“I shall tell you what I believe. I believe God is a librarian. I believe that literature is holy...it is that best part of our souls that we break off and give each other, and God has a special dispensation for it, angels to guard its making and its preservation.”
Sarah Smith

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Diary

SATURDAY: Jami. I can hardly stand to think the words, let alone write them down in permanent ink. Jami is gone. Aunt Clare found her this morning, dead in her bed. I don’t know how I’m going to live without her.
Dead in her bed. Just dead in her bed.

SUNDAY: They found an empty pill bottle under her bed. So that’s it, then. Suicide. What was going on at that stupid performing arts school? She never told me. This never would have happened if she had stayed at Belmont High with me, with our friends. Where I could see her every day. Why wouldn’t she tell me?
I tried to get her to come out with us on Friday night. She wouldn’t, and I could hear in her voice that something was wrong. She said it was just a fight with Aunt Clare, and I believed her. Why did I believe her?

WEDNESDAY: The stupid funeral was today. Everyone always says how beautiful the dead person is, and how they almost look like they were still alive, only sleeping or something. She didn’t look alive. She looked pale and pasty and dead. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that she wasn’t singing.
Poor Aunt Clare had everyone over to the house after. Mom said she tried to talk her out of it, but she wouldn’t listen.
When no one was looking I sneaked upstairs to the bathroom and pulled her diary out from where it was taped under the sink. I know I should have told Aunt Clare about it, but instead I brought it home. I just needed a little piece of her with me for a while. Only now I can’t make myself open it. It’s sitting next to me on the bed right now. But I can’t even touch it.

THURSDAY: This morning when I went to the closet to get dressed I saw the sweater she lent me on New Year’s Eve. I was stupid and didn’t even bring a jacket to the party. I thought it would mess up the “little black dress” look. She told me I was an idiot before we even left the house. But she still let me wear her sweater later when I got cold. I could never remember to return it. Guess it doesn’t matter now. But it made me think of her, and suddenly I missed her so bad I couldn’t stand it, so I grabbed her diary and started reading. That was three hours ago. And I still miss her so bad.

FRIDAY: I’m almost halfway through the diary already.
She talked about the disaster of a double date we went on last year, when those two artsy guys from her school took us ice skating. She never mentioned to them that we had both taken lessons for years, and these guys, well…I said they were artsy, right? We ended up skating circles while they sat on a bench with hot chocolates all night. Wusses.
She talked about last summer when I broke my wrist and couldn’t do anything fun, so she sat at my house for three months reading old Nancy Drew books with me, like we used to when we were little.
She said she hated my new haircut.
I had to stop reading, because if I read the whole thing, then it will be over. I’ll just think about this stuff for a while.

SUNDAY: I couldn’t stand it, I had to keep reading. I probably should have started at the end, to see if she said anything about why she did this. It’s not like she left a note or anything. But I wanted to remember her for a while, before I read about when everything went wrong. What went wrong?
I’m trying to pace myself, so I can make the diary last as long as possible. We’ll see how long I can hold out.
Mom went to see Aunt Clare today. She said Clare was crying and crying and couldn’t stop. It’s all I could do to keep myself from calling her up to tell her about the diary right then. Not yet. Soon, just not yet.

MONDAY: I went back to school today for the first time since it happened. It was weird and terrible. Everyone kept looking at me with these puppy dog eyes, and whenever someone spoke to me they touched my arm. They all knew her, before she changed schools, and nobody – not a single person – mentioned her all day. Funny, that just made me think about her more.

TUESDAY: The diary has started mentioning a guy named Rhett. Not mentioning, more like talking about non-stop. I was her best friend and she never even said the name Rhett to me, not when she talked about her new friends, or when she told me who was in her classes, or when we went through last year’s yearbook to rank all the cutest guys. But the diary says they went on dates. And kissed. And talked on the phone every night. There’s a rose petal pressed in between two of the pages. I never saw any roses in her room.

WEDNESDAY: I don’t think I like this guy, Rhett. She kept gushing about him all over the pages, but he seems kind of…creepy. She thought it was cute that he was jealous, but I think it’s possessive. She says how sweet it was that he drove home behind her “just to make sure she gets there safe.” Sounds weird to me. The last couple pages mentioned that he’s trying to get her to have sex with him, but she’s not sure. I wonder if she ever did. I thought she would have told me about it if she’d done it.
THURSDAY: I can’t keep myself from reading now. It drives me crazy that I have to go to school all day, instead of staying here with the diary. I’m getting close to the end now, and I don’t know if I can stand to finish. It’ll be like losing her all over again. But also, it will mean that I might find out why she did this. I have to know, but I don’t want to.
I can tell by the dates at the top of the pages that what I’m reading is several months after she met Rhett. It’s so strange, she doesn’t mention him anymore, but I can tell he’s still there, like he’s lurking in the background of everything she writes. The entries have become melancholy, and I can tell that something happened, but she doesn’t say what. She doesn’t write anymore about how much she loves that stupid school, or wanting to sing on Broadway, or even fighting with her mom. It’s like she’s writing all these words, but not really saying anything at all.

FRIDAY: I can’t read anymore. I’m on the second-to-last page of curly-cue writing and heart-dotted “i’s,” and I can’t make myself turn the page. The last thing I read was labeled “Wednesday.” Just two days before she did it. It’s strange. We’ve been best friends since birth. We’re blood related, and heart related, and I can hear the pain in her writing now. But I have no idea why, and she never gave me any clue. Every day on the phone with her, every day we talked. We saw each other several times a week. I should have seen what was wrong, should have heard it in her tone and the way her words deflated on the last syllable. But I didn’t. And that’s on me.

I swear on her grave, before the end of today, he will wish I’d never read that last page.

One of us will be seeing Jami before the sun rises.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wherein I Fight Against the Man by Changing the Writing Prompt

My beautiful writer friend Leah has challenged me to a ten-minute prompted writing session. Since it's questionable at the moment whether I will be able to spend any time with my manuscript today, I think a ten-minute stretch of the old writing muscles is in order.

The prompt: Write something that begins with a screech.

Just so you know, I'm changing the screech to a scream. Because I want to and you can't stop me. (Is that against the rules? Too late now...) Here goes:

Some days she screams, she throws and bends and falls. Some days she blinks, and remembers, and waits. She's not sure which days are which anymore. There aren't really any days here, anyway, and she can't actually do any of those things. But she thinks about doing them.

She can recall certain things. She thinks about the weeds on the side of the road. She thinks about rollerskating. Once she thought about the way sunlight streams through a window thrown open, and the smell of spring filling the house, but only once.

She can't stand to think about light.

She can sing. No, hum. She wouldn't want to open her mouth. That's when the dirt comes in. But she can hum, and keep time with the words in her mind. Three hundred and twenty-seven different songs, before she can't remember anymore and has to start over at number one.

Once she was a fighter, kicking against the pricks. In the beginning she did kick, but the earth presses down on her legs and strangles their strength to move. She tried to beat against the heavy soil, but all she could do was curl her fingers into mud-encrusted fists. Her arms are caught too tightly for anything else.

There are too many pricks. She doesn't kick anymore.

But sometimes she thinks about kicking.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

THE HUBRIS OF WRITER-KIND or, That Time When I Knew Better Than All The Experts

The Question comes up at every single writing conference, in some form or another. I've even been the one to ask it once or twice.

How can you predict the next trend in books?

In other words, how can I write a book about the 'next big thing,' so that I can get published?

And the answer is always the same, no matter which professionals you ask: You can't.

You can't predict the market. No one, not even the agents and publishers themselves, know for sure what will be the next really big seller. And even if you do watch the market to see what types of books/subjects are on the upswing in popularity, by the time you conceive and write and revise a manuscript, and find an agent for it, and sell it to a publisher, and go through the publishing process, and get your book on the shelves, that type of book will no longer be popular.

You can't do it.

So stop trying. That's what all the pros say, anyway. They always tell us the same thing. Just write what you have passion for, and if it's good, you will find someone who wants it.

Remember that time when I knew more about publishing than those editors, agents, and professional authors?

Yeah, neither do I. But at the time I thought I did know better. I thought to myself, you know what will definitely get me published? I'll chase the market!


Thus the reason why I have spent the last six months (and more) writing a story that wasn't really how I wanted it to be, about characters I didn't really know, in a style and genre that I don't really write well.

Ask me how well that's been going for me.

I have plodded along, practically forcing myself to write, and getting nowhere. I took all the enjoyment out of writing for myself. I got skewered again and again in critique sessions. I began to dread my own writing sessions, and then feel guilty because of that dread, all to produce something that I didn't love and wasn't proud of.

And guess what? I haven't even been able to force myself to finish the first draft, and already the market is saturated and the trend has moved on.

Crap. I hate being wrong.

But the good news is, I have recognized my folly. I have seen the error of my ways, and am already infinitely happier for it!

For now, I have returned to a previous project. It's one that I truly love and have passion for, but when I first wrote it, I didn't have the knowledge to really do it justice and make it good. So I'm redoing it.

That's right, I'm rewriting and book that I've already written.

It may not ever get me anywhere. It may not ever be published. But I love it, and frankly, I need to get my writing mojo back. And it's making me happy. I've written more words in the last three days than I have in the last three weeks on the "chasing the market" project.

And while I rehash and beautify my previous work, I am also brainstorming and outlining something new. Well, it's actually another version the doomed project, but it's going to have the storyline, characters, and genre that I originally intended for it.

And finally, after months of writer plodding, I am finally writer flying again!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


                                                                    Isn't she beautiful?

I read a poem a couple of months ago on one of those fabulous blogs written by witty, creative, uplifting, successful women. And I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since:

when your little girl
asks you if she’s pretty
your heart will drop like a wineglass
on the hardwood floor
part of you will want to say
of course you are, don’t ever question it
and the other part
the part that is clawing at
will want to grab her by her shoulders
look straight into the wells of
her eyes until they echo back to you
and say
you do not have to be if you don’t want to
it is not your job
both will feel right
one will feel better
she will only understand the first
when she wants to cut her hair off
or wear her brother’s clothes
you will feel the words in your
mouth like marbles
you do not have to be pretty if you don’t want to
it is not your job

~Julia Hubbell

And my heart did fall when I read this. Part of me screamed, "Yes!!" And part of me thought, "Why?"

I have never been what most would call a 'girly' girl. I don't wear pink, I only own 3 pairs of shoes, and the one time I got a manicure, I hated it so bad that I never got one again. So I can understand that there are lots of girls and women out there who have other things to worry about besides how beautiful they look.

Still, I am (usually) feminine. I hate creepy crawly things. I love Pride and Prejudice (book or 1995 BBC miniseries, please). And yes, I DO want to feel pretty.

I don't know that I believe that there is really a woman out there who doesn't want to be attractive - to her mate, to her own eyes, in order to get attention, just to feel good about herself. Maybe there are some who don't believe that they are attractive or could be, and so they've given up. But I can't wrap my mind around a female who truly, from her deepest and happiest self, with no influence from her past or outside sources, just doesn't want to feel beautiful. This is where a disconnect is happening for me. Because a thought keeps tickling the back of my mind saying, "But maybe those women are out there."

Of course, this could lead into a wholly separate conversation about what truly makes someone beautiful, and what those standards are in our society today. But that's not where my interest lies. I have honestly accepted that you can feel pretty, you can be attractive to someone else, you can be lethally beautiful to those who love you, without ever entering into the realm of outside looks or what the rest of the world judges as appealing.

But that doesn't mean that I don't sometimes wish to be judged as appealing, too.

Now, as a parent to a daughter, these concepts take on whole new, additional meanings. It exists outside my realm of understanding that a girl might sincerely just not want to be considered attractive. It's just not part of my experience in this lifetime.

What if my daughter feels that way?

Or does that completely miss the mark of what the poem is trying to say?

I thought there were ways to shore up a young girl's self esteem against the commercials and the models, and the barrage of self-hate that she will inevitably face as a teenager, and maybe beyond. I thought that if you made sure not to disparage your own looks and weight in front of her, if you told her always how beautiful she is, while making sure that she understands how little that matters in respect to her other qualities, then surely she could come out on top of the self-esteem issue.

But perhaps this approach - the approach of pretending that beauty matters at all, in any form, by any standard - is still sending the wrong message. Maybe it shouldn't be "everyone is beautiful for who they are." Maybe it should just be "don't worry about beauty or no beauty, just be."

This loops around, again, then, to my question from before: no matter how many times someone tells you that being beautiful "just doesn't matter," is there really a female alive who will ever believe it? Not just accept their own beauty, not be resigned to who they are or what they look like, not love themselves inside no matter what they look like on the outside, but truly believe that being attractive actually has no bearing on reality?

Will she ever feel it?

Or will she even want to?

A million years ago when I was not even a teen yet, my mother told me something about myself. She pointed out a character quality to me, a positive one she claimed that I possessed. I had never thought this thing about myself before, but she said she saw it in me. And the funniest thing happened. From then on, I tried harder to have that quality. Whether it was really true in the beginning or not, that gave me the motivation to develop that trait. Even still, whenever a situation comes up that calls for that quality, I remember what my mother told me and I try to live up to it.

Every day, all day long, I talk to Lucy. Toddler or not, she's the only one here to talk to! But I tell her things about herself. I tell her that she is strong, that she is brave, that she is smart and good and kind, and I tell her that she can do it, whatever it is.

And yes, I tell her, too, that she is beautiful.

In fact, I call her Pretty-Pretty.

Now, I know what I mean when I call her beautiful. I do mean that she is pretty, because, come on, look at that face. But I also mean that all of those other things that I know she is - strong and smart and brave and precious and her - make her one of the most beautiful things in life. So when I tell her that she's beautiful, does that trump all the other things I've told her she is? Will it in her mind, in the future? Will it be the most important thing, the thing that makes her think that all the other things about her still don't add up to enough?

I would love to say that I believe that all the qualities that I have add up to me being enough, that I love who I am no matter what I look like. In spite of having parents who always told me that I was beautiful, that I had talents, that I was wonderful, that they were proud of me, and in spite of having a husband who I know with burning surety loves me in every way, and is attracted to me and thinks that I am beautiful (and tells me those things, too), the fact is that how I look has never been enough for me, least of all now, and that how that makes me feel does impact who I am and what I think of myself.

I don't think that being pretty is my job. But that doesn't mean that I don't want it.

I am close to someone who has been naturally thin her entire life. She told me once that she is afraid that people who are overweight might be uncomfortable eating in front of her, or that they may think that because she embodies a quality that is prized in our society and they do not, that she might be judging them. At those times, she says she wants to go to them and say, "Don't you know that we are both more than that? Many of the people I love the most look more like you than me. I don't judge them, or you."

When I see a picture of someone I love, I am happy. I am looking at their expression, imagining what they were saying then, seeing the mouth that has laughed with me or the hair I have braided or the eyes that have looked at me and seen something worthwhile. I see beauty, every time, every time.

When I see a picture of myself, I see a nose that is slightly too large and hair that wouldn't go the way I wanted it to that day. I see a double chin and someone who is uncomfortable in their own skin. I see the person who failed at yet another thing today.

Why am I so critical of a picture of myself, and so blind or forgiving to any physical flaw in the ones I love? Is there some fatal defect in the way that my self esteem (or lack thereof) was formed? Possibly. Is it because of images and messages that have been sent to me, to all of us, since we were born? Partly. Could it be because a hundred positive words can be canceled out by one negative or mean comment? Probably. Or is there simply a tendency, born within us all, to be our own worst critics? Because I really believe that is an issue that nearly every woman alive deals with, innately. Maybe we can't beat the system. Maybe there will never be a girl alive who doesn't hear a compliment with an unhealthy amount of skepticism and self-disparaging. Maybe I will never see a picture of myself like my parents do, and maybe Lucy will never see a picture of herself like I do.

This is beautiful, because what she is feeling is real to her.

I see beauty and strength. This is the underbelly of a miracle.

This is my beautiful mommy, who gave her all to me. This is trust and love.

This is one of my most favorite beautiful smiles.

So beautiful, inside and out.

A beautiful reminder of how good a person can be.

So much beauty in strength.

You can't hide your beauty, no matter how hard you try.

A beautiful, sweet spirit to match the face.


Now, how long before I look at this and think, "Beautiful." ?

And how can I make my daughter believe it about herself and what is in her, if I don't believe it about myself?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What the RenFaire is all about

On Saturday we went to the Renaissance Faire in Ogden. We were not sure what to expect, but it sounded like it could be mildly educational, and our homeschool group had set up a group rate that got us in for $2 per person, instead of $12 apiece. Who on earth are the people paying $12 to get into the Renaissance Faire is beyond me, but there were definitely a lot of them there. Anyway...

By far the coolest part was the jousting tournament, done by an actual world-class jousting troupe that included the world champion himself. There were lots of wood splinters flying in the air (one of which hit a little girl on the head), quite a bit of trash talk, and plenty entertainment in the form of knights getting knocked off their horses, sometimes with both knights falling at the same time, which was awesome. I think the best part, though, was the times when the super-cocky world champion got knocked onto his super-important behind. Here is an example of just that:

The armor was so heavy that when they got knocked down, they just had to lay there on their back like a turtle until somebody came and lifted them back up!

We got to watch a demonstration by a blacksmith, who used a single thin metal dowel to make this leaf, which he then gave to me. How gallant!
There were tons of shows, including a pirate show (we missed most of that one, we got there just in time to see the final part, which was a guy dressed as a pirate, walking barefoot on shards of broken glass), two different magic shows, people singing and playing instruments, a belly-dancing show, a troupe of dancing gypsies, sword-fighting, and acrobats. You could try knife-throwing or axe-throwing (Ben did that one), one guy let all 3 boys try their hand at shooting a rubber-band gun at some targets (Matt was the only one who hit one!), and we liked the trebuchet demonstration (it's like a catapult, but uses weighted balances). They were using it to chuck bowling balls and watermelons into the neighboring field, and Ben even got to launch it once:

The kids really liked the ancient-looking puppet show, which they insisted we see twice:

There were tons of people dressed up, even kids. I loved the gorgeous dresses of some of the women (although I was not a huge fan of the immodest gypsies and belly-dancers), and some people had some really good and creative costumes. Some, not so much. It was kind of a stretch, but I could understand why there were several men there wearing Jedi outfits (I guess you gotta work with what you've got). But I think the guy wearing the t-shirt that sported a Star Trek communicator on the front got lost and went to the wrong convention. And there were some people who were just mysteries altogether!

Overall, it was really fun, despite the lobster-red sunburns we received because, whatever nut-jobs were in charge of the expedition didn't think of sunscreen. Pshaw! We went in wondering what the Renaissance Faire was all about, and this is what I have concluded: it's mainly about wearing elaborate but inaccurate costumes made of pieces from varying time-periods and regions, half-naked gypsies, fairies and wizards and knights and royalty and peasants and weirdos all getting together to have a great time.
And Captain Jack Sparrow, apparently.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good Ideas for Bad Guys

Does anybody else remember the Safety Kids?! We used to listen to it when we were kids. Every once in a while I will still catch myself singing, "Sometimes you just gotta yell and scream/Sometimes it's the only thing to do/Noisy as a firetruck/You just gotta open up/And get the crowd's attention turned to you!"

My parents gave us a night at their timeshare condo, so that's where we all were on Friday night when I happened to catch the first few seconds of the news. They were telling about an upcoming story of a child predator that had been roaming around "Davis County" that day, trying to get little boys into his car. So of course I had to watch it, and of course it ended up being centered in Kaysville and Fruit Heights. Pretty scary, since my boys regularly traipse through our neighborhood to various friends' houses. The younger two are always supposed to have someone else with them, but it's still not a comfortable thought to think about the other little boys in our area who had been approached that day by the man in his van. So we had The Talk with our kids yet again on Friday night (no, not that Talk, the other one). This talk is repeated with regularity around our house, usually whenever something like this happens, or just spontaneously while driving in the car or while we're all hanging around at home.

We began with The Talk in earnest when Ben was around 4 or 5. At the time, he was completely enamoured with "teenagers." My brother and sister were both still teenagers, as was my cousin who babysat for us frequently. To Ben, teenagers were totally cool, and they got to do tons of cool things, and he just adored everything "teenager." Well one day, we had reports of a man trying to lure some kids into his truck just a few blocks from our house in Clearfield. Later that day, he apparently succeeded in Syracuse, grabbing a little girl (I seem to remember she was about 8 or 10) as she was walking home with her brother. But here's the thing: she escaped! She began an all-out assault on her kidnapper as he drove away. She screamed and screamed and wouldn't stop, while pulling his hair and scratching his face relentlessly from the backseat. Apparently, he decided she wasn't worth all the trouble, and he simply dumped her on the side of the road and drove away! And later that day he was caught and arrested by police. I remembered I had heard the same thing on Oprah when she talked about women's self defense. They said that an assailant will try to find someone who looks like they will go quietly, who is timid and shy looking, and if you put up a fuss they will generally just walk away because they don't want the attention drawn to them.

So our master plan of making our kids "not worth all the trouble" they're causing was put into action the next day. It started with the mugshot in the paper. The man who had tried to kidnap that little girl was actually fairly young, maybe early twenties, and looked even younger. Almost like a teenager. So I showed Ben his picture in the newspaper and lead him along with questions like "Doesn't he look like a cool teenager?" "Doesn't he look nice?" And then I gave Ben a simplified account of why he was in the newspaper, and explained to him that even if someone looks cool or nice, they may not be, and continued to explain about bad guys not always looking bad. We also talked about not getting in strangers'cars and running away from those situations. I told him if he was ever lost while we were out, he should find someone who worked in the store, or a mom with kids, and they would help him. We try to cover many different scenarios by posing questions: "What would you do if this happens?" "What should you do in this situation?"

And then came the "fun" part. I really wanted to make sure that he was not worth the trouble for a predator. So I told him the 3 main things he should do if someone tried to grab him: Scream, Fight, and Run. Now here is the crucial part: the elaboration. I have seen the 20/20 specials where parents leave their kids alone in a park for a few minutes so that they can be secretly filmed to see what they will do when a stranger approaches asking for help to find a lost puppy. Every time, the parents were adament that their kids knew what to do and would never accompany the stranger, and every time the kid fell for the thought of a poor lost puppy dog and followed the strange adult away. I am sure that one major component that these kids were missing was practice. So we spend time elaborating on the 3 things to do (scream, fight, run), coming up with ideas and practicing. It seems to me, in the heat and panic of that moment, not many people, child or adult, will have much brain space available for calmly deciding what to do. But if we give our kids ideas in calm times, with repetition, then if the time ever comes when they need those ideas, they will already be there in their minds and will come forth quickly for execution.

Scream: Like the words of the Safety Kids song, the goal here is to be as noisy as a fire truck and get attention turned to you. So I tell my kids the key is to scream and scream and not stop. Scream in his ears, try to deafen him. We give them ideas of what to scream, like "Help!" or "I don't know you!" or just plain "AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" That way they don't have to come up with the words on their own in their panic, you have already given them the words when they are calm and ready to learn and remember, and they can practice. Encourage your kids to think of some ideas themselves. Let them demonstrate their loudest scream. This practice and dialogue actually makes it a little less scary, and more empowering.

Fight: This is the part that the kids always like. At least boys do. Throughout this process, give them lots of ideas and repeat things many times in slightly different ways. This helps it to stick in their minds. We help our kids come up with specific ideas, and we are not merciful to this imaginary bad guy. Try to think of things that play on kids' strengths. There's no way they will be stronger than a grown man, but they can still hurt him by playing dirty. Some we have come up with in the past include biting (tell them to try to draw blood or remove a finger: societal norms and good manners can run deep. This is no time to do something halfway, it will only make the kidnapper angry. We want to make it hurt enough to make him let your kid go, and your kid needs permission from you to hurt someone that bad), scratching (aim for the eyes if they can, or anywhere on the face is good, again trying to draw blood), the groin (anything they can do here, as long as they can do it hard. Kicking is best, but punching, yanking, biting, or twisting will also work). All these things will play on a kid's strengths. Also help them think of things like laying down on a car seat and kicking repeatedly with the heels of the shoes, pulling hair (trying to yank large chunks completely out), even pinching or scratching wildly like a crazy cat will get them somewhere. Let your kids come up with ideas themselves. This is the part my kids like. They will go on and on about "I would do this and this to him and punch and kick and ... etc." I know it sounds kind of violent and counter-intuitive to a mother, but I really think that this is part of the process of letting them know that they have permission to truly hurt another person. Without the feeling that they have this permission to do something that they would normally get in trouble for, they may be hesitant and timid about it, and it could cost them their chance to get away. And remind them that, all the while they are fighting, they should still be screaming and screaming. Don't stop screaming OR fighting until you are free! And finally:

Run: Hopefully this can happen before an ill-intended stranger gets their hands on a kid, but if not, it is the 3rd step. Once the kidnapper gets fed up and lets the kid go, or once they are laying on the ground with a kicked groin or clawed-out eyes, the kid's job is to RUN!!! Tell them to run as fast as they can, towards something, be that back into the store, to the nearest house, toward the road, wherever they can find people. At this point, it doesn't really matter who he or she runs to, pretty much anyone is going to be better than what they just left. So let them know, this time it doesn't have to be an employee or a mother with children. Just this one time, it's ok to run to a car on the road or in the parking lot and find any adult to help them. And tell them, don't stop screaming even now. Scream while you run. Scream and scream and scream. Let your kids help come up with ideas of where they could run, coming up with every scenario you can think of. This repetition of lots of different ideas will help open your kids' minds so that they can adapt quickly to the situation and figure out what to do, even if you haven't covered that exact situation with them before. And letting them help with the ideas will keep them interested, and this will also help them learn to adapt.

I know this seems like it could be scary for a little kid. You definitely have to make it fairly age-appropriate in the amount of info you give them, and in how you present it. But I start talking about this with my kids when they're about 2. A slight bit of fear - well maybe more like awareness - is appropriate to make your kids safe. My kids have never been scared by these talks. And I feel like we are really helping them be prepared so that hopefully none of this will ever even be needed. Every once in a while we pop the question out of nowhere: "Who can tell me the 3 things to do if a stranger tries to grab you?" I think if they can keep those 3 things in their minds, they will have a very good chance of not ever "being worth it."

Monday, February 21, 2011

A typical sunny summer day going outside to play:

Kids: Mom, can we go out and play?
Me: Sure guys. Have fun!
Kids: Ok, bye!

A typical snowy winter day going outside to play:

Kids: Mom, can we go out and play?
Me: Ugh! (knowing what is about to unfold)
Kids: Please please please please please?!
Me: Alright, go get your stuff on.
Kids: Mom, I can't find my boots! Where are my gloves? Do I have to wear a coat? So-and-so has my hat on and won't give it back! Has anybody seen my other boot?! Mom, will you help me put on my boots and my coat and my gloves and my hat? (Then, after all of these things have been put on...)Wait, Mom, we forgot to put on my snowpants! (And then it all has to come back off.) Where are my boots?!?!etc., etc...

Finally, 10 incredibly aggravating minutes later...

Kids: Bye, Mom!

And 4 minutes later...

(As 3 children walk in the door and all the way through the house looking for me, all taking different paths over hardwood and carpet alike, wearing wet slushy boots, and coats and gloves covered in snow...)
Kids: There's nothing to do out there, and it's too cold!
(As they scatter sopping winter clothing through every room in the house...)
Kids: Now can we have some hot chocolate?

Need I say more?