On Jammy Pants and Our Momrades in Need

Sep 30 2015

Whenever I use the word pants, I am reminded by my British friends that it doesn’t mean the same thing in American as it does in English; Americans, of course, referring to their trousers when they say pants, and the Brits referencing the pants they wear underneath their trousers. Underpants, if you will.

I received, for example, this missive from my British friend, Fiona, earlier this very month:

So this morning, perhaps unwisely, I entrusted the task of dressing the four-year-old for school to my husband, having previously fulfilled my side of the bargain by laying out socks, underwear, a shirt, trousers and his school sweatshirt in order that the process ran as smoothly as possible.

Upon arriving home, while we were gathered around the table enjoying a post-school snack and drink, he suddenly dropped his trousers and announced “No pants!” Now I do realise that the word “pants” means something slightly different to the two of us – you are perhaps envisaging him only half clothed from the waist down yet still wearing a small garment to protect his modesty, and while in reality the semi-nakedness was rather less obvious since he was wearing American pants although not English pants, I’m still rather disheartened by the thought that he could possibly have spent all day at school in a commando state. My reputation with his new teacher, a rather serious lady, may be in jeopardy here through no fault of my own. 
It’s not impossible that he did PE today and absent-mindedly removed more clothes than necessary, but I know exactly which pair of English pants I put out for him this morning, and if I find them later, lurking in the laundry basket buried beneath the myriad clean clothes I predictably haven’t yet put away, I will know precisely who to hold responsible. Any ideas for a suitable penalty?
Now, I haven’t responded to Fiona, of course, because a) I’ve turned into a terrible correspondent of late, and b) I’m not sure how to break the news that, no matter the penalty, it may be a while before her son learns to wear pants. There is, after all, a certain girl child I know (*ahem*myself*ahem*) who has vivid memories of her mother holding her wee little face in her hands, looking deep into her eyes, and demanding, “When will you learn to wear panties, child? WHEN?” Alarmingly, the answer for that little girl was “not until the 3rd grade when she didn’t wear panties with her dress on Flip Up Friday,” and the boys, true to their word, flipped up her dress. So, you know, some people learn to wear undies before others. And some get caught on Flip Up Friday. Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you, Fi.

All of which is an extremely length way to tell you I like to use the word pants because it makes the 12-year-old in me giggle every time. When I wrote “On Jammy Pants” just now? The 12-year-old boy guffawed at, well, undies with jam on them, which is something the likes of me would write about but has, in the end, nothing whatsoever to do with this post.

Alas, this post is about pajama pants (what do you Brits call these, anyway? pyjama trousers? drawers? bottoms?), and my quest for the perfect pair.

Good news!

Thanks to you, I’ve found them! The perfect jammy pants.

In August, I asked you on the Facebook to help me out.

Question of Eternal Significance: If you have pajama bottoms you love, where did you buy them? I’m on the hunt and I need your help.

P.S. By “hunt,” I mean I’m reaching out to you sans any hunting on my own because you know things I don’t know and I’m hoping “really, really ridiculously good sources of PJ pants” is one of those things.

P.P.S. In case you’re wondering if I REALLY need your secret, insider info, I’m DEFINITELY on a need-to-know basis here because the rather enormous and socially hazardous inner thigh holes in my previous PJ pants finally made it apparent I needed stop torturing the pants and give them up for dead.

P.P.P.S. RIP, pants. I loved you, loved you.

P.P.P.P.S. I prefer shopping online, which is probably best at this point anyway since I’ll be shopping without pants. Links appreciated.

FullSizeRender (5)You had about a hundred good suggestions, but the one that got me was the post about Punjammies from Sudara.

Listen, friends; listen! THIS IS SO AWESOME. Sudara is an organization that works to free women from sex slavery by giving them living wage jobs, and “every pair of PUNJAMMIES™ is named after a woman who is now steadily employed in a stable, living-wage job with a Sudara sewing center partnership.

I know, right??


In case you’re interested, here are the details:

  1. I agonized over this purchase because punjammies are expensive. At $44/pair, WAY, WAY more expensive than my usual jammies. I had to have a little heart-to-heart with myself, honestly; in the end, I decided I was willing to buy ONE pair of jammy pants from Sudara instead of, like, 4 from Target. I’m a little embarrassed this wasn’t a no-brainer for me, but there it is.
  2. I picked the black and white Soyamma print because they were sold out of the blue ones I liked better. You know what? Good for them! Way to make a high-demand product, ladies. Go, you!FullSizeRender (1)^^Me, in my pants!^^
  3. When I ordered, though, they let me know my pants could take up to 3 weeks to arrive. THREE WEEKS, friends. I was all, don’t they realize I’m American and we’re an Instant Gratification people?? Serious first world problems, folks. But I’d made my decision already, so I proceeded with my order, knowing I’d be pantsless in the meantime.
  4. My order arrived in five days. Just FIVE DAYS! WOOHOO!
  5. I tried them on… and LOVE them.

FullSizeRender (2)

In the end? I’m glad I went this jammy pants direction, despite the cost and my patriotic fear of delayed gratification.

FullSizeRender (4)My pants are soft.

My pants are pretty.

My pants make a difference in the lives of our fellow momrades.

That, friends, is a win/win/win.

And Fi? May you have hope. Someday your son may learn to wear pants AND post about it on the internet. 😉

With love,





P.S. I recently discovered there’s a home business that specializes in fair trade products, too. Just FYI! It’s called Friends of Hope, and fellow momrade and friend of the 5 Kids blog, Jennifer Heyboer can tell you all about it if you’d like more info.

P.P.S. Neither Sudara nor My Friends of Hope/Jennifer Heyboer paid me or asked me for any endorsements here. I didn’t receive any goods or services. Sudara has no idea who I am. I just like their pants, man. And their program. And especially their pants.

P.P.P.S. If you, like me, buy punjammies, size up! I ordered a full size larger than I actually am because I like my jammy pants loose. They fit exactly right, if a tad snug around the waist, so I’d recommend ordering up a size. Also, I’m short — 5’2″ — and the full-length pants are a little long on me, which I also like, but you other shorties might want to consider the capris, instead.

On the Things I Don’t Tell You

Sep 29 2015

I don’t write a lot about my kids with special needs. Partly because handling the I.E.P.s and the quirks, the delays and the frustrations, the joys and the surprises, seem, well, ordinary for us these days. Mundane. Ho hum. Like handling any of my kids’ personalities, I guess, because it turns out we all have needs in our family — we’re very, very needy around these parts — and every need takes time and is, technically speaking, somethin’ special.

I don’t write a lot about my kids with special needs because I don’t trust myself as a competent enough writer — all blah, blah, blah as I so often am — to convey the depth of love I feel for my kids who have to navigate this curious world, and the immeasurable respect I have for their relentless, courageous pursuit of life and learning. I never want them to look back here to re-read what I’ve written and misinterpret it as angst directed at them, because they are precious people worthy of endless love, like all of us, and I want them to know their mama’s always in their corner.

But I also don’t write a lot about my kids with special needs, if I’m going to be as truthful as possible, because it seems like too much. Too Big. Too difficult to wrap inside one blog post. To tricky to pull off just one piece to examine and package and stack neatly on the bookshelf, labeled correctly, and cross-referenced by topic. And so I make the occasional reference to my kids who experience delays and disorders, and I don’t follow up to tell you I’m sometimes breathless with worry about what their futures hold.

I don’t tell you, in general, about how we don’t sleep through the night around here. But we don’t. We don’t sleep though the night around here, and sometimes it’s for the usual reasons parents don’t sleep; the bloody noses and wet beds, the nightmares and the thunder storms. Those are the good reasons we don’t sleep. They’re my favorite reasons. But we also don’t sleep through the night because of the screaming and the panic and, worse, the keening that comes from my son’s bedroom because he doesn’t believe — can’t believe, deep down — that we won’t leave him, too, like he’s been left before.

I don’t tell you about the doctor visits and the counselor appointments and the brief respite my sweet son got when the meds we refused for 10 years were finally used and worked for a little while, and I don’t tell you about the guilt I have for not using the medicine sooner.

I don’t update you to let you know that a dog named Zoey, whose name means Life, gave us back a piece of ours by giving our son comfort he can’t receive from us.

I tell you about my younger daughter’s developmental delay even less than I tell you about my son’s, because her needs, while significant, pale in comparison to her brother’s, and so she draws the short end of the attention stick, both in public and in private, and I fret about whether she gets enough from us. She does and she doesn’t, I suppose, like all our children; getting enough and too much and not at all enough from her mom and dad, but I can’t help but feel we should give this 8-year-old stuck in a 13-year-old body more, somehow, you know?

I don’t tell you that I’ve cried myself to sleep watching the status updates of friends with daughters my daughter’s age who play and laugh and sleep over and bake and craft and make memories of girlhood together. I don’t tell you that because it’s unfair to my friends and to their kids and even to my own child to burden them with my grief and steal from their light-hearted joy. My daughter isn’t sad, after all. She’s not lonely. She has no sense of missing out. The other girls? They’re kind to her and gentle and sweet at every turn. Anti-bullies, every one. They include her when she’s around. They write her special notes. Every year for 6 years now, they champion her at camp, and give her a soft space to land, and meet her where she’s at, and engage her as much as she is able. What more could we possibly ask when there’s no more she wants or more to give?

There are no villains in my daughter’s story; she has thousands of sword-wielding, horse-riding heroes and heroines, instead. The people who would slay a dragon for this kid are legion.

It’s not my daughter who is sad or lonely. It’s just her mama is for her sometimes. Because even now — even 13 years after this precious little one came into my life and I realized she’s her own, unique, very different soul — I can’t help but think about what could be. What her childhood could have been like. And I mourn the loss of it for her. Right or wrong, I do. I mourn what she doesn’t want and will never have.

And gosh, I realize I sound so down. So terribly sad. And I want to lighten that. Lessen it. But it’s a window to a dark piece of my heart, and I don’t know how to wave from the dark and let you wave back unless I let you see it, so there it is.

But I will leave you with this, because as many little dark corners as there are in my heart, there are more places that are light and bright, and Karen Pugsley is one of the many reasons why:

Karen Pugsley is my daughter’s principal. She is noble and wise, and, more importantly, kind, and when my daughter was hurt at school last year, Karen sat with my kid and me for what seemed like hours and days until my kid felt ready to go back to class, as though my daughter feeling comfortable and supported and loved was the most important thing Karen had to do that day. Ridiculous, right? Because what kind of a message do people like Karen send to our kids, you know? 

Well, I’ll tell you what message my kid got; she believes Karen’s got her back. She believes Karen’s worthy of her trust. And she thinks — get this — that Karen is her friend.

This week, my kid smuggled her Newest, Most Favorite, “She Is, Too, Alive,” stuffed animal, Quick Silver — a wolf, of course — to school in her backpack.

Please sit with me a moment and think about what might happen to an 8th grader who brings “She Is, Too, Alive!” stuffed animals to school.

IMG_1153Ugh, right?


Except not for my kid. Because I got this message in my email box yesterday from Karen:

Your kid sent Quick Silver home with me tonight to meet new friends. They had a party. I chaperoned. We had a good time. Please show her the pix. I’m bringing the cool fox to work tomorrow to hang out.

I cried, you guys. Cried big, sloppy tears.

Because as much as Karen’s care for Quick Silver was an expression of love for my daughter, it was a reminder, again, that we don’t walk these roads alone. THANK GOD. We don’t walk these roads alone.



Listen friends, I don’t know what today is like for you. I don’t know if you’re stuck in a dark corner or if your heart is happy and light. I don’t know if there are things you don’t tell because they’re Too Big and Too Much. I don’t know if you sit sometimes, sure you’re alone and dreading what the future holds.

But I choose to believe this — we are not alone. We’re not. And that’s enough for me for now.

Sending love to you, friends, and hoping for a Karen in your life,






I’m Gassy and Bubbly and Blerg

Sep 28 2015

I’m a little bit gassy tonight, all bubbly and blerg, which honestly feels like THE most important thing I have to share these days. THE extent of what I’m able to contribute. And, obviously, THE worst thing to write about in a world that complains we tweet every time we go to the bathroom and Facebook what we had for lunch.

For what it’s worth, I MISS seeing everyone’s food pictures ever since the online world was collectively Food Picture Shamed, so I’m likely not to be trusted, which is why I’m writing you anyway, gas and all.

I’m a little bit gassy tonight, all bubbly and blerg, and I’m sitting cross-legged in my chair, consumed with all I have to do this week and the time I don’t have in which to do it.

I’m a little bit gassy tonight, all bubbly and blerg, and I’m wondering even as I watch my fingers fly across the keyboard what in the world I’m typing. What in the world I’m trying to say.

You guys.

You gals.

You guys and gals.

I can’t EVEN right now.

can’t even and I don’t even, you know?

Like, I can’t even figure out what I’m trying to say, and I don’t even know how to put together a sentence, much less a paragraph, much less an entire blog post, but I miss you when I don’t write, so I’m doing it anyway, fumbling and bumbling my way through this.

I miss you because you’re community to me, which is probably why I want to see what you had for lunch. And I miss you because you’re ComeUnity to me, too — community and COMEunity because you’re the people, in the middle of all the arguing and wrangling and side-taking I witness online these days, who affirm for me over and over that we can be beautifully, brilliantly different and still be friends. I miss you because you’re the people who I truly believe wave back to me in the dark, and you’re the ones with whom I long to sit in the mud when I can’t even.

You’re the people, and this is the space, where I feel hope, I guess. This space and looking at my kids. Hope for the future. Hope that we can move beyond pettiness in our wide, wonderful, weird, wonky world and into Loving each other better.

I’m a little bit gassy tonight, all bubbly and blerg, and I’m sitting cross-legged in my chair, consumed with all I have to do this week and the time I don’t have in which to do it, but just for the moment I don’t care, because I feel a little more calm telling you the truth, even though the truth is about gas.

A flock of geese just flew overhead and honked with gusto. They seemed to be flying north, and I wanted to shout, “WRONG WAY,” because Fall is upon us, but I didn’t. I just nodded in solidarity, instead, at my fellow creatures trying to find their way.

I’m a little bit gassy tonight, all bubbly and blerg, and I’m quite certain I just said nothing truly worthwhile. Nevertheless, I elected some time ago to ignore the voice that tells me I have nothing to say, in lieu of the voice that whispers it’s OK to talk anyway. It’s OK to be heard. It’s OK to be me, even if me is gassy and bubbly and blerg.

And so, friends, I leave you with this idea tonight, in the hope that I can give a sliver to you of what you’ve given me, and it’s this: you’re worthy of being heard, too. And being fully you.






P.S. I’m over-the-top busy this week, and yet I’ve been using “busy” as an excuse to be here less and less, which, frankly, hurts my heart. So for this week, I’m writing a paragraph a day and posting it anyway. I can’t promise it’ll be good, but maybe that not’s what community needs, anyway; maybe community just needs us to show up. So that’s what I’ll do. Show up. And send you love. x’s and o’s, friends. x’s and o’s.

Candid Selfies! The Hottest(ish) New Selfie Trend and How YOU Can Master It.

Sep 23 2015

You know how sometimes you’ve turned your phone camera around so you can take a selfie BECAUSE SELFIES ARE RAD (and also so you can send a picture to a friend of the dot of probable chin cancer that has recently appeared so your friend can say, “Oh my gosh, Beth. You are SUCH A FREAKING FREAKER; it’s a ZIT”), but then your kid starts crying because his brother punched him in the penis because he stole all the Minecraft diamonds again, and you’re all, “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THERE IS NO PENIS PUNCHING IN THIS FAMILY” and “PENISES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN DIAMONDS, YOU GUYS,” and then they gang up on you because they both want to argue that Penis Punching is OK when they’re playing the Penis Punching Game, and it’s the Stealth and/or Punitive Penis Punching that’s not OK, and you wonder how No Penis Punching became an item open for debate and when, exactly, you started ranking penises and diamonds in order of importance, but while you’re pondering that, another kid reminds you you’re late to take them to school so you start yelling, “GET IN THE CAR, GET IN THE CAR, GET IN THE CAR,” and they DO get in the car which is unusual and AWESOME, but they argue over who gets to sit where which isn’t unusual at all, and while you’re trying unsuccessfully to convince them All Seats Were Created Equal and We Believe In Equality Around Here so SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN, you see your neighbor trying to get her kid into her car, and she stops and grimaces at you with barely contained fury and laser beams coming out her eyes and offers her kid to you at a brand new low, low price because her kid is driving her straight up the wall and to the left, and she’s pretty sure selling her daughter is a better alternative than the double murder they’d clearly both like to commit, so you chuckle to yourself while you drive away because OH MY GOSH, YES, you’ve been there; you look around as you’re driving, and, although you’re pretty sure you’ve forgotten something at home, you appear to have all the children and your pants, so you proceed as planned and drop the kids off and make your way to work, but coming over the hill you see a gorgeous view of the mountain so you pull over to take a picture and when you turn your camera on, instead of seeing the mountain through the lens, you see yourself because you forgot you had the view flipped to selfie-mode earlier; of course, it’s not your usual selfie-self you see with its pre-planned, flattering selfie angles and nice lighting, nor is it your is-this-a-dot-of-cancer?-self; nope… it’s your SELF self — as in, your CANDID self that you see in that reflection — and you’re all, “OH Mah GAH. I look like WHAT?”

You know how sometimes that’s a thing? When you’re genuinely startled by your own face?

Me, too.

So I was thinking about that, and about how AWESOME it is when we get to see our candid selves, and how Candid Selfies should TOTALLY be a thing. Which is why I’m writing to you today. Because this is an issue of eternal significance.

We LOVE candid photos, after all. Small children running through fields of grass at sunset. Grandma with her head thrown back in laughter. And we LOVE selfies. It’s only natural that Candid Selfies are the next, best photo trend, yes? YES. Obviously.

Of course, a candid photo is one taken when the subject isn’t aware it’s being captured, which may seem challenging when the photographer and the subject are the same person. NOT SO, friends. Not so. I did some experimenting for us, and I’m here to tell you, THIS ISN’T AS HARD AS IT SEEMS. All you have to do, really, is set your camera to selfie-mode and then — this is the slightly tricky part — forget you did it. Granted, it helps if you’ve practiced forgetting things in the past, but, with discipline and focus, it is achievable, and, not to brag, but I’ve truly honed this skill over the years. I’ve forgotten my kid’s graduation; I forgot what time school started for an entire semester; and I once forgot my own pants. So I’m, like, super good at this already, but, most importantly, I believe you can be, too.

For INCREDIBLE Candid Selfies, there are just four easy steps to follow:

  1. Set your camera to selfie-mode.
  2. Forget you set your camera to selfie-mode.
  3. When you turn your camera back on and you’re startled by your own face, FREEZE. Freeze that face. Freeze that angle.
  4. Click the shot.

After you see the amazing shots I took of myself without me knowing, I’m certain you’ll want to join the trend. Here, for example, are just a few of my favorites of me, me, and also me:




I know, right?!? I look AWESOME.

I mean, sure, we can take the usual selfies still. The ones with the good lighting. The posed shots with the camera angled down to eliminate most of the chins. The photos just the slighest bit prearranged so our asymmetrical nostrils aren’t showcased and our chin cancer is erased. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a classic, friends.

But who wants to look like this…


… when, with a little extra effort, you can look like this?





Now who’s in?


Underwater and Swimming for Joy

Sep 20 2015

We’ve been a little underwater around here lately. A little underwater with All the Things. I mean, it’s one thing when everything Runs Smoothly and goes According to Plan, and it’s another thing entirely when we start the school year with two vomiters, a monkey-bars-related broken arm, two lost dogs, one lost child, four trips to the pediatrician, and the growing suspicion that one kid has actual, significant hearing loss instead of just selective hearing loss like all the others.

It’s been a week is what I’m saying.

A WEEK, you know?

And I found myself rather exhausted at certain points of it, which I believe makes me Just Like All the Other Mommies out there. Or Just Like All the Other Humans, I bet; rather exhausted and having a week of it.

I find it’s tricky to Hang Onto Joy in the midst of Exhaustion. Hard to Cling Fast to Joy, which keeps me afloat. My fingers are as weary as the rest of me, and Joy slips away quietly when I’m too tired to notice as I sink a little more into the murky water with a little less air to breathe.

I curled my hair this morning and sprayed it with hair spray and dry shampoo, hoping they would disguise my lack of shower hygiene well enough to “pass” as Having My Crap Together. I pulled on my jeans and the shirt my teenager told me to wear, and poured myself a cup of coffee, my security blanket, for the short walk out my back gate to the adjacent church which we attend.

My Dansko sandals were too high and wobbly for me to walk well on the gravel path that took me to the back door of the church, where I always enter, and I couldn’t help but think what an accurate picture it is of my engagement with God — wobbly, a little off center, through the back door, yet somehow still upright and eager to enter in. Somehow still eager to engage Love in this way. Somehow still hoping to hear from this community I trust how to discover and rediscover Joy, on repeat.

Look; I know we’re all in different places when it comes to our understanding of God and faith and religion. That’s OK. I LOVE that about us; it’s one of my favorite things here. And I know and constantly mourn the ways people who identify as Christian have and continue to spiritually and emotionally abuse our neighbors; it was impossible for me for years to call myself Christian for that reason, eschewing the title for “Jesus follower” or no name at all. And yet there’s a reason I still go to this church and a reason I took back up the Christian mantle, and it’s this: these people also reject the wounding of others, and they keep pointing me back to Joy. And back to Grace. And back to Hope. And back to ways to Love our neighbors as ourselves.

My friend, Nate, took the pulpit this morning. He’s a redhead with a beard and an Eeyore-meets-Owl personality full of ho hum sometimes and wisdom always, though he doesn’t always believe that last bit, and he brews the most amazing beer. Nate’s one of my safe people; the kind I can face-plant in front of and be utterly myself, even when I’m petty and selfish or wildly immature, and so I listen carefully to Nate because I trust him.

This morning, Nate talked about joy, and I sat on the pew along the wall in the back, looking at the God-awful yellow and green carpet in that sanctuary, feeling exhausted, yes, and a tiny bit refilled. A tiny bit refilled because Nate didn’t demand joy from me but guided me carefully to a back door to find it lurking there, waiting.

Nate reminded me that Joy is always there, unbounded in Love’s presence.

Nate reminded me that Joy is there when we allow our encounters with God to matter.

Nate reminded me that Joy is there when we pay attention to God — God, whom I call by God’s other name, Love, when “God” is too much and too murky for me to understand.

Nate reminded me that Joy is there when we pay attention to the urgent movement of Love in our lives, and that Love, indeed, is always on the move.

Joy isn’t just about being happy, friends; it’s about collaborating with Love and working together in such complete harmony that we can’t help but spill that Love out onto others.

So just in case you, like me, are a bit underwater today… just in case you, like me, slipped away from the Joy which keeps us afloat… just in case you, like me, needed the reminder that Love is always on the move and seeking us out… and just in case you, like me, want to be on the lookout for the magic in the mess… I thought I’d invite you to swim with me for the surface. Swim with me for the surface, buoyed by Love and each other, friends.

With Love… and some Joy to boot,


Parents: Take the School Pictures CHALLENGE

Sep 15 2015

IMG_6463I asked my kids last night about School Picture Day. “It’s coming up, you know,” I said. “We should make plans! Want to do that now?”

But instead of the cheers and accolades I expected, my kids groaned. And moaned. And rolled their eyes. And schlumped in their chairs.

“Argrhuffslottle,” they said, or something like it, and I was offended. Offended, I tell you, because they were busy griping while I wanted major mommy props for thinking ahead. For planning. For being on top of the school schedule for once. But is that what I got? Noooooooo. I got argrhuffslottle from their ungrateful little selves. And schlumping. LOTS of schlumping down in chairs.

“What’s wrong with Picture Day?” I asked. And I followed that with a powerful, “I always LOVED Picture Day,” knowing my experience as a child is always paramount in their thoughts and super relevant to their experience. I am here to tell you, though, you should not ask questions unless you want to hear the answer, because my kids told me exactly what’s wrong with Picture Day, and apparently it’s me.


I am what’s wrong with Picture Day, they said, and they told it like this:

“See, Mom, you always make us wear stuff we don’t like very much.”

I do not.

“Sometimes it itches.”

Like a tiny bit of itching in order to LOOK NICE ONE DAY A YEAR is a huge sacrifice.

“Yeah, Mom. We never get to wear our favorite shirts just because they’re stained.”

Well, of course I can’t let you wear something dirty to Picture Day. I mean, GEEZ.

“And you make us not play at recess that day.”

That’s not even a little bit true!

“It IS true, Mom. You tell us not to play at recess very hard ’cause we’ll mess up our hair.”

Oh. Yeah… I do say that…

“Sometimes, Mom,” they concluded, “we just want to look how we like to look. Even in pictures.”

And then they delivered the clincher, “How come you don’t like the things we choose?”



Well… argrhuffslottle. And ppffffttttt.

I was stumped, truth be told. Dumbfounded. I had no idea what to say to them, really. How come I don’t like the things they choose? Is that the message I’ve been sending them?

But when I thought about it — actually thought about it hard — I had to conclude it is. That’s exactly the message I’ve been sending my kids, and I don’t like it. Not at all.

It turns out, I made my kids’ School Picture Days a way for ME to express MYself; kids coiffed the way I like, outfits picked with my brand of parental precision, stains and tears and foibles erased for a day to have a record that reflects what like and who I am, and, if I’m going to do a ruthless inventory of why I’ve done that, I have to confess I’ve used Picture Day as a way to measure my success as a mama; as though I’m saying, “Sure, I don’t have my poo together the other days, but I can pull it together for Picture Day, momrades! See??” Or, “I can send my children to school — clean — for one day a year, teachers!”

Here’s the thing I keep thinking about over and over (and over and over) today: we say we want our kids to be authentically themselves. We encourage them to be the people they were uniquely created to be. We beg our kids to think, to be confident and bold, and to follow their hearts. We tell them they’re the authors of their own stories, and that we need their stories in our world. We encourage our kids to stand up for what they believe — to stand up for kindness and for each other — starting in Kindergarten and even in Preschool, but then we don’t allow them to choose the outward expression of who they are inside; not when it’s going to be documented for posterity, anyway. Not when it’s going in the record books! Not when we’ll look back at these pictures which define their childhood school experience. I guess it just seems a little… off… to me when I think about it that way. A little off, and a tiny bit sad, this mixed message I send.

So I have this crazy idea, parents.

This CRAZY, RADICAL idea, and now I’m wondering if anyone out there is crazy enough to join me.

I’m calling it, “Let’s let the kids look however they want for school picture day.” And, by that, I mean however they want. Like, hair however they want, and clothes however they want; even jelly on their faces if they want.

Look; I don’t want to be extreme or dramatic or anything here, it’s just, oh my gosh, you guys. Oh my gosh! I’m pretty sure I’m onto something.

Instead of a School Picture Day about me, my kids can have a School Picture Day about them. A moment in time that captures exactly who they are, as they choose to be, and to receive the message from their mama — loud and clear — that that’s what I want on record.

Of course, if we do this, our kids’ pictures may look less like this…



… and a little more like this.


A little less like this…


… and a little more like this.


Which, let’s be honest, is the greatest school picture of all time, anyway. ALL TIME. And my personal favorite.

Of course, the BONUS in all this is we don’t have to do JACK SQUAT for Picture Day this year. We don’t have to do JACK, and we can do nothing NOBLY. For a GOOD CAUSE. Because we’re being RAD PARENTS who CARE MORE ABOUT OUR KIDS THAN OURSELVES. It’s a win/win, friends. A win/win, I tell you!

So, I’m on a need to know here, parents. What do you think? Too crazy to do? Or are you doing it with me??


For the Mamas Who Don’t Even Have It Together at the START of the School Year

Sep 9 2015

School’s back in session now, and here’s how I know.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve lost 3 dogs, and I only own 2. I’ve dropped kids off late and one came home early, vomiting. I’ve driven away from my house barefoot and in my nightie. I’ve had way too much coffee and not near enough beer. I’ve spilled hot beverages down my front. I’ve found no clean undies; for myself or for others. And my car started making a ker-lunk, ker-lunk sound which the car repair guy told me is probably a mouse stuck in the heater.

School’s back in session now, and I know because we were organized and TOTALLY READY the night before school started, but once the morning arrived, the dog escaped. In grand, Houdini fashion, the dog escaped and went frolicking in the neighbors’ yards, and I sent the kids out to capture her, which they couldn’t do because she is swift. Swift and sneaky. Swift and sneaky and slippery, I tell you, so she teased and teased them, letting them get almost close enough, but not quite, and she had a fabulous time watching me coach kids at high volume from the porch before I gave up, raced inside, donned my tennis shoes — tennis shoes with my nightie, oo la la — and gave chase myself.

Chase her, I did, in tennies and my thin, blue nightie with too many of the front buttons undone and with the morning sun slanting gloriously through my garment, no doubt, and illuminating that which I did not wear underneath — you’re welcome, neighbors! — but I caught that dog in the end. I did! I CAUGHT THE HECK out of that dog, and I put her inside just in time for her to escape again because, “But, Mom! I had to open the door to leave the house for school.”



He “had to open the door to leave the house for school,” he said. As though we don’t know how to climb through windows at our house. As though we’re not problem solvers who can find a better way like shimmying up through the chimney we don’t have and jumping from the roof. As though leaving out the back door and scrambling over the six foot, unfinished, splintery fence and burrowing through the blackberry brambles is not an option. As though we don’t honor creative thinking like just don’t go ANYWHERE, kid, — SCREW SCHOOL — because Mommy doesn’t want to chase the dog AGAIN. 

But did he think of any of those things? Nooooo. He “had” to open the door to leave the house for school, and so we chased the dog again, and we caught her, and we were only a little bit late.

A little, teeny, tiny bit late, but everyone ended up AT school FOR THE WIN; ready and raring to go! UNSTOPPABLE! And I left for work.

Sure, I spilled coffee on my work clothes right after my car started to ker-lunk and just before an emergency stop at the car repair shop.

Still, READY, RARING TO GO, and UNSTOPPABLE-except-for-sopping-up-coffee-and-a-mouse-in-the-heater.

And then my neighbor texted to tell me to tell me the dog escaped. The other dog this time because, in our family, taking turns is important.

But READY, RARING TO GO, and UNSTOPPABLE-except-for-sopping-up-coffee-and-a-mouse-in-the-heater-and-the-Houdini-dogs, which everyone knows is practically the same thing anyway.

Yes, technicallthe school called at noon to let us know a kid who belongs to us had started vomiting and had to come home early. But otherwise we were completely unstoppable.

READY, RARING TO GO, and totes UNSTOPPABLE-except-for-sopping-up-coffee-and-a-mouse-in-the-heater-and-the-Houdini-dogs-and-the-vomity-kid.

And one high school lost my senior’s schedule and the other high school had classes misassigned for my freshman, but whatever, right?

Whatever, because we were READY, RARING TO GO, and UNSTOPPABLE. 

Except when were weren’t very ready… or really raring to go anywhere except bed… and discovered we were kind of, well, stoppable.

Which is when I realized this school year is exactly like every other school year and the chaos must mean school’s back in session.

I dropped my kids off again at school this morning. Some I drove early, while I was still barefoot and in my nightgown, hunkered down in the driver’s seat in the school drop-off lane, and praying to Jesus I wouldn’t get a flat and have to run inside where I’d be arrested for indecent exposure. And one kid I drove late, after I was dressed and ready and made up and as poised as this mommy gets.

I dropped off that last kid with his medications, which took a while in the office, and so I was in the hall when a beautiful, young friend dropped her oldest baby off for his first day of kindergarten. She was barely holding it together, a baby in one arm and a toddler holding the other, the grief of sending her son into the unknown fresh on her face, and I asked her how she was.

Sheesh — don’t you HATE that? Don’t you hate it when you’re hanging on by a shoestring and someone says, “How are you?” and “You OK?”

She burst into tears.

Of course she did, because I’m a JERK.

So I hugged her and held her for a second and made nonsensical sounds and said things like, “Oh, mama; I’m so sorry,” and then I encouraged her to sneak over to her son’s class and look in the window, even though that’s against school rules.

Truth is, I probably didn’t help her. Or at least not as much as she helped me.

Because I’ve been feeling a little ridiculous, to be honest, for not having All the Things Together these past two days. My feelings. My dogs. My ability to put clothes on my body. The kids’ schedules. God knows, “planning dinner” isn’t even on the horizon right now. And, although I haven’t lost the ability to laugh at myself, I have been quite certain other mamas would juggle this all better than me. With more poise. With more panache. With better plans.

I forgot for a minute that we’re all a beautiful mess. And I forgot how much I needed the reminder that I’m not alone mucking my way through this.

Listen, friends. I don’t know about you, but I’m realizing it’s OK to be both this year. Both/And, right? Both really, really ready for change and sort of broadsided by it all at the same time. Both eager for the next season and mourning the end of the last one. Both excited or what the future holds — reaching out to embrace it — and stunned by the hurdles I find along the way.

Both deep in the mess, yes, and also finding magic along the way.

For all you here alongside me, in the magic and the mess, I’m sending love.