...my child sold your honor student the answers to the test...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pool Reflections


The boys on their final pool day of the season
This past Thursday most of the fam spent enjoying our last day at the G-Rents pool. It's closing for the season despite the fact that it will stay hot enough for pool dipping for at least anther month. We can't complain though. Most pools around here close on Labor Day weekend while ours stayed open a bit longer.

Since the day it opened for the season, we have spent as much time as possible at the pool. In the past four months, my kids have grown a crazy amount, in many different ways.

For example, Xavier finished elementary school. He started at a middle school in July where he knew no one. At this time, he has just finished his first quarter, made honor roll, and most importantly, has created a lot of new friendships. His phone is off the hook, with friends texting him after school. His social life has grown as has his self confidence.

In the past few months Ashe has finished Kindergarten, started first grade, and finished his quarter with excellent grades. He also gained the confidence in the pool to let those swimming lessons kick in, and now he's swimming like a fish! Ashe has no fear of the deep end, of swimming under water, or even doing somersaults. In the beginning of pool season, he was hesitant to go further than three feet. Now I can't get him out of the water =)

And look at Soren in the photo above. In the beginning of the season where he is standing, he had to stand on his toes in order to keep his head above water. Now he stands shoulders above. Soren learned the most in the water this year. At first he refused to leave the stair area. Over time, we were able to get him to carefully tip toe out to G-pa in the middle of the shallow end. Later, we worked on him feeling confident lying on his back while we held him. And on the last day of the season, he kicked his way out to the deep end on his floating Yoshi (with us adults nearby). But even more impressive was when he decided that he wanted to be like Ashe and put his face all the way under water. And he did, over and over again. He was SO proud of himself, as were we!

I'm loathe to relinquish pool season. The boys and I, along with the G-Rents, really have a fantastic time playing together, learning new things, and celebrating the joys of life in the water. It's a place where fun rules, imaginations run wild, and new tricks are learned and shared. We'll find other ways, but the pool will most certainly be missed.

The boys have accomplished so much in such a short time, and I know that next year, when the pool opens again, they will not be the same boys they are here. They will have grown more, learned more, have had more stories to tell. We'll also have more friends and family to join us, as my close friends and their son are moving down. Next year's pool season will be amazing.

But until then, we'll find other ways to have family fun, to learn and grow, and enjoy life together. And so I say to the pool:
"Thanks for a most memorable summer. I won't say goodbye. Instead, I'll see you soon."

Thursday, September 12, 2013


This last Sunday, J and I celebrated the 14th anniversary of our first wedding. I realize that the previous sentence is a touch confusing. You see, J and I actually had two weddings. The first one was with a JP and our mothers witnessing. We had quick vows, exchanged rings, filled out the paperwork, then headed out for a dinner before driving off to a theme park for our "honeymoon". I was twenty, and couldn't even legally drink the celebratory glass of champagne at my own wedding. I did, but don't tell anyone ;)

The second one was the one we spent over two years saving up. This was the traditional wedding with flower girls, ushers, and a big frou frou wedding dress. It was a year later, and most of our extended family think that this was the real wedding. But it wasn't. To us, it was more like a big party celebrating our love again with everyone.

Why we decided to tie the knot twice doesn't really matter. Suffice to say it was not for any major reason. I wasn't knocked up, and it was purely by choice.

So this weekend marked 14 years of our very first wedding. And of course J was sick, along with Ashe. We stayed home and didn't do much aside from a special dinner the two of us had after the boys went to bed. It was almost a typical day. However, I had a conversation with Ashe that really made me focus on something very special.

While Ashe was feverish, he and I headed upstairs to cuddle while we waited for the medication to kick in. We talked about his favorite  games, and how he wants to build his own games for kids when he grows up. And somehow we got to talking about family. He casually mentioned how Grammy was my mom so that meant Grampa was my dad....only he isn't. So I had to explain the intricacies of remarriage and family bonds can sometimes be tighter with love than blood. And then he asked what happened to my father.

"Well", I paused, not wanting to get into the gritty details, "sometimes husbands and wives decide to divorce."
"What does divorce mean?"
And it's at that point in time when I realize how lucky my kids are, if they don't even know what that word means at almost seven tears of age.

Growing up, divorce was a big part of my life. My parents separated when I was three, and divorced when I was four. It was NOT a good divorce either. It was messy, and scary, and long lasting. As I aged, most of my friends parents had also divorced. It was rare to find a peer whose parents were still together and happy.

So to see my child completely ignorant in the word and meaning.... it really hit home to me.

Some people may say that J and I married too young. And I will acknowledge that many of the marriages of very young adults do tend to end up in divorce. Many people are not mature enough at that age to make such a life changing decision.

And yet I would say that looking back, even at age twenty, I knew exactly what I wanted in my life partner, and J fit the bill and then some. Both of us came from homes that were rough. Both of us felt that FAMILY was of the utmost importance. And both of us desperately wanted to give our future children a home filled with love and laughter, done as a team.

That's exactly what we did. The road hasn't always been easy. It was filled with potholes, detours, and sometimes dead ends where we had to backtrack. But we worked together as a team to build our dreams, and we continue to do so.

When my child asks me what Divorce means on our anniversary, I know that despite our young age when we made our vows, we did know what we were doing that day so long ago. And here in the present, we are still as much in love if not more so, stronger as a partnership, and building a beautiful foundation to our children's lives.

That night, as J and I sat down to a quiet dinner alone, I thanked him for choosing me. And he looked into my eyes and said "no, thank you!" And we smiled and basked in the understanding that we do complete one another, and make the best team.

Happy anniversary Babes. I can't wait to see what the next 14 years bring.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tracking Out

The past two weeks I have watched my newsfeed on FB spammed with photos of kids going back to school. Some parents are very excited, doing the happy dance that the long summer is in it's death throes, and their little children are off to a regularly scheduled calendar. Other parental units are sad, wishing that the time did not go by so quickly, and how they are counting down the days to the first big vacation time, months away.

And here I am, watching these photos scroll by as I contemplate that my kids are about to track out this week, and I have got to get off my ass and figure out how to keep them from killing each other for the next three weeks.

Year round school rocks. I can't advocate it enough. Nine weeks of school, then three weeks off, all year round, non stop. It's perfect. The kids are just about brain fried by the time the ninth week rolls around and everyone is ready for a break of homework. The third week of track out, the kids are itching to get back into a schedule and see their friends on a regular basis again.

It's this third week that makes me seek comfort in mojitos though. By that third week of carefree days, the kids are strangling one another an hour after waking up, deciding Gladiator style who wins the right to whatever electronic they are fighting to the death for.

I try my best to keep them all occupied during vacation. We live in an area that is filled to the brim with family friendly places and activities. The problem lies in the expense. While I have lots of great ideas of trips to the zoo, beach, aquarium, etc, many things can get pricey. And with three kids to haul around, it gets pricey FAST.

So I try to pick one or two costly things per track out that we can do, and the rest of the time I look for free things. We'll hit a lot of parks, do some hiking, lounge in the G-Rents pool. We'll have movie nights at home, head to the library to pick out bedtime books, and wander around a few of the free museums.

And this track out we're hitting the beach (rare treat) for two days and a night, our most expensive outing for five. It's the parental units way of showing pour gratitude for doing a kick ass job in school.

But even with all of these great ideas, there is still plenty of downtime at home. And that's where the fighting comes in. Each child, through genetic coding, is a lover of all things techy. Xavier likes the computer. Ashe loves the WII U. Soren adores the Xbox. Two of these are on one TV and the third is off in a corner, with a chair that has melded it's contours to the shape of my oldest rump.

After watching the kids this weekend and seeing how they glue themselves to an electronic device until we pry their wee hands off controllers (sometimes by force) I am going to reinstitute the track out rule of having a set time per day the kids can play. I am sure I will allow it to lapse on those days when I just need quiet for an hour or two. I'm not perfect, and can admit guilt in sometimes taking the easy way out when it's either that or run out the door screaming like a loony bin, pulling my hair out. But I'll do my best.

And maybe, instead of having them initiate the Gladiator death fights each morning, I can try to make taking turns fun. Maybe I can do some contests. Or see who can help me clean up the most. Or who can whine the least per day. I'll get creative.

Parents who sent their children to school recently, I acknowledge your happiness or sadness as you send your child off to school. I get it. And while I think of you in whatever feeling you are embracing, think of me as well, while I feel both sides simultaneously as MY kids start vacation.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Placing Blame on Female Teens: My Not So Random Opinion



Today I had a moment (gasp) to check my social media without a constant 30 second interruption from the boys, when I came across a blog* that really caught my attention. It did so because on the surface of things, the message the author offers is pretty good: Girls, respect yourself for who you are and don't feel that you have to act sexy to get a boys attention.


Great right? I thought so too, until I read the whole article, and then I felt sad. After sorrow I felt anger, and finally indignation. Why? Because the author states that any female friend of her three boys who poses "sexy" selfies is automatically banned from their FB account, with no second chance. Ironically, her blog consisted of multiple photos of her boys in swimsuits, posing near the water.

(* I will not post the url of said blog on this site. That is unfair to the blogger. We all have our personal opinions and this is my plae to opine. But I don't need to do so by offering her blog url up as a public media sacrifice.)

Umm, what? I mean look, I get that parental units don't want their teens posing in sexy ways, nor for it to get on social media sites where everyone and their dog can see. I wouldn't either. But at the same time, as a parent, I also understand that this time in their lives is a crazy rollercoaster ride where they are trying to learn what being an adult means, and guess what? They make mistakes. Just like a human should. And if it's not safe to learn as a teenager, then when is it?!


Here are a few excerpts from the blog that really bothered me, and my comments:


"And now – big bummer – we have to block your posts. Because, the reason we have these (sometimes awkward) family conversations around the table is that we care about our sons, just as we know your parents care about you."


Here’s the thing. People make mistakes, and kids more so than any other category. Teens? They are a mixed bag of crazy chemical hormones thrust into a world hyped on sexuality from many different angles. Look sexy. Don’t look sexy. A simple smile at the opposite sex can be construed as flirting when in fact, it’s simple a smile!

We adults do our young ones a disservice by creating ultimatums in a time of their life when they are more confused than ever. Instead of saying that you will forever block them from your site, reach out and teach them WHY this type of behavior might not be the best decision.


Teenagers are in the process of trying to figure out who THEY are, and this becomes a process of “trying on” different “costumes” of life, so to speak. It’s the only time in life we have the ability to try something new, sometimes stupid, without massive life consequences. This comes at the price of doing stupid things sometimes, like posing sexy selfies in our PJs. But really, if that’s the worst a kid is going to do, that’s awesome! Better a stupid photo to look at and cringe years later, than to OD on drugs, or raise a baby at 14.


 "You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?

Neither do we….

Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy."



My thought on this is then to stop blaming the girls for a boys behavior. I have three boys. Yes, two of them are young and not ready to understand the implications of sexuality. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t raise them NOW to understand respect. Respect yourself. Respect your body. Respect others. Girls are NOT just a play toy to drool over. Behind every stupid PJ selfie on FB is a thoughtful, kind person who is looking for who she is as much as you are. How hard is that?

Responsibility starts with yourself. No one else is to blame for your thoughts and actions but you. To imply that it is a girls fault for boys thinking of them in a sexual manner is not only doing your boys a disservice, but it’s entirely WRONG! It sets up the never ending cycle that blame is laid upon the female for being sexual, when the reality is, that everyone should be responsible for their own actions.

Aside from that, there is nothing wrong with sexuality! Nothing!!!! To feel sensual is a wonderful thing. Yes, there is a time and place for that, and being a kid is not one of them. But it has only been in the last century or two where we were not marrying and having children at the ripe old age of 14. Biologically speaking, we evolved to embrace sexuality at the age teens do. Socially speaking we have advanced enough to allow our offspring to stay young longer. That's a great thing!!!!! But is it really fair to punish our children for something that is really, socially new? Do we punish our kids for something that biologically comes natural? Or maybe here's a thought: instead of alienating them, to sit down and talk with them. Explain how at this point in our culture, it is not appropriate to test out these emotions in a public setting? What about talking to them instead of handing out ultimatums?


"And so, in our house, there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent.  If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island."


This for me, is the saddest part. It shows a judgmental mind process that offers no abilities for the girls to learn. If they “mess up” they are cut off with no chances of explaining their perspective, or for learning about forgiveness. What does this teach? It teaches that mistakes can not be forgiven. It teaches that some adults cannot be approached for help. It teaches that kids must sink or swim without the helping hand of a wiser adult.


That’s horrible.


Do I want my kids posting sexy photos on social media websites? Hell no! Do I want to see my kids friends posing that way? Of course not! But will I turn my back to them and refuse to open up a dialogue about why that is not the best course of action? No. I hope that I can remember when I was their age, and how I too made stupid mistakes, and how I learned from them. And I hope to be able to pass that wisdom on, along with a hug and the understanding that I am always available to listen.

I'm not judging the author for what she is trying to do. In her own way her heart is in the right place. I understand her concerns, as all of us parental units are concerned about the trials our children face as they begin to explore their sexuality. But I don't think that this approach was the best way. Instead of reaching out and trying to instill knowledge to those girls, she is pointing a finger at them and cutting them off. Simultaneously, she is unconsciously teaching her boys that they are not responsible for how they feel and react to women.... that in fact it is the females fault for their possible lustful thoughts or actions.



 So here is my own message to all of the kids, teens, and young adults out there that will be a part of my sons lives:

You're human. You're going to mess up. We adults did it, our parents did it, and all the way back as far as you can imagine. Your generation is unique, because you are the first to have the ability to post everything and anything up for the entire world to see. This is an amazing process, but it also comes with responsibility. Don't post stuff just because you can. Keep some things private, including that lil sexay pose you're practicing in the mirror. Wait until you are an adult to take that pose out of the dark, and strut your stuff when you have more knowledge about yourself and others and have the confidence to pull it off successfully in the appropriate place ;)

And if you make a mistake, that's ok. I won't ban you from my sons site. I may call your mom and give her a heads up, because I would want a mom to let me know if my kids were being idiots online. But it's not because I want you in trouble. I want the opposite. I want for you to learn, and this is the BEST TIME to learn! And if you ever want to ask questions and you don't have another grown up you feel comfortable with, I'm here. I'll listen. And I will do the best I can for you, as I do my own children.