Parents: Stop Taking Your Kids to the Park

I’m really getting tired of seeing kids at the park.

I promise I don’t hate children (all the time), so perhaps I should re-phrase.

I’m really getting tired of seeing kids ALONE at the park. Wait, wait… still not right. I pride myself on being one of the few mothers in this fear-infected society who refuses to believe kids can’t go to the park by themselves. One more time:

I’m really tired of seeing lonely children at the park.

I’m tired of being asked to push other people’s 4-year-olds on the swings. I’m tired of being asked for money from random youngsters when the ice-cream truck drives by. I’m tired of bringing extra toys on excursions so everyone can be included when they see us having fun. I’m tired of seeing the pain in my son’s eyes when he realizes that, yet again, he has to share his “mom-time” with a stranger.

I promise I don’t hate children. I’m starting to hate parents who just take their kids to the park simply to be ignored.

Parenting is hard. There are no easy answers, lots of tears, fears, frustrations, regrets, and worst of all, judgement. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to judge my struggle through this gauntlet of motherhood, so I fervently try to avoid my Librian instincts in this area.

You can be sure, however, that when I’m at the park playing with your child while you text and scroll on your phone… in your car… 20 feet away… for an hour… I’m fucking judging you.

For the past three years, my son and I have taken countless trips to the park. Toddlers have this thing for being insane when they don’t play. I have literally watched him climb on a stool and jump from it about 35 times in a row. There was no “game” or objective. He just wanted to climb and jump. Nonstop. Period.

I feel a little bit guilty sometimes that he doesn’t get to have all my attention, not because I want him growing up a pompous, spoiled brat, but because that is all he wants. He doesn’t really care about brand name clothes (yet) or new toys (eehhh to some degree) or seeing the newest movie in theaters.

He wants me. I am his world, and he wants to be in it all the time. He wants me to race, and jump and climb and play with him. Nonstop. Period.

So do all the other children I find milling about on park playgrounds as their mothers and fathers disappear into screen land. Most of the time, all they want is attention from the adults in their lives. From the looks of it, they aren’t getting any.

I took Cullen to the park this weekend around 9 a.m., ya know, before the fires of Hell completely erupted onto the Oklahoma prairie. There was one car in the parking lot and one child seated at the base of a slide, literally staring blankly and dangling his legs over the already-warmed landscape. He had mentally cast his line out onto the wood chips and was just watching the bobber. Waiting for a catch.

This young man, probably around seven, became our best friend from the moment we disrupted his ennui. We tossed a ball up and down slides, pretended to “have lunch” at the playground’s cafe (one of Cullen’s favorites), wiggled through tunnels, drove a pirate ship and made ourselves dizzy in the tire swing. He told me about his upcoming trip to his dad’s house and his school.

All as his mother watched from her SUV, occasionally shouting time warnings from a cracked window.

Even though the exuberance of these two boys was breezy and invigorating, I was hot. Sure it was 90 degrees out, but I my blood was boiling. Didn’t this woman know my son and I had a special morning planned for just the two of us? Was she okay with her son playing with a complete stranger? Wasn’t she ashamed that this stranger was being a much better park entertainer than she? Why did she even bring him here if she wasn’t even going to get out of the fucking car?

This wasn’t the first time this had happened, either. I’ve found myself caring for kids of all ages at different times with similar circumstances.

My self-righteous fire subsided when this young man offered to share his water with me and my son. I saw the absolute pleasure in his face as he ran back to his mother’s SUV to regale her with stories about the rapid-fire adventures we’d had on an uneventful Saturday morning. I realized this young man had set aside his “big boy” attitude many have toward toddlers (no big kids want to be bothered by babies) in order to feel like he was part of the fun. What a great example for my son to follow in the future.

I also thought about the example I’d set for my own child and realized the lesson he’d learned was far more important than him having every turn on the swings: Sometimes we have to put others above ourselves because it’s the right thing to do for everyone, not just the self.

There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I understand more and more that every adult can play a positive role in every child’s life– parent or not. If we understood that, as a whole, we are improved by taking on our fair share of the work, perhaps we wouldn’t be so fragmented and individualistic.

It just gets hard to pick up the slack for those who don’t seem to make an effort at all… who have absolutely no interest in raising the standard for us all through small acts of giving. A little piece of the light dies each time a giver feels taken advantage of, and that fire of self-righteousness grows. I know it’s best to take one for the team. I know it’s really “for the keeeeeds,” because it’s not their fault their parents would rather play fantasy football or watch Netflix than take a stab at the monkey bars (and later wonder why their child doesn’t respect them enough).

I admit it: I judged that woman on her cell phone, and I will probably judge the next one.

Next time, though, I’ll just remind myself that by showing a little more love to everyone and sharing a little more attention with those that aren’t “mine,” I’m investing in a brighter future for us all. It doesn’t really matter who does the work, as long as the task is accomplished. There’s no point in punishing the innocent.

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There and Back Again: The Vanilla Ice Experience

When I heard Vanilla Ice had booked a show in Shawnee, Okla. my heart jumped like a candle.

Apparently Everyone else’s did too, as the booking started gracing headlines on Oklahoma news sites and my Facebook feed within hours. Leave it to Oklahoma to give the funky white boy the welcome he deserved.
Like seriously why was Oklahoma the first stop on the tour? Whatever the reason, I was thrilled, but I really didn’t think id be going.

Two weeks later, my bearded companion sends a text, “Hey you want to go see Vanilla Ice in March?”
“Is that a real question?”

I thought surely he knew me better than THAT.

But he couldn’t possibly know my love for that patriotic parachute pants wearing punk was much deeper than ninja turtle macaroni n cheese commercials.

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I was pretty much willing to pay an inappropriate amount of money to see the Justin Bieber of the ’90s, so I nearly had a roni when I found out floor tickets were only $25.
“Order it now,” I said.

After the initial excitement, I started wondering, “What the hell is this show lineup going to look like?”
Honestly, I’d probably be okay with just Hearing “Ice, Ice Baby” on a loop with a few “Ninja Rap” intermissions… What else is there?

I went to the iTunes Store to download the 1990 masterpiece, To the Extreme, and another pleasant surprise– It was only $5.99.

From the moment I heard, “Yo Vanilla, kick it one time booooyeee!” I was transported back to elementary school days when I’d play the CD on the boom box in my room. The only thing more embarrassing than how many lyrics I remembered (lyrics, in retrospect, no child should be listening to) was how I inadvertently started examining the chiseled jawline and shaved brows in photos on the album cover just I had as a little girl. I even used to seek out the VHS copy of “Cool as Ice” during family trips to the video store just so I could see my man (and some irrelevant chick) on the box. Ya know, the dude was cute.

Pretty sure those little square images are what inspired me to line my son’s hair when I buzz it down to a Mohawk.

The nostalgia hit my brain like a poisonous mushroom. I was hooked.
I had a tiny heart attack when my man went to jail for burglary (he’s innocent BTW), not because of the scandal. I’d already bought a ticket and needed to see this show. I tweeted Mr. Ice and asked if he’d still be playing in light I his recent woes. He favorited the tweet, and the show was still on.

Now the day is here, and I’m ready for the chumps on the wall. I have no idea what to expect (please just none of the dumb, metal rap from the dreadful dread lock days) but anything less than the best will be a damn felony… Just not burglary. Like I said, he’s innocent.

An Hour as a Warrior

A tandem massage by definition is far from naughty, even though its linguistic similarity to “tantric massage” has a tendency to raise eyebrows, but my experience this past month was absolutely transcendent.
Like, almost but not quite better than sex.
I was getting a massage a few weeks ago (be jealous) at Emerald Lane Massage Studio, aka “Heaven on earth,” and the therapists mentioned they were doing a special on tandem massages the following Saturday.
The couples massage team took a few minutes showcasing their delightful skills on myself and my partner in crime, explaining that a tandem massage is essentially two masseuses working one client at the same time.
Before I could get the words out of my mouth, my fellow massagee said, “Can you have three at the same time?”
This is one of many reasons why we get along so well. Within 60 minutes, we had signed up for triple tandem massages that weekend for an absurdly low price.
I showed up at the spa, located at 1817 W. Gore, just after lunch ready for any piece of action Nate and Holly were ready to throw my way. If it was anything like the couples massage I’d experienced that week, I would wind up trying to adopt two grown adults by the end of the day.
They told me I was going to be their first ever triple tandem massage, or “TT” as I lovingly called it, and I honestly felt a bit prideful. I was their first. And boy they did leave me quivering.
As soon as the lights dimmed and the soothing music started, I reverted back to an ancient state of relaxation, six hands gliding and gripping every sore strand in my back and legs.
I seriously felt like a celebrated gladiator being pampered by wenches — or an angel, devil and a transformer. Same thing. Bottom line is this: Hands. Everywhere. Relaxation.
At one point, I seriously floated over my own body hovering on the massage table listening to the blood flow through the vessels. I had died and entered Valhalla. AKA the “TT.”
When we were finished, I could barely get my clothes back on (wouldn’t it be nice of every first time was this good?). I felt like a manta ray gliding down the hallway back to the lobby, where I collapsed into a flesh puddle.

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Just like Alex Mack, girl.

I immediately knew I wanted to blog about it.
Seriously, if you haven’t ever had a massage, or a tandem massage, I recommend calling Emerald Lane Spa right now. Hell, if you HAVE, call them (699-8777) and do it again. Your body will love you for it, and you might even feel like a gladiator. These people offer an experience like no other, and they do so at seriously discounted rates for military, police, firefighters, EMTs and teachers, ya know, all those important folks. Check them out now. https://www.facebook.com/emeraldlanemassagestudio

ANOTHER blog about #Ferguson

Kim Kardashian didn’t break the Internet; Protestors in Ferguson did.

Around 7 p.m. Monday, every Facebook feed in the United States of America was fully engulfed with rants, jokes or snippets about the grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for fatally shooting Michael Brown. By Tuesday morning, five of the top 10 trending tags on Twitter were related to the #Ferguson protests, and Internet was thick with a cloud of photos, blogs and news stories about the unrest.

“Yeah, sure, go ahead and ruin businesses in your town. THAT makes sense.”

“We have to stop pretending like race DOESN’T matter in this country.”

“Dancing With the Stars was interrupted. #rageface”

“If you don’t want to die, don’t punch a cop in the face!”

These are all valid commentaries, save for anger about a television show– sorry, a terrible television show. I can understand rage in the event the LOST season finale was cut short. Honestly, I’m a little pleased to see it all considering how complacent everyone has become in this country. Most of the time, issues that have little to no direct, measurable impact on our lives are filed away into the “don’t give a shit” file, but I guarantee you, discussions around the Thanksgiving tables this year might involve something more substantive than football.

The reason why people of all colors, all social standings, professions and sexes are compelled to say something, I believe, is because Ferguson is a microcosm of a nationwide problem. Men being shot and/or killed by overzealous, perhaps even overly aggressive police, is nothing unique to that community. It happens all the time, all over the country. I’ve had to cover it many times right here in Oklahoma:
http://www.swoknews.com/misc-columns/daniel-martin-autopsy-report-radio-transmissions
http://archive.lawton-constitution.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Search&Key=TLC/2008/09/29/1/Ar00101.xml&CollName=TLC_APA3&DOCID=298635&PageLabelPrint=1A&skin=LawtonConstitution&AW=1416932688766&AppName=2&sPublication=TLC&sScopeID=DR&sSorting=Score%2cdesc&sQuery=Marcell%20Johnson&rEntityType=&sSearchInAll=false&sDateFrom=%2530%2531%2f%2530%2531%2f%2532%2530%2530%2537&sDateTo=%2531%2531%2f%2533%2530%2f%2532%2530%2530%2538&dc:creator=&PageLabel=&dc:publisher=&ViewMode=GIF

http://www.swoknews.com/local/report-sheds-light-death-man-local-police-custody

But what is unique about Ferguson is that the resulting protests justified the anxiety that Americans have had since entire neighborhoods were shut down during the search for the Boston marathon bombing suspect (BTW, whatever happened to THAT guy?)

It confirmed to us that there is an thick, blue line separating “us” from “them,” with the “them” being law enforcement officers. The complex love/hate, need/despise relationship between citizens and police has been festering for some time, but as the populous embraces the idea that people can kill anyone who they deem to be “up to no good,” a threat or simply a “scary thug,” the disconnect has deepened.

On one hand, citizens need police to maintain order and help the wheels of justice turn. They are the people who come when your husband beats you up, again. They are the ones that gather the evidence that puts away your nephew’s murderer. They are the ones that walk into the darkest places of humanity in an effort to bring some light.

Not all police officers are terrible people.

But what we’re seeing now is officers who look more like soldiers than law enforcement– Paramilitary gear, assault rifles in hand, literally rolling fucking tanks into the streets… in Boston and now Missouri. No police force should be equipped with a tank. Period. And in Ferguson, we’ve gone one step further… the National Guard is put on standby to suppress citizens?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that a violent, unruly mob can’t exactly be talked down with listening words. I can’t even pretend I have an appropriate suggestion about how police should or shouldn’t diffuse the anger. I just know that Americans are feeling more and more trapped within their own boarders; That we feel as though the police state is worsening, and the only retort is “Well, don’t break the law.”

Breaking the law isn’t an excuse to fire 12 shots at an unarmed man. Breaking the law isn’t an excuse to shoot a man you KNEW was armed nine times in front of his own wife… on his own property… when he called to report he was the victim of a crime. “Reaching” into a pocket isn’t a reason for police to make a kill shot following a traffic stop, simply because the perpetrator was a “known thug.”

What happened to people being given a chance to be innocent until they’re proven guilty? Now, most “thugs” and “badguys” have a day in court posthumously with tangled tales of their existence woven into elaborate representations by attorneys. The social response seems to be shrugged shoulders and a crude comment about how people should know better than to raise their voice or eyebrows, hell even breathe the wrong way around police officers.

Essentially, Americans have accepted the socially-constructed notion that “some people just deserve to die because they don’t follow the rules.” Americans have internalized the concept that justice is somehow a tradeoff– police have difficult and dangerous jobs so sometimes people are going to accidentally die– and we look the other way.

Police may not actually be guilty of murdering individuals when they get trigger-happy. They are also victims of a fear-mongering, told every day that they won’t come home to their families if they don’t shoot first and ask questions later. Their jobs are, in fact, quite dangerous, and many officers have successfully disarmed, shot or detained very dangerous people. Those cases don’t seem to resonate with the public as much.

But change is obviously needed. There is a perception that the police can shoot and kill citizens with little to no reason and without consequence. An officer may be fired, yes, but there is nothing that would keep him or her from working at another jurisdiction, especially since police band together and rally to protect their own. Until there becomes some way to hold police officers responsible for making a mistake, maybe not with an indictment (criminal allegations still must have a factual basis), or law enforcement make serious efforts to show they understand and want to correct (NOT rolling tanks into the streets) the misery in Missouri will only become more venomous.

Another avoidable 30-second media frenzy

See, this whole debacle with Congressman Jim Bridenstine could’ve been avoided if people would practice a dead art — answering questions.
If you live in Oklahoma, and you haven’t heard about this guy, Bridenstine, turn off Big Brother and give him the attention he’s demanding…just a little bit, though. Here’s the skinny: In June, the Lawton/Fort Sill community was bluntly informed the military base would be used to house about 1,200 children who had illegally entered the country. They would be staying temporarily at a safe, clean, awesome place, basically (and from what I hear, they are). Then, they would be relocated to “caretakers or family” possibly already in the country.
Bridenstine showed up at the facility last week and demanded to come inside to check things out. Security officers informed him he could not, as he hadn’t made a scheduled appointment. Now he’s calling for media to boycott touring the facility with recording and interviewing restrictions, the same restrictions placed on anyone who tours the facility.
He says he has the right to be there; The officials running the facility still have an obligation to protect those left in their temporary care.
I agree with both.
I’ll always support the fight for any public agency to be more transparent; They are funded with tax-payers’ dollars specifically to perform functions on behalf of “the people.” I do believe we have the right to not only know, but also to see, touch, smell and taste. However, officials at the facility have treated him just like everyone else; they’ve not been unfair, and this guy is rubbing me the wrong way.
Bridenstine’s bandwagon ride has probably gained thousands of Web site hits and countless interview requests. We’ve run stories on the front page about the shenanigans twice. (There WAS a grainy YouTube video, though). He’s proud of his interview with Greta Van Susteren and every other media outlet in the country.
Every candidate is using this situation as an avenue to sling mud at either the president, Congress, or “Mexico (Even though many of the children are not, in fact, from Mexico).”
Now, he’s insinuating there’s some sort of “cover-up” going on, or at least enabling his Facebook followers to troll his page, one even commenting that “They don’t want you to know its adults and not children.”
I’ve spoken with one person employed during the initial stages of the transition, and there’s no doubt the children are happy, healthy and safe. They were cheering on a World Cup team one day and practicing salsa dancing the next. They’re eating, and honestly, living well.
All that in mind, Bridenstine seems to be a conflict candidate perfectly tempered for the American populous.
“I’ll wait until the people start Facebook raging about (insert topic), and I’ll whip it up into stiff, delicious controversy to keep myself relevant. Then, when we pass a knee-jerk piece of legislation to “fix” the temporary sting of (insert problem), everyone will forget about it and move on.”
It’s a brilliant strategy. I can’t really be mad at the guy for doing his job well, especially when he’s yelling for access to a facility I’d, personally, love to access. He probably could’ve been wildly successful if he’d taken the stance during the “rage swell” that followed immediately after the announcement that unregistered minors would be housed at Fort Sill, literally minutes away from the community in which I live.
The local news covered the story… every single day. Relentlessly. After two weeks of the noise, I wanted to puke blood. Again, they were just doing their jobs, but it was exhausting to scramble to find out tiny morsels of sometimes irrelevant or insignificant information.
Maybe that’s why he bothers me so much– Bridenstine is acting like the journalist I know I should be.
I do believe people should be allowed to talk with the children. I do believe they should be allowed to record it if the parties are willing and media escorts ensure there’s no sensitive information about the facility leaked.
That will never happen, though.
The media cockblock has been pretty intense on this whole operation. I’ve watched a reporter in my office work to get some tiny piece of information confirmed by officials, and it nearly gave me an ulcer. The local personnel on Post have their hands tied, and it’s not uncommon for some questions to be referred to another agency. It happens often, so I really wasn’t surprised.
But every request for official information was funneled to one phone number and email account at D.C. Some of the questions are ignored, and sometimes the official at the other end simply refers the asker to a list of Frequently Asked Questions online.
The big questions still haven’t been answered.
First and foremost, who made the decision to house the children at Fort Sill, and when was this decision made? It literally felt like there was a press release, “Hey, we’re going to have a couple thousand unaccompanied minors stay on Post for a little while,” and then they were here. I know it ultimately doesn’t matter; The children had to go somewhere, but I would just like to know how these logistical decisions played out here. Was Fort Sill a plan B? For Hobby Lobby’s sake, a plan “D?”
Even Governor Mary Fallin told The Lawton Constitution last month that she doesn’t know:
“I’m also very conscientious and aware that we don’t have a lot of answers of what’s going on. I’ve been on a briefing this week with many officials in Washington, D.C. They gave us a general, overall, ‘here’s why we did it, here’s how it’s happening, here’s where it’s going on.’ Very basic stuff. Not a lot of detail. Told us we could ask one question.”
Then, the big one, what now? How does the process of relocating the children work? Are there counselors interviewing every child to find out where his or her parents, relatives, friends, etc. are living? Who are the persons performing this service, and what methodology do they use? If they’re out-of-the country, will they be returned (deported) to their families there? What if there’s nothing left for them to return to? Have any been relocated at this time?
It seems like public agencies, at least in this area of the country, are increasingly inclined to release only what information they are legally mandated to share and all questions are swatted away like bothersome mosquitoes. Well, stagnant water breeds more mosquitoes, so don’t complain when they’re biting you.
So, now I tell the folks in Washington: You’ve let the pond stagnate; Next time you want to house over a thousand immigrant children at a federal facility and pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to do so, be sure you pay it forward with the American people about the plan and answer some fucking questions.
As for Bridenstine asking the media boycotting a restricted tour? Is he serious? Those reporters have been planning and preparing for weeks, just like he was asked to wait for a tour. We’ve got a job to do, as do you, and plan to do it. I know it’s being fed with a spoon, but starving solves nobody’s problems. And above all, reporters, who have been signing up in droves for tours this week, aren’t members of congress trying to drum up popular support for re-election.

And so it begins…

I know there are hundreds and thousands of families trying to deal with the stress of long-distance relationships with their loved ones due to military deployments. I have never done this before; I have never been in love with a military service person before; and I certainly do not want to be without him.

This is our corner of the Internetz to share with the other, and I suppose with all of you. Laugh with us. Cry with us. Just don’t be surprised when you find yourself saying, “Man these guys are awesome…probably more awesome than me.”

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