Sunday, December 30, 2012

Post Christmas Meltdown

Today is the day.

Today is the day all my holiday stress comes together to form a ball inside my chest that makes me feel like I'm going to explode.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, what it stands for course, the giving, the wrapping, the tree, the lights...even the snow (it's the only day of the year I like snow, so God, if you miss Christmas with the snow, just keep the rest to yourself please. Thanks). I'm very strategic about my stress attacks. I don't want them ruining Christmas, and I certainly don't want them beginning my new year, so December 30th is the day. Before then, I refuse to let anything about Christmas stress me out. It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? So I don't stress over perfect gifts. I don't stress over the perfect meals, and I absolutely refuse to stress over a clean house.

But then, just like that, Christmas is over, and suddenly all the things I refused to stress over are suffocating me. Dishes from days ago are all over the table and kitchen counters, stale food crumbs seem to be everywhere, and clean and dirty laundry is piled up in every room. The floor is covered with toys; many opened and many still in boxes, the tree I loved so dearly appears to be getting bigger and taking up more space in an area I could otherwise be using to organize this mess, and the snow is laughing in my face, as if to say, "You're stuck there until you clean that mess up!"

And so, as crazy as it may sound, that stress ball festers into this real, live, physical being, tightening inside my chest, and it needs a target of destruction. Today, all my anger lands on that poor defenseless Christmas tree; the very same one I was so overjoyed to decorate just three weeks ago. This afternoon, I felt like I might die if that tree didn't come down today. Jelani doesn't understand. He's loving, and kind, but he just does not understand what it is like to be here day in and day out, with no car for escape, suddenly having twice the stuff you had before, plus a giant, dying pine tree with ornaments sliding off into the floor, a dog tracking in wet footprints several times a day, and the complete inability to focus on any other cleaning task while all you can think about is how you could put to good use that giant space that awful tree is taking up. But my husband, who works, and hasn't had much vacation, has not had time to enjoy the tree, and therefore refused to help me take it down. I'm not complaining. It's understandable, so I sit here, keeping my hands busy, telling you all just how crazy I am, while I shoot sideways daggers at that Christmas tree, which is suddenly to blame for every single mess inside this house. Nothing else can be done until that beast is conquered.

For now, while my blessed children are napping, I shall go read my Bible and ask Jesus to remove this hate from my heart, because the sensible me knows that tree didn't do anything to deserve my inexplicable desire to tear it apart limb from limb and drag it out of my house.

Phew. I feel better already. Thanks. :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Love You, But No

In the spirit of flu season, I've chosen this yucky topic for you all to enjoy.

You should all know something about me. I am not a germaphobe. My children and I often eat foods we've dropped on the floor (and I do not keep an immaculate floor), we play outside and get dirty, we share silverware, and all that typical mommy stuff. But there is one thing that will turn me into the most paranoid germaphobe you've ever met.

I am freakishly terrified of the stomach bug. So much so, that when any of my friends post about having it on facebook, no matter where they are, or what my chances are of ever seeing them, I'm instantly nauseous and lose my appetite. I become incredibly paranoid about catching it, and vow to keep the children away from civilization at all costs. True story.  The bug has been going around at our church and I am contemplating keeping everyone home this Sunday. I am known for saying insensitive things to people who confess to having had it or to someone in their family having it, such as, "Stay away from me!"

So, this morning, when my children decided to "play sick," mostly so they could cuddle up on the couch with their new cuddleuppets, (you know the ones with the jingle that never leaves your head; the blankets that are puppets) it took every ounce of strength I had not to get buckets out to put at their feet and lysol everything they've touched.

Of course they are not really sick. They were pretending, but I must have asked them if they felt like they were going to throw up, about a dozen times in less than five minutes.

See, there's never a good time to get sick. Getting sick sucks, but every time I've ever gotten sick in my lifetime, I've never been able to eat the last things I had before becoming ill. New York style cheesecake and chiavetta's chicken top off that list. I know! Sad, right? So now it is Christmas time, and pure paranoia has kept me from indulging in chocolate treats. Still, it makes me sad to think of all the foods I could never eat again if I got sick right now.

So, right now, while this bug seems to be going around more than usual, I'll pray for you. I know Jesus spent time with the sick and even laid hands on them. He's pretty amazing like that. But me? I sure do love ya, but no. :)

Monday, November 5, 2012


"Who here knows how to juggle? I need a volunteer."

It was our AAU Basketball National Tournament guest speaker. He had on stage with him three basketballs. My teammates began screaming and pointing at me, "She can! She will!"

I was 13 and awkward and hated being in front of people. It was my first year with a new team, and we were at nationals in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They didn't know me well enough to know that they were making me squirm...or maybe they did.

He spotted me, and reluctantly, I made my way to the stage. He went on to speak about how as student athletes, desiring a college scholarship, we needed to know how to juggle our priorities. I stood next to him and he handed me the three basketballs. I juggled them pretty easily.

Then he went on to say, "But not all priorities are created equal." He took the basketballs away. He picked up a softball and a golf ball. "Right now, this one basketball represents your commitment to basketball, maybe. This softball represents school, and maybe this golf ball is your social life and everything else. You're still young yet." He said that last part with a wink. "In a few years, that softball might be basketball, the golf ball your schoolwork, and the basketball..." He smiled really big, "...your boyfriend." We all laughed and, of course, pretended like we didn't care at all about boys. By this point, I knew where he was going, and I was hoping he'd let me sit down.


He handed me a basketball, softball, and golf ball, and told me to juggle those. I lasted about 5 seconds, dropping the golf ball first of course. "And folks, notice she didn't drop the boyfriend!" I think I practically ran off the stage. I didn't want my parents even thinking of the prospect of me even thinking about boys.

I didn't think much about that analogy again until about a year ago, when I saw a gospel singer, Marvin Sapp, interviewed after a performance on Good Morning America. He was asked, as a pastor, husband, father, and musician, how he manages to juggle it all.

He looked surprised. "I don't. If I juggled it, I might drop something." Deep. He explained with his hands, how he prioritizes, "God comes first, then my family, then my church family, then my music career."

Again, I didn't think much about that analogy until this week. My house has recently been messier than ever before. Finding time for a shower is difficult. Am I spending enough time with Elijah on his school work? I'm not making the time consuming home cooked meals I once made. Chastity is acting out. Chastity peed her pants. Why? Where is Chastity. Chastity...Chastity.

And it occurred to me that my juggling skills needed some work. I spend my mornings feeding the baby, getting Elijah ready for school, burping the baby, helping Elijah with his school work, doing whatever laundry and dishes I can get done during a lesson Elijah doesn't need me for, feeding the baby, telling Chastity to "Shush! Elijah needs to be able to hear his lesson."

Chastity was disappearing before my eyes. Most mornings she retreats to her room and reads or plays there, occasionally yelling down to me only to get the response, "Wait, Chastity! Elijah's doing school!" Or, "Shhhhh!"

Next year she will have her own Pre-K curriculum, and will hopefully feel included, but right now...I'm dropping the ball.

So, in an attempt to keep all the balls in the air, I planned a girls day out. It started off with a bang, I took her to the Post Office with me to mail a couple of things, and she always has fun putting the mail in the slots. Then we went to Barnes & Noble to look at books. I didn't go with the intention to buy, but thought we'd just see how the day went. She was quiet, reserved, not quite herself. I was a puppy dog, begging for her approval at every turn. "Chastity, are you having fun? Chastity, did you like that book? Chastity, did you think that was funny?"

Then it occurred to me that this must be what my parents felt like when they tried to do something with me...when I was a teenager. As the night dragged on, I began to panic. Here I am trying to do something special for my daughter who is obviously feeling left out, and she couldn't care less. Awesome.

I had planned on taking her to see the movie, Brave. It was showing in a local cheap theater, and though I was warned that parts were scary, Chastity is tough and scary parts of the Disney movies don't seem to bother her. As movie time approached and we were still browsing the book store, I asked, "Chastity, do you want to just keep reading books, or do you want to go see the movie?"

"Books," she answered, quickly.

I thought, maybe she didn't know what movie we were going to, so I pointed to a book about Brave and showed her, and asked her again. That time she answered movie, and so we headed out the door.

Not 15 minutes into the movie she was telling me she wanted to go home. She was completely unamused. There hadn't even been a scary part yet. I tried explaining some parts to her so she could understand, but then the scary bear entered the scene, and though she still didn't look or act scared, she said again, "I want to go home."

So we left. At this point, neither of us have had dinner and it's almost 7.

"Do you want to stop and get something to eat?"


"Aren't you hungry?"


"You just want to go home?"


I couldn't figure her out. She would normally jump at the chance to go to McDonald's or Mighty Taco.

As a last resort, I asked if she wanted to stop at the store with me. It usually doesn't matter what store. My children have always loved going anywhere.

She said, "Yes."!!! I was excited. I had a chance to redeem myself.

I asked her where she wanted to go, and with zero hesitation she replied, "I want to go back to Barnes & Noble." I never should have left.

We went back, read a few more books. In keeping with the puppy dog trend of the disastrous evening, I allowed her to pick out a book to take home; one that she and Elijah could both enjoy. We, of course, left with the very first book we'd looked at (hours before, during the first visit); a book she knows because her Mimi and PopPop have it and have read it to her, No Jumping on the Bed by an author we sorta, kinda, know, Ted Arnold. Imagine that.

Once we left, I talked her into getting some food. We swung by McDonald's for take out, and came home. As soon as we were through the door, my quiet as a mouse, bored as a teenager, 3-yr-old was all a giggle, talking with Elijah about things I didn't even understand, showing him the book, and telling him all about the book store.

I began to see more clearly. I wasn't the mother boring her and keeping her from her teenage friends. I was the mother keeping her from her best friend, her brother. She wasn't acting out because she wanted my attention. She had been acting out because she missed her brother, her playmate, her friend. Elijah has moved on to school, and even though he's doing it right here at home, Chastity misses him.

We have slowly settled into a routine. Chastity understands now that Elijah needs to do his work, and she's less upset about not having him around in the mornings to play, but I have learned something. It is not about juggling the needs of 3 separate children, nor is it about prioritizing their needs. Some needs do need to be met sooner than others, sure, but it's not about juggling at all. It's about including. The things around us need juggling; the housework, the cooking, the bills, the phone calls, but I shouldn't attempt to juggle my children. There's the obvious concern that I might drop one, but the less obvious is that I won't, but I keep them in their own separate spaces, orbiting around me, when all they really want is to be together. There will come a time when quality time with each of them individually will become more important, and an even sadder time when they will just want to be with their friends, so now is the best time to nurture the family unit. Right now, we are more like magnets, sometimes needing to be turned around and shoved together, but ultimately wanting that more than anything. Chastity is happiest when included. She might color while Elijah does school work, or she might help me with Isaac, but pulling her away all together was a surefire way straight into middle child syndrome.

Instead of going out individually, we'll find something we can all enjoy together, because 9 times out of 10, when we're all gathered at the dinner table, and we ask Chastity and Elijah, "What did you do today that was fun?" they respond with, "I'm having fun right now!" 

Smaller things will always come along that require juggling, but this is one thing I won't risk dropping. Besides, magnets are a far more complimentary comparison than balls.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I think many people who sorta kinda know me are under the mistaken impression that I have it all figured out. To you I say, "Na na na na naaaa na! Fooled ya!"

There was only one time in my life when I thought I had it all figured out. I was 5, and I just knew I was going to play Division I basketball, be an Olympian, be the first girl to play in the NBA (there was no WNBA back then, kids, I'm that old), and then settle down into a nice college coaching job. It seemed easy enough, and by my senior year of high school, those things all seemed within reach. I had signed to play at a Division I program in Buffalo, and the WNBA had been established (I'd settle for that).

Yet here I am, age 30, writing about babies, poop, and spit up. A good night's sleep and finding time to shower each day are the dream.

I always knew I wanted a family. Ever since high school I knew I wanted four children. But never, in all the scenarios I'd run through my mind, was I without a career. Never, in a million years would I have planned to be a stay at home mom. I considered myself a strong, career-minded woman, and though I was a hopeless romantic, I could be fiercely independent. This is not to say that stay-at-home moms are not strong by any means, but I think you understand what I'm saying...hopefully. :) Anyway, if the WNBA didn't work out, my only back up plan was to be a writer, which was why I ultimately chose English as my college major.

My basketball career ended early due to injury, and after that, I had no desire to continue my education beyond my bachelor's. Fun fact: not much on this earth you can do with a bachelor's in English, my friends. Not long after graduating, I found myself working customer service at an airport in Charlotte. I met a former NBA player while working there who was willing to help get me back in shape if I still wanted to pursue basketball. Jelani was a supportive husband, so I began trying different physical therapy techniques for my ankle, and tried to make a go of it. In order to fully pursue this I switched to part-time at the airport which left a gap in my insurance coverage until I could be put on Jelani's. Because we had just married that summer, and I was never added to his insurance because I had my own, we now had to wait until the 1st of the year. Once I ran out of birth control, I sort of struck a deal with God. That's a strange sentence, but stay with me. My ankle wasn't getting much better. Maybe I was just too impatient, or maybe I had an itch God was trying to help me with, but with one month left before I would be on Jelani's insurance, I prayed, "God, if you want me to pursue basketball, please heal my ankle, but if you don't, send me a clear sign letting me know I need to move on with my life...get me pregnant." I was half kidding. I sort of expected that things would go on as usual, with me trying to nurse a pained ankle, still uncertain of why I was doing it or if anything would ever come of my efforts, but less than a month later, I became pregnant with Elijah. That was pretty clear.

In the course of five years I had transitioned from a tough-as-nails athlete to a thick skinned customer service employee to a loving wife to a nurturing mother. And from the outside looking in, all of these transitions may have seemed seamless. Trust me, they were not.

I continued to fight for dead dreams. Dreams are good, but I learned that my dreams were not always a part of God's plan for my life. Still, I fought. I had no contacts within college coaching and my injury had left me sidelined for the last two years of my career. By the time I graduated, most peolple didn't even recognize me as one of the basketball players. Still, after graduating, I applied to college coaching jobs all over the country. I didn't hear back from any of them. While working at the airport in Charlotte, I once ran into the UNC Charlotte women's basketball team, and tried to make contacts with them to no avail. Then there was the former NBA player who tried to train me, up until I became pregnant.

Life was moving in a completely different direction than I had planned. I was putting my trust in God in ways I never had before. I'd never been faced with so much uncertainty. Like I said, I had it all figured out when I was five years old. I worked hard for those dreams, so it never occurred to me that life wouldn't end up as I had planned it.

Today I am a stay at home mom with three children. I've managed a budget with little to no income for over two years. I'm now a homeschool teacher for my son. I make and sell crocheted items and other crafts (crochet? never would have dreamed that up in a million years). Some days I don't have time for a shower. Many days, I wear nothing but gym clothes (well, I guess that's never really changed). We've moved 7 times in 7 years. We've dealt with job loss and mounting debt. And while I love my life, my family, my friends; I would be lying if I said each change, each transition was seamless. Each one came with new challenges. I have struggled with feeling irrelevant and unimportant, having nothing to offer society. I have repeatedly dealt with uncertainty, questioning God's calling on my life, or if I even had one. I've had days when I wanted to lock myself in my room with a pile of books and a pile of movies. I have been all over the grid, trying my hand at multiple business ideas, attempting to contribute to this world and my family's income. Earlier, in the beginning of my stay-at-home mom life, I actually took scissors to my own hair, crazy whack-job style in the middle of a sleepless night. I was practically laughed out of the salon the next day.

The truth is, it has been difficult for me not to feel like a failure, having left my hometown 11 years ago, with such ambition and determination. The transitions haven't always been easy, and they're certainly not seamless, but I have learned something about myself with each one, growing within each seam. Sometimes I have to tear it out and try again. Sometimes I have to learn how to let go and scrap a project. So I find comfort in those seams. It is in those seams I know God has taken care of me. It's in those seams I've had to relinquish control and allow God to guide the needle and thread. 

Some people fulfill dreams even they themselves couldn't have imagined, and become great, worldly successes. Others are called to great ministries, leading thousands, maybe millions where they better countless lives. My life is not always (it's never) glamorous. When I look back on all of my seams, the obvious ones, and the ones which only I can see, they become a road map of where I've been, who I am, and what God calls me to each day. The thing is, I don't have it all figured out. He does, and He has made me a wife, a mommy, a teacher, a chef, occasional seamstress. So if His calling for me never leaves my living room, wherever that may be, I am finally ok with that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Bobble Head Effect

An age old rule with babies is to be careful with their heads. For centuries women have been passing their babies to be held saying, "Watch his head!"

This rule makes sense, but I have to admit, I have become less and less careful with each child. Not negligent or dangerous, mind you, but I have learned that they are much tougher than anyone has ever given them credit for.

With my first, I tread lightly. I treated his head as if the self destruct button was right there in plain sight. For the first weeks of his life, I was very gentle dressing him. Anything that needed to be pulled over his head was done so delicately, and it terrified me to pick him up from under his arms, as though his head might just flop right off if I didn't get a hand or arm behind it immediately.

Now that I have had my third baby, I've come to realize that the reason people so carefully say, "Watch the head!" is not because their heads are so delicate, but rather because they can be used as a serious weapon of destruction. The issue is not in the head so much as it is the neck. The neck is weak and wobbly, creating a bobble head effect in which the head is like a bowling ball. This becomes dangerous mainly while they are upright and burping, because with each pat on the back the head wobbles every which way until finally connecting with some part of your face. If you are lucky they get a fleshy part, such as your cheek, but often times I have been left with a bruised jaw, throbbing ear, or (the worst), tear inducing hit to the nose. I once had a sore nose for a year after Elijah (one year at the time) jumped into me just as I was crouching down. I'm pretty sure he gave me a minor fracture, and while I was left with those embarrassing uncontrollable tears, he ran off, unaware of any damage. Like I said, much tougher than we give them credit for.

As a general rule, the worse the gas, the worse the wobble. I've always thought that the burp clothes were a joke. My babies couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with their spit up. I've always had to use receiving blankets as burp clothes, and I could be wearing a turtle neck, and they'd somehow still find my skin.

The other night, I was certain Isaac had made my chest his target. He was wobbling harder than ever, squirming all over my chest. I couldn't seem to get him to burp, but he was determined to get something out. He was fussing, climbing up my chest with his knees, and blatantly pulling the blanket away from my chest, seemingly aiming straight for the cleavage. Just as I thought he had calmed down, his head slammed into my jaw causing me to turn away from the sting, and in that same moment the burp was well as the spit up. Target acquired, little fella. Target acquired.

He instantly went to sleep, while I was sopping up the mess with the completely dry blanket he had so conveniently missed.

So...all you mommies out the heads. They are dangerous and sometimes explosive weapons.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homeschool For Mommy

In recent weeks, a few things have been brought to my attention, bringing my intelligence into question (such as right, now when I tried to type "intelligence" and spell check had to remind me how to do it).

Anyway, I began homeschooling Elijah at the beginning of the month. This homeschool curriculum (couldn't spell that either), begins teaching cursive in Pre-K and Kindergarten. They believe it is actually easier to learn that first because of the swift, fluid motions and rarely picking up the pencil. It makes sense really. The teacher's manual asks that the homeschool instructor writes the student's name on the top of his school work until he has learned how to write it himself. It actually referred me to a guide where I could get a refresher on how to write cursive letters in order to do it properly, thus enforcing good writing habits in my child. I didn't need that. I was a pro. Besides, it's not like there are any particularly tricky letters in the name, "Elijah."

So I wrote it on his very first assignment:

But even as I wrote it, I realized I was not as confident as I thought I should be. See that house? This is taught by referring to the upstairs, downstairs, and basement, so the children get the reference of where their pencils should start and stop with each letter. As I have gone farther into the lessons, I have realized there are many things wrong with how I wrote his name, and so I have had to refer to the silly guide.

Would you look at that? Huh. As it turns out, I didn't remember the proper way to write about 90% of the capital letters. In fact, I don't ever remember learning to put two different loops in my capital E, my 'j' was supposed to touch the basement floor and didn't, and my letters were supposed to be slanted (you  must slant your paper for proper effect), and they weren't. FAIL. Also, would you look at that Q. It looks like my number 2, which is also wrong according to this guide.

This upset me. I used to be a really good speller. I hardly ever missed a word on spelling exams from elementary through high school. That was already going down hill, and now I realized I no longer knew how to write properly. Bummer.

But it gets worse. About a year and a half ago, my parents bought Elijah a box of K'Nex that was meant for children over the age of 5. They figured it would be something fun for us to do with him. It turned into something he would only do with us because the pieces were so small and the designs so elaborate, that he couldn't really make much with them at the age of 3. This then turned into something only Jelani could do with him because I quickly learned that I couldn't design a single one of the planes or cars that were pictured in the instruction manual. I couldn't even figure out how to get the wheels attached to the legos so that they would rotate properly. Jelani laughed at me, and I gave up. I don't like doing things I'm not instantly good at. True story.

Then the other day, Elijah got an early birthday present from Aunt Kristin and Uncle Stew. It was a younger version of K'Nex designed for 3 and up.

We dumped the box out and I began exploring what could be built. In no time at all I had built a helicopter, a race car, and a truck.

Look what I can do.

So, as it turns out, ages 3 and up is more my speed.

I have decided I am incredibly grateful for homeschooling. If not for homeschooling my children, my mind might just continue turning to mush until my level of intelligence (darn spell check popped up again) is comparable to an infant. Now I have the chance to relearn everything I forgot I ever learned. Who knows...maybe by the end of the year I will be brave enough to get out the 5 and up K'Nex again.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


When I was 4 years old, and in preschool, my parents were called in to talk with my teacher around graduation time. I was going to be 5 that August, and so, logically, would be beginning kindergarten. The teacher, God bless her, put it somewhat delicately to my parents that while I was quite smart, and there were no concerns about me academically, I was...well...socially backwards. While other kids loved playing with each other and participating in all of the hands-on activities, I would cower in the corner, and often even cry at the idea of interacting with others. I actually remember crying about not wanting to finger paint, or maybe, wanting to, but being afraid and nervous to do something that involved interacting with others. I was shy to the point of craziness, and, though I would meet the September 1st cut off by three weeks, the teacher advised my parents to hold me back a year and repeat Pre-K. I was too young to be embarrassed about it, but I'm a little embarrassed now, to admit that my parents now have two videos of me graduating Pre-K. Though I absolutely refused to get up and go get my diploma...both years...I guess they felt it was important that I still participate in the ceremony.

I grew out of that. Basketball helped me to come out of my shell, ever so slowly, and by high school I was participating in skits and plays and making a fool of myself in front of the whole school just for fun. I excelled both athletically and academically thanks to (I believe) that extra year, and I'm really grateful for that decision my parents made all those years ago. Now, in an age when everything has a diagnosis, I'm very glad that they didn't have me tested for being such an oddly, abnormal child.

Now, about 25 years later, I realize that in the past 5 or 6 years, I have slowly reverted back to that awkward little girl, who would cry at the thought of playing with people she didn't know. Becoming a mother has enriched my life in more ways than I can even count, but in one small way, it has hindered my growth as a productive person of society. My priorities have rightly shifted. Spending time with my kids and my husband, and getting sleep, have become the most important aspects of my worldly life. At one point, while living in North Carlina, I could sometimes go weeks without any stimulating adult conversation. I had Jelani who was exhausted after work in the evenings, and one friend whose little girl I watched. Sometimes she'd stay and visit when picking up her daughter, but often she had to get right home (and who could blame her), to eat and get her daughter ready for bed to do it all over again the next day. I slowly reverted back to that shy and awkward little girl. And let me tell you, social awkwardness is not nearly as endearing in a grown woman.

In college, given one night, I could have a new best friend. We'd bond over fashion, sports, or sometimes even just the same interests in men (boys). Instant friends. I have some great memories with people I have never seen again since. Now I laugh as I realize that it just took me 3 years to become friends with a handful of women from our church who I now, occasionally hang out with outside of church! THREE YEARS! Part of that is just being busy, and not having as much free time to just get together last minute. Things like that need to be planned weeks in advance now, around children, husbands, jobs, and family commitments. Maybe it's a good thing it has taken this long to get to know these ladies, because they've had less time to observe my serious awkwardness.

See, last summer, Jelani finally made plans to get together with an old college friend of his and his wife. They hadn't seen each other since our wedding in 2006, and I had never hung out with them at all. We were having a great time with them. They had a daughter about Elijah's age, and the kids were having fun as well. At one point Jelani stayed at the table chatting with his old college friend, and I went out to the swing set with his friend's wife and the kids. We got into a conversation about birthday cake because her daughter's birthday was coming up and she was getting her cake from Wegman's. I'm not sure if I just didn't know how to contribute to the conversation, or if my brain just took a major break on me, but I mentioned how I make and decorate the kids' birthday cakes every year, and I wouldn't feel right buying a cake now because of the standard I had set for myself. I didn't say that exactly, but that's probably as bad as it sounded. What a pretentious cake snob I must have seemed to her! She gave me a strange look. I instantly knew that what I had said sounded so much worse than what I had meant, but, not really knowing how to fix it, I changed the subject. We haven't heard from them since, and I don't know if that's just because life is busy, or because I'm a moron.

Wegman's cakes are awesome!! She's a working mom! I don't judge that at all. I set that standard for myself because that's just what I do. I'm home, I have the time, plus I love to bake. But I'm absolutely positive that what I said, in that moment, sounded like, "You suck as a mom because you don't make homemade cakes for your child's birthdays." Open mouth. Insert foot.

Similarly, while telling a story to some church friends about when Elijah was a baby in North Carolina, I made a comment about how where we were living at the time was the Mexican capital of North Carolina....??? I know, right? I merely meant that Concord, NC has a very high population of Mexicans. I did not mean it negatively in any way, but for a brief moment (though I may have imagined it) there was an awkward pause and at least one subtle gasp. I continued with my story and chose to ignore it. I later e-mailed the ladies involved in the dialogue, who all laughed at me and understood. Pheww.

I also, may have recounted a story from high school about how a deer used me and my dad's van to commit suicide three days before hunting season....get a funeral of a friend who had, in fact, committed suicide. I had told that story multiple times before, but at that moment, it was wildly inappropriate. We went from laughing and reminiscing about that accident years ago, to an awkward silence in which I felt like a total, insensitive, jerk face. Again, I moved on, choosing to ignore it. At that point, I'm pretty sure I would have made things worse by apologizing and drawing more attention to it, but who knows.

This is why I have a soft spot for politicians who are constantly teased for sticking their foots in their mouths in one way or another. They very well may not have meant what you thought they meant, and, speaking from experience, taken out of context, just about anything can sound pretentious, insensitive, or discriminatory.

There are others I refuse to open to public scrutiny, and others still, I am sure, that I don't even remember. If you are someone who has been negatively affected by my social awkwardness, I sincerely apologize. And for the friends I still have, regardless of this disease, I am grateful. Perhaps when my kids grow up and leave home, I will relearn the skill of interacting with others, but for now, I will talk to you from behind my computer (sometimes still awkward) and cry about wanting to hang out with you, but being terrified to do so, at the same time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Udder Classic

Since bringing Isaac home from the hospital, there has been an ongoing dialogue about breastfeeding in this house. Though we try to remain tactful and careful about our wording, most conversations are completely uncensored.

See, a long time ago, maybe over a year ago now, Elijah discovered nipples. I say 'discovered' because it was literally as if he had never noticed them before. He was in the bath tub and suddenly asked, "Hey! What are these?" as he looked down at his chest.

I stuttered, not really knowing how to respond other than honestly, so I answered, "Uh...well...nipples."

He then noticed them on Chastity too, because they bathe together, and so the question turned to, "Do you have them too, Mommy?"


"Can I see them?"


"Does Daddy have them too?"


"Oh. Yeah. I have seen his," he said, matter-of-factly.

We then had the conversation about why boys can take their shirts off and girls cannot.

Once, after that, Elijah used the word "nipple" in a random context, just goofing off, and we both protested. I could just picture my child singing a song about nipples in church. After all, after Elijah discovered that boys have a penis and girls do not, he spent a couple of months asking the men in our family,"Do you have a penis?"

"Don't talk about nipples!" Jelani and I both yelled to him, and so, being the good listener that he is, he didn't bring it up again.

But now, the topic has resurfaced. When I first brought Isaac home, and he was still learning how to latch and stay latched to me for nursing, I had difficulty using the udder cover I had purchased specifically for keeping Elijah and Chastity out of my business. Yes, it's a blanket that covers the breasts (and baby) while breastfeeding, and it is, in fact, called an udder cover. Do I like the fact that my breasts are now thought of in the same context as the udders of a cow? No, I do not, but can we just move on? Thanks.

Anyway, quite tired of the battle of trying to keep hem...udder cover over us while Isaac thrashed and lost his latch repeatedly, I stopped using it for a day or two just so that we could get the hang of this first. Hoping to keep the kids out of my face about it, I announced that I needed a little privacy, at least until the baby was on and eating, and that they should stay on the floor playing. Well done. That was like announcing to some middle school boys that you were going to take your shirt off, but that they shouldn't look. The pull of curiosity was too strong. Elijah was trying very hard to be a gentlemen, so he would cover his eyes when he talked to me, but Chastity ran right over to me and leaned over my lap while I was trying to feed the baby.

Looking somewhat disgusted, Chastity exclaimed, "Mommy! Why did you put that in his mouth?!"

I explained that that was where the baby got his milk from.

Elijah then chimed in, having seen his cousin take a bottle, "No, babies get milk from bottles."

"Well, some babies do," I responded.

Elijah looked conflicted. "But Isaac gets it from your...your...?" He trailed off, not knowing what to call them.

I didn't finish his sentence, but Chastity did, "Nipples!" she proclaimed.

"We're not supposed to talk about nipples, Chastity!" Elijah yelled.

Oh boy. I explained to him that it was ok, and that Chastity wasn't exactly wrong. Jelani was laughing.

"Why are you laughing, Daddy?" Elijah asked. "Is it because I said, 'nipples?'"

Neither one of us could control ourselves at that point, and I had to come to terms with the fact that my children, as well behaved as they may be, just might be the children in church to inform everyone about nipples.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It Pays to Poop

When you look up information about potty training, no one really tells you how long it's going to take. Do you know why that is? Because no one really knows! A doctor will tell you that girls tend to potty train between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. But boys? From 18 months through 4 years. And no one really talks about the worst case scenario; actually taking all the way through 4 years. Let me tell you, it happens.

Elijah was two and a half when he began staying dry through the night and throughout nap. I got really excited thinking this was going to be a piece of cake. By 3 he was wearing his "big boy pants" all day and all night, but we still had issues with him pooping. The basic problem; he didn't want to. He would hold it until it made him sick, and little bits would sneak out occasionally in his underwear. Then, when he would try to go, it was so much that it would hurt. He then became afraid of pooping, and thus began the vicious cycle.

Between ages 3 and 4 we had moments where we thought we'd concurred this beast. Every now and then he would tell us he had to go, and he'd go, and we would praise God with a joyful noise, certain that we'd turned a corner. But then he'd go back to business as usual. We never knew when it was going to strike. I would try to keep track of when he had pooped last so that as we neared the end of that week, we'd avoid taking him anywhere so as to avoid having to clean up a mess in a public place. Our method worked quite well, usually, unless we took him to a playground. Apparently it's a lot harder to squeeze the poop back in while you're running around and the muscles are loose.

By age 4 and a half, when this battle still hadn't been won, I was at my wits' end. In the time it was taking to potty train Elijah, Chastity began and nearly finished potty training, taking her just over a year. Now we were about to have another baby, and I refused to go on cleaning poop out of Elijah's underwear weekly. I had tried a sticker chart, chocolate candies, and various punishments. Nothing had worked, but then, an opportunity presented itself; an opportunity that I shamefully grabbed a hold of.

For Elijah's third birthday we had gotten him a beta fish. He thought it was the coolest thing. Unfortunately, only a few months after he'd gotten him, the poor fish suffered a horrible death. In our previous apartment, we didn't have heat in the bedrooms. We went out of town for the weekend in the middle of winter and had left the bedroom doors shut. Betas need to be warm, and so, when we returned Sunday night, the poor thing was gone. We disposed of it before Elijah had even seen it, and later explained to him that his fish had gone to be with Jesus.

"Like Great Grandpa?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered.
"Like Patch (my parents' dog)?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered again.

And that was the end of that conversation. During the course of the year that followed he would ask about his fish again, and I'd give him the same answer, but then he started thinking about it harder.

"But, Mommy, it's my fish. When is Jesus going to give it back?"
"Well, when things go to be with Jesus, we won't see them again until we go to be with Jesus too." I don't know why, but I was seriously trying to avoid any word within the word family of "dead." In hindsight, I realize I should have been more clear.

Then, in June (Elijah now 4 years and 8 months), he spent some time in children's church with the older kids, and they talked about Heaven. It was then that he finally asked the right question, one I couldn't avoid: "Mommy, why did my fish go to Heaven?"

I panicked. I ransacked my brain's thesaurus for any word other than "died," but I came up with nothing. I couldn't avoid it any longer. "Well," I responded, slowly, "because he died." The word seemed to hang, suspended in the air, slowly coming out of my mouth, as I watched it register with my, not quite 5 year old son. And then, one year and five months after the fish had "gone to be with Jesus," Elijah crumpled down on the couch and sobbed, because for the first time, he understood what that meant.

It broke my heart. I wanted to instantly run out and buy him another fish, but I was conflicted, because that very same afternoon, he had another one of his "I refuse to poop" accidents. I couldn't reward him for that. And that is when the evil, shameful plot entered into my mind.

Jelani and I discussed it, and agreed. We got a piggy bank out and told Elijah that every time he pooped, when he had to poop, without pooping in his pants at all, he could put a quarter in the bank. Once he had enough, he could buy a new fish for his tank. We had to emphasize the "when he has to poop" part, because that was the problem. He needed to stop holding it and just go, even if that meant he had to stop playing for a minute, and even if it meant pooping every day!

Chastity wanted to get in on the action, and at the time she was still wearing a diaper to bed. She would sometimes wake up dry, and other times not, and so we told her every morning she woke up dry, she too could put a quarter in the bank for a fish. The tank had a divider, so they could both pick out a fish when they had enough money. It proved helpful for Chastity, and I immediately realized she was peeing in her diaper out of convenience, not because she was actually sleeping through it. We were able to transition her to big girl pants for bed within a week.

Even more miraculously though, Elijah never pooped in his pants again, and he began pooping in the potty every single day...sometimes even twice a day! Putting money in that bank became the number one priority, even above receiving a chocolate candy. Beta fish vary in price, so we just got a $10 roll of quarters out of our account, and agreed that once that was emptied into their bank, we'd let them pick out fish.

After about a month, we'd reached the goal, and headed out to a local fish place. They were thrilled.

Meet Fishy Fish and Housey House. <---I have no idea...

Because of my shameful plot, I believe it was doomed from the start. Strangely, Fishy Fish and Housey House only lived 3 days, leaving this Mommy to explain death yet again to, not one, but now two devastated little children. Thankfully, the pet store replaced them free of charge because...well, that's not supposed to happen.

So here's Fishy Fish II and Housey House II. Of course they kept the names.

We've had them for over a month now, and they are doing great. More importantly though, both children were completely cured of all potty training issues before baby #3 joined us. Elijah continues to ask to put money in the bank after pooping. It's not always quarters now, but whatever we have lying around.

I have children who have been conditioned to crave chocolate immediately after pooping, and now they believe that it pays to poop.

What has Mommy learned? Keep trying until you find something that works!   

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Redefining Productivity

Every night at dinner we have a little family tradition that gets the conversation rolling. We ask each other, "What did you do today that was fun?" To be honest, I don't even know how that began, but each night I look forward to the kids' answers. Lately, they've had difficulty coming up with stuff, and that has made me sad.

When I was a little kid, a productive day involved filthy bare feet and dirty hair from running around outside and swinging upside down. As I got older, priorities changed. In high school and college, a productive day involved finished school work and a successful basketball practice or workout. After college it was a solid work day and a relatively clean apartment.

These days, as a stay at home mom, I've found that my priorities and my definition of productivity have been skewed by the fact that I don't have a job. Because I don't go to work with a 9 to 5 each day, I don't feel productive unless the sink is empty, the floor is vacuumed, the laundry done, and the clutter picked up. When I don't do these things, or am unable to do all these things such as right now, post-baby, I don't feel productive at all. In fact, I feel pretty lousy about myself and what I have to offer my family.

With Elijah's homeschooling officially beginning on Tuesday, and a newborn baby in tow, I'm realizing that my definition of productivity needs to change. My children have a right to the fun that I had as a child, even if we don't have a big back yard all to ourselves. My children have a right to be able to sit at the dinner table with an endless list of things they did that were fun. Today, amidst heaps of laundry, unmade beds, dirty dishes, and endless clutter, I made a choice. Chastity asked for pig tails today, which was a daunting task given the amount of days her hair went without the proper care. I sat with her and did her hair during Word World. The kids wanted to practice using scissors. I let them cut up tiny scraps of paper until the floor was covered in shreds of blue and pink. They wanted to go to the park. I put Isaac in the sling and we turned our backs on the mess, and I watched them dig through sand, run around barefoot, and swing upside down while giggling at each other.

That was all before 1, and now, as they nap, I can't help but feel like this has been the most productive day I've had in months. As it turns out, I have a lot more to offer my family than a distracted "Wait until I'm done with fill in the blank."

When school starts next week, I must remember this feeling. I look forward to spending that quality time with them, teaching them, and molding minds. I must force myself not to freak out when people might stop by, and hope that they understand that the Greene household is well lived in and cluttered with love. =)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hurricane Isaac

There was a great deal of build up for this storm. It was slow moving, and anticipation was high. Friends and family alike were anxious, and many were praying.

After weeks of build up, one drill, and many false alarms, its much awaited arrival finally hit home. It was bigger than ever anticipated...

...and the cuteness took us all by storm.

Please welcome Isaac Carl! He was born August 20 at 8:21 pm, weighing 9 lbs 11 oz, and 21.5 inches tall. God answered many prayers with this delivery! Though Isaac was late, and big, he came on his own, the labor was brief, and Mommy's recovery has been the easiest yet (no stitches!).  He is a very happy and content baby, not really living up to the storm hype. However, maybe one day, he will be some awesome athlete, and everyone will call him "The Hurricane." A mommy can dream. ;-)

FYI, he was here and named before the storm, and this blog is cheesy, but I just couldn't help myself. =)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I am NOT Penn State

I did not graduate from Penn State. No one in my immediate family or my husband's immediate family graduated from Penn State. I have never really followed Penn State football closely. I know very little about Joe Paterno's legacy, statistics, and program. I was not recruited by their women's basketball program when I had hoped to be, very much. Really, aside from attending a few of their basketball camps, meeting Paterno briefly in passing (not really even knowing who he was at the time), and growing up in the same state of Pennsylvania, I have zero ties to the university. I am not a defender of Penn State's pride, or of Joe Pa's legacy. I'm a defender of the truth.

And so, I am utterly appalled at the way this child abuse case has been handled, the complete lack of due process, the amount of control the media has been allowed in such a sensitive story, and the amount of people willing to assume the absolute worst of a man who has done so many great things.

I have always considered myself a two-sides-of-the-story (maybe more) girl. Maybe it's the writer in me, or my journalist instincts, but when people in my life have hurt me or my family, or people I've known do things I don't agree with, I still try to find the good and try desperately to get the whole story. I'm not perfect at this, especially with family, but I tend to ask a lot of questions, not because I'm nosy or because I'm finding ways to judge them, but because I'm genuinely seeking the truth. Every now and then there is a public case, such as this Penn State scandal, that sparks that same truth seeking, question asking, nature in me, and I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about it. Often times I'm viewed as taking a side (the wrong side), when in fact I'm trying to show all sides, and hopefully enlighten some people along the way. Do I expect people to always agree with me? Absolutely not. But I would hope that some would try to understand and respect what I have to say.

Please forgive my lack of sites. Google is not currently working on my computer, so I can't look up all of the stuff that I once read to link it up here to this blog, but feel free to google anything I say here. It is all at your disposal.

Lets start at the beginning. Before any facts were out or released, the media jumped all over it, declaring it a "cover up." Might they have been right? Sure, and they still could be, but it was not their place to skip over the due process, skip over the facts and/or evidence, and make that judgment call. Piers Morgan on CNN stated, without any facts to back it up, that, "Clearly we have a cover up here." I'm sorry, you were a British journalist when now? Your credentials here are America's Got Talent. Clearly that qualifies you to speak about Penn State, live, on CNN without any proof to back up such a bold statement. Moving on.

The very first thing that media chose to ignore was the fact that Paterno did go directly to his superiors, one of which was head of campus police at the time. Perhaps he did not go to them fast enough for your judgmental accusations, but keep in mind, he did not actually witness the abuse himself. Put your finger pointing self in his shoes for just a moment. He received very serious allegations about a friend and trusted colleague; accusations that, true or not, had the ability to destroy a career and a life. Hindsight is 20/20. It's really easy for all of us to sit here and say, "Well, they should have handled it more swiftly, and brought the ax down on Sandusky immediately," but what if...just what if...what they had heard wasn't true? I have known a teacher who's career was wrecked because of one child who decided to say he touched him inappropriately. He lost his job, left town, and a year or so later, that child admitted that he had made the whole thing up. It is possible that Paterno and his superiors used discretion where this was concerned, and took their time in making decisions based upon something that they had no real facts or evidence of at the time of the first known incident. Obviously, Sandusky's crimes have been proven to be true, so it makes it really easy for us to anger quickly and point our fingers at people when we've likely never been, nor will we ever be in their position.

The ongoing debate I keep hearing from everyone is that Paterno failed to report this. False. When the media first grabbed a hold of this story they repeatedly said that he merely went to his boss, but not the authorities. I'd like to make two points here. First and foremost, a fact that most of the media has left out is that one of Paterno's superiors he spoke with was Gary Schultz, who, at that time, was, in fact, the head of the campus police. You can find that information in the Grand Jury report, as well as the fact that the prosecutors stated that Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation and requirements. My second point is this; there is a specific protocol that is to be followed in cases like this. I have had some current and former teachers attest to this. My dad, who taught for 34 years, informed me that if any abuse of a child was suspected in any way, shape, or form, he was to go directly to the school's counselor; not the police or authorities, the counselor. From there the matter would be handled, it was deemed private, and unless called upon to testify in any way, he was to remain out of it and was no longer informed of the proceedings. That protocol is in place for a legal reason, and if you have a problem with that, and with who Paterno went to, maybe what should be changed is that protocol. Maybe we should all demand that it change, and that harsher actions take place immediately, because unfortunately, many pedophiles likely slip through the cracks because protocol is followed, but then no victims come forth, or no charges are actually filed.

Since the Freeh Report has been released, everyone has jumped all over the "incriminating" e-mails. Have you read them? They are incredibly vague, and they take place mostly between Curley, Schultz, and Spanier after Paterno had notified them of what he knew. The particular e-mail that most are referencing is written by Curley. Now, if Curley truly believed that Paterno tried to convince him to cover this up, why on earth would he be quoted at Paterno's funeral, stating what an honest man of integrity Paterno was? He just destroyed his own case, and suddenly Paterno is no longer his scape goat. 

Many people also disagree with the way Sandusky's retirement was handled. First of all they believe he should have been fired immediately, and not allowed to retire, but then they are also angry with the fact that he was still granted access to the facility and still trusted to be responsible for little boys. Everyone wants to blame Paterno for all of this, and maybe he could have made more of a stink about it, but what Sandusky was given in retirement was not really up to him. Just as in any university, that is the decision of the administration. And given what we now know about the protocol followed, it is possible that Paterno believed it had already been handled. The incidences that occurred after his retirement occurred within his Second Mile Charity, and his alleged crimes and accusations had been reported to them in 2001. Paterno had no control over that charity, and yet they continued to allow Sandusky responsibility of those boys for another decade! 

Another argument I hear repeatedly, which has very little to do with whether or not Paterno is actually guilty here, is that the Penn State faithful have forgotten about the true victims, the suffering children. FALSE. Though the emotions in this case are very closely tied, and you may see them as one and the same, these are separate issues for the Penn State community. They are not the heartless bunch you'd like to believe they are in your own blind rage. They do not only care about football and the Paterno legacy, or the reputation of the university, but they do have the right to care. They have the right to mourn and be upset about all that has transpired and how this affects them and possibly their children who are currently enrolled there. They have the right to be saddened by the damage one man's crime has done to what was once a highly regarded educational institution, without being accused of being heartless. Their focus on Paterno, and what you might call a disregard for Sandusky's innocent victims stems from the media's focus on Paterno. Do not forget who turned the spotlight onto Paterno and his family in the very beginning, before any of the facts were even made public. Sandusky has faced judgment, but where the media and public eye are concerned he's had it a heck of a lot easier than the Paterno family. The double standard of this astounds me. Penn State is heartless for being saddened by this turn of events within their community, yet you calling them heartless, and disregarding their feelings in the matter, and even sometimes saying that "it's a good thing Paterno is dead," and "he got what he deserved," are not heartless actions? I think that most of us have been affected by child abuse in one way or another. It may have been you personally, or it may have been a close family member or friend, but we've all been touched by it somehow, and no one takes it lightly. So to throw around such hurtful accusations about the PSU community is ignorant, close-minded, and judgmental. I am just being honest.

Let's say, for a moment, that Paterno is absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, guilty of covering up Sandusky's crimes. Then, his family is not only mourning the death of a father and husband without any peace, but then they have to face the shocking reality that he was never the man they thought he was. It is my personal opinion, that the lack of compassion that has been shown his family, his friends, and his community is heartless.

Now we have the issue of punishment, and more innocent children will suffer at the hands of Sandusky's crime. So many people believe that Penn State is getting exactly what they deserve, but lets say that even if all of the administration has been proven to have covered this up, do you really believe that the current student athletes there deserve to have their dreams, careers, and lives torn apart by something they had nothing to do with? It is nothing compared with what those young victims already suffered, but how can a community move on from this by continuing to destroy young lives in some way?    

I do not believe that we currently know enough to incriminate Paterno in a cover up, but I am not afraid to admit that I could be wrong. It is possible that Paterno had a hand in covering this up, but let the facts determine that, not some vague e-mails between others or misquotes and phrases taken out of context by the media. That is the difference between me and the majority. The majority will shake their angry fingers believing they know absolutely everything about everything, and never for a second think it possible, that they could be wrong. People are blinded by rage because of the disgusting things Sandusky did, and the truth right now, as I see it, is that in the public eye, you can't do enough to punish Sandusky, and so Paterno becomes the example, the fall guy, because he, and now his family, stands the most to lose.

All of that being said, if Joe Pa is half the man that his family, friends, and the Penn State faithful believe him to be, nothing I've said here even matters. If he were alive today, he would graciously take the fall here. After all, he handled his very disrespectful firing over the phone with more grace and dignity than anyone has handled the rest of this case. If he is who he is believed to be, by his supporters, he would let them take any worldly thing from him they could, because nothing is more important, more devastating, more heartbreaking than he suffering that those poor, innocent boys had to and continue to endure.

Whatever Paterno's involvement, remember that many great people in history have made very grave mistakes, and we have not removed their memory from our history books, or blotted out all of the good that they did from the records. Remember that David, a man said to have been after God's own heart, had a man purposely killed because he was lusting after his wife, and Paul, formerly Saul, once used to crucify Christians! Show a little mercy, a little compassion, and a little forgiveness for a man who, no matter what is proven, was genuinely saddened and regretful that he didn't do more.

And I keep coming back to this verse:
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:12, 13

Monday, July 16, 2012

Friday the 13th Hangover

Ever since I was a kid, Friday the 13th has always been my very favorite day. One reason was that 13 was my favorite number, but another was because of how rare they were, and how everyone else seemed so unnerved on that day. Friday the 13th I always considered to be my "lucky" day, and this year was no exception.

I had a great day. My niece flew into Buffalo from Spain the night before. We don't get to see her very often, so I was really excited. Then, on Friday, we were all packing it up to go to PA to stay with my parents. Meanwhile, my older sister and her family were also on their way into PA for a visit, and though it wasn't everybody, it was a full and fun house at the Lawrenson residence. Friday night we all got to eat dinner together and hang out while watching all the kids play, barefoot on grass, with bubbles, hoola hoops, and anything else they could get their hands on. It was a great day.

The issue was not with Friday the 13th, or even Saturday the 14th, but Sunday the 15th proved to be quite challenging. Perhaps it was our hangover from such an awesome 13th.

My dad's dream weekend was to have all of his grandchildren in town and take them all to Knoebels. And we watched that dream unravel before his very eyes. It just so happened that on Sunday, a good friend of mine was having her bridal shower in a pavillion at Knoebels. We thought it was perfect! Then on Tuesday, my poor dad ended up with emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder. The doctors seemed to think he'd be ok to travel to Knoebels with us by Sunday, but as Sunday got closer and closer, he just didn't see how that would happen. The medicine he'd been given for the pain had been making him sick, and he still had a drain attached to his abdomen, so now all the grandchildren were going to be able to go, but not Pop Pop.

Then, Sunday morning began with Elijah's tummy hurting. I quickly recapped the weekend in my head and realized he'd been on the go so much that he wasn't drinking the water I'd given him. He was dehydrated. My children become instantly ill when they've been dehydrated, and we don't always catch it in time. I began giving him water first thing in the morning, only he drank too much at one time and threw it all up, just pure water. Poor thing. That happened twice before Jelani decided he'd just stay home with Elijah. We had been telling Elijah all week that we were taking him to a giant playground. He's seen Fantasy Island and Darien Lake both near Buffalo when we've driven by, and he's always wanted to go. He was thrilled he'd finally be able to go to one. So, of course, he was absolutely devestated, but we didn't want to have him out in the heat all day when he was recovering from dehydration.

So now, with three less, my mom, my niece Alba, Chastity, and I made our way down to Knoebels just behind my sister, Neva, and her family. We went to the bridal shower, all the while Chastity couldn't take her eyes off the ferris wheel. "Can I ride the big round thing?" was all we heard for about an hour and a half. She didn't know what the shower was about, but the highlight for her was the pink cupcake.

Once the shower was over, she finally got her ride on the big round thing. She was tickled, and very brave, I might add.

But even before the rides, Mommy needed to find a way to cool off. I was sweating through my clothes at the shower and that was in a shaded pavillion with fans going! Once we left, I was afraid I might die, but the very first ride we walked by was the Sklooosh, which is basically just a giant log flume. I stood close to it, but only got a little mist.

So I got closer...

I began to think I was only going to get a mist again...

I was wrong!

And that, ladies and gents, is how a very large, very hot, pregnant woman enjoys the rides. The day was looking up.

We made it onto all of three rides before it began pouring down rain, and it rained for about an hour straight before we decided to just leave the park. My sister and her clan were trying to swim when the storm began, so they no sooner got their toes wet, than the whistle blew calling everyone out of the pool. They waited about an hour before changing and walking out, just to hear the whistle blow, allowing the swimmers back in, as they left.

All in all, we learned a few valuable lessons.

Nothing ever goes as planned.
Rain will hold off and wait until you've made solid plans to enjoy the sunshine, and then pour down harder than ever.
A pregnant woman can indeed enjoy a 90 degree day at the amusement park if she soaks herself first.
You will have time to ride very few rides with a slow pregnant woman in tow. In order to maximize one's time, leave her home.
Keep in mind though, if you leave said pregnant woman home you will miss out on winnings, because this particular pregnant woman still has her jump shot, and hustled one of the games into giving her a pity practice shot because she was "soooo pregnant"...then promptly nailed the next two shots to win Elijah a prize. :)
Lastly, and most importanly, if given the opportunity to pick anything, I mean anything out at the gift shop, Chastity will choose the very smallest, very cheapest item, no matter how hard you try to get her something better.

We ended up returning home to a much better Elijah who had a very blessed day with one on one quality time with his Daddy, while Pop Pop genuinely enjoyed watching them spend time together.

So maybe, we didn't have a Friday the 13th hangover after all, and God knew just what we each needed to be refreshed and rejuvenated, and nothing makes a better story than when things (in our minds) go horribly, horribly wrong.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

If My Convictions are not the Same as Yours, They Must be Wrong

I have a confession to make. If I were Catholic, I would likely do it privately, and I would be smart enough not to talk to anyone else about it, but I'm not, and I'm not so smart, so here it goes...

I went to see the movie Magic Mike.

You have exactly 15 seconds to judge and condemn me, pray for me, or whatever you feel necessary...starting now. Get it all out of your system. GO.


Good to go now? Alright.

There was so much controversy surrounding this film within the Christian community, that I was actually intrigued more by the neigh sayers than by the movie's marketing.

When the film first began advertising, I was interested, but didn't pay close enough attention to the ads. I actually thought the movie was a PG-13 film (perhaps because I wanted it to be) based on a stripper that was trying to break free from the business, and that the story line was more about his dream of a furniture business and his love interest that wanted nothing to do with his night life. Most of the ads were pretty harmless, featuring men dancing with pants on, and showcasing a lot of the surrounding story line, so maybe you can see how I was confused. I had that mistaken impression for a couple of weeks, and in the meantime, made the drastic mistake of talking about the film to some of my female church friends. I learned quickly that, PG-13 or not, I should have kept my interest in the movie to myself, because I suddenly felt as though I was viewed as some heathen monster who needed the demons prayed out of her.

The Christian community was up in arms about this film, and Christian women, in particular, were casting judgment on any Christian women who might be interested in watching such a movie. I was finding blogs, articles, and comments all over the internet about it, and it was almost all women. Women are famous for this already. I've been (or at least felt) judged for various choices I've made from parenting to financial to fashion to, now, my movie interests. And allow me to break down my interest in this film for you because I guarantee it was not for the reasons many people thought. Is Channing Tatum a handsome man? Absolutely! I can admit that, and my husband, I promise you, understands that. However, in my simple (possibly naive) mind, I saw this as a dance film. I love dancing, and Tatum is very naturally athletic and good at it. I am a fan of his as an artist. I've liked all of his movies I've seen, but what trumped my appreciation for Channing Tatum was pretty simple: for once, I wanted to go see a film with my girlfriends that was not a children's movie or a superhero/action movie. As wife and mother those are typically my only options. I'm usually ok with that, but every now and then I like a girls night out where I can completely avoid those genres.

Still judging? Your 15 seconds ended a while ago, so please just stay with me here.

Once I realized the movie was actually rated R and not PG-13, I became more hesitant, and I thought more deeply about it. I was still interested in seeing it, but I did feel slightly worse about it. I prayed about it (yes, I prayed about wanting to go see Magic Mike), asking God to convict me strongly if it was something I shouldn't go to and praying that my spirit would be open to listening. I still felt no such conviction, and realized that the little bit of guilt I was feeling was not from God, but a product of worrying about how my Christian sisters would view me. But here's the thing; being completely honest, at that point I really could take it or leave it. Seeing the movie was not that big of a deal to me. However, it was the judgment, the accusations, the pointing of fingers, and all that I read, saw, and heard on the topic from Christians that made me more and more curious and inclined to go see the movie. Was that a good reason to go? No, and it wasn't my only reason, but I'm just being honest. Be careful of your finger pointing because even grown adults in their human nature, as I've found, will be more inclined to go against your wishes just because they can.

I believe, and it is biblical, that people are convicted in different ways against different things, for different reasons. That is NOT to say that there is anything good or pure about this film, because I know I'll get Philippians 4:8 thrown in my face, and I'm not arguing that point at all. You will never hear me say that Magic Mike was good for my soul or the best thing to feed my spirit. I believe with all my heart that many people have the right intentions in trying to bring people closer to Christ and farther from sin and the things of this world, and those who have taken a stand against this film were right to do so. Maybe y'all should read that last sentence again, because I think many people have misunderstood my stance on this exactly. You were right to avoid such a film and try to get others to avoid it as well. However, I believe that many people, with great intentions, hurt those they were trying to "save." I read some things online that really hurt my heart. Christians telling other Christians that they were going to Hell because of watching this movie or reading 50 Shades of Grey (we'll get to that later). It got downright ugly and when we become that judgmental and nasty with our own sisters in Christ, others will see that and want no part of it.

Also, in your judgements and accusations, you are assuming that everyone going to see this film is participating in the sin of lust, and, believe it or not, that is just not so. I am here to tell you that it is possible to sit through that entire movie without lusting one bit. First of all, take into consideration that women are wired very differently than men. Women are typically not visually stimulated. We are more of an emotional bunch who need affectionate touching and sweet nothings whispered in our ears. So the comparisons I heard repeatedly about how it's only fair that our husbands should be able to go out to strip clubs, is completely bogus. None of those men from the big screen can reach out and touch us in anyway, we're not being served alcohol during the movie, and none of them can try to take us home (or vice versa).

A midst all this fuss about the movie, I began to do a lot of thinking on what a double standard, and sometimes hypocritical stance this was. This is not to say that movies of this world are good to watch by any means, but people of my age group are of a generation of the "raunch" movie style. It began in the late 90s with the American Pie movies, and has spiraled from there, I believe. Now, I come from a family who took great care in what we were allowed to see growing up. It had to be age appropriate. For example, we were not allowed to watch PG-13 until we were 13, and we couldn't watch R until we were 17. Even then, if they knew enough about the film to say "no way," they did. Did we occasionally find ways around that? Yes, but not often, and so we grew up watching movies at appropriate ages where we were wise enough to discern right from wrong, and know that it's a movie, and this does not mean I should live my life this way. I can honestly tell you that in all areas of my life where I have stumbled as a Christian, it was not the result of a movie going experience, but rather a result of the people I was surrounding myself with. Even music has held more influence in my life than movies, and so I learned a few years ago that I should avoid listening to hip hop/r&b, or rap regularly. That is my conviction though, and maybe not yours, so I would never point fingers or make you feel like less of a Christian for enjoying a little Eminem.

I have digressed slightly, but my point is that my husband and I occasionally enjoy films of this raunch comedy type style for the humor of it. We've enjoyed movies such as Bridesmaids, The Hangover, and Knocked Up. We've appreciated the comedy behind it without allowing the antics of the film's actors to negatively affect our lives. Might God one day convict us against watching those types of movies? He just might, and I'm open to it, just as I was when he convicted me against certain types of music, but right now, my going to see Magic Mike will not cause me to run out and cheat on my husband or start going to strip clubs, or start stripping myself for goodness sake.

While I'm on the topic of other movies, I was wondering, where were all of these convictions when the movie The Hangover came out? That is a movie based entirely upon drunkenness, and I didn't hear such a stink about Christians watching that. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of Christians that can legitimately stand up and say they don't watch any of those films or TV programs, and that they stick to Christian programing, maybe some selective Disney, or nothing at all. But what about the greater group of Christians who cannot say that? Do they have any right at all to point fingers and make accusations about women going to see Magic Mike? Watch any prime time television show and you will be watching sin. Take a good hard look at any superhero movie, and you're likely to find adultery, drunkenness, or vulgarity. And you will be hard pressed to find anything, anything, that does not objectify women. Jelani and I were sitting here flipping through channels the other day during nap time and came across an ad for a bra. They repeatedly showed women in their bras which were too small, breasts popping out, midriff showing; all on a sunny Sunday afternoon on basic cable. I couldn't help but laugh. That is ok. No one will make a big stink about that, but a man in a thong is unforgivable.

***Spoiler alert***
Allow me to tell you a little bit about this movie. It was horrible. I'm out 10 bucks and a couple hours sleep, but I'm still the same faithful, loving wife and mother you knew before I went to see it. The surrounding dialog and story line seemed forced and unconvincing. Channing Tatum appeared to be the only one that could actually dance. The highlights of the film were his three individual dance routines that he did mostly clothed before taking anything off, and once he was stripped down to the thong, the scene would end shortly after. In the group dance, the camera angle was set up so that Tatum was the main focus, but if you veered off to look at the others you'd notice what awkward dancers they were. The other dancers, in their individual routines, were merely shown after stripping. At that point there was no real dancing involved, just shaking, which anyone can really do. It was uncomfortable to watch. I actually discovered I was more comfortable with the naked women in scenes, because that's what our society and Hollywood have made us comfortable with. There was no full frontal on any of the men, unless I blinked and missed it. Really, you can take a walk on any popular beach and see men and women with not so much more clothing on, but when you add the context of stripping it's completely unacceptable. There was a lot of vulgarity, which I would assume to be true of that type of setting and life style. I didn't go out much, but I spent enough time in bars and dance clubs in college to hear the lingo. Lastly, what I took from the film is probably very different than what many may have heard. It was sad to watch. Rather than getting caught up in the lusting (which many likely assumed I would), it saddened me, as I imagine such real life scenarios sadden our God. It showed how easily a young kid can be allured by that lifestyle; the women and the money, while also showing how a more seasoned stripper is ready to be done because he sees the evil nature of it, and how far someone can fall. In my opinion, it did not glorify or romanticize the stripping life; quite the opposite. I can't even say that about Pretty Woman, which absolutely romanticizes prostitution. What is more disconcerting about the film than Christian women seeing it, is that young, impressionable women who are not strong in the Word or their relationship with Christ will likely go see the film regardless and they may (or may not) be lured into participating in the sinful nature of the film. I also believe that different people struggle with different temptations and sins. Someone who struggles with adultery and lust should probably avoid this film, but likely won't, because many people don't truly understand their own struggles.

So, I'm not really sure how to transition into the topic of 50 Shades of Grey here, and I didn't read the books, so I don't feel qualified to really write about it (which obviously hasn't stopped others). However, I will say this. No, you cannot compare women reading these books to men having their heads stuck in a Play Boy magazine. If you recall, Play Boy is more about pictures than words. That's one very big difference, but also, one thing I have heard from multiple sources, Christian and non-Christian alike, is that the books have stirred something in them that has completely revitalized their love lives with their husbands. You may not agree with that method, and I'm not asking you to, but those "stirrings" and affections are, in fact, permissible within marriage. As I mentioned before, women are more emotional than visual, so from what I've gathered, those words on that page are more likely to stir her into the arms of her husband than Magic Mike will stir her into a lustful affair.

In summary, if you have any doubts as to how I truly feel about this as a Christian woman, please refer to the text in bold towards the top of the page. Though I was curious, it is not a movie a would ever watch again. Just because I wasn't convicted in the same way as others does not make me some sort of demon possessed monster unsuitable to my husband or for raising children. I think that we all, as a Christian community, need to be more mindful about how we approach such topics.You can call me naive about the way that I viewed the film, and say that I'm kidding myself about how it has or has not affected me, but I know better. I know that I am more negatively affected by music than by movies. In fact, one particular r&b song came on during the movie, that reminded me of my college days and had more of an impact on me in it's 1 minute of play than the whole 1 hour and 50 minute movie. I know this about myself, which is why I stay away from such music on a regular basis. You don't have to believe me, but my husband and my God know my heart better than you do.

I know that many will disagree with me no matter what I say, and people will pick and choose what they want to hear, so before you comment with your argument, think about what exactly you are disagreeing with. Many will obviously disagree with my personal decision to go see the movie, but that cannot be changed, and so the argument is pointless. However, I believe that my points about double standards and hypocrisy within our society and our Christian community are tough to argue. We are all guilty of it in some aspect. I once heard a pastor say that it is nearly impossible to find a non hypocritical Christian, because we all have different convictions and feelings about how our lives should be lived, and we all have a basic desire for others to be convicted in the same ways we are.

Keep in mind that Paul, of the Bible, took very unpopular stances against sin among his peers (as well as many others in the Bible), so I understand speaking out about the things of this world you are strongly convicted against. The biggest difference, though, is that there were far fewer worldly distractions back then, and he could rightfully take that stance because he had cleansed himself of all of it and did not participate in any of it. 

Let us all be mindful of how we make others feel. Share your convictions with love and mercy. It is not enough for people to constantly see what we are against, but it is more important that they see who we are for.

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:12, 13

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Real Importance of Exercise

Nowadays we are inundated with ads and health professionals and even the First Lady all telling us how important exercise is. As a former college athlete, no one really has to tell me that, however, as a mom, I am realizing that they have left out one key, important reason.

See yesterday was a pretty lazy day here. I have a lot of those now that I'm as big as a house, and I feel I'm entitled. However, I want my children to be active, and I never want to get them into the habit of watching TV all day. Yesterday was an exception for a couple of reasons. First, because of a busy weekend and a long day on Monday, yesterday Elijah slept until 9 and Chastity slept until 10. I really only had two things on my list of to-do's for the day, but they were pretty long things, and I couldn't start either of them until the kids were up. I had to strip their beds and wash their blankets, and I had to finish the braids I had started in Chastity's hair on Monday. That, itself, takes hours, at least for me, because I am not practiced in tiny little braids.

Sesame Street was already on when Chastity came bouncing down the stairs. I had spent an hour with Elijah who couldn't seem to grasp the concept of volume control, and could not sit still or stop talking. I got the beds stripped and began the first load, then sat Chastity down in front of me where she could see the TV, and began this long, painful process. When Sesame Street ended, Sid the Science Kid came on. I was still working on a row of braids, so I left the TV on, but once that show was over, I had to switch the laundry and give ants-in-her-pants Chastity a break.

I thought she might sit still better if she were watching a movie she picked out herself. So she picked out Horton Hears a Who to finish because she'd been watching that the night before, when I began her braids. Unfortunately that ended all to quickly and I still had many braids to complete. Then she graciously allowed Elijah to pick the next movie, which was of course, Cars 2. We sat through most of that while I finished the braids. It was now after noon and I still hadn't showered, so I allowed them to finish the movie while I showered quickly. Then all we had time for was lunch, a book, and nap. The kids hadn't seen the light of day but through the windows, Elijah was still having problems with volume control, and when he's bouncing off the walls he does this thing where he asks nonstop questions while throwing his head and arms into you. He never stopped moving.

I thought that reading would get them to settle down for nap, and I was determined that this nap was going to happen. I may never be as adamant about outdoor activity as I am about nap. That's just the truth. So I picked out Dr. Seuss' ABC Book, and began.

"Big A, little a. What begins with A? Aunt Annie's alligator a...a...a"
"Why is she making that face?"
"I don't know. Big B, little b, what begins with B? Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumble bee."
"What is he doing? Is he getting a hair cut? Mommy, bees sting."
"Yup." I vowed to start turning the pages faster. "Big C, little c. What begins with C? Camel on the ceiling. c...c...c."
Elijah's mouth was ready to form words the second I uttered the last 'c'. "Why is the camel on the ceiling? That's funny!"
It was like this every single page, and I believe asking questions and being an inquisitive child are wonderful, but he never really stopped so that I could answer. He just wanted to hear himself talk, I suppose. So I read as quickly as I possibly could, because at one point I learned that if I paused for a comma, he would interject before I could even finish the page. Our time of winding down was useless.

I got them down for their nap though. SUCCESS! I was able to crochet and watch Monday night's The Bachelorette (don't you dare judge me), and since Jelani was then home, I ran out the door to run a few errands before they woke up. I came home to extra excited, extra exuberant, extra loud, extra everything children. Most people have only ever seen how well-behaved my children can be in public, so they would never believe what I'm about to say, but they were downright obnoxious. I couldn't talk to Jelani without yelling and repeating myself constantly. When I would try telling them they needed to do something, like wash up for dinner, Elijah never stopped talking or moving. He would ram his head into any part of my body he could, and tell me "no" at every opportunity. He thought he was being funny, not disobedient. Daddy and Mommy didn't see it that way. After dinner I wanted to get them out of the house and agreed to take them to a local pet store just to look around, and then maybe hit up a park on our way home. Jelani wanted to make his peach cobbler, and I could tell he needed some time to himself, so off we went. The excitement of the pet store strangely calmed them, at least for a little while. I think that's only because they knew how fast I'd yank them out of there if they didn't listen to me. As we left though, we were running low on time before they'd have to take a bath and go to bed. I stopped at a park along the way anyway. It was one we'd never been to before, and though we only had about 15 minutes there, boy did they ever make the best of it. They ran in circles around that place. "Mommy, look at this!" "Hey, this is cool!" "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" They were beside themselves. They were good when I told them it was time to leave, but I could tell their energy level was still high, and the task ahead of getting them bathed and ready for bed was going to be a frustrating one.

After finally getting them to bed, battling all the questions, the "comedic" defiance, the flailing about, and the constant repetition of what I had already asked them to do, I sat and realized the true importance of exercise.

Doctors and specialists will tell you that it is good for you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Their goals are to keep kids away from video games and TV, and keep them fit and active, so that they have healthier habits when they are older, as well as the fact that activity stimulates so much more growth for young children than the TV or video games ever could. And I agree completely!

So this morning, as it is now after 9, and my children are still not up, I only have one thing on my to-do list. See, I think everyone knows why it is good for us physically, and even mentally, and maybe we even understand some extent of the emotional aspect as well, but what I learned about exercise yesterday is very simple...very basic: if my children don't get at least one hour a day of activity, mentally, I will lose my ever-lovin' mind.