Tuesday, February 25, 2014

High School- What It Was, And What It Wasn't

High School for me was a never ending source of happiness and a never ending source of sadness. Looking back on it now, I wonder what I ever had to be sad about. I know a few things dug deep into my heart that I'm not quite ready to share here yet. But most of them were silly nonsense that only a teenager could turn into dramatic events.

I don't think I was a difficult teenager (compared to others and compared to stories I hear now of parents of teenage girls). But, as the saying goes, what my parents didn't know won't hurt them. That is how the saying goes, right? Or maybe it's, "What my parents know now, they can't ground me for because I'm too old."

This is a post that might come in several installments because I have a lot of memories about high school. Let's just start with these...

Here a  few of the many things I remember about high school...

One of the first people that comes to mind when I think about high school is Sam. I went to school with him from Kindergarten through my senior year. My classmates might be surprised by this (of the many things I can and do remember, he is forefront on my mind). I remember working on homecoming projects at his house every year. His parents were so welcoming and inviting. Seemingly the perfect family. Happy, nice, content, giving, sweet sweet people. I remember Sam on the basketball court. He was so tall, even back then and even though he was lanky, he wasn't awkward on the basketball court. He was amazing to watch and such a nice guy. It was a shock to find out that this Jayhawk loving happy guy was no longer with us just a few short years after we graduated. We were told he took his own life. It's just hard to imagine that anyone with that much happiness in his family would feel so desperate to not want to be on this earth anymore. My heart still tugs when I think of him. We have no idea what battles others are facing. Be kind. Be nice. All of the time. A simple smile or genuine act of concern could save someone, literally.

I also remember thinking it was the absolute end of the world when I failed Algebra II. I HATED math. Still do. Letters should not be allowed in mathematical equations. Realistically the only math that a normal person going to use within the general scope of a job is addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, some fractions, percentages and maybe some decimals on a very bad day. Have you EVER used the FOIL method? If you answer yes to that question, then I consider you to be one of the smartest people in the world (this category includes my husband). I would beat my head against a wall if I had to use this on a daily basis. Because I failed a class, I couldn't run for Student Council that year. It nearly crushed me. Student Council was the one thing in high school that nourished my Type A OCD personality. The meetings, agendas, check lists, to do lists, deadlines...oh how I loved them. All those things led up to fun skating parties, homecoming events, fundraisers. Those were the things I couldn't live without.  I was genuinely surprised and mad that my teacher failed me. I asked questions. I reworked my papers. I retook tests. I did my homework. I stayed for tutoring. (Remember the tutors that came in from Boeing?) I constantly asked for help. I still don't think it's fair that I failed and will hold a grudge against the FOIL method for all of eternity. I retook Algebra II the next year and scratched my way to a C.

Another one of my extra curricular activities was soccer. I absolutely loved playing soccer but I wasn't very good. I knew it then and I know it now. But here's the cool thing, no one ever said anything about my lack of ability. Girl's soccer was new at my high school when I was a junior so pretty much if you walked onto the field, you were on the team. I could kick the ball pretty well when no one was around to chase, block or try to steal the ball away from me. Other than that, I was a lost cause. But I loved it. I never scored a goal and never really contributed much to the games other than being a warm body on the field. My teammates never once made me feel like the poor player that I was. Nope. We were a team. Every member of the team was pushed to their ability (even though some player's abilities far out shined the others) and were treated equally. It's a far cry from what I see my boys going through now. As second and fourth graders their lack of athletic ability has greatly hindered their playing time on any team. They get put last on the roster, last at bat, stuck in the outfield and told that they won't be accepted onto the team since they haven't been playing competitively for the last 15 years.  My soccer team did want to win but we also wanted to have fun doing it. I'm so grateful that I got to be a part of a team like that!

In the fall of my senior year I realized that I had enough credits to cut my high school hours short and attend college classes my last semester. I had to have certain teachers and sponsors sign off that they thought I could handle the work load. I was in a lot of activities at the time and one of my activity sponsors refused to sign off for me. She told me she didn't think I could handle college classes and still complete high school. She was mean, rude, demeaning and altogether unsupportive. Again, I was surprised and mad. I can't say that's the reason I went into teaching or administration but it probably propelled me in that direction. In then end, I got the signature, dropped more than half of my high school classes (I only attended high school three hours a day) and went on to complete 15 credit hours that semester of college classes with straight A's in everything. All I can say now is, "Ha!"

Of course high school wouldn't be high school without friends. I had a few close friends, a lot of good friends and many classmates. It saddens me that I didn't keep in touch with any of my friends from high school. There's only one person that I talk to occasionally (other than the ones I happen to be related to now through marriage - which is still a little strange to me - but in a good way). Some of those were friendships that I really thought would stand the test of time. I didn't invest time in those friendships in the coming years and at this point, that's a big regret. Over the past few weeks I have learned of two classmates that have died. It breaks my heart that their families are grieving. It also breaks my heart that our class of 1992 is aging into our years where our bodies will start to fail. Yes, we're just turning 40 but isn't it all downhill from here? We have marriages, jobs, kids, mortgages and some even have grand kids. So hard to believe. I would love to go through this season of life with some of my best friends from way back when. So much time has passed. So many milestones have been missed. It makes me sad that I didn't invest more in those friendships. The "Never Say Goodbye" theme seems like an oxymoron now since we were all clamoring to say goodbye and get out of there.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Porch Lights for Hailey

This weekend I am going to sit down with my boys and talk with them about this video. I am going to use it as a teaching tool so that they understand that being polite and being safe are two completely different things. We have taught them over and over that you are polite and helpful to others. I need to make sure that they understand that in some situations, being polite is just not necessary. While the thought of our own kids being kidnapped is a hard subject to face, I beg all of you to talk with your kids about the realities of these situations happening more and more.

Fox 4 Stranger Danger Video

We teach them not to play with matches, to test the bath water before they get in, to chew their food so they don't choke, we teach them all of these things to keep them safe. Please don't ignore teaching about stranger danger just because it's scary. It will be infinitely more scary to lose your child.

I know with my own children this can not be a breezy conversation that I have with them one night before bed. They will worry. They will fret. They sill be scared. They will ask questions. This talk will lead to conversations about robbers breaking in, children being killed and why there are bad people in the world. I have to tread lightly to draw a line between teaching my children and scaring them out of their minds. The age of innocence is gone. The age of playing outside with your friends all day without a parent in sight are gone. The age of walking to school by yourself, setting up a lemonade stand and the end of your street and flashlight tag with neighbor friends may never be experienced by our children. But guess what? This gives you, the parents the opportunity to be involved. Take a interest. Garden while your kids are outside. Ride your bike to school with them. Be present. And leave your porch light on for Hailey. Ours is on in Leawood, KS.

Hailey didn't willingly get in the car with her kidnapper. She didn't hang at the door and answer his questions. She didn't take the bait of candy, a puppy or whatever this man was presenting to get her into that car. He pulled her into the car. She got just close enough for him to grab her. It's not enough anymore to teach our kids to ignore strangers. Even if she had completely ignored him, he still could have grabbed her. We have to teach our kids to run, scream, yell, act like a lunatic...whatever it takes to not be grabbed into that car.

Although the police stated that Hailey didn't know her kidnapper, he could have easily worked at her school. As it was, he worked at a middle school. Let me rephrase this.... He.Worked.With. KIDS. How this happens, I have NO idea. Background checks would have turned up his two prior crimes but neither involved children so I guess that makes it ok for a person to work with children? I don't know what the solution is here, but it's not just enough to teach our kids not to talk to strangers. They really shouldn't be approached by any adult to get in a car, give directions, look at a puppy, take a piece of candy....So once again, we have to teach our kids that not talking to adults (stranger or not) isn't being rude, it's being safe.

As a side note:  When I was in elementary school I was out on Halloween night trick or treating with my friends. I was a few blocks behind them. As I walked down the street by myself to catch up with them, a man approached me in his car and asked me to get in. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had never seen the man before and was certain that I didn't know him. I ran up to the nearest house and knocked on the door. I told the woman that answered the door that I was just asked by someone to get in their car. I was shaking and crying. She got me a glass of water and let me sit in her house for a few minutes. I am certain she didn't call the police or my parents. I wish she would have done both. But she did drive me down the street to catch up with my friends. I didn't know her but I felt safe with. Looking back on it now, I am so very very thankful that I learned how to react if anyone ever approached me. That situation could have had a much different ending. It scared me enough that I still remember it to this day. I didn't talk to the man. I didn't get in his car. These are the same lessons we need to teach our children. Over and over again.

Taking Care of Me?

    For the last year and a half I feel like I have been in a state of limbo land. For seven years I stayed home with my boys and did all the things that moms do when they stay home. I played Legos. I cooked. I cleaned. I put puzzles together. I went to the park. I scheduled play dates. I ran boys back and forth to preschool. I kept us busy, fed and clean (for the most part). I dished out hugs, band aids, popsicles, time outs and few bad mommy moments here and there.
    But I felt like I never lived "in the moment". I tried to relish in the day-to-day laughter. I wanted to enjoy play Legos for the four thousandth time. I pretended to sing along to The Wiggles even though I loathed that show. I put on a smile when my boys said "watch me" nearly every second of every day. All in all, I had a pretty bad attitude about being a stay at home mom.

   I decided it wasn't enough. The grass is greener on the other side, ya know? I wanted something more. Something that would fill me up. Something that would challenge me (differently than a 2 year old challenges you). So, I took a full time job.
   And my heart seized. I loved my job but man, it was hard. It was hard to give over control to my husband. He was the one getting the boys ready for school. Packing lunches, checking homework and taking the boys to school. After that being my routine for so many years, I was kicked out. Pushed aside. It was hard to stand back and watch. I felt like an outsider. It got easier and it got harder. Easier on the days when I still had enough energy when I got home from work to play outside with the boys. Harder when one of them was sick and Steve was the one to stay home. Easier when I got a snow day off work. Harder when I had to work summer days.
     Then, it all stopped. I went from being a stay at home mom, to a full time working mom and back to a stay at home mom all in a year.
    And here I am today. But I don't know where I fit. When I went to work full time it was the first year Cam was in school all day. All of those "things" I thought I would be doing that year (prior to taking a full time job) were put on hold. You know, painting, major yard work, actually having lunch with friends, getting my house in order, cleaning out closets, going to a movie (during the day!!!). Now my boys are in school full time and I've been a stay at home mom for a year and a half. To give myself a little credit, it was sort of a whirlwind until spring last year because we were still unpacking and getting settled into our new house.
    But still, I'm supposed to be taking care of "me". I don't know how to do that. I've never done that. I've always taken care of others (my children to be specific). I still have a hard time defining what "taking care of me" means. Does it mean I get my nails done every week? Well, no, because I don't want my nails done. Does it mean I get a massage once a month? Well, no, because I can't afford that. Does it mean I read in a comfy chair by the fire while my kids are at school? Well, no, because I'd probably fall asleep and then not pick them up from school.

Love the photo?

   I had these really amazing images of working out every morning and spending the rest of my day puttering around my cozy house that oozed tranquility and peace. Truth be told, I have so much cat fur in my bathtub that I'd have to scrub it out before I could even take a bath. My scentsy makes my nose itch and if I don't start my exercise before 9am, it's not going to happen that day. I don't feel like downloading and organizing my 5,000 photos so that I can make cute scrap books. Shopping for home decor is not my favorite sport and shopping for clothes is my kryptonite. I can't knit (have no interest in learning), it's been winter for the past 14 months so I can't garden and I volunteer enough at my boys' school that I feel like Norm from Cheers. I do volunteer. I serve others. I donate. I pray. I attend a women's group. But I don't feel refreshed.
   So, how do I take care of me? Do I deserve to take care of me? What does that mean, "Take care of me?" For a fleeting moment I thought that maybe if I had a bottle of wine during the day, that might qualify as taking care of me. It's probably a good thing that thought didn't last very long.
   I know there are plenty of you out that with great ideas on what it means to "take care of you". So, what do you do? After all the house work, chores, to do lists....how do you take care of you?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

To Cam, On Your 8th Birthday

To Cam on Your 8th Birthday,

While this letter is about a month late, it doesn't mean I love you any less. It means that we have been so busy spending time as a family that I haven't had time to sit down and write what I truly want about you and the fact that you are another year older.

In the blink of an eye you have gone from being my little boy to a sweet young man. You continue to amaze me with your quick wit and your ability to make me laugh in the spur of the moment. I have also realized that in combination with your sense of humor, that you feel and care very deeply for others. Your compassion runs deep which is seen in how you are affected when others are hurting or when someone has hurt you.

Sometimes I treat you as if you are much much older than your young 8 years. It seems that I can't remember a life without you. It seems that you have always been a part of this family. I tend to treat you like you are older and give you more responsibility and expect more from you than maybe you are ready for. After all, you are only 8 years old.

You are a brilliant boy with an amazing creativity that shines through in your art and writing. You amaze me everyday in how you practice and persevere with your gymnastics. When your coach gives you a task, you tackle it with full force and come back the following week having mastered the skill. I think even your coach is amazed at your ability.

Cam you are a kind and loving boy. You are friends with everyone and everyone wants to be your friend. I am honored that I was chosen to be your mom. We are blessed to have you in our family and can't imagine a world without you in it!