Author Archive

It wasn’t too long after my son, Sage, was born in 2002 that his day care providers alerted my husband and me about delays in our son’s development.

He didn’t respond to sights and sounds like a typical 4-month-old. So we had his hearing (which was fine when tested right after birth) and sight checked, including a MRI to check for any abnormalities in his brain. The hearing and MRI results came back fine but it was discovered he had a small, gray optic nerve. He was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia which can range from mild to debilitating.

Soon after, we were referred to an early intervention program through Kansas Infant-Toddler Services. Thus began my dread of evaluations. In my mind, my baby was just a little behind in some areas and everyone was blowing things out of proportion. In one of his evaluations at day care, a teacher’s assistant said he didn’t smile at people or show affection. Are you kidding me? He always smiled at me and was a cute, cuddly baby.

As the evaluations continued, so did my annoyance. At 13 months, his displayed skills of a 6-month-old. At 18 months, he was more like a 10-month-old. I felt once he finally learned how to walk, things would be fine. It just took him a little longer to learn things.

When we moved to Iowa in 2004 when Sage was 18 months old (and still not walking), we were referred to Grant Wood Area Education Agency for early childhood services. Within a couple months he started walking and I didn’t think Grant Wood’s services were longer needed. But they were. Sage still had delays in his speech as well as gross and fine motor skills. The fine folks at Grant Wood worked with him and made sure we knew about other available services.

A year later when Sage was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified on the autism spectrum, we weren’t all that surprised. Jolted, yes, but not surprised. The evaluations kept coming and kept breaking my heart. Now he wasn’t just months behind in certain areas, but years.

A year ago while preparing for Sage to enter kindergarten, my husband and I went through our first official IEP meeting.  Mandated by the U.S. Department of Education, the Individualized Education Program is designed to fit the needs of each student in special education. There were five or six people at the table discussing my baby. All of these professionals are good, caring people but in that setting it seemed like I was sitting in front of a firing squad listening to everything that was needed for my son’s special needs.

Last week we met with almost the same group of people to discuss Sage’s progress in kindergarten and prepare his IEP for next year. I no longer felt like I was in front of a firing squad. I don’t know if that was because I knew everybody in the room or by now, I am getting used to these evaluations. I was pleased with his progress. He is at grade level academically but still behind socially and behaviorally. Since I am quite aware of the second part of that statement, I’ll focus on the first part. Grade level.

Trust me; I know these evaluations are tough. Nobody wants to hear their 5-year-old has the skill level of a 2-year-old in some areas. But if somebody is trying to tell you something about your child, listen. And then let them help you and your child. Because being at grade level by the time they are in first grade is a lot better than ignoring the problem or waiting too long.

During these tough economic times, people are cutting back on entertainment expenses, including travel. Instead of jetsetting across the country, people are opting for staycations closer to home.

But is that really so bad?  Sometimes we are so focused on getting away that we take for granted what’s available in our own backyard.

Next Sunday, the annual Explore section will be distributed with The Gazette. I have been this section’s editor for the past four years. This year’s edition will feature six daytrips: Amana Colonies, Decorah, McGregor-Marquette, AnamosaMonticello, MaquoketaDubuque and Galena, Ill.  As an Eastern Iowa native, I have been to most of these places, but look forward to visiting all of them this summer.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Bluesmore is just one of the popular annual events at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette Bluesmore is just one of the popular annual events at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids.

For Mother’s Day, I met my parents Saturday at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids. The historic site was holding its annual spring plant sale. Although a little chilly, it was a beautiful day to wander around the estate. If you haven’t been to Brucemore or attended any of its events such as Classics at Brucemore (featuring “To Kill A Mockingbird” this summer), Cabaret in the Courtyard or Bluesmore, do so. It’s serene setting makes you forget about the rest of the world, even if it’s just for a few hours.

After checking out another plant sale at Corner House Gallery and Frame just down First Avenue from Brucemore, we were ready for lunch. I suggested going to Czech Village. Yes, there were other places a lot closer to First Avenue and Collins Road, but I am so impressed with Czech Village’s resilience after being devastated in last June’s flood, I wanted to support their businesses.

Although not completely rebuilt by a long shot, Czech Village has come a long way in the past 11 months. We ate at the Bohemian Café and Pub in the heart of the village on 16thAvenue. It just opened Monday; it was an antique shop pre-flood and has been renovated into a restaurant/pub/bakery featuring Czech dishes such as a pork loin sandwich topped with sautéed apples and cheddar cheese. In the future, it hopes to attract busloads of tourists visiting the museum which plans to relocate to the Music Loft building next door.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Sykora Bakery in Czech Village recently reopened to large crowds.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Sykora Bakery in Czech Village recently reopened to large crowds.

We then went to recently reopened Sykora Bakery down the street. I hate to admit it, but that was the first time I’ve been there. There was a line, but I didn’t mind the wait for freshly baked kolaches and turnovers.

At every place we visited, the owners and employees graciously thanked us for coming to their rebuilt business that was destroyed less than a year ago. They also invited us to come back to Czech Village next weekend for Houby Days.

It was questionable whether the annual festival celebrating all things mushroom would proceed due to continued clean-up efforts in the area. But it has been decided the show will go on. I highly encourage you to attend some or all of Houby Days next weekend, May 15-17. The residents and businesses of this Eastern Iowa treasure have put their whole lives into rebuilding this area the so love. While we can’t control the weather or the river, we can ensure the vitality of Czech Village’s future by throwing our support and dollars into it.

I plan on taking all sorts of stay-cacations over the next few months. I’ll write about them and take some pictures. I invite you to share your stay-cation stories and photos here. Please e-mail me at

I always figured I had gunk in my joints, but a session of Ion Cleanse Detoxification at Total Image in Vinton, Iowa, proved it.

As I was getting my hair cut at the salon, I was drawn to the sign on the mirror explaining the process and the colors the water would turn after 30 minutes with your feet in it. I have heard about detoxification but this time, I just had to try it.

My feet in the nice, clean water before the toxins were pulled out.

My feet in the nice, clean water before the toxins were pulled out.

I went in a couple days later for my trial treatment. Total Image owner Kristen Redlinger put purified water in the tub along with some sea salt. She then added some hot water.

The array is placed into the water and emits currents which pull the toxins out of the body. According to AMD (A Major Difference), the maker of Ion Cleanse Detoxification, this is how it works:

The array goes into the water with the hands, feet, or other body parts, and the control unit delivers a small direct current into the array, which causes the metals within the array, in combination with the water and salt, to generate positively and negatively charged ions. These ions neutralize charged particles in the body. The neutralized particles are pulled out of the body through the skin via osmosis and diffusion. Osmosis and diffusion involve the movement of particles through a membrane, from a lower concentration to a higher concentration. In this case, the higher concentration is the ion field set up by the array in the water. (

As the toxins come out of your feet, the water turns a different color(s) and may have flecks.  Here is generally what the colors indicate:

Yellow-green:  Detoxifying from the kidney, bladder, urinary tract, female/prostate area

Orange: Detoxifying from joints

Brown: Detoxifying from liver, tobacco, cellular debris

Black: Detoxifying from liver

Dark green: Detoxifying from gallbladder

White foam: Lymphatic system

White cheese-like particles: Most likely yeast

Black flecks: Heavy metals

Red flecks: Blood clot material

Now the brochure does come out and say that water, metal, salt combined as well as other particles in the environment will cause the water color to change even if your feet are not in it.

The water turned a dark orange and flecks were visible after about 20 minutes, indicating detoxification of my joints.

The water turned a dark orange and flecks were visible after about 20 minutes, indicating detoxification of my joints.

So, when the water turned a little orange after my feet were in it for a few minutes, I wasn’t too alarmed. But then it turned a deeper red-orange and became rather thick. Wow, there really does seem to be a lot of toxins in my joints.

I’ve always had stiff joints. Even when I was young, slender and in shape, I had a difficult time walking after being stationary for a long time. When I get out of bed, I look (and feel) like am 90 years old sometimes.

I tend to attribute this to thyroid problems. I had my entire thyroid gland removed eight years ago and am on medication. When my levels are wacky, I can usually tell because my knees are extremely stiff. When my levels are stable, the stiff joints are much better, but not completely cured.

I haven’t yet had a follow-up detoxification session. I wonder how much more gunk remains in my joints and other parts of my body. Eewww.

My husband, Jeff, is a fighter. He fights for what he believes in, and who he believes in, especially our son, Sage, and others with special needs.

Jeff has been the head swimming coach at Vinton-Shellsburg High School for the past several years. It has become something he loves and believes in. When the boys’ program came up on the chopping block due to budget concerns within the district, you just knew he wouldn’t go down without a fight.

He gave a passionate plea to the school board, citing all the reasons the program should be saved. It wasn’t until the end of his presentation that the unconvinced members (read: rubber stampers) perked up when Jeff offered to coach this next season for $1 to save money.

The issue again come up at Monday’s board meeting and the motion was made to save boys’ swimming as long as Jeff was not paid. Not even that $1. Jeff saw it as a victory for the program and the swimmers. I saw it as just one more thing we would have to contend with next winter when Jeff will be student teaching – without getting paid.

While Jeff’s insistence to fight to the end for what he believes in can be one of his most irritating traits, it is also one of his most endearing. It is why I am proud he is my soul mate and father of my son.

Here are his thoughts on the future of the Vinton-Shellsburg boys’ swimming program:

(the embedding has been disabled, but you can get to the YouTube video by clicking on this)

I’ve been watching American Idol since its first season in 2002. I was pregnant at the time my favorite contestant, Kelly Clarkson, won (I try to tell my son that he should like Kelly because of this, but he doesn’t seem to care).

The majority of contestants that grace the American Idol stage are young, attractive and do have musical talent. By the end of each season, the stylists have done their magic and have made the contestants into heartthrobs. Last year, I didn’t give David Cook a second look in the beginning, but by the time he won, he was on my hottie list (still is).

A couple of weeks ago across the pond a new star emerged from an audition on Britian’s Got Talent.” Susan Boyle is a sensation primarily because she doesn’t look or act like one.

When Boyle, the 47-year-old unemployed woman from a village in Scotland, walked on stage, nobody in the audience gave her a chance. You see, Susan is rather, uh, frumpy. A little too short and plump with bushy eyebrows and frizzy graying hair, Susan doesn’t look like the next Kelly Clarkson.

Audience members were seen rolling their eyes when Susan told the judges she had never been given the chance to be a star and she wanted to be the next Elaine Paige. The judges, including American Idol’s Simon Cowell, looked they were bracing for the worst 3 or 4 minutes of their day.

Then Susan began to sing. Once the first line of “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Miserables” came out of her mouth, everyone in the music hall was stunned. Out of this frumpy-looking woman came the most beautiful voice. The look on the judges’ faces was priceless. They, too, didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. By the end of the performance, everyone was on their feet, cheering.

“I know everybody was against you,” judge Amanda Holden. “This was the biggest wake-up call ever.”

Susan has since become a worldwide sensation, thanks to postings of the video on YouTube. I first watched the video over the weekend. It literally gave me chills.

If you haven’t seen the entire video (which would be surprising considering it has more than 41 million views so far), please watch it. It’s absolutely inspiring to see somebody go from ridiculed to loved within 6 minutes.

You go, Susan Boyle! You are the ultimate frumpfighter.

Marian Wright Edelman has always been on a mission to prove doubters wrong. When she was growing up in the South in the ’40s and ’50s, everything around her said she wasn’t worthy as a black child, especially a black girl.

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman

“But I didn’t believe it and my parents didn’t let me believe it,” she said Thursday at the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

With her family’s support, she continued her education and graduated from Spelman College and Yale Law School. She was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense Fund office in Jackson, Miss.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality for all, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. It has been her life’s goal to see all children are given a level playing field.

While the country has come a long way since the segregation of the ’50s and ’60s, there still too many children in poverty and uninsured.

Here are some facts provided by the Children’s Defense Fund’s Health Coverage for All Children Campaign:

  •  9 million children in America are uninsured. A child is born uninsured every 39 seconds.
  •  Currently, approximately two-thirds of the uninsured children are eligible for health coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) but are not enrolled; excessive enrollment barriers are often the cause.
  • In January 2009, Congress acted to expand CHIP and enroll more children in coverage. This legislation was necessary to prevent more children from losing health coverage in the economic downturn, but it still leaves 5 to 6 million children uninsured.
  • Children are subjected to the “lottery of geography” – whether they get coverage and what kind of benefits they may receive depends upon the state in which they leave.
  • Roughly 800,000 pregnant women are uninsured.
  • Approximately 28,000 children die each year in America before their first birthday – ranking the U.S. 25th among 30 industrialized countries.
  • Almost a quarter of 2-year-olds are not fully immunized.
  • The majority of uninsured children live in two-parent families:
  • Almost 90 percent have one parent who works.
  • Almost 90 percent are U.S. citizens.
  • Health insurance premiums for families have risen more than three times as fast as wages since 2001 at the same time that fewer employers are providing coverage for employees.

To reverse this trend, as well as the “cradle to prison pipeline” in our country, Edelman says every child and pregnant woman should be guaranteed comprehensive health and mental health coverage.

“It cost so much more to detain children than to provide mental health services,” she said. “America has the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest jailer. If we don’t think this has anything to do with us, we need to change our thinking.”

The country needs to invest money on prevention and early education to prevent money spent on incarceration, she said.

Edelman believes adults need to set an example for children, including instilling a sense of family, community and self.

“We don’t have a children problem, we have a profound adult problem,” she said.

Although poverty is a problem, “affluenza” is just as damaging to our youth, she said. “People have too much worth too little. Children learn from us.”

Edelman doesn’t comprehend how the government can’t support comprehensive health care, but can dish out $700 million to bail out failing banks. “We don’t have a money problem in this country, we have a values problem,” she said, prompting applause from those in the audience at the conference.  

Health care and prevention would be less expensive for taxpayers than treating a child in the welfare system. When poor children are hospitalized and possibly die from seemingly simple medical issues, such as a tooth abscess, the cost to taxpayers is about $250,000, she said.

She praises President Obama’s proposed budget which includes health care reform, early childhood development and tax credits for low-income families.

“This is the most sympathetic budget we’ve ever seen,” she said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with setting priorities.”

The reverse the facts and guarantee every child and pregnant woman has comprehensive health and mental health coverage, the Children’s Defense Fund believes any health care reform legislation must include these principles :

  • Coverage Must Be Affordable. Establish a national eligibility floor of 300 percent of the federal poverty level for all children and pregnant women, with an affordable buy-in based on a family’s income for those over that income level.
  • Benefits Must Be Comprehensive. Guarantee every child access to all medically necessary services to maximize a child’s health and development. 
  • The System Must Be Simple and Seamless. To ensure children get enrolled and stay enrolled, simplify the application and enrollment process to make it easy for all children to get covered and stay covered. This must include eliminating known barriers to enrollment and instituting automatic enrollment of eligible children.

For more information about the campaign, visit

An open house for a proactive parenting program will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at the Resource Center on the second floor of St. Luke’s Hospital, 225 12 St. NE, Cedar Rapids.

According to program coordinator Craig Meskimen, Teaching Interventions to Empower and Strengthen families, or TIES, is a positive parenting program for children between 18 months and 6 years old. What makes the program unique, he said, is that parents and children go through the program together.

“Parents don’t just drop their kids off,” he said.

Parents are taught eight strategies focusing on positive interaction with the child. Parents need to tell their children what they are doing right rather than what they are doing wrong.

“If they are sitting and being quiet in church, tell them exactly what they are doing right,” Meskimen said.

All eight strategies will be taught at four stations during Thursday’s open house. The goal is to control disruptive behavior before it begins with positive reinforcement.  

TIES is the result of a partnership of the ABBE Center for Community Health, Grant Wood AEA, Healthy Linn Care Network, Mercy Medical Center, St. Luke’s Hospital and Linn County Community Empowerment.

It is offered at no cost to parents but has a payback system – as parents learn the program, they then teach other parents.  

Although the program was developed in 1969 in Tennessee to treat children with Down’s syndrome and those on the autism spectrum, Meskimen says there is no minimum or maximum behavior for a child to be involved.

Children in the program range from “whiny” to destructive, he said.

The program works with parents and children on an individual basis, depending on the child’s behavior. The behavior is targeted and the parents need to realize how to control that behavior, Meskimen said.

This TIES program is the only one in the Midwest. It has been available to Eastern Iowans since Oct. 13 and has received a positive reception, Meskimen said. The evening program is full with a waiting list and the daytime program has a few spots left.

“Parents are here because they want to be,” Meskimen said.

For more information, call (319) 558-4861.

    follow me on Twitter

    Blog Stats

    • 56,851 hits

    Top Clicks

    • None
    December 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Jun