The girl with the blue shoes

Bella in blue.
Just when you think you're fighting your battle alone in your sleepy Southern town with your working from home and your not-much-time-for-anything-but-work days ... along comes like-minded women and men who remind you that the world can be there for you.

People like Melissa at Pigtail Pals and Crystal at the Achilles Effect and all the commenters on their Facebook pages (Pigtail Pals here; Achilles Effect here) sucked me right out of my vacuum and inspired me to challenge the gender limitations my girl has crashed into since starting preschool.

Along with crying at the sheer goodness of seeing so many girls embracing all the vibrant colors and interests this world offers, I've decided to go for the teachable moment.

Like a true suburban guerrilla activist, I've asked Bella's teacher if I can come in to do a story and activity with Bella's class. We'll be reading Not All Princesses Dress In Pink, The Paper Bag Princess, and My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can A Girl Dream?

I decided on those three (or however many we get through) because they allow girls to be princesses without having to be copycat, cookie cutter, Stepford molds of each other. You can play princess and still wear blue shoes or love dinosaurs or want to work on the car. You can do all things -- whether they are "for boys" or "for girls."

My intention for my time in the class is not to make Bella's experience an example or hammer these kids over the head with my beliefs. My intention is to help each child reframe their beliefs on what's acceptable for boys and girls, and help them start pushing back against those limitations the adults in their lives have given them.

Fingers crossed!

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Not so easy

I’ve been wanting to write words
that should come easily. A rant,
a missive, a manifesto, against stereotypes
and pink/blue dichotomies screaming at me.

A server handing out coloring sheets:
giving the monster truck to him,
pushing the fairy straight to her.
Why not allow them to choose?

A trip to any store around:
pink glitter sparkles against dazzling white
or blue fades into black, boundaries
solidly drawn, sternly abided by all.

My daughter, fresh from day one
of a much-loved and progressive preschool,
announces her sporty blue Toy Story
sneakers — once adored — are for boys
and no one at her school
likes girls who wear boys’ shoes.

And her hair is too short,
and her clip was too dark,
and "no one can even tell
I'm a girl," she cries out.

I’m so sick of limited imaginations
and people deciding my children’s preferences
for them. And yet, the rant
is unspoken, eloquent words trapped inside.

Instead, I fight for Toy Story
and Buzz costumes and colors beyond
pink. (My lord, the pink overwhelms!)

In my own way, I fight
for a rainbow colored, limitless childhood.
Even if no one else will,
even when it's the hard way.

Want more preschool revelations? Read this post from yesterday about how watching my Mountain Man and his Bella cracked me open.

***This post is part of Six Word Fridays.***

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There are days, as a parent, when my heart cracks open.

I remember it happening for the first time about a week after I was handed a sleeping, peeling, slightly-gray, overcooked baby boy. We were sitting in the bathroom floor and I was massaging lotion into all his nooks and crannies to help shed the peeling skin and he looked in my direction and sighed.


I didn't understand the feeling at first. It was painful in the same way that soaring hopes make you want to reach for grounding material. Painful in a way that makes you believe in God and understand your mother.

The cracking has happened again and again over the years. First steps and big words and new babies and laughter and tears have sent fissures ripping through my heart, endlessly.

But today, watching my Mountain Man walking his daughter into preschool for her very first day, watching her hand hooked first into his back pocket and then into his palm, watching her break down and him scoop her up?

I swear everyone in a ten-mile radius heard the earthquake echoing out of me. The ground surely rumbled and buildings swayed as the little girl in me felt that soaring hope that only little girls and their daddies can understand.

I am a fatherless daughter. It has shaped me. But my daughter is loved in a way that I'll never understand, a way I can't truly appreciate and may even be slightly envious of.

No, not envious. Inspired. I am inspired by the way this man loves this child. I am inspired by the way any man loves his child, but especially this man loving this child who looks and acts so much like me.

She is lovable the way I am lovable. She is amazing the way I am amazing. She is enough the way I am enough.

But it took this man on this day to help me see it.


***This post is part of Bigger Picture Moments.***

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Rush to the heart

The scene comes as no surprise:
a preschool girl, a blank canvas,
tubs of paint in bold colors.

She starts with three bright streaks,
yellow, green, and red, cautiously smeared.
A dab of blue sneaks in.

But then the excitement of paints
and bare hands is too much
and caution goes out the window.

Bold colors mix, painted hands smash,
and out comes blackest-black hands
and a little giggling girl who
can't believe her mess-making luck.

The quick wash up after? Expected.
The glee of paint slung near
and far with mom smiling on?

An unexpected rush to the heart.

***This post is part of Six Word Fridays.***

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For the love of the game

My kid discovered his first love this time last year. The discovery came with sweating, heavy breathing, and fitful sleep. Luckily, his love only disrupts our life in the fall (though I have to suffer through it year-round).

Yes, my son is forever hooked on football.

He loves to watch it on tv (including old games and the always-on folly shows), talk about it, toss the ball around with the Mountain Man, go to see high school and college games, and perfect his plays on whatever PSP games come his way.

But mostly he just loves to play: the crash-bang of boy against boy, the anticipation of pig skin whirring through the air toward outstretched arms, the spent and sweaty exhaustion of nightly practices.

And what makes playing even better? Helmets and pads and mouthguards, of course. He'd sleep in his if he could.

Nothing is as fierce as a kid who thinks he could tackle the world.

Well, except the bruises that come from trying.

What's your kid's one true love?

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***

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Therapy: A Life Line

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I consider therapy and counseling to be right up there with chocolate and wine in terms of must-haves for a parent of a child with ADHD. Since the Best of the Best topic happens to be therapy, I thought I'd explain why I'd give my third-born child* to my therapist:


Have you ever considered he might have ADHD?

She sat back as she said it as though her words were dangerous, as though she was bracing for something. She was the behavioral therapist I sought out for Javi after long months of struggle and frustration and nasty feelings in my gut and heart.

Javi was just five years old and there we were in oversized chairs, talking to a stranger who used words like typical and defiant and manifestation. Stranger isn't the right word. She wasn't a stranger by then.

Every week for months, I sat across from her and willed myself not to cry as my eyes burned with the hopelessness of it all. Every week for months, I sat in the hall outside her office as she worked one-on-one with the child who dominated my thoughts and energy, who required so much more than I seemed able to give him.

Have you ever considered he might have ADHD?

The guilty struck me like an open palm. Yes, I had. And, no, I didn't want to admit it. ADHD, like diabetes and cancer, runs rampant in my family. The disorganized mess that was my childhood, the erratic extremes that my sister drug us to time and again, the last minute and late again jokes from family friends, the drugs and the tension and the anger...

Yes, I had considered ADHD. But I had also considered my faults. I didn't enjoy him enough, didn't appreciate his little quirks, didn't feed him a gluten- and casein-free diet, didn't make sure he get all the exercise he could, didn't force him to do things he didn't like, didn't quit my job to stay home with him instead of sending him to daycare, didn't protect him from destructive biological parents as soon as I should have. The list went on and on.

He was just a little boy. A little boy with huge brown eyes who told the most fantastical stories and made friends with everyone he met. A little boy who couldn't hold a thought in his head, who couldn't resist a single urge, who exploded in anger when things didn't go his way. A little boy who might have thrived if he'd gotten the parent he deserved.

But he was my little boy, and I couldn't stomach the thought of him having the same cluttered memories and disordered boundaries I grew up with.

Have you ever considered he might have ADHD?

His therapist saw my hesitation, my down-turned eyes, the way my shoulders dropped. She leaned forward, and pushed a box of tissues toward where I sat as the tears started dropping despite my best efforts.

I just don't know. I mean, he's so young. What if it's not ADHD? I choked out.

She nodded and closed up her notebook. She crossed over to sit next to me and said words that changed my life: It may not be. How about we try some things and see how it shakes out? We won't worry about medicine, let's focus on environment, diet, and structure. We won't know unless we try, right?

It was like someone finally saw me. Saw my fear (that throwing medication at him was a cop out), saw all the little details I felt I was screwing up (diet, structure), and was willing to work through it with me. I had an advocate, a teammate, in a battle I'd felt so alone in waging.

And then, together, she and I (and the Mountain Man when saw the results of what we were doing) got to work. I haven't felt isolated or alone in this uphill struggle since.

Therapy didn't change my son's behavior or his disorder, but it was a life raft when I thought I might drown in (what I now know for certain) was a frenetic combination of attention deficit and anxiety all rolled into one ball of five-year-old nerves. And, yes, I made an appointment for myself. I highly suggest it.


*No worries, there won't be a third-born child. Two is enough for this mama!

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Cluck of the Week: Trial and Error

She's my strategist. Try and fail
leads to a better next try.
This morning's battle was feeding Fancy
the way she wanted -- tiny pieces
all lined up for perfect pecking.

But Fancy is a strategist, too,
darting in, gobbling up, darting away.

The sign of a great strategist?
Knowing when trial and error works,
and when you just can't win.

But when she can't beat 'em?
She's very happy to join 'em.

***This post is part of Six Word Fridays.***

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Creepy Ass Kids

I have a thing about creepy ass kids. Yes, I call them creepy ass kids even in my mind. Movies with creepy ass kids (e.g., The Shining, The Omen, and other moves on this list)? I'm shuddering as I type.

Knowing that piece of backstory, can you imagine my immediate reaction upon seeing this?

Uh, yeah. The creepiness factor was high.

Of course, being creeped out by my kids is nothing new; they do it to me all the time. I'll wake up to Bella's moon face staring into mine in the wee hours of the morning. She's not talking and she doesn't wake me up. She just stares until I sense her presence. Javi says random things like, "Yep, this is the place where I'll die" when we're out doing total safe things like school supply shopping. It's great.

And, so, today when we dropped by a friend's house and she pulled out a miniature lace dress and veil for Bella to use as dress up clothes, I wasn't at all surprised that my daughter resembled something out of one of those movies where the child winds up being a demon-spirit that haunts characters in their sleep.

Luckily the creepy factor vanished when I convinced her to remove the veil. And then we were right back to normal preschool sass when I told her it was time to get back into her normal clothes.

Nothing like lots of attitude to remind you that your kid's pretty dang normal.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***

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You Know Spell Check Caught This

Sometimes I see these glaring mistakes and I know that the blame falls on the tediousness of grammar and syntax. All those rules that separate plural from plural possessive, all the many ways to transpose letters, all the words that sound similar (like corregate and conjugate, as one of my clients would attest)...

And then I see mistakes like this and I wonder who's effing with me.

You and I both know spell check found this bugger and somebody chose not to fix it. That or a dooler is some new cooler spin-off that maybe pulls double duty. It both cools and dries? It dances when your drinks are perfectly iced? I'm guessing not.

Sorry, makers of the dooler. The snazzy red handle and bright orange sales tag don't distract us from that brand-new word you've created.

Though, if my $6.99 also gets me a fruity beverage that will help me believe dooler is the correct word, I'm willing to ignore my objections.

What's the funniest (and most painfully obvious) screw up you've seen (or done) this week?

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We are ships in the night,
except he's there and I'm here.
There is so much between us:
years, children, cars, vacations, a mortgage.

I remember the days, the nights
when we were flesh to flesh
and nothing could fit between us,
not kids, not bills, not air.

He filled me up. With words
written, spoken, laughed. With his body,
warm and ready and all mine.
He and I were enough, together.

How long since a gentle word
passed between us? Him over there,
me over here, space growing wider.
No one can change it except us.

Tonight's agenda: Conversation that reignites
a dampening fire. Tonight, we'll speak
with words, and bodies, and more.

***This post is part of Six Word Fridays.***

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A time for apples

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Same orchard, same sun-baked farmer in a cowboy hat, same tire swing, same open-air barn stocked full of fresh and canned produce.

Same little girl soaking it all on, though her hair style, face shape, and body of knowledge are all new. This time, she told me apple starts with A and grapes start with G and peaches start with P. This time, she asked the farmer herself for a big cup of apple cider slushie. This time, she counted each and every bag of apples we carted to the car (4 to be exact).

She's growing up, and I can't wait for her to learn even more between now and our next trip to pick apples. (See photos from 2010 and 2009.)

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