kids

31 Good Things That Happened in May

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened in that 30-day (or so) span, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy May to you!

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1) Since she couldn’t accept his invitation to prom, Emma Stone sent this teen and his date a corsage.

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2) This dad got an amazing birthday surprise

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3) This music video took us back to the 90s

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4) This author announced her new book in the best way

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5)  This guy made a fool of himself for a good cause

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6) Nicki Minaj helped a bunch of students pay for college

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7) This little girl had something to brag about

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8) After realizing he made a mistake, Chris Pratt made up for it in a great way

Instagram does this thing where it mutes all the videos it shows and forces you to turn on the volume in order to hear them. (maybe because most people are watching those videos at work when they should be working and don't want to get caught. I know that's when I do it. 😬) So when I made a video recently with subtitles, and requested that people turn up the volume and not just "read the subtitles" it was so people wouldn't scroll past the video on mute, thus watching and digesting the information in the video. HOWEVER, I realize now doing so was incredibly insensitive to the many folks out there who depend on subtitles. More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologize. I have people in my life who are hearing-impaired, and the last thing in the world I would want to do is offend them or anybody who suffers from hearing loss or any other disability. So truly from the bottom of my heart I apologize. Thanks for pointing this out to me. In the future I'll try to be a little less ignorant about it. Now… I know some of you are going to say, "Hey! Chris only apologized because his publicist made him!" Well. That is not the case. As always I control my social media. Nobody else. And I am doing this because I'm actually really sorry. Apologies are powerful. I don't dole them out Willy-Nilly. This is one of those moments where I screwed up and here's me begging your pardon. I hope you accept my apology. And on that note. Why doesn't Instagram have some kind of technology to automatically add subtitles to its videos? Or at least the option. I did a little exploring and it seems lacking in that area. Shouldn't there be an option for closed captioning or something? I've made them lord knows how much money with my videos and pictures. Essentially sharing myself for free. I know they profit. So… GET ON IT INSTAGRAM!!! Put closed captioning on your app. #CCinstaNow

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9) This wedding photographer captured some real love

Tonight I was photographing Adrian & Roslyn at sunset. I was setting up those grand sunset scenes… you know the ones… the little people in a big scene… I love those kinda shots… but tonight that just didn't seem enough. Just as the light became amazing I scrapped everything I knew and I walked up to them and said, "guys, stop posing. Just enjoy your first sunset together as husband and wife". They then held each other in the most beautiful way… It was so much more beautiful than anything I could ever set up. Then I said to Adrian, "I have a question for you, but I want you to tell the answer to Roslyn and not me." I continued, "Out of the billions of people on the planet, you've chosen to spend the rest of your life with Roslyn. Can you tell her why?" In a matter of moments I could start seeing Roslyn's eyes glisten, then the most beautiful tears streamed down her face. Then I found myself crying. Oh Love, You are oh so precious.

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10) This guy got into college!

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11) This man embodied perseverance

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12) These moms wrote encouraging letters to other moms

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13) This little girl snuck her pet cow inside the house

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14) This little girl took a picture with a potato

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15) Mother’s Day b1923d25f9b3a9e78692230f1935b976

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16) This mom and son inspired everyone with their graduation photo

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17) Oreo opened the best contest EVER

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18) This deployed soldier got to be a part of his wife’s pregnancy shoot

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19) In the wake of something unimaginably terrible, kindness, love and bravery showed up again

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20) …and again

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21) …and again

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22) This little boy wrote a touching letter to Nintendo about his favorite game

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23) This dog taught his brother how to sit.

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24) This guy continued to make progress

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25) This service dog snagged a spot in his owner’s school yearbook

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26) This guy showed off his talent

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27) Kaley Cuoco adopted a dwarf mini horse named Shmushy

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28) Memorial Day honored life’s true superheroes

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29) This 92 year old Marine Corp sergeant achieved one of his biggest goals

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30) This girl got an amazing surprise

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31) Jennifer Lopez & James Corden took some dance lessons

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what June brings!

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Sometimes They Just Know (feat. My Sister)

My sister has always been good with kids. She has the patience and the kindness and the key voice change required to get them to both listen and understand you. When she was 16, she started working at a summer camp where she quickly became highly and widely adored by all. They called her, “Miss Natalee” and the name fit.

A few years later, after she graduated high school, she entered college as a Child Development major and got a job as a Preschool Teacher’s Assistant while she finished her degree. It was hard. She worked hard. But even though some days at the preschool were exhausting and some night classes were worse, she still managed to get up every morning and put a smile on her face, because she knew those kids deserved it and that she loved them with all her heart.

When my sister got out of school, she started to specialize her zone of work to kids with special needs. She wanted them to be known rather than just sympathized for and nervously looked at. About a year ago, she took a job as a shadow for a little girl named Tess who was born with sensory processing disorder and apraxia as a result of being born extremely premature. Many people might have been intimidated by a case like this, but my sister took in stride, understanding that no matter how hard a day was for her, it was 10 times harder for Tess.

Last fall, my church hosted a Harvest Festival for Halloween and invited families to come out in their costumes to play games, exchange candy, etc. My sister and I signed up to run a face painting booth where we spent the evening creating subpar masterpieces on children’s cheeks.

One 6-year-old reviewer of my work called it, “Okay.” Another said, “Thanks, I guess.”

After we were done, when the last kid walked away with an average amount of satisfaction, we made our way to the buffet to overeat. With our plates stacked high and our hands still cramping, we took a seat around one of the tables and ate and shared stories of our failed face paintings with our fellow churchgoers. Once the meal was finished, the MC announced it was time to reveal the winners of the pumpkin carving competition. My sister and I turned our chairs forward and as we awaited the winners, we saw a little boy turn around in his chair. He glanced at me briefly, then looked at my sister and smiled. A few seconds later, the MC announced the winner to be none other than this little boy. He went up on stage and collected his prize, then walked back to his table to hug his mom, all the while glancing over at my sister with a smile.

My mom made a comment about how cute all of the pumpkins had come out and was about to suggest we start cleaning up, when suddenly a little voice interrupted her. The little boy walked up to the table with caution, his eyes on the ground, and my sister immediately greeted him with a smile and congratulations. He blushed and said thank you and then immediately looked back down at his feet. The group of us exchanged a smile, then we all watched in amazement as the boy slowly walked towards my sister and climbed up on her lap. We were stunned. Had she met him in the preschool room where she volunteers on Sundays?  Had he been in her group for Vacation Bible School in the summer?

“No,” my sister said after he left, “I’ve never talked to him before.”

Later that week, when we were back at church on Sunday morning, a woman came up to my mom and I to talk about the Harvest Festival and what a success she thought it was.

“Not to mention I saw little Aaron sitting on Natalee’s lap at the end of the night.”

“Yeah, he really latched on to her out of nowhere, it was so cute!”

“He’s not usually like that, but sometimes they just know.”

“What do you mean?”

She went on to explain that Aaron had a few different learning disabilities and was often very shy and slow to take to other people. But there must have been something about my sister, some sort of undeniable goodness that made him trust her instantly.

“Sometimes they just know.”

They know, I know, & I hope you know.

Happy birthday!

The Fairy House

This past weekend some of my family got together to celebrate my grandpa’s 86th birthday.  I was feeling a little bit under the weather, although trying my best to act otherwise, and decided after lunch to go outside to get some fresh air.

My grandpa lives in a retirement home and his backdoor opens up onto a tile porch with chairs and couches and a stationary bike, all of which look out at the vast communal lawn, freckled with trees and the first Par 3 of the community’s golf course.  I had every intention of sitting on the couch to watch golfers and listen to the Camarillo breeze, but before I could, my two young cousins came up and made me an undeniable offer: to make a fairy house. I really had no idea what to expect. I’m no expert in fairies, or their preferred architecture, but I was willing to learn, and it was clear upon agreement that I would do just that.

The lawn was strewn with pine needles and my cousin, Jackson, found one between his toes as he and his older sister, Taylor, led me to a large pile they’d already collected.

“This is our harvest,” Taylor said shyly as she lifted up a handful of pine needles to reveal a collection of pinecones underneath. It would act as a backup food supply for the fairies when the trees grew bare in the winter.

“And I think this would be the perfect place for the house,” she said, pointing to the base of a tree.

Jackson nodded, squatting down with his hands on his knees to picture the house, letting his imagination run wild.

As they began to work, it was remarkable to see their individual creativities come together so congruously. Taylor took stacks of pine needles and curved them into thick, bristly “U’s”, creating petal like “rooms” around the base of the tree, while Jackson collected grass cuttings and placed them within each petal to make each room “softer” and “more comfortable”.

I was unsure of my role or how to help, so as I watched them, I tried to think of a “wow” factor I could include, something that might reference a movie they’d seen or exceed their expectations of science and design. However as they began to collect bark and sticks for beds and doors, I realized the only tool I needed to help was an openhearted, indulgent imagination to match theirs.

“We should add a field! And a garden!” said Jackson enthusiastically.

He ran back to the grass cuttings and began to stack piles alongside the tree, creating fairy nature with worldly nature, and I again found myself watching with wonder. My cousins were nowhere near the backyard of my grandpa; they were somewhere much greater, with much more possibility. Jackson wasn’t stacking grass on top of grass, he was planting seeds and flowers and trees for the fairies to tend to. And Taylor wasn’t just moving pieces of bark around the dirt; she was purposefully organizing furniture, just as she’d seen her mother do.

To them this wasn’t a game, and it was long from becoming a silly memory they might chalk up to childhood naivety. To them, this was real. They were creating a home. One to be filled with love and fun and family, just like the one they’d woke up in that morning. They were creating a place for magic to happen, never once doubting that it would.

The Maine Shaped Splotch

My brother was a bit of a surprise, at least to me. I had just turned 7 when I found out he was coming. We were at a restaurant by my aunt’s house celebrating a birthday, when I excused myself from a conversation about Mario Party to ask my mom for a quarter to get a bouncy ball. The floor was covered in sawdust and before I covered half the distance between us, I took a break to remove the flakes from my shoes. Then, standing before my mom with my brightest smile, I explained the situation at hand.

Pink Bouncy Ball.

Need.

Not want.

My mom turned her left wrist, glimpsing at her watch, before denying my request with the classic, “it’s getting late” excuse. I tried to object, but was met with the warm pull of her arms around my shoulders, hugging me with the type of sincerity not even a bratty little 7 year old could deny. I hugged her back, tightening my arms around her waist, before stepping back, looking deep into her eyes and asking, “Are you pregnant or just fat?”

It was there, amongst the itchy sawdust and ungranted bouncy balls that my mom explained to me of the baby on the way.

“YESS.” I said as I threw my fist in the air.  For years I’d been mothering a number of dolls—all named Crystal—and now I would have a full-blown human baby to take care of!  I thought of my Baby Alive, the doll I’d just received for my birthday. You know, the one that will crap its pants after you feed it, like a REAL baby, so you can be REAL mom, and change its diaper with scotch tape. I couldn’t wait.

About a year later, I was on the clock. My brother had the chunkiest legs, like bean burritos. We would play this game after I changed his diaper where I would start at his feet and count, “1, 2, 3, 4…” as I tip toed my way up his BRC stems to tickle his stomach.

One day, after the laughter died down, I put him in his playpen, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and told him I was off to the real world: 4th grade. It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was out, I had Music class first, and I was rocking my new bell-bottoms. (Remember when those went back in style for a few years in the late 90s? I crushed them.)

Upon arriving at school, I felt off, a little nauseous, but I couldn’t figure out why. Even through the pledge of allegiance, the school song, and roll call—which was my favorite—I felt sick. At lunch, I started to notice others around me feel it too. Their noses started to scrunch, their eyes squinted in pain. Something was hanging over us, but we didn’t know what.

Then I saw it.

It was yellow and green and shaped like Maine. Baby diarrhea. Splotched on the front right pocket of my bell-bottoms, poisoning the surrounding oxygen like I was the shit stained cousin of Pig Pen. I rushed to the bathroom and scrubbed my way through an entire roll of wetted toilet paper, only to find myself soaking wet, with a more artistic stain now blended into my pants like a watercolor painting. Too embarrassed to tell anyone, including the school nurse, I stuck it out for the last 2 hours of school, constantly on the verge of tears.

When I got home, my brother looked up at my puffy red face and smiled as his drool oozed down his cheeks onto the floor of his playpen. I looked down at him, still utterly traumatized, but entranced in his little blue eyes.  He didn’t know he had caused me permanent social damage, polluted my favorite pair of pants, and ultimately ruined my entire day with his uncontrollable bowels. He didn’t know that at 25 years old, I’d still remember this as one of the most embarrassing days of my life. All he knew was he was happy to see me, and that he wanted his diaper changed.

 

 

Embarrassing

Doors Slammed Open

A couple that I work with have a son that stole the hearts of all of our coworkers pretty much the moment he was born.

The second he learned how to walk, he was popping in and around our desks, making our communal office space his own personal discovery zone. Some days he’d want to sit on your lap, other days he just wanted to check in on what you were doing.  He was always moving, always learning.

Once he started talking, the possibilities became endless. Now he had ways to ask for things with more than just a point of a finger. Life was much more interesting, people much more fun.

“Can I go upstairs with you?”

“Can I go outside with you?”

“Can I go into the other office with you?”

He still had that curiosity and now he had the means of satisfying it. Well, at least when the answer to those questions was “yes.”

“Sure, you can come with me, hold on, let me open the door for you.”

As the months went on with him walking and talking, so grew his sense of independence.

“Can I go outside with you?”

“Sure, let me open the door for you.”

“No! I can do it!”

We understood his desire to do things on his own, to grow up, to be “big”, so we let him open the door on his own, if only slightly leaning against it for some undetectable assistance.

These days he doesn’t even wait for your offer, once he gets the cue of approval, he’s pushing that door open like treasure is waiting behind it.

As he grows up, I’m sure the time will come when he finds himself holding a door open for someone else, as we all do from time to time. And when things get tough, he’ll be that little kid again, hoping someone will be there to open a door for him once more.

It’s a never ending cycle really. Throughout the course of a day, doors will open and close, both literally and figuratively, and we never know which side of which door we’ll find ourselves on. In a perfect world we’d always find that doorknob unlocked or that neighbor holding the door open, but in reality, doors are often locked or hidden or even shut in our face. Some days we’ll find ourselves knocking and knocking, sure we’re at the right place, when the fact is we just need to find a new door on a new day. And sometimes, no matter how many keys we try or tricks we pull, all we need to open a door is to accept and trust the little assistance from that someone saying, “hold on, let me help.”