How I Spent the Last Day of My 30’s

Yesterday was the last day of my 30’s.  Today, I turn 40.  Today, I leave behind another decade of my life and begin a new one.  For some reason on the eve of some sort of “milestone birthday,” I feel like I should be doing something profound or do some reflecting.  The eve of my 18th birthday was the first time I felt that way.  As if I needed to get all of the “kid” in me out before I became an “adult.”  I worked all day that day and came home late, so I ended up spending the evening in my comfy clothes dancing around my room and lip syncing to songs on the radio.  As if I felt that I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore after that night.  What’s funny is I still do that now in my living room with my kid.  I’m honestly not sure how I spent the eve of my other milestone birthdays, but knowing me, I spent some time reflecting. Funny thing is I don’t have the slightest idea what I would have been reflecting on during any of those points, but I’m sure they were important to me in that moment in time.

Yesterday was odd to say the least and had a strange feel to it.  Maybe, it felt odd due to the fact that my birthday falls during that stretch between Christmas and the New Year where unless you are working every day, you have absolutely no idea what day it is.  I knew the date, however it did NOT feel like a Sunday to me.  I kept trying to remind myself it was Sunday, but it felt more like my day off during the week.  It wasn’t until I was standing on the other side of our busy road in my pajamas after walking out to the mailbox that I realized that it was indeed a Sunday.  I kept telling myself that I needed to “enjoy” the day since it was the last day of my 30’s.  As if my life would somehow be dramatically different the next day.  I didn’t spend the eve of my 40th birthday the way I had planned.  I spent it the way I was meant to.

I spent the eve of my 40th birthday spending quality time with the family I have built over the last decade.  My 5 year old son and I cleaned out the cabinet that I was storing my craft supplies in so that we could store games in it.  Now we have a place to store board games and can have family game nights.  He is about as excited as I am.  We took a ride up to the store where I used some of my Christmas money to buy a soft, fuzzy, new throw blanket to snuggle up under when the weather gets crappy.  We live in Michigan.  It is December.  Winter is coming.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  My son and I played together.  My husband brought home dinner and while our son was watching Scooby Doo in the bedroom, we were able to catch up on The Mandalorian.  I had more things crammed on my to-do list, but as far as I’m concerned, I did the the important things and everything I didn’t get to was stuff that could wait.  This was actually a lesson I learned over the past decade.  Prioritizing the to-do list considering I always tend to cram way too much on to it.

Speaking of the past decade, this morning I remembered that 10 years ago, I posted a blog about the things I learned during my 20’s.  I remembered writing “I’m sure I will read this 10 years from now and laugh at how stupid I sound.”  I thought to myself, “What a great idea!  I would love to read it again and laugh at how stupid I was 10 years ago.”  I hopped on Facebook and did a search.  Believe it or not, I actually found it.  I did laugh out loud at some of it, but to my surprise, it wasn’t really all that “stupid” after all.  It was interesting to revisit where my life was at and where my mindset was at 10 years ago.  I had learned quite a bit.  What I didn’t know was that I was on the verge of more life changing growth and lessons that were to come that year and throughout the next decade.  At lot of these lessons were like the 2.0 version of what I had learned during the decade prior.  I have to say, I loved my 30’s.  It was a great decade.  Not just for the growth and life lessons, but it was amazing.  I built a life and started living it.

A lot of important things happened during my 30’s.  I sought therapy to learn how to effectively deal with “stress” in my life.  Through that, I discovered that a big part of what was causing this stress had to do with certain unhealthy friendships and family relationships and how I was dealing with them.  I got to a point where I chose to “remove myself from the equation” with regards to some of those friendships and I don’t regret that decision.  Others experienced some friction, because we both had some growing to do, but not only did we become better versions of ourselves, our friendships now have become much stronger for it.  This was part of one of the most difficult and important lessons I learned over the past decade.  One that it took me almost the whole decade to understand and I’m still in the process of learning.  That lesson was about establishing boundaries.  In my 20’s and even at 30, I basically had none.  It was therapy that got me on the road to establishing boundaries in all areas in my life and it has been much better for it.  Here’s an example taken from what I wrote 10 years ago about how I felt at the end of my 20’s.

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Anyone read Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose, by Dr. Seuss?  Yeah, it was like that.  Thanks to a shove out of my comfort zone and therapy, I learned how to establish healthy boundaries.  Not everyone was happy with those boundaries of course, but it was beneficial and necessary.

Another thing that came from this journey was the discovery that I have Inattentive type ADHD.  Turns out that was another big factor in a lot of my stress.  So many pieces fit and it all made sense.  Once I learned this and accepted it, I embraced it and learned how to manage it.  Some days are easier than others and I am still learning new coping skills, but I am so thankful for this discovery and the peace and understanding it has brought me.

A lot happened during my 30’s while I was building my life.  These changes included making a house a home, getting a dog, and marriage.  I jumped out of a plane and learned how to ride a motorcycle.  I got to be part of an art gallery and watch it grow.  I am thankful to have had some of my work on display at that gallery and I made many new friends and expanded my horizons in art by spending some time with some of the most incredibly inspirational people along the way.  I opened up an online shop which did pretty well until I got burned out and decided to stop.  I have since re-opened, but haven’t put a ton of effort into it.  It is more of a side gig for the Christmas fund anyway.  I also discovered a love for off road exploring in the jeep.  It is something fun that our whole family enjoys.  I learned a new skill as well.  I taught myself how to crochet and I push myself regularly to get better and better at it.  I’ve found just how relaxing and therapeutic it can be and I love making things for other people and for fundraisers. 

During my 30’s I experienced the devastation of pregnancy loss followed by the joy of the birth of our son.  I learned the hard life lessons that come with parenthood.  Not all of them obviously, but the ones you learn in the first 5 years and I’m still learning those ones daily.  I’ve lost a parent and during all of that I learned just how strong my support system really is.  I am truly blessed.  I spent the last 10 years working at the same place and even after a decade, I still feel that I am exactly where I was meant to be doing exactly what I was meant to do.  I still love what I do, the work environment, and the people I work with.  These people are like family to me.  I had to laugh when I read this little bit from what I wrote 10 years ago.  

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I started out part time.  At some point, I became full time.  I wrote this 10 years ago, because I remember people advising me to quit and find something full time.  Anywhere.  It didn’t matter if it was in the field I just finished schooling in or if I liked it.  “You aren’t supposed to like your job.  That’s why it is called work.”  I remember people thinking I was stupid for wanting to stick around.  Well, it was my life and not theirs.  The choice was mine to make.  If I had any little mouths to feed at the time, I likely would have made a different choice, but that was not the case.  The best advice I got was on the day I almost left for something full time, but chose to stay, because leaving didn’t feel right.  My husband said to me “You do what makes you happy.”  I did just that and not once did I regret that choice.  So, I guess to some people probably still must think that I don’t have a “real job,” because after 10 years there, I still love what I do.  Well, I get a regular paycheck for the work I do and I have great benefits, so if that’s not a “real job,” I’m not sure what is.  Then again, I do recall hearing a quote that “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I tend to agree with that.  When I’m at work, I never feel like it is actual “work.”  So, maybe it isn’t a “real job.”  Fine with me.  I’m 10 years in with my “fake job” and loving it.  They also made my birthday quite special today, because as I’ve said before, my co-workers are like family to me.

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My 30’s were bittersweet.  There was a lot of pain and loss.  We have friends who are no longer with us.  However, there was beauty in the pain.  It was a bit hard to say good-bye to my 30’s, because I loved that decade.  Life must go on though and the good Lord gave me another birthday, which means my work here is not done.  Not everyone I know has had the luxury of seeing 40 or beyond, so I will embrace each year I get and do it for them.  This past decade taught me that my life actually did turn out how I pictured it back when I was growing up.  I never dreamed for fame or monetary wealth.  I pictured myself with a house, a loving and supportive husband, kids, a big brown dog, cheesy family pictures on the wall, and to be part of a loving family.  I’m there and I am grateful.  Now to see what the next decade brings.  This is 40.

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The Heart of the Matter: What’s Behind Misbahavior

FB_IMG_1568989323448A couple weeks ago, my son came home from school with an attitude.  I asked him how his day was and he wouldn’t talk about it.  He refused to give me any details.  Usually, he will tell me something about the day, but this day, he wasn’t answering any of my questions and dodging the topic.  Every request we had of him was met with pushback and attitude.  Bed time was also met with pushback and attitude.  He was misbehaving.

In bed, while we were reading stories, I questioned him again. This time I asked about feelings.  I asked if today made him happy.  He said “No.” I asked if today made him sad and he said that it did.  Then I asked why and I got my answer.   It all made sense.  This was why he was not willing to talk about his day.  This was why he he was in a mood.  He told me that his group of friends didn’t want to play with him on the playground.  They kept running away from him.

I pressed further and asked why they wouldn’t play with him.  His quivering little lips turned downward into a frown as his little hazel eyes filled with tears.  “I don’t know.”  He answered.  I asked who he played with and as he began to cry, he told me he played by himself.  My heart sank.  We as parents want to shield our children from pain and heartache, yet unfortunately we know that it is inevitable.   This is one of the life lessons that we all must learn.  It is a pain we all must experience.  Rejection.  This wasn’t something he was used to.  Kids not wanting to play with him was a foreign experience and it stung.  It broke my heart knowing that not only could I not protect him from this pain, but that this was a necessary learning experience.  I knew it would happen eventually.  I guess I just didn’t think it would happen in kindergarten.

I reached out and hugged him tight.  I explained that sometimes our friends want some alone time and it has nothing to do with us.  Sometimes they just don’t want to play with us and again it isn’t personal.  I also explained thst sometimes we fall out and have fights with friends and we just need to give them time and space.  I told him that sometimes kids are just plain mean and we just have to move on.  I acknowledged that when these things happen, it is sad and it is okay to feel sad, but it is important not to stay focused on that sadness.  I told him I had been there too and it happens to everyone when they are a kid.

I told him that the next time this happens, just find some new friends to play with.  He looked at me confused and asked “Find new friends?” I figured since he just started kindergarten and he is a social butterfly, this should be much easier for him than it was for me and I had done this.  I explained that it doesn’t mean those other kids aren’t his friends anymore, but he can make new friends.  Then when his other friends don’t want to play with him, he can give them their space and play with different friends.  Kids are weird.  Sometimes they want space, sometimes they are mean.  They are all navigating life while delveoping social skills and while they alearning, they may hurt each others feelings.  When I had friends who got moody and didn’t want to hang with me, I went to hang with my other friends for a while.  I wasn’t nearly as social and outgoing as my son, so I figured this would be easier for him.  So I reiterated, thst next time this happens, find someone else to play with.  There are lots of other kids in the school, you don’t always have to play with the same three or four.

Once he was asleep, I explained to my husband that I got to the bottom of his misbehavior.  We talked about it for a bit.  I went to bed still heartbroken.  I couldn’t get the image of his teary-eyed little face out of my head.  I told myself that it is a part of life he needs to experience and I did what I could to comfort him.  Then I thought maybe there was something else I could do.  I wasn’t planning on getting overly involved.  This would be something he would need to sort  his own, but there was something I could do to help.

I have a few friends who have children his age at the same school.  I showed him their pictures and told him to look for them on the playground and play with them.  These kids are all in the same grade.  One of them in his class.  Their paths will cross eventually.  Why not now? He felt better.  He knows who these kids are and knows he can play with them.  Even better, I’ve known their parents for 20-30 years.

He is since over it and it seems his friends are too.  Such is the life of childhood drama.  Now he has more friends.  Who knows what is in store?  Maybe they will all have different interests and hang in different groups, maybe they will start a garage band together.  Only time will tell.  This is his life and I’m just here on the sidelines to offer comfort, support, and advice.  This experience was also a good reminder that often times, there is something underneath our child’s misbehavior.

 

Back to School When Mommy Has ADHD

20190926_113823I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks now.  However, I’ve been procrastinating for weeks.  I decided it was time to buckle down and write this today.  We hear and read a lot about kids and school and ADHD, but we don’t hear much about when parents have it.  What’s it like? I’ll tell you.

I tend to manage mine pretty well for the most part.  I have very strict routines that I follow.  I color code things or have other tools to make important things stand out, because we all know that when everything is equally vying for your attention, you need something to pull you in to what’s really important.  I write EVERYTHING down.  I need to.  If I don’t write it down somewhere where I will see it, I will almost certainly forget.  I keep important things (ie keys and work badge) in the same place all the time.  This way, I’m not late for things due to frantically looking for my keys or something else I misplaced for the 100th time because it is always in the same place.  Everything I plan to wear to work for the entire week, is washed on the weekend, gets folded put together and set in a specific place for me on Sunday.  This way, I’m not wasting time in the mornings frantically looking for something clean to wear.  It is already clean and set aside for me in my designated spot.  If I don’t have a list or a strict routine to follow, I will forget things.  No joke, I’ll even forget to eat until I end up with a migraine around 2:00pm from not eating and hydrating enough.  Some people see my routines and strict organization tools as crazy, but they are essential for me to function in daily life.  Without it all, I’m a complete hot mess.  When something changes and I need to adapt, it disrupts my world for a bit and takes me extra time to find a new “groove.”

I suppose my title shouldn’t be “Back to school.” In my case, my kid just started school for the first time.  Until now, I had a handle on the routine and I didn’t have to remember much.  Drop kid off at daycare before work, go to work, pick kid up from daycare, repeat.  Write check for daycare lady on Thursdays and keep the envelope in a place I will see it so I can remember to give it to her.  Repeat.  There was nothing else I needed to remember.  Then my son started kindergarten.

I knew I would need to organize more things, but it didn’t even occur to me the new things I would need to remember.  School start times, end times, bus schedules, pickup schedules.  Due dates, early release dates, papers coming home, book orders, snack schedules, folders.  It didn’t hit me until the orientation day, that I would need to do a complete overhaul of my regimen if my son was going to do well and not suffer due to mommy dropping the ball.

Many of you reading this are like “Duh!” It is no big deal to you,  because your brain can handle it.  You have this nice little secretary in your brain organizing information and telling you what’s important while discarding what doesn’t need your attention.  You arent even aware of it, because it doesnt happen consciously.  My “secretary” has been on vacation since 1979.  I need to make a conscious effort do the organizing myself if I don’t want to end up overwhelmed and crushed under the massive pile of information on “her desk” aka my brain.  When that information isn’t organized, I get overwhelmed, my brain short circuits and everything comes to a screeching halt.  At the very least, I’ll forget things.

So when my kid started school, I was bombarded with all this new information.  Dates, things to remember to send my son to school with, more schedules.  A change in routine.  I purchased a corkboard/whiteboard combo.  I didn’t want important papers getting buried in random places in the house.  They all go on this board.  Dates are written on the board.  I do things ahead of time as I’m thinking of them so they don’t get forgotten.  It has worked out.  I think I only forgot to send my son to school with his daily folder once.  I’d say that’s pretty good considering school has been in session for a month now.  I think now a month in, we are in our groove.

The first couple weeks were a different story.   It was in that first week that I forgot my son’s folder one day.  I also forgot to fill his water bottle pretty much every day that first week.  He reminded me of that multiple times.  Although I did forget a couple things with him, they were minor.  I remembered most of what I needed to.  However, I was concentrating so hard on remembering his stuff and setting this new routine, I forgot tons of stuff for myself.  I forgot to fill a prescription.  I forgot to place an order from a book party my friend was having.  I forgot a ton of things for myself.  Thankfully none of it was devastating, because I have a routine and designated place for my important stuff.  It was a bumpy couple weeks though.

At some point when my son is older, he will be need to be responsible and accountable for handling many of these things himself and it will be up to me to show him how.  With him being a kindergartener, the bulk of it is on me right now.  If I drop the ball, he pays the price.  I don’t want to let that happen.  I’d say we are in a pretty good spot and thankfully, his teacher is very patient and understanding.  I have had to set alarms to remember times, but then of course, I have so much anxiety over making sure I don’t forget, I end up not needing alarms.  Stuff gets turned in early or I show up for things super early, because I don’t want to forget or be late.  Again, anxiety inducing.  At least I know if it is early or I show up early, it isn’t forgotten or late.

So, now you know.  To my co-workers wondering why I’ve been a bit “off” lately, this is why.  Thank you for your patience and for your support. Thank you for helping me with the things that I forgot to do for myself that first week.  To mine and my son’s village, thank you as well for your patience and support. I’m trying my best while navigating this uncharted territory, but I certainly would not be able to pull it off without your support.  I’m still a bit overwhelmed, but the dust is settling and we are falling into a good groove.  If there are any other parents out there with the ADHD superpower who have been there done that and would like to share what has worked for them, I’m open to suggestion.

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Why Are People Licking Stuff?

20190724_184918Note: Nobody actually licked anything in the candy store in the picture.  I just didn’t want to draw even more attention to the ones who are.

 

In the last few weeks, my newsfeed has looked like something from the Twilight Zone.  A young woman licks ice cream and puts it back on the shelf in a grocery store.  Another young woman swishes some mouthwash in her mouth, spits it back into the bottle, and puts it back on the shelf.  This has apparently become a trend.  I’m hearing of people left and right proudly videoing themselves contaminating products and putting the  back on the shelves for the unsuspecting consumer.  Some of it is security footage, but others put their acts on display with pride.  I’ve heard this is a new “challenge.” What is wrong with you people? Why are you so stupid? Sorry, not sorry, but if you do this or think this is okay, you are a moron.  Didn’t your parents teach you any manners?  Maybe not.

Sure those things were disgusting, but the one I found most appalling was the mother who proudly video taped her daughter licking a tongue depressor in an exam room at a doctor’s office and putting it back into the container.  They were not individually wrapped, so not only did she contaminate the tongue depressor she licked, but she contaminated all of them inside the container by placing it back inside.  It is bad enough in a grocery store, but in a medical facility, now you are really creating a health risk.  The daughter was old enough to know better, but her mother didn’t even try to stop her.  She instead took video of her in the act and shared it on Snapchat.  Obviously, this means the mother saw nothing wrong with it and decided it would make them both “cool” to participate in this idiotic contaminate crap and put others as risk “challenge.”

When you involve your child and encourage them to participate in risky behavior all for “likes” and notoriety on the internet, I’m sorry, you’re failing.  You are failing to teach your kid right from wrong and encouraging bad behavior by shooting video and sharing it.  You are failing by teaching them that doing stupid stuff for likes on the internet is far more important than manners and common sense.  You are failing to teach your kid how to be responsible for their actions.

What did this mother say in her defense when questioned?  She didn’t intend for it to go viral.  Um…You shared it.  One of her friends recorded it and shared it with the public.  What the mother is really saying is that she didn’t intend to get caught.  She knew full well what they were doing.  She just didn’t expect one of her friends to have enough sense to “rat her out.” I’m sure she blames her friend for exposing it and not herself for being an idiot to begin with.

Welcome to the age of the internet folks.  This is where our society is headed. People are basically trying to out-stupid each other for likes and views.  They call these things “challenges.” I don’t even know why these things are called “challenges” because none of them are anything challenging. There is nothing challenging about licking ice cream.  It takes ZERO skill or talent to lick a tongue depressor and put it back.

You want a challenge? Roll your lazy, self absorbed, entitled butt out of bed and get a job.  Show up to work on time and have good attendance.  Clean the house.  Go to school and actually try for good grades. Learn a new skill.  Be nice to each other for a change.  Do a good deed for someone WITHOUT bragging about it online. Save your money for something you want.  These things are challenging.   Just so we are clear, I’m not talking to children when I say this. I’m talking to the teenagers and young adults who are doing this nasty crap in grocery stores.  I’m talking to the parents who are encouraging it.  You all know better.  Do better.  For the love of God STOP licking things and STOP encouraging your children to lick things!

 

 

 

The Dangers of Social Media

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I became a parent later in life than many of my friends.  I fortunately do have a few friends with kids the same age as my son, but my other friends and many of my co-workers have kids much older than mine, so the issues we deal with are different.  I’m at the “Please remember to wipe your butt after you go number 2” stage in parenting.  My backup at work however has older children.  She is in the “Travel baseball and Tik Tok” stage.  Although some things in parenting remain the same throughout the generations, many things seem to change.

There’s so much kids do these days on social media.  I can’t even keep track of the apps kids are using these days. It blows my mind how many of these apps kids use and what they use them for.  These apps can be a lot of fun, but they are also used to bully.  Kids use Tik Tok videos to fight with one another.  Nowadays, kids can get picked on for not having many followers or likes.  Sounds silly to those of us adults who have a fully developed prefrontal cortex, but to a kid, it can be a huge deal.  School and friends are your whole world when your’e a kid.  Think about when you were 12.  Things that are trivial to us now as adults mattered in a big way when we were kids. Remember getting picked on for not having name brand shoes?  It is like that, but more high tech.  For the most part, the majority of the things kids are doing on social media are pretty harmless and fun.  There are dangers however that kids don’t seem to be aware of or they just aren’t taking seriously.  Kids these days are too trusting.  Were we this trusting at that age?

I woke up Monday morning to a follow request on Instagram.  When I checked who it was, I realized it was from a 12 year old girl.  I recognized the name as my friend’s daughter’s friend.  I have never met this girl or her parents.  I follow my friend’s daughter on Instagram, because I know her.  I’ve known her mother since kindergarten.  My friend was working as my backup at work that day, so I asked her about it.  She explained that this girl and her daughter had an argument in the past and it came up that the girl didn’t have as many “followers” as her daughter.  My friend had also received a request, so after a little investigating, we found that the girl had been sending requests to everyone on my friends daughter’s list of followers in an attempt to gain more for herself.

We laughed at first about how juvenile this behavior was.  Then again, these are 12 year old girls we are talking about.  Then the reality of the dangers of the situation began to sink in.  I said to my friend “That’s not very smart.  There are a lot of weirdos on the internet.  This is how you become an Amber Alert.”  Kids are randomly adding strangers on social media simply to increase their number of followers.  Does anyone else see how dangerous this is? Sure adding your friends’ parents might be okay.  Even adding friends of your friend’s parents might be okay, but let’s be realistic.  Some kids have shady parents.  Some parents have shady friends and lots of shady people are good at hiding it.

You hear all the time about not just children, but grown adults coming up missing.  Not even the Facebook marketplace is safe.  Although many people like to pretend this doesn’t happen, sex trafficking is a highly profitable business and is happening everywhere.  It happens enough in my home state that there shelter in my town for those who have escaped from it and are in recovery.  This shelter would not exist if there wasn’t a need for it.  Predators are clever with luring in their victims and our impressionable, gullible, and trusting children are their ideal targets.  So what is the answer?

Seriously, I would like to know.  I’m not saying we should keep our kids entirely off social media.  We all know many kids find ways to open social media accounts against their parents wishes and without their knowledge.  We need to be smart about it, but how? We need to teach our kids to be smart about it, but how?  I’m not writing this to judge.  My parenting experience is limited to baby, toddler, and preschool years.  I’m writing this to open up a dialogue.  How do we as parents combat this? What do you do?  How do we protect our children from the dangers lurking online?  If you are currently in this stage of parenting, what are some things that you have found helpful?

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Adventures in Jeep Culture

20190504_133616Sitting here alone with my coffee while enjoying the silence and stillness of the morning is something that almost never happens.  Yet here I am doing just that.  It is glorious.  My husband is at work and surprisingly my son is still asleep.  That never happens.  I am lucky and sometimes he sleeps in until 7:00ish on the weekends.  Lately however, he has been doing this thing where on the weekends and on my days off, he wakes up earlier than when he needs to on days I work.  On weekdays it is no big deal.  He can just climb in bed with me, but on weekends, daddy is home and there’s no room.  That means mommy is getting up with him at 6:00am to snuggle on the couch and watch tv.  I love it, but sleep is nice too.  Today however is an odd exception.  Actually it is making me a bit nervous and I’m having to force myself to not check on him.  He went to bed late and grandma wore him out.

I know I’ve written before about off road adventures and Jeep culture.  I’m doing it again.  Our son was partying with grandma for a reason yesterday.  We attended the 2019 Blessing of the Jeeps.  Although it is a family event, we like to run the obstacle courses and feel that it is unsafe for a child his age to come along.  Especially without a roll cage. So, he went camping with his grandparents the night before and spent the day hanging out at the campground with them.20190504_100420

Normally when we go to this event, we go as a group and it is a blast going with a group of friends.  This year it was just my husband and I.  Turns out we have just as much fun by ourselves.  Sometimes groups of friends get into a hobby for a bit and then after a while, grow tired of it and slowly one by one, get out of it and move on to something else.  I’m not for sure, but we may be getting at thst point with our group and the Jeep thing.  My husband and I are far from done though.  Our kid enjoys it just as much as we do and we have met so many fabulous people during our adventures.20190504_101729

It seems that many who have never tried it have this misconception of the Jeep culture.  When they hear someone talking about off road adventures, they think of drunken rednecks tearing up the mud in their back yard.  I was unaware of this stereotype until I mentioned the blessing on Facebook one year and talked about an observation I made regarding what I felt were some poor parenting choices being made.  Someone commented that rednecks aren’t known for making good choices.  That’s when I realized Jeep culture is stereotyped.  Just like motorcycle culture.   Bikers have been dealing with it for decades, because of a few bad apples.  Not ALL bikers are barbaric criminals.  As a matter of fact, very few of them are.  Guess what.  It is the same with Jeepers.  Sure there are a few “hold my beer while I make a bad choice” people out there, but that is not the entire Jeep crowd.  As a matter of fact after all the people I’ve met since we’ve been doing this, I have yet to meet someone like that.

For most of us, it is a lifestyle.  Sort of like owning a Harley.  Many Jeepers buy a vehicle and put time and money into customizing it so it can do what they want it to do. Many of us trailor our vehicles, because they aren’t exactly something you can drive every day on the road anymore.  Not to mention, if you break something, it is good to still have something you can drive home.  It isn’t for everyone.  Sort of like owning a motorcycle isn’t for everyone.  If you are into it though, it is a fun lifestyle.  Far from “redneck idiots.” The Jeep Blessing is no exception.20190504_141435

The Jeep Blessing is a family friendly event.  Not everyone who goes there drives the obstacle courses.  Many just come to hang out.  There is a live band, bounce houses, vendors, and food.  Not only is that portion of it kid friendly, but it is dog friendly as well.  As a matter of fact, I saw large water dishes set out at many vendor booths for dogs to stop by and have a drink.  Vendors brought their dogs too of course.  There is no alcohol allowed at this event for obvious reasons.  Drinking and driving is enough of a no no as it is.  Drinking and driving on an obstacle course in a vehicle that can be known to flip over is just a bad idea.  Period.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few who have decided to sneak it in, but from what I’ve seen, almost everybody respects the rules.

So, aside from the band, what do the people who aren’t driving the courses get for entertainment? They watch the drivers run the obstacle courses.  Although I personally prefer being on the course myself, I see how watching other drivers on it can be entertaining.  These people get to watch others test their vehicles to max capacity as they tackle logs, rocks, hills at sharp angles, and concrete bowls that are known for claiming jeep parts or flipping jeeps if one is not careful.  That is also why there are plenty of trained volunteers ready to spot you to help you over an obstacle or rescue you if need be.  There is also a mud bog for those who want to get a bit dirty.  It is definitely fun to watch thst as well.  At the end of it all, there’s a raffle.  Who doesn’t enjoy a good raffle drawing?20190504_160321

It is a great way for a family to spend the day.  There are usually anywhere from 1,000-2,000 Jeeps in attendance.  You get to meet new people, meet vendors, get some ideas for modifications to your vehicle, and maybe show someone how you modified yours and give them ideas.  Every year, the course changes to keep it interesting.  Although it was just my husband and I, we enjoy each others company, so it was kind of like a nice all day date.

We do bring our son to other Jeep events during the year.  For the last couple years, we have been attending an event on Drummond Island.  Sure obstacle courses, sand dunes, and off road parks are fun for a day, but what never seems to get old is overlanding.  Personally this is what I really enjoy.  Overlanding is where you hit some off road trails and explore nature.  You have a destination that you are headed to.  It is like hiking, but without the walking and you can do it in any kind of weather.  The trails may be manmade, but the “obstacles” are not.  You get to explore the beauty of nature while deep in the woods in places where your cell phone serves no purpose other than to be a camera.20190504_161104

There is something exciting to me about traveling through the trails in nature all day long with a group of people and getting to know one another.  We talk on the CB radios as we travel, stop for lunch in some of the most beautiful places, and watch the sun rise together on a cliff overlooking Lake Huron.  What’s great about traveling in a group like that is if someone breaks down or gets stuck, we help each other out.  The memories made are priceless as well as the friendships and connections that are made.  Heck maybe the world would be a bit better if more of us stepped away from the TV and dare to go where there was no cell service for a while and enjoyed nature.

There are a million ways to have adventures and make memories with the kids.  This happens to be one of our favorites.  It is also a great way to just spend the day for a date, because let’s face it, sometimes mommy and daddy need to spend some time alone.  Even if it means sitting in the Jeep after running the obstacle courses while munching on kettle corn and watching people attempt the mud bog.  What started out as just some goofing off with friends on the weekend has grown into a lifestyle for us.  We are hoping to get in some more overlanding adventures this year.  Parents, feel free to share some of you stories of things you like to do for “adventures” with the family.20190504_114307

Sometimes You Win & Sometimes You Learn

20190330_164746My son loves the Food Network. He enjoys “helping” me in the kitchen and learning how to cook.  He especially enjoys cooking competition shows.  A couple weekends ago, I decided to enter my white chicken chili in a chili cookoff.  I took the opportunity to teach my kid more about cooking and he was eager to help and learn.  I let him help shred the chicken and add the seasonings after I measured them.  I told him we could share the prize if I won.  He was pretty confident that “we” would win.  I figured we had a good chance, but I explained to him that there was a chance we might not.

The whole experience of the day was fun.  The event was a fundraiser and the contest was a family affair with the in laws entering the red category.  My son enjoyed socializing with everyone and ordering drinks at the bar.  Apparently he doesn’t realize someone needs to pay for them.  He just kept walking up to the bar and saying “Pineapple juice please.” He was hitting it pretty hard, but we cut him off after the third one.

The taste testing and voting was blind and my son took it pretty seriously.  He tried each sample and then handed them to me to try as well.  He made sure to tell me which ones he liked and didn’t like.  Then I let him cast his vote.  While we were taste testing, I found two others in the white category that I liked a lot.  I liked them better than my own.

When the votes were in, the winners were announced.  My sister in law and brother in law took 2nd and 3rd place in the red category.  We joked that it would have been cool if our whole family dominated the contest, but how it would look pretty fishy if we did.  The winners for the white category were announced and mine did not place.  Considering how stiff the competition was in that category, I was not surprised.  However what was unexpected, was my son’s reaction.

It wasn’t until after all the winners were presented with prizes and they were reading off the winners of the raffle items that he realized we didn’t place.  He hung his head and with a pouty face he said “I didn’t win anything.”  At first I thought he was referring to the raffle items.  I explained that we didn’t put in any tickets for the items on that table, so we weren’t going to win anything.  Then he said with tears in his eyes “I didn’t win a trophy.”  The 1st place winners in each chili category got a trophy.  I didnt think he would take “our” not placing that hard.  As sad as this was to watch, I took it as an opportunity to teach him a valuable life lesson.

Disagree if you wish, but it seems in this day and age, we seem more concerned with feelings and making sure everyone is a winner so no feelings are hurt.  Hey, I’m all for making your kid happy and feel like a winner.  Sheltering kids from every disappointment imaginable and not allowing them to “fail” once in a while leads to someone who grows up ill equipped to navigate the obstacles of real life.  I decided experiencing this “disappointment” vicariously through me and explaining things to him before he even starts school may give him an edge in life.

I explained to him that although winning is nice, in life you don’t always win and that’s okay.  No matter what the situation, it is more about the experience as a whole than it is about the outcome. I decided to be an example to him of how to properly handle disappointment.  You take it as an opportunity to learn.  Celebrate with the winners.  Aknowledge disappointment, but don’t let it discourage or stop you.  Winning can teach you things too, but sometimes losing teaches you more.  Overcoming obstacles builds character.

We seem to have a lot of folks out there these days who expect everything to just come easily to them in the real world.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like somewhere along the line, we lost touch with how to prepare our kids for the real world.  Not everybody wins in the real world.  Sometimes you get passed up for that promotion, because someone else is better suited for the position.  Sometimes the candidate you voted for loses the election.  You don’t always win the contest, because sometimes another entry was better than yours.  That’s life.

Also, life isn’t always fair.  Initially sometimes it seems that those who cut corners get ahead.  Your hard work and determination isn’t enough, because somewhere along the line someone was dishonest.  This is a lesson that kids may learn while still in school.  Little Johnny won the grand prize for selling the most candy bars, because his uncle bought them all to give to his clients.  Another kid in the class takes first place in the science fair, because their parent made their solar system for them.  Sometimes another kid ends up getting into the college that you applied to, because their parents had enough money to bribe the powers that be.  The thing our kids need to take away from these moments, is that although these kids appear to come out ahead, in the long run, they will be less successful in life.  Having learned this lesson that life isn’t always fair helps equip a child with certain skills needed to navigate life just the same as losing once in a while does.  These kids who always win or cheat and win will eventually end up entering the real world lacking problem solving skills and the knowledge necessary to navigate life.  They will never learn how to properly deal with disappointment, how to be happy for their peers and celebrate their victories, or improve upon their skill sets in order to achieve more.  They will simply expect it and be devistated when things don’t go their way and not know how to handle it.

Losing sometimes, builds integrity.  Kids learn how to cheer for others around them and celebrate with them.  They learn how to better solve problems.  They learn how to stop and think “What could I have done differently here.  What can I change to do this better next time?”  Teaching our children to be lifelong learners and constantly looking for ways to improve will take them much futher in life than a trophy ever will.  It will even take them further than those who cut corners.  The key is to teach them how to handle these disappointments gracefully and to not give up just because of a setback.  Winston Churchill said that “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  It is true.  If every person throughout history gave up after the first failure, life as we know it would be quite different and not for the better.  Yes, winning is great and you can learn a ton from that, but we also need to teach our kids how to lose and the valuable lessons that come along with that.

By the way, my son was over our loss within 5 minutes and he won the “guess how many” game the following weekend at an Easter Egg Hunt, so he’s happy now.