The Neighborhood Rules – Practicing for Life

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When we first moved in to our neighborhood 4 years ago, there were only 4 kids: 2 of mine, and the neighbor’s 2. But since the last year, the neighborhood is now booming with kids! On my short street alone we have 13 kids! Finally we have a good old suburban neighborhood, which is exactly what we were hoping for when we moved here.

Right now, my son is out playing with the other kids in the neighborhood (ages ranging from 6 to 15). He’s eleven, and we’re in a small townhome area, so I feel pretty secure about him running around. I can hear them from my open window and see them run past every now and then.

I spent the first few years that we were here outside with him while he played with friends. Mostly I was the “Car Watcher:” I was the one yelling “CAR!” every time someone drove into our neighborhood, training my kids and the others to get out of the road and be aware of their surroundings. Now I hear them doing the same thing and teaching the younger ones to get out of the road.

We laid out a very specific set of rules for playing in the neighborhood:

  1. Stay off of people’s property
  2. Don’t play around cars (moving or parked)
  3. Leave the area the same, if not better, than it was when you got there
  4. Don’t go in anyone’s house without telling me first
  5. Watch out for the younger kids in the group
  6. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in your own yard
  7. Someone is probably watching what you’re doing – be good
  8. Don’t chase the ball into the street
  9. Be courteous of neighbors and cars
  10. If you break something (God forbid) be accountable for your behavior

I realized that these rules can be applied to life as well. Playing outside prepares them for life, but it’s done without sitting them down and lecturing them. Once they have a good set of ground rules, it’s the best way for them to learn their limits.

These are skills that they will never learn sitting in front of a computer screen. These are childhood survival skills: get out of the road when a car comes, don’t shoot the neighbor’s car with a Nerf dart, throwing rocks will damage property and people (so will dirt clods, pine cones, and sticks), climbing trees is both exercise and fun, dirt won’t hurt, made-up games are often more fun than organized sports, and getting up when you fall will make you stronger.

Being outside, and playing with friends is probably the best “interactive” experience a kid can have. The best part is that not a single kid is running around with their phone in their hand. Not even the older sibling that shows up on occasion to toss the football around with them.

I’ve witness acts of kindness the older ones have shown to the younger kids: tying shoes, holding hands so that they can stay with the group, teaming up with an older kid when playing hide-and-seek, and making sure everyone is accounted for when a car comes by.

Here’s hoping everyone gets out to play in the sun!

I Miss Talking

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Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy blogging and exchanging ideas and stories with people from around the world, but I miss the ONE ON ONE CONVERSATION. How much better would it be to share the same stories over a cup of coffee? #coffeefixeseverything

I miss talking on the phone. I know texting is convenient, but face it, if we’re texting someone it’s probably because we don’t want to “talk” to them. We just want to say what WE want and move on with our lives without all that “messy” conversation.

I also miss hearing my children talk. I know they’re getting older, and the age difference (11 and 14) makes them less interested in each other, but I used to love waking up to hearing them quietly playing together in their rooms. Now they can go whole days without talking except to say “It’s my turn on the computer!”

They really don’t even fight. I guess I should be grateful for that, but aside from fighting over the computer, they have nothing to fight about because they don’t engage with one another. I suppose part of it is the age difference. I know the younger misses playing with the older more than the other way around, and would change it in a second if he had the power, even at the expense of missing computer time.

Our weekend mornings are spent in silence. Sometimes even the weekend days are spent in silence too, each on their own electronic device. I used to try to fight it, to try to get everyone to do things on the weekends. But I got tired of the fight, so the last few weeks I’ve given up and joined the electronic club. And you know what? I don’t think anyone even noticed. They probably are grateful that Mom finally stopped bothering their personal time.

I guess it’s just a part of growing up. Kids speak less and less to their parents the older they get, unless they have to. Maybe it’s me that has to give in and change, and get more creative.

Now to figure out how.

Think I’ll go call my mom even though I’d rather text her.

*A side note: when I looked up images to use for this post I used the key word “conversation” and was hard-pressed to find any images WITHOUT a computer or smart phone in them. Ahhh, the irony.

Jane & Maria – 2nd Installment of the Coffee Shop Vignettes

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Maria wrapped her hands around her coffee cup to warm them.

“So, tell me…how did it go?” Jane asked Maria, as she handed her son a coloring book and some crayons, and moved her coffee out of his reach.

“I’m not sure,” Maria said.

“Well, was it a good interview? Do you think you gave the answers they wanted?”

“I’m not sure,” Maria said and slumped back in her chair.

“Oh, come on. It couldn’t have been that bad,” Jane tried to be encouraging. She turned to her son, “No, no…only in the book…not on the table.”

Maria smiled.

“It’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve been out of the workforce, you know?” Maria said.

“Oh, I’m sure that won’t matter that much. You have the experience they’re looking for.”

“Yeah, but from 200 years ago!” Maria said and laughed.

Jane laughed at Maria’s exaggeration.

Maria sighed. “I don’t know. Part of me is excited to go back to work now that the kids are in school full time, but the other part of me wants to be home for them. I hate the idea of sending them to daycare. I should be helping them with their homework, not some stranger.”

“I’m sure there will be plenty of homework for you to help with. Besides, don’t a lot of their friends go to the same afterschool care?” Jane asked.

Maria nodded.

“What about the job? You’re scared, aren’t you,” Jane said.

“I hate to admit it, but yes, I am. I haven’t had to work for anyone in a long time. I’ve been the one telling people, well, little people that is, what to do for the past ten years. I don’t even know if I remember how to take orders from someone else,” Maria said.

“Sure you do. I’ve seen you take orders from Sarah all the time!” Jane teased.

“Oh, please! I don’t take orders from my 14 year old.”

Jane raised her eyebrow.

“Okay, okay, maybe sometimes I do. But don’t you dare tell her that!” Maria admitted.

“Mama…other book, other book,” Jane’s son insisted.

“I see you have your own dictator,” Maria teased.

Jane frowned at her as she got out another coloring book for her son.

Maria’s phone rang, and she looked at the number. She put her finger to her lips, and Jane told her son to be quiet.

“This is Maria,” she answered, and listened.

Jane kept her son occupied and watched Maria’s face for any indication.

“Yes, I’d be happy to. Okay. Okay. Thank you. I’ll talk to you then. Bye,” Maria said.

“Well?” Jane asked.

“I got a second interview!” Maria exclaimed.

“I knew you could! See, I told you! When do they want to see you again?” Jane asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” Maria said. She let it sink in.

“How does going back to work sound now?” Jane asked.

“It sounds pretty good, actually. Look, I better go. I have to find something different to wear tomorrow. I haven’t had to wear a skirt for two days in a row in a long time! I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Maria said as she got up. She waved to Jane’s son on her way out.

“Bye!” Jane called after her, but she was already out the door.

“Bye bye,” Jane’s son imitated.

Jane smiled at her son, grateful that she had a few more years before she’d have to go back to work, but excited for her friend. She picked up a crayon and helped her son color his picture.

My Working Man

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I write about my kids on this blog, and about writing, and about myself (sorry), but I rarely ever write about my husband.

I should…I mean, he doesn’t even read my blog so I could post some really good stories and he’d never dispute them or even know they’re on here! As tempting as it is to tell some really juicy stuff, I won’t. Plus we have no really juice stories anyways. #oldandmarried

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (a day early) – here it goes.

My husband is a good man. He’s a nerd, for sure. He’s a gamer, a reader, an introvert, and he enjoys being alone (that’s part of his introvertedness – is that a word?). With regards to those things, he’s everything that I’m not. We’re opposites. My 14-yr-old daughter teases me and wonders how we ever got together. There are days when I wonder that too.

Then I remember the circumstances and realize that there’s a good chance that God orchestrated our meeting in the first place. I can’t take the credit.

My husband is a good provider, and I sometimes forget to acknowledge him for that. He works at least 40 hours a week, and always has. He rarely comes home to a spotless house or a wife dressed like Mary Tyler Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. My “mom uniform” is yoga pants and t-shirts, and I work at home, so there’s no need to wear makeup. Ever. And he doesn’t complain.

He doesn’t always come home to a fresh cooked meal (I have no idea what I’m making tonight), and often will pick up dinner for me, even after he’s had a long day. He usually walks in the door to some form of chaos, though it’s gotten better as the kids have gotten older. But there’s usually some drama that’s gone on during the day, and it’s usually the first thing he hears about after “hello.”

When I do cook, he NEVER complains about what I’ve made. Maybe it’s because he knows not to bite the hand that feeds him, but I also think it’s because he knows that I get enough grief from the kids about dinner. (Do I have to eat that?!) If I ask nicely, he’ll even cook. He’s better at it than I am, but far messier.

He doesn’t nickel and dime me. Granted, I’m the thrifty one, but he’s never once complained about me buying something for myself or the kids.

He’s okay with watching the kids while I get away for a few hours. He’s seen me go a little insane after being with the kids day in and day out, and he wants to avoid that at all costs. He even watched the kids when they were babies and I went on a 3-day women’s retreat. And they all survived.

In every sense of the word he is my better half. He trusts me. Completely. And I trust him.

Why do I tell you all of this? Not to brag, but because he deserves a corner of this blog too. He provides a lot of the material, after all. And as a testament to his character. He’s a good man, a working man, a Godly man, a nerdy man…and he’s my man. I wanted to tell you there are good men out there, and they aren’t always the ones that you expect them to be.

Sometimes they’re nerdy, gaming, introverts, with weird senses of humor and a strong affinity for Godzilla movies.

Sometimes God sends them to you, even when you weren’t expecting it.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

If I wrote the same way my husband plays video games…OUT LOUD

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There’s an evening ritual in our house. After we’ve had dinner, and everyone’s done with homework, we usually go our separate ways to relax.

For me, that’s writing; for my daughter, that means drawing; for my son and husband that usually means video games. While my daughter hums along to whatever she’s listening to in her earbuds, my son is usually chatting with friends while they play minecraft. My husband has recently started playing OverWatch…and he’s very vocal when he is being shot at, or things aren’t going his way. And we mock him, because his noise cancelling headphones make it easy for us to do so.

So it got me thinking: what if I wrote the same way he plays Overwatch?! OUT LOUD! Could you imagine?

It would go something like this: “What?! How did that that guy just die? Who shot at him?! Where did he come from?! I can’t believe that! Come on, that was a cheap shot! Am I the only one in this mission?! Why can’t I hit anything?!”

The funny part is that as writers, we do ask our characters questions. We do get mad at them sometimes. We even get frustrated when they don’t turn out like we want them to. But I’ve never known a writer that does that OUT LOUD! And never with as much vigor as my husband playing Overwatch.

You can see that it might bring a whole knew dynamic to my writing. Especially considering that I write women’s fiction.

It might sound more like: “Why won’t she just kiss him already?! What does she want from him?! How come they can’t just be friends?! Don’t walk out on her again! She knows better than to do that! How could she not see that? It was so obvious!”

Then again, maybe I should “write out loud.” It certainly would draw some great looks from my family…well, except for my husband, because he wouldn’t be able to hear me…you know, because of the headphones and all.

How about you…do you write out loud?

I’m not a yeller…but maybe I should be

 

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I’m not a “yeller,” but I’m starting to think I should try it. (not really)

I wasn’t raised in a yelling household, and we haven’t raised our kids in a yelling household either. Instead, we opt for “strongly suggesting” or “fiercely encouraging.”

How exactly does that sound? Instead of barking orders at the kids, I tend to say things like “You need to clean up your room now,” or “would you please take out the trash.” Things like that. And it usually worked…until recently.

Now that my kids are tween and teen, I’m competing with forces much stronger than the “Mom Look.” I’m competing with technology sucking their brains. I’m competing with “friend influences” that don’t make the best choices. I’m competing with emotions and boundary pushing like I’ve never experienced before.

It’s not that I want to be my kids “friend.” I know I’m their parent, but I need THEM to know I’m their parent, and as such, I deserve more respect than I seem to be getting. Now before you say “You have to give respect before you get it,” I do. As I said…I’m NOT the yelling mom. And that expression goes both ways.

I don’t want to raise my voice. I think it’s ineffective and not in my character. If I HAVE to raise my voice, you should know you’re in trouble. And if I have to see one more of those blank teenage stares, I think I may go mad. And don’t get me started about how many times I have to repeat myself. I should only have to say it ONCE. Shouldn’t I?

You should at least have enough respect for me to TRY to kiss my you-know-what until you’re out of trouble. Make an effort. Show me you’ve understood what you did wrong. Show me you’ll at least TRY not to do it again.

Don’t make me yell. I don’t want to, I don’t like to, and I think there are better ways to communicate.

Can anyone relate?

Is Social Media Uniting or Dividing Us?

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In 2008, there were 145 million Facebook users. In 2017, there are more than 1.79 BILLION users as of January 2017. That’s a lot of people…and a lot of opinions.

In 2008, people still had active MySpace accounts, Twitter had only been active for 2 years, and “meme’s” and propaganda was circulated through email.

I’ll admit, I was late to the game. I opened my Facebook account in 2008, I think. I remember being reluctant to do so, because I didn’t know how much of my life I wanted exposed to the public. Kind of ironic, eh?

But back in 2008, Facebook was a much friendlier place to be than it is now. I can’t speak for Twitter or MySpace, since I don’t have accounts, but I assume that they started out more friendly as well.

It was fun to connect with old friends. There were countless stories of families being reunited after having lost touch. We got to see pictures and video and share in one another’s life events. And it united us on a global level that the every day person had never been able to achieve before.

And then something changed.

Instead of being a forum to share what we have IN COMMON, and what we could CELEBRATE, it started to meld into how we are different. Instead of sharing EACH OTHER’S lives, we started posting pictures of ourselves in the form of “selfie’s.” We got more opinionated and more self-righteous and more self-centered.

And instead of “liking” things, we got indignant about people’s opinions, and felt the need to correct and admonish whenever we got the chance. We hid behind our screens and started commenting and saying things that we would never say to one another in person.

Instead of uniting, we’re driving a wedge between ourselves. Instead of building bridges we’re smashing them with a wrecking ball. Instead of celebrating in each other’s lives and telling one another “good job” or “congratulations” we’re uttering words that (hopefully) we’d never say in person.

NO OUTSIDE FORCE DID ALL THAT…WE DID THAT. And it’s got to STOP!

Social media will continue to divide us until we remember our manners. We can have discussions without being completely rude to one another. We used to do it all the time. We can disagree and still show love to one another. OR WE CAN NOT LEAVE A COMMENT AND MOVE ON. We can eat a meal without posting a picture of it on Facebook. We can celebrate our beauty without taking a billion selfie’s seeking approval. We can use social media for what it was intended – TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER. But we have to get out of our own way to do it.

I love the human race. I don’t like conflict, and I want to change it when I can. This is something I can do.

You can do it. I can do it. We all can do it. But it has to start somewhere. Let it start with you and me.