Friday, December 17, 2010

The Magic of Christmas.

I remember a crisp Christmas Eve, many, many years ago. Standing in the driveway of our home on Longport Drive, gazing up at countless stars and wondering how exactly I could have missed them all my 8 short years. Well the scientific reason was easy, myopia. I had inherited my father's atrocious nearsightedness. As with many things when you are young, you don't miss what you don't know- I just assumed stars were specks in the black vastness that I couldn't see. After being doomed to wear the "smart" label oculars, I gradually became grateful to see all that I had been missing and no longer minded the less than "smart" accessories adorning my face. Stars were magical. The night was magical. As a little red light zoomed across the sky- I ran up to bed and jumped under the covers. Christmas Eve was always spent at Grandma Connolly's. Filled with cousins and food and lots of loud discussions by adults. There were presents, lots of presents- which always amazed me. Despite our genetic similarities, we all wanted such different things at Christmas. I remember sitting in midnight mass, feeling the warmth of those around me as well as the season. I felt so sleepy, it was a battle to keep my eyes open. Yet afterwards, there were always presents and that kept us going. We hardly had time to play as we would have to drive home and get ready for Santa to arrive. Although being utterly convinced I would never be able to sleep with all the anticipation- I rarely could stay awake for the car ride home.

What I remember most about Christmas morning was the feeling. The magical feeling of Christmas. Looking back, I would have to say I was in love with Christmas. The only other time I have ever felt such an immense physical adoration, was after I fell in love with a certain young man.  The two are quite similar if I actually stop to think about it. I loved everything about Christmas, the smells, the sounds, the decorations, the tastes- how everyone seemed to be happy. I remember the year after my aunt died, feeling loss for the first time at Christmas. A piece of the magic had gone. It didn't help that my brother and most my friends had stopped believing in Santa. It seemed absurd to just stop believing. I was old enough to know better, but I chose not to. As most 10-11 year olds do. They threw the logistics at me. They threw proof. I was never one to hunt for presents. My brother Bob did. That's how he said he knew. One year he found presents that were later from Santa. We had just moved into a new house and our parents seemed to be working overtime to make ends meet. There was lots of time to search. I didn't. I liked the surprise of opening a present. It was far to much work to pretend to be surprised. So I let him search and I sat playing on the organ that sat in our front room. Whenever my mom played, her fingers floated over the keys and the result was magical. Songs like Moonriver would fill the room. I decided to teach myself to play. Since I didn't know how to read music, I attached letters A-F to the keys and went from there. Mostly I fiddled around trying to make songs sound like something familiar. I managed to squeak out a tattered version of Silent Night. I was fairly impressed with myself. I sat and looked out the window at the falling snow. Icicles dripped from the gutters. I could hear the familiar slushy whoosh of cars going by.  I felt very lonely. I didn't want for the magic of Christmas to be ruined.  So I composed a song. It wasn't as much a song, as a series of notes smooshed together that described my feelings. The lilting ups and downs of childhood on the verge of adolescence. A time when magic tricks become slights of hand and explanations debunk mysteries. I learned there was a plausible explanation for lots of things. I loved my song. I often wondered if it was truly mine, or if it was something I had heard one time and my subconscious recreated. It didn't matter- I wasn't sharing it with the world. It was mine. I wrote down the letters, in case I might forget by the next day. But I didn't. It helped with the feelings of loss and helped replace some of the magic of the season. It taught me that I was in control of what I believed, and what I chose to hear.

As I got older, I learned that bringing the magic to others was as much fun as getting gifts from Santa. I loved shopping for Phil's brothers who were still little and believed without question. I also learned that loved ones' lost were always missed more at Christmas.  I watched as the magic faded for his brothers. I immersed myself in a new magic- the magic of being in love. I became a logical, practical, scientific sort. I let some of the Christmas magic go. And then I had kids. Watching Christmas through their eyes brought back magic. It is so easy to believe in fairies, elves and a man who rewards good behavior with presents. Then last year it started.  The questions, at first veiled then outright.  "Mom, have you ever seen Santa?"  Sure, he's at the mall.  " No the real Santa."  No, I was never good at staying up to see him. "Then how do you KNOW?"
Do you KNOW I love you? "Mom! yes. But how do you know there's a Santa?"  Show me how you know I love you. He reaches over and gives me a hug.  That's a hug, show me love.  "I can't." But you know it exists? "yeah, I feel it."  A Hug is to Love  what Presents are to Santa. I could tell he was satisfied, but his curiosity was not. " My friends say parents leave presents under the tree. " Of course we do. "No, that you leave Santa's presents"  Oh honey, you know I get much too tired to stay up after you. Where would we get all the money for those presents? "Ohhhhh". And it comes down to money. Doesn't it always? Except with love.

I have had a very difficult time with Christmas in Hawaii. It's hot. It's sunny. Santa can't even wear his full garb without fear of dehydrating into an elf.  I don't even like snow. I think I had maybe 2 Christmases in Denver that were snowy- it was unreliable. But you could always go up into the mountains and smell the evergreens and the sting of the chill. But as a child, there was snow on Christmas, usually. The blow up Santa's ride Harleys here and lounge under palm trees on hammocks.  The other problem  is that it's an island. There are limited shipments of goods- if you don't grab in October there will undoubtably be stress. Shipping is either cost or date prohibitive and people are outright rude. I think that goes for just about everywhere, but it feels more pronounced. My husband complained about 5 hours in the car from Florida to Atlanta. In that time he probably passed 25 walmarts. In that time I could have visited all 3 walmarts on the island and driven around the actual island. twice. Finding the time to do Christmas shopping without the kids has been challenging. I am forever grateful for wonderful neighbors.  But after a particularly souring experience at Walmart, I came home and sat in front of my computer. I was just going to order what I needed and be done with it. But it wouldn't ship here. Nope couldn't get it delivered to the store either. Oh wait you can ship it- for $59- but the darn thing only costs $20?  Now a days I just feel like a grinch. I have to tell my son that of the 4 things on his list- Santa simply will not bring him 3. It's so much easier when they are 4 and want 25 things and if they get 1 of them, they will promptly forget about the other 24. 11 year olds keep track. And take notes. And will use it against you later.  No you don't need a go cart, or a mini motorcycle or a puppy. There are 2 televisions within 25 feet of your room- you do not need a tv in there- and where would we put it?  "I'll clear a space" Kinda like you clear a space for your body every night after I have asked you 3 billion times to clean it?   I feel that familiar loss creeping in. I see it draining from him and I have neither the magic or funds to prevent it. I sit at the computer and the tears threaten. Bella is fast asleep on the couch, recovering from yet another bout with some virus.

A sound tinkles in the window.  Someone is playing the piano.  My house is never quiet enough to appreciate such things. I take a moment to appreciate it. I decide that I need an attitude check as do my children. Christmas isn't about the next best thing, or the toys. Sure it is a bit when you are a kid. But what do I remember about Christmas? I remember Christmas Eve with family and the feeling of Christmas morning.  And then I hear it.  MY song. Tinkling in from the window. No more, no less than the few notes I remember. It's not part of some concerto or a major piece- it's merely my song. Part of me wonders if I reproduced a well known piece. I guess I could knock on my neighbors door and find the practical explanation, or I could appreciate this gift. A gift of an auditory memory to a time where I chose to believe .  I choose to believe.

Bella wakes up and we go for a walk. Every year we buy presents for the angel tree, this year we got them for the tree at school.  You know it's a rough year when most requests are basic necessities, diapers- wipes- clocks, blankets.  Kiera looks at me while we were shopping- why does she want diapers for Christmas?  Well sweetie- maybe she doesn't have enough money to get diapers and she wants her baby to be comfortable for Christmas. I do believe I see a twinkle in her ice blue eyes. She gets it.  The box of diapers was too big to carry so Bella and I make a special trip.  As we walk into the office a motorcycle roars up. We drop off our presents and a man pulls open the door as we leave.  I say thank you, but fail to take notice.  He is walking behind us.  Bella drops her slippah and I stop to replace it. I look up and see the man getting back on the motorcycle. He has a nice round belly and a long white beard. I whisper to Bella "look!"  She looks and her eyes get big. "Is that....Santa?" she asks and a grin comes to her little face, she knows it is- who else could it be? I nod.  "Why isn't he wearing a suit?" It's a little hot don't you think?  "Yeah"  And we watch him roar out of sight. And with a song and a choice, the magic was restored.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Buddy!!!

For weeks now, my kids have been re-enacting a SNL skit that lil Phillip watched with Emma Stone where she slips on grape jelly and breaks her arm. Then leg. Then another arm. And leg. Slapstick stuff- they love it. It was pretty harmless, so I let him carry on. He then showed it to the girls and they have been wandering around singing- now sign my cast, sign my cast, sign my cast. We decided to remake the video for Phil's birthday. It's entirely trainwreckish- but was an outstanding team building experience. Happy Birthday to my best friend and my baby daddy. We love you very much- now sign my card, now sign my card, sign my card.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Favorite Turkeys

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Mutants flying the friendly skies

I guess I am really glad(sarcastic tone) that flying has become so expensive that it really isn't an option to take my family of 6 anywhere. I won't complain too much since I live in a vacation destination, but it does totally suck being away from family and friends. Now not only is it cost prohibitive, but health prohibitive as well. Yeah I'm talking about those new airport scanners that are all the rage.  I honestly don't care that some TSA agent is sitting in a secluded room viewing images of my naked body. I've had 4 kids, my body is a warzone. But big picture- I question the safety- so I started doing research. It's what I do.

I found that the amount of radiation you are exposed to is minimal. It does not penetrate the skin, it merely penetrates the clothing so it can generate a picture. SO what about the skin?  Sure sunscreen protects against UVA/UVB- but I'm pretty sure it doesn't cover this backscatter technology xray radiation.  Is the amount of exposure minimal? yep, I'll give you that.  Is it safe? You are not going to hear reputable people say that. Pay attention. Who so far is declining scans? Cancer patients, pregnant women, and pilots. I heard a story of a bladder cancer survivor who lives with a urostomy bag, had the bag spilled all down the front of him during his "aggressive pat down" . He had to sit on his flight soaked with urine. A breast cancer survivor was agressively searched and had to remove her prosthesis for inspection. I guess technically if she still had breasts, they would have been aggressively squeezed- so should she feel lucky she can at least take hers out?  After spending years of my life with cancer survivors and remembering many who didn't- the quest for normal after treatment or death is a long bumpy road- I would like to thank the Government for adding one more roadblock to our already diminished quality of life. But we are not the majority and these methods are in place to protect the majority.  That doesn't mean it's safe.

In article after article I read, in the USA Today, reuters, cnet, webmd- all say the risk is low to the general population. Not safe, low risk. It is mentioned that as in medical scans- if the benefit outweighs the risk, it is acceptable. Not safe, acceptable. They repeatedly emphasize the radiation exposure is the equivalent to that of 2-3 minutes of flying.  Great so now we are compounding risks. I see why pilots would refuse- they get enough radiation exposure in the flying contraption on a day to day basis- to add to it would be off putting. It is not reccommended for pregnant women. Really? Why so? If it truly doesn't penetrate the skin- the baby should not be at additional risk, right? What the experts will tell you is that studies have not been done on the long term effects and although the risk is acceptable to the general population- it would be cruel to subject the unborn population to it. Hmm. What about children?  Just because they are on the outside- doesn't really make them any more equipped to deal with it, does it? But it's either that or an aggressive pat down and we spend a lot of time teaching them good touch-bad touch. DO we now have to say only doctors and TSA agents can touch you there? Are we going to see a rash of pedophiles dressing up as TSA agents and hanging out at playgrounds, probably not- but maybe we'll see an influx of applications to the TSA. Definitely the moral fiber we want guarding the friendly skies.

The last disconcerting thing I found was the repeated mention that those with genetic mutations that predispose them to cancer should be aware of the additional risks. I have Li Fraumeni Syndrome. It is a genetic mutation that not only predisposes me to cancer, but to many cancers in my lifetime and by lifetime I mean a lifespan that is 10-30 years shorter than the average lifespan. I am one of the "lucky" ones- I have not had cancer yet. Most in my peer group in this syndrome have had at least 1 type of cancer. We have all watched relatives die from it. So what's a little skin cancer when you are looking at terminal brain tumors, and adrenalectomies and colostomies and mastectomies,right? It's one more thing to worry about.  I know mutants who refuse to have dental xrays to limit the exposure to radiation. Radiation therapy in these families is a last resort, because it has been shown that additional tumors pop up in radiation fields. Good times. So what's a mutant to do?

I encourage people to do their research and be aware that you are not being told the whole story. The contract for scanners was in and it went to the lowest bidder, not the one who makes the "safer"- millimeter technology scanner. There are many veils of false security- these scanners are one of them. A friend posted an article on Israeli airport security. Their first line of defense? Eye Contact. You can tell a lot about a person with how they react to eye contact. You'll find TSA shouts over your head- they will actively look away if you try to make eye contact. I'm sure they get their fair share of rudeness as well.  SO what's the solution?  How do we make flying a reasonable safe mode of transportation again?

I have a solution. Combine Healthcare and TSA. Standardized healthcare does away with many of the dignities TSA is starting to. You can be categorized by health status which determines your screening regime. Just think about how many germs you are exposed to in an ER or a plane. The same right? You can get the Xrays you need and be on your way to a different destination all at the same time. Throw the people who can treat those conditions into the mix. I mean international travellers do pose a problem- but we treat most of them on our dime anyway when medical attention is needed, I say just add a surcharge for those tickets. It's the fiscally responsible thing to do. Ok I am being sarcastic, but when you start posing medical risks for transportation, the appropriate specialists should be involved. 

Yes, flying is choice. It is also a business.  Although federally regulated, business is business and rarely is anything but the customers pocketbook considered. Be your own advocate, especially when caught between an ionizing rock and a hard pat down.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanksgiving Lost

When I was a child we spent a whole month working up to Thanksgiving. We got to dress up as Pilgrims and Indians and always had a feast in class. As soon as the Halloween ghosts and ghouls were put away- the festive leaves and turkeys and cornocopias came out. By the time my own children were in preschool, we were not allowed to call them Indians, they were Native Americans.  That never sat well with me, because not only were me and my children native to the Americas, all of their grandparents and great grandparents were as well. In  United Nations conference, the majority of representatives agreed that American Indian was a better descriptor as by definition all those born in the Americas are considered native americans and that lead to confusion. Since people from India are also referred to as Indians, that confusion also needed to be irradicated. After all- what kind of society are we if we cannot lump groups of people together and give them a name? Then in a stroke of genius- we commemorate a group of people's(whose name we continue to change) in an aptly named holiday- Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as early as the 1560's, not 1621 in Plymouth as generally thought. A Thanksgiving feast would be held to celebrate a bountiful harvest and to give thanks to God. Many codes in early communities recognized the day as a holiday and then in 1941, President Roosevelt gave it official holiday status. In the efforts to keep church and state separate, the ties to God were not emphasized and the date was set for economic reasons not social welfare, although many would argue the two are intertwined. Thanksgiving and Christmas were traditionally the 2 holidays that almost no one worked. The season was respected and employees were as well. Despite everything being closed on Thanksgiving- Christmas decorations magically appeared on Black Friday. I have noticed a trend over the past few years- Christmas creeps in earlier and earlier. It is happening everywhere. At first I thought it was here on the island, an economic necessity to put out Christmas decorations due to lack of storage space. That is not the case.  Last year as the Halloween decorations came out, so did the Christmas lights. This year- there was wall of lights and other items that came out in July with the school supplies. You still see Halloween decorations, but you are hard pressed to find fall decorations. Thanksgiving has been pushed out for it's lack of commercial value. If people aren't told to buy items to help celebrate a Holiday- does the holiday no longer exist?

Apparently things are creeping this way as Walmart and Sears have announced that they will be open for Thanksgiving. Economic hardships are cited for the change in policy. I wonder if in the economic conscious decision making process, the stores are giving employees the option to work?  Are they appealing to those most financially strained, "gifting" them the opportunity to make extra funds on a holiday? I am no business major and I don't claim to know the inner workings of the system, but common sense tells me the costs of operating on a holiday might surpass the revenue- especially in light of the wonderful internet shopping opportunities. But what are the bigger costs to us as a society? When we deem shopping paramount importance to that of family and a sense of gratitude, no one wins.  There have been many a Thanksgiving item forgotten in my past. There have been mad dashes to gas stations or any open mart. Those are what great stories are made of. Or the ingenuity and creativity of using blue or green twine as available- sometimes yielding interesting colored gravy.  Scrounging around to replace something burnt or just making do. Magazines dedicate entire issues to Thanksgiving disasters- you will not find one story on the Thanksgiving that was saved by running to walmart at the last second.

I never partake in Black Friday. I don't like shopping under the best conditions, no matter how good the deal. I've learned my time is more important.  Yet for many it is a tradition, a tradition that along with Thanksgiving will die. Traditionally we decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving. It gives me the excuse not to face the throngs of bargain hunters. Because although I love seeing the joy on my children's faces at Christmas- I mourn the loss of the true spirit of giving in the commercial marketplace. The spirit that is being zapped away with the loss of fall, the loss of harvest, the loss of Thankfullness. I have actually read articles entitled "Tired of Thanksgiving dinner?" that offer alternatives to the traditional fare. I shake my head- tired of Thanksgiving? If you are tired of Thanksgiving, perhaps you should apply at Walmart or Sears- I hear they have some holiday jobs available. To me Thanksgiving is tradition and you don't mess with tradition. Sometimes you move tradition a day or 2 because your husband is guarding the borders so you can rest securely. You don't skip it for a good sale. 

So Walmart will be open. Many other places as well. I will not go. I will honor centuries of tradition. Even though I did not personally harvest the bounty that will set on my table, I will be thankful for those who did. I will be Thankful that with God's good graces, I will have my best friend and all of my children at one table for one meal. I will be Thankful that another year has passed and those who have passed with it. I will be Thankful for the gifts I have and not Thanksgiving Lost.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oprah's Male Child Abuse Show

Today I got a message from my aunt(actually my husband's aunt) imploring me to make time in my busy schedule to check out Oprah. I haven't made time in my crazy life for Oprah in over 11 years. I don't know why today was different. Although I have periodically taken time to peruse her magazine or email her great topics for shows, only once did I hear back. Over 5 years ago, I wrote in to suggest a show focusing on male child abuse victims. And as I went online to look for today's episode that my aunt wanted me to watch(something about the Jackson kids- which I never did see-because) I got sidetracked by multiple videos by male sexual abuse victims debunking the popular theories on sexual abuse. And for once, I think she nailed it. No goodie bag on earth could take away the monsters these men have carried with them and dealt with their entire lives. The best A-ha moment in the world is for people to wake up and realize there is a huge problem. The best way to raise awareness is to reach deep down in those places we don't like to talk about and wrench out what is really going on.

My view is this. When we get rid of acceptability of any kind of abuse regardless of gender, we are taking great strides in making the world a better place. Abuse happens. It is covered up, lied about, and festers as an ugly secret people spend their lives running away from. When victims become suspects and it becomes cheaper to walk away than stand up and fight- we have lost all credibilty in this "system" of justice we propose to have. Abuse knows no age, sex, or race. It is NEVER acceptable for an adult to have relations of any sort of sexual nature with a child under ANY circumstances. EVER. The consentual sex laws may vary from state to state and that is merely words written on paper. When we as a society allow predators, convicted offenders to mingle amongst playgrounds claiming THEIR right to privacy trumps the hope of a poor child victim's RIGHT to an unabused childhood- we are wrong. It should not be tolerated under the name of state, religion, or temporary insanity. Temporary insanity is what a parent experiences the second they find out something like this has happened to their child. The good parents regain consciousness and help their children go on with life in this new found jaded reality of pain, the bad parents enable the cycle and covet the secrecy of lies.

1/4 women will be abused. No one knows the numbers for men, because many won't ever tell. All I know is it's too high. Hug your children. Let them know their body is their own and that you are their greatest ally. Then show them you are. Accidents happen- Abuse is never an accident and it will happen again- unless we each make it a point to not tolerate those who abuse. Stepping off my soap box now.



"http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/The-Stigma-of-Male-Child-Abuse-Video/topic/oprahshow"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Flying the Friendly Skies

After 36 fun filled hours of conference, cancer and cousins, I exit Ami’s monstrosity of a truck and prepare for another long day of airline craziness. The whirlwind of the trip surrounds me and yet somehow- none of it has been anywhere near as exhausting day to day care and feeding of my four monstrosities. I slept less than I require, well that’s not exactly true, but consecutive hours of sleep were fairly fleeting. When you get to see family once every few years or so, it seems kind of trivial to waste away your time sleeping when there is so much catching up to do. I am sad that my time with my cousins was so short, yet relieved to visit and exit before the familial intricacies that color our relationships have an opportunity to damper the experience. As I am pondering the fun times recently shared, I am rudely pushed out of this way by a woman and her monstrosity of a bag. I let it go. And before I can even get my balance back, 3 other ladies wheel their bags up behind her. I notice all of the bags are wrapped identically with brightly colored ribbons, identifying them as a group.




Now mind you, I was in line, at the check in counter of the airline. As I rounded the curve of the the people herder ropes, the said offender so rudely acted upon my person in an unfriendly and inconsiderate manner. She starts calling to the rest of the group, in a language I cannot identify. I know she is telling them to get with her group of rude interrupter pusherers. I say No. No is universal as was my tone. She looks at me and I shake my head and say NO again. “If you are calling the whole group over- let me in front of you” I say as I move to the side to go around them. She says something to the 3 who are now moving to block my way. There are at least 10 people with matching brightly colored ribbons behind me, trying to push around me. I scan the faces around me, feeling certain I would spot Ashton Kutcher and willing to laugh off my turn being punked. There is a man pushing at my right and I say “NO!” rather loudly and rudely. A security guard rushes over. He unfastens the guard rope and ushers me through, replacing it after me. “Please proceed to any of the empty kiosks”. As I look for the empty kiosks- I realize that there is a line of 5 people in front of the crazy ribbon pusherers all waiting patiently for the next kiosk while there are dozens of them open. The security guard is yelling at that group to step forward to any open kiosk they are all available for self check in. I then hear him berating the group leader. I feel slightly vindicated and hope they are not on the flight going to Hawaii and that somehow I would be shadowed by these horrendous pusherers for the next week.



I also have come to realize that despite climbing airline ticket prices, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is becoming more automated- and by automated- I mean self service. There are airline employees barking orders at every step for those of us who do not travel frequently enough to know the routine of every airport in the DC area. And this is the second one I’ve been to in the past 48 hours, and the 5th airport- so I’m feeling fairly current on my airline travel refresher course. The conference folks were nice enough to arrange my travel and I generally assumed I would be flying out of the same airport I arrived at. And you know what they say about Assumptions. Unfortunately the DC area has 3 airports and when someone else is arranging- you get what you get. Mostly I am glad to have noticed the change in departure airport prior to arriving at the wrong airport.



I successfully completed the grueling self check in procedure which is easy except for the excessive need to decline umpteen upgrades- which is to say additional costs. I look up and 3 employees are just staring at me behind the counter. I hoist my bag onto the scale as the boarding passes for my journey slip out of the kiosk printer. I place my ID on the counter and as I gather the boarding passes, the employee picks up my id and hands it to me while snidely pointing out that it is a self service counter. I take my ID and stand there patiently as he grabs the bag tag. “Mallory” He calls out. I hand him my ID and boarding pass and just wait. “Take the bag over there.” You just have a merry happy sunshiney day too there mr happy pants. People are mean here. Well people are mean everywhere, but especially here. And by here, I mean airports, malls, public places, everywhere. I think the only place that people generally are not mean are Disney World and hence it garners the label- happiest place on earth. I venture towards security smiling at every face I meet, telling each TSA worker along the way how dearly I hope they have a wonderful day. I get a lot of weird looks. How is it everyone expects rudeness and pushererness- yet if you say simple nice ities you are looked at as a loony toon.



I know that the security check points are an exercise in rudeness tolerance. On both sides. Travelers are generally grumpy at the “reasonable” indignities in the name of security while security employees are barraged with the emotional projection by those who indignantly tolerate the measures enacted through a higher power in the name of safety. And people are mean. I follow the directions being barked on both sides. Shoes removed, sweaters and jackets removed, put items in bins- make sure all liquids in their appropriate Ziploc containers are in a bin and all laptops must be in their own bin. I don’t put my shoes in the bin. When I went through security in Honolulu, I was barked at for putting my shoes in the bin. “This is NOT your airport security” I was told. I was taken aback. Oh, then where do I go for MY airport security, because I kinda need to make my flight. “ Would you put your shoes on your baby?” Um no. except maybe Bella, because if my shoes were ON her, then she might not be licking them and THAT’s a win-win situation. But then again I wouldn’t put my baby in a bin to go through an xray machine conveyor belt at an airport either. I’m not really sure where this is going. The woman in front of me turns back to look at me and just shrugs while the tirade continues. We do it such and such way here- we have respect for the aina and your health and people don’t need their lovely bags and jackets dirtied by the nasty shoes that I was trying to put in the bin. OK Mr. I clearly am power tripping in an ignorant fashion with people who fortunately are only held hostage by your stupidity for however long it takes to scan the bags. You are talking to the woman who is abandoning 24 hour disinfecting ops for a flying sardine can of recycled air and considers it a “vacation”.

First of all- shoes are not the cleanest of clothing items. I wouldn’t go around licking them. I know those who do but they have the maturity and intellect of a 4 year old. We are both adults. Secondly, you are implying these bins, that are stacked on the floor, the same floor that soils the shoes that sooo offend you. And the bottoms of these bins that alternate turns on the floor and sandwiched between other bins are then filled with personal items and sent through the xray machine. When they are not there, they are on a conveyor belt, which is where he would like for us to put our offensive footwear. So visualize a smear of red paint on the bottom of your shoes. The red paint goes to conveyor. Conveyor belt goes around and waits for next bin, bin gets put on conveyor, red paint gets on bin, bin goes through, bin takes red paint and deposits it on the inside of the next bin it gets stacked on in the pile. Cycle complete mister Einstein. You really aren’t doing anyone any favors. Thirdly- do you ever watch people and their bags? As they wait in line- where are the bags? On this dirty ground that is so offensively soiling our shoes. You are seriously implying that there is some sort of sanitary state of airport security bins that visit with thousands of humans and their respective questionable hygiene states from all over the world on a daily basis. Outstanding logic. But I digress.



I clear security and my phone starts ringing. It is my lovely husband who I have seen place his shoes on the bin in the Honolulu airport, but that is not the point. I want to say hi to him before I jump on a plane and I know that it is a matter of OCD importance that he talk to me before I get on said flight. Every time he has a big flight, and if I think about it- just about any time he flies- he calls or sends me a text that usually says no more than love you! It’s always nice to hear, or read so I appreciate it and I also appreciate that before he slips the surly bonds of gravity- I am on his mind. I don’t get to fly as often as he does, so I wasn’t really aware until this trip,that the superstition applies to me flying as well. I was relieved to think back to my many connections to get to DC that at each stop I sent a quick text. I don’t mess with people’s superstitions- it’s not good luck. Hi buddy, I love you. I just went through security and they were surprisingly gentle. He is laughing at me and I regale him with the tale of the rude pusherers and the kiosk incident and he laughs. I am chatting away as people walk by and they all look at me. I look around- I’m not in a restricted area, there is no one around- I guess I’m the only one to look at. I smile. People look away, few smile back. Well excuuuuse me- you were looking at me. I rub my nose to make sure there is nothing on it and make sure my clothing and zippers are all in order. I just keep smiling. Do people not talk on the phone here- I’m not being loud . I realize there is no time to chat on and on and I haven’t even gotten to the story about the guy with his hands in his pants on the metro. Yeah that’s a good one, but I tell him I love him and venture on my way. People are still looking at me and I am developing a complex. It occurs to me how different people are. I mean theoretically- it is an airport and people are from everywhere. But if you walk around the airport at Honolulu- many people will not look at you. In many cultures, eye contact is offensive, confrontational, disrespectful. Yet pushing a person out of the way is perfectly acceptable. Go figure. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Smart Cookies

So somewhere in a haze of sleep deprived insanity, Probably well before last week, I volunteered to make a kabillion sugar cookies for Phillip's class. See, they have book buddies who are younger kids they read with and for the older grades- since they are too cool to have parties- they have a party under the guise of doing it for their little book buddy friends. It is a tactic employed by most parents- so I  am familiar with it. But since I had the sugar cookie mix in my pantry- really it doesn't take too long, right?

Yet here I am, waiting for the last batch to be done and it is nearly 10 o'clock. Somewhere between batch 1 and 2- somebody was having a costume wardrobe malfunction which needed immediate attention.  And then there was my daughter who felt the need to prance around the kitchen moaning about how HOT she was. Literally fanning herself and giggling each time, waiting for acknowledgement of her hottness. The oven is on- get outta my kitchen is what she got. So despite the fact that I deserve an industrial chef kine oven- I have the whatever piece of crap came with the house edition. It's fine as long as you remember to rotate frequently as the back is much warmer than the front. And really I don't have the chef kine kitchen or space to support aforementioned oven- so for right now- it is what it is. I like to cook, I like making food tasty and presentable- the actual baking bit is a wee bit precise for my liking. I'm more of a pinch of this and a dash of that kind of girl. Baking doesn't like that so much. Sometimes me and baking have an all out throw down. I do not win. It is very sad. I digress.

So somewhere I forgot to rotate- so the front part of the batch a little light- back part a little brown. Phillip walks in...mom? Um are those cookies supposed to be brown like that?  So here are my top 10 answers- and no I haven't experienced this before- these 10 magically came to me this evening. It is my experience that children eat the good stuff and bring the cookies coated with 12 different colors of frosting home to "share" with mom. Somehow smooshy crumbs in a ziploc means I thought of you.  So yes, son the sugar cookies are supposed to be brown like that.

Are those cookies supposed to be brown like that?
10.  Yes, yes they are.
 9.   It doesn't matter- all you guys do is lick the frosting off em anyways.
8.    They need to be harder, they are easier to decorate that way.
7.    Yes, yes they are.
6.   We love all God's creatures in this house, no matter what color they are.
5.   They've done studies- half of all people like cookies soft and half like em crunchy. I'm a people pleaser.
4.   Yes, yes they are.
3.   It's cuz I made them with brown sugar, they taste the same.
2.   I like my cookies like I like my men. Your teacher will understand.
1.   Yes, Yes they are. Now scram.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The SAFETY dance

An awesome riff, and I can't help but think of it everytime I hear of a new toy, baby product, car recall. Recently a friend posted a link about Graco stroller recalls. Over 2 million strollers being recalled for safety issues. SsssAaaaFfffEeeeTtttYyyy dance. So I read the article, because not only am I currently using a Graco stroller, but I think I have 1 or 2 laying around the garage and this could drastically affect their garage sale-ability. Mind you the one I am using is going through it's 3rd child. I recently enlisted my neighbor's help to jimmy rig a new seat cover because Bella felt the need to rip all of the old stuffing out of it. That or it was the stray cat that sleeps on it at night. I like to blame Bella and only because once when I was walking a piece of fabric and fluff actually hit me in the eye. But this poor stroller has seen alot. Many trips to the beach, many nights accidentally left out back in the rain, long harsh days in the sun, months in isolation at the hospital- not to mention I have totally surpassed the allowable weight limit numerous times- and that was this week alone. The thing has been drenched and washed of fluids I would rather not talk about. It has been climbed on, tossed around and transformed into a rocket and launched across the back yard. It still keeps ticking. I haven't used the seatbelt in it since 2008, and then it was probably only to keep Bella from slithering out and my having to feel bad about running her over before stopping.

The article says 2 MILLION strollers are being recalled because they have been linked to 4 infant deaths. I think that by all means necessary, if a stroller is dangerous and the company knows of a life threatening defect- they are by all means responsible for making the public aware. Now this is very poor form- but if an infant dies while in the presence of a stroller- technically the stroller is linked to the child's death- is the parent also linked to the child's death? Because the claim is that the multibillion company is responsible and they were not there. Despite the fact that a stroller manual and actual stroller comes with more warnings and cautions than a firearm. I mean after all, it is common knowledge guns kill. After all the aforementioned activities- the warnings are still stuck to my stroller. I could take a blow torch to it and the actual metal would melt before the adhesive on those bad boys. It apparently is not common knowledge(despite all of my and friends FB posts otherwise) that if children are left to their own devices, they will harm, maim, destroy or kill themselves. That's the piece of missing information that renders us caretakers necessary. Darwin called it natural selection, yet we as humans believe in common welfare and that no one should be penalized merely because they are stupid. They are pushed along in school under "no child left behind". They are allowed to continue working under non discrimination acts and ultimately go on to govern our country in what we call congress.

When as a society do we do away with nonsense litigation? A mother left her 6 month old, unbelted in a stroller unsupervised long enough to try and slither out, get her head stuck and suffocate?  Does the litigation automatically assuage the mother's own sense of guilt? I'm pretty sure the warnings next to the seat say "NEVER leave child unattended" and "ALWAYS fasten seat belts when using stroller".  Has anyone noticed that we have to sign releases for everything now a days? You can't blow your nose without having to release Kleenex from responsibilty for irritation that might be caused from overuse of their product. Cotton balls and Q tips have warnings on them! Did you know you really aren't supposed to stick Q tips in your EARS?  It's the ridiculous and abnoxious threat of litigation prevents people from doing the RIGHT thing because Wrong people want to release themselves from responibility and have someone else held responsible for their stupidity.

Yesterday, I bought one of those ginormous Pumpkin Pies from Costco. Which ironically does not have a warning on it. Things that make you go hmmm. Anyhoo, we were waiting patiently(to be read as my 3 girls plus 3 neighbor girls vibrating around me with anticipation) for Phillip to get home from school. I remember being surprised that he didn't beat us home- he rides his bike and is usually waiting for us. But he is very active this week with school activities- so I wasn't worried. Until he walked in and had THAT look on his face. A look that only a mom would probably pick up on. "what happened bud?" My spidey mom sense tingled.  "um nuthin"  Out with it, I tell him. "Um well a kid was upset and I was trying to help him" Yeah, what was he upset about? "Some other kid told him he would never get a girlfriend" Heavy stuff for 6th graders. How did you know he was upset? Well he was kinda yelling and holding 2 knives to his head. Yeah that would kind of give it away. I start scanning Phillip- no obvious injury and hug him. You hear stuff like this and you can't help it. Then the interrogation begins. How? What? Why? Where?

Phillip helped diffuse the situation while other kids went to get help. It was "off campus" which is to say it was right outside the fence at school.  It happened sometime other than when I was driving through getting the girls because I always look for Phillip to make sure he has his helmet on. A school counselor helped get the situation under control. I gave him a quick call this morning.  From what I can tell the situation was handled very well, by kids and adults. 

Here's my problem. School is absolved of ALL responsibility for the children once they walk outside the gates. Technically said, according to liability issues the counselor SHOULD NOT have intervened. Fortunately humans are not all robots and some are rational human beings and realize a situation where children should not be left to their own devices.  I understand that the school can not be responsible for what happens outside of it's grounds and a line has to be drawn somewhere. I lament that I live in a world where a staff member would actually have to consider the ramifications of helping in this situation before helping. This counselor didn't hesitate and no one was hurt. I fully expect to get a memo home today with a "reminder" that bringing weapons to school is a suspendable offense. The kids will be reminded at school. That will be the last of it. Until next time. Had that kid hurt somebody- his parents probably would have sued the school. And the kids parents who were trying to help. Life is becoming no win.

Where do we draw lines around integrity and responsibility? When did we stop being responsible for our own actions and our children's behavior? Sure a company sold a stroller. But the consumer bought the stroller and used the stroller for months. Is the stroller a qualified babysitter- I recently checked mine's references and would gauge it as being less entertaining that TV but safer than something with a motor.  And yes we are behaviorally modifying future generations against the every day use of common sense. I really don't see any negative results coming from that. Insert sarcastic smiley face here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Keoneula Confidential

What goes on at school stays at school. I only recently truly understood why communication is such a problem at my kids' school. Apparently any break in confidentiality is such a liability, it is so highly regulated that no one even communicates out of fear. That sounds like a foundation for a healthy learning environment.

Last week I finally was able to attend a volunteer orientation so that I can volunteer at my kids' school. I am all for orientations, screenings, and regulation of appropriate behavior where my kids are involved. I know that although I mean no harm and have not only my kids' best interest at heart, but their classmates as well- not all parents are as dedicated or as moral. I am also not so naive to believe that we live in a world where confidentiality agreements don't exist or aren't necessary. Yet I have learned that the venues they exist in usually involve politicians, lawyers and celebrities- all of which usually have something they are trying to hide. Hence the innate need for confidentiality.  Do I think gossip should be allowed- no it's harmful. But I do believe in accountability. There can be no accountablilty without retribution or responsibility. One of my favorite quotes is in reference to integrity- doing the right thing even when no one is looking. That is a main tenet in my life. Another is a sister belief- Doing things well because you should- not because you want awards or recognition.

I understand that gossip and talk about a student's behavior in class can lead to embarrassment. But it begs the question- why would the student or parent be embarrassed if the behavior was appropriate to the learning environment? The volunteer handbook goes so far as to discourage any discussion of any events that occur, even if they are "cute" because that could embarrass the parents. Even if a parent asks specifically- employ the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Also refrain from asking anyone but the appropriate parties about your child's behavior. Well accountability just went out the window. And don't fool yourself into thinking the kids don't know this. Just like lil johnny knows if mom says no, go ask dad- it's filed under the same principle as kids misbehaving as soon as the phone rings.

I can tell you I was utterly surprised to find out that one day in school, Lily hit not 1, not 2 but 3 children. In my day- it was not tolerated. At all- except but the nuns who were the only ones allowed to do the hitting and even that was being undermined as I went through school. Of course I was embarrassed- but mostly I was angry. I am glad she has a capable, experienced teacher who doesn't need to call the principal or parent in for every disciplinary problem. But I am disappointed at the lack of communication unless initiated by me and then only in a CYA fashion. I am proactive- I asked about her behavior because I know she has been acting out at home. And although her meds make her aggressive and her dad being gone are reasons, they are not excuses- rather they are reasons for me to pay closer attention- which I did. She needs to be disciplined at home as well as at school- there needs to be a partnership. School is not an island- it is a stepping block for the world. Newsflash- you don't get a paycheck for doing nothing, you are accountable for your behavior, and if you don't work hard- there will be no award or certificate just for participating.

It reminded me of a day 5 and a half years ago, finding out through another mom that my son had been bullied at school. No one knew names, and if they did they couldn't tell me because of confidentiality. When we moved here, I put him in the public school closest to our neighborhood. These were our neighbors. Military moms warned against the school. Locals at my husband's work commented they wouldn't even send their kids "there". But I had faith. Faith that was crushed when one night I was checking my son's hygiene and found purple bruises all down his back. He refused to say a thing. I marched him into school early the next morning and told his teacher. She said she would look into it but knew nothing about it. That didn't make me feel better. What drove me insane was finding out the principal's attitude was "kids need to learn how to solve problems". That afternoon, one of Phillip's friends was playing over at our house after school. I asked him if he knew how Phillip's back got bruised. The child blanched. Blanched. Had no idea what that meant until I saw it. He didn't want to look at me. He stared at his feet. I reassured him he wasn't in trouble, I just wanted to know. All I got was "they said they'd kill us if we told" and they were in 4th grade maybe 5th. I was outraged. I marched right in to his teacher the next day (and had I had more confidence or experience I would have marched right into the principal's office) and demanded to know what had been done. Well, they took Phillip and his friend around to all the classes to see if they could identify the offenders. Ironically enough they didn't seem to recognize them. Maybe they would have if they had any faith in the adults there, maybe they would have if they had not already learned they were outsiders and would always be treated as such. Maybe if things had just stayed at school like they were supposed to - I would have a severely battered child contemplating acts of violence of his own just to make it stop. Instead I pulled him from school and enrolled him in a school 15 minutes further down the road that's motto was safety safety safety. I never had to sign any confidentiality form and was always encouraged to be on campus to help out or just have lunch with my kids.  The only thing I didn't like about the school was the drive. 

When the new school in our neighborhood opened, I hoped for a similar experience. It was- similar to Phillip's first year. Fortunately he was older and more confident and didn't have to deal with bullying. But the school was the same- parents were not only not encouraged- but discouraged from being on campus. I found out from my kids that since there was no playground equipment or shade- kids ran around and pushed each other for recess and there had been a rash of injuries. Parents asked to help monitor recess. They were told no. It was a liability. The explanantion was that some parents had drug problems and therefore it was easier just to shoo parents away. One bad apple. You could let it ruin the bunch or you could toss it out of the bushel and let the others enjoy the harvest. I and a few other parents have worked hard in the past 2 years to try and change things for the better. We have had some success and a few setbacks. Often I believe the administration looks at us as a nuisance- knowing most are military wives- they are biding their time until another big PCS. But there is no PCS in my future and their "Old school" is full. By being on campus and offering to volunteer- I also found there is a contingent of moms who faithfully volunteer their time behind the scenes.  I believe parent involvement is the single most important indicator of educational success- especially in public schools that lack funds for basic necessities. Even private institutions require a chunk of parents' time as part of their contractual obligations.

On the other hand- I am so tired of hearing parents say "I had no idea it was going on" . Now I understand. How can they be accountable for their children's behavior if they are not informed of what is going on? Sure you will run across the odd (or not so odd) parent these days who won't do anything or expects the school to deal with it and hold the school responsible for teaching morality (as long as it doesn't involve God, or prayer, of course) appropriate behavior, or just excuse morality and behavior and still try to give them an education. Education is not given, it's earned. I don't envy teachers and the land mines they deal with daily. Even with the best administrators- their jobs are some of the toughest in the nation. We have generally lucked out with teachers- which helps me overlook some of the administrative shortcomings. When Lily was going through treatment- both kids' teachers were very supportive and often had the class make Get Well Cards and Posters for her hospital rooms. I appreciate their kind gestures even more know knowing they were risking censure for their blatant violation of confidentiality. I mean it is completely unacceptable to talk about a child's personal life in school. right.? I mean (god) forbid anyone know of a child's hardship so that they might offer help or kind words, or a card. It would be entirely unacceptable for children to see a ray of light through the darkness. Come to think of it- I have NO idea why bullying is a problem in schools and why kids just seem to be getting worse behaviorally. It's got to be the red dye.

So I am not yet sure how I will handle this new dilemma. I know how I want to, but sometimes you catch more flies with honey, right? I know I spend more time asking more specific questions of my kids. I am not afraid to call the school and ask questions. I let them know when I think there is a better way or if something is wrong. I also let them know when I see good.  I try to show my face around school and help out whenever humanly possible. I generally share my opinion and as long as I haven't been volunteering lately- it's technically legal.  All I know is that when people are held accountable for their actions- their actions are more accountable for good. By hiding, the good, the bad, the ugly- a lot of good is being missed out on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nuthin.

My kids are at that astonishingly frustrating age. What did you do at school today? Nuthin.  What is that? Nuthin? What did you do to your sister? Nuthin. What do you have for homework? Nuthin. What's wrong? Nuthin.

There is a whole lotta nuthin goin on up in here. And if I learned one thing in my vast(11 years and counting) experience as a mom, it is that "nuthin" always means somethin.  "Nuthin" means I don't want to talk to you about it right now. "Nuthin" means I'm busy. "Nuthin" means I hit her back because she totally deserved it.  "Nuthin" means I will take care of it as soon as you forbid me from watching anymore tv or playing any video games or god forbid ask that I do something like take out the trash. "Nuthin" means everything.

So today I woke up, get the kids out the door to school. They were relatively presentable, which is to say the only stains on their clothes were related to breakfast or brushing their teeth which is permissible because oral hygiene is very important and what's a little breakfast smudge? It's nuthin. I was going to take a long walk, but abbreviated it so I could run some errands. I have a package to mail and desperately need to buy some food that will not withstand a nuclear holocaust.  I am pretty sure the kids would be ok with eating Doritos for a few more days, but the overall benefits to that diet are- yeah you got it- Nuthin. Yet as I return a few emails and provide some mutual support to my fellow life challenge group members and create a few more emails, I have a little redhead who is sitting next to me gently petting my arm. "Whatcha Do-in?"    Nuthin she tells me. Of course. Yet she keeps petting my arm.  Maybe she's on to something. The package can wait and I think I have chicken frozen and a vat of sour cream- I'm sure I could Mcgyver some sort of dinner out of that. So let's do nuthin together.

We snuggle on the couch. Pretty soon lil Miss Nuthin is hungry. I start trying to rustle up something quasi nutritional and come up with a bag of caramel corn. I start sifting through my recipes hoping there is some long lost recipe for chicken that coincidentally includes copious amounts of sour cream. And I find one. Bella is content with nuthin and I am content not going anywhere so I call my neighbor over to imbibe in our nuthin-ness. She agrees. She also agrees to supply some of the ingredients for the dinner - since I am out of most. Which is to say, other than chicken and sour cream(and doritos and caramel corn) I pretty much have nuthin. We try to watch a movie, although seinfeld episodes would have been more apropo. We end up talking and taking turns snuggling with the monkey until it is time to get the kids from school. The after school rush begins- snack, homework- whatcha got? Nuthin.  I start baking dinner and my husband calls. What did you do today? He asks. Nuthin I tell him.

That's awesome! I wish I was there doin nuthin with you. Don't you know it.
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We had a really nice visit with Uncle John and Aunt Theresa. I think my favorite was when Kiera tugged on my arm after a half an hour and whispers "Uncle John looks like dad! Just a little lighter." I hope that we rectified the last bit with a week in the sun!  It was also pretty darn hilarious when Phil called the other night as I bathed Bella, so the other kids did the rounds on the phone. After a few minutes of conversation with Lily, I ask for the phone. She holds up a finger, making me wait. "Ok, bye! I love you!" She pauses, almost hands me the phone and puts it back to her ear- "Is this dad or Uncle John?"  I bust up laughing. I don't know if Phil felt it was as funny as I did. Although all the kids kinda sound the same on the phone anyhow- so he probably did.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Race You!

Apparently the US Government is tired of us Americans checking "other" on all of our race and ethnicity questionnaires. It sure does put a great big kink in their pigeon-holing- I mean statistical analysis of demographics.  It started last year. I decided that when asked ,in all race related questions- I would check "other". They usually want you to select one and it is written like this ONE. Well newsflash- find me someone with only one race in this lovely melting pot I call home and I will show you a person who has got a couple of secrets in their genetic closet.  We kinda did away with the acceptability of racial "purity" with Hitler. Or so one likes to convince one's self.  Nowadays we call it inbreeding.

Last year I get a notice home that since I checked "other" on my son's race - I was relegated to fill out this form to specify which races he is. It had more selections than before and a separate spot to check "primary" race. I refused, did not check any boxes and wrote that I was offended by the form and if they needed a box checked, check one themselves. Immature- sure. Did it make a difference? Apparently- this year I get the form- with a letter stating the reason for it- the McKinley-Vento Act. Well that makes no sense because the MV act is to ensure homeless kids can go to school wherever their parents/guardians choose. I returned the form that stated we in fact have an address- what's race got to do with that?  I also notice a new section on the survey that states " I understand that if I do not provide this information, a school representative will designate the ethnicity and race categories for my child".  Oh reeee-heeeee-heeee-heee ly?  GOOD. LUCK. WITH. THAT. Please make sure to compare my children side by side. And please let me know which day this will be done so I can dress them appropriately as to provide ethnic attire because ethnicity is pretty darn impossible to tell based on physical features.

I look up DOE Ethnicity/Race Surveys online and get a slew of hits from various(reputable) educational organizations explaining they are mandated by the federal government to perform this survey and it is unrelated to immigrational status and that there was an influx of people checking "other" which made demographic statistical analysis impossible. One site went so far as to claim the government wants to celebrate diversity by having people participate in this survey. I think the celebration lies in the fact that so many people are CHOOSING OTHER! That people are no longer seeing themselves as ONE race or ONE ethnicity. And why is this relevant to my child? SO the school can publish data on what percentage of white/black/asian/pacific islander/hispanic students go there? Why do that? So people can choose which public school to attend based on racial distribution? That's pretty forward thinking.

Race is a very useful identifier. Various races have unique features. Although in the melting pot of even my own little family- we have seen a wide range of features that can be attributed to the exact same racial make-up. As the pot gets even more melty- the lines will blur even more. But what does this have to do with my child's education? And who is this representative that is so skilled in distinguishing ethnicity and race? And how is that OK??? So after careful thought, I crumpled the paper up and threw it away.  Because after careful thought- that's exactly what I think it is- rubbish. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blue Angel Mania

The Blue Angels are huge supporters of the Make a Wish Foundation. They are performing at the airshow in Kaneohe this weekend and we received a special invitation to watch them practice with other wish recipients yesterday.  I thought it was kind of fitting as our wish trip was a year ago. As the show started, the organizers wanted each wish kid and one adult to corral in a different area to meet the Angels after the show. Sigh. It was just me. With 4 kids. Like I already didn't feel pulled in 12 directions.  I didn't feel comfortable leaving any of the kids. We had friends nearby who offered to keep an eye on the other 3 so Lily and I ventured to the holding pen. Right behind the announcer's tent. Which managed to obstruct a perfect view of the show. Sigh. Insert jet noise. Bella starts panicking and tries to scale the fence separating us.  Phillip looks at me with big brown puppy dog eyes. What am I doing? He wants to meet the pilots so bad- I can see it. I wave him over. He lights up- I tell him to walk around and give him specific instructions to hold Lily's hand follow one of the adults and for the love of god try to look my way once with a pilot so I can snap a picture. I mean how often do you get to meet a Blue Angel? He is almost hopping up and down with excitement.  Lily sees what's going on and starts in on the dramatic crying. I tell her she can go with Phillip or we all stay together. She changes her tune.




The jets land while Bella continues to scale me. The noise has always bothered her but the simultaneous roar of 5 jets seems to be putting her over the edge. We are well past ear plugging. She actually has both legs wrapped around mine and is climbing under my shirt. Kiera is next to me chattering on and on about something or someone she saw. She wants to go talk to them. Really? Sure kid go wander around on your own at an airshow. I give her the look that makes her zip her lip and stand by quietly.  The kids are being led out to meet the pilots. People are every where. I can't get a picture. Oh well- the kids will have the memory. Then I have an opening- they are talking with a pilot, I yell to Phillip to look at me. He looks, tells the pilot thank you and drags Lily over to me on the sideline. Really? I explain to him what I am trying to do. Ohhhhh. he says. Yeah, oh. Now go and get me a photo opportunity- Go!  He laughs at my insanity and drags Lily back to the throng of people. A minute later,  I have my photo opportunity and the kids go back for the group photo. They finally work their way back to our section and Phillip proudly shows me the autographs of the pilots. Lily has a grimace. "I didn't get to talk to the girl one!" She crosses her arms grumpily. I didn't have the heart to tell her there wasn't a female Blue Angel right now that the lady she saw was either the event coordinator or flight surgeon. But to a 5 year old- a lady in a flight suit is a pilot and who am I to tell her different? After all- wishes make dreams come true.

It was fun hanging out at the airshow. It's been a lot of years since I've been to one. The Make a Wish Foundation and Blue Angels provided us with a great opportunity and yummy food and treats for the afternoon. So many yummy treats that Bella felt the need to regurgitate many of them at 3 am. Of course that could have been a result of the time I caught her licking her shoe, but we'll never know for sure. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meat Marketing

I am woefully behind on current events. I probably should talk to my Grandmother more, but that would only keep me up to date on the major weather changes across the globe.  I don't watch tv, we don't get a newspaper- so if it's major news and the moms at school are buzzing about it or facebook is a twitter with it- I might look it up. I have a friend who usually posts editorials and pieces of interest- so that's usually the extent of my knowledge- and what is that really? Knowledge of someone's opinion? That's kinda like a soup sandwich, but whatever.

I like Lady Gaga's music. I think she has a lot of talent. I think she has the fashion sense of my 9 year old if my nine year old lost all sense of fashion. I rarely watch videos, so it doesn't really present a problem. The other morning we were late and I drove the kids to school. The radio was all abuzz with her outfit to some awards show. She chose a dress that would make a statement against the military's Don't Ask, Don't tell policy. It was made of meat from her fashion designer's butcher. I am not the first, and I will not be the last in saying WTF?

Generally statements by design make a comment on social or political conditions. They are opinion. There are usually sides. The side of beef Lady Gaga wore may have saved a couple of the 15 million children who die each year from hunger. According to America's Second Harvest, Over 41 billion pounds of food are wasted each year. I know how about 5 of it met it's demise. Dripping all over the stage of some awards show- ironic and appropriate all at the same time. Talk about a sanitization nightmare. I am offended by the very nature of her costume. Regardless of the fact that in no way, shape, or form does it have one single thing to do with anything much less a coherent statement. If people can not look at your message and know immediately what you are trying to convey, you probably have rotten communication skills.

So before we can even get to the message she was trying to convey, that no one would ever get, because it probably wasn't really the message, but yet one more attempt at shock value that took such a wrong, wrong turn that it immediately had to be labeled as political commentary so it wouldn't be ushered to the trash bin. Which ironically is where most political commentary belongs. Especially by celebrity figures who specialize in acting, singing and performance arts. I was going to give my opinion on the topic of homosexuality in the military, but it is irrelevant, unneccessary and just that, my opinion. It's as irrelevant as wearing a meat dress as a statement.

Had Lady Gaga been in the military and felt like a big piece of meat- it's a stretch- but it could be a statement. But she was not.  She has been a performer her whole life- by age 14 she was performing at night in clubs in New York. I don't know about you- but that doesn't scream moral high ground to me. I am saddened that she actually hurt the cause she was trying to help just by being associated with it. For the homosexuals in the military who want to defend their country, just like the next patriot- I am saddened that she feels she is their champion. Lady Gaga is openly bisexual. Great. Congratulations. I don't care. I don't care who you are sleeping with as long as you do your job and it doesn't interfere with it.  That is the basis of Dont ask, don't tell. That is  also why she probably doesn't understand much about the military and policy and these things called rules.In Hollywood everything is based on who you are sleeping with. Some crazy degenerate things happen in war. Some crazy degenerate things happen everywhere.  Many are not half as depraved as stuff you can see on cable and those are "reality" shows. Good guys have to do bad things because bad people are doing worse things. I learn that lesson every day in parenting. I would love to go and play at the park- but someone has to make sure everyone is clothed and fed and not in mortal danger. Someone has to wipe down the soap dispensers because someone's daughter feels compelled to lick them. And shoes. Mortal danger, no, but then she could start licking dresses and heaven forbid we run across Lady Gaga in her bacteria laden smorgasborg.

As for the policy. It is not ideal. It's akin to not allowing someone to vote based on color or gender. The problem is, you can see someone's color or gender. Even those lines can be blurred at times. Remember SNL's Pat?  You can't see someone's sexuality. Yes they may ooze it, imply it- but unless someone tells you- you don't really know. I am not sheltered enough to believe that everyone is as open-minded as me. Believe it or not I actually know people who think homosexuals will rot in hell. And in the next breath they will cite scripture about loving your fellow man. We all make choices. We don't always get to choose who we fall in love with. Sometimes it hits you like a ton of bricks. I saw a bumper sticker the other day- Straight but not narrow. I get the idea- but why do you still feel compelled to declare your straightness?  I remember not being allowed to play with certain kids because they weren't nice kids. I have made the same choices for my own kids. We are all judged on how we look, dress and who we hang out with. Clubs, sororities, fraternities, even businesses allow legitimized ways to segregate based on values  and personal characteristics. In business they call it an interview. In the military, you go through background checks. Women still cannot hold certain positions in the military. I am ok with that. Would you hire a baker to do accounting? Only if they were good at it. I am all for anyone being in the military as long as they can do what the job requires. Especially if part of that job is fighting alongside my husband.

As for Lady Gaga, perhaps we should throw her to the wolves in war and see what happens.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Consider this, consider that, Consider-it

We are to day four of our week long floor renovation project. We were going to start Monday and jumped right in last week, pulling carpet out so the painters would have a clean slate. This put us a full 2 days ahead of schedule. This is good news for all , especially the Buddha meister Meister Buddha who I know is hoping to get in at least 1 day of surfing during his week of leave before he leaves.

A few months ago we helped our neighbors lay laminate down in their house, considering it a dry run and experience gained for when we did our own floors. We also kinda figured that if we were helpful enough, they wouldn't mind lending us their saws and tools for completing the job. Not only were we provided with the tools, but 4 extra hands, meals and childcare while we have worked to get everything finished. They expect nothing back and just help out because they like to. Yesterday as I painted trim and my neighbor walked by for the third time to tell me my technique was flawed, I got to thinking. First of all , the trim in all of the houses here is called Swiss Coffee. Now, one would visualize that such color would be a very light brownish color. One would be incorrect. It is white. If you have ever wandered into a home improvement store or seen a painter's wheel- you know that there are a gajillion shades of white. One of them apparently is swiss coffee. So there I was, painting white on white, getting critiqued for my technique. The only way I could tell what I had actually painted was to bend down to where the light reflected off the trim and look for the dull spots.  My solution to the criticism was to criticize right back. If you know me, you know that if I like you, I'll give you shit- otherwise I don't bother.  I had a friend's husband ask her once- Jen stuck her tongue out at me and made a face, why would she do that? Considering we were in formal attire at the time, I guess it may have seemed out of place. But of course she told him- That's Jen, it just means she likes you. And sometimes I apparently have the maturity of a five year old, which makes sense because that is my current audience.

We have run across lots of choices and considerations whilest we have been flooring. First was the flooring choice itself. For months I have been pondering what I want. We are not going to be in this house forever, so it's got to be affordable. I finally picked out an option. They didn't have enough in stock. Phil has one week off and is leaving in a couple weeks, so we are limited to what's on hand. We were at the 4th store of our shopping experience. Ok, what about this model? Nope not enough in that choice either. All right which floor do you have enough in stock of?  This one.  Ok, we'll take it. The story of my life. And it looks great. Things have a way of working out that way.

Day 3, we are trying to procure caulking and glue and trim to put around the purdy new floor. The caulking we need is on the highest shelf at Home Depot. Our neighbor has generated a theory about home improvement projects and competing wharehouses and the inability to get any job done without visiting BOTH places. I tend to agree. We have also become huge fans  of Lowe's here on the aina. We would shop there exclusively from here on out if our neighbor's theory wasn't in fact correct- but so far it has proven to be. But I digress, we were trying to get the caulk down. Phil, who met me at the store on his way back from work, is in uniform. He looks for a ladder. Nope. Two employees are chatting across the way as he looks for a ladder. They do not break their conversation as he stands by them patiently not wanting to interrupt. Finally he gives up, comes back and just scales the wall and tosses the box down to me. It was amazing how fast one of the two employees who couldn't take a break in their conversation to acknowledge a customer jumped over to "help".  As soon as Phil was down, he walked away without a word. We get to the checkout and Phil asks if they have a military discount. FYI- both Home Depot and Lowes have military discounts that are standing- you have to ask for it and show ID. If you are standing there in uniform, they will not give it to you, you have to have ID. So the checkout girl asks Phil for his ID and he gives me that look. I just snort, because it seemed like the appropriate response. He shows her the ID. We then proceed to Lowe's to get the remainder of our necessities that HD did not have. We get what we need and again are at checkout. As the girl rings him up, Phil asks for the military discount. She asks for his ID. I giggle. She actually leaves the register to get a manager's approval for the discount and the cashier next to her leans over- You'd think the uniform would be enough wouldn't ya?  You would think.  But policy is policy. I get that. I don't get crappy customer service. Everyone has bad days. But somewhere along the line we have lost the fine art of faking it. I am surrounded by fake lips, boobs and nails. Jailbroken this, just like the real thing that. We went through great pains to get real fake floor that looks like real wood. I mean technically it is wood that's been processed to paper and then squooshed together real good, so it is all natural in the most liberal sense of the word- kinda like cheetos being all natural.  Damn I keep digressing. My point is- what ever happened to common courtesy?  You have singletons in their 30's who have never abandoned their selfishness a second long enough to commit to anything or anyone, ranting on and on how people don't know how to parent or control their kids in public. You have parents running around in public, afraid they'll either be hauled off to jail or damage the fragile psyche of their child if they discipline them and they are miraculously supposed to learn self control by the time they are adults. I may live on an island, but I have learned that the old adage is true- no man is an island. Our lives interconnect and will continue to do so. You can choose how your worlds interconnect. You can choose positive over negative. Next time you are in a store and a child is struggling, remember it's a child. Instead of judging or commenting to the mother, smile or talk to the child. Make them aware that you are aware of them. Accountability. Next time your child is running amok, reign them in no matter how tired you are. Apologize to bystanders. Respect. Common courtesy. Remember that everyone has bad days. The only thing stopping your bad day from turning into a good one is your outlook.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baby-cation

I learned a new word last week. Seeing as it was the first full week of school, I figured my vocabulary would be supplemented eventually. I was catching up on some social networking one sunny morning while my one and only child still at home, Bella was catching up on some Olivia episodes. It is interesting to watch what shows she picks, which games she likes to play and how much that child can talk and talk and talk when she is the only one home. I had no idea she had such a vocabulary, she even has conversations her vocabulary can't support. She just make noises and sounds until she finds another word that works. It's entertaining unless you are trying to have a phone conversation with a public health nurse.  But it was not Bella who enlightened my vocabulary that day, it was my cousin.

I am one of 8 cousins on my dad's side. I was 3rd in line and through my brother's untimely demise, became VP cousin, second eldest.  Through a lucky assignment, early in our Air Force career- I was within driving distance of my extended family again and was reminded of how many happy years we had growing up. In a time before cancer, before responsibility- in a time you could safely jump into a mountain of leaves your uncle had just raked without wearing a helmet and body armor.  I remember each of my cousin's arrivals and the excitement of having one more baby to play with. I remember feeling so much older than my younger cousins, more worldly and responsible and look back now and laugh, we are only a couple years apart.  I remember following my older cousin around- she was the cool one, the pretty one and most definitely the smartest. She introduced me to Toni Basil's Mickey, of which I sang relentlessly for months. We got together a couple years ago and compared ages- we were both shocked to find the difference was 2 years. The difference between 32 and 34 is a lot less than 10 and 8. So I have to agree with the whole time is not linear arguement. 

I remember holding my cousins, changing their diapers, having sleepovers, crazy dress up 4th of July's and wild Christmas Eve celebrations. I remember feeling the distance when my family moved across the country and feeling even more left out going back to visit. I remember feeling heartbroken not being able to make it to my cousin's wedding because we are across an ocean and I had 4 small kids and a husband who was away. I was so excited a few months back to learn a new member will soon be making their way into our clan. It has been fun to see the family prepare and the excitement grow for the new little one. I remember back to a decade ago, waiting for our first child, thinking the time would never come. Yet it always does.

Seasoned mommies tried to warn me- get sleep now- I laughed- it's impossible to sleep with a 9 lb baby jumping on your bladder.  Knowing smiles did not tell me what I would soon learn- it's even more impossible to sleep with a crying baby.  Or shower, or cook, or grocery shop. I was so uncomfortable I thought I would burst- an experienced mom told me- if it weren't for the last month of discomfort, we'd stay pregnant forever. I thought that was the silliest thing I had ever heard- I was growing a human and it hurt, it would be so much easier once he was out.  2 months later, I ran into that mommy- with my 15 pound baby, 10 pound diaper bag, 10 pound carseat,  and 10 pound stroller- I was 30 minutes late because Phil had to work late, I had to shower and change the baby who seemed to want to do nothing but scream from 3:30 until 8 and was completely frazzled by the time I arrived at the social. I gave that mommy a hug and she took Phillip and he didn't cry for a whole hour- it was glorious. I even got to eat something. 

So last week, I sat down and saw my cousin was still anxiously awaiting the baby's arrival. She posted she couldn't wait for her "baby-cation". She works full time, but I had never heard of maternity leave being called a "cation". I resisted the temptation to tell her again to sleep as much as humanly possible now, before it's too late. I resisted the desire to warn her, she will never again see a day as worry free as today, or as quiet as today. I knew it wouldn't matter- in the expectant mommy's eyes, the hope for an easier day would soon be getting her through the rough laborious nights.


I wonder if my cousin will be one of those lucky moms whose babies sleep through the night immediately.  I had hoped I would be, every one said big babies sleep longer. It is my experience that big babies eat longer, and more frequently. In lil Phillip's case, Every 2 hours. For 40 minutes.  I hope for her sake that the baby is not blessed with colic, for the first thing a new mom learns is that their baby's crying produces a physiological response in them like no other. There is no such response in the new dad. Such disparity often results in midnight kicking and nudging when the baby wakes.  By our 3rd child, we had a routine down to prevent nocturnal kickboxing events- He was a night owl and would stay up to do later feedings so I could get a couple consecutive hours of sleep. When he came to bed, I was on call.

No one also could possibly convey the sheer excitement generated when a mom sees her baby's 1st smile or hears their first laugh. Getting to watch as they learn the mastery of all their muscles and harness the power of movement.  Most moms will tell you the best feeling in the world is watching their child's success and the worst feeling ever is their disappointment and hurt. It is an unrelenting career and working moms soon learn the art of managing not one, but two careers. And those of us who are fortunate enough to stay home wonder how the working moms do it when there never seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything done and far too many hours until you get to rest. It is for these reasons and many more that I am so excited for my cousin who will be soon become an official member of this elite club. A club that shares a bond only experience can forge.

We recently met with Lily's surgeon who had just returned from her baby-"cation" with her second child. This is a woman who cares for the surgical needs of the entire pacific pediatric military contingent. She works long, grueling hours in the military where there is no overtime pay. The woman never walks anywhere and is needed everywhere. I stopped to ask her how she was managing it all while sleep deprived- I can not imagine keeping up with her pace  especially with a new baby at home and a toddler. She began to laugh. Coming to work is easy- she told me- 10 times easier than taking care of a baby- I have an immense amount of resepect for you , I don't know how you take care of 4.  It was all I could do not to tear up- the woman who saved the lives of not 1, but 2 of my babies validated my "job".

So as I sit here, momentarily neglecting my "job", I am once again grateful. I am grateful to have a wonderful family. Grateful that my job involves 4 great opportunities for advancement with unlimited possibilities of growth and wealth. I am grateful that they are out of diapers, can feed themselves and generally listen when they are told to shut down and sit up.  I am mostly grateful for the public school system that takes 3 of them off my hands for 6 hours each day, minus  1 hour on Wednesdays, weekends, breaks, teacher no contact days, furlough days and holidays. Those days make me grateful for the times we are together. It is also on those days that I truly realize that how being home with one baby could feel like a "baby-cation."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Surf 4 HUGS

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Surf 4 HUGS is an annual event where Hugs kids and their families are invited out to Waikiki to enjoy the sand and surf. The best part is that tons of volunteers are on hand in and out of the water to help everyone learn how to surf. There were so many great moments today.  Our whole family got to ride out on a canoe and catch a few waves. It was amazing watching all the smiles. Kiera learned how to surf and Phillip refined his skills. I was really impressed watching Phillip and Kiera catch the same wave. I'm pretty sure neither one can wait until next year's event- we might even get Lily out there next time.

http://www.surf4hugs.com/