Friday, November 2, 2018

Day 2. It's a strong start. Let's pretend to be optimistic.

I've got a ton of stuff I need to write for work, so this is all that is happening here today. For now. Might be back later....

Thursday, November 1, 2018

NaNoWriMo maybe but probably not

I have forty five minutes to do this before I need to leave for work, but the four year old and the ten year old will be home any second, so this might end up being the shortest NaNoWriMo submission in the history of the universe.

Then again, I managed not to blog at all last month.

I've been busy. Not just busy, but like the soul crushing kind of busy, interspersed with all kinds of old traumas resurfacing in ways that have made me nauseous and anxious and angry and more. I'm not talking about any of that stuff because I just can't. It is so awful and gross and the worst part of really old trauma is that your brain does a really fantastic job of suppressing a lot of it until and unless something dredges it up from the murky pond bottom and exposes it for what it truly was. And that happened for me this past month.

That, and my general life approach for assuming the best about people was wrong. Really, really wrong, and yeah, that's about that old trauma thing too. Suffice to say that I'm not talking about it much with very many people, but that there are a few people that I have opened up to about it all because I need to talk to someone. 

It just sucks.

That, and we've had a lot of health care stuff going on here. Plus Halloween costume building and a kid applying to college and a whole bunch of life. 

I don't get to even touch the computer much unless I am prepping for work or editing pictures, which is also actually work but doesn't feel as much like work because I love it. I have been doing a lot of senior photo shoots lately and I think they are one of my new favorite type of session. 

Anyhow, I don't really having anything shareable that is super profound at the moment, but I wanted to force myself to make some words appear on the screen because I am trying to convince myself to actually DO this challenge this year since I really DO have a book I am working on, and so even if I am not writing here, I hope that I am actually writing.

I hope you all are well. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

To The One Who Sings Showtunes Instead of Taking Naps

Dear LAK,

I still haven't come up with a new nickname for you to use here. I should work on that, I suppose. It's probably vastly inappropriate to refer to a preschooler as "Little AssKicker", but that's kinda my thing anyway. Vastly inappropriate. Which is also probably why you were singing "Turn It Off" from the Book of Mormon musical yesterday when you were supposed to be sleeping.


I mean, who lets their kids listen to that soundtrack?


You're going to be four in a few days, although I am pretty sure that you've already decided that you ARE four. All you need to confirm it is the birthday cake you have been talking about for months. You want me to re-create your cake from last year, but somehow also bury dinosaurs in it and add a volcano.

Which will probably happen. Your sisters are pretty good at coming up with those designs.

You are at school right now as I write this. You mostly love school, although there is always that brief moment of hesitation when you are supposed to be lining up to go in where you grab my leg or climb under my skirt and hang on for dear life. And then you shrug and figure you've gotta do what you've gotta do, so off you go.

You've gotten pretty independent this past year, and although I think it weirded you out to be in a room with kids you own age at first, you are loving it. The singing is probably your favorite, since you come home singing a different song every week.

The sun still rises and sets on your siblings, and you are glued to them from the second they get home in the afternoon.

You have developed an absolutely hilarious sense of humor, and somehow you can already conceptualize sarcasm and hyperbole, which is pretty freaking amazing. Your most favorite word to say right now is "caddywhompus". And you know what it means.

Every time it is windy, "Mom, the rainbow flag is caddywhompus again".

And you keep reminding me until I fix it.

You're solidly in the phase of development where you are learning constantly, trying out new words, figuring out how things work, asking questions, and wanting to soak it all up. It's kind of tiring as a parent, but so cool to watch your little brain develop.

You started riding your bike and are forever begging someone to take you outside so you can play with the skateboard or basketball or draw on the driveway with chalk. You love going to all the parks, although you've already learned that the best park is rocketship park. Because it is. Obviously.

You aren't a little baby anymore, though you still grab me by the cheeks and whisper in my ear when you're stalling to take a nap....

Hold me a minute.

And I always do, because no matter how big you ever get, you'll always be my baby. And you know that being adult sized hasn't stopped your siblings from sitting on my lap, so I doubt it will ever stop you either.

Try not to have any major injuries this year. I know that you think you are Spider-Man, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't end up in a cast jumping off of stuff. So either don't do that, or work on your landings, Spidey.

Keep being silly, sweet boy. Keep singing showtunes and doing whatever that weird dance is that you do.

Keep trying to keep up with your brothers and sisters. Keep wanting to learn about everything. Keep hanging on to my leg when you need to and keep making yourself let go when it is time.

I'll be here, cheering you on from where you don't see, ready to hold you a minute.

I love you, Turkey Man.

Happy Birthday.

Oh, and go easy on the peaches. Other people in the house would occasionally like to eat one. ;)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

It's weird, being a writer...

I have drafts of several books. Some of them I have been working on for over a decade at this point. Some have been shelved, will probably never be finished since who I am now is not the same person that started writing them at all.

I have a few of them outlined in detail, was working on one for the first time in a few years this morning. I promised myself that when the baby started preschool that I would force myself to do this.

Even if the house is a mess. Even if there is something else demanding my attention. Even then.

I have been distracted for a long time. Maybe forever.

I'm terrible at finishing things.

I know that about myself.

I have all these stories that need to be told, and then the self doubt sets in. It's not good enough. No one is going to care.

I can't write this part of the story anonymously, so I shouldn't bother.

Should still write it anyway?

Can I attach my name to this?

Don't even try.

The best part of being a writer is the self deprecating part. Where you poke fun at yourself and your abundant failures and inconsistencies and flaws.


That was funny.

I'm literally sitting in a coffee shop because I know that if I went home, I would find something else to do other than write. I know this about myself, and so my books will eventually get finished because I sat in a coffee shop for a few hours at a time instead of mopping my floor.

I really need to mop my floor.

Part of it is the futility of cleaning with kids. At some point, I realized that I was fighting a constant uphill battle. Nothing will ever stay clean anyway, so if I need to do something else for a little while, I should.

And these books, they need out of my head.

The one that I was working on today is one I started officially writing about five years ago. I haven't looked at the drafts of the chapters at all in years.

I thought that maybe I'd start feeling different about needing to write this one, but as it turns out, I need to write it even more now than I did back then.

So maybe it's time this time.

And if it isn't, it can wait. Again.

I really do need to mop that floor.

Being a writer is weird.

When people ask me what I do, I'm always a little hesitant when I call myself a writer. I still don't feel like I deserve the title.

Ah, the nagging self doubt.


Gets up and walks away.

Wait. I am not home.

I can't just randomly start mopping the floor here, in a coffee shop.

I mean, I probably could, but then I'd get weird looks and get asked to leave or kicked out.

Guess that means I should make the most of this time and actually write. Dammit.

Friday, August 24, 2018

When Writing Is Necessary

I have been needing to write all week long, haven't had more than a few minutes to sit in the same place let alone do anything else. I have been working so much, dealing with the kids and their ongoing issues, driving to and from so many appointments. I lost track of what day it even was a few times this week.

I would like to believe that it will get better soon, but it probably won't. Not for a while, anyway.

Even though I have a long, long list of all the things I should be doing right now, I am sitting here feverishly pecking away at the keyboard because I need to write. My soul requires it.

I gave myself 30 minutes.

This post showed up in my memories either yesterday or the day before and I knew that I was deep in all that still, on top of dealing with even more than I was at the time I wrote it. And I knew that I needed to send it to a friend, which I still haven't done because I just haven't had time.

And then yesterday, the inspirational black hole that is Instagram told me that it isn't that I don't have time, it is that I haven't made time.


For real. I'm not about to list all the stuff going on in my life right now, all the reasons that I am as busy as I am, all the demands being placed on my calendar and my heart and my mind, but for fuck's sake could we stop it with this unhelpful shit? Not everyone actually has the luxury of free time and Thor knows that I don't have any of it to spare right at this moment.

Liiiiiiiiike life isn't all about choices all the time. Sometimes we are at the mercy of things outside of our control and insisting that everything is something we have the ability to alter if we choose to is bullshit.

Not to mention the heaping load of shame it puts on the shoulders of people who are currently the least able to control their circumstances.

Privilege. It's what's for dinner.

Well, not really....but it's alllll over the internet.

Which I have hardly been on, because I've been so busy. You know, by choice. (Eyeroll so hard I can see my brain.)

What the hell was the point I was trying to make before I got distracted?

It really has been that kind of week.
I'll get it back eventually.

Anyway, it has been so far beyond exhausting for me lately because in addition to all the normal beginning of the year stuff and working all the time stuff, I have had two kids go through lengthy evaluations at Children's. Let me tell you...answering questions for 8 hours about every single imaginable aspect of your child's development and personality and quirks and strengths and challenges is fucking exhausting. Then do it again a week later for another kid.

On the upside, the people officially in charge of all this stuff confirmed that I know my kids pretty darn well, so well in fact that my assessments of what is going on have been eerily accurate thus far. So I guess I have that going for me.

Woo for being right about the wrong shit.


I also made a post this week on Facebook expressing frustration at the whole "dyslexia is a gift" thing that so many people claim. It seems particularly popular in the books written for non-dyslexia-having parents of dyslexia-having kids. And I'm here to call bullshit on that too. Sure, he's got a gorgeous complex mind that can come up with ways to solve problems all the rest of us couldn't ever imagine....sure. And maybe that is connected to the dyslexia in some way. But,'s not a gift. And it's not a gift because nearly all that anyone cares about with kids his age is his ability to read. And he's never going to be very good at it. And all of my suspicions about all of those things were right on. So, universe, spare me the inspirational speech about how #blessed he is, and let's talk about some accommodations that will make his life a little bit less difficult all the time instead.

Oh. I remember what I was writing about when this started.

I told you all I would get back there. Eventually.

Hi. My ADHD is also raging out of control. I think because I am more tired than usual and more stressed than usual and literally being pulled in a million different directions all the time instead of just figuratively having 278 tabs open on the browser of my brain.

The world is my oyster, full of shiny squirrels covered in glitter and dancing in knee high boots.

I had a friend ask me a while back why I don't try medication for it, you know...the ADHD that I
know that I have that I have never formally been diagnosed with because when I was a kid no one cared in general, and even now, the diagnostic criteria are based on boys...

My answer? I don't want to, really. I mean there is a part of me that will forever wonder what I might have been like as a kid, as a teenager, as an adult even, if someone had figured it out at any point before I figured it out myself. There is a part of me that wonders if my life would have gone down a different path. If I would be better at finishing the things I set huge and lofty goals about.

Then reality sets in and reminds me that I've built 41 years of coping skills to function in a world that is always shiny. Mostly. Sometimes I'm not very good at it. But I'm also resistant to change, and I know how to live in this unmedicated body. I don't know if I'm too old to see who I might be. And maybe that scares me a little.


Ooooh, truth is fun, isn't it?

That's not even what I started writing this for. I started writing this because on top of everything else going on, I have been pretty deep in the PTSD trigger for over a week. It has been years since I did EMDR therapy to deal with the constant nightmares and insomnia. Years since I voluntarily relived all that trauma so that my brain could begin to try and process it properly. Years.

And most of the time, I am good. Recovered. Okay.

Until I am not.

And sometimes the triggers will gradually creep up my spine, settle in on my right shoulder and whisper in my ear,

I'm still here. 
You thought you 
could get rid of 
me completely, 
but I might 

I might always be waiting here for you. 

Those times, when I can sense them starting in on me, I can push them away enough, I can carry on with whatever else is going on. Keep being the version of me that lives in after.

But not every time.

Other times, like this time, they aren't so gradual and considerate. They hit me like a grand piano dropped from three stories above my head, leveling me, flattening me, stealing my ability to function normally. And this one did. And kept doing it, over and over and over again, to the point that I am currently unable to read the local news at all. I can't. I just can't.

I sure as hell can't talk about it right now with anyone.

I am doing the best I can to protect myself in all the ways I know how. Making sure I eat well, making sure I don't drink much, making sure I keep my body moving and rested, making sure I grab a few moments here and there to center myself - even if it is in a car in the parking lot outside of a hospital or in a bar full of people I'm about to yell at. I'm doing the best I can, and sometimes it isn't enough.

I cried yesterday for the first time in a long time, but only managed to squeeze out half of one pathetic tear, knowing full well that if I opened up those floodgates, they might not get closed for a long time. So I allowed only one moment of vulnerability to catch the lip of the spillway, then drew the water back.

So, I apologize if there's something I was supposed to do or say or read or think lately and I haven't done it. I really and truly am this busy and overwhelmed these days, and nearly all of those things are things that are not within my control. I'm doing the best I can, trying to keep my head above water while pushing the boat carrying everyone else to shore.

Actually, I don't really apologize. I'm done saying sorry for taking care of myself.

As hard as it is to be here right now, I also know and appreciate that I'm in a much better place than I was not so long ago. I am more capable. I am stronger. I am more able to weather these storms, to answer these questions, to face these challenges.

And this, this right here, is part of what made me stronger. This self indulgent airing of the grievances where I bleed onto the keyboard and tell you nothing and everything at precisely the same time.

I needed to write. For me.

My 30 minutes are up. xo

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Before You Go To School This Year, 2018

I have put this off as long as humanly possible. I can't even really truthfully refer to this as a "before you go to school" letter, since 4/5 of you started back last week...but since the baby hasn't started preschool yet and I have 10.5 hours left until that happens, I'm claiming to have done this on time.

Or waited until the last minute. Either way.

Just so you know, I have been dreading writing this one for the entire summer. Scratch that. Since basically the first day you ever went to school at all, Oldest child.

To the Oldest: It's your last year in high school. You've been receiving letters in the mail from a different school every day it seems. The rest of the world has apparently figured out that you are pretty amazing. This time next year, we'll be moving you in somewhere else. Where that somewhere else will be remains to be seen, but you have lofty goals and ambitions that can only possibly make sense when you are 17 and have the whole wide world in front of you. You've changed what you want to do, or what you think you want to do, more than a few times in these past few years, but it seems like you've landed pretty firmly on teaching. You want to teach music. It makes sense. You've been at this whole music thing for a while now, and though I'm sure it still amuses your middle school music teacher that you have these ambitions now, you do. You weren't always as organized and diligent and focused back then. Or at all, really. You've grown up a lot since those first days in band class. You've spent summers teaching other kids and endless hours at the piano helping a sibling. You've practically begged your sisters to do drumline with you. You were even chosen as drum major for this, your last year in high school, learning before school started that your responsibilities in this leadership position have far more to do with the well-being of the kids you are in charge of than it ever will about the actual music. That's what teaching is. You've got a lot on your plate. A lot. And I know that it is so overwhelming sometimes. Since I wrote the last version of this, you've completed your Eagle Court of Honor, you've traveled to the WGI World Competition with drumline, you totally nailed your SAT and kicked ass in school. Honestly, though, none of that will ever matter to me as much as the rest of it does. The other stuff. The stuff that people don't see. The stuff that can't be objectively measured and added to a resume. The time that you've spent with friends in need. The heaviness of responsibility you've felt laid upon your shoulders, whether it was for family or friends. You've dropped everything to be there for people who needed you most. You've been my eyes and ears and heart far more often than I should be allowed to ask. You've held confidences, you've had your heart broken and instead of feeling anger, you sought to understand. You've struggled to comprehend why things happen the way that they do, and where most adults defiantly refuse to support those when they don't understand why, you've accepted and loved. You didn't need to know why. You just knew they needed you. I could go on and on and on about how proud I am of you, and Thor knows that I'll be writing those letters to you before you leave next year, but I'll stop here. I love you. My wish for you is that you enjoy the hell out of this year. Understand that I'm going to cry a lot. Hopefully not the Toy Story dry heaving sobs too often, though.

To Freckles: Wow, kid. I wouldn't even know where to begin with this past year. We went all the way to hell and back a few times, didn't we? I hope that if you've learned nothing else this year, that you know now that I'm here...always, anywhere, and for as long as you need me. Even if it sucks. Especially when it sucks. School already started for you and I know that you don't love anything about it. I know. But I also know that you love learning, and you understand that school is the necessary evil that gets you that knowledge. You have big plans for the rest of your life. Huge, actually. You scare me a little bit sometimes with your ambition. Studying abroad, learning multiple languages, majoring in biochemistry. Medical school. Medical school?!?! What the??? But, then again, you want to be a medical examiner, and that's the path to get there. To deal with all the dead people, you've going to have to learn to deal with the living ones first, and it's a price you are willing to pay. Since last year, so much in your world has changed. You're so much stronger and braver than you see. When things were the hardest they could have possibly been, you didn't seek the path of least resistance. You decided, at the very last possibly minute, to try out for the soccer team. Which is crazy. I mean, I figured you'd always find your way back to this game you loved so much, but I was not really prepared to have to get everything in order for you to do it within 48 hours. But we did it. And you made the team. And you really did fall back in love with this game. You have become more and more vocal in your advocacy work, already planning ahead for the next year, upping your game with levels of responsibility that come with bus passes and require designing letterhead. Which is also crazy. You're 15. And you already have figured out that you need to fight for yourself and your friends and your community...and you do it. I've said for years that you were going to change the world, and I still believe that with my whole entire heart. Actually, I believe it even more now, because even when you were slaying your own dragons, you were fighting everyone else's too. I wish for you to believe that, to see how strong you are, to understand the power inside your heart and mind. I love you. I'll always be in the stands or in the parking lot or wherever you need me, and yeah...I will have snacks. Go kick ass this year, sweetheart.

To Mini Me: I know. I know. I KNOW. It is the last year in middle school and you don't want it to be the last year in middle school. I know. But here we are. (Vanna arms). You feel like things are going to be chaotic and busy and that you are going to have even more responsibilities than last year...and you'd be right. You're helping run the GSA this year, dealing with a change in leadership and mentors all at once...and it is a lot. I've found, though, that the most important thing about advocacy work is a simple, but frustrating truth. It is this: the people who really want to help will, and the people who don't really want to help will let you down. I learn this over and over and over again, so you might as well start young. In addition to that, you have NJHS and volunteering at the Humane Society and Science Olympiad and ALL THE SPORTS and ALL THE TRAVEL TEAMS FOR ALL THE SPORTS, and I don't know how we are going to fit it all in the schedule, but we will figure out a way somehow. Don't even make eye contact with me about possibly doing drumline this year. Don't. For real. Give me a couple more months to live in this denial. It will be okay. I promise. I know it seems like a lot, because it is, but you do better when you're busy. You're like me in far too many ways. For this year, my wish is that you'll learn to find balance, that you'll learn to recognize when it is getting to be too much for you, that you'll start learning to say no when you need to, that you don't have to do everything. I say I wish that for you, but I still haven't really learned it, so maybe we can learn this one together. Maybe. Probably not, but we will give it a shot. Probably while I'm driving you home from some school thing you committed to while you beg for secret tacos. And I'll probably be okay with that. I love you. Breathe.

To Chicken: You really started the school year off swimmingly, right? And by swimmingly, you know that I totally mean that sarcastically, right? Which is why your new teacher appreciates already the fact that you get sarcasm. I mean, you are my child. You're welcome. Seriously, though, it's been a rough first week full of appointments we've been anticipating for far too long and other appointments that we didn't see coming at all. Some will help us find answers, while the other ones seem to be asking more questions than anything else right now. Hang in there, buddy. I know that this is hard. I know you'd much rather just get to be like all the kids who go to school every day and don't have to leave early or get up before dawn to drive over an hour for an appointment. I know. Fortunately for both of us, you're still mostly agreeable. You get that this is all a necessary evil. I wish it wasn't, but it is. This time last year, you were heading back into public school after having been out for two years. It was scary and you weren't sure what to expect, but it didn't go anything at all like it did the first time. And when you started school last Wednesday, on the day none of your other siblings had to go at all, you weren't hesitant. You weren't nervous. You weren't scared. You were excited. And after I dropped you off, I cried a little bit. Not for any of the reasons that I did last year, but because you were okay, truly okay. And even if things kind of suck right now in general, school finally isn't one of them. So, let's count this as a huge win. For this year, I wish for you to keep falling in love with reading a little bit more each day. Salutations. And jazz hands. I love you.

To Little Ass Kicker: I should probably change your nickname since you're starting school and all. Maybe I'm engaging in a little too much of a self-fulfilling prophecy by referring to you as a feisty kid. But, hey. You are spicy. You're definitely a kid with a whole bunch of older siblings at home. They've taught you all the things to get into, all the trouble to stir up, sure...but they've also taught you that you don't just have 2 parents that love and adore you've got them. That picture up there of the five of you...that face you're making when you look at your big brother? You look at him like that allllll the time. You don't just look up to him literally, you do it figuratively in every sense of the word. You wanted to wear Wonder Woman pajamas to bed tonight, and I had to oblige of course. You know that tomorrow morning, you will wake up and get dressed in the clothes your sister already laid out for you, put on that pack-pack and go to preschool for the very first time. You've had years of being left behind, staring at my face all day, and it is finally your turn. I know that there is a huge part of me that wishes it wasn't happening already, that wishes you were still a tiny little baby folded up in my arms, but it is time. You are ready, and so because you are ready, I have to be. My wish for you this year is that school is everything you imagine it to be and more - the friends, the snack, the playgrounds, all of it. Go and play and learn. I'll be waiting for you when you are done. I might be standing out there, confused at first, unsure of what I will possibly do with 2 1/2 hours to myself. It will take some getting used to. I love you, turkey man. (and I know, you love this armpit...)

To Mr. Hive: It's your last first day tomorrow too, I suppose. You are starting your last year in the master's program, because it isn't crazy enough for us to have five kids and however many jobs we now are working and volunteering everywhere we had to go to school too on top of it all. I don't know how the hell we are going to manage to do it all this year, but we will. We always do. Someday we will look back on this time, when you were working full time and in school, when we had a high school senior and a preschooler at the same time, and we will wonder what the hell we were thinking. Maybe we will get more sleep then. Maybe. You make me laugh, you drive me insane, you make me proud. Really. I know that I probably don't say that as much as I should, but it is true. You've become a better father, a better husband, a better man, and I love you for doing everything you do for us, for being who you are, for working constantly for more. My wish for you for this year is that you find time for all those hobbies you love, somehow. Put it on the calendar if you have to. We can do this. I know that, because I know what we've survived to get here. We can do anything. I love you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

To the one who was born with jazz hands

Dear Chicken,

I asked you a while back if we were changing your nickname around these parts, and you said no. You wanted to keep Chicken. And I guess that makes sense. For the entire length of time you've been alive, you have nearly always been tucked under my wing. Still. With the tucking under me.

It's okay though.

Your nickname here used to be Little Boy, but you're not so little anymore, not with those puppy feet of yours. Bigger than mine now.

You woke up this morning double digits. 10 years old.

I distinctly and vividly remember your older brother being exactly the age you are now. I remember that this was the last summer that he was really just "a kid" before adolescence took hold, the angst and drama and challenging my authority and all that. Your sisters were around the same age too when all that happened for them. I have been doing this parenting thing long enough to know that you're all vastly different from one another, which I'm hoping is true in this instance. I hope that you get to stay a kid a little bit longer than they did.

You're pretty good at it, truthfully.

You love to play. Still.

You want to go around in circles and run as fast as you can and climb on everything in sight. You want to play catch and kick the soccer ball around and play H-O-R-S-E in the street. You want to ride your bike and your skateboard and your scooter. You take the paddleboard out alone these days, no longer content to just hang out and ride along with a sibling. You LOVE your friends, and missed them every day all summer. You just love people. You want to do crafts and color and build things.

I mean, you really are pretty good at being a kid. I think mostly because you've always been really good at just enjoying the moment. So many people, often myself included, get lost thinking about the past or worrying about the future, taking the here and now for granted. Not you. You are present and engaged and fully in the moment. And it's pretty amazing, actually. I hope that you get to stay like that for as long as you can, maybe even forever.

It has been a very eventful year to say the least.

You went back to public school this time last year, and though you were hesitant and a little unsure of how it would go, you've thrived. You loved your teacher and have been challenged in ways you desperately need to be challenged in math especially, even if that means you're challenging your teacher a little bit too. Your passion for all the sports stuff is matched by your love of art and music. If ever I produced a well-rounded child, it is you, kid.

You are considerate and kind, usually thinking about other people before worrying about yourself. It has been a very difficult, very emotional year in our house, and though you struggled quite a bit, you didn't hang out there in the bad places for too long. You were able to find your inner strength and pull out of it all. You're resilient. And you're always there for your siblings.

You've had more than your fair share of injuries. That broken arm from last year is still lingering, causing a whole lot more trouble than we thought possible. Hopefully we will begin to get some answers this week about where we go from here. I know all those doctors will tell you to slow down and be careful and stop climbing on things and stop jumping off of things, and I know that the little glimmer in your eye will take that into consideration momentarily before challenging yourself to do the next dangerous thing. You've always been my daredevil. There isn't much you're afraid of, and you're still the bravest person I know. I'd tell you to slow down a little, but I know it wouldn't do any good anyway.

You've had to learn to advocate for yourself at school too, which will serve you well throughout your lifetime. You've learned that just because you might see the world a little differently, that you might learn a little differently, doesn't mean that it is bad or weird or wrong. It's just, well, different. And that different mind of yours is a mysterious and beautiful thing, truly. I can't tell you how many times you've stumped me when you come up with some bizarre way to explain something that I would have never even contemplated, but that absolutely makes sense once you walk me through the reasoning. People like you invent cures for diseases and build skyscrapers and solve the seemingly unsolvable problems of humanity, in large part because you can see the world in a way the rest of us couldn't fathom. Never ever think of it as a negative. Sure, it makes some stuff a little harder, but loooooooooook at all the other things it has made you able to do!

You were born with jazz hands, I know this to be true, and slowly the rest of the world is starting to see it as well. Though you'd already taken musical theater classes, this year you upped your game in so many ways. You joined the choir at school, which makes sense since you are singing all the time anyway. You took dance lessons at one of the local theaters, specifically for musical productions. You nailed your first audition, and when the cast list came out, I totally read it wrong, thinking you'd been cast in a small, inconsequential part. Nope. Your very first audition ended with being cast as Tiny Tim. WHAT?!?! You added Gypsy and an upcoming film credit to your growing resume, and have me constantly checking audition notices for new shows.

Being in the shows, not just as a child actor, but as an actor, has helped you grow and mature in so many ways. You've become fiercely independent, and it took everything in me not to be THAT stage mom who hovers at every rehearsal and show. Then again, you never needed me to be that mom. You didn't need me around. You just needed to make call time, do your thing, and let me know when you were done for the night...sometimes near midnight or even later.

You never complain about long rehearsals. You never whine about being tired the next day. You sweat like crazy in some of those costumes for roles, and it doesn't even phase you. You get on that stage, and I don't know what happens....something inside you was just meant to be up there. You LOVE it. I mean, sure, first night jitters totally are a thing, but that's part of the thrill of the theater, right?

And I'll always be there, whether I'm in the crowd or backstage or waiting in a lobby or a parking lot somewhere, insanely proud of the young man you are becoming.

I hope you never stop living in the moment. I hope you always follow your heart. I hope that you keep doing the things you love. I hope you never ever stop singing and dancing, that your sassy hip never stops wiggling. I hope you keep sharing your joy with your friends. I hope that you keep challenging your teachers.

I hope that this year is a little bit easier on us all, that we get some resolution to the arm injury that hasn't healed.

I hope most of all that you can stay a kid for just a little bit longer, tucked firmly under my wing.

I love you, sweetheart.

Happy Birthday.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

8th Annual 30 Day Photography Challenge CONTEST!!!

It is always hard to choose photos for the contest with so many wonderful submissions!

These are the 14 nominees for the contest this year.  Each will be captioned and then numbered, at random.  To vote, please click on your favorites in the poll. Due to changes Blogger made this year, all voting this year will take place on the Facebook page for the 52+ Challenge Group.

The poll will remain pinned to the top of my page for the next week. 

You can vote for more than one picture if you'd like, I will set it up so that you may vote for one or all of them. The only way for votes to be properly counted is to register them in the poll.  The voting will end at Noon MST, Thursday, July 12th.

Also, if you're on a web version, you can click the images to enlarge them and scroll through them easier.

The prizes you are all playing for are listed at the bottom, with links to the amazing sponsors. Please show them some love and good luck!

1. Walk. Jennifer Larsen

2. Sparkle. Jean Holzman Whisenhant

3. First Cup. Kelly Ceschin Acker

4. Thistle. Angela Linton-Canfield
5. Wings. Carolyn Mears

6. Signs. Gretchen Chateau

7. Shore. Holly Rexroad

8. Reflection. Jennifer Tallman

9. Adirondack. Joshua Curfman

10. Wish. Mark Rodriqguez

11. Stage. Paula Gill

12. Yellow. Sheryl Hoolsema

13. Flatirons. Susan Porter

14. Flames. Allyson DeBie

Jewelry from Penny Jules

Twin Peaks, The True Story
Perfectly Posh with Jillian
Pure Romance with LaShonta
A Steampunk Necklace from Charm Studio 2.0

Prizes are subject to change because life happens. Thank you again to all who participated and offered prizes for the contest! Good luck!!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Reason I Was Monologuing In My Car Last Night

Before I get to the actual post here, a few points. One, I am a blogger who occasionally writes about her kids, yes. This is true. In fact, this here blog started out originally as a way to share stories and pictures with family far away, then it veered very much away from quaint little funny stories about the kids and I pulled down nearly all of the content about them. I do still write about them from time to time these days, but generally once they hit about 8, I ask them first. And even if and when they consent, I still watch what I write and which pictures I post for the reasons I will explain shortly, not the least of which is that you can't control what people do with the information or pictures once they are posted. Ahhh, the internet.

Two, I generally detest parenting advice, particularly of the unsolicited variety. Most of it is terrible and never applies anyway, is given only to make the giver feel more superior about the path they've chosen as a justify the choices they've made along the way because in our twisted society somehow the only way to be a "good" parent has become to point out the "bad" parents. The truth is, I really and truly believe that most of us are trying our best most of the time given the resources and information we have at that moment, and depending on how exhausted we might currently be.

Three, I work a lot with kids. Specifically teenagers. And no, they aren't always my own, though I am myself the parent of three teenagers at the moment. I do a lot of volunteer work and a ton of advocacy. I run support groups for parents. I help kids create safe spaces in their schools. And as a result, people generally feel pretty safe to confide in me. I joke that I am the human Fort Knox, and it's not a stretch of the truth. Working as a doula magnifies this. Oh, the things people tell me. They tell me all the things.

Most adults whine endlessly about teenagers these days. Insist the kids are all lazy and disconnected, distracted and selfish. That has absolutely not been my experience at all. I love teenagers (most of the time). Sure, they are impulsive and make bad choices sometimes, they can be selfish assholes sometimes too, but so can all of us. Adults just tend to forget that everyone has bad days sometimes, demanding consistency from children when they are not even compelled to display it themselves. Well, and most adults forget what it was like to be a teenager.

So, there's your opener.

The precipitating incident to the writing of this post happened yesterday. And a few months ago. And a few months before that. And a couple of years ago. In fact, it happens all the time, where I see a parent sharing something online that they probably shouldn't be sharing about their kid in a way that they probably shouldn't be sharing it. In the process, that parent is quite often telling their newsfeed more about themselves than they are about their child, but I'll get to that in a minute. The specific context yesterday was pertaining to the discussion of parenting a child on the spectrum, and the word "burden" came up more than once. Words synonymous with burden. Words that indicated that these particular children are more work, more difficult, more needy, more more more...

It brushed me the wrong way, as comments to that effect always do. I myself parent children with mental health issues, with learning disabilities, with spectrum disorders, with serious medical issues. I've lived these frustrations, spent endless hours on the phone trying to find screenings and services, fought with insurance more times than I could say, cried at IEP meetings out of sheer frustration.

Having been doing this parenting thing for a very long time now, I can tell you all one thing with absolute certainty. IT IS ALL HARD. Every kid, regardless of their diagnosis or condition or needs or requirements will 100% challenge you in a novel way. Kids that seem to have no issues or conditions will do it too, they aren't magically immune. Will some kids need more? Of course. Will all kids test your limits and patience and resolve in their own ways? YES.

As I wrote yesterday, though, any insistence that children on the spectrum are burdens does three dangerous things. First, it ignores the fact that all kids are hard in their own ways. Second, it dehumanizes people on the spectrum, makes it seem like they are merely an obligation to which the parent is beholden, creates the martyrdom complex that usually sounds a lot like "I sacrificed all of this for you". Third, it ignores the fact that spectrum conditions don't just affect children. Nope. Those things are very much lifelong conditions, and they are things that affect many more people than most realize as adults, and I know for a fact that there are several people in this particular group who land somewhere on that spectrum themselves, not to mention their kids.

Our children are not extensions of us. They aren't. They are separate and distinct human beings with hearts and minds and souls away from us entirely. Sure, we are thrust into the position of being wholly responsible for them for 18 or so years, but that doesn't mean that they are part of us. Legally, we are given the job to make decisions for them, but morally, we have to think about their agency and the long term effects of the choices we make every step of the way. And, also, it's worth pointing out that no child ever asked to be born into your life. They aren't your obligation by choice, at least not on their part. They're stuck with the family they were born into. You might have chosen to have them, but they did not choose you.

That's not how this works.

It isn't just parents of children on the spectrum, obviously, to which I speak today. It's all parents, and occasionally other adults in their lives who share things that are wholly inappropriate. Parents of kids with learning disabilities, health issues, anything outside the box of societal norms are the most likely to have to grapple with teasing out where these lines are, but this issue exists for all parents, and to some extent all adults. Teachers posting videos of their students online as "inspiration" comes to mind right away.

It's parents who can't tease out the boundary between venting and sharing frustration at the reality of parenting with sharing too much about the issues of this particular child. It's a fine line, sure, and it shifts and moves quite a bit as kids get older. There's a whole lot more you can reasonably overshare about parenting a newborn than you can with a 16 year old.

And that is how parenting should go, right? As children become adolescents, they crave independence and agency over their bodies. They want decision making control. They think they know everything. Those decisions about who knows what about their personal lives should extend to what things their parents share with other people without their consent.

We should get to make fewer decisions, they 
should get to make more the older they get. 
And number one on that list should be what
the rest of the world gets to know about them. 

A while back, a former friend posted about taking her tween daughter bra shopping. (I can hear the groans from here...) It is not the most fun part of parenting by any means, but then when was the last time you enjoyed shopping for bras for yourself? (It's terrible for everyone, right?)

Anyway, this conversation was viewable to well over 1,000 people, and quickly involved details about cup sizes and preferences and what friends were wearing and more and more, and I made the suggestion that once she felt this topic had been sufficiently crowdsourced, maybe pulling down the post wouldn't be the worst idea ever for privacy reasons. A few people jumped all over me for ruining her "mommy village", insisted that I was body shaming her daughter, told me that I was being ridiculous, compared it to the struggles of potty training a two year old, and more. Then she blocked me.

She pulled the post down first though.

I really don't honestly care that she blocked me. I just hope that she saw the point that I was trying to make, which wasn't anything having to do with being the ogre stomping on her created mommy village. I'm in several small private groups where we do talk about the more difficult points of parenting in detail. I am not about to put that stuff on my wall, though. Nope. I wasn't body shaming her daughter, nothing of the sort actually. I'm the 100% body positive personal agency parent who rails against gendered dress codes. I was making the argument that her daughter should have a say in who knows what sizes and types of bras she wears. That's pretty personal information, and I know that I would have been absolutely mortified if my mom had just started sharing that with her 1,000 closest internet friends.

I wasn't telling her how to parent, even. I was merely suggesting that she take a step back and ask herself if it was truly her choice, her right, her place to share those details.

And I do this because I work with kids, kids who tell me things, kids who don't often feel comfortable talking to their parents about much. Some of them think their parents won't understand, will shame them in some way. Some of them are afraid of being punished. Some of them refuse to talk to their parents because they can't trust what their parents will do with that information, who else they will tell. Some of them know that the only way to preserve their privacy is to not tell their parents at all.

Is it entirely okay to talk about being frustrated? Of course it is. In fact, please share those frustrations more because social media is full of people lying about life, only sharing the good stuff. Parenting is mostly monotony, sometimes absolutely awful, and occasionally awesome. If you only share the awesome stuff, you're skewing the pool.

Can you share frustrations without being specific? Fuck yeah. More of that, please.

While we're at it, social media types, stop fucking shaming vaguebookers. You are not entitled to know the personal details of anyone's struggle simply because you are Facebook friends with them. If you don't like to see vague complaints, if it somehow offends your psyche to see people venting non-specifically, scroll on by. Unfriend them if it bothers you that much. If they wanted you to know, they'd tell you, dammit. People are allowed to vent. You don't need juicy, personal details to give a shit about them. Honestly.

Can you talk about how much it sucks to navigate the health care system or the mental health system or complain about lack of resources? YES. Please talk about that. Should you mention how difficult the IEP and 504 process is, how treating kids like a set of symptoms instead of a whole person is endlessly frustrating and self-defeating? YES. Because Thor knows that there are tons of us fighting back tears in those meetings, hearing people talk about percentages of goals met as though the value and worth of our child could ever be quantified.

Should you advocate for better services, for research funding, for reducing stigma? YES. Can you do it without throwing yourself on the sword of sacrifice for the world to see? Yeah...yeah, you probably could do that. Do you need to mention personal details? Nah.

Should you mention how exhausting having teenagers is? YES. To be honest, I parent my teenagers and toddler in basically the same way. Do you need a snack? Do you need to poop? Need a nap? Have you drank any water today? A good 70% of life's issues can be fixed with that short list, goes for us grown up types too. (true story).

But should you start talking about the people your kids are dating or speculate about their orientation or mention specifically which class they are failing or post about the latest argument you had with them that you will forget about in two days anyway? Maybe not. It's the nuances. The details. The personal.

Because here is the thing about kids that too many parents don't realize until it is too late: 

If they lose the ability to trust you, 
you've undermined everything about
 parenting teenagers that you're 
going to need to tap into the older they get. 

If they are always wondering if you're going to use this in a blog post or make it into a meme or whine about them on Facebook, they're going to stop telling you things. Believe that.

And once they stop talking to you, there's not a whole lot that will ever get them to open up again.

I know because I remember what it was like to be a teenager. I can distinctly remember the day that I stopped telling my mom anything. The day I started censoring what she knew. The day I began hiding everything else.

So, parents of the world, I ask you to ponder for a minute before you click post. I say this not as a parent, really, but as someone your kids will talk to when they won't talk to you. I say this as someone who remembers what it was like to have her trust violated by her mother. I say this as someone who stopped tell her mom things as a result. 

And when in doubt, ask them. The children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. (please get the reference, someone...)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

On love and time and the places in between

Dear Mr. Hive,

I bet when you married me twenty years ago, you never thought that someday you'd have a secret identity on the internet. (insert maniacal laughter here)

If I was going to make a list of all the things we never saw coming, this would be a very long post indeed.

Life hasn't exactly worked out the way we thought it would, has it?

There are parts of me that still remembers what it was like back then, when we were young and clueless, when we honestly thought that love and optimism were all we needed. We had all these amazing plans, plans that involved successful careers and loan repayment, that involved world travel and someday buying a little house by the beach, that would eventually include two kids.

And here we are, all those years later. Loans are nowhere near paid off, and you're back in school again. We haven't left the country since before the kids were born, never getting off of this particular continent. We live in the middle of the country with a mountain view now, about as far as we could possibly have gotten from the beach. And then there is the matter of those kids. There aren't just two of them, not by a long shot.

Plans were great, I guess. But life told us that we were young and clueless and that things needed to change again and again and again.

It wasn't just fate that intervened, of course. There were choices along the way. Some good, some terrible, none without consequences, every one of which changed our trajectory just a little bit more until we arrived where we are now.

If someone would have told us 20 years ago that we'd be in Colorado with 5 kids and 3 dogs and a cat, that you'd still be in school, that our oldest kid would be a high school Senior, I know I wouldn't have believed it. Well, maybe the dog thing. I might have believed that part...

When we were talking about our anniversary plans a few days ago, I mentioned not needing a fancy dinner, and it is true. I've never needed those things that society tells us we are supposed to do and have to mark these moments of importance. The jewelry, the flowers, the trips, the extravagant things.

All I ever wanted was you. Us.

There were times that I wasn't sure we'd get here, but we did. We're still here, still digging in deep and fighting for our family. This year has been a tough one, putting us all through more things we never could have anticipated, testing our resolve as parents more than anything else.

I've needed you to be the soft place to land, and you have been.

What we have isn't perfect. It's messy. It is complicated. It's sticky. It's a constant work in progress.

It's texting each other about vacuum cleaners and the panicked look on your face when we have to find $500 to take the dog to the 24 hour vet.

It's spending holidays ripping out carpet and building fireplace mantels and entertaining my crazy DIY tendencies.

It's dinners around a beat up table with a kid in his underpants where someone is singing and someone is whining.

It's going out to dinner for a break from them and being seated next to a family with 4 young kids and remembering what it was like when we were there.

It's inside jokes and nicknames and replaying the same home videos over and over again.

It's building proton packs with all the hot glue guns we can find.

It's sharing the things we love with the kids and having the chance to watch them do the things they love, whether it is on a stage or a soccer field or triathlon course or arena floor.

It's working bingo and fundraising so they can do all those things they love.

Here is loud. Here is chaos. Here is conflict. Here is worry.

And here is pretty amazing.

I love you.

(you know)

Happy anniversary.

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