Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bullying is Something You Never Forget

I've mentioned briefly in a previous post that I was bullied when I was in high school.  I graduated over 30 years ago, so I've had time to sit back and reflect about those times.  There is always something in the news about bullying.  It think it's a 1000 times worse now, because of the social media.  Bullying can take the forms of physical and verbal, both of which I think are equally terrible.  Two bullying  incidents in particular stand out the most in my mind from my high school days.  I remember sitting in the bleachers during gym.  One of the girls that was out on the gym floor thought I was laughing at her.  No matter how much I told her I hadn't been laughing at her, she started saying stuff like, "I'm going to beat you up later" and other things along those lines.  Some other girls observed what was going on and they said, "don't worry about her, we'll take care of it for you."  I didn't even know those other girls, but they came to my rescue and  the girl  never threatened me again.  A second, very specific incident happened when I was coming down the hallway towards a few girls.  They started saying things like, "we're not going to let you walk past us," and they physically blocked my way so I couldn't get through.  I got so upset that I started crying.  I think that's what they wanted me to do, so once I did, they laughed and moved out of my way.  I have thought about that incident more than once over the past 30 years.  This particular group of girls and I also played sports together, so unfortunately, I would have to deal with them.  They would taunt me when I played softball.  When I played soccer and was a goalie,  one of the parents of a girl on the opposing team said  "she's not very good, you can make a goal on her."  Another girl gave my brother and I a hard time once when we were on our bikes in our neighborhood.  I sometimes wonder what has happened to some of those girls.  With the Internet, it would only take a few clicks to find them.  Would it be worth it?  They have probably long since forgot the way they treated me.  Sometimes I have thought about tracking them down, just to ask the simple question, "why?"  Did you think it was cool to watch me cry?  Did you not think about what you were doing?  My own daughter has already been bullied.  I wonder about my son, being that he is "different."  People are so quick to judge.  I have tried to teach my son and daughter to be themselves and if they are being bullied know that they can come to me.  I like to think of myself as a Momma Bear and the two of them and my stepson are my "cubs."  I would do anything in the world for them.  I guess since I was bullied myself at times it has made me super sensitive about it.    If I did have a brief moment with the girls that used to torment me,  I would tell them, "you might not remember what you did to me in high school, but I do."  It  is something I have never forgot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rushing the Season???

One of my first thoughts when I woke up this morning was that it  is exactly two months until Christmas and about a month until Thanksgiving.   It seems that the holiday season keeps getting earlier and earlier each year.  I understand that stores make a lot of their profit during that particular time of the year, but seeing a fully lit Christmas tree in one of the stores that I frequent  in the middle of September seemed a bit much.  I couldn't believe  the store had several aisles of Christmas merchandise, trees, lights and other items already out.  Back to school shopping had barely finished!!   A few years ago I remember I went to a store looking for a few items to help supplement my daughter's Halloween costume.  I was in the store on Halloween (surprisingly those aisles of the store were almost empty).  The employees were actually taking apart the displays! I felt like saying, "excuse me, but could you wait until at least the next day to take the Halloween stuff down??"   Many people  have anxiety this time of year.  There are a lot of families out there that are just barely getting by and others that have more than they need.  One of the best gifts I gave to my own extended family one year was making a donation to Heifer International on their behalf.  That particular organization uses your donation to help feed others.   The holidays are hard  for families that have lost a loved one, can't be with their families for whatever reason or don't have a family or loved ones to share the holidays with.   Sometimes one of the nicest things you can do for someone else is to hold a door open for them (especially a mom with a stroller)!  I'll never forget when my little man was not even crawling yet, I was heading towards a door with him on my hip and someone walked directly  in front of me, opened the door for himself  and let it slam in my face!  I think a lot of us get kind of caught up in our "little worlds", I'm one that is guilty of that sometimes myself.   You really never know what other people have going on in their lives and you can become quite distracted with your own life. Take a few moments as we head into the holiday season to remember others and to smile at a stranger.  It takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Let the person behind you in the line at the grocery store go ahead of you. That type  of  "gift" doesn't require money, it requires just a few extra minutes of your time and it will make you feel good.   It's a gift you can give to someone else all year long!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Momma's Popcorn

When my beloved mother-in-law (who I affectionately called "Momma")  passed in January we had to clean out her room at the assisted living facility where she had lived for about 4 years.  My mother-in-law was always a stylish woman, she wore perfume and lipstick all the way up to the few days before she passed.  She had  tons of clothes in her closet.  When we moved her here from Cleveland, I started washing her clothes for her about once a week.  Whenever I would go over to visit her,  she always made a HUGE production out of me washing her clothes.  The caregivers and I had worked out a system so I knew which clothes were dirty and which were clean.  They would leave the buttons or snaps undone on the clothes hanging on their hangers in the closet,  so I could pull them right out of the closet and toss them into a bag to take home and wash.  There would also be a few articles of clothing in the dirty clothes basket too, but all of her clothes could easily fit into one load in our washing machine. We would go through the same  "dog and pony" show every week.  She would say stuff like, "Cathy, that's too much of a bother, don't wash those clothes!!"  I would always say back, "why, do you want to smell?"  She would kind of shake her head at me, but she would be laughing.  When we had to bring all of her clothes back to our house, I knew at some point we would have to donate them all.  I found it really hard to go through all of her clothes, because they still smelled like her and her perfume.  I let them sit in our spare bedroom for a few weeks and then my hubby started saying, "we really need to be going through these clothes and donate them."  I kept trying to explain to him I was having a really difficult time going through her clothes.  I did eventually start washing them and began to donate them to charity.  I had put a handful of the clothes aside either to keep for myself, or that had to be dry cleaned/needed special cleaning.  About a week or so ago, one of the charities that we donate to was having a pick up.  I gathered up about a loads worth and started going through the pockets of the clothing.  I reached into one of the pockets of her favorite coats and I found a bunch of popcorn.  My mother-in-law loved popcorn!  She would save the bags of popcorn from the "Popcorn Socials"  for my hubby when he would visit her. She always felt she had to "give" him something.  She also would save her desserts from her meals to give to him.  I think on some levels (she had advanced dementia),  she was still trying to entertain.   When she lived in Cleveland and we would visit her and my father-in-law she would always be a terrific hostess.  She was also one heck of a cook and baker.  I would always tell her she could make better chocolate chip cookies than me!  I'm a person who  believes that when  someone passes , you can still feel their presence, not like a ghost, but that when you are sad and missing them a lot they let you know that they are there to comfort you.  Thank you Momma for letting me know you are still around.  I still love and miss you so much.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Having a child with Autism and ADHD has been quite an interesting journey so far.  As I've mentioned before,  my little man was diagnosed with Autism at about  2 1/2 and then diagnosed with ADHD at about age 3.  Kind of a double "whammy!"  Before he talked, which was about age 3, he made very little eye contact and very much preferred his own company.  A specific incident stands out  and will probably be forever etched in my mind.  I have tried very hard to involve my son in a lot of my baking and cooking. It has taught him how to count among other skills.   One of his favorite things he likes to do (and still does)  is to  pull up a chair from the kitchen table and put it against the counter so he can watch me more closely.  On this particular day which was before he was talking, I was unpacking our dishwasher.  I had turned around to put something in the sink or to put something away, my back was turned to him for literally not even 15 seconds.  When I turned back around he had grabbed one of our steak knives out of the dishwasher silverware holder   and had put it in his mouth!  All I could see was the black handle.  A million different thoughts raced through my head, what if he tried to swallow the whole thing? what if he pulled it out too  quickly?  It was a very scary moment, I can tell you that.  I still get goosebumps even as I'm writing this.  One thing both my son and daughter can pick up on is if I'm stressed, so I tried really hard to stay cool as a cucumber as they say!  Hard to do under those extreme circumstances.   I remember saying, "give it back to me" or something like that very calmly.  I  don't remember  exactly which one of us pulled it out.  He was very lucky in that he was completely fine.  It has been a long,  slow process to try and get him to understand the consequences of his actions.  One of the first words he did learn was "no,"  and boy does he like that word!!  Don't all kids, no matter what age??   At least now, he says, "no,  thank you."   Ever since that incident,  I have really tried to keep things in perspective no matter what stress I am under  and to  not sweat the small stuff!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The "Sandwich" Generation

I had to leave my own family this week  to help my mom recover from some surgery.  This is the third time this year that I have had to leave the hubby in charge of running the household in my absence.  I am so detailed oriented that I spent  almost 2 hours typing up a single spaced 2-page  "itinerary" for him to follow before I left.  When I was typing it up before I left he was like, "we don't need that, we'll be fine!"   I have an incredible support system of friends that help take care of my husband and kids when I'm gone and make it possible for me to be able to leave.  One of my friends is making my family a meal to enjoy, another mom said, "I've got your back."  Other friends have sent e-mails, letting me know that they are thinking of me.  I've always been this person that when people have offered to help  I would always say, "no, that's okay, I have it covered."  As I've reached the ripe old age of 48, I've realized that you do need other moms to help you.  I always thought that I could do it all.  As my own parents age, I know that I will be needed more and I want to be able to help them.  They helped raise me, I want to be there to help them when they need me.  I guess this is what is called the "Sandwich Generation."   I've heard that term before.  It is kind of accurate, you're "in between" two families the way a filling is in between two pieces of bread.  I'm a mom that is raising children and also helping my parents at the same time.  I helped my hubby with his parents, he was an only child.  I watched him take care of both of his parents, I feel extremely lucky that I got to know my in-laws so well.   My father-in-law has been gone more than 6 years now and my mother-in-law just since January.  I still miss them a lot.  So many of my friends my age are part of that "sandwich."  A lot of people are living longer, my grandfather lived to over 90, my grandmother was 101!  I feel blessed that I still have both of my parents.  I am getting to know them on a totally different level than when I was growing up, though I still can't call my dad by his first name!  I thought that when I became an adult I could that.  My stepson likes to try and call his dad by his first name, even my daughter and son try.  But, he doesn't like it either :)  I know that I can't predict what the future will hold.  Nobody can.  My goal for the future  is to  try and be the best wife, mother, stepmother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt,  cousin and friend that I can be!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Night at the Airport

I am certainly not what you would call a "frequent flyer."   I have been a passenger on planes, ships and trains, but my preferred mode of transportation is definitely a car.  This year I have been on  a plane twice so far.   I always find it kind of interesting to "people watch" in an airport.  You see just about  one of everything.  Families, businessmen, businesswomen, kids, babies, senior citizens, teens, entire sports teams, etc.  Traveling by plane always seems to take such a long time, especially if you are crossing over time zones or have layovers.  Earlier this year I was flying back from the East Coast by myself and ended up at a busy Midwest airport.  I was there waiting to catch the last leg of my flight back home and the airline decided to cancel my flight completely because the weather was really bad.  After that happened , I had to wait in a huge line to get a voucher  to use towards the cost of a hotel room close by.  I remember the people behind me saying they were going to rent a car and drive to where they needed to be.  It's safe to say that  the people waiting in that line were not a bunch of happy campers.   My feeling was it's out of our control, just try to make the best of it.  I did not have access to my suitcase (not sure where that spent the night),  but luckily I did have cash on me, not a lot,  but enough, because after about 10:30 or 11 p.m. all the shops in the airport closed.  The voucher that we got really wouldn't have covered much of the expense of a hotel stay, so I decided to spend the night at the airport and catch the first plane out the next morning.  There were some other hardy souls (actually quite a few)  that decided to stick it out like me.  My initial  thought was,  do I try to sleep?  Given that I didn't have an alarm clock on me, I was going to try and stay up all night.  Haven't done that since the sleepovers of my girlhood youth.  I did have a  laptop with me and a DVD to watch.  Trying to find an available plug to use the laptop proved to be quite difficult.  I had to probably walk about a 1/2 mile (well okay, it felt that way) to find a plug.  I eventually did and started watching my movie.  One of the employees of the airport I think felt sorry for me and said, "Miss, did you know we have some cots set up around the corner?"  I thanked her for her assistance but told her I was fine.  After my movie was over I was thinking, okay, what do I do next to entertain myself.  I had already read all my magazines I had brought, so I was starting to get a little bored.  I remember walking around and finally about 2:45 a.m.  or somewhere around that time finding a set of seats to hang out in.  The next thing I knew I think I must have fallen asleep because I opened my eyes and my mouth was kind of slacked open.  I looked around, but everybody else was either dozing off, sound asleep and snoring or talking with their friends.  About 5 or 5:30 a.m. one of the only restaurants getting ready to open was McDonald's.  Even before they officially opened, there was already a line forming.  I quickly got into that line and got something to eat.  About 6:30 a.m. they started calling my flight to board.  There was no way I was going to miss that boarding call.  I'm happy to say that I made it back home safely. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Find Just the Right "Mom" Purse

Finding just the right "mom" purse has been a challenge for me for years.  Some were too small, some too big, but none were just the right size.   I kind of sound a lot like Goldilocks!!   Guys are lucky, they can just carry around their wallets in their back pockets.  When you're a new mom pretty much everything goes into the diaper bag.  As your kids get a little older, they don't require so many items, but do require snacks, etc.  So, you can get away with  them carrying a small backpack for their stuff, but there again you still need a purse.  When they get even older they still require things, "hey mom,  got a tissue in your purse?",  or "how about something to eat?"  Given that my  kids are now 15 and 7, I can't really carry around a diaper bag anymore and the only time my kids cart around backpacks on a regular basis  are for school.   So, I went on the hunt for a purse, still not knowing what exact size would be right.  I have to mention also, that I wasn't going to pay an arm and leg.  If any of you have looked for a purse lately, a halfway nice one is at least $20.00 or more. I am pretty hard on my purses,  some have completely ripped  at the stitching  because I try to shove too much into them.   I lost track of how many stores I went looking for that "just right" purse.  Some were so darn small, I couldn't even fit my wallet in it.  Those little purses are kind of cute though.   I decided I would go the route of a larger purse.  I am happy to report that  I did find one that originally was $70.00, but I got it for $7.00 (anybody that knows me well, knows I almost always use coupons), but I'm beginning to think that my purse might be a little too big.  The other day my daughter gave me her cell  phone to hang on to.  She has recently started carrying a purse in the past year or so, so most of the time she can carry her own stuff.  I guess this particular circumstance she didn't have it, so I tossed it into my purse.  When she wanted it back I couldn't find it!  After quite a bit of searching we found it,  thank goodness.  If any of you out there have a teen with their own cell phone, you know that not being able to find your phone is a major crisis!  On any given day in my purse you can find quite a potpourri of things, the other day my daughter pulled out a diaper.  She was like, "what's this doing in here?"  I wish I could say my little guy was trained in that department, but until he is,  I like to be prepared.  I also keep an emergency granola bar or some other transportable food.  I also have carted a bottled water or two in there.  We moms have to be prepared for anything!  The next time you clean out your purse (which I try to do every few weeks) take inventory and see what you'll find.  You're liable to find something you forgot was in there!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A "Special" Kind of Relationship

When I met my hubby almost 21 years ago, he brought a very special "gift" to our relationship, my stepson.  I met him for the first time when he was right around 7 years old (the age my little man is now).  I knew that he and I would get along well when we both thought something was absolutely hilarious at the zoo during one of our very first outings together. He was in our wedding when I married his father.  I hear more negative things said about stepchildren than positive and that kind of  bugs me!  A relationship of that type takes time, communication, patience and lots of love.  When he was younger,  he and I would play endless board games together.  I'm the one who taught him how to ride his bike. Now that he has gotten older,  the topics of conversation are different, but one thing I have always told him is that I support him 100% in anything that he does.  I make sure that I always have his "back."   I think I can count on one hand how many times he and I have ever disagreed on something.  I consider him to be one of my closest friends in addition to the added bonus of  being my stepson.  Since we don't live close to him at the moment, thank goodness for e-mail and Skype.  I use e-mail the way other people text!  On those occasions when we do get to see him, I love to sit back and watch him interact with his brother and sister.  He is  12 years older than his sister and close to 20 years older than his little brother.  With those big age differences it's always entertaining!   His visits seem to go by way too fast.  When he was younger he used to tell me that I should open my own "restaurant."  The last time he visited, I made him an omelet. I didn't think it was any big deal, I make them every Sunday for his dad, but to him he thought he was being served a meal in a 5 star restaurant.  I always try to make the meals when he is visiting just a little "special."  I love my stepson just as much as my other two kids and feel incredibly lucky to have such a tight bond with him.  I certainly do have a "bountiful" plate!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloween Observations

Since both of my kids have been trick or treating, I have been the one that stays home and hands out the candy, while the hubby takes them out.  Since my daughter is now 15,  I am left wondering,  how old is too "old" to trick or treat?  I get such a kick out of the kids that come to our door - some can barely talk and get the words out and some older ones  just stick their hand out without even saying those magic words, "trick or treat."  My feeling is,  if they're old enough to be making the effort, they deserve at least one piece of candy.  I think the funniest  costume(s) I saw were a few years ago  when  a bunch of teens jumped out of our bushes with a flash camera aimed at me and told me they were the "paparazzi."  I felt like I was a "star!"  Pretty original idea!!  I'm now on the hunt for a costume for my 7 year old.  With the different sensory issues he has, it has been challenging since he doesn't really like things on his head or face for a long period of time.  If you take a look around at the costumes out there (which where I live have been out for at least a month),  that lets out quite a few!  I readily admit, I'm not one of those super crafty moms that can sew their own child's costume.  My family knows I can do the basic sewing, like sewing a button on that fell off, but that's about where my sewing talents end!  I think one of the easiest things to do if all else fails is  to just wear a pair of  pajamas (doesn't it always seem to be chilly Halloween night??).  I am still able to find pajamas with feet in my son's size, so I may just decide to do that.  Anybody out there have any good ideas for him??   My daughter is thinking pretty seriously about going out this year and  said she will put together a costume with stuff around our house.  That ought to be interesting!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Love Animals, But ..........

I grew up with a dog, hamsters and gerbils, so I love animals just as much as anybody, but nobody told me when we moved into our house that it would become the neighborhood "zoo."  When we first moved in, we had squirrels that sounded like they were running laps around our family room rafters.  Once we managed to get them to "move out" then one day when we had our garage door open a bat decided to fly in.  My husband was chasing him/her around our house with a shoe until it flew out our front door.  Then, one day when my daughter was much younger, she was like, "mom, come down here we have snakes."  Sure enough, there were two snakes slithering around on the basement floor.  Since then, we have had field mice, a  baby frog, and most recently a family of raccoons that decided our fireplace was their new home.  Living in our front bushes we have a nest with a family of birds and in the back of our house we have a few woodpeckers having a contest to see who can drill the most holes.  A very frequent visitor is the chipmunk, affectionately called, "Chippy" that runs past our front door several times a day.  A few weeks ago I saw a black squirrel sitting on my chair I keep outside  by the front door. I think he actually looked back at me and laughed!!!  About a month ago I watched as a very large something (we think it was a woodchuck) crawl under our deck, not sure if he/she ever came out the other side.  The "parade"  of animals outside that we have seen are:  possum, deer, foxes, cats, dogs and a skunk.  About a month or so our smoke alarm actually was set off by the stink of a skunk! Good grief, that was one powerful smell.  It wouldn't have been so bad, but  it was 5 in the morning.  Not the kind of alarm I like waking up to!

My New "Relationship" with the Sun

Long gone are the days that I would sit on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean for HOURS at a time with just baby oil on my skin for prote...