Indivisible

I saw something interesting today…

Tell me, what you would think if you saw a black man waving an American flag that’s black?  The red and blue parts of the flag are blacked out.

I saw a thread on my community’s  Facebook page.  A man said that he’d been seeing a black American flag waving a lot and wondered what it meant.  He’d seen it on bumper stickers, on the side of the road, and even flying off the back of a pick up truck.

Someone explained that it’s the Blue Lives Matter flag.  The red and blue parts of the USA flag are black and there’s one blue stripe across the middle.  It’s flown to show respect to a fallen police officer.  This man of the original post, a veteran, was offended and was surprised that police would do that to the flag.  He explained that there are rules regarding the handling of our flag and that the colors of our flag were specifically chosen and symbolic.  White signifies purity and innocence.  Red, hardiness and valour, and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.

I hear what this man is saying but I also understand that these flags are symbolic of a grieving heart and to pay respect to a fallen comrade.  It’s a peaceful way to raise their voice as a group to say that they are people of value who are tired of the flippant loss of their brothers and sisters.

I had a conversation with a friend this week who was offended because of the black football players who kneel during the national anthem.  She said it was a slap in the face to those who have served our country.  It made me think a bit about why I  stand during the national anthem or to say the pledge to the flag.  Honestly, I don’t stand to honor war vets but for love and pride of my country.  I think of the beauty of our constitution.  “We the people of the United States….establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense….”.  If I was honoring war vets, I’d salute a soldier, not a flag.

When I see those men kneel, I also do not see disrespect.  I see men taking a knee because their heart is grieving and because they want to pay respect to a fallen comrade.  It’s a peaceful way to raise their voice as a group to say that they are people of value who are tired of the flippant loss of their brothers and sisters.

Both kneeling and flying a black flag are protected rights of our freedom of speech. It’s a tool to “petition the government for a redress of GRIEVANCES.”  I’m rarely offended by anyone exercising that right.

These two conversations made me wonder: if one saw a cop kneeling during the national anthem, would they see disrespect or a man who is broken hearted?  If one saw a black man waving a blacked out American flag, would they see a man showing honor or someone disrespecting the flag?  What would you think?  I hope you are very honest with yourself.  If you’re offended by these things, I hope you are equally offended.  If not, consider that you may be the problem.

I do recognize the sacrifices that made our country what it is but that’s not the only thought on my heart and mind during the national anthem.  I’m thinking, “look at us all standing together and singing in unison.”

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Cherish This Time

Several of my friends are mothers of young children.  Infants and Toddlers kind of young.  This is one of the hardest stages of parenting.  It’s messy, dirty, exhausting, wet, loud, and painful.  Moms of young children are in the trenches 24/7 because even in the night they are still getting up with their children for various reasons.  When my kids were this age, I recall a dental cleaning feeling like a full on spa day.  I got to lay in a chair, with out a little person touching me, talking at me, crying, or needing me for 30 minutes!  It was glorious despite the gross prophy paste and the scraping of my teeth and that my jaw was sore from staying open for so long.  TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!

So often I hear others tell these mothers to cherish this time.  “Before you know it they won’t need you anymore.”  They say this like it’s a sad thing.  Like it’s sad to not have to be needed for every. single. thing.  I remember people saying the same thing to me and sometimes feeling bad because I could not cherish that time.  I did not cherish hearing my traveling husband tell me about the amazing meal he had with a client while I wiped our sons snot off of my neck and figured on a bowl of cereal for my dinner that night.  I did not cherish cleaning poop out of the carpet.  People poop.  Not pet poop.  No, I did not cherish potty training and the constant battle of wills.  I did not cherish my oldest sons time of crying unless he was held and crying as I tried to make breast feeding work and crying because I stopped singing his favorite song.

When my sons were little they were cute and clever and funny!  Mostly though, they were so, so, exhausting and gross.

Mothers of young ones:  It’s ok if you don’t cherish this time.  Before you know it they won’t need you anymore!  Rejoice in that!  They’ll be grown before you know it.  GOOD!!  Right now your living room is more of a playroom than it is a cozy place to visit and that’s exactly how it should be right now so don’t apologize for that.  Guess what?  It will only be that way for a short time and then you can have the living room back!  You can lay on the couch and read a book!  A 500 page book without pictures and without a child sitting in your lap who suddenly smells weird because they were working on making a poopy diaper while you read to them.

You’ll get to sleep in on the weekends.  Yes!  It’s real!  The children might rise early but they will get up and make their own breakfast.  They’ll turn the tv on themselves!  You may wake up to find that all of the pets have already been fed as well!

Sometimes you will feel a struggle because you are so unneeded.  They tie their own shoes, do their own laundry, make their own lunch for school….  They will STILL need you but in a new way!  They’ll need rides.  Lots of them.  Everywhere.  Their friends too.  They’ll need advice.  They’ll need you to advocate for him and to teach them to advocate for themselves.  They’ll need you to just hang out and watch a show or to hang out and chat and OH!  The things you’ll talk about!  They will still be funny and clever and also deep and intelligent.  Sometimes, they’ll still talk about the last Sponge Bob episode but then it’s on to philosophy and heart subjects.  They’ll need you to remind them to shower, brush their teeth, and put on deodorant.  No kidding.  It blows my mind that this is a thing still at their age BUT I don’t have to bathe them, brush their teeth, etc.  They do it themselves!!

2018 calender p

I absolutely love my conversations with my sons and I love resting my head on my oldest sons shoulder when he hugs me goodbye every morning.  I love watching them shoot up during growth spurts and giving them crap about their funky facial hair.  I love their smart ass texts.  I am not looking forward to them leaving me because I enjoy them so much right now but, seeing how each of these phases goes by so fast, I know that they will leave and then I can watch them go through all of these phases themselves.  The hard ones and the grand ones!

I’m so proud of my friends of little ones!  They are doing such a wonderful job!  They talk to their babies like intelligent beings and not like tiny pets.  They are teaching them manners, patience, and how to love others.  They are teaching them to love and respect themselves as well as how to put on their shoes and to feed themselves.  Good job, mamas!  I know it’s so hard and it doesn’t feel like you are making much progress sometimes but you really, really are!!!

It is quite possible that you will still have to do everything for them.  That’s why I encourage you, moms of littles, to hunker down into that trench and FIGHT!  Do the hard work now.  Keep focus on the goal of raising capable and independent adults and you will enjoy and CHERISH your grown up children.

 

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that I am NOT a morning person.  As a child, there were many a mornings that my mother would wake me in violent and terrifying ways.  Sometimes she would just flip on my bedroom light.  As if the burst of sudden fire light in my eyes was not enough, a flippant but cheery “Up and at ’em!” would usually punctuate it.   (Speaking of punctuation…I know mine’s the worst.  Just bite down on something and struggle through it).  When Mom was really feeling up to doling out pain she would burst into my room singing “Good morning! Good morning!  Good morning!  It’s time to rise and shine!”  This is an actual song with more than one verse.  I got the full song.  All of it.  In college, I learned to turn the ringer off on my dorm phone because my dear mother would call early on a Saturday morning singing “Good morning! Good morning!”  I had a roommate, mind you.  Fast forward and I’m a married woman with children and my mother comes to visit.

“Let’s get up early and have coffee on the patio!” she suggested with real anticipation and pleasure.

I’d beg off but she’d insist.

OR

She’d bang around noisily in the kitchen so you HAVE to wake up.  Then I’d sit out on the patio and drink my coffee.  Mom would talk and talk and expect actual conversation to happen.

“First coffee….then talkie…” I’d explain in as few words as possible.

“Since when were you not a morning person?” she asked.

I just glared at her, trying to figure out if she was serious or pulling my leg.

“Since never.  I’ve never been a morning person, Mother.  Never.  Ever.”

It turns out there is a legit and medical reason that I’m not an early riser.  I have sleep apnea!  No, it doesn’t mean that I snore loudly.  I mean, it does but that’s not why sleep apnea is bad.  You actually stop breathing in your sleep.  Breathing is sort of important and this Not Breathing can cause all kinds of health issues which, thankfully, I do not have…yet…but it sure does make me a bear to deal with in the morning.

One Mother’s Day, my Man gifted me with a Keurig.  This Keurig is special, not just because it makes coffee but, because of it’s location.  I keep the Keurig on my nightstand.  I tried to arrange it so that I don’t even have to get out of bed in the a.m., mug and coffee-pod preset each night before going to sleep.  Problem is that I like sugar and cream in my coffee and Man draws the line at a bedside mini fridge.  It’s ok though because what usually wakes me up is my bladder.  With a full bladder, I get up and prepare my mug with cream and sugar, scurry back to the Keurig to set the mug and pod, then I start the Keurig and scurry to the bathroom.  This way the coffee is peculating while I empty my bladder.  I then enjoy my coffee in bed while working on Words With Friends, work emails, and perusing social media.

It may surprise you that I wake up very early.  Sometimes before the sun is up.  I just don’t speak or get out of bed (sans the mug set and potty) until 9 a.m.  Of course there are exceptions.  Sometimes I have to do Mom Duty (it’s kind of my job) and drive my youngest son to school.  HE knows that I’m not a morning person.  He knows not to speak if I’ve not had my coffee.  He knows his life is in peril if there’s talkie before coffee.  The only other thing that might get me out of bed before coffee is when my neighbor texts offering coffee AND breakfast.  She’s an amazing cook.  Plus, me not cooking is a very big bonus for all.

Now that my sons are teenagers, no one in my house is an early riser.  Not even my dogs.  Well…not true.  Sasha is a golden retriever which means she’s perpetually perky and she really loves to be outside but once she’s out, she leaves you alone.  Drake (rot/lab mix) cares not for the outdoors nor for awake things.  He sleeps in with the rest of the family.  Praise be.  Oh!  There is one early riser in my home.  The cat, Smee.  That’s very likely just do to the fact that she’s a cat and causing others pain naturally brings her great pleasure.  Hm.  Mom, maybe Smee-cat is your spirit animal?

Anywhoo….despite the fact that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that I am NOT a morning person, the morning people in my life keep waking me up and expecting me to DO things.  (I guess I should be capitalizing that, huh?  Morning People.  They are a species unto themselves and therefore it should be treated as a proper noun, I think).  For instance, this very morning….

TEXT FROM V, 6:50 a.m.

OK, usually I’m up by then but I had a particularly active night of apnea episodes last night.  I put my CPAP mask on but I woke up with it off at some point so I don’t know how long it stayed on.  

V: Not sure what your day brings today but do you want to walk and coffee or just walk or just coffee?

People.  Is she serious?  First of all, a “walk” in my hood is The Loop which is 3.5 miles.  At 6:50 in the morning before coffee?!

Me:  I need to walk but, as I just got up my focus is on coffee.  So I guess it depends on when you come over, which I will prefer.

V:  I’m moving and can make it to your house in 20 minutes!  What do you think?  Shake out the cobwebs girl!

Me: Coffee.

V: Do you want me to pick up Tomari’s (local coffee house) and bring it to you or do you want me to pick up YOU and go to Tomari’s?

M: Just come over.  My bedside Keurig has brewed me a cup.  I can make you one too and then we have coffee in bed.  These are the ways of my people.

End Text Thread

It was not long before there was a knock at my door and, I think I recall, a “Toodle Loo!”  I have manners.  I got out of bed and hugged my friend who insists on doing things early with me and pointed to the cabinet where she could find a mug.  She was chatting the whole time and joyfully followed me back to my room.

“Oo!  There’s like a step!” she said as she climbed into my sleigh bed.

She then talked to me about many things, the details I don’t quite remember but, I do know we talked about ski school.  V takes the kids with her son.  Definitely an early risers gig.  Then my mom called.  Mom knows V and so I put her on speaker phone.  The three of us had a lengthy (and lovely) conversation and then V asked me to help her with some social media things.  V is…older than me, younger than Mom.  K.  I’ll say that.  She is about the size of a 14 year old and is full of energy.  So much energy!  She’s a freakin’ hoot and half!  Oh!  V is the one who knitted sweaters for my chickens because chicken sweaters are RIGHT up her alley!  Anywhoo… she is of the age where social media is new and tricky.

“So how do you do find the things you’ve liked on Pinterest?  Did you see that my daughter set me up on Instagram?  Show me how that works!”

We spent about an hour having  a crash course on these, the two media outlets V participates with.  By the way seniors, I am happy to come and tutor you in social media if you ever want.  Did you know there are privacy settings?  Very important to learn about.

I was just about to suggest to V that we take a picture so I could show her how to post it on Instagram and how to tag me in it but I needed to physically get out of bed and dress to go to my volunteer job.  I walked V out and went to the bathroom to put in my contacts and brush my teeth.

Here’s another bit of info about me:  I’m blind.  Legally blind.  No, they can’t do surgery.  I can’t recall why but my eyes are too jacked up.  “But don’t worry!  They are coming up with new advancements every year!”  My contacts provide the best vision for me but one  eye can not be helped anymore than it already is.  I mean, there’s no higher prescription for that eye than I’m already using.  I have glasses but, because the lens in my glasses is not up against my eye, I can’t see very well with them.  Can’t really read with them on and I can’t drive well with them.  I can maneuver about my house though.  There’s a point to this…

I put in my contacts and wiped the excess saline from my eyes and, lo, coming from the right corner of my mouth was dried drool all the way to my chin.

Oh my stars!  That is significant!  That is a significant amount of drool!  Dried!  To my face!  Why didn’t V say anything?!

Text With V

Me: OMG!  There was dried drool on my face.

V: Ewwww!  I’m glad I was on your right side and didn’t see it!  Or thank God for poor vision.  Not sure which.

M: It was on the right.  Dried drool.  Like….a lot!

V: Oh well then it’s my vision.  Aren’t you glad you were in bed with me and not a gorgeous hunk of a man?!

End Text Thread

Forget a gorgeous hunk of a man.  I almost sent a selfie out into Instagram with V and I.  We would’ve both been too blind to have seen the drool.  Oh my lands.  What if I had agreed to go to Tomari’s with her?  I would’ve been in PUBLIC with dried drool on my face!!!

Moral:

Let sleeping dogs lie.  There is no good reason to get “up and at ’em” before one is good and ready.  Also, selfies are bad.  Finally, social media needs an age limit and I think I may have hit it.

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Smee: Life #9

It’s been…a really long time since I’ve blogged and in past blogs, I don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned Smee.  Smee is our cat.  We’ve had her lo these many years.  17 to be exact.  Maybe that’s where I should start…

When Man and I first married we lived in these pretty run down apartments in Dallas, TX.  They were built back in the 60’s and so, for a one bedroom, were pretty spacious.  A mariachi band lived down stairs which made me kind of crazy then but I miss that now…  Anywhoo, while living there a stray cat claimed us.  No, that was not Smee.  That was Sinclaire.  She was a darling, sweet, sterling tabby.  Just a dear!  However, Man and I both worked and traveled and we felt kind of badly for Sinclaire being home alone so much.  (I know.  We were ridiculous.  Cats don’t really need companionship.)

Down the street from where I worked was a Pet Hospital.  They also kept cats/kittens for adoption and I had signed up as a snuggler.  This just meant that I volunteered time to snuggle and pet kittens so they got out of their crates and had human interaction and affection.  It’s a real thing.

One day, I went to snuggle cats after work, and there was a new litter of kittens.  They were all given names from Peter Pan.  One sweet, striped belly kitten was named, Smee.  She was suuuuper tiny!  She was not actually related to the kittens of the Peter Pan litter.  I was told that she came in to the clinic the same weekend that they did.  She had been found wet and alone in the gutter.  She had a kink in her tail and a sort of deformed toe and was extremely small.  It may have been that Mama Cat abandoned her due to all of her abnormalities.  In fact, I think I adored her more for all of her quirks!  She was super snuggly to boot!

Every day after work I went to snuggle Smee.  Then I started going at lunch as well.  By the end of the week I had fallen in love and brought her home.  Somewhere, and I cant find the picture, was a picture of her sitting on our coffee table next to a can of Coke.  She was only a smidgen taller than the can!  Just a teeny tiny little thing!

Sinclaire took to Smee right away.  She would bring grasshoppers and other bugs into the house and use them to teach Smee how to hunt.  It was absolutely adorable!  That was about as affectionate as they got.

Sinclaire and Smee moved with us into our first house and it was there that we brought home our first born, Buddy, to.  Something changed after Buddy’s arrival.  Smee became angry, bitter, and jealous.  She stopped wanting to be petted.  She slept with us less (probably because Buddy did) and she started scratching people.  She nearly took my brother-in-laws eye out!  To this day he has a scar through his eyebrow to prove it.  After that incident we reluctantly had Smee declawed.  She had that deformed toe anyway and the claw was growing under and twisted toward the pad of her paw, plus scratching people’s faces when you have a new born baby…nope.  Well, that was it for Smee.  She never forgave us for the declawing nor for having a baby.  And then we had the gall to have ANOTHER baby!!!

Well, the babies are now 12 and 14 and Smee is still bitter.  For those who follow my Instagram, you are all too familiar with my Bitter Smee pics.  Smeevil, we call her.  She used to sit on top of the fridge or china cabinet and look down on us with disdain.  It started to get too hard for her to jump up there anymore and so she moved her lair to the laundry room in the basement.  There she has claimed a whole laundry basket as her own.  (Sinclaire is no longer with us and is a different story.)  Smee's happy face

When Man is at work, Buddy and Bug are at school, and the dogs are outside, Smee will venture out into the rest of the house and find me.  If I’m sitting, she will climb into my lap, preventing me from doing anything else but pet her.  If I’m blogging, she’ll sit in front of the computer screen and will angrily mew or groan if I try to move her to the side.  When I pet her she likes one pet, two pets, and then she bites the frik out of my hand.  She used to only come out into the house under these conditions.

One night, about a year ago, Smee somehow crept passed all of the sleeping hounds that are on the floor of my bedroom and climbed into bed with Man and I.  It was such a surprise!  It had been YEARS, 13 to be exact, since she slept with us.  (Sinclaire always did but again, different cat.  Different story.)  Smee climbed onto my chest and started to “make biscuits.”  She was kneading away at my bosom and it was none too pleasant.  But how could I tell her no?  She was back for the snuggles and loving!  I would endure the painful poking and prodding so that she would stay.  After several nights of Smee tickling our faces with her tail and 2 a.m. pillow parades, Man began to complain.

“She keeps me up all night!  I get up at 4:30!  I’m closing the door at night,” he ranted!

I talked him down though because it was so special that she was warming up again!  It wasn’t every night but more nights than not, Smee returned to torment us in our sleep.  Smee also seems to be in a phase of her life where she gives Zero $%&#s.  She no longer cares if the dogs are in and around the house.  She does not run from them.  Instead she hisses until my big, strong dogs whine and back away.  Every now and again they’ll run her back into her laundry basket but mostly everyone is just side stepping and do-si-doeing around one another.

In the mornings Smee cries and mews until Man feeds her.  Then she naps on the floor heater, completely covering it with her body.   I should mention that Smee has very short legs and for some reason still looks like a kitten.  She’s still so tiny!  Not as small as a soda can but still a tiny little thing.  Also, as all annoying bitches do, she has the gift of being able to eat and eat and eat and never gain weight.  Every a.m. Man feeds her soft food and then anytime I enter the laundry room (which is a bottomless pit of clothes and linens…) she cries for more.  I feed her small amounts of kibble 2-3 times a day.  When my sister visits she really gets spoiled.  My sister feeds her bigger portions and more frequently.  The evil ones stick together.

There are many examples of Smee’s meanness.  There’s the time she peed in my brother-in-laws suitcase.  The time she peed on top of the bookshelf.

Smee peed

I posted this on Facebook and the comments were the best!  “Smee shaming.  That’s low.”  “Do cats, Smee specifically, feel shame?”

 

 

The time she pooped on Bugs homework.  There was the time when she practically lived on top of the shelf and she would beam her empty food cans at passers by.

“She’ll never die,” Man would grouse.

Sometimes, she sits on the stairs but presses herself up to it in way so that when you are coming down the stairs you can’t really see her and then she grabs you, scaring the crap out of you, and coming damn near close to causing you to fall the rest of the way down.  One could break their neck!

“Smee tried to kill me,” I’d text my sister.

There is of course the 3 a.m. pillow parade and the biting after 3 pets.  The hissing at the children as they pass and the constant demand to be fed.

When I turn out the lights at night in the laundry room I whisper, “if you see a light….go to it, Smee.  Go to the light.”  I mean, she’s REEEEEALY old and seems to be very unhappy with all of us.  The kids, specifically.

One day I went down to the basement and Smee was laying in a sunny spot by the sliding glass doors.  She was so still and peaceful, dare I say…happy looking?  I had the thought that she must be dead.  I carefully approached.  She did not budge.  I bent down to examine and see if she was breathing.  She picked up her head and looked over her shoulder to me.  Scared the bejeezus out of me!

Today though was different.  I went down to the laundry room (to do laundry, of course!) and there was Smee in her basket.  Nothing unusual about that but…her food dish was full of soft food.  I checked and she was breathing so I text Man:  Smee didn’t eat.

Man:  I noticed.  I just thought I’d leave it in case she changed her mind.

I pet her and she picked her head up and purred.  I pet her once, twice, three times, four…

Me to Man: she’s letting me pet her and she’s purring.

Man:  she’s like 1000 years old, babe.  She’s probably at the end.

I raised Smee’s food dish to her.

Maybe she just wants breakfast in bed.  That sounds like her. 

She smelled the food but did not eat it.  I offered her water….in bed.  She smelled it and laid back down.  I dipped my finger into the water and touched it to her lips.  Smee licked her lips and laid back down.  I pet her once, twice, three times, four, five…and she let me and she purred.

Me to Man: She’s being really sweet.  I think she’s dying.

I had an appointment at the senior living center.  I had to go and so I pet her some more and told her to hang in there until I got home.

ill Smee

When I got home she had not moved from her basket and I could barely see her breathing.  I offered food and water again.  She refused it.  I pet her once, twice, three, four, and just kept petting her and she did not protest.  I went to pick her up and put her in my lap and she cried and curled up so I left her in her basket and continued to pet her.  At one point I stopped petting but my hand was near and she pressed her forehead into my hand.  I put my face down to hers and cooed and asked if she was going to make it.  She pressed her forehead to mine and we sat there for about a minute or two but then I had to leave to get the kids.

There was carpool and orthodontic appointments and grocery shopping and when we got home, Smee was still in her basket with her faint breathing and loss of appetite.  I scheduled an appointment for her to see the vet in the morning.  I offered her kibble by hand.  She lapped one into her mouth but then spit it out.  Just got the taste of it.

When Man got home we all talked as a family that this could be her end.  Man and I kind of thought she would hang on until Buddy left for college (in 3 more years) just to spite him.

“I’ve never liked cats, that one in particular, but she will still be hard to say goodbye to,” Man said as we quietly ate our dinner.

After dinner I did the dishes and fed the dogs.  I decided to go down and check on Smee again.  She was curled up sleeping in her basket.  I pet her bunches and she picked up her head and purred.  I just sat there near her basket and food and water.  She stretched while I pet her and then she stepped out of the basket and sat at her food bowl and ate a few kibbles.

What the heck…?

Then she walked over toward her litter box.

I ran up stairs and told Man, “She’s a faker!  She’s eating and walking around!”

After I relayed what happened Man defended her, “a few pieces of kibble all day does not mean she’s faking.  Something’s not right and you need to take her to the vet tomorrow.”

I was about to head down to the basement again but….

Smee lives

 

and then….

Smee lives2

 

“She is faking it, I tell you!  She just wanted to hear us all say how sad it would be if she died and how we’d miss her,” I told Man, “and she wanted to be fed in bed.”

Man went down to see for himself.  Smee headed down the stairs as he did and lead him to the laundry room as she does in the mornings.

“What is it?” I hear Man say in a sweet voice to that little devil.  “Oh…you want soft food again?”

Next thing I know, Man is running up the stairs to get Smee her soft food.  Sure enough, she eats it.  All of it.

As I finish this blog she is sitting in the kitchen.  Upstairs.  She will never die.

 

Smee haunt

I waitses and then I strikes.

 

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Precious In His Sight

This morning a friend mentioned how her child would describe other students in his class.  He described them by their qualities as a person, not based on their physical appearance.  She was so proud of him, as she should be!  Really, the kudos goes to her.

Her son doesn’t see a person for their skin color because she doesn’t.  This is a learned behavior.  Most people would say that they are not racist or bigots.  They don’t support discrimination of people on the big levels (slavery, segregation, etc) but when it comes down to it they are socially segregating people.

A few years back a friend was telling me about her Ladies Trip to Vegas.

“We were all dancing and then this black guy came up and started dancing with us…” the story went on but I honestly don’t remember it.  I just kept waiting for the part in her story that made his blackness relevant.

It’s become a hobby of sorts for me.  When anyone mentions the race, sexuality, body of a person, I wait to see if mentioning “a fat lady” or “this gay guy” was relevant.  It very often isn’t.  That sort of thinking, the categorizing, is a problem.  Our children pick up on it and it creates division.  It may seem a small thing but it makes a huge impact on how they relate to others in society, separating themselves based on their appearances.

When In Kindergaten, Buddy brought home a worksheet on the letter G.  He was supposed to draw pictures of things that started with the letter G.  He drew grapes, a thing that he later explained was a goat, and a black man.  I couldn’t think of any black men we knew who’s name started with the letter G and so I asked, “son, who is this black man?”

“Well, first of all he’s not black. He’s brown,”  Duh.  I know my colors.  “And he’s not a man.  He’s God.”

“Oh!  I love that!  What makes you think that God is bla..er…brown?”

“I don’t really remember Him that well before he put me in your belly.  I just laid there a lot with my eyes closed…” and Buddy laid on the ground, arms wide spread, eyes closed and a dopey grin.  “But I know He was brown.”

I really hope He is!  I love imagining certain people arriving in heaven to be brought to the throne room and…

“So, I died.  I go to heaven and this black guy…”

 

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Take The Compliment

Recently, someone complimented me on what a good mother I am and I replied, “Thank you.  My sons make parenting easy.”  Another friend pointed out that in answering that way I’m doing myself and others a disservice.  My children are not good because of some innate goodness in them.  My sons are fantastic because I’m a FANTASTIC parent.

I don’t have the sort of career where my salary denotes my skills or where bonuses or reviews reflect the level of my job performance.  The many compliments I receive from strangers, friends and family are my job review and I should receive them as such and not give the credit to “luck.”

Some of my friends may remember my sons as babies and toddlers.  Buddy was a difficult baby.  He was difficult to feed from breast or bottle.  He cried if he wasn’t being held and when he was being held he wriggled and climbed and tugged and pulled on every body part in his reach.  When tired of being a human jungle gym, I’d put him down and the wailing would begin.  I don’t remember too much trouble from him as a toddler.  I know there was correction and discipline but, smart boy that he is, he only needed a consequence to happen once (maybe twice) to set the boundaries and expectations of our household.

Bug was…something else.  I’m sure my friend Amy recalls his stubbornness.  She was a former teacher who ran an in-home daycare in our neighborhood.  She taught me so much about how to redirect him and how to implement consequences.  He didn’t take to it quick like Buddy.  I had to repeat, repeat, repeat words and actions until he got it.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t intelligent.  It was a battle of wills.  There were fits, screams, hitting and biting.  Real full on battles with that boy especially around age three.  I called it Throw Me Under The Car Threes.  Amy encouraged me to stick with it and I firmly believe that it is why my current parenting years are a cake walk.

I used to babysit a little girl (age 5) when we lived in Missouri.  She was a nice young lady but she had zero manners.  She would make announcements to me of her wants and desires.  “I’m hungry!”

“May I have a snack please?” I would reply, demonstrating the more respectful way to ask for what she wanted.  After giving her the snack, “Now what do you say?”

“I don’t know…” she answered honestly.

“Don’t you say please and thank you at your house?”  I asked.

“Um…no.  I don’t know?”

And so we began a lesson in when to say please, thank you, and you’re welcome.  She was genuinely thrilled to learn it!  I was so surprised because her mother was one of the sweetest most lady-like women I knew.  How was it that her 3 daughters didn’t know BASIC manners?

Using baby signs, I had taught my sons their manners before they could even speak.  Buddy showed his gratitude through sign language to my sister for a gift she gave him and he didn’t know how to say more than “mama” and “dada.”  Bug on the other hand…didn’t pick up on signs.  He once dropped the sign for “more” and started to snap (yes SNAP!) at me when he wanted more food.  I could have allowed that for a supplement sign but I refused to jump and serve when snapped at.  (Interestingly, he lost the ability to snap and had to be re-taught when in grade school.)

Once I was cleaning house in preparation for company.  Buddy decided it would be fun/funny to take every toy, every Lego, every train track, every book, (you get the picture) and dump it out onto the floor.  I wanted to scream!  I wanted to give him a scolding he would never forget!   I had just read a book about natural consequences and allowing kids to reap the results of THEIR choices.  I told Buddy that he would have to pick the whole mess up himself.

“What?!  But I’m too little!” he argued. “Will you help me?”  He was 4 by the way.

“No, Buddy.  I won’t help and you are not too little.  You are big enough to make the mess yourself and you are big enough to clean it up.”

He burst into tears and continued to ask for my help.

“I’ve got the whole house to clean before our company arrives tomorrow.  I’m sorry that you chose to make such a big mess.  Now get it cleaned up quick so you can do fun things!”

It took him the rest of the day and part of the next but when he was done he was so PROUD of himself and he even thanked me!

It was a lot to ask of a four year old and it was hard for me to not intervene but what a lesson he learned!  That day and half consequence stuck!

Experiencing a consequence is important and it’s also important to let our kids struggle.  It may not be easy for them to clean up a spill or to tie their shoe or take walk instead of ride.  One thing you can guarantee though is that at sometime in their life they will be in a struggle.  Let them struggle over the little things, with you along side them so when life is hard they know that they can get through it.

Mealtime.  If the kids didn’t want to eat the food I offered, I didn’t get mad or raise my voice or act hurt.  I just said OK and let them skip the meal.  They could not make something different to eat and I sure as hell wasn’t going to make a separate meal for them.  When they cried and argued about that, I would calmly remind them that they CHOSE to not eat the food I prepared.  I’m saying this because a lot of parents believe that it’s important for their kids to have choices and I entirely agree.  However, they don’t get to make ALL of the choices.  I choose what to make for dinner and they choose to eat it or not.  Whatever they choose is fine with me.

“My child is so stubborn though that I worry they’ll never eat.”

They will.

I promise.

Besides Amy, another big influence on my parenting was my friend Janice.  She had 13 kids.  (I say “had” because she has even more than that now.)  Watching Janice with her children I learned that even though your child may not have the ability yet to speak much, they understand what you are saying.  One time her one year old dropped a wrapper on the kitchen floor.

“Pick it up and throw it in the trash, please,” Janice directed.

I was amazed as the one year old bent down to pick up the wrapper, toddle over to the trash, lift the lid and toss in the wrapper.  I filed the lesson away as her diaper swish, swished while she toddled off to play.

Janice also had one hour a day where all of the children went to their rooms.  They could read, nap, or play quietly but for one hour she did not see, hear, or attend to a child.  I can guarantee you that not all of her children were “easy.” She established rules and consequences for breaking rules early on.

Did I say she had 13 kids?  Because that’s something to remember too.  I’m often told that my kids are good because I only have 2.  THIRTEEN!  Just saying.  I know plenty of only children or 2 sibling families where the kids are little terrors.

If you are a parent of infants or toddlers I encourage you to implement the rules of your home while they are little.  The hard years of parenting for me were when the boys were under the age of 5.  After that it’s mostly been about table manners, spirituality, relationships, etc.  I rarely have to correct my sons anymore.  At least not in a large way.  There have been times that privileges are revoked but there isn’t a blow out over it because they know that when you make a bad choice there is a consequence.  They know that because as Littles that is what happened.

I have friends who tell me that they can’t do that or their child will get really angry.

“You don’t understand.  She’ll have a fit and make living with her difficult for everyone.”

Right.  Because my kids never did that.  I was “lucky” and gave birth to little angels.

I get that it’s MUCH harder to start consequences when you didn’t do it at a younger age but it’s never too late to start!  It’ll be harder for you and your child but it’s not too late!

Also, so what if your child gets mad.  That’s life.  It’s not our job as parents to raise happy children.  It’s our job to raise healthy, happy, functioning ADULTS.  Children who learn in the safety of their home and parents arms how to cope with disappointment and that their behaviors have a cause and effect will be good adults.

The book that saved the lives of my children was called How To Get Your Kid To Mind Without Losing Yours.  I bought it because I was so exhausted (and depressed really) and just at my wits end for how to get my children to behave.  I didn’t want to be a mom who yelled all of the time.  I didn’t want to be an angry mother.  That book really gave me an understanding of the importance of our children having consequences for their actions and for teaching them that their behaviors are THEIR choices and not the fault of someone else.

So thank you, salesman at William Sonoma for complimenting me on what well behaved and well mannered sons I have.  I’m sure you cringed when you first saw them walk in unattended.  Thank you, waiter at the fancy restaurant for complimenting the boys and I on their lovely manners (still working on using those same table manners at home…)  Thank you to my aunt who said she’s never met such a respectful teenager as my Buddy.

It didn’t “just happen.”  I didn’t get lucky with magical babies.  I worked very, very hard.  It was physically, mentally, and emotionally draining but I busted my ass to create the sort of children I have today.  Their father too.  I could always call him at work for him to have a “talk” with his sons if need be.  I know we are not done.  I know I still have time to royally screw them up, but so far so good.

 

 

 

 

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But He’s Mine

The last few months I’ve been volunteering at an assisted living center.  This is something I’ve talked about having a desire to do for years but never did…for some reason.  I absolutely love it!

Yesterday, we took a few of the residents out for lunch.  There are only two married couples in the whole facility and one of those couples came on the lunch outing.  I can’t use their names but She has Alzheimer’s or dementia…I don’t really know which.  So we make sure that She sits near us.  Sometimes during the meal She would tell me about her husband.

“He’s WONDERFUL!” She told me with a smile.  “He does everything!”

And sometimes…She forgot who He was.

At the end of our meal she leaned over to me and asked, “What do you think of that tall one over there?” She pointed across the table to Him.

“He’s your husband, darling.”  I told her.

“He is?!” she asked.

I confirmed that He, in fact, was her spouse.  Her eyes widened and she smiled broadly, thrilled to learn that the handsome tall gentleman was HERS!

Several years ago, My Man’s grandmother was also struck with Alzheimer’s.  One year for Thanksgiving we were all together and Grandpa was sort of testing her, proving to the family how much the disease had progressed.

“Who’s that?” he asked and pointed to a grandchild.

“I don’t know,” she’d answer.

“Who’s that?” he asked, pointing to one of her sons.

“I don’t know,” was the answer again.

Finally, someone pointed to Grandpa and asked her, “Well, who’s he?”

Grandma looked at him and said, “I don’t know…” then she wrapped his arms around her and said, “but I know he’s mine!”

Hard and leathered Grandpa cried.  We all did.  It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever witnessed.

This blog has no moral or lesson, I guess.  Though,  you may sometime find that your mind looks at your spouse and thinks, “who is that?” and you look at where life has brought you and you’ll think, “where am I?”  It’s good to know that our hearts stay tethered and the heart will say, “he’s mine.”

 

 

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