no home training

people are rude. people are rude AF (as f***)! I apologize to my readers who are of a more conservative nature, but some things really get under my skin. rudeness and lack of “home training” is at the top of the list.

you know what home training is right? it’s basic! it’s almost innate… well it WAS innate. but now with the world closing the gap electronically there seems to be a severe lack of etiquette.

let me give you my first example: i am in a service office, the office of my cable company. there are 40+ people in here and it’s already after closing time. only three employees are still working. when i walked in i was 27th on the list. i’m currently #10. it’s the after-work hour and there are lots of tired and hungry children in here. there is a young lady (she’s really not a lady). she’s wearing slippers, pajama pants and certifiable bed head. she walked in on her phone and left without ever getting off the phone. the problem is that while on the phone she proceeded to get louder and louder (and louder) while explaining her very personal story and flagrantly cussing. she was no more than 2 feet away from someone’s child and she exercised zero filter, zero cooth, and zero maturity.

i cuss. mm hmm, it’s true. i know plenty of people that do. but I do my best to lower my voice and control myself in public. especially within whispering distance of someone’s child. like i said, i cuss. my kids have heard it and hear it. my toddlers have told me to stop. my nine year old (he’s ten now) has asked me to stop. but my occasional slips are nothing like the run-on sentence of expletives that girl was spewing.

my next observance was of the greeter. this was my second time at this office and my second time seeing him. while polite, he seemed to be low-key racially profiling the customers. for the Hispanic people that came in behind me, he greeted them in Spanish. with me he was rather generic. with the young Hispanic couple that was there before me he continued to call the guy “homie”; and for the two black guys that came in three minutes before closing he only referred to them as “dawg”. hmmmm. is this the 2017 approach to customer service? poor choice if you ask me. poor on his part, but much poorer on the part of his supervisor, and manager.

my next observance was literally set out before me. i didn’t ask or prompt anyone for it:

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what has to be said about this? anything? anything at all…?

someone was eating (i’m going to guess that this is stolen fried chicken from the deli), while shopping, and was just flabbergasted by the distance to the nearest trash can so they just laid their partially eaten fried chicken drumstick on top of this box… and they also chose not to purchase the two overturned greeting cards (probably because of the chicken grease stains would be my guess). i mean, seriously.

what is this the result of? why are people so flagrantly disrespectful to everything?

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if anything is clear, it’s that Walmart should really tighten up their security.

how many people are walking around eating chicken, and donuts, and opening packages of …. peanut M&Ms? teddy grahams? or whatever that piece of yellow packaging belonged to. trust me when i tell you that i understand there are some families that aren’t able to afford much. perhaps this is the result of a food-poor residence and one too many cries of “mama, i’m hungry”. my observance is simply of the trash left around. it’s a sad world that we live in when there isn’t enough food to go around, but at the same time a stale donut can be discarded on the nearest shelf. you don’t have to be a pig. you just don’t.

it’s not just the fabulous shelves of Walmart that are covered with litter. this is a photo just outside my front door.


it looks like this all of the time. someone in the complex has a “store” in their apartment. they furnish the kids with all sorts of “hot chips” and “poppers”. in other words; unadulterated and unlimited amounts of sodium, MSG, food coloring, food dye, hydrogenated this and that, a plethora of preservatives and artificial flavors, and sweeteners and the ever present HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. the end result (besides the overweight, hyperactive, pre-diabetic juvenile population) is all of this trash where trash shouldn’t be. i’ve complained. it didn’t help. NOT ONE SINGLE BIT.

i got an evil stare in a parking lot yesterday because the other driver was backing up and i guess they got offended that i didn’t just readily stop for them … as they were in the wrong. i’ll stop, i’ll wait — because you’ve clearly got more important business than i do. i got a strange vibe from the lady in front of me in the grocery store because i moved the divider that she’d placed between her groceries and mine. really? you’re mad because i moved the divider closer to your food? ok. weird, but ok.

i could go on, but i think you get the picture. there’s entirely too much selfishness in this world. everyone just droning on about their own lives and not showing an ounce of care, concern, or love for their neighbor, their neighborhood, or their environment. it makes me sad. it’s always made me sad, but it weighs heavy on me as a mother. i can only hope that my children will pay attention to my words, my actions, and my prayers that the world changes for the better — and that it starts with us.

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memories to last a lifetime

my son went to summer camp. he returned today after five whole days and nights away. this was his third time attending (last summer, and this past winter) with our church. he had such a wonderful time. he's sitting on the couch reminiscing and researching some of the songs he heard and shared with his camp family. he shed a tear (a huge alligator tear) for the friends that he made, the times they shared, and for the overwhelming good time.

i explained that his feelings were normal and a sign that camp did everything it was supposed to do. these are memories that he won't ever lose or forget. camp is a memory that lives in perpetuity. it lingers on and on always bringing a smile.

we are fortunate enough to live just a half hour away from the mountains and the grand hospitality of Forest Home. the staff and facilities are top notch and geared to make a ten year old boy wish for camp — just minutes after having arrived home.

the three pictures above are courtesy of the Forest Home site. they do not allow electronic devices or phone calls (unless an emergency of course), which allows the kids to completely disconnect and take in the beauty of the world around them. the camp is faith focused and shifts the children's understanding of Our Savior Jesus Christ into a deeper yearning and learning. my son is already discussing his future as a counselor.

what more could a mama ask for? his prescription medication was loaded electronically into their site and administered daily by a nurse. their app: Forest Home Adventure Guide allowed me to receive updates; including when medications were administered, the plan for the day, the focus of the lesson shared, and my son's "camp store balance" (as cash is not accepted).

a faith based focused dedication on the Majesty of the Lord!! three allergy-free meals a day. mandatory hydration is required at all meals (drink two glasses of water). a safe yurt-like structure to share with his camp mates. a camp store in which to spend (his whole $15) frivolously. clean and accessible restrooms and showers. and all of the chaperoned and safe fun a ten year old can handle for six days. i am forever in debt to our church Immanuel Baptist, our children's ministry director, numerous dedicated chaperones, and the capable and trustworthy staff of Forest Home.


that picture and the gravity-defying toss are courtesy of our children's ministry director: Jaime and our church orchestra leader/director: Mr. Mike. thank you!

a (hundred)thousand thoughts

sometimes i wonder just what exactly goes through my head all day. there are moments where i feel that i am brain-dead because nothing that is filtering through makes sense. it is a simple flooding of random ideas, notions, thoughts and feelings. nothing is discernible. that feeling is immediately followed by the complete opposite notion that i am utterly and completely insane because of the sheer number of thoughts going through my head all at once.

i just spent at least half an hour trying to track down “the average number of thoughts in a day”. there is no factually comprehensive answer with scientific data provided as proof or foundation. in fact, every article, blog post, and entry found on the topic was followed by a barrage of comments about the validity of the information and the qualifications of the definition of thought, idea, and consciousness. it made me light-headed. but the overall concept is that our minds are so filled with “thoughts” that we have a separate one almost every second (tandem with the idea that we are capable of having multiple layers of thoughts at one time). whoa.

as stated by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now, “Thinking has become a disease”. i’ll say! a thought every second? on top of a thought at the exact same time..? one of which will draw our attention while another exists unconsciously on a plane that we aren’t even cognizant of? can you think of anything more elaborately constructed than the human mind, it’s psyche, and the intricacies of consciousness??? i cannot. the fact of the matter (in my humble opinion) is that the thoughts are not the disease. the disease is our human desire to validate every thought with feeling and action.

every thought doesn’t need acknowledgement. every idea doesn’t need validation. it is this neuroses that has brought MINDFULNESS to the forefront of “self-care”. we are so powered on, so consumed, so involved with every little thing that we have had to remind ourselves how to slow down and breathe. literally. mindfulness is centered around ignoring the tsunami of thoughts, following our breaths — in, down, up, and out, and actually being PRESENT in this place, in this space, in this time — right here, right now.

sometimes i dream about conversations i’ve had or want to have, letters i’ve written or will write, or even future blog posts. i have my best work related a-ha moments in the shower (when i’m not at work), or as i’m drifting off to sleep — prompting me to send myself an email at work. i do my best dinner recipe research during my lunch break (when i’m not at home). and i write best when i’m too tired to finish (as there are always more than a dozen “draft” posts in my cue — this will be the third post published today that was started not today; a feat i have never accomplished before). i secretly dream of and plan my children’s futures on the nights when i’m restless and cannot sleep. and i peruse memories of my grandmother when i’m home, in my kitchen, preparing a meal.

everything that i listed in the paragraph above takes place when i am not there (except thinking of my gramma). my whole thought process is void of mindfulness. i’m thinking about work when i am at home. i’m thinking about home when i am at work. i am seldom thinking about what i am doing when i am doing it. i have actually thought it through hours or even days before… making my mind available to obsess (TO OBSESS) about the next task while i am still trying to conquer the task at hand.

i put forth a conscious and concerted effort to be present when i am spending time with my kids. it’s hard to not give children all of your attention. as a single parent, i do have the task of planning ahead for most everything. particularly meals and outings. we have a pretty solid schedule through the week and on the weekends we throw caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may. but as of late, i’ve been making a point to not plan ahead. to just sit down and let them clamor over me. to lay on the floor and play with them. to let them pick the books i read, and to turn the pages. it allows for so much more conversation and interaction. they grow so fast…

i try to track my thoughts. when i’m at work i make endless lists to assist me with task completion. i actively use Outlook, and Evernote. i also use Notes, and Reminders on my phone. for a few months, i was also using a bullet journal, which i’d like to get back to, but requires a little more time than i have readily available. and with all of that, i still forget things. sometimes big things. perhaps if i just slow down, breathe, and focus on the current project i’ll be more productive. i mean, what good is an unchecked task list?

here at home my dishes are piled up. the laundry, both clean and dirty is also piled up. the storage closet is filled to the limit with clothes and shoes that are too small and need to be donated. the refrigerator could use a good cleaning. and the pantry could use a purging. at least the beds are made and the bathroom is clean. my eyes wander about the apartment looking at the flaws and problems. then i see this knee high stack of books. library books. that is where i will let my thoughts settle. we check out 33 books from the library two weeks ago. we read them all. i read them for, with, and to my kids. it was time and laughs that we shared together. those are the thoughts that mean something. those are the thoughts i will validate. this is where i will let my obsession rest… in the gaze of my beloved children.

a life better than what we had

isn’t that what we always say? especially when we are accused of doting on or spoiling our children? we want them to have a life better than what we had. we want to give them more than what we had. we want them to want for nothing because we wanted but couldn’t have. if that’s truly the case…when do we stop? which generation will be the ones to say “i struggled, i wanted, i craved, and i never got… BUT i’m just fine”!

i know i’ve said those words. i know i’ve held (and hold) those very feelings. but is that a founded desire? are my children lacking in anything? their recital every single night of our three stanza prayer will tell you no. they are not lacking in faith. their smiles, size, clothing, hair, and shoes will tell you no. they aren’t lacking. not in love, food or hygiene. their desire to read book after book after book at bedtime will also tell you no. they are not lacking. not with reading, not with mother-child interaction. in fact, i don’t see any position in which they are lacking. they’re all very well cared for. they’re safe, happy, loved, well, and thriving. what more could I be looking for?

i think that’s the question that fuels parenting. i think wanting for them, and living vicariously is what makes the next generation the “leaders of tomorrow”. if we didn’t want for them, push them, challenge them… where would we be? not we as in us the parents, but we as in society. where would society be if there wasn’t a newest youngest brightest on the verge of something spectacular?

but do we honestly have to give them more or better? in all honesty, we turned out fine… with less. is giving more what we what? i don’t, not really. i don’t want to provide more. i want to provide better. better quality. better substance.

i want my children to have a strong faith in God. i want them to see and believe His purpose for them and their purpose for Him. i want them to exhibit honesty, confidence, grace, generosity, and kindness. i want them to stand out among their friends, among their classmates, and in the world. i want them to be better than me… in all ways. i want them to have character, be characters (they’ve already got that one checked off the list), and be utterly unforgettable.

enjoying your children

after the fourth grade field trip, i picked up the twins, went home and freshened up, left to pay a bill, went out for pizza, and ice cream, and then to our local small town grocer for organic fruit and granola. all, minus the filed trip, with three kids waddling behind like the little ducklings they are. after loading my herd of kids into the car, and watching to ensure that the ten year old returned the shopping cart without damage to neighboring vehicles or injury to his person i turned to get into the car. there was a lady standing by my driver’s side headlight. she said “i just wanted to tell you, it was nice to watch you enjoying your kids, that’s all”. i said thank you. but after starting the car, her heartfelt words had a moment to sink in, and they surged to my core. i looked for her and pulled up next to her parked car. i rolled down my son’s window and told her that i really appreciated her kind words. i explained that i often (and was currently in the midst of the) struggle with that very feeling and motherhood can be so “consuming” she said. she said thank you for the thank you and i left. that brief but endearing interaction made me feel really good.

i was recently reviewing my blog posts and realized that there are three major themes: parenting, mothering, and my kids. needless to say, these are the themes of my actual life. i live and breathe kids. and as with normal parenting, normal mothering, and normal kids… i sometimes wonder if i’m doing the right thing. i have been told (many times) that my children are beautiful, well behaved, and kind. my eldest was taught to hold open the door for those following him. he does it, (impressively) to a fault. we have left many establishments, only to be stuck standing outside the door because my sons chivalry won’t let him close the door if anyone is within a football field length of the exit. as often as i’ve been a little irritated, it has been immediately dismissed by the compliments given to him (and me).

tackling a day of errands with three kids in tow requires a super hero cape, a utility belt, and the kinetic power of patience. sometimes it seems like an insurmountable task, but what’s a mama to do? not shop? not pay bills? choosing to not doing anything for the good of the household is NOT an option. ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. kids need to see their parents, up, dressed, out, and active. they need to watch you interact with the world, see how you handle yourself, and listen to your words as you speak with others. you are their role model, after all.

sometimes it’s hard to find joy in the endless monotony of parenting. there are times when we need to be selfish, but the guilt of even wanting to care for ourselves outweighs the need to do so and we don’t. sometimes we need to exercise discipline and the guilt of having to be the bad guy makes us feel mean and sad. there are times when one more load of dishes or laundry might push us over the edge. the numerous spills and sticky fingerprints alone is enough to drive anyone absolutely bonkers. but in the midst of it all, the greatest good you will ever do is accomplished. the greatest good any of us can ever do is raise (and contribute to the raising of) kinder, smarter, dedicated individuals who strive for stronger faith, a larger sense of family, more empathy, greater acceptance, and peace — above anything else. the occasional compliment from a total stranger is just the fuel we need.

Mmmmm Chockit

I asked Margo if she wanted some chocolate chip banana bread. No, she said. Two minutes later, I could see her great big eyes over the counter.


 She was looking at a wayward chocolate chip. 

“What’s that?”

“A melted chocolate chip, it fell out of the bread.”

“Can I have that?”

“Sure”

…. she tiptoed and grabbed the chip with her tiny LittleLady hand. Gobbled it up, quickly. One whole minute later I saw those eyes again.

“Mom?”

“Yes, SweetHeart?”

“Can I have more those chockit chips?” 

“Sure”.

I pushed the stump of leftover bread toward the edge of the counter. The tiny lady hand swiftly snagged a chip and shoved it ever so sweetly into her little lady mouth. I don’t think she walked away this time, but stayed put with her hand on the counter.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Rae?”

“I can have that bread?”

“Yes. I asked you if you wanted some, but you said no.”

“Yes. I want it.”

“Here you go, sit down.”

“Mmmmmmm chockit!” …. 

Each night, after we read, and before we say prayers, we share the “best part of our day”. 

That was the best part of my day! 

NoParent

CoParenting: sometimes referred to as cooperative, parallel parenting, or even platonic parenting. Simply stated: it’s when you and the other parent work together and devise a plan and support each other for the good of the child(ren). You maintain open lines of communication, make agreements, and involve the other parent in decision-making, educational goals, and disciplinary action — even though you’re no longer in a personal loving relationship. Your goal is to parent your child(ren) together; to the best of your abilities even though you aren’t “together”. Nothing between you and the other parent compares or can get in the way of the shared love, guidance, and hopefulness that you both have for the child(ren) you share.

It is extremely disheartening to discover that anyone wouldn’t want the joy and pain inherent to raising a child. Alas, not everyone was meant to be a parent. You can love a child, entertain a child, spoil, enjoy, and care for a child and STILL not be parenting material. How can you parent your child with a person that has no interest in the child, no interest in being a parent to the child, or participating in the love, growth, guidance and success of the child? How can you agree to anything when you can’t stand to look at, be near, or communicate with the other person? How does one CoParent with a non-parent?

Do it yourself, you say? Yes. A noble concept, indeed. But often times; easier said than done. The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” is far from cliché. It really does take a village. The support system required to raise children is vast. And if you’re trying to man the stations alone; the vastness multiplies and gathers levels of difficulty, confusion, and exhaustion along the way. Quadruple that factor every time another child is brought into the mix. Single parenting is not for the weak, faint of heart, or challenge-challenged. You not only have to be strong, you have to be knock-down drag-out resilient. You have to take the punch after the punch and just keep swimming. When you parent alone, there’s no down time. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself or wallow in any type of self-pity or grief. Your kids need you, ALL. OF. THE. TIME.

I have learned some hard parenting lessons (like everything I just mentioned) the very hardest way: trial and error (more error, than trial). I have struggled with all of the feelings and emotions that come with first time motherhood, single motherhood, and failed motherhood. I have felt blessed, elated, happy, sad, exhausted, doubtful, confused, amazed, anxious… you get the picture. Parenting brings out a person’s instincts, intuition and emotions that are complex, deep, and strong. Most of us need that village to help us cope with what goes on inside of us; much less the laundry, dishes, and cleanup. We need to hear that we are doing a good job and that we haven’t screwed up our kids for all time.We need someone there, even when we are trying to do it all alone. It is paramount that you understand that single parenting means that you are: mother, father, good cop, bad cop, disciplinarian, nurse, doctor, playmate, therapist, chef, maid, and barber. You are it. You are all that there is and you cannot take that job lightly.

We also need those village horror stories. We don’t necessarily need to hear someone’s pain and get relief from it. More so, we need to hear and know that someone can survive an absentee parent and still be loving. Or that someone else survived an abusive parent and can have and maintain a safe and loving relationship. We need to witness someone crawling out of the shadow of their parent’s depression, obsession, or mental illness to still turn into successful people. We just need to know that even though we’ve made mistakes, our kids still have every loving chance on the planet to be the people who God intended for them to be. We always need to be reminded that they are here for their purpose and not to fulfill the dreams and expectations we once had for ourselves. We must remember that we are ushers; guides — and our job is to “teach them well and let them lead the way” (thanks, Whitney).

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Every person walking down the street has an opinion on how to raise kids. They give you unwarranted advice and tips that they’ve never practiced but heard so many times they just pretend it’s the gospel truth. However, every child is different, just as every parent is different. Sometimes the personality of the child is so prominent that you can see it before they are born. Their stubbornness and tenacity leach out of their mother’s womb the way hot grease dripping from a piece of fried chicken seeps into a napkin. No one can parent your child better than you. God gave you that child, and He would not expect anything from you that you didn’t have the talent and resources to provide. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

We all make mistakes. We make mistakes in every way every day. But if you accept the position and title of parent (I say “accept” because there are a large number of persons in the world who think that birthing a child is a CHOICE and not a God-given duty and BLESSING), you damn sure better learn from your mistakes and up your game! Get better. DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR CHILDREN. Do not. As with anything, there are always situations and exceptions to the rule, but those instances have to be examined very carefully when your children are involved. Children seek their parents for support and guidance in virtually all things. Don’t be the parent that turns your back or the one that requires that your child raise and support you. Know your role. Admit your wrongs, polish your method, and do the best you can — today and always.

Parenting is a sacrifice. There’s no way around it. You will sacrifice your body, your memory, your breasts (you know, if you’re a woman), your sleep… oh the sleep; I miss it so much. You sacrifice your friendships, work relationships, and every party you ever thought you’d throw or attend. AND IT’S WORTH EVERY BIT OF IT. Every shoulder covered in vomit, shirt that’s been sneezed on, pinky finger that’s plucked a tiny booger… it’s worth it. Every night that’s spent sleepless, pacing, worried, and scared because you’re not sure you’re doing it right… it’s worth it. Children are worth the battle. Children are worth the dreams, nightmares, scars, and adventures. They are miniature funnier cuter replicas of you and they will never cease to amaze you.

Some people know in their hearts that they don’t want children and they make a concerted effort to maintain a childless status. There are others, who don’t consider being a parent until someone says “my period is late” and they still manage to be fervent, and competent in the parenting arena. And then there are the others… the ones who just don’t. Nothing sways them from their perch atop the “I don’t wanna” soapbox. They use any and every excuse, if they stick around long enough to be questioned. They are children, in adult bodies who’ve created a child but somehow managed to deliver themselves from the parenting role. And nothing and no one can make them change their mind. Not even their child. They’re missing out, but it doesn’t matter to them. It only matters to the child who has to learn to deal. Most of those kids are better off without the person so selfish as to not give up any piece of themselves for their son or daughter. The child learns early on that not everyone can be trusted or believed in.. and that even a parent can let you down.

How do you succeed; alone, in a job that was meant for two?? I can only tell you how I try to manage: I do what I can myself, and I try to utilize my village. I keep on keepin’ on. You should too. You just press on and do everything you can and everything you need to raise that child as successfully as possible. (While simultaneously harboring no ill will, hatred or bad wishes against that other non-existent parent). You do your best to be both parents, the good and bad cops, and you do it with a smile. The child needs every effort, every ability, and every bit of your loving care to fill in those gaps. I am nowhere near perfect. At times, I doubt that I am even “good”. I do my best and hope that each day I get better. I pray that everyday my kids grow and learn and find happiness in their home and in my heart. I have plenty of pity parties and occasionally find myself filled with doubt and fear, but I don’t let it stop me from continuing to do my job as Mother.

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Margo (L), Miles (M), and Kenneth (R).

I am proud to be someone’s mother. Three someones to be exact. I revel in their hugs and kisses; and find the ultimate joy in their devouring anything homemade. I enjoy knowing that they look for me when they are excited, hungry, or scared; because they know that I can provide support, food, or comfort. i get a warm fuzzy feeling when they demand “reading and prayers” before bedtime. Knowing that my kisses provide more relief than a band-aid makes me smile. And feeling my kids climb into my bed because they want to cuddle makes my heart sing. I have made mistakes, and don’t claim to be anything other than a parent doing her best; but I’m here and I try. I AM HERE, AND I TRY.