Except for Shawn

You know how people obsess over their first born? They take photos everyday of all the wonderful and cute things the first born does? They are extremely cautious and protective.

Have you seen those parents with more than two kids? That third child or in my case fourth child apparently didn’t exist until he was two. We had pictures from the day of birth and then nothing until his second birthday. It’s as though there was a moratorium on photographs during that time.

It all started when the kids and I were looking through old photographs. Remember when we took rolls film into the store to get them developed? As we looked and reminisced Shawn kept asking, “where are my baby pictures?” “Where are my baby shower pictures?” “Where are the pictures of you pregnant with me?”

How do you tell that baby you opted out of a shower? I had two baby showers or more with each baby, except for Shawn. There is only 15 months and a few a days between he and Josiah. How do you say, I was tired? I was too practical? It was a mistake? Friends and family offered to host a shower for me but I said no. The only thing I wanted and needed was a double stroller. I met with one friend and one family member at a restaurant where they presented me with the stroller. This definitely predates selfies. I’m not sure if we asked a waiter to take our picture.

Then one day a few years ago I put out an APB, I turned on the bat signal, I called, sent text messages asking friends and family to scour their photos to see if there were any pictures of Shawn. A few were located. I was relieved. I showed him the few that were sent to me. He have me that smile he gives when he’s excited but doesn’t want to show it.

I have lots of except for Shawn scenarios. All of the kids were vegetarian for the first 18 months except for Shawn. He was eating meat at six months. Everybody slept in their own beds as babies except for Shawn. I was exhausted so he slept with me to keep me from getting up in the middle of the night to feed him.

He’s not scarred for life over the exceptions. At least I don’t think he is. We have more than made up for the lack of pictures. Now it’s Josiah (third born) who I struggle to find photos of on my phone. He doesn’t seem care though.

Shawn at birth.

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Josiah’s Family Meeting

I could write a whole book on how events in my my childhood affect who I am as an adult and the decisions I make as a mom of four. My mother raised three children as a true single mom. There was not a dad around. It was just her. She made all the decisions and her decision was final.

Fast forward to today. I decided to have more of a democracy. Every family member is equal and has a say in all major and minor decisions. We recently took a trip to Maryland over the Christmas holiday. I asked everybody if they wanted to go. If one person had said no then we would have stayed home. We literally had a conversation about putting up Christmas decorations and specifically a tree. I could care less about a tree. They don’t like taking down decorations. We scaled it way back and with a compromise we put a metal tree with lights that’s meant for the yard up in the house. Don’t judge us. It worked. I have the final vote on major things like buying the house we are in now. Everybody went with me to look for houses. My daughter, Melody, wanted one house and even through a mild fit. I told her she could not see what I could see. I was not only buying a house but a neighborhood and a way of life. Living on a cul-de-sac three house from the neighborhood pool proved to be a great choice and worth less square footage.

All of that to say, anybody can call and conduct a family meeting in our house. Josiah had requested to hold one to discuss his new guidelines surrounding waking everybody up in the mornings. Now Josiah is the third child. He is a typical attention seeking, vivacious, charismatic middle child who also likes being punctual. His school bus arrives at 7:40 so he has the alarm set for 6 am.

He had taken on the responsibility of waking everybody up if they were sleeping too late. He’s done a fantastic job at this self appointed duty. He has helped his siblings, especially his sister and younger brother, make it to the bus just before it stopped and opened the doors. He has even saved the day by finding neighbors willing to give them rides when it seemed they would not make it on time. After a year and a half of this daily activity he resigned from the self appointed position because of the stress. He did not provide any notice. It was effective immediately.

After a couple of days he realized how much they had grown to depend on him to get out of the house. He was sympathetic to their plight. During the meeting he said they would each get one free wake up per month. Unfortunately Shawn had already used his. He also told them the unused ones would accumulate from month to month. There was much discussion and shouts of outrage an insult or two and threats of bodily harm. At some point I heard, “objection!” and somebody yelled “order in the court!” It may have been the same person. For some reason the oldest gets unlimited wake up calls because he has a car. That created another uproar among the other two. But it was a good strategic move. Stay on the good side of the person with the car.

In case you’re wondering why the oldest doesn’t take everybody to school on a daily basis, it’s because he has late arrival. He will take them if they have activities in the morning.

I truly feel like I’m helping them find their voices at an early age and most of all realize they are an important part of this family and I value their input and points of view. They might decide there was way too much discussion and not allow their children to have any input. I won’t be offended. Everybody has to walk their own path according to the influences in their lives.

Be well,

Alicia

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice

I came home from working out yesterday and saw my two youngest sons standing in the kitchen. The baby of my bunch (he’s 11) was holding an egg slicer with an unpeeled cutie in it over a cup and squeezing with all his might. I asked them what they were doing and they responded, “Making fresh squeezed orange juice!” My response was, “Well that’s not going to work.” I did wonder why they were putting so much effort into that when there’s a juicer sitting on the counter. Is that innovation or wasted energy? It’s hard to tell. Nevertheless I’ll pick up orange juice on my way home today.

Remind me to tell you about the family meeting we had last night.

The Sisterhood

Yesterday, I became a lifetime member of an exclusive sisterhood. 

Don’t be jealous. 

Joining this sisterhood is not like joining a sorority where you’re bonded together by a common goal and a mission statement. 

It’s not as glamorous as becoming a member of an exclusive country club. 

Unfortunately it’s not even as beneficial as belonging to SAM’s or Costco club. 

I don’t know of anyone who anxiously waited to join the ranks. 

No one is sitting around contemplating what to wear to the nonexistent induction ceremony. 

There’s no welcome party or monthly meetings. 

This sisterhood is composed of girls and women who have lost their mom’s. 

The ones who no longer have that earthly  representation, in human form, of life that gave them life. 

I didn’t want to be a member. I never signed on the dotted line. 

But now I’m here. 

It’s official. 

I am now a lifetime member of this exclusive club. 

Cup and Saucer

Many, many, did I say many? moons ago I remember hearing people talk about standardized testing and how they are biased. The specific example I remember hearing was regarding a question along the lines of, what do you place a cup on? The correct answer was a saucer.

A couple of months ago during a volunteer opportunity/work event I was talking to a teacher who works with students of financially challenged parents. She was teaching her class to set a table for a meal. As she provided instruction for sitting down at the table, she said, “like you do at home” to which a student replied, we don’t have a table at home. That was a reality check for the teacher. Never assume the students have tables, chairs, or anything else.

When I was growing up, my brothers and I ate in our individual rooms and usually in front of the television. I remember a table at some point but I also remember them having a fight, breaking the table then using the top to break dance on. They were resourceful fellows and the first in the neighborhood to repurpose furniture for entertainment. The guys in the neighborhood learned how to break dance on that table, I became their agent and manager by finding places for them to dance for money.

But anyway…

I don’t remember sitting at the table as a family. I don’t recall ever using a cup and saucer. I would sometimes make my mom a cup of instant coffee but I didn’t give it to her with a saucer. I didn’t drink hot tea back then. I would not have been able to pick out a proper tea cup in a line up.

I honestly didn’t learn how to set a table until I was in my early 20’s. I learned after a very embarrassing incident during a visit at the home of the parents of my boyfriend at the time. It was Christmas. His mother asked me to set the table. Uh, what? At the time I swear she was trying to expose my ignorance in many areas in order to discourage him from dating me. I pulled him aside and confided in him my delimna. I had never set a table in my life. After telling me lay down, he told his mother I had a headache and needed to rest. He set the table for me.

Cup and saucer… we make a lot of assumptions about the lives people live and the experiences they have. The affects of those assumptions are evident when only a certain group of people are invited to the table to make decisions about an entire population of people. The decision makers pull from their limited experience without regard for others. I will not say it’s intentional, although I’m not ruling that out. I will attribute some of the decisions to ignorance, being out of touch with various people groups and perhaps not caring to understand.

Some might think or even say a person who grew up in a household without a table is doomed or will not have the ability to over come. These are the people who are easy to discard and write off. I say to you, you are wrong. I believe if given opportunity, education and wisdom most of us will thrive.

Are the tests bias? Of course they are. The question I have is, how do we bridge the gap between the decision makers and the experiences of the test takers?

Walk with Me

There are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go along with raising children. As parents or guardians we try to impart our wisdom, morals, values, knowledge, culture, beliefs, political views, financial knowledge etc. It is an extensive list. 

One of the things I’m imparting to my kids is to walk with me. That sounds strange but let me tell you why.

I walk a lot. I walk for exercise. I walk to get vitamin D. I walk to relieve stress. I walk to commune with nature. I walk to get out of the office or house. I walk to contemplate. I walk to pray. Some walks are long. Others are intense. Then there are the times I walk with my children. 

We walk as a group to enjoy family time. Sometimes I walk with them individually. It’s during the solo times that I’m able to connect with them on a personal more intimate level as well as discuss my future expectations for them in regards to me. 

I’m not old but I’m not young. I’m at a good point in my life but the truth is I’m getting older. I’d rather face the facts rather than hide from them or deny them. I like having a plan or two in place. I don’t have anything written down but I do verbally share my expectations of how I want to be cared for, when I’m struggling to care for myself, with my children. 

The walks are a key component of that plan. Let me say this, they are typical kids and don’t always want to go on a walk with their mom. They moan and groan and ask, “why me?!” (Because you are the chosen one, now let’s go.) I have pre-walking negotiation meetings with them to determine which route? How far? How fast? Can I listen to music, ride my scooter run, bring some water? After we settle on the terms we head out. 

Back to the purpose and plan of the walk. When I’m older I want them to visit me and walk with me. “Walk with me when I’m old” is my request. Spend some time with me. Bring music I like to listen to now. I want to recreate fond memories of one of the things I love to do with the people I love being with. As we walk today I’m storing away memories that I hope to unlock in the future with something as simple as a walk. 

Bob

I didn’t realize the strangeness of Bob until I was talking about him to my cousin. The thing that’s strange is not that he exists as much as my daughter named him Bob. He is a presence that lives in our house.

He makes himself known by closing the cabinets in the upstairs bathroom or walking around. I hear him when the kids are gone. I use to think somebody lived in our attic and would come out when the they were visiting their dad but then I realized it wasn’t just me who heard him. We have all experienced him and my daughter named him Bob.

Last week I heard an audible knock on my door. My alarm had gone off moments before. As I lay in the bed contemplating what I was wearing to work and whether or not I was going to the gym, I heard it. I thought maybe it was one of the younger two so I waited for the “mom?” but it never came. I waited to hear footsteps walking up the stairs but that didn’t happen either.

A day or two later I mentioned the knock to the kiddos. My daughter said, “I guess Bob is back from vacation. He’s been gone for a while.” One of the younger two said he heard footsteps the other night.

Welcome back Bob.