UPDATED: Why the Internets Are RAD. Chins for the Win.

Aug 2 2014

My 16 year old friend, Elsie, and I played the Multiple Chins Game last night.

You know, where you post on Facebook pictures of yourself with as many chins as you can muster? And then shame your thin, gorgeous teenage friend for being unable to deliver as many chins as you?

It’s good times. I’m telling you. I mean, what is not to love about posting this on Facebook on purpose?

photo 1 (69)

And Elsie tried her best, bless her heart…

photo 2 (75)

…but I won. Clearly.

She thinks it’s not fair that I have a big dog bite scar under my chin and thus get an entire extra chin to my credit, but I say play to your strengths, man. (And you could stand to be a better loser, Elsie. Geez.)

And, because I KNOW you’re eager to play, too, I have found a way!

photo 3 (54)

You can upload your supah hot many-chins picture to the 5 Kids Facebook page here - and check out the fabulousness already there - and we’ll judge a winner on Monday morning (Pacific Time) based on the picture with the most likes.

There’ll even be a (totally pathetic) prize for the winner (like a summer sausage or processed cheese product.) 

And – oh my gosh – the pictures that are already up? Precious gems, every one. It gets funnier and funnier the more people play. You guys are ridiculous… and my FAVORITES. 

#ChinsForTheWin #IHaveAtLeastSeven #TakeTHATFakebook

……….

UPDATE: And we have a winner!

Congratulations, Emily!

This is Emily’s picture as originally uploaded – yep, upside down, which was a brilliant strategic move – to Facebook:

Emily

Emily wants you to know she’s not naked in this picture. 

:)

And here it is, flipped right side up, just so all the blood doesn’t rush to Emily’s head.

Emily2

Email me at FiveKidsIsALotOfKids@gmail.com, Emily, with your address and your preference of summer sausage or velveeta cheese. YUM, right??

Desolation, Consolation and Rising From the Ashes

Aug 1 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about two concepts lately. What they mean to me. And what they mean for our ability to create community. They are:

Desolation and Consolation

Desolation, of course, is sadness, loss, grief, devastation. Consolation: comfort, solace… hope.

For example:

Desolation: An exhausting day with 5 kids. Pfffftt.
Consolation: BEDTIME! (And a big glass of wine.)
Desolation: And then, of course, the preschooler wakes up with a nightmare. :(
Consolation: But he goes right back to sleep. 
Desolation: In my bed.
Desolation: Which he wets.
Consolation: On my husband’s side of the bed. :D

Or, after trying to convince my kids for YEARS that I’m a truly gifted living-room dancer, and they shouldn’t be embarrassed anymore when I bust a move in front of their friends or challenge them to a dance-off:

Consolation: My kid, watching me dance, says, “You know, Mom? You really are a pretty good dancer…” followed by
Desolation: A look of dawning horror, and, “…unless you weren’t dancing and you just have to go potty, Mom. Sorry, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.” 

And then, of course, there are the desolations and consolations that aren’t as fun. The desolations and consolations that are part of this very human life. 

Like the desolation of infertility and miscarriage and waiting, waiting, waiting to become a mama.

The consolation of a precious child.

The desolation of discovering a world that is lonelier and more isolating – more full of dark nights and dirty diapers and relentless crying, both your baby’s and yours – than you ever imagined.

And the long road to the consolation of birthing a new YOU who is stronger and more resilient than you knew.

Desolation and consolation. In sometimes quick and sometimes agonizingly slow succession. 

The desolation of discovering my son has special needs. The consolation of discovering his sweet heart. The desolation of learning I’m terribly self-centered. The consolation of learning to love others more than myself. And so many more desolations and consolations of the heart.

I think about the mythical phoenix sometimes, who goes through trial by fire… and doesn’t survive it. It’s not like it’s not that bad for the bird. I mean, the phoenix dies in the fire, you know? 

But which of us does survive the trial by fire, really?

None of us. Not one. Not in our entirety, anyway.

Not the same as we were before the desolation.

And I wonder if the phoenix knows, while she’s sitting in the ashes – just done in, dead – that she will rise from them?

I wonder if she knows it’s written in her very DNA, like the redwood seed that’s only primed for new life and growth after it’s given itself to the death of the forest, that she will triumph over the devastation?

I wonder if she knows she’s a creature of resilience? Or if the phoenix is convinced it’s done for?

Does the phoenix know what she is until she rises?

Does she know that dying to herself doesn’t confirm her weakness but is the path to a new life?

Does she know that desolation comes before consolation? 

Does she know that comfort and solace, hope and the ability to breathe anew, is on its way?

This idea of desolation and consolation is something we all understand because it’s so common to the human experience. And we who are the child raisers and the farmers and the community leaders, we understand especially, because we gamble every day on the potential of a child, the generosity of the Earth, and the bounty of our community. If there’s anyone who understands resilience – whose heart is with the phoenix – it’s us, because we know what it is to sow and then wait to see what we’ll reap. We toil and labor because it’s a worthy risk. 

But not everybody knows yet that they’re made of the stuff of the phoenix. And it’s our job to show them, because the remedy for fragmentation and isolation, for loneliness and despair, is, of course, each other. Community. And loving each other well. It’s rising as the phoenix and then reaching back into the ashes to give a hand to someone who doesn’t yet have enough ways out. To create a community of the reborn. To deliver hope. And to whisper, life is on the way

……….

afamilyplacelogo NEW FNLPrint

This post is a revision of my remarks at an event last night for A Family Place as they raise funds for another relief nursery in Yamhill County, Oregon. A Family Place is dedicated to reducing the number of families needing to place children in foster care by providing at-risk families with targeted support, respite care for children ages 0-5, parent education, and free at-home visits.

You can donate to their efforts here.

P.S. This post was not sponsored or solicited by A Family Place. I just felt that this community, of all people, would understand the tremendous need for respite and relief nurseries, the challenges specific to raising young kids, and the need to develop supportive communities for families in need. 

My Litany of Shortcomings and Why It Can Suck It

Jul 28 2014

“Hey, Mom?” asked the 7 year old.

“Yes, Cai?” asked I.

“Remember when you said all the swear words today?” 

“No, Cai,” said I.

“ALL the swear words in the world, Mom?”

“No, Cai,” said I.

“And the very BADDEST swear word, Mom?” 

“No, Cai,” said I.

“The one you said we should never, ever, ever tell Grandma we know?

“No, Cai,” said I.

“The one that starts with f and ends with uck? And sound like ffff – uck, ffff – uck? Can you put those sounds together, Mom?”

“Still don’t remember, Cai,” said I, although he was starting to jog my memory.

“But you DID, Mom. Remember? When the car wouldn’t start? And we were late to the doctor? And it just did CLICK CLICK CLICK? And you said crap and shit and you’ve got to be fucking kidding me? And then stop laughing, and SERIOUSLY; NOT RIGHT NOW, YOU GUYS, and SHhhhh… I have to call your father, and then you used your Not Nice voice to Daddy that you always say isn’t yelling but we say is yelling? Remember that, Mom?”

“OK. Yep. I remember now. Thanks, Cai,” said I.

“You’re welcome, Mom. And Mom?”

“Yes?”

“That really was hilarious.”

 

Today was… I don’t know. Fine. It was fine. 

We did make it to the doctor. Eventually. Forty-five minutes late, using the car my parents brought to rescue me. If you’ve ever wondered who the people are who make your doctor late all the time, THEY’RE ME. All those people are secretly ME. I’ve booked all the appointments ahead of you, and I’m always late, and I’m so sorry. But we couldn’t reschedule, even though we did call and offer, because it was my kid’s post-operative appointment and the doctor said it had to be done today, dead car battery or no. 

We came home to find that the dog had helped himself in our absence to a few tampon treats from the garbage and scattered their slobbery remains throughout the downstairs. Here’s my advice for new parents: GET A DOG, and I swear to you your children will no longer seem so gross, because no matter where my kids have peed and pooped – which, FYI, includes but is not limited to the toy box, behind the beds, in the air vents, on the garage walls and under the front porch – they have never, to my knowledge, chewed on a used tampon. Kids for the win!

And there were at least two whiney kids I wanted to drop-kick over the back fence by the time we finished dinner.

So, you know. It was a day.

It’s easy to go through the litany of all the things I do wrong during the day. There are just SO MANY to recite. I was unkind. I was yelly. I was impatient. I was ungrateful. I said ALL the bad words in the world in front of my kids. I’m too heavy. I’m prone to panicking. I rarely floss. I’m selfish. I can’t get the knack of shaving my armpits without getting razor burn in the left pit. I go to bed too late. I don’t serve veggies with dinner. And I haven’t washed my bathroom floor with more than a towel and the water dripping off my showered body in more than a year. A YEAR.

I was in full throttle tonight. The Unabridged Litany of the Ways I fff – uck Up Life. 

Which is when I saw the message from Erin in my in-box. Erin who rescued my children and me on Tuesday. Erin, to whom I’d written:

I meant to find you and thank you in person for being so kind and gracious to me on Tuesday morning when I just blew it at kid drop-off. Rather than, you know, write about you in public and never say actual words to your face. But Tuesday was a mess and Abby had surgery Wednesday and I’ve been in practical stasis or go-go-going since then. So, in lieu of being socially appropriate, I just wanted to drop you a note and say thank you. Really. I was the parent who makes your job hard, and you were Jesus to me. I’m grateful.

Erin’s message back said:

Beth, You are welcome – although we all run late in life and feel overwhelmed by it I’m glad I could spin your morning in a new direction. Please know though that you are also the parent who makes my little summer job something I love to do each year. This is why – your kids are amazing! I got to be in Cai and Cael’s group this year and they both showed so much love and care for others. Cai continually reached out to a little boy at camp with some needs and offered to play with him and sought him out during big group times when we were together. Cael spent time with each child in our group and was always eager to include. I loved hearing Aden’s story of how she overcame her fear on the high ropes course and how she worked through it to accomplish it. Ian was my saving grace to a younger child who needed comforting. So – being late one morning is really no big deal – but having empathetic and compassionate children IS a big deal – and you have them and they were Jesus to me – giving me just enough encouragement to keep at this crazy week for the next year. I’m grateful.

And that’s when I realized I’m not so horrible after all. I mean, yes; the Litany of Shortcomings is true. I’m all those things. But only technically, because the Litany isn’t the whole truth or the full measure of me. And when the Litany is used, not to apologize or show ourselves mercy, but to wallow in shame, well, that technical truth becomes the lie we use to convince ourselves we’re without value and not enough. And that will never do. 

Instead, tonight, now that my kids are in bed and I’m of more sound mind, I will use the Litany to craft the apologies I owe, to practice forgiveness on myself, to show kindness, and to remember it is but a fraction of the whole person I’m becoming. I will remember that both in spite of and because of who I am, my children are learning to face down fear, to show compassion, to be inclusive, and to Love. And I will choose to believe, one more time, that Love really does overcome. Even the Litany. Even in me. 

……….

Here’s what I’d love to know, as a way to practice love together.
What did you do WELL today?

And also, what can you tell me about armpit razor burn? Because SHEESH.

 

My Family: Crap Givers, Every One

Jul 27 2014

Whenever she drops her off, my friend Katrina tells her daughter Elsie (16) to make good choices.

“Make good choices,” Katrina says from the car or the porch or at the camp bus. “Make good choices!”

And Elsie rolls her eyes and says a dry, “OK, Mom; got it,” as well she should since the most questionable choice Elsie ever made was getting too close to my kid when they were toddlers, coming away with some nice, deep, Abby-shaped teeth marks embossed on her lily white, pudgy arm for her friend-making efforts. 

I think “make good choices” is the most brilliant phrase ever, though, especially now that I’m a mom of teens, so I say it to Abby every chance I get. I mean, I say it when leaving her at friends’ houses and dropping her off at school, obviously, but I like to really emphasize the importance of making good choices all the time. Like when she heads into the bathroom at Target, I say “Make good choices!” And when she’s headed to hang out with her grandparents, I remind her, “Good choices, Abby. Good choices.” And last week on her way into the operating room, after I’d hugged her and kissed her and told her I love her, just before the nurse and the anesthesiologist rolled her through the final set of doors, I hollered down the hall, “MAKE GOOD CHOICES, BABY,” and I watched Abby shake her blue surgical cap back and forth and mutter, “yeah – that’s my mom” to the giggling staff. 

Make good choices. It’s good advice all the time.

Which is why I yelled it today at a teenaged friend who’s leaving for camp. He walked out of my front door after saying a morose good-bye to his friends – he’ll be away for a whole week – so I followed him to be helpful, and because I care. ”Make good choices!” I yelled, and then, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” for good measure. 

Except my dad and my husband were present, and they heard me.

“Really, Beth?” asked my husband. “Make good choices AND don’t do anything you wouldn’t do? How’s he supposed to pull that off?”

“Yeah,” said my father. “Geez. Way to confuse a kid, Beth. There’s really nothing in common with those two statements. Make good choices AND do what you’d do? That’s conflicted advice.”

WhatBethWouldDo

Husband: “Incongruous.”

Father: “Practically impossible.”

Husband: “Draw a Venn diagram, and it’s basically a bicycle.” 

And they walked away, cackling.

Whatever.

In conclusion, my family is a group of crap-givers. Every one. 

And you can pray for me.

The End

……….

P.S. I drew that Venn diagram myself so there would be some overlap. Geez.

50 Binge-Worthy Shows to Watch This Summer

Jul 25 2014

On Wednesday, my 16-year-old had her second foot surgery of the summer and began the subsequent 6-8 week recovery phase.

photo 3 (52)In addition to the tasteless selfies I’ll take with her latest Frankenstein foot, an activity so obvious it practically goes without saying, this means a whole lot of “Mom” and “MOM” and “MOM!” and “HEY, BETH!” from Abby when I don’t jump quickly enough to get her pillow, her blanket, her socks, her shower started, her snacks, her meds, her hairbrush, her phone, her make-up, and, and, and, and, and, and, and.

I am, in short, 48 hours into being Abby’s Beck-and-Call Girl again, and I’m desperately missing my usual Get-It-Yourself, Your-Legs-Aren’t-Broken defense. As such, I’m more than happy – thrilled, in fact – to plug my impressionable kid into as much mind-numbing, brain-rotting, soul-smothering television as possible. The problem, of course, is I end up hearing most of the shows Abby watches, and, as happened during the June/July surgery recovery, I’m prone to be sucked into them. All the way in. Which is how I watched 5 seasons of Gossip Girl, loved it, and lost any hope of getting into Heaven. 

That’s why I turned to you yesterday on Facebook. To ask what my kid and I should binge-watch next. Because there are more than 500 awake-hours in 6 weeks of recovery, and THIS IS IMPORTANT.

As always, due to y’all being extra rad, you came through. And, also as always, due to being a giant nerd, I tabulated the results of your advice.

Here we have it. From most to least recommended…

50 Binge-Worthy Shows to Watch This Summer With Your Teen

  1. Gilmore Girls (comedy, drama)  - “Drama centering around the relationship between a thirty-something single mother and her teen daughter living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut” 
  2. VeronicaMarsVeronica Mars (crime, drama, mystery) – “After her best friend is murdered and her father is removed as county sheriff, Veronica Mars dedicates her life to cracking the toughest mysteries in the affluent town of Neptune”
  3. My So-Called Life (drama) – “15-year-old girl and her trials and tribulations of being a teenager and dealing with friends, guys, parents and school” 
  4. Psych (comedy, crime, mystery) – “A novice sleuth is hired by the police after he cons them into thinking he has psychic powers that help solve crimes. With this assistance of his reluctant best friend the duo take on a series of complicated cases” 
  5. Gossip Girl (drama, romance) - I hate that I loved this show! “Privileged teens living on the Upper Eastside of New York City”
  6. Once Upon a Time (adventure, fantasy, romance) – “A woman with a troubled past is drawn to a New England town where fairy tales are to be believed”
  7. Doctor Who (adventure, drama, sci fi, family) – “The further adventures of the time traveling alien adventurer and his companions”
  8. One Tree Hill (drama, sport) – “This series follows the eventful lives of some high-school kids in Tree Hill, a small but not too quiet town in North Carolina, where the greatest source of pride is the high school basketball team, the Ravens” 
  9. Switched at Birth (drama, family) – “The story of two teen girls who discover that they were accidentally switched at birth”
  10. buffyBuffy the Vampire Slayer (action, drama, fantasy) – “A young girl, destined to slay vampires, demons and other infernal creatures, deals with her life fighting evil, with the help of her friends” 
  11. Alias (action, drama, mystery) – “Sydney Bristow is an international spy recruited out of college and trained for espionage and self-defense”
  12. Sherlock (BBC) (crime, drama, mystery) – “A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London” 
  13. Chuck (action, comedy, drama) – “When a twenty-something computer geek inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain, CIA and NSA assign two agents to protect him and exploit such knowledge, turning his life upside down”
  14. Friday Night Lights (drama, sport) – “The trials and tribulations of small town Texas football players, their friends, family, and coaching staff”
  15. Big Bang Theory (comedy) – “A woman who moves into an apartment across the hall from two brilliant but socially awkward physicists shows them how little they know about life outside of the laboratory”
  16. Friends (comedy, romance) – “When Monica’s high school friend (Rachel) re-enters her life, she sets off on a series of humorous and entertaining events involving Monica’s brother (Ross), her ex-roommate (Phoebe), and her next door neighbors (Chandler & Joey)”
  17. Dawson’s Creek (drama) – “Four friends in a small coastal town help each other cope with adolescence”
  18. Leverage (action, crime, mystery, comedy) – “A crew of high-tech crooks attempt to steal from wealthy criminals and corrupt businessmen”
  19. Call the Midwife (drama) – “The lives of a group of midwives living in East London in the late 1950s”
  20. FireflyFirefly (adventure, drama, sci fi) – “Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them”
  21. Orphan Black (action, drama, sci fi) – “A streetwise hustler is pulled into a compelling conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a girl who looks just like her”
  22. Ugly Betty (comedy, drama) – “Betty Suarez is smart, sweet and hard working. The only problem is that she’s not thin and beautiful like all her coworkers at Mode, the high-fashion magazine where she works” 
  23. Pretty Little Liars (drama, mystery, thriller) – “Four friends band together against an anonymous foe who threatens to reveal their darkest secrets, while unraveling the mystery of the murder of their best friend”
  24. Heartland (drama, family) – “A multi-generational saga set in Alberta, Canada and centered on a family getting through life together in both happy and trying times” 
  25. Downton Abbey (drama) – “Beginning in the years leading up to World War I, the drama centers on the Crawley family and their servants”
  26. Felicity (drama) – “A young fresh out of high school girl, follows her high school crush to college to be near him”
  27. White Collar (comedy, crime, drama) – “A white collar criminal agrees to help the FBI catch other white collar criminals using his expertise as an art and securities thief, counterfeiter, and conman” 
  28. CastleCastle (comedy, crime, drama) - “After a serial killer imitates the plots of his novels, successful mystery novelist Richard “Rick” Castle gets permission from the Mayor of New York City to tag along with an NYPD homicide investigation team for research purposes”
  29. Charmed (drama, fantasy mystery) – “Three sisters discover their destiny – to battle against the forces of evil, using their witchcraft. They are the Charmed Ones” 
  30. Angel (action, drama, fantasy) – “The vampire Angel, cursed with a soul, moves to Los Angeles and aids people with supernatural-related problems while questing for his own redemption”
  31. Heart of Dixie (drama) – “Three young sorority women try to find love with potential men, while worrying about changes in their way of life when integration begins at their college in 1957 segregated Alabama” 
  32. Lark Rise to Candleford (drama) – “An adaptation of Flora Thompson’s autobiographical novel set in 19 century Oxfordshire in which a young girl moves to the local market town to begin an apprenticeship as a postmistress”
  33. Lost (adventure, drama, fantasy) – “The survivors of a plane crash are forced to work together in order to survive on a seemingly deserted tropical island”
  34. BonesBones (comedy, crime, drama) – “A forensic anthropologist and a cocky FBI agent build a team to investigate death causes. And quite often, there isn’t more to examine than rotten flesh or mere bones” 
  35. West Wing (drama) – “Inside the lives of staffers in the west wing of the White House” 
  36. The Good Wife (crime, drama, mystery) – “Alicia has been a good wife to her husband, a former state’s attorney. After a very humiliating sex and corruption scandal, he is behind bars. She must now provide for her family and returns to work as a litigator in a law firm” 
  37. 24 (action, drama, mystery) – “Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles, races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster”
  38. Burn Notice (action, crime, drama, mystery) – “A spy recently disavowed by the U.S. government uses his Special Ops training to help others in trouble”
  39. Scrubs (comedy, drama) – “In the unreal world of Sacred Heart Hospital, intern John “J.D” Dorian learns the ways of medicine, friendship and life”
  40. Heroes (drama, sci fi, thriller) – “They thought they were like everyone else… until they woke with incredible abilities”
  41. Eureka (comedy, drama, sci fi) – “The best minds in the US are tucked away in a remote town where they build futuristic inventions for the government’s benefit”
  42. Warehouse 13 (drama, mystery, sci fi) – “After saving the life of the President in Washington D.C., a pair of U.S Secret Service agents are whisked away to a covert location in South Dakota that houses supernatural objects” 
  43. DropDeadDivaDrop Dead Diva (comedy, drama) – “A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent, overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty”
  44. Supernatural (drama, fantasy, horror) – “Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth”
  45. Smallville (adventure, drama, romance) – “A young Clark Kent struggles to find his place in the world as he learns to harness his alien powers for good and deals with the typical troubles of teenage life in Smallville”
  46. House M.D. (drama, mystery) – “An antisocial maverick doctor who specializes in diagnostic medicine does whatever it takes to solve puzzling cases that come his way using his crack team of doctors and his wits”
  47. Battlestar Gallactica (action, adventure, drama, sci fi) – “When an old enemy, the Cylons, resurfaces and obliterate the 12 colonies, the crew of the aged Galactica protects a small civilian fleet – the last of humanity – as they journey toward the fabled 13th colony of Earth”
  48. Monarch of the Glen (comedy, drama, romance) – “Archie MacDonald, a young restaurateur is called back to his childhood home of Glenbogle where he is told he is the new Laird of Glenbogle”
  49. McLeod’s Daughters (drama) – “Five women run a cattle station, “Drover’s Run”, in the outback of South Australia” 
  50. Winners & Losers (comedy, drama) – “The lives of four best friends bound together by their shared experience of being “the losers” in high school. Now ten years later the women are about to become winners, but at what cost?” 

Although these were recommended based on what my daughter and I might like to watch, there’s such a great variety here! Something for everyone. What are your favorites from the list? Or what else would you add?

Though I’ve watched and liked several of the shows above, my top picks at the moment are Firefly (my favorite sci fi, a totally unique series with great character development, superb writing and a bizarre setting), Leverage (funny, charming heist series) and Veronica Mars, the last of which we’re watching now. Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are up next. And, although it’s not something my daughter would like, I think this list is missing Boston Legal – LOVED that series.

……….

All series descriptions, images and categorizations via IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.

On Messing Up and Finding Grace

Jul 22 2014

We’re on Day 2 of 5 Days of Day Camp which obviously means we barely made it to the buses this morning.

And, by barely, I mean the buses were rolling, friends – engines sputtering and PULLING AWAY from the curb – while four of my kids ran at the front of them, following the directions I’d barked in the car on the way there.

“If the buses haven’t left yet, lady and gentlemen,” I said, “we run for them as soon as we park. We RUN. WHAT DO WE DO, kids?”

“WE RUN!” they chorused.

And that’s what they did. Pell-mell. With enthusiasm. Drawing on all those late-to-school, jump-from-the-van, “Go, go, GO” rehearsals we conducted this year. And totally heedless to their mama who was behind them hollering new directions, too late, like, “WAIT!” and “STOP!” and “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO GET RUN OVER!”

Which is why I thank God for Erin, our excellent, wonderful, awesome, BEAUTIFUL camp coordinator, who saw my kids coming, stopped the buses with one hand, waved a door open a la Moses parting the Red Sea, and ushered my littlest two aboard while, with her other hand, she directed my middle schoolers to their seats in two other vehicles. All while deflecting my “I’m so sorry… I’m SO sorry…” apologies with smiles and those most soothing words of mamaraderie, “I barely made it here with my kids, too.” And I don’t even care if she was lying, friends. I do not care. I just want to make it up to her. Although I do feel that NOT throwing my arms around her ankles and washing her feet with my grateful tears and then rising to kiss her on the mouth is, perhaps, thanks enough. (You’re welcome, Erin.)

I want you to know, we were going to be on time this morning because I was on it. I mean, sure, I hit my 9-minute snooze button 3 extra times. And yes, I was mostly naked until 24 seconds before we walked out the door. And of course I shoved my mascara in my purse and carried my shoes in my hands on the way to the car. BUT. But. But I did a good job getting the kids ready. I did. I did. 

As soon as I leapt from the bed, I started issuing orders. From the top of the stairs in a loud, booming voice, to the kids somewhere on the floor beneath me, I bellowed, “SHOES! Do you guys have your shoes and socks on?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

And I clarified because I am no rookie, “ALL OF YOU?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

Five minutes later, I hollered down the stairs, “BREAKFAST! Did you guys eat breakfast?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

And I yelled, “ALL OF YOU?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

Four minutes later, I belted, “BACKPACKS! …”

Three minutes later, “SUNSCREEN! …”

Two minutes later, “SWIMSUITS! …”

And then, with juuuuuusst enough time to get everyone in the car and to the bus before it was scheduled to leave, and right after I threw yesterday’s clothes back on my body, I yelled, “OK! EVERYONE IN THE CAR.”

And you guys. You GUYS. THEY DID IT. With their shoes on and their tummies full and their backpacks in hand, they trooped to the car. And just before the littlest one closed the door behind him, he yelled back up the stairs, “Is Aden coming, Mom?”

And I said, “OF COURSE Aden’s coming. Why wouldn’t she be coming?” Which is when it dawned on me that perhaps he was asking that question for a reason. Which is when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard her voice in the chorus of bellows from below. Which is when it transpired that I popped my head into her bedroom. Which is when I discovered her asleep in bed. Sweetly asleep. Soundly asleep. Sans shoes. Sans socks. Sans breakfast. Sans backpack and sunscreen and swimsuit. Sans mommy who keeps track of her kids.

Pfffttttttt.

And so we scrambled. And we rushed. And I threw a breakfast bar which barely missed Aden’s head. And my kids didn’t get run over by the bus because Erin has Moses magic.

After the bus left, and after I chattered at a friend about all the mama crimes I’d just committed, and after I hopped back in my car and laid my head on my steering wheel and shook the noggin back and forth and back and forth, I headed to grab a quick coffee before my morning meetings. And I sat in the coffee line rehashing what a dumb dummy I am because I’m still working on positive self-talk and loving myself and accepting that I make mistakes, and some days that’s harder work than others. 

I ordered my usual cappuccino, I added a muffin to the mix, and I pulled up to the pay window where they waved me through.

“The car ahead of you paid for your order,” they said. “You’re good to go!”

And I pulled away and cried at the stop light. Like a dumb dummy. Because it occurred to me how great a gift it was to screw up and be met with mercy. And then to have mercy compounded with kindness. As though I didn’t need to be punished or to pay. Just loved. And enough. And worth a smile and a warm cup of coffee and grace. 

And that’s my wish for all of us today. That we’d know we’re worthy of the deepest love. And that we’d recognize that love when it finds us. 

Grace, friends.

xoxo

Mostly Drivel, Plus One Good Tip for Writing (and Life)

Jul 21 2014

I love my family. I loved being on vacation with them. I love that our kids are consistent (that questionable hallmark of good parenting), which they exhibit by dependably peeing on and around toilets no matter where we reside and reliably making messes in mere hours that would take others weeks and weeks to achieve. And I will undoubtedly tell you more about vacation eventually, because it was as awesome as I’d hoped and not as awful as it could have been, but right at this moment I must say I love being on Not Vacation with my family.

I love being on Not Vacation with them very much.

Very, very much.

Very, very, very much.

ALL THE MUCH, is what I’m saying.

Because it turns out two weeks of vacation is a LOT of time with People, folks. And, not to be dramatic, but, for those of us who are introverty, a LOT of time with People, even the People We Love More Than Any Other People in the World, equals a LOT of time having our energy siphoned away, as though all those People were issued Mystical Straws and then they popped those suckers right through our bodies and straight into our souls and slowly but surely sucked our Life’s Essence from our now-useless shells, Dementor style, leaving us empty and breathless and pretty much dead. Like, way more dead than the guy in Monty Python’s Holy Grail who insists he’s not quite dead enough to go on the death cart. Compared to us, that guy is downright spunky. No; we’re more like Wesley in the Princess Bride after he was tortured by The Machine. Dead by all appearances. Dead to everyone who needed him. But not so dead that a miracle, given enough time, couldn’t resurrect him. Just mostly dead, you know? 

We arrived home on Saturday at 4:00pm, and I spent the next 5 hours at Full Crazy Mama TILT doing All the Laundry in All the World, and putting away All the Crap, and – get this - Cleaning My Bedroom which is also my office, which is really just a desk, which I couldn’t see because it was hiding under All the Piles. And why did I clean my bedroom, you ask? Why do something so very out of character? Because I was frantically and giddily anticipating today – Monday – the Best of Days! The day I would send my children to Day Camp and have ALL DAY to write! ALL DAY to sit on a potty with no surpise pee sprinkles! ALL DAY without the MomMomMomMomMommyMoms! ALL DAY to craft something brilliant for you out of all that’s been bottled and ready to burst from my brain.

And so this morning I sat at my pristine desk in my comfy pants. The off-yellow velour ones that are threadbare in the inner thighs. And I got straight to work, because that’s what we writers do. Butt in chair. Words on page. Discipline. Discipline. Write.

So far I’ve played all my lives on Candy Crush.

I’ve ordered nail wraps online.

I’ve ignored my panties which insist on rolling down the lowest of my belly rolls to constrict around my hip bones.

I’ve used the words “hip bones” in their loosest possible sense, since there’s no empirical evidence I have any.

And I’ve wondered if I’m constipated.

I mean, I’m either constipated or there’s a giant ghost poop haunting my bowels. And THIS IS WHY IT’S IMPORTANT NOT TO TAKE TWO-WEEK WRITING BREAKS, people. BECAUSE IF YOU TAKE BREAKS, YOU COME BACK AND WRITE CRAP LIKE THIS.

Of course, if you don’t take breaks, you can write crap, too. That’s possible. 

So, basically, to clarify, Shit Happens either way.

BUT, and here’s the writing tip I promised you in the midst of all this drivel, you can write in the poo, friends. And through the pretend poo – the feelings of inadequacy, the certainty you’re a fraud, the belief you’re doing nothing worthwhile – that haunts you, too. Because you will find, in writing and in life, the poo is ever-present and very, very good at trying to block your way. Your way up. Your way out. Your way past and over and onward and through. And so you face a choice. Every day. Every moment. Live fully in spite of the poo or go nowhere at all.

To be clear, going nowhere at all is totally an option, and one of which I avail myself frequently, because sometimes we simply must sit in the muck and the mess until we find the magic. We know this, right? Right. There’s no shame to be found here for resting a while. No shame. Not ever.

But sometimes we’re eager to move, to take next steps, to find the next right thing, to blaze a path through the jungle, to find the illusive Village… and we look at the overwhelming piles of crap surrounding us – emotional crap, writing crap, life crap, parenting crap, marriage crap – and we wonder HOW. 

How do we write past, live past, move past this enormous mess?

Here’s the truth as far as I know it: We don’t move past the mess. Instead, we live and love and learn inside it. Despite it. Because of it. We write things – and push “publish” on them – knowing they’ve got crap clinging to them. We parent from sheer and brilliant imperfection. We inadequately shovel the poo and clear a way forward knowing more is on its way. And we take bold next steps knowing our shoes may squish and slide on the trail. 

……….

And what about you?
What’ve you been up to these past 2 weeks?
I’ve missed you, and I’ve missed hanging out here. I’d beg for someone to tell me that’s not weird, but I think we’re way, way past that. We’re weird. We’re good with that. It’s what makes us rad.