Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crayola Friends

In light of the new year, and often before that, I've been thinking a lot about the different types of friendships I have in my life. I've become more aware of who is a true friend. About 2 years ago, I had this conversation with a very old (not old in age) and wise friend of mine, and we determined that our friendships can be compared to crayons.

There are all different colors and variations, but they all end up making the box complete. Lately, I've realized there are a few color friendships in my life, that aren't necessarily the right ones for me. Not that I want to trade them for other colors, I just need to discontinue those colors.

I try really hard to be a nice person, and a good friend to those around me. I always try to put others first, and I always taken in to consideration how my thoughts, words and actions affect those around me. I have different kinds of friendships, friends from work, friends from work who have become more than just in the "work friend" category, and that I can count on when I need someone to talk too. Old friends, new friends, Mom Friends, my walking buddy, my volunteering friends, my cohorts, friends I go to for parenting and relationship advice, or just to complain to each other! and so many others. What I realize, is that I have apparently been trying to hard to "prove" my friendships, and be there for others, and I've noticed that some of these don't do the same for me. I realize that some people have been pretending to be my friend, or even just an acquaintance, but yet criticize me behind my back, and talk about things they really have no knowledge of. I've decided, that I will no longer give those people the time of day. I am cutting the ties to that negative energy, and if they still feel the need to judge because of my lifestyle, or my economic status, then so be it. I feel sorry for those people that feel the need to belittle others to feel better about themselves. I am happy with the person I am, the person I'm becoming, and the life I live. I may not have all the things some consider necessary to classify being a good person, or worth their time, but I have what makes me happy and that's all that matters.

Friendship isn't about what you own, or what you can buy. It's about being there for others when they don't need you, and even more when you do. It's about being able to laugh together, and being able to be yourself, and not have to hide your true colors. It's about appreciating the people in your life, for what they bring to your life, and how they enrich it. It's about knowing that your friends will be there at 3 am when your feeling sad and lonely. It's about being able to call somebody last minute because you're in a pinch and need somebody to watch your kids, and they do it second nature without even thinking about it. Friendship is so much more than social class. It's hard for me to understand why some people feel that need to categorize people in that way. Sometimes the best friends you can have are the ones in low places like me....


I want to write this, while the memory is still fresh in my brain, and before the overwhelming reality of life sets back in to my everyday routines. I just returned home from my trip to Washington DC to attend the National Head Start Leadership Institute. I was selected as 1 of 5  parents to attend the conference. It was quite possibly the most amazing week of my life. 5 days of learning, understanding more early learning issues, and advocating for children not only in my state, but those across the nation. I met Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and got to help them understand a little bit better how cuts that our government is trying to make to our state and federal budgets, will affect so many families. My fellow PA's and I, helped put a face to those services that are on the chopping block. 

One friend was a teenage mom, who had no idea how to manage a checkbook, a household and a baby at the age of 16 while trying to finish school. With the help of the Early Head Start program, she finished high school, got her AA and is now working on her BA. She is a small business owner, and the proud mom of 4 kids! 

Another was a recovering addict who spent over 20 years in and out of incarceration. He has now turned his life around, is a single dad and has helped start a Dad's group in his local town. He just recently became a homeowner. These are just a few of his accomplishments. 
There were 3 more stories from my fellow PA's, that tugged at your heart strings, but I would be here all day trying to recap it all. I got to tell the story of how Head Start helped diagnose Lauryn with hearing loss that was fixable, and not just a speech impediment. And how she no longer needs any special services because of the help and resources she had access to as a Head Start student. 

In our state, the Governor just proposed to cut the Working Connections Childcare Program. This will affect thousands of children and families in our state. We got the chance to let them know, that by reducing these subsidies, it will have an adverse effect on our economy. Those working poor in our state, will be turned in to unemployed workers and forced to draw from other state resources such as unemployment, TANF, Food Stamps and Medical. It doesn't make sense to not be PREVENTATIVE. Helping our lawmakers understand that we are REAL faces and not just numbers, was what we were there for. 

I truly believe that our voices were heard in every office we visited. 

Not only did we visit Capital Hill, we gave a presentation and helped facilitate another one on Advocacy, and getting parents involved in early learning issues. The more people that are aware that from birth to 3 is the most important part of a child's life, and what they can do to make those years the best, the better our future generations will be set up for success. I could go on and on. But I won't. I just want to share the video of my telling my story about Lauryn. It is emotional. Yes, I cried. Because if it weren't for this program, I don't know that my daughter would be the child she is today. A loud, boistourous, talkative, SMART girl who started kindergarten ahead of the curve, because of the comprehensive services and amazing preschool experience she had through Head Start. 

Some of my friends don't agree with these issues because of Political belief, some of ignorance, and some of just plain disagreeing. But I think anyone who listens to any of these stories will agree that to not support this program and other early learning programs like it, is just plain stupid. Children should be our priority, not just an afterthought. 

A Year In Parent Ambassadors.

WOW! How far I’ve come. One year ago I was submitting an application and applying to be a “Parent Ambassador”.  Today, I’m flying home from sharing the information I’ve gained with a group of parents on the other side of the country. I’m so thankful that Joel Ryan, Lori Pittman, and Katy Warren picked me as one of the PA’s for 2010!

I never knew being accepted in to this program would be so life changing. In one year, I’ve gone from being a behind the scenes, quiet observer to an advocate for myself, my family, and children and families all over the NATION! I’ve traveled across the United States twice to advocate for children and early learning. Once attending our nation’s capital and speaking to state representatives and department heads of office. Secondly, giving a presentation on HOW to advocate for yourself and your children.

I’ve done a lot this year. My first call to action was almost one year ago exactly. With little training on what I needed to do, I testified at the state level on the effects of cutting the Working Connections Childcare program, and against cutting 3 year old preschool in our state. I was terrified. Shaky and feeling like my heart was going to jump out of my chest, I did it. And I didn’t sound near as bad as I did in my own head after listening to it a few days later. That day was an ice breaker for me. I never knew I could have such a voice on important issues such as these. Now I’m teaching others how to find their own voices, and am actually looking forward to going back and testifying this year. These issues have become a part of me. Of who I am and the person I’ve become.

I’ve been interviewed by the newspaper. I was interviewed by King 5, on the same day as my dear friends memorial service. I had swollen red eyes from crying, and I looked like a train ran me over, but it was my only chance for them to fit me in to their schedule. So again, I gave my story on what would happen with such tremendous budget cuts in our state. I created a YouTube video ,  that we sent straight to the Governor’s office asking her not to take these actions.  The video went viral and now has over 500 views. Not half bad for just a message from the heart. I traveled to Washington D.C. to tell the amazing story of how Head Start helped my daughter to hear. I brought tears to people’s eyes with the message. I helped run a training for parents while in DC, on how to tell their stories. I recorded over 10 stories to send to Congress.

 I now sit on many amazing committees to give a parent voice to decisions being made all over our state. I’m on my counties Early Learning Committee, I am on the WaKids Kindergarten Readiness committee, that helped develop the program that is now being tested all over our state, and will report back in January to the legislature on how it has worked. It’s actually being tested in my own child’s Kindergarten class. I’m on the Head Start/ECEAP advisory committee. I’ve been invited to speak later this week to a group of parents who are interested in learning more about how they can make a difference.

I found the courage to run and be elected to be the president of my children’s elementary school PTO. I NEVER would have thought I would be where I am today. At this moment, I’m flying home from the East Coast, reflecting on the fact that I just presented a wealth of information to 25 other parents for 2 days. If only one of these parents takes the information and shares it or does something with it, I will have accomplished what I set out to do. (Since returning home, already two of the parents I trained this week have written letters to the editor and been published!)

The Parent Ambassador program has taught me a lot about politics, about legislation, about current issues and affairs, about how to be involved in gov’t and other local communities. It has taught me about friendships and provided me with some really great mentors. But most of all, it has helped me find myself, helped to find the passion inside of me that I always knew was there, but didn’t know how to use it. Because of my advocacy and involvement with Early Learning, I was offered a better paying job that I’ve now begun to make my career. I’m over halfway done with my Child Development Associate. Because of that and getting married and my husband getting a raise, our family is now self sufficient. We no longer receive Public Assistance of any kind. With 5 kids, that’s quite an accomplishment!  I can honestly say that even with all the trials and tribulations I’ve had this year; it has been one of the best years of my life.
Parent Ambassadors isn’t just a year-long advocacy training. It’s become a life changing, life-long part of me. I will never forget everything I’ve learned from the wonderful people who have mentored me this year, or the wonderful friendships I have made.

I’m sad my year of PA has come to an end. But even more excited to take the things I’ve learned and continue going onward and upward in advocating for children and families, and to passing along the torch of information to other parents to do the same!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I am a Parent Ambassador.

I'm so excited, I just can't hide it.. Sounds like a horrible cliche, or the lyrics to an 80's song, but I really am! Earlier this week I found out I was selected as one of five parents going to Washington D.C. to represent parents all across the nation. For the last year, I have been involved in the WSA Parent Ambassador program. It's a new program, only in it's second year. This group is the first in the nation, and has been so successful, that Head Start and ECEAP programs around the nation want to model it. Many people ask me "what is the Parent Ambassador program, or what do you do?" If you've paid attention to my FaceBook or emails over the last year, I've been involved in a lot of different advocacy issues and been active on educating myself and others around issues that concern me. The Parent Ambassador program has given me the tools I need to advocate for myself, my children and other people's children. YOUR CHILDREN!

Through this program I've become more knowledgeable about early learning, voter education and registration, just to name a few things. I've become a part of an Early Learning Coalition in Grays Harbor, that is responsible for trying to make a better community of Early Learning between daycares, preschools and schools. I've served on many committees through this program. I was a part of a committee that created a program called WaKids, a kindergarten assessment program or 'tool' to be used Statewide for Public Elementary's. This program is in it's pilot year, and my daughter's school is participating! I can't wait to see the results, and present them to the Governor.

I'm also serving on a committee for the Washington State Child Support Division as a parent voice on the regulations or changes that will be made to the system. My voice will be heard here, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm serving on a committee for Head Start and ECEAP collaborations, to make the programs more in sync. I've had a great experience with this committee and am excited for the future of it. I feel valued as a parent, and the people in charge of all these committees actually make me feel like my opinion is valuable to all of these programs. I take my experiences, and those of my friends, families, co workers, and school community to all of these committees and help to make important decisions.

Earlier in the year, when the Governor was working on the budget and trying to make cuts to vital programs that affect not only myself but those around me, I was asked to testify to our State Legislators about how cutting these programs would affect a person like me. I testified in front of about 20 Legislators and I was scared to DEATH. But I did. With the support of the PA program, I stood up and told my story. It was a very SHORT story to meet the cut off of one minute because of the vast amount of people that wanted to share. But afterwards, the champion Representative of Early Learning came up to me  and wanted to know more about what I knew, and how I would be affected, and how I thought cuts to these programs (mostly childcare subsidies) would affect people of Washington State served through these programs. I felt honored. I NEVER would have done it if it weren't for getting involved in this program.

I rallied at the capital for Washington Kids, and met with 6 senators in one day. I left copies of a story about my daughter with them, attached with a picture, and how some of Washington's programs changed my daughters life. I was contacted later thanking me for sharing my story. That's not something that happens to most people on a daily basis.

I've served on a couple of other committees, and groups and been involved in a lot of other things. Those above are just a few. On a daily basis I engage in conversations with people educating them on these issues and how they can be involved. Your voice can make a difference. Your actions can. Early Learning shapes our future, and it's important that people understand. I have found a passion that I never knew existed, and I love sharing the fire inside me now.

As part of the Parent Ambassador program, we had the chance to apply to go to Washington D.C. to a National Conference. We will be able to see the Federal level of laws being made, participate in the conference as the only 5 people there as parents. It's a pretty big honor to have been selected to participate at this level. There are no words to describe just how happy I am.  All of my hard work in advocacy has paid off in so many ways, and this is right up there in the top two!

 I just can't believe in a little over a month, I will be there representing parents all over the nation.. Such an honor, and I am so blessed to be a part of it!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I have this huge blog I've been preparing in my head for the last 4 days. And right now, I'm just too depressed to sit and write it..
So I'm just blah..blah, blah and more blah. I wish I could be happy. I wish the sun would come back and stay. I'm pretty sure that would help...

Friday, April 9, 2010


No, it's not a musical pattern, a pattern of any sort actually. It's my step son's grades. I'll give you two guesses what the B's are in. PE and Music. Yep. The real important subjects, ya know? I'm so frustrated. Frustrated with the whole solution that is being offered to solve this problem. HOME SCHOOL. Not that I have anything against home schooling. I think it's a wonderful thing, and can be a great thing for some people and their families. I don't think it's the solution to this problem. He has been struggling since entering public school almost 3 years ago. Before, in his elementary days, he attended a public school in Eugene, but it was called Family School, and had a more alternative way of schooling. It seemed to work for him, but honestly, I've thought since they went there, that it was not doing him any good. It didn't help him the way a school is supposed to. Didn't challenge him, and some of his struggles were not identified or worked with at the time. I knew it was only a matter of time before the system caught up with him and he would struggle even more. He had horrible attendance, and his grades suffered from not turning in his homework. The teachers changed his schedule around to try and help him remember his homework. He was given checklists, and all other different kinds of things to try and keep him on track. I voiced my opinions, but like most subjects when it comes to my 'step' children, my voice was ignored. Eventually, he was labeled with ADD, but not put on medication. Apparently, he's supposed to take Fish Oil, because his mom is against  medicating him. He's been to my house once since that time more than (2 years ago)  WITH his Fish Oil. So I ASSUME it's not something he takes on a regular basis.
Enter them moving, and attending a 'regular' public school. Since then, he has struggled with reading, math, and science. The mother blamed his struggles on the teachers, the principal, and everyone who dealt with him, and says they don't know how to handle working with kids with ADD. The thing that frustrates me most I think, is that she never calls Josh to tell him about his struggles until it's time for a conference with a teacher, or she's argued with them so much, she needs him to back her up. He's always been one for saying what's on his mind, and he doesn't take crap from the school when it comes to his kids. He's always in Z's corner. The thing is, he doesn't get the chance to be. So two days ago. He gets a phonecall from the mom, crying, because she doesn't know what to do. She has a conference with the teacher from one class and the principal over the phone, and wants Josh to be in on it. She has convinced Josh that the teacher is out to get Zaine, is targeting him, not helping him, and failing him because she doesn't understand him. Josh calls me. Instantly, I'm frustrated because I've known all along that this was coming, and it's really too bad that it's come SO late in the year. It's obviously been an ongoing thing. Thing is, the kid does great in class. And when he actually DOES his homework, the grades are excellent. He's just not following through. So I get on Facebook, and the mom has posted "Z and I have decided to homeschool". WHAT THE HELL! Z and her? What about talking with Josh about it, shouldn't it be decided amongst the parents what happens? Not the mother and son, with leaving dad out to dry? Of course it should. Of course it HAS to be. Their divorce papers say so. 50% decision making when it comes to education, religion and medical. Yep, that's right. It's documented. But 'SHE'S decided to homeschool? Again, just another one of my frustrations. So I spent almost all of yesterday worried about this kid. About the decisions his parents are going to make about his education and how they are going to help him. I don't think HOMESCHOOL is the answer. If the reason he's failing is because he's not turning in his HOME work, do you think it's the school that is the problem? I sure don't. Sure, I know how the public education process works, and a lot of kids labeled with ADD and ADHD don't get the help they need, or as much of it as they should. But I don't blame the school for his failure. If he's not remembering to do his homework, and not turning in his assignments, shouldn't there be someone else who is just as responsible for helping him remember? Yes, that's right, I said it. His custodial parent, SHOULD be making sure he's not forgetting his backpack in the morning, making sure his homework is DONE before he's allowed computer time, DSi time, Wii time, or Lego time. But maybe that's just me. Although, I don't think I'm wrong in feeling this way.
Josh has always had reservations about her parenting. We've had constant arguments with her, about the way she does things. He tries not to interfere, but when it gets bad, he always eventually stands up to her and tells her what she's doing wrong. We've had neglect issues, we've had hygiene issues, we've had school issues, we've had doctor issues, you  name it, we've dealt with it. And all of a sudden he agrees with her that home schooling is a good idea. Sure, I think it's a great idea, if it was somebody ELSE doing it. This kid does not respect his mother, does not listen to her, does what he wants, and NOW you think it's a good idea that she homeschool him. And then.. she says she's going to 'de-school' him. Which, in reading an article, says that for every year your child has spent in a formal education system, they should get a month of time to heal from that. So in essence, this kid will have 7 months to do whatever he wants not school related. Does that sound like a solution to this problem? I sure don't think so. And I don't think it's going to help him any. I think the reasons for not doing his work need to be figured out. I know him, and I know that even if he doesn't understand what he's supposed to do, he won't ask for help. He feels ashamed or shy that he can't do something. He doesn't have the tools, or the courage to ask when something is wrong. I've seen it in so many other aspects of his life. I feel sometimes, as I know this kid better then his own parents. Maybe that sounds concieted, but I don't think so. I'm just being honest. I've been able to reach out to him many times, when his parents couldn't. We have a special bond, the two of us. So even though he won't say it, I know he's scared, not understanding, and not knowing how to cope with the issues at hand. Is he not doing his homework because he's afraid to ask for help? Because he doesn't understand it and feels like he should. Because he's scared to not KNOW something. I think so. I think that's part of the problem. It's always easier to not do something because you don't know how, then to ask for help, right?
I suggested that he come stay with us, and attend school here for a while, to see if it can make a difference. If only till the end of the year. I think his dad should have the option to be able to help him. Not only should his father be able to have a chance at being proactive, but our school here, K-8 is 300 kids. He's in a school 6-8 with 603 kids.. Do you see the possibility of him getting more help here? I sure do.
I just don't see how the solutions they are offering are going to help him. Only hinder him more.. I'm so scared, worried, anxious, and empathetic for him, and there's nothing I can do. I have no power. I'm powerless over this situation, yet it will also affect my life. How is that fair? It's not. Yet there's nothing I can do about it....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two is a couple, three is a crowd?

The last week, my oldest daughter was visiting relatives on her dad's side of the family for her spring break. It might possibly have been the longest week of my life, and also the quietest! I didn't realize how much our family dynamics are different without that one child. She has never been away from me for more than 2 days.. This week without her, really put things in to perspective.
She definitely is my loudest child. Not just in the volume of her voice, but she talks the most, is the most opinionated, the most bossy, and the most controlling. Without her in the mix this week, L &  L got along quite nicely. There wasn't much argument over anything. There was no tattling..It was a very laid back week. Enter A's arrival home today, and it was almost constant chaos! I always have thought that my life might be a bit simpler if she wasn't such an emotionally demanding child. It's so funny to think about how your children can be so different, raised in the same environment. Obviously, her gene pool is a little different, and that's not her fault, but WOW. As much as I couldn't wait for her to get home, I am missing the peace and quiet and the CALM that was around here.
It's funny, because I went on a double date with a friend of mine and her daughter. Originally, it was supposed to be A and I, and the other couple. But our plans changed, so I brought L along instead. If it had been A and I on this date, I wouldn't have probably gotten a word in edgewise. But with L, I had to do most of the talking. With A around, there is never a dull moment, or a lack in conversation.. She brings so much color to our lives.
She's the most outspoken, the most dramatic, the most outgoing, and the most opinionated little girl beyond her years, and as much as I appreciate the little mini vacation I had from her, I am so glad she's back home where she belongs. I just need to remind myself how much I missed that voice, that love, and ALL of that emotion while she was away, when she has me about ready to pull my hair out. Which in the short amount of time she has been home, has happened quite a few times...
Kids, gotta love them right!? =)