Listen To Your Mother

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Do it, listen to her, she probably knows best.

But really…

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I didn’t know much about this national show when I first heard about it last year in a professional sense. Someone I’d come to know through work had sent me a press release asking for people to audition with stories of motherhood — stories about their own mom, about being a mom themselves, watching their wife or partner be a mom… I instantly thought, “Michael should do this!”

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Right then he was elbow deep in intense momming. Miles was going to preschool for just three hours a day four days a week and Owen was just a few months old. I had only been in this new position for a few months and was working way more hours than any one person should along with being gone a lot of Project Reveal and other various commitments. He was doing a lot of the momming. I say “momming” because that’s how the outside world saw what he was doing.

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Really what Michael was doing was being a parent. He wasn’t being Mr. Mom; he wasn’t “babysitting;” he certainly wasn’t doing me or us as a couple any favors. If the roles were reversed and he was working 60 hours a week and helping run a nonprofit not a single eye would bat.

Am I right?

But there was some batting. There was even some finger wagging. And I’m sure some gossiping as well if we are to be completely honest here.

Anyway, back to Listen To Your Mother… I sent him the press release and blurbs about the auditions no less than 28 times. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration; it may have only been 18 times. But I thought he would be great. Michael is a genius writer; so much better than me (or is it I, see, he’d know.) And he’s hilarious. I am only ever funny unintentionally. I mean, I can be funny but it is typically at my own expense like I’ve fallen or am clueless of some well-known pop culture reference.

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But alas, he refused to apply.

“There’s no way I’m getting on a stage. NEVER!”

The second year rolled around. I tried again. And again. And again.

On try 33 he said, “OK, if you’ll do it with me and you’ll finally leave me alone I’ll do it.”

But this was about 10 p.m. the night before the last audition. We hadn’t prepared anything. He was working until midnight. We hadn’t arranged for childcare the next day for the auditions.

All keys to success. Right?

So, we essentially wrote the piece back and forth over Facebook messenger while he worked (don’t mind us Courier & Press bosses) and read through it one time around 1 a.m. when he got home.

The next day we packed up our crazy, heathen children hoping for the best thinking the bribe of “really awesome, fun, exciting stuff” after the audition would keep the quiet for five minutes.

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“Five minutes, please,” I begged of Miles in a sincere whisper.

“Of course,” he said, with an evil, little glint in his eye.

We started and not 30 seconds in they started bouncing off the walls. I see chocolate scattered about the table for those auditioning. I grab for it blindly, still reading our piece, maddeningly unwrapping the crinkly foil and the boys scream and prance about turning into howler monkeys in mere seconds literally pounding on the windows.

I start tossing the chocolate on the floor hoping for just a few seconds of silence. I don’t think twice about the sugar, the artificial whatevers, the germs… none of it matters. There’s a few moments of peace.

Who knows if our piece is any good. The true reason we made it in the show was the chocolate tossing.

Thanks boys!

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Come hear for yourself as we are joined by 12 other incredible women telling stories about motherhood. Part of the proceeds go to benefit 4C Play and Learn. It is 7 p.m. Saturday at AIS Diamond (Old North High School on Stringtown.) Tickets are available at the door for $20 but online for $15 by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2505159.

 

Be nice, seriously

The lessons learned as a child are endless. And while as a third grader I didn’t always understand them (especially any of them involving math) or realize how they would impact me well beyond childhood, I’m eternally grateful for the things my parents taught me.

Kindness was one of the most valuable lessons. But this idea of “kindness” is kind of (see what I did there) nebulous. I mean, if I were to tell Miles, “Make sure you’re always kind,” his immediate 4 year old response would be, “What’s kind mean momma?” Because this kid, ever a journalist’s kid, is FULL of questions.

So, in my never-ending quest to be 1/10th of the parent to my boys that my mom and dad were to my sister, I’ve been working to instill the importance of kindness. One way I’ve tried to illustrate it is by including EVERYONE.

I remember as a kid when we had a birthday party we would have two choices — we’d invite every girl in the class (because, ewwwww, boys!) or our two closest friends. It was an all or nothing kind of thing. If you invited seven of nine… now that’s just mean. Or even worse, eight of nine. Imagine being that ninth little girl without an invitation!

Guess what guys, I’ve been that ninth little girl. And woman. Yep, apparently everyone didn’t have awesome parents like mine. Nope, they didn’t have parents who taught them the importance of kindness and including everyone. No, you don’t have to be every one’s best friend. Heck, you don’t have to be everyone’s friend. But would it kill you to be kind?

Let me help you out… the answer is, “No.” Not only will it not hurt you to be kind, it will also help teach your children the importance of that lesson. We may think we are teaching our children something by telling them to do it, but if we ourselves aren’t modeling it… well, it’s just not all that valuable.

OK, my tree-hugging, kindness-loving self is going to go meditate in my office. Go do something kind now.

 

You can’t use my kid to cover up your hate or fear

I bite my tongue a lot. I’m afraid of offending friends or family or possibly sources. But what good is this blog, my blog about MY opinion and thoughts if I don’t get a little controversial every once in a while.

So I’m done. Please stop using your kids as an excuse to be hateful.

Here’s what Target said, among other things, in a recent statement that is causing the good ol’ world of Mommy blogs and the far right (among other extremes) to call for a protest of Target:

“Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.

“We believe that everyone—every team member, every guest, and every community—deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”

I’m struggling with finding the danger in this. Let’s all hold our breath and quiver as we read about the scary, scary world of acceptance. A world where we respect and welcome people. OH NO!

Specifically, Target says they welcome transgendered team members and guests to use the bathroom or fitting room that corresponds with their gender identity.

Naturally, many are under the assumption that these transgendered guests or staff are all sexual predators just waiting for Target to loosen the reigns on their policy and are just waiting to grab up our children to assault them.

So of course… let’s protest! I hate it for Target because it is bad for their bottom line. But I’m happy to not be rubbing elbows with people filled with such hate.

I mean, what are you scared of? Do you think Target telling people they are accepted all of a sudden makes your kids at risk?

“The left has always won on gay marriage, and now they are slowly making more perverted things acceptable.

It should be left up to private companies, and not state governments, to set bathroom policies. But why would anyone feel safe in Target… especially women and young ladies? How can parents feel comfortable sending their daughters into the Target restroom?” From thepoliticalinsider.com

There are folks protesting on Target’s Facebook, and LOTS of blogs and angry, indignant Facebook posts. Here’s one: “Will never spend another dime at target as long as Targett supports men in women’s restroom. Way to promote Pepping toms and perverts” (spelling is not mine.)

The thing is, that little placard with a straight-legged stick person or a stick person with a triangle bottom outside of it before wasn’t going to protect our kids. Nope. So this new policy — a policy of acceptance, tolerance and equality — doesn’t all of a sudden make our kids in mortal danger.

And for people who are scared of things they don’t understand or know, or even worse for people who don’t like it or hate it, to use the excuse “but I’m protesting out of fear for my child (or your child/wife/daughter/sister’s) safety” …. NOPE! Big, fat NO.

You can’t use my kid to cover up your hate or fear.

Lifetime of memories just starting to be made

These days, it seems like every little moment with the kids is one of those things that makes me understand just how fast they’re growing up.

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And just how little time we have to soak everything in.

It can be hectic having two little kids — especially when both of them happen to be boys. The noise, the messes, the half-eaten dinners, the refusals to go to bed — it can absolutely be overwhelming at times. There are moments where I’m so exhausted I could cry.

But then there’s the first tee-ball practice, a kindergarten orientation, even an after-school dentist appointment (no cavities, thank you very much) that make you understand just how important it is to take stock in the moment and count your blessings.

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And that was just with one kid, just last week.

At tee-ball practice last week, Miles stepped up to the plate with his brand-new green bat — he’s very proud of his green bat — and smacked a ground ball between first and second base. He stood there as everyone cheered and shouted for him to run for first.

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After a few seconds he remembered to run, taking off for first base — then, halfway there, took an abrupt left turn, diving on his own ground ball, reminding us all what it’s like to be a kid — grass-stained pants and all.

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Michael was so proud.

“He totally sold out for that ball,” Michael said. “He’s like the Pete Rose of tee-ball.”

That’s the kind of story parents tell about their children for a lifetime.

Other people often tell me when I’m out and about with the boys, “Make this time count, it goes by too fast,” and it seems like that has become extra true lately for some reason.

It seems like just yesterday we were bringing Miles home from the hospital for the first time, going 20 miles an hour the whole way, excited, nervous and in no way prepared for what being parents was all about.

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Suddenly, that little boy is nearly 5 years old and is preparing to start kindergarten. We toured his new kindergarten. I feel like if I keep saying it, somehow it will seem more real and less scary. I just can’t believe how the time has gone by just like that.

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Owen turned 18 months just about a week ago. He’s already making couch cushion forts in the living room, dancing and singing along with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, getting into anything and everything he can. We know that it won’t be long before we can’t (or at least shouldn’t) call him “the baby” anymore.

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And as bittersweet as it can be to see them growing up so fast, I am incredibly lucky.

There have been — and still will be — moments of frustration, tantrums and tears, from them and me. And in those moments I may be counting down the minutes to bedtime. What I’m choosing to focus on is the lifetime of memories — mostly amazing — yet to be made. There’s a world of firsts ahead.

And knowing that is the best blessing of all.

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Ready for kindergarten?!?

It can’t be possible.

Just yesterday I was encouraging him to walk.

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Wasn’t it last week that he was smearing a peanut butter sandwich in his baby soft ringlet-filled hair?

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But it is… and I have to.

Today, this afternoon, in about three hours I’m registering my kid for kindergarten.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT OUT. I still haven’t been able to say it aloud. That makes it real, right? It becomes a thing if I verbalize it, right? (And we all know what happens when it becomes a real, live thing, right? I cry. I cry a lot!)

In addition to not feeling like it is possible that my little guy is growing up, I also have conflicted thoughts. Is he ready for this? I’m a planner (shocking I know) and in my head he was going to be in preschool another year.

That was the plan. Well it wasn’t always the plan…

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The original plan was for him to start preschool at 3 (he started nine days after his third birthday actually) and to go two years, the first just a few days a week and the second on a more fulltime basis to prepare him for Kindergarten.

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It was all planned out in my own head. But then the outside world weighed in.

“Oh, you can’t start him in school this young!” “Boys need more time to mature before starting school.” “You’re setting him up for failure!” “Let him have more time to just be a kid and play; there’s plenty of time for school.” “He’ll never be ready for kindergarten that young!”

Shhhhhewwwwww….. (that’s the sound of the wind releasing from my sails.)

So, I did some Googling (I know, it’s a terrible idea) and found all kinds of articles to support the idea that boys who are a “young 5” struggle with the adjustment and are better off being “held back” a year. Miles’ July 20 birthday puts him just 11 days before the cut off.

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I was convinced. He CAN’T possibly be ready for Kindergarten. The new plan was hatched.

Fast forward nearly two years… I stop by the office at my son’s preschool asking about registering him for next year.

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“Won’t he be 5 by the cutoff?” the secretary asks me.

“Yes, but we’re choosing for him to stay in preschool an extra year,” I respond plainly… doesn’t she get that that’s the plan? It’s already been established.

“You can’t do that. It’s not an option.”

CRASH. SLAM. BOOM.

There goes my plan.

Several panicked phone calls, some more Googling and a few tears. I learn she’s right. We could choose to enroll Miles in private preschool but if we want him to stay in the public school system he will be starting kindergarten this year. GASP.

I once again opened myself up to advice and insight. Some of the same folks who two years ago thought it would be a terrible idea gave me encouraging thoughts. They knew Miles and said he was ready. His current preschool teacher was supportive, other family and friends calmed my fears as well.

And guess what, the good ol’ Google found me several articles supporting the fact that my kiddo actually will survive. And maybe, just maybe, mom will too.

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So… moral of the story, heck I don’t know. I’m too worried about registering for Kindergarten to make any sense today!

Treasure life, it goes so fast

It went so fast.

Each day he was robbed of something. One day he was walking fine, the next he needed a cane. The day after that a walker. And after another day a wheelchair.

My dad rarely did anything small. He negotiated traffic like a half-crazed lunatic. He once fearlessly pretended to be a roadie at a Buddy Miles concert just to get himself backstage — and totally pulled it off. He met my then-boyfriend for the first time ever wearing a child’s tutu on his head.

Now, this larger-than-life man was losing his battle with a monster — the cancer that had started in his liver less than a year earlier and had spread everywhere.

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We knew what was going to happen. The hospice people had explained to us that death was a process and that by being with him in his final days we would help him accept what was happening, and in turn be able to accept it ourselves.

Still, it went so fast.

I left work on a January afternoon with plans to be gone for a few days, spend some time with him and then go back to work. I never made it back to work before he died.
It went that fast.

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Me and my dad

Me and my dad

Yet when it did finally happen, those last breaths … it went so slow.

That morning we sensed it was coming so we all piled into the hospital bed in his makeshift room — the office space that had for so long been his sanctuary. He was surrounded by all of his music and sports memorabilia, family pictures like the one of my sister Sarah and I hanging baby faced from the monkey bars at the park, his pet lizard Cassidy, tchotchkes from family adventures.

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None of us had slept much in days. The hours all kind of ran together. My mom hadn’t left his side, afraid even to blink lest she not be there for him. It had been a rough morning; his pain was intense. The hospice aid had just arrived, helping us convince our mom to take a few minutes, brush her teeth, change her clothes, have a moment.

It went so fast.

Sarah and I were still lying next to him in bed when what had been labored breathing suddenly turned into fighting, struggling breathing.

“Mom,” I shrieked up the stairs.

She came running down, toothbrush still in her mouth.

It was time.

We all huddled together crying and telling dad we loved him. It was OK. He could go.

And he did.

It went so fast.

It’s so hard to describe that moment. My grief was unbearable. We were devastated. The idea of going on without dad seemed impossible, unfathomable. But — and this is that thing no one feels like they can say out loud — there was relief.

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Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating. I know our pain couldn’t hold a candle to what dad was going through. But it was so difficult. I was grateful his pain was gone. I was thankful that I could be there with him, along with my mom and sister, in those final moments, helping him say goodbye.

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The past five years have zoomed by. So much has happened since Jan. 28, 2011.
I’ve had both of my boys, my sister her own son. Michael and I bought a house. Mom bought a house and moved to Newburgh. I’ve taken a new job. Sarah became a CPA.
There are the little things — we’ve taken family vacations, created new and silly family traditions, sent Miles off to school for the first time … things that I never imagined doing without my dad.

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Although we’ve lived the last five years without dad here, he’s continued to impact all of us. When faced with difficult decisions, I’ve often asked myself what dad would do, what advice he’d give. I’ve talked things out with him, listening for and looking for signs of his thoughts. It’s hard to get together as a family without laughing and sharing stories about dad. We miss him so much.

And my 30 years with him, well, they went so fast.

Never alone; thanks mom

This time of year is tough.

In just 15 days it’ll be five years since we lost dad.

This day a couple decades ago (I won’t say how many) my amazing, strong, resilient and rock star mom was born.

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It’s so hard to look at any of the days this month without having the countdown to Jan. 28. And, selfishly, I hate that amazing days — mom’s birthday, my sister and I’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday — are almost marred with this terrible, unimaginable thing.

But that’s life, right?

I fear sometimes that in my desire to honor and keep my dad’s memory alive — because let’s get real, he was an out of this world, over the top, loving, caring, awesome dad, husband, friend and advocate — that the stellar, shinning status of my mom is overshadowed.

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So, today, on the anniversary of the day of her birth, I’d like to shout from the rooftops — MY MOM ROCKS! I, without a doubt, would not be here today without her. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the fact that she birthed me (which she did, along with my twin sister in natural birth super star style.) What I mean is, I wouldn’t be the functioning successfulish adult that I am today. I wouldn’t be the loving, caring, trying to be patient, fun and rock star in training mom that I am today. I wouldn’t be a committed and passionate community advocate/volunteer.

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Yep, without her I would never be where I am today with my amazing family, a great job and an over-committed (but great) life. She’s been an incredible example for me showing me what it takes to be a powerhouse in the workplace and supportive, loving mom at home. She’s shown me the importance of having hobbies and passions and following through on them. She’s shown me how rewarding a life of service is and always modeled an accepting and tolerant sensibility.

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Without her unending support — emotional, financial and physical — I would have never graduated from college, become a peace corps volunteer, have a rewarding marriage and amazing children and countless other things.

Phone calls, tear-soaked shoulders, boxes and boxes of “just because I believe in you and love you” cards, silent but clear signs of support and encouragement… I truly have no idea what life would be like without her.

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I’m lucky. I celebrate. I love.

So as these next few weeks drag on, and I’m flooded with the memories of those last days with dad that I simultaneously want to never let go of and also bury far away, I’m going to try to remember that this month isn’t all bad. It gave me a lot, and most importantly, it gave me my momma.

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This note in a card — the woman has single-handedly kept Hallmark and the U.S. Postal service in business — sums up her never-ending support and dogged belief in me, even in my jerkiest of childhood/teen years:

“Nothing would be the same without you being in my life. Be the special person that you are. Let everyone see what I see! Love Mom”

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Blast from the past

My mom called me a while back, talking through fits of laughter.

“I found this box of yours that said, ‘Do not open,’ with threats of death if I did. Of course I didn’t open it, but I really want to know what’s inside!”

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It turns out, she exaggerated a little — the box threatened a surprise attack by a cow (what was I thinking? It wouldn’t be much of a surprise with the warning proclaimed in purple marker.) I was kind of a strange kid. In addition to the cow warnings (which I put in three separate places) I had drawn my childhood dog Molly, a giant rainbow, two hot air balloons, a unicorn …box

Inside was an amazing collection of items dating back to at least 1991, though I suspect many are much older.

There were silly things like rocks, a plastic spoon (still in the plastic bag) and two straws from McDonald’s, buttons cheering on my alma mater, postcards I’d collected since elementary school, letters from friends at church camp, memorabilia from church youth trips, newspaper clippings mentioning my name, a hospital bracelet, my first-ever hair color box (Glints, gingergold), a papier-mâché bracelet I made from a cereal box, pictures from a million years ago including some terribly embarrassing prom pictures, stickers from every imaginable environmental group (I was a tree hugger even then) and a Biore pore strip (unused, thankfully) with Lilith Fair branding. Those all made me laugh, a lot, and cringe a little. box4

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But under all those silly treasures and memories was some incredibly important stuff — things I thought I’d not ever have again.

It’s been a year and a half since we lost many of our belongings in a fire. I was frustrated and angry about the loss of furniture, clothes and other valuables. But I was devastated by the loss of memories — photos, keepsakes from my adventures overseas, cards and letters (including from my dad who had passed away three years before then), photos, my son’s baby book and all of the mementos from his first two years of life … None of that can be replaced, and emotions were intensified by the fact that I was about six months pregnant with Owen at the time of the blaze.

So this treasure trove of unrelated items of “junk” is the best Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. I’ve been given some physical reminders of my amazing childhood memories.

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In the box, there were about a dozen cards and letters from my mom and dad. Some of my favorite tidbits from the letters and cards from my dad: 10/31/91 “Hi honey. I have been very busy at the workshop, but not so busy that I don’t have time to think about you. I realize how important you are to me when I go away. I realize how much I love you. Remember, it is who you are that I love and am proud of, no matter what you do.”

In that same envelope — written on stationary from an Omni hotel — was a nomination letter: “After long and careful thinking, the board of directors and I have decided that you would make the best choice as Daughter of a Lifetime. We decided this based on how frequently and effectively you prove how wonderful a girl you are. Your honesty, sensitivity, intelligence and beauty set you apart. Your mother and I are lucky; we love you. Respectfully, Daddy, co-chairman of the Brown Family Board.”

Card upon leaving for camp: “Show those girls what you’re made of, play tough, be fair, have fun.”

A just because card: “It’s amazing to me how often I tell somebody else how lucky I am, how great you are, how you are more adult and responsible than I am, how I wouldn’t know what to do without 1/3 of the best family a guy could have. You’re special, you belong here and I do love you.”

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I am incredibly lucky. I was, and still am, so loved. And, thankfully, my parents were willing and able to illustrate that love. The impact of these cards on me now — decades after they were written — are more powerful than I think can be imagined. And obviously they affected me when they were first written or I wouldn’t have had them tucked away and protected by an imaginary attack cow.

These were a reminder of how important it is for me to do the same for my boys. I heard my mom and dad tell me how special I was, how loved I was. And I truly heard those words; I felt their hugs. But reading it, being able to turn the cards over in my hands back then, today and decades down the road — it’s an incredible reminder of those facts when real life self-doubt and hate inevitably creep in. I am special. I am loved.

In this digital age I need to be sure I’m putting these same kinds of things onto something my boys can squirrel away in their room. So 20 years down the road I can give them their metal Paw Patrol lunchbox sealed shut with duct tape and a “do not enter” message.

And they can have those same laughs, tears and cringes and be reminded just how important they are to me, their dad and the world.

They are special. They are loved.

Miles’ angel boy

Raising a grateful child is so important to me. Raising a generous child is a priority. And raising an empathetic child is a must.

And those three things are extra important this time of the year but it seems as if during the holiday season it is even more difficult to instill or renew those values.

The “I wants” can be overwhelming when what I wish I could hear was, “I’m grateful for…” or “I want to help…”

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I’m sure that as a kid I was the same. I vividly remember sitting on the floor with a giant Sears catalog atop my knees and an ink pen between my teeth poised to circle ALL OF THE STUFF I wanted. But I also, with ease, can recall shopping for less fortunate children with my parents and combing through our toys and clothes to find things that we no longer played with or wore to donate to area charities.
Those lessons — the ones about how there were many who went without — stuck with me. I remember getting a warm, gushy feeling doing that shopping with my mom and dad or packing up some items to take to the Salvation Army.
I am hopeful to pass that message, that greater meaning to this season, on to my own children. So this year Miles — the only one of my two kiddos who’s capable of saying, “I want, I want, I want” — and I chose a little paper angel off of the tree at our church filled with children in need of some help for a brighter Christmas. I looked for a child as close to Miles’ age as possible — we found an 8-year-old boy.
Yesterday afternoon we decided to go shopping, but before I left I picked Miles’ up and pulled him on to my lap.
“Let’s talk,” I said, in my serious tone.
“What mom?” he said in his goofy tone but doing his best to look me in the eye with a serious face (it looked more like a rabid dog, his eyes all wild and crazy and his jaw set.)
“We are going to go to the store but we aren’t going to be buying anything for Miles or Owen or anyone else in our family, OK?”
“Aww, man!”
“Now wait, listen,” I say, pleading he’ll hear this message. “There’s this little boy, and he might not have any presents under his tree for Christmas this year.”
“That’s so sad,” Miles said, truly looking forlorn, his eyes even wetting. “What can we do?”
“We are going to buy him some presents and clothes and food. Do you want to do that?”
“Yes!”
So we took off with our paper angel cut-out in tow. Miles gripped on to it tightly, repeatedly telling nearby shoppers we were shopping for his “angel boy.” Toys, clothes and a food essentials as well as a stocking and some candy and other snacks, that Miles proceeded to stuff inside the stocking. He kept holding the angel cut out up to the bright, blue, oversized sock saying, “He wants to see his stocking!”
When we checked out, Miles plainly explained to the cashier what we were doing.
“My angel boy, he didn’t have presents under his tree. So we got him some.”
I’m not going to lie… We didn’t make it out of the toy section without a few protests over why Miles couldn’t get something too. But, after a few deep breaths (on both of our parts) and a reminder of why we were there, he was OK with it.
It’s just one tiny part of a lifetime of lessons about privilege, the joy of giving, civic responsibility and empathy. But I definitely walked out of the store feeling like we’d made some progress. And Miles, even hours later, talked about his angel boy.

Thankful thoughts

I try to do a pretty good job recognizing how good I have it in the moment. And I’m pretty blessed that I have it pretty good most of the time.

Even with that, though, I could use a reminder about gratefulness, appreciation and acknowledgment.

And what better way (and day, since it is THANKSgiving today) to do that than offering my fellow Features staffers a chance to talk about what they are thankful for and for me to do the same.

IMG_4904Kids — I really hit the lottery with this one. And I’m not talking about the cursed lotto either where you squander your riches and find yourself sad and broken in the corner. I am so lucky. As crazy as my boys can make me feel sometimes (it is very difficult raising a mini-version of my hardheaded, strong-willed self), I am the luckiest woman alive that they lovingly (usually) call me Mama. There are days when mere thoughts of them make me cry from overwhelming joy.

IMG_2842Family — I am so lucky that I have a husband who not only loves, but also (mostly) tolerates the me who completely overbooks and overcommits herself and hurriedly comes home greeted, many nights, to dinner. You love me, and you love our boys. It doesn’t get much better than that. The rest of my family is also pretty amazing, with my super heroesque mom who can pretty much do anything and has spent 34 years putting up with me (we’ve started the sainthood process already.)

Meet our toddler chicks -- Mocalotive, Choo Choo, Stella, Olive, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little

Chickens — Yes, they can be stinky (you were right, Michael) and being a chicken mom in the pouring rain and freezing winter hasn’t been awesome, but I’m so grateful that I finally have them. And I’m kind of a farmer now, which is awesome.

Co-workers — It’s been nearly a year since I took this position. I’m thankful to have amazing co-workers that not only make the job easier but who also make my day better just by being a part of my life. I am grateful to my former boss who helped prepare me for this position and championed me to others, and most importantly, to myself.

New opportunities — There are several of these on the horizon. And I’m stoked. It will mean good things for me and my family, and I’m thankful. And while I’m aware of a few opportunities in the works, I know there are many, many more to come — that’s one of the best things about life!

Comfort — When I roll down my window handing a dollar to the homeless man, see a family waiting at the bus stop in the freezing rain or hear about families who are juggling whether to pay their electric bill or buy groceries, I’m smacked in the face with my own privilege and comfort. It shouldn’t take those reminders, or even worse the never-ending stories from across the world of need, to be thankful for things as simple as clean water or shoes.

I’m thankful.

Features writer Kelly Gifford is thankful, too.

“I am thankful for the new beginnings that my family has been through in these recent months. My parents said goodbye to our childhood home in Bloomington and now live just down the street from my sister and her family in Newburgh. This move has taken a toll on our whole family but has given us a new chapter that will be full of memories and experiences with one another.

“I’m thankful for having met a pretty neat boy, who’s introduced me to a large and wonderful family who resembles my own in many ways. I’ll be forever changed by them all, especially him.

“Lastly, I’m thankful for having spent the first year of my journalism career at this paper, in a newsroom full of journalists who are dedicated to informing our community with the best reporting and writing around.

“It’s been a great first year.”

Features intern James Vaughn is grateful, also.

“I am thankful, first and foremost, for my opportunity to receive an education. I am thankful for friends and family who never fail to support me or lift me up when I’m down. I am thankful, especially this year, for the sense of freedom and hopefulness that I enjoy the comfort of, but too often take for granted. I am thankful to live day to day without immense fear. I am thankful for the roof over my head and the food in my mouth.

“I am thankful for my dog, Gigi, whose pure love gets me through most days. And last but not least, I am thankful for the opportunity to be telling you, our readers, what I’m thankful for, including this platform to share your stories.”

Please share what you are thankful for @abbeyrd99, @kelgiffo or @jamesrlvaughn on Twitter.