Tuesday, November 17, 2015

To Love Everybody?!

My 8 year old, at bedtime, asked if we could talk.  As I sat on the edge of his bed he held my hands and  said he had to tell me something.  Although I know he's a sensitive soul, I was a bit concerned as tears started rolling down his sweet face.  "I don't know how to love everybody," he admitted.  "I'm not a good person because God says we need to love everybody and I don't know how."  He covered up his head so I could only hear his little sobs underneath the blanket.  I sat there for probably longer than I should have in silence just taking this confession in.  I laid down next to him as I began to admit some of my own truths-"neither do I."  He uncovered his head and looked at me confused.  He asked if the Bible said we should love everybody and, although I'm far less knowledgable than most on scripture, I do know the part that says, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and I told him this.  I also told him I don't know if I'll ever be able to love the "bad guys" in this world, I just don't know how.  He nodded his head as if he understood and then asked, "but how do you love someone you don't know, a stranger, who isn't a bad guy?"  Again I thought on it a minute and told him I don't.  I can't love someone I've never met.  For me, love is reserved for the special people in my life.  What we can do for the people we don't know is always show them kindness and compassion...at this point he was satisfied with my answers and finally fell asleep but my mind was more awake.  It's so simple really and yet we make it so complicated.  The same people who stand in the pews, nicely dressed, sipping their coffee and singing the songs, "Everyone needs compassion...", "Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness.  Opened my eyes, let me see;..., and "Show me how to love like you have loved me."....are the same people casting their opinions filled with anger, bitterness, and intolerance for the world to see.  The people who post daily about saving the innocent unborn babies show little to no respect or care for an innocent life that does not comply with their own.  Feed the hungry, help heal the sick, house the homeless, give to those in need, smile more, laugh more, and show kindness to all.  I don't have all of the answers but I do know that a little goes a long way.  I know our world is lacking more of all of this and I know that a life lived closed off in fear in my own little safety bubble is really no life at all.  It's despicable that an 8 year old cries in shame over his concern of how to love more while so many adults are able to look away through eyes of fear and rage.  How can the world be at peace or "fixed" when we're not willing to first fix ourselves?      

Friday, October 16, 2015


This week my oldest, recently baptized, came home from his 2nd month of Middle School and was upset about his shoes.  Being a Shoe gal myself I obviously get it, however, his reasoning baffled me.  "My shoes aren't what the popular kids are wearing right now and I'm friends with two of them so I need to have the right shoes."  For a second I thought he was joking (I didn't know there was such a thing as Mean Boys who shunned you from the lunch table for your shoe choice) but all he wants to spend his money on, all he's asking for for Christmas and his birthday are these ridiculous, cost-more-than-my-shoes athletic shoes he'll grow out of in 2 months.  "This one kid even has 20 pairs," was his argument.  I tried to reason with him and assure him that I was pretty much a shoe expert and could fake a good overpriced shoe but he's having no part of it.  To add insult to injury he's decided in addition to playing sports he needs to be outside running laps around the neighborhood and wants me to teach him different workouts, not for health reasons but because he needs a "better body", the kind the popular kids have.  This is what 11 years old looks like now?  At 11 years old I was still watching cartoons, playing with my dollhouse and binging Oreos.  Yesterday was more of the same as I picked him up from school and he explained that the new hairstyle is purple with long hair on one side and a shaved head on the other.  Foot. Down.  NOPE!!  I gave him some strange speech about lemmings jumping off cliffs (I know, I was in panic mode) and asked if he really wanted to be popular if it meant giving up his likes, his character and, if it came to it, his faith-is it worth it?  He thought about this all the way home and finally proclaimed that purple hair with a half shaved head wasn't attractive and I breathed a small sigh of relief-small victory.  I understand his struggles, especially as a new Christian.  Spencer is very much like me in that way.  He has faith but his courage sometimes escapes him and his heart is telling him one thing while the world is telling him something else.  At this time in his life I can't think of a more dangerous place to be than Middle School-feeling a bit as if I just threw him into the Lions den but I've been there, I came out wounded but alive and shaken but stronger and I have to believe in my child that he will, with guidance, do the same.     
So, I'm going to lay myself out on the line right now because I only have one writing style and that's what is going on in my heart.  There is a war there, inside of me, and I'm angry about it.  I'm angry about my screw-ups, my failure to be the person I know I should be-telling my children one thing and doing another and not having the courage to be unpopular.  Some of you have taken notice in a change in my 8 year old, Coen.  The day he watched his older brother bathed in Christ Coen became a little God-warrior.  I honestly can't take credit for this, this is a God thing is my only explanation.  Coen started asking questions, difficult questions, questions that sparked things in myself and made me think about my own life.  Some I could answer, some we looked up and some I just admitted I don't have an answer to.  My parents were going on a trip to New York and asked the kids what they wanted as souvenirs-the answers from 2 of my kids and my nieces and nephews were what you'd typically expect from kids but Coen asked for a cross necklace.  He wanted a nice cross to wear so he would always "remember Jesus".  Coen has been wearing the necklace everyday for months, he reads his Bible at home every night but felt that it wasn't enough and decided to take his giant Lego Bible to school for reading time.  This has been going on for about a month, he lugs it back and forth everyday (it's pretty big and heavy) but it has sparked something in the kids in his class.  The teacher took notice, the other kids took notice and they've been asking to read Coen's Bible with him during reading time.  Now they're asking Coen questions and he's telling kids about Jesus at school.  He's my hero!  My 8 year old did something many adults can't even do-dare to be unpopular.     
Last night I went to see an early showing of one of the films being released today, "Woodlawn" and it struck a nerve in a good way.  A true story about football player, Tony Nathan, in a time when segregation was popular and God was not.  The eery truth about this film, however, is that it could have been based on the actual events of yesterday.  Or the past week.  Or the past year(s).  Segregation is alive and kicking and God is being kicked out of every aspect of our lives-coincidence?  This film addresses difficult situations so many of us are willing to turn a blind eye to and pretend it, all of it, doesn't exist and I'm tired of pretending.  While I couldn't remember every line I had hoped to remember I quickly jotted down the line that I felt impacted my life:  It only takes 1 person to do what's unpopular.  Look around you-you're not alone.  This is what happens when God shows up.  
Since the age of 16 I have been working in (and out and back in) an industry where God isn't popular.     
I have denied him more times than I have accepted him and for this post alone, knowing who will see this post in the "industry",  I fully expect a backlash.  What gives me strength is knowing I'm not alone.  What gives me strength is knowing that I can overcome the negative impact of this post with the positive people who have the courage to also be unpopular.  What gives me strength is knowing I have to be strong for my kids because they have been an inspiration to me.  What gives me strength is knowing that I am needed as a voice, that I have an obligation to use my talents and passions to serve and that I need to be the kind of Christian that shows LOVE to all.  God, Equality, Love, Compassion,  Christianity, Service, and Courage go hand in hand.  None of these can exist without the other.  A few nights ago my little 8 year old Yoda proclaimed, "Of course I see everyones differences.  No two people have the same fingerprints.  Popo taught me that.  Everyone was born special and with special gifts, that's the only difference that really matters."  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dear Lindbergh Parents and Residents...

I, and many of you, have been gleefully enjoying our Summer breaks blissfully unaware of what was going down at the #1 School District in Missouri, our very own School District, until a new Facebook Page, Flyers United, was created by some Lindbergh teachers and parents and finally shed some light  (If you haven't joined/liked this page already please do it now to keep you in the know).  I am not a political person, I'm not a numbers person, I'm not a member of the PTO but when it comes to my kids I will go down swinging to make sure I'm my children's biggest advocate in regards to them receiving the best education available with the best teachers possible.  Lindbergh has the BEST and we're about to lose it!  We currently have the best teachers, the best principals, the best education, the best learning environment, the best small town feel in a big town, the best test scores, voted the #1 place to raise a family in Missouri and the best of the best in Missouri School Districts for 5 years.  So what's the problem?  A battle is brewing, a battle I didn't even know existed until a few days ago.  A battle the Superintendent, Dr. Simpson and the School Board hoped didn't leak out to the parents-yet suddenly it leaked and today it exploded.  If you don't have kids and think this doesn't affect you, you will soon be singing a different tune when the district that lifted your home value and makes your city one of the most desirable places to live begins its plummet.  What I know through speaking to some involved individuals is this (and I will explain it as simply as I can because, like I said, not a numbers or political person)....our Lindbergh teachers rank 8th in pay in the 8 benchmark school districts (school districts comparable to Lindbergh in Academic Achievements and salaries=Webster, Kirkwood, Rockwood, Parkway, Affton, Pattonville, Mehlville and, of course, Lindbergh...the number graphs are listed at the bottom of this post).  Some of our best teachers and teachers we have tried to hire have left Lindbergh behind for longer commutes, districts ranking much lower than our own BUT more pay!  Bottom Line:  The teachers have tried numerous attempts at proposing a compromise in negotiating the raise they deserve and have not only been denied by the district but are now being ignored while Superintendent Simpson is one of the top 2 highest paid Superintendents of our benchmarks, if not the highest paid, while our teachers suffer as the lowest paid.  A lawsuit by the teachers of Lindbergh has been written up and is now being threatened by the teachers union (LNEA) of the district.  What does this mean for our kids?  If we, as parents and residents of the Lindbergh District don't take action and take it now we are basically sacrificing our children's education and our community to the irrational and selfish behavior of the few we VOTED into our school board and the Superintendent.  Is a teachers strike on the horizon or will they just vacate for higher paying districts and better treatment?  If you want to be heard in person attend the board meeting Aug. 11 at 7:30 in the ECE Multipurpose room or, if you are a Long Parent, Please contact our Long President, Dave Reinhardt, who will speak on behalf of those parents from Long IF he has the majority of the Long Parents support.  AND, if you dare, give the School Board a piece of your mind-they signed up for this, they promised us they would do what was in the best interest of our children and right now they are failing us.  
Kathleen Kienstra (President) 314-843-8843 
Donald Bee (Vice President) 636-349-1299
Karen Schuster (Secretary) 314-843-4268
Vicki Englund (Treasurer) 314-265-2886
Kara Horton (Director) 314-842-3665
Katie Holloway (Director) 314-849-5655
Gary Ujka (Director) 636-349-5324
*all of this info., as well as their email addresses (if you prefer to email instead) are available on the Lindbergh website.  

Now that you (and I) know this information:  Please ACT!!!  Your kids and their teachers deserve it!                     

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Good News/Bad News

This past week has been intense, I can't even choose an emotion because they're all over the place.  One moment I'm receiving good news, the next moment I'm trying to pull myself together to deal with the bad news.  I guess this is life, I just didn't expect this many curveballs and home runs in one week.

Good News: Coen lands his first big commercial (I ran into the director yesterday and they just finished editing so it will be out soon).

Bad News: Spencer is the most sick I've ever seen him.  A Pneumonia/Asthma combo has knocked him down for the count.  Many meds, daily Dr. appts., many sleepless nights, much worry.

Good News:  He has the best pediatrician who is helping him (and me) through this.  And I have awesome friends and family who are praying for him, wishing him well, calling, texting and sending me funny stories to put a smile on my face.

Bad News: We are getting new siding and stuck in a house where the workers bang on the walls from 7-5 everyday.  The inside of my walls are falling apart and every room is beginning to look like Swiss Cheese walls.

Good News: I get to/have to redo every room when they're finished (wait, is this good news?) and, in a few weeks, we'll have new siding and my sanity will return.

Bad News: We're on Spring Break and we can't leave the house to enjoy it except for Dr. appts.

Good News: My kids have mastered Minecraft and Clash of Clans and memorized every word to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Bella & the Bulldogs.

Bad News: I haven't slept in 4 days.

Good News: I have spent a lot of quality time with Spencer all day and all night.

Bad News: My house looks like a tornado hit, I have canceled all my barre classes and traded in working out this week for my new hummus and coffee addiction and I can only keep my eyes open or shut in 30 minute increments.

Good News:  I don't care.

Bad News: Spencer has a Dr. appt. in 1 hour to determine if his lungs are functioning properly and where we go from here.  And I'm terribly nervous.

Good News: Just received a call from a major casting agent and a message from our agency that Hadley landed a big commercial (her 1st commercial) to shoot this week...what are the chances that Coen and Hadley would both snag their 1st commercials the week that Spencer is horribly sick??  

Bad News: I'm not a good Juggler.

Good News:  I will be after this week.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

And Then There Was Puberty

Remember that little boy who would cling to your leg, who cried if you left the room, who thought you were the funniest person in the world?  Remember the little man who ran to you for comfort, who begged for your attention, who told you you were his best friend as he would sit on your lap with his sippy cup completely content watching Baby Einstein before bed?  Remember when you were cool instead of embarrassing-or crazy-as he likes to say (because wearing costumes at his school, dancing in public and sing-a-longs in the aisles of Target are no longer funny, fun or acceptable)?  Remember when his greatest problem, worry, doubt, fear or heartbreak could simply be solved within a few minutes of holding him tight and reassuring him that everything was going to be okay?  Remember when your biggest worry was if he would eat his dinner, take a nap that day or, heaven forbid, learn the S-word: Stupid!?

I remember all of this so clearly but, just like that and without warning, it's gone!  

We are entering this new phase of life.  A phase of irrational anger, slamming doors and where uncontrollable tears take over this child I sometimes don't recognize.  A phase where Mom is no longer cool or funny and, instead, I find myself begging for his attention.  A phase where their doubts, their problems and their heartbreaks are not easily mended and our kids become this guessing game of, "which child will he emerge as today?" play in our freaked out parental brains.  The sweet boy who still lets me cuddle him and carries a stuffed animal OR that other kid?  I don't remember reading about this in the, "What To Expect When You're Expecting" series...there are no more instruction manuals.    We're just left out here hanging by a thread onto our clueless parental instincts and hoping we do or say the right thing that day, as in, don't anger the Tween!  Those support groups catering to the new Moms and Moms of toddlers have quickly dissipated into an empty party of (figure it out yourself) one or, if you're really lucky (which I have been) a few fellow Tween Moms you can frantically text in times of crisis or emotional breakdown.  I was in denial, complete denial, until 2 weeks ago.  After a battle (and a win-on my part) of why you can't play video games today there was a meltdown of epic proportions.  I stood there in disbelief watching this Child, the one who has always been my most obedient, laid-back, helpful, Straight-A, eager to please kid turn into a head spinning, fire spitting....Tween.  Right before my eyes and when I least expected it.  I walked away and let him have his fit that night thinking my child was broken.  What had happened to my boy?  
The next morning he hugged me, told me he loved me, snuggled under a blanket in front of cartoons and acted as if nothing had happened.  What?!?!  After playing along for a bit I finally gave in and asked him if we were going to talk about what happened the night before.  He looked at me and, very matter of fact, told me it was just Puberty, that he and I probably needed to plan a date night and have a serious talk about his changing body and, oh, my favorite, he's growing a beard.
My 11 year old is preparing himself for puberty....while he's still 2 in my head.    
I could use that guide book about now.  And support group.  And a bottle of Jack.  And does this mean he knows about Santa??