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This is a comment I wrote after reading a post by Jeff Goins on the topic of shame (

Yesterday, my neighbor sent me a text/photo of my first-grade son dancing to “Gangnam Style” with her two boys.  I love, love, LOVE the fact that not only will my son do this at someone else’s house, but that she appreciates this kind of freedom as much as I do.  In all honesty, she is much better at promoting free expression than I am.  She and her husband both have degrees and careers in the art world, whereas I am a boring chemistry geek.   I want my child to sing and dance, play and express himself.  I have been “busted” by coworkers driving by my house, while my son and I are having glorious light saber battles to the death.  I have been caught singing in the car as I pull into the parking lot at work.  I am honestly not trying to attract attention, but I also don’t always squelch my actions because somebody might see me.  I was not always this way, but I have purposefully broken away from the cookie-cutter persona that is often expected, and I’ve allowed myself to be me.   This especially applies at home or in non-work events.  There is a limit to how much fun nerdy science people can have on the clock, after all, especially when we are making medicine.  🙂

Thank you, Jeff, for the wonderful post.  In life, we cannot forget to dance.


How Trick or Treating turned into a life lesson

Our community is home to a very small zoo. Each year, as one of their main fundraisers, they host “Boo at the Zoo.” Kids can come in costume, play games, “trick or treat” at various stations, and take a haunted train ride. We have attended since our son was four.

He and I arrived ten minutes before the gates opened. Anticipation was in the air, with kids excitedly waiting for admission. Once through the line, our first stop was the mad scientist lab, where we able to help with “experiments” and learn how to make slime.

As we exited, there were several games nearby. I was juggling a wet painting, a bag of slime, and trying to wipe the “gak” off of my son’s hands, which was really just cornstarch and water. As it dried, it turned to powder and flaked off. Of course, this could not happen fast enough for my little first grader. He played one game then walked to the next one. As he finished the pumpkin bowling, I realized that I did not have his blue plastic pumpkin, now holding his slime and painting. I vaguely remember handing it to him to wipe off the stuff on my hands. “Where is your pumpkin?” I inquired, looking around. His look turned to panic. “I don’t know!” he said, frantically looking around. I thought it couldn’t have gone far; he just sat it down for a moment. The seconds started to tick by, with us looking next to the games, by the line of people that had formed behind us, and in between the two games.

Gone. His blue pumpkin was gone. In less than sixty seconds, it had somehow disappeared. He hadn’t forgotten it along the way. He sat it down to play a game, and now it was missing. My helplessness turned to anger quickly. Who steals a little boy’s pumpkin? Did another child accidently walk off with it? I was immediately comforted by this thought, as this did not make my child a victim of a crime. My guilt was through the roof. It’s my job to protect him. He’s seven. That includes his pumpkin. I explained to him that maybe no one stole it, but maybe a small child wandered off with it. I consoled him with a sword that lit up and made sounds. I had the bag that was given to us when we entered, that most children are using to capture their candy and prizes. After a few games, some face painting, and a promise of fast food on the way home, he was seemingly over the incident and had fun. I told him that I was very proud of him. While a devastating event occurred, he recovered after a few minutes of sadness and was able to put the past behind him . We made it to our car unscathed, enjoyed a very late treat on the drive home, and recounted the tales of the evening to his father.

As I prepared for bed that evening, the narcissistic part of my brain went into overdrive: what if this had nothing to do with the pumpkin or my son? What if this was directed at me? Was this a stalker? Mommy paranoia made an appearance. What if my son has a stalker? A few deep breaths later, I was able to reclaim my sanity. Common sense tells me that a child did this. Whether it was a three year-old mischief maker or a ten year old meanie, I’ll never know. All I can do is stay vigilant. The world is not always a kind place. It’s not fun to learn that while trick-or-treating. The important lesson, however, is to not let that one bad moment ruin the future. My little guy has a good grasp on this. I should take a lesson from him.

House of Denial

Our children grow up.  It seems one day we are holding them in our arms, rocking them to sleep, and BOOM!  Next they are chatting via facebook with their boyfriend.  At thirteen.  Oh, and he’s three grades ahead of her. 


That was my weekend. 


In all fairness, this is only my step-daughter. I only held her on my lap once and rocked her to sleep, when she was four. I only played countless hours of  house, beauty shop, and restaurant with her.  I only bought her shoes and clothes and her first bra…. wait.  I digress.  This was before I became the evil stepmother, of course.  I’m evil for numerous reasons:  I have rules, I hold people accountable (including their mother), I yell on occasion, and I am not an open checkbook.  The horror of it all. 


My husband (also evil) and I do not believe in electronic privacy of our teen children.  Call us stalkers, lurkers, I don’t care.  These are our children, and we know how scary that world is out there.  We don’t have to look outside of our city walls to see girls victimized due to what started as one photo on a phone.  We read stories about how cyber-bullying occurs – in our local school newsletter. It seems we lose a local child to suicide each semester in our surrounding areas, due to some level of this. We watch news stories of how they caught some drug dealer by monitoring their facebook account. 


Want a facebook account?  Cool – what is your password?  Want a cell phone?  No problem.  Don’t delete your texts.  We will do that for you.  Oh and yeah, I did check the number of texts on your phone versus how many showed up on the phone bill.  Yes it took FOREVER, but we are glad you didn’t lie and delete any (or oops, busted – no texting for a month).  Hey, I see you have a Twitter account.  Did you ask to do that?  Obviously not, with THAT screen name.  Buh-BYE online world for a while.    Muzy?  What the heck is that?   Great, now I gotta watch that, too? 


Unfortunately, the rules at our house are not the same at the other house, where they live most of the time.  This house is ruled with the big D- DENIAL.   This is how seventh graders get tenth graders for boyfriends.  This is how twitter accounts evolve with words and comments that would get me fired at my job.  Somewhere along the way, the overcompensation because of an abuse-filled childhood and a divorce has turned into a crusade of being the “cool” mom.  She doesn’t control them.  She doesn’t make them upset.  She gets to be the good guy.  Sure, I’ll buy you both iPods.  Don’t tell your Dad.  So we have a (then) 11 year old with access to the internet completely unmonitored.  We have a 15 year old who is bribed to move back “home” with the promise of an iPod (and most likely a threat that they will lose their house if we take them to court to lower child support).  He has no bed or room, and they can’t afford to fix the roof that has had a tarp on it for over a year, but wow do they all have cool iPhones, iPods, and nice Jordan shoes.  Hmm… and a son that looks and talks like a high gang member on Twitter, saying crap to girls, that if it was MY daughter, I’d be at their house telling them how proud they should be for raising such a white trash kid.  Why aren’t their parents tracking us down, asking us this?  I digress yet again… 


Yes, these are “my” kids.  I still claim them.  I even love them.  They aren’t little enough to sit on my lap.  I’ve known this for a long time.  I know they are not mine, but that really isn’t why I’m not in this whole “denial” thing.  I am just not that kind of person.  It’s not that I want them to grow up, but they do.  It’s my job to help them through this time, not put a bag over my head and say, “My kid isn’t going to do (fill in the blank).”  Oh, MY CHILD will be leading the pack.  My kid will lead them all:  not sure if it’s down the road to destruction or to heaven above.  I’m hoping for the latter, not the former.  I’m doing more than hoping and praying – but I do a lot of praying.  I try to teach him right from wrong.  I try to let him know there are bad things that happen, without completely terrifying him.  I know the days of him sitting on my lap are about over (he’s five)I will miss them – no, I will grieve when those end – but I will not be in denial about it.  There is too much at risk to spend time wishing my little boy was back or denying the truth staring me in the face.  He is worth more to me than that.  I wish my other children’s mother loved her kids that much.  I do, but my love doesn’t count.  

Don’t be a gecko

While flipping through TV stations, my husband found a listing for the movie, “We bought a zoo.”  As we have a five year old, we try to choose what is on the big screen very carefully.  I remembered the story line from the trailers and had always wanted to see it.  It seemed like a safe bet.  Our son was printing numbers, and playing with toys.  I didn’t expect him to really sit down and watch it, but I thought some parts might interest him. 


The movie did catch his interest, and it was reaching a pivotal point:  would they be approved by the USDA to reopen?  During this scene, this adorable little girl, close to my son’s age, informs the inspector that people call him a ….. (male body part, rhymes with sick). 


My husband and I looked up at each other and then to our son.  He was staring, fascinated, at the TV.  My husband buries his face in the computer, hiding behind the screen.  Thanks, Dear.  No white knight is coming to my rescue on this one.  Colin looks at me, with this little twinkle in his eye, and says, “What is a…. (see word reference above)? 


My brain was running a million miles an hour trying to dodge this one. 


“No, no, he said ‘gick’,” I reply, smiling, looking right in his eyes.  “What’s a ‘gick’?” asks my child.  “You know, it’s another word for gecko: the little lizards.” 


I pause, still looking him in the eye and smiling.  Wow, I am making this up as I go along, but so far so good, I think. 


“Why would you call somebody a lizard?” he asks, now looking a little confused.  I said, “It’s kinda like calling somebody a chicken.  It’s just calling somebody a name, which we shouldn’t do.  So we shouldn’t call people names.” 


“So, we shouldn’t say, ‘Don’t be a gick!’” he says, eyes gleaming at me.  He’s such a little booger.  He will use any excuse to use a bad word in such a context as to not get in trouble.   I wonder where he gets it – must be his father. 


I repeat that we shouldn’t name-call, and we continue watching the show.  Several minutes later, my husband re-emerges from behind the laptop, and looks at me with a look of incredulity and a bit of distain.  “Gecko?” he murmurs, one eyebrow cocked. 


I started giggling, then laughing, tears streaming down my eyes.  My son shushes me, giving me a very disapproving look.  I am apparently disrupting his movie-watching. 


We make it through another day of life, and I have a new phrase:  Don’t be a gecko. 

Right vs Happy

I once heard a story: On his daughter’s wedding day, the father approached his future son-in-law. “Son,” he said, “I want to give you some advice. I’m not saying this because you are marrying my daughter, but because I am married to her mother. You can be right, or you can be happy, but you will NOT be both.”

This has become a popular saying in my family now. While it’s a funny story, there is also some truth to it. I come from two very opinionated families. I grew up believing that if you want your side to be heard, you just talk louder and faster than the other person. Seems simple enough. At family gatherings, it’s not uncommon for me to carry on two or three (maybe four) conversations at one time, and they are not always with people in the same room. That’s OK: I am a loud talker. This is my “normal.”

Let’s review: I talk loudly, I talk very fast, and I am never wrong. I may not be right, but I’m never wrong. There’s a difference. If I have to explain it to you, you won’t get it.

Moving on…

Two nights ago, I was faced with a choice: shut up, be wrong, and get out of the way, or life as you know it will cease to exist. Done.

Really? That is unacceptable. Do you know why? BECAUSE I AM RIGHT! It gets worse. If I have to be “not right,” I will not be happy. Oh no way. NO WAY IN HELL. NEVER. Because this is all WRONG. Decisions being made will change life as I know it anyway. Maybe not as bad as the ultimatum, but I think still rather devastating.

This is what makes it SO unacceptable: This is about children. Kids. MY kids. Oh wait, they are not really mine. I’ve just helped raise them for the last nine or ten years. My vote doesn’t count. My opinion isn’t wanted. My feelings do not matter. All of the positive things I have done for them are not even acknowledged. There are a LOT of moments I was there when others weren’t. It all means nothing.

Here is the kicker. I do have a child in the middle of all of this. And it’s pretty much summed up as this: sacrifice the two that aren’t mine, for the one that is. Of course, when everything goes to hell, I will certainly be in the middle cleaning up the mess. There is no way to keep me out of it when it impacts my life. There is no way to keep my child out of this. It will impact him as well.

This isn’t even about trust. This is about letting go. I feel these children are lost to me. I have to remember they were never mine. They are His (and his and hers). I have to place this in the hands of God. I find no comfort in this yet. It’s not over. I’m not sure this can even be repaired or that I may truly lose them. I do know have no control over this.

Yet in the middle of this, laundry must be done, dishes need to be washed, soccer practice continues and I will still go to my 50+ hr a week job, while trying to run a household while being neither right nor happy. Life goes on.

Things I never thought I’d say in church

Do not walk like Yoda

Do not pretend you have a light saber.  No – not even a pretend one. 

Get down from those steps!  You may not jump like Spiderman!  

No, you cannot play the drums on the stage.  Get down!  Right now!  

No, I don’t think Jesus has a light saber.  He really doesn’t need one. 

Yes, God could beat both Spiderman and the Hulk.  At the same time. 

You may not fly down the hallway (arms outstretched, like Superman)

Please do not push people and say “Coming through!”  It’s rude. 

I don’t really think Jesus said, “Don’t color in Sunday school” now did he?  

I understand you like the water fountain, but you may not gargle and spit out the water. 

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