Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lunch Break

Normally, I have a purpose for writing. It is important to have a purpose or else you just end up rambling without really saying much. But, today, I don't really have a purpose other than it is my lunch break, but I ate my sandwhich in about two minutes and have twenty eight left. Sometimes, I feel like I might actually bust if I don't write. Today is one of those times.

Our family has been through an interesting experience recently. By interesting, I do not mean something that might be fun and exciting to experience yourself. I mean, unusual, strange, and wholy tragic, but like a car accident, everyone wants to know what happened and what all was involved.

What happened and what all was involved is not my story to tell. But the gist is this: my sister and brother-in-law lost their baby. We lost a nephew. My parents lost a grandson. My daughters lost a cousin. He wasn't born yet - about twenty six weeks left to go. That is irrelevant. I can't speak about the pain and loss that his parents and sister are experiencing. That is their experience to share, if they choose to.

I was sitting here, in this spot, waiting for my brother-in-law to text me so I could get to work on a gender cake, or cupcakes actually. My phone lit up, and the words there is something wrong with the baby  flashed onto the little screen.  The rest is mostly a blur and sort of makes me sick to my stomach to think about. I know that I just wanted to hold my own baby and kiss her face, but she wasn't home. I was alone so I started cleaning up because I couldn't do anything else. I couldn't make it easier for them and didn't have the words that needed to be spoken - only God had those words. But I cried for them and for the little child I had already pictured holding. I can't, and really don't want to, imagine how they feel. How the world must look different somehow - a little darker than before.

This is not my story. It is not for me to come to grips with or learn how to handle. This is the type of hurt that lingers because there are no memories to share. No pictures. No videos. No artifacts. Just the whispers of what might have been.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with loss - great or small. Great or small isn't for anyone else to determine. I don't like the cliches that so many say, and I have heard myself saying a few. We say them because we can't stand silence and feel we must say something. But there really aren't any words. I can't imagine that it makes them feel that much better to hear that the baby is in heaven or that they will always have an angel. I am sure that, really, they'd rather have the baby here and not in heaven. But that isn't really PC to say outloud, is it.

So, I guess I've said all that to say this, I love them very much. I wish that I had the power to undo it, but that is not a possiblity. We can only be here to help pick the pieces back up when they all fall apart - that is what families do. Other's loss makes you count your blessings. Well, I am counting and recounting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Normal Parenting

My kids hanging out together before heading off to school.
Over the last few days, I have had a couple of conversations with various people - some coworkers, some daycare folks, family, ect, and something has been popping up - this idea of normal parenting as in "Y'all are normal parents." So I've been thinking, what the heck does this mean? Is normal good or bad?

These days being normal has almost a nostalgic feeling to it. Like a, "back in the old days when things were normal..." tone. What makes us normal or have normal parenting? Are our children getting a better or worse up bringing if we are being normal parents? The thing is, when people say it, they say it with a tone that has a Wheeew, hand-wiping-the-forehead feel to it. Like being a normal parent is strange or unusual these days. Weird. So, I started analyzing our normal parentingness - cause that is what I do. I over analyze to a fault. Eh, that is just the way it is.

So here is my outline of our normal parenting

- Our kids play outside often. We encourage it and, actually, expect it.

- Our kids watch cartoons like Spiderman, not just learning cartoons.

- Our kids have to eat what we cook. Occasionally, we ask what they would like, but if they don't want what we made - tough. No dinner for You.

- Our kids are discliplined. That doesn't mean they don't misbehave, cause, Ugh, they do. But they get a combo of all the various punishments - timeouts (used like they are intended - a timeout to get your self under control), vinegar in the mouth (don't call the cops, vinegar is actually Good for you), spankings, jerk ups, fussing ats, all followed with conversations about decision making, hugs, kisses, and apologies.

- Our kids have to say mam and sir. Period.

- Our kids are expected to go with the flow. Our life did not begin when they were born, and it doesn't revolve around them now. Are they the best things in our life? Yes! Do we want them growing up thinking they are the Center of the universe? Hell no.

- Our kids are expected to do for themselves and help out. Take your plate to the sink. Feed the dog. Put your shoes up. Clean up your toys. Two year olds can do all of this.

- Our kids are expected to be a part of a family. We are a team, and we love and look out for each other. Always.

- Our kids are expected to share and not freak out when things don't go their way.

- We do not believe they are more special than other children. We do not expect them to be treated that way.

- We expect them to learn about everything.

- We expect them to be creative and learn to play with dirt and a stick if that is all they have.

- We watch movies in the car on trips longer than 30 minutes. We talk on the way to school and on the way home.

- We honor that each child is different, and do not expect them to be carbon copies of each other.

- We expect them to be satisfied playing in a large group, small group, or alone. All of these are important to get along in life.

- We expect them to talk to us when things aren't right or when they can't work out a problem for themselves.

-They go to bed when we decide it is time. They wake up when we decide it is time. There isn't too much of that getting up a million times like on Nanny 911.

- We say things like, "That is not for you to worry about. Just worry about being a kid."

- We don't always give them choices. They have to learn that they wont always get to choose. Sometimes you just have to drink out of the yellow cup. Sometimes you get to chose which cup. They have to deal with both situations.

- We expect them to believe what we say - to trust us, no matter what. We say, "Trust me" if they question what we say.

- Sometimes we explain our reasoning; somtimes "because I said so" is the response. It depends.

- We foster feeling at ease and comfortable in any situation. We don't do "freak out when Mommy or Daddy leaves". As a result, they Don't freak out. We say, we'll be back later. They say, okay. Done.

- We believe that grandparents are essential to a child's upbringing. Grams, Nana, Papa, Grandma, and Pop Pop give them what we never can. And we would never deny them access to each other.

-We read every single night cuddled up on their beds with a book they love.

- We hardly ever play video games.

- We eat together at the table. Rarely do we eat in front of the TV.

- We make up songs about each child. The whole family knows and sings them.

- We give honest answers. We never lie to them. Exceptions: Various holidays that include various fictional figures.

- We encourage imagination and silliness.

- We let them run around naked and act crazy in the house at least once a day.

- Our kids are not allowed to jump on the furniture.

- Our kids take vitamins and drink one glass of milk and juice. Other than that, they drink water.

- Our kids are only allowed to have a soda at restaurants and at the Lake.

- We do not run to the doctor every time one of them has a red bump, scratches their ear, throws up, or has a slight temperature. We look for non-pharmacutical remedies whenever possible. None of our children have ever been on anitbiotics. Nor have we ever been to the emergency room or had an ear infection - yet. We give vaccinations only because we have to, and they only get the ones mandated for day care. If I had a real choice none of them would get any until they are five. I have many reasons. Too many to mention here - another post, maybe.

- We pay attention to our instincts. God gave these children to us, not to doctors, teachers, or other members of our family. We make the call based on what we know of our kids and our ethics.
So there it is, basically. Our normal parenting. Is is so different?

(Side note - the word normal seems to look and sound strange after saying it so many times)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Herbs in Mason Jars

Necklace Holder - drawer pulls; garden boarder :)

My Favorite Place on Earth

This started out as my write-along with my students. They are writing descriptive essays, so I wrote one too. I kinda liked it, so I will share.
My favorite place on Earth isn’t a fancy restaurant or a classy hotel. You can’t hear traffic or the background chatter of the local news. There is no indoor shower or central heat and air. It is one step up from true camping – call it camping with a microwave and a hard roof overhead. The road that leads to this hidden treasure is deceptive. Traveling it makes a person feel like he or she is certainly traveling down the wrong road. It feels too long, too secluded, too far off the beaten path. Soon enough, however, the narrow road turns to a gravel one and finally opens up to a small bit of cleared land upon which sits three squatty cabins, all facing an emerald channel of water that flows gently into a southern- size, man-made lake. This little speck on the map is my escape.
These three chubby cabins form a triangle outlined with dog pens, boats of various sizes and shapes, tractors, fallen trees, and dirt bike paths. Each cabin has its own personality though they distinctly come from the same family. The matriarch of the three is at the center and was the grandparents’ before they passed away. It is a homey, tanned square with an oversized, screened-in front porch furnished with ancient rockers, a jumbo picnic table, and an old wooden sign engraved with “The Powells” that used to dangle off the underside of a worn bird house perched at the end of the gravel road. That sign used to be the only signal that there was life at the end of the dirt road – it has now been replaced by an official green, metal street sign.
The fun, younger-brother "red" cabin - though it isn't red - sits to the left hand side. It is lake-washed white with rust shutters. Old skis that taught the grandchildren to ride the water adorn the porch roof which secures shade from the blazing summer sun and provides cover from the rain. Newcomers give themselves away when they catch a glimpse of the all-too-real looking alligator statue that the current caretaker of cabin two strategically placed near the bottom step of the porch – first a squeal of fear, then a giggling fit.
The third and final cabin – the little blue one –sits on the right hand side of the grandparents’ cabin and completes the triangle. It is cheerful and smiles through its faded denim walls and cracked windows. As though the cabin holds its breath, waiting for us to return for another weekend of fun, it releases a steamy sigh when the screen door creaks, and we open the front door. The air inside is thick and muggy until the three air conditioners convert it to cool and comforting. The walls separating the four tiny rooms are in the repair process and are half painted in a variety of try-me-out colors. Though the kitchen lacks a stove, it is home to an old, handled refrigerator that my husband, as a child, used to snatch popsicles from and a sink that is older than I am certain of. I do know, however, that my husband’s aunt was bathed in it when she was a baby. That sink has bathed too many of our families’ babies to count, and I find a lump rising in my throat when, as I bathe my own baby in the smooth, worn metal bowl, I think of my mother-in-law bathing my husband when he was an infant. The whole place is remarkably comfortable even though the floors slump in places so furniture doesn’t sit straight; dishes roll around on the shabby table, and, occasionally, the roof springs a leak. We just patch it up and keep going.
The porch that wraps the back of this little jewel is painted red – not offensive red, but the last-glow-of-a-fall-fire red – warm and mollifying. Edged with bug defying citronella torches, it is scattered with shells from the fresh-water clams that the children have collected. Every time we visit, they collect more and present them to us as if we have never seen them before – never mind that the little black and white half shells litter the ground outlining the porch. From this spot, the view of Lake Greenwood is faultless. There is nothing blocking the view. In the morning, on this porch, steamy coffee wakens my senses enough to enjoy the flip-flapping of the fish dancing just below the surface of the shadowy water. They huddle together in small schools trying to outsmart the hawk sitting in the pine tree just above them or the dozens of snapping turtles - their little black heads bobbing at the surface like little shark fins, circling the school trying to catch breakfast. This game continues until the first speed boat shoots across what we call the “big water”, and then nature life disappears while we swim and play the day away. At dusk, the children are called out of the water giving the marine life free reign of their domain again. Night time is squandered away with savory food, good conversation, movies, and ice-pops. Finally, the kiddies’ droopy eye lids win, and they drift off to sleep. The adults are left to lounge around until they, too, must turn in. Then, the lake is quite.
Take a deep breath here, and it is like breathing in family and values and memories and life. Here, the qualities of a southern summer were established and are fostered. The air fills the lungs with freshness and renews the soul. Here, life isn’t about go, go, go – it is peanut-butter-and-jelly kind of simple. This place wraps around me like a hug. It hugs my children too, like Mema would if she were still alive. This little lake shack is serenity in its truest, simplest form.