Tag Archives: childhood

Understanding Death

A few weeks ago, our precious dog passed away. What makes her passing even harder for us all was the fact that we were away and so was she when it happened. The kids were visiting relatives, and I was out of town. Our dog traveled with us often, but considering the amount of travel we had been doing, we decided to leave her with a friend for the last few weeks.

She was an old dog, adopted about 8 years ago when she was already a little over a year old. My best friend agreed to keep her, and updated us regularly on how sweet and easy going she was. And oh was she sweet. In fact, I blogged many times with pictures of my children loving on her. However, after the second week, her health took a sudden turn. Within a few days, our dog was gone.

I wasn’t with her for her last days. My children weren’t with her. The heartache of suffering with her and preparing for her after life care was put on the shoulders of my friend. I grieved from another state, choosing to delay telling the kids until after my son’s 14th birthday.

The older 4 (out of 7) understood what the death of their dog meant: they would not be returning to her in a week and she would not be returning to them. As for the younger 3, the understanding of death is not something they can truly grasp, especially without seeing her sick. The last they knew of their dog was walks through Mount Lemmon.

My very busy, smart and chatty 3 year old has come up to me nonchalantly a few times and said, “Nala is dead.” My 6 year old, who is verbal but autistic, asked where Nala was yesterday. I told him, but he had left the conversation before hearing my reply.

My 4 year old loves dogs. He hugs every dog he sees. It’s been so hard losing our precious family member and she will be missed forever.

But I am going to wrap up children’s understanding of death with something sweet, funny and curious:

Yesterday, the friend who was watching Nala when she passed, stopped by the house. The 4 year old said,

“I want my dog back!”

She crouched down and said very sweetly, but with much sadness, “oh baby, your dog went to be with Jesus.”

The four year old demanded, “why did Jesus take my dog?!”


Dog Has a New Puppy

I need a professional photographer to come in here with a camera (as opposed to my phone), because this dog with “her puppies” is just too cute!

Sweet baby can now crawl. She has taken to our dog and crawls over to her ♡♡♡

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When Life Was Simple

wpid-boston_public_garden_2.jpgI grew up in a suburb near Boston, Massachusetts. My father was a school principal and in the later years my mother worked as a bookkeeper. In the early years my mother stayed home to raise us and money was tight, especially during the inflationary period in the seventies, but my parents watched every penny and made it work. As a child growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, life was simple.

Necessities Were Simple

The home I grew up in was a modest, split-level home. Throughout most of my childhood I wore hand me downs or clothing bought at steep sale prices. If the clothes didn’t fit right my mother would get out her sewing machine and work her magic. We had all of our basic necessities taken care of. We ate three meals a day all made from scratch, and we didn’t own a microwave until I was a teenager. We also had a small garden in our backyard that provided green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lots of berries throughout the summer. I still remember my father sitting on the front steps of our house, snapping the ends off the green beans, and putting them in a large bucket of water while I played in the front yard.

wpid-id-100239665.jpgChildhood Was Simple

For most of my early childhood we didn’t have cable television. In fact, our television couldn’t have been more than 22 inches big with a thick brown frame and large rabbit ears that always pointed north. It did the job. For entertainment I was sent outside to play with the other kids in the neighborhood. We didn’t have fancy toys, but we had each other. We did have some board games and we got bikes for Christmas, but overall it didn’t take very much to make us happy. “Kick-the-Can” was our favorite game to play and it required nothing more than a soda can. Most of the time all we needed to have fun was our imagination.

Celebrations Were Simple

Birthday parties were easy. We would invite some kids from the neighborhood over and my mother would bake a cake and serve it with some ice cream. When we were young we played “Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey”. For decorations we would string up some balloons and buy some cheap party hats. Nothing fancy. For special events my parents would invite guests for a backyard BBQ and throw some hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill.

Entertainment Was Simple

For music we had a record player. My father liked to play Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, while my mother liked to play Olivia Newton-John and The Beatles. One Christmas I got my very own record player that played 45’s. About twice a year we all went to the movie theater and I will never forget seeing the movie E.T. on the big screen. What a movie! We didn’t have a VCR until I was about fourteen years old. Back then VCR’s could only record one thing and it would be what you were presently watching. Not sure why we needed this thing. As time went by we started to see video rental places pop up and they quickly became our source for watching movies.

Communication Was Simple

Our phone was a corded rotary phone. We communicated in person or by telephone, and day-to-day business was conducted mostly by snail mail via the U.S. Post office. We used to order things from catalogs by phone, and in the second week of November my sister and I could hardly contain our excitement as we waited for the Sears “Wish Book” to arrive. If you’re not familiar with the Sears “Wish Book”, I would have to describe it as the coolest and biggest toy catalog on the planet! My sister and I would battle over who got to look at the catalog first, until we were eventually told by our parents that Santa wouldn’t come if we continued to misbehave. Both of us used to spend countless hours pouring over the catalog and perfecting our list for Santa.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Technology Was Simple

The first video game console we got was Atari and our first game was Atari Pong. Picture a black screen with a vertical white line down the middle. We had a about a two-inch, small white line on both the left and right side of the screen that acted as the paddles, and a ball that moved horizontally back and forth across the screen. The paddles had limited mobility and moved up and down in a straight line. I’m embarrassed to admit that my sister and I would spend hours and hours playing this stupid game. My homework was done first on a typewriter, then on a word processor. Do they still have those? The first computer I ever saw was a black and white Apple computer that took up the entire table in my high schools new computer room. I took my first computer class as a Junior in high school and also got my very first F. Trust me when I say back then computers were complicated. At the time, it didn’t occur to me how life changing this new technology would turn out to be.

Things Are Different Now

Today families buy frozen, prepared meals and pop them in the microwave, or they stop off for fast food as they shuttle their kids back and forth from their expensive after school activities.

If they go outside and play, it’s free.

Birthday parties require a cake from the bakery. Ponies and bounce houses are rented, or better yet, professional party planners are hired to take care of all the details and make life easier.

Do those $600 dollar designer cakes really taste better than homemade?

We have high-speed internet, cable, and high-definition smart tv’s with theater systems that make you feel like you’re at the movies. For a few thousand dollars up front and a couple hundred a month, you’re all set. Movies and music can be downloaded at an instant for a small charge.

Don’t worry! I’m sure all that radiation and those electromagnetic fields we created are perfectly safe. Besides, you have spend your income on something.

We have five and six hundred-dollar smartphones with contracts that run a couple hundred dollars or more per month, which are used to communicate mostly by text.

People? What are they? And we definitely need the internet on our phones. How else are we to keep up with Facebook? We need to be able to report that we are getting gas and picking up some new underwear. If we don’t have texting, how in the world will we be able to tell our friends that we should both wear red socks today? This is important stuff! We’ll die without it!

Game consoles are so advanced, you would think you’re playing the game for real. Remember the movie Tron where a teen get’s sucked into a video game? Well it’s now a reality. With several hundred dollars for the console and a cost of $50 per game on average, you too can experience this mind-blowing technology.

Has anyone stopped to think what some of these games might to doing to the minds of children?

Modern day vehicles are now computerized. Instead of a steering wheel, a gas pedal and brakes, cars now have computers that entertain us and give us directions. With all of the new devices, automakers have made it easy to hook everything up so we can talk and text. Nowadays most people do just about everything while driving.

Soon to be released on the market are self driving cars. Now people will be able to cook themselves breakfast or paint their toenails on their way to work. Does anyone out there know how to read a map? Remember those?

Where Does It Stop?

Cashiers are disappearing as we automate the registers. Waitresses are disappearing as we automate the ordering process. Banks are disappearing as we do most of our banking online. Receptionists are disappearing because we automated our phone systems. Customer service is disappearing so we can talk to a computer. Tax professionals are disappearing because new software has allowed all of us to become experts. Office workers are disappearing as we become paperless. Retail stores are slowly disappearing as online purchases continue to grow. And thanks to this new cloud technology, many more jobs are expected to disappear. Who’s next? Will drones replace our delivery drivers?

We suffer from a lack of employment, underemployment, student loan debt, credit card debt, and there are many who are barely able to save a dime. Crime is at an all time high, our schools are plagued with violence, family units are broken, and we live in a nation of people who grow angrier by the day. With a nation either at war or heading into war, carrying a national debt load of  $18,155,729.727.216.00 with a population equal to 321,663.649 to pay it off…what comes next?

Even though I grew up with rose-colored glasses, I still miss the simple life.

Image of Boston Public Garden courtesy of Erin McDaniel, Image of Retro TV courtesy of Wittaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Real World

real world

The Real World – A term we’ve all grown up hearing and using probably for as long as we can remember.  However, it seems I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.  At the very least, I’ve been noticing it more.  And it’s getting on my nerves.  So I started thinking during a night’s wrestle with insomnia, what the heck does it mean?

I’m sure at this point you’re saying, “Duh, it’s when you get kicked out or flee the nest, get a job and start paying your own bills.” Hey, that’s pretty much how I’ve always viewed it: life outside the safe haven walls of Mom and Dad’s house.

But I’m going to be obnoxious for a moment and enter a few definitions:

relevant or practical in terms of everyday life
synonyms: practical · actual · everyday · real · real-life · true
– EncartaDictionaries

Real Life
– Merriam-Webster

the realm of practical or actual experience, as opposed to the abstract, theoretical,
or idealized sphere of the classroom, laboratory, etc.
– Dictionary.com

1. Noun – The real world is the place in which one actually must live and the
circumstances with which one actually must deal.
2. Adjective – The realm of human experience comprising physical objects,
and excluding theoretical constructs, hypotheses, artificial environments and
“virtual” worlds such as the Internet, computer simulations, or the imagination.
– YourDictionary.com

You may notice that none of these definitions mention anything about being an adult.  So it’s safe to say, unless we are all living in the Matrix, the real world begins at the point of existence.  For the baby taking his first breath of oxygen after birth, that’s his whole world: his real world.  For the two year old throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store over a candy bar, that’s his whole world: his real world. For the fifth grader about to take a test, yep, that’s his real world, too.  The businessman.  The couple walking down the aisle.  The grandma on her death bed.  From existence until death, our life and its events are real and thus, part of the real world.
These definitions also do not hinge upon employment or education.  So why, then, does everyone seem to follow the notion that the real world is something that magically begins at the age of 18? School is not the real world, but the second after graduation is.  Life certainly counts and matters before those events!  And most assuredly, we are capable of making decisions that have very real consequences.  I don’t care if we are at an age of reasoning or not.  My 15 month old climbed onto the bed this morning and promptly fell off.  My 7 year old decided to make a game of “run into the bed at full speed and slide across.”  It didn’t go so well either. Both were very real consequences of their actions.  My ten year old son is being bullied in school and told that he needs to learn proper coping skills so that, and I quote [the school counselor], “so he will know how to handle these situations when he goes into the real world.”  She had me up until that last part.  Yes, learn coping skills.  But to deal with NOW.  Every day.  Not some abstract point in the far reaches of the future.  The real world is every day for every person.  Regardless of age, event or location, we are all a part of it.
In fact, I’ve heard this lame future point of reference term so much lately as an excuse as to why we must put up with this that and the other, or why we must do something NOW, that I might just jump out of my skin the next time I hear someone mention THE REAL WORLD. Is it a cop-out?  Are we simply in some sort of training simulation until our entrance into this point of our lives?
I’ve been told so many times that children who are homeschooled are denied the experiences that properly prepare them for, yes, you guessed it: the real world. Who came up with that dumb idea?  My kids learning in their home is not as real as kids learning in a classroom?  My kids not being picked on by a bunch of their classmates is somehow denying them the privilege of coping with the office jerk they’ll meet in their adult future?  Maybe.  After all, one of my kids now in public school is at a loss as to what to do when he gets bullied.  Hey, maybe if he had always been in real school, he would know how to be mean back.  Or, he’d have learned something more effective than telling the kid he doesn’t like what is being said to him (his current “coping skill” method).  But at the moment, I’m leaning towards the beginning of John Mayer’s song “No Such Thing:”

“Welcome to the real world,” she said to me
Condescendingly…

I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above.

Perhaps, we are actually denying our children something even more important by separating their lives this way.  I am not saying there is not a difference between the child dependent on his mother and father for all needs and the mother and father meeting those needs.  To be certain, they are very different positions.  The parents have different responsibilities than that of their dependents.  But I think that to diminish a child’s life experiences as merely a foreshadowing of what’s to come (“you think that’s bad, just wait until you’re in the REAL WORLD!”), we are denying them coping skills.  A child’s responsibility is VERY great!  They are who the future will depend on, and so on!  Their lessons in class are vital!  The way they handle themselves and their relationships with everyone around them are just as important, if not more so, NOW as they will be when they are adults.  Our children must understand that everything they do matters.  Now, in a few years from now, and for the rest of their lives.  The here and now IS the real world!


When Daddy Puts the Kids to Bed

In our house, I usually put the kids to bed.  It is a routine.  There are baths to be had, pajamas to be put on, prayers to be said, and songs to be sung.  With six kiddos, this ritual can take a bit of time, and quite frankly,  I’m exhausted by the end!

Tonight happened to mark a rare occurrence when Daddy did the bedtime duty (to be fair, he took me out to dinner and things were a little “off” as a result).  I had to nurse the upset two month old and it was already late.  The two year old was saying over and over, “Uh bobble (translation: “Give me a bottle!”).  It is as the bottle is being prepared and handed to said two year old that we, as the parents, realize he actually is capable of more words: “I need my bobble!”  he said clearly.  So he got his bottle and was happy.  The other kids ran around the house making noise at an unbearable decibel.

“Can you please get them ready for bed?”  I asked hubby, as I began to nurse the now very upset two month old.  He agreed.  Not more than two minutes later, he came jumping down the stairs.

“What happened?”  I asked.  He said he put the two year old to bed.

“What about the four year old?”

“He knows where his bed is!”  He replied proudly.

“What about prayers?  What about the rest of them??”

“They know where the Lord is!” he said jokingly.  But he did go back up, with a little less skip in his step…

He went into the nine and twelve year olds’ room … “OH GEEZ!  Oh my GOSH!  No, no, nooooo…. just throw that in a basket!”  There was some protesting about Legos and keeping certain constructions and sets together.  “No, GEEZ!  You have so many!  Just throw them in there!!”

Thirty seconds later:  The fastest Lord’s Prayer I have ever heard.

Thirty more seconds… hubby skipped happily down the stairs, and all was quiet upstairs.

“Are you ready to watch a movie?”  he asked.

Sheesh… I’m doing something wrong!

 


It’s a Party (but please take note of the following rules)

My 6 year old daughter is very imaginative.  Actually, the same can be said for all my kids above the age of two.  They are all also quite artistic (thanks to both sides of the family).

Today she decided she was going to have a party.  She planned all day for this party.  She was busily making the food and telling me what we would do and who would be invited (a host of stuffed animals, me and her siblings, of course).  At last she was ready… but we had to eat dinner first.

At dinner, she laid out the party rules:

“First, no screaming in my room, even though you are having a lot of fun.  No fighting at my party, because that will make other people mad.  And NO being ungrateful because the food is made out of paper!”

 

apples

Five course meal: turkey legs, veggie tray, apples, candy and chips, and, of course, CAKE

turkey

chips and candy

cake

Five course meal: turkey legs, veggie tray, apples, candy and chips, and, of course, CAKE


True Wisdom from a Five-Year Old

I must admit that many times I listen to the ramblings and questions of my kids with a “Mmm hmm” or an “I don’t know…”  Like when they ask how many kids Robert Downey Jr. has, or if Val Kilmer will loose weight and shave his beard (yes, I’m serious on that one!) or what happened for the umpteenth time in a movie they just watched.  And while they have some very brilliant ideas, thoughts and questions they share with me throughout the day, there are a few times when I am actually taken back by the innocent wisdom of a child.

My daughter is usually the first to wake up in the morning.  She comes quietly into my room and watches while I get ready and put on my makeup.  She tells me about her dreams and all the other thoughts in her pretty little head.  This morning, however, she fixated on a certain wooden treasure chest that sits untouched on my bathroom counter.  It has been there for almost a year, unopened.  As many times as she has seen it and not thought about it, this morning was different.

“I want to see what’s inside this treasure chest,” she said, trying to reach it.

“No, I don’t want to open it,” I said, dusting my face with foundation.

“But I want to know what’s in it.”  A little pain went through my chest and I ignored her.  But she didn’t give up.  “Please… I just want to see.”

“I will open it but I don’t want to get anything out, okay?”  So I opened the box carefully and she stood on her tippy toes to see.  Inside was a collection of sea shells and two brightly painted wooden fish.  She immediately wanted to take out one of the fish to examine it.  “No,” I said,  “They are special and I don’t want anything to happen to them so we are not going to take them out right now.”

“But they are so pretty!  You should use them for decoration.”  Nearly a year ago, I had actually taken them out and arranged them decoratively on my counter, only to quickly put them back in the chest when the tears began to flow.  They had been my uncle’s decorations that my kids used to love to look at when we visited his house.  Now that he had passed away, I found them painful to look at.  It’s funny how certain things of a loved one can bring memories and tears, and other things not so much.

“I am not ready to take them out and use them for decoration,” I said, realizing she was not going to be silenced with just simple answers.  I took the fish from her and put it away, closing back up the chest.  She waited for a moment, then got the scale to use as a step stool so that she could open it again.  “What are you doing?  Put the scale back.  First of all, it won’t work as a step stool.  Secondly, I told you I don’t want to open it and take the things out.”  She put it back, but asked once more if she could just please see the pretty things in the box one more time.  I sighed and opened it, taking out both fish this time.  She peered in to see the shells, then carefully turned the fish over in her hands, admiring them with wide, blue eyes.

“They are so pretty!  You should put them out for decoration.”

“No.”

“Can I put them in my room as decoration?”

“No.  I want you to put them back now.  I let you see them, now let’s put them away.”

“But why do you keep them in the box?”

Sighing heavily, I admitted,  “Because they were Uncle Charlie’s and I miss him very much.”

“But he is in heaven now,” she said.

“Yes, I know.  But these things are special to me and I don’t want anything to happen to them.”

“But we all miss him and they are special to all of us.  We would never let anything happen to them.”

In my selfish mourning, I had not thought of this.  Initially, I took them because it was my kids who always admired them while he was living.  I actually never paid them much attention until after his death.  But in my own grief I had forgotten that and locked them away, taking from them the very reason I had kept them in the first place.  Needless to say, I was greatly humbled by my young daughter.


Death by Questioning

Disclaimer: I love talking to my kids. They are great conversationalists. I also enjoy listening to them talk to each other – they crack me up!

However… every once in awhile, I reach my limit of questions…

I call this Death by Questioning.

Do you remember the movie Airplane and the scene where the guy stories a woman to death? That’s me…

airplaneSkeleton

It starts out slowly but then suddenly becomes a storm of questions from all directions. Usually this occurs in the car when we are all trapped together in a small space with at least a 45 minute trip in front of us. We are pretty much 45 minutes from every where.

You may think that, considering we go somewhere everyday, a potential of 1.5 hours of driving time, that they would run out of things to ask. But let me assure you, they do not.

“Mommy how much does an ounce of platinum cost?”

“Mommy, when I turn 6, can I have (fill in the blank).”

“Mommy, when I’m 52, how old will Robert Downey Jr. be?”

“What other movies has the man who plays Mr. Freeze been in?”

Are you getting a grasp of the madness yet??

So I say it’s quiet time. Yeah, that works.

“Mommy…”

“I said no more talking.”

“I wasn’t going to talk I was just going to ask if we can watch a movie when we get home.”

Ahhhh!

“Mommy…”

“What?!! I said no talking!”

“I know but I just wanted to ask…”

No no nooooo more questions!!!

I’m telling you, it can drive a weaker person to their grave!


Observations from My 5-Year Old

It was wake-up hour at my house and I was in the little boys’ room feeding the baby. My 5-year old came in and said (in lieu of “good morning”):

“If you had one hundred kids it would take forever to get ready for church! We would always be late because you would have to dress all those kids!”


The REAL Post – Deciphering the Language of a 3-Year Old

Forgive the previous attempt to post this… I am still figuring out how to blog from my phone 🙂

This morning my 3-year old was fixated on kids riding cyborgs. Over and over again he said, “those boys shouldn’t be riding cyborgs on the playground. We have to take them away.”

With two older brothers who love all things robots, Transformers and Legos, the fact that the word “cyborg” is in his vocabulary is only natural. However, I really was at a loss for a few minutes as to what he was trying to tell me.

Then he said, “Daddy rides a cyborg. But those boys shouldn’t ride them on the playground. We have to stop them.”

Then I remembered that a few days ago we had gone to the playground while my daughter was at soccer practice. We usually go while either she or her brother are practicing, but this time the playground was occupied by big kids on skateboards. I told my kids we would not able to play that day because of this. So I asked my 3-year old if he meant skateboards instead of cyborgs.

“Yes,” he said. But still he went on about those boys on their cyborgs!