Team

I think most of us dreamt what our relationships with our children would be like before they actually came along…

I thought I would have a hockey playing son who was also a drummer in a rock band. He would be sensitive and respectful and love sports and animals.

I thought my daughter would be just like me. She would LOVE PINK, anything with a tutu, but also be able to debate fiercely about politics and current events and play every sport out there, preferably on the same hockey team as her brother. She too would be in a rock band, when she wasn’t at roller derby practice or campaigning for class President.

And then my two children were born, grew up a bit, and became their own, amazing, people.

Still holding hands

Everything I thought I wanted them to be was blown away by everything they are. I’ve never been more thankful to be entirely wrong about what I wanted.

My daughter loves to sing. And she’s good at it- really good. She is very independent and she is only nine. She pretends she’s a kitten instead of chases boys. She watches ‘Too Cute’ instead of listening to ‘One Direction.’ And she refuses to follow the crowd. If her friends like Minecraft, she will play Animal Jam. She wants to be different. She wants to be a leader. Today she’s asked if she can dye her hair turquoise … I said ‘sure!’ She makes sure everyone is included in the games she plays and won’t have it when others say ‘oh that girl can’t play with us.’ I’ve also shown up to school unannounced and found her having lunch with the ‘new kid’ … a boy… showing him around and hanging out with him because no one else would and she wanted to make sure he wasn’t alone and knew he would have a friend. She didn’t care that others were ‘oh, you’re talking to a boy’ teasing. I’m so proud of her.

My son is a self-proclaimed geek. He loves science more than anything and already has several ideas for companies. He wants to learn to be a pilot and has already taken his first flight lesson. He’s tested video games for Disney to earn money for additional flight lessons and can’t wait to get up in the air again. He has zero interest in sports and I don’t mind at all. He’s also found his voice this year…the one where he stands up to other kids at school for calling someone ‘gay’ as a slur. I couldn’t be more proud. I also couldn’t be more proud when others tell me how amazingly mature he is…he’s got a very old soul.

Both of them are nothing like I imagined they would be but so much more. SO SO much more.

My daughter has been finding new music lately and recently discovered Lorde. She loves the song ‘Team’ and I think it’s perfect for her…and us. There is nothing I love more than belting it out with her in the car, together. With her brother rolling his eyes at us. But we don’t care…so there.

We’re a team. We’re all learning to live with everyone’s characteristics and appreciate them. My son is learning his sister doesn’t want to play the same things he does…and he doesn’t want to play the same things she does. For the first time, that’s ok. Instead they hang out and play what they want, while sitting next to each other.

Still close.

Still near in case one wants to tell the other something.

All while I watch in awe at the amazing young people they are becoming. Half their father, half me..but so much different than I could have ever have imagined. But that’s fine…Because at the end of the day…we’re on each other’s team.

 

Benghazi!

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…that’s what I thought was going to be screamed next from the podium as the William S Hart School Board’s public comments were underway.

It was like watching a Fox News Tea Party convention, minus the annoying anchors.

Let me back up a bit here…

It came to my attention awhile ago that my local school board was not in compliance with a new law here in California. Actually, it’s not a new law…it’s from 2012. It’s called the FAIR Act and it basically makes sure students are learning about all sorts of figures in American and Global history, specifically it’s making sure LGBTQ, the disabled, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders are included. It also makes sure anything left in old textbooks that discriminates against these groups is removed.

Not too hard, right?

Well, apparently for my local school board this a monumental task that has taken them over two years to get off their asses and accomplish. The really sad thing? They claim it’s because they don’t have the money for curriculum or teacher training (at last check the district had an over $40 million dollar surplus) and that they have until 2015 to really have to do anything.

Turns out, the district is either lying, or is  just really, really wrong and incompetent. There is FREE curriculum being offered, including lesson plans, by a TON of organizations. There is also FREE teacher training being offered by various organizations. And that 2015 thing? After speaking to the California Department of Education myself AND the ACLU myself, turns out it ONLY applies to TEXTBOOKS for K-8 and does not apply to the supplemental curriculum that is and was due in classes immediately after the law was passed. You know, over two years ago.

So why is this so important? Because when students see people like themselves, families like the ones they live in, representatives of who they are (gay, straight, white, black, female, male, disabled, you get the idea) they are less likely to kill themselves, feel bad about their own lives, become depressed, and generally do better in school. And you know what else happens as a side effect? Less bullying.

Enter tonight’s nuttiness at the school board meeting. A group of parents, students, and community members decided we’d all had enough with the board dragging it’s feet and did what we could to support a senior at one of our high schools. He’s the President of his Gay/Straight Alliance club and he’s been pushing the board for the past SIX MONTHS to get this curriculum going and to comply with the LAW. With our help, we learned a lot of what I just posted above and helped him gather signatures on a petition and distribute a survey to his fellow students – to get an accurate idea of what they think about these issues. We all, also, agreed to come show support and speak at the school board meeting.

He had great stats, great studies, we found and printed out several examples of the curriculum and lesson plans the district could begin using to supplement in classrooms NOW and we all told our own stories about why the board needed to be in compliance with state law. I spoke about being disabled and bi- and that my kids were asking why their school board leaders weren’t teaching their peers about Harvey Milk or Helen Keller- people like in OUR family…like their MOM.

Another community member read a very powerful letter from a 2013 graduate of the district. She was suicidal and did not feel supported by the district or her school during her time in high school. She said the FAIR Act would have shown her that people like her DO succeed, that they can do great and important things and that yes, it does get better.

This is how we went on…and on…standing up and speaking about why this Act needed to be implemented yesterday and how, it may seem to some, the district was discriminating against these groups by delaying.

Of course, the local school board member/conservative shock jock took our Facebook posts supporting the FAIR Act to be an attack on his free speech. (I have no idea, your guess is as good as mine here…apparently because he called it the ‘Looney law’ and has also tweeted incredibly insensitive things about the LGBTQ community and is generally against equality he assumed we were there to ask for his head on a platter.)

And cue the clown car.

As we spoke on the Fair Act, up came speaker after speaker testifying to what a wonderful human this guy is and why we are horrible socialists out to destroy America! and the Constitution!!. One woman even held up a Saul Alinsky book claiming it to be our Bible and telling us to ‘BRING IT ON!’ I actually couldn’t hold my laughter in and lost it in the back of the room. (for the record I’ve never even seen the book and have only heard about it from conservatives who swear it’s my Bible…)

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I actually snorted at one point by the sheer comedy of it all. There was even a mother of two boys who told us her 12-year old was VERY upset about the ball player who came out and the subsequent media coverage and why everyone cared where he put his penis because it was interrupting his TV time.

I wish I were kidding.

I was expecting someone to shout Benghazi! and, of course, blame Obama for California’s FAIR Act, but sadly the night grew long and the speakers finally were finished before tin foil hats ACTUALLY appeared as they sang the praises of a radio talk show host/school board member…instead of backing the students asking for their help.

And here we were, with our facts, our stats, our stacks of free curriculum, and our support for the student presenting it all to the board. I, personally, told the board they should be embarrassed a student was pushing them to comply with the law and they should be doing their JOBS so I can tell my kids they represent ALL kids, even ones from families with a disabled mother. But it all seemed lost in the clown car show.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get more humiliating for the board member, the ego of this man somehow compelled him to speak at the end of the public comment session (which, if you go by rules isn’t supposed to happen but hey, they don’t seem to comply with the law, why would they follow meeting rules?) – School board member and radio host Joe Messina told the crowd it was great to see ‘democracy’ in action in front of him and thanked both sides- even the ‘opposition’ (I’m sorry, opposition to what? Him? Um… no…opposition to board inaction? SURE!) as it became about HIM and again, NOT about the FAIR Act we all spoke about or the students…despite his assertion about how much he cares about these students.

Let me just say this, if Joe Messina cared about the students, he would have used his time at the end of public discussion (breaking the rules)  to have asked the rest of the board to do something about complying with the law instead of thanking the clown car.

It’s a sad day in education when a young, gay man with three weeks left until high school graduation stands before his board of education begging them to take action on a law already imposed upon them by the state so that no one has to go through what he did…and the only board response was from a straight man thanking everyone for the attention HE received that night.

As a disabled mother in the district I feel as if the board is willfully discriminating against me and my family – and I applaud Andy Taban for standing up and speaking truth to power at such a young age.

Even if it means I have to fight this with legal action or continued pleas in front of the board, Mr. Taban will be one of those American heroes future Hart District kids will read about in their new history books. Even with the clown car all around him, he stood tall and proud and OUT and refused to be silenced. That’s one hell of a start for a Senior in high school dealing with adults who were clearly less mature and informed.

Benghazi!

For My Kids

Sometimes you just have to tell your doctor some things are more important than staying away from germs, despite your immune system being entirely compromised.

You can't hear Happy Birthday on the morning of your #9th b-day without a brother squeeze #allhailhala

Sometimes you just have to sit down with your husband and discuss the ramifications for your family if you open your  mouth on an important issue, knowing full well it’s brought death threats and hate to your door before.

Sometimes you just have to say BECAUSE EQUALITY MATTERS – and say it standing up, not in a wheelchair, without your cane, and hope they are paying attention when it is your turn to speak. Because you are standing up in tremendous pain so they can see your face, and you do not want their pity or their prayers. You want them to LISTEN. You spent the day having lifesaving drugs pumped into your body, and you know some of those starting down from their place on high think are a ‘taker’ unworthy of  life because God is certainly punishing you for your wicked ways.

Sometimes you have to cry because any of it is necessary in 2014, two years after a law has gone into effect, that you’re not treated like a second class citizen, that LGBT friends and family are not treated like second class citizens, that STUDENTS are not treated like second class citizens and that your children’s peers are not taught disabled or LGBT American heroes simply do.not.matter. by your local school district.

Sometimes you need to go to a school board meeting and speak your mind.

To be continued… 

 

A New Generation: From Breastfeeding at BlogHer to Blogging at BlogHer ’14

I’m always proud of our kids. Always. But I think that is typical of most parents.

I mean, we’re the type of people who jump up and down clapping when they pee in a toilet.

So imagine my pride when my son thought he might start a blog. I immediately began to give him ideas for posts, got him started on wordpress, asked him if he wanted to make a custom design… you know, the usual.

Flash forward about 24 hours and he was already bored with his blog.

It was then I heard ‘Hey Mom, can I start a blog?’

It was my daughter. The one who would rather not sit and read the hilarious blog post I had found just for her. The one who would rather get a shot at the pediatrician than write.

But flash forward another 24 hours and not only was she blogging, but she was loving every second of it.

Begging me to check and see if she had any new comments to approve while she was at school-  you know that darn school, always getting in the way of her blogging ‘No Mom, I don’t need any ideas for a post, I have like….a million’ she would say, typing furiously. ‘And can you make sure to tweet this to everyone, oh and show Facebook?’

I did my best to show her the basics, but she is a bit like her mother and rather determined to learn all on her very own.

During one of her lectures to me about how important it was she learn how to blog without my help, I remembered her on my hip at the BlogHer conference in 2006 in San Jose.

It seems like yesterday, but not.

Now she has her own blog. Now she has her ow ideas about what a nine-year old should talk about. And now she has her own pass to BlogHer.

Yes, Princess Peanut has a student pass for BlogHer ’14 in San Jose and her and I are going to have a girls weekend writing, learning about all the wonderful things and issues that come with being part of a community, and with me re-introducing her to all the women who met her so many years ago.

#AllHailHala indeed. See you all in San Jose.

Why Do You Blog? The Answer is Magical

So why are you still blogging? 

Are you hoping to make money? Become famous? Gain followers? Fans? A book deal?

Are you blogging because you want to share your family with relatives scattered across the world? Are you blogging because you found a community with which you relate? Are you blogging because you need to vent about life, family, friends, kids, partners, exes, bosses, or other bloggers?

WHY are you blogging?

It was a question posed by former-NFL receiver Donald Driver at Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference this past weekend-and it sort of knocked me off my chair.


(The kids enjoying family time at the conference on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland)

I haven’t thought about WHY I blog in such a very long time and it has changed over and over again.

At first I was blogging for something to do, to connect with other parents, to find my ‘tribe.’

Then I was blogging as an activist. Political posts ruled the day.

Then it was a smattering of parenting and politics and life.

Then I got sick…and everything changed. 

I didn’t know what to blog for a long time. So I just kept people up to date on my health. Until I broke down and began blogging about just how hard it all can be, about just how affected the kids and my husband were by my illness. I began blogging for myself, to just get it out.

Driver spoke to the crowd this past weekend about the motivation behind our blog posts, our tweets, our Facebook posts, our photos. His message was so simple, yet one I fear I have forgotten in the past 10-years as the industry has grown. Are you using your voice for good? 

Those of us who have been around the social media block have watched the metamorphosis. We started out as just hobbiest looking for community. Sharing our ups and downs like friends do. As our voices became more powerful some of us just kept doing what we’ve been doing all along, others took the $$$ path to try and cash in on their new found attention. Starting new sites, trying to bring in the big traffic numbers. ‘Monetizing’ was the word everyone loved.

Sure I put ads up on this blog, but I lost out on a lot of opportunities because I wouldn’t write sponsored posts on this site. For me, it just didn’t fit. It still doesn’t. This is my space to share and talk about my kids, my life…not products.

However, with Driver’s words still ringing in my ears, I am wondering where Queen of Spain blog goes from here. I want to make a difference. I want to help people. I want to continue to share the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness.

I am inspired to DO MORE with this space I’ve been given and have cultivated over the years. I’m inspired to make the most of what I’ve been given-and just asking myself the question this big ‘ol football player so easily stated really changed my mindset. WHY am I blogging?

I know the answer:

I’m blogging for myself. I’m blogging for you. I’m blogging to change the world we live in and hoping to bring others along for the ride.

I’m determined to bring back the magic in blogging and the honesty, the transparency, the REAL stories of life and love and loss. Not the ones conjured up for traffic, products, brands, or sponsors.

This space is where my soul and my heart connect with others and I give you all of me- the good and the bad. And I still believe there is a place for that in the industry.

Let’s get back to basics. Let’s get back to storytelling. Let’s get back to connecting with one another just for the sake of connecting, not because it’s required to fulfill a contract by a pr company.

Let’s get back to blogging.

 

*I was invited to attend the DSMM Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.

As the Song Says…

Yeah…that whole thing about giving them roots and wings to fly and what not???? I’m failing at it terribly right now. Failing. Failing. FAILING.

My son is currently at his first ever sleep-away camp and I’m in bed thinking about driving there to either spy on him, or the more likely scenario of nabbing him and bringing him home. HOME. Where he belongs.

NOT out in some totally perfect world for him where there are scientists and ecosystems and OCEANS and MOUNTAINS….which leads my mind to rip currents and bobcats and bears and wildfires and his hating socks but being cold and DO YOU UNDERSTAND I’m not there to MAKE HIM put the socks on which would also then lead to his feet getting dirty and him probably NOT showering even though he has all the stuff needed in his suitcase to shower with. Not to mention the book and book light he brought in case he couldn’t fall asleep (no electronics allowed) and I should have packed him an extra battery for that tiny book-light and OMG I CAN NOT DO THIS SOMEONE TALK ME DOWN PLEASE.

Whew. Ok. Sorry about that.

Which is why it’s best I stay in this bed, right here, and try to breathe for the next few days.

With my phone currently tucked in my bra in case they call and he needs me.

But that is just it, right? It’s the reality he doesn’t need me. I’ve done my job, so he does not need me. My husband has done his job, so he does not need him. We’re doing what we set out to do when we created life. Created this awesome kid that we truly do not deserve because he and his sister are EVERYTHING good in the world.

They are pure joy.

This is such a fantastic opportunity for him and he was SO EXCITED getting on the bus and already geeking out over the organisms he was hoping to find and study. It was contagious. I was excited WITH him, FOR him. To just watch him go on this journey.

Now it’s dark. I’m wondering if he’s asleep. I’m wondering if the boys in his cabin are loud. I’m wondering if he’s laying there, like I’m laying here…wondering if we’re all thinking about each other.

His sister even asked ‘Do you think Jack is in bed thinking about us like we’re thinking about him?’

I am such a wuss. He’s off having the time of his life and I AM A BIG OL BASKET CASE. But it’s not because he’s ill prepared or that I’m worried something will actually happen. No. That’s not really what is going on deep down.

Deep down it’s all about letting go. Letting him go. Letting him go so he can become the amazing person he already is and is destined to improve upon.

But my god does it hurt.

Two Words: Grumpy Cat

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Grumpy Cat met the Vest Family…

Hala & Grumpy Cat

…and it was awful.

Unless you ask the Vest family…in which case it was AWESOME.

More from #AllHailHala who plans on blogging her encounter with the world’s most famous cat, just as soon as she finishes her homework. (UPDATE: Hala has blogged her encounter with Grumpy Cat)

What? I had to put her in a grumpy mood SOMEHOW.

Thanks to Grumpy Cat’s TEAM (no really, the cat has a team…if I were that Grumpy & cute I’d have a TEAM too…) for making a 9-year old’s dream come true.

 

*I was invited to attend the DSMM Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.

There is Something Special About 9

I worry sometimes that I see too much of myself in her. No, that’s not right. I worry that I TRY to see myself in her.

She is so much stronger than I was. She is so much smarter than I was. She is stunning and hilarious and every inch of her tiny self is a fearless female.

My daughter is now 9-years old and so much more than a 3rd grader or a ‘kid.’ She is a confident young girl who already seems to know exactly what she wants for her life, and seems to be entirely unphased by any obstacles in her way.

The child hasn’t even hit double-digits and I already admire her.

I want to be her when I grow up.

I have no doubt she will make every single one of her dreams come true. None. Zero. The doubt just does not exist. In fact, she is so incredibly sure about everything she has made me a believer of every one of her goals and dreams-despite many of them involving unicorns and dragons.

There is an ongoing discussion in our home about how sometimes it can a bit hard to say ‘no’ to me. Often with others feeling it better to just let me have my way because it’s not worth the battle and it certainly isn’t worth what will no doubt be a full frontal assault on my part to wear you down with a merciless war that seems entirely unnecessary for, say, Thai instead of Italian food for dinner.

While that part of me has softened over the years and certainly with my illness, even at its height it seems to pale in comparison to my daughter’s capability in this field. However she does it with so much more class and composuer than I ever did or could. Make no mistake, I’m still the Queen and Mother around here and she has a ways to go before I will give up my thrown…but I’ve been watching this young artist at work lately. I wouldn’t dare call her a protege’, as I have done NOTHING to teach or guide her in this type of social interaction.

I’d like to think it’s genetic, but even then I think I’m fooling myself. 

She’s going to conquer the world, rule with compassion and an iron fist, and do it all with sparkly cowgirl boots, rainbow embellished fingerless gloves, and the brightest and most obnoxiously patterned scarf tossed around her neck for flourish. None of it will match, but it will all look fabulous on her and only her. As only SHE can.

She has no desire to get married. She has absolutely no desire to have children. (Babies annoy her at best) She wants a ranch in the country with many animals as possible, and that goes double for all the ones her father and I will not allow her to currently have…and a runway for her brother to land his planes so he can visit often.

She’d like a lake or pond, where it seems she will allow her father and I to build a home on the other side and wave like good parents do over morning tea and the rippling waters on our end of her shore.

While I had many ideas for her birthday party this year, I’m sad to say I am not even up to snuff when it comes to party decorations. Her ‘kitten’ themed 9th birthday was only a success due to her superior planning, as I had failed her miserably by refusing to hang balls of yarn from our 300million foot ceilings so she and four cohort kittens cold ‘bat’ at them for hours on end.

Luckily her grandmother had chipped in and her Nana had chipped in – all much craftier than I. And with her usual flourish her friends had a great time.

The best part though, may have been just listening to her interact with the girls. She was leading the charge, mediating disputes, even comforting those a tad bit homesick. And even BETTER? As the night wore on and crankiness creeped into conversations inside of their sleeping bags, I could hear her tell them about how girls in other parts of the world live.  She re-told what she had learned of Malala. She told them some girls are sold into trafficking to be slaves (she left out ‘sex’ – we previously discussed long ago some of her friends may not have been told by their parents yet exactly what ‘sex’ entails). She told them even in the ‘country we live in, girls don’t make as much money as boys, some American religions force them to dress to cover their entire bodies,’ and ‘do you know what is the worst? Some of the people here still think we should only be having babies and be wives. And I don’t want to have babies or anything! I want to have my own life anyway I want it!’

She was fired up. She had their undivided attention.

She was becoming an activist and educator at the age of NINE.

I wanted to stand at the top of the stairs forever and listen to her rail against the injustices perpetrated against women across the world…all in-between giggles as they played ‘truth or dare.’

Instead I wiped the tears of pride from my eyes and made my way back down the hall and to my bed. There is no need for me to check on her. She’s doing just wonderfully without my help.

Happy Birthday Hala.