Be a Corn Flake!

Okay, I’ll admit this is a stretch of a “post” (sorry Kellogg’s!), but I’m inspired to write about it, so I’m silencing my inner editor and rolling with it.

It was a glorious two-hour-delay this past Tuesday, thanks to a Presidential sleet storm.  I was able to get up with my 3 1/2 year old son and enjoy breakfast with him. When I asked him what he wanted to eat, he said,

“Chicken cereal!”

WHAT???

I looked at him with what must have been a strange look on my face, because he laughed and then pointed to the kitchen counter and said again,

“Chicken cereal!”

My gaze followed the direction of his index finger, and there it was:

Hero image

(picture: http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/kellogg-s-corn-flakes-consumer-brand.html)

Cute, right?  But there’s (yet another) metaphor I discovered in this box of cereal.

The Kellogg brothers are steeped in some pretty wild history.  Long story short, they ran a sanitarium and created food items they believed controlled certain behaviors which contributed to poor mental health.

One day, they had an error with smashed wheat and flakes were born.  They tried with corn, and the sunny yellow cereal hatched forth.

They were sold at first to their former patients.  The brothers then had a nasty legal battle, the one got the rights to the flakes, added sugar (ironically) and made Kellogg’s Corn Flakes one of the best selling cereals of all time.

Where’re the lessons to be learned?

Cereal, Bowl, Milk, Breakfast, Meal

  1. Sometimes, good things can come from a mistake.
  2. Sometimes, you have to trust your gut and go on your own.
  3. Sometimes, wanting to help people with their mental health issues has its rewards.

They’re also comparatively low in sugar and can be used in a variety of ways.

Make the #153Promise to always see the world in a different, positive light- and remind your children of this approach, as well.  What a perfect time to remind yourself of this promise at breakfast- the most important meal of the day.

So put a box of the famous “Chicken Cereal” on the kitchen counter — whether or not you actually eat them — to serve as a reminder that sometimes, life can have some unexpected pleasant surprises.

-Kisses! XxXx

 

A Traumatic Statistic: Prevalence of PTSD

Fear, Woman, Crack, Notch, Furrow

Did you know that a whopping 70% of the general public will experience a traumatic event, and of those who do, 20% go on to develop PTSD?

Children lack the proper coping mechanisms, so they are particularly vulnerable.

War is not the only way to get PTSD.  Other traumatic events can include:

  • a serious injury or illness
  • a death
  • a car accident
  • a significant life change, like a divorce or move
  • abuse or bullying
  • dysfunction in the home, like yelling or addiction
  • a disaster like a fire
  • a crime
  • either first-hand experience of the events above or even witnessing them second-hand

The key to not developing PTSD in the first place is to get immediate aftercare.  But if that did not happen, it’s not too late to seek treatment for your child months or even years afterward.

Some of the symptoms of PTSD, according to the Mayo Clinic and WebMD re:

  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Not enjoying activities usually enjoyed
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Bad dreams
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Panic attacks
  • Headaches, stomach aches, muscle pain without specific injury

For students, these may also manifest as lowered grades or discipline problems at school.

Candle, Rose, Tealight, Quiet

Every child deserves to feel at peace and safe in their environment.  You never know if something they experienced may have been recorded as a trauma in their brain and they need professional help to learn how to re-regulate their emotions.

If your child starts to begin to display any of the signs above, or if they or your family has experienced any of the major events listed above,  please make the #153Promise to contact their guidance counselor and share your concerns.

They may need validation from someone who understands what they are going through.

-KissesXxXx

 

A Parenting Parable in Ink

Here’s an anecdote…

A woman gets a tattoo with her name on it.  There’s a deep symbolic meaning as to why she got it.  (As all tattoos should be!)

Family, Mama, Daughter, Tattoo, Hold Hands, Hands

This woman then proceeds to become a mother three times.  Her body is pulled and stretched in many miraculous directions.  After the birth of her third child, she notices that the ink has also shifted, and her name is no longer legible.  She’s distraught.

While I totally can appreciate the dismay at the lost artwork (I have four tats of my own), I would like to lovingly suggest to remember that you have created works of art in your own right, far more precious than what happened in that parlor next to the stainless steel gauges.

Always the poet, I see another symbolism in the fact that it was her name that got distorted.  Yes, she knows what it was, but it’s changed.

Doesn’t that happen to you when you become a parent?  Yes, you still remember your old self, but once you have children, you are never again the same.  Like that misshapen tattoo, our essential self is indelible.  We retain our essence throughout our lives.  However, our parenting selves cause us to view — and be viewed by — the world in a new way.

So if “Ashley” morphs into “Maybe” or “Michael” is deciphered as “Nipple,” I’d look to the deep metaphor that like a tattoo, our children mark us forever.

Make the #153Promise to celebrate the way your children have changed your ink.

-Kisses! XxXx

 

For Black History Month: A Poem of My Legacy

Matroeska, Vintage, Crafts, Hand PaintedFebruary is Black History Month, a teacher at my school helped to create a poetry project. She and another adult at one of our sister high schools made an all-call for poetry regarding our own family history.  I don’t want to put words in their mouths, but I think their objective for the project was to go beyond race to embrace everyone’s history.

The prompt to get us to create a submission asked us how we plan to contribute to our family’s legacy.

This is what I came up with:

“Cerberus”Krampus, Customs, Austria, Mask, Devil

On the floor

Gasping for air

A woman-

                  A mother-

                                    A child-

In one, suffering body.

She screams through sobs, snot and regret.

“Oh God!  Take this pain away!”

A journey this low created by decades-

                  Of shame

                                    And guilt

                                                      And fear.

Sometimes, the only way out-

                  up

Is

Something larger than herself grabs her,

Pulls her-

Away from that destiny written by the women

Generations before her.

Lifting her bosom and eyes to the sky,

She rejects the path

                  Of shame

                                    And guilt

                                                      And fear.

And she says:

“Oh God, I see the pattern of broken, woven threads.

I see the cross, heavy from the burden of judgement.

I see the toxic mold others have crafted for me…

But I WILL NOT go with the flow.

I WILL NOT carry the load

I WILL NOT contort my spirit

to conform to a lineage of dysfunction.

Breaking the cycle

                  Of shame

                                    And guilt

                                                      And fear

She stands.

On her own two feet.

Undefeated,

                                                      Learning her new name.

                  Stronger without blame.

Wiser from her pain.

She’s making

For herself…              for her inner child….                  And her daughter.

Explanation

A “Cerberus” is a Greek mythological creature.  It appears as a three headed dog that serves to guard the underworld and prevents those in Hell from leaving.  (Technically, the picture above is Krampus; I couldn’t find a fitting royalty-free Cerberus… go figure.)

My “Cerberus” was shame, guilt and fear, instilled during my childhood.

A little introspection and family of origin work gave me the insight that emotional dysregulation can be inherited, if not necessarily genetic.

I made the #153Promise to myself and my children that I would end that cycle of emotional abuse and make proactive parenting decisions that promote positive mental health and wellness.

What’s your legacy???

-Kisses! XxXx

Tween Bras Are All Thumbs Down

Bra, Clothing, Garments, Bust Holder, LingerieI woke up this morning and found this article about bras for tweens on my “news” feed this morning.

I’m sorry, PopSugarMoms, but I do not agree with rushing little girls into womanhood.

In it, the author writes:

Because there’s NOTHING sexual about an age-appropriate bra for a kid who wants one. There are styles made just for little girls, just as there are for adolescents and teens. There’s even a cool new line of Star Wars bras and sports bras for girls.

Who wants to buy her daughter a bra she doesn’t need just because she wants one?

*both thumbs down* NOT this gal.

I just don’t think it’s sending the correct message to want to rush things she’ll have plenty of time for when she’s older.

I’ve had the battle with my ex and he actually went behind my back to buy one.

But I’m sticking to my guns (no put intended) and making it my #153Promise to myself to be true to my convictions and not follow trends just because.

What do you stand for or against?  Are you willing to stay strong even when you don’t have the support???

 

 

Cursing Cupid- Shoot an Arrow through Expectations

Love, Valentine'S Day, Pose, HeartT minus four days and counting…  The “holiday” that gets men in a panic and parents in a bind.

The internet is bursting with last minute ideas for “romantic” gifts.  Dollar stores (thank God!) still have boxes of cards on their shelves.  And adults everywhere are cursing Cupid.

But I’m kwel as a Kit Kat.  Why?

Because I have no expectations.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

I tend to think that the more someone “needs” someone else to make a big deal over these special days, the more likely it is that that person has been ignored all year.

I’m not into a bipolar, feast or famine type of situation.  I just want to feel appreciated on a daily basis.  No need for fancy cards, flowers, or dinner to get my motor running.  Know what turns me on?  Coming home after a busy day to an empty sink and some folded laundry.  Oh, yeah…  Bow chick-a wow wow.

I was a Twelve-Stepper for a spell when I was working on my codependency issues, and I learned a great saying:

Expectations are just premeditated resentments.

It pretty much blew my mind.  If I expect a certain person to act a certain way or do a certain thing, then I’m just setting myself up to be disappointed.  However, I think the word “Passive” needs to be added at the start of the sentence.

Passive expectations are just premeditated resentments.

If I expect somebody to do something, but I don’t actively express to them my desires, I don’t think it’s fair to hold them hostage when they fail to read my mind.

Heart, Love, Romance, Valentine

So if you want to go out for dinner, tell your spouse.  If you want your children to set the table, tell them.  Then, after a while, they’ll do it on their own without you asking because they see how darn happy it makes you.

The same applies with my children. I’d rather them experience true happiness on a daily basis, rather than getting all worked up into a lather a few times a year.  It says to me that they feel special every day.

Lorenz Hart (ironically) wrote “My Funny Valentine,” and his lyrics express this sentiment perfectly:

Your looks are laughable; unphotograph-able…

Yet you’re my favorite work of art….

Each day is Valentines’ Day.

Make it your #153Promise this Valentines’ Day to have low expectations and to actively express them.

Shoot an arrow right through the hype.

-Kisses! XxXx

 

 

I *AM* An Expert, Dagnabbit!

Classroom, Old, One-Room, School, Education, ClassI had a phone conference with my publisher a little over a week ago and he said something that really stuck in my craw- he questioned that I am a legitimate expert regarding kids’ issues.

Really???

Yeah…” he continued, “being a teacher doesn’t make you an expert.  I mean, when was the last time a parent goes into a school and asks to see a really good teacher because their kids won’t eat their vegetables?  They go to a doctor.  You’re just not an authority in that arena.

That’s when I heard that giant record scratch, the music stops, and it’s about to get really intense.

Mind you, this man does not have children; he’s never had to go to anybody about ANY children’s issues.  That’s when I should have just let it go in one ear and out the other.  But I tend to be a little — what’s the word — obsessive about certain issues, so I stewed.  I mulled.  I percolated.

I vented to my husband yesterday for, like, the eight thousandth time, listing all the point that DO indeed qualify me to be an authority in parenting.  He patiently listened (bless him!) to which he finally said, “You should write them all down and use that for your promotions.”  He’s right!  At the risk of sounding pompous, I DO need to build a case for why I am a good person to listen to when it comes to raising a child.  Just suppose I get successful enough that people start to notice me.  Critics love to tear people a new one.  I better get working on my best game play.  In the spirit of an good offense being the strongest defense, I offer to you why I AM an expert, dagnabbit:

  1. I’m a mother of two great kids.  My daughter is a sweet, sensitive ten year old who’s compliant and has never been in trouble at school.  She gets good grades and excels at gymnastics.  My three and a half year old is a happy, social butterfly.  He’s very well adjusted and his emotions are well regulated.  I must be doing something right.
  2. I had a rough childhood.  When I say not to do something because it will hurt the child emotionally, believe it.
  3. I’ve done the work.  Yes, I was scarred.  I had a nervous breakdown at 17.  I had panic attacks.  I made bad choices when I was younger.  I’ve been in and out of therapy.  I know the different approaches to take for wellness because I either was taught the tools by another expert, or I learned them doing my own research.
  4. I read.  I always look to others to learn more about a topic.  If I have a theory about something, I can find and document the literature to back me up.
  5. I’ve been a coach.  I’ve run with middle schoolers as they do their distance perimeters around our school.  I’ve pushed them to excel as they cross the finish line.
  6. I’ve been a musical director.  You want a challenge?  Try getting thirty kids on stage, singing and dancing their hearts out.
  7. I have a degree in Education.  The training includes psychology, educational theory, child/adolescent development and behavior/classroom management.
  8. I have observed thousands of students.  Not must my own students, but I must observe an entire building to monitor the safety of our school.  I keep a watchful eye.  I notice trends.  I see what parents do not see, in a variety of settings: classroom, hallway, cafeteria…  I can tell you who’s changing their outfits after getting out of a parent’s car.  I know what they eat for lunch.  Who just broke up with whom.  If they use potty mouth.  The walls have ears, and they’re attached to my head.
  9. I have observed at least double that amount of parents.  With all my classes over sixteen years, track teams, and theatre productions, that’s easily over 10,00 parents I’ve interacted with.  I see what’s been working… and what’s been not working.  I’ve even asked parents who have great kids what’s their secret.
  10. As a teacher, I document success and failure.  After meticulously recording data in order to track progress and ultimately assigning a grade, I must then analyze it all to identify trends and adjust my approach to reach more students.  It’s what good educators do.  I can tell when students are not applying themselves.  I know when a kid is not happy.  Or tired.  Or high.  We are trained to spot warning signs and instructed how to get at risk students help.

School Class, School, Children, Bali, Indonesia, PupilsSo yeah… I think being a teacher makes me an expert.

My district has parent teacher conferences this week.  Make it your #153Promise this week to touch base with your children’s teachers and ask them how your kid is doing and how you can support them to achieve their best.  Trust that the teachers have your kids’ best interests at heart.  And believe them.

After all, we are experts.

-Kisses! XxXx

“O” is for Observe

Quick Quiz:

What is the U.S. of A.’s national symbol?

Can you imagine if “B” were the symbol of the U.S. Military? There’s a reason one of the world’s Super Powers’ wants to be associated with keen eye sight.  It keeps us protected.

Observation is a powerful tool.

Eyes, See, Point Of View, Window, Sensation, CharmAs a teacher, I have to report students’ observable behavior to case managers and guidance counselors all the time.  It’s called “Progress Monitoring.”

Santa sees children when they are both sleeping and awake.

We, as a society, are under surveillance everywhere we go.  Kind of creepy, until you become a victim of a crime and law enforcement can pull up video to catch a suspect.

How observant are you regarding your own children?Ostrich, Eyes, Animals, Portrait, Observe, Green, Head

  • Can you tell when he or she is sick, tired, or had a bad day at school?
  • When was the last time you went through their backpack?
  • Their room or the things in it?
  • Their cell phone?
  • How about any prescription drugs in the house?

I’ll admit, there seems to be a fine line between observing and spying.  But your children are under your charge.  They are minors living under your roof and you do NOT need a warrant in order to seize and search the items you pay for.

I think there’s a right and a wrong way to do it, though.

I was under strict surveillance growing up.  I think it was too much.  I had no voice at home (more on that later) and everything I did was criticized.  I wasn’t a bad kid; my dad was paranoid.  As a result, ironically, it backfired and I did and hid things just to have some part of my life that wasn’t under their thumb.

My father’s observation was unwarranted (figuratively!) so it was a major source of stress in my life.  He also was sneaky about it and didn’t just keep a watchful parental eye over my life- he snooped.  So did my mother.  As a result, I felt very violated.  And I did the only thing I could think of: I rebelled… but I had to in a very passive aggressive way, or I’d get in BIG trouble.  That’s not the tactic to take when observing.

Rather, you set up the parameters and boundaries AHEAD of time.  You articulate consequences BEFORE infractions.  And you let them know that if you ever suspect something concerning, you will TELL them what you OBSERVED and then request to observe more data to either dispel or confirm your fears that they may be doing something that is putting them in harm’s way.  And, of course, you say it in a kind — rather than threatening — tone.

It’s called transparency.

If you children think that you can see right through them, your conscience will guide them when you are not physically around.

How are they behaving in school?  Who are their friends and what are they texting?  Are they are where they say they are?  Do they eat their lunch you pack?

Make it your #153Promise to be an eagle; not an ostrich.

-Kisses!  XxXx

*I did the research, and technically, their heads are in sand a lot to check on their eggs… which are buried in the sand.  So you still get a gold star for the day.  I was focusing on the popularly accepted metaphor.  (Just in case some ornithologist is reading my post!)

 

Eight Is… Tacky!

Thanks to my newest blogging buddy, Rudy, I decided to try my hand at the whole “Pingback” business.

I was particularly interested in the topic of The Eighth Sin

Gargoyle, Grumpy, Statue, Lawn Ornament

The seven (as they pop into my head) are:

Envy, Pride, Wrath, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth and Lust

I’m trying to think of another reeeeeally bad thing, and they seem to be just a sub-category of one of the above.  Apathy?  That would be Sloth.  Narcissism?  Yeah… that’s Pride.  Impatience?  I think that’s a form of Wrath…  See what I mean?

So I suppose the better approach is humor rather than deep philosophical thought.  Therefore, my submission for the Eighth Deadly Sin is… (drumroll, please)…

TACK

Cheese Curls, Junk Food, Cheese, CurlsYou see Tack, in its varying forms, permeates our culture:

  • Lawn ornaments
  • Fanny packs
  • Cat sweatshirts
  • Any food that’s orange or blue
  • Tube socks
  • Babies dressing like adults
  • Beer cozies
  • Underwear as outerwear
  • Any “As Seen On TV” product

I think Tack is horrible because it’s several other sins rolled into one.  It’s Gluttonous for its over-the-top bombardment of the senses.  It’s Sloth because the person responsible for it was just too lazy to give a darn about aesthetics.  And it’s Wrath because it incites a lot of agida in those who are Prideful to think they are above the Tack.

To relate this to making the #153Promise to your family, how about scanning your home for any of the EIGHT Deadly Sins and eliminate ate least one item from each category.

None of us is perfect; which one of the Eight do you think your family needs to work on the most?

 

 

 

Thanks, Grammy

Heart, Love, Discussion, Difference, RelationshipMy relationship with my mother is strained.  Suffice it to say we navigate life with very different operating systems that clash every time they interface.

My grandparents and I, (her parents), have never clashed.

“You don’t know them like I do,” she says.  A lot.

True- I don’t.  The dynamics of Grammy and Grandpop and me are different; they didn’t raise me.  They are people I visited every Sunday after church.  Then, once I got older, I would choose to see them independent of my parents.

I could write a whole book about this narrative, but the reason I even mention them is that at 89, it looks like my grandmother will not be around much longer.  Around October, doctors found something on a chest X-ray they didn’t like, but she refused diagnostic tests.  They told me that their best guess was that she had about six months to live.  She was put on hospice and this week, she started falling and she’s been bed-ridden and on morphine.

I took off a day from school on Thursday to essentially say goodbye and give my input on funeral arrangements.  (I said I’d like to put together a PowerPoint to loop during the viewing and I’ll compose a poem to be put in the funeral program.)

Because I have peace with Grammy, I’m able to deal with this dying ordeal pretty well, I think.  But my mother?  It’s taking everything in me to stay patient and kind as she manages to grapple with the reality that the woman she’s been complaining about all these years is leaving.

I’ve come to realize that validating someone’s opinion is essential to any relationship.  That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them; you only need to let them know that you understand their feelings.  Understand (v)- to perceive the intended meaning.  So when I understand that my mother thinks a certain way — and I allow her to have that opinion — then I have attempted to validate her feelings.  I try to be very clear that I while I understand how she feels about Grammy and Grandpop, that is not my truth… and I’d really appreciate if she’d allow me to have mine.

I’ve been suggesting to my mother that she make her own peace with her parents now so she can have peace once they are gone.  I know she’s done a lot for them out of duty, obligation and guilt so she can have a “free conscience” regarding their care.  That may be nice so she has no regrets regarding what SHE has done or failed to do.  However that doesn’t mean she has resolved the issues she has with what she thinks they have done to her.

I’ve told her that I just want her to be happy.  “Well, maybe I think I don’t deserve to be happy,” is her response.

Street Sign, Note, Direction, Point Of View, Sensation

There it is.  I can’t compete with that mentality.  So I take a step back and concern myself with my own happiness and fostering happiness in my own children.

Granted, you can’t “make” someone happy- but you can treat them in a way so they learn that you think they are deserving of happiness.  And you can model positive behaviors that foster self-care results in your own happiness.

Grandparent are synonymous with giving, and the most recent gift my grandmother gave me from her deathbed was the lesson in validation and gracefully understanding opinions that are different from my own.*

Bald Eagle, Soaring, Bird, Raptor, Flight, Nature, BaldIn the spirit of my grandmother living a full life, I’m going to pass along that lesson in this post, so it my live on after I get the word that Grammy is gone from this Earth.

Make it your 153Promise today to: model the ability to make yourself happy; validate others by showing them you understand their opinion, even if yours is different…  It avoids conflict and can sustain peace…  Make the 153Promise by telling people close to you that you want their happiness, too, and foster an atmosphere where they feel free to pursue their happiness.

 

 

*(The irony is that my father — her son-in-law — and my grandparents would clash all the time… What’s in common?  My mother… again- another book!)