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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

4,015 days

My sweetest,

Eleven years ago, you made me a mom. It wasn't an exactly auspicious start considering I didn't even know I was in labor, but once you arrived, I knew I would never love anyone the same way that I loved you.

 From the beginning, you have kept me on my toes. When you were little, you were a runner; you didn't see any point in walking somewhere if you could run. These days, you prefer cartwheeling your way through the world. It's a rare occasion on a night at home if you're not doing a back bend, a crab walk, or a front walkover. I have no idea where you got your flexibility because I know it's not from Dad or me. For sure.

This past year has been all about gymnastics, making slime, going to sleep away camp, beauty experiments, and trying anything new. Not everything has been a rollicking success, but that never seems to bother you. You have the rare ability to laugh at yourself and ridiculous situations without taking yourself too seriously. I love when you try out new accents and spend the evening talking like an old Russian woman or Hermione Granger. You have an ear for language, and I hope that's something you continue to enjoy. Your imagination is enormous, and I get such a kick out of hearing the stories, thoughts, and questions that come out of your brain.

You continue to take such good care of the people around you. Whether it's other kids at school or me or your brother, you tend to put everyone else first. You want everyone to be safe, healthy, and kind, and you show them through example. One day at school last semester, you wrote letters to the custodians at school to thank them for taking such good care of the building and the students in it.  Your heart is big enough to hold the world inside it, and I have no doubt that it will continue to grow as you get older. Malevolence is simply not in your vocabulary, and you fight for injustice, no matter whether it's real or perceived, with your whole being.  I truly admire your willingness to see the best in people. You're not a pushover, though, and you know how to stand up for yourself.

In the next year, you'll be starting middle school. Thinking of middle school years makes most people shudder, so I know exactly what is coming. What I want for you more than anything in the world is for you to hold on to who you really are, no matter how hard it may get. You're so beautiful and good, inside and out, and you see life through rose-colored glasses.  There are going to be people who tell you to see the world for what it really is, but I say ignore them. Life can be any way you choose to see it, and I hope that you're always able to find the sunshine.  Don't ever let someone else tell you what to do or who to be: you are amazing just the way you are.  Find your tribe of people who are kind and who make you want to be a better person. With good people by your side, you can do anything.

I'm beyond proud of you, baby. You bring so much joy and laughter and weirdness and hope to our lives. I'm infinitely grateful that you're mine.

I love you,

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ms. Minerva, if you please

On Veteran's Day this year, we bit the bullet and got a dog. We knew we wanted to rescue one, and I had been scouring rescue sites for weeks. When I saw that she was born in Kentucky, I knew it was meant to be. Thank you to 2X2 Rescue!! So far, she has been an absolute joy and perfect addiction to our crazy family.  As I have gotten to know her and she has become used to the routine chez Wells, I have noticed how much getting a dog, especially a young one like Minny (Minerva McGonagall Wells) is exactly like having a toddler in the house again.

1. She follows me around all day, every day.
2. If something is going on, she needs to know about it as soon as it's happening.
3. She is picky about her treats.
4. Sometimes her play goes over the top and turns into hysterical jumping and play-biting. When that happens, I know it's just a matter of time before things go completely upside down.
5. I find myself thinking about her bathroom habits WAY too often.
6. She can't be outside alone. The couple of times I have tried to attach her least to a lead on the zip line while I am outside working, she has escaped and run. She thinks it's a hilarious game: I do not. My new nickname for her is "Doug Henning."
7.  She gets a pouty and sad look on her face when we tell her she cannot jump on people or play with Judy or eat off our plates. I just know she is thinking I'm the meanest mom in the world.
8. She cries when Lottie and Dallas go to school because she knows she'll be stuck at home with me, the meanest mom in the world.
9. She puts every bit of snow she can into her mouth, and she loves to roll around in it.
10. If there is a puddle or a pile of leaves on the street, she will jump in it.
11. On occasion, she will bark for seemingly no reason. I have no clue what she wants at those times, and I wonder if she just wants to hear her own voice from time to time.
12. When there is a crowd at the house, she can't sit down and relax because she HAS to make the rounds every five minutes to make sure no one has forgotten her existence.
13. She hits her head at least twice a day and just keeps playing.
14. Every person or animal she meets is destined to be her new best friend.
15. Kisses are her favorite thing to give.
16. Sometimes she runs so fast that she slides on the hardwood floors.
17. When things get too quiet, I grow suspicious.  Usually that means Minny is chewing something she shouldn't, or she has somehow gotten out of the house.
18. She can go from zero to one hundred in four seconds flat.

Happy first birthday today to our sweet, nutty, loving dog.  We all love you so much.  Well, except Judy. She will never love you; the best we can hope for is grudging acceptance.

And as Mimi says, someday you'll grow into your nose.  Until then, #embracethesnout.

Monday, October 2, 2017


Like the rest of the country, I woke up this morning to the tragic news out of Las Vegas.  I was heartbroken that this had happened once again, but quickly, my heartbreak turned into pure, unadulterated anger.  When will enough be enough?

It wasn't enough after Columbine.
It wasn't enough after Aurora.
It wasn't enough after Fort Hood.
It wasn't enough after San Bernadino.
It wasn't enough after Sandy Hook.
It wasn't enough after Pulse.
It wasn't enough after Charleston.
It wasn't enough after any of the horrific massacres that have happened in the United States because there are basically too many to name.

And last night in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country.  Is that enough for you?    Fifty lives lost.  Over four hundred people injured.  How about that?  Enough?  Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters: people listening to country music.  One night, one minute, and the lives of countless people are forever changed. It *IS* enough. It just is.

Prayer is lovely, don't get me wrong.  But the time for prayer after something this disgustingly appalling is long past.  It's time for action.  I know that people shoot people and guns aren't entirely to blame, but automatic weapons sure make mass murder a hell of a lot easier, don't they?  Those weapons have no place in our society because nothing good can come out of having them. I don't particularly care if you quote the Second Amendment to me because the world today is quite a bit different from when that was written, and everyone knows it.

Use your soul for prayer if that makes you feel whole, but you need to use your brain to make some serious choices about what happens next. If the statistics don't scare you, you're not doing it right, I promise you that.

Propose new laws.
Run for office.
Decide that enough is unequivocally enough.  We are better than this, America; we have to be better than this.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

3,285 days

My sweet boy,

Today you are 9 years old, and every time I write a birthday post for you, I have no idea where the time has gone.  It seems like not long ago at all when I held you for the first time and watched you sleep.  I remember wondering what on earth I was going to do with a boy, and little did I know that you would inspire within me such a fierce and enduring love.

This has been a year of change for you, I think.  You are slowly but surely growing up.  You are still hesitant and cautious when it comes to new things, but you're more willing to try them now than you were a year ago.  Last year, you said, in your old man wisdom, that you thought Cub Scouts was too dangerous because there were arrows and bb guns involved.  I knew you wanted to do it, but there was something deep inside that was holding you back.  This year, you casually mentioned that you were ready to try Scouts, like you had never had any qualms about it in the past.  I don't know what changed in your mind, but I'm excited for you to have a new experience.  You are jumping in the deep end of Uncle Matt's pool with abandon and riding rollercoasters while you scream with joy.

You have become somewhat more confident in yourself and your abilities.  You still get easily frustrated when you can't do something right away, but you are allowing yourself some grace time to learn and make mistakes.  If you hurt someone's feelings, you are more forthcoming with an apology than you have been in the past, and I'm so proud that you are really learning to think about other people's feelings.  Dare I say that you are learning to relax a little, too?  You are always going to be someone who thinks about things deeply and often for a long time before wanting to talk about them, but I feel as though you are taking more in stride these days.

When it was time to go back to school, no one could believe how tall you had grown over the summer.  It won't be too long before you surpass Lottie, and then soon after, me.  I actually wore your slippers around the house one time for the whole day before I realized that they were yours, so your feet might overtake mine sooner than I think.  The summer brought you a sprinkling of freckles on your nose that you hate for some unknown reason but that I find swoon-worthy. Your hair is darker and longer, so it makes you look like a teenager!  Thank goodness your beautiful blue eyes and your dark, long lashes haven't changed because they are one of the things that melt my heart.

Although you have grown in so many ways, you are still the sweet boy I have always known.  You are just as happy with a good book as you are a video game.  You love to spend time with family, and you're up for any adventure than I plan.  Something as little as a new pair of pajamas can make you beam from ear to ear.  I hope that you continue to find joy in the small things in life.  Your kindness and love to the animals in our lives is boundless.  You love to lie on the ground with Sally and gaze deep into her eyes, and you are gentle and loving with Judy.  I know that when we ever get a dog of our own, you will help me take such good care of it.

I'm probably easier on you than I should be because you're my baby, my last child.  You will be the last one to leave the nest, if you ever do, and you're far more sensitive in most respects than anyone else in the house.  Maybe I should be more firm, maybe I should make you do more that you don't want to do, but my instinct tells me that it wouldn't be good for you.  What I have learned about you in the last nine years is that you'll get around to doing everything in your own way and in your own time.  You won't be pushed, you won't be cajoled, and you won't change your mind unless you feel like you are ready.  That can make parenting you difficult from time to time, but as an adult, I think those qualities will all serve you well.

I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of you.  You are your own person, and with each day that goes by, I appreciate that more.  You bring a unique joy to our lives that I couldn't live without.

I love you the most,

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Under pressure

There is a lot of pressure in being a parent: pressure from society, pressure from other parents, pressure to be perfect, pressure to know exactly what to do at all times.  None of that compares, though, to the pressure parents get from their children.  They don't necessarily mean to do it, but when they turn up the heat, they turn it up high.

Lottie was a little apprehensive about going back to school this year because of some issues she had last year with frenemies.  (Why does this start in 4th grade?  Why does it start at all?  I mean, sheesh. Can't kids just treat each other with a modicum of decency?) She was worried about how to deal with mean girls, what to say, what to do.  I told her that I expect her to always be cordial and polite to people, but no means do I think she has to be friends with every single student in her school.  She replied that it was easy for me to say because I like and get along with everyone I meet.  I laughed and laughed when she said that because um, no.  I certainly don't want to be besties with everyone, but neither am I outwardly rude.  If she really thinks that, I'm doing my job well of teaching my children how to be cordial to others, but it also means they're watching all the time, every minute.  Talk about pressure.

Then, the other night around bedtime, both kids came to our bedroom in tears.  They both wanted to talk to us alone, so Lottie paced in the hall while Dal took the first turn.  He was trying so hard to be stoic, but I could see tears welling in his eyes as his chin began to wobble.  He said that he and Lottie had been talking about college, and she told him that college lasts for four years.  When I said she was right, his head slumped down to his chest.  His breath hitched, and then he said he never wanted to live away from us, so college just wasn't for him.  Oh, boy.  I told him that there were a lot of people who lived at home while going to college, so that was always an option for him.  Trevor chimed in that he had lived at home during law school, so Dal could stay with us as long as he wanted.  I also reminded my sweet boy that he's only 8 years old, and we had plenty of time to think about his college years.  Dallas got some hugs and kisses, walked out the door, and told Lottie that it was her turn.  I had approximately four seconds to restock my sympathy.  PRESSURE.  (And, yes, I know he won't feel that way forever.  I didn't want to diminish his feelings by telling him that, though, so I left that tidbit out for now.)

Lottie was lamenting her sisterly behavior: she said she just couldn't help yelling at Dal sometimes even though she tried to keep it all inside her head.  I reminded her that spending a lot of time with someone meant that sometimes there were fights, and that's okay as long as they remember that they love each other deep down.  She nodded slowly, and then she said she didn't think it was fair to have to share a bathroom with him.  My sympathy broke a little then, and I enjoyed seeing her gobsmacked face when I told her we only had one bathroom when I was growing up, so there.  I sent her off to bed, and then I proceeded to think about both conversations all night.  In the morning, they had both basically forgotten about the night before, and I was bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.  And not for nothin', sometimes I seriously wonder who on earth approved my motherhood status because I have no idea what I'm doing.  How do you spell parenting?  P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E.

The thing that is the most pressure is that although Trevor is almost always around when these meltdowns occur, both kids will basically climb over him to get to me.  I am pretty sure I could be in another country, and they would both hold out until I got home to lose their ever-loving' minds.  They come to me for comfort, for homework help, for fashion advice, for questions about the world, to make them food, to fix Nerf fix everything.  What IS that?  Truth be told, I don't *hate* when they want me or need me because I know that those times will slowly disappear as they get older. And it felt pretty darn good when we picked Lottie up from her week-long camp to have her run to me first.  Sometimes, though, it would be nice to step out of the histrionics and just hear about the drama later.  Of course, each time I have a little getaway or time to myself, I miss the insanity that is my house more than I ever thought I could.  What do I want you to take away from this blog post?  No idea.  My brain is too scrambled to come up with a good ending, so I'll just say to the dads, solve some of the problems on your own from time to time, and moms, revel in the fact that although you find yourselves stuck in the pressure cooker, you usually manage to keep your cool.  Pat yourselves on the back, but don't get too cocky because tomorrow is another day.

***Edited to add that Lottie just called me into the kitchen to ask me for help with a project when Trevor was standing in the kitchen 5 feet away from her.  5 FEET AWAY.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Makin' her getaway

We dropped Lottie off today for her first sleepover camp.  She is attending a volleyball camp at Valparaiso University, so she is close to home.  In the days leading up to this momentous event, people have been asking me how I'm handling it and if I'll cry and if I'm feeling sad.  Maybe I'm just an emotionless automaton, but I'm fine with her being gone.

Look, this isn't the movie version of life.  Of course I'm going to miss my girl while she is gone because she is a pretty amazing kid.  I mean, she drives me bananas sometimes, but overall, I love being around her because she is a fun person to be around, my kid or not.  But I'm not going to mope around the house and gaze wistfully into her bedroom while I lean on the door frame.  Mama's got stuff to do!  I'll wonder what she's doing and how she's doing, but I'm not going to worry about her.

I have spent ten years getting her ready for this.  Well, I guess I wasn't exactly thinking about volleyball camp, but I have been doing what we all do as parents: preparing my kids to go out on their own.  Granted, going to an overnight volleyball camp isn't getting an apartment and starting a job, but it's her first foray out into the world without me.  If anyone was born to go out into the world and devour it, it's Lottie.  The bigger the party, the bigger the adventure, the bigger the hoopla, the happier she is.

My job as a parent is to get my kids ready to be responsible citizens who will somehow contribute to society and the world at large.  They won't be able to do that if I keep the umbilical cord wrapped around them so tightly that they can't move.  If I don't let go, they're not going to go anywhere but my basement, and I don't really want them living down there when they're forty.  (Who am I kidding?  Dallas might be there anyway because he is much more of a homebody than his sister is.  But, ideally, I would like for him to at least live in a shed in the backyard.)

This is only the beginning.  At the end of the month, she'll go to an overnight camp further away from home for an entire week. So instead of crying, I'm going to rejoice in the knowledge that Lottie is most likely having the time of her life, making new friends, and maybe even learning how to play volleyball.  When I pick her up later this week, I think I'll find someone who is ready to have more new experiences and spread her wings a little wider.  I'm going to be ready to give her lots of hugs and encourage her dreams, even when her dreams lead her away from home.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hunger is not helpful

It's getting to be tax time all over the nation, and people are sharpening their pencils, grabbing their calculators, and pulling out their hair while they work their way through worksheets and numbers.  Sometimes during the process, they might make some popcorn or grab a bowl of chips to snack on while they work.  Some might prefer an apple or a handful of granola to get them through.  They might even take a break, eat dinner, and then get back to their calculations.

Now imagine all of that happening over a six and a half hour day.  Imagine people sitting at a desk or a table trying to work while hungry.  The words blur on the pages, and the numbers don't make sense because all these people can think about is the rumbling in their stomachs. Their heads hurt, their hands shake, and anxiety starts to take over their brains.  They get depressed because they know they can't keep up with the other people at the other tables who are doing their taxes better or doing them faster. What sounds like a ridiculous scenario happens to kids every day all over the country, and yet, they are still expected to grow and progress and thrive while taking their standardized tests even while their bellies ache from hunger.

Recently, Betsy Devos, the new Secretary of Education, made a joke at the Conservative Political Action Conference.  She tried to be funny by saying that she wanted to tell Bernie Sanders that there is no such thing as a free lunch.  The woman who is in charge of public education in the United States made a "joke" about free lunches, and she doesn't honestly seem to understand why that is not only inappropriate but also void of all common decency.  The free and reduced lunch program isn't funny; it's not a joke to the over 31 million children who benefit from this program every year.  Go back and read that again: THIRTY-ONE MILLION.

If that's too big of a number to chew on, let's break it down a little more.  In Indiana alone, there are over 493,000 children who eat on the free and reduced lunch program.  In Valparaiso, a little over 1,300 of our schoolchildren use the free and reduced lunch program, and at Flint Lake Elementary, there are 30 kids who only eat at school.  Let that sink in.  The real facts are that there are kids in this community, in every community, who only eat at school.  They have a quick breakfast and a quick lunch, and once that is over for the day, they don't eat again until the next morning.  Some kids could go from noon to 8:30 the next morning eating very little or nothing at all.

Then we have Mark Mulvaney, the White House Budget Director, who proclaimed that there is "no demonstrable evidence" that feeding kids in after-school programs helps those students.  Now...what now?  Feeding kids doesn't help them?  I don't see how feeding hungry kids could be anything but beneficial, but what do I know?  I'm not a big shot politician: I've only spent most of my life in education.  I imagine that ol' Mark has never seen a student put her head down on a desk because she's so hungry that she can't even begin to focus on spelling.  Markie probably hasn't witnessed a student with tears running down his face because he doesn't have a snack like the other kids do.  I truly doubt that Marko has spent any time at all at an after-school program to see what it's really like for the kids who don't have enough to eat, the physical, mental, and social symptoms that the kids present. And I question if MM has ever heard of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs: it's just that pesky pyramid that tells us that people's physiological needs must be met in order for them to be successful people.  You know, a theory based on scientific observations.  Science: go figure.

And the thing is, I hear so many people who say the parents are to blame for one reason or another, and I simply don't care. What I care about is that no child should have to spend the school day wondering when he will get to eat again or looking on while other kids gobble down a mid-morning or afternoon snack.  No child should spend the weekend waiting to get back to school so she can eat. When and where they are going to get food shouldn't be something that children worry about.  These kids need a little more to catch up to the kids who already have more: that's called equity, and that equity is necessary to get all kids on an equal footing.  We can't really level the playing field until the kids are all standing at the same place on the starting line.

It stuns me that so many people feel like this isn't their problem because, in reality, it is.  This is a problem for all of us.  I want strong, confident, smart people to run the world in the future, and we can't have that unless we give ALL of our children a strong and confident start in life. The next time you're at the store, think about putting a few extra things in your cart for your local food bank, or talk to your neighborhood school to see if there is a food program there.  If we want more out of our youth, let's give them what they need to exceed our expectations.  Enough judging about why some kids don't have enough to eat and more giving in order to benefit our community.