Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Miss Manners

This post has nothing to do with the sweet baby boy who now calls me "mom."  This post is about a major pet peeve.  Manners!

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I have pretty good manners.   I shudder to think of a time when email and Facebook correspondence takes the place of a hand-written note.  I guess for some people this has already happened.  Personally, I LOVE stationary and am constantly coming up with excuses to use it.  If you're reading this and think you should improve your manners, here are some tips.  If you're reading this and share my complaints, please feel free to comment below!

  • If someone performs an act of service for you or gives you a gift, you should WRITE them a thank-you note.  It does not have to be on fancy monogrammed stationary (although that is nice).  Just drop them a few lines to say that you appreciate what they did for you or gave you.  Sending a Facebook message or email is NOT the same thing!  My son, who is not quite three, does this already.  We send thank you notes to the grandparents and even to his friends who cannot yet read, after his birthday party every year. 
  • If you have dinner at someone's home, it is nice to send them a thank you note expressing gratitude for their hospitality (especially if you didn't have to cook) and alluding to future gatherings.  Even nicer, keep some stationary in the car and leave the note in their mailbox as you leave.  They'll get it the next day when they check their mail and will be even more impressed with your thoughtfulness and good manners!
  • Wedding gifts should actually be sent BEFORE the wedding.  It is a major pain for the parents of the bride and groom to load all those gifts into their vehicles after a long day, and it's also an inconvenience for the bride and groom to have to make special trips home to pick up gifts.  If you're a stickler for receiving thank you notes, then you should definitely send you gift beforehand to ensure that your name card does not get misplaced when gifts are haphazardly loaded.
  • Wedding guests and guests of guests:  Wedding invitations typically have inner envelopes and outer envelopes.  The outer envelope is the one bearing the proper name and address of the invitee (i.e. Mr. and Mrs. John Smith).  The inner envelope lists the exact names of those invited by the bride and groom (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Caroline and John Jr.)  It is very rude to bring guests to a wedding whose names are not listed on the invitation.  It is even more rude to call the bride, groom, or their parents and ask why your children were not invited.  They should not have to explain to you that it is an adult wedding/reception.  Use your MANNERS and some common sense.  
  • RSVP-- The term RSVP is an abbreviation for a French phrase that translates to "Please respond."  This generally means that the host or hostess would like for you to call (or write) and tell them that you can come to their party.  If you do not respond, they may think you are not able to come and will therefore not have enough food, beverages, etc. for you.  Think of this as "reserving your spot" on the guest list.
  • REGRETS-- Some invitations will say "Regrets only" and list a name and number to call.  If this is the case, you should call the host and let them know if you are UNABLE to attend the party.  This is very polite and will prevent the host from spending excess money on food and beverages for guests who are not attending.  Put yourself in the host's shoes... would you want to buy food for 50 guests when only 30 show up?
  • A note on RSVPs and REGRETs-- it is exceptionally rude to RSVP to an event and then not show up.  There are always extenuating circumstances, such as death or illness, but those are the only acceptable reasons.  If you REGRET to a party, don't surprise the host by showing up, lest you be surprised by not having a seat at the dinner table!
As with all rules, there are exceptions.  I would not send a thank note to my oldest and dearest friend after having a family cook-out at her house.  However, I would probably call her the next day and reiterate what a great time we had and make plans to get together again soon.  Again, it's just POLITE!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Hero

This past Sunday, my son was baptized.  Because of his age (he's nearly 3) I thought it would be wise to talk to him a little and prepare him not only for what would happen during the baptism ceremony, but also to help him understand what it means to be baptized.  He understood and had no qualms about standing in front of a crowd of people.  In fact, during the first 15 minutes of the church service he repeatedly asked if it was "his turn."  When he had waited long enough, he picked up the remote control to our video camera and started pointing it at the preacher, as if to say, "Let's fast forward to the good part."  The people in the rows behind us were already laughing.  My parents, my husband's parents and my siblings were all laughing.
Then we were called to the front of the sanctuary.  Joseph was a pro.  He was totally prepared for what was going to happen.  As my husband held him and we waited our turn (there were 3 others being baptized too), Joseph pulled my husband's name tag off his shirt.  No big deal, right?  Then he proceeded to stick it all over his face, my husband's head, and finally it landed on his mouth.  I couldn't even look at my family.  The rest of the congregation was doubled over, wiping tears from their eyes, trying to stifle their laughter.  When it was finally Joseph's turn to be baptized, he removed the sticker from his mouth and behaved like an angel.

That night, as I was putting him to bed, we reviewed what it meant to be baptized.  To put it in 2-year-old terms, I reminded him that Jesus was his protector and his rescuer... kind of like a super hero.  Then Joseph asked, "Mommy, will Jesus save me?"  I beamed!  I had actually explained this so he could understand!  "Absolutely," I replied.  "Why?" he asked, his knew favorite word.   I answered, "Because he loves you very much."  After a brief pause to process this information, Joseph looked up at me and asked, "Mommy, if I get stuck under a rock, will Jesus save me?"  All I could say was, "Yes."  I love two-year-old logic!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

If I could turn back time...

"Ho­n­ey, ti­me ma­r­c­h­es on and ev­e­n­t­u­a­l­ly you re­a­l­i­ze it is ma­r­c­h­in' ac­r­o­ss yo­ur fa­ce." Ahhh, words of wisdom from Steel Magnolias. I noticed in the mirror the other day that time really is marching right across my face.

It is approximately 10 months until my 30th birthday and anyone who has ever met me knows how absolutely terrified I am about turning 30. For that matter, I was scared to turn 26 too! I stayed 25 until this year. This year, I decided to begin admitting my age because I had to get glasses for the first time and figured that if I lied, people would figure it out. I mean, how many 25-year-olds do you know who have had perfect vision their entire life and suddenly need glasses? Because of my newly corrected vision, I've noticed a few changes in my face too. A few fine lines around my eyes; the line that has always been on my forehead is (thankfully) in a holding pattern, but I now have a slight indention between my eyebrows that was not always there.

Because of these recent discoveries, I emailed my dear friend and Aloette rep. and ordered a box full of moisturizers and anti-aging creams and sprays that claim to stop the signs of aging (before it's too late!). Then, this afternoon, as Joseph and I pulled into our driveway after our morning movie date and lunch at "the chicken store," it dawned on me... The reason I have a huge wrinkle spanning my forehead is because I'm always interested in what he has to say... and he always has something to say. The reason I have fine lines around my eyes (ok, it's the beginning of crow's feet) and parenthesis on each side of my mouth is because I have a hilarious little boy and I spend a good portion of the day laughing with him. I am so thankful for my son, who fills my life with so much joy and laughter. In fact, today, we sat in the car, in our driveway and laughed at each other for several minutes and for no reason at all before we ever got out of the car. I love the fact that we have these moments of spontaneous laughter. It really confuses my husband, which only makes us laugh harder. These are most certainly the days I will remember and cherish.

While I am thankful for all the reasons for my wrinkles, I cannot wait for my box of goodies to arrive so I can start turning back time. If this stuff doesn't work, I might be asking Santa Baby to slip some Botox under the tree!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Something Old, Something New

What a weekend!  The original title to this post was "Red, White, and Worn Out" but after reflecting on the most memorable portions of the long weekend, I realized that old and new was a much more befitting title.
I try to approach life with an attitude of gratitude.  Right now, I am thankful for my dear friend from high school because she has introduced my husband and I to some fabulous new friends.  We attended the new friends' daughter's first birthday party this weekend, and I must say, I don't know who had more fun-- the parents or the kids.  The party was so fun, it could have gone on for days if our kids hadn't worn us out! 

I find that the older I get, the more difficult it is to make new friends.  We become set in our ways and routines and can barely make time for our spouses, much less a whole new set of people.  Sometimes friendships simply become one more thing to maintain, like the yard.  But this friendship is easy, fun, and much more relaxing than yard work on a July afternoon.  I find myself smiling like a girl on a first date when we are together and hiding my phone to keep from texting too soon once we part.  Their friendship could not have come at a better time.  I think God most definitely knew what he was doing when he sent these new friends into our life and His timing couldn't be better.  Summer weekends are made for cooking out and hanging out and I intend to do that for the remainder of the summer... with our new friends.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Let Them Play!

This is important!  I don't usually post things that other people have written, but this article on the importance of play and unstructured play time is right on target.  It's lengthy, but worth it.  All parents, teachers, and leaders should read this and take note!

Let Them Play! by Susan Gregory Thomas

A safe, developmentally appropriate neighborhood recreation area is as fundamental to a healthy, happy childhood as a good school.

It's the place where my son Zuzu met Leo and formed a friendship so profound that now they're more like siblings.  It's where Leo's mom, Nati, became the sister I never had.  We spent most of the afternoons during our second pregnancies hanging out on the bench half-watching as the boys played.  Then our daughters were born and this is where they duked it out with the big kids for control of the diggers in the sandbox-- and when they lost, founded "the doggy club" under the rope bridge.  A few months ago, my baby, Will, was awestruck by his first swing ride.  Recently, my kid was even scouted by a gymnastics coach as she practiced aerials and one-handed round-offs on the black-matted surface.  "Where does she take classes?" he asked me.  Since she had never taken any-- she'd just learned it all by watching the other kids-- my answer was simple: the playground.

A playground is a complex, amazing ecosystem.  It's easy to miss the action if your eye stays trained on the surface.  True, the monkey bars help build upper-body strength and coordination, and mastering them boosts self-esteem.  But have you noticed that for your kid, those overhead ladders might very well be the only way to avoid quicksand, a gigantic lava pit, or a roiling pool of megamouth sharks?  Sure, the slid offers and experience of "safe danger," critical for developing a sense of judgment and independence, but what about the archway underneath?  For the children huddled there it may be a vitally important hideaway or a staging ground for an epic tea party.

Recreation Deprivation
We've all heard that play is the work of childhood.  It's the mantra of child-development experts.  From our kids' teacher at school to the surgeon general prescribing at least 60 minutes daily of physical activity to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights affirming every child's right to play, there's little disagreement on this point.  This unstructured time hones children's intellectual and social gifts; it instills them with a sense of fairness and judgment; it builds their bodies with muscle and know-how; it endows them with competence.

But what's less talk about is what happens when kids don't have play.  Experts are finding that depriving children of free play can have disastrous consequences.  Research shows that kids who lack it show signs of "play deprivation," including aggression, repressed emotions, depression, and underdeveloped social skills, and are at an increased risk for obesity.  One study conducted by John A. Byers, Ph.D., professor of biology at the University of Idaho in Moscow, showed that the benefits are not simply activated during the sensitive period for brain development, but that they actually trigger neural development itself.  That is, children's brains develop differently when they play.

Doesn't it always seem as if expert studies confirm what mothers have known all along?  In fact, it was groups like the National Congress of Mothers and the General Federation of Women's Clubs at the turn of the 20th century that first recognized the need of all children for play, rallying behind construction of the first public playgrounds in the United States.  Then-President Teddy Roosevelt himself, a notorious lover of the outdoors and a fitness buff, got behind the mothers' efforts, noting in a 1907 speech that "playgrounds should be provided for every child."  He said "City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger... and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime."  But he wasn't just addressing the kids who lived in urban settings.  He was exhorting the importance outdoor community-recreation spaces for all. 

It seems ironic, then, that although the specific obstacles may be different, things are pretty much back to the sorry state of affairs of Roosevelt's era.  Indeed, up to 40 percent of American schools have cancelled recess, in spite of evidence that children do better academically when they are given even as little as 15 minutes of it a day.  According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, kids ages 6 and under spend an average of two hours a day playing video games and watching TV and DVDs-- which obviously eats into outdoor time.  Naturally, this sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy.  We have all heard that childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels, with more than 30 percent of American children in most states either obese or at risk of becoming so.

If You Build It, Everyone Will Come
But prompting kids to run around is an abstract idea unless there's someplace safe for them to get their move on.  It's not just individual kids who benefit when neighborhoods join forces to rehabilitate or build a playground.  The community gets stronger too.  Research bears it out-- and then some.  Consider the case of KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization on a mission to save play by empowering communities to build playgrounds.  In 2008, Northwestern University published a study surveying the results of 32 of these KaBOOM!-led builds.  Without being prompted by researchers, 84 percent of neighborhood residents and 91 percent of partners (such as local businesses) said that building a playground together had strengthened community relationships.  Eight-eight percent said that the project had transformed skepticism into a can-do attitude, and nearly 90 percent said that the experience had proven to them the power of community organizing.  Nearly all participants said the playground had improved the quality and quantity of children's play.  But what is remarkable is that more than half said the playground project had helped them to address larger community issues.

Eileen Collins, a mom from Laurel, Maryland, discovered this firsthand when she initiated a drive to rehabilitate her local elementary school's playground using KaBOOM!'s free DIY tools.  Not only did the community show up in record numbers to help install the new equipment, but they continued to volunteer in a variety of unexpected ways.  "Church groups that had helped with the build offered parenting classes and homework assistance," she says.  "It even helped break the language barrier.  Spanish-speaking parents began coming to local schools to take English classes," says Collins, who's now head of the Laurel Elementary School's PTA.  "I was floored by the ongoing response.  I had no idea that one playground could inspire so much."

That's exactly what motivates Darell Hammond, founder of KaBOOM!.  "Our goal is to get people to understand that play is a right of all children, and experience has taught us that if a community is genuinely involved in their local playground-- if they erect the slides and swings, if they help design it and raise money for it-- there are benefits for the whole neighborhood."

Or a while city.  Rick Baker, the former mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, had an inspirational playground moment back in 2001.  The mayor of the small city was walking home from a wonderful day at his local playground with his kids, ages 4 and 5, thinking, "Every child should have a neighborhood playground."  Shortly after, Baker developed an initiative called Play'n' Close to Home, whose purpose was to ensure there is an accessible playground within a half mile of every child in the city.

To reach his goal, Baker first found existing school, church, and other privately owned playgrounds and negotiated to make them accessible to the public.  Then he added 25 local playgrounds to the city's offerings, ensuring that nearly 80 percent of the city had local access to one by the end of his term in 2009.  The flagship project, the Del Holmes playground-- which includes and array of water features, welcome under the hot Florida sun-- is not only the largest in Florida, but it's also located in the midtown area, one of the most economically depressed parts of the city  Now, families from all sections of St. Petersburg, who might never have crossed paths otherwise, meet up there.  "Whenever I go to elementary schools and ask how many children have been to 'the water park,' every kid raises his hand," says Baker.  "It's the centerpiece for neighborhood gathering."

Creativity, gross motor skills, and community-- mobilizing for a space where all of that can develop is a cause to unite both policy makers and parents.  Make a commitment to ensure that there's a great playground within walking distance of every child.

originally published in the July 2010 issue of Parents Magazine

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Just singing for you...

In light of the sensation that is GLEE some of my other friends have written about their high school show choir experiences.  Tonight's season finale inspired me to write about mine; not because it was better than anyone else's, but vastly different.

You see, my mom was our showchoir director.  From the time I was born, I sat at her feet and watched her direct a choir.  When I was 7, she began directing the showchoir at Laurel High School (R.H. Watkins).  I watched intently as she corrected students, "cleaned up" choreography, and taught harmonies and vocal techniques.  I absorbed it all.  I studied other directors as well.  Their techniques, their ways of motivating students.  If a stranger were to ever wander into one of my mom's rehearsals they might have asked themselves, "What's the big deal?"  But it was a big deal.  My mom knew that if her students were excited about what they were doing, then their parents would be too.  She knew that if the students and parents were excited, they would start talking to others in the community and soon the auditorium at Laurel High would be full of people waiting to see what those kids had been rehearsing all this time.  When I was in Jr. High, my mom's showchoirs decided they wanted to compete.  We traveled to Nashville, San Antonio, and New Orleans and won each competition.  Just watching them perform was mesmerizing and watching the passion they all exhibited was inspiring.  I couldn't wait for my turn to wear a sequin dress, the required red fingernail polish, the dangle-y rhinestone earrings, and the big curly hair.  I couldn't wait.

When I was 14 I went to my first Showchoir Camps of America camp (SCA) at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.  My mom had gone for years and I was so excited to finally be able to go.  My excitement was short-lived.  I stayed in an un-air-conditioned dorm and rehearsed in un-air-conditioned dance studios during the hottest summer the Land of Lincoln had seen in quite some time.  On top of the heat, was the level of difficulty.  I had taken dance lessons since I was 3.  I was NEVER on the back row and was certainly never hidden in the middle of the group.  This was a first.  These routines were hard!  The choreographer was from Illinois.  He taught fast and talked faster.  We only had a week to learn a full show-- 3 songs with choreography and a ballad.  I cried everyday.  The choreographer was Mike Weaver, a brilliant man whom I would have the pleasure of working with many times again and am now proud to call my friend.  I would continue attending SCA for one week out of every summer for the next 6 years.  Several others and I were also selected for the All-State Honor Showchoir each year, another opportunity to learn from the best teachers and students around.  I carefully studied the teaching techniques of each choreographer I worked with.  I studied the vocal techniques of every vocal director I worked with.  I was a sponge.  Each year became a little easier.  Each year, I challenged myself a little more though, by auditioning for the select dance ensemble (which rehearsed after the day's regular rehearsals were finished... just when you thought you couldn't dance another step...), and by being placed in  groups with increasingly challenging choreographers and musical directors.  I would take what I learned each summer and incorporate it into our shows at home.  You see, since my mom was the director, I didn't get the summers off from showchoir.  We spent our summers dreaming up shows, costumes, and choreography.  I didn't just enjoy it, I LOVED  it.  I was the ultimate showchoir geek.

My junior year of high school, my mom announced that it would be the last year for her to direct the showchoirs at Laurel High.  When she began teaching at LHS, there were barely enough people to make up a showchoir and a concert choir.  Ten years later, there was a male/female showchoir, two all girl groups, a gospel choir, and a concert choir.  We put on the traditional "Red and Gold Revue" every year and also produced a full-length musical complete with orchestra.  We were one of the first choirs outside the state of Florida to be invited to perform at the Walt Disney World Candlelight Processional, a Christmas concert in Epcot Center.  We were asked to perform in schools and at civic functions.  We thought we were rock stars. 

We, the select few who went to SCA and spent our summers dreaming up fabulous shows, decided that because of all her hard work, she should go out with a bang.  We planned an over-the-top Red and Gold Revue.  I had 14 costume changes.  We included music from several decades.  There was something for everyone and the auditorium at LHS was filled to capacity for three nights and for the Sunday matinee.  We, the students, took enormous pride in what we did because we all had a hand in it.  My mom made sure that anyone who wanted to be involved, was.  If you haven't figured it out by now, my mom was an AWESOME teacher.

After the success of the Red and Gold Revue, we decided that we wanted to compete in the annual showchoir competition held at Pearl River Community College.  Our showchoirs had not competed in some time.  We didn't have the money for a live band, custom musical arrangements, or a big name choreographer.  We did it all ourselves.  To continue the theme of "going out with a bang" we decided we should do a medley from the Broadway musical "Rent."  Not exactly appropriate content for a high school showchoir, but it was heavily watered down.  To keep costumes simple, we decided to dress like characters from the show.  Most of us had seen it on Broadway or on tour and the images of such a revolutionary show were seared into our memories.  We borrowed choreography from routines we had learned at SCA and what we couldn't steal, we made up ourselves.  Everyone had a part in making this the best show we could possibly put together.  We rehearsed during school, after school, and at night.  Many of us skipped "non-essential" classes (like algebra and health) to go to the choral room and practice some more.  We knew we probably wouldn't win, but we were there to show everyone that we could be competitive too.

The day of the competition arrived.  We were nervous.  We knew we'd be doing something that had never been done at this competition before.  We were performing an edgy, contemporary show, wearing street clothes and sneakers.  We did not have on red lipstick, our hair was not all pouffed and pulled back into matching rhinestone barrettes.  We got some strange looks when we changed into our costumes.  When we took our place on the risers, you could hear a pin drop.  Our hearts were pumping, probably in unison.  There were no whoops and cheers that usually precede a showchoir competition performance.  When the music started off with loud electric guitars, I thought the judges were going to jump out of their seats.  We sang and danced our hearts out.  The looks of confusion and shock on the faces of the audience turned to joy as they caught on to our act.  They realized that we were a bunch of high school kids, singing our hearts out and having the time of our lives and they (to their surprise) were having just as much fun watching us as we were performing for them.   When it was over, we were shaking from the adrenaline.  On their critique sheets, the judges complimented our originality, our vocal performance, and our spirit.  We did not win.  I don't remember what our rank was.  Third maybe?  It wasn't important.  For a few minutes, we did not have differences, we all belonged, and we were all stars.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sweet Talkin' Guy

          Every night when I put Joseph to bed, we talk a little bit about our day.  I tell him what a great day we had and I usually ask him what his favorite part was.  Last night during our usual conversation, he asked me first.  I was a little shocked.  It's not often you hear a 2-year-old ask, "What was your favorite part of today?"  Obviously, I told him it was right then, rocking and talking to him.  When I asked what his favorite part was he said, "Going outside and playing with you."  Remembering sweet conversations like this one make it very hard to be angry at him, no matter how warranted it might be. 
          After I put Joseph to bed though, I thought back to something I witnessed earlier that day at the baseball field.  I saw a teenaged son speaking so rudely and so disrespectfully to his mother that my blood began to boil.  It took all of my self control not to discipline that child myself, right then and there.  Before you get upset, you should know that I would never discipline someone else's child and certainly not in public, but someone sure needed to!  As I laid in bed that night, I thought about what factors shape a child into the person he becomes.  This is somewhat of a nature vs. nurture question, but I believe that a positive, nurturing environment can have much more of an impact on one's demeanor than inborn nature alone.  If someone hears sarcastic, rude speech on a daily basis, they are much more likely to repeat it.  As I saw the arguement take place and listened to the tone the boy used to speak to his mother I wondered where he learned such.  His words and his tone and his came so freely that I realized they must be things he's heard often, most likely at home.
          This lead to an ongoing series of conversations between my husband and I.  We are working to become more aware of the tone we use when speaking to each other, even if we're in the middle of a disagreement, as well as the language we use.  We don't call each other names; we don't even call Joseph names... ever.  I guess it's the dormant teacher inside of me who maintains the "no name-calling" rule.  There will be plenty of bullies in his life, but his family will not be one of them.  And we never ever say that he is BAD.  That is one of my pet peeves and it pains my heart to hear other people talk about their children, their babies, that way, but that's a blog post for another day.  We have a "just be nice" policy in our house.  Sometimes it's very hard to do, but like all things, it's a work in progress.  Many of our words and actions are guided by the thought that we don't want Joseph to speak to us or anyone else in that manner.  We also try our best not to say anything in front of him that we don't want him to repeat at church.  Even when I'm frustrated and angry with him, I try to envision that sweet, tiny baby who used to smile and laugh in his sleep just so I don't say anything I might regret.  We are by no means perfect in our practice, but we are working to lead by example.  I will be the first to admit I've let a four-letter word slip once or twice in front of him.  Thankfully, he didn't pick up on it.  However, Joseph has started picking up on a lot of the other things we say and repeats them in the same tone.  It's mostly short phrases like, "right now!" or "this is 'diculous [ridiculous]!"  We usually ignore the phrases unless he actually uses them correctly or when speaking to us.  Then we remind him to use his "nice voice" and his "nice words," which has worked so far.  I just hope we can stick with this practice and that it becomes such a habit that it lasts him well into his teenage years.
          There are hundreds of things that will happen during childhood that can lower a child's self esteem or lessen their self confidence.  What does Dr. Phill say?  It takes how many "atta boys" to undo one negative comment?  I believe it is my job as a parent to undo all those things and even preempt them by encouraging him, praising him, and helping him to become a thoughtful and considerate person now.  At supper, even if we don't all get to eat together, we ask each other, "How was your day?  What did you do?"  Regardless of what kind of day we've had, even if he got out of time-out just in time for a bedtime story, I always ask him what his favorite part of the day was and tell him the thing he did that day that made me most proud.  Then I tell him that he's a good boy, a sweet boy, a smart boy, and my most precious boy.  He usually responds to each with "Thank you, Mommy."  Sometimes I'm even told I'm a good boy too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just Like Daddy

So I've been a little busy with life lately. Now I'm finally taking the time to write about it.

As many of you reading this know, I have a 2 1/2 year old son, Joseph. We are about to start potty training and I've found that any change or transition is much easier if we talk about it for a few days first. In one of our discussions about using the potty I informed Joseph that when he got ready, he could not only pee-pee in the potty but poo-poo too. To which he replied, "No. I not poo-poo in the potty. Just in the grass... like Daddy."
You cannot possibly imagine the thoughts that were racing through my mind after he said that. Things like "I'm gonna kill my husband! Surely he has not actually pooped in the grass in front of the baby. Maybe Joseph is just confused because he saw Brian cleaning up Charlie's [our dog] poop. AHHH!" I tried to keep it together and thanked God that we were in the car and that Joseph couldn't see all the expressions on my face. I calmly explained to him that people don't poo-poo outside, just animals, like dogs and cats and birds.
But Joseph wasn't having it. "NO Mommy! I gonna poo-poo IN THE GRAAAASSSSSS!" Even after a few more minutes of questions and discussion, he maintained that my husband had pooped in the grass. I couldn't take it anymore, so I finally asked, "Joseph, did you see Daddy poo-poo in the grass?" Very matter-of-factly, he said, "Yes. I did. He took out his penis and pooped in the grass."
AHAHAHAHA! What a relief! My husband has not completely lost his mind! By this point I was laughing so hard, I could hardly drive through the parking lot at Sam's.
I couldn't let him go around confusing pee and poop so we had to have a little discussion about how the plumbing of the human body works. I tried to explain to Joseph where pee and poo come from, but again, he wasn't having it. I was laughing too hard to continue the discussion. The mental image derived from hearing my two year describe the process of seeing his dad "poop" in the back yard was too good. I had to call my husband. I told him about our recent conversation and asked if perhaps he could explain to Joseph where pee and poop come from. I thought perhaps that if Joseph heard this from someone else, it would make a difference. I put him on speaker phone and he tried his best to convince Joseph that 1. we only pee and poo-poo in the potty and 2. that pee-pee and poo-poo come from two different places. After a minute or two of that conversation with frequent interjections and arguments from Joseph, we both realized that we should save this conversation for later, when we could all focus and perhaps get through it without laughing so much. Before we hung up the phone my husband says to me, "I'll talk to Joseph about this later, but I want you to know that I never pooped in the grass in front of Joseph. I don't think I've even peed in the grass in front of Joseph." You mean you pee in our grass when no one is looking?! Thanks honey. You're one in a million.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

After all these years...

          This weekend, I hosted my little sister's bachelorette party.  It wasn't supposed to be anything too wild; just myself and five other friends having a good time back in our old college town.  When we arrived at the kareoke bar my sister requested, I felt like I was returning to the scene of a crime.  I was immediately flooded with memories of my own college days.  My intention was to be the grown up.  I am six years older than most of the girls, not to mention, married with a child.  When the night began, everything was going according to my plan.  I should have known that any night that began at a bar called Shenanigans would end with a few shenanigans too.  
          When the girls started doing kareoke, I sat at the table, guarding purses and taking pictures.  When we dealt the first hand of Bachelorette Dare Cards, I slyly slipped mine into my purse.  I was not about to ask a stranger to take a body shot off of me or find a bald man in the bar and kiss his head.  The only bald head I kiss these days is my husband's, thank you very much.  As the night wore on and the bar filled up, I began seeing old familiar faces.  When my Red Bull and vodka kicked in, I relaxed and even allowed my sister to pull me from my chair for a dance.  By the time the girls were ready to leave, I had come out of my shell and was beginning to remember how much fun it is to have a true girl's night out.  As we left Shenanigans, I spoke to the familiar old faces and gave them brief updates on our common acquaintances.  One guy introduced me to his friend.  I assumed he was just being polite, since his friend (we'll call him Tony--he looked like someone on "Jersey Shore") was standing there as we chatted.  At the next bar, I noticed that my old friend and Tony were there too.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  I hoped.  The girls and I danced in a tight-knit circle to prevent any guys from ruining our girl time.  We sipped water, except for the bride, who was still taking shots bought for her by old friends.  At closing time (2:00 a.m.), my Red Bull was still in full swing, and another bridesmaid and I tried to convince my sister and the other girls that we should find a late-night party.  Apparently Tony was listening in.  He pulled us aside and offered to host a late-night party at his house and invited all of us.  I informed him (again) that I was married and was just trying to make sure my sister enjoyed her last night out.  He was persistent.  As we walked to my SUV, his pleas were still ringing in my ears.  "Please come over.  I'll treat you right!"  "Can I have your number?  Can I call you?  I don't even know your name!" 
          In the car, I was giddy.  I had done it!  I had gone out with the girls and picked up a guy at a bar without even trying!  It was proof that I am still attractive to someone besides my husband.  I know it sounds silly that a happily married woman should need to find validation in such a way, but since the birth of my son, I have honestly wondered if I still "had it."  You know... it's that something you have in college that guys can't seem to resist, but somewhere along the way it gets lost.  Charm, spunk, appeal... or maybe it's just confidence... whatever it is, I felt it had disappeared after I settled into married life. 
          Back at the hotel, the girls and I finished the sangria that I had made and laughed about the antics of the night.  Finally, at four o'clock, we decided to get some sleep.  The next day, when my sister and I arrived back at my house, hungover and unshowered, my husband laughed.  He knows the sign of a good time.  He unloaded my car while we lounged on the couch and my son napped.  Later that I evening, I told him about Tony, the guy who wanted to take me home.  He smiled and spun me around in the kitchen.  As we danced in front of the sink he said, "That's my baby!  She's still got it after all these years."
Monday afternoon, I got an AARP notification in the mail.  Thank you for the reality check!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Starting off with a Bang...

          Right now in Mississippi, there are major issues concerning teenage homosexuals.  A few months ago, there were reports that a student would not be able to have her photo in her senior yearbook because she was openly gay and wanted to wear a tuxedo instead of the traditional drape worn by girls.  Now, in Itawamba County, the junior/senior prom has been cancelled because a female student wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom.  I cannot even begin to speculate how this became an issue in the first place because it will only fuel my disgust.  It's an issue now though-- a BIG one-- and it is garnering national attention.  The ACLU has gotten involved in both cases and the female student from Itawamba Co. just appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show to discuss this whole debacle. 
          I understand that Mississippi will probably always be known as "the buckle of the Bible belt."  I'm not asking anyone to change their personal beliefs, opinions or morals.  However, a student's sexual orientation is not the business of the school administration or the community.  School officials (at least those at most public schools) do not dictate who heterosexual students bring to school functions, or what they wear, although they probably should.  I understand that some may not agree with the homosexual lifestyle, but it is not their job to "set those kids straight," so to speak.  If they wanted to save souls, then they should have gone into ministry, not education.  Doesn't separation of church and state apply here?  Isn't it a conflict of interests to cancel an entire school event because a few people do not agree with a particular student's lifestyle or moral decisions?  For instance, if a principal was a member of the KKK and called for a racially segregated prom, there would be a national uproar.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would decend upon that town faster than you can blink your eye and that principal would be publicly disgraced.  I think that if educators were half as concerned about the academic affairs of students as they were about the social affairs of students, then MS would not be ranked last in education.  Conversely, if parents and educators showed the same amount of concern for the morals of ALL students as they do of these few, we might teach sex ed in schools and MS might not lead the nation in teen pregnancies.  But I forget, we are in Mississippi, the Buckle of the Bible Belt. 
          I am curious though, as to how many students pictured in the senior yearbook are pregnant or are already parents.  How many pregnant teens will attend proms?  How many teenage parents?  Is this not equally as immoral or has this become so commonplace that society is no longer outraged by it?
          Parents and community members in Itawamba County have made such statements as, "What happened to the Bible Belt?"  and they have expressed that when their children attend a school function, they expect it to be "moral and stuff."*  There is a great logical fallacy here.  Implying that teenagers in Mississippi are less likely to engage in immoral activities simply because we are a predominantly Christian state, is like saying that teenagers in Mississippi should know a lot about farming because we are also a largely agricultural state.  I could probably count on one hand the number of people I graduated with who knew anything about farming or even gardening for that matter.  However, my entire senior class seemed to have a good knowledge of the Bible.   But we also had a lot of knowledge about how to sneak alcohol into a school function.  We knew the gas stations in town that would sell us cigarettes and some of us even knew how to roll our own.  We knew how to hide the night's deeds from our parents when we came home and how to quickly recover from a hangover so we could sit with our parents in church on Sunday morning.  It's important to keep up appearances, you know.  We also knew where the health department was, so we could get birth control without our parents' knowledge.  We knew who was gay, who was pregnant, who was on drugs, who sold drugs, and who partied hardest. However, we had a very effective, but unspoken "don't ask, don't tell" policy.  My point is this: geography does not determine morals.  So let the community members, parents, and Bible-thumpers be outraged by this incredible moral dilema, but don't tell them what their own kids are up to on a Saturday night, and certainly don't let them hear the music played at the prom.  What do these parents think their kids will be dancing to on prom night?  I recall the proms I attended and I KNOW none of the music played or dances danced had anything to do with upholding the morals our parents and preachers taught us.
          The parents and school officials who started this uproar need to have a little Bible study of their own.  They need to be reminded that it is not our place to judge one another.  It is however, our place as humans and as Christians to LOVE one another; be KIND and FORGIVING to one another, and not judge the sins of another unless you have owned up to your own.  It is the practice of adopting and adhering to only certain parts of the Bible that has caused the buckly of the Bible belt to loosen.  While the residents of Itawamba County are asking "What happened to the Bible Belt?" they might also want to ask, "What would Jesus do?"

*as quoted on

Both Feet In

I have finally taken the plunge and started a blog.  YAY me!  I cannot guarantee that my postings will always be funny, or informative, or even enlightening.  I have a lot on my mind though and need a forum.  I am constantly amazed by the small-mindedness of others (particulars those in a position of authority).  I am incredibly interested in issues involving children, education, the arts, and parenting.
The baby's awake now!  I guess my first official post will have to wait.  More to come soon!