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Reflections in the Mirror

In so much, I look forward to opening up my smudges and telling my story of continued growth, challenges that we encounter, and methods that we use to cope. I look forward to answering questions and hearing suggestions. Most of all, I look forward to sharing our lives with you. 

Until our reflection matches our heart, 

“Gigi”

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First blog post

I remember as a child, the women in my family were relentless about cleaning mirrors. Fingerprints, especially sticky ones, were capable of setting the entire household into a frenzy. Frantically, upon realizing that one of us children had made such a mistake, we would all use the tails of our shirts or whatever could be found to clean up our mistake. Of course, the more we tried to fix the problem, the worse it became. Sure enough, once we had completely distorted our very reflections, the glass cleaner and crumpled newspaper would seem to fly around the corner and the tails of the words of discipline.

As I grew older and had children of my own, I remember wondering how the previous generation had so much time to devote to mirror cleaning. I was lucky if I was able to clean the sticky fingers let alone the scores of things those fingers had touched in their plight of destruction. In fact, with my hair pulled up in a ponytail, pajamas still on at dinner, bags under my eyes that could pass for a purse, and makeup that had not been touched for days, looking in the mirror was not a favorite pass time. I could almost make the argument that the reflection was altered by the smudges and I actually did not look like the bride of Frankenstein.

As the children got older, I was able to once again have clean mirrors. Notably, this was NOT because I started cleaning them or that my children were any less messy. Instead, I solved the issue by adding it to their chore lists!!!! Done! I could once again see my reflection but I was shocked to see what was looking back at me. I had aged a bit. I will even admit that I saw a few silver strands working their way into my hair. I never saw this through the smudged up mirror. I was oblivious to this taking place. Oblivion, I must say, in this context truly is bliss.

Years continued to pass and my children brought home children. It is amazing how little you recognize smudges when the handprints come from your grandchildren. In fact, my children’s grandfather has not painted a small spot behind his television stand simply because of a now 16-year-old hand print! Once again I was in a state of oblivion to my own age as I pretended to monster hunt and danced around the living room to silly songs. True, I could not see in my reflection what others saw of me, but I could see a version of me that I loved.

Early in 2016, my family experienced a chain of events that I could never have fathomed. In fact, most people who know us still cannot wrap their heads around the details that we have provided. My grandson was the victim of child abuse at the hands of his father, my daughters ex-fiance. This opened up a door for child protective services to enter into our lives. The following year, my family was a victim of this system. While two of my grandchildren were in foster care due to my daughter’s “failure to protect and supervise” and my guilt of “allowing my daughter’s family to have a separated portion of my home,” accusations ranging from drug abuse to blatantly allowing this abuse fueled the system’s goal of permanently separating my family. As part of this investigation, the man that I had intended to marry before the rug was pulled from our home, was asked to leave our home. Within a month, the man who was known as Pop Pops, passed away. To add to the difficult decisions and separation, prior to this event the family had decided to move to Florida, my oldest son, due to his daughter’s Down’s Syndrome, had to make the choice of moving ahead of the family so that there would be minimal disruptions to her therapy. Our world would never be the same and all of the smudges that had filled my heart with happiness were removed giving way to a reflection of a woman that I no longer knew.

I began to consider the concept of a reflection and all that goes into making us who we are. The very “mistakes” that we, as children, worked to “fix” should not be removed from our identity simply to make a more pleasant visualization of ourselves. We are our mistakes. We are our successes. We are our smudges. When we remove them, we do not see ourselves more clearly but rather we see an image of a shell that is supposed to be who we are. I did not want to see a shell. I wanted my smudges, both figuratively and literally. After the hardest fight of my life, my grandchildren were returned and we are presently awaiting the trial for the child-abuser. We have all been reunited in Florida where my four grandchildren (2 and under) (Yes you read that right!), are now able to bond with one another and their extended family.  When I say we all, I mean everyone (including my mother) with the exception of my youngest son who is working on his music and living the dream!

Now that I have my smudges back, I realized that this goes much deeper. There are things and moments in our lives that we cannot imagine we will ever make it through. For me, I generally go online and try to find stories of others who have successfully made it to the other side of such a moment. Often times, however, I could not find such a story. I believe this is because once we make it out, we do not want to look back. I want to see true reflection including those moments or smudges that seem to have changed my appearance and shaped my very existence and, in doing so, I want to reach out to you and let you know that there is a silver lining. There are ways to move forward. I want to show you what that looks like because, sometimes, what we need is to look in someone else’s mirror to see that we are all the same.

In so much, I look forward to opening up my smudges and telling my story of continued growth, challenges that we encounter, and methods that we use to cope. I look forward to answering questions and hearing suggestions. Most of all, I look forward to sharing our lives with you.

Until our reflection matches our heart,

“Gigi”

mirror

Our Cindy Lou Who

Okay, we are crafty and goofy and very holiday fanatical but….pulling off the Cindy Lou Who look is not easy! So…here is what we did…

We all want to say that all of our children and grandchildren drink 100% fruit juice, milk, and water all day long. But let’s face it….those little Hugs drinks are a better win than bug juice or Koolaid jammers when it comes to the grocery budget and the happy children! I mean, let’s face it…we are trying to wean FOUR children off of those sippy cups that ALWAYS end up lost and ALWAYS leak despite the claims. We have even bought those 360-degree cups that are “approved by dentists everywhere” in order to move them to big kid status but there is something satisfying about those little straws and conquering that apocalypse ready tin foil!

So, anyway…we LOVE hugs and, when the day came to go see “Santa” ( a feat that Clarabelle said that she only had to ‘just get through’) our love became the perfect support for the perfect look.

So, Cindy Lou Who…the most loved character of the Christmas spirit….has the most infamous hairstyle that we just HAD to recreate. Mommy (aka ..A) had just given the children a drink and was about to dispose of the containers when…

EPIPHANY!

 

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Yep..that is a Hugs jug in her hair!!!.

Clarabelle was delighted with her look and also understood that a “look” is just what you make it! Her hair was designed to represent the Christmas spirit but her smile was enough!

Bottom line…if you want to create the “look” then find something shorter than the length of the hair and use rubber bands to hold it in place. Find the biggest bow you can find and top it off. Then, tell YOUR Cindy Lou Who how beautiful she looks!

 

Just go with it!

Gigi

Don’t Blink

Tonight, Clarabelle was pretending to be a baby. In fact, she told us that she was Elliott’s baby sister and that she forgot that babies don’t talk. She babbled for a few minutes and we goo goo’d and gaa gaa’d for a few minutes. She then said “Oh, wait, I am three now…..I was a baby for like one….five…minutes!”

She was right. It seems like only five minutes that she was a baby. In fact, it was only five minutes that she was allowed to be a child. One day, she was crying because the moon had disappeared and the next day she knew that a judge was able to tell grownups what to do and that sometimes that meant she had to go to sleep without her mommy getting to tuck her in.

Do not blink! Do not sit on what you think is a normal life! Do not look at your life and believe that it is safe! She was a baby! She was a baby for only five minutes….in her mind, after that….life happened!

You are still MY baby!

Gigi

 

Happy Birthday, Elliott!

Elliott is TWO!!!

cake

I swear it seems like just a short moment ago that Ashley came through the house asking for a pimento cheese sandwich. “Ashley,” I asked blatantly, “are you pregnant?”

“No way!” she responded and continued to add that she always eats pimento cheese sandwiches.

My response was simple. “Ashley, no you do not. A) You always said it tasted weird on bread and only ate a few crackers with pimento cheese. B) I am your mother and know these things. C) You are pregnant!”

Days later, with the father pacing in front of my door, my daughter told me that I was going to be a grandmother again!

A few scares in the beginning of the pregnancy gave way to a relatively easy and seemingly quick pregnancy. Before I knew it, I was holding this beautiful baby in my arms for the first time!

EJ birth

I could not imagine a more perfect way to start out the new year in 2016!

Then, things got hard. Then, they got harder. It seemed that this perfect little man was going to have a rough way to go starting soon after his birth. But he just kept smiling through it!

Now, all healed up and home with his mommy by his side, he smiles:

mommy

He smiled and he overcame and he developed into the strongest person that I know! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING stops him. I don’t believe that anything ever will! In two short years, he has faced things that would shatter most but yet, here he is, a happy, healthy, loving two-year-old who is ready to take on the world (as long as the world has candy, trains, and his big sister!)

big sister

Whatever the world has in store for him, I have no doubt that he will smile his way through it and come out stronger, kinder, and unstoppable!

Happy Birthday, Elliott James!

“Gigi”

Understanding Parenting: Toddler Talk

We LOVE Rudolph! I mean, it is an absolute classic and a necessity to kick off Christmas! Clarabelle especially loves the movie because of the name of Rudolph’s girlfriend (Clarice) as this is also her “princess” name. However, she has a serious issue with the way that the other reindeer behave.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” she says as she provides her wisdom, “why are the kids so mean and why don’t the mommies and daddies tell them to stop?”

“Well,” I struggled, “they have never seen a red nose before so they don’t understand.”

“But even the grown-ups are being mean! I am not mean to different people. You and mommy aren’t mean either.”

“You are right. That’s because we know that being different is a good thing.”

“Yep, you told me that!” she stated proudly, “Different is special!”

 

Who knew that Rudolph was so profound? There is a growing trend for more detailed children’s shows to teach inclusion and diversity. Adults go through specialized cultural competence training to learn how to not be mean. Shouldn’t we have all learned this from the Christmas classic? Simply put, “different is special.”

Of course, it is easy to see that the young reindeer learn this lesson and that, as children, we all felt sorry for poor little Rudolph. However, I never really caught one point that Clarabelle brought up….the parents!

Why are parents not teaching their children to be nice? Why are they not teaching them that different is a good thing? Why are they depending on the television to teach them and then being horrified at what is being taught?  Do they not realize that the children are listening when they are speaking out against this group or that individual and then mimicking these behaviors?

Why are we not all shocked that the adult reindeers not only allowed but also participated in this behavior?

Perhaps, it is because we, as a society, are still doing this! We don’t need specialized training to be decent human beings! We just need to be nice!

 

Niceness is a classic, too!

“Gigi”

 

All I want for Christmas, I won back from CPS

Do not give up! If you are facing this holiday season without your children, know that our hearts are with you and that the view on the other side is not only beautiful but also reachable!

We thought we were in a never-ending nightmare. We felt the depth of the gorge and saw the height of the mountains that we were determined to climb. We questioned the view from the top and wondered about what would come on the other side if we were to ever make it out of the valley.

I know many of you feel this now. The holidays are overwhelming for your children or grandchildren, for any number of reasons either real or false reports, are dreaming of sugar plums in a bed that is not their own. For those of you who have not experienced this, imagine the emptiness of a stocking on Christmas morning because there is no child to shriek with excitement. Imagine seeing other parents urge their children to sit on Santa’s lap and wondering if your own is scared or excited. The magnitude of this cannot easily be portrayed but I am here to tell you that the view from atop that mountain, what lies beyond the valley, is beautiful!

I mean, look at this smile!

smiles
We just saw Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol!

They tried to tell me, in the valley, that this smile would not be over that ridge! But on a Friday night at a local Christmas tree lighting, Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol told them that they were wrong. She smiles and I smile!

But wait, they also said that my daughter would never smile again and that she would no longer get “mommy moments” but they were wrong.

mommy smiles
Banana Pudding: Just Because!

Of course, they did not count on me snapping a quick photo while the children made banana pudding with their mommy! They did not know that, on the other side of that seemingly insurmountable mountain, my daughter would smile again!

In fact, they did not count on library craft mornings or ice cream afternoons!

But the smiles are real and so is the view! Do not give up! If you are facing this holiday season without your children, know that our hearts are with you and that the view on the other side is not only beautiful but also reachable!

Many blessings and prayers to all of you!

“Gigi”

Take a Bite but DO NOT Bite: Ways we Confuse Toddlers

Have you ever experienced the shocking pain of someone so cute and dear to your heart closing their teeth firmly on your arm? OUCH!!! With four toddlers running around the house, obviously, we have all felt the cringing pain more than once. I remember discussing this with other parents when my own children were little and the answer was always something along the lines of “they are just figuring it out” or “this is just something children do!”

Okay, maybe if it is only adults who are falling prey to this “rite of passage” so to speak, then maybe I could accept those answers. However, again, with four toddlers we have ALL (children included) experienced this pain at one point or another as the four take turns transforming from sweet little children to the spawn of Dracula!

Usually, Clarabelle alerts us as to the culprit shouting “Elliott bit Gloria,” or “Braxton bit Elliott!” I mean, they are quick with it. One minute they are all sitting around with blocks and we think it is safe to refill cups and the next minute there is a shriek and an announcement of the bite!

As most parents and grandparents have done, I searched the internet for methods to stop this and these methods all lead to some form of punishment for the action and align the “fault” with either the child or simply development. To understand why I disagreed with these methods, you have to understand two things about our situation.

  1. These are my grandchildren so I simply cannot see “fault” in them (smiley Gigi face icon not available!)
  2. Seconly, one of my grandchildren was the victim of child abuse as an infant and one has Down syndrome. Punishment takes special circumstances because of these situations and we try to be fair regarding all four children.

With that said, punishment occurs in the form of timeout or standing against the wall but it is hard to assign punishment based on the words of a three-year-old (no matter how verbal and advanced Clarabelle is.) So, if we do not see it happen, it is really hard to punish over biting.

Besides, I got to thinking, there has to be a significant reason why most children at this age think biting is okay. I mean, I tell them one time on most things such as “the trash is dirty do not touch,” or “do not hit” and they generally comprehend what I am saying and refrain from these behaviors. But biting, for some reason, is different. It is like they forget following each incident that biting is wrong and that being bitten hurts.

During my whole thought process, I found myself snacking on some cookies. (Hey, it is the holidays so no judging)!!! As the children passed, I asked them if they wanted a bite….

Let me say that again. As the children passed, I asked them if they wanted a bite!!!

Wait, a minute ago, a bite was bad but now bite means cookie?

We work with children on context clues, vocabulary, synonyms, phonics, etc. but not before the age of 2. Maybe, just maybe, if we could use more specific words for specific actions, then they would understand the context clearer.

Granted, I realize that this offers little to no advice for all of us who are struggling with the toddler teeth situation, but I hope it offers a different way of thinking about a child’s behaviors. Sometimes, we expect that they should just know things. If that was the case, what are we here for?

 

If we do not teach then they will never know,

“Gigi”

Happy Birthday, Nanny! (AKA Mom)

So, Halloween begins my mother’s birthday week and we started it off with a bang! Today, November 3, is the middle of her week which will end with a beach trip on Tuesday! So, officially, today, please join me in saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY to this beautiful woman!!!

However, the beginning of the birthday week is not what I want to talk about today. Instead, I want to talk about how many beginnings have been possible because of my mother. In 61 years, she has touched so many lives. She has taught, mentored, helped, mothered, and supported others without a concern for herself. She has begun and completed three college degrees. She has raised two children, helped to raise three grandchildren, and is currently helping to raise four great-grandchildren.  Her beginnings have always uplifted others and led to something remarkable.

And the greatest thing about this is that she isn’t anywhere near finished yet!

So, here’s to many more beginnings and continued health and happiness to the woman who truly was my beginning!

Mom, you are the center around which our family’s love evolves!

Happy Birthday!

“Gigi”