Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Secret

A secret? I don't love Christmas. In fact, I dread it. I find it ridiculously stressful. I certainly don't find it magical.

Christmas seems like a compilation of many things I don't like and/or am not good at - buying presents for other people; shopping at all; getting up early; spending lots of time at the houses of people I don't really know, but call family; being completely off schedule ; dealing with the affects of my kids eating red dye 40.

I don't want to get up early at the crack of dawn with my kids and watch them open their presents. I'd be perfectly content to just come in about 9a and let them show me everything they've already opened. I sure as hell don't want to shop for presents. Really, I suck at buying other people gifts, well, adults at least. I don't want to spend all day in a tiny house with too many people whose names I don't know, trying desperately to keep my kids from eating all the Red Dye 40 crap. I don't want to fight with them to sit appropriately (like they're old enough to do) at mass and just freaking behave. I don't want to deal with DAYS of awful behavior due to sleep getting all messed up, and naps missed. I just don't want to.

I know. I KNOW.

You may call me Ms Grinch. I completely admit that it's appropriate.

I get it. I'm supposed to love it. I know.

But I find it stressful. Exhausting. Expensive. Not joyful. Not fun. Not magical. At all.

I just want to curl up in my bed and sleep through it. Truly I do.

I suspect part of the reason I don't love it is because I remember feeling like my mom didn't love it. As a single mom, I'm sure Christmas was hard for her in many ways. We usually spent the day with my dad/his family, so she was home by herself. I remember feeling guilty about that even as a little kid. Not that she moped or anything when we'd leave. She always had a smile when we left, and a smile when we returned; she's great like that. Come to think of it, maybe she was glad to have a quiet day to herself!

I really do want  my kids to love Christmastime.

So I TRY. Hard. We do the Christmas-y things. We see a Christmas play every year. We go to the Philharmonic Children's concert. We bake and decorate cookies. We take cookies to the firemen and talk about caring for others. We "adopt" a family for Christmas and the boys help shop for presents and deliver them. We drive around and look at the pretty lights. We even went to a live nativity this year, which really was magical. Until the kid started acting up and I wanted to kill him.

(And, side note, I orchestrate all these things, which probably doesn't help my feelings of stress around this holiday.)

But I still definitely can not muster up that Christmas magic attitude to go with any of it.

I hope my kids will say they had magical Christmases. I hope they don't turn out all Grinch-y like me. But often Christmas seems like just another parenting fail for me.

Today's Lesson: Take off your rings before you bake Christmas cookies. Otherwise you will be cleaning dried up dough out of them for days. This will also not help with the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 22, 2014

All I Want for Christmas...

I am of the the Cabbage patch doll era. As in, mass hysteria!! Must get my child that toy!!! I will steal it from another parent to get it for my child!!!! I will pay 50x what it's worth!!!!!

The year I got my first Cabbage Patch doll, I remember sneaking out of my bed in the middle of the night to see what Santa had brought. I tiptoed quietly down the hall, carefully avoiding the spots that creaked in the floor. I could see the glow of the tree around the corner, illuminating the room. And there it was. It was beautiful. I did little happy dance -very quietly - when I saw it sitting under the tree.  The glow of the lights reflecting off her perfect, plastic face. I wanted to grab her and take her to bed with me right then. I was overjoyed. I doubt I got back to sleep that Christmas Eve. 

It. was. magical.

My kids don't watch much tv. As in, rarely at all during the week, and, when they do, it's a 30min PBS Kids show. On the weekends, it's not much more than that, though there's often a cartoon that hubby has DVR'ed for himself and wants to watch, so the boys get to watch, too. But, since it's DVR'ed, they don't see the commercials.

Now, I'm sure I knew about Cabbage Patch dolls from commercials. And I'm sure I bugged the heck out of my mom because of it. But, my boys don't really ever see commercials (which has been intentional on our part). And they really rarely ask for specific toys (or foods, or anything for that matter). When they do ask for toys, it's not name-brand things (other than Legos, but, really, what else would you call those? It's not really like there's a market for generic ones, either, not that I've seen at least. Then again, I also don't watch commercials). 

When we ask they boys what they want for Christmas we don't get much response. A plane. A tractor. Some Legos. Art stuff. All of which they already have. So it makes me wonder, have we stolen some of the magic of Christmas from them? 

Now, I know Christmas isn't about presents and commercialism. I mean, we focus a lot on others (not just at Christmas, mind you) and make a daily concerted effort to avoid all manner of commercialism. But, the joy I felt, seeing that doll surrounded by glowing lights, that doll that I'd begged for forever (I mean, really, since the preceding summer at least), that doll that I actually still have because I've never been able to get rid of it, that doll that my children now play with. I feel a little twinge of sadness, of regret, that they don't have that.

Of course they're excited Christmas morning. And they're always thankful for whatever they get. But the experience doesn't seem as magical as it once did to me. Maybe that's because I'm a Grinch-y old adult now. I'm sure that's part of it. I just hope we've haven't inadvertently stolen one of the joys of childhood.

Today's Lesson: Unintended Consequences - (according to Wikipedia, because that's a totally legit source when blogging about random shit) outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. So often the outcomes of our parenting are affected by these. For better or worse.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A silly, frivolous post...

...because we all need that sometimes.

If money were no object, and, well, it weren't tacky to ask for, this is what I'd ask for for Christmas:

  • a weekly house cleaner to do the things I particularly hate (dusting! windows! floors!)
  • a 3 day vacation by myself. doesn't matter to where
  • monthly flowers delivered
  • to only have to work half-time
  • wood floors for the whole house
  • a Kitchen-aid stand mixer
  • a brand-spanking new Sienna minivan
  • a fancy camera
  • lessons on how to use said fancy camera
  • lots of Stitchfix gift certificates
  • to go to the Opera (I've never been and this seems like a tragedy to me!!)
  • a new washing machine (I have a new-ish one. I hate it. I want a new one that works)
  • a king-sized bed
  • a window in my office that opens
  • a vacation home in the mountains, near a river
If you could ask for anything (and I mean not like "world peace" or "racism to be abolished" because, well, of course, but selfish, dreaming kinds of things), what would you ask for??

Today's Lesson: Sometimes we all need a little frivolous dreaming in our lives.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Asheville, NC

I'm doing a pictures post because who the hell has time for scrapbooking anymore? Though, really, who the hell even prints pictures out even more?! So, yeah, this is that kind of a post.

We went to Asheville, NC for Thanksgiving. Just the 4 of us. It was fun. And relaxing. And there was no yelling. And we loved it.

We found a cool trail at Chimney Rock State Park (you know, where they filmed Last of the Mohicans). It was specifically for kids, not too long, because E still isn't a fan of hiking, with fun animal sculptures and facts along the way.

And the boys and hubby relaxed in the hot tub at the beautiful house we rented, which was, conveniently just a 5min drive from Chimney Rock. 

And we found a beautiful park in Lake Lure, which is a really cute town and I bet even cuter in the summer.

And we found another set of trails right across from the gas station in Lake Lure that were perfect for a Thanksgiving Day hike. E, of course, preferred to ride.

And we went to the top of Chimney Rock. E actually did this whole hike on his own. Which is amazing because there are hundreds of stairs.

Our only entire family selfie. 

It was absolutely gorgeous. And damn cold. But I'm so, so glad we did it! Also, I totally made the boys listen to the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack while we were driving through the park. And into town. And on the way home. Don't judge. It's beautiful music.

And we, of course, went into Asheville. We walked around and ate dinner at a local burger place. It was delish. And we explored the courthouse square/park, which is beautifully surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and has a cool amphitheater in the middle.

It was a fantastic trip  and I think we'll be back soon.

Today's Lesson: I need more time for crafting.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Missed Opportunity for Kindness

I was walking across the hilly campus. It was finals week of spring semester. One of my last days at that particular university, as I'd chosen to transfer to a new school for the following year. It was a sunny day. Windy. I was smiling to myself. Grateful that my finals thus far had gone well and that I was almost done with that place. In a hurry to get back to my dorm room while my socially awkward roommate was still in class so I could pack without avoiding painful conversation.

As I came up one of the hills, I noticed a girl, just sitting on a bench. She had her head in her hands. Her backpack and books sitting next to her on the bench. I watched her as I continued up the hill. As I came closer, I realized she was crying. Like heart-wrenching, whole body sobs.

I wondered why she was so upset. A bombed final? A death? Boyfriend troubles? Who knows.

She didn't seem to notice me, or anyone else who was walking by. But certainly no one could miss her.

My gut was to stop and offer her comfort. Even if it was just a body to sit near her while she cried.

But I didn't. I kept walking. I hope someone else stopped. But it wasn't me.

I'm not sure what stopped me. I had things to do. There were other people around. She was a stranger. Social norms. Fear of her not wanting me to bother her. I don't know.

17.5 years later and I still remember that girl. 17.5 years later and I still regret not stopping and checking on her.

I know it's not my job to save the world (though, really, social worker over here, I mean, it's kind of one of our things). But I've carried this regret around for nearly half my life. Because that little moment of kindness, could have made a difference to her. And, maybe it wouldn't have. But I'll never know.

I do know it's part of why I so want my boys, above all, to be kind and care for others.

So, we are as last year, focusing on kindness and caring for others this Christmas season. We have a family from the Christmas Tree (a single mom of 5 with another on the way!) who we'll get gifts and Christmas dinner for, we'll go through the kids' toys and donate ones they no longer need (and are, of course, in good condition), we'll make cookies for neighbors and the firefighters (that was a huge hit last year!), and I don't know what else.

I especially hope we'll all take advantage of the day-to-day moments we're presented with to let others know we care. Not just at Christmas time, but all the time.

What is your family doing to care for others this holiday season? I'd love to get some new ideas!

Today's Lesson: We should always listen to our inner voices. Often the things we most regret could have been prevented if only we had.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Science Fair

Oh, the school is doing a science fair this year and you can participate starting in 3rd grade! The kid loves science! My mom is a microbiologist! This will be a great thing for them to do together!

So I call my mom and see if she'd like to do this with him. She would. Fabulous! I ask the kid if he'd like to do a project. He has no idea what a science fair is, or what a science fair project is, but sure. We're all set. 

We decide on a project. And promptly make absolutely no progress on it. For like 2 months.

And then I start to freak the eff out. Because there's a book project due the week before (and those = serious ugliness in my house). And his audition for the arts school we're hoping to get him into is 3 days after the fair. And it, of course, involves a portfolio and all kinds of crap. And we're going out of town the weekend before it's due so no work will get done on it. And my mom is going out of town the week before that so can't work on it with him then either. And. it's. too. much.

My mom to the rescue. She spent an entire Sunday with him after we got back from our weekend trip and (it took all of us but) that sucker got done. thankyoubabyjesus

The fair wasn't until Thursday, but the project had to be at school Wednesday. Wednesday morning was one of those mornings at my house. Now, neither baby E nor I are morning people. And it's also when the kid is fairly unsupervised so tends to get a bit sneaky. All of these things were in play. 

I almost left the kid's project on the kitchen counter, necessitating a last minute dash back upstairs to get it. E had some horrific tantrum about idk what (oh, actually, i know what it was about - he didn't want to wear his new thin fleece coat in the car "because it's too puffy" <-- this is what I get for being a carseat tech and lecturing them that we don't wear puffy coats in the car because it's unsafe). While I'm trying to wrangle E into his carseat - without the perfectly safe coat on because arguing with 4yo's is about as effective as arguing with 1yo's - the kid is just wandering all around the garage like we're not already running late.

Finally, everyone is in and properly buckled. I whip out of the garage, back up into the street, and zoom forward. Only to see something flying behind me in the rear view mirror.

fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck <-- to my credit, that was my internal monologue. What I actually said was, "Oh, kid, oh kid, I am so, so, so, so sorry!!!". Because, yes, I'd left the science fair project sitting on the roof of the car. And it was raining. 

I slammed the brakes on. Just in time to watch 3 cars go over the area where whatever it was had landed. I pulled back into the driveway and saw, with the most relief I've possibly ever experienced, that the project poster (the biggest part of the project/display) was somehow and miraculously still on top of the car! 

By this point, E is freaking out, screaming to know what's wrong. The kid is screaming, "there it is!!! It's in the road!!!". And he's not wrong, because the notebook with all the IRB forms (didn't I mention the part where we had to get freaking IRB approval for the  science fair project of a freaking 8yo?!!!!) and human informed consent forms (yeah, we had to do that, too, with all the participants) is laying in the middle of the road. I watched one more car barrel through there and prayed the forms hadn't just been made illegible, because, you know, I never made a copy of them.

Thankfully, the thing wasn't even wet. Somehow. And all those cars had managed to avoid making contact with it. Thankfully, none of the project was any worse for wear.  

But I have to tell you, not the best morning in my house, y'all. Not the best morning at all.

Though, really, not the worst either. So I suppose I have that going for me.

The kid with his project, pre-momma leaving it on the roof of the car and almost causing serious awfulness and parental guilt for the rest of my life. 

Today's Lesson: There are certain things, as parents, we should share with each other, you know, to allow for the whole "learning from others' mistakes" thing. The sound advice to not participate in the voluntary science fair is one of them.  So, I'm sharing it with you. And, I wholly expect that next year, when I'm all, "oh, the kid learned so much from his science fair project last year. We should totally do that again!", you'll all remind me of this and expressly forbid me to sign him up. Because that's what friends are for.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Protest

The kid was maybe 4 when he attended his first protest/rally with me (Take Back the Night/TBTN, to shine light on sexual assaults). Since then he's been to another TBTN, MLK Day rally, and another protest/rally that I can't remember. (I am a social worker, it's kind of one of our things.) So, me taking him downtown last Tuesday night wasn't a completely new phenomenon, for either of us.  But, this protest, this was about the Ferguson/Darren Wilson decision. There's so much to say about that. But much of it's been said by people more knowledgeable and articulate than me. So, instead, I'll tell you about that evening and what it was like for us.

We hurriedly ate dinner and rushed to get downtown. I'd wanted hubby and E to come, too, but E hadn't had a nap (DISASTER!!) and hubby was, well, yeah. So, it was just me and the kid. I wasn't sure how to approach this with him, what to say, because it really was different than the protests and rallies we'd been to before. 

So I asked him if he knew was racism is. Now, we've absolutely discussed it before, but it's been from more of a historical perspective (i.e. Rosa Parks, MLK, etc...), and not really personal. I told him about Mike Brown and others. I told him about how some police and legal systems treat people with brown and black skin differently than they treat people with white and "peach" (as he says) skin.

I cried.

He said, "Momma, are you sad? Are you crying?"

I told him I was.

He said, "Momma, I've seen you angry lots of time, and I've heard you yell. I've even seen you sad sometimes. But I don't think I've ever seen you cry".

Now, I'm quite certain he has, but, yes, this was different. I told him that it was different because I'm scared. I'm scared for him and E as they start to get older. 

He said, "But, Momma, all I have to do is just make good choices and stay away from the police, right?". 

And my heart broke. Because as any person of color will tell you, that's not nearly enough. 

As my boys get bigger, as they reach an age and size that I know will no longer make them "cute", but will make them the targets of unreasonable fear and suspicion, I am absolutely terrified for them. And I can feel in my momma-heart that that time will be soon for my kid.

I feel helpless to guide them through this. How in the hell do I explain that people will treat them differently because of their skin? Because I've done all I can up til now to teach them that we love and respect people because of their differences and their uniqueness; those things are to be celebrated. They are not to be feared, not to be judged.

And I have to tell you, all the comments from well-meaning friends and family about how we don't have to worry about racism with OUR kids, because, you know, WE raised them (you know, as white people who teach our kids how to act right, blah, blah, blah) . Well, those comments infuriate me and I just call bullshit. 

Because this isn't about how black and brown children are raised; it's about how society views and devalues them. It's about how "driving while black" is a real thing. It's about how my brown-skinned children are infinitely more likely to be followed through a store than my brother's white-skinned children. It's about how my black child was identified as needing "special services" at school and his white classmate who got the same score on the almighty test didn't (because, you know, some parents feel the need to post that kind of shit on fb). It's about my brown-skinned children having to hear an ignorant SOB say things like "oh, is it nigger day at the pool?". It's about how brown-skinned boys who are headed to college get quickly labeled as thugs for stealing a box of cigarettes. Or shot dead in the street for having a toy gun. Or for walking down the street with candy bars in their pockets.

Racism is real. My children have experienced it already. And I feel ill-equipped to help them. To support them. And to protect them. And it fucking scares me to the point where at moments I am completely incapacitated. 

My boy chanted his heart out. In fact, his voice, which was often even louder than my own, was a bit hoarse the next day. Hands Up Don't Shoot; 2-4-6-8- Stop The Violence, Stop The Hate; Whose Streets? Our Streets!; and my personal favorite -  Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! This is What Democracy Looks Like! 

"Momma, is this what democracy looks like?" 

"Yes, kid. This is what democracy looks like. We are here. We are making our voices heard. We are standing up for what's right. And we have the right to do all those things even though some people don't like what we have to say." 

"Momma, I'm proud of us because some people are too scared to do this, aren't they? And it's not okay for people with skin like mine to be treated different than people with skin like yours, is it?"

"No, baby it's not. And I'm proud of us, too. Probably more than you realize."

"It was cool doing this, momma... Now, can I have some hot chocolate already? It's cold out here!"

Today's Lesson: One of these days, hot chocolate will no longer be a cure-all. I do not look forward to that day.