Sunday, September 20, 2009

NAMIWalks 2009 - Team Serenity

Dear Everyone,
We are writing today to tell you about an upcoming event that we are participating in that is both very important and very exciting to us. It is NAMIWalks for the Mind of America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) signature walkathon event that is being held in Appleton, WI at Appleton Memorial Park on October 3, 2009.

Kara lives with bipolar disorder, and both Kara and Josh have loved ones who live with clinical unipolar depression, bipolar disorder and other mental (biochemical) illnesses (also referred to as brain disorders.)

Kara volunteers with NAMI Fox Valley, our community’s NAMI affiliate. She received training and now is a facilitator for Five O'Clock Friday, a support and discussion group for young adults who are living with mental illness. She also has attended courses at NAMI that educate consumers about living well with mental illness, and benefits from peer support groups that she attends. This is the fourth NAMI Walk in the Fox Valley, and the fourth walk for the Patterson family. It has become a fall family tradition.

NAMI Fox Valley continues to advocate for individuals and families in our community, fighting the stigma that unfortunately still exists.

On walk day, we're going to do more walking in one morning than we usually do in a week. :)

If you'd like to visit our personal walker Web page, go to You can donate directly to us online, if you choose. Donating online is fast and secure, and we'll get immediate notification via e-mail of your donation.

If you would prefer, you can give or send any of us (well, not so much Mihret, it’ll just go into her mouth) a check, made out to NAMI Fox Valley, and we will make sure that it gets to NAMI.

(Also, a quick note - if we have already walked, and you think you missed the deadline... you haven't! You can donate to NAMI Fox Valley - or ask about being a volunteer there, if you're in the area - at any time.)

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the largest education, support and advocacy organization that serves the needs of all those whose lives are touched by these illnesses. This includes people with mental illness, their families, friends, employers, the law enforcement community and policy makers.

The goals of the NAMIWalks program are: to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness, to build awareness of the fact that the mental health system in this country needs to be improved, and to raise funds for NAMI so that it can continue its mission.

NAMI is a 501(c)3 charity and any donation you make to support our participation in this event is tax deductible. NAMI has been rated by Worth magazine as among the top 100 charities "most likely to save the world" and has been given an "A" rating by The American Institute of Philanthropy for efficient and effective use of charitable dollars. Thank you in advance for your support.


Kara, Josh and Mihret Patterson

And all the rest of Team Serenity

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Success and Not Success

I will now provide the definition of a mixed blessing. 1) My daughter pooped in the potty at day care. 2) She got off the potty too early and pooped on her shoes. I got to day care and she was wearing moon boots. Thanks to the return of her ‘fro, she looked like a small brown Napoleon Dynamite.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On a Bear

It was potty-training that finally broke the dam.

For the longest time, we more-or-less avoided having the TV on when Mihret was around. Kara and I are not really huge TV-watchers as it is, but we’ve been even more conscious of turning it on since the little one entered our home.

Our original plan was to avoid TV until Mihret was around two, then introduce it gradually – but we didn’t even feel compelled to do it then.

But along came potty training.

We’ve gone back and forth on the best way to accomplish training, having talked to friends and heard wildly different stories about their experiences, which ranged from “pretty much figured it out on their own,” to, “forced them to do it over the course of a couple of days.”

Not really wanting to go the forcing route, we’ve been taking our time and trying to be encouraging in the potty arena. For a while, it seemed like we were headed in the right direction, and then… Mihret kind of lost interest.

My mom thinks we missed a window, but I’m not really sure about that. Not long ago, Kara and I picked up an article on potty training that contained 10 things that indicate a kid is ready to potty-train, and Mihret had three indications, if you really, really stretched it.

So we didn’t worry about it.

My mother did, helpfully, provide us with a couple of “potty readiness” videos, one of which is The Bear in the Big Blue House: When You’ve Got to Go.

On the whim, one day, I stuck it in the DVD player and sat down to watch it with the little one. And she was totally enraptured.

I thought the video was all right, and there are bits that amuse me, but mostly I was just glad that she enjoyed it enough to ask for it again. Not wanting to watch it a second time, I looked around for something else that was short, and put it in.

And we were sorta-kinda off.

I have to say that TV kind of scares me. Mihret is a runner and a player, but I’ve seen the glazed “Bring me entertainment!” look that comes from watching videos for too long. At her best, she gets bored after 30 minutes and wants to run around. At her worst, she kicks and fights when you turn off the TV.

Which I do not really view as A Good Thing.

What makes it hard to turn it off, though, is the fact that suddenly pottying has become a LOT more important to her. She wants to go more often. She’s talking about wearing “underwears.” She’s even been seeking out the underpants her Nona got her.

However, she has not yet become good at telling us when she needs to go, whenever she needs to go.

We’re watching the video almost once a day now, and I’ve drawn the line at putting it in a second time during the day. We’ve also watched a couple of movies while putting in her braids, and taking them out, and I’m even willing to let her watch her Amharic educational video fairly often.

But I have seen the face of TV, and I have to say that it makes me nervous.

I also have to admit that watching the same Bear video over and over again has caused me to pick up on some things. Like, the bear is left-handed, and almost never moves his right arm. I realize this is because the puppeteer is using his right hand to operate the bear’s head, but really… it’s a little freaky, once you notice it.

Also, the Big Blue House looks really bad on the outside. Its right and left halves don’t line up very well at all, like they hired a model-maker who did a really shoddy job and then refused to fix it. It’s unfortunate.



Recently, Mihret discovered that she has pockets in her pants.

Sometimes, she puts stuff in them, but more often than not, she just gets excited to know they’re there. She’ll stick her hands in them and wander around the house.

Her teacher shared a fun story with me a few weeks ago:

The Scene:

The teacher in question is standing on the playground while the kids race around. She has placed her hands in her pockets.

Mihret, ever the mimic, walks over to her, affects a similar stance, and sticks her hands in her pockets.

Teacher: All the cool kids stick their hands in their pockets.

Mihret: (conspiratorially) We’re cool.