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Friday, December 12, 2014

Screaming and Crying in Pictures with Santa

Oh, ya, this is adorable. Can't live without a lasting moment such as this. Blech.
(For what it's worth, my mom has said she wouldn't do this again,
if she could do things over again.)
'Tis the season. We see it in our newsfeeds, on our "news" sites, all over the place really - the "hilarious" photos of kids crying on Santa's lap.

No. No, no, no. Why is this even a thing? Why is this considered cute? Why do so many think this is a holiday necessity? What in the name of all that is good and right in the world makes the sight of our most precious kin crying out for safety and security so got-dang funny?

Under no other circumstances would we turn our trusting babes over to someone who is a complete stranger to them, terrifying them and breaking that feeling of security for the sake of a picture that we later use for nothing other than to mock. Let's get our priorities straight here: picture of a screaming, crying child with some dude in a costume OR happy, not traumatized, trusting child? The length of time for which s/he is traumatized is irrelevant, as we cannot debate that the fear they have during those moments is, indeed, traumatizing, as evidenced by the reaction. They're speaking to us! This seems like a no-brainer to me, because I choose to respect my child as I do all other people, because he is a person, no matter how small. I don't believe him to be lesser than because he is shorter than I, because he is younger than I, because he cannot always tell me exactly what he means or how he feels. In fact, those things mean to me that I am responsible for protecting him from that which he finds scary even more than I would the average Joe.

Making fun of our kids' big emotions is not OK.
Putting them in positions to experience fear for the sake of our amusement and sense of obligation is not OK.
One picture is not worth it.
Kids are people, too. Listen to them. Yes, even when they can't speak our language, they can still tell you what they want and need.
You expect your kids to be trustworthy. You're their examples, their models. Breaking their trust at this delicate age (or any age) is not OK.
As with everything, consent matters. It matters more than your feelings and wishes, it matters more than your plans, it matters more than those who tell you it is a thing that "must" be done.
Start teaching them now that their feelings and wishes for themselves don't matter and you're setting them on the path toward a world in which their consent doesn't matter, which is a path nobody wants them on except the predators out there.

So, I'll ask the question again: Is that one photo really that important? More important than all the rest? I don't think so and I think if you jump off the Christmas track for just a moment to consider your children, you won't think so, either.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Ugly, Threatening, Punitive Christmas to You, Too

Here I am happily breastfeeding my son, pinning nummies and crochet patterns and humorous memes galore when I am stopped dead in my tracks by this ugliness and I just had to write.

Puke. Puke, puke, puke.

I'm often criticized for not using Santa in our home, but this is one of the myriad reasons we don't. "You're taking all the magic out of your son's childhood," I am told. This is magic, huh? Wow. We have some very different ideas about the meaning of that word or the meaning of the holiday in sum.

What is magical about focusing on the sometimes unseemly behavior kids exhibit, which we ALL exhibit from time to time, but which we, as adults, can control, whereas our kids have yet to develop that ability? What's so magical about threatening them with punishment, which, if you're being honest, is an empty threat anyway, since, c'mon, you're not going to take Christmas away from your kid?

I was watching Jessie with my son the other day. It was a Christmas episode. In it, one of the children learns about Santa for the first time and is, understandably, appalled and terrified. It went a little something like this:

Zuri: "He watches every child all the time. He knows when you've been sleeping. He knows when you're awake."
Ravi: "A fat man is constantly spying on us? Is it just me or is that really creepy?"
Zuri: "No, it's great! Because if you're good, Santa will bring you toys."
Ravi: "But, what if you are bad?"
Zuri: "Don't be."
and later...
Jessie: "Ravi, why do you look so scared?"
Ravi: "Because Zuri told me a horrible tale about this fat, judgmental gnome, a corpulent voyeur obsessed with children and their naughtiness!"
still later...
Ravi: "Please do not provoke Santa's peevish henchman."
Elf: "Get lost, before I convince a certain someone to put these kids on the naughty list!"

I knew there was a reason Ravi was my favorite. He's not wrong.

This horrible Elven citation above spells out exactly what I don't like about the Santa myth. I can't imagine St. Nicholas would've approved of such a bastardization of his legacy.

Say it with me: our kids are good. They are. We may not always like the way they behave sometimes, but I bet they can say the same for us (and probably more often than we'd be comfortable admitting). The behavior is not the person.

So, cashier at the grocery store, don't ask my son if he's a good boy, because we'll both look at you like you've lost your mind and, depending on my mood, you may get a little schooling on the matter. So, parents down the road, please stop using Santa in attempt to control your child's actions. So, you infamous Elf on the Shelf, unless you're doing things that the kids themselves would consider fun without any hint of spying and reporting back to the judge and jury wearing a red suit and beard, sit your butt down and shut up. These are not my ideas of Christmas and if that means I'm ruining the "magic," so be it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Banning at Home

During Banned Books Week, I generally bore my FB friends to tears with my endless posts about the subject. I'm not sorry. It's important. And I'm constantly shocked by how many people don't know the kinds of books that get banned or that it still goes on today and in our own society.

As a former English teacher, I have strong feelings on the topic. I never censored what my students read in my own classroom. We read many banned books in our classes and I provided them with a wide variety of books for them to read on their own.

As a parent, I feel the same. Sure, there are books I dislike. There are concepts with which I disagree, subject matters I find unpleasant, but I will not ban books from my home. Should my son wish to read a book I find inappropriate, I'll discuss with him my feelings on the matter, let him choose from there, and, should he choose to read it still, discuss the matter further after he has read it. I just can't justify banning books.

Some years ago, it was brought to my attention that a homeschooling parent I knew banned Harry Potter in their home. The parent had never even read the books, but they heard, they feared, they went on to ban. More times than I can count over the years, I've encountered similar stories. Recently, I ran across a story about a mom who was appalled that her son had read the ever-so-graphically-sexual The Grapes of Wrath and was terribly distraught that her teenager was now tainted and scarred by that for life. She'll take a more careful look, from now on, at what she bans from her home.

Really? Where to begin? A) Mommy, your teen has long been thinking of sex without reading Steinbeck's tame version of it in classic literature. B) Keeping sex from your child doesn't keep sex from your child. We're humans. Sex is kind of part of us. C) I fear for the sexual health of your son or daughter, because if you're terrified of a sex scene in a book, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you've not had frequent and open talks about sex with him or her, which will lead to nothing good in the long run.

I could go on and on about the sexual harm one is doing by banning this book and others like it, but I'd like to stick to the point at hand, which is banning books altogether, for whatever reason. I can't think of a better way to screw with a kid than to tell them that whatever they're thinking, whatever they're curious about, whatever they're interested in is wrong, bad, dirty, dangerous, and ugly. In fact, I think that's a pretty good way to drive them right to whatever you fear.

It seems to me that banning books is just another way to delude ourselves into believing we have some sort of control over something. However, we don't. Certainly, we don't have control over what another person thinks just because we've deprived them of reading and thinking on said readings for themselves. Removing sexual content from your bookshelf won't stop your kids from masturbating to, well, anything and everything. Removing books with unsavory language won't keep your kid from calling you an asshole in her journal. Removing all books about magic won't keep a child from using his imagination to fly outside of your bedroom window and change you into a cheese-eating rat in your sleep. We don't need books to teach us to do the things that are in us already. We do need books to help us learn about all aspects of life, because we can't possibly know all that is out there by ourselves, so that we can flesh out our ideas on our own, learn what we do and do not believe. The truth is, we don't get to control our kids any more than we do any other person aside from ourselves. Trying to do so will only drive us further apart from the person and end up a lesson in masochism.

Why not allow children to come to information honestly and draw conclusions from it on their own? That's scary, I know. I know that the possibility that my son might conclude that everything I've taught him goes against his own belief system is more than uncomfortable, but I would be even more uncomfortable knowing that my son is an automaton, spewing about only the ideas I've fed him or allowed him to contemplate, never really learning how he is in the process. So many aspects of parenting are frightening, but raising children who know only how to parrot someone else as opposed to stand tall on their own is perhaps the most frightening of all. Think of all the ramifications of the former.

My son is only four. He hasn't asked to read The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, so, no, I haven't encountered that conversation as of yet. He has asked to read Harry Potter, though. We talked about it beforehand and, as it turned out, he felt he wasn't quite ready for it, so we put it away for later. We're now onto the Bunnicula series. He's in love. Depending on how I read it, what tone and tempo I employ, it could be scary, so I keep that to a minimum at his request and we happily read together every night. We've already read some hotly contested books such as James and the Giant Peach, Where the Wild Things Are, The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where's Waldo?, The Giving Tree, A Christmas Carol, and countless more.

We'll continue to read whatever we want until he no longer wishes to read together and then he's free to read what he wishes on his own, because, and repeat after me here, I do not control my child.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

From Nunus to Noodles

Before I became a parent, I thought a child's growth would be more subtle, especially to the people who are around them every day. I now count that as #891 on the list of things I was wrong about when it comes to parenting.

My son's vocabulary, mannerisms, abilities, and everything else mature and improve noticeably on a daily basis. No hyperbole needed. It's unreal to me. I regularly find my jaw in a dropped state as I watch him or listen to what he says.

Sometimes, I'm struck by the upward movement more than other times. Tonight, a lump formed in my throat when my son referred to the spaghetti as noodles instead of what he has called them since he learned to talk: "nunus."

"Nunus" is so deeply ingrained in our vocabularies that we even write it on the grocery list. There are words and terms that our son has come up with on his own that we say, too, for the cuteness of it all or for the sake of us all being on the same page. Grated cheese is "baby cheese," breastfeeding is "bed," and noodles are "nunus." So, when he so nonchalantly busted out with the noodle talk this evening, it hit me that he's growing up...fast.

Shoot, we're already 22% of the way through his childhood. (Yes, I've done the math. Don't judge me.) Color me freaked out! He no longer needs help washing his hands, swinging on the swing, or walk the dog. Now, he no longer calls them "nunus." It's only a matter of time before he's riding his bike around the block by himself while I sit at home trying to stave off a panic attack. Great googly-moogly...I'm off to breathe into a paper bag with my head between my knees.

Is it too much to ask that he say "nunus" into his 30s??!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Doing Life Right

My 4-year-old son has his own sewing kit filled with thimbles, stitch markers, a measuring tape, and sundry. Said kit happens to be a Cars lunchbox.

He helps me in the garden and around the house with his own tools, including a purple garden hoe and pink Disney princess hand shovel and kneeling pad.

He picked the paint color for his room when we moved in. You can see his rad room, including the deep purple walls, here.

His favorite color is blue, but his favorite chair is pink.

The list of social anomalies goes on and on.

He's doing life right, because he's doing it his own way. He doesn't buy into gender stereotypes or social constraints, because we don't foist them upon him. I think we could all take a lesson. Don't care to learn a lesson? No problem, at least keep your opinions to yourself and he'll still be good.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Circumcision in Seven Sentences

Don't do it.

It's not your body, so it's not your choice.

Consider the source. Are those telling you it needs to be done truly educated (can they name all the functions of the foreskin?), do they stand to make money from you doing it, or are they culturally conditioned to believe it is a must?

91% of the world's men are intact and live a life without penile incident (unless self-inflicted, which is another Oprah), but medical professionals in the U.S. swear that there is a slew of elderly men whose penises become gnarled and excruciating, which should leave us to question and fight to improve medical training, not jump to the extreme conclusion that we should all cut off 1/3 of every newborn's penis.

Statistically, chances are higher of him dying OF a circumcision than ever NEEDING a circumcision.

If you need more reasons, click HERE for a list of resources.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Test a Friendship

I got to thinking last night about the number of relationships I've lost due to one little thing: a single instance of dissidence.

Here's what I mean:

A family member who asked me for an opinion on a Precious Moments decorative plate (yes, seriously) and when I gave it, it became instantly clear that it was the wrong opinion. Boom. Years of not talking to me. Guess I should've been given script ahead of time. I didn't know my lines.

Another family member who asked for suggestions on what to do with her kids, one of which is autistic, because yelling didn't seem to help. When a friend suggested spanking and the family member agreed, because that had always worked in the past, I offered another suggestion. Boom. Years of not talking to me. I always get confused when suggestions are asked for, but clearly not wanted.

A friend posted a hurtful, fat-shaming meme. I sent him a story I had just read that day about the woman featured in that meme. Boom. Haven't heard from him since. That's something I would've wanted to know. Turns out, not everyone does.

Another friend, a self-described defender of women, allowed a friend of his to attack me and other sexually assaulted women on his page. I said two words to him about it, "I'm disappointed." Boom. Evidently, that was too much for our friendship to take. That's some strength right there, I tell ya.

Now, in the name of full disclosure and fairness, I used to be the exact same way...when I was a teenager. It didn't take much for me to write someone off. One little disagreement had me sending you packing. When I think back on those days, I cringe. Thank goodness for time and the growth that, hopefully, comes with it.

I have no real point. I have no answers. I guess I naively figured that this character flaw (and yes, having been there myself, I do believe it to be a flaw) was one of youth and immaturity, one that would have long ago been outgrown by those my age. I just don't know, but I know it wasn't likely to get off my mind until I wrote it down, so here we are.

I'm not sure I'll ever figure folks out, so I'll just keep trying to be the best me I know how to be, learn lessons and improve along the way, and teach my son to do the same.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Way #7699 to Mess with a Child's Head

Every summer from the time I was 6 until I was 16, I stayed with my grandparents. Aside from some truly fun and lovely memories and in addition to some really ugly ones, there is the vivid memory of being measured on the wall each year. Now, I don't know a kid who doesn't love seeing how they've grown and I was no exception. I had the added bonus, however, of having my weight policed.

Before anyone says the standard, "That's not very Zen of you,"
let me just say, "I know and I don't care as long as it
helps put a stop to body policing."
As I neared 5' tall, my grandmother started telling me that the "norm" for a girl is that at 5' tall, she is to weigh 100 pounds and 5 pounds for every inch thereafter. I was asked how much I weighed in comparison to this norm. This happened every year. Every single year for 10 years.

Guess what I have never gotten out of my head? And guess what I'll be damned if I allow myself to repeat aloud, even if it does sometimes creep back into the forefront of my mind from where I keep it hidden in its ugly place in the back?

Never, NEVER will I police my son's body. Never, never will I police anyone else's. Want to mess with your child's head? Police away. Otherwise, let them be.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Expectations for the Grieving Soul

I have two dear friends who have both, sadly, lost a young child. You're probably familiar with them. If not, you can read about Rissa, Jessica, and Rocky HERE and Patrick and Julie HERE. And you should read about them.

Julie and Jessica grieved and continue to grieve, but they do so differently. What isn't different, though, is what I've noticed about those around them, which is the inspiration for this post. I've noticed that we, those around the grieving, place impossible expectations on them that I'd like to point out here:

- grieve the way I want you to grieve, the way I would grieve
- don't grieve for too long
- don't grieve too little
- be soothed by what I'd be soothed by
- be thankful for the time you had
- be angry for the time you didn't
- be grateful for everything I say
- let me do whatever I need to do for you
- help me feel better about your loss by saying "thank you" and "it's OK" a lot
- comfort me while I'm comforting you in the way that I want to be comforted
- fall apart, so I know you really care
- don't fall apart more than I deem appropriate
- come up with something for me to do for you, so that I can feel better
- don't ask for too much, though, because my empathy only runs so deep and stops when it gets inconvenient
- answer all of my questions, however prying they may be
- come to me with your feelings, because I need to feel like I'm the special one you lean on
- believe as I believe regarding God, gods, the Goddess, reincarnation, etc., so that I can comfort you as I wish

The list goes on and on.

Stop it.

It's likely you don't see yourself in this post. I don't believe anyone places these expectations on the grieving soul purposely, but I do believe the majority of folk do, indeed, make this grave mistake. So before you write this post off as not pertaining to you, as being for "those other people," reflect deeply on your interactions with those who grieve and maybe, just maybe, make a few adjustments as needed for them and the next grieving person you encounter, because, sadly, there will be another...and another and another and another...and what they need from us is whatever they need, which has not a thing to do with you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

One of the Many Ways We Dismiss Kids as Less Than

My son has thick, curly, red hair. It's stunning. That on top of his gorgeous face makes for a very outwardly pretty kid. Strangers regularly comment, point, and do that little squeal-y noise. We smile and thank them. Strangers don't know him, so they don't know all the other things that make him so much more beautiful than what they see.

This is all fine and good until they cross the line into touching him. This also happens with disturbing regularity. And it pisses him off. I can't say as I blame him. It pisses me off for him.

Most strangers would never dream of coming up to an adult and tousling their hair. Likely, this is out of fear that the person under the hair would break the stranger's arm as the first finger came to rest upon them. Yet, this is done to kids with wanton thoughtlessness and a gross dismissal of the fact that they're people, too, with the right to bodily autonomy and personal space that the rest of us claim and expect.

If you wouldn't do something to an adult or wouldn't want it done to you, don't do it to a child. Simple. Respectful.

Now, I get a lot of flack for complaining about this on my son's behalf. I'm supposed to excuse it, because "it's always old people who do it and they come from a different era" or "some people can't help themselves around such cuteness" or some other flimsy excuse. I'm not here to advocate for those who cannot think through their actions to the consequences they might have for others. I'm here to advocate for my son. As such, I'm here to say:

Stop petting my son as you would a dog. He is a person. He is not an animal. He deserves the respect you would afford anyone else. This goes for his peers, as well.

Kids learn respect by observing it. Give it to everyone, yes, even kids, and we'll be well on our way to a more respectful world. Funny how that works out, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Can't" in Seven Sentences

There's a scene in Mr. Peabody & Sherman in which Sherman wants to fly a Leondardo DaVinci machine, but he's sure, though, that he hasn't the ability to do so, since Mr. Peabody has told him as much on many occasions. That voice is in his head, paralyzing Sherman even as he finds himself in the sky, plummeting to his certain death, while he repeats what he's heard so many times, "I can't fly."

Until he does; he flies.

Then Mr. Sherman calls up to him, afraid, of course, "But you can't fly, Sherman!" And all of a sudden, Sherman can no longer fly.

This is my favorite scene for what it tells us about what fear and lack of confidence in both ourselves and others who look up to us can do. So, to myself and my son, I say, "You can do it - whatever it is."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Compassion in Seven Sentences

I don't need to have experienced someone else's hard times to feel for them. I don't need to have anything in common with someone to experience empathy. I don't even need to have met someone to love and care for them.

As such, I have put together an online silent auction for Julie from The Progressive Parent. We've never met, but we're friends; I've never lost a child, but I never stop hurting for her hurt; I've never been in the position of losing a car and being stranded, but I can imagine myself in her position and wouldn't want to be there. So, I gathered together a group of compassionate people who have donated their services and goods for what is turning out to be a wonderfully successful event.

Click HERE to start bidding in the name of compassion.

(A smattering of the items up for grabs:)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Birthdays in Seven Sentences

How is he four already? Time really does fly when you're having fun and I've certainly never had more fun than I've had being his mama. He was JUST born, it seems, and now he's this precocious, hilarious, independent, wonderful little weirdo.

He spent the whole day expressing his excitement through little jumps and wiggles, thanking us for his gifts and cake, repeating "best. birthday. ever." over and over. What more is there? What an amazing person he was even at birth, is now, and is growing into. I could spend time reflecting on what was or pondering what will be, but I think I'd rather spend now playing with, laughing with, hugging, loving, and enjoying my four-year-old best friend.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

30 Things Series #30: 10 Things For Which I Hope to Be Remembered

This is it. This is the final installation of the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series. I'm so very glad I've written this all down for my son to read some day. Thinking of what he'll think when he does makes me smile and cringe equally. Knowing that he'll come away from it knowing me better so that we can know each other better makes me warm.

So, for the last time, I give to you:

10 things I would hope to be remembered for.

In no particular order:

1) being a good mom
2) being a good teacher
3) being a good activist
4) my willingness to try new tasks
5) doing what was right instead of what was easy
6) being good in a crisis/emergency
7) having a good work ethic
8) my intelligence
9) my willingness to change what I know is faulty about me, my thought processes, my values, etc.
10) my big laugh

I was going to expound upon each, but the great thing about this series is that, I think, if you've read them all along with knowing me throughout the years, you probably understand each one thoroughly anyway and without my explanation.

My sweet, if after reading these 30 posts, you take nothing more away from them than "I love you a million times infinity" then I have done my job, because I do. I love you. A million times infinity.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

30 Things Series #29: My Hopes and Dreams for My Prosperity

This is the penultimate post in the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series and it's one of the stranger, in my opinion. Perhaps the person who came up with the questions valued different things than I. Here we are, though, and here I go.

What are my hopes and dreams for my prosperity?

This is an odd question to me. I don't really care much about prosperity in the conventional way. I mean, money is great, but it's not much more to me than a way to pay bills and get us gas money as we travel and create memories. Wealth would certainly make things easier in those departments, but otherwise, I mean, I've never wanted a big house, a fancy car, or a bunch of designer clothes. I don't care about stuff for the sake of having stuff and I don't care about keeping up with the Joneses.

If I suddenly came into a bunch of cash, the first thing we'd do with it would be to pay off our student loans, our oppressive, oppressive student loans. (What are student loans, you ask? Never fear, we will never allow you to know of such things for yourself, but that's for another post.)

If your dad got a huge raise, we'd finish upgrades on our current small home, buy a small commuter car for your dad to drive without taking up as much gas during his two hour daily commute, and we'd put more into savings. I mean, that's really it.

I don't dream about being conventionally prosperous. Prosperity to me would be having a collection of memories, but we're collecting those anyway, without a lot of money and things. I want to be rich in kisses and hugs and love and laughs and beyond that, I'm not really interested in the things money can buy us, because money will never get us anything as valuable as what we already have. I'm not blowing smoke up anyone's butt here, either. I'm not saying what I think I'm supposed to say. I've never cared much about stuff and things. I've always cared more about going places, doing things, taking pictures, enjoying the world instead of worldly things.

So, my hopes and dreams for my prosperity? Does hoping we're all safe, happy, healthy, and together for the rest of our very long lives count?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Sea Sponge "Tampons"

If you've been around long enough, you know that I've been on a quest to find the ultimate period product. Pads blow. I stopped using pads on about my second cycle when I was 13. The mess is just more than I can handle. Tampons were my go-to from then until my mid-20s when I discovered the Instead cup, which I used off and on. For the first few days postpartum, I used Depends. Yes, really. I went back to tampons when I felt comfortable, but was never again comfortable with the toxins I was putting into such a sensitive area of my body. The Diva Cup came to my attention. Read that, um, adventure HERE. I would've stuck with that for the rest of my menstruating years, but it wasn't to be. I thought maybe I could handle cloth pads. I was wrong. Still with the mess! Finally, I landed on sea sponge "tampons." I put the tampon part in quotes, because of a recent FDA ruling that says they can no longer be referred to as tampons, but many know them as such, so I didn't want to leave out the word. Without trying to jinx anything, I think I may have found my new quicker picker upper.

I ordered Jade & Pearl's Premium Ultra Soft Multi-Pack so that I could comfortably use them for the duration of each cycle. Unlike the Diva Cup, there was no learning curve. I watched the recommended video first. I followed the directions for soaking before the initial use. I recently started my period and all I had to do was rinse, squeeze, twist, and insert. So easy. No swearing or yelling involved.

Like some of the other reviewers said, I have noticed an issue with leaking post-urination. J&P recommends leaning forward to pee to direct the urine away from the sponge. Tried this. Hasn't worked so far. It's really only an issue for me if I sneeze. [Insert a little snark-face here.] It's not enough to discourage me from using them. Though I don't normally wear undies, I'll buck up and wear them for 3 days during my period while using the sponges. The risk of a sneeze-pee is worth the benefit of the super period product to me.

There you have it. Sea sponges in the vadge. Who knew? Thanks Jade & Pearl!

Breastfeeding in Seven Sentences

I had no qualms, no concerns, about breastfeeding. I had every confidence in my body, myself, and my babe.

Thank goodness for a good IBCLC, because things didn't turn out to be quite so easy for us. The hospital staff was atrocious - pushing formula hard, shaming and guilting me for not giving it, walking out on me when I asked for help.

Two visits with Jollina, our IBCLC, the introduction of a nipple shield and voila! Next month it'll be four years of breastfeeding for us. Boobs are rad.

Friday, September 19, 2014

30 Things Series #28: My Favorite Quality in My Spouse

Today's installation of the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series comes in the form of a quick note on the quality of your dada's that I like best.

"Dada, I want to paint YOU."
"Let's do it, pal!"
Your dada is pretty darn great about just rolling with all the things you want to do. It's fabulous. You want to cover him from head to toe with stickers? "No problem," says Dada. Need a horsey ride after he's worked and commuted to two jobs for a total of 17 hours that day? "You got it, Bud," Dada replies as he assumes the position. Feeling the need to get out some pent-up energy in the form of rough-housing? "Bring it, bro," is his response. He'll do absolutely anything for you.

Yes, there are times when this bothers me. I do think he cares more about being liked than about doing the right thing from time to time, but overall, I adore how much he adores you.

He's up for anything you want to do with or to him (usually much to my amusement) and I find that incredibly endearing. You do, too, I know, because there are the other moments when you want nothing more than to lie on the couch next to him or just be near him, wherever he is. The love you two share is a beautiful thing. I am completely taken by both of you separately and together.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

30 Things Series #27: My Favorite Part of My Body

Some of these 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me topics are rough. Some are a cinch. This one is the latter.

Which of my body parts is my favorite? Easy. My boobs.

shirt by Made By Momma
owned and proudly worn by me
This was not always the case. My boobs used to be the bane of my existence. I went from wearing no bra to wearing a large bra that just kept getting larger every year in no time. My boobs were always bigger than all the other girls'. My nipples are flat and used to make me very self-conscious, because they didn't look "normal" when compared to the other girls in the locker room. Changing into a sports bra for volleyball was uncomfortable, to say the least. Shopping for prom dresses sucked, because nothing fit - I was so much bigger at the top than at the bottom. Everything had to be altered. I busted out of everything in which the other girls looked so cute. Boobs sucked.

The comments were never-ending. They didn't come from my peers, as one would imagine, though. The boys at school didn't gawk or say anything, at least not that I knew of. The girls weren't ever outwardly jealous or mean. No, the comments came from my family members. And they were frequent. My step-sister is 12 years older than me. She never stopped commenting. Ever. Ev-er. At my great-grandmother's funeral, a cousin of my mom's came up and out of the blue started talking about my boobs to my mom as if I wasn't standing right there beside them. My step-uncle made his fair share of inappropriate comments regarding my chest. Once, when I was visiting my grandparents for the summer, I went to a friend's house for church. Before we left, I was called home by my grandmother who just couldn't bear the thought of me being out in public with my boobs "out" the way they were. The body-shaming was ceaseless and it got inside my head big time. My mom was the only one who never shamed me for my breasts. I always say she's the only "little boob" who understands the plight of the "big boob." It's one of the things I've most appreciated in her over the years. Thank goodness for her, because mostly boobs sucked.

I went through many years wanting a breast reduction. I stopped short of heading to the plastic surgeon's office every time, because I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I didn't want anything to potentially prevent that. (Yes, I know some can breastfeed post-reduction, but some can't and I wasn't willing to take that chance.) Making such a drastic change to my body in my teens and 20s seemed, well, drastic, so I put it off and put it off. I still thought, though, that boobs sucked.

Ultimately, I'm glad I did, because my boobs have turned out to be my favorite body part. Yes, I like the way they look, the softness they add to my body (which didn't used to be as soft as it is now), but mostly, I like what they can do. These mondus things on my chest have the ability to nourish and strengthen, comfort and coddle, care for and protect another human being. That's some amazing stuff! For nearly four years, I've been able to soothe hurt feelings, relieve broken skin, and shoo away boogeymen of all sorts just with my boobs. Those are some powerful things. Boobs are rad!

I have never felt more womanly and strong as I have since I've become a breastfeeding mother. My body is incredible. I love my boobs. I'm grateful for my boobs. Got a negative comment about them? Ain't nobody got time for you. Luckily, the person whose opinion truly matters, you, my sweet boy, thinks my boobs are pretty special, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

30 Things Series #26: What Popular Notion Do I Think the World Has Most Wrong?

Now, here's a post from the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series that I could write on all day, but I'll try to keep it as brief as I can.

I was going to pick circumcision, but since the question was what the world had wrong and 91% of the world's men are intact, I had to go global, thus had to go with another incorrect notion. For the record, I think this "popular" (it's not even that popular, since 65% of the boys now born in the U.S. are being left intact) notion in the U.S. is what we have most wrong.

Worldwide, I think the notions that fear equals respect, that you have to hurt in order to get that mistaken respect, and that spanking (one of the things that garners said mistaken respect) is not the same as hitting are those the world has most backwards.

Want to know what being slapped, spanked, screamed at, intimidated, threatened, roughly grabbed and pushed, and otherwise treated unkindly did to me? It gave me a fear of being caught, of getting in trouble, of those in positions of authority. It didn't teach me a damn thing other than that I couldn't trust the person doing those things. I didn't learn to make good decisions. I learned to get sneakier and more manipulative. I recall once when I was an older teen, this person came at me with the clear intent to hit me. I fell back onto my bed and began wildly kicking. There was no way in hell I was going to be hit again. No way. This was the first time I had ever defended myself, though, and it resulted in two things: a major grounding (what was new?) and never being hit again. The rest still occurred, but I was never again struck. There is so much left to be said here, but I'll let you work it out on your own.

I once wrote a blog post called "Hitting is Hitting is Hitting." (Click HERE to see it.) I wrote it because a great many in our world seem to be of the mistaken belief that there is a difference between different kinds of hitting, that some hitting is OK, while others cross some imaginary line they've made up in their heads and that differs for every person, thus nullifying the notion of the line in the first place. I wrote it because a great many in our world seem to be of the mistaken belief that because they were mistreated and they didn't, I don't know, die or end up in foster care as a result, they're fine and should then give their own kids the "fine" upbringing they were given. I wrote it because it needed to be written. People need to be shaken out of their own comfort zones every once in a while. People need to have a mirror held up to them sometimes. People need to be given food for thought. More than anything, though, I wrote it because I believe in standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I guess it was my adult version of kicking wildly at those who needed to know that the pain they inflict on others would no longer be tolerated.

I hear a few things about this all the time:
- "I got spanked and I'm glad. I'm now in college and I credit the discipline my parents gave me for that. I'll spank my kids for sure."
- "My nephew isn't spanked and he's a menace. He could use a good pop."
- "You're what's wrong with the world. If more parents spanked their kids, we wouldn't have the disrespectful, criminal delinquents running around that we have nowadays."
- "My kids don't listen when I yell, so I have to spank them."
- "Well, what if your kid is going to run out into traffic? Wouldn't you spank them then? It's for their own good."
- and so much more...

What crap. I know, I know, I could be more tactful, but sometimes I just don't want to. It's crap. It just is. All of it. Study after study after study tells us that it's crap. Cognitive dissonance allows people to shut out the information presented, though, same as it will here, but their disbelief of the cold, hard facts doesn't make their beliefs on this topic less crappy. And sure, they can find others who will back them up. In fact, sadly, they can find a majority to back them up. Doesn't mean it's not crap. Following along in the path of the majority doesn't mean you're a critical thinker - generally, it means quite the opposite.

Let me tell you about a former student of mine, Kevin. Kevin was a pain in my butt. Seriously. Pain. Yes. Mmm hmmm. He was. Dude. I cannot even tell you. Anyway, I treated him with respect regardless of his behavior, because that's what's right. Every once in a while, I'd see a flicker of something amazing in him. Just a flicker, but it was enough to keep me going with him. I saw something. We once had a parent-teacher conference with all his teachers, his counselor, his mother, and himself. He was failing nearly everything and almost all of us had the same thing to say about his behavior. Kevin had been quiet through the whole conference, which was unusual for him. At one point, his mom turned to him to ask him to explain himself. He continued in his silence. All of a sudden, she hit him. She spanked him a few times, yelling for him to talk. My heart raced. I looked to the more senior members of the faculty to say something. No one did. (My guilt for not standing up to her then is for another blog.) The conference ended and I went back to my room to consider what I had just experienced and what I would do from there. While I always treated Kevin with a distant respect, from that point forward, I treated him with more warmth in addition to respect. That was all it took. From then on, Kevin and I got on great. I mean great. I would've left him in charge of the classroom if I had to step out. That's how much things changed. I understood him, I felt. And I feel like he knew that. I couldn't change what was happening to him at home, but I was able to change my behavior and it was a lesson to me that just a little love and understanding had the power to garner a greater respect than could any violence or ugliness.

I could cite studies and list facts here. If I were writing this for the masses, I would. I'm writing this for you, though, sweetheart, and I if I've done my job properly, I don't need to tell you even as much as I have here. If I've done my job well, you'll continue to find yourself questioning why the kid in the grocery store is getting hit for touching the candy at the check-out stand and maybe you'll even stand up and say, "No more." I have full faith in your ability to think critically. I have full faith in your ability to not only recognize right from wrong, but then do the right and stand up for it, too. If I'm not mistaken, by just being the amazing person you are and continue to become, you are changing the world. Keep it up. I love you.

Monday, September 15, 2014

30 Things Series #25: With Whom from History Would I Eat Dinner?

I got this. This post in the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series is a cinch. With whom from history would I want to eat dinner and what would we eat?

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Oh, how I wanted to be Laura Ingalls when I was a kid. I don't mean the TV version of Laura. I don't want to eat with Melissa Gilbert. I mean the real Laura.

I read, no consumed all the books as a young girl. I was convinced I had been born in the wrong time. I should've lived in Laura's time. I was tough enough, I had what it took. I romanticized it all. For a kid who wasn't living the easiest of lives at the time, Laura's world was exactly what the doctor ordered.

I couldn't care less what we eat. I do have it in mind that we'd have a cold beer together, though. Bottled. This part of my fantasy is very clear. I'm not questioning it.

We'd talk, laugh, learn, open ourselves, sit in quiet happiness. It would be like sitting down to a meal with a best friend. She has no way of knowing, of course, but she was one of my best friends when I was a child. I'd like to thank her for that.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

30 Things Series #24: My Favorite and Least Favorite Things About Parenting

I'm nearing the end of the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series. Today's topic is "my favorite and least favorite things about being a parent." There is an easy part and a tough part to this post and they may not be what you're thinking.

I'll start with the easy part first: my least favorite thing about being your parent. No, it's not wiping buns, finding boogers on my boob after a breastfeeding session turned nap, or the moodiness and sleep deprivation during a growth spurt. Shoot, there was a time I never thought we'd have any of those experiences, so I'm just grateful. No, my least favorite thing about being your parent is knowing that someday, and it'll happen slowly over time almost imperceptibly, I won't be needed as your full-time parent anymore. Yes, I'll always be your mama, but there will come a time when I won't be a part of your every moment and that chokes me up. I'll miss you.

My favorite thing about parenting is so much harder to pin down. How do I choose? Being your mama has been very healing for me. What I experienced in my own childhood, I'm almost able to make up for by giving you better. That's pretty amazing. The bond we have where we don't even have to speak aloud to know what the other is speaking is incredible. Our shared sense of humor amuses me so. I think, though, the ultimate for me is when you tell me you know how much I love you - a million times infinity. I logically know you cannot possibly know the depth and breadth of my love for you, but emotionally knowing that you know you're loved unconditionally is the most important thing in the world to me. My wish for you has always been for you to be safe, happy, and healthy. I think knowing you're loved so overwhelmingly is part of that - it keeps you safe, happy, and healthy. Ya, knowing and feeling that you know and feel that is my favorite part of parenting.

There aren't words enough, but "a million times infinity" will have to suffice...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On Friendship

I don't have many friends. I rather like it this way. I had friends as a kid, as a teen, and in my careers, but now, as a mom who works from home and has only one car that goes to work with her husband, I don't have many friends.

I have friends from my past with whom I keep in touch. I have friends I've never met, though, I try to keep those to a minimum. I have a couple family members who also fall into the "friend" category. They all have their own special place in my heart, but they're not like friendships of old - they're not the best friend in high school who knows all about my past, has seen it first-hand; they're not the friend with whom I can be my worst and they'll either grant me a by or side-eye me and tell me to get over myself; they're not the friend who will help me do dishes or come over to help me paint without the promise of pizza. No, I don't have any of those friends anymore and I've been reflecting on why that is.

I struggle with being/remaining friends with those who cannot be open and honest. I struggle to form a bond with those who won't allow themselves to be vulnerable. I struggle to feel close to those who talk about nothing but that which is on the surface, only relate by joking, and constantly feel the need to put on a happy face.

Perhaps conversely, I also struggle with those who are high-maintenance, needy, in constant need of reassurance due to their ever-increasing list of insecurities, or spend more time throwing themselves pity-parties than making the changes over which they have control.

No, this doesn't mean I struggle with those who occasionally struggle with these issues or find themselves with any faults at all. Of course it doesn't mean that. These are just the chronic issues with which I have issues.

A family member of mine once taught a lesson in her Sunday School class in which she talked about a friend of hers who always put on a happy face. Every day, she walked by her friend and asked how he was, to which he replied with a smile and a "I'm great!" This happened every day without fail. One day, though, she walked by her friend and asked how he was, to which he replied with a smile that he was having an awful day, because hid car had been broken into. Her lesson to us was that we should all just "put on a happy face." You have NO idea how long that drivel stuck with me and how many years of therapy it took me to realize it was, indeed, drivel.

I have a friend whose sister considers her her best friend. My friend cannot understand this at all, as she has never felt particularly close to her sister. Her sister is closed off and dishonest about who she is and what she feels - even to the point of being dishonest with herself. My friend wonders how she is supposed to feel close to a person like that. When confronted with the fact that my friend doesn't feel close to her, has never felt close to her, the sister was in a state of complete bafflement. How utterly frustrating for both of them.

I screw around. I joke. I play. And want that in my friends, too. I also have real feelings about real issues and I need my friends to allow that in me and express that with me, as well.

At a certain point, I let go. When it becomes crystalline that the friendships I once had are no longer two-sided, honest, and true, I let go. It generally takes me a while to get to that point, but once I'm there, I'm fairly firmly there. A couple times when I've let go, the friend of whom I let go was seemingly torn up. That has caused me to ponder what makes a friend a friend to others. Obviously, what I saw as surface-level was more than enough for them, was what they wanted and needed. I wonder why. I wonder what that must feel like to have to stuff their feelings, never let anyone see the real them, even with the people they consider friends. I imagine that must feel lonely and unfulfilling, but, then, I can't ever know, because that kind of conversation isn't allowed in those types of relationships.

I also imagine that the things I struggle with also make others struggle to be friends with me.

And so I write. I have no greater message here. I have no answers. I don't know that I even have a point. It's more like verbal vomit, er, in written form.

What makes a good friendship in your opinion?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sing for SUDC

I have been challenged in the #UseYourVoiceChallenge to #SingForSUDC. And I'm scared to death. This tells me it's probably something I should be doing. So, here we are, because as Simon Holt once wrote, "If you don't know learn how to be scared, you'll never really learn how to be brave.”

Before I get to that, though, let me tell you a little about Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC).
I had never heard of SUDC until about a year and a half ago - 81 Fridays ago, to be exact, when my friend Julie of The Progressive Parent lost her 14 month old son, Patrick, to its vile clutches. Along with many of you, I was crushed when I read the news. The Progressive Parent always felt to me like Zen Parenting's little sister. I felt protective of her, loving toward her. And she lost one of hers. As I'm sure it did with many of you, a little part of me changed forever as I felt so deeply Julie's pain, the pain of PatPat's siblings. As I write this, my heart is pounding, my limbs feel heavy, I'm reliving how it felt to imagine Julie's experience. For those who say, "I can't imagine," I call b.s. I think we can imagine and it's just too damn painful to do so. It hurts just thinking about it, so to imagine living it is unbearable for many of us. Julie doesn't have the luxury of shutting off those feelings, though, so here we are. Here we are talking about SUDC and the nearly same number of innocent children snatched from the bosoms of their parents so very long before their time as are snatched from the families who love someone with ALS. Yes, nearly the same number. And yet, the funding for SUDC research is negligible. It certainly doesn't have a high profile celebrity or 80 championing the cause. So, here we are.

HERE Julie is doing her best to raise awareness and funds for research for SUDC. Here I am doing the same while also supporting my friend and her family. It took me more than 24 hours to get this squared away, so I'm choosing to donate $25 to redeem myself. I don't think anyone will mind my tardiness now.

Now, let me tell you a bit about how this song came about for me. I know that it's a love song, but aren't too all songs mothers sing to their babes? My son, as some of you will recall, did not come to us easily. We had to struggle for him, fight for him, dang-near lose ourselves for him. We waited for a long time. We didn't think it was going to happen. He's here, though. He'll be four next month. Not once have I forgotten how truly fortunate we are to have him in our lives. Never once have I stopped being absolutely enamored with this person who I so often find beside me. He is my best teacher, friend, and love.

This song means something to me. It means something to my husband. It doesn't mean a thing to our son right now. Eh, what are you going to do, right? He's so miffed that I'm doing a song that isn't his favorite song (some Ice Age song, at the moment) that he's busy trying to sabotage my efforts. Did I mention he's turning four next month? He is nothing if not amusing.

I wanted to find the music to Bonnie Raitt's version of Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" so that I wouldn't have to sing it a cappella. I couldn't. I searched high and low. I had friends far more brilliant than I search. Nada. Then, a generous and brilliant person stepped forward and offered up his services gratis, because the cause matters, Julie matters, Patrick matters. Color me verklempt. Not only did he do it free, he did it WELL. He played all the instruments and he played them beautifully. Oh, and he did it in no time flat. His cousin, who "introduced" us, said he was a wizard and she wasn't kidding! I am grateful and humbled. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to say that Julie feels the same. Thank you, Stephanie and Cyntrix.

Ok, I've put it off long enough. I just have to do this. I have to sing in front of people. I have to be the center of attention. I have to be vulnerable. SCARY. Totally worth it. The scary stuff almost always is. Julie and PatPat make it worth it. So, here goes nothin':

I challenge YOU. I challenge YOU to sing for SUDC. You don't have to have Julie's voice to do this. Heck, you don't have to have Tiny Tim's voice to do this. (See my husband's challenge video below.) You just have to screw your courage to the sticking point and do it. Sing "You Are My Sunshine" or "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" or a full-blown opera number. I don't care. I just ask that you do it. Do it for Julie. Do it for Patrick. Do it for all the other Patricks out there who don't get the recognition or championing that they should. Do it so someday we won't hear any more stories about the Patricks leaving our world at such tender ages.

(My husband and his quick-vid.)

I challenge you to sing for SUDC and give $10 by clicking HERE OR don't sing and donate $100 instead. You reading this? Then yes, I'm challenging you. Don't bother looking away now. I know you saw it. Do eet! You can. If I can, you can. The Patricks of our world matter more than our fears and our discomfort. If I can, you can. You can. (Bonus: afterward, you get to make three of your friends uncomfortable by making them do the same - sweet!)

I have no doubt Patrick is somewhere listening. Do it for him.

I'd like to take a short moment to thank Monica Duran, one of my former students, for offering up her gentle and constructive criticism of my video so that I could feel as confident as possible posting it. She was also a major confidence booster when she knew that's what I needed most. Everyone should be so lucky. Thank you, sweetheart.

I am publicly challenging friends Jessica Quintanilla (see more about her and her beloved Rissa HERE), Krysten Kline, Orlando Pelagio of OP Photography, Quanta Crews, Sydney Venable, Christine Murphy, Angie Lewis, Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter, Tracy Cassels of Evolutionary Parenting, and Jen Pritchett of Attached Parents at Work and Gentle Hearts Parenting. You have 24 hours. Ready? Set. Go!

Christine Murphy did it. So can you!

Jessica Quintanilla did it. So can you!

Hollidy Magadan did it. So can you!

Orlando Pelagio did it. So can you!

Tracy Cassels did it. So can you!
(Uh unh...you have to go to her blog post to see hers. Click HERE.)

I even got my first second generation challenger in Moon Johnson who was challenged by my husband. You can do it, too!

For those who are hesitating to complete this task, please watch:

Go see Cyntrix:
Richard Stottman aka Cyntrix
Artist, producer, and engineer
Louisville, KY.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Inconvenient Tooth

I am near tears. I'm near tears, I need catharsis, and so I write.

I just got off the phone with the oral surgeon's office.

Ok, wait, let me back up. Sorry.

We finally decided our son was ready for his first dentist appointment. We went yesterday. Read about it HERE. The update at the bottom reads:

"This kid is a flingin'-flangin' ROCK STAR! X-rays - no sweat. Polishing and exam - check. A little tartar scrapage - like water off a duck's back. It was a fantastic first experience for him and we couldn't have been more thrilled.

"The dentist slathered his teeth with fluoride without asking or telling me what they were about to do. My son didn't like the way it tasted, so when I went to wipe it off, the doctor said, "Oh, that's fluoride. It's designed not to come off." Nice of her to give me the option. I was pissed. No, I don't think that amount is going to harm him, but we don't do fluoride in our home and I will know for next time to tell them not to do it at the dentist's office, either.

"The scary news is that he has a mesiodens (extra tooth) growing upside down between his two front upper adult teeth. We have to schedule a consultation with the oral surgeon next. Unless there is some sort of pressing reason to really move on this, we'll be putting off the actual surgery until the last possible moment. Thinking of our son being afraid and in pain has our stomachs in knots.

"Overall, this kid is rad. That is all."

Yes, he has an inverted extra tooth growing up into his palate. Without extraction, it'll cause orthodontic problems and continue moving upward. When it comes to the body of my son, I don't mess with things unless there is cause. There is cause. I feel sick.

My son is going to be afraid and in pain and there's not a thing I can do about it. My job is to protect him from pain and fear. I can't do my job and it's killing me. Helplessness when it comes to my son (really, any helplessness, if I'm being honest), is not the business.

So, I just got off the phone with the oral surgeon's office. We were referred to them, because our son's dentist only does "easy" mesiodens extractions and this is a complicated case based on its placement. The surgeon's receptionist said we'll likely have to get a CT scan pre-surgery. Even the thought of the CT freaks me out. He's going to be afraid. He's going to be scared and alone, the alone will exacerbate the fear, and there's not a damn thing I'll be able to do to assuage my little boy.

We were so excited when he had such a great experience at the dentist, because that's the precedent we wanted to set for him. We didn't want to set him up for a lifetime of fear and avoidance, especially where his health is concerned. Now, it's all down the tubes. Now, one of his first experiences is going to be one of intense fear, confusion, and pain. The thought of him feeling these things is enough to break me down.

The plan is to wait. We'll wait as long as possible before putting him through this ugliness. We'll go to the consultation in a couple weeks and ask for a timeline of when the doctor thinks we need this done and then we'll put it off until the far end of that timeline. This will be done when it is necessary, not optional. The longer we can wait, the older he can be, the more he can understand, the better for him. Of course, that means we have longer to fret, but I'll take fret over the other any day. If only I could take away the impending trauma. It's my job to prevent the trauma.

Have you been through this with one of your babes? Soothe me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Parenting Isn't a Judgement of You

Let's be frank: obviously, I think the way I'm parenting is right or I wouldn't be doing it. It would make me the world's worst parent to say, "No, I don't think what I'm doing for my son is right," wouldn't it? I mean, why would any of us do what we feel is wrong? Don't you think you're doing the right thing by your kids? I surely hope so!

See the continuation of this guest post for Attached Parents at Work by clicking HERE.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Killing Time"

(source: The Firearm Blog)
Let me make sure I have this straight:
Those who are against gun control of any kind, the NRA folk, say that guns don't kill people, only people kill people. Ok. That says to me that it is the people who use the guns improperly who are to be held responsible. Is that right? Ok. BUT in cases like this most recent one in which a 9 year old CHILD is put in control of a fully automatic Uzi (an Israeli open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun), all of a sudden, it's "just one of those things" rather than the responsibility of the people who put the gun in her hands. Am I still getting this correct? So, we shouldn't control guns, because it's not the guns that are the problem, it's the people, but when there IS a problem where the gun and the people are involved, we should not blame the people or the gun. Ah, got it. So, essentially, guns are here to stay, so are the dumbasses who put them in the hands of children, and que sera sera. Nobody and nothing is responsible. Check. Now I know. And the more you know...

As a former high school English teacher, I used to examine this poem with my students every year. I'd like to pass it on to you. It's not 100% pertinent to the case of the poor girl whose life will never be the same after suffering this trauma, but it lends itself to further thinking on all the issues at hand.

"Killing Time" by Simon Armitage

Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado, armed to the teeth with thousands of flowers,
two boys entered the front door of their own high school and for almost four hours
gave floral tributes to fellow students and members of the staff
beginning with red roses strewn among unsuspecting pupils during their lunch hour,
followed by posies of peace lilies and wild orchids.
Most thought the whole show was one elaborate hoax using silk replicas of the real thing, plastic imitations, exquisite practical jokes,
but the flowers were no more fake than you or I,
and were handed out as compliments returned, favors repaid, in good faith, straight from the heart.
No would not be taken for an answer.
Therefore a daffodil was tucked behind the ear of a boy in a baseball hat,
and marigolds and peonies threaded through the hair of those caught on the stairs or spotted along corridors
until every pupil who looked up from behind a desk could expect to be met with at least a petal or a dusting of pollen,
if not an entire daisy chain, or the color-burst of a dozen foxgloves, flowering for all their worth, or a buttonhole to the breast.
Upstairs in the school library, individuals were singled out for special attention:
some were showered with blossom, others wore their blooms like brooches or medallions;
even those who turned their backs or refused point-blank to accept such honors were decorated with buds,
unseasonable fruits and rosettes the same as the others.
By which time a crowd had gathered outside the school,
drawn through suburbia by the rumor of flowers in full bloom, drawn through the air like butterflies to buddleia,
like honey bees to honeysuckle, like hummingbirds dipping their tongues in,
some to soak up such over-exuberance of thought, others to savor the goings-on. Finally, overcome by their own munificence or hay fever,
the flower-boys pinned the last blooms on themselves, somewhat selfishly perhaps,
but had also planned further surprises for those who swept through the aftermath of bloom and buttercup:
garlands and bouquets, planted in lockers and cupboards, timed to erupt either by fate or chance, had somehow been overlooked and missed out.
Experts are now trying to say how two apparently quiet kids from an apple-pie town could get their hands on a veritable rain-forest
of plants and bring down a whole botanical digest of one species or another onto the heads of classmates and teachers,
and where such fascination began, and why it should lead to an outpouring of this nature.
And even though many believe that flowers should be kept in expert hands only, or left to specialists in the field such as florists,
the law of the land dictates that God, guts and gardening made the country what it is today
and for as long as the flower industry can see to it things are staying that way.
What they reckon is this: deny a person the right to carry flowers of his own
and he’s liable to wind up on the business end of a flower somebody else had grown.

As for the two boys, it’s back to the same old debate:
is it something in the mind that grows from birth, like a seed, or is it society that makes a person that kind?

Think on this. Think on the former observations, as well. Get angry. Get angry because there is a little girl who will never be the same because of a bunch of people who exhibited piss-poor judgement and will not be held responsible for said judgement or the actions that took place afterward. Get angry, because hers isn't the first case and likely won't be the last. Get angry, because the NRA is still touting the benefits of and good times to be had by a small child playing with automatic assault weapons. Get angry, because of the hypocrisy of those saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people" are the same ones saying "except for in this case...no, no, this was just an unfortunate accident." Get angry because "a recent ... investigation found that out of 72 cases in 2013 in which kids handling guns accidentally killed themselves or other kids, adults were held criminally liable in only four." (source) Get angry for the myriad other things that are wrong with this scenario and all the other scenarios that happen ALL THE TIME in this country.

Now, do something about it. Act. All that anger means nothing if you don't do something with it. Don't waste that energy. Act. Now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I've Been Challenged

No, it's not the ice bucket challenge. No, I wouldn't accept that challenge anyway. Yes, I'd be the Scrooge who refuses to waste perfectly good water in an area where we're in a drought, in a world in which people are dying left and right for lack of clean water. Yes, I'd be the one who quietly writes a check and moves on. Though, I will say that, while I DO think ALS is a worthy cause, I'm more apt to donate to other causes, e.g. SUDC research (on behalf of Julie and PatPat), clean drinking water efforts (on behalf of the brothers and sisters of mine in the world who do not have access to what we take for granted), melanoma research (on behalf of my mom), diabetes research (on behalf of my grandpa), and groups dedicated to aiding in supporting and educating on breastfeeding and circumcision (and behalf of my child and all the other children in the world). We all have our causes that matter to us and these are some of mine. I don't tend to get wrapped up in what is fashionable and trendy. I am glad, though, that the ALS challenge has raised awareness and funds. Moving on.

No, this isn't that challenge (it was just my opportunity to speak my tiny piece). No, this is a challenge from my beloved Angie Lewis (see more of her HERE) to list the 10 books that have affected my view on the world. She knows, as many of you do, that books are a passion of mine. I adore everything about them. Everything. So, she challenged me, I accepted, and I'm posting it here for you to see, perhaps consider adding to your "to-read," and maybe even create your own list.

In no particular order (click the title to order from Amazon):

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Hiroshima by John Hersey
3. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
6. The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer
7. The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
8. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
9. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
10. Knock Yourself Up by Louise Sloan

Honorable Mention: Flash Fiction edited by Tom Hazuka, Denise Thomas, James Thomas

Dishonorable Mention: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max (no, I'm not linking you to this, because I hope nobody ever reads this harmful, foul drivel again and I rue the day I took the advice of a former friend that was to read this)

I could write whole posts on each of the above 11 books (though the 11th would be a rather angry one and I'd prefer not to write it), but, for now, I'll refrain and simply steer you toward each. If you've only ever seen the movie of one or two of them, do yourself a favor and read the books now. If you've not yet heard of one of the books, not yet read them, do yourself a favor and head to your library or click the links to order them now. My hope is that they'll touch you as much as they have touched me, change you as much as they have changed me.

Every book I read impacts me in some way or another. These are those that have had the greatest impact. I hope you find yourself being impacted by them, as well. Happy reading, fellow bibliophiles!

30 Things Series #23: My Favorite Holiday

It occurred to me the other day that I'm getting close to the end of the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think I'll save those feelings, unsure though they may be, for a final post at the end. Until then, I give you my favorite holiday and why.

Before you were born and for as far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. There were no expectations, no obligations, just time with family. Coming from a broken family (no, not every divorced family is "broken," but mine was and still is, pathetically), I never got any time with all my family together, so when even a good portion of my family was near me, I was in heaven.

When I was a kid, I spent Christmas with my mom and whichever part of her family she decided to see that year (always a good time, as well, of course) and Thankgiving was spent with my dad's family. Note, I did not say 'with my dad and his side of the family,' because like we talked about in a previous post, after he got remarried, we never really saw much of him. My brother and I did continue to spend Thanksgiving with our Bray side of the family, though. Grandma Bray, being one of my all-time favorite people ever, was a highlight for me. Any time I get to spend a day in her presence was a good time indeed. I remember my grandpa cutting the turkey. That's a memory my younger cousins missed out on, since he passed away before most of them were born or aware. I got to hang out with my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my beloved grandparents and just be. Sure, there was delicious food (always a bonus!), but I didn't need any reason to love being with my family, laughing and loving. That was my idea of a good day.

I still love Thanksgiving, of course, but it's different now. Not only do I live in another state, so I'm not able to be with my family as often, I also have you and you, my best love, have changed my perspective on, well, most everything, including the holidays. Christmas is now my favorite holiday, because of you. Christmas was always a close second for me, but now, through your eyes, I see it in the most magnificent of ways.

You love Christmas even more than I recall loving it as a child. You love Christmas books, decorations, food, the tree, the anticipation and surprises, and yes, the gifts. Unlike most kids your age (a whopping three years old), you remember every gift and who gave it to you - even months and years later. You're so thoughtful and kind. You make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year, cliche though that may be. Though, like I said, you love the gifts (who doesn't?), you don't make Christmas all about what you get out of it. I've never met a kid like you, certainly not a toddler like you. Maybe that's why I want to give you SO much.

I loathe shopping, in most cases, but shopping for you, especially Christmas shopping for you, makes me positively giddy. I mentally file away all the times during the year that you take an interest in something, that you say you want something, that your eyes light up when you see something cool. I turn those into your gifts. And we drag out those gifts in the best of ways. We open our Christmas Eve eve gifts to each other (consisting of matching Christmas jammies for all three of us, hot cocoa, a holiday movie or two, some popcorn, and a board game) on the 23rd (obviously), the stockings on Christmas Eve, and presents on Christmas morning. Decorations go up right after Thanksgiving, so we get to celebrate for a good, long while and it thrills me to see it thrill you. You, of course, are part of that decorating process. I love a beautiful tree, but it's never been as beautiful as it has since you started participating in buying new ornaments and placing them just right according to your discerning eye. I'm not sure which one of us gets more excited when seeing the goods go up in the stores.

Yes, Christmas has morphed into my favorite holiday. Turns out, though, it's for the same reason that Thanksgiving always was - family. It's just that the family has changed a bit and I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to many years of merry Christmases with you, sweet, wonderful boy.