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life lessons for my girls

explaining racism to a child, grandpa, racism, family, love

Imagine explaining racism to a child when they learned about it for the first time when someone was making fun of their grandfather from another country. Kids are born perfect, accepting and loving. I wish we could just keep them that way forever. But the world comes in and

My daughters are pretty freaking amazing. I know we all think that about our kids but my girls have very big hearts and they are very loving and sweet. Don’t get me wrong, they have their moments when they can be complete terrors but not cleaning their rooms and fighting with one another aside, they are good girls. They both leave me random sticky notes and drawn portraits of the two of us that tell me that they love me and that I am the BEST MOM! Which, let’s be honest is nice to hear every once in a while amid all the heat of the moment, “I hate YOU”s. So, it makes me go full on mama bear if anyone ever hurts them.

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elf, elf on a shelf, christmas, holidays

Elf on a Shelf Run Amuck~ Last year, we  I decided that I wanted to start the whole Elf on the Shelf tradition with my girls.Of course, once I saw what the Elf on the Shelf actually looked like, there was no way I was bringing that thing into my house.It would have scared the Christmas spirit right out of my girls. Thoughts of them sleeping with me nightly until they were 15 danced in my head and I nixed the Elf ( jokes on me because they are currently co-sleepers!) I wasn’t ready to abandon the entire idea, just that particular elf. You know me, I went on a quest until a could locate 2 more aesthetically pleasing elves. I acknowledge that I am so conforming to society’s idea of beauty. Shame on me.The girls were 2 and 4 and, let’s be honest, I needed a new bargaining chip.The fat guy threats just weren’t cutting it anymore. I needed something more tangible, not a threat of 1 day of the entire year. My girls are fairly certain that Santa is like God in the respect that he forgives..everything. But elves, well, those little bastards can be as vicious as Mommy wants them to be. Those little dudes are Santa’s henchmen; they bust kneecaps and bite ankles. And so began the tradition..in our home.

Anyone who knows the Big Guy and I know that, in most respects, we don’t half-ass anything when it comes to our girls, with the exception of when we are dropping the ball completely. Sky’s the limit, to infinity and beyond and all that bullshit. So, our elves ( yes, there are 2, one for each girl…its hard work wrangling babies) are sent via Air mail from the North Pole. You doubt me? Hey, there is postage paid and everything..even teeny tiny holes in the box so those minuscule Northern mafioso enforcers can breathe. Our elf on a shelf #1 and elf on a shelf #2 arrive with a letter from Santa explaining all ( yes, by now you should all be fully aware that we take everything just one step too far).

elf, elf on a shelf, christmas, holidays

Elf on A Shelf #1 has arrived

This year, Analee ( that’s the name since “someone’ forgot to remove the tag from the elf) arrived magically,a s if out of thin air.One day he was not here and the next, there he sat high in the Christmas tree, watching,waiting to be discovered.Keeping watch over my girls as they shouted and fought.And then it happened, Gabs made her way to touch her Clara ornament(you know the special one that she is forbidden to touch) and as her eyes rose from the ornament there perched 3/4s of the way up the tree, Analee.Gab’s let out a yelp. Then said nothing. She slyly made her way to her sister, who screamed and immediately ran to greet our old friend.She was all flushed and hyperventilating trying to get the words out of her mouth, the proclamation that “Analee” was back. Santa had sent him to watch over them. I feigned surprise and said hello. Then it was bedtime. A few days later, after many hours of Bella standing in front of the Christmas tree explaining away every transgression that she had levied against her sister (literally, I found her no less than 15 times talking to the elf on a shelf…explaining that Gabs made her do it and to tell Santa..it was Gabs, I tell you.All Gabs!) a package arrived in the mail.

Elf on a Shelf #2 reporting for Recon duty

The girls saw the brightly decorated box and knew instantly what the package contained. They gently placed it on the floor, in front of the fireplace ( there is a great amount of reverence given to the elves) and peeled the packaging back. Inside, they found a letter from Santa and the jolly smile of “Ed”, sent back by Santa to report for another year of duty in our household. The girls gasped. They love the elves but they are afraid to touch them, not even with a ten foot pole. Well, Bella is anyways.Gabs actually midget tossed poor Ed out of her room on his ear today when she was having a particularly hard time fighting a nap.Poor Ed!But that’s an entirely different post. I was asked to place Ed somewhere, because, silly you, elves don’t run around in front of humans during day light hours.Bella has a theory that she shared with me the other day.It goes a little something like this: Bella” Mommy, how do the elves tell Santa what we’re doing?” Me:”Well, Bella, the elves are magical so they just pop back over to Santa and give him a daily report.” She looks slightly perturbed and confused.Bella:’Mommy, why don’t they just call him?” Me:”Well, Bella they can magically just pop back to Santa, why waste the minutes?”(I’m slightly exasperated.This lie has gotten too big,You know I can’t lie!)Bella: “Mommy?” Me;”Yes?”Bella: “Mommy,  I think Santa has secret cameras in the house and can see everything we do!”I’m speechless.After all, she is only 5 years old.First, she has rationalized the Tooth Fairy and now elves with spy cams? Me:”No,Bella.they.pop.back. to .Santa.every.night!”

elf, elf on a shelf, christmas, holidays
This  letter from Santa makes me cry, a little bit.It choked me up reading it to the girls.

Every night, I move the elves to different positions and to different random spots in throughout the house; the bathroom ( taking a poop, surprise Ed’swatching), eating breakfast (Surprise Analee is in the chair next to you),putting your clothes in the hamper (Be careful you’ll squish Ed), reaching for the milk ( oooh, poor Ed is chilly in the fridge..no sneaking candy!)turn on the fireplace (oh no,be careful Analee is getting hot under the collar).You get the point?


elf, elf on a shelf, christmas, holidays

And so starts another year of the mischievousness that is the elf visitors.Elf on a shelf my ass, those little suckers are running all over my house. It scares my girls that our little visitors wield so much power in their tiny hands.They are roaming free, recording every single scream, yell, hair pull, piss my sister off moment/ talk back to my Mommy, fighting my bedtime, not going to eat my asparagus moment that goes down in our house..and apparently, so are Santa’s spy cams!So, remember you better watch out, you better not pout,you better not cry, I’m telling you why..Santa’s sending his henchmen to rat on you!Happy Christmas and beware the elf on a shelf!

elf, elf on a shelf, christmas, holidays

Elf on a shelf saves the Day

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Bella has been in kindergarten now for two weeks, tomorrow. I’m not going to lie, its been an adjustment for all of us. Bella wants to be home with us. Gabs doesn’t want to miss out on a single breath her sister makes and me, well, I just think the years are passing by far too quickly for my liking.
Every morning, we do our routine. Every morning, Bella drags her feet because she’s afraid we’ll do something without her.Every morning, Gabs seems a little unsure if she should let her big sister leave her for the next 4 hours. And every morning, I tell myself that this letting go will eventually get easier…on all of us. I think we are so tight because we have been the three musketeers for so long, with Daddy traveling. No matter what has been going on, amidst all the chaos, they know one thing is constant…the three of us are there to support one another. I know it sounds kinda crazy but when you’ve been moved around and things have changed so much , as they have for us in the last year and a half, you learn to rely heavily on the certainties and unconditionals; one another. Every day my girls tell me at least once, “You’re my best friend Mommy” and I tell them back ” You’re my best friend too baby!”
 Now, my Gabs is a little timid but my Bella she is a “bright star” (as her preschool teacher has referred to her) and , like me, she jumps in and makes friends right away. She introduces herself and she’s just a very likable child ( if I do say so myself) unlike her little sister who may or may not claw your eyes out if you get too close….depending on her daily disposition.

The other night, Bella was in a little bit of a funk at bedtime. I asked what was wrong. Then she told me; “Mommy, I don’t have any friends at school. No one will play with me on the playground” and then she began to tear up. My gut reaction was to hold her close , shield her from the cruel world, and say ” Screw those kids if they are too stupid to be your friend” That’s just the crazy Mom in me coming out but instead I asked her if she had tried to play with anyone. She said that she had asked several girls in her class but they were all playing by themselves and the 3 girls that were actually playing together, one was pretending to be the master and the other two were her dogs! So, first I explained not to EVER play with someone who makes you be their dog. Then I explained that if everyone was playing by themselves, they are all probably still nervous, scared and trying to get to know one another.I tried to explain to my 5 year old ,who has had friends and play dates since she was 18 months old, that it wasn’t her…it wasn’t them….it was just children trying to feel their way through this new time in their life. Eventually,the tears subsided, once I ,may or may not have said, that  if the little girl ever tries to make her be her dog, I might make that little girl be my dog. Hey, I was being protective of my little broken hearted baby girl. (Disclaimer: I would NEVER actually make a kid be my dog; not even my own.) It made her giggle. That’s all that mattered to me at that moment.In retrospect, probably not the smartest thing to say in front of her.It’s just hard to contain yourself when someone hurts your child. I felt so helpless. It’s just one of those booboos that you can’t kiss away. Just like the certain heartbreak that will someday come from her first crush. I can do a lot of things for my children but building relationships is something they have to learn to do on their own. I can make introductions, execute play dates, guide them in their choices but I can’t make someone like my child. They have to do that all on their own and my child  has to learn how to deal with this kind of acceptance and rejection in stride. It’s hard when you are 5 and you were the popular kid in preschool to go to being the little fish in the big pond of a new school. But its even harder to watch our baby’s little hearts get unintentionally broken but what can you do as a parent when you can’t do anything to fix the situation for them.Relationships are something they have to find, want, build and nurture.The most I can do is be an example, reassure them that they are going to be OK, and be there to pick up the pieces.

That was last Friday, this Monday when dropping her off, Bella asks, ” So, Mommy are you going to wait in the car until recess and come and make Becky* be your dog?” Me: “No, I don’t think that would be a very nice thing to do. Mommy shouldn’t have said that. People shouldn’t make other people be their dog” ( While thinking, please God don’t let her repeat that to her teacher or the Father!) Today, she came home and she told me that she has 3 friends and 1 of them hugs her every time she sees her. All is right with the world again. She also told me that she played with the girl who makes people be her dog, ” But she didn’t even ask me to be her dog Mommy!” Good thing, for Becky*

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and/or I just plain forgot the kids name:)

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Every morning, I keep seeing the Mommies attached to their hysterical children, clinging to their legs/waists for dear life and sobbing uncontrollably.And every morning, I thank God that Bella isn’t doing that. Mostly because I couldn’t handle it. I just can’t imagine how that would wear on your heartstrings, day after day, watching as your child baby is overcome with fear and anxiety at leaving the safety and love of their Mommies arms. I do realize that if Bella were doing this, you could find me every single morning after drop off, emotionally crumpled in a puddle of tears and snot. It would be awful for both of us. I mean I am, after all, the Mommy who laid in labor with her second child, crying at a cell phone photo of her first born, because I felt so sorry for abandoning her to go to the hospital and give birth. Yeah, the apron strings are pretty taut between me and my Bella. But I loosen them as needed, for her sake. I am mature enough to know that I have to let her grow up, no matter how much I may not like the idea.Then Monday came.

There was absolutely nothing special per se about Monday, at least not noticeable to the untrained eye. The only thing that was different, was that the Big Guy had gone back to Iowa on Sunday night. You know to his hole that he lives in for work during the weekdays.Sunday’s are always hard on all of us but I had totally forgot about this Monday.I have noticed over the years that though I may be Bella’s “Best Friend” ( as she lovingly refers to me), Daddy has always been her rock. There is just something about a 6’5″ man, with a big strong body and an equally as big heart, that makes a girl feel safe and makes it easy to draw strength from. That is the Big Guy. Monday morning we followed the same routine that we had on Thursday and Friday; the absolute only thing missing was her Daddy. There were no tears from my Bella amidst the plethora of tears falling that morning amongst her classmates. I assumed all was fine.

When Gabs and I picked Bella up from school that afternoon, she seemed a little rattled as if something were missing. In retrospect, she was looking for the Big Guy. We drove home, as she rattled off the days events at a furied pace. We got home and things started going south. She proclaimed, almost angrily, that she didn’t like her outfit and promptly discarded it onto the floor. I was a little annoyed and quite confused by her behavior. I asked her to pick up her clothes; she responded with whining. I asked her close the front door; she responded with tears. I asked her what she wanted for lunch; she barked a hostile “NOTHING!” at me. The responses were becoming increasingly inappropriate to, what I thought was, seemingly innocuous requests. It was quickly a train wreck speeding out of control from bad to worse. Then Gabs had the audacity to ask her how school was; then the sobbing began.A fly landed on her and all hell broke lose! I was baffled. Is a 5 year old supposed to get PMS?

Concern trumped annoyance and I asked, in every possible way, what was wrong. After an eternity of sobbing and undecipherable blubbering, once she hit the point f hyperventilation from hard and ugly  crying, she had Gabs joining in  on the hysteria. I was a hair away from breaking down myself. Then she leans in and wraps her little arms around me, hugging me tighter than she has in a LONG time ( tighter than all those aforementioned Kindergartners holding on for dear life to their Mommies) and whispers this through her sobs (in her little baby kitty sounding voice) “Mommy, I don’t want to go to school. I just want to stay home with you and Gabs!I only love Mommy!” How could I not feel my insides turn to goo and my heart start to fall apart?

I held back my own tears,even though I wanted to curl up into a crumpled mess of snot and tears on the floor. It made me realize how hard all of this Daddy being out of town business has been on the girls. Sure its been difficult on the Big Guy and I but we are adults, most of the time. She misses her Rock and the collateral damage was a small nervous breakdown. I held her tight for almost forever and then a little longer and told her how we were so proud of her for being so brave and going to school. I told her how much we loved her, about all the exciting things she will do, the friends she will make and that Daddy wished he could be here with her. Then I told her, whenever she felt sad and missed us,to close her eyes and think of us and we would be at home thinking of her at the same time, because we are always thinking about her. We ended it with a nose kiss, a group hug, and a promise to walk her into class the next morning.

She called her Daddy in Iowa and he assured her that he was so proud of her, loved her more than life itself, and that he was thinking of her always. She seemed to take comfort in this.Apparently, everything sounds better coming out of his mouth. He also told her that we would send a photo to school in her backpack of all of us together. She hung up the phone, renewed and relaxed. Her entire body unclenched. Daddy the superhero. In the end, she felt better; we felt worse about the letting go. She grew up and we broke down. The letting go is the hardest part of growing up.

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I have found this to be very true in my life; if you change your attitude,and change your perspective you will in effect change your life and your circumstances.We are only as miserable as we allow ourselves to be. If we decide to count our blessings rather than our problems, we will be much happier ( and have loads more free time!). Its easy to get down on ourselves and think,” Poor me! Look what life has done to me! I have nothing I want and everything is against me!” Yes, that is easy. We’ve all been there and we are all entitled to visit that place once in awhile. Pity parties are a right of passage. The problem is when we decide to dwell in miserable town; to stake a claim and make a life. Whats not easy is to say, “EFF you  circumstances..you are NOT bringing me down! I am a fighter and I am about to kick your miserable ass! I will be happy, even if it kills one of us!” That’s what I want to teach my girls.
I’ve noticed lately that my girls are spending  wasting an inordinate amount of time wanting things because others have them. I don’t mind if you want something for the sheer pleasure or id desire to have it, but I will not tolerate children who want things only because others have them. Lately, they want the same thing everyone else has but…bigger, brighter, newer.  I don’t know where they have learned this. I am not materialistic. Wait! I love nice things, but the most important things to me are people and relationships, health and happiness. Things are just that…things. I grew up poor, things do not define me. Who I am, what I believe/stand for, what I make of myself, how I treat others..that’s how I measure my success. Not by the things that I own. But I see/hear my little girls getting upset because they are measuring themselves against what others have..material possessions. We had a big blow out over a friggin soccer goal. Oh yeah, you heard me correctly. My daughters have loads of toys, a swing set, a pool to splash in, every thing a kid could want..even a soccer goal. Apparently, theirs is not as large as the neighbors and so they demanded that I must buy them a larger one. WTF? I sat them both down (because I think you are never too young to learn this lesson) and told them to be grateful for those things they do have….their health, their parents, all the love in the world, a home, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, friends, and more toys then most children know what to do with. I explained that they already have a goal and the neighbor may have a bigger soccer goal ( that her parents probably found at a garage sale..lucky smart people) but they have so much more and should be happy for her that she has that nice big goal. I am trying to teach them to be happy for others successes, to measure themselves only against themselves , and to share and be generous. A life of coveting others things only leaves a person with an unsatisfied taste in their mouth. Be happy with what you have, be happy for others peoples successes and work hard to enjoy your own successes. Remember an uncelebrated success is a failure.You are what you think you are, so be happy!

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