Tag Archives: Family

Cousins, Football, Sweet Potato Pie, and Tryptophan Coma….Reflections of Thanksgivings Long Ago

It is late Wednesday night.  It is now just minutes away from Thanksgiving.  For weeks now, I have, almost daily, found myself in utter disbelief that it is late November 2014 – where did this year go?  I mean, for several years now, I constantly wonder how the time has seemed to speed up so swiftly the older that I get.  Remember how it was when we were kids?  The time between Christmas/New Year’s and the next Halloween seemed to be like, a decade!  But now?  I am ashamed to say that there is still at least one Christmas decoration still out, never put up after Christmas LAST year; and now it is time to drag all of the rest of the stuff out in order to decorate again in just a few short days.  I totally dropped the ball this year and didn’t decorate for Halloween, like I usually do; nor did I decorate for Thanksgiving, which is upon us and it is now pointless to do so.  But regardless of whether or not I decorate, Thanksgiving remains one of my most favorite times of year, despite the fact that the Thanksgivings of my adulthood are a bit different from those of my childhood.  Every year, as the weeks of November roll by, the memories of my family’s holiday traditions come flooding back, making me miss the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that I shared this holiday with every year.  Don’t you guys all remember how it was?

Thanksgiving 1970s:

Once Halloween had come and gone when we were kids, there was clearly a notable excitement in the air, anticipation for cooler weather, four days off of school for Thanksgiving (which meant, for us, our annual trip to my grandmother’s house), and shortly after that, two weeks out of school for Christmas break!  When we got to the week of Thanksgiving, it was almost more than we could take to have to go to school, and then to actually pay attention to anything that was attempted in the way of instruction.  Yes, we had to go to school – Monday, Tuesday, AND half-day on Wednesday.  Now, there WERE those, like us, who traveled for the holiday, whose parents took them out of school on Wednesday (some of them even did it for Monday and/or Tuesday, too).  But not MY parents.  Noooooo sirree.  We went to school on Wednesday, and when we were dismissed (not a moment earlier either), then we headed home, loaded up the car, and embarked on our evening of traffic as we were en route Southbound towards the Hill Country.  I remember the eager anticipation of getting there, knowing that there would only be one family there before us, and the rest of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would arrive the next morning.  It was so exciting for me to see family that I only got to see once, maybe twice, per year from far away places like Houston, Magnolia, College Station, Conroe, Humble, and Pflugerville!  (Funny to me now, since I know just how “far” those places really are, and have driven to all of them many times as an adult).  The car ride seemed agonizingly long, particularly after it got dark around 6 PM, where I was then stuck in the backseat, left to fight with my brother over crossing the invisible line, bringing his foot into my protected space.  Once it got dark, he would no longer play the license plate game with me; or really anything.  And once we left the interstate in Austin and headed east, we were on two-lane country roads for what seemed like FOREVER.  I must have asked at least a dozen times, “Are we there yet?” or “How much further?” of my dad.  Are_we_there_yet_Braizen1I would stare out the car window, amazed at the vast amount of stars that I could see that I normally couldn’t see in the suburbs.  My dad would mess with me, without fail, every year, with the same answer every time I asked if we were close:  “It’s just over this hill and around the next corner.”  Gullible me believed him.  Every time.  I would patiently watch as the car drove over the tiniest of hills, and then wait for him to drive in the slightest of curves that might constitute a “corner.”  Once those things passed by, I would ask again, and he would repeat the same answer.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  We would do this over and over for at least the last hour of our drive, until my mom would finally say, “OK that’s enough!  Tanya, just be quiet and we will be there soon enough!”  So eventually I would stop asking, and eventually would rest my head on my pillow and fall asleep – sure as hell just as we were arriving at my grandmother’s house in the absolute middle of nowhere.  We would be taken in and put to bed, while the parents unloaded the car and visited with Uncle Jerry and Aunt Charlotte for a bit before turning in themselves.

The morning of Thanksgiving would dawn, and every adult in that house seemed to rise at the crack of dawn.  They would get in the kitchen at, I’m sure, something ungodly like 5 AM, and start making coffee, breakfast, and get the ginormous turkey into the oven to start cooking.  Nanny’s made-from-scratch biscuits and her sweet potato piessweet-potato-pie-1 were made and into the oven as well, and us kids had absolutely no chance whatsoever of sleeping in and enjoying our time off from school.  Oh noooooo!  The adults would either be so loud that there was no chance of sleep, or they would come and tell us that we needed to get up and get dressed so that we could help if or when they needed us.  A parade would be on the one TV that my grandmother had in her house, and my brother and boy cousins would go outside and play football until real football came on TV.  I waited anxiously for more cousins to arrive, 1) because I loved getting to spend this brief time with all of my cousins, and 2) because once the others arrived, I would no longer be the only girl there.  Sometimes, once everyone was there, we would get to drive on the tractor with my step-Grandpa; other times, there was a horse there (and I don’t remember if someone brought it or if my grandmother had one), and we would get to take turns riding.  There was always cousin football games going on outside, and the carport held each family’s Igloo ice chest with sodas for when we got hot and thirsty.  Once all of the family had arrived, and all of the food was prepared, everyone would go inside and find a spot at what I thought was the longest dining room table ever made (when I got older I realized that it was actually two extended tables put together, with a giant tablecloth over them).  Food as far as the eye could see, and all of my dad’s family together in one place, one time each year; all you could see was food being served onto plates, loud laughter, and the voices of everyone there catching up.

Once the meal was over, and everyone had finally pulled themselves away from the table, full & satisfied (and often, miserable and unbuttoning pants), then the clear division of roles and duties were made.  My dad, his brothers, and many of my male cousins would park themselves in front of the TV to watch hours of football.  There would be loud shouting, you know, from the armchair quarterbacks; and often, the use of very unflattering or colorful language towards the players.  5473a2be006f5.preview-620Once the coaching died down, there would undoubtedly be at least one or two who would slip into a tryptophan coma and pass out, head back and mouth open on the backs of sofas and/or recliners.  Meanwhile, all of the women would be back in the kitchen, cleaning up and covering the food on the table, so that it was available when everyone got hungry again that evening.  I remember clearly being told that I needed to get in the kitchen and help clean, do dishes, or something; but then when I got in there, among my mom, Nanny, and several aunts, then I would get yelled at for being in the way.  Ultimately I would end up going outside with most of the rest of my cousins to look for something to do, not used to being out in the country.  As the afternoon wore on, some of the family would load up and head out, having only come for the day, while the rest of us would have to figure out who was going to sleep where, and what order we were going to take baths (since there was only one bathtub and no shower).  Sometime in there we would make turkey sandwiches and have another slice of pie, while adults sat at one end of the long table either playing cards or dominoes, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer or coffee.  The three bedroom house would have three or four people per bedroom, and several more on the two couches in the living room.  And the years that my Aunt Laura and her husband, Charlie, came in their RV, you were considered one of the fortunate cousins if you got to bunk in the RV for the night.  But that night – Thanksgiving night – was one of my most favorite nights of childhood memories.  My family, well, a large portion of it, were all together under one roof (or two, if you count the RV), and this made me feel safe, loved, and happy.

* * * * *

So now, here we are.  Thanksgiving 2014.  Decades have passed.  My grandmother is gone, and her house in the country was sold years ago.  Divorce has happened, and the family picture in my mind from my childhood is disjointed and different…faded with time and now almost non-existent.  The Thanksgiving tradition that we shared year after year has disappeared, and now I don’t even hear of that side of my family getting together really anymore.  My parents divorced when I was 11 or 12.  Some of the aunts and uncles have divorced.  Cousins have grown up and now have families of their own.  Several of us cousins have strained relationships, if that, with one of our parents and no longer see or talk to them.  It makes me sad, and I miss these people, this family, of my childhood.  While I don’t have any physical pictures from the Thanksgivings of my childhood, my mind is full of photographs of memories that will stay with me forever.  Because for a time, for a period, the Clark family – with matriarch Nanny, for a while her husband Dewey, my dad and his siblings Laura, Betty, Jerry, and Arthur, my mom and the spouses Charlie, Charlotte, and Linda, my brother and our cousins Sissy, Laura Leigh, Paul Allen, Douglas, John Michael, Tod, Dewey, Leida, Sheryl, and Marcy – these were what made up my Thanksgivings.  And I know that people change and grow up, time marches on, and families splinter, grow, and evolve.  But I will never forget those holidays that will always warm my heart.  Something that I will always be thankful for, not just at Thanksgiving but every day, are the connections that I have with some of these aunts and cousins on Facebook, after all of these years.

A few years ago, dinner in The Woodlands:  Me, Aunt Charlotte, Leida, and my brother, Ron
A few years ago, dinner in The Woodlands: Me, Aunt Charlotte, Leida, and my brother, Ron

Nowadays, I am back into a family with Thanksgiving traditions that occur every year, and have for as long as most of them can remember.  My wife’s family, now my family, are a large and loving group that consists of brothers & sisters, aunts & uncles, cousins and future generations.  The ages span from a few months old to late 70s, and every Thanksgiving, a good many of the clan travel in to spend the day sharing food, catching up, laughing loudly, and spoiling the new little ones that have come along.  I am beyond grateful and blessed to have been received into my wife’s family and accepted into the fold.

Today, and every day, I carry gratefulness with me.  Grateful for a second chance at life.  Grateful for a large, loving family that shares my Erikka with me.  Grateful that we are blessed enough to give back on a regular basis.  Grateful for my sisters and their giving hearts.  Grateful for every opportunity that I have to interact with my cousins or aunts/uncles, even if it is mostly on Facebook.  Grateful for my marriage and my little family, and the fact that I am fortunate to get to spend Thanksgiving with them.

Today I somehow ended up at the tail end of a funeral procession like none that I have ever seen.  It was very sobering to see police in SUVs, with lights and sirens blaring, accompanying the bodies of a local family killed last week when their sixteen year old fell asleep at the wheel while they were on their way to Disney – the poor kid driving survived while his parents and three of his siblings were ejected and killed. But when I saw three hearses pass by me, it was almost too much. So  make your passengers buckle up my friends.  Please, I’m begging you, please be safe.

Life is short, don’t blink.

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Halloween of Days Gone By…

10/31/2014

Well folks, it’s that beloved time of year again, where Pumpkin Spice everything is everywhere you go and shop.  Where some places of the country actually experience a fall season, while others of us long for the days that leaves might change colors for a few days before dying and falling off, and temps of highs in the 70s seem like cold fronts.  Well, I guess in these parts, highs in the 70s ARE actually cold fronts.  We hope for cool weather for Trick-or-Treating, so that nobody has to sweat inside of their adorable little costumes.  And we look forward to upcoming holidays, hoodies, hot drinks, and warm fuzzies.

So here we are, at the end of October, on the kickoff of the fall/winter trio of holiday greatness – Halloween!  Earlier this week, as I read a Huff Post piece about Halloween in the 1970s versus now, it reminded me of many a great Halloween of yesteryear.  So I thought that I would write my own version of how Halloween has evolved over the years, and how way different it is now.

1976 (Six years old – first grade):  While I don’t remember too many of my childhood costumes, and I don’t remember if we wore them to school or not, I DO remember that it was called Halloween, it was celebrated as a fun holiday, we DID have parties at school (with homemade baked goods even!) complete with a carnival AND a haunted house in the choir room.  It scared the bejeezus out of us!!  They had pumpkin carving/decorating contests, and in third grade, my brother and I won Grand Prize and made the front page of the local newspaper!

My brother and I on the front page of the Lewisville Leader, around 1977? 1978?
My brother and I on the front page of the Lewisville Leader, around 1977? 1978?

We were not, however, ever allowed to have costumes that were witches/warlocks, devils, skeletons, or anything that my mother remotely considered to be “evil.”  We were lucky to be allowed to Trick-or-Treat, because this was “the devil’s holiday,” and mom was just sure that somehow Satan was going to get to us through our candy, I guess.  I asked mom if she took pictures of us on Halloween, and if so, where are they; but she couldn’t recall having any, even though she was sure that she took some because we were just “so darn cute in our little costumes.”

I remember that we would come home from school and count the hours until we could go Trick-or-Treating with our friends.  Too excited to eat dinner really, we danced around in our costumes waiting for night to fall; our giant plastic jack o’ lanterns waiting by the door.  As soon as we saw people on the sidewalks and porch lights aglow, we were GONE!  Sometimes my dad would walk with us, but as we got older, we either went by ourselves or with a group of friends.  No flashlights, we were led simply by the street lights.  People would decorate their homes with the specific purpose to scare us little kids, and they did it well.  They had makeshift haunted housed in their garages for the kids of their community, and we went in, unafraid and without fear of abduction.  We accepted any and every candy, popcorn ball, apple, orange, or pixie stic – however, we didn’t so much as sample a piece of any of it while out.  Our costumes, in the younger years, were typically store-bought plastic smocks that were hot as hell (unless, of course, it was cold that year, and then we attempted to bundle up UNDER our plastic smocks and looked utterly ridiculous), and the plastic mask with tiny elastic string to hold it on the head – eye holes and small nose holes cut out for us to breathe through.  I remember one year wearing Wonder Woman in this style of costume – crazy hot but I didn’t care!  My mom would have already bought big bags of snack sized treats, and loaded up her popcorn bowl in order to give it out until it was gone.  And back then?  The bowl pretty much ALWAYS got emptied by a constant stream of youngsters ringing our bell.  We wandered the streets until our pumpkins were so full that we could hardly carry them from the weight.

1979 (Nine years old – fourth grade):  Somewhere in these years, I recall one year either not knowing what I wanted to be for Halloween or not being able to find it.  So what did most kids do when they had no costume, but still wanted to go out Trick-or-Treating with their friends?  They made their own!  On more than one Halloween night as a kid, after not being able to decide on an acceptable costume, I ultimately became the thing that I could do in a pinch:  a hobo.  My pants and shoes, one of my dad’s button-up dress shirts and a loosely tied necktie, some goofy looking hat of his, and some of mom’s brown eyebrow pencil that would create my scraggly whiskers.  Boom.  Done.  On my way out the door.

Regardless of all the things that we were NOT afraid of, there was never a shortage of urban legends that DID manage to keep us on our toes leading up to Halloween night, and all the way until our heads hit the pillow at its close.  Why do you think that we never ate a piece of candy while we were out begging the neighborhood?  Because our parents forbid us to touch it until we got back home, spread it all out on the table, and had it inspected.  Oh you remember why…there were weirdos out there who would inject poison into fruits and candy via needle.  Or drugs even!  They also had been known to put razor blades in kids’ buckets in a twisted scheme to cut us up….scary stuff!!  So off we would go, collecting our loot, and then drag it back home for inspection.  One parent would take mine to either the kitchen table or the dining room table and spread every single piece into a single layer, while the other parent took my brother’s to the other table.  Anything homemade – cookies, brownies, etc. – automatically thrown out.  Any piece of fruit – apples or oranges typically – out.  Popcorn balls – out.  Any piece of candy with a loose or torn wrapper – out.  Once all of that sorting and tossing was done, we would gather everything that was left back into our pumpkins, meet at one table, and begin trading and negotiating.  Once business was all done and taken care of, THEN we got busy enjoying our favorites.  And for weeks after Halloween had come and gone, we enjoyed its sweetness while we walked to school, in our lunchboxes, after school, and after dinner.

1986-1987 (sixteen/seventeen years old – junior/senior years):  Once we got to a certain age, we stopped donning costumes and going door-to-door, not wanting to be those teenagers who we saw walking the neighborhood trying to scare the little kids, and shopping for free candy in no costumes while carrying a pillowcase.  The exception to this was if one of our friends was having a Halloween party, and then we would find a costume for that.  Other times, we would go to haunted houses with friends, but typically didn’t dress up in costume for those trips.

At sixteen, I dressed up as a prisoner in black/white strips for a party – complete with plastic ball & chain around my ankle, and handcuffs hanging off my wrist.  The next year, as a senior, my best friend and I decided that we wanted to go Trick-or-Treating one more time.  I used the same prisoner costume, but her dad decided to add to it.  He was a makeup artist for a theater, so he created a nasty, bloody scab for my cheek and made me a prisoner who had escaped after an ordeal, apparently!  It was awesome!  We made the rounds in my neighborhood, and then went to the neighborhood where our French teacher lived – as we discovered when we ended up ringing her bell.  Great memories.

Mid-90s to Present:  All grown up and a parent now, the excitement of Halloween has shifted to decorating the house for the holiday, and picking out new costumes for the kids each year.  It is rare and only occasionally that we will attend a Halloween party, and have only once or twice attended the big Street Party down in Dallas – it’s just not our thing these days.  Halloween has definitely evolved since I was a kid, and the simple fun that it was for us seems far out of sight anymore.

Noah - Halloween 2001
Noah – Halloween 2001

Do kids have Halloween parties at school anymore?  With one out of school, and one in high school, I know that they sometimes have “Costume Day” at school, but no parties anymore.  And it has been so long since they were in elementary that I don’t remember.  Many places have “Fall Festival” or “Autumn Festival” parties or events.  Churches everywhere host Fall Harvest Festivals on Halloween, with rides, games, food, and tons of candy – while welcoming and encouraging costumes.  Malls have store-to-store indoor trick-or-treating.  Some cities host “Trunk-or-Treat” events, where parents go to a large parking lot, park, and open up their trunk that is stocked with candy so that kids can go from car to car and load up. When these kind of events first started becoming a thing, it was because of an ever-growing fear within communities regarding the safety of their youngsters.  Parents became convinced that Trick-or-Treating was no longer safe, and for a while, it virtually disappeared.  I bought into it along with most everyone else, and when my oldest was young, we were at our church’s Fall Harvest Festival every year, in costume.  My middle son was born in 2000, and his first few Halloweens were spent at one of those festivals, but by the time he was in elementary, we were back to Trick-or-Treating, no matter how few there were out roaming the neighborhoods with us.  Only now?  Kids don’t go out in packs like we did, unless they are older.  Flashlights accompany most groups now, either one in hand, or one shining from a cell phone.  On a typical street block, less than half of the porch lights will be on, because people are either out at a “safe” event or location, or because people just don’t want to participate.  Now that we have a little one in the house again, we take her around the streets near ours and then bring her back after a short trip out.

Nicholas - Halloween 1998, 99?
Nicholas – Halloween 1998, 99?

I typically don’t see homemade baked goods in the booty anymore – haven’t really since I was a kid.  Nor do I see popcorn balls or fruit.  But we typically see at least one toothbrush, sometimes a travel sized toothpaste – and to those people who give them out, I deem you a Halloween buzzkill.  Just keep your stupid porch light off.  We have also seen the occasional religious tract thrown in, or some other such odd non-candy item like pencils.  Come on people!  Were you not a kid…EVER??

Noah, Nicholas, & Krystal - Halloween 2009
Noah, Nicholas, & Krystal – Halloween 2010

Once we have finished making the rounds with our little girl – who will be one of the million Elsas this Halloween – we will come back to begin our duties as candy-giver-outers.  For the past two years, we have put lawn chairs in the yard, played Halloween music through my iPhone on a speaker, and sat outside to give candy out.  Once, I made pina coladas and we sat out front eating and drinking while we gave it out; the more we drank, the more generous we were!  Our neighborhood doesn’t get many Trick-or-Treaters anyway, so we can be generous regardless.  But sitting in the front lawn not only keeps the dog from losing her damn mind every time the doorbell gets pushed, it gives us a chance to see and visit with our neighbors and see their kids/grandkids costumes.  Costumes have also come a long way since I was a kid.  Rarely do you see a homemade one these days, and if you do, then you can almost guarantee that the mom has been on Pinterest.  A LOT.  And the prices of costumes at places like Party City or Spirit are crazy!  Maybe I’m just old.  But really….$50-$100 for a kid’s costume?  Who are you trying to impress here?  Oh, and don’t even get me STARTED on all of the sexy, hoochie, vampy little costumes that are out there for little girls and tweens!!  Disgusting.  (But someone is obviously buying them and dressing their kids in them, or they wouldn’t exist in mass quantities and various characters, right?)

Harrison - Halloween 2012
Harrison – Halloween 2012
Zoe - Halloween 2013
Zoe – Halloween 2013

So while Halloween has changed a lot over the years, the same, basic premise remains – and that is…CANDY.  And fun!  What is more fun that dressing up as something besides yourself, laughing, spending time with friends/family, getting spooked over a haunted house or scary movie, and eating junk that you normally don’t let yourself or your kids eat??  Calories be damned!  Just get back out there and have fun!

 

Fun facts to send back to our moms:

* Number of deaths on Halloween from razor blades mixed with candy:  0

** Number of deaths on Halloween from poison injected/sprinkled into candy:  0

*** Number of deaths on Halloween from candy tampering:  0

 

Just sayin’…

If I Have Gay Children: Four Promises From A Christian Pastor/Parent

Reblog of this post by John Pavlovitz of North Carolina. This is the best and only way that I could think to thank him properly for his words and wisdom – and that is to share it with any and every human that I can.

john pavlovitz

KidsFiltered


Sometimes I wonder if I’ll have gay children.

I’m not sure if other parents think about this, but I do; quite often.

Maybe it’s because I have many gay people in my family and circle of friends. It’s in my genes and in my tribe.
Maybe it’s because, as a pastor of students, I’ve seen and heard the horror stories of gay Christian kids, from both inside and outside of the closet, trying to be part of the Church.
Maybe it’s because, as a Christian, I interact with so many people who find homosexuality to be the most repulsive thing imaginable, and who make that abundantly clear at every conceivable opportunity.

For whatever reason, it’s something that I ponder frequently. As a pastor and a parent, I wanted to make some promises to you, and to my two kids right now…

1) If I have gay children, you’ll all know it.

My children won’t…

View original post 949 more words

Helicopter Parents – Why We Are the Way We Are

With the beginning of another new school year, I have been thinking a lot lately about this label that has been thrown around for several years now – “Helicopter Parents.”  Everybody knows those parents, if they are not those parents themselves.  I am most certainly guilty of fitting the description myself.  According to Wikipedia, “a helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.”  Helicopter parentAnd it doesn’t typically just occur within our kid’s school, both with academics and activities; the helicopter syndrome extends to virtually every aspect of their lives, often from birth until college graduation; sometimes even beyond that in extreme cases.  As I look at my middle child who, just last week, began his first year of high school, I have been looking within and examining when and why I became that parent.  When did this phenomenom appear?  Why did we, my generation of suburban kids turned suburban moms and dads, become so overly protective of our children?

I think what made me really think about it started from a hysterical blog that I read about the difference in back-to-school in the 70s versus back-to-school in 2014.  So many of the author’s points rang true, and gave everyone a good laugh in the process.  This made me realize that there was also a huge difference in many other areas of life as we knew it then, and life as we know it now.  Let’s look at things then and things now.

1970s

In the summertime, our parents got up and went to work; my brother and I stayed home, by ourselves.  No sitter.  No daycare.  We were in late elementary and early middle school when both parents worked, and yes, we stayed home alone.  We got up, made our own breakfast, and watched cartoons.  Now, normally we had to stay inside during the day, not allowed to swim in our pool until an adult was home, unless we had permission to go to a specific friend’s house and mom knew which friend – not that she knew where their house was, or even what street; just somewhere in our neighborhood that we could get to on our bikes.  Sometimes we would get permission to ride our bikes to the bowling alley, which was several miles away, and we would have to cross busy Main Street in order to get there.  As long as we stayed together, we usually could go bowl as much as we wanted.  We rode our bikes everywhere.  We stayed outside pretty much all day when we had permission (it wasn’t a bazillion degrees outside like it is now), going in briefly for a snack, for lunch, or for a drink (when we wanted something besides water from the hose).  We played kickball at the playground with neighborhood kids – most were our friends, but some we didn’t know and still welcomed to play.  There were no cell phones, and we stayed out until dark, when the street lights came on.

During the school year, we either made our lunches and threw them in our metal lunchboxes with thermoses full of either drink or soup.  Sometimes we got a lunch ticket for a change of pace.  As early as first grade, I walked to school with my brother and our friends from the neighborhood.  I didn’t know of anybody’s allergies, if they had them.  I was allowed to take peanut butter sandwiches in my lunch, and swap with a friend if I didn’t like what I had that day.  My mom typically met my teacher at the beginning of the year Meet-the-Teacher night, and then wouldn’t see them again until an Open House, if then.  When I got home, my mom didn’t ask me if I had homework – I just did it.  I did homework, ate dinner, maybe watched TV for an hour or so, did dishes, and had a bedtime.  I studied spelling words by myself, or maybe had my brother drill me.  I brought home report cards, had it signed, and returned it, knowing that if I got a “C” that I would lose privileges; and if I had bad conduct marks (which I ALWAYS did, for talking too much, if you can believe THAT!) then I would lose privileges and/or get grounded.  We took standardized tests at school, but our entire academic curriculum didn’t center around them, as far as I can remember.

2000s

During the summertime now, parents line up sitters, nannies, daycares, and camps (all that have been background checked, of course) for their children to attend; and even young teens are typically NOT left home alone and to their own devices.  Most parents have enough activities lined up all summer long on either side of family vacations that there is little time left for their kids to get into mischief.  Sports camps, church camps, theater camps, music camps, you name it – they’re out there.  Rec centers have summer camps that involve weekly field trips and multiple trips to city pools and water parks.  When we were kids, my mom’s biggest summer expenses for us were shorts/tshirts/swimsuits, and groceries to keep us happy while she was at work.  Summertime now, for working parents, is expensive since there is not only the clothes and groceries aspect, but all of these damn camps, too, at usually $100+ each per week long session!  Our kids have cell phones, so they can always be in contact with US, along with their gaggles of friends who also have cell phones.  And we don’t just send them out the door to play, with a general idea of where they will be, and no idea of when they will be back.  No, no.  Our kids have arranged play dates, where the parents arrange the time and place, and sometimes they drop them off at a friend’s house but most of the time meet at an agreed-upon location so that they can drink coffee and visit while the kids play.  If the kids are older and want to “hang out” with a friend (they are now too cool to say “go play”), we want to know exactly where the kid lives (with an address and preferably phone number), what adults will be there (because no adults = no “hanging out”), and have a set time that they are to return.  They are sent out the door with a cell phone that is GPS-enabled, so in the event that they do not return at the specified time we can then track their location to a quarter of a mile.  Our kids have computers, or at the very least computer access to a shared device, and access to any and everything in the world online, so we set up Parental Safety filters and restrictions – because while we are cool parents, we know that they have something at their fingertips that we formerly did not possess:  the Internet.  We watch who they text, who they talk to, how they browse, websites they visit (or try to visit).

helicopter-mom

Now let’s talk about school.  Most parents now don’t just send their kids out the door in the mornings, off to school with a backpack, lunchbox, and a hug; not unless they live fairly close to their school and can be watched for a good portion of their walk.  I know that with my oldest, he started riding his bike to school in 2nd grade, but only due to the fact that the school was one street directly behind our house and it took him less than five minutes to get there.  My middle child walked to school for the first time in 4th grade, and I walked with him several times at the beginning of the year before turning him loose to walk less than two blocks to his school.  With both boys, I knew where the crossing guards were, I knew the folks who worked in the office at school, knew the principals of their schools, and kept in regular contact with their teachers throughout the year.  Unlike when I was a kid in the 70s, both of my boys were given planners at the beginning of each year; and it was in these that they would daily write in their homework assignments, and teachers could report any problems or conduct issues.  I, in turn, would check the planner after school, make sure that they sat down and did any homework before going to play or hang out with any friends, and then sign the planner before making sure that it was tucked back into the backpack for the next day.  After the planner stage of elementary school, they moved into a more digital age, and parents then have access to every class and every teacher online, where we can view homework assignments, test dates, and email teachers with questions or concerns.  Unlike when I was a kid and was just expected to do my homework (because NOT doing it and taking a zero was just not an option), today’s parents are now not only keeping up with their own stuff – home, work, bills, groceries, kid schedules, birthdays, anniversaries, family, holidays…the list goes on and on – we are now adding the role of school into the mix.  I remember, over the past three years of my son’s middle school time, repeatedly saying how much I hated middle school, yet here I was, feeling like I was doing it again!  It got very tiring to look up coursework every day, make sure that he did the work, make sure that he turned the work in, and then regularly check back for grades to make sure he was passing and get him extra help when he was not.  My oldest lived with his dad for a brief period during his junior year of high school, and was struggling in some subjects when he first moved there.  During this time, his dad sat down with him almost every night to make sure he did his work, and helped him prepare for tests and such.  In the course of the past three years while the middle son was in middle school and struggling at times, his dad would often ask me if I was sitting down with him every night to watch him and make sure he was doing his homework.  Now I know that I am a hoverer, but my answer most of the time was “no.”  I know that this is not a method that helps our kids prepare for life in college, so no, I will not sit with him and make sure that he is getting it done.  He is at the very beginning of high school, and he has many tools available to him to succeed:  a laptop that is required at his school, a website that his teachers all access and use to post notes, homework assignments, deadlines, grades, etc.  I can log on under his name and check these things at any time as well, so if he doesn’t turn something in and gets a zero, I will see it.  This is an opportunity for me to step back, land the helicopter for a bit, and let him step off the ledge himself.  He is already learning to take notes in class, and how to go and check for assignments for himself.  These four years are what will prepare him for college – because his mama will not be holding his hand and making sure he takes notes and turns in his term papers or studies for his midterms.

So from my childhood to now, when did this huge shift in parental involvement take place…and more importantly, why?  Of course, as technology has advanced, so have we who became parents during that time.  But, there are other things that happened when we were young that hopefully don’t happen as often now under the watchful eyes of all those helicopter parents.  You know.  Those things that nobody likes to talk about.  Kids were left alone a LOT back in the day.  Bad things happened.  Girls were molested by family friends, by family members; raped by classmates or trusted adults.  So were boys.  And as we grew up and dealt with things that happened to us or to our friends, we declared within our own minds that those things would NEVER happen to our children, come hell or high water.

We were a lot more grown up back then, or so we thought we were.  Kids would sneak around and steal their parents liquor and drink – I mean young kids, too.  I was probably in middle school when I first drank, while at a friend’s house and when her parents weren’t home.  I would sneak liquor into my Coke when babysitting.  I was twelve when I had my first cigarette, also while at a friend’s house, with smokes stolen from her parents.  I cannot, in my wildest imagination, picture my kids doing either of those things at the age of twelve!  I have always regretted that first cigarette, because it started a fifteen year habit that was very hard to kick; but I did it for the sake of my child.10629880_10152356893032309_3819170507177371515_n

Maybe it is just me, and maybe the helicopter parent wasn’t born from dysfunction.  Maybe, for some, it came from a childhood of neglect or very little parent involvement in their lives.  Who knows? I hope that my hyper-vigilance towards my children has hopefully paid off in more areas than done damage.  I feel confidant that neither of the boys grew up without being touched or molested by anyone, and our toddler girl should never know the psychological and physical damage from that either.  I know that the oldest toyed with smoking for a while, but am grateful that he put it down and walked away from it.  And I know that he did some teenage drinking, but I am forever thankful that he was at least smart enough to not drive and hurt himself or anyone else.  It is so scary to think about all of the things that our kids have access to out there, and it is so hard to NOT be a helicopter parent.  If we can get them through childhood and adolescence relatively unscathed, somewhat educated, responsible and respectful, and a decent human being…then we have done our jobs and can call it a success.  It’s hard to let go and let them fall, screw up, and figure things out on their own.

Two of my babies visiting me <3
Two of my babies visiting me ❤

Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to go check for assignments online…

Mom, I Want a Facebook Page

So last week I wrote about our struggles that we have been having with Noah and his schoolwork.  That same day that my blog went live, he had a terrible day that poured over into his afternoon at home, and on into the evening and night.  He was in a foul mood, and I didn’t help matters by making him sit at the dining table working on assignments that he was missing in one of his classes – by God he was NOT going to take any more zeroes on my watch!  The evening dragged on, and his mood deteriorated.  I kept asking him what was wrong, and his attitude just got worse, until finally he was in tears – only I didn’t know why.  Bedtime of 9 PM came and went, and he still sat, crying, at the dining room table.  By 9:30 PM, I think he was done with his work, but still crying, so I finally told him to just go to bed.  I asked him, again, what was wrong, but only got tears.  So I told him again that if he wasn’t going to tell me what the problem was, then he needed to just go on to bed, and I got up and went back into the den with Erikka.

A few minutes later, he came into the den and, still crying, sat down beside me and just melted down.  My eyes got big as he leaned on my arm and sobbed; so I knew that this was more than just our crackdown on him for his schoolwork.  After a few minutes, when he settled down a bit, he finally got it out that he was tired of being picked on and pushed around by kids at school.  We asked if he meant in the hallway, in classrooms, or after school outside.  He said sometimes in the hallway, in several classes, and sometimes after school.  Now, I knew that he had been made fun of since elementary school for being smart, for wearing glasses, for having a big overbite.  We, all of his parents collectively, have told him to pay no mind to those who make fun of him for being smart, because when he is finished with school, it is unlikely that he will see a majority of them again in the future.  So okay, now I am going to have to go back up to the school and make ANOTHER report of bullying going on.  I have absolutely NO tolerance for bullying, so I’m not one of these parents who will say, “Oh just ignore it and walk another way.”  Aw hell no!  Stop it from happening!  Anyway, I digress.  Back to the tearful chat.  Noah continued, after telling us he was tired of being picked on and pushed around.  He said that in one particular class, there is this “kid” who threatens to hurt him regularly, and tries to trip him every day when they are walking out of the classroom.  This “kid”?  A GIRL.  Oh yeah, that makes it worse.  When he got to telling us about what this girl has been doing, he got all worked up again.  He seemed absolutely distraught to tell us that earlier that same day, the girl had taunted him…about ME.  Ohhhhhh.  Erikka and I glanced over his weeping head, and I thought, “Ah.  Well it has finally happened.”  I instantly went back to when it happened to Nicholas, but he was in high school, so the redneck who did it to him had a pretty classless name for me.  So now Noah has had it happen to him, and I braced myself for it.  I said, “OK son.  What did she call me?”  But he wouldn’t answer.  “Did she call me a dyke?”  No.  “Did she call me a lesbo?  Lezzy?”  No.  I was trying to avoid the worse ones, like what the kid had said to Nicholas.  “Noah, did she call me a….lesbian?”  Yes.  He looked mortified.  I had to keep myself from laughing.  “Um, Noah.  Do you know what that word means?”  Yes.  It means I am married to a woman instead of a man.  “Noah, it isn’t a bad word.  It isn’t an ugly word or ugly name that she called me.  It is what I am.  Now, she, I am sure, meant it to be ugly and was trying to be ugly, but you should not take it as such.”  I asked him how he responded, which is also important, and he said he just told her that she “crossed the line.”  We said that it was a very good response, rather than being hateful in return, or starting a confrontation – neither of which would make her see her wrongdoing.  I told him that I would take care of it as best I can, considering that I couldn’t go to the school and thump the ignorant little twit in the head!  We went on to explain to him about bullying, and that he cannot respond to other people’s bullying behavior by acting the same way.  I told him that if she says anything about me again, or about our family, that he needs to respond with, “Hey, you’re crossing a line.  That is my family you’re talking about, and I don’t make cracks about YOUR family.  How would you like it if I started saying things about YOUR mother?”  By a little after 10 PM, he had calmed down and was ready to go to bed.  He seemed a bit better, having gotten it off of his chest, and awoke in an entirely different frame of mind, I think.

Who would want to bully THIS cute kid???

Who would want to bully THIS cute kid???

I got up the next day, and after seeing Noah off to school, I called the teacher of the class that he shares with this girl.  After I explained to her what Noah had told me, she seemed appalled that this had happened in her classroom, under her nose, and she had not seen or heard any of it.  She said that she had gone through the same thing with her own two boys, where kids were saying the same thing to them about her.  I’m not sure if she was saying, in a roundabout way that she is also a lesbian, but it doesn’t matter; she sympathized and wanted me to know that she found it to be unacceptable behavior.  She said that she was going to have a “character development” lesson in class to address bullying and judging each other, and make sure that they all knew that it wouldn’t be tolerated.  She also said that she was going to mention it to the sixth grade counselor, and give her the heads up that I would be calling.  Apparently she did, because at the end of the day Noah told me that the counselor called him in to discuss what had happened – which made me nervous since I didn’t get a chance to talk to her first.  How was I to know whether or not this counselor would have a personal view about families like ours that would NOT help our boy?  Fortunately, he said that she told him that he needed to ignore this girl’s meanness, because there are all kinds of families, and that his is perfectly okay, because everybody can love whomever they want to.  Bravo Ms. Counselor!!  And thank you, thank you, thank you!  She also told him that when they return to school after Spring Break, she intended to have a word with the girl, and put some fear into her….hahahaha.  Hopefully it will be a good “come to Jesus” meeting – oh to be fly on the wall in her office THAT day!

* * * * *

This morning Noah told me that he wanted a Facebook page.  My reaction?  HA!  Hell no.  No way.  No Facebook page until you are in high school.  He asked why, and I had to explain to him that as much as he hates being bullied at school for being smart, or because of me, that it is worse when you have a Facebook page.  I told him that kids now will not only bully each other at school, but that it doesn’t end there; they do it online, on Facebook, on instant messaging – and they do it meaner in the faceless arena of the Internet.  As I said before, I have NO tolerance for bullying.  I have seen kids do it unmercifully to each other, and as time goes on, it gets worse and worse.  Kids are now killing themselves because of bullying that has happened to them.  Some of those kids are gay and being bullied because of that; but others AREN’T gay, and still being bullied to death!

This is the link to a blog I wrote a year ago, last March, about bullying (in case you are interested):

https://domesticdyke.com/2011/03/07/how-many-bullies-will-it-take

If you, or someone that you know, is being bullied, don’t sit by and wait for it to get better.  Do something.  Call someone.  Step in and say something to the bully, if you must.  Don’t let someone that you love, or even someone that you remotely tolerate, be a victim of bullying.  If they won’t listen to you, then direct them to someone that they might listen to.  The Trevor Project is a great resource for crisis and suicide prevention, particularly among LGBT youth.  Too many lives have been lost as a result of bullying.  We must ALL do our part to prevent even one more.

http://thetrevorproject.org

The Trevor Lifeline
(866) 4-U-TREVOR
(866) 488-7386
Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
All calls are toll-free and confidential.

It’s Just Been One of Those Days

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (3/7/2012):

So I’m having one of those moments.  Actually, it’s more like a couple of those moments.  The kind, as a parent, where you feel like you have somehow managed to do all of the wrong things and it is now showing in everything that your child does – or does not – do.  I’m also having a bit of parental sadness, now that the oldest has left and is officially property of the United States Navy.

A few days ago, Nicholas awoke at his Dallas hotel room with a fellow recruit, and checked in with his recruiter.  They went through some last step testing, being sworn in, and finally taken to D/FW airport and put on a plane for Chicago.  Once they got there, I only have speculation as to how things went, but I know that a major hair cut was involved, a ten second phone call to his wife to let her know he had arrived, and a plea to her that she had “better pray for his ass.”  Apparently they had already begun yelling at the new recruits upon arrival.  Nice.  It will be three weeks before he is allowed another call to her, and after that, he will have to earn phone privileges for the remainder of basic training.  After that first phone call, it is my understanding that his phone was to be taken and shipped back to Krystal, along with his civilian clothes.

The night before all of this took place, we drove down to Dallas to have dinner with him at the hotel, so we could say our goodbyes before he left.  There were several of us there to see him off, and I hope that he felt special and loved.  The actual goodbye, with the hugs and such, was short and sweet, as he had to go meet his recruiter.  I still managed to cry, and didn’t want to let go of him once I had him locked in my mama embrace.  The last thing I said to him was to stay safe and strong.  He will be a completely different person when I see him again, at the end of basic training and walking through graduation before heading to school in Florida.  These are the moments that I used to sit and wonder about when he was small – what kind of person would he grow up to be. 

But as far as here, today, moment by moment with his little brother, Noah – now THAT is another story.  I’m not really sure where we got derailed, but we most certainly have (with his schooling) and he is heading for a huge crash if we don’t get him back to a station soon.  Noah is one of those brilliant kids, and no, I’m not just saying that because I am his mom.  When he was three, I was at a tire shop waiting for new tires to be put on my Jeep.  Nicholas was helping me out by chasing him around the showroom and keeping up with him, because the boy NEVER stopped moving.  Every once in a while Noah would run up to me, say something, and take off again.  After a bit, a man who was sitting nearby peered out from behind his magazine and asked, “How old is your little boy?  He is very smart.  I would venture to say that he is gifted.”  I laughed and said, “Oh yeah right.  Gifted at what?  Being a pain in the butt?  I’m sorry if he has been bothering you.”  His response was, “No, I really believe he could be gifted.”  To that I snarkily said, “Oh really?  And how are you qualified to say that about a three-year-old running around?”  He said, “I am a gifted and talented teacher.  This is what I do, assess and teach children like this.  And your son, for three years old, speaks very well and concisely.”  Oh.  Um, wow.  Thank you.  By the time he was in Pre-Kindergarten, he was tested and I was told could have skipped a grade based on his scores.  By the end of Kindergarten he was reading on a 9th grade level.  Yeah, my baby was scary smart, and his older brother used to say that his little brother was so much smarter than he!  All of that aside, Noah breezed through elementary school, with grades of high A’s the entire time.  He won the Spelling Bee for his entire school, two years in a row.  And academics took little to no effort for him; we were so proud.

But then he went to sixth grade this year.


The first six weeks of school, I had no idea that his grades had started to tank as much as they had.  Then the first report card arrived, and he not only had As, but Bs, and Cs – oh my God, no way!!  By the time the second report card arrived, he was failing two classes.  Erikka and I started making a point of daily discussions about assignments, grades, responsibility, etc.  We emphasized that he doesn’t have to be perfect, but that he has to do his very best, and that THIS wasn’t it.  By the time the third report card was to come out, with his semester grades as well, it was clear that he was in a danger zone and could quite possibly fail for not only a third six weeks, but for a semester as well.  After finally receiving some emails and/or calls from teachers, we discovered that the failing grades, across the board and every class, was due to one thing and one thing only:  not turning work in and taking zeroes.  So then he was in real trouble – with US.  ALL of us.  He was grounded from television and video games.  His days consist of school, band practice, homework, reading, dinner, and more reading.  I hate for it to be like this, and I feel like he is missing out on the fun parts of being a kid.  I guess it would be different if he was struggling and not understanding the material in his ADVANCED classes, but every teacher has unanimously concurred that he is very smart and understands, yet isn’t turning in his work.  What in the hell goes through the minds of kids this age???  Erikka and I, and his dad as well, have gone to great lengths and have done everything that we know to do to help him get organized, stay organized, and get his work done and turned in on time.  We created a planner for him to write his assignments in every day, and I thought that he was really starting to do better.  Well the latest report cards came out last week, and while he has brought up the grades in the classes he was earlier failing, he is now failing in other classes, or barely passing in still others.

But today, I am feeling frustrated and defeated.  I got another email this afternoon from yet another teacher, telling me that he has not turned in three out of four assignments and is therefore failing.  This came from a teacher of one of his electives.  I have sat here all afternoon, near tears and not knowing what to do.  He is SO smart, and I do not understand why he continues to do this.  I know that at first he started letting his grades tank on purpose because he had gotten made fun of and teased for being smart.  He decided that he didn’t want to be smart any more, but rather be “normal” like everyone else and in “normal” classes like everyone else.  But when I told him that I absolutely would not take him out of the advanced classes, I thought that he got the message and would get his act together.  He cannot seem to give any of us a clear reason as to why he isn’t doing his work, or isn’t turning in the work that he has done.  I know that in the public schools in this district, once they leave elementary school, they are kind of thrown into the middle school world, and left to sink or swim.  Part of me wants to take him out and homeschool him, but I don’t think that it is the answer for us – while it works for some, I don’t know if it would for Noah.  There are some schools in the Dallas area that are specifically for kids with “learning differences,” and severe ADHD like his falls into that category.  In fact, my daughter-in-law’s mother works at one of these schools and has brought me a packet of information on it.  I would absolutely LOVE for Noah to go to one of these schools – and then I saw the tuition costs.

%#THUD@&

That was me falling off of the couch when I saw the schedule of tuition for next year.  Let’s just say that Nicholas could have gone to one of our fabulous junior colleges and gotten an associates degree for less than one year’s tuition at this specialized school.

So back to being frustrated and not knowing what to do to help Noah.  None of us, his parents, knows anything else to do for him aside from what we have.  My last resort, I think, is to take him out of band.  He loves it, and it would break my heart to do it, but I may have to in order to have maximum impact.  Sigh.

Yep.  It’s been one of those days.

He’s in the Navy Now

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (2/22/2012):

The other day, maybe two weeks ago at most, I get a phone call from the oldest boy (the 20-year-old).  When I answer the phone with my sing-songie “Hellooo-ooo-oooo,” he laughs and says, “Hey Mom!  I’ve got something to tell you!”

Freeze frame.

Picture it, if you will.  Me, standing at the kitchen counter, and my free hand immediately goes to the edge and grasps it.  Oh dear God, he’s got something to tell me.  They’re pregnant.  Oh God.  No, not that.  Too young.  But even more importantly, I am too young to be a grandma – a grandma with an almost four-month-old baby!  OK, breathe.

Unfreeze frame.

I say, with a big ole question mark in my voice, “Oh yeah?  What’s that?”  Stay calm Mom, stay calm.  He answers, “Um, my orders have changed, and I am shipping out for basic training on March 1st instead of June 4th.”  Oh no!  Oh wait.  Do what?  Tell me that again so that I am sure that you’re not saying that you’re pregnant.  But wait again.  You’re leaving for the Navy in, what, a few weeks rather than months?  Oh.  Oh wow.  Okay.  I think I’m okay with that.

So I get off the phone and relay the info, what little I got, to Erikka.  I say that I would like for us to have dinner with him and his wife before he leaves, and maybe invite her mom, his dad, and our parents.  Shortly after that I get a phone call from his dad.  He says, “Did you get a phone call from our oldest son?”  I laugh and said, “Yeah, and he scared the crap out of me by the way he started out.”  Then HE laughed and said, “Oh he must have told you the same thing he told me – ‘Dad, I have something to tell you.’  My first thought was, ‘When is she due?’”  We had a good laugh over that, and were soon discussing plans for a dinner for them about a week or two before he was due to leave.

Nicholas with his baby sister in her sailor suit :)

Somehow, over the course of a few days, the plan changed and morphed from a dinner with family, to a dinner with family and friends, to a Sunday afternoon luncheon at a rented space with family and lots of friends.  My wonderful and lovely wife, and his amazing bonus mom, is a party planner extraordinaire, and was able to throw together quite the soiree in about a week’s time.  We catered a fantastic Mexican food lunch, had a few people bring a few things, and then it was done!  Everyone was so helpful and cooperative, including my mom (wow!), Erikka’s parents, the boys’ dad and other stepmom, and my daughter-in-law’s mother.  When the time came for guests to start arriving, I sat back with a sleeping baby on my lap and watched as our friends, family, and their friends arrived with so much love, hugs, and support for my boy and his wife.  It brought tears to my eyes to see so many people taking time out of their Sunday to come and do this.  At one point, while everyone was eating, I got teary-eyed as I looked at the “kid table,” and wondered where all the time had gone.  At that table sat six young adults, ages 16-22 years old now, and as I looked at them, I remembered them sitting around a table at some church youth group event, only they were little and in elementary and middle school.  These “kids” have known each other since they were young, and now mine is married to one of these girls that I watched grow into a beautiful woman – now wife.  Another of the girls is also married and a Navy wife as well.  Another is in college and a live-in nanny.  Her brother is the youngest of the group here, and he is now a successful sports jock in high school – I remember when he was in kindergarten!  And still another is currently trying his hand with acting!  Where did the time go?

Funniest. Photo. of. the. Day. My three kids – FANTASTIC sibling photo.

It was a good day, spent with such a wide range of people from all different walks of life.  But I think that Nicholas really enjoyed it and felt special and loved.  Towards the end, it hit me that in ten days, he would be gone, shipping off to Chicago for two months’ of basic training.  I know that he is all grown up, almost twenty-one years old and married for a few months now.  I know this, and am perfectly okay with the progression of life as it has gone.  But for some reason, this step, him going into the military and leaving, makes it a whole lot more real.  I think I would be a whole lot more nervous if he had gone into the Army, and I don’t fear for his safety as much going Navy.  I’m proud of him, SO proud of him, for taking this step and moving his life into a definite direction.  I don’t see him all the time now, since he has been gone and living on his own, but I at least have the option if I want to.  I am going to miss him terribly, but I know that this is part of growing up and starting your own life.  I know that he will attend basic training in Chicago, and then I believe is supposed to go to Pensacola for A-school.  After that, I’m not sure where he will be stationed, but I pray that it isn’t so far that we won’t be able to be a part of their lives (especially when they DO start a family).  I want his younger brother and sister to know him, which means at this point, that we have to make an extra effort to make it happen.

So if you think about it, for the next couple of months, please keep my oldest boy in your thoughts.  His wife will stay behind and live with her mom, and we will make sure that she doesn’t get lonely or sad.  And soon?  We’ll be planning our trip to Chicago for his graduation!

Two Moms at the Sweetheart Ball

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (2/8/2012):

Years and years ago, when I was in college (as an adult), I joined a sorority.  Now, it isn’t the kind of sorority that most people think of when they hear the term.  It wasn’t related to my university, but rather, an international community-based, service-based group of women of all ages.  I met and made a friend in one of my night classes who was a part of this group, and she invited me to one of her meetings.  I enjoyed the friendships that these women shared, and soon they invited me to join them – so I became a sister in Beta Sigma Phi.  We had meetings twice a month at different sisters’ homes, service projects, and social outings.  Up until that, my whole life consisted of being Mom, wife, and college student, so it gave me an outlet to just be around other moms and wives while enjoying fun and friendship.

After being in that chapter for several years, I sadly had to step back and take a leave while I was going through my divorce.  I missed my friends dearly, and because of living so far away from all of them, knew that I would probably see them rarely after I left.  After being out of it for a while, Holly found a chapter near my new house that we decided to go visit.  From the first visit, we really enjoyed the ladies and were soon back into the swing of sorority and joining them.  Sure we missed our old chapter, and Holly eventually went back to that one when she moved back to their area, but it was nice to be involved again.

One of the awesome things about sorority that I always enjoyed was the Sweetheart Ball that takes place every February.  When I left my original chapter, I missed it dearly.  The city council that my new chapter belonged to did not have a ball, so I missed it even more knowing that it wasn’t an option.  A few years ago, the new group decided that we wanted to go to the ball, and that was the first time that I would be there with Erikka.  Needless to say, there was a lot of staring, and not near the friendly “sisterness” that I had known for all of those years previously.  And we looked CUTE!  I think we were engaged that year…

Fast forward to 2012.  In the two or three years since our chapter attended the Sweetheart Ball, we have left it up to the chapter sweetheart to decide if they wanted to go or not.  This year, our sweetheart decided that she wanted to go to the ball, so plans were made and tickets were purchased.  This would be our second time as a group to join, and everyone seemed pretty excited about getting dressed up to go – us included!  It was going to be the first time that I had seen my sisters from my former chapter in a very long time, and I hoped that there would still be that connection from so long ago.  I knew that there were quite a few of the ladies who are pretty conservative, and who either don’t approve of my marriage to Erikka, or who don’t understand (or want to understand).  Nevertheless, I was looking forward to seeing them and hoping that it would be good.

Last Friday night, after spending hours preparing and primping and getting into our new clothes for the ball, we were off.  We dropped off Noah and Harrison at my mom’s, and drove to the country club where the event was taking place.  Erikka looked beautiful in a dark, navy blue shimmery dress, and I coordinated with her in dark navy blue and black.  We looked fabulous!  We found Holly and Tony as soon as we arrived, who showed us to our table – everything looked so nice.  We had dinner and soon all of the sweethearts were lining up in the hallway with their escorts for the traditional presentation of each chapter’s sweetheart.  Our sweetheart is single and had come to the ball solo, so we had decided ahead of time that I would escort her in.  Let me tell you, walking in with a chick in a formal on my arm, while a couple of hundred eyes are staring…well, it’s a bit unnerving.  We laughed and giggled as we walked in and stood among all of the other boy-girl couples that were around us.  After everyone was presented, they then announced that it was time for the Sweetheart Dance – what the what???  Nobody had told us that we were supposed to dance!  So then we were REALLY getting stared at, but we did it!  I was soon rescued from the awkward staring by another sister’s husband, who cut in and finished out the dance with our sweetheart.

Sweetheart Ball 2012

Shortly after all of the sweetheart formalities, we all went out into the hallway and took pictures.  When we went back in, we got out on the dancefloor with everyone else and danced and laughed.  A slow song came on, and I walked over to our table to take Erikka by the hand.  We went out onto the dancefloor, and spun our way slowly around it, amid all of the other couples.  Soon I could feel the disapproving glances and stares coming from some of the older couples, and could even see some whispering.  The most prominent was from an older lady, who was also a tiara-wearing sweetheart from her chapter.  We turned while dancing and I saw her looking at us with a look of absolute disgust on her face.  She then said something to her husband in his ear, and then he turned to look at us with the same look.  They stared at us with that look, and talking to each other, for the remainder of the dance.  Sure, I wanted to walk over and say something to them…or punch them in the face…but of course my wife would not have let me do that.  I mean, really??  Come on folks.  We’re SO normal.  I guess that is why it still surprises me when people are so blatantly and outright ugly towards us.  When we got back to the table, I told my sisters about it. One of them asked me if we ever get used to that from people, and it really made me think.

My response, when asked this question, is typically, “Yes, I’m used to it.”  But I don’t want to be used to it!  I get outraged every time someone looks at me with disdain or disgust whenever they see me with my wife, maybe holding her hand or with my arm around her.  We are people dammit, just like anyone else!  I should have walked over and told her how rude and ignorant it was of her and her husband to behave that way, and that it is 2012 so they need to get over themselves.  I don’t want my kids to ever see me keep quiet and LET someone look at us, talk about us, or be ugly towards any of us and think it is acceptable behavior.  All of that “do unto others” crap that we grow up hearing suddenly goes out the window when it’s something that we don’t like or accept – I am sure we are all guilty of it.  So I will make a conscious decision to “do unto others” in all situations, in hopes that they will “do unto ME” in turn.

Mama on a Soapbox

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (2/1/2012):

So I may have mentioned this previously, but it annoys the hell out of me that I have to adopt my daughter.  Yes, it makes me want to run, kicking and screaming at the top of my lungs, about the unfairness of it all.  Well, when it comes right down to it, it pisses me off in a way that I don’t think many things have.  Every time I think about when a hetero couple has a baby, the father’s parentage is automatically assumed, solely on the word of the birth mother saying that yes, this dude is the baby daddy.  The dude doesn’t have to go through the process of having to adopt the kid, just because he didn’t birth it – so why should I???  Because our relationship and our family is dictated by a government full of assholes who SAY that they want smaller government, yet have to keep their fingers in countless people’s lives, marriages, and families.

It’s very hard to be part of an openly gay marriage, as well as be the non-biological mother to our child, when living in a conservative, Southern state.  It’s hard to hear, over and over for years and years, that my marriage isn’t real or legitimate or legal (all three of which it completely IS).  It’s hard to know that people look down their noses at us when we’re all together, disgusted by all of our same-sexness.  It’s hard to be out in public during the day with the baby, and have people assume that I am her aunt or baby sitter, because I can’t possibly be her mother, given the way that I look.  It’s really hard to sit back and watch hypocrites run for office who are SO against marriage equality, yet have in their own history adultery and divorce…multiple times!

In the very near future, I will have to shell out the money for my BFF (aka attorney) to file a petition to the state asking permission to adopt my sweet baby girl.  After that, I will have to shell out even more money (of which I will have to put aside, since it’s not just lying around) to a social worker.  This is my favorite part.  The social worker will come to our house to complete a Home Study – she will examine our home, interrogate me, Erikka, both of us together, and maybe even Noah.  She will decide whether or not she thinks that I should be allowed to adopt Harrison.  If she says she doesn’t think that I should, then what happens?  Well, the adoption won’t happen, but nothing else.  I will still continue to live here and always be her mama, but without those legal protections.  If she says that she thinks it will be okay, I think we then proceed to going to court to stand before a judge.  At that time, then HE or SHE will decide whether or not they think I should be allowed to adopt my own daughter.  Here is where it all comes down to it.  If the judge says no, that’s it, I’m screwed.  IF my adoption request is denied, there is no opportunity to try it again.  That’s it.  I could get all of the recommendation letters in the world, and if we don’t get the right judge, it could all be for nothing.

And THIS, my friends, is why I am pissed off.

There is no question whatsoever, or at least there shouldn’t be, as to whether this little girl is mine.  She has been mine, along with Erikka’s, since the moment that I watched the doctor perform the intra-uterine insemination.  Since the moment we laid the cell phone on the bed, speakerphone on, as the nurse told us that the blood test was positive.  I went to all of the doctor’s appointments, saw all of the sonograms, shopped, worried over her and Erikka’s health, changed my diet along with Erikka, painted, and helped build her little Dr. Seuss world in her nursery to prepare for her arrival.  I got to meet her before anyone else, and I took care of her while her other mommy was recuperating after the birth.

I have bathed her, clothed her, fed her, changed her, sung to her, and rocked her to sleep.  Beyond all of these things or none of these things, I have loved her.  Because she is MY daughter.  I shouldn’t have to prove this, to a social worker or to a judge, just to have the legal protections that I rightfully should.


We need a change in this country, in this state.  We need a LOT of change.  The government needs to stop being such a puss and make the declaration that they have a hell of a lot more to worry about than same-sex couples marrying or having families.  They need to grow a spine and make the decision that they are going to stay out of it, and they are going to cease allowing any of us to vote on anyone else’s equality.  Sigh.  Sounds good, huh?  Too bad it is unlikely to happen.

Soapbox empty now.

Change is Growth; Growth is Good – Reflections of 2011

So 2011 is rapidly coming to a close, and it always brings me to a place of reflection on all that has taken place in my life over the course of a year.  Sure, this past year has brought us the death of Osama bin Laden, the murder trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, and Charlie Sheen doing a lot of “winning.”  But 2011 also brought a lot of huge changes for me and my family.

We started out this year with plans for Erikka to have surgery in mid-January.  Little did we know that a short month later we would be making our first attempt at insemination and pregnancy.  It was a long five weeks before we would find out that our one, and only, attempt was positive and that a new little life was on its way.  Noah turned eleven and won the spelling bee for his elementary school for the second year in a row.  I couldn’t believe that he would soon be going into middle school, and Nicholas would be turning 20 in August, and that we would have a newborn baby not too long after that.  I was going to have three only children, practically….wow.  We also had been planning for a trip to Disneyworld, just Erikka and I, in May so that we could use some airline vouchers and Disney dollars that were about to expire.  I wondered how that would work once we found out that Erikka was pregnant, but she did great and we had a wonderful time getting away – knowing it was probably one of our last getaway trips for a long time.  We managed to getaway one more time in July for our anniversary, where we went to our favorite bed & breakfast in Little Rock for a weekend, promising when we left to come back with the kids next time.

I think that by June, it had been discovered that Erikka had developed gestational diabetes, so we went on a drastic diet change to accommodate all of the many doctors and their demands of her.  The days got hotter and her belly got bigger, and we shopped and planned and dreamed about this baby that we still couldn’t believe was going to be here by the first of November.  Once we found out that we were having a girl, the excitement got even more strong because Erikka had always wanted a girl, and I had only experienced life with two boys.  I turned 41 in August, and started to panic about having a new baby – I felt OLD.  We soon got into high gear and launched into a season of baby showers, nursery painting parties, and furniture-putting-together gatherings.  The room that had, for the year that we have lived here, been the middle, guest bedroom was slowly turning into a beautiful Dr. Seuss nursery for the little baby girl who would have everything.

By the time that October arrived, we were battling with blood pressure issues along with blood sugar issues.  Doctors were on the case and we were going every week to one doctor or another.  Erikka was registered at the hospital, and her c-section was set for November 1st…only this baby and Erikka’s body had other plans.  She was put into the hospital on fulltime bedrest around the 18th of October, and late on the evening of October 24th we welcomed our beautiful baby girl – Harrison Sinclair Jayne-Anne – into the world (during the 5th game of the World Series where our Rangers were playing!).  The world as we knew it previously was changed forever.  We had some complications for the first few weeks, with Erikka and her body getting used to all of the drastic changes, but then by Thanksgiving were sharing our new addition with the world.  Nicholas enlisted in the Navy shortly after Harrison was born, and married the love of HIS life on October 31st.  It took all of us by surprise, but because we love him (and her, too), then we support them as best as we can.  I anxiously awaited for Christmas and spending time with family – both Erikka’s and mine.

And now here we are, looking at the tail-end of 2011 over our back shoulder; looking forward to 2012 and all of the adventures and experiences it will bring to us and our family.  I pray that 2012 will bring to us new legislation that will write equality into existence where it was not before.  Every year should bring change, for without change there is no growth.  It may be small change over a long period of time, or it may be big, life-altering change that happens in a blink.  Either way, change is growth, and growth is good.