Pardon me while I stomp on some toes, and smash some tiaras

I found a very interesting editorial at CNN the other day regarding the TLC show “Toddlers and Tiaras. The article talks about how little girls are sexualized as part of the beauty pageant racket, er, system.

So who’s to blame for this?

Some would say that TLC has the lion’s share of the responsibility for this happening to these little girls. Should they televise beauty pageants for small girls? Well, for a channel called The Learning Channel, I think it’s a horrifyingly crappy bid for ratings. There’s nothing to learn from this activity that anyone can benefit from the way it is being televised. One documentary showing how these little girls are treated would have been sufficient. An ongoing series that perpetuates this howlingly mad activity is abusive. Having said all that, I don’t believe they should get the majority of the blame.

The parents are responsible for this travesty, mainly the mothers. Any mother that puts her little bitty kid in a Dolly Parton outfit, complete with a stuffed bra, cakes on the make up and spends hours forcing her little girl to endure practice for a beauty pageant needs to have her head examined.

Yeah, I went there…and I am not finished.

As mothers, we have many duties. As I see it, the first of those duties is to do our best to raise our children to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted human beings. How on God’s green Earth are these little girls supposed to grow up with any sense of self-worth that isn’t tied to some kind of title, crown or prize? And, really, who in their right mind wants to see little girls made up like grown women? Really?

Check this out, and see what I’m talking about:Toddlers & Tiaras – Groovy Girls

Blessed are mundane things

Today started out being not such a bad day. My house wasn’t considered to be in the flood zone, and we had made some progress on going through stuff in the basement that needed to be gotten rid of or brought upstairs. There was a sense of it needing to be done, but not that we had to kill ourselves to finish up.

My Sister calls this "Frog in a Blender"

Then we went out to run some errands. Older Son came with me and on the way home, I thought it would be nice to stop at Starbucks and get us some coffee. Or, in my case, a nice Green Tea Frappuccino.  We sat outside the drive through speaker for a long time, and then a girl came out and apologized, letting us know that they were closing due to the evacuation zones being expanded.


Yep…we came right home and turned on the tv. The big news is that someone just discovered that double the water was coming our way, and those close to the original evacuation zones were to evacuate as well. Well, that threw things into a tizzy. Later on we would find out that we weren’t in an expanded evacuation zone, but that someone had jumped the gun on that announcement. We are still getting double the water, though. It’s going to be what I come to call a Prairie Tsunami.

So, Older Son and I began to get things up from the basement, double time. Younger Son was at Driver’s Ed all afternoon, but got home early. We hauled stuff up and stashed it in bedrooms, we hauled crap out to the curb for garbage pickup, and we took some stuff to a friend who had use for them. It got to be about 9:30, and I walked across the road to see what’s going on closer to the river. I could see straight down one road to a main drag that runs over a bridge across the river. It was still dry, even though the West end of town is flooding. I’m hoping to get up tomorrow and still see a dry road. We’ll see what the new day brings. Until then, time to hit the rack.

Older Son’s bed is smack in the middle of the living room, so he’ll be comfortable enough until this whole thing is over and we can get him back into his bedroom in the basement. He suggested that we watch a movie, Battle: L.A. It’s an alien attack movie, just the kind of sci-fi thing we all like to watch. I sat here earlier flossing my teeth and catching up on the news on Facebook, and realized how nice it was to just do something as mundane as take care of my teeth. Watching a movie together is a nice mundane way to try to normalize after a long day of tearing up your house, and watching your community go under water via the television.  For now, we are just a family hanging out together, discussing the best way for the protagonists to kill the attacking aliens. Run of the mill stuff around these parts.

Good night all…


Three days and counting!

Oh yes…only three more days left and then life gets good again. School’s soon to be out for the Summer!  Whoo!

What, you say? I like it when school is out? Oh yes. I have always liked it better when the kids are out for the summer.  There’s less complication, less garbage to deal with, and all around less stress.  Older Son asked me the other day why I liked it better when school is out. “Because I like you guys,” was my reply. And I do like having them around…I’ll be a mess when they move on and get their own lives!

I will admit that they are getting on each others nerves by the end of Summer Vacation, and going back to school alleviates that a bit.  This year I don’t anticipate that being a problem as they both are working.  With the different schedule’s they’ll have, they’ll be lucky to even see each other for very long at all most days. Sigh…I’ll be lucky to see them at all each day. Still, I like it better when school’s out for the Summer.

T-minus three days, and counting!

Cutting cords while trying to hold it together

Last week, Younger Son got his first job. He’ll be working with a local landscaper, which will be good for Younger. He’s a hands on kind of kid and likes to keep physically busy. He was a little worried that his busy summer schedule would interfere with being able to get a summer job, but he got lucky and found an employer that was willing to be flexible. And, it’s close enough that he can ride his bike to work. Score!

Yesterday, he turned 16 and got his first paycheck, and I’m feeling a little strange about that. Tonight I need to take him out to buy steel-toed work boots and gloves. He’s my baby, and now he’s my gainfully employed, man-sized, baby. Uff-da.

Older Son is 18 now, and is looking for a job that will provide him more hours this summer. And, he still wants to hang on to his current part-time job.  I didn’t feel so terrorized when he got his first job two years ago because I knew that he needed to do that in order to learn how to get along in the world. Older Son was always more shy, less able to put himself out there and try new things. I pushed him and made him get a job because I understood that it would be good for his self-esteem to earn the paycheck, and he’d learn useful skills.  I’m happy to say that having a part-time job has had exactly the desired effect…he’s really come a long way and is nowhere near as shy as he used to be.

Recently I purchased a new-to-us vehicle, so that Older Son would have some independence in getting back and forth to school and work.  Now, he’s not exactly pleased with the choice I made in vehicles. What I would have liked to get him, and what he’d have LOVED to have is something like this:

Desirable, but not affordable

What he ended up with is a 1978 Dodge Adventurer SE. We affectionately call it The Beast:

So, while it wasn’t what he dreamed of, it’s something that gets him around until he can afford the vehicle he wants. Younger Son instantly fell in love with this rumbly old beater, and is terribly jealous. I’ve promised him that he can use it when Older gets a his own. I’m hoping it will only be another year or so until I can hand that over to him.

So, with all of the comings and goings, my little family isn’t going to see much of each other anymore. It makes me terribly sad that time has flown by and, all of a sudden, my little boys are now grown men. It gives me the nervous twitches just thinking about that fact that in another three years, I will most likely be the only one living at home.

I was talking with my Sister-by-Choice last night about how strange it is to sit alone in your house when your children are away from home with their other parent. When my kids are away from home, I experience a strange juxtaposition of emotions where I feel freed up to do any freaking thing I want (whoo!), and yet I feel paralyzed for wondering what they are doing and worrying if they are ok or not. When they finally come home, no matter how long they’ve been gone, I always feel myself breathing easier. Letting go of this kind paralysis-inducing worry is definitely something I am going to have to teach myself how to do. Imagine what it will be like when my kids leave home for good? I’ll have to get hobbies, and lots of them. Good thing I will have Harley around to keep my company.

Now, while I’m helping my kids grow up and become responsible people, I feel like I am handing them the scissors to cut apron strings with. In Younger Son’s case, I think he was born with a hatchet in his hand, and gleefully chops every apron string I own as soon as he discovers another one tying him down. He’s the one that is yearning to get out in the world, who isn’t afraid to put himself in new situations. He’s the one I feel like I need to hang on to a little tighter because he has no fear.

And yet, I give him the tools he needs and I stand back and watch him go.

I suppose that is the appropriate way of things, and bucking the system won’t get me very far. But, I’ll try to get away with it…just for a little longer.

Football season again…there goes the schedule.

Younger's Jersey this year

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. Football season has begun.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with football. The love part has to do with the fact that Younger Son loves to play, and I love to see him play, even though I don’t understand much of what I’m seeing. But more about that in a later post.

The hate part comes in when it comes to scheduling and supplies. The supplies part of it isn’t that terrible…it’s just another expense along with school supplies, registration etc. The scheduling is what really gets my goat.

As many of you parents know, we live and die by our kids’ schedules. Our lives revolve around what they are doing, whether it’s school activities, sports or work…or all three at once.  Parents need a Plan, not just for themselves for their jobs and activities, but the for the kids as well, so everyone is on the same page. Everyone has The Plan in their heads for the week and knows what to expect. Everyone who needs a ride will get one. All activities will be accounted for and attended. By the end of the week, everything will have gotten done that needed to be done.

Apparently, that doesn’t even enter into the minds of The Powers That Be who administrate the scheduling of Football for the season. Today is a good example. I’ve seen on the schedule we do have that there is a scrimmage today. Younger Son’s team is playing against the team of another city for a preseason practice.  I’ve been asking Younger every day this week, “What did you hear about the scrimmage? What time is it? Where is it? When do I need to drop you off and pick you up?”  Poor kid…of course these come out in rapid fire sequence in my zeal to solidify The Plan for the weekend.

Unfortunately the coaches refused to tell the kids anything until Friday afternoon. The kids have to be at the school before 8am so they can be dressed to play and get on a bus to go across town. Scrimmage will start sometime between 9 and 10am. Time to pick the kids up afterward is undetermined. It’s unknown how many games will even be played.

What the heck?!

So, I breath deeply, and evenly…this too shall pass. It will be worth it to watch Younger Son have such a good time. Additionally, he’s learning discipline and good sportsmanship. And, it’s only for two months more and then we have a nice long break until he joins track in the Spring.

I never thought I would look so forward to a nice long Winter!

Live and let live – I challenge you to tell me why we can’t.

Fair warning…a rant is about to ensue.

I read an article today about the same-sex marriage debate that is going on in California right now, regarding the judge who ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, and I was shocked to discover that Gov. Schwarzenegger has requested that the stay against same gender couples getting married be lifted. Wow…a Republican is asking that same gendered couples be allowed to marry. It’s about damned time.

In another article published by The Christian Science Monitor (which was a very fair article), one of the reasons given that Proposition 8 should stand is:

“…that the government has a rational reason to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. They said because marriage is likely to result in children, the state wants to encourage both birth parents to raise their children within a stable household.”

Ok…I’ll be the first one to agree that kids need a stable home life, but the implication that opposite gendered couples are the only ones that can give a child a stable home is complete horse pucky. Opposite gendered parents can be abusers, addicts, dead beats and a whole host of other negative descriptors. The notion that two committed people can’t be together and raise children because of someone else’s so-called “moral” imperatives is just beyond me. If I had two neighbors, each a couple but one opposite gendered, and one same gendered, who do you think I’d pick to look after my own children, or my home when I’m away? I’m going to choose the more honest, stable and common-sense neighbor regardless of who’s married to whom. You are either a good person or not.  You either have common sense, or not. You are either honest or you are not. Your brain being hard-wired to have interest in one gender or another doesn’t enter into it.

It really annoys me that this is even an issue. As far as I can tell, from all that I’ve read, heard and seen, the only reason anyone is fighting to ban same gendered marriage is because it’s a religious issue. If it’s a religious issue, then that needs to be administrated by individual churches and their flocks, which would then have no impact on anyone outside those individual circles. The government has no business telling people who can and can’t marry. Some will say that it is an issue that impacts the insurance industry. I have to call Baloney Sandwiches on that, as I work for a Fortune 500 company that is based out of Europe, and domestic partners of either gender are allowed to be included on our health insurance, which is administrated by an American company.

The bottom line argument has to do with human rights. If two people want to make a life time commitment to each other, what difference does it make if they are same or different genders? The problem is that people are full of ignorance and fear about things that make no matter in their own lives.  If you don’t believe in same gendered marriage then don’t have one, but for crying out loud, let other people run their own lives. See this picture of people holding hands? This is what life should be about…forming positive relationships with people, not finding ways to tear them apart. Really, people… aren’t there more important things to worry about than this?!

If anyone can find a valid reason (not involving religious choices, because that IS a choice) that we shouldn’t allow same gendered people to marry…. bring it. I say live and let live, and I challenge you to tell me why we can’t.

Drowning in Testosterone only looks harmless in the picture.

I’m a single mother, raising two boys ages 17 & 15. Generally speaking, our house is a veritable testosterone swamp. It’s all about video games, sports, boys clothes, and boys stuff… and boy issues. It’s so pervasive that when I recently renovated my bathroom, I found myself  leaning to a more masculine decor than I might otherwise have liked. My basement has become Older Son’s personal Man Cave.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not a girlie-girl. I don’t like pink or yellow, unless it’s on flowers, and I sure don’t dig flower prints on my furniture. I don’t care for lace much, and don’t even think about trying to get me into a dress…unless it’s that really cool wine-colored celtic dress a dear friend gave me some years back (It rocks, thank you Hel’wyse!). As I child, I spent way more time climbing trees, riding my bike, shooting a BB gun and playing catch with my Dad than I did playing dolls.  Oh, I tried the whole hair and make up thing between the ages of 15 and 22, or so. Turns out I’m allergic to all that gunk that women put on their heads, so I decided just to go natural and quit trying to swim upstream. I itch less and it turns out it’s a very much cheaper way to live. I don’t know how some of these women support their make up/hair habits.

So, given that I am a tom-boy (still) at the age of 41, why would I have any problems with living and breathing in a testosterone-laden atmosphere? I guess it has to do with the lack of balance. I don’t get out with my friends much. I do work with a lot of women, but that doesn’t really count. These last two weeks, just about every time I go out with my boys, I’m meeting my Dad and my Favorite Nephews to go to some neat cultural thing. Not that I don’t want to spend time with them, but I’m starting to feel the lack of not having enough women around. My one fleeting moment of estrogen-wrapped fun this week was my Friday lunch with my friend Brea. It only lasted about 20 minutes or so, but we laughed, and chatted, and it was nice (thanks again for the bracelet!).

So, tonight the boys and I were to pick Dad and the Nephews up and go to the Dakota Territory Air Museum. They had some special shindig going on, with lots of vintage airplanes. Uff-da…another testosterone-soaked activity. I just couldn’t take it any more. So, when we arrived at Mom and Dad’s, I gave Older Son the keys to the van, packed Dad and the Nephews up in the back with Younger Son and wished them a good time. I stayed with Mom while they were gone and it was nice. We chatted awhile, and I helped her out with some stuff on the computer. There were no loud noises, no exhortations on why one aircraft/tank/weapon/ship/video game/computer game is better than another. There was also no arguing (I swear to the Gods my kids argue some times like old ladies fighting over who gets the better bingo card) and there was no COPS on the television.

After they all came back from the aircraft show, I took my boys out to supper and we picked up some movies. The one we watched tonight was called “Whip It”, directed by Drew Barrymore, which is a new release in video stores right now. It’s all about women’s roller derby. I loved it! So, I got to spend time with Mom, and then watch a good movie (it really was good…go rent it) about a girl who is coming of age and trying to be tough enough.

It was a good evening. I think the only thing that would have made it a spectacular evening is if Hel’wyse could have joined in. We miss you, honey!

How to celebrate Independence Day?

Younger Son was put out today that there aren’t any fireworks sponsored by the city this year, and we don’t have anywhere in the country to go where we can shoot off our own. In his view the Fourth of July is just not any good without fireworks. Of course I felt obligated to remind him that any way we choose to celebrate the Fourth of July is good because we are free to do as we choose. Being 15, he just wasn’t that impressed with my little speech. I’m going to snicker when he has his own kids and this topic (and so many others) pops up. Skip the snicker…I’ll probably fall down with a good rolling belly laugh. Anyway, I digress.

Are you celebrating without the usual fan fare? No biggie. Check this out, it will make you smile

I have seen a lot of posts about freedom and the Declaration of Independence, and I agree with all of that. I thought hard about posting something serious and history-minded, and then I realized that’s what everyone else was doing. So, I determined that I would not note the passage of this day as most others do. I’ll be a little bit different and post something silly and fun.

I am so thankful for the freedom to be silly and have fun. I live in a place that’s well protected, and that we have (for now) the freedom to do whatever the heck we feel like, within reason. I don’t believe that we’ll always have that, but at least we do for the time being.

So, kick up your heels. Lay around watching tv. Shoot off some firecrackers. Make love to your sweetheart somewhere new and exciting. However you celebrate the 4th, be mindful that others paved the way for that freedom. I think that’s all they’d ask of us today, to just be mindful.

Uh oh…I guess I went and posted something serious after all. OH well…enjoy the song and revel in its silliness!

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for

I am a mother of two boys, ages 17 and 15. If I’ve learned anything in the last 17 years, it’s that kids are smart and they will flog you with their unwavering curiosity and intelligence at every opportunity.

What prompts me to write about this today are two blog postings I read concerning people saying things deemed inappropriate for polite consumption. The first, called A One Armed Stripper Ruined my Lunch, talks about a woman who was trying to have a nice lunch with her kids, when the people sitting next to them began to talk about strippers and all manner of topics related, and her reaction to it.  The second one entitled Feel Free To Swear Around My Children, is a differing view on how to react when situations like the one-armed stripper conversation occur.  I encourage you to read them both, as both have valid points. Not that I want to take sides, as I’ve certainly found myself in similar situations as described in both of these blog posts, but I think I have to say that I agree with the 2nd one more.

Several years ago I won tickets to a Vikings game and so the four of us (before I divorced) went to Minneapolis for a night and to watch the game. Of course, the seats were three rows from the top, and so I found it more entertaining to watch the people around me and visit with my family. After half time, two drunk guys came in and sat down directly behind us… and then the F-Bomb-a-polooza began in earnest.  Generally speaking, I try not to eaves drop on other people’s conversations, and if others want to swear that’s their business. However, when you are packed in together like sardines and the F-Bombs are flying free and fiercely into my ears and the ears of my (at the time) young kids from directly behind our heads, I just couldn’t keep it to myself. The conversation with the guy behind me went something like this:

Drunken Idiot: “Blah, blah, f**ker, blah, blahbity blah. F**k that, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, can you f**king believe that?  You’re f**king right, blah, blah, blah… “ (you get the picture)

Me: (I turned around and looked him in the eye) “Sir, I hate to bother you, but could you please tone down the F-bombs? My kids are sitting right in front of you, and hearing everything you’re saying.”

Drunken Idiot: (His eyes got big and round) “Oh my god, ma’am. I’m so sorry. I was so totally not paying attention. Yes, I will stop that right now.”

Me: (Smiling…his embarrassment was gratifying) “Thanks a bunch, we appreciate it!”

So, we continued to watch the ants, er, players run around on the field and the conversation behind us became less of a distraction. Until he slipped, and then things got funny. His getting the hiccups made it even funnier. It went something like this:

Drunken Idiot: Blah, blah, (hiccup) f**king bastard. (he leans closer, addressing me) OOPS! Sorry about that (hiccup)!  Blah, blah, blah…(hiccup) yadda, yadda, yadda. Yackity, yack. Blah, blah blabbity blah, you’re f**king right! OOPS! (hiccup. He leans into my ear again) Oh crap, Ma’am…sorry about that…my bad!”

Needless to say the kids and I just about wet our pants trying not to laugh at the guy. I have to give him credit for at least trying! The point here is that if someone is being offensive, it’s OK  to politely ask them to stop. If they don’t, at least your kids will know that you tried to do something about an offensive situation. At the very least they are watching to see how we adults react to things, whether we speak up about them or not, and they are soaking it all up like little sponges.

Another thing to consider are the questions children ask because they are naturally curious beings. If they weren’t curious enough to ask what most adults deem as embarrassing questions, they wouldn’t be normal.

A very important thing to know about children is that they know bullshit when they hear bullshit, and they will keep asking questions until they feel they have them all answered. If they ask you a direct question, it’s better to just give them a direct answer without any prevarication or squirming. It doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything, but at least a basic and direct response is due. Otherwise you run the risk of being interrogated, and the interrogation will most likely come loudly and in the presence of your grandmother, minister or boss. With your luck, probably all three at the same time.  All kids have an inboard BS-O-Meter, and when you start squirming, try to put them off or tell half-truths when they ask embarrassing questions, it starts pinging in the red zone. This will prompt more questions, each one more embarrassing than the last. Save yourself…just be honest the first time around.

You can fake out the BS-O-Meter sometimes, but the next person who has to answer that question you so successfully avoided will not appreciate it. One example of this is when my kids picked my mom to ask where babies come from. She promptly told them that babies are hatched under cabbage leaves in the garden. She successfully avoided an interrogation by looking them directly in the hairy eyeball and giving them her answer straight from the hip. Being as they were still so young (ages 4 & 6), they took it hook, line and sinker. Later that week when the boys notified me that babies are, in fact,  hatched under cabbage leaves which, of course, is the gospel “because Nana said so”, it was left to me to tell them where babies actually come from.  No explanation from me would break them from their misinformation. Luckily enough, at the time, there were a couple of different networks who constantly showed real birthing stories. So, I made it my business to keep the channel dialed to these kinds of shows and the boys then got an education about how babies are born.  I remember very clearly that Older Son was particularly disgusted with seeing the birthing process, and proclaimed loudly that was gross and he was NOT born like that.

Silly me. I should know that when kids have time to digest information other more insidious questions are then launched…very much like when you cut the head off of a Hydra, two more pop out to take its place. Next questions were, of course, “Why do babies come out of THERE instead of the belly button?” and “How did the baby get in there to begin with?!”

Oh well. Parenting is messy, and if we didn’t want to answer the hard questions we shouldn’t have signed up for the job. That’s what we get paid the big bucks for.

Uhm…yeah…big bucks. I guess I’ll have to quantify my rewards in something other than hard, cold cash! 😉

Sunshine on my son’s belly

Just now, Younger Son came in from outside and said, “Hey Mom, feel this”, as he’s holding out the belly of his shirt to me. So, I pressed my hand to his belly and his shirt was hot. Not warm…hot. He’d been outside for the last fifteen minutes or so in a black t-shirt and hoodie, and had soaked up a bunch of sunshine. Gods bless him for bringing it inside to share with me.

Perhaps I’m being maudlin, as has been the case my whole life, but it makes me a little sad that Younger is going to be 15 on the 21st of this month…my 6 foot tall baby. He and Older Son (aged 17) are both still in the strange limbo that is the stretch between childhood and manhood, and they seem to display a little of both on a daily basis. I seem to have come to a point in my life where I am agonizing over their loss already. Soon they will move away either for school, military, or whatever life endeavor they choose and I will be alone in this little bitty house that seems so cramped right now. When they are gone this little house will feel like an empty mansion.

The strange thing about already mourning them not being here is that I find I’m also making plans for me and the house when they are gone. What the heck?! How can I feel sad about having an empty nest and at the same time feel a little bit excited? I’ll just tamp that down a bit and examine it at a later time. It feels a little too traitorous and strange to really take that out and unpack it just yet. For the time being, I think I will just make a better effort to revel in their presence now, and not borrow sadness from the future. Even though it’s creeping in at the edges, it’s kind of pointless to wallow in something that hasn’t happened yet.

Younger has been chomping at the bit to plant his watermelons and pumpkins, even though it’s too early to plant outside in North Dakota. So, off to Menards we go today to get some plastic wrap and PVC to make a small green house. Time to take advantage of the nice day and spend some quality time with the kids rather than worrying about what things will be like when they’re gone away living their own lives.

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