I still suck at small talk and other things I probably shouldn’t write out loud!

I still suck at small talk and other things I probably shouldn’t write out loud!

So I am back on the kinder party circuit. You know the parties where parents stay and mingle while the kids party. Yep; that kind of party. As I watched my kiddos bowl yesterday I struggled with small talk. I did better mind you; I actually sought a couple of people out and chatted, but each conversation lasted two minutes at most because after “Hi, how are you?” I have nothing left in the tank. Instead I have to hold my tongue. My mouth and heart want to discuss Aleppo, the epidemic of parents who have forgotten to teach their children respect for authority, and how do we find a way to quell a nation of entitled youth.

See, I suck at small talk.

So my kids had a blast at the party and that is why I was there anyway. Sometimes, I just feel bad that they are learning social skills from an awkward introvert.

We leave that party and head to a Christmas gathering with our friends. We have all been friends since college, husbands and wives, but the other three couples had children six years behind us; live in the same city; and their kids attend the same prestigious private school. I on the other hand, have a child taller than me with a deep, rich voice and my youngest kids are older than most of their oldest kids.

They can socialize about what is going on at the school and have common interests and I still don’t fit in among people I should. While they talk about picky eaters and where they buy their kids clothes – I can’t even relate. I hear myself say, “I buy clothes at Children’s Place and Target because the kids grow too fast and are too hard on their clothes for me to spend a lot of money on them.” And the looks on the faces when I say that are like I am some kind of whackadoodle and maybe I am, but it makes me feel old. I remember caring about that stuff when my oldest was four and my youngest was almost two. I remember buying GAP clothes and worrying about them not eating their dinner. Now with four kids aged six and over I know they have to eat some of their dinner or they don’t get anything else that night; that they will live and most of the time don’t even remember that the struggle over dinner ever happened. I have learned that we care way more about brand when that is of so little importance. What really matters are that our children are clothed, fed and loved.

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See I let my kids dress themselves. This is how we roll to school.
And now I can’t really complain about private education anymore either. I used to think when people paid for private school they were paying for status. On top of that, I truly believed public education was just as good as private. In some places I still believe that is true. But alas, after my daughter was choked by a boy at school to the point where she couldn’t breathe; enough was enough. What was so sad to me was the teacher was so desensitized to the actions of this young boy she just asked my daughter to document the incident and nothing else came of it. Her teacher was so used to that boy’s behavior she didn’t even think it worth mentioning to me. This was the last straw in a sting of incidents spanning a year and a half. We knew she needed a safer place to learn.

We toured a private school and decided to send her there. She starts after the break and I feel like a weight has been lifted. She is finally going to be in a classroom where the students respect the teacher and are excited to learn. That I have to pay an arm and a leg for that still makes my stomach churn, but she needs a safe place to thrive.

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This girl deserves her best chance. All kids do.
Hmmm…what else is running around in my head these days that you don’t want to hear about…well you may not get a Christmas card from us this year. Yep; I have been late in the past, but I am not even close to getting started this year and Christmas is Sunday. You might get a Happy New Year card instead. It isn’t that I am feeling Bah Humbug toward Christmas; even though this post probably sounds that way; it is more that I am feeling like I just wanted to slow things down this year and savor Christmas. To really hunker down and feel the Spirit of the Season and it got away from me again. I am not finished with the shopping or the wrapping and it is a week away. None of the Spirit of the Season stuff happened. And I guess I am struggling with traditions a bit and what I would like Christmas to look like and what actually happens.

Maybe it is just that my oldest son only has six more years in this house with us before he goes off to college and while that seems like a good while the first twelve of his life have happened in a blink and even though I have tried to savor it; it is flying by faster than I can catch it.

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This is as close as we get to a family picture these days

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Yep nose picking shenanigans
I know I am writing about first world problems here when much bigger world problems take precedent, but when these nonsense, first world problem words started to flow through my brain I just had to write them down. I just had to think about something else for a brief second. I think that is really why I feel like Oscar the Grouch. When innocent women, men, and children are being killed and no one is stopping it you just feel helpless and when you feel helpless and sad sometimes I think it manifests itself into anger and I am just angry that we live in a world where yet another holocaust can happen and the people with the ability to stop it can’t or won’t. So I thought maybe my first world, nonsense spewing would relieve some of that distress and Oscar-ness. Maybe that is the real reason I can’t whip up the Christmas card; I can’t send out a smiling happy picture of my children when in their faces I see the safety, love and security that all children should feel in the world and yet so many don’t have access to it. It breaks my heart into so many pieces I can’t complete the task.

And that my dear readers is a whole lot of junk I probably should not write out loud, but did any way because that is what I do. I do things any way.

Love your people tight and if you can love other people’s people tight, too. And teach your little people to love other people’s people. I know that is a whole lot of people, but that is what there is…a whole lot of people and all of them need love.

Until next time,

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Day 13: The difference a teacher can make

IMG_3317I know it is way past Christmas and I am just writing Day 13 and I hope our recipient will forgive me and the recipients after for that matter for the tardiness of these posts.

Day 13 belongs to a person who does what she does each and every day to the best of her ability without want or need for a thank you. She is a teacher. She teaches third grade at a local elementary school.

Mrs. Gamm is quiet, reserved and hard working. She truly hopes to impart knowledge and knowledge finding skills to her students, but what I find most impressive is that she still believes that the classroom is a place where you teach citizenship, kindness, manners and compassion. She believes that it is part of the curriculum to teach her students life skills.

While she is a stickler for grammar, neatness and a good work ethic from her students she also assigns a Random Act of Kindness as a homework assignment weekly. This can be something small or big; it is up to the student, but they are required to find ways to be helpful at home and in the community because that is what good citizens do.

She always has time to talk or work with students after school and makes sure to include families in all of the class events. Her work is her passion.

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Handmade card by DeAnna.

When I met Mrs. Gamm three years ago, I was quickly put at ease by her down to earth manner and authenticity. She is such a true and genuine soul. It was such an honor to be able to deliver her gift.

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Scarf, lotions, Starbucks and Barnes and Noble gift cards.

She was so surprised that she was nominated. She could not believe that she was a recipient. I told her that is what Holiday Cheer is about. It is about taking time to make sure that people who are just being themselves, doing what they do every day, know that they make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others. That they truly are spectacular just being who they are.

Thank you, Mrs. Gamm for the difference you make each year for so many. Our world is a better place because of what you do each and every day.

Sincerely,

The Holiday Cheer Elves

 

I have had rainbows in my clouds

I have had rainbows in my clouds

“To get to experience another day and have the health to dream of the opportunity for more days is a rich and indulgent luxury.”

Over three decades ago on a sunny September morning I skipped into kindergarten. The carpet was a deep red contrasted by the stark white and gray flecked tile that rimmed most of the room. We all had cubbies and while there were tables and chairs we always started and ended our day on the floor sitting in a giant circle. Luckily I attended kindergarten when there was still a great deal of play. The corner of the classroom that housed the play kitchen and a reading loft was glorious. But best of all was the thin, gray-haired, fiercely blue-eyed woman who was my teacher. Mrs. Johnston had a kind and open heart.

In her class, I learned to tie my shoes, to read and write. I also horribly failed cutting. I never could make that black dotted line disappear no matter how hard I tried. She loved  teaching art and giving us time to play. She was also one of the first adults I ever saw openly weep. Our art teacher that year had a heart attack while he was driving home from work and did not survive. As she told our class that he would not be coming back she couldn’t help but shed some tears. It is important to know there are people that care that much about other people.

My sister went on to be in her class and even after we moved away our family still exchanged Christmas Cards with her each year. The exchanging of cards and occasional letters continued every year, even when I was married and had my own family.

This year, four days after Christmas a letter came in the mail. A letter I was expecting, but at the same time had often feared the past three years. At eighty-two years old, Mrs. Ara Johnston had passed away. This summer she had a brain aneurysm and left our world for better one.

Mrs. Johnston's Obituary Photo
Mrs. Johnston’s Obituary Photo

I dreamt of her this summer. You know one of those dreams that seems so real that after you wake you can’t tell if it was a memory or a dream.

In the beginning of the dream I walked into a supermarket through a great wide opening and was blasted with a force of air as I crossed into the threshold of the store. I knew immediately I was in a King Super’s in Colorado. They have huge doors that slide back and stay open. As I was finishing up my shopping I noticed a woman with silver-gray hair in the check out line paying as a young man helped to bag her purchases. I knew exactly who she was without even having to see her face. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen her in 30 years; her kindness and belief in me left such an impression I knew I would always be able to recognize her effortlessly.

I contemplated walking up to her knowing she may not remember me. She taught for over 20 years. I remember thinking how many little faces she must have seen. But I knew I had to see her. So I walked up to her. She had that same sweet smile I remembered and she greeted me with a hearty hello.

She said she knew I was one of her students, but names always escaped her. She said she never forgot a face though and even remembered some of the outfits I had worn in her class. She talked about how she never really left teaching until she had to. She substitute taught after she retired. Always quick-witted, she made to sure to ask me if I had ever properly learned to use scissors. I assured her I had not; I was incapable of cutting a straight line. She gave me a hug and a hearty smile and said she had to be going.

Funny how I thought I would always see her again, but then of course I never did get the chance. Just in my dreams.

So many of the gifts in our life are the people who are put into it. Mrs. Johnston believed in me, as I am sure she did all her students, but I will always remember that she never gave up hope that I could learn something or master some skill. She always pushed me to excel and try more difficult tasks. My love of learning started in that classroom and has continued the rest of my life.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds…I bring everyone with me who has ever been kind to me…I have most certainly had rainbows in my clouds. The thing to do you see, is to prepare yourself to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud..to be a blessing to somebody.”

Ara Johnston was a rainbow in my cloud, she was a blessing.

Mrs. Johnston as I remember her
Mrs. Johnston as I remember her

Cherish your rainbows and prepare yourself to be a blessing to others; it truly is what matters most.

Love,

Me

 

 

 

May Lessons 2014…

May Lessons 2014…

Hello June

It is that time again, to reflect and see what things have become more clear during the month of May.

May was pretty blurry and filled with lots of action, because there was just an abundance of goings on in our little lives as the month whisked by. I have put together a short list of my observations from this past month and hopefully you can reap some benefit from what I gathered.

1. Organization of toys is not necessary for a happy home.

Over the past 9 years of motherhood, I have purchased all kinds of storage units to organize my children’s toys (aka crap) and it is glorious when everything has been put away with great thought so that little hands can quickly get what they need and also put things away quickly.

Yep, glorious all right , but only for one glorious moment.

Then the littles play with said toys. If aforesaid littles are younger than six,  I have learned that the toys (aka crap) you spent hours organizing ends up in a catastrophic mess within minutes.

So here is my nugget of wisdom this month – I stopped caring which bins the toys are put in. Our play room has an abundance of bins and baskets and now as long as the toys (aka crap) is in those bins and not on the floor, I am saying that is a successfully organized and clean room. One day when the twins are 6, I will put time and thought into organization again, but until then if they just get their crap (aka toys) in the bin, the world is a happier place.

2. Pictures – take pictures

You must take pictures, especially if you are like me and have more than two children – okay even if you have one child you MUST take pictures. When all the toys are in their places, the beds are made, the floors are vacuumed, the furniture is dusted, the counters are dish-less, and every item is in its place – take pictures.

Yes, I am talking about taking pictures of your clean house.

I need proof for my own piece of mind that some days ALL the TOYS get put away in all their places and that ALL the DISHES are washed, and ALL the FLOORS have been vacuumed, that ALL the DUST is missing in action, and that ALL the THINGS being put away make me look like I am a wonderful housekeeper.

Those of you that are mommas get this; but we need to know that the work we did and that is undone in 0-9 seconds did actually happen and was not just a dream.

Clean Dishes

 

3. It is okay to postpone things.

Postponed

I know postpone may be a fancy word for procrastination, but in this case I am talking about how sometimes life throws you a curve ball you didn’t see coming and you have to change your plans.

I have had some health hiccups this past few months, and they are not health hiccups that I could fix on my own, so after many doctor visits and more yet to come, I have decided to postpone my 100 days challenge until my health is a bit more even keel.

At first I wanted to keep trucking along because people deal with so much great stuff than what I am working on right now, but sometimes it is too much to do ALL THE THINGS, so I am postponing this particular thing and will come back to it when the health hiccups are cured.

4. No matter how you slice it, Mondays in our house are rocky.

On one sunny Monday in May, when I was getting the kids ready for school, one of the little ones pooped in his underwear. That is always a delightful treat especially on a Monday morning 20 minutes before we need to walk out the door.

I get that cleaned up and put him in the bath to rinse off. As I begin to hose him down, I notice that it is raining in the bathroom. Yes, I said raining in the bathroom.

The attachment to our “shower hose” had become loose and water was spraying all over the bathroom. In the two minutes it took me to figure out what was happening, I was soaked in addition to the bathroom.

I finish showering off the little. Get myself changed, finish lunches, and dressing and shoeing kiddos. As we walk to school, not one, but two twins, break down about something I can’t even remember what. One on the way there and one on the way home.

When we arrive back to the house and I get settled at my desk – there are already several fire drills to execute and bad news – one of my co-workers had passed away. The day continues at that pace – refereeing wrestling matches with the twins, racing to pick up kids from school while on conference calls, homework, dinner that got made too late and well you know the rest this happens to you, too.

I have learned I am not a fan of manic Mondays.

5. I thought potty training all the kids would be one of my greatest achievements.

There was a time not so very long ago, when I thought that the day all my kiddos were in underwear and going to the restroom themselves would be a day of glorious celebration; and it was.

However, I think I have a new horizon to look forward to…they day they can wipe their own bottom.

That day there will be a huge celebration. If you hear me shouting “Hallelujah!” You will know that I have all children in underwear and that they can successfully complete all restroom tasks without assistance. It’s a big deal people; a real big deal.

6. Knowing everything is not all it is cracked up to be.

My son, C-Man, gets extremely frustrated when I am unable to translate what he is saying. This child will not give up trying to get me to understand; however he will yell, whine, and throw tantrums until someone figures out what he is saying.

I try to calmly explain how yelling won’t make me understand better and that whining only makes him more difficult to understand. This is to no avail; reasoning with a three-year-old is sometimes futile.

So the other day, when he asked me a question and I couldn’t understand him, I said, “I don’t know.” I thought this tactic might be a good redirect into more information from him so that I could decipher his original request. Well, color me gravely mistaken.

His reply was, “YES YOU DO.”

I answered calmly, “Sometimes moms don’t know the answers, can you tell me a little bit more and maybe we can figure it out together. I don’t know everything.”

To which he replied, “YES YOU DO!”

Fit ensued and I learned that knowing everything isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

7. Grateful for amazing educators.

I already knew this, but I just had to give a shout out to all the great teachers in our lives. Thank you! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart. Our family is so appreciative to all the teachers we have had and know. You make the world a better place. Enjoy your summer!

Frenchbraids

8. An old dog can learn new tricks…sort of.

Yes, I lived to 36 without ever doing a french braid. I know, I know. But look at the picture above. I have attempted and need a lot more practice, but for a first time I am going to say that’s not too shabby.

Excited for summer vacation and being just a tad bit closer to four-year-olds who know how to wipe themselves,

M