Archive for the ‘A-Ha Moment’ Category

The Shield

I used to teach comedy traffic school many years ago when I was fresh out of college and didn’t know what to do with my life. It was great. I worked in the office with friends signing people up, then learned how to teach the course, then eventually taught all over the Bay Area. Funny thing though, the class I meant to audit to become a teacher, I actually had to enroll in because I got a speeding ticket. There was lots of laughter from my fellow traffic violators when they learned that. One of the things I learned, and taught violators was that for every 2 to 3 thousand times we violate a traffic law do we get caught. You can see where this is going, right?

The other day, I was driving The Littlest E to preschool. We take a certain route down Colfax Avenue and sometimes there’s traffic. To go around the traffic I sometimes drive in the bike lane before making the right hand turn I need to make to avoid the traffic entirely. Well, on this particular day, while I was making said violation (along with another car in front of me), there happened to be a police car next to me as well as an idiotic mother and child wanting to jay walk across the crowded street. For the record, it’s okay to drive in the bike lane, if and only if, the line is split, not solid. I wasn’t doing that.

Bike Lane!

I made the turn, and another left turn to get to Chandler Boulevard, that is the way I take my son to school, and sure enough the police car followed me, turned its lights on and I pulled over. I was hoping they’d follow the guy in front of me, but no. It was my turn. As I was stopped the car, I told my son, “I’m getting pulled over by the police.” He asked, “Why Mama?” I said, “Because I may have done something wrong.” At this point my heart was racing, was I going to get a ticket or warning? Was the police officer going to be nice? Was this going to be a positive teaching moment for my son who observes everything? If I got a ticket, would my insurance go up? Would I have to attend traffic school? All these questions entered my head in the seconds it took me to pull over.

The most important thing for me regardless of whether I got a ticket or not, was that my son witness a positive encounter with the police. The Littlest E is not aware of events that happened in Ferguson, South Carolina, New York, or Florida, but he may have seen a bit of the Ferguson coverage while I was watching the news. Did he fully understand know what happened? No, but he doesn’t like me watching the news anymore. He’s only 5 and, to our knowledge, hasn’t yet really experienced overt or inadvertent racism in his short life. It’s important he know that police officers are there to protect and help us and catch us if we break the law. I was impressed by a recent video of a young black man, Will Stack, who was pulled over by police and after posted a video of his encounter on Facebook. (Google “Will Stack Video” to find it.) We have talked to our son about racism in an age-appropriate way. As The Littlest E grows up, we will definitely fill in the details more thoroughly.

After I stopped, I took my sunglasses off so the officer could see my face. He came over and my window came down. I asked, “Did I do something wrong, Officer?” He told me I was driving in the bike lane. I said, “I thought you were allowed to ride in the bike lane before turning.” He basically told me I was in the lane for too long and I almost cut off a mother and child wanting to cross the street. Mind you, they were going to jay walk, but that’s beside the point. The office didn’t need to hear my inner monologue about that. What I needed for my son to hear was that I was respectful of the officer. He asked for my license, registration and proof of insurance. I then had a “senior” moment not remembering what my registration looked like. To him I probably looked flustered so I then added “It’s been a long time since I’ve been pulled over.” Went into the glove compartment and got the registration and insurance info and gave everything to him.


Now the next part is questionable whether I should have said this or not. As the officer walked away with my info, I asked him if he was going to give me a warning or ticket? Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but the words tumbled out. A good friend said to me after she heard the story and what I said, “What, were you crazy?” The officer replied, (and he didn’t have to) “Let me check your info first.” While we waited I kept explaining to my inquisitive son what was going on, what the police were doing and how I made a driving mistake and the officer was telling me about it. A female police officer was outside our car standing on the street. I looked at my son and said, “Hey, there’s a female police officer,” while I waved to her.   She came over to the car and I explained to her that I was telling my son about what police officers do and how they are there to protect us and keep us safe. It was probably overkill, but I wanted to make sure my son was okay while all this was going on and that he knew I was okay, too.

Algona Traffic Ticket

The officer in charge came back and told me he was giving me a warning because he wasn’t comfortable giving me a ticket knowing the other driver who did the same thing wasn’t getting one. He instructed me not to drive in the bike lane and told me I could have hit the mother and child. I apologized and promised not to do that again. With sweaty pits, I took back my info, thanked the police officer and started the car. I made sure to obey all traffic laws while driving The Littlest E to school. All the way there, he kept asking, “Mommy, why did you get pulled over?” and other questions. I kept telling him that I broke the law and the police officer was nice enough to give me a warning. He then asked, “Can I tell my teachers about it?” Sure, why not.

It’s been a couple of days and as my son and I drive the route to school, he asks, “When did the police start following you?” “Is this where you got pulled over?” “What did you do wrong, Mommy?” I answer and explain. I’m very grateful that this became a positive teaching moment for both my son and I. It’s important to obey the traffic rules. We think we won’t get caught, but inevitably we do. He saw that the police officers were people and they were helpful. All in all it was a win-win for the both of us. I’m especially grateful that I didn’t get a ticket. My hope is that this will be his only encounter with police. That is my hope.

©2015 Melanie Elliott

Images: banspy, Greg Whalin, John Liu, Keith Tyler


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I recently posted how I was back running after years of inactivity.  It’s a great way to debrief, get centered, exercise, listen to my inner voice and tap into the joy of living.  About three weeks ago, I injured my knee.  Was it from running?  I’ll never know, but my way of dealing with it was pretending like it wasn’t there.  If I deny it, maybe it’ll go away.

Part of being a good parent (for me) is keeping my body, mind, spirit in the best shape possible.  Denying that something was wrong with my knee wasn’t my best strategy.  Finally, after three weeks of enduring needless pain, I did something about it.  I guess part of my denial was fear that maybe there was something really wrong with my knee.  A friend Wednesday asked about my denial, “How’s that working for you?”  To which I replied, “I’ve got an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow.”  I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s important to mention that a little over 40 years ago, when I was 6 or so, I injured my knee at a playground in San Francisco.  My parents took me to the hospital when they realized I couldn’t get out of the bathtub because my knee was so swollen.  I remember being in the hospital and seeing a massive needle come at my knee to drain the fluid, for I had “water on the knee.”  I still remember that day and cringe when I recall the needle.  My Dad told me my screams were so bad, he had to leave the exam room because it hurt him too much to see me in such pain.  I think I was on crutches for a while after they drained the fluid.  That episode left a bit of a psychological scar.  Perhaps, this was another reason I avoided going to the doctor.  Through it all, my parents were there for me holding my hand providing love and comfort when I needed it.

Thursday, I went to see orthopedic surgeon, Andrew Weiss, M.D., who’s a good friend of my general doctor.  My doctor’s receptionist told me Dr. Weiss was a terrific doctor, had great energy, and that I’d love him.  I did like Dr. Weiss.  He had great energy, was open, honest, very personable, and he knew what he was doing.  He told me sure enough, I had water on the knee.  Yikes.

They took x-rays of my knee to see if there was anything more going on.  I found out I have a little bone spur, but Dr. Weiss said not to worry about that.  He recommended draining the fluid in my knee.  Now I know procedures have changed in 40 years, but my first thought was why didn’t I bring someone with me to the appointment?  I wasn’t sure if I could do the whole draining the knee thing alone.  I actually told Dr. Weiss, I need my Mom.  And I did!  You know, no matter how old you are, sometimes you just need your mom or dad.

I didn’t have my Mom with me while Dr. Weiss drained my knee, but I did have a caring surrogate mom in the form of a nurse who held my hand while the doctor stuck several needles into my knee, one to numb it, one to drain it and one for the steroid to decrease inflammation.  During what seemed like an endless amount of time, I held this woman’s hand and took deep breaths while the needles were doing their various jobs.  It was painful, but I got through it, no screams.  Dr. Weiss was great.  He told me to ice my knee, take anti-inflammatories for 3 days twice a day and in a couple of weeks I could start running again, provided I get new running shoes (mine are way too old and may have been the source of the problem).  All is good and all is right with the world.

I can’t say I enjoyed the procedure, however, it felt like I exorcised a demon from my past.  I’m not that 6-year old girl, though it felt like it for a few seconds.  Medicine is vastly different from 40 years ago.  No crutches, no physical therapy, and no ace bandages.  In other words, it was no big deal, at least when it came to water on the knee.  Thank you, Dr. Weiss.

First thing I did when I got back to my car was leave my husband a message.  Then I called my Mom and my Dad to tell them how it went.  It was cool that we talked about that past and present injury.  I told my Mom I asked for her.  Just talking with her and my Dad made it alright.  They were/are always there for me.  This doctor visit freed me up from the pain in my knee and any residual psychological pain from 40 years ago.  Again, thank you, Dr. Weiss.

One of the main lessons I learned from this episode, aside from the need for new running shoes, is that it’s perfectly okay to still need my parents.  Once you’re a parent, you’re always a parent.  My son is only 3 and his needs are different now than they’ll be in the years to come.  The constants that will always be there no matter how old he gets – love, comfort, providing strength when he’s lacking it, believing in him.  Maybe in 40 years, I’ll get a call from my son asking for comfort as he’s going through something.  I’ll be on the other end of the phone passing on the love my parents gave me.

Images: kcxd, Melanie Elliott

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We recently took a family trip to visit my in-laws in Snoqualmie, Washington.  We had a wonderful, significant vacation with The Littlest E getting to spend good, quality time with his Grandpa, Nana and Aunt Annie who was visiting from Brooklyn.  He also met some extended family for the first time (the subject of my next blog).  Another significant thing about this trip was it was our last time staying at my in-laws’ home.  In June, they’re moving to a retirement community in Auburn, WA.  It’s the end of their Snoqualmie era and the beginning of a new adventure for my in-laws.  On our last day, I made sure to take a picture of their home to have for memories.

My husband and I had a number of lovely visits in that home, two of which were with The Littlest E.  This trip got me thinking about this and other lasts.  A short time ago, we gave away our son’s highchair to a worthwhile charity Baby2Baby as he’s outgrown the chair.  Tears welled up in my eyes when the highchair got picked up.  We aren’t going to be adopting another infant so there was no need to keep the highchair around collecting dust in our crowded garage until the time for grandchildren is upon us.  It’s better served in the home of a family in need.  The thing is, I can’t remember for the life of me what The Littlest E ate his last time in his highchair.

When we brought our 12½-month old son home from Ethiopia, I kept diligent records of his firsts: first time standing up, first smile with us, first time walking, first time eating a new food, his first day of preschool.  It never occurred to me to think about his lasts, and the lasts are equally important.  I documented his last day with the child development specialist and his last day with the speech therapist because both days meant so much to my husband and me.  Those women were instrumental in helping lay the groundwork for The Littlest E’s early development.  He had no idea of their importance; he only knew he wouldn’t be playing with Vicki or Stephanie anymore.

Who knows if there’s a way to figure out the last diaper or pull-up change.  That’s going to be an important date, for me especially.  Soon, The Littlest E will be moving from his transitional preschool class of 3 hour days 2 days a week to attend preschool 4 days a week from 9-2.  The school is throwing a special lunch for everyone on the kids’ last day of class.  Again, tears well up and I am filled with emotion at the thought of my son getting older.  I’ll only have him with me for a full day on Fridays.  Once he goes to school more, it’ll be that way until high school, then college.  This last day as a Ladybug, his class’ name, is significant.  It’s the end and the beginning, the start of a new class year and the true beginning of a new educational adventure.

That’s life though.  Time passes and we get older and our kids get older.  It all goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?  It seems like just yesterday my husband and I were nervous, new parents delicately holding our son for the first time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and come August, we’ll have been parents for 2 years.  It literally happens in the blink of an eye, a clichéd phrase, but entirely true.  Before we know it, our son will be spending his last night in his bed at our home before he goes off to college.

There will be countless firsts and lasts throughout his childhood and adult life.  I’m sure I won’t be able to get them all down on paper or in photos, but I’d like to try.  Be in the now and fully present to experience it all, the firsts, the lasts, and the life that’s in between.

Images: sleep, Z L, Nina Stawski

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I wrote this piece earlier this year.  As the holidays are fast approaching, it may be helpful to new moms and dads when their little ones meet the round Man In Red for the first time.

“Every Wednesday, my son, The Littlest E, and I take a parenting class.  We started it last November after he’d been home from Ethiopia 3 months.  It was great because, as a new mom, I was less isolated.  There had been days where it felt like I was floundering, other days more positive, like maybe I was getting this mom thing.  Being around these other moms was helpful.  It was wonderful for my son because he got to play with toddlers his age.

In December, Santa Claus was paying our class a visit to celebrate the upcoming holiday.  Wow, The Littlest E’s first encounter with Santa!  I had heard horror stories of screaming children, petrified at meeting jolly, old Saint Nick.  How was he gonna react?  Was he going to like him?

We waited in line.  It was finally my son’s turn with Santa and, sure enough, he freaked out, screamed, wouldn’t even get close to him and clung to me for dear life.  I high-fived Santa to show him Santa and I were friends.  Still, total fear.  Rather than force the issue, I let it go.

Later on, it was snack time, which consisted of all the kids sitting around little tables eating Cheerios.  “O’s,” as my son lovingly refers to them, are his favorite snack.  A thought came to me – what if I asked Santa to give him some O’s?  Would that help matters?  I went up to Santa and gave him my suggestion.  “No problem,” he responded.

What a difference a few O’s made!  OMG!!!  My son’s eyes lit up when he saw the O’s, his hand stretched out reaching for them.  No fear, no hesitation.  Suddenly, “Nana” was his best bud!  By the time the O’s were devoured, he was high-fiving Santa!

My son became somewhat obsessed with Nana.  He constantly looked at our two Christmas books (“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and a Barney Christmas book) to see pictures of Nana, and looked at my iPhone to see photos that two moms took of his Santa encounters.  “Nana, Nana” became his mantra.

Well, it’s April now, the holiday books are away, but I still hear the mantra daily and know what it means – iPhone photos.  What started off as a disaster that December day has now become a Santa love fest.

It’s a tiny thing, how O’s changed my son’s reaction to Santa, but it made an impression.  How did I think of it?  Divine intervention?  Or, maybe it was something I just might have – a mother’s intuition.”

We are having breakfast with Santa soon.  We’ll see if my son’s love for Santa still exists.  I’ll be blogging about that and the magic of the holiday season coming up.

Image: imarcc (Marc Carlson)

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