Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I just saw a news story about a mother who got on a bus and confronted the kid who had been bullying her daughter. Seems she kept poking him in the forehead while she warned him to leave her child alone.

She has been brought up on some kind of charges.

This is not the way to handle a bullying situation, but there is a part of me that wants to applaud her. After all, don't most of us as parents WANT to attack the person who has attacked our child?

My kids have never been bullied, thank God.

We did have an incident on the school bus once that made me fear we were in for some bullying, though.

When The Princess was in the 6th grade and The Smart One was in 8th, she came in after school crying, and he came in stomping mad. Seems an older boy had been teasing her and even her brother was mad about it. I listened to the story and then called the bus driver. I did not want to raise a big stink but I truly wanted to prevent a bullying situation from starting. So I told her what had happened and asked her to keep her eyes and ears open because this is how bullying started. She was very understanding and eager to help.

In the mean time, 3 of The Smart One's friends came over and were all hanging out in his room. After speaking with our daughter for a while and helping her feel better, I went into his room to talk to him. "Do you know anything about this kid?" I asked. And all the boys chimed in with little tidbits "He's a freshman." "He's a big fat loser..." "He's always picking on somebody..." "He quits everything he starts..." And then as I was leaving his room The Smart One said the sweetest thing to me. He swept his finger around the room, indicating his friends, all of whom were wrestlers and/or football players; and said "Mom, do me and the guys need to take care of something?" And his buddies chimed in with "Yeah, we could totally do that."

And the crazy fierce mother in me wanted to scream "YES! I want you to TAKE. HIM. DOWN!! I want you to use every move you've learned on the wrestling mats and the football field to teach him a lesson! I want you to let him know that NOBODY. NO. BODY. makes your little sister cry......Except you!"

But I didn't.

I simply said "Oh, that's really nice, guys. But, we can't handle it that way. We have to take the high road."

But wasn't that sweet of them to offer?

And the princess? I had told her I would drive her to school from now on if she wanted to avoid the Big Fat Loser. But the next morning, she got up and marched right down to the bus stop and climbed on as usual. And there were no more problems after that.

My kids.....My heroes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Yesterday I had to take Cookie to the vet. She needed her rabies shot, and her ear was bothering her AGAIN. When I called to make the appointment and told them what I needed, we agreed upon a day and time and then the girl said;
"Okay, so we have Cookie down for heart worm check, full exam, rabies, and ear check..."

And I said "UHM....yeah." I really just was hoping to run in and get the shot, have them peek in her ears, give me the drops and let me run out.


I cannot even relate how stressful it is to take this dog to the vet.

So I won't. I will just say that she trembles like a leaf on a windy spring day, and she drools so much she leaves a trail of dog spit every where she goes. She gets that nervous. They have to muzzle her to check her ears. I hate every minute of it.

So as I was leaving and putting my checkbook away - after writing a check for $326. THREE HUNDRED. TWENTY. SIX. DOLLARS. - plus another $10.00 to register with the county for the rabies shot - I decided it really was easier to take 2 small children to the doctor - healthy or sick - than to take this dog. It was also cheaper.

We have used a family doctor since our children were born. I love the continuity of care a family doctor offers. If I have been diagnosed with strep throat, I can call two days later and say that my kids have fevers and sore throats, and he'll prescribe for them. If one of the kids has an appointment and something comes up for me or my husband, I can call and say "could you pull my chart too, and let me see the doctor when I bring my son in?" And they are always so good to do that. Of course, since this doctor was also my OB doctor with my first, and arrived 15 minutes after my second was born to hold her in his arms even before I did, we do have a special rapport with him. He does tend to think of us as his special patients. And I will admit to using that status to my advantage from time to time.

Of course it was never easy to take little ones to the doctor.

There was always the wait. The waiting room wasn't so bad because there were toys, but it was the wait in the exam room that was sometimes enough to send me over the edge. One time when our son was about 6 and my daughter 3, I had both children waiting in the exam room. We had waited quite a while and I had just about exhausted my magic tricks for keeping them happy. When the doctor finally came in, Our son said "WE. HAVE. BEEN. WAITING. TEN. HOURS." And without missing a beat, the doctor said "I bet it seems like longer for Mommy..."
So true.
But I really never mind the wait at our doctor's office because he spends LOTS of time with us and never makes me feel rushed. I just figure he's treating all of his patients like that.

Another time- I think the kids were 5 and 2 - we had an appointment at 11 in the morning. Knowing that would run into lunch time, and then ruin nap time, which would in turn ruin the whole day; I did the only safe thing I could think to do. I packed two lunch boxes and took the kids' lunch to the doctor with us.
At noon, when we were in the exam room waiting, I pulled their lunches out and started feeding them. Of course, that's when the doctor came in. He smiled and actually told me it was a great idea. He was thrilled that I wasn't letting the kids get hungry and cranky while they waited on him. Then he proceeded to listen to hearts and check ears and throats around fingers sticky with bananas and little mouths ringed with jelly mustaches.
I will always remember him then taking my children by the hand, our daughter holding a banana and our son holding his pb&j, and walking them to the sticker box - a child on each side of him all mushy and sticky from their little lunches.

And I would get a warm feeling and smile because there was one more person in the world that loved my children, and that my children weren't afraid of their doctor.

But after an appointment with the vet?

No warm feeling. No smiles that someone else loves my dog. No cute little things to remember to tell Daddy about our visit.

Nope. Just a headache, cold sweats, a twitching eye and three hundred twenty six dollars gone from our checking account. Plus ten dollars for the county.

Oh, and today is the dog's birthday. She's nine years old today, and in "amazingly good health; and so spry and active. She's got many good years ahead of her," according to the vet.


Monday, September 24, 2007


Last night the Don and I had another of our incredibly romantic Sunday night dates.

We went grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

After we bought many necessities for the week - ice cream, pop tarts, cat litter; we stopped at Burger King to take home a late supper. I cannot eat at our Burker King without remembering my first visit there.

We had just built a house in the town in which we still live; so had not lived in the neighborhood long. Another young mom and I decided to take our kids to the new Burger King that had a very small play area. My daughter was 2, and my son was 5. Her daughter was 3 and her son was 5, so we had the perfect set up. We went for an early lunch so there would not be a big crowd.

After feeding the kids, we grabbed a table right by the ball pit, where we could watch through the windows as our kids got to know each other. Luckily there were no other children there, and the restaurant was not real crowded. See, eleven years later, I still remember the fun of this day...

My daughter had toddled through the balls and climbed onto the rope bridge that would take her to the small slide. I watched her reach the bridge and then turned away. My attention was brought back right quick, though, when I heard my son yelling. I turned to see him standing thigh-deep in the colorful balls, hands cupped around his mouth yelling "CALL SECURITY!! CALL SECURITEEEEEEEE!!"

Seems his little sister had her foot stuck in the rope bridge and was immobile. Rather than tap on the window to get my attention, he chose to treat it as a bank robbery and scream for police assistance.

My daughter was remaining surprisingly calm. My neighbor's kids were standing in the corner watching in silence, as my son continued calling for security.

I looked at my neighbor and said "I'm going to have to go in and get her aren't I??" And she said "Yep."

So we walked to the entrance to the ball pit. It was a round entrance about the size of a large pizza. We just stood and looked at each other for a minute and agreed that the only way to get in was to slither in head first. So I started in and when I was half way in I stopped and looked back at my neighbor and said

"Are people looking at my butt?" And she said "No, No, No, you're fine."

My son was still calling for security, my daughter was sitting calmly on the rope bridge with one little foot caught, smiling at her mommy coming to rescue her, and the neighbor children were enjoying the sight of the crazy new neighbor lady coming in to play in the ball pit.

So I slither into the pit of primary colors and waddle over to my son and say "You need to stop calling for security. Mommy can handle this, and we really don't need any more attention..."

Then I waddle to the rope bridge and untangle my daughter and get her settled. Then I stop and stare at the little round doorway and realize now I have to get out. So I stick my head through and start to come out.

When my head was out but my backside was still in the ball pit, my neighbor said,


"Now people are looking at your butt!!"

Good times.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Our son has been driving for almost two months. In our state, the kids have to have 50 hours of driving time with parents, once they get their permit, before they can be issued their license. We kept track of the time on a sheet provided by the Secretary of State - destination, weather condition, night or day, amount of time spent driving.

As we got within a month of his birthday, we were getting a little worried that he would not have his 50 hours in. So I sat down with him and told him something like "with 30 days left until your birthday, and so many hours needed, you need to plan on driving this many minutes a day." And our son responded something like this: "If you two weren't SO ETHICAL, this wouldn't be such a problem. Do you know how many 'trips to St. Louis' R has taken, on paper, to fill his sheet up? His dad just marks the sheet and doesn't make him drive."

Seems there was a lot of that going on.

So I tried to explain that their parents were not doing them any favors, and that we needed to follow the rules so he'd be experienced and confident behind the wheel, blah, blah, blah....

Fast forward to the first week of school. Sophomore biology. The students are required to bring a paper home each Friday to have us look at their grades for the week and sign it to let the teacher know we looked at it. I thought once we were out of elementary school, I would be done signing papers, but...Well, our son forgot to have us sign his the first week and so got a zero for that assignment.

His classmates, however, also forgot to have their parents sign theirs, but signed their parents' names right there in the classroom before handing it in.

My son, the ethical one, got a zero, bringing his grade down to a C for the week. The kids who chose not to follow the directions and took the easy (and sneaky) way out, got full credit.

I have to believe the teacher knows this is going on. I cannot believe that anybody with a lick of sense and ANY experience with teenagers would not at least suspect this. Can she not see that the handwriting for the "parent's signature" looks suspiciously like that of the student? Does she not wonder about the shuffling of papers and the desperate search for pens and the hurried writing on the papers before they are handed forward?

I told our son that I was prouder of his "C" that week than I would be of an "A" because it meant he chose the ethical route. And I told him I might be having a talk with this teacher when conference time comes around.

Life is not always about taking the easy way out. I wish it could be. I wish every day of jr. high and high school could be easy for my kids. But it can't be. I wish they didn't have to learn some lessons so early.

But they do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


In January of '06, we went through a terrible parenting ordeal.

We watched our son make a dangerous mistake and then saw the consequences come tumbling down around us. I don't know if we handled it all correctly but, looking back, I do think we were able to temper our discipline with just the right amount of mercy.

There is something, however, from that incident that I cannot seem to crawl out from under. That is the response I got from someone when I finally decided to share with them what our family had gone through.

As I was telling the story, tears welling up in my eyes, voice quivering, this is what I kept hearing: "you should have done...." "you shouldn't have...." "next time do...."

That's right. In my most vulnerable state as a mother, in my desperate need for validation and encouragement, I got nothing but harsh criticism on the way I handled things.

And so, I basically share nothing with people now on my struggles as a parent.

Because we as parents are judgemental and critical of each other. And ladies? Moms? I think we're worse than the men.

Oh, I've done it too. I've uttered many a criticism about my fellow mothers:

"Did you see the way her child acted at the table? Let's teach some manners..."

"I CANNOT believe she lets her child do that...."

"I CANNOT believe she won't let her child do that...."

"Her kids wouldn't do that if she'd only..."

And the best of all:

"I don't think my child would ever...."

Let me just say, parents, NEVER SAY NEVER. You could be going along just fine, putting everything you've got into being a great parent and raising great kids, and WHAM! You could be blind sided by something that will turn your world upside down. If you're lucky, it will be relatively minor and short lived. If not, you are going to long for a soft place to fall in your search for answers. You are going to long for other parents who will continue to love you AND your child. Other parents who will simply listen and not judge or criticize.

I'm not saying I'm proud of it, but I've done it - this criticism thing. But I am trying really hard to stop. My experience a year and a half ago has helped me learn to stop and think before I open my mouth about something that is none of my business, unless of course, I can ENCOURAGE and not CRITICIZE. You know? Build up and not tear down. I am praying to become "that parent" to whom others could turn when they are in that dark corner of parenthood.

As I raise my teenagers and see that as children get bigger, so do their mistakes; I'm trying to soften my heart to my fellow mothers. Now I honestly try to see things from a mother's perspective. I've started many sentences lately with "As a mother, I can certainly see how bad the parents must feel about...."

This is on my mind lately because, in the last several weeks, I've come across a lot of blogs, articles, TV spots, and conversations about parenting. And people are so judgmental, to the point of being angry and venomous about their views; spewing words like "ignorant" and "lazy" and even "abusive" when some one's view is different than theirs. And I'm not talking about REAL situations of abuse; I'm talking about views that are different and, to make their point seem more valid they throw the word "abuse" around.

Based on some of these opinions I've decided that I'm a bad mom because:

- I had c-sections. In fact I had two. And I don't hate the doctors that performed them. I was deeply disappointed to have c-sections and the competition we women create among ourselves to have the best, un-medicated, most "natural" birth experiences ever recorded, did not help that sense of disappointment. But. I have two beautiful, healthy children. So there.

- I did not breast feed exclusively. THAAAAT'S RIIIIIIGHT! I supplemented with formula. That means my babies had a bottle every now and then. AND! There was no nipple confusion. AND! The child I breast fed longer had more ear infections than her brother. AND! Even though I breast fed for less than a year, there are NO food allergies in my kids. ZERO. NADA. ZILCH. I totally agree that breast feeding is best. And I totally agree that it is great to do it for the first year. But, ladies, the guilt we heap on each other is UNNECESSARY!

- I spanked my children. Yep. When they were pre-schoolers, we spanked them in certain situations. We truly feel that spanking, IN SOME SITUATIONS, is what got the point across. Preschoolers CANNOT always be reasoned with, cannot understand consquences when given a long verbal explanation. If a spanking saved my child from being injured or doing the same dangerous, or rebellious thing over and over, so be it. AND! I've asked my children if they resent it and feel betrayed when they remember the spankings. Their answers "Uh, No!" So, in the words of the Great Lt. Colonel Henry Blake "You can hang my butt from a flag pole if you want..." but we spanked. We did not abuse. We were both spanked as children, and we don't remember it, nor do we feel betrayed and angry by it. I feel betrayed and angry by the other selfish things my parents did while raising me, but spanking? NO. If you still feel betrayed and angry over spankings you received as a child, perhaps there are deeper issues to explore. If you don't want to spank, then don't. Just find a way to discipline your children, and don't tell the rest of us that we abuse ours.

- I let my kids watch TV. I used to joke that my kids learned their numbers from the remote control, but it wasn't that bad. My kids grew up with Gulllah Gullah Island, Thomas the Tank Engine, Mr. Rogers, and the old black and white Lassie episodes. And of course Sesame Street. I even let them watch Rugrats. We also spent a great deal of time at the library, the children's museum, and of course at home playing Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Barnyard Bingo, Candyland. And doing puzzles. Lots of puzzles.

- I let my kids eat sugar. In fact, I never monitored their sugar intake; preferring instead to emphasize the healthy choices, while still having sweets available. I've written before on this. Their favorite snacks are yogurt, popcorn, carrots, rice cakes, mandarin oranges, apples. Not a lot of sugar going on in those choices. I know a mom who says sugar makes her little boy act like a monster, so she NEVER lets him have it. The thing is, the child is rude and out of control most of the time. Seriously. So maybe, in that situation, sugar is not the culprit.....but I know it effects some kids differently than others. I also know that other additives effect some children more severely. But in our house? Not a problem.

- I allow, even encourage my kids to be friends with kids of all different backgrounds and family situations. I monitor the friendships; and there are some in which I prefer (OK sometimes insist) they spend their time together at our house and not the other child's house. But if two children get along and love spending time together, I don't care if the other kid's parents work, or if they are divorced, or if they are Hindu, or Muslim, or Catholic, or Baptist. I don't care about the other child's race, or their parents' income. I simply care that my child has a friend with whom he enjoys spending time; and sometimes our house is a refuge, a safe haven, for that other child. And frankly, we might be doing something right, because our house is always full of kids. I only gave birth to two children (by the dreaded c-section) but there are usually 4,6,7...9 kids here.

- I do not make my kids go to church with us; although, they do most of the time. This is a hard one for me to talk about, because sometimes our Christian friends are just as judgmental (or more so) than the rest of the world. But there comes a point when it seems silly to me to drag a teenager to church and allow them to sit and sulk in the pew. I told my husband that we can certainly drag them to the table but we cannot force them to partake of the feast. I believe you cannot FORCE faith onto anybody. And being in a church is not building faith. We cannot "guilt" our kids into being the spiritual beings we want them to be.

- I send my kids to public school. Homeschooling is a great option, but we public school moms have also put much thought and prayer into our decision. Some, and I mean SOME, homeschool moms have been rude and condescending to me about my choice to send my kids to public school. Just because my choice is DIFFERENT doesn't mean it's bad, and it certainly doesn't mean I do not value the safety and moral upbringing of my children. For every criticism you can give me about my choice, I could give you one back about your choice. But I choose not to.

Let's see. I think that's if for now.

Let's take it easy on each other moms! We all can use a little encouragement in this most precious, yet difficult of jobs.

And for the record..."As a mother, I think you're all doing great!"

Thursday, September 06, 2007


...home is where nurture lived, where strength thrived. Home was that place that fed the soul, healed the broken pieces of a life. Home is where you'll find what you're seeking...

Jane Kirkpatrick

This is what I strive to give my children. I strive to give them a place that feeds their souls. A place where they can heal their wounds, regardless of their stage in life. A place that shelters and warms them when life is stormy. A place where, even if they arrive weary and broken; they can collapse into a bed of love and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that rest and healing are imminent. A place where love and mercy are always more abundant than judgment and anger.

I have always wished for that kind of home.

Oh, I live in that kind of home now. But I wish for that kind of home to go back to. My home of origin, I guess.

We built this house 6 years ago and have every intention of growing old here, hearing our grandchildren's laughter here. But we started building our home 20 years ago. And we keep adding to it; building and adjusting and rearranging. Learning over time how to best move things around to fit our phase of life, how to build the home that will feed our souls, the souls of our children, the souls of our grandchildren.

But when things are stormy here, when life has worn me down, when I feel like I'm surely failing at this job of wife and mother, when I have doubts... I have nowhere to go. No soft place to fall. No parents waiting with open arms to say "It's okay. Come and rest."

When my husband travelled for weeks at a time and I had two tiny children, I longed for a home
where nurture lived and strength thrived. I longed for a place where, after 3 or 4 weeks of raising these children alone, I could show up and just say "help me." Or better yet, a place where I would have to say nothing at all. I longed to hear the voice of one of my parents say "Come home and rest. Come home and let us help. Let us carry you, while you carry this burden."

But I did not have that.

And I grow in acceptance of that every day. I've learned to look elsewhere for the things that I've missed.

And I am determined to give my children those things.

One of the most important things I've learned from my childhood is what NOT to do as a parent.

And that's not a bad lesson to carry through life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Dear God,

I know you are REEEEALY busy, what with watching over the world and all. And I know you have about a gazillion people bending your ear with their many urgent requests. I mean, just overlooking my faults is a full time job.

But I was just thinking that, with your busy schedule, you might have forgotten to look at your calendar. Or maybe you have someone who does that for you. But I just wanted to let you know, in case time got away from you, that it is September. And this is Illinois.

And usually, in September in Illinois, it's not 97 degrees outside. I know it's not technically autumn, but we do think of it as the beginning of autumn; and therefore, tend to expect a break in the temperatures.

I mean, schools have started again. The corn is nearly all brown, and the farmers have started harvesting. Friday nights are full of football games. The Halloween decorations are out at the stores. Or should I n0t bring up Halloween to you? I never know. Oh, and we can't wear white anymore until May.

So really, we are all treating it as though autumn is upon us, anyway. So if you could maybe, you know, if you have a minute, turn the temperature down just a bit? If you don't want to do it for me, maybe you can do it for the farmers, or the athletes or, more importantly, the little children who are sitting in their sauna-like classrooms. I know for a fact that you love little children.

Now, God, I don't mean to be nagging here. If you choose not to turn the temperature down, then, believe me, that's just fine. You have blessed me with a fine air-conditioned home; and I don't mind one bit just staying inside. I really don't want any trouble. I'm not looking for lightning bolts, or hail storms, or swarms of locusts. Just some cooler temperatures.

But only if you really want to.

Thanks for listening,


P.S. Great job on that whole creating the world and saving mankind thing. Each day, I'm more amazed at your work.