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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We Got the First Haircut!!! (Regardless of how many firsts we lost)

It was a week before court and the foster parents called my daughter to ask if they could take my grandson to get his first haircut. She immediately began to cry. Elliott was only 3 months old when he was ripped from his mother’s arms. She had one Valentine’s Day and one Easter with him but every other first, she had lost due to the CPS investigation. She missed his first time crawling, his first steps, his first tooth, his first Halloween, his first Christmas, and the list goes on and on. You know how many firsts happen in the first year of a child’s life! But this, this first could wait!

Apparently, the foster family had to gain permission from the worker and the mother before altering his appearance. My daughter would not give hers unless she was present. Instead, she offered to have one of her visits to be used for her to take him to get his first haircut. THIS WAS NOT ALLOWED!!!! She was not allowed to have his haircut!

So, she decided that it simply would not be done! Now, my little blonde haired baby boy has hair so light that he looked nearly bald regardless of the strands that laid over his ears so we figured that he would be just fine until he came home.

A few weeks later, he was back in his family’s arms and we kinda enjoyed seeing his little wisps blow as we walked with him along the beach. He still had a little while before it would be necessary to cut it so we waited and held on to the anticipation of his “first” in the same way that we would have naturally anticipated his first steps had the system not robbed us of that moment.

Today, was the day! Today, my grandson received his first haircut with his mommy standing by his side and his Gigi reassuring him while snapping every possible photo possible. This was OUR first and today will forever be embedded into the story of our lives!

When they take all they can, do not give them anymore!

“Gigi”

You won’t believe how they treat her!!! (The greatest compliment about my granddaughter with Down’s Syndrome)

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Recently, we were on a great adventure (aka running from hurricane Irma with four toddlers) that landed us in my small hometown staying at the late grandmother of my childhood best friend’s home. What a crazy turn of events that led to this moment but these crazy moments are what life is made of! Oh, it was magnificent! Four generations hitting the open road and spending every minute laughing instead of worrying about what we could have possibly lost in the hurricane. After all, we have experienced loss. We have experienced the possibility of loss. And yet, we are together and no longer worry about such things.

I have four incredible yet different grandchildren with their own way of showing love and their own way of driving me absolutely batty! But that was always the plan. When Ashley and Chelsea were pregnant with my girls and due a day apart, I told them repeatedly to never compare milestones. This was before I knew that I would be blessed with a grandchild with DS. This was before I knew which girl would arrive first. This was before I witnessed both of their entrances into this world. I remembered raising my own children and knew that each child was different. However, I also knew that each child needed the same consistency.

At one point in my life, I was a long term substitute for the “special needs” class in my hometown. I met a young lady named Sylvia (and I pray that this reaches her and her mom who have inspired me for so many years without knowing). Sylvia entered the classroom one day and asked me to tie her shoes. Her mother, who had walked her into the classroom, quickly scolded her and told her that she knew how to do this and that it was wrong to make people work harder because she wanted attention. Oh, I cannot tell you how often I have used that line with all of my grandangels. But, to move to my point, she taught me that it is possible for all children to learn everything both academic and social so long as they have guides to help them along their way.

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This is what I explained to my son the day they told him that they were testing Gloria for DS. This is what I knew in my heart to be true. This was the line that I would not cross with my first grandchild. She would be loved and guided but she would also be expected to be good and to learn everything that she could. She would be different because we all are, but she would not be treated “special” in her home.

With that said, we have all agreed, as a family, that this would be our approach to DS. We would understand that it may take her longer to do certain things but this would not be an excuse to NOT do them. And you would not believe how much this has helped her (and the other three). They all pace themselves together. They all push each other to the top. They fuss with each other. Share with each other. Tattle on each other. They do everything together. Gloria gets more time, but she does not get “special” treatment any more than they ALL do.

Now, to move forward, I have to give you a little insight on my girl. Gloria Ann is the sweetest child. Her favorite activity is going to one side of the room and running, with open arms, towards the adults and making us guess which one is going to get her hugs. She cracks up when the ones not chosen pretend to cry and then runs back to do it again. This can go on for hours! She helps to pick up toys in the evening and also helps to dump out the numerous toy boxes in the morning. She eats well and carries her plate to the counter when she is finished. She is beginning to verbalize better but still uses some sign language for clarity. Most often we see “more” and “please.” When her signs do not get her whatever she was asking for, then her bottom lip trembles and she drops to the floor in a tantrum which can also last for a long time. She waits for her attention. Unlike the other children who will tug and pull at whoever is on my lap, Gloria will wait for my lap to be empty and then climb on up. She does not fuss at bedtime. She goes straight to her “big girl bed” and covers upon command. In general, she is a typical and well behaved child.

She does, as they all do, have her moments and habits that we have to address. For instance, Gloria likes to chew on things. This was never really a problem before she started school other than the poor Barbie dolls who lost the shape of their hands. However, now that she is out in the world, I have been worried that she may put something in her mouth that could hurt her so I have been working consistently on this. We are starting to make progress which makes me one happy Gigi.

This consistency has led me to this post. You see, we were staying with friends during Hurricane Irma and, like most people, they were not sure what to expect from Gloria. Four toddlers in a house that they don’t know is no joke! We said “no” “stop” “don’t put that in your mouth” “don’t lick that” “give that back to him/her” and “sit” more often because as soon as one was finished the next one would start. I do not consider this to be bad, just magnified from what most people face due to the number of children. Anyway, my best friend Heather, whose parents were hosting our evacuation, spoke to my daughter, Ashley on the phone. She said, “I was so upset yesterday when my father announced that I would not believe how they treat Gloria.” My daughter bucked and said “WHAT?” Heather laughed and said “Exactly! That’s how I felt but then he said ‘they treat her exactly the same and so do the other kids and it is beautiful!'”

To me, that was the best compliment that I could have received. I realize that few people will understand this but there is a method behind our madness! hat

All children are different and all children are special but, I have found, that all children just want to be allowed to be children. Let them learn. Tell them they can. Expect them to and they will surprise you!

To all my babies, be the best “you” that you can be!

“Gigi”

The World Changes: Prepare your children for what will be

I have spent a great deal of time with older members of my hometown this week. Keep in mind, that this is a generation of retired miners, farmers, and generally Appalachian good ole’ boys who love their momma’s, Jesus, and trucks and I mean that in the most positive manner. These people who helped to shape who I am are honest, hardworking men and women who have never harmed another person. They are good people. They bring casseroles when someone dies and help to shovel each other’s driveways simply because they finished their own a bit faster. They sit with the sick and care for the young. I am super blessed to have been raised in a hometown that emphasized so many strong values in my upbringing. However, I am not here to be raised at this point. In fact, I am here having raised my own children and now helping to raise my grandchildren. I am now part of the older generation yet I see something that they cannot.

Having left home and traveled, I realize that not all communities are as frozen in time as is my hometown. They raise children to become mirror images of themselves which, regarding the basic concept of taking care of one another, is not the worst thing that one could say about Appalachian living. The issue is that these small communities are afraid of change. They sit around the table and try to find ways to prevent change but the fact is that we cannot. Change happens.

While discussing the differences between how I view the world and how I am “supposed” to view the world based on my childhood teachings, I quickly realized just how much I had learned after childhood. You see, people believe that they are to raise their children based strictly on the values that they had when they were children. Now, I am not speaking of religious values or ideologies but rather on the way that they assigned values to other people or objects in their environment. The problem with this philosophy is that our children, our grandchildren, will not grow up in the same society.

I always said that I was not raising children but rather that I was raising adults who would function in the world outside of their childhood. In order to do this, I had to anticipate what that world would look like. Slang words or stereotypes that may have been acceptable in my grandparents’ young adulthood were certainly not acceptable during mine and the same would be true for my children and grandchildren. We are not raising children who need to survive in OUR society but rather who must survive in THEIRS.

I realize that we are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I realize that this means that we are likely not psychics! We cannot know exactly what their society will look like but we can be certain that it will be different from our own and that this is okay. This is expected. This will be their time! So, instead of teaching children what your grandparents thought of same-sex marriages, teach your children tolerance and acceptance. Instead of telling your grandchildren about the racial division in your high school days, talk to them about the importance of unity. Instead of highlighting all of the negative characteristics that you were taught about a certain gender, ethnicity, or even socioeconomic status, teach about lifting up one another and the importance of all members of society succeeding.

We do not have to teach these things with a specific characteristic in mind. In fact, it is better than we do not. We do not have to remove history but rather focus on the future. We do not have to teach through words but rather we should speak through actions because, if we are lucky, we will still be around to watch our children and grandchildren flourish in their society and know that we gave them the foundation to do so.

We do not design the world for our children. We prepare our children for their world.

“Gigi”

 

Daily Prompt: Sting

A sting comes abruptly. There is rarely any warning outside of the gradually increasing buzzing sound that could either reflect the closening of the little insect or a shift in the wind that is carrying with it the sounds of the world around. Most often, one assumes that the noises are at a distance and continue on about their conversations or soaking in the beauty of the outdoors. Then, all at once, a pain so shocking and excruciating stops you in your track as the bee, who gave its own life to bring you this pain, takes a look at its victim and retreats leaving a part of it with you.

In much the same way, we heard the buzzing of the CPS workers around us but believed that the sense of uncertainty was simply carried over by the wind from the case they were building against my grandson’s father. Never did we imagine that the threat was so real or so close. We knew the bees were in our yard but thought that they were there to pollinate and make our yard, our lives, more complete by protecting the children.

Yet, it what seemed like a frozen moment in time, we felt the sting. We looked in the face of the bees that were willing to give up their own humanity to leave us with a hole in our heart where they had placed their stinger. We pulled the stinger and watched our lives slowly seep out of the wound that they had left. We felt our breathing slow as our souls reacted to the poison that had infested the very roots of our family tree.

We watched as the hive celebrated the accomplishments of its members. We watched as the queen gave honors over the fallen in the name of the mission. We watched in horror as others flew from the hive to have other families meet the same fate.

Love, for the record, is a powerful treatment for a sting. Family is an amazing insecticide. Prayer can make a hive fall from its tree. We can shake CPS. We can heal from the sting. We can bring back the humanity.

The hole is still there. The wound is a reminder. My grandchildren are home, but we will not forget that the threat to all families continues.

Until every sting has been healed and every stinger removed,

“Gigi”

 

via Daily Prompt: Sting

Peculiar: Things Never Noticed Before Our CPS Case

This storm and process of evacuating Florida to avoid Irma’s fury toting four toddlers have made it difficult to concentrate on blogging and, for that, I apologize. I remember thinking, during our case, that I could not believe that the rest of the world could keep turning while my family was in ruins. I could not imagine that people were cooking turkeys or worrying about graduations when MY family was under attack. Of course, I think back now and realize that I was fighting to be able to enjoy those things in complete oblivion once again. I wanted to focus on the larger picture and be able to concern myself with the problems of others rather than singularly thinking of my own family.

Then the case was won and my family was returned. But, I could not go back to oblivion. I could not only focus on jumping back into the life of the Jones’. My eyes have been opened and every thing that has happened to us is also happening to others. So, thus the apology. Yes, I can get distracted but I should not get so distracted that I lose contact with those who are struggling as we did. Those who are out there who want to be concerned with this large storm and the safety of others but can only concentrate on the fact that their own family is hurting. Please know, that your job right now is to do what you are doing.

Your worry should not turn to ours but rather ours should turn to yours.

You are in a battle that affects all of our lives. I felt like less of a person, disconnected from the world. We who have overcome this obstacle to happiness should not allow you to feel those emotions. Instead, we should always let you know that you are not alone and that you are doing everything that you can. The destruction that I may find at home following the storm is nothing compared to the destruction that your family is going through and I know that this realization has not been properly portrayed through my absence this weekend.

In a loss for words and a tired mind, I turned to a daily prompt provided by a fellow blogger and found the word “peculiar.”  I couldn’t find the connection between my need to connect with you and this word. Strange, different, directly associated with…Discussing CPS is not considered peculiar to those of us who have encountered them and those who have not encountered this injustice would not understand any metaphorical connections that I might make. So I nearly closed up my laptop and went to check in on the little ones before turning in for the night. But I still felt like I was missing something that might keep my mind awake through the night. Then it hit me, there are things that I once thought were normal but now I see them as peculiar to the child protective system that has destroyed so many lives and families. So, these are my thoughts on the oblivion that CPS stole from us all:

  1. The Oblivion: I once saw two people having a discussion about maybe a reunion whereas one of the friends brought their laptop to save the plans and the other one could not get a baby sitter for the day so they had to bring their children alone. The friend with the children may seem a bit distracted but the friend with the laptop was clearly inspired as she typed away and checked for any messages that were perhaps from other friends engaged in the planning.
  2. The Reality: These are not casual meetings and they are not friends. The individual with the laptop is a supervised visitation provider and the distracted individual is trying to both interact with her children and appear engaged with the provider. I want to call out to her and tell her to truly be in the moment . I want to ask the children if they are okay. I want to tell the provider to put herself in the parent’s shoes. I see the drain in their eyes. I see the fear and the sadness. I no longer think of a planned reunion but rather of a plan to prevent reunification.

 

  1. The Oblivion: I saw those billboards asking for foster parents and I envisioned families reaching out and putting aside their own needs to help children who had maybe became orphans or their parents were getting treatment. I saw good in a system where people would willingly open their homes just to make certain these children are not alone while their family mends. I saw the billboards and saw hope.
  2. The Reality: I can no longer feel hopeful driving down the interstate and looking up at these billboards. In fact, I cannot even look. I see people who will stop at nothing to replace the family bonds with those that will program the children into what the government wants them to be. I see the foster families as carefully selected computer programmers and the children as pawns to be bartered or sold to bring revenue for this mission. I see the parties who were involved in our heartache and those who are involved in yours. I see a loss of hope and fear that others feel the same.

 

  1. The Oblivion: All families are happy on the holidays. Or so I thought. I lived in a world where I understood financial struggles but I also knew that the holidays always worked themselves out. We made silly boxes of Christmas Eve necessities. We made peanut butter bonbons. We held the grandchildren up to the tree to hang the star. I believed, and loved the idea, that all families were doing the same thing at the same time.
  2. The Reality: Every happiness can be ripped away at no fault of our own and this means that many families are not doing these things. Many families are unable to put up a tree or bake cookies because of their sadness and loss. Many families are struggling to open up their social networks to reach out for help because they will immediately see the family photos with Santa that will surely flood their news feed. Not everyone is happy and not everyone is ready to deck the halls.

Do not get me wrong, there are so many other moments and situations that I would never have found to be peculiar during my previous state of oblivion but these are just a few that my tired mind can recollect. At times, I would like to go back to feeling hope for all of the society and believing the best in every situation. But, if I were to do so, then I could not reach out to others and try to help to guide them through the maze that is CPS. And quite frankly, I am afraid to be oblivious now as we can never let our guard down.

So, when you feel that your whole world has changed because of this, know that you are not alone. But also know that we can change the whole world because they have changed ours.

Please let others know that oblivion is a dangerous place to live,

“Gigi”

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Peculiar

“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”