On Clorox, the PTA, and this Life List

So I have this life list that I started keeping after the first BlogHer Pathfinder Day and have been slowly adding to ever since. I've got some fun things on there like owning dyable Payless pumps (thanks to a twitter convo I had with my friend Jessica one day) and I have some very large and serious items on there like speaking to my mother (preferably NOT over her cold, dead body).

I went to Camp Mighty last weekend, which is like a conference for life lists. The beauty of making proactive steps towards that which you most want in life is that once you start that ball rolling, it tends to take itself down the hill quite effectively on its own. 

Case in point: item #8 on my list is "drive west until I run out of gas" which sounds very romantic and slightly tragic and gorgeously angsty until you start driving west to attend the life list conference and run out of gas in the middle of Nothing Whatsoever, Arizona - armed only with some Kashi snack bars, an iced coffee, and a Sephora card. 

So that was fun, but at least no one can say I didn't come to that conference with my best, authentic self. 

None of this has anything to do with this post, by the way. I am just really horrible at getting to the point. Imagine how bad your head would have hurt if I actually made it through NaBloPoMo? Small favours, my friends.

So I have this life list that I started keeping after the first BlogHer Pathfinder Day and have been slowly adding to ever since. Item #29 is "change a child's life for the better." I have gone rounds with myself over this item, because in many ways, I feel like I could already cross that off.

I worked for a company that built the software to help the largest county in the US track their foster children. That alone could justify checking #29 off, but it doesn't feel like enough.  A few nights a week I feed the kid down the street who's parents just seem to have forget he exists and leave him to forage for himself every night, but somehow that doesn't feel like enough, either.

What almost feels like enough is the work that I did with my old PTA in Denver, the amazingly incredible one that took a low income, low test score, failing, under-enrolled school in the heart of DPS which was on the chopping block for closure and turned it into a low income, high scoring, defying crushing everyone's expectations, over-enrolled poster school in DPS for how a community can come together and save a school, help every single kid, and give everyone a chance for a incredibly bright future. I wrote a little bit about that school, that PTA, and that experience here, but it would honestly take me pages and pages and pages to tell all the ways those kids and that school saved me more than I could even have hoped to save them. 

Greeblemonkey can tell it better, anyway. She took over for me when I left, and took a little idea we had for a not-sucky fundraiser and turned it into this. Also, did you know she was my neighbor? *insert internet groan here*

We single-handedly changed the lives of every single child in that school, and they single-handedly changed every single one of ours. Everyone gave what they could - in time, in money, in hugs on the playground, or in simply allowing us the privilege of spending real, quality time with their children and finding out what makes them as individuals learn better and achieve more - because sometimes that is all a parent has to give, and it is worth its weight in gold. 

But it still doesn't feel like enough, and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I can't measure it yet. Maybe when those kids grow up and go to college, or work at jobs they love, or are great mothers and fathers, then it will feel like enough. For now, it just feels like breathing. I did it because it was wrong not to. I did it because they deserved it, because every kid deserves it. I got more out of it than they did, for sure, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, because I know what having someone on your side means to a kid and a school, and I know what far-reaching effects an injection of cash can do for them. 

And so I'm working with Clorox on their Power A Bright Future K-12 school grant program (yes, it's compensated) to help schools win grants of up to $50,000. $50,000 buys a lot of marching band plumes, yo. 

A whole bunch of schools have already applied for the Power A Bright Future grant. They could apply for grants to allow them to better explore, play, or create - like a new playground, or a Shakespeare play, or a science lab, or equipment for the marching band because seriously you would not believe how much those plumes cost.

The applications are all in at www.powerabrightfuture.com and now voting is open, up until December 19th. 

There are a ton of ways to vote...on the site, through text message, and through Instagram. My 14 year old just got an iPhone (different story for a different day) so he and I will both be playing along on Instagram using the hashtag #yolopabf with Bella Thorne (She's that girl from the Disney Channel who keeps giving you Tiffany flashbacks. Your teenage son absolutely knows who she is). He's Bren_Eh on instagram, and so totally Canadian. ::proud:: (I'm heymrlady)

Aside, kids over 13 can vote for the #yolopabf grants, which is kind of excellent, seeings how I'm trying to teach him about this voting stuff anyways to prep him for the next election oh my god.

You can scroll through the nominees and vote for the ones you love the most. It's about the easiest way ever to help make a kids' future a little better, and maybe check a thing or two off your life list while you're at it. And if you see a super-cool one you think everyone should vote for (or you ARE a super cool one) totally share it in the comments so we can all go vote!

Nature vs Nurture

- This post was featured on HuffPo's {Parenthesis} and I couldn't be more blushy about the whole situation -

My daughter has this little friend at school, who's name doesn't matter, and he wants to hug her and squeeze her and keep her forever and call her George. I sympathize with him, I really do. I feel the exact same way about her most days. She's scrumdidilyicious. 

However, I still let her have friends. I don't bully the other little boy who also very much so loves her and wants to be in her company all. the. time. I don't intimidate her with threats if she defies my wishes or talks to other kids, and I don't lie to the teacher if she steps out of line, saying she said a bad word or hit someone so she'll be punished for making me angry. 

She's not afraid of me, is my point, but she sure as hell is afraid of Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter. 

And it's really just depressing. I mean, she didn't even get to get drunk and meet this clown at some bar and project all her daddy issues onto him like it's her goddamn American right to. Oh no, he picked her out of the crowd like she was waiting prey.

Except she's not waiting prey. 

My mother used to warn me that the bad people could smell me coming. She said that they knew how to find the people like me, people who were weak, broken, vulnerable - that they could find us, and they would, and when they did they'd crush us. She told me to watch out for anyone who took an interest in me, because I was walking around with a target on my back. I wonder why I have trust issues. 

My daughter does not have trust issues. My daughter is the opposite of me in almost every way, because I did the opposite of what my mother did in almost every way. I whisper into my daughter's sleeping ear how amazing she is, how strong she is, how powerful she is. I read her Audre Lorde poems that sing of her strength as a woman and a child of the earth. I sing her my own odes of admiration and love. I tell her every chance I get that she is fiercer than the sun, and stronger than the ocean tides. And still, some little man-person with girl issues and cowboy boots who would certainly refer to her as woman if he only knew how to spell it comes along and tries with all his might to possess her. 

I must admit, it's slightly amusing watching him break himself against the rock that is her. 

But no matter how strong she is, and how secure she is, it is a total mindbleep (because I can't bring myself to say that word in a kid post. I'm losing my edge. I know it.) when someone you are totally emotionally invested in turns the tables over and exploits that investment for their own selfish gain. It's horrifying, watching my seven year old daughter have to navigate this pocket of humanity, watching the little heart I've so carefully guarded from any pain learn the hard lesson that people just ain't no good.

I am cautiously mindful of her reactions to this boy as the situation has progressed. I have tried to guide her decisions without injecting myself into the situation. Letting them have their own experiences, not projection of mine, is the hardest element of parenting I've encountered yet. I worry that she inherited my target along with my crooked toes and blond hair.  I worry that victimization is a recessive gene that you don't realize has passed on until conditions become optimal for it to manifest. I worry that it's instead something acquired through nurture, and that watching me waste the first seven years of her life trying desperately to please and/or appease a controlling, narcissistic alcoholic has told her that is what is normal and good and expected. 

So I watch her closely, I listen for the words I know all too well coming from her mouth that would tell me this boy is winning the battle against her sense of self. I never hear them. I hear honest words like, "I am afraid to tell on him" and "I care about him and don't understand why he cares about me all wrong" and I know that she doesn't have this thing that I have, this curse that keeps the amazing, brillant, powerful women in my family subdued by some man, some religious ideal, some terror of the unknown or the different or that which is difficult and brave. 

Today I was going to go into her classroom to speak to the teacher about Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter on her behalf. Today, I had found my limit, had enough, decided that she wasn't able to carry this burden any longer. Today I also had a gazillion deadlines, so I didn't go in. Turns out, she did get one thing from me - her line in the sand. Today was her breaking point too. Today he pushed too far, and she pushed back. 

And he backed down. 

He treated her with some goddamn respect. 

He was even kind(ish) to her other little super sensitive man-child-friend. 

And I am so proud of this woman-becoming, who is teaching me more than I will ever in a million years teach her.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Boy

This post was spotlighted on Huffington Post Parents. *blush*

Yesterday I was not a freshman in high school.  However, it was only a few mere weeks ago when I was a senior in high school, attending my first ever school dance. 

As the photographer. 

And I wasn't even very good at it. 

But I just can't even grasp the notion that a human begin who I grew inside of my body and bore unto this earth and fed and clothed and changed and loved for like no time at all has been on earth long enough to also have attended homecoming. I was just that girl up there. In too many ways, I still am.

How is this happening?

School dances weren't even on our radar of possibility growing up. I don't ever remember missing one, it was that far-off a notion that I'd ever go to one. Being raised by crazy cultists is a blast

So I went to my first dance when I was a senior. I don't remember much of the dance, but I do remember afterwards, I drove to Majestic View Park with my best friends, our ears ringing of Nirvana and Sir Mix Alot as we counted stars and talked about Walt Whitman and Robert Smith and had one of the very best nights of my entire adolescence. I felt a thousand feet tall and bullet proof that night. My life felt as limitless as the stars we laid under, as certain and true as the friends by my side. 

So when it came time for my *gulp* son to go to his *gulp* first dance, I kind of forced the issue. He didn't want to - he's a freshman, he's new here, he doesn't have a girlfriend - so I asked his dad to go buy him a ticket and I more or less told him he was going, for his own good. He begrudgingly obliged, which is really the only way you can do anything at 14, I suppose. 

I dropped him off at the school that night, fashionably L8 o'clock, and as we pulled up to the school my little man looked at me and said, "Mom, I don't know if I'm excited or nervous." What I didn't tell him was that I didn't know which one I was, either. 

Driving away from that parking lot was one of the hardest things I've ever done. 

Four hours later he  not kidding - lept into the car AND TALKED VERY LOUD AND VERY FAST FOR A VERY LONG TIME ABOUT ALL OF THE MOSH PITS AND THE COLOR GUARD AND HIS FRIENDS AND IT WAS SO AMAZING MOM THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME GO IT WAS OH MY GOD MOM I CAN'T BELIEVE OH MY GOD IT WAS SO FUN. 

He smiled.

He's not really a smiler, in case you hadn't noticed over the past seven years.

But man was he ever smiling on Saturday night. I saw that twinkle in his eye that I saw in all my friends' eyes on the night of my first dance, the same one I felt in mine, like he's starting to realize that there is something much more amazing out there in the world than he could have ever imagined, and he simply has to go find out what the hell it is. 

Four Foot Ten Inches Is Plenty Tall

My middle son is no stranger to being bullied, and if I was a better blogger, I'd have tagged and SEO'd the three or four posts on this blog about various incidents with "bully" or "stupid little a$$h*les who messed with the wrong mama bear" but no. No tags, so I can't find any of those posts to link back to anything. 

Things I can link back to aside: This is why I will never succeed as a mommy blogger. That and the fact that I hate both cupcakes and bacon - but to my credit, I've got the xanax thing daaaaoown, yo.  

Better blogging through $ymbols aside: I'm trying to swear less on my blog, partly because I have a job that inspires me to play a professional adult on the internet now, but also because swearing on your blog screws up your SEO, did you know that? It's true. Google is not afraid to wash your potty mouth out with a bar of Lowered Page Rank. 

All of these confounded asides aside: My anti-anxiety meds are working really well. (confounded: excellent substitute for bull$h*t; totally SEO friendly.) Maybe too well

So my teency tiny little snack sized blue eyed precious little munchkin-butt came home from school yesterday in tears. Tears, friends. By the time they hit 6th grade, I expect them to come home weepy because the girl they like is into some other boy, or because they accidentally smelled themselves in PE class, but what I do not expect is for them to come home crying because some kid decided to choke them in 4th period over a Pikachu origami. 

Choked my child. That happened. 

This came after a bunch of kids called him an over-sensitive bee eye tee see aych in 3rd period, and was followed by the kids from 5th - 7th period laughing at him because he cried, which made him cry more, which made them laugh more, and this is why the poor bugger begged me to let him stay home from school today.

Which I didn't.

Because I suck. But also because if I let him stay home, the terrorists win. 

We talked about my thoughts on why people were calling him names - that it was just his turn in the Junior High School crappy day rotation and that tomorrow, they'd probably move on to fresher meat. We talked about the kid grabbing his throat and I reminded him that he's trained to fight, and that kid probably isn't, so if push came to shove he could most likely lay that kid flat f*ing out with very little effort.

Bad Language for Good Aside: I find a well-placed f*bomb in the middle of an inspirational speech to be a more effective morale boost than all the homemade cookies and glasses of cold milk in all of the whole world. 

So my point was merely that the worst thing that could happen is that people could say more words, and maybe he'd have to knock a fool out - and sure, he'd get suspended for that but, you know, bygones. I told him that the sad fact of life is that the world is full of a whole lot of raging a$$holes and the best you can do is stick by the people who aren't and stand tall. Going to school is standing tall. 

So he went to school, white-knuckled and trembling. Sometimes I hate being the one in charge of making adult decisions. 

But he came home sunshine and roses and I found out that the counselor who'd spotted him crying at lunch yesterday pulled him into the office and had a long talk with him about how awesome he is in general, and the kid who choked him yesterday forgot he existed today, and the kids who thought he was an over-sensitive bee eye tee see aych yesterday didn't think anything of him today at all.

And he learned that sometimes, his dumb old mom is right, but more importantly he learned that we never, ever have to let the terrorists win. At least not without a fight. 

The Colours and the Shapes

Maybe they don't teach grammar in Jr High anymore, but they've clearly got shapes in kindergarten down to a horrible, grizzly science:

Mom, if you cut my arm off my body, and cut my hand off my arm, you'd have a cylinder!