Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Root Canals and Birthdays Just Might Go Together

December 31 is my birthday. December 30 I had a root canal. Poor planning on my part. I don't know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn't expecting to be in horrible pain all day long. The root canal itself didn't hurt at all. However, once the anesthesia wore off and feeling was regained in my mouth it was horrific. Supposedly, this is typical for the first day or two. None of the pain meds my dentist gave me are providing any relief at all, so I spent the day beside myself with pain. I am just hoping that my birthday tomorrow is not spent in this same amount of pain. Turning 32 is painful enough for me!

My husband and I went out this past Sunday for dinner and to see a movie to celebrate my birthday. While I initially wanted to go out on my actual birthday I am now glad we did it ahead of time, especially if I am still unable to eat tomorrow. Anyway, we went out for sushi, one of our favorites, which was nice. Then we saw Up in the Air. It was good and George Clooney is always nice to look at. No complaints there.

Birthdays, for me, are just kind of depressing now. I mean as a kid you get these great parties and celebrations and everyone makes a big deal about them, but as an adult the same amount of excitement, by myself or others, simply doesn't exist. My parents and grandma always give me a gift as do my husband and kids. Then there is a meal of some sort with me and my husband, but inside I'm thinking, "What's really the point? I'm just another year older?" I don't know what my point is exactly, other than that birthdays just aren't what they used to be. And that is sad.

So, to everyone else out there....Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Booming Baritone Boy

The general noise that children make never really bothers me. I've gotten to a point where I tune most of it out, whether it is from my own children or others. The chattering, squeals, laughter, etc. is just part of the soundtrack of my life right now.

However, my son has no volume control. Everything is LOUD. And not just occasionally loud, but constantly at a level that probably doesn't register on any measurable scale. It is like he is constantly screaming at the top of his lungs, but doesn't realize it. It's his normal volume. He has a voice that is deceivingly deep for his 2 1/2 years of age and so half the time our house is BOOMING about EVERYTHING. His conversations with himself, with his sister, with his toys and stuffed animals. It is a constant, non-stop, running monologue that lasts every waking hour of every single day.

Lately, this has just about sent me over the edge. It started out as an occasional thing, but over the past month or so it has become his norm and nothing we say or do changes that. He's not doing it to be bad, disobedient, or annoying. When I finally snap, usually once a day, and tell him to stop he rarely realizes what he is doing. (Other times, the little demon that he is, he fully realizes it and does it solely for a reaction; this I realize). Our downstairs, where we spend most of the day, is all ceramic tile and as a result makes him sound even louder and harder on the ears than he probably really is.

Honestly, I'm about ready to start wearing earplugs, tune them out, and just hope they are able to get through the day without hurting themselves or each other. Any thoughts? Do you think this is something he will outgrow or is he destined to be one of those kids who can be heard in the next zip code?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Time

Our daughter on Christmas morning playing with her ballerina magnets.

Our son getting one of his presents from Santa from under the tree.

My husband getting our son's shoes on the Sunday before Christmas.
Our Christmas was fantastic. We attended church services Christmas Eve. My parents, grandmother, brother, and his girlfriend joined our family at our church. Afterwards we went out for our traditional Christmas Eve Dinner: In and Out Burger.
Christmas morning was a bit strange in that both kids slept in. On any given day the kids are up by 7:30 am at the very latest. Our son slept in until 8:15 and I had to actually wake our daughter up at 9 am so we could get the show on the road. The kids were uber excited and were able to play a bit with their gifts before we had to get ready to head up to my parents.
It was mass chaos up there with six kids buried in a mass of wrapping paper and boxes. All were pleased with their gifts and once the initial excitement wore off a bit the kids actually played really well the rest of the day. There were sixteen of us this year, a few less than usual but a good time was had by all.
When we arrived back home in the early evening I spent a couple hours picking up wrapping paper, boxes, finding homes for all the new toys, and most importantly assembling the toys that needed it, and of course then playing with assembled toys.
The only negative was that our son woke up once again pretty sick. He has steadily been sick on and off for the past few months now and it's getting wearing. So, tomorrow and the rest of the weekend we will lay low, stay home, and spend the time enjoying each other's company and all the new Christmas gifts.
How was your Christmas? What is your plan for the rest of the weekend?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

The decorations have been up for weeks along with the tree. The stockings are hung and filled with surprises for the kids on Christmas morning. Presents are wrapped and those not from Santa are set under the tree. It's finally relatively "cold" here so it feels a bit more like Christmas. Cookies have been made, frosted, and decorated and Christmas outfits have been purchased, washed, and ironed.

Everything is ready. I love the weeks leading up to Christmas. They are filled with purposeful preparation and eager anticipation. I love going to church Christmas Eve and singing the hymns I've sang since childhood. I love the traditions that have carried over from my childhood, mixed with the new traditions my husband and I have started with our children. I go to bed Christmas Eve with the same excitement as my children, eager for what Christmas morning will bring.

I love coming down the stairs bright and early and watching as the eyes of my children go wide with surprise and rush to their gifts to see what Santa brought the night before. I love eating freshly baked pastries for breakfast, a treat that only occurs once or twice a year.

I love sitting in our pajamas as the kids play with their new toys and then we gradually end up getting dressed and head over to my parent's Tucson home where we do it all over again and then feast on a huge meal.

So, here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Legal Code

I'm a big believer of our civil rights as American citizens. I believe the fewer laws the better and I get a bit touchy when I feel laws are being made that infringe upon the rights I believe we as citizens are entitled to.

Lately, I have been forced to rethink my stance on that a bit. I now think that there should be a law against being an asshole. There are just too many walking amongst us.

Friday, December 18, 2009

When the Effort Doesn't Yield the Desired Results

As a child my parents were militant about brushing and flossing our teeth. We had to Plax and Act before and after every brushing. It was a built in routine.

My husband on the other hand was praised if he could remember to brush his teeth at least every other day. His first roll of floss was purchased after we were married.

I have quite a few cavities. He has none. (We both, thankfully, have straight --his thanks to braces-- and white teeth).

It seems like every time we go to the dentist I leave needing, at minimum, another filling and he leaves cavity free. Don't get me wrong, I am glad for him, but it just seems like if anyone should be getting the cavities it should be him.

I went to the dentist this past September for a teeth cleaning. I left having to set up appointments for three fillings, two crowns, and as of earlier this week one root canal. My husband visited the dentist yesterday and once again, no cavities.

My mother says that because she was so ill and hospitalized during her pregnancy with me that the doctors told her there may be problems with the development of my teeth (enamel not fully formed, "soft" teeth...whatever that means). While I don't doubt she was told that I have no first hand knowledge of its medical accuracy.

I still brush and floss every single day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. While my husband brushes every single morning, he forgets at night and I can't remember the last time I saw him floss. A few years ago???? So, why oh why am I racking up the dental bills?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Harshest Critic

There are a lot of things that my kids do that simply drive me nuts. Truthfully, I could make a pretty long list of things that annoy me on a daily basis (I could equally compose a list of great attributes and wonderful qualities that impress me on a daily basis as well, in all fairness). For example, they interrupt when I am on the phone, they pick on each other just to get a reaction, they jump off furniture after being told not to, they sneak the dog in the house when I prefer to keep her outside....the list goes on. But seriously, all it takes is for one of them to come over and give me a hug or want to snuggle on the couch or tell me that they love me and everything else that was/is bothersome disappears. It can't compare to their outpouring of emotion.

That's the great thing about kids. They can be hellions one minute and sweet as can be the next. The good moments far outweigh the bad and those good moments are exponentially more positive than the bad moments are negative. They just are, even on the worst day.

Kids are so much work and there are some days where I think I am going to lose my mind. However, there are so many good days, good moments that absolutely dominate those bad moments and bad days. It makes everything worth it.

Being a mom is the single most important job I will ever have and I want to make sure I do it right. There are plenty of instances that make me question whether or not I am doing it right or well enough. However, if I am honest there are so many more moments that should be an affirmation that what I am doing is right and best for them. I just need to pay more attention to those. I would venture to say that most moms are hard on themselves and question their parenting. I would also say that a lot of moms are doing a great job raising great kids.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Medical Expenses and Tax Deductions....All the Fun Stuff

When we set up our Flexible Spending Account this year with our health insurance we put aside an average of the medical expenses we have had for the past few years. In each of the past three years I have either had a child or our son has been hospitalized, thus increasing our expenses. While I knew we wouldn't be having a child this year I did figure on our son being hospitalized for more than a day or two just in case.

Fast forward to December 15, 2009. While our son was kept over night they never actually admitted him which meant we got away with just a co-pay instead of the hospital bills. I've been healthier this year as has the rest of the family. All of this is great news, except now we have more than half of the money we set aside currently unspent.

Since I predicted some of this I started having some dental work done that I've put off for the past year (I need crown on two teeth). Two months ago I had the first crown done. The crown prep was fine, the temporary was incredibly comfortable and I've had no problems with the permanent crown. Then two weeks ago I had the crown prep done for the second crown. It was a little achy at first, which I expected but then the pain wouldn't go away. Add to that the fact I can't chew AT ALL on that entire side of my mouth and now I'm a bit concerned. I kept telling myself to give it a couple more days to see, but it's at the point where it throbs and aches so badly that it's keeping me up at night, the pain has radiated into my jaw and behind my ear and is causing (I think) horrible headaches.

So, I've told myself that I HAVE to call today. I have to have it looked at. (I won't get my permanent crown until 12/28). Yet, here I sit hesitating. I think I dread the possibility of a root canal. The only consolation is I have plenty of money left in our FSA account to pay for it, something that wouldn't have been likely a year ago.

I bet December is a big month for dentists and maybe optometrists too. People having dental work they've put off done or getting contacts and eye glasses just to meet the end of year deadline for tax deductible expenses. While that's usually not the case for us, this year it seems to be, in part due to the overestimation of our medical expenses and the surplus of cash we have to spend on medical treatment/supplies.

How about you? Do you make the rounds with your doctors in December?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What I Love About Christmas

Days spent in pajamas cuddling on the couch.
Christmas music.
Christmas tree and lights.
Carefully picking out presents.
Wrapping presents.
Watching the look of joy and pleasure and surprise on the faces of my children as they open presents on Christmas morning.
Baking and decorating cookies.
The smell of a fire to keep warm.
Apple cider.
Christmas hymns sung in church by candlelight.
The real meaning of Christmas.
I love Christmas time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little Boys

There was a time in college, after our apartment was broken into, when I strongly contemplated purchasing a gun. I even went to a couple of shops, asked a bunch of questions, took a gun safety course, fired off a few rounds, and then ultimately decided against it. Honestly, I'm just not really a fan. My husband owns a gun, which is hidden safely away and hasn't been used in years. I don't have a problem with other people having guns, I just don't want one. I'm not anti-gun, but I am certainly not a "cling to my gun" type of gal.

As such, our daughter was not allowed to play with toys guns and until she was almost four she thought the huge super soaker at my parents house was a saxophone. When our son was born the same "rule" extended. We didn't buy him toy guns either. However, it was like a natural attraction. He saw his older cousin using a play gun months ago and the light went on. All of a sudden this big wooden "stick" he'd been lugging around had a purpose: to shoot. Pretty soon, everything was a gun: rocks, sticks, wooden spoons.

Honestly, I was a little torn. I don't really like the idea of shooting people as a game (and he now knows to shoot things, not people), but on the other hand I am a big believer in letting boys do what comes naturally to them. I don't want to squash any of that innate behavior. So a few months ago my husband bought him a toy gun that makes all sorts of electronic noises. He loved it for a few weeks, but ultimately liked playing with his swords more. The toy gun has been in the closet for about a month now and I figured the obsession had died down.

I was wrong. Today I took him to an outdoor sporting goods store where there were racks and racks of guns on the wall. I thought the boy was going to lose his mind. "Mommy, guns! I need a gun. Pleeeeaaaaasssssseeeeee!!!!" Then pointing at every single gun, "Mommy, look at that one. Mommy over here, look at that one." Honestly, it was a little embarrassing although the people in there seemed ready to sign him up for a lifetime membership to the NRA and Nascar tickets as a signing bonus.

He spent close to an hour looking at all the guns, knives, and arrows. When I told him that he could not have a gun, he moved onto the knives, which I also told him he couldn't have, then to the arrows, which also were a negative. He settled for a sucker. It's nice to know that my gun loving, knife craving, arrow envying boy can still be bribed with a watermelon push pop.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

All I Want For Christmas Is A..........Pap Smear?

I was watching TV last night and one of the commercials was a public service announcement from CBS where a man sits on a couch encouraging the viewing men to get their loved ones a pap smear for Christmas. Has anyone else seen this? I thought, for sure, it had to be some type of joke. Apparently, it's not. They run one for Christmas and Hanukkah. The Hanukkah one concludes with, "Give her a gift that will light up her Menorah." I'm not Jewish but I'm thinking it's going to take more than that to light my Menorah. The Christmas one ends with "Give her a gift even Santa can't deliver."

I don't know. I love my ob-gyn, so I may be a bit more receptive than most if I were to be given this. However, in all seriousness, if my husband handed me an appointment card for a pap smear I'd be calling the closest marriage counselor.

Am I alone in thinking these commercials are a bit creepy?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Good Tidings are No More

One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the seemingly sudden uplifting of spirits. People seem to want to treat others nicely -- keeping with the spirit of the holiday season and all. At least that has been my general experience in the past. This year has been different. There seems to be a permeating rudeness and a lot of that previously displayed good cheer has been replaced with short tempers, confrontational demeanor's, and just a general lack of common courtesy or manners. And it bothers me. It's discouraging. I like the friendly, comfortable tone that conversations often take among strangers when there is a shared joy or sense of purpose. There's something humanizing about it.

I'm the first to admit that I will defend myself when challenged, will often respond when confronted. But I don't go looking for conflict and often, even with presented with one, I'll try to find a way out (I supposed I've tempered with age). What I don't take kindly to is when my children have been wronged. The protector in me comes out and I am unapologetically defensive.

This past week has been really upsetting to me in that there have been a couple incidents I've either been directly involved in or witnessed that have floored me. Just the sheer rudeness has been stunning. I've said for a long time now that unfortunately there are not laws against being an asshole and some people seem to take great pleasure in that.

Saturday night we took our kids to a local outdoor mall to see "snow" fall. We got there early and were sitting by a fire. These two boys (my guess is 7-9 years of age) were running all over the place, playing in the fire, running into people. In our opinions, a bit out of control. The grandmother and father stood off in a corner, engrossed in conversation, not paying one iota of attention to what these boys were doing. My husband and a couple other people made comments about the lack of supervision and general poor behavior.

My daughter and I got up to walk toward where the snow would be falling and as we were walking these boys came running, full-barrelled down the sidewalk. The bigger one slammed right into our daughter, sending her flying and hitting the ground hard. He too went flying to the floor, but honestly I wasn't really concerned about him. He was two to three times our daughter's size. Our daughter was hysterical, I ran over immediately, and the grandmother and father still hadn't a clue. When she finally realized something was wrong she came over and started yelling at me about her grandson being on the floor. Her exact words were, "What happened? What did she do to him?" I'm sorry, but any moron who looked at the two kids next to each other could clearly tell who stood the greater chance of taking the other one out.

My response was, "What happened was your grandchildren were running around out of control without any supervision." Probably not the best response, but I was so angry and so stunned that I said the first thing that came to mind. This set off a verbal back and forth with my point being that it is customary when a child hurts another child that that parent or grandchild apologize and check to make sure the injured kid is okay. Real rudely and completely insincere she screams, "Well, I'm just soooooooooooo soooooooorrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy. Happy now?" It was unbelievable. She then started yelling at my husband about how I have no right to talk to her like that and he better "control" his wife.

Long story short, we walked away while she stood there on the sidewalk like a crazy woman screaming after us. The mother then came out and while we couldn't hear what was being said the grandmother was clearly filling her in. As a mother, I would think at that point that she would want to find out what happened. Nope, not a word. They had to pass where we were standing so we stood there and as the walked by the grandmother turns to the two boys and says, "Now." Both boys turn, stick out their tongues, and point over at me. What a great lesson to teach. Obviously, as an adult I did nothing. Acted like I didn't even see it.

Talking with my husband later we were both just incredulous. Our kids have been run into before and our kids have run into others. The first thing those other parents or we as parents have done is apologize and make sure the other kid is okay. Even in this case, while the kids were out of control, the actual contact was an accident. The boys obviously didn't mean to hurt our daughter. Had the grandmother come over and said, "Oh my gosh. What happened? Is she okay?" it would have been a completely different outcome.

I suppose I am just so flabbergasted at all the anger and so much of it misplaced. I understand times are trying. We have our own set of circumstances and frustrations but we do our best to not let it seep into other aspects of our lives. The thing that makes me most mad is in the span of a week our children have been exposed to some horribly ugly behavior and it was completely out of our control as parents. Even in this most recent episode while we were walking away the lady was yelling out horrible things that my daughter then repeated and asked about later. It was clearly upsetting to her.

I take my job to protect my kids very seriously, as does my husband. We limit their exposure to people, experiences, etc that we perceive to be damaging or questionable. How are we supposed to protect them when without any warning people behave like assholes? Even in trying to just walk away from these situations we can't control what others will say or do in the meantime.

I am just truly discouraged and sad that this is what our world has come to. I realize it's just probably been a bad week, but at the risk of sounding old, I miss the good ol' days where people didn't accost you in parking lots or scream at you for being concerned for your child. What happened to the days when people treated each other with kindness? I miss those days. I guess that's what I want for Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Venus and Mars Part II

The difference between girls and boys? Decorating the Christmas tree I gave each child a handful of tinsel and showed them both how to put it on. My daughter carefully and diligently pulls single strand by single strand out of her handful and carefully applies each evenly to the tree. My son takes two handfuls, throws it on the tree, stands back with his hands on his hips, admiring his work and says, "Perfect."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Venus and Mars

Some of the behaviors I love most about my son are also some of the same things that drive me crazy. He is such a free spirit and while I admire the independence the stubborn streak and at times just outward defiance is frustrating and embarrassing.

He is one of the sweetest, most sensitive and affectionate little boys. He tells me fifty times a day how much he loves me. If I leave the room, when I come back he tells me how much he missed me. He's full of hugs and kisses and he's like this way with his sister, his father, his grandparents, and his "favorite" cousin. I love this about him and can't get enough.

So, it's amazing how this same little boy can be filled with such a mischievous streak (and that's putting it nicely). It's not that he's mean-spirited at all. He just pushes the envelop as far as he can and truthfully consequences mean nothing to him. It's almost as if he weighs the options in his head before he does it and then does it anyway. I swear he's thinking, "I know if I hit my sister and then run away from my mom I am going to get in trouble, but it's worth it to know I upset my sister and my mom." Or, "I know my mom is going to be upset if I run away and hide from her in the store, but it's funny to see her panic thinking she lost me, so I'm going to do it anyway." The thing is that a lot of the behavior is not discipline-worthy, just frustrating. Example: trying on shoes and trying to make sure they fit and instead he puts the shoebox on his head and takes off dancing down the aisle saying, "The box is my hat."

I love that he's funny and can make anyone laugh and I love that he knows that he is funny. He performs for the reaction. But at the same time I am graying by the minute. He's a wonderful child and in truth, I'd take ten more just like him but he is such a boy and I mean that in the best possible way. I love having a daughter and I love having a son. I love them the same amount, but it's a different relationship with each. There are things that are specific to them that need nurturing and attention and boys and girls are just, by nature, so incredibly and wonderfully different. Nothing points that out more clearly than healthy, hyper little boys.

I want my son to be kind, compassionate, sensitive, caring and attentive. Those are qualities that I feel will one day make him a great husband and father. But I also want my son to be manly, rugged, rough, independent, and self-reliant. There's a tendency in our society to squash some of that natural beauty that is inherent in boys. You see it in school systems especially. They, at times, try to make boys into girls ( I mean that in a behavioral sense in that girls statistically have a longer attention span, are not as physical, etc.). So, I try to walk a fine line between disciplining him for inappropriate behavior but also letting him bask in his natural maleness (as I refer to it and as my husband mocks me for). Sometimes I get it wrong and let him bask when he should be disciplined and vice versa, but it's a learning process.

What were some of your children's most frustrating qualities or behaviors that also happened to be some of their most admirable?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tis the Season

The Christmas season or maybe the stress of the economy seems to be bringing out the worst in people. Today, leaving a store with both my children, we were in the car about to pull through the parking space to exit the parking lot. As I was pulling forward a big work truck came in an attempt to pull into the space I was pulling forward through. I stopped, expecting him to back up since I was already halfway through the space. He didn't but instead kept coming at me, so I put my car into reverse and started backing up. I raised my hands with my palms upward in a gesture like, "What the heck?"

The man jumped out of his car, ran up to mine screaming, "Are you serious? Are you seriously going to get mad at me for trying to park?" I said, "Well, I was halfway through that space but whatever, it's not a big deal, so forget it."

He FREAKED. I don't know if he forgot his meds, escaped from the mental institution or what but he was screaming, "No, I will not forget it. F*&$ you, b&%ch. You can go to hell. F*%#! you" over and over again. I was so stunned, not to mention a little frightened. I pulled away but had to pass where his car was parked. I slowed down to write down his license plate number and the name of the company on the truck. While stopped a couple walked over to me who had witnessed the altercation encouraging me to not let it ruin my day, he was a jerk, they couldn't believe he did that, etc. I thanked them and was waiting to pull out of the parking lot.

The guy came back out of nowhere, smacked my car with his palm and screamed, "Can I help you?" I told him that if he said or did one more thing I was calling the police. He put his hand on my partially rolled down window and started screaming in my face how I was a b&*$# and to go f&*# myself.

I pulled out as quickly and safely as I could and called the police who came shortly thereafter. He had already left. I filed a report, but ultimately there isn't much they can do. There is no damage to my car or to me, thankfully and while he crossed the line it would be hard to prosecute.

My kids were scared and my daughter kept saying, "That is a bad man to call you that bad word. You are not a b*&$%, you are my nice mommy." I was so stunned I couldn't even come up with a response and really with kids in the car I didn't want to say anything to provoke him or show me in a negative light. The larger question is what is wrong with him to freak out over something so minor. While I was aggravated with him, it would have never occurred to me to jump out of my car and chase him down twice and I was the one in the right.

After the adrenaline wore off it scared me a bit to know that there are people out there, that look normal who are so easily triggered over something that happens tons of times a day in parking lots all over the world.

He mentioned something to me about calling the number on his truck, which led me to believe that he was the owner of the company. When I got home I did a little searching and discovered that he is in fact the owner, so there's no real recourse I can take there in terms of complaining about him. Oh well. Ultimately, I am just glad that he wasn't armed because he'd be the guy to open fire over something like this. I am rather bummed that my 4 and 2 year olds learned a new word that they've repeated quite a few times telling my mom, grandma, husband, anyone who will listen, "This very bad man told mommy she was a b*&$%."

So, how about you? Any altercations lately?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Elf on the Shelf

All holidays are pretty big in our house. We make a big deal so that the kids enjoy it and really feel like they are in the spirit of each holiday. As such, like most, we have encouraged their belief in Santa Claus (I realize some don't because they think it's tantamount to lying to their kids, but whatever...we do). Both accepted this pretty easily because hey, what's the complaint when some fat, jolly dude is going to bring you presents?

About a week ago I started talking to my daughter about Elf on the Shelf. The general idea is that one of Santa's helpers, the elf, sits on your shelf in the weeks leading up to Christmas, watching and then reporting back to Santa about whether your behavior has been good or bad. That night, the diligent parents, hide the elf in a new location for the kids to find the next morning and the myth continues. I thought this might be something the kids would really get excited about.

My daughter's first words were, "It's a stuffed elf right?"
Me: Right
Daughter: So, it can't talk.
Me: Well, it magically comes alive at night and can talk to Santa.
Daughter: But if it's a stuffed animal it can't talk. It can't just come alive. It's pretend.
Me: Uh, well this is a special, magical, elf...yada yada yada

Pretty soon I had concocted this new entire story about the elf. All the while my daughter sat there looking at me like I had lost my marbles. She finally interrupted me and said, 'Yeah, I don't think so, mom." Apparently, this elf is just a bit too far fetched for her. She's good to go on Santa, though.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Curly Locks of Love

Just before my son turned two (he's now 2 1/2) he had his first haircut. It was a bit unruly and they gave him such a cute, little man hair cut that I loved. However, I was also devastated as his curls fell to the floor. Right then and there I swore to never, ever cut his hair again. His curls grew back and the unruliness returned as well. I've trimmed it a couple of times just so he doesn't look like a hobo all the while keeping the length and general shaggy look.

This morning he woke up looking like Einstein and I realized that it might be time to officially cut his hair. So with each painful snip of the scissors and buzz of the clippers I winced as his locks fell to the bathroom floor. He was such a trooper and he looks so handsome with a "little man" haircut, but part of me is sick inside for once again cutting his curls after I swore I wouldn't.

I assume, like last time, the curls and unruliness will return and I'll suffer this same internal struggle all over again. For now, I'll just spend the rest of the day gushing about how cute he looks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Public or Private?

There is a school affiliated with the the church I have attended all my life. I attended there for grades K-8 and received a great education. I attended a public high school and received a wonderful education there as well. Over the past couple of years enrollment has sharply declined, yet cost of enrollment has gone up (to compensate for the money lost by those leaving the school). Class size has always been small with, on average, ten to fifteen students a grade. My 8th grade graduating class was a class of nine. However, in the seventh and eighth grades combined there are five students this year. Where in years past there was a waiting list, this year there is a plethora of available seats. The total school for all nine grades has seventy-two students. To say the school is in crisis is an understatement. One of the options that is on the table is combining more than two grade levels in a singular classroom (currently K is alone as is 1st grade and second grade, third and fourth are combined, fifth and sixth are combined, and seventh and eighth are combined and even with the combined grades no classroom has more than fifteen students). To me this just does not seem like a wise move beyond the financial reasons. Combining second, third, and fourth, or fourth, fifth, and sixth or any other combination raises a couple of concerns.

First, there is a big age difference between a second and fourth grader. While only two numerical years separate those grades there is a vast divide when it comes to maturity and social development. I think it is a great disservice and potentially harmful for students to be shoved into a classroom with those that aren't technically their peers. My other concern is that now one teacher is responsible for teaching all subjects to three grade levels instead of one to two grade levels. Obviously, those kids are getting short-changed somewhere. In the time the teacher previously taught two grade levels, he/she now needs to teach three grade levels. I don't care how great of a teacher it is or how bright the students are something is falling by the wayside. Furthermore, one would now be paying the same price (or possibly more, if tuition yet again increases) for less instructional time. Eight hours of the day are now divided by three instead of one or two as they had been in the past.

By comparison, the public school system already has large class sizes. With our state proposing more budget cuts in education the chance that class sizes will again increase isn't just a possibility but a strong likelihood. While large class sizes at the high school level don't concern me as much, class sizes in the younger, formidable ages concerns me greatly. I don't want my daughter (who begins Kinder next year) to be one of thirty-five or forty kids and that is now a possibility. So, while the class size, even with three grade levels, would be considerably smaller at the parochial school the larger public classroom would at least have one to two teachers teaching the same grade level all day and not trying to divide his/her time between multiple levels. Plus, it's free.

While the parochial school has always been a possibility my husband and I decided months ago we would send her to the local public school and while I still feel confident in this decisions and feel that ultimately she would receive a better education, become more well-rounded, and be able to participate in more extracurriculars, I am waiting on the edge of my seat to see what happens to the class sizes as our state tries to deal with our budget crisis. On the flip side, cost is the primary concern of sending her to the parochial school along with what we feel to be an inferior gifted program, not as clear of a curriculum, and growing concern about class size (although on the opposite end of the spectrum....classes too small and being boosted in numbers by combining many grades). If this trend keeps up, it won't be long before it is a single room school house reminiscent of a time long since passed.

What are/were some of your concerns when it came to your children and education. Did they attend private, public or parochial schools? What led you to those decisions?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Death of Objective Reporting

I have been wondering for a while now what happened to straight forward journalistic reporting? I can remember a time in the not too distant past when I would open a newspaper or magazine, read an article and then formulate my opinion based on the facts presented in the article. Now you can't read an article or turn on the TV without being told HOW to feel about the “facts” presented. I hate that. It's most prevalent in politics or politically charged issues, but it is even seeping just into general news stories. I know the “liberal media” has been accused of doing this for years and many of them are guilty of biased reporting, yet the right does it just as much. Which leads me back to the question of what happened to actual journalists? It seems like all we have now are self-serving pundits trying to fan the fires of half-truths, omission, and just outright lies.

I skip through channels late at night and catch news from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc. The other night Fox led with something to the effect of “Stay tuned to learn how Obama is continuing to ruin this country.” In all fairness there's the opposite end of the spectrum on MSNBC. Why can't they just report factually the decisions Obama (or anyone for that matter) has made and let us, as the viewers, decide whether we think he is ruining America or not? Obama is just a singular example. The same bias can be applied to almost any partisan person and issue. Apparently, all media thinks the general public is much too stupid to actually formulate any decisions on our own. We must certainly need them to tell us how to think and how to feel.
Lest we think this is just a national problem or a television problem, it's not. I read an article in a local right-winged journal based out of Brooklyn that was reporting on a situation that was happening in one of our many school districts here in Tucson. She repeatedly, throughout the article, referred to the school district as Tucson's School District as if Tucson only had one. Completely erroneous. Further she was outraged at the fact that the school district in question had come up with a disciplinary plan that was specifically for minorities and that this plan had to address why minorities were disciplined at a higher rate and how to address this. The way the entire article was framed would elicit outrage out of even the most liberal of readers, which was obviously the point, as it not only implied but pretty much said that if you were white you could expect to be stuffed into classrooms with Mexicans and Blacks who were hoodlums that should be suspended but whom the district now would not suspend, lest they seem racist.

What this author failed to point out was WHY this discipline plan was submitted. It seems like the sin of omission is commonplace in reporting now. They tell just enough to get everyone fired up without giving any of the background, history, or reasons that led to the “outrageous moment.” It would be like saying, “Man clubs neighborhood dog to death with a baseball bat” leading everyone to think he has a screw loose and failing to mention he did so because the dog was attacking his baby daughter. In this case, this school district is trying to get out of a 20+ year old desegregation order and in order to be in compliance the judge ORDERED the district to submit this plan. What this author also failed to mention was that the discipline plans are IDENTICAL but one is labeled “Minority.” Had they not submitted this plan the proceedings to break free from this desegregation order would not continue. Anyone not from Tucson would have no idea and appropriately would be outraged. Even many in and from Tucson aren't necessarily aware of the legalities and after seeing this article propagated as fact and wholly accurate the author or those dispersing the article are successful in eliciting the emotional response they desire while ignoring the facts.

I like to be aware of current events. I like to be given the specifics, the facts, void of any emotion or personal feelings attached. I trust myself to be able to decide how I feel about certain topics be it politics, religion, education, or even just local events that only affect a few. I was told recently, during a discussion, that I looked at things “too logically, too rationally” and maybe that is why I have such a difficult time stomaching what passes as “news” or “journalism” these days. I also would venture to bet though that there are a lot more people like me out there who would prefer their news to be a bit more logical and rational and not illogical, irrational, emotional, and biased.

So, what do you think of journalism these days? What concerns you most?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day Recap

Thanksgiving this year was another fun occasion, despite the semi-crankiness of our children. Wednesday evening I took our daughter up to my parents' Tucson home (they were in town for the holiday) so she could spend the night along with three of her cousins. Outside of the time our son was born or the time he was hospitalized she has never spent the night away from us. Even then my mom came and stayed with her at our home. Anyway, we weren't sure how it was going to go, but she loved it. She stayed up until midnight with her cousins, although my parents said she was ready to conk at 10 pm but didn't want to miss anything. Coming home last night without her was a little sad for me in a way, although it was great having all that time with our son and being able to give him some undivided attention.

We went up to my parents around 11 ish and our daughter was visibly tired, but she did a pretty good job of keeping it together throughout the day. My parents home is out in the desert so there is a lot of cactus both hidden and visible. Our son ended up grabbing/falling into some cactus getting most of it on his hand and arm which required my brother to try to get all the tiny, fine spikes out with tweezers while my husband and I tried to keep our son still and calm. I'm just thankful he had on jeans because there was a lot more cactus on his pants that could have been on his legs.

We ate, drank, told jokes, chatted, listened to my kids cry....the usual. We all went outside around 6:15 our time to see the space shuttle orbit and while outside our son, who was barefoot, stepped in a cactus. He was screaming, we couldn't see anything visible, and he wouldn't hold still long enough for us to look at his foot so we loaded him in the car and headed home. He kept screaming so when we got home I pinned him down and discovered two pretty decent size pieces of cactus dug pretty deeply into his foot. Poor kid had quite the trauma with cactus today.

Anyway, both are conked out; husband too and I am trying to decide if I should get up early to shop or just stay in bed and avoid the crazies.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mane Event

My kids are big fans of Beauty and the Beast and as a result have started referring to their hair as their "mane." It's pretty funny especially when my son will mess up my hair and say, "I mess up the mama mane" and then laugh maniacally. Another effect of their love for this movie is my son wanting to grow his hair long "like the beast." We've let him because he has curly hair and so while he has a lot and it falls to his neck it doesn't look as long as it would if it were straight. It has however begun to look a little unruly and I have been asking him for weeks now if I could trim it just a little, which always leads to pleas of "No, please don't cut it. I want it long like the beast."

Somehow I got lucky this weekend and he actually agreed to let me cut his hair because he said he was a "big man." As I was wetting his hair he grabbed my hand and said, "Don't cut it all off. Leave my mane." Too funny. So, I did trim it, but left enough so that he still has curls and it is still relatively long on the top and sides as well (didn't want him sporting a mullet) but it no longer looks like he has constant bed head. A win-win.

Now he tells everyone, "Mama cut my mane, but left some of it." It's like he's Samson all of a sudden and draws his strength from his long, curly hair.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Funny Now, Not So Funny Then

My husband was gone late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, both kids were asleep and a little after midnight I headed to bed myself. Ten minutes later I heard some noise coming from the back yard, which I attributed to our dog followed shortly by our home alarm system blaring. It scared the crap out of me, woke up my son and shortly thereafter sent him into hysterics. I yelled downstairs hoping that it was my husband who had come home and accidentally set the alarm off. No one answered, but I could hear things downstairs being rifled through. Honestly, I was scared to death. I called my husband, told him someone was in the house, and he needed to come home right away.

In the meantime, I called the police on my cell and had our alarm company on my home phone, also alerting the police. My daughter slept through the entire thing. I didn't know what to do. We don't have a gun or any other weapon for that matter, my son was in one room crying and my daughter in another sleeping. I kept thinking "What if someone comes up here? I've got kids on opposite ends of the hallway." So, I stood there, crouched in the middle, waiting to jump whoever came upstairs.

A little later my husband came running in the house and yelled. To me, upstairs, I thought he was being attacked or something. I was still on the phone with the police who assured me they were coming. A few minutes later they arrived, searched the house, neighborhood, etc.

Turns out, my husband forgot to lock our sliding glass door that leads out back. Somehow our dumb dog was able to push the door open, triggering the alarm. All the noise I heard downstairs? The dog knocking over and going through the kitchen trash. My husband yelling? Coming home and discovering said dog as the root cause for all this chaos.

The police man was very nice and very kind to our son who was so scared he was trembling. He kept saying over and over again, "Nice police man come to my house" and "Big gun." Obviously, I am thankful it was nothing sinister, but I was also incredibly embarrassed that they rush out here to find our dog had broken in.

How about you? Any "not so funny then, but funny now" moments? Or embarrassing moments involving the police?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Lesson in Giving

The dance/gymnastics studio where my daughter takes classes has decided to sponsor a local group home that houses children for Christmas. While I was was there today I was looking through the tags that had the age and sex of each child and then what the child desired. Most of the kids asked for gift cards to Walmart and then there were a handful that asked for things like Leapster games, IPODS, MP3 players, and other electronic gadgets. However, I was really surprised and incredibly saddened by the number of kids who asked for things like shoes, shirts, jeans, a winter coat. Things that are more necessities than wants. It really bothered me to think that a)these kids have no parents for whatever reason and b)simple needs became their Christmas wish.

So, I let my daughter decide what gifts we'd get and she chose a couple of kids who wanted clothes. Honestly, I am glad that those were the children she chose. They are who I would have picked. I hadn't entirely planned to explain why we were getting these kids gifts but the ever inquisitive mind of a four year old wanted to know why we were getting them presents if we didn't know them.

This led to a gentle discussion of how some people aren't as fortunate as we are and that some children sadly don't have mommies and daddies to take care of them and so we are going to help so that they can have a nice Christmas too. My daughter is extremely empathetic. It is one of the things I love most about her. She is incredibly tuned in to the feelings of others and what she perceives to be fair and to her, the thought of children in this world not having parents seems unbelievably unfair.

So, this weekend I will take her with me to help pick out clothes for these children and while I am glad we are able to do this for these children I am equally glad that my daughter gets to be a part of it and understands why we are helping those less fortunate. Based on our conversation today and her empathetic response I am very proud of her and her ability to feel compassion for those she does not know.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lackadaisical Butt

In an effort to save some money and cut costs I put my gym membership on hold for the past three months. The intention was that I would work out at home with DVD's and free weights I had purchased and used in the past. The first couple of weeks I was incredibly diligent and managed to drop a few pounds. As time went on I found reasons not to fit it in each day, swearing I'd do it the next, until before I knew it a week or so would pass with me not doing a single active thing.

For the past month I have just felt gross. I hate how I feel when I don't exercise. It affects me physically, mentally, and emotionally and today I finally reached a breaking point. I stepped on the scale and realized that in three months I have gained four pounds. That is a faster rate than I gained when pregnant with either one of my children. At this rate I'll have gained sixteen pounds in a year. There is no way that can happen.

So, on Friday I am going to reactivate my membership. The deal I have made with myself is that if I don't go consistently over the next month then I have to cancel it and find another way because I refuse to throw money away. But I am hoping that I will once again fall in love with working out and use it as a release, escape, and a way to feel better both physically and mentally. The one legitimate concern I do have is putting my kids in the child watch area during the height of flu season, but both have had flu shots and hopefully after tomorrow both will have had round one of the h1n1 shot as well.

Fingers crossed that I can find my groove again and get out of this funk.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Parenting Dilema

There are things that my son does on an almost daily basis that are dangerous and heart stopping for a mother to watch. Some of these things are definitely things I never want to see him do again (climbing to the top of a bookshelf), while others I admit I find myself torn between wanting to keep him safe and wanting to celebrate the accomplishment. The list is much too long to go into, but the most recent stunt involves our couch and a trampoline.

He stands on the arm of the couch (no-no number 1) and jumps from the couch onto a trampoline a good two to three feet away. As he does this I envision him propelling forward, falling off the trampoline and landing on the tile either cracking open his head or knocking out his teeth. Instead he lands and in one fluid motion begins to jump....straight up and down. He never propels forward, never seems to lose his balance. It's effortless. And it scares me to death. I can't encourage it; he shouldn't be doing it, yet the other part of me is so incredibly impressed at his sense of balance, agility, coordination, etc. I watched him do it five times before I made him stop because I wanted to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Yet, with each attempt the ease of his land the transition to jumping became more and more flawless.

Impressive feat. Nonetheless, he was told to never do that again. However, part of me wants him to show my husband when he gets home. Would it be wrong to just turn away and act like I didn't see him perfecting his stunt?

Friday, November 13, 2009

On My Final Nerve

My daughter is four going on sixteen. If the past two weeks have been any indication she is moments away from entering puberty. She's moody, sassy, emotional, temperamental, and overly sensitive. In a nut shell she is a teenager, except for the fact that she is four. Right now, I am a bit at a loss in terms of what to do with her. She has spent quite a bit of quality time in her room, for a variety of infractions. It's weeks like these when I seriously consider putting them in day care/preschool and heading back to work. That thought it usually quickly replaced when either one of my children does something great that I am thankful I got to witness.

Anyway, today I went to visit my grandmother, the children's great-grandmother, for a couple of hours. When it was time to leave my grandmother offered to keep my daughter for a couple of hours. I came home, put my son down for a nap and then had two solid hours to myself. I cleaned up the downstairs and my office, which didn't take long, I made myself lunch and ate it in peace without anyone asking for more water or milk or this or that. Then I sat down and watched last night's episode of CSI before my son woke up. It was seriously the highlight of my week.

An hour after that my grandmother brought my daughter home. She has been home thirty minutes now and for twenty of those minutes she has picked on her brother, talked back to me, and then melted down into a full out tantrum because she wanted the door closed and I needed it open to watch her brother playing out on the porch in the front.

My grandmother said she was perfect the entire time over there. So, either she's too kind to lie to me about it or else it's just me. Whatever it is, I hope she outgrows quickly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Single Parent Problems?

I read an article the other day that placed the blame for all that ails society, from crime to violence to discipline problems in school, on single parent families and the disintegration of the traditional family. While I find myself agreeing with some of the claims to a point a lot of what was said did not sit right with me. While I agree that parents are the single biggest influence on their children's lives, or at least should be and that ideally we would all live happily with a mommy, daddy, 2.5 kids, and a dog in a perfect world, the realist in me knows that this ideal is far more fiction than fact. That doesn't mean, to me, we shouldn't desire that ideal or stop trying to achieve that ideal, but what happens when that is not the reality?

I taught in public schools for years. I know that many kids who come from broken homes statistically have higher rates of discipline problems, but from personal experience, something the author of this article doesn't have, I also know that kids who come from stable, two parent homes also have discipline problems and some kids from one or no parent homes are the epitome of model behavior. I had students whose single mothers worked their butts off to provide for their children, cooked them dinner every night, taught them right from wrong, set high standards for behavior, and were great parents. So, basically, I don't put a lot of value in statistics, especially those that can be manipulated for their own agenda, be it personal, political, etc.

Part of the article suggested that if we really want to see a difference in crime, violence, and discipline problems then we will start addressing the real cause--single parent homes. How exactly this is supposed to be done was conveniently not outlined or specified in the article. It made me wonder, though, what about homes that become single family homes as a result of a death. Are these families suddenly doomed and to blame because they are now one short as a result of something out of their control? What about those who gave their lives as the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom? They are now technically single family homes. Are they now suddenly responsible for the demise of our society as we know it?

There are just too many variables to simply say single parent homes are the cause of violence, crime and discipline problems. Sure, absent fathers, jailed mothers, drug addicted parents of either sex, non-present parents, are all contributing factors that have led to some of these problems. To lump them into the same category as families who lost a spouse and parent to something unavoidable seems outlandish and grossly misleading to me.

So, what are your thoughts? Are single parent homes partly or solely to blame for these issues? Do you see a difference in the TYPES of single parents homes? If so, should these be accounted for when making such sweeping statements?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Children Don't Name Siblings

My sister is halfway through another pregnancy and the sudden topic of babies, surprisingly has my daughter begging for another brother or sister. This is a complete turn around as for most of her life she has been pretty adamant about not wanting another baby in this house. She insists she'll help rock it, change its diapers, take care of it, etc. Which, truthfully, she probably would.

Yesterday I was telling her what my sister was going to name the baby. Her response to the girl's name? "Ooh, no I do not like that name at all." Her response to the boy's name? "Oh, I like that name." She then shared her ideas for what I could name a baby when we have another one. Her girl's idea is Sunshine Flower (uh, not thinking so). For a boy she is torn between Sebastian and Otis.

I seriously have no clue where she came up with these and she'll probably be upset if we don't use them. (I actually like Sebastian, but my husband says no way). While she and her brother both have "unique" names they aren't strange or out there or wholly uncommon, although my daughter's is a traditional Irish name and not as popular here, so I am not entirely sure where some of these "different" names originated from.

So, what do you think? Could you imagine calling your child Sunshine Flower or Otis?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A House Divided

My husband and I have pretty similar political beliefs. At least that is what most would gather when talking with us. While there are subtle differences as a whole we pretty much see eye to eye. In fact, if I had to say who was more conservative I would have said him as would probably most others who know us would. (Although, as we've gotten a bit older he seems to have gotten a bit more liberal in my opinion and I think I've gotten a little bit more conservative).

Anyway, I was sent three political quizzes today and out of curiosity took them. I would describe myself as a moderate. I'm pretty much in the middle. I agree with a more conservative stance on a handful of issues (fiscal, etc) and a more liberal stance (social, etc.) on a handful of other issues. Each quiz I took pretty much confirmed this. I scored just left of center and more toward a libertarian side than an authoritarian one. No surprises there.

What was surprising was my husband. He scored considerably more liberal that I would have ever guessed. Looking over his shoulder on a couple of the questions (ones we obviously don't heavily discuss) I was shocked by his answers. Not shocked in an "Oh my gosh I can't believe you think that" way, but a "I had no idea you felt that way" way. It was interesting and surprising. Some of the differences can be attributed to a different interpretation of intentionally vague questions, but still the fact that we interpret them the way we did says something about how we view certain issues.

The thing is, my husband is the son of a Mennonite minister (think more contemporary Amish). His parents are ultra-conservative and he was raised as such. Because he married outside his religion, we have been pretty much shunned. When I met him he was a registered Whig (a fact my family got a lot of mileage out of in the early years before others' political beliefs surpassed his in the humor department), but usually voted Democrat. His parents thought I was this raging ultra liberal anti-Christ who was corrupting their son because yes, my attending parochial school for grades K-8 and attending church regularly since my birth screams "Anti-Christ." The truth of the matter was that I was probably a bit more conservative than he.

The point in telling you about his background is that it cracks me up to think of him being the product of his parents. How did this happen? They would probably be appalled and start prayer circles for his soul if they found out he voted Democrat more often than not. To me, it was news that between the two of us I am "more" conservative (if you can count being smack in the middle "more" of anything).

Just curious. Do you and your spouse hold the same political beliefs or are you a house divided?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

One of the best things about being a parent is listening to all of the funny, crazy, outlandish things kids say. In lieu of an actual post today I'll share with you a couple of things my kids have said lately that have made me laugh.

My daughter, 4 years old, says, "Mommy you are beautiful, but you stink." (In my defense I was on my way to the shower as she said that).

My son, 2 years old, was chasing me around the house whacking my backside. I said, "Why are you hitting mommy?" He replies, "Cuz, I'm a boy."

I am so frustrated with our dog that the other day I said, "I just want to give rid of that dog." My son says, "But mama, I love that dog."

My kids have been sick and my son took my daughter's cup and started drinking out of it. My daughter ran to the phone, called my husband at work, and cried into the phone, "But daddy, he got his sick germs all over my cup."

My daughter's favorite Halloween candy was Butterfingers, or as she calls them "Buttery fingers" as in "Yum, I sure love buttery fingers."

After serving my kids breakfast in bed one day this morning my daughter pointed out that it was just like room service at the hotel and capped it off with, "And you know I just LOOOOOOOVE room service."

My son's hair is getting pretty long. My husband and I want to grow it out, but I thought I'd ask him if he wanted a haircut. He says, "No, long and wild like the Beast" (from Beauty and the Beast) His other answer when asked this question is, "No, put it in a pony-tie" (his combo work for pony tail and hair tie).

A woman in the mall was wearing a half top with her belly exposed. My son walked up to her, lifted his shirt, patted his stomach and said proudly, "My belly." She was not amused.

Passing by a section of homes that were pretty run down my daughter says, "That house is quite dilapidated. They really need to spruce it up a bit."

I promise that at least one day this week I'll have a "real" post.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Many of my closest, most trusted friends don't live in the same city I do. While we keep in touch via email, text, and phone calls it's not the same as being able to meet up for dinner or just hang out and chat. This weekend one of my closest friends who I used to teach with was in town. The thing about Jan* is that we can always just pick up right where we left off. It's like we talk everyday. The conversation comes easy and I trust her implicitly.

So, Friday I was able to spend close to seven hours just catching up on her life, catching her up on mine, catching up on mutual friends, talking politics, religion, education, marriage, parenting, our thoughts and feelings on just about everything, etc. And it was great! At the end of every conversation we both lament about how we've been missing that since I moved away.

One of the topics of conversation was how I rarely do things for myself anymore. I do a lot for my husband and kids and by the time that is done there's not much effort, energy, or money left for me, so I go without. The example I gave was that I used to be naturally blond. As I got older my hair started getting darker and so I would have it highlighted every couple of months. I loved the way it looked. After I had our daughter my hair got even darker and not once in the past five years have I had my hair colored or high lighted. After being properly chastised for not treating myself once in a while to something simple that would make me feel better, I silently made the decision right there to make it to the hair salon this weekend.

So, today I went and had a little more than 4 inches cut off my hair, bringing it up to the top of my shoulders and then also had blond highlights added, giving my hair a lighter overall look while not truly looking colored. You know what? Jan* was totally right. It was an instant picker upper.

I guess sometimes I just need a little reminder to do things for myself because ultimately it will make me a better wife and mother. It's nice to have a friend who will remind me of this. It was also a good example and reminder of what a positive, healthy, supportive, unconditional friendship should be.

*name changed for purposes of anonymity

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Flu and Fury

So, our kids appear to have the H1N1 flu. I say "appear" because they've stopped swabbing and testing here and since our kids had the regular seasonal flu shot but not the H1N1 (whole different story...don't even get me started) the doctor just assumes it is of the swine variety. Which sucks. They've been miserable and cranky and SICK. Our son is a major concern given his asthma and history of respiratory problems so our doctor is keeping really close tabs on him. So, far both seem to be handling it as well as can be expected, though so I just have to hope and pray that they both continue to fight this off.

They've been sick since Sunday which means we've been housebound and aahhh I think I might lose my mind soon. I guess on the positive side I have managed to gut my son's room, closet, the playroom, and the downstairs closet of old, broken, or unused toys. I just have my daughter's room left but am putting that off. I need to hang on to part of my sanity.

While we are on the topic of illness and germs let me just share with you a major irritant. Parents who don't keep their sick kids home and away from other children. Teaching for six years it was shocking to me that parents would send their visibly sick and miserable kids to school. Once the shock wore off, anger set it. Anger that they'd be so inconsiderate to not only their children, but the rest of us who are now exposed. This frustration has only intensified as I've had kids of my own.

When my kids are sick I don't take them to play dates or to the library, or to my daughter's gym class,or to church and Sunday school, or to any of the other social function with which we are involved. I seem to be one of the few that actually lives by this code. It is shocking to me the number of parents who bring their children to gym or dance class sicker than dogs. Or the parents who bring their children to church horribly ill because they think God will definitely damn them to hell if they dare miss one Sunday to care for a sick child. (I'm a church goer, but I tell ya, church people are the WORST about taking their sick kids out).

Anyway, this brings me back to my original point. Last week at my daughter's gym class a mother was in the lobby with us who looked on the verge of death. She was coughing, sneezing, sweating, wheezing. I'm sure she had the flu. I even made a comment to my mom, who had come to watch my daughter, that I was going to flip out if we ended up sick. Sure enough, three days later my son is sicker than a dog. Granted, he could have picked this up at Target or Costco, but chances are pretty good he got it from the inconsiderate lady who just infected preschoolers.

As I wrap up this tangent, I'll simply say this. Sickness is part of life. However, I would greatly appreciate it if sick people stayed home. It's not that difficult of a concept.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Weekend

We spent Halloween like every other family and went Trick or Treating. Our son went in his scrubs but insisted on carrying his new gun that his daddy just bought him, so I decided he was Dr. Kevorkian. Here he is with my husband in pursuit of more candy.
Our daughter went as Tinkerbell this year. She had a great time and ended up with quite the stash of candy.
We stayed up so late on Halloween that we spent most of Sunday just recuperating. The best part was that I even got a nap. (In all honesty, I got a nap Saturday, Sunday, and Monday).
My husband took Monday off for an appointment and it ended up being a good thing. Our son fell ill with a really high fever. He cried and moaned and was just otherwise beside himself all day. Having my husband home allowed me to care for him while he kept our daughter entertained. Plus, getting undivided daddy attention was a bonus for her.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bathroom Humor

I have this thing about public bathrooms. Like I hate them. I think they are disgustingly dirty germ contraptions and unless I am about to literally explode I will not use them. So, making sure we all use the bathroom before we ever leave the house is a huge ordeal. It's like, "You better make sure you go now because you don't want to have to use a public bathroom" and it is said with the same disdain that the less informed and less rational among us say, "You better be good and never make Jesus mad because you don't want to have to go to public school." (Disclaimer: I am NOT one of those people).

Anyway, I digress.... My point is that public restrooms are to be avoided at all costs. This line of thought has been instilled in my children, more specifically my daughter. She would rather hold it for days, weeks, possibly months before she'd step foot in a public bathroom. I kid you not.

On the rare occasion she just has to pee bad enough she'll go in, check it out, and if it is acceptable enough she may consider it. Under those circumstances she will then promptly shower when we arrive back home to rid herself of the nasty public bathroom germs. They are a special breed of germs, you know. However, 99 percent of the time she says, "Um, no. This is a disgusting public bathroom. I will not go in here."

So, tonight my husband is running around the living room chasing the kids and every once in a while he'd stop suddenly, back his rear end up, shake it and the kids would run into it face first (Yes, sounds's what passes for fun in our house). He does this to our son who thinks it is hilarious.

Then he does it to our daughter. Hilarious? Not so much. Her exact words were, "Dad, you use disgusting public bathrooms. Your bottom has public bathroom germs. Do not put that by my face." She was dead serious. This kid is hardcore.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall is Here......For Two Days

Today was a great day. Usually you could never tell by being in Arizona that it is October. We have had temperatures this entire month in the high 80's to mid 90's. For someone like me, who has made no secret about hating the heat, it has been miserable. Today, though, was different. Today the high was 58 degrees. It was beautiful. It was as if God himself personally granted me this temporary reprieve from what irks me most.

Anyway, I put the kids in pants and long sleeves, something they don't get to wear often, and we spent hours outside. We took walks, played in the yard, went exploring in the desert, climbed trees, and played with sticks and rocks. In other words we did what people that live in other, cooler parts of the country get to do on a more regular basis. The kids were in heaven and I was just thrilled to not be sweating.

As the sun started to set this evening and the wind started whipping a bit more the kids finally said they were cold and wanted to head inside. It was a great day. The best part is that tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reason 10,372

Me: What is this on my forehead?
Hubby: (Poking it) It's like a zit.
Me: Yeah, but it's not a zit.
Hubby: That's why it's "like" a zit.

Just one more reason why I keep him around.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise

When we were kids my dad and mom took me and my siblings down to the bank to open Johnny Appleseed accounts. However, I refused to give any of my money to the banker and while my siblings all left the bank with account ledgers I left with my roll of cash and jar of coins. I greatly mistrusted the bank and felt that if I turned over my money I'd never see it again...those bankers would surely take it and spend it. Instead I hid money in my sock drawer, under my mattress, in different containers throughout my room. When I went away to college, my parents MADE me open a checking and savings account and needless to say my relationship with my bank is a bit more trusting these days (although in light of recent events I may go back to my money stashing ways).

Despite being all grown up and having various checking and savings accounts I haven't quite let go of my money stashing habits. I won't give away my current hiding spots, but needless to say there are various spots around my house where I'll stash money for use at a later time, forget about it, and then find myself deliriously excited when months or years later I unearth the cash. A few months ago I hit the jackpot when I discovered over $200 I had set aside and then promptly forgot about.

So, what is the point of this you ask? Well, today I logged into my Paypal account and discovered I had a considerable balance. Whether or not I knew about this balance is something I can't remember. Obviously, at one point I knew the money was coming, but for whatever reason forgot to check the account and transfer the money. Months ago I had sold a few sets of a grammar program I had developed to two homeschooling mothers and one English tutor. I remember getting emails saying payments had been deposited, obviously before sending out the curriculum. Beyond that, no recollection whatsoever.

Anyway, the discovery took me back to my days of yore when I would frequently discover cash around my apartment and later my house. I don't find as much money laying around anymore. We seem to spend most of it these days, but it's always nice to be surprised. And yes, I promptly transferred the Paypal money to my checking account.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Hesitant Return

When I was blogging regularly, before my hiatus, I would think in terms of "How can I turn this into a blog post." Random, everyday events underwent the scrutiny of whether or not it was interesting enough to merit a post. When ideas were thin this thought process at times went into overdrive. It was annoying. I couldn't turn it off.

The first week of my break I found myself still reverting back to that way of thinking even though I knew I wasn't going to be blogging for a while. It had become automatic. However, relatively quickly I pretty much forgot all about my blog, I quit thinking of my day's events as blog posts and started to enjoy them just for what they were, not for what I could turn them into. I have to admit, I was happier.

But then I realized I missed writing. I missed processing different events or feelings through this medium we call blogging. So, I have returned. I think the difference this time will be that I am not going to put myself on an arbitrary schedule to write. I'll write when I feel moved to do so and hopefully this will help restore some of that balance.

Thanks for reading and it's good to be back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Surreal was Sure Real

Tonight was crazy. I was visiting my grandmother with the kids and when we were getting ready to head home a woman and her daughter (probably around 9 or 10 years of age) came running down the street asking if we had seen a 3 year old boy. From what I was able to decipher from the hysterics he was autistic, could not communicate, and apparently wandered out the front door 30 minutes prior. I asked if she had called the police, which unbelievably she hadn't.

I can't begin to presume to understand the panic I would feel if I suddenly found one of my children missing, but I'd like to think that if I couldn't find my son or daughter within a couple of minutes and a thorough check of the usual places they play and hide turned up empty, that I'd call the police pretty darn quickly. So, I called from my cell right there in the street. They started asking me for information to issue an Amber Alert, most of which I didn't know. So, I had to chase the woman down the street in the dark to have her give a description of clothing, height, eye color, etc.

I don't even know these people, but I was heartbroken. While the mother was talking to the police, the daughter was hysterical. She was crying that she missed her brother, wanted to see him again, etc. I hugged her, not knowing what else to do. I felt horrible for her.

The entire thing was just so surreal. I was just talking earlier in the evening to my grandmother about the little girl that just went missing walking home from school. Then here we are a few hours later watching a potential abduction, missing child scenario unfold. We searched the streets, talked to neighbors, shouted his name in virtual pitch black, knowing that he couldn't answer. It was probably the most helpless I have ever felt outside of the times my son has been hospitalized.

Long story short, the little boy was found later that evening wandering in the front yard of another home. Apparently, they had been asking him his name and where he lived but unable to communicate he couldn't tell them. (Which also begs the question why they hadn't called the police to report finding a small child wandering in their yard).

I know things can happen in the blink of an eye, but it makes me wonder how a parent doesn't notice his or her child is missing for over 30 minutes and why upon that realization the first instinct wasn't to call the police. In any event, I am just incredibly relieved that this turned out the way it did, because we all know how much worse it could have been.

You better believe I am hugging my children extra hard tonight.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taking a Break

When I started this blog 1 1/2 years ago I envisioned it as simply a forum in which I could express my feelings and experiences, whether they be failures, triumphs, joys, frustrations, or anything and everything in between. I didn't do it to be popular or to acquire readers, even though I have whole-heartedly appreciated those who have read and commented . I did it for myself, though. I felt like it was something I needed, something I would enjoy. And for the most part I have. I have "met" wonderful people and read their wonderful blogs and felt supported and encouraged at times when I needed support and encouragement. For that, I will always be thankful and grateful.

Lately, though, I have started to feel like this is more of a burden than it is a joy or outlet for self-expression. I have felt like I have nothing to say or at least nothing of interest or importance. Or that this might not be the appropriate forum for the things I wish to say or feel passionately about. I have felt like I rack my brain for things to say only to come up empty or for a variety of reasons choose not to share. Right now, it's just not fun or rewarding.

On top of that I have felt for a long time that I self-censor. I filter what I'm thinking and dilute it before I write it. I don't know why. I guess there is a part of me that doesn't want to offend or insult. Or I think that readers might not be interested in that particular topic and I become "that blogger" similar to "that facebook poster". I don't know.

What I do know is that it feels disingenuous at times. It feels like I am not me. Don't get me wrong. What you have read is me. What I have said I have meant. But there are the words I haven't said, that I have wanted to or felt like I should, only to second-guess and hit the backspace or delete key. It's that part of me that I wish I could just turn loose. The unfiltered, uncensored, careless version of myself. I just don't know how entirely or if I even want to completely.

I don't know what all this means. I know I need a break. Some time to re-think the direction of this blog, to rethink how I get thought to screen without feeling like I am giving up part of what makes me, me. This break may be temporary, might be more.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Frustrated Buyer

When my husband was a kid he was a huge fan of the big metal tonka trucks. I can remember playing with them myself with my brothers. So, for Christmas this coming year I found one online and was so excited about it, I ordered it without really looking around first. Needless to say I apparently got ripped off. Then when the truck arrived yesterday it was obviously one that had been gently used, even though I ordered it from a store and it was advertised as new. There were dings and chips in the metal and the packaging had been taped back together quite elaborately. The box had obviously been opened.

To add insult to injury, we were at Toys r Us today where we came across the EXACT same truck for literally less than half the price that we paid. HALF. For that amount, I could have purchased two trucks for him. Needless to say I am going to try to return it and hope that I don't end up spending even more on shipping charges.

Next time I guess I'll take my time a little more to make sure I'm not getting hosed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Only Shell

I once had a friend who thought for herself. She had her own opinions and own ideas. She then got a boyfriend and quickly adopted all of his views, did whatever he said, went wherever he told her. They'd inevitably break up and she'd move on to the next guy, whose views, even if they were in direct conflict with the previous guy's, she'd just as eagerly adopt. This went on for years. She no longer remembered how she really felt, what she really thought. She was lost. She became who each guy said she was, who he instructed her to be.

One day she married one of these guys. Gradually, over time, he told her what to think and believe, told her how to act and how not to act. He isolated her from her friends and family. His family became hers and took precedent over her natural family. His friends and siblings became her friends and siblings and she forsook her own. This whole transition was not only scary, but sad. It is how I imagine indoctrination into a cult being. She is now merely a shell of who she once was.

I'm fairly certain that deep down, in a place she will rarely access, let alone acknowledge, she knows all of this to be true. But she's trapped now. A marriage and progeny tie her to this new life. She believes she has too much to lose if she leaves. At least this is what I gauge to be true as a vacant, glazed look overtakes her eyes as her husband enters the room. The only time her eyes begin to clear is when he is far from earshot and she reminisces about times a decade or two ago. It is like she is quietly reminded of the hope she once had, the person she once was before she gave it all up to be who someone else wanted her to be. The ironic thing is, that I think she could be hopeful again if she was simply allowed to be herself.

I sometimes think that one day she is going to wake up and think, "What the hell have I done?" She's sacrificed much; she's given up entire parts of herself and allowed herself to be molded into this person that's barely recognizable. What if, one day, he wants her to be someone else?

While I don't agree with what she has done, I can understand it. It is for self-survival. She could never exist in this new family and circle of friends without adopting their views. They would eat her alive, belittle, and ridicule her. So, in turn she feels that she has to strike first, attacking those whose views go against "The Family." She has to prove she belongs. Unfortunately, those attacked are her former family and friends...those who knew her before she traded in who she was for what he needed and demanded her to be. Which makes it all the more sad. It is as if she has to be so forceful, insulting, confrontational, and borderline hateful in order to convince herself and others that this is who she really is. She is one of THEM.

More than anything, I now just feel sorry for her and pray she can live the next fifty years as someone she is not.

**Fictional piece; any similarities to actual people are unintentional

Water Babies

Since my kids were very young they both have been obsessed with bathing, either in the tub or the shower. When either would get upset, when they were much younger, they'd run to the bathroom and cry to have a bath. Something about being in the water instantly calmed them down. As a result I have two kids who want baths all the time. Literally, they take three a day most days.

Play outside? Need a bath. Run a couple of errands? Need a bath. Go on a play date? Need a bath. Just had lunch? Need a bath. Played with the pet rat? Need a bath? Breath? Need a bath. Simply exist? Need a bath.

I'm a bit of a clean freak myself so I understand the desire to be clean, but three times a day seems a bit excessive. Not to mention, our water bill has gone up quite a bit (that might have something to do with the grass we put in too).

Anyone else's kids have this propensity for baths or showers?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Find a New Scapegoat

I know I am a few days behind all the hoopla, but the outrage expressed over PRESIDENT Obama giving a speech to school children about the importance of an education is frankly ridiculous. The nerve of OUR President addressing children and about the importance of working dare he. Maybe I am missing something, but to me I still respect the office of the President, even if/when I don't respect the man in it. I have very few kind things to say about George W. Bush, however if he were to have given a speech and I had school age children I would have certainly had them listen to it, both out of respect for the position he holds in our country and because if there were aspects we as a family disagreed with I think it is a perfect way to think critically about what our leaders say and then discuss later WHY we disagree. What specifically is at issue? Why do we disagree with what is being said? It's not good enough to say “Oh, he's evil” “Oh, he's a socialist spreading his propaganda, trying to indoctrinate school children.” What specifically is he doing, what has he done? I would encourage this type of critique of all leaders.

If we want to talk about indoctrination or spreading propaganda how about those that refuse to let their children listen to anything other than what their parents tell them, never teaching them how to critically think or refute views that oppose their own. I WANT my kids to be exposed to ideas and ideology different from my own. Only through that exposure will they be able to verbalize clearly, effectively, and coherently why we believe the way we do. It's those that never see the other side that are incapable of clearly expressing the reasons for their own views beyond saying it is “what they believe.” What a cop-out.

In Arizona our school superintendent made some pretty controversial statements pertaining to Obama's speech and how he felt the White House was encouraging a worshipful approach to the President. These comments got the fringe element frenzied and the next thing you have the arm-chair pundits claiming the educational system is trying to push a liberal agenda, how teachers waste time spreading propaganda, how public school teachers are at fault for all that ails us morally as a society. As someone who spent six years teaching in a public school I find that offensive and wholly inaccurate. We barely have enough time in a year to get through an ambitious curriculum, let alone attempt to indoctrinate our students to apparently the “evil teacher way” of thinking. In six years I taught my students to write, read and think critically, edit, identify parts of speech, define and identify literary terms and showed how these concepts have real world application. And this is just a very small fraction of what I taught.

My students never knew if I was a Republican or Democrat or somewhere in between. They never knew who I voted for, even when they would ask...and some repeatedly. They knew I treated all of them the same and held them all to the same standard regardless of their political or religious beliefs. Interestingly enough, in six years I taught, spanning two different high schools, there were only a handful of teachers who tried to spread their “propaganda”.....and these were those from the right. Not those evil, liberal lefties who have overtaken all the classrooms. Hmm.

The irony isn't lost on most that those that deride the public education system the most and the loudest are 1) those that have the least first hand knowledge of or experience with an actual education system; they base their philosophy mostly on what Fox News and their right wing journals tell them and b) they are the ones that have benefited the most from an education. It seems funny that those who devalue an educational experience are oftentimes those who have the jobs they have because of that education. They are able to have the family lives they want because of the opportunities gained from a diploma and then a college degree.

For years, people have placed blame with the educational system on the teachers. There are certainly some bad teachers out there. I even had a few. But more often than not I had wonderful teachers who provided me with a terrific education. Those I worked with over the course of six years were wonderful people and terrific teachers who had their students' best interest in mind. These were people who worked hours lesson planning and grading despite not being paid. These are people who spend much of their own money purchasing supplies for their classroom because very little of the money actually sees its way into actual supplies for the students. These are people who served the purpose of multiple roles: parent, supporter, encourager, instructor, etc. because some students had no one else in their lives to step in and fill those roles.

There may be aspects of our educational system that are broken or need to be changed. Working in education I would certainly agree that there are quite a few changes that could be made that would be beneficial. However, the teachers that are there day in and day out, doing the best they can with what they have, deserve more respect than they are given. To lump every teacher into the category of “spreader of propaganda crap” is offensive, baseless, and completely ignorant. Sadly, with many in our society today I wouldn't expect any differently. These are the people that could maybe benefit from a little more education.