the lies i tell myself, part 4


Full disclosure, I didn’t have a great picture for today, so here’s one of Jonah that makes me smile.

OK, it took longer than I anticipated to get these four lies out. I suppose the timeline I had in mind was just another to a long list of lies… but if you need to catch the first three, you can find them here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. Which brings us to the final lie (for now, anyway):

I am the only one who feels this way.

Now, I know we are quick to blame social media for constantly showing us glimpses of other “picture perfect” lives. And yes, to an extent, the general public *may* tend to post highs rather than lows, but here’s what I have found. When I’m feeling bad about myself and I’m scrolling through my timeline, I barely give a second glance to the posts that say “today is hard, I need a hug!” I zero in on anything that looks shiny and glittery, anything that makes someone else’s life look perfect compared to my own. But this isn’t even the trickiest thing my brain does: let’s say someone posts a picture of a a family fun day. All of the kids are smiling, everyone looks like they’re getting along, and I manifest this whole story about how this family is better at family time than I am. I read so much into one tiny image that I have suddenly put this picture on a pedestal that I can’t reach. And it doesn’t matter if this family’s very next post is about a baby who never, ever sleeps or a stress overload. I don’t see those. I only see the good.

When people tell you to see the good in other people, this isn’t what they mean.

Or it shouldn’t be.

What do we say 75% of the time when someone asks, “hey, how are you?” “Fine!” “Good!” “Great!” “Can’t Complain!” So when I ask someone how they are, if I only ever hear “good!” I think: I’m the only one who isn’t good. I’m the only one who doesn’t have a cute family picture online right now. I’m the only one who hasn’t showered in four days and has really stretched the power of dry shampoo to the max. Look. I know it isn’t easy to say “actually, everything sucks and I’m really stressed, how are you?” And, you know what? I also know that sometimes things are just good. And you should be able to tell that to people without having some sort of survivor’s guilt for being in a good place.

And so, here’s my radical proposal to stop this lie: just stop. I know. It’s easier said than done. But still —

Stop the comparison. Your life is your life, and you’re doing it better than anyone else can do your life.

Stop the fantasies. Other people don’t have the picture-perfect life you assign them in your mind. Remember everyone else is as real and raw and fragile as you are, when it comes down to it.

Stop setting impossible standards. Treat yourself kindly. Treat yourself like your own child if you have to; make goals that make sense for the person you are in the stage you’re in.

Stop trying. OK, hear me out. This one sounds like basically the opposite of most self-help advice, but here’s what I mean: stop trying to be something new all the time. Stop thinking “if I can do THIS (eat paleo, run a marathon, learn a new language, etc), THEN I’ll be good.” You’re good now. Stop trying to be “better” and start being who you are meant to be.

I’ve talked to lots of human beings, and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s this: absolutely no one has everything figured out. You may admire certain people, and this isn’t bad on its own, but when you forget that you’re admiring qualities — portions — not a whole — that’s when you run into trouble.

This isn’t a lie that can be overturned by changing how we use social media. It isn’t a problem that can be solved by giving every simple greeting a thirty-minute therapy session on our deepest life issues. Rather, it involves looking at yourself with clear, unbiased eyes (as unbiased as possible anyway, because they’re your eyes so… just roll with me, here). Don’t let someone else’s victory equate to your own failure. Acknowledge the fact that you’re on different journeys, with different milestones, and it isn’t a competition.

But all of this isn’t even the very best way to stop this lie. All you need to do is accept the fact that it is one. Think of the most “perfect” person you know — the person you wish you could be. GUESS WHAT? They get overwhelmed. They feel inadequate. They make mistakes. EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY — EVERY SINGLE WAY — SOMETIMES. When we compare similarities instead of differences, we find our degrees of separation are much closer than we think.

So, hey. Whatever lies you’re telling yourself? Recognize that’s what they are. If you can’t see the truth alone, talk to other people. Don’t be so afraid to show some of your mess, because other people have mess, too. They do. It doesn’t have to be the same as yours to be real.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:32

the lies i tell myself, part 2

the lies i tell myself, part 2

“Hey mama, do you think if you won a national handwriting contest you’d be on the news?”

“Uh, what?”

(Sigh) “MAMA. Let’s say you enter a handwriting contest and you win. Would your picture be on the news? I’m doing a handwriting contest at school, and I’m worried if I win, my picture will be on the news. If a bad guy with a gun saw my picture, he could try and shoot me for my prize money!”

I wish I could write here that I just made this little exchange up. But I didn’t. This was what Boone asked me before going to bed one night, and it caught me totally and completely off guard. I stumbled through platitudes like “we live in a really safe place,” and “no one at school wants to put you in any danger.” He was tired, thankfully, and decided it was OK to participate in the handwriting contest after all.

(I didn’t point out that the winner of a national handwriting contest probably has more thoughtful penmanship than my son, who occasionally forgets the”e” at the end of his name.)

(In his defense, this is some pretty solid cursive.)

Now is where I sadly point out that this conversation about school and guns happened prior to the recent school shooting in Florida.

And so, knowing that my sensitive, anxious child would possibly hear about this tragedy within his own school, it got me thinking. I had just told him no one at school wants to put him in danger. We just said we live in a safe place. How many parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had had similar conversations? I had no idea what I’d say to Boone. I had no idea what we would talk about. I didn’t know how to alleviate fears while answering questions, to simultaneously prepare him for and shield him from the world. And it led me to the the next lie I tell myself:

As a parent, I need to have all of the answers.

Growing up, I was privileged to have not only great parents, but also a rich community of caring, invested, intelligent adults. As far as I was concerned, these people did have all of the answers. Logic would only follow that when I was an adult, I’d have all of the answers too. Even as a child, I loved answers. I craved knowledge. I couldn’t wait to have everything figured out.

Hi, I’m Jennie, I’m 33, and I have very little figured out.

So when I sat down with Boone to talk to him about the shooting in Parkland, I glossed a bit over the gory details and reminded him about what to do if he ever sees a gun (go away from it and find a grown up you trust) and if he ever encounters a stranger acting suspicious (again, grown up you trust). I also winced a bit as I talked about what he’d do if he were ever in a scary situation like that at school: listen to your teacher. Don’t tell jokes. Stay quiet and do exactly what the grownups say. He accepted all of this much easier than I thought he would. I felt pretty great about all of my answers. And then…

“Mom, what if I die?”

Oh, blow to my chest.

I said, “Everyone dies sometime. You’ll probably be very, very old. You’ll have lived a full and awesome life. You’ll be ready. And then you’ll go to Heaven! Which is the best place ever!”

“OK, cool. Well, what’s Heaven like?”

Guys, I don’t know what Heaven is like. I’ve never been there. And I could have quoted some scripture about pearly gates and streets of gold, but this is not what Boone was after. I know this because of his follow-up questions:

“And what will I do there? Will I ever come back to earth? Do you think once everybody dies, God will just start the earth over again? Will there be dinosaurs again? Can I see them from Heaven, do you think?”

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know

A small part of me wanted to give him something concrete. I wanted to give an answer for every question, but I didn’t have an answer for every question. So I used an old teacher trick to buy some time: “what do YOU think?” Then I realized I needed to teach my son something. Something that isn’t related to the violence or the afterlife or dinosaurs.

“Hey bud… there are some things we can know the answers to. 2+2 is always 4. Our dog is a mammal. These are facts we know. And then there are other things… things nobody really knows. You can think about those things as you grow up. I don’t know what Heaven is like, exactly. But I do know that I will go there when I die, and it will be better than anything I could ever imagine. And I do know that I will always do everything in my power to keep you safe.”

And we hugged, and we moved on, and I felt halfway decent until I realized tomorrow will likely bring another crisis I don’t have answers for. And when he’s a teen, getting his heart broken? Forget about it. I don’t know anything.

And I think that’s OK. I never want to communicate to my children that we can’t know everything so we shouldn’t try. I want them to know they can be 33 and still asking questions without answers. Learning doesn’t stop when we graduate from school. And I need them to know that not knowing something? It’s never a flaw. It’s an opportunity.

Thanks for checking out this week’s lie, and aren’t you pleased to know I tell myself so many there’s another new lie for you next week?! If this resonated with you, please feel free to like, comment, or share.

focus tips and focus tricks

Hello! Thanks so much for joining me into this look at childhood ADHD. If you’re here for the first time, welcome! This is the final installment of a series on childhood ADHD. If you want to catch up, you can find my personal experiences mothering a child with ADHD here: focus, part 1 and focus, part 2. You can also find a post on ADHD from the perspective of a pediatrician (and a dad) here: focus, md.

Today’s post comes largely from you, dear readers. I sent out requests on social media asking any of you with experience with ADHD (either for yourself or for a loved one) to answer two questions: When did you first suspect ADHD and what made you think it was a possibility, and What did you do to manage it? The responses from all of you were fantastic, so thank you so much for sharing! I’m keeping all of the submissions anonymous, but please know that just about all of these could have come directly from me (but they didn’t!). ADHD seems big and scary, but progress can be made and success can be found — especially in community.

A recent drawing of Boone’s. Intentionally upside-down. Appropriately so, I’d say, give our topic.


Thanks for being in this community.

Without further ado:

When did you first suspect ADHD? What made you think it was a possibility?

“When my son was in kindergarten, he would get completely wrapped up in a TV show, and we would have to physically block his view or remove him to get his attention. He was very impulsive. He has NEVER been a good sleeper, it could take hours sometimes to get him to sit still and relax enough to fall asleep.”

“I could watch my child read a whole book by herself and finish worksheets in no time flat by the time she was in kindergarten, but I could never get her to remember really simple things like bringing her jacket or lunchbox home.”

“When I was younger, I was at the top of my class, but focus was always a struggle. Looking back now, I am so thankful my parents had me tested because it taught me that my mind doesn’t work the same way everyone else’s does, and that’s not a bad thing.”

“My mom suggested she noticed some attention issues with my third grader for a while now, but I brushed it off until his teacher said she was concerned because he is so far behind and he really struggles to say seated and focused.”

“We suspected it at age five. Our child couldn’t do anything that wasn’t very plainly scheduled out. Free time was a disaster.”

“I was diagnosed around age ten. My parents had to remind me to stop, wait, count to ten, and reorient myself.”

“My adult son was diagnosed in seventh grade. He was always hyper as a child, so my husband and I suspected it as early as age three.”

What did you do to manage ADHD?

**Note: I’m not including medications in this list, though several people (almost everyone) included them in some way in their management plans. Medications can and do help, as I’ve mentioned already, but that’s a conversation you’ll need to have with a medical doctor.**

“Structure, organization, verbal rewards for good choices.”

“I needed to create a quiet work space without distractions for my daughter so she could focus on her schoolwork. She also does her school work at the same time each day.”

“Routine, no red dye, cognitive behavior therapy.”

“We would do homework in small increments and pause to literally run around the house a couple times and then back to homework. Also, working toward rewards would inspire him. He would also need detailed instructions. ‘Go clean up your room’ never got him anywhere. ‘Clothes off the floor and downstairs, bed made, vacuum…’”

“I found yelling and getting worked up did NOT help. As frustrated as I would get, I needed to talk to my daughter in a really calm and clear voice, giving simple but direct instructions once she was giving me eye contact. She needed really clear guidelines and structure.”

“We use a board in the morning to help him remember what he needs to do and I’ve started writing reminders on his hand on the key things to bring home from school everyday. L for Lunchbox, C for Coat, etc. We also have a 504 plan (Individualized Education Plan) at school so his teachers are aware of his struggles.”

“I think the best thing my parents ever did was always tell me that having ADHD did not mean I couldn’t do just as much and be just as successful as everyone else; it just meant I’d sometimes have to do things in a different way.”

If you have anything you’d like to add, please do so in the comments! I’m grateful for the dialogue and awesome notes I’ve received from so many of you. This concludes the Premeditated Mama ADHD series, but I’d always love to further the discussion with you one on one! If you aren’t already a member, join the “Premeditated Mama” page on facebook and let’s continue this journey together.

focus, part 1

focus, part 1

When Boone was three, he had some awful bedtimes. During that three year old summer, he would be OK during the day, but as soon as the first hint of nighttime was in the air, it was like a switch would flip. His eyes got wide, his body went tense, and it was like he wasn’t in control of himself anymore.

It was rough. But, I theorized, he was THREE. And adjusting to a new baby brother. And one day, he’d grow out of it.

When Boone was four, the awful bedtimes continued. The same wide eyes and tense muscles, the same nightly stress for his mama. “He just needs to be in school full time,” I thought. “He’ll do much better when he gets worn out from learning all day.”

When Boone was five and started kindergarten, we had some bedtime peace. After school each day, I’d ask “what did you do?” And he would mumble something like “I don’t know” and shrug when I’d ask him where he left his lunch box. Or jacket. Or shoes.

But, clearly, this was an adjustment. He was still adapting, right? Adapting to a full time school day, to school rules, to… everything. I was noticing that other kids were telling their parents everything that happened throughout their day. Boone still wasn’t… but that was hardly anything to worry about, I decided. He was excelling at academics; one of his class’s top readers, top spellers, top workers.

When Boone was six and in first grade, his teacher said to me, “he’s clearly very smart, but his focus is not there.”

Umm… what?

WHOA.

WHOA.

My smart angel precious baby child wasn’t focusing well? At first I dove into some heavy denial (maybe she’s just remembering days he was kind of sick, maybe she’s confusing him with someone else?), but then I thought about the bedtimes. Then I thought about the times he couldn’t tell me what he did during a day of school. Then I thought about all of the lost lunch boxes and clothing items. Then I remembered when my husband Jason, the pediatrician, said, “you know, I think Boone has ADHD.”

I’m very open about my own mental health. Depression, anxiety, and meds are not topics I’ll shy away from.

When they’re about me.

But with Boone… I didn’t want him to bear labels and stigmas so young. He wasn’t at an age where he could “own a diagnosis,” or so I thought, and I did not want to push that on him. And besides, didn’t ADHD give kids unbridled energy? And if he had ADHD, could he do all of the things he does, like speed through novellas and ace spelling tests? In first grade he was doing multiplication worksheets, for crying out loud!

Too cool for school (and focus issues…)?

So, like any reasonable person would do, I cried and stressed out and ate chocolate and avoided making decisions for as long as possible.

But then I realized the problems weren’t going away, despite every “focus hack” I found online or in books. While Boone could sit and read an entire book, if he were told to do something he didn’t want to do, it was an epic battle of wills. It didn’t matter if he was capable of, say, practicing piano, or writing a short journal entry, if he didn’t want to do it, it was a struggle. And not just a little, tiny, let’s talk about it struggle. Nope. It was three year old bedtimes all over again.

So I made an appointment with our pediatrician (who is not Boone’s father, by the way, going for unbiased opinions here) and after some surveys with Boone’s teacher, Jason, and myself, it was clear: Boone’s focus needed help. We had an official diagnosis of ADHD and a plan to trial some low dose medication.

My questions still lingered. Where was all of his energy? Oh yeah… at bedtimes. How could he read so fast? Oh yeah… he was choosing the books he wanted to read. What about the multiplication?! Oh yeah… even though he could solve the problems, getting him to sit down to work on it was a chore, to put it mildly.

I had a little more research to do, but I was ready to help my son reach his full potential in any way I could. I filled a prescription for Concerta, said a prayer, and began to watch and wait.

For part two of this post, come back to this blog NEXT WEEK, Wednesday, September 27.

all the things i do not know

I like knowing stuff.

And based on how many questions my kids ask me each day, I mean, it’s a good thing. Like any modern day mom, I answer what I can and google what I can’t. And this little arrangement has made me the smartest person in our family — according to our kids, anyway. On most days. Unless daddy bought donuts – or took the boys to a park – or, generally, is home.

Either way, if the kids have questions, I have answers. It’s a good arrangement that only makes me want to lock myself in a closet with headphones to get a break from the constant “hey mom?”s some of the time. And that’s pretty good!

And then I was putting Boone to bed one night…

“Hey mom?”

Here we go…

“Where do people go when they die?”

“Oh, um, Heaven, if they believe in Jesus.”

“What if they don’t?”
“Um, Hell, I think.”
“OK well do they go straight to Hell? Because I have heard people say that. Do they meet Jesus first and then Jesus sends them there? What if Jesus forgets I believe in Jesus and accidentally sends me there? Will you be in Heaven when I get there?”

We have now reached the point in the conversation where I basically look like this:

I am a believer. I believe that Jesus died so I could spend eternity in Heaven. I believe John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have eternal life.” But I don’t have answers for like… any of Boone’s questions there. I haven’t died. I haven’t personally met someone who took a death vacation and gave me the slide show presentation of afterlife pics. But Boone looked at me so expectantly. So hungry for knowledge. And these are good questions! I didn’t want to dismiss them. So I sent up a quick help me prayer, and I responded.

“Buddy, I don’t know.”

“Um… what? You always know things.”

I told him no one has all of the answers. But that I believe in Jesus and I believe I will go to Heaven when I die. I don’t know what Heaven looks like, I don’t know if you and I will be the same people we are now. I believe you will go to Heaven too, if you believe in Jesus, and do not worry, God won’t get your beliefs mixed up. Then I let out the big breath I had been holding in and I asked, “hey Boone, what do you think about all of this?”

Jonah has questions also.

He basically echoed a lot of my sentiments and said his fair share of “I don’t know”s. He ended with, “but you know what? I think I’ll see you there, and we’ll be the same, you and me.”

I grew up with a very black and white view of salvation. Believe in Jesus = Heaven. Don’t believe in Jesus = Hell. End of story. Any lingering questions about Heaven of Hell were answered with “it’s perfect!” or “it’s terrible!” and that was that. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to really own the questions I had about my faith. Until I wrestled with these thoughts, I don’t think I really had the same understanding about my faith. It wasn’t personal.

I want my children to believe everything I believe. It’s true. They’re my little human copies, right? I want us to be on the same page about everything. But I know that won’t happen. If my father’s deep love of olives on pizza (double olives on pizza – WHAT) is any indication, kids just don’t always follow in their parents footsteps. And if kids did just blindly follow, would my dad like that I ate his terrible olive pizza even if I hated it? Maybe, I mean, because he’d probably have been able to order it more, but I think he’d be happier if I ate it because I truly enjoyed the nuance of the rubbery seawater taste of those awful little black and green fruits? Nuts? Fungi? What the heck are olives, anyway?

Back to my point. I want Boone and Jonah to share in my beliefs, but I want them to make it personal. They need to think and hear and choose for themselves. And in order to help this along… I have to say “I don’t know.” I will tell them what I think. But I will be honest about what I know — and what I don’t.

For someone who lives with answers at her fingertips, it’s hard to admit what I don’t know. Especially to the little people I’m raising. But I truly believe to help our children find the answers, we’ll have to admit that we don’t have them.

how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

a quick word to my summer sahms

Hi, SAHMs.

(Not-SAHMs please feel free to keep reading. I don’t want to alienate you. I just can’t claim to really know your experience, so I wouldn’t be so bold as to write you about it… ok great, thanks.)

SUMMER IS COMING, Y’ALL

It’s the end of May, ladies. You know what this means, right? It means, if you live near me, the end of the school is shockingly close. (If you live somewhere else, your child’s school year may already be done, and I’m sending you strength, mama.)
Look. I love my kids. Nothing in the whole world gives me greater pleasure than watching them laugh, successfully tie their shoes, paint an avant-garde masterpiece, or run toward me for a hug. These are the moments, friends… these are the moments we cherish.

We also love waving good-bye as the school bus carries them away for eight hours.

(Homeschooling SAHMS please know that I consider you to be heaven’s strongest angels, sent to earth for familial superiority. Rock on, gals.)

I’m in introvert-mom, and I used to feel guilt at having to “take a break” from the mom life I really and truly hold dear. There just comes a time in the day when my brain starts to shut down. No amount of sleep can stop the fatigue of people-ing from setting in, and it takes all I can do to keep from screaming “I CAN’T, I’M WASHING MY HAIR!” at the sweet bundles of life I helped create. During the school year, I do have a toddler at home, but when I feel the weight of the interactive world, I can put on a television show. I can declare it nap time. I can, occasionally, find some quiet play that the little one can do independently (in a perfect world, but every now and then, people surprise you). In the summer, I have two kids who want to do very different things at all times. 

(If you have more than two kids, LORD HAVE MERCY.)

The little wants to stick to an early, school-day schedule, and the big wants to sleep in and go a little slower. Between the two, the time for me dwindles, and each night I find myself collapsing into bed, equal parts physically and mentally exhausted. 

Are you there too? Are you anxious about the long, warm, routine-free days? Me too. I get it. So here is my promise to you: I will never, ever judge your social media. If it’s sunny and perfect outside and everyone’s posting pictures of the beach, but you post a picture of the blanket fort you made in your air-conditioning with the blinds shut and the lights off? I support you. If you cancel our play date because summer is wearing you out? Don’t even feel bad. If you send me stress-texts all day about how crazy everyone is? I’ll send you wine, virtual or physical, once your littles are asleep (and immediately before you are). In this summer, let’s support each other even if we all work on surviving in different ways. 

And, for you? The best gift you can give yourself is grace. Your summer may not be pinterest-perfect. You may find yourself tearing up a bit when the “Back to School” signs return to Target, and that’s OK

And remember, if you need a fellow in-trenches mom to vent and drink wine, I’m your girl.

Happy summer!

take the pictures, take them all

This is Jonah.

You may know Jonah from such posts as you are (2) going on (3) and everything i need to know i learned from my toddler. He’s a character. His birthday is coming up soon, and when a friend texted me to ask what he’s into, I replied “destruction, nudity, and spilling milk.” Because really, when it comes to interests, those are definitely in his top five. He also takes photos at a near-professional level. He can go from screaming about the milk he spilled to grinning a cheese-face with tears still in his eyes. He sees the camera, he performs.

This is Boone.

You may know Boone from such posts as the birthday boy, part 1 and your kid is a jerk (calm down). (I called him “John” in that post, but it’s Boone, it’s all Boone.) Boone just wants to make you laugh and, in turn, laugh himself. He’s a sweet little space cadet at the best of times, and at the craziest of times, he oscillates between a hyperactive half monkey/half frog – he’s spry, but also slippery – and an unmoving pet rock that repeatedly asks for snacks. All of this to say, he’s a great kid who has a wonderful smile — but we hardly ever see his true smile in photos. If you say to Boone, “smile for the picture!” welp, you never really know what you’re going to get.

The many faces of Boone. (And a rare not-camera-ready Jonah.)

I take a lot of pictures. And videos. And I post them on social media, for the world (or the world who cares).

I’ve read a lot of articles and opinions about “moms today.” Bunmi Latidan, one of my favorite tell-it-like-it-is mom-writers, summed it up pretty perfectly:

How To Be a Mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.

How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.

(This is why we’re crazy.)

Um, yes. Amen. This IS why we’re crazy, Bunmi. If you are a fan of funny moms in general, I do recommend checking out some of Bunmi’s hilarious books. Her newest novel, Confessions of a Domestic Failure, is out now and you can find it here here. (This is not an ad. I’m just a huge supporter of funny moms.)

But anyway; back to pictures. Every time we post a picture of our family lives, we open ourselves up to criticism. Even silent criticism – maybe especially silent criticism. We never know who will look at the picture and think “wow, I would never parent like that.” But we also may never know who will look at the pictures of our real life and say, “phew, solidarity” about our messy house, our kids running around in the clothes they picked themselves (that are woefully unmatched) and a smile that would make a mom roll her eyes on picture day. Take the pictures. Take them all. Share your real life with people. It doesn’t have to be online. Meet with a mom friend and tell her about the time when your Almost-three drew in sharpie marker all over your living room wall (Purell works great on that, by the way). Don’t worry if she’s going to ask you what you were doing when the mini-Picasso was creating. Don’t worry if she’ll ask you why the Almost-three could reach the sharpies. Just tell the story, embrace the realness, and wait for her to reciprocate with a tale of her own. If she doesn’t right away, that’s OK. She’ll know you can handle the messy reality of parenting. She’ll tuck that away.

We have smartphones. We have the ability to take thousands of digital pictures whenever we want. If we only take the perfectly posed photos with cute backdrops and forced smiles, we miss so much of our parenting journey. When our children are grown, when we watch them become parents, let’s pull out the pictures, the stories, the memories of real life – not the highlights reel.

Post the pictures that may paint you in a less-than-perfect light.

Tell the stories that don’t end with happily ever after.

Embrace the real, share the real, live the real.

school days and the introverted mom  

I love you, people. I do.

I just want you to… go away. Sometimes! I just want you to go away sometimes. It would be helpful if I could control everyone’s proximity to me, actually. Like, right now, I’m a party of one in a sushi restaurant typing and drinking tea. It’s beautiful, and I love being alone, but I wouldn’t mind if a friend walked in right now and sat down. There are other times when I am sitting alone and can’t silently plead with my eyes enough for anyone nearby to please just stay away. This isn’t because I’m a terrible person (at least, that’s what I tell myself).

It’s because I’m an introvert.

I love people, but being around them for too long is exhausting. I can’t begin to explain how my energy takes a toll when I’m around people, even my best friends and family. I know that I need to have regular periods of time where I can recharge by myself or I’ll get cranky and tired. 

To sum up: group projects aren’t my jam. To make it through the group project that is life, I have to guard my time carefully. I spend A LOT of time with the little people I created. At the end of the day, I usually need to unwind instead of running off to meet friends or attend to other responsibilities outside of the house.

(That’s not to say I never do these things. I just don’t constantly do them.) 

When Boone started kindergarten, I knew I had to make a plan for the kind of “school mom” I’d be. This led me to create the following list, so fellow introvert-mamas, buckle up! This one’s for you. (Extrovert mamas, keep on doing you. Thanks for visiting the classroom and working on the playground while I throw Starbucks gift cards at the teachers and send the occasional encouraging email. But hey, extro-moms, maybe keep reading anyway so you see how the rest of us feel about things? Thanks; you’re the best.)

Jonah’s an introvert, but he is also a toddler, so he does not have to be polite about reaching his people limit.

1. FACEBOOK.

Mamas, let Facebook be your friend. I’m not saying immediately friend your child’s teacher (you’ll both want a semi-safe space on the Internet), but I am saying expand your friends list to include fellow moms in your chid’s class. Before we started this journey called school, all of Boone’s friends were essentially the children of my friends. Oh sure, we’d play up the kid-friendship so they wouldn’t think we were actually going to a play date for mommy. I knew my friends well, and we usually had pretty similar parenting styles, so I never felt like they were judging how I did something. Once school began, however, new names entered the friends list. There’s every chance these names will stick around for a long time. (I mean, I met my husband during my school journey, so I generally think long-term.) 

Facebook is a great way for introverts to connect with the world. While in person I may occasionally come across as bored or awkward or tired or aloof, I can proof-read comments on Facebook. I can learn real things about people that won’t naturally come up in first conversations. I’m not the queen of small talk. I need real content or I start making bad jokes. It’s only fun for a little while, and then it just seems sad.

2. DO WHAT YOU CAN.

So you want to help in the classroom but the thought of being surrounded by 20-something kids who all have needs and stories sounds awful? Email the teacher and ask if she has any paperwork you can do, extra school supplies you can buy, or basically anything you can do by yourself and drop off later. There’s a reason why this world is divided into extroverts and introverts — somebody needs to listen to all of the kid-stories, and somebody else needs to run the copy machine.

3. GIFTS NEVER HURT ANYBODY.

OK, before you think I buy friendships, hear me out. I’m not talking about a weekly delivery of a dozen roses sent right into your child’s classroom. That… could potentially send the wrong message. I’m talking about the occasional $5 gift card to Starbucks with a note that says “You’re amazing… and probably tired; get some coffee.” The gift doesn’t have to be a tangible thing, either; a quick email with a cute story your child told you about school would also spread some joy. Teachers get a LOT of emails everyday. Between district requirements, classroom issues, school functions, and probably a million spam emails from fundraising companies, a real, brief, heartfelt note could really brighten a day.

4. STEP OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

Last year I helped plan an “Elegant Kindergarten Graduation Event.” I stopped for iced coffee on my way to planning meetings and psyched myself up in my car before hand. You can do this… You are a valuable member of this team… Team work makes the dream work. And it did! The small group of event planners pulled off a wonderful experience for the kids and their parents. Some planners played bigger roles than others, but in the end, everyone did what they could and the event was a success.

5. GRACE.

Give grace to every teacher, every student, every office worker, every janitor, every lunch attendant, every parent, just everyone that you come across. We all know everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about, so give grace so freely. The mom you think is rude could be having a rough season. The dad who misses school events could be working overtime to provide for his family. The mom who stands quietly in the background (hey) could be a great friend when she relaxes a bit and stops trying too hard to make a relevant and hilarious joke about essentially anything.

Boone is an extrovert who needs people so much, he’ll befriend store mannequins if that’s all that is available.

Happy school year, moms and dads. Whether you parent a school lover, a school hater, or a school-indifferenter, I hope this is your best year yet. And if it isn’t, let’s go get coffee or wine and chat about it.

Just please let’s be done when I want to be done.

I’ll have some sort of signal so I don’t seem rude. 

I’ll tug on my left ear and you’ll say “BOY, I AM TIRED NOW, BETTER GET GOING.”

Thanks. 

You’re a peach.

Really. 

your village

I think it’s safe to assume we have all heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.” Even if you haven’t, the meaning is fairly clear: we’re all in this together.

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Oh, lovely friend who came directly to the hospital from her job hours after Ev’s birth and told me I was beautiful even though I felt entirely exhausted and puffy? VILLAGE.

When I hear someone reference their “village,” my mind first travels to the people who helped raise me —

my mom, who stayed up sewing costumes for plays and Halloweens,
my dad, who instilled in me a lifelong love of all things Disney
the aunts who taught me how to fish and how to play piano
the teachers who taught me how to sing and how to think
members of my first church, who introduced me to God

And then I think about those who have helped and continue to help my husband and I raise our boys —

my in-laws, for rushing over to watch our kids even when they are puking
my siblings, by blood or by marriage, for loving John and Ev so much
my friends, who, at different times, have brought us food and prayed over us
my friends, who I could answer honestly when asked how I was doing after a miscarriage
my friends, who tell me stories about their crazy kids so I don’t feel so alone

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Oh, lovely friend who accompanied me to the Riverbank Run Expo while her lovely husband stayed home with her kids AND mine? VILLAGE.

My village is huge. If you are reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you have been or currently are at the very least a temporary resident. See, I’m an observer. I’ve learned parenting tricks from people I’ve never spoken to. Additionally, I have some very important people living in my village who I am not regularly in contact with, and who may be unaware of their valuable influence on my family’s life.

One of these individuals is a woman named Teresa. Jay and I met her soon after we got married and moved out of state. We went back and visited once since moving away, and she was able to meet John (Ev was a tiny blueberry squirming around in my uterus at the time), but otherwise she doesn’t really know my kids (at least, not in a “real life”-way). We moved away from her when I was pregnant with John. She belonged to the same church as Jay and I, and we were gifted with many lovely things on our last Sunday (related: this is how you make a pregnant woman ugly-cry). She gave us two board books, Jamberry and Barnyard Dance, along with a note that said these were two of her daughters’ favorites when they were young. I thought of her every time I read those books to John. I think of her every time I read those books to Ev. I’m lucky that my boys love books — but they really love these books. We love to pretend to eat the cascading blueberries in Jamberry and “promenade two by two” in Barnyard Dance. (And of course, Barnyard Dance was our introduction to all things Sandra Boynton, and she is simply the best.)

I follow Teresa and her daughters (now successful, strong women; kids when I knew them prior) on facebook, and I take special note of her support for her children. I know that she is a strong, successful woman herself, and it makes me believe that strong women make strong kids (who, it turns out, grow up to be strong adults). She has interests and passions outside of parenting (and of course, within parenting as well) that makes me realize the importance of having “non-mom” interests in my life. Her impact is strong, even across so much distance.

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Every single person who cares about these boys (shown here in an old but good photo) and their parents, whether or not they are parents themselves? VILLAGE. VILLAGE. VILLAGE.

So. This brings me to — who is your Teresa? Which member (or members) of your village play an important role but might not know it? Please — I implore you — let them know! Share this post on facebook and tag them. Send them a note and tell them how much they are appreciated. Get to know the members of your village, and you may learn you belong to more than one.