Category Archives: parenting

Let’s Stop the Snack Madness………..

I have been trying to figure out a way to be more helpful to others and I think I might have figured out a small little way to make a difference.

It will relieve stress on parents, address childhood obesity and pollution in America, and possibly feed some hungry children in the world. Sounds good, right?

If you have ever had a child in a rec sport, then you probably already know where I am going with this. But in case you don’t, let me ‘splain.

Take little Suzy Quzy. She’s 8 and she loves soccer. It’s Saturday and she has a 10am game.

Her mom gives her a good breakfast because she has a game. She’s going to need the energy. Suzy goes to the game and warms up. During warm ups, she drinks some of the water from one of the tw0 bottles of water that she brought with her. Then she plays about 15 minutes of soccer.

During half-time Suzy’s mom comes running across the field with oranges slices. She is slightly frantic because half time is such a short period of time to give out a snack. There is real pressure here to make sure everyone has a snack. Seriously, the children might actually starve because they have not had anything to eat in the last 45 minutes. Those aren’t airplanes people, they are grumblies in their tummies.

And not for nothin’, these kids better love these oranges. Afterall, Suzy’s mom went to two grocery stores to get oranges because they didn’t look great at the first one (where they had been on sale because it’s not really orange season and they are expensive, so a sale sounded good). And there was traffic. Jeez Louise the traffic. It took her an extra 20 minutes to get home. Now she is running late. She yelled at her kids to leave her alone because she had to get these oranges sliced for the game. She cut her finger because her husband tickled her when he walked by. The sheer nerve of that man. Now he is in trouble. Suzy cannot find her soccer cleats but mom cannot help because she is slicing oranges.

While the coach is talking, Suzy’s mom sees that most of the kids don’t have oranges. Suzy’s mom really wants everyone to know there are orange slices. So while the coach is talking, she is weaving in and out of the kids just to be sure everyone knows there are oranges. Oh, and diaper wipes. She wants to make sure no one plays soccer with sticky hands. That is critical to soccer play because – fyi – you don’t even use your hands in soccer but, sure, it is probably better if they are not sticky.

During half time about three kids have one orange slice each. But one of the players has a three-year-old brother who just loves oranges, especially when they are sliced and bought (out of season) by someone else. So, deflated, Suzy’s mom gives him the bag of oranges and he plays with eats them with very dirty hands. The husband is wondering why they just spent $20 on oranges but he is way too smart to say it out loud. He compliments his beautiful bride on having the best snack ever. Oh, yeah, those diaper wipes kicked it up a notch. How is it possible that no one had thought of that before?

The kids open their second water bottle because they cannot figure out which ones are their original bottles. There are 8 bottles on the ground, all only half empty. But, they can’t drink out of those because they might catch a real-life cootie. Don’t laugh, I have seen it happen and it ain’t pretty.

Finally, the kids finish up their soccer game. Another frantic parent comes over with a peanut-free, glutten-free, and dairy-free end-of-game snack and another drink. They must be famished by now.  Holy cow, it’s been an entire hour and a half since they have had a proper meal. Yeah, Suzy’s mom thought she was all hot stuff with those exotic, organic orange slices, but we see where those ended up – abandoned and alone in the dirt.

The kids forget both of their original water bottles and suck down a juice box. And honestly, they are glad to have another drink. At this point, water is so two hours ago. Now each child has 3 bottles of trash. Only one of which will actually be claimed. The rest of the bottles nearly filled with perfectly good water get left on the field. Along with some  orange slices formerly known as perfectly good. The kids all open their snacks but it’s not one they are crazy about (maybe because peanut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free snacks actually taste like cardboard) so they don’t eat it. The overachieving mom brings a trash bag to pick up all the leftover pieces – take that Suzy’s mom – diaper wipes indeed. But a lot of trash still gets left on the field.

Oh, wait, the coach has one more announcement. It’s Stephie’s birthday. Everyone sing and there are cupcakes. And boy, are they cute. Another fyi, the cuter the cupcake, the more likely it is to go uneaten. Kids love looking at them, but if it’s too complicated, eating them very quickly becomes not-so-much.

More trash is created by the cupcake wrapper and one-bite-taken-out-of-cupcakes.

Suzy’s family gets home exhausted. And Suzy’s mom announces, “It’s lunchtime!” They are having fruit salad with dirt dressing. However, Dad is not hungry. He has already had a really cute cupcake and a half of a bag of cardboard.

I therefore propose that if your child really cannot go an hour and a half without eating, plan ahead. Bring them a snack. One that is safe for them and that they like and that they will actually eat. And the parent responsible for snacks can take the $50 s/he would have spent on snacks and drinks and donate it to the World Hunger Organization or their local church or local food bank or whatever – you get the point.

Really hungry children would get the resources they are truly desperate for, husbands would once again be allowed to tickle their wives, moms could help their children find their soccer cleats without cut fingers, kids wouldn’t overeat as much, fields would have less trash, and the list goes on. I am not sure what to do about the little brother who really likes playing with expensive orange slices in the dirt, but hey, Rome was not built in a day.

Behaving Badly………..

That might sound like quite the mischievous title especially on Valentine’s Day but alas, this is a rant, not an expose. So brace yourself.

I recently volunteered at a swim meet where probably 300 kids (14 years old and younger) were trying to qualify for the Junior Olympics. They were crunched in crowded spaces and waiting for long periods of time in between their races in very hot spaces with a (big ole fat) hint of chlorine lingering in the room. They were being coached by coaches and being screamed at for by parents. It was (very) loud and (very) hot and (very) crowded. And that environment lasted for 6 full hours.

That sounds like a recipe for kids behaving badly doesn’t it? But, no. The kids were actually very well behaved – except for a little bit of running here and there, which is totally normal. The kids –  they were actually pretty marvelous. It was their flippin’ parents. Holy arse bad example batman.

I had the dubious honor of being a marshal. I raised my own hand to do it – can’t blame anyone but myself. However, say it with me – n.e.v.e.r. a.g.a.i.n.

Just in case you are not familiar with the high distinction of marshal duties at a Junior Olympic qualifying meet, let me give you a little peek into my day.

Have you ever seen the National Geographic special where a human being inadvertently comes in between a wild animal madre and her cub while holding an open can of corned beef hash? Well then, you are starting to get the idea of how my day played out. And, yes, I mean that special where the bear swats the head off said human, eats the nose, and gives the remaining parts to the cubs to play soccer with.

As marshal, you have get to stand by the only entrance to the pool donning a bright orange vest that does not at all match your earrings in a very hot room with a (big ole fat) hint of chlorine lingering and tell parents (who already know they are not allowed on deck) that they truly are not allowed on deck – not kidding. But for some reason they feel that they should be allowed on deck – even though no other parent is allowed on deck – just them. They want to “talk” to their children who are sure to be future Olympic champions – if only they can drop 850 seconds in their 50 free or put one of their 5 electronic devices down long enough to remember to warm-up for their races.

Just in case that wasn’t crystal clear – and yes, one parent asked me three times if he was being “crystal clear” (but don’t worry, I really don’t hold any residual bitterness 😉 ) – there is a lot of  pressure at these meets for children to be amazing – and that pressure comes from parents – not coaches. So parents are “needed” on deck – their children “require” their assistance. It is surprising how many swimmers were apparently incapable of determining on their own when they were in fact hungry and finding themselves a snack in their backpacks loaded up with enough food to sustain a not so small country for a week.

I bit a hole in my tongue more than once and showed great restraint in not asking a number of obvious questions like – why are you paying a coach when you yourself are so clearly overqualified or I’m sorry, when were you crowned king or really, 14-year-old Johnny cannot pack his own backpack and meet you over there – I mean, I know it’s a whole ten feet away, but, really?

Not letting parents on deck is the general practice at swim meets – it is what normally happens. It is printed on the meet announcements. Coaches remind their parents beforehand. It is not a surprise. You should not even need a marshal. Thank God we had two.

The irony in all of this is that parents are given ample opportunity to volunteer and be on deck in a number of capacities. The meet officials usually end up practically begging for additional volunteers at the beginning of every meet. You even get free food and drinks when you volunteer and you are right on deck, in the middle of it all.

But not these guys.

Parents lied (multiple times) about being coaches or timers. Parents told us to leave them alone. They followed behind us continuing conversations that were really already over.  They raised their voices – a lot. They ignored – a lot. Parents broke the rules and were extremely rude. They set horrible, horrible examples for their children. And they were being so super nasty to v.o.l.u.n.t.e.e.r.s. Those overpaid souls with way too many zeros in their paychecks – and unfortunately no other numerals.

I wished they would have stopped for just a minute and noticed the looks on the faces of their children as they were ranting and raving. Their kids really were not all that impressed. They unfortunately recognize bullying behavior when they see it. It probably was not their first glance of their parents acting like arses and sadly, it surely won’t be the last.

These jerks parents got up from their comfy seats, stopped to chat with friends (well, that is assuming they have some), stretched their legs, checked their smart phones, got a drink of water, perhaps went to the bathroom, and then dumped a ration of hatefulness on the people who were volunteering their time – not sitting down – not chatting with friends. And not even getting to see their own kids swim. Yep, I missed four of my own kids races because obnoxious parents were giving me what for. So instead of cheering for my kids I was being berated. Yeah, that was a whole lot of fun.

Someone even erased the word “no” on the “No parents allowed on pool deck” sign that the pool facility put up. Oh yea, and the “l” in pool. (I have to admit, that made me chuckle.)

No one was singled out. Everyone was held to the same expectation. Follow the rules. The rules that are in place at every single meet you attend and the rules that your coaches reminded you of before the meet and the rules that 75 % of the parents abide by without insulting anyone.

It was actually shameful behavior and quite honestly the worst offenders were 99% men. I hope they got the venom out of their systems so Valentine’s Day can be good for their significant others. I was so, so thankful that they were all going home with someone else. And I was thankful hubby was not there – but then again, if he had been there, he could have worn the vest. It would have looked so much better with his eyes.

So, when you approach a volunteer at an event. Be a kindler, gentler parent. Remember, if they aren’t doing what they are doing – someone else (read you) will have to step up.

And if you are reading this and are mad because you feel a connection with the offenders, shame on you! You are clearly at the wrong blog.

And teachers and coaches, there is no way on God’s green earth that you are getting paid enough. Thank you for what you do!

The most important parenting question…….

Okay, but what happened b.e.f.o.r.e. that?

Homework Help………………..

If you read this, you know how much I love to help with math homework. Well, my son (and I) have now graduated to Algebra. Last night, he had a lot of home work and he was stuck on a few problems. He asked me for help.

Ummmm. No, hubby was not here – why do you ask? 😉

I kind of laughed and mumbled something about the blind leading the blind and sat down armed with a pencil and a scoop of Algebra hopefulness.

To be honest, I have been pretty surprised at my ability to help him navigate through his math homework so far. Don’t worry though – I am not resting on my laurels because I know I am about to hit a breaking point. When I initially look at a problem, it almost inevitably looks like alphabet soup and I feel woefully unqualified (even armed with my B.A. in English Writing) to help at all. But then, I look through the book and I look at his notes and we talk and e.v.e.n.t.u.a.l.l.y. we figure it out. I did actually go pretty far in math but the last time I used “x” and “y” for anything besides bonus points in Scrabble was well – cough – over 20 years ago.

And sometimes I have a hard time saying with a straight face that this is all important for him to learn. I cannot ever remember needing to know what ordered pairs fall on a given line. My life has been pretty full even without that ability readily at my fingertips.

Just as a side note – I found a great website that will give you the answer to a problem. It’s Mathway. You can also pay a subscription fee if you want to see the steps that get you to the answer. But so far, the answer has been enough to point me in the right direction. They are no fools though – I am sure they know that I am probably only one or two chapters away from hitting “subscribe”. tee hee.

My parenting mantra has always been “don’t sell yourself short” whether it be swimming or soccer or school or cleaning your room. Which Bear ever-so-kindly throws right back at me when I get intimidated by higher math even simple addition and subtraction sans calculator. (Note to self – be careful how you encourage your kids – set the bar low and they won’t throw it back at you. 😉 )

I could barely diagram sentences even as an English major, so figuring out linear equations looked a tad bit daunting. Yeah for me – last night’s homework – yep, linear equations. Okay. Let me get an extra strength Diet Dr. Pepper, channel Albert Einstein, and I will be right there.

We worked through one problem and moved on to the next. I started talking about the problem thinking, “bring it, I got this one” and he started chanting. Seriously?

Bear: la la la la la.
Me: Bear, here is what I think
Bear: la la la la la la
Me: Excuse me?
Bear: Mom, I am thinking – you are disrupting my thoughts.
Me: Yeah, you invited me over here. Do you remember that part?
Bear: Shhh.
Me: Did you just SHHHHussshhhh me?
Bear: Shhh.
Me: Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle (that was the sound of me backing away)
Bear: Where are you going? I need your help.
Me: My help. That is pretty funny. Remember the blind leading the blind? And you just told me to shhhhush.
Bear: Please come back and sit down.
Me: Did you just say please?
Bear: rolling his eyes – apparently teenage speak for yes, you know I did.
Mom, come on.

So here is the beauty of last night. Hubby was at work, the girls were at a practice, and my teenage son was begging me to sit with him. We worked together for an hour – completely uninterrupted – and talked about Algebra and all kinds of other stuff. It was really fabulous. We laughed a lot. And he actually figured it out mostly by himself. And, no that was not because my suggestions were so ridiculous that they triggered real possible answers to the front of his memory bank. Okay, maybe it was because of that. Just maybe.

When he was done, he looked at his assignment sheet and asked me to read it.

Me: Problems 1-4, 11-39 odd
Bear: Did you just say odd
Me: Yeah, did you do even
Bear: I did all
Me: More practice can’t be a bad thing right?
Bear: more of the eye rolling – apparently quite a versatile little trick that eye rolling – it can mean so many different things
Me: Reading directions before you start might be a better approach next time. Come on, you have a lot more homework to get done
Bear: It’s not my fault I have so much homework.
Me: blank stare (but no eye rolling – pinky swear)
Bear: Well, maybe it’s a little bit my fault. La la la la.

I am once again a fan of homework.

I know, a lot of parents don’t get too involved in homework – especially 8th grade math homework – and for the most part, I totally get that – independence and all that jazz – but I see real value in checking in every now and then. Your teenager might actually beg you to sit with him/her and might just pay (full) attention to what you are saying. And you might just learn about more than just Algebra.

And, just so I wouldn’t get to comfy cozy on my mommy thrown, he rode in the back seat this morning – not speaking to me. Apparently he was mad at me because I won’t let him walk by his younger sister and ever-so-gently knock the crap out of her with his backpack. I know, I know, I am so unreasonable.

Fear not, I explained very carefully to him why that was not exactly the best approach when tomorrow he might need my help with math again.

Holy Cow, Macao………..

I still have so much writing to do about our time in India and it’s time to get moving – so here we go….

You might remember that right before we left India, we made a jaunt over to China – you can read about the Great Wall here and Olympic Park/Panda Bears here and Bicycles here.We also stopped in Hong Kong. Sadly, we picked to go to Hong Kong mainly because there is a DisneyWorld there. However, when we arrived in Hong Kong and checked into our hotel, I was looking through the hotel’s information and saw that Cirque Du Soleil was performing in Macao (which is also apparently spelled Macau). Bonus!

Hubby: I am pretty tired. It’s good to sit down.
Me: Look, Cirque Du Soleil is in Macao.
Hubby: Is that the Macao that is across the ocean?
Me: How far is that from here?
Hubby: No idea – but I am sure we are about to find out.
Me: The kids l.o.v.e. Cirque Du Soleil, we should totally go.
Hubby: Or we could relax and order room service.
Me: Hmmmm.
Hubby: I will go the the conceirge and see what we need to do
Me: Only if you really want to dear. 😉

We found out that yes, Macao, is not exactly around the corner from Hong Kong – but is a lot closer to Hong Kong than it is to the U.S. 😎

So, my dear sweet husband went down to the front desk and found out that there were tickets still available for that night’s show. They were not exactly free – but they were available. What we needed to do was rent a car to take us to the ferry station, then take the ferry over to Macao, then take a bus to the Venetian Hotel, and then watch the show. And then rinse and repeat backwards. It turns out that renting a car and riding the ferry – not so much free either. But the bus ride to the Venetian. Totally free. See we are saving money dear!

The whole adventure was going to take us about 5 hours and we needed to leave about 5 minutes ago.

Off we go. One crazy thing about China is that even though Beijing and Macao and Hong Kong are all in China, you still have to go through Customs and Immigration each time you leave one and enter another. So, in one day, we went through Immigration 4 times. Yikes. And we were pretty much always in a hurry. Adding Macao and the Cirque Du Soleil in at the last minute was a tad stressful – but it made for a great night.

We rushed down to the lobby to meet the driver and then stopped by 7-11 for a slurpee – ahhhhh – and headed off to the ferry.

We had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Thankfully Hong Kongers (yes, that is the technical term) speak English and we could at least understand where they were telling us to go. We got to the ferry counter and there was a big sign for helicopter rides to Macao. Now, I have my husband’s attention. That sounded cool. He asked about tickets and when he found out it would be about $2,000 USD, he bought ferry tickets.

The ferry was pretty neat. And we got to see a bit of Hong Kong. If you’ve never been, just imagine tall building after taller building after even taller building. New York has nothing on Hong Kong.

At the ferry station, there were all these fun tugboats. Not sure why I love me some tug boats, but I do. I don’t necessarily want to ride on them – but I love taking pictures of them.

Once we got into Macao and on the bus, we started breathing a little easier. We had a good chance of being on time.

For those of you not familiar with Macao, it is simply Las Vegas incarnate. Flashy splashy hotel with big honkin’ casino right beside flashy splashy hotel with big honkin’ casino. Endless roads of hotels and casinos, all lit up real sparkly. Part of Macao is over this bridge. And I learned an important lesson about photography – fast moving bus + city with tons of lights + children asking a gagillion questions + amateur photographer taking flash pictures through window = stinky pictures. So sorry! I’d like to pretend that I was trying some new fangled photography and was getting all artistic with a simple bridge – but, alas, blurry is blurry.

Here is my best Macao picture. Yeah, don’t worry those National Geographic photographers won’t be in danger of losing their jobs anytime soon.

This is the Venetian – where the magic of Cirque Du Soleil takes place.

And here is what the Venetian looks like if you actually know how to use your camera – Thanks Wiki!

It turned out that we got to the hotel about 45 minutes before the show was scheduled to start. And it turns out that we did not get my brother a Hard Rock Cafe hat in Beijing – long story that did not end well – and that we passed a Hard Rock Cafe hotel in Macao that was literally a block away from the Venetian. So, number one hubby literally ran over to the Hard Rock Cafe and got my brother a Macao Hard Rock hat while the kids and I nestled into the Blue Frog Bar and Grill. Where we enjoyed some yummy American food – chicken nuggets and french fries and potato skins with sour cream. That equalled instant smiles…

 

What I did not realize about the Blue Frog and Grill was that they have a running contest – if you drink 100 shots of alcohol, you get your name posted in big arse letters on a big arse billboard in the bar. My kids wanted to figure out how they could get their names on that board. Well, let’s see….

Then on to the show. The name of the show is ZAIA which apparently translates into “life” and the show is about a girl who imagines a world beyond earth. You don’t really need to know any of that – what you do need to know is that it’s awesome with tons of acrobatics and lively music and surprises behind every curtain.

You aren’t allowed to take pictures during the show – so you get to see the posters. Apparently, I am also not so great at taking pictures while standing still in a well lit lobby with no children asking questions. Note to self – photography lessons.

We told the kids before we even left Hong Kong that we would most likely have to leave the show early because we had to catch the ferry back in order to take advantage of the hotel room we had already paid for in Hong Kong. So, as time got close to leave, we gave them the requisite 5-minute warning. Then we said, “time to go.” You can imagine that they quickly got up and departed the theater in a safe and orderly manner so as not to disturb the other audience members.

Yeah, not exactly – so hubby laid down the parent law – not kidding, I said now. Then they departed in a somewhat quiet and orderly manner while only mildly disturbing a few fellow audience members.

We made it back on the bus and back to the ferry and back to the driver all in one piece. And then back to our hotel.


Whew. It actually was possible to get there in back. I thought so. 😎 However, if you plan to visit Macao while in Hong Kong, might I suggest a little advance planning?

And then today – (almost) all the right answers ………

If you read this first, you will understand today’s post better….

So this morning my daughter asks me this question –

“Mom, why does a mom’s food always taste better than anyone else’s?”

Yes, that thud you heard was me falling over.

After I picked myself off the floor, I said, “I don’t know honey, it’s probably just what you are used to.”

To which she replied, “but Mom, your food is sooooo good.”

Yes, she is going to go far in life.

Her brother called her a “suck up” and then asked me if I had lost weight.

Very smart those two. 😉

Their sister on the other hand complained that I had made her biscuits instead of cereal.

I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

Wrong Question…………

When I start talking about having staff in India, I know some of you are thinking – oh jeez, here she goes again. But please bear with me because today I figured out the number one reason that having staff was bad for my family – or any family who is not going to have staff working in its home forever. You get a little too used to it. Our reality does not include a driver, a cook, a guard, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a laundress. Well, it does – but funny enough, they are all the same person – me. And the pay ain’t quite the same.

So, for those children who actually read this blog – both of you – are you listening? Here are some of the wrong conversations/situations to find yourselves in….

Scenario 1
Mom has done the laundry (including your smelly gym clothes and soccer socks) and has washed the all the breakfast dishes (after making you breakfast) and now has brownies in the oven (because she knows you love them – she even went to two stores to find the exact ones that you like – because God forbid you have your second favorite kind of brownie warm from the oven right when you walk in the door from school). She has just finished wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. She turned off the news when you walked in the door (even though it was the story she had been waiting all day to hear) so she could listen (with focus) to how your day went. After you chat and have a yummy chocolately treat, Mom goes to sweep the floor again because there are now mysteriously brownie crumbs all over it.

It is here that the real potential for danger exists. If she then asks you to take out the trash or vacuum the basement or even lick the litter box clean – the exact wrong question is……do I have to? I will help you here because I know most of you are treading on new ground. The right answer is …..O!M!G! Mom, I would so love to do all of those things for you. And, by the by, you actually then have to do them (because sometimes it is more than the thought that counts) and then say ….. and Mom, did you get your hair cut because it looks marvelous. Do you see the difference?

Scenario 2:
You have decided that it is in your best interest to join a practice group that practices very early on Saturday mornings. This causes your mother – who sleeps through tornadoes – to have to get out of bed at 5:15A.M. on a Saturday morning. The roosters have not even learned to crow at this point and your mother is up and driving you to practice. And, yes, she is very proud of you for getting up and getting out the door – that is not the problem. Read on.

When you get back home, your very tired mother makes (okay, warms up) waffles because that is what you asked for (and no it does not matter if they are frozen v. homemade). She also makes eggs and biscuits because that is what your brother asked for. And she also makes bacon because apparently your sister would like that. You are distracted by the goings on of SpongeBob so I can understand why you don’t realize that was a lot to accomplish before 8:30am. But you push it a tad too far when you ask …… Mom, can you pour syrup in to a small bowl and bring it over here? Really?

Here’s the problem – at some point you are going to want to drive a car. If you cannot handle pouring syrup into a bowl (even a small bowl) all by your lonesome, I am pretty sure that operating heavy machinery is off the can-do list. The right answer is…….Mom, these are the most delicious waffles I have ever had. They don’t even need syrup. And by the way, did you get your hair cut because it looks amazing. Or maybe you lost weight. See how that is different?

Scenario 3
You love to ride your scooter. You have ridden it and fallen off of it a million and one times. So, your mom knows that you are one tough cookie even if you scream like a banchee. Sooooo, if you fall off said scooter the exact moment that your mom calls a friend to vent over another mom who is making her c.r.a.z.y. and she sees you fall, she might not panic and hang up immediately because she knows you are okay. And she knows that you had a 14-minute delay in crying. So, she really might not hang up the phone right away. No matter how big those crocodile tears are – because if you can stop and have a snack on the way to tell her how hurt you are, the reality of it is – you are probably going to be just fine. Operating heavy machinery may also not be in your future but you most likely don’t need to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. You might need therapy later – but right now, it’s all good.

Please forgive the parenting rant – but seriously. I don’t know how single parents do it – God love you!

What does it all mean……………….

Yesterday, I wrote about a man taking my shopping cart in the parking lot for me. You can read about it here.

I have been thinking about why that had such an impact on me and this is what I came up with. I think I will ramble a little – so please stick with this one – I promise there is a point at the end.

Living in India was an absolutely amazing experience that took me way out of my comfort zone. It jumbled up my routines and took me away from my favorite people. Living there gave me opportunities I would never, ever have here and it made me question a lot of what I thought I knew to be true.

I mostly think of myself as a kind and even generous person. It’s true that I can be cranky and selfish just like anyone else but I truly do enjoy giving other people a reason to smile and (mostly) don’t mind helping out.

But here comes India full force – where people really need – and not just a hug or a dinner brought over or a carpool for their over-scheduled kid or someone to take their shopping cart in the parking lot – they need food and water and a way out of horrible, horrible situations. And please know that I understand people in America need too – I know that – and I understand that the needs in America can be very real and can be overwhelming too. People are sick and people are hungry and people are hurting. I get that. But not in the same magnitude as in India – not so many people all at once and not so desperately and not without options. Right now, I live in a bubble – a green, lush, over-fed bubble with people who do not hesitate to help each other out. We are getting by just fine. Sure we endure struggles – but it is really not the  same.

I will show you what I mean – this man is taking a bath outside in a busy market area. The water is not clean and he is in public and I am taking his picture.

The streets are dirty and there is human and animal waste all over the place. That means that you have very good chances of getting pretty sick at some point. Especially if you do not have a nutritious diet and clean drinking water. And this is the road outside the entrance to the neighborhood we lived in – an upscale area. This is not a slum.

It is not only not uncommon – it is actually quite common – to see children unattended on the streets.

We have been having some pretty significant storms in our area and many people have been without electricity for several days. News reporters were interviewing several people affected by the outages and one councilman said, “people here feel like they are living in a third world country.” Dear heavens. Really? I understand he was going for the dramatic effect – but please.

Again, I appreciate that the people who lost power probably lost the food in their fridge and were hot as heck in their houses and were certainly inconvenienced. It probably is a hardship for some of them to replace their food. And of course, the elderly and young children and anyone who is sick could be in real danger. But it is temporary. And it will be fixed. Welcome to America baby where there are churches and libraries and friends houses to go to. There are options. The temporary pain of a power outage is certainly not like living in a third world country. I promise you, it is not.

I miss that about India – that the people of India don’t let bumps in the road slow them down. And I think I learned to calm down a little bit myself. I learned that if it will end up as a funny story one day, you can get through it. That the Indian people as a whole don’t take so much for granted. I would like to believe that clean water is a right and not a privilege but that is just not a reality – and electricity – well, that is icing on the cake. It really, really is.

Anyway, back to why I appreciated the man taking my cart.

Like I said, I used to think I was fairly generous and kind. India really made me question if that is true. I volunteered, sure – but I never fully committed to any one group. I gave myself a pass because I was still pretty involved in my kids classrooms which took up some time – and moving to India was a huge adjustment for me so I gave myself time to settle in before raising my hand too much – but you know what that sounds like – the excuses that they are. I know I contributed in many ways to help out people, but frankly it wasn’t enough. I truly could have done more. And why did I let myself get too overwhelmed to dive fully in. Because I knew I would eventually get to escape and move home to the land of temporary problems.

The hardest thing to accept about my time in India is how many times I turned my head away from a young child knocking at my window. If I remembered to bring crackers or cookies I would share those every time. But honestly putting food in the car wasn’t top on the list in my routine of getting out the door. I tried to remember – but I could have done better about it – and I should have. I regret that I simply did not do better.

Begging in India is a tricky thing. And helping beggars is even trickier.

Most people will tell you absolutely not to give to anyone begging for several reasons. Any money you give them usually goes to some sort of ring leader (read gang leader), if you give to one person you could end up with a flock of people around you and the mob mentality in India is not safe, giving to beggars encourages begging, it’s illegal, if you teach a man to fish, blah blah blah.

And it did happen to me more than once that I gave to one person and more people surrounded me. It was certainly uncomfortable. I even saw a woman have her change purse stolen. It was snatched right out of her hands. She was trying to give every child in front of her some change and one child said, “uh-uh lady – that is going to be all mine.” And we said, “see why you don’t do that?” And she said, “what difference does it make if he has all my change, I really don’t need it. It’s just my change.” And that was the right attitude. But it’s hard to get there.

When you see a small child knocking on your window, you let all these reminders run through your head. Why it is not a good idea to encourage begging – there is real danger in it – but how do you end it. You know that you cannot – it is much bigger than one person. And when the car, thankfully and finally, pulls away, you are still left with a pit the size of Texas in your stomach.

And then, when you have to explain all of this to your own children -augh.

The one thing my children never asked me was why they got to ride in an air conditioned car with a driver while so many children barely had enough to eat. They understood so much about our experience there and I am very proud of the way they took so much of the whole experience in and made it a part of who they are. But this is the one question that never escaped me. Why them and not me? I counted a lot of blessings in India – but that didn’t do the kid knocking at my door a whole lot of good.

And then you get back to your little oasis called home and you close the door and you want to shut it all out. In India it is particularly important to have a “home”. With familiar things and pictures of family that you miss and just some good old macaroni and cheese. But you cannot get away from the need that others experience.

At first, I would even say I was even proud of how we treated our staff who worked in our house. Pride goeth before a fall, no doubt. We paid more than most people, we gave lots of time off, we gave frequent bonuses, we gave them the things we did not “need”, we didn’t ask them to do things we would not do ourselves, we shook our heads at those who haggled too tightly over what was a reasonable salary to hold on to a few more pennies, blah blah blah.

But it was never enough. Our cleaner wanted help with tuition for his son and housing. Our cook and his wife just took what they wanted – no matter how much we gave, they always took more, and our driver started off his first day by telling me he had made a bad investment and lost all of his savings and tuition was due for his kids school. How do you balance that? When is enough enough? What is enough? What is not enough.

I know we made their lives easier – or at least we tried to. I feel good that we were reasonable enough to work for. But the problem for staff that works with expat families is that eventually those families leave and nothing is permanent. We have been paying our housekeeper for the past few months and we haven’t been living there. We have told him it is time to get another job and I did a lot to put him in touch with the right people. But he doesn’t seem to believe it. Eventually we are going to stop paying him but, but , but…………

So, when the guy in the parking smiled because I had done something nice – even though it was really insignificant – it made me smile. I said in my original post that being so happy about the whole event was over-reacting. And that is true. The world is not going to change because someone put away someone’s shopping cart – but maybe if we all are a little nicer to each other we will at least make it through the days a little easier. Especially in a country where most people don’t need much – maybe we all need kindness. Maybe that is the best start of all.

Unfortunately, today, I am right back where I was before. I want to be really helpful to people who really need it. Hopefully I will figure out a way to do that.

Am I smarter than a third grader……………..

You would think so, but my third grader is thinking “not even close.” Last night I tucked her into bed and she was complaining that I spent longer in her brother and sister’s room than I spent in her room. And, that was as I was walking in the door. Yeah, put your seatbelt on.

(Have a mentioned before that we have a college-savings plan and a therapist-savings plan?)

Me: Honey I am just not sure that is true
Her: It is (Enter big arse tears)
Me: I just got here
Her: But you n.e.v.e.r. stay here as long as you stay in THEIR rooms

By way of background, Angel’s grandmother bought her a new bed that arrived yesterday and will (prayerfully) be assembled today.

Me: Well, the good news is that you are getting a brand new bed tomorrow. Isn’t that exciting?
Her: You a.l.w.a.y.s. do that
Me: What?
Her: When I am mad at you, you always try to distract me with something happy.

Dear heavens. Please start praying for me now. She has broken the mother code.

Time to Write………

We have been home for 2 months now and it has been great. But I have gotten some grief from my readers about not writing enough anymore – and no, they are not all related to me and no, money did not exchange hands. It’s just now that I am once again doing all the shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, driving, etc, I have not found/made the time to write.

Today is the perfect example of why I am short on time. My son had plans to head out to a sleep away camp this morning. He needed to meet the camp bus at 9:30am packed and ready to go – and apparently healthy. Oh. Yeah that would be good.

Healthy. I will have to remember that next time I am packing socks and snacks and bug spray.

Luckily, we were smart enough to pack last night. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that packing was super fun. Apparently, what a mom thinks a 13 year old boy needs on a 5-day trek into the wilderness and what that young man thinks he will need are two very different things – even if they both speak English and are reading from the same sheet. He thought it would all fit in a backpack because he didn’t want to be the only one with a suitcase. Really? I did not realize that teenagers have become suitcase phobic. I still have so much to learn. But okay, try it. Knock yourself out.

Famous last words: “Mom, this isn’t all going to fit – I need a bigger bag. Maybe even a suitcase.”

Really? That is simply shocking. I so did not see that coming. 😉

So we transferred everything from the backpack with so much potential to the more realistically sized suitcase. And it even zipped up. But when we tried to put a second bathing suit in, we realized the zipper was actually broken on the suitcase. We were both tired so we decided to address the great zipper incident in the a.m. He wanted to wake up at 7:30am so we were going to have p.l.e.n.t.y. o’ t.i.m.e.

Or so I thought. He woke up this morning and says, “Mom, my ear really hurts. I am pretty sure I have an ear infection or swimmers ear.”

Me: That’s great honey. Are you sure? Because you have to be on a bus in an hour and a half. And if you miss the bus – well, that means I am spending the day in the car. The entire day. In the car.

And, by the by, I know good and damn well he is sure because he has never told me this and been wrong. Arrrgggh. However, I did have the clarity of gratitude to be very, very thankful that he is old enough to tell me where it hurts and maybe even why it hurts. I do not (for even one second) miss the days of trying to translate tears and screams in to one of six possible problem categories – hungry, my sister took my truck, tired, dirty diaper, sick, and/or absolutely undeterminable and therefore unsolvable. I was also very thankful that he actually told me about it, even though he might have understood that it could have totally meant that he might not get to go on this five-day, fun-in -the-sun, week-without-parents and/or siblings, eat-all-the-junk-food-you-want, stay-up-way-too-late, no-summer-homework extravaganza.

Well, at least I thought he understood that until I had a mommy realization moment. I thanked him for telling me and not just pretending to be okay even though it really could mean that he might not be able to go at all or that I might end up driving him the f.o.u.r. and a h.a.l.f. hours to camp and then back again (another four and a half hours) – and he looked at me with absolute disbelief that him not getting on that bus in merely an hour and half was at all a possibility. He clearly had complete confidence that I could make this all happen quickly and magically. That I am surely capable of diagnosing then healing an ear infection while finding the chapstick and simultaneously growing enough money on a tree so that he could buy unlimited snacks and milkshakes and possibly even an extra camp t-shirt. That is when I fully understood that it isn’t quite yet time to put my super hero mommy cape away. At least not yet. Even at 13, I am still a rock star. Yes, that pretty much made it all worth it.

The rest of the very long story short is that we have a fantabulous doctor who squeezed us in and diagnosed my little Bear with – guess what – an ear infection. Our wonderful, wonderful nurse faxed the prescription to the pharmacy and I diligently obeyed all traffic guidelines (which is important because my drivers license happens to be in my husband’s wallet that just happens to be in New York City – oh yes, that means I am single parenting at the moment – even better, right) and then we rolled in safely to the Giant Pharmacy. Where the pharmacist knew nothing of our prescription. Perfecto. But I had the hard copy – yeah me still earning that super hero cape – and begged for a quick fill of our prescription. We had just enough time to obey all traffic guidelines once again and rush drive carefully home and change out the problem suitcase for a new suitcase with a functioning zipper so that Bear’s underwear wouldn’t fall out all over the ground in front of the very cute 8th grade girls on the bus. (And by the by, parents of 8th grade girls – could you buy your daughters longer shorts? Not necessarily the girls on this bus but just in general. That would be great. Thanks.)

In the end, Bear even had time to take a quick and very hot last civilized shower before camp. Then it was right back to the pharmacy to get both of his prescriptions and a doughnut – any mom with a super hero cape certainly knows that antibiotics can upset an empty tummy and a doughnut has been scientifically proven to be a comfort food. And yes, I got myself one too – I earned it after all.

We made it to the bus stop with exactly two minutes to spare. That is where Bear decided he did not exactly need me anymore and I got a shoulder bump and a quick hug goodbye. Oh yeah, and a “mom, I’m fine.” My cape dropped a little with that one. But I perked up when I saw the plethora of suitcases under the bus. Who knew that other teenagers might actually use real luggage to get their camp belongings from one place to another? All is truly right with the world.

And, yes, the bus was at least a half an hour late leaving. And no, I don’t think 10am is too early to start drinking. 😉

P.S. My dear blog buddy Loco tagged me as one of his favorite women bloggers in Asia – that was awesome too. Thanks Loco!