School’s Almost Out: It’s Time to Start Lying

May 31 2013

School is almost out. I can tell because my son took dead flies for Show & Tell yesterday, and he brought a hoe to school today. There’s nothing that screams we’re drinking the dregs of the school year like the kindergartner hauling around desecrated insects and shouting “Mom! Hurry up with that hoe!” across the parking lot of the nice Christian school.

School is almost out. Oh, yes it is. And like the indomitable Jen Hatmaker pointed out, thank God ’cause the best of us are crawling on our bloody hands and knees to the finish line and the rest of us just flat-out collapsed on the course weeks ago. I, for example, am sitting in the medic tent with an IV drip and I don’t even care that I’m not going to get my finisher t-shirt this time. They said when I’m done rehydrating I can have a cookie; that’s good enough for me.

So. Let’s talk about the summer, shall we? It’s right around the corner. Which means it’s time to start lying to ourselves and lying hard, parents.

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And these are the lies I will tell myself:

1. The summer is easier than the school year. 
2. I need a break, and I will get one.
3. This is the time to kick back and RELAX.

Listen; I know honesty is important. But I like to save honesty for when I really need it. Like when I’m having a mental breakdown after a long summer of lying to myself. The end of August is a good time for honesty where honesty = a beer, a bag of Pop Chips and a novel that will rot my brain. But this is not that time. No; there is a season for everything under the sun, and this is the season for lying.

Lying, after all, has been very, very good to me.

When I found out our 4th kid was going to come with a twin brother, for example, and I wasn’t sure I could handle 5 kids, I lied to myself. You can do it, Beth, I said. You’re going to be GREAT at this, I said. No sweat, I said. Sleep is overrated, I said. I lied and lied and lied because lying was better than packing my bags and moving to Mexico. And you know where lying got me? Through parenting five kids is where. I rest my case.

At the end of August, I will lie to myself again. And these are the lies I will tell myself:

1. The school year is easier than the summer.
2. We need a routine and the homework is worth it.
3. The fall is here; it’s time to RELAX after a surprisingly busy summer.

The End

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P.S. There are other lies I plan to tell myself very soon. My daughter gets her driver’s permit this summer, so this one tops the list: Teaching a kid to drive? Piece of cake.

What essential lies are you telling yourself? Any you’d recommend to other parents in need of a few good stories?

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“Pinocchio” image credit to africa via freedigitalimages.net

Thoughts on Quiet and Where I Went Wrong

May 28 2013

ID-10070669My parents left our house on Saturday after a lovely and loud family dinner. They laughed on their way out and said they were going home to greet the Quiet.

I stood on the front porch, frozen for a moment with sudden longing, watching them walk away.

Because Quiet? I remember Quiet.

And I think I understand now why he left. I understand why he thought Chaos was my favorite. I understand that I showered Chaos with attention and that Quiet was hurt by my neglect.

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t  notice the day Quiet packed his bags and left. I have plenty of excuses but I’m not sure they matter anymore.

I mean, sure, Chaos is gregarious and engaging, entertaining and enthusiastic, and he’s not inclined to judge my little people for so thoroughly rejecting modesty; Chaos is funny and he’s always doing something crazy that’ll make a good story later. Whereas Quiet? Not so much.

But it pains me now to think I never told Quiet while I had the chance that I value him just as much. His strength and silence. His poise. His calm. The unlikelihood he’d ever remove his soiled Superman underwear and twirl it above his head like a lasso before flinging it at my face and running away in delirious, naked joy.

So I stood on the porch on Saturday, and I wondered if it’s too late for Quiet and me. Have I done too much damage? Have I hurt our relationship irreparably?

Chaos came outside to stand beside me, wiggling his grimy hand into mine, and he winked at me and nodded. He knew what I was thinking, and he wanted me to know it’s OK; he’s not threatened by my love of Quiet. Chaos is sure of my devotion no matter how much I long for the wandering one. So I took a wild chance, and I called out to my parents to deliver a message.

I told my parents to tell Quiet hello.

I told them to tell Quiet that I miss him.

I told them to tell Quiet that I still love him, that I’ve never forgotten him, that I think about him all the time.

I told them to tell Quiet that there’s room for him and Chaos both. That I love them equally. That I’m sorry I didn’t show it. That I’d like to try again.

I asked them to let Quiet know he’s welcome anytime, and that I understand he’ll need some time to think about it. Maybe years and years.

It’s OK; I can wait for you, Quiet.

As long as it takes.

xoxo

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Does Quiet still live with you? If not, and if it’s not too personal, why not?
Have you ever welcomed Quiet back home? How did Chaos feel about that?
Have you found ways to live in harmony together? Without appearances of favoritism?
I just, you know, want to know it’s really possible.

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“Volume Knob” image credit to Salvatore Vuono via freedigitalimages.net

Passport Mug Shot: Jacoba Alderink on Parenting and Imperfection

May 27 2013

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Welcome to our Monday guest post series on Parenting and Imperfection.

Today, I’m very pleased to introduce you to Jacoba Alderink, the writer behind A Yankee Mom in Texas. I love Jacoba because, in short, she cracks me up. She tags her posts things like “Questionable Parenting,” “Spawn of Satan” and “Unseemly Confessions.” And she writes about gonorrhea. So, you know; what’s not to love?

I hope you enjoy Jacoba’s light-hearted look at Parenting and Imperfection.

Beth Woolsey

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Passport Mug Shot
by Jacoba Alderink

I like my t-shirts like I like my kids: not clingy. I like to eat a normal-sized meal and walk around with the ability to exhale without making everyone’s eyes spontaneously bleed.

My husband’s idea of a nice shirt for me is, in essence, toddler- sized. Rob likes to buy shirts for me that look like they’ve been shrink-wrapped right onto my post-baby, gravity-afflicted, post-breastfeeding form. (I know. We’re all sorry for that visual.) So while I’m returning his XS gift and swapping it out for a comfy M, I’m warning him to stay away from purchasing anything for the kids.

Kids? Well, kids come with this highly complicated sizing system. They usually wear a size that corresponds to their age.

Rob: What??

Me: I know. Simple as that.

Rob, his mind blown: Why haven’t you ever told me this??

Me: I did, the last time you ordered Minnesota Vikings shirts for the kids – when was that? Last week?

So of course, when Rob went on a business trip to Vegas, due to complex sizing system confusion, he came back with a 5T shirt for my 2-year-old son. On top of everything, the t-shirt was one of those neon orange Las Vegas County Jail numbers, which my husband thought would be a knee-slapper on a little innocent-looking peanut of a boy. I, on the other hand, wasn’t thoroughly convinced of the hilarity.

Rob: C’mon! It’s funny!

Me: Kind of… It’s a jail shirt. And it’s huge. Did you get him some saggy pants, too?

Rob: It’s classic. Plus, I couldn’t remember what size he was.

Me, flabbergasted: ………

So I tucked that shirt into the back of my son’s drawer, occasionally brushing off Rob’s inquiries as to its whereabouts. And then one morning my son came down with it in hand, asking to wear it. I hesitated for a moment, thinking, It’s Monday – no preschool, no Bible study, no public errands to run…maybe we can get through this unscathed.

And then I went to a doctor’s appointment and left the kids with Rob.

And Rob took the kids to get their passport photos taken.

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Seriously.

This post originally appeared at A Yankee Mom in Texas.

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facebook_1246224040Jacoba Alderink, a born-and-bred Midwesterner with degrees in English and art secondary education, resides in Texas with her quirky husband and two underwear-clad kids. A stay-at-home mom and part-time homeschool teacher, she blogs at A Yankee Mom in Texas, littering her unseemly confessions and absurd musings with sub-par illustrations and pointless observations. When she’s not writing, she’s either failing miserably as a parent or cleaning up the cat vomit piles drying randomly around her house.

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You can see all of the Parenting and Imperfection posts here.

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How to Choose the Perfect Banana

May 24 2013

I sent out a cry for help on Facebook last night:

Am holed up in the bathroom. Poorly organized but enthusiastic oppositional forces are assembling to attempt a siege. My supplies = a good book, a threadbare towel, limited toilet paper, plentiful water, 16 oz. raw almonds, 2 tootsie pops, and a partially used banana. Could hold out for days, except I forgot my phone cord; am considering making a dash for that, a pillow & several pairs of earplugs while the opposition is distracted by infighting. What would you advise? Over.

And you — bless your hearts (the real kind) — you were there for me in my hour of need. Your advice?

Time to embarrass the children. Streak through the house screaming “I’m Naked” grabbing up any and all needed supplies. Phone cord and debit card being top of the list. <—Evie

Tell them you have a loaded banana and you’re not afraid to use it. <—Musings of a Minister’s Wife

DON’T DO IT! The tribe is stealthy. You won’t make it back! Someone WILL corner you with a sippy cup or pee soaked pants. I’m going off facebook now. God be with us all. <—Ashley

Wine! Over. <—Gracie

But some of you, knowing the Five Kids community is always a safe place to ask vulnerable questions, wanted to know, What is a partially used banana?

Most of the time I like to think I’m in touch with my former selves. You know, the Me who wore clothes without iridescent booger trails, and the Me who made pretty invitations for well-organized parties, and the Me who wondered whether to let my kid wear swim trunks, rain boots and a tiara to the grocery store. Every once in a while, though, I realize how deeply entrenched I am in this current life. Like when someone asks What is a partially used banana? and I’m astonished there’s still a world out there where that’s not a thing.

What is a partially used banana?

This is a parenting blog, and, as you know, I always share helpful information. So I’m going to answer your question in long form in case there are others out there who don’t know.

What is a partially used banana?

A partially used banana is one that’s been sucked on, bitten off, somewhat squashed, sat upon or a little regurgitated — usually all of the above — but never, ever finished. On the worst days, it’s also been verbally maligned, mocked, shunned, rejected, despised and shamelessly discarded for failing to meet unrealistic standards of modern banana beauty. The very people who call for perfect, unblemished bananas perpetuate the system of degradation, keeping bananas down with their not-so-subtle belittling and rough banana handling.

Look. I don’t mean to be too graphic, but awareness is important so I’ll conclude by sharing at the bottom of this message exactly how this happens.

xoxo,
B

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How to Choose the Perfect Banana:
A Practical Guide for Kids

First, it’s important to be totally ageist when it comes to bananas. Are there age spots?

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Yes? Sick. REJECT IT.

Next, bananas must have a completely uniform yellow. This banana?

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Too green AND there’s a spot. REJECT IT. Also, start crying.

Finally, when you find the perfect specimen,

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peel it.ID-10038090

Now it’s open and you can see the stringy bits. In other words, it’s RUINED. REJECT IT. Your parents will try to convince you it’s fine. They’re wrong; it’s not. It’s up to you to prove it; tear it, bite it, lick it, suck on it, squish it, step on it, shove it under the couch. No matter what, do NOT actually eat it.

So. How to Choose a Perfect Banana? THIS IS A TRICK. There is no perfect banana. Your parents just want to ruin your life.

The End

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P.S. Here’s a post about what to do with partially used bananas and how my kids actually look at the grocery store. Because I’m lowering the parenting bar, one post at a time.

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“Over Ripe Bananas” image credit Grant Cochrane via freedigitalimages.net
“Ripe Banana” and “Banana” image credits nixxphotography via freedigitalimages.net
“Banana” image credit antpkr via freedigitalimages.net

Hormones. Kids Have Them.

May 22 2013

Hormones. Kids have them. Both genders. Which was a real disappointment, let me tell you, because I was pretty invested in the sexist idea that I’d only have to deal with wild mood swings in my girl children. But no. Boys have hormones, too. And we often see the effects way, way earlier than we expect.

I remember sitting around with other mothers of 9-year-old boys several years ago. Not to be dramatic, but we were shocky and confused as we stumbled out of the smoldering wreck with minor lacerations and ash on our faces, struggling for air. We all sat there a little pale with eyes too wide, stumbling over our words, most of which came out, “The ??” Swear to God, it was like trying to parent Honey Badger, except maybe regressive Honey Badger with bonus tantrum material.

Well, we’ve been riding the kid hormone train for several years now — not to mention the fact that I’ve been trapped on it for nearly 30 years myself — and I like to think we know how to recognize the signs when we’ve got a new Honey Badger on board.

Raging? Check.
Crying? Check.
Screaming WHY DO YOU ALL KEEP BREATHING AT ME? YOU ARE DOING IT ON PURPOSE and GRRAAAHHHHH! Check.

You know what helps when Honey Badger’s on the train?

NOTHING.

Well, technically time helps, but, as Anne Lamott says, that’s “a very hostile and aggressive position” and we might hope for bad things to happen to someone who tells us that things get better with time. Time? Who has time to wait for timeHoney Badger is going to kill us all.

The worst part for the new Honey Badger is, of course, the fact that the child doesn’t know she’s possessed. The rational being is buried too deep. It may be years before the rational being is able to build enough trust with Honey Badger to whisper, “Just go to your room, Honey Badger. Killing your pillow does less damage.” Frankly, my rational being isn’t always successful at this, and it’s been working on that trust thing for years.

So what do we do in the meantime? I have a new idea.

Our latest Honey Badger did something cool this week. She expressed herself. With screaming, yes. With raging, yes. With crying, yes. But also with art. Art! Which is — get this — appropriate and helpful. (Take that, Time.) And I must say, I feel that this particular work of art gets right to the heart of the matter.

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Angery Dragon

So here’s my proposal: Let us take Angery Dragon and make her into flags. Flags we can fly as a warning to all who come near. And flags we fly in honor of everyone who fights the good fight despite our internal Honey Badger. Flags of mercy and flags of respect.

Also, t-shirts. I want mine in wrath black with Angery Dragon the color of molten lava. I plan to wear it 18 days per month.

Sincerely,
It Takes One to Know One

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If Honey Badger just boarded your train, you might also want to read
I love you. You’re not alone. Knock it off.

Got a Honey Badger story to share?
DO IT. Honey Badger don’t care, but I do.

Also, what color of Angery Dragon shirt do you want?

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Broken: Heather Bowie on Parenting and Imperfection

May 20 2013

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Welcome to our Monday guest post series on Parenting and Imperfection.

I can’t remember precisely when I started reading Heather Bowie’s blog, Team Aidan, but I know her list of what we, the parents of kids with special needs, wish you, the others, knew about our lives made me cheer and cemented my love of her writing. As a mama of a kid with special needs myself, I particularly resonated with “I’m mostly over it, and sometimes I’m not,” and “I constantly teeter on the edge of gratitude and insanity.” <— OH MY WORD, YES; ME, TOO! 

Thank you, Heather, for being our guest blogger today.

Beth Woolsey

P.S. Heather can’t identify with this post about my linen closet because – get this – her closets are clean. I know, right? I’ve tried to be the bigger person, though, and not let this stand in the way of our friendship. 

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Broken
by Heather Bowie

I had my perfect baby first. Liam popped out of me in under 2 1/2 hours, nursed like a champ, and slept through the night at six weeks. As a toddler, Liam rarely pitched a fit, he listened to my directions, and even gave himself time outs when needed. He’s grown into a teenager who helps around the house without complaining, stills enjoys my company, and uses kind words with others.

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Don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me yet. I got lucky. I’m not saying my parenting had nothing to do with how great a kid Liam is, but it took every ounce of me to just be good enough.

Because I had a second child… Aidan.

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I got lucky with him too, but he was born broken.

Did that make you flinch? That’s ok. I flinched a little writing it because I know my job as their mom is to be their biggest cheerleader. That’s not hard for me, but the truth of who Aidan is is pretty complex. We are constantly defining and valuing the best in life and there seems to be no room for broken there.

Unless we make room.

Celebrating imperfection requires stretching our comfort zones and acknowledging failure.

Aidan’s brain has failed him. He’s twelve years old now and was born with an undiagnosed developmental disability. His brain and his body don’t work together. He requires total care; there is nothing he can do by himself. Nothing. Well, he can breathe independently but even that took six months to figure out. Two years ago he was diagnosed with Epilepsy; his brain is the bully that causes his body to seize.

Sometimes I get tired of explaining all of this because I’m afraid you’ll see all of the things Aidan can’t do, and you’ll start calling me a hero for all of the things I do for him that are beyond the realm of regular child rearing and that’ll be awkward because now you’re all staring at me and all I ever wanted to do was fit it.

My son drools and uses a wheelchair and can’t speak. He doesn’t fit in.

This strive for perfection, this desire to be better than, always leaves a less than. That’s my son. I say he’s both broken and the most perfect Aidan Bowie there is. He’s exactly who he’s supposed to be. There’s room for all of us if we redefine who belongs. Broken and beautiful belong together. It’s why I continue to reach out to parents of neuro-typical kids, and encourage other Medical Moms, and make noise however I can.

While Aidan’s broken body has made it more difficult to care for him, it’s also made it easier to celebrate him.

Do you know what it takes to walk? You just put one foot in front of the other, right?

Wrong.

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First you need to be able to bear your own weight on your legs. Then you need to find your center so you can balance and stay upright. After finding center, you risk loosing it all by shifting your weight onto one foot without toppling over. Next you bend the other leg and foot in just the right way so it swings forward and strikes down in an orderly heel-toe fashion.

You’re at center again.

These bodies of ours, even when they’re broken, they’re amazing.

My heart was broken when Aidan was born. Broken, scared, and overwhelmed. The way Aidan gave me a voice and a passion; the way he draws people in with his forehead kisses; the way we’ve humbled ourselves to receive the generosity of others for Aidan’s care; the way I’ve found family among other Medical Moms – these gifts are beautiful.

My life broke into pieces when Aidan was born, but I’ve found center again.

You can find me there, making room.

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Heather met her husband in a castle in Ireland and they have 2 handsome princes. When Heather is not involved in the myriad of tasks required in raising a child with a disability, she can be found with her hands on her piano, her nose in a book, or her fingers at her keyboard blogging at Team Aidan.

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You can see all of the Parenting and Imperfection posts here.

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Advice on Raising Me

May 18 2013

I received a message this week from a new reader. She wrote:

My daughter shares the same name as you. Beth Woolsey! What are the chances? I thought for sure my Beth was the only Beth Woolsey in the world.

And I thought, “Finally! A namesake!” After my brother and his wife named their first daughter after their mothers, I figured their sisters’ names were shoe-ins for the next kids. Katie Beth? COME ON. Isn’t that the sweetest? But no. They thought their boys should have more masculine names. Whatever.

Now, though? The world has rewarded my patience with another Beth Woolsey. Thank you, world. Sometimes you’re a real jerk, but every once in while you do something outrageous and rad. Like the platypus. And bacon. 

Then I thought, “Oh, mama… raising a Beth Woolsey, huh? Good luck.” So I wrote her this letter. To be helpful.

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Dear Mother of Beth Woolsey,

You have a Beth Woolsey! CONGRATULATIONS!

Now, I know that just because we share the same name doesn’t mean we’re the same person or anything. But, just in case, I’d like to offer you some unsolicited advice. Little tips. Insights, perhaps. Things you might want to know.

Based on my experience, I’m certain your daughter is delightful, witty, friendly, compassionate, and a joy to everyone around her. She may also be given to teeny, tiny bouts of rage and a penchant for being kinda mouthy, but let’s ignore that for now.

Here are 5 Quick Tips for Raising a Beth Woolsey:

1. The missing tubs of frosting are under her bed next to the wall with the Holly Hobby wallpaper. You have to reach around the leg of the bed frame to find them, but there is a lot of chocolate back there, so it’ll be worth your while. Bring graham crackers. She’s out.

2. She will learn to wear underwear with dresses but not before the infamous Flip-up Friday incident of her 3rd grade year. It’s not your fault. You tried.

3. She’s only going to sneak liquor from you once. Buying only Scotch and crappy wine in a box? Good strategy. Seriously brilliant. She’ll think she hates drinking for years.

4. Try not to stress out too much about all the lying. Yes, it’ll get out of hand in the 5th grade but by the time she’s 19 she’ll stop all on her own.

5. And finally, when she’s 8 and she buys your Mother’s Day gift with her only $2 bill? The special one she loves and has been saving? And then you secretly buy it back for her? That one’s going to stick with her her whole life, mama; it’s the little acts of kindness that usually do.

Beth Woolseys can be a handful, I know. But you can do this. You can. And she’ll be incredibly grateful you did.

Wishing you all the best,
Beth Woolsey

P.S. Woolsey is technically my married name. If any of you out there are raising a Beth McDonough, take cover.

P.P.S. I feel bad about ratting her out in #1. How about we forget I said anything and let her keep the frosting?

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DadsasterAnd, P.P.P.S, I’m on the latest Dadsaster podcast this week, weighing in toward the end about whether or not dads deserve the bumbling idiot stereotype. (SPOILER: nope.) Listen in, and — free tip — DO NOT MISS THE BEAR STORY AT THE END. It’s worth it just to hear the bro-worship in the telling; I dare you not to smile. Dadsaster: a podcast by dads, for dads. You can read more about Dadsaster (and about my kids pooping in my front yard) here.

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So. Think back on your childhood.
What top piece of advice would you give to someone raising you?
(I might be a little too giddy as I look forward to your self-disclosure.
I showed you mine…)

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“Old Letters and a Quill” image credit to Simon Howden via freedigitalimages.net