Category Archives: blog

On a (blog)roll……

It’s about time I updated my blogroll – that little list over to the right that shares my favorite places on the blog-o-sphere.

I hate to do it, but I am removing a couple of blogs – and not because I don’t love them dearly – they simply don’t write any more. boo. hiss. ** Imagine me throwing broken pencils at them for stopping. ** Oh, how I get it, though. This writing thing ain’t so easy to maintain.

The good news is there are quite a few additions – and they put fingers to keyboard just about all the time. 😎 Yeah!

I’ll give you a quick rundown…

My Name is Not Bob
Robert Lee Brewer writes about writing, poetry, and parenting. What’s not to love? And on Wednesday, March 21, he is going to feature one of my essays about living in India in the Life Changing Moments Series on his blog. (Part One of the essay appears Wednesday and Part Two will appear on Friday.) Yes. SQUEEAA!

He also blogs at Writer’s Digest about poetry. His blog is called Poetic Asides.

Writer UnBoxed
Also a blog about writing with a ton ‘o knowledgeable people contributing their thoughts and ideas. And on Friday, March 23rd, Writer UnBoxed will feature another essay from little ole me – it’s about my thoughts on believing in your writing.  Squeeeeeaaaa indeed!

Rachelle Gardner
Just so you don’t think you have to feature one of my essays on your blog to make my blogroll (although, Rachelle, if you’re listening 😉 ), this is another blog I read every. single. day. Rachelle is a literary agent with Books & Such. She is honest (balanced with kindness) about what agents do and don’t want. She has a ton of writing and publishing advice on her blog.

Seth Godin
Seth writes about everything. His posts are short and he always gives us something to think about.

Obscura Journal
This is a photography-slash-writing website. They post a monthly contest called Bridge the Gap. They show two photographs and you have to create a story in under 1,000 words to bridge the two pictures. It’s great fun and you can enter without paying a reading fee. Schweeet! This isn’t really a blog – but it is a tres coolio site.

So check them out – I heart them all and maybe you will too!

Through the Glass…………….

As soon as we knew we were moving to India, we made plans to take our cats with us.

Unfortunately, our one cat is diabetic and it really didn’t make sense for her to be on a plane for over 24 hours without access to water. I wrote a very fun resume for her when we were trying to find a place for her to live. If you want a chuckle, you can read it here. A lovely family adopted her while we were gone and spoiled her rotten.

We decided it would be very helpful for the kids to have their other two beloved furry siblings with them – and, not for nothing, someone else was going to be cleaning out the litter and wiping up the inevitable furball throw-up. Yeah. In case it’s not painfully obvious why that was awesome, you can catch up here.

Our first attempt to get the cats to India was a colossal fail. I do not heart United Airlines and if you want to be mad at them too, you can read about that here.

Now that you are all caught up on the history, let’s get back to the story.

Eventually, the cats made it all the way across that big ocean. Alive and well and very confused – kind of like the rest of us.

They settled in quickly and were very well cared for.

But our staffs initial reaction to them was hysterical. They could not believe that we had cats as pets. I should explain that cats aren’t really kept as pets in India. There are tons of stray cats on the streets but it is very rare for someone to actually bring them into their home, feed them, care for them, and make them a part of the family. To love them.

I guess it’s hard to worry about stray animals too much when there are so many stray humans without food and shelter.

Someone also told me that Indians consider cats to be bad luck. I cannot verify that, but it might be true.

Cats are so rare as pets that India does not even have a manufacturer of cat food – at least not one that delivers Indian cat food to any of the pet stores in Delhi –  there may not be an Indian dog food manufacturer either because most dogs are simply given table scraps. The only cat food I could find was imported and ridiculously expensive.

Good thing we brought, not one but two, very large cats who really like to eat.

When we first moved to India and lived in an apartment, the cats very rarely saw the light of day. But then number one hubby found us a house and the cats had access to glass doors at ground level. (We did not feel comfortable letting them actually go outside because there were hawks in the area and tons of stray dogs and cats.) Our cats seemed happy enough to just look outside and they immediately discovered that they were not alone in the world. That other cats lived just beyond that glass horizon.

The difference between our American house cats and the Indian stray cats was nothing short of amazing.

Ours – big and fat and shiny – not a scratch on them. Loved and cuddled. Not afraid of humans in the least. Not particularly fond of every single human, but not one tinsy tiny bit afraid of them. No front claws.

The strays – little bitty – boney – ears ripped – dusty and dull fur with patches missing – never touched by humans hands and terrified of people.  Their faces looked more alien than feline – too wide at the eyes and too narrow at the lips. And their bones nearly poked through their fur. They would never survive without their claws.

They did love our patio though. Largely because it always had a bowl of fresh water and some very expensive cat food on it. The shade from the scorching sun didn’t hurt either. And it was enclosed by a gate, so the dogs could not get in. I wonder if they felt safer in it. But I believe they must have been curious about our cats too.

They would sit and watch each other through the glass.

Part of our morning routine as humans was to put food in the bowls for the cats outside and watch them slink in and get breakfast. It was always fun to see who came first and we worried when one of them didn’t show up for a few days. We noticed who had new scratches and delighted when kittens arrived one morning. We counted them and named them and wondered if we could catch even one and bring it inside.

The pet store that carried the cat food and the cat litter I liked best was not very close to our house. So, I would often send our driver to pick up several packages of each.

This means that the cook, housekeeper, guard, gardener, driver, and the man on the moon all knew just how much money I was spending on these ridiculous creatures that pooped and threw up in the house. And I am sure they compared that to their own salaries and calculated in their own minds what they could do with that kind of money. To us, it wasn’t a hardship – but to them it could have been all the difference in a nicer house or better schools for their kids.

I am not sure why I am stuck on the thought of all of this. How anorexic the stray cats looked compared to our literal fat cats. How the staff must have been fascinated and miffed by the resources we dedicated to them.

One day, our cook was finally able to say out loud what he must have been thinking for months….

Francis: Ma’am, why do you feed the outside cats such expensive food
Me: They look so hungry
Francis: They will eat your leftover rice
Me: I guess that never occurred to me. Let’s try it.
Francis: Duh.

We did try it. And those cats had grown too accustomed to the the tastiness of the meat flavored cat food. They merely picked at the rice.

Francis was not about to be outsmarted by a street cat. He started adding leftover gravy to the rice. They were happy once again.

One of the things that struck me was that those stray cats never got any fatter. They knew what “full” meant and never seemed to gorge themselves.

I guess that is what was hardest about helping others in India. It was easy to feel taken advantage of. To feel like generosity was expected. Those cats came and took only what they needed and left the rest for the next cat who might pass by.

But now that I am once again an ocean away from the struggles of so many, I am left to wonder why I didn’t do more. How I might better define the lines of graciousness that I was willing to tiptoe around but never fully cross over. I am not sure there is an answer but I am sure I will always question why those of us with too much (including myself) aren’t more generous to those with much too little.

The used-to-be me……

This whole blog started off as a way of journaling our move to India so we would capture – and never forget – the details of our adventure. I wanted to remember the monuments and the memories but had no real way of knowing that, while those were fun, they were insignificant in what we should remember from our experience. The memories came from traveling – but the lessons came from everyday life. The routine that never actually became routine.

We have been home for over a year now and I still have not written about everything. And I have (finally) accepted that I will never write about everything. You just cannot remember it all – and even if you could remember every detail – there is simply no way to explain it all. Partly because India hits everyone a little differently and partly because there are just not enough words.

Unfortunately, I drop little pieces of our India experiences like sand falling off my shoe.  Some of them are hard reminders and I eagerly (and unfortunately) toss them out like I would a rock cradled under my toe. Others just drift away all on their own. And this blog was supposed to be like a big broom and sweep up everything. It turns out there is not a blog or broom big enough for that task.

One by one, you barely miss a piece of sand – but together they can form a beach. It is not good to lose a beach of experience. It’s really not.

Alas.

But what is making me really frustrated and sad is that I changed in India and I am losing some of that. India taught me to be more patient and to have a bigger world perspective. To remember the reality of it all. And, damnit, I am letting myself get caught up in some of the nonsense again. My perspective is shrinking and re-framing.

In many ways, India brings non-Indians to their knees. It’s hard to live in an “all-about-me” bubble when you are constantly bombarded with people suffering and struggling and still surviving – and surviving happily. The people who have the most to legitimately complain about actually complain about nothing. I am not sure if they don’t complain because they don’t think it will do any good or if they just find it unnecessary. But complain they do not.

Please know that this is not an “India is so dirty, the people are so poor” story. If you are a big lover of India, please do not take this as insulting. But the reality is that there are people in India who survive on very little and it is hard to be selfish and self-absorbed when you are reminded of that every single time you step outside. Not everyone owns an ipod – or an outlet to plug it into.

Even when you are inside. It is inescapable.

When you have to give your cook and his wife water when they go home at night because they don’t have access to water, you suddenly remember to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. You realize that what you absolutely take for granted as ever-flowing and abundant and even safe is non-existent for someone else – really, most everyone else. It puts you in your place a little bit.

And you have a lot less energy to worry about what other people are doing and what other people aren’t doing. You are busy getting through a day that is just exhausting to get through. And you are often even more busy getting your children through a day in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense to them. You try to let them experience the reality of it, while protecting them from the reality of it.

I remember one day in India that we got in the car to go to school. The kids were fighting about who was going to sit where. My head almost spun off my neck. My tirade went something like this………..

Holy Hell. You are really going to sit in an air conditioned car with a full belly which is covered by clean clothes and with a head that slept on a pillow on a bed in a room that you do not have to share and drive by all of “this” and complain about anything. Seriously. What are we doing here? Have you really not learned anything? You ate breakfast made by someone else, put the leftovers on a side plate for Ravi to eat at lunch (he would literally eat the crusts they left on their plates), and left your dishes in a sink for someone else to wash. In fact, I should have stopped with “you ate breakfast“. Turn to the left, look out the window and turn to the right, look out that window and shut the hell up.

It was not one of my stellar mommy moments. But that morning had an impact on all of us. The kids didn’t complain (that morning or the next and maybe not even the next). And I wondered how we could walk and live and breathe in India and not lose more of our selfishness.

How could we drive by children without clothes or a roof over their heads or even morsels of food on a plate – dear God, who am I kidding? A plate. No, you are right, they didn’t own need plates – and complain about which comfy cozy seat our bigger than necessary arses were going to snuggle into so that the air conditioning could hit our faces just right.

For Pete’s sake, our driver rode his motor scooter in traffic and dust for an hour to come and clean our car and wait for us to be ready to go somewhere, anywhere  – at any time. He held the door for us and swept up our messes and ran our errands. And at night he took our leftovers to a home with no air conditioning whenever we declared ourselves done for the day. He just waited for us to decide when we were finished so that he could see his family at some point before they laid on a threadborne mattress all in the same room together and went to sleep. Just to wake up early to do it all again.

And we did learn those lessons and we do embrace letting go of some very unnecessary involvement in things. But sometimes I slip and those slips are coming more often. I am getting caught up in minutiae and it is making me nuts. I have an opinion about too many things.

Anyway, this little rant is almost over. Pinky swear.

The bottom line is that I am going to start praying harder for (and working harder toward) patience and perspective. And, yes, a winning lottery ticket would certainly be nice – but if perspective kicks in properly, I won’t push my luck. 😎

One year ago…..

One year ago today…..on the Friday before Memorial Day….we boarded a plane and left India…..to come home for good.

We left India in the middle of the night – simply because that’s what you do – but it felt a little bit like we were sneaking away.

On our drive to the airport, we saw a young blind girl selling balloons in the middle of the road. She was unattended and trying to make money for someone else. Someone who very likely did not have her best interests at heart. The night air was thick with smoke and smells that had never seen the inside of an air freshner. Our driver weaved the car through traffic and ran a few red lights and honked the horn…..probably just for ole time’s sake.

I sunk lower in my seat, held my breath, and thought “good riddens”.

We arrived home to crisp air and a sky so blue that it looked like God himself had just put down the paintbrush. Our friends and family filled our home with food and love. All of our favorites were in the house when we arrived – Diet Dr. Pepper, snacks, cereals, hamburger meat in the fridge, fresh fruit that didn’t have to be bleached. And then friends trickled in to say hi and welcome back. Soon our house was alive again. We ended up sitting around the breakfast table laughing and talking….the kids ran around outside…as if we never left.

I breathed in deeply and wondered momentarily why we had ever left this place called home. That just might have been the best night’s sleep I have ever gotten.

We jumped pretty quickly back into the mix – found soccer teams, rejoined swim teams, bought the required reading books for summer, registered for school, re-opened my stationery business, drove with the windows down and the radio on, reconnected with neighbors, gardened, shopped, and just enjoyed being home.

And yet, somehow, there isn’t a day that goes by though that I don’t think of India. And every step away from India truly brings the experience closer to my heart. We changed there. And we are different now. Not in monumental ways. Maybe I should say not in noticeable ways. But we step back now and ponder more. We certainly appreciate more than we ever did before. We are not in such a hurry as we used to be.

Repatriation (returning home) has been an interesting process. There are people who write entire blogs about it – I won’t do that do you, but I will explore it.

I went to India kicking and screaming and couldn’t get back home fast enough. That’s not to say I hated living there. If you have read this blog or have had the misfortune to sit next to me for any extended period of time, you know, I enjoyed our journey and I am extremely thankful for the experience. Much of it I do not miss. But on that smokey street in the middle of the night, I left a piece of me in India and picked up a piece of India to bring home.

And then there were two……….

India ignited a travel fire in us. So, we decided to travel to Houston to see the NCAA Final Four Basketball games.

The conversation started like this…..

Me: Maybe we could take Bear to the Final Four games for his birthday. You know the games are on his actual birthday.
Hubby: Really? I (yes, “I”, not Bear) would love that! But do you really think the girls would enjoy it? Maybe I should just take Bear.
Me: Maybe I should just take Bear.
Hubby: We should all go.
Me: Look at how smart you are!

Yeah for us! And my older brother who we dragged along with.

We arrived in Houston to find this little Bball court ready for some action.

Happy to oblige, the kids took their Uncle on while hubby picked up the car. Bring it.

And what kind of car did we rent? Well, we were in Texas, my friend. So we honored that by getting a big honking gas guzzling Yukon. Yes, that was a silly question!

We headed out at the crack o dawn on Saturday morning, which got us to Houston around lunch time. Hunrgy? Well, when in Houston, you are supposed to eat BBQ.

We found this little nugget of a restaurant called Pappa’s. All the food was served cafeteria style. Now you’re talking down home cookin!

I had the lunch of champions.

Oh, yeah. They served pit bbq too. This is the pork.

Then on to the games at Reliant Stadium.

There were tons of activities around the perimeter of the stadium so we got there a little bit early to get a fabulous parking spot to partake of the fun and spend way too much on t-shirts (which my rock star brother generously gifted everyone).

Bear got a long sleeved shirt so he did not put his on. And I, well being brilliant, I didn’t think I wanted a shirt. That is until I saw how cute Flower’s shirt was. Then I decided, “maybe I will get one.” Yeah. Me and my bright ideas.

I waited in line for about half an hour to find out that they only had smalls left. The sales lady was trying to be helpful and said, “don’t worry, honey, they stretch.” And, yes, I did tell her that wasn’t exactly a selling point. 😎

My hubby and my bro apparently have similar tastes. Which is lucky for me because it means they both have a high tolerance for a whole lot of me. But it also makes them dorks. Tweedlebro and Tweedlehubby….

But they did not have the most attention-grabbing outfits on. There were some doosies! I didn’t take any pictures making fun of people because I am not a big fan of the “People of Walmart” pictures. (I am a huge fan of Walmart and probably harbor an inner fear that it might one day be me. Yikes.) But these two made me smile.

As we walked toward the stadium, we saw tons of people working. I couldn’t help but feel bad for them that they might not ever get inside to see the games. But this guy was not to be swayed by that – he was listening in.

Of course, the real excitement did not begin until we got inside with 78,000 of our closest friends. This was the view from our seats. Yep, good job hubby!

I walked down closer to the court to get some pictures and I got to meet Lee Todd, Jr., the President of the University of Kentucky.

What’s that, you say? How did I know who is was? Well, the entire student section stood up and applauded for him and serenaded him when he walked in and stood right beside me. Thinking that probably wasn’t for me, I said, “Well, you must be someone special.”

The lady walking with him (who turned out to be his assistant) said, “Oh he is. He’s the President of UK.” And then tons of people came over to get a picture with him. I told him it was a real treat to be standing there to see the students response to him and that it made me want my kids to consider Kentucky as a school. Really, it was quite something! I got to meet his daughter too. She was delightful.

Then, I remembered I was there to see basketball and not to make new friends. So I took a few pictures of  Butler and VCU warming up.

And then my dear friend called me and told me that she had seen Jim Larranaga (George Mason’s coach) on a pregame show. She wanted a picture. And I was on it!

I asked the security guard (the one who incidentally told me that there was no way he could let me take my son on the court to get a birthday picture) if he had seen the coach. He had not. He was proving to do his job very well and, all the while, not being helpful to me at all.

Then he started telling people to clear the path. My camera perked up. Something exciting was about to happen. No kidding.

Former President George Bush, Sr., and his bride Barbara Bush rode in on a golf cart. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. And. My. Camera.

I blew him a big kiss and told him it was amazing to be right there. No matter what your politics, it is an absolute honor to be so close to a former President of the United States. He feigned blushing at my kiss, held his hands to his heart, and smiled. What a gentleman!

Then I nearly got knocked over when this woman from Kentucky came bounding down the stairs. Apparently, her brother used to be some state something or other and used to work for Mr. Bush. She actually asked the Secret Service agent if she could say hello. He said no. (Shocking.) Then I whispered, “Well now, I voted for him and I have seen him on tv, can I say hello?” He smiled and said no ma’am.

It was then I realized I might not ever make it on to the actual court. Hmpf.

I went back to my seat. And the games began with the most beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with soldiers holding a ginormous flag. Yolanda Adams sang the national anthem and boy does she have a voice! It was fabulouso!

And then my hubby spotted Jim Larranaga. He was sitting about 15 rows in front of us. Seriously. How lucky is that? So I went down and introduced myself as a Mason grad and babbled away about being so happy he stayed at Mason after taking the team all the way to the Final Four a few years ago and how lucky Mason was to have him for a coach. He was so kind and generous with his time. I told him I was sorry to bother him – I knew he was here to watch the game – it was just such an honor. And he said, “Don’t apologize. It’s nice to meet you too.” Honestly. So charming.

We took a picture.

Then later in the game, I was walking back up the steps from taking more pictures. And Mr. Larranaga was talking to some more fans. And he points to me and says, “she’s a Mason grad.” Wow.

Then I motioned for my brother to come down and meet him. Hubby was embarrassed, but my brother has more years in of putting up with me and just plays along. 😎

Angel came down the stairs with my brother and the Coach was so delightful with her. He introduced himself as the George Mason coach and bent down and shook her hand. I said, “oh she knows exactly who you are! She was at the GMU v. JMU game.” He asked her if she liked the band. I love this man!

Anywho, I finally thanked him for his graciousness and promised to leave him alone. 😎 The only thing I wish I had told him was that in my pool, Mason would have been in the Final Four. No, that didn’t work out so well. But I am a big, big, big Mason fan and you have to keep the faith!

You probably know how the Butler v. VCU game ended. But just in case…

Next up was UConn and Kentucky. We were sitting in the Kentucky section which could have been problematic because I have UConn winning it all. But the fans were nice and forgave me my transgression.

I had to go back down toward the court one more time to get some more warm-up pictures.

The night was just an amazing night but it was high energy. Angel got a little tired and managed to squeeze in a little catnap.

She slept until one of the Kentucky players made a fabulous 3 point shot and the crowd went nuts. If I had been filming her, we would have totally won America’s Funniest Videos.

You probably also know that the game was a nail-biter.  UConn won. Unfortunately 78,000 of us were planning on leaving the stadium at the exact same time, so I did not get a picture of that scoreboard.

Who me? Aw shucks…………….

I woke up to this email this morning! How fun is that???? (and it took me a few minutes to realize this is not limited to India – it’s the world. Yeah me! 😎 ) And please don’t go asking me if I know it’s April Fools Day – I am aware. But they posted it on their site too – so it’s for real. 😉

Tripbase Awards 2011

I am pleased to inform you that your site has been chosen to receive a Tripbase 2011 Blog Award.

This year our panel of judges reviewed hundreds of sites from across the Internet before hand-selecting the best ten for each travel category. Your site is among these elite ranks, and can be seen here:

http://www.tripbase.com/d/awards/2011/categories/winners/expat.htm


I would like to congratulate you on your continued hard work and achievement in winning a Tripbase Award – this year, the awards have been featured in CNBC, CBS and AOL News. We have created small and large badges for you to show off your achievement to your readers, so please feel free to grab the code and upload it onto your site.

Well done once again, and keep up the great work.

Weight and Switch…………

Put your seatbelt on, I am about to turn everything you know about shopping upside down. No, really, I am. 😉

First, we have to remind ourselves why Costco and Sams and BJs and the like are successful. Because the more you buy, the cheaper it is. Right? Bigger is better. Correct?

Apparently not.

I should start by saying that I have not done price comparisons at the warehouse stores. That would be harder because they do not generally give you the price per unit. Well to be fair, I have never paid attention to the price per unit at the warehouse stores – mainly because generally there is only one size of each product/brand available. Super-sized. So it’s hard to compare when the stores don’t break down the math for you or give you options.

But recently I was at a store and I started looking at the per unit prices. Hmmmm. I went to pick up the larger bag of nuts because I just knew the price would be cheaper per ounce. But I didn’t really need such a large bag of nuts. Now we have a quandary. Hmmmm again.

Should I buy the larger bag and initially save money but then end up throwing some of the nuts out thus really wasting money.

I compared the per unit price and was shocked to see the smaller bag was actually less expensive per ounce. Say what?

The price for chopped pecans in the 8oz bag was 48 cents (well really 49 cents if you round up that ridiculous decimal .5).

And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear?

The price of the 10 oz bag is 59 cents per ounce. Huh?

Not being a math major, I double checked my numbers – and I am pretty sure that the larger bag is nearly 10 cents per ounce more expensive than the smaller bag. Boo. You can see it right there – the price of the 10 oz bag is $5.92 – the price of the 8 oz bag is $3.88. That is over a $2 difference for just 2 additional ounces – of chopped nuts, none the less. Those are the pieces that they probably just pick up at the end of the shift from the broken whole nuts. The leftovers. Yep, it’s nuts.

And then I found this.

This 24 oz bottle of Ranch dressing is $3.49. (And notice this store – cough – Target – cough – does not break down the price per ounce. Suspect.)

And so is this 20 oz bottle. Four ounces less but the same price. Really?

And then I realized why. This smaller (same priced) bottle is upside down. Clever, no?

But, even though I am not a scientist, I am fairly certain that if you employ gravity, you can get the same effect – and more dressing – for the same price. Hmmm.

No smoke and mirrors, no magic tricks – just a simple flick of the wrist can save you some dinero. Throw in a coupon and you might actually save enough money for that vacation.

So, pay attention savvy shoppers of the world. Not all is as it seems. 😎

What I Didn’t Know Then………

My parenting journey is a long, long way from being complete. But, even though I know I have a lot to learn, I do feel wiser than I used to think I was. Huh? Yeah, I have (finally) learned some things that make my parenting life easier.

One of the most important things that I have realized is that my children keep my worry chest busy enough. I don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about how little Johnny’s parents handle Johnny. And I can cross my fingers that Johnny’s parents won’t have an opinion about my parenting – but that is simply a waste of time. As a parent you will be criticized by other parents. Don’t take it personally. It is just your turn. Someone else will get a turn soon enough.

As a parent, you only have to follow your heart and intuition and do what you believe is right for your kids.  Even if it is in direct conflict with what other parents are doing or not doing. Trust your gut.

Along those lines, trust your kids instincts, too. It’s definitely hard when your kids don’t necessarily want to play with the children of your friends. But forcing friendships isn’t any easier. It makes for stressful play dates and stressful mommies. And moms can be friends even when kids aren’t.

Sooner than you can even imagine, your little munchkins will be in school all day and you can connect with your friends over lunch. Steering clear of uncomfortable friendships will be much more important for your kiddos later in life. A little practice at articulating how they feel is a good, good thing – even if it makes us uncomfortable because they might not come across as being “nice”. Allowing them to trust their instincts will help them to follow through on those feelings when you aren’t right there.

Teaching kids to be gracious is extremely important but being nice at their own expense might not be such a great lesson to learn.

Another little tidbit that I personally learned the hard way is that words don’t taste so good going back down. Never (yep, never) say “I would never ……… ” Or even worse, “My child would never…….” Because guess what happens next? I will give you one guess. 😉

Yes, my youngest child has a cell phone and has played the Xbox game Call of Duty (maybe even more than once) – and she has seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies. Are you asking, “isn’t she only 9?” Maybe.

Are you now asking if I swore that Harry Potter was way too dark for my son when he was 9 and that 9 was ridiculously young for any type of personal electronics? Maybe. Possibly. Burp. So sorry, please pardon me.

And seriously, you simply cannot make your child faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, or any other “er”. But the good news is that they are fabulous just as they are. Most children learn to read. Most children talk. Most children walk. When they hit about third grade, it has pretty much leveled out. The rock stars aren’t rocking as hard and the average-to-slow kids are catching up. The early readers are reading, but so are the late bloomers. Pretty much everyone has given up diapers and pacifiers. And hard work begins to matter as much as, if not more than, natural ability. And don’t go bringing up the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. You know what I mean.

And speaking of reading. It is important to read with your children because it is fun to do it. They love the attention you give them when you share a book with them. It does help them learn to read. But it is not so important for you to stress out about teaching them to read. They will learn to read. (If you don’t believe me, reread the paragraph above. Oh yea, that’s me talking too. Sorry. Ask a parent of an older child. Oh, you don’t know about that yet? Please keep reading.)

It’s also extremely helpful for you to have adult friends with older kids. They have a better perspective on what is really important to worry about with smaller children. And they will tell you what is important to know about school and classes and teams and all the stuff you will be dealing with in the next phase of parenting.  They will be gentle with you because they have been there but they might laugh a tiny bit – don’t worry, they are not being critical – it’s just that they are remembering when. And their kids can babysit for you. Bonus.

I personally feel (and no, I am not a teacher, doctor, or educator – so this is just my opinion) that the single most important thing you can teach your kids is confidence. If your kids feel safe trying something new no matter how it turns out, they will always be successful. If they are not intimidated by people, places, or activities, they have a tremendous advantage. Tremendous. Children who are smart but are afraid of failure will face more challenges than those children who are “average” but brave and confident. Children need to know that their parents will love them no matter what. And parents, we need to love our children no matter what. Home should be a safe place to fall. And get up and fall. Again. And again. Always. Every time.

When our children are learning to walk, we encourage them to stumble and tumble. We let them go boom on the concrete and bump off of coffee tables. Even when they fall and cry, we say “get back up, you can do it.” We don’t say, “why didn’t you walk better?” We are proud and we smile and we hold out both hands and we hug them tightly. That should never, ever change.

Not too long ago I read a passage that went something like …. intelligence is not measured best when children know what to do, it is measured best by how children respond when they do not know what to do. (Yes, I wish I knew who said it – but I don’t -sorry.)

And when you are proud, tread lightly on the bragging. If you believe you have an exceptional child and you are sharing how fabulous your child is with another parent, please keep in mind that they most likely feel that their child is (at least) equally as exceptional as your little superstar.

Hey, I never said this parenting stuff was easy. It’s all a tricky balance.

I actually had a parent try to convince me that her child was better at the dentist than my child was. I started to defend how well my child handled the dentist when I quickly realized how nuts the conversation was. Seriously? We are competing over who handles the dentist better? Really. I am quite sure there are more important quandaries to tackle.I don’t know like civil unrest in Libya – Tsunamis in Japan – poverty anywhere – the civil unrest in my laundry room. Blah Blah Blah.

Parenting will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. You will bleed love for your kids and, at some point, one of  your beloveds will stand at the top of the stairs and scream at the top of their lungs that they hate you. And they will mean it. For a little while at least. But not forever. And you will cry and laugh and love and fear and rejoice more than you ever have before. Put that seatbelt on. It’s going to be a fabulously bumpy ride.

Brave Girl Eating……….

Today I wrote a book review over at A Reason To Read about the book Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown. Definitely worth the investment of time!

Tech Support………..

My last few posts have been quite grumpy, so I thought it was time to lighten things up a bit. I received this email the other day and it turned my frown upside down and I thought you might enjoy it too. Unfortunately, I do not know who the author is so I cannot give him/her credit. So let’s just say anonymous has a great sense of humor.

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend to Husband and noticed a distinct slowdown in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend.

In addition, Husband uninstalled many other valuable programmes, such as Romance and Personal Attention and then installed undesirable programs such as Rugby, Football, Sailing and Continuous TV. Conversation no longer runs, and Housecleaning simply crashes the system. I’ve tried running Nagging to fix these problems, but to no avail.
What can I do?
Signed, Desperate
………………………………………………………………………………………

Dear Desperate,

First keep in mind, Boyfriend is an Entertainment Package, while Husband is an Operating System.

Please enter the command: ‘http: I Thought You Loved Me.html’ and try to download Tears.

Don’t forget to install the Guilt update. If that application works as designed, Husband should then automatically run the applications Jewellery and Flowers, but remember – overuse of the above application can cause Husband to default to Grumpy Silence, Garden Shed or Beer. Beer is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.

Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources). Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband.

In summary, Husband is a great system, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. It also tends to work better running one task at a time. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Food and Hot Lingerie.

Good Luck,

Tech Support

(just as a side note – I do not agree with the mother-in-law comment – although I have seen it work poorly on other systems. 😎 )