age group requires us parents to balance their autonomy with our authority. Explain the expectations then let them try to fulfill them. “They’re no longer children, but they’re not yet mature, so you still have to watch and monitor,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “As they’re making this transition, they are working toward more independence. However, they’ll also be forgetful, so a checklist might be a good idea.”

We all have to-do lists, at work, at home, on weekends. “You can help them create one for the morning routine and one for bedtime,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “This will allow them to take more responsibility and develop good habits.”

A checklist can work in tandem with a rewards system. For instance, set a showering goal of four days a week and when they reach it, they get extra video game time. Just make sure the incentive is something that will motivate them. It can be as simple as giving them a choice.

“A couple of things I do is buy a bazillion kinds of deodorant,” Heather Smith Davis said. “The girls can use any kind they want as long as they use it. And showers are on our chore list. Feed dogs, water dogs, sweep kitchen and hallway, take shower. They don’t get allowance if they don’t take a shower. And we have a gazillion soaps in there. Use whatever kind you want as long as it’s used.”

Orthodontist Britt Reagin, DMD, MS, said getting kids to take ownership is crucial to good hygiene, especially when they have braces. “We educate the child with an instructional video on how to take care of their teeth and what will happen if they don’t,” said Reagin, who completed his residency at UAB and now practices in South Carolina. Then he has them sign a contract, making them responsible for their teeth. “Most kids have never signed a contract, so it is a big deal to them. We also have in-office contests for kids who maintain regular hygiene visits with their dentist, and we grade hygiene at each visit. Much like homework, ultimately, it is home life and parents that determine good hygiene.”

Of course, parents still need to check that the kids taking care of business. Are they walking out the door with stained jeans or unbrushed hair? Are there more than two pairs of underwear in the laundry basket? Is the toothpaste tube still full? We can use our powers of observation to find out, no nagging required.

Light at the end of the tunnel
While we might think this battle over body will never end, hope abounds. Many parents report that one day their kids started showering daily or brushing their teeth without being told to, or, miracle of miracles, doing their own laundry! Eventually, they get the importance of good hygiene, as these moms can attest.

“My daughter is 12, and this summer she started showering without prompting and downright being made to,” Heather Hurlock said. “She now showers daily on her own. It has helped tremendously with the maintenance of her hair, and she even likes her hair being ‘cute’ again.”

Apryl Chapman Thomas said, “I battled with my daughter last year, but since she started sixth grade, she’s changed. She wants to blow dry and fix her hair. She loves lotions and spray from Bath and Body Works. I think her changes are not only because of her age and being in middle school, but also because she sees her friends doing the same, too.”

“It all comes down to education and understanding the possible consequences,” Dr. Sheehy-Knight said. “If you’re not cleaning your face regularly, you’ll get pimples. If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get cavities. Once they start keeping up with good hygiene, it will become one less thing they have to worry about when it comes to finding their fit socially.”

And parents can change the out-the-door conversation.

“Great job on that last report card!”

“Nice outfit!”

“I love you!”

13 Things You Could Do Before 2013 Ends

One of the few good photos we took while baking Christmas cookies. It was a good day.

1. Stargaze. December offered three nights of meteor showers, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology. First up was the Geminids Meteor Shower, or Winter’s Fireworks, with Dec. 13-14 (well, we missed this one!) the best time for viewing. According to Telescopes.com, on Dec. 22, the Ursids Meteor Shower happens as
 Earth moves through Comet 8P Tuttle’s dust trail. With patience, you could see five to 10 meteors per hour if you’re looking closely at Ursa Minor, aka the Little Dipper.

2. List the good stuff. What made your family smile? Laugh? What will you always remember about 2013?

Shhh! Do not disturb this peaceful child.

3. Grab a camera and snap photos of your kids sleeping. If they’re like my daughter, it’s one of the few times they’re still and peaceful.

4. Make a playlist of your family’s Top 10. For us, it would be One Direction’s “Best Song Ever,” Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” New Kids On the Block’s “Remix (I Like),” and “What Does the Fox Say.”

5. Screen your favorite tween/teen flicks with your kids. We’ve watched “The Karate Kid,” “Grease,” and we are working our way to “Sixteen Candles.”

Somehow she turned an airplane shape into a Christmas tree cookie.

6. Let your kid cook. It can be as simple as grilled cheeses or cookies. Of course, you’ll need to be around to supervise younger children and help older ones, just in case.

7. Volunteer or donate together. Each season, my daughter and I gather up too-small clothing and donate it to a home for abused children. Most libraries take book donations. Or you can volunteer to serve meals to the needy. Drive your elderly neighbor to the grocery store. Do some good.

8. Create a memory album. Take the list you made earlier and find photos to match to make a 2013 scrapbook. Make it as simple or as fancy as you’d like.

9. Bundle up and walk outside. Alone or with your family, a bracing stroll around the block can wake you up, help you think or just decompress.

10. Drink a warm beverage while sitting outside. Hot chocolate, coffee or hot tea (with or without a little extra) will warm your insides while you get some fresh air.

In “London” just before Ebenezer Scrooge shows up to “Bah-humbug” the holidays.

11. Catch a play. We saw our local children’s theater production of “A Christmas Carol” this year as is our tradition. You might prefer a non-holiday show. Check to see what’s on stage and support the arts.

12. Head to the drive-in. The next best thing to watching a movie at home in your pajamas is catching one at the drive-in in your pajamas, well, pjs for the the kids anyway. No drive-ins around? Head to the dollar movie theater for cheaper fun.

13. Grab a book. Relax in the tub. Enjoy the quiet while you can. Soon it will be 2014 and the fun will start again.

What do you plan to do before the year ends?

Why should my daughter be responsible for your son’s thoughts?

I’m tired of people telling girls how they shouldn’t dress, how they shouldn’t dance, how they shouldn’t talk, how they shouldn’t wear their makeup, how they shouldn’t BE.

STOP! Enough with the shaming and blaming and lecturing. It’s time to accept that girls are not pretty playthings out to destroy boys and lead them down the path of wickedness. They are intelligent, strong, beautiful creatures made in God’s image and should be treated with respect. Even if you don’t like what they’re wearing.

Two occurrences brought about this post: a sermon and a viral blog post. I moved the first event to the back of my mind, but when the second happened, I knew I had to say something. Here’s that something.

The last time I wanted to get up in the middle of a church sermon and walk out, a preacher was talking politics. This time a pastor was discussing modesty.

“Girls, if it causes a guy, when he looks at you, not to be able to think about Jesus, then you probably have made the wrong decision.” And he went on to say that he didn’t mean only in church, and said no telling how many guys have made bad grades.

My brain and my heart were all, “Say what?!” I kept waiting for him to say something about boys controlling their thoughts. Or respecting girls no matter what. And I kept waiting. And waiting. And I’m still waiting.

I was so disheartened and shocked that I tuned out the rest of the sermon. I just kept thinking, “Boys have no responsibility for taking their minds off Jesus? Girls are to blame? That’s not right!” I scribbled furiously on the bulletin. And I was so upset that I called my mom and railed to her as soon as church was out.

Then this week a blog post made the rounds via social media, (and, no, I’m not linking to it) in which a mom of boys told girls who post “sexy” selfies that they cause her sons to look at them in a sexual way, and therefore, they are not good enough for her sons.

My daughter takes dance classes. She wears shorts and a sports bra to some of them. If your son sees her walk from the studio door to my vehicle and then has naughty thoughts, who’s fault is that? Not my daughter’s, that’s for sure.

Why are we teaching girls to shoulder the blame for how boys think?

Soon folks will be telling girls it’s their fault they were sexually harassed or abused or raped. Oh, wait … THAT’S ALREADY HAPPENING!

Do you think a boy has sexual thoughts only when he sees a girl’s shoulders? Or midriff or thighs? Really? A stiff breeze caused my high school male friends to have those thoughts. And sexual thoughts at this age are normal.

Teach your sons to NOT think of girls as sexual objects. Why not teach boys to RESPECT girls no matter what they wear? Or don’t wear? (I bet boys are quite capable of understanding this. They are smart, strong, beautiful creatures made in God’s image, too.)

I’m teaching my daughter to dress appropriately for the occasion (though she won’t always listen, so don’t shame her for it). I’m teaching her to not judge others for what they wear, have, or look like. And that nothing you post on the internet is truly private. But I’m not freaking out when she wants to wear a strapless dress out to dinner. Or a two-piece to the pool. Or when she does a stupid duckface selfie in her pajamas, with no bra. Or when she sees your 1011916_10201236353372263_2119174101_nshirtless son on the track and thinks he’s “hot.” I’m teaching her that sexual thoughts are normal, and I’m teaching her how to handle them.

Here’s a terrific post – Seeing A Woman – to help you do the same for your sons.

Comments? Please leave one.

Saturday Night and the Single Mom

PeaceHere’s my latest column for Birmingham Parent.

Saturday nights used to be my favorite time of the week. After a day of fun, we’d be settling down for the night, looking forward to one more free day before heading back to school and work. Now I hate Saturday nights and bedtime. I feel guilty about what I did or didn’t do while Riley was with me. (Riley’s dad picks her up on Sunday mornings, and she’s with him until I pick her up after school on Wednesdays.)

When Saturday night rolls around, I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about everything I did wrong. Am I the only mom who feels this way? How do you stop the guilt? How do you balance “mean mom” with “fun mom”?

Did I tell her enough that I love her? Did I yell too much because she wouldn’t clean up the paper clippings and glitter after an art project? Will she smile thinking about cooking chicken burritos together? Or will she cringe because I got frustrated after telling her for the umpteenth time to brush her teeth?

Enjoying life with my 10-year-old is my goal – I want our days together to be more satisfying and less frustrating. More calm, fewer arguments. Of course, I know every single minute will not be a party. What’s fun about your mom making you put away dishes and laundry or making you write your spelling words three times each?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on taking a deep breath when I get frustrated instead of yelling. I admit it: I yell a lot. I’m not proud of it, and I’m working to chill out because hollering only makes it worse for both of us: Riley’s feelings are hurt, and I feel guilty. And the dirty clothes are still on the floor.

Maybe we should pull out the old chore chart again. She does what is on the list and gets rewarded with her chosen prize. Or she doesn’t do her jobs and faces the consequences. Dirty clothes not taken to the laundry room? Don’t fuss about your favorite shirt not being clean. Markers and glue sticks are missing? You should’ve put them away before I put them in the “earn it back” box. Either way, I stop yelling about it.

Besides, I try to balance the “boring” days with small outings at least once every week. We have season tickets to our local children’s theater and a standing Friday night dinner date. And during the week, we watch a couple of “Big Time Rush” episodes after homework, or she does my hair. Sometimes we just sit with my laptop and laugh at a slideshow of her old baby photos.

One Saturday night soon, I’ll be able to to drift off to sleep easily, knowing that even though I’m not a perfect mom, Riley understands that I have to be both “fun mom” and “mean mom” in order to be a good mom.

Jingle, jingle, jingle

Imagine the sounds of the Christmas season: the ripping of wrapping paper, the squeal of an excited child, jingle bells, the whispers to Santa, and your favorite Christmas carol.

Now imagine the holidays without those sounds. That’s how it was for Riley until she turned 2. With the help of cochlear implants and years of auditory-verbal therapy, she is able to enjoy all the sounds of the season just like any kid with typical hearing, including me yelling, “Riley! Stop shaking your presents!”

One of Riley’s favorite Christmas sounds is a DVD by The Wiggles. The kiddie band was one of the first things she heard after her implants were activated. “Mama, I don’t care how old I get, ” she says, “I’ll always love The Wiggles.”  The photo at right shows her gettin’ wiggly during her first holiday to hear. Pretty special, right?

Since then she has sung in numerous school Christmas programs and played three roles in her third-grade-class production of “A Christmas Carol.” Not bad for a girl who, when she was born, couldn’t hear a jet engine if you held her next to it.

When all the noise starts getting to you, stop and think what it’d be like if you couldn’t hear at all. No kids singing “Away in a Manger,” no friends laughing, no voice saying “I love you.” Then be grateful for the sounds. And take some ibuprofen and a nap and get on with your holiday-ing.

Christmas without my girl

Ever wondered what it’d be like without your child at Christmas? Well, here’s what it’ll be like for me this year:

I’ve been a single mom now for two of my daughter’s birthdays, one Mother’s Day, a dance recital, one softball season, a year and a half of school, and this month will mark my second Christmas.

However, this holiday won’t be like any other – I won’t be with my daughter. And like Elvis once sang, “it won’t seem like Christmas” without her. Riley will be with her dad, visiting his relatives halfway across the country. While I know she will enjoy her time away, I’m dreading it.

What do I do on Christmas morning when she’s not here to wake me up, shouting that Santa left boot prints on the floor? How will I handle seeing her stocking on the mantel the day after Christmas? Do I want to go to my family’s big Christmas dinner with everyone else’s kids there? Or do I want to go to a movie alone and wallow in my sadness for a couple of hours first?

Keep in touch
Recently, I was clicking through Pinterest, an online bulletin board where you collect ideas for crafts, books, outfits, home decor, and I saw a recipe for a crockpot breakfast casserole with the note “great for Christmas morning.” It sounded yummy, so I repinned it to my board. Then I thought, “Oh, never mind. Riley won’t be here, and that’s too much food for just me.” It’s the little things that sadden me most.

Of course, I’m not the only one going through this – in 2009, 40,000 other Alabama residents saw their marriages end, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And many of us are wondering how to handle the holidays, especially the first one away from  our children.

According to Lee Block, a life coach, author of The Post-Divorce Chronicles blog, and a divorced mom of two, it should be a priority for children to talk to both parents, if possible, on the holiday. “It’s a great way to still feel connected and also help the other parent who is without the kids,” she explains.

Because I knew my daughter would be out of town over the holidays, I decided to upgrade to an iPhone with FaceTime, or video calling. When I message my daughter’s iPod Touch, we can actually see each other when we talk. If I can’t wake up to her smiling face in person, at least I will have the gift of seeing her via modern technology on Christmas morning.

If you don’t have an iPhone, try Skype to video chat – all you need is a computer, Internet connection and webcam. It’s easy to set up and free.

Invite folks over
Another way to banish the holiday blues is to make yourself do something fun, Block says. Fill your home with the sounds of laughter and friendship to ward off the melancholy.

I’m sure with all of the prep and planning and buying and wrapping some of my friends could use a breather right about now. A night of cocktails and cookies, no prep needed, would be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays – just bring a favorite drink, whether it’s a hot chocolate or a hot toddy. Or how about sharing the wrapping duties while watching a holiday movie, sipping lattes, and making plans for the new year? Hmm, I think I’m on to something!

“Just because you’re alone on the holidays doesn’t mean you have to wait to get an invitation somewhere. Have your own celebration and invite everyone to you,” Block says. “Having a house full of people will keep the loneliness at bay.”

Start new traditions
Of course, because your family has changed, the way you celebrate will change, too, so Block suggests creating new traditions for your kids. “Because you are no longer the same type of family unit, it is important to do things a different way than you did them before.”

Each year, Riley and I open one gift on Christmas Eve, bake cookies for Santa and leave him a letter. We make reindeer food and sprinkle it in the front yard so Rudolph and his pals can spot our house from the sky. And each year we get out the Nativity sets and read Luke 2 aloud.

But this year will have to be different. Since we won’t have Christmas Eve together, maybe my daughter and I can make New Year’s Eve special. We could get dressed up and go out for a fancy dinner then to a movie. And top it off with some hot chocolate, admiring the gigantic tree at our favorite outdoor shopping area. Or we could invite a few friends over to ring in the new year with a Wii Just Dance tournament.

If we make it through December
Nothing will cure the ache that I’ll surely feel when I hear “Blue Christmas” on the radio around December 23 and I’m missing my girl but having a plan to lighten up when the holiday blues creep in makes me feel a bit better. And time apart will make my time with her that much sweeter.

And while I know Riley is excited about her trip to see her dad’s families, today my heart broke for her. As we were driving home from school I was singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio. Normally she sings too, but she had her hands over her ears and wouldn’t even listen.

“Mama, turn off the Christmas music. I don’t want to hear it.”

“Why not? You like it.”

“I don’t want to listen to it.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Because I want to be in Alabama with you on Christmas.”

Oh my heart! I told her that it was OK and that she will have a ton of fun on her trip. I reminded her that we’re going to do Christmas with my whole big family before she goes and with me and my parents when she gets back. She’s satisfied for now. I sure hope our FaceTime works while she is out there because it’s going to be hard without her.

Touchdowns and touchups

A final swipe of Crimson Joy lipstick and I’m ready. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. The anticipation is killing me. I hope things turn out like I want them to. Just 10 minutes more and …

Roll Tide, baby!

Watching Alabama play football is an event at my house, even if I’m watching alone. While most women get fixed up for a Saturday of shopping, I get done up for a Saturday of Alabama football. After showering, shampooing, shaving and doing my hair and makeup, I slip into my jeans and an old Bama T-shirt. Bring on the Hogs or the Vols or the Tigers. I’m ready.

(Editor’s note, this column is nearly 5 years old …)

Last Saturday I took it up a notch because my daughter’s fifth birthday party was going on during the Bama-Ole Miss game. I added eyeliner and a push-up bra to my routine. I looked good serving cake and ice cream and yelling at the TV in my crimson-and-black-striped tunic top, crop pants and flip-flops.

Most Saturdays at my house are planned around the Crimson Tide. A typical Saturday goes like this: Get up, get ready for my daughter’s soccer game, watch the 5-year-olds try to keep the ball in-bounds, grab some lunch, head home, watch a little Noggin with my girl, jump in the shower, then get my game face on for the 2:30 kickoff.

If it’s a late game, we might hit Walmart or the bookstore. If it’s an 11:30 kickoff, we skip lunch and head straight home after soccer. No matter what, we’re home in time for the game.

When my team is on TV, I’m on the couch. Distractions are few; not even a special on Jon Bon Jovi or a sale at Target can get my attention. At least, not until the game is over.

Feel free to call me during the game, but only if you’re going to keep it short–very short. Otherwise, you’ll just think I’m rude because my attention will be on the game not on our conversation. If you call to rub it in after a loss, expect the same in return when your team goes down. Turnabout is fair play, right?

Lately my daughter has joined me for the first half, shaking her crimson pom-poms and yelling “Roll Tide!” It doesn’t take long, though, before she gets bored and heads to her room to play with her dollhouse or to the bedroom to watch Animal Planet or cartoons. Maybe next year she’ll be ready to watch the whole game and ask questions like, “Mommy, why don’t we ever throw the ball on first down?”

My parents have joined me for a couple of games, but mostly it’s just me and my TV, which is fine. That way I don’t embarrass myself when I get too caught up in the game. Yes, I yell at the refs, the players and the announcers. When Bama scores I dance a little jig, and when the team makes a bad play I stomp around, muttering under my breath. What fun is it to just sit and stare at the TV? Getting all worked up is part of the game for me.

And when the game is over, a quick touch-up of Loreal’s Crimson Joy and I’m ready to hit the town, or maybe Target.

Joey McIntyre shares story of his son’s hearing loss

Riley waits for her snack after the softball game. See her blue and pink CIs?

Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and Dancing with the Stars fame shares his family’s story of hearing loss in the latest issue of People magazine. His youngest son, 3-month-old Rhys, has been diagnosed with a severe loss and is wearing hearing aids. According to the article, the family is working with an auditory-verbal therapist and might consider cochlear implants.

Many of the comments on the article are insulting, rude, and just plain ignorant. While I have no problem with a family wanting to immerse their hearing-impaired child in Deaf culture, I do have a problem with those same people spreading lies and accusing other families of abuse because they made a different choice.

I’m going to address 20 things posted in the article’s comments and clear up a few misconceptions about cochlear implants. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section or share this post with others.

1. Cochlear implants DO NOT require additional surgeries as a child grows. The only reason additional surgery would be needed is if the device failed. CIs have a 1% failure rate.

2. Cochlear implants ARE NOT implanted into the brain. It IS NOT brain surgery.

3. If parents want their child to use spoken language, they CANNOT WAIT until the child is old enough to “make the decision for himself.” Most language learning occurs before the age of 3, so waiting would put the child at a terrible disadvantage.

4. Sign language is great, if a family wants to learn it. My family, for instance, is HUGE. I didn’t expect all 100 of them to learn ASL. Even if they wanted to, it would be nearly impossible, and Riley would’ve had no way to communicate with cousins, great aunts, and I didn’t want that.

5. My daughter knows a few signs, for those times when she doesn’t wear her CI processors, but she doesn’t “rely on” ASL and doesn’t need to.

6. Speech is available at birth. How do you think typically hearing children learn language? It seems that Rhys is benefiting from his hearing aids, so using spoken language is appropriate.

7. The implant is NOT DRILLED into the skull, like a screw is drilled into a piece of wood. A pocket for the implant is carved into the skull and a small hole is drilled into the mastoid bone so that the electrode array can be inserted into the cochlea. Read more on cochlear implant surgery at Tampa Bay Hearing and Balance Center.

Riley got hearing aids when she was 19 months old.

8. Cochlear implants don’t “fix” hearing and don’t claim to. They offer users access to sound. Just like you have to learn to speak, you also have to learn to hear.

9. AG Bell is a proponent of listening and spoken language, but that doesn’t mean the organization is against sign language. It’s not either/or.

10. Auditory-Verbal Therapy focuses on teaching a child to use her hearing and learn to speak. It DOES NOT “forbid” all gestures; in fact, a hand cue is used during therapy. It signals the child to listen.

11. If deafness is not a disability, why do so many Deaf people use hearing aids? What are you trying to “fix”?

12. Riley’s CIs don’t hurt when she puts them on.

13. Riley is a special-needs child. Any child who has an IEP or who has special accommodations at school is a special-needs child. It is not a bad thing.

14. Riley’s CIs help her hear, but she is and will always be deaf.

15 A deaf child DOES NOT belong to the Deaf culture. She belongs to her parents.

16. Riley’s hearing aids and cochlear implants and speech therapy ARE COVERED by insurance.

17. You CAN have X-rays if you have CIs. Riley has had them done at the dentist.

Jumping from the high dive into 15 feet of water was not a problem for her implants.

18. You CAN swim if you have CIs (you just take off the processors.) No, you can’t do deepwater diving, but how many people do you know who are deepwater divers?

19. Children with cochlear implants have a quality of life equal to that of hearing peers.

20. I respect Deaf families wanting to immerse their child in the Deaf culture. Why can’t they respect my wanting to immerse my child in the hearing culture?