How are you?

A while back a friend inquired, “Has anyone asked you any stupid questions?”

After the conversation, I was still left lingering on the thought.  In general people make statements and ask questions which may come across as stupid, when really it’s with good intentions or out of complete ignorance.  I know I am guilty of this at times too, we all have been there.  When it comes to sensitive topics, these stupid questions can come across as insulting and evoke strong emotions.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to brush off some comments and find the humor in them.  There is always one question I get stuck on and don’t know how to answer.

“How are you?”

This usually simple question has a much different meaning to it when people look at you with their head already tilted to one side and a worried frown on their face.  My mind frantically looks for a reasonable reply and I wonder if I should state my mood right in that moment, or an average of the past day or week?  I give a thoughtful pause but really it’s to internally criticize my own response before it escapes my mouth.  I don’t want what I say to be too positive and have someone judging me for being happy or too negative and risk they might think I’m not handling things well.

“How are you?”

Does someone really want to know it’s a struggle to drive in the car alone with your thoughts at times, that for some reason those are the moments when the regrets become their strongest?  Is it okay I have had fun days full of laughter and smiles when I have been present in what’s happening in front of me?  Should I tell people there are lapses in time when I have been completely numb and have proven to be ineffective at everything?  When is the appropriate time to say I haven’t been able to keep myself together when my daughter is full of sorrow and I cannot possibly fix what she needs fixed?  Is it unhealthy for me to have times when I think I am accepting and other times when it is unreal, it didn’t happen and it’s not true?  Do people want to know I can be fine one minute and completely loose my mind in a sobbing mess all while washing dishes?  Is it alright to tell someone “I was great until you asked and made me think about it”?

“How am I?”

Dad passed four weeks ago today, how I am is existing moment to moment.  Sometimes I am good and sometimes I am really not.  There isn’t really a consistent progression of things getting easier, one day may feel less emotional and the next day feels as raw as the day he passed.   The truth is I don’t know how I am doing, I know I am doing the best I can and things will be okay.

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My Little Storyteller

In the moments Parker will go play by herself it’s not unusual to peer into her room and find her occupied with books.  Sometimes she curls up in her brown corduroy rocking chair and looks through the illustrations.  My favorite is when she lines up her dolls or stuffed animals and presents the books as though she is reading to her own make-believe classroom.  She carefully tells the story of each page before lifting and turning the book to her viewers to see the pictures.  01booksEach night we read each other one story before bed too.  She has several stories or lines out of books memorized and even mimics the inflections and character voices I use when I read to her.  A lot of her reading is completely made up as she goes along incorporating characters from the story I had read or from events that happened in her day.  It won’t be long before she is truly reading the words on the pages but for now she is using her imagination and her own words for storytelling.

Parker has an advanced vocabulary and communication skills for her young five years.  She is full of opinions, questions and comments and is fearless about opening her mouth to speak.  I want to empower her to continue this since it demonstrates curiosity and leadership, while also trying to rein her in and ensure she remains respectful with her words.  It’s also been a priority for me to educate her on the proper use of her vocabulary and practice pronunciation.  It’s not uncommon for her to completely make up words and throw them into sentences.  She has a few words she frequently stumbles over, like before she could say computer and asked to play on the “paduter.”  There are two words which come to mind I hear currently mispronounced, as long as she is not still saying them this way five years from now they will be a fun memory of her growth.

“Mom, we are out of skabetty?  That’s just rediclius.”

(*Spaghetti, ridiculous)

The Egg Holiday

Nearly every morning of the year Mom would be the one waking me up, with the exception of Christmas.  It seems kids just don’t get much sleep with the anticipation of stockings and presents.  In the wee hours of the morning we had to stay in bed giddy with excitement for as long as we could stand it before going to wake up our parents.  I don’t recall who of the three siblings would have the courage to jump out of bed first, though, as soon as one set of footprints hit the floor the others would follow quickly.

We’d preview the fireplace where the stockings were hung to run downstairs to wake Mom and Dad.  Both sluggishly bundled in terry clothe robes as we’d hurry them back to the living room.  Christmas morning always started with the stockings and the aroma of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.

Christmas morning of 1987 was no different.  The three of us gathered around the intricately carved coffee table eager to pour out the contents of our stockings.  The suspense building as we waited for them to be removed from the fireplace and set into our three, five and seven year old hands.  At last it seemed Christmas had begun when we were in possession of these lovingly hand-made felt stockings and my full attention was on the trinkets and treats inside.  I hadn’t been paying attention to my parents seated behind me until I had touched every item and spied all of what my brother and sister had gotten.

When I did notice my parents it was when my mom was holding a simple plastic Easter egg.  Looking back it makes sense because my dad never learned how to wrap a present, I suppose he reached for the first container he could find to place this gift.  My mom burst into tears when she cracked the egg open.  What kind of rotten egg is this?  I wondered as I jumped up to console her and ask what was wrong.

“Happy tears,”  she reassured, “These are happy tears.”

Although I was too young to read and I never really learned what specifically was written inside the silly Easter egg, that Christmas Dad gave Mom a vacation to England and Scotland.  The holiday egg was the moment I learned tears are not just for when we are sad, they are for when we are really happy too.

holidayegg

Christmas 1987

 

 

Teddy Bear and the Nightmares

babyWhile both of my parents are significant influences in my life, I have to give the majority of the child rearing credit to my mom.  Mom fed us, dressed us, bathed us, got us to school, chauffeured to activities, read bedtime stories, fixed boo boos, and knew all the details of her three children’s lives growing up.

There are some memories I have of my dad during my childhood which stand out, like the time I ran screaming from him when he asked to do my hair during a summer trip to Colorado.  It was in fact the first and only time I can recall him showing any interest in doing my hair and it was my mom’s job…  Or so I thought, until she pointed out how upset he looked at my response.  Remorsefully I agreed to let him try to which he responded, “Nevermind.”

My dad may not have been successful at styling his daughters’ hair, though, he did have a knack at resolving my childhood nightmares.  I had a reoccurring nightmare which likely stemmed from cartoon watching and stranger danger lessons in early elementary school.  To a six year old, the Care Bears being kidnapped was a wickidly frightening dream and one I would wake up from crying.  Whether from brilliant parenting insight or just an effort to keep me from trying to sleep in my parents bed, my dad reassured me in a way I found strength and confidence.  My dad told me to fall asleep holding my teddy bear up to my head and it would scare the bad dreams away.

It was a simple piece of advice from my dad and helped me sleep soundly through my childhood.  A few weeks ago I was fondly remembering how this memory made an impression on me when the realization hit me, my dad lied to me.  The teddy bear didn’t scare anything away, it was a false sense of security which tricked me into sleeping.  Now some people might say “so what, you got to sleep.”  Except my parents raised us with the belief and my dad maintains it is important to never lie to children.  He stands by the necessity of being truthful, not misleading with fairytales or disception.  Granted, this does not mean full disclosure to kids, there are times to limit topics into adult conversation.  For my parents it was important to set the example for always being honest.

In a quiet moment with my parents I broke the silence by asking my dad if he remembered this childhood advice.  I told him how I affectionately remembered the influence it had on me and my nightmares, he closed his eyes and smiled.  “It was a lie,” I pointed out, “The bear didn’t scare anything away, you lied.”  I felt so cleaver to finally uncover the one example in my lifetime where my dad was intentionally dishonest with me and hung to the thought for only a moment.

“It wasn’t a lie,” he said softly, “I helped you to change your perception so you weren’t afraid.”

As soon as he said it I understood what he meant, since a fear of a dream is unique from real danger.  The power I was given by the teddy bear wasn’t false at all, I was able to envision the protection it served me and it did provide me safety from my Care Bear nightmare.  The change in my perception gave me the confidence to control how I felt and what I didn’t need to fear.

Our conversation was broken up by a lab technician coming into the hospital room to take more blood samples from my dad.  He laid weak under the florescent lighting on an emergency stretcher, medical machines beeping with IV fluid being flushed through his body.  Dad’s skeletal frame had been deteriorating over the past six month, starting as a back ache escalating to full blown crisis.  Knowing what we know now, I wrestled with the guilt of thinking he just wasn’t trying hard enough to get well.

Dad was admitted to the ICU and the following few days were met with a whirlwind of doctors, blood tests, CT scans, X-rays, medicines and finally a bone biopsy.  For a man who had escaped injury and illness throughout his life, it was a nightmare come to life to watch him dependent on help from others.  My mom, siblings and our significant others rallied to support Dad during his hospitalization.  After an emotionally taxing weekend, we surrounded my dad when a doctor confirmed the diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

Six days after entering through the emergency room, Dad was sent home and began preparation for cancer treatment.  Taking advice from my sister-in-law to heart, I have not looked into the statistics of the disease and only focused my attention on gaining knowledge of treatment.  I am not naïve about his frail condition or the long road ahead, instead I am making a choice not to dwell in what we cannot change.  Dad’s advice of the teddy bear and nightmares seems to be relevant even more today.  By changing our perception we can develop strength and avoid fear, keep our minds open for opportunities and be confident about handling what the future brings.

My dad continues to reinforce life lessons and bring a positive influence into my life, as does my mom.  Through all of this, my mom has stayed the consistent caregiver.  She makes meals, helps dress, chauffeurs to doctor’s appointments, and maintains all the details of dad’s needs.  Mom even helps him with his hair.


For family and friends who are interested in knowing more about his diagnosis and treatment, Dad and I are keeping a journal to document the road to recovery on Caringbridge.  You can find him by searching his full name.

Kid Art

Each child is exceptionally unique in so many ways.  One thing which makes my daughter unique from other typical four year olds is her artwork.  I began noticing this difference when she plays with other kids, paper and a box of crayons.  While most kids near this age are focused on stick figures, my girl is coloring abstract shapes.  Even with piles of coloring books, this kid would prefer a blank sheet of paper to color her own abstract designs.

PJart2Sometimes I ask her what she is drawing and she always has an explanation.  “It’s a map to Aunt Bev’s house, and here is the park, and a dog, and a tree.”  All of which are blobs of color in a neatly connected Crayola collage.  She always has an explanation for everything so I never know if she is actually imagining these things as she is drawing or if when pressured to come up with an answer – makes it up on the fly.

Curious about her unique work lead me to inquiring with an art therapist friend and several Google searching sessions.  All of which lead me to no definitive answers.

PJart1Some sites claimed too much use of red and black has indications of anger or depression, then other sites added blue, brown and orange into this as well.  Other sources stated black equals dominance while red demonstrates excitement.  Contradictions in interpretation are confusing, especially if the explanation really has more to do with a child’s favorite color being red or black.  There may be parents out there freaking out with a child only drawing in red and missing the fact that it is the only available crayon not broken.

There was also some indications about the meaning of where the drawings are typically located, my daughter’s coloring is almost always oriented towards the top left part of a page.  Unfortunately, there was not a lot of consistency in this either.  Some references stated the left is often associated with mom or nurturing, whereas right is for dad’s.  Additionally left might be related to considering the past while right side is future thinking, then again another source reported drawings oriented to the top of the page indicate future thinking and confidence.

No matter what search terms I came up with I couldn’t find anything explaining what it means for my child to draw abstract patterns instead of the pre-schematic drawings typical for most four year olds.  Then, just like she does when I think I have any pattern of behavior established, she switches it up…  This morning while cleaning up the kitchen I glanced around the corner where she was quietly occupied on her dry erase board.  For the first time in nearly 6 months, she had drawn a pre-schematic drawing.

PJartAs my art therapist friend stated she does during her sessions, I simply asked her about her drawing.  “It’s me and you, Mommy.”

Now, I am not sure what a professional kids’ art interpreter would say this sketch means, to me it’s pretty clear.  Obviously that’s me on the left and a pretty accurate depiction if I say so myself.  Eyes so large they make half of my face, a skinny (stick-like) body and big ol jugs.  Then with her hand on like me, (as she usually is hanging, holding or laying on me somehow)  you can see her little body has wings since she is my little angel.  Her other hand in the drawing appears to be holding something and I am pretty sure I see a dollar sign, meaning this girl brings a wealth of happiness wherever she goes.

The use of only orange is a good indication she didn’t bother to remove the caps off any other markers.  And the random letters show how she loves to practice letters and is excited about words, though is stubborn about asking for help with spelling.  She chooses to write letters and hopes her random guessing will turn out something readable.

Who knows what her next art project with look like?  I think instead of figuring it out, I will just stand back and appreciate her uniqueness.

 

Santa Claus and Other Make Believe

We all looked to the sky and spotted the faint streams of red light as the chilled air blushed our cheeks.  “It’s Santa flying away in his sleigh,” one of the girls declared and the others chimed in with their own declaration they saw it too.  The excitement was contagious even with the suspicions the jolly fellow may have been an uncle dressed in the traditional fluffy suit.

My childhood best friend’s birthday fell in December, naturally there seemed to always be a Christmas theme.  After the holiday ornament making and cake tasting, Santa Claus arrived to deliver candy canes and listen to each girl’s present requests.  Once Santa left the house there became an urgency to determine his authenticity and spy on him, five and six-year-old girls in party dresses and ribbons, raced down the steps and out the front door to the driveway.  Half expecting to see a middle-aged man ripping off a beard getting into a beat-up old Chevy, I was utterly confused by the lights in the sky and reaction from the spectators.

In my home there was no truth to Santa Claus, he was as fictional as The Cat In The Hat.  Don’t get me wrong, we still had Christmas.  The “magic” of Christmas came in the form of everything else; cookies, cocoa, lights, snowman making, present wrapping, singing carols, holiday crafts, tree decorating, holiday greetings in the mail and being together with family.  We all loved the Christmas season without the belief of a mystical man breaking in through the chimney to fill our stockings and snack on our cookies.  It wasn’t because Mom and Dad felt a burning desire to secure our safety and avoid stranger danger, for fear we would habitually approach old men in white beards.  And it wasn’t with the mentality to make sure we knew they worked hard to provide instead of giving credit to this imaginary creature.  My parents, especially my dad, made the decision not to fuel the story of Saint Nicholas in the spirit of honesty.  They simply didn’t want to lie to us.

Their intentions were in a good place, except every other pupil in my early elementary school class did have parents who made them believe in Santa Claus.  Kids behaved because parents had warned not to get on the naughty list.  The man, the myth was reality for my classmates and I my naïve mind could not comprehend how it was true for them and not for me.  I began thinking Santa must be visiting everyone else’s house but mine.  It didn’t make any sense when my reality didn’t match those around me.  When my curiosity about this discrepancy reached a bursting point I took my concerns to my parents.  My dad, the always logical man, attempted to reason the explanation beyond what I could comprehend at the time.  He asked me to question how it could even be possible for a single person to travel to every home around the world in one day.  Still trying to conform my thoughts to the popular opinion of my classmates, I tried to justify it and sometimes tried to believe in Santa Claus even if just to fit in.

At varying points of age, all children learn the truth of Santa Claus and only then do they notice the signs were everywhere all along.  My disorientation from reality was relieved when fellow students and friends gained their own insight.  Truth isn’t always an easy adjustment to make, I know for many kids it was nights of crying themselves to sleep to know their beliefs were a lie.  I suspect too, each of those kids assimilated to finding a new happiness in the Christmas season.

When looking back on my early childhood conflict between what I knew to be true and what my peers saw as real, I now know the word for it.  Cognitive dissonance is the term to label the feeling of stress when two contradictory beliefs are co-occuring.  It is a theory which has long been studied in psychology to recognize the emotional discomfort humans experience when facts counter beliefs.  The parallel to my Santa experience and today’s American culture is tragically obvious.  While Santa Claus is no longer part of the belief, many Americans do hold true to a context of society which is not reality based and does not align with the facts.  Except it’s not parents telling us how to think, and it’s not Santa Claus we are told to believe in.  Citizens respect and accept the framework created by mass media, many place full trust in getting an accurate story about the most relevant news stories.  Dedicated viewers, intending to be well-informed, are guided how to think based on what is shown and more importantly what is omitted.  Most American’s don’t question their disillusion since it correlates with the popular opinion (much like I did with my classmates), even when confronted with details not supported in the “official” story.  The believers see America as being free and equal, they believe the American Dream is real and everyone has the same fair opportunity to achieve it.  I’d like to share this as a reality, except unlike my confusion about Santa, I can see through the present fiction.

In the last few weeks I have been absorbed with the turmoil in our country; viewing news programs, livestreams, monitoring social media and reading articles.  It’s been thrilling to watch the response of countless people demonstrating their frustration with the justice system, with racial disparity and with police militarization.  The variety of people aware and being active ranges to include all ages, religions, ethnicities and socio-economic status.  People who know and recognize the devastating effects felt from inequality and invasion of rights.  Across the country people have taken to social media to express their frustration, walked out of work and school in unison across the nation, held their hands up to political figures, boycotted Black Friday and taken to the streets.  Highways, bridges, train stations, malls and major intersections have been shut down by marches, attempting to bring attention to those distracted by the illusion of justice being served.

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The activists across the country have overall been peaceful, despite the attention being placed on rioting and fires, coincidently a great focal point for the news to reinforce fear.  Watching these demonstrations happenings in every major city, some erupting spontaneously, typically with few arrests and no violence inspires my hope for progress.  My optimism rapidly deflates when I hear the media influenced comments like “He deserved it,” or “They’re just burning up their own neighborhoods with those riots,” the ignorant statements like “There’s not really racial disparity,” or “I haven’t heard about what’s happening,” and the actively avoiding “I have better things to worry about,” or “I’m sick of hearing about…”

Now the number of believers inconvenienced by protests are growing rapidly, their cognitive dissonance escalating too.  It is impossible to ignore the passion and effort people have for a cause when they take to the streets facing ridicule and risking arrest to voice the societal emergency being ignored.  Believers have to confront the idea of some truth to this if so many people are screaming to pay attention.  Believers begin feeling more and more uncomfortable when faced with facts opposed to their American truth.

Slave LaborThey defend their belief’s against statistics spelling out the value of profit over people in the prison system, the undeniable fact America has 5% of the world’s population and incarcerated 25% of the world’s prison population.  They find ways to justify how black men are arrested at least 2 to 5 times more frequently than white men for drug charges despite similar rates of use.  Believers ignore the fact 1 in 15 black men are behind bars, equating to more locked up and on parole in our country today than were slaves in 1850.  Believers have never had to experience trying to get a job after jail or had their rights to vote removed.  And they fail to connect poor education, fatherless children, and minimum wage positions which don’t support the cost of living with being ways to prevent criminal activity.  Instead believers blame the oppressed class and label them as lazy leaches of the system, denying the truth the system was created to do exactly this.  Americans are left squabbling about who is to blame while corporate America runs off with the profits and stay protected by the government.  For believer’s maintaining their comfortable life, they are aware of bailouts and corporate tax exceptions, yet they hang onto the idea if you work hard you are rewarded.

Believers find ways to excuse criminal acts by police officers often blasting the inherent worth of the victim as a person, forgetting we all make mistakes and ignoring accountability for the murder completely.  Even in the case of Eric Garner where the technique used was banned, it was determined a homicide and the whole incident was caught on video.  “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me.  I’m tired of it.  It stops today,” Garner said before being choked to death.  He was unarmed and committed no crime when he was accosted by the police.  He resisted, like Rosa Parks, tired of being black in America.

police military

Comply with the police – IT’S THE LAW!!

Believers say comply with police, it’s the law, except they don’t live the reality of being harassed.  They don’t know the experience of being targeted simply based on appearance.  #crimingwhilewhite and #alivewhileblack were two trends on Twitter this month.  Hilariously tragic when confronted by thousands of tweets illustrating how white Americans have literally gotten away with crimes or had minimal consequences, while black Americans are targeted by police on a regular basis doing nothing wrong.  One might say “You can’t believe everything on the internet, people can just make up things on Twitter.”  True yes, and still of the thousands of messages to consider this trend just imagined is complete denial of the problem.  Judgements on each side of the argument are defeating, not all police officers are bad, not all black people are criminals and not all white people are racist.

The marches happening in cities across the country are both inspiring and worrisome to me.  Thousands of brave individuals have banded together to draw more attention to the average American believer, and they are met with armies of officers intending to absorb any positive effect created.  The police force is frightening with tanks, riot gear, rubber bullets, tear gas and other military crowd control weapons like LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device/sound canon.)  Believers see the militarized police force as crucial for safety, since they have been conditioned to fear people and want to maintain their comfortable routines.  They cannot imagine the dedication to a cause it takes to gather peacefully and have to face this

Boston Police State April 19, 2013

Boston Police State April 19, 2013

violent army.  Isn’t it astonishing how there are budget cuts in every government service to help people, yet there always seems to be money for war or to spend on police equipment when anticipating a protest?  Believers would prefer tanks down their streets and swat teams surrounding their homes to provide the illusion of safety.  I wonder how residents of Boston felt, in April 2013, when they were removed from their homes at gunpoint in the hunt for a teenager?

Trying to communicate rationally and educate about facts is often met with justifying the need to fear people, the need to place blame and the need to continue the militarized police strength.  Americans blindly give faith in their government officials to fix it.  They are convinced their values have to fit in either red or blue, conservative or liberal and stand by their identity.  Separation tolerated more blame and ignites arguments.  Being a non-believer, I cannot comprehend how 2 opinions fairly encompasses the views and needs of over 300,000,000 people.  Especially when those in power on both sides, are serving corporations and promoting the rich to get richer.  Americans feel the cognitive dissonance, wanting to pretend everything is fine, we are free and our democracy works; also recognizing the status quo cannot sustain us.  Constitutional rights and human rights are being violated in an effort to support a broken system.  The problem with admitting the belief is over and it’s time for a change evokes fear.  How do we give up how things are without knowing what is to come?

I know there is happiness in Christmas after Santa Claus.  I also know the believer’s reality where the police are given the power to use against people is a scary future for everyone.  The people don’t have to agree on how America will look in the years to come, there just has to be a united agreement this has to change.

police seattle group-of-policemen-wih-shields-and-weapons-in-street ferguson-missouri-9SWAT Robot

 

 

Giving Thanks

TurkeyhandThanksgiving is here to celebrate!

It’s not about the Turkey on your plate,

It’s not about watching football,

Or a late night shopping trip to the mall,

Thanksgiving is time to appreciate,

Be thankful and know life is great.

From Inspired Living we send,

Wishes for happy times with family and friends.

 

Since I am lacking in skill in the kitchen, Parker and I worked on a crafty project in preparation for Thanksgiving.  We painted her hands and printed cards for her family and a few friends.  Shepic&sig wrote out her name (in her sweet four year old print) on hearts and we pasted the turkeys, hearts, pictures and a simple poem onto cards.  Parker stickered up the envelopes while I printed out the addresses and sent them across town and across the country.

Parker and I talked about her cousins and her family, she was excited knowing her thoughtful piece of mail would make them smile.  As Thanksgiving seems less and less about being thankful, and more and more about consumerism and holiday shopping – I want to ensure she knows the holiday is dedicated to family time.  I want her to spend time appreciating the people around us who help make our life wonderful.

When Good Ideas Go Bad

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6 and don’t want to know tiny details of the story, do not read.  Be warned it may not be appropriate for younger audiences or maybe just not in place of a nap!?

We live just a few blocks from an AMC movie theater and pass by it on almost a daily basis, so, on almost a daily basis Parker suggests in the sweetest possible tone, with her held slightly tilted to the side and cheesy grin, “Mom, we could go to see a movie.”  She’s only been a few times; based on how she suddenly becomes a boss lady explaining where to wait in line, where to go and what to do, you’d think my four-year old is employed there.

Yesterday I beat her to the punch and surprised Parker with a mother/daughter day date to the movies.  Daddy may have felt a little left out, though, saving on his ticket, snacks and paying matinée prices equates to huge savings in theater dollars.  As we waited in line to buy tickets she reported we needed to go look at the posters on the wall to pick a movie, not understanding the movie had already been chosen.

Happy for the movie theater adventure.

Happy for the movie theater adventure.

“Big Hero, remember with the kid and the robot?” I reminded her. She and I had been watching previews for Big Hero 6 for weeks, always pointing out the scene where the kid packs the robot’s fluff into the armour and it all bursts back off.  Parker accepted, only slightly annoyed to not get to choose off the wall yet still happy to be at the movies.  Against my desire to be frugal, I bought her an overly priced snack pack.  A few puffs of popcorn, a small cup of lemonade and bag of fruit snacks (my fruit snack loving kid claimed “I don’t like these,” refusing to open the bag).  Parker played with the motorized leg rests, ate popcorn, giggled at previews and mumbled undistinguishable babble between them in order to hear me hush and reiterate we have to be quiet in the movie theater.

On my lap, still smiling before the movie.

On my lap, still smiling before the movie.

A soon as the lights went out she crawled over to my lap where she snuggled in for the remainder of the movie.  In hind-sight maybe I should have looked into what the movie plot was and made an informed decision about whether my spontaneous activity was an appropriate one.  Instead, there we were and there she witnessed the death of Hero’s brother.  And by witness, I mean in the Disney sense, where the character walks off and you know what happens without explicitly seeing it.  Even though I’m positive Parker has seen other shows where death has occurred it made me wonder if she understands it differently now?  If maybe the method of walking into a fire was more emotionally stimulating? I was slightly resentful considering she doesn’t even have a sibling to relate it to but when the death of parents occurred in Frozen she didn’t even blink…  Granted it was just built into a catchy little tune inviting the construction of happy winter creatures.

Parker tried to initiate a conversation in the silence of the movie theater to explain the scene, I did my best to validate the need to talk about it and told her we would have to wait until after the movie (also buying me time to come up with an explanation of premature death by fire in four-year old speak.)  She appeared to enjoy a lot of it chuckling at the silliness of the robot and then covering her eyes at scary parts.  Again, I know she has seen scary parts of movies.  Villains, witches and monsters are not foreign to this child, yet something about the bad guy in a nightmarish mask was more fear provoking than any she had seen before.

Near the end of the movie, whether from the lemonade sweetener wearing off, the fact we had overlapped would-be nap time with the movie, or the build-up of action and emotion, Parker was sobbing.  She reminded me of the women trying to hide their bawling in a full movie theater during opening night of the Notebook, trying to be quiet while fighting the urge to wail in agony.  The movie had broken her down and she could not take anymore, by the time I had filled my hands with our belongings to walk out the action was over, the rescue had occurred and the movie was wrapping up.  PJ had calmed down and thankfully re-tuned in to see the happy ending.

We walked out of the theater holding hands, tears still streaming as Parker remarked “I did not like that movie,” and I feeling less of myself as a mom for subjecting my child to the terror she suffered.  She couldn’t verbalize if it was because she was scared or sad and what it was that bothered her.  Later in the evening she spoke with Daddy about our outing to the movies.  It was funny to hear her recap of the plot and comment she didn’t like it but would see it again with Daddy.  “It was just out of control,” she told him.

Lesson learned… Impromptu trips to the movies have greater implications for young children, what is seen can’t be unseen, plan wisely.  I bet she stops asking me to take her to the movies, though.

The Vacuum of Vacuums

I wish I were talking about the greatest vacuum in the world, the most reliable engineered home-cleaning system.  Sadly, I’m talking about my home literally sucking the life out of vacuum cleaners.

The day we brought my daughter home from the hospital my husband went to purchase a new vacuum cleaner.  Funny to think I remember it so clearly, maybe it was because he felt the urgency for a momentary escape from the emotional magnitude of bringing home a baby.  Maybe it was feeling like we needed an exceptionally clean start for the new precious being.  Or maybe it was an errand he could contribute because this new tiny creature was infinitely latched to my boobs.

I can’t even think of what we had been using prior to the new vacuum, probably a hand-me-down appliance like most others throughout our home.  I do know, the purchase began our spiral of irreparable cleaning apparatuses.  Thankfully, since the purchase was made at Costco we have been able to lug in our dusty useless equipment, no box and no receipt and walk out with a fresh start.  Over the years we have seen the same model in a variety of colors and minimal improvements, at no cost except the gas and time it takes to make the transaction.  In the last four years we have had a revolving door of vacuums making this exchange at least once and sometimes twice per year.

One might think a consumer is being too hard on the vacuum, how could it really break that often?  Our square footage of carpet isn’t even too great in our little home, a few rugs, two carpeted bedrooms and one living space.  Regular usage to rid our home of shed dog hair, kid messes and typical traffic, I don’t think it’s more than an average home.  And I certainly haven’t dropped it down the stairs, thrown objects at it or beaten it in any way – at least thoughts of raging on the machines don’t cause physical harm. vacuum5 People say things aren’t made like they used to be and claim the investment is worth it for a machine from the door to door variety.  Then again, I’d hate to think of my home sucking the life out of antique or ultra expensive vacuum, a risk I’m not willing to take as long as they keep taking broken ones at Costco.

Still, it doesn’t take long in our home to go from “just out of the box” condition to slowly loosing it’s suction.  A vacuuming job quickly ends up sucking time out of my day to take bits of it apart, cleaning it and cutting out threads and hairs trying to get back to working condition.  When a recent exchange failed in less than three months, I borrowed a spare vacuum my mom had in her home.  All I could do was laugh when the whole upper half of the machine came off with the mere pull of the handle, of course in my home the Vacuum of Vacuums.

And last week I had the time to do one of my favorite floor cleaning rituals… Steam cleaning rugs.  I poured the appropriate measurements of solution and water into the machine, plenty of which made it evenly dispersed onto the rugs.  Very little of it ended up suctioned back into the steam cleaner, and it was only its second use.  Out of the time it took me to steam clean the rugs, most it was sucked into squatting on the floor trying to find out why it wasn’t sucking.

Yesterday I made the official return to Costco (again) and this time opted to upgrade to the more expensive model vacuum.  I’ll try to stay optimistic and believe it will become my faithful tool, my companion for cleaning for decades.  Let’s hope the shark will not fall victim to the Vacuum of Vacuums or our only choice will be to move to a home with no carpet.

clean-house