Tag Archives: children

The Internet and the Kids that use it.

I love the interwebz. A lot. So much so that if I forget my cellphone or ipad when I go out, I start having heart palpitation’s. It has become my connection to the world, my friends and unlimited information. Google has “diagnosed” many of my illnesses, Youtube & Pinterest have inspired me and taught me about things I’ve never even heard of. Facebook has connected me to my past and Twitter has given me the gift of many new & amazing friendships. I love the Internet.

In saying all that, I also recognize how dangerous this big open virtual playground can be. It is filled with pictures, people, ideas and opportunities that I don’t consider healthy or safe. It has allowed us to become over-informed, over-stimulated and much more bold than we would ever be in “real life”. The screen has become something that we can hide behind and become whoever we want to be. It’s easier to be a total jerk, to bully, to tease and to just be downright annoying. It brings the whole world into the privacy of our own homes and leaves us alone with nothing but our conscience to judge or challenge our choices.

As an adult, I know how hard it can be to always keep myself in check. To guard what I post or how I respond as words don’t always relay exactly what I’m trying to say. I’ve learned to question things that I see and read. I understand that the Internets idea of reality, isn’t actually so. I’m an adult and it’s tough … imagine what it’s like to be a child or a teenager? With one click of a button, you get to see things that you’ve never seen or even heard of before.

As parents, we need to keep them safe. Not blinded without access but safe.

As my kids have grown, I’ve found lots of little ways to stay on top of their internet usage and to help them make good choices. Lots of people have commented that I’m too tough, or that I do too much “spy work” and don’t give them enough privacy. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve got 18 years to help them become the best that they can be, and I take that job very seriously. My job is to guide them, protect them, and help them make choices that they’re not yet strong enough to make. Based on that principle, I give you this.

My Guide to Monitoring Kids on the Internet. (Super basic, super easy stuff that works).

Number One. Do NOT be so naïve in thinking that you’ll just keep your kids off the internet and block them from everything. You can probably do that to some level, but guaranteed they’re sneaking around behind your back. AND you’re not monitoring it AT ALL. Teachers also use the internet & Facebook for a lot of stuff now. Your kids are GOING to have to access it.

* Even if you’ve allowed an account somewhere, watch it. Have you noticed that it’s suddenly gone silent or the posts are few & far between. Odds are really good your kid has another account. Find it. (They’re favourite thing to do is to reverse their names, use a middle name or something really stupid. Usually, they keep at least one of their real names in their alter-ego)

Number Two. Help your kids set up the accounts that they want to have, especially Facebook. Set their privacy settings so they’re not sharing everything, with everyone, everywhere. Teach them to not list their school, address, phone number, etc. Talk about why it’s not safe, how the internet is forever, how people lie, etc. They’re going to laugh at you, but keep saying it.

* Check these settings and what is displayed on their pages on a regular basis. Facebook quite often asks for updates and they just fill them out without thinking. Also, update the privacy & restrictions in their devices and then password it. That’s the simplest way to stop explicit apps & information from being downloaded & shared. For my younger kids, I actually remove Safari/Explorer from their devices completely.

Number Three. Passwords. Know them, so you’re able to enter their account at any time and see everything. They may have blocked you from seeing some stuff, so this is the simplest way to see what you’re missing and/or to remove any inappropriate stuff.

* At our house, if I pick up your electronics or go to log into something and I don’t know the password. The item belongs to me for a week. (Not just apps, but passwords for the actual electronics as well). If I have no access, neither will they.

Number Four. Check stored photos, videos, and search requests. Lots of people don’t check there & it’s so important to do. These items can be very telling and/or very shocking. It’s also a great way to know what you need to talk to your kids about.

*If I find something inappropriate, I take a screen shot, and then delete it. I then show them what I’ve found, and we have a serious conversation about it. Full access is then completely revoked for a week, and then earned back slowly. You get wifi back, but not Facebook etc.

Number Five. Go through their Friends list, and challenge your kids on how they know the people that they’re “friends” with. If they can’t tell you, delete them. Kids will befriend pretty much anyone that asks to be their friend, and once that connection is made, strangers have access to all their info.

*If you see really suspicious or odd names, look further. I’ve found many conversations from “hot chicks” that are very exploratory & inappropriate. There are predators out there, so be aware.

Number Six. Make up a fake account with the picture of a cute boy/girl and befriend your kids.  🙂  You’ll be surprised at how quickly they accept your friend request, and by being a “friend” that they consider a peer, you’ll be able to monitor things from another viewpoint.

* Yes, this is pretty sneaky and spy-ish. And yes, I have 2 separate alter-egos.  LOL.

Number Seven. Instagram. Youtube. Textplus. Skype. Are not innocent apps …. watch them. Closely. We don’t allow Skype on any of our kids personal electronics at all as it’s all too easy to participate in a “free show”.  😉

* Check their phones/ipads/laptops, etc. and see what apps they are using. Ensure that you have passwords and that you personally follow all of their accounts. Stuff may still happen, but you’ll be aware of it and will be able to deal with it.

Number Eight. Nobody goes to bed with their electronics. Pick a time for them to be brought down to the kitchen or your bedroom. Nothing good happens after dark … especially when you’re 14 & alone.

*When they complain that they won’t be able to wake up in the morning, hand them an alarm clock. For super saavy people, you can shut down their IP addresses at a certain time so all internet access is limited.

Number Nine. Snapchat. Kik. Ask FM. Delete them, and when they re-add them, delete them again. These apps are scary, and are SUPER hard to monitor. The potential for abuse, harassment and sexting is HUGE with these ones. They are going to scream and complain about this, but don’t give in. If they need to send pictures, they can do it a million other ways.

*I’ve changed the settings in my kids phones/ipads so that they’re able to download apps and/or updates, but they cannot delete them. This allows them to receive updated versions of games, etc without me having to log-in to do that. But it doesn’t allow them to delete the evidence of using something I’d disapprove of. This REALLY makes them think because they know I’ll catch them.  🙂

Read this: 4 Apps Teens Love that Parents need to Monitor

And this: Why you should delete Snapchat

Number Ten. Set up a support system with your kids friends parents. If you see something inappropriate within their group, say something. I know that I would want someone to tell me if they knew something about my kids. Be open if someone approaches you, and don’t instantly shut them down. It may turn out to be nothing but it could be huge, check it out.

*I saw a group of 16 year old kids plan out an entire bush party on Facebook. They posted the address, directions, amount owing for the 2 kegs they had already purchased, etc. This was 100+ underage kids drinking & driving in our neighbourhoods. I called the police.

MOST IMPORTANTLY. Your kids are on the internet. They’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc. FIGURE OUT HOW THEY WORK…..you need to be one step ahead of them at all times. You don’t need to become a social media genius, but you do need to learn about privacy settings, tagging, abbreviations, etc. Thankfully, our kids think we’re dumb, so with even a little bit of work, you can stay well-informed.

There’s also some great little apps that we can install on our electronics to track and control what/when our kids do online. Use these to help you be aware of what your kids are up to. They’re a great help and back-up for when you forget. Don’t put all of your trust in them, and stay diligent yourself, but use these.

Apple Users can try:  Parent Kit

Android Users can try: Funamo

Some cellphone companies also have some monitoring services as well. Ask your provider if they’re able to actually send you your kids texting conversations. If you want to know where your kids are at all the time, turn on their locator device, subscribe to a tracker via your cellphone company or try this. Be sure to not forget about your home computer, especially if it’s in a dark corner of your basement. Again, check your “internet options” and update your privacy settings but you can also use this awesome program for another layer of security.

I’m not saying that you need to do all of this or even any of it. What I am asking you to do is to be aware. Keep your eyes open, listen to your kids, monitor the time spent on their devices and don’t be afraid to say No. They do not need full access to everything at all times, no matter if they yell that you’re mean and the only one that doesn’t let them use certain things. You need to be the little voice in their head teaching them right from wrong until their voice gets strong enough to speak alone. Say No, but then talk. Explain why you’re restricting things, why it’s good for them, and why you’re not changing your mind. These opportunities are some of the best & most memorable teachers, don’t let them slip by.

I so dearly love the Internet but I love my Kids more. Even if it makes me the worst mother in the world.

Mirror, Mirror

Crooked Tooth.

Double Chin.

Messy Hair.

Freckles.

Huge Feet.

Too Fat.

These are the things that I see when I look in the mirror. These are the things that the world sees when they look at me. These are the things that I hate about myself, and sometimes they’re all that I see. But these things are not Me. Or are they?

My crooked tooth has been there my entire life. It is the one tooth that messes up my perfectly straight teeth. It has driven me crazy. FOREVER. But maybe it’s what gives me my super amazing singing voice, and helps me to bellow like an angel. Totally grasping here, obviously.

My Double Chin. Well, that seems to come and go. But it’s most definitely been there more often than it hasn’t. And now as I’m seeing less and less of it every day, it’s freaking me out a bit. That extra chin has always been a part of me and now it’s leaving. Who knew that a big chunk of skin would be a security blanket of sorts? I am so weird.

My messy hair. If you know me at all, you know that I’m not exactly a “doer of the hair”. More often than not I leave the house without even brushing my hair. I have NEVER curled my hair, and my only requirements when I go for my yearly haircut is that I don’t have to do anything with it when they’re done. My hair does exactly what it wants … sometimes good, sometimes bad. A beauty queen, I am not but I don’t spend more than $80/year on my “upkeep”, which helps me afford a housekeeper. I call that a win.

Freckles. Or age spots. Or dots. Or whatever the heck they are, I am covered in them. Face, arms, legs, feet, etc. What is that about? When I was a teen, I had the perfect Cindy Crawford beauty mark, but then it moved near my ear, and 10,000 of it’s friends showed up. I’m now a speckly dot-to-dot, which I’m hoping will keep my mind active as I age. I’ll be my own “activity” at the seniors home.

Huge Feet. I can’t remember my feet ever being smaller than a size 9. Never. Now they’re a size 11/12. I have skis at the ends of my legs but they’ve served me well. I’ve managed to pretty much stand upright without any issues my whole life. My big honking feet have been what’s supported this big girl all these years.

Too Fat. Well, I cannot even come up with a good excuse for that one. I ate too much of the wrong things and now I’m fat. Period. But all of that “extra” has protected me when I fell, it’s kept me alive when we were broke, it keeps me warm year round, so we can keep the heat turned down low. It is my superpower suit, fluffy and fabulous but super nonetheless.

All of the imperfect things that stare at me everyday in the mirror are actually the things that make me the person that I am. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without these flaws, and for that I’m thankful. My flaws have made me stronger, more loving, more kind, and more understanding. They’ve helped me see the world through the eyes of someone who lives under constant judgement and ridicule.

As I sit and ponder my life, I now recognize that the things I’ve never really liked about myself are the very things that set me free. I’m fat, but I’m beautiful. I’ve got crooked teeth but a great smile. I’ve got whacked out hair, but it’s super thick and easy to leave alone. My feet are huge but they’re cute. My freckles make my face interesting, and not like anyone else. My double chin … well, I’m not sure that there’s anything good about that.

Point is, instead of focusing on what makes me unhappy about myself, I’m focusing on how those things make me amazing.

What do you see in the mirror? Look past that first glance, and look deeper. Imagine that you’re looking into the eyes of your child … what do you see there? Do you see any imperfections or do you see them through the eyes of love? We have no problem doing that for the people that we care about, it’s time we start doing it for ourselves.

I am the example for my children. They need to see a Mom that loves herself, and isn’t controlled by her imperfections. They love me no matter how good or how bad I look. They think I’m hilarious and fun to be with. They think I’m perfect exactly how I am. Today, I’m choosing to believe them.

I am not just a reflection in the mirror and neither are you. Our story cannot be seen in one glance, or described by a single sentence. So instead of trusting a mirror, trust the voice in your heart.

That my friends, is all that matters.

9 Days of Happiness

We are just more than half way through our 2 week getaway. We’ve been cooked by the sun, fed up at restaurants that we’ve never been to before and bought some of the ugliest basketball shoes that I’ve ever seen.

We’ve slept in resorts and our motorhome and the biggest argument has been over snoring. It’s been fun and refreshing, and we’re so thankful that we made the decision to go.

We’ve seen many different landscapes and smile at what is considered a ‘mountain’ in these parts. It’s also been weird to have such high speed limits everywhere, which is nice on one hand but 65 mph in a construction zone just seems so wrong. Almost every small town has a Subway and a Flying J, and we’re starting to miss Tim Hortons. We tried the Dunkin Donuts iced coffee drinks but they are NOT Ice Capps, at all.

Last night, we stayed at a fabulous little town called Lava Hot Springs, ID. We made some new friends at the hot pools and plan to return & visit them next summer. I’d recommend you check it out with your family too. Hot Springs, waterslides, recreation centre and river tubing. The town was quaint and filled with lots of great little shops and activities. Perfect place for a family vacation.

Today we continue on our journey west and will see what the trip brings us.

For now, we enjoy spending time with our little family. Many miles, much junk food and lots of laughs. For he record, We do NOT recommend Candy Corn M&M’s to anyone. Ever.

We are so very, very blessed. All family vacations should be like this. 🙂

Now, I need a favour from all of you. please consider voting for me at this link. My goal is to hit #25 on the list, the last of the best of the Top Mom Bloggers in Canada. Follow this link and vote now. Voting ends tomorrow. Thanks friends!! http://www.circleofmoms.com/blogger/mom-s-got-something-say?blogroll_id=110

Unanswered Questions

Have you ever been asked a question that warrants an answer but you know you can’t answer it?

Today was that day for me, and unfortunately, I couldn’t answer how I wanted to. I had to redirect the conversation and basically avoid the question completely. I had to be comforting and reassuring without saying what they wanted to hear. It is such a horrible position to be in, and it’s one of the things that I can’t stand about being a foster parent.

I believe that I know what’s best for the kids that live with me, but it doesn’t really matter. There are rules and laws and procedures that must be followed. There’s right and wrong, and a whole lot of grey areas all over the place. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, and quite often it seems downright wrong. Unfortunately, my opinion doesn’t matter. Instead, I smile, give a little hug and keep on keeping on.

My heart is broken but I must bite my tongue and hope for the best.

Today I’m going to think of the unanswered questions as blessings. I cannot answer them, but for now, they are here, they are safe and they are mine.

This post is part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. If you want to follow along with all of us “challengers”, click on their links below.

Liam ~ Natasha ~ Zita ~ MagzD ~ Peter ~ Christine ~ Cliff ~ Hethr ~ Tracy

The Summer that Construction Built

I am so blessed to live in an amazing community and the most wonderful little hamlet ever. We have great amenities, fast snow removal and WAY less potholes than our neighbouring community.

I am literally a 5 minute drive from everything in town, and would happily never leave this place.

This year as we all prepared for a great summer of fun adventure, we had no idea how much “fun” was about to come our way. We made plans, and lists and got ready. But then this happened.

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Quickly our world was taken over by tractors, dirt and constant beeping noises. My street and driveway became a no parking zone, and the summer of hiking everything in and out began.

image_2 image_1

From 7am until 7pm, our house rumbled and shook. Dirt and dust were constantly flying and the reverse beeping never, ever seemed to end. My dog spent the majority of her day barking her fool head off at all of the vehicles and people that were constantly out front. Because of that, I had approximately 47 mini heart attacks per day as an Akita barking in warning, is NOT a quiet thing.

We quickly had overflowing garbage cans and empty cupboards but the thought of having to haul things four blocks just wasn’t all that appealing. We eventually had to give in, and thankfully, I have a small crew of carriers to help us get stuff home.

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We were quite the sight to see as we climbed under trees and through bushes to make our way home. Backpacks full of groceries and a line-up of children as far as the eye could see. Over, under and all the way home, every day was an adventure.

Eventually the big hole was filled and the new sidewalks were put in. We were able to bring our vehicles home and the massive Costco trip was made. We finally had cupboards full of food which also means less whiny children. It was glorious.

But today I received a notice from the construction company letting us know that the “adventure” was set to begin again tomorrow.

This time, they’re ripping out our entire street and paving it. 26 homes are affected, which means that there will be approximately 52 vehicles fighting for about 12 parking spots that are within 3 blocks of my house. I am so not excited.

Still thankful for this amazing place that I live, but not excited.

Why didn’t I go buy milk today? That stuff’s heavy.

This post is part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click on the links below to check out some of the other awesome bloggers involved in the challenge. So much awesome.

Liam ~ Natasha ~ Zita ~ MagzD ~ Peter ~ Christine ~ Cliff ~ Hethr ~ Tracy

Insanity lives Here

I look at my children and their sweet, beautiful faces, and I think nothing but happy thoughts. I see their smiles and their eyes filled with wonder and realize just how blessed I truly am. I’m surrounded by innocence and hope for the future. I thank the good Lord above for the gifts I’ve been given and then I remember.

I’m no doctor, but I’m sure that my children are insane.

Otherwise, how do you explain laughing, crying and screaming all within 3 minutes? Or how they jump up and down and demand that you buy them a certain toy only to never touch it again. Or how they can live on nothing but milk and cookies, and Kraft Dinner. And seriously, how in the world can someone need to desperately pee every 5 minutes when you’re out shopping.

Who knew that NOT having your socks reach all the way to your knees would cause so much drama? That if you filled your bathtub all the way to the top and jumped off the sides that you wouldn’t necessarily break your neck, but that you could flood the basement?  That sharpies do work exactly like make-up, and that nail clippers could be used to cut your hair.

I never would’ve believed that it was possible to hold your breath for 5 minutes just so you wouldn’t have to eat the vegetables on your plate. Or if you screamed at the top of your lungs for 15 minutes that you wouldn’t lose your voice. And most amazingly, if you yell mosquito really loud, you can smack your sister 30 times before someone gets the bug spray and makes you stop.

I cut the crust off of sandwiches, and only buy polar fleece hoodies. I search the stores for girls shirts that have sleeves like boys. I only buy wildberry juice because fruit punch is disgusting. Nutella is the only thing that can go on toast, and yogurt must NEVER have chunks in it. Ketchup must be Heinz and peanut butter must be made by Kraft. You can only buy banana slurpees at Macs, and even though they’re called Frosters, they must be called slurpees. Blanket’s must be tucked in when you sleep and if you don’t have at least 3 pillows, you can kiss a smooth bedtime good-bye. Hot Chocolate can never be hot, it has to be perfectly warm with 8 marshmallows. Who knew???

Until I had kids, I knew nothing of these lessons. I just assumed that kids would be sweet and cute and do as I said. Instead, my days are spent doing completely irrational things to keep the nutbars at bay. I corral, redirect, smile, agree or just shake my head. I spend a lot of time standing there with my mouth wide open or trying desperately not to laugh. Somedays, I’m just as confused as they are and yet, I’m expected to be the one in charge.

Insanity most definitely lives here.

Funny thing is, in spite of it all, I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I would appreciate a trip to a padded room every now and then though. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

insanity

This post is part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. If you want to follow along with all of us “challengers”, click on their links below. 

Liam ~ Natasha ~ Zita ~ MagzD ~ Peter ~ Christine ~ Cliff ~ Hethr ~ Tracy

Bullying … A Revisit

Well I’m almost 2 weeks into the Summer Blogging Challenge, and I’m about to be a cheater. I’ve been in celebratory mode all day, and haven’t had a spare moment to do anything but nap and relax in the peace and quiet. 😉  In other words, I didn’t write anything new today.

But, I’ve got a plan. Instead, I’m going to share one of my favourite blog posts from the past. One that I think it’s incredibly appropriate for this time of the year. One that will hopefully make a difference in the lives of the little’s around you.

Forgive me for my laziness but please read these words that I had to say …..

Bullying. Sucks. A lot. Having been the fat kid growing up, I suffered through my share of it. Not from my peers so much, but from older kids and people in the world around me. Society as a whole can be really hard on  people who are different. Different in any way, shape or form. Body shape, skin color, height, weight, age, sex, glasses, crooked teeth, freckles, etc, etc. It’s a never-ending list of stupid being perpetuated by people who have ZERO confidence in themselves. I survived it, but it hurt. A lot.

Having said all that, I’ve also been the parent of bullies, on a few different occasions. (Remember ~ I’m a foster parent). I’ve seen the world through their eyes and their outlook is just as grim as the persons being tormented. These kids believe that they’re worthless and stupid and ugly and horrible and that no one likes them. They feel abandoned by their parents, their friends and the world as a whole. They are lonely in a way that not many of us can understand. They feel powerless in their personal lives and bullying gives them POWER. They are controlling the situation instead of the situation controlling them. Bullying is almost NEVER about the victim, it’s about the Instigator. Almost Always.

It’s sad and maddening, but bullying is never going away. No matter how many posters we hang up, or how many commercials get shown on TV, bullying is here to stay. Think about how many “bullies” you know right now in your own group of friends. We all know someone who will push and push until they get their way. We’ve all got a friend that thinks it’s funny to pick on you or your other friends, and then justifies it with a “just kidding”, or “you know I love you”. I can guarantee we’ve all had bosses that took their position of power to an unreasonable level while we just had to stand there and take it. Are those not all instances of bullying? Adults do it ALL the time … we just use bigger, fancier words.

I think that it is worth educating kids on how to handle a bully. How to safely tell on them, how to avoid certain situations, and how to walk away. Kids need to feel safe at school and in their community. But there’s other ways to educate our kids and teach them to be better, in spite of the bullying going on around them.

Number One. Teach children their worth. If you’re a parent, make sure your children know how fabulous they are. Teach them about strength and confidence and grace. If you’re a teacher, pay attention to the kids that come from bad situations. Be their positive influence. Build your kids up so they find value inside of themselves as opposed to searching for it in the world around them. In my experience, my little “bullies” have had almost no self-esteem and were just desperate to have someone, anyone pay attention to them. No one made them feel good about themselves, so they set out to make other people look worse than they felt. Empower your children. They need your strength, until they feel it themselves.

Number Two. Teach children to not be followers. This seems like a pretty obvious statement, but how many of us really teach it? We teach our kids that there is strength in numbers and that they’re safer in groups. We should be teaching them how to be leaders … good, strong, positive leaders. Bully’s are not all that scary when they’re standing there on their own. Teach children to leave jerks and morons standing there by themselves and walk away. Teach them that it’s not rude to walk away when their friends are being mean or fighting. They don’t need to always have their buddy’s “back”. We spend so much time teaching kids to be polite and not enough time teaching them to be their own person. Give your children excuses for getting out of uncomfortable situations … “my Mom will take away my phone if I stay here”, “If I say that, my Dad will take away hockey”. Something, anything, but give them your words, until they have their own.

Number Three. Teach children that they have a voice. Kids need to understand the power that their words carry, especially positive ones. Teach them that it’s okay to tell people what they’re doing is wrong. That it’s okay to say No, and to stand up for someone else. Teach them how to tell someone when they see bullying occur. Teach them that a smile and a Hello can make a difference in someone’s life. Encourage them to speak up and not be quiet.

Number Four. Teach children that they don’t have to be friends with everyone. A lot of times bullying starts because kids are different from the majority of their peers. Everyone is NOT going to be friends, and that’s okay. The world is a big place and there is a match out there for everyone. Kids need to know that. A lot of times, they think we want them to hang out with the “weirdos”, so they fight against doing the “right” thing.  I always tell my kids that they don’t have to be friends with everyone, but that doesn’t mean they get to be mean to anyone. Ever.

Number Five. Be an example. Do not laugh at the fat person that walks by. Don’t point out someones dirty, awful clothes. Don’t call people ugly, stupid, crazy. Don’t laugh when your children tell you an inappropriate story. They are watching you. They are copying you. Show them the proper way to behave. If you aren’t guarding your words and actions, why in the world will your children?

Finally as parents and adults, OPEN YOUR EYES.

Do not assume that your little “angel” is behaving appropriately at school. If someone tells you that your child has been misbehaving, don’t brush it off, look into it. Talk openly about bullying and the different forms it takes. Be present in their lives.

Watch for changes in your children. Are they pulling away from you, are talkers suddenly quiet, are social butterfly’s now hiding in their bedrooms? Have they stopped eating or are they grossly overeating all of a sudden? Something is wrong. Get them help.

Bullying is about Power. I’m giving my kids the power, so bullying has NO POWER over them. How about you?

 

This post is part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click on the links below to check out some of the other awesome bloggers involved in the challenge. So much awesome.

Liam ~ Natasha ~ Zita ~ MagzD ~ Peter ~ Christine ~ Cliff ~ Hethr ~ Tracy

The Hunt for a Happy Place

When I was young, I had a vision of what my life was going to look like.

I was going to be wealthy beyond measure. I was going to live in a mansion with servants. I would travel around the world and drive a really nice car. There would be much shopping, and many pairs of shoes. Jewelry, make-up and salon appointments would be a part of my daily life. It was going to be friggin’ awesome.

I met my amazing soon-to-be husband and we planned our fairy-tale wedding and then our life together. We talked about future hopes and dreams, and in my head, my vision was still alive.

We got married and we moved to another city. I didn’t move into a mansion but into a basement suite, in a place where I knew no one. I was not rich and was having to do all the cooking and cleaning myself. I was happily married, but I was not where I thought I should be. Suddenly, my vision was flung off to the side somewhere and reality set in.

I would spend days and sometimes weeks wondering if we’d be able to pay our mortgage. I was shopping in second-hand stores and only buying things that were on sale. The husband was always at work and I was home alone. I was going crazy from the peace and quiet that was now my life and I hated it.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband and I loved being married but I wasn’t prepared for the real world. I was 21 years old, had never lived on my own and had in fact, only lived with my parents. I never attended college and only had “life experience” to put on a resume. I was completely dependant on my husband, and had to rely on him for everything. If I needed to buy milk, or underwear or tampons, I had to ask him for money. I was madly in love, but totally trapped at the same time.

I eventually got a job, made some friends and fell in love with the city that I still call home. But for those particular moments in time, my vision had led me down a path of unrealistic expectations.

I adjusted to my new life, bills were paid, businesses started and failed. Travel and experiences occurred and then I dreamed of having children, and my wild visions went crazy again.

I was going to be a perfect Mom that bought her children only the best of everything. I was going to make their baby food, and teach them everything they needed to know. There was going to be hours spent playing and learning. I would do crafts and make up stories and play board games. They would be angels, and my life would be complete. It was going to be flippin’ fantastic.

And then I had babies. I was madly and deeply in love, but I was tired. With my first child, I had no clue what I was doing. I was fumbling about just trying to keep her alive. I let Barney and Wheel of Fortune teach her the alphabet and all of her colours. We played games and did fun things, but more often than not, I was stuck in “life” and not on her.

I then had a son, with more issues and trials than one could ever prepare for. He struggled to breathe, and learn and survive. Small everyday things challenged him in ways that were unfathomable. He was the cutest little thing, with the biggest smile and sweetest countenance, but man, was he a lot of work.

I never made a single solitary jar of baby food, I nursed them both for about 6 weeks and quit because I hated it. We tried crafts, but they both despised being dirty so that always ended in screaming. I became the Mom that loved her kids beyond measure, but one that purchased every single solitary thing from a store. I guided them and protected them and taught them how incredibly fabulous they were, but we didn’t go on nature walks or did all that much frolicking in the wilderness.

I absolutely hated myself some days and couldn’t believe how incompetent I was in many areas. I had become pretty much opposite to all that I had envisioned. I was SO not June Cleaver or even one of her long distant cousins.  Once again, my vision had set me up for failure.

Looking back now, I do know this, I raised some UNBELIEVEABLY AWESOME children. Someway, somehow, I did the right things in spite of myself, and this crazy dreamer head of mine. 30 children later, I get it. I know what’s important and what doesn’t matter. My vision was wrong, and was in no way “me”. That’s where I got lost…I was trying to create a story that belonged to someone else.

Life is a weird thing sometimes, we paint a picture and then get stuck somewhere outside of it. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t limit where you and where your path may go. Don’t set a standard that is unattainable. Don’t put unreasonable expectations on yourself or your children or your spouse. Don’t get caught up in the world’s version of perfect life, perfect wife and perfect children. That’s all crap and it doesn’t exist. Do not wait for something else, or another time or place to make you feel complete. Don’t judge yourself based on someone else’s standards.

Instead, Breathe. Enjoy the moments that you’re in, no matter how big the struggle may seem. If you can’t provide the “best” of everything, let it go. Who decided what the best stuff was anyways? If you need to run away or cry sometimes, that’s okay. If you feel like today was a complete failure, remember that there is always tomorrow. If you find yourself standing there wondering where it all went wrong, start again. Listen to your heart and find your way out to something better.

Paint yourself a new picture of “perfect” and trust in that. For me, that means happy faces running amuck and becoming people of character. They have the best of nothing, but have everything at the same time. It’s hissy fits and belly laughs. It’s unmatched socks and extra TV time. It’s unbalanced meals, unbrushed hair and a sink full of dirty laundry. It’s a husband and wife that love each other more today than they did yesterday. It is leaving this world a better place.

Let it go, and just be the best YOU that you can be. I hope you find your happy place.

charliebrown

Putting down the Pitchforks

I’d like to be able to tell you all that I’ve never left my children alone in a vehicle, but that would be a lie. I’d like to be able to tell you that I haven’t forgotten one of them somewhere or forgot to pick them up, but that would also be a lie. I’d also like to be able to tell you that I’ve always made nothing but right decisions and solid choices when it comes to my children, but that would be the biggest lie of all.

I’ve screwed up royally, and thanks to the good Lord above, all of my mistakes have never had dire consequences. My children survived all of my mess-ups and they’re absolutely amazing. They grew up in spite of me and my mistakes and I am ever SO thankful.

As we watch the news both locally and nationally, we are hearing stories of parents that made a bad decision and it cost their children their lives. When I hear these stories, my heart breaks. Not only for the loss of a child but for the pain that those parents will carry for the rest of their days. They will be judged, mocked, shamed and ridiculed while they mourn the loss of a piece of themselves. They will relive that moment over and over and over and will never escape it. I do not wish that torture on anyone. Ever.

Yes, these situations are preventable and yes, they should have never happened. But they did and there’s no going back. Harsh words spoken in judgement will not fix anything, they will just cause more pain and possibly more circumstances that are best avoided.

I’m in no way justifying what happened and saying that it’s okay, not at all. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge someone and their wrong-doings. Accidents happen ALL the time, and more often than not, they’re preventable. But they are still accidents.

In these particular situations with children being left in hot vehicles, I think we need to hear all of the story before we go crazy and attack. Were they left in the vehicle because Mom & Dad were in the bar or casino and were using the car as a babysitter? By all means, get mad. That’s a deliberate choice, that is not an accident. Were they caught up in life, or with other kids, or assumed that someone else had the baby? Well, that is different. Completely preventable but an accident nonetheless.

As we move forward from here, I hope that these situations force us to look at ourselves and the daily decisions that we make. Stop judging their mistakes and focus on not making the same ones ourselves.

How many of you have put your child into their car seat and got partially down your driveway when you remembered that you left something in the house. Did you unbuckle your kid or did you justify leaving them because you were only going to be a second. Have you driven to the store to pick up some milk, and once you arrived found your little one sound asleep. Did you wake them or did you run in without them because you could still see your car? Have you ever gone to the Park to “watch” your children play and end up watching nothing but your cellphone? Have you ever been out for a long day of errands with your kids and their screaming and fighting nonsense, only to have them fall asleep half a block from your house. Do you wake them up and possibly disturb your peace and quiet, or do you just leave them there to sleep for a bit? Lets all be honest here … NONE of this stuff should happen, but it does all the time.

Do these things make us bad parents or are they just mistakes? Be thankful that no one stole your car with the baby in the back seat, or that they weren’t grabbed by a stranger in the park. Thankfully, you didn’t slip and fall and bang your head when you ran into the house to grab the forgotten item. What would have happened if you accidentally started your car with command start and your baby was napping in the vehicle in the garage?

Our kids have all been saved by grace more times than we can even count. Never forget that. Thank heaven for keeping our babies safe and secure when we don’t hold up our end of things.

Those children should have never been left in hot vehicles, that is undeniable. They were bad choices and mistakes of the biggest kind but I challenge all of you to put down your pitchforks, thank your lucky stars and be an encouragement to your community. That could’ve been you or me.

Want to stop bullying? Then stop it.

I’ve written a couple of different blog posts about bullying … one explaining my take on the situation and another one showing how I’ve tried to deal with it in the past. In both of them I talked a lot about building our kids up so that bullies don’t have to power to take them down. I still wholeheartedly believe in that but I think it’s time that we as a society stand up and take responsibility for our part in perpetuating this insanity. Children look to us to lead them and guide them. They copy what we do. We are their guides and leaders. We need to take that more seriously. Now.

I’m thankful that people are finally really acknowledging bullying and the horrific ramifications that it brings about. What makes me sick is that it took the death of a young girl to make people take notice. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first death as a result of bullying. We should’ve taken better notice a long, long time ago. My hope is that these same people who have jumped on the “bullying is bad bandwagon” will actually do something to make a change and not just use this event as a way to make themselves look righteous. Please let that be what happens.

If you want bullying to stop, we as a society need to stop bullying. Stop telling and laughing at fat jokes. Quit pointing out “gingers” and making ignorant comments about them. Stop commenting on buck teeth, freckles, greasy hair, pimples, etc, etc. Quit pointing out the faults of everyone around you and/or laughing along when someone makes ignorant remarks.  Next time you get the urge to call someone fat or ugly, picture your daughters face on their shoulders. Not so appealing now is it? Grow Up.

Don’t post on Facebook how upset you are by bullying and how awful it is, and then go and post ignorant “jokes” or pictures. Don’t say that bullying is terrible and then start all of your sentences with “I don’t mean to be rude”, or “no offense”.  Don’t shove people out of your way in the grocery store, don’t butt in line, don’t belittle people in lower positions than you. Be respectful. Be polite. Be a decent human being.

When your children make ignorant comments about peers or people in their world. Correct them. When they tell inappropriate jokes. Correct them. When they comment that someone is poor or stupid or ugly. Correct them. Please don’t agree or laugh with them. You are their example. When the opportunity to teach your children arises, use it. Talk about how we’re all different and that it’s okay. Discuss how some people look different because they can’t help it. Teach them about money, and how not every has as much or has more than your family. Explain to them why they’re being corrected. They’ll get it sooner than you think, and their bad habits will be replaced with kind and compassionate ones.

Really teach your kids their worth. No one should ever think that they need to lift their shirt and bare their breasts to make someone like them. Teach them that they don’t need the approval of others to be valuable. Show them that they don’t need to be “sexy” to get attention. Teach them that the number of friends they have on Facebook or the numbers of TBH’s they participate in, is in no way reflective of their value. Kids need to be built up and reminded DAILY of how awesome they are. If they are getting approval and encouragement at home, they’re not going to seek it out everywhere they go. Kids still want to fit in and belong, that’s never going to change. But if they feel secure and “know” their worth, it’ll be a lot tougher for someone else to take advantage of them or beat them down. Period.

Teach your children that they don’t need to share every little piece of themselves with others. Facebook , Instagram and Twitter are not diaries. Pictures and words are forever, help them understand that. Talk to them about online predators, and REALLY talk to them. If you’re going to allow your children to use social media, take the time to figure out how it works. Learn what texting shortcuts mean. Never assume that your child is smart enough to know when they’re being lied to or scammed. And on the flip-side, don’t assume that your child would never behave inappropriately online. Kids that are normally shy or quiet will quite often open-up online because it’s so anonymous. They can hide behind a fake persona and become anything their minds can imagine.

Consider setting up a “fake account” with a picture of someone cute. Pretend to attend another local school, pick common “likes” to your kids – food, sports teams, video games. Then send your child a friend request and see what happens. If they don’t initially accept it, try again. Add a note to your request saying something like, “we used to play ball together” or whatever.  Once they befriend you, starting asking questions. Will they give you pictures when asked for them? Will they tell you where they go to school, share their phone number, address, etc, etc? If you invite them to an awesome party, will they agree to go? Maybe your kids will surprise you and will never accept your request but if they do, use this to show them just how easy it was to get them talking. Predators do this EVERY DAY.

We need to change what is normal. And what is expected. Children aren’t sexy. Physical appearance doesn’t determine your worth. Money does not equal power. Domestic Violence is not cool and should not be ignored. Movie stars, pop icons and their lifestyles are not reality. Please figure out a way to help your children see that and believe it. We need to set higher standards for our children and ourselves. Stop accepting wrong behaviour as normal.

Frankly, we as adults also need to recognize the power that we have. Our words bite just as much as those of a teenager. We are just older and “smarter” and a little bit braver. We somehow find ways to justify our behaviour because we “know” that we’re right. We’re educated, churched and have lots of life experience. Quit mistaking those things as “rights to abuse or bully”.

Politics, religion, ideals and opinions will always be fodder for bashing. Instead of joining in on the bandwagon of crazy behaviour, listen. Hear what people have to say, and then agree or disagree. If you have a concern or you don’t understand something, ask about it. So many of our “fights” are a result of mis-information or blatant gossip. Before you make a judgement, make sure you have all the facts. Agree or Not, doesn’t really matter. Your response is what’s important. Hatred should never be an option.

Bullying is a horrible, horrible thing but it’s just a symptom of something bigger. As we all move forward, working towards change, please think of this one simple word. Respect. Respect for yourself, and respect for the people around you. If we could all just focus on that, the world would be a much happier and safer place.