When a Mother Snaps

I keep reading all these articles in our Rhode Island paper about the Camden Fry murder case. It happened just a few miles down the road from me. Yes, it happened here, in tiny Rhode Island, but it’s a story that’s all too familiar around the country….a mom, struggling with her own depression, commits an unthinkable crime.  In this case, Kimberly Fry is accused of strangling her own daughter, 8-year-old Camden.  It is so scary for me to even imagine that. We all remember Andrea Yates,  from Texas, who drowned all five of her children one-by-one in the bath tub at home. She was apparently suffering from postpartum depression.

Andrea Yates and the 5 kids she killed

Camden Fry was a bright-eyed girl who would be in class today with her friends in North Kingstown, RI. Instead, police say, fed up over arguments involving bathing, Kimberly Fry wrestled the young girl to the ground, covering her nose and mouth so she would be quiet. Too quiet. That was the last breath Camden Fry ever took. We’re told Camden did have ADHD and would have fits of crying and kicking on occasion.  Parents need to make sure they are educated about how to deal with their rage and to walk away or get help from others when they can’t handle a situation.  I know in this situation things were probably more extreme; someone who goes as far as killing in my opinion must have some sort of mental breakdown or illness.

Camden Fry, 8-years old when killed

Police say, that fateful night, Kimberly Fry, also dragged her limp and lifeless daughter to bed, laid her on her side, pulled the covers up over her, and then tucked her stuffed animal under her arm. Fry’s attorney says the death was accidental.   Camden’s dad, Timothy Fry, was playing hockey in Cranston. He peeked in on his daughter sleeping, and then checked on his wife asleep as well. In the morning he noticed his daughter was not up in time and went to find her in bed. She had obviously been dead for hours. Timothy called the police, woke-up his wife, and was in complete shock.  Prosecutors say the night of the crime, Kimberly tried to commit suicide taking a potent cocktail of painkillers and anti-depressants.  Kimberly Fry has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder. Her trial continues, this week, in Rhode Island.

Kimberly Fry, accused of murdering her daughter

While researching how moms can actually lose control and turn to murder, I found some very interesting information. First of all 30% of murdered children are killed by their own mothers. Also, here are characteristics that these mothers seems to have in common (information found at MomLogic):

Some of the issues involved with these moms include mental illness, isolation, anger, and fear. They also have poor coping skills to handle stress and may have little emotional support from family or friends.

What has been found is that moms who murder usually fall into one of the following categories:

Altruism: These women believe their children are suffering or are in some type of pain and they believe killing them will put them out of their misery. These moms usually are severely depressed.

Psychosis: These moms suffer from schizophrenia or another psychotic disease such as postpartum depression with psychotic features. They often hear voices telling them to kill their children.

Unwanted Children: This mom doesn’t want her children. They are inconvenient to her lifestyle. These moms usually have narcissistic or borderline personality disorders.

Maltreatment: This is the most common category. These mothers kill their children in the course of abuse without the intention of murder.

Revenge: These moms want to punish the father by taking away what she believes to be the most important thing to him: his kids.

Obviously all of these characteristics involve people that must be very mentally ill. I think kids need to be removed from homes that have parents with extreme mental issues, or,  at least, the situation needs to be very closely monitored by others. Many times the spouse is aware their partner has mental issues, but never thinks it will lead to murder. Timothy Fry knew his wife was depressed and on medications. He testified he even heard her say life would be easier without their daughter around. People need to be aware of signs and get help for the moms that are in trouble. If help is not found for a sick mom, it could result in the death of a child.

Here are more stories of moms who have killed their children, as well as resources to help those who might need it.  Let’s all work together in our communities to spot moms who need help.

Here is a link to the Camden Fry Memorial Fund, set-up by father Tim Fry to honor his daughter.

Kristin Wheeler

I’m Not a Perfect Wife…..

I’m not a perfect wife; I do not have a perfect husband.  There is no such thing as a perfect marriage.  There is such a thing as a good, healthy marriage though.  A marriage that is based on trust, friendship, communication, intimacy, and humor.  I have been married now for 10 years; for some that may seem like a long time, but for others it may seem like only a drop in the bucket.  Here are some things that I have learned over the past 10 years of marriage that I feel help to keep a marriage happy and healthy:

1.  Make Time for Your Spouse:

From as simple as asking your mate how their day was (and truly listening and engaging with conversation and eye contact) to making plans for date night!  Especially when you have kids in your life and most things throughout the day revolve around them, it’s very important to have that time together to continue your relationship with each other.  Turn off the TV, put down that book, stop doing work on the computer, and take time out for that special person in your life to let them know they truly are special.

2.  Keep Common Interests

Continue doing the things you enjoyed together before marriage and in the early years  to help sustain the marriage.  It’s easy to change as you age and find new interests, but keeping some similar interests (or creating new ones together) is an important part of making a relationship successful.  For instance, we have always loved to travel, so for our 10-year anniversary we planned a trip together to Ireland (a country on our joint wish list of places to travel), and we went by ourselves (thanks again to my parents who watched the kids!).  It was a great experience to focus on us as a couple, and not just the us as parents.

3.  Talk Things Out

This is probably the hardest one for me, because I do have a hard time not becoming overemotional and hurt during a discussion, but it truly does help to have honest and open talks about your feelings with each other (even if you do feel hurt by it at first).  My husband is able to talk about his feelings in a very open, calm, and logical manner.  Even so, I still sometimes get hurt and defensive, but in the end it’s always good to have that open line of communication to know how the other is feeling.  It makes the relationship stronger when you share and communicate with each other and do your best to meet the other person’s needs.

4.  Have Fun with Each Other

They always say laughter is the best medicine, so a fun-loving household is beneficial to everyone in the family,  parents and kids alike!  My husband truly is funny, even though I don’t always let on that I think he is, and he brings so much joy and laughter into our family and into our relationship.  A fly on the wall would definitely hear some laughter coming from our house.  Laughter helps relieve stress, brings people together, and just makes for an all around happier environment.

5.  The Importance of Intimacy

Intimacy should not go out the door just because you get married, it should continue to be a part of your relationship (one in fact that should even get better with time).  This can be from a gentle touch to rubbing your spouse’s shoulders, or even just the way you look at your significant other.  Everyone wants to feel loved and important, and both partners need to continue to show the other that they are important, attractive, desired, and even just cared for.  Keeping your intimate life strong keeps the bond of the partners strong.  Go snuggle up to your spouse and give them a kiss!  Tell them they are loved!

 

All marriages have their ups-and-downs, because as I said before, no marriage is perfect.  Marriage takes time, commitment, understanding, and hard work to keep it strong and lasting.  Sometime you have to give in, and sometimes you have to know when to let things go.  Compromising and communicating can be difficult, but in the end if the prize is a healthy marriage then the work is worth the effort.  Working toward a good, healthy marriage is on-going, but continuing to put effort in together brings the couple even closer.  My husband has taught me a lot (and continues to teach me) about how to be a better person, mother, spouse, and friend.  He is my teacher, my friend, my partner, my confidant, my imperfect loving husband, who I will continue this journey called marriage with!

A Happy Couple………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes for a Happy Family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

* What do you think is important in your marriage to keep it strong and healthy?

Kristin Wheeler

Anxiety About Leaving Your Kids….

My husband and I are going on a trip to Ireland for our 10-year Anniversary.  I am definitely excited about the trip, but I’m not too excited about leaving my kids behind.  Even when I am exhausted and losing any bit of patience I have left at the end of the day, there is nothing more I want than to be with my kids.  I can’t imagine being apart from them for an entire week!  No stories at night, and no hugs and kisses!  I’m not sure how I’m going to survive.  Everyone says once I’m there safe and sound and having fun, then it will be easier.  I guess we will see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(At our Wedding – June 2001)

The kids are staying with my parents, and they live close to my brother and sister as well.  There will be a lot for the kids to do with their Papa, Gaga, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins.  Hopefully, they will be entertained and not missing Mom and Dad.  I will probably be the one missing them more!

I will be able to talk to the kids each night on Facetime (the Mac version of Skype), so at least I will be able to see their cute little faces and speak with them.

(Family Photo – Papa, Gaga, Aunts, Uncles & Cousins)

A week will probably fly by!  It’s all planned out and we will be moving around (Dublin to Cork to Killarney), so I’m sure I will be back home before I know it.  I love my kids, but I love my husband as well.  This should be a nice time for us to focus on “us,” which we have not been able to do in a while.  It’s easy to put relationships on the back burner when you are raising two kids.  Focusing on married life is very important as well, which I fully understand.  The kids are now ages 4 and 6 , so I am finally ready (sort of) to be able to leave them – but ONLY for a week (my husband wanted longer)!   I will post after my trip and let you know how it all goes!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(My two cute kiddos who I love SO MUCH!!!!  I will miss them!)

* Have you left your kids for a trip?  How old were they?  How did you feel?  Any tips on getting through the week?

 

 

Kristin Wheeler

The Pick Up Artist: A girl looking for girlfriends

Photo by Bob Packert

I rushed into my husbands’ arms when he came home from work, planted a kiss, and announced,  “Honey! I picked up a woman at the zoo today!”  Now, I know what you are thinking, but please don’t judge me, it was a moment of desperation.  You see, we had moved to a new state a couple of months before, neither of us knowing a soul.  We enjoyed exploring on the weekends together, but during the week, while he went to work, and engaged with other adults, I was keeping company with our 4 year old, 2 year old and 3 month old.  The most sophisticated conversations I had in a typical day contained words like boo boo and sippy cup.  As you might imagine by the time my husband walked through that door in the evening, I tackled him with pent up conversation, plans to go out, or threw the screaming, kids at him, and hid.  I knew that these were not the greatest receptions from long days of work.  I also knew what I needed.  Girlfriends.

It had been much easier to make friends in school, at work, or in playgroup, but as an adult with none of the outlets listed available, I found myself at a loss.  That day I had been at the Zoo with aforementioned children, and noticed a woman at the Terrapin tank.  She was pretty, and fashionably dressed, but what attracted me to her, were the two children by her side.  They looked to be similar ages to my two oldest, so I made my move.  I walked away from my children, and sidled up the Terrapin tank (not unlike a bar, sans hair flip), then called them over.   “Look, it’s a Diamondback turtle!” I exclaimed, sounding a bit too loud and excited, but sure enough, my children rushed over, and the other kids looked up at me.  Their mother now noticed me too.  I took my opportunity, and struck up conversation.  It turned out we only lived a few streets apart, and as our kids began to chatter about the turtles, we exchanged numbers to set up a play date. I was elated! I had a friend!

Years later, I have friends here whom I cherish, and feel like I’ve always known, but I think back to how I got to this point, and remember that void . The process seemed not terribly unlike dating, Searching out another soul looking to connect.  Wanting, no, hoping, to be attractive, and interesting enough for them to want to see you again. There have been good play dates and bad.  Women along the way who were charming, but turned out to be just like those charismatic bad boys who had once seemed so alluring.  Hurtful, and untrue. There were women who I met already with a close-knit group, not looking to add friends to their lives. There were also pleasant surprises, finding the most genuine, funny and caring friend I could wish for in someone who had flown under my radar.    I joined all the playgroups, book clubs, and parent teacher groups I could, and through it all friends with common interests filtered through and filled my life in a way that only good girlfriends can.    Now if my husband is pounced on when he gets home from a long day at work, it is more likely a joyous child, than a disgruntled wife.  A more welcome reception indeed .

 

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Keeping Chickens in a “Green Acres” Marriage

I’m probably aging myself when I admit that I grew up watching “Green Acres”, but with Zsa Zsa Gabor in the news lately, it seems that her little sister Eva’s show has had resurgence in our collective consciousness. So when I say that my husband and I are ‘living’ the sitcom, most of you know what I mean, but for those of you who don’t here’s the show’s synopsis reflected in its theme song lyrics:
(In Eddie Albert’s voice)
Green Acres is the place for me.
Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

(In Eva’s Hungarian-accented voice)
New York is where I’d rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view.
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.

(Eddie) The chores.
(Eva)…The stores.
(Eddie) Fresh air.
(Eva)…Times Square

(Eddie) You are my wife.
(Eva) Good bye, city life.
Green Acres we are there!

For us, it all happened so fast. It was an urban lifestyle by choice when we started our family in San Francisco, then moved to Providence, RI, although ultimately, somehow, through great cunning, my husband talked me into a house on nine acres of woods in the suburbs. “We’ll get a dog and the kids can ride their bikes,” he said in his sales speech. We’d both had a pretty idyllic childhood in a suburb of New York City, so I knew this was a good idea on paper, but more was yet to be revealed in this new chapter in our family’s life. We did get a dog, and her brother in that first year. – Beagle littermates. That kept us busy for a while, but Doug had a greater vision that I was starting to see glimpses of. One day I saw Craigslist offerings for free chickens left open on the computer screen. Chickens? What’s happening here? We’d seen a few Rhodie Reds walking around our neighborhood, and after a little inquiry found that our town allows chicken keeping. Doug was smitten, and a project was born. Soon a mansion of a coop appeared in a cleared area of our backyard, and eventually a fence grew up around it. Was it magic, subterfuge, or ambush? I couldn’t decide how I felt about this new happening. Was I really ready to be a chicken keeper? In spite of my suburban upbringing, I felt like a city girl at my core. In our youth, we could be in NYC in 30 minutes by train or car, so ‘in it’ we often were. I moved to the city as soon as I could afford it, and loved every minute of my time there. Could I really be expected to change my spots so dramatically for these mysterious creatures?
My husband went off one day to get some grown hens from a man who needed to move back to Columbia – 10 of them to be exact. They arrived stressed out and smelly. Was I up to this? One of the largest hens had somehow lost most of her rear feathers, and my husband wanted me to hold her so he could examine her “vent” to be sure it was not in distress. A vent is the body part that delivers the egg. So there I am holding “Big Chicken” (as we dubbed her) while slathering Preparation H on her rear end. I thought my husband would collapse from the sheer hilarity of the situation. I’m sure he felt he had succeeded beautifully in his diabolical plan to turn me into a farm hand.
Since that life changing moment there have been several serious conversations about who is taking care of ‘the girls’ since I was not keen on adding them to my list of wifely duties. My concerns have been allayed by the assurance that the kids and my husband are the caregivers of choice. Now I get to watch these funny birds out my kitchen window daily without any guilt or resentment. I sometimes even throw some delicious scraps their way, just so they know I secretly love them.
Here are some of the expressions we use that originate from these girls:
Pecking order: definitely a big issue in the daily life of a chicken flock. You can always tell who’s on top and who’s not – or “who rules the roost!”
Chicken feed (or scratch): it is, in fact, an inexpensive product, so it fits that it would represent low salaries or pocket change.
Cooped up: yes, the girls pile in a smallish space for the night to stay safe from predators, but by sunrise they have had enough, and voice loudly how much they want to be released
Henpecked: kind of speaks for itself.
Flew the coop: we had a couple of the girls try this, but after a confrontation with our Beagles they have stayed put.
Until the chickens come home to roost: this roosting is a given each night, and so it represents something one can count on happening.
Don’t put all you eggs in one basket: good advice when sending small children out to collect the eggs of the day, just in case they trip.
I haven’t been able to find an expression that fits my transformation from urban diva to chicken mama, but that’s okay, I’m sure we’ll have many years to come up with one – especially when we add the goat to the mix.

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How our “Domestic Partnership” Morphed into a Marriage


As May draws near, I’m reminded of a strange and nagging feeling I’ve been getting every year for a while now: that I am forgetting something important.  I eventually figure it out by either having it dawn on me, or most often by my mother-in-law calling to wish me a Happy Anniversary.  It’s actually somewhat understandable because Doug and I have a back-story many of our friends don’t know: we married when I was pregnant with our third child.  In fact, we had originally intended not to marry. What!!!  Let me explain.  We both had what we lovingly refer to as our “starter marriages”, neither of which produced any children.  We also both had large, traditional and expensive weddings that ended in divorce five years into the union.  

When Doug and I fell in love, we mutually confessed to feelings of failure, and a lingering confusion on the subject ofGoldie Hawn marriage.  At the time there were famous couples eschewing the institution: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell who are still going strong; Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins who are not – although I have to say that they had a long run, and there was blessedly no messy divorce to string out in public.  With those couples in mind, Doug and I decided to forego the marriage route for a Domestic Partnership agreement. Since we resided in San Francisco at the time, we were able to procure one fairly easily, and that was ideal because we planned to start a family right away. Although Doug and I had grown up together, we had not found each other again until our mid-thirties, and we wanted children before it was too late.  Doug wanted four, but I was a ‘one-at-a-time and we’ll see’ girl.  As it turned out, four was our lucky number.

So how did we get to be married midway through our burgeoning family?  Honestly, it was strictly an insurance driven issue.  Doug and I were very happy being co-parents and domestic partners, and would probably still be today were it not for a move to Florida in 2002.  While San Francisco had offered us an option, Florida is not cut from the same cloth.  Anyone remember Anita Bryant?  We were told in no uncertain terms that as far as the State of Florida was concerned, a Domestic Partnership Agreement was how you and your roommate divided your chores, and might as well be used to paper your walls.  We felt having children made us more married than most, and well, we both knew how saying “I do” didn’t necessarily mean it lasted.  But there I was, six months pregnant with our daughter, Olivia, and feeling deeply opposed to seeing her birthday arrive uninsured, Doug and I decided to meet during lunch at the Justice of the Peace in Delray Beach.  To this day, nine years later, we still have trouble remembering our anniversary, and often stumble over the question of how many years we’ve been married.  To us, it’s from when we pledged our love and commitment by cohabitating and starting a family together.

Us!

But married we are, and with that came the specter of divorce.  Somehow when we were not married, we felt safer, buffered if you will, from the awful statistics of marriage dissolution. Doug’s parents divorced when he was 7 and it has always been complicated for him.  Somewhere deep inside he wishes it could have been avoided, remedied, although the circumstances brought a wonderful step-father into his life, so who can know.  With that in mind, we work, sometimes really hard, to keep our marriage healthy and together.  If something happens to rock our world, like death or job loss, we run to a counselor to hash out our feelings.  If we can stem the tides by good open communication beforehand, then we take that approach first.  I even found a website that sends me helpful emails on marriage fitness. I love the little nuggets of wisdom that Mort Fertel  sends me. I find them to be plain good sense, and truly helpful.  Honestly, we’d do anything to keep our marriage intact, but that’s what’s it’s really all about and always has been, both before and after the ceremony– commitment.  Anything worth having is worth working for.  Happy 9th or 13th Anniversary Sweetheart!

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