Just Another Blog

my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

Archive for the tag “family”

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in the US, Canada, and a bunch of other countries.

Don’t forget to call up your mom (or that special woman that is like a mother to you) and tell her how much you love her. *

I wish I could, but my mother died over sixteen years ago. If I could go back in time…

So Happy Mother’s Day to my mom (who is no longer with me):

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Me and my mom in 1985 (I think–I was about 8)

And Happy Mother’s Day to my mother-in-law, Kay (who we lost in March):

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Kay and Jack (3 weeks old) in 2010

And I guess, Happy Mother’s Day to me!

(Christmas Eve 2016–trying to get a nice picture of all five of them is like trying to nail jell-o to the wall.)

*Unless your mother is/was a abusive bitch–then call the “mother” in your life–whether she’s an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, or the old lady down the street. Whomever she may be–let her know how much you appreciate her being in your life.

 

This Is the Best Day Ever!

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Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s been a good day.

First, I had an all-time record number of words. 16,236 words to be exact. Of course, I haven’t slept in almost 36 hours. But 16k!

Second, 100 day streak! Yeah, baby.

Third, I finally got my dream minivan!

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I’ve wanted a Town & Country for years. I figured some day I’d settle for a late model Dodge Grand Caravan which is the “poor” man’s version of the T&C. Well, after the truck broke down, my husband had no choice but to buy a new vehicle to get everyone home.

They told me they were getting me a “Susan,” which is what we named the rental we got years ago. I was excited, although anxious about new car payments after just buying a house. But what are ya going to do?

They finally get home, and I’m shocked to not just see my Town & Country, but the thing is flippin’ fully loaded. DVD player, Sirius (which isn’t hooked up), leather seats, imitation wood trim, all sorts of fancy buttons and dials.

Now I really, really don’t want to know what he paid for this or how we’re going to afford the monthly bills. Yikes.

I’m not sure what year the T&C is, but it is, by far, the nicest, most expensive vehicle I’ve ever owned. I get to drive it tomorrow. Squee! The kids want to call it “Destiny,” since it was apparently our destiny to break down there and buy her. I’m secretly going to call her “Felicity.”

Oh, and fourth, my family finally made it home from their adventure. Three days late. But that’s not important because minivan!

I’m kidding. I missed them, and was getting worried. I just didn’t miss the noise and mess. They’ve been home four and a half hours, and already I’m exhausted.

Adventure

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My oldest two kids, Meagan (16) and Owen (15), somewhere in Nebraska.

My husband took the kids to Missouri for his mother’s funeral. They left on the 1st and drove 2,000 miles straight through, stopping to sleep in the truck at rest stops. 2k miles in 2 days.

The kids wanted to go on the trip. It would be an adventure they said. Well, they got their adventure. They were on their way home yesterday when the truck broke down. They made it from Missouri to Oregon and are now stranded about 250 miles from home.

We have no idea if or when they can fix the truck. Or if we can even afford to repair it. Which means we have no idea when they can get home. They’re going to be sleeping on the streets soon since we don’t have money for them to keep staying at a motel (that’s money we can’t use the fix the truck). Talk about an adventure!

Meanwhile, I’m at home worrying about them and dealing with the damn cat.

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Bellamy meowing for the kids… so sad.

He’s almost 9 months old and doesn’t normally care for the kids bugging him, but he’s been so lost since they left. He often sits outside their bedrooms and cries for them to open the door. When they don’t, he gives me this sad look.

I’ve been trying to give him more attention, but every time I pet him, he gets up and moves a foot away. I’m not going to follow after him. Or he starts biting me. That’s a big nope for me. And he doesn’t like to be held. At all. If you try, he will scratch you to get away.

He’s so sad and depressed, he won’t even play fetch with me. And that’s his favorite thing. Poor guy.

In Memoriam

Eighteen years ago, I was introduced to an amazing, loving, special lady. Today, we are laying her to rest.

On March 29, my mother-in-law passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s and dementia. She died barely knowing her son. She had no memory of me. But I will never forget her or how she welcomed me into her family with open arms and never treated me any differently than her own children.

She was just one of those people that had so much love to give to everyone around her. I will miss her greatly.

In memory of

Leola “Kay” Connelly
7/29/42 – 3/29/17

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Gramma Kay with baby Jack (my youngest) in August 2010
He was three weeks old.

Throwback Thursday

My youngest daughter being hella adorable back in 2009. She had just turned 3. She used to love to wear dresses back then; not so much at age 10.

Throwback Thursday

My oldest daughter, Meagan, shared this picture on Facebook of her and three of her siblings in 2010 with this comment:

currently my favorite picture of all time. i wish jack was old enough at the time to get in on this, its just so darn cute. me and my lifelong friends. so thankful that i get to live and grow with my best friends

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August 2010–we had just moved to this house a week before after a five-day, cross-country trek. In the back: Brenna (7 1/2) and Meagan (10). In the front: Owen (8 1/2) and Nora (4). Jack was a month old.

And here’s the most recent pic I have of all five of them together at Owen’s 8th grade graduation in June.

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From left to right: Nora (1o), Owen (14), Jack (almost 6), Meagan (almost 16) and Brenna (13).

Here’s what else Meagan had to say about her siblings:

ive been around these kiddos forever. no matter who walks in n out of my life, these fuckers are the ones who will always stick. i dont even want to think of us all starting our own lives and separating. its scary. ive lived with them my whole life, i hate to think one day i might have a hard time getting ahold of them because we let distance or time get in the way

 

This from a girl that has always said she hates being at home because there are too many people in the house and she can’t stand any of us. I guess she’s getting wise in her “old” age.

I look at the second picture and can hardly believe these are my kids. Three teenagers–two of them in high school in the fall. Am I old enough to have a sixteen-year-old? When I think about them, I still picture those little kids in the first picture.

Or like this:

February 2004

Brenna (15 months), Meagan (3 1/2) and Owen (2). So little.

Poetry from a friend

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(c) 2009 Dean Searle via flickr.com

As I sit
by Javier Mendoza

As I sit alone on the edge of a cloud,
Whistling a heavenly tune,
While watching the beauty of nature surrounding me,
Feeling the love from everything of life,
I had to let go of things that
Society had blinded me with:
Corruption, ignorance, materialism,
the imitation of treacherous people.

I had to look away from all of the hatred,
The destruction of our planet,
The destruction of our country,
The destruction of our people,
Even ourselves.

As I sit here so blissful, meek, and enlightened.


I’ve known Javier since he was five years old–over thirty years now. He went to kindergarten with my younger brother, and they became fast friends. My mom sort of adopted him, and watched out for him growing up. He became a brother to us. I remember how devastated he was to learn that my mom had died. I think he cried harder than I did at her funeral. To this day he opens every message to me with, “hey sis…”

Looking at him you’d see this big, bald Mexican guy. He’s intimidating. But underneath he’s so sweet and thoughtful. You’d never suspect that he writes deep, beautiful poetry. I love him to death.

When You Know You’re Doing Something Right as a Parent

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Christmas this year was sparse to say the least. With my husband not working because of an injury, we’re surviving off of his meager worker’s comp. Thanks to food stamps we had a wonderful dinner on Christmas Eve with my dad and brother, but the real test was Christmas morning. I didn’t know how the kids would take getting only two gifts each (one from us and one from Santa).

I think my thirteen-year-old’s reaction sums it up: “Oh my god, this is so awesome; it’s exactly what I wanted. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

He got two small Lego sets that together equaled $30, and apparently, it was the best gift in the world. That was his Santa gift. From us he got a sweater and pants from Goodwill.

Having five kids is always tough money-wise. This past year has been a challenge. Having to admit we couldn’t do things on our own was tough–sitting in the waiting room at social services to get food stamps was a bit demoralizing. We’ve been getting by, though.

I worried about the disappointment I might see on Christmas. In all each kid got an outfit from Goodwill, pajamas, and a $30 gift, plus a couple small things in their stocking (each under $5). We also got two board games for the family which were on sale, and I have an amazing friend online that sent me $50 which I used to buy four movies. I thought about skipping the pajamas, but I’m glad I didn’t because my twelve-year-old wouldn’t leave me alone on Christmas Eve until I gave her hers, even though they weren’t wrapped. It’s a family tradition.

My fourteen-year-old got the least. Her pajamas were just bottoms, her outfit was just a top (with an IOU for pants later), and she got a gift card instead of a Santa gift. Her only comment: “I looked in my stocking and almost died; thank you for the coffee.” I got her a package of instant Starbucks coffee.

Watching them play with their Legos Christmas morning, I realized I was worried about nothing. My kids might be a huge pain in the ass a lot of the time, but when it counts, they are understanding and appreciative of what little they have. They know we’re poor and weren’t expecting much so they were excited for what they got. None of them even cared that their clothes came from Goodwill (might have something to do with the fact they got brands we could never afford from the stores).

We must be doing something right if two small gifts at Christmas made for one of the best Christmases ever.

Christmas While Poor

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Me, my kids, and my brother last Christmas

Being poor sucks all year ’round, but it seems doubly bad come the holidays. If you’re Christian, or like me, an atheist that celebrates Christmas, there is a lot of pressure to give gifts to everyone and their uncle. It can cause a lot of stress when you barely have money to put food on the table, and many poor families go into more debt trying to give their children even a small Christmas.

This year is exceptionally hard for us. In 2013, my husband hurt his shoulder at work and went on worker’s comp. It’s been over a year since he worked, and since then, we’ve had to go on Medicaid and food stamps. We’re below the poverty line for a family of four, but there are seven people in our family. Our rent is over half of the disability income my husband receives, and we barely scrape by every month. If it wasn’t for the refund from my student loan that I get every two months, we’d have lost our house already. Or we’d have no lights or water.

As Christmas crept closer, the more anxious we’ve been. It’s not that we want to go all out. We’ve been poor our entire relationship, but the last couple of years weren’t as bad–we had some disposable income and were able to give the kids nice Christmases. This year is going to be bad because there just isn’t anything extra.

So far we’ve spent $30 on each child. The four younger kids each got two LEGO sets; the oldest got a Target gift card. We had to charge it to my husband’s emergency credit card (the only one we have). Normally my dad gives us $50 for each child which we use for Santa presents along with a gift from Papa, but this year he moved and can barely afford to eat so there were only be cards from him.

It’s hard. I know the kids will understand. They’re good kids and will appreciate what they get. Sure they’ll be disappointed, but they know we’re poor–we’ve never hidden it. How do you even do that? How many times have they begged for money to do something with a friend? How many times have I had to tell them to suck it up when they outgrow their clothes (thank goodness for hand-me-downs)? How many times have I had to use their birthday money to buy things for the house? They get it.

But we still want them to have something. It’s Christmas! So they’ll have their $30 gift from Santa. I’m going to pick them out each an outfit from Kohl’s which will be charged to my card to be paid off at some unknown time–they need the clothes anyway. And I’ll get some stocking stuffers using what’s left of my student loan money.

We do have a bright spot for Christmas. I have a friend online that I met through Livejournal that sends a gift for the kids every year. I’ve never asked her to do this, she just surprised us a couple years ago. Today she emailed me to let me know she’s sending a gift card this year. I cried. She’s amazing, and that will add one more Santa gift to the mix (the older kids all know that the gifts come from her–she’s our own special Santa).

I know we’re not the worst off–there are many other families in the US that have less. Things could be worse, so I’m not really complaining. The tree is up and looking all festive. My dad and brother are coming over for Christmas dinner–pork roast, yum–for our first full family get together. It’ll be a lot of fun even if the space under the tree is going to look really bare this year.

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Christmas as an Atheist

It’s that time of year again when pretty lights twinkle in the night, kids line up to sit on Santa’s lap in every mall across America, and parents struggle to figure out how to afford Christmas yet again.

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If you listen to some conservative Christians, you’d think there’s some huge conspiracy to shut Christmas down–the “War on Christmas.” As far as I can tell, this war stems from some stores asking their employees to say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas” because they, you know, recognize that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated in December! Apparently this is persecution.

As a minority religion-wise, I don’t get it. It’s just common decency to consider other people’s beliefs and to not insist yours is above the rest. Personally, I don’t mind either version. It seems the only people upset about what greeting is used during the holidays are the quacky Christians (not to be confused with the sane Christians).

Being an atheist during the holidays can be a challenge. First off, it’s the one time of year that bombardment with Christianity isn’t just tolerated, but expected. There are other religions celebrating in the winter? Who knew?

Luckily for me, I like Christmas. I grew up celebrating and carried the traditions to my children despite raising them in an atheist household. We have the tree with twinkling lights, Santa visits (although he’s about as poor as we are), we make cookies, have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve, and generally enjoy this time of year. I even like most religious Christmas music. God, Jesus, mangers, and wise men play absolutely no role in our celebrations. They aren’t mentioned at all; it’s completely secular–just the way Santa intended.

Deciding whether or not to celebrate a religious holiday when you don’t believe in the religion can cause a lot of stress for atheists. If family members aren’t pressuring you to participate, there’s an internal battle over your own personal beliefs. Not everyone goes through this. For me, it was never an issue. I never thought twice about doing Christmas with my kids, but I’ve known others that have struggled with the idea of giving into the Christians this time of year.

Trying to explain why I still celebrate Christmas as an atheist has been met with criticism in the past. I’ve been accused of just pretending to be an atheist since I still continue to participate in obvious religious holidays. I’ve been told I’m a hypocrite for saying there’s no Jesus, but celebrating his birth (which I’m not doing–it never comes up at our house). Generally, there is just confusion coming from Christians who can’t fathom anyone believing any differently than they.

Christmas is a family and cultural tradition for me. Although we’ve started a few traditions of our own since my kids were born, most come from things I did as a child like having dinner on the 24th, leaving gifts unwrapped to play with before Mom and Dad wake up, and stockings with names stitched on by hand. I also feel connected to the millions of other people celebrating Christmas (for whatever reason), knowing that on December 25th, most people are waking up to brightly wrapped gifts under a tree. It’s all about community–locally and globally.

Most atheists I know celebrate Christmas and other holidays from when they were children, but there are many that don’t. For them, this time of year can be aggravating with the music, decorations, and pushy Christians everywhere. For me the stress has more to do with affording a few gifts for the kids every year. With five children that adds up quickly.

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