Is it really “child torture”?

I was once asked why I torture children.  Whoa!  Let me explain.

A four-year old wanted to play make-believe with me.  No problemo!  I am always in for some fun and games.  Well, she started off by saying that we would be playing tea party.  “YOU can be a princess and I’LL be a princess…” at which point I interrupted her (as children are apt to do when we adults speak).

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“I don’t want to play tea party,” I said calmly.  “Let’s play something else”.  Child torture?  I think not.

When I play with children, I love getting their minds working.  I love challenging them.  I want to see and hear what they will think of next.  Honestly, they are brilliant!  There are things that we, as adults, can teach them.  However, their minds, at the young age, have a world focus that is so pure and genuine.  It’s a mind that we adults used to have, but then had reprogrammed along the way to adulthood.  As we went to school we were taught to think a certain way.  We were taught about past beliefs and were not only encouraged, but forced to think that same way.  I recall, as a child, I needed some form of escape.  I think this is what got me reading at a young age.   It was something to release me from reality.

Reading is a great escape.  A good author can have you leave this reality and enter another world using only your mind’s eye.  This is often the reason why I prefer reading the books instead of seeing their counterpart movie versions.  Movies cannot recreate what I have beautifully conceived and visualized in my mind.  This is also one reason why I love the Harry Potter series so much.

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This wonderful woman (J.K. Rowling) has written stories that children are enthusiastic about.  They WANT to read.  Youngsters and many adults (me included) love them!  The stories are exciting, but also sometimes scary.  There are good people and evil people.  These stories, although taking place in a magical world, incorporate everything going on in our muggle…ahem…human world.  Think about it.  J.K. Rowling’s story about Harry Potter talks about bullying.  It talks about shy people.  It is detailed about friendships and how you can end up in arguments with your best friends.   It discusses bravery.  It tells the reader that you will find friends in the strangest of places.  You learn that there are those who will always have your back and those who will always try to put you down.  In the end, the moral of this series for me is that, no matter how difficult life’s challenges may be, it is important to always to be true to yourself and hold onto your beliefs.  Again, my opinion only.  I am sure there are many differing opinions about these books.  Huzzah!  Even better…books that mean something different to everyone.

Back to my non-tea party playdate (a.k.a. adorable granddaughter).  Did she get mad and storm off when I said I didn’t want to play princess tea party?  Nope.  She sat back for a second, hummed and hawed and said, “Ok, let’s play hospital.”  The new game was about to begin.  Oh sure, I kept changing stuff along the way.  She wanted me to be the doctor and I told her I wanted to be the patient.  She let that one go too.  Then she wanted me to have a baby and I wanted to have a broken leg.  Well, that one I gave in to.  Why?  Well, she had the baby doll all lined up and ready to go.  Lesson learned:  If you want to have friends to play with, sometimes it’s your way and sometimes it will be your friend’s way.

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I know that parents want their children to be happy, happy, happy all the time.  No tears, no issues in life.  Give them whatever they want because you love them with all your heart and would never want anything to hurt them.  The difficulty with this is that the real world isn’t like home.  Eventually they will have to deal with the bullies or they might not get their own way.  What will they do then?  How will they handle it?  If you don’t have them try it out at home where it’s controlled and safe, they won’t know what to do when it happens outside the safe house.

Conclusion:  You may disagree with what I have said.  That is fine with me.  We all have our opinions about teaching children to become great citizens in this world of ours.  There are gads of books out there from psychologists to psychiatrists to other parents.  Every parent worries that they are the worst parent ever and that someone else has the right answer and the best way to raise their children.  NEWSFLASH!  Parents who love and care for their children ARE great parents.  Everyone is doing it wrong and everyone is doing it right.  That’s why there are so many books on this subject because no one really knows the best way.  If your gut tells you it feels right then go with that way.  You will be happy and your child will be happy and happy people go on to live happy lives.

Feel free to challenge your kids during playtime.  No harm…no foul.  Your brilliant lad or lassie will surprise you with what they can come up with.  “Child torture”?  Naaaaah!  Let’s refer to it as…mini-brain stimulation.  When you get that clever answer back you won’t regret it.  Give yourself a star for being the BESTEST PARENT.  (Yes…my made up word, but there should be a word for something better than best)!

Dear Parent / Guardian – Please feel free to print off this star and wear it proudly.

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Food Fight!

You are probably thinking that I am going to regale you with the many high school adventures I had with food fights.  Firstly you would be incorrect as we never had food fights in my high school cafeteria.  Secondly, I can’t throw straight!  (You can confirm that with my dart-playing partner.)  So, what food fight am I referring to?  Let me gently guide you back to your childhood for this one.  If that part of your life has bad memories then you can easily relate while watching (your) children.  Here we go.

Close your eyes and think back to a time when you were playing with your brother or sister or cousin or neighbourhood kid.  Now, recall when a bag of chips came out.  The bag was cautiously opened by an adult to ensure minimum spillage.  The glorious contents of the bag were then deployed into an awaiting cavernous bowl.  YES!  Junk food!  Chips!  Woo hoo!  You would think this would be an amazing event and all would be happy.  NOT! Why?  Well, if there was a younger (spoiled) sibling it got ruined.  Who got the biggest chip?  Who got the chip with the most flavour toppings on it?  Once you got down to the end of the bowl, how could it be divided evenly?  Does this sound like your family?  Chips were a special food group in our humble abode.  Now, let’s ramp up the crazy and discuss the genius solution that my brother and I came up with in order to ensure equality.

Me:  There aren’t too many chips in this bag.

Bro:  I know.

Me:  Our two cousins are here so we need to make sure we share or we’ll get in trouble.

Bro:  I know!  Let’s crush the chips so there’s more of ’em!

Me:  Great idea!

Well, truth be told, we actually had our cousins help us crunch up the chips into bitty pieces so that there would be more pieces for everyone to share. Genius right?  Perhaps, but eating chip crumbs wasn’t that great.

Now, let’s discuss family meal time.  How about that can of pork and beans!  I loved this canned delight!  Honestly, when I saw that on the dinner table I was mega-excited!  As a child I loved the thickness of the sauce and how tasty it was.  However, there was a glitch…pork.  The can stated there was “pork” and beans in its innards.  How true!  Imagine a family of six.  Two adults and four children.  There was a “pork” inside.  One “pork” in the pork and beans.  Who would be lucky to get the “pork”.  If you have never had the honour of digesting the contents of a can of pork ‘n’ beans, you cannot really understand the need to be the “Chosen One” to get that insignificant little fatty piece of bacon.  You want Food Fight!  Bring it on!  This was where the debate began of who was worthy.  To this day, I view this canned good as a vessel of divisive evil.

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Moving right along we come to the eternal evil: CEREAL!  I do believe that serial killer was hatched from the word CEREAL!  From childhood to grandparenthood I do not find that cereal has good qualities.  I shall explain.

Cereal commercials show the benefits of these boxed glorified sugar bandits.  They contain fibre, vitamins, iron, petroleum, fairy dust and other things we know nothing about.  For some reason, as children, the FUN cereals were the ones that led to the most trouble.  Do you recall “Count Chocula”?  Healthy breakfast?  Heck no!  We wanted it because it would make chocolate milk.  When my mother actually bought a box we children stood there in awe trying to figure out the type of hostage situation we would have to deal with.   There it was.  The box of our imagination.  It was in front of eyes.  Not only did we get our dream cereal but there was a prize inside!  Oops.  There was the catch.  Since we were only permitted about a 1/4 cup of that prized cereal to mix with our Rice Krispies and Honey Comb cereal we had no idea who would be the lucky one to get the prize.  Dissension occurred.  What if Mom picked the youngest child out of pity?  What it the child with the best grades got the prize?  What if it meant being nicest to mom?  What were the rules to getting the prize?  You want insane behaviour?  Find a child surrounded by other children competing for the two-cent prize in a cereal box.  The rules changed.  You were never ready.

The same deal for the Cracker Jack box.  Lovely box with caramel popcorn.  There was a prize inside.  Gadzooks!  If one child got the prize there was always a fight.  Honestly, the prizes were crap, but it was always about who got something more than the other kid.  You solo kids…you missed out on all the drama in life.

 

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The same holds true for marshmallows in hot chocolate.  You had better ensure that each child gets the same amount of marshmallows in that brown frothy goodness.  That is a misstep that parents make and it leads to traumatic psychiatric treatments.

Popsicles?  Same drama.  For some reason that mixed box of popsicles should only contain purple and red.  Why is there an orange flavour for children?  In the olden days only red and purple were of any use.  They were like the gold bullion of frozen sugar water. Orange?  Bleh.

SUMMARY:  Food fights.  Jealous food fisticuffs are all about who got what and why or who was deemed more deserving.  Perhaps the world is better off with real food fights.  Although I have never partaken in such a vigorous display of displeasure, I have seen reels of The Three Stooges throwing cream pies at many an adversary.  What did I learn?  It appears that the evil ones were stymied.  The good, although creamed, being recipients of said sugary confections, appeared to be satisfactory with the results of their actions.  In plain English:  FOOD FIGHT!!!!!   Whip it!  Whip it Good!   (Let’s “LOL” you children of the ’80s)

 

New illness revealed…

Everyday there seems to be some kind of new disease taking over the world.  I do believe I have discovered a new illness.  It is quite uncomfortable and irritating, and it usually clears up after a couple of days.  If I am correct, and this is a new disease, then I shall be famously known as the woman who discovered, diagnosed, and provided the remedy for the infamous Croatianitus (pronounced:  kro-aye-shun-eye-tis).  What is Croatianitus?

I am sure most of you have heard about Tinnitus.  It is a ringing or buzzing in your ears that only you can hear.  Croatianitus is something similar, but in an opposite way.  Instead of hearing the buzzing in your ears you find that you really can’t hear at all.  There is a pressure built up in your head, sort of like having your head wrapped up in a cotton ball helmet.  When people speak to you, you can see their lips moving and perhaps some sound will break through the fogginess, but your actual capability to hear normally has been adversely affected.

What causes Croatianitus?   This condition is most often brought on by being in public places with Croatians.  These are a jovial and entertaining group of people.  They prefer loud music and even louder conversations. This friendly group of humans started out in Croatia.  From there, emigration began and they moved to many different countries all over the world!  They brought their sense of joie de vivre with them and settled in cities where there were others of their kind.  Their raucous laughter and joke telling was studied in order to record their decibel levels.  After numerous studies, dB showed them way above healthy levels…closer to “shot gun” deafening.

I have been studying this society for quite some time now.  I have attended their marital rituals and other religious ceremonies.  I have been invited to and frequented other social events including annual group performances which showed their softer side.  Colourful, cultural dances and the vocalizing of historical songs.  All is well until their show is over and the socializing begins.

It appears very harmless.  Oftentimes you will move to a different room and sometimes even a different location.  Having completed their ceremonies, they become lax and free-spirited.  They congregate and speak.  This is symptom number one of Croatianitus.  You believe you are in a regular conversation, however, when this group forms you will find that they begin speaking at a dB (decibel) level of perhaps 30.   Very safe.  As more of them enter the room, there are more in-depth discussions beginning.  In order to be heard, the repartee of each mini-group grows in loudness.  Suddenly, you notice that the traditional music has begun playing in the background.  When did that occur?  You are already beginning to notice a difference in your hearing.

Symptom number two is when you realize that you yourself have begun to annunciate and speak louder.  This is an automatic self-preservation tactic.  In order to be heard above the din you must assimilate with the masses.  You lull yourself into a false sense of security at your ingenuity.  Little do you realize that as the seconds and minutes tick by, you have gone from “normal-speaking” person voice to the “Croatian” speaking voice.  This voice is at least three times louder than your normal speech and you feel comfortable because the “Croatians” smile at you happily and proudly as you have adjusted in order to join their world.

Symptom number three is the most fatal one and oftentimes is mistaken for tiredness or regular tinnitus.  After cavorting with these cheerful and partying persons, it is time for you to go home.  You start to say your goodbyes but you can’t hear your own voice.  After much analysis I believe that this is the reason why these people give big hugs and double cheek kisses at the end of the night.  No one can really hear them, and it is said that actions speak louder than words, so this is their way of showing you their joy and gratitude for your attendance.

Remedy for Croatianitus is a bit of a longer process.  It is all about patience.  You will notice that your ears will continue ringing.   The buzzing will stop, usually by next morning.  The newfound deafness could take up to a couple of days to clear, but you will get there.

The best way to ensure you don’t become prone to this illness is to limit exposure.  After intense study on this group, I have found that a two-hour maximum exposure limit will allow you to hear in about one hour after departing their company.  Anything longer than that and you are looking at the three day rule until full recovery.

How do I know all about this?  I myself am a Croatian.  I chanced upon Croatianitus after moving out of my parent’s house.  As mentioned previously, there were six of us in that house and the Over-Talking (a.k.a. “speaking over another person while they are still talking” because we didn’t consider that rude).  We knew we had to speak louder in order to be heard.  THAT was our training ground.  There was no “excuse me” or “pardon me for interrupting” it was survival of the fittest, or in this case, the loudest.

After departing the humble abode of my youth and moving in with Wiseguy hubby, he started lowering the volume on the tv set one night.  He asked if I could still hear everything.  I could. He lowered it again…and again…and again.  Surprisingly, I could still hear every word being said.  THAT was when I first realized there was something unique about being nurtured (trained) in a Croatian home.

EPILOGUE:  It has been five hours since departing my last Croatian function.

  •  Congregating time after concert = 2 hours.
  •  Hearing in my right ear = returned after 2 hours.
  • Hearing in my left ear = returned after 4 hours.

One Step at a Time…

“…One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”  Thank you Neil Armstrong. Neil will always be remembered and quoted for saying this phrase when this astronaut landed on the moon.  It is a phrase that can be applied to many phases of our lives.  The most memorable comparison for me is when I get informed that any child has gone from crawling to walking.  Yes…one small step…

I am sure you have noticed a trend in my writings regarding children.  I am amazed at their tenacity.  I adore their independence. I marvel at their simple wisdom.  We adults oftentimes lose perspective of our lives because we have been educated.  We are taught to follow certain paths in our schooling.  From kindergarten to elementary school. From middle school to high school.  Perhaps we have advanced to College courses or even University.  Education is very important and yet I admire the free spirit of the young.  Don’t get me wrong, being brought up by universal standards of quality (and the wooden spoon of “tough love”)  I can now appreciate even more the wonderful open qualities of youth.

It was repugnant to me when my parents would refer to me as the “Pepsi” generation. I believed it was supposed to mean something like “you are so spoiled you don’t drink water, you drink Pepsi.”  I still haven’t really figured it out, but it sounds about right.  (Note:  my parents never purchased name brand so that is why I assumed this was something they heard and adopted).  Anyway, every generation goes through the “you have no idea what it was like when I was growing up.”  To be fair to my parents, they were right.  They were raised in a village with many many siblings (no, not 4 or 5…try 8 or 9).  Schooling was done by grade 3 due to farming obligations.  They worked hard to make their lives better and better for their children.

Wiseguy and I had started our lives in a less-than-prominent-societal situation.  We fell in love (so cliche), but it was true.  We moved into an apartment.  No real funds.  First and last month’s rent.  No furniture….seriously….no furniture.  A room on the 11th floor of an apartment building with a wonderful balcony.  Our view of the sky was magical.  There were no buildings around us.  We could actually see the CN Tower in Toronto from our balcony is Mississauga (yes, that is a city in Ontario, Canada).  Yes, we were that weird couple that got together for love and not money.

So, our lives as a couple began as one small step.  We found each other.  We became best friends.  We knew that we could live as a family.  We decided to throw caution to the wind and move in together.  A simple one bedroom apartment.  A small starter home.  We married a year later.  There were many doubters.  There were many personal and family consequences.  Again, we decided to do what we thought and believed was best for us.  Many doubted. Many disbelieved.  There were those beautiful few who believed in us and they are always remembered and special in our hearts.

The years have passed, sometimes feeling slow but nowadays feeling so quick.  We have raised 3 beautiful children.  We look at our wonderful grandchildren and I am in awe whenever I see them.  I was once asked why I quiz children and “bother” them.  I honestly answer, “I don’t bother them.  They are smart and I LOVE hearing their answers.”

Children are magnificent!  I can tell you honestly that what they think about is waaaaaay more interesting than what you have to work on at work.  Their minds are agile and fresh and ingenious.  You used to think like that until you got pigeonholed at school.  Think the same.  Act the same.  Behave the same.

Yes, our world is comprised of structure and rules.    I am not saying this a bad thing.  However, sometimes thinking and behaving “abnormally” can be fun!  Grab a box of crayons and a colouring book but DON’T colour inside the lines.  Oh I know there are new colouring books for adults…very intricate and detail oriented.  Your mind goes CRAZY if you colour outside the lines.   Even better, get a children’s colouring book and colour a monkey purple and green and pink.  Believe me, not colouring to “specific norms” will feel really weird and almost heart wrenching.  I slowly got over the “brown monkey” syndrome when I coloured my monkey green and yellow and my granddaughter said, “Here, add some pink to his head.”  Hmmm, sharing and good advice from the eyes from a child.  Monkey can be different just like people are different.

I just received a text (yes, I am a modern Baba a.k.a. grandma in Eurospeak) that my youngest grandson took his first steps yesterday.   Little “Jumpin’ Jack” will be one on May 19th so Mr. “I’m-on-the-move” has decided that there are too many adventures in life that he needs to explore and got his groove on early.  Congratulations little JJ (Jumpin’ Jack!)  May your new elevated levels of adventure be as fun and exciting as you hope them to be.  May your bumps and bruises heal quickly.  May you always know that every adventure you undertake will always start with one step at a time.

 

 

 

Us

Us seems to be a very short title, but I believe that sometimes less words are more integral in describing a thought than a run on sentence  full of adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs…and nothingness. This two letter word is so full of meaning and definition. It is a concept and way of life that I am finally beginning to fully understand.

We begin our lives as wonderful, dependent, little bundles of cuteness. Some babies are born into loving families. Others are born into dysfunctional families. In the end, there is a beginning. We emerge and grow and learn. Some lessons are taught to us and others we discover on our own. Life lessons. The world is our educator. In most cases we are taught to find our perfect soul mate so that we can live happily ever after.

Poor girls, we try so hard to find Prince Charming everywhere we look.  We can overlook the flaws in order to have someone to hold us and take care of us. Right? Heck no. Nowadays we want the handsome Prince, but he had better know how to wash dishes and do laundry and make  dinner. We are very busy women folk. Not to mention adding child  bearing and raising that child. Who’s going to do all that?

Fast forward in life…career woman,  make dinner, make lunches, attend meetings, get stuck in traffic, driving children to and from school and after school?  Dance or karate or baseball or soccer.  Grocery shopping, clothes shopping.  Hang out with significant other. Who? Oh yeah,  I remember you.

I remember when we used to jump into the two door sedan and just go driving. (Can’t do that now because gas prices are so crazy and we  have a mini van not a cool sporty vehicle). Remember when we would go out for dinner and just talk about nothing. (Dinner out now means going out when we get a coupon in the mail and then talking about bill payments or house renovations). Remember when it was just the two of us? Us.

I remember the early dating days. Money? We were lucky if we had 40.00 between the two of us. We would talk for hours. We would write little notes and letters to each other. There was no texting or e-mails.  It was pen to paper and it was beautiful and thoughtful.  Little things were monumental. A cup of coffee, ready-made, and nice and hot when I woke up. Sitting around on the balcony of our rented apartment and just enjoying the view.  Beautiful.  Calm. Quiet. Some music playing softly in the background.  Bliss.  Us.

Us then became extended us. Children and elder family. Family obligations. Us went from having no furniture to an apartment overflowing with stuff. Suddenly Us took a back seat. Everyone and everything else was more important. Keeping children happy was number one. There were bills to pay and items to purchase. There were future houses and mortgages. New / used cars to be purchased as old ones fell apart.  Schooling and weddings and grandchildren. Work became the most  important thing because money is needed to pay for everything. We were ships in the night….literally…since we ended up working different times of the day. What happened to Us? We talked about date night and once a year, for our anniversary, we could count on that, but otherwise, Us became a non-existent thing…until tonight.

Tonight was special. Tonight you created magic. You decided to cook up a beautiful meal. I came home and did not have to prep anything.  We sat around and talked. Not about bills. Not about renovations.  Not about anything that adults would deem important. We talked about the sky and the perfect weather. We talked about your shopping spree at the grocery store and how meticulous you were in picking what you thought I would enjoy most for dinner. I was your primary concern and nothing else mattered. I want you to know how much I appreciated that and love you for it. My meal was excellent. The flavours were invigorating and the company was my favourite part. We sat outside. Just Us. The two of Us.  I realized more than ever tonight that in the end, we are in the “Us” part of our lives. The children are grown and living their own lives.  Taking care of elders is no longer part of our responsibility. All we are left with is Us.  You and me, as was before, but newly modified.  Husband and wife, grandparents, friends and lovers.  Another new exciting stage of our lives.

I love you, my other half of “Us”. Thank you for making tonight a special time and a special memory for me. I enjoy being able to date you again. The serenity and peacefulness. The non-drudgery of everyday life.  The laughter (including piggy snorts…my specialty).  You refocused my perspective and helped me don my rose-coloured glasses that I had misplaced.  Living in the pink is a pretty nice place to be.

Spring is here and the flowers are blooming…

After the longest winter ever (which is the exact same thing I thought after the winter before this winter), the snow is gone, the windows are open and our pale bodies are getting solar shock waves.  Yes, spring is here!  Spring, poetically, a time of new beginnings.  After many months of dormancy, we creep out from under the dark skies to see bright sunlight, blue skies filled with puffy clouds, blossoming buds on trees, green grass, and…most naturally…weeds.  Oh yes…the wonderful crab grass, “creeping Charlie”, and most wonderful of all…the enormous fields of dandelions.  Those yellow-headed tormenters of every human pining for that perfect, blue-green grass yard.  Dandelions (apparently from the French for “dente de lion” (translation:  lion’s teeth).  Those ugly, pesky, weeds with those teeth-like leaves, milky sticky stems.  They sway in the wind, laughing at us as we take to spade and shovel…digging up their roots…hours on end.  Those awful…wait a minute.  I just had a change of heart.  Don’t those yellow, sunshiney weeds…ahem…flowers, make the most beautiful bouquet?

After looking at my yellow-punctuated lawn, I decided that I was too tired to deal with weed pulling.  I could do it tomorrow right?  (Dandelions, like rabbits, multiply at an incredible speed.)  What was one more day?  Once done cleaning out my lawn, I am sure the seeds from neighbouring lawns will immigrate over to my place.  Why not? Grass is always greener on the other side…especially if you’ve dug out your weeds.  I entered my home and saw a glass sitting on the counter.  It was full of dandelions.  Oh yes.  The outdoor came  indoor just to taunt me.  Little Kennie came running out of her room, “Look at the beautiful flowers I picked for mommy!”  she exclaimed proudly.  Suddenly, those weeds became a bouquet of roses.  If I could somehow copy the view of a child and transform it into glasses for adults, I believe I could achieve world peace.

That exuberant comment from a five-year old brought me back to when I was a youngin’ (a few years ago).  I recalled how my brother and I went picking EVERY dandelion in our yard.  Knowing what I know now, I’m sure my mother was initially fuming as all the roots were still in the ground meaning she would have to go out another day, after they rebloomed, to dig out the roots of those weeds.  But on that day, a miracle happened.  My mother gave us both big huge hugs and thanked us for the beautiful flowers.  We were ecstatic at her happiness and we were thrilled that we had thought of something so wonderful to make her happy.  (I know it sounds weird that we found a beautiful vase to put them in… an old stubby beer bottle… but if you grew up European, it wouldn’t really surprise you.)

It’s funny, but I remember that day so clearly.  We didn’t have money to buy nice stuff for mom.  We took time, we picked carefully, we displayed them lovingly, and that hug was incredibly memorable because there are lots of memory gaps about my childhood (probably a good thing).  Having Kennie beam about her beautiful bouquet,  brought me back to my memories of trying to please my mother and those dandelions actually did the trick.  That also got me thinking…who deemed them weeds?

Nowadays, you hear about dandelion salads.  So, the lion’s teeth are actually good for you.  Wine is made from dandelions as well.  So, it must be a good thing right?

My other funny thought as I write this, is my nephew reading an article about angels reporting to God about people killing his beautiful flowers and trying to have strips of green grass.  Funniest part was how they fertilize their lawn and then complain about how they have to cut the grass all the time.  Yeah…that’s crazy.  God asks what’s wrong with his flowers?  “They are weeds,” say the angels.  Well, LOL…I think it’s an amusing story. It kind of makes me want to find out what company decided that green grass was better than beautiful golden flowers.  Not only are those flowers bright and happy, they transform into toys as well.  Once the dandelion is done being a happy royal yellow, they dry out and become little puffy white clouds that, as children, we loved blowing off the stem to see how far they would fly…like bubbles.  Again I ask myself…why do we hate dandelions?

For the record, I find the thoughts and views of children very refreshing, invigorating, and absolutely honest.  I love asking children questions and I love challenging their ideas to see what new idea they will come up with.  They are smart, creative, naïve, brilliant.  I lost my rose coloured glasses awhile ago.  Growing up and dealing with belittlement, sarcasm, sabotage, and many other wonderful adult traits, I keep myself fresh and young and happy by listening to those who know the way the world really works.  Youth, who have not yet been tainted by overbearing adults, have wisdom that we adults do not have.  Don’t get me wrong.  Children need rules and guidelines, but creativity should be encouraged.  We adults forget that we need time for fun.  Work is there to pay bills.  Don’t live for work.  Work to live.

I, the regular adult me, is writing my “To Do” list for tomorrow.  It includes, grocery shopping, vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, paying some bills…you know..regular adult stuff.  After my Big Girl chores are done, I believe Kennie and La-la and I will wander around the yard and pick a beautiful bouquet of bright yellow flowers for mommy.  Flowers mean love.  Beautiful, golden, hand picked flowers are the most wonderful gift a mother can receive.  Roses, though beautiful in a vase, cannot replace happily, hand-picked, chosen, golden yellow dandelions in a glass.  That is true love.

Today’s Innocence Wish:  May you look at your golf green lawn and appreciate the uniqueness, hardiness, and beauty of the hearty dandelion.  It will NEVER leave you.  It will always gleam happily yellow daily and once it’s done its daily duty, you can kick it happily and watch the grey wispy puffs float high and joyously into the sky.  Hmmmm, kind of like life.  When you’re young, you are loud and proud…bright and yellow and glowing with life.  As you age, you weaken.  The brightness  fades.  You begin to soften.  Those who appreciate you see that you still have the wisdom and wings to fly.  A light blow of encouragement.  You leave your regular residency and move to a new adventure, unknown as you blow away in the wind.  Child’s game?  Wisdom of youth?  Freedom of age?

Yes, deep thoughts about a simple scourge on society or am I being very dramatic about something so simple.  Hmmm, drama makes life interesting and being a grandma of four, life is definitely going to be interesting.  Not only interesting, but educational.  Oh yes.  I believe strongly in education.   Those youngin’s are going to teach ME a lot about weeds and flowers and, I am sure, many other things.  I will teach them, and/or challenge them, but I will also include lots of hugs and kisses because that’s what grandma’s do.   (As they get older, it becomes kryptonite so use it often in their younger years).

I will sign off with this piece of advice:  None.  One thing I learned; never offer advice to parents.  I will only say this:  Remember where you came from.

P.S. (oh…by the way…Kennie has a younger sister and her nickname is La-la thanks to her same age cousin…another new cast member a.k.a. St. Luke)

P.P.S.  Woo hoo!  As I finish this article, I would like to introduce yet another contributor.  He is a little young, two day’s old, but I know he will become as prominent as the others.  Welcome newbie GTH.

Silent but deadly

There is a saying that “Silence is golden”.  I have heard that phrase many times but could never really understand what it meant.  As one of four children, and being reared in a European style family, silence was desired, but the need to be heard was way greater.  How could silence be golden?  True, gold was and is treasured, but I found that silence was more, well, deadly.

As I have mentioned, growing up in a semi-large family (3 other siblings) and having many, many, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, the sound of silence was actually deafening.  When we went to the library to the study, I couldn’t focus.  It was too quiet.  I needed someone yelling or arguing.  I needed the noise of a tv show or a radio show.  To this day, even while at work, colleagues will ask me about what other people were talking about and I have no idea.  I tune out to words around me.  If it’s not involving me then it doesn’t concern me.  Que sera sera.  I do know that while growing up, quiet rooms meant evil times.  Silence was deadly.

As mentioned, I grew up in a loud boisterous environment.  This is why I laugh when visiting people with newborns and they request perfect silence from their guests.  Really?  Let that child hear the guffahs and the ruckuss and they will sleep through anything.  Again, not my place (nor my children) and they can live on the edge of insanity trying to silence the world around them.  Life with no noise was unnatural and in many ways debilitating as the only time there was silence was when….ugh…it’s a horror I can’t stand to think about!  It was tramautizing, it was devastating, and it made all us children walk about in fear…my mother’s “silent” anger.

Yes, my mother had this “gift”.  I call it a gift because she had it perfected, like a magician can perfect a disappearing act.  My mother, the sweet woman who used to read me stories at night, the kind lady who used to bathe me and cuddle me.  That same kind woman who loved to joke and tell tales would suddenly have this strange look in her eyes as she gazed upon her brood.  No words were spoken.  It was during these unspoken word times that we were terrified!

We would gather around the dinner table and seat ourselves in our designated positions.  She would bring the pot of soup and place it on the table.  My father would begin prayers to thank God for our day and for our food and then we would begin our utterly quiet mealtime.  Well, on second thought, utterly quiet was difficult.  My younger brother and I were always big goofs and had a hard time being serious during meals.  We grew up in the generation of “beat your child into submission” so suppertime included many whacks with the wooden spoon.  Although this sounds abusive (which it really is) we children ended up laughing more during suppertime (even with whacks) instead of  being devasted.  But I digress.

We children all knew the telltale signs when something was wrong.  (Sort of like how we all knew my brother was coming home from University to visit if there was a marble cake cooling on the countertop).  The most irrevocable proof that Mama was to be avoided was when…gosh it was horrible…when you would walk through that front door and see her wearing “The Red Sweater.”  You would stand there bolted in place wondering if you should speak or try to run for your room before the verbal tirade would begin.  It was each kid trying to save its own hide.  If you were feeling generous, you could pre-warn the next person entering the home if she was out of earshot.  It was like a spy  network.

I remember the one day when I came through the door and yelled loudly, “I’m home!”  To which Red Sweater Queen came yelling at me around the corner, “Are you trying to scare me to death?  Why are you yelling!”  With that she stomped away muttering about stupid, ignorant children.  Ok, lesson learned.  Next time a situation like that arose, I wandered around the house, quietly, searching for my mother’s whereabouts.  I found her in the family room, watching television.  I popped my head into the room and softly said, “Hi!  I’m home.”  With that, she jumped out of her skin and off the couch.  Good thing she had that Red Sweater on!  Once again, the error of my ways, were recited, “Are you trying to scare me to death?  Why did you sneak up on me?”  Exit Red Sweather Queen with comments of “damn children, they’re trying to kill me.”

You might think I am overexagerating, but the worst freak out days were those days that she had donned her magical evil Red Cape.  Nothing could possibly be right with the world if she had that sweater on.  We had lived through the barage of insults that only a mother could summon.  She knew her children well and exactly what would emotionally scar them the most.  Good on you Red Sweater Queen!  We children learned to be extra aware of our surroundings when we saw red.

One day, we children managed to scurry out of the way in time.  My father was not so lucky.  He came home, late even, and there she morphed by the front door, eyes ablaze with the laser stare, the red sweater draped over her body.  Yikes!  We would become fatherless children!  She was going to kill him!  He put down his lunch pail and began untying his workboots.  We watched as her nostrils flared and she took one deep breath; it was about to begin.  “I just cleaned the house and you are dropping that filthy lunchbox on my clean floor.  All I do is clean up after everyone and no one cares.  Look at those boots.  Filthly!  You’re dirtying my carpet!”  My father suddenly stood straight upright, looked her in the eye and yelled, “If I can’t put my boots on the floor or the carpet, where am I supposed to stand, or should I just stand on my head?”  Oh no…he didn’t…by golly he did.  It was a face-off.  My mother, buttoned up her Red Sweater of death, crossed her arms and went upstairs to their bedroom.  She did not come down to dinner that night.  We did not see her when we were getting ready for bed.  We were going to be children of divorce!

The next morning, she was at the kitchen counter preparing lunches for everyone.  She silently cut the bread, added salami and cheese, wrapped each sandwich and put it in the designated lunch box.  She said nothing.  We said nothing.  She was wearing her cape of evil; the Red Sweater.  We were traumatized and worried, but there was nothing we could do.  We had to wait until the Reign of the Sweater was over.

It took three days for that to finally happen.  We had all miraculously survived.  The verbal barages were much preferred to the gouging silence.  That was the last of the great Red Sweater vows of silence.  One time, we plotted on how we could steal that sweater and donate it to Goodwill or something, but who knew what kind of transformation would happen to the next owner.  It just wouldn’t be fair.  We thought of just hiding it, but thinking about touching it made our skin crawl.  I recall the one day I was chilly and mama offered it to me for warmth.  Did she want to kill me?

Years later, we children are all grown up and love telling revisionist historical stories of the Red Sweater.  Everyone has a different story to tell.  The stories, though based on much truth, could be a wee bit exaggerated.  Only some.  Most of them are, cross my heart, true.  We actually told mama the one day about how she transformed when wearing that sweater.  She didn’t believe us.  We shared our tales and she laughed so hard she was crying.  She actually did recall many of the incidents but had not realized she had been wearing the Red Sweater.  It was great fun to laugh about it.  Good family times!

I myself, do not have such a prized possession (possessed possession).  I have a grey sweater that I used to wear a lot.  I got it back when I was in Grade 8 and it still looks great!  (“Shush…it does too!”  Wiseguy and the kids don’t agree with me.) Oh well.  It’s still in a drawer.  I’m waiting to flabberghast my grandchildren with it.  I brought it over to my mom’s house one day so we could laugh about it and reminisce.  When she opened the door I suddenly remembered that I had an urgent appointment for a root canal that had to be done that minute.  “What?  Since when?” inquired my mother, as she buttoned up the Red Sweater.