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Skulls & Stripes

Every year, around this time (but I think it might have been later last year), I sit down at my browser window and completely outfit the boys for the winter.

I do it one fell swoop, because it seems my boys grow at a rate of speed in perfect alignment with the seasons: come a new weather pattern, and they’ve grown a size. (Silly growing boys.)

In fact, even now, we’ve started pulling out our long-sleeved or long-pants pajamas and noticing that they’re a bit .. tight on Tony. His belly is on prominent display, even. (Oh, to be four again and not care that your belly is exposed! Or, to be my husband and not care that your belly is exposed! So, then, to be a man and not care that ..)

And while I will NEVER buy clothes for myself from this place, I do it all at Old Navy. Every year. I’ve spent more money on their boys departments than I have on cable in the last year. Here’s why I do it:

THEY HAVE NON-LOGO CLOTHING.

Logos are a personal pet-peeve of mine, because I remember growing up and being envious of Timberlands or Gap or whatever, because I? Was wearing KMart clothes. (Kathy Ireland line, if you MUST know.) And in the grand scheme of things, I really didn’t spend evenings agonizing over it or whatever, but it is something I remember.

(In fact, I remember when I was 18, my mom bought me a pair of Lucky jeans. I haven’t been able to wear them since I was .. probably 19, but NO KIDDING I just got rid of them LAST WEEK.)

So I am not really big into clothing being a loud-and-proud walking billboard for my kids.

Not only that, but Jack attends a private school where they 1) need to dress “church appropriate” once a week and 2) cannot wear anything with skulls on it. I don’t know if you’ve checked the boys’ section OH ANYWHERE lately, but the skulls? Overrun the clothes. (Along with dirt and bugs. They are on EVERYTHING.) In fact, I was just filling my car with the boys’ winter selections and I thought this pair of pants looked nice:

But then I happened to (luckily!) click on an alternate view and:

SOOPER SEKRET SKULLZ.

Also, I seem to have this obsession with stripes. I LOVE THE BOYS IN STRIPES. Well, it also makes everything look so much more pulled-together, you know what I mean? If I buy a shirt that’s got a couple of colors of stripes in it, chances are they can pair pretty much any pair of pants with it and it looks nice. That’s a nice reassurance when I have a four-year old who’s hellbent on matching.

My obsession is pretty obvious whenever we have family portraits done, isn’t it?

Courtesy Diana Klingler Photography

Courtesy Miss Zoot

Also, it is SO CUTE when THEY match. (Accidentally, on purpose.)

(I’m joining in on the stripey action here.)

I was telling someone this morning that while, sure, obviously, I’d love a daughter to play dress up with, I LOVE boys because they just wear whatever I buy for them! There’s no fighting or ego or anything (because I make them look GOOOOOOD), and then it’s just DONE.

I really had no point to any of this other than, Honey, expect some packages on the doorstep soon.

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Do My Morals Govern My Wallet?

I remember when I was in middle school, there was this new drink to come out. It was bottled – like, in real glass! – and had delicious fruit flavors that sounded exotic, like kiwi watermelon. I wanted some SO BAD. Everybody was drinking it. They even had facts under the pop-top lids, so you were LEARNING while you drank it! I would envy my friends as they would show up with these bottles at school, and I would have my stupid Diet Pepsi or whatever.

It was called Snapple, and my mother wouldn’t let us buy it, because she had heard that the parent company had ties to the KKK.

Now, you can go check that out and see that, obviously, it wasn’t true. But in 1991, we didn’t have Snopes to guide us in the way of urban legends, so my mother stuck to her convictions. Now that I’m old enough to have to make the same decisions, I’m really kind of proud of her. Her money would not go to support things that she didn’t believe in.

Now I’m staring into the belly of the beast, and I’m just not sure how to feel.

The Boy Scouts of America

Last week, the Boy Scouts of America – which, is to be noted, is a privately-run group – reaffirmed their stance that they would not welcome or accept gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered scouts or leaders into their organization. They feel – and have been open about it – that the LGBT lifestyle is not reflective of what they believe represents their organization.

For whatever reason, we’ve never had either of the boys mention anything about Boy Scouts. I don’t know if it’s just not big around here locally or if they just didn’t know such a thing exists, but I’ve asked Bryan frankly what we would do if they did ask to join.

Bryan mentioned that Jack is of an age that we can discuss openly with him why we’d hesitate to participate with the organization, but also noted that we send him to a private Christian academy. His curriculum is just as .. traditional as the beliefs touted in Boy Scouts, and yet we pay for him to attend there and be educated in those beliefs.

“How would we address that hypocrisy?” I asked.

Bryan sighed. “I don’t know. I guess it’s up to us to educate him in diversity.”

So there’s something to be said there. It’s up to us as parents to show the kids what a colorful tapestry we are as human beings, but .. it feels incredibly exclusive to participate in a group that doesn’t acknowledge all the threads.

I was especially moved by the recent flux of Eagle Scouts returning their medals to the Boy Scouts of America, because they feel that the recent affirmation of exclusion is counter-intuitive for what they stood for. I also didn’t realize how much weight an Eagle Scout award carried, and just how important it is for it to be returned.

In summation, we haven’t had to cross this bridge. But my boys are still young, and there’s still enough time for one of two things to happen: they could want to join the Boy Scouts, or they could discover that they are gay. Both of those things could happen. And I hate that one completely negates the other.

Chick-Fil-A

Just as I had never been affected by the Boy Scouts of America and their stance, the recent affirmation of Chick-Fil-A’s similar stance has shaken us to our core. We eat there weekly, to be frank. Bryan grew up dining at the original Chick-Fil-A, actually called The Dwarf House, because his father worked overnight at the Atlanta Airport and the Dwarf House was open around the clock. When we visited Atlanta in March, we took the boys there so they could go through the little, dwarf-sized door.

And I have similar ties. A couple of our local Chick-Fil-As were owned and managed by my BFF’s dad when we were in high school. Needless to say, there were always trays of chicken at every occasion. Their chicken tastes like home to me. I know that sounds silly to say, but seriously! A lot of my friends worked there in high school and college, and we still know folks who work there.

This is the subject Bryan and I cannot agree on.

(Mostly because I cannot settle on any one opinion.)

There is the one hand, where I feel that exclusion is not okay. I am very much not a fan of Focus on the Family, which is an organization that backs traditional marriage, but in a fire and brimstone manner.

But then – there is the other hand. In which Chick-Fil-A does so much right.

Chick-Fil-A gives millions of dollars in scholarships to its employees that are starting college. They donate to MULTIPLE charities year-round. They donate food to emergency workers like no one’s business. They provide books in their children’s meals, instead of some crappy plastic toy that I’ll just end up throwing away anyway. They use high quality products, which make me feel better about driving through. They believe in customer service like none other I’ve seen.

They do so much right. And I’m sad that this is such a large wrong.

But here’s where Bryan and I had lengthy discussions. Bryan pointed out that Chick-Fil-A’s mission statement has always started in a religious manner. They are closed on Sundays, to allow their employees time to worship. They have never, ever hidden who they are. So this recent admission by founder Truett Cathy that he is “guilty as charged” when it comes to backing traditional marriage is not a surprise. It is not new.

They are also not tasked with shaping young men into upstanding citizens, as are the Boy Scouts.

They are tasked with deliciousness. And on that, they deliver.

Yesterday, the Jim Henson Company announced that they would be severing any ties with Chick-Fil-A. They announced that any backlogged payment that came from Chick-Fil-A would immediately be donated to GLAAD. To be honest, that was what lowered the hammer for me. Jim Henson has been my moral beacon for many, many years.. his message of inclusion through puppetry shaped a lot of who I am today. It’s not easy being green, as Kermit says. It’s not easy being different. So we should love everyone in their various shades of green.

But – doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t exclude those who disagree with us? I’m speaking to inclusion, of all people, and doesn’t that mean that I should preach tolerance? Doesn’t that mean I should have an open dialogue in my home, with my progeny, to explain what we believe to be fundamental truths?And that we still acknowledge and love those who don’t necessarily agree with us?

I DON’T KNOW.

(Of course I know.)

As has been said, the front lines of the civil rights movement was the lunch counters. Where you spend your money matters.

I stand with Jim Henson and Kermit.

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Weekend Recap with Very Little Content, Sorry.

Much like Miss Zoot, we also took a mini-vacation to Chattanooga last week. Well, most of us did. Bryan actually worked quite a bit on the trip, but he joined us for the occasional meal.

Not enough naps were had.

I’m going to cover the majority of our trip over at Rocket City Mom a little bit later, so I don’t want to exactly spill the beans just yet, but I did want to tell you some of my super-awesome happy memories that I came back with.

Summer tastes like berries to me.

For the actual Fourth of July, we did nothing. Not a single thing. Well, I ran a 5K that morning (and set a new PR for a mile – so that was awesome! then I melted.) but after THAT, we did nothing. I had picked up a lot of produce because, DUH, we’re southern and that’s what we do. So I made a berry crisp that night for dessert and although Bryan turned his nose up at the fresh berries (BECAUSE HE ENJOYS KILLING MY SOUL), he has had berry crisp every night since.

We stayed in a .. kind of .. special hotel. Bryan said I should not call it “crappy”, because apparently MY idea of crappy is not nearly as awful as Bryan’s. Bryan just calls it .. “efficient”. So we stayed in anefficient hotel.

It did not matter to the boys that the bathroom had no ACTUAL door and instead you slid out a pocket-type-door that had NO SOUNDPROOFING AT ALL, but it was a nightmare for me. Of the bowel persuasion. Also, I so look forward to utilizing a real bathtub at hotels, and this did not have one. So I was put off.

ANYWAY, the boys cared not for my plight. We split up into the two full sized beds, with the hot sleepers (Tony and I) taking the bed nearest the a/c unit.

Bryan is very anti-cosleeping, and while I don’t have a strong opinion either way on the subject, I do feel like I may have missed out on some sweet baby moments by diligently putting Tony down before he fell asleep. So sleeping in the same bed at the hotel? A favorite memory. Tony was so wired about the mere excitement of HOTEL that he couldn’t sleep, so he rubbed my arm and played with my hair until he could relax. A couple of times I cracked an eye open at him and he’d say, “It’s okay, Momma. Just go to sleep.” AND THEN MY HEART EXPLODED ALL OVER MY OVARIES.

Also, Tony talks in his sleep. Animatedly. Don’t know where he gets that.

Jack is now 12, and if you are unware, 12 means you are now A Grown Up. You are no longer permitted to enjoy childish things because, dude, you’re TWELVE. I didn’t know this magic line in the sand exists, but it apparently does. So it tickled me so much that Jack would voluntarily sit out of “kid” stuff. And then he’d twitch. And dance. And generally look like he was going to implode. Finally, he’d declare that he was going to play in the water/touch the sturgeon/go play in the play-yard “to look after Tony”.

Go be young, I’d tell him. You have your whole life to be old.

Overheard, in the backseat:

“Jack, can I count your freckles? You have, like, a MILLION.”

“Jack, one day I want to grow up to be like you. A ninja.”

“Jack, is that book scary? So is my book, see? Because it has a skeleton on it. Well, it doesn’t, but I think horses can be scary too.”

When we made our way back home, Tony went to a Parent Survival Night at our local The Little Gym, which I was worried would be too much for him after a couple of days without naps. We picked him up earlier than the posted time because I was worried that he was overtired. I got him in the car, and Bryan and I were whispering about how to handle bedtime, when Tony pipes up:

MOM, DAD, YOU CAN STOP WHISPERING BECAUSE I CAN HEAR YOU. AND YES, I DID NOT GET DESSERT, BUT I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE A MILKSHAKE. ALSO, SEND MR. BILL A MESSAGE AND TELL HIM HI. MOM, CAN I STAY WITH YOU FOREVER?

Oh, my child. Of course. I expect nothing less than forever from you.

 

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This Weekend, If My Site Decides Not to Eat It.

Y’all, I don’t know. I wrote a totally introspective piece that, yes, maybe leaned a little on the emo side, and then my site ate it promptly six hours later. I don’t know. Every feed reader in existence picked it up, but my site acts as if it NEVER EVEN HAPPENED. I don’t know. It is not anywhere on this site. I DON’T KNOW.

If you are hacking my shit, please stop. (That should take care of that.)

This weekend was a lot of me at the office. So I’ll spare you that. Well, sort of.

Friday, I unexpectedly had to work until 7:30. I had men all over the city running to pick up kids (.. I knew these men, to be clear)(and they were MY kids, to also clarify; these were not just random strangers stealing children), and I didn’t make it home until 8:00. I was pretty peeved about that.

The boys, however, had a blast. They went to a men’s barbershop – WHY ARE THEY OLD ENOUGH TO VISIT A BARBERSHOP, I ASK YOU?! – and had special haircuts. Well, Jack and Bryan did. Tony regaled all that would listen with re-enactments of the last episode of Power Rangers Samurai. He’s getting quite good at “samuraizing”, as he calls it.

After the hot towels and neck massages and whatever else they do at those places, they came home with their chests puffed out. I’m surprised they didn’t just whip it on out and pee everywhere, such was the testosterone flowing through their veins. Because it was so late, almost everyone turned in. Especially me because working till 7:30 makes me T-I-R-E-D.

AND! Also! I had a date in the morning. Katie from Running (as is her name in my house) and Marsha from Running both picked me up at 6:45 so we could go run downtown. Why? BECAUSE WE ARE INSANE. That’s what makes us good runners, you see. We are the kind of people who will spray sunscreen directly in our eyes and then run several miles like a pirate. We are practically olympians.

(I am not kidding when I say that I dreamed that about applying sunscreen to myself on Friday night.)

We met up with lots of other Running Friends (and I LOVE THIS ABOUT RUNNING) and we all lined up, two or three deep in the street, and ran lots of miles. It was pretty awesome. I actually had a REALLY good run. I kept about a 13 min pace, which is okay for me, but I kept my intervals (run 3:00, walk 1:00) through the entire course. I usually give in about 2.5 miles in and walk the rest. So I was pretty stoked.

We all piled back in the van post-run, drove-thru for some chocolate milk, and then they dropped me off curbside.

A good employee? Would’ve probably showered and changed before heading into work.

I totally did not do that.

Okay, full disclosure. I wanted to shower. Because I smelled BAD. And I knew that. But I had scheduled the starting time of the day, and I was already running late for the SATURDAY that I HAD SCHEDULED. You see what rock and hard place I was in between, right? So I thought, I didn’t even WANT to work today, so this will punish them for asking me.

Well, so, here’s the thing I realized about THREE HOURS after I got there.

When you’re running and with runners and whatnot, there are certain things that are forgiven, and not even really acknowledged. Smell is among those things. Bodily functions in general are not really acknowledged. I am not a marathon runner, but I’ve seen COUNTLESS pictures of people who run marathons and seriously don’t stop to use the bathroom, IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT. Okay, so that is not where I was going with this, lest you think I just went into work having shit my pants earlier.

But another one of those things that runners generally don’t acknowledge is the fact that most sports bras don’t do much .. by way of .. hiding .. erect nipples. And after you run for a long time, your blood is flowing. So. Even after you run ..

I JUST WANTED TO CRAWL INTO A HOLE AND DIE IS WHAT I’M SAYING HERE.

Anyway, I worked all day Saturday. Got home around 4:00.

Saturday night, everyone turned in pretty early as well. Mostly because I was tired, BUT ALSO because Bryan and Jack were joining Kim for a trail running session! Kim, God love her, offered to take a bunch of beginners trail running on Sunday morning and I totally volunteered the boys to go. Kim is the insane exercise maven who RAN A MARATHON ON TRAILS ON SATURDAY, and then volunteered to take these newbies out for a 4 mile trek.

(Jack looks unsure.)

****

About the time I got to this point, our power went out. It was out for the next three hours. So technically, this is the next morning, but I’m not about to go back through and change tenses.

****

Anyway, Jack and Bryan held their own on the trails until Jack’s knee started bothering him, so he and Bryan walked the rest of the trail. They were the token males of the group, so their stride was so much longer than everyone else’s that walking was just fine. NOW EVERYONE KNOWS MY PAIN AND WHY I WALK SO FAST.

So the reason I really wanted to get through this last night was because I was really, really proud of Jack yesterday.

Jack’s mom works in a special needs classroom at their local elementary school. (“their” elementary school because it’s a good 45 minutes away from us.) As such, Jack tends to do things like volunteer there, and with Special Olympics, and all sorts of amazing things that my heart is just too weak to list here.

We stopped by the bookstore at the boys’ request after dinner, and there was a mentally disabled man playing with the train set in the kids’ section. THIS ROCKED TONY’S WORLD. He wanted to go play with the trains, but.. that man was there. A MAN. I was off browsing on my own while Bryan was with the boys, so when they found me, Tony would talk of nothing else. He kept glancing longingly back at the trains. “I want to play with the trains,” he’d whisper.

So Jack took him back there. When we came back, the gentleman was dutifully reciting an episode of Thomas the Train for the boys while acting it out with the appropriate trains, and Tony was riveted. Jack was smiling and cheering him on. He had already made friends with the man’s guardian, and they were chatting it up too.

When we left, we all told them goodbye and Jack said, “It was so nice to meet y’all; have a great day!”

HE IS ELEVEN.

He is amazing.

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OCD & ADHD: Oil & Water

So. Let me get you up to speed a little bit.

Jack started a new school in February. A private Christian school and to be honest, we rather like it. Sure, we don’t care for the biased curriculum – oh, I thought my husband was going to pop a vein as he tried to swallow his rage while learning that a liberal “seeks freedom from personal responsibility” and that John Kennedy’s “New Frontier ushered in prosperity without hard work behind it” – but we love the teacher, the administration, and the focus of the smaller classroom size.

(To be fair, most of their curriculum is not nearly that biased.)

Jack is doing better in many aspects – namely, he can’t get away with the same bullshit in this environment that fell through the cracks at his former school – but we’re still struggling academically. The curriculum is extremely accelerated, and his mid-year enrollment means that we’re constantly finding concepts that he missed out on but is expected to know. This means hours upon hours upon hours of homework.

For a kid with ADHD.

There are many difficulties with our particular situation, none of which worth delving into here, but last night, I had a lightbulb moment. Well, really, Bryan had a lightbulb moment and was kind enough to share his beam with me.

It was 9:00 p.m. and Jack had literally been doing homework since 3:45-4:00. We took an hour and a half to eat dinner, but besides that, he was focused on homework. That’s a LOT of work for ANY kid to power through, admittedly. Hell, I can’t get through meetings that long without finding something else to do to occupy myself.

We opened his study guide for history and there was a map of the United States, with about twenty states unlabeled, but numbered. “We haven’t done this,” he said. Well. Jack is the first to say that he hasn’t seen something before when, in reality, it’s been smacking him in the face for some time. So I took my historical evidence and reminded him that, yes, a worksheet had come home a few weeks back with this same stuff on it. Suck it up, buttercup: we are about to test you on this.

He knew none of it.

So, okay. 9:15 and we said, “Alright, we’ll just use repetition.” Bryan went over the numbered states and capitols, over and over, having Jack label maps and write them down and recite them and you name it and they did it. We quizzed again.

He knew none of it.

Literally could not recall a single STATE, let alone a capitol of any state.

“Sarah, do you have any hints?”

I .. I am frustrated. I am frustrated with so many parts of this story and I did the wrong thing and said, “Yes. My hint to you is to not wait until the night before to study. Also to not be surprised when you spend your summer in tutoring sessions.”

The last part came out more of a threat than I meant for it to; I have been loudly advocating private tutoring or workshops for Jack for some time. We are consistently finding that concepts don’t click for Jack; what seems rudimentary for us just stump him. And he’s not a dumb kid! To the contrary, he’s incredibly smart, woefully smart if you look at his report card. He remembers minutia that spins our heads around, but a concept that he needs to apply in an educational environment is just lost on him.

However.

I looked up from my laptop – Thursday nights are late nights for me and I usually work until 10 pm – and Bryan was glaring at me. I glanced over and heard Jack sniffling. I had made him cry.

Not my intent. Not my intent at all.

They got through another useless round of quizzing, in which Jack again recalled nothing, and Bryan’s voice softened. “Sarah and I think differently than you do,” he said. “We learn differently. And we are continuously failing you by trying to fit you into our learning style.”

MY GOD, HE’S RIGHT.

I am OCD. Repetition until perfection is the ONLY way I know how to learn. Memorization until the light bulb clicks on, as it were. Jack has ADHD. Even on a good day, memorization loses him. It’s too much mental clutter, and he zones out and shuts down.

Our methodical quizzing was pushing him further down the hole that he couldn’t find the top of.

We worked until almost 10:00. That puts Jack at doing almost 5 hours of solid homework and studying. At eleven years old. With ADHD. And Bryan and I realized that until we help him find a method that works for his brain, we are doing him no favors.

I have carried this guilt with me all day, what happened last night. The kid is trying, God love him, and trying hard. But right now, we are oil and water in how our brains operate, and we have no mixing agent between us. We are researching the right answer here, because my God, we cannot watch him drown any longer.

A diagnosis is one thing. Medication is another. But we failed him in our follow-through.

Have a kid with ADD/ADHD? I’m certainly open to suggestions in the comments below.

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