On Poop and Poopum

Nov 29 2011

I was a cheerleader in high school. I suspect I was very, very bad at it, but I like to recreate it in my head like I. WAS. AWESOME.

(This parenthetical statement is the place-holder for the really high leg kick I’m doing in my head right now.)

That’s right.

Now, Greg doesn’t have to recreate my cheerleading days in his head like it was anything, awesome or otherwise. A self-proclaimed geek who holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Greg declared himself content to have married a one-time cheerleader. Bless his heart, he gives my life meaning.

I spent my sophomore year of high school with my initials “E.M.” embroidered on my cheerleading uniform. Sure, I could’ve used “B.M” since I always go by Beth and never by Elizabeth, but who wants to spend a school year with the acronym for Bowel Movement emblazoned upon her? “Is that B.M. on your uniform? Bahahahaha!” Um, no, thanks.

Instead, I spent the whole year having this conversation:

Them: “Why do you have E.M. on your uniform?”
Me: “My name is Elizabeth.”
Them: “Well, yeah. But you go by Beth. Why didn’t you just put B.M. on your… OOOHHHH!”
Me: “Yeah.”
Them: “Bahahahahaha!”

I told you I was awesome, and now you know it’s true.

In related news, I have a friend, E.m. Johnson, who’s a brilliant writer. I don’t know if he knows he’s a brilliant writer. Writing isn’t his career or anything. In fact, as far as I know (since I haven’t seen him for, oh, 15 or 1,000 years or so), he pretty much only writes academic papers and Facebook status updates. I haven’t seen the academic papers, but if they’re half as entertaining as his Facebook status updates, I’d pay in piles of chocolate chip cookies to read them, and then I’d bandy them about the internets, like I’m about to do with his other works. Other works like this:

Well, it looks like I’ve decided to become a Forest Ninja.

It’s going to take a lot of discipline and intense training. I’m pretty sure a Master Forest Ninja is capable of sneaking up on a fully conscious mountain lion and completely incapacitating it with a one inch punch to the face, so that’s cool. I’ll keep you guys posted on my progress…

You guys, this kind of stuff is a huge relief for me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve needed to incapacitate a fully conscious mountain lion.

And then – get this – E.m. sorta did keep us posted on his progress. Facebook follow-through, guys. Amazing!

I’m not entirely sure yet what a Forest Ninja spends his time doing, but I think it alternates between long periods of moving very slowly and short periods of moving extremely quickly.


An initial stage of training for ninjas, forest or otherwise, is the ability to enter and exit a room in which a toddler is sleeping, without waking said toddler. I will practice this right now.

Which brings me to this:

What’s the second stage of ninja training, E.m.? ‘Cause I TOTALLY have that toddler thing DOWN. I can, in fact, rest my hand on a sleeping toddler, and then remove my hand without him waking. (I know; I know. I have mad skillz.) I should admit, however, that while I’ve thoroughly mastered periods of moving extremely quickly, I haven’t had much opportunity to practice long periods of moving extremely slowly. Unless, of course, I can count that week last year with pneumonia during which I moved so slowly that I appeared to be stationary. If you can give me credit for “life experience,” E.m., then I need next steps in ninja training, STAT.

Even more important than Forest Ninja training, however, is grammar instruction.

OK, I’m sorry. That wasn’t totally accurate. ‘Cause we all know that Forest Ninja training totally beats grammar in a national taste test. BUT, grammar instruction about P00P trumps Forest Ninja training every time. Don’t even argue with me. We can’t all be Forest Ninjas, after all, but everybody poops.

E.m. Johnson is a nurse and a father of three, both of which emphatically qualify a guy as a reliable source of poop grammar. But, you guys, his name is also E.m., which, as we all know, is only a thinly disguised code for Bowel Movement. In short, if I can offer only one piece of advice today, it’s this: when E.m. Johnson talks poop grammar, we all should listen.

Here’s what he has to say:

You know how the word “data” is plural? Poop is like that, too. Poop is the plural of “poopum,” which represents a solitary piece separated from the herd.

OH MY GOSH, you guys! All this time, I’ve been incorrectly using poop and poop as my singular and plural. I thought the word poop was like “deer and deer” or “sheep and sheep” or “moose and moose.” Come to find out, poop is ONLY the plural.

Also, I didn’t know that poop live in a herd. Well, I mean, of course I knew experientially that poop have herdlike characteristics; I have five children, after all, and they all poop. But I didn’t know that the appropriate term for grouping poop is “herd.”

You might think that none of this is important information. If that’s true, you clearly do not spend as much time talking and thinking about poop as I do. (Yay, you!) But I need this data. For example, I can now correctly form the following sentences:

Is that a poopum floating in my tub?
OH MY GOSH! That’s not a poopum. THAT’S A HERD OF POOP!


Listen up, kids. There is poop all over my bathroom, and I don’t care who did it,
GLOVE UP; you are ALL going to help clean up every last poopum.


I said every last poopum, you guys; you need to get that one QUICKLY,
before it escapes from the herd.

Do you see how this will change my LIFE?

Now, you might doubt the accuracy of E.m.’s Latin training, but I’m here to tell you, you don’t become either a nurse or a father of three without making crap up learning a LOT. I, for one, shall be making poop and poopum a more permanent part of my repertoire.

Thanks, E.m., for making this little lesson in grammar possible.

Working together to change the world one poopum at a time,

B.M. Woolsey


P.S. You can always get in on all of the Five Kids fun over on Facebook by clicking here. Our current discussion revolves around whether or not Christmas elves know the alphabet. So hanging out over there will pretty much change your life.

On Christmas and Pushing Watermelons Uphill

Nov 28 2011

We live at the tippy, tippy top of a steep hill.

Our house pretty much looks just like this…

which makes biking a real bear, particularly when I’m packing my 40-pound twins in the Burley behind me.

True confession: this summer, when I was out biking with my kidlets, I bought a watermelon at the local fruit stand. It was gigantic because I have 5 children, so everything we buy is gigantic. For example, you call Costco a big box store; I call it a store. Plus, my Burley has a super convenient storage area in the back just begging me to load it. Plus-plus, it made perfect sense to try to bike up my hill with 80 pounds of children and a gigantic watermelon. And I think I’ve made it pretty clear over time that sense-making is one of my best things.

All 80 combined pounds of these dudes agree that they have a sense-making mama:

I like to plan ahead. I like to be self-sufficient. I like to be the Mom Who Does It All. (“Like to be” doesn’t always equal “am,” but I doggedly pursue independence the same way I tenaciously swing at full night of sleep; just because I’m not likely to hit it out of the park anytime soon doesn’t make it a pursuit that’s not worth my while.) That’s why I knew I could totally handle my bike, my kids, and a watermelon the size of a VW bus all my byself!

And I did it, too. I made it up 25% of that hill, you guys, before I cried “uncle!” (or, in this case, “cousin!”) and begged for Rescue by Minivan. My cousin Wes-a-wee arrived at the Park Where I Collapsed, loaded my children and my watermelon in her van, and chauffeured them up the hill. And she only said, “Seriously? A watermelon?” six or seven times. (Frankly, I think she deserves a medal for her Extreme Act of Verbal Restraint.)

Hey – a 25% success rate is, like, infinitely greater than a 0% success rate. Right? Right, guys? Your answer is important because it’s the day after Thanksgiving weekend, and the holiday pendulum is swinging inexorably toward Christmas.


Also, yikes!

I love Christmas. Love it, love it.

I love family movie nights, munching on homemade caramel corn as dusk and dark creep earlier and earlier.

I love watching my little kids trim only the bottom of our tree so that the lowest branches dip with their heavy loads while the upper branches remain pristine and splendidly naked.

I love hanging our stockings on weighted holders that, without my constant attention and admonishment, threaten to tumble down and brain my rambunctious children.

I love the carols. I love the peppermint bark. I love the family time.

I love that my mom makes a birthday cake for Jesus and makes my kids sing “Happy Birthday” to him every single year. And I love that my dad insists on preparing the world’s slowest cup of coffee while 5 anxious children writhe in Waiting Pain to open presents.

I love Christmas. Did I say that yet? I love it. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, which, as far as I can tell, means that God has officially christened the Christmas ship, and we’re finally free to climb on board without fear of jumping the Christmas gun. Whew! What a relief!

So I was surprised to find that sometime during all the Thanksgiving clean-up and Christmas decorating this weekend, I misplaced my holiday mojo. I woke up this morning, looked in my metaphorical Burley, saw a whole lot of kiddos I’m responsible to shepherd lovingly up a steep holiday hill, and I felt tired. Amidst the baking and buying, pageants and parties, decorating and dining, there are children to be wowed, teachers to be thanked, friends to be celebrated, and family to be honored.

As a non-stuff-centric person, I spend a little time during every holiday patting myself on the back for not buying into popular culture’s “stuff” expectations. Our gift-giving tends to be modest, our kids don’t seem to suffer for it, and we’re not saddled with thousands of “things” to manage. For us, it’s a win. I forget, though, that watermelons don’t just come shaped as purchases.

I paused this morning as I started grimly pulling my Burley up the Christmas hill, and I jumped off the bike. I took a hard look at my load, trying to see all that’s weighing it down. And – wouldn’t you know it? – I found the back end heavy with this mama’s activity and event expectations, my stowaway watermelons. (The sneaks!)

Since it’s not enough to start chucking watermelons around – babies and bathwater and all that – today’s the day I assess which events and purchases are ballast, providing stability and momentum for our joyous celebration, and which watermelons I shoehorn into our time and budget that aren’t worth the Herculean effort it’ll take to lug ’em up my Christmas hill.

I’m thinking, I’m planning, and I’m preparing. But I’m also purging our calendar and protecting more than our budget; I’m protecting our time. Because, although I like to be the Mom Who Does It All, “like to be” doesn’t mean “am,” and, interestingly, it doesn’t even mean “should.”

I’ll tell you what; my Christmas pendulum feels a lot more free without all these watermelons hanging off of it. And I feel a lot less tired.

Steep Christmas hill? Bring it.

And, also…

On Recognizing the Bounty and Being Glad

Nov 23 2011

Thanksgiving dawns bright and early tomorrow – or dark and early if you’re setting your alarm to get that turkey in the oven – and I am ill-prepared for the feast.

Before five kids, I was a different person. I had lists. I had lists of lists. I had lists of lists of lists.

I baked for days. I coordinated the populace. I communicated with alacrity. I was the Thanksgiving (or birthday or Christmas or Easter) drill sergeant, spurring all others on to detailed organization. I knew exactly who was bringing rolls, who was buying the bag of salad, and which grandmother was making sugar cookies.

I knew the exact number of jam jars in my pantry, and I took out stock in fresh whipping cream. I had the ham thawing days in advance; the back-up ham, that is, in case I decided at the last minute that the turkey size was insufficient.

In short, I never, ever wondered, like I do this year, whether we’d have too many sweet potatoes and not enough… well, everything else.

This year is different.

This year, my niece has cancer and my nephew keeps forgetting that breathing is really, really important even though Mr. Epi-pen takes a personal interest in reminding him.

This year, I don’t care about my lists or about the illusion of preparedness. I care, instead, about discovery.

This year, I’m immersed in being a mama to my children…,

… and to soaking up every blissful second they’ll offer me.

This year, I’m without the emotional or spiritual reserves to do more than be grateful.

I find it all strangely freeing, as though the chains of expectation have fallen away.

Tomorrow, a hodgepodge group of friends and family will arrive at my house. My friend Webb will bring his famous brined and smoked turkey. My sister-in-law is making no less than 7 nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free desserts, all of which sound delectable, many of which include the all-important word chocolate, and none of which will cause my nephew to do his lack-of-breathing impression. (Yippee!) And, of course, due to my industrious lack of communication, at least 3 people are bringing sweet potatoes.

I haven’t pressed the napkins – or, really, even unearthed them from the dog-mauled plastic laundry basket where they’ve been since the last holiday I hosted. I don’t know whether I have enough tea-light candles for our long table. I don’t know whether we have enough chairs for the crowd. My sourcing of plates, in fact, leaves something to be desired.

But, if I fix none of those problems today, I know exactly what will happen tomorrow. My friends and family will arrive, and we’ll do the work of the day together. Our kids will tear apart the house while we rearrange the furniture, boil the (piles and piles of) sweet potatoes, and press the napkins. We’ll laugh, glasses of wine in hand, and, if the weather clears, we’ll go for a walk, even if our languid pace as we chase toddlers delays our meal.

It’s enough for me today, in the busyness and the bluster that is Thanksgiving Eve, to simply be grateful,

because this season of life is teaching me not to wait for tomorrow to recognize the bounty and be glad.

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends!

And, to the rest of you, I wish you a very, very Happy Thursday.


Woody and Me: To Infinity and Beyond

Nov 21 2011

I’ve been doing this parenting gig long enough to know that this is a phase. A chapter, a stage, a season of life; call it what you will, someday I’ll sleep again.

Sadly, that “someday” of sleep is not today because I have a five-year-old going through an ambitious night terror phase. This kid is driven, I tell you. He put on his three-piece suit, grabbed his briefcase, and accepted an executive position at a top Night Terrors Firm. His corner office view is amazing.

If you’re unfamiliar with, but anxious to experience (’cause, GEE!, who wouldn’t be?), Parenting during Night Terrors, I highly recommend you head to whatever watering hole is popular with your local poltergeists and invite one over for a visit. From the intermittent shrieks and unpredictable moans to the creeeeaaaaakkk of the floor boards as the affected child flies into my room after hours, helping my kid manage night terrors is, as far as I can tell, identical to being haunted. Well, other than the fact that it’s hard to bundle a specter onto my lap and say, “Hush, baby. Sh. Sh. Sh. Ssssshhhhhh. Mama’s here.” It’s close, though. Almost exactly the same.

Last week, after several fun sleepovers with my preschooler, from his bed to mine, from my floor to his, I gave up. I threw some foam pads and my cushiest blankets down on his floor, crawled into my new floorbed, and called it a night. And then I called it a night there the next night. And then I called it a night there the next night. And then I called it a night there the next night. And then I… you can see where this is headed. I have a new bedroom, and it’s not very comfy.

I know, I know – we’re supposed to teach our kids to sleep. But that’s just the trouble with night terrors; the kids are asleep the whole, entire, banshee-screeching time, but the mama’s not asleep, and that will never do. (And also, this mama’s insides are shredded into teeny, tiny bits listening to my baby make those scared sounds. And also-also, I’m a sucker. But whatever.)

In short, I’m sleeping now, but I miss my husband. And, when I say “miss my husband,” I mean that I miss my husband. In specific ways. I miss-him miss him. Missity miss. Missity miss miss miss.


I miss him.

The other night, as I crawled into my makeshift floorbed, miss missing my husband, I slammed my knee right into a hard, plastic, pokey… something. For obvious reasons (you know, like the fact that it was dark, and there was a kid right next to me with night terrors, and I was using all of my energy to keep the choice words inside my head), I didn’t take pictures at that exact moment. I recreated these for your viewing pleasure.

This is the something…

…on which I impaled myself.

You guys, you know that soft bendy spot right under your kneecap? The part that people who actually remember the stuff they learned in human anatomy class (and don’t have to Google “knee anatomy images”) might call the area above the lateral meniscus?

Yeah. That part. That’s exactly where Woody buried his steal-toed boots, knocking me flat into my floorbed with an oomph, a barely-muffled “OW!” and a desire to drop-kick my noctural plastic visitor to infinity and beyond.

I pulled that farfignoogin’ toy out of my knee, and, by the light of my phone,…

…I saw that I’d hopped in bed with Woody. Coming face to face with this little floorbed-sharer cracked me up, y’all, ’til the tears of exhaustion laughter ran down my face.

Well, Woody was as devastated by my laughter as he was offended, so now I have to apologize. Here goes nothin’:

I’m sorry, Woody. It’s not you. It’s me.

See, you have the right idea.

You’re just the Wrong Dude.

Well, I’m off, guys. Off to another evening at the Night Terror Races.

Wish me luck. This whole parenting thing? It really is to infinity and beyond!

How to Make Coffee and Change the World

Nov 20 2011

There are many things I love about Medical Teams International, but I shall start with the most important.

These people do not kid around when they make coffee.

    For sooth, when the folks who work at Medical Teams International make coffee, they do it like every last one of them is a sleep-deprived mother of five. It’s strong, it’s opaque, you can eat it with a fork, and it will keep your heart revved on Maximum Speed for at least 4 hours. You guys, these are the people you can trust to change the world.

    OK, seriously. Coffee’s not actually at the tippy top of the list of things I love about this organization. But you can still trust these people to change the world because every day in countries all over the world, Medical Teams International is using ordinary people to change and save the lives of mamas and their children.

    As an ordinary person myself, that’s a real relief, because sometimes I don’t know what to do on my own about all the heartache in the world.

    I don’t know about you, but I look around my own house with abiding gratitude. Actually, I take that first part back; a lot of you have been incredibly gracious by introducing yourselves and befriending me, either here or over on Facebook, and I feel like it’s not too presumptuous of me to say that I DO know about you, and we look around our houses with abiding gratitude. We may have toilets that clog with giant kid poos, holes in our walls and tantrum-prone kids, but we also know that the clogs, the holes and the tantrums mean that we have the toilets, the walls and the kids.

    When we mamas see our sisters across the globe raising their kids in crisis or poverty, we ache to provide responsible, sustainable help that will make a difference for a lifetime. That’s exactly why I’m writing today about Medical Teams International. We impact lives every single day at home, and we can do it on a global scale, too, because Medical Teams International empowers ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference. I can’t think of any group of people more compassionate, more qualified, or more willing to change the world than we mamas.

      You guys, I want to live in a World of WOW, and I’m old enough now that it’s up to me to help make it happen. My vision is to help build a reality where more of us mamas get to cuddle our babies, and fewer of us have to bury them. I choose to build the World of Wow in cooperation with Medical Teams International because:

      1. They’re committed to helping mamas and their kids so they, in turn, can help others. Read Margarita’s story to learn more.
      2. Medical Teams International can leverage my donation of only $2.35 to change a life. Imagine what they can do with $25!
      3. If I don’t have $2.35, there are other things I can do to help, and I love participating in a game that everyone can play.
      4. Medical Teams International has an amazing 3% overhead rate and rockin’ fiscal responsibility; they carry Charity Navigator’s highest rating.
      5. These people do not kid around when they make coffee. (Hey. That’s still top five. A girl’s gotta have her priorities.)

      Can Medical Teams International really help us build a World of WOW one $2.35 donation at a time? Check out the One in a Million, One at a Time campaign and see for yourself the ways that we can work together to impact one million lives. Or, skip all that and simply donate now; that works, too.

      Happy Thanksgiving Week!

      Wishing all of us a World of WOW,


      P.S. Here’s the recipe for authentic Medical Teams International coffee:

      • Use the recommended amount of coffee grounds.
      • Double that.
      • Add more.
      • Chew.

      P.P.S. Although they provide me with all the coffee I can drink and a part-time paycheck, I’m not being paid, pressured or pampered by Medical Teams International to write this blog post. In fact, they’d probably rather I stop, especially when they see the upcoming post titled “Woody and Me.” Teehee.

      Sucking on a Stick of Gross with a Heaping Side of Disgusting (or, Mmm! Dinner!)

      Nov 18 2011

      For years, I’ve had a strict, no-complaints-at-dinnertime rule. If my kids don’t like dinner, they may say, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner,” and that is all they may say.

      It’s a good, sturdy, sensible-shoes kind of rule, ’cause nothing’s quite so demoralizing as slaving over dinner only to hear a wee little, high-pitched voice say, eloquently, “Eeeeeeeewwwww!”

      I didn’t always have the “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner” rule. I used to blow neon green steam out of my ears, bug my eyes out, and say through clenched teeth, “You will EAT it and you will LOVE it.” That was when I was going through my realistic phase of parenting, and I always said practical, reasonable things to my kids. Good times, y’all; good times.

      The very best – and completely inevitable – outcome of “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner” is the fact that the phrase has morphed into thinly-disguised code for “Gee, Mom. This dinner tastes like sucking on a stick of Gross with a heaping side of Disgusting.”

      So, when my kids say, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner,” it’s usually accompanied by the kind of drawn sullenness most people would reserve for their first break-up, or that climbing rope in gym class, or that time you thought that cutting your hair while you were pregnant was a good idea. The kids go a little pale, their eyes droop, and their lips don’t actually move while they say in their very best Dead Robot monotone voice, “Thank you, ah, for aking dinner.”

      If you recall, I started this post with these two words: for years. For years. For YEARS, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner” has been in the family canon.  It is law. I walked up a mountain, God engraved it on a stone tablet, and I high-tailed it back home before I found anything creepy up there, like overly-talkative, burning shrubbery.

      The first words my children spoke were “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner.” In fact, after I birthed two babies too early and they were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I attached myself to an industrial-sized milking machine that made my breasts into world-class contortionists, and, when we sent the breast bounty (12 drops of colostrum – woot!) straight to my babes’ bellies, they looked at me and said, with perfect diction, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner.”

      So you’ll understand my surprise when Ian, who’s 11 and knows better, took one bite of dinner last night and said, “This tastes like puke.”

      If you’re bad at math, don’t worry, I’ll help you out:

      “This tastes like puke”
      “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner”

      It’s a tough equation, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right away. Ian didn’t either.

      Enter: The most challenging thing about parenting, which is, for me, not cracking the heck up when my kids pick up a rule and smash it, World Wrestling Federation style, over their heads. It’s rule throw-down time, my kid just waved the red flag, and I will tell you what… this mama bull ain’t nevah backed down from a challenge.

      Me: “That is so interesting, Ian. WOW. That sounded almost exactly like ‘Thank you, Mom, for making dinner,’ so I can see how you’d be confused.”

      I might’ve speared him with the Zoolander look that I like to call Please DO Tell Me What You Were Thinking When You Deliberately Stepped In That Giant Steaming Pile Of Dog Poo, Child.

      Those wheels in his head were turning so fast, I could hear the gears grinding.

      Ian, backpedaling: “Uuhhhh… right, Mom. Sorry about that. I meant to say, ‘This makes me want to puke. But I won’t puke, Mom. I’ll hold it in.'”

      Me, sympathetically: “Hey, Ian. You know what? I understand. I get it. We all make mistakes. Like, just now when I said, ‘That is so interesting, Ian,’ what meant to say was, ‘You just earned yourself a Weekend o’ Extra Chores, dude.'”

      Watching my kids try to verbally retreat is one of life’s great joys.

      Ian: “WHAT? No, Mom! No! It was a accident. I didn’t say puke. I said… I said… ‘Mmm! Dinner!'”

      Hehehe. That’s what I thought, baby boy. That’s what I thought.

      P.S. My chore list just got really long, and there’s a whole weekend ahead with nothing but hours and hours to get stuff done. Puke is my new favorite dinner. Just saying.

      The Principal Called Again

      Nov 17 2011

      It happened.  Just like I knew it would.  That call from the principal.  The one that starts like this,

      “Hello, Beth?  This is Mrs. Principal.  I have Aden here with me.”

      I always greet the principal cheerfully.  We are, after all, on the same page.  The Teach My Daughter Appropriate Behavior page.  The Please, Dear Child, Follow the Rules page.  The Let’s Minimize the Calls from the Principal page.  And the Come ON, Baby Girl, We Know You Can Do It page. There are a lot of pages.  It’s a full-length novel we’re co-writing, and it’s been years in the making.

      Mrs. Principal and I have had some good times. You can read all about the ways I owe this woman a magnum of excellent wine here:

    1. Green Eggs and Suspension
    2. Flicking is the New Hitting
    3. Knocking on Wood: The Results Show

      “Well, hello, Mrs. Principal!” I said, cheerfully.  I’m a fan.  She knows I’m a fan.

      Now, it’s no secret that I love my spunky little rule challenger or that I find her 9-year-old sass way, way too funny. By “it’s no secret,” though, I mean that it’s no secret from you, because God knows that I try to keep the “your behavior amuses me” secret from the child herself. I have a fundamental parenting problem, and its name is Laughter.

      The vulnerable part of parenting a child Village-style comes in sharing the burden of enforcing natural consequences.  It’s painful every time I must admit – either out loud or circumstantially – that I’m not enough.  My parenting, though key, cannot by itself teach my child everything she needs to know.  I somehow expected, when my children started school eons ago, to send them there for academic learning… and I forgot that they’re there equally to learn about life. And I am SO NOT KIDDING when I say that my cubs’ life lessons are sometimes hardest on the mama. It means opening up to strangers, trusting that my kids’ educators have their very best interests at heart, and standing together at a teaching team.

      In other words, sending children to school is a lot like standing naked in an open field, arming a group of strangers who “gosh darn it, sure seem nice” with flaming arrows, and then trusting them to not use their weapons against me, or, worse, to point and laugh.

      Overall, it’s gone well.

      But, I’ll tell you; the very best part of parenting a child Village-style comes in sharing the joy of celebration. Reaping the rewards together.  Because the rest of that call from the principal went like this:

      “Beth?  Aden’s doing great.  She’s in my office because we’re calling you with good news.”

      “She is?  You are?  I mean, she is!  You are!”

      A new voice jumps on the line.

      “… Mom?”

      “Hi, Aden.  What happened?”

      “Mom!  I did a GREAT JOB!  Mrs. Reading Teacher gave me a cert-issih… a cer-kiffa… a cer-kiffa-kick!”

      “You got a certificate?”

      “Yes!  A certificate!  That’s right, Mom!  Good job!”

      “Thanks, Aden.  And WOW!  What does it say?”

      It was for excellence in reading, you guys!  And it SO matters because it’s not just a certificate.  It’s an acknowledgement of her Hard Work to Do the Right Thing.  It’s a nod to her efforts to Follow the Rules.  It’s a visual reminder that Hard Work Pays Off.  And it’s this mama’s reminder to Join The Celebration.

      This school thing isn’t all standing nekked in the field. Sometimes, it’s a party around a bon-fire… or around the refrigerator, where the cer-kiffa-kick is on proud display.

      While I’m at it, I should also tell you that NONE of my kids have been suspended from school ALL YEAR. That’s 46 whole school days of non-suspensions. We are ROCKING it, y’all.

      In fact, we just completed all of our kids’ parent/teacher conferences, and they’re all doing well. Seriously, you guys, I hardly know what to do with myself.

      No. I take that back. I know exactly what to do.

      Live. It. Up! Our next challenge is around the corner somewhere, and I’m well aware that I might be tempting it closer by leaving my good news out for attack. But that future challenge isn’t going to rob me of today’s celebration.

      I’ll bet you anything that this is why they built the new elementary school with a giant staircase made entirely of wood.

      It’s so parents can knock on it. All the way down.

      Congratulations, baby girl, on a job really well done.

      And Mrs. Principal? Good call.


      P.S. If you’re looking for an easy peasy, fun, November treat for your family, check out my friend Sarah’s Harvest Caramel Corn. It’s similar to the caramel corn that I beg my friend Webb to make, and it’s always a favorite with my kids.

      P.P.S. Don’t miss out on all of the Five Kids fun on Facebook. That’s where I micro-blog the short stories about things like, oh, sending my son out all day with his sister’s undies accidentally velcroed to his coat. Essential things, really. More importantly, Facebook has become the place where I get to converse with you daily and where we hold virtual hands to make it through the day. You’re the BEST people out there for sure.