Monday, September 22, 2014

BUH BUH BUH...BREAKDOWN



I honestly had the feeling lately that I am not cut out for adulthood. I can't handle it. I do NOT have it all together. I WANT it all together, but it's so not. My house is a disaster. Like not just messy but really dirty and gross on top of being messy. My kids don't have appropriate clothes for the approaching season. Their shoes are too small. I can't locate a single pair of socks for Tom Little. There are legos EVERYWHERE. Tubs and tubs of clothes my kids have outgrown are taking over my bedroom because we can't fit them in the garage that is already overflowing. Also, we JUST started homeschooling this week, and, if I'm truthful (which I tend to be), it was a sad excuse for homeschooling. I'm pretty sure Enid is never going to read. In conversation with Heath, I realized I thought Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt were the same person which made me question my teaching capabilities. I have a business to which I am desperately trying to attend. Portraits due this week. Oh and my kids need their shots, but I don't know how to responsibly get them their shots. Do I split them up so their bodies aren't overwhelmed by live vaccines? Should I vaccinate at all? Of course I should! I have a book to read about it. Add that to the to-do list. Food. There's also food to think about three times a day. We watched Fed Up last week (homeschool), and I'm completely overwhelmed. We're just gonna eat eggs from my backyard. I know they are ok. My bathrooms need repair. I need a haircut. I haven't showered in three days. Our bank account is empty. BUH BUH BUH BUH BUH BUH...


This clip from Overboard sums up my feelings perfectly : http://youtu.be/RndG23-Vu-k

Monday, September 8, 2014

THE FAIR PARADE OF SMALL TOWN AMERICA

The fair parade. I grew up sort of mocking the small town gathering of citizens, all there to see a weird collection of demolition derby cars/drivers, beauty queens in cowboy hats, and the grand finale of horses and fragrant horse droppings. But somewhere along the way the fair parade has become one of the most endearing parts of our existence in small town America.

I remember when it happened actually. It was the first year I took Silas. He was probably Tom's age. I had gathered on the court square with my usual dose of cynicism when a police officer, who was riding through the parade on a motorcycle, pulled over and let Silas come sound the siren. I mean it was Norman Rockwell through and through, and, no joke, tears welled up in my eyes. I was NOT expecting sentimentality to creep up on me like that! But it certainly did, and I've been enjoying the parade ever since.

Not everyone enjoys a parade, however. Tom is one of those who hates loud noises of any kind. No siren sounding for this bloke, I'm afraid. He spent the entire time like this, with his fingers in his ears, poor kid. 

 But the rest of them had a blast. There's just something sweet about the community coming together around the pre-Civil War era courthouse to see peewee football players and cheerleaders, marching bands from local schools, politicians campaigning their causes, and proud owners of vintage cars meandering through our little court square and streets and tossing fists full of candy our way, the kids pointing out people they know all the while.


Typically I'm all, "Gross, we don't need all this candy!" But the candy collecting is part of the fun for the kids, scurrying out there like little rats to snatch whatever has been tossed their way. I think the challenge might actually outweigh the fun of eating the loot. Oh, and of course the trading of goods when we get home is a highlight. Always gotta do the trading.










I'm gonna choose not to say a whole lot about how inconsiderate the driver of this car was. Everyone knows you don't park your car on the square where kids will be standing and viewing the parade. Everyone knows, but this year "some people" chose to ignore what everyone knows and therefore ruin my pictures! The nerve!!  So instead of a nice view of the court square, I have a purple whatever car this is as my background. Not cool. Not cool at all. Don't people know that moms want to get pictures and blog everything?! Hehe.


 Miss Enid gets the prize for most enthused. As usual. This child gets excited about the most insignificant of events.

And Tommy wins for most put-out.  Gotta give him credit for standing his ground. He never gave himself over to the fun of it all.

Small town Arkansas can get me down at times, but I try to focus on the little perks. Walking downtown, meeting family and friends, laughing and maybe even hopping in the decades-old drug store for a bottled coke: it's very much a scene from the Andy Griffith show (aside from a little extra grit and cellulite). It's not a fancy existence, but it's ours, and we're trying to make the best of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

AN END OF SUMMER BIRTHDAY PARTY

Since Tristin's birthday is December 26th, we always celebrate it sometime in the summer. Every year it seems to get a little tougher to come up with a party that is not a slumber party. I don't do slumber parties. I don't plan on ever doing a slumber party. 

Tristin is turning 12 in December, and it's hard to know what will be fun for 12 year olds. So I decided it might be helpful to get Tristin in on the party planning process. She and I looked online, and she told me stuff she thought was cool. We perused Oh Happy Day and The Alison Show and came up with some stuff that ended up being just right for this age group. 

We decided to go with a loosely themed "End of Summer" party: watermelon, fruit, ice cream, water balloons, succulents...you get the idea. 


For decor I just tried to make it fun and colorful. I printed these "PARTY" letters off at home, cut them out then taped 'em up with some fun tape. Nothing elaborate, just fun.

Tristin loved the "Throne of Awesome" from The Alison Show and wanted something similar. So I used this crazy cool printable 3-D fruit from Mr. Printables to throw together a poor man's version of the Throne. It was for an 11 year old, keep in mind. She loved it and wants to keep it in her room.



We decided we paint pots and plant succulents since they are reeeeeally easy to keep alive. If I can keep them alive, a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds can keep them alive. 

I printed out a little inspiration sheet for the girls. It always helps to have something to get the creative juices flowing.



I picked up the cups, napkins, and plates from WalMart. The pineapple straws and pink flamingo stirrers were dollar store finds. 

Instead of cake, we did ice cream sundaes. Oh, and I filled these Mr. Printable watermelon slices with gum and starbursts for the girls' take-away. We saw something like it on Oh Happy Day I believe. 

The girls laughed and talked and ate ice cream then laughed and talked and painted pots. It really was pretty sweet, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves. And, you know, while decorating for a party can be somewhat taxing, I think it really makes the girls feel like everything is more fun than it really is ;)



I gotta give a special shout-out to these girls. They welcomed Enid into every single thing they did. She sat with them, laughed with them, played with them, the whole time. Not all 11/12 year old girls would be cool with that. Enid ATE IT UP!


As you can see...

Tristin got a karaoke machine which I thought the girls might have some fun with. But they were a wee shy. Not Enid.

Tristin really wanted to take funny photos of her and her friends. So we fixed a little backdrop area, got some big glasses and pinwheels at the dollar store, and let them go to town. (phone photos ahead)



And of course I had to get in on the fun a little.


After all of the indoor activities, the girls (and Silas) ventured into the backyard for a little water balloon action. No pics of that. It went too quickly and I was spent by that point, but you get the idea. Lots of laughing and good times.

Happy Birthday to this prize of a child. She had fun. Very much fun. And she deserved every bit of it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

LOCAL YOCAL: AUNT MAE


Alright, so everyone knows I like a good midi skirt. And yes, I realize I wear them a lot (probably too much), but I know what I like and I like midi skirts. So when my lovely sister-in-law Megan came to town a few weeks ago and was wearing this ADORABLE skirt, I knew I had to have one for myself. Then she told me she MADE IT! Oh my word, you know I was all over her to make me one. And so she did! It's so awesome!! You guys are gonna get sick of me wearing it, for sure. 


Such a fun print, and I love the fullness! Oh, and it's this thick fabric so it doesn't wrinkle much at all! I mean I haven't wadded it up in a ball and left it for hours, but I've worn it a bunch and it still looks great. 

(You'll have to excuse Enid. She has a hard time staying out of the spotlight. And she likes changing clothes which is why we have piles and piles of clothes existing in her room. )


Dressed up or dressed down, I love this skirt!



And even though I'm not a sports fan, for all you AR Razorback fanatics, pair it with my favorite Erin Lorenzen tee or any one of her super cute AR tees, and you have the perfect game day get-up! I'm so into game-day things ;)

I'm excited to see what all Megan does with this talent of hers.  I'm seeing more fun skirts down the road, or at least I'm hoping. For more details on getting your own skirt, check out Shop Aunt Mae on Etsy! (Aunt Mae, that's what my kids call her. I love it.) Or if you're in the Northwest Arkansas area, this skirt will be carried at one of my favorite shops, The Mustache Goods & Wares.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

PARENTS AND THE INTERNETS

photo by Cassie Jones

I started the day by reading the news. Take my advice. Don't. It's too much. So many disturbed and sad and troubled and depressed and bad people out there. Anyone read about the 12 year old boy who stabbed the 9 year old boy to death on a playground in Michigan? The 12 year old KID called 911 to turn himself in and asked them to "come kill me, I want to end my life". He had apparently taken pills earlier in the day, too, and said something about no one loving him. Messed up, huh. Sooooooo messed up.

While reading the news, I came across this article on CNN, Longing for the Carefree Parenting Style of Yesterday, written by Kelly Wallace. The article is part of the series, The Sixties, that CNN has put together, and examines the differences, good and bad, in the parenting of decades before the internet versus that of today. I so enjoyed the article and highly recommend taking the time to read it. It's a short, easy read (the only kind that interests me).

Basically, in the 60's (and 70's and 80's for that matter) parents were way more chill. Kids played outside in the neighborhood until after dark, parents never even thinking to worry. I can remember roaming the neighborhood ALL DAY without so much as checking in with my mom. We played in creeks. We roamed the streets. We walked to the neighborhood convenient store and bought way too much Laffy Taffy and Sugar Babies and carried it away in a little brown paper bag, devouring it throughout our pick-up baseball games or crawdad hunts or acorn throwing wars. Lunch? Health? Structure? Safety? What were those?

Today, we parents are afraid, we are very afraid. This is 2014, and no child of mine is roaming the neighborhood, even if we lived in a neighborhood, which we do not. I mean, a 12 year old kid stabbed another kid to death in Michigan! I want to be more carefree and "chill" like the parents of yesterday, but it's a catch 22. A lot of our fears are real. We actually can't let our kids roam the neighborhoods like we did growing up. Or could we? I can't even tell what is what anymore. Are there more mean and sick people in the world than there used to be? Or are we just more aware of them than we once were? Are we overly protective? Or does our culture and society demand such? And what's more, if it's not a neighborhood stabbing or school shooting or a world-wide Ebola outbreak that we are worrying about, it's that our parenting style isn't going to produce "awesome" children. The cited article would argue that the internet is partially to blame for our perhaps exaggerated fears as parents, both externally and internally. It's not that bad things didn't exist in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, or that parental insecurities weren't a reality, they did and were, but today, we, as parents, know more. We have easy access to terrifying information whether we seek it out or not, and also to an over-bundance of opinions and pet-peeves about how we are raising our kids, making us more fearful and insecure than parents of yesterday.

One particular point the article's author makes is that before the fears that are arguably heightened by the World Wide Web, kids didn't used to be so structured. Because of fewer reminders of the obviously imminent end of the world, parents had the mental freedom to be less afraid and kids had the freedom to therefore also be less afraid, enabling parents to enable kids to more freely choose how to use their time. For parents of yesterday there wasn't pressure to plan events and to have something organized to do every single day because kids were structuring their own events, using their imaginations to create activities for themselves and their friends around the neighborhood.  Parents and kids weren't expecting disaster to be lurking around every corner and therefore kids had the freedom to go and do and be. Kids were expected to just be kids. Now, because we can't let our kids go and do on their own,  we are signing them up for every single extra-curricular activity under the sun: baseball, soccer, gymnastics, dance, theater, choir, band (well roundedness and all), art, volleyball, golf camp, football camp, camp camp, VBS... SO MUCH STUFF! There used to be this thing called free time. Can you even imagine? Time free of activities and over-stimulation. And to top it all off, free time was also monetarily free! Now we gotta plan stuff! We have a friend over? Gotta plan something to DO with the friend (something that costs money). We have a day off? Gotta plan an activity (something that costs money). We wake up? Gotta have a structured plan for every waking hour (more money). Oh my goodness. It all makes me want to run the opposite direction. So much so that I'm probably ruining my kids.

In fact, the internet would say that I am most certainly ruining my kids.  Hey, and guess what, so are all of you.  Someone out there thinks you are screwing up your kids, and they are telling you about it. This is another aspect of parenting influenced by the internet that this article explores. There is no shortage of opinions online, so many qualified and UNqualified folks explaining to us parents that we are doing everything wrong, EVERYTHING. Seriously. Parents didn't used to be so insecure. But now, whichever parenting route we take, someone out there on the internet, whether it be a scientist or our neighbor down the road, is telling us it is wrong. The internet age has us questioning every move we make. We are afraid of the world and afraid of ourselves at the same time.

A few weeks ago I was on the ol' Facebook, about to post this really hilarious and undoubtedly interesting to everyone thing one of my kids did (wink, wink), when I came across an equally interesting kind of status dogging some parenting methods and therefore informing me that I'm failing miserably as a parent. Then as is the tendency of Facebookers, those who agreed with the particular issue jumped in on the conversation and a rant ignited amongst others who apparently wanted to punch some Facebookers in their status updates. You know you've done it. I've DEFINITELY done it. We Facebookers LOVE the opportunity to gripe about other FACEBOOKERS, do we not? It's like passive aggression or something like that. And I guess that's exactly what I'm doing now? DOH! Let's ignore that for the sake of exploring where this is going.

Of course there is the whole freedom of speech thing, which is good. It's GREAT in fact, and by all means, exercise your freedom. I'm exercising mine! But for me, I am realizing some things about my personal freedom of speech and the responsibility that comes along with such freedom. I've realized I have contributed to and even instigated critical and divisive conversations myself. So I'm not throwing stones about the FB stuff or anything. I've done it. Like, way too much. But I never want to ever again. I don't want to be divisive or make other parents who are just trying to be good parents feel terrible about themselves. Cause guess what? We're just trying to make connections, to have friends, to share, and be good parents. Parents are already feeling bad about themselves without those of us who apparently have it all figured out telling them about it. It seems there is a kinder method by which to get across one's point than a pointed Facebook status, many of us being too eager and quick to voice our opinions and often in disregard for the feelings or perspective of others. And there you have the extra parental insecurities of today.

Truth be told, I am geared toward being critical and negative, so it's a challenge for me. But it's a challenge I'm giving myself, to be a positive online person. I am human and naturally suck sometimes, so expect me to fail.

Now, I am generally a proponent of the internet, so after dogging it a bit, I want to acknowledge that this article I'm citing also made mention of the internet's good qualities. There are some by the way. Many, in fact. The potential for good is great. But we people are always messing up good stuff. The internet can be incredibly advantageous for today's parents. Many would agree it's pretty cool to easily connect with parents all over the world who are just trying to raise good kids. It can be helpful to connect with others and, yes, to share. Cause guess what, like they say, it takes a village, and we don't really live in villages anymore, so sometimes we use our internet village. I just want to be a positive light in that village. And sometimes I blow it and screw it all up, but my goals are to nix the negative criticism and recognize that I might be part of the problem. We have the power to lessen the pressures, to encourage rather than criticize, to find common ground rather than honing in on our differences, to embolden rather than induce fear.

So parents, do you long for the carefree parenting of yesterday? Are you like me and are constantly feeling fearful of the world and yourself? Are you convinced you're doing it all wrong? Are you certain you're making parenting mistakes? Well, you are. And I am. And your parents did. And theirs before them did. We are all doing something to hinder our kids from developing into the most awesome human beings with every opportunity to be physically and mentally and socially and spiritually and economically superior. I say we all screw up our kids in support of one another. Here's to raising average kids who want to be good neighbors and love other people! Here's to working through our fears enough to let our kids explore and enjoy the short lives we are given (within reason and with adequate, thought out precaution of course)! And there I go, failing already. Who's with me? Ready to fail with the best of us? Ready to raise the "worst"and least "awesome" generation yet? I'm just aiming to raise kids who will not stab other kids. Kids who are loved and who know it. I want my kids to appreciate life and the lives of others. Bad at sports, terribly uncoordinated, less than brilliant, but socially aware and full of kindness and optimism and love and support and encouragement for their fellow man. And while the realities of the world should not be ignored, I don't want to live in fear. I certainly don't wish for my kids to live in fear. Who's with me?