October 17, 2013

BECOME THE TARGET! A Message Brought to You by a "Wussified" Parent...

I know that October is Bully Prevention Month and I think that's stupid.  Yep, one month of every year dedicated to teaching our children to not be jerks to each other is just not enough.  If October is the only time your child hears anything about being nice and not hurting others, I will gladly call you a bad parent to your face.  Kids should be taught from the very beginning about being nice and not hurting other people's feelings and that love is good and hate is bad.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of children that are taught hate from a very young age.  There are kids that are also taught to look the other way when there is someone different, which does not amount to hate but rather indifference, which can end up being just as hurtful.

Anyway, that being said, I have had many teachable moments with Daughter where I have taken the opportunity to teach her to ask the question and become more empathetic; to strive for understanding over ignorance.  It's a tough position for any parent to try to teach these lessons and yet we are faced with them every day!

I'm not saying I do it right...I don't know if anybody has the brilliant end-all answer.  I do know that I have seen stories about bullying go way too far in the news and I have been moved to tears by what people are willing to do to each other.  I remember bullies in school when I was growing up and although I don't remember ever having a kid walk into school with a gun or committing suicide, I do remember a lot of hurt feelings and people going home and crying in private.

I recently got into a discussion about bullying with a dad...it was really a heated argument but hey, it's my blog, I'll call it what I want to.  He brought up how kids have been wussified in today's society.  He continued to say that he couldn't remember ever seeing someone so hurt by bullying as today's kids are.  I brought up that today, kids get to bully anonymously.  We had to be cruel to someone's face and see the hurt in their eyes; not hurl an insult out into cyberspace and never see the pain it caused someone.  He thought that was the same as saying someone could be that hurt by a letter arriving in the mail that called them ugly.  That is part of the problem, not all parents realize the reach of the internet.  You can literally bully someone without ever looking them in the eye and that bullying can take place from a world away and reach back to them in their own private space.  Scary when you put it that way!

I have recently had a conversation with my 4 year old daughter about bullying.  Yep, at 4 years old I feel it's important enough to be talking about.  I've told her for a long time now to think before she says or does something about how it would make her feel if someone said or did that to her but now it's gone deeper.  We talked about how not only do I want her to be nice to others but I want her to stand up when someone else is being mean.  I want her to be a defender of those that are, for whatever reason, not standing up for themselves.  I want her to be the shining smile in someone's day filled with yelling and sneers.

When I said this to the dad I spoke of earlier, his response set me off on a tirade.  He said, "Oh, so you want your daughter to become the target?"

Here's my tirade, agree or disagree as you see fit.

Yeah, if that's what it takes, I want my daughter to take the target off her friends back and place it on her own back.  I want her to stand up for what is right in all aspects of life.  If, because she is defending someone who can't or won't defend themselves, she gets a target on her own back, fine, I want her to be that strong.  I want her to be that confident that she knows whatever hate is spewed at her, she doesn't have to believe it cuz she comes home to love and she is surrounded by people who know how uniquely awesome she is.  I want her to turn around and walk away with the target on her back and her friend at her side and the bully fading into the background.  I want her to spew so much love upon that person being bullied that whatever cruel words were thrown their way fade into the background too.  I want her to be the one that smiles in the face of the bully and tells them simply that they are not being nice.  I don't want her to look the other way when she sees someone mistreating another. I don't want her thinking that simply by not being a bully she's part of the solution.  Cuz you know what?  Simply allowing it to happen in front of you and doing nothing about it...that makes you part of the problem.  I would be proud as hell of my daughter coming home and saying that she was bullied because she stood up for someone else.  I hope like crazy that my daughter would be the friend that would be there to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, be the shoulder to cry on, be the one who says you're perfect even when you don't feel it.  If that puts a target on her back, I hope that she knows where to come to get that target shot down and where she can be lifted up and loved.  I hope that every kid has that and the scariest part to me is that not every kid has that; not every kid has a great home life; not every kid has a ton of friends; not every kid was raised to be confident in themselves; not every kid has more compliments and love thrown at them than hate and cruelty.  That's the sad part.  Offense completely meant, you are part of the problem thinking that kids should just "buck up"; quit being pansies.  Maybe instead of telling kids to just deal with it, you should be building them up so much that when someone knocks them down, they are so high up they can't be knocked to the ground.  Maybe you should be watching what your kid does and how they treat others and let them know you won't stand for them being mean.  What's taught at home is repeated in public, like it or not, you are your child's main example on how to act.  If they see you treating others badly, or acting like bullying someone is no big deal, guess what, your kid is probably either a bully or someone who tells others to just suck it up and quit being a pansy.  The kid that's on their way home to an abusive home with an alcoholic father that beats him every time he cries for being a pansy...that kid doesn't need yet another person telling them what a pansy he is; that kid needs someone to finally stand up for them and say enough is enough and if you can't be nice then just go away; that kid needs someone to just simply smile at them and become their reason for living through another day when they get home.  If that's my daughter, I'll be damned proud and I'll be happy as hell to take the target off her back with love and tenderness every time she walks back in the door of her home.  More kids need to be targets these days to truly get rid of bullying; more confidence needs to be instilled in these kids so they are willing to stand up and not take it.  So yes, I would want my daughter to be a target if it meant she was standing up for what she believes in.

I have tried to teach my daughter that love is the way to go out into the world.  That open arms and an open mind are two of the most beautiful things about a person.  That different walks of life have so many different lessons to teach and every lesson is worth learning.  That differences in people are what make this world fun to live in. That being kind and trying to understand in all situations is the best way to deal with anything that she may encounter.  I can only hope that I do my best to be the example of these words and that I give her a safe place in my arms to run to whenever tears fall or her heart aches or there are too many questions to ask or there's just too much pain to overcome alone.  I want to be the one to take the target off my childrens' backs after they took it off someone else's!

September 6, 2013

Sing to me, Miranda!

Him and I were raised with very different backgrounds.  Him was brought up going to church every Sunday; he attended a Christian school all the way through high school.  I was moved around so much becoming a member at a church was pointless and church every Sunday was undoable because sometimes my mom worked Sunday. Also, I am very much a product of the public school system.  To be honest, my high school may as well have been a prep school but it was just a ritzy public school.  Him and I have talked numerous times about which way we were leaning for Daughter's education.  He was intent on a Christian school.  I was impartial.  When Him showed me a school he was looking at had a Spanish Immersion program, the thought of Daughter being truly bilingual by graduation sounded awesome.  So, the decision was made and Daughter was enrolled in a Christian preschool.

I was asked by a few friends, when they were informed about our decision, how I was going to deal with it.  Apparently, I was not the typical mother of a child that would attend this school.  The mothers are known to be a little conservative, I am not.  They all dress a certain way and have their makeup and hair done perfectly to pick their children up from school, jeans is about as dressed up as I get and a ponytail is my hair "being done up", sometimes, my hair doesn't even see a comb.  They are all said to be social and corporate climbers with true superiority complexes, I'm a bartender turned stay-at-home mom that doesn't see anyone as superior or inferior cuz well...why?  They fit a mold that I would break a thousand times over.  While the Pistol Annies song Bad Example "Somebody had to set a bad example...Teach all the prim and propers what not to do..." ran through my head, I said, "When have I ever worried about fitting in?"

Daughter had her "meet the teacher" day or preschool orientation this past Wednesday.  It was interesting and I left feeling a little unsure.  Daughter was excited and can't wait until Monday when she starts going to school for real.  I had too many Miranda Lambert/Pistol Annies songs playing in my head throughout the experience to know exactly where my feelings would land.

We showed up early because I'm one of those people who, if it's important, I'd much rather be early than on time.  We pulled into the parking lot in our '01, dirt covered, slightly rusted, rather loud GMC pickup and parked in a lot filled with new, shiny, clean, varying models of minivans and SUVs.  I stopped in the office because none of the paperwork I had received told us where we needed to go.  The office lady was preoccupied and rather distractedly told me I would see a table in the hallway.  This was oh so helpful since there was more than one hallway and there was no table in any of them.  I found some lady with a school badge on and asked her where we needed to go and was informed that they hadn't set up the table to receive us yet because the teachers were at lunch but she pointed me in the direction of what was to be my daughter's classroom.  So, Daughter and I headed that way and saw where her name was on the wall above a hook where she would put her backpack and I showed her where her name was on a board standing in front of her to-be classroom.  Daughter's teacher soon showed up and informed us that there was a table being set up right down the hall where they would be taking our paperwork.  We started that way and a few more mothers were heading to the table with their children.  We turned in our paperwork with no issues and headed toward Daughter's classroom again.

We stopped in front of the classroom where it seemed we were to make name tags for ourselves.  I watched the little girl in front of us write out her own name on her name tag.  Daughter can't write her own name yet.  It was our turn so I had Daughter write out the first letter of her name because that she can do, even if it's sloppy kid writing, I told her good job and I finished her name tag for her.  We stepped back and went about attaching our name tags to our shirts.  The next mother/child duo stepped up to write out their name tags.  The mother stood back and let her daughter write out her name in sloppy kid writing.  The mother grabbed the name tag her daughter had just written out, crumpled it in her fist, turned to her daughter and said, "Write it pretty," in a very stern voice.  I was still figuring out how I felt about everything else and it was a good thing Daughter was standing right there because what went through my head was how much I wanted to slap that woman to her knees and hug her daughter.

When we walked into the classroom, there were several Mother/Child duos going about differing activities so Daughter and I started looking around.  I showed her this rug on the floor that had the English and Spanish words for different colors and numbers.  The teacher's assistant walked over to us and showed us a board where we could put Daughter's name and birthday on a construction paper cupcake so we did that and stapled it up on the board.  Daughter found some blocks and started playing.  I noticed several duos at the small table working on something.  Come to find out we were supposed to be making a placemat with Daughter's picture and name on it.  So we go over there and there was glue and paper and stickers and no clear instruction as to what we were doing.  I turned to the mother seated next to me and asked what we were supposed to be doing.  She spoke overly quiet, to the point that I could not hear her and handed me a laminated page.  I had no idea what she said so I accepted the page without looking at it and said, "What?"  The response was a harsh, more vocalized, "I'm just trying to tell you what you're SUPPOSED to be doing here."  And sweet!  Apparently Daughter's placemat was supposed to look like this laminated page.  So I set about helping Daughter get glue and scissors and stickers and all the while being sized up by all the mothers.  As I just now started looking about at the other women I noted I was the only one in jeans.  All the other mothers were in skirts, dresses, slacks.  I was wearing a white V-neck T-shirt.  All the other mothers were wearing polos or blouses.  I looked about at the other children and no one little girl was wearing anything other than a dress...except my daughter in shorts and a tank top.   In my head, Miranda Lambert's All Kinds of Kinds played, "Ever since the beginning, to keep this world spinning, it takes all kinds of kinds."  Soon after we finished Daughter's placemat, a little chime-bell rang.  We were informed by the teacher that this meant time to freeze and listen.  The kids were called to the English/Spanish rug and the teachers sang a couple of songs in Spanish, encouraging the kids and mothers to sing along.  When the songs were finished the teacher's assistant was going to read a story to the kids and the mothers were called into the hallway with the teacher.

I stepped into the hallway and stood between two other mothers.  The teacher came into the hallway and informed us that we should have already picked up a folder above our child's backpack hook.  One other mother and myself had not been up to date with this so we went and grabbed our folders.  Upon opening this folder I found why we should have already had them.  Inside was an explanation of what would be done that day including an explanation of the placemat, the cupcake and the chime-bell.  Being told to grab this before entering the classroom woulda been helpful!  The teacher started going through the folder paper by paper.  Honestly, I kinda half listened cuz well, I can read at home.  Miranda's song Heart Like Mine pounded in my head "I heard Jesus, he drank wine and I think we'd get along just fine....And I bet he'd understand a heart like mine."  I took in my surroundings again and noted I looked young.  I believe most of the mothers around me were about my age but they looked like climbing the social and corporate ladders had left them tired and worn.  I come from a line where my 60 year old mom looks 40 and my sister, at about 35, was mistaken for a high school student when picking up her own 15 year old son.  I have many times been told I look at least 10 years younger than I am.  So, the disapproving looks from the other mothers may have been for my inappropriate age, in their eyes, or for my inappropriate clothing, in their eyes.  Whichever it was, I was under scrutiny and was found to be lacking (in their eyes!).

I was left feeling very out of place.  I drink, I swear, I have tattoos, I don't try to impress anyone, I go about making myself and my family happy, I became a stay-at-home mom because that's what made me smile most.  I don't like feeling judged based on what I do to make me happy when I'm not harming anyone.  I'm not actually hurting any of them in any way but I guess I am disrupting what they see as their "perfect" world.  I believe if being a social and corporate climber brings a smile to your face, so be it; if wearing blouses and slacks makes you happy, I'm fine with that; if you want to have the nicest, the best, the prettiest of everything and that actually makes your soul sing, have at it.  I also believe though that just because my happy looks different than your's, I'm not actually lacking, I'm just different.

I believe my sister may have put it best when I called her venting my frustrations and she said, "You need to remember some of those so-called Christians would turn their nose up if they met Jesus today.  If a father had walked in with long hair, a beard and ratty clothes holding a child's hand, they would've looked at him the same way they did you today."

And two lines from Pistol Annies Hush, Hush came to mind.  The first was, "Since everybody here hates everybody here, hell, I might as well be the joke. I'm gonna dance upon the table singing this little light of mine. God gave it to me, what good's it gonna do me if I don't, by God, let it shine!"  No, I did not jump up on a table and belt out "This Little Light of Mine" but thinking about it made me smile while I was being viewed as a joke.

The second line is, "Hide your tattoos, put on your Sunday best, pretend you're not a mess, be the happy family in the front pew!"  I don't apologize for who I am, I don't hide who I am and I won't hold back later if push comes to shove.

People will disapprove of you if you're unhappy, or if you're happy in The Wrong Way.  ~Mignon McLaughlin

August 16, 2013

My Coffee Cup Holds 3 Healthy Shots of Jack...

I brought Daughter and Son to the park.  And that is when the fight almost happened.  Background is probably needed here.

OK, so I am a full time mama.  I have brought up my "Sanity Squad" many times.  If you are a mom, truth is you need a good group of friends that you can be completely honest with when you're having those moments where you are wondering if running away could truly be an option, those moments where you are thinking you could really understand throwing your child out the window, those moments where you're thinking how did you end up here, those moments when you wish you could go back in time and change it all.  Cuz, sorry to say it, but if you're honest as a mom, you've thought every single one of those things even if you never said them out loud.  If this group of friends is a good group of friends they will tell you they've been there too, tell you you don't want to do that, remind you of all the amazing times you really enjoyed with your kids and follow it all with a shot of tequila before heading onto the dance floor to dance like you were single and childless again.

Here's a secret about me...I'm a better mom when I get the chance to not be mom every once in a while.  I get to blow off steam and have adult time.  I'm able to go out and remember why I chose to get married and have kids and when I get home, seeing those people that I choose to slow down for puts a huge, if slightly crooked, smile on my face.

Yep, time with my "Sanity Squad" usually includes a night out at the bar listening to a band that we all know the members of and shaking our butts on the dance floor.  The night usually ends with hugs all around, we all find safe rides to our homes and we check in on our children to smile at their sleeping beauty and crawl into bed with our amazing husbands that we remember again why we married in the first place.  Sounds pretty benign to me...

I ran into a mom at the park that apparently disagreed with me.

So I'm happily watching my kids play.  They're running after each other giggling and trying to injure themselves on every contraption available at the playground.  There are always other mothers there.  Some are in groups talking, some are staring at their phones, some are running right beside their children.  I'm standing near my children watching to make sure Daughter doesn't talk Son into doing something he can't quite get himself out of when a mother clutching a coffee cup in her hands saddles up next to me.  I kinda give her a sideways glance cuz I don't recognize her and I'm not the mom that makes new friends over the playground equipment.  She stands there for a while before turning to me and saying, "Hi."

The following is the conversation...
Coffee Clutching Mom: "Hi."
Me: "Hello." more as a question, looking at her a little awkwardly.
CCM: "I think I saw you at the bar a couple weekends ago..."
Me: "MmmmKay." awkward sideways glance still in place with cocked eyebrow.
CCM: "I think you were pretty friendly with the band..."
Me: "Hmmm...possible..."
CCM: "The way you were acting I would have guessed you were single with no children..." in a questioning tone.
Me: "Nope...married with 2 kids..." now my mouth is set in a line and my arms are crossed.  Ready for the inquisition.
CCM: "How did you feel that next morning?" trying to hide a giggling undertone.
Me: Turned toward her with a forced smile, through gritted teeth, "Perfectly fine.  Why do you ask?"
CCM: With a sweet, evil grin and a holier than thou tone,  "I was just thinking I couldn't do that and then play mommy the next morning..."
Me: With eyelashes fluttering and a returned sweet, evil grin, "Yeah well, sorry."
I walked away, toward Daughter and Son, grinning ear to ear and they came running to me with smiles shining.

I have grown up.  The old me would have kept going and the inevitable verbal altercation would have possibly even ended with me decking CCM so hurray for me.  Yet, I'm writing now to vent.

I do go out.  I do flirt with band members.  I do drink.  I do dance like a stripper.  I do forget for 4-6 hours every month or 2 about all the rules of being the "perfect mom".  I do act inappropriately, get loud, do things I wouldn't want my children to see me doing.  I am still someone without my children.  I still have an identity other than "Mom"!  And yes, I am sorry...I am sorry that becoming a mom made the rest of your personality disappear.

So here you go CCM...yep, it was me you saw shaking my butt on the dance floor, doing a shot of tequila followed by a shot of whiskey.  It was me you saw kiss the neck of the lead singer and grab the butt of the guitar player.  If you must know, the lead singer's girlfriend is part of my "Sanity Squad" and was sitting right next to me encouraging me to let her man take a shot of tequila from between my boobs.  And that guitar player's girlfriend, she saw me grab his butt and giggled from the seat on the other side of me.  My family knows all those people too.  That lead singer and his girlfriend, A., have babysat my children.  A. cuts my family's hair.  That guitar player showed Daughter his guitar when she was 1 year old.  That guitar player's girlfriend visited me in the hospital when I had Daughter.  All those people knew me before I was a mom and all those people know me as a mom.

Now, even that doesn't really matter.  What really matters is I am still me.  I have different parts of my personality.  If becoming a mom made you JUST a mom...I really do feel sorry for you.  But yet, you were at the bar when I was so did you go just to sit there?  Were you worried what people might think of the perfect mom letting her hair down?  Or were you clutching a coffee cup at the bar too?

I was able to wake up fine the next morning.  In fact, that next morning, I got up with Daughter and took her on a Mommy/Daughter date to breakfast and let Him and Son sleep in.  When we got home from breakfast, as a family, we spent time in the backyard playing and when Son went down for a nap, Daughter and I built an awesome sheet fort in the backyard.

So, look at that.  I was crazy acting single, drinking double girl at night and "perfect mom" in the morning.  Neither one is my secret identity.  I'm very open about who I am.  My wine is on my kitchen counter in plain view, my growler of IPA is right there when you open my fridge and my Jack is sitting in the freezer.  If you want to bring over your coffee cup, I'll fill it with whiskey for you and you can possibly figure out that there is more to you than just "mom" too!

Next time you see me out at the bar, don't sit there clutching your coffee cup and staring on with disapproval.  Call your husband, tell him you're coming home late and come have some fun!  You too are allowed to forget about being the "perfect mom".  If you really feel a need to keep it a secret you can even just clutch your coffee cup at the park the next day and nod at me in recognition.  I'll be "that mom" holding the coffee cup that says, "there's a good chance this is whiskey" and you can be the "perfect mom" with a secret identity but please, stop with the thinking you're shaming me.  I like who I am and so does my family.

August 14, 2013

Stop Running And Just Lean...

Him and I have gone camping a lot.  We love camping.  Our wedding registry was filled with things for camping: a camp grill, sleeping bags, coolers, the like.  We even spent part of our honeymoon camping.  We found out that if your marriage can withstand setting up a tent in a wind storm coming off a lake your marriage is going to withstand most anything...even if at the end it requires a beer to wash it all down!  We had gone camping every summer until the summer Daughter was born.

That summer we took a break from camping because well, camping with a one month old didn't sound like a ton of fun.  Yet, even on our baby registry we asked for one of those folding, hook to the table highchairs knowing we would be camping with our children later in life.

The next summer, we went camping with Daughter and it was awesome.  There's a campground about one hour from our house that Him basically spent every summer growing up.  This campground is on a river which is perfect because along with camping we happen to also love boating.  We bought a boat before having children too knowing we would want to share our love of the water with our children.  In that one week of camping, Daughter learned so much.  She went in non-pool water for the first time, she went hiking through the woods, it was her first boat ride.  It was so much fun to watch all the different looks of joy and amazement play across her face!

We skipped the next year because that was the year we lost MJ.  The next year, Son was only one month old when we normally would have gone camping and camping with a 3 year old and a one month old sounded exhausting.

This summer, Daughter is 4 and Son is 1.  July 16 we set off for a week of camping.  Daughter was so excited cuz I had been showing her pictures from her first camping experience and she couldn't wait to go.  We borrowed a camper and loaded it full with everything we could think of that we might need.  We pulled the camper and one of our buddies that we've been camping with for years pulled the boat.  We got to our campsite and started setting up the camper and all of the chairs around the fire pit and put the table highchair on the picnic table.  We put the boat in the water and moored it in the channel that was right in front of our campsite.  Our buddies had the 3 adjoining campsites.  It was all set out pretty darn perfect!

To be honest, I was dreading this whole experience.  Daughter had been a defiant little butt.  She was screaming NO in my face when I asked her to do something, when I still made her do it she would stick her tongue out at me with little arms folded across her chest.  She was using selective hearing as good reasoning for not knowing what I had told her to do in the first place.  She was arguing with everything that came out of my mouth.  Good example here:
Me: STOP ARGUING WITH EVERYTHING THAT I SAY!  Not everything in life is an argument.  I swear I could say the sky is blue and you would argue with me!
Daughter: Actually, the sky is gray right now...
Yep, she was right cuz it was about to rain but man, did I ever understand wanting to smack a kid right then!  Basically, she had the attention span of a 4 year old with the attitude of a teenager.  Also, Son still wasn't sleeping through the night and trying to keep Daughter asleep while trying to navigate in a small pop-up to get Son and make him food at 2am in complete darkness was not a thrilling prospect.

So, when we arrived and both kids were crazy right off the bat cuz Daughter saw the playground when we pulled in and wanted to go there the second she got out of the truck and Son was just so happy to not be in the confines of his carseat anymore so he was off and running as soon as we set him on his feet, I knew this week was not going to be the normal relaxation I expected when camping!  A little while after showing up at the campground, Him's mom and dad showed up and took the kids to the playground leaving us to set everything up in a little less chaos.  When they brought the kids back later, we had everything pretty well sorted out and the camper all set up.

Right away, upon returning from the playground, Daughter had to go to the bathroom.  Our campsite was situated about 20 steps from our boat, about 30 steps from the playground and about a half mile from the bathroom.  So, I took Daughter on a walk to the bathroom.  Daughter, being a social butterfly, said Hi to everyone we passed walking, people sitting on their campsites, the rangers riding in their John Deere Gator, the guy at the camp store, literally everyone.  I was greeted by each one of them with words about how adorable she was, which put a smile on my face.  When she was done, we started the trek back and she was talking to everyone on the way back, telling them where our site was, pointing out our boat, letting them know we were going to be there for "one WHOLE week".  Upon returning to the campsite, we found everybody getting stuff for dinner together.  I sat down in one of the camp chairs around the fire and prepared to feed Son when Daughter walked up to me and whispered, "Mom, I need to pee again."  To which I reply, "Are you serious?"  The reply was nodding and holding her crotch between crossed legs.  Off on the half mile walk we go.  The waving and talking all the way there was again greeted with smiles and laughter and comments about how much exercise I was going to get camping.  Daughter sat on the toilet for 2 minutes not peeing.  We returned to the campsite, again many stops to let people know everything about Daughter's camping experience so far.  After about 40 half mile trips 3 days in a row, I finally realized, Daughter "had to pee" only because she wanted to go socialize with every single person that she could.  I said to her, "Hey babe, if you're just looking to go for a walk, ask to go for a walk so I can see something other than the same people and so I don't have to spend this much time standing in a hot bathroom for no reason.  We can walk all over the campground if you want just stop pretending you have to pee."  Yep, it took me 3 days!  So after that though, we went on lots of walks; to the ranger station, to the playground, to the beach, all much better destinations!  Everywhere we went, Daughter made sure she was the center of attention, playing up the charmer side of her.  When we were on the boat, she waved at every passing boat.  She caught a grasshopper and had to show all the friends she had met.  One of the rangers told her she should name him Jiminy to which Daughter replied, "No, Jiminy is a cricket and this is a grasshopper!"

Son was off on adventures at all times.  There were sticks to bang on things, stones to throw at things, things to climb on, pinecones to try to shove in his mouth when we weren't watching.  He would wave at all the vehicles that went by our campsite.  He was enthralled whenever the John Deere Gator went by and the rangers would always wave at him.  He loved the boat...he even fell asleep on the boat once.  He had so much fun at the playground, following his sister around.  He was so exhausted most nights he slept from 11pm until 8am and it was wonderful.

I remember there was yelling, there were nights that Son would refuse to fall asleep and days he refused to take a nap.  I remember all the walks to the bathroom getting upset when Daughter didn't actually have to pee.  I remember how early some of those mornings felt when I had stayed up to sit by the fire the night before.  I even remember how I drove Daughter about 10 miles toward home so she wouldn't be able to call me out as a liar after I threatened to take her home if she didn't start listening.

But what I really remember is the great talk we had in the truck, just my daughter and I, on that 10 mile drive.  I remember Son's face breaking into a huge grin every time someone waved back at him.  I loved how Daughter charmed the pants off everyone she met.  I cracked up watching Son try to do everything Daughter did.  I loved seeing the excitement on both their faces when we climbed into the boat.  I was astonished by how awesome all our friends we were camping with were with both our kids.  I was so not excited by our friend teaching Daughter to say, "EXCUUUUUUSSSSE ME!" whenever she farted, but it was funny!  I almost teared up when Son waved at the waves cuz I told him to look at the waves behind the boat just like his sister did when she was his age and took her first camping trip.

What I remember most about the whole trip is the last night.  Sunday afternoon we said goodbye to some of our friends that left, leaving our family and one friend that was the best man at our wedding.  Monday morning, Best Man took our family for a boat ride and pulled Him for a ski ride and then we said goodbye to Best Man and our boat since Best Man is the one that pulled it up there and was pulling it back home.  That left just our family.  There were no campers within 3 sites of our campsite in all directions.  It was like we were on our own island for that last night.  We went down to the beach, just our family.  We made a sandcastle and went swimming.  Daughter collected all the pink rocks she could find and put them in a baby food jar to remember the trip.  We went to the playground and watched as Daughter helped Son climb into the wooden train and Him and I delighted in them both giggling while they rode the teeter-totter together.  We walked around the long way back to our campsite.  We had dinner, just our family.  And that night, Daughter had her first s'more.  She watched in awe as the marshmallow plumped over the fire.  She wiggled with anticipation while she waited for the chocolate to melt.  She was so excited to take that first bite and she got gooey all over.  Her face was covered with sticky marshmallow and melted chocolate, her hands stuck together, she wiped them on her pants and got them all sticky and all with a huge smile on her face highlighted by the glowing fire.  We sat by firelight to read bedtime stories as a family.  We walked out by the river to say goodnight to the moon.  Daughter went to sleep in the camper and Him, Son and I sat staring at the fire and talking about all the fun stuff that happened all week.  Son started yawning and we put him into the pack-n-play in the camper.  Him and I sat by the fire for a little while longer.  We climbed into our bed exhausted but with smiles on our faces.

The next morning, we got up and started packing up and getting ready to go.  I took the kids around the campground as Him took down the camper.  Daughter sadly said goodbye to all her admirers as we walked.  Son was happy to see the Gator one last time.  We climbed in the truck and set off for home.  We waved goodbye to the trees and thanked them for their shade.  We waved goodbye to the river and thanked it for cooling us on those 90 degree days.  We waved goodbye to the park and promised to be back again next year.  On the way home, it had become a tradition before we had kids to stop at an A&W restaurant, so we stopped to have lunch and Daughter was thrilled to get a root beer float.  Son slept through the whole ride home.

Thinking back on the dread I felt before we left and the joy throughout the trip and especially that last day as a family, it's funny to me.  As a parent I get caught up in the day to day things, the things that need to be done, the schedules that need to be kept, the monotony of it all.  I watch my children to make sure they are safe, to make sure they are being nice and good, to make sure they are eating well, to make sure they are careful.  Yet, during all that watching somehow I wasn't seeing.

Camping, the no other distractions of it, gave me the chance to see my kids, to admire them for who they are without rushing them on to what needed to be done.  Of course, back from camping, we had to get back to real life.  There was unpacking to do and that leads to laundry to get done.  Then there's grocery shopping to do to restock the fridge.  Of course those bills didn't stop just because we were on vacation.  There are so many things that need to get done.  Back to real life.

This past Monday was what felt like a really long day.  Daughter wasn't feeling well and was taking it out on me.  Son  is cutting 3 teeth at once and is having a bad time with it.  When Him came home from work, I basically ran out the door screaming, "FREEDOM!"  I was just going grocery shopping but man, was it awesome!  While driving, I popped in a Bob Seger CD.  "Against the Wind" came on and I blared it.  I totally understood the lines, "Well those drifter days are passed me now, I've got so much more to think about, deadlines and commitments...Older now but still running against the wind."  I feel ya, Bob!

Tuesday came and I went on a walk with Son in the stroller and Daughter walking next to me.  We were on our way to the library.  It was really windy and we were literally walking against the wind.  The irony was not lost on me!  All the sudden, Daughter stopped put her arms out and leaned into the wind, letting it push her back.  I stopped and watched her and slowly, feeling a little silly, threw my arms to my sides and leaned into the wind.  Son was giggling, Daughter was giggling and as the wind died a little and I almost fell flat on my face, we all started out right laughing.  Daughter, still laughing, said, "Isn't leaning against the wind fun!?!?"  Man, kids can be great teachers...stop running and just lean...it's way more fun!

Daughter and Son, it is my promise to you, I will try to stop running and try to lean more and not watch you grow up but see you in this now...if I start running too far ahead again, please remind me how much more fun it is to lean.

August 10, 2013

They Needed To Miss Me...

So, it's been a while since I posted anything.  My last post was way back in March.  So let me update you through a series of posts starting with this one.

As a mom, I made the decision to stay home with my children.  I was home whenever my kids needed me.  Which also meant I was home whenever my kids decided they wanted me to go away and leave them alone and let them have time with Him.  Daughter had started saying things like, "I wish you would go to work and Daddy would stay home."  "I wish you would leave me alone!"  "Why don't you ever just go away?" and the #1 favorite of mine, "Why can't I have a day without you around?"  Son was the opposite.  He would not let other people hold him.  Even Him couldn't put Son to bed cuz Son would scream until I went into his room, picked him up, kissed him, told him it was bedtime and laid him back down.  Daughter was annoyed by me always being around and Son was so used to me he wanted no one else around.

It was a breaking point.  I needed to be out of the house...for the sake of the family...they needed to miss me.

I went out St. Patty's day weekend to see some of my friends in a band play at this small town bar and grill.  I liked the bar's atmosphere and look and after seeing the female owner toss a guy out without taking any shit...I was in love!  I returned to the bar the following Monday and got a part-time bartending job.  It went well...at first.  I liked most of the girls I was working with and I was out of the house 2-3 nights a week giving everybody the space and time we were all needing.  I went for a part-time job and was fine working the occasional Sunday.  Slowly though I got back into my old routine of offering myself up for all the shifts no one else was willing to cover and I went from 2-3 nights a week to 4-5 shifts a week with every other Sunday.  The month of May came along and I realized I had to work Mother's Day...sucky.  So, I made plans with Daughter to go to a street fair the Sunday before.  We had talked all about riding the rides and eating cotton candy and elephant ears and playing games to win a unicorn a la "Despicable Me".  The Saturday night before our planned Mommy-Daughter outing, at 11:30pm...I was told I was working the Sunday before Mother's Day and would have Mother's Day off.  I said something about how I had plans with my daughter and was greeted with the happily stated response that I should be happy because now I could spend Mother's Day with my family.  Yeah, I should be happy that now, with no notice, I have to cancel plans with my 4 year old daughter?  I should be happy cuz now I got to spend a day with her that we had not made plans cuz I was supposed to work?  I should be happy because this particular day I was now getting the pleasure of having off was named "Mother's Day" even though my day was planned for the Sunday that now I was being told I had to work?  I was not happy!

Like I said, it went well...at first.  I went home and told Daughter that I wouldn't be able to do our planned outing cuz I had to work.  She instantly screamed in my face, with little fists balled, "I HATE your job!" and ran away.  Yep, I should be happy!

Some night in June, I came home from my job that I was slowly starting to dislike at about midnight and got ready for bed.  I walked up the stairs to my bedroom, started crawling my tired butt into my bed when I hear, "MOMMY!" in a frantic scream come from Daughter's room.  I run in there, suddenly VERY awake.  I grab Daughter to me and ask what's wrong.  She tells me she had a bad dream but didn't want to really tell me about it.  She grabbed tight to me and told me she was happy I came home.  I thought that was a weird statement but hey, I was happy that Daughter was happy to see me!  In the morning I asked her about her bad dream.  All she would say is that she was worried I would never come home.  After probing a good part of the day, she finally said, "I was dreaming that you liked your job better than me cuz you don't have to deal with me being bad there and I thought you would never come home."  Oh yes, I cried!  I hugged her tight to me and tried desperately to explain that I love her so much no matter what even when she's being difficult and I don't have a job to get away from her, I have a job so she can have time with Daddy and we can buy her cool things like the big playset we bought her for her birthday.  Yeah, a 4 year old doesn't really understand that but she was happy to hear that I missed her when I was at work too.

Now fast forward to July, Wednesday and Thursday were my normal nights off.  Seeing as how the 4th of July was a Thursday and no one had told me different I planned on it being my night off and Him had the whole day off.  So,  I made plans to enjoy an entire day as a family.  We were going to go to the parade in the morning, boating in the afternoon, grill out in the backyard for dinner and watch the fireworks as a family at night.  It was going to be a great day!  July 2 at 6:30pm, Tuesday night, I was told the "schedule" for the 4th wasn't finalized yet.  I was confused cuz we didn't have a schedule really, everybody had a set schedule, we all knew the nights we were expected to be there.  Apparently, holidays were different.  I was not informed.  I went to the owner and inquired whether or not I was expected to work, letting her know that no, I didn't want to and that I had made plans with my family since as of the 2nd I was not told I was supposed to work.  She got mad and said, "What? You think I can run a busy night with the 2 girls that normally do Thursday nights and so you should just have the whole day off?"  I replied, biting back what I really wanted to say, with, "Since it's Tuesday and the 4th is Thursday I guess I would've thought if I was expected to work I would've known before now."  She stated that she would try to get me the night off but there was little to no chance.  The girl I was working Tuesday night with had made plans with her family too and was equally pissed when the owner then started speaking with regulars and yes, I quote, said, "Here I am 2 nights before a busy night and these 2 girls are whining about not wanting to work cuz they already made plans with their families!"  The girl I was working with promptly went up, and I wanted to high-five her, and said, "The part she's leaving out is that we don't normally work Thursdays and it's 2 days away and we still haven't actually been informed that we're supposed to work!"

At 11pm on Tueday, July 2, we were informed we would both be canceling our plans and we would be expected to be to work at 4pm on the 4th.  Insta-pissed!  I have to cancel plans with my daughter again with little to no notice?  Son won't really care cuz he's only 1 and doesn't get the plans and all but Daughter?  Yep!

So, in the morning I let Daughter know what's going on and she was upset to say the least!  She told me she hated my job and that my job ruined everything and she wished I would just quit.

On the 4th, I still went to the parade with the family in the morning and it was fun!  Daughter got all kinds of candy.  She saw some friends in the parade.  I sat right on the curb with her, hugging her when the louder sirens went off.  I went up on your friend's porch and sat with Son who got to enjoy his first freezy pop.  It was a wonderful morning.  We came home and I started getting ready for work.  When I went to walk out the door, Daughter came running at me, hugged herself tight around my thighs, and with a tear soaked face said, "Mama, you don't have to go!  I've been good all day!"

Mama, me, had a breakdown all the way to work.  I pulled into my parking space and wiped my face as well as I could and decided I didn't give a damn.  I walked in with red rimmed eyes and when people asked what was wrong I just shook my head and said, "Don't have a good reason for being here..."  It was busy that night and I got out right after the fireworks ended.  I got home just in time to miss kissing my beautiful children goodnight and I determined they did need to miss me but not as much as they were.  I went in the next day and quit.  So I am happily job-free now.  That's different than jobless.  Now I just need to find a part time job that will stay part time and won't expect me to choose it over my family.  One thing is for certain though, my family will always win!

March 8, 2013

When I Grow Up...

I want to be a toddler.  Yep, I want to be a toddler when I grow up!

I want to put on a purple tutu dress, red fairy wings, sparkly red shoes and a tiara walk into a store hit some random stranger on the head with my wand, scream, "POOF! You're my trusty stead!" jump on his back and act like this is completely reasonable behavior.

I want to go into a seafood restaurant ask for a happy meal and when they tell me they don't have a happy meal, I will throw myself to the floor screaming about how unfairly they are treating me, then jump up, kick the waitress in the shin and run screaming out the front door.

I want to throw a huge fit when I'm somewhere I was forced to go out of obligation and have someone tell me, "That's it! You're going home and taking a nap!"

I want to be able to throw a huge fit about nothing and have people walk around me as if they saw nothing.

I want to be able to tell people exactly what I'm thinking and not have them look at me like I'm crazy...just imaginative.  Or ask the totally inappropriate question and have people not get upset.  Or fart in public and giggle about it, cuz I'm sorry if you're too adult for that but farts are funny!

I want to be able to run around all day, fall down asleep wherever I may be, have someone carry me to my bed and tuck me in.

I want to stick my fingers in my ears, stick out my tongue and scream, "LA LA LA LA!" when someone is telling me something I don't want to hear or trying to make me do something I don't want to do.

I want to have a person that is my personal shopper, chef, chauffeur, maid, laundress, entertainment coordinator, etc. and when she gets tired I want to ask her why she's so tired and why she doesn't want to push me in a stroller down to the park and chase me around as I try all the things that I could kill myself trying to do.

I have decided when I grow up I want to be completely sane and act completely not.  If I go grey early (which I am) and if I keep getting no sleep I'll have good wrinkles going early too...I'll be able to get away with it.  People turn their heads when old people do outrageous things too.  Yep, I can't wait til I'm old so I can act like a kid again and have people not tell me how inappropriate I am.

If I did all these things tomorrow I have a feeling there would be a totally different reaction, cops might get involved, mental facilities might have to be visited cuz judges said so...I'll give it about 20-25 years...and then, oh the fun I'll have!

March 6, 2013

For Sanities' Sake

I may be late to the party but I have finally realized something.  I'm a people pleaser, when it comes to my family at least, and do to that fact...I'm slowly going crazy!

I spend my whole day watching Disney and Nick, listening to children's CDs, finding things for my kids to do.  Then Him comes home and don't get me wrong he does help but I still feel like it's my job cuz I'm a stay-at-home mom.  If I want a shower, I make sure no one else needs the bathroom, no laundry needs to be done and the dishwasher doesn't need to be run, sometimes going way longer than hygiene says between showering.  I want to do laundry, I make sure everything else is OK before I take 5 minutes in the basement.  I want to go outside, I ask Him if it's OK.  Yep, I've heard it said that a stay-at-home mom's job is never done and we don't get paid time off or sick days and our job follows no clock.  So, 24/7, a stay-at-home mom is a "beck-and-call" kinda chick.

I have a confession...I'm a terrible 24/7 person!  No matter what the job is.  If I was on call for giving happy people more reasons to be happy I'd still be pissed that I never got a scheduled break and my overload of happy would turn into throwing things at happy people that I would then despise!  Yes, I adore my children. No, I can't be just "Mom" 24/7!  I was someone before they came along and I should still get to be that person every once in a while!  You're supposed to ADD things to who you are, not replace who you were...unless you really are that chick that lives through her children and enjoys that then by all means, come babysit for me!

This being said, my "Sanity Squad" times are very valuable to me but they seem too few and far between.  I know before Son was born Him and I had an agreement that every Friday when he got home from work, I was off the clock til bedtime.  Once Son was born that went out the window.  Even "Sanity Squad" time has been cut due to lack of funds.  (Apparently me quitting my job meant less money coming in...who knew?)  So now, my sanity is wrapped into hoping that I can talk both kids into a nap at the same time and I could actually watch one of my shows, listen to my own music or JUST SIT IN ONE PLACE WITHOUT BEING ORDERED ABOUT!

About 2 weeks ago, A. wanted to go out to a bar to see a band we all love.  I asked Him if I could go out.  OK, both kids had been sick all week long.  Him never took a day off to help, not that I expected him to.  But when I asked if I could join A., he said, "I'd really appreciate it if you didn't leave me home alone with both kids sick..."  REALLY?  I spent 5 days this week from when they woke up til when you came home with both sick kids all alone...but one night you can't handle?  OK I want you to know that when I finally lose it and take a month long court ordered "vacation" hugging myself in a padded room...you'll have the kids all to yourself.  Or plan B, let me go out for a night with A., get a few drinks, talk to adults and keep my mind at least as intact as it currently is?  Your choice babe!

I am a worse mom when forced to not let any other portion of my personality come out to play.  I know other moms that have a weekly ritual day off.  Whether it be yoga, dinner with a friend or locking yourself in your bedroom and reading a book...it's "not Mom" time.

Right now with Daughter going through some toddler right of passage where she is determined to challenge everything I say and Son believing that when he is awake I am his personal jungle gym and when he is asleep I am his personal pillow, I NEED "not Mom" time!  Daughter needs to miss me and Son needs to realize he can do things WITHOUT me!  More importantly, I need to miss Daughter and I need do things without Son.

My birthday is coming up and Him was talking about what to get me and I seriously answered, "A night with the girls."  He was all like yeah, that's what I want for you to be gone on your birthday.  Well, I will gladly spend my birthDAY with my family, but how about for my birthday weekend, I go whip up some J.A.ckassery and go out and remember why I decided to get married and have kids...lemme see those girls that are the me before you and while having fun actually look forward to walking back in that door and seeing the ones I love snoring with a smile on my face and whiskey on my breath.  For sanities' sake, I throw the handcuffs across the sky in lights and dear Him...I hope you see them!

March 5, 2013

Bite Tongue...Put Hands in Pockets

I've never been a good girly girl.  I don't get the two-faced, lying, back-stabbing, manipulating thing.  I've never understood the "invite the girl you don't like to your slumber party just to make fun of her" thing or the under the breath "Oh God it's her..." turning into the "Oh God I haven't seen you in forever! How have you been? KISSES!" thing.  I choose to call it like I see it.  If I like you, you know it.  If I don't, you know it.  I will rarely say something behind a person's back that I wouldn't happily say to their face.

I've never been one to back down.  My 5'4" frame may have grabbed a 200-ish lb. man by his throat through a car window while his three 200-ish lb. friends looked on because he sucker punched a friend of mine in a bar fight.  I also may have jumped from a still moving truck to tackle a friend's boyfriend when I saw him abusing her.  I ended up with a cut lip but he had to explain a fat lip, a black eye and why he was walking funny.

Fact is, if you hurt someone I love...I don't hold back.  I will show you a whole new rainbow of words you didn't know could be strung together like that and while you're wrapping your head around whether or not I just insulted you...I might just take a swing too.  I let people get away with saying a lot of things about me.  I've been called every word that's ever been used to insult a female and most of it I've laughed off or told them to at least come up with something original, dazzle me with something I've never heard before.  When it comes to my friends though, that name you just called me, call them that same thing and that just became a fightin' word!

And that's where I'm going to have a hard time as my children get older.

The girl that was Daughter's friend but now laughs at her cuz she's not wearing the "right" jeans?  The first girl that breaks Son's heart?  The first boy that laughs at Daughter when she confesses that she likes him?  The first time Son comes home with a black eye from a school fight?

MAN!  I can't go yell obscenities at children and then sock 'em!  That would be truly frowned upon!  I mean by then I'll be at least 40-ish and beating up a school aged kid??  Pretty sure jail time becomes involved at that point!  And I don't want to be "that mom" that makes her kids bigger targets cuz she's always calling and tattling on the kids that are being mean.  I mean, if it's truly a bully situation getting involved is one thing but kids being kids?  I need to sit back, bite my tongue and put my hands in my pockets.  And I gotta say...that might be my biggest challenge as a parent.

I know how evil girls can be in school.  One minute they're best friends and all of a sudden they can't stand each other cuz they both think the same boy is cute.  And boys...overall they're easier cuz they punch each other and either remain friends or never talk to each other again but they still have their dramas and hurt feelings but then it's actually getting it out of them that's the biggest struggle.

I teeter on the "overprotective" side of parenting I guess.  I would hugely prefer to keep my kids in a happy world with woodland creatures breaking out into spontaneously choreographed song and dance and unicorns that poop out rainbow M&M cookies but I realize that's not going to happen. (Although now I would like to keep myself in that land too please!  That'd be awesome!)  But when they come home to me crying and tell me all the bad they've had to experience in the world...I'm going to wish I had made them stay in their rooms and I'm going to wish that spanking a child that is not your own wasn't illegal.

Daughter is going to start preschool this fall and she has this enormous heart.  She hasn't learned to protect herself yet.  She runs up to other kids and just wants to play...no matter girl or boy, skin color, handicap, she doesn't judge others, she just sees potential playmates.  I worry about her being so open and loving.  I worry that someone somewhere along the line is going to start dabbing out her rays and she'll be forced to withdraw a little or become cynical.

I remember at a wedding shower about a year ago, Daughter was 2 and a half and she wanted to play with the other girls there.  They were all older, about 6 to 10 so they didn't want to play with "the baby".  It broke my heart when she sat down and started crying and when I asked what was wrong, she choked out, "Why don't those girls want to play with me?"  When we went to the park and Daughter, 2-ish at the time, wore her skull and crossbones Converse that she loved and some 5 year old girl said, "Ummm...those are boy's shoes!"  Daughter, not realizing this was supposed to be an insult, said, "Aren't they cool?" The 5 year old laughed and slid down the slide ahead of Daughter.  The girls at the shower I just wanted to say, "Really? You're so GROWN UP that you have to make a 2 year old cry?"  And the girl at the park?  I wanted to push her backwards off the top of the slide.

It's even happening with Son already.  We were at a birthday party not long ago and it was in a church gym area.  There were basketballs and volleyballs and soccer balls and Son just wanted a ball SO bad.  We happened to find a red Nerf ball...PERFECT!  I sit down with Son and let him roll it back and forth.  He's loving it.  This boy comes over just picks up the ball and walks away.  Son is only 8 months so he just starts crying.  I pick him up and comfort him thinking about how badly I want to go trip the other boy, take the ball from him and leave him crying.

I have to learn to hold back.  It's really hard when these two little people are the ones I love more than any friend I've ever punched somebody for!  It's just like letting them learn to walk.  They'll fall and they'll scrape their knees and they'll bonk their heads and they'll cry and you have to sit back and allow it all to happen cuz otherwise they'll never learn.  After a quick reassuring kiss from Mom they keep picking themselves up and keep trying until one day, they let go and start that stumbling first walk.  I just have to be there with the quick kiss and reassuring words and hope they keep brushing off the hurt and stumble through this life full of obstacles keeping their optimism that every person is just another potential playmate.

MAN!  I thought I had already gone through some of the hardest parts and then life said, "HA! You ain't seen nothing yet!"