Friday, July 17, 2015

Let's talk about porn, baby.

Last month, Bill and I celebrated our 20 year high school reunion. I have to say, it was way more fun than I was expecting - and I was expecting it to be great. Everyone was friendly and happy to be there and I loved getting to reconnect and catch up with old friends.

And since most everyone I talked to has a family now, I got to catch up with their babies too. I thought Facebook had sort of taken the mystery out of things - I already knew who married who and how many kids they had - but I soon discovered that knowing the facts and seeing some pictures is not even kind of the same as connecting face-to-face.

Which - of course, right? But you'd be surprised how many people thought we were crazy for flying across the country for our reunion. Next to, "I'm still friends with the people I like, why would I want to see a bunch of people I hardly know?", the biggest reason people had for NOT going to their reunion was, "I already know what everyone's doing thanks to Facebook!"

But here's the thing. If you never spend time with people who aren't already your friends, how do you expect to have your mind blown? Everyone at the reunion was in the same boat as far as being open to connect and have fun, but other than that? SO MANY DIFFERENT BOATS! It made me realize that, for the most part, I choose to hang out with people who are kind of like me. I bet most of us do.

So having a whole weekend to connect face-to-face with people I don't normally hang out with was really great. Not only for the "we're all more alike than we are different!" realization that comes when you sit down with someone outside your norm, but also for the stories. No one on Facebook ever says, "My eleven year old son is OBSESSED with porn." But face-to-face? Tip of the iceberg.

This was, by far, one of the most fascinating conversations of the weekend. Because while my boys might technically still be too young for me to worry about porn, I know that the Internet has pretty much removed age and curiosity from the equation. This is the age of access. Free, easy to find, hard to ignore access to anything and everything your perverted little heart desires.

Or doesn't desire. Which is what really has my attention. I'm not a huge fan of porn but I'm not against it either. If one of my sons wants to see something sexual, that's fine by me (okay, I mean, it's really weird to even think about that but you know what I mean...). The goal is not to get our boys to adulthood porn-free. The goal is to raise kind, responsible, thoughtful human beings. Which I think you can totally be while still enjoying some XXX stuff.

Porn is really not the issue for me at all.What worries me is the accidental discovery. The rabbit hole you fall into while looking for something else. The things you see that you can never unsee...

How do you protect your kids against that?

"Don't let your kids have a computer. Or an iPad. Or an i-anything!" was what my friend suggested. But as I nodded and sipped my wine, I knew my four year old was probably on an iPad at that very moment. And my nine year old? He's basically our I.T. department.

So removing technology is obviously not an option. What now?

I found this article which has been pretty helpful with some of the concrete things you can do to make the Internet safer for your kids.Which is a great start. But I think it's just part of the story.

Bill and I have spent a lot of time debating this, trying to figure out exactly what we want to do to educate our kids. Since our view points are fairly different, we've had a lot of interesting conversations.

Like I said, I'm not against porn. But I do think it can have an undesirable effect on people. Not necessarily because of the sex, but because of the expectations. If Pinterest can make your kitchen feel like a crappy before picture, don't you think porn can do the same in the bedroom? (Check out this movie if you want to think a whole lot more about it...)

Bill is pro-porn, pro-access, pro-everything. But he's also a dad who cares deeply about his kids' well being. Which is why he's also pro-person. "I don't want to demonize porn," he said. "But I do think there's more to the story than what's on the screen. We have to take a holistic approach with the boys. Find out why they're seeking things out in the first place. Just like we do with everything else."

Which is so true and obvious I can't believe I didn't think of it.

Of course it's a holistic solution. What isn't?

It won't be The Porn Talk. It will be dozens of talks over dozens of years. Some that seem related, some that probably don't.

Like the talk I had with Finn about watching scary shows at the neighbors' house. "I just want you to know that once you see something, once it's in your mind, you can't unsee it. It's in there. And it can come out whenever it wants. Like at night when you're trying to sleep or even in your dreams. You have to be really thoughtful about what you invite in..."

Or the time we saw a group of ladies walking downtown and they were all wearing matching shirts. "Hey Mama," Liam said. "There's a picture on their shirts that I've seen before. It's on that building by the freeway with all the neon lights and the legs on the sign." "Do you know what that place is?" I asked, knowing exactly what building he was talking about. He didn't. "Well, it's a strip club. That means women take off their clothes and dance naked there for money. Pretty crazy, huh? But I guess if you love to dance and like to be naked, that would be a pretty great job. I hope the people who work there like it. Because if they don't, that'd be a tough way to earn a living..."

So, you know, not exactly rocket science. But I have to hope that all the little things we do day in and day out are helping to lay the foundation. So that over time we'll help our boys grow into whole people who can think for themselves, see the big picture and make responsible choices. With or without porn. Or Pinterest. Or whatever else the Internet may throw our way...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Community theater.

A couple weeks ago, I took Liam and Finn to see Girls Up Loud, a singing group for middle and high school girls that was wrapping up their first week of summer camp with a performance. This was not our first time seeing Girls Up Loud perform so the boys knew what they were in for.

"You're going to cry, aren't you Mama?"

Yes. Yes I am.

Because Girls Up Loud is incredible! It's middle school and high school girls coming together, backing each other up, letting each other shine, and collaborating in a way that can't help but make you see how amazing we can be when we come together.

It's so inspiring.

But it's also just a really great show. These girls are so crazy talented and they're singing all the right songs. Heartstrings pulled? Check! (Last year when they sang True Colors by Cyndi Lauper I thought I might never stop crying.) They are led by two incredible women we would all be lucky to have as mentors and supported by a band of dads playing instruments.

So, yeah. I cry. A LOT. And I almost think that if I could have another crack at adolescence I might just get it right.

From the Girls Up Loud website:
"When you hear the girls sing the Christina Aguilera song, 'Beautiful,' or 'Brave' by Sara Bareilles, the songs take on a whole new meaning," says Fleming McWilliams, co-creator of GUL. "It takes you right back there again, back to your own middle school experience and how different it might have been if you had been a part of a group like Girls Up Loud."

We had a few friends in the show who I wanted to support so afterwards I was doing a lot of hugging and chatting in the lobby. When I was finally ready to go, Liam said, "There were a lot of people in there who looked familiar."

"Yeah, you're right," I said. "Did you know a lot of them?"

"No, not really. But they looked familiar."

"That's because this is our community," I said.

"You mean all these people homeschool?"

"No," I said. "Not our homeschool community, just our community. These are...our people."

As I said it, I knew how true it was. And it felt pretty amazing.

Tomorrow Liam will audition for a play at Theater Bug (the children's theater where we saw Girls Up Loud perform). The play was written by a high school student (who's in our community!) and I'm so excited for Liam to have this experience I can hardly stand it.

He's not so sure.

He's nervous and doesn't understand why I'm making him do something he doesn't want to do. I reminded him that I make him do things he doesn't want to do ALL THE TIME. But I think this is different. I don't think he's worried that he won't get a part (he actually really likes stuff like this); I think he's afraid that he will get a part and make a mistake during a performance and let everyone down.

And that's where having a community comes in really handy.

Because your community is kind of like your family - they don't care if you're perfect, they just want to see you shine! And if you don't, guess what? They've still got your back! No matter what.

To have an opportunity to explore in such a supportive environment is a gift. I mean, can you even imagine? It's one of the reasons I cry at these performances - I'm just so happy for these kids! Being in a play in high school was one of the most fun things I ever got to do. And it was just a school play - nothing like Theater Bug or Girls Up Loud.

I would love for Liam to have this kind of creative, collaborative, fun experience. And to possibly discover something something else he enjoys is always a good thing. Of course, he might really not like it. Or he might not get a part. Which is fine. Once I know for sure, I can stop pushing. And as for me, don't worry. There are plenty of kids I can live vicariously through. It takes a village, you know.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Working hard or hardly working?

No doubt you've heard that parenting is the hardest job in the world. I hear it all the time. And what can I do but smile and nod humbly as if to say, "Yes, yes, I know. Hardest job in the world. And here I do it every single day!"

Seriously. My hands are FULL.

I'll take the praise or pity or whatever it is people are feeling when they look at me with wide eyes and say seriously, "I could never do what you do." But I don't believe it. Because honestly? (Shhh! Don't tell anyone.) This job is not that hard.

Demanding? Sure. Important? Beyond measure. Messy, chaotic, irritating, push you to the brink of insanity and then whine that you're not getting the chocolate milk fast enough? YES. There's no doubt it's a wild ride. And some days are really tough. But compared to what real work looks like? I think I've got a pretty sweet deal.

Another crazy day at the office...

I still find reasons to complain and feel sorry for myself though. Like every single time we try to leave the house on time and I end up standing at the front door with all my stuff in my arms, banging my head against the wall while the boys scurry around looking for their shoes and their stufties and suddenly realize they forgot to finish breakfast or brush their teeth even though they had been specifically reminded on three separate occasions to do just that.

Or when we get home past bedtime and I suddenly remember that the boys have camp in the morning which means we will have to:

A) Get up and get dressed at a reasonable hour.

B) Leave the house on time.



This is exactly what happened Sunday night.

We spent the day at Two Rivers Mansion, celebrating a dear friend's 40th birthday. It was one of those days when you want to keep high-fiving yourself like, "This is my life?! Woohoo! Yay, self!" It basically felt like we were in the this painting:

But with hula hoops and corn hole.

It was awesome.

So awesome that we stayed way past bedtime stargazing, listening to the band and drinking cocktails. By the time we got home and I remembered about camp, it was a pretty rude awakening. You do not live in a painting, dummy. You live HERE. In the house with no printer paper and dirty clothes and nothing appropriate for a lunchbox.

"I can't believe I forgot about camp!" I whined. "I have to print off all these forms and the only paper I can find is card stock or paper with bad guys drawn all over it. I haven't been to the store all weekend...what am I going to pack for lunch?! How early do I need to get up? What are the boys supposed to wear? Is there anything cleanish in the hamper or will they have to wear swim trunks for shorts? Why do none of these water bottles and lids go together? What is happening in this drawer? Are we out of baggies? Seriously?! HOW ARE WE OUT OF BAGGIES???"

As I was freaking out, Bill was doing what I recently trained him to do. Listen, empathize, and for the love of God, DO NOT TRY TO HELP!

"That sucks, babe."

It's kind of a joke because it's what I said I wished he would say to me instead of trying to fix everything one time in an argument and now it's exactly what he says anytime I have a problem (please see here for the best explanation EVER of how differently men and women deal with problems). I'm not gonna lie though - I totally prefer, "that sucks babe," to him stressing out and trying to fix everything.

But after a few minutes of my rant, he totally flipped the script.

"Totally sucks about the lunches, babe."

"I know, right?" I said, wallowing in the sympathy. "And it's not just ONE lunch, it's TWO."

"Whew. That's a lot," he said smiling. "What are you going to DO?"

Well, for one, I was not going to detect the sarcasm. "Don't forget about the forms I'm supposed to print," I said in a huff.

"Oh, right. The whole paper situation. Whew."

"I know! Like we all just have paper lying around that hasn't been drawn on..."

"I feel ya. I mean, I have to close like $600,000 in business this week - preferably by the end of the day tomorrow - so I totally get the whole Monday thing."

By now he was kind of laughing at me, and I have to admit, it did seem kind of funny. Because once I dropped the kids off at camp in the morning, I knew I could spend the day doing whatever I wanted. Sure, it would probably be getting groceries (without kids!) or doing laundry (while watching Scandal?!) but compared to what he was going to have to do all day? No contest.

Early morning meeting.

Although, if you asked Bill, he just might say he prefers his job over mine. I hope so. Because we should all be so lucky to spend our days doing things we enjoy. (And there's no way I want to switch jobs any time soon...)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Love wins.

I love a good news week.

So often, I feel like my head's in the sand when it comes to the goings on in this world. And frankly, a lot of the time it is. I'm way too sensitive and surrounded by little people to get caught up in the 24 hour (bad) news cycle. I don't want to be scared or worried or stressed or overwhelmed so I just turn away from the noise and concentrate on the here and now.

Myself, my family, our friends and neighbors, our home, and if there's any brain space or energy left after that, our community. Beyond that, honestly, is just more than I can give attention to every single day. That probably seems selfish or ignorant or like it's not even allowed but I think of it more like survival. I know that letting in too much negative influence is bad for me. Hearing about the terrible thing that happened to someone far away who I will never meet or be able to help doesn't do me (or anyone else in my life) any good. I can't speak for everyone, but I know for me, less is more.

GOOD news though? I'll take all of that you got!

If what you focus on expands, it only makes sense to celebrate when things go well. Right? Really get the momentum rolling! So, this weekend, that's exactly what we did.

Propelled by the fantastic Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage and a desire to teach our children love and acceptance while seeing history in the making, we gathered our crew, rainbowed up and walked across the bridge to the Nashville Pride Festival.

It's hard for me to believe, but this was the first Gay Pride celebration I've ever been to. There's no good reason for this other than sheer laziness or it usually being too hot this time of year for an outdoor festival to seem appealing. But this year? Well, this year was different. Not only was gay marriage JUST legalized in every single state (woohoo!!), it was also 75 degrees and sunny in Nashville. There was no way we would have missed it.

I really didn't know what to expect. Bill thought it might be a little over-the-top for the kids (he recalls a lot of S and M stuff at the last Pride he went to...) but I figured they could handle it. Worse case scenario, we could just play in the fountain and enjoy a nice walk on a beautiful day.

I think we were all pleasantly surprised. I mean, sure, there were more people flaunting their jiggly bits than we usually see on a Saturday afternoon but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. And there was music and dancing and rainbow colored everything and short range Frisbee games and incredible people watching and the most positive vibe of community and celebration and LOVE I've felt in a long time and happy, smiling faces everywhere you looked.

The fountain was pretty fun, too.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fennekin's wake.

We recently returned from our first adventure of the summer. We started on the Big Island of Hawaii (our favorite place in the world) and followed it up with a week in Reno and Tahoe visiting family and celebrating our 20 year high school reunion (!). It was an incredible three weeks of snorkeling, sea turtles, night swimming, new friends, hiking, lava pool adventures, getting spoiled by Grandmommy and Granddaddy, old friends, lots of laughs, and, of course, Pokemon (the boys’ current obsession).

It was a busy and relaxing trip with the usual mix of highs (Finn swimming in the ocean without a life vest!) and lows (our 15 year old cat passed away while we were gone).

As far as missteps and oopsies though, it was pretty much uneventful until the end.

We were on the final stretch of our trip - almost home to our dog and our friends and our very own beds! We landed in Las Vegas for a quick layover and the boys promptly prepared to deplane. Backpacks over stuffed with random supplies? Check. Neck pillows securely attached? Check. Disguises in place? Check. Favorite new Pokemon stuffed animals stuck inside the front of their shirts with nothing but heads poking out? Check!

As you can imagine, tromping through a busy airport with two boys in Groucho glasses who think they own the place turned more than a few heads. This was also our first time flying without an umbrella stroller (i.e. “straight jacket”) for Finn so I’m sure Bill and I looked like a couple of crazy cat herders trying to rein him in.

But we did it. We made it to our gate on time with everyone accounted for! The A group was just about to line up for boarding when Bill turned to Finn and said, “Where’s Fennekin?”

Yep, you guessed it. His favorite new Pokemon stufty. Gone. I grabbed my boarding pass and took off to retrace our steps quickly before the plane to Nashville took off without me. I fast walked like a mall lady through the entire C gate taking extra care to check all around the New York Seltzer vending machine (Vanilla Cream Soda! Almost as good as we remembered…) and in the tiny bathroom stall Finn and I squeezed into together. Nothing. His new favorite toy was GONE.

This isn’t the first time Finn has lost something he loved so as I raced back to the gate, I felt sure it would be hard but he could handle it. I recalled a time when he was about two when I called our babysitter during a rare night out to check in. She said the kids were great but the dog had just eaten ALL of Finn’s new horse figurines. “Bummer,” I said, laughing. “It happens.” She was shocked. “That’s what Finn said! I was prepared for him to lose his mind - that’s what the other kids I babysit for would have done - but he just shrugged his shoulders like, ‘Eh, what can you do?’”

Sure enough when I got on the plane and broke the news about Fennekin, Finn was sad but stoic. Then, almost immediately, we jumped to the bright side.

“Just imagine all the adventures Fennekin will have!”

“If someone finds him it will totally make their day!”

“He’s even better than a lucky penny!”

“Maybe whoever finds him lives in Hawaii and he’ll get to go back there FOREVER!”

After we got home and finally got the kids to bed, I told Bill how proud I was of Finn. He had spent every second of our trip with that little stuffed friend - from the moment Bill surprised him with it on our first flight to the second it slipped out of his shirt at the airport - and yet he hadn’t even cried when he lost it.

“Do you have any idea how awesome that is?” I asked Bill. “So many kids would have had a complete melt down! Not only did Finn keep his cool, he actually saw the silver lining. I think that’s pretty mature for a four year old…”

He agreed but didn’t say much else. It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out why.

Hopped up on jet lag, Finn climbed in bed with us at the crack of dawn. While I tried to go back to sleep, he and Dada cuddled and chatted. They were talking about Fennekin and it sounded like Bill was apologizing. Apparently, while I was retracing our steps in the airport, Bill had been overreacting and laying a guilt trip on Finn. Instead of coming from a place of compassion (I’m so sorry you lost your favorite toy), he reacted with frustration (Why weren’t you more careful?!). Only after I went on and on about how mature Finn had been did he realize how much he’d messed up.

“Finn, I’m so sorry I got upset,” he said sweetly. “It’s hard to lose a friend and I should have been more compassionate about that. I messed up, bud. I’m really sorry.” Finn just nodded but I know how much it must have meant to him. I’ve been on that side of an apology with him more times than I can count. It’s a big deal when a grown up tries to right a wrong.

Later in the day, we returned home after running some errands and found Finn’s second favorite Pokemon guy laying in the gutter where he’d accidentally been dropped.

“Dude!” I said, rescuing the little stufty from underneath the van. “You could have lost another guy!” Finn snatched him out of my hand and smiled. “Yeah. But I didn’t!”

So I guess the big takeaway from losing his toy was - nothing? Oh well. Pretty sure this was one life lesson not meant for the kids.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Don't cry over spilled milk.

Hi guys. It's me, Liam.

One night when we were driving to a friend's graduation, I had a cup of milk in my cup holder. When I reached over to grab the milk I accidentally only grabbed the lid so when I tried to lift it, the lid came right off and the milk spilled everywhere. I was like, "Oh no! My mom's gonna kill me!" I actually cried over spilled milk!

A couple days later when it got hot, the car smelled terrible. Now my mom was really mad!

We tried cleaning it with a mixture of vinegar, water and Dr. Bronner's soap. I poured it on and then scrubbed it. The smell went away! But then it came back. Now it smelled like vinegar and sour milk.

To Google!

Here are some ideas I found on the Internet:

*Take the floor mats out and wash them.

*Sprinkle coffee grounds on the carpet, wait a couple hours and vacuum them up.

We tried both ideas and it worked! Now the car smells like coffee but, it's better than milk!

{Turning stinky situations into a learning opportunities since 2006...}

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me.

My Mother's Day wish list is generally pretty short. I like to sleep in, eat good food that somebody else made, and do whatever I want. Sometimes this means getting a drink with my friends or reading a book in the hammock all by myself. But sometimes it means having a fun-filled day with my family. There are no rules. Whatever mood strikes is what I like to do.

But first things first. I will sleep in.

Except this morning, when I heard Liam turn off the alarm to let the cat in, I knew there was no way I could fall back asleep. Because the dream I awoke from was about my mom. And it was a really good one.

In my dream she was lucid. Talking, smiling, remembering. It wasn't like we went back in time and the Alzheimer's didn't exist, it was more like she somehow shook it off. She kept shaking her head in disbelief. Not at how much had been lost but at how happy she was to have a second chance.

She was overwhelmed with gratitude. We all were. Every time she hugged me I could feel how much she loved me. It was dreamy. She would look me in the eyes and say, "My oldest!" or "My first born!" or something like that, then hug me so tight I could hardly believe it.

It was the best Mother's Day gift I ever could have asked for.