Understanding ‘Hangry’: Toddler Talk

 

Okay, so it has been a while since I have shared one of my deep conversations with the little princess, Clarabelle, but this one was too good not to share today. After we took her brother, Elliott, to get his first haircut, we decided that we would head to Olive Garden for a bite to eat. We pulled into the parking lot and Clarabelle immediately begins to shout because this place has both stickers and salad! I mean, this is damn near as good as it gets!

Anyway, we get to our seat, the rounded booth in the corner, and Clarabelle slides in the middle to begin to strategically place her stickers while we order our drinks and begin to look at the menus. As soon as the menus open, as most toddlers, there was an immediate need for a potty run. Of course, the restrooms are on the opposite side of the restaurant so I prepare for a mad dash.

However, Clarabelle is not in a hurry at all. She looks and smiles at each table that we pass. She takes just a second to observe each guest with their plates. Finally, after she has collected enough data, she looks up at me and says, “everyone is eating. They are mad.”

I kinda chuckled and said, “people do like food, don’t they?”

Clarabelle, not shaken by my jovial response continued to elaborate. “I get mad when I am hungry. I get a little grumpy while we are waiting for our food.”

Now, I am sure that she has heard one of us say this at some point, but it kinda took me by surprise that she was able to recognize the difference between the expressions of those who were eating and those who were still waiting. I realized that we often forget our own expressions and may appear to be grumpy or mad when really we are just focused on being hungry.

Then, I considered the difference between being hungry and wanting food. After all, we were not standing in line waiting on rations. We were not hoping that we would get fed. It had not even been that long since the last snack time of the day. We were not hungry, but we were ready to eat.

How often do we get angry because our wants are not met as quickly as we would like? How often do we confuse our wants with needs? Obviously, we must eat, but are we so incapable of waiting, are our wants really that urgent, that we cannot manage a smile while we wait? Can we really not tell the difference?

My first job was as a server at a Pizza Inn in Pigeon Forge, TN when I was 14 years old. My parents had divorced and I spent the summers with my mother. I remember the rapid pace of the buffet-style restaurant and thinking that all of these vacationers did not seem to be very relaxed. Most of my job experience until I finished my degree consisted of restaurant work from serving to managing. People always seemed happier at the end of the meal than when they arrived and I always believed that I had something to do with their improved mood. However, when looking at it now, the fulfillment of a want is only a temporary improvement and, as long as we are unable to differentiate between wants and needs, we will never have anything more permanent.

We all get ‘hangry.’ We all want something immediately and, at times, we even have immediate needs. But, for the most part, we are just in such a hurry that we stay mad more often than happy. We complain more than we are satisfied. We want more than we need.

 

To want is not to need,

“Gigi”

 

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Yes, You Will Always be a Princess! Happy Birthday, Clarabelle!

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First and foremost, guys, isn’t she beautiful?

I mean, yes, she is physically the epitome of beauty (perhaps a little biased here) but, if you have read any of our “Toddler Talks”  then you know she is beautiful from somewhere within. She has the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child as well as the eyes of someone who could easily have been shattered by the adult world but chose to not let this smudge on her life define her. She is the inspiration that I hope everyone takes from the CPS stories that we tell because, yes, they stole her, tried to remove her concept of family, and tried to teach her that the world is an ugly place, but she refuses to hold on to those lessons. She turned three on 9/13/2017 but, today, since we had been evacuated for Hurricane Irma, we celebrated her birthday at home with family. Today, we celebrated the ability to do so!

You see, last year, we celebrated at the local bowling alley under the watchful eye of her foster parents. Granted, we were there. We brought the cake and the food. Her mom, Ashley, had carefully ironed on the patch of the number 2 onto her birthday outfit. We brought gifts. We brought love. We brought a birthday to remember (but we try to forget). Her face looked a bit sadder than usual. Her demeanor, by this point, was slowly slipping away. Her awareness of what was going on in her world was taking over her innocence.

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Of course, she is home now. She is no longer monitored for her actions. We are no longer monitored in our ability to love her. She can now smile! AND SHE DOES!!!!!happy.jpg

Clarice Isabelle (AKA her “Princess Name”) was born on 9/13/2014 with eyes wide open and ready to take on the world. In her three short years, she has endured more than most people will in a lifetime. And yet, she lights up the room with a love for life that we could all stand to learn from. Just as royalty, she may be a little spoiled (oops) but she sees the world for what it is….a place that needs more love and laughter. And, just like a true princess, she does her part to make this a reality. So, yes, Clarabelle, you will always be a princess. You will always have the wisdom that comes from hardships and the heart to make a difference. You will always be Clarabelle!

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

May you always be strong but never again have to prove it!

“Gigi”

“One Big Butt Storm!”: Toddler Talk

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I absolutely have to tell on myself today. I said a dirty word (eeeeek). Even worse, I said such a word while I thought the children were entertained and I was talking about our preparations for Hurricane Irma. While there have been many changes in her path, it remains clear that the impacts will be wide spread. In fact, they will likely impact all of Florida and much of the south east coast. This storm is nothing to joke about!

However, in light of all of the stress that we endure each day, all of the uncertainties and injustices in the world, it is important that we continue to take a moment to laugh.

So, back to my dirty word moment. The kids were all happily playing and, as we checked our “go bag” to make certain that travel provisions were on the top and easily accessible, we considered whether or not the evacuation would be necessary as the storm seemed to be moving east. We pulled up weather.com and all I could think (and apparently say out loud) was “that is one big ass storm!” Immediately, I regretted opening my mouth as heard, “AHHHHH, Gigi, that is a bad word!” I quickly agreed and apologized as she came running in to ask  “why did you say a bad word?”

Her little eyes looked up at my laptop and saw the bright circle on the screen. “Is that the storm?”

“Yes,” I said about to go into my reassurance of “we will keep you safe” when she stopped me mid sentence to say “Oh, my, that is one big butt storm! And it has lots of colors, too!”

Immediately, I was done with the conversation because I could not find anything to follow her explanation with!

With that said, Irma is one big butt storm. Keep an eye on those colors. Know what they mean and have a plan.

Stay safe friends,

“Gigi”

Bedtime Routine: Adjustments after Foster Care

Last night was a hard night for Ashley and the children. For the first time, in the nearly five months since they have been home from foster care, Ashley had to work an evening shift. This meant that it would be the first night that she was not able to tuck in her children since the year that she sat next to their empty beds every night making certain that everything was in place for their return and cried at the thought that the day may never come.

When children return from foster care, they also suffer from the uncertainty of “forever.” It was important to them, as well as us, that we normalize their routine as quickly as possible. Of course, the first few nights were spent blowing bubbles and simply holding them close, but then we gradually began to implement a bedtime routine.

Every night, Clarabelle has me to read her “own stories” which means she grabs a bunch of stuffed animals and we make up a story about each one. Then mommy reads her a story from which ever book she selects. Elliott, not being as vocal as she enjoys the stories but does not join in on the selection process. I sit with him while mommy reads and then we switch back as Clarabelle insists that I sing her “own song.” Elliott now sings along until he drifts off to sleep and Clarabelle stares off into the night until her eyes finally close. I often wonder what she is thinking about but I figure sometimes there are things we just need to work out in our own thoughts.

But last night, she told me what her little mind was processing. “I don’t want mommy to work,” she whispered as I was singing. “Mommies work when it is shining (her word for daytime) not when the sun is sleeping.”

I explained that Mommy only had to work this night and that everything would be normal again tomorrow but then I considered the word “normal.” Which normal would she fall asleep anticipating in the morning. For a year, her normal was seeing Mommy three times a week.  For more than half of his life, Elliott’s normal had been falling asleep in the arms of his foster parents. For a year, our normal had been fear and heartache.

I quickly adjusted my statement and said, “tomorrow, Mommy will tuck you in like she did last night.”

“Okay, Gigi. I love you.” And she drifted off to sleep.

There are so many “firsts” that we had to miss while they were gone and now there are so many “firsts” that we will face because of this. Like the first time that he asks about his father or the first time that he asks about how he was as a baby. We may not be able to prepare for all of this but we can make sure that their “normal,” is love and security with their family.

 

You can only move forward so do so with a purpose.

“Gigi”

Blogging Journey Day 18: To New Friends

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

WOW! I never would have guessed that only 18 days into this journey that we would have had a day yesterday with over 500 views reaching more than 1700 views to date. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting us know that we are not on this journey alone.

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

There are so many different avenues that we discuss because there are so many different aspects of our lives that we feel others may also be encountering. A lot of our views have been related to our CPS case and I pray that we are providing a sense of hope for those who are going through this and a greater awareness to those who continue to believe the assumptions about CPS. Ashley has opened up about her relationship with Mikey and has found support from other men and women who have a significant other serving in the armed forces. There is a great pride for their loved ones but also a loneliness that can be lessened through these friendships. Ashley has also been able to connect with other mothers to discuss tips and swap stories. I have met countless of other families of children with Down’s Syndrome and we have been able to discuss the beauty of celebrating every milestone. You all have celebrated my Gloria’s birthday with us, prayed for my dear friend Heather as she nearly lost her life and underwent amputation. You have tagged along to the beach and heard the wisdom of my granddaughter, Clarabelle. There are so many journeys to come and more details to provide. We look forward to continuing to meet others and grow as a community who will overcome all obstacles together!

Together, we are better!

“Gigi”

Understanding Gender: Toddler Talk

We do not separate “boy toys” or “girl toys.” We do dress the children according to gender but we don’t really emphasize it. We do put pretty little bows on the girls when we go out but do not freak out at home if the boys come through with one of the girl’s headbands. I guess we just do not make a big deal out of it. But, for whatever reason, in the mind of a child, differences are based on the person and NOT their gender.

Earlier today, my mother and I had the four grandchildren on the back porch playing on the water blob (this thing is great by the way) when Clarabelle informed us that she needs 11 baby sisters and 10 baby brothers. We asked her why and she really did not have an answer but just continued counting her “future” siblings. She then called Braxton her baby sister. When we asked why her male cousin was now her baby sister, she says “he just is.” When we told her sisters are girls, she, of course, asked: “why.” We explained that they just are and she went on about her business. Later, when the boys were raiding her lunch plate while saving theirs for later, I jokingly stated: “boys sure eat a lot, don’t they?”

This seemed to offend her as she exclaimed,

“So do girls.”

Well, I said, boys are more rotten and again, she did not like this.

“Girls are rotten too”

I was on a roll! Boys are icky.

“Girls are icky too” she chuckled.

Well, boys do things differently, don’t they?

“No, boys and girls are the same.”

Now, she is almost three and she understands that boys can get away with not wearing a shirt but girls cannot. We are on full blown Potty Training Times Three so she knows there are obvious differences but the point she was making was that boys and girls do not do things differently, act differently, or like different things. She knows that she does not like raisins and the other three do so people can like different things but this is not because they are a boy or a girl it is just because of the individual.

We do not separate “boy toys” or “girl toys.” We do dress the children according to gender but we don’t really emphasize it. We do put pretty little bows on the girls when we go out but do not freak out at home if the boys come through with one of the girl’s headbands. I guess we just do not make a big deal out of it. But, for whatever reason, in the mind of a child, differences are based on the person and NOT their gender.

At some point in life, we are taught to categorize everyone and assume their likes, behaviors, and roles.  We do this based on gender, skin color, ethnicity, religion, and a number of “othering” characteristics when really, WE ARE ALL THE SAME with individual likes and choices that do not justify such categories for the whole.

Appreciate each other as individuals!

“Gigi”

Why am I pretty?: Toddler Talk

Pretty, for so many of us, is a natural reaction to someone’s appearance. We hear that beauty is skin deep with confirms this reaction. Beauty, or being pretty, is taught to be something that we see with our eyes. 

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This morning, sipping on coffee on the front porch, Clarabelle joined me with breakfast pudding (yogurt) still shimmering in her curls. Now, as I have said before, she has officially entered into the “why” stage of childhood where everything that we say,  we must be prepared with a follow-up explanation. This morning, however, as I looked at her dimples and blonde girls in the morning sunlight I immediately said, without planning for a follow-up, “you are so pretty” to which she replied….(insert drumroll), “but why am I pretty?” and I knew that I was at a significant crossroads with this young, impressionable little girl.

Pretty, for so many of us, is a natural reaction to someone’s appearance. We hear that beauty is skin deep with confirms this reaction. Beauty, or being pretty, is taught to be something that we see with our eyes.

Beauty is NOT skin deep! It comes from within!

Now, every time we speak to a child we are teaching them. We have the power to shape their perception of the world and of themselves. We have the power to teach them why they are pretty!

Back to the immediate conversation. “but why am I pretty,” I thought for a moment and responded, “you are pretty because you are smart. You are pretty because you are sweet. You are pretty because you say please and thank you. You are pretty because you are nice to other people.” “REALLY?” she asked with a sparkle of amazement. “Yes, those are the things that make you pretty!”

I took this conversation and thought about how it applies to our daily lives. We become so attached to our physical traits, our appearance, our body that we forget what truly matters about ourselves. My dearest friend, Heather from Why do we Wait? and My Dear Friend.. , is at this very moment being prepared for an amputation of her lower leg. When we faced this possibility a couple of years ago, she could not imagine that she would be the same person following such a surgery. She believed, at that time, that she was only the sum of her parts. I am so proud to state that she is braving this surgery with the open eyes of a nearly three-year-old as she now knows that her beauty, her kindness, and her intelligence is the whole of who she is.

I realize that, as my granddaughters grow, they will be faced with the world’s version of being pretty. It is my prayer for them that they always remember that they are beautiful because of who they are and that they are not who they are because of their physical appearance.

Beauty can only be seen with our eyes closed,

“Gigi”