Monday, November 29, 2010

I've Created a Monster

This year, Will's school participated in the Operation Christmas Child program where you fill a shoebox with toys, art supplies and hygiene items, specifying the age and gender of your intended recipient, and they get sent all over the world to needy kids.

It was a great experience for him. He loved picking out the monster truck, crayons and balloon animals with great care and lovingly packed them into his shoebox earmarked for another equally car crazy 4 year old boy. We had some moments when he decided that maybe he would like to have all the stuff in the box an play with it himself, but after explaining that the little children who aren't as fortunate as us would really appreciate his generosity, he changed his mind and decided to send it. He carried it into his school and proudly set it atop the pile and wished it good luck on it's journey around the world.

But, in this act of generosity and love... I have created a monster.

Since that date, he has packed several boxes of his own toys to go to "kids who don't have toys or sompthin'." And today, he took my last homemade chocolate cluster from my neighbor and forbade me to eat it, as he is "sending it to children who don't have candy." How do you argue with that?!?!? I said in my nice, seriously, don't take my chocolate away voice, "Will, Mommy was kinda planning to eat that last piece" and he replied, "But, Mommy... Do you want to tell the poor kids that they don't get candy because you wanted this last piece." Touche, kid. Touche.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let's Put the $ Back in $chool

I just got a phone call from a professional survey company in Minnesota. Ok, I don't really know that it came from Minnesota, but my survey question asker lady said "Doncha know" a couple times, so I am going to assume. Anyhoo, the survey was all about our school district and whether or not I would be willing to fork up some dough to preserve it. You see, in this mighty country of ours, when we have cities and states with financial problems, we cut really unimportant things... LIKE EDUCATION. Our district's budget is 3 million dollars lower this year than last, while the student population is much larger. So, our administration is conducting this survey to determine if the taxpayers are willing to pitch in some moola, or if the teachers need to start submitting resumes to Starbucks and Speedway Gas Stations.

I gotta tell you... I just don't get it. I do not understand why this would even be a question. America's education system is in the crapper. If you don't believe me, check out the acclaimed documentary "Waiting for Superman." They outline exactly why our system is poop, and I have to tell you.... it ain't pretty. (Yes, "gotta" and "ain't" speak volumes for our educational system.) If our governments don't have brains enough to realize that education is one of those "must do" items, then I pray to God the average family can see that.

The survey lady asked how much my house was worth, and then based on that amount, asked if I would be willing to pay an additional $12, $16 or $20 per month to subsidize the schools. I said, yes, yes and yes. I spent more than the first amount at McDonald's today, and rich we are not. I spent more than the latter two at Meijer on Monday buying crap we probably didn't need. And we're not talking about spending that amount per week here, we're talking a month. Now I realize that some people don't have extra money and that is fine. Those of us fortunate enough to grab Mickey Ds for lunch today ought to do our share. Granted, I have three kids going through this school system, so I have a vested interest in class sizes smaller than 60 kids and music programs more extensive than recorders, but really.... we all should. I don't care if you aren't having children or if yours are 60 years old. The kids in this district will be your neighbors, your coworkers, your caretakers. Do you want them to know how to read and be successful? Or do you want them to mug you for money instead?

$12, $16, or $20 per month for our future.... How much can you afford?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pepper's Lesson

So, Pepper is DYING to be an outdoor cat. She screams through the screens whenever we open the windows and she tries to bolt out the back door every chance she gets. When she was younger, I tried to let her be a feline who swings both ways, but she took off and Mark and I had to spend the midnight hour searching and calling for her to return, so she promptly got sequestered back into mi casa. That's what you get if you break curfew. Take note, Tabbitha. But, yesterday we may have curbed her craving for freedom... forever.
During one of Jack's 4,000 trips in and out of the house, Pepper made the mad dash out the sliding glass door, and actually made it... tail intact. Luckily, Will and I were sitting on the patio and so I knew she wasn't going to get far. We watched her skulk about, preening and prancing in her new found freedom. She surveyed her territory and decided to sun herself in a particularly bright spot near the patio table. That is when Will decided to teach her a lesson (or at least, that is how I am going to assume his thought process went). Otherwise, it is just mean and I don't want PETA after my 4 year old. So, let's just assume he saw this as a "teachable moment."

He grabbed the cat, and I decided since he had her in his clutches, he should just throw her back in the house. He did as he was told, but picked the "play house" instead. Pepper looked a smidgen put out, as every cat does when someone makes them do something that they didn't choose for themselves (apparently, I was a cat in my past life)... but eventually just laid down. Jack decides to join the club and lumbers up the rock wall to check out the cat in the play house. I make the crucial error of saying, "Be careful, guys. There's not much room up there and you don't want to push Pepper off the side." Apparently what I said and what Will heard were fraternal twins, not identical, and he heard "Hey Will, push Pepper down the slide."

I have never seen a cat's eyes literally bug out of its head before. Needless to say, Pepper ran straight to the back door and into the house. I think she learned an important lesson about safety. The outside world is a dangerous place. Oh wait... I guess Will is inside, too. Good luck, Pepcid.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Husband's Disabled...

I haven't mentioned this in past blogs, but I think today is my day to admit it. I don't want to feel ashamed and I don't want your pity. I just want to be able to admit that Mark has special needs and not be embarrassed. Deep breath.... ok.... Mark has partial blindness and partial deafness. Whew... there... I said it.

Apparently the blindness is sporadic. It doesn't seem to affect his driving or anything that needs to be done at work. It seems to kick in when he walks into this house and there are messes around. Suddenly, when he encounters such issues, he goes blind. He cannot see the crumbs on the counter from his breakfast preparation, and he cannot even see our dishwasher. He is forced to leave his dishes in the sink or on the counter. Sadly, the issue is so devastating that while he can see the coffee pot well enough to make coffee, once his mug is poured, he cannot see it to empty it or clean it. It really is amazing how he powers through the hard times.

The other side to his disability is the selective deafness that he experiences. Luckily for my family, this doesn't seem to affect his work, unless I call him at work and ask him to stop by a store and buy bread on the way home. Then he becomes instantly deaf and is unable to complete the request. Luckily, that only happens when I call, and not when his boss speaks. Thank God!!! When he comes home, I may ask him to do laundry, but how could he? He can't hear me ask and he can't see the pile of laundry overflowing the laundry room. And, how could I expect him to know that Tabbi has Girl Scouts or volleyball on a particular night? He can't hear me when I tell him. But, he suffers without complaint. He's a trooper.

I feel like a burden has been lifted by coming out with Mark's disease. I no longer need to be ashamed of the coffee grounds spilled all over the stove top. I need to embrace them and realize that this cannot be helped. He is a fully functioning partially blind and selectively deaf person, and I should be grateful for the sight and hearing that he does have. Thank you, Mark, for being so strong despite all that you suffer from. I will strive to pick up the pieces. OH WAIT!!! I ALREADY DO!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nature versus Nurture

I was at a friend's house on Saturday night and got to visit with a group of women that I used to work with, and now don't see very often. Somehow we got onto the conversation of how our children are so different from one another... meaning that my two boys with the same parents, being raised the same way are so very different. It almost makes the argument that nature shapes our little people more than we do.

I described Will as fearless when it comes to physical feats. He could climb our big wooden play set before he was a year old. He flew up the rock wall while he still toddled on our living room floor. Jack just made it up this year, and he turned two this summer. Will rides his big girl scooter (yes, he has a girl's scooter. Shut up.) with no fear, flying down our street at lightening speed. (At least, it looks like lightening speed to me when I have the 9 and the 1 already dialed into my phone, sure that he is going to break his neck at any moment.) The other signature Will characteristic is that every single person in his presence is his best friend in the whole wide world. He wants to talk to, play with and love everyone. And he lets you know. Immediately. Last, Will is sensitive. If someone at the playground (usually slightly older girls) shun him... it cuts him deep, yo. Strangers or not, he gets deeply wounded by people's actions and it lingers.

Jack is two, and while they say that personalities change significantly until a child reaches 4ish, you can tell that Jack is not a little mini-Will. As I said, when it comes to the physical stuff, Jack is not as adventurous. He is leery of dangerous things. Now, eventually he gets over it in most cases.... but where Jack has to size up the situation, Will flies by the seat of his pants without a second thought (and sometimes without the pants). Jack is also shy. That could be his speech delay, but I don't know. I think that he sizes people up, too. You really have to rate as pretty interesting for Jack to bother giving you the time of day. It's not an easy task. And, sensitive? I think not. I believe Jack will have rhinoceros skin. He strikes me as a dude who will go his own way and do his own thing without giving critics a second thought. He will be him (hopefully he'll get over his hoarding), and I am not sure that he will care who likes it.

I had never really thought of the boys in these parallels before Saturday night. But, really... it is kind of amazing. I grew these little creatures from scratch, and yet their little personalities are growing on their own, and in very different ways. Maybe everyone else knew about this, but I just find it amazing. I grew little creatures... and they are growing into little people. Amazing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Let's Get Loud

So, this is the sequel to last night's post about Tabbi saying that she hated us. It isn't fair to portray her as the bad guy, when I have to admit my faults, as well. Ok, I don't have to, but I always do. I screw up and I shout it from the rooftops (aka blog it from my desktop), because I am an equal opportunity caller outer. And last night, I lost it. While I may have forbidden Tabbi to open her mouth again, I opened mine. A lot. And a calling out must be done.

Tabbi would attest to the fact that I don't raise my voice. Actually she says that I am way scarier than most parents, because the more mad I get, the calmer I get. I don't yell hardly ever. I speak. Firmly. However, last night post my post, I got mad. Really mad. And I yelled.

The conversation started with me trying to talk out what was going on, but rational talk and 11 year olds is an oxymoron. So, she yelled. She yelled that she hated her life, she's hated it for the last 4 years and why can't she just go to her mother's. Her mom is the only one that loves her and her dad hates her and while I am pretty sure that more words came out of her mouth after that, all I heard was a dull roar. And then I realized that the roar was probably coming from me.

I am not going in to detail about what was said, because it is all personal business of this family. What I will say is that I had zero tolerance for her assertion that her father doesn't love her, and I made that clear. CRYSTAL clear. I demonstrated voluminously how much her father loved her and that things may not be perfect, but she doesn't show love so well herself. The more I said, the louder I grew, telling her that maybe she would have a better relationship with Mark if when he walked in the door at night and asked how her day was... maybe she should answer. Maybe an eye roll and one syllable response to every question asked isn't necessarily the most loving response either. However, I said this all at possibly the highest decibel level this house has ever heard. And if you know this house, that is saying something.

The good news is that by the end of our "conversation" (which has left me with a scratchy throat today like I just cheered all night at a double header), Tabbi and I came to an understanding. Then, of her own volition, she came downstairs and hugged her dad and they both apologized and told each other that they love each other. At the end, we went from the Osbournes (minus the drugs and cursing) to the Cleavers (minus only the pearls). The lesson learned: Blended families like ours are not easy things, and tweens can push you to within an inch of your sanity... but in the end, we all survived. And people thought it would only be the cockroaches left after a nuclear war....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Silent Night

Ok, so Tabbi didn't drop the "I hate you" phrase on us tonight, but instead she went for "when I am 13, do I get to pick where I live?" So, it was similar to the typical "I hate you," but with a slight variation because she thinks she has an escape route that most kids don't have. And, this will probably come as a shock to many... but I was stunned. I truly didn't think that she would ever want to move back in with her mother. But, I recovered nicely and banned her from speaking for the rest of the night. Seriously. Banned. No speaking for her. I didn't yell, I didn't lobby for our house over her mom's... I just said, "Ok, you don't get to speak for the rest of the night." And by God, it has been pretty quiet here ever since.

It doesn't matter what tween drama lead to this statement. I am not writing about her behavior or anything that is happening here. I am only interested in those three little words that any kid can throw out that just stops your world. "I HATE YOU."

Interestingly, one of Tabbi's friends texted that she hated her mom not too long ago. I read the text. I sort of know the mother. So, I briefly wondered about telling her. But, I didn't. I felt that like tonight, those words were said in direct retaliation against a punishment the girl had earned. It didn't need to be brought to the mom's attention and a simple issue then explodes into World War III. And, now that I am the wide receiver of the sentiment... I feel even more vindicated in not saying anything.

I know that Tabbi's words were chosen out of anger and revenge, but that doesn't ease the sting. It's like a good right hook and it landed exactly where she wanted it to. So, I was pleased that I didn't give her the satisfaction of knowing how that statement felt, but still. Ouch. A little sliver of a relationship that was at one point good just got squished.... and I don't know when or how it is going to heal.

Monday, November 1, 2010

High School Remix

Today I found myself in high school. Again. Ok, not really. Been there, done that about (ahem) 10 years ago. But, sometimes I kinda feel like I am back. Apparently while our acne and perms may go away, that insecurity does not.

I feel the cliquishness while I drop Will off at school. My brood and I go in alone and drop Will off with a few smiles and polite nods to a couple of the other mothers. But, for the most part, I am alone. But, there is a group of women who parade in together, highlights flapping in the wind and you just know... they are those girls. The ones that everyone wants to either be friends with or date, depending on your sexual persuasions. They waltz in wearing whatever the "in" sportswear is of that moment and even though it may be a Columbia jacket and Pumas, they still make you feel frumptastic. When I got dressed this morning, I was fine in my brown cords and orange sweater. Then I see them and my reflection turns from the warm and casual look I intended, into a Halloween costume of a construction cone on two tree trunks. My hair suddenly feels uber cropped into man locks and my dweeb factor sky rockets. They are smiling, texting and sashaying to their 4Runners, an army of put together momunists. I am grunting, lugging and hauling toddler to my minivan. They are those girls.... and I am still not.

The funny part is that I wasn't this girl in high school. I had my fantastic group of friends, and the girls in the popmosphere just didn't matter to me. I have no idea what they did in their spare time and who they dated. None of that registered on my "things to care about" list. While I may have admired their attire from time to time (though as I try to recall, I am not sure that is even true), I was an overalls and ARMY t shirt (from a thrift store) kinda gal. I liked my flannels and my jeans, and none of the above came from The Gap or Abercrombie or any of the like. I wore what I wanted (I still miss my bright yellow Doc Marten mary janes), and I didn't really care. I didn't change my opinion of me based on the looks on their faces, so why now?

I find myself in a world where my self confidence (or don't care-edness) has gone away. I remember back to being 22 and walking into my first real job one day with blond hair with pink tips and the second in command said "Your hair is two different colors." I looked at his more salt than pepper mop and said, "So is yours." I cracked back and didn't care who liked my look and who didn't. But now... I care. Maybe it is because I have morphed into a person I don't really know yet. I traded who I was for a person that I want to be... the stay home mom. But, maybe she and I haven't really melded yet. Or, is it that with each year that passes, the pounds pack on and I feel unsure in my own skin? It's not what they are wearing or driving, but that they are a mere sliver of myself and I would still feel ashamed of myself even in the same outfits and vehicles? Is it that I have finally grown up enough to recognize that impressions we give to others actually do matter? My "self confidence" was really just immaturity with a better name?

Whatever it is, I don't know. I know I want to feel the way I used to in a dog collar and jet black hair. While I realize I looked more Marilyn Manson than Mama Bear and do not wish to head back to punkland, I wish I could still stand as tall and feel as good. Until then, I guess it is back to high school for me. Maybe this time I can get better grades!!!