Can’t Never Cash

I’ve added some new decor to my kitchen counter. Resting next to our Days to Go and Days Done Jars is the new addition to our collection. This one is reserved for Can’t Never Cash.

Can't NeverThe Young One’s first grade teacher gave me the idea when my daughter came home from school after the first day.  Mrs. M had banned the word “easy” from her classroom, I learned. Her philosophy is that what is easy for one child is not necessarily easy for another and using that word during a classroom exercise might make a child believe herself to be less intelligent or athletic than her peers.

I like the idea. We should not set up our children, or our friends (in the case of the Young One and her classmates), for failure because of our own concept of what is challenging and what is not. It defeats them before they have even started.

Which is why I have declared a ban on the words, “Can’t” and “Never” in my home and around my child. I cringe every time I hear them coming from the Young One’s mouth. I have tried to instill in her the belief that she can do anything if she just sets her mind to it, and I have been successful. My daughter believes she can do anything…right up to the point where things get difficult, and then “Can’t” and “Never” creep in and steal all her confidence.

I am happy to say my daughter reads above her grade level, but the minute she sees a new word, she struggles with the letter combination, throws the book down and declares, “I’m never gonna be able to read!”

I long for her to practice independence, but when the loops on her shoes aren’t perfect or the zipper catches on her jacket or the picture she’s drawing doesn’t look like what she sees in her mind, she stomps her feet and cries, “I can’t do it,” with a desperation that breaks my heart.

Those words sound particularly grating when uttered by another adult in reference to my child’s ability and are decidedly evil when said directly to her. Recent examples include, “You can’t carry that bag. It’s too heavy.” “Football is for boys. You’ll never play that.”

“Can’t” and “Never” are absolutes.  They leave no room for possibility and are roadblocks to achievement. Once uttered, they make you stop. They make you question your abilities, and they make you doubt.

Their negativity goes against everything I try to teach my daughter. Just because a bag of canned goods is heavy today, doesn’t mean it will be heavy forever. Her arms will grow and her muscles will strengthen, but she won’t know how strong they have become if someone else’s “Can’t” makes her afraid to try.

I want my daughter to believe in herself even when the task gets hard. I want her to push away the obstacles with a mantra of, “I can do this!” I want her to ask for help when she needs it but not give in and have someone else do it for her. In hard situations, I want her to be able to look back on her past experiences and remember times when she overcame the odds. I want that memory of her achievement to power her through the rough patch.

So, today if you come to my house, and you dare to speak the words “Can’t” or “Never”, be prepared to pay the price. Just drop your spare change or your bills into the glass jar marked “Can’t $ Never $”.

There is a price to pay for negativity. I prefer that it be a few pennies in a jar for an accidental slip up instead of the robbing of the confidence from my child.

The Comfort of Socks and Time Machines

I carry a sock in my pocket.

This is not a sock. It is a time machine.

This is not a sock. It is a time machine.

Every spring and fall when the morning temperatures start to cool I pull out my lightweight jacket. Eventually, I reach into the pocket for the first time and feel a small bundle of soft cotton. I wonder what I have just found. I pull it out and smile widely because I have just transported myself back in time.

Suddenly, it is no longer, May 2013. It is September 2008, and I have just dropped off the very Young One at daycare. She is only a year old, and this is one of her first days at her new school. We are in a hurry this morning, and I grab shoes and socks on the way out the door, thinking I will somehow save time by putting the footwear on in the class room instead of the bedroom. When we finally find the time to finish dressing, I discover an extra white sock in the ball I’ve grabbed from the dresser.

I quickly stuff it in my pocket, and forget about it…until the next time, I reach in my pocket…and the next time…and the next time…and countless next times for the next five years. Each time I touch it, I see that little baby I fell in love with. Now that little baby has just celebrated her sixth birthday, and I find comfort in that sock.

The sock that forever rides at my hip on frosty mornings is a constant reminder of little feet, little hands and little arms that locked around my neck at daycare pick up.

I have no desire to remove the sock from my pocket.

It transports me to a time when I had started a new adventure as a momma to a girl. It gives me a smile on a cool, rainy day. It makes me laugh at my own silliness. It is my time machine. It is my comfort as my Young One starts her journey to kindergarten and beyond.

This sock will stay in my pocket. Its comfort will warm my soul as I watch my daughter transform from pre-schooler to young girl to young woman. She will grow out of many more socks, but she will never grow out of my heart.

Do you have every-day mementos that give you comfort? What are your time machines?

five-minute-friday* Today’s post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “Comfort”. If you are really looking for some comfort today, join us on Lisa-Jo Baker’s site.

Five Minute Friday: A Welcomed Welcoming Committee

Each morning is something to be celebrated. No matter what time the sun rises or the alarm blares, mornings are a welcomed and happy occurrence…especially when you are greeted like I am with a welcoming committee of hugs, smiles and furry devotion.

This morning’s welcoming committee was a lineup of the usual team…

First up–the Hubs. Because my hair is longer and significantly higher maintenance than the Hubs’ close cut fade, I am the first to rise, but his is the first welcome I receive in the morning. He is always ready with the hug and peck on the cheek that starts my day on the right note.

Who wouldn’t want to welcome the day with these two?

As I make my way to the coffee maker, the Furry One (the 10-year-old terrier) drags himself from his spot on the floor to follow me to the kitchen. As the first cup brews, we both head to the treat cabinet, and he proves to me that even in his old age, he can still catch a Canine Carryout on the fly. His happy tail wag is a welcomed site because we almost lost him to autoimmune disease two years ago, and I so happy and grateful that he is still with us.

The Furry One

Happy you’re still here, Furry One!

Next comes the Young One, all sparkly in her glitter shoes and matching headband. A twirling inspection proves to us both that we were spot-on in our pre-K outfit selection the night before–a very welcomed relief because nothing starts the day off poorly than your leggings not going quite right with your bedazzled denim skirt!

There’s nothing quite like glitter on your shirt to get you going in the morning!

The Fluffy One (our newly adopted Maltese puppy) races between our feet for a welcome of her own. “Welcome back from night-night,” she declares as only a puppy can with barks, frantic tail wagging and high-flying jumps. Her enthusiasm for a reunion, no matter how long the separation, brings bright smiles and giggles all around.

The Fluffy One

Five pounds of fluffy fun!

Finally, I make my way to windows, eager to open the blinds and welcome the new day, hoping to catch a glimpse of deer or bunnies starting their day too.

What I find this morning, however, is definitely and unwelcome member of the welcoming committee.

Creepy Crawly One

Eeeeek!!!!!

Thanks for the effort, Creepy Crawly One. I’m sure you worked hard all night on the intricate web you strung for me. I appreciate the industriousness. Really. But I prefer to limit my welcoming committee to those who have no more than four legs. Nothing personal, but please take your hairy body and your extra appendages, and remove yourself from my view.

I refuse to let this shocking member of the morning welcoming committee wipe out the stellar job done by the previous four, so…

Welcome, Friday! I’ve missed you, let’s make this a great day!

Stiletto Momma

*Today’s Five Minute Friday is all about “Welcome”. Check it out, and take five minutes of your own to flex your writing muscles!

Operation: Comfort and Care Packages

Throughout nature, mothers are known to protect their young. Birds build nests high up in trees to keep predators from their eggs. Kangaroos hold their babies close in their pouches. Bears will kill their enemies when their cubs are threatened. Mothers are driven by instinct–protect those who are in harm’s away and comfort them when they are vulnerable.

It is no wonder then that when news broke in early June of a truck bomb exploding inside Forward Operating Base Salerno near the city of Khost in Afghanistan, a group of very dedicated West Point moms sprang into action. First, they offered prayers of thanks that the attack had resulted in no military deaths. Then they rallied the troops, and what I like to call “Operation: Comfort and Care Packages”, was launched.

Baking

The Young One is my baking buddy. Even in our aprons we are stylin’!

Since January, I have been a member of West Point Moms Bake. We are a group of 182 mothers of West Point cadets and graduates who believe our mission is to supply our troops with cookies, brownies and all things homemade. Each member of the group is part of a 10-mom team. I am on the Sky Dragons team, named after the “Sky Dragons” of the XVIII Airborne Corps–the corps of the United States Army designed for rapid deployment anywhere in the world, and is the Army’s largest warfighting organization.

Every month, each team is assigned a soldier deployed overseas to whom we are encouraged to overwhelm with gratitude and appreciation. With each mom on a team sending to the same soldier at different times throughout the month, the lucky recipient receives several boxes of homebaked goodness to share with his or her battle buddies.

At the beginning of each month, I eagerly await the email that brings me the name and address of the next soldier who will soon know the wonders of my snickerdoodles. June’s email, however, was different. Not only did it contain the long-awaited name, but it also delivered the news of FOB Salerno. While there had been no loss of military life from the attack, reported as the work of Taliban militia, the consequences of the violence were still devastating to the US troops stationed there.

The truck bomb that had breached FOB Salerno’s gates exploded just outside the base’s dining facility, resulting in heavy damage to that structure as well as to the nearby PX where military personnel can purchase toiletries and other comfort items. Until the dining facility and PX can be rebuilt and re-supplied, the only food available to these young men and women will be MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and “comfort items” will be just a distant memory.

In addition to this most recent attack, FOB Salerno has been nick named “Rocket City” because it has been the target of incoming rocket and mortar fire many times over the course of the war in Afghanistan. Those stationed here have seen more than their share of violence, and this most recent attack is sure to be a blow to moral compounded by the physical damage left behind and the toll from the hardships they will face in the coming days and weeks as they rebuild what was lost.

Brownies

Even though most of the items sent to FOB Salerno were packaged goods and toiletries, I did manage to squeeze in some homemade cookie bars and brownies!

My June care package recipient is a female soldier stationed at FOB Salerno, and unlike previous months, the moms sending packages to her would not just be the 10 on my Sky Dragons team. Nearly 80 other moms were assigned this same soldier, and our orders were to care for the Salerno soldiers as if they were our own. Upon arrival, our boxes would be distributed among all soldiers, and we were asked to send not only baked goods this time, but other sorely needed items–soap, shampoo, deodorant, canned tuna and chicken, ramen noodles, crackers, pens, paper.

Boxes

Mission complete! My two boxes are ready to send to FOB Salerno.

Word quickly spread across Facebook, and soon other West Point moms not included on the original list were volunteering to send a package to FOB Salerno as well as to their assigned soldier. Trips to Costco and Sam’s were planned, and many moms (myself included) announced they were preparing two or more boxes. Some lamented at not including more baked items in their boxes, but with time being critical to our mission, the solution was to send packaged items right away and supplement with boxes of cookies later in the month.

So, while bears kill for their children and birds hide their babies in far away tree tops, West Point moms stretch their hearts wide to encompass fellow Army moms’ children and shower them with love and support from home. We also thank them for what they do. The nature of their job is to endure hardships, so we do not have to. The least we can do is donate our time, our money and our kitchens to help make their sacrifices a little easier to bare.

The news coming out out of Afghanistan is often hard to hear, and we feel powerless as we listen to reports of more death and destruction. This time, however, when we heard about FOB Salerno, we knew we could make a difference.

Boxes of comfort are our specialty, and help is on its way.

Stiletto Momma

***UPDATE*** West Point Moms Bake packages began arriving at FOB Salerno June 18–a little more than two weeks after the truck bomb destroyed that base’s dining facility and PX. So far, 85 boxes have been delivered and distributed among the very grateful troops. Our contact there reports that the toiletries and snacks are proving to be a great morale booster.

 News of the boxes’ arrival, however, comes on the day that Army officials  acknowledged that the damage done to FOB Salerno was much worse than originally reported. The explosion of the truck carrying 1,500 pounds of explosives killed two Americans and seriously wounded three dozen troops. More than 100 soldiers sustained minor injuries. U.S. officials are currently assessing security at FOB Salerno. (Read more about the attack.)

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

When I heard the first whisper, my eyelids fluttered open to reveal nothing but darkness. They quickly fell closed only to pop open seconds later when I heard the second more highly pitched whisper. The words were garbled, but the desperation was distinct. Again, seeing nothing but darkness I dared a glance at my bedside clock–3:52 a.m.

I was wide wake now, and at the third eery whisper from the shadows, my thoughts went immediately to the trailer for the movie The Devil Inside that played during every commercial break for Teen Mom 2 last night. A chill raced straight up my spine.

I was just about to kick The Hubs awake for replaying those exorcism commercials over and over instead of letting me watch the mindless pleasure of teenage pregnancy, when I heard it clearly.  The tiny, ghostly whisper, “Mommy?”

It took me only seconds to discard the theory that my youngest child was possessed by a demon and remember the events that preceded last night’s viewing of Teen Mom. The Young One, it appears, is afraid of the dark. Only after repeated promises to leave the hall light on was I allowed to leave her room following the gruelingly long bedtime ritual. As I departed, I uttered the fateful words, “If you get scared in the night, you come find me.” Apparently, she had. I just couldn’t see her.

The Young One

The Young One pretending her doggy is a dragon.

After groping in the darkness for several more seconds, I finally made contact with the fleece of her blanket sleeper, and we made our way back to her room. A re-start of her Baby Einstein lullaby CD, and all was right with the world again.

With a clearer head this afternoon, I Googled “overcoming children’s fear of the dark”, and found several useful parenting articles, all with the same words of wisdom. For instance, you should not let your youngsters watch scary depictions on television before bed.

I learned this one years ago. When the Older One was four and came running into our room screaming about blood dripping on his walls, I knew immediately it was because his father let him watch The Shining the afternoon before!

I did, however, learn something new in my cyber research.  Apparently, children who are prone to a fear of darkness also happen to have over-active imaginations. In the toddler and pre-school years, these children, do not have to ability to separate fact from fiction. When the lights go off, they have no more distractions, and their imaginations take full reign. Makes sense.

Except, my child doesn’t have an “over-active” imagination. She plays pretend like I did at her age. She plays house, Barbies, school…nothing extreme.  That could not be the source of her fear.

Then I actually listened to her as we went about our evening activities. We went to the basement to bring up boxes for Christmas decorations, and as I opened the door and started down the steps, I heard, “This is a deep, dark, cave where the witch lives.  Shhhhhh!”

Coming back up the stairs…”We’re astronaughts blasting off to the moon!”

When I probed for what she might be afraid of in her room…”He’s round and green and has ears on his legs and he’s gonna steal my Christmas presents!”

Whoa!! Girlfriend’s got an overdose of the imagination gene! No wonder she can’t sleep at night!

Now, armed with a newfound knowledge of how to turn on her bedside lamp and a neon pink glow stick bracelet, she is fast asleep. I also put away that copy of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” that I found lying beside her bed.

I’m hoping for a peaceful night’s sleep too…as long as I can get the twisty exorcism lady out of my head.

Sweet Dreams,

Stiletto Momma