Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Finding Solace

For the majority of this country it has been a difficult week, even here in Sunnyville. I have found solace in the fact that we happen to be working on argument writing in class, not because I want the students to debate politics - far from it as they are outlawed in my classroom for the good of all - but because my text happens to use social justice essays to teach rhetoric.

Today was especially gratifying as we read, "I THINK THAT WORLD LITERATURE has the power in these frightening times to help mankind see itself accurately despite what is advocated by partisans and by parties."

Having my students translate this to everyday speak forced them to focus on the thesis, but the real power lay in the words, "At birth, violence behaves openly and even proudly. But as soon as it becomes stronger and firmly established, it senses the thinning of the air around it and cannot go on without befogging itself in lies, coating itself with lying’s sugary oratory."

I love to dissect this personification with them, the growth of violence, how it cloaks itself to hide and thrive. I love pointing out to them the inevitable connection being made between lies and violence... and then turn them lose to discuss whether this work has any relevance in the world today.

To encourage them to discuss the ideas they have without sharing my ideas or values can be hard, but I live by the motto "my job is to teach them how to think - not what to think." I facilitate through questions and through listening, and I hear them make connections to extremist groups  - the methods they use, I hear them make connections to dictatorships - notably N Korea,
I hear a few groups make connections to the idea that media might use lies to achieve a goal. And after warning them that ALL MEDIA should be assessed for credibility and validity, I smile. Just a small, little twitch of the mouth. Maybe - just maybe - I am making a small difference and these kids will assess information and its source before making judgements. That maybe they, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, will believe "One Word of Truth Outweighs the World."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On a Lighter Note - Election Flashback

Political ads, attack campaigns, mud slinging, and sound bites are the hallmarks of the season, but sometimes we all need a break - a moment to silence the incessant yammering. So, take a breath, sit back and travel to November of 2000.

Far before Oldest was in her senior year of college as a political science major, she was a curious kindergartner. It was the 2000 presidential election and she had listened. When the radio talked of environmental policies, her blue eyes would grow round behind childproof lenses and plastic frames as she asked for definitions, explanations, and examples. Living in Sunnyville she had grown to be an outdoor girl, spending more time under the shade of the Live Oaks in the backyard playing with her imaginary friends - who lived in various trees - than watching dinosaurs on TV, making the planet and world around her were her biggest concern. So, when it came time to vote - she was prepared.

On the way to school that fateful day, she asked again, "What is the man's name who wants to take care of the planet?" She was ready to vote.

After school that day we went directly from aftercare the plight of the working mom's child to vote. As I parked, Oldest talked about her day and explained the entire school-voting process. She was quite excited as we walked into the precinct and explained, when asked, that she had voted for the man who would keep the earth safe - Bush!

Under pressure, and having forgotten a name, who wouldn't assume the man with the name straight from nature was the environmentalist? She was so disappointed that she had it backwards, but the world didn't end when her candidate lost - a good lesson this evening.

Good night, and may the electoral congress be ever in your favor.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

With(out) Apology

This is it. Monday morning the Mr & I will have a child at each level of the educational system.

In some circles this makes us young - with Oldest entering her senior year of college we are the younger parents.

Among the parents of both Boy's and Tween's friends we are just average.

But on a recent visit to the kindergarten classroom, it was quite clear I am an older parent practically the old crone. A perfect example of how age is relative. 

But there exists a constant among all these groups - the reaction given when people hear how many children we have.

I am the often happy mother of four children. Not 100. Yet, to gauge the reactions of others, you'd think I was starring in some reality show. "Wow, how do you manage with four kids?" Or the restatement with disbelief coloring the shocked inflection, "You have four kids?" 

Apparently, there was an unannounced threshold I crossed after three - which was news to me - that seems to have mathematically doubled the meaning of four when related to children. Who knew?

Yet those reactions pale in comparison to the response I receive when they discover that my children span from five to twenty-one. Typically this involves a restatement of the age differences and some wondering comment or another while they look at me as though I were an exhibit in a historical reenactment. Or some poor soul who never learned the benefits of modern medicine.

This is when I am prone to fall into apology... If prepared, I laugh it off. I make a flip comment about spreading out college costs, or kids keeping us young; but, sometimes people ask out of the blue, having gained intel from other sources - typically one of the kids. And I apologize...

I believe apologies are important. To maintain relationships and civility - to grow - it is necessary to clearly state the wrong committed and humbly seek forgiveness. I believe in seeking forgiveness yes, my Catholic is showing, I know. But how often do we apologize for things - through word or action - that need no apology?

I have nothing to apologize for - we are raising 4 independent kids and nothing aside from the household budget is worse off than if we were raising the more acceptable 1 or 2. Sadly, this hasn't stopped me from explaining, and I have told people - who have no right or reason to know - that Youngest is not biologically ours. While it is no secret - she, herself, knows - it is none of their business. It is an apology, via explanation, which I do not owe - and worse one that separates our feisty Youngest from her family - us. So, why do I feel compelled to explain or apologize for that which needs neither?

Who knows why - but I'm not anymore. It is an insult to Youngest and the rest of us. We are who we are. If you are content with no children or 10 - great. I am thrilled for you. We are a family of six. We have four children who are spread over 16 years and span from college to kindergarten. This is who we are and it works for us.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Taking the Bad with the Good

There is one thing that terrifies me, as a parent to Tween, more than anything - taking her for a shot.

At her 5 year-old check-up she cried from the moment she saw the needle and continued for the next thirty minutes. And this was just the warm-up. The next year saw swine flu, and I thought I would be a responsible parent and take the kids for shots. A school cafeteria with sectioned areas for patient shots, many nurses were on hand to administer the shots - or nasal spray quickly. I hoped for the nasal spray - really wanted it - but she was too young. Ok. Deep breaths. She can do this. Into the booth we went, handed over the paperwork, and the anxiety breathing began. Small whining noises and little squeaks that escalated into all out tears and yelling. Panicked cries that truly frightened the other children caused us to make a hasty retreat.

Yes, she was young. I held that thought as I agreed to the pneumonia and meningitis shot at her 10 year check-up. After all, she is a smart child - surely she could hear reason. Nope. The hyperventilating started as I signed the paperwork. No amount of reasoning and calm breathing could alleviate her fear. She did get the shots. And promptly stormed out of the doctor's office and sat on the lawn refusing to get into my car. She hated me most of the day. 

The resurgence of JIA prompted frequent blood work - and she is getting better with needles. Not great, but better. At her recent check-up there was minimal panic - just hyperventilating and unhappiness.

So, imagine my dismay when her rheumatologist determined her swelling and pain is not being controlled enough with medication alone. Nope - he didn't want to give her a shot. He wanted me to give her shots. Plural. A shot once a week in fact - for who knows how long. It took all my control to keep the doubt and panic I felt from bubbling up in his office with Tween looking on. "Keep a brave face and the rest will follow" is sometimes the only defense. 

A training session with the nurse later and I was armed with a supply of syringes, a few encouraging words, and a facade of a positive attitude. Time for Tween's first home shot. I had her hold the syringe - which she dropped like a hot coal. She was armed with a stress ball - she was squeezing for all she was worth, a teasing brother - who may have helped to distract her - possibly, and facing a mother about to jab her with a needle. She did jump out of the chair - twice - but when push came to shove she held still and counted off the milliseconds as she took her first home injection. There was no declaration of hate, no storming out of the house. We all survived the first shot. 

As much as this additional routine sucks now, I remind myself that she is still lucky. She enjoys all her activities - even clogging for hours - and if I have to give her a shot once a week to keep her healthy and active, then so be it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Quiet Life

Some people live loud for good (or bad). Their actions are recorded in full technicolor for all to see or hear. The good often have names that appear on buildings, grants, and scholarships as testament that they have indeed affected the lives of others. But, most of us live quiet lives.

Do not let Thoreau fool you: quiet lives do not equal desperation. Many of these lives have a huge impact on those around them. And by turns their acts can change the face of society.

Once there was a much younger Mr Seashore who lived with his mother, alone. There were some tough times, and in stepped Auntie K with a home for them both until they were ready to move on. But her quiet, kind acts did not end here. There was assistance given to ensure a twenty-something Mr would have a roof over his head and there would be a home to bring infant-Oldest to upon her entrance to the world. Nothing was ever asked for in return. She was a quiet force of kind acts.

A mother to two daughters, she did everything in her power to ensure they overcame difficulties that life throws at everyone. Always a helping hand to those in need, including her grandchildren in their turn. An aunt to 2 nephews and a niece; there are many who hold warm memories within their hearts.

With a passion to create she was an inspired designer of her home and, when given the opportunity, her children's and grandchildren's spaces too. When she ran out of rooms to dress and design, she began to create with clay. Pouring her creative spirit into the act of forming figurines and characters from unformed mounds of colored clay, she truly held the soul of an artist, but not that of a chef. In fact, her oven was more often used for clay than food! When she was inspired there was nothing she wouldn't try, even entering into grassroots politics when many women are content to take-up more soothing hobbies.

When cancer struck, she kept a brave face. Refusing to be bowed by the vile intruder taking over her body she proceeded to live her life as she deemed fit. Until she could no longer fight. In the end, we all pass alone, but her passing was eased by the loving, constant presence of her daughter who, in her own way, portrays the quiet caring and love of her mother's spirit in her own actions.

Auntie K was and is loved. She will be mourned. She will be remembered as a person who touched lives.

God Bless and God Speed. Please give my love to Ma when you see her.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Good News & Bad News

How often has it happened that we hear our words parroted back from the mouths of babes?

This is why we eavesdrop while they play with toys. A known corner stone of play therapy, children play what they know. Hold on! Did that mom dog just threaten to spank the puppy for not listening?! Okay - she said time-out, phew. Wait, do I threaten my kids? That's not right - I'm supposed to provide logical consequences for actions. Pause for mental self chastising in lapses of best parenting practices Oh good, she is reading them a story. The mom dog is hugging the puppy! Yea! Not emotionally scarred today!

While we may take responsibility for situations our children encounter, it's important to keep things in perspective. After all, how often has a young person in your life made a statement that echos a certain princess with a bow and arrow? Or a super hero, evil genius, or Cartman from Southpark (if they are, hopefully, older teens)? Kids try on phrases like a mom getting ready for swim suit season, a seemingly endless & unsatisfying amount until they happen upon one that fits them just right or at least adequately.

Youngest recently happened across "I have good news and bad news."

Sitting near the sliding door, I watched as Youngest heaved open the obstacle and rushed forward. "Mom, I have good news and bad news," she announced in somber tones with wide eyes.

"Okay, tell me," I directed, then waited while she formulated the order of sharing within her mind.

"The good news is that Mr Nibbles [the guinea pig] isn't lost - he's just in the back yard and I found him. But the bad news is that there is a snake in the guinea pig cage! They keep running away because there is a snake!"

Hmm, mental check - catching wild snakes in the outdoors, not my area - cross reference topics and current occupants in the area... "Oh-no! You better tell Dad." Upon which she turned and delivered the entire explanation, verbatim, to my husband.

He dutifully put his shoes on, after she told him, "It's a giant snake in their cage! It will eat them up!" and out the door the door they went - only to discover Checkers (pig 2) was sitting on the creature and seemed unfazed by his house guest. Upon capture it turned-out to be a legless lizard (yes, there is such a thing) and Boy released it away from the pigs' home.

Since that day we have had numerous good/bad news incidents. I have heard everything from the fish are okay, but all the fish food fell into the tank (just miraculously fell in there) to I colored this picture for you, but the markers (sharpies she isn't supposed to touch) colored the kitchen table.

I like this phrase; it is reinforcing looking for the bright side in situations, a life skill that could use brushing-up in most of us.  It also offers many moments to laugh silently of course while maintaining a serious composure, as she delivers it with the full measure of gravity she deems worthy of the matter at hand.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dreadful Duty

At the tender age of 8 weeks it begins. Washed and dressed, ready for an outing we carry  our precious packages into pediatricians' offices around the country. Anxiously we hover as they are weighed, measured, and evaluated. We smile our replies as doctors ask about feeding and sleep schedules and ask our questions.

Then it is time. We knew it was coming and steel our spines as we watch our tiny treasures endure the first intentional harm to come to them. The prick of the needle.

Over the course of four children I have seen reactions ranging from slight surprise, that  perfect O forming on infant lips, to instantaneous piercing cries that can be soothed only with prompt nursing. Generally, though, the first and second series of immunizations are not devastating to anyone but the parent. It tends to be the toddlers who take personal insult with the whole business. This tears at our hearts as they wail without the luxury of instant forgetfulness induced by bottle or nursing. We comfort as best we can, and distract to the best of our ability, and we hate the inevitable necessity of it all.

And the reactions do not, necessarily, mellow with age. One of my children, who shall remain nameless, was so terrified of needles (due to other medical encounters) by the time she was 5 that she began crying before the shots. And afterwards? Well, let's just say ear plugs would have been a treasure for the 25 minute car ride of howling after we left the office. For her encore performance, 5 years later, she stormed out of the doctor's office in tears after additional immunizations and sat in the yard at the office screaming that she hated me. Ah, fun times.

But wait, there's more! For each series, there is the requisite dose of acetaminophen before the shots and the follow-up response to general lethargy and typical low (or not so low) grade fever. Youngest, having completed her 5 year check-up yesterday, complained of a sore arm - that MMR is brutal - and said, "Mom, you can't give me a snack because I eat it with this side and it won't reach my mouth."

Fear not, she can move her arm and has taken in sustenance, though not much since she started running a fever shortly after this and has been mostly miserable since yesterday afternoon.

I can see why parents would look for any excuse not to inflict this pain on their children. After all, isn't a parent's job to protect them? But from this comes not only immunity against potentially lethal illnesses for the child, it also gives the parents a reminder of a vital aspect of parenting - be a parent.

Children live in the present. It is the parental role to protect against the future. We don't give our children a time-out because it is pleasant or erases the fact that little johnny ran into the street. We do it to guard against the next time. Shots are another, albeit painful, reminder that life requires us to look to the future and endure the hardship of today to arrive at tomorrow safely. So, while I do not relish the tears of the patient nor caring for the feverish, I will always be firmly in favor of immunizations for our children. It is the act of a selfish parent to look to their own wants, be it ease of parenting over action or misplaced belief in anti-vaxxer mythology, before caring for the needs of the child.