Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard of the new Netflix series 'Thirteen Reasons Why.'  If you haven't heard of it, I'll sum it up for you.  It's a fictional account of a true event where a young girl committed suicide and left tapes that laid out the thirteen reasons (people) she felt she had to end her life.  It has created a lot of controversy lately.  Some say it glorifies suicide, while others say it's a good way to start a dialogue.  Some say it lays blame on external sources, while others point out how much the world around us can affect us.  I'll say now that I know nothing about the true life subject of this series (other than what Netflix has told me), nor do I live in this modern age of technology as our current teens do.  I can, however, talk about bullying, and I do have strong opinions about suicide in relation to such.

I've mentioned to a few people in the past that I just don't understand why kids are committing suicide due to bullying.  Kids are mean, it's true, but that's no reason to kill yourself.  The response I've gotten is pretty much, "You just don't get it."  So, let me tell you a bit about me.

First of all, I'm now a self-professed nerd.  I love geeky things, and I get really hyped up over school-related things.  I love homework assignments and reading, and I get really excited over spelling bees.  That's who I am now, though.  When I was an adolescent, however, I hadn't quite embraced myself yet, and things were a lot harder.

Like most people, middle school was the hardest for me.  I know a lot of people say that, but few had it to the extent I did.  Even my best friend, whom I met during my middle school years, didn't understand how hard I had it.  She was a grade below me, and she couldn't figure out why I got so upset when she hung out with some of my class mates.  It wasn't until the past few years when I told her just how cruel they were that she understood.

Back in middle school, not only was I a nerd, but I was also kind of a know-it-all.  I loved the phrase, "Well, actually..."  I was competitive, but not great at sports, I was easily frustrated, and I was incredibly awkward.  Puberty also hit me extremely hard, my bathing habits could have been better, and I was definitely NOT a great dresser.  Add to all that, I was the new student in a school where the majority of my classmates had known each other since kindergarten and you have the recipe for disaster.

I started school off hopeful.  I did, in fact, already know a couple of students, so I figured I'd have friends.  I was also open to make plenty of new friends, and I'd like to think I wasn't one of those kids who would only seek out the "cool" kids.  I'm not quite sure where / how, but something went wrong at some point.

First, the kids picked on my style.  We all wore uniforms, so you'd think this would be difficult, but no.  My shoes were too clunky, I wore my skirt too high, AND my skirt was too long.  I wore the wrong bracelets, my socks were rolled wrong.  Anything they could pick out they would.

Next came my grooming.  Puberty hit and so did acne.  Names such as Volcano-face and pizza-face were just a few.  My hair turned both greasy and curly, and I had dandruff.  Kids took to standing next to me and declaring it was snowing. "Hey look guys!  Val shook her head!  Maybe we'll have a snow day."  As I attempted to tame my newly curly hair with every form of hair cut, styling product, and lots of brushes (I knew nothing about curly hair), I got a whole new litany of insults thrown at me.  After one particularly bad hair cut a certain girl decided to give me the nickname of Bush (I'm assuming / hoping this was a very PG nickname).  That name stuck with me for a good 3 years...even after I started straightening my hair and pulling it back into a pony tail.

And then came the attacks on my love life.  These were some of the worst.  One girl asked me if I liked anyone in the class above ours.  We'd been having a laugh a few minutes earlier so I jokingly said, "Oh sure.  The [really jerky, pain in the ass guy].  She laughed along with me over that one ,but then decided to tell everyone I was madly in love with that guy.

Luckily, there wasn't the modern technology back then that there was today, so I was left along when I was at home, right?  WRONG.  The first phone call came when someone decided it would be funny to pretend to be my actual crush and ask me out.  I was so happy to get that call.  I couldn't believe that someone I liked might actually like me back.  When I went to school the next day I was greeted with snickering and jeering.  It had all been a hoax to make me look like a fool.  The next time they called I was wiser.  I demanded to know who it actually was, and they hung up.  When I went to school the next day, however, they'd simply told the story how they'd wanted it to go.  Since I'd fallen for it the first time, I must have been gullible enough to fall for it again, right?  I tried approaching the person they'd pretended to be, but he just yelled at me that he didn't like me and to stay away from him.

Oh, and it didn't end there.  When my dad subbed for the gym teacher they said cruel things about him too.  Those things aren't even worth repeating.

They started doing things just to get a reaction out of me; placing things on my back, calling me names, passing notes to and about me, stealing homework.  It didn't end.  Life was hell from 8:05 am until 2:45 pm, and even if I was left alone when I went home, I was just that.  Alone.  I cried so many times.  All I wanted was one good friend.  Someone I could have lunch with and talk to without worrying that they'd turn on me.  I might have been OK, if I'd been allowed to read during free time and lunch, but the teachers declared that was for "social" time.  Stupid teachers.

For three years I went through life without a friend.  Yes, I mentioned I met my best friend back during middle school, but back then our friendship was new and budding.  We didn't share any classes nor did we have any time during school together (lunch was separate).  And yet, through it all, suicide never even struck me as an option.  I never thought about it.  I'll admit I'm still dealing with a lot of the damage they caused, and making friends is and EXTREMELY difficult thing for me to do, but suicide was never an option.  They never had that kind of power over me.

So, what's the difference between me and these other kids?  Are kids now a days really so much meaner?  I was the least-liked kid in my class for 3 years, and I can't say I was that popular in high school (although high school was a significant improvement), yet suicide wasn't an option.  Are young people being desensitized to the idea of suicide?  Is it something in the diet?  What exactly am I missing.  Kids suck, it's true.  I still don't quite know how to handle teenagers, and I'm pretty sure they still think I'm a major geek, but when did that start being motivation for suicide?

  Can someone please help me out here?  I just don't get it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Epic Tantrums

More on the darling daughter front:

Anna turns 3 in one week.  This is so hard for me to believe.  She's funny, she's smart, she's gorgeous (of course I'm biased).

She's also strong-willed, opinionated, and determined.  These are all traits which will serve her quite well later in life...if I let her make it until later in life.  ;)

Last week was the most wonderful, perfect week.  Anna and I were both relaxed and happy and just in sync.  This week...UGH!  Anna has been clingy, needy, and demanding!  If I'm honest, I think she may be fighting a mild virus, but I'm about to go insane.  She won't let Hans help with anything, and any challenge is met with screaming and ugly faces.  And then there was yesterday.

Yesterday morning went fairly well.  She was a little fussy, but we had a play date scheduled with a friend and she was excited, so that moved her along nicely.  The time with her friend went beautifully, so no complaints there.  When she woke up after nap her mood was fine.  We didn't really have anything planned or anywhere to be, but I did have to get to the grocery store, so I asked her if she wanted to leave right away or if she wanted to wait for Daddy to come home.  She wanted to wait, so we played in the play room for a bit.  She was happy.

The melt down started about 5 seconds after we arrived at the store.  First, she wanted a little cart.  That store didn't have a little cart.  I told her if she could find one she could push it.  She stopped crying for a few minutes and looked around, and when she couldn't find one she started screaming.  I picked her up and carried her into the store while Hans grabbed a cart.  I then distracted her by asking her to find certain items.  This was a fun little chore because she wanted to grab about 15 of each item, and we really don't need 15 onions or 15 potatoes.  When I tried to place some back on the shelf she would scream.  I was trying to keep my cool, so I'd just distract her and sneak the items back to the shelf.  By now, though, I was nearing the end of my rope.  Of course, Kroger didn't have half of what we needed in stock.  What type of grocery store doesn't have bananas, cucumbers, or half & half?  So, I was frustrated with the store for not being well stocked.

After the produce section, Anna really wanted to push the big cart.  This is normally fine, as she's just tall enough to reach the push bar, but this cart was a little wonky, and kept wanting to veer to one side or the other.  And Anna kept running into things.  In an attempt to not break stuff, I would steer the front of cart, which prompted Anna to scream in her banshee voice, "NO!  You Don't Touch!"  By this point I'd had it.  I mean, I'd kept my cool.  I was trying to keep things fun.  But it's really unacceptable for her to yell at me like that.  So, I warned her that if she yelled at Mommy and Daddy like that again we would leave the store.  No sooner had I finished that sentence than did she yell, "NOOOOOO!!!  I STAY!!! GO AWAY!!!" and shoved my hand off the cart again.  I told Hans to pay for what was already in the cart, and I scooped up Anna and carried her back to the car.  She was screaming, "Daddy!  I want Daddy!" and I'm fairly certain some people may have been concerned that I was abducting a child, but we made it to the car where I somehow got her in the car seat.

After that we had to get the dogs from the kennel, and I figured she'd settle down on the ride over there.  She screamed for 15 minutes, "I want to PAY!" meaning she wanted to go back to the grocery store and play at the check out.  I got the dogs and came back to the car to my still-screaming child.  Hans then reminded me I needed a new library card, and the library was 2 blocks away, so I decided to make a quick stop.  Anna cried all through the 5 minutes I was inside (keep in mind Hans was still with her).

I got back in the car and said, "OK, time to go home" and I was met with, "NOOOOO!  I want to go somewhere!  Please!  I want to go somewhere with you!  NOOOOO! I don't want to go home!  I want to go that way."  She would alternate between sniffling softly and utter screams.  By the time we reached home an hour had passed and she was still screaming.

When we got in the house, I tried to calm her a little and Hans put up groceries.  It was at that point she started screaming, "I want to try me!  I want to try me!"  I thought I was may misunderstanding her, so I tried to ask her if she meant something else, but she only answered in the affirmative when I asked if she wanted to "Try you."  I'm still not certain what she was trying to say, but she eventually ran into the kitchen and picked up the onion we had purchased.  I tried to convince her that she did not want to try raw onion, but she wasn't having it.  She wanted to try it, and she didn't want green beans, and she didn't want tomato (it was actually potato).  I finally pulled out some of the cut onion we had in the fridge and asked her if she wanted to try that.  She grabbed a handful of onion and shoved it in her mouth, while I prepared myself for a fresh round of tears.

Can I just say now, that my child is weird!?  She LOVED the onion!  After she had tasted her handful, she got this huge smile on her face and took a few more handfuls.  I asked if she liked it, and she said, "Yeah!"  Now, maybe she was just trying to prove a point, and if that's the case I'm terrified for when she's 13, but things were fine the rest of the evening.  She ate her beans and potato (although no chicken), and she danced to Simon and Garfunkel, and she went to bed fairly easily.

I'm not quite sure what happened last night, but I do know I sat through 1.5 hours of screaming and I went to bed utterly exhausted.  Please don't let this be what the rest of year 3 will be like!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Time I Left My Daughter In the Car

It's the end of May here in good, ole VA and the temperatures are rising.  While today may be a mild, rainy day, Saturday was sunny and HOT.  Already we're starting to hear reports of children being left in the car, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.  Sometimes it's a frazzled, over-worked mother who made a terrible mistake, whereas other times it's shear ineptitude, but regardless of the cause, we always see those comments from people claiming it could never happen to them, and these mothers / fathers couldn't possibly love their children if this is what they'll do.

I understand this outcry.  It's hard to imagine someone could ever leave a child in the car, and I felt the exact same way for a long time.  I mean, I went years with dogs in the car and I never once came close to leaving one in a hot car (even when they were sleeping soundly).  Surely people who leave their children in the car must be heartless.  Heck, I even argued that if you had to leave a shoe / purse in the back seat to ensure you wouldn't forget your child then there must be something wrong with you.  That is, of course, until it happened to me.

A little over three years ago, I was a new mom.  I had a very new infant and I was running my growing business (trying to put in as much time as possible), when BAM!  All of a sudden I was hit with a completely unexpected life-changing event when my Mom, the woman who was supposed to help me care for Anna and serve a pseudo-nanny, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer.  All of a sudden I was left caring for my infant and my business while simultaneously helping my mom recover from surgery, moving her from her apartment to our house (and a few things to storage), caring for her 2 dogs in addition to my own 2 dogs, dealing with her bills/finances, and also shuttling her from doctor appointment to doctor appointment while I fit my own doctor appointments in there as well.  And that doesn't even begin to factor in dietary changes we were trying to make to help cope with the cancer diagnosis!  It should go on note that all this hassle is what made me decide I only want one child.  I don't need anymore craziness in my life, and I'm happy to shower all my attention on Anna (and the pups, cats, and kennel).

Anyway, I was beyond stressed when my mom's car came due for its annual inspection and needed a few repairs.  Dad said one of his friends could take care of it, so I gave him the keys to mom's car and he dropped it off.  I have no idea how he got a ride from the shop, only that the car was there for a few days.  After a short while, Dad showed up at the kennel one day and said, "OK, let's go pick up your mom's car."  I wrapped up what I was working on, placed Anna in her car seat, and let Dad give me directions as to where I was going.

When we arrived, I got out of the car and followed Dad into the main office.  The mechanic wasn't in there, so I followed Dad into the garage.  Dad was closing the door behind us when he looked at me and asked, "Where's Anna?"  Less than 5 minutes had passed and I completely panicked.  I string of expletives flew out of my mouth as I ran back to my van only to find her resting peacefully.  The temperature in the car, however, was climbing quickly, and I couldn't believe my stupid mistake.

I didn't tell anyone about this for a long time simply because I was so embarrassed.  Dad, to his credit, also chose not to spread the story around.  I can't begin to tell you how much I felt like a horrible mother.  Here was this helpless, defenseless creature, who relied on me for everything, and I couldn't believe I could be that careless.  I wanted to cry.  I held Anna close to me, I let her nurse when she needed to, I wiped her brow, and I thanked God nothing worse had happened, but I also gained a lot of understanding that day.

Now, I doubt I would have forgotten her for hours on end, but who am I to say I wouldn't have left her in the car for 20 minutes while I dealt with the mechanic?  Even saying that makes me feel terrible, but it's the truth.  For a brief moment I was so worn out that I left my darling girl in the car.

Have I forgotten her since?  Not even close.  More often than not I find I'm checking her car seat even on days she's not with me just to make sure.  That one time was enough to scare the living bejeezus out of me, and I doubt I'll ever make that mistake again.  Still, though, I see how it could happen.  I hate to admit that I'm one of those people, but I am.  Simply put, I'm human.

Now, I might get some negative response to this, and that's OK.  I understand where you're coming from.  I just hope you can show some compassion and understand not everyone is as perfect as you.  I certainly am not.  I give everything I have in me, but sometimes I'm just out of things to give.  That's where I'm so thankful for my support system.  I'm thankful for Hans and my dad and my friends.  They're the ones who keep my errors from turning into horrible, horrible mistakes.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Well, more blogs posts last week didn't happen.  Oops!  I honestly was just really busy, but I have a little bit of free time now, so I thought I'd try it out again.

Can I just say I've had a fairly awesome week?  It started with Mother's Day.  OK, so honestly, Mother's Day had a questionable start and I wasn't certain how it would go.  Let's start with Saturday evening.

We'd had a lovely day.  We went to a birthday party, bought some new plants, and had dinner out.  Everyone was happy.  Then, as I was finishing repotting the new plants we bought, I heard Hans say, "Anna, oh no!"  He had left her alone for a few minutes...left her alone with a vase of flowers and her Mother's Day artwork from school.  She decided she wanted a flower, and in reaching for one she knocked the over the vase and spilled water all over her art.  To say it was ruined is an understatement.  Do you know what happens with water-soluble food when water hits it?  It was completely erased.  It honestly looked like someone had erased dry-erase marker from a white board.  I was so upset.  I was mad at Hans for leaving something so precious next to a vase of water, and I was mad at him for leaving those two things alone with Anna.  I also scolded Anna for trying to take something that didn't belong to her, but she was already crying after seeing the destruction done to her art, so I tried to take it easy.  Let's just say we all went to bed feeling kind of down.

To ease my anger / sadness over the ruined art (and yes, I was already laughing about it through the anger) I went out early Sunday morning for an 8 mile run.  A run which went quite well, by the way, so when I came home I was already in a much improved mood.  My mood got even better after I got home.  Hans had made breakfast quiche and Johnnie bread and a great cup of coffee.  After breakfast, Anna presented me with a new gift...homemade bookmarks made from pictures of Anna.  I definitely was happier.  Hans then told me he'd made lunch reservations for a restaurant I'd really been wanting to try, and he figured we could have a picnic dinner in the park and listen to a concert series.  I'd say it was a great day.

Monday and Tuesday were fairly uneventful, but Wednesday was fabulous.  I was worried about Wednesday because Anna had a follow up to her first ever dentist appointment.  Essentially, her first appointment stressed her out too much, and they couldn't finish the cleaning, so we had to go back.  I really wasn't looking forward to a screaming toddler, so I talked to her about what we were going to do (we talked about it a lot), and I promised her pizza if she was well-behaved.  Guys, she was so good!!  The dentist was fairly awesome too, so that was helpful, but not a single tear was shed.  Anna was definitely nervous, but she followed instructions and she did so well.  Her pizza was well-deserved, and we had a wonderful mother-daughter lunch together.  Then we went home for her nap time, and I was able to clean a little and fold laundry.  I love feeling accomplished!   After nap time, we spent an hour playing and doing puzzles, and I loved just having some free time with my daughter; no obligations, no where to be, just time together.

Hans and I had fun things planned for the evening, though, so Auntie Jess came over to babysit.  Normally if we have a babysitter it's for a date night, just the two of us, or for something specific like a show at the theatre or work.  This was date night of sorts, but it was really time for us to be social and act like child-free adults for a few hours.

We left the house and met up with Hans' coworkers for some tailgating and a soccer game.  There was food, there was beer, there were friends, and the weather was beautiful.  It was absolutely perfect.  The soccer game was a blast, although we ended up losing (boo!).  It was a fairly close match, and I had fun anyway.  Afterwards we walked down to the yogurt shop and enjoyed some tasty soft serve.  By the end of the night I was relaxed (a rarity) and genuinely happy.  It was such a good day!  I didn't get enough sleep that night, and I was exhausted yesterday, but it was definitely worth it.

Now it's Friday, and we have A LOT planned this weekend.  I'm already tired just thinking about it, but at least I'm headed into it in a good mood.

I hope you're all doing well!  Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I Swear I'm Not Dead

Hey Guys!

As the title of this post states, I'm not dead!  Not only that, but I'm seriously going to try to make a come back when it comes to writing this blog.  This is my own little corner of the interwebs, and I miss it.

Honestly, I've gotten to a point where I think of multiple things to write about every week, but when I want to post something I'm coming up blank.

After nearly a year off I'm out of practice, and I'm really not sure how well this will go.  All I know is that I'm trying again.

It seems like so much has changed over the past year, and yet so much is still the same.

Anna is almost 3.  She's sassy and smart.  She loves reading, and she loves her hanging on to Mama (hello my aching back).  We're dealing with the Terrible Threes now, and it's not always easy.  That said, minus the times when I'm too tired to function properly, it's sometimes fun to have the mental challenge.  I honestly think that dog training has really helped me when it comes to dealing with her.

The kennel is doing great.  We're in the middle of a small expansion, and I couldn't be more stoked.  I'm also terrified, but that's to be expected.

Life is an alarming rate.

I promise I am going to try to keep this thing going.  Maybe I'll write another post tomorrow.  And maybe another after that.  As a reminder to myself, I need to tell you about our train chasing excursion and our trip to the soccer game and our trip to the baseball game.  All of these things are made slightly more exciting with a toddler.

See y'all soon!