Thursday, August 17, 2017

Speaking on Charlottesville

I've been silent on Charlottesville, but it's not because it hasn't been on my mind. These events are so saddening and frustrating to me on so many levels. I've read through so many different arguments posted online and not that I am a non confrontational person because those that know me well know I'm not one to avoid confrontation if I have something I really want to say. Too many are reacting with knee jerk emotional reactions, and I wanted time to observe people's reactions because we can't go back and change Charlottesville but our reactions are what are going to determine how many more Charlottesville we see.  I'm raising three children- white children- in a world where I thought we were moving towards a more equal, accepting world of diversity. My husband and I have spent over a decade teaching minority children and adolescents- and I don't stress that as some pat on the back- I stress that as I have a reason for saying what I'm about to say so listen to me.

Throughout all the varied arguments I have read there are a few things I've heard that I think are key.

1. We have to start listening instead of just reacting. That goes for both sides really. Insulting each other and name calling is going to get us nowhere. Is that how we teach our children to solve problems? In fact I'm kind of embarrassed about how childish I see so many adults acting online as we battle our political views and agendas behind computer screens. Now Charlottesville was flat out wrong and I'll get to all that in a minute but stepping back before Charlottesville there are many layers to what's going on in our country. Though I lean towards one side more than the other, there are a few things worth listening to from the other side. If we're not willing to listen and consider the other side to have a real conversation we're going to keep going nowhere.

2. There is a racial and injustice problem in our society and there is white privilege. It is there, people. Again I am white, I have white children, but we've been in the black/minority communities for over ten years, and I can tell you without a doubt it is there. Just as I feel educating my children to not just accept but love diversity, educating children of all races and religions as my life's profession, I also see it my duty to speak out and to not hold my silence. Believe me I have those very close to me that do not see the world the way I do- that think I'm too much of a "snowflake" for my hope for something better- but I was also raised to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in so they're going to keep hearing what I have to say and maybe one day their thinking will start to change.

3. Please educate yourself. Honestly even though we all have free speech I'm getting to a point that if you don't have some kind of justified personal experience quit talking. We must educate ourselves before we start running our mouths- look for experiences that will open your mind, read something that will offer you a different perspective, talk and engage with people outside your cultural circle. If you have no personal experience with people of color, with immigrants, with a poor person, with a Muslim or someone of another religion what is your basis for condemning them. Seriously you have none; you're going off hearsay of what others want you to believe. Even if you have experience it should be with more than one because we have to quit judging a whole group on the poor actions of a few.  Some I think have no clue or experience that even warrants their anger to defend one side or the other. I just read this great book, All American Boys, co written by a white and black author, that did a great job of looking at the complexities of race and police officers and what they face on a daily basis.

4. The inner city violence of the black communities needs to be front and center of the BLM  just as much as the injustices they face from police. Again All American Boys did a fantastic job of showcasing both what police officers face on a daily basis and how they are not our enemy and still deserve our respect but it also showed how some are out of line with their reactions to the African American community and there is a need to hold those officers accountable. I support the peaceful protest movements of the BLM- obviously I don't support the riots that occurred and think no matter what those are not justified in anyway- but there is a serious concern for the state of our inner cities and the rate of homicide with black on black crime. I don't say this to justify white people's arguments to condemn  BLM but because this constant black on black crime is part of what creates the negative African American image and that image reflects negatively on the great amazing African American kids and families I personally know. I've also had students lose friends due to this but none yet to police brutality. We are losing African American youths in our streets and we need to start making that a focus too. This will require looking at systemic oppression and what to do about poverty (we need skill building education and jobs not welfare help but another political rant for another day)- all underlining problems to so much.

5.  Silence or not getting political is not the solution. This is not just going to go away. We all have a duty to work towards positive change and as much as some of us may be tired of the online political rants- online within our communities is where we start. We don't all need to be in Washington or running for the next political office because the change starts in our smaller communities and in our homes. Silence and saying you're not taking sides is choosing the side of the oppressor. If we are white we can easily say this doesn't impact me, and that thought right there is why we have white privilege. We- white people- need to be speaking up more now than ever! These moments are going to go down in history, people. If you've ever claimed you'd without a doubt be on such and such side when it came to ending slavery or the Holocaust now is your chance to really show the true colors of what kind of human you are. You can say this isn't as big as that or that I'm overreacting, but back in those days people obviously thought those things weren't as big of a deal either since they existed and had to choose their side. The sides of war aren't always so clear.

6. Hate is never right. I don't care what your excuse is. Hate groups and what they stand for are never the answer. Do you want to raise your child to be a bully, to be a wife beater???? My guess is probably not. If these people in Charlottesville or those supporting them claim to be patriots or Christians- wow what an insult. Did they forget we fought a war against the Nazis? But it's now patriotic to tote around a Nazi flag???  I've seen and read several churches speaking out against Charlottesville but I know of die hard Christians that push some very "right" ways of thinking and I just don't get it. God is about love and acceptance. Jesus wasn't white. They know that, right? I know the Anglo dominant world paints him as white and also translated the Bible to say what they wanted it to say (but I'm not going to get into a religious argument here either) but he was born in the Middle East. Pretty sure that means he probably had dark skin.

It's a messed up world out there right now, people. We can say it doesn't impact me and just choose to live in our little bubble, but what kind of future does that leave to our children. What we say and do right now matters.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The End of This Season of Motherhood

I've come to this sad but exciting realization recently that I am at the end of what feels like my first season of motherhood.

After our third baby was born - like literally shortly after while I was still in the hospital- I brought up the possibility of having a fourth baby. Must have been a damn good epidural, right?!?!? (For the whole last hour of labor I got it! )We said we'd make our final decision the summer he was a year old. Except I think we both agreed about a month into baby #3 we were good with three! Even with my sister getting pregnant with her fourth and me selling or getting rid of all my baby stuff these past few months I haven't felt that baby need twinge.

I've always seen #3 as our baby so I soak up those baby snuggles and baby things because we're good with three. But it's not just the end of having babies I'm starting to see that's coming to an end in my motherhood journey. It's not just him gaining his independence as he's leaving infancy behind and embarking on toddlerhood.

The girls grew up this summer too. Before where they wouldn't leave us for a night now as soon as we arrive into town to visit family they're leaving us to go spend nights with their cousins, aunts, and grandmas- anywhere but where we're staying it seems like. My oldest has started staying at friends' houses. She's also started staying home for very short stretches of time by herself. My middle starts kindergarten and has gained all the independence that comes with that milestone. Now with the baby not so much a baby anymore they will take him outside to play while I find myself alone in the house like the other day watching the three of them play outside through the front window.

I started to realize how in just a few short years I'll be able to leave the three of them to go for a run while they stay home, or actually go to the gym with their dad, or run to the store ALONE, or not have to rush home after work to meet the bus. After years of a baby or little ones needing something from me constantly I will not be needed so much. The independence all three of them have shown this past summer will just continue to grow even more. This is sad and exciting all at the same time.

I love the opportunity to do more things I want to do for me; love the chance to actually do stuff outside the house again with my husband. But I am sad this first season of motherhood with babies and young children is quickly coming to a close. I've been in this season for nine years now and  I realize how ridiculously fast nine years and these seasons of motherhood go.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A Guilt Free, Balanced Momma

I sometimes think I've been on the search for guilt free, balanced motherhood since I started this momma gig. Some days I feel like I'm there and other days not so much. Maybe that's just the way it is with anything in life. Some days you have it all figured out, and then you get a smack in the face- sometimes literally by a crazed toddler- that warns you not to get too far ahead of yourself, momma.

As I get ready to head back into my hectic life as a working mom which is usually when I feel guilt ridden and unbalanced the most I thought of the things that I think have and can help me with ridding the mom guilt and feeling more balanced. Here are my top five hopes on achieving a guilt free, balanced motherhood experienc:

1. Make you a priority once a day: I use to think this was selfish but I've found if I'm not giving myself a chance to work out, read, write, or do something for myself each day it is the falling domino that starts knocking everything else over. I can have a day or so here and there where I let "me" go, and it's not the end of the world by any means. But if I'm not taking a bit of time to do something I enjoy for myself for days on end the crashing of dominos is about to go down.

2. Build and surround yourself with an amazing mom tribe of moms in the trenches with you and survivors out of the trenches: I can not stress the need for a building ourrselves a tribe of women in motherhood enough. Motherhood is hard. We need to surround ourselves with women who understand and support us and we need to feel we can provide the same support to them. There's a sisterhood in motherhood.

3. Practice gratefulness- Some days are hard. Some days we're full of guilt for what we did or what we didn't do. Some days there's just no balance to be found, but there is always something positive to be found in each day. On the hardest days especially, I'm learning to remind myself each day to think about what I was thankful for that day.

4. Practice mindfulness- This one is hard but one with the help from some coaching I am working on getting better at this. As someone with anxiety issues I'm learning to not only recognize my triggers but learning how to step back from the situations and reevaluate quickly what to adjust or change to regain the balance I need to feel centered again. Mommas are the foundation of so much, and if we start to crack it's going to start bringing down everything we've built around us. Evaluating my reactions is a move in maintaining a more balanced solid foundation for me and mine.

5. Set goals and celebrate when we reach them: I'm a productive person by nature. I have to feel like I'm doing something, accomplishing something. As accomplishing as it is to change two dozen diapers in a day, and wash dishes three times a day, and complete all the other daily tasks that is motherhood that no one notices half the time I like to set personal goals that go beyond my diapering and dishwashing skills (which suck sometimes by the way). Setting daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly goals gives me a purpose and fulfillment.  Setting goals and hitting those have always been big in finding my balanced self in motherhood. I  love being a mother; she's a huge part of who I am, but there is more to me than her.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Genetics Testing??

When you're pregnant you go to the those 20 week ultrasound appointments anxiously waiting to hear the gender of your baby, but unfortunately, with baby boy it was also the first time we heard there was an abnormality with his heart.

I remember walking out into Hopkins' parking lot that day and both Nate and I saying how that put quite the damper on our excitement of knowing we were welcoming a little boy to go with our two little girls. From there we of course made probably every parent's mistake- we read Dr. Google. Dr. Google I learned likes to stress to you the worst case scenarios. Though they told us what they saw on the ultrasound could be absolutely nothing we had to wait two weeks to follow up with Hopkins Pediatric Cardiology.

That's a long time let me tell you to read a lot of negative, not very hopeful stuff on the internet. After experiencing two healthy pretty much worry free pregnancies I was surprised to learn how common congenital heart defects were and the wide range of defects that existed and all the different implications of how those could impact his quality of life. It was a bit overwhelming. So though Google will give you loads of information when faced with a medical unknown I wouldn't recommend over reading the internet at that time.

What we found out two weeks later was that they did in fact see something on the ultrasound. He had not only one larger tumor growing on his heart but possibly several other smaller ones. At that point there was nothing they could do but monitor them and gamble on them not causing him any problems. Though the tumors were not cancerous they could cause life threatening problems.   "The positioning within critical areas in the heart could lead to lethal arrhythmias and chamber obstruction.
Tumors obstructing the right-side inflow or the outflow of the ventricles can lead to decreased cardiac output, atrial and caval hypertension, fatal hydrops (development of fluid around the heart), and death. Congestive heart failure and a low cardiac output can occur when the tumor extensively involves the myocardium or the ventricular papillary muscles. Cyanosis and decreased peripheral pulses can result. Death occurs because of obstruction of ventricular blood flow, arrhythmias, valve stenosis, or loss of functional myocardium secondary to extensive tumor involvement." These tumors would continue to grow as he grew throughout the pregnancy, but if he made it past his uterine stay where their growth peaked after that they actually started to regress in size so if they did not cause him problems during pregnancy it was pretty safe to say they wouldn't afterwards.

But not only could we do nothing throughout the pregnancy but just pray the tumors caused him no problems, we were also informed more times than not these cardiac tumors were usually connected with a genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis. Again google more aless informed me, "The classic clinical triad of tuberous sclerosis includes mental retardation, epilepsy, and facial angiofibromas. The presence of multiple cardiac rhabdomyomas (the tumor) often precedes the manifestation of the cutaneous and neurologic features of the disease." Tuberous sclerosis in simple terms is a disease that causes tumors to grow on major organs of the body. Though again the tumors were noncancerous with each organ they grew on they could cause a variety of problems.

Not only did we face a lot of unknowns the remaining four months of my pregnancy but there would be lots of medical testing and procedures after his birth. As you know he made his debut without any complications from the heart tumors. At sixteen months he still sees a cardiologist every few months but the tumors regressed and/or are continuing to regress for the larger one as expected.

Seizures were the next manifestation of the disorder they expected to see because the next organ the tumors usually made their appearance at was the brain but again no further signs of the disorder have been found at this time. We are incredibly blessed and fortunate! We met with his neurologist and a genetics counselor the other day, and they were quite happy with him.

While there they talked about getting genetics testing done. A genetics test could confirm he has the disorder or give us an 85% likely negative that he doesn't. There's also the possibility the results could be inconclusive in which case they would still label him with the disorder. We are inconclusive here on what we should do. Obviously if we could get the negative- yay case closed!

He is developmentally totally on track and has shown no further complications or evidence of the disorder so I would hate to place the label that will come with the diagnosis when if he has it it's obviously very mild and may not cause him problems for years- if ever- down the road. No matter how mild his symptoms may be and no matter how little medical attention he may need a positive or inconclusive genetics test result could make it hard for him to obtain certain insurances when he gets older.    When he gets older he may want to know if the heart tumors were caused by a mild version of the genetic disorder because if so unfortunately a passing down of the disorder could be anywhere from mild to severe for his own children, but if we wait he could obtain life insurance before doing a genetics test and make that decision for himself. If he is positive then all of us would have to go through genetics testing as well to see if the girls had the possibility of passing it down to their children.

He s doing so well and we all feel so hopeful and optimistic for his future so  if we knew we were getting a negative result it'd be a no brainer to just do it but a positive would be opening a whole can of worms I'm not sure about opening right now. If we choose not to do the genetics testing we just follow up with neurology once a year unless of course something concerning warrants her attention sooner.

I really feel like not knowing the results of a genetics test isn't much different right now than not knowing any of our children's medical futures and what they may face in their individual journeys ahead. But I do know after almost two years of all this crazy medical uncertainty that followed a year of two miscarriages I am so thankful that this is where we've ended up. He's here and at sixteen months he's doing fantastic and is such an incredible blessing to our family.

Medical definitions brought to you by Medscape

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How to Help the Mompreneur out on Facebook without Buying Anything

I have lots of Mompreneur friends on Facebook. Some that do it as their full time income and others like myself that  do it as a supplement income. There's no way I could buy from them all every single month. I'm pretty tight with my money, but I try to buy from them when I can. I've bought some essential oils, beach body, pink zebra, lipsense, and a few e books from fellow freelance writers and have used friends' new photography businesses. With the holidays coming I want to really try to support more of my Mompreneur friends, but I can't buy everything.

As a writer who tries to push my brand and books on social media there are a few things I've found that are very helpful from my friends in helping me get increased engagement online which therefore even in the writing world equals more money, not necessarily in sales always for me but in pageviews. Though sometimes my pay is determined by pageviews I imagine some of these approaches would be very helpful in helping your friends' businesses without you actually having to buy anything at that moment.

With the way Facebook works these days our marketing strategies rely on getting into as many people's  feeds as we can. For anywhere from a couple $$ to $20 Facebook will throw it into a couple thousand feeds for us, but most of us don't have these advertising $$ in our budget so we rely on our friends' engagement. So here are some ideas how you can help your Mompreneur friends still even when you re not buying something.

1. Every time you "like" their status your friends on your friend list see what products or in my case articles/posts you're liking which may prompt them to check it out themselves.

2. Engage in conversation. This tends to double to triple the number of people that see your friends' product or post. Now when they reply or others add their thoughts it keeps running in more and more people's feeds and if Facebook thinks it's a popular trend it'll throw it in front of more people's feeds.

3. Sharing their business page, their post, or any promotions they' re running is a huge help to your Mompreneur friend.

4. If and when you do try their product be sure to give them a shoutout on social media. This can be a huge help to them a month or so later when they're working on the next month's sales and income but you don't plan to make any purchases that month.

5. If you are a Mompreneur it's kind of like it is in the writing world- scratching each other's backs is huge. Make sure you re engaging on their pages and posts maybe even sharing in hopes that they'll follow and do the same for you and others.

6. Look for opportunities where you can team up so you are both exposed to more potential customers and clients outside your own regular list of friends.

The online Mompreneur world is an amazing business opportunity for today' s women. As I always say when it comes to motherhood support one another- in their mom journey and their Mompreneur business. Luckily I have few friends selling the same things so there's no need for competition among one another but a wonderful opportunity to help one another grow our brands and our businesses.

Be sure to follow Stepping into Motherhood on facebook

Monday, August 7, 2017

Warrior Within

The news is a blow that knocks her back in disbelief. "How can this be? How can this be happening to me?" she wonders in dismay. "What about my children? What about me? How will this change so many things?"

The news sinks in, the emotions a raging storm inside her. The fear is replaced by anger and the anger fuels the warrior within. Just as the news knocked her down with an unforeseen force she rises up, her fear of the approaching monster settling at her feet like dust, because the warrior within has stirred and she's ready. Ready to face it head on, ready to show cancer it won't own her but she will own cancer.

She will walk in the storm with her head held high. Each day she rises up and bravely lives her life just as she always has.  When the tough days knock her down it is just the warrior within resting to put forth her best fight in the battles that still lay ahead.

She will walk out of the storm stronger than she went in. Cancer will not take her spirit; she will show cancer the spirit of a true warrior. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stay in the Moment a Little Longer

As the sun that finally broke through the rainy afternoon set on the fairground, it bathed their flying hair in its light. Their laughter seemed to fall in rhythm with the band on the stage. Around and around in circles the two of them went, bursting into more laughter each time one of them fell to the ground in dizziness. Their little brother perched on my lap, clapped his little chubby hands together each time the two of them fell to the ground.

The joy in the simplicity of the three of them on that summer evening, planted itself in my momma’s heart. These are the moments I want to stay in a little longer. There’s no stress, there’s no worry, there’s no wondering of what’s next to overcome, or over analyzing of what’s already passed. It’s just pure joy in the simple things of enjoying a summer evening listening to live music as they dance away to a rhythm all of their own. It’s moments like these where I again fall in love with my life.

The days we walk out that door to embark on some daily journey or the evenings we close that basement door to venture downstairs, the battles and the worries of the day or the past week are left behind that door. The joy in living that the day in and day out grind of life tries to steal is reignited for these moments. Each time I leave it at that door and I let your little hand beckon me to come play in the yard, come watch a movie, go with you to wherever the next family adventure awaits I yearn for the moment to just stay a little longer. Though the moments are fleeting and the passage of time threatens to snatch them away, each time they remind me why I love this life, and each time I lock them away in my heart to get me to the next time I can leave it all at the door and follow you back to the moments I just wish to stay in a little longer.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Mom Life of Working Out

Three years ago this month I stepped on the scale and weighed more than I weighed nine months pregnant with the girls. I had thrown my scale out when we moved a year and a half before and that year that followed was pretty rough so I figured all that junk stress eating wasn't doing me any favors. With having to pick up a 5 hour a week/ two days a week PT gig on the side I had given up even more on working out than I did when I went back to work after the first baby five years before. I hated seeing pictures of myself because though I didn't have the scale to tell me I could see myself getting plumper with each picture.

That number on the scale was a smack in the face that if I didn't like it I better do something about it. I had beach body's Insanity from someone I don't even remember so I started doing the video workouts. Though the Insanity one was longer than I liked and I skipped parts I liked the idea. With two young kids at home, no family around to send them to while I went to a gym, and a husband that worked later than me it was the perfect convenience for my working mom life.

So for the next year on and off I worked with Insanity or did cardio outside. Except throughout that year I got pregnant and unpregant with two miscarriages so I wasn't very consistent and throughout that year I would sometimes go a few months without working out. But by the time July of 2015 rolled a year later I had managed to lose about ten pounds. Then I got pregnant a third time. I don't remember how long I kept up working out pregnant but pretty sure it wasn't very long. In April of 2016 we had our third baby and only boy. Because my weight with the lost pregnancies and inconsistent working out had been up and down so much I really don't know how much weight I gained with that last pregnancy but by the end of the pregnancy I was about 44 lbs from what I weighed before I entered this motherhood arena.

I had it in my mind though that once we got through all the tribulations we went through with that third baby I was going to fully commit to myself and getting in better shape. Now here I am 15 months after my last (and forever last) baby and three years since I stepped on that scale. I've had some victories and setbacks along the way.

First, I hate the damn scale. Why do we obsess about that damn number, ladies? I know I shouldn't but we waste too much time worrying about that damn number. Then it seems like no matter the number we want it to be just a little lower. Then what's ironic is my goal numbers I'd be ecstatic to hit now I use to be critical of year's ago. The scale was the worst invention ever. I've seriously considered not keeping one in my house again but it has helped hold me accountable with keeping my consistency the past 15 months.

I've learned to focus on my progress with the other numbers too though these past 15 months. Others with beach body encouraged me to do measurements of my waist, hips, arms, and legs because sometimes those numbers tell you more. The other numbers would be clothes sizes. This is the one that reassures me the most. I had to move up a size when I hit that weight gain peak in 2014. This past year I threw those clothes out and had to buy in my previous size.

 My favorite number though are the workout numbers. The fact that for the past 15 months I have worked out 3-5 times a week every week but five weeks. Each time one of those weeks passed I got right back on the horse. I've upped my weights, I can go through a whole workout without stopping or skipping like I did when I first started, and I've even clocked in running over two miles a few times. That s right. I ran! I hate to run. Now this is a new development so we'll have to see how long it will last.

Those workout numbers are my victory. Between beach body videos, we now have an elliptical, and the Runkeeper app my husband installed on my phone that challenges me to run and beat my past times these three things give me opportunity and flexibility to keep going, to make this the permenant lifestyle change I was hoping for three years ago. I feel confident now that I can make working out a part of my mom life on a regular basis just like I did almost a decade ago before kids. In the past three months my husband also jumped on the working out lifestyle train with me. For the past three months he has also committed to working out 3-5 times a week between hitting the gym and running a few miles in preparation for a 5K he signed up for, and lucky for us we're both just competitive enough with each other to hopefully keep the other one going.

The biggest disappointment for me though has been after hitting a low this past winter that put me 10 lbs from pre three babies weight with 24 lbs and 12 inches total lost since the summer of 2014, and then gaining half of the lbs and inches back in the past three months. Though it's easier to get my workouts in during the summer it's harder to eat better so hoping the Fall will help with that because I'm pretty sure my eating habits of late are the culprit.

But maybe some of the weight gain is due to muscle rather than fat so I'll hold onto that perception. The other victory is I feel better in my clothes again and I don't look at pictures of myself in disgust anymore. Originally my goal was to get back to my weight before all three babies, and no I have not succeeded at that. In fact I'm 22 lbs away from that currently with the recent weight gain but the victory is not in the scale.  It is reaching my goal of making working out a part of my lifestyle as a mom. That is my victory.  It is in feeling confident in my own skin again despite the number on the scale. That is my victory. It is in reaping the physical and more importantly the mental benefits of making working out a part of my life. That is my victory.  So screw the scale I'm still calling these past 15 months a win.

I use to give myself the excuse because of the kids (and work) that I just didn't have time to fit it in. These three are doing it with me right beside me half of the time. The little guy likes to just climb on me as soon as I get on the floor for an exercise but the girls have their own weights now because I got tired of them trying to steal mine and whining that they didn't have any. So as so many use to say to me, "Make them your reason, not your excuse." The blowup of beach body and workout posts on my facebook page leading up to deciding I wanted this change for myself and throughout the process of staying with it was the perfect inspiration I needed so before you knock all the beachbody coaches  look for the inspiration in what they do rather than the criticism and to the beachbody coaches that have and still do blow up my feed thank you! We really never do know how what we do and say might inspire and touch others so keep it up!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Would the Stay at Home Moms Quit Complaining about their Kids Being Home for the Summer

I get now why there are mommy wars, and why hard as I might try I have a hard time fully staying out of them so I'm sure I'm going to anger a few people here but hear me out first before you stomp away in anger. (Also there isn't anyone in particular that I personally though that has been guilty of this)

I'm a working mom ten months out of the year, but for the other two I get to stay home with my three kids. Two of them aren't in school yet, but I'm lucky enough to be home in the summer when my older one is out of school. Unfortunately, for three summers when my two girls were younger I worked during the summer so I missed that stay at home time with them so now that I've had the past two summers back with them I'm very appreciative of the fact that I get this little sliver of time home with my kids. This time with them is gift, not a sentence or punishment.

So the memes and blog posts and magazine articles getting passed around with stay at home moms complaining about their kids being home with them all summer is about to drive me bat shit crazy. Okay, maybe I'm there considering I'm writing this post. Do you know how many working moms would love a summer-just one summer- home with their kids? Do you know how many teachers look forward to actually giving their own kids their time and attention instead of yours for just these two months verse the ten that your kids get from us? I just watched a mother fight for 18 months for any little extra time she could get with her dying daughter but she sadly passed about a week ago so do you know what she would give for one more carefree summer vacation with her nine year old??? A friend of my sister's is facing possibly her last summer with her kids do you know what she wouldn't give to have another summer with her kids? To fully enjoy this summer without worrying if it's her last one.

So stop the damn complaining if you're home with your kids this summer. They are only young once. They are not even guaranteed to us much past this very moment. How much time we actually have with them ourselves is not any guarantee so enjoy your time with them. Yeah, I totally get that they can be little heathens. I have three. Two that fight half the day and one that is in the toddler temper tantrum throwing stage and wants to refuse naps all of a sudden. But this is my time to just enjoy their wonder, to go outside and play with them without the pressure of the clock, to plan everything in my day around them for a change instead of planning time for them around my day.

I don't mean to sound harsh but for some of us we see this time in the summer home with our children as a gift and your complaining is not wanted here or really anywhere. Go enjoy and laugh with your kids instead.


Goals and POA (Plan of Action)

I know it's not the New Year when we all tend to make new goals. Back at the beginning of this new year I was feeling a little lost and conflicted on my goals. I always feel like as educators we face two "new years" though, and I feel a little more sure of my plan and goals now than I did six months ago.

As any that know us or follow us here know we've been discussing making a big life change with careers and relocating. There is now a more definite plan in place. The anxiety I've dealt with in education is almost suffocating at times. It's not constant though, thank God, but when it peaks it is overwhelming for me. My husband has put in years of jumping through hoops to move up in our current system, yet as much as his principal loves him and he loves working for her, here we are a month and a half away from school starting and who knows what position he'll even have in the Fall so both of us have dealt with our share of frustrations over the years.

Though people have told me it's okay to stay in a job for the money you make, the benefits it provides to you and your family, the early pension, and the time off staying just for that doesn't sit well with me. I'll be honest, adults are the problem with education and society. We all want to blame the kids, but there are a bunch of know it all adults frantically trying to "fix" today's youth and education. We-the adults-are the ones taking away accountability which leads to the problems we see in youth and education. We-the adults-want to "fix "everything especially on paper for kids, whether it's parents helicopter parenting and demanding an A when it's not earned or admin demanding something to meet their data goals. If adults-whether it be the parents or the higher ups- would back off and let me run my classroom the way I see fit rather than bending me to their will- I could see staying in education. But with where education is going right now I'm selling a "product" I don't believe in anymore, and that's a huge conflict for me with my personal values.

So where do we go from here? I'm a planner if you don't know. Because I've been in a situation twice now where I didn't think I could take the education field for one more month, I am now working on a plan so that hopefully if or when it happens again, I have at least myself in a financial situation to make a big jump off the education train. I have a two, maximum three year, financial plan in place that would pay off my car, our timeshare, make updates to increase the value of our house and gain equity in our rental house (if the market doesn't crash again), and increase our savings. Our assets will be more and our debt will be less and our credit score should be just as good as it is now if not hopefully even better should it be needed for a business venture.

By 2019 I can have myself down to one school loan payment, one small balanced credit card, and a loan that will still have 2-3 years left until paid off. I have even outlined our travel goals in case we are 1) leaving the east coast 2) won't get to travel for a few years if we start a business. Between Fall 2017-June 2019 I plan to hit New Orleans (already booked), Michigan (summer 2018), back down to Disney and Savannah , Georgia (Xmas 2018) New England 15 day road trip (June 2019), hit NYC one more time (spring break 2019?), possibly OBX again but not sure when or Williamsburg, VA but also not sure when. Then we would have covered everything east of the MO/KS line except Minnesota and Arkansas. And Mississippi but I'm not sure what to go see in Mississippi??? So I'm really pushing if we're completely relocating to moving west-it'll make it easier to travel west of Missouri in our second life!

I have also informed my husband of a similar plan for himself. His will be a little trickier as we separated our personal debt years ago, which I find to be a huge positive because I am a saver and he is a spender, but whether he's financially or personally ready to leave teaching anytime after 2019 when I may be will be up to him getting his finances in line and being personally ready. He may still get what he's been looking for in education and not want to leave, and that's fine.

I've felt so stuck the past few months because I kept saying how I felt like I couldn't plan my next move without knowing his move. I think this thinking created a lot of my own anxiety the past few months. Yes, we're married, but we're both very independent people and like to do things very differently sometimes (hence why for the sake of our marriage I separated our finances to an extent) and though he never said it, I think thinking I couldn't plan or set my own goals until I knew what his were (staying in education or leaving and if leaving doing what) and feeling like my choices were so dependent on him with his personal career choices and finances created this suffocating void where I felt like I had no control. I didn't like feeling like me getting out of education was dependent on him.

I think realizing this and setting a plan for myself that isn't dependent on him is what I've needed these past few months as I head back into the uncertain future of education for  myself. Maybe to some it sounds like I'm dismissing him but really I feel like before I was dismissing myself and my goals when looking ahead and now I'm bringing myself back into the picture. We may not both be able or want to step out of education at the same time, and now I think that's okay because I don't think either of us should really leave until we really feel like we've reached the end of that road for ourselves. Just hopefully we don't reach it before we're financially ready. For myself I know I need at least two more years and him probably closer to three.

As I've been a little torn on this mid career life crisis of mine, someone told me to back map my life (obviously with that terminology I was talking to a teacher)  to determine what my path of direction should be so that's what I did. If I leave education I push my retirement back to 62 rather than 53; however, I was probably going to work doing something until 57.5  when my son would be done with college and my husband would retire (he'll be 62 four years before me). I'm giving up anywhere from 4-9 years of retirement; however, if I'm smart with my money I can do what my dad did. I can technically "retire" from my career actually earlier say somewhere between 15-20 years, go be my own boss with my own business like my dad and sister have done and/or  work other less stressful jobs to get me to 62 where we will have six retirements (obviously those teacher pensions won't be as big for 15-20 years as they would for 30 but we'll have other retirement) waiting for us including each of our social security if we get it which in Maryland we do assuming the government hasn't jacked it up for everybody by then.

I watched my dad work for a company for 20 years, and then morealess "retire" from that, went into business for himself for ten years, sold it and now works for the guy to make money to get him to his official retirement collection years. I also cheered my sister on a few years ago when she was tired of the company world of the hair salon business and broke free to become her own boss. Here she is now years later as a mompreneur, and she's set herself up pretty damn good!

If I'm now looking at 62 rather than 53 or 58 as retirement I have 26 years until retirement with at least 2-3 of those left in education so a little over 20 years to go do something else, which honestly as someone that likes to experience new things I like the idea of experiencing two careers. Obviously one of the big things we've talked about doing is our own business; however, what business and exactly where depends on many factors. One, if it's a business both my husband and I are doing or if it's just me because a restaurant business would not be my first choice so if he's not onboard financially or personally then I'm not doing that one (at first anyway) , but if he is because it's always been his dream I'd jump on that train with him and manage the financial and payroll and other behind the scenes aspect of the business while he was on scene and the one really putting in the hard hours. Where we would go to do it would really depend on several factors- location and opportunity, schools for our kids, desirable area we wouldn't mind spending the next 20 years, and possible proximity to family.

If he's financially and personally ready to do this when I'm ready then I'd go along with it though it's more his dream than mine because it still allows me the opportunity to explore my dream of being home with the kids more and writing more while I handle the books and marketing of the business at home and leave him to managing the on site running of it. If we did this and we relocated we'd probably actually rent for a few years until the business was well up and running and hopefully build a house a few years later. I have also already stressed that family time is still my #1 priority and is one of my biggest concerns with this kind of business so we'd have to look at certain times of the year to close up shop for travel and family or invest the money into a good manager and kitchen manager we trusted to leave in charge a few years after we had it up and running.

If this isn't what happens in 2-3 years because he's not ready for whatever reason, the plan is to financially have myself in a position to make a significant career change whether that may be going part time, opening my own little business of some kind, pursuing some training or courses to change careers if I feel the need. Or maybe I won't. Education is constantly changing and one thing I've learned after 13 years is how vastly different one year to the next can be. But  I don't want to ever experience what I experienced last October ever again. If I ever feel that trapped, that overwhelmed, that stressed and anxious that I can't sleep and I can't even function to the point that it consumes my life like a fog of suffocating black smoke I want to know I've given myself resources (aka money and a plan) to walk away. I hate to say it that way, but there's a reason young teachers are walking away in less than five years of service. I refuse to accept  I'm trapped in my own career for the rest of my working life because I've put in too much time already. We always have the option to change and do something different for ourselves. I plan to be ready next time (as long as that next time is 2-3 years from now and not 2-3 months-please let this be a year that refuels my hope for education)


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why the Experts aren't "experts" on my Parenting

I know the experts mean well when trying to advise parents of the “perfect ideal” way to “successfully” raise our children, but I think there are a few factors in their research they don’t have their facts straight on. Though science classes were long ago in my memory, I do believe I recall something about variables and how those variables could skew the scientific findings one way or the other. Parenting isn’t a scientific formula in which the experts can give us the step by step process on how to raise our children to be conformed to society’s standards and expectations. There are so many variables the experts are missing when trying to tell us how to successfully raise our children.
First, you don’t know my individual child. As a teacher of thirteen years and parent of eight I can tell you NO TWO children are the same; therefore, when one strategy may be successful with one it may not be with another. As a parent one of the most amazing things to me is how different my children can be from one another. Learning how to parent isn’t a mastery of one particular skill set that you just put on repeat with each kid that follows the first. Each kid has different needs, different strengths, and different weaknesses, and we are constantly adapting and trying new strategies.

Second variable you are missing  is you don’t know me. You don’t know my flaws and imperfections because believe it or not those things aren’t so easily fixed with some “expert” suggestions either. I’m a continued work in progress and always will be so right there is one huge variable you’re forgetting to consider. You don’t know what baggage and insecurities I carry. You also probably don’t share my beliefs and philosophies. You can’t fit all parents into the same box of ideology and practice. You don’t know each parent’s situation.  Our options on what we can do for our children is varied so much based on our individual financial situations, individual work schedule situations, our extended family situations, how many children we have, how many varied needs and personalities each of our children have.

Experts are too scientifically based in the aspect that they want to solve a problem with a solution so they create a recommend method to put into practice, yet because each child is different, each parent is different, and each family situation is different and unique this one size fits all mentality isn’t going to work with raising children. Pushing parents and children to conform to society to behave, think, and live a certain way actually kills creativity and individuality which is what I also thought we wanted for our children.

I’m not trying to make excuses for poor parenting choices. I know we could all use a little help here and there in getting those mini humans of ours to behave at times, but keep in mind we and them are only human.  We can only do so much in so much time. Honestly what one may think is a bad decision a whole other group of “experts” and parents are going to think is the right decision. The shades of gray in parenting choices is so vast you can’t nail parenting down to the scientific method. Unfortunately, all the “expert” parenting articles on the vast web is mostly just succeeding in making all parents feel inadequate and incompetent even when we’re doing the best we can. Thanks, experts, for your advice, but I'm going to continue to believe I know what's best for my children.

                                     So yes, these little monsters are a handful at times but come on doesn't it look like we know what we're doing???
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Time for "Our People"

As a kid you watch and at times mimic your parents. Though as we get older there are times we resist them and their philosophies and life teachings, before we realize it all that time with them shaped and molded us and before we know it we become extensions of them. We don't know when or exactly how it happened, but as we move forward in life we can look back and see how all those things we loved and resisted about our childhood experiences influenced the adults we become.

Now as an adult raising my kids I often wonder what are the things-positives and negatives- that will influence them in who they become. Though I could manage a list of the negative influences I worry about, the positive that I often hope to have one of the greatest impacts on them is their commitment to their "people".

Every year about March or April we start our rounds that tend to take us up through the New Year. January and February is our "down" time at home. Some wonder why I keep our schedule so full but when your "people"-family and the friends that are like family- are scattered across the country- it takes some planned effort to hit them all and some several times a year. So we load up as a family and hit the road for sometimes no more than a two hour one night trip and other times for a two day drive, week plus trip. When we are home we have the friends we've made in the little town we've made our home we like to hang out with and our Bmore family that's been here with us since the beginning.

In March we went north five hours to spend a weekend with my husband's family; in April we went west where I not only got to spend a week and Easter with my family but had a dinner out with my cousin before her second chemo treatment, an evening sitting on my sister's deck with my best friend since the fourth grade, and as almost always when I'm home an evening drinking and chatting with one of my very best friends from college. In May we had an impromptu celebration for one of our bmore friends' birthdays, spent an evening around a fire with some of our local friends, enjoyed a visit with a cousin I don't get to see very often, and to kick the summer off we headed to Shenandoah where I got to sit outside and have a much needed heart to heart with a girlfriend of mine that lost her cousin recently. In June we got to go up to New York to see my mom's family that I was long overdue to see and enjoy a night of celebrating wedding bliss with cousins I don't get to see enough. In June we headed back west where unfortunately my time to catch others was short and missed for some, but my kids got a full two weeks in with their cousins, aunts, and grandparents while my husband and I got some much overdue time alone. July will be mostly quiet with hopefully some Sat nights spent catching up with local friends.  In Aug we'll head the five hours back up north to spend with my husband's family, and then our little family will head out to spend a long weekend at the beach. In the Fall we'll hopefully get to make a short trip down to visit our VA friends again this year and spend a weekend camping with other friends of ours we only get to see about twice a year. Then we'll get a weekend away with some old college friends of my husbands for a weekend before spending Thanksgivng and Christmas with each of our families again.

Whether it's the effort we put into making the time for the people that matter to us or the effort to plan time that's just for the five of us away from the to do lists and responsibilities where our number one focus is to just enjoy each other's company, I hope it molds my kids to see the value in committing to whoever "their people" may be (which better include us in our old age!).

We live in a highly distracted world these days. I LOVE social media. It does give me the opportunity to maintain relationships long distance. As a mother God knows I love text messaging as it allows me to carry on conversations with friends without them realizing how completely distracted I am by the chaos that surrounds me most evenings.  But those conveniences could easily convince us that it's okay to miss the dinner out with my cousin, the deck night with my fourth grade bff, the late night conversations sitting in front of the street I grew up on with my college bff, or the long overdue heart to heart with my friend that lost her cousin. No I don't get to catch everyone as much as I'd like, but the opportunity to connect with them in person rather than through the computer or phone is something I hope my kids remember to value. Time is fleeting whether it's my children's childhood slipping by or our parents and grandparents getting older. The older we get the more we understand how fast life can change and how unfair life can be in how much time everyone has here.

I want my kids to see this more than how big the houses are that we live in, the cars we drive, the highs and lows of our careers. I want them to see this time away with their immediate family or time with their extended family and friends is some of the best medicine for their soul. We all need the break from the demands of work, home, and life in general. Though technology makes us think we can stay connect to one another, the late night chats in person or the dinner conversations are always better. That time to connect, laugh, and create memories is something we all need in our life.

I want them to know in the end it's not about the money we made, the things we owned, even the places we went or the things we accomplished. It's always about the people. Life is always about the people love.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

To the Child that's Just Like Me

I looked into your hazel eyes that were turning greener by the minute as they pooled with tears and as I looked into eyes so like own I saw the reflection of me past the similiar eyes down to the similar emotions that always opened the floodgates.

So just as I've done since that first night we both cried all night in that hospital room alone together I just squeezed you tight. I get you, girl. At five years old now sometimes I think you are the only one that really gets me. Even when those are tears of anger in your eyes possibly even directed at me I get it. I know what it's like to feel like the difficult and misunderstood one. I know what it's like to be in your own little world- where your creative, overactive mind wonders and checks out- but others criticize you for not paying attention. I know what it's like to be cautious and over think things way too much rather than just doing them while others roll their eyes at you just being "you" they say. I know what it's like to speak your mind and stand your ground even if it's only about a cookie right now at five but people try to make you feel like having a mind of your own is a bad thing rather than a good thing. And little girl, I know all too well about hiding tears when others hurt your feelings for constantly calling out your quirks like they re all "fatal flaws".

At five years old you're so happy to be like me, but some nights like tonight I lay here and wonder will you still feel that way at 13? At 21? When you're a mom? Because besides a few that I feel really see my flaws as the same quirks that lead to my potential you re one of the few that sees right past them to me to really see how the flaws just lead to the imperfect me I'm meant to be. Despite all the ways I screw up and let the difficulties that are me show throughout the day you love me the same at the end of everyday. I see me in so many things about you, and I want you to always love that like you do now. There are good things that result from our often criticized flaws. I don't want others criticism or frustration that you're being difficult to overshadow your love for yourself. Even though at times you and I may butt heads I hope I'm always the first one you run to when those emotions I know all too well will start those flood of tears.

You have the biggest loving heart I've ever seen, kid. People will always love you- new ones and old ones. People like us are never without enough people to love us, but I'm not sure how many people actually understand us.  We  love so hard and fiercely but because of that you'll get hurt easily. I don't know if you'll master the stone mask of seemingly like you're hard and uncaring where you use anger and sarcasm to hide your true feelings. I hope you don't get like me where you let your  anger sit at the top of your emotional volcano because letting anger out seems safer than dealing with all the other emotions overly sensitive and deep thinkers like us carry.

I pray this bond between us lasts the challenges we will face ahead as you grow. You have loved me for me in such a way that I've never been loved or understood and I just hope I can do that for you. I can't let you eat five cookies for dinner or stay up all night but you being difficult whether it's speaking up or always lagging behind because you re deep in your own world or talking my ear off way past bedtime because your mind is on some deep philosophical thought that is way too much thinking for a five year old just remember, kid, I get you. I get it all. I get the frustration of people' s criticism, I get the frustration of your own mind overthinking too many things, I get the frustration of controlling your emotions and feeling like you need to hide them, I get the need to ramble the constant flow of thought out your head, I get the doubt that lurks because all of that makes us think we're not good enough. But, please, baby girl, know that you're always enough just the way you are. If you doubt it for a second you just keep coming to your momma because I get you, baby girl.

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.