Slap Unhappy

My heart sinks whenever I see the kids' school pop up on my caller ID. "Best" case scenario was once Layla nose dived into a mud puddle (I feel legit proud), and didn't have backup clothes, and worst case was Judah getting his first ever migraine and screaming in abject misery in the middle of class. Usually it means they've puked or have a fever and I need to go get them. Never fun on any level.

Well, yesterday we captured the third kind of school phone call Pokemon: The Discipline Call.

Layla's sweet, sweet Kindergarten teacher left me a message just letting me know the story of the "white reminder" I would find in her folder today (a conduct report home to parents). She said Layla had slapped a friend, not very hard, but definitely a slap on the face and the little boy was upset. When she asked about it, Layla couldn't really say why she had done it--the boys hadn't hurt or teased her. The teacher said it was handled and over with as far as the school was concerned, but that it was extremely out of character for Layla. 

My first thoughts and feelings: I'm pretty angry because she knowsKNOWS that using your body to hurt or control someone else is unacceptable anywhere anytime (unless she's in danger). I'm embarrassed because I don't want my kid to be THAT kid, and what if the teacher thinks we are just crappy parents? I feel betrayed by Layla for making me look bad.

All that stuff is ABOUT ME. Not about Layla. That's not great.  That's parenting out of my own junk and insecurities instead of out of love for her and a desire to train her to be a healthy adult. 

So as I am waiting for the bus with Jesse, we decide to just ask her about her day as if we don't already know and just see how it plays out (because honesty has been a challenge for Layla sometimes, and want to give her practice at speaking hard truth). I am praying to just hear her heart and care for her--not myself. 

I am glad I had that time to think beforehand.

She hops off the bus and I asked about her day. She immediately says "I got a white reminder" kind of with a weird smirk on her face, almost a naughty smile, and I look at Jesse and am all "OH IT'S ON" inside. Benefit of Doubt: GONE. Little homie is laughing about this?!?!? Time to rain down the thunder. My "tsk-ing" finger is itching to be wagged.

But then she dissolves into tears, wailing, "I'm sad to talk about it." And my wagger finger disappears. I had not expected this gambit from this child. And it wasn't a gambit.

Come to find out, her day leading up to the slap was pregnant with angst. First, she had asked a few friends to play at recess and they had all been engaged with other buddies or activities and (not unkindly) declined. Then she did all the right classroom behaviors/tasks that typically earn her a reward but her teacher just happened to not notice this one time. And finally she left her snack box in the garage in the morning, so she didn't have anything during class snack time, and when she asked a friend for a piece of his cookie the friend said no.

That's a LOT of perceived rejection for a 5 year old who thrives on relationship, positive reinforcement, feeling treasured, social interaction--and SNACKS, by golly. 

"People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed..." -Wise Trolls

Does any of this absolve her of or change the fact that she straight up broke a serious rule when she slapped her buddy? NO. Does it mitigate how we chose to discipline her? NO again. Does it add another separate layer to the situation? Yes.

Parenting isn't a zero sum game. Obviously Layla having her heart hurt doesn't give her a free pass to make bad choices (the classic "there's no excuse for that!" comes to mind). We have to handle the behavior and the heart. One phone call becomes two very different parenting tasks.

This is tiring and daunting and does not come easy to me. It's more efficient and mathematically tidy to just call it a wash: you had crappy stuff happen to you, and you did something crappy because of that. Even Steven. But almost every parent who is actually trying knows that's not going to work. When she's 17 and her boyfriend dumps her and she decides to shoplift some holographic nail polish because she's sad (the future has cool things) she WILL go to space jail. This stuff doesn't wash out (nor does holographic nail polish, I bet), it doubles down, it finds a way out, and the older you get the yuckier and scarier those ways out become.

It's not a wash, so we have to address it.

But we can't stop with JUST addressing the slap either, and saying, "we don't care WHAT you were feeling, you NEVER slap!" Because, while basically true, I'm betting what she hears and internalizes the most is the "we don't care WHAT you were feeling" portion of that statement.

I am betting that because I have felt that. "You and your feelings don't matter, just stop screwing up."

She'll come up with another outlet for her painful feelings because pain always has to go somewhere. The slapping is a symptom. Sure, it's expedient and necessary in the moment to treat symptoms, but real healing is out of reach if we stop there and don't treat the source of the infection. 

Two things we have to parent now: her heart and the slap.

Feelings and Actions. Our brains are REEEEEALLY good at mashing them together.

As parents, Jesse and I want to work to detangle these two things from each other; to bring attention to, and help the kids learn to identify and separate what they're feeling from what they decide to do about it. Because, without ever intending it, she merged them (we all do): I am feeling hurt, so it's okay for me to hurt someone else. 

My entire adult life has been spent trying to chop that thinking in half. To throw on the brakes and say, "Whoa, let's stop at 'I'm hurt' part and address that." Because honestly, it just feels better and easier and less risky to go around slapping people rather than talking about how I felt rejected and alone and un cared-for. 

That is called VULNERABILITY and both our lizard brains--that help us survive in the wild, and our sinful hearts--that say  "you can be a god and have the power," throw up unending resistance to showing it. 

It took me YEARS to realize that I am actually not simply an angry person. I am a deeply sensitive person with a soft heart who takes rejection or refusal (perceived or real) as a negation of my basic value. That's a scary proposition to stare in the face and my lizard brain was not about to let me show this "weakness."

But you know what isn't scary? Going on the attack.  I medicated pain by just getting super pissed super fast at anyone who hurt me. The knife in your back doesn't hurt so bad when you're flailing about with brass knuckles. Of course you also don't get the knife out or help heal the damage, but who cares as long as it makes you feel better right now?

So Layla's slap: what did we do? Ironically, something like this had JUST happened to me a few days earlier. I had felt incredibly rejected by someone that I treasure and had ended up crying about it! I am 33 year old and was crying about my friend not liking me enough (and yes, my first thought still was "Imma unfollow her on Instagram, block her on FB and NEVER talk to her again" because I'm basically a  maturity expert).

I told Layla about my heartbreak after she described what happened. I asked her if that was kind of how she had felt, like the people that she loved didn't love her back? She said it was. Then Judah chimes in, "I have felt that way too. It feels like everyone in the world is against you." Whoa. We're having a moment here! (Jesse had gone back to work at this point).

Layla lost privileges as a result of slapping her friend. But, while that was very important, we only spent maybe 5 minutes on that part before we felt like it was covered. We spent far more time talking about her heart and what makes it feel cared for and what makes it feel scared or empty. We talked about what to do in case she feels those painful feelings again, and how to stop them before they take over. 

If we'd freaked out and given away her barbie dolls or done something major to punish her and make the lesson stick, I bet she'd remember better and would never slap again. I  bet that memory would stay with her for a long, long time. Not in a good way. And honestly, she probably won't even remember the talk we had about feelings. But it's one more brick in something bigger we want to build. That gives her a firm foundation of knowing that her parents are a safe place for her heart. That she is loved and treasured and valuable.

Demolishing something is so much faster than building something, but it leaves rubble and nothing. We want to leave substance.

We don't want her to be so afraid to mess up that she does things right. We want her to be so secure in who she is and how she's loved that it naturally spills over into her decisions and the way she treats people. 

Layla decided to write an apology to her friend. She can't spell so Judah scribed while Layla dictated. It smells like purple Mr. Sketch: a grape paradise. It smells like fearless love.

  "People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed...but throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out the best" -Wise Trolls.


Reno-Inspo: Guest Bedroom/Office

We are slowly but surely turning the corner from "DISASTER RELIEF" to "Home Remodel." 

The air smells less of toxic brimstone and more like yummy new lumber/drywall. I have already met with the flooring company and the cabinet guy and have been really impressed by the speed and work ethic of our contractor. 

So much so that I was like, "wait, what? it's time for this stuff?" and started majorly stressing out because, hello, horrible tragedy aside, this is a once in a lifetime chance to redesign our home basically from scratch. I'm terrified of messing something up and blowing our one shot at a free (ish) build.What if I accidentally order purple tile throughout the whole house!?!

Obviously the good Lord invented Pinterest for such a time as this. It was time to take all those pins I've been amassing over the years and move them from "oh cool, maybe one day" into "ok, show this to the builder on Monday" pile...or more likely the "what the hell was I thinking pinning this, I can't have a bespoke reclaimed pallet ferret kennel  in my mudroom! (bc pinterest is drunk sometimes).

I never understood why anyone who is not in Forbes and has a lick of style would pay money to designers to decorate their home. BUT I GET IT NOW. It's a huge leap between pinning a room you see once and "love" and building/designing/sourcing/buying each element yourself to create an overall look. 

Lucky for me, all my hobbies burned down, so this is all I have to do!

After much pinning and browsing and drooling and comparing and imagining, I have started to put together mood boards for a few rooms in the house. These are basically a fun way to see all my pins sort of together as a cohesive space and tinker until the overall look is something we like. Just because a bohemian loft and and industrial condo look good beside each other as Pinterest pins doesn't mean they'd play nice in a room together IRL. Thus, we need the mood boards.

I am realistic enough to know that the final rooms may look nothing like my original ideas, but just feeling inspired and energized about CREATING again, after so much emotional and physical currency has been spent on cleaning/saving/salvaging, is a wonderful change of pace. Plus, I can always come back and laugh at how far off I was later on.

Guest Bedroom/Downstairs Office & Study:

Needs: House overnight guests as needed and be a cozy study for Jesse to write in. 

This room gets great light so we can go with a darker paint color. 

Masculine enough that Jesse and male guests don't feel like this is the TigerBeat break room, but feminine enough that it is NEVER accused of being a man cave.

Desk Lamp // Desk // Pillow // Chair // Floral Prints // Floor Lamp // Bookshelves // Throw // Ottoman // Rug // Trundle Sofa // Mirror // Corner Shelves

Leather+Wood+Flowers with a Midcentury glaze over it all. My instinct is to lather myself in Midcentury everything because I love the style so much, but I feel like that trend can only hold so long and don't wanna be left holding Don Draper's jock when the dust settles and 1959 is no longer the chic look.

I love it so much that I already find myself wanting to sneak away into this room. That's a good sign.

 Hopefully the entire house will feel that way when we're done. Whenever that may be...Spring Break 2017?

For now, here's a solid BEFORE:

This is in the living room, looking through the artist formerly known as Wall, at the guest bedroom last week. NO WHEELBARROWS IN THE HOUSE, YALL.



The day after Jesse and I did a "final" walkthrough of the burnt house (to get out anything in there that was deemed ruined, but that we still wanted to hang onto), he went back over while the demo guys started trashing everything left inside and beginning to tear out all the yucky fire stuff.

The garage is where the fire was--the only place flames actually destroyed. Everything in there was a total loss. 

Incredibly,  in the months before the fire, Jesse had taken a weird interest in keeping the garage organized and neat. Ever since we had moved in last summer, we had bins of stuff on the shelves in there and just recently, he had smartly decided to move these up into the crawlspace/attic above the garage since we rarely, if ever, needed the things inside. That way we could make room for boxes of diapers and paper products that we use regularly.

What was in those bins he moved? 

Our childhoods. Bins of sentimental things from before the internet existed.Photo albums, scrapbooks, art projects, random hilarious notes, our baby clothes, a newspaper from the day I was born; all the things we had decided during the course of our lives to NOT throw away and to keep with us.

Found in my frilly pink bible cover/carrier. Probably written when I was 8-9.

You would think a bunch of plastic bins filled with paper in the attic above the garage would have melted and burned just as fast as the boxes of diapers and toilet paper in the garage itself, not 6 feet below. Hot air rises, after all.

But somehow they didn't. 

The bins got pretty trashed and warped and straight up melted in some places, but the stuff inside was for the large part safe and we had taken those melted bins full of memories over to the rental house a few days before, content that the oldest of our things were safe.

When we left after our last sweep of the house I had a nagging fear and got a bit emotional knowing there were probably things inside that we had missed and would be thrown out. 

So when Jesse texted me on demo day and told me he had found a few more sentimental things while he was poking around, I figured it was a kid's drawing or a photo or two from high school.

What he actually found, that I didnt even realize was missing, was actually one of my most sentimentally treasured possessions I will ever own.

My grandmother's diary from 1938 and 1939. 

It must have tumbled out of one of the open corners of the melted bins and into the rubble when the insurance guys were moving it all down. I have no idea how Jesse spotted it with just a flashlight it since the diary is dark blue and the garage is totally blackened rubble and completely in the dark thanks to being boarded up. 

There are so many utterly magical things about this diary (which I was given when I was in college, 10 years after she had died).

Um she went to see the original King Kong in theaters. Is that the coolest thing you've ever heard?!?!

My grandmother was born Genoa Hall in 1924. Her two married names were Vincent and Parks. Vincent is my maiden name and Parks is the last name of my beloved (step)grandfather Fred whom she married after her husband, my dad's dad,  my Granddaddy Wallace, died--well before I was born.

She was my hero and my ultra favorite and I adored her more than any other person growing up. Noa is named after her for good reason.  Holding something in my hands that her sweet hands held so often almost 80 years ago is priceless to me. Reading her words is awe-inspiring and hilarious (note: 14 year old girls are loco no matter the era). 

Getting to know what she was like and what she did day-to-day decades before I knew her, when she was still a kid in a lot of ways turns my head with magic. Despite being barely a teenager, she was often in charge of the cooking for her whole family--she was the youngest of 13. "Kids" back then were legit capable, and had baller penmanship.

She grew up in Atlanta and diary overlaps SO many places that I spent time at while I was at Tech and even today. Ponce de Leon, The Fox, Kirkwood.  Her address in the front cover is the same street as the restaurant where Jesse and I had our first date.

I am kind of obsessed with the WW2 and surround era so reading ANY diary from that period would be fascinating to me, and the fact that it is my beloved grandmother's account is unreal. Granted, there's not a lot of political or world event commentary, but just seeing "Sears Roebuck" and "weenie roast" and mentions of "listening to 'Gangbusters' on the radio program" makes me just want to powder my nose, put on a pointy bra and travel right back to that time.

I LOVE that she doesn't scratch out the old names when she adds new ones. Gotta keep those options open!

If you look in the bottom right area, you see "Wallace," my grandfather's name written just once. Her longtime steady boyfriend during this time for Bobby Lynes, who competed with "Ed" and maybe "Ralph" in her heart, but she was friends with Ruth Vincent, who was Wallace's younger sister. It's so fascinating to see her swoon over all these boys on the pages, and then her actual future husband appears every now and then in the most ordinary scenes, "Ruth and I went for a ride. Wallace was there." I'm like, LOL, girl, that's your man!!! It makes me feel trés McFly at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

Granted, it does say KEEP OUT (please), but surely she didn't mean to keep it off the internet! So many boys' names!!! This is so mind-blowing because she was the most capable, grounded, sharp woman; to know that even she was a boy crazy teenage girl spins my head and makes me realize what I'm headed for raising two of these creatures. 

March 26, 1938  "I found out that Sue liked Bobby. Father in heaven, I pray that I will win." 

As a descendent of her + NOT BOBBY, I gotta thank the heavenly father for not answering that particular plea.

Whoops, mispelling your own future last name. Classic mistake!

"Dorothy said something about me. The old ______!! Shes an enemy of mine. She just doesn't like me. I think she's jealous"

"The funniest thing has happened- Dopey Barber asked me to go 'steady' with him with I didn't even like him"

Dorothy and Genoa were basically the T. Swift/Katy Perry "Bad Blood" of their time. And I feel for Dopey Barber and hope she let him down easy.

I know what it is to be a 14 year old girl. To imagine your husband and future life (and to get it blessedly wrong 99.9% of the time). To compare my experience of that part of my life to hers is unreal.

I wish I had a diary of hers from when she was raising my dad and my aunt (and when her 3rd baby died a few days after she had him). Heck, I wish I had anything that let me know her more. 

In some ways this diary is like reading her blog, and naturally I imagine and wonder if anyone farther down my genetic pipeline will ever read these words and marvel at being the someones in my life that arent even born (if you are one of these, reading in the future, I'm sorry I just bent your brain with that thought, and I hope you guys have weeded out the acne and paleness that my people suffer).

Getting these glimpses into her head in 1938, as I sit here with 25% of her DNA making me who I am in 2016, brings tears to my eyes. Somehow holding this little depression-era firecracker in my head alongside the knowledge that she is currently and has been with Jesus for over 20 years now, and all that happened in between is almost more than my heart has the capacity to have awe over.

Life is such a mind trip and I hope heaven includes infinity of these moments of knowing each other's experiences and hearts ever and ever deeper.

I am dizzy with gratitude that Jesse discovered my Mano's (her grandma name) diary. I would leave my iPhone or a giant pile of cash behind to the flames a hundred times over before I would willingly part with this treasure (cousins, if you're reading this, please to rob me to take it away from me. I grant you unlimited visitations and readings!).

P.S. Descendants: if you ever find anything I wrote at any point before 1999, you are honor bound BY MY DNA to destroy it and definitely not publish it on the Internet (or whatever media your ape overlords allow you). Grammy k8 was a very unstable tween.