Monday, March 2, 2015

Passing the Torch

Today was a big day for my son. As I write and reflect, I am tearing up. No, he didn't go to school, learn to ride a bike, or even learn to wipe himself (is that day coming soon, though?). Today, he got his own library card.

When I was little, I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents. I even lived with them for a while during my parents' separations and ultimate divorce. My grandma is one of my top five favorite people in the world. I credit her with instilling in me a deep love of and respect for books and libraries.

Some of my fondest memories are of our trips to the library together. At the time, my grandparents only had one car and my grandpa had it with him for work, so if my grandma and I wanted to go anywhere, we took the bus. That, in and of itself, was a rad excursion for me. We'd walk to the bus stop together (my little legs struggling to keep up) and ride all the way to what seemed like a huge library. She let me pull the rope to ring the bell on the bus (exciting!) and we'd disembark and cross the busy street together.

Entering that library was like entering another world. It felt so grown-up, smelled so good, sounded so reverent, and represented everything good and right in the world to me. Outside, there was turmoil. Outside, there were appointments with counselors, parents together and not together and together and not together again, yelling, siblings who needed my protection and listening ear, and a general sense of uncertainty and pain. Inside, there were just books. Books and Grandma. She let me pick out whatever I wanted, she cared about what I chose, she brought me to her sections to see the grown-up books without pictures, she made me feel special and loved and secure.

Libraries and books and Grandma and all of that goodness are all wrapped up together. I would imagine she, to this day, doesn't have a clue what those times meant to me (and still mean to me). But as I sit here reflecting, lump in my throat and tears welling up, I know. I know what she did for me, what that library did for me, what those books did for me (and what books and libraries still do for me even now). So, when my son, right around the same age I was when those trips started, got his own library card today, it triggered so many feelings for me. He thinks it's cool. He's right. He thinks he's cool. He's right. He doesn't have any idea all that little rectangle of plastic means...for both of us. He will, though. He will.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Picked for Who?

Pinterest's new "Picked for You" pins that constantly show up in my feed are driving me buggy. They're hit or miss, but the hits don't make up for the misses by a long shot. Here's the latest that was picked just for me, because Pinterest knows me soooooo well, clearly:

Pinterest, have we met? What about my feed suggests any of this dangerous drivel screams Amy or Zen Parenting? Here, let me help you and, while I'm at it, I'll help the creator of this crap, because s/he has some serious 'splaining to do.

1. Activities. What activities do you like? Why? This is what I like and here's why. Every one of them will teach you something important.
2. If and when you choose to engage in sexual relationships, be respectful of yourself and others. Constantly ensure that you're both consenting of what is happening, that you are both enjoying it, that you're both safe, happy, and healthy.
3. Pee happens. Don't do get it everywhere on purpose, but when accidents occur, we'll fix them up.
4. Save some money, spend some money, invest some money, give some money.
5. Want to help me with what I'm doing around the house, outside, with the car, etc.? Cool. That's how we learn.
6. Beliefs. You get to have yours and I get to have mine. Let's talk about why we believe what we believe about religion and spirituality. Let's talk about those things with each other and with others, so we can learn a lot.
7. Bullying stinks. Don't be one. Don't let others be them. Don't sit by idly while anyone is picked on by one.
8. Education comes from all around you. Soak it all in.
9. Treat people kindly.
10. Forget social norms and the appearance police. Like plaid with tie-dye? Wear it with confidence.
11. The world can be hard, but you don't have to be.
12. Mutual respect is one of the keys to good relationships.
13. As a child, the world tries to make you feel like you are lesser than. This is not true.
14. Penis, vagina, scrotum, vulva, etc. are not bad words, but anyone touching them without your consent is bad.
15. Peer pressure stinks. Be you. You're rad.
16. Be thoughtful in relationships.
17. Sometimes, it is better to be kind than to be right. When someone safety is at risk, be right.
18. A sense of humor goes a long way, but it's OK to feel whatever you feel whenever and for however long you feel it.
19. If and when you choose a life partner (or life partners), choose wisely and choose for yourself.
20. I love you. When you're not with me, I miss you. We won't always be side by side at all times, but you're always in my heart. We have good lives together and separately. Good for us.

Much better. Pinterest, take note.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Food Allergies: Quit Your Whining

Before anyone gets huffy, let me clarify the title. This is not a post directed at people who have food allergies or who love someone who does. No, this is in defense of you. This is directed at those who I see whining constantly about having to accommodate for those with food allergies as if doing so crumbles their very soul and the foundation on which childhood rests. Now that we got that out of the way, let's carry on.

It seems I cannot go a week without seeing some rant such as this from one of my Facebook friends:

"Why should we have to bend over backwards, let our own kids down, make their childhoods less special for ONE kid who MIGHT have a food allergy (which I'm not even convinced actually exist)? What happened to the days of cupcakes, cookies, and big cakes with candles for a kid's birthday? Have we really become so politically correct that now we're impacting our kids so detrimentally? My daughter now has to miss out on all the wonders of childhood because of one kid. Just pack your own snack that day, people! Can't we all stop tippy-toeing around every little problem that every little person has? Loosen up, idiots, they're kids not Faberge eggs."


In no particular order:

a) You're a dick.
b) You're modeling being a dick to your kids.
c) Food allergies can be deadly. Deadly. Kids. Dead. Gone. No longer. Kids. Ya, that's a big deal.
d) Nobody is asking anyone to do anything extra, simply not do something, which is pretty damn easy. You're not being put out.
e) If the only thing that makes your child's life good is a birthday party with only certain food, you might want to rethink the childhood you're giving them.
f) Did I mention the dead thing? It's worth mentioning more than once.
g) Even if they don't die, they could be hurt. Bad. Sometimes permanently. You're telling me a frosted paper full o' sugar is more important than the safety of a child? You need to get your priorities in order.
h) Tell a kid "This will hurt or make sick your friend, so we can't have it when she's with us" and they'll say something along the lines of "Oh, ok" and move on. They care about their friends. Maybe you could follow suit, huh?
i) Do I really need to continue to tell you to settle your tantrum and act like the grown-up you claim to be, modeling empathy and responsibility for your kids?

Out of the mouth (er, typing fingers) of a parent:
"I once asked if a local mom’s group could switch their weekly lunch dates to someplace safe for [my son] and you would have thought that I asked them each for a blood sacrifice and their first born. The same week, I was invited to a potluck by the same group and when I told them that I couldn’t go because FOUR people were making things with nuts, I was kicked out of the group! According to a friend, I offended them by not wanting to expose [my son] to DEATH, I mean their baked goods. That stuff actually happens. It’s a really odd feeling. A single peanut could KILL my child! It cannot be said often or loud enough!" ~Kimberly Barnwell

Out of the mouths of babes:

My son is on a soccer team with a girl who has severe allergies to several things. I'm the team parent, so, among other things, I set up the snack schedule. As I knew they would, this girl's parents offered to bring their own snacks for her. No. I won't allow it. I won't allow that little girl, part of her very first team sport at the tender age of 4, to be left out, even if it is in a seemingly small way. It requires so little of the rest of us to bring snacks that everyone can enjoy, as opposed to only 6 out of the 7 kids. That's not what being part of a team is all about. No, we'll accommodate, we'll put in the minimal effort to remain cognizant, we'll care more about the good of the team than about the fleeting desires we foist upon our kids. That is what being part of a team or a class or a group of friends is all about, so that's what we'll do.

For more about food allergies:

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades of F*ck You

Nothing like waking up to a bunch of people blatantly ignoring the needs of a pregnant mother escaping her abusive husband in order to debate the merits of some stupid books and movie to get my fur up.

Get this: I don't care whether or not you see that movie. I don't care whether or not you choose ignorance as to the reality of abusive relationships vs. healthy relationships in this one case. I have bigger fish to fry. Right now, I care about helping this mama save herself. And she is. She's doing exactly what everyone keeps accusing other victims of not doing (and shut up about that, while you're all at it, because your privilege and lack of compassion are abundantly clear whenever you open your mouths with your "Why doesn't she just leave?" bullshit). Oh, but it's not about her doing what you want her to do, because when she does, you still find a reason not to help (and by help, I don't mean by financial means only, because we're not all in a position to do so, but we can all surely share and encourage others) by turning it into a debate about your new favorite movie. I get it now. It's clearly about doing whatever you need to do to shield yourself from the needs of others, from what you can actually do for others, from the ugliness of reality and how you can actually take some of the burden from those suffering like you say you would do if only the circumstances were just right. It's about giving lip service to all the ways you care, but running hightail and hiding behind whatever reason you can swiftly scrape together when the rubber meets the road and it comes time to show that care. It's about throwing out red herrings left and right to distract others from the issue at hand and your lack of concern for it. It's clearly all about you.

My friend Tracy at Evolutionary Parenting did a good thing for a friend. This friend is pregnant with her second and is trying to get herself and her children to a safe place far away from her abusive husband, is trying to divorce the unsafe he-person, is trying to have the birth of her choice someplace where she and hers can be free from harm. Tracy took time out of her day to share an emergency fundraiser for her in a prime time slot on her Facebook page. She implored her tens of thousands of fans to help. She used her position for tremendous good. I am terribly grateful to her and the fans who perhaps donated and shared silently. I don't know who those are (though, I'm sure there were plenty), because the entire thread was hijacked by fools who care more about defending the books and movie to which her situation was rightfully compared than they do about attending to the matter at hand.

For those who care more about helping this mama in need, you can access her YouCaring fundraiser by clicking HERE. Give (if or what you are able), share publicly and everywhere with #50DollarsNot50Shades, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. And know that I and this mama are thanking you for caring.

It's easy to talk. It's easy to ignore. It's easy to look the other way. I'm not asking you to do what's easy, I'm asking you to do what's right. Do what's right, not what's easy.

Thank you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Getting to Know You: The Proust Questionnaire

Much like I did with my 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series, I am writing this in effort to open myself to my son. The other day he told me, "You always get me, Mama." I swooned. That he feels understood sends me over the moon. That's one of my greatest goals as a parent. He seems to always get me, as well. Four years into this relationship and I think we know each other quite well. I'm proud of that. I offer this to continue that.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

You.  You're it.  You're my happy.  No, you don't make me happy any more than you make me feel anything else, but I choose to see the happy in you every day and I am better off for it.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Being away from you.  Either losing you or being lost to you.  After recovering from our traumatic birth and the subsequent postpartum anxiety, I can control this fear in myself, but am not certain I'll ever truly be over it.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My critical nature.  It's foul, it's far too prevalent, and it's something I work on all the time.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?


5. Which living person do you most admire?

You.  100%.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Recently, it was getting your dad a car.  Yes, it was a used car for a screamin' deal and no, it wasn't extravagant by most others' standards, but we lived for almost four years with just one car, so getting another just so that we could have the freedom to go to store or the museum or soccer practice was a big deal for us. 

7. What is your current state of mind?

Myopically, I'm irritable, because of my allergies, but overall, I'm feeling quite content.  We're all happy, healthy, safe, and together, so all is right in my world.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Purity.  What a crock.

9. On what occasion do you lie?

If I don't want to attend an event.  Otherwise, I don't lie and I simply refuse to lie to you.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I am happier with my body now than I have ever been, which is ironic, because most are of the opinion that I look the worst now than I ever have.  There's no accounting for taste, I suppose.

11. Which living person do you most despise?

My father-in-law.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?


13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?


14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Dude, 8000, and oh my word.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

You, my sweet son.

16. When and where were you happiest?

Pick a time in the last four years.  Where?  With you.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

Play the acoustic guitar like a pro.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

See #3.  Wouldn't that be everyone's answer?

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Becoming a better parent than my examples.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Probably a burrito.

21. Where would you most like to live?

Wherever you are, but if you're there with me, I'd like to live in either the Pacific Northwest or back home in Yucaipa, California.  I miss home and I love weather.  The desert is not for me, but your grandparents are here and I could never tear them away from you.

22. What is your most treasured possession?

My pictures.  So many pictures.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


24. What is your favorite occupation?

High school teacher.

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

Physical?  My hair.  Otherwise?  My laugh.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

Nearly unconditional love.

27. Who are your favorite writers?

John Steinbeck, Octavia Butler, Joanne Harris, J.K. Rowling, Byrd Baylor

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

Atticus Finch.  

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Laura Ingalls Wilder.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

You, Grandma Bray, Bailey, your dad.

31. What are your favorite names?

Yours, mine, Ellison, Kate, Toby

32. What is it that you most dislike?

Grody vegetables.

33. What is your greatest regret?

Calling my brother stupid when we were kids.

34. How would you like to die?

Peacefully, in my sleep, after having the forethought to tell you one last time how much I love you to the best of my ability given the limitations of the English language.

35. What is your motto?

Do what's right, not what's easy.

If you're reading this and you're not my son, no, you're not the intended audience, but I hope it inspires you to do the same for your child(ren). Think of all the good that can come from knowing each other better. Go, reflect, write, share, be open and honest, grow closer. Enjoy!

You Can't Please Everyone

Yesterday, I spent a few minutes talking to a Facebook friend about her heartache over causing anyone stress or pain when all she really wants to do is post things that bring peace and happiness. It's a noble desire, but rather impossible to bring to fruition.

Personal examples:

Within the span of a few months, my step-sister unfriended me on Facebook for being "too negative" and my cousin unfriended me for being "too positive." Truth. I listened for a good 90 minutes to my step-sister wax on about what I should be posting, what I should be saying, and what I should be keeping to myself, that unless and until I could do that, she simply refused to be my friend. I read for paragraph after paragraph my cousin hurling insults and accusations, telling me she laughs at people like me, and expressing her general disgust with my constant happiness. Unfriended, blocked, and now won't even take part of group presents for our grandma if I'm the one who comes up with the idea.

I was once unfriended because I took a class on vaccines at my midwife's office. My friend said, "Just vaccinate for everything." I responded, "That's certainly one option." Boom. Done.

I remember a day, when Zen Parenting was still on Facebook, when my entire fan base seemed to be having one collectively pissy day. I logged off for several hours and when I returned, I tested the waters to see if the mood had improved by saying, "I like walks on the beach, warm hugs, and puppies." You guessed it, I got comments about how overrated puppies are, that cats are better, and questioning my loyalty to my cats. Seriously.

So, friends, do you. Decide who it makes you happy to be and be that person. If and when that changes, change. Do it for you, because living for others won't make you happy and, as much as you may try, won't make them happy either. Just do you.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's Just Stuff

Yesterday, as we do regularly, my son and I cleaned his room. You know the drill:

  • clean,
  • mess,
  • more mess,
  • so much mess that it's hard for an adult to walk,
  • so much mess that it's hard for a child to walk,
  • so much mess that the child cannot walk without tripping,
  • repeat.

This morning, he and his Dada were in his room while I was working in the living room and simultaneously enjoying the sounds of their glee. My son then ran out to me and this little interaction took place:

Him: Mama, I kind of messed up my room. Is that OK?
Me: Are you having fun?
Him: Ya.
Me: Then it's OK.
Him: And when it's super-messy, is that OK?
Me: We'll clean it again. It's OK.
Him: Sanks.

And he ran back to play further.

It's just stuff.

Folks, it's just stuff. Relax, enjoy, rinse, and repeat.