Friday, August 21, 2020

A Moment Of Pure Happiness - Grab Yours When You Can!

We weren't far from home, so I threw out the idea of not stopping as planned. But my younger son had been incredibly excited about spending a night in a hotel, and was devastated to find out we might not do it.
So, we stayed.
Falling asleep was difficult. I had planned to let the kids sleep in the huge bed while I slept on the couch. Instead, we opened up the pull-out couch, and the sleeping arrangements changed roughly 73 times over the course of an hour.

I was in the bed with one kid, I was on the couch with the other. This kid was on the couch with me, then in the bed alone. That kid was in the bed with his brother, then he was on the couch. Musical chairs of sleeping situations.
The main bed had a couple thin blankets. The couch had one thin, rough blanket which the kids quite logically suggested might actually be a bath towel. Eventually we all ended up in a pile on the fold out couch along with all of the blankets and pillows. One kid shared a pillow with me, the other kid was sort-of between us, but mostly on top of me.
I turned the TV to a channel with gentle music. I fell asleep. I guess the kids did, too. I have no idea which order we nodded off, although I think I was probably first.
Later, I woke up suddenly- I had set the alarm for 8 am, and figured it was probably close to that time. I looked at the clock on the nightstand across the room.
What? I looked at my phone on the desk - Yep, four am.
I tried to fall back to sleep, but couldn't. Eventually I got up and opened one of the black out curtains. I turned off the random lights around the room. (There had also been a debate about if we needed a night light, which lights should be on, etc.) I turned off the TV, too. I realized I could climb into that big comfy bed by myself. I could take one of the pillows and one of the blankets and have them all to myself, too. The kids would still sleep through the night, and not miss either of them.
But then I looked at the fold out couch and saw my two beautiful boys there, asleep beside each other--completely turned around from where their heads had been when I fell asleep.

And I realized something. Something important. There aren't enough chances in life to cuddle with your two sweet sons. They were getting older faster than I had thought possible, and I knew the number of these chances would rapidly decrease until they completely vanished.
I climbed onto the fold-out couch-bed. I could feel the springs through the mattress. I soon had a kid draped across my legs, and a foot on my shoulder. One or both of the kids would shift every few minutes, often with the jab of an angular body part into a soft part of me. I was beginning to lose feeling in my feet because of the weight on my legs.
But I think I had a smile as I feel asleep that time, because I was thoroughly satisfied I had finally made a good decision by skipping the bed and choosing the cuddles.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Quarantine Spirit Week

At this point during the stay-at-home order, I am considering it a successful fashion day if my kids are less than 25% naked for the majority of the day. And I'm not committed to having successful fashion days. Chest up neatness for school videos is enough. Chats with friends don't even require clean shirts any more. Sports in the yard require gear only because I don't want to deal with broken bones.

Have a great week. I hope it has more silliness than worry!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Spring 2020

I have written about how much I hate April, and my personal reasons for the feelings. This year, those feelings have been pushed aside. I hope they are gone for good. But the reason for them being relegated to a dusty closet in the back of my mind is not a joyous revelation. It's a virus. THE virus.
If you are reading this right after I wrote it, you know what I mean. No matter where you are in the whole world! If you don't know what I'm talking about, search COVID-19 lockdowns and you can get caught up a bit. I am here in mid April 2020, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is happening everywhere, but people are being affected differently. Each country, each area, each business, each family,

This pandemic is happening. There is an unprecedented and unanticipated amount of activity taking place in hospitals, research labs, grocery stores, shipping companies, and other places. But there is also isolation. People being commanded or asked to stay inside their homes so the virus will not be able to infect, not be able to travel. Extended school closures are occurring. Sports seasons at every level of play are suspended. Concerts, shows, parties...all cancelled or postponed. Postponed with new dates TBA, because at this point in time, no one knows when things will happen. Many workers have shifted to working from home, many businesses are closed. A lot is happening because so many things are not happening.

I am not an expert. I'm not a scientist or psychologist or anything important like that. But I'm a human, I'm a mom. I used to be a kid. So here's my attempt at offering some useful advice:

There is lots of technology available to keep you and your kids connected to the world. But this situation can still be scary. Even live videos are still just pictures on a screen.

So, please, if you are allowed and feel safe doing so:
Take your kids for a ride if you have a vehicle. Stay in your car, but go. You don't need a destination. Wave at your neighbors. Smile at strangers. Drive past houses and gas stations, grocery stores, and other cars.
Show your kids the world still...existing. Show them their world is still ok.
If you live in a place and a time where it's plausible (and you are confident your kids can maintain distance from other people and objects) take a walk around your neighborhood. Look for flowers in yards, teddy bears in windows, and birds and squirrels along the way.
If you don't have to keep your kids inside 24/7, take a break occasionally. There are kids whose worlds HAVE been destroyed. There are kids who DO have to hide from the sunlight and the outside world. If your kids don't fall into those categories, give them some solid proof the world is still there, and give them more hope their lives will get back to "normal" someday.

Also, here's a simple page I made for you to complete--alone or with your kids, printed or digitally. I hope most of you will be able to color in more smiley faces than sad ones. Click here for a large blank form. (Send me a message if it isn't showing at a suitable resolution.) Share your lists if you'd like, save them for a time capsule, or just use them as a starting point for a conversation with your kids!

You might not know if things will be back, or if they will be the same. Color the faces in any way you want to show your expectations

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Be glad it wasn't you!

March 2020, USA. COVID-19 has become a pandemic. To try to stop the rapid spread of the highly contagious virus, most religious places of worship here, and many around the world, have canceled in-person services, and are streaming them online instead. This is the first time for a lot of those places and people. Many of the broadcasts are also being done by a single person--also to stop potential transmission of this novel coronavirus. So, some hilarity has ensued. I've seen a clip of a candle igniting a Reverend's robes. "Oh dear," he says as he calmly extinguishes the flame. And there's the priest whose live stream included funny filters. Presumably oblivious to his ever changing silly appearance, he continues with Mass.
Our church has chosen to use a popular video meeting service. The person speaking has the floor--that video and audio takes over the screen. One of the attendees at this Sunday's service pressed the mike button to mute himself, and walked away from his computer to make or answer a phone call. However, he had not realized each attendee's microphone was automatically muted when joining. So, when he pressed the microphone button, he had actually unmuted himself! And the only (or primary, depending on your setup) video screen switched to his empty chair. We could hear him, off screen, as he explained to someone he was attending a virtual church service. Our pastor gently called his name. "Chris? Oh, Chris, can you hear me?" Surprise in his voice, Chris answered. Our pastor explained. Chris apologized, muted his mic, and the service continued. Mistakes happen. I think the situation was handled rather gracefully. I experienced something similar, yet quite different, a long time ago.
Feel free to chuckle. Laugh! Wipe tears from your eyes as your shoulders shake, and be happy it didn't happen to you!
I hope this true story brightens your day a bit.

My husband and I were new to the area, and I wanted to find a church. Our son was under two years old at the time, maybe even less than a year. Choosing a church took a while. I was nervous about taking a baby to church. I was nervous to meet new people. I was worried about being judged for not having been to church in so long. I was concerned I didn't have anything appropriate to wear. (That last one was actually a very big concern!)
Finally, after meticulously compiling every bit of information I could find on local churches from the Internet, and even some phone calls, I made my decision. I was ready for this to be our forever church. A spiritual and religious home base. It was time to muster up our courage, find some clothes not too obviously stained by the bodily fluid of a infant, and start our new glorious journey with God!
It still took a few more weeks for us to go.
Finally, one weekend, we did it. We got dressed in our Sunday best. We drove to the church. We parked in the parking lot. My husband and I set our cell phones to silent, and we walked through the doors carrying our son. I was surprised, and relieved, that one of the first parishioners we saw was a man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a sports logo and comfortable looking jeans. There were also people in more traditional "dressy" church clothing. I didn't feel out of place in my uncomfortable dress pants and blouse with a lively pattern. I also felt confident I would be able to find something for each member of my small family to wear for the coming weeks.
We said hello to some people, and took seats in a pew towards the back. My smile was genuine. I wouldn't have to go dress shopping.
The service began. I cannot remember one word of the sermon. I don't remember the message or songs. I don't remember how many people were there, or even if there was Holy Communion. I don't remember if we put some money in the offering plate. I don't remember how we entertained our son, how he behaved, or if he slept. What I do remember is that it was the day I learned setting a cell phone to silent does not also silence the alarm.
My husband had some random alarm on his phone, reminding us to do something for the baby. And at some point during that church service, that alarm rang. And it was loud. Probably not as loud as I remember, but it was loud. My husband did not have his phone in an easy-to-access place. He had set it to silent, and put it into one of the 438 pockets in our baby bag. And at that moment, it was blaring. We searched. We fumbled. He found the wretched phone. He silenced it.
And then the pastor went off script.
Sermon abandoned, the pastor began a tangent--complete with examples and anecdotes. He preached about why a cellphone ringing during a sermon was his biggest pet peeve. He talked about how he hated it more than anything in the world. He explained why it was the ultimate insult. He spoke for what was probably 20 to 30 minutes, and felt like endless hours.
We were trapped, surrounded by the good, polite, church-going people, who knew how to silence their God Blessed electronics.
The service eventually ended. We left the sanctuary, and the church. I don't remember if we shook hands on the way out of there. I don't remember meeting the pastor face-to-face. I don't even remember if anyone spoke to us.
On the ride home, no blame was placed. My husband and I we were mad. But mad at no one. And we were embarrassed together. Neither of us had had any reason to think we should to check for alarms and cancel them in addition to silencing the phones. We didn't laugh about it. I might have even cried. Mommies do that sometimes.
We never returned to that church, but I still drive past it a lot. I am often reminded of those awful first impressions--the one we gave them, and the one they gave us. And even though it took a while, I think I've reached a time when I can actually laugh about it, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Chef Game

My son became a picky eater overnight. I have no idea what triggered the sudden change, or filled him with such conviction. But he no longer wanted to try new foods. He would turn up his adorable little nose and pout his mischievous little lips. He would refuse. He didn't seem to mind long standoffs. We, the parents, would ultimately win--barely. A tiny bite and we'd call it a victory, although my son probably counted it as his own victory, too.
Somewhere among the battles, I invented The Chef Game. I have no idea if it will work with other kids--it doesn't even work with mine 100% of the time. But when I remember it in time to avoid an all-out, feet-in-the-mud, you-can't-make-me battle, it works an amazingly satisfyingly percentage of times.

Intimidating Pralines

Here's how we play:
The child must take at least one bite of the new food. (But you can also play this game with known foods.) It can be any size bite. If the bite is minuscule, remind the child they will need enough of a taste to properly evaluate the food.
Now, the child must tell the adult:
Three things they like about the food, and three things they would change.

  • The child may take as many additional bites as needed while deciding on these six things.
  • The lists can be based on any aspect of the food.
  • The child can't just say what they dislike--instead they must think of a way to make it better.
  • The things to change can be improvements or just fun ways to make it different.
The "format" and order of the answers don't matter. It also doesn't matter if the ideas don't really make sense, if the suggestions are impossible or already being done, or anything else. If the kid comes up with ideas, be positive about them. The point of this game is to get the kid to give new things a chance. It might also help them think about the world, be a bit creative, and even implement some problem-solving to improve or transform a food they don't like even after trying it. It can also help kids realize one taste isn't always enough, because as my son is trying to think of a way to make an unpleasant food better, sometimes he will continue eating it, and end up actually liking it!
My son has said he would like to be a chef someday, but I'm hoping this could help some of you with your own picky eaters, even if they have no culinary aspirations.

Suspicious Lunch Meat

A few of my son's chef game results:

Hard Salami
  • Looks like pepperoni
  • Tastes like pepperoni
  • The chewiness
  • Shrink it a little
  • Make it not as shiny
  • Make it part of a 200-decker sandwich
General Tso's Chicken
  • Color
  • Size
  • Chewiness
  • A little less spice
  • Put it on a stick with a hamburger and mac & cheese
  • Carve the Pirates "P" logo into them
Praline Pecans
  • "I liked that there was a surprise--I literally didn't know there was a nut"
  • Cinnamon
  • It looks like a rock in the darkness
  • Wouldn't put a nut inside, instead change the nut to chocolate
  • Would put a chocolate covering on it
  • Change the shape to a brown doggy
Broccoli in sauce
  • The color green
  • The sauce
  • The crunch
  • Add ten hundred pounds of cheese
  • Change it from looking like a tree to make it look a doggy
  • Cool it down more by putting it in the freezer for ten days and not heat it up
Mini Gherkins

  • Shape
  • Color
  • Taste
  • No sticks [stems]
  • A lot less salt
  • Put them in a marshmallow in a s'more

Friday, August 9, 2019

Throwing Stones At Strangers

It looks lonely. I'm sad I didn't tell my son to use it.
But his project had already been ruined.
He might not have wanted to go anyway.
"Is this one yours? Somebody needs to teach her about sharing."
They were words I couldn't handle right then. Words that broke me. Again. Words that flew through my ears and pierced my brain like nails.

I said nothing to the woman. Maybe I should have. No. It's good I stayed silent towards her. But I can't let her statement go unanswered. She'll never see this, but I can still reply.

You know you could have taken your kid to the identical, and completely unoccupied, light board directly across from the one my son was already using, right?
Maybe your own child should be taught to ask before starting in on a project when another child is already there, and already in the middle of something, waiting a few minutes (patiently--which is so hard for him) for his brother to return and continue creating with him.
It may be hard to fathom, but it is also completely possible for you to keep your sarcastic comments inside your own head instead of spitting them at stranger who might already be going through a really hard time in general, and a very difficult day specifically.
Someone could teach your daughter to show compassion to someone who might not want to share right now, or someone who has difficulty processing the world like other kids do; someone could even teach her to walk away if there is a situation or a person she doesn't like-instead of being confrontational and snide.
Yes, my son could have handled the situation differently. Better. He could have not blocked the peg pieces with this body. He could have politely said, "My brother and I are working on something here. Could you please wait until we are done to take a turn?" (Or would that still be considered rude by you? Something that should be "taught out of him?") He could have welcomed the random new kid to join him. Or he could have abandoned his own ideas, and given all the pieces to her. Is that what you meant when you said sharing?

The Wonderful Teacher and Mother, Miss B?
If I had been there with my son... (I wasn't. I was selfishly trying to take a brief break and sitting on a bench a few feet away.) But if I had been there, and our roles had been reversed, I would have taught my son to share--with the person who was there first. Just like I had been trying to break through and make him understand his whole life. (Ask permission, or ask to be next. PLEASE don't just jump into something someone else is already doing, sweetie. You are going to make someone sad or mad.) At least four specific situations that day already. Situations with other parents and kids--some of them also saying (not-quite-as) rude things and shooting me dirty looks. Apologies from me. Apologies from my son. Trying to avoid eye contact. Situations making me feel terrible and worthless and inept before we even met you and your lovely family. Each one followed by me explaining in every way I knew, any way I thought he might start to understand: "If someone is using a toy, wait for them to finish. Wait for your turn."
But you didn't see any of that. You didn't care. You are the Mother of Mothers, all-knowing, judge and jury. And you decided to throw a rock through the fragile bubble of calm sanity I had been trying to experience while my kids and I were three of only a few people in that room inside an otherwise bustling museum.
I knew I only had a few minutes before more people would enter that room. So I savored sitting and breathing while I didn't have to worry and chase and helicopter over my little boy to be sure he didn't interrupt someone else's play, or learning, or experience.
At a bit before 12:30 in the afternoon, you walked into the room and over to the exact toy where my son was playing. And then you aimed your dagger eyes at me. Our gazes met. (Couldn't you see the exasperation and exhaustion already on my face?) And then you said your hateful, hurtful lines.
Did you read his shirt, know he was a boy, and call him a girl anyway? Did you delight in seeing my face flush then fill with red? Did you secretly smile as I yanked away my kid? Did you giggle when I yelled at him before even hearing his side of things? Did you get a warm fuzzy feeling when your kid had the toy all to herself while the other one stood, unused, at the other wall, and my upset son sat at my feet? Will you treasure the memory of making a grown woman cry in the middle of a museum as the invisible weight of the world pounded down on her?
I don't know. Because I don't know you. And you don't know me, either.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Just another regrettable moment I live over and over

As if they don't even know there is a Garzel two doors away
I was at my kids' school, volunteering for some project. I was there with a few other moms and we talked to each other as we helped the kids do the things they were doing. One of the moms mentioned the Garzels (absolutely not their real last name) - another family at the school. (I don't remember how they were brought up, but later I realized why they were mentioned.) I said, "Oh! The Garzels. My son plays baseball with their kid. They're a great family." The other mom interjected, "No! I mean I KNOW them. I've been to their house! Our kids did this together, I've known them for this long. Our families have done that together."
Umm, okay...
Over the course of our 45-minute shift, I must have heard the name Garzel at least 50 times from that mom. Most of the time she was talking about how rich they were. Not outright, but by constantly mentioning the expensive things they do or own. Did you hear about their fabulous vacation? You probably don't know where they get their hair cut. The Garzels' car does this. Their house is state-of-the-art. Their TV would make you question your perception of reality. The Garzels' vacuum cleaner does their dishes, too. Good grief. The name dropping was nauseating me. I guess she was just very proud of her friends, but by the time we were done, I really was beginning to question my own reality without even having seen the Garzels' TV. I felt as if while I had been at all those baseball games, I had been in the presence of a family that made Tom Hanks and Bill Gates look like chumps...and I hadn't even known it! I just thought they were cool people. I didn't know they were rich and famous and I should have been honored just to be around them. I was also very sick of the name Garzel. My head was spinning from hearing about how much money they had, and how wonderful they were.
Did you know the Garzels have 35 of whatever that is?
I waited in the lobby with my son to sign him out of school. I saw one of the Garzel kids in the school through the lobby's glass doors. I was so sick of hearing about how "their s*** don't stink," I almost wanted to throw up at the sight of the sweet kid who had always been so kind and polite to my family and me. It wasn't a huge school, and there were two Garzel kids in it, but why did I have to see one of them right at that moment?
An announcement sprang from the public address system - someone had parked a Mercedes in the wrong place and it was blocking someone else. I smart acidly said to my son, "Maybe it's the Garzels. The Garzels could afford a car like that. But it's probably beneath them. They can do much better." I instantly regretted saying it. I had spat the words towards my son because of the headache in my brain. But I shouldn't have said such a mean-spirited, and probably confusing-to-him, thing to my child. Plus, there were other people in that lobby. We weren't in close proximity to them, but anyone could have heard what I said. Miss Name-Dropper was in that lobby. Had I said it loud enough for her to hear? Would she recognize the sarcasm? Was that my intention? The Garzels were at the school, too. What if they had heard me? Or someone told them? Out of context I just sounded like a witch. Probably in-context too, actually.
I still have no idea if the Garzels really are a super-powerful family or if Other Mom was just enamored with them. I've been around the family since that day, and they're still the personable, lovely people I had known them to be. I have avoided the other mom as much as possible.
That day eats at me, the memory stinging me like a million angry hornets. So I wrote about it in hopes some of the regret will be satisfied by the text and leave me alone.

Ps. "Garzels," it's cool you have a friend who sort-of worships the ground on which you walk. I'm sorry for hating you for a hot minute during the last school year.