Family 2015

Family 2015

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Why I'm Staying Here... Flint that is...

"You live where?"  "Are you crazy?"  "Isn't that the murder capitol of the world?"  "Aren't you worried about the safety of your kids?"  "Isn't the economy there the worst in the nation?"  "What about the schools?"  "I thought there weren't any jobs there!"


I'm not gonna lie, there are some difficulties in living where we live.  We have a lot working against us.  This city has been kicked while it's down over and over and over and over.  Crime is high and the police numbers are pretty low.  Jobs are scarce.  The schools aren't great.


There's something about the will to survive that gives a community a certain passion, a certain fight and drive that are lacking in places where circumstances might not be as tough.  Shared difficulty binds us together in a way that is hard to explain.

Not to mention.

I have found a lot to love about this place.  First of all, I love the people.  So many of them give me inspiration with their hope, with their ingenuity, with their kindness.  We have found many people in this place who love us and believe in us, and that is hard to put a price tag on.


Sure, the Flint schools are not doing that great.  But, it's amazing what people who believe in and love children can accomplish.  The charter school movement has been a huge boon in this community.  My own kids have benefited tremendously from a charter school that has dared to look at Flint's struggles and say, "Yah, but, those kids are valuable.  They represent all that's good about our future."  Then, there is the amazing Flint School of Performing Arts that sits in the cultural center less than a mile from my house.  It's amazing that we have it in this place, but it is one of the biggest and best conservatories of it's kind in the nation.  My children get to learn there.  I get to teach there.  Amazing.


Despite the fact that I sometimes fall prey to the "grass is greener" monster for a day or two, I love this place and I'm staying.  We have fought for it long and hard, and we're not gonna stop now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Body Worship

I expect to get a million hits today just because of my title. 

Honestly, I'm probably not far off the mark on that prediction.  This topic seems to be on the forefront of people's minds these days and quite frankly, it drives me nuts.  I mean, I remember being a teenager and being obsessed about my body.  It was probably even worse for me than the average teenager because I was a dancer. I lived a large part of my life in front of full length mirrors wearing only tights and a leotard. 

But, I also seem to remember that all of that angst used to be the territory of young people.  I mean, I certainly don't remember my Grandma worrying about her figure.  It would have been ridiculous to me if she had, her figure had nothing to do with how important she was in my life.  I can understand young people, who are still figuring life out, placing a lot of value on how awesome they look in a mini-skirt; but, aren't we supposed to grow up?

It has occurred to me that all of this body worship probably has a lot to do with how little we value and respect our elders these days.  I'll be honest, it kind of scares me sometimes to realize that I'm raising my kids at a time in history where the younger generation is so quick to think of their elders like yesterday's news.  Not only is the disrespect ugly, really ugly, but it also is robbing them of a wealth of information that the older generation possesses that could really be helpful to them.

But, maybe it isn't all the young people's fault?  Maybe we send the wrong message as adults when we try to look like we're 16?  Maybe all the (married) Moms I hear talking about how cute this or that boy toy is, or starving themselves in front of their daughters so that they can still be bone thin, don't help?  Maybe? 


Well, I'm gonna do my part.  In this family, we talk about respect and we practice it.  My children do not call adults by their first names.  If there are 5 chairs, 5 adults and a bunch of kids; guess who sits on the floor?  There are times when I excuse my children from the room because there is adult conversation going on and their age has not yet earned them a place at the table.

I will also show my daughters, by my example, that growing old isn't awful or something to be feared.  I am not as thin as I was when I walked down the aisle 15 years ago.  But, in those 15 years, I have gained what feels like a whole lifetime of knowledge, plus 5 wonderful kids.  I wouldn't trade all of that in for a younger body - no way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Ability to Laugh.

Did you ever stop to think about how wonderful it is to be able to laugh?  It really is great.  Just think about it - we live in this crazy , messed up world with a bunch of crazy, messed up stuff going on - but, in the midst of it we still have the ability to find humor in things.

In my mind it's kind of like an "in your face" to the circumstances that surround us.  My laughter and enjoyment of life may not have the ability to change things, but it does have the ability to lift me above it.  It does give me the power to look at difficulty and say, "You are there, yes, but you won't master me."

I am not among those who believe that humanity is basically bad.  Heck no.  I believe, with all my heart, that they are basically good.  I have encountered so many amazing people in my relatively short life - SO MANY.  Yes, I've encountered a few rotten apples too, but really they have been the minority.

Also, despite our current economic floundering, I still believe that we live in the greatest nation on the planet.  We have our flaws, I do hate this interminable war, and I have kinda lost my faith in both of our political parties, BUT I hold my head up proudly when I remember who is the first nation to rush to the aid of those who are in need.  It is not a weakness that we help, indeed it is one of our great strengths.

I've gone on and on enough about my family, that you know how I feel about them.  :)

Also, I hang onto this thought, it's found in the book of Romans (in the Bible)  chapter 8 and verse 31.  It simply says this, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  I believe He is for us.  All of us.

So, with all of that knowledge, I can look at the passing problems in my life and know that they aren't the final answer.  It's not yet the end of the story.

And I'll be darned if I'm gonna wait until it all is perfect before I laugh.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I really don't like Halloween.  There have been groups of Christians that have been down on this particular holiday for years, but that's not why I don't like it.  I mean, I don't buy into the whole idea that if I let my kids dress up and collect candy that I somehow pay homage to the devil.  But...

I really don't like going into grocery stores and being accosted by headless, bloody mannequins.  I don't like driving past "Lucifer's Lair" everyday on my way to drop my kids off at school.  I don't like seeing rows and rows of size 2T  "Jason" and "evil witch" costumes.

We do participate in Halloween.  Truth be known, 4 out of my 5 kids would probably tell you that next to Christmas, it is their favorite holiday.  I mean, from a kid's perspective, it is pretty cool to get to play dress-up and have all your neighbors give you free candy for your efforts. It is pretty awesome to be able to go to school in your costume and have a parade.  So, I play along. 

I tell you what, though.  November 1st is one of my favorite days of the year.  I am so glad that we get Thanksgiving and Christmas to help scrub away all the Halloween yuck.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Being Sincere

Do you ever feel like you're drowning in an ocean of flattery?  It seems to me that this generation of parents has almost lost the ability to be honest with their children...and maybe themselves.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not at all suggesting that we go back to the time where kids were almost regarded as non-people.  Expected to be seen and not heard.  Never given a chance to voice their opinions.  Always told they couldn't do it.  They weren't good enough.  They didn't measure up.  No, those were bad times and many adults have the therapy bills to prove it.


I must wonder if it is not equally as damaging to let children believe that they have arrived at a place in life that they haven't?  Why do we, for instance, give ribbons and awards to everyone who participates in anything?  Why is it considered unhealthy and damaging to reward those who do their best?  To reward the winners?  Why can we barely admit that some people are just better at certain things than other people?

I just don't think our kids are that weak, or let's be honest, that dumb.  They know when they're not doing something as well as they can or as well as another person.  Do we look ridiculous when we try to convince them that they are?  I think maybe we do.  Not to mention, what does it set them up for in their future?  Come on, you've seen all those people on American Idol who think they can sing and they CAN'T.  Who is responsible for letting them think that they had any business auditioning for those judges?  And here's the kicker, do you think it was good for them to get up and humiliate themselves like that?  On national television??  I don't really think it was.

I have a confession to make.  I really try to shoot straight with my kids about stuff like this.  When they, for example, ask me if I think they're a good singer and I don't think they are;  I just say "no, I don't really think you're great at that."  

*uncomfortable silence*

But, here's what I don't mean when I say that.  I don't mean, "No, you stink at everything you try."  I don't mean, "Because you can't sing, you'll probably wind up working at McDonald's for the rest of your life."  I don't mean, "Because you're not the next Lady Gaga, I don't love you."  No, no.  I just mean, "That doesn't seem to be a talent of yours." 

But, here's what I believe, about each of my own children and about every child on the planet:

You are amazing.  You won't be good at everything, but there are things you will be good at.  You are unique.  You are valuable.  You should pursue the things you love and that is how you will find out what you are good at and how you will leave your mark in this world.  You have a lot to offer.  But, even if you are talented, you will have to work hard.  Things won't just be handed to you because you breathe air.  And finally,

When I am honest with you, that is how you know I love you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Living Simple

I've been thinking about this concept a lot lately.  I like it.  I may think about it a little differently than some though...

It seems like the common idea of living simple has to do with changing ones' schedule and the way one does life in general.  Get rid of the t.v.  Cut out extra-curricular activities.  Homeschool. No computer.  Cook from scratch.  Sew your own clothes.  Have a garden.  Etc, etc.  There seem to be a growing number of people who are looking to these types of things to simplify their lives, to find their lives more fulfilling and meaningful.

I have a few problems with this.  I like t.v.  I think my kids benefit from the extra-curricular stuff they're involved in.  Homeschool is good and appropriate sometimes, but sometimes it isn't.  I'm not sure how to turn on a sewing machine.  See my dilemma?

It's a good thing that I'm not convinced that all of these ideas are the only way to simplify and enjoy my life.  Actually, I am positive that I can have a busy life, various electronic devices and the occassional dinner of Hamburger Helper and still have a simple, satisfying life.

It's because, in my opinion, simple has less to do with the outside than it does with the inside.  If my heart is at peace, all the busy-ness doesn't have the ability to steal it.  If my heart is in turmoil, all the home-cooked food and gardening in the world will not help.

This is one of my favorite Bible verses:  "A heart at peace gives life to the body..."  Pr. 14:30.  That's so true, isn't it?  Not to be offensive to all my friends who are so into healthy eating (that's certainly not a bad thing to be into!), but I really, REALLY think that a heart at peace goes much further towards keeping me healthy than I what I do or don't eat. 

So, each day I try to start out focusing on all that is right in my world.  You know what?  There's a lot of it.  :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Yelling and Other Bad Ideas.

So, I would like to be able to say that I have never yelled at my kids, but....I'm not perfect and I'm also not a liar.

I can say, however, that I have not once yelled at my kids and thought later, "Gee, that was really great parenting, and effective too!"  I usually end up feeling like I wish I could take it back.  It's really bad now that Pierce is so good at expressing himself with his words.  He is super sensitive.  When he was younger if I would yell at him, or even near him, he would give one of those inadvertent shivers - nice.  Now, he says things like, (with a wobbly, about to cry voice)  "Mommy, it hurts my feelings when you scream at me."  Ugh.

It's not great for the other kids either.  They aren't likely to cry, but they do snap to attention and have that certain look of  "uh oh" in their eyes.  Ugh again.

There is good news though.  I have learned to apologize to my kids, and they have learned to forgive.  I have noticed that when they get upset with each other, it is generally followed by an apology.  I like to think that's because they have observed my husband and I doing the same.

Yelling is a quick fix, but the results don't last.  It is so much better to have pre-emptive conversations about expectations than to freak out in the moment.  It is so much better to count to 10 before you open your mouth when you're frustrated.  It is so much better to take a minute to think about WHAT you are trying to communicate instead of just communicating frustration.

And I will try to remember all of this the next time I go to my van in the morning to discover 3 gallons of milk that were left in 80 degree weather for a day and a half....they are just kids after all.  :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's Good for the Goose... not always good for the gander.

I have been talking to my kids about this lately and it's a hard sell for them.  I think that might be because kids tend to be so "fair" minded.  Everything is supposed to be fair and even.  I'd really like to have a word with the person that started that erroneous idea.  Someone needs to tell them that it isn't nice to lie to children...

Anyway, our conversations have been focusing on how the path that one person takes in life should not necessarily look exactly like the path of another person - even within the same family.  Obviously, there are going to be similarities, but it doesn't have to be and probably shouldn't be, identical.

We've been talking about it in the context of education.  Yes, they all need and will have an education.  However, the manner in which that is accomplished does not have to look the same for each one of them.

I started out, as the Mom of my first pre-Kindergartener, with the notion that homeschool was the way to go.  For everyone, all the time.  End of story.  If you read my post about count day you have figured out that that notion has changed. :)  It changed because along the way I realized that though that was the right appropach for her, at that time; it didn't automatically mean that it was right for the rest of my kids all the time.  Also, because she has 4 younger siblings and I'd like to see you try to homeschool a 4th and 2nd grader while also caring for a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a newborn...but, I digress.

We have fallen into a pattern of re-evaluating what is best for each child at the beginning of each new year.  Last year, I had 3 of my kids at a charter school and 2 being homeschooled.  This year, all 5 of them are enrolled in school, and although my youngest is only gone for half the day, I'm enjoying the break.  I'm enjoying it because I don't necessarily expect it to last.  After this school year, we have 13 more years of having school-aged kids in the house and I'm about 99.9% positive that there will be more homeschooling here and there during that time.

Well, that's kind of messy, you say. Yes, it is.  That doesn't really give you a lot of liberty to say, start a great career or have a great hobby.  No, it doesn't. 

But, I'm ok with that.  I have these 5 wonderful people that I get the privilege of helping to find their way.  I can't think of anything more important than that.  :)

Mama Bear


Without going into detail, let's just say that last night I had the occassion to pull out my Mama Bear.  She is pretty fierce and surprises even me with the intensity of her emotion.  She is a force to be reckoned with and I wouldn't want to run into her in a dark alley - or even an alley in broad daylight.

I'm sure all of you have experience with your version of her.  She's a tough cookie, eh?

Luckily, 14 years of dealing with her has taught me to use her wisely.  I learned awhile back that allowing her to run rampant was a bad idea.  She actually is much more effective if she inflicts no actual damage but instead curls her lip in a snarl and stares menacingly while keeping her distance.

In truth, I think Mama Bear gets a bad rap.  There are many jokes that circulate at her expense and many people who shake their heads when she gets a little out of control.  "That bear," they say, "doesn't she know that her kids are gonna have to face the world on their own someday?"

Well, yeah.  But someday isn't today, my friend.

I will acquiesce that by the time my kids have graduated high school that they need to know how to handle themselves and deal with bullies and difficult situations on their own.  I have no intention of heading off to the college administrator every time they have an interpersonal problem.  But, the reason I won't have to is because they will have seen me handle situations for them first, and then with them, and THEN they will be able to do it on their own.

The reason they will have the confidence to handle it on their own is because I will have firmly planted into their heads by my words and actions that they are valuable; and that they are not to allow themselves to be treated like dirt.

By then, their own Mama Bear will have matured a little and be ready to take care of them.

Right now, their Mama Bear is still a cub.  But not mine - she is in the prime of her life.

Bullies, consider yourselves warned.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Count Day.

I don't remember ever hearing about count day when I was a kid, do you?  But now, it is a BIG DEAL.  I mean, my kids were so excited to go to school this morning.  The older ones got to have a "wear whatever you want" day (GREAT incentive for older kids who usually have to wear uniforms) and the younger ones were promised a prize if they were in their seats when the first bell rang.

I, of course, understand why it is a big deal; the school's funding is based on their attendance on that one fateful day.

Which begs the question, "Whose awful idea is that anyway????"  Seriously, the amount of money my kid's school receives for the whole year is based on ONE day????  I have never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even I could come up with a better plan than that.

I'm not a government hater or anything, but sometimes I just wonder who really is behind the curtain down there in Washington.  I want to believe that there really are folks who are trying to do what is best for this country,and for the kids who will make up it's adult population in the near future.  And I honestly do believe that there are many good-hearted people who work in our government.  They probably scratch their heads about things like this as much as I do.  Their hands are probably tied, just like mine. 

But, I have an idea.  How about if we pick one day during the year and however many people show up for work that day will determine how much the people who hold public office get paid, or even whether or not they get paid period.  Sound like a plan?  That's what they do to our teachers, folks. 

Atleast I have the knowledge that I have done my part - all 5 of my kids are being counted today.   Hooray for big families!!!  :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vicarious Living.

You know what?  I love being a Mom.  :)

I remember being a young person, pre-marriage and parenthood, and thinking about how sad it was that parents seemed to live vicariously through their children.  Boy was a I a dummy.  Living vicariously has nothing to do with not living my own life.  It doesn't mean that I am all washed up and have nothing better to do than wish I was younger.  It has nothing to do with yearning for my "glory days."  I actually had to stop for a minute and laugh after I typed that last line - oh youth, they are funny - and misinformed.

No, the vicarious living I have discovered has everything to do with celebrating my children's growth.  With being able to feel the joy of accomplishments all over again, and feeling the sorrow too.  It is like round 2 of life, but with more understanding.  With greater capacity to be patient.  With the ability to see the forest in spite of the trees.

Oh, how I wish for the ability to pour all of the understanding that living has afforded me into the minds of my kids!!! 

But, I know I can't.  I know that they must grow through it just as I did.  I know that the mountains that they face right now will look like mole hills to them in 20 years.  I know they will at some point feel silly for some of the ways they acted and the things they did.  I know their reasoning skills and ability to cope will develop as their birthdays pass.  But, in the meantime, it's fun.  I love seeing them experience life and being able to be by their side as they do.