Just a Game

The ball soared through the air, end over end, somersaulting its way into the open arms of the receiver.    The kicking team chased feverishly after the ball as it headed towards its destination, with the receiving team defending the one who would be responsible for bringing the ball into play.  

It was a normal kick off, one that plowed its way deep into the end zone and into the receiver’s hands.   In most cases, the receiver would take a knee, or if he felt that his defenders could protect him he would bring it out onto the field, eager to gain some better position in the quest to score some points.   That was not the case for this particular kick off.   We all watched, many in horror and shock, others in excitement and jubilation, as the receiver tossed the ball behind him towards the referee.    Why was that a problem?   Because the referee hadn’t blown the ball dead nor had the receiver taken a knee.   The ball was live and in the end zone, Clemson’s end zone to be exact, where a Tiger pounced on it and we were rewarded with a freebie of a touchdown.  

I stood in silence as my fellow Tiger fans cheered with excitement.   I watched the player on his hands and knees in the end zone, his head hanging low, and my heart broke.   He was on the enemy’s team, the team we wanted to beat, the team we wanted to redeem ourselves with, but I couldn’t celebrate this touchdown.  I couldn’t celebrate his pain.   I couldn’t celebrate his embarrassment.      

Perhaps it is because I am a mother, or maybe it’s because I’ve just matured and the game doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to, or as some would say, I’ve just become soft.   Whatever the reason, I felt genuinely heartbroken as I watched this player in the end zone.   When he finally rose and made his way to the sidelines, his coach was waiting for him.   Words were spoken and the player took it, whether it be because he felt like someone should berate him for his own mistake or because he was still in shock over his goof up.     I didn’t see the point after attempt.  I didn’t see the celebration from my Tigers.   All I could see was this young man and in him I saw one of my sons, and my heart broke even more. 

How many of us have been there?   Not a one of you can say you haven’t!  We’ve all made mistakes, bone headed decisions, committed acts that were detrimental to not just us, but those who were and are depending on us.   In most cases, we do them in front of a few people, not a national stage with nearly 60,000 live fans, with thousands more at home.   If the fans at home were anything like the ones surrounding me in the stadium, then there was no mercy.   I heard this poor kid laughed at, made fun of, and name called for what truly was a mistake.   He was treated in a way that I can honestly say I hope I’ve never been a part of. 

I continued to watch this kid and I couldn’t wonder if he were like me, continuously dwelling upon mistakes.   Would he be able to shake it off and keep going?   Would he file it into the never spaces of his brain, hiding it away never to show its ugly head again?   Would he use it as determination to regain some of what he and his team had lost?   He kept going, but whether he shook it off, I don’t know.   His entire team seemed to have taken the fumble hard, almost looking as if the life had been sucked from them and I wondered how many of his teammates were ostracizing him.   I wanted to go out on the field, clad in all of my orange and purple and hug the kid.   I wanted to tell him to not let this moment define his performance in the game.   I wanted to tell him to shut it all out, to drown out the noise from the crowd.   I wanted to tell him that it wasn’t the end of the world, which I knew he knew, but at that moment in time, I’m sure his world was crumbling. 

I’ve listened to some of the sportscaster laugh at him.  I’ve watched as they’ve replayed the fumble over and over, attempting to offer some new creative and comedic take on it.  I’ve listened as they, and some of my fellow Clemson fans, treated this kid as if he’s the only one in this world to ever make a mistake.   I’ve wanted to take these same people and put them in instances parallel to this young man’s and see how they would feel.   Would they be able to hold their heads high and continue on with the game or would they simply tuck tail and run?   I’m ashamed of these people and I’m ashamed of my fellow fans who went beyond basic celebration of a touchdown and took it to a whole new level of demeaning a kid’s spirit.  

How would I react if I were in his shoes?   That thought crossed my head and I can tell you, not well.  I have a self-deprecating personality.  When I let people down who are depending on me, I don’t bounce back as quickly as I should.  That doesn’t sound like a good role model for my kids, but I am who I am.   For me, I continue to relive my mistakes over and over, as if it’s a looping projection in my brain.   Mistakes I’ve made in the past, I’ve allowed them to consume me, and much like I hope that my sons don’t have my personality in this respect, I hope this young man is also, indeed my opposite

So, to close this post, I want to shame all of you, Clemson and SC State fans alike, sportscasters and fellow fans of college football, who through your words and actions have in one way or another sought to tear down this kid’s spirit, regardless of whether your words or actions have directly impacted him.   It’s a game.   He’s a kid.   He’s human and not immune to making mistakes.    I’m praying for this kid and his team.   I pray that God finds a way to use this to not just help this kid, but everyone else.   I certainly hope this kid has a redeeming season and I genuinely want to apologize for the human race and how poorly he was treated for being nothing more than human.  

Mom Brain

We all suffer from it, some more so than others.   It starts out with a feeling of fogginess and disorientation and then almost as if by the snap of the finger, I feel as if I’ve been hypnotized and suffer from some form of amnesia, at least this is how it all began for me.

It started early, in the first trimester of my pregnancy with Davey.   At that point, I blamed it on lack of sleep, which could have been a factor in feeling like I was sucked dry of all brain cells.   As the months and years rolled by, one child became two, and I found that it wasn’t just from lack of sleep.   It actually had me wondering if “mom brain” is a legitimate condition and if so, what causes it.

A couple of years ago, The Journal of Experimental and Clinical Neuropsychology examined evidence around reports of memory loss in pregnant and postpartum mothers, finding that your ability to organize and plan is disrupted during pregnancy and postpartum.   I knew it!

There can be various reasons for “mom brain” including biochemical and situational, but there are also pregnancy hormones affecting brain symmetry.  In other words, when a woman may have once been left brain dominant (logical), chemical imbalances can distort that and she could become right brain dominant (sensitive).   As we all know, most of us don’t think logically when we’re sensitive.

Most studies I’ve read have stated that moms go back to their normal cognitive functions after they stop breastfeeding.   Unfortunately for me, I seem to be in the minority of this case.   My mom brain has gotten worse as opposed to getting better and I’m going into 2 years since I last breastfed a child.

Why write about this now?   I suppose it’s because I’ve become less and less patient with myself as I continually suffer from mom brain.   What are some of the signs I experience?   Well, just last week I had an encounter with my youngest.   He told me his name was Henry, not Davey.   I knew that.   Then why did I continue to call him Davey, he asked.  I told him that he and his brother have sucked me dry of my brain cells, to which he responded with, “do you want them back?”   Yes, my son!   I would LOVE to have them back, but it appears mine are quickly dissipating, never to return especially if all of these studies I’ve been reading are true.

It’s not just that I call them by each other’s names, but I’ve also been known to call them by the dog’s name.

I have conversations with my husband.  Not unusual, I know, but most of these “conversations” I have are in my own head.   He’s at work all day, I can’t immediately talk to him about what’s on my mind, so I have the “conversation” with him and I portray how I think he will respond.   The problem with that is I completely forget that the conversation didn’t happen with a willing and participating second party.   This in turn leads to arguments of, “I told you that” and “we’ve discussed this already.”

I find myself wanting to say something, knowing in my brain what it is and how I want to say it, but it’s almost as if the spark isn’t there between my brain and my speech.   I know that’s a doorknob that’s broken, for example.  I can see it with my own two eyes, and I can see the word in my head, but I can’t for the life of me spit it out of my mouth!   I’ve never had a problem with speaking, especially speaking my mind, at least not until I had kids.

Then there’s my coffee.   My coffee intake has dramatically decreased for various reasons, but mostly because I get distracted by one of my kids and completely forget not WHERE the coffee is, but that I even HAD coffee to start with!

I lose my keys at least once a week, forget my YMCA membership card periodically, and I’ve even been known to forget to pack my son’s lunch before!   What the heck has happened to me?   Mom brain, that’s what.

I’ve even managed to sit down to write a blog and completely FORGOT what I wanted to write it on.   I lose my train of thought mid-sentence, leaving me longing for the days when I could have intelligent conversations about our country’s state of affairs, the economy, and anything NOT child related.   I no longer think logically, but have instead been reduced to a scatterbrained version of my former self.   Could I even handle it in the working world again?

I’m sure many of you have suffered from this phenomenon.   And if you’re like me, almost 5 years into being a mom, you STILL suffer from it.   Unfortunately for me, it appears I will be stuck with it for quite some time.   There have been zero signs of improvement.  On the plus side, while frustrating to me, mom brain has proven to be humorous to others.  I suppose you have to find that silver lining somewhere.

Here a Party, There a Party, Everyone has a Party

Birthday parties!  I have a love/hate relationship with these.   I don’t like planning them and for the most part I don’t like going to them either, but I know that they are an important part of my children’s youth.

Before I had Davey, the trend of themed parties was starting to come to light.   For his first birthday, I somewhat jumped on that bandwagon and planned him a nautical themed party.   I didn’t go all out with decorations and I most certainly did NOT have little goody bags for the guests.   Most of the guests were family anyways, while others were people who I had just met since becoming a stay at home mom.  It was a great birthday, but definitely not up to a party planners’ caliber.

The following year, I had a Mickey Mouse clubhouse themed party and while I went a little bit further with it, I still didn’t go to extremes.  I even managed to tone down the guest list.   By the time Davey’s third birthday came around, I had Henry who was 10 months old and I’d learned a few things regarding parties, what I wanted and expected out of them, and what was really and truly worth the effort.

Davey’s Mickey Mouse clubhouse birthday cake custom made by one of my best friends. She did (and still does) magnificent work!

I decided that I no longer wanted to have the parties at my house.  It’s a bit stressful preparing for a party and keeping a clean house with two boys, one grown man, and a dog.   I also decided that I didn’t HAVE to invite those family members who I only see once every other year.  In most cases, they were invited to save face, but every time they declined to show.   Now I just don’t bother.

Continuing with the theme for Davey…not doing these anymore.

I also decided that theme parties are ridiculous, at least for me they are, and truthfully my kid isn’t that concerned.   He just wants to have fun at some place he doesn’t go to everyday and with kids he can see outside of school.   For Davey’s third birthday, I had his party off site and we invited a ton of people.   My heart literally shattered when only 4 kids showed up.   Davey didn’t care so much, but I did.   I was pissed (still am to this day) at friends who didn’t show up.   Again, it bothered me more than Davey.   After that 3rd party, when I reserved a spot for 15 kids, with less than a third even RSVPing (come on, people, you’re adults.  A simple yes or no works), I decided to reevaluate what may be keeping parents from bringing their kids, which then had me thinking, “what makes me NOT want to go to a party?”

First thing is gifts.   I have enough stress in my life, enough things to keep on a calendar, that trying to go out and buy a gift for a 3,4,5 year old, whom I don’t know very well, is just a bit daunting.   I spend what feels like a lifetime in the toy section trying to find something not too dinky, but within my budget.  There are a select handful of kids who I will do this for, but really I don’t like doing it.   I have enough toys in my house, so many in fact that I had to shuffle them in and out.  Of course the necessity of buying a gift doesn’t keep me away from going to parties, but it’s still a pain in my ass.

So, what do I do with the gift headache?   Last year, I implemented a new policy where gifts are concerned.   There are people who feel they MUST by a gift.  I had a few people tell me they were disappointed that my child wasn’t getting gifts.   It’s a celebration, a party, a chance to have something that lasts longer than toys…memories and friends.   Since I knew people would want to buy a gift, I encouraged them to go to one of my favorite charities, the GHS Children’s Hospital, and a buy a gift for a child who is in the hospital, a child who doesn’t get the luxury of going out for parties.   I had thought it would be a hit, but alas only one set of parents bought a gift for a child in need.   That genuinely broke my heart.

Second thing is food.   I try to schedule my parties around a meal time so that encourages parents to want to bring their kids, because at least they don’t have to worry about dinner.   I make sure to have enough food for the parents as well.  If it means you will bring your child to my child’s party, then I will supply you with a meal.   All my kid wants is to hang out and have fun.

Third, has to do with activities.  When I was a kid, we had birthday parties at our house and my friends and I played out in the backyard barefoot with whatever toy was there.   We created our games, played sports, and ate cake and ice cream.   The parents were always on the porch or patio, not hovering over the kids trying to dictate what the kids should be playing.   For some strange reason, it seems that this day that just a big fat no no with parents, so I just have the parties off site at some sort of activity center where I don’t have to beat myself senseless trying to come up with activities.   Yet another thing that’s a pain in my ass.

Henry’s first birthday…no theme and he was happy.

I know, a lot of you are asking me about the gift situation right now.  I can see you telling me it’s not fair to deprive my child of an essential part of his childhood by not giving him gifts on his birthday.   To that I say, “back up and hold the phone.”   My children do receive gifts.   We have a small little birthday dinner, with my parents, aunt, and cousin, along with my mother-in-law every year where my children receive toys.   They have gifts to open, so I’m not taking away their chance to open gifts.   I know this is something that will keep me from attending a child’s party (not every child’s) and if I feel this way, I know other parents do as well.   If I can alleviate that stress (usually the biggest headache for a parent taking their child to a birthday party), thereby encouraging more of my children’s friends to show, then I am a happy mom.

Birthday parties are a dime a dozen.   When you become a parent, there are so many of them to attend, more than I ever recall attending when I was a child.   It seems as if we’re receiving invites to a new party at least once a week and I know that’s only going to get worse as Henry is officially old enough to be in school and have friends of his own.   Yet another party to plan and another whole set of parties to attend.  It comes with the territory of being a parent, but why not find ways to be considerate of the other parents when planning the party.   I know it’s the child’s special day, but even on his special day, consideration for others is always a must, at least in this household.

Henry’s first birthday….look at that smiling face.

Mindsets…Yours and Your Childs

As I continue to expand my blog and community Facebook page, I devote a certain amount of time per day perusing through Flipboard and a few of my favorite pages to find things to blog about and share.   One of the articles I came across today was about mindsets and how you speak to your children can encourage them to be successful.  Normally, I would have shared this article on my Facebook page and moved on, allowing for the discussions to begin, but since I’m now focusing harder on getting Henry up to speed, I find myself needing to blog about this article, which I will include at the end of this post.

As many of you know, my children are with me daily, even though they are both in school.  I had the opportunity to put them both on the same days of the week, thereby allowing me some alone time, a chance to recharge, and even accomplish a few things I’ve put on the back burner since becoming a mom (MY BOOK that I’ve desperately attempted to edit over the past 4 years).  My husband and I discussed this option and we decided it best to separate the boys and allow for me to have individual one on one time with them.   So, as I’ve stated before, Henry is a T/Th student, while Davey is a MWF student.

When Davey was 4 months old, I quit my job and decided to be a stay at home mom.  I immediately jumped into my role, taking him to the library for story time, reading to him profusely, quizzing him on animals and their sounds, and even stepping out of my comfort zone to join a playgroup with other moms and their children.   I perused through the internet and pinned like crazy on Pinterest all sorts of ideas to get my child ahead of the game.  I’m not one for wasting time.  I have to be productive in everything I do, even if that productivity is only perceived through my eyes.

By the time, Davey was almost 2, he was enrolled in a Mother’s Morning Out program.  I was in the final trimester of my 2nd pregnancy and eager for a little breathing room and to get Davey into a routine that was all for HIM before Henry came along.  He was well ahead of the game when he started.   He was speaking at a 3 year old level, enunciating words, and learning how to grammatically speak correctly.   He knew his letters in order and randomly as well as numbers, shapes, and colors.   I was proud of him and my ability to get him there.

When Henry arrived, for obvious reasons, I was unable to devote all of my time to just one child.   I still worked with Davey, especially during the first couple of months of Henry’s life when he was nothing more than an eating, sleeping, drooling, and pooping mess.   I continued to build upon my foundation I had started with Davey and by the time he started actual preschool, he was ahead of the game, and still is.   As for Henry, I’ve struggled.

It’s hard to teach Henry the same things that I thought Davey, because Davey is always there and he wants to answer the questions.   He wants to please me and he wants to show me that he knows his stuff, displaying his fixed mindset, which discourages Henry from answering my questions.    When I ask Henry what color this is, I get, “I don’t know,” but he really does know.   How do I know this?   Because when I’m NOT trying to sit down and teach him, he’ll pull out a yellow crayon, for example, and say, “mom, I color this sun yellow.”   He knows his stuff.   I just haven’t figured out how to get him to sit with me and let me teach him or to show me that he is just as smart as I know he is and can be.

Henry has been in school for 4 days total so far, meaning that I’ve had 5 days (not counting Labor Day) with which he and I could work on the basic concepts every preschooler should know.   I had started the approach of the fixed mindset when teaching him, since that’s what worked best with Davey, and as a side note, Davey displays characteristics of both mindsets dependent upon what he is doing or working on.  Unfortunately, it appears that the fixed mindset doesn’t work with Henry and he needs to be challenged instead of taught in a basic setting.

He told me this week, while shoving flashcards of letters and numbers across the table, “I not want to do this.”   We’ve bought him a LeapFrog, but he doesn’t use it.   Davey loves ABC Mouse, and so I set Henry up with his own Avatar for it as well.   Nope, he’s not a fan, so I’m finding that I have to step outside of the box and find ways to be interactive and that includes walks in the park where I may take leaves and make a letter “L” out of those leaves.   He then will find rocks and make letters out of those, so you see he knows his stuff.

So, the article that inspired this blog is here:

If You Want Your Kids To Be Successful In The Future, Talk To Them In This Way

It doesn’t go in depth nor is it judgmental, it just helps with finding other ways to encourage your children to be successful.

Of course, dealing with Henry, has given me a new level of respect for teachers as I never really looked at the fact that each child is different (it’s obvious, I know, but I haven’t really considered it) and what these teachers must do and go through to reach each child, to help them to be successful and to learn.

You Will Survive, Henry

We are ending our 2nd week of school for Henry.  2 weeks, or more specifically 4 days.   He’s in K2 and being his first time in school we have enrolled him as a T/Th student.   Again, let me repeat, we have finished 4 days and I can’t help but wonder if it will get any better.

For 4 days, I’ve dealt with a child who clawed his car window screaming for his Mimi.  For 4 days, I’ve dealt with a child who has attempted to lock me out of the car when I’ve tried to drop him off at school.   For 4 days, I’ve dealt with a child whom I’ve had to drag out of the car kicking and screaming and hand him off to his teacher all the while he’s reaching for me and screaming “no”.

I had hoped that we just needed to get into our routine, but it appears that drama at the car line drop off will be our routine for this school year.

This morning, Davey and I talked up school to Henry, as he fought me while I was loading him into his car seat.   Davey, my mini-me dork, LOVES school.  He reminds me of myself and how much I looked forward to school everyday, how I wanted to see my friends and my teachers, how I wanted to learn and become smarter, and experience new things.   Henry?  Yeah, to quote his words, “I not care about dis (his speech) stuff.”

So, after all of our playing up school and it’s many, many benefits to Henry, I thought for sure Davey and I had crossed the bridge and that Henry would be excited, or at least more willing.  Obviously, I thought wrong, as once again I’m holding up the carline to the empathetic faces of all the other moms, while getting Henry out, his arms gripped tightly onto his seatbelt while I’m pulling him by his legs.

I try encouraging words, tell him his teachers are going to be so happy to see him, or that they’ll be sad if he’s not there.   I talk about his friends and all of the fun he’ll have with them.   I talk about all of the cool toys they’ll play with and crafts they’ll make.  Finally, I’ve ended up with, “You will survive, Henry.”   Obviously, he doesn’t understand what I mean.

I don’t get it.  I don’t understand why going to school is so torturous, especially when I pick him up, he’s so eager to tell me about his day.   He has a smile on his face, tells his teachers “bye”, and climbs into the car already talking about the day’s adventures.   I want to tell him, “i told you so,” but I’m told that’s not appropriate.

My mother has her own theory as to why my youngest acts as if he’s going to the slaughterhouse when I drop him off at school.   He knows Davey is with me and he feels left out, anxious about what he’s going to miss, and not exactly eager to know that Davey is getting one on one time with me.   I want to tell him, that he gets three days of one on one versus Davey’s two, but once again  I don’t think he’ll understand.

I suppose I will continue to fight this battle and be thankful that my youngest isn’t my brother incarnate.   My brother once locked my mother out of the car when she got out to get him out for school.    I can see this same scenario playing out for me one day.

A Tale of Two Children

In the open spaces of my heart, live two children, each equally loved, but cataclysmically different.   They both have the same portion of my love and my soul, each with their own physical traits and characteristics forever linking them to me, but alas I only comprise 50% of their make up, so it’s only natural for them to be so much alike and yet so different.

My oldest is outgoing, loving, methodical, and eager to please.  My youngest, not quite so outgoing, a bit more calculating and manipulative, and while he may be a bit standoffish at first, he is quick to love and be loved.   They both have my chin, one has my nose, and they both suffer from mom’s recessive gene of fair hair at such a young age.  Their personalities are different, at times polar opposites, but they definitely share mom’s dominant stubborn gene.

With the start of school last week, I was eager to see how both of my boys would do and since we were milking our last few days of summer vacation for all of its worth, we missed meet the teacher and student orientation at their school.  This meant I would need to walk the boys into their classrooms, since neither had any idea where to go.  Also, I’m THAT mom who will walk her children into school the first day, regardless.

For this school year, my husband and I decided it would be best to have Davey attend MWF and Henry on T/Th.   I am well aware that this means for me I will be on the road a lot, but it also means for me some individual time with my boys, something I have wanted for quite some time.  I must also add this disclaimer…it was technically my husband’s idea for the school year set up, I believe so that I would NOT have any personal time to myself.  He deals with “children” himself in the adult world and I suppose felt that since he couldn’t get a break from the adults behaving as children, then neither should I.   Just my theory.  So, with this being our set up, I felt compelled to leave Henry with my mom and dad on Davey’s first day and then vice versa for Henry’s first day.    And here, my friends, is where the Tale of Two Children picks up.

First day of school for Davey goes something like this…

As I am walking Davey into school, he sees he’s old teacher’s assistant.  This woman has been a blessing to us, she’s worked with Davey since he was in K2 and I quickly learned she would also have our Henry for this year.  Unfortunately, that meant that Davey’s security blanket would be gone, as if he ever really needed one.   Once Davey saw her, he stopped in his tracks and turned around to me, “mom, can you believe this?  Look who it is!  It’s Mrs. Whaling.  Oh boy, I bet she’s missed me.”   Nope, does not have a humble bone in any corner of his body.   After hugging Mrs. Whaling, Davey then proceeds into school, where he sees his old K2 teacher and as if he’s a politician going around shaking hands and kissing babies, he must hug Mrs. Norwood before saying, “I’ll see you around this year, Mrs. Norwood.”  Big Man on Campus then proceeds down the hallway where lo and behold there is Mrs. Scott’s classroom.   We must stop and hug her as well, and as we are looking for his classroom, Davey says, “I bet Mrs. Scott missed me a lot.”  Again…humility?  Nope!

Once we find his classroom, I introduce myself to his teacher, apologize profusely for being at the beach instead of meeting her, and then introduce Davey who immediately holds out his hand, shakes her’s and then says, “nice to meet you.”  His current teacher gives me the rundown, asks if I would be willing to assist with anything and then as I walk out the door, hug and kiss Davey one more time, I hear, “it’s gonna be a great year, mom, I just know it.”   Easy peasy for this mom.

First day of school for Henry goes a little something like this…

I drop Davey off with my mom and dad, calling as I’m around the corner, so she can meet me outside, grab Davey and I can go.   I need it to be as painless as possible, especially since I know how attached Henry is to his Mimi (my mom).   My hopes were dashed when Henry went into Stage 4 meltdown once he realized that Mimi was taking Davey and not him.   His chin began to tremble, the lower lip started protruding and I don’t know who was going to cry first…him or my mother.

For the entire 15 minute ride to school, I had to endure bellows of, “Mimi, don’t leave me.” and “Mimi, save me.  I stay with you,” all the while he’s clawing his window as if he’s a caged animal heading off to slaughter.   Really, my son, do you think mommy would do that to you???  The thought has crossed my mind of some sort of torture, but nothing like what his mind was developing.   Kidding, folks, just kidding!

Once we arrive at school; however, life is grand.   Henry sees Mrs. Whaling who is now his TA and life is good again.   Now, flash forward a week.

Yesterday being Labor Day, there was no school.   So, Davey couldn’t go, but Henry could today.   Davey?  He’s bummed, but he’ll survive.  Henry?  Let’s just say that I had to drag him out of the car crying and while not at his stage 4 meltdown, perhaps only at a 2, hand him off to Mrs. Whaling as he cried while being carried in.   Davey finds it undignified to be carried inside.  Henry?  He needs that attention.  Of course, once I pick Henry up from school, the world is rainbows and unicorns and has been since the moment he stepped foot into his classroom.   I ask him, “would mommy ever steer you wrong?”   And with his thumb in his mouth, nods his head and says, “yes.”   The child knows me too well.

We’re only one week into school and I can already imagine the scenarios that will play out in the story of A Tale of Two Children.

Fan Fest Has Arrived

Y’all know me and most of you know me well.   My blood isn’t your typical red, my blood runneth orange.   If you’ve read my blog in the past, then you should know this.   I’ve even had a couple of nurses tell me my blood has an orange tint to it!  Ok, perhaps, I’m pushing it just a bit, but for most people who’ve met me, it’s pretty obvious I’m a diehard Clemson fan.

Clemson 3
The Clemson Occulus.

Yesterday, my husband and I took our boys to Clemson, SC to visit the illustrious and intimidating Memorial Stadium, better known as Death Valley where the Tigers play.   It was Fan Day, an opportunity that allowed for the chance to meet the football team and to get their autographs.  It was also a time for mama here to reminisce about her so-called “glory days” and to get my boys drawn into that wonderful culture with seas of orange and purple.

Davey clemson 1
They loved seeing all of the huge tiger paws everywhere.

We’ve been to Clemson before with the boys, even taking them to a couple of football games last year.   Davey and I have been to see the Homecoming floats on Bowman Field well before the days of Henry.   Davey’s even been to a basketball game in Littlejohn, all be it, still in the womb.   It’s something I’ve dreamt about since I first became pregnant, getting my boys inundated with Clemson early, and getting them to love it as much as I do.   Yesterday was just the key to that!

Clemson 11
Davey in front of the Tiger at Gate 1.

When we arrived in Clemson, I giddily navigated my husband around town, pointing out various structures, in total awe at the number of new buildings being constructed and even shedding a tear for Clemson House, which will soon be demolished for more student housing.   My boys were anxious to get out of the car, to be on that sacred Clemson ground to explore, so we had to find a parking space quickly.   We managed to arrive three hours early, but that didn’t seem to be good enough as most people had been there two or three hours more!   We walked around the stadium, pulling out our map before making our way to the West End zone, where we’d hoped to get in line and get an autograph from Deshaun Watson, our star quarterback and I’m convinced Heisman winner for this season.   Unfortunately for us, it was apparent that you needed to arrive by 5 AM if you wanted to get Deshaun’s autograph.   The line snaked from the gate at the top of the hill, winding is way down the hill, beneath the occulus, towards the police station, before looping back up the hill and towards the cemetery.   My husband and I dutifully waited in line, in the ravaging heat, while our boys made friends and played soccer.    A little side note, it makes me extremely happy and proud to see my boys able to go up to children who they don’t even know and start playing.   It makes me feel as if I’ve done something right.

Clemson 1
The line for Deshaun.
Clemson 2
Davey making friends.

Checking out Howard’s Rock and Death Valley.

Asweat drenched hour later, a member of the football staff began walking the line and at a cutoff, literally five people in front of us, he informed us that it was highly unlikely we’d get Deshaun’s autograph.   My husband, appearing a bit dejected as he had hoped for that signature on the boys’ footballs most of all, began to reevaluate our situation.   We walked around the stadium again, enjoying for the first time what felt like a nice Fall breeze, and surveyed the lines at the other gates before deciding to stay in the shade and wait to meet the linebackers.   So for an hour and a half, while our kids ran up and down the steps of Gate 9, and played Angry Birds, we waited.

Clemson 4
Checking out Howard’s Rock and Death Valley.

Finally, at 2:30 precisely, the gates swung up and the wave of fan crashed and spilled through, like water rushing through broken levees.   Dave took Davey and immediately got in line, while I threw Henry on my shoulders and surged forward towards the free autograph books and the posters.   A few moments later, after finding Dave we got in line and waited once more to finally meet some of the players.

Clemson 5
Getting autographs.

Dave give each of our boys their footballs and we explained what they needed to do.   Henry took to the task at hand, quickly placing his football in front of each player before moving on.   He made me smile.  He had been given a job and he was doing it with much perseverance, even at times trying to usher those in front of us along, my efficient little boy.   Davey; however, was a bit more meticulous and careful with his job, gently placing his football in front of the players and at times showing where he wanted each signature.  He’s a bit OCD like his mother.

Clemson 6
A future NFLer, Christian Wilkins.

We only had the opportunity to make it through one line, as the lines were atrociously long.   The sky has also begun clouding up, with dark gray clouds coming in off of the lake.   We knew our time was limited and I’d promised my boys they could do something.

Clemson 8
More autographs.

Since the first days of Davey watching Clemson play, he’s been enamored with the hill.   For those of you who are unaware, there is something called The 25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football.   Our players get off a bus at the top of the hill in the East Endzone.   They then rub Howard’s Rock, a rock given to Coach Frank Howard from Death Valley, California by one of his former players.  It’s a bit of a good luck piece and a reminder from Coach Howard, “If you’re going to give 110 percent, you can rub that rock.  If you’re not,keep your filthy hands off of it.”  After rubbing the rock, the players then run down the hill into Death Valley to the Tiger’s fight song, Tiger Rag, the song that shakes the southland.  Any and every time, Davey gets the opportunity to see this, he stops and watches.   At two, he told me, “mama, I run down that hill one day.”   I’m not going to lie, it brought a tear to my eye.

Clemson 10
I’ve waited to have a picture like this for a long time. Me in my happy place, with one of my favorites.

So, yesterday, with the breeze kicking up and the thunder rumbling in the back ground, I took the boys to the top of the hill and let them run down it, not once, but twice.   For Davey, I think it was truly the greatest.   For Henry?   Well,right now, whatever big brother does, he feels he must do as well.

Clemson 9
Henry waiting his turn.

With that little treat out of the way, we began to leave the stadium just as the announcer came on and told people to get inside the stadium concourses, lightning had been detected only a few miles away.   We made it to our car just as the rain started coming down.   Not eager to leave this place I love so much, I told my husband I would take over the driving, and I used the opportunity to drive us through portions of campus, allowing waves of nostalgia to crash upon my heart’s shore.

Clemson 7
Carlos Watkins was a favorite of both boys.

As we drove by various buildings, I would call them out to the kids.   “Look that is Fernow Street Café.  Mommy used to eat lunch there, and that building over there, well it was my favorite, it’s Cooper Library.  And that building, why it’s Hardin Hall, where mommy had all of her history classes and the one right next to it?  That’s Brackett Hall, where I took all of my political science classes.   And look at that big clock tower, that’s Tillman’s Hall.   Do you know they have something like a huge piano inside where you can play Tiger Rag for all of Clemson to hear?   We then made our way downtown, where I pointed out Judge Kellar’s General Merchandise store, that’s been around way longer than I have, and Tiger Town Tavern where I spent most Friday afternoons.  I showed them where I used to live and how you could get a pizza and PBR at Backstreets on Monday nights for a $1.   There was the old movie theater, where I first saw U571 for $1.   While I enjoyed Fan Fest, this was truly more exciting for me, showing all 3 of my boys about the few years of my life, that rank as some of the greatest.

signed footballs
Our task complete.

Our day in Tiger Town complete, we decided to make our way back home, the giddiness starting to wear down and wear on me.   Truth be told, I was like a kid at Christmas all morning, much like I am every time we are going to Clemson.   It’s a magical place, full of wonder and excitement, adventures and memories to be made.  Joe Sherman was right when he penned “There’s Something in These Hills.”

Toxic Foods

Weight!  What an evil word.  Weight gain, those two words are even more dreadful to speak and hear especially for those of us who are desperate to kick the gain away.  For me, my disdain for the little devil has fluctuated back and forth, much like my weight has since having children.  In my younger years, I was loathe to lose weight.   I was picked on for being too skinny, and my six feet frame only seemed to exacerbate my low weight.   Back then metabolism was also my enemy.  I could easily devour a large supreme pizza, a bag of Doritos and a 2 liter Pepsi and my weight would actually DROP!   Huh!?!?!?  Imagine that.  Growing up in the South, with some of the best cooking in the country, I didn’t exactly eat healthy.   We were a meat and potatoes family, with the occasional green beans (my favorite) and corn thrown in for good measure.   The food was fried and super delectable, and, boy, could my mama cook!

As the years went by, metabolism continued to remain my enemy just in an adverse way.  I found myself having to eat less, although I didn’t necessarily eat healthier, and I started running.   Mind you, none of this happened until I was in college.   Damn you, Freshman 15!  Fortunately for me, since I was already super skinny, the Freshman 15 actually made me look good!  I went from 135 pounds, at 6 feet, to 150 at 6 feet!  I started to look like a buxom broad.    Well, maybe I’m going to far with that statement, but I started developing the appearance of a female, with the curves instead of the toothpick I was always compared to.

After college, I stayed in pretty decent shape, but of course metabolism started to unfriend me.   I suppose since I had treated him so poorly for so many years, then this was naturally payback.   Is it too late to make up and become friends again?  It seems so.

When I became pregnant with Davey, I was probably at the healthiest weight I’ve ever been, 175.  I was toned and capable of running a 5k race in 26 minutes.  I worked a lot, didn’t exactly eat well, and I was also a smoker.  Yes, yes, I picked up that terrible habit to impress a boy nearly 20 years ago, gave it up for another boy, and then picked it back up again just to have something to do.  Ridiculous, I know!  Don’t worry, I gave up smoking well before I became pregnant with Davey.

At the peak of my pregnancy with Davey, I weighed 200 pounds.  I gained 25 pounds.   I had girlfriends asking me if that was healthy and shouldn’t I weigh more.   My doctor assured me that there wasn’t a problem with my weight.   After Davey, the weight fell off pretty quickly.  I didn’t get back to 175, but I got close, fluctuating between 180 & 185.   Two years later, I became pregnant with Henry and at that point I weighed exactly 185.   At my peak with Henry, I weighed 206, that’s just a mere 21 pounds of weight gain and both of my boys were pushing the 9 pound mark when I gave birth to them.

After having the boys, I had a period of eating healthier since I was breast feeding.  I didn’t want whatever I was eating to osmosis its way some how into my milk and upset the boys, so I cut out some of the fried foods and starches, but not my beloved mayonnaise sandwiches (which by the way can only be made with the best – Dukes Mayonnaise).   I immediately began working out after both boys, but unfortunately all of that stubborn weight from Henry seemed to hug every square inch of my body like a leech.   I resorted to taking laxatives, increasing my fiber intake, and even starving myself.   I relished the days I had the stomach flu, because it was a guaranteed 5 pound weight loss, but it didn’t stay around for long.

Rocco DiSpirito’s Negative Calorie Diet

This summer, I’ve been miserable.  I started the summer weighing the exact same weight I did when I gave birth to Henry.   I cried myself to sleep at night.  I apologized to my husband for the fact that his beautiful wife was now resembling Jabba the Hutt.    I took more laxatives, exercised twice as much, and degraded myself in front of anyone who was around.   On top of that, I became Cruella DeVille to my two boys.   So, what was I going to do about this?

A sampling of the smoothies…cucumber strawberry.

I read an article about Mediterranean diets one day, which led me to Rocco DiSpirito, which in turn led me to his Negative Calorie Diet book.   Not eager to waste any money on the purchase of a book that I may not stick with, I checked out a copy at the library.   I read through it, shared it with my husband, and determined that we could both do this, especially if we considered it a lifestyle change and not a diet.

This was the kale, red onion, and sundried tomato frittata made with egg whites. We actually had this for dinner one night. We’re big fans of breakfast for dinner at our house.

The first 10 days had us on a cleanse, which consisted of 3 smoothies a day and soup or salad from Rocco’s book for dinner.   We had to cut out coffee, dairy, breads, starches, and refined sugar.   And, oh yeah, those evening cocktails we had on the back porch after the boys went to bed, those had to go as well, at least for the first 10 days.   I thought, 10 days, why not?  I could do this.   Easier said than done.

dinner 1
This has easily been my favorite dinner, by far. Flank steak, with sautéed collard greens, onions, and mushrooms with horseradish.

The first two days were sheer misery for me.   I have spent the better part of my adult life thriving off of my coffee every morning.  It has always been the first thing I’ve started my day with, not to mention the fact that I’m a huge fan of Starbucks, and there’s just something about those mocha lattes that hit the spot.  I suffered debilitating headaches for two days, brought on by my caffeine cleanse.   It was as if caffeine had become my drug, and now I was detoxing.   Miserable is an understatement.  I was tired, cranky, and my kids drove me bonkers just by breathing.   The first two days were not for the faint of heart.

chef salad
Chef salad is phenomenal. I will be making his cranberry vinaigrette dressing for ALL of my salads moving forward. No more store bought dressing!

Of course, there was also the fact that I felt like I was starving because I’m not a huge fan of green veggies and all of the smoothies were calling for greens of some sort.  I wanted a bowl of pasta.  I wanted my mayonnaise sandwich.  I wanted those chocolate chip cookies, and while will power has always deserted me when I needed her most, she hung tight this time around.   By day three, I was feeling pretty good.

Another favorite has been the meatballs with the kale and mushroom “gravy”.

In the first week, I lost 8.6 pounds, and that had me really reviewing my past food intake and what was going on with my body.  Until this, I never really knew just how toxic certain foods are to the body, mind, and spirit.   I always thought as long as I kept my portions down, then I could eat anything I wanted.  Not true.   I found that once I was eating the whole fruits and veggies and cutting out the sugars and processed foods, I legitimately had more energy throughout the day.  I enjoyed doing things with my boys.  I wanted to go hiking with them, to go blackberry picking, to go to the pool.  I wanted to get out in the backyard with them, and I was able to focus more.   I was able to keep my patience more in check and I was able to sleep more fully at night.   So, all of this time, it wasn’t the quantity of food, but the QUALITY of what I was eating.

mustard chicken
This was last night’s dinner. Chicken with mustard greens, quinoa, and oranges.

We’re two and a half weeks into this lifestyle change and I’m down 13.5 pounds, my husband is down 18.6.   I’m happier, less hungry, and more focused.   We make our dinners at night, and while the boys are required to try everything, I always have a standby for the two of them.   We have; however, found that Henry is a huge fan of collard greens and mushrooms!   Another perk to this lifestyle change.

spinach pasta
And finally, I know how to make spinach pesto pasta. We didn’t follow Rocco’s tomato sauce recipe, but instead used my husband’s. We substituted Monk Fruit in the Raw for sugar.

Do yourselves a favor, my friends, and look at what you’re consuming every day.    Ask yourself is it really worth it?

Davey, The Tender Hearted

It’s hard to not step in and stand up for your children especially when they are around their peers.   It’s hard to see your child fight his own battles, not just physically, but also emotionally and not want to fix it.   It’s hard to see him hurting and knowing that it won’t be the last time that he hurts and he WILL have to work through it.

Davey is a very social child.   He talks to people in the store, at the bank, the zoo, doctor’s office, you name it.   He sticks his right hand out and shakes hands, he is eager to get to know people.   He’s also quite the affectionate child and loves to hug people, even if they are random strangers.   We’ve had discussions about the whole stranger danger as well as trying to be aware of people’s personal spaces, and how it’s best to not invade those spaces until you’ve been invited.   Unfortunately, not every child is wired like mine and they’re not eager to get to know Davey in his way.

I first noticed this right around the 6 month mark when he would crawl up to random babies at our local library, and try to hug them.  Most would start crying, others would freeze, but most just seemed to try to crawl away.   I don’t think we ever cuddled Davey more than the average child.   I do know I liked (and still do) to kiss him a lot.   I know the day will come when he won’t let me do that, so I have to get in those hugs and kisses now while he still enjoys them.

When he would tell people bye, he would hug them, as a matter of fact he still does that.   When he would see his friends, the first thing he would do was hug them, and yes he still does that, but as he’s getting older, as are his peers, it’s becoming more and more uncomfortable for him, me, and everyone else for him to do this.

A few summers ago, he made me quite the proud mama (this wasn’t the first or only time, let me note).   During an outdoor concert, he took an affection to a little girl a couple of years older than him, who was clearly deaf.   Her father was protective her, but stood back on the sidelines, much like me and let the two of them interact.   Davey knew something was different about the little girl, but he didn’t care.   He accepted her and embraced her, even after coming to me and asking what was wrong with her.   When I told him she couldn’t hear anything, he just smiled then went back out to her and hugged her, then continued along with his dancing until time to go.

That same summer we went to a birthday party for a friend of ours child, and by “ours” I mean mine and my husband’s.   Davey hadn’t had much interaction with this child in the past and this child had their own set of friends already, all of whom were alien to Davey, and already seemed to have their own little clique at 2 years of age.   I watched in pain as he tried to integrate himself into their group, but they would wander off from him, at times turning their back, or closing him off from the group.  Yes!  Two year olds were doing this.   It didn’t seem to bother him, he just started playing on his own.   Me?  I went home and cried about it.  I suppose he gets his tender heart from me.

Playing sports is difficult for him because of his soft hearted demeanor with people, soccer being extremely difficult.   He doesn’t want to steal the ball from someone because, “mommy, you’ve told me to share and not to take,” but then he would walk off of the field upset at his inability to score a goal.   Even when we told him it was ok to steal the ball in soccer, his heart just wouldn’t let him do it, and when he was responsible for a child falling or getting hurt, he would give up the ball and take care of that child.

A couple of weeks ago, during soccer camp, we had an incident that had my blood boiling.  Some little boy came up to me and said that Davey had hit him.  Davey swore he didn’t, that the little boy had shoved him.   I believed my child because I’ve become quite adept at knowing when he’s lying.  That same little boy, I noticed, was shoving a lot of other kids later.  The next morning that little boy took a ball from another kid and when Davey came to the child’s aide, the “shover” pushed him away and said, “no one likes you over here.”  My child?  He just shrugged his shoulders and walked back over to me.  Maybe I was more hurt than he was.

It’s a fact of life, that my child will get his feelings hurt in some form or fashion, and I can’t always be there to protect him.  I know that there are mean kids, bullies, and arrogant snots, and a part of me wants to encourage some wit on his part, but instead I take the high road and do my best to protect and encourage his tender heart by telling him, “if no one wants a hug or they say nasty things to you, just walk away, baby.   You continue to give that love.”

Some people consider this a detriment, to be soft hearted.   They like to tell me that I’m setting him up to constantly be hurt, to be pushed around, but when he sees a baby crying and goes up to them, breaking into his own personal rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, I have a hard time trying to stifle that heart.   I have a hard time encouraging him to have more of a stiff upper lip.

Devilish Duo

I’m quite literally at my wits end.   I’m took the point of reading parenting books.   I’m scouring websites, blogs, videos and magazine articles to look for something, anything to put in my arsenal.   I’m game for trying anything, new age, hobo, old school, hard core, you name it, I’ll try it, well to a certain degree.

For two days this week, I have taken my children out in public.   I have subjected the world to my bratty, unruly kids and I’ve dealt with the shame, the disappointment and the sheer exhaustion of having two strong-willed, independent little boys who seem to suffer from a hearing problem.

On Tuesday, we decided to meet one of Davey’s friends from school at our zoo.   As with every excursion, we have a sit down, come to Jesus discussion about what you can and can’t do, how it’s important to listen to mommy, how it is MANDATORY to do what mommy says, and how we need to be all around good children.   I was promised by Davey that he would be good.   His promises are empty and after today, apparently so are my threats and discipline.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and go to the Children’s Museum today with the boys.   Once again, we had our same discussion and once again I was promised good boys.  I heard it all before we left.  “We’ll be good boys, mom.”  “I’ll do what you say, mom.”  “I promise not to run off, mom.”  All of this and then some came from their mouths, but they lied to me.

I understand they are 4 & 2 (almost 5 &3).   I am well aware that they are little boys.   I also understand that they received a double dose of the independence and strong-willed genes, as both my husband and I have these very dominant traits, but something has to give.  I can’t keep going around in circles with these two and I need your help.   I’m open for any sort of suggestions, advice, criticism, you name it.   Throw it at me, even if it hurts.  I’ll take it.

As of this very moment, both boys are upstairs in their bedrooms where they will spend the rest of the afternoon.  Henry will likely nap.   Davey?  I don’t know, but he has no toys in his room, only books.   Their punishment today is also considered a reward for me…a few minutes of not feeling like I am the crappiest mom ever.   I mean where did I go wrong?    Neither one of them listens to me when I speak.   They both run away from me unwilling to think about the fact that I’ve said don’t run in the street.   I’ve even explained to them the importance of NOT doing it!  You don’t want to get hit by a car!  Henry throws tantrums and melt downs faster than Michael Phelps can swim 25 meters.   And he’s become quite the pro at the meltdown, taking it to levels I never experienced with Davey.   Davey never squealed.  Davey never threw himself down on the floor.  I’m smacked, kicked, told “no”, and flat out disrespected.   So where have I gone wrong?

I discipline my children.   They get spankings, they get time outs, they get toys taken away.  And I consider myself to be firm with my punishments.   When I say it, then I do it.   There are no 2nd, 3rd, or 4th chances.   When I tell you something the first time, THAT is your only chance.

I’ve even tried the approach of one of my girlfriends who reasons with her daughter.   I’ve gone to explaining why I tell them they can’t do certain things, or why they need to obey me.   I’ve tried to step past what always worked with me when I was growing up, the old, “because I said so, that’s why” modus operandi.  While that may have worked with my mom, it does not seem to work with my children.   Tuesday night, as I tucked Davey into bed, I had a discussion with him on why I don’t like for him to run away from me.  I told him that someone could take him and he wouldn’t have a bed or any food, that they could hurt him, and wouldn’t let him have any toys.  I told him he wouldn’t get to see us anymore, that daddy wouldn’t be able to play with him if someone took him from us.   I don’t want to scare the kid, but perhaps scaring him will shock him back into the reality that you just need to listen to mom and dad.   I know you’re asking how that conversation went, so here is the response I got:

“That would be fun to live with someone else, what if they had a tree house for me to sleep in, and I’m sure they would have food for me, mom, no one wants to starve and no one wants to starve a little kid.”

What about the person being a monster?

“You’ve told me monsters aren’t real, so I’ll be ok,” he says to me while flicking his hand, then pulling the covers up over his shoulders and saying goodnight.  So what do I do?   You tell me!

I’ve even talked about how God calls for children to be respectful of their mom and dad.   How it makes God happy when little boys are good, and sad when they are bad.   I get the deer in the headlight look from Davey.

Back when I was growing up, children were to be seen and not heard.   In this day and time, people consider that stifling a child’s ability to express himself.   At 4 & 2, I’m not interested in my children expressing themselves.  I’m interested in my children not behaving like wild banshees and uncontrollable brats.  They can find other ways to express themselves.

So, as I close out this blog, still reliving today’s nightmare, I have a reminder that just popped up…two of the parenting books I have requested are now at the library.   Perhaps I can find something somewhere in one of these, or a suggestion from one of you, to help me with controlling my two children.

I’m already cringing at what the parents of Davey’s friend are thinking about my boys.  Oh, the conversations to be had at their dinner table about the Devilish Duo, otherwise known as The Doser boys.