Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Fall Festival

Today is a big day! FALL FESTIVAL! Colin's school has been gearing up for weeks and we have been counting down the days. All the kids can wear their Halloween costumes or at least a festive shirt, as in the case of Mr. Colin. He was not into wearing his costume today, but I was VERY proud that he agreed to wear his skeleton shirt and jeans. It was 49 degrees this morning and I was very nervous that I wouldn't get him into pants of any kind. I took him outside so that he could feel how cold it was, so that helped. He had not allowed pants anywhere near his body before this morning, so the jeans made me very happy. They set up lots of different games all around the school and had parent volunteers man each station. Once the kiddos played each game, they got a treat for their goody bag. It was absolutely adorable!! The classes all took turns attending, so it was not too crowded and just right for the little man. I volunteered and worked the session before Colin's turn. The next parent had not relieved me when Colin's class rounded the corner to the festival and therefore Colin got the shock of his life when he saw me randomly standing in the middle of his school hallway, wearing cat ears and whiskers, no less! He was VERY confused, by both my presence and appearance, and looked very much like he was seeing a ghost! He never really recovered after the shock and was a little "off" for the rest of the festival. He wouldn't really give me any smiles for the camera, which is unfortunate because he looked so cute! :-) Next year I will sign up to work the session way after Colin's! I learned my lesson on that one!
I loved getting a chance to see Colin with his classmates and watch him interact with his teachers. I was blown away by how well behaved everyone was...they all did exactly what they were told. They run like a well oiled machine and Colin clearly knew what to do and when. We got to play outside with the kids for awhile before it was time for them to go to lunch and when it was lunchtime, Miss Gina said, "Wild Things, LINE UP! Time to go inside!" and Colin jumped out of my lap and ran to get in line against the fence. I was amazed! The class had a very special pizza party for the occasion, so that was when the parents headed out. It was a great time and the perfect start to Halloween weekend! YEA!

Colin and his classmates line up before going outside to the bounce house. How cute are they?!
Playing "golf" for prizes. :-)

He liked his super cool candy jug that Miss Gina and Miss Kelli made him!

Not at all sure why mom is standing in the hallway...

Pulling lollipops out of a pumpkin with his cute!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bullied: My Story

It started in the 5th grade. Elementary school had been charmed for me and I was a very happy and well adjusted little girl. My parents were exceptionally loving and amazing and we lived in a perfect house in a great neighborhood and I went to a fantastic school just blocks from my home. I didn't want for anything and lived the life that every parent wants for their child. My biggest problem was that I always got "talks too much" checked on my report cards and was constantly in trouble for that. :-) Elementary school ran from Kindergarten through 5th grade and it was that final year that everything changed. When I really think hard, I suppose the change had slowly started late in the 4th grade. I have a hazy memory regarding the upcoming school year. I remember that there was a specific teacher (we will call her Mrs. Smith) whose class everyone wanted to be in. I don't recall how I knew that, but I do remember telling my mother that it was urgent that I be in Mrs. Smith's class. You didn't get to choose things like were assigned a class and got a letter in the mail before the start of school telling you what class you were in. I don't know if it was because my mom was a teacher in the district or just the luck of the draw, but I managed to get Mrs. Smith. That was probably the beginning of the end for me. I should have let the cards fall the way they were supposed to because 5th grade was horrible.

That year, kids seemed older and our concerns stopped being so child-like and began to revolve around clothes and boys and gossip. Due to my own machinations, I was in the "it" class and up to my ears in zippered ankle "Guess" jeans and Dooney and Burke purses. This was also the first year that I noticed how much smaller I was than the other girls. I had not had a growth spurt yet and was markedly smaller than my classmates. I had a best friend, let's call her Sally, and we had been inseparable since probably the 1st grade. She was in my class. My first bad memories are from this time. ALL of the wealthiest kids were in my class because their parents had pulled their own strings and it was a tough crowd to fit in with. My mom was fond of braiding my hair into two french braids down either side of my head and down my back. One boy used to use them like the reins of a horse when we were in line from the playground or lunch. He would say, "Giddy Up, Little Girl!" and pull them. The other boys caught on to his teasing and I started to notice the tide turn...I was becoming the joke of the class. I was sensitive and quick to cry, which made it worse. I wasn't completely miserable yet, though. That was coming. At some point in the school year, a new girl moved to town. She was absolutely beautiful. This cannot be overstated. She was stunning. She towered a foot over every other girl and looked about 25. This is actually not an exaggeration in the least. I have many yearbook pictures of her that would blow your mind. She was an anomaly and still remains to be one of the most beautiful people that I have ever known in real life. She was also very kind and I wonder to this day if she knew the havoc that her arrival brought on our little world. Anyway, she was not in our class, but we shared recess and lunch with her class and it didn't take long for literally everyone alive to want to be her friend. She rocketed immediately into the most popular girl of all time. At this time, Sally decided that she was going to be best friends with her (we will call her "Susan"). I don't remember exactly how it happened, but somehow Sally successfully befriended Susan and quickly became a bully. She started joining in with the boys making fun of me and passed me notes in school saying that I was annoying her. When I tried to join in with her and Susan at recess, she would pass me notes afterwards saying that I was pitiful and trying to "puppy dog" her around. It is funny...I still remember that phrase on a piece of wide-ruled paper. "Puppy Dog" How horrible of her. Anyway, I was devastated and HATED school. Mrs. Smith...the fabulous teacher that everyone wanted...never helped me one time. By the end of the year, the whole class made fun of me literally all day long. She never said one word to help me and, in fact, would tell me to "buck up" when I actually came to her for help. My parents got involved and called Sally's parents several times. Sally was forced to apologize to me on many occasions, but it only made her meaner at school. Nothing helped. I was so happy when the school year ended and elementary school was officially over. I thought that life would get better in a new school. I was very wrong.

When we arrived at middle school that next fall, things had really changed. Most of the girls had grown a ton and had started to look more like women. I, on the other hand, remained exactly the same size. Tiny. Middle school meant that you had 7 classes a day and no longer stayed in one room with the same people. The very wealthy and popular crowd increased with the arrival of new students from different elementary schools. The group of people teasing me remained the same, but a few new members were added to the mix. I was absolutely tortured by these people. They called me names every single time they spotted me in the halls or in class. They tripped me when I walked past cafeteria tables and I started changing clothes for P.E. in a bathroom stall so that they would stop making fun of my "baby boobs". I kid you not. The complex thing about my experience is that I was somehow still considered to be the "in-crowd", just the outskirts of it. I am sure that hundreds of people that went to my middle school would tell you that I was very popular. I was, in a way. The very tiny group of kids who made fun of me were the top tier of the group. Because they were so "lofty", everyone who heard would join in with the teasing. For some reason, calling me a baby and pinching my cheeks was hysterical to my whole grade. I was so sensitive about my size that it devastated me more each day. Not everyone was as mean about fact, my nickname was "Punky Brewster" even when I graduated from high school and I know it was meant as an endearment by that time. But back to middle school, I was destroyed by these people for all of 6th and 7th grade. Probably because of who my parents were, how well-off we were, and how I had grown up beside them all my life, I remained a member of their group and was just made fun of every waking hour of the day. I was so young and wanted to fit in so badly that I stayed around them all. I was invited to all the "big" parties, just not the more intimate ones. At all of these parties, I was teased the whole time, including people pretending to suck on baby bottles and making the "waaa waaa" sound of a baby crying. Then there was the time that one girl pulled my pants down around my ankles in front of the school while we were waiting for our rides. There were hundreds of children outside and everyone was a witness to my underwear. I don't think there is anything more scarring to a 12 year old girl. Luckily the girl who did it, who was one of the meanest people that I have ever met, moved away after middle school. She was one of about 5 people who were truly cruel and venomous in their treatment of me. After my triumph in the elections of the student body in 8th grade, I overheard one of the nasty girls telling several people "it is almost like hell has frozen over and the nerds have taken over!". I also vividly remember the time I was asked to a "Sadie Hawkins" style dance for a very popular girls birthday party. I was befriended by this girl for a couple of weeks, almost like she was going to finally be nice to me, and convinced into telling her who my "crush" was. She told me to ask him to her party. I did and he told me "yes" on the phone, but then made a big show of telling the whole cafeteria what I did and announcing that he would never go with me anywhere. It was just a giant joke. I remember crawling into my dad's car after school that day and collapsing into his arms. That was in the 7th grade. There are diaries that contain endless entries about how much I wanted to disappear during this time. I actually wished for my own death. That is why the current news about children committing suicide has me so affected. I wish I could do something more to help.

The reason that I was brave enough to run for office in 8th grade? The reason that I managed to shake the whole experience off before high school? The reason that I thrived throughout the rest of my childhood? My parents. They were so loving and amazing that I was able to survive with their help. I also had some wonderful teachers in middle school that made me feel good about myself and worth something. The difference in me and the kids who didn't survive is that I had people constantly in my other ear telling me that I was worthy and good and brilliant and beautiful. If not for my parents, I don't think my story would be the same. I was popular and happy and in the middle of everything in high school. I was able to do that because of the power of love. I rode a school bus every day from middle school over to the high school that my mother taught at. The buses picked up kids at both schools before taking them home. Since my mom worked at the high school, they allowed the bus to pick me up and drop me off there to meet her. The driver of my bus was a popular Spanish teacher at the high school. One very bad day, the kids were making fun of me outside the bus before I got on and he heard them. I will never, for as long as I live, forget what he said. In his thick accent he said, "Chalna, listen to me for a minute. The next time those jerks say anything to you, I want you to repeat this. I may be short, but you're ugly. When I grow up, I will be successful and beautiful and you will STILL be ugly." Now, that was probably not the most politically correct thing to tell me, but I loved him for it. And the fact that I remember that moment at 33 years old should tell us all something. If you reach out to someone being bullied, no matter how small the gesture, you can help. We ALL can help.


I just read this:

Thank you, Keisha, for posting the link on Facebook. I have also been thinking about this issue a LOT lately with all the news going on regarding children committing suicide over being bullied. When I read the blog post from "Single Dad Laughing", I could barely breathe. I suddenly had the overwhelming need to help...share my own story...pray...anything. Therefore, I am including an essay that I wrote almost 3 years ago. I wrote it for an essay contest in a magazine asking to describe the "most important moment in your life". I didn't win the contest; I actually never even heard a word about it and forgot I wrote this. However, after reading the blog post today, I feel compelled to share it. It doesn't go very deep into the actual bullying that I experienced, but it does show how much it helps to find your own self confidence and self worth. I should try to write more about what happened to me, if only so that Colin can read it one day and realize how important it is to love others and treat them with respect. I don't know if sharing this silly essay will help anyone at all...but I want to do it regardless. I apologize for the terrible formatting, this was saved as a Word document on my computer and I just did a cut and paste of the whole thing.

Albeit Small

Hiding in a crevice of my mind behind the moment I got married and the birth of my baby boy rests the most important moment of my life. It is tucked in the shadow of football games and boyfriends, dusty beneath the time I got caught sneaking out of the house and my first kiss. If I push aside the memory of building a fort in the creek by my parent’s house, I can just see it…I was 13 years old and miserable.

Middle school was horrible. I attended the “good” school, which meant that I was surrounded by the prettiest girls with the best clothes and the cutest boys with the coolest stuff. The sweet days of elementary school were long gone and had been quickly replaced by the in-crowd and the vast wasteland of the very much NOT-in crowd. I was tiny for my age at this time and for some reason that I could never identify, this qualified me for the role of class joke. I was teased mercilessly every single day for almost two years. When the girls came back from summer vacation with boobs and I was still a little sprite who looked all of 9 years old, it got worse. The terror of those years still burns with white-hot heat when I revisit the memory. I had a little journal that I kept hidden in my room and I used to write about what it would be like to die…disappear…just cease. I hated myself and life and while these are big statements for a child, I had learned that surviving my adolescence meant living in a place of vibrant sorrow. School was torture in its purest form. The pinnacle of my persecution happened one afternoon as I waited outside for my Dad to pick me up. The whole school, including me, waited outside on the wide expanse of green lawn for their rides. I was wearing a pink track suit that fall day and a girl named Laura with bright red hair and lots of cool friends walked up to me and pulled my pants down. Right there in front of the whole school, she pulled my pretty hot pink wind pants down around my ankles. Even at 31 years old, the clarity of that split second sits frozen, unwilling to shift into the watercolor of hazy memory. This particular moment signifies the bottom of my childhood despair, but it is not the most important. We are getting there, my friends.

At the beginning of the 8th grade, something inside me began to shift. I started to realize that while I was not cool, I was smart. There was a boy in my class named David who was also not cool in the least bit, but he was hilarious. He was a friend that I had grown up with and he was always clever beyond his years. The huge class elections were coming up and I decided, with more than a slight amount of sarcasm, that I was going to be Vice President of our school. The cool kids were already gearing up and deciding amongst themselves who was going to hold each office and I suddenly knew exactly what I was going to do…beat every single one of them. I hired my friend Dave as my campaign manager. The campaign managers made a small speech ahead of the candidates and that was my ace in the hole. I was Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles and about to have my “Jake Ryan” moment! My amazing Mama stayed up making posters night after night with my slogan, “The Best Things Come in Small Packages”. Nobody paid me a single moment’s notice leading up to those speeches and you could practically hear the music building to a crescendo as I sat on that huge stage waiting for my turn to shine. Dave took the podium ahead of me in our mammoth gymnasium as the whole student body looked on in a state of unmasked boredom. You see, what those beautiful, popular, mean girls with boobs and golden highlights had forgotten was that the kids two full grades below us did not know them. They had no clue who was cool and who wasn’t and they got to vote, too! So Dave stood up and began his hysterical speech about why I should be the Vice President of our illustrious middle school. We had gone through and picked every single thing that I was teased about and Dave turned it all into a stand-up comedy act about why I should run the school. Dave was, and still is, a genius with words. Within seconds, the whole student body was crying with laughter. I remember the deafening sound, made louder by the echoing walls of the gym, shaking the stage we were sitting on. By the end of the speech, Dave could not even be heard over the laughter and I was, in the blink of an eye, a rock star. I took the stage from Dave to the roar of the crowd and made a great big show of pulling the big block up to the podium so that I could be seen over it. Suddenly the laughter was for me and I remember closing my eyes and basking in the warmth of acceptance. I leaned over the microphone and told those kids all about being a dork and not being cool and getting made fun of constantly. I told them that I did not have near as many friends as the other people sitting on the stage. I told them that while my little circle of life was not as esteemed as my fellow candidates, my friends were funnier and I was nicer and most of all, I was just like them. While existing solely in their land of perfection and isolation, the popular kids failed to recognize during that fall of 1990 that while they were unequivocally the in-crowd, I was the masses…and I kicked their well-heeled butts. The voting results were announced the next day and my name was posted up on the huge school sign like a beacon of hope. I won. I beat them. I took my power back from them. I found me.

That moment, that single space in time so long ago, marked the most important turning point for me. I did not become popular that year, but I did become a force to be reckoned with. I shed my ugly duckling skin and grew confident in myself. I realized that I was funny and smart and well liked. I had been defining myself by how one small group of people treated me and I learned after those elections that I was the one keeping myself in that box. I began to revel in who I was…funny, irreverent, boisterous, and an attention getter. I went on to high school and starred in plays (with Dave!) and danced in the highest ranks of our award winning drill team. I was voted “Class Clown” and “Drill Team Favorite” (it should also be noted that wonderful Dave was voted “Most Talented”!). In college, I was happy and well adjusted and went on to a sales career that made good use of my need to help others. I married an amazing man and gave birth to a cherub of a baby boy, which brings us full circle in this little essay about “the most important moment of your life”. The moment that I transcended the pain of my adolescence to become something more is the most defining moment of my life because it marks the day that I took the power of my own destiny into my capable, albeit small, hands. I would not be the wife, mother, woman that I am today without that moment. So here’s to you, 13 year old Chalna. Good job.

Halloween Week!

This week is going to be BUSY! Halloween week is upon us and my "to do" list is getting longer by the minute. Colin's fall festival is at school on Thursday and I have volunteered to work it, which means that running errands won't be happening that day. We have all the kiddos coming over to carve pumpkins on Friday morning, a grown-up Halloween party on Friday night, my parents are in town for the weekend, trunk or treat at Colin's school on Saturday night and, of course, Halloween on Sunday! We are going to have such a good time!

We had brunch with Jer's parents yesterday and then we all spent the afternoon at yet another Pumpkin Patch. It was an important day because we went back to "The Pumpkin Express", which is my favorite patch with the little train ride. Last year, Colin absolutely refused to go anywhere near that train and I was fully expecting that to be the case this time, as well. It came as a wonderful surprise that he not only agreed to ride it, but he LOVED it! Little moments like that mean so much to me. I spend a lot of time trying to help Colin get over things that seem mundane to most putting on clothes, leaving the house, and other random daily activities. It seems as though he "over thinks" literally everything that he does in a given day, so when he happily gets on a train without giving it a second thought, it buoys my spirits and gives me a boost of strength. In fact, we had a similar experience on Friday when I took Colin out to The Heard Museum with our friends to see an exhibit called "Dinosaurs Live!". The exhibit included life size dinosaurs that were animated and really roared and even spit! They were VERY scary and scattered along trails in the woods. When I laid eyes on the first one, a GIANT growling T-Rex, I took a deep breath and prepared to head back to the car. I just knew Colin was going to burst into tears. The exact opposite happened and he started jumping up and down with joy! I was so surprised and happy for him. He had a great afternoon and I try to soak these experiences up because they make me SO happy. You just never know with Colin. For example, I took him to story time at our local bookstore on Saturday afternoon. The fire chief came over to read books to the kids and I just knew that Colin would love it. That was not exactly the case. He refused to sit and listen to the stories (even his favorite kind of book) and absolutely would not enter the room where the other kids were having snacks and coloring fire engines, both of which are his favorite activities. This is the 3rd time that I have tried to take him to this place and the 3rd time that he refused to enter the room. His good friend Hayden was even there this time, which in combination with the fire theme should have made it fun for him. Not so much. :-) He even chose to sit at a table outside of the room where everyone was eating and coloring, but would not go in. He just kept telling me that he couldn't go in. He has that response to a lot of things, so the awesome experiences at The Heard and The Pumpkin Express were very special to me. Here are some of my favorite shots of all the fun! (please note that he is wearing the SAME shirt in all of these shots...he only wants to wear his "monkey shirt" these days. I don't know when I will get to finally retire it! LOL!)

Colin giving some love to baby Jake and his mommy Kayrene!
Colin and two of his best buddies, Ryan and Keegan. I just LOVE this picture!

Colin and Ryan holding hands at The Heard. I could just melt!
Colin LOVED the dinosaurs!

Lots of joy at the pumpkin patch!
He was a fan of the bounce slide, as you may have guessed. ;-)

There is not much better than that smile!

I love this man!
I love this man, too! :-)

My sweet boy LOVING the train for the very first time!
Colin has become even more precious lately and I am frequently reminded how lucky I am to have such a sensitive and caring little boy...his struggles make him who he is. He picks "I love you flowers" for me and loves to cuddle. He tells me constantly how much he loves me and hugs me with his whole body. Every time I pick him up from school, he throws himself into my arms when he sees me and says, "Mommy, I missed you so much! I am so glad to see you!". Last night after his bath, I sat on the floor of his bedroom putting on his pajamas. I started to get up afterwards, but he stopped me. He sat down in my lap, wrapped his arms around me and said, "Mommy, I love you so much. You are the best mommy to your baby". I just melted! He likes to hold hands with his friends, give hugs to babies and say his prayers at night. He brings me so much joy! Jer's step-sister has an 18 year old son away at college and last night I saw his Facebook profile, complete with profile picture of his girlfriend with her arms wrapped around him and notes from his mom on his wall about missing him. It gave me chills...I know that I will blink and my little cuddle bug will be away at school and I will be watching his life unfold from afar. I am excited to watch him grow up, but part of me wishes he could stay just like this forever!
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