Okay, Hold On, Mrs. Hall…It Isn’t So Cut-and-Dried, this Parenting-With-Social-Media Thing.

There are two blogs going around Facebook lately.  You might have read them.  Or you might’ve just scrolled right on by, which I usually do.  But I happened to read both because they were both reposted by friends whose opinions on parenting I value and trust.  Here is the link to the first post written by Mrs. Hall on behalf of her sons. http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/.  Read this first, see how you feel about it, and then read the reply blog letter to Mrs. Hall. http://putdowntheurinalcake.com/2013/09/dear-mrs-hall-regarding-your-fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/.

If you’ve read it already, you know what it’s about.  If you haven’t read it, and you frankly don’t want to read them, here’s the gist:  Mrs. Hall says, “Teenage girls, be careful what you post because my ‘Hall men’ (her boys) can see it, we see it, and my boys like it when you pose with your duck lips with your nipples showing because you’re not wearing a bra, but I don’t like it because I’m their mom and my boys are perfect and you are ruining them.  And also, if I see it one time, then you’re done.  That’s it.  No second chances for the Hall men.”  (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

Mom #2 says, “Nuh-uh…don’t blame it all on the girls.”  (Also paraphrasing.)

When I first read Mrs. Hall’s post, I was in complete agreement with her.  I have two boys, one of which is in junior high and is on Facebook and Instagram.  Now, he’s 12 years old.  Should he be on Instagram at this age?  Well, that was our decision as parents to let him be on Instagram under our close monitoring.  He has a lot of friends, both boys and girls, who are members as well.  Like Mrs. Hall, I see my son’s friends’ posts – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Mrs. Hall refers to her sons as “Hall men.”  My son is a boy, and I won’t be calling him a man until he’s at least 18 or can grow a beard, so I’m guessing, judging by his dad’s beard-growing skills, about 25,

He’s a boy.  A prepubescent boy about to be pubescent.  He’s had his iPhone taken away so many times I can’t even count anymore.  Sometimes it’s for talking back, rolling his eyes, just being a little jerk like prepubescent boys can be.  Sometimes I think he forgets we monitor every. single. thing he does on his phone because he’s had his phone taken away umpteen times for posts or comments that are rude or inappropriate.  We monitor his activity, first and foremost, but we DO see all the posts of his friends, and at times we feel like we must be the only parents monitoring their kids’ activity on social media.  Because if the parents of these kids were monitoring, there’s no way they would allow their kid to post that inappropriate material; right?

Well, then, that gets into a whole slippery slope of who lets their kids do what and say what that I don’t let my kids do or say.  Some parents let their kids swear, so an Instagram post with swear words isn’t going to bother them, whereas my kid will lose his phone and be grounded for a month.  It isn’t for me to judge how other people raise their kids.  I can only raise mine.

It’s a different world now, though, isn’t it?  When I was a teenager, my friend and I took somewhat provocative photos of ourselves.  With a camera.  With film.  No Facebook, no Instagram in 1994.  I developed the pictures, we had a good laugh over them, and guess what?  They don’t exist anymore.  Once I was old enough to know better, they were promptly destroyed.  What kids don’t seem to grasp with social media is that once it’s out there online, it’s out there.  Even if they delete it themselves, it’s still out there.  If you text someone a photo on their phone, there’s no end to the possibilities of where that photo can end up.

This is what I strive to teach my sons about the Internet and social media.  My son, my boy (again not a man) has big dreams about what he wants to do with his life.  I am so happy he has big goals.  I try to make him understand that the choices he makes now, and the things he puts out there, might come back to bite him later on.  But he’s a kid, and he doesn’t have the proper brain synapses yet to grasp that on his own.  That’s why his parents, us, have to step in when appropriate and gently, but firmly, redirect him.  Just like when they were toddlers and getting into something.  Saying “no” only goes so far.  You have to get their noses out of it and into something more appropriate.

Doesn’t this all come down to parenting?  Whether you have a boy or a girl, it’s parenting.  If you have a teenage girl, I hope you are monitoring what she posts on social media.  Not because other people might judge her (even though they will) but for her sake, for her future, because she doesn’t know how her 25-year-old self is going to look back on her teen self and regret the things she did then.  Boys are going to look at her as a sexual being (I don’t like the word “object” here) whether she posts pictures on Instagram or not.  But I know if social media were around when I was a teen, my own mom would’ve been monitoring it (because she monitored ME) and she taught me the constants that don’t change in life, no matter what our form of communication is at the moment.  Boys are attracted to girls.  Girls are attracted to boys.  (Assuming they are heterosexual.  You get what I’m saying.) I knew as a teenager what boys were after.  I knew not to put it all out there.  I had self-respect.  Why?  Because that’s how I was raised.

If you have boys, you need to teach your boys how to treat girls, to respect girls.  I am teaching my boys these things.  TEACH your boys that girls are not sexual objects. TEACH your boys to think before they post.  TEACH your boys to ask themselves whether what they say online to someone they would say to that person’s face.

ASK yourselves as a parent whose responsibility it is to parent your children.  Do not put the responsibility on other parents or a 13-year-old girl who will make mistake after mistake after mistake and fall down many times, just like your child will, each time refining themselves.  This is what life is after all.  We all make mistakes, and we are given grace to start again.  As parents, we dole out grace a lot, don’t we?  We unconditionally love our sweet children no matter what they do.  Perhaps we should be more forthcoming with grace for other people’s children as well.

If we (Mrs. Hall) cannot teach our (her) children how to handle being on social media and seeing what there is to see, then perhaps they have no business being on social media to begin with.  After all, we can’t parent other people’s kids.  If it’s too hot in the kitchen, it’s time to get out of it and order takeout.  (I don’t know..just came to me.)

As for me, I give my kids plenty of grace (rope to hang themselves with) and when they need it, I pull them back in.  As a 35-year-old woman now, I’m pretty glad I had parents who gave a shit to monitor what I did and who I talked to.  I don’t have a lot of regrets from my teen years, but after making mistakes like everyone does, I’m glad I was given plenty of grace so I could screw up again.  Where would anyone be if they were written off after one mistake?

Mrs. Hall, the next time you see the girl with no bra, or in her bath towel, seducing your precious, innocent boys, don’t chastise the girl.  Ask yourself, “Where are her parents?”

crazyboys

My boys when they were little and cute. 🙂

The Life and Times of a Food Addict

It’s a tough life for one who is addicted to food.  It is not like alcohol or illicit drugs.  You cannot quit eating, if you value your life.  You are forced to co-exist with your addiction.  Like I said, it’s a tough life for one who is addicted to food.

Oh, hi.  If you don’t know me, I’m Kellie.  And I’m addicted to food.  (Insert “Hi Kellie” here.)  It has been 20 minutes approximately since my last meal.  I expect to eat again in about five to six hours, but I’ll be thinking about it long before then.

I’m not sure exactly when my food addiction began, but I do know that I eat out of boredom, sadness, anger, gladness.  Just about any emotion will do.  I am guessing this began in my awkward-looking (AKA fugly) stage.  So between 8 to 16.  The great part about being an emotional eater as a child, though, was that I still had that thing called a metabolism, so it was all good.  I was never skinny, but I didn’t have a weight problem.

I remember being at home during the summer while my parents were at work, and I would case the kitchen several times daily looking for yummy food to miraculously appear.  My parents didn’t buy a lot of junk food, the stuff that I wanted.  We had food in the house, but it was food that I had to actually MAKE.  I wanted Hot Pockets and frozen burritos.  I would look in the freezer at the lonely bag of frozen peas about 50 times, trying to make it turn into a pizza.  What is the definition of insanity again?  That’s me!

It wasn’t until after I had my dear children that my eating habits caught up with me.  But after my first son was born, I was still in my early 20s, and ephedra was still legal, so I lost all of my weight from him, and then some.  I was working out too.  It was the one and only time in my life, other than the fifth grade, that I can say I was a size 6.  According to Old Navy.  So probably more like an 8, because their sizes are jacked up most of the time.  But I digress…

Once we decided to try for another baby, which I said I wouldn’t do until I lost the weight from the first one, I had to wean myself off the ephedra.  That resulted in a few days of not being able to hold a conversation with anyone and a splitting headache.  The good news is that the paranoia about strange people following me in parking lots went away. (This is the stuff that they use to make meth.  Go figure.)

Because I’m Fertile Myrtle, I became pregnant with my second boy after one month of trying.  And naturally, because I was eating for two and had cravings for Arby’s beef and cheddar sandwiches every day, I used my pregnancy as an excuse to binge, and binge some more.  I gained 80 pounds by the time I gave birth, and my little 7 lb, 6 oz baby didn’t help much with that weight loss.  In fact, that baby will be 10 in November and I’m STILL saying that I’m losing my baby weight.  The truth is, I’ve lost it and regained it about five times in 10 years.

Now, let me say this:  I am a foodie.  I love food.  What food addict doesn’t, right?  I tried South Beach Diet way back when.  I lost about 14 pounds before I had a piece of bread accidentally (right).  If you give up something you are addicted to and then go back to it, isn’t the addiction always twice as strong, if not more?  So that was me.  And I’ve never been able to go on a low-carb diet again.  No bread?  No pasta?  Get lost.

In 2005, however, I was introduced to a faith-based weight loss program.  I’m not going to give the name.  I lost the most weight ever doing this program, and guess what?  No food restrictions.  At all.  What’s the catch?  You wait for your stomach to growl, to signal true hunger, stomach hunger.  Then what?  You eat.  Whatever. You. Want.  Until you are full.  I’m not talking, Thanksgiving Day, gotta-unbutton-your-pants-and-lie-down-from-gluttony full.  It’s more like, satisfied.  Your stomach isn’t growling anymore, you can breathe and walk.  Life is good.  The trick is getting over head hunger.  Head hunger is that problem that emotional eaters like myself struggle with.  The TV is on.  We’d better eat something.  It’s breakfast time, lunchtime, dinnertime.  We should eat.  Even if we’re not hungry.  Those are the times when the program says you need to go to God to fill up on Him.  Whether it be praying, reading the Bible, or just asking to be redirected, like a child, to something else, anything to keep you from eating to fill that void in your heart. 

It makes sense if you think about it.  When you were a baby, I bet you couldn’t be forced to keep eating after you were full.  Sometime during our childhoods, most of us were programmed to not be able to recognize our physiological signals of hunger and fullness any longer, what with having to sit at a table and clean our plates.  I’ve been there for sure.  When a child says, “I’m not hungry,” because they’re more interested in what they’re doing, we say, “No, you must eat now.”  We have the best intentions as parents, don’t we?  Of course we do. 

As a food addict, unlike drug or alcohol addicts, I can’t change who I hang around with in the hopes of avoiding my drug of choice.  It’s not as if my friends pressure me to eat.  I can’t think of one time where any friend of mine has said, “Come on, Kellie…have another piece of pizza.  You know you want one.  Come on.  Everyone’s doing it.”  My battle is with me, myself, and I.

Now, if this program I found works so great, then why haven’t I always continued to do it, and why am I so fat right now?  Well, good question.  This program, which shall remain nameless, is a GREAT program, and I sincerely loved it.  If only it had remained just a weight loss program.  However, this program has branched out into a whole church, religion if you will, and I joined it several years ago.  However, after being scolded for not checking with another woman’s husband (my authority apparently) before I hosted a gathering at my home where I would serve chili and cornbread, I decided that this was not the place for me.  And though I still believed wholeheartedly in the program and the results, my pride was hurt, and the weight came back.

But six years later, after many, many failed attempts at diets (diets don’t work), pills (yep, nada), I keep coming back to this method.  Weight Watchers is a GREAT program.  I really loved it.  I lost almost 20 pounds with it.  But then if you are trying to STOP thinking about food and focus on something greater, you are doing nothing but thinking about food on Weight Watchers.  For me anyway.  I spent more time worrying about what I was going to eat for dinner with my last 7 points, and it distressed me.

So here I sit, about nine months later, after Weight Watchers, having gained almost all of that weight back.  And I’m left, again, realized that there really is only one method that works for me.  It gets me closer to God, gets my focus off the food, I have my cake and eat it too.  Win-win, right? 

It is a fabulous feeling when you get to order Chinese food at work, you are starving when it comes, but you eat slowly, tasting your food.  Let a few minutes go in between bites.  Read a little of your book.  Repeat.  And you’re satisfied with less food.  And you have lunch leftovers for tomorrow.  Life is good.  Eat, pray, love.  For real. 🙂

The Story of Us

There was a time, a long time ago, when I was 20 years old.  I was going through a time then of trying to figure out who I was.  I had already lost touch with my high school friends.  I had been surrounding myself with less-than-savory people.  I was feeling lost.  I felt like something was missing.  I started going to church with my mom.  We went to Life Center Church in Tacoma.  We went consistently every Sunday morning for about a month.

One day the pastor announced that they had a college-aged youth group on Friday nights called “The XChange.”  I had never been to anything like that.  I usually made fun of church youth groups, what with growing up in the Catholic realm.  Catholics don’t have youth groups.  We have confession.

But after a break-up with an atheist, I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people.  Like attracts like.  I went to The XChange the following Friday night.  All by myself.  It started at 9 p.m.  I wasn’t a party-going girl, even at 20, so going out at 9 p.m. even for church seemed pretty late to me.  I met some really nice people.  The youth pastors were welcoming.  It was a great time of singing and fellowship, something that was pretty foreign to me.  I decided I would come back the next Friday.

By the third week, the shininess of my new group was already starting to wear off.  At the time I wore acrylic nails that I hadn’t had filled for a while and they were looking pretty ridiculous.  I still lived at home with my parents then, and I decided that I would go to Fred Meyer after work, pick up some solution to pop my nails off on my own, and THAT is how I would spend my Friday night.

And I did just that.  I sat in front of the TV in my bedroom and popped off those nails, one by one.  It was at about 8:30 that I suddenly had a change of heart about going to the XChange that night.  It was an undeniable pull.  I needed to go.  I changed my clothes quickly and was out the door.  When I walked into the room at the church, there were only two people in the room.  One was a regular I had seen before; he had brought a friend that night.  I’d never seen him the previous two weeks.  The extent of my observations of him was that he had really skinny legs.

I took a seat at a table in the back and waited for some of the regular girls to arrive.  The evening started and progressed as usual.  Then the pastor made an announcement that they had cards in the back for new people to fill out.  I realized I had never filled one out before, so at the end of the evening, I made my way to the back.  There were three of us newbies in the back.  Another girl, the guy with the skinny legs, and me.  We were all filling out our cards when the other girl turned to me and asked if I knew where to put the cards when we were finished.  There wasn’t any kind of box to put them in.  I said, “I don’t know.  I’m just going to set mine here on the table.”  The guy with the skinny legs, whose face I had yet to see before this moment, looked up at me from filling out his card, smiled, and said, “Well, I’ll just set mine by yours, then.”

At that moment, I no longer noticed his skinny legs, but was intently focused on what was truly the sincerest, most beautiful smile I had ever seen.  I couldn’t even move after that.  They had cake and ice cream for one of the pastor’s birthday, and as we all stood around waiting – most mingling – me, standing by myself like a fool, I wanted so much to go say hi to the guy with the nice smile, but I was so shy, and I didn’t go up to guys, ever.  So instead I just waited a few minutes and then ducked out.  And that was that.

The following Sunday morning, my mom decided not to go to church, but I wanted to keep my momentum going, so I went by myself.  I dropped my sister off at the mall first so she could shop and I would pick her up after church.  I sat by myself at church, listening to the pastor’s sermon.  Life Center is a huge church, and as the pastor spoke, I caught myself glancing around the audience, people watching.  Suddenly, my eyes darted to the right, and I saw the guy from Friday night with the nice smile and the skinny legs sitting next to his friend and his friend’s wife.  I couldn’t believe I was seeing him again.  After that moment, everything that pastor said was lost on me.

But after church, just like everyone else, I filed out of the sanctuary into the main lobby towards the door.  I was almost to my car when I heard a voice inside my head say to me, “Turn around and go back.  Turn around and go back.  You’re not going to get this chance again.”

So I did what I was told.  I turned around and walked back towards the sanctuary.  But as I got closer, I started frantically thinking, “Okay, Kellie, what now?  What are you doing?  What are you going to do?  Are you going to say something?  You are nuts!”  But I went anyway, like I was in a trance.  I walked down the aisle of the church, past the guy with the nice smile, who was still in the pew with his friends.  I saw the youth pastor speaking with some people, and I went to go say hi to him, I guess to buy myself some time since I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing.  I told the pastor how much I loved the church.  We had a pleasant conversation; meanwhile, I turned around to see if nice-smile was still there.  When I turned around, he was smiling at me.  I think I actually turned around to the other side to see if there was someone else he could’ve been smiling at.  But there wasn’t.  I turned back to the pastor for a few moments, then looked again.  Still smiling.

Like most forced conversations, the conversation with the pastor reached far past the point of awkwardness, so I curtsied and said, “Good day, sir,” (not so much; it was 1999.) and excused myself.  When I turned around to walk back up the aisle, nice-smile and his friends were still in the same spot.  I reached the point where, if we had hash tags and spoke in acronyms back then, I thought something like #yolo and stopped right smack dab in front of where they all stood.  I had never met his friends.  The three of them looked at me.  What came out of my mouth next was an earth-shattering, mind-blowing “Hi!”  Nice-smile immediately responded with his own, “Hi!”  Then just like “Meeting People for Dummies” told me, I cleverly came back with, “I’m Kellie!”  He said, “I’m Dustin.”  I asked him if he liked church.  He said that yes, he did.  I asked him if he would be at the XChange the next Friday.  He said he would.  And then I said, “Nice to meet you,” and I walked away.

I knew my sister was waiting for me at the mall still, so I went to pick her up.  When I saw her, I said, “Michelle!  Michelle!  You’re not going to believe it! I just met the man I’m going to marry!”  She looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Whatever.  Shut up.”

The next Friday I showed up at the XChange, and Dustin’s friend’s wife, Linda, spotted me right away and said, “Hey!  Are you the girl who talked to Dustin last Sunday?”  I said, “Yes,” a little warily.  She said, “Well, he’s here!  He’s here!  He went to get a coffee with my husband.  Sit down at our table.”  So I did, knowing they all must’ve been talking about me.  Dustin did eventually show up with his friend Josh, but this time they were both wearing military BDU’s.  I thought, “Oh, nooooooo, a military guy?”  I had sworn not to date another military guy after a bad experience.  They sat down at the table, but the night’s events got underway and there wasn’t any chance to talk.  When there was, I was mostly observing him talking to his friend and his wife.  His friend’s wife said, ‘You know what, Dustin?  You’re not hanging out with Josh anymore because you’re a bad influence on him.  Now all he ever says when I ask him a question is ‘Don’t worry about it.'”  Dustin quickly replied, “Well, you shouldn’t worry about it.”  I thought, “Oh no, is this guy a jerk?”  I didn’t get much time to make more observations because not 20 minutes into the evening, he and Josh got up from the table to go to work the night shift.  I wondered why he would even come if he had to work.  I was disappointed that I didn’t get to talk to him at all and was starting to doubt my judgment.  Before he left, the pastor made an announcement that the following week there would be a special event at the XChange that we had to participate in.  It would be something he promised we’d never done before.

The following Friday I showed up and sat down at a table.  Josh and Linda were already there sitting at another table, but Dustin wasn’t there.  I thought, “Well, that’s that.”  I figured I’d probably never see him again.  Then a voice came from over my left shoulder.  “Is this seat taken?”  It was him.  He sat down and he told me he drove himself there that night.  We just started talking.  Before we knew it, it was time for the main event.  The thing we’d all never done before.  A Spam carving contest.  Really.  We were Spam carving partners.  I don’t think we carved anything recognizable as we were talking through the whole thing.  It was one of the best moments of my life.

Why do I type all of this out now, you might be asking?  Well, I’ve told many people our story, as it’s a story very close to my heart.  I’ve never gotten tired of telling it, and anyone who is unfortunate enough to ask me how we met will get this earful.  I just thought it was time it was put in writing.

The night of the Spam carving contest was February 5, 1999.  And the rest is history.

Like if you care; Ignore if your an ass

It actually gave me physical pain to type that “your.”  Being the grammar nazi I am, I feel magnetically compelled to correct it right now, as I can’t bear to be associated with it, but I have to leave it that way to make my point.

Facebook.  It’s the most fun waste of time ever.  I love reading people’s statuses, seeing pictures, laughing at funny memes that George Takei posts several times daily, and sometimes others’ posts are the only way I know what’s going on in the world.

There are many things that irritate me on Facebook as well, but today, boys and girls, I’m here to talk about one thing in particular about Facebook that drives me bat-s*** crazy.

The pictures that pop up in my feed with little children or animals or whatever that are supposed to tug on my heartstrings.  Lately I’ve seen pictures of little kids with huge tumors bulging from their bodies, little babies fighting cancer.  Or it’s the soldier holding his baby before he leaves for Afghanistan, the neglected puppy or kitty (Sarah McLachlan anyone?  In the arms of the angellllsss).  Whatever.  You’ve seen them.  I know you have.  They’re everywhere.

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They tug at my heartstrings too.  I’m not completely dead inside.  I’m not bothered by the pictures themselves.  I’m bothered by the guilt trip attached.  Instead of just a picture, I get this:  “One like = one prayer.  Keep scrolling if you are a cold, heartless bitch.”

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Okay, perhaps it’s not so abrupt, but it might as well be.  A lot of times it is a grammatical nightmare, as shown in my title of this blog, in which case I will not like because I will not associate myself with poor grammar, lest I be found guilty by association.

The other kind I see are pictures showing disabled people.  Well, I guess “disabled” would be a subjective term.  I would not know how disabled they are, if at all.  I guess “different” would be a better term.  There’s one I’ve seen floating around Facebook with two people who appear to have the aging disease.  Underneath the picture: “One like = respect.  Ignore if you don’t.”

“Like if you love Jesus and know he is your savior.  Comment if you hate him.”

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These pictures bring out the rebel in me.  I will not like them or comment on them out of sheer principle alone.  Yes, I respect the people in the picture, but who knows who these people are and how old the picture is in the first place? And does it affect their lives in any way, shape or form if I do or don’t “like” it?  Of course I wish the best for the little baby hooked up to all the tubes, and I pray for all sorts of folks, but putting it on Facebook does not strengthen my prayer.  AND there is no surgeon that is going to give a free surgery to anyone if they can get a million likes for their picture.

Doesn’t anyone remember the Taco Bell dog from the ’90s?  If we forwarded that email to 10 people, the Taco Bell Chihuahua would run across the screen?  Or Bill Gates would give us money or a free trip to Disneyland if we forwarded the email?  Are we still that gullible?

I love this one:

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This gets an eye roll from me, and maybe the middle finger in my mind.  I love my mom.  Don’t we all?  But sorry, Mom, you will never see this on my page because to me, this is a given.  The same goes for, “Like if you love your son/daughter.”  AAAAGHHHH!  Make it stop.

The only thing these posts are intended to do is guilt you into liking them so they clutter up your friends’ Facebook pages, so they in turn can be guilted into liking them.  Because what kind of human doesn’t love their mom?  What kind of person doesn’t want the little baby to get well?

1 like equals respect, ignore if you don’t care.Image

I think it’s a cool picture, but I’m kinda indifferent to it.  I don’t like it enough to “like” it.  I do not know these people nor their circumstances, so I’m just going to move on.

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I’m here to say that it’s okay, more than okay, to look at the picture, say a little prayer in your head for the poor thing – two Act of Contritions, four Hail Marys and five Our Fathers if you’re Catholic, and then move on.

“Share if you really want to.  Like it because you like it, but not because it equals ANYTHING that some nimrod on Facebook says it does.”  – Marilyn Monroe

To Derek on your 12th Birthday

I just knew you were a girl.  I felt it in my gut.  It was confirmed by the psychic woman who sat across the table from us at dinner in Hawaii.

“Do you know what you’re having?” she asked.

“I don’t yet, but I think it’s a girl,” I replied.

“I feel like you’re having a girl too.  I’m kind of a psychic.  Have you thought of any names?”

“Yes.  Brooke Michelle.”

She stared at me in disbelief.  “Did you say Brooke?” as she took out her ID from her wallet.  “Look at this.”

She showed me her name on her driver’s license.  “Brooke.”

I was then convinced beyond all doubt that I was having a girl, and this was a sign confirming it.  I even called my mom who was three hours ahead back home to tell her that indeed, I was having a girl.  The psychic named Brooke said so.

One week after returning from Hawaii, your dad and I sat in the little room while they squirted stuff on my belly for the ultrasound. (What you would later call mustard when I was having my ultrasound with your little brother.)  The technician asked us, “Do you want to know the sex?”  We both nodded eagerly and waited while she moved the probe around to get the best angle.  She then went to the keyboard when she found the right frame and typed, “B-O-Y.”  We were so surprised and happy.  I wasn’t sad that you weren’t a girl.  In fact, I’d even dreamed you were a boy.

I immediately was filled with a vision of who you would become.  I saw an intelligent boy who grew up to do great things in his life.  I was scared, though.  I wasn’t around a lot of boys growing up.  I seemed to have been surrounded by girls but for two boy cousins that I tried to avoid anyway.

I didn’t know what I would do with a boy.  I didn’t know how to play with boys, didn’t know how to talk to boys.  All I could think of was a 10-year-old boy, and how do I relate to a 10-year-old boy?  Little did I know, I didn’t need to worry about that yet.  I just needed to take care of and love a little baby, and the rest would come.

You were born late at night after a pretty traumatic labor and delivery.  I didn’t get to see you for a while after you were born.  When they finally brought you to me all swaddled up like a “burrito baby,” with a little hat on your head, you were already so alert, your eyes darting all over the place, trying to take it all in.

The next morning, it was just you and me before everyone came to see you.  I cradled you out in front of me, and you stared back into my eyes, and I knew then how old your soul was, and I no longer feared the unknown.  I knew we were in this together.  We would grow and learn together.  You were mine and I was yours.

You were the baby of endless smiles and belly laughs.  You sucked your thumb with your right hand and touched my face with the other.  You were having real conversations with me by the time you were 17 months old.  I had no idea that wasn’t typical.  People always looked at you in wonder because you sounded more like a 3- or 4-year-old.  You loved to listen to music and would learn the words of songs after hearing them only once or twice.  I remember you singing, “What Was I Thinking?” by Dierks Bentley when you were about two.  A man called the radio one day and told the DJ that his five-year-old son knew all the words to the song.  I turned around to you in your car seat and said, “Ha, that’s nothin!”

You were so timid as a little boy.  I would take you to the park and you would climb up the ladder for the slide, but if another child came up behind you, you would climb back down the ladder to let them go first.

When you were three, we put you in skating lessons at Sprinker, and we’d watch you shuffle across the ice.  After about three sessions you were burnt out.  That was the end of that.  Until you were six and wanted to learn how to skate again.  The skates went on, and like a rocket, off you went!  Then when you started hockey classes in Tacoma, the night before your first session you could hardly go to sleep from the excitement.  You said, “I can’t believe I’m a hockey player!”

You are the child who keeps me on my toes with your quick-witted personality.  Nothing gets by you.  You love music and you analyze every song you hear, wondering about the hidden meanings.  I love how you love The Beatles and how you will say, “This sounds like one of the songs they sang while they were on drugs.”

You constantly straddle the line between being hilarious and totally disrespectful.  I suspect we will have the best conversations when you are an adult.  But I will always remind you that I am your mother and to watch it.

You have grown and changed so much in your life.  You are our resident comedian.  Gone is that timid little boy who would give up his spot in line for the slide.  You have learned how to stand up for yourself.  You will harass your little brother to no end, but if anyone else messes with him, you are all over it.  You have a soft spot for little kids.  You like to mentor them.  You are a natural leader.   I love that you are passionate about the things you love to do.

You are 12 years old now.  I know I could probably write something like this for you every year, and perhaps I will, but I just wanted to get something down now.  You seem so much older than 12 already, and the time is slipping by so quickly.  This is your last year before you become a true teenager and things really start to change.

I hope you know that I am always here for you, no matter what.  I will always be here to pick up the pieces when you are sad.  I will always try to make you laugh when you’re mad.  I will always know when you’re lying because you make the same facial expressions I make when I try to lie.  Your face turns red like mine too.

I love you so much, Derek James.  You are a special gift.  Happy birthday.

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The World Hasn’t Ended, but Good Service Has

I’m still here.  If you’re reading this, so are you!  Congratulations!  I’m only halfway through my Doomsday, but it’s already tomorrow in Australia, so I’m not worried.

Today I was blessed to have a lunch date with my husband.  Those opportunities are few and far between.  He surprised me at work and we walked down to a nearby cafe.  This particular cafe usually has a great reputation.  The owner is fabulous and customer service is her #1 priority.  She gets to know her customers by name and remembers their names once she knows them.  She wasn’t in today.

This is a seat-yourself establishment, but I’ve never waited more than a minute or two before being greeted.  We waited ten.  Meanwhile I can hear people coming in and ordering food at the counter and being served instantly while we wait.  I finally went to the counter.  I was greeted by a bubbly young thing, BYT for short.  She asked me, “What can I get you?”  I said, “I was just wondering if you were aware we were here waiting.”  She said, “Oh, where are ya?  Oh, ok, I’ll be right over.”  She follows me over to the table and takes our drink orders.  For fear of never seeing her again, we order our food at the same time.  Both of us had BL’s, BLT’s minus the T.  Easy enough, right?

The food came about ten minutes later.  Mine was a proper BL; my husband’s, however, was a BT.  No lettuce, but plenty of ripe, juicy tomatoes that we both can’t stand.  I commented, “Oh, his has tomato but no lettuce.”  Instead of apologizing and fixing it, our lovely waitress said, “Oh, no, that’s right.  You said no lettuce.  That’s how I have it down.”  My husband said, “No, we both asked for no tomato.  Can I please just get a side of lettuce?”  A few seconds later another gal brought the lettuce accompanied with a chipper, “Side of extra lettuce.”  Of course we couldn’t let THAT go.  “No, it’s not extra.  It’s just…lettuce.”

We never saw our waitress again at our table.  She remained steadfast in protecting her post – the cash register.  When my husband started mooching off of my Diet Coke, I commented, “Oh, you didn’t want a refill, didja?”  He decided he would stir this pot a bit more.  I just grinned in anticipation.  He took the glass up to our favorite girl guarding her cash register.  I heard her say, “Oh, you want a refill?  All right.”  Then when he remained there waiting for said refill, she commented, “You can just have a seat.  I’ll bring it out to you.”  We all know how this one goes.  He came back to our table, but promptly went back up to wait, telling her he was actually in a hurry.  She gave him a funny look, but he got his Coke, stat.

We received no check, bill, tab. Whatever you want to call it, we didn’t get it!  We went to pay up at the beloved cash register.  She was actually now delivering food to tables by this point, though she had to put a big bowl of soup down because it was too heavy to deliver with the rest of the plates she was carrying.  I was scared for her.  A new gal was now in charge of the cash register.  I gave her cash to cover the bill with about fifty cents left over because I’m just not passive aggressive enough to give a big fat goose egg as a tip.

I just can’t wait to talk to the owner about this one.  Arguing with my husband about whether he really said “no tomatoes” was not a good move.

The World as We Now Know It

I have wanted to have my own blog for quite a while now, but life always gets in the way.  With being a busy working mom, it’s not easy to carve out time to spend on one of my first loves: writing.  But with the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, I felt driven today to start my blog with a post reflecting on how our lives have all drastically changed because of this awful tragedy.

If you don’t know me, I am a busy working mom of two boys, ages 11 (almost 12) and 9.  They both play hockey and that activity takes up most of our time.  It is quite literally our life, but we love it.  My grandfather, due to his love of hockey, was the one to introduce us to it. 

Last night after hockey practice my grandpa took us to dinner, which tends to be a regular thing we all do as a family.  We went to Denny’s close to the rink, and it started out as a normal, everyday dinner.  It would soon turn into a very nerve-wracking experience for us.

There was a young man in the restaurant, probably about 25, 26 years old.  He was eating alone in the restaurant.  Quite frankly, I thought he was an employee on his lunch break, so I didn’t pay much attention to him.  He was sitting in a booth but eating food that appeared to have been packaged for takeout.  He had the plastic bag on the table with the plastic carryout box opened with a cheeseburger and fries.  I noted that, but still didn’t pay much attention to him.

The waitress came to take our order, and that’s when things turned weird.  In the middle of my oldest son, Derek, giving his order, the man hollered out to the waitress, “Hey!  I need some more water, please!  This water has been sitting here for a while.”  The sweet waitress tried to be polite to the man by saying, “Okay, sure, just a moment, sir.”  We continued in our ordering and the man shouted out again, “And I need a bigger glass too, and I want it cold but with no ice.”  She again nodded at him and my hackles were raised.  After we ordered, he addressed us.  “Hey, did you guys hear they shut down NASA today?  Isn’t that crazy?”  We all looked at each other as in, “Is this guy crazy?  What is he on?”  NASA??? I am watching him like a hawk.

He finished his meal and got up from his table.  I breathed a silent sigh of relief.  However, this would not be the end of our encounter with this young man.  He went to a booth on the opposite side of the restaurant and picked up a backpack he had stowed there.  It alarmed me that he hadn’t had it with him in the booth he was eating in.  He then started to dance.  I mean it.  He was dancing to no music in Denny’s.  Meanwhile, I thought I was the only one watching when he took something out of his backpack, which appeared to be headphones, but he held it in such a way that it could be misconstrued to be a gun.  In fact, it was.  I looked at Derek and he had broken down in tears.  He was inconsolable.  “I thought he had a gun!  It looked like a gun!”

I told him the man was gone now, it wasn’t a gun, and not to worry.  But I was wrong.  Not a minute later, he rounded the corner, backpack in hand, and approached our table.  “Hey, is there a blue umbrella that I left at this table?  I’m pretty sure I left an umbrella here, if you guys could just check.”  I see my husband out of the corner of my eye get up and stand behind the man, appearing to look for the umbrella.  We all looked around, under the table.  No umbrella.   Shocking fact.

He left but continued to pace through the restaurant.  I am uneasy, to put it lightly.  I want this man to leave now, but every time I think he’s gone, he returns.  He came back again and this time demanded that we all get up from our booth so he can check for his umbrella himself.  We refused to get up and told him calmly and politely that there was no umbrella there, that we had looked thoroughly for him the last time.  He said, “Oh, really?  You can’t get up?”  We said, “No, we can’t.”  I saw the manager watching this whole thing, and I made eye contact with him and gave him my stare-down, hoping to convey to him that this was upsetting us and to please do something.

The manager stepped in and told the man that he’d be happy to pull up the video so he could see where he left his umbrella.  The man took him up on that, but while the manager was back doing that, he continued again to pace around us, looking under our table, looking under every table around us.  The manager finally came back out and asked him to please go have a seat in the lobby instead of walking around the restaurant.  He did and that was the last time we saw him.  I don’t believe he ever found his umbrella.  I don’t think it ever existed, frankly.

I was deeply disturbed by this incident, and I don’t know if it’s because of the recent tragedy or because it really was disturbing, or maybe both.  All I know is that this young man had some problems, obviously.  I don’t know if he was on drugs and/or had some serious mental issues.  But that was what scared me the most about it.  He was a loose cannon.  I didn’t know if he had a gun and if he would reach some limit and pull it on us.  Trying to stay calm for your children in a situation like that is incredibly difficult.  I don’t know how the teachers in that school that day did it.

All I found myself thinking about was how fast my police officer husband would be able to pull his concealed weapon and have this guy on the ground.  I knew he was ready should the need arise, but it didn’t help my fear of this situation elevating.  There was a time when I was terrified about the fact that my husband “packs heat” virtually everywhere he goes.  There have been times where I have thought, “Why can’t we just be like normal people and not bring a gun everywhere?”  Now I say, “What are normal people?”  And it is not the normal people I worry about anymore.

This situation has made me rethink how I look at everybody.  No one gets the benefit of the doubt anymore.  Everyone is a suspect.  How sad is that?  Unfortunately, it is our sad new reality.