Thursday, April 28, 2011

Long winding road

I've talked about it before, and I am sure I will again, but my daughter, L, is amazing.

(I know.  I know. Go ahead and roll your eyes.)

Since she was two she has offered out her advice and encouragement to me with a wisdom far beyond her age.....or mine.

She is so accepting of others and seems to inherently know what drives them to do the things they do.  She isn't quick to judge and she is patient beyond measure.

(Just ask her brother.)

I have lived in amazement of her for years.  My husband and I laugh at her antics, but the late night chats in the bedroom are often times of us sharing our wonder at the person she is and continues to become.

How could we have ended up with a child like this?  What have we done to deserve her?

Granted, her sense of humor is definitely her fathers.

And her eyes?  Well, they are mine.

But the deeper workings of her mind-neither one of us can claim.

However, last night, as I got home she told me she had something she needed to tell me about and I gave her my full attention as she unfolded the events of the day.

Although I won't go into details, it seems as if those closest to her are causing her much pain.

Many things have unfolded in the last few days.  Some as hurtful as notes written and passed to her claiming to "hate" her. 

Her reaction?

To throw the note away and continue on her way.  Even after another child, in another class, encouraged her to bring this to the teachers attention, she didn't.  L told her that there was no use.  This other child wasn't convinced and apparently brought it to another teachers attention which then brought it to L's teacher's attention.

I asked L why she didn't think there was any reason to discuss the matter with her teacher since it seemed like she was being ganged up on.

She told me that she knew that this would pass and the they would be friends again....."it would just take time".

However I know, because of my own years in grade school, that she is right.

This isn't the first time she has behaved in a manner more mature than my own. 


I didn't know it at her age, though.

And although she didn't return the letter to what was one of her best friends (and I am sure still is) with "I still love you" written on it like last time, she still does. Love her.

At her age, and much older, I would have came home and sequestered myself to my bedroom.  My stomach would be in knots.  I would try to busy my mind by reading, listening to music or writing....but all of these things I would do alone.

The conversations of my mind were too busy to invite anyone into it.  I would assure myself that the friendship was gone forever.  I wasn't likable, after all.

My inner dialogue generally consisted of me beating myself down and longing with all my might to be anyone other than who I was.

The struggle to know who Kim was, and what Kim wanted, went on for years.

L doesn't seem to have that same struggle.

But how do I know for sure? 

How can I teach someone who continues to teach me?

I don't know what I should do, or should have done.  What I should say, or should have said.  I do know that I shared with her things that happened to me and told her that she wasn't alone, and I hoped that it helped.

I told her that I wanted to say it would get better, but it probably wouldn't....not for a long, long time.

Girls are just mean.  And you know what they say about power in numbers....

I told her that I believe that this little girl, this friend of L's, was really a friend.  A friend who was just struggling within herself.

I told her what I know from my own adult experience: when someone truly doesn't like you, they generally don't want to be around you. (And her friend does.) When someone reaches out to purposefully hurt you, it is because of the insecurities and doubt that they struggle with. (And I know this child does struggle.) 

I then had to explain what insecurities were.

After our discussion I asked her how she felt.

She said, "Bad". "But it will be OK".

And it will. 

For all I know, it already is.

I asked her if there was anything she wanted me to do.  She said "No".

I have no choice but to follow her advice yet again.


Times like last night leave me feeling like I should have been given a parenting manual and I pray that I am saying and doing the right things.  My heart desires for my children to rise above the worry, doubt, self-loathing and insecurity that all but consumed me in my childhood yet there is no "right answer".  No "one size fits all" solution.

They are babies.  Eight year old babies- L and her friends.

Each one is trying to find their place in this world.  If only they could see that it wasn't necessary to push the other one down in order to get a better view.

*************
Disclaimer: I am in NO way saying my child/children are perfect.  They aren't. I'm not.  I am saying that based on the only indicators I have to go on (faculty, staff, bus drivers, teachers), L is doing her best to do the right thing.  It does my heart good to hear her praises sung.  However,  I am not so naive as to believe that this is all there is to the inner workings of a 2nd grade world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I remember when rock was young

Saturday night Sarah and I did something we had never done before.

Something silly, and crazy, and fun.

(And that's saying a lot because we have done a lot of silly, crazy, fun things.)

We dressed up to go see Elton John.

This was our second time seeing the Rocket Man and the last time we went we noticed that there were a few people who dressed for the occasion.

We vowed that if were ever lucky enough to score tickets to see him again, we would most definitely join their exclusive group.

*************
It was announced that Elton was going to be in town just a month before the scheduled show.  I called my sister and said, "Guess who's going to be in concert in Spfd?"

When I filled her in, the news was met with a loud "NO WAY!"

We knew tickets would be hard to come by and I started to think if I knew anyone with connections.  Gary told me he might be on to something and I told him we needed 2.

A few moments later my friend Amy texted me.

"Elton John is going to be at JQH.  You are the only person other than myself that I knew would care."

I hadn't seen Amy, much less done anything with her, in over a year and was excited to hear from her.

I texted her back.

"Are you going?"

She replied, "Don't have anyone to go with."

That is when I told her that she did indeed have someone to go with:  Sarah and I.  My excitement grew.

I then told Gary that I needed 3 tickets thankyouverymuch.

Unfortunately, two days before the tickets went on sale, Gary's connection fell through.  The three of us vowed that we would sit on the computer, as well as the phone, the moment they went on sale, until we got through.

*********
One day before the tickets were to go on sale I received a call from Amy.  She had, not only a connection, but a definite "in".

A family member, in return for donating money to the university, was offered a presale code for tickets.

He was going to get us our tickets. 

However, as the morning passed it was made known to us that not only did he get us tickets- 4 tickets - 14th row tickets - he GAVE them to us at no charge.

Almost immediately Sarah and I began to plan our outfits.
***********
The night was amazing.  We had fun and stepped out of our "pleasedonotnoticeme" box.  Sarah and I both tend to blend in...and that is how we like it.

Last Saturday....there was no blending.

Although we weren't the only ones there dressed for the occasion, we were definitely in the minority.

And we didn't care.

(In fact, we gave Amy and her sister permission to act as if they didn't know us.)
(Amy's dad commented that we were blending into the curtain as he took the pic.  I'm not sure that was possible.)

I am so thankful that I have my sister.  I honestly can't imagine life without her. 

(I am also glad that when I was in college I made her promise that she wouldn't move outside of a 30 miles radius of where I lived.  Since she was 10 years younger than me, and still in grade school, she succumbed to the peer  sister pressure and agreed.)

I don't know anyone that I have more fun with. 


We aren't afraid to dance when no one else will, sing when no one else does and act as if we wear feathers everyday.



It worked for him.





Monday, April 18, 2011

This weekend we celebrated L's 8th birthday.

8th.

I can't believe it.

I don't want to believe it.

On Friday my sister called to see how I was taking it. 

Truthfully, I was doing well.  I had packed so many things into the day that I hadn't had a spare moment to breathe, much less think.

However, somewhere between taking cupcakes to school, making an appearance as a "mystery reader" in her class and getting lunch and balloons to take back to her at the school, it hit me.

I blame the sale at Walgreens.

You see, I was minding my own business, grabbing a birthday card for my boss while trying to wait until 10:30 for the lunch menu to start at Wendy's. 

(L loves Wendy's!)

In those 5 minutes to kill I noticed that Walgreens had sippy cups with the silicone nipple/spout in an island sale bin.

It was then that my heart repositioned itself in my throat.

My mind immediately went back to 2004 when L was just over a year old. She loved, loved, loved her sippy cups!

It was harder for us to wean her off that particular cup than it was to take away the pacifier (7 months old) or bottle (11 months).

Steven decided to take it away one night while I was gone planning my 10 year High School reunion.   That night he said she laid on the floor in front of the cabinet where it was stored and cried and cried and cried.

Now, almost 7 years later,  I was the one crying over stupid sippy cups and the little girl that loved them so. 

My heart was unprepared for these feelings that come with being a mom and my mind doesn't posess the knowledge or vocabulary to adequately articulate the depth of my emotion.

I think that your children are the clearest, truest window in which to view yourself. 

Through them I have seen my strengths, my weaknesses....and their perfection.

They are EXACTLY what I needed...and still need.  Of course, God knew that.

April 15th. 

L's birthday.....but I was the one given the amazing gift.


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. "  James 1:17

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And they're off! (And we're off. Seriously. We're a little off.)

This past weekend we did what any good parent does when their children are 5 and 7.

We took them to the horse races.

(What?) 

(Good parents don't promote gambling?)

(Seriously?)

(Why didn't anyone tell me....)

We picked up the kids a little early from school (see?  Parent of the Year!) and headed to town to meet Aunt Sissy and Uncle Jason and hit the road.

After driving a little over 5 hours we reached our destination and I was surprised at the absence of "are we there yet ('s)" from the kids.  They did really well and complaining was at a minimum.

We decided after all the energy that was put into the drive, we deserved a nice ice cream treat.

We stopped at a little place close to the lake and "HOLY COW!" they had great ice cream.

**************
The next morning we got ready and I think it is safe to say that the kids were excited.

L was studying up on the horses and figuring out who she wanted to place her money on.

(I'm kidding!)

(We aren't that scientific.  Color and name are how we place our bets.)
After leaving our hotel we made a stop at a local Wal-Mart (of course) to get some sunscreen and some cheap gas.

As Sarah and I were heading in we noticed people looking back into the parking lot.

This is what they saw:
The Wal-Mart greeter stated that this had recently become a daily occurrence and speculated that the nest for this duck was located in one of the bushes on an island within the parking lot.

The momma duck was very good at navigating in and out of cars, actually pausing and looking before crossing into a driving lane on her way to the swampy area located beside Wal-Mart.
With sunscreen in hand we drove to downtown Hot Springs to check-out all the town had in store and make notes about what we wanted to come back and see after the races.

We all posed for pictures at the lookout at the bottom of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

Don't they look all sweet and innocent?

Being ever-efficient we arrived at the horse track and secured ourselves a $2 parking spot that was rumored to have been non-existent.

Although Sarah and I were saving bettin' for the race track, Steven and Jason were placing their bets on whether or not the gate we parked by would be opened after the race.

However, none of us had the foresight to place our bet on whether or not Jason would lock the keys in the car.

Because...he totally did.

Steven patiently waited while Jason called "pop-a-lock", and Sarah, the kids and I went to see what the name of the road was we were parked by.


And then we waited...... and waited.   Finally after a couple of failed attempts the car was unlocked.
Then....we headed for the track.

Surprisingly, this is what the entrance into the deep, dark world of gambling looks like.

(Deceiving, huh?)

The kids tried to get into "the zone".

 







Because Sarah and I are cut from the same cloth, we went ahead and chose our horses prior to the races starting.  without even seeing them.  or knowing what their odds were. or if they had been scratched.

This was our first time and reading the book was like reading Greek.  Harder, maybe.

We pooled our money and bet together....spending a whopping $25 each.

What can I say?  We're big time.

We were all excited as the announcer proclaimed..."and they're off!"

Sarah and I started jumping up and down and squealing, sure that our method of betting was a money maker!  (O.K.  Maybe I was the only one jumping and squealing....)  We tasted the thrill of victory........until we realized that the finish line wasn't at the 1/16th gate.

And it was then that we felt the agony of defeat.

I think the kids were embarrassed to be seen with us.
L wanted to capture everything as well, alternating between taking still photos and video of the races.

(I think she is going to go home and study the horses so that next time she is better prepared.  She didn't like our strategy.)
Shortly after the races started we discovered that L's favorite jockey was competing several times that day.

Yes.  She has a favorite jockey.

No.  She had never been to a horse race.

Let me explain.

Back in November there was a news story about Calvin Borel and a fight he was in with another jockey at the Breeder's Cup.  Since that time, L has decided that he was a jockey after her own heart.

(Again.  I am obviously raising my children up right.)

In fact, she often times will pull out her "jockey face" (her impersonation of Calvin) if she is trying to divert attention away from the subject at hand.

Like, maybe, if she was getting in trouble during church for messing around with her Uncle Jason....the face then making Aunt Sissy start laughing and "forget" that L was actually in trouble.

(Hypothetical situation, of course.)

(My (gambling) children would NEVER act up in church.)

(Just sayin'.)

So, L picked a race and placed her $2 bet on Calvin.  Not the horse.

He placed 2nd.  Incidentally, so did the horse.

No money for L.

She seemed unfazed.
B was growing a little tired in the hot sun and horses aren't really his thing.

However, he didn't complain and he was being an absolute trooper just going along for the ride, but I didn't want him to simply tolerate the races....I wanted him to enjoy them.

So I did what any good mother would do.

I encouraged him to place a bet on a horse.

(Why are you looking at me like that!?!?!?!?!?!)

But you see....B is like his momma.  (Lord help us!) He has trouble making decisions for fear of it being the "wrong one".  He is anxious and he worries..... he would rather not play than play and not win.

I felt this gambling venture would be....um....character building.

So, as we stood inside looking at the horses being readied for the race, I told B to pick a horse and I would place a bet for him and he could cheer his horse on.

The conversation went like this:

Me:  "B, why don't you pick a  horse and you can root for him.  L has a horse (i.e. jockey) to cheer for, why don't you pick one?"

B:  Enthusiastic, "OK!  Followed by a less enthusiastic, "I don't know which one to pick.", followed by an anxious, "No, never mind.  I don't want to pick.  I don't know which one.....I don't know. No. Never mind.  I don't want to do it."

Me:  "B, no one knows which horse to pick.  If they did, it wouldn't be fun.  That is what makes it exciting....you might win, you might lose.  Odds are you will lose....but that makes winning all that much better."  (Do you like how I actually PUSH him to gamble.....)

B:  "I don't know.  You pick the horse.  I don't know."

Me:  "Which one do you like?  They are all brown, that one over there is gray (ish) black...do you want that one?  It would be easy to tell it apart.  They say gray horses are fast...."

B:  Anxiously..."OK.  Idon'tknow. OK.  OK."

So, before he could change his mind I headed to the kiosk.  I looked at my book to figure out the race and number and noticed that the horse's name was Lady (somethingorother).  I hesitated because I knew B wouldn't want a horse whose name started with "Lady" or a horse that was actually, well, you know,....a girl. 

Knowing that time was slipping away and my window of opportunity was narrowing and that I didn't have time to go through another 15 minute pep talk about choosing a horse, I selected B's horse and handed him the ticket. 

"B, this is your ticket.  You have to keep track of it because if your horse wins you will need it to get your money."

Already pshyching himself up for a loss he said, "I'm not going to win....."

The bugler played and the announcer declared the start of the race.  B sat on the edge of the wall.....watching his horse run.....in last place.

"It's not going to win...." he said.

"That's OK. Mine isn't winning either.", I said.

As the horses raced on the back side of the track he kept talking, giving voice to the anxiety that is always just below the surface...."It really isn't even gray....it is more black.  It's not gray and it isn't going to win...."

I wondered if I had made the best decision and if he was going to fall apart at his loss.  I also knew that he needed to realize that in life....you do lose sometimes.  It's inevitable.  And it's OK.

He turned and faced me, talking about his bad choice.

As the horses rounded the last corner everyone but B craned their neck to get a better view.  He had already moved on to his next worry and  sure enough, B's horse was still in the back. 

However, something happened in those last few seconds and in an instant, B's horse moved from last......to 1st.

I barely had time to jump and squeal and indicate to B that he needed to cheer with me.

As the horse crossed the finish line B raised his fists in the air and let out a yell.

He jumped down off the wall and we headed for the doors.

(This was the second time I had collected money that day.  On an earlier race Sarah and I had picked a winner that we had bet $5 (collectively) on.  We made $6.50. )

(We. Are. Big. Time.)

Some guy I didn't know opened the door for us as we headed inside and made polite conversation.  In passing I stated that B and I were going to go collect money because his horse had won the last race.

The guy paused.

"Buddy!!! That horse had 24:1 odds!"

Although neither B or I knew exactly what that meant we knew it was good.

As we waited for the results to become official, the gentleman that had opened the door for us had collected a few of his friends.  From 1o feet behind us they gave B "thumbs up" and asked him what horse he was going with the next time.

B's face turned red as he held onto my leg and buried his head into my side.

I handed the clerk my ticket and he handed me $48.00.

I gave B his money as his face lit up as he said, "I'm done.  I don't want to bet again."

We walked back outside so he could deliver the news to everyone else and as we headed out the door he said, "Do you think I could buy a matchbox car?"


Even though the $350,000 race had yet to be ran, everyone decided that they were ready to call it a day.  As we left L mentioned that she sure hoped Calvin won the big race.

She doesn't give up easily.

We headed downtown towards the Hot Springs and Bath House Row.
After we stopped for the 4th or 5th time for L to take pictures, I realized how I must appear to everyone.
B liked reading the signs about the bath houses.  We were disappointed that the visitor center had just closed and there weren't any open for us to tour.  The history of the city was apparent everywhere you looked.....some of it was a little shady.




The kids were amazed at how HOT the springs actually were. 

Go figure.

It didn't take long for their fingers to be yanked back out of the water once they had summoned the courage to stick them in.....

(Allowing your kids to scald their fingers.  Definite Parent of the Year material....Ahem.)


As we walked back to the car, B teamed up with Steven as L reached out and took my hand.  I actually closed my eyes and took in the moment, so thankful that my children were there to share it with me.

While walking by a flowering bush, L said, "Wait momma!" and she reached out and plucked a flower and tucked it behind her ear.

She then struck a pose knowing full well that the camera was already out and waiting.



After I captured the moment she told me to lean down and she removed the flower from behind her ear and stuck it behind mine.

(Oh, how I love that girl.....)

We then grabbed a bite to eat and went to play a nail-biting game of putt-putt.

Aunt Sissy won.

And I finished just ahead of these two hoodlums:



Yep.  I am that good!

This is what they do to losers of putt-putt golf in Arkansas....

B couldn't miss a chance to ride go-karts.  I had, after all, promised.

After the completion of the big race, L asked Aunt Sissy to look up on her phone and tell her if "her jockey" had won the race.

He had.

L was so excited that Calvin had won.

B looked at her and said, in an effort to burst her bubble, "You didn't bet.....you didn't even win any money.  Why are you so happy!!!!?"

L looked seriously at her brother and exclaimed passionately, "B! Money DOESN'T make you happy!  I just wanted him to win!!!!!"

B looked perplexed.

(I felt my chest swell up with pride at this obvious parenting triumph.)

B looked at her and said, "Yeah?!? Well, my $48 makes ME happy!"

(Chest then deflated....)


Maybe, just maybe, they should wait to inscribe my name on the "Parent of the Year Award" for now.

Maybe.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lost and Found

 L lost another tooth a few days ago. 

Thankfully her daddy got to pull it.  He has been wanting to pull one since she lost her first one. 

Mimi and the school nurse have gotten their chance, but not daddy. 

Momma doesn't want a chance. 

Eeeww!

Last Saturday we enjoyed a nice break in the cold and dreary weather we had been experiencing.  We worked around the house and in the yard-mowing it for the first time this year.  Afterwards the kids saddled up and went for a ride with Steven while I grilled burgers to be ready upon their return. 

If the dirty faces are any indication, I think the kids had a great day.

Last week L was getting ready for her 1st confession in preparation of her first communion on May 1st.  Earlier in the week she stated that she didn't know what she would confess to.  She didn't think she had anything to say.

However, last Saturday, a case of nervousness set in and she found herself dreading her reconciliation.  I tried to comfort her and acknowledge that it does seem a little daunting, but that there was nothing that she could say, at 7 years old, that the priest hadn't heard before.

She doubted me.

In fact, she looked at me and said, "I don't know.  After I tell him what I have done he might kick me out of church."

Needless to say.....he didn't.


She returned from the confessional with a huge smile on her face. She said, "I feel SOOO good. You should go sometime."


I think she might be right.

 It has, after all, been 16 years.




On the 3rd we also celebrated my Grandpa's 92nd birthday, which is the 4th.

Here he is with some of his grandkids and great grandkids.

He is the one, seated, in the middle.


Happy Birthday Grandpa!