Category Archives: Things that Scare Me

You’re my friend, so you can’t be theirs…

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You’re my friend, so you can’t be theirs…

My daughter came home from school the other day absolutely distraught.  She tossed her bag down and grumbled about something or other.  Now, as the parent of a very emotional 2nd grade girl, I know better than to ask what’s caused her so much distress.  But… I’m kind of a curious person.  I know I know, curiosity killed the cat and all that.  But I can’t seem to help myself.

  • Me: So… what’s wrong?
  • Miss Lulu: Well.  Carley and I broke up.  Again. (crosses her arms and scowls)  We aren’t friends anymore.
  • Me: Oh… I see.  Why?
  • Miss Lulu:  Because I wanted to play with Logan but Logan doesn’t like Carley because she always tells him what he has to be when we play.  So I had to either play with Carley or Logan.  She wasn’t happy when I played with Logan.  We’re not friends anymore.

Alright, I get that this happens all the time.  She and Carley have been on and off friends for the past two years.  Carley often requires 100% attention from her friends.  It happens and Lex will feed into that.  She likes to make everyone happy.  She’ll even schedule one recess with Carley and one with her other friends.  She really tries and it upsets her when Carley “breaks up” with her.  Now, I get that I have to look at this from a few different angles in order to help Lex make her own choices and hopefully learn how to build strong friendships, but that’s not always easy.

You see, I’m kind of socially awkward.  Throw me in a room of strangers and I shrivel up like an orchid left without water in the desert.  I can’t just go up to someone and introduce myself, let alone initiate an actual conversation.  When I know I have an event that requires me to be social, I have panic attacks and nightmares for days prior to the engagement.  It’s awful and I’ve always been that way.  So making friends as a child wasn’t really my strong point.  Sure I managed to make a few but more often than not I felt like an outsider.  I did my best to fit in where I could but just felt like I barely kept my head above water socially.  It was horrible and I remain scarred from the whole thing.  I’ve grown quite a bit and because of my job I can now fake my way through it.  I can force myself to plaster a smile across my face and talk with people… when I have to.  If I can avoid it, I certainly do.  But I am thankful I have gained some skills in the area.  I’ve made some great friends who I treasure every day.

When Lex started kindergarten my worst fear was that she wouldn’t make friends.  That she would feel that horrible petrifying fear when dumped into a room of kids she’d never met.  She did alright.  She made a few friends throughout the year but no really close friends.  Of course, that was kindergarten and I didn’t expect her to meet her lifelong best friend there.  It’s possible sure, but not probable. Once school was out she lost touch with all of her friends over the summer.  When she started 1st grade it was horrible.  She had zero friends and she cried for the first three days of school.  This was one of the many reasons we switched schools.  At the new school she had her cousin and one of her friends from preschool, Logan.  It was amazing to see him greet her that first day.  He jumped out of his seat and gave her a giant hug.  It was a wonderful way to start at a new school.

Throughout that year Lex made many more friends.  She had a decent bunch at her birthday party and was invited to a few parties.  Sure she ran into troubles much like the Carley situation, but they were fewer then.  Over that summer she didn’t see any of her friends.  She was somewhat sad about this, but she made it through fine.  She had Girl Scouts and a million different family events to keep her busy.  This year, she went back to school with a smile on her face and a positive attitude.  She was ecstatic to see her friends, especially Logan.

The year has gone by fairly well, with exception of these Carley incidents.  To be fair, they aren’t all about Carley specifically.  She runs into the problem with a few of the girls in her class.  She’ll come home one day upset because this friend wouldn’t let her play with that friend or they won’t let her play with Logan because he’s a boy.  So how do I handle these issues?  How do I explain to my 8-year-old daughter that she really should choose her own friends?  How do I convince her that she’s strong enough to make a stand against these controlling girls?  And while I want her to make her own choices and stand up against the Carley’s of the world, I don’t want her to lose the friends she does have.  I don’t want her to feel those horrible feelings of being excluded.  I don’t want her to grow up without friends but, I certainly want her to be her own person.  I want her to be confident in who she is and her abilities that she can say no to the Carley’s of the world.

Part of me really just wanted to tell her that people like Carley aren’t really the greatest friends, but I also realize they are only 8 and just barely developing their own personalities.  This year Carley may be a controlling and jealous friend, but next year… she could be the shy girl in the corner feeling excluded.  My overly protective side wanted to tell her she’d be better off without Carley as a friend, that the whole situation is in fact Carley’s fault.  Of course, my rational side kicked in and reminded me that I was wrong.  Carley could have definitely handled the situation better, but so the same could be said for Lexi.  I reminded myself that while Carley was the one angry with everyone, Lexi could have been the one to listen to her.  Maybe Carley was just worried she’d lose Lexi to a different group of friends.  Maybe she was jealous of the close friendship Lex and Logan share.  Maybe Carley is really the insecure girl in this situation.  There are a million different things that went through my head.  Things are rarely black and white.  People aren’t always who they seem to be on the outside.  So from a parental standpoint, how do I explain to my 8-year-old daughter, the fine balance between being a good friend and being your own person?  I honestly don’t know.  These are the moments I wish kids came with an instruction manual.  It’s been a few weeks and though we’ve actually addressed the situation, I still don’t have the perfect words.

So what did I tell my daughter?  Well, I reminded her that yes, she can be friends with anyone she wants.  That friendship isn’t a non-renewable resource.  Friendship should be nurtured and shared.  I reminded her of her commitment to make the world a better place and by sharing her friendship with others, she is doing that.  I told Lex that Carley may just need reassured that she’s not going to abandon Carley for her other friends.  We talked about how to include Carley with the other kids and how to get everyone to work together.  And ultimately, I reminded Lexi that she is in charge of herself, actions and words.  If she truly feels that Carley is overly demanding, jealous or controlling, then it’s not a healthy relationship and she needs to walk away.

After the “loooongg talk” (as Lexi called it) we hugged and I thanked her for sharing her problems with me.  I told her that no matter what was happening at school or with her friends, I’m here for her.  I wanted her to know that I’m not perfect and I won’t always have the answers, but I am here to listen whenever she needs me.  In the end, as parents, that’s all we can do.  She needs to grow into her own person and in the process she’s going to face so many challenges.  I can’t protect her from everything, but I can certainly do my best to help her along the way.

 

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The Joys of Parenting an Elementary School Student

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The Joys of Parenting an Elementary School Student

My daughter started daycare at 3 months old and has been exposed to other kids her entire life.  She attends public school, Girl Scouts and many other outside activities.  One of the major fears I have always had as a parent was dealing with those childhood epidemics.  No, not chickenpox or the flu.  I can deal with the itchies and puke.   I fear things like pink eye.  The things that spread like wildfire.  At first it’s just one child and within minutes you have an entire class infected.  I know that pink eye is totally curable and really, if I think about it, it’s one of the less gross afflictions of childhood.  But the whole idea of an oozy eye and having to put eye drops in my child’s eyes while they are screaming… yeah I’ll take puke any day.

In prior years we’ve lucked out.  We had one bout of pink eye with our son when he was a year old.  That was not my idea of fun, but thankfully my husband handled the majority of that.  This year… we were not as lucky.  While my husband was out of town, I had to combat my nemesis of childhood ailments.  Well, not so much an ailment but rather an infestation.  Yep.  I had the pleasure of treating my daughter for head lice.  Ugh!  Did you just cringe?  I know I did.  The mere mention of head lice gives me the creeps.  Even as I write this, my head is itching and we’ve been clear for three weeks.  Something about little bugs crawling around my scalp just freaks me out.  That and it takes FOREVER to treat for them.  I remember how long it took when we ended up with it as kids.  It was awful.  So when the school called me and informed me they were sending home the majority of my daughter’s class, I could have cried.

I got the call on a Friday at like 9am and it went something like this…

  • Secretary: Hi, I have Alexis here in the office.  It seems we’re facing our third outbreak of head lice for the second grade class. (I was cringing at this point.  My stomach had pretty much dropped and I was about halfway to a panic attack.  Yes.  I realized it could be worse and I was totally acting crazy.)  I’m not certain she has lice but she does have some red marks behind her ears.  Now, it could be her headband she’s been wearing all day. She’s not sure.  But we just don’t want to take a chance.
  • Me: Oh I can’t blame you.  Either the nanny or I will come get her as soon as possible.
  • Secretary: Thank you.  Like I said, I don’t know for sure.  We’ve just been hit so hard with it this year…
  • Me: Yeah, I understand.  It’s nothing to mess around with at all.
  • Secretary: Thanks.  I’ll see you when you get here.

So there was a chance it wasn’t lice.  My mind was racing.  I had checked her not but two days prior.  It was all part of our daily process.  When we received a notice the school had the first lice outbreak, I went through the whole lecture with my daughter.  “Don’t share brushes or hair ties… or hats or anything that touches your head.  Do not rub heads with your friends.  You really don’t want bugs in your hair do you?!”  Of course, that totally freaked her out.  I strive not to pass my crazy onto my kids, but in this case, I made an exception.  My daughter’s hair is just as thick as mine is and I really did not want to have to pick through it with a nit comb.  We started a daily process of looking through her hair.  I could not believe I had missed it.  I had failed to catch something so vital.  I was in a full panic as I explained to my boss that I had to leave work.  My heart was racing and I was about to have a major breakdown… in public.

I raced to my car and dialed my sister.  I rushed through an explanation and let her know we would be spending the afternoon decontaminating.  If Lexi had it then chances were her house was contaminated too.  After hanging up with her I took off toward the school.  Thankfully, her school is about 10-15 minutes from work so I had time to calm myself.  By the time I had gotten to the school I was in a much better place.  I could breathe and I didn’t feel like a total failure.  I was still holding out hope it was just her headband.  I had a brief discussion with the secretary…

  • Secretary: Thanks for coming to get her.  I’m just not sure if she has anything.  We are just being precautions.  We’ve never had an outbreak this bad.  This round it’s only in the second grade class thankfully.
  • Me: No problem.  I’ll take her home and get her checked out.  If she has it we’ll get her treated.
  • Secretary: Oh good.  Also, please remember the second treatment a week later.  I guess that’s a piece a lot of people skip and it’s pretty vital.
  • Me: Oh you don’t need to worry.  I take lice very seriously.  She won’t be back until she’s clear and then we will treat her again later.
  • Secretary: Thanks!  We really do appreciate it.

Once I had Lexi in the car and started for home, she was fairly worried.

  • Lex: So… if I have lice what does that mean?
  • Me: Well, that you need to have your head treated and we’ll get rid of it.
  • Lex: But… you just checked me.

Yeah, she said it and it made me feel awful.

  • Me: Yeah baby I know.  Maybe I missed something. But it’s okay.  We’ll take care of it.
  • Lex: But it’s fireman day at school.  I’m going to miss the firemen.

She was very upset about that which just made me feel worse.  Not only had I missed the creepy crawlies on her scalp but I had also ruined fireman day for her.  Great.

  • Me: I’m sorry Lex.  We’ll go visit them another day.  I’m sure that will be more fun.
  • Lex: Yeah.

The rest of the trip was quiet.  She was upset over firefighters and I was chastising myself for missing the little monsters.  When we got home my sister had already started the process of quarantining anything that may be contaminated.  We checked out Lexi’s head and sure enough, she had eggs behind her ears and at her neckline.  I had failed.  That’s all I could think.  I had missed a live creepy crawly and it had laid its nasty little eggs all over my daughter’s head.  I had ruined fireman day for her.  Instead of having fun meeting the firefighters, she would be stuck getting her head treated for the next several hours.  I was a bad parent.

We spent the next four hours treating her.  Shampoo, rinse, comb, rinse.  She was such a trooper.  Regardless that it took three plus hours to comb through her hair, she stayed positive.  I have to say, she handled it much better than I did at her age.  While I worked through her hair, my dear sister worked through mountains of laundry and stuffed animals.  We cleaned and cleaned the house.  Neither of us wanted to take a chance of it spreading.  We were on a mission to eradicate their kind.

It’s been a few weeks and so far, everyone else is clear.  Looking back at it, I realize that I was a bit harsh on myself.  I did what I could to keep her from getting it and that is all I could do.  I don’t blame myself.  It’s just one of those things that happens.  I get that.  I know that we did what we could to prevent an infestation.  It happened and we made it through the whole mess.  Of course, I still hate the buggers.  They still creep me out beyond belief and I have my sister check my head daily.  However, I do know that they do not want to face me again.  For I am Mom.  Giver of hugs, kisser of owies and executioner of lice.

Zero Tolerance…

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Zero Tolerance…

At the beginning of this school year I made the decision to transfer my daughter to another school.  There were multiple reasons for this but mostly she was just unhappy in her previous school.  The first three days of school this year Lexi came home in tears.  My husband and I decided that no kid should hate 1st grade that much.  A few phone calls later and she was enrolled at one of our rural schools.  I have to say, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  She has flourished both academically and socially.  She has friends and adores her teachers.  She is always very positive when she talks about school.  The entire experience is 100% better than her previous school.

Recently my friend Christina confided in me the problems she is having with Lexi’s previous school district.  Christina’s daughter Anne has been struggling with a bully in her school.   Hearing Christina recount the situation just reinforced my decision to move Lexi. When I signed my daughter up for kindergarten at the previous school, the staff informed me that the school district had a zero tolerance policy on bullying and/or harassment.  This concept made complete sense and quite honestly I felt better about sending my daughter to this specific school.  However, we all know that even the best policies fail if they are not enforced correctly.

Here we are two years later and Christina is battling with the principal over what to do about the boy bullying her daughter.  This boy has been nothing but horrible to Anne any time they have encountered each other.  He has evidently been out of the school for a while and has recently returned.  Last week he threatened to punch her in the face.  Christina’s husband treks over to the school to discuss the situation with the principal where he finds out not only did the kid threaten to punch Anne in the face, but also threatened to or mentioned he wanted to kill her.  The response by the school?  Anne instigated it by telling this bully he was standing in the wrong spot.

Now I understand that kids will be kids and sometimes they will argue.  Arguing is one thing but wanting to kill another person is completely different.  Yes, it is entirely possible he didn’t mean it in the manner of which Anne took it, but does it matter?  He has been a consistent threat to her ability to feel safe at school for more than just one school year.  Not to mention, I thought this school had a zero tolerance policy.  I wasn’t sure if the policy was still in effect or not because I had pulled my daughter from school.  I looked it up on the schools website.  This is what I found:

Harassment/Bullying/Intimidation/Hazing

  1.  “Harassment, intimidation, or bullying” means any act that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, that takes place on or immediately adjacent to school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation, or at any official school bus stop, or anywhere conduct may reasonably be considered a threat or an attempted intimidation of a student or staff member or an interference with school purposes or an educational function, and that has the effect of:
    1. Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property;
    2. Knowingly placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student or damage to the student’s property;
    3. Creating a hostile educational environment.

Okay, so I would like to point out that Anne has been physically harmed by this same bully in the past.  He has pushed her into lockers along with other things.  She has been feeling a reasonable fear of physical harm since he started threatening her again.  How can all this NOT create a hostile educational environment for her?

Well, we’ve confirmed that she is being bullied, so what are the consequences for this boy?  I have discovered that the school district, or at least this specific branch of the district, no longer has a zero tolerance policy.  Here are the consequences as listed in the handbook:

Students whose behavior is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including expulsion.

THE SUBSTANTIATION OF A THREAT OF DEADLY FORCE MAY RESULT IN AN IMMEDIATE REFERRAL TO THE SCHOOL BOARD FOR EXPULSION.

Policy

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the school and this bully, we will say this was his first offense of menacing behavior.  He threatened to punch her, but didn’t.  There is his ‘warning’.  Then come to find out he wishes to kill her.  I would say that in the very least that would be a repeated offense of menacing or harassing behavior.  His parents should be involved.  Forgive me but in my experience, bullying doesn’t start at school.  More often than not I’ve noticed that it comes from a parental figure.  I may be a cynic and who knows, I could be completely wrong, but I honestly do not think calling a parent is going to accomplish much.  It may, but obviously this is not the first, second or even third time he has repeated the exact offense.  What good did it do in the past?

Previously, this same bully has physically pushed Anne into a locker more than once.  He has shoved her in the hall while making his threats to do worse.  I would say that qualifies as assault under the district guidelines – Intentional physical contact with another person which may cause physical injury.  Yet this boy, this bully is still allowed to harass Anne and possibly other students.  He has been terrorizing her for years both verbally and physically, but is still permitted on school property.  How does this even make sense?  My heart breaks for her.  She deserves better.  She should not go to school in fear of what this kid, and at least one other, may do to her.

Could her parents transfer her from this school?  Definitely.  That may happen next year.  When they addressed this possibility with the principal, the reaction they received was not what I would expect.  They were told that this boy was only there for part of the day and very well may not attend next year.  The principal did mention they didn’t understand why they were having such issues with this specific boy.  Really?!  So it’s not just Anne who has to deal with him, but someone else?  This same principal informed Anne she should not let one kid hold power over her.  Excuse me, but when you are 10 years old and have gone through all the proper channels to report the abuse and nothing has come of it, how can you not feel defeated?  Quite honestly if I were in her shoes I would have quit reporting it ages ago.  What’s the point when the principal and administration REFUSE to act?

It’s puzzling to me how a school that has pushed bully awareness and advertised a zero tolerance policy in the past can let this happen. We live in a world post Columbine.  We now have school shooting drills in our schools.  We have police officers on campus even in our small town.  Why are we willing to take these steps but not willing to resolve the issues before they get to that point?  It really makes little sense to me.  Sure the police liaison will be contacting Christina due to the mention of killing Anne.  Again, why did it get this far?  Why is it that this boy has the right to terrorize his classmates?  Why is he allowed to disrupt their lives and threaten their ability to feel safe and secure at school?

So how do we handle it?  How would I have handled it if I were a school official?  I would have pulled the kid out of school before things escalated this far.  Until this is resolved he should not be allowed to continue terrorizing fellow students.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Some of you may argue the other side, and that is perfectly okay.  We are all entitled to our opinions.  My hope is that this spurs a conversation.  There has to be a better way of handling the bully epidemic because I can promise that the way it is being swept under the rug is not working.  For all we know the bully is dealing with some serious home issues.  That is completely possible.  Nevertheless, how can anyone help him if we continue to ignore the behavior?  How can we help Anne if we refuse to admit that this boy is a problem?

There really is no easy answer in this case.  Nor is it in my direct power to do anything.  If it were my daughter?  She would not attend this school going forward.  I would have pulled her even with only two weeks of school remaining.  Until we demand better for our kids nothing will change.  It is our duty as their parents to provide safe environments for them.    Is that really the best solution?  No.  It would protect her from this one bully but does not solve the problem across the board.  Yes, we will all encounter bullies throughout our lives and should be equipped to deal with them.  But no one should be forced to endure like Anne.  The policies set down by a school should be enforced.  All we have shown Anne, and those in her situation, is that rules mean nothing.  They are just put on paper to look good.  Is that really something we want to teach younger generations?

Impulse Auditions

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Impulse Auditions

In early March a post on Facebook announcing open auditions for ‘The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later’ caught my eye.  I’m not an actor by any means of the word, but I found myself very interested in auditioning.  I called my sister and asked her if she would like to branch out a bit and audition with me.  Being the amazing sister she is, she jumped on board.  We knew the chances of being cast were minimal at best, but we decided to at least give it a try.  On a cold Monday evening we found ourselves completely lost trying to find the side door entrance to the theatre.  It took us three trips around the building before we discovered the unmarked door that looked as though we really shouldn’t be using it.  I can’t tell you how many times in that fifteen-minute trek I contemplated just leaving.  I had rationalized that since we couldn’t find the door the universe obviously was trying to tell us something.  But just when I was about to give up entirely we found the door and entered the green room.

We were met by the director and a few other auditionees.  Sister and I completed the audition paperwork and began looking over the material.  As we watched more people filter into the room I couldn’t help but think we were in way over our heads.  These people all knew each other and had obviously done this many times prior.  There was absolutely no way either of us would be cast.  Of course we were perfectly fine with that.  While we both would love to work on such a powerful piece, we knew it was a long shot when we decided to audition.  Then we began the readings.

Sister and I sat quietly, our attention on our fellow auditionees.  I found myself in awe of these people.  How they could pick up a piece of paper and put so much emotion into it after one reading was beyond me.  That whole self-doubt feeling snuck in as it tends to in these situations.   Suddenly my name was called.  My inner monologue went something like this:

Just breathe…
I can’t.  What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into now?!
Oh get over it.  You’re here now… breathe in and out and just read the damned piece.
Fine.
deep breath…

And the words flowed from my mouth.  I had picked a monologue from Romaine Patterson.  She was a friend of Matthew Shepard and the section I read was the closing to the play.  It struck a chord because all I could think of was ‘what if this was one of my friends’.  It was a moving section of the play.  I can’t remember if I read it perfectly or just rushed through it.  I remember taking a deep breath and then sitting back down.  I watched the remaining people read their sections, including my sister.  I can’t say enough how proud I was of her.  This was entirely out of her comfort zone and definitely all my idea.  She tagged along in support of my latest crazy whim and had to go through the whole audition process because of me.  I owe her big time for that.  She stood and read a piece for Nikki Elder.  I could tell she was nervous but she got through it beautifully.

Once readings were finished we handed back our script pieces, thanked the director and headed for home.  The cast list would be posted on Friday but neither of us expected to be cast.  I was at a going away party for a dear friend when I received the call.

Sister: So our first rehearsal is April 15 at 7.
Me: For?
Sister: Both of us.
Me: …. *blink* *blink* Are you serious?!
Sister: Yup.
Me: Oh wow… umm wow!

It was crazy!  I announced to my group and seriously needed to finish the beer I had been drinking.  It was by far one of the biggest surprises I’d had in a while.  I was certain I wouldn’t make it.  Maybe Sister would, but definitely not me.  Alas, I was totally wrong.  It was exciting and scary and I’m not entirely sure what else.  Nevertheless, it was great and I was super excited to get to work on this piece.

A few weeks later we found ourselves in the same green room where we auditioned.  There were 14 of us total, counting the director.  We would all be cast for multiple roles and would be on book.  There were only nine rehearsals and two performances.  Our director assigned roles and we began reading.  I was assigned Leigh Fondakowski and Romaine Patterson.  Sister was assigned multiple roles as the friend or a student throughout the play.  The first night we read through the entire play and then began the blocking for Act 1.  It was fast paced and a lot to learn for someone who had never performed at this level.  It was a wonderful challenge and definitely fulfilled my goal of trying something new.

Over the course of the next three weeks we ran through the play multiple times.  We practiced lines and blocking not only during rehearsals but at home too.  It was a long three weeks but also a lot of fun.  Sister and I enjoyed rehearsals and getting to know the cast.  Everyone was wonderful. They were so much fun to work with and I can’t imagine doing the show with different actors and/or a different director.  I learned a lot from everyone, whether or not they realized it.

This past Saturday was opening night.  It was a bit nerve-wracking but also rather exciting.  Here we were nine rehearsals under our belt and we were going to present this very moving play to a live audience.  Crazy! I was definitely worried I’d lose my place on stage or forget my lines (even though I had the script in hand).  It was one thing to mess up during rehearsal, an entirely different thing to do it in front of the audience.  But as the lights came up and I took a deep breath, I reminded myself that I knew the material.  I knew where I needed to be and when.  Also, it wasn’t about us as a cast, it was about the text.  It was about the story.  We were there to deliver a story about a tragedy in history.  That was it.  And that is exactly what we did.  There were minor flaws but nothing anyone noticed.

All in all the play was very moving for me.  The content was heartbreaking and there were moments throughout that I had to blink back tears.  It breaks my heart knowing that there are people out there so filled with hate they can brutally beat the life out of someone.  It’s horrific and I couldn’t help but think that this could happen anywhere to anyone.  Listening to my cast-mate portray Judy Shepard where she describes that she is ‘just doing what a mother does’  chokes me up no matter how many times I’ve heard it.  The entire play is a buildup of emotion from start to finish.  By the time I recited my final lines of the show, those very lines I read during auditions, I had tears streaming down my face.  I wept for Matthew’s family and friends.  I wept for the community of Laramie still struggling to deal with this tragedy.  I wept for those who face such hatred and close-mindedness daily.  I wept for those who suffer in silence alone.

As Sister and I exited the theatre last night we both felt a bit melancholy.  While I am glad to return to my daily routine and actually see my kids for more than a few minutes a day, I will miss our cast.  I will miss working with these wonderful people who were very kind to us.  I will miss the material.  Yes, it was very intense material, but it was thought provoking.  I truly hope that through our production we were able to start those tough conversations.  I hope we brought to light that hate exists in our world, big or small.  I hope that by starting these conversations we can grow as individuals, a community, as humanity to help ensure atrocities like the murder of Matthew Shepard do not continue to happen.

For More Information on ‘The Laramie Project’ or ‘The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later’ –  www.laramieproject.org

Not Worth Skipping…

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Not Worth Skipping…

As a parent there are certain issues I’ve known I would have to address at some point.  The same topics I’m sure my mom agonized over when I was young.  Those touchy subjects none of us really want to address with our kids.  I knew going into parenthood that I’d have to somehow address things like sex, marriage, death, religion and whatnot.  I wasn’t deluding myself, these questions would arise and I’d have to have an answer.

In society today our children are exposed to so much.  I’m not saying that’s good or bad.  I would say that in some cases it’s great, in others… not so much.  I love that my daughter has had the opportunity to learn about other cultures and I despise that my daughter has picked up the word “ain’t”.  As with anything, today’s media exposure can be both good and bad.

Recently my six-year-old daughter has been falling asleep around six each night.  She’s had a busy schedule and she’s growing, this really isn’t that surprising.  I would love to fall asleep at that hour if I could.  It hasn’t been much of a concern except she tends to miss dinner if we don’t wake her.  A few nights we’ve tried to get her up and she’s basically told us she would rather sleep.  Again, not a huge problem, she’s always been one to tell us if she’s hungry or not.  I have never force-fed my kids.  I have never worried about my daughter and food, until recently.

Yesterday we were driving the two hours home from our mini-vacation.  My six-year-old loves to talk.  She’s a girl and she’s six, of course she loves to talk.  In the midst of her latest story she pauses before saying; “So you know why I sometimes to go bed right after daycare? Without eating dinner?”  Both my husband and I responded with “because you’ve been tired.”  It seemed reasonable.  She just shook her head and informed us; “No, because I want to stay skinny.  I don’t want to get fat.”

My stomach dropped.  As I said before, I knew I’d have to discuss these tough topics with her at some point.  I just didn’t expect to be discussing body image issues with my very healthy six-year-old.  This is the same girl who prefers cucumbers over cookies, who swims at least once per week and spends most of her afternoons running around on a playground.  Weekends are spent at parks or the pool.  It is very rare for her to actually sit still.

To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.  I was truly horrified and heartbroken at the same time.  We asked her why she would think something like that was a good idea.  We discussed what happens to your body when you skip meals.  We talked about healthy food and habits.  She was her usual self and absorbed the information.  I hope she did and will be keeping a close eye on her going forward.  My last question to her was where she got such a notion.  She wouldn’t really give us a straight answer and I understand.  She’s never really been one to tattle, she doesn’t enjoy getting others in trouble.  What worries me is that there is someone of influence in her life who has given her this crazy idea.  Or worse, there is another girl at school who has the same thought.  At least now I can monitor her and help reinforce good eating habits, I worry for others who aren’t nearly as open as my daughter.

Last night after my family had gone to bed, I sat thinking about everything.  Was it my fault? Have I somehow failed her?  What can I do to fix it?  I ran from very positive to extremely negative thoughts on my parenting abilities.  I did what most parents do and blamed myself for not being a better parent.  It was when my thoughts turned worse that my darling daughter woke for a drink and ended up climbing on my lap.  We sat in our dark living room just cuddling for several minutes before she asked me to take her back to bed.  I wrapped her in her favorite blanket and tucked her back in for the night.  When turning to leave she asked me to cuddle her until she fell back asleep.  It was just what I needed to calm my busy mind.  We cuddled and both drifted off to a deep sleep.

Sitting here thinking about it today, I am much less negative.  I realize that no parent is perfect, parenting is an ‘on the job training’ career.  We do what we can and strive for the best, but we are all human and certainly make mistakes.  I am still very worried about whoever gave her this horrible idea.  Could it have come from television? Sure, except we don’t actually watch anything that focuses on that sort of topic.  We don’t have cable and the movies she watches are typically cartoons.  We don’t even have commercials on anything we do watch.  I have run through the majority of the shows she has seen and I can’t think of one that would focus on eating habits or weight.  This leaves me to those she interacts with outside of our home.

Did it come from school? Did it come from a friend of the family?  I’m not entirely sure on either.  It is absolutely possible, but the thought sickens me.  Whoever gave her the idea is obviously facing body image issues and I truly hope they find help.  This entire situation saddens me.  Our society has gotten so focused on body image that it’s causing serious damage to younger generations.  Do I agree that we have serious health issues in our country? Definitely.  But we need to focus less on the negative and more on positive reinforcement.

Our children should be carefree and happy, not paranoid about what they eat or getting fat.  They should be running around playing tag, not skipping meals.  They should be showing each other kindness and respect, not insulting one another.  It’s an epidemic of negativity and it’s causing more damage than many realize.  When I see post after post on Facebook about how fat or ugly people are, it breaks my heart.  I don’t want my daughter skipping meals to be skinny enough.  I want her to be active and make good food choices.  I don’t want my cousin to feel like she needs a breast enhancement to look pretty.  I want her to realize that she is a very beautiful girl without changing a thing.  Not that I have anything against breast enhancements or plastic surgery, I don’t.  My problem lies with young girls who think they have to have it done in order to live up to outside expectations.

It’s a terribly vain society we live in these days.  The negativity is like a disease and infects so many.  It may start with one person but then spreads.  Rather than spreading damaging thoughts, we need to be spreading encouragement.  We could all learn a lesson from Thumper – ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t’ say nothing at all.’

Half Sized Pillows and Under the Bed Candy…

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Half Sized Pillows and Under the Bed Candy…

This past weekend we spent with my in-laws who live roughly two and a half hours away in this very small town.  Now, I live in a small town, but I’m able to drive 15-20 minutes away to a larger town.  My in-laws? Not so much.  Their town has maybe three inhabitable hotels, and I’m using the term inhabitable loosely.  We don’t travel there very often, and probably should, but when we do there is one specific hotel that I feel is acceptable.  Again, I use the term acceptable very loosely.  Basically of the three options, it’s the only one I really allow.  It’s mostly clean and they have a pool that doesn’t freak me out too much.  Of course, wherever we go it’s required to have a pool – my daughter is a swimmer and she is much happier when she can swim.

So a few weeks ago my husband calls and reserves our room.  Our family isn’t huge, it’s my husband and I plus our two kids.  You’d think a normal sized room would be fine right? Wrong.  Typically we rent two room suite type rooms.  We like to have the option to put our son down for his nap and still watch TV or play board games.  Having a two room suite makes this much easier.  Well every time we call this specific hotel they state their suite is not available.  Truthfully? I don’t think they have one.  I mean, how can it be unavailable year round in a town that really has very few overnight visitors?!  Anyway, my husband makes the reservation and we’re good to go.  Our daughter will have her pool and I won’t cringe too much when I go to bed at night.

A few days prior to our trip, my father-in-law informs my husband that the whole hotel is under construction and they’ve taken out the pool.  What?! So not only do I get the joy of dealing with construction sounds, but my daughter won’t have a pool either.  Greeatt… I know I’m sounding like a total spoiled brat, but I like to be comfortable when we travel.  I have enough issues as it stand I don’t want to worry about extra noise and lack of entertainment for my kiddo.  At this point, I’m not looking forward to the whole hotel experience at all.

Friday night we roll up to the hotel.  My husband handles the whole check in process for multiple reasons.  One being he’s from the town and tends to know people.  I’m sure another reason is simply because I can get a bit annoyed when things don’t go well.  Anyway, he checks in and gets us a killer rate because the pool is out of commission.  Of course when he tells me this I’m all ‘well they should have told you that when you made the reservation… ‘  Not that it would have changed our choice in hotel, but I had to complain anyway.  The things my husband puts up with I swear.

I’m sure he knows I’m totally annoyed, I’ve never been one to hide my moods, so he sends me up with our son while he and our daughter load the luggage cart.  I get into the room, situate my son and go about my normal inspection.  I check the shower and bathroom area – all clean.  I check the sink and see no sight of grossness left over from the previous guest.  Then I move to the bed.  What the hell? Each bed has four pillows.  Normal right?  Sure, but these pillows were no bigger than my throw pillows.  Who the hell sleeps on a throw pillow?!  I take a deep breath and think ‘it’s fine, I have my pillow in the car’… Except I didn’t.  I had forgotten my pillow.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

My husband and daughter turn up and we unload our bags.  At this point our son has decided he really needs a nap, so my husband takes our daughter and heads up to visit his dad.  I get our son into his playpen for his nap and think it’s a perfect time for me to lie down and relax.  I pulled out one of those half sized pillows and proceed to get comfortable.  The minute I place my head on the pillow I can smell some awful plastic/rubbery smell.

So am I sounding entirely spoiled?  Yeah, I probably am, but you need to understand a few things.  First, I have cleaned hotel rooms as a job, I know exactly how things should be done and how to tell if they weren’t.  I also know how gross people are when they stay in hotels.  Add that to my strange phobias and you’ve got a nasty imagination taking over.  I imagine just how many skin flakes have fallen from previous guests.  I imagine how many bodily fluids have hit those comforters and just absorbed into the material.  I know how infrequently said comforters are washed and let me tell you, that thought could give a person nightmares.  Second, I am super sensitive to smells.  Perfumed anything can give me one hell of a migraine.  The smell of rubber makes me sick to my stomach and I don’t even use Ziploc bags for my food because they make it smell like plastic.

Now that you know all this, imagine just how excited I am to be staying in a hotel with half sized pillows that smell like plastic and rubber, on a comforter that has likely seen twenty previous guests.  Yeah, panic attack here I come!  I try really hard to rest.  I had just had surgery two days prior and could use the rest.  I needed to rest while my son slept.  By some miracle I was able to fall asleep.

Later that evening, while my husband caught up with local friends and family, I stayed at the hotel with some cranky children.  My son just had to get into everything.  He slammed drawers on his fingers, threw remote controls, he was everywhere.  My daughter was whiny because we didn’t have a pool and she was tired and there was nothing on TV.  Me? Oh I was just peachy 😉

My son decides it’s a good time to crawl halfway under the bed.  Great, I have minimal use of my right leg and my son could get himself stuck under the bed at any time.  Lovely.  Thankfully he backs himself out.  I’m thinking ‘yay!’ until I see why he crawled under the bed in the first place.  There, in his tiny 1-year-old hands is a Werther’s Original candy coated completely in dust and all those under the bed ickies.  (Yes I did just use the word ickies).  Inside I’m freaking out.  I’m calculating just how many germs are on that thing, how many people may have touched it and just how long it had been under the bed.  Not to mention, the fact that it was indeed under the bed, what else have the maids missed??  It’s a horrible moment in my world.  I manage to maintain composure and snatch the horrid thing from my son, toss it in the trash and head for the sink with my kiddo to scrub his hands and face.  Decontamination took only a few moments but I fear I may be scarred for life…

The rest of my weekend was full of some great family time with my in-laws.  We had a blast with Easter Eggs and showing them how to play games on the iPad.  While I may not appreciate the hotels in this small town my husband once called home, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the company.

 

Scaring the Crazy Lady…

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I have a petrifying fear of what my husband calls ‘the closet monster’.  I have a very hard time entering a dark room if the closet doors are open.  If the doors are mirrored that whole fear factor just skyrockets.  Irrational? Sure… but not something I can really control.  No, I’m not afraid the clothes will somehow reach out and grab me.  Hell, I’m not even really afraid of the closet.  I simply have a very hard time with the dark in general… or rather, what could be IN the dark.

The other night we decided to watch some paranormal movies.  Yes I realize this just plays heavily on my fears.  Things moving on their own, doors slamming, people getting pulled into the deep dark closet by some invisible force.  Yeah… that was not the best idea I’ve had in a very long time.

I knew going into the blasted movie I’d likely watch half of it through my fingers, or not at all.  I did in fact spend 90% of the movie examining the inside of my blanket.  The sounds were more than enough to keep my imagination running full force.  Not to mention, the movie even made my husband jump more than once.  See, no point in actually watching it if I get worked up enough without opening my eyes…

About midway through the movie, my 9 month old decided it was time to wake up and eat.  I breathed a sigh of relief when we paused the frightening movie.  I mixed up a warm bottle for the munchkin and headed for his room.  Now I know my husband very well.  He has this tendency to try and scare me when I’m in the midst of being irrational.  I glanced in the living room, no husband.  Checked the light in our bedroom, nope not there.  That’s when I knew for a fact he was likely in the kids room waiting to scare the holy living hell out of me.

Sure enough, as I tip toe into their room and peek around the corner… he’s standing there all silent and creepy like waiting in the dark for me.  The asshole.  So not nice.  Had he actually succeeded in scaring me, not only would I have been petrified, he would have ended up with two not so happy kids. 

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again… It is NOT nice to scare the crazy lady!