Quick Reminder, You Glamorous, Glamorous Moms: You’re Not Alone

Nov 25 2017

Hey.

So you know how you’re sitting quietly on the couch, minding your own business, next to the Christmas tree with the soft lights all around, and you think to yourself, what a wonderful world?

And you know how you’ve stayed in your short, cotton nightie all day because you have that sniffling, sneezing, stuffy head cold going around, but it doesn’t matter because no one’s going to see you anyway? You’re comfy and the ibuprofen’s working, so who even cares that your legs are prickly, your bra is God knows where, and your make-up is left over from yesterday so you’re sporting that whole strung-out raccoon look? 

And you know how you have a quilt on top of you and a pillow behind your back, and nothing pressing, and the children, praise Jesus, are all busy elsewhere and quiet so they’re probably setting the house on fire but who cares because you have, like, ten whole minutes entirely to yourself?

You’re with me, right?

Yes? 

You know how you got yourself a cup of French pressed coffee with just the right amount of cream, and it’s warm and perfect, and you set it down on the little table next to you, and you’re actually, for once in your life, drinking it before it gets cold?

And then you know how one of those children, bless his heart, decides to get the games down from the very top shelf of the bookcase behind the Christmas tree? And so said child must step over you and onto the arm of the couch and lean over the coffee and hang onto the tree for balance?

And then you know how the child overbalances and the tree tips and the games fall and the coffee crashes to ground and so does the child and most of the ornaments and there’s coffee and game pieces and shards of glass everywhere?

And you’re fine with all of that because the child is OK and you don’t have to go to the emergency room, so you pull the child from the mess and send him to get a towel and a broom and tell him it’s OK and everyone makes messes and I’ll clean this one up because, in our family, we help each other?

And you know how you feel rather kind and very heroic and like you rocked the poop out of motherhood, reacting with grace and compassion even though you’re sick and you could have been a total ass to your kid?

And then, you know how, in an effort to step in neither coffee nor glass, you drape yourself decorously over the couch to clean the mess? With grace and elegance? Pretty much exactly like a 1950s housewife who wears heels and pearls to polish her already pristine home?

And you know how your kid, that little turd, grabs your camera and takes a pic so you get to find it on your phone later and reminisce?

You know?

You know, right?

Well, me, too. And I just want you to know when that happens… you’re not alone, friend.

You are definitely not alone in this glamorous, glamorous life.

With love,

Quick Thanksgiving Tip

Nov 21 2017

Hey, friends! Super quick Thanksgiving tip for ya…

Here’s the situation: 

This is my son, Ian.

Ian experiences disability. Communication disorder. Intellectual disability. Post-traumatic stress disorder from early-life trauma. And myriad other challenges. His life is harder than mine, in other words. He has to navigate a rerouted brain every minute of every day. It’s unbelievably hard work, and he never gets a break from it. 

So when it’s this kid’s birthday — his 18th, no less — a BIG ONE — I try to actually organize a celebration. Like, plan ahead and everything. Invite friends from his class more than the night before. Prep his preferred foods. Make him feel special and at ease.

Not to brag excessively, but I ROCKED it this year. I invited the friends FIVE DAYS ahead of time. I sent Greg to get the pizzas. And, best of all, I snagged frozen pumpkin pies — his ultimate favorite dessert — ON SALE. Really, this should be a lifestyle blog because I HAVE MY CRAP SO TOGETHER I SHOULD BE TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT TO DO. 

The morning of the party, we found some 4th of July streamers, wrapped them around our Christmas tree and, VOILA!, we were even decorated.

I pulled the pies out of the freezer to thaw and patted myself on the back for thinking ahead and honoring my kid in the way he wanted that was also EASY ON ME. Win/win, folks! Win/win.

Toward the end of the party, I put candles in the pies, and we sang Happy Birthday.

Which is when I saw the candles … leaning …

Like the Tower of Pisa. 

And I noticed the filling was a little… soupy.

And the crust was kind of… doughy.

And that’s the moment I figured out THESE WERE NOT THAW-AND-SERVE PIES, friends.

These were RAW pies that needed to be COOKED.

RAW PIES. At the END OF THE PARTY. 

Which is why I share this teeny, tiny Thanksgiving Tip with you today:

If you buy frozen pies, friend,
CHECK THE BOX to see if those suckers need baking.
And, if they do, I don’t know —
maybe BAKE THEM before serving. 

In conclusion, the Pioneer Woman and I are basically the same person, and you should come here for lifestyle and baking techniques more often. 

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. I did bake those pies. 

P.P.S. They were ready 45 minutes after the party ended.

P.P.P.S. My kid was Not Unhappy because Less Pie for his guests meant More Pie for him. So we may still be working on social skills around here, but in my kid’s book, this was a major win.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2018 Retreat Dates are Published! 
Click here for more information.
I’d love to hang out with you next year!

 

Introducing the Newest Member of Our Family… Genevieve the Refrigerator

Nov 20 2017

Dearest, dearest friends,

Please believe me when I say this comes as much a surprise to me as it does to you.

Please do not feel as though I’ve withheld information.

Please do not feel as though I’ve been keeping secrets.

I think by now you and I have Built Trust in such a way that you’ll believe me when I say secrets are my worst thing. I mean, I rock the heck out of keeping Other People’s secrets, but I have very few left of my own. I pretty much tell you All the Things, or, as Greg likes to say when he’s being Particularly Complimentary of my writing, “She’s not inaccurate.” Like, I have two secrets at this point, tops, and one of them is that I put Cadbury Mini-Eggs in my bra so they get partly melty before I eat them. The shell is PERFECT for that — thick enough to hold in all the gooey chocolate without smashing, thin enough to shatter in my teeth when the chocolate’s properly prepared. Now, yes; one could technically hold the mini-eggs in one’s hands until they get warm-but-not-too-warm and accomplish the same purpose, but the bra speeds that process right up, and everyone knows the More Melty Mini-Eggs, the Better. 

So I’m down to one secret now, and withholding information about adding to our appliance family is Not It. This was not part of the Plan, but life so rarely proceeds according to Planm right, friends? I’d like that on a bumper sticker, please: LIFE = Not Plan-Friendly. While sometimes the surprises are difficult and challenging, though, sometimes they’re AWESOME. Amazing. Serendipitous. And Just Delightful. This surprise is one of the latter, which is why I’m ecstatic to introduce the newest member of our family…

 

Genevieve the Refrigerator

Born in 1949, sweet Genevieve is a Hotpoint Super-Stor refrigerator, a behemoth in her day — top of the line, baby — and now a petite little darling. 

I found her on Craigslist in a moment that can only be called Divine Inspiration. 

Now, listen: it’s been a month, friends. A hard, long, amazing, awful, invigorating, life-draining MONTH. Situation Normal, in other words. Still, we’re TIRED. We’re very, VERY tired. In part because we’re made out of human, and as fallible and fabulous as that implies. In part because our kids who experience disability are in the midst of massive transitions to adulthood with all the angst and agony and triumph and sighing and paperwork one might expect. In part because OMG, AMERICA MAKES ME WANT TO FACEPALM TIMES INIFINITY. And in part because the Great Church Disintegration of 2017 continues to be laden with grief. There’s nothing quite like the heartbreak, friends, of watching my husband and young son curled around each other, sobbing because we’re no longer welcome at the camp we once thought was a safe place to learn and live and love each other well. And there’s nothing quite like the fierce joy of releasing things that were never really ours so we can pursue a wider grace and a deeper mercy and a love that knows no bounds. It’s all very Both/And around here these days. Loss and Longing and Love commingled. A month full of Neverending Tasks and Life Lessons and Clinging to Each Other and Really Big Feelings. 

So I did what anyone in my position would do. I went online. I scrolled through Facebook. I read articles. I watched every Michael McIntyre video I could find. I drafted Christmas lists. I decorated for Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas, which is just one holiday now instead of three because I do not have time for 3 holidays in less than 2 months. There are pumpkins on my porch and stockings over the fireplace. The tree is up and fully decorated. I planned a living room remodel I’ll never execute, and then I planned two more. I ate 37 bowls of cinnamon rice crispies and made 3 giant pans of lasagna. I started selling furniture we’ve stored in our garage for far too long. And I shopped Craigslist for things I don’t need. 

Which is when Genevieve appeared.

And the heavens parted.

And light shone down.

And Jesus said, “DO YOU SEE HER, BETH? SHE’S ONLY $300, AND SHE MUST BE YOURS.”

I agreed with Jesus except the part about $300 — sometimes Jesus doesn’t understand Craigslist pricing — so I offered $200 and bought her for $250. 

Then I told Greg our Good News; that we were replacing our Much Larger, Modern, Functional, Ice and Water Dispensing Fridge with a Much Smaller Fridge from 1949 that Probably Works and Has a Tiny Freezer and No Ice Maker and Will Need Defrosting! ALSO, SHE’S SO PRETTY AND MATCHES OUR STOVE. 

Greg was ecstatic.

Then I told him he got to drive two hours in the middle of his work day to deadlift it into our truck, but not to worry because I also volunteered my father and my spindly little 11yos to help with the lifting, and — BONUS — my pretty princess self to supervise. 

He was over the moon.

And so Genevieve has joined our lives and our hearts. And I am love-loving her all the livelong day. 

Please join me in welcoming this newest addition to the Woolsey home.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. Little Ms. Genevieve lived the first 68 years of her life in beautiful old craftsman house here in Oregon. She shared her space with a wood and oil burning stove. When the house was purchased recently, the new owners decided to remodel the kitchen. God knows why. 😉 Thus the need for G’s rehoming. Our research says she may run quite happily for another 30+ years. Or she may crap out next week, in which case she’s getting a new compressor and becoming the world’s raddest kegerator. This is what we call a classic win/win. 

P.P.S. As you may already know, given our crowd-sourced kitchen remodel project of yesteryear, Ms. G joins Betty the stove (1956) and Bud the Wiser, our bear beer bottle opener (2016). Betty, of course, is named for my grandmother, Betty June, who wanted Everything to be Fancy All the Time, and Genevieve is named for my great, great aunt, Betty June’s older sister. Bud is named for Budweiser because beer. We’re all doing well and settling in together, and so far Bud and Betty haven’t smothered Genevieve in her sleep, so I assume they adore their new sister.

P.P.P.S. Not to brag too, TOO much, but Genevieve is the easiest and quietest and prettiest little fridge that was ever born, and I loved her the moment I laid eyes on her. 

P.P.P.P.S. Greg asked if he gets to have a 1950’s housewife to go along with Betty and Genevieve. I think Greg might be trying to commit suicide. Kind of like Death by Cop, except this is Death by Wife. Betty, Genevieve and I are still offended. Also, we three cuss like sailors. 

THE END

Except that I JUST POSTED THE 2018 RETREATS. I would love (love, love) to hang out with you at the gorgeous Oregon Coast in 2018. Check out the link to learn more about the 4, small group retreat we’re offering this year — a retreat for book lovers, one focused on food and wine, one on writing, and one on mindfulness. If you’re looking for rest, respite and relaxation in a warm, welcoming community, these are the retreats for you. If you’re offended by stories about stuffing Cadbury Mini-Eggs in my bra, on the other hand, you might want to skip these. 😉 

Happy Halloween! This post is about Christmas.

Oct 30 2017

Happy Halloween Eve, friends. This post is about Christmas. Obviously. Because who doesn’t write about Christmas for Halloween?

If you’re thinking, “OH, MY GOSH; I HATE IT WHEN STORES PUT UP ALL THEIR CHRISTMAS CRAP BEFORE HALLOWEEN. NOW BETH IS DOING IT. WHY? Dear God in Heaven, WHY??,” I will tell you. It’s because I can only do one holiday, man. ONE. One is the number of holidays I can do. Not one per month, either. Those of you who can do that are totally down with 4 back-to-back holidays in 2 months, BUT I CANNOT. I can do one per year. One only. And I am very, very, very, extra reminded of that fact right now.

My main problem is this: Halloween comes, then Thanksgiving 23 days later, then Christmas, then New Year’s .

THAT IS NOT ENOUGH TIME to plan costumes, buy costumes, inventory costume pieces, manage costumes, buy costume makeup, decorate for Halloween, throw a Halloween party, make gooey, gross Halloween treats, clean up from Halloween, put all the Halloween gear away, plan Thanksgiving, decorate for Thanksgiving, bake and cook for Thanksgiving, put all the Thanksgiving gear away, buy the Christmas tree, get out all the Christmas gear, decorate for Christmas, put up the Christmas lights, plan the gifts for we 7 Woolseys plus extended family, get my butt out the door to actually purchase those gifts, hide the gifts, wrap the gifts, plan the stockings, buy stuff for the stockings, realize one kid has fewer stocking pieces than all the rest, realize we’re out of milk, realize no one bought the oranges for the stockings, make 12 emergency trips to the store, plan the food for Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, and Christmas dinner, make Christmas cookies, make fudge, decorate the gingerbread house, and properly herald the New Year.

It’s too much, I tell you. TOO MUCH. And you guys, we are the family that ONLY BUYS 2 PRESENTS FOR OUR KIDS. You’ve heard that idea on how to minimize Christmas gifts for kids who already have too much, right? “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read”? I know loads of people who see that and are all, “THANK GOD FOR A SYSTEM WHERE WE CAN FINALLY PARE DOWN.” But I must be the Weirdest Weirdo EVER, because I see it and go, ARE YOU KIDDING? You know how much FOUR THINGS for each kid costs when you have five kids? I have to buy 20 PRESENTS for Christmas, just for my kids, not counting anything for the nieces and nephews? I mean, that four-thing idea is great for those of you who do it — I don’t begrudge you that in any way — but my kids get 1) something they want, usually negotiated to be smaller and/or cheaper than whatever unreasonable thing they really, really want, and 2) something else I think they might like that was cheap enough for my budget.

In other words, I CANNOT DO ALL THE THINGS, and so I’ve decided I won’t.

Instead, we Woolseys start Christmas today, and we will celebrate four phases of Christmas over the next two months. This is much, much (much, much) easier than trying to cram four separate holidays into a 62-day window.

The Four Phases of Christmas are really rather like the four phases of the moon: new moon, then first quarter moon, then full moon, and, finally, third quarter moon. Except in the Christmas scenario, we have Halloween Christmas (New Christmas), then Thanksgiving Christmas (First Quarter Christmas), then Christmas Christmas (Full Christmas), then New Year’s Christmas (Third Quarter Christmas) which is whatever dregs of Christmas we’ve got left over by then. Got it? Just like the four phases of the moon are all made up of moon, so the four phases of Christmas are all made up of Christmas.

Thus, although some will call today and tomorrow Halloween season, we Woolseys are going to celebrate Halloween Christmas. We’re carving pumpkins while listening to Christmas music, and Greg put up our Halloween Christmas lights, which is what you call Christmas lights that are up for Halloween. Halloween Christmas decorations = DONE. That’s right. You know what I’ve planned for my kids’ costumes? Nothing. I’ve planned zero things. I told the kids to find their own costumes this year because Halloween Christmas means I don’t have to do all the usual Halloween things. That’s the WHOLE POINT. So far, two are using rags to transform themselves into zombies and one is wearing his dad’s white bathrobe so he can go as White Jesus.

He figures this way he can make subtle social commentary on racism in the United States, and, most importantly, he can trick-or-treat everyplace twice — once as Jesus, and then again as the Second Coming of Christ. I wondered for a minute whether this is really appropriate, but then I realized a) it’s not, b) I don’t care, c) it’s hilarious, and d) it’s Halloween Christmas, so way to get into the spirit of the holiday, kid.

For Thanksgiving Christmas, we’re going to have a Thanksgiving Christmas tree. It’s like a regular Christmas tree, except it’s already up at Thanksgiving. And probably Thanksgiving Christmas stockings. And definitely turkey Thanksgiving Christmas dinner with cranberry sauce and stuffing. And twinkly lights in fake fir branches because I will have had TIME to pull those out of their boxes.

Honestly, for the first time in forever, I’m not feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season. We’re going to take it slow. We’re going to let go of the tiny things that don’t matter. And we’re going to rock the heck out of the Four Phases of Christmas.

In conclusion, wishing you a very happy Halloween Christmas, friends, from my family to yours,

 

We’ve Fled America. You Come, Too.

Sep 20 2017

Greg and I have fled America which seems Very Logical at the moment and perhaps something we all ought to consider what with Rabid Isolationism, Fear of the Other, and OCD-Level Pontius Pilate Handwashing out of control in the U.S. right now. Not only will we Let No One In, we’re also set on Kicking the Vulnerable Out, but only after ensuring we’ve Absolved Ourselves of All Responsibility. ‘MURICA! We’re great again now, right?

Unfortunately, due to an overfondness for Harry Potter, Jamie Fraser, and chocolate digestive biscuits, we’ve fled to the United Kingdom, which is preparing to implement Brexit, so I’m not exactly sure we’ve traded up on the segregationist front. On the bright side, at least we’re in Scotland where there’s a whiskey distillery at literally every highway exit so we feel more prepared in case of Utter Apocalypse. I mean, there are worse things than being stuck in a country that knows how to make food from animal innards, fries everything in beer batter, and has hard liquor releases planned for the next 10-25 years. Yes? Yes. Scots for the win.

We’re here on holiday with our two youngest for their Ten-Year-Old Trip, a coming-of-age tradition started by my grandmother for her grandkids and carried on by us.

When our eldest was 10, we took her to Vietnam, the country of her birth, so she could see with a child’s eyes how beautiful and special the country is, how warm and kind its people.

We did the same for our second daughter when she was 10, to Guatemala.

We didn’t for our eldest son, who abhors travel with every fiber of his being and who begged not to be made to suffer with torture devices like airplanes and hotels. Instead, we waited until he was 15 (and until I was done thinking he’d surely change his mind and his whole personality and suddenly be capable of traveling to Guatemala, as well) and bought that kid an XBox so he could finally, violently slaughter outer-space aliens in Halo — as cross-cultural an experience as he wants, and certainly in keeping with American Values. His eyes still sparkle when he talks about it — how HE got an XBox which lasts YEARS while his poor, stupid siblings had to endure TRAVEL which lasts mere WEEKS. Then he giggles with glee at his superior choices. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now that our youngest are 10, we’re visiting parts of our ancestral homes, in Scotland and England, a trip for which we’ve been preparing for months, and we’re having every Formative, Educational Experience you might expect.

We’ve learned not to jostle the seat of the Rather Cranky Lady in the seat ahead of us on the plane, which is truly a Life Skill.

We’ve learned to be Very Quiet in the car while Mommy figures out how to drive on the left without crashing.

We’ve only yelled at each other a few dozen times, and Greg and I only made one of the children cry twice, so we’re clearly mastering Patience, Kindness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

We’re learning about other languages and cultures; our children, for example, have renamed all the sheep of Scotland “Pre-Haggis,” except when it’s raining, and then they’re temporarily called Soggy Haggis, because obviously.

We’ve done the Very Best Thing in All of the United Kingdom by riding the Hogwarts Express. And, to date, although we’ve been on Loch Ness, to Culloden Battlefield, to famous castles and forts, hiking in the Highlands, and to the Scottish Museum, we’ve also discovered the Second Best Thing About International Travel which is getting pillows and blankets on the plane. “PILLOWS, Mom! This flight is SO FANCY! They hand out PILLOWS and BLANKETS to every single person, and we don’t even have to pay to rent them!” Not to brag, but this is how to parent, friends. Set the expectations and standards bar so incredibly low that the ability to borrow a rigid, synthetic pillow product is EXCITING.

In short (too late), I’ll be coming to you from Scotland and England over the next couple weeks, and you should consider fleeing here, too. Unless you’re already here, in which case, BRAVO.

Thinking of you (but mostly of Jamie Fraser because I’m in Scotland and so JAMIE FRASER),

 

 

 

P.S. We pose for Happy Family photos like this:

But really, we mostly look strung out and exhausted, listening to audio books in pubs because Mom and Dad refuse to let us sleep, like this:

#Reality

 

Marital Strife: Your Help Requested

Aug 22 2017

There’s no easy way to say this, friends, so I’m just going to jump right in.

Greg, the love of my life, father of my children, sharer of my bed, scr itchy batterer of toast, locks the door when he uses the bathroom.

He locks the door.

Every time.

Without fail.

LOCKS IT.

I know. I wish I had a way to ease the blow, too, but in the absence of that, I’m just ripping off the band aid. If you need to stop reading for a bit to catch your breath, I understand. Take your time.

Here’s the truth:

Whenever Greg feels the need to potty, he just… goes.

He stands up, walks out of the room, blithely enters the bathroom without a public announcement and, CLICK, turns the lock.

I don’t…

I can’t even…

I just…

He acts like it’s normal to potty alone.

Like he doesn’t have to make sure all the kids are occupied for the foreseeable future.

In separate rooms.

Plugged into screens.

With enough snacks to last through the full zombie apocalypse.

And restraints.

And a brick wall barrier.

And reinforced cages.

And the suspension of disbelief required to think maybe — this one time — they won’t Houdini and Shawshank Redeption their way out.

Greg acts like he doesn’t have to submit an application in writing to the Sanitary Oversight Commission seeking approval for a Solo Toilet Expedition, then wait ages, like all good citizens, then resubmit his paperwork months later because, after a series of phone calls during which he was mostly placed on hold or disconnected, he learned his application was incomplete… or never arrived… or was lost or misfiled… and finally, give it up as a lost cause LIKE THE REST OF US DO and live with the knowledge we may never get to pee again.

Instead, Greg believes the urge to void is sufficient to qualify a person to potty in appropriate facilities while prohibiting others to enter.

It’s infuriating.

It’s as though Greg believes he’s an adult human. Entitled to privacy. Entitled not to broadcast his boy parts to the household. Entitled to 15 minutes to sit alone, undisturbed, and scan his Facebook feed. Or play a whole game of Sudoku. Or read Wired magazine. Or have one entire, chronological thought, start to finish, without myriad interruptions ranging in intensity from “the dog just barfed on my bed” to “COME FAST THERE IS A LOT OF BLOOD.”

It’s as though Greg doesn’t subscribe to the MacGyver style of pottying wherein one, with extensive training honed during years of difficult missions, improbable scenarios, and close calls, must be prepared for anything, at any time, to go horribly awry. Where one must solve issues that arise only with items on hand like one’s wits, lack of dignity, and a dirty sock. Where one practices one’s Kegles not because one is disciplined to exercise one’s pelvic floor, but by actually having to repeatedly stop midstream to pull someone’s foot splinter or run to check on the stunned child who thought jumping backward off the swing set was a good idea and, “HE’S HURT REAL BAD, MOM.” Not that MacGyver is necessarily all that interested in his pelvic floor, but if he was, this would undoubtedly be his modus operandi.

Listen; I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this whole situation, but Gregory sits there long enough to leave a red imprint of the toilet on his butt and legs, you guys. I mean, I imagine he does. I don’t actually know definitively, because Greg also pulls his undies all the way up, AND his pants, AND he zips and buttons them, AND washes his hands — for the recommended, thorough amount of time — before he emerges, rested and refreshed, which makes me bitter and enraged.

I do not know what to do about this, friends.

When I catch him, I knock knock knock knock knock on the door, and I speak in staccato words to match. Like “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING. IN. THERE?” And “O.M.G! DID YOU SERIOUSLY. LOCK. THE DOOR. AGAIN?” And “STOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT.” But none of my lurking, knocking and pestering behaviors are working. NONE.

Surely something can be done about this. Surely there’s a way to end my misery once and for all. Surely there’s some way to force Greg into the kind of co-dependence and subservience to one’s children such that he will feel he does not deserves to lock the bathroom door, as well as the kind of unreasonable godlike pride required to believe that if one does actually lock the door, the children will all literally die.

Please, wise friends. Tell me what to do! Remove all bathroom doors? Put spikes on the toilet? Handcuff Greg to All the Children as a symbol of solidarity and sympathy with his long suffering wife who’s figuratively shackled to them all the livelong day?

In conclusion, help me, friends. You’re my only hope.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. Sorry to air our dirty laundry like this. I think we can all agree, though, that it’s past time to seek help.

I Duplicated My Daughter’s Instagram Feed (Because the Internets Need a Laugh, Dammit)

Aug 19 2017

Dear the Internets,

This is a cautionary tale.

Let’s say you have a kid at college.

And let’s say that college is in Hawaii.

Let’s say your kid chose that college because, OMG, BEACHES.

And let’s say she’s using those beaches to her full advantage.

Let’s say she has an Instagram account.

And let’s say it’s full of beach and bikini pics, because that’s apparently her area of giftedness.

Let’s say you’re scrolling through one day and you see a pic of her with underboob. UNDERBOOB, friends.

 

Let’s say you think to yourself, “Self, you are the mommy. Self, you should DISAPPROVE. Self, it is IRRELEVANT how adorable she looks in this pic. Self, you taught her to never, EVER, put boobie pics on the world wide webs. Self, you should DO SOMETHING.”

But then let’s say you think, “Self, she’s an adult. Self, she gets to make her own choices. Also, Self, because you can see how very white her underboob is, now you know she’s not been sunbathing topless. So HOORAY! LOOK AT HER MODESTY.”

Let’s say you call her and congratulate her on the underboob pic. Because that’s what a mommy does, right? That sounds like appropriate Christian leadership.

“Nice underboob,” you say. “I see you haven’t been sunbathing topless, so I guess there’s that?”

Let’s say she agrees with you entirely.

Then let’s say you decide, because you lack overall good judgement and common sense, that you think it would be the Very Best Lesson for her if you were to duplicate her shot, except with your own, fluffy, 43yo mom bod.

But let’s say when you tell your kid about your plan, she thinks it’s HILARIOUS and not embarrassing at all, because apparently you have embarrassed her So Many Times already, you’ve burned the ability out of her.

So let’s say you go to Hawaii and do it.

Because the world is a horrible place right now, and God knows we all need a laugh.

 

This, friends. This is why you DO NOT TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR. It leads to this type of behavior, and God knows SOMEONE needs to save you from your Good Ideas.

To make matters worse, my kid has friends who are equally unembarrased by me, and duplicated this pic…

 

 

…with me on a public beach, because their judgement is as questionable as mine.

God, I love them.

(Also, that’s a lot of fabric I pulled up my ass.)

The End.

Literally.

Except for this bonus twinsie pic, because that’s what we do around here. #MotherDaughter #CantTellUsApart

And also this twinsie pic.

It’s a real mystery, I tell you. I mean, who’s who??

In conclusion, we can pray a special prayer for the poor college boy who had to take these photos. He’s the real victim here.

With Love,

……..

 

 

And Now Here’s the Longest P.S. Ever and the Story Behind These Pics…

P.S. Once upon a time, a few months ago, my eldest child graduated, utterly relieved, from her Very Conservative Christian high school. It was the one with the dress codes. The one where the book, The Purity Principle, a horrifying account of how a man’s lust inevitably leads men to pedophilia, child abuse and prison (um, what??) was assigned as a biology textbook — yes, A BIOLOGY TEXTBOOK. The one where my kid was cited for the time her sweatshirt fell off her shoulder to reveal a (don’t be alarmed) Bra Strap. The one where she decided to henceforth quit wearing bras altogether because she is Willful and also Her Mother’s Daughter and so Logic dictated if Bra Straps were a Serious Problem, she would eliminate them entirely, bless her Rebellious Heart. The school where there are far More Stories like this one, from both my kid and others.

Now, to be fair, the school had some lovely, wonderful things about it, truly. There’s no doubt the staff there Meant Well. There’s no doubt they were dedicated to their work. There’s no doubt they were working hard to shape a generation of people who can change our world for the better. Unfortunately, their views on sexuality, women, and modesty rules were simply Not Some of those wonderful things.

Nevertheless, the summer before my daughter’s senior year, she signed the Dress Code. Her mommy stood beside her, telling her if she wanted to attend This School, she had to not only sign it but agree to abide by it without complaint. It was a prerequisite for attendance, and if she didn’t agree with it, I told her, I’d happily sign her up for a different school. She could choose, but she needed to choose to live by the rules if This School was her choice.

She signed it.

Then, in early October, five weeks after school began, the administration issued a new dress code. New rules. New specifics. No warning. Just a sudden shift of policy.

My daughter disagreed with much of it. No yoga pants, for example, but body-hugging, stretchy jeans were fine. Athletes could wear their work-out gear to school if they had practice in the afternoon, but my daughter and her dancer friends — despite 20 hours per week of rehearsals starting immediately after school, and long pants and zip-up jackets as gear — could not.

She felt suddenly examined, under a microscope with her adorable, fit dancer body and emerging sense of self; teachers and staff watching her body closely for rule-breaking. She began to write papers on Modesty Culture and Purity Culture and ways they lead to Rape Culture. She became grossly uncomfortable with the heightened interest in her butt and breasts and how much of those, exactly, the teachers could discern by studying them. She felt yucky every day, and she asked me what she ought to do about the new dress code. Should she abide by it? I told her she should abide by the first one she signed — the one we talked about and thought about and agreed to follow after consideration about whether she could do so. But changing the rules? Nope. She didn’t have to abide by those.

I talked to the principal. She did, too. I explained she would be following the code she’d agreed to but was not responsible for the sudden switch. We both told him how uncomfortable she was with the perpetual eyes on her body, adults looking to see if she was too sexy, blame for boys not being able to pay attention in school. This, in jeans and baggy sweatshirts. But the Bra Strap! The principal said he was “sorry she feels that way.”

The teachers, of course, were trying to be consistent and to apply the rules the administration dictated. They were wrong, I believe, but they were caught between bad rules and their leadership.

As for me, I was raised in conservative, fundamentalist Christian culture. It took me decades to unravel what modesty means, how I was responsible — or, more specifically, not responsible — for the behavior and thoughts of others, and how I might patch together a better understanding of how “modesty” relates to loving God and loving my neighbors as myself, on which Jesus said hang all the laws. The more I studied the more I realized the impetus forced on women to dress in a manner so we don’t cause men don’t objectify us, lust after us, and the more angry I became. It wasn’t only unfair, it also wasn’t what Jesus taught us about how to love one another, and it was purely subjective, utterly illogical, and always in flux. There was no way to “win” in modesty culture. No way to ever be blameless.

There’s not a static definition of modest clothing, after all. It changes, always, with the culture of the time. Christian women these days, in nearly every denomination and sect, are able to show their elbows, their ankles, their knees — body parts that were considered sexual in Victorian times. And yet we Christians forget that it was a rebellious woman sometime, somewhere — an “immodest” lady who shunned the dress code of the time, who refused to follow it — who led to our ability these days to wear capris, t-shirts, to go for a run, to swim at the beach. Instead, I watch Christians defend our current conservative culture’s understanding of what “modesty” means. As though these rules are hard and fast. As though a man lusting after a woman in leggings is her fault and not his. Elbows, after all, were once a temptation, and yet we no longer believe a woman’s elbows will lead a man to sin. You know why? Because culture changed. Because our expectations of men changed, too. If everyone throughout history believed we ought to adhere to dress codes of the time — enforced those codes and never challenged them — we would still be wearing high-necked collars, long sleeves, boots, and long skirts in our recent 90 degree weather. Thank God for the women who challenged those notions! Thank God I can sit outside while I type this, in my sleeveless REI hiking dress — knees and ankles on display before God and man, harlot that I am — and enjoy the sunshine.

Eventually, my kid who attended a private Christian school grades K-12 wanted Anything But That for college. She was exhausted by the rules meant to keep students “safe,” but which caused harm. And, in her words, “I just feel like Jesus cares more about things other than my bra strap, Mom.” Truer words, right? Truer words.

So now my kid is in Hawaii, living by the beach and wearing All the Bikinis, with her ass and underboob showing. She’s also a hard worker, conscientious, smart, hilarious, and she has a fantastic community of amazing friends who support and love each other well. She’s confident, and she knows who she is. She’s fiercely achieving her academic goals. She’s done with the bullshit parts of religion, and she clings to a Jesus who challenged cultural norms to love people well. She knows what she believes and why she believes it. I could only be more proud if she would wear a damn helmet when she’s on her boyfriend’s Vespa. (PAY ATTENTION, CHILD; THAT’S ALL I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY.)