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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

3,650 days

My girl,

Ten years ago today, I had no idea how much my life was going to change.  You burst into our lives on a balmy January morning, and we haven't been the same since.







I distinctly remember taking you home from the hospital.  Dad's speed as we drove down Man O' War Boulevard was around 20 miles per hour because he was so nervous about having a baby in the car.  When we got home, I felt so overwhelmed that I looked at Dad and said, "What do we do now?"



Despite my first-time mom nerves, you immediately flourished.  From the beginning, you have treated life like the great adventure that it is.  There have been very few things that scare you, although from time to time, your fearlessness has frightened me.  As you grow older, you're still an open book, and you still like to take chances.  There have been many times we have shaken our heads and wondered what you were thinking with various choices, but you explain your reasoning with such earnestness that's it's hard to get mad or stay mad for too long.  Almost every conversation we have is peppered with "Yeah, but what if...?" from you.  That can be a slippery slope, but I know that at least half of the time, your mind is whizzing along with all of the what-ifs spinning around in it.  That must be exhausting, because on the rare occasions that you crash, you crash hard.  As a matter of fact, you rarely do things without doing them full-tilt boogie.



Your emotional intelligence has grown in leaps and bounds over the last year.  You're fairly even-keeled for someone who loves to be a total goofball.  I think one of the reasons you enjoyed your acting class so much was that it gave you a chance to really shine on stage instead of having to contain your hilarity to our house and our family.  Don't get me wrong: I love your humor, and I love that you make me laugh each and every day.  I was so proud, though, to watch you perform so well in front of others.  You constantly surprise me with your grace and poise.


As always, you are a wonderful sister to Dallas.  I know it's hard sometimes to be older and expected to watch over him, but it's truly in your nature to make certain he is always included and safe.  One of the best sounds in the world to me is hearing you both laugh together no matter where you are or what you're doing.  Keep being a good sister to him, and that goodness will come back to you the rest of your life in the form of your friendship with him.  After all, there are not too many people who see you at your best and your worst and still adore being with you quite like a sibling does.



Your kindness makes me want to be a better person.  You have never met an enemy in your life, and I don't imagine that will change any time soon.  You tend not to give up on people who have hurt your feelings, and you still find a way to stick up for yourself.  We desperately need that in the world, and I have no doubt that you will continue to sparkle in that capacity as an adult.  It makes me so happy to know that you are the future of our world.


Staying focused on one thing has never been on your agenda.  It used to worry me until I stopped to really think about it.  You're not afraid to try new things to see if you like them, even if it means you won't really be good at them; conversely, you're not embarrassed to say that an activity isn't for you and move on to something else.  It reminds me of a quote by Oona D. Mulkey: "Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it." Somehow, you have the ability to realize that not everything has to be a stepping stone to your future life path; sometimes, things are just fun to do for the experiences alone.  You know how to laugh at yourself, and I admire that trait in a kid your age.  We all goof up, and if we can't laugh about it later, life is going to get pretty tedious. You have taught me that life doesn't have to be so serious 24/7 and that there is always time for dessert.
 


As the first kid, you're the one we have probably messed up with the most because we're just learning ourselves.  With each new phase of your life, I think Dad and I are getting more confident with our decisions, but we always will worry that we're not doing something right for our baby.  As you get older, we have to loosen our grip a bit, and that is going to be bittersweet.  Be patient with us.  We love you more than anything in the world, and we're trying our best every day to help mold you into a decent human being.  You have made it easy, though, because love and joy and forgiveness radiate from the depths of your soul.

I honestly don't know where life is going to take you.  I can tell you for sure, though, that I am thrilled to be along on the ride with you.  I am eager to see what your future holds and how far you will soar.  My birthday wish for you is to continue holding constant joy and warmth in your heart. Keep your genuinely sweet way of looking at the world for as long as you can because it is a huge part of who you are, and who you are is absolutely perfect.

Happy Golden Birthday, baby!!  Ten is going to be a fabulous year.
I love you, my bunny,
Mom


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waiting on the world to change

Four years ago, the unfathomable happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Children and adults who tried to protect them were slaughtered in a place where they should have felt safe, where they should have BEEN safe.  After that horrific day, there have been terrible shootings in San Bernadino, the Navy Yard in D.C., and Orlando just to name a few.  Since Sandy Hook, there have been 186 shootings on school campuses in the U. S.

ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX.

What are we going to do about it?

I don't know.   I don't have all the answers; hell, I don't even have one answer.  One thing I do know, however, is that nothing has changed.  There are still mass shootings and individual shootings and horrific public spectacles of hate.  And what are we doing?

We're arguing about "illegal" emails.  We're arguing about deflated footballs.  We're watching celebrity meltdowns with a gleeful sense of schadenfreude.  We judge people who say "Happy Holidays" and others who say "Merry Christmas." We're blatantly ignoring the fact that maybe something could be done, and we're just not doing it.

Maybe we're all becoming numb when we see the news of yet another shooting and more death and more sorrow.  Perhaps we fall asleep at night thinking about how lucky we are that it wasn't us.  It's always someone else, somewhere else.  Worse yet, there are people who believe it never happened, and Sandy Hook was simply filled with actors playing parts.

This is unacceptable.  It was unacceptable then, and it's certainly unacceptable now.

Now is usually the time when people chime in about the rights of gun owners and the Constitution and, you know, the things.  But I don't care.  I really don't.  What is it the kids say, "Sorry, not sorry"? The victims of Sandy Hook had rights.  Those little ones, 6 and 7 years old, they had rights.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were stolen from them in single, awful moments, so please, don't tell me about your right to be able to shoot whatever you want.

While you're decorating, baking, buying, caroling, and hugging this holiday season, take a moment to think about the families who can't hug their loved ones this year because of a gun.  Really think about it.  Then think about what we need to do to ensure that this won't keep happening. Unless we all decide to make a change, the horror of all of the mass shootings will become just another blurb in the news.  We're better than that; we truly have to be better than that.

On the inside of a kitchen cabinet, I have a list of the victims of Sandy Hook.  It reminds me each and every day to be sure my children know how much they are loved before they get on the school bus and to kiss my husband every single time one of us leaves the house and to let go of the little things in life that are annoying, to be sure, but unimportant.  The list reminds me to live, but it also reminds me that there is work to be done, hard work.   I hope it reminds you, too.

Charlotte Bacon, 6                                            
Chase Kowalski, 6
Daniel Barden, 7                                                
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Noah Pozner, 6                                                  
Josephine Gay, 7
Jack Pinto, 6                                                      
Emilie Parker, 6
Jesse Lewis, 6                                                    
Caroline Previdi, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7                                          
Arielle Richman, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6                                              
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6                                                
Allison Wyatt, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6                                    
Vicki Soto, 27
Madeleine Hsu, 6                                              
Mary Sherlach, 56
Olivia Engel, 6                                                  
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
James Mattioli, 6                                              
Rachel D'avino, 29
Lauren Rousseau, 30                                        
Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Go to Everytown for Gun Safety for more information.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Truth, lies, and ice skates

So far, the holiday season chez Wells has been...interesting.

Thanksgiving weekend, Lottie lost a tooth.  Awesome, typical happening for a fourth grade kid, right?  Normally, yes.  This time was different, though.  When Trevor crept into the room the next morning to be the Tooth Fairy, he got busted big time.  Lottie saw him, and although Trevor tried his best to cover up why he was up there, our girl wasn't buying his excuses.  Once the Tooth Fairy cat is out of the bag, it's almost certain that questions will follow about other important figures.  Trevor and I decided that it was time to have the Santa discussion.  We knew we had to talk to them both because Lottie would have gone off and told Dallas whatever we said anyway.

Logically, I wanted to talk to the kids about Santa before someone at school spilled the beans.  Frankly, I was stunned that the topic hadn't come up before, but I was happy that it hadn't.  I didn't want the kids to be shocked if another kid insisted that there was no Santa, you know?  There was a little voice in my heart, though, that said to leave it alone and let it all happen organically. I didn't listen to that voice, and I wish I would have.

(Credit:Wikimedia)

Trevor and I sat the kids down and talked a little about the Tooth Fairy discovery.  We eased into the conversation about Santa, and neither kid seemed to be getting it.  I looked to Trevor for help, but he was across the room, looking at me expectantly just like the kids were.  I plowed on and talked about the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Santa, and I was pretty sure that had gotten through.  Pretty sure until Lottie said something about how she knew it wasn't Santa who delivered the gifts because it was his elves.  Sigh.  Not computing.  I pressed on, and I could tell when Lottie understood because her sweet face fell.  Dallas stayed pretty stone-faced and stoic, but it always takes him some time to process what he is hearing.  After we finished the talk, Lottie disappeared for a bit, and Dallas went back to his video game.  I was pretty pumped thinking that it had gone better than I thought, and I was really relieved.  I should have known that things are rarely what they seem.

Later that night, Lottie confessed that she had gone to her room to cry.  I felt terrible hearing that, but she seemed to be okay once she had her initial mourning period.  She even talked about ways she could continue to share the spirit of Santa with kids at school and people around her.  A few days after that, Dallas started to make some noise about his feelings.  It started small, just some off-handed comments about not liking Christmas anymore.  Then he said he wished I had never told him.  (You and me both, buddy.) It came to a head as we were sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office because, you know, that's always a great place to wallow around in emotion.  The office was playing Christmas music, and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" came on.  Dallas looked at me, said, "Liar song," and immediately began to tear up.  Solemnly, he said, "So, do you eat the cookies?"  I nodded and said, "Yeah, but it's mostly Dad." I was trying to lighten up the mood a bit, and good dad joke usually does the trick.  Not this time.  Big tears rolled down his face, and he didn't want me to talk to him or try to soothe him at all.  Ouch.



We made it through the rest of the dental appointment (no cavities!) and headed home.  I wanted Dal to have a little downtime because we had plans to go ice skating later that evening.  He seemed to perk up with some food and a little playtime, so I felt good that the skating would go well.  We arrived at the rink, and I worked up a healthy sweat getting all of us laced into our skates.  Once we reached the ice, Lottie glided off like Dorothy Hamill, and my sweat kept a-comin' as I watched Dallas struggle to stay on his feet.  Within about twelve seconds, he was frustrated and angry that he wasn't full-on skating like other people, and I could see a serious meltdown on the rise.  Just as I was about to suggest a quick break, the inevitable happened, and he fell.  He screamed as if he had been hit by a stream of hot lava and started to weep.  By this point, I was already at my limit of daily drama.  I pulled him up to his feet and guided him over to the rail.  I firmly told him that no one gets good at something without plenty of practice, and his two choices were to get a skate aid or leave the rink.  After some angry muttering, he agreed to the skate aid.  It took him a little time to get used to it, but he eventually got the hang of it.  A half an hour later, he abandoned the skate aid and ventured off on his own.  He'll never be a speed skater, but he stayed vertical for the most part, and he had a lot of fun.





I was happy as the evening ended until Dallas grabbed my hand on the way to the car and announced that although he had a wonderful time, he was still upset that I had hurt his feelings at the rink.  Approximately one hundred responses flashed through my mind, ranging from sadness to annoyance to thinking of the innumerable times he has hurt MY feelings.  If I hadn't hurt the kid's feelings, he would have spent the rest of the skating time being mad that he wasn't instantly perfect at something he hadn't really done before.  I'm happy that he stuck it out and made a concerted effort to work at skating instead of giving up, so hurt feelings or not, I'm calling it a win.

I don't know what the biggest lesson learned was.  Maybe I learned to listen to my instincts next time and not spill the beans on something that didn't necessarily need to be spilled.  Maybe Dallas learned that he'll survive even when he's upset or angry about something.  Maybe the rink employees learned that even adults like to ride on the seal-shaped skate aids.  All I know for sure is that Trevor can take the kids to the next dental appointment.



Thursday, September 15, 2016

#redfored

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard that people are all going nuts about school choice.  Yeah.  Duh.  The funny thing, in my oh, so humble opinion, is that a whole bunch of people have no idea what that really means.

Here's the thing: there are different ways to educate children: private schools, charter schools, homeschooling, and public schools.  The buzz around here lately is about charter schools because Grace College thinks it's a great idea to authorize a charter school, South Shore Classical Academy, in our backyards.  SSCA wants to take students from the already fantastic Valparaiso Community Schools and Duneland Schools because reasons.  Greenback reasons.

There was a public hearing last night about this proposed charter.  I couldn't be there because I was at curriculum night at my kids' AMAZING PUBLIC school, but I know people who did go.  Thanks to the power of social media, I was able to read a play-by-play of the hearing and exactly how little time was afforded to the public to share views that oppose SSCA.  Talk about bullies.  One of the most interesting things of the night was that a charter committee member, from Kansas, no less, said that some people want to go to Garwood Orchard or County Line Orchard (nearby orchards) for their apples instead of settling for apples from Strack and VanTil (local grocery store.)

Um, okay.  First of all, the guy is from Kansas, not Indiana. Nope.  Zip it.  Second, using that analogy is like comparing apples to oranges...or orangutans.  Third, Mr. Kansas has undoubtedly never met any of the apples from Strack and VanTil because if he had, he would know that those apples are shiny, crispy, sweet, and flavorful treats.

Listen, I understand that some people might want apples from Garwood or County Line because saying their apples are from an orchard and not a grocery store must make them feel important and give them a certain panache.  Driving to an orchard twice a day would give some people a real rush so they could exclaim at how busy and important they are.  Some might have heard from friends that apples from an orchard get into only the best pies and tarts in the country.  There are people who believe that all apples benefit from competition and comparisons. Please.

Here is the main issue: you can't expect anyone else to foot the bill if you decide not to "settle" for local apples.  I personally don't care if you go to Garwood or County Line because my life is not affected.  However, I am not going to pay for your mileage, your gas, your apples, or any extra donuts that you might want.  It's just not going to happen.  You think my apples are going to spoil your precious apple?  That's your top secret personal beeswax, but I can tell you that our public apples, no matter if they are scratched or unripe or small or tart or sweet or crunchy or fragrant, don't need you to judge them.  The apple pickers who work tirelessly to grow beautiful and bountiful fruit, they don't need your alternative picking process.  And if you think you can go to Garwood or County Line and then bill me for your produce, you're in for a throw down.  

Sorry not sorry, SSCA.  We don't want you around, and more importantly, we don't NEED you around.  There is nothing you can provide that Valparaiso and Duneland don't already provide.  There is no chance that your presence will in any way improve our systems.  You can try to peddle your ideology elsewhere because we're not buying it.  Take your so-called classical apples and go on home.  


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2,920 days








Dallas,

Today you are eight years old.  For some reason, this seems like a strange, in-between age because you're not quite big but you're not a baby anymore.

You're definitely growing and changing, even from day to day.  You are trying more things now, things that used to scare you or simply make you uncomfortable.  I don't think you are ever going to be a huge risk taker, but you're getting braver all the time.  I couldn't believe the number of crazy rides you and Lottie rode at the fair this year; you laughed and screamed and smiled while I stood watching from the sidelines.   That's good, though, and it makes me happy.  It means you're growing up and gaining independence, and that is what Dad and I have always tried to help you do.



You are still quite the rule follower at school, but I have noticed you beginning to test things a little at home.  Good for you!  Most of your actions are done with good humor and silliness, but I'm glad to see you breaking out of your shell a tiny bit.  After all, you're never going to learn from your mistakes if you don't allow yourself to make any.

You're ridiculously and adorably honest at all times.  If you don't want to do something, you have no problem just saying no politely and moving on. You don't feel the need to over-explain or lie; you just don't want to waste your time on something that doesn't interest you.  You are also insanely funny.  I don't think you even know how funny you are sometimes, but when you spout off some hilarious phrase with your serious voice and a glint in your eye, you absolutely make my day.


In some ways, you're still the same boy you have been since you were little.  One cross word makes your head go down and your lip tremble, even if you're not the one in trouble.  You take other people's pain as your own, and you try to prevent sadness for anyone whenever you can.  You're slowly learning that you can't stop bad things from happening, that you can only control your own reaction to those things.  

You love to cuddle and snuggle, especially at night, and you get a lot of joy from doing things for other people.  The thought of someone being bullied or left out makes you angry and sad, and I'm proud when you take the steps to help a friend.  You still take my hand when we walk through a parking lot, and I know that won't last too much longer.  While I have it, I relish feeling your warm, not-so-small hand holding on to mine.

Of course, you still love your Xbox, and this year you have moved more into being obsessed with Terraria, although Disney Infinity, Minecraft, Lego Dimensions, and Skylanders are all on the radar, too.  You enjoy reading almost as much as you like video games, and it makes my heart happy to walk by your room when you're lolling on the bed with a book.

Although it seems to get harder, you are a wonderful brother to Lottie.  As you both grow, you're arguing a little more, but I know that despite it all, you are there for each other when it counts.  Even when she bugs you, try to remember that she was your first best friend, and she will always be in your corner.

My wish for you this year is that you always continue to be the amazing boy that you are.  Keep loving and full-body laughing.  Ask for help when you need it, and give help where you can.  Remember that being kind is always the best choice to make, but don't ever let anyone put you down or treat you badly.  Stand up for what you know in your heart is right.


I love seeing you gain more and more confidence in yourself.  You can do so many things if you have
faith in your abilities and just give it a shot.  You're an incredibly smart kid, and you're resourceful, as well.  You have everything it takes to be great, and all I want is for you to be the best version of you that you can be.  Don't put so much pressure on yourself to be something or someone you're not.  You are SO loved just the way you are.


Thank you for making our family complete.

I love you, and I love you, and I love you,
Mom


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"Big" problems

When you're cradling a sweaty baby in one arm while running after a toddler and people tell you to enjoy that time because bigger kids bring bigger problems, you might be tempted to immediately clap back, because at that moment, your problems are big enough.  Those people happen to be right, but don't tell them I told you so.

Lottie came home not too long ago and told me she thought she needed to go on a diet.  After my head exploded and I was able to pick up the pieces, I asked her why. She told me that she was afraid of getting fat, that girls in her grade had been talking about how awful it would be to get fat.

Sweet Jesus. Third grade.

We sat down to talk about this; I couldn't see having this conversation while I was mopping the kitchen floor.  I told her all of the right things: she's young, she's active, and she's amazing.  She was nodding her head throughout the conversation, but I could tell it wasn't getting through to her.  So, I took a deep breath, and I told her some painful truths about her mama and life in general.

I told her that there will always be people who are way too focused on looks.  Everyone has his/her own style and appearance, but there will be times when it's not enough for some of the critics.  As long as people are happy and comfortable in their own skin, it shouldn't matter what other people think.  Only sometimes it does.  And when it does, I want her to have the proper tools to deal with it.

I asked her to tell me what she sees when she looks at me, and she said, "My mom who is beautiful." Oh, my heart.  The hard part came when I told her that I am overweight, I accept my pudginess, and I don't really care what anyone else thinks of my body.  She immediately protested and told me I wasn't fat, but I shushed her so I could continue, so I could explain that I'm not embarrassed or ashamed or sad about it.

Yep, I weigh too much.  I'm fat, chubby, fluffy, curvy, substantial, chunky...you get the drift.   If I were to compare, I'm probably the heaviest of all of my friends, but I don't compare.  I'm most likely the biggest mom of all of my kids' friends' moms, but I don't compare.  By now, I have learned that comparing does no good, and it's really just a time-waster.  I had two separate people tell me this week that I was fat TO MY FACE, and after a few fretful moments, I forgot about it and felt glad that I don't feel the need to body shame other people just because I can.  The crux of it is this: I may be heavy, but that doesn't change who I am as a person.  (Now would be the perfect time to let you know this is NOT a fishing expedition for compliments.  None needed.  REALLY.  That's not the point of this post.  Now, carry on.)

I could see Lottie getting a little lost, so I continued.  I told her that I'm proud of this body.  My body carried two kids, and when those babies decided my womb was some sort of magical Studio 54 that they couldn't bear to leave, my body dealt with two emergency C-sections so I could give birth safely.  This body walked me through thyroid cancer and the radioactive iodine that followed.  This body took care of everyone and everything when T was so sick that he could barely move.  This body has rocked kids to sleep, hugged friends in time of mourning, played in the rain, and swum in the pool of a waterfall in Hawaii.  This body works at home and works to make students into great teachers.  This body hosts dance parties on school mornings when no one wants to get out of bed.  This body goes to boot camp and spin class every week day to stay healthy, and this body keeps up pretty well, thankyouverymuch.  This body houses the brain that listens intently when there are problems, laughs like crazy at silliness, devours books with every spare moment, and multi-tasks almost every minute of every day.  This is the same body I had when I was 17 and met the love of my life; there is just more of it now, and he's still happy to be around, I might add.

I told her that if she ever starts to think negatively about her body, I want her to think of the all the amazing things it does for her, and most importantly, how it holds one of the biggest hearts in the entire world.  I told her that she has been given the gift of athleticism, definitely not from me, and she should continue to revel in that her whole life as she has in her childhood.  I told her that her kind heart and happy disposition would always make her beautiful, and to me, she is absolute perfection.

I'm not going to spend my summer hiding in sweats or refusing to go to the pool.  I'm going to put on a bathing suit, dive in, and enjoy life with my family and friends.  My suit may be bigger, but I bet my laugh will be, too.  What a beautiful gift to give my children: my presence, my absolute, complete, not-worrying-about-what-my-legs-look-like-in-shorts presence in their lives.

I don't honestly know how much of what I said to Lottie sunk in, and I may not know that for a long time.  This is a conversation that needs to happen over and over, though, until she understands that there should be more than just what she sees in the mirror that defines her as a person, and whatever that more is, I want her to own it and be proud of it. I never want her to be ashamed of who she is because she has a long life ahead of her figuring it all out. Plus, it isn't just body shaming out there in the world: it's all kinds of shaming.  We shame moms who stay home and moms who work; we shame people on welfare and the filthy rich; we shame those who share their emotions and those who are utterly stoic.  There is slut-shaming, food-shaming, politics-shaming, and even shame-shaming.  We basically shame anyone who doesn't do things exactly like we think they should be done, and I'm over it.  Seriously.  What I want Lottie (and Dallas and everyone, really) to get is that shaming others is easy and shaming ourselves can be even easier, but feeling true pride and loving oneself is the hard part.  It takes work to push aside the feelings of not being enough and to live life the best way possible.  I know she can do it, though.  I think we all can.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Feel it, feel it

If you were hoping this post would be about Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, I'm sorry to disappoint, but feel free to go feel the vibrations on your own time.

We spend a lot of time teaching our kids how to recognize their feelings when they're toddlers.  We play games so they can show us their happy or sad faces, and the ubiquitous "feelings" poster is in almost every pre-school classroom on the planet.  As kids get older, though, it seems that we are spending more time telling them not to have their feelings instead of teaching them HOW to express and deal with all of the emotions that come with being a human being. When they fall down, we shush them and tell them not to cry, and when they're sad, we tell them to smile and cheer up.

We have come a long way from pigeonholing people into behavior based on gender, but sometimes I fear that we haven't come far enough.  We are trying not to tell boys to be tough and girls to be angels, but we're still basically advising kids to stifle their feelings.  The other night, Dallas was feeling frustrated and upset about something that had overwhelmed him.  I was waiting for him to sort of settle himself down enough so we could talk about it, and in between sniffles and deep breaths, he said, "I feel like I'm just being a big baby."  Color me stunned because that isn't something I say to my kids or to anyone, for that matter. Having and expressing emotions doesn't make someone a baby; on the contrary, I think it shows great strength to open up and tell or show someone else how you're really feeling.  (On the other hand, what's so bad about being a baby?  Babies eat, sleep, and poop.  When babies cry, people tend to take care of their needs without question, and I think we could all use a little bit of care now and again.)  I don't know where Dallas heard that phrase "being a baby," but it kills me to think other kids are getting the same message and feeling the same way Dallas does.  I did the only thing I knew how to do which was tell him that emotions are part of life, and there was nothing wrong with crying to get those yucky feelings out of his body.  And, really, I don't know where Dallas heard that phrase - it could be anywhere - but I hate that it has embedded itself in his psyche.

Obviously, I am not condoning full-blown tantrums for people if they find out Starbucks has quit carrying the smoked butterscotch latte, but a few minutes of wallowing isn't going to hurt anyone.  I would rather teach my kids how to handle their disappointments and fears rather than not feeling them at all.  I don't want them to go through life as automatons, for Pete's sake.  I have told them that it's okay to be afraid, but I hope they always face their fears to try something new; that it's important to be grateful for everything they have, but they are also allowed to acknowledge that no one's life is ever a perfect fairy tale; that sometimes people hurt us, and it's up to us to decide how we allow others to treat us; and that it's important to be kind, but in the end, we have to be right with ourselves.

This is how I see it: I want my kids to feel and understand their own emotions so they can become caring, successful, and responsible adults.  It's almost impossible to teach empathy, but it is possible (and necessary) to teach compassion.  The seeds of mercy can't grow within us without some serious cultivation of our own hearts and those around us.  So laugh, cry, yell, cheer up, wind down, choke up, or goof off because that's how things go.  If you can't say something nice, come over to my house to vent: come over to crack up over something silly, to share a disappointment, to shed some tears, or to brag about something spectacular.  Just don't come over for a meal right now.  The kitchen is being remodeled, so we don't have much to offer other than some cereal and Wheat Thins.