Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Teen Privacy

Thanks to everyone who offered their input on my teen privacy dilemma recently, and to those who participated in my poll on this topic. It looks like out of the people who voted in the poll, roughly half monitor their teens' email, cell phone usage and texting, and nearly everyone monitors online social networking. Thankfully, we haven't yet been faced with the social networking issue with Kevin - maybe it's more of a girl thing? He does have his own YouTube account, as he makes some really cool stop action movies with Legos and clay and whatnot, and uploads them, and he's developed a small following. Even that I'm a little wary of, just because there are all kinds of weirdos out there and I don't know how well Kevin can handle himself online with strangers. He knows never to give out any information to anyone online.

We're going to continue with the limits we put on his cell phone/texting usage, just because I don't see any reason to allow him at this tender age to use it for socializing. For the time being, it's really nothing more than a safety measure, a way for him to keep in touch with us, and vice versa, when he's not with us.

The biggie, though - email. I've stopped reading his email. I still have access to it, but I haven't read anything for the last couple weeks. I was feeling really guilty about it and the more I thought about it, the sillier it seemed to me that I thought I could rely on that to tell me any real news about my son. He's never given me any reason to be concerned or distrustful of him, so I'm going to allow him that privacy.

Ahhh, parenting. Just wingin' it here. Aren't we all?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Consider This

I have a confession to make - one that may (or may not) shock some people who know me.

I have been a registered Republican since I first registered to vote more than twenty years ago. Yes, it's true.

I need to change that.

Let me explain first, though. My conservatism has never come from any religious convictions (not even when I actually had religious convictions). And as far as human rights go, I've always been a liberal. Fiscally is where my conservatism has manifested. Why should my family's hard-earned money be forcefully taken from us to support charity cases? That's been my long-held view.

And then I had Finn. And I was initiated into the world of State-funded supports in the form of therapies available to children like Finn through the Regional Center. At first I felt really bad about taking advantage of what was offered to us through Regional Center. I mean, we're certainly not poor (though we're certainly not rich either). But friend after friend pointed out to me that "You guys have paid into the system for all these years; why shouldn't you benefit from it now that you need it?" And I slowly developed a different perspective about it.

I would like to pose some questions to anyone reading this who might be a political conservative, openly against government-funded welfare programs. Do you see my family as a leach on your tax dollars? What would you do in our shoes, if you had a child with special needs?

Let me take it a little further.

I challenge anyone who is vocally pro-life, who might sport an "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart" bumper sticker, to ask yourself: would I keep a baby I (or my wife) was carrying who received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome (or some other life-altering diagnosis)? And if I did, would I not take advantage of all the therapies and supports available to that child and my family funded by tax dollars?

Because the truth is, if you're going to call yourself Pro-Life, you have to follow it through all the way. If you're going to demand that people stop having abortions, then you need to be absolutely willing to live by your own principles and keep any baby that lands in your womb - even if it's not the baby you dreamed of. And you have to be willing to support government-funded programs that assist those babies and their families in order that those babies might grow up to be functioning, contributing members of society. Tax-paying citizens just like yourself.

I and my family thank you for your acceptance of Finn, and for the use of your tax dollars to optimize the quality of his life. Rest assured that our tax dollars will be here for you when you or someone you love needs them.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heart and Soul

It's the sixth game of Joey's first season playing Little League baseball, and he has yet to hit the ball in all the times he's been up to bat. He's got everything it takes: a good eye, grace, a strong swing, and the desire to slug it. He puts his heart into every swing he takes, but he's one of two kids on his team who still haven't gotten a hit. Maybe it's the pitching machine they use; seems like it's missing some human aspect. Maybe it's the pressure of being center stage. Who knows. But he's losing heart. After the last couple of games, he's asked his dad earnestly, "Dad, do you think I'll get a hit next game?"

The other night Michael and I were talking about his job, and all the stresses and expectations that come with being an attorney, and he said, "But you know, none of that matters at all when you just want your kid to hit the ball." It was a moment of pure clarity. It's not that it matters if Joey is a baseball superstar, what matters is that he taste the sweetness of success so he can feel good about himself. You want your kids to experience enough failure to teach them humility, and to succeed enough to instill confidence and self-worth.

So today: game six. White Sox vs. Athletics. Joey gets up to bat grinning when he sees us, his family, in the stands, pumping his arms up victoriously before he even steps to the plate. "Go JoEY!" I yell. He swings. Misses. Next pitch comes, Joey misses. Then a foul tip. He swings again, a little early, misses. That's it. "Good try, Joey! Next time!" I yell, feeling a pain in my heart for him.

A little while later, he's up to bat again. "Go JoEY!" I yell as he walks to the plate. I find myself biting my lip till I can almost taste blood, and praying even though I don't even believe in prayer, "Please let him hit the ball, please let him hit the ball . . ." The pitch comes in. He swings. Misses. "Please let him hit the ball, please let him hit the ball . . ." Another pitch comes in. He swings . . . and there it is, that telltale sound of aluminum smacking leather. "Go, Joey! Run! RUN!!!" Everyone is yelling and cheering. For a split second he looks bewildered, and then he runs towards first. I have tears leaking from my eyes.

The first baseman gets the ball and tags Joey out. But it doesn't matter.

He did it. He hit the ball.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Quite a Spectacle(s)

We got a note from the school recently that told us Annabelle may need glasses based on the routine vision screening they do of all the children at school. So today I took Annabelle to my optometrist. Daisy came along for moral support. Annabelle was a little nervous until I told her that the eye doctor is a girl and is very pretty (that's what wins Annabelle over). The doc was WONDERFUL with Annabelle - really, I love her, she's great (so if you're in my area and looking for an optometrist for kids or adults, get in touch with me!) - and she even did a quick, complimentary screening of Daisy while we were there. Daisy has 20/20 vision. Annabelle, sure enough, needs glasses.

She tried on about 20 pairs of glasses. They all looked cute on her!

She settled on this pair of modest gray ones, which really kind of surprised me. I thought she'd insist on pink sparkly ones.

So, we'll pick them up in a few days. Annabelle is actually excited about getting glasses!

Screwed the Pooch

As a lifelong dog owner, I did something today that I've never done before: I took my dog to the doggie beauty parlor (actually, our vet's office) for professional grooming. Before now, I never had a dog that required grooming; I always had dogs that got their baths by hose and bucket outside. But alas, Twinkle is a little foo-foo dog, and my bathing her weekly in the kitchen sink has left a little something to be desired. She had knots in her fur that I couldn't work out, plus I knew she could use a nail-trimming and ear-cleaning. So in she went.



Apparently, those knots were a little worse than I thought. I feel bad. Now she looks like one of those prissy little dogs that someone might put a hat and sweater on and carry around in a purse. I believe she's feeling rather humiliated.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Big Day

Today was a big day.

I'm sitting here remembering how anxious and fearful I was at the beginning of the school year about how Daisy and Annabelle were going to cope in kindergarten in the face of all their issues. I wrote about it at the time here.

Today was Farm Day for the kindergartners at school. This is a day that has placed dread in my heart for two years, ever since Joey had Farm Day when he was in kindergarten and I realized that Daisy would have to face the same thing when she went to kindergarten. What is Farm Day? Live animals, folks. We're talking chickens and rabbits and a pony and a cow and a number of other farm creatures, trucked in and placed on the kindergarten playground. For two years I've imagined that Daisy would either have to stay home from school when Farm Day rolled around, or she would go to school but refuse to leave the classroom, or at the very worst, grow completely hysterical at the sight of the animals as she is wont to do.

Every day for the last week, the girls have been counting down - with enthusiasm. "Five days until Farm Day, Mommy!" "Only two more days until Farm Day!" I kept wondering if they realized there were going to be actual animals at school on Farm Day. So this morning, as they were leaving for school, Daisy gives me a hug and says, "Don't worry, Mommy, I'll be fine with the animals." Huh? Did somebody do a kid-transplant at my house last night?

Anyway, in a nutshell, Farm Day was a huge success for both of the girls. They both participated fully, even going outside and petting the animals. No tears. No hysteria.

I think back to how scared I was at the beginning of the school year. Daisy uses the restroom at school (she's still afraid of the loud, automatic flushing, but she'll do it if Annabelle goes with her). She's ridden on a school bus for a field trip. And now she's petting live animals.

Okay, she's still scared of our dog, but I'll take whatever progress comes our way.

We also had parent-teacher conferences this afternoon for Daisy, Annabelle and Joey. All good stuff; they're all doing really well academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. Apparently we have successfully fooled the teachers into thinking we are good parents who provide our kids with positive life-experiences that are helping them develop into happy, well-adjusted and successful children ;)

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm not worthy of my camera.

About a year and a half ago, Michael got me a Nikon D90 camera for my birthday. I still don't know how to use it. Not really, anyway. Sure, I know the basics, like putting it in auto-mode, pointing and shooting, but that's really about it. I've had various point-and-shoot cameras over the years, and I wanted a better camera - a really good camera - so I could take really good photos. And true, even in auto-mode, this camera takes way better photos than any point-and-shoot I've ever had, but I know I'm not getting the most out of this puppy.

So I am undertaking a new . . . undertaking. To learn some basic photography and some basic photo editing. I really wish I could take a class at the local community college, but until the stars and planets align properly for something like that to happen, I'm settling for a couple of handy-dandy Dummies books and Photoshop Elements 8 for my laptop. Hopefully this will at least put me on the right path. I don't think I have an artist's eye for photography, and I'm not setting out to take professional quality photos, but I'd sure like to at least get the most out of this camera for an average mom and be able to take some really good pictures of my kids.

Wish me luck!

This photo, by the way, was taken with my iPhone :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

How Much Privacy is a Teen Entitled To?

I am suddenly finding myself completely at odds with myself over something. A while back I mentioned that I monitor Kevin's email. I am seriously reconsidering this decision now.

A few days ago, out of the blue, Kevin asked me if I read his email. He knows I have his password, but my impression is that he's trusted all along that I'm not actually reading his stuff. It never occurred to me that he would come right out and ask me; I guess I assumed this would remain my little covert operation of keeping tabs on him, and he'd never be the wiser. So his question caught me off guard, and I kind of stumbled for a moment and then blurted out, "No! Of course not." Ugh. And in all honesty, I've been feeling really crummy about the lie ever since.

My logic has been as follows: if he knows I'm monitoring his email, he'll censor himself, or maybe even open up an email account for himself that I don't know about.

Obviously, I never thought this whole thing all the way through. So, what exactly do I do if I do read something in his outgoing or incoming email that concerns me? I can't exactly say something upfront about it without letting on that I've been reading, which would almost certainly (a) force him underground, and (b) cause a lot of damage to whatever trust he has in me.

The truth is, I have no reason not to trust him. He's a good kid. And I'm not just saying that. He really is. He doesn't get into trouble, he's got a very strong sense of right and wrong, he works hard and does very well in school. He gives me no cause for concern. So why do I feel this need to monitor his email? Because I can, because it's so easy to? Is that a good enough reason? Maybe I should be giving him the benefit of the doubt until/unless he shows me that he needs to be monitored? Or if, as a parent, you wait until they give you cause for concern, is it then already too late?

Nothing I've read in any of his email over the last few months has sent up any red flags. There are only a handful of people he exchanges emails with: his grandma, a neighborhood friend, and a couple of friends from school. He's gotten some forwards of religious hooey that I'd love to discuss with/dispute for him, but I guess if I want to be true to my assertion that I want my kids to make up their own minds about such things, then I have to let him make up his own mind. He and a friend from school have alluded to an interest in girls - very innocent, silly stuff, completely age-appropriate. And despite both Michael and I trying to talk to Kevin about girls, he has made it clear that that topic is not one he's willing to talk about with us. So what right do I have to pry when there's been no cause for concern?

Also, I've realized that it's foolish to think that I'm going to glean any real information from his emails. He communicates with his friends much more face-to-face at school and on the phone than he does via email, and I certainly can't monitor all of that.

I am very curious how other parents of teens feel about all of this and handle it with their own kids. And what about other forms of electronic communication? I know plenty of middle-schoolers who have free reign over texting. Kevin has a cell phone, but we made it clear from the beginning that it's not for socialization - it's to communicate with us, period. He's not allowed to give his number out to anyone, he's not allowed to text anyone except us, and we can monitor all of his phone activity online (I never have, but I could). I just don't see the need for a kid this young to be using a cell phone for socialization - but that's me. And then there's Facebook. Not that Kevin has ever shown any interest in FB (yet . . . or maybe it's more of girl thing?), but I have friends with kids his age who do have FB accounts. That's something I hope doesn't come up in our house for a long time yet.

I dunno . . . I just feel guilty all of a sudden. There's a part of me that feels like, he's a child, and as long as he's a child, everything he does is my business. But I also know that he's at the age when he is growing more toward adulthood, and he needs to discover for himself who he is, who he wants to be, and there are areas of his life, even at 13, that belong only to him, and rightly so.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Little Magic

When Kevin was very small and occasionally had trouble going to sleep, I used Magic Sleep Dust on him. It was so long ago that it's hard to remember how I even came up with it. I would have him lie down in his bed and close his eyes, and then I would pull some Magic Sleep Dust (invisible, of course) from my pocket and sprinkle it over his closed eyes, ever-so-gently tickling his eyelashes so he could feel it. "Now, you have to keep your eyes closed or it won't work," I'd tell him. "You can't open your eyes until morning, no matter what, okay?" He would nod his little head in the affirmative with his eyes screwed tightly closed and a grin on his face. And it never failed to work. Of course he would keep his eyes closed so the "magic" could work, and he'd fall asleep.

Somewhere along the line, I lost this. Over the large gap of time between when Kevin was very small and susceptible to magic and the time when the next child came along, and amid the ever increasing chaos of bedtime with the the steady increase in the number of kids who need to be put to bed, this little magic trick was forgotten about.

The other day, out of the clear blue, apparently feeling nostalgic, Kevin said to me, "Mom, remember the Magic Sleep Dust?" And a little shockwave went through me as suddenly it all came back to me. Of course! Magic Sleep Dust! How could I have forgotten that? How is it that I've never used that on any of the other kids aside from Kevin? It made me feel sad, actually, and even a little mournful, to realize that such a long time has passed since Kevin was still in footie pajamas and open to magic, and that I allowed something so simple and yet so special slip through the cracks.

Last night, we dealt with the usual bedtime craziness. A little while after all the littles were tucked into bed, Lilah crept out of her room. "Mama?" she said. "I can't go to sleep."

So I took her by the hand and walked her back into her room, settled her into bed, and said, "Okay, I have just the thing. Close your eyes, and I'm going to sprinkle them with Magic Sleep Dust. But it only works if you keep your eyes closed all night long, okay?" She had the biggest grin on her face! "Are you ready?" I asked. She nodded "Okay, close your eyes . . ." and I pulled some invisible Magic Sleep Dust from my pocket, sprinkled it over her eyes, ever-so-gently tickling her eyelashes, and then I kissed her forehead and got up to leave the room. I looked over and both of her sisters were sitting up in bed, watching raptly, speechless.

I didn't hear another peep from Lilah for the rest of the night. Of course it worked. A little mommy magic always works.

It felt like a gift. Like this mommy still has a few tricks up her sleeve.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Difficulty and Guilt in Parenting

Ahhhh, Annabelle, Annabelle, Annabelle.

I've alluded to her mischievousness and her compulsivity (i.e., the hair-pulling/finger-sucking), but I doubt I've succeeded in conveying the true essence of Annabelle. She is t-r-o-u-b-l-e. She is by far our most challenging child - probably exacerbated by the fact that her cohort, Daisy, also brings some pretty difficult challenges to the table (i.e., phobias and high emotions). The two of them together? Fuggeduhbadit - they're going to be the death of me.

But back to Annabelle. I swear I spend 89% of my waking time saying, "Annabelle, don't do that," and "Annabelle, stop it." She is that child, the one who does everything she's not supposed to do. It all began to crystallize, from what I recall, when she was about 18 months old and started stripping down naked, including taking her diaper off, when she was supposed to be napping, and gleefully smearing poop all over her crib. No lie. I can recount so many incidents in which she was the main character - incidents involving coloring her sister from head to toe in purple marker, incidents involving stealing a half gallon of chocolate ice cream from the freezer and spreading it all over the playroom (that is, what she didn't manage to eat) incidents involving her climbing up on top of the swing set and convincing her two-year-old sister to do the same (we're talking 10 feet off the ground). Those are memorable incidents; on a typical day it's general mischief, misbehavior, and non-cooperation. Mostly harmless stuff, relatively speaking, but annoying as all hell, and exhausting. And frustrating.

This afternoon it was one thing after another when she got home from school. After many threats, I had finally had it with her shenanigans, and I told her she couldn't go to dance. Not only that, but she had to stay in her room while I took her sisters to dance. I left with Daisy and Lilah, dressed in their ballerina finery, with Annabelle having a good ol' tantrum behind her bedroom door.

When we got home a little over an hour later, I went into her room, where she sat forlornly on her bed. I felt really, really crappy. Maybe I was too harsh. I don't know.

Sometimes I really feel like I don't have the first clue how to properly parent Annabelle. She's not a bad kid. She's just . . . spirited. And stubborn. And out for a good time. And exhibits almost zero impulse control. She pushes my buttons and pushes my buttons until she pushes one too many, and BAM, I lose my temper and employ some rash consequence, because I really don't have a plan in place (clearly, I need one). And really, it's no wonder she doesn't take me seriously - I threaten and threaten and threaten, and who knows when or if I'll ever follow through. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. It's a terrible way to go about things. Talk about parenting by the seat of your pants.

I worry about her. And I worry about my relationship with her. It seems like we spend so much time at odds with each other - and she's only five, for goodness sake. And honestly? I keep waiting for some teacher or other "expert" to tell me that she's got ADHD or something. So far, though, she's never had anything but glowing reports from school - both preschool and kindergarten. I've been told how "focused" she is, how "helpful," how "cooperative." Really? My Annabelle?

I love her to bits and pieces, I do. Despite the trouble she causes, she's very sweet. She loves to be loved. She is the best hugger and snuggler in the world. And she has the most delicious giggle - seriously, I've sometimes wished I could bottle it.

Ahh, this parenting gig. It's not easy.

Public Disclaimer

In case anyone sees my daughter out there today . . .

I did NOT pick this outfit for her this morning. In fact, this is not an ensemble I would ever choose.

But she's happy, so who am I to disapprove of her color coordinating preferences?

Sigh. I kind of miss the days when I could pick her outfits and she didn't have an opinion about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Not everyone's cup of tea

So, that whole blog envy thing. Apparently, a big factor in why my blog has never hit the big time is because I'm not all sunshine and flowers. (I also think the fact that I'm openly atheist has something to do with it as well; like I've said, religion/Christianity is far more socially acceptable than atheism.) Some apparently see me as an "angry blogger." And, I guess, an angry person.

I guess the latter hurts more than the former, because it's one thing to judge my writing, and it's another thing entirely to judge me as a person.

Nevertheless, I don't deny it. God knows I've spent thousands of dollars in therapy trying to "work through" all of my anger. I've carried it around for a lifetime, and at this point, I think it's just always going to be a part of me. The best I have been able to do is to get to a point where I try not to let whatever anger I have color my whole existence and my relationships. Sometimes I fail.

I acknowledge that a lot of my writing tends towards the negative. Probably because the things I feel moved to write about are often things I'm frustrated or up in arms about; writing is absolutely an outlet for me. I hope that at least some of the things I write about also reflect fulfillment in my marriage, love and pride in my kids, appreciation of my friends, and gratitude for where I've thus far landed on life's path.

I also hope people realize that there is an actual person behind the online persona, a person much more complicated than what you see here. A person who smiles and laughs a lot, a person who tries to find the humor in things, a person who is unfailingly honest, a person who is intensely loyal and extravagantly generous. A person who actually engages in some pretty brutal self-examination. A person who realizes that she carries anger around, is thin-skinned, and tends towards melancholy, impatience, and cynicism. A person who has had her heart broken enough times that she is jaded.

I've actually spent a good part of my life wanting to be things I am not, in order to feel worthy of being liked or loved. It's a fool's game. I can try to better myself, but in the end, I can only be me, and who I am.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Humble Pie

Michael came home this afternoon from picking the twins up from school, and he told me about a little run-in he had with another parent there for pick-up. The woman was apparently busy talking on her cell phone and as a result, cut someone off in her mini-van. Michael called the woman out on it, telling her that she had cut someone off because she was on her cell phone while driving (which is illegal here, for whatever that's worth). The woman responded by becoming defensive and telling Michael to mind his own business.

There is another parent at the same school who consistently parks his big pick-up truck in a clearly marked no-parking zone in front of the school while he waits for his child to exit the school. It's a very narrow street, so one side of the street is clearly marked No Parking in order to allow traffic to move through. Yet this guy parks there nearly every day, and blocks traffic. And every time I squeeze past him in my truck, I roll down my window and tell him, "You're not supposed to park there. You're blocking traffic." And every time, he gets nasty with me. The other day, he told me, "I'm sick of your mouth!" I kept driving up to the pick-up area, and when I pulled over to pick Joey up, the guy pulls up beside me in his truck, rolls down his window and continues yelling at me. For pointing out to him that he was in the wrong.

I remember one time when I was waddling through the parking lot of Target, hugely pregnant with Finn, and some guy starts backing his car up without even looking. He came very close to hitting me. I threw my arms up, at which point he rolled down his window and flipped me the finger. Seriously.

These are relatively minor, although aggravating, incidents. There are plenty of non-traffic related instances when people screw up and just can't bring themselves to be humble about it. Instances in which words and/or actions hurt people and damage relationships.

Why is it so hard for people to acknowledge when they're out of line and apologize for it? And more to the point, why is it so hard for people to actually take an honest look at themselves and truly realize when they've been wrong? I think there are elements of both shame and pride at issue. I think some people are so worried about being liked that they're afraid of what might happen if they let their guard down and admit that they're actually fallible human beings who make mistakes sometimes. What is ironic is that they're failing to see that humbling oneself and showing remorse actually tends to make a person more likeable, more real.

My dad was a crummy father when I was growing up. Drunk a lot, violent a lot, absent a lot. I did not grow up having a good relationship with either of my parents. There came a time, though, in my adulthood, when my dad sat me down and cried over all the wrongs he had committed as a parent. No excuses, just a lot of heartfelt remorse. We were able to forge a very loving and positive relationship after that.

We struggle to instill humility in our kids. Especially Kevin. Maybe it's the age, but I think Kevin is genetically programmed to refuse accountability, to deflect blame, and to have a really hard time being sorry. His bio father was the same way all through his life - he never outgrew it. So, it's a worry of mine. But how to teach kids humility? I am not especially a fan of the practice of forcing kids to apologize when they've done something wrong (although I do find myself doing just that at times). I think all it teaches is how to deliver words without any real meaning behind them. Anyone can say "I'm sorry," but to actually mean it - to have remorse - is a different story altogether. And I don't mean guilt and shame - I mean remorse: feeling sorry for a word or deed, wanting to make amends, and making an effort to not repeat the offense.

I think the best way to instill this in our kids is by modeling it. By showing humility to them and in their presence. It's a good thing - a wonderful thing - to say to your child, "I was out of line. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings." It helps them see how important and valuable they are. It gives them validation. It allows them to see that the world will not come crashing down on someone who admits they're wrong. And it lets them experience the good feelings that being on the receiving end of a sincere apology evokes.

I say all this with the admission that I'm not always so good at this practice myself. But it's something I'm working on.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What Your Child's Schoolwork Reveals About Their Personality

Having twins in the same grade and the same class is sort of like a science experiment. I swear, even if these projects from school did not come back labeled with Daisy's and Annabelle's names, I would know whose is whose.

Annabelle is . . . ummmm . . . disorderly. Stubborn. Energetic. She marches to the beat of her own drummer. Clearly.

Daisy is a bit of a perfectionist. Also a people pleaser. Organized, neat, and responsible.

Can you see it?

I truly think it's fascinating to see how much of their personalities come through here. Very interesting stuff.

In other news, we seem to have accidentally stumbled upon a (temporary??) solution to the homework battles with Annabelle: Daisy is now helping her do her homework. (This was not my idea, I swear! I'm not trying to shirk my parental duties here.) Daisy is very self-directed and motivated when it comes to homework (not so much when it comes to things like setting the table, though . . .). She actually enjoys it. When the girls get home from school each afternoon, Daisy is usually raring to go on her homework. The other day, she started helping Annabelle with her homework, and Annabelle was so happy with this arrangement (as was I!), that it's continued every day. I just have to keep a close eye and make sure that Daisy doesn't do it for her.

There is something magical about the bond between twins.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is family?

What is family, anyway?

To some people it's blood, and they believe that anyone to whom you are tied by blood, you owe an eternal debt of obligation to. Some people believe that the people with whom you share blood ties are entitled to forgiveness, no matter the transgressions or how deep the scars.

This isn't what I believe.

Sometimes you have to walk away in order to move on. It's not about forgiveness. It's about finally standing up for yourself and choosing not to be hurt anymore. It's about not settling for shitty relationships that can never be made healthy, because life is too short.

But then, a voice from the past jumps directly in your path. Briefly, but you are startled and shaken. And for a whole day, you anguish over old hurts that suddenly feel scraped raw and bleeding again. And that hollow place where the family you wish you had had resides, suddenly feels achey and bottomless.

You want to cry, but you don't let the tears fall. You don't want to allow those old hurts the power to crush you again. Crying won't change anything, anyway.

So you take a deep breath, and you look around you. And you remember that "family," like "friend," is nothing more than an empty word when it's not backed up by love, and respect, and kindness, and effort. And you realize that you make your own family: your spouse, your children, and a circle of friends, all of whom make you feel whole.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Big Little Girls

Last night Kevin gave his big R-word speech at school. It was FABULOUS. (And if you haven't already seen it, check out the footage here.)

It was part of a program in which all of the seventh and eighth graders had to present either a visual art or a performing art (Kevin's speech was classified as a performing art: a monologue). There were lots of performing arts, including dance routines.

Man, oh man, some of these girls. Seventh and eighth graders - so, we're talking 12 - 14 year olds. Performing these very sexual dance routines. And wearing very form-fitting, sexy outfits. And they're all so developed, you know? Full on boobs and butts and legs. These aren't little girls. At least not physically. It was rather startling. And unsettling. They seem so . . . wordly. Very talented girls, these. But, just . . . wow.

Am I just becoming of the geeze? An old prude? Does every generation look at its teens and think they are way too grown-up and precocious for their own good?

I was watching these girls and trying to remember back to when I was that age. Were the girls in my peer group like that? Me, I was a total ugly duckling at that age: painfully thin, short, unflattering hair, glasses, and horribly crooked teeth - I'm pretty sure I was at least occasionally mistaken for a homely boy. I'm picturing my seventh grade school photo and cringing; I don't actually have it in my possession, but I can still picture the wire-rimmed granny glasses and the powder blue polyester blouse I wore. ::Shudder:: Anyway, my point is, I don't think I could have pulled off sexy at that age no matter how hard I might have tried (and I do remember that at the time, the trend among girls was to wear shorts so short that our butt cheeks peeked out of the bottoms - which I did, and which my mother proclaimed slutty. I'll have to give her that).

Then I think of my own daughters. Is that how they're going to be in fewer than ten years? I kept hissing at Michael last night as we watched these young girls writhe all over the stage, "What would you think if that was your daughter up there?!" He just shrugged. What can you say? It's almost impossible to imagine your sweet little girls becoming these aliens with butts and boobs when they're only 3 and 5 years old.

And how did these girls' parents feel seeing their little girls up there bumping and grinding? I'm thinking if it were me, I'd say something like, "How about a puppet show, honey? No dancing. Dancing is the Devil's work."


Thursday, March 4, 2010


I feel like some thanks are in order for all the kind words in response to my Blog Envy post. What a ninny I am. It's nice to be acknowledged. And liked. I wish I didn't care so much!

The truth is (which you've already figured out if you've been reading my blather for any length of time) that my life isn't a gorgeous set of photographs, and I don't write like a poet. My life is messy - always has been. Not that I'd trade it for anyone else's life - no way.

I've been tossing around the idea of writing up something of a summarized biography on an "About Me" page, now that Blogger offers stand-alone pages. But what to include? My husband thinks I already overshare; he says it's a matter of dignity. But I've always been a let-it-all-hang-out-what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of girl. And I kind of want people who take the time to read this stuff to know where I've been and what I come from. Why I am the way I am. Not that I'm making excuses for my shortcomings - I take responsibility for those. After all, I'm a grown-up with the power to improve myself. But still, we're all the sum of all of our experiences.

Anyway. We'll see where I go with that. Not that it's super exciting or anything. But I've had an interesting life, that's for sure.

But right now, I'm off to the mall with these two clowns to share a smoothie.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to Be Healthy

Joey, age 7, has a new pet project. He's writing a book called How to Be Healthy. This was his own idea, and he's slowly typing it up on the computer himself. Here's what he has so far:

How to be healthy: part 1

Two of the main healthy foods are fruits and vegetables. Especially green vegetables. Green vegetables like peas, lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, spinach. Some of the healthiest fruits are grapes, apples, strawberries, and bananas.

How to be healthy: part 2

A fairly healthy fruit is an orange. A fairly healthy vegetable is an artichoke. An artichoke is green. The name makes you think you would choke on it. You won't, that's just it's name. An orange is the color orange (obviously). You are suppose to peel the top off because you are not suppose to eat it. That would be kind of gross.

How to be healthy: part 3

A lot of people think that a tomato is a vegetable. It's not. It's a fruit, but it has a lot of sauce. That is one of the only fruits with sauce. A lot of people think that a potato is a vegetable. It's not. It is a root. It grows out of the ground.

This kid slays me, I tell you! The really funny thing is the fact that he won't go within 50 yards of a green vegetable.

Stay tuned for future chapters. I can't wait to see what he has to say about meat!