I became a Pinteresting queen before school ended this year for my boys.  I had horrid flashbacks of last summer: countless hours of hearing the repetitive sound of axes hacking away on Minecraft, Teen Titans blasting from the television, and enough “I’m bored” nags from the boys to last me a life time.  So, I became a Pinterest queen.  I searched for ideas to keep them entertained, but it seemed to me that I was the only mom that to this day, does not coddle her little boys with bubbles and fairy dust.  If I were to tell me kids we were making a cute bumblebee craft out of toilet paper rolls (yes, that is on Pinterest for all you lame-o moms), they would have packed their stuff and marched on out of my house.  I searched high and low for cool ideas.  The final product still sounded lame, but I knew I could pull it off.  When I told Baby G and Baby D what their summer plans consisted of, I received the mandatory “UGH!!!” but I promised them it would be much more awesome than they could imagine.  So here goes:

Each day of the week took on a new title:  Make-something Monday, Traveling Tuesday, Wet Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, and Figure-it-out Friday.  Each week would then have a new theme based on whatever is going on that week therefore we wouldn’t be tied down to making boring crafts or visiting the same two historical sights in our town.

This first week was off with a bang.  We are going camping for the first time with Baby W this weekend, so our theme was geared toward this trip.

Make-something Monday: First off, I am a horrible mother in the eyes of the boys: they are given until 930 to do whatever they want, but by 930 I expect them to be fed, dressed, and brushed [teeth].  They were then presented with a short chore list which ended with 3 worksheets (today was reading practice) and 30 minutes each online for keyboard/typing lessons.

Too little to really understand what he's doing, but he wanted to practice his writing too!

Too little to really understand what he’s doing, but he wanted to practice his writing too!

Not happy about it, but this is how your brain doesn't turn to mush during the summer months

Not happy about it, but this is how your brain doesn’t turn to mush during the summer months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we were ready.  Monday was a craft, and I knew they would hate me if it was lame (see toilet paper bumblebee).  Instead we made lanterns.  We took an aluminum can, drew a pattern of dots, and then – here comes the cool mom – the boys used hammer and nails to make holes in their holed pattern.

Watch those fingers!

Watch those fingers!

So careful..

So careful..

A rare moment caught on camera: brothers helping each other!

A rare moment caught on camera: brothers helping each other!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the holes were punched, the boys painted their cans.  The paint wasn’t very visible on the cans, so to let them have a bit more fun, they painted on other stuff too.

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We left the cans out to dry and later this weekend we will put a glow stick in them and brighten our tents.

Traveling Tuesday:  After Monday, I thought we were on a roll!  The boys seemed so happy with all my ideas – I figured they would wake up Tuesday ready to go.  Boy, was I wrong.  Their chore and workbook list met them like nails on a chalkboard, and after hearing Baby G complain about how awful always having to do something is, I sent him and his hormonal self off to a friend’s house for the morning.  Any fabulous plans I had were unraveling so quickly and it was just day two.  I packed up Baby W and Baby D and we headed out, with a slight change of plans and a detour from the week’s theme.  It was voting day so I decided to show Baby D how he should one day exercise his rights.  On our way to our polling location, I explained to him the importance and value of just one single vote.  Once there, he followed me through the process, but closed his eyes while I cast my vote because, “It’s your secret”.  We ran a few more errands together, and though our day turned out quite differently than I had planned, at least Baby D learned something new.

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Wet Wednesday:  Last weekend we had a big crawfish boil at our house – and it rained, rained, rained!  Wednesday was our first dry day, and thank goodness because we planned on getting really wet!  After the usual fight with chores, the boys were packed up and ready to hit the beaches.  This time we decided to bring our puppy with us.  Baby L is an almost 8 year old German Shepherd/Collie who is deathly afraid of the water but loves the beach – weirdo.  Packing for the beach as a single adult is so easy: you grab a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and go.  But packing for three kids and a dog is no easy task.  I needed an oversized sheet for Baby W to lay on, I needed the umbrella to cover Baby W and Baby L.  A water bowl for Baby L, beach toys, towels, towels, towels, snacks, water, hats……. I packed for nearly an hour knowing well that I would likely only stay for an hour! Then once on the beach, the two older boys took off for the water, leaving me with an overly excited and sandy baby and a scared to death but terribly happy dog.  The two of them covered my makeshift play area with sand, threw my water bottles out of the shade and chased other dogs on the beach (yes, even Baby W tried chasing the dogs).  By the time I had the situation under control, I was exhausted and ready to go home.

Chilling in the shade

Chilling in the shade

That's a laughing baby

That’s a laughing baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I hung up my gloves and gave in, my phone rang.  My dear friend, RC, offered us 4 tickets to our local water park.  I have lived here nearly six years and yet have never been to the water park because the prices are so steep!  So with the offer of free tickets and the opportunity to spend an awesome afternoon with a great friend, I jumped right on it!  We packed our beach things in a fury – aided by a sweet homeless man (we gifted him our water bottles and snacks) and rushed home to drop off Baby L.

The water park was fantastic!  The boys rode all the slides with RC because – I’m not even ashamed to admit – I am too chicken to ride those crazy slides!!  Instead, Baby W and I enjoyed the kiddie pool.   Everyone had a fabulous time, and before we knew it, it was closing time.   The boys all picked up a nice tan, while I went home looking like I was slowly morphing into a lobster: nothing that some Aloe Vera can’t fix.

Loving his first water park experience

Loving his first water park experience

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Lazy river - I can handle it!

Lazy river – I can handle it!

With RC and her mother in law

With RC and her mother in law

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful Thursday: I decided to give the boys a bit of a break – and be thoughtful – and didn’t present them with a chore list first thing in the morning.  At some point today we will have a lot of prepping to do for this weekend’s camping trip, so I gave them the morning off to play.  Amazingly, Minecraft has not come on the Xbox yet and I haven’t heard, “I’m bored”, but the day is still young…

I had originally explained to the boys what Thoughtful Thursday meant:  we do something kind for someone else.  I gave them suggestions and told them we would decide weekly what we would do, but yesterday the boys informed me they already had something in mind and that I didn’t have to worry about it.  So I didn’t.  I hoped they wouldn’t forget and leave me hanging.  And this is what I found by my bedroom door this morning:

To: The BEST mom EVER From: Gabe Happy Thoughtful Thursday

To: The BEST mom EVER
From: Gabe
Happy Thoughtful Thursday

Say what you will about hormonal, pain in the butt boys; but sometimes – just sometimes – they can pull off some terribly sweet moves.

Lastly we have Figure-it-out Friday.  Tomorrow the boys are set to learn something new, but with our pending camping trip, I knew I wouldn’t have time to write this week’s blog, so I can only offer a sneak peak!  After their chores – ha! – the boys will look up online (they find it thrilling when I give them the green light to Google anything!) information regarding our camp sight: history, special landmarks, local birds or animals.  We will then use all the knowledge they learned – sounds fun, huh?  I can just picture myself spotting birds…

As week one of summer break ends, I can only look forward to the next two months.  Surely, not all days will be as well organized as Monday or fall into place as smoothly as Wednesday.  There will be plenty of days like Tuesday, but thank goodness, they are always, always followed by wonderful moments like Thursdays.

Baby L touching the water reluctantly

Baby L touching the water reluctantly

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Happy Mother’s Day…to Me

In honor of moms having a relaxing day, I will keep this short:

We have all heard the jokes about what mothers really want for Mother’s Day: a shower without little hands peaking under the bathroom door, a meal eaten while it is still hot and while others are actually eating, and ah-yes – a full night’s sleep!  Jokes aside, though, that’s really what we want!

The clock has just struck midnight so it is officially Mother’s Day, but I can guarantee that those things listed above will not be gifted to me.  In fact, here I am at midnight, bright eyed and awake.  Why?  Because the gift of peace for a mom is non-existent.

Baby G has an ear infection.  It’s the outer ear, so not contagious, but not any less painful.  He is on an antibiotic regimen and on a very strict “no pool” status.  He hates it.  I hate it.  He can’t sleep and with his big brown eyes he begs me to help him get rid of the pain.  Of course, I can’t.  I have done all I can to help alleviate the pain, but until those little drops start kicking in, all I can do is wait and remind him it’s OK.  Right. Like that helps.

It’s more than that – in just writing those three short paragraphs, I had to stop to give Baby W a bottle when he woke up, rock him back to sleep, let a cat out of the house, let another cat back in the house, and get a blanket for Baby G.  This motherhood business is never-ending.  It doesn’t even pause for a day – or a night.

But us moms who are giving it all up – we have something extra special coming our way.  It’s things like these:

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This was from Baby D.  His very awesome teacher sent him home every day this week from school with a different Mother’s Day craft.  Baby D would then proudly present them to me as soon as he walked in the door: “Do you like this, Mamma?  Did I do a good job?”  Of course he did a good job – he did a great job!  The gesture, the craft – it’s pretty nice.  But the meaning behind it – now that is superb.

If it wasn’t for the small things like this one, I wouldn’t be a mom.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I am the only one that can help ease ear pain by just letting you sit in my lap, I wouldn’t be a mom.  If I wasn’t awake at almost 1 am on Mother’s Day ensuring everyone else is content, I wouldn’t be a mom.

So, to all you moms out there who are up in the  middle of the night with a sick child, or a list of chores to finish, or a mind full of worries for your family, or even if you are working that dreaded night shift to support your little ones – my warmest wishes of a happy Mother’s Day go to you.  You will likely not catch much of a break tomorrow, or the day after that: just remember, our job is never ending.

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Now, let me rush back to my camomile Mother’s Day date.

Notice that Baby D drew a small picture of me covering him with an umbrella :)

Baby D drew a small picture of me covering him with an umbrella 🙂

Imagining this world without you

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the based-on-true-life movie, Philomena.  It was a sad story about one mother’s search for her lost son.  As an Irish teen mother in the ’50s, she was forced into a monastery where the nuns sold her toddler son to an American family.  Fifty years later, with the help of a journalist, she unravels the mystery of her son’s life, only to discover that she was 8 years too late – her son had already passed.  A tear jerk-er, for sure, Philomena was full of social injustices and cruelties, and bouts of religious questioning, particularly for those of the Catholic faith.

After the movie ended, I crawled into bed with The Man and Baby W (yes, at ten months he has yet to leave my bed) but sleep escaped me.  I felt a sudden sadness for this woman, Philomena.  I felt sadness for all mothers mentioned in the movie, in fact.  Imagine going through life without knowing your children – seeing them ripped from your arms and brought into those of a stranger for the keeping.  Think of the audacity of the nuns who allowed it – who profited from it!

So, as I lay holding Baby W in my arms, I tried to imagine what my life would be like without him or his brothers.  It was an almost impossible task, because after-all, they have been ever present in my life for 10 years!  But let’s work back.

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Without Baby W – just these past few days he has mastered the “dammi cinque” – Italian for “give me a high five”.  I hold my hand up, say, “dammi cinque” and he laughs as he raises his hand too.  Sometimes he gets too excited and he grabs my hand and brings it to his mouth to kiss it.  Mostly, that involves nuzzling his face in my hand and looking at me through my fingers.  I can see him smiling so big because he knows we are playing out little game.  He also knows, however, that if he follows through correctly and gives me a high five, that I will laugh and hug and kiss him because, to me, it is so amazing to see a little baby learn new tricks – even if it is a simple game of high five.  But, without him, I would have never experienced that…

Without Baby D – he is my sweetheart.  Everyone loves Baby D, and I mean, everyone.  Anywhere we go, we are bound to find a little girl who recognizes him, and with a shy turn of the cheek (girls, you all know what move I am talking about) they whisper a quiet “hello” to him.  I have two choices, therefore: 1)I can lock him in his room until he is an adequate age to bring home a girl (say, 35?) or 2) I can teach him right.  I don’t want him to end up being that weird guy that cannot find a girlfriend because his mom won’t let go of him, so I must opt for the latter option.  So, the other day we were in the car driving from baseball practice and we were talking about etiquette.  Conversations such as these actually occur more often than you might think because boys are nasty, sloppy and gross – and I will do everything in my power to turn them into slightly less inappropriate young men.  I was explaining to Baby D that when he is older and decides to start dating there are certain rules he must follow: he must always offer to pick his date up, he must open the door for his date – all doors, he must offer to pay, and when his date offers to split, he should insist on paying, he should bring flowers, he should call soon after because the waiting game is for those who are afraid of taking risks…I told him all these things, and his simple response was, “I have to do all those things?! It sounds so…committed!” He is seven, for goodness sake.  Committed was not the word I was expecting him to use! But he is a hilarious little boy, with a sense of humor as sharp as his little brain, which is why I am now considering going back to option 1…  But, without him, I would have never experienced that…

Without Baby G – oh, the list here is immense since he brought about so many – indeed most- of my baby firsts.  My fist pregnancy, my first childbirth (yowza, by the way), my first night as Santa, and Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy – so many firsts.  But this means, he is also the first to hit some of the sad milestones.  He will be turning 10 in exactly one week.  Every year I have thrown him a birthday party.  The theme changes yearly and every year I go a little further to make the party a bit more extravagant. Last year it was Godzilla and even the food was in theme from faux sushi rolls to nuclear limeade.  This, year, however, I have nothing to plan.  It was at Baby G’s request that we are not having a birthday party.  He said, “They are lame”.  I swear to you, a part of my heart withered away and died when I heard that.  He is too cool for school.  I don’t have my baby anymore – he has been replaced by a young boy who is itching to become a teen who is itching to become a man.  I am having to face this harsh reality that, as the years pass, he is becoming his own person – and, thankfully, I am helping to mold him.  But, without him, I would have never experienced that…

So why tell you this?  Any parent out there will come to realize this at some point or another:  our children impact our lives.  But it’s much deeper than that.  This just makes me realize what an impact each and every one of us has in this world.  My boys altered my life in a way that I cannot even begin to fathom.  But what about me? How much have I impacted their world – how much have I impacted yours?  My friends – even if I just spoke to you one single time, that one time is forever engraved in your memories.  Sure, you might not think about me all the time – you might never think of me again if we were to never cross paths – but for that one instant, even just that one – I meant something to you.

The same goes for you, too.  Think of the last time we spoke: did we exchange a laugh?  Or maybe, deep down we know that we don’t actually like each other but we both fake it so well (ah, yes, Facebook fans of mine – this shout out goes to you too!)  It is simply incredible to think about the impact we can have on people.

I urge you then, praise yourself – acknowledge your worth and bearing to me and to all others.  Acknowledge your children.  If you don’t have any, consider having some – they are kind of awesome.  If you haven’t seen Philomena, watch it.  The mother doesn’t have the chance to reunite with her son, but she learns that regardless of their distance, she impacted his life just the same and he was closer to home than she ever knew.  Life is just so mysteriously fantastic, but without you – well, I just couldn’t imagine it…

 

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What A Mother of Three Boys Actually Looks Like

I have written posts in the past about what it is like being the mother of three boys:  there are cars, trucks, footballs, dinosaurs, monsters, smelly sneakers, baseball practice, girls shyly knocking on the front door etc.  What I have never talked about before is what it looks like being the mother of three boys.  Let’s start by taking a swan dive into the past, a fourteen year old past:

ImageThat is yours truly, celebrating my sweet sixteenth birthday: pre-marriage, pre-babies, pre-responsbilities!  I find it amazing that Mother Nature makes girls – all of them – truly beautiful.  Young girls have the sweetest smiles and naturally bouncing curls.  Teenage girls, then, have a teasing sass that send teenage boys’ heads spinning. Mother Nature can be so nice.

Then comes marriage and a baby carriage.

Baby G was born when I was still very young – just shy of my 21st birthday.  My slight frame suddenly expanded to make room for that little being I was creating.  After he was born, my body and I had a chat:  I said, “Please be a dear, return to your normal size,” but my body replied, “Silly girl, this is your new normal size!”  And here I am post Baby G:

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By the time Baby G turned two, I had managed to trick my body into returning into a semi-decent shape.  After all, I was still merely 23 and Mother Nature sorta-kinda thought I was young girl.

I didn’t wait too long, however, to add to my family: I decided to have another baby.  Baby D was born at the end of my 23rd year.  He was a great baby because he did not make me turn into a bison during pregnancy, but weighed like a bison himself when he was born (almost 9 lbs!).  Within a couple years post-Baby D, once again, my body met me in the middle.

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Fast forward a few years, and Baby W is born when I am now 30 years old.  Let me tell you, it’s a different experience having a baby at 20 than it is at 30.  It seemed that one day, I saw the first ultrasound of that little blueberry growing inside me and the next morning, my hips grew 4 sizes.  “Body, this isn’t even possible??” but my body simply replied, “You’re not 20 anymore, Mamma, you’re not 20…”  By the time we welcomed little Baby W to this world, my body had expanded like a mini Big Bang.  In my heart, deep down, I just knew that when I left the hospital I was going to prance home in my skinny jeans and flaunt my awesome bod.  But I lied to myself.  I barely fit into my stretchy yoga pants that coincidentally, never saw a yoga mat.  My belly was still overpowering the boobs – and we all know that’s a sight for sore eyes.  I told myself, “It’s ok!  This is your third baby, you’re thirty, give yourself some time!”

Time has passed by.  Baby W is now seven and a half months old.  He’s all smiles and giggles and – well he’s a boy – so all cars, trucks, footballs, dinosaurs, monsters, and the smelly sneakers, baseball practice, girls shyly knocking on the front door are just around the corner, I can sense it.  My body, however, has not done its part: it hasn’t changed much at all since I brought Baby W home.  Those yoga pants still fit, but thankfully they slide off easily (mostly because I have worn them 5 million times).

I decided to up my morale and shop for some new clothes that fit this body of a mother of three.  One particular dress I bought made me feel like one hot mama – short to accentuate those pretty legs of mine, loose in the top so my still huge boobs were slightly disguised, and paired with my high healed boots, I made it hard for The Man to leave the house without undressing me.  Score!  But as we were out shopping, the absolute worst thing happened.

A little old woman approached my shopping cart and began cooing and sweet talking Baby W.  “Oh he’s so cute, oh he’s so precious, oh the time flies…and when is your next baby due?” What, what, WHAT?  Next baby?  Oh, her eyes were planted straight on my belly, my not so flat anymore belly.  Maybe even on my not so small hips either.  I almost thought she was going to reach over and pat that non-existant baby belly.  Had she, I might have knocked her sideways.  A long trail of thoughts raced through my head: mean comments, how to hold Baby W while I ran the old lady over with my shopping cart, or how my lunch suddenly started regrettably churning in my belly.  But mostly, I thought how hurt I felt.  After all, she was a woman too, I can assume she had children, likely grandchildren, maybe even great grandchildren.  She must have known how her comment was hurtful, insulting, painful.  I just smiled, “No – no more babies. This one marks three boys for me and they make me happy.”  Her face cringed with embarrassment, she muttered an apology and continued with the Baby W compliments.  It was too late. She knew it, I knew it: my feelings had been hurt because someone decided to put a mirror to my face showing me what I already knew: my body at thirty is no longer the body of a 16 year old, or a 21 year old, or a 24 year old.  Things are different now.

The entire drive home I contemplated what the woman must have seen to make her ask about the non-existent baby number 4.  “I won’t eat anything but salad,” “I won’t drink anything but water,” “Gym every day, twice a day!”  But here is the truth: today is Taco Tuesday and my kids love tacos and so do I.  The gym is about twenty minutes from my house and I have laundry to do, homework to help with, children to bond with and a husband to entertain.

It might take a few months or years, but eventually things will shrink back to a somewhat acceptable form.  Maybe they never will, but even that is acceptable.  I will just have to hope that I don’t encounter those people who feel so inclined to assume that mine is a baby and not just an extra curve or two.

So, when you’re out there and you see a woman who you think might be with child, please refrain from making any judgments and comments because you might not be as lucky as the woman was today when she met me.  Next time, even I might run you over with a shopping cart.

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Don’t Catch The Gay

I tend to stick to lighthearted, cute posts about how absolutely adorable my children are.  Plus, we are a week away from Christmas so my posts should most certainly be jolly and reeking of merry spirit.  Just for this once, however, I am going to get serious and, in the process, likely offend a person or two.  So, reader beware.

Very few people out there today have never seen an episode of the latest A&E hit series, Duck Dynasty.  Retail stores are swamped with Duck Dynasty products ranging from bobble-head dolls to car seat covers.  The reality TV show focuses on a Louisiana family  with highly religious and conservative values.  Yesterday, the patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, made national headlines as news of his GQ magazine interview emerged.  A quick Google search will turn out his direct interview and quotes, saving me time from presenting those details.  But to paraphrase him, being gay is sinful and comparable to adultery, greedy people, swindlers, slanderers etc.  Additionally, homosexual behavior, as he believes, is an open gateway to bestiality and sleeping around. Yowza.  Talk about a bomb shell.  Even for a hit reality show, his comments were bound the have some serious repercussions.  And they did.  A&E suspended Robertson from participation in the upcoming season due to air in January.  Thanks to social media, this news spread like wildfire and both the critics and supporters came creeping out from every corner to put in their 10 cents.  And here am I.

I have read that Robertson being penalized for speaking his mind is an infringement on his First Amendment: the right to free speech and the right to religion.  Then again, I have read that though it was his right of speech/religion, it was also A&E’s right to defend their image.  The question is, then, how far do free speech and freedom of religion carry us?  When does it go too far?  When are our right imposed upon?  Even before Robertson came out with his comments, I have had ample opportunity to discuss gay rights vs. religious beliefs, and just as he stood his ground in his beliefs, I intend on standing mine.

We study history because we hope to learn from it, and not continue to repeat past mistakes.  So let’s jump back in history a bit.  Once upon a time, in this strong country of ours, we had slaves.  Those slaves were eventually freed, but we all know that freed was a superficial term that hardly described many African American experiences.  Today we wouldn’t fathom the idea of telling an African American person they are not allowed to shop in White stores, or eat in White restaurants.  It’s racist.  So why did so many people feel that way just a short while ago?  Pull out your Old Testament.  African Americans were meant to be oppressed, secondary citizens because they were descendents of Ham, whose son, Canaan, was cursed by Noah.  It is divine truth that African Americans are inferior.  Or rather, it was the generally accepted White view then that African Americans were inferior because that excerpt from the Bible was considered more important than other excerpts (say, for example, Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.)

While your Bible is out, why not look at Corinthians? “The women should keep silent in the churches.  For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.  For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.  Well, go ahead and shut my blog down then and lock me up, because I spoke during mass on Sunday, which I attended without my husband – yikes!

What this shows is that over the course of time, society accepts and interprets religion differently, molding it to fit the betterment of the dominating group in society.  Once, it was the white male.  Today, however, the black male or the female holds just as strong of a voice (or so we hope) as any white male.  We have to find a new guy to pick on so the homosexual community has stepped up to bat.

Correlating this to freedom of speech and religion, however, is where the situation gets tricky.  Greater than the rights that are laid out for American citizens in the Bill of Rights, are a set of universal rights known as Human Rights.  They include the right to life, freedom from torture, from slavery, right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, thought, conscience, and religion.  They also include the right to the respect for a private life which includes the right to sexual freedom, orientation, and gender identity.  These human rights are the basis for all laws and basic human respect.  They are the foundation for “don’t judge me and I won’t judge you”.

One can have the belief that homosexuality is a sin.  One can also have the belief that homosexuality is simply another twist to  Mother Nature’s creation.  Both beliefs are acceptable so long as they do not impose on any other person.  What Phil Robertson did in publicly announcing his severely negative beliefs about homosexuality was advertize and stigmatize those in the homosexual community who are already struggling for equality.  Fifty years ago, the struggling community was comprised of the African Americans and the women.  Fifty years from now comments like those presented in the GQ magazine will be viewed as ignorant as  those that preached that African Americans were divinely inferior beings.

I believe Phil Robertson has the right to believe in whatever he chooses, but he does not have the right to assume that everyone else should abide by them.  A&E made the correct move in taking a stand for those who are being oppressed and stigmatized.  Human rights come before all.

I’ll step off my soap box now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being the New Kid on the Block

Let me tell you a little story about being the new kid on the block: it stinks.  We were all the new one at some point.  Our first day of kindergarten or first day at a new job.  Those first hours are exhilarating as you face the unknown.  You sport  a new outfit, maybe even a new hairdo.  The doors to a whole new world open up to you, presenting  unfamiliar faces: potential allies and friends.  The past is a train that has long since departed.  No one knows you.  You can pave the path to becoming a whole different person.  “I am adventurous” or “I am upbeat”.  No one can stop you – but you.

There’s that ‘but’.  That dreaded ‘but’ always gets in the way of an easy life.  With a field of possibilities, what creates this ‘but’?  To explain I have to step back in time.  I was raised in a split world: half of me grew up surrounded by my maternal family – a steady un-altering ground.  The other half lived the military brat lifestyle: most of my school years were spent on military bases and my friends and I moved all the time.  Whoever was my best friend one year could potentially live on the other side of the world the next year.  The advantage to this situation is that now I have friends on literally every single continent.  The disadvantage is that I have friends on every single continent – and our friendships have spread so thin over the years.  But jump ahead a decade or two, and here I am now living in Mississippi and it looks permanent (how did that ever happen…)

I have the innate ability to make friends easily, and the ones I have made here make me a happy person.  Certain thoughts and realizations, however, put salt on an open wound, and that brings me to today.  I am days away from turning thirty years old.  (Sigh.)  Yet once again, I am back in college.  I am working on a second degree since my first has flopped tragically.  Thankfully the years have fared well on my face and, besides the hidden stretchmarks of motherhood, I still look reasonably young.  None the less, there are small details that set me apart from the young college crowd:  my wedding band, the drawings my boys have taped onto my day planner, and the over-sized bag I carry with half my house in tow.  As I write this I am sitting in The Commons, cruel irony considering I feel no commonality with anyone in the room.  One hipster has a laptop covered with propaganda stickers.  A brunette (who, may I add, is fishing way out of her league) is hovering over him flicking her hair to the side as she flirts with the Ron Paul fan.  At another table another couple is bent over a nursing book exchanging notes.  All I can do is ask myself, “What are you doing here?  This is no place for you!  You don’t belong!” Ah! There it is! The “you don’t belong” fear!

We have an option on that first day of whatever it is we are encountering: we can be the wallflower who’s eyes dart quickly from people’s glances, or we can peel ourselves out of that shell of shyness and become known.  Anyone that knows me will say that I have never been, nor will I ever be a wallflower.  I have mastered the skill of becoming the newcomer everyone knows.  I have mastered the ability to make friends with the most difficult people (BE, that would be you!), or those who are even more of a newcomer than I am (OV), or neighbors (SB).  As I unravel my persona – the new one I create for each new friend or the old one that just sneaks out over time, I am still left wondering if I will ever actually belong anywhere with anyone.  Will they ever think “Back in the day with Nicole…”?

Until then, however, I will just be…adventurous; no, upbeat; no, just me…

welcome

Being the Queen Bee

When I was just a little girl, a weird lady from our community claimed that she could predict not only how many children you would have, but also their gender and the order in which you would have them.  I caved in and had her check in on my future offspring.  She used a ring tied to a string and if the ring swung in circles it indicated a girl, while a straight back and forth swing indicated a boy.  My ring never swung in circles – just back and forth: three times.  So when I went in for my first ultrasound many years later, I was not at all surprised when the doctor pointed at that extra male appendage.  At the second baby ultrasound, again, the doctor showed me you know what.  By the time I reached my third baby’s ultrasound I dreaded that devilish woman and her stupid prediction.  I wanted a girl so badly.  Someone that could be like me, someone that would wear pink tutus and play with dolls.  But I knew deep down that I was bound to have yet another boy.  This time the doctor didn’t even have to point it out to me: I became an expert at decoding ultrasound pictures of little wee-wees.  So there’s that: no more chances of pink for me (have you tried paying the grocery bill for 3 boys and the dad?? No more babies allowed!)  But then something happened.

Maybe when I had Baby G I was too young to notice it.  And maybe when I had Baby D I was too busy with a toddler and a newborn to notice it.  But this time around with Baby W, I am older, more mature, calmer, wiser, and I tend to notice more details than I did with his older brothers.  There is just something between a boy and his mom that is so special and so grand and I have it threefold!

We were out with family one day and Baby W was passed around like a hot potato: everyone wanting to hold him.  He fussed a bit as all babies do, but when he got back to me, he just looked at me.  And I mean LOOKED.  His eyes were deep in mine.  I talked to him and I smiled at him.  I saw that look he gave back at me: it was so full of love, pure pure pure love.  It might be due to the fact that I am his sole source of food, but it has to be more than that.  I mean, I don’t look at the oven like that, and I love food!  But his look reflected peace, comfort, happiness.  I didn’t see that look on his face when he was with other people.

My eyes were opened now to this new idea that I might actually be really special out there to someone, that I might be the Queen Bee in a house full of boys.  I tested my theory in two ways:  with my older boys, and with another baby.

I started watching Baby G and Baby D: they don’t want to be swaddled and held close, but they do listen to me and react differently to me than they do with anyone else.  When they came home from school last week, I left them each a note on the door.   Baby G’s note was detailed: it listed the chores, his responsibilities, and then thanked him for being a great big brother.  Signed, I love you, Mamma.  Baby D’s was more simple, easier for a new reader:  a picture of a big smiling sun and the words: I love you so much! Mamma.  The boys’ reactions to the notes were similar to Baby W’s reaction when reaching me during his hot potato toss.  Their eyes shined with happiness and ease, and all it took was a note!  What power do I have over these boys?  What power does any mother have over her boys?

My second test involved another baby.  I used Baby M as my guinea pig.  He is my Godson and just a month older than Baby W.  He is a sweet beautiful baby boy, but the key to the test is that I am not his mother.  I held Baby M and I cooed with him and kissed him and cuddled with him, I looked at his face.  He looked content, happy even, but it was not the same.  He gave the boys the same look when they came in close and made silly faces at him.  He likes us, that’s for sure, but he doesn’t love me as deeply.  But his mamma – oh I saw him with her – he was mesmerized by her face, so thrilled to see her with him again.  She has that power too!

So today I sit here with the realization that I have been given this honor to raise three boys, just as that lady had predicted years ago. I won’t be playing with dolls or dressing them in pink, but I will forever be the Queen Bee.  The Man has told me that he fears the day the boys bring home their first girlfriend because he knows how rough I will be on that young girl.  So long as she is fantastic, smart, beautiful, great, amazing and…maybe I will be OK passing on the privilege of my being with my boys.

A Queen's Love

A Queen’s Love