Dellabee and Me

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Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Stupid is not a curse word

When I first started working with kids, I quickly learned how important it was to speak their “language” in order to connect with them. This usually meant saying “crap” at some point in our first few exchanges. Cliche, but it worked almost every time.

Being a lifelong fan of cursewords, I always viewed language as just one more means to communicate – I thought words were just words, each one no more powerful or important than another. Saying “crap” to an angry 14 year-old was not high on my list of things I cared about. Slowly “crap” was joined by “oh my god” and “jesus” and later “shit.” Each one had its place in my spoken rotation.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise when I tell you that despite my highly liberal worldview, I am actually a fairly conservative parent. To be fair, my kids are only 8 and 6, and I assume it is harder to be conservative with older kids. But still, I have always been very careful about what my kids watched, listened to, or overheard. They almost exclusively watched PBS for the first few years of their lives because I wanted to protect them from the commercials that saturate the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. They have never watched a rated R movie. I usually have NPR on in the car, although I also listen to Top 40 stations and my daughter loves Ke$ha (super great!…not).

When the kids were small, we forbid the use of words like “stupid” or “dumb” because I hated to hear them come from my angels’ sweet little mouths. It sounded so crass to hear little kids shouting about “farts” or “dumb heads.” I didn’t want my children to be like those children, because I was a much better parent than that. Right?

Over the last few years, I came to realize that “stupid” is not actually a curse word. It’s not. In fact, some times it is the perfect adjective for how I feel when I make a public mistake, or how someone’s hair looks, or when someone says something that is completely wrong. So the moratorium on “stupid” ended.

Just in time for me to begin working in the public school system. And now I flounder because so many parents have vilified words that are not actually curse words, because they find them to be unkind or rude or not in agreement with their own beliefs. It makes it nearly impossible for me to make the connections I used to make with language because now using any of those words results in gasps and shocked faces and accusations of “you said a baaaaadddd word!”

The truth is, teaching our kids that words like “dumb,” “stupid,” and “hate” are bad words is actually a really dumb idea. Why?

Because they aren’t bad words.

This is such a waste of our parenting energy, and I know parents are really working on this because of the strong reactions I see in 2nd graders when they hear the word “stupid.” I’m not saying just go ahead and encourage whatever words they want to use – I am saying let’s not empower words that don’t really deserve it. There are plenty of stupid things out there, and dumb mistakes, and movies that people hate. This, my friends, is a fact. To deny it is unhealthy.

In fact, I daresay our interests in appearing “classy” and well-bred are some of the main contributors to the increase in behavior problems and aggression in children. Every day, I teach children about feelings and problem-solving and how to get along, but every time I have asked a class “is it okay to be angry?” they always say “NO!”


When we try to suppress in our children the things we, as adults, find unattractive, we are denying them the basic right to express themselves. We are teaching them that these feelings – and their descriptors – are wrong, and it doesn’t take a psychologist to recognize that when you teach a child that their human characteristics are not okay you are creating a ton of inner turmoil and shame for that child. None of us want to do that, do we?

Parenting decisions can’t be based on aesthetics. Our children are not simply reflections of our parenting – they are also themselves, little people who will grow into big people. They are not us.

So, go ahead and teach your kids what is right and what is wrong. Help them to understand that there are curse words and kind words and “magic” words. Tell them that it isn’t nice to call someone “stupid” or “dumb.” Tell them that “hate” is a strong word and they should use it carefully. But don’t teach them that these are bad words, because they are not.

To say otherwise is just stupid.


Listen To Your Mother 2013

Are you familiar with Listen To Your Mother?

Well, I wasn’t until a a few years ago. Then one of my most favorite bloggers ever began writing about it and talking about it on Facebook. Intrigued, I kinda paid attention. The performances are on Youtube – check them out. It is a really cool celebration of motherhood, and women, and writing.

This year, I was thrilled to learn that there would be a local production of Listen To Your Mother. So I pulled one of my pieces from my blog, edited it a bit, and submitted it for the show.

Then I freaked the fuck out.

What was I doing? ACK. WHAT WAS I DOING?

Let’s get it out in the open, friends – this little blog is nothing more than my public diary. I am not a writer, much less someone who enjoys speaking in front of large groups of people.

I was invited to audition.

I tried to practice by reading in front of my husband, but for reasons I can’t explain this made me very, very nervous. I tried reading to myself while I was driving to the audition. I parked on the street 20 minutes early and read to myself while trying not to look like a stalker.

When I read during the audition, I don’t know what happened other than I felt like I left my nerves in the car. I felt okay. I reminded myself how often I read in front of people (I read to K-2 classes on a daily basis). I kept in mind why I wrote what I did, what I was trying to express in that piece, and hoped to emphasize the right words. It was good, especially when the women producing the show laughed in the right places and one reached for a tissue to blot her tears.

I was accepted into the show.

I am not a big “joiner.” I feel really uncomfortable with commitment. But this…wow…I couldn’t be prouder or more excited and terrified at the same time.

I am doing something that scares me – and I love myself for it.




End of the Weekend

ella bestdayever

It was a glorious weekend.

The weather was warm on Friday, providing a peek at spring’s return. Friday night we picked up pizza from our new favorite pizza place and settled in to watch Rise of the Guardians together – only our neighbors ended up renting it too, so they invited the kids over to watch it with them while Doug and I watched it at our house. Yes, we like kids’ movies.

Saturday started off chilly and wet but the weather guy was saying it would be over 70 outside. After a breakfast of Pillsbury orange rolls (yes, all sugar and various bad things but goodgawd they are YUM), we headed off to a theater in the northern part of the city. I had won 4 free passes to an early screening of The Croods by entering a contest through gofobo. This was really cool! We got to see the movie for free – in 3D, people! – and we saw it before it is even out in theaters yet. This meant the security was kind of strict – lots of warnings about taking pictures and cell phones being off and people milling about in matching blazers. At one point during the movie, one of them came up to me and demanded to see my cell phone because she had seen a flash and thought I was taking pictures. Um, no. It was actually the damn light-up shoes that my daughter was wearing – every time she shifted around it created a flash in our aisle. Note to self – don’t wear light-up shoes to the movies.

(By the way, if you get the chance to see The Croods I would definitely recommend it. The animation and cinematography were amazing. The characters were funny. The animals were adorable. But it was about cavemen and the shifting of tectonic plates that destroyed what was Pangea, so if you aren’t a big believer in science/evolution you might want to skip it and also stop reading my blog because I am going to offend you.)

After the movie, we walked around an open-air shopping center. The weather was gorgeous. The kids played in the grassy area and the fountain. We went out for lunch (Applebee’s, meh) and headed to Costco where we spent MUCH more than we had planned to because our renewal was due. $110. Ouch. We recovered with Costco smoothies for the drive home, and then the kids went to spend the night with a friend of mine – our kids are the same ages and get along really well and my friend actually likes hosting sleepovers. So, kid-less, we rented some R movies from the Redbox and enjoyed the swearing and violence without constantly cringing and lowering the volume. Good times.

Sunday morning, I folded laundry and watched The Irish in America while drinking my coffee and eating blueberry Pop-Tarts. Picked up the kids. Fed them lunch. Then E and I headed to a friend’s birthday party, while D chose to stay home with Doug to play video games and watch nature shows on tv and, I suspect, silly videos about farting animals on Youtube.

The party had a Tangled theme, with beautiful decorations and even a few real princesses came to visit. E, though, was not really herself. I think she was tired. Plus, she is going through a little insecure phase where she feels uneasy around new people and worries about how she looks, which makes large birthday parties really hard for her. She did okay.

(Did I mention that we are buying a house? Not the short sale I mentioned before – we backed out of that deal within a week or so of submitting the offer, when we learned that the chances of the sale going through were pretty slim since the foreclosure process had already begun. We found another house in the same area. We are supposed to close at the end of March.) So on our way home from the party, E and I drove past the new house to see what was blooming in the yard.

At home, the kids did baths and had dinner and hung out until bedtime. And that is when D burst into tears because he regretted not going to the party, and also because the weekend was over and he felt like we should have done more because our weekends go by too fast.


Seriously, our weekends are rarely this busy. We all like to be home.

D does this every week. He cries on Sundays because he dreads the start of another week. He also cries when I wake him up for school on Monday morning. This has been going on since he was in kindergarten.

It was a fantastic weekend. I am ready for bed. D isn’t ready for it all to be over. Sigh.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

fourleaf clovers


The first time I had to bring one of my children to the hospital was when Ella was 5 weeks old. A week or so before, my son swallowed a metal screw that had come off the battery cover of a walkie-talkie so we all went to Urgent Care for x-rays just to make sure it was, um, going to come out. I’m pretty sure Ella picked up a virus while we were there. She developed a cold that progressed to the point of listlessness and weight loss. After visiting the pediatrician for what must have been the 3rd or 4th time in as many days, the doctor gently but firmly encouraged us to bring her to the local children’s emergency room. Her pulse-ox had fallen below 90% and she had developed a faint blue ring around her lips.


That drive was the worst one of my life. I was convinced she would die in the car, and the entire ride there I berated myself for not sitting in the backseat next to her. Once at the hospital, she was poked and manhandled and her little foot was squeezed to get blood, and because she was soooo tiny they decided to insert the IV into one of the larger veins on her head.

I had to leave the room multiple times.

I was unreliable.

I couldn’t handle it – her pain, my fear, the utter lack of control over anything. I just wanted out. I wanted to vomit. And cry. And have someone hold me and tell me “shhhh, it’ll be okay.” But who could do that? We didn’t know how things would turn out. Doug was as scared as I was, but he was much more stoic. He stayed.

I left and he stayed.

I sat just outside the room and covered my ears, trying to soften the edges of her squeaky newborn “mommycomenow” screeches.

Fast forward a year, and I rushed my son to the ER after a GI bug left him vomiting with a 104 temp. He was 3. I was scared but it was different – I thought he might have a seizure because of the fever. Once on a gurney, behind curtains, the hospital folks agreed that he was dehydrated and needed an IV. They had to pin my 3 year-old down, f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g out like someone was lighting him on fire, as they tried to insert the needle into his arm. I tried weakly to comfort him –  “It’ll be okay, it will be over quick” – but the tears pouring from his bright blue, terrified eyes flipped my stomach over onto itself and I collapsed next to the bed, dry-heaving. Chaos ensued as they yelled for help, someone miraculously appeared with a wheelchair and a plastic bowl, and I found myself again outside the curtain, clutching a small juicebox with shaky hands and filled with self-loathing.

When the boy was 6, also know as The Year of Strep on the Desmond calendar, he had to have his tonsils removed. Not knowing how reliable I could be in this scenario, Doug and I both took the day off. Things went well. I took pix of him all doped up pre-surgery. I read magazines and texted during the surgery, feeling a growing sense of confidence in my ability to be there for this medical crisis. In recovery though, it was a mess. He was inconsolable, crying and flailing and incoherent. His cloudy eyes met mine briefly just as I noticed and tried to ignore the bloody drool across his cheek and down his chin, and in a flash, it was like I was HIM and I knew what he was feeling.

Pain. An inability to swallow. Panic. Fear of choking, not being able to breathe. Feeling like nobody was helping. Complete terror.

Gagging, I was overcome with sweat and nearly fainted. I was ushered back to the waiting room for my OWN recovery, which is where I stayed for the next hour. Maybe two? I was eventually able to get back to him. Doug, steadfast as usual, had remained with him the entire time.

This is my Achilles heel, my big weakness. I can’t handle it when they are hurt. I CAN’T HANDLE IT. I crumble and collapse. I fail. This must be why we get married, right? The yin-yang necessary in parenting.

I am continually humbled and inspired and awe-struck by the courage and grace of mothers who endure life’s curve balls and sucker-punches. Moms fighting for the rights of their special-needs children. Moms in the blogging community who have lost their children too soon to illnesses or shocking accidents. My friend Suzanne, coping with the loss of one of her babies followed by her own devastating cancer diagnosis. I know their stories and feel their pain and know they might want to hide outside the room and cover their ears to the crying but they DON’T. They keep trying, reaching, hoping, fighting.


I look to these women and I see the kind of person I strive to be.

I am flawed. I am still learning. I make mistakes. I get scared. I want to run away sometimes, but I don’t.

I am not unreliable.



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