Tag Archives: parenting

Impressed Much? What our words really say.

An early morning phone call and an unexpected death have me pondering those trace impressions we leave behind each and every day.

Eldest headed out of town today with friends for a much-anticipated concert.  My Dear Hubby headed out of state shortly after I dropped my youngest three off at school.  My big sister lives 21 hours away, as does my little brother.  My baby sister is the closest sibling at nearly three hours away.  I have extended family spread out across the continent and very close cyber friends who live very far away.

During the course of any given day, I interact with a handful of different people–sometimes well into the hundreds depending on what I’m doing.  In other words, my meager presence in this world still impacts thousands of lives all over the globe.  I bet yours does, too.

You know what really scares me about this thought?  I’m terrified that my last impression will be one of anger, disappointment, frustration or indifference.  Secondly, I’m terrified of the lasting impression others will make on me–because I acted out of anger, disappointment, frustration or indifference.

  1. Should I die/discontinue a relationship after walking out the door (or commenting on a blog post, or hanging up the phone) with a final unkind remark, I will leave behind the legacy of anger, crabbiness and frustration.  This is not how I see myself (most of the time), nor is it how I want to be seen.  I don’t want to negatively affect others’ lives for all eternity.  And I certainly don’t want anyone to carry the bonds of my disappointment based on the words I’ve said.
  2. Should someone else die/discontinue a relationship after I walked out the door (or commented on a blog post, or hung up the phone) with a final unkind remark, I will leave behind the legacy of anger, crabbiness and frustration.   As well as guilt.  You see, if my negativity preceded another’s last moments, I would be crushed by guilt.  Guilt that the last thing someone felt in connection to me was the sting of my disappointment.  Guilt at knowing I could have, should have and would have changed the words I used if I only knew.

But since I don’t know, I have one job in life–to carefully consider every moment as a last moment.  I want those around me to feel loved, appreciated and cared for.  This falls on my shoulders alone, as only I can change the way I deal with the people in my life.  Only I can choose my reactions to a given situation.

I, alone, am responsible for the impression I will leave behind.  On others as well as on myself.

My husband greatly respected Doug.  His loss is deeply felt this morning, and my heart goes out to everyone who was touched by this kind and gentle man.

I wonder if his greatness was inherent or if it was carefully considered.  I wonder, does it really matter?

Parents, spouses and friends, how did you take leave of your loved ones this morning?  Is it how you wish to be remembered?  Writers, critiquers and co-workers, how did you last interact with your peers?  Will your behavior foster a stronger working environment or will your words cause unnecessary strife?   Teachers, principals and students, did you start your day with respect toward one another, or did your attitude sour the atmosphere for those around you? 

We alone control the power of last impressions.  What do yours say about you?

Treading the Water of Life…

…while the sharks are circling.

I’m 640 words behind on NaNo.   Which means today I have to write about 2,300 words just to get caught up.  Then starts Saturday, just in time for me to don the kneepads for our volleyball tourney and fluff the pillows (read chase off the dust bunnies) for our out-of-town guests.  This wonderful non-writing interlude puts me in line to be 3,333 words behind come Monday morning.

So, I either have to write like heck today and crank out nearly 6,000 words or do so on Monday, because then we get to add another 1,667 words to the NaNoTaskMaster.  Which is like adding a 50 pound weight around my neck and throwing more sharks into the pool.

Life Lesson 1: Stay in the life raft, because beating off sharks with your bare fists while treading water and holding a brick above your head is dang hard.

In other news: I got to help a stranded motorist this morning while wearing my jammie pants, DH’s oversized sweatshirt, DD’s knit slouchy boots and bed head.

Life Lesson 2: Do not drop the boys off at school looking like a freak.  Translated to mean: don’t be a freak, because you never know who might see you.

And speaking of my Little’s, they both threatened to leave me because, “You always make us clean our room.  You like everything to be so clean all the time.  We can’t even go in there except to sleep.  We can’t even play anymore.  What fun is that?  We might as well not even live here.”

Note to y’all: Said cleanliness meant no more eating Halloween candy in their room and throwing the wrappers under their beds and behind the bookshelf.  It also meant putting dirty laundry in the laundry room, not on the floor.  I think I may have been so cruel as to bring up making their beds and putting their minefield of Legos back on the Lego table, though I totally left the dust bunnies out of the equation and said nothing about their overflowing dresser drawers.

Life Lesson 3: I am a mean mom.

Truly I am.  Because I also got roped into a high school joke that almost made my daughter cry last night.  Our quasi new son asked Eldest why he broke up with his girlfriend.  Eldest gleefully played along and said his GF (who would never, ever be naughty) cheated on him.  This was said in front of their mutual friend while they ate pizza at the counter.  It would have been a funny joke on Mutual Friend had it not spread like a bad case of teenage acne.

MF promptly texted his girlfriend who was with DD who texted unsuspecting me who broached Eldest who then had to call GF in case someone at the French party texted her about what a horrible girl she was for cheating on Eldest.

Within five minutes the whole world was crying over the break up.

Which leads me to my final Life Lesson of the Week: Be careful what you say, because bad news travels at the speed of light.

Remember high school?  Enough said.

May your life jacket be buoyant and the sharks few!

The Secret Agenda of Banned Books? Pshaw!

Okay, so I had a warm and fuzzy post in mind to honor Banned Books Week.  I truly did.  And then I ran across a post that made me spitting mad.

The question addressed: is banned books week really a contrived affair for gays to promote themselves?

Yeah, some people really believe that.

And that’s fine.  I’m all about people getting to have and keep their own opinions.  It’s one of the things that makes America great.  HOWEVER, I do have an issue with people bashing others in the name of “what’s best for the children.”

Folks, I have four kids.  I read what my kids read.  I talk to my kids about life and the very difficult issues that life throws their way.  I know who drinks in my kids’ high school, who smokes and who’s having sex.  I know which kids bully, which ones cut and which ones struggle with family issues.  I know life stinks for many reasons and growing up is dang hard.

Knowing this does not give me the right to parent other people’s kids any more than other parents have the right to raise mine.  Nor does it give me the right to blame writers and musicians for my failings as a parent.  I can’t blame the neighbor, the neighbor’s dog, the swimming instructor or the mayor.  I am a parent.  My kids are my responsibility.  If I don’t want them reading smut, it’s my job not to let them read it.  If I don’t want them to play on the railroad tracks, it’s my job not to let them.

I can’t demand that the train company remove the tracks from my town because my kid might get hurt.  Nor can I call them Baby Killers Out to Harm Unsupervised Children Having Innocent Fun Playing on Train Tracks.

Parents, lean in closely.  You are in charge of your own kids.

Aaaand, back to the topic at hand.  I want you to read the post I linked to in its entirety.  But if you don’t, I’ll paste my favorite quote for you to ponder.

(Linda) Harvey (of MissionAmerica.org) said the ALA “has become a megaphone for leftist values and a  disinformation tool to prevent traditional values from getting much shelf space  in libraries.”

I have  never told Ms. Harvey how to raise her children, what they should read, how they should dress or any other type of parenting skills that come with the pleasure of having children.  I honestly don’t even know if Ms. Harvey has kids, and in truth, it’s irrelevant.

What matters is that I am a very religious mother who teaches my kids a certain set of “traditional” morals and values.  And yet, I do not ban, challenge or in any way, censor how other parents raise their progeny.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if you don’t want to read it, don’t. If you don’t want your kids to read it, don’t let them.

In the same vein, if you don’t want something to go viral, shut up about it.

If people would quit challenging books, there would be no list.  Period.   And that alone would take care of the Gay Conspiracy to Ban Books with the Sole Purpose of Luring Children to the Dark Side.

Seriously?  I have better things to do with my time…like raise my own happy, healthy and well-adjusted kids.  A daunting task in its own right.  I certainly don’t have enough time left over to raise everyone else’s.

So, dear readers, do you think Banned Books Week promotes the evils of the world?  Do you believe that validating a child’s experience (ie reading a book with a protagonist kids can relate to) encourages poor choices?

Curious minds want to know.

Read more: Is library association’s ‘Banned Book Week’ really ‘gay’ promotion?

Dyslexia: Unlocked Potential

Over the past few days, I’ve had several conversations with parents, grandparents and educators about reading difficulties.  Being a mother of a severely dyslexic child myself, I’ve researched, cried, advocated, coaxed, spent money on tutoring, cried some more…well, you get the picture.  Dealing with dyslexia is not easy.  And I’m only the mom.

I can’t begin to imagine what living with it would be like.

And so, my rant is this: kids are all born with potential.  Every day, children are born who will become politicians, mathematicians, engineers, musicians, dancers, actors, teachers, lawyers, farmers, business managers, salesmen, painters, airplane pilots and inmates.

Yes, inmates.

This last one is where my rant comes in.  All this potential gets lost in a sea of failure.  From one school year to the next, children with reading disabilities get futher and further behind their peers.  They may start kindergarten as doctors, but end their educational careers without receiving a high school diploma.

Often, they end up behind bars.  Poverty, crime and illiteracy are so intertwined that the statistics are frightening.

Rest assured, however, no fingers will be pointed here.  Rather, we are all guilty.  Ultimately, it is a combination of political, financial, familial and educational flaws woven together over 18 years that locks certain children into a life of less than.

Laws in most states do not demand at-risk literacy testing.  Sure children who are far enough behind their peers receive reading help in elementary school, but this is not the same thing as actively pinpointing children who are at-risk for reading disabilities.  It can be done folks.  As young as 5-years-old kids can be diagnosed with dyslexia.  Over time, an early diagnosis will save money and hearthache.

Yet with budget cuts, who pays for this?  Funding creates a huge gap in our assistance programs.  Our schools simply cannot afford to provide services for all struggling children.  Only the most significantly impaired children receive Title One assistance.  Those smart enough to cope with their hidden disability and still pull decent grades are often left unfunded and undiagnosed.

Education is weak at best for many schools and parents.  I’ve engaged in many conversations with teachers who have no clue that dyslexia is far more than transposing letters when reading a word.  Yet, this easy definition is about as much attention the number one reading disability gets in higher education.  In a nutshell, many counselors and teachers have never been taught what dyslexia is and how it affects the children they work with each day.  Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

Parents, did you get your dyslexia manual from the hospital when your baby was born?  When she attended preschool screening?  When he visited the doctor for well-baby checks?  Yeah, me neither.  I knew what dyslexia was (psychology background, and all) and asked about it when Eldest was in second grade.  I was reassured this wasn’t an issue.  Eldest received remedial services from kindergarten through third grade.  In the fifth grade, he attended Sylvan Learning Center.  At the beginning of eleventh grade he was diagnosed as severely dyslexic.

Some great mom I am.  I knew something was amiss, and yet I wasn’t informed enough to be more proactive.  I worked with Eldest at home, but I wasn’t doing nearly enough.  I can’t tell you how much that hurts to admit.

But let me add this.  Even if parents are active in their child’s education, they inherently understand something is wrong and know that their school district is not set up to assist them, somebody still has to pay for the help their child will need to succeed.  I can tell you from experience, it’s not cheap.  We often joke that we paid for Eldest’s first year of college tuition when he attended Sylvan.  Not eveyone can swing that–even if they wanted to.

Yet we can’t escape the cost.  In the long run, the government sponsors prisons and pays subsidies to low-income families.  Kids drop out of school, courts fill with hearings on criminal behavior and the cycle of undereducation continues.  We pay much more to maintain a lifestyle of funtional illiteracy than we would to prevent it in the first place.  Not only financially, but emotionally and socially.

Every day we fail to provide our future doctors, woodworkers, landscapers, dentists, social workers and chemists with the means to reach their potentials.

The ability to read is a gift every child deserves.  Our failure to pass it on is criminal.

If you know a child who struggles to read, I urge you to do something about it.  Learn everything you can.  Encouraage others to do the same.  Understand fully how much of an impact dyslexia has on the child you love.

If you are an educator, talk to your principal.  Ask for training on reading disabilities.  I promise you will look at some kids very differently.  They are not lazy or dumb, apathetic or inherently troublesome.  In fact, they may be some of the brightest kids you will ever have the pleasure to teach.

Here’s a list of 37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia to get you started.

A Note To Parents

Hug your babies each and every day.  No matter how old they get, no matter how much milk they spill or how many toys they forget to pick up, children are the single most precious gifts we have been given.

Never let your last words be angry or hurtful.

Never forget to praise their accomplishments.

Never let a day go by that you don’t show them just how much you care.

And never take them for granted, because one day, when you least expect it, they might be gone.

If you’re the kind to pray, please do so now for this unfortunate family.

My your day be filled with blessings.

Kids 101: for writers and parents

Eldest is in the process of a huge class project for English.  His group is making an infomercial.  Needless to say, our house was the hot spot for filming Butter Nuggets.  Yeah, I know, total slang with a twist.  I’m sure Mr. Henry will approve.

The premise behind this cheesy cracker is that it makes your wish for bigger and better come true.  Just sprinkle Butter Nuggets onto your toy car and *shazowy* it’s a full size Mazda. 

Dipping your toes in the plastic swimming pool not good enough?  *kabam*  It’s a full size watering hole.

My favorite, however, is one Eldest will regret.  One of the gals is talking on her cell phone when her little “brother” (my youngest) annoys the heck out of her.  She wishes for a big brother. 

Enter Eldest, wearing Youngest Son’s outfit from the previous take.  Oh joyful laughfest.  This coming from the kid who refused to wear his rain jacket in kindergarten because someone called him a fireman.  The shirt barely covered his rib cage.  We won’t talk about the shorts.  At least not on the blog.

But it does bring to mind a question for both parents and juvenile lit writers.  How many of us are truly tapped into the world these children are living? 

In so many ways, the world is a different place than when we were growing up.  Kids are immersed in technology.  Friendships are born of ten word texts and virtual games.  Hand held devices are interacted with more fervently than a real person.  We can see this with the naked eye.  

But underneath it all kids are still kids.  They laugh and cry, love and hate and are passionately funny.  Hang with them before writing about them.  Hang with them when raising them.  Get to know them–really know them–and I promise you won’t be disappointed. 

Kids are great people. 

They are smart, friendly and social.  Make them pizza and let them talk.  Crack a root beer and listen.  Make yourself available and you’ll be amazed at how readily they accept you in their lives. 

If you write for kids, you must know your audience.  They are more than your memories and better than the outward signs you see in the mall.  If you are raising them, it is vital to create a connection of communication and respect. 

Laugh with them, love them and enjoy them before they eat too many Butter Nuggets. 

As funny as it was to see the “transformation” of the younger brother to the older brother in the space of an out-take, this section of the infomercial really hit home.  Kids grow up way too fast. 

As parents and/or writers, how do you stay connected to the younger set?  Do you feel it’s important to know kids individually or is it okay to lump them as a whole?  Do you have someone to give you an honest eye roll and let you know you’re on target, or are you guessing based on your own memories?

Because I can tell you that memories are faulty.  If we base our work off them, we will be doomed as writers.  Ditto for parents. 

hugs~ cat

When Novel Fodder Happens

This morning found me on the wrong end of everything.

Dear Daughter needed a ride to school to catch the bus for a baseball tourney.  No problem.  Early morning runs are part of my taxi gig as a mom.  As are late night ones.  And mid day runs.  And I-forgot-my-clarinet runs.  And….  In my next life I’m coming back as my daughter’s daughter to collect my taxi tokens–with interest.

Anyway, I swear I put on more in-town miles in a day than most commuters do in a week.  This means my gas tank dwindles faster than it should.  It dinged at me after the school run yesterday, but I was too rushed to pay attention.  Then, it dinged at me again for the dance trip, and a third time after the movies.  But, I was too tired to stop and fill up.

At 6:00am gas was the farthest thing from my mind when I drug myself out of bed and drove DD to the school.  Which, incidentally is truly the farthest thing from gas in this town.  Every gas station is on one half mile strip of road on the very east part of town.  The school, and my gas-less truck, was on the very west side of town.

And I, with my pink capri jammie pants, green t-shirt, red slippers and bed head was somewhere in between when the engine started coughing.

I had no cell phone.  Never do.  DH is four hours up north fishing, so couldn’t be my knight in a gray Tahoe anyway.  Thankfully my truck spluttered to it’s death in the gas station parking lot.  However, I had no credit card and had to go in to pay.

The only thing that could have added to my morning novel fodder was if my DD’s bus–filled with “hot” baseball players–would have driven by as I stood at the pump.  I would have waved.  She would have hated me. 

As much fun as this would have been, we’d have been even.  And there’s nothing I want more than to come back and collect those taxi tokens.  In the meantime, I’ll settle for torturing her with dancing as I drive.  She loves that–almost as much as I love running out of gas in my jammies.

Hope your day is filled with happiness~ cat