My facebook and twitter feeds are filed with parents expressing their hurt, their fear, their grief over what happened at Sandy Hook.
And I’ve had nothing to say.
Nothing I COULD say.
Because the grief is not mine.
The grief belongs to those parents who lost children, to the siblings left behind. The grief is for those families who lost a mother, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a niece or a nephew.
I cannot claim that grief.
As a parent I ache for the parents and families who grieve the loss of those children and women.
As a member of a close knit community I hurt for the the community grieving the loss of so many innocent lives.
As a member of society I rail against what has happened.
And as a special needs parent, I watch with concern as autism is linked with the words ‘violence’ in the media.
But in the end, I am but a bystander.
I refuse to make this about how I feel. I refuse to make this about the killer – he who shall never be named on my blog.
This is about the victims.
This is about supporting the survivors.
This is about finding hope and peace again.
This is about making sure the names of the victims, not the killer, are remembered.
But this is not about me and it’s not about you.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
~ Mary Elizabeth Frye
All my life I have been one of those people that others turn to when things go wrong.
Something not working? See if Jenn can fix it.
Having an issue with someone? See if Jenn will deal with it.
Life falling down around you in tiny itty-bitty pieces? Bring it to Jenn to put back together.
And I don’t mind, for the most part.
I like being able to help. I am a problem solver by nature.
But sometimes it can be an isolating experience.
People go off and leave you holding everything and a roll of duct tape because they assume that you’ve got this.
Or people are suffocating with their attention when they need something. But as soon as they are back on track they disappear into the ether.
And while I’m happy that they’re happy… I does make me wonder why I was the one they turned to. Was it because they knew I’d listen? Offer advice? Do what I could to help?
Or was it because they consider me a friend who has their back.
But if I’m such a great friend… when do these same people start asking how I’m doing?
Because that’s the interesting thing… they never do.
The people who do take the time to ask (and care about the answers) are never the people who expect me to drop everything and fix their lives.
Maybe it’s because those people who want their lives fixed for them are too self absorbed to look beyond what they are experiencing in the moment. I don’t honestly know.
All I know is, if you vanish into thin air,when you finally reappear, don’t expect me to still be standing in the same place.
Friendship has become a word that is lightly bandied around. Connected on twitter? Friend. Added on Facebook? Definitely a friend. Someone you have coffee with once in a blue moon? Well then, of course they’re a friend.
As I get older, though, I find that word much more precious and use it more selectively.
Friends are those people who take the time to understand who I am. This isn’t something that happens in one conversation, or even 10. There are people who have known me for years, and yet really don’t know a thing about me.
Oh sure, lots of people think they know me. But those are the people who scratch the surface of who I am and are content to leave it at that.
And I can’t say I fault them for that.
I am an intense personality.
I live my life with purpose.
I am passionate about the things I believe in and the people I care about.
I am direct in my thoughts, words, deeds.
All that can be a lot for people to take in. Intimidating, even.
So, for them, there is ‘JennLite’. The happy-go-lucky, no cares, no worries, superficial version of me.
But is that me? No.
And if that’s the me you know?
Then you don’t know me at all.
It used to be, when V got sick I would take to the Twitter and Facebook to get advice, support, and sometimes a much needed dose of reality.
But lately I find myself turning inward more and broadcasting less.
Everything is put aside so I can focus on Vista and what she needs to get better.
This past week has been a perfect example of that.
V’s been sick again. Starting with a bad case of croup, and then spiraling down into an asthma flares and other complications.
We’ve been logging the hours at the ER and Children’s hospital (where they wanted to admit her, but there weren’t any beds available. -1 for free healthcare).
And through all that, I’ve been much quieter than normal. Except for a few of my closest friends (who I had to cancel plans with) and a couple clients (who I had to explain why I wasn’t getting any work done), no one has really known the extent of V’s condition, this go round.
I couldn’t really say why. There was no concious thought to not let everyone know how she’s doing.
It was more just the need to spend the time taking care of her, mixed with a healthy dose of exhaustion.
Thankfully she seems to have turned a corner and maybe now that I know that she’s on the upswing I feel better about putting out updates.
We still don’t fully know what’s going on with her. But we’re working on trial-and-error meds to see if anything will help and if not we’ll get a referral to a pulmonary specialist.
Mommy instinct (which never fails me) tells me that there’s something more going on and we’ll need that referral. But we’ll play the game, and try the meds, and then I’ll gear myself up for another battle for my daughter’s health.
Me: “Vista, maybe you should go put your pyjamas on.”
Me: “Let me rephrase that. Vista, go put your pyjamas on.”
Vista: “NO! I’m going to stay nudie FOREVER!”
Me: “You can do that when you turn 18 and move to a nudist colony. While you live under this roof, you will have to wear clothes.”
Vista: “I don’t care. I want to be nudie!”
Me: “It’s not summer anymore. It’s cold at night. Go put your pyjamas on…. NOW.”
Vista: “Well this sucks!”
a) I can’t believe I have to have these conversations with my five year old.
b) I’m starting to sound more and more like my parents. Kill me now.
c) Clothes are highly over-rated, but I’ll never tell her that.
I’m cooking dinner and I’ve already kicked the dogs out of the kitchen several times. I can see them slinking just outside the kitchen door, trying to look ever so casual as they prepare for another attempt at begging food.
Me: ”Dammit Spyro! Go lay down”
Dog: Makes as if to go lay down then turns back to the kitchen when he thinks I’m not looking
Me: “Go lay down or I’m going to stab you with this fork!”
Vista: “Nooooo Mommy! Don’t stab him with a fork!!
Me: “Fine. How about a spoon”
Vista: Thinks about it for a minute. “Yeah, OK. Use a spoon…. He’d like that!” Skips off smiling
Me to Bil: ”Something tells me she really didn’t understand that conversation.”
I don’t think I’ll be letting her watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves any time soon…
Back to school and back to blogging. I feel like I can be excited about writing again.
I decided to take the summer off to just enjoy the sun, hanging with V, and take time to recharge. It was something I needed. Time to reflect and just….be.
But lots has happened since June.
So here’s a 3mth update:
In June we were worried about V getting for an aide for school this fall. She was doing really well and if she scored too high on her assessments she wouldn’t qualify for that assistance, even though we still knew she needed it to some degree. Turns out we didn’t need to worry. She only scored 5th percentile or below in all her testing. Her fine motor scored less than 1st percentile because of severe behaviour issues during the testing.
Those test results were a bit of a sucker punch. We had watched her improve so much through the year. But we didn’t take into account the growth and improvement that is natural and expected of a kid her age. So, when you factor that in, she’s still sitting about a year behind in her skill set.
Except for reading and computer skills. Those are off the chart. The school has asked for permission to test her reading again when school starts to get a gauge of them. Last fall at the age of 4 she was reading at a solid grade 2 level. They think her level now that she’s 5 is closer to a high grade 3/4 level. Which scares the hell out of me. I was an early reader too, but she’s way beyond where I was at her age.
At least we don’t have any worries about her alphabet skills going into kindergarten. ;-)
July was project month. Which including building this behemoth in the backyard.
We started off trying to build it ourselves, with the help of some friends.
Then we got real and called in the experts (aka: My dad and a couple of his buddies).
Without them, I can safely say that swing set would still be a work in progress.
We’re very glad we bought this though. It has an angled ladder with a handle, which allow’s V to climb up on her own. (she can’t manage the more vertical ladders that are on many slides at playgrounds). And having swings in our backyard has really allowed her to work on her core strength and balance. Yay for play that acts as therapy!
We also got her a new wooden playhouse because her old plastic one was too small for her (can we say major growth spurt?). Bil and I built that one ourselves. I won’t show you pictures, though, because it’s a wee bit crooked. I blame warped boards for that. It has nothing to do with our complete and utter lack of building skills.
August was an awesome month. We paid off all our debt (except for the mortgage)!! YAY!!!!
That was an amazing feeling…. for the whole week it lasted.
Because then we went out and bought this:
But we’re super happy to have bought this. We got an awesome end-of-summer deal on it and we’ll have it paid off by the spring.
It means we can actually take camping TRIPS with V, rather than short excursions close to home. This allows us the flexibility of making her meds while we’re on the road and also give us the security of having a power source in case we need to use her nebulizer.
We’re already saving up for a camping trip out to Vancouver Island next summer. Can’t wait to show V the ocean!
And that brings us to September!
School starts tomorrow!! (Me, excited? Naaaaaah)
V has her aide from last year back again, which we’re thrilled about. And now we just wait and see how she handles the first day back!
Hope you all had a fabulous summer too!
Vista has been saving her money and so we went out today to let her pick out a toy. We headed over to the local box store and started wandering up and down the toy aisles.
I made a conscious decision not to skip the first few aisles where the so called/labeled “boys” toys were. I wanted to see what toy Vista would pick when allowed to choose for herself.
She ignored the barbies. She walked right past the dolls. She didn’t even look at the shelves upon shelves of princess and Suzy homemaker stuff.
I will admit I was a little surprised. But instead of asking if she was sure that was what she wanted (and thus making her question her choice), I instead asked her if she wanted to look at anything else or if she was done.
She told me she didn’t want to look anymore and was ready to go.
So we headed home, put together her new toy, and she proceeded to play with it for the next two hours.
It’s always interesting what toys kids will choose when left to be kids rather than assigning the toys genders. Many parents when faced with the same situation would have told their daughter’s “No, sweetie. That’s a ‘boy’ toy,” and dragged their girls to the aisles of pink.
Vista does love pink, and loves to dress up as a princess, but she also loves to play with toy cars and trains. I’m OK with that.
This year for her birthday, we bought her a butterfly net and a kit for catching and examining bugs. She was thrilled and immediately had to go outside and get some ants to look at under the magnifying glass.
I don’t want to limit her scope of play just because she’s female.
When I was in Junior High the girls had to take home-ec and the boys took shop. That was just the way it was and no one questioned it.
I was disgusted. I wanted to take shop! That sounded like a heck of a lot more fun than baking a cake.
I got together a few other girls and we campaigned to be allowed to opt into the shop class instead. We pointed out that it was just as important for us to be able to use tools as it was for boys to be able to cook a meal and sew on a button.
We were lucky. Our administration listened and changed the classes so that both girls and boys each took half a semester of shop and half a semester of home-ec.
That was over 20 years ago.
And still, here we are assigning gender roles to everything.
I would even go so far as to say that we’ve taken several steps backwards in this area (if the PINK Easy-Bake Oven that Vista has is any indication. When I had an Easy Bake it just looked like something you would see in the kitchen. It didn’t need to be pink.)
I will continue to encourage my daughter to play with toys that she enjoys and that encourage her to explore and question her world, because, the last time I checked, toys don’t have genders.
One of the reasons I wrote my last post about our experiences with money woes is because of a conversation I was having the other day with my friend Melissa. We were talking about how attitudes towards money have changed from generations before.
So many people we know have been in, or are still stuck in, that money pit. Drowning in debt with no idea how on earth to get out of it.
That is the last thing we want for our kids.
We’ve started already trying to teach Vista about money.
One of the most simple things we’ve done is given V a piggy bank. But when we give her spare change and her first question is always ‘well what can I buy with this’. The answer? ’Nothing….unless you put it in your piggy bank with your other coins and then you can save up to buy something that you would really like to have.’
So into the piggy bank goes the coins.
But that wasn’t enough. How else could we teach her about earning money? She really doesn’t have the interest in doing chores for reward yet…that’s just not a motivator for her. Then before Christmas when we were sorting through her toys we came across an answer.
Many of her toys were in great condition. So we gave her the option as we went through every toy: Keep, Sell, or Donate. She could keep it and continue to play with it. She could donate it. Or we could try and sell it through facebook/kijiji/craigslist and she could keep any money that was made.
This turned out to be a great incentive for her to get rid of toys she no longer used without a fight. Bonus.
So she has been steadily socking away her money in her piggy bank for the past year. Last month we finally got around to rolling all the coins. When we started rolling we told her she could put half in the bank to save and take half and go to the toy store and buy whatever she wanted.
Well, turns out my kid has been hoarding money. She started pulling out coins from all sorts of containers she had tucked away in her room. Once we hit $200 in coins we nixed the spending half idea and told her she could have $25. And from now on she can buy her own treat from the ice cream truck in the summer.
The trip to the toy store was a money lesson itself. She would pick out something and we would talk about if she had enough money for that item or if it would allow her to have money left over for something else.
But I’ve still been looking for other ideas for how to teach her money management.
Melissa shared with me that one thing they do with her daughter is allow her to work towards earning Webkins stuffed animals. The Webkins have an online app where kids can input a number off the tag of their stuffed animal that allows them to play with and buy things for a virtual animal. But if they want to buy something and don’t have the money they have to do things in the virtual world to earn it.
I thought this was a great way to teach our little geeks.
Another one we found is the iPad app ‘Learning Money with Leo’ (available on iTunes). It’s a Canadian money app put out by Royal Bank that teaches money concepts through games. Kids go through the games (like coin matching, spot the difference, mazes, sorting) and earn reward coins which can then be used to buy stickers from a ‘sticker store’ to create a picture in a virtual sticker book. Want more stickers… earn more coins.
I love that it’s a Canadian app too, so the money pictures and denominations are all Canadian currency.
I wasn’t sure what V would think of this sort of app for learning money, but she actually quite enjoyed it. And this morning when I was buying groceries she was even able to identify the bills I was using, so that impressed me.
So here’s your opportunity to teach your kids about money by winning a $50 RBC VISA gift card from the kind folks at Royal Bank.
All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me how you teach your kids about using money responsibly and/or what are you lessons are you going to pass onto your kids to keep them from falling into the money pit .
The fine print:
- Contest is only open to Canadians (sorry US friends)
- This contest is also running on other blogs. You can enter on multiple blogs, but you can only win one gift card.
- Contest will close on April 18th at 8pm MST.
Disclosure – I am participating in the RBC Learning Money With Leo program by Mom Central Canada on behalf of RBC Royal Bank. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.
I’ve always said I’m not one for setting goals. Probably because I hate the thought that there might be a chance I might not accomplishing that goal. (fear of failure much?)
Well, this year Bil and I set a solid goal for ourselves. It’s one we’ve been working on for a while, but we had never really put a timeline to it. Until now.
By December 2013 we will eliminate all debt other than our mortgage and have at least 2 months worth of salary in savings.
That means no more credit card debt. No more car loan payments. Nothing other than a monthly mortgage payment.
Only a few years ago, we were one of those people who lived paycheck to paycheck. We had to prioritize bills because there never seemed to be enough money to pay them all. And worse, it seemed like we had no money and nothing to show for it. We couldn’t understand it. We had a good income, so what was the problem?
It was scary. And the thought of dealing with our money issues made me feel physically ill.
We finally woke up and realized that continuing to do the same thing month to month was obviously not working for us. Duh.
We had to alter how we spent, budgeted, and just generally thought about money. I’m not going to lie… it was really tough at first. But we can see the results and it is such an amazing feeling.
Our first step was to sit down and figure out exactly what we were spending our money on. So for a few months we simply tracked every single dollar we spent in an Excel spreadsheet. And at the end of those months we looked at where all our money was going.
To say it was an eye opening experience was putting it mildly. It wasn’t the bills or big spending that was the issue. It was the $5 here and there and the bank fees for every transaction that were killing us.
The first big change we made was to create (and attempt to stick to) a budget. The key to a good budget, though, is to make it an achievable budget. Rather than just plucking random numbers out of thin air, we looked at our current spending. How much a month did we spend on groceries. How much was going towards gas. What was the average utilities /phone /gas /cable bill. These became the basis for our budget.
Then we looked at personal spending. YIKES. Yeah, that definitely needed a lot of work. So we budgeted an allowance for each of us. We each got a set amount of money each paycheck to do with what we wanted. If I wanted to go for coffee, it came out of my allowance. If Bil wanted to eat out for lunch instead of bringing his lunch to work, it came out of his allowance. If we wanted to buy something completely frivolous…you guessed it… allowance.
This budget was our first step to clawing our way out of this money pit we were in.
As the months went on, I tweaked the budget so it worked for us. I now do the budget every paycheck, but I also budget a few months out. It allows me to play with numbers and see how if we make a purchase now the ripple effect of spending that money is felt for months afterwards. That’s not to say we never buy anything anymore. We just do it when we can afford it, rather than when we want it, now.
But we realized that just budgeting wasn’t enough. It was still too easy to overspend. You want something? Just take out the magic bank card and get it.
So we now do the envelope system.
Every paycheck we pay all the bills for that pay period online. Then anything that we would normally use our debit card for is budgeted and calculated and that money is taken out in cash. We have an envelope for our grocery money, one for gas, another for the ‘pet’ fund to cover their food/vet/grooming expenses. And we each get our allowances in cash. Once the money is gone, there’s no more spending.
It takes a lot more planning (for example, before you leave the house you have to think ‘do I need to get gas for the car’ and grab the money from the gas envelope if you do). But it also makes you MUCH more conscious of your spending.
When I want to buy something and I can look in my wallet and say ‘oh, I only have $20 left to last me another week,’ I might decide that I don’t really need to buy that item after all.
Any money that we might have left over at the end of the pay period from our grocery or gas money is put in our ‘bonus’ jar. We use that money if we want to order a pizza or go out for dinner. It’s our guilt free splurge money. So we have an extra incentive to watch our spending.
The third thing we changed about how we managed our money was how we paid off our debt. Rather than giving a piece of the pie to everywhere we owed, we started using the ‘Snowball method’.
Simply put, you do minimum payments on everything except your smallest debt. Don’t focus on interest rates. Just look at the total amount owed.
Put the most money you can on the smallest debt and pay it off. Then you can take that money and apply it toward the next smallest debt. Each time you pay off a debt you have more money to pay off the next debt because you have the chunk of money plus the monthly payments you were putting on the previously paid off debt.
Making those 3 changes (budgeting, envelope system, and snowball payments) has taken us from barely getting by to always having money in the bank. It also allowed us to buy all the gifts this past Christmas with cash. No more Christmas debt in January! Woohoo!
The biggest bonus? We never fight about money because money is no longer an issue.
It’s also brought us that much closer to being completely debt free … well, other than our mortgage but that will be the next goal we set.