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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Football Players, Bad Behavior, Bullies and A Daily Slice of Kindness

By now, I have to think nearly every one of us has heard the story of the high school football coach from Utah who suspended his entire team for being disrespectful, failing classes, not showing up for classes and cyber-bullying other students.  I can't tell you how much I applaud this man for taking a stand.

(If  you haven't read or heard about him yet, check out the story here....Why a high school football coach suspended nearly every player on the team)

One of my friend's children is being bullied in a way no child (or person) should ever have to endure.  The story of the bullying and the abuse is not mine to tell so I'll will keep the details to myself.  If, at some point down the road, they want me to tell their story I will but I won't do it without their consent.

But the story of the coach got me thinking, what if adults everywhere across the world suddenly put on their big boy (or girl) pants and decided to take a stand against all the bullies in the world.  I know, it's a Pollyanna-esque attitude, but I can hope, can't I?

Just think about what a fabulous place we could create if we all decided to be like Coach Matt Labrum. What would it be like to grow up in a place where teachers, faculty, staff and parents condemned bad behavior instead of glossing over it?  Kids who are suffering because of bullies wouldn't be afraid to get up each morning and face the school day and their tormentors.  I can't even imagine such a wonderful world.

I've been bullied more times than I care to remember.  The big ones have stuck with me....The time I got a drink thrown on me at a bar by a girl who decided she didn't like me for whatever reason.  The same girl went on to write, "BITCH" on my car in red lipstick.  She was a charmer but that was in college when I was beginning to date Stan so I could handle the stress of being harassed a little better.  I didn't fight back but I didn't put up with her bullshit, sorry ass either. The times in high school were a different matter.  Those are the times are times that truly stand out and make me empathize with all the kids who are being bullied today.  There were days I didn't want to go to school because I was so afraid of the girls who stalked my daily routine and tried so hard to break me down.  I don't remember exactly what those girls did to me, but I do remember the fear I had every day as I approached the doors to my school.  Even though I don't remember exactly what they did, I do remember exactly how I felt everyday at school.  Scared and helpless.  But I was lucky and maybe a little stronger than I realized.

I told my friend's child my story.  I hope it helped, just a little, for them to see that I was bullied and I came out OK.  I also told them to remember they are about 6,000 times better than the bullies who are tormenting them.  I hope they remember that...always.

But I also hope the faculty and administrators at my friend's child's school can take a page out of Coach Matt Labrum's playbook and clamp down on the bullying and bad behavior some of these kids engage in each day.  If they did, they would create on giant slice of daily kindness that kids all over could revel in and enjoy. Way to go, Coach!!

Oh, for the love of all of our children...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Mama's Boy

The other day Zach and I were driving home from somewhere unimportant after being nowhere of consequence.  I say it like that because where we were and what we were doing paled in comparison to the conversation we had while we were together.

I asked Zach why it seemed like he was growing apart from one of his friends and he said, "Because he's in trouble all the time at home.  He argues with his parents and his mouth gets him in trouble and he's always grounded."


We drove a little a further and I asked Zach what kinds of things his friend said and Zach said, "He just won't stop arguing with them.  There are times when you and I start to argue over something, and I know I'm right, but I stop talking and walk away.  He doesn't do that.  He just keeps talking back and then his mouth gets him into trouble."

A wise young man...

As we got a little closer to home I said, "You know, Zach, Dad walks away from arguments with me too. You are your father's son.  That's a good thing."


We turned onto our street and Zach said, "I may be my father's son, but I'm also a mama's boy."

And I said, "I know, Zach, I know."

My heart sang with sweetness knowing he is both of those things.

As the car inched closer and closer to home I said, "I hope when you grow up and find your future wife that she will like me."

A little melty...

Zach said, "I'm not going to marry anyone who doesn't like you."  And then he paused.  "No that's not true, I'll still marry who I choose.  But I promise I'll do what I can.  Besides, we don't have to worry about that.  There isn't anyone who doesn't like you," he said as my heart melted.

Here's to my sweet mama's boy, who is his father's son and knows how to melt my heart.

Oh, for the love of Zach...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Daily Slice of Kindness

One day last week Lucas was plodding through his morning routine.  He wasn't in a hurry, nor did he keep his eye on the clock.  His bus comes at 8:31.  At 8:30 the panic button in his eyes went off and he realized he needed to shake his tail feathers to get to the bus before it left him in a cloud of dust.

He was too late.  As Lucas approached the back of the big yellow bus it moved forward leaving him standing there alone at the bus stop.  I knew I was going to get the call from him.  That motherly sixth sense kicked in and I knew he was going to miss the bus. I knew I was going to have to drive him to school.

None of that happened.  He did miss the bus, but I didn't get a frantic call from him saying he missed the bus.  What happened instead was my daily slice of kindness...

In place of a panicked phone call from Lucas, I got a text from him and this is the "conversation" that took place.

Lucas: I missed the bus, but Mrs. R was here and she is giving me a ride to school.

Me: She doesn't have to do drive you!!  I can come and get you!

Lucas: She said it's fine.  She doesn't have to be anywhere today and she was at the bus stop so we left right after the bus.

Me:  Tell her I say, "THANK YOU!!!!"  And don't forget to thank her (a LOT) yourself!!!!

Lucas: She says you would have done the same thing for her children.  And I will thank her a lot

Me: I know I would have, but that is AWESOME of her!

Me:  And I know you will.

Lucas: I know.  I'm almost to school.  I have to go.  Love you, mom

Me:  I love you too!

That little, or not so little if you're me and still in your pajamas when your kiddo misses the bus, put the hugest smile on my face and made me realize how important those little slices of daily kindnesses add up to one pretty sweet way of life.

When I knew my friend was safely at home after dropping Lucas at school I texted her to thank her and this is what she said.

Mrs. R:  No worries!  I happened to be right there when I saw the poor guy's panicked face as the bus strolled away.  It was my good deed for the day!  :-)

Me:  LOVE it!  I know he was panicked.  He left the house with that look on his face and I had a feeling I'd be getting a phone call!  You made my day!!

Mrs. R:  I'm glad!  Who knows, maybe he saved my life.  Maybe if I had kept driving I would have had a tree fall on me!  Who knows!  But I told him you would have done the same!  :-)  Besides, it's a selfish thing.  It feels good to help others.

How right she is.  And now a Daily Slice of Kindness is born.  I'd love to share feel good stories, heartwarming tidbits and little kindnesses we show others.  I'll troll through news feeds on Facebook and Twitter to find something good.  If you have a story to share, I'd love to post it for all to see and enjoy.  We have enough bad news in the world.  Let's take just a minute, or so, a day and focus on one little daily slice of kindness...For the love of our children!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Three Different Paths

The other night the kids and I were sitting around the kitchen chatting about the future for each of them.    Zach is beyond excited about the prospects for his future and his enthusiasm is catching.  Lucas is now beginning to talk about his college choices and his goals to get there.  Claire has always been my school enthusiast, but it's becoming reinforced as she listens Zach, and now Lucas too, talk about their goals.

In the county where we live we are blessed with an abundance of educational opportunities for those kids who want, and need, extra challenges and different path to their high school education.  Nearly all of our high schools offer some sort of specialty center which allows these kids to engage in learning in a whole different way.  The specialty centers are small and each are dedicated to a different academic interest.  For example, we have a math and science center for kids whose passion is learning about quadratic equations and combining chemicals in a beaker (obviously this is not the track I would have chosen for myself since I have no idea what I'm talking about with this one).  Then there is the center for arts and drama for kids whose talents lie in entertaining others.  There is the center for human development, which is for those kids who would like to enter a teaching field.  We have a center for leadership, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.  The list of these centers goes on and on.

Ever since Claire chose to go to the middle school where one of the IB programs is located, she's known she wanted to go to a specialty center in high school.  I say, "Go for it, Claire!"  It's not an easy process.  These kids who want to go to a speciality center have to work hard in middle school.  They have to really want to go to a specialty center because it could possibly take them away from their home school where most of their friends will go.  They have to apply and be accepted into the specialty center.  It's not an easy path, but it's probably the right path and definitely a good path for her.

So the other night as the kids and I were talking. Claire started telling the boys which specialty centers were of interest to her.  One is located in our home high school.  If Claire chose to go to that specialty center it would put her at the same school with Lucas.  (Zach chose to do Air Force Jr. ROTC so he could stay with his friends at the school that was our old home high school before our county built a brand, spanking new one where Lucas now goes.)   Then there are other specialty are sprinkled all over the county.  In other high schools, which rival both of the boys schools.

This is when Zach piped up and said to me, "Whoa, whoa, WHOA...wait just a minute here!  All three of us have gone to different middle schools.  And if Claire goes to one of the other specialty centers that will mean all three of us will go to different high schools.  There's something wrong with that!  They," he said pointing at Lucas and Claire, "should both be going to Deep Run!  The schools you are talking about are no where near as good as Deep Run!"

Spoken with true Wildcat pride, my sweet senior!  But, and it's a big but, you three are all different kids, different learners and are blooming at different times.  You all three deserve to take the path that suits you best.  And luckily for us, courtesy of our public schools, you all can do that!  Three different kids.  Three Different Paths.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Sunday, September 15, 2013


This past weekend we took Zach on his first college visit to Virginia Military Institute.  It was a great weekend, a spectacular visit and a perfect fit for Zach.  For me, as you can probably guess, it was more than a little emotional, as I thought about Zach leaving his third floor room empty and living in the mountains of Virginia.

VMI is the only school he wants to attend.  He fell in love and is ready to commit to a spartan life to acquire the education and the life he wants.  All I can say, "I love you, Zach" and, "I'm proud of you,"  and, "Wow! You are one in a million!"  As I sat listening to the leadership of VMI talk about their school and the kinds of kids who want to attend their school, I could only think of it as being a great fit for Zach. It's not an ordinary experience and Zach isn't an ordinary kid.  So the fit seems just right.

The only problem is that Zach has to leave home, and me, to get the education he wants.  I've always known this day would come.  Granted it came a lot faster than I ever thought it would and I know it's still a year away, but time will speed on and get us to the day Zach leaves home for the first time before I can bat an eye. As I sat listening to all of the meetings at VMI,  and realizing what a great school it would be for Zach, I had visions of life fast forwarding and it left me wondering where Lucas and Claire would find their perfect fits.  And then I imagined the house quiet and empty.

I had to banish those thoughts and work hard to focus on Zach's excitement, otherwise my tears that were lurking just below the surface would come spilling forth and I'd be an embarrassment to Zach at the Institute he so wants to be part of.

It was a busy, exhausting day and half but I survived and even thrived when I kept the thoughts of an empty house at bay.  We came home to more busy-ness and marched on toward our other obligations.  Lucas had a hockey game and then Stan and I had an evening out to celebrate a milestone birthday of a friend.  Zach retreated to his third floor room to recuperate from his grueling weekend at VMI.

With our evening of obligations, fun and festivities complete, Stan and I came home to a very unclean kitchen and I flipped a gasket.  It was the one thing I told the kids to do as we left for our dinner out ~ clean the kitchen.  I wanted to come home to clean counters, tables, floors, sink and appliances.  I love a clean kitchen and the kids know it.  The kitchen that greeted me was no where near the image of the clean kitchen I know the kids are capable of.  I was most unimpressed with the conditions I found and I proceeded to make everyone aware of my displeasure.  I made the kids clean the kitchen at 11 o'clock last night as I stormed through the house grumbling about how no one, but no one, wants to do what I've asked them to do.

This morning I found this....

How very true and how very contrite it made me.  Our house will be empty before I know it.  Maybe I need to take a step back, just a little one mind you, and remember the emotional aspects of Zach's college visit, time speeding on and seeing our kids find their perfect fit.  Maybe then a messy kitchen won't seem so bad when it's compared with an empty house.

Oh, for the love of my children...  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To The World

"To the world you may be just another girl, but to me you are the world..."  I can't seem to get these lyrics from Brad Paisley's song out of my head today.  This morning I posted a quote from one of Claire's teacher's boards in her classroom.  It said, "Each of us can make a world of difference."  That quote lead me to these lyrics.

Today is 9-11.  It's been 12 years since the towers fell, the pentagon was hit, innocent lives were stolen and a plane full of passengers paid the ultimate price for one madman who wanted so badly to destroy our country.  Every person whose life was taken that day was the world to somebody.  They were a mother, a sister, a brother, a father, an uncle, a grandmother, a friend.  Most weren't famous or rich, nor did the world revolve around them but to somebody they were the entire world.

So today, and always, remember that everyone you see means the world to somebody.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quaking in my Boots

I sit here with a yellow paper on my desk titled "Parent Brag Sheet."  Normally, I'm all over, and all about, bragging on my kiddos.  I wrote an introductory letter for Lucas last year that I turned into a blog.  I love bragging on my kids, as is evidenced in my blog.  I'm rarely short of material to use to brag, brag and brag some more.  But the yellow brag sheet sitting on my desk is vastly different.  

The yellow brag sheet is for Zach.  It's what he needs to turn into the counseling office.  This brag sheet will then be used by them to write letters of recommendation to universities.  

Here’s where my fear comes in...

What if I mess up?  What if what I write is not what universities are looking for?  What if my words are the ones that screw up Zach’s chances of getting into the university of his choice?  

The questions, when looked at objectively, look so simple.  But when I sat down to actually answer them, I drew a complete blank on every single one. 

  1. What do you consider to be your child’s most outstanding accomplishment(s) over the last four years?  Why did you select this (these) as the most important?
  2. In what areas has your child shown the most development and growth during the past few years?
  3. What do you consider to be your child’s most outstanding personality traits?
  4. Are there any unusual or personal circumstances that have affected your child’s educational or personal experiences?
  5. What three words would you use to describe your child and why?    

I know all of the answers.  I live the answers every day with Zach.  But it’s never been vitally important for me to get the answers right. 

  1. OK, still a complete and total blank...
  2. Uh....he’s matured?
  3. He’s fabulous...
  4. OH, this one I’ve TOTALLY nailed...Jan, our fabulous exchange student, enlarged Zach’s world.  I know, I know...I’ve got some polishing to do.
  5. I’ve got this one too...Intelligent. Compassionate. Humble. I think I’m gonna have to expand on this a little!

I’ve never been so nervous for an assignment.  Any project I had in school pales in comparison to this one.  Zach came to me last night and said, “Mom, I need you to get this done by the end of next week, at the latest.”  

I got it, Zach.  I’ll get it done.  I know I can do it.  I’m just nervous beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  

Zach’s next words made me smile, “I know  you’ll get it done, Mom, and I know it’ll be awesome.  You’re a ‘dope’ writer.  It’s gonna be great.  And THANKS!”

OK, deep breaths.  Zach believes in me.  I know I can do this.  But I’m still quaking in my boots.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Some Tears and a Whole Lot of Pride

Recently, a family very close to us was approved to be foster parents with the hope of adopting a baby.  Within weeks of their approval a two week old baby was placed in their arms.  Stan, Zach, Lucas, Claire and I were all together when we got the news about the new baby.  Hoots, hollers and congratulations poured forth from everyone's lips and hearts.  We couldn't be happier for their family.  At this point, it's not my place to tell their story so I'll share my story.

Somewhere along the way the night we heard the news, emotions hit me hard and tears sprang to my eyes.  I couldn't help but think of my own story and my journey to finding my own family.

Lucas was a little stunned as he asked, "Mom, are you going to cry?"

Yes, Lucas, I am going to cry.

"Why," he wanted to know.

I gave him a very condensed version of my story.  I know he got the gist.

But here is the whole story of why I cried the day we heard the fabulous news...

"I'm crying because I was a baby just like him.  I was three weeks old when my parents picked me up from the adoption agency.  When I petitioned the courts to open my adoption records this was in the paperwork I was sent, '...The name of the child is Baby Girl H. It is a minor under sixteen years of age.  Said child is dependent or neglected in that the said child is dependent upon the public for support, is destitute, is homeless, is abandoned, and also that said child has no proper parental care or guardianship....The said child has no guardian residing in Bexar County, Texas; that the said child has been since November 16, 19.. and is now being maintained wholly by public charity, viz: by the Children's Services Bureau, a charitable corporation chartered under the laws of Texas and sustained by voluntary contributions from the public; that the said parent abandoned the child and that the cause of the said child being dependent is that the said parent has refused to keep it or to care for it. It is, therefore, ordered that the said child be, and is hereby adjudged a dependent child, and a neglected child; that the parental rights of the parent of said child be and are hereby terminated...'  I was a destitute, homeless, neglected, abandoned child and I'm crying because the new baby found a home just like I did."

After my story ended, Lucas gave me a giant hug and a kiss on my cheek.  It meant the world to me to have him ask and listen to my story.  My heart melted as I hugged Lucas hard.  I can't believe how lucky I am.  I went from destitute, homeless, neglected and abandoned to loved in an instant when my parents picked me up from the adoption agency.

Not all babies are so lucky.  So my tears flowed, too, for those babies who remain, destitute, homeless, neglected and abandoned.  There aren't many people out there who can do what adoptive and foster parents can do.

The news of the new baby prompted me to read a little more of the paperwork surrounding my adoption to remind myself of the selflessness of all involved in my adoption and this is what I read...

"The Combs were considered as adoptive parents of Baby Girl H. for several reasons.  The Combs are a relaxed, friendly couple, secure in their relationship with each other.  They give every appearance of being able to adjust to the situations and deal with problems as they arise.  The Combs only son, Chris, eight years, is an inquisitive youngster.  It is evident he is being stimulated in a creative atmosphere.  Financially the Combs are able to accept responsibility of a second child.  Major Combs is a dentist in the Army...

In terms of coloring and physical features, the Combs and Baby Girl H. are compatible.  Mother of Baby Girl H. is of Irish and Welsh descent....

Baby Girl H. was a full term delivery,  no complications...Baby is lovely and fair, with dark blond hair.  The nurse at Wilford Hall says she has a good appetite, is alert and responsive; however, she also has quite a little temper!"

The last line made me laugh, just a little.  Even at two days old, I had a temper.

In looking back at all of my paperwork I can only hope the baby who just found his own family will be able, if he wants, to glean some knowledge from any paperwork on him.  I couldn't be happier for the family who just welcomed a new baby boy into their home and their hearts.  And God bless all adoptive and foster families out there.  You all are a Godsend to so many babies all over the world.

I may get choked up and shed some tears when I hear news about a baby finding a family but there's a whole lot of pride behind my tears.

Oh, for the love of all children....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Last of the Firsts and the Firsts of the Firsts

This past weekend we had a houseguest.  Zach's friend didn't want to go away for his last weekend of his high school years so the boys asked us if he could stay here.  I agreed with nary a thought of turning them down.  I had already figured it out that it was the last of their summer weekends with their high school buddies.

That was one last of the lasts, but now I'm looking at the last of the firsts.  They are flying at me fast and furious.

Last night was the last night before the first day of school where all three of my kiddos will be with me.  This morning was the last first day of school where I'll be making three breakfasts and three lunches.  This morning was the last first day of school where I need to listen for the shower to be turned on letting me know Zach is up and ready to head my way.  Today was my last first day of school with Zach.  Today was a last of many firsts and I can tell you unequivocally that I don't like it, not one little

I realize the last of firsts happen, but I didn't really think about the firsts of the firsts...

Zach didn't eat his last dinner with us before the first day of school, which was a first.  We played Willie's Nelson's, "The Party's Over" without Zach here for the first time.  Last night, for the first time Zach and Lucas hugged me as tears streamed down my cheeks thinking about the last of the firsts.  I couldn't seem to stem the flow of tears as the boys encircled me, promising me it was going to be OK ~ that this growing up thing would work out just fine.  I tucked my head under Zach's chin and just let them hug me.  I know this growing up thing is part of life, but I don't really like these firsts of the firsts, so I'll move on...

This morning, for the first time ever, Zach drove his sister to school so she could catch her bus to her school.  This morning for the first time Lucas, as a brand new freshman in high school, was the last to leave for school.  And this year for the first time in a long time all three will come home at the same time.

I posted a comment on Facebook yesterday about school starting, the race to Zach's graduation day beginning and how I was tearing up just thinking about it.  I was lucky enough to receive some sage words of wisdom from a sweet friend.  She said, "Tearing up is a good thing.  It means you have a wonderful relationship with your son!  Repeat after me - 'I am more excited for my son than sad for myself.'  If you start now and repeat this daily it may sink in by graduation."

So I will sit back and enjoy every minute I can of this year.  I know the tears will flow.  I know I'll be sad but I'll also work on remembering that this is Zach's senior year.  He doesn't need to see me weepy all the time.  He needs to know I'm proud of him as he celebrates the lasts of his some of his firsts.  And I am excited for him as he begins to forge some new paths with some firsts of firsts for him heading into young adulthood.  

Oh, for the love of my children....