Loving the little (and not-so-little) ones…

I am having a hard time with the whole growing up thing.  Not for me you understand, I am pretty sure most people who know me gave up on that a long time ago.  But for my children Boo and D, both for entirely different reasons.

It is perhaps a bit easier to explain in Boo’s case than D’s.  For Boo, for the first time, I am getting to experience fully the joy of being a full-time parent from birth onward.  I have been there for her first steps, her first words, teething, midnight feedings and the like.  But now, suddenly out of nowhere it feels like, I have a 2-yr old toddler who is convinced that she is ready now to take on the world.  And as much as I love watching her brain grown and her personality develop (although I am panicking a little bit at how to successfully raise a strong-headed girl), I miss the quiet times with her curled up on my chest, carrying her around everywhere and watching her grow.  If I could I think I would go through this with her 10 times and probably still find new things to marvel over.  And no, I don’t really want 10 more kids… I’m fine with the ones I’ve got thank you very much.

Boo_driving

As for D, the challenge comes in many more complex flavors.  D turns 18 this year and has successfully completed the HiSet test (which is the state replacement of the old GED for people who drop out of school).  D scored high enough on most categories that D is considered college ready and I really don’t feel old enough to have a college student yet.  Then there have been my recent conversations with D lately.  They are beginning to show glimmers of the adult that I had always hoped D would be, but that had gotten lost in the drugs and other poor choices D had been making.  It gives me hope that D will eventually come to terms with whomever D decides to be and that D can grow out of the past mistakes.  I just hope that when that time comes that both of us are in a place where I don’t miss the chance to reconnect with the person blooming now and that the consequences we have had to put in place to protect all of us don’t stay between us forever.

D auto-repairing

I sometimes wonder if I’m a good parent.  I think most any parent worth their salt does at least once every now and then.  But sometimes, I wish there was a way to know ahead of time, you know like a test.  Something empirical and scientific.  But then you have the results…  what happens if you get an “F”?

Part of me wonders about all this I think because I have had several acquaintances (friends of friends) lose their teenage children to suicide. And if I go back to look, the reason I started this blog in the first place was because my fifth grader handed me a note after school one day that said “Sometimes I think about killing myself.”  I have been most blessed in that D decided to NOT take that final fatal step.

Another part of me wonders about all this because of what happened to that little Syrian boy who drowned while trying to cross to Europe with his family.  What would I NOT do to help my little girl?  I am so very very grateful that my life has never been so desperate for safety, shelter and peace that I have had to make the decision to flee to somewhere else and face the many challenges that come with that, nor that I have ever had to pay the price these parents did…

syrian-migrant-boy-turkey

……

When will we learn that our anger, our intransigence, our pride are what are killing these precious ones?  As surely as any bullets fired from a gun.  Shame on us for acting otherwise.  Shame on us for not doing more.

As I start raising Boo, restarting the process as it were, and keep trying to build a positive relationship with my oldest, I look back on my previous mistakes and hope that I can learn from them.  I hope both my children grow into the promising young people I see when I look at them.  I hope they know how much they are still loved, even when they drive me nuts.

I hope the little boy’s family find their peace.  I hope he knew how much he was loved.

Because at the end of the day, I want my children to help create a world where pictures like the one above never happen again.  Where ALL people are welcomed as part of our common human family.  Where we can ALL find peace.  And where ALL people can come together in a moment of tragedy to say join in one voice and say, “No more!”

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A letter to my son’s friends…

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is not just the hard choices you have to make when dealing with your children, but the consequences of those choices on the people in your child’s life.

As I have stated before, my oldest child D, got into some trouble last year and in a bid to seek an alternative to either seeing D on the street or in prison, we sent D to live with his bio-mother and stepdad out of state.  It was understood before D went that he was going to be facing boot-camp-esque discipline as stepdad was former Army.  This would be tougher and stricter than anything I had been able to accomplish on my own or was even honestly really comfortable with.  But the choices D had made did not leave us with a lot of other places to turn.

This week D put out a request on social media to talk to some friends, no family.  That typically means that whatever the issue is, it’s being viewed as being “caused by” family.  After D’s call went out, I received several private contacts from his friends sharing with me what was apparently going on in D’s life.  D also shared with his grandfather, who has often been a good point of contact for D to hear from.  According to what D was stating, the punishments for doing “stupid stuff or making [him – i.e. stepdad] repeat himself” were more physical than D was used to.  And he didn’t like it and was thinking of running away.

Now…  was there a part of me that wanted to fly down to his mother’s place, bundle up my child and rescue him back to our place?  Absolutely.

Are we doing that?  Absolutely not….and here’s why.

While I understand the frustrations and concerns of D’s friends, there are several fundamental problems with the situation.

1.)  D lies…and exaggerates, a LOT.  He also knows, having grown up around kids in the system via my work in social services, what the hot-button key words and situations are that will get him attention.

2.) D does not like to not have control.  He is very willing to manipulate to get the outcome he wants which usually includes getting someone to get him a “get out of jail free” card.  He does not have control at the moment and does not want to toe the line to get it back.

3.) D admitted that the reason for the punishments is because he does “stupid stuff.”  Without trying minimize what may be happening, the easy answer is – don’t do stupid stuff.

4.)  If we did go down and rescue him, what would that teach him?  That he can always count on getting pulled out of any difficult spots he finds himself in?  I would rather he learn how to deal with it here than on the street.  Getting punched in the arm for mouthing off may not be fun, but it beats getting shot.

5.)  Why would I bring D back here just to have to put him out on the streets again?  He won’t participate in transitional living programs and because of his past thefts and drug use is not allowed to stay with us or the rest of the family for now.  As bad as things may be, he has a roof over his head and he’s getting three square meals a day.

I don’t like it.  The idea of anyone other than myself laying hands on my child for whatever reason is abhorrent.  And I absolutely do not believe that you can beat a child into obedience.  But at 17 and a half, D has got to learn that being rude, disrespectful and not following the rules have serious consequences.  Much more serious ones than just being grounded or having your i-phone taken away.  Life can be harsh and while I hope for and am working towards a better way, we also have to be realistic about the world we currently find ourselves in.  I don’t want to see D behind bars… or dead on the streets, although both may happen.  But if that’s the case they will be HIS choices.  Not mine… and not anybody else’s.

But as his friends, I know the guilt and the anger that they have in their hearts towards my decision.  What they see is a peer being hurt.  Someone they care about and want to “fix.”  And that breaks my heart for them.  The knowledge that they cannot “fix” this, that this is something D has to work out.  Not having the power to do anything to make it right and frustration at those they see as having power but not using it.  Spider-man’s maxim: “With great power comes great responsibility” is as true for parenting as it is for crime-fighting.  That doesn’t make it any easier to follow… especially when it means you have to let those you love sink or swim to avoid dragging you all down.  And to allow them the room to live and grow.

So, while I know several of you are mad at me, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for being D’s friend.  Thank you for caring.  I know you are doing the best you know how and doing what you think is right.  I still love you.  This is D’s life.  We cannot control him or fix him.  We can only love him.  And you are doing that right.

Love,

D’s dad

Love me some daddy time

And now we’re on Day 4 of N’s trip to Colorado with me at home with Boo and the Troll and Riley.  Still not sure who got the better end of that deal between the delay leaving, dust storms, missed exits, etc vs toxic diapers, cranky baby and the neediest dog I have ever owned.  On the bright side things seem to be going well for all concerned.  Only 5 more days to go.

So to back up, it’s been a while since I posted.  In my defense it has been a little crazy like I said before.  After our vacation we got back just in time to start helping plan our annual congregational 4th of July party.  One of the joys of being a bi-vocational pastor (even a co-pastor) is that weekends don’t really mean time off from work, you just switch hats.  Anyway, we managed to get that off without a hitch but when it came time for the city fireworks show we all discovered, Boo included, that Boo does not like fireworks exploding…anywhere.  Whether she can hear them or not.  Neither does the dog for that matter.

4th of July
4th of July

As a result, instead of a fun-filled night of hot-dogs, fireworks and fun with the family we ended up running around like chickens with our heads cut off taking the baby and the dog back home before curling up on the sofa to a nice episode (or three) of Cat in the Hat Knows That on Netflix.  Ah….  The joys of parenthood.

The next week passed by in a bit of a blur as we readied ourselves for N’s trek to Colorado.  It’s not the first time I have taken care of Boo by myself while N is out of town, nor is it even the first time I have been a single parent.  But it’s been a loooooong time since I had to watch a toddler 24/7 without a break except for work and I had forgotten how exciting and how exhausting it can be.

It's more fun to eat with your hands.
It’s more fun to eat with your hands.

Since N left, we have gone to the city water park, survived church, built and played in our new water table, helped daddy do laundry and cook dinner and thus far at least…not burned the house down or gotten injured.  In my book, that’s a win.  I’ve even managed to get the child to eat some meat which, honestly, how does anybody get picky eaters to munch on stuff they don’t like (i.e. MEAT….I can’t believe I’m raising a vegetarian)

Dancing in the park

I did manage to avoid one major daddy snafu the other day fortunately…mostly thanks to the grace of auto-correct.  I know I know… grace isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind when we discuss auto-correct but in messing up my text to N about how we were all doing I managed to avoid unintentionally insulting her by telling her Boo wasn’t missing her.  As I have heard from a number of mothers since, it’s a good thing the text didn’t go or I might not still be breathing…or married.  Fortunately N has a pretty good sense of humor so when I tell her this story…well…  if more than 8 weeks go by and you don’t hear from me, I’m not saying anything HAS happened, but….

Like I’ve said before, we’re together until I die or she kills me, and now that’s true for both N and me and Boo and me.

Cuddle time with daddy
Cuddle time with daddy

BBQ, Bacon Wrapped, Tomato & Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf

Yeah yeah, I know…  I’m pretty sure this isn’t on anybody’s diet list, but man is it gooooooooood.

I don’t have exact amounts unfortunately, the measurements I do have are approximate, I do a lot of my cooking to taste and by eye-ball so you may have to play around to find the mix that works best for you.  I also attached the two pics from my facebook that I took of the finished product.  Hope you all like it.

1-1/2 lbs of lean ground turkey
2 cups of whole wheat bread crumbs
2 eggs
Turkey bacon (enough strips to wrap the meatloaf)
1 cup of crumbled sourdough bread

Worcestershire sauce
Liquid smoke
Apple Cider vinegar
KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (original)

Parsley
Dried onion
Chipolte pepper
Black pepper
Seasoned salt
Paprika
Garlic powder

Low-fat/low moisture mozzarella (IMPORTANT: must be low-moisture or won’t cook proper)
3-4 Roma tomatoes, sliced

  • Mix everything together except the tomatoes, cheese and bacon. I mixed in some of the BBQ sauce with the meat at this point in addition to basting the top with it.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Lay bacon slices lengthwise across the bottom of a well-greased loaf pan. Let the ends hang over the edge of the pan.
  • Put approximately ½ the meat mix in the pan. Flatten it, forming a slight depression in the middle.
  • Sprinkle ½ the cheese in the depression, then lay out the tomato slices on top of that, followed by another layer of cheese. Be sure to save enough slices and cheese to top the final product with.
  • Put the remaining meat mixture on top and press down around the edge to seal the tomatoes and cheese in. Press the bacon edges into the sides of the loaf and then top with more bacon slices as needed.
  • Baste the top with BBQ sauce and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
  • Pull it out, top with remaining tomato slices and cheese and put additional sauce on it, if needed and place back in for another 5-10 minutes.
  • Pull out, slice and enjoy. Internal temperature should reach at least 160 degrees.

20150528_184756 20150528_191704

Daddy Manifesto #1 – Education

So to start, here again is the link to the Pew Research Center’s site that listed how people prioritize issues in 2015.

http://www.people-press.org/2015/01/15/publics-policy-priorities-reflect-changing-conditions-at-home-and-abroad/

I’m starting off with one near and dear to my heart for two reasons, education.  The first is because I have two children, one who has finished up their public education and the other who has yet to start.  This makes me a stakeholder in this debate.  The second is because I am the son of educators who have fought, protested and stood up for children not their own to help create the best possible environment for learning, often in the face of political and societal opposition.  These people gave me the foundation I have for the kind of person I am today.  So here are my thoughts:

Improving educational system – I think the two following quotes best describe in a nutshell how I feel about education.  The first, by Margaret Mead:  “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” And the second by Plato, “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”  The education system we have in place today of No Child Left Behind and testing upon testing, does not make us a nation of problem solvers, inventors, creators.  It is remaking the image of America into a society unable to think, to analyze and then react.  It is taking away the power of our imaginations and stifling our creativity.  That being said, I am NOT for school vouchers.  Public schools are there to help guarantee that every student gets a good solid education in how to think critically and creatively about the world, in my opinion.  Taking money away from that to support schools that preach uniformity and brainwashing is as vile to me as support for abortion is for others.  I think more money and time should be spent on our educational system, not less.  For these are the future workers, employers, government officials, military/political/societal leaders of our country.  Don’t we want them to be the best possible people they can be?

Parenting in a political world

As the 2016 election cycle really begins to swing into gear, I found myself reflecting on the 2008 election.  While Barak Obama was not my first choice for president, I found myself sincerely hoping for a change in our political dialogue and was excited to share with the rest of the country and my child, the swearing in of our first black president.  We gathered as a family to watch the ceremony, my parents talking about what it had been like to be young adults in the 60’s and watching, and in some cases participating in, the civil rights movement.

2008 was also the first (and so far only) time that I helped out a political campaign.  I volunteered for Obama’s campaign after he became the Democratic nominee for President.  Not necessarily because I liked him, but because as a slightly left of center person, I tend to vote Democratic over Republican most times.  But the driving force for me to get involved that year was D.  It was the first election cycle that D was really old enough to pay attention to what was going on and we had watched both the Republican and Democratic debates, the conventions and the presidential debates.  I wanted my child to be aware of how politics interacted with D’s daily life and why certain issues mattered to us.  Whether D grows up to be more liberal or more conservative than me wasn’t the point.  I was not trying to brainwash my child but help to educate my child about the political system.

So when I decided to volunteer it was, in part, as a civics lesson for my 10 year old.  D helped me to canvas neighborhoods, talk to people, hand out fliers and more.  We had discussions about what I believed and what D thought about certain topics.  It was, I hope, a good time for D.

As 2016 gears up and I now have a new child in the house, I find myself once again thinking about the future and how the votes I cast next year will impact the world both my children inherit.  I wonder what kind of world it will be.  I wonder how they both will view it, as a place full of hope and potential or a place of fear and anger?  I have tried and will continue to try and teach them the importance of talking (not yelling or arguing) with people who have different views than they do.  Not to convince but to learn to listen.  Only by understanding someone else’s position can we begin a true dialogue.

With that being said, I decided it was time to write down what my current thoughts are on challenges facing the US and the world today and then see what the candidates had to say that meshed with my concerns.  The problem was, there are so many issues facing us today I wasn’t even sure where to begin.  So I found the following list of topics on the Pew Research Center website:  http://www.people-press.org/2015/01/15/publics-policy-priorities-reflect-changing-conditions-at-home-and-abroad/ …and decided to go from there.

So the next several posts will be my thoughts (for whatever they are worth) on the Public’s Policy Priorities list for 2015.  There are 23 topics and I will post them in bunches as it makes sense to me to do so.

Joint Parenting

How do we nurture the lives in our care?  My youngest is a precocious almost 2-yr old going on 35 and already has not only a routine for her days but also a strict regimen of who is allowed to do what.   In the mornings, mommy is the cuddle person, the “please sir may I have some more [milk]?” person, the only one allowed to dress her and get her ready to go.  In the evenings it’s my turn for cuddles, playing the part of a responsive jungle gym and watching music videos online.

We have joked about this to our friends and family, even as it has at times driven us nuts.

Trying to balance Boo’s desires with the reality of a dual working parent household has at times proven stressful and frustrating.  When we are running late in the mornings (like this morning) and we have not prepared for the morning the night before, something we’re still trying to figure out how to do, chasing down and wrestling the toddler into her jacket can feel more like child abuse than good parenting.  There is also the delegation of duty issues.  Who’s responsible for what at various times of the day can also feel like one person taking more and more of the work load, especially if we as parents have fallen into the trap of allowing Boo to dictate who gets to do what with/to her which, let’s face it, we have at times.  We’re only human.

Fortunately we are working on correcting this, but like most things with parenting that I have discovered, what’s easy in theory is a whole ‘nuther ball-game in practice.  And that leads to other questions and feelings that don’t have easy answers, especially when you as parents come at the whole parenting process differently.  Talking about how to parent a child is important and something every successful couple who has kids needs to do, but in some cases, you discover the differences in the practice, not ahead of time.  No matter how similar your upbringings may be, there will simply be things out of left field that you don’t agree on at least at first.  Such as, how many warnings and what kind does a 2-yr old get?

I don’t know about you but that’s not the kind of thing that I was ever really prepared to converse about, you just knew…it’s three times right?  Teaching her limits and that there are consequences to negative behavior may not be much fun but it beats having a spoiled brat growing up.  The trick is to do it in such a way that she understands and can link behavior to outcome and that doesn’t drive N or me nuts as the other parent does it.  Nurturing the lives in our hands becomes much easier when we also nurture our partner as we realize that the hands holding our little ones is part hers and part mine.

It’s weird.  After having been a single parent for so long and/or the custodial parent it’s really hard to share parenting duties fully in a way I can only imagine non-blended families do.  I am trying, but I know I have control issues with N sometimes.  Plus I also have a big bag of passive aggressive I sometimes break out when I’m feeling mulish.  I’m not proud of it, but I do it.  Knowing that however compels some sort of action on my part.  I need to set a good example for Boo so she sees her mother the same way I do, as a person worthy of love, respect and when necessary, able to deliver a whippin’.    Hopefully I can keep working on that and get better at it.  She’s lived with me for four years so far, so I must be doing something right.