Friday, September 15, 2017

The Most Important Task

First let me say, before I get started, this post may (most definitely will) contain profanity. I do not wish to offend anyone, so there is my warning. Continue at your own risk.

I had an epiphany the other day. As parents we are constantly aware of the awesome and daunting responsibility that is given to us to raise another human being. It is our job to keep them safe, educate them, feed them, bathe them ( a least a few times a week). Then something dawned on me. As the girls were running around like a bunch of banshees antagonizing each other about the stupidest possible things. I realized our biggest responsibility is to make sure  that our kids don't grow up to be assholes. I mean really and I am sorry for this but I can think of no better word to describe kids behavior (even the really good ones) at least some of the time.  I've come to the conclusion that it is just something that comes natural to kids and it is our job to correct it before we set them free into the world.

It was like the curtain was lifted and the Wizard was revealed to me. I look back on so so so many examples of what can only be described as asshole behavior demonstrated for no other reason other than to royally piss someone else off and then get a kick out of it.

Just a few examples and my guess is these are pretty common.  One of the favorites in our house, when one of them announces they are going to play with a toy. Upon hearing that desire a child closer to the toy grabs it and runs saying " I'm playing with it, I had it first"! Yep assholeitis at its finest. When they are coloring and one takes the crayon the other announced they were just looking for. Asshole. When getting ready to sit down at the table. One will say "I'm sitting next to mommy". Only to be hip checked or plowed over by someone who was in a completely different room but heard the declaration and decided it was their God given duty to thwart it. Asshole. When playing outside and someone announces I'm going to swing now, the kid on the slide moves faster then the speed of light and hops on the swing. Asshole.

The examples are endless and mind boggling. I don't know why they do it. They only do it to each other, so on some level they completely and totally understand that the behavior is wrong. Other than them not listening this is the most frustrating role as a parent, to constantly correct the asshole behavior. It's not like you can just say "hey kid you are being a real asshole and I'm going to need you to knock it off pronto". No that would be waaaay to easy. This is where our most important task comes in. It is a constant discussion of, why did you do that? How would you feel if someone did that to you? Was the the right thing to do, and tell me why not? It is making them understand the consequences of their actions and how their behavior makes someone else feel.

If we do this the right way, right now. We have a chance of raising kids who will NOT grow up to do things like: see someone put their turn signal on and speed up just so the person can't merge. Who will not cut in line. Who will not sneak in and take the parking space from someone who is already waiting. Who will not talk on their cell phones in the loudest possible voice in doctor's offices, trains or in public in general. Who will stop and hold doors for people. Who will say please and thank you to everyone. Who will let someone go ahead of them or stop to let someone out in traffic.

So I will take my duty of eradicating the world of assholes to heart and do the very best I can do.  I know you will too, May the Force Be With You. Lord knows we need all the help we can get.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Put Your Own Mask On First

 I have been extremely thoughtful on how I choose to boost the girls self confidence. This is something Kevin and I have been mindful since the girls started to understand language.
When you have girl children the compliments around them tend to lean toward the "Wow, you have beautiful girls", or "aren't they cute, sweet, pretty." You get the picture. At home I like to throw in a different kind of positive reinforcement .  When they struggle with something, whether it be school or sports.  I remind them persistence pays off. I let them know we are not looking for perfection, but rather for them to do the best they can do.  When their feelings are hurt on the playground, we talk about the meaning of what true friendship is. Would a true friend stand by while other friends say mean things? I ask them to ask themselves, "what would you do?" I console them as they come to terms with the fact that not everyone is nice, that not everyone wants to be our friend, and the hardest idea, not everyone will like us. Once that sinks in, we talk about why that makes our true friends something we should truly appreciate and treasure.

They tend to talk amongst themselves a lot about what they want to be when they grow up. Sometimes it's a doctor, other times it's an astronaut, artist, teacher, president. Over and over and over again, I tell them they can grow up to be whatever it is they want.  Elizabeth once told Abbie it would be really hard to be President, and Abbie just replied, "Yeah I know, but I can do it". She didn't miss a beat, she acknowledged it would be hard, yet it didn't scare her off and there was definitely no confidence lost in her response. That exchange really hit home for me and it also made me think about how I  view myself.

I have made it my life's mission to make sure these kids know they are smart, strong, creative, funny, can achieve anything they put their minds to and are worthy of respect.
Listening to Abbie I wondered when did I stop believing all that was possible for myself? I don't think I'm alone in this position. I have so many friends that bend over backward for their children. They give them the best of everything. I'm not talking about material goods. I am speaking about doing the work that really and truly shapes a child. To let them know day in and day out they are loved, to sit at the table and work together on homework and school projects. To race home from work and get them to soccer, baseball or ballet. Make their favorite dinner. Praise them when the note is sent home to let us know, just how good they were in school today. To stop whatever it is we are doing and give them those moments they need to feel important to us. To listen, to encourage, to provide constructive criticism.

We are so very good at doing these things for our children, but so many of us have stopped doing them for ourselves. How many times have we diminished ourselves instead of giving ourselves the pep talk we needed? Are we listening to each other? Are we encouraging each other? Are we praising each other? I don't think there is an age where that stops being important and yet it is no longer a priority for us or our peers. How many times have we had the thoughts, " I can't do it,  "I'm not strong enough", "I'm too old now", "I'm too tired" "I'm too fat" and on and on. Do we stand up to the "playground bullies" or are we politically correct? Do we value ourselves enough to let go of friendships that add more chaos and less love?

Can we really and truly set a good example for our kids, if we are not taking care of ourselves? We all know children pick up on everything they see and hear. It affects the way they think, behave and view the world.

I think it's time we remember we need to put on our own oxygen masks first. How can we affectively help our kids if we are not first helping ourselves.  We need to remind ourselves, our spouses and best friends,  that " Hey, I think you are strong, smart, funny, can do anything you put your mind to."

It's never too late.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Just Keep Swimming

In January of 2015 I wrote a blog post about choosing to be happy. I made the conscious choice to attempt to choose positivity and happiness over falling into a pit of despair and negativity. Don't get me wrong, I stand at the edge of that pit and think about diving in head first and grabbing a few candy bars for good measure.  However 95% (nobody's perfect) of the time I am able to back away from the cliff, push the reset button and push forward.

I have been in that pondering mood again. Why? How? That is what I ask myself. How and why have I been able to maintain my attempt for the past 20 months.  When I reflected and came to certain realizations, I felt I needed to share.

Lets start with how. Unfortunately we are bombarded by so much negativity and hate that I think we lose sight of the good. There is good though! It really is all around us, we just have to be open to seeing it and receiving it.  For me this has come in the form of people. I feel the need to point this out, because I think as a whole we don't realize how our actions and words affect others. I don't mean in a bad way. I mean in a GOOD way.  A simple compliment, thank you, hug, text, call, may completely change the course of a persons day and outlook on life.  This has made a tremendous difference for me in the past year and a half. In the past three weeks alone, I had one friend mention me and another person in a post. Essentially saying that because she had received encouragement, she was going to give something a shot, that she was hesitant to do, because others believed in her and let her know! I cannot tell you, how it made me feel, that something that seemed so small on my part, made a drastic difference to someone else. I had another friend out of the blue compliment my photography skills and the way I raise my kids (at the time I felt I was sucking at both).  I have had champions in the past year and they do not realize the impact their actions have made on me and my life. Making my first friend in Texas, was life changing. she had no idea how much that saved me. We connected instantly, she feels like a sister to me now. I can talk to her when I'm sad/mad/happy. She will not BS me, she is a straight shooter all the way and I love her for it. Our kids play, we hang out together as a family. That sense of belonging changed me.  My neighbor who has become one my best friends. She ALWAYS has my back. If one of the girls is sick, she picks the other up from school, the water heater breaks down, her husband (also a good friend) is there helping. Our kids play. If she knows I'm struggling, she checks in. She cares and she lets that be known. It has literally changed and saved me more times than I can count.  I have a friend that I have known since the fourth grade. One of the positives of Facebook is that we reconnected after years. We text almost every single day. Sometimes it a funny meme, other times serious conversations. We have this insane connection that cannot be put into words. Her texts come through at the times I need them the most and she could have no clue. Having that relationship has changed me for the better. Then I have a husband that after 19 years, I am pretty sure we share a brain. He knows what I am thinking before I even say it. He also knows just the right time to say either, " You are doing a fantastic job and I'm proud of you" or " the cranky pants have been on long enough, time for a wardrobe change"! I love him all the more for it.  For me these are just a very few examples of how someone else's kindness, insight, text or call has made a direct impact on my mission of choosing to be happy. Choosing to be positive, choosing to go out and kick the world's ass, instead of it kicking mine.
That brings me to the "why" portion. Why do I choose to continue my mission? I know some people  think I am insane. That choosing to believe sunshine, happiness, faith, hope and little bit of pixie dust can make a difference, is annoying and delusional. I assure you. I am not crazy.  So why? Why am I seemingly so nauseatingly positive? Even in situations that seem to not have one ounce of any good?? Three words. Elizabeth. Abigail. Sydney.  I want them to ALWAYS search for the good, the happiness, the kind, the helpers.  Yes, the world is full of hate, evil, and negativity but it doesn't have to win. The battle against it has to start somewhere. So I am starting it at the most logical place for me, home.
If I do nothing else right in this life, I hope this is the ONE thing I get right. I want them to face adversity with the courage to know they can over come. I want them to throw love at the haters. I want them to be able to LAUGH, even when the situation seems dire. That is my wish, that is my goal. While I focus on that here. I want to share that it so easily spread. Make that call, send the text, give someone a hug or an unexpected compliment. Who knows, we just might change the world!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Body Shaming: Something Needs To Change.

This week Elizabeth came home and recounted a lunch time conversation that she had at school. It was so preposterous that I can't shake it. She told me that 2 girls that she sat next to during lunch told her, that if she continued to eat a turkey/salami/cheese sandwich, that also had mayo (gasp) she was going to get fat.  Yes, folks she was told at seven by other seven years olds, that eating her sandwich daily was going to make her FAT.  They recommended to her that she eat salad and chicken, because that doesn't make you fat. Seriously? Is this what it is coming to? Body shaming starts in the first grade. I was shocked and saddened.

This is something that I have personally struggled with as long as I can remember.  I remember vividly comparing myself to the models on Seventeen magazine. I did the thigh master religiously. I snuck diet pills. I look back at those pictures of myself now, and think "what in the hell was wrong with you"?? "You were not fat, you had a perfectly normal body, dare I say beautiful"?  Being 5'8 made me not petite and therefore in my eyes fat. Oh how stupid I was...

It ( body image) was at the top of my list of things I wanted to be different for my girls.  So much so, we have NEVER EVER uttered the word fat in front of the girls. Even as I continue to struggle with my own personal body image issues, I never speak about my self-conscious thoughts in front of them. They listen to EVERYTHING, they hear EVERYTHING. Instead we talk about being healthy. We discuss that we need to try new foods, fruits and vegetables included. We do have the fun treats, but we do so in moderation, because too much of anything is not good for you. We talk about the need for exercise to keep you HEALTHY. That is the word I try to use, healthy. Not fat. Not skinny. Not strong. Not weak. Healthy.  Our goal is to make good choices and keep our mind and body healthy.

I am lucky that I am raising self confident girls that trust me, themselves and communicate well. First, she recognized that she was not going to get fat and promptly told the other girls, eating her sandwich was not going to make her fat. Second, she came home and openly spoke to me and asked questions. I am lucky, but it may not be like that for every little girl. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with seven year old girls being afraid that eating their lunch will make them fat and I for one am not okay with that.

What is the answer? I don't know and I am ticked! I think communication and raising self confident little girls is key.  Teaching them beauty comes in all shapes and sizes is a must. Making good choices is a must. Realizing their own self worth is a MUST. Making healthy choices is key. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down is a MUST.

This is a conversation I wish we didn't have to have but we do. Maybe that is where we start. A open, honest conversation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Matters Most

Last night I had one of those wake up calls as a parent that you really don't want to get but maybe need. It had been one of those days that started at 2am with a kid puking (awesome way to start the day)! So I had the younger girls home with me all day. I decided to take advantage of being housebound and cleaned out several closets. The girls were either best friends or sworn enemies, mostly the latter of the two. Needless to say there was a lot of yelling, whining and refereeing throughout the day. Matters did not improve when the oldest came home, it just got louder!
Everyone has these days during the week. Rush rush rush, clean, cook, moderate, chauffeur. It is complete chaos. Some days are easier than others. Some days tempers and irritability are running at all time highs.
After dinner, things actually begin to settle somewhat, still extremely loud and rambunctious but controlled. I was washing the dishes, Ebeth and Abbie were chasing each other around the living room and Sydney was having her treat at the table. All of a sudden I heard a very strange sound coming from Sydney. She was clearly choking but at this point still getting air. I ran over to her,  she was panicked and bright red. I pounded her back between the shoulder blades first, then no sound was coming from her. She was trying to inhale and couldn't So I am quickly trying to remove her from the chair and she is fighting me because she is terrified and trying fix this herself. I knew I was going to have to do the Heimlich on her and tried to quickly let her know mommy is trying to help. Attempting to do the Heimlich on a terrified 3 year old who cannot breathe correctly is like wrestling an extremely pissed off bear. At this point Ebeth has realized something is really wrong, I can hear her say we should call 911, but I don't have time to explain we don't have time. Nothing happened after the first push, I tried to crack her on the the back again, still nothing. I am one of those people who is good in a crisis, I can remain calm during and stay focused and then afterwards, have my little meltdown. When she still couldn't breathe after the first push and pound on the back, my brain went into complete overdrive. First thought, how long do I have? Answer, not long. Second thought. What if I can't do this? Answer, not an option. Keep trying. The second time I pushed she coughed then gagged then screamed louder than all get out and I have never in my life been happier to hear that sound. This whole episode took probably less than one minute and yet it felt as if time was standing still.
After I made sure she was ok and the crying stopped we all went to sit together on the couch. This is when I started recapping the day and previous days in my mind. How many times did I snap at her that day? How many times in the last few days or weeks have I been asked to play a game, have a  tea party, cuddle on the couch, color? And how many times was my response, I can't right now. I was either cleaning or on the phone or doing dishes or laundry or cooking.
Yes, all of the aforementioned items must be done but they are not as important as we make them out to be in our heads. Does it really matter, if the house is vacuumed? or a dish is sitting in the sink? Or laundry is sitting in a basket? No it doesn't! The answer is so plain and simple nothing is more important than your family and your kids.
In this day and age we hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations because of things like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Life is not picture perfect. It is messy, it is chaotic it is full of ups and downs. That is why we have family and friends to help us get through. They don't care if you baked the perfect cookie or if your house is spotless! I am very guilty of falling into all of those traps. So maybe I needed that slap in the face. Now is the time for that cuddle and the tea party because in a blink of an eye, this stage will be over. I don't want to be doing the dishes when that happens..

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Change the Story

This morning I read a very sad article about a journalist running negative articles about educators and education during a previous teacher appreciation week. A teacher contacted the writer and asked them to share something good. She was told " good wasn't news" and that negative and bad is what people are interested in. This teacher requested this year was that we change the story and share something positive. I don't think it's true the negative and bad is what we want to hear, I believe that is what is force fed to us constantly and we have little choice in the matter. I for one am thrilled and inspired when I read or watch something positive in the news. Its gives me hope when I see stories about random acts of kindness, kids defending other kids being picked on by bullies, teachers going above and beyond their duties (which many of them do).

I was extremely luck in my life to have had several teachers that made a life long impression on me.
When I was in the fourth grade we moved and I changed schools. I was extremely shy for several reasons. First I was the new kid. Second I was the new kid that happened to have cerebral palsy. While I have a very mild case I was the one who was picked on at my previous school because I was different. The first day of school was a day I won't forget for two reasons. First other kids finally liked me! I had people wanting to sit by me at lunch, talk to me at recess, wanting to be my friend and it was awesome! Second I met Mr. Swink. He was the absolutely the best teacher I have ever had, he made me feel welcome and special. He encouraged me to get into sports. Something that completely mortified me in the past. He was a swim coach, so I tried swimming, it was a disaster at first. I could not for the life of me swim straight, my left arm had a mind of its own. Instead of just letting it be or letting me quit. He worked out a way for my stronger arm to correct the problem. Lo and behold I swum straight and from that day forward loved to swim. He helped build my confidence as a person and in the classroom. I no longer let my CP define me. I learned if kids made fun of me I didn't need someone like that in my life and I actually could feel sorry for them for needing to lash out in those ways.  I maintained a relationship with him though my high school years. I would often go back and visit him or ask for advice. I invited him to my wedding but the invite was sent to an old address. A few months after the wedding my brother ran into him. They both called me from my brother's cell phone and he explained the address mix up and told me he received it, after the date had passed. He told me he would have loved to attend. That made my day. He was by now retired and spending winter months in a warmer climate. Several years ago I ran into him while out shopping with the girls. Even though I was 35 and he had not seen me in nearly 20 years he recognized me. I told my girls right there that this was mommy's favorite teacher EVER and he was the BEST hands down. His wife told me " you have no idea how much he loves to hear that".  It's very simple really. Give credit where credit is due.

I was lucky not only to have had Mr. Swink in my life but in high school, I had several teachers that encouraged me, supported me and helped me make decisions that would affect my future. I always loved history, not the most popular subject in school but it struck a chord with me. I had a teacher my Junior year that made History fun and exciting. Mr. Thilman's class was one of my favorites,  so much so that in college I decided to major in History, He was also one of the people I asked to write a recommendation letter for me, his words meant so much to me. I still have a copy of that letter.  I have passed that love of history onto my girls who at ages 6, 4 and 3 are reading and enjoying stories about Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart.

One final teacher that stands out was my Junior year English teacher and creative wring teacher, Mr. Hertzlieb. It is very hard to put thoughts, stories and ideas on paper and have them be judged. Mr. Hertzlieb saw something in my writing and encouraged me to continue.  To this day writing is an outlet for me and I am forever grateful. He too wrote a recommendation letter for me and I still keep a copy.

I have no doubt that many many people have similar stories to share. Teachers come into our lives for such a short time but make such a lasting impression. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing your profession and excelling at.

To my friends and family members who are teachers, I have the utmost respect for you. I am sure that you have hard days in which you question your choices. Please know that you do make a difference and you are appreciated for a life time.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Choose Happiness

This morning I woke up crankier than all get out. A tough day yesterday followed by a sleepless night and a raging headache first thing in the morning seemingly would set the tone for my day. Realizing I set the tone for my entire day at 6:30am, I stopped in my tracks.
I was grouchily fetching something for Elizabeth and I said to myself " you can chose to be a grouch and ruin your day and most likely those around you." or " You can choose to be positive in the face of negativity".  I chose happiness.  I realized in that moment I needed to practice what I preached. I have been having a lot of these conversations lately with people in my life. I have encouraged friends and family members " to focus on the good, to be positive, to believe in the impossible".  This morning I realized I needed a swift kick in the ass, to get back on track.

This past year has been one of the most challenging in my entire life. I knew moving 1100 miles away from everything I knew to was going to be hard but I had no clue just how hard. For months I have desperately missed my friends and family and it has made me so very sad. However if I am going to be positive, here is the truth I am incredibly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. While distance is tough it does not define our relationship. Although we are so far apart I feel closer now to those I miss so dearly because of the great effort we have put into maintaining our relationships. While I am sometimes lonely and sad, I chose love.

This past year has also been the biggest test of my marriage. It would be easy on the tough days to get upset and assign blame, that we are here because of a job. Here is the truth, we are here because of a choice. A choice that was made as a team, a choice that was made because we believed it to be the best one for us and our family. There have been hard days, days when everything is called into question. This relationship started 18 years ago and at 19 years old we fell in love, at 26 we married at 30 we started a family. At 36 we made a life changing decision. We did this all together, with love and communication and trust. There are days when I want to throw in the towel. Then I take a moment and realize, no one has my back more than my husband, no one loves me more, no one knows me better, he knows what I am thinking before I even open my mouth 90% of the time, no one can make me laugh harder. Marriage is not easy, it is a commitment, one worth fighting for. Again I chose love.

I often feel overwhelmed by having three small children so far away from what was a built in support system.  Here is my new truth. I am stronger and more fearless now than I ever felt I could be. I can navigate doctor appointments, grocery stores, school functions, practices with no back up or extra pair of hands. While this might seem trivial to some I assure you it is not. Grocery shopping with 3 cranky kids is some parents Mt. Everest. ( you know what I'm talking about fellow parents)
Despite having GPS, I cannot count the number of times the girls and I have gotten lost the last year trying to explore some new park or playground. While it is scary to have no clue where I am or where I'm going. I choose adventure.

Here is what I have learned this past year. Life is full of challenges, sad days, loneliness, and stress. Confronting challenges, gives us strength to face the next obstacle. Sad days make you appreciate the happy ones all the more. Being lonely, makes you more kind and open to others. Having stress in your life makes you enjoy those relaxing moments just a little more.

I want to set a good example for my girls and for myself really. So I choose to practice what I preach.  I chose to be positive. I choose happiness.