Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude in a Story

Gratitude is the sentiment of the season, regardless of shopkeepers efforts to rush it through so we can move into the next season which they would like us to believe is greed. 

In that vein I am going to wax poetic about about my many blessings - nah. I'll be sparing you that, and share a story instead.

There once was a girl, whose life was a chaotic drama of learn-things-the-hard-way. Her operating premise seemed to be do something the hard way to better prove yourself, often resulting in difficult times.Throughout much of this time she had a friend who listened without judging and looked through all the flotsam to the person underneath the flow from combat boots to berkenstocks and constant scowling cynicism. And he liked who he saw.

Happily she was smart enough albeit after many years and one baby to mention as they cruised down the highway, "Well, I guess we should get married." And marry they did. A circumstance, choice, and life for which she is thankful everyday. For it is from this union that so many of their blessings have sprung. 

May you find yourself thankful for the things that truly matter in your life this holiday. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


"This cloth will absorb 5 gallons of liquid!"
"Buy this cream and look 20 years younger in a week!"

These catch lines along with the annoying jingles that are set to repeat in your brain for days are the part of TV we warn kids about. "No, that toy will not make you a super hero." "No, we are not buying that doll, you will hate it in a week." Discerning fact from ads is a life skill we learn at a young age. But sometimes the message isn't an ad, and it is much more subtle...

Teen is applying to colleges, getting her affairs in order as it were as senior year cycles up to a fevered pitch. I have thought of these days often as she was growing-up. Not because I have a career in mind she wouldn't listen anyway but because I always thought it would be fun to tour campuses together, spread brochures across the kitchen table and talk. In other words, we would strengthen our bond over this time and these experiences. Reality is nothing like I imagined go figure

Instead Hubby and I try to get her to talk about her thoughts and she looks at us as if we are speaking an extinct language. Forging ahead in earnest, I ask about tours, again a confused stare followed swiftly by a Teen-esque eye roll. We have tried the casual "by the way" approach, the "have a seat we need to talk" directive, and the ever-popular "ARE YOU INSANE!! YOU'LL BE 100K IN DEBT AND 2500 MILES AWAY!!" tactic. Nothing seems to gel. 

Yet again fiction has made my expectations far too grand, and real life simply isn't playing along. It is all very blase and ho-hum to Teen. Apparently she hasn't been watching the same TV shows and movies as me.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Midlife Crisis?

There I was, just finishing up my daily dose of fiction via on-demand TV and the theme music from Friends catches my ear. When was this on? Checking the air date I see it was 1999. My brain starts spinning...birth of Boy, move back to Sunnyville, career.

Jeez, I wasn't doing anything the friends were keeping busy with, though I was near the depicted age. Was I missing out? Is there some neccessary rite I neglected? Images of my first apartment, various jobs and activities flicker by.

In the quiet of my home I consider my sleeping family. From Hubby to Teen to Baby K...

Nope. Nothing missed in my life.

A midlife reflection in the space of a theme song.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stranger (Danger) the Second Time Around

From parents, school, and TV it is poured into their brains "Stranger Danger." And we skip through life thinking we have this covered: never talk to a stranger, back away from cars that stop, run to a house, the list goes on. Like any other family living in this century we have preached talked to our children, granted it had been lacking urgency but the conversation had arisen a time or fifty.

So imagine my horror when Youngest and a friend actually turned toward a strange car that had stopped on the street in front of the house. Luckily we grown-ups were sitting on the porch and one dad jumped out shouting, "Hey! Back up!" as he walked toward the vehicle harboring a quite-elderly gentleman who was offering up a stuffed poodle. Some respectfully irritated words were spoken and the man drove off. Police were notified and went to reaffirm that offering toys to children is unacceptable behavior.

We - the collective of neighbors - had many intense words with the kids about strangers. Again. Many months passed, we kept our children without incident. Then the man came back.

Just yesterday while at work I received a call. The kids were running through a sprinkler in the yard of a neighbor and a car which had cruised down the street at least 2 times previously stopped in front of said house. Youngest proudly reported, "I didn't even look back after I saw him. I ran straight for ---'s front door." In fact all three children hustled inside, herded by the 12 year-old next door and as soon as the man drove off, they ran across the street to a parent's house to report the incident.

It turns-out Teen and a neighbor had noticed the car a day previously and took video of his car and license plate. The police were called and he was arrested from his car which according to a witness had many toys lying on the front seat...for loitering...since he didn't actually have opportunity to talk to any of the kids.

We are thrilled that given a second chance all kids did all things right (except Teen and Boy who didn't even tell us about a suspicious car let alone that they filmed it! - that has been dealt with) But, sadly we do not live in a world where second chances are the norm. To my greatest relief, in this case they did.

So, the kids got lots of positive reinforcement - they even all rode in the police car to identify the car/man. Then we began walking the narrow tightrope of reinforcing vigilance without fear... A difficult line to be sure.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Picture (not-so) Perfect

Summer, a time when families are packed into cars or onto airplanes for that elusive escape from everyday life. Whether leaving for a "staycation" near home or traveling across the country, there is much planning that is done, kinks that need to be worked through, before jumping into the car. Some families worry through the planning, where will we stay and for how long; others worry through the budget, how much can we spend and where. While I do spend some time fretting through these details, this year I have a much larger issue to face: how to pose in pictures.

Laugh, it's fine. It seems trivial, but the lack of photogenic-ablity has hounded me for years. Coming from a family that can strike a pose on command, it is infuriating to be the one sibling in snapshots who has eyes closed or an open mouth in every shot.

Is this ability to show yourself as you are on film innate or a result of practice? I have no idea.

But while I should be fretting about activities to keep the kids entertained for 22 hours each way in the van or how to stretch our budgeted dollars for a family of six I will be found, instead, doing the modern-day equivalent of kissing watermelons. Yes, you know and if you don't take a look at any teen's facebook photos for pictures of bathroom mirrors all around the country I will be striking a pose again and again to find that perfect look. A 21st century photo-ninja, with muscles so attuned I will automatically be in position each time a camera is drawn...hope I don't run into any large tourist groups!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Raising children is a leap of faith: we guide, model, and talk 'til we're blue in the hopes that our efforts will create adults who are happy, compassionate, successful individuals. And more often than not the modeling poses the greatest pitfalls.

Not too long ago Boy joined an organization for kids. It seemed the perfect opportunity for him to socialize and enjoy a sport for which he was quickly developing a passion. Things seemed great until Hubby took him to an event. Suddenly, our eyes were opened to some not so subtle undertones of elitist and racist beliefs the members held. As Hubby told me, if it had just been a couple of the teens using the n-word we could chalk it up to a few bad eggs, but these comments were heard and overlooked by parents again and again. Though it was difficult, we pulled Boy from the group.

As parents we knew we couldn't condone such beliefs by remaining a part of it, and though we could have spoken against it - after all such behavior flies in the face of their mission - but we felt it wasn't our place and would not benefit Boy. So, Hubby searched until he found another club for Boy and I am happy to report it has been a great fit for our family and our values.

It was easy to walk away from that. But, I am struggling, daily, with walking away from another group that has values/rules that are an affront to me. It is my religion.

I am not a lapsed Catholic. I am a disgruntled Catholic.

 Raising three girls in a church that clings to old systems denying women the same rights as men in too many instances is a problem for me. Being a part of a religion in which my children have been told that being gay is a sin - by teachers not clergy, and therefore easy for me to explain away at the time - is an issue. Living in an age of reason, when the Church seems to be reverting further back through history is unacceptable to me. Yet I have not left. WHY?

Because I am a sucker for tradition. I love the ritual and the peace and having the words when my own fail me. I want my children to be a part of that, to have words when everything else seems to be falling apart. There are things I adore about the Catholic Church. Beliefs I hold close in my soul.

But, it may be time for me to move on - to find a church that holds the same values regarding society as I do, values I want my children to have as adults. I have asked the kids to attend a service (is it called a mass at an Episcopal church?) this weekend. It makes me nervous, not that I haven't attended services at other churches, but I haven't been "scouting" them before. Will we have to be rebaptised, recommunioned, and reconfirmed? I don't know. But, for the sake of modeling I think I have to look into it.

On the bright side, since I continue to make mistakes with the "new words" the Catholic Church is using it may be a good time to change...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Little Fluffy Clouds: God's Rorschach Test

In a typical drive to school Youngest can be heard explaining the shapes of clouds from her backseat domain. When she stumbles upon a particularly interesting or surprising form of cumulus the excitement is reflected in her rising pitch and insistence that I crane my neck to catch a fleeting glimpse which I always say I see regardless of my viewing success

After these moments I am sometimes struck by the beauty that surrounds us daily. Yet, while I appreciate the beauty and sometimes marvel at Youngest's ability to find an entire farmyard in white balls of fluff, I simply see sky with various levels of accumulated precipitation through my windshield.

Until summer comes. 

It isn't a spontaneous change occurring the moment school/work ends for a long break. No. Instead the ability to create sky images eases slowly into my thoughts until suddenly I look up and spot a cartoon T-Rex looming above my van or catch myself driving toward a happy doll with pigtails and a pet dog. It is then, like today, that I know my brain has finally released the stress of daily lesson plans and test scores to fully embrace the care-free attitude that is summer's hallmark for young and old. 

May we all find time to take God's Rorschach test at least once this summer, and find we are happier for having laid upon the grass and frittered away an hour or two. Happy Summer All!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life's Happily Ever After

Nervous laughter bubbled up in response to some comment about the need for make-up beyond her standard eyeliner and lip gloss. Hearing herself she wondered at the school-girl sound and the anxiety it betrayed. Fixing her hat in the mirror, for life is too turbulent to begin in a veil, she relented and allowed her sister to swoop goopy mascara across her lashes. She was ready.

At the tender age of 23 she placed her chilled hand into the warmth of her best friend’s touch and promised to love him through good and bad. Forgetting, if only for that moment, that such things as struggles and anger are natural.

As the happy honeymooners reflections morph into middle age with laugh lines and bits of gray she contemplates the use of mascara for a much needed date night. Recalling the naiveté she exhibited once she looks deep into her eyes and wonders at the life they have created. While the joys and fairy tale moments have indeed been wondrous, she smiles knowingly for these things would not have taken place without the disagreements overcome, the anger soothed with caring words, and the committed bond to see through the difficulties to the joys ahead.

Jostled from her momentary reflection by chubby little fingers seeking purchase enough to pull up on her pants she hears her name called from another child wanting a referee or cook or some other need met. Quickly she smears some mascara across her lashes, lifts the little bundle and sets out to settle things at home before she and her love can celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of their greatest adventure.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend, my partner in crime and everything else. Though it is a few days late, I am sure you understand – because well, life just keeps going.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day

Here in Sunnyville flexibility is not just an attitude it is a survival mechanism. Hubby has been practicing and perfecting this skill since Teen was first handed to him in the hospital, 17+ years ago. Having begun his parenting journey with little exposure to infants and a gag reflex that went into hyper-drive over anything infant-Teen expelled, he didn't once question his role in the parenting picture. He was in. 100%.

Having this determination to be a great father to each child in our home, he has been forced to embrace flexibility. Whether he is perfecting Teen's rhetoric skills through debating the most vital character in some trilogy, taking Boy out shooting clay pigeons, discussing the latest in stuffed-animal clothing with Youngest, or caring for BabyK he adapts to the situation. 

In no area is this adaptation more overt than in the caring for BabyK. Knowing she would visit with her parents throughout her life and that we are not them, we began by calling ourselves Aunt and Uncle...this would be fine, except she being barely one is not picking it up, probably because everyone else in the house calls us and refers to us as mom and dad. So just recently, in an effort to get her to call us something, we began to refer to ourselves as Mama M-- and Dada B--. Of course she still hasn't uttered those syllables to us though she says dog and cat, it must be the fur

Well that is until this morning. As we were all minus snoozing Teen at breakfast I looked to BabyK and said "Since today is Father's Day, maybe today you could say Dada B--." She paused with her jelly covered biscuit hovering near her chubby cheeks, looked to the end of the table and clear as a bell said, "DaDa." then continued eating, oblivious to the praise poured forth from Boy and Youngest and the surprised and endearing smile from Hubby. A well-deserved title of honor and meaning, if not one of biology. 

Happy Father's Day to my husband and all the other Dada's out there!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

System Defined Permanent

After another day of court for Baby K, I was doing the mom thing - albeit I was cutting it close because even though it was clearly marked on the calendar and in my phone and we had talked about it, I still managed to space Youngest's choir performance until 30 minutes prior to - and taking Youngest to her concert yesterday when I asked her this question:

"What does permanent mean? Like permanent markers?"

Youngest: "Oh - well that means they're supposed to stay on forever, but if you just rinse and scrub a lot they come off anyway."

And I thought to myself, "Yep. That is just what it means." Of course we laughed and talked about all the times it has been good that permanent markers aren't really permanent.

So, we were awarded "permanent guardianship" of Baby K. Both of her parents need an indefinite amount of time to complete the tasks the state has set before them in a manner that demonstrates either is in a position to be a full-time parent and caregiver....But what does that mean?

Here in Sunnyville the state doesn't want to keep children in the foster care system, it is costly and unstable. As a result, they opt for permanent guardianship. It isn't adoption. It isn't foster care. It is a static state that can last until the child is 18 or until the parent(s) satisfactorily complete(s) the plan and show(s) stability for a period of time. At this point the parent petitions the court for reunification.

This is the state we have now entered with Baby K. She will still visit with her parents weekly, she will still possibly return to one of them at some point in her future, but for now she is ours...Yes, it is pretty much the same exact place we were before court yesterday with a major difference for us.

We can return to a normal or what passes for normal in Sunnyville life. There will be no more visits from case managers or court-appointed guardians. We will be able to ask the neighbor to watch Baby K without having a full background check done first. We will be able to go on vacation as a family. We will be parents to Baby K in every way we have been, without the constant checking-in with others to have our plans/actions approved. It seems almost inconsequential, but it isn't. It is a return to stasis for our lives...

At lest that is what we fervently hope. Of course there is still a connection to the parents, it is almost like a bizarre divorce triangle. With her mom's visits being supervised by an agency and her dad's visits supervised by us or someone else in the family. But, hey, this is 2012 and families come in all shapes and sizes, so happily Baby K remains a part of ours and we continue to move forward as we always have with hope and love.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Explicit Instruction Needed

Parts of life here in Sunnyville seem to speed by at 100mph, I look around and think wait! How did we get here already? Sometimes I handle the changing needs with grace, and other times - well we seem to muddle through. Teen buying her first car falls into the muddle events.

See, Teen had earned a truck from the neighbors for babysitting last summer. It was a nice truck, but would need some work. As excited as she was to own this vehicle, there was definitely some trepidation about fixing it and making it her own. Consequently, she sold it - for cheap. Then she promptly got a job to earn money for a car. She has been saving her money well, though you don't make much working at the local ice cream shop, and felt she was ready to buy a car - Hubby and I were not so keen.

Daily she brought cars to our attention, and daily we found flaws and issues until it dawned on me that this was a futile exercise. She would buy a car. She would grow-up. It is pointless to attempt to halt the practice. So, I began to help. Then she found it. An old sedan that met all her requirements - cheap and good gas mileage - and she was off. She researched the KBB value, the car, and what to look for when you are buying a used car. We went for the test drive.

Is it old? Yes. Does it run well? Yes. Does the AC work? Yes. Her questions were answered. She drove around accelerating and decelerating quickly with no rhyme or reason to test that it shifted well and even checked the oil and for leaks - she was doing well. Until it was time to settle on a price.

Let me start by saying I am not laughing at Teen (and myself as well), I am laughing with her. Yes, there is a difference. The three of us stand around the car; me, Teen, Seller. I asked a few questions they were answered, Teen stated she wanted the car.

I look to Teen and say, "Well, now is when you decide how much you are will to pay for the car."
"Okay, well, I have $1200 in the bank..." DOH!! Yes, she really said that aloud to the seller...who was asking $1200.
Trying for salvage, I laugh and make a joke before reminding her, "Okay, but consider how much you will have to spend to fix the tail pipe and how much you will have to pay for title and tags..."
"Oh! But you said you would help with those for my birthday."
Yes, I am not kidding, it was like a bad comedy of how not to buy a car!
Thankfully, Seller was a nice guy, who laughed and said "You are supposed to rehearse this stuff you know!"

We all laughed and Teen got the car for $900 - not too bad for her first attempt and the rocky start...
sometimes there is grace, sometimes there is blindly groping in the dark and sometimes it is a bit of both. Plus, now I know, explicit instruction in haggling is needed for my children. Maybe this summer we'll haunt some flea markets...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pets Decrease Stress - Right??

          Youngest had been complaining of unfair treatment for months. Her sister had a snake, her brother had a lizard of some sort and here she was forced to share the 2 family dogs and cat with well, the family. After hearing her adamantly stating her case, I’ll admit it, I caved.
In a few agonizingly long weeks she received the absolute satisfaction of a tiny 6-week-old dwarf hamster. The adoration was instantaneous on her side anyway and she loves the hyperactive biting machine in a way only pure-hearted 7 year-old’s and cats are capable of maintaining.
Needless to say cat shooing and chasing has become a primary pastime for Youngest as the cat is sneaky. By pushing the cage over the cat has freed the hamster on 2 previous occasions, resulting in mass panic and general pandemonium.
So, as soon as I heard a crash in Youngest’s room last night I directed Teen to check it out. She opened the door to spilled shavings scattered around a flipped cage. “Griselda! Get OUT!”

And out she went, her sleek black mass prancing by with a white mustache…wait, white mustache? Before she knew what was coming I pounced, she released her prize and I was in hot pursuit of the tiny beast. After snatching it to safety, I relinquished the would-be victim to Teen who concluded it needed to move into protection in her room until a suitable situation can be found – much to the annoyance of Youngest.

Happily; however, she received some generous gifts for her First Communion, so after work today we will be heading out to purchase a new, hopefully cat-proof, cage…

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

Even without the traditional hallmarks of seasons that grace the majority of this country, there still exist sure signs of spring here in Sunnyville. If you happen to have teens at home these signs are clear, and if you happen to work with these pubescent creatures the signs are neon, flashing, and practically scream at you on a daily basis.

My first inclination of spring stems not from trees budding and flowers blooming, that happens here all year. No, instead it sprang forth from showering. Yes, showering. Anyone who has known or been i would assume a young teen boy knows showering while important for hygienic reasons, is not a top priority in the average 13 year-olds life. So, when Boy began showering without prodding or reminders everyday before school, I noticed.

In jokingly making a comment about a possible crush leading to the showering, I inadvertently triggered a blush reflex in Boy that began at his feet and traveled up to his scalp. Of course, being the respectful mother I am I let it go...okay no way did that happen. After some teasing and jest the confirmation that there was not only a crush but a "girlfriend" came to light.

I did a brief - okay 3 day - freak-out and then took Hubby's counsel to heart. A girlfriend at school and on facebook is not dating. So, I am somewhat at ease...and thankful that they are not in classes together.

In the classroom these signs are more overt and often related to giggling glances and note passing. Yes, paper and pencil notes still exist despite the best efforts of technology. So, it should have been no surprise when I watched a young lady trying to inconspicuously pass something to a young man seated in front of her.

Guessing it was a mint or candy of some type, I stopped the lesson, looked directly at them and waited. I was 3 feet away and still she tried to unburden herself knowing I was watching. I announced, "Well ---, go ahead and give it to ---- so we can all move on." "Really? Ok," she replied and handed him an intricately folded piece of paper.

"A NOTE?" I gasped in my best shocked-at-you voice. I really did think it would be a candy or mint.

"Not from me!!" She replied, "I am just the messenger!!"

Of course the boy in question was quick to offer to throw said note away and the girls-in-the-know were quickly spreading word of the contents of said notes between giggles while the boy tried his best to shred all evidence over the recycling bin.

In the space of a minute the entire class knew what the note said, except me - though I could guess. This is when one student stage-sneakily made her way to the bin and brought me a piece of the offending paper. Then as she was handing it to me she stage whispered that --- had asked ---- to go-out with her. To which the note-writer yelped, "It was a dare!"

Aww. Isn't spring grand? Only another month of hormones until summer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shame and Solution

It started slowly, a problem here or there. noticed.Startled by this new development, I began looking for ways to hide it from my peers, Then as the shame grew, I cast about for something to blame. Certainly I had to be the one at fault, this couldn't be happening to my friends as well or I would have As the shame grew, so too did my need to pinpoint and alleviate the problem. It was all in vain. The problem continued.

Then in utter frustration I finally called out to some friends, and realized it wasn't just me...The shadow of shame lifted as we discussed our futile attempts to fend off this ever increasing problem. I learned that I was not alone in my fear of leaning against counters, or bulging belt buckles. We had all been battling this with vague ideas that the problem was of our own creation, possibly by opening bottles with our shirts, or over-filling washing machines. The problem however, is not of our making it goes well beyond us.

The problem of the little holes that magically appear in new shirts after wearing them as few times as twice is hounding not just me, but many women in this country. Coming clean helped me to realize this, and has allowed me to move beyond shame into problem solving.

As we discussed the tormenting pinholes, the conversation also led into the alarming, and continually increasing, sheerness of the shirts we are forced to buy because nothing else is available. This in turn brought to mind fabric and sheets eventually halting at the idea of thread counts. People are willing to pay more for better thread counts in sheets, knowing that the product is more durable and will give lasting quality. So too am I willing to pay a few dollars more for a shirt that is not disposable after one or two wearings.

I believe I am not alone in this. We do not want throw-away clothes. We do not want to continuously shop for the same items, and after finding a top we love we do not want to see it ruined after one use. So, I challenge the manufacturers - give us options! Let us know the quality of your products! Label our shirts with thread counts so we can choose for ourselves!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do I Look Like a Teacher to You?

Students - they're everywhere! Now, don't get me wrong, I love my students. They are quirky, often silly, and surprisingly insightful at times. During an average day, we laugh together usually at me and sometimes I even manage to teach them something. I understand it is my job to model sound morals as well as elements of literature, but during my off hours I want to be me and not role model extraordinaire.

So when I am trooping to the beach with the kids and maybe a beer or two in the cooler, I am glad I live 20 miles from my work. Trust me on this, no teacher wants to run into a student and his parents while wearing a bikini - a fate a dear colleague had to endure over break; or while putting a 12 pack into the cart at the grocery store - different friend same mortification. I hear these stories and sympathize, thankful I have my buffer zone to shield me from such interactions - and allowing me to be just a person at home. But do I?

A few weeks ago a much anticipated movie was released, and after coming to terms with the fact that Teen and Boy were going to ditch me to watch it themselves I made plans with Sister2 to see the show with her on a Saturday afternoon. Upon our early arrival to the theater we were disappointed, but not surprised that the theater was very crowded. I was sitting beside a gregarious young man who was quite disposed to chatting with me as we waited for the film to begin, and for Sister2 to return to her seat. He was asking if I had read the book upon which the movie was based. Of course I had, but this young man hadn't and he was talking about how his teacher had highly recommended it to him. Being a mom, and a reader, I strongly seconded this recommendation. We talked a bit more I said we were early and he asked, "Did a lot of your students read this book?"

Huh?!? I am sitting in a crowded theater in my favorite ripped up jeans and T-shirt. As far as I know there is no sign declaring me a teacher stamped upon my head...I took a moment to respond and he followed-up with, "You are a teacher, right?" I told him I was, the previews began, and I thought to myself there is no buffer. They don't have to be my students - apparently any middle-schooler worth his salt can spot me for a teacher a mile away...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gut Punched By Reality

I was recently watching a movie with Youngest and the concept of risk/reward was introduced. Youngest being the empath she is stopped the movie to say the girl in the movie should not take care of the dog knowing it will leave one day. "But think of all the great memories she would be missing, memories she can make by taking care of the dog," I told her. "If we don't risk being hurt, people would have no memories." She considered this, watching her eyes I could see the gears turning in her head weighing a life of no memories with one of possible pain. I knew she had reached her conclusion when she said, "And memories are the only things we can keep forever, so that's good." She pressed play and the movie continued, happy ending and all.

After another court date for Baby K, with another continuance, the reality that this will never end (or will possibly end badly) struck me square in the gut. Along with my breath I lost my perspective and positive attitude in one well-placed jab of reality. Throughout lunch I was sullen despite Hubby's best efforts to keep things in perspective and not to take a fatalistic view. I needed to process. So, alternating between melancholy and frustration I withdrew into my thoughts, thankful I was driving my own car and could take the 30 minute drive home to dwell without further upsetting him.

Sadly, no epiphany moment struck jerking me back to my happy medium. Instead it was a culmination of little things. Baby K blowing raspberries a trick she has turned into a language all her own in response to a kiss, A song that played on the muszac while I was picking up a prescription that reminded me my loved ones who have passed are watching over me, the beautiful tree growing in the yard that has been around despite all the puny problems of man, and remembering Youngest and I talking about memories. 

This is real life and there is no guarantee that things will end happily, or even well. But there is a surety that despite whatever outcome the future holds we are building memories that will always be dear to us. And like my thoughtful daughter decided, "memories are the only thing we can keep forever, so that's good."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Moment in the Sun - Eclipsed

Not being particularly crafty, I was quite pleased with myself for embarking on a new Easter craft Saturday. The kids and I would not just dye eggs, we would go a step beyond and hand blow a few to keep.

As I outlined the process for the kids, using my tablet to reference the site that inspired this idea, Boy said, "Oh, I have those directions somewhere - we need an empty egg for school on Monday." Huh? It is Saturday night and we would be picnicking at the beach most of Sunday...when would this information have broken if I hadn't begun this craft? my best guess is Monday morning Well at least I had Boy bought into the project. He was assigned a girl egg baby, so he got busy dying an uncooked egg in acceptably boyish girl-colors.

Everyone was gathered around the sink to watch the process of draining the egg. I had not only Boy and Youngest completely focused, but also Hubby, who was resigned to my way after I told him he could not drill through the egg to make the hole and the neighbor who happened to be over and decided dying eggs sounded good to him. My moment in the sun so speak.

I have the holes done, and am referencing the directions for the next step, and I notice I am being nudged. Hubby is slowly sneaking into position. He leans in and takes the egg, to "help" with the blowing part. Before I even know what has happened I am behind the crowd gathered at the counter and Hubby is working to drain the egg of its goop!

Completely puzzled I look around at the guys all discussing the best way to empty the egg, laughing at the goop, I see my moment has passed and say, "Great, I have a fun idea and it's stolen."

Youngest hears this and responds, "Oh Mom, they aren't  stealing your idea...they are embracing it."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Keep a Teen Handy for the Unexpected

If you ever have occasion to be out and child services comes calling because a woman who you are helping refuses to be accountable for her actions and instead calls in malicious complaints about the family who is raising her baby, and I hope you never do, have someone like Teen at home. The great thing about teens at least in this situation is they know they are right. Deep in their bones and everywhere else, they know with an unapologetic certainty what justice entails and are more than willing to lay it on the table.

In this case it presented itself in the form of Teen answering the question of "are you cleared to care for [Baby K]?" with the flippant response of, "I've lived here my whole life, so I would assume I've been cleared." Directly followed by a full description given to the poor investigator (who had the misfortune to be next-up when this blatantly false call was received) of the previous antics of baby-momma encountered by my family in the past 10 months. All done while inspecting the investigator's ID at least that is my sincere hope and showing Baby K's not surprisingly pristine back, arms, legs, face yeah, you get the idea to the investigator.

Now, mind you, I have no problem with Teen's handling of this situation. In fact, I believe she did a stellar job; which was only reinforced when in speaking with the investigator the next day I was told, "Your daughter is amazing with her and the baby is so bonded too. She laid her head right down and rested on your daughter's shoulder."

Who knew that upon taking in a child you should prep your children not to talk to authorities of any kind and to have them say something along the lines of, "My parents aren't here right now. I will call them immediately and until they arrive you may wait on the porch?" I mean honestly. It had never occurred to me that someone could question my child without me being home...

So, yes I was angry. At the situation, not at any one person. I was angry that my children can have their lives disrupted by this nonsense and that while there are 50billion ways the parent's rights are protected, I often feel like we are hanging in the breeze waiting for the next emotional storm to erupt and our reputations and lives to be questioned. I was angry that I had to tell my children that they are not allowed to talk to people of authority unless there is an emergency or we are present. I was angry at the hassle of it all.

Would I ever say, "Enough - take her back?" HELL NO. Who else knows all her cries? Who else can see her scratching the back of her neck and know it means she is overwhelmed and exhausted? Who else can get her to belly laugh from across the room with a well-timed expression or reaction? We are her family. And she is ours.

So we muddle through the bureaucratic BS and hope her life is never touched by the chaos. We give her all of our love and affection while creating a safe harbor of stability in an otherwise hectic world. We parent.

*Note: For those of you concerned, a police officer has contacted me and is looking into pressing charges against baby-momma for false reports. He said he hopes he can make a case the prosecution will take. We shall see...*

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Another One of Those Days

Have you ever had a day when...

a fervent desire to be a stay-at-home mom was your first full thought as you pictured the day ahead?

you leave work early to complete pick-ups from the daycare and the high school in order to bring Teen to her early admissions orientation, only to be forced into the hall because Baby insists on banging her cups together and happily hollering loudly to the room at large?

you are driving home, yearning for nothing more than simply taking off your shoes and you remember the fridge is practically bare - necessitating one more errand before you will reach the harbor of home?

you check your phone and see Boy called and upon returning his call you are forced to cajole him into cleaning the mess the dog left, hoping against hope that he will actually do so before you arrive with a trunk full of groceries?

you arrive home 12 hours after leaving it, to an unloaded dishwasher, causing the cluttered counter as you try to locate areas for all those bags of groceries that now need to be put away?

you realize that not only has Boy cleaned-up the dog mess, he has also made dinner for Youngest, and is now emptying the dishwasher of his own volition, and you realize just how responsible he has become in the last year?

even through your exhausted state, as you watch Youngest reorganize the craft closet simply because it was messy, it dawns on you just how lucky you are to have this messy, errand-causing, amazing, caring thing we simply call family?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Treat or Terror?

Was looking for something to share with my writing class today and ran across this old post from 2/1/10. It is classic. Enjoy :)

Lifestyle changes have swept my home slowly over the past year. In an effort to be healthy, we all try to eat good foods everyday. That is not to say a can of spaghettios can't make it way through the door, but serving up some fast-food drive-through for dinner just doesn't fly. It was largely due to these facts that my family found itself having a huge treat on a Weds night. Well, that and my moaning about cooking while recovering from the flu. 

We took the kids to a Japanese Grill and Sushi bar. We had gone before, when Youngest was only 3- see a big treat. The kids were surprised and on their "going to dinner" behavior, so I was relaxed and happy at the prospect of dinner and entertainment. As we greeted the couple forced destined to share our table, Youngest's eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. Dinner was turning into a full-out adventure in her five-year-old world. 

When the chef came to the grill and began everyone was happily watching. He has the show and Youngest was seated squarely in front of the grill, the best seat at the table. At the first sight of flames, she shrank back into her chair and father simultaneously. A soft squeal escaping her lips. She was duly comforted, and convinced of the safety of her seat. At least until the fire was made known again through an onion "candle" burning to the side. Youngest could no longer keep her cool and she was standing squarely behind me for the rest of the cooking portion. 

Eventually dinner was done cooking and Youngest was convinced to regain her seat and enjoy her food halfway through the meal. She was just beginning to eat with gusto when the grill behind her was set on fire.  She informed me with all the indignity a 5 year-old can muster, "This place is terrifying!" While restraining myself to mere chuckles I escorted her to the bathroom to take an opportunity to calm her. She was firm. She was full, and done with dinner. I agreed we could go, and we headed to the table to gather our things, mostly doggie bags. Just as I was gathering our things, the chef cleans the grill with a douse of cleaner and a towering inferno.  Without turning her head or batting an eye, she released a reverberating "AHHHHHH!!!" and dove under the table! The entire restaurant was in giggles as she scurried to me and firmly announced done with dinner, and would wait for us outside. Which she did. Accompanied by Teen who was done eating and had our doggie bags in hand and Boy who was thrilled that he would have left-overs in his lunch. Oh-well at least 4 out of 5 enjoyed the evening!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Armchair Parenting

It's sure to be the next big hit. Simply follow these easy steps and you, too, can be making decisions, judgements, and suggestions for things you know nothing about.

Step One: Have your child removed from your care because you are not any or all of the following: sane enough; sober enough; conscientious enough; parent enough to raise/care for your own child.

Step Two: Have sporadic 1-hour visits with your child making lame excuses for the visits you miss. Be sure to have zero contact with anyone connected to your child or her well-being for at least 4 months in a row (fully one HALF of the baby's life to date), then come back and profess your undying love for the baby, throwing-in how much you miss her and are such a good mommy.

Step Three: Be sure to throw a fit over any bug bite or left-over healing chicken pock that you had no idea existed because you did NOT see her for FOUR months. Refuse to listen to the reassurances from the supervisors of your visit (who also work for the state), but wait a FULL WEEK before your vengeance "concern" leads you to call DCF to report your "concerns" along with your exaggerations and lies. Because of course you believe that they will magically return the baby to your care. Send DCF to the home of the totally normal family who loves and cares for your daughter as if she were your own for the THIRD time with false allegations.

Step Four: After having two visits and cancelling a third, show you are a loving parent by insisting your child be put through the pain and ordeal of allergy testing because you are certain she has allergies from the 2 hours you have spent with her in the past 5 months. 

Step Five: Insist you know everything though you have not the slightest inkling of what parenting involves, who her doctor is, or even how much diapers cost. Never open a book to read what milestones are approaching, or look into the "allergies" you are certain she must have. Don't forget to continue partying like a rock star while you lament the fact that you unfairly had your baby taken from you by evil-doers who are out to get you.

Finally: Be sure to blame everyone but yourself for the problems in your life and continue to insist you are doing everything in your power to regain custody while never confronting the fact that problem is you.

This is my life. Am I bitter? Possibly, but only because I am terrified she will do just enough to have this precious, perfect baby handed to her, while still remaining unchanged.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It Aint Stand-Up, But I'll Take It

Yesterday evening was going quite well. I had managed to retrieve Youngest from choir bring her home, feed dinner to the masses and get both Youngest and Boy to a 4H meeting. All with a sick Baby at home which helped because I was not at work, but I am taking the credit anyway.Anyway, at the end of listening to a room full of 6-8 year-olds clogging their hearts out, I thought we needed a treat.

As I steered us into a local shake place, I called Teen to see what she wanted. At this point I had some stressful, frustrating news dumped upon me. No one in my home had done anything wrong, but my mood became a roiling mass of irritation. The kids, hearing my calls and sensing my mood sat quietly sipping their shakes when Boy suggested we needed some music to lighten the mood. 

"Music won't cure this mood," I informed him. Never willing to say die, Boy instantly made a very bad joke. With a grimace I informed him that wasn't a joke, it was horrible. So he pops out with, "Should we stop for Kentucky Fried Chicken? - No?"

"How about some California monkey?" Bad on so many levels, but I couldn't help it, I laughed. 

We proceeded to spend the rest of the ride trying to laugh while frowning. Impossible, just so you know. While this episode didn't cure the woes of having a foster-child with a hateful mother, it did go a long way toward easing some tension, and cementing my belief that Boy should not be a comedian.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mini Bully, Mini Mimic

Having a verbal seven-year-old puts a parent in touch with many simple joys, but also gives a clear look into the dark-side of second grade. Which holds enough wrong-doing that Batman would have a difficult time keeping up with the perpetrators. 

Being the type-B mom that I am, I lend a sympathetic ear to the injustices. These include 3 kids holding the bathroom door so another child couldn't leave, the day-to-day cliques of who can sit where at lunch, and the more hurtful personal attacks and injuries. I keep an ear open for real atrocities, and how Youngest reacts to the jungle that is 2nd grade America as well as to how the teachers handle these situations. After hearing Youngest's view on "true friends" which went something like "they don't hurt you even if you don't agree with each other." and her affirmation that she had 2 "true friends" at school, I encouraged her to stick to her guns and avoid "the meanies." See in type-B land I don't have to rush to a conference or panic, there is no need. Yes, life is not all daisies, a fact I have known since elementary school myself, but she is handling it.

But still, you gotta wonder, what makes these girls think this behavior is okay. I do. Then I spent some time watching a certain kids cable station. Yes, I have seen these shows before, but today something clicked. A certain nanny was plotting against her charge to receive the affections of a guy. Typical stunts and hilarity ensued. But, then as one makes amends with another and it looks like a happy ending, in fact the other has taken the plotting public. Sadly this is nothing new. Since the days of Drake and Josh, another kid show, girls have been shown to be deviously plotting and bullying those around them. Is this seriously how we want to raise our future women, or current 2nd graders? 

I do not want to boycott the show, or genre for that matter. My kids watch it. I do point out issues I have with episodes while they are airing, much to the dissatisfaction of my kids. But it does beg the question: Are the "meanies" in 2nd grade really bullies, or simply mimicking what they are seeing daily?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Starting Over

Saying I'm back doesn't even begin to cover it. What I am really saying is "I'm starting over." That is how it feels. Much of my blog role is gone and I doubt previous readers will be flocking to me obligatory friends and family excepted. No long, wordy explanation for my absence. I have one word. Baby.

Delving back into parenting an infant has been exhilarating. But, dealing with the foster-care system has been exhausting. Now I feel like I am in a groove, or in enough need of some on-line support that I am making the time for me to vent er blog.

So, hello! Let me introduce myself. I am a mother, aunt/foster-mother, who firmly believes in type-B parenting and is being forced to live a type-A parenting situation.  My blog is largely focused on the adventures of raising a family in the modern world where children are walked or driven to play dates on their own blocks or placed in so many activities they need personal assistants to keep their schedules straight. And while I too believe in well-rounded kids, my methods are a bit more down-to-earth. If this sounds intriguing, welcome. And if you are a curious on-looker who wonders how my 3 children and 1 niece can possibly survive with this type of parenting, welcome!