Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Lesson of the Poop Emoji

Does the tween phase start at like age 8? The emotional drama of mine lately has me cringing and wanting to curl into the fetal position in fear for the pre puberty/puberty adolescent years ahead. And my eight year old has always been my easiest child?!?! So if she's becoming a parenthood challenge now what does that mean for us with the other two?!?!

Parents that have been there and survived, how do you not lose your S*&T and patience for the next ten years and then just as we're reaching the golden years with her and her sister not far behind we'll be starting all over with the boy?!?! Is that easier or harder? I'm kind of scared to know.  Either way you should just lie to me and tell me it is easier.

She thinks I'm like the meanest mom ever anyway because I make her empty the dishwasher, put her own laundry away, and clean up her room. Even though some days she'll do it without any complaint; other days she tells her sister how I make her feel like the maid. Yeah, I had a good laugh at that one. I'm pretty sure I was the one rolling my eyes that time and told her just wait until motherhood. I deal with other people's kids' attitudes without much choice in the matter these days if I want to keep my job so I have little tolerance for attitude from my own kids but I'll give her a little credit. I am pretty hard on her and do hold pretty high expectations that probably forget the fact that she is only eight. But I cannot stand when people lack accountability and can't clean up after themselves or do their part so one of my life's ambitions is not to send another one of those people out into society. So her and I butting heads isn't really any surprise but twice now the attitude has even reared it's head with daddy !

Yesterday her dad took her and her sister to see Wonder Woman which I think they enjoyed but I wouldn't really know because the attitude was all over her pouty face when she got in the car because her dad kept telling her no on spending her money. Every time we go to the store and in yesterday's case the mall the girl digs through her piggy bank and brings a little purse hoping she can talk us into letting her buy some toy. She wanted this poop emoji thing and her dad told her she didn't need to spend her money on a poop emoji. What the heck does a kid need a poop emoji for??? Somebody explain this to me. Then she wanted some other things but of course I got the biggest laugh out of
the pouting about no poop emoji. Rather than share what was nice about the movie she rather chose to pout the whole way home in which case my husband then also got irritated with her poor attitude and lack of gratitude for even going to the movie. Mind you this is the same girl who was overly thankful and told her daddy so for taking the time to take her to the father/daughter dance a few months ago. Where did that girl go???

Then tonight I told her I was going to put the $100 I borrowed forever ago back in her little savings account, and she of course holds her hand out and says, "Just give it to me." Haha. Not happening, kid. As soon as this kid has a quarter in her pocket she's looking for ways to spend it. I then go on to tell her how that's the start of her savings that she'll hopefully build up herself later to buy herself a car when she's 16 or 17, and she says, "It's my money. Why can't I spend my money the way I want?" Me of course being me replied with, "Why do eight year olds have to have opinions?" Like, seriously, they're only eight why do they have to think for themselves already. I'm all for self sufficiency as soon as possible but arguing their own opinion so soon? (

We all kind of chuckled at that but it left me thinking. First, I thought this parenting this was suppose to get easier? I think it just changes difficulty. Two, whether it's her piggy bank or her savings account that I'm still not letting her touch until she's older and a bit wiser it is her money. However, how do I teach this kid the value of money? Financial responsibility is huge in my book of succeeding or not succeeding in adulthood so if I can't send her out into the world financially responsible then we have failed as parents in some way.  She and her sister are definitely use to me saying no to things because of my own money habits; which is partially why she sneaks her own money to the store because she knows she won't talk me into spending my money on useless toys.  I get that she's young and again the expectations might be too high and she'll learn as she gets older, but in the meantime the dramatic pouty attitude of not getting her way lately is about to make my momma crazy come out.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Find the Blessing

My thirteenth year of my career and twelfth here in Maryland draws to a close this week. I know by now I have to take the bad years with the good years. I know this; yet I still let the rough ones like this past year drag me down into a dark hole.

I have never felt as pulled in two different directions with my job and personal life as I have this year. Each year the job gets more demanding than ever, and as my kids get older I feel I'm actually needed more at home than ever before. I have never taken off as much time as I did this year without being on maternity leave. Between I think seriously three water issues in the house this school year; about 10 doctor appointments for Lincoln to follow up with his heart diagnosis and possible TS diagnosis; elementary school events; my own health with PPD, pneumonia, and having to have oral surgery; our bad luck impending on the sitter with water issues and sickness, a family death that took me out of town and another out of town trip home for my sister's first baby; and a five year old that what we thought at first was the flu with three different times over the course of a few months of puking may actually be signs of migraines on top of  the stress of the job that so many others in my school and district felt in overwhelming waves this year or that we've been left in uncertain territory about my husband's job position twice now since February for next year due to budget concerns and him being funded out of Title I funds it's been a mentally exhausting year that ended with my dear cousin being  diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. But in one week this school year ends and I get possibly my most needed vacation ever. Hopefully it's the positive reset I need. I need to be able to go back to work at the end of the summer without the crazy anxiety I am ending the year with.

I've tried so hard to be there for everyone that needed me, but too many times it always felt as if I was missing someone or something. So many things got overlooked and missed, and I know as a mom, wife, teacher, and even as a writer I'm going to encounter criticism and disappointments. At some points this year though it just felt like blow after blow.

I've avoided writing much lately because wallowing in all these negative events of the past year just seemed even more depressing so I've avoided writing. Something I haven't done much of in the past five years. So yeah, it's been a shitty disappointing year. It didn't go anywhere near the way I had hoped when I headed back to work after my amazing four month maternity leave. But you know what. Forget the negativity. It's time to turn it around. Someone that I find inspirational once took all the things that were dragging her down and turned them into a blessing so here goes.

So yes, the water issues in our house are a HUGE pain in the ass, but the blessing that I am choosing to see instead is that we have this house in this small town community we love out here in the country something we and our children all love.

Though I am again faced tomorrow with the dilemma of skipping out of work early again to rush the hour home to try to catch an end of the year event at my daughter's school, the stress and anxiety I'll feel about leaving when I should be staying after to sell yearbooks it totally worth it to know how happy and how much she appreciates me making it there to see her. The blessing is in her and all the amazing things she does.

All the time off to run my son to all his appointments this year was as time consuming as I feared it'd be but the most amazing blessing in that is he is doing AMAZINGLY well and is completely on developmental track without any signs of seizures or further benign tumor growths. Though this kid has caused me so many sleeplessness nights the past two school years with worry over his health and then his reluctantance to sleep when I went back to work, the blessing is in him finally being here and healthy with us and being the perfect final fit to our family puzzle.

As much as it saddened me to tell my grandfather good bye on my birthday, I'm comforted in knowing he lived a long life, is now with the loved ones he's been so anxious to see for so long, and am so thankful he got to meet his little namesake, my son, before he passed.

Even though we've been jolted awake in the middle of the night to a puking kid all over our bed and I've tried to catch puke in my hands again even though I know that doesn't work, hopefully she did just have bad luck and got this year's stomach bug three times while the rest of us never did, the blessing is just this girl and her overabundance of love that she always seems to give when I need it most.

Though I had a PPD episode that knocked me down, ended up with pneumonia, finally had to have oral surgery to remove my wisdom teeth and then ended up with nerve damage that messed my tongue up of all things for three weeks, and I am going to have to finally give in and check into getting a hearing aid next week when I see my audiologist because my continued hearing loss really is starting to cause professional and personal problems the blessing is I am overall in good health and have even over the past year managed to keep up with working out 3-5 times a week every week (except 4) the past year which is huge for me since entering motherhood.

Though these jobs have been a major source of stress for both of us this past year, the blessing is in that we have them and they provide financial stability for us now and security for our future. That and we've gotten great support from our superiors with so much of the craziness that has gone on this year.

Though we've had to take several unplanned days off throughout the year because our poor baby sitter encountered way too much of our bad luck with her own water issues and sickness and now deaths too the blessing of course is that we have her and her family in our life.

One of the biggest-if not the biggest disappointments of the year- was learning my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. But she's kicking cancer butt and the blessing is she's going to come out the other side of this even more amazing than before she faced off with this monster.

There is so much to be thankful for, and that's what I have to choose to see right now. I don't know what's going to happen from here in the next few years, but I keep telling myself to have patience and faith. Despite the fact that I've felt like one woman trying to do it all this past year, I haven't been doing it alone as one of my other blessings amidst the chaos of the year is my partner in crime. Though we may have butted heads a time or two I am impressed with how much better we've gotten at handling the tougher, rockier moments together as a team than how we use to in our younger years.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Teenage Angst

We watched just finished watching the Netflix Original 13 Reasons Why. As a parent and an educator the show left many troubling thoughts in my mind. The show really hit on the drama of adolescents that sometimes I think we as adults overlook as kids just being kids. I'm not just talking about the bullying either. I'm talking about the mean girls, the pressure of sex and relationships, the cocky jocks that think they can get away with anything including drunk date rape, the drinking and smoking marijuana, the identity crisis of adolescents, the sometimes sexual identity crisis.

I've worked with teenagers for over a decade. I tell every group of kids their adolescent high school years are their toughest years until they reach parenthood. I had an easy adolescent experience, so I can only imagine how much harder it is for some experiencing family issues, poverty, some kind of loss, or a host of other struggles that many of us probably know very little about. The struggles- the kids at highest risk for making poor choices or facing an internal battle that could put them on the brink of suicide- are not something that just befalls a particular "kind of student" either, and we need to let go of that stigma of thinking adolescent crisis like mental health, suicide, eating disorders, bullying, unprotected sex, and drinking and drugs is something our kids are immune to. They are all at risk. We can helicopter parent all we want but the truth is we can't fight all their battles for them or even really know what all their battles are.

Too often I think we like to think our own families or kids are immune  to certain struggles, but I cannot tell you enough how much I have seen the kid that seems to have it all together with talent, great grades, positive friend circle, and yes even a great family succumb to the inner struggles of teenage angst. Don't overlook and discount their concerns, their moods, and definitely not their voice when they do decide to speak up.

As parents and a teacher I think one of the hardest parts is to recognize when they're angry and defensive but really they're crying out for help and someone to listen. As a teacher we are taught to try our best to look below their behaviors to try to understand their triggers and real struggle. Behavior is often an outcry to inner pain, but as a parent and teacher trust me I know how easy it is to see their outcry as just being a difficult phase or "typical" defiant childish behavior.

As a writer myself and an English teacher I like to get my kids to write. I would love to give kids more opportunity to write about them in the classroom rather than about literary analysis and a speaker's use of rhetoric because I fully believe in the power of people, particularly kids, using writing as a therapy to manage the tougher moments of life. I'll share this one story but really in thirteen years of doing this there are many more. My second year of teaching I had this class clown in my class of seniors. He drove me crazy with his constant disruption and crazy search for attention. One day I had them do this personal writing and then I understood. He had this older sister that was an all star athlete, great student, going off to a great college and though he himself was popular and an athlete he felt inadequate next to her. If he couldn't measure up to that pressure to be as much like her as possible he sought negative attention since he couldn't steal away her positive attention. I've also worked with so many girls that again were highly successful in the classroom and on the athletic field but the pressure to succeed was so overwhelming they found themselves in crisis situations with mental health issues, eating disorders, and even contemplating suicide.

Here's what I have seen after thirteen years of working with adolescents too. There is plenty of peer pressure with fitting in, but I think we also forget the pressure adolescents feel to succeed and excel and hold up this perfect image which is partially I believe a result of the social media world they now live in. Sometimes as parents and educators we feed that pressure which I think is okay in healthy doses but I've also seen the damage of unhealthy doses- something I know myself as a parent will really have to work on .

As an educator and a parent it's hard to imagine being in either shoes after someone you know and/or love commits suicide. I don't feel that either is at fault in the show.  It's just a painful tragic situation all around. But I think as parents, as educators, and as friends we all need to look for others' silent pain and not be dismissive of their teenage struggles and pain. We may never know when our kind word or our positive attention could be what saves someone else's life. So as always it's better to spread kindness and love than hate and rejection.

Maybe I should start writing TV Show Reviews. Here's my one from This Is Us

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Parent Business of Preparing a Will

While I was home a few weeks ago my sister was updating her beneficiary information on all her accounts now that they have a child. I remember shortly after we had our first daughter how we rushed about finding a life insurance policy and signed off on it all by the time she was probably two months old. First kid, you know, where we were gung ho about doing everything right, even if we're dead. Even though we had been married for about two years I think that was about the time we went back to our retirement accounts and changed our beneficiaries to each other and added our daughter in case God forbid something were to happen to both of us at the same time.

That was eight years ago. We haven't looked at or really put forth much effort to follow up on what would happen if something happened to us. It's not really what you want to discuss on date night or even those rare moments in bed ALONE together. Discussing it at the dinner table while the kids eat just seems like it would ruin their fond childhood memories of "family dinner" for the rest of their childhood.

However, between my sister putting her affairs in order for her newborn son and our upcoming trip alone without our kids, we managed to address the issue that we really should have wills and updated beneficiary information with who is custodian of the kids and their funds if something were to happen to us. I think it's one of those things you'd prefer to avoid for as long as possible. The weird thing it's not even the thought of "oh my God, I don't want to die!" but more you hate the thought of your kids growing without you, even more the thought of both of you where their whole way of life as they've known it would be so completely changed. I think we managed most of our discussion through an actual email. It's Pens Playoff Season so if I approach any topic that is not hockey right now I won't have to worry about my last testament because talking during an intense hockey game will be it!

However the email discussion ended something like this, "I'll agree to that should we kill each other...I mean go down in a fiery crash over California, I mean crash into the ocean and get stranded on a deserted island and I have to eat you to survive....  But ya hopefully we live to a ripe old age...  I don't feel like going to sleep forever yet... got shit to do!" So when approaching the discussion of your afterlife plans should you both perish at the same time make sure it's not during a time that will end your life sooner than expected and have a sense of humor while tackling the discussion and task!

Unfortunately, on a serious note though, I've seen too many people around my age pass unexpectedly including a coworker's dear friend from the flu this past year. So this past week we did the adult thing and updated our life insurance and retirement beneficiaries to now include all of our children with a custodian guardian if something were to happen to both of us at the same time. I get now why parents say they're worth more dead than alive.  Then we each drew up a Last Will and Testament at this great site called the Legal Depot. It was easy and super user friendly. If you don't have one yet or a lawyer friend it's a great way to draft one. It says we only need a witness signature but will probably have it notarized when we go have our beneficiary papers notarized.

I then told my husband and my mom that God forbid if something were to happen I now have all of our important papers in what I called the Dead Folder. Preparing your last testament and desires were something to happen to you is not one of those most pleasant adult experiences, but with three little kids we were probably way overdue to take care of having it all updated and current to our wishes.

Do you have a Will that states your desires should something happen to you? Are your beneficiaries up to date? Does someone know where to go to access your funds for your children should something happen to you?

If you missed the past happier blog posts


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

This Blog and Me: Hobby or Work

My blogiversary is today. Five years ago this week I hit publish for my fist "public" writing. Those first few posts generated a whole whooping 30 average page views for the first year or so. My mom, whose creative outlet hobby was sewing, had told me for years I needed a hobby to put some of my time into. I think she knew without trying to be pushy that I needed something that was my own at a time when it's so easy to lose yourself in those early days of motherhood.

I wrote because it felt really good to write again. It had been fifteen years at that point since I had wrote on a regular basis. Within a year I decided to try something I always wanted to do- get something I wrote published so I started sending short pieces off to publications. Editor Lisa Shea of Bella Online gave me from first opportunity with my Bettis and Us Story and The Lost Crooked Christmas Tree published in their literary magazine and to write some articles for their adolescent page on their website.  From there I wrote a biweekly column for a new site called Mommy Hotspot that unfortunately after about six months ended up closing down.  As I was coming up on  my second year I had a handful of things published with these two sites and editors. Unpaid things though. Writing is kind of like the starving artists gig. Not that I was doing this for money, but now that I had reached my goal of getting published it seemed to really be considered published I needed to have some paid published work. So two years after I started writing,  2014 would be the first year I actually made money from my writing. I got an email from the Chicken Soup for the Soul editor to publish a story in their upcoming book about motherhood. I also completed my first book project- which was just a collection of my best blog posts from the first two years- to sell on here. I also generated two payments for running ads on my site and was compensated with free products for product reviews.

But here's what always happens. I get great momento going and then I get busy with life and my real job so my hobby here gets put to the side for a while. This is a business I've learned where you have to have consistency and constant engagement or your readers move on. For a year or so I was really active in the mom blog community and made some virtual friends that I'm actually still connected with, but just as I drifted away from the community some of them drifted away from blogging altogether. I've also been active in different writing groups, but again networking consistently with people is big in gaining and keeping readers. All of that takes A LOT of time on top of the writing. That part is the work, and so I keep coming to this point where I tell myself I do this because it's a hobby I love- not because it's work.

So in 2015 I slowly drifted away from those networking groups. I quit "searching" the web for readers more a less cause that's kind of what you're doing in those groups. I just wrote on here but didn't really pursue paid publications or any publications really. I didn't look for ideal ads or products to showcase on here in hopes I'd make a little commission. Just as I was finally making money I went two years without making any. In 2015 I only had one thing published which was with Bella Online's literary magazine again with my Roots and Wings story. With 2016 though I decided to start searching for new places to get published. I came across Tribe Magazine, Red Tricycle, and Lose the Cape which all offered the possibility of actually getting paid. I even got a reply from Arianna Huffington about having a piece about America and the election I sent in getting published on the Huffington Post, except unfortunately as I learned from others in a writing group I was still somewhat active in, they had horrible follow ups to their emails so even though I agreed to let them publish it the official editor never followed back up. Though two of my pieces with Red Tricycle were one of the top three posts for the week on their social media page I have yet to reach their 50,000 page view requirement to actually get paid. So even though all three have published my work I made very little from them.

However, the editor of Chicken Soup-which is the highest paying publication I've found by far anyway- accepted a second piece of mine at the end of 2016 for their Jan 2017 Curvy and Confident book so here I am in 2017 and for the second year of the five actually making money off my writing.

Out of curiousity I created myself an expense/income report and here's what I've found in regards to making money with my writing. After five years I have written almost 500 posts/articles/essays and with the income I've made I'm averaging around $2 a post. LOL. Obviously the majority of those generated $0 but you write about 25 hoping one will get published and out of about every four that do you hope one of those actually pays. My income has come from the following things: paid publications, book sales, running ads on the site, and writing product reviews. I've made over $350 from book sales and have about 30 books for another $150 of profits I'm hoping to sell in two upcoming vendor sale events in May and June so book sales are my biggest money maker with 120 books currently sold with hopefully over 150 after these coming up events. My second big money maker is over $400 with paid publications. Then comes ads and last product reviews which come in at a little over a $100 and a little less than $100. I'm not getting rich over here by any means! LOL. But it has helped with the traveling budget a little.

I go back and forth on how much "effort" to put into this site/writing hobby of mine. It's not the writing part that I'm unsure about. It's the "work" part of networking in a blog community, writing groups, and searching and pitching articles and essays to publications. To be successful money wise at this I've learned writing is really only half the work. Right now I throw my posts up on twitter and facebook and never network with outside groups, yet those whole 30 whooping page views are now in the triple digits without much "work" on my part. Sometimes I think how if I'd be more active in the blogging and writing groups I could double or triple my views and exposure, but then I remind myself I do this as a hobby, not as work.

But on the other hand I would love to invest in attending a blog conference to learn more about moneytizing my blog or I'd love to take a writing course with Chaunie Brusie - who you may not know but I've bet you've read her stuff if you follow Babble or Huffington Post Parents. God knows I'd love to invest in an editor too. Yes, believe me I know I need one. I always cringe when I read back through these posts and catch the abundance of errors I seem to make during my zillion interruptions or late night postings like now.

For now I'm pretty contend writing on here, writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I'm excited about a second book project I'm working on called Letters to a Daughter where I plan to include pages in between the six chapter topics for moms to write to their daughters about the following topics:

From Your Mother to Your Friend
From First Love to Marriage
From Playing House to Finding You
From _______ to Happiness and Success (ideas for the first part of this title???)
From the Playground to Finding Your Tribe
From Self Doubt to Self Worth

I've seen a lot of bloggers come and go in the five years I've been doing this. Some of the ones I've connected with I miss and for the others I try to continue to learn from them. I don't plan on leaving the blogging world anytime soon. This is my writing sanctuary now just as those spiral notebooks use to be from the days of my childhood.