Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Things Children Say

My three year old after a very close up face to face, "Mommy you're missing a tooth. When will your tooth come in?" (in response to my gap that I have had for a lifetime.

My five year old after looking at my legs, "Don't you want to have pretty legs like the ladies on t.v." No I say with a straight face, I like the legs God gave me. "They're pretty, but they would be prettier if you made them like the ladies on t.v." (In response to a shaving commercial.)

My seven year old after watching too much high school musical, "Have you ever felt like there was someone inside waiting to come out." Well maybe there are times when I wasn't sure what I should do or what I should say. "So, you mean yes?"

The things children say.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Expression

I'm learning more about myself as a mother, surprise, surprise. As my daughter entered 3rd grade I was a little hesitant as she would encounter new teachers, new students and new challenges again this year. I have been sighing against change and transition for months, and somehow back to school was another reminder of change. To my surprise this isn't your typical child or experience and the questions of "how do you think my day will be" quickly faded to falling into routine. She began telling me about her bus ride, her new teacher, their shared favorite memory verse, her old friends, her new friends and the joy of gym. Gone was the fear of transition we experienced last year, 30 minutes after school was over she was back to talking about other things. She's grown.

So I start wondering about my little guy. Kindergarten starts in a few days and I was planning for his big transition too. His conversation isn't one of fear and hesitation, he's telling me who he's going to see in his new class, what he wants to do with his friends, and how he can't wait to start. I see a trend happening. When I carried my camera this morning, I was in a declining number of mothers taking scrapbook photographs, and no doubt...I made a spectacle of my one opportunity to memorialize the first day. The discussion about their clothing choice seems higher on the list of priorities than anything else.

My little guy is just 3 and has been climbing into the bed lately. He's not a gentle sleeper and I really hate that habit. Truth is, I haven't been making him go back to the bed because I see the writing on the wall. Looks like I've entered as many "lasts" as I have firsts....and I doubt there will be a little dimpled grin pleading with me for covers and snuggles much longer. The world hasn't stopped changing, we're all just handling it a bit better.

Today started shortly before six and it hasn't slowed down all day. From clients to connection, children to extracurricular, homemade dinner to cleaning...the race has been done. And the way I express my frustration with the schedule is to fuss about change, when the expression on each kidlet face tells me I need to adjust. They are so grounded, so resilient, so steady - they are learning to take it in stride. I'm learning as a mother too, when you set the tone for the house, you have to take it in stride too. The expression in this photo says it all - in all of my melancholy and reflection...when you raise good kids, the writing is on the wall. No doubt in the coming weeks, months, days, hours...we'll have some rocky times. Who doesn't.

Looks like this will be a year of defensive driving. Whatever life throws at us we'll just settle in and take it in with an expression of resolve, we're survivors over here. The first day of school ritual will no longer be a deep breath and a wait and see - looks like we're growing. Growing up.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Like Mother Like Daughter

Like every first born girl born to a type A mommy, the first experiences in Kindergarten were difficult. Maybe not really for Miss Lydie - but surely for mommy. With uniforms lightly starched and a plan for everyday, I noticed that my daughter was only writing her first name on class papers. Sister Saint Martin had given pen privileges in 4th grade, and I was among the first to achieve them. I have for a lifetime thought there was something very important about a name.

I had been careful to teach the little lady the correct way to write her name and gave long speeches about the importance and pride in writing your name, your "signature." She indeed has a beautiful Biblical name. So I packed her up for her first true experiences out of my care with great fear. I am her first teacher I said over and over in my daily routine.

Imagine my surprise when the following few weeks were met with papers that again didn't have her last name. Surely I had raised her to follow directions. I shared with her that "we take pride in our work and write our full name." This time my beaming 4 year old challenged my reasons, "why?" I gave a list from Pride, to "I told you to" and sealed the lesson with "and what if there are multiple children with the name Lydia - the teacher won't know your work." I felt the issue had been firmly addressed.

The next day after school my delightful daughter brought me her papers, "Lydia L." This was not what I had requested. She proceeded to tell me in all of our wisdom:

1. You picked daddy and our name is too long, and I really do know how to spell it.

2. There is no other Lydia in class and our first month is over, so my papers can't get lost with someone else's.

3. I talked to the teachers and got permission to just do my last initial.

4. They said its good I can write it because I don't have to know yet - that's why I'm hear, "so they can teach us."

5. I love you - am I still in trouble? I one smart cookie?

This wasn't in outline form of course, she basically had one really long run-on sentence that effectively said, "I'm 4 will you give a girl a break?" Indeed, a smart cookie.

My mother smiled with glee at the story - like mother like daughter she said. I frowned my eyebrows at the implication of how crazy I had been in preparing my kidlet for school when I realized...hey, I learned it from somewhere. "Like mother like daughter......" Now, child #2 and child #3 have luckily been promised not to have that experience. Enter slacker mommy.

#2 (age 5) has stated: "It's okay if I get in trouble, its all about choices." (The academic part of the experience will not be the issue, after months of failing to teach him using Abeka - he corrected me reading a bedtime story - la says la, not lo, so it is last not lost. That choices belief will be coupled with consequences)

#3 echoed with glee: "I'm not going to mommy school anymore, I'm going to real school." Then asked, do we get to go to Starbuck's (a.k.a. the Chocolate Milk Store) at my new school? (He knows nearly 10 species of birds, but dear God the R and the P are a challenge.)

Hmmm. Sighhhh. Another school year awaits us and oh the lessons the mommy has learned. From tears to cartwheels in 7 short years! Ask any mama - we've all got our stories to tell. And yes....although not quite as neatly, we all take writing our name very seriously.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Summer Fun in Shades of Blue

On days like this I feel like I'm one lucky and blessed cookie - to spend time with my kids building blue memories like this.

More blue photos are available at the collaboration of Crazy Mamas, crazy like a wise ole fox I'd say.

The Blues

On vacation we were at the hotel restaurant having breakfast when the lights went out. The local thunderstorm created 5 or 6 brown outs, and we ended breakfast by candle light. I actually enjoyed the experience. My children were weirded out. Their comfort came from daddy's answers about the experience. They felt safe because of him.

When I think about blues, there are parts of my childhood that ring with a bit of disappointment. I was saddened by the stereotypes of being a product of a single parent home, made worse by having my father be an attractive teacher and coach within the same local community. This isn't a father bash post - it isn't even about my childhood.

The blues that are my favorite photos are shots of (or taken by) my husband with our kids. Whether its a blue business shirt, a family reunion shirt or the water of the zoo in the background - the most important thing for me is that my children have a family unit that is just plain normal. Not storybook beautiful, just normal.

They have a father that loves them and shows it in his everyday actions. We both had challenges in role models for father figures but we are living our version of the American Dream in so many ways. We have struggles, I have a potty mouth, I can even be prone to seeing the glass as half full. I think that fact that I recognize that is half the battle as I see that God is capable of extending grace and mercy, even when we know not what we are doing.

No blues here. (Well, in the pictures.) But in general - my children will not know the pain of parental distance and adult choices. We surely will give them much fuel for therapy, just not based on our efforts to establish a family unit they can rely on. I am in awe of single moma's, I think about my childhood and youth - and my husband's too, and I know that our mothers both aspired to give us all that their hearts could hold. I am so thankful.

I am most grateful that my children find travel, vacation, hanging out, day trips, school, bed time, dinner time, grocery shopping, etc. very mundane with their very normal family. There is something great about creating the future you want for your own children, based on the dreams you had as a child.

Baby Blue. Periwinkle. Navy. Royal. Crayola. Doesn't matter to me. I just like seeing those kiddo's and dad.

If you want to see the power of pictures or a different take on the blues, collaborate with the ladies at Crazy Hip Blog Mamas. If you want to see a cool picture with the zoo in full glory, be my guest. (As I sing Beauty & the Beast in my head....)

How Do You Spell Happy?

Lately I've been playing Scrabble with my seven year old and for our vacation I decided to grab the game and take it with us. It must be telling that at least for part of our vacation we spent the time spelling. (We were truly committed to cost effective fun.) T-r-i-d-e-n-t was my high point...a surprise for my husband and mother.

I can't remember laughing as much while playing at 2 a.m. with my mother who accused us of cheating, and my husband defending his vocabulary with a host of explicit adult phrases. Although his law school conversations were quite the point of interest while dating - he tells me this week, "I've never played Scrabble before." We had large doses of rip roaring fun with politically incorrect words and misspelled slang to establish supreme spelling rights.

We failed to have a dictionary on hand and that was the least of our rule issues. Challenges were handled a bit off the cuff and reworking letters happened often for folks who truly can't spell worth a dang. Spell check has made us pretty lazy. Riden anyone? Nutbag? I am so not kidding. And yes, I did indeed win three very competitive games.

Yet, I'm not posting about winning. Our vacation was based on the root word - vacate. As in - all I wanted to do was to make sure that I was able to vacate my home and traditional obligations. Our experiences were based on many a oxymoron. For some small period of time it didn't matter that I did laundry at the Holiday Inn - I didn't do it at home. It didn't matter that we had bad takeout - I ate in my grandmother's dinning room, as she watched on while 3 generations soaked up her cable, couch, hospitality and love. (Not to mention she had gone to the Senior Center that day - blog readers - the one I enrolled her in!)

My daughter drifted off to sleep in "Uncle Brook's room" a place that gets smaller and smaller every time I go home - but seemed larger than life when my mother placed him closest to her room and the bathroom when we first moved in 25 years ago.

We went to the pool, plenty. I'll post later about the swim lessons at the Country Club - they deserve more than a brief mention. Yet, my daughter only cared that for consecutive days she was immersed in sun and fun. The process of learning to swim coupled with French braids and the ability to go to the pool daily has made her very happy. The boys identified watching cable (Disney Channel unlimited) at Bigmama's as one of their favorite Summer experiences - just when I was ready to pay for another week of camp!

So, we spent a bit of time with family and friends. We played together, walked in 90 degree heat to visit zoo animals, climbed the rock wall on our Children's Museum membership (free bonus!) and I ate too much sugar. I just wanted to document cheap thrills before you endure a 3 page post about some future Disney trip that we can afford or the first time I take all the kidlets abroad. Right now my daughter is at a sleep over where a dear friend took 10 pre-teen girls to Benihana and jewelry making. (You go girl!) My sons are eating cereal for dinner (yes, I said it) and I'm blogging about the power of words.


and to top it off - I'm getting ready to learn how to swim. Funny. Vacation. This will have to replace my slacker camp or camp underachiever post. I think we done good.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

African American Men for Hillary Clinton

I received an email today that included the link to Senator Clinton's website and a compiled video clip of African American Men who support her campaign. I was in some ways saddened by the establishment rhetoric of individuals who are promised to benefit from her election and the implication that we don't have time for anyone "learning on the job."

I find it amazing that at a time when we have the first truly viable African-American presidential candidate of our time, with the credentials, vision, pedigree and financial support necessary - so few high profile people of color even speak to his viability as a candidate. As I listened to Dr. Maya Angelou talk about her pride of supporting a woman, I couldn't help wonder - is anyone thinking about electing change?

Hope. Audacity. I think those words still speak volumes about what Barack offers. I have heard individuals say that the true goal is to vote for someone who can beat the Republicans. In our politically interesting household - we talk often about what the future holds. Republican candidates of today can't pretend to be the moral majority. Democratic candidates can't be soft on foreign affairs and security. This is not your mother's era of politics.

Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic station - we have an opportunity to let our voices be heard in this election. Barack needs our support to turn American politics on its ear. I'm done being sad over what I find to be a patronizing "Bill was our first Black president" embrace of Hillary. They are no more Black than I am white. Our charge is to elect someone who can represent our country and take the necessary actions to put us on a better track - security, health care, education, affordable housing, justice. I think more people, should reflect on those issues, and vote for true change.

To make your voice heard, join my efforts to raise support for Barack Obama. Oh yeah, and I guess I'm going to start my own support network:
~ African American Women for Barack
~ Smart Women for Barack
~ Mothers for Barack
~ Republican households of Color for Barack
~ People who don't believe the Hillary Hype for Barack
~ Individuals who vote, for Barack

Why don't you join me if you are sick of the establishment hype. Donate today.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Vice of Choice

My husband eats Rum Raisin ice cream nearly every night. Haagen Dazs - without exception. He eats an entire pint with a spoon, no bowl. He has done this for nearly a decade. Typically, he eats this 1,200 calorie treat after midnight.

So I ponder, am I good wife for buying it or a bad wife for allowing him to consume soo many calories and excess sugar each night. I am clearly an enabler. If he had to purchase the ice cream he would still continue to eat it just less often. Frankly, I would lose valuable wife credit because sometimes I buy it when I really have nada to say to him at all. It may be my biggest make up gesture in 12 years, I'll end a heated debate with Haagen Dazs in the freezer. He'd probably prefer I just admit to being wrong. I think I'd rather shop for $4 ice cream. (Okay, $3.50 at Marsh and $2.85 at Walmart).

Is it possible to have ice cream as a love language? I dare say yes, and if he has to have a vice...there are far worse I guess - than ice cream. All the Cold Stone Creamery options combined and he'd pick his favorite. I find great comfort in that, or any other vice that can be addressed with $5 in the frozen section.

For other ice cream tributes visit Crazy Hip Blog Mamas - but, Ice Cream really isn't my thing. If you want to talk about the newly discovered cosmo - do they have that in ice cream?

A LifeStyle of Gratitude

Some days I take a long hiatus from writing. I have a little pity party called, "Is this going anywhere?" I learn that my blogging has increased readership because of a picture of Usher, and I think that I am really just talking to myself. Sometimes I get emails from friends about my blog, but they didn't leave a comment they just wrote me directly. Enter unexpected blessing.

Today I got a note from someone who I don't know regarding my writing. She took time out of her busy schedule to write and encourage me . Transparency can be so unflattering, the illusion of perfection quickly falls with self-examination. It is so nice to know that your personal rants touch someone else.

We are entering our 12th year of marriage. We have three beautiful children. God shows off and out on a regular basis in our lives - and I am encouraged that His plan for our life means that we are truly VICTORIOUS in the end. When we pray for folks we don't know we would like to believe its people like my writer today who are blessed.

Check out her comment to me...I'm forever grateful for it.

Thank you for your time, consistency, and encouragement.

I have been reading your comments and blogs (it all started when I got
married last month and did a search on how to "be a better wife"). You
have inspired me in ways that you cannot imagine, and I created an
account here specifically to thank you. I constantly fiind myself
mentally "out of breath" with working (as a paralegal) and having a
"man's man" as a husband (hence, servitude at work and at home) and
there have been days that I needed the encouragement that I was doing
the right thing, or needed guidance on how to I should have handled a
situation. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that you ARE
being heard, and I am sure that there are many more who appreciate the
time to take to share and advise.....

Thank you.

Childhood Dreams

The Crazy Hip Blog Mama's started a conversation about what you dreamed about as a child. I read the list of topics for the month and couldn't wait to reflect about my ambitions at age 5. I wanted to be Wonder Woman when I grew up! I still do.

No laughing! I road the bus to an elite private school with children who did not look like, live near or seem to have anything in common with me. My saving grace was Alisha, my best friend who dreamed the same types of dreams that I did and served as my connection to my "real world" when life seemed so unfair. Between Alisha and Karen - I thought the world had great potential and I could do just about anything. Wonder Woman, an Artist and a Doctor ranked very high in my alternating list of goals.

Karen was a true friend and seemed color blind in our class and race aware school. Even though it appeared that anyone who could afford this education was part of a similar background - oh how wrong can an indicator be. I held on to that experience for 4 years, by the skin of my professional single moma's teeth. Karen was a testament to 70's progressive parents before diversity was en vogue.

The weird thing is that at 5 or 6, I was acutely aware that I was "average" in my early education. The youngest of my classmates, I used aluminum foil from my lunch to create bracelets, headbands and decorations for my pretend life. I was constantly aware of my "real" life and my "pretend " world co-existing. At that time I never finished first at reading the difficult books, finishing the SRA color or understanding the maps placed before us. I determined somewhere between average and 4th grade that I would prefer to be number 1.

I thought that I was underestimated early on and I set out to prove my potential. I was among the first children to earn pen privileges (Sr. St. Martin taught penmanship as a virtue), I learned the power of words (Mrs. Gray let me write poetry endlessly) and I set out to be the best in whatever life had to offer. As I racked up educational honors, cotillion crowns and a host of achievements...I decided that much of that success was based on meeting and exceeding the expectations of others. I didn't dream of being a stay-at-home mom, a business owner or writer - especially when I was working in the Chemistry labs at 14. I didn't learn to dream big early.

Later in life I determined that my life goal was no longer to prove everyone wrong, but to prove God right. A high school friend once said to me " don't you think I deserved to be on Nat'l Honor Society more than you..." and I thought long and hard about the coveted honor. At 16 I was still prone to judge myself by outward standards and the harsh reality that everyone near you doesn't cheer you. When I gave birth to my children I decided that I would carve out their self-esteem as deliberately as my mother had - exposing them to every opportunity that I could imagine. Teaching the ability to dream would not come much later, it would be toddler lessons 101.

I also decided that motherhood meant being there to help them navigate the unexpected waters of people who question their potential - and the freedom to both succeed and fail, with grace and love. Friendship drama followed me until I decided I was somehow worthy of people who valued friendship as much as I did.

The other lesson that my childhood dreams gave birth to is unlimited imagination. On the yellow bus I escaped what I saw around me and created worlds of my own. I foster that same ability in my children, with attention to chemistry and calculus potential as much as watercolor and walnuts. (maybe I'll have a chef, artist and scientist too!) Their futures are made brighter by my experiences and I strive to help them discover success on their own terms, under God's plan for their lives.

I did become Wonder Woman. I use that rope to harness my fears. My bracelets should be chains to God, so when I spin around I don't lose sight of why I'm really here. For more about my weapons, accessories, training and fashion (I do not do justice for the one piece strapless number) ...stay tuned. There's a lot you can learn from a Super Hero. Oh, and a good childhood can teach you lots too.