“What’s the ‘N’ Word?”

Growing up in Alaska, I never really knew the depths of racism in our country and how alive it is today, until I went to college in the midwest. There I saw and heard things that caught my eye and clenched my heart. Of course, these sparse comments and doings were mixed with daily living and were not as on-the-surface as they are in other parts of the country.

After moving back to Alaska, I found myself surrounded by a community that had become even more diverse than it was when I’d left several years prior. At times, I find the same sayings I had heard in Illinois being spoken – in hushed voices – here, too. But, it seems, the rumblings and rantings of racists are being quieted more and more in mainstream society.

That’s why, it’s an amazing thing to be able to write what I am about to write.

2013-10-09_07-54-13_519My daughter is in fifth grade. Her class has been reading Tom Sawyer. She was assigned to read a few chapters every night. Trying to improve her reading skills, I’ve been having her read aloud. It helps her two younger brothers, as well. They listen along to story time. Usually, this is a good thing. That is, until my dear child blurts out the ‘N’ word. It stopped me dead in my tracks. The way that hateful word rolled off her tongue, like she was saying, “ball” or “tree,” caught me so off guard I wasn’t sure I’d heard her right.

“WHAT did you just say?” I asked my daughter.

She repeated the sentence, word for word. After she’d said the word I was dreading hearing, I asked her if she knew what that word meant.

“Which word?” she asked.

I pointed to it. She repeated the word again.

“No,” she said, “what does (insert word I don’t even like typing) mean?”

I proceeded to explain the word and how it’s a word meant to degrade people. We talked about the word for a while and I thought everything was understood. It’s not a word I say, not a word I am comfortable hearing, or even reading for that matter. So, when it was my turn to read the book aloud with her, I’d skip it. Maybe that’s sanitizing Mark Twain and that era too much. But, I just can’t even stand to speak it.

What amazes me is that my daughter doesn’t even hesitate when she sees it. She reads it like any other word. She’d never even heard the word until she read it in a book. It makes me wonder if the word is losing its power, at least in the younger generations. Has that word lost its sting among our youth?

For those that know me, you can probably assume I’ve never felt the sting  of that word. I have the pastiest white flesh you’ve ever laid eyes on. I’ve never felt the pain a word like that can bring. I’ve only seen the damage it can do when hurled at someone who can.

Just as I was thinking about how far we’ve come as a society, that sly little devil – racism – reared its ugly head again. I was at a get together on Halloween and a man told what I’m sure he considered to be a joke. To say the least, it wasn’t funny. He has children the same age as mine. I wonder what lessons he’s teaching in his home.

Do your children know that word? Do they know what it means? How would you or have you explained the word to your kids?

 

Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?!

I used to think the idea of a show comparing your wits to that of a 5th grader was ridiculous. Now, I know better. Because now, now I have a 5th grader. And I feel infinitely stupid each and every time she brings homework home.

Let me start by saying, we are only in the second week of school, people! This should not be this hard yet! But it is. It started with some grammar homework. I have a journalism degree. I write for a living. One would think this would be a breeze. Nope. Not at all. She had interrogative statements and exclamatory and some other stuff I can’t even remember. She had to figure out which sentence was what. I found myself saying things like, “Well, this is your homework. What do you think the answer is?” Surely, she’s going to catch on sooner than later that I don’t know the answers to the questions she is asking.

Then, as if the grammar homework wasn’t embarrassingly defeating enough… she came home with Social Studies homework. Did I mention I have a minor in history? Please do not tell my college professors about the following. She came home with a sheet about Mesopotamia and the Sumerians, among others. She had to determine who did what in history. Then, she had an assignment to unscramble the letters to come up with inventions associated with the groups. We struggled through a majority of them. Until we came across this little gem. Look at question 11. 1150722_10151840176702722_1901209540_o

Say what?! I knew the second word was “writing.” I was stumped. She was stumped. I asked my mom. She was stumped too. I Googled it. You know what I found? A ton of other people asking the same darn thing! And no one had any answers. So, my next logical step was to take it to Facebook. Apparently, my friends are much smarter than me. Half of them knew the answer right away. The other half wanted to know when my daughter had started college….

So, people – what do you think the answer is?

Getting Involved

You know that expression, “time is money?” The older I get, the more I realize the truth in that statement. There is so much that needs to be done: laundry, dishes, homework, housework, lawn chores, etc. And yet, the hours in the day remain the same. Every day, we get the same amount of time to get everything done. Often times, we spend our time complaining about what all there is to do. I know I do. But, it catches me every time I really think about it: what we spend our time on, is what our life can be measured or defined around. It shows what we value. The same can be said about money. It’s not what we say we value or cherish, it’s what we do with our time and money that shows what we value and cherish. I am so guilty of this. One does not equal the other.

What I really want, what I value and cherish, is for my kids to grow up with such a moral compass that they’ll just do the things that I constantly say are important to me, and yet don’t find time to act upon. Things like those we’re all called upon by Jesus to do: help those who can’t help themselves, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. I know, I know these are things I’m called to do. And yet, I fill my time with other things. Laundry, dishes and daily life get in the way of what I feel is really important. I can always find an excuse and something that will fill my time. But the hole is never filled. I always feel lacking for what I haven’t accomplished.

So, today, I am making a vow to myself. I’m going to take the steps to raise my kids knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. I vow to get involved in things outside the small circle that makes up my life. And, I vow to bring my kids along for the ride. It may start small. It probably will. Maybe it will just be offering to help a neighbor take out the trash. But, we’re going to do it.

Here’s where you come in. I want you to hold me – us - accountable to this. Quite frankly, I want you to call me out on my BS. When I write about something (or, don’t), I want you to ask me what I’ve done to model the values I say I hold dear. Call me out on it. Please.  Because, time is money. And every day we run a little lower on both. Lets measure or success not in wealth but in the hours we spend helping others.

If you want in on this, please, lets act together. Share what your family is doing. Our kids deserve this.

One Easy Solution

This problem has plagued me a few times: those adjustable bands they build into kids’ pants these days slips into the jeans and you can’t get it back. Today, after a few mumble curse words and several very frustrating minutes, I found the solution.

2013-07-26_07-17-28_254Just shove the screwdriver in until you reach one of the hoops. Snag it and yank that sucker out. I feel like I should patent this. :)

Hair Brush Murder Sounds

I remember, as a child, hating to have my hair brushed. My hair was long. Very long. I could sit on it. And while I could do lots of things with it, the one thing I never wanted to do was brush it. Enter my mom. She would threaten that if I didn’t start brushing it, she would cut it. Enter my dad. He did NOT want my hair cut, so he would give me tips on how to get it nice and soft and tangle free. Mainly, that tip was brush it 500 times. No kindergartener has time for that. I was too busy butchering my Barbie’s hair or harassing my big brother. Can you guess how this story ends? About halfway through first grade, my mom took me to the salon and had my hair chopped off. My dad, by the way, kept it.

Dozens of years later, here I am having the same exact argument with my 11-year old daughter. She NEVER wants to brush her hair. And when she does, she half asses it. Like, smooth-ish top layer covering a rat’s nest. She knows the drill. If she doesn’t brush it, I get to. That’s never pretty.

Earlier this week, I brushed her hair for her. It was horrible. The neighbors may have thought I was murdering her. Her brothers scattered, praying they wouldn’t be next. When it was done, she was in tears and I was thoroughly frustrated.

Threatening to cut her hair will not work. She wants it cut. But, her dad doesn’t. So, here we are.

What can I do to get her to brush her hair better? Any tips here?

Restaurant Etiquette

A friend of mine’s family owns a restaurant. She came to me with a conundrum a while back.

Here’s the scenario:

A family is out to eat at a local restaurant. Their baby starts to cry. The mom and dad fuss over her at first, but then, seemingly, give up on quieting their child. They continue to eat. Their baby continues to wail. People sitting around them in the packed restaurant start to complain. The owners of the restaurant need to do or say something, but what?

I’ll tell you how my friend’s restaurant handled the situation, but I want to hear from you first.

What’s the best plan for the owners? What is the least offensive thing they can do for the parents, while also accommodating the other patrons?

80s Style Montage of Parenting

So, I’ve been slacking. I take that back. It’s kind of the opposite of slacking. I’ve been busy and it’s been unusually nice this summer here in Alaska, so I haven’t been writing. Okay, that might be slacking.

In order to catch you up on the last few weeks since I posted last, let’s do this 80s style. To better enjoy this experience, I recommend playing a good, catchy 80s song like “Take on Me” or “Come on Eileen” or “Jenny” or – one last one, I swear! – “Hey Mickey.”

Okay, got one of these classics stuck in your head now? Good. Prepare your 80s montage for a quick wrap of our last few weeks:

School got out

Fun at first

Kids nearly killing each other

Enjoying our new backyard

It’s hot

The mosquitoes are out in full force

Bought a tag along bike so our three-year old can ride, too. HOLD ON!

Kids met our new neighbors – proceeded to “borrow” every toy they have

Sibling rivalry hits a new level when our 7-year-old informs us he’s discovered our 10 year old’s “weakness.”

Youngest barfed on our new couch. And his bed. And in the toilet.

We play outside a lot.

Experiencing “Alaska guilt” – want to be outside because it’s nice, but it’s too darn hot

Making homemade popsicles

Discovering I’m not “Pinterest Mom” when my homemade popsicles explode in the kitchen

Cleaning up mass quantities of dog vomit from the dogs eating everything in our new yard

My seven-year old son – currently standing before me – tells me he can’t sleep. Ever. Without warm milk.

Long Alaska nights = kids never sleep

I am exhausted.

It’s too nice outside to clean the house (whined by me, not the kids)

Googling natural bug repellant

Googling natural bug bite cures

Checking the thermometer every 10 seconds. 91 degrees? Can that be right?

Sitting on the porch after the kids are in bed, soaking up the sun and a nice cold drink.

 

The montage is nearing its end. I really hope you imagined a dressing room – 27 changes of outfits – series in that montage. This one ends with smiles, happy, sun-kissed cheeks, a lot of bug bites, filthy feet and a whole lot of fun.

How’s your summer treating you?

Impulse Buys and Healthy Dinners – An Unlikely Marriage

Typically, those impulse buys you make at the grocery store- you know, the ones you make when you shop when you’re hungry which is exactly what they tell you not to do – are not the healthiest of choices. Typically you end up tossing something in your cart that you definitely don’t need. Things like – oh, I don’t know, a three gallon container of Brownie Blitz ice cream or a bag of chips or a Snickers bar. That is the typical impulse purchase. Tonight was atypical.

Tonight, I made a few impulse buys. It started with a pineapple. They were on sale for ridiculously cheap. $1.50. That’s crazy. So, when my son asked if we could buy one – I went through the checklist in my head: Is it healthy? Check. Is it expensive? Nope. In the cart it went. But then, then, I saw the new fangled pineapple slicer.

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I mean, you can’t spend all evening cutting a pineapple! You NEED a pineapple cutter to help you through the process you only embark on once, maybe twice, a year. $9.99? Sure, it’s only 6.66 times more expensive than the fruit. An evil ratio, I say! In the cart it went. (For the record, it actually works really well.)

Then, we continued our trek through the store – throwing in more items we didn’t need, including brocoli slaw. I had some kale at home (which I failed miserably over the weekend trying to turn into kale chips) and I thought it might make a yummy salad. We made it out of the store with only one really naughty impulse buy. Soft brownie cookies…

Anyway, we went home and I started to prepare dinner. Dinner that typically might consist of something unhealthy, from a typical impulse buy. Instead, I made a kale- brocoli  slaw – pineapple salad. I used the pineapple juice as a dressing.

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I’m going to take the nearly empty bowl as a compliment.

For our main course, we had tofu curry. Kids scarfed that down, too.

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And, for dessert - watermelon.

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Now – let me set you straight. You may be rolling your eyes over our very vegan dinner. I’m not a vegan. I love me some bacon. I’m not sure how supper ended up so healthy. But, it was yummy. Oh, and I am now (after the kids are in bed) enjoying that soft brownie cookie we discussed earlier. All is right with the world.

One more thing before I go. Just to leave you with a WTH moment, while garage saling with my husband this weekend, we discovered the oddest thing.

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Yes, indeed, that is a real live alligator. In ALASKA! About two and a half feet long. It was just chillin. Oh, and did I mention I got to hold her? Thank goodness my kids weren’t there. When I told them about it later, they asked if I bought it. Um, no, she wasn’t for sale. And a good thing, too. I probably would have to account for yet another impulse buy. At least I wouldn’t be tempted to eat this one.

The Last Day of School

Today’s the day. The last day of school. Children everywhere are counting down the hours until that bell rings and they are free for the entire summer. Free to run and play and… oh wait, do kids do that anymore? Should I revise that statement? Should it read instead, “Free to sit on their butts and play video games…” ?

Anyway, I digress. Today is the last day of school and soon I’ll be headed to a last day picnic at my children’s school. They are thrilled not for just summer break, and the prospect of no homework and sleeping in, but the idea of advancing. Today means their last day as 1st and 4th graders. Starting tomorrow, they’ll be 2nd and 5th graders. That’s the big league, people.

With that advancement comes a certain degree of apprehension. What will 2nd and 5th grade hold? Will they get enough recess? What about snack? Will their new teacher be nice? What if he/she gives too much homework? There are a lot of questions out there. But, those fears and worries will soon be forgotten about, replaced with runs through the sprinkler and ice cream cones and camping trips and bike rides.

As I former teacher, I have this feeling of anticipation, too. I find myself counting down to my own summer break – a summer break I no longer get now that I’m not a teacher. Still, I’m excited for what the summer sun will bring – happy family outings and maybe, just maybe, vegetables in my garden – Alaska summer weather, permitting. I’m looking forward to evenings without homework – time we can instead spend in the yard or on a walk or just hanging out.

When that school bell rings its last time this school year, what things are you looking forward to doing with your kids?

Summer Vacation is Coming…

Despite the brown grass and bare trees, summer is right around the corner. Soon, our children will be running free, like a pack of wild dogs, with no school to tether them. Whether you work outside of the home or are a stay at home mom, the common question running through the minds of most moms and dads is: WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO ALL SUMMER?!

These days, as a mom who works in an office, I worry where my kids will go during the day and who will keep them safe. However, when I was a mom who stayed home, I wondered what I was going to do with my kids all day every day for three months. We did a lot of fishing and camping and besides the many, “Mom, I’m bored!” moments, I miss it like crazy.

So – moms/dads who work in offices and moms/dads who work at home – what are your kids doing this summer? (Oh man, I just totally had a flashback to the last day of school in elementary school: “Okay class, write an essay on your plans for summer vacation.”)

No need for an essay here, folks. Just tell me what’s in store for the time from now until the school bell rings again this fall.

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