Monday, August 17, 2015

What Parent Type Are You?

When I was growing up, there were only 2 parenting styles: strict and lenient.  It did not matter whether you were that parent's own child or someone else's. If you got into trouble or did something wrong, you received an immediate correction by whoever's parent was closest to the center of activity.

Growing up, my brothers and I learned the hard way never to misbehave in the car. We were sure that during childbirth, God gave our mother a second set of eyes which were located in the back of her head. When she napped, we would pick at her hair trying to find those eyes.

We knew they had to be hidden behind somewhere in that giant 1970's beehive of a hairdo, but we never could find them. No person, without a set of eyes in the back of their head, could see the way she could.  She always knew which child was instigating trouble. She could drive the car perfectly while backhanding any misbehaving kids in the backseat faster than Superman could change clothes in a phone booth.

Between our mother and the other mothers in the neighborhood, all the kids in the neighborhood were watched to see what we were doing. This scrutiny meant we learned right from wrong at a very early age.

Things have changed dramatically since I grew up.  One of the biggest changes has been the creation of so many different parenting labels. There are so many different labels used to describe how a mother chooses to rear her child(ren), it could confuse Dr. Spock.

Tiger, Helicopter, Free-Range, Elephant, Little-Emperor, and Lighthouse Moms are just to name a few. The labels all seem to have a defining characteristic: you are either an animal or a machine.

Personally, I don't want to be known as an Elephant Mom. The older I get, the more I battle ankle wrinkles. I've also heard as you age, your ears and nose never stop growing. Put these issues together and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus may send me an invitation to join the circus.

While I may be a redhead with a fiery temper, calling me a Tiger Mom might get you a close-up view of my retractable claws.

Since I grew up believing I was a princess, raising my child like a Little-Emperor would totally be a conflict of interest. I'm really not prepared to share my tiara.

When I hear people discussing the Free-Range label, I don't imagine kids playing outside on their own and growing through self-exploration. I see a bunch of hens pecking for feed around a chicken coup. It takes me back to the 1970's Saturday morning television shows featuring the Looney Tunes cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, who is always playing pranks on the Barnyard Dawg, and is usually on the losing end of his own prank.

If parenting labels had more flair, I might be more inclined to associate my style with them.  There could be the Audrey Hepburn Mom - one who not only teaches their children to have a classic personal style and speak 5 different languages, but to be gracious and give of themselves to help others. I could definitely get into wearing chic sunglasses and big hats, but am thinking the mismatched hodgepodge clothing style of my son may exclude us from this label.

There is also the June Cleaver Mom. She not only keeps her house perfectly clean with two sons tracking heavens knows what into it, she would shoo her boys out of the house daily for exercise and sunshine.  Dinner was served promptly in the dining room where no electronic devices interrupted the dinner conversation, and she always wore pearls.

The children's homework would always be complete ahead of the due date and their rooms would be clean.  They may even get their children to shower daily without begging and pleading. Considering my children's penchant for waiting until the last minute to do 3 weeks worth of homework projects the night before they are due, and that the only way my kids' rooms will be clean is if the empty snack pouches are carried away by the Godzilla size dust bunnies, I'm thinking our admission application for this parenting label will be denied.

In reality, I probably fall into the Slacker Mom label. I don't create a schedule for my children's projects because I require them to do it. I am not very creative or inventive and never made sandwiches into animals or pancakes shaped like Disney characters. I slapped food on a paper plate, said "Mmmm.... Yum! Eat up!", and they ate....... usually.

My children aren't overscheduled. I sign them up for one sport at a time and I'm doing good to remember what days/times to get them to their activity. If I'm really on the ball, my kids will have finished eating dinner before we are in the car on the way to their sporting event.

I would love to be the mom who is ultra-organized and has everyone's schedule entered into the calendar on her phone, which is synced to her computer, laptop, and tablet. I admire the woman who sorts her children's daily school paperwork and immediately addresses each item, versus letting it pile up until it becomes a fire hazard.

When it comes down to it though, does it really matter what kind of parenting style you have, so long as you are actually involved and parenting your children? Do we really need one more label in this world?

Christie Bielss

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Legend of PrayerBear

You may be wondering what happened to this crazy redhead the past few months.  This summer my daughter underwent major surgery. It was an extraordinarily stressful time for my husband and I. Leading up to the surgery, my stress levels were so high, I could not think beyond how many days were left until surgery, much less think of writing a single word for the blog.

While we were confident our daughter had the very best surgeon and was in the best hospital to attend to her needs, the doubts and "what ifs" still somehow crept in. In the days leading up to the surgery, I could not fathom how I could possibly handle watching as the hospital staff wheeled my daughter away. I did the only thing I knew to do during this time:  I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. 

My little girl made me make a promise a few days prior to surgery. She made me promise I would not cry in front of her when they wheeled her off to surgery. I agreed, even though I wasn't sure I could keep that promise..... but I was determined to give it all I had. 

As she was wheeled back for surgery, her prayers were answered and I did not shed a tear. For the next nearly 7 hours, I prayed, and chatted with one of our church's ministers. And then I prayed, and walked to the hospital's chapel and prayed some more. As I walked back to my seat in the parents' surgical waiting area, the surgeon walked through the doors beaming from ear to ear. Our baby was on the road to recovery.

One day while she was still in the hospital recuperating, she had a particularly rough morning. The nurse gave her some medication to ease her symptoms, which also had the side benefit of helping her sleep. While she napped, I stepped out into a parent lounging area to update my parents on her condition.

I was on the phone with my parents and watched as hospital volunteers quietly dropped off a teddy bear to her room. They giggled as they came out of her room, thrilled a child would wake up to their surprise gift. I smiled and got a bit choked up at the delight these 2 women took in bringing cheer to sick and injured children.

A short time later my husband arrived with our son, so he could visit with his sister. As we walked in, our daughter was just rousing from her nap. She immediately laid eyes on a lovely creamy white teddy bear which had been placed on the bed tray in front of her.

She squealed with delight over waking up to this adorable stuffed creation and, upon lifting it up, discovered a book had come with the bear. I read aloud the name of the book "The Legend of PrayerBear" by Annie Miller. My daughter said immediately "That's my bear's name. PrayerBear", and then asked me to read the book to her.

I sat down and read this beautiful and touching story of a bear that just wanted someone to love and hug. I was doing a great job of holding my tears inside over this heartwarming tale until I got to the last page.

I barely made it through the first line on the page when all of the tears I had held so tightly inside started escaping the vise-like control I'd kept on them. I stopped reading for a moment and took a deep breath, trying to get hold of myself. 

The story had taken a twist when PrayerBear had been given to a young girl who was in the hospital and was sad because she wasn't well enough to be able to get up and about. This story was hitting so close to home, I was having no success controlling my emotions. When I got to the final 2 paragraphs of the story, the proverbial floodgates opened wide:

          "I thank you for my PrayerBear,
            And for the friend so dear
            Who cared enough to send it
            To remind me God is near.

            Every time I feel afraid
            I'll hug my PrayerBear tight
            For I have friends who care for me,
            And I will be all right."

Christie Bielss

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Standout Teacher

When I was in high school a long, long time ago, I had the honor of having a couple of teachers who stood out from the rest.  Yes, these teachers were getting paid to teach, but they had also made it their mission to make a difference in children’s lives. While I can pinpoint the contributions each of these teachers worked so tirelessly to make, there was one who was a force to be reckoned with. She was a hard taskmaster and she did not accept halfhearted attempts at homework.

Mrs. Betty Stapleton

She was known for prodding, pushing, and shoving you, kicking and screaming if need be, into digging deeper inside of yourself. She was the teacher that when you picked up your class schedule and you saw her name, you would groan at what was to come. When your friends saw whose class you had been placed in, they would pat you on the back while telling you everything would be okay.

She was Mrs. Betty Stapleton, an English teacher on a mission to educate above and beyond the norm. On the first day of class, your fears were realized. She threw down the gauntlet and challenged you before the class roll was ever called.

Her goal was to challenge you to think beyond the printed words on a page. If, in a piece of literature, there was a scent described, she wanted you to be able to smell it. If there was an emotion, she wanted you to feel it. And if there was a noise, you were to hear it.

To this day I can hear her reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” to our class. The way she read the poem made it come to life. It was no longer a required assignment with weird, old world language we were being forced fed. It became a fascinating piece of literature which drew us into its rhyming stanzas and dramatic prose.

Mrs. Stapleton not only drew us into the world of classical literature, she also taught us to reach deep within our souls when we wrote our own essays. It definitely was no easy task for her to try and get me, a guarded redhead, to dig deep and open up my soul for others to see.

Her words of encouragement were very uplifting, but she utterly flabbergasted me when she told me she enjoyed reading my written work. It was the first time a teacher had ever told me they enjoyed my work. I, an overly verbose redhead with a relatively poor grasp of grammar, was left speechless. Her class was one of the hardest I have ever taken, and yet the most rewarding.

The level of encouragement she provided saw me through my college years and sticks with me to this day. While looking for a way to contact her to thank her, I discovered she passed away in 2002. I did not even consider this possibility when I began my search and was surprised at how sad I felt when I made the discovery. I wish I could thank her personally for her tireless dedication and for making an imprint on my soul, but I waited too long.

Do you have a teacher who lit a spark within you? Someone who went above and beyond the norm? I would love to hear your stories! If you have ever felt the desire to let that special teacher know how big of a difference they made in your life, don't wait.  Let them know now.

Christie Bielss

Monday, August 3, 2015

If You Ask A Grandmother Her Age......

Clipart Courtesy of

Back in the 1990's, my husband and I were visiting with his grandmother discussing technology. As we were discussing the latest advancements like in-home Dolby surround sound, home computers, and cell phones, she began to tell us about her latest doctor's appointment.

"The nurse asked me how old I am and I told her 'I am old enough to be your grandmother.' The nurse laughed, wrote down something, and then put me in a room to wait on the doctor to arrive.

After a few minutes of waiting, the doctor came in and sat down and looked at my chart. He asked me how old I am. I don't understand why everyone at the doctor's office is always so interested in my age. I quit keeping up with how old I am when I hit 85.

I looked at the doctor and told him 'I was born in double-aught'. You figure it out.' He replied with a 'Wow! You must have experienced a lot over the course of your life.'

I told him I was born in a time when candles and kerosene lamps were used to light our homes. I grew up with an outhouse as a bathroom and watched as indoor plumbing and electricity were brought into our homes.

When I was young, we got around by either walking, riding on horseback, or via horse and carriage. As I got older, we marveled as cars took over the roads. If we needed to go far away, we took the train....... and we put on our best Sunday clothes for the trip. Now we have airplanes that will get us there in a fraction of the time and people look like they have on their pajamas.

When we cooked, we made everything from scratch. And by scratch I mean we either went to the butcher, or we slaughtered our own livestock or chickens, or we hunted for our wild game. Our milk was fresh, since we had to milk the cow every morning. We churned what we weren't going to drink to get our butter and cream, we couldn't buy it off a store shelf.

In my years, I have watched as hemlines inched up from touching the floor to barely covering the derriere'. I have listened to music grow from a one-man fiddler, to big bands, to songs being played on the radio.

I've experienced world wars and watched as men walked on the moon. Buildings went from being a few stories tall to skyscrapers."

As my husband and I reflect on this memory, it brings to mind all of the change and growth we have seen in our own lifetimes.  40+ years ago, we could have never imagined this world we live in, or the technological growth which happens almost daily.  This growth and change we have experienced makes us wonder what our children will have to look forward to and endure in their lifetimes.  I don’t believe I can imagine that world……… and I’m not sure I really want to either.

Christie Bielss

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Who is the Better Driver?

Why is it every time we get in the car to drive anywhere, my husband and son start talking smack about how men are better drivers than women.  "You know, most NASCAR drivers are men.  In the movies, they use male stunt drivers..... even for scenes when females are driving.  Evel Knievel was a man and there has not been a She-vel Knievel", and on they go to ad nauseam.

I listen to this nonsense even though national statistics prove women are the safer drivers.  As proof of that data, I have only had one car wrecked since I have been driving.  Who totaled it?  My husband. And yet he is still convinced he is the better driver.

A number of years ago, I made the executive decision that I would do all of the driving in our household. Why?
A) Because my husband does not like to drive;
B) When he looks around while he is driving, his hands turn the steering wheel in whichever direction his eyes move.  Being in the car while he is driving is like being in a lifeboat in the middle of an apocalyptic, your-life-is-flashing-before-your-eyes hurricane.

The last time he drove on a long car trip was in 1999.  He had taken over driving after we stopped for a leg-stretching break at a rest stop.  We were about 20 minutes down the road, when he started looking around at the scenery. 

The car began to sway back and forth. First we went left, then we went right. Within a few minutes of this rollercoaster ride, I got motion sick.  After I made him pull off the highway (so I could get sick on the side of the road), I took over the driving......... and have not given him the opportunity to drive me anywhere since.  He contends it was not his driving but that I got ahold of some bad chocolate.  There is no such thing as "bad" chocolate.

Recently while we were in the grocery store, I discovered my husband drives the shopping cart the same way he drives a car.  This discovery was a rather rude eye-opener when he took out an endcap of potted meat while he was perusing the macaroni and cheese on the other side of the aisle.

After we put all of the cans back on the shelf and I was muttering under my breath about what "fantastic" drivers men are, we turned the corner onto the cereal aisle.  We hadn't taken 5 steps down the aisle when we encountered a husband pushing a shopping cart behind his wife.  As the man pointed to a box of Pop-Tarts to his right, he pushed the shopping cart left.  He took out an entire shelf of Fruit Loops.

In a show of solidarity, my husband called out to the man and told him it was a combination of the uneven floor and the shopping cart's propensity to make a hard left turn which caused the destruction.  I looked at my husband and asked if he had used his Spidey-vision to get the level of the floor.

This Spring, my dad began been teaching our son to play golf.  Because we have hit the dog days of summer, my parents decided to take our son to a golf superstore and let him practice putting in an air-conditioned environment.

After he and my dad were finished putting, my son took over pushing the shopping cart from my mom.  As my dad was showing him another teenager putting, my son ran the shopping cart into a bank of 50+ putters.  Much to their horror, the putters fell down one after another like a bunch of lined up dominoes.  He apparently got the driving gene from his father.

But men are better drivers than women..........

Christie Bielss

Monday, July 27, 2015

Three of the Scariest Words

There are three words which strike fear in the hearts and souls of men and women alike. Three words which know no boundaries and affect people from every walk of life.  It does not matter what language you speak or your socio-economic status, those three words stop mankind in his tracks.

What are the three words that cause such genuine fear?

"Some Assembly Required"

I am betting those words just caused an uncontrollable shiver of revulsion to run down your spine. Seeing those three words may have even triggered a flashback to pulling an all-nighter trying to assemble a special gift so it was ready when your child or loved one woke up the next morning.  Or maybe you have one of those nightmarish memories of trying to assemble a baby crib or other baby paraphernalia.

My flashback is from when I was a teenager. My parents decided I did not have enough storage and bought me a new wall bookcase unit.  It was one of those fancy all-in-one units that looked really neat in the store. 

The store's merchandiser had neatly organized the books on the bookshelves, the desk section had been equipped with the perfect desk set organizer, and precisely folded clothing was beautifully arrayed inside the drawers.  When my parents saw this behemoth, they swore they could hear the angels in heaven sing as they imagined all of my belongings neatly stored and displayed......... instead of being stacked or strewn across the floor of my bedroom.

This white six foot high and ten foot long laminated particle board wall unit was not sold fully assembly, but for an extra fee, the store delivery personnel could assemble the unit for us.  My dad puffed up and said he was not paying extra for something he was perfectly capable of handling.  He had all of the necessary tools at home, and after all, if he could fly jumbo jets around the world, he could certainly follow some simple directions on where to put a few nuts and bolts.

We brought the thirteen boxes of various parts home and carefully piled them up in my bedroom according to the number labelled on the outside of each box, which was printed right next to the label which stated "Some Assembly Required".  We opened box #1 and quickly dug around for the book of instructions.

My dad leafed through the booklet and discovered all of the instructions were written in a foreign language.  He and my brothers looked through the box together to see if there was another set of instructions.  There had to be another booklet! 

My mom quickly called the store. Nope.  There was only one booklet of instructions. They informed her to "just follow the pictures".

The realization of what my dad had gotten himself into hit full force.  He politely excused himself and went to the garage.  For several minutes we heard things being banged and slammed around in the garage.

My mom stood at the doorway to my room with one hand on her hip and an exasperated look on her face as she listened to the chaos in the garage.  After a few minutes she announced "Well, I think your dad may need a minute or two to himself.".

A little while later my dad came back inside. He was ready to get to work and had a hammer in one hand and a set of screwdrivers in the other.

As one of my brothers and I looked at the directions together, we discovered the main language was German.  He was in his second year of German and I was in my first, so we started reading the instructions together while my dad used the pictures to figure out the parts we could not translate.  This was the blind leading the helpless.

It took us 2 days to assemble that enormous wall unit with all of its drawers, doors, and the drop-down desk.  When the assembly was complete and we were all standing back admiring our work, my dad calmly announced "This unit will never be moved.  If we sell this house and move, it gets sold with the house.  Oh, and just so everyone knows:  no more "Some Assembly Required" furniture will ever cross the threshold into a house I own.  Ever.".

It was a nice announcement and it certainly held up for a number of years, until his first grandchild arrived.  Then he got tasked with assembling cribs, pack n' plays, baby bouncers and toys of all kinds.  But, as he has said each time since then, at least all of these directions have been in English.

Christie Bielss


Friday, July 24, 2015

Ditch the Duck

Just like saddle shoes and poodle skirts, mood rings, and Cabbage Patch kids, fads come and fads go. Some fads were goofy and entertaining, like pet rocks and jelly shoes.  Some are just plain dumb, like the Magic 8 ball and The Macarena.  Other fads, like having pants so saggy you have to wear 2 pairs of underwear, have caused so much embarrassment for parents, they have forced department stores and city councils to enact rules and city ordinances barring people from wearing droopy drawers.

Mona Lisa Public Domain image

The latest fad is one I am not really looking forward to revisiting a few years down the road.  This craze is not only goofy, but it's leaving a highly visible trail of photographic proof (aka extortion material) of our friends succumbing to this craze. 

Which fad am I talking about?  This crazy trend of posing with a duck face - which also resembles a fish face.  This truly unattractive pose is sure to be one for the "What in the name of all things holy were they thinking?!" record books.

Every single day my Facebook newsfeed displays evidence of another victim who has fallen prey to thinking this is a sexy and glamorous look. I would love to know who told women that looking like a cross between Daisy Duck and a big-mouthed bass hooked on the end of a fishing pole is attractive.  

Ben Stiller - Public Domain image
Ben Stiller started this goofy look in the movie "Zoolander".  A comedy film whose character is a fashion model and a complete dim-wit.  Someone, somewhere, saw this movie and thought 'this is the look I want to show to the world'.... and another fad was born.

A fad whose look is more reminiscent of the mounted Big Mouth Billy Bass singing "Take Me To The River" than  Marilyn Monroe in some sexy pose.  When I see a casualty of this fad, I don't see a beautiful woman.  Nope.  At best, I see Dori from the movie 'Finding Nemo'.  While Dori is cute, women posed like this look as though they are experiencing a serious medical event.

Dori from Disney/Pixar Pictures movie "Finding Nemo"

When I see moms duck-face posing in pictures with their kids, all I can think of is how sad it will be when their children look back on these photos in 20, 30, or 40 years and wonder what in the world was wrong with their mother's face, or what did they do that was so bad their mother chose not to smile in a single photo with them.

Duck face posing is a fad whose 15 minutes of fame needs to be up.  Do yourself, your family, and history a favor.  The next time you take a picture, smile.  The look of joy is so much more appealing and powerful than any forced fish or duck face pose.

Christie Bielss

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memory....

I was in my second year of college and my history professor gave the class a project.  We were to fill out an ancestry pedigree chart.  By speaking with all of our living relatives about their lives, we were to not only gather statistical data on our ancestor's birth and birth places, but also ascertain whether they served in the military and what their experiences were while they served, as well as any information they could pass along about relatives who had already passed away.  The more information we could glean, the better our grade.

Memorial Day
My Grandfather

My parents loved to expound on their family history, so I latched onto this assignment figuring it to be a very easy 'A'.  With the 'pedigree' chart in-hand, I sat down and questioned my parents.  Three generations of my ancestry chart were nearly complete within thirty minutes.  A quick phone call to my mother's parents, as well as some digging through old newspaper obituary notices by my father, allowed me to complete the four generations required for the chart in an hour.

But, the 'pedigree' chart was not the only part to this assignment.  I thought finding the names and birth places of my ancestors was going to be the most difficult part of this assignment, since it required me going back 150 years.  Names and places turned out to be the easy part.  Reading about and listening to my grandfather talk about his experiences in combat during World War II was life changing.

My grandfather was sent to the South Pacific and while he spoke of many funny experiences he had upon arriving in the region, he had refused to speak about his encounters in war....... until I told him about my history project over the phone.  Since I would be coming to visit him over my Spring Break from college, he agreed to let me "interview" him for my class assignment.

A week later, I arrived at my grandparents' home.  One evening while my grandmother and mother were preparing dinner, my grandfather was ready to talk.  We sat down in their living room.  He pulled out a journal he had hidden between the arm rest of his recliner and his leg.  As he reluctantly handed it to me, I could see him struggle with sharing his thoughts and experiences.

He finally handed it to me with one stipulation:  I could read it until dinner was ready but not a minute longer.  I quickly sat down and started flipping through the small journal.

I laughed as I read his account of meeting the women of the South Pacific region for the first time.  Apparently all of the island women on his base were topless.  The Commanding Officer ordered all of the men to put their eyes back in their heads and for the women on the base to be given shirts.

The next day, the women showed up on the base with the shirts on........... and perfectly round holes cut out for their breasts.  My grandfather started laughing so hard at the memory, he had tears running down his face.

As my time with his journal was severely limited, I quickly flipped forward a good number of pages.  What I read made my heart stop.

The entry began with him having described how he had just finished eating dinner and was going to lay down in his tent and catch some much needed rest.  He had no sooner laid down when he heard shouts of "incoming!".

Before he could move, bombs started exploding and machine guns started firing.  As he jumped up, the tent next to his exploded and the soldiers resting inside, his friends, were killed in an instant.

A lump grew in my throat and tears filled my eyes as I read his next thoughts.  I looked up into my grandfather's eyes. With eyes brimming with tears, he knew exactly what I was reading.  I can still hear his pain as he spoke so softly "I could never understand why the bomb hit their tent and not mine.  Why they died and I survived.".

My grandmother announced dinner was served.  My time was up.  I got up from the sofa, handed him the journal, and gave him a hug.  We never discussed those painful memories again, but today I remember.

Memorial Day
Public Domain Flag Image

For me, today is more than just a day for barbeque, swim parties, and wearing patriotic colors.  Today I remember my grandfather, his friends, and all those who have served and have given their all.  Today I remember their call to duty, I respect their service, and I honor their sacrifice.  To all of the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as to their families, I say Thank You.

Christie Bielss

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Trade Off

My apologies for the long pause in writing.  Our son was recently diagnosed with a substantial injury which necessitated a lot of doctor visits and physical therapy.  My "free" time turned into a job as a physical therapist, drill sergeant, and chauffeur, shuttling him from one appointment to another.  He is now on the upswing and I am getting used to my new "normal".  Thanks for sticking with me and for your kind words of encouragement during this time!

After having our first child, we stumbled around, utterly sleep-deprived, not knowing which way was up for months.  It was during this time when we were assured by friends and family the infant stage was the hardest part of raising a child.  Everyone told us as our children grew older, things would become easier.  We clung to that hope through the sleepless nights, countless ear infections, teething, fighting croupy coughs, and the more-than-I-can-count fights over food.

We held on tight to that ray of hope like a castaway bopping along in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean.  For the first couple of years we waited anxiously for the day when our boat would hit dry land and we would be "rescued".  During the long wait, we were so sure we were approaching our smooth sailing days, we even had another baby.

As we clung to our sanity, we made a most unexpected discovery.  Our family and friends, who loved us dearly, were all a pack of liars!  Raising children does not get easier as they get older, you just trade off what you are currently doing for something different, but equally as difficult.

Yes, gone are the days of struggling to strap an infant carseat into a vehicle at just the right angle so it locks into the vehicle's restraint system.  These days I'm trying to get a pack of giggling tween girls into the different rows of my car, without anyone losing part of their toes to a falling backpack which is weighted down with more school supplies than Grizzly Adams would dare pack onto the back of a mule. 

I no longer hear the annoyed cry of a baby who is frustrated over a dropped pacifier or treasured toy just out of their reach.  These days I am bombarded with a teenager screeching "Mom! He/she is touching me!" or "STOP!  You're on my side!  Don't cross that line!".  

I thought having to hear Barney singing "I Love You" five hundred times a day was more tortuous than what some third world countries use as interrogation techniques........ until my children discovered and downloaded the Clash of Clans and Talking Tom apps on all of our electronic devices.  The gutteral grunts of cavemen and of enemies attacking bases has surpassed that dinosaur.  Being awakened in the middle of the night to a weird sounding voice coming from my cell phone telling me he is lonely and misses me, is more disturbing than a purple dinosaur singing and dancing.

I also almost miss the days of changing a baby's dirty diaper in the backseat of a car on a 100° day.  The odor back then was definitely a lot less pungent than what wafts from my son's gym bag these days.

But, even with all of the trade-offs, we would still do it all over again.  Yes, our friends and family definitely lied to us.  Whether it was in order to ensure the procreation of our species or so that we could sing the Dora the Explorer song along with them has yet to be determined.  We have gotten even though.  We told them that there is nothing quite like seeing your children take care of their very own puppy...... and fish ......... and guinea pigs.

Christie Bielss

Thursday, March 12, 2015

No Bark, No Bite, No Problem

It was nearly 30 years ago and I was bringing dinner to my (then) boyfriend (now husband).  My parents were out of town and I was dog sitting my childhood pet, a wonderful male toy french poodle named Pepi (short for Pierre), so I brought him along for the ride.  Pepi loved going for rides in the car and it was time to introduce him to the young man I was dating.

dog, pet, animal, humor
Pepi, the coolest poodle on the planet

While I was just starting to experience life, Pepi, at 17 years old, was experiencing his twilight years.  Every time I looked at him, I didn't see the aging pooch with silvered fur.  I saw a cute little black ball of fluffy puppy fur who could perform circus tricks, who loved sticking his head out of the car window on road trips, and who slept next to me at night and was my protector.

Yes, it was time for Pepi to meet my boyfriend.

Because my boyfriend only had 30 minutes for dinner, I would bring his meal to him and we would eat in the car together.  This night's meal was grabbed after picking up the dog, so it was a Wendy's cheeseburger and fries, both of which were Pepi's favorites.

Keeping the dog's head from burrowing into the bag and gnoshing on the french fries wasn't so difficult since he was captivated by the drive down the highway.  He even waited patiently for my boyfriend to walk out to the car and to be introduced.

My boyfriend took a liking to the dog immediately.......... but apparently the feeling was not mutual.  Maybe it was because my boyfriend wasn't sharing his fries or a tiny bite of meat from his burger.  Pepi became perturbed enough he started to make his presence known.

It started out as a cough here and there from the dog.  Within a minute or two, the little cough turned into the sound of the dog coughing up his toenails.  As the coughs became more and more gross sounding, we noticed they were perfectly timed with my boyfriend's bites of the burger or fries.

"Geez!  Is the dog ok?", he asked after being grossed out by a particularly nasty coughing fit from the dog.

The tone of that question was not lost on the dog.  It apparently irritated him that this man was usurping his time with me, and he wasn't willing to share his fries either.  The dog decided it was time to launch a full assault.

Within seconds the aroma in the car took on a much more pungent scent.  As I quickly rolled down the windows, my boyfriend gave me a questioning look.

I smiled as I said "it was the dog."

"Yeah, right.", he replied.

Just as I was about to deny that the source of the smell came from me, the dog coughed and quite loudly passed gas.

"Oh my GOSH! What have you been feeding that dog?!" he cried as he hopped out of the car in search of fresh air.

Between fits of laughter and with tears running down my face, I reminded him of how old the dog was.

"Are you sure he's not dead already.  From the smell of things I think your parents had him stuffed and filled with robotics to make it look and sound like he's still alive." he asked.

After the aired had cleared a bit, he got back in the car and finished eating.  With his lunch break over, he leaned over to give me a kiss before he got out of the car.  The dog gave him one last parting shot with a particularly gross cough as he simultaneously passed gas.

"Dear lord!  I can actually taste that one!" he yelled as he scrambled for the door handle.

Laughing hysterically again, I called out to him "I don't think the dog likes you because you wouldn't share your fries........."

"I will make sure to buy him his own order next time so I can breathe." he said.

After I got home and settled for the night, my sweet little dog snuggled up next to me, just like when I was younger.  About that is when I had a realization: the dog had not coughed or passed gas once since my boyfriend got out of the car.  With that I laughed myself to sleep.

Pepi may have been too old to back full grown man up in a corner in a show of protection, but he figured out a way to get him out of the car faster than a speeding bullet.  He was one very cool dog and friend.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Battle of the Bulge

A few months ago I went to the doctor for a physical.  I put as much thought and preparation into this appointment as I did for a family vacation.  Just like for our vacations, a couple of weeks beforehand, I started going through my wardrobe to find the perfect outfit.  I was positive that the right clothing choice would start this visit off on the right foot.

diet, dieting, weight loss, healthy eating
My nemesis

The perfect clothing items were not chosen for design, color, fit, or which accessories could be worn with them. No, function far outweighed form for this visit.  This was important and I knew I had to make a strong impression.

When the day of my appointment arrived, I dressed with great attention to detail.  My appearance had been carefully planned down to the most finite detail.

As the nurse called me back, I went through the checklist in my head to make sure I hadn't missed anything:

Lightest weight clothing - check.
Remove all undergarments - check.
No unnecessary use of hair products or makeup - check.
All rings and necklaces removed - check.
Bathroom - check.
Slip off shoes - check.
No food or water consumed since the night before - check.

And with all of the items on my list checked off, I stepped on
the doctor's scale.............. and had lost precisely 1 pound since last year. 

"I did it!" I exclaimed.

With a raised eyebrow, the nurse led me to an exam room while I thanked everyone who helped me achieve this great and wondrous accomplishment.  My victory speech was so poignant, it was worthy of an Academy Award.

I was sitting on the doctor's examining table when she came in.  I held my breath as she perused the vital statistics the nurse had written down.  Anxiously I waited for the pat on the back and exclamations of a job well done.

She looked up from the paperwork, "Last year we discussed your weight and why it's important for you to lose 15 pounds."

I smiled broadly as I replied "Yes!  And look! I lost 1 pound!"

With a look of disapproval she said "Last year you wore sweats.  This year you have on a bikini.  The only thing you lost was some cotton fiber.  Have you been exercising?".

"Does walking to the refrigerator and pantry count? I have walked through the grocery store!" I offered.

"The refrigerator and pantry only count if you didn't get anything out to eat.  How many days a week did you walk through the grocery store?  Was it a grocery 'super store' or a 7-eleven?" she replied.

She knew me too well.  "Does walking to get the newspaper count?" I questioned.
"Is it in your driveway?", she asked.
"Yes." I replied.
"No." she said.

"I have to take the dog out several times a day." I offered.
"Do you take the dog for a walk or just open the back door to the house and let it out?", she queried.

"Hmmm...... I thought about swimming laps at the natatorium." I said.
"How many laps did you swim?" she asked.

"Ummm........ what about chewing?  Chewing uses muscles so shouldn't that count as exercise?" I replied.

The doctor handed me a packet of information on calorie counting, a list of websites for reduced calorie recipes, a food pyramid chart, and another chart which listed how many calories are burned doing different forms of exercise.

"Pick from the activities and do it 5 days a week. You need to lose 15 real pounds by your next yearly physical." she ordered.

After looking at the list of exercises and the short list of edible foods on the diet, maybe for my next physical I'll cut my hair short and see if that will help me lose some real pounds.

Written by Christie Bielss

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Then and Now

Sitting on the sofa one night, I looked back at the day I'd just had versus the life my husband and I led before having children.  Our life before kids was filled with fun parties, I could shop with my girlfriends all day with no problem, saw movies on opening day, had romantic dinners with candle light and table cloths, was able to accomplish the things on my "to do" list in one day, spent all day reading a book cover-to-cover without interruption, and indulged myself in mani/pedis, facials, massages, and long soaks in the bathtub with my favorite scented candles.

kids, family, pregnancy, life
Before kids, sort of.  I was pregnant in this photo

Those were the days when I vacuumed the house and it stayed clean for an entire week.  Picking up the house simply meant putting my husband's shoes in the closet.  Doing laundry was accomplished in just a few hours from start to finish.

Not much has changed since we've had children.  We still go to parties, they just happen to have a Disney character as the theme and doing the limbo requires you beginning on your knees due to the pint-sized holders of the limbo bar.

I still go shopping all day, grocery shopping that is.  That's because it takes hitting three grocery stores to find the one package of my children's favorite flavored snack crackers.  With those crackers on-hand, the earth can continue to spin.

We see movies on opening day, the opening day they come out on DVD.

Romantic dinners are meals where no one spills their milk, drops their plate of food on the floor, or passes gas.

If I'm able to accomplish one thing on my "to do" list, then I consider that a successful day.  If I can accomplish two things on my "to do" list, I feel like I am the queen of organization.  If I can accomplish three or more things on that blasted "to do" list....... who am I kidding? That never happens.

I still read lots of books.  Though these days, instead of reading a romantic comedy to myself, my daughter reads "Dork Diaries" or "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" out loud to me.

Long soaks in the bathtub have changed a bit.  They usually begin with me submerging my arms in my son's fish tank to scrape the algae from the tank's walls and end with vacuuming the uneaten fish food and scum from the decorative rocks on the bottom.  Not quite as relaxing but at least the fish tank has a heater to keep the water at a comfortable temperature.

Yes, I still get mani/pedis. They are happily performed by both of my children.  The nail polish may cover my fingers or toes halfway to my knuckles and each one may be a different color, but I am pampered in a way that can only come from the heart.

We only bought 1 pair of purple socks and we are up to a pair and a half
Laundry, however, has become my nemesis.  I am pretty sure when my kids throw their dirty clothes in the hamper, the clothing breeds.  This was confirmed the other day when my daughter was putting her freshly laundered clothes in the closet and exclaimed "Mom?  I don't remember these jeans.  Where did they come from?".  I'm pretty sure this out-of-control breeding situation began when we started pairing up the socks to keep them from getting eaten by the dryer........

Looking back, yes, life is far different than it was years ago.  And yet I wouldn't change a thing........... ok, maybe I'd change pairing the socks up in the hamper.

Worst haircut of my life but I still love this photo

Written by Christie Bielss

Monday, January 5, 2015

Who Is Your Hero?

My daughter came home from school a month or so ago and asked me a very interesting question "Who do you consider your hero?  And don't go for the easy answer, Mom.".  My first answer being all of our military and their families, as well as police and firemen, was nixed by the ten year old playing the college professor.  Judging by the serious countenance on my child's face, I guessed that Superman, Batman, and Spiderman, would be swiftly nixed as well.

My Hero
It was a simply worded question and yet it made me stop and think.  I know who my hero is, but can I adequately put into words what is in my heart?  I'm not sure, but I've decided to give it a go.

He was a spunky kid who would climb to the top of the highest object just so he could imagine himself flying.  Sometimes that meant he was climbing to the top of the telephone pole, nearly causing his mother heart failure.  And sometimes that spunk had him trying to coerce neighbor kids to put their tongues on the cistern pump handle in the bitter cold, much to his parents' chagrin.

He played sports in high school and according to his accounts, rode his bike through the mountains of West (by God) Virginia to school every single day.  Uphill...... both ways.  Through 6 feet of snow.  With a tenor saxophone on his bike's handle bars.  

High School Graduation
He joined the ROTC in college and, upon graduation, became a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot.  While he was stationed in Alabama going through training and "getting jets", he met a lovely young woman on base.  He attracted her because of his baby blue '59 Buick convertible and she attracted him with her cute looks and figure.  They were married 6 weeks later.  

The infamous '59 Baby Blue Buick Convertible

Within a few months of marriage, the newlyweds were stationed overseas with the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters, England.  He gave selflessly of himself to his country while he buried a number of his fighter pilot friends who crashed their fighter jets, including his best friend, while in service to their country.

One day in October of 1962, with Air Force base sirens sounding in the background, he called his wife and quickly informed her that the base had been put on full alert.  His fighter jet was loaded with bombs and he'd be sitting on the runway waiting for the green light to go and defend his country.

While he had enough fuel to get to his destination and do what his government commanded of him, he did not have enough fuel to get to safety, back to his base, or even to an area of land.  This was his farewell to her and their 2 young sons.

For nearly 2 weeks, he sat in his fighter jet at the end of the runway on full alert.  The jet engines were on and ready for take-off, the plane was fully loaded with bombs, just awaiting the go-ahead command from the big brass.  Thankfully the situation (the Cuban Missile Crisis) was resolved without him having to perform what would have been a suicide mission.

In 1963, his squadron's command was taken over by the indomitable Colonel (and later General) Robin Olds, who brought with him Colonel Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. (who would later go on to become the first African American 4-star General in the Air Force).  The stories from this era are too numerous to write about in one blog post but suffice it to say that while there were a lot of missions flown during this time, as were as a lot of parties attended.

As a result of those parties, this hero came back to the United States with his lovely wife....... and 3 bouncing baby boys, each born less than a year apart.

Stationed at Reese Air Force base in Lubbock, Texas, this man began training young fighter pilots.  One of the parts of his duties left an indelible impression upon his heart.  That job was informing next of kin (wives) of the death of their fighter pilot spouse.

There are no words suitable to ever describe how terribly heartbreaking and life-changing this part of his job was.  To this day, he remembers each spouse's reaction upon seeing him walk up to their home or place of work.

While at Reese AFB, he was asked to join the prestigious USAF Thunderbirds.  It is a tremendous honor to be asked to join this elite fighter jet show team but, upon learning they were gone for most of the year, he declined.  Seeing his wife and 4 children took precedence over the fun he would of surely had performing breathtaking mid-air stunts.

He left the USAF in 1967 with a wife and 4 young children.  Yes, there was another party after they arrived in Lubbock, TX, which yielded him a daughter. Upon leaving the USAF, he went to work for a commercial airline as a pilot.

1st Officer
He and his family were stationed in Buffalo, New York.  The commercial airline pilot pay wasn't enough to support his family, so when he wasn't flying airplanes, he was substitute teaching to help supplement his income.  While there wasn't enough money to take his family out to dinner and to the movies, he created wonderful memories for his children by digging caves in the mountainous snow and having epic snowball fights.  

As his children grew, he was a beacon to them for doing what was right, not necessarily what was easy.  Even though he would be gone flying commercial jets for many days each month, which resulted in him missing many a birthday and holiday because of his flight schedule, his wife and children knew how much he loved them and they found creative ways to celebrate those days.

He was required to retire from piloting commercial airplanes in the United States at the age of 60.  Having flown most of his life, the transition to staying home every day out of the month was interesting for both he and his wife.  He was used to doing his own thing, and so was she, but they adapted.

His focus changed from studying airplane manuals and flight standards, to working on his golf handicap, doting on his grandchildren, and traveling around the world with his wife.

Today is this hero's 80th birthday.  Today I celebrate this man and all he has accomplished and all of the love he has so selflessly poured out onto those around him.  Today I celebrate my hero, my Dad.  Happy 80th birthday!  I love you more than there are stars in the sky and grains of sand upon this earth!

Written by Christie Bielss