Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Parenting Teenage Boys Should Come with Merit Badges

I'm thinking that someone should start handing out badges to moms who have teenage sons.  Honestly, they probably should hand them out to mom's of teenage girls too, but I don't have one of those ... yet ... so I can't attest to the fact that you earn your stripes raising them.

What I do have is a fifteen year old boy who thinks he's grown, acts like he's five and is living in a body that has turned into a man overnight.

Tonight as we walked into dinner, I noticed a LOT of mustache and beard hair on his face.  I think he really needs to shave.  He has been "shaving at it" for a while, but it's looking pretty manly.  These revelations come at me quickly.  Even though I live with him every day, some days I "see" him.

Tonight we needed to buy new shoes.  It seems like we need new shoes about every three months.  Tonight we bought size 12.  WHO WEARS size 12 shoes at 15???  What size will he be by the time he's 18??  We've finally come to some sort of agreement on the shoes.  I refuse to pay $100 or more for a pair of shoes that will last no more than three months and smell like an ape factory moved out in less than three days.  He knows now to just look "cheap".  It took a loooooong time to get to this point. 

Then there's the smells that emanate from teenage boys.  Puberty is a cruel thing.  It makes boys, who don't particularly care about hygiene in the first place, SMELL -- badly.  Body odor, bad breath, stinky feet.  Combined it's a pleasure for the senses.

Homework. Now there's a subject that has been near and dear to the hearts of everyone in this house as of late.  There is a LOT of discussion going on about homework at our house.  I really wish there was as much actual completion of homework, but, at least it's getting talked about.  How is it that a child can have twelve hours and only complete two assignments, but can build an entire community, castle, family and eco-system in a video game in twenty minutes flat?   I've said for years that if they could turn Algebra into a video game, my child would be in the Honors class.

The blessing of it all is that it's a stage -- no different from the other ones we've gone through throughout the years.  This one, however, has seemed MUCH harder than those "terrible" twos they spoke of.  I think it would have been more accurate to warn parents of the upcoming "terrible teens" which last longer, have just as many tantrums and cause a lot more anxiety.  At least when they are two you can put them in time out.

But, like the good Girl Scout that I never was, I'm going to keep working to earn my badge.  The one that states, "Survivor:  Parenting a Teenage Son".  I'm going to wear it with pride.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reviving the ole' blog - What do 'possums "do"?

The blog has been in hibernation for a long, long ... well, long time.  It's time (even though I don't have any extra time) to revive it to capture some of the glorious events and parenting moments (failures) that are occurring in our lives lately.

It seems five has hit Ellie hard and she is FULL (exploding from the seams) with questions.  On the way to school this morning I had the following:

  • What do possums do? (I don't know)
  • What do owls do? (I don't know)
  • Why do owls come out at night? (I'd like to see an owl, she reports). (We discussed the definition of nocturnal)
  • Why does rice grow in patties (sp??) (I don't know)
  • Why do woodpeckers peck wood? (I don't know, isn't there a poem about that??)
  • Why do snakes bite? (Because they are scared)
  • Why do crocodiles bite? (Because they are hungry)
  • What's growing in that field over there? (I don't know, probably corn)
Just last night I was barraged with these questions:

  • Do eggs grow on trees? (No, you KNOW they come from chickens)
  • Who puts the gooey stuff in eggs? (God)
  • When Josh was growing in your tummy did he have feet? (Uhhhh.... yes).
In an effort to determine what possums actually DO, I googled, "What do opossums do?"  Found a great website appropriately called The 'Possum Pages that told me everything I never wanted to know about opossums.  I basically learned nothing exciting about them and apparently they don't really "DO" anything.  Much like my children ... but that's a post for another day.

The reason for the possum questions stemmed from the fact that last night our dog Macy treed a possum in the yard.  Ellie wasn't quite sure what one was so we showed her the picture above. 

The real visual from this story is Josh and I outside (pitch black) with a flashlight borrowed from the neighbor, a iPhone with a flashlight app, a bb gun (yes, I know), trying to figure what the dog was so angry about.  Once we discovered her jumping at the tree where the possum was, it was a long struggle to determine which one of us was going to run under the tree (pray that the possum didn't drop and attack) and grab the dog.  In the middle of it all, the neighbors arrive home and think we have lost our minds.  The grass is slick, Josh (who lost and had to run for the dog) fell down  twice while chasing the dog.  The possum never moved.  I'm sure he/she thought we were all crazy.

So, what do possums do?  Aggravate dogs, cause drama and sit in trees.  Oh, and play dead apparently.

Stayed tuned for the next blog post where we discover "who puts the gooey stuff in eggs".


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween (Part II)

Halloween 2011 has come and has gone, leaving nothing but a couple of kids who had belly aches the next day, dirty costumes and fond memories -- exactly the way it should be!!

We took mom and then met up with the Thomases at our church's annual Harvest Festival.'
Estimated attendance at this year's event was close to 5,000 people - unbelievable. It was a lot of fun, and we saw lots of friends. Josh was happy that quite a few guys his age were there and they could trick or treat too. It appears you never get too old for candy.
Ellie dressed up as Minnie Mouse tonight. She allowed me to paint her nose on for photos at home, and even went across the street to Terry and Andrea's house, but then came home and SHE went and got a rag and washed it off. "I not like it," she informed me. She also did not like her "had to have" ears that light up. They hurt her head. So we opted for a sweet little Minnie Mouse bow purchased at consignment with the thoughts that this might happen.
After the Harvest Festival, we all stopped in at the local Dairy Queen for dinner (because we certainly didn't eat hotdogs, chili, cotton candy OR popcorn at the festival -- right!). Afterwards, Josh was terribly disappointed that it was too late to go to a neighborhood and trick or treat some more. This is the same kid who wasn't going this year.
It was a good year.
These are some of my favorite photos from this year:
Duracell bunny!
Ellie and her BFF Addie:
Hot diggity dog!
Ms. Kay's pumpkin in jail:
"Coach" Sullivan and his referree wife, Teresa:
Ellie and another of her BFFs, Elaina.
Scary man - ha!
Mario Brothers - cute idea!
Probably the one that made me laugh the loudest: "White Trash"
Sing along with me, "I'm Popeye the sailor man (toot toot) ..."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween (Part I)

Tonight we started off our Halloween fun. There were three local churches who were hosting Trunk or Treat activities and we took Ellie to hit them all.
It started off hard because Ellie did NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT (see the emphasis) want to have any makeup put on her face. Now, every single day she comes into my bathroom and wants me to put make up on her. Every day. Then, finally, on a day where I told her we could do a little blush and a little eyeliner and some sparkles (minor, but just to make her happy), she throws an all out, screaming, crying hissy fit. My mother heard her from outside our house when she arrived. Needless to say, we didn't put any makeup on. She told me she "didn't want her friends to see her with makeup on." Huh? Man, have I got a lot to look forward to.
This photo is everything sans an eye-roll. I have SO much to look forward to in about ten years!!

This was the first year that Josh didn't dress up for Halloween. That made me sad. He went along with us and said he had fun, but he's growing up too, too fast.
We finally got Ellie in her (drooping wings) ladybug costume and hit the road. First stop was New Hope Free Will Baptist where we got to visit with folks we had not seen in a while. This was our first home church after we had Josh and it will always remain a special place for us. Many of our family members still go there.
Next stop was Clarksville Hwy Church of Christ. We love their Halloween festivities. They have a "Trail of Treats" that runs through the woods where you trick or treat at different stations. When you are finished you get a hayride back to the bonfire and then can walk over to hear a band and get some hotdogs, chips and drinks. It was a lot of fun there. This was my first church ever -- it is the church my parents attended when they brought me home.
And, the last stop on the rounds was at Joelton Church of Christ for their trunk or treat. Joelton was where I was baptized as a child. It was where I went most of the years I was growing up.
Finally, we headed over for dinner at the local Subway. A smoking hot Saturday night, huh? It was actually fun, though!
We are looking forward to Part II on Monday night when we will hit our church's Trunk or Treat.
Here is "the take" (minus what Ellie ate at New Hope while we visited and in the car on the way home).
(Ugh, hair in her face). She was MUCH happier after Trick or Treating than before, I can assure you of that!! Next outing, we go at Minnie Mouse.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Maybe if I write about it, I can begin to let it go.

And that's one of the reasons I originally started this blog -- to write about things in a journal type format so that I can work through things, share things, remember things years from now...

It's a hard topic and one I've been struggling with since January 10 of this year -- the day my dad died.

I am a Christian. I do not doubt my salvation experience and I have fully accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior who has forgiven me of my sins.

I am far from perfect and struggle every day.

But I have never had this struggle before in my walk with God.

I am angry with God.

I am angry that He took my father from me, my mom and my children. We were not ready. Now, of course, I know we would have never been ready, but we still need him. I am angry that my children will not have a grandfather now -- that they will not get the years of love, advice and fun with him that the should have had.

Rationally I know that I should not be angry with God. I have read the stages of grief for people who have lost family members. The first phase is shock. The second phase is denial. The third phase is anger. The fourth phase is mourning and the final phase is recovery.

A quote I read states, "In addition, grief is not really a cycle. A cycle implies that you return to the
beginning which was a "normal" life as it was prior to the death. Of course this
is not true. Life will never be the same again."

I see that this anger has come between my relationship with God. Again, rationally, I know I need to move past this, but somehow I don't seem to be. I keep asking myself if it's just a crutch -- if I just need to "pony up" and get over it.

It's during these times of trial that I fall back on all that I know about God and His love and His promises that I have learned through the years. But at the same time, my head has been unable to talk to my heart. Because my heart thinks that God could have saved him, could have let him stay. But it was a "no" answer to fervent prayer.

Tonight Josh, Ellie and I went to Zaxby's for dinner and we sat in a booth that we had sat in as a family of six last year at Josh's birthday, when we gave him his Xbox 360. Almost a year ago. Now, he's not here.

I feel like, at some level, I have been avoiding my feelings and just not dealing with them because it is just so stinking hard, and that maybe if I could find a way to do that, maybe, just maybe, I could find my way back. But, I don't know that.

I read that everyone's process is different and that I should be patient and tolerant with myself. I am told that my feelings of anger at God are "normal" and that the resulting guilt from those feelings is normal well. I can't find anywhere how to get past it. I can't find that answer. I hope that eventually I can -- I need to.

Am I Crazy?

I've pondered this post for a while. I've spent quite a while thinking about it. I'm still not sure that I KNOW all the ins and outs of what I'm about to "talk" about, but I'm going to try.


One day, he has to be the "man" of his home. He has to be the breadwinner. Does that mean his wife won't work or will stay home and take care of kids? I don't know. Maybe she'll be a high paid attorney, or the President or work at Wal-mart. Maybe he won't have kids. Maybe he'll have fourteen (Lord, please, no!). Regardless of which, ultimately, he is responsible for providing for and managing his family.

Maybe we will have the second coming first. Maybe not. Just in case it's not, it's our job as parents to make sure he is prepared to do that job.

That's part one.

It is our job to keep our child safe. As adults we are to be aware of all the factors in his environment: his music, his friends, his video games, his schools, his vehicles, where he is, his sports, his teachers, his pastors, his church, the books he reads, the television he watches, the food he eats, the choices he makes, the clothes he wears. Sometimes it's overwhelming to be a parent.

To that end, many times things that are passed off as "normal" and "it's everywhere" or "it's the times we are living in" become statements to smooth over the edges of something that, at first glance, seems just plain wrong.

Take for example, police officers in schools.

I don't shop in places that are dangerous and require police officers (at least not more than once). I try not to put myself in areas of town where there is known danger. I don't knowingly walk into dangerous situations.

But I send my child to school where police officers are present. And I'm told they are there to keep my child safe. Safe, really?

(Great, I stopped typing to watch TV and lost my train of thought -- darn ADD, huh?)

I know, from studies, that smaller classroom sizes and smaller teacher:student ratios improve learning. It also makes sense on a common sense level.

I know that, in today's world, even people with college degrees are struggling to find jobs. There is a high level of accomplishment required in today's job market. My son will have to have a job one day. I suspect that knowing how to write a research paper will be helpful in his future -- a skill that, as an eighth grader, I would have thought he would have already been taught. But, no. I think that knowing how to spell will be helpful on a job application. I was told by a teacher that it didn't matter because there is spell check on computers now.

I know that surrounding oneself with people of like values, positive attitudes, discipline and respect creates an environment for developing the same values, positive attitudes, disciple and respect. I know that Kevin and I have been fighting a losing battle. I can try to teach values, positive attitudes, discipline and respect for the hours I have my son at home, but he is then influenced by others he is around at school -- regardless of whether those are different from what we are teaching or not, he is influenced and behaviors are influenced by this.

It is for these reasons that we have decided to take Josh out of public school and put him into a private, Christian school.

I was asked today if it was the "teachers or students" that we were dissatisfied with at his current school. I paused for a while and said that I thought it might just be the overall attitude of apathy all the way around.

When you are in a situation that you know you can't change -- no matter how much you want to, how different you are from the environment, how wrong you think things are -- you eventually get worn down and get tired. From that point, apathy sets in. And, I think, that might just be the status. The teachers see so very much that is sad, wrong, difficult and they can't do anything about it. Remember, there is police there now because the teachers can't do anything.

I have struggled to find the reasons -- it's easy to point out this one thing, this other thing, but independently they all sound pretty paltry. It makes me sound like I think I'm "better". But it's not that at all -- it's that I want better for my son. I don't want to look back four, five, ten years from now and think, "If I had just done something sooner ..." I want to keep him as safe as possible. I want him to have every opportunity to become a man of discipline, values, hard work, accountability, responsibility and respect. I want an environment that is supportive of my efforts to do that for him -- not one that seems to be apathetic to those efforts.

I know, it's rambling. I'll probably read back through it later and go, "Wow, you need to write in a less 'stream of consciousness' manner, but it is what it is. It is the reason. It is my job as a parent: analyze, ponder, be proactive or reactive and make choices. Someone should have told me this was going to be hard.

Welcome to the world, Tuck Land

Today, our friends Jeff and Abbey became parents again to a sweet baby boy, Tuck -- born in Taiwan! Yes, they are adopting again. Tonight we stopped by their house for cupcakes, coffee and a Scentsy party. It was a lot of fun and was good to see friends and to celebrate adoption!!
Ellie loves playing with her friends, Reed, Nash and Will. She and Nash are in the same MDO and go to church together -- and they are both sweet little Asian faced sweeties.

I wish I could share a photo of his sweet face, but until the adoption is final, they cannot share photos. Suffice it to say, he is beautiful and looks just like his big brother, Will!!

Check out LandLife for more details about their fun times as parents of three (now four) young boys.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Morning Surprise

This morning as I walked across a yard to take a photo of a home I was inspecting, I came upon this scene.
They never seemed terribly afraid of me as I stood (looking/sounding like a fool talking to them) there. Eventually they turned around and walked off into the woods. It just was such a sweet thing to run upon and made my day happy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photo Blurry - Memory ... Priceless

This is one of those proverbial "thousand word" photos that even though it turned out blurry, I couldn't help but want to share.

Pure Bliss

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to capture the "perfect" photo that I forget that sometimes the most perfect photos are the ones that are "real". I was doing a photo shoot for my dear friend, Kirstin, yesterday at the soccer field at school. Ellie and Josh were playing on the playground when I realized I needed shade and called Josh to bring the umbrella. Ellie was so excited to get to come out on the field and "help". I captured her running across the field, hands wide, grinning from ear to ear, yelling, "Mommy!!" It was priceless.

And then there was the one of her playing UNDER the umbrella that Josh set up like a tent for her.
Ellie has discovered a love for all things Iphone too. She can operate it as well, if not better, than I can. During the photo shoot, she didn't miss a beat taking photos alongside me.
Isn't it great when your iphone matches your outfit? :-) Leave it to Els to be concerned about that.
And, finally, it was a good shoot. Those of you who have known me *forever* know that I used to babysit Kirstin and her brother Braiden. I started when Kirstin was in kindergarten. I have been "Miseria" to them for years and watched the grow like they were mine. What a blessing to get to take photos of Kirstin now! She has grown into such a fantastic young woman. I have a feeling we just might see her in the Olympics one day. I hope I'll be able to be there cheering her on -- and, of course, snapping a few photos of her!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A New Beginning

I am going to make a conscious effort to begin blogging again. While I may never "get it published" like I had dreamed, it has served as a wonderful/useful reference for my memory and for photos when I need something permanent.
It seems that my life has been taken over by so much technology that I have got to begin cutting something, though. I have a Nook Color to "read" on but I can also browse the internet and check my email. It has a dozen or so apps that Ellie loves to play with, including, puzzles, read-to-me books and a paper doll app. I find pretty much all my reading materials and apps for FREE on Facebook from a page called Cheap e-books. Now, they aren't "first run" material, but I've never been one to base a book on popularity, but more often on content. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised with all the free books I've managed to accumulate. Kevin also has a Nook Color and I passed my regular Nook down to Josh in hopes he'll be able to use it for school reading. So far, however, he still prefers paper books to e-books. There is something to be sad for the "feel" of a real book, though -- something I may never fully get over in my transition to ebooks.
I also recently purchased an Iphone. WOW. It has ALL kinds of "gadgets" and "toys" on it that I never knew I needed!! I have an app, I think, to tell me when it's time to do laundry -- crazy. (Yes, that is a joke). I know when it's time to do laundry when we can't walk through the house.
The Iphone even has a Netflix app that allows Ellie to watch her "kiddie" shows when we are on the road.
And tomorrow is the three year anniversary of bringing Ellie home from Kyrgyzstan. Today we experience another sweet moment in her discovery of how she came to be a part of our family. She had a blanket that was Josh's when he was a baby. She asked, "Was this Josh's when he was in the orphanage." I was a little stumped. I told her that no, Josh didn't live in an orphanage. She asked where he lived. I told her he grew in my tummy and was born in a hospital. She didn't miss a beat when she said, "Oh, so this is his blanket from the hospital." We talked last week (on the day we picked her up) about her living in and leaving the orphanage. She took it with a grain of salt. I know it's early, but I want it to always be the story she remembers -- not something new and surprising for her one day.
I can't believe it's been three years. This December, our dossier will have been in China for five years. I am sending a letter soon to pull our dossier. We are done. Our family is very much complete. We have two children with very large personalities that require lots of energy. We only have so much energy - ha! So, we continue to support other families who are trying to adopt in whatever manner we can. We continue to pray for the Kyrgyz 65 -- 65 children who were matched and ready to come home when Ellie did, but due to bureaucratic "stuff" (yes, I have another word for it), they are still stuck in orphanages. It could have been my child. I wonder regularly why it wasn't mine. I have high hopes that they will be coming home very, very soon.
Ellie has developed into a girl who moves a lot, sleeps a little, talks NON-STOP (seriously, non-stop), can take apart a room in 10 seconds flat, loves scissors (which is why she cut her hair a few months back), art supplies/crafts, has to constantly be touching me. She wants to sit on me, sleep with me, hold my hand -- it's very, very sweet, but sometimes exhausting too.
She LOVES preschool. She asks everyday where she is going that day and when it's preschool days she gets so excited. I am glad one of my kids is in love with school.
Speaking of Josh, he will likely be changing school after Christmas. We have talked about changing him when he starts high school and had visited several schools. We have finally made a decision and decided to go ahead and let him move sooner so he will have time to adjust academically before he begins football in the spring/fall. We are hopeful that this will be a change that will benefit his life. We are entering the critical, important phase of his life where decisions will affect the rest of his life. I can't believe he will be 14 in less than a month. He has grown taller, his voice has deepened and he can, on occassion, have a "real" conversation. :-) He is a great "fix-it" guy and is my go-to guy for technology when I can't quite figure it out.
Kevin has a new job, working from a home office. While it's a blessing to not have the gas expense, sometimes we step on each other's toes trying to both work from home. We try really hard to schedule our days in the field on opposite days so we can each have a quiet work from home day.
I started a photography business back at the beginning of the year, Maria Latham Photography. I had planned to spend a year in growth, development and discovery. Shockingly, that year is almost over. It has been such a great year and I am excited about what is to come in the future. It is the thing I am passionate about. I love capturing moments in people's lives. It allows me to work the creative side of my brain.
So, that's pretty much all that is exciting around our house right now -- all in all it sounds pretty dull, but it's our life.
Hoping to do better with the blogging -- including some updated photos.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Random Summer Pictures

Here are some random images from this summer (and NOT in order because that takes too much time).

Josh sliding into third at the all-stars games in Dyersburg.

Photo by my mom at the creek. Don't they look like they love each other??

This is how long Ellie's hair was right before she cut it. She loves to read about "Francis". I love it too because I remember it from when I was a little girl.

Josh's 13 year old Allstar team

Josh and Ellie swimming in the pool in Dyersburg. It was the first time Ellie had been back in a pool since her trauma -- swimming lessons.

Josh in Dyersburg.

"Model" Ellie showing off mama's sunglasses -- right after she got her hair braided. ADORABLE!

Ellie "chillaxing" at the ballpark on one of her favorite "blankies".

Josh on second base -- ready!

"THE" Haircut -- I called it the modified mullet.

Ellie's haircut afterwards. She is celebrating at her friend Natalie's birthday party.

Josh (#74) at the first scrimmage of the season.