This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Please Stop Ruining The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

I wrote this post a little over a week ago and I wasn't going to post it because I thought it was a little too snarky for the Holidays, but this morning all I have seen on TV is all of these stupid Christmas commercials.  And since this post was basically done, I figured I'd go ahead and share it with you all. 
Do me a favor and go ahead and click the flashing thing over there that says "Vote For Me On Top Mommy Blogs."  All you have to do is click on it and your vote is cast.  I have given up on winning any of the Blogger's Choice Awards that I was nominated for, but I'd love to get back into the Top 25 on Top Mommy Blogs for Christmas! 
I hope that each and everyone of you has a blessed and Merry Christmas, and I hope that you have enjoyed my ranting and raving and complaining this year.  I promise that there will be more to come in 2012!!


I love Christmas.  It is my absolute favorite time of the year.  I love everything about the holidays -- I love buying presents, I love decorating the tree (usually at my mom's house), I love the food, the family -- all of it.  I love to listen to my Christmas CD's while I bask in the glow of the artificial lights on my tree.  There is nothing better than Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald belting out the beautiful songs of the season -- it makes me happy.

You know what DOESN'T make me happy?  Stupid commercials that ruin my favorite Christmas music.  This year's biggest offender is Verizon.  I swear if I hear their "Walkin' in a 4G Wonderland" commercial one more time I might have to throat punch a pink haired elf.  And is it just me?  Or does that song sound an awful lot like they are singing about some magical land of debauchery -- "An Orgy Wonderland?"  Why must companies do this?  I picture some really bad boardroom back in July where a bunch of corporate sellouts sit around thinking up ways to ruin Christmas songs by changing the lyrics to fit their products.  I get the idea -- I have a degree in marketing -- they want consumers to see and hear their commercials and recognize the song and have it drilled into your subconscious so that when you sing the song to yourself you automatically revert to their horrible lyrics. But it doesn't make me want to buy their products.  It makes me all stabby feeling.

I do recall, however, one instance where this worked.  Garmin did a commercial featuring "The Carol of The Bells" and let's face it, no one outside of a choir knows the real lyrics to that song anyway.  And I still can't hear that song without singing "Gotta, gotta, get a Garmin" instead of "Merry, merry, merry Christmas" at the end.

But it isn't just the music.  The car commercials just kill me.  One of my Facebook friends posted something about the Lexus ads that really struck a chord with me:  "Ok really, who buys their spouse a $50,000.00 car for X-mas. Hey honey I went and bought you a Lexus for X-mas and the first $1,100 payment is due in 2 weeks. Go ahead and budget that in."  All I could think was "For real!"  I hate car commercials like that with the big red bow on the roof of the car -- who does that?  No one that I know.  At least the people over at Honda recognize the downturn in the economy -- their Christmas commercial is about buying "A Honda Certified USED Car."  Riiiiiight....Because I can afford to spend $15-20K on Christmas for ONE person.  I spent about $500 TOTAL on Christmas this year for EVERYONE and that was excessive and will require me to forgo any trips to Sonic or Starbucks for the next few months.


The Toys R Us Ads about "The lowest prices of the season!" every freakin' weekend make me think that the prices will go continually lower until the last weekend of the season before the New Year's ads start with all of their new markdowns. And their "2-Day Sale" ads make me and my kids hear "Tooting Sale" causing hours of fart jokes from the 10-year old and snorts of laughter from the 3 year old. Yaaaaaaaaaay.

And I swear on all that is Christmas if I have to hear one more exclamation that "He went to Jared" I am going to lose my mind.  No one I know went to Jared.  They went to Target, or Wal-Mart, or Amazon.  And after all of their annoying commercials about the guys who went to Jared and the female GPS that FORCES the driver to go to Jared (all I can think of is the movie "Christine" when I see that crap), if my husband ever went to Jared I'd be pissed.


Then there are the commercials that try to pull on your heartstrings and make you feel all sentimental and mushy. I'll admit, there have been Hallmark commercials that make me reach for the Kleenex, but there are many of them that fall horribly short. The ones with Dr. Quinn and her "If you leave your heart open, love can always find its way in" diamond pendants make me want to slap her in her big cheesy grinning mouth. And since we are talking about jewelry, let me address the biggest marketing scam of all time -- Chocolate Diamonds. Really, ANY colored diamonds. Diamonds, for millennia, have been graded on their purity and their clarity. So when a diamond was dark or dingy it was crap. Well, kudos to the marketing genius that came up with the whole colored diamond scam. And chocolate diamonds are so far away from diamonds that they are basically shiny rocks. No offense to you if you happen to like shiny rocks, I just don't like them or the fact that they call them diamonds.


No company is immune -- Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Kohl's, Macy's, Sears, Penney's, etc.  They ALL have obnoxious sales touting the "Lowest prices of the year on top name brands!"  There are BOGO sales, door buster sales, midnight madness sales, and cyber sales.  There are coupons in your Sunday paper for extra discounts on top of the sales and if you sign up for their store credit card there are even MORE sales.  After all that, you'd think there would be some free crap (There's not, by the way.  I checked.)

The truth is, nothing kills my Christmas spirit and brings out my inner snark more than the Christmas commercials.  Christmas is commercial enough without having advertisers whore it up for us.    I am extremely thankful for my DVR which allows me to bypass all of the commercials because all of the ads make me a Scrooge.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Mom

Today's post is for all of my fellow Santa Moms out there.  I wrote this variation on "Twas The Night Before Christmas" earlier this week, and I was going to wait to post it on Christmas Eve.  But, I started really thinking about it and I realized that the closer we get to Christmas, the less time all of us Santa Moms are going to have to sit around reading blogs -- no matter how awesome they are.  So I am posting it now so you will have plenty of time to read it and share it and promote it before you actually live it.  I know that many moms have a dad to help like I do, but there have been many years when the dad at this house was working the night before Christmas, and since I am a control freak, I generally don't let him do anything anyway. 
(Don't forget to vote by clicking that flashing button over there, please!)




Twas the night before Christmas
There was so much to do
Santa Mom sighed
Wondering when she'd be through

There were toys to assemble
Still presents to wrap
And all of those stockings
Had to be stuffed full of crap.

She put the minions to bed
And she sat and she waited
Until the giggles and whispers
Had completely abated

She put on the coffee
And as it was brewing
She got out her list
And she got straight to doing.

Cross-legged on the floor
She laid out the parts
Instructions and diagrams
And the insanity starts

There's German and French
Italian, Chinese
Where in the hell
Are the ENGLISH ones PLEASE?

Pieces A4 and B6
Are supposed to fit tight
C7 and 8 are just
Not looking right.

She stares at the picture
On the front of the package
And then down at the pile
To see how close the match is

There are some extra screws
And a washer or two
She drops those in the junk drawer
Beside the Super Glue

The toy is together
Just took a few hours
She gets ready to summon
Her Santa Mom powers

She stands staring down at
The thing she'd assembled
She thought how to wrap it
And she literally trembled

It won't go in a box
It won't fit 'neath the tree...
A trash bag and a bow!
"Looks good to me!"

Onto the next task
She must make haste
Christmas morning is coming
There's no time to waste!

The scissors are flying
There's tape in her hair
There's bows on her butt
And she just doesn't care

She pours "Santa's milk" in her coffee
And eats all the cookies
A crucial step
Often missed by the rookies.

She fills the all the stockings
Even dad's, dog's, and her own
The den looks like its been hit
By a Christmas cyclone

She collapses in bed
All done with her work
But before she drifts off
She sits up with a jerk

That damn Elf on the Shelf
Has to be put away
She was supposed to go back
In Santa's big sleigh.

A few hours later
The kids jump on her bed
She's grabbed by the hand
And to the den she is led

With so little sleep
She should be a grouch
But dad hands her her coffee
And she sinks into the couch

The packages she wrapped
Late into the night
Were attacked by the kids
And ripped open on sight

The kids are excited
They scream and they squeal
And Santa Mom knows
It was worth the ordeal

The magic of Christmas
Preserved one more year
Made special by mom
For those she holds dear

Who cares if the kids
Think Santa did all that crap
With legions of elves
To get the presents all wrapped?

One day they will know
It wasn't a fat man in a suit
Who created the the magic
And gave them their loot

She may not wear red
Or fly through the night
But Santa Mom knows
How to make Christmas bright.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Here's What I've Decided....

It is less than a week until Christmas and I am working on finding my merry & making it appear that the few presents that the kids are getting look like a lot more than they actually are. I am considering wrapping all of the 25 Lego pieces in the little box I got for William separately. Usually, they get one gift from Santa and one gift from us and their stocking. But I guess its the guilt this year, because I am trying to find other little things to wrap up for under the tree. I have decided to go by this nifty little poem that I saw somewhere (apologies if it was yours):

"Something you want, (A big present that is something they asked for)
Something you need, (An item like socks, underwear, or a new backpack)
Something to share, (Probably a game or a movie)
Something to read." (Obviously, a book)

I am adding a couple of lines.

Something to eat (Candy, popcorn, etc.)
And a group activity, (A craft set, a board game, etc.)
Something that's neat (This is literal -- something to help them organize their crap)
And something for charity. (We are giving each child a small amount of money to either donate or buy something to donate.)

Some of these will come from us, some from Santa. Some will be in their stockings, some under the tree, and the money for the charitable act we will hang onto until they decide what they want to do. (Or until we get it....) We have discussed charitable acts before with the kids. Jackson, the 3 year old doesn't get it. Lorelei, the 5 year old, will want to donate her money to an animal shelter. Bella, the (almost) 8 year old, will want to do toys for kids in the hospital or clothes or food for the homeless. And William, my sweet 10 year old, will no doubt have some specific kid or family in mind that he has quietly observed in need.

The truth is, as mad as my kids make me sometimes, they are (in general) awesome.  And it is not their fault that we are stuck in Texas this year.  It is just one of those things.  I think that the list is a great idea, it works with any budget (even our limited one this year) and it is an awesome guideline to keep from going overboard.  Even when I'm feeling guilty about them (and me) missing out on all of the Alabama fun. 

My mom is constantly telling me that "Happiness is a choice" but lately I guess that I have decided to not be happy, because I've been a Grinch about Christmas.  Everything that my kids wanted was out of our budget (heck, everything that me and my husband wanted was out of our budget) and I found myself wallowing in self pity about everything we COULDN'T have or that we COULDN'T do.  It occurred to me that I'm not practicing what I preach with my kids.  I tell them all of the time that "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  Well, truth is, we've got quite a lot.

And you know what?  It will be okay.  We will still have a good Christmas.  No, it will be a GREAT Christmas.  I've decided.  Period.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Little Bit Naughty

Well, after all of my self-pity last week, Jackson had to remind me that I have other things to be worrying about.

He came running into the living room one afternoon, completely naked and excited and yelling.

"MOM! I made a J! For my name!! Come see!!!"
"Why are you naked?"
"Because I made a J! Come see!!"
 

So I got up, and followed him into his room where he had "made a J."

By peeing on the recliner.  He was so proud of his "J" that he had precisely pissed onto the back of the seat.  I was not as impressed....

Then, he asked for Jello.  I said maybe after dinner.  So without asking and in his usual stealth mode, he got into the fridge and ate at least 3 handfuls of Jello. 


Then Friday night, he found an envelope of hot chocolate mix, tore it open, dumped it on the couch and ate all of the little dehydrated marshmallows out of it.  Now every time I vacuum it smells like cocoa.  While I was playing on the computer, he went to the kitchen, used a step stool to climb up onto the counter, opened the cabinet, and proceeded to finish of an entire bag of mini-marshmallows. 


And yesterday, he drank syrup straight from the bottle and got it all over his shirt. 


This kid's quest for sugar is never ending.

And, just now, I caught him in the kitchen again.  He had gotten into the fridge and was standing there with the door open, spraying "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray into his mouth.  He is such a little freak.  And he gets into stuff that the other 3 never even thought of.


No wonder our Elf on the Shelf, "Snowflake" labeled his baby picture "A little bit naughty" last week.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stuck On The Dark Side -- And There Are No Cookies

I am in a funk again. 

I'm in a funk because my kid is having surgery, which is eating up all of our Christmas money and preventing me from going home to be with the rest of my crazy family or see my friends.  And yes, I am feeling sorry for myself. 

But I can't show it to my kids -- especially not the oldest girl who is having the surgery.

I have to be the happy, bubbly, optimistic mom who is thrilled to be making new traditions instead of celebrating the perfectly good traditions that have been in place for 37 years.  I have to pretend that it is okay that I am forfeiting one of 2 trips "home" to Alabama a year.  I have to fake being excited about making my own breakfast pizza on Christmas morning and not having homemade oatmeal raisin cookies that my mom made.  I had to tell my parents and my in-laws not to buy gifts for my husband or myself, because the only thing we need is money for my daughter's surgery.  Don't get me wrong -- we are not destitute or anything, but it just seems like every freaking year we have some major expense.  One year , we moved from Georgia to Texas, one year we had Jackson and a tubal, one year the girls had their tonsils out, one year the husband had a mastoidectomy (they cut off his ear and removed a bone in his ear canal), and EVERY year, we spend thousands of dollars on a lost cause -- the van.



I'm having trouble finding the bright side, and I'm having trouble faking it.

I want to go home for Christmas, but it just isn't possible this year. 

It's not just that. 

I will miss the giving and getting of super awesome, jaw-dropping gifts.  I know that Christmas is not about the gifts, but I LOVE giving presents.  I love the look on my friends' and families' faces as they get something that they weren't expecting -- especially my kids.  I put a lot of thought into the gifts I choose to give.  I am not a big "gift card" person and I don't like the generic gifts.  I like for the gifts to be something that the recipient REALLY wants -- their favorite wine, the perfect accessory for their favorite outfit, a bootleg CD of their favorite artist -- you get the idea.  And we usually do a couple of angels off of the Angel trees, but not this year (yes, the surgery is THAT expensive).  This year, we are seriously budget conscious.  We are always budget conscious.  It gets old. 

And I would be a total liar if I said I didn't also love getting presents.  I mean, its not that I was expecting a new min-van (although I could really use one to replace my 1999 Town and Country), but Christmas is usually the ONE time a year that we are a little frivolous.  Christmas is the one time of year that we cheat a little on the budget and try to get whatever usually seems just out of reach.  Christmas is the one time of year when I can expect something like a gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure, or to get my inch long roots attended to, or a nice pair of earrings or a sweater or something else that I would never buy for myself.  Before the news of the surgery and medical bill that is coming along with it, the hubby was going to get me a netbook.  But not now.  Now I'll probably get a candle and some bath salts from the kids and nothing from the hubby.  And the parents and in-laws usually do even MORE for us -- I mean, there is usually the practical stuff -- a grocery and/or gas card, a Costco membership, a little cash to help meet that renewed deductible -- but then there are the extravagant gifts too -- a cashmere sweater, jewelry, electronics, etc.  And I love getting the helpful things and I really love getting the gifts that I would never get for myself.  I was going to ask for a Nook or a Kindle, but instead this year, I'm getting help with a medical bill.  YAAaaaay.......



So, in an attempt to snap myself out of this funktastic funk, the hubby and I are going to exchange a special "gift"with one another.  We are going to make a list of things that we'd like to get each other, accompanied by a statement of what we are thankful for in one another.  I don't mean the things that we would NEVER buy -- no Tuscan Villas or private islands -- but stuff we wish we had the money for this year.  For example, I wish I could replace his 1997 Buick Le Sabre with a newer, nicer car.  But I am thankful for him working a job that he doesn't like so that I can stay home with our kids.  He might say that he wishes he could get me a netbook to write on so that I didn't have to worry about the computer locking up on me every time I try to write a blog, or a new camera, or that Nook or Kindle I wanted.  It's hard to stay all sad and cynical when you are thinking of things you are thankful for.  And I really WANT to be happy.  I want to be appreciative of the fact that my daughter's knee problem is fixable and not all that serious.  I want to be thankful of all of my many, many blessings. 

But for now, I seem to be stuck here on the dark side.  In Texas.  With no homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fa-La-La-La-La, Wah, Wah, Wah, WAH!

Sorry its been more than a week since my last post, but it has been one heck of a week.  My in-laws came for Thanksgiving and stayed through Sunday.  I realized that I have somehow managed to lose my charger for my digital SLR camera, and I have looked EVERYWHERE.  Monday I had to fast for a procedure that I had on Tuesday, and the husband switched back to 3rd shift (that's right, after a full 4 weeks on 1st shift, they have now rotated him to 3rd).  Also on Monday, we had to take the nearly 8 year old to the doctor about her swollen knee, and ultimately had to take her for an MRI where we discovered that she had a torn meniscus.  Tuesday, I had a procedure all morning and spent the afternoon in the bed.  Wednesday and Thursday were normal craziness made a little nuttier by the addition of Vicodin, and then Friday happened. 

On Friday, the 2 oldest went to school like always, but I knew that I had to pick up Bella to take her to the orthopedic surgeon later that afternoon.  Now, in an attempt to expedite this process in the hopes that whatever needed to be done for her knee could be handled before January 1st when the insurance resets and out huge deductible starts over, I agreed to take her to the doctor's OTHER office.  The main office is in Fort Worth, about 20 minutes away.  The "other " office is in Hurst.  I had no idea where Hurst was exactly, but according to Mapquest, it was about 35 minutes away and I said that it was worth it.  Her appointment was at 2:45, so I planned to check her out of school about 1:30 (just in case) and to give us plenty of time to get there and complete any necessary paperwork and such. (I really wanted to fool this new doctor's office into thinking that I was a super-responsible parent and not the slacker that I really am).  So with the younger 2 in tow, I got to the school and signed out my daughter.  We got about 10 minutes away from the school when they called to let me know that the oldest had just thrown up all over the place.  (He was supposed to go home with his best friend).  Soooo, we turned around and went back to the school to get him, putting us off our schedule by nearly 30 minutes.  Then, turns out that Mapquest's 35 minute estimate was off by at least 10 minutes and there was Friday afternoon traffic to contend with so we were pushing it to get there on-time, and we ended up being about 5 minutes late.  Oh well, better to not give the office any false hope of future performance on my part.

The doctor informed us that her meniscus in her knee is malformed, and that is probably why it tore.  It is supposed to be a thin C-shaped thing under her kneecap but hers is a thick disc.  They will have to do a laproscopic procedure to go in and trim away the excess of the disc and make it the C-shape that it is supposed to be.  The thickness of it cannot be fixed.  And her other knee, that isn't torn (yet) has the same malformity.  They will not do anything to it unless it also tears someday.  The problem is, that many children who need orthopedic surgeries schedule it for the 2 weeks at the end of the year when school is already out, so we won't know until Monday if they can get us in before the end of the year or not.  If they CAN fit her in, then we cannot go home to Alabama for Christmas because it would be bad to try to make her ride in a car for 13 hours.  If they cannot fit us in, then she will have to have the surgery after the first of the year when our deductible starts over and the surgery will cost us about $1,500 MORE than it will before the end of the year, and we really shouldn't spend the money that it would take to make the 1,500 mile round trip to go home for Christmas. 

So we will be having our first Christmas in Texas. 

Crap.

If you read my post from before Thanksgiving, you know that I have not decorated for Christmas in 5 years.  Not since Christmas 2006, before we moved here from Georgia.  We moved over the Holidays in 2007, so I did not put up a tree that year.  I have/had a very nice artificial tree.  It has been in a box for 5 years.  We will most likely have to replace it.  We have lights and ornaments, but the lights probably don't work anymore.  We figure that we are going to have to spend about $300 to make this happen.  But creating that Christmas vibe that my kids are used to having from the decorations at their grandparents homes is worth it. 

In addition to having to worry about the safety of my child as she undergoes the knee surgery, the major medical bills that will be coming regardless of when the surgery happens, and all of the hassle of having toun-wrapped presents from Santa, eat our traditional Christmas morning breakfast pizza, settle into the den around the tree with fresh cups of coffee to watch as everyone rips into the 5 gazillion wrapped presents under the tree.  As soon as that madness is over, we get dressed and drive the 6 or 7 miles to my husband's parents house where the cycle repeats.  Santa must be confused because he also leaves my kids stockings over there.  Then there are 500 more presents from Grandma and Papa Raffy, and we eat again -- a huge spread of ham, rice, green beans, and tons of other stuff, followed by a traditional Puerto Rican Flan for dessert.  At some point after Christmas Day, we travel south to Tuscaloosa where we spend the day with my great-aunt Martha.  No presents at this feast, but what a feast.  Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash casserole, green beans, fresh rolls, and at least one dessert choice per person -- sugar cookies that melt on your tongue, moist oatmeal raisin cookies, red velvet cake, chocolate pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, hot fruit compote, pumpkin pie, and at least one other type of cookie, cake or pie to choose from.  I usually gain about 5 pounds over the Christmas holidays. 

But I will miss all of that this year.

To add insult to injury, other than the purchases I made here on Small Business Saturday, I ordered all of our Christmas presents online....and shipped them to Alabama.  I decided that it would be easier than trying to hide them here for weeks and pack them into the car without being seen with the kids.  Craptastic.  I guess that is what happens when I try to be efficient and plan ahead.

And I cannot let my incredibly sensitive daughter know how sad it makes me to be missing out on my Alabama Christmas because she already feels like not going to Alabama is her fault thanks to her incredibly insensitive big brother who said "Thanks a lot Bella" when we informed our kids that we will not be making the trip "home."

So today we are getting ready to go out and find our Holiday Cheer, and I find myself wishing that some of those Facebook friends who finished decorating their houses and doing all of their Christmas shopping right after Halloween were here to help me.


Hey, you can help make my Christmas a little bit better, by voting for me!  Click that little brown button and vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs!  :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!! (No Interventions Needed)

Thanksgiving. 


There are a lot of stereotypes about Thanksgiving -- from the food, to the football, to the day after shopping insanity.  But the number one stereotype about Thanksgiving is the stressful family time.  There are jokes about stuffing the turkey with Prozac, holding an intervention, or drinking to make it bearable.   I get these jokes.  I laugh at them, sometimes uncontrollably, but they are not me and my family.  No one at my Thanksgiving is an alcoholic.  Or a drug addict.  Or really anything other than our own special brand of crazy.


No, there will be no interventions at our Thanksgiving.


But if there were, they'd go something like this:


Let's start with me -- I am the most obvious choice since I am the one with the addictive personality.  I am not an alcoholic, or a drug addict, but I DO have my addictions -- Facebook, this blog, coffee, Coke, my iPhone, sleep....the list is long.  So as I would sit with my coffee and Coke on the table in front of me with my iPhone in hand as I checked Facebook and my blog wishing that I could take a nap after the big Thanksgiving meal, my family would try to reason with me.  But I wouldn't hear them because I would be too busy updating my status.


Then there are my kids.  They are all addicted to making messes, but they have their own addictions too.  We'd try to reason with the oldest boy about his Lego addiction -- how it simply was not normal to not be able to come to the dinner table, watch TV or go to the bathroom without bringing a handful of Legos along with you.  We'd try, in vain, to get the oldest girl to realize that it was simply odd the way she writes "I Love Justin Beiber" on everything she owns.  Our pleas with the youngest girl that as awesome as the color yellow is, there are other colors that she can wear, other crayons that she can use, and other foods that she can eat that are NOT yellow, would fall on deaf ears.  And telling the 3 year old that dinosaurs were not, in fact, the only animals in the world would be an exercise in futility.


We could try to tell my father-in-law that it was indeed possible to come visit us without repairing something, painting something, cleaning something, or knocking holes in our walls.  We could plead with him that he could come visit us for more than 36 hours because whoever he was digging a pool for, or building a deck or fence for, or renovating for would understand that this was Thanksgiving.  But he would be too busy taking something we own apart to improve it and would probably never hear a word we said.  (This is not an exaggeration -- he has been in my house for less than 5 hours and already has plans for 6 different "projects" he wants to complete while he is here.)


Then there is my mother-in-law.  Everyone always talks about how they can't stand their mother-in-law, but mine is great.  The only intervention that she needs is that she is not, in fact, Santa.  She doesn't just shower my kids with "stuff" at the holidays, although it is definitely worse during the last few months of the year.  No, she buys them stuff all year long.  All they have to do is ask and she will do everything within her power (and credit limit) to make it happen.  Should we try to intervene with her at Thanksgiving, she would not hear us because she would have the Toys R Us Big Book Of Toys on her lap and be surrounded by the 4 minions chanting choruses of "I want that, and that, and that and..."


Finally at our Thanksgiving table is my husband.  I cannot think of one thing I need to intervene with him about.  The only things that he is addicted to are me and throwing his dirty clothes on the floor.  I can live with that.


I will take my family with all of their quirks because they are awesome and we all love each other -- warts and all.  I hope that you are able to enjoy your family this Thanksgiving as much as I will enjoy mine.  Take a little time to appreciate the flaws that make them even more lovable.


I know I am a nag, but could you take a second and click on the button at the top, right-hand side of the page that says "Vote For Me @Top Mommy Blogs?"  You do not have to register, give an email address, or anything -- just click the button.  Once their site comes up, you're done.  You can close the window.  I used to be #9, and now I am dangerously close to falling out of the Top 25!  You can vote EVERYDAY!  And since votes reset every 30 days, I'd love it if you did.
(FYI, you can vote on the 2011 Bloggers Choice Awards if you want, but they DO require a registration where you have to give your email address.  However, it is a one-time-only thing.  I would love to win one of these awards, but based on the 30 votes that I have gotten, it isn't looking too promising.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Win

It's 2 days until Thanksgiving and a large portion of my Facebook friends have posted statuses and pictures of their Christmas trees that are already up and decorated.  They say things like "I just LOVE Christmas!" They claim that they put their tree (or in some cases "trees") up early so that they can enjoy them longer.  I also have friends who are done -- yes FINISHED -- with their Christmas shopping.  They have bought all of their gifts for friends and family, their stocking stuffers, and even have some (if not all) of it wrapped and under one of their meticulously decorated Christmas trees.  Their husbands have strung umpteen dozen strands of lights on the outside of their houses and they have nativity scenes and inflatable snowmen on their lawns.

I never decorate for Christmas.  I don't even put up a Christmas tree.

Why would I?  We go "home" for Christmas.  We wouldn't be here to enjoy it.  We don't have room for a tree anyway.  I have to side-step random piles of toys, laundry, and other crap on any given day in my house, so putting up a tree where we would pile wrapped up new toys or clothes seems a little ridiculous.  Also, our kids get ONE present from Santa and ONE present from their dad and I because they also get presents from Grandma, Grandmother, Aunt Betty, Aunt Martha, Aunt Willa and Uncle Jon, etc. And OUR Santa doesn't wrap his presents because he is too busy -- he has to get to every single kid on the planet within 24 hours.  Santa comes to Grandmother's house where he puts the toys and gifts unwrapped on the hearth right next to the stockings. 

A wonderful blog that I follow, Snarky In The Suburbs, has dubbed this maniacal early decorating and boasting, er, I mean POSTING about it on Facebook "Competitive Christmas."  I am not saying that all of my friends are in competition -- I happen to know quite a few who truly just love Christmas and would probably put their tree(s) up in September if they thought that they could get away with it.  But there are some who I KNOW put up their trees right after Halloween, have all of their shopping finished before the Black Friday ads are even printed, and begin their Christmas cookies as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey comes out of the oven and then post pictures of all of their wrapped presents along with statuses about how THEY get to relax and enjoy the holidays because THEY planned ahead.  Here is what I hear when I see that crap "I am better than you."

Well, no you're not.  What you are is slightly insane.  You are the same people who would poll all of your friends in school to see what they made on the test and then tell them that you did better.  You are the same people who have to drive the better car, have the better TV, wear the better clothes, etc.  You don't try to "keep up with the Joneses" -- you try to BE the Joneses. 

Here's what you should know -- I do not plan my life around what you do at Christmas or on any other day of the year.  I do not participate in "Competitive Christmas" nor do I try to live my life in an attempt to keep up with anyone.  How exhausting!  I cannot imagine how disappointed I might be in myself if I was always trying to be as organized or as neat or as rich or as frugal or as ANYTHING as all of my friends.  I do admire a lot of those things and mimic them at times, but to focus on trying to be the best at everything is impossible.  I have enough crazy in my life without actively participating in your brand of "nuts." 

So, you win.

You are better at Christmas than I am.  I will no doubt realize on Christmas Eve as I huddle in the bathroom at my mom's house wrapping the presents to my kids from their dad and me to avoid being discovered, that I forgot someone, or that one kid has been shortchanged in the stocking department, or that I don't have enough bows.  And this will result in me sending the husband out at midnight on Christmas Eve to go to the CVS or Walgreens, or down to the corner convenience store to pick up something to make it all work.  Next February, when I finally get around to cleaning out that closet under the stairs, I will find the toy that I bought on clearance 3 years ago for my child who has since outgrown it.  I will probably not get Christmas cards done at all, but if I do they will never compare to the full on North Pole scene that you set up in your front yard in August with your shiny happy family all decked out in matching Christmas sweaters for the professional photographer that you hired.  And I will most likely top off the kid's stockings with left over Halloween candy, if I remember to pack it.

But I will probably enjoy Christmas every bit as if not more than you because I forfeit.  I am not competing.  See, you can't really "win" at Christmas. 


If I ever have neighbors who decorate like that house, I am sooooo doing this.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I AM Calm


Today, I am trying to remain calm and therefore I will be ranting about my Thanksgiving prep.  Not because it is incredibly funny or interesting, but just because I need to get it all out so that I can realize just how far behind I am, and then I can properly panic and freak out. 



I bought a turkey this weekend.  I opted for a fresh one, as I usually do, but I had to get a bigger one than I wanted.  I do not know why, but every year it seems that I either cannot find a turkey big enough or I can't find one small enough.  Last year, we had extra people for Thanksgiving (some good friends who are just as far away from their extended families as we are) and I needed a 20 pound turkey.  Every store I went to had 12-15 pound turkeys, but nothing bigger.  This year it was the opposite.  I went to 4 different stores and all of the turkeys were 20-25 pounds. 



My mother-in-law does not eat poultry -- no chicken, no duck, and no turkey.  Not even on Thanksgiving.  When SHE doesn't eat something, my girls all of a sudden don't eat it either.  So the husband, the father-in-law, and the 2 boys and I are the ones who will be eating turkey -- all 14 1/2 pounds of it.  The mother-in-law is bringing a ham, which I love, but which will further diminish the need for the big turkey.  I am also making home-canned green beans with carrots, mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle, asparagus, homemade bread, and, of course -- rice.  My in-laws are Puerto Rican, we have to have rice with every meal.  And I am Southern.  It doesn't matter that we HAVE to have rice, because we also HAVE to have sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes.  And green beans from Costco will not do -- they have to be ones that my mother canned this summer cooked with fat-back for most of the day leading up to dinner.  Its a rule. 


So the menu is set.  Now on to the cleaning.  Crap.  This is ALWAYS an issue at my house, Thanksgiving or not.  This week the minions are out of school.  My husband, in his oblivion, said "Good, they can help you clean."  Yeah, right.  Trying to clean with 4 kids in the house is like shoveling snow in a blizzard -- it may be necessary to keep from being completely buried, but you rarely make much notable progress.  I cleaned the toilet in their bathroom this morning.  While I was cleaning the sink, with the 3 different shade of kid toothpaste on it, the 3 year old came in and peed all over the toilet.  So I cleaned it again.  I need to dust, vacuum, sweep, and mop.  All things that I hate.  And today I am babysitting a 5th kid.  Difficulty level has been increased by at least 20%. 




I have to say though, they are trying to help.  The main problem seems to be that they do not want to do the general picking up and putting away that is required before you can start on the things that they think will be fun -- dusting, vacuuming, and pretty much anything that requires spraying things from a squirt bottle.  Add to that they have no idea HOW to do the cleaning that they WANT to do and you get half a bottle of Windex on the bathroom mirror, 46 Clorox wipes to clean the table, and 4 Swiffers to clean the bathroom floor.



And there is the constant need to purge the crap -- we are in the throes of a full-on pre-Christmas purge.  The kids don't want to get rid of ANYTHING and their dad and I want to get rid of EVERYTHING.  We know that in a few short weeks "Santa" (AKA Grandma and Grandmother) will load them down with so much stuff that there will be no room for us to move in this house.  Why do kids get so attached to meaningless crap?  I went to give away a pillow that is all ratty and dirty and has Disney Princesses on it (my girls don't even like Disney Princesses) and you would have thought I was trying to give away the family dog.  My nearly 10 year old son is pouting because I threw away a box that was torn up and laying flat on the floor of his room because he had drawn on it with crayons.  It. Was. A. BOX. A torn up box at that.  It is really annoying. 



It is almost time for lunch now.  I will have to get the kitchen dirty to make the 5 kids here lunch, serve it on the previously cleaned table, and watch as thousands of crumbs are dropped onto my previously cleaned floor.  And I will have to do this amid numerous protests over what is being served.  After lunch there will be an entire hour or more trying to re-motivate the minions to get back to work.



I was hoping to have the house completely cleaned up by tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Lorelei's 5th birthday.  I hate to try and make them clean up when it is supposed to be a day to celebrate Lorelei.  We have gotten her presents, we have ordered a pull-apart-cupcake-cake, and we have promised her that she can have cheese-sticks from Sonic for dinner since that is her absolute favorite thing in the world.  Two weeks from now, the oldest turns 10, and 4 days after Christmas, the 7 year old turns 8.  All of these birthdays mean that the Christmas haul will only be half of what comes into this house over the next few weeks.  (Sigh)  I suppose that means that I should get off of here and get to work.....

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Black Friday Is Like The Zombie Apocalypse


"Initial contacts with the infected are extremely traumatic, causing shock, panic, disbelief and possibly denial, hampering survivors' ability to deal with hostile encounters."

That is the Wikipedia description for the Zombie Apocalypse, but it is true of Black Friday as well. Two years ago, I took my husband out on Black Friday. We went to 3 stores. We started at Toys R' Us where we stood in a line outside of the store in the freezing temperatures for over an hour, then we were literally herded like cattle into the store and out again. His eyes were wide with disbelief as a woman several aisles over from us had a complete claustrophobic breakdown. We then went on to Wal-mart. He stood in line for a GPS while I went to get in line for digital picture frames. At the appointed time, when the deals were released, there was an audible roar from the center of the store. My husband had the following exchange with a young guy next to him in the GPS line:

Guy: "What was THAT??!"
Hubby: "The women."
Guy: "What is wrong with them?"
Hubby: "They're fighting over toys."
Guy: "What??! WHY??!"
Hubby: "Because there are only so many of them and because they're on sale."
Guy: "That's CRAZY!"
Hubby: "That's Black Friday. It is not for the faint of heart."

I have compiled a list of how the 2 are similar for your education and enjoyment:

1)  Large masses of "people" all in mindless pursuit of the same thing. 
Zombies are often depicted as slow-moving creatures in pursuit of brains, while Black Friday shoppers are in pursuit of deals.  Seriously, the next time you see the news footage from your local Toys R' Us on Black Friday, it will not be hard for you to imagine them in pursuit of brains instead of Barbies.

2)  The bigger the city, the worse it is. 
I realize that the Black Friday insanity has intensified over the past decade, but 12 years ago, I participated when I lived in Huntsville, AL.  It was no small town, but it was nothing like what I witnessed 2 years ago here in DFW.  Similarly, in a Zombie Apocalypse, things are far worse in heavily populated areas.

3) Everyone has a plan for survival, very few actually work. 
In a Zombie Apocalypse, everyone has a plan to survive.  Similarly, Black Friday shoppers have plans -- they map out the stores, make detailed schedules, and arm themselves with coupons and discount shopper cards.  The problem is that there are thousands of other people who are attempting the same things and they don't give a crap what your plan is.  They will mow you down in a heartbeat to get to that $400 big screen TV that normally retails for $1,000, and then they'l pick over the stuff you dropped.

4)  The roads are all blocked.
In a Zombie Apacolypse, the military blocks roads, mass exoduses of large urban areas cause traffic jams, and lack of services like tow-trucks and police turn highways into parking lots.  If you have ever tried to go out to pick up something from the grocery store on Black Friday then you are painfully aware that the traffic sucks that day.  Even if you don't have to venture close to an actual mall or mega-mart, just getting to and from Kroger can be a monumental task. 

5) The smell of the crowd resembles rotting flesh. 
I don't know if it is the fact that they were in such a hurry to get in line that they forgot to shower and wear deodorant, or if it is the fact that they're still digesting that huge Thanksgiving meal, but Black Friday shoppers, as a general rule, REEK.  When you get that many people in a confined space the smells alone are enough to induce panic.

6) There is a complete lack of intelligent thought processes. 
They fact that people camp outside of stores prior to the sales is indication enough that there has been a breakdown of civilization.  But should you venture out to Wal-Mart or Toys R' Us on Black Friday, you will witness things like 60 year old women climbing over displays, seemingly normal people fighting over electronics and toys, and mothers who most likely try to teach their kids to be kind, caring, individuals ready to cut someone over the last "Tickle Me Elmo."

7)  The affliction is highly contagious. 
Just being pushed around by the masses is enough to turn you into one of them.  Zombies infect you with a bite, but Black Friday shoppers can infect you simply by touching you, pressing up against you, and shuffling you around.

8)  You strongly believe that you are the only 'normal' one. 
The uninfected in a Zombie Apocalypse often feel as if they are sole survivors.  When they are forced to enter infested areas they are fearful because they just know that they stick out like a sore thumb.  When a normal person attempts to go shop on Black Friday they have the same feeling.  However, much like the Zombies who are unaware of their infection, Black Friday Shoppers are completely oblivious to the fact that their behavior is not normal.


I wish you all luck in surviving the Black Friday Zombie Apocolypse.  I will be sequestering myself inside my home, eating leftover Thanksgiving food, watching football, and praying for all of those poor souls out shopping.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Don't Rush Me

Yesterday was supposed to be the start of a week-long cleaning binge. Sadly, it was not. Instead, it was spent shuttling kids to school, then to preschool, then BACK to the school to check a kid out to take her to the doctor, then on to the imaging center to have her knee x-rayed only to discover that the x-ray machine there was down, back to the doctor's office for new paperwork for another imaging place, got the x-rays done, take child back to school, run to Lowe's to grab drain cleaner & a new paint brush, pick up kids from preschool, go to grocery store, pick up kids from school, come home, and make dinner. So no cleaning was done at all.  This morning, I am taking some time with the computer and a pot of coffee before attempting to clean anything. I have a post rattling around in my head that I thought about all day yesterday, so I'm gonna go and try to get that done and then I'll start the cleaning.  Maybe.

As I was running all over the place yesterday, I couldn't help noticing all of the Christmas decorations and advertisements that were EVERYWHERE.  They started right after Halloween -- or in some cases, BEFORE Halloween.  There was a mini-Christmas tree on the reception desk at the doctor's office.  A wreath adorned the door of the imaging center where I took my kid to get her x-rays.  Lowe's had an entire 3 aisle section dedicated to Christmas.  The speakers at the grocery store played "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  I love Christmas.  It IS the most wonderful time of the year. But, here's the thing:  It is NOT Christmas yet.  It isn't even Thanksgiving yet.  I haven't even got all of my Halloween stuff put away yet. 



Where are the turkeys?  The pilgrims and Indians?  The cornucopias??!  What is the big hurry to usher in the fat man in his red suit?  Before we spend more money than we should on things we don't really need to impress people we really don't even like, shouldn't we take the time to appreciate all of the stuff we have?  Shouldn't we MAKE TIME to celebrate our family and friends and the fact that we are grateful for them?  Seriously, look around your house -- do you even have room for more stuff?  Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family.  And being grateful about what we have.  It has become nothing more than a speed bump on the super highway to Christmas, which has become about getting more stuff.


I have a very difficult time decking the halls when I am still divvying up Halloween candy to my kids.  This rush to "celebrate" Christmas has nothing to do with the traditional "Peace on Earth" or "Goodwill Towards Mankind" that it should be about.  Nope, its all about the pursuit of more stuff.  I love buying gifts.  I USED to love Black Friday.  But now, retailers, in an attempt to one up one another have taken to opening on Thanksgiving day for their mega deals.  Wal-mart, Toys R Us, and several others are opening not at 4 or 5 AM on Black Friday, but at some point on Thanksgiving!  So if you want to get those deals, you have to forgo the Thanksgiving meal with your family and go fight the crowds and stand in lines.  And those who work there have to give up their holidays so that you can.  It is ridiculous.  Amid all of the "Occupy" movements to protest big business, I guarantee that this will be a big year for them. 

Well not from me.

I'm tired of being rushed into Christmas.  I'm tired of trying to budget all year for one blow-out day of shopping where I need to be in six different stores at exactly 4 AM when they release the good deals.  I'm tired of feeling that I have to have everything picked out for every person on my Christmas list by the week of Thanksgiving.  And I am tired of big companies making me feel like I must be crazy to willingly miss out on their super deals.  A big screen TV for under $500??!  You'd better buy that!  A Blu-Ray player for under $50??!  You NEED it!!  Your kid wants this toy that normally sells for $75, but between 4 and 5 AM on Black Friday we'll sell it for $29.99!!!  You better hurry though -- there are only 3 per store.  Bull.  I'm sick of it. 



I am boycotting Black Friday. 

And I am boycotting any company this Christmas that deprives their employees of their Thanksgiving Holiday.  Doctors, nurses, police, and fire fighters HAVE to work on holidays -- the services that they provide are essential.  Someone's life may very well depend upon them going to work.  They willingly sacrifice for the greater good.  Some mom or dad who works at K-Mart to feed their kids, should not have to give up this very special day with them just so you can get discounted electronics and toys. 

Instead, I am going to participate in Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is when you take your Christmas budget and you spend it at places like your local barber shop or beauty salon for gift certificates.  When you go to local shops and boutiques for your gifts instead of to the mega-marts.  If everyone participated in Small Business Saturday, we'd send a more powerful message to Corporate America than we ever could by standing on a street holding a sign.  We'd put our money where our mouth is so to speak.  I freely admit that I love big stores for their selection and convenience, but think for a minute if a small mom-and-pop operation offered the same level of service that you got the last time you were at Wal-mart.....would you ever go back?  Shop locally and make the Wal-mart's wonder why.  Hold them to a higher standard and quit letting them push you around.

I encourage all of you to slow down.  Take a breath.  Appreciate what you have and give thanks. 



The establishment doesn't want you to do this.  They rush you through Thanksgiving and straight into Christmas so that you will focus on all of the things that you don't have instead of realizing how much you already have.  They don't want you to appreciate the things that you have because then you might decide that you don't really need a new TV, your kid doesn't need that $75 toy, and you have 3 working DVD players so you can forgo that Blu-ray player.  Write down what you are thankful for.  Share it with your family and ask them to do the same.  Take stock of all that you have and then decide what holiday shopping you even need to do, where you can get it locally, and how you can pass on some of the things you don't need to others who do. 

And remember that Christmas is in DECEMBER....

EDIT:  I just read Mary Tyler Mom's post for today -- Thanksgiving: Wherefore Art Thou?.  You should ALL go and read it.  If for no other reason than to prove that I am not the only one who misses Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm Ready To Be Discovered

I have an email address specifically for my blog.  I get all kinds of weird junk emails from businesses who either hone in on "Counting" or "Caballeros" or who think that because I am a mommy blogger I must promote all natural fibers, organic, homemade foods, or homeschooling.  I have, in the past week received emails from people asking me to promote their homeschooling curriculums, their tools to teach toddlers how to blow their noses, their books about parenting, their blogs about organic eating for kids, and their music.  But my favorite emails are the ones who feel the need to voice their displeasure about me.  I typically get one about every 6 weeks or so and they make me laugh.  I get more than that if I post something religious or political, or if I talk about how I let my kids run wild, or how I fought with another teacher or parent.  I usually just laugh and hit delete.  I have been known to publicly ridicule those who feel that they are somehow entitled to judge me by calling them out here on the blog, and I even went so far as to publish one person's email in it's entirety WITH her email address because she had shown herself to be an ignorant, hateful person and I had not had the energy to address her with the proper level of snark by myself and had therefore recruited you guys to help.  But this week, I got the following email from a television producer and my mind began to race with the impending fame and fortune that was sure to follow:

Hello,
My name is Brian and I work at Anderson, a new daytime talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper.
I was interested in speaking with you about an idea I had for a story. Please give me a call when you get a chance at 212 XXX XXXX or contact me by email at brian.grobman@andersoncooper..com
It would also be helpful if you let me know a number I could reach you at as well. I look forward to speaking with you as soon as possible in the near future.
Best,
Brian
Brian Grobman
Anderson
1271 Avenue of the Americas // 16th FloorNew York, NY 10020O: 212.275.8939F:

My moment had arrived!  I was about to be discovered!  When this email was sent, I had just written the post If I Were Queen and I just KNEW that Anderson Cooper wanted me to fly to New York to be a commentator on his show about politics.  Or maybe he was doing a show about how difficult it was to break into the publishing business and was going to fly me to New York to meet with publishers and do a series of stories on what it takes for an unknown author to get published!  Or maybe he wanted me to become a REGULAR COMMENTATOR on his show and he was going to fly me to New York regularly!!  (Notice how in all of these fantasies I get flown to New York....)  I quickly typed my response, while trying to sound as non-chalant as possible:

Hey Brian,

Sorry that it took so long for me to get back to you, but the whole mom to 4 kids thing keeps me a little tied up, and your email originally went to my Junk Mail folder that I only check a few times a month. I must admit that you have piqued my interest -- what could you possibly want to talk to me about? Please call me at your convenience and satisfy my curiosity (817) XXX-XXXX.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Ginger Caballero
Author of Counting Caballeros

Then I waited.  The next morning I got this email back from him:

Ginger,

No worries.

Right now we are working on a story about a mom who cannot leave the house unless she looks perfect! Hair, makeup, the whole nine yards!

If you think you know someone like this we would love to talk to them!

Please let me know!

Best,
Brian


 Wait.....What?  This man obviously has NOT read my blog.  And more disturbing, he does not want to help me launch my writing career.  I was envisioning getting a job writing for a TV show, or a magazine, or being a regular commentator and getting a book deal and what does he want?  He wants to know if I know any June Cleaver types that he could talk to.  Sigh.  So this is how I responded:



Oh wow, um, I don't know anyone like that personally, but I regularly make fun of them on my blog. I am the antithesis of that mom. My uniform consists of t-shirts and yoga pants and I usually only wear make-up to church. Seriously, there is a post-it note on my front door that says “Do you have on a BRA? Are you wearing SHOES? Have you even seen a BRUSH today?”

I don't mean to be presumptuous, (actually, I do mean to be presumptuous -- what do I have to lose?) but why don't you guys do a show about all of the mom-bloggers out there and their opinions on things like education, politics, taxes, religion, etc? You could do a whole week of shows based upon what normal, everyday moms think. There is a plethora of mom-bloggers out there and we are all full of opinions. You could check out the site "Top Mommy Blogs" if you need help finding blogs to pull from. There are special needs moms who blog about the horrors that they face dealing with the system, there are moms who blog about the joys and heartaches of adoption, there are moms who blog about trying to homeschool, trying to feed their kids only whole foods, trying to cope with food allergies and developmental disorders, and then there are moms like me who blog about anything and everything and are just trying to make it through the next day. There are even some great dad bloggers. As a daytime talk show, I imagine that the majority of your audience is stay at home parents, and I imagine that as much as they enjoy hearing from various experts, they'd love the chance to hear from some of those that they could relate to. You could even make it a weekly segment -- once a week feature a different blogger with a different opinion on a different subject as a wrap up or a springboard for your topic that day. Truth is, we have a lot of great ideas about a lot of different things, but we have kids. This means that we cannot we cannot find time to write an entire book, or court the publishing world to publish a book we've written, and any book we'd write would be all over the place because that is how our lives are. In the past 2 weeks, I have personally blogged about what I'd do if I were president, how shocked I was to discover my 7-year old singing the Katy Perry song "Last Friday Night", what I think about the Michigan anti-bullying law, and what I think about the Penn State scandal. We blog mostly about what is on our minds on the day we sit down with more than 10 minutes at the keyboard, but we have amazing insight and (usually) pretty good ideas.

Should you decide to pursue something along those lines, (or if I can ever help you with another topic) feel free to give me a call. I have an entire list of fellow mommy-bloggers that I will be happy to pass along.


Sincerely,
Ginger Caballero
Author of Counting Caballeros

Seriously, moms who spend all of their time on hair and make-up aren't interesting!  REAL MOMS are interesting!  So far today, I have thrown away 7 partially eaten Pop Tarts and yelled at my 3 year old for washing the small pumpkin he got from school in the toilet. (Luckily, I had actually cleaned the toilet this morning.)  And we are smart and we have ideas and we deserve to be heard by someone who may actually listen more than our kids.

So far, he has not called.  I am picturing him pitching this idea to Anderson Cooper himself and that Anderson is threatened by me.  That's gotta be it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shame

Again, today's post is not funny.  I know that this is supposed to be a humor blog, but there are things that are effecting me in the news and if I don't get them out here I just keep thinking about them and researching them and obsessing over them.  Today's post is about the abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State University and the nation.  I cannot keep obsessing over these kinds of depraved acts because that kind of evil will eat me alive.  I needed to get it out.  I told you that I blog because I cannot afford therapy and that is apparent by today's post.  So close the door and pay attention, therapy is in session.


I wasn't going to blog about the Penn State scandal.  I was upset by the stories coming out -- physically sick to my stomach because I have a son who is the age of the victims and I know that I would literally kill anyone who harmed him or my other children.  I read Nicole Knepper's blog about this travesty, Nittany Liars, and I thought that it was so well written, so poignant, and so full of truth that I didn't think I could possibly add anything to what she had said.  She is a professional counselor, a mother, and her words have more weight than anything I could say.  But I cannot sit quietly as the details of the allegations that apparently spanned at least 15 years are coming out and the Penn State 'Family' actually protests against the firing of the university president and Joe Paterno.  What I say has no degree behind it.  I am not a counselor.  I am not an officer of the law.  I am not an expert in mental health.  I am a human being.  I am a mother.  And I am OUTRAGED.


If you have been living under a rock, go HERE to see the timeline of events that led to the firing of Joe Paterno, university President Graham Spanier, and the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, the former 'right-hand" to Joe Paterno.  There have been 40 counts of felony sex abuse of minors levied against former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky and there may be more coming. 


I love college football.  I love everything about it -- the rivalries, the cracking of helmets as they meet over the ball, the yelling at the TV, the impressive runs by kids just barely old enough to vote, and the coaches.  There are some coaches that I love to hate -- Steve Spurrier comes immediately to mind -- but as a general rule, the coaches, especially the long term ones, are part of a teams identity.  I love iconic coaches like Bear Bryant, Pat Dye, Knute Rockne and, I thought until this week, Joe Paterno.  Paterno has 409 victories -- a record for major college football -- won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.  He is a legend.


But Pa Joe has fallen from grace. 


His role in the scandal over Jerry Sandusky's abuse has eclipsed anything that he ever did for his team, his school, or his sport because he knew.  This man KNEW what was going on.  He had known since at least 2002 when one of his players (Mike McQueary, who now happens to be the wide-receivers coach at Penn State) came to him and told him that he had witnessed Sandusky in the team showers with a young boy of about 10 years old.  Paterno simply informed athletic director Tim Curley without looking into the details, and apparently left it at that.  He now says that he was unclear on what McQueary had said he saw.  He never understood exactly what was going on with Sandusky and the 10-year old boy.  I'm sorry, but you knew that an old man had a 10-year old boy in the showers.  You didn't need to know anything else.  You should have called the police as you were running straight to the locker room to stop whatever was going on, and THEN called your boss.  Bill Littlefield with NPR put it best. He said "Another coach at another university might be able to sidestep criticism by maintaining that he'd passed the buck to the appropriate bureaucrat, but it doesn't work that way for icons."  No it doesn't.  And for me, as a mom and a HUMAN BEING, it doesn't work that way for anyone.  And what about McQueary?  This guy was a player, but he was a 28 year old graduate student at the time -- not some kid who could blame youth and ignorance on his inactivity.  He saw a boy being sodomized by a pedophile and he fled the building and told the coach.  He didn't go to the cops.  He didn't try to help the boy being victimized.  He continued to play and later to work for Paterno and Penn State knowing all the time who and what Sandusky was and knowing that he was still in contact with kids.  Was his job a reward for his silence and compliance?  Who knows, but it makes me wonder.  After the 2002 report, the University officials decided to take away Sandusky's keys to the locker rooms.  They knew that this man was making children his victims and their solution was to force him to find a more private place to do it.  They didn't want the scandal.  They thought if they kept it off of school property then it wasn't their problem.  But they allowed him to maintain an office directly across from the Penn State Athletic Complex.  By not turning him over to the authorities, they basically gave him permission.  They failed to uphold their own creed:  "May no act of ours bring shame."


When the Penn State Board of Trustees finally decided yesterday that they would fire Paterno and University President Graham Spanier, Paterno was "shocked" and  said "I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind, to serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today."  I'm sorry but that's not good enough.  Was it in the interest of the university to aid in the rape and molestation of young boys?  Was it in the best interest of the young men in your care to subject them to a pedophile?  No.  And I don't care how shocked he claims to be, he KNOWS it.  He failed.  He failed at that meeting with McQueary in 2002 to make the right decision, the most important decision of his life, the decision that will now forever define who he is and how he's remembered.  And then he failed over and over again for every minute of every day of every week and every year that he stayed silent. 


The students of Penn State in their ignorance protested Paterno's firing.  They rioted.  They overturned a news van.  They chanted "We want Joe!  We want Joe!" ad nauseam in a vain attempt to get the board of trustees to hire him back.  I have a message for them:  Don't feel sorry for Joe Paterno. He's had his life.  He had a great life and anything that he is suffering now is his own fault.  He caused it by claiming to be a man of action and doing nothing to help the children that Sandusky ruined.  His sorrow is his own fault -- a result of his own inactivity.  Feel sorry for the victims of the abuse that Pa Joe allowed to continue, because they may never have a life.  Many of them won't be able to trust. Or be able to love. Some of them won't be able to feel because of the crimes that they endured and you are worried about your football team?  Whatever tears you shed for Paterno and his football legacy should be saved for the children that were victims of Sandusky, and ultimately of Paterno and the Penn State powerhouse that failed them in an attempt to protect itself. 


What Sandusky did to God knows how many innocent young boys is sickening.  It is depraved.  It deserves a punishment much worse than anything that the legal system could possibly dish out.  But I think that EVERYONE who knew and did nothing should be punished.  There is no defense for the number of people in positions of authority who had an opportunity to stop Sandusky and did not.  No, this isn't just about an 84-year-old Joe Paterno not taking more steps that might have stopped it. It's about everybody not taking more steps that might have stopped it.  Every last one of them should be fired and charged with aiding in this abuse because that is what they did.  They allowed it to continue.  They swept it under the rug, and hoped it would go away.  The victims here, the ones who have come forward, the ones who may come forward, and the ones who may never have the courage to come forward deserve to at least know that those who allowed them to be hurt be held responsible.  Unfortunately, the list is long.  Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly how many knew and did nothing.  And unfortunately, nothing that the law or the public can do to those involved will ever bring back the innocence that was lost. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Today's post is not funny.  It is not meant to be funny.  It will not be universally accepted.  It may even offend some of you.  But I hope that you will respect the fact that these are MY opinions and beliefs.  And I hope that it will make you think.

Bullying is a very hot topic these days.  Michigan just passed a law, or an amendment to a law, or something that says (according to the media and every liberal friend on Facebook) that it is okay to bully someone as long as you do it with your religious beliefs as a basis.  That isn't really what the law says.  The law says that if my religion says that something is a sin, then I have the right to say that as well without being accused of bullying as long as I don't direct it at an individual or group.  If I am a Muslim, I can say "According to Allah, pork is unclean, and therefore those who eat are unclean" as long as I don't say "Hey Brian, you are going to spend an eternity in hell because you're eating those pork rinds and are an infidel."  Or I can say "According to the Bible, sexual immorality is sinful."  As long as I don't say "Hey Jane, you are going to hell because you're not a virgin and are therefore an abomonation to the Lord."  Opponents of the law, mostly the liberal left, are foaming at the mouth over the wording of this bill that they claim gives kids, teachers, and administrators a blueprint for bullying as long as they hide behind their religion of choice.  I disagree. 

I see a bigger problem. 

What this law does is further polarize the public.  If the law is left as it is, extremists will, in fact, use it as a platform to promote hate through religious beliefs (like the idiots at Westboro Baptist Church).  If it is changed, then the lawmakers have essentially gagged everyone of faith from expressing themselves and their beliefs openly, therefore infringing upon their right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  Unfortunately, those who are most directly effected are the Christians.  Christ was against bullying -- He "spoke the truth in love" but he was never cruel.  What this bill has tried to do is give that right to individuals who follow Him -- the right to speak the truth in love.  But how do we determine what is spoken in love and what is spoken out of hate?  We cannot.  So the lawmakers tried to put into the law a way to prohibit bullying while still allowing for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  There is no way to accommodate both sides effectively because we have a separation of church and state.  We cannot enforce the "laws" of religion (ie saying that you can only speak out against something if you do so out of love) because the government has no authority to do so.  You cannot define in a legal way what is done out of love or strong moral conviction and what is done with malicious intent.  The members of Westboro baptist Church do not think of themselves as hateful.  They do what they do because they believe in it.  I disagree with them.  I do not know how they reconcile what they do with what is in the Bible, but the point is that THEY believe in it. 

This law in Michigan has a great intent, but now it has become bogged down in legal rhetoric.  How do you defend freedom of speech and freedom of religion while prohibiting differing opinions to be spoken out loud for fear that someone might be offended?  You cannot.  How do we, as adults, parents, teachers and role models, empower our kids to be themselves and stand up for their beliefs while punishing them for doing so?  We cannot.  How can lawmakers say that every one's feelings are valid but  that only certain groups are allowed to express them?  They cannot.

We have painted ourselves into a corner, so to speak.

Here in Texas, where I live, a student was recently suspended because he was having a one-on-one conversation with another student and stated that he was a Christian and believed that homosexuality was wrong and the teacher overheard him.  He was yelled at, written up, sent to the office, and suspended.  For stating his personal belief to a friend.  There was no anger, or malicious intent, or what could even be considered judgement since it was a statement not related to any individual but just in a private conversation.  To me, that is bullying by the system.  A biology teacher in California last year won a $100,000 settlement after she was fired for answering a student’s question by citing research that homosexuality “may be influenced by both genes and the environment.”  That is bullying by the system.  At the University of Illinois in July 2010, school officials fired a Catholic theology teacher after he asserted that homosexuality was, according to Catholic teaching, contrary to the moral law. Prof. Kenneth Howell, who had simultaneously lost his position at the Catholic Newman Center on campus, was reinstated days later after thousands protested.  That is bullying by the system.  Also in 2010 news broke of the story of a counseling student at Augusta State University, who, after her professors learned of her Christian beliefs on homosexuality, was told to attend workshops to improve her sensitivity towards homosexuals, to complete remedial reading, and to write papers describing the impact of such measures on her beliefs, as a condition of continuing in the program.  That is bullying by the system.

The religious fanatics in our country have long been accused of committing the very sins that they speak out against because they take it to extremes -- they don't just say that this or that is wrong, but they take on the judgement portion that is reserved only for God by saying that this person or group of people are wrong and their passion and anger over it bleeds into their treatment of that group often with a violent end.  Now the liberal left seems to have joined them in their hypocrisy.  You cannot advocate freedom of speech and freedom of religion if you are unwilling to allow those laws to apply to everyone.  If it is okay for one person to be openly gay, then it must also be okay for another person to openly say "I believe that this is a sin."  It becomes problematic when any person is prevented from being able to speak their mind, no matter what their belief is and no matter whether they're a member of the majority or the minority.  Violation of a person's First Amendment rights is problematic, no matter who they are or what they stand for.

So what is my solution?

Well, I think that the only thing you can do here is to NOT make the wording of the law more specific, but to make it more general.  Give those tasked with enforcing it more lattitude to interpret intent on an individual basis.  For example, if a kid says "I am a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is a sin" but he doesn't stand up and single out or threaten any one person or group, then that is not bullying.  It is not hate.  It is allowing that student to do what we push kids to do -- stand up for his beliefs and to do so in the face of adversity.

As a society, we have taken the stance that every lifestyle choice is valid.  We want everyone to feel loved and accepted.  No one wants to offend anyone.  We want everyone to like everyone else and get along in our country.  This. Is. A. FANTASY.  We have been advocating "acceptance" when we should have been advocating tolerance and respect.  Acceptance of something that you or your religion, culture, or morals oppose involves a compromise of your beliefs.  Tolerance of something does not.  I can respect your opinion and your right to that opinion without accepting it.  We want people to fell free to be who they are, to stand up for their beliefs, to speak up and speak out against what they believe is wrong but in the same breath we tell them not to offend anyone.  Do you see the problem?  I am a Christian who tries to live by what the Bible teaches.  Yet, I have friends who are openly homosexual, friends who are Jewish, friends who are Muslim, friends who are Hindu, friends who are Bhuddist, friends who are Wiccan and friends who are athiest. And I can have intelligent conversations about morals and religion with all of them because we respect and tolerate each other's beliefs not because we accept them.  Bullying could be virtually eradicated by enforcing a stricter policy of a universally accepted and morally benign concept of respect. If we pushed for respect of opinions and beliefs instead of acceptance of them, then tolerance would be a given.


Everyone cannot be "right."  If you cannot have a civil, intelligent, conversation with someone who lives a lifestyle different from what you believe is "right" then how do you function in the world?