He Called Her, “Sasquatch”

Yesterday, while waiting for a birthday party to begin at one of those big trampoline places that gouge you with their hourly rates and force you to watch legal warning videos showing you, via stick figures, how your precious child could easily break every bone in his/her body, before having you sign a waiver saying you won’t sue them if the inevitable happens, I witnessed something that has left my head spinning ever since. And, no, it wasn’t from the trampolines.

I was waiting at the entrance with my 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. As we watched through the glass doors for his friends to arrive, we saw a group of teenage boys entering the building. The door opened, and they trailed in, one hormone-oozing kid after the other. There was a teenage girl perched on a bench directly by the door. She seemed to be their age. One of the boys, I didn’t catch which one, startled me enough to look up when he saw the girl and, in passing, as if he was not just brutalizing her with his words, uttered, “Hey, Sasquatch,” at her. She immediately got up and walked out of the building, through the same door this squad of boys had entered. I stood there, flabbergasted. I was torn. I wanted to run after her and say something consoling. To tell her that she didn’t have to take that. And I wanted equally to run after that boy and yell at him in front of his friends, in front of everyone and tell him what a complete and utter jerk he was. I wanted to make him feel as small as he was trying to make her. I turned to the left and watched him and his friends pay to get inside. I turned to the right and watched her get in the backseat of what I assumed was her parents car.

And I did nothing.

I contemplated my options. I thought of ways to get the boy to give me his mother’s phone number without letting on to my plan to call her and tell her how awful he’d just been. I thought of things I could say to him and his friends. Should I take the stance of outrage and have him pass me off as just some crazy mom? Should I try to level with him and tell him that what he says actually matters? Should I tell him that it’s kids like him that make other kids cry at night, take their own lives?

I did nothing.

I watched him pay. I watched his friends pay. I turned back to the right to see if the girl had already driven away. I wondered whether she’d cried or just added it to the list of times she’d been made fun of. I wondered if her parents would see she was upset. I wondered if she would open up and tell them.

I looked back to my left. The boys were gone.

I looked down. There was my 14-year-old daughter – not that different in age from the girl who’d just been dubbed, “Sasquatch.” There was my 11-year-old son – not that much younger the boys who had just cruelly called the girl such a name. There was my chance.

I asked my children if they had heard or seen what had just happened. I told my daughter never to take that. Never. To tell the kid to knock it off. Something. I never want her to feel what that girl felt. That rejection. That shame. That embarrassment. The same things I felt for years, at the hand of a boy in school who has taken to calling me “Old Yeller” for years. And for years, he and his cronies barked at me, just to drive the point home. I got it. They didn’t have to say it. I was ugly as a dog.

For years, I came home crying. My mother told me I should pray for him, ignore it. I did both. Nothing changed. He was a year older than me and, finally, in my 6th grade year, I was free of his tormenting when he went off to junior high. I had one blissful year. Until my first day of junior high. Bent over the water fountain, I felt him standing in line behind me. I stood up and he said it. “What’s up, Old Yeller?” No. This time I wasn’t going to take it. I was not going to start a new year, a new school with the same old pain. And before I could even think it through, I replied with the words that changed my future, “Wow. A whole year went by and you’re still using that same old material? Huh.” And I walked off. I changed my future. I took his power.

My daughter is in her final year of middle school. She comes home with stories, experiences and sometimes tears. Sometimes she opens up about what her classmates said or did. Other times, she doesn’t. I’ve always taken the approach with my kids of, “turn the other cheek” and “just ignore them.” But this. This kid and this one word, “Sasquatch” just burned inside of me.

“Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” I quote that scripture from James all the time to my kids. But this seemed like God’s righteousness. That one of his children was hurting – from the stinging words of another child.

My son is approaching the middle school years himself. He tells me on a daily basis what the other kids say and do. He’s still sharing, thank God. And thank God for my son’s spirit. He doesn’t take part in name calling… except to his siblings. But I wasn’t taking any chances. I asked him if he’d ever call someone that name. Of course, he said no. I pushed him further – if you ever hear a friend call someone a name STEP IN! Don’t just let it happen because you don’t want to look uncool. Say something!

I told my kids – this is the kind of thing that leads kids to kill themselves. Bullying. A single word that can cause so much pain.

My prayer is that her parents will see this. My prayer is that his parents will see this. That they’ll talk with their children about the words they use. They’ll make sure their children know that this is not right. And that the girl – who I know nothing about – will  brush off this experience and stand tall, knowing that one word does not define her.


Midnight Triage Parenting

It was 12:58am when I heard the knock on my bedroom door. I can tell you this with certainty, because I had to hit the “home” button on my phone so I could have a modicum of light as I navigated the dog-filled carpet from my bed to the door. (Only one dog was nearly stepped on.) It was a rushed walk, as my 10-year-old had informed me through the closed-door that his stomach hurt and he thought he was going to throw up. His younger brother had a bout of tummy unease over the weekend, so this was a legit concern.

As I opened my bedroom door, I found my middle child laying in the fetal position, rocking on the floor. “My stomach hurts. My stomach hurts!” He was wailing. I got him up and told him to head to the bathroom. I feared I knew the next act in this nausea play.

And that’s when I noticed my oldest child’s bedroom door was also open. She looked at me from her bed and cried, “Mom, I don’t feel good. I have ninety-six nine.”

What? My midnight brain has no idea what this means. I have to ask her to explain.

“Ninety six nine!” she sobbed, “on the thermometer! I have a fever!”

Oh. 96.9. Okay, brain, let’s do math in the middle of the night, shall we?(I feel like midnight mental math should be deserving of a cookie or at least a sticker or something.) The average body temperature of a human is 98.6, meaning she does not have a fever.

Here comes the midnight triage parenting. I imagine this scenario is a lot like those scenes in the old TV show, MASH. (Awesome show, by the way, I totally loved it. And, a former boss once referred to me as “Radar,” which I definitely took as a compliment.) In MASH, when a chopper would arrive full of injured soldiers, the doctors and nurses had to decide – who needs the most help at that very moment?

So, there I stood at – let’s go with 1:00 am, since it probably took about two minutes to climb over the dogs, open the door, make out what my child was moaning on the floor and head down the hall. It’s 1:00am and I have not one but two kids now telling me “I don’t feel good!” You know what case made it to the top? The potential vomiter. My 10-year-old son was told to head to the bathroom, while my 14-year-old daughter was told to go to bed. I told her (I hope compassionately) that she did not have a fever and that sleep was her best option. And yes I meant it. And yes, she had to go to bed.

Then, I turned my attention to the 10-year-old, got him calmed down, and what felt like nine years later, back in bed. At that point, I was wide awake. Just me and my mom guilt.

I should have tried to treat my daughter, too.

I should have been nicer. What did I say?

I should have patted her head and told her she’d feel better soon.

I should have offered her a cool rag for her head.

So, instead of slipping back to sleep, I laid there thinking of all the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. And then… I tried to shift my thinking to the fact that I needed to count my blessings. My youngest was feeling better, my middle one was falling asleep and my oldest appeared to already be asleep. And, we can check “first back to school illness” off our list.

When it’s midnight and you’ve just woken up by a sick child, you are forced to make decisions. Those decisions grow exponentially with the number of kids that are awake and needing your attention. And boy can those midnight decisions be difficult!

What about you? What do you do during Midnight Triage Parenting? How do you handle it when more than one is sick?



Get Back to Class

Two weeks ago, I drove my kids to their school. It’s summer, so it’s understandable that they would be confused as to why we were there. I told them to get out of the car and then, when they inevitably asked the question, “Why are we here?”, I told them, “I wanted to show you my new office.”

That’s right. I’m going back to the classroom. I’ll be teaching 2nd grade. I previously taught at the high school level. 2nd grade is a whole new bag. More on that in a moment. First, let me review my children’s responses to my big news:

5th grader: “What? You got fired?”

1st grader (while jumping up and down): “Does that mean you’ll be my teacher next year?”

8th grader: “So, you get summers off? Sweet, I don’t have to babysit anymore.”

Overall, they are very excited about me teaching again. The older two remember what it was like when I taught. I had summers off. We had epic adventures. They saw more of me.

I’ll admit, I have an ocean of emotions splashing over/around/through me.




Those are the top three.

Teaching 2nd grade  – well, teaching in general – comes with such responsibility. These children, these sponges, these impressionable little people are in my care. What they learn has the power to impact their entire lives. Don’t you have that teacher you remember? Surely you can name at least one that changed your life for the better. I am blessed to say I have several.

So, here I go. Ready to start a new adventurous chapter in my life. A classroom full of kids, still young enough to be eager to learn, filled with energy, excitement and snot. Yes, I know, I know. My immune system will likely be in overdrive this year. But, hey, it will make for more good stories (names redacted, of course.)


How much do teachers get paid?!

My 10-year-old son and I were sitting on the couch the other day discussing who knows what and he made some comment about how “cops make a lot of money.” I explained that, unless you have seniority, that really isn’t the case. He went on to say firefighters have to make the big bucks, then. No dice, my friend. So, we start chatting about how pretty much any work that involves serving other people pays poorly. Nurses, emergency personnel, teachers.

“WAIT. Teachers don’t make a ton of money?” My son asked, in disbelief.

“No, they really don’t.”

“BUT – why?! They’re teaching the whole next group of people in the world! They should make the MOST money!”

And yet…. nope.

So, there you go, my teacher friends. If my soon-to-be 5th grader were in charge, you’d be making bank.

But hey – we value you! And surely payment in forms of handmade cards, the achievement of your students and the constant exposure to contagious illness must count for something, right? 🙂





14 years in

Do you remember being 14? A year of transitions. Junior high to high school. Passenger to practice driver. Innocent to aware. 14 seems like the age of the tipping point.

A lot of my friends, women especially, talk about 14 being the age when boys turned from “yuck” to “hmmm.” Blushing took on a new meaning. And things started happening. A multitude of things. First dates. First kisses. First gropes. First real – “this is really happening – you’re getting older” – awkward talks with your parents.

Is now a good time to tell you that my baby girl turns 14 today? Part of me fears all of those transitions. Part of me is joyous – knowing it means she’s growing into a young adult who will have all her own joys, challenges, fun and future.

And thank you, Facebook, for your memories feature – where I can see my baby grow before my very own eyes for as long as I’ve been posting on Facebook. I can see my series of posts:

“Happy birthday to my monkey!”

“Happy birthday sweet 9-year old!”

“Happy double digits!”

“Happy tween-dom!”

“Happy last year before you’re a teen.”

“Happy first year as a teenager!”

And there’s her face. Her sweet, angelic face – changing, ever so slightly at first. And then, more subtly. The baby fat lessens in every picture. Her cheek bones become more pronounced. Her legs get longer. And her smile – it just stays. Shining away. I pray that smile stays for every birthday to come.

Happy birthday, to my sweet, sweet girl. I pray you will keep your heart for caring for those younger than you, a spirit for fun, and a creative and artistic spark. And I pray we both survive all those transitions and love each other through it.


Do you smell pee?

Last Thursday was the last day of school before summer vacation. Emotions were high, as were expectations of a completely epic summer. And then Friday rolled around. The kids had their first day home alone. All day. Just the three of them, plus a kindergartener – er, now first grader – friend of my youngest son. By 8:36am, I had received multiple phone calls. The last was from my 13-year-old daughter who was in charge of watching the three younger ones. The call started with, “Mom. I can’t take this anymore!” said in the spirit of a mother who has been up all night with a newborn while her preschooler fills her shoes with vomit. Of course, that’s not the situation she was in. She had, however, dealt with a swearing match among the boys and a biting incident. What she didn’t tell me – or, hopefully, she didn’t know – was that something gross was happening in the bathroom. Something very, very disgusting.

By Friday evening, I could smell it. But what exactly “it” was, was open for debate. We all knew it smelled strongly of pee. As a mother of three kids under the age of 13, I can tell you with certainty, I know what pee smells like. Besides the fact that, you know, we all do it. Side note: I’m a little concerned for you if you don’t know what pee smells like. You may need to go see a doctor. Unless you’re just really well hydrated. In that case, good for you! I digress.

The smell was even stronger Saturday. We washed the floor. We scrubbed the toilet. We scrubbed around the toilet. The smell went away a little – or was at least masked by the chemical concoction now layered on our bathroom floor. By Sunday, the smell was much worse. We washed it all again. By Monday, I reached out to my Mom Land Facebook group. There were a lot of theories and practical suggestions including the idea to wash the shower curtain. I mean, they’re boys who are not exactly masters of their domain, if you know what I mean. So, last night, I took a deep breath and tried to hold it as I unhooked the shower curtain. Once I grabbed hold of the curtain, it became very evident that was where the smell was originating from. But, I wasn’t exactly right. Something caught my eye – and my breath. I looked down and saw it: a stagnant pool of urine in the bath tub. Someone had used it as a spare latrine – and had the courteous thought to plug the toilet so we could all enjoy the nauseating stench for days on end. I drained the tub. Thank you, Lord, I did NOT have to touch it. I added many a chemical – just shy of creating the toxic cloud they warned us about as kids. I washed the shower curtain. The smell is beginning to dissipate.

But this experience has left me with a lot of disgusting questions:

  1. How did I not notice it was coming from the tub?
  2. How did I not check the tub?
  3. Are my children just not showering???

To say I am grossed out by this experience would be an understatement. And yet, it always seems to be the horrid tales of bodily fluids that get my creative juices flowing and make me want to write. What does that say about me? Maybe don’t answer that.

Absolutely Disgusted

The title may be misleading, as a mother of three, I typically write about children’s bodily fluids. This time, I am disgusted for another reason entirely. I watched a video of a local teen being savagely beaten by a group of girls that once claimed to be her friends. My stomach turned watching this clip of video, video that was shared by the alleged assaulters on social media.

The TV station interviewed the parents of the girl, a 17-year-old, who went to a party after her “friends” invited her there. Unbeknownst to her, they were not inviting her to have a good time. They invited her so they could beat her, mercilessly. The video is hard to watch. I cannot even imagine being that poor child’s parents and having to watch that. I want to drive to my teenage daughter’s school right now, scoop her up and tell her… well, I don’t know what I would tell her. And that’s the point of this post.

One of my best friends told me about this story this morning. I was appalled. She told me I should really discuss it with my 13-year-old and even have her watch it. At first, I couldn’t understand why that would be a good idea. What could I tell her to be cautious of? What if a friend invites her to a party and they really only want her there so they can beat her? How would that help – to make her scared of her friends’ true intentions? But, my friend went on to explain that the video not only shows this group of girls beating this teenager, it shows other teens sitting by and watching. One of them even video tapes the whole assault. And they do nothing to stop it. Nothing.

THIS is something I can talk to my daughter about. We always tell our kids not to bully other people and to speak up if they’re being bullied. But what about when they witness someone bullying – or in this case – beating another child? Because that’s what this group of teens are – children! Any one of those kids could have at any moment said – wait, stop. Heck, if they were scared what the other kids would say, they could have secretly texted their mom or dad with what was going on. They obviously had their phones! So this, this will be what I talk to my daughter about tonight: being the voice of reason.

If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you’ve read about mob mentality. According to a publication by South University, “When people are part of a group, they often experience deindividuation, or a loss of self-awareness…. they are less likely to follow normal restraints and inhibitions… which can lead to the provocation of behaviors that a person would not typically engage in if alone.” And that’s when violence enters the picture.

What’s that saying we use with our kids? “If your friends were all jumping off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Well, after watching this video, yeah, they just might. Or, if they didn’t jump – maybe they’d push the kid in front of them.

Talk to your kids. Tell them. This is not okay! Think for yourself. Know when something is just stupid. If they can’t do that, ask them how they’d excuse or explain the behavior in which they are about to take part to you or their grandma. Because speaking up could truly be a life-saving act.

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