Family Fundamentals

Wow!  What a busy week!  Besides cleaning my house, I did other things that make my life so wonderful!  I booked Workday Wednesday off to visit with my friend.  She took me to a cutie little beach side cafe and we lunched and chatted and had a lovely afternoon.  Come the weekend, another grand day with the grandchildren.  Kennie was celebrating her 7th birthday and we got to hang out at a fancy park and play and laugh and chat and just catch up with people we hadn’t seen in awhile.  Standing back and taking pictures for posterity, I had a momentary split vision of the world that I live in.  I experienced a clarity of my life.  It made me smile.  This is my family.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal to most people, however, my family is quite unique and diverse.  When I say my family, it’s really an extension of Wiseguy’s family, but this weekend I saw how remarkable it was when everyone was together.  Let me explain.

If you search for the definition of family, you will find that this definition has not been officially changed from when it was first defined.  It still reads as follows:  a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.  For many families, this is still true.  Our society has changed in so many ways with regards to who raises children and who the guardians of the descendants are.  Single parent, LGBTQ parent(s), grandparents, adopted parents, step parents, aunts or uncles.  It’s not the “who” that is watching over them and guiding them that is most important.  It is the love and desire to raise children to become good conscientious adult citizens.  It is the proverbial “village” that makes this happen.

Segway back to Kennie’s party.  Besides the mix of genders and races, there were the divorced people who had remarried and were there with their new spouses or partners.  There were the cousins and aunts and uncles.  There were the grandparents and great grandparents.  All differences were put aside to celebrate this wonderful occasion.  There was no backstabbing.  No bickering.  People played volleyball and soccer.  Others sat around chatting and just catching up on what was new in each other’s lives.  Parents watched over their children, but all others watched as well.  It was a community of loving people wanting to enjoy the laughter and happiness of these adorable children.  Their high pitched squeals and big smiley faces could wipe away all thoughts of past anger and resentment.

My camera caught an incredible image.  The peacefulness on each person’s face.  The uproarious laughter.  Children playing in the sand…of the volleyball court.  To sum it up, it was a day full of happiness.  We broke bread together (well, hot dog and burger buns…that counts).  Everyone ate.  Everyone chatted.  The party was slotted to last from 1 pm to 4 pm.  Due to unforeseen cheerfulness, the entourage stayed until 6 pm.  It was actually difficult to leave.  It was such a beautiful, sunny day full of joy and merriment.  An incredibly memorable day.

Wiseguy and I came home and unpacked quickly.  We were exhausted.  Was it because of the fresh air?  Was it due to extra playtime with all the children?  Was it being in the sun all afternoon?  We smiled, resigning ourselves to the fact that we had no idea why we experienced the onset of tiredness, but we knew it was time for bed.  We were both smiling.  Why?  The day had been perfect.

Perfect?  Yes.  It was perfect.  The weather was ideal.  It wasn’t humid.  It was warm in the sun and cool in the shade.  The “family” came together to celebrate a birthday, but it was more than that.  It was a collaboration.  It was various entities of a family bonding together and enjoying each other’s company.  That’s what my camera saved forever.  It was about love.  It was about family.  It was about being there for a common goal and bypassing past prejudices.

In so many ways, children are the leaders.  They don’t hate (unless you steal their toy).  They don’t judge (unless you steal their toy).  Everyone is equal.  Religion, colour, nationality, et. al. kids don’t care.  As long as you are a loyal and nice playmate, they will be your friend forever.  Fun is what life is about.

I appreciate and love my “family”.  It’s definitely unique, but I am so proud to be part of it.  Living it.  Breathing it.  Loving it.  Laughing with everyone else.  It’s all about putting the Family “Fun” in Fun-damental.

 

 

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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Sixth Sense or… Practically Magic

“So, what time did you get home last night?”  This was the trick question that my parents would pose the morning after I’d been out.  Did your parents ever ask you this question?  If so, do you recall silently pondering:  Did they hear me come in?  Do they know I was home after curfew?  Should I tell the truth?   Should I lie and hope that they didn’t hear me?  Yes my friends, it was a life gamble.  Sometimes I won.  Sometimes I lost.  Roll the dice of fate and see what happens!  Those were stressful moments.  Time goes by.  You grow up and perhaps have children of your own to take care of.  Guess what you get to do?  You guessed it!  Torture your own kids!  Life can be so fair that way.  Bwahahaha!

I used to think that my parents were psychic.  How did they know when I did something wrong?  How did they know when I was lying?  Their magic powers were revealed to me as I became older and watched my silly cousins doing stuff.  I watched them grab the milk jug from the fridge and KNEW they were going to spill the milk while pouring it into the glass.  As they ran around the house I KNEW one of them would trip and fall and start crying.  So, it wasn’t magic after all!  All you parents out there know exactly what I am talking about.  Let me share some of those fascinating situations and what occurs when you have not yet been gifted with that beautiful clairvoyance.

Beware the Silence:  All you parents of toddlers know this one very well.  Every adult knows that screaming, yelling kids can drive you absolutely crazy!  You pray and beg for quiet.  Anything for a little bit of peace.  Your wish comes true.  You sit back with that still warm cup of coffee and then you remember…THERE’S A TODDLER IN THE HOUSE!  Worse still…it’s quiet…too quiet.  NOOOOOOOOOO!  Yes, that little bit of heaven just cost you two tubes of lipstick (now broken after being used to colour on the walls).  That new roll of toilet paper has been reeled into the toilet.  Luckily you caught the culprit just before the toilet got flushed into action.

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The 10 Foot Dash:  Come and catch me!  That’s what your little one is miming as you hear the giggle of joy and thrill of being chased.  There is one special little way that children run while being pursued.  You’ve seen it.  They start running.  As they are moving forward they are looking backwards, at you, to see how close you are.  Hmmm, what do you think happens?  Easy to guess for us magically gifted parents…WHAM!  Faceplant to the wall.

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Third Eye:  Guardians of the rug-rats eventually grow a third eye.  Not a real third eye, but that sensory eye that can see through walls, around corners, and even into toddler’s minds.  This is the most complex and highly powerful tool in a parent’s arsenal.  Never let them know the truth for it shall shatter their illusion of your omnipotence.  Let them wholeheartedly believe that on the back of your head you have grown an invisible third eye.  My favourite would be hearing little voices shout-whisper (kids really don’t know how to whisper) “How did she know?”  Well, here is how the power of the third eye works.  Parent in kitchen prepping food.  Kids in another room watching tv and getting bored.  The Parent, with the imperceptible third eye, knows that there has been no yelling, punching, or obligatory sibling fighting.  This wise parent would, at this exact moment of realization, yell out, “Don’t you dare!”  Children stare in awe at each other.  That wondrous look that says “How did she know?”  Note:   had guardian not yelled this out, said children would have couch pillows in hand ready to swing violently at each other leading to painful tears and hollers of, “My eye! My eye!” streaming through the house.

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Blame Game:  Enlightened adults know when a youngster has done some dirty deed.  “Who did this?!”  The interrogative line to subdue the youth.  As the adult, you are in charge of this campaign of youthful entertainment.  You know that once the rule of no playing ball in the house gets broken, it ultimately leads to something else being broken.  Vases, lamps, and flower pots are the top three casualties of war.  Veteran parents know that the indoor games begin after several minutes of the “Beware of Silence” phase.  For the newbies, being distracted by doing other life chores, the war would begin.  The flower pot would disintegrate and someone was going to get it.  “Who did this?” is the parental shriek.  Children get this wonderful look on their face when they are guilty.  We adults know how to read that look.  It’s kind of a wide-eyed terror look.  Fidgeting is a good tell as well.

fullsizeoutput_1a06Parents, I truly believe that with age comes wisdom.  With wisdom comes responsibility.  With responsibility comes a time when you decide that screwing around with your children’s minds is waaaaaaaaaay more fun.  So use that sixth sense.  Bring that terror of your omnipotence into their lives.  Tell them that you have a third eye.  Tell them that you can see them no matter where they are and that you know what they are doing at all times.  Bust ’em when you can.  David Copperfield may have his magic tricks, but as adults and parents trying to raise children, we too are practically magic.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way into the New Year…

Here it was, a few hours before the New Year and my little heart was going pitter-patter with nervousness.  I am sure everyone has their tradition regarding the coming year, but I have this quirky superstition that whatever I am doing last in the “old year” will be a representation of what my life will be like in the new year.  So, here it was, 2016, and I was having a fantastic time hanging out with wonderful friends.  We were shooting darts or playing Euchre and for some reason, I still felt like there was something not quite right.  Playing games is a good way to start the new year but I felt I needed more.  Then…it happened!

“3…2…1…Jump!” I heard everyone yell.  I jumped excitedly off the couch, waving my hands in the air and landing happily on the floor.  This was my fantastic leap into the New Year!  I was also 7 years old.  My parents had let us stay up late so that we could do this exciting thing!  My mother had made homemade pizza (we weren’t take-out OR delivery people).  My aunts, uncles, and (YAY) cousins had come over for this new adventure.  I recall the big joke my dad had made with regards to my eating habits:  “Ha ha!  It took you two years to eat a slice of pizza.”  Too true!  I started a slice of pizza (I was a super, super slow eater.  Nothing like the Hoover-eater I am today!) and I finally got to finish it after my super bounce.  What a memory!

As a teen, I was lucky to go out with my older siblings.  We went out to fancy banquets / dances for New Year’s Eve.  There would be a fancy three-course meal and afterward there would be endless dancing.  There was the obligatory nervousness due to the desire to find the best dress, matching high-heel shoes, fancy jewelry to be worn that evening.  Quite the show!  Quite the excitement!  Quite the fun for one evening!  Year after year we looked forward to this event.  Then marriage and children came along and the procedure changed.

As new parents, instead of going out for the evening, it was time to invite other new parents over and hang out while the kids either played together or were put to bed early.  A quiet evening with some munchies and chit-chat.  5…4…3…2…1.  Happy New Year!  Quieter, but still fun.

Fast-forward again and you see children breaking away from their parents to do their own thing.  The parents would either have fun continuing their pre-toddler tradition of a banquet hall or they might even stay home.  Parents worried about their children, but pretended they did not.  Children…ahem…adults…not worrying at all since they were invincible. 5…4…3…2…1. Happy New Year!

This is a footnote of what life was like for me every New Year’s Eve.  As I grew older I realized the beauty of life and how incredible each coming new year was.  I also gave up on resolutions.  I found that these best-intentioned goals seemed to dissipate, usually by…um…January 14th.  I finally decided that I would focus on that last hour of the old year to predict my new year’s fate.  Why?  Not sure, but it seemed like a genuinely great idea at the time.  This brings us full circle back to December 31st, 2016 and when IT happened.

We had congregated in the kitchen. Nine minutes to go.  Here we were, all gathered together, awaiting the dawn of the new year.  I sat there nervously, pensively.  Why?  Well, my weird (unique) thought-bend of “last actions of previous year permeating the new year” were beginning to haunt me.  Yes we had had fun! Yes we were surrounded by friends!  Something was missing and I didn’t know how to fix it.  Then, a funny thing happened on the way into the New Year.

“Amanda is still up,” said H.

“Who threw up?!” queried B.  That was it!  I broke out in fits of laughter.

“No,” said H, “Amanda is still up.”  I was done for.  I was laughing hysterically.  Literally laughing out loud (the real LOL).

Suddenly Wiseguy yelled “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”  We looked at him like he was a crazy man.  The time on the stove clock showed a minute to midnight.  He pointed to the television which showed all these lovely people happily kissing and embracing each other.  Not only had we missed the countdown, but we had missed the actual jump into the New Year.  Were we upset?  Heck no!  We all hugged afterward and wished each other all the best in the new year.

Me?  I was beyond ecstatic.  I had desired a sign to show me what the 2017 year would be like based on my interesting definition of “old versus new” philosophy.  I was so grateful to be laughing hysterically from 2016 into 2017.  This was something very new for me.  So far my jaw is going to need therapy from all the laughing I have been doing.

P.S.  I did feel short-changed a bit in missing the countdown.  Imagine my surprise and supreme gratefulness, when my friends and I got to do a repeat countdown!  We watched as New Orleans counted down (an hour later) into the New Year.  I love this life!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!   May you wake up happy every morning.  May you look out and enjoy what you see daily.  May you appreciate all the good that you have in your life.  May you smile everyday.  Even when your life seems impossibly hard, believe that everything that happens is leading you to something brighter and better.  Life is beautiful and so are you.

 

Geraniums and other mysteries…

I do stop and smell the flowers.  However, nowadays with the new everlasting hybrids, most flowers do not have a scent.  You need to go and stalk people who have been planting for the last 25 years.  They have the wonderful originals.  Standing around you can actually smell the lilacs when the wind blows.  I have tried to keep flowers in my house, but to no avail.  Besides aloe plants, everything else either gets too dry or overwatered  a.k.a. drowned.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that I can actually keep geraniums alive.  Yes it’s true.  I learned the secret from my mother-in-law.  It’s a simple trick and yet I find that it applies to situations in everyday life.

My mother had a green thumb.  I am not sure if she always had it, but our house could’ve been a greenhouse.  A botanical garden.  I recall a wonderful green plant (nope…no idea what it was called…all I know is that she used to use kitchen twine to tie this climbing plant to the spindles of the staircase.  Oh yes, this went on for years until my brother and I decided to challenge each other to slide down the bannister.  Keep in mind, this plant started from a cutting and ended up being 12 feet long.  It wound up the stairs and up to the bedrooms.  I will always remember this:

Me:  (whispering) No…mama is gonna kill you!

Bro: (whispering) not unless you tell her!

Me:  It’s a long way down.  You’ll fall!

Bro:  Don’t tell…

NOTE:  This dangerous endeavour was even more high faluting as our mother was sitting precariously around the corner in the family room watching tv.  Daredevils?  Idiots?  You decide.

And then he began his slide.  He started at the top of the stairs.  He straddled the bannister and launched himself down.  Suddenly,  his leg got caught on the foliage halfway down and then he flipped over and fell down onto the ceramic floor.  The only thing that saved his hide was that he had a frickin’ nose bleed!  Otherwise our mother would’ve whipped his butt!  The important thing was to fix him up and make him well…before she could beat him.  Oh…European upbringing…so logical.   The worst thing on my part was that, not only had I predicted the fall, but I couldn’t help laughing when he fell.  Yes, I was a good big sister.

I recall seeing the Giant Beanstalk strewn on the floor.  Not sure what happened afterward.  The fact that little bro lived AND did not receive any punishment that I can recall made this evergreen moment memorable.  The other floral memories I have are African violets.  My mother was obsessed with them.  We had them all over the house.  She prided herself on having these plants thrive and having family and friends comment on how she could make them live and grow exponentially when others could only condemn them to death.  My mother had a gift.

I myself thought repeated drownings were important in order for flowers to survive.  Yes I killed everything until I purchased geraniums.  Beautiful flowers.  Many colours and yet Wiseguy’s favourite were the bright ruby red ones.  Not pink or white.  The red ones were the ones that his mother always loved.  Her reason for loving geraniums was simple…they bloom all summer long and into fall.  A little chilly weather and they still bloom and thrive.  So, after being a mass floral murderer I tempted fate and extended my interest into the daring flora.  I bought and took care of the bright red geranium.

I bought fancy pots.  I purchased the good soil.  I hoarded and applied “miracle grow” to ensure that they would thrive.  I carefully planted these beautiful flowers and watched them bloom and grow.  (Reminds me of “Sound of Music”…”bloom and grow forever…”)  Then something strange happened.  My beautiful flowers started drying up and blowing away.  Did I do something wrong?  What happened?  I felt like a failure.  I slaughtered a living green being.  I felt horrible.    I didn’t know what to do.  My hubby’s favourite flower and I was killing it.

I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t keep any plant life alive.  One weekend we ended up visiting the in-laws.   We arrived and walked into the backyard.  My mother-in-law was beside a geranium and was bending branches off the geraniums.  The flowers were already drying out.  I asked her what she was doing.  She replied, “In order for the new flowers to bloom you need to cut off the dried flowers.  You don’t want to keep wasting nutrients on the dead flowers when you can feed the new blooms.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant.  “See,” she pinched the stem of the dried petals and pulled it off.  “Now, the new blossoms can bloom beautifully because the nutrients are going where they are supposed to go.”  I went home and I gently bent and tore away the dried stems.   It was time to feed the blossoming blooms.

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I compare my life to the blooming geranium.  Sometimes you need to cut off the dead blooms.  The dried out blooms being negative people.  They won’t feed you any wisdom, kindness, or goodness.  It is best to just let them go.  Learn how to handle things that grow.  That includes children, grandchildren, parents,  siblings, family, friends.  We are always learning and growing.  So instead of drowning those in order to save them, perhaps it is best to let them go.  It is up to them if they want to survive and move on.  For those newfound petals that are blossoming, be there for them.  They are vibrant, excited, and usually happy.  Those are the flowers you want in your garden because together you can make a happier life.  This is how I view my beautiful geraniums…mysteries leading to life lessons.  Happy growing!